Title: Theological Essays and Other Papers — Volume 2
Author: Thomas De Quincey
Release date: October 1, 2004 [eBook #6660]
Most recently updated: April 9, 2013
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By THOMAS DE QUINCEY, AUTHOR OF
A great revolution has taken place in Scotland. A greater has been threatened. Nor is that danger even yet certainly gone by. Upon the accidents of such events as may arise for the next five years, whether fitted or not fitted to revive discussions in which many of the Non-seceders went in various degrees along with the Seceders, depends the final (and, in a strict sense, the very awful) question, What is to be the fate of the Scottish church? Lord Aberdeen's Act is well qualified to tranquillize the agitations of that body; and at an earlier stage, if not intercepted by Lord Melbourne, might have prevented them in part. But Lord Aberdeen has no power to stifle a conflagration once thoroughly kindled. That must depend in a great degree upon the favorable aspect of events yet in the rear.
Meantime these great disturbances are not understood in England; and chiefly from the differences between the two nations as to the language of their several churches and law courts. The process of ordination and induction is totally different under the different ecclesiastical administrations of the two kingdoms. And the church courts of Scotland do not exist in England. We write, therefore, with an express view to the better information of England proper. And, with this purpose, we shall lead the discussion through four capital questions:—
I. What is it that has been done by the moving party?
II. How was it done? By what agencies and influence?
III. What were the immediate results of these acts?
IV. What are the remote results yet to be apprehended?
I. First, then, WHAT is it that has been done? Up to the month of May in 1834, the fathers and brothers of the 'Kirk' were in harmony as great as humanity can hope to see. Since May, 1834, the church has been a fierce crater of volcanic agencies, throwing out of her bosom one-third of her children; and these children are no sooner born into their earthly atmosphere, than they turn, with unnatural passions, to the destruction of their brethren. What can be the grounds upon which an acharnement so deadly has arisen?
It will read to the ears of a stranger almost as an experiment upon his credulity, if we tell the simple truth. Being incredible, however, it is not the less true; and, being monstrous, it will yet be recorded in history, that the Scottish church has split into mortal feuds upon two points absolutely without interest to the nation; first, upon a demand for creating clergymen by a new process; secondly, upon a demand for Papal latitude of jurisdiction. Even the order of succession in these things is not without meaning. Had the second demand stood first, it would have seemed possible that the two demands might have grown up independently, and so far conscientiously. But, according to the realities of the case, this is not possible; the second demand grew out of the first. The interest of the Seceders, as locked up in their earliest requisition, was that which prompted their second. Almost everybody was contented with the existing mode of creating the pastoral relation. Search through Christendom, lengthways and breadthways, there was not a public usage, an institution, an economy, which more profoundly slept in the sunshine of divine favor or of civil prosperity, than the peculiar mode authorized and practised in Scotland of appointing to every parish its several pastor. Here and there an ultra-Presbyterian spirit might prompt a murmur against it. But the wise and intelligent approved; and those who had the appropriate—that is, the religious interest—confessed that it was practically successful. From whom, then, came the attempt to change? Why, from those only who had an alien interest, an indirect interest, an interest of ambition in its subversion. As matters stood in the spring of 1834, the patron of each benefice, acting under the severest restraints—restraints which (if the church courts did their duty) left no room or possibility for an unfit man to creep in—nominated the incumbent. In a spiritual sense, the church had all power: by refusing, first of all, to 'license' unqualified persons; secondly, by refusing to 'admit' out of these licensed persons such as might have become warped from the proper standard of pastoral fitness, the church had a negative voice, all-potential in the creation of clergymen; the church could exclude whom she pleased. But this contented her not. Simply to shut out was an ungracious office, though mighty for the interests of orthodoxy through the land. The children of this world, who became the agitators of the church, clamored for something more. They desired for the church that she should become a lady patroness; that she should give as well as take away; that she should wield a sceptre, courted for its bounties, and not merely feared for its austerities. Yet how should this be accomplished? Openly to translate upon the church the present power of patrons—that were too revolutionary, that would have exposed its own object. For the present, therefore, let this device prevail—let the power nominally be transferred to congregations: let this be done upon the plea that each congregation understands best what mode of ministrations tends to its own edification. There lies the semblance of a Christian plea; the congregation, it is said, has become anxious for itself; the church has become anxious for the congregation. And then, if the translation should be effected, the church has already devised a means for appropriating the power which she has unsettled; for she limits this power to the communicants at the sacramental table. Now, in Scotland, though not in England, the character of communicant is notoriously created or suspended by the clergyman of each parish; so that, by the briefest of circuits, the church causes the power to revolve into her own hands.
That was the first change—a change full of Jacobinism; and for which to be published was to be denounced. It was necessary, therefore, to place this Jacobin change upon a basis privileged from attack. How should that be done? The object was to create a new clerical power; to shift the election of clergymen from the lay hands in which law and usage had lodged it; and, under a plausible mask of making the election popular, circuitously to make it ecclesiastical. Yet, if the existing patrons of church benefices should see themselves suddenly denuded of their rights, and within a year or two should see these rights settling determinately into the hands of the clergy, the fraud, the fraudulent purpose, and the fraudulent machinery, would have stood out in gross proportions too palpably revealed. In this dilemma the reverend agitators devised a second scheme. It was a scheme bearing triple harvests; for, at one and the same time, it furnished the motive which gave a constructive coherency and meaning to the original purpose, it threw a solemn shadow over the rank worldliness of that purpose, and it opened a diffusive tendency towards other purposes of the same nature, as yet undeveloped. The device was this: in Scotland, as in England, the total process by which a parish clergyman is created, subdivides itself into several successive acts. The initial act belongs to the patron of the benefice: he must 'present;' that is, he notifies the fact of his having conferred the benefice upon A B, to a public body which officially takes cognizance of this act; and that body is, not the particular parish concerned, but the presbytery of the district in which the parish is seated. Thus far the steps, merely legal, of the proceedings, were too definite to be easily disturbed. These steps are sustained by Lord Aberdeen as realities, and even by the Non-intrusionists were tolerated as formalities.
But at this point commence other steps not so rigorously defined by law or usage, nor so absolutely within one uniform interpretation of their value. In practice they had long sunk into forms. But ancient forms easily lend themselves to a revivification by meanings and applications, new or old, under the galvanism of democratic forces. The disturbers of the church, passing by the act of 'presentation' as an obstacle too formidable to be separately attacked on its own account, made their stand upon one of the two acts which lie next in succession. It is the regular routine, that the presbytery, having been warned of the patron's appointment, and having 'received' (in technical language) the presentee—that is, having formally recognised him in that character—next appoint a day on which he is to preach before the congregation. This sermon, together with the prayers by which it is accompanied, constitute the probationary act according to some views; but, according to the general theory, simply the inaugural act by which the new pastor places himself officially before his future parishioners. Decorum, and the sense of proportion, seem to require that to every commencement of a very weighty relation, imposing new duties, there should be a corresponding and ceremonial entrance. The new pastor, until this public introduction, could not be legitimately assumed for known to the parishioners. And accordingly at this point it was—viz. subsequently to his authentic publication, as we may call it—that, in the case of any grievous scandal known to the parish as outstanding against him, arose the proper opportunity furnished by the church for lodging the accusation, and for investigating it before the church court. In default, however, of any grave objection to the presentee, he was next summoned by the presbytery to what really was a probationary act at their bar; viz. an examination of his theological sufficiency. But in this it could not be expected that he should fail, because he must previously have satisfied the requisitions of the church in his original examination for a license to preach. Once dismissed with credit from this bar, he was now beyond all further probation whatsoever; in technical phrase, he was entitled to 'admission.' Such were the steps, according to their orderly succession, by which a man consummated the pastoral tie with any particular parish. And all of these steps, subsequent to the 'reception' and inaugural preaching, were now summarily characterized by the revolutionists as 'spiritual;' for the sake of sequestering them into their own hands. As to the initiatory act of presentation, that might be secular, and to be dealt with by a secular law. But the rest were acts which belonged not to a kingdom of this world. 'These,' with a newborn scrupulosity never heard of until the revolution of 1834, clamored for new casuistries; 'these,' said the agitators, 'we cannot consent any longer to leave in their state of collapse as mere inert or ceremonial forms. They must be revivified. By all means, let the patron present as heretofore. But the acts of "examination" and "admission," together with the power of altogether refusing to enter upon either, under a protest against the candidate from a clear majority of the parishioners—these are acts falling within the spiritual jurisdiction of the church. And these powers we must, for the future, see exercised according to spiritual views.'
Here, then, suddenly emerged a perfect ratification for their own previous revolutionary doctrine upon the creation of parish clergymen. This new scruple was, in relation to former scruples, a perfect linch-pin for locking their machinery into cohesion. For vainly would they have sought to defeat the patron's right of presenting, unless through this sudden pause and interdict imposed upon the latter acts in the process of induction, under the pretext that these were acts competent only to a spiritual jurisdiction. This plea, by its tendency, rounded and secured all that they had yet advanced in the way of claim. But, at the same time, though indispensable negatively, positively it stretched so much further than any necessity or interest inherent in their present innovations, that not improbably they faltered and shrank back at first from the immeasurable field of consequences upon which it opened. They would willingly have accepted less. But, unfortunately, it sometimes happens, that, to gain as much as is needful in one direction, you must take a great deal more than you wish for in another. Any principle, which could carry them over the immediate difficulty, would, by a mere necessity, carry them incalculably beyond it. For if every act bearing in any one direction a spiritual aspect, showing at any angle a relation to spiritual things, is therefore to be held spiritual in a sense excluding the interference of the civil power, there falls to the ground at once the whole fabric of civil authority in any independent form. Accordingly, we are satisfied that the claim to a spiritual jurisdiction, in collision with the claims of the state, would not probably have offered itself to the ambition of the agitators, otherwise than as a measure ancillary to their earlier pretension of appointing virtually all parish clergymen. The one claim was found to be the integration or sine qua non complement of the other. In order to sustain the power of appointment in their own courts, it was necessary that they should defeat the patron's power; and, in order to defeat the patron's power, ranging itself (as sooner or later it would) under the law of the land, it was necessary that they should decline that struggle, by attempting to take the question out of all secular jurisdictions whatever.
In this way grew up that twofold revolution which has been convulsing the Scottish church since 1834; first, the audacious attempt to disturb the settled mode of appointing the parish clergy, through a silent robbery perpetrated on the crown and great landed aristocracy; secondly, and in prosecution of that primary purpose, the far more frantic attempt to renew in a practical shape the old disputes so often agitating the forum of Christendom, as to the bounds of civil and spiritual power.
In our rehearsal of the stages through which the process of induction ordinarily travels, we have purposely omitted one possible interlude or parenthesis in the series; not as wishing to conceal it, but for the very opposite reason. It is right to withdraw from a representative account of any transaction such varieties of the routine as occur but seldom: in this way they are more pointedly exposed. Now, having made that explanation, we go on to inform the Southern reader—that an old traditionary usage has prevailed in Scotland, but not systematically or uniformly, of sending to the presentee, through the presbytery, what is designated a 'call,' subscribed by members of the parish congregation. This call is simply an invitation to the office of their pastor. It arose in the disorders of the seventeenth century; but in practice it is generally admitted to have sunk into a mere formality throughout the eighteenth century; and the very position which it holds in the succession of steps, not usually coming forward until after the presentation has been notified (supposing that it comes forward at all), compels us to regard it in that light. Apparently it bears the same relation to the patron's act as the Address of the two Houses to the Speech from the Throne: it is rather a courteous echo to the personal compliment involved in the presentation, than capable of being regarded as any original act of invitation. And yet, in defiance of that notorious fact, some people go so far as to assert, that a call is not good unless where it is subscribed by a clear majority of the congregation. This is amusing. We have already explained that, except as a liberal courtesy, the very idea of a call destined to be inoperative, is and must be moonshine. Yet between two moonshines, some people, it seems, can tell which is the denser. We have all heard of Barmecide banquets, where, out of tureens filled to the brim with—nothings the fortunate guest was helped to vast messes of—air. For a hungry guest to take this tantalization in good part, was the sure way to win the esteem of the noble Barmecide. But the Barmecide himself would hardly approve of a duel turning upon a comparison between two of his tureens, question being—which had been the fuller, or of two nihilities which had been seasoned the more judiciously. Yet this in effect is the reasoning of those who say that a call, signed by fifty-one persons out of a hundred, is more valid than another signed only by twenty-six, or by nobody; it being in the mean time fully understood that neither is valid in the least possible degree. But if the 'call,' was a Barmecide call, there was another act open to the congregation which was not so.
For the English reader must now understand, that over and above the passive and less invidious mode of discountenancing or forbearing to countenance a presentee, by withdrawing from the direct 'call' upon him, usage has sanctioned another and stronger sort of protest; one which takes the shape of distinct and clamorous objections. We are speaking of the routine in this place, according to the course which it did travel or could travel under that law and that practice which furnished the pleas for complaint. Now, it was upon these 'objections,' as may well be supposed, that the main battle arose. Simply to want the 'call,' being a mere zero, could not much lay hold upon public feeling. It was a case not fitted for effect. You cannot bring a blank privation strongly before the public eye. 'The "call" did not take place last week;' well, perhaps it will take place next week. Or again, if it should never take place, perhaps it may be religious carelessness on the part of the parish. Many parishes notoriously feel no interest in their pastor, except as a quiet member of their community. Consequently, in two of three cases that might occur, there was nothing to excite the public; the parish had either agreed with the patron, or had not noticeably dissented. But in the third case of positive 'objections,' which (in order to justify themselves as not frivolous and vexatious) were urged with peculiar emphasis, the attention of all men was arrested. Newspapers reverberated the fact: sympathetic groans arose: the patron was an oppressor: the parish was under persecution: and the poor clergyman, whose case was the most to be pitied, as being in a measure endowed with a lasting fund of dislike, had the mortification to find, over and above this resistance from within, that he bore the name of 'intruder' from without. He was supposed by the fiction of the case to be in league with his patron for the persecution of a godly parish; whilst in reality the godly parish was persecuting him, and hallooing the world ab extra to join in the hunt.
