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244 Western American Literature in Ferril’s poetry. At seventy, Ferril has not refined and perfected his idiom. It is difficult to imagine why he ignores the native idiom which constitutes his own speech. For the language of the poet is not the language of the man. In fact, if one did not know him as a Westerner of the fifth generation, it would be difficult to guess the language of the man who in the same poem employs the folksy image of Lick and lift your finger to the sky, the romantic The golden mountains blow a beckoning wind, the sentimental Far off they fondle silky as a kitten, and the awkward gaminess of Up close they snap like a bear-trap snagging greasy. Further reading confirms the impression that the poet had no actual attitude toward his material, but simply discovered a variety of potential attitudes. For we soon come onto the unlikely, self-conscious mountainism of “drunk on drinking drinking-whiskey,” the sixteenth-century mannerism of “Full generous to bats and cottontails,” the pronounced Latinism of “But chanting oddly to inquisitors,” and the G. M. Hopkins derivativeness of “Of spangle-dapple back of another mountain.” Such a harlequin conglomeration of rhetoric in the space of one brief poem is enough to make a reader stop praising God for the glory of dappled things. Only a slender sheaf of really splendid poems grew out of a genuine and original vision. N ic h o la s C ro m e, Colorado State University From Scotland to Silverado. By Robert Louis Stevenson. Edited by James D. Hart. (Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1966. 287 pages, $5.95.) This edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s writings about his trip to California in 1879-80 must certainly be definitive, for James D. Hart has brought together all the relevant Stevenson materials—some previously pub­ lished, some published before in expurgated editions, and others never before Reviews 245 in print—to give us in fully reliable form Stevenson the traveler and the observer. Professor Hart’s introduction supplies biographical details that are absent from Stevenson’s own account, makes judicious evaluations of the works themselves (The Amateur Emigrant, The Silverado Squatters, and a group of four essays on California entitled The Old and New Pacific Capitals), and presents as strong a case as is perhaps possible for their relevance to more major works in the Stevenson canon. Students of Western American literature will be interested in Stevenson’s reactions to his trip across the plains and his stay in California, but they are likely to be disappointed in the quality of the writing. True, in a dozen or more places throughout the volume, one recognizes Stevenson’s real gift for narrative, but the incipient stories fail to develop. As traveler-observer, Steven­ son too rarely makes arresting observations and too frequently employs con­ ventional, if not cliched, metaphors. Only occasionally does an insight pene­ trate his prose and strike us, as in the following reaction to a Pennsylvania sunrise, with its validity: Explain it how you may, and for my part I cannot explain it at all, the sun rises with a different splendour in America and Europe. There is more clear gold and scarlet in our old-country mornings; more purple, brown and smoky orange in those of the new. It may be from habit, but to me the coming of day is less fresh and inspirit­ ing in the latter; it has a duskier glory, and more nearly resembles sunset; it seems to fit some subsequential, evening epoch of the world, as though America were in fact, and not merely in fancy, farther from the orient of Aurora and the springs of day. The Silverado Squatters seems to me the most satisfying of these works, perhaps because here Stevenson develops his materials with a repleteness that conveys both the location (an abandoned mine, two thousand feet up the side of Mount Saint Helena) and the personality of the observer (the Steven­ son who had, following some tribulations, just married the woman he loved). There is considerable charm in the reactions of the enthusiastic young Scot to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 244-246
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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