HomeKatz's Unofficial Index to Antebellum New York City NewspapersKatz's Notes on Antebellum New York City NewspapersArcturus


Arcturus: A Journal of books and Opinion, volume 1, has a Greek untranslated motto fr Anacreon’s ode, NY Benj Trevett, 121 fulton st, December 1840


Opens with an article on political life by Cornelius Mathews, Duyckinck on authorship. City Article  by Cornelius Mathews worries that citizenship is too cheap, wants strict observance of naturalization laws.

Duyckinck p. 57 on The Fine Arts: Apollo Gall.

The most literal pic requires to be thought out and comprehended, pushes the imagination. Truepic involves a long narrative, tho its expression is complete as a sonnet, and story must be supplied by the listener (so needs purest conceptions in minds of its admirers)

            On entering gall, conscious of presence of two heads by Allston inclu Ben West, effect of some eminent man entering rm and suddenly fixing all eyes on him. Carry historical weight with poetic depth, can’t but believe they are in truth the Substance, we the Shadows.

            Rev Orville Dewey by Frothingham, fr which engraving is taken, thoughtful care supporting burden of humanity, feeling serious and impressive.

            Fishmarket at Rome by late Fr ptr Robert real and life like, thou subj coarse and much canvass taken up with dead wall, has impress of art that refines commonest ideas. Goes on to admire copies of Rubens rich relish brawny muscular assurance of humanity and Rembrandt.


January 1841

  1. 69 Duyckinck on Newspapers, critical of Cooper tho recognizes his merits; Bancroft (signed J) is the historian for the people, tracing prog of demo principle, discredit to a man’s heart and censure to his taste to confound himself with the herd of ignorant, hireling, pothouse, self styled democrats. Cornelius M is very critical of Catholic effort to get public school money. Want intl copyright. Duyckinck on Cole’s pictures of voyage of life, p. 123, machinery is old alleg of a river. If artist had ended here, with his success as a ptr of natural scenery, and left these diff scenes to represent in their mute grandeur the Voyage, he would have relied more justly upon the imagination. But intro angel, fanciful bark, which withdraws the subj fr the imag and substitutes a literal commonplace. If for the illus of manhood ptr had represented a stern, secluded warlike castle or tasked the mind to an orig effort, moral more successful and higher standard of art.


February 1841 p. 148 Newspaper Crit by WAJ. newspaper critics are the least of the small critics, the most microscopic of the minute phhilosophers. A penny a liner is not likely to prove a politician of the noblest stamp. Writings are purely fragmentary and as detached, if not as deep, as maxims or Orphic sayings.

            A newsp crit is generally either a puff or a libel, either an extrav eulogy or a violent attack. Either way exaggerated, want of judg that assigns to every person and thing its due importance and relative value, Shakespeare and cheese described in similar phrases. Praise some obscure, fifth rate as remarkable talent and finest taste etc, these little unknowns the peculiar Gods of the reviewer’s idolatry, pride of patronage, cleverness cried up for genius. Slight circumstances freq determine a man’s merit in eyes of these v small critics, born in same town, graduated at same college. Censure too often merely effect of malice, ill nature, private feeling, in disingenuous illiberal style of invective, a mistaken form of satire. Some affect indifference, think to kill by contempt, others watch for dubious meaning, others damn with faint praise calling the work respectable, a fourth assume great airs of impartiality while bursting with envy and rancor, will praise one part of a bk only to condemn another.

            Causes are various: praise or condemn one whom editor is at war with or a prime favorite or have not advertised or have spoken lightly ofhim, or a wish to be thought independent. Or illiberal, narrow minded, rash applic of general principles. That big, fat-faced boy—that small-headed man-monster, the public, little know of the paid criticism and the party puff, the stab in the dark, a man’s criticizing himself or getting a friend to criticize him

  1. 133 Cornelius Mathews, The Unrest of the Age, separates them into solitary units and gathers them into shouting masses. Need more imag, ptgs in which the ideal world is shadowed forth, or in which the actual world is raised to the standard of a glowing or cheerful ideal…Picts in which char is exhib in grotesque orhumorous phases, by relieving mind fr painful pressure of rigid and exact life and custom, further this grand object


March 1841

Francis Hawks, Admires idea of reforming misery and sorrow and suffering in society, think Fourierism utterly impracticable founded on false views  of human nature