In such cases of pretended objections to men who have not been tried, we need scarcely tell the reader, that usually they are mere cabals and worldly intrigues. It is next to impossible that any parish or congregation should sincerely agree in their opinion of a clergyman. What one man likes in such cases, another man detests. Mr. A., with an ardent nature, and something of a histrionic turn, doats upon a fine rhetorical display. Mr. B., with more simplicity of taste, pronounces this little better than theatrical ostenostentation. Mr. C. requires a good deal of critical scholarship, Mr. D quarrels with this as unsuitable to a rustic congregation. Mrs. X., who is 'under concern' for sin, demands a searching and (as she expresses it) a 'faithful' style of dealing with consciences. Mrs. Y., an aristocratic lady, who cannot bear to be mixed up in any common charge together with low people, abominates such words as 'sin,' and wills that the parson should confine his 'observations' to the 'shocking demoralization of the lower orders.'
Now, having stated the practice of Scottish induction as it was formerly sustained in its first stage by law, in its second stage by usage, let us finish that part of the subject by reporting the existing practice as regulated in all its stages by law. What law? The law as laid down in Lord Aberdeen's late Act of Parliament. This statement should, historically speaking, have found itself under our third head, as being one amongst the consequences immediately following the final rupture. But it is better placed at this point; because it closes the whole review of that topic; and because it reflects light upon the former practice—the practice which led to the whole mutinous tumult: every alteration forcing more keenly upon the reader's attention what had been the previous custom, and in what respect it was held by any man to be a grievance.
This act, then, of Lord Aberdeen's removes all legal effect from the 'call.' Common sense required that. For what was to be done with patronage? Was it to be sustained, or was it not? If not, then why quarrel with the Non-intrusionists? Why suffer a schism to take place in the church? Give legal effect to the 'call,' and the original cause of quarrel is gone. For, with respect to the opponents of the Non-intrusionists, they would bow to the law. On the other hand, if patronage is to be sustained, then why allow of any lingering or doubtful force to what must often operate as a conflicting claim? 'A call,' which carries with it any legal force, annihilates patronage. Patronage would thus be exercised only on sufferance. Do we mean then, that a 'call' should sink into a pure fiction of ceremony, like the English conge-d'elire addressed to a dean and chapter, calling on them to elect a bishop, when all the world knows that already the see has been filled by a nomination from the crown? Not at all; a moral weight will still attach to the 'call,' though no legal coercion: and what is chiefly important, all those doubts will be removed by express legislation, which could not but arise between a practice pointing sometimes in one direction, and sometimes in another, between legal decisions again upholding one view, whilst something very like legal prescription was occasionally pleaded for the other. Behold the evil of written laws not rigorously in harmony with that sort of customary law founded upon vague tradition or irregular practice. And here, by the way, arises the place for explaining to the reader that irreconcilable dispute amongst Parliamentary lawyers as to the question whether Lord Aberdeen's bill were enactory, that is, created a new law, or declaratory, that is, simply expounded an old one. If enactory, then why did the House of Lords give judgment against those who allowed weight to the 'call?' That might need altering; that might be highly inexpedient; but if it required a new law to make it illegal, how could those, parties be held in the wrong previously to the new act of legislation? On the other hand, if declaratory, then show us any old law which made the 'call' illegal. The fact is, that no man can decide whether the act established a new law, or merely expounded an old one. And the reason why he cannot, is this: the practice, the usage, which often is the law, had grown up variously during the troubles of the seventeenth century. In many places political reasons had dictated that the elders should nominate the incumbent. But the ancient practice had authorized patronage: by the act of Queen Anne (10th chap.) it was even formally restored; and yet the patron in known instances was said to have waived his right in deference to the 'call.' But why? Did he do so in courteous compliance with the parish, as a party whose reasonable wishes ought, for the sake of all parties, to meet with attention? Or did he do so, in humble submission to the parish, as having by their majorities a legal right to the presentation? There lay the question. The presumptions from antiquity were all against the call. The more modern practice had occasionally been for it. Now, we all know how many colorable claims of right are created by prescription. What was the exact force of the 'call,' no man could say. In like manner, the exact character and limit of allowable objections had been ill-defined in practice, and rested more on a vague tradition than on any settled rule. This also made it hard to say whether Lord Aberdeen's Act were enactory or declaratory, a predicament, however, which equally affects all statutes for removing doubts.
The 'call,' then, we consider as no longer recognised by law. But did Lord Aberdeen by that change establish the right of the patron as an unconditional right? By no means. He made it strictly a conditional right. The presentee is now a candidate, and no more. He has the most important vote in his favor, it is true; but that vote may still be set aside, though still only with the effect of compelling the patron to a new choice. 'Calls' are no longer doubtful in their meaning, but 'objections' have a fair field laid open to them. All reasonable objections are to be weighed. But who is to judge whether they are reasonable? The presbytery of the district. And now pursue the action of the law, and see how little ground it leaves upon which to hang a complaint. Everybody's rights are secured. Whatever be the event, first of all the presentee cannot complain, if he is rejected only for proved insufficiency. He is put on his trial as to these points only: 1. Is he orthodox? 2. Is he of good moral reputation? 3. Is he sufficiently learned? And note this (which in fact Sir James Graham remarked in his official letter to the Assembly), strictly speaking, he ought not to be under challenge as respects the third point, for it is your own fault, the fault of your own licensing courts (the presbyteries), if he is not qualified so far. You should not have created him a licentiate, should not have given him a license to preach, as must have been done in an earlier stage of his progress, if he were not learned enough. Once learned, a man is learned for life. As to the other points, he may change, and therefore it is that an examination is requisite. But how can he complain if he is found by an impartial court of venerable men objectionable on any score? If it were possible, however, that he should be wronged, he has his appeal. Secondly, how can the patron complain? His case is the same as his presentee's case; his injuries the same; his relief the same. Besides, if his man is rejected, it is not the parish man that takes his place. No; but a second man of his own choice: and, if again he chooses amiss, who is to blame for that? Thirdly, can the congregation complain? They have a general interest in their spiritual guide. But as to the preference for oratory—for loud or musical voice—for peculiar views in religion—these things are special: they interest but an exceedingly small minority in any parish; and, what is worse, that which pleases one is often offensive to another. There are cases in which a parish would reject a man for being a married man: some of the parish have unmarried daughters. But this case clearly belongs to the small minority; and we have little doubt that, where the objections lay 'for cause not shown,' it was often for this cause. Fourthly, can the church complain? Her interest is represented, 1, not by the presentee; 2, not by the patron; 3, not by the congregation; but 4, by the presbytery. And, whatever the presbytery say, that is supported. Speaking either for the patron, for the presentee, for the congregation, or for themselves as conservators of the church, that court is heard; what more would they have? And thus in turn every interest is protected. Now the point to be remarked is-that each party in turn has a separate influence. But on any other plan, giving to one party out of the four an absolute or unconditional power, no matter which of the four it be—all the rest have none at all. Lord Aberdeen has reconciled the rights of patrons for the first time with those of all other parties interested. Nobody has more than a conditional power. Everybody has that. And the patron, as necessity requires, if property is to be protected, has, in all circumstances, the revisionary power.
II. Secondly, How were these things don?? By what means were the hands of any party strengthened, so as to find this revolution possible?
We seek not to refine; but all moral power issues out of moral forces. And it may be well, therefore, rapidly to sketch the history of religion, which is the greatest of moral forces, as it sank and rose in this island through the last two hundred years.
It is well known that the two great revolutions of the seventeenth century—that in 1649, accomplished by the Parliament armies (including its reaction in 1660), and secondly, that in 1688-9—did much to unsettle the religious tone of public morals. Historians and satirists ascribe a large effect in this change to the personal influence of Charles II., and the foreign character of his court. We do not share in their views; and one eminent proof that they are wrong, lies in the following fact—viz., that the sublimest act of self-sacrifice which the world has ever seen, arose precisely in the most triumphant season of Charles's career, a time when the reaction of hatred had not yet neutralized the sunny joyousness of his Restoration. Surely the reader cannot be at a loss to know what we mean—the renunciation in one hour, on St. Bartholomew's Day in 1662, of two thousand benefices by the nonconforming clergymen of England. In the same year, occurred a similar renunciation of three hundred and sixty benefices in Scotland. These great sacrifices, whether called for or not, argue a great strength in the religious principle at that era. Yet the decay of external religion towards the close of that century is proved incontestably. We ourselves are inclined to charge this upon two causes; first, that the times were controversial; and usually it happens—that, where too much energy is carried into the controversies or intellectual part of religion, a very diminished fervor attends the culture of its moral and practical part. This was perhaps one reason; for the dispute with the Papal church, partly, perhaps, with a secret reference to the rumored apostasy of the royal family, was pursued more eagerly in the latter half of the seventeenth than even in any section of the sixteenth century. But, doubtless, the main reason was the revolutionary character of the times. Morality is at all periods fearfully shaken by intestine wars, and by instability in a government. The actual duration of war in England was not indeed longer than three and a half years, viz., from Edgehill Fight in the autumn of 1642, to the defeat of the king's last force under Sir Jacob Astley at Stow-in-the-walds in the spring of 1846. Any other fighting in that century belonged to mere insulated and discontinuous war. But the insecurity of every government between 1638 and 1702, kept the popular mind in a state of fermentation. Accordingly, Queen Anne's reign might be said to open upon an irreligious people. The condition of things was further strengthened by the unavoidable interweaving at that time of politics with religion. They could not be kept separate; and the favor shown even by religious people to such partisan zealots as Dr. Sacheverell, evidenced, and at the same time promoted, the public irreligion. This was the period in which the clergy thought too little of their duties, but too much of their professional rights; and if we may credit the indirect report of the contemporary literature, all apostolic or missionary zeal for the extension of religion, was in those days a thing unknown. It may seem unaccountable to many, that the same state of things should have spread in those days to Scotland; but this is no more than the analogies of all experience entitled us to expect. Thus we know that the instincts of religious reformation ripened everywhere at the same period of the sixteenth century from one end of Europe to the other; although between most of the European kingdoms there was nothing like so much intercourse as between England and Scotland in the eighteenth century. In both countries, a cold and lifeless state of public religion prevailed up to the American and French Revolutions. These great events gave a shock everywhere to the meditative, and, consequently to the religious impulses of men. And, in the mean time, an irregular channel had been already opened to these impulses by the two founders of Methodism. A century has now passed since Wesley and Whitefield organized a more spiritual machinery of preaching than could then be found in England, for the benefit of the poor and laboring classes. These Methodist institutions prospered, as they were sure of doing, amongst the poor and the neglected at any time, much more when contrasted with the deep slumbers of the Established Church. And another ground of prosperity soon arose out of the now expanding manufacturing system. Vast multitudes of men grew up under that system—humble enough by the quality of their education to accept with thankfulness the ministrations of Methodism, and rich enough to react, upon that beneficent institution, by continued endowments in money. Gradually, even the church herself, that mighty establishment, under the cold shade of which Methodism had grown up as a neglected weed, began to acknowledge the power of an extending Methodistic influence, which originally she had haughtily despised. First, she murmured; then she grew anxious or fearful; and finally, she began to find herself invaded or modified from within, by influences springing up from Methodism. This last effect became more conspicuously evident after the French Revolution. The church of Scotland, which, as a whole, had exhibited, with much unobtrusive piety, the same outward torpor as the church of England during the eighteenth century, betrayed a corresponding resuscitation about the same time. At the opening of this present century, both of these national churches began to show a marked rekindling of religious fervor. In what extent this change in the Scottish church had been due, mediately or immediately, to Methodism, we do not pretend to calculate; that is, we do not pretend to settle the proportions. But mediately the Scottish church must have been affected, because she was greatly affected by her intercourse with the English church (as, e.g., in Bible Societies, Missionary Societies, &c.); and the English church had been previously affected by Methodism. Immediately she must also have been affected by Methodism, because Whitefield had been invited to preach in Scotland, and did preach in Scotland. But, whatever may have been the cause of this awakening from slumber in the two established churches of this island, the fact is so little to be denied, that, in both its aspects, it is acknowledged by those most interested in denying it. The two churches slept the sleep of torpor through the eighteenth century; so much of the fact is acknowledged by their own members. The two churches awoke, as from a trance, in or just before the dawning of the nineteenth century; this second half of the fact is acknowledged by their opponents. The Wesleyan Methodists, that formidable power in England and Wales, who once reviled the Establishment as the dormitory of spiritual drones, have for many years hailed a very large section in that establishment—viz., the section technically known by the name of the Evangelical clergy—as brothers after their own hearts, and corresponding to their own strictest model of a spiritual clergy. That section again, the Evangelical section, in the English church, as men more highly educated, took a direct interest in the Scottish clergy, upon general principles of liberal interest in all that could affect religion, beyond what could be expected from the Methodists. And in this way grew up a considerable action and reaction between the two classical churches of the British soil. Such was the varying condition, when sketched in outline, of the Scottish and English churches. Two centuries ago, and for half a century beyond that, we find both churches in a state of trial, of turbulent agitation, and of sacrifices for conscience, which involved every fifth or sixth beneficiary. Then came a century of languor and the carelessness which belongs to settled prosperity. And finally, for both has arisen a half century of new light—new zeal—and, spiritually speaking, of new prosperity. This deduction it was necessary to bring down, in order to explain the new power which arose to the Scottish church, during the last generation of suppose thirty years.
When two powerful establishments, each separately fitted to the genius and needs of its several people, are pulling together powerfully towards one great spiritual object, vast must be the results. Our ancestors would have stood aghast as at some fabulous legend or some mighty miracle, could they have heard of the scale on which our modern contributions proceed for the purposes of missions to barbarous nations, of circulating the Scriptures, (whether through the Bible Society, that is the National Society, or Provincial Societies,) of translating the Scriptures into languages scarcely known by name to scholars, of converting Jews, of organizing and propagating education. Towards these great objects the Scottish clergy had worked with energy and with little disturbance to their unanimity. Confidence was universally felt in their piety and in their discretion. This confidence even reached the supreme rulers of the state. Very much through ecclesiastical influence, new plans for extending the religious power of the Scottish church, and indirectly of extending their secular power, were countenanced by the Government. Jealousy had been disarmed by the upright conduct of the Scottish clergy, and their remarkable freedom hitherto from all taint of ambition. It was felt, besides, that the temper of the Scottish nation was radically indisposed to all intriguing or modes of temporal ascendency in ecclesiastical bodies. The nation, therefore, was in some degree held as a guarantee for the discretion of their clergy. And hence it arose, that much less caution was applied to the first encroachment of the non-intrusionists, than would have been applied under circumstances of more apparent doubt. Hence, it arose, that a confidence from the Scottish nation was extended to this clergy, which too certainly has been abused.
