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Reviews of The Token for 1835

The Knickerbocker, October 1834

New England Magazine, October 1834

The New-York Mirror, October 4, 1834



Praise of the writing in this volume of The Token is tempered by criticism of its engravings—though not necessarily for their quality. While the reviewer in The New-York Mirror focused on issues of artistic quality, The Knickerbocker took issue with the Token’s failure to be “original and American.” (Probably because of founder Samuel Goodrich’s vow to use the annual to develop American art and literature, its “Americanism” is a theme in many reviews.) The Mirror may have appreciated the book’s literary qualities, but the reviewer for the New England Magazine famously quipped, “Can any one be so unreasonable as to require us to read it? The idea is not to be harbored.” Ironically, the volume included not only works by Lydia Sigourney, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Eliza Leslie, Sarah Josepha Hale, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow—among the most readable writers of the time—but three works by Nathaniel Hawthorne, which later critics have found quite readable, indeed.



Review of The Token, for 1835 (from The Knickerbocker, October 1834; pp. 318-320)

The Token and Atlantic Souvenir: a Christmas and New Year’s Present. Edited by S. G. Goodrich. pp. 376. Boston: Charles Bowen.

The season of annuals draws nigh—and the ‘Token and Souvenir’—now two in one—is early in the field. The contents of the present

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volume, which we have found leisure to scan but hastily, are on the whole excellent, and proceed from pens of established reputation. We remark among the contributors the names or initials of Verplanck, Longfellow, Sedgwick, Sigourney, Stone, H. F. Gould, Greenwood, Neal, Leslie, Thatcher, Mellen, and many other writers of note. A fine play might be written from the story of ST. Catherine’s Eve, by Miss Sedgwick, the incidents of which are highly dramatic, and the language and descriptions are worthy of the pen that sketched ‘Redwood.’ Bourbon’s Last March, a dramatic sketch, was written by Gulian C. Verplanck to illustrate the march of the Constable Bourbon to Rome, represented in the third engraving, ‘Bourbon’s Last March.’ All the characters and incidents are drawn from history, and woven into a drama of much interest. We recognize in Good Night, from the German, and The Youth of Mary Stewart, the hand of a ripe scholar and the diction of a practised pen. The translation of Mary’s simple elegy on the death of her husband, in the latter, is the soul of touching tenderness. A vein of quiet observation and pure thought pervades The Haunted Mind, by the author of ‘Sights from a Steeple.’ The Mameluke, by Grenville Mellen, illustrates the fifth engraving, the name of which it bears. It is as spirited as the picture to which it is annexed. The following description of the war-horse in the foreground, will remind the reader of Byron’s dog with the tangled hair, matted with blood, around his jaws, under the walls of Corinth:

——“a quick flame

Springs from indented casque and shivered steel,

As both are spurned upon his maddening way—

And foamy blood, with mingled sand and hair,

Gathers about his fetlock, bubbling round

As the red foot falls on some trampled brow,

Just settling in the fixedness of death,

And catching that strange paleness which comes on,

When the grave claims and seals the ruined brain.”

The Reading Parties, by Miss Leslie, is full of sarcastic humor, and displays that knowledge of character which has given celebrity to her previous sketches. Mrs. Washington Potts’ biographer is visible in every page. The names chosen, like the personages of the Pilgrim’s Progress, to express the peculiarities of the bearer, strike us as in bad taste. Fort Mystick, by Mrs. Sigourney, is an Indian tale, and we need not add that it is one of interest and well related. Children—what are They? is by Neal. It has some of his most graphic pictures; many of his happiest thoughts, and but few of the incoherencies and imperspicuous, lengthened sentences, which are sometimes blemishes in his performances. But we must turn from the consideration of the contents to the embellishments.

They disappoint us. Have we no original talent, no original subjects, in our great and glorious country, that in our choice repositories of the arts of design and engraving we must exhibit copies of foreign skill—and old copies, too, of prints which have gathered dust and yellowness during the summer in the windows of all the print-sellers in our principal cities? Must we depend for ever on trans-atlantic genius and foreign

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talent? No less than seven out of the thirteen embellishments to the work are of this character. The Title-page, the Mameluke, the Dream of Youth, the Young Princess, the Cottage Girl, My Child, and They are Saved, have been familiar for months to the eyes of those who will read the Token. We do not find fault with their execution—for it is in the main, creditable—but we blame this truckling dependence upon foreign imagination. It is high time that our annuals should exhibit something like originality in their embellishments. We are glad to pay a just tribute to those which do exhibit native art, in the one before us. The Presentation-plate, painted by Harvey, and engraved by Gallaudet, is a gem, both in the simple beauty of the design, and in its execution. The best specimen of art in the volume, is Bourbon’s Last March, painted by Weir, and engraved by Smillie. It is a most spirited representation of a stirring scene. The broad campagnia—the gleaming lines of Knights—the castle frowning from the mountain, and the rich foreground, impart a character to the picture which might be anticipated from the reputation of the artists who designed and executed it. The Buffalo Hunt is a splendid creation of fancy, painted by Fisher, and engraved by Tucker. It is an honor, and a high one, to the work. The Silver Cascade in the White Mountains, painted by Doughty, and engraved by Ellis is as highly picturesque as such a scene can be made, without the very essential aids of sound and motion. The Mountain Stream painted by the same artist, and engraved by Neagle, is soft, and finely executed. The perspective is something too abrupt. Will you Go? painted by Fisher, and engraved by Neagle, is a capital effort, both in the human and animal figures and in the grouping in the foreground, and in the exquisite landscape around, and in the distance. We commend the Token to our readers as entertaining and valuable in matter, and discreditable in embellishments, only so far as it fails to be original and American.


