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|Table of Contents|
|Start of eBook||1|
|A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.||1|
|SOME OF THE HAUNTS OF BURNS.||1|
|A MODERN CINDERELLA:||54|
|THE OLD DAYS AND THE NEW.||74|
|THE NATIONAL INTELLIGENCER AND ITS EDITORS.||110|
|THE PROFESSOR’S STORY.||125|
|THE ELECTION IN NOVEMBER.||139|
|REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.||153|
|RECENT AMERICAN PUBLICATIONS||167|
* * * * *
Vol. VI.—October, 1860.—No. XXXVI.
* * * * *
By A tourist without imagination or enthusiasm.
We left Carlisle at a little past eleven, and within the half-hour were at Gretna Green. Thence we rushed onward into Scotland through a flat and dreary tract of country, consisting mainly of desert and bog, where probably the moss-troopers were accustomed to take refuge after their raids into England. Anon, however, the hills hove themselves up to view, occasionally attaining a height which might almost be called mountainous. In about two hours we reached Dumfries, and alighted at the station there.
Chill as the Scottish summer is reputed to be, we found it an awfully hot day, not a whit less so than the day before; but we sturdily adventured through the burning sunshine up into the town, inquiring our way to the residence of Burns. The street leading from the station is called Shakspeare Street; and at its farther extremity we read “Burns Street” on a corner house,—the avenue thus designated having been formerly known as “Mill Hole Brae.” It is a vile lane, paved with small, hard stones from side to side, and bordered by cottages or mean houses of white-washed stone, joining one to another along the whole length of the street. With not a tree, of course, or a blade of grass between the paving-stones, the narrow lane was as hot as Tophet, and reeked with a genuine Scotch odor, being infested with unwashed children, and altogether in a state of chronic filth; although some women seemed to be hopelessly scrubbing the thresholds of their wretched dwellings. I never saw an outskirt of a town less fit for a poet’s residence, or in which it would be more miserable for any man of cleanly predilections to spend his days.
We asked for Burns’s dwelling; and a woman pointed across the street to a two-story house, built of stone, and white-washed, like its neighbors, but perhaps of a little more respectable aspect than most of them, though I hesitate in saying so. It was not a separate structure, but under the same continuous roof with the next. There was an inscription on the door, bearing no reference to Burns, but indicating that the house was now occupied by a ragged or industrial school. On knocking, we were instantly admitted by a servant-girl, who smiled intelligently when we told our errand, and showed us into a low and very plain parlor, not more than twelve or fifteen feet square.
A young woman, who seemed to be a teacher in the school, soon appeared, and told us that this had been Burns’s usual sitting-room, and that he had written many of his songs here.
She then led us up a narrow staircase into a little bed-chamber over the parlor. Connecting with it, there is a very small room, or windowed closet, which Burns used as a study; and the bedchamber itself was the one where he slept in his latter life-time, and in which he died at last. Altogether, it is an exceedingly unsuitable place for a pastoral and rural poet to live or die in,—even more unsatisfactory than Shakspeare’s house, which has a certain homely picturesqueness that contrasts favorably with the suburban sordidness of the abode before us. The narrow lane, the paving-stones, and the contiguity of wretched hovels are depressing to remember; and the steam of them (such is our human weakness) might almost make the poet’s memory less fragrant.
As already observed, it was an intolerably hot day. After leaving the house, we found our way into the principal street of the town, which, it may be fair to say, is of very different aspect from the wretched outskirt above described. Entering a hotel, (in which, as a Dumfries guide-book assured us, Prince Charles Edward had once spent a night,) we rested and refreshed ourselves, and then set forth in quest of the mausoleum of Burns.
Coming to St. Michael’s Church, we saw a man digging a grave; and, scrambling out of the hole, he let us into the churchyard, which was crowded full of monuments. Their general shape and construction are peculiar to Scotland, being a perpendicular tablet of marble or other stone, within a frame-work of the same material, somewhat resembling the frame of a looking-glass; and, all over the churchyard, these sepulchral memorials rise to the height of ten, fifteen, or twenty feet, forming quite an imposing collection of monuments, but inscribed with names of small general significance. It was easy, indeed, to ascertain the rank of those who slept below; for in Scotland it is the custom to put the occupation of the buried personage (as “Skinner,” “Shoemaker,” “Flesher”) on his tombstone. As another peculiarity, wives are buried under their maiden names, instead of their husbands; thus giving a disagreeable impression that the married pair have bidden each other an eternal farewell on the edge of the grave.
There was a footpath through this crowded churchyard, sufficiently well-worn to guide us to the grave of Burns; but a woman followed behind us, who, it appeared, kept the key of the mausoleum, and was privileged to show it to strangers. The monument is a sort of Grecian temple, with pilasters and a dome, covering a space of about twenty feet square. It was formerly open to all the inclemencies of the Scotch atmosphere, but is now protected and shut in by large squares of rough glass, each pane being of the size of one whole side of the structure. The woman unlocked the door, and admitted us into the interior. Inlaid into the floor of the mausoleum is the gravestone of Burns,—the very same that was laid over his grave by Jean Armour, before this monument was
The bones of the poet, and of Jean Armour, and of some of their children, lie in the vault over which we stood. Our guide (who was intelligent, in her own plain way, and very agreeable to talk withal) said that the vault was opened about three weeks ago, on occasion of the burial of the eldest son of Burns. The poet’s bones were disturbed, and the dry skull, once so brimming over with powerful thought and bright and tender fantasies, was taken away, and kept for several days by a Dumfries doctor. It has since been deposited in a new leaden coffin, and restored to the vault. We learned that there is a surviving daughter of Burns’s eldest son, and daughters likewise of the two younger sons,—and, besides these, an illegitimate posterity by the eldest son, who appears to have been of disreputable life in his younger days. He inherited his father’s failings, with some faint shadow, I have also understood, of the great qualities which have made the world tender of his father’s vices and weaknesses.
We listened readily enough to this paltry gossip, but found that it robbed the poet’s memory of some of the reverence that was its due. Indeed, this talk over his grave had very much the same tendency and effect as the home-scene of his life, which we had been visiting just previously. Beholding his poor, mean dwelling and its surroundings, and picturing his outward life and earthly manifestations from these, one does not so much wonder that the people of that day should have failed to recognize all that was admirable and immortal in a disreputable, drunken, shabbily clothed, and shabbily housed man, consorting with associates of damaged character, and, as his only ostensible occupation, gauging the whiskey which he too often tasted. Siding with Burns, as we needs must, in his plea against the world, let us try to do the world a little justice too. It is far easier to know and honor a poet when his fame has taken shape in the spotlessness of marble than when the actual man comes staggering before you, besmeared with the sordid stains of his daily life. For my part, I chiefly wonder that his recognition dawned so brightly while he was still living. There must have been something very grand in his immediate presence, some strangely impressive characteristic in his natural behavior, to have caused him to seem like a demigod so soon.
As we went back through the churchyard, we saw a spot where nearly four hundred inhabitants of Dumfries were buried during the cholera year; and also some curious old monuments, with raised letters, the inscriptions on which were not sufficiently legible to induce us to puzzle them out; but, I believe, they mark the resting-places of old Covenanters, some of whom were killed by Claverhouse and his fellow-ruffians.
St. Michael’s Church is of red freestone, and was built about a hundred years ago, on an old Catholic foundation. Our guide admitted us into it, and showed us, in the porch, a very pretty little marble figure of a child asleep, with a drapery over the lower part, from beneath which appeared its two baby feet. It was truly a sweet little statue; and the woman told us that it represented a child of the sculptor, and that the baby (here still in its marble infancy) had died more than twenty-six years ago. “Many ladies,” she said, “especially such as had ever lost a child, had shed tears over it.” It was very pleasant to think of the sculptor bestowing the best of his genius and art to re-create his tender child in stone, and to make the representation as soft and sweet as the original; but the conclusion of the story has something that jars with our awakened sensibilities. A gentleman from London had seen the statue, and was so much delighted with it that he bought it of the father-artist, after it had lain above a quarter of a century in the church-porch. So this was not the real, tender image that came out of the father’s heart; he had sold that truest one for a hundred guineas, and sculptured this mere copy to replace it. The first figure was entirely naked in its earthly and spiritual innocence. The copy, as I have said above, has a drapery over the lower limbs. But, after all, if we come to the truth of the matter, the sleeping baby may be as fitly reposited in the drawing-room of a connoisseur as in a cold and dreary church-porch.
We went into the church, and found it very plain and naked, without altar-decorations, and having its floor quite covered with unsightly wooden pews. The woman led us to a pew cornering on one of the side-aisles, and, telling us that it used to be Burns’s family-pew, showed us his seat, which is in the corner by the aisle. It is so situated, that a sturdy pillar hid him from the pulpit, and from the minister’s eye; “for Robin was no great friends with the ministers,” said she. This touch—his seat behind the pillar, and Burns himself nodding in sermon-time, or keenly observant of profane things—brought him before us to the life. In the corner seat of the next pew, right before Burns, and not more than two feet off, sat the young lady on whom the poet saw that unmentionable parasite which he has immortalized in song. We were ungenerous enough to ask the lady’s name, but the good woman could not tell it. This was the last thing which we saw in Dumfries worthy of record; and it ought to be noted that our guide refused some money which my companion offered her, because I had already paid her what she deemed sufficient.
At the railway-station we spent more than a weary hour, waiting for the train, which at last came up, and took us to Mauchline. We got into an omnibus, the only conveyance to be had, and drove about a mile to the village, where we established ourselves at the Loudoun Hotel, one of the veriest country-inns which we have found in Great Britain. The town of Mauchline, a place more redolent of Burns than almost any other, consists of a street or two of contiguous cottages, mostly white-washed, and with thatched roofs. It has nothing sylvan or rural in the immediate village, and is as ugly a place as mortal man could contrive to make, or to render uglier through a succession of untidy generations. The fashion of paving the village-street, and patching one shabby house on the gable-end of another, quite shuts out all verdure and pleasantness; but, I presume, we are not likely to see a more genuine old Scotch village, such as they used to be in Burns’s time, and long before, than this of Mauchline. The church stands about midway up the street, and is built of red freestone, very simple in its architecture, with a square tower and pinnacles. In this sacred edifice, and its churchyard, was the scene of one of Burns’s most characteristic productions,—“The Holy Fair.”
Almost directly opposite its gate, across the village-street, stands Posie Nansie’s inn, where the “Jolly Beggars” congregated. The latter is a two-story, redstone, thatched house, looking old, but by no means venerable, like a drunken patriarch. It has small, old-fashioned windows, and may well have stood for centuries,—though, seventy or eighty years ago, when Burns was conversant with it, I should fancy it might have been something better than a beggars’ alehouse. The whole town of Mauchline looks rusty and time-worn,—even the newer houses, of which there are several, being shadowed and darkened by the general aspect of the place. When we arrived, all the wretched little dwellings seemed to have belched forth their inhabitants into the warm summer evening; everybody was chatting with everybody, on the most familiar terms; the bare-legged children gambolled or quarrelled uproariously, and came freely, moreover, and looked into the window of our parlor. When we ventured out, we were followed by the gaze of the whole town: people standing in their door-ways, old women popping their heads from the chamber-windows, and stalwart men—idle on Saturday at e’en, after their week’s hard labor—clustering at the street-corners, merely to stare at our unpretending selves. Except in some remote little town of Italy, (where, besides, the inhabitants had the intelligible stimulus of beggary,) I have never been honored with nearly such an amount of public notice.
The next forenoon my companion put me to shame by attending church, after vainly exhorting me to do the like; and, it being Sacrament Sunday, and my poor friend being wedged into the farther end of a closely filled pew, he was forced to stay through the preaching of four several sermons, and came back perfectly exhausted and desperate. He was somewhat consoled, however, on finding that he had witnessed a spectacle of Scotch manners identical with that of Burns’s “Holy Fair,” on the very spot where the poet located that immortal description. By way of further conformance to the customs of the country, we ordered a sheep’s head and the broth, and did penance accordingly; and at five o’clock we took a fly, and set out for Burns’s farm of Moss Giel.
Moss Giel is not more than a mile from Mauchline, and the road extends over a high ridge of land, with a view of far hills and green slopes on either side. Just before we reached the farm, the driver stopped to point out a hawthorn, growing by the way-side, which he said was Burns’s “Lousie Thorn”; and I devoutly plucked a branch, although I have really forgotten where or how this illustrious shrub has been celebrated. We then turned into a rude gateway, and almost immediately came to the farm-house of Moss Giel, standing some fifty yards removed from the high-road, behind a tall hedge of hawthorn, and considerably overshadowed by trees. The house is a whitewashed stone cottage, like thousands of others in England and Scotland, with a thatched roof, on which grass and weeds have intruded a picturesque, though alien growth. There is a door and one window in front, besides another little window that peeps out among the thatch. Close by the cottage, and extending back at right angles from it, so as to inclose the farm-yard, are two other buildings of the same size, shape, and general appearance as the house: any one of the three looks just as fit for a human habitation as the two others, and all three look still more suitable for donkey-stables and pig-sties. As we drove into the farm-yard, bounded on three sides by these three hovels, a large dog began to bark at us; and some women and children made their appearance, but seemed to demur about admitting us, because the master and mistress were very religious people, and had not yet come back from the Sacrament at Mauchline.
However, it would not do to be turned back from the very threshold of Robert Burns; and as the women seemed to be merely straggling visitors, and nobody, at all events, had a right to send us away, we went into the back-door, and, turning to the right, entered a kitchen. It showed a deplorable lack of housewifely neatness, and in it there were three or four children, one of whom, a girl eight or nine years old, held a baby in her arms. She proved to be the daughter of the people of the house, and gave us what leave she could to look about us. Thence we stepped across the narrow mid-passage of the cottage into
The whole house was pervaded with a frowzy smell, and also a dunghill-odor, and it is not easy to understand how the atmosphere of such a dwelling can be any more agreeable or salubrious morally than it appeared to be physically. No virgin, surely, could keep a holy awe about her while stowed higgledy-piggledy with coarse-natured rustics into this narrowness and filth. Such a habitation is calculated to make beasts of men and women; and it indicates a degree of barbarism which I did not imagine to exist in Scotland, that a tiller of broad fields, like the farmer of Mauchline, should have his abode in a pig-sty. It is sad to think of anybody—not to say a poet, but any human being—sleeping, eating, thinking, praying, and spending all his home-life in this miserable hovel; but, methinks, I never in the least knew how to estimate the miracle of Burns’s genius, nor his heroic merit for being no worse man, until I thus learned the squalid hindrances amid which he developed himself. Space, a free atmosphere, and cleanliness have a vast deal to do with the possibilities of human virtue.
The biographers talk of the farm of Moss Giel as being damp and unwholesome; but I do not see why, outside of the cottage-walls, it should possess so evil a reputation. It occupies a high, broad ridge, enjoying, surely, whatever benefit can come of a breezy site, and sloping far downward before any marshy soil is reached. The high hedge, and the trees that stand beside the cottage, give it a pleasant aspect enough to one who does not know the grimy secrets of the interior; and the summer afternoon was now so bright that I shall remember the scene with a great deal of sunshine over it.
Leaving the cottage, we drove through a field, which the driver told us was that in which Burns turned up the mouse’s nest. It is the inclosure nearest to the cottage, and seems now to be a pasture, and a rather remarkably unfertile one. A little farther on, the ground was whitened with an immense number of daisies,—daisies, daisies, everywhere; and in answer to my inquiry, the driver said that this was the field where Burns ran his ploughshare over the daisy. If so, the soil seems to have been consecrated to daisies by the song which he bestowed on that first immortal one. I alighted, and plucked a whole handful of these “wee, modest, crimson-tipped flowers,” which will be precious to many friends in our own country as coming from Burns’s farm, and being of the same race and lineage as that daisy which he turned into an amaranthine flower while seeming to destroy it.
From Moss Giel we drove through a variety of pleasant scenes, some of which were familiar to us by their connection with Burns. We skirted, too, along a portion of the estate of Auchinleck, which still belongs to the Boswell family,—the present possessor being Sir James Boswell, [Sir James Boswell is now dead.] a grandson of Johnson’s friend, and son of the Sir Alexander who was killed in a duel. Our driver spoke of Sir James as a kind, free-hearted man, but addicted to horse-races and similar pastimes, and a little too familiar with the wine-cup; so that poor Bozzy’s booziness would appear to have become hereditary in his ancient line. There is no male heir to the estate of Auchinleck. The portion of the lands which we saw is covered with wood and much undermined with rabbit-warrens; nor, though the territory extends over a large number of acres, is the income very considerable.
By-and-by we came to the spot where Burns saw Miss Alexander, the Lass of Ballochmyle. It was on a bridge, which (or, more probably, a bridge that has succeeded to the old one, and is made of iron) crosses from bank to bank, high in air, over a deep gorge of the road; so that the young lady may have appeared to Burns like a creature between earth and sky, and compounded chiefly of celestial elements. But, in honest truth, the great charm of a woman, in Burns’s eyes, was always her womanhood, and not the angelic mixture which other poets find in her.
Our driver pointed out the course taken by the Lass of Ballochmyle, through the shrubbery, to a rock on the banks of the Lugar, where it seems to be the tradition that Burns accosted her. The song implies no such interview. Lovers, of whatever condition, high or low, could desire no lovelier scene in which to breathe their vows: the river flowing over its pebbly bed, sometimes gleaming into the sunshine, sometimes hidden deep in verdure, and here and there eddying at the foot of high and precipitous cliffs. This beautiful estate of Ballochmyle is still held by the family of Alexanders, to whom Burns’s song has given renown on cheaper terms than any other
We passed through Catrine, known hereabouts as “the clean village of Scotland.” Certainly, as regards the point indicated, it has greatly the advantage of Mauchline, whither we now returned without seeing anything else worth writing about.
There was a rain-storm during the night, and, in the morning, the rusty, old, sloping street of Mauchline was glistening with wet, while frequent showers came spattering down. The intense heat of many days past was exchanged for a chilly atmosphere, much more suitable to a stranger’s idea of what Scotch temperature ought to be. We found, after breakfast, that the first train northward had already gone by, and that we must wait till nearly two o’clock for the next. I merely ventured out once, during the forenoon, and took a brief walk through the village, in which I have left little to describe. Its chief business appears to be the manufacture of snuff-boxes. There are perhaps five or six shops, or more, including those licensed to sell only tea and tobacco; the best of them have the characteristics of village-stores in the United States, dealing in a small way with an extensive variety of articles. I peeped into the open gateway of the churchyard, and saw that the ground was absolutely stuffed with dead people, and the surface crowded with gravestones, both perpendicular and horizontal. All Burns’s old Mauchline acquaintance are doubtless there, and the Armours among them, except Bonny Jean, who sleeps by her poet’s side. The family is now extinct in Mauchline.
Arriving at the railway-station, we found a tall, elderly, comely gentleman walking to and fro and waiting for the train. He proved to be a Mr. Alexander,—it may fairly be presumed the Alexander of Ballochmyle, a blood-relation of the lovely lass. Wonderful efficacy of a poet’s verse, that could shed a glory from Long Ago on this old gentleman’s white hair! These Alexanders, by-the-by, are not an old family on the Ballochmyle estate; the father of the lass having made a fortune in trade, and established himself as the first landed proprietor of his name in these parts. The original family was named Whitefoord.
Our ride to Ayr presented nothing very remarkable; and, indeed, a cloudy and rainy day takes the varnish off the scenery, and causes a woful diminution in the beauty and impressiveness of everything we see. Much of our way lay along a flat, sandy level, in a southerly direction. We reached Ayr in the midst of hopeless rain, and drove to the King’s Arms Hotel. In the intervals of showers I took peeps at the town, which appeared to have many modern or modern-fronted edifices; although there are likewise tall, gray, gabled, and quaint-looking houses in the by-streets, here and there, betokening an ancient place. The town lies on both sides of the Ayr, which is here broad and stately, and bordered with dwellings that look from their windows directly down into the passing tide.
I crossed the river by a modern and handsome stone bridge, and recrossed it, at no great distance, by a venerable structure of four gray arches, which must have bestridden the stream ever since the early days of Scottish history. These are the “Two Briggs of Ayr,” whose midnight conversation was overheard by Burns, while other auditors were aware only of the rush and rumble of the wintry stream among the arches. The ancient bridge is steep and narrow, and paved like a street, and defended by a parapet of red freestone, except at the two ends, where some mean old shops allow scanty room for the pathway to creep between. Nothing else impressed me hereabouts, unless I mention, that, during the rain, the women and girls went about the streets of Ayr barefooted to save their shoes.
The next morning wore a lowering aspect, as if it felt itself destined to be one of many consecutive days of storm. After a good Scotch breakfast, however, of fresh herrings and eggs, we took a fly, and started at a little past ten for the banks of the Doon. On our way, at about two miles from Ayr, we drew up at a road-side cottage, on which was an inscription to the effect that Robert Burns was born within its walls. It is now a public-house; and, of course, we alighted and entered its little sitting-room, which, as we at present see it, is a neat apartment, with the modern improvement of a ceiling. The walls are much over-scribbled with names of visitors, and the wooden door of a cupboard in the wainscot, as well as all the other wood-work of the room, is cut and carved with initial letters. So, likewise, are two tables, which, having received a coat of varnish over the inscriptions, form really curious and interesting articles of furniture. I have never (though I do not personally adopt this mode of illustrating my humble name) felt inclined to ridicule the natural impulse of most people thus to record themselves at the shrines of poets and heroes.
On a panel, let into the wall in a corner of the room, is a portrait of Burns, copied from the original picture by Nasmyth. The floor of this apartment is of boards, which are probably a recent substitute for the ordinary flag-stones of a peasant’s cottage. There is but one other room pertaining to the genuine birthplace of Robert Burns: it is the kitchen, into which we now went. It has a floor of flag-stones, even ruder than those of Shakspeare’s house,—though, perhaps, not so strangely cracked and broken as the latter, over which the hoof of Satan himself might seem to have been trampling. A new window has been opened through the wall, towards the road; but on the opposite side is the little original window, of only four small panes, through which came the first daylight that shone upon the Scottish poet. At the side of the room, opposite the fireplace, is a recess, containing a bed, which can be hidden by curtains. In that humble nook, of all places in the world, Providence was pleased to deposit the germ of the richest human life which mankind then had within its circumference.
These two rooms, as I have said, make up the whole sum and substance of Burns’s birthplace: for there were no chambers, nor even attics; and the thatched roof formed the only ceiling of kitchen and sitting-room, the height of which was that of the whole house. The cottage, however, is attached to another edifice of the same size and description, as these little habitations often are; and, moreover, a splendid addition has been made to it, since the poet’s renown began to draw visitors to the way-side ale-house. The old woman of the house led us through an entry, and showed a vaulted hall, of no vast dimensions, to be sure, but marvellously large and splendid as compared with what might be anticipated from the outward aspect of the cottage. It contained a bust of Burns, and was hung round with pictures and engravings, principally illustrative of his life and poems. In this part of the house, too, there is a parlor, fragrant with tobacco-smoke; and, no doubt, many a noggin of whiskey is here quaffed to the memory of the bard, who professed to draw so much of his inspiration from that potent liquor.
We bought some engravings of Kirk Alloway, the Bridge of Doon, and the Monument, and gave the old woman a fee besides, and took our leave. A very short drive farther brought us within sight of the monument, and to the hotel, situated close by the entrance of the ornamental grounds within which the former is inclosed. We rang the bell at the gate of the inclosure, but were forced to wait a considerable time; because the old man, the regular superintendent of the spot, had gone to assist at the laying of the corner-stone of a new kirk. He appeared anon, and admitted us, but immediately hurried away to be present at the concluding ceremonies, leaving us locked up with Burns.
The inclosure around the monument is beautifully laid out as an ornamental garden, and abundantly provided with rare flowers and shrubbery, all tended with loving care. The monument stands on an elevated site, and consists of a massive basement-story, three-sided, above which rises a light and elegant Grecian temple,—a mere dome, supported on Corinthian pillars, and open to all the winds. The edifice is beautiful in itself; though I know not what peculiar appropriateness it may have, as the memorial of a Scottish rural poet.
The door of the basement-story stood open; and, entering, we saw a bust of Burns in a niche, looking keener, more refined, but not so warm and whole-souled as his pictures usually do. I think the likeness cannot be good. In the centre of the room stood a glass case, in which were reposited the two volumes of the little Pocket-Bible that Burns gave to Highland Mary, when they pledged their troth to one another. It is poorly printed, on coarse paper. A verse of Scripture, referring to the solemnity and awfulness of vows, is written within the cover of each volume, in the poet’s own hand; and fastened to one of the covers is a lock of Highland Mary’s golden hair. This Bible had been carried to America by one of her relatives, but was sent back to be fitly treasured here.
There is a staircase within the monument, by which we ascended to the top, and had a view of both Briggs of Doon; the scene of Tam O’Shanter’s misadventure being close at hand. Descending, we wandered through the inclosed garden, and came to a little building in a corner, on entering which, we found the two statues of Tam and Sutor Wat,—ponderous stone-work enough, yet permeated in a remarkable degree with living warmth and jovial hilarity. From this part of the garden, too, we again beheld the old Brigg of Doon, over which Tam galloped in such imminent and awful peril. It is a beautiful object in the landscape, with one high, graceful arch, ivy-grown, and shadowed all over and around with foliage.
When we had waited a good while, the old gardener came, telling us that he had heard an excellent prayer at laying the corner-stone of the new kirk. He now gave us some roses and sweetbrier, and let us out from his pleasant garden. We immediately hastened to Kirk Alloway, which is within two or three minutes’ walk of the monument. A few steps ascend from the road-side, through a gate, into the old graveyard, in the midst of which stands the kirk. The edifice is wholly roofless, but the side-walls and gable-ends are quite entire, though portions of them are evidently modern restorations. Never was there a plainer little church, or one with smaller architectural pretension; no New England meeting-house has more simplicity in its very self, though poetry and fun have clambered and clustered so wildly over Kirk Alloway that it is difficult to see it as it actually exists. By-the-by, I do not understand why Satan and an assembly
The interior of the kirk, even now, is applied to quite as impertinent a purpose as when Satan and the witches used it as a dancing-hall; for it is divided in the midst by a wall of stone-masonry, and each compartment has been converted into a family burial-place. The name on one of the monuments is Crawfurd; the other bore no inscription. It is impossible not to feel that these good people, whoever they may be, had no business to thrust their prosaic bones into a spot that belongs to the world, and where their presence jars with the emotions, be they sad or gay, which the pilgrim brings thither. They shut us out from our own precincts, too,—from that inalienable possession which Burns bestowed in free gift upon mankind, by taking it from the actual earth and annexing it to the domain of imagination. And here these wretched squatters have lain down to their long sleep, after barring each of the two doorways of the kirk with an iron grate! May their rest be troubled, till they rise and let us in!
Kirk Alloway is inconceivably small, considering how large a space it fills in our imagination before we see it. I paced its length, outside of the wall, and found it only seventeen of my paces, and not more than ten of them in breadth. There seem to have been but very few windows, all of which, if I rightly remember, are now blocked up with mason-work of stone. One mullioned window, tall and narrow, in the eastern gable, might have been seen by Tam O’Shanter, blazing with devilish light, as he approached along the road from Ayr; and there is a small and square one, on the side nearest the road, into which he might have peered, as he sat on horseback. Indeed, I could easily have looked through it, standing on the ground, had not the opening been walled up. There is an odd kind of belfry at the peak of one of the gables, with the small bell still hanging in it. And this is all that I remember of Kirk Alloway, except that the stones of its material are gray and irregular.
The road from Ayr passes Alloway Kirk, and crosses the Doon by a modern bridge, without swerving much from a straight line. To reach the old bridge, it appears to have made a bend, shortly after passing the kirk, and then to have turned sharply towards the river. The new bridge is within a minute’s walk of the monument; and we went thither, and leaned over its parapet to admire the beautiful Doon, flowing wildly and sweetly between its deep and wooded banks. I never saw a lovelier scene; although this might
It was impossible to depart without crossing the very bridge of Tam’s adventure; so we went thither, over a now disused portion of the road, and, standing on the centre of the arch, gathered some ivy-leaves from that sacred spot. This done, we returned as speedily as might be to Ayr, whence, taking the rail, we soon beheld Ailsa Craig rising like a pyramid out of the sea. Drawing nearer to Glasgow, Ben Lomond hove in sight, with a dome-like summit, supported by a shoulder on each side. But a man is better than a mountain; and we had been holding intercourse, if not with the reality, at least with the stalwart ghost of one, amid the scenes where he lived and sung. We shall appreciate him better as a poet, hereafter; for there is no writer whose life, as a man, has so much to do with his fame, and throws such a necessary light upon whatever he has produced. Henceforth, there will be a personal warmth for us in everything that he wrote; and, like his countrymen, we shall know him in a kind of personal way, as if we had shaken hands with him, and felt the thrill of his actual voice.
* * * * *
Pasquin and pasquinades.
At an angle of the palace which Pius VI., (Braschi,) with paternal liberality, built for the residence of his family, before the French Revolution put an end to such beneficence, stands the famous statue of Pasquin, giving its name to the square upon which it looks. It is little more now than a mere trunk of marble, bearing the marks of blows and long hard usage. But even in this mutilated condition it shows traces of excellent workmanship and of pristine beauty. The connoisseurs in sculpture praise it, and the antiquaries have embittered their ignorance in regard to it by discussions as to whether it was a statue of Hercules, of Alexander the Great, or of Menelaus bearing the body of Patroclus. Disabled and maimed as it is, it is thus only the more fitting type of the Roman people, of which it has been so long the acknowledged mouthpiece; and the epigrams and satires which have made its name famous have gained an additional point and a sharper sting from the patent resemblance in the condition of their professed author to that of those for whom he spoke.
It is said to have been about the beginning of the sixteenth century that the statue was discovered and dug up near the place where it now stands, and the earliest account of it seems to be that given by Castelvetro, in 1553, in his discourse upon a canzone by Annibal Caro. He says, that Antonio Tibaldeo of Ferrara, a venerable and lettered man, relates concerning this statue, that there used to be in Rome a tailor, very skilful in his trade, by the name of Pasquin, who had a shop which was much frequented by prelates, courtiers, and other people, so that he employed a great number of workmen, who, like worthless fellows, spent their time in speaking ill of one person or another, sparing no one, and finding opportunity for jests in observing those who came to the shop. This custom became so notorious that the very persons who were hit by these sharp speeches joined in the laugh at them, and felt no resentment; so that, if any one wished to say a hard thing of another, he did it under cover of the person of Master Pasquin, pretending that he had heard it said at his shop,—at which pretence every one laughed, and no one bore a grudge. But, Master Pasquin dying, it happened, that, in improving the street, this broken statue, which lay half imbedded in the ground, serving as a stepping-stone for passengers, was taken up and set at the side of the shop. Making use of this good chance, satirical people began to say that Master Pasquin had come back. The custom soon arose of attaching to the statue bits of writing; and as it had been allowed to the tailor to say everything, so by means of the statue any one might publish what he would not have ventured to speak.
Thus did Hercules or Alexander change his name for that of Pasquin, and soon became almost as well known throughout Europe under his new designation as under his old. If the statue were not dug up, as is said, until the sixteenth century, its fame spread rapidly; for, before Luther had made himself feared at Rome, Pasquin was already well known as the satirist of the vices of Pope and Cardinals, and as a bold enemy of the abuses of the Church.
But the history of Pasquin is not a mere story of Roman jests, nor is its interest such alone as may arise from an amusing, though neglected series of literary anecdotes. In the dearth of material for the popular history of modern Rome, it is of value as affording indications of the turn of feeling and the opinions of the Romans, and of the regard in which they held their rulers. The free speech, which was prohibited and dangerous to the living subjects of the temporal power of the Popes, was a privilege which, in spite of prohibition, Pasquin insisted upon exercising. Whatever precautions might be taken, whatever penalties imposed, means were always found, when occasion arose, to affix to the battered marble papers bearing stinging epigrams or satirical verses, which, once read, fastened themselves in the memory, and spread quickly by repetition. He could not be silenced. “Great sums,” said he one day, in an epigram addressed to Paul iii., who was Pope from 1534 to 1549, “great sums were formerly given to poets for singing: how much will you give me, O Paul, to be silent?”
“Ut canerent data multa olim sunt
Ut taceam, quantum tu mihi, Paule, dabis?”
In his life of Adrian VI., the successor of Leo X., Paulus Jovius, not indeed the most trustworthy of authorities, tells a story which, if not true, might well be so. He says, that the Pope, being vexed at the free speech of Pasquin, proposed to have him thrown into the Tiber, thinking thus to stop his tongue; but the Spanish legate dissuaded him, by suggesting, with grave Spanish wisdom, that all the frogs of the river, becoming infected with his spirit, would adopt his style of speech and croak only pasquinades. The contemptibleness of the assailant made him the more dreaded. Did not the very reeds tell the fatal secret about King Midas?
Pasquin was by no means the only figure in Rome who gave expression to thoughts and feelings which it would have been dangerous to the living subjects of the ecclesiastical rule to utter aloud. His most distinguished companion was Marforio, a colossal statue of an ocean or river god, which was discovered in the sixteenth century near the forum of Mars, from which he derived his name. Toward the end of the same century, he was placed in the lower court of the Palazzo de’ Conservatori, on the Capitol, and here he has since remained. Dialogues were often carried on between him and his friend Pasquin, and a share in their conversation was sometimes taken by the Facchino, or so called Porter of the Palazzo Piombino. In his “Roma Nova,” published in 1660, Sprenger says that Pasquin was assigned to the nobles, Marforio to the citizens, and the Facchino to the common people. But besides these there were the Abate Luigi of the Palazzo Valle,—Madama Lucrezia, who still sits behind the Venetian palace near the Church of St. Mark,—the Baboon, from which the Via Babbuino takes its name,—and the marble portrait of Scanderbeg, the great enemy of the Turks, on the facade of the house which he at one time occupied in Rome. Each of these personages now and then issued an epigram or took part in the satirical talk of his companions. Such a number of cold and secure censors is not surprising in a city like Rome, where the checks upon open speech are so many, and where priests and spies exercise so close a scrutiny over the thoughts and words of men. Oppression begets hypocrisy, and a tyrant adds to the faults of his subjects the vices of cowardice and secrecy. Caustic Forsyth, speaking of the Romans, begins with the bitter remark, that “the national character is the most ruined thing at Rome”; and in the same section he adds, “Their humor is naturally caustic; but they lampoon, as they stab, only in the dark. The danger attending open attacks forces them to confine their satire within epigram; and thus pasquinade is but the offspring of hypocrisy, the only resource of wits who are obliged to be grave on so many absurdities in religion, and respectful to so many upstarts in purple.” Thus if
The first true Pasquinades—that is, the first of the epigrams which were affixed to Pasquin, and hence derived their name—are perhaps those which belong to the reign of Leo X. We at least have found no earlier ones of undoubted genuineness; but satires similar to those of Pasquin, and possibly originating with him, as they now go under the general name of Pasquinades, were published against the Popes who preceded Leo. The infamous Alexander VI., the Pope who has made his name synonymous with the worst infamies that disgrace mankind, was not spared the attacks of the subjects whom he and his children, not unworthy of such a father, degraded and abused. Two lines could say much:—
“Sextus Tarquinius, Sextus Nero,
Sextus et iste:
Semper sub Sextis perdita Roma fuit.”
“Sextus Tarquinius, Sextus Nero, this also a Sextus” (Alexander Sextus, that is, Alexander the Sixth): “always under the Sextuses has Rome been ruined.” And as if this were not enough, another distich struck with more directness at the vices of the Pope:—
“Vendit Alexander claves, altaria,
Emerat ille prius, vendere jure potest.”
“Alexander sells the keys, the altars, Christ. He bought them first, and has good right to sell."
Alexander had gained his election by bribes which he did not pay, and promises which he did not keep; and Guicciardini tells in a few words what use he made of his holy office, declaring, that, “with his immoderate ambition and poisoned infidelity, together with all the horrible examples of cruelty, luxury and monstrous covetousness, selling without distinction both holy things and profane things, he infected the whole world."
In 1503, after a pontificate of eleven years, Alexander died. Rome rejoiced. Peace, which for a long time had been banished from her borders, returned, and she enjoyed for a few days unwonted freedom from alarm and trouble. Her happiness found expression in verse:—
“Dic unde, Alecto, pax haec effulsit,
Tam subito reticent proelia? Sextus obit.”
“Say whence, Alecto, has this peace shone forth? wherefore so suddenly has the noise of battle ceased? Alexander is dead.”
The rule of Borgia’s successor, Pius iii., lasting only twenty-seven days, afforded little opportunity to the play of indignant wit; but the nine years’ reign of Julius ii., which followed, was a period whose troubled history is recorded in the numerous epigrams and satires to which it gave birth. The impulsive and passionate vigor of the character of Julius, the various fortunes of his rash enterprises, the troubles which his stormy and rapacious career brought to the Papal city, are all more or less minutely told. The Pope began his reign with warlike enterprises, and as soon as he could gather sufficient force he set out to recover from the Venetians territory of which they had possession, and which he claimed as the property of the Papal state. It was said, that, in leading his troops out of Rome, he threw into the Tiber, with characteristic impetuosity, the keys of Peter, and, drawing his sword from its sheath, declared that henceforth he would trust to the sword of Paul. The story was too good to be lost, and it gave point to many epigrams, of which, perhaps, the one preserved by Bayle is the best:—
“Cum Petri nihil efficiant ad proelia
Auxilio Pauli forsitan ensis erit.”
“Since the keys of Peter profit
battle, perchance, with the aid of Paul,
the sword will answer."
Julius was the first of the Popes of recent times to allow his beard to grow, and Raphael’s noble portrait of him shows what dignity it gave to his strongly marked face. The beard was also regarded traditionally as having belonged to Saint Paul. “For me,” the Pope was represented as saying, “for me the beard of Paul, the sword of Paul, all things of Paul: that key-bearer, Peter, is no way to my liking.”
“Huc barbam Pauli, gladium Pauli,
Claviger ille nihil ad mea vota Petrus.”
But the most savage epigram against Julius was one that recalled the name of the great Roman, which the Pope was supposed to have adopted in emulation of that of Alexander, borne by his predecessor:—
“Julius est Romae. Quid abest?
Date, numina, Brutum.
Nam quoties Romae est Julius, illa perit.”
“Julius is at Rome. What is
Ye gods, give us a Brutus! For
when Julius is at Rome, the city is lost.”
Pasquin became a recognized institution, as we have said, under Leo X., and was taken under the protection of the Roman people. His popularity was such as to lead to consequences of which he himself complained. He was made the vehicle of the effusions of worthless versifiers, and he was forced to cry out, “Woe is me! even the copyist fixes his verses upon me, and every one bestows on me his silly trifles.”
The application of these verses was alike appropriate to the life of the Pope, or to the reigns of Alexander VI., Julius ii., and the one just beginning.
“Me miserum! Copista etiam
mihi carmina figit;
Et tribuit nugas jam mihi quisque suas.”
He seems to have been successful in putting a stop to this injurious treatment; for not long after he declared, with a sarcasm directed against the prominent qualities of his fellow-citizens, “There is no better man at Rome than I. I seek nothing from any one. I am not wordy. I sit here and am silent.”
“Non homo me melior Rome est.
Ego nil peto ab ullo.
Non sum verbosus. Hic sedeo et taceo.”
It had become the custom, upon occasions of public festivity, to adorn Pasquin with suits of garments, and with paint, forcing him to assume from time to time different characters according to the fancy of his protectors. Sometimes he appeared as Neptune, sometimes as Chance or Fate, as Apollo or Bacchus. Thus, in the year 1515, he became Orpheus, and, while adorned with the plectrum and the lyre of the poet, Marforio addressed a distich to him in his new character, which hints at the popular appreciation of the Pope. The year 1515 was that of the descent of Francis I, into Italy, and of the bloody battle of Marignano. “In the midst of war and slaughter and the sound of trumpets,” said Marforio, “you sing and strike your lyre: this is to understand the temper of your Lord.”
“Inter bella, tubas, caedes, canis
Percutis. Hoc sapere est ingenium Domini."
But the character of most of those pasquinades which belong to the pontificate of Leo is so coarse as to render them unfit for reproduction. A general licentiousness pervaded Rome, and the vices of the Pope and the higher clergy, veiled, but not hidden, under the displays of sensual magnificence and the pretended refinements of degraded art, were readily imitated by a people taught to follow and obey the teachings of their ecclesiastical rulers. Corruption of every sort was common. Virtue and vice, profane and sacred things, were alike for sale. The Pope made money by the sale of cardinalates and traffic in indulgences. “Give me gifts, ye spectators,” begged Pasquin; “bring me not verses: divine Money alone rules the ethereal gods.”
“Dona date, astantes; versus ne
Imperat aethereis alma Moneta deis.”
Leo’s fondness for buffoons, with whom he mercilessly amused himself by tormenting them and exciting them to make themselves ridiculous, is recorded in a question put to Pasquin on one of his changes of figure. “Why have you not asked, O Pasquil, to be made a buffoon? for at Rome everything is now permitted to the buffoons.”
“Cur non te fingi scurram, Pasquille,
Cum Romae scurris omnia jam liceant.”
Leo died in 1521. His death was sudden, and not without suspicion of poison. It was said that the last offices of the Church were not performed for the dying man, and an epigram sharply embodied the report. “Do you ask why at his last hour Leo could not take the sacred things? He had sold them.”
“Sacra sub extrema, si forte requiritis,
Cur Leo non potuit sumere: Vendiderat.”
The spirit of Luther had penetrated through the walls of Rome; and though all tongues but those of statues might be silenced, eyes were not blinded, nor could ears be made deaf. Nowhere was the need of reform so felt as at Rome, but nowhere was there so little hope for it; for the people stood in equal need of it with the Church, whose ministers had corrupted them, and whose rulers tyrannized over them. “Farewell, Rome!” said Pasquin.
“Roma, vale! Satis est vidisse.
Quum leno, meretrix, scurra, cinaedus ero.”
When Leo’s short-lived successor, the gloomy Fleming, Adrian VI., who was the author of the proposal to destroy Pasquin, despatched his nuncio to the diet of Nuremberg to oppose the progress of Luther, he told him in his instructions to “avow frankly that God has permitted this schism and this persecution on account of the sins of men, and, above all, of those of the priests and the prelates of the Church.” Pasquin could not have improved on these words. And when, twenty months after his elevation to the papacy, this hard old man died, the inscription—which he ordered to be put upon his tomb was in words fit to disarm the satirist:—“Here lies Adrian VI., who esteemed nothing in his life more unhappy than that he had been called to rule”: “Adrianus VI. hic situs est, qui nil sibi infelicius in vita quam quod imperaret duxit.”
During the pontificate of Clement vii., Rome suffered under calamities too terrible and too depressing to admit of the frequent display of the humor or the satire of Pasquin. The siege and sack of the city by the army of the Constable de Bourbon wrought too much misery to be set in verse or to be sharpened in epigram. One shrewd jest of this time has, indeed, been preserved. Clement was for months a prisoner in the Castle of Sant’ Angelo, unable to stir abroad. “Papa non potest errare” said Pasquin, or one of his friends, with a play on the double meaning of the last word, and a scoff at Papal pretension: “The Pope cannot err”: he is too well guarded to stray. But when the Pope died in 1534, Pasquin did not spare his memory. He had lately changed his physician, and taken one named Matteo Curzio or Curtius; and when his death took place, not without suspicion of malpractice, the satisfaction of the people was expressed by the appearance of a portrait of this new doctor, with the inscription, in words borrowed from the Vulgate, “Ecce agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi!” “Curtius has killed Clement,” said Pasquin. “Curtius, who has secured the public health, should be rewarded.”
“Curtis occidit Clementem.
Donandus, per quem publica parta salus.”
Nor was this all. Pasquin declared, that, on occasion of Clement’s death, a bitter strife arose between Pluto and Saint Peter as to which should receive the Pope:—
“Noluit hunc coelum, noluit hunc barathrum.”
The Saint has no place for him, and the ruler of the lower regions fears the disturbance that he will make in hell. The quarrel is cut short by the arrival of Clement himself upon the spot, who, finding no entrance into heaven, declares that he will force himself into hell:—
“Tartara tentemus, facilis descensus Averni.”
The fifteen years of the pontificate of Clement’s successor, Paul iii.,—years, for the most part, of quiet and prosperity at Rome,—afforded ample opportunities for the display of Pasquin’s spirit. The personal character of the Pope, the exactions which he laid upon the Romans for the profit of his favorites and his family, and his unblushing nepotism were the subjects of frequent satire. The Farnese palace, built in great part with stone taken from the Colosseum, is a standing monument of the justice of Pasquin’s rebukes, the sharpness of which is concentrated in a single telling epigram. “Let us pray for Pope Paul,” said Pasquin, “for zeal for his house is consuming him":—
“Oremus pro Papa Paulo, quia zelus
Domus suae comedit illum.”
