REVIEWS OF The Round Table & The Square Table (1819), published by Samuel G. Goodrich

Reviews of other works published by Goodrich

According to Goodrich, he published The Round Table, a periodical containing the works of a literary club he belonged to in Hartford, Connecticut. Goodrich may not have written a piece for this work; I’ve been unable to consult an issue. The Square Table, also published by Goodrich, seems to have been intended as a reaction to or an accompaniment to the Round Table. It’s unlikely that he wrote this little chapbook, though the title has been so catalogued.

Two of the pieces here come from The Truth, a periodical written by J. Ironside; the reviews appear several pages apart. Like the two Tables, The Truth was published in Hartford, Connecticut. So was the Connecticut Mirror, which also printed notices of the two works.

The Truth, September 1819
The Truth, September 1819
Connecticut Mirror, September 6, 1819
Connecticut Mirror, 13 September 1819

Review by J. Ironside. The Truth #1, September 1819: 6-7.

The Round Table, No. 1.

Hold the mirror up to nature

To shew vice its own image: Virtue its own likeness,

And the very age and body of the times,

His form and pressure.—Shakespeare.


I have perused a work bearing the above title, in haste, and am therefore not prepared to enter into a particular explanation of its merit; but as it is very doubtful whether I shall again read it, and presuming that the author expects something from his archetypes on the subject, I have concluded to devote to it a “passing paragraph.” The first thing that naturally strikes the eye in looking at a book, is its cover. This book has a very handsome cover of paper, of a cast something resembling the countenance of a person troubled with the yellow jaundice. Europeans must pronounce this book, a beautiful specimen of American typography. Having thus disposed of the most prominent and palpable part of the work, we must now, in a few words, make known the intention in publishing it. Their professed object is, to amuse themselves and the “goodly inhabitants of the delectable city of Hartford;” and if the latter object is accomplished, I have only to remark, that the said “goodly inhabitants” are pretty easily amused: Not but that there are some good ideas in this work, for a few have been borrowed from the first number of the Roasters which was published in the Herald some time ago. Associated with Mr. Bickerstaffe are six others; and they declare themselves to be “seven illustrious descendants of the thrice illustrious Knights of the Round Table.” They arrived from England forty-three years ago; and strange as it may appear, in this lapse of time, death has made no inroads upon their numbers; (although a cavern is their abode) a proof of the healthiness of the “delectable city of Hartford.” “After the most mature consideration,” they published “The Round Table.” Our limits will only permit us to make the following extract, which we consider a “sample of the article.”

“Not Sir George Bickerstaffe,” I trust, nor even Geoffrey Landgrave, the [p. 7] scribe, tacit as they say he is, would court a lady without telling her of it; and I trow they would not tell her of it, till they had determined to; and I think could not determine to, till they knew her will, (for George and Geoffrey are sensible men,) and how can they know her will, unless they are attentive to her, unless they see her; and how can they see her unless they visit her.”

If that is not a rhetorical sentence, it should at least have the credit of being a long one, and conclusively proves that tenants of caverns are long-winded, for other men would have got out of breath writing such a one.

Review by J. Ironside. The Truth #1, September 1819: 14.

In looking over a late Mirror, I saw an advertisement of a little work called the “Round Table,” purporting to be the joint productions of a few descendants of the thrice valiant and renowned King Arthur and his worthy associates, who in the days of yore, made such a disturbance, by righting wrongs, killing Giants, Dragons, Dwarfs and Necromancers, (who in those days were as plenty as dung-hill fowls:) and performing sundry other notable feats, of which honorable mention is made in the records of those days. These descendants seem to have degenerated most sadly; for their fathers wore swords, and understood the use of them; but these fellows have nothing to defend themselves with but goose quills, and they do not appear to understand the use even of them. Their fathers inhabited palaces; but these fellows have sneaked away into a cave, which to say the last, has not a very chivalrous appearance.

I might go still farther in comparisons, but time would fail; besides I wish to take some notice of a counter production, called the “Square Table,” by a lady Abbess and her Nuns. This, like the former, is a light piece, chiefly introduction. To talk of its merit, would be foreign to truth, for it has none. Both the Round and Square Tables, in their introduction, have copied most servilely; but I will not blame them, for where a work must be published, and the publisher or author lacks genius, he has no resource, but to the genius of others.

