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Reviews of The Token for 1842

North American Review, October 1841

The Knickerbocker, November 1841

By 1842, gift annuals like The Token were outstaying their welcome—especially, it seems, with reviewers. Lewis Gaylord Clark, who probably wrote the review for Knickerbocker, retained his tradition of critiquing the engravings rather more than the written pieces; North American Review balanced that by giving the poetry and the prose a good going-over.

Review of The Token and Atlantic Souvenir, for 1842 (from North American Review, October 1841; pp. 518-519)

The Token and Atlantic Souvenir, an Offering for Christmas and the New Year. Boston: D. H. Williams. 1842. 8vo. pp. 320.

This new volume of the “Token” comes to us in a very attractive form. It is beautifully printed, tastefully bound, and illustrated with engravings from distinguished artists. We do not think these are by any means the best part of the book. They do not come up to the demands of the present time. In fact they are decidedly poor. The group of objects on the first title-page is certainly out of drawing. Either the “Token” as there represented is a prodigious folio, very different from the copy now lying before us, or the framed portrait resting upon it, is a miniature of the smallest size.

But when we pass on to the literary contributions, we can conscientiously award the “Token” liberal praise. There is hardly a single piece from beginning to end which is not in good taste, and several of them, both in prose and verse, have eminent

p. 519

merit. The first piece, under the title of “The Lesson of a Moment,” is happily conceived, and written with remarkable and most scholarlike elegance of style. The translation from the German of Pfizer, entitled “The Two Locks of Hair,” by Longfellow, is done in his best style, and is a most exquisite and tender poem. “The Seen and the Unseen,” by Ephraim Peabody, is a piece that would have done honor to Washington Irving, in the flower of his genius. It is full of the deepest thought, and the thought is clothed in the most glowing and eloquent expression. We have elsewhere spoken of this writer, and we refer the reader to this paper for proof of all we have said in praise of his poetical powers. There are many other well-written articles, both in prose and poetry, which will not be suffered to pass away with the occasion which produced them. Mr. Percival has here some admirable pieces in imitation of ancient classical metres. The first of these, a paraphrase of the warlike elegey of Tyrtæus, strikes us as the best English representation of the Hexameter and Pentameter, that we have ever seen. The Iambic trimeters, owing to a defective arrangement of the cæsura, are not so good. The Anacreontics and Anapæstics are excellent. The “Exiles of Acadia,” by Mr. Bancroft, an extract from an unpublished volume of his History, is a fine piece of historical painting, and presents a beautiful picture of that innocent and interesting people, and a touching account of their captivity. But there is one sentence which greatly mars the beauty of this delineation, by suggesting the “angry parle” of our own party conflicts. The sentence, part of which is most inappropriately introduced, is as follows; “Their exchanges were chiefly by way of barter; very little coin circulated among them; no custom-house was known on their coasts, and paper money had not extended its curse to their peaceful abodes.” Does Mr. Bancroft really think that the Acadians were any happier for being without the facilities of commercial intercourse with the rest of the world, and thus destitute of the most essential blessings of cultivated life?

The old readers of the “Token” will be glad to see it revived. The present volume is very superior in literary merits to any of its predecessors. The least valuable contribution is the scraps selected from the works of that great literary motley, Jean Paul Richter; an author who is chargeable with a prodigious quantity of nonsense on his own account, and with all the imitation nonsense of Thomas Carlyle, and whose whimsical, drunken extravagances are fancied by some persons to be great original thoughts. He has probably put more people out of their wits than any other great author of the bedlamite school.

Review of The Token, for 1842 (from The Knickerbocker, November 1841; pp. 451-452)

The Token and Atlantic Souvenir. An Offering for Christmas and the New Year. pp. 320. Boston: David H. Williams.

It seems a long time, in our memory, since the first number of the ‘Atlantic Souvenir,’ the pioneer of the American tribe of annuals, made its appearance in this country. It was a pompous, corpulent little volume; but it took the public approbation captive at once, even as the ‘Lady’ held the ‘Merlin’ prisoner in the frontispiece, by a delightful species of bondage. From the Bay of Fundy to the Gulf of Mexico the ‘press-gang’ vied with each other which should say the most flattering things of the first American annual. Since that period, how these ‘painted bladders’ have swarmed upon the public! Year after year saw them increase, until at length they began sadly to deteriorate in literary merit and attraction, and the public to grow tired of their mere prettinesses, internal as well as external. Their circulation began to decrease; and in the mean-time kindred English manufactures, prepared mainly for the ‘daughter country,’ began to multiply in our markets, and the native article expreienced a still farther decline. At the present moment, two or three works of this description, of a sterling literary character, alone hold sway among us, and command a deserved popularity. Foremost among these, we regard the Token,’ which presents this season literary attractions of a high order and value. Of the illustrations, it will be sufficient to say, that their executiion in the first style of the art of celature was secured by the employment of those eminent engravers, Messrs. Rawdon, Wright, Hatch and Smillie. The subjects are various and well chosen. We check them, as it were by catalogue. The first, ‘The Bracelet,’ is a fine engraving, but the lady seems to have just stepped from under the hands of a French hair-dresser. The frontispiece has an atmosphere of softness suited to the character of the design; ‘Rockland Lake’ is a faithful transcript of a most picturesque and beautiful scene; the ‘Oaken Bucket,’ with the enticing farm-house and the vista of quiet loveliness opening beyond, is admirable; and ‘The Outward Bound’ is perhaps as good as an engraving can be of Birch’s matchless sea-sketches, which require his natural coloring and ocean atmosphere, if adquate justice would be rendered them. ‘Winter’ is excellent; ‘Metamora’ by Forrest is portrayed with great faithfulness and spirit; and ‘The First Ship’ has many of Chapman’s beauties and not a few of his defects. Who, for example, ever saw such a tree as the one he has here depicted?

p. 452

In its literary contents, the ‘Token’ is unwontedly rich, and quite superior to any of its rivals. ‘The Seen and the Unseen,’ by Rev. Mr. Peabody of New-Bedford, is one of those thoughtful moral essays which come home to the hearts of men with all the force of a powerful and eloquent sermon. So admirable is the style and so just the sentiments of this article, that we should be tempted to copy it entire, but for the publisher’s remonstrance against wholesale appropriation. ‘The Two Locks of Hair,’ a translation by Mr. Longfellow, it is scarcely necessary to say, is a beautiful poem. ‘The Teachings of Autumn,’ too, by Mr. Greenwood, are worthy that gentleman’s reputation. There is a winning tenderness, an easy grace, in the style, which it would not be difficult to trace to its true source, even though the name of the writer were not given. We have seen nothing better from the eminent pen of Percival, for many years, than the ‘Classic Melodies’ in this volume, which evince alike his fine ear for the melody of verse, and the variety and facility of his execution. Miss Harriet Beecher Stowe, whom we should class with Miss Mitford as a graphic delineator of rustic life and manners, has furnished a pleasant story, in ‘The Yankee Girl;’ Mr. J. R. Lowell, in the ‘Ballad of the Stranger,’ teaches consolation to the afflicted in a quaint yet touching poem; and Mr. Pierpont has illustrated ‘The Bucket’ with some natural lines, which sparkle like the drops of the cool draught they celebrate. Many other writers, whom we lack space to indicate, add to the attractions of ‘The Token,’ which we take pleasure in warmly commending to the acceptance of our readers.

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