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Book Reviews

North American Review 59, no. 125 (October 1844): 489-491.

"Observations in Europe" The American Biblical Repository12, no. 2 (Oct 1844): 481-482.

"Dr. Durbin's observations in Europe," Littell's Living Age 2, no. 18 (Sep. 14, 1844): 366-67.

Southern Literary Magazine 10, no. 0 (July 1844): 448.

North American Review 59, no. 125 (October 1844): 489-491.

2.-Observations in Europe, principally in France and Great Britain. By John P. Durbin, D.D., President of Dickinson College. New York: Harper & Brothers. 1844. 2 vols. 12mo.

It is no easy thing, in this age, to write a book of travels in Europe, that shall have any thing of originality or interest. All the prominent objects, whether of nature or of art, have been described so many times, that to go over the description again is like repeating an old joke, or parading a venerable Joe Miller for the entertainment of a dinner party. The case is somewhat changed, when the peculiarities of society, or the manners of the times, are the writer's subject; for these are ever shifting, or the writer's point of view differs from any taken by his predecessors; and whatever concerns the men and women of a country creates an interest ever fresh. A large part of Dr. Durbin's book consists of descriptions that fall under the former remarks. They are well written, with no flourish or pretension; but they are mere repetitions of what a thousand tourists have told us before. If the book is designed for the well read classes of the buying public, much of it is undoubtedly superfluous. The author's relations, however, with a numerous and powerful sect, and the information on the religious state of the countries he visited, which he interweaves with the more ordinary texture of the work, will undoubtedly secure him a large and respectful audience. The tone of the book is in the highest degree praiseworthy. Dr. Durbin does not disguise his own religious opinions, while he treats others with candor and Christian decorum. On some topics, - for example, the position of Napoleon with respect to the other powers of Europe previously to the battle of Waterloo, and the effect upon the cause of liberty of English interference in the affairs of the continent at that time, - Dr. Durbin advances opinions at variance with those usually entertained by English and American writers, and more in accordance with the opinions of the French Liberals.

Dr. Durbin had frequent occasion, especially during his visit to England, to feel - as every American traveller must - the deep disgrace which has sullied the American name, since the execrable dishonesty of the repudiating and defaulting States has so disastrously blighted the hopes of freedom throughout the world. Most of the attacks upon Americans he was able to encounter by a plain statement of facts; but for repudiation, and the failure to pay the interest on the Pennsylvania bonds, he was able to find no excuse. Late events have unhappily overthrown some of the arguments which were effective a year or two ago. He says, for example, "Our British friends, innocent of all knowledge of American geography, make no difference between Arkansas and Massachusetts, Iowa and Pennsylvania. A murder is committed at the distance of fifteen hundred or two thousand miles from Philadelphia, and they imagine at once, that the streets of the Quaker city are thronged with savages, and that bowie-knives are as common there as walking-sticks in Regent Street." What will the Doctor's friends say to him, when they read the bloody history of the recent riots, perpetrated by throngs of savages in the streets of the Quaker city, infinitely more inexcusable, ferocious, and murderous, than the Lynchers of the South and West? We remember hearing a gentleman from the Southwest say, with as much wit as sarcasm, that, coming from a law-and-order loving country like Mississippi, he was afraid to visit Philadelphia.

The reader will part from Dr. Durbin's volumes with a sincere respect for his abilities, his liberality, and his intelligence.

"Observations in Europe" The American Biblical Repository12, no. 2 (Oct 1844): 481-482.

10-Observations in Europe, principally in France and Great Britain. By John P. Durbin, D.D., President of Dickinson College. 2 vols. New York: Harper & Brothers. 1844. pp. 620, 12mo.

President Durbin has evidently not travelled without making observations, and those observation followed by reflections. He did not forget, either, that he was a minister of religion and had the vows of God upon him. Hence he looks upon thing sin the light of God's truth, and fearlessly condemns whatever he thinks inconsistent with its principles.- Hence he has been represented, in some of the English prints, as having written in a bitter spirit. We cannot by commend him, however, for the independence with which he comments on institutions and opinions opposed, in his estimation, to truth an right.

In France he sees much to condemn: and in her king a traitor. Louis Philippe he regards as no friend to republican institutions, and as exerting all his power and wealth to establish the throne on such a basis as will make himself and his government acceptable to the crowned heads of the continent. In this we think he is not mistaken: and we apprehend a fearful crisis is approaching, as Louis Philippe approaches his end.

These volumes are interesting in matter, and beutiful in apdearance.

"Dr. Durbin's observations in Europe," Littell's Living Age 2, no. 18 (Sep. 14, 1844): 366-67.

From the Spectator.