At another time Marforio addressed a letter to Pasquin, in which he tells him of the Pope’s reply to an angel who had been sent to him with the message, “Feed my sheep” “Charity begins at home,” had been the answer of the Pope. And when the Roman people had prayed Paul to have pity on his people, Paul had replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and give it to dogs.”
But Pasquin was now to be brought into greater notoriety than ever. In spite of the efforts of the successors of Adrian, the Reformation had rapidly advanced, and the Reformers, scorning no weapons that might serve their cause, determined to turn the wit of Pasquin to their account. In the year 1544, a little, but thick, volume appeared, with the title, “Pasquillorum Tomi duo.” It bore no name of editor or printer, and professed to be published at Eleutheropolis, the City of Freedom, or, as it might be rendered in a free translation, the City of Luther. Its 637 pages were filled with satire; it was not merely a collection of Pasquin’s sayings, but it contained epigrams and dialogues derived from other sources as well. The book was of a kind to be popular, as well as to excite the bitterest aversion of the adherents of the Roman Church. It long since became a volume of excessive rarity, most of the copies having been destroyed by zealous Romanists. The famous scholar, Daniel Heinsius, within a century after its publication, believed that a copy which he purchased, at a cost of a hundred ducats, was the only one remaining in the world, and he inscribed the following lines upon one of its blank pages:—
“Roma meos fratres igni dedit.
Vivo, aureis venio centum Heinsio.”
“Rome gave my brothers to the fire.
A solitary Phoenix, I survive, and at cost
of a hundred gold pieces I come to Heinsius.”
But Heinslus was mistaken in supposing his copy to be unique; and bibliographers of later date, while marking the rarity of the book, have recorded its existence in various libraries. At this moment two copies are lying before us, probably the only copies in America.
The editor of this publication was the Piedmontese scholar and Reformer, Coelius Secundus Curio. His early life had been eventful, and he had experienced the tender mercies of the Roman Church. He had been persecuted, his property had been seized, he himself compelled to fly, on account of his liberal views. He had been in the prisons of the Inquisition, from which he had escaped only by a successful and ingenious stratagem. At length, wearied with contention, he took up his abode in Protestant Switzerland, where he passed in quiet the latter years of his useful and honored life. It was while here that he compiled this book, and sent it as a missile into the camp of his opponents, the enemies of freedom of thought and of the right of private judgment. From this time Pasquin’s fame became universal. The words pasquil or pasquinade were adopted info almost every European tongue, and soon embraced in their widening signification all sorts of satiric epigrams. A great part of the volume published by Curio is made up, indeed, of attacks on the Roman Church which have no connection with Pasquin as their author. The style and the subject of many of them betray a German origin; and some of the longer pieces so closely resemble, in point, in humor, and in expression, the celebrated “Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum,” that there can be little doubt that Ulrich von Hutten, or some one of his coadjutors in that clever satire on the monks and clergy, had a hand in their composition.
But, leaving the pasquinades of other people, let us come back to the sayings of Pasquin himself. No one has surpassed him in his own way, and his store of epigrams, illustrating life and manners at Rome, is abundant. The pontificate of Sixtus V., from 1585 to 1590, was full of material for his wit. The only man in Rome who did not tremble under the rod with which this hard old monk ruled his people and the Church was the free-spoken marble jester. The very morning after the election of Sixtus, Pasquin appeared with a plate of toothpicks, and to the question of Marforio, what he was doing with them, he replied, “I am taking them to Alexandrino, Medicis, and Rusticucci,” the three cardinals who had been most active in securing the Papacy for the new Pope. The point of the joke was plain to the Romans: it meant that his adherents, instead of gaining anything by their efforts, had been deceived, and would have nothing to do now but to pick their teeth at leisure.
Leti, in his entertaining and gossipping life of this most merciless of Popes, tells a story of another pasquinade, which exhibits the temper of Sixtus. One morning Pasquin appeared clothed in a very dirty shirt, and, upon being asked by Marforio, why he wore such foul linen, replied, he could get no other, for the Pope had made his washerwoman a princess,—meaning thereby the Pope’s sister, Donna Camilla, who had formerly been a laundress, but was now established with a fortune and a palace. “This stinging piece of raillery was carried directly to his Holiness, who ordered a strict search to be made for the author, but to no purpose. Upon which he stuck up printed papers in all the public places of the city, promising, upon the word of a Pope, to give the author of the pasquinade a thousand pistoles and his life, provided he would discover himself, but threatened to hang him, if he was found out by any one else, and offered the thousand pistoles to the informer.” Upon this the author was simple enough to make confession and to demand the money. Sixtus paid him the sum, and then, saying that he had indeed promised him his life, but not freedom from punishment, ordered his hands to be cut off, and his tongue to be bored, “to prevent him from being so witty for the future.” This act, says Leti, “filled every one with terror and amazement.” And well might such a piece of Oriental barbarity excite the horror of the Romans. Pasquin, however, was not alarmed, and a few days afterward he appeared holding a wet shirt to dry in the sun. It was a Sunday morning, and Marforio, naturally surprised at such a violation of the day, asked him why he could not wait till Monday before drying it Pasquin answered, that there was no time to lose; for, if he waited till to-morrow to dry his shirt, he might have to pay for the sunshine;—hinting at the heavy taxes which Sixtus had laid upon the necessaries of life, and from which the sunshine itself might not long be exempt.
It was near about this time that a caricature was circulated in Rome, representing Sixtus as King Stork and the Romans as frogs vainly attempting to escape from his devouring beak. Merito haec patimur, “We suffer deservedly,” was the legend of the picture, and the moral it conveyed was a true one. Rome was in such a state as to require the harshest applications, and the despotic severity of Sixtus did much to restore decency and security to life. He left the Romans in a far better condition than he found them; and it would have been well for Rome, if among his successors there had been more to follow his example in repressing vice and violence,—in a word, had there been more King Storks and fewer King Logs.
The most poetic of pasquinades, and one in which wit rises into imagination, belongs to the pontificate of Urban viii. (1623-1644.) This Pope issued a bull excommunicating all persons who took snuff in the churches of Seville; whereupon Pasquin quoted the following verse from Job (xiii. 25):—“Contra folium quod vento rapitur ostendis potentiam tuam? et stipulam siccam persequeris?”
This is a very model of satire in its kind, and of a higher kind than the pasquil, which Coleridge quotes as an example of wit, upon the Pope who had employed a committee to rip up the errors of his predecessors.
“Some one placed a pair of spurs on the statue of St. Peter, and a label from the opposite statue of St. Paul.
“St. Paul. Whither, then, are you bound?
“St. Peter. I apprehend danger here;—they’ll soon call me in question for denying my Master.
“St. Paul. Nay, then, I had better be off, too; for they’ll question me for having persecuted the Christians before my conversion."
In his distinction between the wit of thoughts, of words, and of images, Coleridge asserts that the first belongs eminently to the Italians. Such broad assertions are always open to exceptions, and Pasquin shows that the Romans at least are not less clever in the wit of words than in that of thoughts. Take, for example, the jest on Innocent X. which Howel reports in one of his entertaining letters. This Pope, who, says the candid historian, Mosheim, “to a profound ignorance of all those things which it was necessary for a Christian bishop to know, joined the most shameless indolence and the most notorious profligacy,” abandoned his person, his dignity, and his government to the disposal of Donna Olympia Maldachini, the widow of his brother. The portrait of the Pope may be seen in the Doria Gallery at Rome; for it is still esteemed an honor by the noble family to which the gallery belongs to be able to trace a relationship to a Pope, even though so vile a one as Innocent “Magis amat papa Olympiam quam Olympum” said Pasquin; and the pun still clings to the memory of him whom his authorized biographer calls “religiosissimo nelle cose divine e prudentissimo nelle umane." But superlatives often have a value in inverse ratio to their intention. There is a curious story told by the Catholic historian, Novaes, that, after the death of Innocent, which took place in 1655, no one could be found willing to assume the charge of burying him. Word was sent to Donna Olympia that she should provide a coffin for the corpse; but she replied that she was only a poor widow. Of the cardinals he had made, of the relations he had enriched, none was to be found who had charity enough to treat his remains with decency. His body was taken to a room where some masons were at work, and one of them out of compassion put a tallow candle at its head, while another, fearing lest the mice, of which there were many in the apartment, might disturb the corpse, secured a person to watch it through the night. At length one of the officers of the court procured a cheap coffin, and one of the canons of Saint Peter’s gave five crowns to pay the expenses of the burial. A moralist might comment on this story, and might compare it with another which is told in a life of Innocent, written during the reign
When Bishop Burnet was travelling in Italy, in the year 1686, the doctrines of the Spanish priest Molinos, the founder of the famous sect of Quietists, had lately become the object of attack of the Jesuits and of suspicion at the Papal Court. His system of mystical divinity is still of interest from its connection with the lives of Fenelon and Madame Guyon, if not from its intrinsic character. Like most other mystical doctrines, his teachings seem to have been open to the charge, that, while professedly based on the highest spirituality, they had a direct tendency to encourage sensuality in its most dangerous form. Molinos was at first much favored at Rome and by the Pope himself; but at the time of Burnet’s journey he was in the custody of the Holy Office, while his books were undergoing the examination which finally led to the formal condemnation of sixty-eight propositions contained in them, to the renunciation of these propositions by their author, and to his being sentenced to perpetual imprisonment Burnet relates that it happened “in one week that one man had been condemned to the galleys for somewhat he had said, another had been hanged for somewhat he had writ, and Molinos was clapt in prison, whose doctrine consisted chiefly in this, that men ought to bring their minds to a state of inward quietness. The Pasquinade upon all this was, “Si parliamo, in galere; si scrivemmo, impiccati; si stiamo in quiete, all’ Sant Uffizio. Eh! che bisogna fare?” “If we speak, the galleys; if we write, the gallows; if we stay quiet, the Inquisition. Eh! what must we do, then?”
With the changes of times and the succession of Popes, new material was constantly afforded to Pasquin for the exercise of his peculiar talent. Each generation gave him fresh subject for laughter or for rebuke. Men quickly passed away, but folly and vice remained. “Do you wonder,” said Pasquin, once, in his early days, referring to his changes of character, “do you wonder why Rome yearly changes me to a new figure? It is because of the shifting manners of the city, and the falling back of men. He who would be pious must depart from Rome.”
“Praeteriens, forsan miraris, turba,
Cur me Roma novam mutet in effigiem.
Hoc urbis mores varios, hominumque recessus
Indicat: ergo abeat qui cupit esse pius.”
During the eighteenth century Italy did not abound in poets or wits, and Master Pasquin seems to have shared in the dulness of the times. Toward its end, however, when Pius VI. was building the palace under the corner of which the statue was to find shelter, the marble representative of the tailor watched his proceedings with sharp observation. Long ago he had rebuked the nepotism of the Popes, but Pius had forgotten his epigrams. “Cerberus,” he had said, “had three mouths with which he barked; but you have three, or even four, which bark not, but devour.”
“Tres habuit fauces, et terno Cerberus
Latratus intra Tartara nigra dabat.
Et tibi plena fame tria sunt vel quatuor ora
Quae nulli latrant, quemque sed illa vorant.”
Every one who has been in Rome remembers how often, on the repairs of ancient monuments, and on the pedestals of statues or busts, are to be seen the words, “Munificentia Pii Sexti” thrusting themselves into notice, and occupying the place which should be filled with some nobler inscription. The bad taste and impertinence of this epigraph are often enhanced by the slightness of the work or the gift which it commemorates. During a season of dearth at Rome, in the time of Pius, when the bakers had reduced the size of their loaves, Pasquin took the opportunity to satirize the selfishness and vanity of the Pope, by exhibiting one of these diminished loaves bearing the familiar words, “Munificentia Pii VI.”
The French Revolution, the Napoleonic occupation of Rome, the brilliant essays of liberalism of Pius IX., the Republic, the siege of Rome, the reactionary government of late years, have alike supplied matter for Master Pasquin, which he has shaped according to the fashion of the times. He still pursues his ancient avocation. Res acu tetigit. But the point of the needle is not the means by which the rents in the garment of Rome are to be mended,—much less by which her wounds are to be cauterized and healed. The sharp satiric tongue may prick her moral sense into restlessness, but the Roman spirit is not thus to be roused to action. Still Pasquin deserves credit for his efforts; and while other liberty is denied, the Romans may be glad that there is a single voice that cannot be silenced, and a single censor who is not to be corrupted.
[Footnote 1: Bernini, being asked what was the most beautiful statue in Rome, replied, “That of Pasquin.” This reply the sensible Milizia taxes with affectation,—saying, that, although an artist may discover in the work some marks of good design, it is now too maimed to pass for a beautiful statue. Possibly Bernini was thinking of his own works in comparison with it.]
[Footnote 2: Andreas Schott,—who published an Itinerary of Italy about the beginning of the seventeenth century, copies this account, and adds,—“At present this custom is prohibited under the heaviest penalties.”]
[Footnote 3: Mrs. Piozzi, in her amusing Journey through Italy, ii. 113, quotes these verses and gives a translation of them which shows that she quite mistook their point. In spite of her quoting Latin, Greek, and even on occasion Hebrew, her scholarship was not very accurate or deep.]
[Footnote 4: The Historie of Guicciardin, reduced into English by Geffray Fenton. 1579. p. 308. Another epigram of barbarous bitterness against Alexander refers, if we understand it aright, to one of the gloomiest events of his pontificate, the murder of his son Giovanni, Duca di Gandia, by his other son, Caesar Borgia. Giovanni was killed at night, and his body was thrown into the Tiber, from which it was recovered the next morning.
Piscatorem hominum ne te non, Sexte, putemus,
Piscaris natum retibus ecce tuum.”
“Lest we should not fancy you, O
a fisher of men, you fish for your own son
[Footnote 5: Vasari relates, that Michel Angelo, when he was making the bronze statue of Julius, at Bologna, having asked the Pope if he should put a book in his left hand,—“No,” replied the fiery old man, “put a sword in it, for I know not letters”: “Mettivi una spada, che io non so lettere.”]
[Footnote 6: At the beginning of his pontificate, upon occasion of Leo’s taking possession of the Lateran with a solemn procession, an arch of triumph was erected at the bridge of Sant’ Angelo, which bore an inscription worthy of the tailor’s successor:—
“Olim habuit Cypria sua tempera,
Olim habuit, sua nunc tempora Pallas habet.”
“Venus once had her time, Mars also
had his, but now Minerva rules.”]
[Footnote 7: In Murray’s Handbook for Rome, a book for the most part of great accuracy, there is a curious blunder in the account of Pasquin. It is said, that, “on the election of Pope Leo X., in 1440, the following satirical acrostic appeared, to mark the date MCCCCXL:—’Multi caeci cardinales creaverunt caecum decimum (X) Leonem: ‘Many blind cardinals have created a tenth blind Lion.’” Now in 1440 Leo was not born, and no Pope was chosen in that year. Leo was not made Pope till 1513, and the acrostic has apparently nothing to do with the date of his accession to the pontificate.]
[Footnote 8: One of those copies was formerly in the Royal Library at Munich, and sold as a duplicate. The other has the bookplate of the Baron de Warenghien. Colonel Stanley’s copy sold for L11 lls. The book was printed at Basle, by Jean Oporin. See Clement, Bibl. Cur. Hist, et Crit., vii. 371. See also, for an account of it, Salleugre, M.m. de Litt., ii. 6, 203; and Schelhorn, Amoen. Lit., iii. 151.]
[Footnote 9: An entertaining and curious account of Curio and his family is to be found in a commemorative oration delivered in 1570 before the Academy of Basle by Stupanus, and printed by Schelhorn in Amoen. Lit., Tom. xiv.]
[Footnote 10: In two or three of the dialogues Hutten is introduced as one of the speakers; and several of the poetic epigrams are ascribed to him by name.]
[Footnote 11: In Luther’s Table-Talk, he says, “Whoso in Rome is heard to speak one word against the Pope received either a Strappecordo or is punished with death, for his name is Noli me tangere.” Pasquin himself has hardly said a shrewder saying than this. Noli me tangere is the name under which Pius IX. pleads against the diminution of his temporal power, while he threatens his opponents with the Strappecorde.]
[Footnote 12: Lectures upon Shakespeare and other Dramatists, ii. 90.]
[Footnote 13: Novaes, x. 56. Artaud de Montor, Hist. des Pont. Rom., v. 523.]
[Footnote 14: Vita d’ Innocenzio X., dal Cav. Ant. Bagatta.]
* * * * *
My ear is full of summer sounds,
With summer sights my languid eye;
Beyond the dusty village bounds
I loiter in my daily rounds,
And in the noon-time shadows lie.
The wild bee winds his drowsy horn,
The bird swings on the ripened wheat,
The long, green lances of the corn
Are tilting in the winds of morn,
The locust shrills his song of heat.
Another sound my spirit hears,
A deeper sound that drowns them all,—
A voice of pleading choked with tears,
The call of human hopes and fears,
The Macedonian cry to Paul!
The storm-bell rings, the trumpet blows;
I know the word and countersign;
Wherever Freedom’s vanguard goes,
Where stand or fall her friends or foes,
I know the place that should be mine.
Shamed be the hands that idly fold,
And lips that woo the reed’s accord,
When laggard Time the hour has tolled
For true with false and new with old
To fight the battles of the Lord!
O brothers! blest by partial Fate
With power to match the will and deed,
To him your summons comes too late,
Who sinks beneath his armor’s weight,
And has no answer but God-speed!
* * * * *
DARWIN AND HIS REVIEWERS.
The origin of species, like all origination, like the institution of any other natural state or order, is beyond our immediate ken. We see or may learn how things go on; we can only frame hypotheses as to how they began.
Two hypotheses divide the scientific world, very unequally, upon the origin of the existing diversity of the plants and animals which surround us. One assumes that the actual kinds are primordial; the other, that they are derivative. One, that all kinds originated supernaturally and directly as such, and have continued unchanged in the order of Nature; the other, that the present kinds appeared in some sort of genealogical connection with other and earlier kinds, that they became what they now are in the course of time and in the order of Nature.
Or, bringing in the word species, which is well defined as “the perennial succession of individuals,” commonly of very like individuals,—as a close corporation of individuals perpetuated by generation, instead of election,—and reducing the question to mathematical simplicity of statement: species are lines of individuals coming down from the past and running on to the future,—lines receding, therefore, from our view in either direction. Within our limited view they appear to be parallel lines, as a general thing neither approaching to nor diverging from each other. The first hypothesis assumes that they were parallel from the unknown beginning and will be to the unknown end. The second hypothesis assumes that the apparent parallelism is not real and complete, at least aboriginally, but approximate or temporary; that we should find the lines convergent in the past, if we could trace them far enough; that some of them, if produced back, would fall into certain fragments of lines, which have left traces in the past, lying not exactly in the same direction, and these farther back into others to which they are equally unparallel. It will also claim that the present lines, whether on the whole really or only approximately parallel, sometimes fork or send off branches on one side or the other, producing new lines, (varieties,) which run for a while, and for aught we know indefinitely, when not interfered with, near and approximately parallel to the parent line. This claim it can establish; and it may also show that these close subsidiary lines may branch or vary again, and that those branches or varieties which are best adapted to the existing conditions may be continued, while others stop or die out. And so we may have the basis of a real theory of the diversification of species; and here, indeed, there is a real, though a narrow, established ground to build upon. But, as systems of organic Nature, both are equally hypotheses, are suppositions of what there is no proof of from experience, assumed in order to account for the observed phenomena, and supported by such indirect evidence as can be had. Even when the upholders of the former and more popular system mix up revelation with scientific discussion,—which we decline to do,—they by no means thereby render their view other than hypothetical. Agreeing that plants and animals were produced by Omnipotent fiat does not exclude the idea of natural order and what we call secondary causes. The record of the fiat—“Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed,” etc., “and it was so”; “let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth after his kind, and it was so”—seems even to imply them. Agreeing that they were formed of “the dust of the ground” and of thin air only leads to the conclusion that the pristine individuals were corporeally constituted like existing individuals, produced through natural agencies. To agree that they were created “after their kinds” determines nothing as to what were the original kinds, nor in what mode, during what time, and in what connections it pleased the Almighty to introduce the first individuals of each sort upon the earth. Scientifically considered, the two opposing doctrines are equally hypothetical.
The two views very unequally divide the scientific world; so that believers in “the divine right of majorities” need not hesitate which side to take, at least for the present. Up to a time within the memory of a generation still on the stage, two hypotheses about the nature of light very unequally divided the scientific world. But the small minority has already prevailed: the emission theory has gone out; the undulatory or wave theory, after some fluctuation, has reached high tide, and is now the pervading, the fully established system. There was an intervening time during which most physicists held their opinions in suspense.
The adoption of the undulatory theory of light called for the extension of the same theory to heat, electricity, and magnetism, and this promptly suggested the hypothesis of a correlation, material connection, and transmutability of heat, light, electricity, magnetism, etc.; which hypothesis the physicists held in absolute suspense until very lately, but are now generally adopting. If not already established as a system, it promises soon to become so. At least, it is generally received as a tenable and probably true hypothesis.
Parallel to this, however less cogent the reasons, Darwin and others, having shown it likely that some varieties of plants or animals have diverged in time into cognate species, or into forms as different as species, are led to infer that all species of a genus may have thus diverged from a common stock, and thence to suppose a higher community of origin in ages still farther back, and so on. Following the safe example of the physicists, and acknowledging the fact of the diversification of a once homogeneous species into varieties, we may receive the theory of the evolution of these into species, even while for the present we hold the hypothesis of a further evolution in cool suspense or in grave suspicion. In respect to very many questions a wise man’s mind rests long in a state neither of belief nor of unbelief. But your intellectually short-sighted people are apt to be preternaturally clear-sighted, and to find their way very plain to positive conclusions upon one side or the other of every mooted question.
In fact, most people, and some philosophers, refuse to hold questions in abeyance, however incompetent they may be to decide them. And, curiously enough, the more difficult, recondite, and perplexing the questions or hypotheses are, such, for instance, as those about organic Nature, the more impatient they are of suspense. Sometimes, and evidently in the present case, this impatience grows out of a fear that a new hypothesis may endanger cherished and most important beliefs. Impatience under such circumstances is not unnatural, though perhaps needless, and, if so, unwise.
To us the present revival of the derivative hypothesis, in a more winning shape than it ever before had, was not unexpected. We wonder that any thoughtful observer of the course of investigation and of speculation in science should not have foreseen it, and have learned at length to take its inevitable coming patiently; the more so as in Darwin’s treatise it comes in a purely scientific form, addressed only to scientific men. The notoriety and wide popular perusal of this treatise appear to have astonished the author even more than the book itself has astonished the reading world. Coming, as the new presentation does, from a naturalist of acknowledged character and ability, and marked by a conscientiousness and candor which have not always been reciprocated, we have thought it simply right to set forth the doctrine as fairly and as favorably as we could. There are plenty to decry it, and the whole theory is widely exposed to attack. For the arguments on the other side we may look to the numerous adverse publications which Darwin’s volume has already called out, and especially to those reviews which propose directly to refute it. Taking various lines and reflecting very diverse modes of thought, these hostile critics may be expected to concentrate and enforce the principal objections which can be brought to bear against the derivative hypothesis in general, and Darwin’s new exposition of it in particular.
Upon the opposing side of the question we have read with attention, 1. an article in the “North American Review” for April last; 2. one in the “Christian Examiner,” Boston, for May; 3. M. Pictet’s article in the “Bibliotheque Universelle,” which we have already made considerable use of, which seems throughout most able and correct, and which in tone and fairness is admirably in contrast with, 4. the article in the “Edinburgh Review” for May, attributed—although against a large amount of internal presumptive evidence—to the most distinguished British comparative anatomist; 5. an article in the “North British Review” for May; 6. finally, Professor Agassiz has afforded an early opportunity to peruse the criticisms he makes in the forthcoming third volume of his great work by a publication of them in advance in the “American Journal of Science” for July.
In our survey of the lively discussion which has been raised, it matters little how our own particular opinions may incline. But we may confess to an impression, thus far, that the doctrine of the permanent and complete immutability of species has not been established, and may fairly be doubted. We believe that species vary, and that “Natural Selection” works; but we suspect that its operation, like every analogous natural operation, may be limited by something else. Just as every species by its natural rate of reproduction would soon fill any country it could live in, but does not, being checked by some other species or some other condition,—so it may be surmised that
We are not disposed nor prepared to take sides for or against the new hypothesis, and so, perhaps, occupy a good position from which to watch the discussion, and criticize those objections which are seemingly inconclusive. On surveying the arguments urged by those who have undertaken to demolish the theory, we have been most impressed with a sense of their great inequality. Some strike us as excellent and perhaps unanswerable; some, as incongruous with other views of the same writers; others, when carried out, as incompatible with general experience or general beliefs, and therefore as proving too much; still others, as proving nothing at all: so that, on the whole, the effect is rather confusing and disappointing. We certainly expected a stronger adverse case than any which the thorough-going opposers of Darwin appear to have made out. Wherefore, if it be found that the new hypothesis has grown upon our favor as we proceeded, this must be attributed not so much to the force of the arguments of the book itself as to the want of force of several of those by which it has been assailed. Darwin’s arguments we might resist or adjourn; but some of the refutations of it give us more concern than the book itself did.
These remarks apply mainly to the philosophical and theological objections which have been elaborately urged, almost exclusively by the American reviewers. The “North British” reviewer, indeed, roundly denounces the book as atheistical, but evidently deems the case too clear for argument. The Edinburgh reviewer, on the contrary, scouts all such objections,—as well he may, since he records his belief in “a continuous creative operation,” “a constantly operating secondary creational law,” through which species are successively produced; and he emits faint, but not indistinct, glimmerings of a transmutation theory of his own; so that he is equally exposed to all the philosophical objections advanced by Agassiz, and to most of those urged by the other American critics, against Darwin himself.
Proposing now to criticize the critics, so far as to see what their most general and comprehensive objections amount to, we must needs begin with the American reviewers, and with their arguments adduced to prove that a derivative hypothesis ought not to be true, or is not possible, philosophical, or theistic.
It must not be forgotten that on former occasions very confident judgments have been pronounced by very competent persons, which have not been finally ratified. Of the two great minds of the seventeenth century, Newton and Leibnitz, both profoundly religious as well as philosophical, one produced the theory of gravitation, the other objected to that theory that it was subversive of natural religion. The nebular hypothesis—a natural consequence of the theory of gravitation and of the subsequent progress of physical and astronomical discovery—has been denounced as atheistical even down to our own day. But it is now largely adopted by the most theistical natural philosophers as a tenable and perhaps sufficient hypothesis, and where not accepted is no longer objected to, so far as we know, on philosophical or religious grounds.
The gist of the philosophical objections urged by the two Boston reviewers against an hypothesis of the derivation of species—or at least against Darwin’s particular hypothesis—is, that it is incompatible with the idea of any manifestation of design in the universe, that it denies final causes. A serious objection this, and one that demands very serious attention.
The proposition, that things and events in Nature were not designed to be so, if logically carried out, is doubtless tantamount to atheism. Yet most people believe that some were designed and others were not, although they fall into a hopeless maze whenever they undertake to define their position. So we should not like to stigmatize as atheistically disposed a person who regards certain things and events as being what they are through designed laws, (whatever that expression means,) but as not themselves specially ordained, or who, in another connection, believes in general, but not in particular Providence. We could sadly puzzle him with questions; but in return he might equally puzzle us. Then, to deny that anything was specially designed to be what it is is one proposition; while to deny that the Designer supernaturally or immediately made it so is another: though the reviewers appear not to recognize the distinction.
Also, “scornfully to repudiate” or to “sneer at the idea of any manifestation of design in the material universe" is one thing; while to consider, and perhaps to exaggerate, the difficulties which attend the practical application of the doctrine of final causes to certain instances is quite another thing: yet the Boston reviewers, we regret to say, have not been duly regardful of the difference. Whatever be thought of Darwin’s doctrine, we are surprised that he should be charged with scorning or sneering at the opinions of others, upon such a subject. Perhaps Darwin’s view is incompatible with final causes;—we will consider that question presently;—but as to the “Examiner’s” charge, that he “sneers at the idea of any manifestation of design in the material universe,” though we are confident that no misrepresentation was intended, we are equally confident that it is not at all warranted by the two passages cited in support of it. Here are the passages:—
“If green woodpeckers alone had existed, or we did not know that there were many black and pied kinds, I dare say that we should have thought that the green color was a beautiful adaptation to hide this tree-frequenting bird from its enemies.”
“If our reason leads us to admire with enthusiasm a multitude of inimitable contrivances in Nature, this same reason tells us, though we may easily err on both sides, that some contrivances are less perfect. Can we consider the sting of the wasp or of the bee as perfect, which, when used against many attacking animals, cannot be withdrawn, owing to the backward serratures, and so inevitably causes the death of the insect by tearing out its viscera?”
If the sneer here escapes ordinary vision in the detached extracts, (one of them wanting the end of the sentence,) it is, if possible, more imperceptible when read with the context. Moreover, this perusal inclines us to think that the “Examiner” has misapprehended the particular argument or object, as well as the spirit, of the author in these passages. The whole reads more naturally as a caution against the inconsiderate use of final causes in science, and an illustration of some of the manifold errors and absurdities which their hasty assumption is apt to involve,—considerations probably analogous to those which induced Lord Bacon rather disrespectfully to style final causes “sterile virgins.” So, if any one, it is here Bacon that “sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” As to Darwin, in the section from which the extracts were made, he is considering a subsidiary question, and trying to obviate a particular difficulty, but, we suppose, wholly unconscious of denying “any manifestation of design in the material universe.” He concludes the first sentence:—
——“and consequently that it was a character of importance, and might have been acquired through natural selection; as it is, I have no doubt that the color is due to some quite distinct cause, probably to sexual selection.”
After an illustration from the vegetable creation, Darwin adds:—
“The naked skin on the head of a vulture is generally looked at as a direct adaptation for wallowing in putridity; and so it may be, or it may possibly be due to the direct action of putrid matter; but we should be very cautious in drawing any such inference, when we see that the skin on the head of the clean-feeding male turkey is likewise naked. The sutures in the skulls of young mammals have been advanced as a beautiful adaptation for aiding parturition, and no doubt they facilitate or may be indispensable for this act; but as sutures occur in the skulls of young birds and reptiles, which have only to escape from a broken egg, we may infer that this structure has arisen from the laws of growth, and has been taken advantage of in the parturition of the higher animals.”
All this, simply taken, is beyond cavil, unless the attempt to explain scientifically how any designed result is accomplished savors of impropriety.
In the other place, Darwin is contemplating the patent fact, that “perfection here below” is relative, not absolute,—and illustrating this by the circumstance, that European animals, and especially plants, are now proving to be better adapted for New Zealand than many of the indigenous ones,—that “the correction for the aberration of light is said, on high authority, not to be quite perfect even in that most perfect organ, the eye.” And then follows the second extract of the reviewer. But what is the position of the reviewer upon his own interpretation of these passages? If he insists that green woodpeckers were specifically created so in order that they might be less liable to capture, must he not equally hold that the black and pied ones were specifically made of these colors in order that they might be more liable to be caught? And would an explanation of the mode in which those woodpeckers came to be green, however complete, convince him that the color was undesigned?
As to the other illustration, is the reviewer so complete an optimist as to insist that the arrangement and the weapon are wholly perfect (quoad the insect) the normal use of which often causes the animal fatally to injure or to disembowel itself? Either way it seems to us that the argument here, as well as the insect, performs hari-kari.
The “Examiner” adds:—“We should in like manner object to the word favorable, as implying that some species are placed by the Creator under unfavorable circumstances, at least under such as might be advantageously modified.” But are not many individuals and some races of men placed by the Creator “under unfavorable circumstances, at least under such as might be advantageously modified”? Surely these reviewers must be living in an ideal world, surrounded by “the faultless monsters which our world ne’er saw,” in some elysium where imperfection and distress were never heard of! Such arguments resemble some which we often hear against the Bible, holding that book responsible as if it originated certain facts on the shady side of human nature or the apparently darker lines of Providential dealing, though the facts are facts of common observation and have to be confronted upon any theory.
The “North American” reviewer also has a world of his own,—just such a one as an idealizing philosopher would be apt to devise,—that is, full of sharp and absolute distinctions: such, for instance, as the “absolute invariableness of instinct”; an absolute want of intelligence in any brute animal; and a complete monopoly of instinct by the brute animals, so that this “instinct is a great matter” for them only, since it sharply and perfectly distinguishes this portion of organic Nature from the vegetable kingdom on the one hand and from man on the other: most convenient views for argumentative purposes, but we suppose not borne out in fact.
In their scientific objections the two reviewers take somewhat different lines; but their philosophical and theological arguments strikingly coincide. They agree in emphatically asserting that Darwin’s hypothesis of the origination of species through variation and natural selection “repudiates the whole doctrine of final causes,” and “all indication of design or purpose in the organic world,”—“is neither more nor less than a formal denial of any agency beyond that of a blind chance in the developing or perfecting of the organs or instincts of created beings.” “It is in vain that the apologists of this hypothesis might say that it merely attributes a different mode and time to the Divine agency,—that all the qualities subsequently appearing in their descendants must have been implanted, and remained latent in the original pair.” Such a view, the Examiner declares, “is nowhere stated in this book, and would be, we are sure, disclaimed by the author.” We should like to be informed of the grounds of this sureness. The marked rejection of spontaneous generation,—the statement of a belief that all animals have descended from four or five progenitors, and plants from an equal or lesser number, or, perhaps, if constrained to it by analogy, “from some one primordial form into which life was first breathed.”—coupled with the expression, “To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes,” than “that each species has been independently created,”—those and similar expressions lead us to suppose that the author probably does accept the kind of view which the “Examiner” is sure he would disclaim. At least, we see nothing in his scientific theory to hinder his adoption of Lord Bacon’s Confession of Faith in this regard,—“that, notwithstanding God hath rested and ceased from creating, [in the sense of supernatural origination,] yet, nevertheless, He doth accomplish and fulfil His divine will in all things, great and small, singular and general, as fully and exactly by providence as He could by miracle and new creation, though His working be not immediate and direct, but by compass; not violating Nature, which is His own law upon the creature.”
However that may be, it is undeniable that Mr. Darwin has purposely been silent upon the philosophical and theological applications of his theory. This reticence, under the circumstances, argues design, and raises inquiry as to the final cause or reason why. Here, as in higher instances, confident as we are that there is a final cause, we must not be overconfident that we can infer the particular or true one. Perhaps the author is more familiar with natural-historical than with philosophical inquiries, and, not having decided which particular theory about efficient cause is best founded, he meanwhile argues the scientific questions concerned—all that relates to secondary causes—upon purely scientific grounds, as he must do in any case. Perhaps, confident, as he evidently is, that his view will finally be adopted, he may enjoy a sort of satisfaction in hearing it denounced as sheer atheism by the inconsiderate, and afterwards, when it takes its place with the nebular hypothesis and the like, see this judgment reversed, as we suppose it would be in such event.
Whatever Mr. Darwin’s philosophy may be, or whether he has any, is a matter of no consequence at all, compared with the important questions, whether a theory to account for the origination and diversification of animal and vegetable forms through the operation of secondary causes does or does not exclude design; and whether the establishment by adequate evidence of Darwin’s particular theory of diversification through variation and natural selection would essentially alter the present scientific and philosophical grounds for theistic views of Nature. The unqualified affirmative judgment rendered by the two Boston reviewers—evidently able and practised reasoners—“must give us pause.” We hesitate to advance our conclusions in opposition to theirs. But, after full and serious consideration, we are constrained to say, that, in our opinion, the adoption of a derivative hypothesis, and of Darwin’s particular hypothesis, if we understand it, would leave the doctrines of final causes, utility, and special design just where they were before. We do not pretend that the subject is not environed with difficulties. Every view is so environed; and every shifting of the view is likely, if it removes some difficulties, to bring others into prominence. But we cannot perceive that Darwin’s theory brings in any new kind of scientific difficulty, that is, any with which philosophical naturalists were not already familiar.
Since natural science deals only with secondary or natural causes, the scientific terms of a theory of derivation of species—no less than of a theory of dynamics—must needs be the same to the theist as to the atheist. The difference appears only when the inquiry is carried up to the question of primary cause—a question which belongs to philosophy. Wherefore, Darwin’s reticence about efficient cause does not disturb us. He considers only the scientific questions. As already stated, we think that a theistic view of Nature is implied in his book, and we must charitably refrain from suggesting the contrary until the contrary is logically deduced from his positions. If, however, he anywhere maintains that the natural causes through which species are diversified operate without an ordaining and directing intelligence, and that the orderly arrangements and admirable adaptations we see all around us are fortuitous or blind, undesigned results,—that the eye, though it came to see, was not designed for seeing, nor the hand for handling,—then, we suppose, he is justly chargeable with denying, and very needlessly denying, all design in organic Nature; otherwise we suppose not. Why, if Darwin’s well-known passage about the eye—equivocal or unfortunate though some of the language be—does not imply ordaining and directing intelligence, then he refutes his own theory as effectually as any of his opponents are likely to do. He asks,—
“May we not believe that”—under variation proceeding long enough, generation multiplying the better variations times enough, and natural selection securing the improvements—“a living optical instrument might be thus formed as superior to one of glass as the works of the Creator are to those of man?”
This must mean one of two things: either that the living instrument was made and perfected under (which is the same thing as by) an intelligent First Cause, or that it was not. If it was, then theism is asserted; and as to the mode of operation, how do we know, and why must we believe, that, fitting precedent forms being in existence, a living instrument (so different from a lifeless manufacture) would be originated and perfected in any other way, or that this is not the fitting way? If it means that it was not, if he so misuses words that by the Creator he intends an unintelligent power, undirected force, or necessity, then he has put his case so as to invite disbelief in it. For then blind forces have produced not only manifest adaptations of means to specific ends,—which is absurd enough,—but better adjusted and more perfect instruments or machines than intellect (that is, human intellect) can contrive and human skill execute,—which no sane person will believe.
On the other hand, if Darwin even admits—we will not say adopts—the theistic view, he may save himself much needless trouble in the endeavor to account for the absence of every sort of intermediate form. Those in the line between one species and another supposed to be derived from it he may be bound to provide; but as to “an infinite number of other varieties not intermediate, gross, rude, and purposeless, the unmeaning creations of an unconscious cause,” born only to perish, which a relentless reviewer has imposed upon his theory,—rightly enough upon the atheistic alternative,—the theistic view rids him at once of this “scum of creation.” For, as species do not now vary at all times and places and in all directions, nor produce crude, vague, imperfect, and useless forms, there is no reason for supposing that they ever did. Good-for-nothing monstrosities, failures of purpose rather than purposeless, indeed sometimes occur; but these are just as anomalous and unlikely upon Darwin’s theory as upon any other. For his particular theory is based, and even over-strictly insists, upon the most universal of physiological laws, namely, that successive generations shall differ only slightly, if at all, from their parents; and this effectively excludes crude and impotent forms. Wherefore, if we believe that the species were designed, and that natural propagation was designed, how can we say that the actual varieties of the species were not equally designed? Have we not similar grounds for inferring design in the supposed varieties of a species, that we have in the case of the supposed species of a genus? When a naturalist comes to regard as three closely-related
To insist, therefore, that the new hypothesis of the derivative origin of the actual species is incompatible with final causes and design is to take a position which we must consider philosophically untenable. We must also regard it as unwise or dangerous, in the present state and present prospects of physical and physiological science. We should expect the philosophical atheist or skeptic to take this ground; also, until better informed, the unlearned and unphilosophical believer; but we should think that the thoughtful theistic philosopher would take the other side. Not to do so seems to concede that only supernatural events can be shown to be designed, which no theist can admit,—seems also to misconceive the scope and meaning of all ordinary arguments for design in Nature. This misconception is shared both by the reviewers and the reviewed. At least, Mr. Darwin uses expressions which seem to imply that the natural forms which surround us, because they have a history or natural sequence, could have been only generally, but not particularly designed,—a view at once superficial and contradictory; whereas his true line should be, that his hypothesis concerns the order and not the cause, the how and not the why of the phenomena, and so leaves the question of design just where it was before.
To illustrate this first from the theist’s point of view. Transfer the question for a moment from the origination of species to the origination of individuals, which occurs, as we say, naturally. Because natural, that is, “stated, fixed, or settled,” is it any the less designed on that account? We acknowledge that God is our maker,—not merely the originator of the race, but our maker as individuals,—and none the less so because it pleased Him to make us in the way of ordinary generation. If any of us were born unlike our parents and grandparents, in a slight degree, or in whatever degree, would the case be altered in this regard? The whole argument in natural theology proceeds upon the ground that the inference for a final cause of the structure of
These illustrations make it clear that the evidence of design from structure and adaptation is furnished complete by the individual animal or plant itself, and that our knowledge or our ignorance of the history of its formation or mode of production adds nothing to it and takes nothing away. We infer design from certain arrangements and results; and we have no other way of ascertaining it. Testimony, unless infallible, cannot prove it, and is out of the question here. Testimony is not the appropriate proof of design: adaptation to purpose is. Some arrangements in Nature appear to be contrivances, but may leave us in doubt. Many others, of which the eye and the hand are notable examples, compel belief with a force not appreciably short of demonstration. Clearly to settle that these must have been designed goes far towards proving that other organs and other seemingly less explicit adaptations in Nature must also have been designed, and clinches our belief, from manifold considerations, that all Nature is a preconcerted arrangement, a manifested design. A strange contradiction would it be to insist that the shape and markings of certain rude pieces of flint, lately found in drift deposits, prove design, but that nicer and thousand-fold more complex adaptations to use in animals and vegetables do not a fortiori argue design.
We could not affirm that the arguments for design in Nature are conclusive to all minds. But we may insist, upon grounds already intimated, that whatever they were good for before Darwin’s book appeared, they are good for now. To our minds the argument from design always appeared conclusive of the being and continued operation of an intelligent First Cause, the Ordainer of Nature; and we do not see that the grounds of such belief would be disturbed or shifted by the adoption of Darwin’s hypothesis. We are not blind to the philosophical difficulties which the thorough-going implication of design in Nature has to encounter, nor is it our vocation to obviate them. It suffices us to know that they are not new nor peculiar difficulties,—that, as Darwin’s theory and our reasonings upon it did not raise these perturbing spirits, they are not bound to lay them. Meanwhile, that the doctrine of design encounters the very same difficulties in the material that it does in the moral world is just what ought to be expected.
So the issue between the skeptic and the theist is only the old one, long ago argued out,—namely, whether organic Nature is a result of design or of chance. Variation and natural selection open no third alternative; they concern only the question, How the results, whether fortuitous or designed, may have been brought about. Organic Nature abounds with unmistakable and irresistible indications of design, and, being a connected and consistent system, this evidence carried the implication of design throughout the whole. On the other hand, chance carries no probabilities with it, can never be developed into a consistent system; but, when applied to the explanation of orderly or beneficial results, heaps up improbabilities at every step beyond all computation. To us, a fortuitous Cosmos is simply inconceivable. The alternative is a designed Cosmos.
It is very easy to assume, that, because events in Nature are in one sense accidental, and the operative forces which bring them to pass are themselves blind and unintelligent, (all forces are,) therefore they are undirected, or that he who describes these events as the results of such forces thereby assumes that they are undirected. This is the assumption of the Boston reviewers, and of Mr. Agassiz, who insists that the only alternative to the doctrine, that all organized beings were supernaturally created as they are, is, that they have arisen spontaneously through the omnipotence of matter.
As to all this, nothing is easier than to bring out in the conclusion what you introduce in the premises. If you import atheism into your conception of variation and natural selection, you can readily exhibit it in the result. If you do not put it in, perhaps there need be none to come out. While the mechanician is considering a steamboat or locomotive engine as a material organism, and contemplating the fuel, water, and steam, the source of the mechanical forces and how they operate, he may not have occasion to mention the engineer. But, the orderly and special results accomplished, the why the movement is in this or that particular direction, etc., are inexplicable without him. If Mr. Darwin believes that the events which he supposes to have occurred and the results we behold were undirected and undesigned, or if the physicist believes that the natural forces to which he refers phenomena are uncaused and undirected, no argument is needed to show that such belief is atheism. But the admission of the phenomena and of these natural processes and forces does not necessitate any such belief, nor even render it one whit less improbable than before.
