7 SEPTEMBER 1850, Page 17


Tire general character of this book is such as we intimated it would probably turn, out to be. There is a vivid perception. and a strong but delicate appreciation of natural beauty, as well as an unaffected and graceful manner of describing it ; but there is something of sameness in the subjects, and a want of continuous or connected interest. The record of daily walks in a remote village of one of the counties of New York, with the observations made upon vege- tation, animal life and rural economy, occasions a sort of repetition, which a thread of story might have varied. Perhaps, too, this is more felt through the absence of what is called solid information. Miss Cooper has little scientific knowledge either, of botany or natural history. She consequently wants the specific precision of the learned eye : sentiment, or individual impression, predominates in her descriptions.

On the other hand, her plan and her locality give her book as interest, at least to English readers, by its pictures of American climate, scenery, and country life, with its opinions' or pre- judices. Bur Hours is in the form of a diary ; the daily °beer; rations varying from a few lines to several pages. This, of course; indicates the nature of the weather by a record of the sun- shine or gloom, the daily occupation out of doors and the domestic changes within,—as when it is noted, for instance, the 7th of September, "This evening -we kindled our autumn fires." The plan moreover involves a direct reference to the seasons ; the book being divided into Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, with more consideration of the atmospheric changes than was ab- solutely required. We do not mean that this topic throws a new light upon the American climate ; which appears in these pages as it is generally described, more eitreme than our own and quite as variable, with a shorter spring and a longer winter : but the mi- nute and frequently-recurring pictures, marked by little circum- stances, bring it more home than general conclusions. A greater interest arises from the glimpses which we catch of the customs and practices of the agricultural settlers in the State of New York. These offer a singular mixture of old English and Dutch habits, with modern Republicanism superadded to both. The church is deoorated. at Christmas with green ; but as neither holly nor mistletoe are found in Miss Cooper's neighbour- hood, One and. hemlock with some more delicate plants are sub- stituted for the old English greens.: in other places, it appears, the oedar,, the arbor vita, , the cypress, or the laurel, is used; though the belkr wouhLseem to- be predmin.ent, when it ,can. be prooured.

• Rural Hours. By Miss Cooper. In two volumes. Published by Bentley.

The Americans have not the English robin red-breast; theirs is larger, less musical, and migratory ; bat he has succeeded to the regard of his English namesake, and the people believe that their robin is the one that fed and covered the Babes in the Wood. The confidence of the American bird equals that of the English origi- nal.

" Friday, 14 [April].—Rainy morning. Passing through one of the village streets this afternoon, we saw a robin's nest in a very low and exposed posi- tion. The honest creatures must have great confidence in their neighbours ; which, it is to be hoped, will not be abused. It was in the corner of an out- building facing the street, and so near the side-walk that it looked as though one could shake hands with the inmates across the paling. It was entirely unsereened ; a stray branch of a neighbouring locust projected, indeed, above it; but if the robins expect the foliage to shelter them at this early day, they have made a sad miscalculation. The mother bird was on the nest as we passed, sitting, of course ; she slowly moved her large brown eyes toward us as we stopped to watch her, but without the least expression of fear ; in- deed, she must see the village people coming and going all day long, as she sits there on her nest."

Rural occupations are frequently alluded to,—as the an- nual house-cleaning, and maple sugar-making, of which Miss Cooper gives an ample account. Some primitive home manu- factures are also noticed, to which political economy is op- posed as a misapplication of labour ; though but for that em- ployment the persons would probably be idle altogether. The sovereign people in America follow a practice which obtains in England, but which is here limited to fruit, and set about with less of Republican frankness.

