“The Kentuckian in New York, or the Adventures of Three Southerns,” is a book randomly written, containing some smart passages not void of humour, but abounding too much in rigmarole and hard-strained witticisms. The cant of Southern chivalry and Kentucky recklessness, is served up with a profusion sufficient to surfeit the veriest gormandizer of national slang and egotistical rant that swaggers from Maine to Mexico.
To sketch the plot of this production would be impossible, for the simple reason that it has none. The two volumes are little else than a diary of the journey of two full-blooded Carolinians, from Harper’s Ferry to New York. These youngsters, we are unceasingly reminded, are prime specimens of Southern chivalry, possessing all the fire and fierceness of men whom nothing in male attire dare contradict on pain of suffering a gentleman’s vengeance from the muzzle of a pistol or the thong of a horse-whip.
These gallant boys are accompanied in their peregrinations by a wild Kentuckian, of the true Nimrod Wildfire breed, half-horse and half-alligator, to whom one of them, Augustus Lamar by name, becomes wonderfully attached. The other, Victor Chevillere, who, we believe, is intended for the hero of the piece, appears rather reserved with the Kentuckian, and settles his whole attention and affections upon a lady, whom the party overtake on the road, soon after commencing their journey. This lady is accompained [sic] by an elderly, grave, formal, gray-haired gentleman, and is so enveloped in a black mantle, a hat and a veil, that none of her features can be seen except a pair of bright blue eyes. Judging from these, however, which, by the way, must have been red with weeping, for she is perpetually in tears, Master Chevillere concludes her to be a perfect beauty, and without more to do, falls desperately in love with her. We have often heard of love at first sight, but this is the first instance of it we have ever met with, at quarter sight. Thus they proceed on their way, she weeping and he sighing, until they arrive at Baltimore.
Here the Kentuckian gets into a scrape at the theatre, in defence of a pretty girl who sat beside him in the pit, against some bucks who had been somewhat insolent to her. From this scrape, however, he is rescued by his friend Lamar. Here, too, Chevillere becomes better acquainted with the weeping lady, and discovers that she is a widow, lying under the very serious accusation of having murdered her husband, made, mot judicially, however, by a mysterious old man—her father-in-law. He disbelieves the charge, as a gallant lover should disbelieve every thing alleged against his mistress, and loves her still more heartily for being rendered thus unhappy.
We know not whether to consider it a compliment or a slight towards our friends of Philadelphia, that the author has not deigned to take any notice of the passage of these interesting travellers, through their fair city on their way to New York. Whether our gay Southrons, and their wild companion from the West, found nothing among the descendants of Penn to ridicule or to censure, or whether they were bribed to silence by the hospitalities of Chestnut street, and the sweet looks of the belles that throng it, we will not attempt to decide. Unfortunately for New York, no such influences operated there. Our Southern Paul Prys dropped into its counting-houses, brokerage-offices and exchange-rooms, without ceremony, and with malice propense, noted down its follies and improprieties, which, in the book before us, they have proclaimed to the world without reserve or compassion.
We made but one short extract from the Aristocrat. Want of space was the cause—a cause which effectually operates against our desire to give our readers some specimens of “The Kentuckian.” Our remaining observations on this book must also be brief. The weeping lady in the black mantle satisfies Mr. Chevillere that she is not a murderess, and he makes her his bride. The episode in which she gives an account of herself is by far the best written and most interesting portion of the book. This is undoubtedly owing to its freedom from the cant about Southern chivalry and Kentucky bluntness, and the absence of affected witticisms. Language from the mouth of a lady would not admit of these, and her narrative enjoys a fortunate exemption from the nuisance.