Изображения страниц



OCTOBER, 1833.

Art. I.--Fidler's Observations on the United States. Observations on Professions, Literature, Manners and Emi

gration in the United States and Canada, made during a Residence in 1832, by the Rev. Isaac Fidler, for a short time Missionary of Thornhill on Yonge Street, near

York, Upper Canada. New York. 1833. This is another precious specimen of the class of books with which John Bull is now regularly humbugged three or four times a year, under the name of observations on the state of society, manners and literature in the United States. There is one important omission in the titles of these works, which renders them in fact a complete fraud upon the public. If they were called, as they ought to be, observations on the state of society, manners, and literature in the taverns, steamboats and stage-coaches of the United States, honest John would know what he was buying, and whether he was likely to get his money's worth. The very names of the persons who indite these burlesque itineraries are, in general, such as to prepare the reader pretty well for the ridicule with which they are regularly blasted, as soon as they appear. The last in the series was by Mrs. Trollope, and the one before us is by the Rev. Isaac Fidler. The worthy divine himself does not seem to be particularly delighted with his family cognomen,' as he learnedly calls it. He tells us, in his own inimita



ble style, “I never loved my musical name, and the next time 1 voyage to the States I may choose to have it altered.' The manner in which he supposes that this alteration is to be accomplished, will give a good idea of the correctness of his information respecting the political and legal institutions of the country.

'I was told, that a person in the States, who is dissatisfied with his surname,' (Christian names cannot it seems be altered) can easily have it changed to another more suitable to his taste and inclination. It was a subject of discussion sometimes, and the information I obtained was this, that a person, on taking up his citizenship, needs only go to a particular office appropriated to this purpose, and having selected another appellation, get it registered as his family cognomen, whereby he and his children may be designated afterwards. This, if true,' (there is much virtue in this if) must render the genealogies of families extremely difficult to trace : yet I must confess that it is very accommodating to persons of dubious character, to whom a change of surname must be a great consideration.'

It is pretty plain that the Rev. Mr. Fidler was hoaxed in regard to this matter, and we incline to think that this was an accident which happened to him not unfrequently during his voyage to the States. His immediate friends must in fact have taken strange liberties with him in this way, as appears from the following anecdote, which he gives upon the authority of “a divine of eminence.'

•The clergy of America are prohibited by an act of the legislature from sitting in the Chamber of Representatives. This was not always the case, but was brought about after the following manner. One of the members of Congress, a clergyman, was very desirous that some permanent provision should

be made for the Episcopal Church, and was urgent with a friend of his, a member also, to use his endeavors to accomplish it. This friend, probably annoyed by frequent solicitations, and being, as Americans in general are represented, a summer's day friend,' (an evident improvement upon Gray's summer friend)

promised (upon) his word of honor that he would do something for the church. Accordingly he mentioned this circumstance in Congress on the first opportunity, and, relating his promise, moved that no clergyman should thenceforth sit in that House. The motion was carried by a vast majority, and cler


gymen, with their golden anticipations, vanished from it forever. This was told me by a divine of eminence.'

After this, we shall doubtless hear no more of the famous journée des dupes. This ridiculous fable, which one of his clerical brethren probably amused himself with imposing upon the simplicity of our author as a piece of real history, is gravely quoted as such by the London Literary Gazette.

It is time, however, to introduce our author more particularly to the acquaintance of the reader, who is not yet aware of his personal character and pretensions. We have the honor then to inform him, that the Rev. Isaac Fidler was intended for the church, although he has failed to obtain employment in his profession, and received his education under the Rev. James Tate of Richmond, ' whose name,' he says, 'I found to be held in great esteem among scholars in America. We would suggest en passant to Mr. Fidler, that there is a slight inconsistency between the purport of this passage, and that of another, in which he represents himself as telling Mr. John Pickering that he (Fidler) discovered the day after his arrival at New York, that there is no literature in the United States.' Where there is no literature there are of course no scholars, and where there are no scholars, it is impossible that scholars can hold in great esteem the Rev. James Tate. For ourselves, we are free to say that we never heard of the learned gentleman, until his name was made known to us by the labors of his still more erudite pupil.