In the years 1824-5, Parliament had passed acts 'for building additional places of worship in the highlands and islands of Scotland.' These acts may be looked upon as one section in that general extension of religious machinery which the British people, by their government and their legislature, have for many years been promoting. Not, as is ordinarily said, that the weight of this duty had grown upon them simply through their own treacherous neglect of it during the latter half of the eighteenth century; but that no reasonable attention to that duty could have kept pace with the scale upon which the claims of a new manufacturing population had increased. In mere equity we must admit—not that the British nation had fallen behind its duties, (though naturally it might have done so under the religious torpor prevalent at the original era of manufacturing extension,) but that the duties had outstripped all human power of overtaking them. The efforts, however, have been prodigious in this direction for many years. Amongst those applied to Scotland, it had been settled by Parliament that forty-two new churches should be raised in the highlands, with an endowment from the government of [pound symbol]120 annually for each incumbent. There were besides more than two hundred chapels of ease to be founded; and towards this scheme the Scottish public subscribed largely. The money was intrusted to the clergy. That was right, but mark what followed. It had been expressly provided by Parliament—that any district or circumjacent territory, allotted to such parliamentary churches as the range within which the incumbent was to exercise his spiritual ministration, should not be separate parishes for any civil or legal effects. Here surely the intentions and directions of the legislature were plain enough, and decisive enough.
How did the Scottish clergy obey them? They erected all these jurisdictions into bona fide 'parishes,' enjoying the plenary rights (as to church government) of the other parishes, and distinguished from them in a merely nominal way as parishes quoad sacra. There were added at once to the presbyteries, which are the organs of the church power, two hundred and three clerical persons for the chapels of ease, and forty-two for the highland churches—making a total of two hundred and forty-five new members. By the constitution of the Scottish church, an equal number of lay elders (called ruling elders) accompany the clerical elders. Consequently four hundred and ninety new members were introduced at once into that particular class of courts (presbyteries) which form the electoral bodies in relation to the highest court of General Assembly. The effect of this change, made in the very teeth of the law, was twofold. First, it threw into many separate presbyteries a considerable accession of voters—all owing their appointments to the General Assembly. This would at once give a large bias favorable to their party views in every election for members to serve in the Assembly. Even upon an Assembly numerically limited, this innovation would have told most abusively. But the Assembly was not limited; and therefore the whole effect was, at the same moment, greatly to extend the electors and the elected.
Here, then, was the machinery by which the faction worked. They drew that power from Scotland rekindled into a temper of religious anxiety, which they never could have drawn from Scotland lying torpid, as she had lain through the eighteenth century. The new machinery (created by Parliament in order to meet the wishes of the Scottish nation), the money of that nation, the awakened zeal of that nation; all these were employed, honorably in one sense, that is, not turned aside into private channels for purposes of individuals, but factiously in the result, as being for the benefit of a faction; honorably as regarded the open mode of applying such influence—a mode which did not shrink from exposure; but most dishonorably, in so far as privileges, which had been conceded altogether for a spiritual object, were abusively transferred to the furtherance of a temporal intrigue. Such were the methods by which the new-born ambition of the clergy moved; and that ambition had become active, simply because it had suddenly seemed to become practicable. The presbyteries, as being the effectual electoral bodies, are really the main springs of the ecclesiastical administration. To govern them, was in effect to govern the church. A new scheme for extending religion, had opened a new avenue to this control over the presbyteries. That opening was notoriously unlawful. But not the less the church faction precipitated themselves ardently upon it; and but for the faithfulness of the civil courts, they would never have been dislodged from what they had so suddenly acquired. Such was the extraordinary leap taken by the Scottish clergy, into a power, of which, hitherto, they had never enjoyed a fraction. It was a movement per saltum, beyond all that history has recorded. At cock-crow they had no power at all; when the sun went down, they had gained (if they could have held) a papal supremacy. And a thing not less memorably strange is, that even yet the ambitious leaders were not disturbed; what they had gained was viewed by the public as a collateral gain, indirectly adhering to a higher object, but forming no part at all of what the clergy had sought. It required the scrutiny of law courts to unmask and decompose their true object The obstinacy of the defence betrayed the real animus of the attempt. It was an attempt which, in connection with the Veto Act (supposing that to have prospered), would have laid the whole power of the church at their feet. What the law had distributed amongst three powers, patron, parish, and presbyter, would have been concentrated in themselves. The quoad sacra parishes would have riveted their majorities in the presbyteries; and the presbyteries, under the real action of the Veto, would have appointed nearly every incumbent in Scotland. And this is the answer to the question, when treated merely in outline—How were these things done? The religion of the times had created new machineries for propagating a new religious influence. These fell into the hands of the clergy; and the temptation to abuse these advantages led them into revolution.
III. Having now stated WHAT was done, as well as HOW it was done, let us estimate the CONSEQUENCES of these acts; under this present, or third section, reviewing the immediate consequences which have taken effect already, and under the next section anticipating the more remote consequences yet to be expected.
In the spring of 1834, as we have sufficiently explained, the General Assembly ventured on the fatal attempt to revolutionize the church, and (as a preliminary towards that) on the attempt to revolutionize the property of patronage. There lay the extravagance of the attempt; its short-sightedness, if they did not see its civil tendencies; its audacity, if they did. It was one revolution marching to its object through another; it was a vote, which, if at all sustained, must entail a long inheritance of contests with the whole civil polity of Scotland.
'Heu quantum, fati parva tabella vehit!'
It might seem to strangers a trivial thing, that an obscure court, like the presbytery, should proceed in the business of induction by one routine rather than by another; but was it a trivial thing that the power of appointing clergymen should lapse into this perilous dilemma—either that it should be intercepted by the Scottish clerical order, and thus, that a lordly hierarchy should be suddenly created, disposing of incomes which, in the aggregate, approach to half a million annually; or, on the other hand, that this dangerous power, if defeated as a clerical power, should settle into a tenure exquisitely democratic? Was that trivial? Doubtless, the Scottish ecclesiastical revenues are not equal, nor nearly equal, to the English; still, it is true, that Scotland, supposing all her benefices equalized, gives a larger average to each incumbent than England, of the year 1830. England, in that year, gave an average of [pound symbol]299 to each beneficiary; Scotland gave an average of [pound symbol]303. That body, therefore, which wields patronage in Scotland, wields a greater relative power than the corresponding body in England. Now this body, in Scotland, must finally have been the clerus; but supposing the patronage to have settled nominally where the Veto Act had placed it, then it would have settled into the keeping of a fierce democracy. Mr. Forsyth has justly remarked, that in such a case the hired ploughmen of a parish, mercenary hands that quit their engagements at Martinmas, and can have no filial interest in the parish, would generally succeed in electing the clergyman. That man would be elected generally, who had canvassed the parish with the arts and means of an electioneering candidate; or else, the struggle would lie between the property and the Jacobinism of the district.
In respect to Jacobinism, the condition of Scotland is much altered from what it was; pauperism and great towns have worked 'strange defeatures' in Scottish society. A vast capital has arisen in the west, on a level with the first-rate capitalists of the Continent—with Vienna or with Naples; far superior in size to Madrid, to Lisbon, to Berlin; more than equal to Rome and Milan; or again to Munich and Dresden, taken by couples: and, in this point, beyond comparison with any one of these capitals, that whilst they are connected by slight ties with the circumjacent country, Glasgow keeps open a communication with the whole land. Vast laboratories of encouragement to manual skill, too often dissociated from consideration of character; armies of mechanics, gloomy and restless, having no interfusion amongst their endless files of any gradations corresponding to a system of controlling officers; these spectacles, which are permanently offered by the castra stativa of combined mechanics in Glasgow and its dependencies (Paisley, Greenock, &c.), supported by similar districts, and by turbulent collieries in other parts of that kingdom, make Scotland, when now developing her strength, no longer the safe and docile arena for popular movements which once she was, with a people that were scattered and habits that were pastoral. And at this moment, so fearfully increased is the overbearance of democratic impulses in Scotland, that perhaps in no European nation—hardly excepting France—has it become more important to hang weights and retarding forces upon popular movements amongst the laboring classes.
This being so, we have never been able to understand the apparent apathy with which the landed body met the first promulgation of the Veto Act in May, 1834. Of this apathy, two insufficient explanations suggest themselves:—1st, It seemed a matter of delicacy to confront the General Assembly, upon a field which they had clamorously challenged for their own. The question at issue was tempestuously published to Scotland as a question exclusively spiritual. And by whom was it thus published? The Southern reader must here not be careless of dates. At present, viz. in 1844, those who fulminate such views of spiritual jurisdiction, are simply dissenters; and those who vehemently withstand them are the church, armed with the powers of the church. Such are the relations between the parties in 1844. But in 1834, the revolutionary party were not only in the church, but (being the majority) they came forward as the church. The new doctrines presented themselves at first, not as those of a faction, but of the Scottish kirk assembled in her highest court. The prestige of that advantage has vanished since then; for this faction, after first of all falling into a minority, afterwards ceased to be any part or section of the church; but in that year 1834, such a prestige did really operate; and this must be received as one of the reasons which partially explain the torpor of the landed body. No one liked to move first, even amongst those who meant to move. But another reason we find in the conscientious scruples of many landholders, who hesitated to move at all upon a question then insufficiently discussed, and in which their own interest was by so many degrees the largest.
These reasons, however, though sufficient for suspense, seem hardly sufficient for not having solemnly protested against the Veto Act immediately upon its passing the Assembly. Whatever doubts a few persons might harbor upon the expediency of such an act, evidently it was contrary to the law of the land. The General Assembly could have no power to abrogate a law passed by the three estates of the realm. But probably it was the deep sense of that truth which reined up the national resistance. Sure of a speedy collision between some patron and the infringers of his right, other parties stood back for the present, to watch the form which such a collision might assume.
In that same year of 1834, not many months after the passing of the Assembly's Act, came on the first case of collision; and some time subsequently a second. These two cases, Auchterarder and Marnoch, commenced in the very same steps, but immediately afterwards diverged as widely as was possible. In both cases, the rights of the patron and of the presentee were challenged peremptorily; that is to say, in both cases, parishioners objected to the presentee without reason shown. The conduct of the people was the same in one case as in the other; that of the two presbyteries travelled upon lines diametrically opposite. The first case was that of Auchterarder. The parish and the presbytery concerned, both belonged to Auchterarder; and there the presbytery obeyed the new law of the Assembly; they rejected the presentee, refusing to take him on trial of his qualifications: And why? we cannot too often repeat—simply because a majority of a rustic congregation had rejected him, without attempting to show reason for his rejection. The Auchterarder presbytery, for their part in this affair, were prosecuted in the Court of Session by the injured parties—Lord Kinnoul, the patron, and Mr. Young, the presentee. Twice, upon a different form of action, the Court of Session gave judgment against the presbytery; twice the case went up by appeal to the Lords; twice the Lords affirmed the judgment of the court below. In the other case of Marnoch, the presbytery of Strathbogie took precisely the opposite course. So far from abetting the unjust congregation of rustics, they rebelled against the new law of the Assembly, and declared, by seven of their number against three, that they were ready to proceed with the trial of the presentee, and to induct him (if found qualified) into the benefice. Upon this, the General Assembly suspended the seven members of presbytery. By that mode of proceeding, the Assembly fancied that they should be able to elude the intentions of the presbytery; it being supposed that, whilst suspended, the presbytery had no power to ordain; and that, without ordination, there was no possibility of giving induction. But here the Assembly had miscalculated. Suspension would indeed have had the effects ascribed to it; but in the mean time, the suspension, as being originally illegal, was found to be void; and the presentee, on that ground, obtained a decree from the Court of Session, ordaining the presbytery of Strathbogie to proceed with the settlement. Three of the ten members composing this presbytery, resisted; and they were found liable in expenses. The other seven completed the settlement in the usual form. Here was plain rebellion; and rebellion triumphant. If this were allowed, all was gone. What should the Assembly do for the vindication of their authority? Upon deliberation, they deposed the contumacious presbytery from their functions as clergymen, and declared their churches vacant. But this sentence was found to be a brutum fulmen; the crime was no crime, the punishment turned out no punishment: and a minority, even in this very Assembly, declared publicly that they would not consent to regard this sentence as any sentence at all, but would act in all respects as if no such sentence had been carried by vote. Within their own high Court of Assembly, it is, however, difficult to see how this refusal to recognise a sentence voted by a majority could be valid. Outside, the civil courts came into play; but within the Assembly, surely its own laws and votes prevailed. However, this distinction could bring little comfort to the Assembly at present; for the illegality of the deposal was now past all dispute; and the attempt to punish, or even ruin a number of professional brethren for not enforcing a by-law, when the by-law itself had been found irreconcilable to the law of the land, greatly displeased the public, as vindictive, oppressive, and useless to the purposes of the Assembly.
Nothing was gained, except the putting on record an implacability that was confessedly impotent. This was the very lunacy of malice. Mortifying it might certainly seem for the members of a supreme court, like the General Assembly, to be baffled by those of a subordinate court: but still, since each party must be regarded as representing far larger interests than any personal to themselves, trying on either side, not the energies of their separate wits, but the available resources of law in one of its obscurer chapters, there really seemed no more room for humiliation to the one party, or for triumph to the other, than there is amongst reasonable men in the result from a game, where the game is one exclusively of chance.