Surely, too, the accidental element may play its part in Nature without negativing design in the theist’s view. He believes that the earth’s surface has been very gradually prepared for man and the existing animal races, that vegetable matter has through a long series of generations imparted fertility to the soil in order that it may support its present occupants, that even beds of coal have been stored up for man’s benefit. Yet what is more accidental, and more simply the consequence of physical agencies, than the accumulation of vegetable matter in a peat-bog, and its transformation into coal? No scientific person at this day doubts that our solar system is a progressive development, whether in his conception he begins with molten masses, or aeriform or nebulous masses, or with a fluid revolving mass of vast extent, from which the specific existing worlds have been developed one by one. What theist doubts that the actual results of the development in the inorganic worlds are not merely compatible with design, but are in the truest sense designed results? Not Mr. Agassiz, certainly, who adopts a remarkable illustration of design directly founded on the nebular hypothesis,
Returning to the accidental element, it is evident that the strongest point against the compatibility of Darwin’s hypothesis with design in Nature is made when natural selection is referred to as picking out those variations which are improvements from a vast number which are not improvements, but perhaps the contrary, and therefore useless or purposeless, and born to perish. But even here the difficulty is not peculiar; for Nature abounds with analogous instances. Some of our race are useless, or worse, as regards the improvement of mankind; yet the race may be designed to improve, and may be actually improving. The whole animate life of a country depends absolutely upon the vegetation; the vegetation upon the rain. The moisture is furnished by the ocean, is raised by the sun’s heat from the ocean’s surface, and is wafted inland by the winds. But what multitudes of rain-drops fall back into the ocean, are as much without a final cause as the incipient varieties which come to nothing! Does it, therefore, follow that the rains which are bestowed upon the soil with such rule and average regularity were not designed to support vegetable and animal life? Consider, likewise, the vast proportion of seeds and pollen, of ova and young,—a thousand or more to one,—which come to nothing, and are therefore purposeless in the same sense, and only in the same sense, as are Darwin’s unimproved and unused slight variations. The world is full of such cases; and these must answer the argument,—for we cannot, except by thus showing that it proves too much.
Finally, it is worth noticing, that, though natural selection is scientifically explicable, variation is not. Thus far the cause of variation, or the reason why the offspring is sometimes unlike the parents, is just as mysterious as the reason why it is generally like the parents. It is now as inexplicable as any other origination; and if ever explained, the explanation will only carry up the sequence of secondary causes one step farther, and bring us in face of a somewhat different problem, which will have the same element of mystery that the problem of variation has now. Circumstances may preserve or may destroy the variations; man may use or direct them; but selection, whether artificial or natural, no more originates them than man originates the power which turns a wheel, when he dams a stream and lets the water fall upon it. The origination of this power is a question about efficient cause. The tendency of science in respect to this obviously is not towards the omnipotence of matter, as some suppose, but towards the omnipotence of spirit.
So the real question we come to is as to the way in which we are to conceive intelligent and efficient cause to be exerted, and upon what exerted. Are we bound to suppose efficient cause in all cases exerted upon nothing to evoke something into existence,—and this thousands of times repeated, when a slight change in the details would make all the difference between successive species? Why may not the new species, or some of them, be designed diversifications of the old?
There are, perhaps, only three views of efficient cause which may claim to be both philosophical and theistic.
1. The view of its exertion at the beginning of time, endowing matter and created things with forces which do the work and produce the phenomena.
2. This same view, with the theory of insulated interpositions, or occasional direct action, engrafted upon it,—the view that events and operations in general go on in virtue simply of forces communicated at the first, but that now and then, and only now and then, the Deity puts his hand directly to the work.
3. The theory of the immediate, orderly, and constant, however infinitely diversified, action of the intelligent efficient Cause.
It must be allowed, that, while the third is preeminently the Christian view, all three are philosophically compatible with design in Nature. The second is probably the popular conception. Perhaps most thoughtful people oscillate from the middle view towards the first or the third,—adopting the first on some occasions, the third on others. Those philosophers who like and expect to settle all mooted questions will take one or the other extreme. The “Examiner” inclines towards, the “North American” reviewer fully adopts, the third view, to the logical extent of maintaining that “the origin of an individual, as well as the origin of a species or a genus, can be explained only by the direct action of an intelligent creative cause.” This is the line for Mr. Darwin to take; for it at once and completely relieves his scientific theory from every theological objection which his reviewers have urged against it.
At present we suspect that our author prefers the first conception, though he might contend that his hypothesis is compatible with either of the three. That it is also compatible with an atheistic or pantheistic conception of the universe is an objection which, being shared by all physical science, and some ethical or moral, cannot specially be urged against Darwin’s system. As he rejects spontaneous generation, and admits of intervention at the beginning of organic life, and probably in more than one instance, he is not wholly excluded from adopting the middle view, although the interventions he would allow are few and far back. Yet one interposition admits the principle as well as more. Interposition presupposes particular necessity or reason for it, and raises the question, When and how often it may have been necessary. It would be the natural supposition, if we had only one set of species to account for, or if the successive inhabitants of the earth had no other connections or resemblances than those which adaptation to similar conditions might explain. But if this explanation of organic Nature requires one to “believe, that, at innumerable periods in the earth’s history, certain elemental atoms have been commanded suddenly to flash into living tissues,” and when the results are seen to be all orderly, according to a few types, we cannot wonder that such interventions should at length be considered, not as interpositions or interferences, but rather as “exertions so frequent and beneficent that we come to regard them as the ordinary action of Him who laid the foundations of the earth, and without whom not a sparrow falleth to the ground."
What does the difference between Mr. Darwin and his reviewer now amount to? If we say that according to one view the origination of species is natural, according to the other miraculous, Mr. Darwin agrees that “what is natural as much requires and presupposes an intelligent mind to render it so,—that is, to effect it continually or at stated times,—as what is supernatural does to effect it for once." He merely inquires into the form of the miracle, may remind us that all recorded miracles (except the primal creation of matter) were transformations or actions in and upon natural things, and will ask how many times and how frequently may the origination of successive species be repeated before the supernatural merges in the natural.
In short, Darwin maintains that the origination of a species, no less than that of an individual, is natural. The reviewer, that the natural origination of an individual, no less than the origination of a species, requires and presupposes Divine power. A fortiori, then, the origination of a variety requires and presupposes Divine power. And so between the scientific hypothesis of the one and the philosophical conception of the other no contrariety remains. “A proper view of the nature of causation.... places the vital doctrine of the being and the providence
We can barely glance at a subsidiary philosophical objection of the “North American” reviewer, which the “Examiner” also raises, though less explicitly. Like all geologists, Mr. Darwin draws upon time in the most unlimited manner. He is not peculiar in this regard. Mr. Agassiz tells us that the conviction is “now universal among well-informed naturalists, that this globe has been in existence for innumerable ages, and that the length of time elapsed since it first became inhabited cannot be counted in years.” Pictet, that the imagination refuses to calculate the immense number of years and of ages during which the faunas of thirty or more epochs have succeeded one another, and developed their long succession of generations. Now the reviewer declares that such indefinite succession of ages is “virtually infinite,” “lacks no characteristic of eternity except its name,”—at least, that “the difference between such a conception and that of the strictly infinite, if any, is not appreciable.” But infinity belongs to metaphysics. Therefore, he concludes, Darwin supports his theory, not by scientific, but by metaphysical evidence; his theory is “essentially and completely metaphysical in character, resting altogether upon that idea of ‘the infinite’ which the human mind can neither put aside nor comprehend." And so a theory which will be generally objected to as much too physical is transposed by a single syllogism to metaphysics.
Well, physical geology must go with it: for, even on the soberest view, it demands an indefinitely long time antecedent to the introduction of organic life upon our earth. A fortiori is physical astronomy a branch of metaphysics, demanding, as it does, still larger “instalments of infinity,” as the reviewer calls them, both as to time and number. Moreover, far the greater part of physical inquiries now relate to molecular actions, which, a distinguished natural philosopher informs us, “we have to regard as the results of an infinite number of infinitely small material particles, acting on each other at infinitely small distances,”—a triad of infinites,—and so physics becomes the most metaphysical of sciences.
Verily, on this view,
“Thinking is but an idle waste of
And nought is everything, and everything is
The leading objection of Mr. Agassiz is likewise of a philosophical character. It is, that species exist only “as categories of thought,”—that, having no material existence, they can have had no material variation, and no material community of origin. Here the predication is of species in the subjective sense, while the inference is applied to them in the objective sense. Reduced to plain terms, the argument seems to be: Species are ideas; therefore the objects from which the idea is derived cannot vary or blend, cannot have had a genealogical connection.
The common view of species is, that, although they are generalizations, yet they have a direct objective ground in Nature, which genera, orders, etc., have not. According to the succinct definition of Jussieu,—and that of Linnaeus is identical in meaning,—a species is the perennial succession of similar individuals in continued generations. The species is the chain of which the individuals are the links. The sum of the genealogically connected similar individuals constitutes the species, which thus has an actuality and ground of distinction not shared by genera and other groups which were not supposed to be genealogically connected. How a derivative hypothesis would modify this view, in assigning to species only a temporary fixity, is obvious. Yet, if naturalists adopt this hypothesis, they will still retain Jussieu’s definition, which leaves untouched the question as to how and when the “perennial successions” were established. The practical question will only be, How much difference between two sets of individuals entitles them to rank under distinct species; and that is the practical question now, on whatever theory. The theoretical question is—as stated at the beginning of this long article—whether these specific lines were always as distinct as now.
Mr. Agassiz has “lost no opportunity of urging the idea, that, while species have no material existence, they yet exist as categories of thought in the same way [and only in the same way] as genera, families, orders, classes,” etc. He “has taken the ground, that all the natural divisions in the animal kingdom are primarily distinct, founded upon different categories of characters, and that all exist in the same way, that is, as categories of thought, embodied in individual living forms. I have attempted to show that branches in the animal kingdom are founded upon different plans of structure, and for that very reason have embraced from the beginning representatives between which there could be no community of origin; that classes are founded upon different modes of execution of these plans, and therefore they also embrace representatives which could have no community of origin; that orders represent the different degrees of complication in the mode of execution of each class, and therefore embrace representatives which could not have a community of origin any more than the members of different classes or branches; that families are founded upon different patterns of form, and embrace representatives equally independent in their origin; that genera are founded upon ultimate peculiarities of structure, embracing representatives which, from the very nature of their peculiarities, could have no community of origin; and that, finally, species are based upon relations and proportions that exclude, as much as all the preceding distinctions, the idea of a common descent.
“As the community of characters among the beings belonging to these different categories arises from the intellectual connection which shows them to be categories of thought, they cannot be the result of a gradual material differentiation of the objects themselves. The argument on which these views are founded may be summed up in the following few words: Species, genera, families, etc., exist as thoughts, individuals as facts."
An ingenious dilemma caps the argument:—
“It seems to me that there is much confusion of ideas in the general statement of the variability of species so often repeated lately. If species do not exist at all, as the supporters of the transmutation theory maintain, how can they vary? and if individuals alone exist, how can the differences which may be observed among them prove the variability of species?”
Now we imagine that Mr. Darwin need not be dangerously gored by either horn of this curious dilemma. Although we ourselves cherish old-fashioned prejudices in favor of the probable permanence, and therefore of a more stable objective ground of species, yet we agree—and Mr. Darwin will agree fully with Mr. Agassiz—that species, and he will add varieties, “exist as categories of thought,” that is, as cognizable distinctions,—which is all that we can make of the phrase here, whatever it may mean in the Aristotelian metaphysics. Admitting that species are only categories of thought, and not facts or things, how does this prevent the individuals, which are material things, from having varied in the course of time, so as to exemplify the present almost innumerable categories of thought, or embodiments of Divine thoughts in material forms, or—viewed on the human side—in forms marked with such orderly and graduated resemblances and differences as to suggest to our minds the idea of species, genera, orders, etc., and to our reason the inference of a Divine original? We have no clear idea how Mr. Agassiz intends to answer this question, in saying that branches are founded upon different plans of structure, classes upon different modes of execution of these plans, orders on different degrees of complication in the mode of execution, families upon different patterns of form, genera upon ultimate peculiarities of structure, and species upon relations and proportions. That is, we do not perceive how these several “categories of thought” exclude the possibility or the probability that the individuals which manifest or suggest the thoughts had an ultimate community of origin. Moreover, Mr. Darwin would insinuate that the particular philosophy of classification upon which this whole argument reposes is as purely hypothetical and as little accepted as his own doctrine. If both are pure hypotheses, it is hardly fair or satisfactory to extinguish the one by the other. If there is no real contradiction between them, there is no use in making the attempt.
As to the dilemma propounded, suppose we try it upon that category of thought which we call chair. This is a genus, comprising the common chair, (Sella vulgaris,) the arm or easy chair, (S. cathedra,) the rocking chair, (S. oscillans,) widely distributed in the United States, and some others,—each of which has sported, as the gardeners say, into many varieties. But now, as the genus and the species have no material existence, how
Each species or sort of chair, as we have said, has its varieties, and one species shades off by gradations into another. And—note it well—these numerous and successively slight variations and gradations, far from suggesting an accidental origin to chairs and to their forms, are very proofs of design.
Again, edifice is a generic category of thought. Egyptian, Grecian, Byzantine, and Gothic buildings are well-marked species, of which each individual building of the sort is a material embodiment. Now the question is, whether these categories of thought may not have been evolved, one from another, in succession, or from some primal, less specialized, edificial category. What better evidence for such hypothesis could we have than the variations and grades which connect one of these species with another? We might extend the parallel, and get some good illustrations of natural selection from the history of architecture, the probable origin of the different styles, and their adaptation to different climates and conditions. Two qualifying considerations are noticeable. One, that houses do not propagate, so as to produce continuing lines of each sort and variety; but this is of small moment on Agassiz’s view, he holding that genealogical connection is not of the essence of species at all. The other, that the formation and development of the ideas upon which human works proceed is gradual; or, as the same great naturalist well states it, “while human thought is consecutive, Divine thought is simultaneous.” But we have no right to affirm this of Divine action.
We must close here. We meant to review some of the more general scientific objections which we thought not altogether tenable. But, after all, we are not so anxious just now to know whether the new theory is well founded on facts as whether it would be harmless, if it were. Besides, we feel quite unable to answer some of these objections, and it is pleasanter to take up those which one thinks he can.
Among the unanswerable, perhaps the weightiest of the objections, is that of the absence, in geological deposits, of vestiges of the intermediate forms which the theory requires to have existed. Here all that Mr. Darwin can do is to insist upon the extreme imperfection of the geological record and the uncertainty of negative evidence. But, withal, he allows the force of the objection almost as much as his opponents urge it,—so much so, indeed, that two of his English critics turn the concession unfairly upon him, and charge him with actually basing his hypothesis upon these and similar difficulties,—as if he held it because of the difficulties, and not in spite of them;—a handsome return for his candor!
As to this imperfection of the geological record, perhaps we should get a fair and intelligible illustration of it by imagining the existing animals and plants of New England, with all their remains and products since the arrival of the Mayflower, to be annihilated; and that, in the coming time, the geologists of a new colony, dropped by the New Zealand fleet on its way to explore the ruins of London, undertake, after fifty years of examination, to reconstruct in a catalogue the flora and fauna of our day, that is, from the close of the glacial period to the present time. With all the advantages of a surface exploration, what a beggarly account it must be! How many of the land animals and plants which are enumerated in the Massachusetts official reports would it be likely to contain?
Another unanswerable question asked by the Boston reviewers is, Why, when structure and instinct or habit vary,—as they must have varied, on Darwin’s hypothesis,—they vary together and harmoniously, instead of vaguely. We cannot tell, because we cannot tell why either should vary at all. Yet, as they both do vary in successive generations,—as is seen under domestication,—and are correlated, we can only adduce the fact. Darwin may be precluded from this answer, but we may say that they vary together because designed to do so. A reviewer says that the chance of their varying together is inconceivably small; yet, if they do not, the variant individuals must perish. Then it is well that it is not left to chance. As to the fact: before we were born, nourishment and the equivalent to respiration took place in a certain way. But the moment we were ushered into this breathing world, our actions promptly conformed, both as to respiration and nourishment, to the before unused structure and to the new surroundings.
“Now,” says the “Examiner,” “suppose, for instance, the gills of an aquatic animal converted into lungs, while instinct still compelled a continuance under water, would not drowning ensue?” No doubt. But—simply contemplating the facts, instead of theorizing—we notice that young frogs do not keep their heads under water after ceasing to be tadpoles. The instinct promptly changes with the structure, without supernatural interposition,—just as Darwin would have it, if the development of a variety or incipient species, though rare, were as natural as a metamorphosis.
“Or if a quadruped, not yet furnished with wings, were suddenly inspired with the instinct of a bird, and precipitated itself from a cliff, would not the descent be hazardously rapid?” Doubtless the animal would be no better supported than the objection. Darwin makes very little indeed of voluntary efforts as a cause of change, and even poor Lamarck need not be caricatured. He never supposed that an elephant would take such a notion into his wise head, or that a squirrel would begin with other than short and easy leaps; but might not the length of the leap be increased by practice?
The “North American” reviewer’s position, that the higher brute animals have comparatively little instinct and no intelligence, is a heavy blow and great discouragement to dogs, horses, elephants, and monkeys. Stripped of their all, and left to shift for themselves as they can in this hard world, their pursuit and seeming attainment of knowledge under such peculiar difficulties is interesting to contemplate. However, we are not so sure as is the critic that instinct regularly increases downward and decreases upward in the scale of being. Now that the case of the bee is reduced to moderate proportions, we know of nothing in instinct surpassing that of an animal so high as a bird, the Talegal, the male of which plumes himself upon making a hot-bed in which to hatch his partner’s eggs,—which he tends and regulates the heat of about as carefully and skilfully as the unplumed biped does an eccaleobion. As to the real intelligence of the higher brutes, it has been ably defended by a far more competent observer, Mr. Agassiz, to whose conclusions we yield a general assent, although we cannot quite place the best of dogs “in that respect upon a level with a considerable portion of poor humanity,” nor indulge the hope, or, indeed, the desire, of a renewed acquaintance with the whole animal kingdom in a future life.
The assertion, that acquired habitudes or instincts, and acquired structures, are not heritable, any breeder or good observer can refute.
That “the human mind has become what it is out of a developed instinct" is a statement which Mr. Darwin nowhere makes, and, we presume, would not accept. As to his having us believe that individual animals acquire their instincts gradually, this statement must have been penned in inadvertence both of the very definition of instinct, and of everything we know of in Mr. Darwin’s book.
It has been attempted to destroy the very foundation of Darwin’s hypothesis by denying that there are any wild varieties, to speak of, for natural selection to operate upon. We cannot gravely sit down to prove that wild varieties abound. We should think it just as necessary to prove that snow falls in winter. That variation among plants cannot be largely due to hybridism, and that their variation in Nature is not essentially different from much that occurs in domestication, we could show, if our space permitted.
As to the sterility of hybrids, that can no longer be insisted upon as absolutely true, nor be practically used as a test between species and varieties, unless we allow that hares and rabbits are of one species. That it subserves a purpose in keeping species apart, and was so designed, we do not doubt. But the critics fail to perceive that this sterility proves nothing against the derivative origin of the actual species; for it may as well have been intended to keep separate those forms which have reached a certain amount of divergence as those which were always thus distinct.
The argument for the permanence of species, drawn from the identity with those now living of cats, birds, and other animals, preserved in Egyptian catacombs, was good enough as used by Cuvier against St. Hilaire, that is, against the supposition that time brings about a gradual alteration of whole species; but it goes for little against Darwin, unless it be proved that species never vary, or that the perpetuation of a variety necessitates the extinction of the parent breed. For Darwin clearly maintains—what the facts warrant—that the mass of a species remains fixed so long as it exists at all, though it may set off a variety now and then. The variety may finally supersede the parent form, but it may coexist with it; yet it does not in the least hinder the unvaried stock from continuing true to the breed, unless it crosses with it. The common law of inheritance may be expected to keep both the original and the variety mainly true as long as they last, and none the less so because they have given rise to occasional varieties. The tailless Manx cats, like the fox in the fable, have not induced the normal breeds to dispense with their tails, nor have the Dorkings (apparently known to Pliny) affected the permanence of the common sort of fowl.
As to the objection, that the lower forms of life ought, on Darwin’s theory, to have been long ago improved out of existence, replaced by higher forms, the objectors forget what a vacuum that would leave below, and what a vast field there is to which a simple organization is best adapted, and where an advance would be no improvement, but the contrary. To accumulate the greatest amount of being upon a given space, and to provide as much enjoyment of life as can be under the conditions, seems to be aimed at, and this is effected by diversification.
Finally, we advise nobody to accept Darwin’s, or any other derivative theory, as true. The time has not come for that, and perhaps never will. We also advise against a similar credulity on the other side, in a blind faith that species—that the manifold sorts and forms of existing animals and vegetables—“have no secondary cause.” The contrary is already not unlikely, and we suppose will hereafter become more and more probable. But we are confident, that, if a derivative hypothesis ever is established, it will be so on a solid theistic ground.
Meanwhile an inevitable and legitimate hypothesis is on trial,—an hypothesis thus far not untenable,—a trial just now very useful to science, and, we conclude, not harmful to religion, unless injudicious assailants temporarily make it so.
One good effect is already manifest: its enabling the advocates of the hypothesis of a multiplicity of human species to perceive the double insecurity of their ground. When the races of men are admitted to be of one species, the corollary, that they are of one origin, may be expected to follow. Those who allow them to be of one species must admit an actual diversification into strongly marked and persistent varieties, and so admit the basis of fact upon which the Darwinian hypothesis is built; while those, on the other hand, who recognize a diversity of human species, will hardly be able to maintain that such species were primordial and supernatural in the common sense of the word.
The English mind is prone to positivism and kindred forms of materialistic philosophy, and we must expect the derivative theory to be taken up in that interest. We have no predilection for that school, but the contrary. If we had, we might have looked complacently upon a line of criticism which would indirectly, but effectively, play into the hands of positivists and materialistic atheists generally. The wiser and stronger ground to take is, that the derivative hypothesis leaves the argument for design, and therefore for a Designer, as valid as it ever was;—that to do any work by an instrument must require, and therefore presuppose, the exertion rather of more than of less power than to do it directly;—that whoever would be a consistent theist should believe that Design in the natural world is coextensive with Providence, and hold fully to the one as he does to the other, in spite of the wholly similar and apparently insuperable difficulties which the mind encounters whenever it endeavors to develop the idea into a complete system, either in the material and organic, or in the moral world. It is enough, in the way of obviating objections, to show that the philosophical difficulties of the one are the same, and only the same, as of the other.
[Footnote 1: Whatever it may be, it is not “the homoeopathic form of the transmutative hypothesis,” as Darwin’s is said to be, (p. 252, Amer. reprint,) so happily that the prescription is repeated in the second (p. 259) and third (p. 271) dilutions, no doubt, on Hahnemann’s famous principle, with an increase of potency at each dilution. Probably the supposed transmutation is per saltus. “Homoeopathic doses of transmutation,” indeed! Well, if we really must swallow transmutation in some form or other, as this reviewer intimates, we might prefer the mild homoeopathic doses of Darwin’s formula to the allopathic bolus which the Edinburgh general practitioner appears to be compounding.]
[Footnote 2: Vide North American Review, for April, 1860, p. 475, and Christian Examiner, for May, p. 457.]
[Footnote 3: Page 188, English ed.]
[Footnote 4: In American Journal of Science, July, 1860, pp. 148, 149.]
[Footnote 5: In Contributions to the Nat. Hist. of U. S., Vol. i. pp. 128, 129.]
[Footnote 6: Contr. Nat. Hist. U.S., Vol. i. p. 130; and Amer. Journal of Science, July, 1860, p. 143.]
[Footnote 7: North American Review, for April, 1860, p. 506.]
[Footnote 8: Vide mottoes to the second edition of Darwin’s work.]
[Footnote 9: North American Review, l.c. p. 504.]
[Footnote 10: North American Review, l.c. p. 487, et passim.]
[Footnote 11: In American Journal of Science, July, 1860, p. 143.]
[Footnote 12: Vide article by Mr. C. Wright, in the Mathematical Monthly for May last.]
[Footnote 13: Vide Edinburgh Review for January, 1860, article on “Acclimatization,” etc.]
[Footnote 14: Contributions; Essay on Classification, etc., Vol. i. pp. 60-66.]
[Footnote 15: North Amer. Review, April, 1860, p. 475.]
[Footnote 16: Amer. Journal of Science, July, 1860, p. 146.]
* * * * *
OR, THE LITTLE OLD SHOE.
HOW IT WAS LOST.
Among green New England hills stood an ancient house, many-gabled, mossy-roofed, and quaintly built, but picturesque and pleasant to the eye; for a brook ran babbling through the orchard that encompassed it about, a garden-plot stretched upward to the whispering birches on the slope, and patriarchal elms stood sentinel upon the lawn, as they had stood almost a century ago, when the Revolution rolled that way and found them young.
One summer morning, when the air was full of country sounds, of mowers in the meadow, blackbirds by the brook, and the low of kine upon the hill-side, the old house wore its cheeriest aspect, and a certain humble history began.
And a head, brown-locked, blue-eyed, soft-featured, looked in at the open door in answer to the call.
“Just bring me the third volume of ’Wilhelm Meister,’—there’s a dear. It’s hardly worth while to rouse such a restless ghost as I, when I’m once fairly laid.”
As she spoke, Di pushed up her black braids, thumped the pillow of the couch where she was lying, and with eager eyes went down the last page of her book.
“Yes, Laura,” replied the girl, coming back with the third volume for the literary cormorant, who took it with a nod, still too intent upon the “Confessions of a Fair Saint” to remember the failings of a certain plain sinner.
“Don’t forget the Italian cream for dinner. I depend upon it; for it’s the only thing fit for me this hot weather.”
And Laura, the cool blonde, disposed the folds of her white gown more gracefully about her, and touched up the eyebrow of the Minerva she was drawing.
“Let me have plenty of clean collars in my bag, for I must go at three; and some of you bring me a glass of cider in about an hour;—I shall be in the lower garden.”
The old man went away into his imaginary paradise, and Nan into that domestic purgatory on a summer day,—the kitchen. There were vines about the windows, sunshine on the floor, and order everywhere; but it was haunted by a cooking-stove, that family altar whence such varied incense rises to appease the appetite of household gods, before which such dire incantations are pronounced to ease the wrath and woe of the priestess of the fire, and about which often linger saddest memories of wasted temper, time, and toil.
Nan was tired, having risen with the birds,—hurried, having many cares those happy little housewives never know,—and disappointed in a hope that hourly “dwindled, peaked, and pined.” She was too young to make the anxious lines upon her forehead seem at home there, too patient to be burdened with the labor others should have shared, too light of heart to be pent up when earth and sky were keeping a blithe holiday. But she was one of that meek sisterhood who, thinking humbly of themselves, believe they are honored by being spent in the service of less conscientious souls, whose careless thanks seem quite reward enough.
To and fro she went, silent and diligent, giving the grace of willingness to every humble or distasteful task the day had brought her; but some malignant sprite seemed to have taken possession of her kingdom, for rebellion broke out everywhere. The kettles would boil over most obstreperously,—the mutton refused to cook with the meek alacrity to be expected from the nature of a sheep,—the stove, with unnecessary warmth of temper, would glow like a fiery furnace,—the irons would scorch,—the linens would dry,—and spirits would fail, though patience never.
Nan tugged on, growing hotter and wearier, more hurried and more hopeless, till at last the crisis came; for in one fell moment she tore her gown, burnt her hand, and smutched the collar she was preparing to finish in the most unexceptionable style. Then, if she had been a nervous woman, she would have scolded; being a gentle girl, she only “lifted up her voice and wept.”
“Behold, she watereth her linen with salt tears, and bewaileth herself because of much tribulation. But, lo! help cometh from afar: a strong man bringeth lettuce wherewith to stay her, plucketh berries to comfort her withal, and clasheth cymbals that she may dance for joy.”
The voice came from the porch, and, with her hope fulfilled, Nan looked up to greet John Lord, the house-friend, who stood there with a basket on his arm; and as she saw his honest eyes, kind lips, and helpful hands, the girl thought this plain young man the comeliest, most welcome sight she had beheld that day.
“How good of you, to come through all this heat, and not to laugh at my despair!” she said, looking up like a grateful child, as she led him in.
“I only obeyed orders, Nan; for a certain dear old lady had a motherly presentiment that you had got into a domestic whirlpool, and sent me as a sort of life-preserver. So I took the basket of consolation, and came to fold my feet upon the carpet of contentment in the tent of friendship.”
As he spoke, John gave his own gift in his mother’s name, and bestowed himself in the wide window-seat, where morning-glories nodded at him, and the old butternut sent pleasant shadows dancing to and fro.
His advent, like that of Orpheus in Hades, seemed to soothe all unpropitious powers with a sudden spell. The fire began to slacken, the kettles began to lull, the meat began to cook, the irons began to cool, the clothes began to behave, the spirits began to rise, and the collar was finished off with most triumphant success. John watched the change, and, though a lord of creation, abased himself to take compassion on the weaker vessel, and was seized with a great desire to lighten the homely tasks that tried her strength of body and soul. He took a comprehensive glance about the room; then, extracting a dish from the closet, proceeded to imbrue his hands in the strawberries’ blood.
“Oh, John, you needn’t do that; I shall have time when I’ve turned the meat, made the pudding, and done these things. See, I’m getting on finely now;—you’re a judge of such matters; isn’t that nice?”
As she spoke, Nan offered the polished absurdity for inspection with innocent pride.
“Oh that I were a collar, to sit upon that hand!” sighed John,—adding, argumentatively, “As to the berry question, I might answer it with a gem from Dr. Watts, relative to ‘Satan’ and ’idle hands,’ but will merely say, that, as a matter of public safety, you’d better leave me alone; for such is the destructiveness of my nature, that I shall certainly eat something hurtful, break something valuable, or sit upon something crushable, unless you let me concentrate my energies by knocking off these young fellows’ hats, and preparing them for their doom.”
Looking at the matter in a charitable light, Nan consented, and went cheerfully on with her work, wondering how she could have thought ironing an infliction, and been so ungrateful for the blessings of her lot.
“Where’s Sally?” asked John, looking vainly for the energetic functionary who usually pervaded that region like a domestic police-woman, a terror to cats, dogs, and men.
“She has gone to her cousin’s funeral, and won’t be back till Monday. There seems to be a great fatality among her relations; for one dies, or comes to grief in some way, about once a month. But I don’t blame poor Sally for wanting to get away from this place now and then. I think I could find it in my heart to murder an imaginary friend or two, if I had to stay here long.”
And Nan laughed so blithely, it was a pleasure to hear her.
“Where’s Di?” asked John, seized with a most unmasculine curiosity all at once.
“She is in Germany with ‘Wilhelm Meister’; but, though ’lost to sight, to memory dear’; for I was just thinking, as I did her things, how clever she is to like all kinds of books that I don’t understand at all, and to write things that make me cry with pride and delight. Yes, she’s a talented dear, though she hardly knows a needle from a crowbar, and will make herself one great blot some of these days, when the ‘divine afflatus’ descends upon her, I’m afraid.”
And Nan rubbed away with sisterly zeal at Di’s forlorn hose and inky pocket-handkerchiefs.
“Where is Laura?” proceeded the inquisitor.
“Well, I might say that she was in Italy; for she is copying some fine thing of Raphael’s, or Michel Angelo’s, or some great creature’s or other; and she looks so picturesque in her pretty gown, sitting before her easel, that it’s really a sight to behold, and I’ve peeped two or three times to see how she gets on.”
And Nan bestirred herself to prepare the dish wherewith her picturesque sister desired to prolong her artistic existence.
“Where is your father?” John asked again, checking off each answer with a nod and a little frown.
“He is down in the garden, deep in some plan about melons, the beginning of which seems to consist in stamping the first proposition in Euclid all over the bed, and then poking a few seeds into the middle of each. Why, bless the dear man! I forgot it was time for the cider. Wouldn’t you like to take it to him, John? He’d love to consult you; and the lane is so cool, it does one’s heart good to look at it.”
John glanced from the steamy kitchen to the shadowy path, and answered with a sudden assumption of immense industry,—
“I couldn’t possibly go, Nan,—I’ve so much on my hands. You’ll have to do it yourself. ‘Mr. Robert of Lincoln’ has something for your private ear; and the lane is so cool, it will do one’s heart good to see you in it. Give my regards to your father, and, in the words of ‘Little Mabel’s’ mother, with slight variations,—
’Tell the dear old body
This day I cannot run,
For the pots are boiling over
And the mutton isn’t done.’”
“I will; but please, John, go in to the girls and be comfortable; for I don’t like to leave you here,” said Nan.
“You insinuate that I should pick at the pudding or invade the cream, do you? Ungrateful girl, leave me!” And, with melodramatic sternness, John extinguished her in his broad-brimmed hat, and offered the glass like a poisoned goblet.
Nan took it, and went smiling away. But the lane might have been the Desert of Sahara, for all she knew of it; and she would have passed her father as unconcernedly as if he had been an apple-tree, had he not called out,—
“Stand and deliver, little woman!”
She obeyed the venerable highway-man, and followed him to and fro, listening to his plans and directions with a mute attention that quite won his heart.
“That hop-pole is really an ornament now, Nan; this sage-bed needs weeding,—that’s good work for you girls; and, now I think of it, you’d better water the lettuce in the cool of the evening, after I’m gone.”
To all of which remarks Nan gave her assent; though the hop-pole took the likeness of a tall figure she had seen in the porch, the sage-bed, curiously enough, suggested a strawberry ditto, the lettuce vividly reminded her of certain vegetable productions a basket had brought, and the bob-o-link only sung in his cheeriest voice, “Go home, go home! he is there!”
She found John—he having made a freemason of himself, by assuming her little apron—meditating over the partially spread table, lost in amaze at its desolate appearance; one half its proper paraphernalia having been forgotten, and the other half put on awry. Nan laughed till the tears ran over her cheeks, and John was gratified at the efficacy of his treatment; for her face had brought a whole harvest of sunshine from the garden, and all her cares seemed to have been lost in the windings of the lane.
“Nan, are you in hysterics?” cried Di, appearing, book in hand. “John, you absurd man, what are you doing?”
“I’m helpin’ the maid of all work, please marm.” And John dropped a curtsy with his limited apron.
Di looked ruffled, for the merry words were a covert reproach; and with her usual energy of manner and freedom of speech she tossed “Wilhelm” out of the window, exclaiming, irefully,—
“That’s always the way; I’m never where I ought to be, and never think of anything till it’s too late; but it’s all Goethe’s fault. What does he write books full of smart ‘Phillinas’ and interesting ‘Meisters’ for? How can I be expected to remember that Sally’s away, and people must eat, when I’m hearing the ‘Harper’ and little ‘Mignon’? John, how dare you come here and do my work, instead of shaking me and telling me to do it myself? Take that toasted child away, and fan her like a Chinese mandarin, while I dish up this dreadful dinner.”
John and Nan fled like chaff before the wind, while Di, full of remorseful zeal, charged at the kettles, and wrenched off the potatoes’ jackets, as if she were revengefully pulling her own hair. Laura had a vague intention of going to assist; but, getting lost among the lights and shadows of Minerva’s helmet, forgot to appear till dinner had been evoked from chaos and peace was restored.
At three o’clock, Di performed the coronation-ceremony with her father’s best hat; Laura re-tied his old-fashioned neck-cloth, and arranged his white locks with an eye to saintly effect; Nan appeared with a beautifully written sermon, and suspicious ink-stains on the fingers that slipped it into his pocket; John attached himself to the bag; and the patriarch was escorted to the door of his tent with the triumphal procession which usually attended his out-goings and in-comings. Having kissed the female portion of his tribe, he ascended the venerable chariot, which received him with audible lamentation, as its rheumatic joints swayed to and fro.
“Good-bye, my dears! I shall be back early on Monday morning; so take care of yourselves, and be sure you all go and hear Mr. Emerboy preach to-morrow. My regards to your mother, John. Come, Solon!”
But Solon merely cocked one ear, and remained a fixed fact; for long experience had induced the philosophic beast to take for his motto the Yankee maxim, “Be sure you’re right, then go ahead!” He knew things were not right; therefore he did not go ahead.
“Oh, by-the-way, girls, don’t forget to pay Tommy Mullein for bringing up the cow: he expects it to-night. And, Di, don’t sit up till daylight, nor let Laura stay out in the dew. Now, I believe, I’m off. Come, Solon!”
But Solon only cocked the other ear, gently agitated his mortified tail, as premonitory symptoms of departure, and never stirred a hoof, being well aware that it always took three “comes” to make a “go.”
“Bless me! I’ve forgotten my spectacles. They are probably shut up in that volume of Herbert on my table. Very awkward to find myself without them ten miles away. Thank you, John. Don’t neglect to water the lettuce, Nan, and don’t overwork yourself, my little ‘Martha.’ Come”——
At this juncture, Solon suddenly went off, like “Mrs. Gamp,” in a sort of walking swoon, apparently deaf and blind to all mundane matters, except the refreshments awaiting him ten miles away; and the benign old pastor disappeared, humming “Hebron” to the creaking accompaniment of the bulgy chaise.
Laura retired to take her siesta; Nan made a small carbonaro of herself by sharpening her sister’s crayons, and Di, as a sort of penance for past sins, tried her patience over a piece of knitting, in which she soon originated a somewhat remarkable pattern, by dropping every third stitch, and seaming ad libitum. If John had been a gentlemanly creature, with refined tastes, he would have elevated his feet and made a nuisance of himself by indulging in a “weed”; but being only an uncultivated youth, with a rustic regard for pure air and womankind in general, he kept his head uppermost, and talked like a man, instead of smoking like a chimney.
“It will probably be six months before I sit here again, tangling your threads and maltreating your needles, Nan. How glad you must feel to hear it!” he said, looking up from a thoughtful examination of the hard-working little citizens of the Industrial Community settled in Nan’s work-basket.
“No, I’m very sorry; for I like to see you coming and going as you used to, years ago, and I miss you very much when you are gone, John,” answered truthful Nan, whittling away in a sadly wasteful manner, as her thoughts flew back to the happy times when a little lad rode a little lass in the big wheelbarrow, and never spilt his load,—when two brown heads bobbed daily side by side to school, and the favorite play was “Babes in the Wood,” with Di for a somewhat peckish robin to cover the small martyrs with any vegetable substance that lay at hand. Nan sighed, as she thought of these things, and John regarded the battered thimble on his fingertip with increased benignity of aspect as he heard the sound.
“When are you going to make your fortune, John, and get out of that disagreeable hardware concern?” demanded Di, pausing after an exciting “round,” and looking almost as much exhausted as if it had been a veritable pugilistic encounter.
“I intend to make it by plunging still deeper into ’that disagreeable hardware concern’; for, next year, if the world keeps rolling, and John Lord is alive, he will become a partner, and then—and then”——
The color sprang up into the young man’s cheek, his eyes looked out with a sudden shine, and his hand seemed involuntarily to close, as if he saw and seized some invisible delight.
“What will happen then, John?” asked Nan, with a wondering glance.
“I’ll tell you in a year, Nan,—wait till then.” And John’s strong hand unclosed, as if the desired good were not to be his yet.
Di looked at him, with a knitting-needle stuck into her hair, saying, like a sarcastic unicorn,—
“I really thought you had a soul above pots and kettles, but I see you haven’t; and I beg your pardon for the injustice I have done you.”
Not a whit disturbed, John smiled, as if at some mighty pleasant fancy of his own, as he replied,—
“Thank you, Di; and as a further proof of the utter depravity of my nature, let me tell you that I have the greatest possible respect for those articles of ironmongery. Some of the happiest hours of my life have been spent in their society; some of my pleasantest associations are connected with them; some of my best lessons have come to me from among them; and when my fortune is made, I intend to show my gratitude by taking three flat-irons rampant for my coat of arms.”
Nan laughed merrily, as she looked at the burns on her hand; but Di elevated the most prominent feature of her brown countenance, and sighed despondingly,—
“Dear, dear, what a disappointing world this is! I no sooner build a nice castle in Spain, and settle a smart young knight therein, than down it comes about my ears; and the ungrateful youth, who might fight dragons, if he chose, insists on quenching his energies in a saucepan, and making a Saint Lawrence of himself by wasting his life on a series of gridirons. Ah, if I were only a man, I would do something better than that, and prove that heroes are not all dead yet. But, instead of that, I’m only a woman, and must sit rasping my temper with absurdities like this.” And Di wrestled with her knitting as if it were Fate, and she were paying off the grudge she owed it.
John leaned toward her, saying, with a look that made his plain face handsome,—
“Di, my father began the world as I begin it, and left it the richer for the useful years he spent here,—as I hope I may leave it some half-century hence. His memory makes that dingy shop a pleasant place to me; for there he made an honest name, led an honest life, and bequeathed to me his reverence for honest work. That is a sort of hardware, Di, that no rust can corrupt, and which will always prove a better fortune than any your knights can achieve with sword and shield. I think I am not quite a clod, or quite without some aspirations above money-getting; for I sincerely desire that courage which makes daily life heroic by self-denial and cheerfulness of heart; I am eager to conquer my own rebellious nature, and earn the confidence of innocent and upright souls; I have a great ambition to become as good a man and leave as green a memory behind me as old John Lord.”
Di winked violently, and seamed five times in perfect silence; but quiet Nan had the gift of knowing when to speak, and by a timely word saved her sister from a thunder-shower and her stocking from destruction.
“John, have you seen Philip since you wrote about your last meeting with him?”
The question was for John, but the soothing tone was for Di, who gratefully accepted it, and perked up again—with speed.
“Yes; and I meant to have told you about it,” answered John, plunging into the subject at once. “I saw him a few days before I came home, and found him more disconsolate than ever,—’just ready to go to the Devil,’ as he forcibly expressed himself. I consoled the poor lad as well as I could, telling him his wisest plan was to defer his proposed expedition, and go on as steadily as he had begun,—thereby proving the injustice of your father’s prediction concerning his want of perseverance, and the sincerity of his affection. I told him the change in Laura’s health and spirits was silently working in his favor, and that a few more months of persistent endeavor would conquer your father’s prejudice against him, and make him a stronger man for the trial and the pain. I read him bits about Laura from your own and Di’s letters, and he went away at last as patient as Jacob, ready to serve another ‘seven years’ for his beloved Rachel.”
“God bless you for it, John!” cried a fervent voice; and, looking up, they saw the cold, listless Laura transformed into a tender girl, all aglow with love and longing, as she dropped her mask, and showed a living countenance eloquent with the first passion and softened by the first grief of her life.
John rose involuntarily in the presence of an innocent nature whose sorrow needed no interpreter to him. The girl read sympathy in his brotherly regard, and found comfort in the friendly voice that asked, half playfully, half seriously,—
“Shall I tell him that he is not forgotten, even for an Apollo? that Laura the artist has not conquered Laura the woman? and predict that the good daughter will yet prove the happy wife?”
With a gesture full of energy, Laura tore her Minerva from top to bottom, while two great tears rolled down the cheeks grown wan with hope deferred.
“Tell him I believe all things, hope all things, and that I never can forget.”
Nan went to her and held her fast, leaving the prints of two loving, but grimy hands upon her shoulders; Di looked on approvingly, for, though rather stony-hearted regarding the cause, she fully appreciated the effect; and John, turning to the window, received the commendations of a robin swaying on an elm-bough with sunshine on its ruddy breast.
The clock struck five, and John declared that he must go; for, being an old-fashioned soul, he fancied that his mother had a better right to his last hour than any younger woman in the land,—always remembering that “she was a widow, and he her only son.”
Nan ran away to wash her hands, and came back with the appearance of one who had washed her face also: and so she had; but there was a difference in the water.
“Play I’m your father, girls, and remember it will be six months before ‘that John’ will trouble you again.”
With which preface the young man kissed his former playfellows as heartily as the boy had been wont to do, when stern parents banished him to distant schools, and three little maids bemoaned his fate. But times were changed now; for Di grew alarmingly rigid during the ceremony; Laura received the salute like a grateful queen; and Nan returned it with heart and eyes and tender lips, making such an improvement on the childish fashion of the thing, that John was moved to support his paternal character by softly echoing her father’s words,—“Take care of yourself, my little ‘Martha.’”
Then they all streamed after him along the garden-path, with the endless messages and warnings girls are so prone to give; and the young man, with a great softness at his heart, went away, as many another John has gone, feeling better for the companionship of innocent maidenhood, and stronger to wrestle with temptation, to wait and hope and work.
“Let’s throw a shoe after him for luck, as dear old ‘Mrs. Gummage’ did after ‘David’ and the ‘willin’ Barkis!’ Quick, Nan! you always have old shoes on; toss one, and shout, ‘Good luck!’” cried Di, with one of her eccentric inspirations.
Nan tore off her shoe, and threw it far along the dusty road, with a sudden longing to become that auspicious article of apparel, that the omen might not fail.
Looking backward from the hill-top, John answered the meek shout cheerily, and took in the group with a lingering glance: Laura in the shadow of the elms, Di perched on the fence, and Nan leaning far over the gate with her hand above her eyes and the sunshine touching her brown hair with gold. He waved his hat and turned away; but the music seemed to die out of the blackbird’s song, and in all the summer landscape his eye saw nothing but the little figure at the gate.