April 1841

Wary of Emerson--WAJ

May 1841

  1. 371,Duyckinck, FA: Apollo Assoc. First engraving John White’s Genl Marion forms a gd pop pic bcause it tells a plain story worth telling. First exhib for yr open at Granite Bldgs, many choice pics and gd moral tone, rich fund of meditation. Retzch Game of Life/Chess Players, alleg may ponder by the hour. Most people prefer something like narrative even in a pic, few repose long ona single image. Bewitching ideal port of the South by Sully, Contemplation, and rare realities in Wild Turkies by Audubon, port of Ital Girl by HP Gray fascinating, hidden inner depth of beauty. AJ Oliver still lifes v natural, very few unpleasant ports, whole in excellent gd taste
  2. 373 likes Brackett’s Binding of Satan,familiarizes moral by spirits of evil and gd in a merely human guise, standards of actual life. Not equal to awful nature of his subj. By M. (Cornelius Mathews?)


June 1841, p. 59 Fine Arts: Exhib of the Acad, by CW. Like new luxurious rooms. Pictures like the men they represent derive consideration fr external objects. Work to which eye first attracted, Picture of the Year, Mercy’s Dream by Huntingdon. Not a subj for ordinary Artist working in trading spirit, not well known or popular story, already embodied in ideas of beholders. Conception and exec of Mercy worthy of highest praise. 179 sweet female port also fortunate, graceful and intellectual expr.

            Inman—pleased to see so many samples, groups of children and female heads, no single pic so fine as Biddle in last. View in Sullivan cty 28 fresh and verdant, versatility, News Boy 150, Every New Yorker must appreciate the clear perception of char and masterly exec of this pic, hope it may be first of a Pop Port Gall, for which ever-varying aspect of crowded thoroughfares supply the subjects.

            Columbus before Council 22 carefully ptd cabinet by RW Weir, usual correctness in compos, attn. to detail may be studied by those who mistake negligence and indistinctness for breadth. Variety of expressions skillfully delineated, tho wish for diff attitude in Columbus and more subdued backgrd. 147 Ft Putnam v pleasing, foregrd beaut ptd, 285 and 306 bold artist-like studies.

            In smaller sketches Cole accustomed mastery, his largest pic 189 view of Falls of Nunda tho much that is fine, not equal to his former productions.

            Cider-making 53 no one but Mount, genial spirit inspired him, every fig a complete study fr his inimitable correctness in delineation of indiv char. Neighbor in same walk, 4th of July JG Clonney 46 worthy of attn..

            Directly under Mount’s a crit position, Hagan pic delineating humorous phases of  polit life, patriotic gman harnging an assembly on topics of vital interest judging fr energy, usual misc of boys, cartmen laborers, wire-pullers etc for audience, ea assumes expressive attitude. Gd conception, artist may prove successful in humorous illus and designs fr city life. Stiffness and hardness his chief obstacles.

            Mooney’s port of Arab guest Achmet ben Aman 48 rich gorgeous picque costume highly creditable.

            1 Happy Valley of Rasselas by Talbot fine verdant bold rocky, great skill tho hardly idealized to answer author

            Bryant port by C Verbryck esp notice, 11 more remarkable for boldness of conception than success in exec.

            Masterly port of Ldy by Page 21 in massive vigorous style, will have effect of Rembrandt.

            Minis by Geo a Baker denote genius to be encouraged.

            135 in imitation of severe antique or spiritual school of art lately revived in Euro, can’t say much for success.

                        Ingham 3 female ports in usual style, when ivory and enamel compose human beings insteadof flesh and blood, his pics will be faithful. Admiration excited by perverse ingenuity of this gman a pregnant symptom of imperfection of current ideas of nature and end of art.

            Pics of Gray quiet unobtrusive tone of color may cause them to be overlooked amidst glittering throng, but evidence of mind visible and careful study of best models

            Wash Allston 219 great breadth and simplicity, air of early Ital.


Opposed to capital punishment


August 1841: Thinks Stephens is no scholar and his book hasn’t added to knowl of antiquities, dislikes his argument about who made American ruins, Catherwood’s drawings good. Duyckinck rips J Silk Buckingham as mediocre and shallow.