"There is, unhappily, a very serious objection to cultivating fruit in our village gardens : fruit-stealing is a very common crime in this part of the world; and the standard of principle on such subjects is as low as it well can be in our rural communities. Property of this kind is almost without protection among us : there are laws on the subject, but these are never en- forced ; and of course people are not willing to throw away money, and time, and thought, to raise fruit for those who might easily raise it for themselves, if they would take the pains to do so. There can be no doubt that this state of things is a serious obstacle to the cultivation of choice fruit in our vil- lages; horticulture would be in a much higher condition here if it were not for this evil. But the impunity with which boys, and men too, are allowed ta commit thefts of this kind, is really a painful picture, for it must inevitably lead to increase a spirit of dishonesty throughout the coin- rannity. "it is the same case with flowers. Many people seem to consider them as public property, though cultivated at private expense. It was but the other day that we saw a little girl, one of the village Sunday-scholars moreover, put her hand within the railing of a garden and break off several very fine plants, whose growth the owner had been watching with care and interest for many weeks, and which had just opened to reward his papa. 'Another instance of the same kind, but still more flagrant in degree, was observed a short time since : the offender was a full-srown man, dressed in fine broad-cloth to boot, and evidently a stranger; he passed before a pretty yard, gay with flowers, and, unchecked by a single scruple of good manners or good morals, proceeded to make up a handsome bouquet, with- out so much as saying by your leave to the owner; having selected the flowers most to his fancy, he arranged them tastefully, and then walked off with a free and jaunty air, and an expression of satisfaction and self-com- placency truly rididulous under the circumstances, lie had made up his nosegay with so much pains, eyed it so tenderly as he carried it before him, and moved along with such a very mincing and dainty manner, that he was probably on the way to present himself and his trophy to his sweet- heart;, and we can only hope that he met with just such a reception as was

"As if to make the chapter complete, the very same afternoon, the vil- lage being full of strangers, we saw several young girls, elegantly flounced, pat their hands through the railing of another garden, facing the street, and help themselves in the same easy manner to their neighbour's prettiest flowers: what would they have thought if some one had stepped up with a pair of scissors and cut half a yard from the riband on their hats, merely 4emuse it was pretty and one had a fancy for it ? Neither the little girl, nor the strangers in broad-cloth and flounces, seem to have learned at common school, or at Sunday-school, or at home, that respect for the plea- sures of others is simple good manners, regard for the rights of others, com- mon honesty.

"No one who had a flower-border of his own would be likely to offend in

this way."

Although the district seems thinly settled, and much of the land still forest, the wild animals have vanished, and even the smaller birds are decreasing, owing to the non-enforcement of season-laws. However, a panther was heard of, and eventually killed, though not by the sportsmen of "our villaoe " ; and a moose was slain in the country; both, apparently, "strays" from remoter and less in- habited places. Red Indians appear occasionally, because the neighbourhood was "possibly" a head-quarters of the Oneida tribe.

'Standing at the window one summer's afternoon, our attention was sud- denly fixed by three singular figures approaching the house. More than one member of our household had never yet seen an Indian, and, unaware that any were in the neighbourhood, a second glance was necessary to convince us that these visitors must belong to the Bed race, whom we had long been so anxious to see. They came slowly toward the door, walking singly and si- lently wrapped in blankets, bareheaded and barefooted. Without knocking or speaking, they entered the house with a noiseless step, and stood silently near the open door.

"We gave them a friendly greeting; and they proved to be women of the Oneida tribe, belonging to a family who had encamped in the woods the day before, with the purpose of selling their baskets in the village. Meek in countenance, with delicate forms and low voices, they had far more of the peculiarities of the Red race about them than one would look for in a tribe long accustomed to intercourse with the Whites, and a portion of whom have become more than half civilized. Only one of the three could speak English, and she seemed to do so with effort and reluctance. They were dressed in gowns of blue calico, rudely cut, coarsely stitched together, and so short as to show their broad-cloth leggings worked with beads. Their heads were entirely bare, their straight black hair hanging loose about their shoulders ; and, although it was midsummer at the time, they were closely wrapped in coarse white blankets.

" We asked. their names. Wallee Awa '—‘ Cootlee '—was the answer. Of what tribe ? Oneida,' was the reply, in a voice low and melancholy as the note of the whip-poor-will, giving the soft Italian sound to the vowels, and four syllables to the word. They were delicately made, of the usual

height of American women, and their features were good, without being pretty. About their necks, arms, and ankles, they wore strings of cheap or- naments, pewter medals and coarse glass beads, with the addition of a few scraps of tin, the refuse of some tin-shop passed on their way. One, the grandmother, was a Christian ; the other two were Pagans. "There was something startling and very painful in hearing these poor creatures within our own commimity, and under our own roaf, declaring them- selves heathens! They paid very little attention to the objects about them, until the youngest of the three observed a small Chinese basket on a table near her. She rose silently, took the basket in her hand, examined it care- fully, made a single exclamation of pleasure, and then exchanged a. few words with her companions in their own wild but musical tongue. They an seemed struck with this specimen of Chinese ingeuuity.

"They asked, as usual, for bread and cold meat ; and a supply was cheer- fully given them, with the addition of some cake, about which they appear- ed to care very little. In the mean time, a messenger had been sent to one of the shops of the village, where toys and knicknacks for children were sold ; and he returned with a handful of copper rings and brooches' pewter. medals, and bits of bright ribands, which were presented to our guesits : the simple creatures looking much gratified, as well as surprised, although their thanks were brief, and they still kept up the true 'Indian etiquette of master- ing all emotion. They were, indeed, very silent and unwilling to talk, so that it was not easy to gather much information from them ; but their whole appearance was so much more Indian than we had been prepared for, while their manners were so gentle and womanly, so free from anything coarse or rude in the midst of their untutored ignorance, that we were much pleased with the visit."

It must not be forgotten that rural nature—atmospheric effects, the appearance of the landscape, term naturte, and the actions and habits of the animal creation—are the main features of the book. Mingled with these are frequent reflections, appropriate and seldom overdone, with occasional digressions on the kindred usages of other countries in reference to the subject in hand. This passage on old trees will give an idea of Miss Cooper's general description, where a vein of reflection is intermingled.

" The forest lands of America preserve to the present hour something that is characteristic of their wild condition, undisturbed for ages. They abound in ruins of their own. Old trees, dead and dying, are left standing for years, until at length they are shivered and broken by the winds, or they crumble slowly away to a shapeless stump. There was no forester at hand to cut them down when the first signs of decay appeared ; they had no uses then, now they have no value. "Broken limbs and dead bodies of great trees lie scattered through the forests : there are spots where the winds seem to have battled with the woods. At every step one treads on fallen trunks, stretched in giant length upon the earth—this still clad in its armour of bark, that bare and mouldering, stained by green mildew—one a crumbling mass of fragments, while others again lie shrouded in beautiful mosses, long green hillocks marking the grave of trees slowly turning to dust. Young trees are frequently found growing upon these forest rums : if a giant pine or oak has been levelled by some storm, the mass of matted roots and earth will stand upright for years in the same position into which it was raised by the falling trunk; and ocess-

41, &tonally a good-sized hemlock, or pine, or beech, is seen growing from the summit of the mass, which in itself is perhaps ten or twelve feet • h.

"We have found a stout tree, of perhaps twenty years' grow which has sprung from a chance seed, sown by the winds on the prostrate trunk of a fallen pine or chestnut, growing until its roots have stretched down the side of the mouldering log and reached the earth on both sides, thus holding the crumbling skeleton firmly in its young embrace. The decay of these dead trees is strangely slow ; prostrate pines have been known to last fifty years undecayed, still preserving their sap; and upright grey shafts often remain standing for years, until one comes to know them as familiarly as the living trees. Instances are on record where they have thus remained erect in death for a space of forty years. Amid this wild confusion, we note hero and there sonic mark left by civilized man ; the track of wheels a rude road sprinkled over by withered leaves, or the mark of the axe, sliarp and clean, upon a stump close at hand, reminding us how freely and how richly the forest contributes to the wants of our race."

The following passage apropos to the termination of the harvest somewhat modifies the European notion of the absence of poverty in America.