From this period it is probable that the faction of Non-intrusionists resolved upon abandoning the church. It was the one sole resource left for sustaining their own importance to men who were now sinking fast in public estimation. At the latter end of 1842, they summoned a convocation in Edinburgh. The discussions were private; but it was generally understood that at this time they concerted a plan for going out from the church, in the event of their failing to alarm the Government by the notification of this design. We do not pretend to any knowledge of secrets. What is known to everybody is—that, on the annual meeting of the General Assembly, in May, 1843, the great body of the Non-intrusionists moved out in procession. The sort of theatrical interest which gathered round the Seceders for a few hurried days in May, was of a kind which should naturally have made wise men both ashamed and disgusted. It was the merest effervescence from that state of excitement which is nursed by novelty, by expectation, by the vague anticipation of a 'scene,' possibly of a quarrel, together with the natural interest in seeing men whose names had been long before the public in books and periodical journals.
The first measure of the Seceders was to form themselves into a pseudo-General Assembly. When there are two suns visible, or two moons, the real one and its duplicate, we call the mock sun a parhelios, and the mock moon a paraselene. On that principle, we must call this mock Assembly a para-synodos. Rarely, indeed, can we applaud the Seceders in the fabrication of names. They distinguish as quoad sacra parishes those which were peculiarly quoad politica parishes; for in that view only they had been interesting to the Non-intrusionists. Again, they style themselves The Free Church, by way of taunting the other side with being a servile church. But how are they any church at all? By the courtesies of Europe, and according to usage, a church means a religious incorporation, protected and privileged by the State. Those who are not so privileged are usually content with the title of Separatists, Dissenters, or Nonconformists. No wise man will see either good sense or dignity in assuming titles not appropriate. The very position and aspect towards the church (legally so called) which has been assumed by the Non-intrusionists—viz., the position of protesters against that body, not merely as bearing, amongst other features, a certain relation to the State, but specifically because they bear that relation, makes it incongruous, and even absurd, for these Dissenters to denominate themselves a 'church.' But there is another objection to this denomination—the 'Free Church' have no peculiar and separate Confession of Faith. Nobody knows what are their credenda—what they hold indispensable for fellow-membership, either as to faith in mysteries or in moral doctrines. Now, if they reply—'Oh! as to that, we adopt for our faith all that ever we did profess when members of the Scottish kirk'—then in effect they are hardly so much as a dissenting body, except in some elliptic sense. There is a grievous hiatus in their own titledeeds and archives; they supply it by referring people to the muniment chest of the kirk. Would it not be a scandal to a Protestant church if she should say to communicants —We have no sacramental vessels, or even ritual; but you may borrow both from Papal Rome.' Not only, however, is the kirk to lend her Confession, &c.; but even then a plain rustic will not be able to guess how many parts in his Confession are or may be affected by the 'reformation' of the Non-intrusionists. Surely, he will think, if this reformation were so vast that it drove them out of the national church, absolutely exploded them, then it follows that it must have intervened and indirectly modified innumerable questions: a difference that was punctually limited to this one or these two clauses, could not be such a difference as justified a rupture. Besides, if they have altered this one or these two clauses, or have altered their interpretation, how is any man to know (except from a distinct Confession of Faith) that they have not even directly altered much more? Notoriety through newspapers is surely no ground to stand upon in religion. And now it appears that the unlettered rustic needs two guides—one to show him exactly how much they have altered, whether two points or two hundred, as well as which two or two hundred; another to teach him how far these original changes may have carried with them secondary changes as consequences into other parts of the Christian system. One of the known changes, viz., the doctrine of popular election as the proper qualification for parish clergymen, possibly is not fitted to expand itself or ramify, except by analogy. But the other change, the infinity which has been suddenly turned off like a jet of gas, or like the rushing of wind through the tubes of an organ, upon the doctrine and application of spirituality, seems fitted for derivative effects that are innumerable. Consequently, we say of the Non-itrusionists—not only that they are no church; but that they are not even any separate body of Dissenters, until they have published a 'Confession' or a revised edition of the Scottish Confession.
IV. Lastly, we have to sum and to appreciate the ultimate consequences of these things. Let us pursue them to the end of the vista.—First in order stands the dreadful shock to the National Church Establishment; and that is twofold: it is a shock from without, acting through opinion, and a shock from within, acting through the contagion of example. Each case is separately perfect. Through the opinion of men standing outside of the church, the church herself suffers wrong in her authority. Through the contagion of sympathy stealing over men inside of the church, peril arises of other shocks in a second series, which would so exhaust the church by reiterated convulsions, as to leave her virtually dismembered and shattered for all her great national functions.
As to that evil which acts through opinion, it acts by a machinery, viz. the press and social centralization in great cities, which in these days is perfect. Right or wrong, justified or not justified by the acts of the majority, it is certain that every public body—how much more, then, a body charged with the responsibility of upholding the truth in its standard!—suffers dreadfully in the world's opinion by any feud, schism, or shadow of change among its members. This is what the New Testament, a code of philosophy fertile in new ideas, first introduced under the name of scandal; that is, any occasion of serious offence ministered to the weak or to the sceptical by differences irreconcilable in the acts or the opinions of those whom they are bound to regard as spiritual authorities. Now here, in Scotland, is a feud past all arbitration: here is a schism no longer theoretic, neither beginning nor ending in mere speculation; here is a change of doctrine, on one side or the other, which throws a sad umbrage of doubt and perplexity over the pastoral relation of the church to every parish in Scotland. Less confidence there must always be henceforward in great religious incorporations. Was there any such incorporation reputed to be more internally harmonious than the Scottish church? None has been so tempestuously agitated. Was any church more deeply pledged to the spirit of meekness? None has split asunder so irreconcilably. As to the grounds of quarrel, could any questions or speculations be found so little fitted for a popular intemperance? Yet no breach of unity has ever propagated itself by steps so sudden and irrevocable. One short decennium has comprehended within its circuit the beginning and the end of this unparalleled hurricane. In 1834, the first light augury of mischief skirted the horizon—a cloud no bigger than a man's hand. In 1843, the evil had 'travelled on from birth to birth.' Already it had failed in what may be called one conspiracy; already it had entered upon a second, viz., to rear up an Anti-Kirk, or spurious establishment, which should twist itself with snake-like folds about the legal establishment; surmount it as a Roman vinea surmounted the fortifications which it beleaguered; and which, under whatsoever practical issue for the contest, should at any rate overlook, molest, and insult the true church for ever. Even this brief period of development would have been briefer, had not the law courts interposed many delays. Demurs of law process imposed checks upon the uncharitable haste of the odium theologicum. And though in a question of schism it would be a petitio principii for a neutral censor to assume that either party had been originally in error, yet it is within our competence to say, that the Seceders it was whose bigotry carried the dispute to that sad issue of a final separation. The establishment would have been well content to stop short of that consummation: and temperaments might have been found, compromises both safe and honorable, had the minority built less of their reversionary hopes upon the policy of a fanciful martyrdom. Martyrs they insisted upon becoming: and that they might be martyrs, it was necessary for them to secede. That Europe thinks at present with less reverence of Protestant institutions than it did ten years ago, is due to one of these institutions in particular; viz. to the Scottish kirk, and specifically to the minority in that body. They it was who spurned all mutual toleration, all brotherly indulgence from either side to what it regarded as error in the other. Consequently upon their consciences lies the responsibility of having weakened the pillars of the reformed churches throughout Christendom.
Had those abuses been really such, which the Seceders denounced, were it possible that a primary law of pure Christianity had been set aside for generations, how came it that evils so gross had stirred no whispers of reproach before 1834? How came it that no aurora of early light, no prelusive murmurs of scrupulosity even from themselves, had run before this wild levanter of change? Heretofore or now there must have been huge error on their own showing. Heretofore they must have been traitorously below their duty, or now mutinously beyond it.
Such conclusions are irresistible and upon any path, seceding or not seceding, they menace the worldly credit of ecclesiastical bodies. That evil is now past remedy. As for the other evil, that which acts upon church establishments, not through simple failure in the guarantees of public opinion, but through their own internal vices of composition; here undeniably we see a chasm traversing the Scottish church from the very gates to the centre. And unhappily the same chasm, which marks a division of the church internally, is a link connecting it externally with the Seceders. For how stands the case? Did the Scottish kirk, at the late crisis, divide broadly into two mutually excluding sections? Was there one of these bisections which said Yes, whilst the other responded No? Was the affirmative and negative shared between them as between the black chessmen and the white? Not so; and unhappily not so. The two extremes there were, but these shaded off into each other. Many were the nuances; multiplied the combinations. Here stood a section that had voted for all the changes, with two or three exceptions; there stood another that went the whole length as to this change, but no part of the way as to that; between these sections arose others that had voted arbitrarily, or eclectically, that is, by no law generally recognised. And behind this eclectic school were grouped others who had voted for all novelties up to a certain day, but after that had refused to go further with a movement party whose tendencies they had begun to distrust. In this last case, therefore, the divisional line fell upon no principle, but upon the accident of having, at that particular moment, first seen grounds of conscientious alarm. The principles upon which men had divided were various, and these various principles were variously combined. But on the other hand, those who have gone out were the men who approved totally, not partially—unconditionally, not within limits—up to the end, and not to a given day. Consequently those who stayed in comprehended all the shades and degrees which the men of violence excluded. The Seceders were unanimous to a man, and of necessity; for he who approves the last act, the extreme act, which is naturally the most violent act, a fortiori approves all lesser acts. But the establishment, by parity of reason, retained upon its rolls all the degrees, all the modifications, all who had exercised a wise discretion, who, in so great a cause, had thought it a point of religion to be cautious; whose casuistry had moved in the harness of peace, and who had preferred an interest of conscience to a triumph of partisanship. We honor them for that policy; but we cannot hide from ourselves, that the very principle which makes such a policy honorable at the moment, makes it dangerous in reversion. For he who avows that, upon public motives, he once resisted a temptation to schism, makes known by that avowal that he still harbors in his mind the germ of such a temptation: and to that scruple, which once he resisted, hereafter he may see reason for yielding. The principles of schism, which for the moment were suppressed, are still latent in the church. It is urged that, in quest of unity, many of these men succeeded in resisting the instincts of dissension at the moment of crisis. True: But this might be because they presumed on winning from their own party equal concessions by means less violent than schism; or because they attached less weight to the principle concerned, than they may see cause for attaching upon future considerations; or because they would not allow themselves to sanction the cause of the late Secession, by going out in company with men whose principles they adopted only in part, or whose manner of supporting those principles they abhorred. Universally it is evident, that little stress is to be laid on a negative act; simply to have declined going out with the Seceders proves nothing, for it is equivocal. It is an act which may cover indifferently a marked hostility to the Secession party, or an absolute friendliness, but a friendliness not quite equal to so extreme a test. And, again, this negative act may be equivocal in a different way; the friendliness may not only have existed, but may have existed in sufficient strength for any test whatever; not the principles of the Seceders, but their Jacobinical mode of asserting them, may have proved the true nerve of the repulsion to many. What is it that we wish the English reader to collect from these distinctions? Simply that the danger is not yet gone past. The earthquake, says a great poet, when speaking of the general tendency in all dangers to come round by successive and reiterated shocks—
'The earthquake is not satisfied at once.'
All dangers which lie deeply seated are recurrent dangers; they intermit, only as the revolving lamps of a light-house are periodically eclipsed. The General Assembly of 1843, when closing her gates upon the Seceders, shut in, perhaps, more of the infected than at the time she succeeded in shutting out. As respected the opinion of the world outside, it seemed advisable to shut out the least number possible; for in proportion to the number of the Seceders, was the danger that they should carry with them an authentic impression in their favor. On the other hand, as respected a greater danger, (the danger from internal contagion), it seemed advisable that the church should have shut out (if she could) very many of those who, for the present, adhered to her. The broader the separation, and the more absolute, between the church and the secession, so much the less anxiety there would have survived lest the rent should spread. That the anxiety in this respect is not visionary, the reader may satisfy himself by looking over a remarkable pamphlet, which professes by its title to separate the wheat from the chaff. By the 'wheat,' in the view of this writer, is meant the aggregate of those who persevered in their recusant policy up to the practical result of secession. All who stopped short of that consummation (on whatever plea), are the 'chaff.' The writer is something of an incendiary, or something of a fanatic; but he is consistent with regard to his own principles, and so elaborately careful in his details as to extort admiration of his energy and of his patience in research.
But the reason for which we notice this pamphlet, is, with a view to the proof of that large intestine mischief which still lingers behind in the vitals of the Scottish establishment. No proof, in a question of that nature, can be so showy and ostensive to a stranger as that which is supplied by this vindictive pamphlet. For every past vote recording a scruple, is the pledge of a scruple still existing, though for the moment suppressed. Since the secession, nearly four hundred and fifty new men may have entered the church. This supplementary body has probably diluted the strength of the revolutionary principles. But they also may, perhaps, have partaken to some extent in the contagion of these principles. True, there is this guarantee for caution, on the part of these new men, that as yet they are pledged to nothing; and that, seeing experimentally how fearfully many of their older brethren are now likely to be fettered by the past, they have every possible motive for reserve, in committing themselves, either by their votes or by their pens. In their situation, there is a special inducement to prudence, because there is a prospect, that for them prudence is in time to be effectual. But for many of the older men, prudence comes too late. They are already fettered. And what we are now pointing out to the attention of our readers, is, that by the past, by the absolute votes of the past, too sorrowfully it is made evident, that the Scottish church is deeply tainted with the principles of the Secession. These germs of evil and of revolution, speaking of them in a personal sense, cannot be purged off entirely until one generation shall have passed away. But, speaking of them as principles capable of vegetation, these germs may or may not expand into whole forests of evil, according to the accidents of coming events, whether fitted to tranquillize our billowy aspects of society; or, on the other hand, largely to fertilize the many occasions of agitation, which political fermentations are too sure to throw off. Let this chance turn out as it may, we repeat for the information of Southerns—that the church, by shutting off the persons of particular agitators, has not shut off the principles of agitation; and that the cordon sanataire, supposing the spontaneous exile of the Non-intrusionists to be regarded in that light, was not drawn about the church until the disease had spread widely within the lines.
Past votes may not absolutely pledge a man to a future course of action; warned in time, such a man may stand neutral in practice; but thus far they poison the fountains of wholesome unanimity—that, if a man can evade the necessity of squaring particular actions to his past opinions, at least he must find himself tempted to square his opinions themselves, or his counsels, to such past opinions as he may too notoriously have placed on record by his votes.