“Bless and save us! here’s a flock of people coming; my hair is in a toss, and Nan’s without her shoe; run! fly, girls! or the Philistines will be upon us!” cried Di, tumbling off her perch in sudden alarm.
Three agitated young ladies, with flying draperies and countenances of mingled mirth and dismay, might have been seen precipitating themselves into a respectable mansion with unbecoming haste; but the squirrels were the only witnesses of this “vision of sudden flight,” and, being used to ground-and-lofty tumbling, didn’t mind it.
When the pedestrians passed, the door was decorously closed, and no one visible but a young man, who snatched something out of the road, and marched away again, whistling with more vigor of tone than accuracy of tune, “Only that, and nothing more.”
* * * * *
HOW IT WAS FOUND.
Summer ripened into autumn, and something fairer than
“Sweet-peas and mignonette
In Annie’s garden grew.”
Her nature was the counterpart of the hill-side grove, where as a child she had read her fairy tales, and now as a woman turned the first pages of a more wondrous legend still. Lifted above the many-gabled roof, yet not cut off from the echo of human speech, the little grove seemed a green sanctuary, fringed about with violets, and full of summer melody and bloom. Gentle creatures haunted it, and there was none to make afraid; wood-pigeons cooed and crickets chirped their shrill roundelays, anemones and lady-ferns looked up from the moss that kissed the wanderer’s feet. Warm airs were all afloat, full of vernal odors for the grateful sense, silvery birches shimmered like spirits of the wood, larches gave their green tassels to the wind, and pines made airy music sweet and solemn, as they stood looking heavenward through veils of summer sunshine or shrouds of wintry snow. Nan never felt alone now in this charmed wood; for when she came into its precincts, once so full of solitude, all things seemed to wear one shape, familiar eyes looked at her from the violets in the grass, familiar words sounded in the whisper of the leaves, and she grew conscious that an unseen influence filled the air with new delights, and touched earth and sky with a beauty never seen before. Slowly these May-flowers budded in her maiden heart, rosily they bloomed, and silently they waited till some lover of such lowly herbs should catch their fresh aroma, should brush away the fallen leaves, and lift them to the sun.
Though the eldest of the three, she had long been overtopped by the more aspiring maids. But though she meekly yielded the reins of government, whenever they chose to drive, they were soon restored to her again; for Di fell into literature, and Laura into love. Thus engrossed, these two forgot many duties which even blue-stockings and innamoratas are expected to perform, and slowly all the homely humdrum cares that housewives know became Nan’s daily life, and she accepted it without a thought of discontent. Noiseless and cheerful as the sunshine, she went to and fro, doing the tasks that mothers do, but without a mother’s sweet reward, holding fast the numberless slight threads that bind a household tenderly together, and making each day a beautiful success.
Di, being tired of running, riding, climbing, and boating, decided at last to let her body rest and put her equally active mind through what classical collegians term “a course of sprouts.” Having undertaken to read and know everything, she devoted herself to the task with great energy, going from Sue to Swedenborg with perfect impartiality, and having different authors as children have sundry distempers, being fractious while they lasted, but all the better for them when once over. Carlyle appeared like scarlet-fever, and raged violently for a time; for, being anything but a “passive bucket,” Di became prophetic with Mahomet, belligerent with Cromwell, and made the French Revolution a veritable Reign of Terror to her family. Goethe and Schiller alternated like fever and ague; Mephistopheles became her hero, Joan of Arc her model, and she turned her black eyes red over Egmont and Wallenstein. A mild attack of Emerson followed, during which she was lost in a fog, and her sisters rejoiced inwardly when she emerged informing them that
“The Sphinx was drowsy,
Her wings were furled.”
Poor Di was floundering slowly to her proper place; but she splashed up a good deal of foam by getting out of her depth, and rather exhausted herself by trying to drink the ocean dry.
Laura, after the “midsummer night’s dream” that often comes to girls of seventeen, woke up to find that youth and love were no match for age and common sense. Philip had been flying about the world like a thistle-down for five-and-twenty years, generous-hearted, frank, and kind, but with never an idea of the serious side of life in his handsome head. Great, therefore, were the wrath and dismay of the enamored thistle-down, when the father of his love mildly objected to seeing her begin the world in a balloon with a very tender but very inexperienced aeronaut for a guide.
“Laura is too young to ‘play house’ yet, and you are too unstable to assume the part of lord and master, Philip. Go and prove that you have prudence, patience, energy, and enterprise, and I will give you my girl,—but not before. I must seem cruel, that I may be truly kind; believe this, and let a little pain lead you to great happiness, or show you where you would have made a bitter blunder.”
The lovers listened, owned the truth of the old man’s words, bewailed their fate, and—yielded,—Laura for love of her father, Philip for love of her. He went away to build a firm foundation for his castle in the air, and Laura retired into an invisible convent, where she cast off the world, and regarded her sympathizing sisters through a grate of superior knowledge and unsharable grief. Like a devout nun, she worshipped “St. Philip,” and firmly believed in his miraculous powers. She fancied that her woes set her apart from common cares, and slowly fell into a dreamy state, professing no interest in any mundane matter, but the art that first attracted Philip.
Mrs. Lord’s keen eye had read a certain newly written page in her son’s heart,—his first chapter of that romance, begun in Paradise, whose interest never flags, whose beauty never fades, whose end can never come till Love lies dead. With womanly skill she divined the secret, with motherly discretion she counselled patience, and her son accepted her advice, feeling, that, like many a healthful herb, its worth lay in its bitterness.
“Love like a man, John, not like a boy, and learn to know yourself before you take a woman’s happiness into your keeping. You and Nan have known each other all your lives; yet, till this last visit, you never thought you loved her more than any other childish friend. It is too soon to say the words so often spoken hastily,—so hard to be recalled. Go back to your work, dear, for another year; think of Nan in the light of this new hope; compare her with comelier, gayer girls; and by absence prove the truth of your belief. Then, if distance only makes her dearer, if time only strengthens your affection, and no doubt of your own worthiness disturbs you, come back and offer her what any woman should be glad to take,—my boy’s true heart.”
John smiled at the motherly pride of her words, but answered with a wistful look.
“It seems very long to wait, mother. If I could just ask her for a word of hope, I could be very patient then.”
“Ah, my dear, better bear one year of impatience now than a lifetime of regret hereafter. Nan is happy; why disturb her by a word which will bring the tender cares and troubles that come soon enough to such conscientious creatures as herself? If she loves you, time will prove it; therefore let the new affection spring and ripen as your early friendship has done, and it will be all the stronger for a summer’s growth. Philip was rash, and has to bear his trial now, and Laura shares it with him. Be more generous, John; make your trial, bear your doubts alone, and give Nan the happiness without the pain. Promise me this, dear,—promise me to hope and wait.”
The young man’s eye kindled, and in his heart there rose a better chivalry, a truer valor, than any Di’s knights had ever known.
“I’ll try, mother,” was all he said; but she was satisfied, for John seldom tried in vain.
“Oh, girls, how splendid you are! It does my heart good to see my handsome sisters in their best array,” cried Nan, one mild October night, as she put the last touches to certain airy raiment fashioned by her own skilful hands, and then fell back to survey the grand effect.
Di and Laura were preparing to assist at an “event of the season,” and Nan, with her own locks fallen on her shoulders, for want of sundry combs promoted to her sisters’ heads, and her dress in unwonted disorder, for lack of the many pins extracted in exciting crises of the toilet, hovered like an affectionate bee about two very full-blown flowers.
“Laura looks like a cool Undine, with the ivy-wreaths in her shining hair; and Di has illuminated herself to such an extent with those scarlet leaves, that I don’t know what great creature she resembles most,” said Nan, beaming with sisterly admiration.
“Like Juno, Zenobia, and Cleopatra simmered into one, with a touch of Xantippe by way of spice. But, to my eye, the finest woman of the three is the dishevelled young person embracing the bed-post; for she stays at home herself, and gives her time and taste to making homely people fine,—which is a waste of good material, and an imposition on the public.”
As Di spoke, both the fashion-plates looked affectionately at the gray-gowned figure; but, being works of art, they were obliged to nip their feelings in the bud, and reserve their caresses till they returned to common life.
“Put on your bonnet, and we’ll leave you at Mrs. Lord’s on our way. It will do you good, Nan; and perhaps there may be news from John,” added Di, as she bore down upon the door like a man-of-war under full sail.
“Or from Philip,” sighed Laura, with a wistful look.
Whereupon Nan persuaded herself that her strong inclination to sit down was owing to want of exercise, and the heaviness of her eyelids a freak of imagination; so, speedily smoothing her ruffled plumage, she ran down to tell her father of the new arrangement.
“Go, my dear, by all means. I shall be writing; and you will be lonely, if you stay. But I must see my girls; for I caught glimpses of certain surprising phantoms flitting by the door.”
Nan led the way, and the two pyramids revolved before him with the rigidity of lay-figures, much to the good man’s edification; for with his fatherly pleasure there was mingled much mild wonderment at the amplitude of array.
“Yes, I see my geese are really swans, though there is such a cloud between us that I feel a long way off, and hardly know them. But this little daughter is always available, always my ’cricket on the hearth.’”
As he spoke, her father drew Nan closer, kissed her tranquil face, and smiled content.
“Well, if ever I see picters, I see ’em now, and I declare to goodness it’s as interestin’ as play-actin’, every bit. Miss Di, with all them boughs in her head, looks like the Queen of Sheby, when she went a-visitin’ What’s-his-name; and if Miss Laura a’n’t as sweet as a lally-barster figger, I should like to know what is.”
In her enthusiasm, Sally gambolled about the girls, flourishing her milk-pan like a modern Miriam about to sound her timbrel for excess of joy.
Laughing merrily, the two Mont Blancs bestowed themselves in the family ark, Nan hopped up beside Patrick, and Solon, roused from his lawful slumbers, morosely trundled them away. But, looking backward with a last “Good night!” Nan saw her father still standing at the door with smiling countenance, and the moonlight falling like a benediction on his silver hair.
“Betsey shall go up the hill with you, my dear, and here’s a basket of eggs for your father. Give him my love, and be sure you let me know the next time he is poorly,” Mrs. Lord said, when her guest rose to depart, after an hour of pleasant chat.
But Nan never got the gift; for, to her great dismay, her hostess dropped the basket with a crash, and flew across the room to meet a tall shape pausing in the shadow of the door. There was no need to ask who the new-comer was; for, even in his mother’s arms, John looked over her shoulder with an eager nod to Nan, who stood among the ruins with never a sign of weariness in her face, nor the memory of a care at her heart,—for they all went out when John came in.
“Now tell us how and why and when you came. Take off your coat, my dear! And here are the old slippers. Why didn’t you let us know you were coming so soon? How have you been? and what makes you so late to-night? Betsey, you needn’t put on your bonnet. And—oh, my dear boy, have you been to supper yet?”
Mrs. Lord was a quiet soul, and her flood of questions was purred softly in her son’s ear; for, being a woman, she must talk, and, being a mother, must pet the one delight of her life, and make a little festival when the lord of the manor came home. A whole drove of fatted calves were metaphorically killed, and a banquet appeared with speed.
John was not one of those romantic heroes who can go through three volumes of hairbreadth escapes without the faintest hint of that blessed institution, dinner; therefore, like “Lady Leatherbridge,” he “partook copiously of everything,” while the two women beamed over each mouthful with an interest that enhanced its flavor, and urged upon him cold meat and cheese, pickles and pie, as if dyspepsia and nightmare were among the lost arts.
Then he opened his budget of news and fed them.
“I was coming next month, according to custom; but Philip fell upon and so tempted me, that I was driven to sacrifice myself to the cause of friendship, and up we came to-night. He would not let me come here till we had seen your father, Nan; for the poor lad was pining for Laura, and hoped his good behavior for the past year would satisfy his judge and secure his recall. We had a fine talk with your father; and, upon my life, Phil seemed to have received the gift of tongues, for he made a most eloquent plea, which I’ve stored away for future use, I assure you. The dear old gentleman was very kind, told Phil he was satisfied with the success of his probation, that he should see Laura when he liked, and, if all went well, should receive his reward in the spring. It must be a delightful sensation to know you have made a fellow-creature as happy as those words made Phil to-night.”
John paused, and looked musingly at the matronly tea-pot, as if he saw a wondrous future in its shine.
Nan twinkled off the drops that rose at the thought of Laura’s joy, and said, with grateful warmth,—
“You say nothing of your own share in the making of that happiness, John; but we know it, for Philip has told Laura in his letters all that you have been to him, and I am sure there was other eloquence beside his own before father granted all you say he has. Oh, John, I thank you very much for this!”
Mrs. Lord beamed a whole midsummer of delight upon her son, as she saw the pleasure these words gave him, though he answered simply,—
“I only tried to be a brother to him, Nan; for he has been most kind to me. Yes, I said my little say to-night, and gave my testimony in behalf of the prisoner at the bar, a most merciful judge pronounced his sentence, and he rushed straight to Mrs. Leigh’s to tell Laura the blissful news. Just imagine the scene when he appears, and how Di will open her wicked eyes and enjoy the spectacle of the dishevelled lover, the bride-elect’s tears, the stir, and the romance of the thing. She’ll cry over it to-night, and caricature it to-morrow.”
And John led the laugh at the picture he had conjured up, to turn the thoughts of Di’s dangerous sister from himself.
At ten Nan retired into the depths of her old bonnet with a far different face from the one she brought out of it, and John, resuming his hat, mounted guard.
“Don’t stay late, remember, John!” And in Mrs. Lord’s voice there was a warning tone that her son interpreted aright.
“I’ll not forget, mother.”
And he kept his word; for though Philip’s happiness floated temptingly before him, and the little figure at his side had never seemed so dear, he ignored the bland winds, the tender night, and set a seal upon his lips, thinking manfully within himself, “I see many signs of promise in her happy face; but I will wait and hope a little longer for her sake.”
“Where is father, Sally?” asked Nan, as that functionary appeared, blinking owlishly, but utterly repudiating the idea of sleep.
“He went down the garding, miss, when the gentlemen cleared, bein’ a little flustered by the goin’s on. Shall I fetch him in?” asked Sally, as irreverently as if her master were a bag of meal.
“No, we will go ourselves.” And slowly the two paced down the leaf-strewn walk.
Fields of yellow grain were waving on the hill-side, and sere corn-blades rustled in the wind, from the orchard came the scent of ripening fruit, and all the garden-plots lay ready to yield up their humble offerings to their master’s hand. But in the silence of the night a greater Reaper had passed by, gathering in the harvest of a righteous life, and leaving only tender memories for the gleaners who had come so late.
The old man sat in the shadow of the tree his own hands planted; its fruitful boughs shone ruddily, and its leaves still whispered the low lullaby that hushed him to his rest.
“How fast he sleeps! Poor father! I should have come before and made it pleasant for him.”
As she spoke, Nan lifted up the head bent down upon his breast, and kissed his pallid cheek.
“Oh, John, this is not sleep!”
“Yes, dear, the happiest he will ever know.”
For a moment the shadows flickered over three white faces and the silence deepened solemnly. Then John reverently bore the pale shape in, and Nan dropped down beside it, saying, with a rain of grateful tears,—
“He kissed me when I went, and said a last ‘good night!’”
For an hour steps went to and fro about her, many voices whispered near her, and skilful hands touched the beloved clay she held so fast; but one by one the busy feet passed out, one by one the voices died away, and human skill proved vain. Then Mrs. Lord drew the orphan to the shelter of her arms, soothing her with the mute solace of that motherly embrace.
* * * * *
“Nan, Nan! here’s Philip! come and see!”
The happy call reechoed through the house, and Nan sprang up as if her time for grief were past.
“I must tell them. Oh, my poor girls, how will they bear it?—they have known so little sorrow!”
But there was no need for her to speak; other lips had spared her the hard task. For, as she stirred to meet them, a sharp cry rent the air, steps rang upon the stairs, and two wild-eyed creatures came into the hush of that familiar room, for the first time meeting with no welcome from their father’s voice.
With one impulse, Di and Laura fled to Nan, and the sisters clung together in a silent embrace, far more eloquent than words. John took his mother by the hand, and led her from the room, closing the door upon the sacredness of grief.
* * * * *
“Yes, we are poorer than we thought; but when everything is settled, we shall get on very well. We can let a part of this great house, and live quietly together until spring; then Laura will be married, and Di can go on their travels with them, as Philip wishes her to do. We shall be cared for; so never fear for us, John.”
Nan said this, as her friend parted from her a week later, after the saddest holiday he had ever known.
“And what becomes of you, Nan?” he asked, watching the patient eyes that smiled when others would have wept.
“I shall stay in the dear old house; for no other place would seem like home to me. I shall find some little child to love and care for, and be quite happy till the girls come back and want me.”
John nodded wisely, as he listened, and went away prophesying within himself,—
“She shall find something more than a child to love; and, God willing, shall be very happy till the girls come home and—cannot have her.”
Nan’s plan was carried into effect. Slowly the divided waters closed again, and the three fell back into their old life. But the touch of sorrow drew them closer; and, though invisible, a beloved presence still moved among them, a familiar voice still spoke to them in the silence of their softened hearts. Thus the soil was made ready, and in the depth of winter the good seed was sown, was watered with many tears, and soon sprang up green with the promise of a harvest for their after years.
Di and Laura consoled themselves with their favorite employments, unconscious that Nan was growing paler, thinner, and more silent, as the weeks went by, till one day she dropped quietly before them, and it suddenly became manifest that she was utterly worn out with many cares and the secret suffering of a tender heart bereft of the paternal love which had been its strength and stay.
“I’m only tired, dear girls. Don’t be troubled, for I shall be up to-morrow,” she said cheerily, as she looked into the anxious faces bending over her.
But the weariness was of many months’ growth, and it was weeks before that “tomorrow” came.
Laura installed herself as nurse, and her devotion was repaid four-fold; for, sitting at her sister’s bedside, she learned a finer art than that she had left. Her eye grew clear to see the beauty of a self-denying life, and in the depths of Nan’s meek nature she found the strong, sweet virtues that made her what she was.
Then remembering that these womanly attributes were a bride’s best dowry, Laura gave herself to their attainment, that she might become to another household the blessing Nan had been to her own; and turning from the worship of the goddess Beauty, she gave her hand to that humbler and more human teacher, Duty,—learning her lessons with a willing heart, for Philip’s sake.
Di corked her inkstand, locked her bookcase, and went at housework as if it were a five-barred gate; of course she missed the leap, but scrambled bravely through, and appeared much sobered by the exercise. Sally had departed to sit under a vine and fig-tree of her own, so Di had undisputed sway; but if dish-pans and dusters had tongues, direful would have been the history of that crusade against frost and fire, indolence and inexperience. But they were dumb, and Di scorned to complain, though her struggles were pathetic to behold, and her sisters went through a series of messes equal to a course of “Prince Benreddin’s” peppery tarts. Reality turned Romance out of doors; for, unlike her favorite heroines in satin and tears, or helmet and shield, Di met her fate in a big checked apron and dust-cap, wonderful to see; yet she wielded her broom as stoutly as “Moll Pitcher” shouldered her gun, and marched to her daily martyrdom in the kitchen with as heroic a heart as the “Maid of Orleans” took to her stake.
Mind won the victory over matter in the end, and Di was better all her days for the tribulations and the triumphs of that time; for she drowned her idle fancies in her wash-tub, made burnt-offerings of selfishness and pride, and learned the worth of self-denial, as she sang with happy voice among the pots and kettles of her conquered realm.
Nan thought of John, and in the stillness of her sleepless nights prayed Heaven to keep him safe, and make her worthy to receive and strong enough to bear the blessedness or pain of love.
Snow fell without, and keen winds howled among the leafless elms, but “herbs of grace” were blooming beautifully in the sunshine of sincere endeavor, and this dreariest season proved the most fruitful of the year; for love taught Laura, labor chastened Di, and patience fitted Nan for the blessing of her life.
Nature, that stillest, yet most diligent of housewives, began at last that “spring-cleaning” which she makes so pleasant that none find the heart to grumble as they do when other matrons set their premises a-dust. Her handmaids, wind and rain and sun, swept, washed, and garnished busily, green carpets were unrolled, apple-boughs were hung with draperies of bloom, and dandelions, pet nurslings of the year, came out to play upon the sward.
From the South returned that opera troupe whose manager is never in despair, whose tenor never sulks, whose prima donna never fails, and in the orchard bona fide matinees were held, to which buttercups and clovers crowded in their prettiest spring hats, and verdant young blades twinkled their dewy lorgnettes, as they bowed and made way for the floral belles.
May was bidding June good-morrow, and the roses were just dreaming that it was almost time to wake, when John came again into the quiet room which now seemed the Eden that contained his Eve. Of course there was a jubilee; but something seemed to have befallen the whole group, for never had they all appeared in such odd frames of mind. John was restless, and wore an excited look, most unlike his usual serenity of aspect.
Nan the cheerful had fallen into a well of silence and was not to be extracted by any hydraulic power, though she smiled like the June sky over her head. Di’s peculiarities were out in full force, and she looked as if she would go off like a torpedo, at a touch; but through all her moods there was a half-triumphant, half-remorseful expression in the glance she fixed on John. And Laura, once so silent, now sang like a blackbird, as she flitted to and fro; but her fitful song was always, “Philip, my king.”
John felt that there had come a change upon the three, and silently divined whose unconscious influence had wrought the miracle. The embargo was off his tongue, and he was in a fever to ask that question which brings a flutter to the stoutest heart; but though the “man” had come, the “hour” had not. So, by way of steadying his nerves, he paced the room, pausing often to take notes of his companions, and each pause seemed to increase his wonder and content.
He looked at Nan. She was in her usual place, the rigid little chair she loved, because it once was large enough to hold a curly-headed playmate and herself. The old work-basket was at her side, and the battered thimble busily at work; but her lips wore a smile they had never worn before, the color of the unblown roses touched her cheek, and her downcast eyes were full of light.
He looked at Di. The inevitable book was on her knee, but its leaves were uncut; the strong-minded knob of hair still asserted its supremacy aloft upon her head, and the triangular jacket still adorned her shoulders in defiance of all fashions, past, present, or to come; but the expression of her brown countenance had grown softer, her tongue had found a curb, and in her hand lay a card with “Potts, Kettel, & Co.” inscribed thereon, which she regarded with never a scornful word for the “Co.”
He looked at Laura. She was before her easel, as of old; but the pale nun had given place to a blooming girl, who sang at her work, which was no prim Pallas, but a Clytie turning her human face to meet the sun.
“John, what are you thinking of?”
He stirred as if Di’s voice had disturbed his fancy at some pleasant pastime, but answered with his usual sincerity,—
“I was thinking of a certain dear old fairy tale called ‘Cinderella.’”
“Oh!” said Di; and her “Oh” was a most impressive monosyllable. “I see the meaning of your smile now; and though the application of the story is not very complimentary to all parties concerned, it is very just and very true.”
She paused a moment, then went on with softened voice and earnest mien:—
“You think I am a blind and selfish creature. So I am, but not so blind and selfish as I have been; for many tears have cleared my eyes, and much sincere regret has made me humbler than I was. I have found a better book than any father’s library can give me, and I have read it with a love and admiration that grew stronger as I turned the leaves. Henceforth I take it for my guide and gospel, and, looking back upon the selfish and neglectful past, can only say, Heaven bless your dear heart, Nan!”
Laura echoed Di’s last words; for, with eyes as full of tenderness, she looked down upon the sister she had lately learned to know, saying, warmly,—
“Yes, ‘Heaven bless your dear heart, Nan!’ I never can forget all you have been to me; and when I am far away with Philip, there will always be one countenance more beautiful to me than any pictured face I may discover, there will be one place more dear to me than Rome. The face will be yours, Nan,—always so patient, always so serene; and the dearer place will be this home of ours, which you have made so pleasant to me all these years by kindnesses as numberless and noiseless as the drops of dew.”
“Dear girls, what have I ever done, that you should love me so?” cried Nan, with happy wonderment, as the tall heads, black and golden, bent to meet the lowly brown one, and her sisters’ mute lips answered her.
Then Laura looked up, saying, playfully,—
“Here are the good and wicked sisters;—where shall we find the Prince?”
“There!” cried Di, pointing to John; and then her secret went off like a rocket; for, with her old impetuosity, she said,—
“I have found you out, John, and am ashamed to look you in the face, remembering the past. Girls, you know, when father died, John sent us money, which he said Mr. Owen had long owed us and had paid at last? It was a kind lie, John, and a generous thing to do; for we needed it, but never would have taken it as a gift. I know you meant that we should never find this out; but yesterday I met Mr. Owen returning from the West, and when I thanked him for a piece of justice we had not expected of him, he gruffly told me he had never paid the debt, never meant to pay it, for it was outlawed, and we could not claim a farthing. John, I have laughed at you, thought you stupid, treated you unkindly; but I know you now, and never shall forget the lesson you have taught me. I am proud as Lucifer, but I ask you to forgive me, and I seal my real repentance so—and so.”
With tragic countenance, Di rushed across the room, threw both arms about the astonished young man’s neck and dropped an energetic kiss upon his cheek. There was a momentary silence; for Di finely illustrated her strong-minded theories by crying like the weakest of her sex. Laura, with “the ruling passion strong in death,” still tried to draw, but broke her pet crayon, and endowed her Clytie with a supplementary orb, owing to the dimness of her own. And Nan sat with drooping eyes, that shone upon her work, thinking with tender pride,—
“They know him now, and love him for his generous heart.”
Di spoke first, rallying to her colors, though a little daunted by her loss of self-control.
“Don’t laugh, John,—I couldn’t help it; and don’t think I’m not sincere, for I am,—I am; and I will prove it by growing good enough to be your friend. That debt must all be paid, and I shall do it; for I’ll turn my books and pen to some account, and write stories full of dear old souls like you and Nan; and some one, I know, will like and buy them, though they are not ‘works of Shakspeare.’ I’ve thought of this before, have felt I had the power in me; now I have the motive, and now I’ll do it.”
If Di had proposed to translate the Koran, or build a new Saint Paul’s, there would have been many chances of success; for, once moved, her will, like a battering-ram, would knock down the obstacles her wits could not surmount. John believed in her most heartily, and showed it, as he answered, looking into her resolute face,—
“I know you will, and yet make us very proud of our ‘Chaos,’ Di. Let the money lie, and when you have made a fortune, I’ll claim it with enormous interest; but, believe me, I feel already doubly repaid by the esteem so generously confessed, so cordially bestowed, and can only say, as we used to years ago,—’Now let’s forgive and so forget.’”
But proud Di would not let him add to her obligation, even by returning her impetuous salute; she slipped away, and, shaking off the last drops, answered with a curious mixture of old freedom and new respect,—
“No more sentiment, please, John. We know each other now; and when I find a friend, I never let him go. We have smoked the pipe of peace; so let us go back to our wigwams and bury the feud. Where were we when I lost my head? and what were we talking about?”
“Cinderella and the Prince.”
As he spoke, John’s eye kindled, and, turning, he looked down at Nan, who sat diligently ornamenting with microscopic stitches a great patch going on, the wrong side out.
“Yes,—so we were; and now taking pussy for the godmother, the characters of the story are well personated,—all but the slipper,” said Di, laughing, as she thought of the many times they had played it together years ago.
A sudden movement stirred John’s frame, a sudden purpose shone in his countenance, and a sudden change befell his voice, as he said, producing from some hiding-place a little worn-out shoe,—
“I can supply the slipper;—who will try it first?”
Di’s black eyes opened wide, as they fell on the familiar object; then her romance-loving nature saw the whole plot of that drama which needs but two to act it. A great delight flushed up into her face, as she promptly took her cue, saying,—
“No need for us to try it, Laura; for it wouldn’t fit us, if our feet were as small as Chinese dolls’;—our parts are played out; therefore ‘Exeunt wicked sisters to the music of the wedding-bells.’” And pouncing upon the dismayed artist, she swept her out and closed the door with a triumphant bang.
John went to Nan, and, dropping on his knee as reverently as the herald of the fairy tale, he asked, still smiling, but with lips grown tremulous,—
“Will Cinderella try the little shoe, and—if it fits—go with the Prince?”
But Nan only covered up her face, weeping happy tears, while all the weary work strayed down upon the floor, as if it knew her holiday had come.
John drew the hidden face still closer, and while she listened to his eager words, Nan heard the beating of the strong man’s heart, and knew it spoke the truth.
“Nan, I promised mother to be silent till I was sure I loved you wholly,—sure that the knowledge would give no pain when I should tell it, as I am trying to tell it now. This little shoe has been my comforter through this long year, and I have kept it as other lovers keep their fairer favors. It has been a talisman more eloquent to me than flower or ring; for, when I saw how worn it was, I always thought of the willing feet that came and went for others’ comfort all day long; when I saw the little bow you tied, I always thought of the hands so diligent in serving any one who knew a want or felt a pain; and when I recalled the gentle creature who had worn it last, I always saw her patient, tender, and devout,—and tried to grow more worthy of her, that I might one day dare to ask if she would walk beside me all my life and be my ‘angel in the house.’ Will you, dear? Believe me, you shall never know a weariness or grief I have the power to shield you from.”
Then Nan, as simple in her love as in her life, laid her arms about his neck, her happy face against his own, and answered softly,—
“Oh, John, I never can be sad or tired any more!”
* * * * *
A poet came singing along the vale,—
“Ah, well-a-day for the dear old days!
They come no more as they did of yore
By the flowing river of Aise.”
He piped through the meadow, he piped
through the grove,—
“Ah, well-a-day for the good old days!
They have all gone by, and I sit and sigh
By the flowing river of Aise.
“Knights and ladies and shields
Ah, well-a-day for the grand old days!
Castles and moats, and the bright steel coats,
By the flowing river of Aise.
“The lances are shivered, the helmets
Ah, well-a-day for the stern old days!
And the clarion’s blast has rung its last,
By the flowing river of Aise.
“And the warriors that swept to
glory and death,—
Ah, well-a-day for the brave old days!
They have fought and gone, and I sit here alone
By the flowing river of Aise.
“The strength of limb and the mettle
Ah, well-a-day for the strong old days!
They have withered away, mere butterflies’ play,
By the flowing river of Aise.
“The queens of beauty, whose smile
Ah, well-a-day for the rare old days!
With love and despair in their golden hair,
By the flowing river of Aise.
“They have flitted away from hall
Ah, well-a-day for the rich old days!
Like the sun they shone, like the sun they have gone,
By the flowing river of Aise.
“And buried beneath the pall of
Ah, well-a-day for the proud old days!
Lie valor and worth and the beauty of earth,
By the flowing river of Aise.
“And I sit and sigh by the idle
Ah, well-a-day for the bright old days!
For nothing remains for the poet’s strains
But the flowing river of Aise.”
Then a voice rang out from the oak overhead,—
“Why well-a-day for the old, old days?
The world is the same, if the bard has an aim,
By the flowing river of Aise.
“There’s beauty and love and
truth and power,—
Cease well-a-day for the old, old days!
The humblest home is worth Greece and Rome,
By the flowing river of Aise.
“There are themes enough for the
Leave well-a-day for the quaint old days!
Take thine eyes from the ground, look up and around
From the flowing river of Aise.
“To-day is as grand as the centuries
Leave well-a-day for the famed old days!
There are battles to fight, there are troths to plight,
By the flowing river of Aise.
“There are hearts as true to love,
No well-a-day for the dark old days!
Go put into type the age that is ripe
By the flowing river of Aise.”
Then the merry Poet piped down the vale,—
“Farewell, farewell to the dead old days!
By day and by night there’s music and light
By the flowing river of Aise.”
* * * * *
THE ICEBERG OF TORBAY.
Torbay, finely described in a recent novel by the Rev. R.T.S. Lowell, is an arm of the sea, a short strong arm with a slim hand and finger, reaching into the rocky land and touching the water-falls and rapids of a pretty brook. Here is a little village, with Romish and Protestant steeples, and the dwellings of fishermen, with the universal appendages of fishing-houses, boats, and “flakes.” One seldom looks upon a hamlet so picturesque and wild. The rocks slope steeply down to the wonderfully clear water. Thousands of poles support half-acres of the spruce-bough shelf, beneath which is a dark, cool region, crossed with foot-paths, and not unfrequently sprinkled and washed by the surf,—a most kindly office on the part of the sea, you will allow, when once you have scented the fish-offal perpetually dropping from the evergreen fish-house above. These little buildings on the flakes are conspicuous features, and look as fresh and wild as if they had just wandered away from the woodlands.
There they stand, on the edge of the lofty pole-shelf, or upon the extreme end of that part of it which runs off frequently over the water like a wharf, an assemblage of huts and halls, bowers and arbors, a curious huddle made of poles and sweet-smelling branches and sheets of birch-bark. A kind of evening haunts these rooms of spruce at noonday, while at night a hanging lamp, like those we see in old pictures of crypts and dungeons, is to the stranger only a kind of buoy by which he is to steer his way through the darkness. To come off then without pitching headlong, and soiling your hands and coat, is the merest chance. Strange! one is continually allured into these piscatory bowers whenever he comes near them. In spite of the chilly, salt air, and the repulsive smells about the tables where they dress the fish, I have a fancy for these queer structures. Their front door opens upon the sea, and their steps are a mammoth ladder, leading down to the swells and the boats. There is a charm also about fine fishes, fresh from the net and the hook,—the salmon, for example, whose pink and yellow flesh has given a name to one of the most delicate hues of Art or Nature.
But where was the iceberg? We were not a little disappointed when all Torbay was before us, and nothing but dark water to be seen. To our surprise, no one had ever seen or heard of it. It must lie off Flat Rock Harbor, a little bay below, to the north. We agreed with the supposition that the berg must lie below, and made speedy preparations to pursue, by securing the only boat to be had in the village,—a substantial fishing-barge, laden rather heavily in the stern with at least a cord of cod-seine, but manned by six stalwart men, a motive power, as it turned out, none too large for the occasion. We embarked at the foot of a fish-house ladder, being carefully handed down by the kind-hearted men, and took our seats forward on the little bow-deck. All ready, they pulled away at their long, ponderous oars with the skill and deliberation of lifelong practice, and we moved out upon the broad, glassy swells of the bay towards the open sea, not indeed with the rapidity of a Yankee club-boat, but with a most agreeable steadiness, and a speed happily fitted for a review of the shores, which, under the afternoon sun, were made brilliant with lights and shadows.
We were presently met by a breeze, which increased the swell, and made it easier to fail in close under the northern shore, a line of stupendous precipices, to which the ocean goes deep home. The ride beneath these mighty cliffs was by far the finest boat-ride of my life. While they do not equal the rocks of the Saguenay, yet, with all their appendages of extent, structure, complexion, and adjacent sea, they are sufficiently lofty to produce an almost appalling sense of sublimity. The surges lave them at a great height, sliding from angle to angle, and fretting into foam as they slip obliquely along the face of the vast walls. They descend as deeply as two hundred feet, and rise perpendicularly two, three, and four hundred feet from the water. Their stratifications are up and down, and of different shades of light and dark, a ribbed and striped appearance that increases the effect of height, and gives variety and spirit to the surface. At one point, where the rocks advance from the main front, and form a kind of headland, the strata, six and eight feet thick, assume the form of a pyramid,—from a broad base of a hundred yards or more running up to meet in a point. The heart of this vast cone has partly fallen out, and left the resemblance of an enormous tent with cavernous recesses and halls, in which the shades of evening were already lurking, and the surf was sounding mournfully. Occasionally it was musical, pealing forth like the low tones of a great organ with awful solemnity. Now and then, the gloomy silence of a minute was broken by the crash of a billow far within, when the reverberations were like the slamming of great doors.
After passing this grand specimen of the architecture of the sea, there appeared long rocky reaches like Egyptian temples,—old, dead cliffs of yellowish gray, checked off by lines and seams into squares, and having the resemblance, where they have fallen out into the ocean, of doors and windows opening in upon the fresher stone. Presently we came to a break, where there were grassy slopes and crags intermingled, and a flock of goats skipping about, or ruminating in the warm sunshine. A knot of kids—the reckless little creatures—were sporting along the edge of a precipice in a manner almost painful to witness. The pleasure of leaping from point to point, where a single misstep would have dropped them hundreds of feet, seemed to be in proportion to the danger. The sight of some women, who were after the goats, reminded the boatmen of an accident which occurred here only a few days before: a lad playing about the steep fell into the sea, and was drowned.
We were now close upon the point just behind which we expected to behold the iceberg. The surf was sweeping the black reef that flanked the small cape, in the finest style,—a beautiful dance of breakers of dazzling white and green. As every stroke of the oars shot us forward, and enlarged our view of the field in which the ice was reposing, our hearts fairly throbbed with an excitement of expectation. “There it is!” one exclaimed. An instant revealed the mistake. It was only the next headland in a fog, which unwelcome mist was now coming down upon us from the broad waters, and covering the very tract where the berg was expected to be seen. Farther and farther out the long, strong sweep of the great oars carried us, until the depth of the bay between us and the next headland was in full view. It may appear almost too trifling a matter over which to have had any feeling worth mentioning or remembering, but I shall not soon forget the disappointment, when from the deck of our barge, as it rose and sank on the large swells, we stood up and looked around and saw, that, if the iceberg, over which our very hearts had been beating with delight for twenty-four hours, was anywhere, it was somewhere in the depths of that untoward fog. It might as well have been in the depths of the ocean.
While the pale cloud slept there, there was nothing left for us but to wait patiently where we were, or retreat. We chose the latter. C. gave the word to pull for the settlement at the head of the little bay just mentioned, and so they rounded the breakers on the reef, and we turned away for the second time, when the game was fairly ours. Even the hardy fishermen, no lovers of “islands-of-ice,” as they call them, felt for us, as they read in our looks the disappointment, not to say a little vexation. While on our passage in, we filled a half-hour with questions and discussions about that iceberg.
“We certainly saw it yesterday evening; and a soldier of Signal Hill told us that it had been close in at Torbay for several days. And you, my man there, say that you had a glimpse of it last evening. How happens it to be away just now? Where do you think it is?”
“Indeed, Sir, he must be out in the fog, a mile or over. De’il a bit can a man look after a thing in a fog, more nor into a snow-bank. Maybe, Sir, he’s foundered; or he might be gone off to sea, altogether, as they sometimes do.”
“Well, this is rather remarkable. Huge as these bergs are, they escape very easily under their old cover. No sooner do we think we have them, than they are gone. No jackal was ever more faithful to his lion, no pilot-fish to his shark, than the fog to its berg. We will run in yonder and inquire about it. We may get the exact bearing, and reach it yet, even in the fog.”
The wind and sea being in our favor, we soon reached a fishery-ladder, which we now knew very well how to climb, and wound our “dim and perilous way” through the evergreen labyrinth of fish bowers, emerging on the solid rock, and taking the path to the fisherman’s house. Here lives and works and wears himself out William Waterland, a deep-voiced, broad-chested, round-shouldered man, dressed, not in cloth of gold, but of oil, with the foxy remnant of a last winter’s fur cap clinging to his large, bony head, a little in the style of a piece of turf to a stone. You seldom look into a more kindly, patient face, or into an eye that more directly lets up the light out of a large, warm heart. His countenance is one sober shadow of honest brown, occasionally lighted by a true and guileless smile. William Waterland has seen the “island-of-ice.” “It lies off there, two miles or more, grounded on a bank, in forty fathoms water.”
It was nearly six o’clock; and yet, as there were signs of the fog clearing away, we thought it prudent to wait. A dull, long hour passed by, and still the sun was high in the northwest. That heavy cod-seine, a hundred fathoms long, sank the stern of our barge rather deeply, and made it row heavily. For all that, there was time enough yet, if we could only use it. The fog still came in masses from the sea, sweeping across the promontory between us and Torbay, and fading into air nearly as soon as it was over the land. In the mean time, we sat upon the rocks, upon the wood-pile, stood around and talked, looked out into the endless mist, looked at the fishermen’s houses, their children, their fowls and dogs. A couple of young women, that might have been teachers of the village school, had there been a school, belles of the place, rather neatly dressed, and with hair nicely combed, tripped shyly by, each with an arm about the other’s waist, and very merry until abreast of us, when they were as silent and downcast as if they had been passing by their sovereign queen or the Great Mogul. Their curiosity and timidity combined were quite amusing. We speculated upon the astonishment that would have seized upon their simple, innocent hearts, had they beheld, instead of us, a bevy of our city fashionables in full bloom.
At length we accepted an invitation to walk into the house, and sat, not under the good man’s roof, but under his chimney, a species of large funnel, into which nearly one end of the house resolved itself. Here we sat upon some box-like benches before a wood fire, and warmed ourselves, chatting with the family. While we were making ourselves comfortable and agreeable, we made the novel and rather funny discovery of a hen sitting on her nest just under the bench, with her red comb at our fingers’ ends. A large griddle hung suspended in the more smoky regions of the chimney, ready to be lowered for the baking of cakes or frying fish. Having tarred my hand, the fisherman’s wife, kind woman, insisted upon
The sunshine was now streaming in at a bit of a window, and I went out to see what prospect of success. C., who had left some little time before, was nowhere to be seen. The fog seemed to be in sufficient motion to disclose the berg down some of the avenues of clear air that were opened occasionally. They all ended, however, with fog instead of ice. I made it convenient to walk to the boat, and pocket a few cakes, brought along as a kind of scattering lunch. C. was descried, at length, climbing the broad, rocky ridge, the eastern point of which we had doubled on our passage from Torbay. Making haste up the crags by a short cut, I joined him on the verge of the promontory pretty well heated and out of breath. The effort was richly rewarded. The mist was dispersing in the sunny air around us; the ocean was clearing off; the surge was breaking with a pleasant sound below. At the foot of the precipice were four or five whales, from thirty to fifty feet in length, apparently. We could have tossed a pebble upon them. At times abreast, and then in single file, or disorderly, round and round
To the north and east, the ocean, dark and sparkling, was, by the magic action of the wind, entirely clear of fog; and there, about two miles distant, stood revealed the iceberg in all its cold and solitary glory. It was of a greenish white, and of the Greek-temple form, seeming to be over a hundred feet high. We gazed some minutes with silent delight on the splendid and impressive object, and then hastened down to the boat, and pulled away with all speed to reach it, if possible, before the fog should cover it again, and in time for C. to paint it. The moderation of the oarsmen and the slowness of our progress were quite provoking. I watched the sun, the distant fog, the wind and waves, the increasing motion of the boat, and the seemingly retreating berg. A good half-hour’s toil had carried us into broad waters, and yet, to all appearance, very little nearer. The wind was freshening from the south, the sea was rising, thin mists, a species of scout from the main body of the fog lying off in the east, were scudding across our track. James Goss, our captain, threw out a hint of a little difficulty in getting back.
We fell under the land presently, and passed near the northern cape of Flat-Rock Bay, a grand headland of red sandstone, a vast and dome-like pile, fleeced at the summit with green turf and shrubs of fir. The sun, at last, was really setting. There was the old magnificence of the king of day,—airy deeps of ineffable blue and pearl, stained with scarlets and crimsons, and striped with living gold. A blaze of white light, deepening into the richest orange, crowned the distant ridge behind which the sun was vanishing. A vapory splendor, rose-color and purple, was dissolving in the atmosphere; and every wave of the ocean, a dark violet, nearly black, was “a flash of golden fire.” Bathed with this almost supernatural glory, the headland, in itself richly complexioned with red, brown, and green, was at once a spectacle of singular grandeur and solemnity. I have no remembrance of more brilliant effects of light and color. The view filled us with emotions of delight. We shot from beneath the great cliff into Flat-Rock Bay, rounding, at length, the breakers and the cape into the smoother waters of Torbay. As the oars dipped regularly into the polished swells, reflecting the heavens and the wonderful shores, all lapsed into silence. In the gloom of evening the rocks assumed an unusual height and sublimity. Gliding quietly below them, we were saluted every now and then by the billows thundering in some adjacent cavern. The song of the sea in its old halls rung out in a style quite unearthly. The slamming of the mighty doors seemed far off in the chambers of the cliff, and the echoes trembled themselves away, muffled into stillness by the stupendous masses.
Thus ended our first real hunting of an iceberg. When we landed, we were thoroughly chilled. Our man was waiting with his wagon, and so was a little supper in a house near by, which we enjoyed with an appetite that assumed several phases of keenness as we proceeded. There was a tower of cold roast beef, flanked by bread and butter and bowls of hot tea. The whole was carried silently, without remark, at the point of knife and fork. We were a forlorn-hope of two, and fell to, winning the victory in the very breach. We drove back over the fine gravel road at a round trot, watching the last edge of day in the northwest and north, where it no sooner fades than it buds again to bloom into morning. We lived the new iceberg-experience all over again, and planned for the morrow. The stars gradually came out of the cool, clear heavens, until they filled them with their sparkling multitudes. For every star we seemed to have a lively and pleasurable thought, which came out and ran among our talk, a thread of light. When we looked at the hour, as we sat fresh and wakeful, warming at our English inn in St. John’s, it was after midnight.
