Margaret Fuller, Critic: Writings from the New-York Tribune, 1844-1846

By Judith Mattson Bean; Joel Myerson | Go to book overview

[Review of Arthur Cleveland Coxe, Saul. A Mystery]

This is a book, heavy and ineffectual to the last degree, about which the only mystery is that it should ever have been written, for it must have taken a great deal of time, and been very slow work, and does no where show one spark of that impatient fire, which will sometimes excuse a man very clumsy-handed for seizing the pen. The author expresses great reverence and terror at having taken up a subject from Biblical history, but we cannot think he feels it, or he would not put such long and dull speeches in the mouths of persons well known to us as of powerful, heroic, and poetic nature. They are well known to us not only in the first simple narrative but through the great painters, nor has the iron grasp of Alfieri, in his Saul, nor the thrilling note of Byron in his Hebrew Melodies, done them wrong.1 The author says, “Passages, which I approved as an artist, I have been forced to prune away as a Christian.” Has he ever seen the story of Joseph and his brethren as reproduced by the celestial love of Raphael2 does he know the majesty of Moses as he appeared before the deep religious eye of Michael Angelo?3 Let such admonish him that it is a total want of the inspiration of the artist that made him anxious before the inspirations of this history, and let the fault of writing such a book be to him the means of enlarging his mind. Even his demon, where we presume there was no conscientious anxiety to paralyze him, and a creation of a sort in which most writers show some vivacity, is as dull and weak as the rest; this ought to show him where the difficulty lies, and chide him from attempts at the great dramatic form forever.

____________________
1
Count Vittorio Alfieri (1749–1803), Italian dramatist, published Saul in 1782; George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788–1824), English Romantic poet, published his Hebrew Melodies in 1815.
2
Raphael (1483–1520), Italian painter whose works adorn the Vatican.
3
Michaelangelo or Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564), Italian painter, sculptor, and poet.

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