One thing more is due to truth, and we will close our remarks; and that is, to unveil the persons who have thus confidently placed themselves before the public to instruct and amuse. The Round Table, if I am correctly informed, is the production of Mr. Wm. L. Stone: and I must say, I do not think it will add much to his reputation as a writer, though the puff in th Mirror may add some to his well known reputation for modesty. The Square Table, instead of being conducted by an Abbess, is conducted by a lady, who is lately married to a respectable merchant in Hartford, and is the head of a family instead of a nunnery, a much more eligible situation I think. But, to make a long story short, I will say as I said before, that both the publications are light, but well enough calculated for the meridian of Hartford. Should they venture to appear again, however, which I think there is little danger of, some extracts will be given, with remarks: till then, I must bid them speed. I would caution damsels not to trust themselves abroad, unprotected, on the faith of these Knights, till they have given better proofs of their valor and skill than they have yet done.

“The ‘Round Table’ and the ‘Square Table.’ ” Connecticut Mirror. September 6, 1819: p. 3, col 3. Ed. John G. C. Brainard

The ‘Round Table’ and the ‘Square Table.’

Two neat little pamphlets under the above titles, have been issued from the press in this city within the last three weeks. The former, which appeared first, professes to be the joint production of seven chivalrous descendants of King Arthur’s Knights, who inhabit a secret cavern in the neighborhood, and have resolved to publish their sentiments on divers matters of taste, manners and morals. The number which has appeared, though principally occupied in introducing the machinery of the work, has attracted considerable attention, and probably has so far answered the designs of its authors, as that they will shortly give us an opportunity to judge more decisively of their principles and talents.

One flattering evidence however, of the interest it has excited, is furnished by the fact, that in two weeks after its publication, it was followed by a very amusing counterpart, under the title of “The Square Table,” professing to be—and from internal evidence we venture to affirm it is—the production of female pens. We hope at some future day to decorate our columns, if the publisher will permit us, with large extracts from this work, which is written with uncommon good sense, a sprightliness of wit, and a purity of style and sentiment, which cannot fail to please every reader of taste and sensibility.

Connecticut Mirror. September 13, 1819: p. 2, col 1. Ed. John G. C. Brainard

In our last paper we mentioned two new publications which have been issued from the press in this city under the names of the “Round Table” and the “Square Table.” In the incepient [sic] state of the former, we forbore giving a decided opinion but of the latter we did not hesitate to speak in terms of commendation. If there is any need of a vindication of our opinion, we think it is abundantly furnished by the characteristic consistency of style, and the striking good sense of the following memorial of Friend Rachel, who is described in the expose of the work, as being a modest and interest Quakeress,—possessing all the gravity and meekness which so eminently distinguishes most of her order.

From the Square Table.

Verily, my heart is distressed for the sins of the present generation. The luxury and extravagance which daily gaineth ground among them, is a grief to my spirit. While yet I was a sojourner with them, I did take note of their iniquities; and since I have departed from their tabernacles, their evil report reacheth mine ears. I have wept much over the folly of the daughters of my people. Yea, divers times have I desired to admonish them, saying—“Turn ye from the ways of vanity. Remember ye not the judgments that were denounced upon the daughters of Zion, for these things, by the mouth of the prophet Isaiah? Yet which of you exceedeth them not in “changeable suits of apparel, and bravery of tinkling ornaments.” Like them, are ye decked with “chains, and bracelets, and head-bands, and rings, and ear-rings, and wimples, and crisping-pins.” I know not whether it be, that in “fine linen, pure and white,’ ye do excel them; and peradventure, ye have laid aside the “mantles, the hoods, and the veils;” but lo! ye have substituted there instead, the Cashmere shawls, the Leghorn bonnets, the gold watches, and the merino dresses, of which I do find no mention made in the catalogue of the sins of Judah’s daughters. Therefore as ye have gone beyond them in backsliding, and have trespassed yet more abundantly—verily, I do quake when I think of the added bitterness that ye shall find in the dregs of the cup of folly.