* * * * *
“Sir Launcelot! ther thou lyest; thou were never matched of none earthly knights hands; thou were the truest freende to thy lover that ever bestrood horse; and thou were the kindest man that ever strooke with sword; and thou were the sternest knight to thy mortall foe that ever put spere in the rest.” La Morte d’Arthur.
In the year 1828 there was a young man of eighteen at work upon a farm in Lexington, performing bodily labor to the extent of twenty hours in a day sometimes, and that for several days together, and at other times studying intensely when work was less pressing. Thirty years after, that same man sat in the richest private library in Boston, working habitually from twelve to seventeen hours a day in severer toil. The interval was crowded with labors, with acquisitions, with reproaches, with victories, with honors; and he who experienced all this died exhausted at the end of it, less than fifty years old, but looking seventy. That man was Theodore Parker.
The time is far distant when out of a hundred different statements of contemporaries some calm biographer will extract sufficient materials for a true picture of the man; and meanwhile all that each can do is to give fearlessly his own honest impressions, and so tempt others to give theirs. Of the multitude of different photographers, each perchance may catch some one trait without which the whole portraiture would have remained incomplete; and the time to secure this is now, while his features are fresh in our minds. It is a daring effort, but it needs to be made.
Yet Theodore Parker was so strong and self-sufficing upon his own ground, he needed so little from any other, while giving so freely to all, that one would hardly venture to add anything to the autobiographies he has left, but for the high example he set of fearlessness in dealing with the dead. There may be some whose fame is so ill-established, that one shrinks from speaking of them precisely as one saw them; but this man’s place is secure, and that friend best praises him who paints him just as he seemed. To depict him as he was must be the work of many men, and no single observer, however intimate, need attempt it.
The first thing that strikes an observer, in listening to the words of public and private feeling elicited by his departure, is the predominance in them all of the sentiment of love. His services, his speculations, his contests, his copious eloquence, his many languages, these come in as secondary things, but the predominant testimony is emotional. Men mourn the friend even more than the warrior. No fragile and lovely girl, fading untimely into heaven, was ever more passionately beloved than this white-haired and world-weary man. As he sat in his library, during his lifetime, he was not only the awakener of a thousand intellects, but the centre of a thousand hearts;—he furnished the natural home for every foreign refugee, every hunted slave, every stray thinker, every vexed and sorrowing woman. And never was there one of these who went away uncomforted, and from every part of this broad nation their scattered hands now fling roses upon his grave.
This immense debt of gratitude was not bought by any mere isolated acts of virtue; indeed, it never is so bought; love never is won but by a nobleness which, pervades the life. In the midst of his greatest cares there never was a moment when he was not all too generous of his time, his wisdom, and his money. Borne down by the accumulation of labors, grudging, as a student grudges, the precious hour that once lost can never be won back, he yet was always holding himself at the call of some poor criminal, at the Police Office, or some sick girl in a suburban town, not of his recognized parish perhaps, but longing for the ministry of the only preacher who had touched her soul. Not a mere wholesale reformer, he wore out his life by retailing its great influences to the poorest comer. Not generous in money only,—though the readiness of his beneficence in that direction had few equals,—he always hastened past that minor bestowal to ask if there were not some other added gift possible, some personal service or correspondence, some life-blood, in short, to be lavished in some other form, to eke out the already liberal donation of dollars.
There is an impression that he was unforgiving. Unforgetting he certainly was; for he had no power of forgetfulness, whether for good or evil. He had none of that convenient oblivion which in softer natures covers sin and saintliness with one common, careless pall. So long as a man persisted in a wrong attitude before God or man, there was no day so laborious or exhausting, no night so long or drowsy, but Theodore Parker’s unsleeping memory stood on guard full-armed, ready to do battle at a moment’s warning. This is generally known; but what may not be known so widely is, that, the moment the adversary lowered his spear, were it for only an inch or an instant, that moment Theodore Parker’s weapons were down and his arms open. Make but the slightest concession, give him but the least excuse to love you, and never was there seen such promptness in forgiving. His friends found it sometimes harder to justify his mildness than his severity. I confess that I, with others, have often felt inclined to criticize a certain caustic tone of his, in private talk, when the name of an offender was alluded to; but I have also felt almost indignant at his lenient good-nature to that very person, let him once show the smallest symptom of contrition, or seek, even in the clumsiest way, or for the most selfish purpose, to disarm his generous antagonist. His forgiveness in such cases was more exuberant than his wrath had ever been.
It is inevitable, in describing him, to characterize his life first by its quantity. He belonged to the true race of the giants of learning; he took in knowledge at every pore, and his desires were insatiable. Not, perhaps, precocious in boyhood,—for it is not precocity to begin Latin at ten and Greek at eleven, to enter the Freshman class at twenty and the professional school at twenty-three,—he was equalled by few students in the tremendous rate at which he pursued every study, when once begun. With strong body and great constitutional industry, always acquiring and never forgetting, he was doubtless at the time of his death the most variously learned of living Americans, as well as one of the most prolific of orators and writers.
Why did Theodore Parker die? He died prematurely worn out through this enormous activity,—a warning, as well as an example. To all appeals for moderation, during the latter years of his life, he had but one answer,—that he had six generations of long-lived farmers behind him, and had their strength to draw upon. All his physical habits, except in this respect, were unexceptionable: he was abstemious in diet, but not ascetic, kept no unwholesome hours, tried no dangerous experiments, committed no excesses. But there is no man who can habitually study from twelve to seventeen hours a day (his friend Mr. Clarke contracts it to “from six to twelve,” but I have Mr. Parker’s own statement of the fact) without ultimate self-destruction. Nor was this the practice during his period of health alone, but it was pushed to the last moment: he continued in the pulpit long after a withdrawal was peremptorily prescribed for him; and when forbidden to leave home for lecturing, during the winter of 1858, he straightway prepared the most laborious literary works of his life, for delivery as lectures in the Fraternity Course at Boston.
He worked thus, not from ambition, nor altogether from principle, but from an immense craving for mental labor, which had become second nature to him. His great omnivorous, hungry intellect must have constant food,—new languages, new statistics, new historical investigations, new scientific discoveries, new systems of Scriptural exegesis. He did not for a day in the year nor an hour in the day make rest a matter of principle, nor did he ever indulge in it as a pleasure, for he knew no enjoyment so great as labor. Wordsworth’s “wise passiveness” was utterly foreign to his nature. Had he been a mere student, this had been less destructive. But to take the standard of study of a German Professor, and superadd to that the separate exhaustions of a Sunday-preacher, a lyceum-lecturer, a radical leader, and a practical philanthropist, was simply to apply half a dozen distinct suicides to the abbreviation of a single life. And, as his younger companions long since assured him, the tendency of his career was not only to kill himself, but them; for each assumed that he must at least attempt what Theodore Parker accomplished.
It is very certain that his career was much shortened by these enormous labors, and it is not certain that its value was increased in a sufficient ratio to compensate for that evil. He justified his incessant winter-lecturing by the fact that the whole country was his parish, though this was not an adequate excuse. But what right had he to deprive himself even of the accustomed summer respite of ordinary preachers, and waste the golden July hours in studying Sclavonic dialects? No doubt his work in the world was greatly aided both by the fact and the fame of learning, and, as he himself somewhat disdainfully said, the knowledge of Greek and Hebrew was “a convenience” in theological discussions; but, after all, his popular power did not mainly depend on his mastery of twenty languages, but of one. Theodore Parker’s learning was undoubtedly a valuable possession to the community, but it was not worth the price of Theodore Parker’s life.
“Strive constantly to concentrate yourself,” said the laborious Goethe, “never dissipate your powers; incessant activity, of whatever kind, leads finally to bankruptcy.” But Theodore Parker’s whole endeavor was to multiply his channels, and he exhausted his life in the effort to do all men’s work. He was a hard man to relieve, to help, or to cooperate with. Thus, the “Massachusetts Quarterly Review” began with quite a promising corps of contributors; but when it appeared that its editor, if left alone, would willingly undertake all the articles,—science, history, literature, everything,—of course the others yielded to inertia and dropped away. So, some years later, when some of us met at his room to consult on a cheap series of popular theological works, he himself was so rich in his own private plans that all the rest were impoverished; nothing could be named but he had been planning just that for years, and should by-and-by get leisure for it, and there really was not enough left to call out the energies of any one else. Not from any petty egotism, but simply from inordinate activity, he stood ready to take all the parts.
In the same way he distanced everybody; every companion-scholar found soon that it was impossible to keep pace with one who was always accumulating and losing nothing. Most students find it necessary to be constantly forgetting some things to make room for later arrivals; but the peculiarity of his memory was that he let nothing go. I have more than once heard him give a minute analysis of the contents of some dull book read twenty years before, and have afterwards found the statement correct and exhaustive. His great library,—the only private library I have ever seen which reminded one of the Astor,—although latterly collected more for public than personal uses, was one which no other man in the nation, probably, had sufficient bibliographical knowledge single-handed to select, and we have very few men capable of fully appreciating its scholarly value, as it stands. It seems as if its possessor, putting all his practical and popular side into his eloquence and action, had indemnified himself by investing all his scholarship in a library of which less than a quarter of the books were in the English language.
All unusual learning, however, brings with it the suspicion of superficiality; and in this country, where, as Mr. Parker himself said, “every one gets a mouthful of education, but scarce one a full meal,”—where every one who makes a Latin quotation is styled “a ripe scholar,”—it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the true from the counterfeit. It is, however, possible to apply some tests. I remember, for instance, that one of the few undoubted classical scholars, in the old-fashioned sense, whom New England has seen,—the late John Glen King of Salem,—while speaking with very limited respect of the acquirements of Rufus Choate in this direction, and with utter contempt of those of Daniel Webster, always became enthusiastic on coming to Theodore Parker. “He is the only man,” said Mr. King more than once to the writer, “with whom I can sit down and seriously discuss a disputed reading and find him familiar with all that has been written upon it.” Yet Greek and Latin were only the preliminaries of Mr. Parker’s scholarship.
I know, for one,—and there are many who will bear the same testimony,—that I never went to Mr. Parker to talk over a subject which I had just made a speciality, without finding that on that particular matter he happened to know, without any special investigation, more than I did. This extended beyond books, sometimes stretching into things where his questioner’s opportunities of knowledge had seemed considerably greater,—as, for instance, in points connected with the habits of our native animals and the phenomena of out-door Nature. Such were his wonderful quickness and his infallible memory, that glimpses of these things did for him the work of years. But, of course, it was in the world of books that this wonderful superiority was chiefly seen, and the following example may serve as one of the most striking among many.
It happened to me, some years since, in the course of some historical inquiries, to wish for fuller information in regard to the barbarous feudal codes of the Middle Ages,—as the Salic, Burgundian, and Ripuarian,—before the time of Charlemagne. The common historians, even Hallam, gave no very satisfactory information and referred to no very available books; and supposing it to be a matter of which every well-read lawyer would at least know something, I asked help of the most scholarly member of that profession within my reach. He regretted his inability to give me any aid, but referred me to a friend of his, who was soon to visit him, a young man, who was already eminent for legal learning. The friend soon arrived, but owned, with some regret, that he had paid no attention to that particular subject, and did not even know what books to refer to; but he would at least ascertain what they were, and let me know. (N.B. I have never heard from him since.) Stimulated by ill-success, I aimed higher, and struck at the Supreme Bench of a certain State, breaking in on the mighty repose of His Honor with the name of Charlemagne. “Charlemagne?” responded my lord judge, rubbing his burly brow,—“Charlemagne lived, I think, in the sixth century?” Dismayed, I retreated, with little further inquiry; and sure of one man, at least, to whom law meant also history and literature, I took refuge with Charles Sumner. That accomplished scholar, himself for once at fault, could only frankly advise me to do at last what I ought to have done at first,—to apply to Theodore Parker. I did so. “Go,” replied he instantly, “to alcove twenty-four, shelf one hundred and thirteen, of the College Library at Cambridge, and you will find the information you need in a thick quarto, bound in vellum, and lettered ‘Potgiesser de Statu Servorum.’” I straightway sent for Potgiesser, and found my fortune made, it was one of those patient old German treatises which cost the labor of one man’s life to compile and another’s to exhaust, and I had no reason to suppose that any reader had disturbed its repose until that unwearied industry had explored the library.
Amid such multiplicity of details he must sometimes have made mistakes, and with his great quickness of apprehension he sometimes formed hasty conclusions. But no one has a right to say that his great acquirements were bought by any habitual sacrifice of thoroughness. To say that they sometimes impaired the quality of his thought would undoubtedly be more just; and this is a serious charge to bring. Learning is not accumulation, but assimilation; every man’s real acquirements must pass into his own organization, and undue or hasty nutrition does no good. The most priceless knowledge is not worth the smallest impairing of the quality of the thinking. The scholar cannot afford, any more than the farmer, to lavish his strength in clearing more land than he can cultivate; and Theodore Parker was compelled by the natural limits of time and strength to let vast tracts lie fallow, and to miss something of the natural resources of the soil. One sometimes wished that he had studied less and dreamed more,—for less encyclopedic information, and more of his own rich brain.
But it was in popularizing thought and knowledge that his great and wonderful power lay. Not an original thinker, in the same sense with Emerson, he yet translated for tens of thousands that which Emerson spoke to hundreds only. No matter who had been heard on any subject, the great mass of intelligent, “progressive” New-England thinkers waited to hear the thing summed up by Theodore Parker. This popular interest went far beyond the circle of his avowed sympathizers; he might be a heretic, but nobody could deny that he was a marksman. No matter how well others seemed to have hit the target, his shot was the triumphant one, at last. Thinkers might find no new thought in the new discourse, leaders of action no new plan, yet, after all that had been said and done, his was the statement that told upon the community. He knew this power of his, and had analyzed some of the methods by which he attained it, though, after all, the best part was an unconscious and magnetic faculty. But he early learned, so he once told me, that the New-England people dearly love two things,—a philosophical arrangement, and a plenty of statistics. To these, therefore, he treated them thoroughly; in some of his “Ten Sermons” the demand made upon the systematizing power of his audience was really formidable; and I have always remembered a certain lecture of his on the Anglo-Saxons as the most wonderful instance that ever came within my knowledge of the adaptation of solid learning to the popular intellect. Nearly two hours of almost unadorned fact,—for there was far less than usual of relief and illustration,—and yet the lyceum-audience listened to it as if an angel sang to them. So perfect was his sense of purpose and of power, so clear and lucid was his delivery, with such wonderful composure did he lay out, section by section, his historical chart, that he grasped his hearers as absolutely as he grasped his subject:
Another key to his strong hold upon the popular mind was to be found in his thorough Americanism of training and sympathy. Surcharged with European learning, he yet remained at heart the Lexington farmer’s-boy, and his whole atmosphere was indigenous, not exotic. Not haunted by any of the distrust and over-criticism which are apt to effeminate the American scholar, he plunged deep into the current of hearty national life around him, loved it, trusted it, believed in it; and the combination of this vital faith with such tremendous criticism of public and private sins formed an irresistible power. He could condemn without crushing,—denounce mankind, yet save it from despair. Thus his pulpit became one of the great forces of the nation, like the New York “Tribune.” His printed volumes had but a limited circulation, owing to a defective system of publication, which his friends tried in vain to correct; but the circulation of his pamphlet-discourses was very great; he issued them faster and faster, latterly often in pairs, and they instantly spread far and wide. Accordingly he found his listeners everywhere; he could not go so far West but his abundant fame had preceded him; his lecture-room in the remotest places was crowded, and his hotel-chamber also, until late at night. Probably there was no private man in the nation, except, perhaps, Beecher and Greeley, whom personal strangers were so eager to see; while from a transatlantic direction he was sought by visitors to whom the two other names were utterly unknown. Learned men from the continent of Europe always found their way, first or last, to Exeter Place; and it is said that Thackeray, on his voyage to this country, declared that the thing in America which he most desired was to hear Theodore Parker talk.
Indeed, his conversational power was so wonderful that no one could go away from a first interview without astonishment and delight. There are those among us, it may be, more brilliant in anecdote or repartee, more eloquent, more profoundly suggestive; but for the outpouring of vast floods of various and delightful information, I believe that he could have had no Anglo-Saxon rival, except Macaulay. And in Mr. Parker’s case, at least, there was no alloy of conversational arrogance or impatience of opposition. He monopolized, not because he was ever unwilling to hear others, but because they did not care to hear themselves when he was by. The subject made no difference; he could talk on anything. I was once with him in the society of an intelligent Quaker farmer, when the conversation fell on agriculture: the farmer held his own ably for a time; but long after he was drained dry, our wonderful companion still flowed on exhaustless, with accounts of Nova Scotia ploughing and Tennessee hoeing, and all things rural, ancient and modern, good and bad, till it seemed as if the one amusing and interesting theme in the universe were the farm. But it soon proved that this was only one among his thousand departments, and his hearers felt, as was said of old Fuller, as if he had served his time at every trade in town.
But it must now be owned that these astonishing results were bought by some intellectual sacrifices which his nearer friends do not all recognize, but which posterity will mourn. Such a rate of speed is incompatible with the finest literary execution. A delicate literary ear he might have had, perhaps, but he very seldom stopped to cultivate or even indulge it. This neglect was not produced by his frequent habit of extemporaneous speech alone; for it is a singular fact, that Wendell Phillips, who rarely writes a line, yet contrives to give to his hastiest efforts the air of elaborate preparation, while Theodore Parker’s most scholarly performances were still stump-speeches. Vigorous, rich, brilliant, copious, they yet seldom afford a sentence which falls in perfect cadence upon the ear; under a show of regular method, they are loose and diffuse, and often have the qualities which he himself attributed to the style of John Quincy Adams,—“disorderly, ill-compacted, and homely to a fault.” He said of Dr. Channing,—“Diffuseness is the old Adam of the pulpit. There are always two ways of hitting the mark,—one with a single bullet, the other with a shower of small shot: Dr. Channing chose the latter, as most of our pulpit orators have done.” Theodore Parker chose it also.
Perhaps Nature and necessity chose it for him. If not his temperament, at least the circumstances of his position, cut him off from all high literary finish. He created the congregation at the Music Hall, and that congregation, in turn, moulded his whole life. For that great stage his eloquence became inevitably a kind of brilliant scene-painting,—large, fresh, profuse, rapid, showy;—masses of light and shade, wonderful effects, but farewell forever to all finer touches and delicate gradations! No man can write for posterity, while hastily snatching a half-day from a week’s lecturing, during which to prepare a telling Sunday harangue for three thousand people. In the perpetual rush and hurry of his life, he had no time to select, to discriminate, to omit anything, or to mature anything. He had the opportunities, the provocatives, and the drawbacks which make the work and mar the fame of the professional journalist. His intellectual existence, after he left the quiet of West Roxbury, was from hand to mouth. Needing above all men to concentrate himself, he was compelled by his whole position to lead a profuse and miscellaneous life.
All popular orators must necessarily repeat themselves,—preachers chiefly among orators, and Theodore Parker chiefly among preachers. The mere frequency of production makes this inevitable,—a fact which always makes every finely organized intellect, first or last, grow weary of the pulpit. But in his case there were other compulsions. Every Sunday a quarter part of his vast congregation consisted of persons who had never, or scarcely ever, heard him before, and who might never hear him again. Not one of those visitors must go away, therefore, without hearing the great preacher define his position on every point,—not theology alone, but all current events and permanent principles, the Presidential nomination or message, the laws of trade, the laws of Congress, woman’s rights, woman’s costume, Boston slave-kidnappers, and Dr. Banbaby,—he must put it all in. His ample discourse must be like an Oriental poem, which begins with the creation of the universe, and includes all subsequent facts incidentally. It is astonishing to look over his published sermons and addresses, and see under how many different names the same stirring speech has been reprinted;—new illustrations, new statistics, and all remoulded with such freshness that the hearer had no suspicions, nor the speaker either,—and yet the same essential thing. Sunday discourse, lyceum lecture, convention speech, it made no difference, he must cover all the points every time. No matter what theme might be announced, the people got the whole latitude and longitude of Theodore Parker, and that was precisely what they wanted. He broke down the traditional non-committalism of the lecture-room, and oxygenated all the lyceums of the land. He thus multiplied his audience very greatly, while perhaps losing to some degree the power of close logic and of addressing a specific statement to a special point. Yet it seemed as if he could easily leave the lancet to others, grant him only the hammer and the forge.
Ah, but the long centuries, where the reading of books is concerned, set aside all considerations of quantity, of popularity, of immediate influence, and sternly test by quality alone,—judge each author by his most golden sentence, and let all else go. The deeds make the man, but it is the style which makes or dooms the writer. History, which always sends great men in groups, gave us Emerson by whom to test the intellectual qualities of Parker. They cooperated in their work from the beginning, in much the same mutual relation as now; in looking back over the rich volumes of the “Dial,” the reader now passes by the contributions of Parker to glean every sentence of Emerson’s, but we have the latter’s authority for the fact that it was the former’s articles which originally sold the numbers. Intellectually, the two men form the complement to each other; it is Parker who reaches the mass of the people, but it is probable that all his writings put together have not had so profound an influence on the intellectual leaders of the nation as the single address of Emerson at Divinity Hall.
And it is difficult not to notice, in that essay in which Theodore Parker ventured on higher intellectual ground, perhaps, than anywhere else in his writings,—his critique on Emerson in the “Massachusetts Quarterly,”—the indications of this mental disparity. It is in many respects a noble essay, full of fine moral appreciations, bravely generous, admirable in the loyalty of spirit shown towards a superior mind, and all warm with a personal friendship which could find no superior. But so far as literary execution is concerned, the beautiful sentences of Emerson stand out like fragments of carved marble from the rough plaster in which they are imbedded. Nor this alone; but, on drawing near the vestibule of the author’s finest thoughts, the critic almost always stops, unable quite to enter their sphere. Subtile beauties puzzle him; the titles of the poems, for instance, giving by delicate allusion the key-note of each,—as “Astraea,” “Mithridates,” “Hamatreya,” and “Etienne de la Boece,”—seem to him the work of “mere caprice”; he pronounces the poem of “Monadnoc” “poor and weak”; he condemns and satirizes the “Wood-notes,” and thinks that a pine-tree which should talk like Mr. Emerson’s ought to be cut down and cast into the sea.
The same want of fine discrimination was usually visible in his delineations of great men in public life. Immense in accumulation of details, terrible in the justice which held the balance, they yet left one with the feeling, that, after all, the delicate main-springs of character had been missed. Broad contrasts, heaps of good and evil, almost exaggerated praises, pungent satire, catalogues of sins that seemed pages from some Recording Angel’s book,—these were his mighty methods; but for the subtilest analysis, the deepest insight into the mysteries of character, one must look elsewhere. It was still scene-painting, not portraiture; and the same thing which overwhelmed with wonder, when heard in the Music Hall, produced a slight sense of insufficiency, when read in print. It was certainly very great in its way, but not in quite the highest way; it was preliminary work, not final; it was Parker’s Webster, not Emerson’s Swedenborg or Napoleon.
The same thing was often manifested in his criticisms on current events. The broad truths were stated without fear or favor, the finer points passed over, and the special trait of the particular phase sometimes missed. His sermons on the last revivals, for instance, had an enormous circulation, and told with great force upon those who had not been swept into the movement, and even upon some who had been. The difficulty was that they were just such discourses as he would have preached in the time of Edwards and the “Great Awakening”; and the point which many thought the one astonishing feature of the new excitement, its almost entire omission of the “terrors of the Lord,” the far gentler and more winning type of religion which it displayed, and from which it confessedly drew much of its power, this was entirely ignored in Mr. Parker’s sermons. He was too hard at work in combating the evangelical theology to recognize its altered phases. Forging lightning-rods against the tempest, he did not see that the height of the storm had passed by.
These are legitimate criticisms to make on Theodore Parker, for he was large enough to merit them. It is only the loftiest trees of which it occurs to us to remark that they do not touch the sky, and a man must comprise a great deal before we complain of him for not comprising everything. But though the closest scrutiny may sometimes find cases where he failed to see the most subtile and precious truth, it will never discover one where, seeing, he failed to proclaim it, or, proclaiming, failed to give it force and power. He lived his life much as he walked the streets of Boston,—not quite gracefully, nor yet statelily, but with quick, strong, solid step, with sagacious eyes wide open, and thrusting his broad shoulders a little forward, as if butting away the throng of evil deeds around him, and scattering whole atmospheres of unwholesome cloud. Wherever he went, there went a glance of sleepless vigilance, an unforgetting memory, a tongue that never faltered, and an arm that never quailed. Not primarily an administrative nor yet a military mind, he yet exerted a positive control over the whole community around him, by sheer mental and moral strength. He mowed down harvests of evil as in his youth he mowed the grass, and all his hours of study were but whetting the scythe.
And for this great work it was not essential that the blade should have a razor’s edge. Grant that Parker was not also Emerson; no matter, he was Parker. If ever a man seemed sent into the world to find a certain position, and found it, he was that man. Occupying a unique sphere of activity, he filled it with such a wealth of success, that there is now no one in the nation whom it would not seem an absurdity to nominate for his place. It takes many instruments to complete the orchestra, but the tones of this organ the Music Hall shall never hear again.
One feels, since he is gone, that he made his great qualities seem so natural and inevitable, we forgot that all did not share them. We forgot the scholar’s proverbial reproach of timidity and selfishness, in watching him. While he lived, it seemed a matter of course that the greatest acquirements and the heartiest self-devotion should go together. Can we keep our strength, without the tonic of his example? How petty it now seems to ask for any fine-drawn subtilties of poet or seer in him who gave his life to the cause of the humblest! Life speaks the loudest. We do not ask what Luther said or wrote, but only what he did; and the name of Theodore Parker will not only long outlive his books, but will last far beyond the special occasions out of which he moulded his grand career.
* * * * *
Io triumphe! Lo, thy certain art,
My crafty sire, releases us at length!
False Minos now may knit his baffled brows,
And in the labyrinth by thee devised
His brutish horns in angry search may toss
The Minotaur,—but thou and I are free!
See where it lies, one dark spot on the breast
Of plains far-shining in the long-lost day,
Thy glory and our prison! Either hand
Crete, with her hoary mountains, olive-clad
In twinkling silver, ’twixt the vineyard rows,
Divides the glimmering seas. On Ida’s top
The sun, discovering first an earthly throne,
Sits down in splendor: lucent vapors rise
From folded glens among the awaking hills,
Expand their hovering films, and touch, and spread
In airy planes beneath us, hearths of air
Whereon the morning burns her hundred fires.
Take thou thy way between the cloud and wave,
O Daedalus, my father, steering forth
To friendly Samos, or the Carian shore!
But me the spaces of the upper heaven
Attract, the height, the freedom, and the joy.
For now, from that dark treachery escaped,
And tasting power which was the lust of youth,
Whene’er the white blades of the sea-gull’s wings
Flashed round the headland, or the barbed files
Of cranes returning clanged across the sky,
No half-way flight, no errand incomplete
I purpose. Not, as once in dreams, with pain
I mount, with fear and huge exertion hold
Myself a moment, ere the sickening fall
Breaks in the shock of waking. Launched, at last,
Uplift on powerful wings, I veer and float
Past sunlit isles of cloud, that dot with light
The boundless archipelago of sky.
I fan the airy silence till it starts
In rustling whispers, swallowed up as soon;
I warm the chilly ether with my breath;
I with the beating of my heart make glad
The desert blue. Have I not raised myself
Unto this height, and shall I cease to soar?
Nay, am not I a God? What other wing,
If not a God’s, could in the rounded sky
Hang thus in solitary poise? What need,
Ye proud Immortals, that my balanced plumes
Should grow, like yonder eagle’s, from the nest?
It may be, ere my crafty father’s line
Sprang from Erectheus, some artificer,
Who found you roaming wingless on the hills,
Naked, asserting godship in the dearth
Of loftier claimants, fashioned you the same.
Thence did you seize Olympus; thence your pride
Compelled the race of men, your slaves, to tear
The temple from the mountain’s marble womb,
To carve you shapes more beautiful than they,
To sate your idle nostrils with the reek
Of gums and spices, heaped on jewelled gold.
Lo, where Hyperion, through the glowing air
Approaching, drives! Fresh from his banquet-meats,
Flushed with Olympian nectar, angrily
He guides his fourfold span of furious steeds,
Convoyed by that bold Hour whose ardent torch
Burns up the dew, toward the narrow beach,
This long, projecting spit of cloudy gold
Whereon I wait to greet him when he comes.
Think not I fear thine anger: this day, thou,
Lord of the silver bow, shalt bring a guest
To sit in presence of the equal Gods
In your high hall: wheel but thy chariot near,
That I may mount beside thee!
——What is this?
I hear the crackling hiss of singed plumes!
The stench of burning feathers stifles me!
My loins are stung with drops of molten wax!—
Ai! ai! my ruined vans!—I fall! I die!
* * * * *
Ere the blue noon o’erspanned the bluer strait
Which parts Icaria from Samos, fell,
Amid the silent wonder of the air,
Fell with a shock that startled the still wave,
A shrivelled wreck of crisp, entangled plumes,
A head whence eagles’ beaks had plucked the eyes,
And clots of wax, black limbs by eagles torn
In falling: and a circling eagle screamed
Around that floating horror of the sea
Derision, and above Hyperion shone.
* * * * *
I confess to knowledge of a large book bearing the above title,—a title which is no less appropriate for this brief, disrupted biographical memorandum. That I have a right to act as I have done, in adopting it, will presently appear,—as well as that the honored name thus appropriated by me refers neither io the dictionary nor the filibustero, both of which articles appear to have been superseded by newer and better things.
At the first flush, Fur would seem to be rather a sultry subject to open either a store or a story with, in these glowing days of a justly incensed thermometer.
And yet there is a fine bracing mountain-air to be drawn from the material, as with a spigot, if you will only favor your mind with a digression from the tangible article to the wild-rose associations in which it is enveloped.
Think of the high, wind-swept ridges, among the clefts of which are the only homesteads of the hardy pioneers by whose agency alone one kind of luxury is kept up to the standard demand for it in the great cities. It might not be so likely a place to get fancy drinks in as Broome Street, certainly, we must admit, as we picture to ourselves some brushy ravine in which the trapper has his irons cunningly set out for the betrayal of the stone-marten and the glossy-backed “fisher-cat,”—but the breeze in it is quite as wholesome as a brandy-smash. The whirr of the sage-hen’s wing, as she rises from the fragrant thicket, brings a flavor with it fresher far than that of the mint-julep. It is cheaper than the latter compound, too, and much more conducive to health. Continuing to indulge our fancy in cool images connected with fur and its finders, we shall see what contrasts will arise. The blue shadow of a cottonwood-tree stretching over a mountain-spring. By the edge of the sparkling water sits, embroidering buckskin, a red-legged squaw, keeper of the wigwam to the ragged mountain-man who set the traps that caught the martens which furnished the tails that mark so gracefully the number of skins of which the rich banker’s wife’s fichu-russe is composed. Here is a striking contrast, in which extremes meet,—not the martens’ tails, but the two men’s wives, the banker’s and the trapper’s, brought into antithetical relation by the simple circumstance of a fichu-russe, the material of which was worn in some ravine of the wilderness, mayhap not a twelvemonth since, by a creature faster even than a banker’s wife. Great is the hereafter of the marten-cat, whose skin may be looked upon as the soul by which the animal is destined to attain a sort of modified immortality in the Elysian abodes of Wealth and Fashion,—the place where good martens go!
The men through whose intervention eventual felicity is thus secured to the fur-creature are as much a race in themselves as the Gypsies. No genuine type of them ever approaches nearer to the confines of civilization than a frontier settlement beckons him. Old Adams, the bear-tutor, might have been of this type once, but he is adulterated with sawdust and gas-light now, with city cookery and spurious groceries. Many men of French Canadian origin are to be found trading and trapping in the Far West; although, taken in the aggregate, there are no people less given to stirring enterprise than these colonial descendants of the Gaul. The only direction, almost, in which they exhibit any expansive tendency is in the border trade and general adventure business, in which figure the names of many of them conspicuously and with honor. The Chouteaus are of that stock; and of that stock came the late Major Aubry, renowned among the guides and trappers of the southwestern wilderness; and if J.C. Fremont is not a French Canadian by birth, the strong efforts made about the time of the last Presidential election to establish him as one had at least the effect of determining his Canadian descent.
Pierre La Marche was a Franco-Canadian of the spread-eagle kind referred to. Departing widely from the conservative prejudices of his race, his wandering propensities took him away, at an early age, from the primitive colonial village in which he first saw the light of day. He was but fourteen years old when he left his peaceful and thoroughly whitewashed home on the banks of the St. Francois, in company with a knot of Canadian voyageurs, whose principles tended towards the Red River of the North. Leaving this convoy at Fond-du-Lac, he pushed his way on to the Mississippi, alone and friendless, and, falling in with a party of trappers at St. Louis, accompanied them when they returned to the mountain “gulches” in which their business lay.
After six years of trapper and trader life, but little trace of the simple young Canadian habitant was left in Pierre La Marche. He spoke mountain English and French patois with equal fluency. There was a decision of character about him that commanded the respect of his comrades. When the other trappers went to St. Louis, they used to drink and gamble away their hard-won dollars, few of these men caring for anything beyond the indulgence of immediate fancies. But Pierre was ambitious, and thought that money might be made subservient to his aspirations in a better way than speculating with it upon “bluff” or squandering it upon deteriorating drinks.
About this time of his life, Pierre began to think that the fact of his being “only a French Canadian” was likely to be a bar to his advancement. He despised himself greatly for one thing, indeed,—that his name was La Marche, and not Walker,—which patronymic he made out to be the nearest Anglo-Saxon equivalent for his French one. He adopted it,—calling himself Peter Walker,—and had an adventure out of it, to begin with.
While trading furs at St. Louis, on one occasion, he offered a remnant of his stock to a dealer with whom he was not acquainted. They had an argument as to prices. The dealer, a man of hasty temper, asked him his name.
“Walker,” was the reply.
When La Marche arose from the distant corner into which he was projected in company with the bundle of furs levelled at his head, revenge was his natural sentiment. Drawing his heavy knife from its sheath, he flung it away: the temptation to use it might have been too much for him. Small in stature, but remarkable for muscular strength, and for inventive resource in the “rough-and-tumble” fight, La Marche clenched with the burly store-keeper, who was getting the worst of it, when some of his employes interfered. This led to a general engagement. Several of La Marche’s companions now rushed in, and in five minutes their opponents gave out, succumbent to superior wind and sinew.
Next morning, when the trappers took their way out of St. Louis, La Marche was a leader among them for life. But the reason of the store-keeper’s rage was for many years a mystery to him. He knew not the enormity of “Walker,” as an exponent of disparagement; he simply thought it a nicer name than La Marche, while it fully embodied the sentiment of that name. He adopted it, then, as I said before, and went on towards posterity as Peter Walker.
I heard many strange anecdotes of Peter Walker at the residence of a retired voyageur, who used to sing him Homerically to his chosen friends. These voyageurs are professional canoe-men; adventurers extending, sparsely, from the waters of French Canada to those of Oregon,—and sometimes back. Honest old Quatreaux! I mentioned his “residence” just now, and the term is truly grandiloquent in its application. The residence of old Quatreaux was a log cabane, about twenty feet square. Planks, laid loosely upon the cross-ties of the rafters, formed the up-stairs of the building: up-ladder would be a term more in accordance with facts; for it was by an appliance of that kind that the younger and more active of the sixteen members composing the old voyageur’s family removed themselves from view when they retired for the night. A partition, extending half-way across the ground-floor, screened off the state or principal bed from outside gaze; at least, it was exposed to view only from points rendered rather inaccessible by tubs, with which these Canadian families are generally provided to excess. This apartment was strictly assigned to me, as a visitor; and although I firmly declined the honor,—chiefly with reference to certain large and very hard fleas I knew of in its dormitory arrangements,—it was kept religiously vacant, in case my heart should relent towards it, and the family in general slept huddled together on the outer floor, without manifest classification: the two old people; son and wife; daughter and husband; children; the extraordinary little hunch-backed and one-eyed girl, whom nobody would marry, but everybody liked; dogs. I used to stretch myself on a buffalo-robe before the wood-fire, in company with a faithful spaniel, who was as wakeful on these occasions as if he suspected that the low-bred curs of the establishment might pick his pockets.
Quatreaux’s cabane was situated on the edge of an extensive tract of marsh,—lagoon would be a more descriptive word for it, perhaps,—a splashy, ditch-divided district, extending along the borders of a lake for miles. Snipe-shooting was my motive there; and dull work it was in those dark, Novembry, October days, with “the low rain falling” half the time, and the yellow leaves all the time, and no snipe. But whether we poled our log canoe up to some stunted old willow-tree that sat low in the horizontal marsh, and took shelter under it to smoke our pipes, or whether we mollified the privation of snipe in the cabane at night with mellow rum and tobacco brought by me, still was Walker the old voyageur’s favorite theme.
Old Quatreaux spoke English perfectly well, although his conservatism as a Canadian induced him to prefer his mother tongue as a vehicle for general conversation. But I remarked that his anecdotes of Walker were always related in English, and on these occasions, therefore, for my benefit alone: for but little of the Anglo-Saxon tongue appeared to be known to, or at least used by, any member of his numerous family. Indeed, I can recall but two words of that language which I could positively aver to have heard in colloquial use among them,—poodare and schotte. And why should the old voyageur have thus reserved his experiences from those who were near and dear to him? Simply because most of his adventures with Walker were not of the strictly mild character becoming a family-man. But it was all the same to these good people; and when I laughed, they all took up the idea and laughed their best,—the little hunch-backed girl generally going off into a kind of epilepsy by herself, over in the darkest corner of the room, among the tubs.
When divested of the strange Western expletives and imprecations with which the old man used to spice his reminiscences, some of them are enough. I remember one, telling how Peter Walker “raised the wind” on a particular occasion, when he got short of money on his way to some distant trading-post, in a district strange to him. It is before me, in short-hand, on the pages of an old, old pocket-book, and I will tell it with some slight improvements on the narrator’s style, such as suppressing his unnecessary combinations of the curse.
Mounted on a two-hundred-dollar buffalo-horse, for which he would not have taken double that amount, Peter Walker found himself, one afternoon, near the end of a long day’s ride. He had but little baggage with him, that little consisting entirely of a bowie-knife and holster-pistols,—for the revolver was a scarce piece of furniture then and there. Of money he was entirely destitute, having expended his last dollar upon the purchase of his noble steed, and of the festive suit of clothes with which he calculated upon astonishing people who resided outside the limits of civilization. The pantaloon division of that suit was particularly superb, consisting principally of a stripe by which the outer seam of each leg was made conducive to harmony of outline. He was about three days’ journey from the trading-post to which he was bound. The country was a frontier one, sparsely provided with inns.
The sun was framed in a low notch of the horizon, as he approached a border-hostelry, on the gable of which “Cat’s Bluff Hotel” was painted in letters quite disproportioned in size to the city of Cat’s Bluff, which consisted of the house in question, neither more nor less. In that house Peter Walker decided upon sojourning luxuriously for that night, at least, if he had to draw a check upon his holsters for it.
Having stabled his horse, then, and seen him supplied with such provender as the place afforded, he looked about the hotel, which he found to be an institution of very considerable pretensions. It seemed to have a good deal of its own way, in fact, being the only house of entertainment for many miles upon a great south-western thoroughfare, from which branched off the trail to be taken by him tomorrow,—a trail which led only to the trading-post or fort already mentioned.
The deportment of the landlord was gracious, as he went about whistling “Wait for the wagon,” and jingling with gold chains and heavy jewelry. Still more exhilarating was the prosperous confidence of the bar-keeper, who took in, while Walker was determining a drink, not less than a dozen quarter-dollars, from blue-shirted, bearded, thirsty men with rifles, who came along in a large covered wagon of western tendency, in which they immediately departed with haste, late as it was, as if bound to drive into the sun before he went down behind the far-off edge. Walker used to say, jocularly, that he supposed this must have been the wagon for which the landlord whistled, and which came to his call.
Everything denoted that there was abundance of money in that favored place. Even small boys who came in and called for cigars and drinks made a reckless display of coin as they paid for them, and then drove off in their wagons,—for they all had wagons, and were all intent upon driving rapidly in then toward the west.
But, as night fell, travel went down with the declining day; and Walker felt himself alone in the world,—a man without a dollar. Nevertheless, he called for good cheer, which was placed before him on a liberal scale: for landlords thereabouts were accustomed to provide for appetites acquired on the plains, and their supply was obliged to be both large and ready for the chance comers who were always dropping in, and upon whom their custom depended. So he ate and drank; and having appeased hunger and thirst, he went into the bar, and opened conversation with the landlord by offering him one of his own cigars, a bunch of which he got from the bar-keeper, whom he particularly requested not to forget to include them in his bill, when the time for his departure brought with it the disagreeable necessity of being served with that document.
Western landlords, in general, are not remarkable for the reserve with which they treat their guests. This particular landlord was less so than most others. He was especially inquisitive with regard to Walker’s exquisite pantaloons, the like of which had never been seen in that part of the country before. His happiness was evidently incomplete in the privation of a similar pair.
“Them pants all wool, now?” asked he, as he viewed them with various inclinations of head, like a connoisseur examining a picture.
“All except the stripes,” replied Walker;—“stripes is wool and cotton mixed; gives ’em a finer grain, you see, and catches the eye.”
The landlord respected Walker at once. Perhaps he might be an Eastern dry-goods merchant, come along for the purpose of making arrangements to inundate the border-territory with stuffs for exquisite pantaloons. He proceeded with his interrogatories. He laid himself out to extract from Walker all manner of information as to his origin, occupation, and prospects, which gave the latter an excellent opportunity of glorifying himself inferentially, while he affected mystery and reticence with regard to his mission “out West.” At last the landlord set him down for an agent come on to open the sluices for a great tide of foreign emigration into the territory,—an event to which he himself had been looking for a long time, and the prospect of which had guided him to the spot where he had established his hotel, which he now looked upon as the centre from which a great city was destined immediately to radiate. And the landlord retired to his bed to meditate upon immense speculations in town-lots, and, when sleep came upon him, to dream that he had successfully arranged them through the medium of an angel with a speaking-trumpet, whose manifest wardrobe consisted of a pair of fancy pantaloons with stripes on the seams and side-pockets, exactly like Walker’s.
Walker, too, retired to rest, but not to sleep, for his mind was occupied in turning over means whereby to obtain some of the real capital with which people here seemed to be superabundantly provided. He had speculations to carry out, and money was the indispensable element. Had he only been able to read the landlord’s thoughts, he might have turned quietly over and slept; for so held was that person’s mind by the idea that his ultimate success was to be achieved through the medium of his unknown guest, that he would without hesitation have lent him double the sum necessary for his financial arrangements.
There was a disturbance some time about the middle of the night. People came along in wagons, as usual, waking up the bar-keeper, whose dreams perpetually ran upon that kind of trouble. Walker, who was wide awake, gathered from the conversation below that the travellers had only halted for drinks, and would immediately resume their way westward with all speed. He arose and looked out at the open window, which was about fifteen feet from the ground. Something white loomed up through the darkness: it was the awning of one of the wagons, which stood just under the window, to the sill of which it reached within a few feet. Walker, brought up in the rough-and-ready school, had lain down to rest with his trousers on. A sudden inspiration now seized him: he slipped them rapidly off, and dropped them silently on to the roof of the wagon, which soon after moved on with the others, and disappeared into the night. This done, he opened softly the door of the room, and, leaving it ajar, returned to bed and slept.
Morning was well advanced when Walker arose, and began operations by moving the furniture about in an excited manner, to attract the attention of those in the bar below, and convey an idea of search. Presently he went to the door of the room, and, uttering an Indian howl, by way of securing immediate attendance, cried out,—
“Hullo, below! where’s my pants?—bar-keeper, fetch along my pants!—landlord, I don’t want to be troublesome, but just take off them pants, if you happen to have mistook ’em for your own, and oblige the right owner with a look at ’em, will you?”
Puzzled at this address, which was couched in much stronger language—according to old Quatreaux’s version of it—than I should like to commit to paper, the landlord and bar-keeper at once proceeded to Walker’s room, where they found him sitting, expectantly, on the side of the bed, with his horse-pistols gathered together beside him. Of course, they denied all knowledge of his pantaloons,—didn’t steal nobody’s pants in that house, nor nothin’.
Walker looked sternly at them, and, playing with one of his pistols, exclaimed, with the usual redundants,—
“You lie!—you’ve stole my pants between you; you’ve found out what they were worth by this time, I guess; but I’ll have ’em back, and that in a hurry, or else my name a’n’t Walker,—Peter Walker.”
