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About this Item

Title: Literary Notices

Creator: Walt Whitman [unsigned in original]

Date: August 10, 1846

Whitman Archive ID: per.00609

Source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle 10 August 1846: [2]. Our transcription is based on a digital image of a microfilm copy of the original issue. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the journalism, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: This piece is unsigned. However, Whitman was the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle when this editorial was written, and it was first attributed to Whitman by Cleveland Rodgers and John Black in Walt Whitman, The Gathering of the Forces: Editorials, Essays, Literary and Dramatic Reviews and Other Material Written by Walt Whitman as Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1846 and 1847 (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1920). The piece was also included by Herbert Bergman in Walt Whitman, The Journalism. Volume I: 1834–1846 (New York: Peter Lang, 1998). The Whitman Archive editors agree that the style and content of the piece are consistent with other known Whitman writings of this period.

Contributors to digital file: Ruth L. Bohan, Taylor Sloan, and Kevin McMullen

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Literary Notices.

PICTORIAL HISTORY OF ENGLAND1: to be completed in about 40 Numbers. No. 6; price 25 cents. Harper & Bros. 82 Cliff st. N. Y.

As full and fine scenery and properties are to the acting of Macready2 or Miss Cushman,3 so may 'pictorial' illustrations be considered to a good book.— Imagine how much better are the intellectual exhibitions of the fine artists we have named, with the help of appropriate stage embellishments, than without. Of course the intellectual life is first to be thought of; but the other finely sets off the first, and gives it a double beauty. We will confess, for our part, a fondness for a tastily illustrated work—like those of which the Harpers4 have brought out several lately—and of which the Pictorial England is among the neatest......No. 6 opens with the drowning of Prince William5 and his sister6, children of Henry 1st (Beauclerk.)7 A bold graphic wood–cut8 pourtrays the scene, in one of those methods that the fastidious eye can look over with satisfaction; and that, to the general reader, and particularly the young, will make an indelible remembrance of it all. "The old chroniclers," says the text, "considered the prince's tragic fate as an act of divine vengeance—as a just judgment of the Almighty; and they thought this motion was strengthened by the circumstances of the wreck, which happened in no storm or tempest, but in serene weather, and on a tranquil sea. They recalled the threat of the arrogant youth, and his designs against the English people. Henry of Huntingdon9 exclaims, 'He was thinking of his future reign and greatness; but God said, It shall not be thus, thou impious, it shall not be; and it so fell out that his brow, instead of being girded with the crown of gold, was beaten against the rocks of the ocean.'" (How masculine and nervous the run of that paragraph!) The No. 6 is occupied with the latter part of Henry Beauclerk's reign—the full regins10 of King Stephen11 and Henry II.12, and part of Richard Coeur de Lion's.13 It has numerous wood engravings,14 in the first style of that popular art; illustrating scenes, events, and personages described in the text. The "great seal of Stephen,"15 for instance, brings up before the mind of the reader the rude massive barbarism of that age—many things which mere words could never fully convey. The same remark may be made of the "standard of the English, at the battle of Northallerton,"16 and of the "murder of Becket."17 How the unhewn roughness of the 'great men' of those times pervades the minutia of the pictures mentioned; which with a refined taste, the artist has copied as far as possible from the contemporary transcripts of the old; or through the memorials the old has left. Nor is the least observable thing in the Pictorial England, the landscape scenes —which of course, differ but little now, in their general features, from the look they had, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

The study of history offers claims to all men, which are perhaps superior to the claims of any other study. In this country, in especial, it is highly necessary that each young American be versed in the lives of nations, the great events that have happened in the old world, (as well as the new,) and particularly the workings of monarchies. The Pictorial England, we may add, certainly presents unrivalled merits, as a book for the intelligent young student of history. The effort in it, appears to be to give the clearest truth—a veritable history, indeed. The typographical execution is very fine; and of the embellishments we have already spoken. Coming in single numbers, the purchase of it lies within the means of almost any family; for to families it is specially recommendable.18

LIFE OF THE RT. HON. GEORGE CANNING.— By Robert Bell. Harpers.

Canning had beautiful traits, even in his early youth. His mother was poor, and an actress on the stage, (Mrs. Hunn.) He continued a course of kindness through life towards her. "He made it a sacred duty to write to her every week, no matter what might be the pressure of private anxiety, or public business. His letters were the charm and solace of her life; she cherished them with proud and tender solicitude. When she was performing at Plymouth, Canning would often leave his studies at Lincoln's Inn, to comfort her with his presence; and whenever he came it was a Saturnalia. Shortly before her final settlement at Bath, in 1807, (he settled a pension on her,) she resided at Winchester, where she had some cousins in an inferior walk of life; and when her son—at that time the centre of popular admiration wherever he moved—used to visit her there, it was his delight to walk out with these humble friends, and with them to receive his 'salutations and greetings in the market place.' One recognizes a great man in such behavior."............ The life of George Canning is well worth the study of all who love to see the phases of political action, in the case of an ambitious and talented man; his hopes, his fears—his rise, difficulties, and progress.— It was Canning's lot to have some of the bitterest party malignity poured on his head. It was also his lot to be loved by the people, and with a true and deep affection.