Review of The Token, for 1835 (from the New England Magazine, October 1834; pp. 331-333)

The Token and Atlantic Souvenir. Edited by S. G. Goodrich.

Beautifully printed, chastely bound, and liberally embellished; thus much we can say for this volume, at first sight, on taking it from the envelope. On running our eye over the table of contents, we meet with several names of some distinction in the lighter departments of literature,—Miss Sedgwick, the novelist,—Gulian C. Verplanck, the politician, and late representative from New-York,—Miss Leslie, author of Pencil Sketches,—F. W. P. Greenwood, one of the purest writers in the country, and one of the most popular pulpit orators of his sect,—and John Neal, novelist, lawyer, magazinist, historian, and poet. To these, we may add Miss Gould, Mrs. Hale, Mrs. Sigourney, and an anonymous writer of some of the most delicate and beautiful prose ever published this side of the Atlantic,—the author of “The Gentle Boy.” Nor would we forget to insert among the worthies, our friend, Mr. Stone of the Commercial Advertiser,—who tells a story with as good a grace in the Token, as he does in his own valuable journal.

And having now gone through with the table of contents, our critical duties, according to the common notions, would be completed; but we feel too much interest in the Token, to part with it so easily. It must pass through the ordeal; and we shall spare neither praise nor censure, where we think it deserved.

The presentation plate, by Harvey, is very prettily designed; though there are one or two unmeaning embellishments about it that might be dispensed with. It is well engraved, too, by Gallaudet, and, on the whole, a very appropriate introduction to the volume.

The frontispiece is the master-piece of the book. In Bourbon’s Last March, both painter and engraver have entitled themselves to much praise. The distance is skilfuly managed,—the entire effect is good, and there is much grace in the grouping of the knights in the front ground. The broad trunk to the left, and the foliage in the whole picture, are capitally done. It is an honor to American art; and after saying thus, it is but fair to add, that Weir is the painter, and James Smillie the engraver.

As for the title-page, it is barbarous. The engraving is not so bad, and some two or three little things about it, are exceedingly well done. But who ever saw a man making love with such an immense wrist? It is larger than his leg ought to be; and his hands are equally disproportionate. We have had the gentleman’s face too often repeated; and, as for the lady’s, the upper lip would spoil the most lovely countenance that ever languished or brightened in Circassia. Will You Go? is both very good and very bad; the landscape is excellent, the figures are execrable. To see the beautifully-managed back-ground, the distant ship, and the waters, blending with the sky,—the arch, the trees, and the vines,—and then, to look at the little stiff, leaden images, intended for boys and girls, in front,—it is too sad a contrast to contemplate with any pleasure. The picture is by Fisher, and, we think, is half spoiled in the engraving. The Mountain

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Stream is a soft, pretty landscape, by Doughty, but ill selected for reduction and engraving, as it is of a class of pictures that derive most of their effect from the coloring. The Mameluke, we consider rather a failure; our friend’s steed in the front ground, could hardly be made to cut such capers and retain his balance. A mathematician could give the artist some useful lessons in regard to the centre of gravity.

The Silver Cascade has a good deal of black and white about it, and is intended to be effective, from its contrast. We think it not entirely successful, though it has good points. The Dream of Youth exhibits a superfluous degree of nudity, though it is a pleasant picture, with the exception of the cupids, which we really do not consider quite so pretty as they are evidently intended to be. The engraving is by Cheney, and is exceedingly well done. The Young Princess, by the same artist, is almost faultless,—so highly and so delicately is it perfected: the hair, the roses, the necklace, the eyes, the finely-rounded throat, the gentle swell of the bosom,—but we are beginning to catalogue its beauties, with as much warmth as Sir Anthony Absolute indulges in a similar description. The picture is a gem.

The Cottage Girl, also by Cheney, is another beauty,—and we would venture a description, if a friend had not already done the matter to our hands in the volume itself: the poetry is rather after the pipe-bubble school, but will answer.

THE COTTAGE GIRL.

She is a lovely creature—is she not?

And there is, doubtless, many a charming story,

Linked with her life and loves; and I would give

The prettiest keepsake of my youthful fortunes

To know them as they happened. It may be,

She never found a suitor to her mind,

And died in single blessedness. No blood,

Which thrilled her heart, may flow in living fountains,

Or mantle in the cheek of innocent beauty.

