This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
New-York. Redfield, publisher. If any of our town readers, sated with the artificial perfumes of town civilization, have ever strolled into the country some soft, warm morning in June, when the wild grape-vine is in full bloom, and inhaled the delicious odor of its unseen blossoms, floating upon its still air, they will understand how this little volume of Alice Cary's affects us, after the loads of French and English "Society Novels," that are turned out by our great publishing houses by the cart-loads. Natural, sincere, and home-like, as the sight and song of the robin red-breast that skips over the lawn, are the pictures of rural life that it presents to the mind's eye. And it is perhaps in this, that they are painted with the genuine colors of our nature - the foregrounds are the farm pictures of the American settler, the skies are filled with the heat and flush of American harvests, and the fireside conversations are so genuinely homely and truthful, with their mingling of romance and stern reality, that they will seem only too natural to be interesting to many of those to whose daily lives the mirror is thus held up.
But there is also a feeling of tenderness and beauty which runs through these pages, that gives a poetic charm to the simple stories of rustic life they portray, and bathing there, in that magic atmosphere of genius, which, like the glory of a sunset after a summer shower, makes a paradise of the old familiar landscape.
It is curious to see how the truly national literature seems to be developing itself, rather in the hands of our female writers, than in the books of our men. Miss Cooper's " Rural Hours," and this volume of Rural Stories by Miss Caret, are two of the most perfect transcripts of rural home life and scenes, that have been written in any country; and no one but an American writer, who has lived and breathed the air of our own nature, with a strong feeling of its peculiar life and individuality, could have written such books. By their profourfd and earnest sympathy with nature, it is that the female writers seem to have caught the key-note of our Mans de Vaches that has escaped the more highly prized intellectual sufficiency of our authors of the other sex.
Upon the advent of such books as these, we look with the greatest satisfaction. Perhaps the most striking fact in America, to observing and thoughtful foreigners, is how little relation the intellectual and social culture of Americans, has to America - outside of the pale of politics. Our belle-letters, our reviews, our fashions, our very thoughts on most matters that relate to society and manners, are essentially and avowedly foreign. " The glass of fashion and the mould of form," to us comes in the shape of a milliner's band-box from Paris, or the conversation of the fictitious lords and ladies of the last popular novel from England. Unfortunately, too, the tone of our society in the rural districts, is only a bad copy of that in our cities, and it may be safely said, that the only thing in America which has little or nothing in common with the new world, is the social culture of a large part of the intelligent, independent classes. Foreign literature, foreign affectations, foreign ideas badly naturalised, in our republic, instead of a high ideal of the true gentleman and republican of the new world - more independent than kings, for more simple than men bred in courts, with too much intelligence to be coarse or vulgar; too much consciousness of the full enjoyment of his natural rights, to feel any unworthy inferiority, and too much respect for the rights of others, and the value of human nature, ever to be unjust to others.
This is the social development to which we ought to grow - this the model of a republican gentleman, which ought to be held up to the eyes of our youth. Franklin, a man who is only, or for the most part, remembered as a man of science, was ever remarkable as a type of the true gentleman of our Republic. Taken from the printing office, and placed in the midst of the brilliant court of Versailles, or in the cabinet councils of English peers, he always made men feel that there, their rank and fashion were only luxuries, and that he was, in his simple frankness and courteous dignity, the intrinsic, natural gentleman.
Whether in these later days of our Republic, we have as clear instincts on such subjects, - whether in the highest aims of our own social life, both in town and country, there is not more of the false glitter, and less of the true gold, than in Franklin's day, we leave our readers to judge. Certain it is, that nothing contributes so much to denationalise us, as the growing habit of our more refined and cultivated minds, of looking wholly to the old world for that social refinement and elevation, which, to be genuine, should spring from the institutions of the new.
Alick Carry's Clovernook, is a series of sketches of rustic life in Ohio and the West, so genuinely drawn that the farmers' families, the country clergyman, the deacon, the school-master, and the whole dramatis persona of the country, with the mingled prose and romance of their lives, rise as vividly before us as the old familiar mill, whose rumble, and strange mixture of wheels and pinion, made the mystery of our childhood With a quiet power, she makes the commonest events of a country life interesting, and touches the landscape that forms the background or foreground to her figures, that makes you marvel why our poets are so dull. The following extract, taken almost at random, will serve, perhaps as well as any other, to show the power and grace of Miss Caret's mind.
"It has always seemed to me one of the most beautiful provisions of Providence, that circumstances, however averse we be to them at first, close about us presently like waves, and we would hardly unwind ourselves from their foldings, and standing out alone, say, let it be thus or thus, if it were possible. When the morning comes through her white gates, lifting her eyes smilingly on us, as she trails her crimson robes through the dew, we would fain have it morning all the day. But when noon, holding in leash the shadows, goes lazily winking along the hill tops, and the arms of labor rest a little from their work, where the fountan bubbles, or the well lies cool, it seems a good season, and we would keep back the din that must shortly ruffle its placid repose. And when the phantoms of twilight troop out of the dim woods, With the first stars, whether the moon have all her golden filling, or hnng like a silver ring in the blue arching of the sky, the time seems the most beautiful of all, and we are ready to say to the shadows, crouch back a little, let the ashen gray prevail.