Dr. Durbin is a Wesleyan minister, and the president of Dickenson College in the United States. He has travelled, with what particular object does not appear, over Great Britain, the European continent, Greece, Egypt, Arabia, Palestine, and Asia Minor. The present account of his travels only embraces a journey through part of France and Italy, viâ Havre, Paris, Lyons, Chambery, and Geneva; a Swiss tour in search of the picturesque; a descent of the Rhine, with a visit to Waterloo; and a railway run from London, by Birmingham and Manchester, to Sheffield, which was followed by a more ramified journey through Scotland and Ireland. Greece, Egypt, and the Holy Land, are to appear upon some future occasion.

The character of the work is correctly conveyed by its title. Remark or disquisition founded on "observation" predominates over narrative and description. The topics that employ Dr. Durbin are various, solid, and important in themselves, though not always appropriate to a divine, or well adapted to his handling, at least according to English ideas. In Paris the author investigates morals and religion with considerable sense, fairness, and acumen. He then takes up Louis Philippe; censuring the art by which poor old La Fayette, with his "throne surrounded by republican institutions," was duped, and the manner in which the king's government is carried on, and making some just remarks in comparison between French and English liberty. The journey to Italy affords opportunity for some observations on the agriculture of France, Geneva, and Switzerland, for various remarks on politics, and religion; but as the facts were only gathered en route they are not very remarkable. The Rhine and Holland is little more than the narrative of a rapid journey; but at Waterloo the president and doctor of divinity shows off in that peculiar style which the reader may imagine by superadding the self-satisfied sufficiency of an American democrat to the infallibility of an anti-state-church divine. He gives an account of the battle, and sets all right. "Even at this time," some time between five and seven, "notwithstanding the addition of Bulow's corps of thirty thousand men to the allied army, it appears clear that Napoleon would have gained the battle" - but that he lost it. Waterloo, however, is not the only subject Dr. Durbin settles. In gratitude to "Heaven, that made him with such large discourse," he looks "before and after;" beginning with the French revolution and ending with the holy alliance, the present time, and a slight infusion of prophecy. The intermediate parts are the rule of Napoleon, and the consequences of Waterloo - which the doctor pronounces mischievous to the best interests of mankind. He does indeed admit that the rule of Napoleon was somewhat stringent, especially in the conquered nations; but the poor soul was forced to it; and when he returned from Elba, he was going to govern quite constitutionally. The Ethiop had not changed his skin, but he would have done it; we have the professor's word for that. The tone of all this part is Dr. Durbin's but the matter is old and pretty nigh obsolete - drawn from whiggery of five-and-twenty years old, and voices from St. Helena.

The discussions on England relate to religion, chiefly among the Wesleyans, and to the political or social condition of the people. The account of the religious world, so far as Dr. Durbin saw it, is succinct and informing; though his bias for the voluntary principle, and the overturning of all churches opposed to that view, (which scarcely seems a sequence of the voluntary principle) is plumply if not needlessly put forth. He traces the evils of the social condition of England to the aristocracy and the law of primogeniture, and mainly looks to a more equal division of property, are also a moot point; but the idea of making an old society such as ours richer by redistributing its wealth, shows that the president of Dickenson College has not yet conquered the whole range of human knowledge. His position that Great Britain will henceforth have to rely upon her colonies, mainly for her foreign trade, and that we should encourage a large annual emigration, is sounder.

Although observations, such as we have indicated, give the distinctive character to the work, there is still a great deal of narrative. Some of this, though interesting to Americans, is commonplace to European readers, because it merely consists of an account of public places, substantially the matter of a guide-book, or of things with which one is familiar either in reality or in description; and as Dr. Durbin scrupulously avoids any personal sketches or accounts of private society, the principal source of attraction in his narrative is the interest which the remarks of an observing stranger always possess. The narrative parts, however are not trite; for Dr. Durbin is rapid, and has the art of rejecting all common accounts of every-day occurrences.

It is in these narrative parts that Dr. Durbin is seen to the best advantage; because the faults of his character are national or professional, not individual. Between man and man, his opinions are fair and candid; as indeed they are generally where democracy or a state church does not enter into the question. Even on religious topics, and on such a form of religion as Popery, which he denounces - and, we think, on the true ground of its tendency to subvert all freedom of though - he can form an unprejudiced judgment, and even a hearty approval of its merits, when he is carried into Alpino solitudes. Hear the Wesleyan doctor on the monks of St. Bernard and mass.