September 1841 p. 221 Edward Everett by J. Our authors are imitative, because they aim for elegance and taste, genius is highly cultivated ina soil that soon became effete. Taste is not a progressive faculty—it stops at a certain point; varying with the diff characters of men. It soon reaches its limits... A man of fine taste affects a certain line of study or composition and attaches himself to noneother. He is ‘Content to dwell in decencies forever.’ His taste, repelling the common, as too low for it, equally shuns the sublime, as above it, and is willing to remain in a safe mediocrity. Everett an ex of claims to not much besides utmost propriety, Corinthian but no force


November 1841 p. 373 Duyckinck on The Apollo Assoc

Present exhib perhaps inferior to former ones, but warmest sympathies with its management. Real pleasure from

            Port of Child, SS Osgood, most natural and warmly colored, depth of lux quiet and repose, worth study by artists whose chilly productions hang on whitened parlor walls, this ptg warms blood and imparts youthful vitality. 45 child by Dunlap mischievous compound excellent in another way, half concealed sprightliness. Wash in his Youth by Chapman in style of Watteau, fine concept, tho savors of prettiness, a drawing rm pic of the forest,lscape softened, v eleg kind of life in backwoods, not manly strength of GW practiced endurance. We like these suggestive pics, and pass on to Cole’s fine idea, cabinet monk reading in v richly wooded lscape, monk a poor sort, but trees are lordly, everlasting verdure in massive growth that seems to reflect on book, learning equally imperishable.

            Other pics faulty in design and miserable in exec, will silently perish.


December 1841, Arcturus Supper for metropolitan editors, Morris of Mirror, Weld of Jonathan, Chas King of American, Daniels of C and E a steady and sure friend, Greeley, Bennett and Beach,Bryant and John Inman, Levi Slam; then the Sunday press: 3 editors of the Atlas, Dow jr and his associate, Sunday Times editor John W Moore, Mumford of Standard. Brooks of Express, Bartlett of Albion, Porter of Spirit of Times somehow neglected; Park Benjamin regretted, J of Commerce declined, and L Gaylord Clark arrived. Quarterly declined, as did Hunt. Col Webb appeared, and swarm of junior writers. McElrath and Raymond of Trib, Godwin of Eve Post, Wm King of NY American, AJ Spooner of Brooklyn Evening Star, Col Stone.

            Seated opposite his well known favorite dish: at upper end Stone of Commercial with great mtns of beef and pudding, Webb his opposite with the brawn, from which he made the blood gush in torrents. In middle, a happy medium, editor of Am with prudent plain steak and Port. At v oppos, Antarctic to Stone, Greeley had pint of water and green cresses.

            Same issue praises Wash Allston and his Monaldi; critical of Lester’s glory and shame of England as exaggerated. Very critical of Hughes interfering with politics. Dislikes Braham. Likes Appleton’s.


[J= William A Jones, I think; City Articles sometimes by JM Van Cott, I think—eg attacks on Hughes] Louis Noble and Hawthorne also write for them.


Feb 1842 City Article: monuments in Cities p. 225 statues and monuments banish weariness, with sense of awe as at Pompeii, voice fr other days that nnot all was vain and frivolous, something nobler than business when fame is made real to eye. A column is a lofty moralist, man lives not only in sordid present. Need these incentives to imag to cultivate magnanimity. Statue is a pop edition of a gd bk, a bio penciled in marble, ruling passions and masterthoughts in lineaments, greatness in mien and attitude. A truly great statue ofWash, dignity and heroism that sat on his brow would impress minds of people. Memorial recently to city council praying for such a statue to be entrusted to native sculptor, James V Stout, National in its char. Memorial signed by Wash Irving, Halleck, Henry Brevoort, Fr L Hawks, Ben F Butler, Paulding, Bryant, Willis, Duer, Trumbull, Forrest, Val Mott, John W Francis, MH Grinnell, Onderdonk, Frelinghuysen, Davezac, Theo Sedgwick, Wainwright, a Tallmadge, M Livingston. Of ability of sculptor, unanimity of men ofmost opposite professions and tastes is best proof. Seen a model of head by artist, conveys indefinable gravity and char, kept baseness at a distance. Most portraits lack this kindling expr of intellect, are tame and domestic in repose, even bust of Houdon, as Morse says is asleep, “but the bust of Stout is W awake, and on the eve of battle.”

            -approve Merc Lib Assoc


May 1842 Crit in America p. 401 Crit now generally regarded in the country as a matter of mere personal favor or dislike; a bad review met by a bad one in an enemy paper