But, if such are the continual dangers from reactions in the establishment, so long as men survive in that establishment who feel upbraided by past votes, and so long as enemies survive who will not suffer these upbraidings to slumber—dangers which much mutual forbearance and charity can alone disarm; on the other hand, how much profounder is the inconsistency to which the Free Church is doomed!—They have rent the unity of that church, to which they had pledged their faith—but on what plea? On the plea that in cases purely spiritual, they could not in conscience submit to the award of the secular magistrate. Yet how merely impracticable is this principle, as an abiding principle of action! Churches, that is, the charge of particular congregations, will be with them (as with other religious communities) the means of livelihood. Grounds innumerable will arise for excluding or attempting to exclude, each other from these official stations. No possible form regulating the business of ordination, or of induction, can anticipate the infinite objections which may arise. But no man interested in such a case, will submit to a judge appointed by insufficient authority. Daily bread for his family is what few men will resign without a struggle. And that struggle will of necessity come for final adjudication to the law courts of the land, whose interference in any question affecting a spiritual interest, the Free Church has for ever pledged herself to refuse. But in the case supposed, she will not have the power to refuse it. She will be cited before the tribunals, and can elude that citation in no way but by surrendering the point in litigation; and if she should adopt the notion, that it is better for her to do that, than to acknowledge a sufficient authority in the court by pleading at its bar, upon this principle once made public, she will soon be stripped of everything, and will cease to be a church at all. She cannot continue to be a depository of any faith, or a champion of any doctrines, if she lose the means of defending her own incorporations. But how can she maintain the defenders of her rights, or the dispensers of her truths, if she refuses, upon immutable principle, to call in the aid of the magistrate on behalf of rights, which, under any aspect, regard spiritual relations? Attempting to maintain these rights by private arbitration within a forum of her own, she will soon find such arbitration not binding at all upon the party who conceives himself aggrieved. The issue will be as in Mr. O'Connell's courts, where the parties played at going to law; from the moment when they ceased to play, and no longer 'made believe' to be disputing, the award of the judge became as entire a mockery, as any stage mimicry of such a transaction.
This should be the natural catastrophe of the case; and the probable evasion of that destructive consummation, to which she is carried by her principles, will be—that as soon as her feelings of rancor shall have cooled down, these principles will silently drop out of use; and the very reason will be suffered to perish for which she ever became a dissenting body. With this, however, we, that stand outside, are noways concerned. But an evil, in which we are concerned, is the headlong tendency of the Free Church, and of all churches adulterating with her principle, to an issue not merely dangerous in a political sense, but ruinous in an anti-social sense. The artifice of the Free Church lies in pleading a spiritual relation of any case whatever, whether of doing or suffering, whether positive or negative, as a reason for taking it out of all civil control. Now we may illustrate the peril of this artifice, by a reality at this time impending over society in Ireland. Dr. Higgins, titular bishop of Ardagh, has undertaken upon this very plea of a spiritual power not amenable to civil control, a sort of warfare with Government, upon the question of their power to suspend or defeat the O'Connell agitation. For, says he, if Government should succeed in thus intercepting the direct power of haranguing mobs in open assemblies, then will I harangue them, and cause them to be harangued, in the same spirit, upon the same topics, from the altar or the pulpit. An immediate extension of this principle would be—that every disaffected clergyman in the three kingdoms, would lecture his congregation upon the duty of paying no taxes. This he would denominate passive resistance; and resistance to bad government would become, in his language, the most sacred of duties. In any argument with such a man, he would be found immediately falling back upon the principle of the Free Church; he would insist upon it as a spiritual right, as a ease entirely between his conscience and God, whether he should press to an extremity any and every doctrine, though tending to the instant disorganization of society. To lecture against war, and against taxes as directly supporting war, would wear a most colorable air of truth amongst all weak-minded persons. And these would soon appear to have been but the first elements of confusion under the improved views of spiritual rights. The doctrines of the Levellers in Cromwell's time, of the Anabaptists in Luther's time, would exalt themselves upon the ruins of society, if governments were weak enough to recognise these spiritual claims in the feeblest of their initial advances. If it were possible to suppose such chimeras prevailing, the natural redress would soon be seen to lie through secret tribunals, like those of the dreadful Fehmgericht in the middle ages. It would be absurd, however, seriously to pursue these anti-social chimeras through their consequences. Stern remedies would summarily crush so monstrous an evil. Our purpose is answered, when the necessity of such insupportable consequences is shown to link itself with that distinction upon which the Free Church has laid the foundations of its own establishment. Once for all, there is no act or function belonging to an officer of a church which is not spiritual by one of its two Janus faces. And every examination of the case convinces us more and more that the Seceders took up the old papal distinction, as to acts spiritual or not spiritual, not under any delusion less or more, but under a simple necessity of finding some evasion or other which should meet and embody the whole rancor of the moment.
But beyond any other evil consequence prepared by the Free Church, is the appalling spirit of Jacobinism which accompanies their whole conduct, and which latterly has avowed itself in their words. The case began Jacobinically, for it began in attacks upon the rights of property. But since the defeat of this faction by the law courts, language seems to fail them, for the expression of their hatred and affected scorn towards the leading nobility of Scotland. Yet why? The case lies in the narrowest compass. The Duke of Sutherland, and other great landholders, had refused sites for their new churches. Upon this occurred a strong fact, and strong in both directions; first, for the Seceders; secondly, upon better information against them. The Record newspaper, a religious journal, ably and conscientiously conducted, took part with the Secession, and very energetically; for they denounced the noble duke's refusal of land as an act of 'persecution;' and upon this principle—that, in a county where his grace was pretty nearly the sole landed proprietor, to refuse land (assuming that a fair price had been tendered for it) was in effect to show such intolerance as might easily tend to the suppression of truth. Intolerance, however, is not persecution; and, if it were, the casuistry of the question is open still to much discussion. But this is not necessary; for the ground is altogether shifted when the duke's reason for refusing the land comes to be stated; he had refused it, not unconditionally, not in the spirit of non-intrusion courts, 'without reason shown,' but on this unanswerable argument—that the whole efforts of the new church were pointed (and professedly pointed) to the one object of destroying the establishment, and 'sweeping it from the land.' Could any guardian of public interests, under so wicked a threat, hesitate as to the line of his duty? By granting the land to parties uttering such menaces, the Duke of Sutherland would have made himself an accomplice in the unchristian conspiracy. Meantime, next after this fact, it is the strongest defence which we can offer for the duke—that in a day or two after this charge of 'persecution,' the Record was forced to attack the Seceders in terms which indirectly defended the duke. And this, not in any spirit of levity, but under mere conscientious constraint. For no journal has entered so powerfully or so eloquently into the defence of the general principle involved in the Secession (although questioning its expediency), as this particular Record. Consequently, any word of condemnation from so earnest a friend, comes against the Seceders with triple emphasis. And this is shown in the tone of the expostulations addressed to the Record by some of the Secession leaders. It spares us, indeed, all necessity of quoting the vile language uttered by members of the Free Church Assembly, if we say, that the neutral witnesses of such unchristian outrages have murmured, remonstrated, protested in every direction; and that Dr. Macfarlane, who has since corresponded with the Duke of Sutherland upon the whole case—viz. upon the petition for land, as affected by the shocking menaces of the Seceders—has, in no other way, been able to evade the double mischief of undertaking a defence for the indefensible, and at the same time of losing the land irretrievably, than by affecting an unconsciousness of language used by his party little suited to his own sacred calling, or to the noble simplicities of Christianity. Certainly it is unhappy for the Seceders, that the only disavowal of the most fiendish sentiments heard in our days, has come from an individual not authorized or at all commissioned by his party—from an individual not showing any readiness to face the whole charges, disingenuously dissembling the worst of them, and finally offering his very feeble disclaimer, which equivocates between a denial and a palliation—not until after he found himself in the position of a petitioner for favors.
Specifically the great evil of our days, is the abiding temptation, in every direction, to popular discontent, to agitation, and to systematic sedition. Now, we say it with sorrow, that from no other incendiaries have we heard sentiments so wild, fierce, or maliciously democratic, as from the leaders of the Secession. It was the Reform Bill of 1832, and the accompanying agitation, which first suggested the veto agitation of 1834, and prescribed its tone. From all classes of our population, in turn, there have come forward individuals to disgrace themselves by volunteering their aid to the chief conspirators of the age. We have earls, we have marquesses, coming forward as Corn-League agents; we have magistrates by scores angling for popularity as Repealers. But these have been private parties, insulated, disconnected, disowned. When we hear of Christianity prostituted to the service of Jacobinism—of divinity becoming the handmaid to insurrection—and of clergymen in masses offering themselves as promoters of anarchy, we go back in thought to that ominous organization of irreligion, which gave its most fearful aspects to the French Revolution.
Other evils are in the rear as likely to arise out of the funds provided for the new Seceders, were the distribution of those funds confessedly unobjectionable, but more immediately under the present murmurs against that distribution. There are two funds: one subscribed expressly for the building of churches, the other limited to the 'sustentation' of incumbents. And the complaint is—that this latter fund has been invaded for purposes connected with the first. The reader can easily see the motive to this injustice: it is a motive of ambition. Far more display of power is made by the annunciation to the world of six hundred churches built, than of any difference this way or that in the comfort and decorous condition of the clergy. This last is a domestic feature of the case, not fitted for public effect. But the number of the churches will resound through Europe. Meantime, at present, the allowance to the great body of Seceding clergy averages but [pound symbol]80 a-year; and the allegation is—that, but for the improper interference with the fund on the motive stated, it would have averaged [pound symbol]150 a-year. If anywhere a town parish has raised a much larger provision for its pastor, even that has now become a part of the general grievance. For it is said that all such special contributions ought to have been thrown into one general fund—liable to one general principle of distribution. Yet again, will even this fund, partially as it seems to have been divided, continue to be available? Much of it lies in annual subscriptions: now, in the next generation of subscribers, a son will possibly not adopt the views of his father; but assuredly he will not adopt his father's zeal. Here, however (though this is not probable), there may arise some compensatory cases of subscribers altogether new. But another question is pressing for decision, which menaces a frightful shock to the schismatical church: female agency has been hitherto all potent in promoting the subscriptions; and a demand has been made in consequence—that women shall be allowed to vote in the church courts. Grant this demand—for it cannot be evaded—and what becomes of the model for church government as handed down from John Knox and Calvin? Refuse it, and what becomes of the future subscriptions?
But these are evils, it may be said, only for the Seceders. Not so: we are all interested in the respectability of the national teachers, whatever be their denomination: we are all interested in the maintenance of a high standard for theological education. These objects are likely to suffer at any rate. But it is even a worse result which we may count on from the changes, that a practical approximation is thus already made to what is technically known as Voluntaryism.
The 'United Secession,' that is the old collective body of Scottish Dissenters, who, having no regular provision, are carried into this voluntary system, already exult that this consummation of the case cannot be far off. Indeed, so far as the Seceders are dependent upon annual subscriptions, and coupling that relation to the public with the great doctrine of these Seceders, that congregations are universally to appoint their own pastors, we do not see how such an issue is open to evasion. The leaders of the new Secession all protest against Voluntaryism: but to that complexion of things they travel rapidly by the mere mechanic action of their dependent (or semi-dependent) situation, combined with one of their two characteristic principles.
The same United Secession journal openly anticipates another and more diffusive result from this great movement; viz. the general disruption of church establishments. We trust that this anticipation will be signally defeated. And yet there is one view of the case which saddens us when we turn our eyes in that direction. Among the reasonings and expostulations of the Schismatic church, one that struck us as the most eminently hypocritical, and ludicrously so, was this: 'You ought,' said they, when addressing the Government, and exposing the error of the law proceedings, 'to have stripped us of the temporalities arising from the church, stipend, glebe, parsonage, but not of the spiritual functions. We had no right to the emoluments of our stations, when the law courts had decided against us, but we had a right to the laborious duties of the stations.' No gravity could refuse to smile at this complaint—verbally so much in the spirit of primitive Christianity, yet in its tendency so insidious. For could it be possible that a competitor introduced by the law, and leaving the duties of the pastoral office to the old incumbent, but pocketing the salary, should not be hooted on the public roads by many who might otherwise have taken no part in the feud? This specious claim was a sure and brief way to secure the hatefulness of their successors. Now, we cannot conceal from ourselves that something like this invidious condition of things might be realized under two further revolutions. We have said, that a second schism in the Scottish church is not impossible. It is also but too possible that Puseyism may yet rend the English establishment by a similar convulsion. But in such contingencies, we should see a very large proportion of the spiritual teachers in both nations actually parading to the public eye, and rehearsing something very like the treacherous proposal of the late Seceders, viz., the spectacle of one party performing much of the difficult duties, and another party enjoying the main emoluments. This would be a most unfair mode of recommending Voluntaryism. Falling in with the infirmities of many in these days, such a spectacle would give probably a fatal bias to that system in our popular and Parliamentary counsels. This would move the sorrow of the Seceders themselves: for they have protested against the theory of all Voluntaries with a vehemence which that party even complain of as excessive. Their leaders have many times avowed, that any system which should leave to men in general the estimate of their own religious wants as a pecuniary interest, would be fatal to the Christian tone of our national morals. Checked and overawed by the example of an establishment, the Voluntaries themselves are far more fervent in their Christian exertions than they could be when liberated from that contrast. The religious spirit of both England and Scotland under such a change would droop for generations. And in that one evil, let us hope, the remotest and least probable of the many evils threatened by the late schism, these nations would have reason by comparison almost to forget the rest.
Sir,—Some years ago you published a translation of Bottiger's 'Sabina,' a learned account of the Roman toilette. I here send you a companion to that work—not a direct translation, but a very minute abstract from a similar dissertation by Hartmann, (weeded of the wordiness which has made the original unreadable, and in consequence unread,) on the toilette and the wardrobe of the ladies of ancient Palestine. Hartmann was a respectable Oriental scholar, and he published his researches, which occupy three thick octavos, making in all one thousand four hundred and eighty-eight pages, under the title of Die Hebraerin am Putztische und als Braut, Amsterdam, 1809. (The Hebrew Woman at her Toilette, and in her Bridal character.) I understand that the poor man is now gone to Hades, where let us hope that it is considered no crime in a learned man to be exceedingly tedious, and to repeat the same thing ten times over, or even, upon occasion, fifteen times, provided that his own upright heart should incline him to think that course the most advisable. Certainly Mr. Hartmann has the most excellent gifts at verbal expansion, and at tautology, that ever came within my knowledge; and I found no particular difficulty in compressing every tittle of what relates to his subject, into a compass which, I imagine, will fill about twelve of your pages, or fifty, at the utmost, of the original work.
