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Reviews of The Token for 1828

Boston Recorder & Telegraph, December 14, 1827

The Ladies’ Magazine, January 1828

Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of The Ladies’ Magazine and probable author of the review in The Ladies’ Magazine, wasn’t, perhaps, the most unbiased reviewer of The Token: she had two pieces in this volume. Hale ignores her own work, of course, choosing to focus on several pieces she especially appreciated. Like other reviewers of The Token, Hale rightfully saw gift annuals as an important element in the development of American literature. The Legendary, mentioned in the first review, was intended to be less an annual than a quarterly; there were, however, only two volumes ever published.

Notice of The Token, for 1828. Boston Recorder & Telegraph 12 (December 14, 1827): 199. Ed. Nathaniel Willis & Asa Rand


Mr. S. G. Goodrich, a Bookseller of this city, proposes to publish two periodical works bearing the above titles.

The Token, is an annual work, of which the second number has just appeared, furnishing a volume at the opening of the year, in the department of elegant literature. Among the notices of the volume just published, which have appeared in the newspapers, we select the following from the Commercial Gazette:

“The Token,” just published by Mr. Goodrich, of this city, is a beautiful volume. The epithet may as well be applied to the contents as to the exterior. It will rank high among similar productions of our country, designed for Christmas and New Year presents. We have had time to read several articles, both in prose and poetry; and consider the selection creditable to the taste and moral feelings of the Editor. They are chaste and interesting. Several of them are written in a neat, classical style: and the sentiments are such as must improve the youthful mind. They relate chiefly to our own country and countrymen. If there is an air of romance about some, probability is not outraged; and of several, that are in part sketched by fancy, the outlines are furnished by facts. The volume is well worthy of being offered as a Token of friendship and regard.

The same paper says:—The prizes offered by the publisher of this work are awarded as follows:—the prize for the best prose piece is given to the article entitled “Some passages in the Life of an Old Maid.” The Committee had some hesitation in deciding between two pieces of poetry, “The Soldier’s widow” & “Connecticut River;” and accordingly recommended a division of the Prize of one hundred dollars, which was agreed to by the authors, the former having been written by Mr. N. P. Willis, of this city—the latter by Mrs. Sigourney, of Hartford.

The Legendary is to be a duodecimo volume of about 250 pages, issued once in three or four months. It is to consist of original pieces in prose and verse, principally illustrative of American history, scenery and manners. The style of execution will be similar to that of the Token.

Mr. N. P. Willis, a recent graduate of Yale College, is now engaged by Mr. Goodrich, to take the editorial direction of both the above works.

Review of The Token, for 1828 (from The Ladies’ Magazine, January 1828; pp. 29-31) Ed. Sarah Josepha Hale.

We confess we look at this little work with great pleasure, and as little of that vanity with which we are accused of contemplating our own productions. The publishers very modestly decline any comparison with the English souvenirs, except in the literary part of the book; and though we think great praise is due to the engravings, we will notice only some of the beautiful little tales that it contains.

We were highly interested in “The Lone Indian;” there is a wildness, a loneliness, a touching pathos, a sort of farewell brightness about it, that suits well with this most affecting subject. The scene is all before us; we hear the axe of the white man felling the ancient trees that have been held sacred by the Indians. We see their hunting grounds changed into square measured fields, marked out by grey stone walls. We imagine that we perceive the wild flowers that bloomed in the shade, drooping in the scorching sunshine, and hanging their heads, as if in sympathy with the conquered masters of the soil. We hear the complaining brooks and the moanings of the wind through the stiffened limbs of a blasted tree, and it seems like the voice of Powontonamo—we groan in spirit with him at the grave of Soonseetah and her boy, and we want to fly from the unfeeling rapaciousness of the white man, into the depths and pathless solitudes of the forest, with the broken-hearted Indian. So entirely does the writer of this little tale enter into its spirit, that you are carried away captive by it, and cannot criticise it.

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The simple story of “Ellen,” has, we think, great merit. The opening is very beautiful. How familiar the author seems to be with the shady green lane where Ellen is first discovered by the young lieutenanat. The description of the picturesque cottage is so graphic, and the cobbler so natural, we feel as if these things were all true, and the writer knew it, and as the children say, as if Ellen and Harris, and the cobbler, were all real live people. Ellen is supported through such difficult scenes with such sinless uprightness—such natural dignity and grace, that she seems untouched by the contamination around her. We should have been pleased had the operation of the religious principle upon her husband’s mind, been more definitely traced, more minutely described. We would have had the writer enter the depths of the heart, when the Spirit of God is there; and describe the new creation that then opens upon us, and which is almost as wonderful and glorious, as that which appears when first the morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted for joy. There is great force and command of language in this story; the dialogue is well sustained, and we are persuaded it is written by no common hand.

Some passages in the Life of an Old Maid.”—This little sketch is given with great force. There is a clearness, a directness of power in it, that makes it seem like reality. The incidental remarks show an original and observing mind in the writer. We feel deeply for the sufferings of Cecelia, and we admire the dignity and strength with which she rises above them. But how is it that while she calls reason and philosophy to her aid, and when she finds that these fail, says she should have had recourse to excitement and activity; that there is not one word said of the support to be derived from religion? Why does not the writer send the bleeding and broken hearted to the source of all consolation? We do not doubt that the writer was aware, that this is in truth the only haven of peace to the heart that has made shipwreck of all its dearest earthly hopes; and therefore, when Cecelia is described as being quite happy afterwards, and nothing said of the Author of the soul, we feel as if it were indeed a fiction that we have been reading—we doubt if she were happy. We would not wish such a story turned into a sermon, but we maintain that the absence of the religious principle in it takes away from the truth and probability of the whole. We have not time to

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notice all that is entitled to attention and praise, in this beautiful volume. The poetry, in especial, we are sorry to pass over, for we see much to praise, and nothing to condemn, except the frequent imitation of Mrs. Hemans. We entirely disapprove of imitations; they are the bane of all real excellence. As a little jeu d’esprit, we must notice the sketch of “Poor Job.” We thank the writer for giving us a hearty laugh. It is full of conceit, but the writer seems aware of it, and to be so intentionally. We should call it upon the whole, very good nonsense. We conclude our remarks with recommending the Token to the notice and patronage of all those who are interested in the progress of our literature, and who will do well, we think, to lend a smile of encouragement to these efforts to adorn and grace its paths with the beautiful creations of art, and the wild flowers of fancy.

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