It may be that her lover was untrue,

And left her to a solitary fate—

It may be that he died, and left her wretched,

And that she felt herself in duty bound

To stray about the fields, and bind her hair,

Ophelia-like, with wild flowers, and perchance

Finish her griefs as did the maid of Denmark.

I mention these among the possibles

Of life, the things taht may be or may not;

But I do not believe them. Were I asked

To read the fortunes of so fair a maid,

To tell her story—I should answer briefly,

Something in this way.

She was pure as lovely;

Humble her lot, but holy was her life.

She strayed in childhood freely, by the brooks

Murmuring their course in music, by the vales

Sheltered from common sight, and in the woods—

Beneath their leafy canopy. By night,

She wandered, with the stars for her companions,

And the free winds, all solitary else.

Her days were a perpetual Sabbath—still,

And interrupted only the the tasks

That wait on common life—the simple toil

Of village maidens.

When the time had come,

That teaches pretty girls to think of wedlock,

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She found a husband to her choice, and married;

And she was happy as so sweet a creature

Should be, when mistress of the heart she loves.

Well, this is much as usual. You may think

Some great mishap should mar, or some strange chances

Light with new glow the life of such a being;

But it ran on in quiet. Many girls,

Fair as their mother, and a lot of boys,

Bright-eyed and curly-headed, filled the house

With noisy happiness, and in their turn

Grew up to wives and husbands. And when age

Had blessed her with all joys that wait on age—

Reference, and peace of mind, and readiness

For other worlds—she died. An humble stone

Marks her last place of slumber, and the blessings

Of many loved and loving crown her memory!

There! you have now her story. If you think

More sunlight should be shed about her pathway,

And tinge it with the myriad rosy hues

The world calls poetry—know that holy spirit

Flies not from common life, and common duties.

She dwells not merely in the world of splendor,

Fashion, and gilded pomp, and courtly beauty—

But lives sometimes in lowly homes—and breathes

In simplest hearts her holiest aspirations.

The Buffalo Hunt, engraved by Tucker from a painting by Fisher, is quite spirited, and altogether an interesting and pretty affair. The two Storm Pieces are either failures, or are something that we do not entirely understand; one of them, at least, might have been dispensed with, and the price of it put into the other. A single fine engraving is worth a dozen of a coarser character.

And now, having gone faithfully through with the plates—several of which, we must not omit to mention, are from original designs—we have disposed of the most important part of the volume. Can any one be so unreasonable as to require us to read it? The idea is not to be harbored. We shall hand it over to the first lady we meet, and take her word for the contents; and if we receive it before putting our last sheet to press, it shall receive a paragraph of postscript.


Review of The Token, for 1835 (from The New-York Mirror, October 4, 1834; p. 110)

Considering that this beautiful Annual is designed especially for a holiday gift, its appearance in September must be considered early; but it comes in good season, let it make its advent when it may. We like the new volume, better, much better than either of its predecessors; there is more of talent and interest in the articles, (matters, by the way, in which the Token never was deficient,) and the embellishments are far superior. We have room only for a short notice, and therefore must come to particulars at once. There are twelve engravings, besides the presentation plate. The frontispiece is by Smillie, from a design by Weir, and to our taste is rather the best in the volume; but it has competitors of great merit; among them we have been much pleased with “Will you go,” engraved by Neagle, from a picture by Fisher of Boston, “The mountain stream,” and “The silver cascade,” both painted by Doughty, and engraved, the former by Neagle, and the latter by Ellis, “The cottage girl,” by Cheney, from another engraving, and “The buffalo hunt,” by W. E. Tucker, from a design by Fisher. These specimens show that the art of engraving has advanced wonderfully among us since the Annuals came in fashion—and we may remark en passant that it is to them much of the improvement is owing. “The dream of youth,” by Cheney, we do not like at all, although we have seen it much commended; we consider it but a poor specimen of the worst style of engraving in use among artists. The two sea-pieces by Illman, are altogether too black; perhaps the impressions in our copy have been badly printed. Touching the “literary contents,” as we have already intimated, their merit is very great, but we are constrained to say that the best pieces (with one exception) are not those to which the best-known names are attached. The one exception is the “Children—what are they?” of John Neal; decidedly, as we think, the best article in the volume, and the best John Neal has ever written. The anecdotes are capital, and the application of them superb. “Alice Doane’s appeal,” “The fate of a princess,” and “The mermaid—a reverie,” are also excellent; the writers’ names are not given. Much of the poetry is very good; and some of it—no better than the general run of “Annual” metre. Among the distinguished names in the list of contnets, we find those of Miss Sedgwick, Mrs. Hale, Miss Gould, Miss Leslie—(whose story of “The reading parties,” is one of the best in the book—full of humour, point and strong, bold satire)—Mrs. Sigourney, Gulian C. Verplanck, Grenville Mellen, B. B. Thatcher, William L. Stone, and S. G. Goodrich. The contribution of Mr. Verplanck is a dramatic sketch, in which are introduced some personages famous in the world’s history. We shall gratify our readers by copying it, next week, in the Mirror.

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