The character and fortunes of the latter appear to resemble in some respects those of the celebrated tutor of Miss Lucy Bertram. The Rev. Mr. Fidler combines, in fact, the same pro-di-gi-ous e-ru-di-ti-on in the oriental languages with the same antique simplicity,—to give it no other name,-in regard to every thing that concerns the business of life, which distinguished the Rev. Mr. Sampson. He is not, however, quite so honest as the worthy Dominie, but evinces at times a decided disposition for drawing a long bow. He was educated, as we have said, for the church ; but not having obtained, and, as he tells us himself, not being likely to obtain preferment, undertook to mend his fortune by teaching the Eastern languages to young men preparing for the service of the East India Company. In this occupation he also met with slight success, but does not inform us of the reasons of his failure. We only know, that finding no profitable employment at home,

he concluded to embark for this country, expecting to realize a rapid and brilliant fortune, by teaching Sanscrit and Hindostanee to the citizens of the United States. On arriving at New York, he determined, by way of recommending himself, to publish immediately a work, whether original or not does not appear, in the Sanscrit language, apparently forgetting that the people would not be able to read it, until they had first had the advantage of his instruction. This project was nipped in the bud by the wrongheadedness of the publisher to whom Mr. Fidler addressed himself, and who not only had no Sanscrit types at his disposal, but positively refused to import any, and even affirmed, that if Mr. Fidler would furnish him with a fount free of expense, he would not give it storeroom ; so limited, in his opinion, was the demand for Sanscrit literature in this community.

Our author's other friends concurred in the main with the publisher, and advised him to give up the plan of a Sanscrit school and open one for the instruction of young men in Latin and Greek, and the other branches of a common liberal education. This was a feasible common-sense scheme, which, had it been acted on, would doubtless have succeeded; but after much inquiry and long deliberation, our author seems to have been fairly frightened out of it by a brother pedagogue, who gave him an alarming account of the loose state of discipline in the American schools, and of a battle royal which he had recently had with his own pupils. We extract the passage containing this account, which, in the newspaper phrase, is somewhat curious if true,' but which merits confirmation. We incline to think that our author was in this, as in so many other instances, hoaxed by his fellow emigrant, who seems to have been a person of much more shrewdnesss than Mr. Fidier, and perhaps had it in view to keep a competitor out of the market. The story is as follows.

I regret,” said he, “that I ever engaged in the school. I have been obliged to expel eight of my scholars. The noise and uproar of my school had been increasing every day, till at last it reached so high a pitch, that neither I nor my pupils could be distinctly heard. I reprimanded such as appeared most riotous, but some of them told me they would not be restrained by any English tyrant; so I visited one of them with a stroke. Hereupon the whole school became a scene of anarchy. I was pelted on all sides, with books, and slates, and copies, and obliged to leave my seat. All the scholars pressed on, and endeavored to strike or kick me. I was compelled to take refuge behind a pillar, against which I placed my back, and protected myself in front, by a chair. Such as approached near enough I knocked down, and kept the whole rabble of them at bay. At last, snatching a piece of wood out of the hands of the oldest, I put my pupils on the defensive ; and when I had completely subdued every appearance of resistance, I turned the ringleaders out of doors. Every symptom of insubordination has vanished; but you cannot conceive how much mortification I have experienced."

The main difficulty with our author in regard to the establishment of a school, seems to have been an apprehension that he should not be permitted, by the usage of the country, to wield the birch with sufficient freedom, and should thus be materially abridged of what he appears to have regarded as the most enviable privilege of his office. We cannot undertake to answer for the state of things in this respect at New York, but we can venture to assure him that in Boston, at least, he would have found no cause of complaint. If he were placed at the head of one of our city schools, he would have no occasion to envy the whipping franchises of the masters of Westminster, Eton, or Harrow. Our boys are literally, what Sir Francis Burdett has so often declared his countrymen to be, a flogged nation. Such, if we are rightly informed, is the strictness of the discipline in our city schools, that the slightest failure in the performance of the literary exercises, –an error, for example, in the spelling of a single word, is rewarded, argent comptant, by a most liberal administration of the birch or the ferule. A knowledge of this fact would have gone pretty far, we suspect, in removing the unfavorable impressions entertained by our author, respecting the state of professions, literature, manners and emigration in this country. For ourselves, with all our reverence for the ancient and venerable engines of scholastic rule to which we have just alluded, endeared to us, as they are, by the tenderest recollections of early years, we are yet free to say, that we think this one of the cases in which there may be too much even of a good thing. We recommend it to the city authorities, if, as we greatly doubt, they honor us so far as to read our poor lucubrations, to take this hint, lest the people should in process of time give them another of a broader description.

At the sarne time that he was making inquiry in regard to the practicability of establishing a school, Mr. Fidler, who has

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »