from The Literary World, December 14, 1850
In a pleasant preface, Mr. Marvel deprecates the misunderstandings of
critics, a sensitiveness which we take as a characteristics bit of the
bachelor, in advance--a bachelor being, as all in the world knows, a
most unassured whimsical being, never certain of his heart, never
certain of his head, migratory, inconsequential, loosely attached to
society, and, as a consequence, when he presumes to write a book utterly
insecure of his style and position. The presumption, indeed, of such a
man writing a book and acknowledging on the title page any other
bachelorship than that of arts, which he should disguise in a dead
language, or write in symbols, is the merest trifling with reputation.
You don't find women, with the inferior tact, guilty of such nisisierie.
Miss Martineau, an extreme case, though she may commit herself
fearlessly in such trifles as cow electricity, would repudiate utterly
"Reveries by an Old Maid." And in what respect is not a bachelor
infinitely worse? He may talk and prattle, and be filled with vapors,
and spread himself in type over pages, but for any of the stuff of human
nature, quoad Bachelor--he is a fool. If it is Ik Marvel's
unfortunate lot in real life to be a bachelor, he should not aggravate
in the infelicities of the character, by voluntarily grinding his foot
into it through an entire duodecimo volume. He is an esayist, and has
an eye evidently upon Addison, but does he think Addison could have
written the Spectator without his Countess, that exemplary discipline of
"We learn in marriage what we teach in prose."
Marvel has read Tristram Shandy--does he suppose Laurence Sterne to have penned that courtship of the Widow Wadman--that he could invented Uncle Toby--that he could have seen into the philosophies of "My Father" as a bachelor, or without that grand pathetic courtship and success which he celebrates for his daughter Lydia? Uncle Toby was the munificent gift to the world of a married man. Let bachelors remember this when they seek to draw that capacious hide over their dwarfed shoulders. Rabelais, to be sure, was unmarried, but then he was a Friar, and gifted with superior spiritual intelligence. What a poor sneaking rascal is his bachelor Panurge, going about bamboozled by fools, doctors, lawyers, in a chimerical vacuum about a wife. To step over a few years, what would Dickens's "Household Words" be without Mrs. Dickens? Where would be Mrs. Gamp?
Any deficiencies, therefore, that Ik Marvel's Reveries may labor under are to be set down to his present undeveloped condition.
If the reader finds him prosy it is truth to character; if he nibbles at the outside of things with more words than matter from the heart of them, how can it be otherwise; if he gets his ideas of life from the farces at Burtons, where else is he to obtain them from; if he imagines he smokes--is it but Jeremy Taylor's "dream of the shadow of smoke;" he may fancy that a piece of crunched toast is a breakfast, but can he dine?
Ik Marvel, we have it from the evidence of this book, were any other wanting, is John Timon of the Lorgnette. He is the same gentleman throughout, reads the same books, and is given to the same moods of observation and sentiment. It was a difficult thing to get well through a couple of volumes on New York society; but Ik Marvel, when he found the society naught, threw himself and his library in, and accomplished it. In these Reveries he is constrained by no snobs or parvenues, but, having full swing for himself, fills his book with confiding and pleasant thoughts, sketching his experiences, at home and abroad, in a spirit grave and light, which, we cannot mistake the fact, though personally unacquianted with the author, reflects a very happy nature. Reader, bachelor or Benedict, you will be all the better for possessing this daintily arranged book of Ik Marvel's Reveries.
from Southern Literary Messenger, January, 1851, p. 64
"When a book elevates the soul"--says La Bruyere--"and inspires you with lofty and courageous sentiments, seek no other rule by which to judge the work; it is good, and the effort of a master's hand." Surely the reader need not go beyond this little fragment of French criticism to make up his opinion of the work before us. If he possess a soul not altogether rusted over by the corrosion of worldly strifes and cares, he cannot have read farther than fifty pages, without yielding to Ik Marvel the excellence that is ascribed by the author of Les Caracteres to such as touch the best feelings of our nature.
The readers of the Messenger are already familiar with the first two parts of this volume, which were originally prepared for, and published in, its pages. Numberless were the letters we recived, asking the question--"who is Ik Marvel?" At that time we could only answer "he is the author of 'Fresh Gleanings.'" Subsequently, however, his incognito was dropped, and he was known as Mr. D. G. Mitchell, but a short period only found him behind another domino, and he was applying the lash of the satirst to the fashionable society of New York, as John Timon. Whatever he shall undertake in his peculiar field of writing--that of pathos mingled with playfulness in the form of sketch or essay--let him assume what shape he may, so that he take not the grotesque habit of Carlyle, he will be equally successful in moving and softening the feelings. He is at once a true man and a scholar--his eloquence, which gushes forth at times as a flood, could only issue from the depths of a large heart, while his illustrations are such as he alone who has become thoroughly imbued with the best of the world's literature could supply. Moreover his style is, for the most part, pure, and fragrant with sweet expressions truly original.