It was not to be expected, with the scanty materials before him, that an illustrator of the Hebrew costume should be as full and explicit as Bottiger, with the advantage of writing upon a theme more familiar to us Europeans of this day, than any parallel theme even in our own national archaeologies of two centuries back. United, however, with his great reading, this barrenness of the subject is so far an advantage for Hartmann, as it yields a strong presumption that he has exhausted it. The male costume of ancient Palestine is yet to be illustrated; but, for the female, it is probable that little could be added to what Hartmann has collected; [Footnote 1] and that any clever dress-maker would, with the indications here given, (especially if you could persuade Mr. Blackwood to adopt one or two of Mr. Hartmann's seven outlines,) enable any lady at the next great masquerade in London, to support the part of one of the ancient daughters of Palestine, and to call back, after eighteen centuries of sleep, the buried pomps of Jerusalem. As to the talking, there would be no difficulty at all in that point; bishops, and other 'sacred' people, if they ever go a-masquing, for their own sakes will not be likely to betray themselves by putting impertinent questions in Hebrew; and for 'profane' people, who might like the impertinence, they would very much dislike the Hebrew; indeed, of uncircumcised Hebrews, barring always the clergy, it is not thought that any are extant. In other respects, and as a spectacle, the Hebrew masque would infallibly eclipse every other in the room. The upper and under chemise, if managed properly, (and either you or I, Mr. North, would be most proud to communicate our private advice on that subject,) would transcend, in gorgeous display, the coronation robes of queens; nose-pendants would cause the masque to be immediately and unerringly recognised; or if those were not thought advisable, the silver ankle-bells, with their melodious chimes—the sandals, with their jewelled net-work—and the golden diadem, binding the forehead, and dropping from each extremity of the polished temples a rouleau of pearls, which, after traversing the cheeks, unite below the chin—are all so unique and exclusively Hebraic—that each and all would have the same advantageous effect, proclaiming and notifying the character, without putting the fair supporter to any disagreeable expense of Hebrew or Chaldee. The silver bells alone would 'bear the bell' from every competitor in the room; and she might besides carry a cymbal—a dulcimer—or a timbrel in her hands.
In conclusion, my dear North, let me congratulate you that Mr. Hartmann is now in Hades (as I said before) rather than in Edinburgh; for, had he been in this latter place, he would have been the ruin of you. It was his intention, as I am well assured, just about the time that he took his flight for Hades, to have commenced regular contributor to your journal; so great was his admiration of you, and also of the terms which you offer to the literary world. As a learned Orientalist, you could not decorously have rejected him; and yet, once admitted, he would have beggared you before any means could have been discovered by the learned for putting a stop to him. [Greek Text: Aperantologia] was his forte; upon this he piqued himself, and most justly, since for covering the ground rapidly, and yet not advancing an inch, those, who knew and valued him as he deserved, would have backed him against the whole field of the gens de plume now in Europe. Had he lived, and fortunately for himself communicated his Hebrew Toilette to the world through you, instead of foundering (as he did) at Amsterdam, he would have flourished upon your exchequer; and you would not have heard the last of him or his Toilette, for the next twenty years. He dates, you see, from Amsterdam; and, had you been weak enough to take him on board, he would have proved that 'Flying Dutchman' that would infallibly have sunk your vessel.
The more is your obligation to me, I think, for sweating him down to such slender dimensions. And, speaking seriously, both of us perhaps will rejoice that even with his talents for telling everything, he was obliged on this subject to leave many things untold. For, though it might be gratifying to a mere interest of curiosity, yet I believe that we should both be grieved if anything were to unsettle in our feelings the mysterious sanctities of Jerusalem, or to disturb that awful twilight which will for ever brood over Judea—by letting in upon it the 'common light of day;' and this effect would infallibly take place, if any one department of daily life, as it existed in Judea, were brought with all the degrading minutiae of its details within the petty finishing of a domestic portrait.
Farewell, my dear North, and believe me to be always your old friend and admirer,
[Greek Text: Cap Omega, Cap Phi]
I. That simple body-cloth framed of leaves, skins, flax, wool, &c. which modesty had first introduced, for many centuries perhaps sufficed as the common attire of both sexes amongst the Hebrew Bedouins. It extended downwards to the knees, and upwards to the hips, about which it was fastened. Such a dress is seen upon many of the figures in the sculptures of Persepolis; even in modern times, Niebuhr found it the ordinary costume of the lower Arabians in Hedsjas; and Shaw assures us, that from its commodious shape, it is still a favorite dishabille of the Arabian women when they are behind the curtains of the tent.
From this early rudiment was derived, by gradual elongation, that well-known under habiliment, which in Hebrew is called Ch'tonet, and in Greek and Latin by words of similar sound. [Footnote 2] In this stage of its progress, when extended to the neck and the shoulders, it represents pretty accurately the modern shirt, or chemise—except that the sleeves are wanting; and during the first period of Jewish history, it was probably worn as the sole under-garment by women of all ranks, both amongst the Bedouin Hebrews and those who lived in cities. A very little further extension to the elbows and the calves of the legs, and it takes a shape which survives even to this day in Asia. Now, as then, the female habiliment was distinguished from the corresponding male one by its greater length; and through all antiquity we find long clothes a subject of reproach to men, as an argument of effeminacy.
According to the rank or vanity of the wearer, this tunic was made of more or less costly materials; for wool and flax was often substituted the finest byssus, or other silky substance; and perhaps, in the latter periods, amongst families of distinction in Jerusalem, even silk itself. Splendor of coloring was not neglected; and the opening at the throat was eagerly turned to account as an occasion for displaying fringe or rich embroidery.
Bottiger remarks, that, even in the age of Augustus, the morning dress of Roman ladies when at home was nothing more than this very tunic; which, if it sate close, did not even require a girdle. The same remark applies to the Hebrew women, who, during the nomadic period of their history, had been accustomed to wear no night-chemises at all, but slept quite naked, or, at the utmost, with a cestus or zone: by way of bed-clothes, however, it must be observed, that they swathed their person in the folds of a robe or shawl. Up to the time of Solomon, this practice obtained through all ranks; and so long the universal household dress of a Hebrew lady in her harem, was the tunic as here described; and in this she dressed herself the very moment that she rose from bed. Indeed, so long as the Hebrew women were content with a single tunic, it flowed loose in liberal folds about the body; and was fastened by a belt or a clasp, just as we find it at this day amongst all Asiatic nations. But, when a second under-garment was introduced, the inner one fitted close to the shape, whilst the outer one remained full and free as before.
II. No fashion of the female toilette is of higher antiquity than that of dyeing the margin of the eyelids and the eyebrows with a black pigment. It is mentioned or alluded to, 2 Kings, ix. 30, Jerem. iv. 30, Ezek. xxiii. 40; to which may be added, Isaiah, iii. 16. The practice had its origin in a discovery made accidentally in Egypt. For it happens, that the substance used for this purpose in ancient times, is a powerful remedy in cases of ophthalmia and inflammation of the eyes;—complaints to which Egypt is, from local causes, peculiarly exposed. This endemic infirmity, in connection with the medical science for which Egypt was so distinguished, easily account for their discovering the uses of antimony, which is the principal ingredient in the pigments of this class. Egypt was famous for the fashion of painting the face from an early period: and in some remarkable curiosities illustrating the Egyptian toilette, which were discovered in the catacombs of Sahara in Middle Egypt, there was a single joint of a common reed containing an ounce or more of the coloring powder, and one of the needles for applying it. The entire process was as follows:—The mineral powder, finely prepared, was mixed up with a preparation of vinegar and gall-apples—sometimes with oil of almonds, or other oils—sometimes, by very luxurious women, with costly gums and balsams. [Footnote 3] And perhaps, as Sonnini describes the practice among the Mussulman women at present, the whole mass thus compounded was dried and again reduced to an impalpable powder, and consistency then given to it by the vapors of some odorous and unctuous substance. Thus prepared, the pigment was applied to the tip or pointed ferule of a little metallic pencil, called, in Hebrew, Makachol, and made of silver, gold, or ivory; the eyelids were then closed, and the little pencil, or probe, held horizontally, was inserted between them:—a process which is briefly and picturesquely described in the Bible. The effect of the black rim, which the pigment traced about the eyelid, was to throw a dark and majestic shadow over the eye; to give it a languishing and yet a lustrous expression; to increase its apparent size, and to apply the force of contrast to the white of the eye. Together with the eyelids, the Hebrew women colored the eyebrows, the point aimed at being twofold—to curve them into a beautiful arch of brilliant ebony—and, at the same time, to make the inner ends meet or flow into each other.
III. Ear-rings of gold, silver, inferior metals, or even horn, were worn by the Hebrew women in all ages; and in the flourishing period of the Jewish kingdom, probably by men: and so essential an ornament were they deemed, that in the idolatrous times, even the images of their false gods were not considered becomingly attired without them. Their ear-rings were larger, according to the Asiatic taste; but whether quite large enough to admit the hand, is doubtful. In a later age, as we collect from the Thalmud, Part VI. 43, the Jewish ladies wore gold or silver pendants, of which the upper part was shaped like a lentil, and the lower hollowed like a little cup or pipkin. It is probable also, that, even in the oldest ages, it was a practice amongst them to suspend gold and silver rings, not merely from the lower, but also from the upper end of the ear, which was perforated like a sieve. The tinkling sound, with which, upon the slightest motion, two or three tiers of rings would be set a-dancing about the cheeks, was very agreeable to the baby taste of the Asiatics.
From a very early age, the ears of Hebrew women were prepared for this load of trinketry; for, according to the Thalmud, II. 23, they kept open the little holes, after they were pierced, by threads or slips of wood: a fact which may show the importance they attached to this ornament.
IV. Nose-rings, at an early period, became a universal ornament in Palestine. We learn, from Biblical and from Arabic authority, that it was a practice of Patriarchal descent amongst both the African and Asiatic Bedouins, to suspend rings of iron, wood, or braided hair, from the nostrils of camels, oxen, &c.—the rope by which the animal was guided being attached to these rings. It is probable, therefore, that the early Hebrews who dwelt in tents, and who, in the barrenness of desert scenery, drew most of their hints for improving their personal embellishment from the objects immediately about them, were indebted for their nose-rings to this precedent of their camels. Sometimes a ring depended from both nostrils; and the size of it was equal to that of the ear-ring; so that, at times, its compass included both upper and under lip, as in the frame of a picture; and, in the age succeeding to Solomon's reign, we hear of rings which were not less than three inches in diameter. Hebrew ladies of distinction had sometimes a cluster of nose-rings, as well for the tinkling sound which they were contrived to emit, as for the shining light which they threw off upon the face.
That the nose-ring possessed no unimportant place in the Jewish toilette, is evident, from its being ranked, during the nomadic state of the Israelites, as one of the most valuable presents that a young Hebrew woman could receive from her lover. Amongst the Midianites, who were enriched by the caravan commerce, even men adopted this ornament: and this appears to have been the case in the family to which Job belonged, [chap. xli. 2.] Under these circumstances, we should naturally presume that the Jewish courtezans, in the cities of Palestine, would not omit so conspicuous a trinket, with its glancing lights, and its tinkling sound: this we might presume, even without the authority of the Bible: but, in fact, both Isaiah and Ezekiel expressly mention it amongst their artifices of attraction.
Judith, when she appeared before the tent of Holofernes in the whole pomp of her charms, and appareled with the most elaborate attention to splendor of effect, for the purpose of captivating the hostile general, did not omit this ornament. Even the Jewish Proverbs show how highly it was valued; and that it continued to be valued in later times, appears from the ordinances of the Thalmud, II. 21, in respect to the parts of the female wardrobe which were allowed to be worn on the Sabbath.
V. The Hebrew women of high rank, in the flourishing period of their state, wore NECKLACES composed of multiple rows of pearls. The thread on which the pearls were strung, was of flax or woollen,—and sometimes colored, as we learn from the Thalmud, VI. 43; and the different rows were not exactly concentric; but whilst some invested the throat, others descended to the bosom; and in many cases, even to the zone. On this part of the dress was lavished the greatest expense; and the Roman reproach was sometimes true of a Hebrew family, that its whole estate was locked up in a necklace. Tertullian complains heavily of a particular pearl necklace, which had cost about ten thousand pounds of English money—as of an enormity of extravagance. But, after making every allowance for greater proximity to the pearl fisheries, and for other advantages enjoyed by the people of Palestine, there is reason to believe that some Hebrew ladies possessed single pearls which had cost at least five times that sum. [Footnote 4] So much may be affirmed, without meaning to compare the most lavish of the ladies of Jerusalem with those of Rome, where it is recorded of some elegantes, that they actually slept with little bags of pearls suspended from their necks, that even when sleeping, they might have mementos of their pomp.
But the Hebrew necklaces were not always composed of pearls, or of pearls only—sometimes it was the custom to interchange the pearls with little golden bulbs or berries: sometimes they were blended with the precious stones; and at other times, the pearls were strung two and two, and their beautiful whiteness relieved by the interposition of red coral.
VI. Next came the BRACELETS of gold or ivory, and fitted up at the open side with a buckle or enamelled clasp of elaborate workmanship. These bracelets were also occasionally composed of gold or silver thread; and it was not unusual for a series of them to ascend from the wrist to the elbow. From the clasp, or other fastening of the bracelet, depended a delicate chain-work or netting of gold; and in some instances, miniature festoons of pearls. Sometimes the gold chain-work was exchanged for little silver bells, which could be used, upon occasion, as signals of warning or invitation to a lover.