He added his Christian name, because a reminiscence of the mystery belonging to his patronymic by itself flashed upon him.
Now the name of Pete Walker was potent along the frontier, because of his influence with the wild mountain-men, who did reckless deeds on his account, unknown to him and otherwise. Another vision than that of last night overcame the landlord,—a vision of Lynch and ashes.
“So you’re Pete Walker, be you?” asked he, in a tone of mingled respect and admiration, slightly tremulous with fear. “How do you do, Mr. Walker?—how do you find yourself this morning, Sir?”
“I didn’t come here to find myself,” retorted Walker, fiercely. “I found my door open, though, when I woke up,—but I couldn’t find my pants. You must get ’em, or pay for ’em, and that right away.”
“Them cusses that passed through here last night!” exclaimed the landlord. “I guess the pants is gone on the sundown trail, stripes and all.”
Walker thought it was quite probable that they had; but they were stolen from that house, and the house must pay for them.
Lynch and ashes again blazed before the landlord’s eyes.
“How much might the pants be worth, now, at cost price?” asked he. “All wool, you say, only the stripes; but, as they was nearly all stripes, you needn’t holler much about the wool, I reckon. How much, now?”
“Two hundred and ten dollars,” replied Walker, with impressive exactness.
“Thunder!” exclaimed the landlord. “I thought they might be fancy-priced, sure-ly, but that’s awful!”
“Ten dollars, cash price, for the pants,” proceeded Walker, “and two hundred for that exact amount in gold stitched up in the waistband of em.”
“The Devil has got ’em, anyhow!” said the landlord,—“for I saw a queer critter, in my sleep, flying about with ’em on. Wings looks kinder awful along o’ pants with stripes. There’ll be no luck round till they’re paid for, I guess. Couldn’t you take my best checkers for ’em, now, with fifty dollars quilted into the waistband,—s-a-ay?”
“My name’s Walker,—Peter Walker,” was the reply.
The landlord was no match for that name, so disagreeably redolent of Lynch and ashes. Thorough search was made upon the premises, and to some distance around, in the wild hope that the missing trousers might have walked off spontaneously, and lain down somewhere to sleep; but, of course, nothing came of the investigation, although Walker assisted at it with his usual energy. All compromise was rejected by him, and it was not yet noon when he rode proudly away from the lone hostelry, in the landlord’s best checkers, for which he kindly allowed him five dollars, receiving from him the balance, two hundred and five dollars, in gold.
I forget now what Walker did with that money, although Quatreaux knew exactly, and told me all about it. Suffice it to say that he made a grand coup with it, in the purchase of a mill-privilege, or claim, or something of the kind. Less than a year after the events narrated, he again rode up to the lone hostelry, which was not so lonely now, however; for houses were growing up around it, and it took boarders and rang a dinner-bell, and maintained a landlady as well as a landlord, besides. The landlord was astonished when Walker counted out to him two hundred and five dollars in gold,—surprised when to that was added a round sum for interest,—ecstatic, on being presented with a brand-new pair of pantaloons, of the same pattern as the expensive ones formerly so admired by him. But his features collapsed, and for some time wore an expression of imbecility, when he learned the details of the adventure, and found out that “some things”—landlords, for example—“can be done as well as others.”
It was with little reminiscences like the one just narrated that old Quatreaux used to wile away the time, as we threaded the intricate ditches of the marsh in his canoe, so hedged in by the tall reeds that our horizon was within paddle’s length of us. With that presumptive clairvoyance which appears to be an essential property of the French raconteur, he did not confine himself to external fact in his narratives, but always professed to report minutely the thoughts that flashed through the mind of such and such a person, on the particular occasion referred to. He was a master of dialects,—Yankee, Pennsylvanian Dutch, and Irish.
“Where did you get your English, old man?” I asked him, as we scudded across the lake in our canoe, with a small sail up, one red October evening.
“In Pennsylvania,” replied he. “I went there on my own hook, when I was about twelve year old, and worked in an oil-mill for four year.”
“In an oil-mill? Perhaps that accounts for the glibness with which language slips off your tongue.”
“’Guess it do,” said the old voyageur, with ready assent.
We nearly got foul of a raft coming down the lake, manned with a rugged set of half-breeds, who had a cask of whiskey on board, and were very drunk and boisterous.
“Ugly customers to deal with, those brules,” remarked I, when we had got clear away from them.
“Some on ’em is,” replied the old voyageur. “Did you notice the one with the queer eye,—him in the Scotch cap and shupac moccasons?”
I had noticed him, and an ill-looking thief he was. One of his eyes, either from natural deformity or the effect of hostile operation, was dragged down from its proper parallel, and planted in a remote socket near the corner of his mouth, whence it glared and winked with super-natural ferocity.
“That’s Rupe Falardeau,” continued my companion. “His father, old Rupe, got his eye taken down in a deck-fight with a Mississippi boatman; and this boy was born with the same mark,—only the eye’s lower down still. If that’s to go on in the family, I guess there’ll be a Falardeau with his eye in his knee, some time.”
In the deck-fight in which old Rupe got his ugly mark Pete Walker had a hand; and the part he took in it, as related to me by old Quatreaux, who was also present, affords a good example of the tact and coolness which gave him such mastery over the wild spirits among whom he worked out his destiny.
Walker was coming down a lumbering-river—I forget the name of it—on board a small tug-steamboat, in which he had an interest. He had gone into other speculations beside furs, by this time, and had contracts in two or three places for supplying remote stations with salt pork, tea, and other staple provisions of the lumbering-craft.
Stopping to wood at the mouth of a creek, a gang of raftsmen came on board,—half-breed Canadians of fierce and demoralized aspect,—men of great muscular strength, and armed heavily with axes and butcher-knives. The gang was led by Rupe Falardeau, a dangerous man, whether drunk or sober, and one whose antecedents were recorded in blood. These men had been drinking, and were very noisy and intrusive, and presently a row arose between them and some of the boat-hands. Fisticuffs and kicks were first exchanged, but without any great loss of blood. Knives were then drawn and nourished, and matters were beginning to assume a serious aspect, when Walker made his appearance forward of the paddle-box, pointing a heavy pistol right at the head of the ringleader.
“Rupe!” shouted he, in a voice that attracted immediate attention, “drop that knife, or else I shoot!”
The crowd parted for a moment, and Rupe, standing alone near the bows, wheeled round with a yell, and glared fiercely at the speaker.
“Drop that knife!” repeated Walker.—“One, two, three!—I’ll give you a last chance, and when I say three again, I shoot, by thunder!”
The last word had not rolled away, when the gleaming knife flashed from the hand of Rupe, glanced close by Walker’s ear, and sped quivering into the paddle-box, just behind his head.
“Good for you, Rupe!” exclaimed Walker, lowering his pistol, with a pleasant smile,—“good for you!—but, sacre bapteme! how dead I’d have shot you, if you hadn’t dropped that knife!”
The forbearance of Walker put an end to the row. Rupe, disarmed at once by the loss of his knife and the coolness of Walker, was seized by a couple of the deck-hands, and might have been secured without injury to his beauty, had not a Mississippi boatman, who owed him an old grudge, struck him on the face with a heavy iron hook, lacerating and disfiguring him hideously for life.
“But why didn’t Walker shoot Falardeau, old man?” asked I of the voyageur, wishing to learn something of the etiquette of life and death among these peculiar people, who appear to be so reckless of the former and fearless of the latter.
“Ah!” replied he, “Rupe was too valuable to be shot down for missing a man with a knife. Such a canoe-steersman as Rupe never was known before or since: he knew every rock in every rapid from the Ottawa to the Columbia.”
Some time after this I again fell in with young Rupe, under circumstances indicating that his life was not considered quite so valuable as that of the old gentleman from whom he inherited his frightful aspect.
In company with a friend, one day, I was beating about for wild-fowl in a marshy river, down which small rafts or “cribs” of timber were worked by half-breeds and Canadians.
About dark we came to a small, flat island in the marsh, where we found an Iroquois camp, in which we proposed to pass the night, as we had no camping-equipage in our skiff. The men were absent, hunting, and there was nobody in charge of the wigwam but an ugly, undersized squaw, with her two ugly, undersized children.
We were much fatigued, and agreed to sleep by watches, knowing the sort of people we had to deal with. It was my watch, when voices were heard as of men landing and pulling up a canoe or boat. Presently three men came into the wigwam, railing-men, dressed in gray Canada homespun and heavy Scotch bonnets. The light of the fire outside flashed on their faces, as they stooped to enter the elm-bark tent, and in the foremost I recognized the hideous Rupe Falardeau, Junior. This man carried in his hand a small tin pail full of whiskey. He was very drunk and dangerous, and greatly disgusted at the absence of the Iroquois men, with whom he had evidently laid himself out for a roaring debauch.
I woke up my companion, and a judicious display of our double-barrelled guns kept the three scoundrels in check. They insisted on our tasting some of their barbarous liquor, however, and horrible stuff it was,—distiller’s “high-wines,” strongly dashed with vitriol or something worse. No wonder that men become fiends incarnate on such “fire-water” as that!
By-and-by they slept,—two of them outside, by the fire,—Falardeau inside the wigwam, the repose of which was broken by the hollow rattle of his drunken breath.
In the dead of the night something clutched me by the arm. It was the ugly squaw, who forced a greasy butcher-knife into my hand, pointing towards where the raftsman lay, and whispering to me in English,—“Stick heem! stick heem!—nobody never know. He kill my brother long time ago with this old knife. Kill heem! kill heem now!”
I did not avail myself of the opportunity thus afforded me for the improvement of river society: nay, worse, I connived at the further career of the redoubtable Rupert Falardeau, Junior; for, on leaving in the morning, I roused him with repeated kicks, thus saving him for that time, probably, from the Damoclesian blade of the vengeresse.
L’ete de Saint Martin!—how blue and yellow it is in the marshes in those days! It is the name given by the French Canadians to the Indian Summer,—the Summer of St. Martin, whose anniversary-day falls upon the eleventh of November; though the brief latter-day tranquillity called after him arrives, generally, some two or three weeks earlier. Looking lakeward from the sedgy nook in which we are waiting for the coming of the wood-ducks, the low line of water, blue and calm, is broken at intervals by the rise of the distant masquallonge, as he plays for a moment on the surface. But the channels that separate the flat, alluvial islets are yellow, their sluggish waters being bedded heavily down with the broad leaves of the wintering basswood-trees, which, in some places, touch branch-tips across the narrow straits. The muskrat’s hut is thatched with the wet, dead leaves,—no thanks to him; and there is a mat of them before his door,—a heavy, yellow mat, on which are scattered the azure shells of the fresh-water clams to be found so often upon the premises of this builder. Does he sup on them, or are they only the cups and saucers of his vegeto-aquarian menage? Blue and yellow all,—the sky and the sedge-rows, the calm lake and the canoe, the plashing basswood-leaves and the oval, azure shells.
Also Marance, the voyageur’s buxom young daughter, who came with us, today, commissioned to cull herbs of wondrous properties among the vine-tangled thickets of the islands. Blue and yellow. Eyes blue as the azure shells; hair flashing out golden gleams, like that of Pyrrha, when she braided hers so featly for the coming of some ambrosial boy.
“I must marry you, Marance,” said I, jocularly, to the damsel, as I jumped her out of the canoe,—“I shall marry you when we get back.”
It is good to live in a marsh. No fast boarding-house women there, lurking for the unwary; no breaches of promise; “no nothing” in the old-man-trap line. Abjure fast boarding-houses, you silly old bachelors, and go to grass in a marsh!
Marance laughed merrily, as she tripped away; then, turning, she said,—
“But what if I never get back? I may lose myself in these lonely places, and never be heard of again.”
“Oh, in that case,” replied I, hard driven for a compliment, “in that case, I must wait until Gilette”—a younger sister—“grows up. She will be exactly like you: I must only wait for Gilette.”
“You remind me of Pete Walker,” said the old man, as we shot away up the channel, our canoe ripping up the matted surface like the cue of a novice, when he runs a fatal reef along the sere and yellow cloth of some billiard-table erewhile in verdure clad. “You are as bad as Pete Walker, who thought one sister must be as good as another, because they looked so much alike.”
And then, as we loitered about in the bays, the old man told me the story of Walker’s honeymoon, which was a sad and a short one. This is the story.
Near that wild rapid of the Columbia River known as the “Dalles,” there was, years ago, a Jesuit mission, established in a small fort, built, like that at Nez-Perces, of mud. The labors of the holy men composing the mission involved no inconsiderable amount of danger, devoted as they were to the hopeless task of reforming such sinners as the Sioux, the Blackfeet, the Gros-Ventres, the Flat-Heads, the Assiniboines, the Nez-Perces, and a few other such.
Some of these missionaries had sojourned for a long time with a branch of the Blackfoot tribe, among whom they found two young white girls, remarkable for their exact resemblance to each other, and therefore supposed to be twins. I say supposed, because of their origin there was no trace. All that was known about them was, that they were the sole survivors of a train of emigrants, attacked and murdered by the Nez-Perces, who, actuated by one of those whims characteristic of the red men, spared the lives of the two children, and adopted them into the tribe. Subsequently, in a skirmish with the Blackfeet, they fell into the hands of the latter, among whom they had lived for some time, when they were ransomed by the missionaries, at the price of certain trading-privileges negotiated by the latter for the tribe.
When adopted by the Jesuits, the children had lost all remembrance of their parentage; nor had they any names except the Indian ones bestowed upon them by their captors. The good fathers christened them, however, arranging them alphabetically, by the names of Alixe and Bloyse, and confiding them to the especial charge of the wife of a trader connected with the station, who had no family of her own. They were fair-haired children, probably of German or Norwegian origin, and had grown up to be robust young women of seventeen, when Walker saw them for the first time, as he stopped at the Dalles on his way from Fort Nez-Perces about one hundred and twenty-five miles higher up the Columbia.
Walker, whose business detained him for some time at the mission, decided upon marrying one of the fair-haired sisters,—he did not much care which, they were so singularly alike. Alixe happened to be the one, however, to whom he tendered a share in his fortunes, which she accepted in the random manner of one to whom it was of but little consequence whether she said “Yes” or “No.” Bloyse would have followed him, and him only, to the end of all; but he never knew it at the right time, though the women of the fort could have told him.
It was late one afternoon when he was married to Alixe, in the chapel of the mission. That was the night of the massacre. Two hours after the wedding, the Blackfeet, combined with some allied tribe, came down like wolves upon the fort. There was treachery, somewhere, and they got in. In the thick of the fight, and when all seemed hopeless, Walker shot down a tall Indian who was dragging his bride away to where the horses of the tribe were picketed. In a second he had leaped upon a horse, and, holding the young girl before him, galloped away in the direction of a stream running into the Columbia,—a stream of fierce torrents, navigable only at one place, and that by flat-bottomed boats or scows, in which passengers warped themselves across by a grass rope stretched from bank to bank. Once over this river, he could easily reach a friendly camp, where he and his bride would have been in safety.
The moon had risen when he reached the ferry. Turning the horse adrift, he lifted the young woman into the scow, and began to warp rapidly across by the rope with one hand, while he supported his fainting companion close to him with the other. Suddenly, a sharp click sounded from the opposite bank: the rope gave way, and Walker and his companion were precipitated violently into the water, the boat shooting far away from beneath their feet. It ran a strong current there, culminating in a furious rapid not two hundred yards lower down. Retaining his grasp of the young woman, Walker fought bravely against the stream, down which he felt they were sweeping, faster and faster, until a violent concussion deprived him, for a moment, of consciousness. When he came to himself, he was still swimming, but his companion was gone. The current had driven them forcibly against a rock, throwing her from his grasp. The wild rapid was just below them. She was never heard of again; but Walker managed to reach the shore, where he must have lain long in an exhausted condition, for it was daylight when he awoke to any recollection of what had happened.
The ferry-rope had been cut, as he afterwards discovered, by an Indian, in whose brother’s removal by hanging he had been instrumental, and who had been watching him, day and night, for the purpose of wreaking a bitter vengeance.
Returning to reconnoitre, with some of his friends, Walker found the mission a heap of ruins,—blackened walls, charred rafters, and unrecognizable human remains.
Long afterwards, he learned that his bride was again living among the Blackfeet;—for it was Bloyse, and not Alixe, with whom he had galloped away to the fatal ferry, in the confusion of that terrible night. It was poor Bloyse who went away from his arms down those crushing rapids. It was Alixe, his bride, who shot back the bolts for the entrance of the Blackfeet. She was secretly betrothed in the tribe, and it was her betrothed whom Walker shot down as he was rushing away in triumph with his supposed fiancee of the pale-faces. She married another Indian of the tribe, however; for she was a savage woman at heart, and could live among savages only.
“Sisters may be as like as two walnuts, to look at,” said the old voyageur, when he had finished his narration. “Take any two walnuts from a heap, at random, though, and, like as not, you’ll find one on ’em all heart and the other all hollow.”
“True,” replied I; “but these be wild adventures for one whose boyhood was passed in a peaceful and thoroughly whitewashed home on the banks of the St. Francois.”
“’Guess they be,” said the old voyageur.
* * * * *
The families of Gales and Seaton are, in their origin, the one Scotch, the other English. The Seatons are of that historic race, a daughter of which (the fair and faithful Catherine) is the heroine of one of Sir Walter Scott’s romances. It was to be supposed that they whose lineage looked to such an instance of devoted personal affection for the ancient line would not slacken in their loyalty when fresh calamities fell upon the Stuarts and again upset their throne. Accordingly, the Seatons appear to have clung to the cause of their exiled king with fidelity. Henry Seaton seems to have made himself especially obnoxious to the new monarch, by taking part in those Jacobite schemes of rebellion which were so long kept on foot by the lieges and gentlemen of Scotland; so that, when, towards the close of the seventeenth century, the cause he loved grew desperate, and Scotland itself anything but safe for a large body of her most gallant men, he was forced, like all others that scorned to submit, to fly beyond the seas. Doing so, it was natural that he should choose to take refuge in a Britain beyond the ocean, where a brotherly welcome among his kindred awaited the political prescript. It is probable, however, that a special sympathy towards that region which, by its former fidelity to the Stuarts, had earned from them the royal quartering of its arms and the title of “The Ancient Dominion,” directed his final choice. At any rate, it was to Virginia that he came,—settling there, as a planter, first in the county of Gloucester, and afterwards in that of King William. From one of his descendants in a right line sprang (by intermarriage with a lady
The Galeses are of much more recent naturalization amongst us,—later by just about a century than that of the Seatons, but alike in its causes. For they, too, were driven hither by governmental resentment. Their founder, (as he may be called,) the elder Joseph Gales, was one of those rare men who at times spring up from the body of the people, and by mere unassisted merit, apart from all adventitious advantages, make their way to a just distinction. Perhaps no better idea of him can be given than by likening him to one, less happy in his death, whom Science is now everywhere lamenting,—the late admirable Hugh Miller. A different career, rather than an inferior character, made Joseph Gales less conspicuous. He was born in 1761, at Eckington, near the English town of Sheffield. The condition of his family was above dependence, but not frugality.
Be education what else it may, there is one sort which never fails to work well: namely, that which a strong capacity, when denied the usual artificial helps, shapes out to its own advantage. Such, with little and poor assistance, became that of Joseph Gales, obtained progressively, as best it could be, in the short intervals which the body can allow to be stolen between labor and necessary rest.
Now the writer is thoroughly convinced, that, after this boy had worked hard all the day long, he never would have sat down to study half the night through, if it had not been a pleasure to him. In short, no sort of toil went hard with him. For he was a fine, manly youngster, cheerful and stalwart, one who never slunk from what he had set about, nor turned his back except upon what was dishonest. He wrought lightsomely, and even lustily, at his coarser pursuits; for, in that sturdy household, to work had long been held a duty.
Thus improving himself, at odd hours, until he was fit for the vocation of a printer, and looked upon by the village as a genius, our youth went to Manchester, and applied himself to that art, not only for itself, but as the surest means of further knowledge. Of course he became a master in the craft. At length, returning to his own town to exercise it, he grew, by his industry and good conduct, into a condition to exercise it on his own account, and set up a newspaper,—“The Sheffield Register.”
Born of the people, it was natural that Joseph Gales should in his journal side with the Reformers; and he did so: but with that unvarying moderation which his good sense and probity of purpose taught him, and which he ever after through life preserved. He kept within the right limits of whatever doctrine he embraced, and held a measure in all his political principles,—knowing that the best, in common with the worst, tend, by a law of all party, to exaggeration and extremes. Beyond this temperateness of mind nothing could move him. Thus guarded, by a rare equity of the understanding, from excess as to measures, he was equally guarded by a charity and a gentleness of heart the most exhaustless. In a word, it may safely be said of him, that, amidst all the heats of faction, he never fell into violence,—amidst all the asperities of public life, never stooped to personalities,—and in all that he wrote, left scarcely an unwise and not a single dishonest sentence behind him.
Such qualities, though not the most forward to set themselves forth to the public attention, should surely bring success to an editor. The well-judging were soon pleased with the plain good sense, the general intelligence, the modesty, and the invariable rectitude of the young man. Their suffrage gained, that of the rest began to follow. For, in truth, there are few things of which the light is less to be hid than that of a good newspaper. “The Register,” by degrees, won a general esteem, and began to prosper. And as, according to the discovery of Malthus, Prosperity is fond of pairing, it soon happened that our printer went to falling in love. Naturally again, being a printer, he, from a regard for the eternal fitness of things, fell in love with an authoress.
This was Miss Winifred Marshall, a young lady of the town of Newark, who to an agreeable person, good connections, and advantages of education, joined a literary talent that had already won no little approval. She wrote verse, and published several novels of the “Minerva Press” order, (such as “Lady Emma Melcombe and her Family,” “Matilda Berkley,” etc.,) of which only the names survive.
Despite the poetic adage about the course of true love, that of Joseph Gales ran smooth: Miss Marshall accepted his suit and they were married. Never were husband and wife better mated. They lived together most happily and long,—she dying, at an advanced age, only two years before him. Meantime, she had, from the first, brought him some marriage-portion beyond that which the Muses are wont to give with their daughters,—namely, laurels and bays; and she bore him three sons and five daughters, near half of whom the parents survived. Three (Joseph the younger, Winifred, and Sarah, now Mrs. Seaton) were born in England; a fourth, at the town of Altona, (near Hamburg,) from which she was named; and the rest in America.
To resume this story in the order of events. Mr. Gales went on with his journal, and when it had grown quite flourishing, he added to his printing-office the inviting appendage of a book-store, which also flourished. In the progress of both, it became necessary that he should employ a clerk. Among the applicants brought to him by an advertisement of what he needed, there presented himself an unfriended youth, with whose intelligence, modesty, and other signs of the future man within, he was so pleased that he at once took him into his employment,—at first, merely to keep his accounts,—but, by degrees, for superior things,—until, progressively, he (the youth) matured into his assistant editor, his dearest friend, and finally his successor in the journal. That youth was James Montgomery, the poet.
On the 10th of April, 1786, Mrs. Gales gave birth, at Eckington, their rural home, to her first child, Joseph, the present chief of the “Intelligencer.” [Mr. Gales has since died.] Happy at home, the young mother could as delightedly look without. The business of her husband throve apace; nor less the general regard and esteem in which he was personally held. He grew continually in the confidence and affection of his fellow-citizens; endearing himself especially, by his sober counsels and his quiet charities, to all that industrious class who knew him as one of their own, and could look up without reluctance to a superiority which was only the unpretending one of goodness and sense. Over them, without seeking it, he gradually obtained an extraordinary ascendancy, of which the following is a single instance. Upon some occasion of wages or want among the working-people of Sheffield, a great popular commotion had burst out, attended by a huge mob and riot, which the magistracy strove in vain to appease or quell. When all else had failed, Mr. Gales bethought him of trying what he could do. Driven into the thick of the crowd, in an open carriage, he suddenly appeared amongst the rioters, and, by a few plain words of remonstrance, convinced them that they could only hurt themselves by overturning the laws, that they should seek other modes of redress, and meantime had all better go home. They agreed to do so,—but with the condition annexed, that they should first see him home. Whereupon, loosening the horses from the carriage, they drew him, with loud acclamations, back to his house.
Such were his prospects and position for some seven years after his marriage, when, of a sudden, without any fault of his own, he was made answerable for a fact that rendered it necessary for him to flee beyond the realm of Great Britain.
As a friend to Reform, he had, in his journal, at first supported Pitt’s ministry, which had set out on the same principle, but which, when the revolutionary movement in France threatened to overthrow all government, abandoned all Reform, as a thing not then safe to set about. From this change of views Mr. Gales dissented, and still advocated Reform. So, again, as to the French Revolution, not yet arrived at the atrocities which it speedily reached,—he saw no need of making war upon it. In its outset, he had, along with Fox and other Liberals, applauded it; for it then professed little but what Liberals wished to see brought about in England. He still thought it good for France, though not for his own country. Thus, moderate as he was, he was counted in the Opposition and jealously watched.
It was in the autumn of 1792, while he was gone upon a journey of business, that a King’s-messenger, bearing a Secretary-of-State’s warrant for the seizure of Mr. Gales’s person, presented himself at his house. For this proceeding against him the following facts had given occasion. In his office was employed a printer named Richard Davison,—a very quick, capable, useful man, and therefore much trusted,—but a little wild, withal, at once with French principles and religion, with conventicles, and those seditious clubs that were then secretly organized all over the island. This person corresponded with a central club in London, and had been rash enough to write them, just then, an insurrectionary letter, setting forth revolutionary plans, the numbers, the means they could command, the supplies of arms, etc., that they were forming. This sage epistle was betrayed into the hands of the Government. The discreet Dick they might very well have hanged; but that was not worth while. From his connection with the “Register,” they supposed him to be only the agent and cover for a deeper man,—its proprietor; and at the latter only, therefore, had they struck. Nothing saved him from the blow, except the casual fact of his absence in another country, and their being ignorant of the route he had taken. This his friends alone knew, and where to reach him. They did so, at once, by a courier secretly despatched; and he, on learning what awaited him at home, instead of trusting to his innocence, chose rather to trust the seas; and, making his way to the coast, took the only good security for his freedom, by putting the German Ocean between him and pursuit. He sailed for Amsterdam, where arriving, he thence made his way to Hamburg, at which city he had decided that his family should join him. To England he could return only at the cost of a prosecution; and though this would, of necessity, end in an acquittal, it was almost sure to be preceded by imprisonment, while, together, they would half-ruin him. It was plain, then, that he must at once do what he had long intended to do, go to America.
Accordingly, he gave directions to his family to come to him, and to Montgomery that he should dispose of all his effects and settle up all his affairs. These offices that devoted friend performed most faithfully; remitting him the proceeds. The newspaper he himself bought and continued, under the name of the “Sheffield Iris.” Still retaining his affection for the family, he passed into the household of what was left of them, and supplied to the three sisters of the elder Joseph Gales the place of a brother, and, wifeless and childless, lived on to a very advanced age, content with their society alone. The last of these dames died only a few months ago.
At Hamburg, whence they were to take ship for the United States, the family were detained all the winter by the delicate health of Mrs. Gales. This delay her husband put to profit, by mastering two things likely to be needful to him,—the German tongue and the art of short-hand. In the spring, they sailed for Philadelphia. Arrived there, he sought and at once obtained employment as a printer. It was soon perceived, not only that he was an admirable workman, but every way a man of unusual merit, and able to turn his hand to almost anything. By-and-by, reporters of Congressional debates being few and very indifferent, his employer, Claypole, said to him,—“You seem able to do everything that is wanted: pray, could you not do these Congressional Reports for us better than this drunken Callender, who gives us so much trouble?” Mr. Gales replied, with his usual modesty, that he did not know what he could do, but that he would try.
The next day, he attended the sitting of Congress, and brought away, in time for the compositors, a faithful transcript of such speeches as had been made. Appearing in the next morning’s paper, it of course greatly astonished everybody. It seemed a new era in such things. They had heard of the like in Parliament, but had scarcely credited it. Claypole himself was the most astonished of all. Seizing a copy, he ran around the town, showing it to all he met, and still hardly comprehending the wonder which he himself had instigated. It need hardly be said that here was something far more profitable for Mr. Gales than type-setting.
But to apply this skill, possessed by none else, to the exclusive advantage of a journal of his own was yet more inviting; and the opportunity soon offering itself, he became the purchaser of the “Independent Gazetteer,” a paper already established. This he conducted with success until the year 1799, making both reputation and many friends. Among the warmest of these were some of the North Carolina members, and especially that one whose name has ever since stood as a sort of proverb of honesty, Nathaniel Macon. By the representations of these friends, he was led to believe that their new State capital, Raleigh, where there was only a very decrepit specimen of journalism, would afford him at once a surer competence and a happier life than Philadelphia. Coming to this conclusion, he disposed of his newspaper and printing-office, and removed to Raleigh, where he at once established the “Register.” Of his late paper, the “Gazetteer,” we shall soon follow the fortunes to Washington, where it became the “Intelligencer”: meantime, we must finish what is left to tell of his own.
At Raleigh he arrived under auspices which gave him not only a reputation, but friends, to set out with. Both he soon confirmed and augmented. By the constant merit of his journal, its sober sense, its moderation, and its integrity, he won and invariably maintained the confidence of all on that side of politics with which he concurred, (the old Republican,) and scarcely less conciliated the respect of his opponents. He quickly obtained, for his skill, and not merely as a partisan reward, the public printing of his State, and retained it until, reaching the ordinary limit of human life, he withdrew from the press. In the just and kindly old commonwealth which he so long served, it would have been hard for any party, no matter how much in the ascendant, to move anything for his injury. For the love and esteem which he had the faculty of attracting from the first deepened, as he advanced in age, into an absolute reverence the most general for his character and person; and the good North State honored and cherished no son of her own loins more than she did Joseph Gales. In Raleigh, there was no figure that, as it passed, was greeted so much by the signs of a peculiar veneration as that great, stalwart one of his, looking so plain and unaffected, yet with a sort of nobleness in its very simplicity, a gentleness in its strength, an inborn goodness and courtesy in all its roughness of frame,—his countenance mild and calm, yet commanding, thoughtful, yet pleasant and betokening a bosom that no low thought had ever entered. You had in him, indeed, the highest image of that stanch old order from which he was sprung, and might have said, “Here’s the soul of a baron in the body of a peasant.” For he really looked, when well examined, like all the virtues done in roughcast.
With him the age of necessary and of well-merited repose had now come; and judging that he could attain it only by quitting that habitual scene of business where it would still solicit him, he transferred his newspaper, his printing-office, and the bookstore which he had made their adjunct in Raleigh, as in Sheffield, to his third son, Weston; and removed to Washington, in order to pass the close of his days near two of the dearest of his children,—his son Joseph and his daughter Mrs. Seaton,—from whom he had been separated the most.
In renouncing all individual aims, Mr. Gales fell not into a mere life of meditation, but sought its future pleasures in the adoption of a scheme of benevolence, to the calm prosecution of which he might dedicate his declining powers, so long as his advanced age should permit. A worthy object for such efforts he recognized in the plan of African colonization, and of its affairs he accepted and almost to his death sustained the management in chief; achieving not less, by his admirable judgment, the warm approval and thanks of that wide-spread association, than, by the most amiable virtues of private life, winning in Washington, as he had done everywhere else, from all that approached him, a singular degree of deference and affection.
But the close of this long career of honor and of usefulness was now at hand. In 1839, he lost the wife whose tenderness had cheered the labors and whose gay intelligence had brightened the leisure of his existence. She had lived the delight of that intimate society to which she had confined faculties that would have adorned any circle whatever; and she died lamented in proportion by it, and by the only others to whom she was much known,—the poor. Her husband survived her but two years,—expiring at his son’s house in Raleigh, where he was on a visit, in April, 1841, at the age of eighty. He died as calm as a child, in the placid faith of a true Christian.
Still telling his story in the order of dates, the writer would now turn to the younger Joseph Gales. As we have seen, he arrived in this country when seven years old, and went to Raleigh about six years afterwards. There he was placed in a school, where he made excellent progress,—profiting by the recollection of his earlier lessons, received from that best of all elementary teachers, a mother of well-cultivated mind. His boyhood, as usual, prefigured the mature man: it was diligent in study, hilarious at play; his mind bent upon solid things, not the showy. For all good, just, generous, and kindly things he had the warmest impulse and the truest perceptions. Quick to learn and to feel, he was slow only of resentment. Never was man born with more of those lacteals of the heart which secrete the milk of human kindness. Of the classic tongues, he can be said to have learnt only the Latin: the Greek was then little taught in any part of our country. For the Positive Sciences he had much inclination; since it is told, among other things, that he constructed instruments for himself, such as an electrical machine, with the performances of which he much amazed the people of Raleigh. Meantime he was forming at home, under the good guidance there, a solid knowledge of all those fine old authors whose works make the undegenerate literature of our language and then constituted what they called Polite Letters. With these went hand in hand, at that time, in the academies of the South, a profane amusement of the taste. In short, our sinful youth were fond of stage-plays, and even wickedly enacted them, instead of resorting to singing-schools. Joseph Gales the younger had his boyish emulation of Roscius and Garrick, and performed “top parts” in a diversity of those sad comedies and merry tragedies which boys are apt to make, when they get into buskins. But it must be said, that, as a theatric star, he presently waxed dim before a very handsome youth, a little his senior, who just then had entered his father’s office. He was not only a printer, but had already been twice an editor,—last, in the late North Carolina capital, Halifax,—previously, in the great town of Petersburg,—and was bred in what seemed to Raleigh a mighty city, Richmond; in addition to all which strong points of reputation, he came of an F.F.V., and had been taught by the celebrated Ogilvie, of whom more anon. He was familiar with theatres, and had not only seen, but even criticized the great actors. He outshone his very brother-in-law and colleague that was to be. For this young gentleman was William Seaton.
Meantime, Joseph, too, had learnt the paternal art,—how well will appear from a single fact. About this time, his father’s office was destroyed by fire, and with it the unfinished printing of the Legislative Journals and Acts of the year. Time did not allow waiting for new material from Philadelphia. Just in this strait, he that had of old been so inauspicious, Dick Davison, came once more into play,—but, this time, not as a marplot. He, strange to say, was at hand and helpful. For, after his political exploit, abandoning England in disgust at the consequences of his Gunpowder Plot, he, too, had not only come to America, but had chanced to set up his “type-stick” in the neighboring town of Warrenton, where, having flourished, he was now the master of a printing-office and the conductor of a newspaper. Thither, then, young Joseph was despatched, “copy” in hand. Richard—really a worthy man, after all—gladly atoned for his ancient hurtfulness, by lending his type and presses; and, falling to work with great vigor, our young Faust, with his own hands, put into type and printed off the needful edition of the Laws.
He had also, by this time, as an important instrument of his intended profession, attained the art of stenography. When, soon after, he began to employ it, he rapidly became an excellent reporter; and eventually, when he had grown thoroughly versed in public affairs, confessedly the best reporter that we ever had.
He was now well-prepared to join in the manly strife of business or politics. His father chose, therefore, at once to commit him to himself. He judged him mature enough in principles, strong enough in sense; and feared lest, by being kept too long under guidance and the easy life of home, he should fall into inertness. He first sent him to Philadelphia, therefore, to serve as a workman with Birch and Small; after which, he made for him an engagement on the “National Intelligencer,” as a reporter, and sent him to Washington, in October, 1807.
To that place, changing its name to the one just mentioned, the father’s former paper, “The Gazetteer,” had been transferred by his old associate, Samuel Harrison Smith. Its first issue there (tri-weekly) was on the 31st of October, 1800, under the double title of “The National Intelligencer and Washington Advertiser.” The latter half of the title seems to have been dropped in 1810, when its present senior came, for a time, into its sole proprietorship.
More than twice the age of any other journal now extant there,—for the “Globe” came some thirty, the “Union” some forty-five years later,—the “Intelligencer” has long stood, in every worthy sense, the patriarch of our metropolitan press. It has witnessed the rise and fall around it of full a hundred competitors,—many of them declared enemies; not a few, what was more dangerous far, professed friends. Yet, in the face of all enmity and of such friendship, it has ever held on its calm way, never deserting the public cause,—as little extreme in its opposition as in its support of those in power; so that its foes never forgot it, when they prevailed, but its friends repeatedly. To estimate the value of its influence, during its long career, would be impossible,—so much of right has it brought about, so much of wrong defeated.
Though it came hither with our Congress, a newspaper had once before been set up here,—either upon the expectation created by the laying of certain corner-stones, in 1792, that the Government would fix itself at this spot, or through an odd local faith in the dreams of some ancient visionary dwelling hard by, who had, many years before, foretold this as the destined site of a great imperial city, a second Rome, and so had bestowed upon Goose Creek the name of Tiber, long before this was Washington. The founder of this Pre-Adamite journal was Mr. Benjamin Moore; its name, “The Washington Gazette”; its issue, semi-weekly; its annual price, four dollars; and the two leading principles which, in that day of the infancy of political “platforms,” his salutatory announced, were, first, “to obtain a living for himself,” and, secondly, “to amuse and inform his fellow-mortals.” How long this day-star of our journalism shone, before night again swallowed up the premature dawn, cannot now be stated. It must have been published at what was then expected to be our city, but is our penitentiary, Greenleaf’s Point.
To the “Intelligencer” young Mr. Gales brought such vigor, such talent, and such skill in every department, that within two years, in 1809, he was admitted by Mr. Smith into partnership; within less than a year from which date, that gentleman, grown weary of the laborious life of the press, was content to withdraw and leave him sole proprietor, editor, and reporter. An enormous worker, however, it mattered little to him what tasks were to be assumed: he could multiply himself among them, and suffice for all.
In thus assuming the undivided charge of the paper, the young editor thought it becoming to set forth one main principle, that has, beyond a question, been admirably the guide of his public life: he said to his readers,—“It is the dearest right, and ought to be cherished as the proudest prerogative of a freeman, to be guided by the unbiassed convictions of his own judgment. This right it is my firm purpose to maintain, and to preserve inviolate the independence of the print now committed into my hands.” Never was pledge more universally made or more rarely kept than this.
It was towards the close of Mr. Jefferson’s Presidency that Mr. Gales had entered the office of the “Intelligencer”; and it was during Mr. Madison’s first year that he became joint-editor of that paper. Of these Administrations it had been the supporter,—only following, in that regard, the transmitted politics of its original, the “Gazetteer,” derived from the elder Mr. Gales. Bred in these, the son had learnt them of his sire, just as he had adopted his religion or his morals. Sprung from one who had been persecuted in England as a Republican, it was natural that the son should love the faith for which an honored parent had suffered.
The high qualities and the strong abilities of the young editor did not fail to strike the discerning eye of President Madison, who speedily gave him his affection and confidence. To that Administration the “Intelligencer” stood in the most intimate and faithful relations,—sustaining its policy as a necessity, where it might not have been a choice. During the entire course of the war, the “Intelligencer” sustained most vigorously all the measures needful for carrying it on with efficiency; and it did equally good service in reanimating, whenever it had slackened at any disaster, the drooping spirit of our people. Nor did its editors, when there were two, stop at these proofs of sincerity, nor slink, when danger drew near, from that hazard of their own persons to which they had stirred up the country. When invasion came, they at once took to arms, as volunteer common-soldiers, went to meet the enemy, and remained in the field until he had fallen back to the coast. And during the invasion of Washington, moreover, their establishment was attacked and partially destroyed, through an unmanly spirit of revenge on the part of the British forces. In October, 1812, proposing to himself the change of his paper into a daily one, as was accordingly brought about on the first of January ensuing, Mr. Gales invited Mr. Seaton, who had by this time become his brother-in-law, to come and join him. He did so; and the early tie of youthful friendship, which had grown between them at Raleigh, and which the new relation had drawn still closer, gradually matured into that more than friendship or brotherhood, that oneness and identity of all purposes, opinions, and interests which has ever since existed between them, without a moment’s interruption, and has long been, to those who understood it, a rare spectacle of that concord and affection so seldom witnessed, and could never have come about except between men of singular virtues.
The same year that brought Gales and Seaton together as partners in business witnessed an alliance of a more interesting character; for it was in 1813 that Mr. Gales married the accomplished daughter of Theodorick Lee, younger brother of that brilliant soldier of the Revolution, the “Legionary Harry.”
But, at this natural point, the writer must go back for a while, in order to bring down the story of William Seaton to where, uniting with his associate’s, the two thus flow on in a single stream.
He was born January 11th, 1785, on the paternal estate in King William County, Virginia, one of a family of four sons and three daughters. At the good old mansion passed his childhood. There, too, according to what was then the wont in Virginia, he trod the first steps of learning, under the guidance of a domestic tutor, a decayed gentleman, old and bedridden; for the only part left him of a genteel inheritance was the gout. But when it became necessary to send his riper progeny abroad, for more advanced studies, Mr. Seaton very justly bethought
The writer does not know if it had ever been designed that young Seaton should proceed from Ogilvie’s classes to the more systematic courses of a college. Possibly not. Even among the wealthy, at that time, home-education was often employed. The children of both sexes were committed to the care of private tutors, usually young Scotchmen, the graduates of Glasgow, Edinburgh, or Aberdeen, sent over to the planter, upon order, along with his yearly supply of goods, by his merchant abroad. Or else the sons were sent to select private schools, like that of Ogilvie, set up by men of such abilities and scholarship as were supposed capable of performing the whole work of institutions.
At any rate, our youth, without further preparation, at about the age of eighteen, entered earnestly upon the duties of life. He fell at once into his vocation,—impelled to it, no doubt, by the ambition for letters and public affairs which the lessons of Ogilvie usually produced. Party ran high. Virginia politics, flushed with recent success, had added to the usual passions of the contest those of victory.
Into the novelties of the day our student accordingly plunged, in common with nearly all others of a like age and condition. He became, in short, a politician. Though talent of every other sort abounded, that of writing promptly and pleasingly did not. Young Seaton was found to possess this, and therefore soon obtained leave to exercise it as assistant-editor of one of the Richmond journals. He had already made himself acquainted with the art of printing, in an office where he became the companion and friend of the late Thomas Ritchie, and it is more than probable that many of his youthful “editorials” were “set up” by his own hands. Attaining by degrees a youthful reputation, he received an invitation to take the sole charge of a respectable paper in Petersburg, “The Republican,” the editor and proprietor of which, Mr. Thomas Field, was about to leave the country for some months. Acquitting himself here with great approval, he won an invitation to a still better position,—that of the proprietary editorship of the “North Carolina Journal,” published at Halifax, the former capital of that State, and the only newspaper there. He accepted the offer, and became the master of his own independent journal. Of its being so he proceeded at once to give his patrons a somewhat decisive token. They were chiefly Federalists; it was a region strongly Federal; and the gazette itself had always maintained the purest Federalism: but he forthwith changed its politics to Republican.
There can be no doubt that he who made a change so manly conducted his paper with spirit. Yet he must have done it also with that wise and winning moderation and fairness which have since distinguished him and his associate. William Seaton could never have fallen into anything of the temper or the taste, the morals or the manners, which are now so widely the shame of the American press; he could never have written in the ill spirit of mere party, so as to wound or even offend the good men of an opposite way of thinking. The inference is a sure one from his character, and is confirmed by what we know to have happened during his editorial career among the Federalists of Halifax. Instead of his paper’s losing ground under the circumstances just mentioned, it really gained so largely and won so much the esteem of both sides, that, when he desired to dispose of it, in order to seek a higher theatre, he easily sold the property for double what it had cost him.
It was now that he made his way to Raleigh, the new State-capital, and became connected with the “Register.” Nor was it long before this connection was drawn yet closer by his happy marriage with the lady whose virtues and accomplishments have so long been the modest, yet shining ornament and charm of his household and of the society of Washington. After this union, he continued his previous relationship with the “Register,” until, as already mentioned, he came to the metropolis to join all his fortunes with those of his brother-in-law.
The history of the “Intelligencer” has, as to all its leading particulars, been for fifty years spread before thousands of readers, in its continuous diary. To re-chronicle any part of what is so well known would be idle in the extreme. Of the editors personally, their lives, since they became mature and settled, have presented few events such as are not common to all men,—little of vicissitude, beyond that of pockets now full and now empty,—nothing but a steady performance of duty, an exertion, whenever necessary, of high ability, and the gradual accumulation through these of a deeply felt esteem among all the best and wisest of the land. Amidst the many popular passions with which nearly all have, in our country, run wild, they have maintained a perpetual and sage moderation; amidst incessant variations of doctrine, they have preserved a memory and a conscience; in the frequent fluctuations of power, they have steadily checked the alternate excesses of both parties; and they have never given to either a factious opposition or a merely partisan support. Of their journal it may be said, that there has, in all our times, shone no such continual light on public affairs, there has stood no such sure defence of whatever was needful to be upheld. Tempering the heats of both sides,—re-nationalizing all spirit of section,—combating our propensity to lawlessness at home and aggression abroad,—spreading constantly on each question of the day a mass of sound information,—the venerable editors have been, all the while, a power and a safety in the land, no matter who were the rulers. Neither party could have spared an opposition so just or a support so well-measured. Thus it cannot be deemed an American exaggeration to declare the opinion as to the influence of the “Intelligencer” over our public counsels, that its value is not easily to be overrated.