This 'Life' forms No. 16 of Harpers' new Miscellany; a series which seems culled from the very choicest specimens of contemporary literature.—Print, paper, and general execution, are good.

MODERN BRITISH PLUTARCH; or, Lives of Men distinguished in the recent history of England, for their Talents, Virtues, or Achievements. By W. C. Taylor, LLD. Harpers.

Burke, Chatham, Adam Clarke, Lord Clive, Captain Cook, Fox, Franklin, Warren Hastings, Bishop Heber, Nelson, Pitt, Walter Scott, Wilberforre,19 Wellington!— great names! thought we, as we opened the somewhat singular melange of characters that Dr. Taylor has collected together in this book. How much of the destinies of the British nation—why may we not say, of the world?— have been affected by the action of the men whose names we have just written! Some of the storied ones of earth! How rich with meaning, is the life of each of them!

The "Modern British Plutarch' forms No. 17 of Harpers' Miscellany; and is printed in the same excellent manner as the previous numbers.

SUE's NEW WORK.20—The Harpers are publishing a new novel by the popular author of the Wandering Jew, entitled "Martin, the Foundling; or, the Memoirs of a Valet de Chambre." The first number, illustrated with spirited engravings, is already issued.


1. A multi–volume history of England with over one hundred engraved illustrations per volume. The authors are George L. Craik (1798–1866) and Charles MacFarlane (1799–1858). [back]

2. William Charles Macready (1793–1873) was an English actor, manager, and author who was instrumental in developing acting and production techniques of the nineteenth century. [back]

3. Most likely Charlotte Cushman (1816–1876), an American stage actress who also lived in Europe and could play both male and female parts. Some of her more notable roles were in Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet, with Cushman even performing at the Globe Theatre. [back]

4. Harper & Brothers was a large publishing house, founded in 1817. Their most prominent illustrated book was Harper's Illuminated Bible which Whitman reviewed October 21, 1846 in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. They later set the standard for illustrated magazines with the publication of Harper's Monthly Magazine in 1850, followed by Harper's Weekly in 1857. [back]

5. Prince William Adelin (1103–1120), only legitimate son of King Henry I, Duke of Normandy, drowned in the White Ship tragedy (November 25th, 1120) trying to save his half–sister. [back]

6. Matilda FitzRoy (1103–1120), Countess of Perche, illegitimate daughter of King Henry I and half–sister to Prince William. [back]

7. King Henry I of England, also known as Henry Beauclerc (1068–1135), was named after his mother's uncle King Henry I of France. He became king in 1100, had two legitimate children, and over 20 illegitimate children. [back]

8. Woodcuts, which are made by carving into a wooden block, were first introduced into Europe in the fifteenth century. Like moveable type, woodcuts are a relief process and can be printed from the same printing press, facilitating the printing of text and image on the same page, thereby enabling the rapid proliferation of illustrated books and magazines in the nineteenth century. [back]

9. Henry of Huntingdon (1088–1157), archdeacon of Huntingdon, historian, and author, brought up in the court of Robert Bloet of Lincoln (1093–1123), the Chancellor of England during King Henry I's reign. [back]

10. "Reigns" is misspelled in the original issue. [back]

11. King Stephen of Blois (1092/6–1154), successor of King Henry I, cousin of Henry I's only legitimate daughter, Empress Matilda. [back]

12. King Henry II of England (1133–1189), successor of King Stephen, grandson of Henry I, Empress Matilda's son. [back]

13. King Richard I of England (1157–1199), successor of King Henry II, known as Richard Coeur de Lion (Richard the Lion Heart) because of his reputation as a great warrior and military leader. [back]

14. Wood engraving is a printmaking technique perfected by Thomas Bewick of Great Britain in the late 18th century. Using an engraver's burin, rather than conventional woodcarving tools, Bewick could produce richly detailed images which relied on very thin lines. Like woodcuts, wood engraving is a relief process that was widely used in book and magazine illustration. [back]

15. The "Great Seal of King Stephen" was engraved on flip side of coins, showing a warrior on a horse and its opposite showing the king on his throne. [back]

16. Also known as the Battle of the Standard (August 22, 1138). The English fought the Scottish, under the rule of King David II, to support Empress Matilda's claim to the throne and gain land. [back]

17. Thomas Becket (1119/1120–1170), Saint Thomas of Canterbury, its Archbishop, debated Henry II over rights and privileges of the church and was murdered by supporters of the King in the Canterbury cathedral. [back]

18. Whitman commented on The Pictorial History of England twice more in his reviews in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, first on November 16, 1846, "Notices of New Books," and then on November 8, 1847, "New publications." [back]

19. "Wilberforce" is misspelled in the original issue. [back]

20. Eugène Sue (1804–1857) was a French writer known for his serialized, sensational urban novels. [back]


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