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Reviews of The Token for 1832

New England Magazine, August 1831

The New-York Mirror, October 29, 1831

The Ladies’ Magazine, December 1831

American Monthly Review, February 1832

What pieces reviewers of The Token for 1832 chose to highlight aren’t always the pieces later readers would find significant—or even interesting. Praising Catharine Sedgwick, Timothy Flint, and—more unusually—Samuel Goodrich, these reviewers bypassed four works by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Notice of The Token, for 1832 (from New England Magazine, August 1831; p. 184)

Gray and Bowen, publishers of the Token, announce to the trade, that the volume for 1832 is in a state of great forwardness, and will be ready for publication at an early date. They also state, that it will entirely surpass the volumes of former years in every respect. The size of the work in length, width and thickness, is increased so as to be nearly equal to the London Keepsake. In the literary department there is an accession of strength—many of the first writers in the country have furnished contributions. It will be bound in morocco, with a beautiful Arabesque cover, the plates for which have been got up with great care and expense. They represent two fgures, drawn by H. Inman, and executed by C. Gobrecht, of Philadelphia. The number of engravings will be twenty, seventeen of which are on steel, a greater number than has ever appeared in any annual, whether American or European. The publishers are determined to produce the most splendid volume that can be executed in the country, and rely upon a liberal public for their reward.

Review of The Token, for 1832 (from The New-York Mirror, October 29, 1831; p. 135)

The Token: A Christmas and New Year’s Present. Edited by S. G. Goodrich. 18mo pp. 392. Boston: Gray & Bowen. New-York: C. Peabody & Co. 1832.

We close this volume with the feeling of a judge presiding at the trial of a fair woman, and compelled to pass upon her a sentence for which she reproaches him with a pair of pretty blue eyes. The embellishments do not deserve the praise bestowed upon them in the preface. With the exception of two or three, they are bad copies of pictures already old. There are soft touches in the plate “Will he bite,” but the lady’s head and the little dog’s leg are intolerable. The “Young Artist” is a lack-a-daisical subject, without the slightest interest to any body, but is, in many respects, well finished by the engraver. The “Toilette” is a coarse copy of a very beautiful, but saucy original, and if introduced into the Token at all, should have been executed with much more care. “Apprehension” is another picture not worth the pains bestowed upon it. The “Freshet” is not among the best from the same hand. It wants distinctness. The “Escape” is indifferently good. “Carnival at Potosi,” passable, but not particularly fine. “Byron” is not equal to the same subject in the Atlantic Souvenir. We do not admire “The Lute” at all; and the opening of the “Sixth Seal” is beyond the skill of the engraver, and we are not surprised, therefore, to find it rather a failure. There may be marks of a master hand in many of these plates, but they do not appear finished, and the selection is in bad taste. We turn with pleasure to the redeeming features. “The “Lesbie,” is rather neatly executed; but, with reverence to the preface, it is not by any means equal to the “Equinoctial Storm.” This last plate is by Hatch and Smillie. The figures are admirable, and the head of Sir Arthur Wardour exquisite. The extreme finish of the features, and the distinct expression of awe and horror flung into such a miniature face, we may safely prefer before any thing in the book. The “Fairy Isle,” by George B. Ellis, is another beautiful subject, and beautifully done—perhaps a little too black. The “Dead Soldier,” and “Invisible Serenade,” by J. W. Cheney, are pretty; and the “Peasant Boy,” by O. Pelton, a graceful and natural figure, and face, and quite creditable to the engraver. The “Presentation” is pretty, but is it intended for a tomb?