from Harper's New Monthly Magazine, January 1851
The Reveries of a Bachelor, by IK. MARVEL (published by Baker and Scribner), some portions of which have already been presented to the public in the October number of our Magazine, and in the Southern Literary Messenger, where they originally appeared, is one of the most remarkable and delightful books of the present season. Under the artistic disguise of the reveries of a solitary bachelor, yielding to the sweet and pensive fancies that cluster around his contemplative moments, inspired to strange, aerial, and solemn musings by the quiet murmur of his old-fashioned wood-fire, or gathering a swarm of quiet moralities from the fragrant embers of his cigar, the author stamps his heart on these living pages, and informs them with the most beautiful revelations that can be drawn from the depths of a rich experience and a singularly delicate and vivid imagination. Perhaps the most striking feature of this volume, is its truthfulness and freshness of feeling. The author has ventured to appropriate the most sacred emotions as the materials for his composition. Scenes, over which the vail is reverently drawn in real life, and which are touched lightly by the great masters of passion, are here depicted with the most faithful minuteness of coloring, and fondly dwelt on, as if the artist could not leave the tearful creations of his fancy. Nothing but an almost Shakespearian fidelity to nature could give success to such an experiment. The slightest tincture of affectation, or false sentiment, would ruin the whole. We always distrust the man who would play upon our emotions, and are glad to take refuge in the ludicrous, to save ourselves from the pathetic. If a single weak spot can be detected in the magic chain which he would throw around our feelings, if every link does not ring with the sound of genuine metal, the charm is at once broken, and we laugh to scorn the writer who would fain have opened the fountain of tears. It is no mean proof of the skill of the "Bachelor" that his pathetic scenes are always true to their aim. He has risked more than authors can usually afford, by dealing with the most exquisite elements of feeling, but he always forces you to acknowledge his empire, and yield your sympathies to his bidding.
It must not be inferred from these comments that our "Bachelor" is always in the lachrymose vein. Far from it. We have alluded to his mastery in the pathetic, because this is one of the most unerring tests of the sanity and truth of genius. But his "Reveries" also abound in touches of light and graceful humor; they show a quick perception and keen enjoyment of the comic; his sketches of character are pointed with a fine and delicate raillery; and his descriptions of natural beauty breathe the gushing cordiality of one who is equally at home in field and forest. With a rare facility of expresion, obstained by dallying with every form of phrase that can be constructed out of the English vocabulary, and a beautiful freedom of spirit that makes him not ashamed to unfold the depths of his better nature, Mr. Ik. Marvel has opened a new vein of gold in the literature of his country. We rejoice that its early working gives such noble promise that its purity and refinement will not be surpassed by its richness.
Advertisment for Reveries of a Bachelor from The Literary World, February 8, 1851
"With a rare faculty of expression, obtained by dallying with every form
of phrase that can be constructed out of the English vocabulary, and a
beautiful freedom of spirit that makes him not ashamed to unfold the
depths of his better nature, Mr. Ik Marvel has opened a new vein of gold
in the literature of his country."--Harper's New Monthly
"It clears the head, warms the heart, revivifies the soul. A sweet
delirium excites the senses and makes one imagine himself in other
spheres. One is young again. One joys, grieves, and feels anew. It
penetrates the system and pervades every sense."--Newark
The first dip into the pages has been like bathing the heart in the
flooding memories of other days, The book is worth more than its weight
in gold, for the heart language which breaths and gows to the end--no
wonder that some have doubted the Bachelorism of the author. Be the
real truth as it may, the history of the heart was never so faithfully
"A more sweet and tearful product of the heart can scarcely be found
in English literature since the days of Mackenzie."--Arthur's Home
It is certainly one of the finest productions of the literary genius
of this country, and will be universally read with pleasure and
admiration."--Courier and Enq.
"If some parts of this book is not poetry--real poetry--equal to
anything attached to rhythm, we have yet to learn what real poetry
"Quotations give but a faint idea of the depth of feeling, the
beautiful and winning frankness, the elastic vigor of the soul, and the
singular fidelity of expression which characterize this remarkable
volume. Its quaint ingenuity of arrangement is wholly lost in extremes,
and in order to enjoy the delicious adaptation of form to sentiment, in
which it would be hard to name its equal, it must be read as a
consumate, artistic, gem-like whole."--N. Y. Tribune.
"All the critics praise it as one of the choicest specimens of half
romance and half essay that has appeared in our
"True feeling, refinement, purity, and elegance of style, are the
prominent characteristics of this delightful and admirably executed
"Ik is at once a true man and a scholar: his eloquence, which gushes forth at times as a flood, could only issue from the depths of a large heart, while his illustrations are such as he alone who has become thoroughly imbued with the best of the world's literature could supply." --Southern Literary Messenger.
(LATE BAKER AND SCRIBNER), 26 Park Row & 145 Nassau st.