Never, meantime, was authority wielded with less assumption. The “Intelligencer” could not, of course, help being aware of the weight which its opinions always carried among the thinking; but it has never betrayed any consciousness of its influence, unless in a ceaseless care to deserve respect. Its modesty and candor, its fairness and courtesy have been invariable; nor less so, its observance of that decorum and those charities which constitute the very grace of all public life.
From the time of their coming together, down to the year 1820, Gales and Seaton were the exclusive reporters, as well as editors, of their journal,—one of them devoting himself to the Senate, and the other to the House of Representatives. Generally speaking, they published only running reports,—on special occasions, however, giving the speeches and proceedings entire. In those days they had seats of honor assigned to them directly by the side of the presiding officers, and over the snuff-box, in a quiet and familiar manner, the topics of the day were often discussed. To the privileges they then enjoyed, but more especially to their sagacity and industry, are we now indebted, as a country, for their “Register of Debates,” which, with the “Intelligencer,” has become a most important part of our national history. As in their journal nearly all the most eminent of American statesmen have discussed the affairs of the country, so have they been the direct means of preserving many of the speeches which are now the acknowledged ornaments of our political literature. Had it not been for Mr. Gales, the great intellectual combat between Hayne and Webster, for example, would have passed into a vague tradition, perhaps. The original notes of Mr. Webster’s speech, now in Mr. Gales’s library, form a volume of several hundred pages, and, having been corrected and interlined by the statesman’s own hand, present a treasure that might be envied. At the period just alluded to, Mr. Gales had given up the practice of reporting any speeches, and it was a mere accident that led him to pay Mr. Webster the compliment in question. That it was appreciated was proved by many reciprocal acts of kindness and the long and happy intimacy that existed between the two gentlemen, ending only with the life of the statesman. It was Mr. Webster’s opinion, that the abilities of Mr. Gales were of the highest order; and yet the writer has heard of one instance in which even the editor could not get along without a helping hand. Mr. Gales had for some days been engaged upon the Grand Jury, and, with his head full of technicalities, entered upon the duty of preparing a certain editorial. In doing this, he unconsciously employed a number of legal phrases; and when about half through, found it necessary to come to a halt. At this juncture, he dropped a note to Mr. Webster, transmitting the unfinished article and explaining his difficulty. Mr. Webster took it in hand, finished it to the satisfaction of Mr. Gales, and it was published as editorial.
But the writer is trespassing upon private ground, and it is with great reluctance that he refrains from recording a long list of incidents which have come to his knowledge, calculated to illustrate the manifold virtues of his distinguished friends. That they are universally respected and beloved by those who know them,—that their opinions on public matters have been solicited by Secretaries of State and even by Presidents opposed to them in politics,—that
“Will purchase them a good opinion,
And buy men’s voices to commend their deeds.”
* * * * *
WRITTEN AFTER A VIOLENT THUNDER-STORM IN THE COUNTRY.
An hour agone, and prostrate Nature lay,
Like some sore-smitten creature, nigh to death,
With feverish, pallid lips, with laboring breath,
And languid eyeballs darkening to the day;
A burning noontide ruled with merciless sway
Earth, wave, and air; the ghastly-stretching heath,
The sullen trees, the fainting flowers beneath,
Drooped hopeless, shrivelling in the torrid ray:
When, sudden, like a cheerful trumpet blown
Far off by rescuing spirits, rose the wind,
Urging great hosts of clouds; the thunder’s tone
Swells into wrath, the rainy cataracts fall,—
But pausing soon, behold creation shrined
In a new birth, God’s covenant clasping all!
* * * * *
THE SPIDER ON HIS THREAD.
There was nobody, then, to counsel poor Elsie, except her father, who had learned to let her have her own way so as not to disturb such relations as they had together, and the old black woman, who had a real, though limited influence over the girl. Perhaps she did not need counsel. To look upon her, one might well suppose that she was competent to defend herself against any enemy she was like to have. That glittering, piercing eye was not to be softened by a few smooth words spoken in low tones, charged with the common sentiments which win their way to maidens’ hearts. That round, lithe, sinuous figure was as full of dangerous life as ever lay under the slender flanks and clean-shaped limbs of a panther.
There were particular times when Elsie was in such a mood that it must have been a bold person who would have intruded upon her with reproof or counsel. “This is one of her days,” old Sophy would say quietly to her father, and he would, as far as possible, leave her to herself. These days were more frequent, as old Sophy’s keen, concentrated watchfulness had taught her, at certain periods of
As the spring came on, Elsie would leave the fireside, have her tiger-skin spread in the empty southern chamber next the wall, and lie there basking for whole hours in the sunshine. As the season warmed, the light would kindle afresh in her eyes, and the old woman’s sleep would grow restless again,—for she knew, that, so long as the glitter was fierce in the girl’s eyes, there was no trusting her impulses or movements.
At last, when the veins of the summer were hot and swollen, and the juices of all the poison-plants and the blood of all the creatures that feed upon them had grown thick and strong,—about the time when the second mowing was in hand, and the brown, wet-faced men were following up the scythes as they chased the falling waves of grass, (falling as the waves fall on sickle-curved beaches; the foam-flowers dropping as the grass-flowers drop,—with sharp semivowel consonantal sounds,—frsh,—for that is the way the sea talks, and leaves all pure vowel-sounds for the winds to breathe over it, and all mutes to the unyielding earth,)—about this time of over-ripe midsummer, the life of Elsie seemed fullest of its malign and restless instincts. This was the period of the year when the Rockland people were most cautious of wandering in the leafier coverts which skirted the base of The Mountain, and the farmers liked to wear thick, long boots, whenever they went into the bushes. But Elsie was never so much given to roaming over The Mountain as at this season; and as she had grown more absolute and uncontrollable, she was as like to take the night as the day for her rambles.
At this season, too, all her peculiar tastes in dress and ornament came out in a more striking way than at other times. She was never so superb as then, and never so threatening in her scowling beauty. The barred skirts she always fancied showed sharply beneath her diaphanous muslins; the diamonds often glittered on her breast as if for her own pleasure rather than to dazzle others; the asp-like bracelet hardly left her arm. Without some necklace she was never seen,—either the golden cord she wore at the great party, or a chain of mosaics, or simply a ring of golden scales. Some said that Elsie always slept in a necklace, and that when she died she was to be buried in one. It was a fancy of hers,—but many thought there was a reason for it.
Nobody watched Elsie with a more searching eye than her cousin, Dick Venner. He had kept more out of her way of late, it is true, but there was not a movement she made which he did not carefully observe just so far as he could without exciting her suspicion. It was plain enough to him that the road to fortune was before him, and that the first thing was to marry Elsie. What course he should take with her, or with others interested, after marrying her, need not be decided in a hurry.
He had now done all he could expect to do at present in the way of conciliating the other members of the household. The girl’s father tolerated him, if he did not even like him. Whether he suspected his project or not Dick did not feel sure; but it was something to have got a foot-hold in the house, and to have overcome any prepossession against him which his uncle might have entertained. To be a good listener and a bad billiard-player was not a very great sacrifice to effect this object. Then old Sophy could hardly help feeling well-disposed towards him, after the gifts he had bestowed on her and the court he had paid her. These were the only persons on the place of much importance to gain over. The people employed about the house and farmlands had little to do with Elsie, except to obey her without questioning her commands.
Mr. Richard began to think of reopening his second parallel. But he had lost something of the coolness with which he had begun his system of operations. The more he had reflected upon the matter, the more he had convinced himself that this was his one great chance in life. If he suffered this girl to escape him, such an opportunity could hardly, in the nature of things, present itself a second time. Only one life between Elsie and her fortune,—and lives are so uncertain! The girl might not suit him as a wife. Possibly. Time enough to find out after he had got her. In short, he must have the property, and Elsie Venner, as she was to go with it,—and then, if he found it convenient and agreeable to lead a virtuous life, he would settle down and raise children and vegetables; but if he found it inconvenient and disagreeable, so much the worse for those that made it so. Like many other persons, he was not principled against virtue, provided virtue were a better investment than its opposite; but he knew that there might be contingencies in which the property would be better without its incumbrances, and he contemplated this conceivable problem in the light of all its possible solutions.
One thing Mr. Richard could not conceal from himself: Elsie had some new cause of indifference, at least, if not of aversion to him. With the acuteness which persons who make a sole business of their own interest gain by practice, so that fortune-hunters are often shrewd where real lovers are terribly simple, he fixed at once on the young man up at the school where the girl had been going of late, as probably at the bottom of it.
“Cousin Elsie in love!” so he communed with himself upon his lonely pillow. “In love with a Yankee schoolmaster! What else can it be? Let him look out for himself! He’ll stand but a bad chance between us. What makes you think she’s in love with him? Met her walking with him. Don’t like her looks and ways;—she’s thinking about something, anyhow. Where does she get those books she is reading so often? Not out of our library, that’s certain. If I could have ten minutes’ peep into her chamber now, I would find out where she got them, and what mischief she was up to.”
At that instant, as if some tributary demon had heard his wish, a shape which could be none but Elsie’s flitted through a gleam of moonlight into the shadow of the the trees. She was setting out on one of her midnight rambles.
Dick felt his heart stir in its place, and presently his cheeks flushed with the old longing for an adventure. It was not much to invade a young girl’s deserted chamber, but it would amuse a wakeful hour, and tell him some little matters he wanted to know. The chamber he slept in was over the room which Elsie chiefly occupied at this season. There was no great risk of his being seen or heard, if he ventured down-stairs to her apartment.
Mr. Richard Venner, in the pursuit of his interesting project, arose and lighted a lamp. He wrapped himself in a dressing-gown and thrust his feet into a pair of cloth slippers. He stole carefully down the stair, and arrived safely at the door of Elsie’s room. The young lady had taken the natural precaution to leave it fastened, carrying the key with her, no doubt,—unless, indeed, she had got out by the window, which was not far from the ground. Dick could get in at this window easily enough, but he did not like the idea of leaving his footprints in the flower-bed just under it. He returned to his own chamber, and held a council of war with himself.
He put his head out of his own window and looked at that beneath. It was open. He then went to one of his trunks, wich he unlocked, and began carefully removing its contents. What these were we need not stop to mention,—only remarking that there were dresses of various patterns, which might afford an agreeable series of changes, and in certain contingencies prove eminently useful. After removing a few of these, he thrust his hand to the very bottom of the remaining pile and drew out a coiled strip of leather many yards in length, ending in a noose,—a tough, well-seasoned lasso, looking as if it had seen service and was none the worse for it. He uncoiled a few yards of this and fastened it to the knob of a door. Then he threw the loose end out of the window so that it should hang by the open casement of Elsie’s room. By this he let himself down opposite her window, and with a slight effort swung himself inside the room. He lighted a match, found a candle, and, having lighted that, looked curiously about him, as Clodius might have done when he smuggled himself in among the Vestals.
Elsie’s room was almost as peculiar as her dress and ornaments. It was a kind of museum of objects, such as the woods are full of to those who have eyes to see them, but many of them such as only few could hope to reach, even if they knew where to look for them. Crows’ nests, which are never found but in the tall trees, commonly enough in the forks of ancient hemlocks, eggs of rare birds, which must have taken a quick eye and hard climb to find and get hold of, mosses and ferns of unusual aspect, and quaint monstrosities of vegetable growth, such as Nature delights in, showed that Elsie had her tastes and fancies like any naturalist or poet.
Nature, when left to her own freaks in the forest, is grotesque and fanciful to the verge of license, and beyond it. The foliage of trees does not always require clipping to make it look like an image of life. From those windows at Canoe Meadow, among the mountains, we could see all summer long a lion rampant, a Shanghai chicken, and General Jackson on horse-back, done by Nature in green leaves, each with a single tree. But to Nature’s tricks with boughs and roots and smaller vegetable growths there is no end. Her fancy is infinite, and her humor not always refined. There is a perpetual reminiscence of animal life in her rude caricatures, which sometimes actually reach the point of imitating the complete human figure, as in that extraordinary specimen which nobody will believe to be genuine, except the men of science, and of which the discreet reader may have a glimpse by application in the proper quarter.
Elsie had gathered so many of these sculpture-like monstrosities, that one might have thought she had robbed old Sophy’s grandfather of his fetishes. They helped to give her room a kind of enchanted look, as if a witch had her home in it. Over the fireplace was a long, staff-like branch, strangled in the spiral coils of one of those vines which strain the smaller trees in their clinging embraces, sinking into the bark until the parasite becomes almost identified with its support. With these sylvan curiosities were blended objects of art, some of them not less singular, but others showing a love for the beautiful in form and color, such as a girl of fine organization and nice culture might naturally be expected to feel and to indulge, in adorning her apartment.
All these objects, pictures, bronzes, vases, and the rest, did not detain Mr. Richard Venner very long, whatever may have been his sensibilities to art. He was more curious about books and papers. A copy of Keats lay on the table. He opened it and read the name of Bernard C. Langdon on the blank leaf. An envelope was on the table with Elsie’s name written in a similar hand; but the envelope was empty, and he could not find the note it contained. Her desk was locked, and it would not be safe to tamper with it. He had seen enough; the girl received books and notes from this fellow up at the school,—this usher, this Yankee quill-driver;—he was aspiring to become the lord of the Dudley domain, then, was he?
Elsie had been reasonably careful. She had locked up her papers, whatever they might be. There was little else that promised to reward his curiosity, but he cast his eye on everything. There was a clasp-Bible among her books. Dick wondered if she ever unclasped it. There was a book of hymns; it had her name in it, and looked as if it might have been often read;—what the diablo had Elsie to do with hymns?
Mr. Richard Venner was in an observing and analytical state of mind, it will be noticed, or he might perhaps have been touched with the innocent betrayals of the poor girl’s chamber. Had she, after all, some human tenderness in her heart? That was not the way he put the question,—but whether she would take seriously to this schoolmaster, and if she did, what would be the neatest and surest and quickest way of putting a stop to all that nonsense. All this, however, he could think over more safely in his own quarters. So he stole softly to the window, and, catching the end of the leathern thong, regained his own chamber and drew in the lasso.
It needs only a little jealousy to set a man on who is doubtful in love or wooing, or to make him take hold of his courting in earnest. As soon as Dick had satisfied himself that the young schoolmaster was his rival in Elsie’s good graces, his whole thoughts concentrated themselves more than ever on accomplishing his great design of securing her for himself. There was no time to be lost. He must come into closer relations with her, so as to withdraw her thoughts from this fellow, and to find out more exactly what was the state of her affections, if she had any. So he began to court her company again, to propose riding with her, to sing to her, to join her whenever she was strolling about the grounds, to make himself agreeable, according to the ordinary understanding of that phrase, in every way which seemed to promise a chance for succeeding in that amiable effort.
The girl treated him more capriciously than ever. She would be sullen and silent, or she would draw back fiercely at some harmless word or gesture, or she would look at him with her eyes narrowed in such a strange way and with such a wicked light in them that Dick swore to himself they were too much for him, and would leave her for the moment. Yet she tolerated him, almost as a matter of necessity, and sometimes seemed to take a kind of pleasure in trying her power upon him. This he soon found out, and humored her in the fancy that she could exercise a kind of fascination over him,—though there were times in which he actually felt an influence he could not understand, an effect of some peculiar expression about her, perhaps, but still centring in those diamond eyes of hers which it made one feel so curiously to look into.
Whether Elsie saw into his object or not was more than he could tell. His idea was, after having conciliated the good-will of all about her as far as possible, to make himself first a habit and then a necessity with the girl,—not to spring any trap of a declaration upon her until tolerance had grown into such a degree of inclination as her nature was like to admit. He had succeeded in the first part of his plan. He was at liberty to prolong his visit at his own pleasure. This was not strange; these three persons, Dudley Venner, his daughter, and his nephew, represented all that remained of an old and honorable family. Had Elsie been like other girls, her father might have been less willing to entertain a young fellow like Dick as an inmate; but he had long outgrown all the slighter apprehensions which he might have had in common with all parents, and followed rather than led the imperious instincts of his daughter. It was not a question of sentiment, but of life and death, or more than that,—some dark ending, perhaps, which would close the history of his race with disaster and evil report upon the lips of all coming generations.
As to the thought of his nephew’s making love to his daughter, it had almost passed from his mind. He had been so long in the habit of looking at Elsie as outside of all common influences and exceptional in the law of her nature, that it was difficult for him to think of her as a girl to be fallen in love with. Many persons are surprised, when others court their female relatives; they know them as good young or old women enough,—aunts, sisters, nieces, daughters, whatever they may be,—but never think of anybody’s falling in love with them, any more than of their being struck by lightning.
But in this case there were special reasons, in addition to the common family delusion,—reasons which seemed to make it impossible that she should attract a suitor. Who would dare to marry Elsie? No, let her have the pleasure, if it was one, at any rate the wholesome excitement, of companionship; it might save her from lapsing into melancholy or a worse form of madness. Dudley Venner had a kind of superstition, too, that, if Elsie could only outlive three septenaries, twenty-one years, so that, according to the prevalent idea, her whole frame would have been thrice made over, counting from her birth, she would revert to the natural standard of health of mind and feelings from which she had been so long perverted. The thought of any other motive than love being sufficient to induce Richard to become her suitor had not occurred to him. He had married early, at that happy period when interested motives are least apt to influence the choice; and his single idea of marriage was, that it was the union of persons naturally drawn towards each other by some mutual attraction. Very simple, perhaps; but he had lived lonely for many years since his wife’s death, and judged the hearts of others, most of all of his brother’s son, by his own. He had often thought whether, in case of Elsie’s dying or being necessarily doomed to seclusion, he might not adopt this nephew and make him his heir; but it had not occurred to him that Richard might wish to become his son-in-law for the sake of his property.
It is very easy to criticize other people’s modes of dealing with their children. Outside observers see results; parents see processes. They notice the trivial movements and accents which betray the blood of this or that ancestor; they can detect the irrepressible movement of hereditary impulse in looks and acts which mean nothing to the common observer. To be a parent is almost to be a fatalist. This boy sits with legs crossed, just as his uncle used to whom he never saw; his grandfathers both died before he was born, but he has the movement of the eyebrows which we remember in one of them, and the gusty temper of the other.
These are things parents can see, and which they must take account of in education, but which few except parents can be expected to really understand. Here and there a sagacious person, old, or of middle age, who has triangulated a race, that is, taken three or more observations from the several standing-places of three different generations, can tell pretty nearly the range of possibilities and the limitations of a child, actual or potential, of a given stock,—errors excepted always, because children of the same stock are not bred just alike, because the traits of some less known ancestor are liable to break out at any time, and because each human being has, after all, a small fraction of individuality about him which gives him a flavor, so that he is distinguishable from others by his friends or in a court of justice, and which occasionally makes a genius or a saint or a criminal of him. It is well that young persons cannot read these fatal oracles of Nature. Blind impulse is her highest wisdom, after all. We make our great jump, and then she takes the bandage off our eyes. That is the way the broad sea-level of average is maintained, and the physiological democracy is enabled to fight against the principle of selection which would disinherit all the weaker children. The magnificent constituency of mediocrities of which the world is made up,—the people without biographies, whose lives have made a clear solution in the fluid menstruum of time, instead of being precipitated in the opaque sediment of history——
But this is a narrative, and not a disquisition.
FROM WITHOUT AND FROM WITHIN.
There were not wanting people who accused Dudley Venner of weakness and bad judgment in his treatment of his daughter. Some were of opinion that the great mistake was in not “breaking her will” when she was a little child. There was nothing the matter with her, they said, but that she had been spoiled by indulgence. If they had had the charge of her, they’d have brought her down. She’d got the upperhand of her father now; but if he’d only taken hold of her in season! There are people who think that everything may be done, if the doer, be he educator or physician, be only called “in season.” No doubt,—but in season would often be a hundred or two years before the child was born; and people never send so early as that.
The father of Elsie Venner knew his duties and his difficulties too well to trouble himself about anything others might think or say. So soon as he found that he could not govern his child, he gave his life up to following her and protecting her as far as he could. It was a stern and terrible trial for a man of acute sensibility, and not without force of intellect and will, and the manly ambition for himself and his family-name which belonged to his endowments and his position. Passive endurance is the hardest trial to persons of such a nature.
What made it still more a long martyrdom was the necessity for bearing his cross in utter loneliness. He could not tell his griefs. He could not talk of them even with those who knew their secret spring. His minister had the unsympathetic nature which is common in the meaner sort of devotees,—persons who mistake spiritual selfishness for sanctity, and grab at the infinite prize of the great Future and Elsewhere with the egotism they excommunicate in its hardly more odious forms of avarice and self-indulgence. How could he speak with the old physician and the old black woman about a sorrow and a terror which but to name was to strike dumb the lips of Consolation?
In the dawn of his manhood he had found that second consciousness for which young men and young women go about looking into each other’s faces, with their sweet, artless aim playing in every feature, and making them beautiful to each other, as to all of us. He had found his other self early, before he had grown weary in the search and wasted his freshness in vain longings: the lot of many, perhaps we may say of most, who infringe the patent of our social order by intruding themselves into a life already upon half-allowance of the necessary luxuries of existence. The life he had led for a brief space was not only beautiful in outward circumstance, as old Sophy had described it to the Reverend Doctor. It was that delicious process of the tuning of two souls to each other, string by string, not without little half-pleasing discords now and then when some chord in one or the other proves to be over-strained or over-lax, but always approaching nearer and nearer to harmony, until they become at last as two instruments with a single voice. Something more than a year of this blissful doubled consciousness had passed over him when he found himself once more alone,—alone, save for the little diamond-eyed child lying in the old woman’s arms, with the coral necklace round her throat and the rattle in her hand.
He would not die by his own act. It was not the way in his family. There may have been other, perhaps better reasons, but this was enough; he did not come of suicidal stock. He must live for this child’s sake, at any rate; and yet,—oh, yet, who could tell with what thoughts he looked upon her? Sometimes her little features would look placid, and something like a smile would steal over them; then all his tender feelings would rush up into
In those miserable days he used to wander all over The Mountain in his restless endeavor to seek some relief for inward suffering in outward action. He had no thought of throwing himself from the summit of any of the broken cliffs, but he clambered over them recklessly, as having no particular care for his life. Sometimes he would go into the accursed district where the venomous reptiles were always to be dreaded, and court their worst haunts, and kill all he could come near with a kind of blind fury that was strange in a person of his gentle nature.
One overhanging cliff was a favorite haunt of his. It frowned upon his home beneath in a very menacing way; he noticed slight seams and fissures that looked ominous;—what would happen, if it broke off some time or other and came crashing down on the fields and roofs below? He thought of such a possible catastrophe with a singular indifference, in fact with a feeling almost like pleasure. It would be such a swift and thorough solution of this great problem of life he was working out in ever-recurring daily anguish! The remote possibility of such a catastrophe had frightened some timid dwellers beneath The Mountain to other places of residence; here the danger was most imminent, and yet he loved to dwell upon the chances of its occurrence. Danger is often the best counter-irritant in cases of mental suffering; he found a solace in careless exposure of his life, and learned to endure the trials of each day better by dwelling in imagination on the possibility that it might be the last for him and the home that was his.
Time, the great consoler, helped these influences, and he gradually fell into more easy and less dangerous habits of life. He ceased from his more perilous rambles. He thought less of the danger from the great overhanging rocks and forests; they had hung there for centuries; it was not very likely they would crash or slide in his time. He became accustomed to all Elsie’s strange looks and ways. Old Sophy dressed her with ruffles round her neck, and hunted up the red coral branch with silver bells which the little toothless Dudleys had bitten upon for a hundred years. By an infinite effort, her father forced himself to become the companion of this child, for whom he had such a mingled feeling, but whose presence was always a trial to him and often a terror.
At a cost which no human being could estimate, he had done his duty, and in some degree reaped his reward. Elsie grew up with a kind of filial feeling for him, such as her nature was capable of. She never would obey him; that was not to be looked for. Commands, threats, punishments, were out of the question with her; the mere physical effects of crossing her will betrayed themselves in such changes of expression and color that it would have been senseless to attempt to govern her in any such way. Leaving her mainly to herself, she could be to some extent indirectly influenced,—not otherwise. She called her father “Dudley,” as if he had been her brother. She ordered everybody and would be ordered by none.
Who could know all these things, except the few people of the household? What wonder, therefore, that ignorant and shallow persons laid the blame on her father of those peculiarities which were freely talked about,—of those darker tendencies which were hinted of in whispers? To all this talk, so far as it reached him, he was supremely indifferent, not only with the indifference which all gentlemen feel to the gossip of their inferiors, but with a charitable calmness which did not wonder or blame. He knew that his position was not simply a difficult, but an impossible one, and schooled himself to bear his destiny as well as he might and report himself only at Headquarters.
He had grown gentle under this discipline. His hair was just beginning to be touched with silver, and his expression was that of habitual sadness and anxiety. He had no counsellor, as we have seen, to turn to, who did not know either too much or too little. He had no heart to rest upon and into which he might unburden himself of the secrets and the sorrows that were aching in his own breast. Yet he had not allowed himself to run to waste in the long time since he was left alone to his trials and fears. He had resisted the seductions which always beset solitary men with restless brains overwrought by depressing agencies. He disguised no misery to himself with the lying delusion of wine. He sought no sleep from narcotics, though he lay with throbbing, wide-open eyeballs through all the weary hours of the night.
It was understood between Dudley Venner and old Doctor Kittredge that Elsie was a subject of occasional medical observation, on account of certain mental peculiarities which might end in a permanent affection of her reason. Beyond this nothing was said, whatever may have been in the mind of either. But Dudley Venner had studied Elsie’s case in the light of all the books he could find which might do anything towards explaining it. As in all cases where men meddle with medical science for a special purpose, having no previous acquaintance with it, his imagination found what it wanted in the books he read, and adjusted it to the facts before him. So it was he came to cherish those two fancies before alluded to: that the ominous birthmark she had carried from infancy
In this life of comparative seclusion to which the father had doomed himself for the sake of his child, he had found time for large and varied reading. The learned Judge Thornton confessed himself surprised at the extent of Dudley Venner’s information. Doctor Kittredge found that he was in advance of him in the knowledge of recent physiological discoveries. He had taken pains to become acquainted with agricultural chemistry; and the neighboring farmers owed him some useful hints about the management of their land. He renewed his old acquaintance with the classic authors. He loved to warm his pulses with Homer and calm them down with Horace. He received all manner of new books and periodicals, and gradually gained an interest in the events of the passing time. Yet he remained almost a hermit, not absolutely refusing to see his neighbors, nor ever churlish towards them, but on the other hand not cultivating any intimate relations with them.
He had retired from the world a young man, little more than a youth, indeed, with sentiments and aspirations all of them suddenly extinguished. The first had bequeathed him a single huge sorrow, the second a single trying duty. In due time the anguish had lost something of its poignancy, the light of earlier and happier memories had begun to struggle with and to soften its thick darkness, and even that duty which he had confronted with such an effort had become an endurable habit.
At a period of life when many have been living on the capital of their acquired knowledge and their youthful stock of sensibilities until their intellects are really shallower and their hearts emptier than they were at twenty, Dudley Venner was stronger in thought and tenderer in soul than in the first freshness of his youth, when he counted but half his present years. He was now on the verge of that decade which marks the decline of men who have ceased growing in knowledge and strength: from forty to fifty a man must move upward, or the natural falling off in the vigor of life will carry him rapidly downward. At the entrance of this decade his inward nature was richer and deeper than in any earlier period of his life. If he could only be summoned to action, he was capable of noble service. If his sympathies could only find an outlet, he was never so capable of love as now; for his natural affections had been gathering in the course of all these years, and the traces of that ineffaceable calamity of his life were softened and partially hidden by new growths of thought and feeling, as the wreck left by a mountain-slide is covered over by the gentle intrusion of the soft-stemmed herbs which will prepare it for the stronger vegetation that will bring it once more into harmony with the peaceful slopes around it.
Perhaps Dudley Venner had not gained so much in worldly wisdom as if he had been more in society and less in his study. The indulgence with which he treated his nephew was, no doubt, imprudent. A man more in the habit of dealing with men would have been more guarded with a person with Dick’s questionable story and unquestionable physiognomy. But he was singularly unsuspicious, and his natural kindness was an additional motive to the wish for introducing some variety into the routine of Elsie’s life.
If Dudley Venner did not know just what he wanted at this period of his life, there were a great many people in the town of Rockland who thought they did know. He had been a widower long enough,—nigh twenty year, wa’n’t it? He’d been aout to Spraowles’s party,—there wa’n’t anything to hender him why he shouldn’t stir raound l’k other folks. What was the reason he didn’t go abaout to taown-meetin’s, ‘n’ Sahbath-meetin’s, ‘n’ lyceums, ‘n’ school-’xaminations, ‘n’ s’prise-parties, ‘n’ funerals,—and other entertainments where the still-faced two-story folks were in the habit of looking round to see if any of the mansion-house gentry were present?—Fac’ was, he was livin’ too lonesome daown there at the mansion-haouse. Why shouldn’t he make up to the Jedge’s daughter? She was genteel enough for him and—let’s see, haow old was she? Seven-’n’-twenty,—no, six-’n’-twenty,—Born the same year we buried aour little Anny Mari.
There was no possible objection to this arrangement, if the parties interested had seen fit to make it or even to think of it. But “Portia,” as some of the mansion-house people called her, did not happen to awaken the elective affinities of the lonely widower. He met her once in a while, and said to himself that she was a good specimen of the grand style of woman; and then the image came back to him of a woman not quite so large, not quite so imperial in her port, not quite so incisive in her speech, not quite so judicial in her opinions, but with two or three more joints in her frame and two or three soft inflections in her voice which for some absurd reason or other drew him to her side and so bewitched him that he told her half his secrets and looked into her eyes all that, he could not tell, in less time than it would have taken him to discuss the champion paper of the last Quarterly with the admirable “Portia.” Heu, quanta minus! How much more was that lost image to him than all it left on earth!
The study of love is very much like that of meteorology. We know that just about so much rain will fall in a season; but on what particular day it will shower is more than we can tell. We know that just about so much love will be made every year in a given population; but who will rain his young affections upon the heart of whom is not known except to the astrologers and fortune-tellers. And why rain falls as it does, and why love is made just as it is, are equally puzzling questions.
The woman a man loves is always his own daughter, far more his daughter than the female children born to him by the common law of life. It is not the outside woman, who takes his name, that he loves: before her image has reached the centre of his consciousness, it has passed through fifty many-layered nerve-strainers, been churned over by ten thousand pulse-beats, and reacted upon by millions of lateral impulses which bandy it about through the mental spaces as a reflection is sent back and forward in a saloon lined with mirrors. With this altered image of the woman before him his preexisting ideal becomes blended. The object of his love is half the offspring of her legal parents and half of her lover’s brain. The difference between the real and the ideal objects of love must not exceed a fixed maximum. The heart’s vision cannot unite them stereoscopically into a single image, if the divergence passes certain limits. A formidable analogy, much in the nature of a proof, with very serious consequences, which moralists and match-makers would do well to remember! Double vision with the eyes of the heart is a dangerous physiological state, and may lead to missteps and serious falls.
Whether Dudley Venner would ever find a breathing image near enough to his ideal one, to fill the desolate chamber of his heart, or not, was very doubtful. Some gracious and gentle woman, whose influence would steal upon him as the first low words of prayer after that interval of silent mental supplication known to one of our simpler forms of public worship, gliding into his consciousness without hurting its old griefs, herself knowing the chastening of sorrow, and subdued into sweet acquiescence with the Divine will,—some such woman as this, if Heaven should send him such, might call him back to the world of happiness, from which he seemed forever exiled. He could never again be the young lover who walked through the garden-alleys all red with roses in the old dead and buried June of long ago. He could never forget the bride of his youth, whose image, growing phantom-like with the lapse of years, hovered over him like a dream while waking and like a reality in dreams. But if it might be in God’s good providence that this desolate life should come under the influence of human affections once more, what an ecstasy of renewed existence was in store for him! His life had not all been buried under that narrow ridge of turf with the white stone at its head. It seemed so for a while; but it was not and could not and ought not to be so. His first passion had been a true and pure one; there was no spot or stain upon it. With all his grief there blended no cruel recollection of any word or look he would have wished to forget. All those little differences, such as young married people with any individual flavor in their characters must have, if they are tolerably mated, had only added to the music of existence, as the lesser discords admitted into some perfect symphony, fitly resolved, add richness
Dudley Venner’s habitual sadness could not be laid wholly to his early bereavement. It was partly the result of the long struggle between natural affection and duty, on one side, and the involuntary tendencies these had to overcome, on the other,—between hope and fear, so long in conflict that despair itself would have been like an anodyne, and he would have slept upon some final catastrophe with the heavy sleep of a bankrupt after his failure is proclaimed. Alas! some new affection might perhaps rekindle the fires of youth in his heart; but what power could calm that haggard terror of the parent which rose with every morning’s sun and watched with every evening star,—what power save alone that of him who comes bearing the inverted torch, and leaving after him only the ashes printed with his footsteps?
* * * * *
While all of us have been watching, with that admiring sympathy which never fails to wait on courage and magnanimity, the career of the new Timoleon in Sicily,—while we have been reckoning, with an interest scarcely less than in some affair of personal concern, the chances and changes that bear with furtherance or hindrance upon the fortune of united Italy, we are approaching, with a quietness and composure which more than anything else mark the essential difference between our own form of democracy and any other yet known in history, a crisis in our domestic policy more momentous than any that has arisen since we became a nation. Indeed, considering the vital consequences for good or evil that will follow from the popular decision in November, we might be tempted to regard the remarkable moderation which has thus far characterized the Presidential canvass as a guilty indifference to the duty implied in the privilege of suffrage, or a stolid unconsciousness of the result which may depend upon its exercise in this particular election, did we not believe that it arose chiefly from the general persuasion that the success of the Republican party was a foregone conclusion.
In a society like ours, where every man may transmute his private thought into history and destiny by dropping it into the ballot-box, a peculiar responsibility rests upon the individual. Nothing can absolve us from doing our best to look at all public questions as citizens, and therefore in some sort as administrators and rulers. For, though during its term of office the government be practically as independent of the popular will as that of Russia, yet every fourth year the people are called upon to pronounce upon the conduct of their affairs. Theoretically, at least, to give democracy any standing-ground for an argument with despotism or oligarchy, a majority of the men composing it should be statesmen and thinkers. It is a proverb, that to turn a radical into a conservative there needs only to put him into office, because then the license of speculation or sentiment is limited by a sense of responsibility,—then for the first time he becomes capable of that comparative view which sees principles and measures, not in the narrow abstract, but in the full breadth of their relations to each other and to political consequences. The theory of democracy presupposes something of these results of official position in the individual voter, since in exercising his right he becomes for the moment an integral part of the governing power.
How very far practice is from any likeness to theory a week’s experience of our politics suffices to convince us. The very government itself seems an organized scramble, and Congress a boys’ debating-club, with the disadvantage of being reported. As our party-creeds are commonly represented less by ideas than by persons, (who are assumed, without too close a scrutiny, to be the exponents of certain ideas,) our politics become personal and narrow to a degree never paralleled, unless in ancient Athens or mediaeval Florence. Our Congress debates and our newspapers discuss, sometimes for day after day, not questions of national interest, not what is wise and right, but what the Honorable Lafayette Skreemer said on the stump, or bad whiskey said for him, half a dozen years ago. If that personage, outraged in all the finer sensibilities of our common nature, by failing to get the contract for supplying the District Court-House at Skreemeropolisville City with revolvers, was led to disparage the union of these States, it is seized on as proof conclusive that the party to which he belongs are so many Cat_a_lines,—for Congress is unanimous only in misspelling the name of that oft-invoked conspirator. The next Presidential Election looms always in advance, so that we seem never to have an actual Chief Magistrate, but a prospective one, looking to the chances of reelection, and mingling in all the dirty intrigues of provincial politics with an unhappy talent for making them dirtier. The cheating mirage of the White House lures our public men away from present duties and obligations; and if matters go on as they have gone, we shall need a Committee
Is all this a result of the failure of democratic institutions? Rather of the fact that those institutions have never yet had a fair trial, and that for the last thirty years an abnormal element has been acting adversely with continually increasing strength. Whatever be the effect of slavery upon the States where it exists, there can be no doubt that its moral influence upon the North has been most disastrous. It has compelled our politicians into that first fatal compromise with their moral instincts and hereditary principles which makes all consequent ones easy; it has accustomed us to makeshifts instead of statesmanship, to subterfuge instead of policy, to party-platforms for opinions, and to a defiance of the public sentiment of the civilized world for patriotism. We have been asked to admit, first, that it was a necessary evil; then that it was a good both to master and slave; then that it was the corner-stone of free institutions; then that it was a system divinely instituted under the Old Law and sanctioned under the New. With a representation, three-fifths of it based on the assumption that negroes are men, the South turns upon us and insists on our acknowledging that they are things. After compelling her Northern allies to pronounce the “free and equal” clause of the preamble to the Declaration of Independence (because it stood in the way of enslaving men) a manifest absurdity, she has declared, through the Supreme Court of the United States, that negroes are not men in the ordinary meaning of the word. To eat dirt is bad enough, but to find that we have eaten more than was necessary may chance to give us an indigestion. The slaveholding interest has gone on step by step, forcing concession after concession, till it needs but little to secure it forever in the political supremacy of the country. Yield to its latest demand,—let it mould the evil destiny of the Territories,—and the thing is done past recall. The next Presidential Election is to say Yes or No.
But we should not regard the mere question of political preponderancy as of vital consequence, did it not involve a continually increasing moral degradation on the part of the Nonslaveholding States,—for Free States they could not be called much longer. Sordid and materialistic views of the true value and objects of society and government are professed more and more openly by the leaders of popular outcry, if it cannot be called public opinion. That side of human nature which it has been the object of all
We believe that this election is a turning-point in our history; for, although there are four candidates, there are really, as everybody knows, but two parties, and a single question that divides them. The supporters of Messrs. Bell and Everett have adopted as their platform the Constitution, the Union, and the enforcement of the Laws. This may be very convenient, but it is surely not very explicit. The cardinal question on which the whole policy of the country is to turn—a question, too, which this very election must decide in one way or the other—is the interpretation to be put upon certain clauses of the Constitution. All the other parties equally assert their loyalty to that instrument. Indeed, it is quite the fashion. The removers of all the ancient landmarks of our policy, the violators of thrice-pledged faith, the planners of new treachery to established compromise, all take refuge in the Constitution,—
“Like thieves that in a hemp-plot
Secure against the hue and cry.”
In the same way the first Bonaparte renewed his profession of faith in the Revolution at every convenient opportunity; and the second follows the precedent of his uncle, though the uninitiated fail to see any logical sequence from 1789 to 1815 or 1860. If Mr. Bell loves the Constitution, Mr. Breckinridge is equally fond; that Egeria of our statesmen could be “happy with either, were t’other dear charmer away.” Mr. Douglas confides the secret of his passion to the unloquacious clams of Rhode Island, and the chief complaint made against Mr. Lincoln by his opponents is that he is too Constitutional.
Meanwhile the only point in which voters are interested is,—What do they mean by the Constitution? Mr. Breckinridge means the superiority of a certain exceptional species of property over all others, nay, over man himself. Mr. Douglas, with a different formula for expressing it, means practically the same thing. Both of them mean that Labor has no rights which Capital is bound to respect,—that there is no higher law than human interest and cupidity. Both of them represent not merely the narrow principles of a section, but the still narrower and more selfish ones of a caste. Both of them, to be sure, have convenient phrases to be juggled with before election, and which mean one thing or another, or neither one thing nor another, as a particular exigency may seem to require; but since both claim the regular Democratic nomination, we have little difficulty in divining what their course would be after the fourth of March, if they should chance to be elected. We know too well what regular Democracy is, to like either of the two faces which each shows by turns under the same hood. Everybody remembers Baron Grimm’s story of the Parisian showman, who in 1789 exhibited the royal Bengal tiger under the new character of national, as more in harmony with the changed order of things. Could the animal have lived till 1848, he would probably have found himself offered to the discriminating public as the democratic and social ornament of the jungle. The Pro-slavery party of this country seeks the popular favor under even more frequent and incongruous aliases; it is now national, now conservative, now constitutional; here it represents Squatter-Sovereignty, and there the power of Congress over the Territories; but, under whatever name, its nature remains unchanged, and its instincts are none the less predatory and destructive. Mr. Lincoln’s position is set forth with sufficient precision in the platform adopted by the Chicago Convention; but what are we to make of Messrs. Bell and Everett? Heirs of the stock in trade of two defunct parties, the Whig and Know-Nothing, do they hope to resuscitate them? or are they only like the inconsolable widows of Pere la Chaise, who, with an eye to former customers, make use of the late Andsoforth’s gravestone to advertise that they still carry on the business at the old stand? Mr. Everett, in his letter accepting the nomination, gave us only a string of reasons why he should not have accepted it at all; and Mr. Bell preserves a silence singularly at variance with his patronymic. The only public demonstration of principle that we have seen is an emblematic bell drawn upon a wagon by a single horse, with a man to lead him, and a boy to make a nuisance of the tinkling symbol as it moves along. Are all the figures in this melancholy procession equally emblematic? If so, which of the two candidates is typified in the unfortunate who leads the horse?—for we believe the
But, fortunately, we are not left wholly in the dark as to the aims of the self-styled Constitutional party. One of its most distinguished members, Governor Hunt of New York, has given us to understand that its prime object is the defeat at all hazards of the Republican candidate. To achieve so desirable an end, its leaders are ready to coalesce, here with the Douglas, and there with the Breckinridge faction of that very Democratic party of whose violations of the Constitution, corruption, and dangerous limberness of principle they have been the lifelong denouncers. In point of fact, then, it is perfectly plain that we have only two parties in the field: those who favor the extension of slavery, and those who oppose it,—in other words, a Destructive and a Conservative party.
We know very well that the partisans of Mr. Bell, Mr. Douglas, and Mr. Breckinridge all equally claim the title of conservative: and the fact is a very curious one, well worthy the consideration of those foreign critics who argue that the inevitable tendency of democracy is to compel larger and larger concessions to a certain assumed communistic propensity and hostility to the rights of property on the part of the working classes. But the truth is, that revolutionary ideas are promoted, not by any unthinking
A great deal is said, to be sure, about the rights of the South; but has any such right been infringed? When a man invests money in any species of property, he assumes the risks to which it is liable. If he buy a house, it may be burned; if a ship, it may be wrecked; if a horse or an ox, it may die. Now the disadvantage of the Southern kind of property is,—how shall we say it so as not to violate our Constitutional obligations?—that it is exceptional. When it leaves Virginia, it is a thing; when it arrives in Boston, it becomes a man, speaks human language, appeals to the justice of the same God whom we all acknowledge, weeps at the memory of wife and children left behind,—in short, hath the same organs and dimensions that a Christian hath, and is not distinguishable from ordinary Christians, except, perhaps, by a simpler and more earnest faith. There are people at the North who believe, that, beside meum and tuum, there is also such a thing as suum,—who are old-fashioned enough, or weak enough, to have their feelings touched by these things, to think that human nature is older and more sacred than any claim of property whatever, and that it has rights at least as much to be respected as any hypothetical one of our Southern brethren. This, no doubt, makes it harder to recover a fugitive chattel; but the existence of human nature in a man here and there is surely one of those accidents to be counted on at least as often as fire, shipwreck, or the cattle-disease; and the man who chooses to put his money into these images of his Maker cut in ebony should be content to take the incident risks along with the advantages. We should be very sorry to deem this risk capable of diminution; for we think that the claims of a common manhood upon us should be at least as strong as those of Freemasonry, and that those whom the law of man turns away should find in the larger charity of the law of God and Nature
But if our Constitutional Obligations, as we like to call our constitutional timidity or indifference, teach us that a particular divinity hedges the Domestic Institution, they do not require us to forget that we have institutions of our own, worth maintaining and extending, and not without a certain sacredness, whether we regard the traditions of the fathers or the faith of the children. It is high time that we should hear something of the rights of the Free States, and of the duties consequent upon them. We also have our prejudices to be respected, our theory of civilization, of what constitutes the safety of a state and insures its prosperity, to be applied wherever there is soil enough for a human being to stand on and thank God for making him a man. Is conservatism applicable only to property, and not to justice, freedom, and public honor? Does it mean merely drifting with the current of evil times and pernicious counsels, and carefully nursing the ills we have, that they may, as their nature it is, grow worse?