We have one observation to make which may go far to give this volume a general circulation, although not on the score of its embellishments. It is, that it contains several contributions of unusual power. There is a class of writers at the west, who though not widely known, are sending forth very superior compositions to the world. Our brethren of the Atlantic states must look to themselves, or they will be outshone. At the head of these, or at least in a high rank among them, stand Timothy Flint, and the author of the article on our first page. We have excluded two or three columns of editorial and other matter to make room for it, because it is beautiful, and the writer of it should be known and respected. A graceful and agreeable style is made the vehicle for conveying simple but eloquent and natural truths. It is full of moral force and poetry. We think if Dr. Channing should descend from his pedestal to write a story of common life, it would be something of this sort. among the other names of repute are the author of “A Year in Spain;” Grenville Mellen, an able writer both of poetry and prose; Mrs. Sigourney, who has a charming talent for vrses; Willis G. Clarke, who, when he pleases, can strike off a stanza with the best of them; Miss Sedgwick, Mr. Pierpont, and several others, whose simple names stamp the letter-press as valuable and interesting. The binding is costly and elegant, and the vignette (we had nearly forgotten) by Gallaudet, is rich and soft.

Review of The Token, for 1832 (from The Ladies’ Magazine, December 1831; pp. 567-569)

The Token; A Christmas and New-Year’s Present. Edited by S. G. Goodrich. Boston: Gray & Bowen.

This fifth volume, is truly a splendid book, much superior in appearance to any of the preceding volumes, and highly creditable to the taste, liberality and enterprize of the Publishers. We hope they will find their efforts to draw out and foster native genius amply rewarded. It certainly must be gratifying to their pride, as Americans, to send forth an Annual, competing so successfully with its English rivals. Only let adequate encouragement be given to our own artists, and we shall not long need fear a comparison with European taste and talent.

There are in the Token, twenty engravings, nearly all on steel, most of them well executed, and a few exquisitely touched; in particular, we were delighted with “The Equinoctial Storm,” by Hatch and Smilie; “Lesbia,” by J. Cheney; and “The Fairy Isle,” by G. B. Bliss. There are several other plates very beautiful. But the literary department demands all the space we can spare, as we wish to give a sketch of Miss Sedgwick’s “Sketch of a Blue Stocking.” We intended transferring the whole story to our pages, but find it impracticable with the number of books before us, which deserve notices, longer, indeed, than we shall give them.

Well, the “Sketch” introduces Mrs. Laight, a widow, and one of those excellent ladies whose delight it is to patronize talent, and bring forward literary merit in the full blaze of its glory; and she is expecting at her classical retreat, y’cleped Laurenium, (situated in the very heart of a populous village,) Mrs. Rosewell and Professor Lowe. Mrs. Rosewell is a Blue Stocking,—she has written “full sized volumes,” and articles for Reviews; and the dread with which the large and lovely family of Mrs. Laight, anticipated the visit of the learned lady is really diverting. However, the ordeal was passed, and Mrs. Rosewell, after the first dinner, was better appreciated.

p. 568

“When they rose from the table, Mrs. Laight conducted her friend to the library. Her children, as soon as they were left to the free interchange of their impressions of their dreaded visitor, exclaimed, ‘How unaffected she is!’ ‘How very agreeable!’ ‘I entirely forgot that she was any thing uncommon.’ ‘Who would think she ever published a book? Or ever read one!’

“These may sound like equivocal compliments, but so Mrs. Rosewell did not esteem them; and any unpretending fellow-sufferer, who has been invested with the repulsive name of blue-stocking, would prefer them to fifty diplomas, from as many learned societies.

“Mrs. Laight had put her library into complete order for her friend’s reception. ‘This apartment,’ said she, looking around her, with a serene smile of enviable self-complacency, ‘this apartment is your’s; your sanctum sanctorum; your imperium imperio, as my dear father would have said. Here are books, a mine of wealth; and here my dear,’ opening a writing desk, ‘are materials for more books; pens in abundance; ink and folio paper. By the way, do tell me what was your last work.”

“My last work; really, I do not remember,” replied Mrs. Rosewell, hesitating, and half smiling.

“Not remember? that’s impossible.”

“Pardon me; I do; my last work was cutting out some vests for my boys.” The good lady looked crest-fallen, and replied so meekly, that Mrs. Rosewell was affected.

“It is very natural, I know it is, my dear, that you should think my knowledge limited to such work as you have mentioned; but I assure you, I have always had a literary taste; and if I had been a man, I should have devoted myself to books; but women, at least most of us, are condemned to obscure and useless lives.”

