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years, since I first attempted this style of writing; with a sincore feeling of gratitude to the Public and the Press, who have marked my labours with an approbation too emphatic to be mistaken, I can honestly record the fact, that my attempts have been eminently successful.
Some portion of these legends, were delivered in the form of Historical lectures, before the William Wirt Institute, confessedly one of the first literary institutions in the land. To the gentlemen of that institution, I shall ever remain grateful, not only for the success of these legends, but for the uniform kindness and courtesy, which marked their intercourse with me. It would be, perhaps, invidious to select any one of their body for public notice, but I cannot let this occasion pass, without expressing my sincere regard for S. Snyder Leidy, Esq., whose intellect wa always deeply interested in the annals of our Revolution. I shall always cherish among the best memories of my life, my connection with the William Wirt Institute.
Other portions of this work were delivered before the Institute of the Revolution : Messrs. Jeffries and Dickson, of that association, will ever be remembered for their kind endeavors in my behalf.
Nor can I in this dedication, be so forgetful of truth and gratitude, as to omit the name of A. Henry Diller, Esq., who for five years, has been my unswerving friend, and to whom I stand indebted for the flattering success of my illustrations of the Revolution.
In conclusion, I may state without the imputation of vanity, that these Historical pictures, their purpose and their style, beauties and defects, are the results of my endeavors for five years past, to delineate in all its fullness, "the times that tried men's souls."
Not only Washington and his Generals, have I attempted to delineate in these Legends, but it has been any purpose, to picture the scenes that went before the Revolution, together with the heroic deeds of the Authors, Soldiers, and Statesmen of '76; the patriotism of the humblest freeman, has been as dear to me, for the purposes of illustration, as the moral grandeur of Washington, or the chivalric daring of La Fayette. Some of the brightest gleams of poetry and romance, that illumine our history, or the history of any other land and age, I have endeavored to embody, in those pages of the present work, which relate to the deeds of the HeroWomen of the Revolution.
With these introductory remarks, I submit to the public, and at the same time, dedicate to you-WASHINGTON AND HIS GENERALS, as illustrated in the LEGENDS OF THE REVOLUTION.
Philada.—District of Penn, March 15, 1847.
BY REV. C. CHAUNCEY BURR.
"What have we here, Horatio?
Why a mad genius, my Lord.
Heaver forefend! then all our sins will be in the mouth of the town-crier before a twelve-month." OLD PLAY.
A PRETTY story enough is related of the wild boy of Newstead Abbey, who, by the death of the grandson of an old man at Corsica, was left with the title of lord. On hearing of this, George ran up to his mother and asked if she perceived any difference in him since he was made lord, as he could perceive none in himself. The next morning, when his name was called out in school, it came with the title of Dominus prefixed to it. Unable to give the usual answer, “adsum," he stood abashed before the comic gaze of his schoolfellows, and at last burst into tears. But what could the title of Dominus do for that talismanic genius, slumbering there in the soul of young Byron? It is like planting May-weeds round Trajan's column. I take the title of Genius to be altogether higher than this "Dominus." That title came down fresh out of Heaven. In that high heraldry, it means somewhat greater than these poor things we call lords, cabinets, kings, or what else belongs to that accident of birth or fortune.
The very name Genius signifieth original, unacquired gifts, born gifts: from the Latin of "gignor" to be born; or older still, from the Greek of “gennao," to generate, to produce. Hence there is a pleonasm in the fashionable editorial phrase "original genius." Genius is originality. Talent is the fruit of industry; Genius of birth. The one judges, combines, arranges, compares; the other produces, invents. A man of talents may be a good historian, a commentator, a grammarian; only a man of genius can be a poet, a painter, or statuary.
Genius is greater than talent. Which do we count most worthy of admiration, the Jenisca which receives seventy tributary rivers to make up its own current, or the mightier Nile, flowing from an unknown source receiving to its waters but eleven nameless streams, and at length pouring itself out through seven awful mouths into the astonished ocean? Not unlike this is Genius; a strange wild current, bursting up from invisible fountains in the man; rushing on swift, unrest
ing, copious, a broad right royal river, into the sea of life and love unknown, without a bottom and without a shore.' All other men's hopes and fears, tears and smiles float away like bubbles on that tide. After all, the history of the world is but a record of the few great men that have been here. In one view at least I see it thus. In history the mass are nothing, whatever great sacred thing they may be in the ever toiling fact of existence. They have no name on earth beyond their breathing hour. The poetry, chivalry, science of the world, what have we had to do with these, except to sing the songs, fight the battles, and read the discoveries of the great masters?
And then, in this our time, we hear enough of pity, sighs, and very pious condolence for the fate of genius. We are told there is so much of it which could never make itself known, pent up in some cobbler's brain, or cordwainer's shop, held down by poverty, circumstances; and its great speech hushed in the coarse din of toil. Poor Genius to wear itself out hewing wood, drawing water, it may be in measuring tape and bobbin; and then to sink down so ingloriously into the cold grave at last, and be covered up very much like a dog! Ah, it is very inelancholy to see this glorious God-gift of genius creeping through life, and creeping out of it again, at such a poor funeral tune. All this will do very well to tickle the ears of bobbin measurers and counter jumpers: but it is false, nevertheless. No genius ever went through life thus.
Look at that boy at Stratford-on-Avon! what of him? A very dirty, obscure, uninteresting looking lad; the rascally little deer-stealer of his native villagewho cares for him? He will teach you to care for him. He will teach this whole world to be still, that he may speak to it.