"In this part of the world, although we have once seen a woman plongh- ing, once found a party of girls making hay with the men of the family, and occasionally observed women hoeing potatoes or corn, we have never yet seen a sight very common in the fields of the Old World,—we have never yet met a single gleaner. Probably this is not entirely owing to the pros- perous state of the country, for there are many poor among us. ' The poor ye have with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good.' In the large towns, who has not seen the wretched creatures who pick up the filthy rags from the rubbish and mud of the streets ? Where human beings can earn a livelihood in this way in the cities, gleaning in the fields of the country ought not to surprise one. "Even about our villages there are not only many persons in want, a number supported by the public, but there are usually others also who may be called regular beggars ; men, and women, and children who had rather beg than work. Let not the accusation be thought a harsh one. There are, even in our small rural communities, fathers and mothers who teach their children to beg ; alas ! who deliberately encourage their children in thieving and lying, and vice of the foulest kinds. Where such things exist, it. cannot be-the great prosperity of the country which keeps the gleaner from follow- ing in the reaper's steps. Probably there are several reasons why gleaning is not practised here. Food is comparatively cheap ; our paupers are well fed, and those who ask for food are freely supplied by private charity. Wheat bread and meat, and butter, and sugar, and tea, and coffee, are looked upon as necessaries, openly asked for by the applicant, and freely bestowed

by the giver. •

" This-comparative abundance of food in the early days of the different colonies, and the full demand for labour, were probably the reasons why the custom of gleaning was broken up on this side the Atlantic ; and the fact that it is not customary is one reason why it is never thought of today. Then, again, our people generally are not patient and contented with_ a little ; gleaning would not suit their habits. Many of them probably had rather

beg than glean." .

While we in Europe are advocating the removal of burial- grounds from Churches, Miss Cooper is advocating their establish- ment or preservation, in opposition to all hygienic ideas. But the fact is, that sanatory reform is a state of growth. Its want is not felt, perhaps it is not wanted, in an early stage of society.

"Monday, 11.—Churehyards are much less common in this country than one might suppose ; and to judge from the turn things are taking now, it seems probable this pious, simple custom of burying about our churches vkll

soon become obsolete. As it is, the good people of many rural neighbour- hoods must make a day's journey before they can find a country churchyard in which to read Gray's klegy. A great proportion of the places of worship one sees here have no graves near them. In the villages, they make part of the crowd of buildup, with little space about them; nor does it follow that i

in the open country, where land s cheaper, the ease is altered; you pass meeting-houses standing apart, with broad fields spreading on all sides, but no graves at hand. Sonia distance beyond, perhaps, you will come to a square enclosure, opening into the highway ; and this is the cemetery of the congregation. Small family burying-grounds5 about the fields, are very common ; sometimes itis a retired spot neatly enclosed, or it may be only a row of graves in one corner of the meadow or orchard.

"Walking in the fields a while since, we were obliged to climb a stone wall, and on jumping down into the adjoining meadow, we found we had alighted on a gravel there were several others lying around near the fence, an unhewn stone at the head and foot of each humble hillock. This custom of burying on the farms, had its origin, no doubt, in the peculiar circum- stances of the early population, thinly scattered over a wide country, and separated by distance and bad roads from any place of public worship.

'In this way the custom of makinoe the graves of a family upon the home- stead gradually found favour among the people, and they learned to look upon IL as a- melancholy gratification to make the tombs of the departed members of a family near the dwelling of the living. The increase of the population and the improvement of the roads on one hand, with the changes of pro- perty, and the greater dumber of villages on the other, are now bringing about another state of things. Public cemeteries for parishes or whole com- munities are becoming common while the isolated burial-places about the farms are more rare than they used to be.

"The few churchyards found amens us are usually seen in the older pa- rishes; places of worship recently built very rarely have a yard attached te them. The narrow, crowded, abandoned churchyards, still seen in the heart of our older towns, have become in the course of time very striking monuments to the dead.

"Nowhere is the stillness of the grave so deeply impressive ; the feverish turmoil of the living, made up of pleasure, duty, labour, folly, sin, whirling in ceaseless movement about them, is less than the passing winds and the drops of rain to the tenants of those grounds, as they lie side by side in crowded but unconscious company. The present, so full, so fearfully absOrb- inc. with the living, to the dead is a mystery ; with those moulderinoo- re- mains of man the past and the future are the great realities. The stillness, the uselessness if you will, of the old churchyard in the heart of the bustling city, renders it &more striking and impressive memento mori than the skull in the cell of a hermit."