“My good friend, you do your lot injustice; your life, according to Napoleon’s estimate, in his celebrated reply to Madame de Stael, has been illustrious.”

“How?—what do you mean?” asked Mrs. S. eagerly, hoping for some new revlation on her past destiny.

“Why, have you not given twelve children to the state? I cannot think there is any great merit in the number, but a mother who has twelve such children, may make a Cornelian boast of them, and ought to be hailed as a benefactress to her country.”

We should regret exceedingly to leave the “Sketch of a Blue-Stocking” thus, half told, as we must, were it not that most of our readers, will doubtless have the pleasure of perusing the whole in the Token. The moral of the piece, which is to show the false impressions, most people imbibe, from the term blue-stocking, of literary ladies, we think important. Such prejudices have a pernicious effect on female education and character, because they induce young ladies, (and too often those who are older and should be wiser,) to believe that fashionable accomplishments only, can make women agreeable, therefore, to acquire these, only, should the heart and mind of a woman be given. And hence the frivolity and most of the extravagancies which are so deeply charged on the sex originate.

There are some good stories in this volume, and among the best, are “Nimrod Buckskin, Esq.” from the pen of Mr. Flint, and told in his graphic and pleasant manner; “The Bashful Man,” and “My Wife’s Novel.” Then there are those exquisite compositions, blending the choicest beauties of the didactic, and the descriptive, and reading the sublimest sentiments of religious duty from the pages of nature—“The Garden of Graves,” by Mr. Pierpont, “Falls of Niagara,” by Mrs. Greenwood, and “The The[o]logy of Nature,” by Mr. Dewey, give a character and value to the Token, which will not pass away with its novelty.

p. 569

The poetry of the volume is very good, though not superior to former years. Miss Gould has contributed largely, and there is always reason in her rhymes; she is eminently the poet of propriety, and never violates good sense in the flights of imagination. There is one strain of Mrs. Sigourney’s about a “Lark,” that is beautiful; and the Editor, Mr. Goodrich, has contributed a fine article, “The Surf Spirit,” and B. B. Thatcher, and A. A. Lock, (what a pity they could not exchange an initial,) are both down in the book as poets, and need not blush for their labors. The poetry is certainly equal to that which we find in the English annuals; and the prose is far superior.

Review of The Token, for 1832 (from American Monthly Review February 1832; pp. 154) Ed. Sidney Willard

1. The Token.—The present is the fifth volume of this popular annual. It surpasses all its predecessors, in beauty of execution and in the variety and excellence of its contents. It has indeed the usual ingredients of good, bad, and indifferent. It has some prose, with little meaning, and more poetry with less. Many of the pieces, however, are excellent in their kind. “My Wife’s Novel” is written in a vein of the happiest humor, and is of itself enough to fix the reputation of the volume. “The Blue Stocking” is a pleasant specimen of Miss Sedgewick’s powers of close observation and witty remark. It is adorned by her usual purity and grace of style. No American writer surpasses this lady in the unbidden and indescribable proprieties of language, exquisite truth of sentiment, and in short all the fine qualities of mental and moral taste, so to speak, which form the basis of elegant literature. In general, the prose of “The Token” is vastly superior to the poetry. “The Theology of Nature,” by Mr. Dewey, has a high moral tone, and is eloquently written. It augurs well for the public taste, that such writers find acceptance, amidst the gaiety and sentiment of a fashionable Annual. “The Bashful Man” is a feeble imitation of a fine piece, with the same title, in one of our school books. The attempts at wit are afflicting failures. It is matter of surprise that an editor, who usually displays so much taste, could admit a story, at once so weak and coarse. The engravings are generally excellent. We were particularly pleased with “Will he Bite?” “The Freshet,” and “The Fairy Isle.” “Byron at the Age of 19” is remarkable only for being accompanied by a set of verses which are remarkable for nothing. This stanza,

“Thy many hours of deep unrest

Wounded love and wounded pride;

Thy years, unblessing and unblest

Unlifted mists and shadows hide,”

ought to have been, like Mr. Willis’s “Music” and “Philosophy,” unwritten.

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