To be told that we ought not to agitate the question of Slavery, when it is that which is forever agitating us, is like telling a man with the fever and ague on him to stop shaking and he will be cured. The discussion of Slavery is said to be dangerous, but dangerous to what? The manufacturers of the Free States constitute a more numerous class than the slaveholders of the South: suppose they should claim an equal sanctity for the Protective System. Discussion is the very life of free institutions, the fruitful mother of all political and moral enlightenment, and yet the question of all questions must be tabooed. The Swiss guide enjoins silence in the region of avalanches, lest the mere vibration of the voice should dislodge the ruin clinging by frail roots of snow. But where is our avalanche to fall? It is to overwhelm
We believe that the “irrepressible conflict”—for we accept Mr. Seward’s much-denounced phrase in all the breadth of meaning he ever meant to give it—is to take place in the South itself; because the Slave-System is one of those fearful blunders in political economy which are sure, sooner or later, to work their own retribution. The inevitable tendency of slavery is to concentrate in a few hands the soil, the capital, and the power of the countries where it exists, to reduce the non-slaveholding class to a continually lower and lower level of property, intelligence, and enterprise,—their increase in numbers adding much to the economical hardship of their position and nothing to their political weight in the community. There is no home-encouragement of varied agriculture,—for the wants of a slave population are few in number and limited in kind; none of inland trade, for that is developed only by communities where education induces refinement, where facility of communication stimulates invention and variety of enterprise, where newspapers make every man’s improvement in tools, machinery, or culture of the soil an incitement to all, and bring all the thinkers of the world to teach in the cheap university of the people. We do not, of course, mean to say that slaveholding states may not and do not produce fine men; but they fail, by the inherent vice of their constitution and its attendant consequences, to create enlightened, powerful, and advancing communities of men, which is the true object of all political organizations, and which is essential to the prolonged existence of all those whose life and spirit are derived directly from the people. Every man who has dispassionately endeavored to enlighten himself in the matter cannot but see, that, for the many, the course of things in slaveholding states is substantially what we have described, a downward one, more or less rapid, in civilization and in all those results of material prosperity which in a free country show themselves in the general advancement for the good of all and give a real meaning to the word Commonwealth. No matter how enormous the
The election in November turns on the single and simple question, Whether we shall consent to the indefinite multiplication of them; and the only party which stands plainly and unequivocally pledged against such a policy, nay, which is not either openly or impliedly in favor of it, is the Republican party. We are of those who at first regretted that another candidate was not nominated at Chicago; but we confess that we have ceased to regret it, for the magnanimity of Mr. Seward since the result of the Convention was known has been a greater ornament to him and a greater honor to his party than his election to the Presidency would have been. We should have been pleased with Mr. Seward’s nomination, for the very reason we have seen assigned for passing him by,—that he represented the most advanced doctrines of his party. He, more than any other man, combined in himself the moralist’s oppugnancy to Slavery as a fact, the thinker’s resentment of it as a theory, and the statist’s distrust of it as a policy,—thus summing up the three efficient causes that have chiefly aroused and concentrated the antagonism of the Free States. Not a brilliant man, he has that best gift of Nature, which brilliant men commonly lack, of being always able to do his best; and the very misrepresentation of his opinions which was resorted to in order to neutralize the effect of his speeches in the Senate and elsewhere was the best testimony to their power. Safe from the prevailing epidemic of Congressional eloquence as if he had been inoculated for it early in his career, he addresses himself to the reason, and what he says sticks. It was assumed that his nomination would have embittered the contest and tainted the Republican creed with radicalism; but we doubt it. We cannot think that a party gains by not hitting its hardest, or by sugaring its opinions. Republicanism is not a conspiracy to obtain office under false pretences. It has a definite aim, an earnest purpose, and the unflinching tenacity of profound conviction. It was not called into being by a desire to reform the pecuniary corruptions of the party now in power. Mr. Bell or Mr. Breckinridge would do that, for no one doubts their honor or their honesty. It is not unanimous about the Tariff, about State-Rights, about many other questions of policy. What unites the Republicans is a common
No man pretends that under the Constitution there is any possibility of interference with the domestic relations of the individual States; no party has ever remotely hinted at any such interference; but what the Republicans affirm is, that in every contingency where the Constitution can be construed in favor of freedom, it ought to be and shall be so construed. It is idle to talk of sectionalism, abolitionism, and hostility to the laws. The principles of liberty and humanity cannot, by virtue of their very nature, be sectional, any more than light and heat. Prevention is not abolition, and unjust laws are the only serious enemies that Law ever had. With history before us, it is no treason to question the infallibility of a court; for courts are never wiser or more venerable than the men composing them, and a decision that reverses precedent cannot arrogate to itself any immunity from reversal. Truth is the only unrepealable thing.
We are gravely requested to have no opinion, or, having one, to suppress it, on the one topic that has occupied caucuses, newspapers, Presidents’ messages, and Congress, for the last dozen years, lest we endanger the safety of the Union. The true danger to popular forms of government begins when public opinion ceases because the people are incompetent or unwilling to think. In a democracy it is the duty of every citizen to think; but unless the thinking result in a definite opinion, and the opinion lead to considerate action, they are nothing. If the people are assumed to be incapable of forming a judgment for themselves, the men whose position enables them to guide the public mind ought certainly to make good their want of intelligence. But on this great question, the wise solution of which, we are every day assured, is essential to the permanence of the Union, Mr. Bell has no opinion at all, Mr. Douglas says it is of no consequence which opinion prevails, and Mr. Breckinridge tells us vaguely that “all sections have an equal right in the common Territories.” The parties which support these candidates, however, all agree in affirming that the election of its special favorite is the one thing that can give back peace to the distracted country. The distracted country will continue to take care of itself, as it has done hitherto, and the only question that needs an answer is, What policy will secure the most prosperous future to the helpless Territories, which our decision is to make or mar for all coming time? What will save the country from a Senate and Supreme Court where freedom shall be forever at a disadvantage?
There is always a fallacy in the argument of the opponents of the Republican party. They affirm that all the States and all the citizens of the States ought to have equal rights in the Territories. Undoubtedly. But the difficulty is that they cannot. The slaveholder moves into a new Territory with his institution, and from that moment the free white settler is virtually excluded. His institutions he cannot take with him; they refuse to root themselves in soil that is cultivated by slave-labor. Speech is no longer free; the post-office is Austrianized; the mere fact of Northern birth may be enough to hang him. Even now in Texas, settlers from the Free States are being driven out and murdered for pretended complicity in a plot the evidence for the existence of which has been obtained by means without a parallel since the trial of the Salem witches, and the stories about which are as absurd and contradictory as the confessions of Goodwife Corey. Kansas was saved, it is true; but it was the experience of Kansas that disgusted the South with Mr. Douglas’s panacea of “Squatter Sovereignty.”
The claim of equal rights in the Territories is a specious fallacy. Concede the demand of the slavery-extensionists, and you give up every inch of territory to slavery, to the absolute exclusion of freedom. For what they ask (however they may disguise it) is simply this,—that their local law be made the law of the land, and coextensive with the limits of the General Government. The Constitution acknowledges no unqualified or interminable right of property in the labor of another; and the plausible assertion, that “that is property which the law makes property,” (confounding a law existing anywhere with the law which is binding everywhere,) can deceive only those who have either never read the Constitution or are ignorant of the opinions and intentions of those who framed it. It is true only of the States where slavery already exists; and it is because the propagandists of slavery are well aware of this, that they are so anxious to establish by positive enactment the seemingly moderate title to a right of existence for their institution in the Territories,—a title which they do not possess, and the possession of which would give them the oyster and the Free States the shells. Laws accordingly are asked for to protect Southern property in the Territories,—that is, to protect the inhabitants from deciding for themselves what their frame of government shall be. Such laws will be passed, and the fairest portion of our national domain irrevocably closed to free labor, if the Non-Slave-holding States fail to do their duty in the present crisis.
But will the election of Mr. Lincoln endanger the Union? It is not a little remarkable, that, as the prospect of his success increases, the menaces of secession grow fainter and less frequent. Mr. W.L. Yancey, to be sure, threatens to secede; but the country can get along without him, and we wish him a prosperous career in foreign parts. But Governor Wise no longer proposes to seize the Treasury at Washington,—perhaps because Mr. Buchanan has left so little in it. The old Mumbo-Jumbo is occasionally paraded at the North, but, however many old women may be frightened, the pulse of the stock-market remains provokingly calm. General Cushing, infringing the patent-right of the late Mr. James the novelist, has seen a solitary horseman on the edge of the horizon. The exegesis of the vision has been various, some thinking that it means a Military Despot—though in that case the force of cavalry would seem to be inadequate,—and others the Pony Express. If it had been one rider on two horses, the application would have been more general and less obscure. In fact, the old cry of Disunion has lost its terrors, if it ever had any, at the North. The South itself seems to have become alarmed at its own scarecrow, and speakers there are beginning to assure their hearers that the election of Mr. Lincoln will do them no harm. We entirely agree with them, for it will save them from themselves.
To believe any organized attempt by the Republican party to disturb the existing internal policy of the Southern States possible presupposes a manifest absurdity. Before anything of the kind could take place, the country must be in a state of forcible revolution. But there is no premonitory symptom of any such convulsion, unless we except Mr. Yancey, and that gentleman’s throwing a solitary somerset will hardly turn the continent head over heels. The administration of Mr. Lincoln will be conservative, because no government is ever intentionally otherwise, and because power never knowingly undermines the foundation on which it rests. All that the Free States demand is that influence in the councils of the nation to which they are justly entitled by their population, wealth, and intelligence. That these elements of prosperity have increased more rapidly among them than in communities otherwise organized, with greater advantages of soil, climate, and mineral productions, is certainly no argument that they are incapable of the duties of efficient and prudent administration, however strong a one it may be for their endeavoring to secure for the Territories the single superiority that has made them what they are. The object of the Republican party is not the abolition of African slavery, but the utter extirpation of dogmas which are the logical sequence of the attempts to establish its righteousness and wisdom, and which would serve equally well to justify the enslavement of every white man unable to protect himself. They believe that slavery is a wrong morally, a mistake
We are persuaded that the election of Mr. Lincoln will do more than anything else to appease the excitement of the country. He has proved both his ability and his integrity; he has had experience enough in public affairs to make him a statesman, and not enough to make him a politician. That he has not had more will be no objection to him in the eyes of those who have seen the administration of the experienced public functionary whose term of office is just drawing to a close. He represents a party who know that true policy is gradual in its advances, that it is conditional and not absolute, that it must deal with facts and not with sentiments, but who know also that it is wiser to stamp out evil in the spark than to wait till there is no help but in fighting fire with fire. They are the only conservative party, because they are the only one based on an enduring principle, the only one that is not willing to pawn tomorrow for the means to gamble with today. They have no hostility to the South, but a determined one to doctrines of whose ruinous tendency every day more and more convinces them.
The encroachments of Slavery upon our national policy have been like those of a glacier in a Swiss valley. Inch by inch, the huge dragon with his glittering scales and crests of ice coils itself onward, an anachronism of summer, the relic of a bygone world where such monsters swarmed. But it has its limit, the kindlier forces of Nature work against it, and the silent arrows of the sun are still, as of old, fatal to the frosty Python. Geology tells us that such enormous devastators once covered the face of the earth, but the benignant sunlight of heaven touched them, and they faded silently, leaving no trace but here and there the scratches of their talons, and the gnawed boulders scattered where they made their lair. We have entire faith in the benignant influence of Truth, the sunlight of the moral world, and believe that slavery, like other worn-out systems, will melt gradually before it. “All the earth cries out upon Truth, and the heaven blesseth it; ill works shake and tremble at it, and with it is no unrighteous thing.”
* * * * *
History of Flemish Literature. By OCTAVE DELEPIERRE, LL. D. 8vo. London. John Murray. 1860.
“When I write in Danish,” says Oehlenschlaeger, “I write for only six hundred persons.” And so, in view of this somewhat exaggerated statement, he himself translated his best works into the more favored and more widely spread Germanic idiom. It requires a certain amount of courage in an author to write in his own native tongue only, when he knows that he thereby limits the number of his readers. We see in our own days, among the Sclavonic races, men whose writings breathe the most ardent patriotism, whose labors and researches are all concentrated within the sphere of their nationality, publishing, not in their own Polish, Czechish, or Serbian, but in German or French.
The history of language shows us a two-fold tendency,—one of divergence from some common stem, followed by one of concentration, of unity, in the literature. Thus, in France, the Langue d’Oil superseded the richer and more melodious Provencal; in Spain the Castilian predominated; while for several centuries it has been the steady tendency of the High-German to become the language of letters and of the upper classes among the various Teutonic races. Since the Bible-translation of Luther, this central dialect has not only become the medium in which poet and philosopher, historian and critic address the nation, but it may be said to have entirely superseded the Northern and Southern forms. Whatever local or linguistic interest may be manifested for the works of Groth in the Ditmarsch Platt-Deutsch, or for the sweet Alemannic songs of Hebel, the centralizing tongue is that in which Schiller and Goethe wrote.
The allied Danish and Dutch have escaped this ingulfing process. The former, instead of retreating, seeks in the present to enlarge its circuit; and great are the complaints in Schleswig-Holstein of the arbitrary and despotic imposition of Danish on a State of the German Confederation. The present government of Holland has not remained inactive. Much has been done to encourage men of letters and counteract the Gallic influences which prevailed in the early part of the century.
But the Flemings speaking nearly the same language as their Protestant neighbors, where is their literature now? The language itself, in which are handed down to us some of the masterpieces of the Middle Ages, as “Reynard the Fox” and “Gudrun,” is disregarded, even discountenanced, by Government. It is with a feeling of sadness that we read the annals of a literature which met so many obstacles to its progress. Despised by foreign rulers, thrust back by the Spanish policy of the Duke of Alva, its authors exiled and seeking refuge in other lands, its very existence has been a constant battling against the inroads of more powerful neighbors.
Surely, “if words be made of breath, and breath of life,” there is nothing a nation can hold more dear than its own tongue. Its laws, its rulers, may change, its privileges and charters be wrenched from it, but that remains as an heirloom, the first gift to the child, the last and dearest treasure of the man. Perhaps nowhere more than in Flanders do we meet with a systematic oppression of a vernacular idiom. From the days of the contests with France, through the long Spanish troubles and dominion, the military occupation of the country by the troops of Louis XIV., the Austrian rule, the levelling tendency of the French Revolution, and the present aping of French manners by the higher powers of the land,—through all this there has been but one long, continuous struggle, and the ultimate result is now too plain.
We find the Flemish spoken by nearly two-thirds of the inhabitants of Belgium, divided from the Walloon or Rouchi-Fran ais by a line of demarcation running from the Meuse through Liege and Waterloo, and ending in France, between Calais and Dunkirk. It differs in no material points from the Dutch, being essentially the same, if we except slight differences in spelling, as ae for aa, ue for uu, y for ij. Both should bear but one common name, the Netherlandish. That differences should be sought can be accounted for only by the petty feeling of jealousy that exists between the neighboring states, their literary productions varying in grammatical construction scarcely more than the writings of English and American authors.
Mr. Octave Delepierre, who since 1830 has published some ten or twelve monographs relating to the antiquities and history of Flanders, has presented the English public during the course of the present year with a history of Flemish literature. With an evident predilection for authors south of the Meuse, Mr. Delepierre has nevertheless given us the first clear and connected account we possess of the history of letters in the Netherlands. Without careful or minute critical research, he has shown little that is new, nor has he sought to clear one point that was obscure. His work is pleasant reading, interspersed with occasional translations, though scarcely answering the requisites of literary history in the nineteenth century. Having followed the older work of Snellaert [Histoire de la Litterature Flamande. Bruxelles. 1654.], in the latter half of the volume, page for page, he has not even mentioned by name the authors of the last quarter of a century.
Let us glance at that portion of literature more particularly belonging to Flanders and Brabant.
The first expressions of the Germanic mind, the song of “Hildebrand,” “Gudrun,” the “Nibelungen,” have been handed down to us in a form which shows their origin to have been Netherlandish. The first part of “Gudrun” is evidently so; and we find, as well in many of the older poems of chivalry, as “Charles and Elegast,” “Floris and Blanchefloer,” as in the national epos, intrinsic proofs that the unknown authors were from the regions of the Lower Rhine. These elder remnants, however, can scarcely be claimed by any one of the Teutonic races, as they are the common property of all; for we find the hero Siegfried in the Scandinavian Saga, as well as in the more southern tradition. Mr. Delepierre has translated the following song, almost Homeric in its form, which belongs to this early period, when Christianity had not obliterated the memories of barbarous days:—
“The Lord Halewyn knew a song:
who heard it were attracted towards him.
“It was once heard by the daughter
King, who was so beloved by her parents.
“She stood before her father:
may I go to the Lord Halewyn?’
“’Oh, no, my child, no!
They who go to
him never come back again.’
“She stood before her mother:
may I go to the Lord Halewyn?’
“’Oh, no, my child, no!
They who go to
him never come back again.’
“She stood before her sister:
’O sister, may
I go to the Lord Halewyn?’
“’Oh, no, sister, no!
They who go to him
never come back again.’
“She stood before her brother:
may I go to the Lord Halewyn?’
“’Little care I where thou
thou preservest thine honor and thy crown.
“She goes up into her chamber; she
herself in her best garments.
“What does she put on first?
A shift finer
“What does she gird round her lovely
waist? Strong bands of gold.
“What does she put upon her scarlet
On every seam a golden button.
“What does she set on her beautiful
hair? A massive golden crown.
“What does she put upon her kirtle?
every seam a pearl.
“She goes into her father’s stable, and takes out his best charger. She mounts him proudly, and so, laughing and singing, rides through the forest. When she reaches the middle of the forest, she meets the Lord Halewyn.
“‘Hail!’ said he, approaching
beautiful virgin, with eyes so black and brilliant!’
“They proceed together, chatting as they go.
“They arrive at a field in which
gallows. The bodies of several women hang
“The Lord Halewyn says to her:
are the loveliest of all virgins, say, how will
you die? The time is come.’
“’It is well: as I may
choose, I choose the
“’But, first of all, take
off your tunic; for
the blood of a virgin gushes out so far, that it
might reach you, and I should be sorry.’
“But before he had divested himself
tunic, his head rolled off and lay at his feet:
his lips still murmured these words:
“’Go down there into that
corn-field, and blow
the horn, so that my friends may hear it.’
“’Into that corn-field I shall
not go, neither
shall I blow the horn. I do not follow the counsel
of a murderer.’
“’Go, then, down under the
gather the balm which you shall find there,
and spread it over my bloody throat.’
“’Under the gallows I shall
not go; on your
bloody throat I shall spread no balm. I do
not follow the counsel of a murderer.’
“She took up the head by the hair,
washed it at a clear fountain.
“She mounted her charger proudly,
laughing and singing, she rode through the
“When she reached the middle of
she met the mother of Halewyn. ’Beautiful
virgin, have you not seen my son?’
“’Your son, the Lord Halewyn,
hunting: you will never see him again.
“’Your son, the Lord Halewyn,
is dead. I
have his head in my apron, which is red with
“And when she arrived at her father’s
she blew the horn like a man.
“And when her father saw her, he
at her return.
“He celebrated it by a feast, and
of Halewyn was placed on the table.”
Flemish writers claim as entirely their own that epic of the people, “Reynard the Fox.” Their right to it was long contested; nor has anything been done since the labors of Willems, who, in opposition to the opinion of William Grimm, settles the authorship of the “Reinaert de Vos” on Utenhove, a priest of Aerdenburg. It seems natural to suppose that this most popular of Middle-Age productions should have originated in the very region which later gave to the world a school of painting that incarnated on canvas the phases of animal life, taking its delight and best inspirations in the burlesque side of human passions.
In its first period, Flemish literature found some encouragement from its princes. John I. of Brabant fostered it, and even took, himself, the title of Flemish Troubadour. Under Guy of Dampierre, who neither in heart nor mind was sympathetic with the people he ruled, we find Maerlant, still revered by his country; his name is ever coupled with the epithet of Father of Flemish Poets. Didactic rather than poetical, his influence was great in breaking down the barriers which separated the people from the higher classes, by adapting to their own home-idiom the best
Little light has been thrown on their first ante-historical attempts. Until the late labors of German philologers, little had been done to clear up the confusion resting on this period of literary history. As yet the field has scarcely been explored beyond the regions not immediately connected with the literature of Germany. We have long historical poems of little interest, arranged without order,—interminable productions of thousands and ten thousands of lines of uncertain date, didactic and encyclopedia-like, besides unmistakable remnants of a Netherlandish theatre.
The battle of Roosebeke, where the second Artevelde and his companions succumbed to superior numbers, was the last great enterprise of the Flemings against the French. Half a century earlier, a strong league had been formed against these powerful neighbors. In the interior, the country was divided into factions,—the partisans and enemies of France. Prominent were the Clauwaerts and the Leliarts, from the lion’s claw and the fleur-de-lis which they respectively wore on their badges. The country, which has ever been one of the battle-fields of Europe, was abandoned to all the horrors of civil war. The Duke of Brabant was childless. The Count of Flanders gave his daughter, his only legitimate child, in marriage to the Duke of Burgundy; and the provinces soon came into the hands of those ambitious and restless enemies of the Court of France. It may easily be imagined that these events were not without their influence on a language deteriorated on the one hand by constant contact with a Romanic idiom, and in Holland by the transmission of the sovereign crown to the House of Avesnes.
The “Chambers of Rhetoric,” an institution peculiar to the Low Countries, reached their highest point of prosperity under the Burgundian rule. The wandering life of poets and authors had nearly ceased. The Gezellen, settled in towns, and moved by the prevalent spirit which prompted men of one calling to unite into bodies, naturally fell into corporations analogous to the Guilds. Without attaching any very definite or clear idea to the term Rhetoric which they employed, these associations exerted
The proceedings of these companies, protected at first by princes, were carried on with great magnificence. They were in constant communication with each other throughout the country. Their facteurs or poets composed songs and theatrical pieces, which were performed by the members. They had a long array of officers, with princely names; and none was complete without a jester. Their larger assemblies were accompanied with long festivities, the solemn entry into a town or village being styled Landjuweel (Landjewel). The nobility mingled in them, incited by the example of Henry IV. of Brabant or Philippe-le-Bel. The wealth of the Netherlands was displayed on these solemnities, and the citizens rivalled their monarchs in magnificence. The burghers of Ghent and Bruges and Antwerp shone, on these occasions, in the gaudy pomp of princely patricians. All were invited to take part and dispute the prizes awarded by fair hands.
It can scarcely be expected that these guilds, composed in many cases of mechanics, should give rise to works of the highest order of merit. Their dramatic representations were rather gorgeous than tasteful, their attempts at wit little better than buffoonery, their humor mere personal vituperation. Yet even in matters of taste they are not much inferior to the then more pretentious academies of other lands. It was an age of long religious dramas, of tortured rhymes and impossible metres, when strange and new versification imported from France found favor among a people whose silks and linens and rich tapestries were destined to reach a wider circulation than all the poetical effusions of their guilds, the “Lily,” the “Violet,” and the “Jesus with the Balsam Flower.”
It was Philip the Fair who, wishing to centralize the scattered efforts of these societies, established at Malines, in 1493, a sovereign chamber, of which he appointed his chaplain, Pierre Aelters, sovereign prince. With an admixture of religion, in accordance with the spirit of the Middle Ages, the sacred number was fifteen. There were fifteen members. Fifteen young girls were to form part of it, in honor of the fifteen joys of Mary. Fifteen youths were instructed in the art of rhetoric, and the assemblies were held fifteen times a year. Charles V. was the last chief of this assembly, which had previously been removed to Ghent. In 1577 it greeted the arrival of the Prince of Orange, but this was its last sign of vitality.
The Chambers of Rhetoric reached their climax in a time of fermentation. The impatience, the feeling of uneasiness and restraint, is felt in the drama of these days, which was wholly under the control of the Chambers. The stage, that “mirror of the times,” is often the first manifestation of the unquiet heaving and subsequent up-bubbling in the fluid compost of the mass that constitutes a nation. When freely developed, it is the pulse-beat of the people. And so, throughout the Netherlands, at the end of the fifteenth century and the beginning of the sixteenth, we find the allegorical drama giving way to more definite and direct personations. Those cold representations of vices and virtues, of vice in its nakedness, such as to render the reading, when not absolutely tedious, distasteful, to say the least, to our modern ideas,—all such aimless productions were giving way to the conscious expression of satire. Diatribes against prevalent abuses, personal invectives scarcely veiled, were fast becoming the order of the day. It is no wonder, then, that the guilds, which had found favor formerly, should gradually be crushed, in proportion as the rulers sought to check the spirit of reform. Among the authors of this period may be mentioned Everaert and Machet. The refrain was much cultivated, and not, like the drama, for the expression of dissatisfaction. Anna Byns, an oracle with the Catholic party, wrote when the language was in its most degenerate state, under Margaret of Austria. She was styled the Sappho of Brabant, though her poems are all religious. They were translated into Latin, and were read as masterpieces till the middle of the last century.
A taste for religious writing prevailed in the Netherlands throughout the sixteenth century. William van Zuylen van Nyevelt first published a collection of the Psalms of David. These, in imitation of the French Calvinists, were sung to the most popular melodies. Zuylen found many imitators. The Catholic party composed songs in opposition to the Reformers; and we have psalms and songs by Utenhove, the painters Luc de Heere and Van Mander, by Van Haecht and Fruytiers. A long list of obscure names, if we except those of Marnix and Houwaert, is mentioned as belonging to this period,—their works mostly didactic or controversial. Houwaert, a Catholic, one of the avowed friends and partisans of the Prince of Orange, courted the Muses in the hottest days of civil strife. He published a poem, in sixteen cantos, entitled “The Gardens of the Virgins,” tending to show the dangers to which the fair sex is exposed, and condemning as unreal all love not centred in God. With a remarkable fertility of composition he possesses an uncommon smoothness of versification, combined with a power, so successful in his age, of illustration from history or romance, from the sacred writings or the legendary lore of the people. The work was received in those days of trouble with unbounded enthusiasm. Brabant was thought to have given birth to a new Homer. His praises resounded in verse and song, and the young girls of Brussels crowned him with laurel.
The government of the Duke of Alva, and the succeeding years of revolution, were a period of desolation for Flanders. The Guilds of Rhetoric were dispersed; town after town was depopulated; Ghent, the loved city of Charles V., lost six thousand families; Leyden, Amsterdam, Haerlem, Gouda, afforded refuge to the emigrants. The golden age of literary activity is about to dawn in the Dutch republic. In the other provinces the national language is more and more neglected. It gives umbrage to the foreign chiefs who act as sovereigns. With it they identify all the opposition that has prevailed against them. Archduke Albert carries his condescension no farther than to address in High-German such of his subjects as can speak only Flemish. His Walloons he treats with no more civility, answering them but in Spanish or Latin. Ymmeloot, lord of Steenbrugge, a native of Ypres, endeavors in 1614 to stem the current of opposition and reawaken a love for letters. He suggests many reforms in the versification, and gives the example. He is followed by many, and Ypres becomes for a time a centre of versifiers. But the spirit of originality has flown, and the literature of Holland is enriched with the name of many a Fleming who preferred exile to the new rule.
In 1618, the General Synod of Dordrecht decreed that a new translation of the Bible should be undertaken. Two Flemings, Baudaert and Walaeus, and two Dutchmen, Bogerman and Hommius, completed it. Like the work of Luther, this tended in a great measure to fix the language, preventing the preponderance of one dialect over the other.
Foreign imitation begins to prevail in Flanders. Frederic de Conincq constructs dramas on the models of Lope de Vega, with the necessary quota of nocturnal visits, abductions, dagger-thrusts, and bravado. An action entirely Spanish is conducted in the veriest patois of Antwerp. Ogier follows in his footsteps, introducing upon the stage the coarsest language. He represents vice in its most revolting forms. His theory, as he himself explains it, is, that “it is necessary to represent vice on the stage, as the Romans formerly on certain days intoxicated their slaves and showed them to their children, in order that they might at an early age become inspired with a disgust for debauchery.” Yet his comedies enjoyed the highest favor, and have been pronounced by native critics among the most remarkable and meritorious productions of the epoch. They are ever distinguished by vivacity, truth, and fidelity, in depicting the many-sided life of the people. He seems to have been a literary Ostade or Teniers, with less of ingenuousness and good-nature in the portraiture.
In the mean time the French language continues to gain ground every day. In Brussels, native authors seek in vain to oppose the encroachments of the “Fransquillon,” as Godin first styles them; but, save the feeble productions of Van der Borcht, the Jesuit Poirtiers, and the Dominican Vloers, we find but translations and imitations. Moons versifies some hundreds of fables. A half-sentimental, sickly style, consisting only of praises, of self-abnegation, of pious ejaculations, prevails. It is the worst of reactions;—the country, after its first outburst, had sunk into quietude, the lethargy of inaction.
Holland, on the other hand, is active and doing. Its poets and historians are at work, the precursors of Bilderdyk and Tollens, the poet of the people. Bruges, in the eighteenth century, produces two writers of merit,—Smidts and Labare. In French Flanders, De Swaen adapts from Corneille, and publishes original dramas. Many songs are composed both in the northern and southern provinces, mostly of a religious character. Philologers seek to revive the neglected idiom with little success. But the century is blank of great names. The Academy of Sciences and Belles-Lettres, established at Brussels by Maria Theresa, was composed of members totally unacquainted with the Flemish. It took no notice of the language beyond publishing a few prize-memoirs in its annals. The German barons who ruled cared little for their own tongue: how should they have manifested interest in that of their Belgian subjects? The subsequent French domination was no improvement. On the 13th of June, 1803, it was decreed by the Republic,—“In a year, reckoning from the publication of this present ordinance, the public acts, in the departments once called Belgium, ... in those on the left bank of the Rhine, ... where the custom of drawing up acts in the language of those countries may have been preserved, are henceforth to be written in French.” The Bonaparte rule was not of a nature to restore former privileges. In spite of the feeble remonstrances that were urged against such arbitrary measures, an imperial decree of 1812 enjoined that all Flemish papers should appear with a French translation.
Under the rule of King William, vigorous measures were employed to reinstate the native idiom. At first warmly seconded, Government soon met with an unaccountable opposition even from its subjects. The Dutch was combated by those connected with education. It was ridiculed by the Walloon population. Since the independence of Belgium, the mouvement flamand has been felt more than once by the would-be French rulers. In 1841, a Congress was held in Ghent, where all the members of the Government spoke in Flemish; energetic protests were addressed to the Chamber of Representatives, all with little avail. At present, though the language is nominally on a par with French, it meets with little encouragement. The philological labors of Willems entitle him to a place among the greatest of the present century; he was until his death the leader of the intellectual movement of his country.
Of later authors, we may mention the laureate Ledeganck, Henri Conscience, whose works have now been translated into English, French, German, Danish, and Swedish, Renier Snieders, Van Duyse, Dantzenberg. Modern literature seems to have taken a new flight; it is animated by the purest love of country, by an ardent desire in its authors to revive the use of their native tongue. The tendency is rather Germanic. At the Singers’ Festival, held in Ghent a short time ago, the songs sung breathed a spirit of union and love for the sister languages. As a fair sample, we may quote the following:—
“Welaen, Germaen en Belg tezaem
Voor vryheid, tael en vaderland!
De vaen van’t duitsch en vlaemsche zangverbond
Prael op’t gentsch eeregoud!
Wy willen vry zyn, als de adelaer
Die stout op eigen wieken dryft,
Voor wien er slechts een koestring is, de zon.
Alom waer der Germanen tael
Zich heft en bloeid en’t volk,
Daer is ons vaderland!”
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The Glaciers of the Alps. Being a Narrative of Excursions and Ascents, an Account of the Origin and Phenomena of Glaciers, and an Exposition of the Physical Principles to which they are related. By JOHN TYNDALL, F.R.S., etc., etc. With Illustrations. London: John Murray. 1860. pp. xx., 444.
Our readers are probably aware that the question of the causes of glacier formation and motion, cool as the subject may seem in itself, has demonstrated the existence of a great deal of latent heat among scientific men. In England, the so-called viscous theory of Professor J.D. Forbes held for a long while undisputed possession of the field. According to him, “a glacier is an imperfect fluid, or viscous body, which is urged down slopes of a certain inclination by the mutual pressure of its parts.” With that impartial superciliousness to all foreign achievement which not seldom characterizes the British mind, the credit of all the results of observation and experiment on the glaciers was attributed to Professor Forbes, who seems to have accepted it with delightful complacency. But presently doubt, then unbelief, and at last downright opposition began to show themselves. The leader of the revolt was Professor Tyndall, whose book is now before us. The controversy has begotten no little bitterness of feeling; but none is shown in Mr. Tyndall’s volume, which is throughout written in the truest spirit of science,—with the earnest frankness that becomes a seeker of truth, and the dignity that befits a lover of it.
Not content with any theoretic antagonism to the Forbes explanation of the phenomena, Mr. Tyndall devoted all the leisure of several years to an examination of them on the spot. At the risk of his life, he verified the previous observations of others and made new ones himself. At home, he made experiments upon the nature of ice, especially upon its capacity for regulation and the effect of pressure upon it. He satisfied himself that snow may be changed to ice by pressure, that crumbled ice may in like manner be restored to its original condition, and that solid ice may be forced to take any form desired. Under proper conditions, lamination may be produced by the same means. The result of his investigations is, that the glacier is a solid body, and that pressure answers all the requirements of the glacier-problem, and is the only thing that will.
The book is one of uncommon interest, and discusses many topics beside the glaciers, though nothing that is not in some way related to them. Mr. Tyndall does justice to former investigators,—especially to M. Rendu, who, though imperfectly supplied with demonstrated facts, theorized the phenomena with the happiest inspiration,—and to Agassiz, of whose important observations, establishing for the first time the fact of more rapid motion in the middle of the glacier, Professor Forbes had appropriated the credit. The style is remarkably agreeable, in description vivid, and in its scientific parts clear. Indeed, we do not know whether we have enjoyed the narrative or the science the most. Professor Tyndall has the uncommon gift of being able to write science so that the unscientific can understand it, without descending to the low level of science made easy. The Royal Institution may well congratulate itself on having in him a man every way qualified to succeed Faraday, whenever (and may it be long first!) his chair is vacant.
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MR. JARVES’S COLLECTION.
It seems an odd turn in the kaleidoscope of Fortune that associates a Prime Minister of the Sandwich Islands—where the only pictorial Art is a kind of illumination laboriously executed by the natives on each other’s skins, thus forming a free peripatetic gallery—with a collection of pictures by early Italian masters. It is certainly a striking illustration of American multifariousness. From the dawning civilization of Hawaii Mr. Jarves withdraws to Italy, where culture has passed far beyond its noon, and finds himself equally at home in both. From Italy he has returned to America with by far the most important contribution to historical Art that has ever reached us. It is not easy to overestimate its value, whether intrinsically, or as an aid to intelligent and refining study. We can hardly expect, it is true, ever to form such collections of Art in this country as would save our students the necessity of visiting Europe. This, indeed, would be hardly desirable; since a great deal of the refining and enlightening influence of foreign travel and observation is not received directly from the special objects that may have drawn us abroad, but incidentally and unexpectedly, by being brought into contact with strange systems of government and new forms of thought. But what we might have is such a collection as would enable those of us who cannot travel to enjoy some of the highest aesthetic advantages of travel, and would send our students to the galleries of the Old World already in a condition to appreciate and profit by them. Mr. Jarves’s pictures afford the opportunity for an excellent beginning in such an undertaking.
Mr. Jarves’s object has been to form a gallery that should exhibit the origin, progress, and culmination of Italian Art from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century, in such chronological order as should show the sequence and affiliation of the various schools and the various motive and inspiration that were operative in them. To quote his own language, Mr. Jarves began his undertaking with no “expectation of acquiring masterpieces, or many, if any, of those specimens upon which the reputation of the great masters is based. These are in the main either fixtures in their native localities or permanently absorbed into the great galleries of Europe; and America may scarcely hope ever to possess such. He did propose, however, to get together a collection which should fairly represent the varied qualities of the masters themselves, and the phases of inspiration, religious, aesthetic, or naturalistic, by which they were actuated. And he claims now to have succeeded in this to an extent which in the outset he did not dare to hope, and to have secured for the collection the approving verdict of European taste and connoisseurship in the recognition of it as a valuable historical gallery of original paintings of the epochs and schools they claim to represent.
“In putting forward this claim, he does it in full view of the character of the criticism and doubts such an assumption naturally begets. The public are right in doubting; and they should not be convinced except upon sound evidence. Therefore, while he unhesitatingly claims for the collection the foregoing character, he expects and invites from the public the fullest measure of impartial and intelligent criticism.
“The object of the collection is a nucleus for an American Gallery, to be established in the most fitting place and upon a broad basis, sufficient to gratify and improve every variety of taste and to advance the aesthetic culture of the people.
“With this aim, he has declined repeated overtures pecuniarily advantageous to divert it in whole or part to other purposes; and in bringing it to America at his own risk and expense, it is solely to test the disposition of the public to second such a project. If it meet their approbation, the means best adapted for the purpose are to be maturely considered; but if otherwise, it is his intention to return the gallery to Europe.
“It is a simple question, whether, after having had the opportunity of becoming acquainted with the collection and his object in making it, the American public will sustain perfect this humble beginning of a Public Gallery of Art, or abandon the formation of one to future chances, when the difficulties will be much greater and the opportunities for success much fewer. It must be considered, that, at this moment, while genuine works of Art are growing more and more difficult to be procured, the rivalry of public and private collectors is rapidly increasing.
Mr. Jarves’s collection is not confined by any means to what may be called the curiosities of Art. It contains one hundred and twenty-five pictures; and, rich as it is in works that mark the successive stages of development in Italian painting, it possesses also specimens of its later and most perfect productions. Examples of the pure Byzantine bring us to those of the Greco-Italian school, and these to the early Italian, represented (in its Umbrian branch) by Cimabue, by Giotto and his followers, the Gaddi, Cavallini, Giottino, Orgagna, and others; while of the Sienese we have Duccio, Simone di Martino, and Lorenzetti, with more of less note. Of the Ascetics we have, among others, Fra Angelico, Castagno, and Giovanni di Paolo. The Realists are ushered in by Masolino, Masaccio, Filippo Lippi, and go on in an unbroken series through Botticelli, Filippino Lippi, and Cosimo Roselli, to Domenico Ghirlandajo, Leonardo, Raffaello, and a design of Michel Angelo, painted by one of his pupils. Nor does the succession end here; Andrea del Sarto, R. Ghirlandajo, Vasari, Bronzino, Pontormo, and others, follow. Of the Religionists, there are Lorenzo di Credi, Fra Bartolommeo, Perugino, and their scholars. The progress of landscape, history, and anatomical drawing may be traced in Paolo Uccello, Dello Delli, Piero di Cosimo, Pinturicchio, the Pollajuoli, and Luca Signorelli. Here also is Gentile da Fabriano. Venice gives us G. Bellini, M. Basaiti, Giorgione, and Paul Veronese. And of the later Sienese, there are Sodoma, Matteo da Siena, and Beccafumi. The list includes, also, Domenichino, Sebastian del Piombo, Guido, Salvator Rosa, Holbein, Rubens, and Lo Spagna.
The names we have cited will be enough to show those familiar with the subject the scope of the collection and its value as a consecutive series, embracing a period which few galleries in any country cover so completely, since few have been gathered on any historical plan.
The chief question, of course, is as to the authenticity of the pictures. This cannot be decided till they are exhibited and Mr. Jarves’s proofs are before the public. It is mainly to be decided on internal evidence, and it is on such evidence that a great part of the very early pictures in foreign collections have been labelled with the names of particular artists. The weight of such evidence is to be
Every year it becomes more difficult to obtain pictures of the class of which Mr. Jarves’s collection is mainly composed. The directors of European galleries have become alive to their value, and are sparing no effort to fill the lacuna left by the more strictly virtuoso taste of a former generation. As far as the general public is concerned, such pictures must, no doubt, create the taste by which they will be appreciated. The style of the more archaic ones among them may be easily ridiculed, and the cry of Pre-Raphaelitism may be turned against them; but we should not forget that these earlier efforts, however they might fail in grace of treatment and ease of expression, are sincere and genuine products of their time, and very different in spirit and character from the productions of the modern school, which aims to reproduce a phase of Art when the thought and faith that animated it are gone past recall.
Mr. Jarves is desirous that the gallery should remain in his native city of Boston, and to that end is willing to part with it on very generous terms. We cannot but hope that there will be taste and public spirit enough to realize his design. By the side of the Museum of Natural History under the charge of Agassiz, we should like to see one of Art that would supply another great want in our culture. The Jarves Collection gives the opportunity for a most successful beginning, and we trust it will not be allowed to follow the Ninevite Marbles.
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RECEIVED BY THE EDITORS OF THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
Rosa; or the Parisian Girl. From the French of Madame de Pressense. By Mrs. J.C. Fletcher. New York. Harper & Brothers. 18mo. pp. 371. 60 cts.
The Sunny South; or the Southerner at Home. Embracing Five Years’ Experience of a Northern Governess in the Land of the Sugar and the Cotton. Edited by Professor J.H. Ingraham of Mississippi. Philadelphia. George G. Evans. 12mo. pp. 526. $1.25.
A Greek Grammar, for Schools and Colleges. By James Hadley, Professor in Yale College. New York. D. Appleton & Co. 12mo. pp. 366. $1.25.
Life of William T. Porter. By Francis Brinley. New York. D. Appleton & Co. 12mo. pp. 273. $1.00.
Virgil’s Aeneid; with Explanatory Notes. By Henry S. Frieze, Professor of Latin in the State University of Michigan. New York. D. Appleton & Co. 12mo. pp. 598. $1.25.
What may be Learned from a Tree. By Harland Coultas, Author of “Organic Life the same in Animals as in Plants,” etc. New York. D. Appleton & Co. 8vo. pp. 190. $1.00.
Wilkins Wylder; or the Successful Man. By Stephen F. Miller, Author of “The Bench and Bar of Georgia.” Philadelphia. J.B. Lippincott & Co. 12mo. pp. 420. $1.00.
Italy in Transition. Public Scenes and Private Opinions in the Spring of 1860. Illustrated by Official Documents from the Papal Archives of the Revolted Legations. By William Arthur, A.M., Author of “The Successful Merchant.” New York. Harper & Brothers. 16mo. pp. 429. $1.00.
Chapters on Wives. By Mrs. Ellis, Author Of “Mothers of Great Men.” New York. Harper & Brothers. 16mo. pp. 358.
The Woman in White. A Novel. By Wilkie Collins, Author of “The Queen of Hearts,” “After Dark,” etc. Illustrated by John McLenan. New York. Harper & Brothers. 8vo. pp. 260. $1.00.
American History. By Jacob Abbott. Illustrated with Numerous Maps and Engravings. Vol. II. Discovery of America. New York. Sheldon & Co. 18mo. pp. 288. 60 cts.
The German University in America. By J. Gambs, late Professor of the German University in the Grand Duchy of Hesse. New York. Sheldon & Co. 16mo. pp. 22. 15 cts.
The Eighth Commandment. By Charles Reade. Boston. Ticknor & Fields. 16mo. pp. 276. 75 cts.
A Treasury of Scripture Stories. Beautifully illustrated with Colored Plates, from Original Designs, by the first of American Artists. New York. Sheldon & Co. 12mo. pp. 50. 75 cts.
A Man. By Rev. J.D. Bell. Philadelphia. James Challen & Son. 12mo. pp. 462. $1.25.
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Reminiscences of an Officer of Zouaves. Translated from the French. New York. D. Appleton & Co. 16mo. pp. 317. 75 cts.
The Lost Principle; or the Sectional Equilibrium: how it was created, how destroyed, how it may be restored. By “Barbarossa.” Richmond, Va. James Woodhouse & Co. 8vo. pp. 266. $1.50.
The Political Text-Book for 1860. Comprising a Brief View of Presidential Nominations and Elections, including all the National Platforms ever yet adopted. Compiled by Horace Greeley and John F. Cleveland. New York. Tribune Association. 8vo. pp. 248. $1.00.
The New American Cyclopaedia; a Popular Dictionary of General Knowledge. Edited by George Ripley and Charles A. Dana. Vol. X. New York. D. Appleton & Co. 8vo. pp. 788, viii. $3.00.
French, German, Spanish, Latin, and Italian Languages without a Master, whereby any one or all of these Languages can be learned by any one, without a Teacher, with the Aid of this Book. By A.H. Monteith. Philadelphia. T.B. Peterson & Brothers. 12mo. pp. 374. $1.25.
The Kangaroo-Hunters: or Adventures in the Bush. By Anne Bowman. Boston. Crosby, Nichols, Lee, & Co. 18mo. pp. 463. 75 cts.
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