VII. This bijouterie for the arms, naturally reminded the Hebrew lady of the ANKLE-BELLS, and other similar ornaments for the feet and legs. These ornaments consisted partly in golden belts, or rings, which, descending from above the ankle, compressed the foot in various parts, and partly in shells and little jingling chains, which depended so as to strike against clappers fixed into the metallic belts. The pleasant tinkle of the golden belts in collision, the chains rattling, and the melodious chime of little silver ankle-bells, keeping time with the motions of the foot, made an accompaniment so agreeable to female vanity, that the stately daughters of Jerusalem, with their sweeping trains flowing after them, appear to have adopted a sort of measured tread, by way of impressing a regular cadence upon the music of their feet. The chains of gold were exchanged, as luxury advanced, for strings of pearls and jewels, which swept in snaky folds about the feet and ankles.
This, like many other peculiarities in the Hebrew dress, had its origin in a circumstance of their early nomadic life. It is usual with the Bedouins to lead the camel, when disposed to be restive, by a rope or a belt fastened to one of the fore feet, sometimes to both; and it is also a familiar practice to soothe and to cheer the long-suffering animal with the sound of little bells, attached either to the neck or to one of the fore legs. Girls are commonly employed to lead the camels to water; and it naturally happened, that, with their lively fancies, some Hebrew or Arabian girl should be prompted to repeat, on her own person, what had so often been connected with an agreeable impression in her mule companions to the well.
It is probable, however, that afterwards, having once been introduced, this fashion was supported and extended by Oriental jealousy. For it rendered all clandestine movements very difficult in women; and by giving notice of their approach, it had the effect of preparing men for their presence, and keeping the road free from all spectacles that could be offensive to female delicacy.
From the Hebrew Bedouins, this custom passed to all the nations of Asia; Medes, Persians, Lydians, Arabs, &c., and is dwelt on with peculiar delight by the elder Arabic poets. That it had spread to the westernmost parts of Africa, early in the Christian times, we learn from Tertullian, who cannot suppress his astonishment, that the foolish women of his time should bear to inflict such compression upon their tender feet. Even as early as the times of Herodotus, we find, from his account of a Lybian nation, that the women and girls universally wore copper rings about their ankles. And at an after period, these ornaments were so much cherished by the Egyptian ladies, that, sooner than, appear in public without their tinkling ankle-chimes, they preferred to bury themselves in the loneliest apartments of the harem.
Finally, the fashion spread partially into Europe; to Greece even, and to polished Rome, in so far as regarded the ankle-belts, and the other ornamental appendages, with the single exception of the silver bells; these were too entirely in the barbaresque taste, to support themselves under the frown of European culture.
VIII. The first rude sketch of the Hebrew SANDAL may be traced in that little tablet of undrest hide which the Arabs are in the habit of tying beneath the feet of their camels. This primitive form, after all the modifications and improvements it has received, still betrays itself to an attentive observer, in the very-latest fashions of the sandal which Palestine has adopted.
To raw hides succeeded tanned leather, made of goat-skin, deer-skin, &c.; this, after being accurately cut out to the shape of the sole, was fastened on the bare upper surface of the foot by two thongs, of which one was usually carried within the great toe, and the other in many circumvolutions round about the ankles, so that both finally met and tied just above the instep.
The laced sole, or sandal, of this form, continued in Palestine to be the universal out-of-doors protection for the feet, up to the Christian-era; and it served for both sexes alike. It was not, however, worn within doors. At the threshold of the inner apartments the sandals were laid aside; and visitors from a distance were presented with a vessel of water to cleanse the feet from the soiling of dust and perspiration. [Footnote 5]
With this extreme simplicity in the form of the foot apparel, there was no great field for improvement. The article contained two parts—the sole and the fastening. The first, as a subject for decoration, was absolutely desperate; coarse leather being exchanged for fine, all was done that could be done; and the wit of man was able to devise no further improvement. Hence it happened, that the whole power of the inventive faculty was accumulated upon the fastenings, as the only subject that remained. These were infinitely varied. Belts of bright yellow, of purple, and of crimson, were adopted by ladies of distinction—especially those of Palestine, and it was a trial of art to throw these into the greatest possible varieties of convolution, and to carry them on to a nexus of the happiest form, by which means a reticulation, or trellis-work, was accomplished, of the most brilliant coloring, which brought into powerful relief the dazzling color of the skin.
It is possible that, in the general rage for ornaments of gold which possessed the people of Palestine, during the ages of excessive luxury, the beauties of Jerusalem may have adopted gilt sandals with gilt fastenings, as the ladies of Egypt did. It is possible, also, that the Hebrew ladies adopted at one time, in exchange for the sandal, slippers that covered the entire foot, such as were once worn at Babylon, and are still to be seen on many of the principal figures on the monuments of Persepolis; and, if this were really so, ample scope would, in that case, have been obtained for inventive art: variations without end might then have been devised on the fashion or the materials of the subject; and by means of color, embroidery, and infinite combinations of jewellery and pearls, an unceasing stimulation of novelty applied to the taste of the gorgeous Asiatic.
IX. The VEIL, of various texture—coarse or fine—according to circumstances, was thrown over the head by the Hebrew lady, when she was unexpectedly surprised, or when a sudden noise gave reason to expect the approach of a stranger. This beautiful piece of drapery, which flowed back in massy folds over the shoulders, is particularly noticed by Isaiah, as holding an indispensable place in the wardrobe of his haughty country-women; and in this it was that the enamored Hebrew woman sought the beloved of her heart.
I. Of the Hebrew ornaments for the throat, some were true necklaces, in the modern sense, of several rows, the outermost of which descended to the breast, and had little pendulous cylinders of gold, (in the poorer classes, of copper,) so contrived as to make a jingling sound on the least motion of the person; others were more properly golden stocks, or throat-bands, fitted so close as to produce in the spectator an unpleasant imagination (and in the wearer, as we learn from the Thalmud, VI. 43, until reconciled by use, an actual feeling) of constriction approaching to suffocation. Necklaces were, from the earliest times, a favorite ornament of the male sex in the East; and expressed the dignity of the wearer, as we see in the instances of Joseph, of Daniel, &c.; indeed the gold chain of office, still the badge of civic (and until lately, of military) dignities, is no more than the outermost row of the Oriental necklace. Philo of Alexandria, and the other Arabian poets, give us some idea of the importance attached by the women of Asia to this beautiful ornament, and of the extraordinary money value which it sometimes bore: and from the case of the necklace of gold and amber, in the 15th Odyssey, (v. 458,) combined with many other instances of the same kind, there can be no doubt that it was the neighboring land of Phoenicia from which the Hebrew women obtained their necklaces, and the practice of wearing them.
II. The fashion, however, of adorning the necklace with golden Suns and Moons, so agreeable to the Hebrew ladies of Isaiah's time, (chap. iii. 18,) was not derived from Phoenicia, but from Arabia. At an earlier period, (Judges, viii. 21,) the camels of the Midianites were adorned with golden moons, which also decorated the necks of the emirs of that nomadic tribe. These appendages were not used merely by way of ornament, but originally as talismans, or amulets, against sickness, danger, and every species of calamity to which the desert was liable. The particular form of the amulet is to be explained out of the primitive religion, which prevailed in Arabia up to the rise of Mahometanism, in the seventh century of Christianity, viz. the Sabean religion, or worship of the heavenly host—sun, moon, and stars, the most natural of all modes of idolatry, and especially to a nomadic people in flat and pathless deserts, without a single way-mark or guidance for their wanderings, except what they drew from the silent heavens above them. It is certain, therefore, that, long before their emigration into Palestine, the Israelites had received the practice of wearing suns and moons from the Midianites; even after their settlement in Palestine, it is certain that the worship of the starry host struck root pretty deeply at different periods; and that, to the sun and moon, in particular, were offered incense and libations.
From Arabia, this fashion diffused itself over many countries; [Footnote 6] and it was not without great displeasure that, in a remote age, Jerome and Tertullian discovered this idolatrous ornament upon the bosoms of their countrywomen.
The crescents, or half-moons of silver, in connection with the golden suns, [Footnote 6] were sometimes set in a brilliant frame that represented a halo, and still keep their ground on the Persian and Turkish toilette, as a favorite ornament.
III. The GOLDEN SNAKES, worn as one of the Hebrew appendages to the necklace, had the same idolatrous derivation, and originally were applied to the same superstitious use—as an amulet, or prophylactic ornament. To minds predisposed to this sort of superstition, the serpent came specially recommended under the circumstances of the Hebrews, from the conspicuous part which this reptile sustains in the mythologies of the East. From the earliest periods to which tradition ascends, serpents of various species were consecrated to the religious feelings of Egypt, by temples, sacrifices, and formal rites of worship. This mode of idolatry had at various periods infected Palestine. According to 2 Kings, xviii. 4, at the accession of King Hezekiah, the Israelites had raised peculiar altars to a great brazen serpent, and burned incense upon them. Even at this day the Abyssinians have an unlimited reverence for serpents; and the blacks in general regard them as fit subjects for divine honors. Sonnini (II. 388) tells us, that a serpent's skin is still looked upon in Egypt as a prophylactic against complaints of the head, and also as a certain cure for them. And of the same origin, no doubt, was the general belief of antiquity, (according to Pliny, 30, 12,) that the serpent's skin was a remedy for spasms. That the golden serpent kept its place as an ornament of the throat and bosom after the Christian era, we learn from Clement of Alexandria. That zealous father, so intolerant of superstitious mummery under every shape, directs his efforts against this fashion as against a—device of the devil.
IV. To the lowest of the several concentric circles which composed the necklace, was attached a little box, exquisitely wrought in silver or gold, sometimes an onyx phial of dazzling whiteness, depending to the bosom or even to the cincture, and filled with the rarest aromas and odorous spices of the East. What were the favorite essences preserved in this beautiful appendage to the female costume of Palestine, it is not possible at this distance of time to determine with certainty—Isaiah having altogether neglected the case, and Hosea (who appears to allude to it, ii. 14) having only once distinctly mentioned it, (ii. 20.) However, the Thalmud particularizes musk, and the delightful oil distilled from the leaf of the aromatic malabathrum of Hindostan. To these we may venture to add, oil of spikenard, myrrh, balsams, attar of roses, and rose-water, as the perfumes usually contained in the Hebrew scent-pendants. Rose-water, which I am the first to mention as a Hebrew perfume, had, as I presume, a foremost place on the toilette of a Hebrew belle. Express scriptural authority for it undoubtedly there is none; but it is notorious that Palestine availed itself of all the advantages of Egypt, amongst which the rose in every variety was one. Fium, a province of central Egypt, which the ancients called the Garden of Egypt, was distinguished for innumerable species of the rose, and especially for those of the most balsamic order, and for the most costly preparations from it. The Thalmud not only speaks generally of the mixtures made by tempering it with oil, (i. 135,) but expressly cites (ii. 41) a peculiar rose-water as so costly an essence, that from its high price alone it became impossible to introduce the use of it into the ordinary medical practice. Indeed this last consideration, and the fact that the highly-prized quintessence cannot be obtained except from an extraordinary multitude of the rarest roses, forbid us to suppose that women of the first rank in Jerusalem could have made a very liberal use of rose-water. In our times, Savary found a single phial of it in the place of its manufacture, valued at four francs. As to the oil of roses, properly so called, which floats in a very inconsiderable quantity upon the surface of distilled rose-water, it is certain that the Hebrew ladies were not acquainted with it. This preparation can be obtained only from the balsamic roses of Fium, of Shiras, of Kerman, and of Kashmire, which surpass all the roses of the earth in power and delicacy of odor; and it is matter of absolute certainty, and incontrovertibly established by the celebrated Langles, that this oil, which even in the four Asiatic countries just mentioned, ranks with the greatest rarities, and in Shiras itself is valued at its weight in gold, was discovered by mere accident, on occasion of some festival solemnity in the year 1612.
V. To what I said, in the first scene of my exhibition, about the
Hebrew ear-ornaments, I may add,
1. That sometimes, as Best remarked of the Hindoo dancing-girls, their ears were swollen from the innumerable perforations drilled into them to support their loads of trinketry.
2. That in the large pendants of coral which the Hebrew ladies were accustomed to attach to their ears, either in preference to jewels, or in alternation with jewels, they particularly delighted in that configuration which imitated a cluster of grapes.
3. That, in ear-rings made of gold, they preferred the form of drops, or of globes and bulbs.
4. That of all varieties, however, of this appendage, pearls maintained the preference amongst the ladies of Palestine, and were either strung upon a thread, or attached by little hooks—singly or in groups, according to their size. This taste was very early established amongst the Jews, and chiefly, perhaps, through their intercourse with the Midianites, amongst whom we find the great Emirs wearing pearl ornaments of this class.
Mutatis mutandis, these four remarks apply to the case of the nose ornaments.
I. THE HAIR.—This section I omit altogether; though with more room at my disposal, it would be well worth translating as a curiosity. It is the essay of a finished and perfect knave, who not merely being rather bare of facts, but having literally not one solitary fact of any kind or degree, sits down to write a treatise on the mode of dressing hair amongst Hebrew ladies. Samson's hair, and the dressing it got from the Philistines, is the nearest approach that he ever makes to his subject; and being conscious that this case of Samson and the Philistines is the one sole allusion to the subject of Hebrew hair that he is possessed of, he brings it round upon the reader as often perhaps as it will bear—viz. not oftener than once every sixth page. The rest is one continued shuffle to avoid coming upon the ground; and upon the whole, though too barefaced, yet really not without ingenuity. Take, by way of specimen, his very satisfactory dissertation on the particular sort of combs which the Hebrew ladies were pleased to patronize.
'COMBS.—Whether the ladies of Palestine had upon their toilette a peculiar comb for parting the hair, another for turning it up, &c.; as likewise whether their combs were, as in ancient Rome, made of box-wood, or of ivory, or other costly and appropriate material, all these are questions upon which I—am not able, upon my honor, to communicate the least information. But, from the general silence of antiquity, prophets and all, [Footnote 7] upon the subject of Hebrew combs, my own private opinion is, that the ladies used their fingers for this purpose; in which case, there needs no more to be said on the subject of Hebrew combs.'