"We found the monk pleasant and agreeable men. After a very comfortable meal and an hour's chat by the fire, we were shown to our chambers, and slept well, after a fatiguing day, on the good clean beds of the convent. Next morning we rose early, in time to attend mass in the chapel. Within, the tones of the organ were sounding sweetly, while without, the wind was howling over the snow-clad mountains as it does on the wild December nights at home. How beautiful it was - the worship of God on this dreary mountain-top! I felt its beauty, as I listened to those deep organtones, and heard the solemn chant of the priests in the mass; and I honored in my heart these holy men, who devote themselves to this monotonous and self-denying life in order to do good, in the spirit of their Master, to the bodies and souls of men. Nor did I honor them to the less that they were Romanists and monks of St. Augustine; for well I knew that for a thousand years Romanists and monks of St. Augustine had done the good deeds that they were doing - and that when none else could do them. A man must be blinded indeed by prejudice or bigotry, that cannot see the monuments of Catholic virtue, and the evidences of Catholic piety in every country in Europe; and worse than blind must he be that will not acknowledge and honor them when he does see them."

It will be seen by the following that Dr. Durbin is a "teetotaller," and was unprepared for the "friendly bowl" he found mingling with "the feast reason and the flow of soul" amongst.


Although, in general, there is more ceremony in society than is usual with us, it never becomes troublesome, and, being in keeping with the usages of society generally, is not out of place. Precedence in age or office is rigidly observed. Office claims more respect than age; the president and secretary of the conference being as commonly addressed by their titles as the bishops among us. Young person are less obtrusive and more attentive than in America.

Breakfast parties at ten o'clock are very common, and afford opportunities of less ceremonious and more agreeable intercourse than at dinner; the ladies remaining all the while in the room. Those which I attended concluded with prayer by some aged minister, and with (what I had though antiquated) subscribing names in the ladies' albums. The tone of conversation was generally lively and pleasant; the dinner-talk being varied by discussions on political, religious, and social topics - not often heavy, and always good-humored. The junior members of the company would listen to the conversation of the nearest group, and hardly ever spoke except to cry "Hear, hear!" when some especially good thing was saying.

There is one feature in which these parties differed from any we have in similar circles at home, and which recalled to my mind my earliest visits to New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, when sparkling wines graced the table and circulated freely even among Methodist preachers. So it is still in England. It sometimes required a little nerve to decline the request of the lady whose guest you were, to "have the pleasure of a glass of wine with you," especially when, according to usage, you should have made the request of her. After the ladies retire, the cloth is removed, and the wine moves round the table freely. I do not recollect ever to have preached a sermon in England without being offered a glass of wine afterwards in the vestry. Wine was frequently distributed in conference during its active session. The temperance movement has not taken hold of our brethren in England; and they see wine-drinking, not as we do now, but as we did twenty years ago.


At Darlington, for the first time, we embarked in an English stage-coach. All that I had read of superiority of English roads, coaches, and cattle, was fully realized. The coach is a neat affair, not by any means built on scientific principles, for the centre of gravity is alarmingly high; but yet, such is the excellence of the roads and the skill of the drivers, that this is a matter of no account.

The inside of the coach was fully taken up, so that we had to take our places outside; no loss, however, as it afforded us an opportunity of seeing one of the finest districts of England. There is no rural scenery in the world like that of England. The fields, as we passed, were ripening for the harvest, and groaned under the precious grain; the pastures, with the same deep, luxuriant growth that I have before noticed, were covered with herds of the finest cattle; and now and then appeared one of the noble mansions of England imbosomed in its magnificent park. Well may an Englishman be proud of his native isle when he travels through her unrivalled agricultural districts.

Southern Literary Magazine 10, no. 0 (July 1844): 448.

Harper & Brothers: New York, 1844.

OBSERVATIONS IN EUROPE, principally in France and Great Britain. By John P. Durbin, D.D., President of Dickinson College - 2 vols.

Some one has said of this work, "what's new in it is not good; and what's good is not new." Whilst we may not go thus far, and are willing to say that much entertaining reading may be found in it, yet we do greatly distrust the observations of any man, who can pursue the blind and intolerant course lately persisted in and defended by Dr. Durbin, in the General Conference of the Methodist Church. Such men see but one way, and very often through an entirely perverted medium. To show how far his prejudices and pre-conceived ideas have abroad and a close comparison with other travellers; but we utterly discard "the spectacles" of any traveller who makes before our eyes the exhibition that this one has done so recently. Dr. Durbin, unassisted even by a father's benediction, has educated and elevated himself to his present position. This we can appreciate and commend. But we certainly urge him to a little more Christian sense and worldly wisdom. Among the contents of the volumes are a description of the fortifications of Paris, with a plan; and a curious French love-letter of the Great Franklin. There are also views of Public Edifices, and other embellishments.

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