In the days of my youth, when my eyes were fain too vehemently to gaze upon gewgaws and finery, I have reflected, and listened to the voice within me that did say, “Can an empty head be made better by a gay covering? or an ugly face be rendered beautiful by gaudy array? or a damsel without discretion be respected, who spendeth in fine laces, what might feed the poor, or support herself in old age or decrepitude?” So I drew back the hand that Fashion had already induced to unclasp the purse, and the eye that fixed with desire upon the cell of the milliner, and the bow-window of the jeweller, I did avert from temptation, and I sought to get wisdom more than gay-clothing, and chose understanding rather than a high-prized Leghorn. It was then that the simplicity of the order to which I now belong did captivate me; yea, and the plain garb which it requires, did satisfy my spirit and release it from the cumbering of many cares. Yet, would I not seek to exalt myself, as though I were an ensample unto others for in divers ways am I compassed with the infirmities of our nature. Moreover, I would not rebuke exclusively the young maidens; but I have likewise a word of exhortation for the sons of my people; for lo! they have also drank of the cup of enchantment, and have become vain. Verily, as in a vision, I do espy them, sporting upon slippery places, and heedless of the dark waters of penury rolling below. The simple and innocent pursuits of Agriculture they disdain; yea, and if their fathers obtained a livelihood by the cultivation of the earth, they do strive to hide or to forget it, as a stain upon the escutcheon. Moreover, if they are by their overseers and rulers, put into a garden to “dress and to keep it,” they do escape to some crowded city, and straitway ensconce themselves behind a counter. Not even the flaming sword, that now so guardeth the threshold of trade, that multitudes are pierced, and mourn, and perish, can deter them from rushing against its point, and foolishly forsaking those rural shades, where they might freely have eaten of all the trees in the garden, with none to make them afraid. Yet what beginneth in rashness, continueth in blindness, and endeth in ruin. Sons, who did behold their sires by perseverance and economy, rising slowly but securely in the scale of affluence, do scorn these quiet advances, and do foresee as their own portion immense wealth, and no industry. They stretch forth their hands to snatch the golden fruits, without labouring for their culture, and verily, they do prove unto their taste but apples of Sodom. They do begin in the race of luxury where their fathers had scarcely arrived, and do oftentimes end where their fathers began not—to wit, even within the grating of a prison. They do build unto themselves lofty palaces “ceiled with cedar, and painted with vermillion;” in their furniture, table and equipage they do ape the splendour of nobility. Verily, they are like unto the Rhodians, by whom it was said by them of old time, that they did build houses as those who expected to live until a future age, but feasted as if they secretly said, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.”

But are those who dwell in the midst of these empty splendours happy? Verily, he who beholdeth their care-worn countenances, marked by the restlessness of envy, the dread of rivalship, the terror of losing, the struggle of unjust gain, the distortion of pride, or the compunctuous visitings of conscience, will say unto his heart, that happiness cometh not there.

‘Oh! how unlike their hardy sires of old,

Rough, poor, content, in conscious virtue bold.’

When I have in the days of my vanity, (for what woman is she, who numbereth no such days?) when I have in these regretted seasons, presented myself at the party and the banquet, I have sometimes communed with my spirit, and said, while course succeeded course, perchance, the just dues of the mechanic or the labourer swell the luxury of this draught, or heighten the seasoning of this dish; peradventure their children now hunger and thirst, and I have turned me from the festival and wept. Should the entertainment of one of these self-raised nobles be interrupted by their creditors, who, rushing in like a host, should each demand, “Pay me what thou owest!” how, like Belshazzar would paleness cover his features, and his limbs smite together, as if he traced upon the glowing wall the tremendous sentence, “weighed and found wanting.” Yet notwithstanding the unconquerable aversion to settle accounts which distinguisheth those who waste “the substance of others in riotous living,” there is one account which they cannot escape; and would it not then be desirable to say, “by me the poor have never suffered,” rather than to remember that in our life-time we were unjustly “clad in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day.”

When I meditate on these things I cannot but mourn and weep: and when I remember that in ancient times, luxury was a sure harbinger of the decay of nations, I do behold in prospect, a long train of ills, and tremble for my country. But, I do believe, that there remaineth for it neither safety or hope, until the repair shall begin in every city and in every dwelling; until the ladies shall be weaned from self-indulgence; the youths inured to application and simple pleasures; the daughters made to “seek wool and flax, and work willingly with their hands;” the parents become in all things examples of industry, temperance and piety, and the community like a broad river be cleansed in the fountains that supply, and the little streamlets that cherish it.

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