Shakspeare is in him! The immortal fires of Genius are there, deep down in the soul of that despised and ragged deer-stealer, and his name shall be Shakspeare ringing in all the earth.
Poverty has no power upon a soul like that. What can circumstances do for it? It is greater than circumstances.
Look at Mohammed; born in the desert, coming up to manhood without a book, and without a teacher. But will he submit to circumstances, to die and be forgotten in that sandy solitude? Never; there is genius in him; and that can as well be heard from the rocks of Mount Hara as from the vales of Piedmont.
They tell me this man is an impostor. It may be so: but then his imposture (if you will commit so great a wrong upon an honest fanatic) has done more for a greater number of the human race than the truth of any other man born within these twelve centuries. His awful "No BY ALLA" has shook a thousand idols into dust. His holy "ALLA ACBAR! ALLA ACBAR!" has built, in the wild waste of Arab hearts, a shrine where God is worshipped.
This world has not yet forgotten Robert Burns; nor will it while the stars shinethat noble peasant, who came out from behind his plough, on the mountain's
side, and stood with brow unabashed in the presence of royal splendor, for he felt that
"The rank is but the guinea's stamp;
And defying the circumstances of writing in the provincial dialect of a rude northern land, still made himself the immortal representative of a nation's intellect. It will be a long time before circumstances will make a Robert Burns. Circumstances have made small men enough: but great men make circumstances.
What circumstances called out "Rare old Ben Jonson"—rough, hardy, terrible old Ben Jonson, from whose wild elegant muse even Milton caught inspiration? Why the circumstances that were polite enough to call this man out were those of a regularly bred brick-layer, with poverty enough to make life a desperate tug withal for him. Make what you will of the circumstances: enough for me that he came out, and wrote "Alchemist," "Volpone," and others by which the world will never forget the rugged old bard and wit of Shakspeare's time.
Who called out Franklin, that son of the soap-boiler? Doubtless those envious friends who ridiculed the first efforts of his genius. Peradventure those three rolls of baker's bread he eat in the streets of Philadelphia to save himself from starvation. No, there is genius in that homeless, straggling boy; and when that is spoken we have said that he will go out himself: when that is told it is revealed that philosophy is to appear in the sky of Columbia. Soap-boiling, starvation, or what you please, that boy will some day come out and snatch the lightnings from the heaven, to weave himself a fame less perishable than the ancient thunderer of Olympus.
How came John Keats out, that melancholy youth of whom Shelly was proud to sing
"Till the future dares
Forget the past, his fate and fame shall be
An echo and a light unto eternity."
Whose name is embalmed by his own "Endymion," where he sings in tones of deathless rapture
"A thing of beauty is a joy forever."
The circumstance attending him was a birth at a livery-stable in Moorfields. matter: there was genius in this poor child of the livery-stable too, and he has written "Hyperion," and the "Eve of St. Agnes." The soul that has Hyperion and the Eve of S Agnes in its core is as well born in a stable as a palace. That soul, once born, defies all circumstances; will work its way through all poverty and all scorn, into immortality.
There is a kind of men in this world that occasions make: these are plenty enough too, such as they are. We call them talented-men of capacity; be
cause they can judge accurately, combine and compare with facility, write good histories, good dictionaries— be learned compilers of other men's thoughts. Altogether unlike this is genius. That will seldom stop to write histories. Its task, rather, is to create the events out of which all histories are written. Its thoughts spring out of itself, as Minerva from the head of Jupiter: thoughts still, and vast, * and solemn, like the midnight of the stars-thoughts that rise and set like sunsthat blaze, and burn, and avalanche along the world until their mighty roar blends with the music of eternity.
Go back, if you will, after those men, Tasso, Alfieri, Dante, Petrarch, Raphael, Camoens, Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Calderon, Marlowe, Congreve, Klopstock, Correggio, and find also the circumstance that made them. As well may you attempt to dig the soul out of a poem with spades and pickaxes, or measure the heavens with yard-sticks, as to seek after these souls among the things called circumstances.
Somehow those men continually remind us of the author of these Legends. He seems to have been born with that same restless, heaving, fiery heart; the wild, earnest, truthful sincerity withal, that has marked Genius in all ages. In the earliest boyhood, thrown upon his own resources-cheated by pious villains-buffetted by poverty-his soul at length kindles up under the cold winds that blow upon it, into flames that flash evermore in the face of the world. He was a sickly intense kind of a boy, like poor Dante, perpetually haunted by an idea of his own mortality. No one could see in him the Author of the most entertaining and truthful book, on the most interesting portion of American History. No one could discover how he, with his slender girlish frame, should one day stand so upright and sullen before heaven and earth, flinging such charges and wrongs in the face of this lying social state of the world—this vast machine, called civilization, out of which Mammon grinds blood, and coins it drop by drop into gold. It is plain enough that his eye caught first on this black side of the picture. The thought poured gall into him; it whipt his soul up into a premature manhood. The dwarfed, shrivelled, wretched masses every where lay stretched out before his imagination as so many millions of hunger-throats, gurgling in death-agonies shrieking upwards through the crannies of their lazar-house of woe, for pity, for knowledge, for guidance, until despair quivers in his face, and burns every fibre of his soul into action. All these millions of wrongs, seen in corporations, in vast idle wealth, in bankrupt speculation, in genteel prostitution, in barbarous theologies and divinity shambles, mount his heart, and shriek through his brain, in many a headlong torrent of scorn, and bitterness, and woe. The editors (I may not say critics) called it writing immoral books. He thought it was tearing off the mantle from this most seeming arch-angel, to lay bare the cloven foot that sneaked beneath it. He thought it was laying the axe at the root