II. PERFUMES.—Before, however, the hair received its final arrangement from the hands of the waiting maid, it was held open and dishevelled to receive the fumes of frankincense, aloes-wood, cassia, costmary and other odorous woods, gums, balsams, and spices of India, Arabia, or Palestine—placed upon glowing embers, in vessels of golden fretwork. It is probable, also, that the Hebrew ladies used amber, bisam, and the musk of Thibet; and when fully arranged, the hair was sprinkled with oil of nard, myrrh, oil of cinnamon, &c. The importance attached to this part of the Hebrew toilette may be collected indeed from an ordinance, of the Thalmud, III. 80, which directs that the bridegroom shall set apart one-tenth of the income which the bride brings him, for the purchase of perfumes, essences, precious ointments, &c. All these articles were preserved either in golden boxes, or in little oval narrow-necked phials of dazzling white alabaster, which bore the name of onyx, from its resemblance to the precious stone of that name, but was in fact a very costly sort of marble, obtained in the quarries of Upper Egypt, or those of the Libanus in Syria. Indeed, long before the birth of Christ, alabaster was in such general use for purposes of this kind in Palestine, that it became the generic name for valuable boxes, no matter of what material. To prevent the evaporation of the contents, the narrow neck of the phial was resealed every time that it was opened. It is probable, also, that the myrrhine cups, about which there has been so much disputing, were no strangers to the Jewish toilette.
III. THE MIRROR was not made of glass, (for glass mirrors cannot be shown to have existed before the thirteenth century,) but of polished metals; and amongst these, silver was in the greatest esteem, as being capable of a higher burnish than other metals, and less liable to tarnish. Metallic mirrors are alluded to by Job, xxxvii. 18. But it appears from the Second Book of Moses, xxxviii. 8, that in that age, copper must have been the metal employed throughout the harems of Palestine. For a general contribution of mirrors being made upon one occasion by the Israelitish women, they were melted down and recast into washing vessels for the priestly service. Now the sacred utensils, as we know from other sources, were undeniably of copper. There is reason to think, however, that the copper was alloyed, according to the prevailing practice in that age, with some proportions of lead or tin. In after ages, when silver was chiefly employed, it gave place occasionally to gold. Mines of this metal were well known in Palestine; but there is no evidence that precious stones, which were used for this purpose in the ages of European luxury, were ever so used in Palestine, or in any part of Asia.
As to shape, the Hebrew mirrors were always either circular or oval, and cast indifferently flat or concave. They were framed in superb settings, often of pearls and jewels; and, when tarnished, were cleaned with a sponge of hyssop, the universal cleansing material in Palestine.
The head-dresses of the Hebrew ladies may be brought under three principal classes:—
The first was a NET-WORK CAP, made of fine wool or cotton, and worked with purple or crimson flowers. Sometimes the meshes of the net were of gold thread. The rim or border of the cap, generally of variegated coloring, was often studded with jewellery or pearls; and at the back was ornamented with a bow, having a few ends or tassels flying loose.
Secondly, a TURBAN, managed in the following way: first of all, one or more caps in the form of a half oval, such are still to be seen upon the monuments of Egyptian and Persepolitan art, was fastened round the head by a ribbon or fillet tied behind. This cap was of linen, sometimes, perhaps, of cotton, and in the inferior ranks of leather, or, according to the prevailing fashion, of some kind of metal; and, in any case, it had ornaments worked into its substance. Round this white or glittering ground were carried, in snaky windings, ribbons of the finest tiffany, or of lawn resembling our cambric; and to conceal the joinings, a silky substance was carried in folds, which pursued the opposite direction, and crossed the tiffany at right angles. For the purpose of calling out and relieving the dazzling whiteness of the ground, colors of the most brilliant class were chosen for the ribbons; and these ribbons were either embroidered with flowers, in gold thread, or had ornaments of that description interwoven with their texture.
Thirdly, the HELMET, adorned pretty nearly as the turban; and, in imitation of the helmets worn by Chaldean generals, having long tails, or tassels, depending from the hinder part, and flowing loosely between the shoulders. According to the Oriental taste for perfumes, all the ribbons or fillets used in these helmets and turbans were previously steeped in perfumes. Finally, in connection with the turban, and often with the veil, was a beautiful ornament for the forehead and the face, which the ladies of this day would do well to recall. Round the brow ran a brandeau or tiara of gold or silver, three fingers' breadth, and usually set with jewels or pearls; from this, at each of the temples, depended a chain of pearls or of coral, which, following the margin of the cheeks, either hung loose or united below the chin.
I. The reader has been already made acquainted with the chemise, or innermost under-dress. The Hebrew ladies, however, usually wore two under-dresses, the upper of which it now remains to describe. In substance it was generally of a fine transparent texture, like the muslins (if we may so call them) of Cos; in the later ages it was no doubt of silk.
The chemise sate up close to the throat; and we have already mentioned the elaborate work which adorned it about the opening. But the opening of the robe which we are now describing, was of much larger compass—being cut down to the bosom; and the embroidery, &c. which enriched it, was still more magnificent. The chemise reached down only to the calf of the leg, and the sleeve of it to the elbow; but the upper chemise or tunic, if we may so call it, descended in ample draperies to the feet—scarcely allowing the point of the foot to discover itself; and the sleeves enveloped the hands to their middle. Great pomp was lavished on the folds of the sleeves; but still greater on the hem of the robe, and the fringe attached to it. The hem was formed by a broad border of purple, shaded and relieved according to patterns; and sometimes embroidered in gold thread with the most elegant objects from the animal or vegetable kingdoms. To that part which fell immediately behind the heels, there were attached thin plates of gold; or, by way of variety, it was studded with golden stars and filigree-work; sometimes with jewels and pearls interchangeably.
II. On this upper tunic, to confine the exorbitance of its draperies, and to prevent their interfering with the free motions of the limbs, a superb GIRDLE was bound about the hips. Here, if anywhere, the Hebrew ladies endeavored to pour out the whole pomp of their splendor—both as to materials and workmanship. Belts from three to four inches broad, of the most delicate cottony substance, were chosen as the ground of this important part of female attire. The finest flowers of Palestine were here exhibited in rich relief, and in their native colors, either woven in the loom, or by the needle of the embroiderer. The belts being thirty or forty feet long, and carried round and round the person, it was in the power of the wearer to exhibit an infinite variety of forms, by allowing any fold or number of folds at pleasure to rise up more or less to view, just as fans or the colored edges of books with us are made to exhibit landscapes, &c. capable of great varieties of expansion as they are more or less unfolded. The fastening was by a knot below the bosom; and the two ends descended below the fringe; which, if not the only fashion in use, was, however, the prevailing one—as we learn both from the sculptures at Persepolis, and from the costume of the High Priest.
Great as the cost was of these girdles, it would have been far greater had the knot been exchanged for a clasp; and in fact at a later period when this fashion did really take place, there was no limit to the profusion with which pearls of the largest size and jewellery were accumulated upon this conspicuous centre of the dress. Latterly the girdles were fitted up with beautiful chains, by means of which they could be contracted or enlarged, and with gold buckles, and large bosses and clasps that gradually became the basis for a ruinous display of expenditure.
In conclusion, I must remark, that in Palestine, as elsewhere, the girdle was sometimes used as a purse: whether it were that the girdle itself was made hollow (as is expressly affirmed of the High Priest's girdle), or that, without being hollow, its numerous foldings afforded a secure depository for articles of small size. Even in our day, it is the custom to conceal the dagger, the handkerchief for wiping the face, and other bagatelles of personal convenience, in the folds of the girdle. However, the richer and more distinguished classes in Palestine appear to have had a peculiar and separate article of that kind. And this was,
III. A PURSE made either of metal (usually gold or silver), or of the softest leather, &c. which was attached by a lace to the girdle, or kept amongst its folds, and which, even in the eyes of Isaiah, was important enough to merit a distinct mention. It was of a conical shape; and at the broader end was usually enriched with ornaments of the most elaborate and exquisite workmanship. No long time after the Christian era, the cost of these purses had risen to such a height, that Tertullian complains, with great displeasure, of the ladies of his time, that in the mere purse, apart from its contents, they carried about with them the price of a considerable estate.
The girdle, however, still continued to be the appropriate depository for the napkin (to use the old English word), or suclatory—i. e. handkerchief for clearing the forehead of perspiration. As to pocket-handkerchiefs, in our northern use of them, it has been satisfactorily shown by Bottiger, in a German Journal, that the Greek and Roman ladies knew nothing of that modern appendage to the pocket, [Footnote 8] however indispensable it may appear to us; and the same argument apply with equal force to the climate of Palestine.
IV. The glittering RINGS, with which (according to Isaiah, iii. 21), the Hebrew ladies adorned their hands, seem to me originally to have been derived from the seal-rings, which, whether suspended from the neck, or worn upon the finger, have in all ages been the most favorite ornament of Asiatics. These splendid baubles were naturally in the highest degree attractive to women, both from the beauty of the stones, which were usually selected for this purpose, and from the richness of the setting—to say nothing of the exquisite art which the ancient lapidaries displayed in cutting them. The stones chiefly valued by the ladies of Palestine, were rubies—emeralds—and chrysolithes; and these, set in gold, sparkled on the middle, or little finger of the right hand; and in the luxurious times upon all the fingers—even the thumb; nay, in some cases, upon the great toe.
The upper or outer garments, which, for both sexes under all varieties and modifications, the Hebrews expressed by the comprehensive denomination of SIMLAH, have hi every age, and through all parts of the hot climates, in Asia and Africa alike, been of such voluminous compass—as not only to envelop the whole person, but to be fitted for a wide range of miscellaneous purposes. Sometimes (as in the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem) they were used as carpets; sometimes as coverings for the backs of camels, horses, or asses, to render the rider's seat less incommodious; sometimes as a bed coverlid, or counterpane; at other times as sacks for carrying articles of value; or finally as curtains, hangings of parlors, occasionally tapestry, or even as sails for boats.
From these illustrations of the uses to which it was applicable, we may collect the form of this robe: that it was nothing more than a shawl of large dimensions, or long square of cloth, just as it came from the weaver's loom, which was immediately thrown round the person, without receiving any artificial adjustment to the human shape.
So much for the form: with regard to the material, there was less uniformity; originally it was of goats' or camels' hair; but, as civilization and the luxury of cities increased, these coarse substances were rejected for the finest wool, and Indian cotton. Indeed, through all antiquity, we find, that pure unsullied white was the festal color, and more especially in Palestine, where the indigenous soaps, and other cleaning materials, gave them peculiar advantages for adopting a dress of that delicate and perishable lustre.
With the advance of luxury, however, came a love of variety; and this, added to the desire for more stimulating impressions than could be derived from blank unadorned white, gradually introduced all sorts of innovations, both in form and color; though, with respect to the first, amidst all the changes through which it travelled, the old original outline still manifestly predominated. An account of the leading varieties, we find in the celebrated third chapter of Isaiah.
The most opulent women of Palestine, beyond all other colors for the upper robe, preferred purple—or, if not purple throughout the entire robe, at any rate purple flowers upon a white ground. The winter clothing of the very richest families in Palestine, was manufactured in their own houses; and for winter clothing, more especially, the Hebrew taste, no less than the Grecian and the Roman, preferred the warm and sunny scarlet, the puce color, the violet, and the regal purple. [Footnote 9]
Very probable it is, that the Hebrew ladies, like those of Greece, were no strangers to the half-mantle—fastened by a clasp in front of each shoulder, and suffered to flow in free draperies down the back; this was an occasional and supernumerary garment flung over the regular upper robe—properly so called.
There was also a longer mantle, reaching to the ankles, usually of a violet color, which—having no sleeves—was meant to expose to view the beauty not only of the upper robe, but even of the outer tunic formerly described. By the way, it should be mentioned, that, in order to steep them in fine odor, all parts of the wardrobe were stretched on a reticulated or grated vessel—called by the Thalmud (vi. 77) Kanklin—from which the steams of rich perfumes were made to ascend.
In what way the upper robe was worn and fastened, may be collected perhaps with sufficient probability from the modern Oriental practice, as described by travellers; but, as we have no direct authority on the subject, I shall not detain the reader with any conjectural speculations.
One magnificent dress remains yet to be mentioned, viz. the dress of honor, or festival dress—which answers in every respect to the modern CAFTAN. This was used on all occasions of ceremony, as splendid weddings, presentations at the courts of kings, sumptuous entertainments, &c.; and all persons who stood in close connection with the throne, as favorites, crown-officers, distinguished military commanders, &c., received such a dress as a gift from the royal treasury, in order to prepare them at all times for the royal presence. According to the universal custom of Asia, the trains were proportioned in length to the rank of the wearer; whence it is that the robes of the high-priest were adorned with a train of superb dimensions; and even Jehovah is represented, (Isaiah, vi. 1,) as filling the heavenly palace with the length of his train, [Footnote 10] Another distinction of this festival robe, was the ordinary fulness and length of the sleeves; these descended to the knee, and often ran to the ankle or to the ground. In the sleeves, and in the trains, but especially in the latter, lay the chief pride of a Hebrew belle, when dressed for any great solemnity or occasion of public display.
NOTE 1. It is one great advantage to the illustrator of ancient costume, that when almost everything in this sort of usages was fixed and determined either by religion and state policy, (as with the Jews,) or by state policy alone, (as with the Romans,) or by superstition and by settled climate, (as with both,) and when there was no stimulation to vanity in the love of change from an inventive condition of art and manufacturing skill, and where the system and interests of the government relied for no part of its power on such a condition,—dress was stationary for ages, both as to materials and fashion; Rebecca, the Bedouin, was drest pretty nearly as Mariamne in the age of the Caesars. And thus the labors of a learned investigator for one age are valid for those which follow and precede.
NOTE 2. Chiton (*) in Greek, and by inversion of the syllables, Tunica in Latin.
NOTE 3. Cheaper materials were used by the poorer Hebrews, especially of the Bedouin tribes—burnt almonds, lamp-black, soot, the ashes of particular woods, the gall-apple boiled and pulverized, or any dark powder made into an unguent by suitable liquors. The modern Grecian women, in some districts, as Sonnini tells us, use the spine of the sea-polypus, calcined and finely pulverized, for this purpose. Boxes of horn were used for keeping the pigment by the poorer Hebrews,—of onyx or alabaster by the richer.
Cleopatra had a couple of that value; and Julius Caesar had one, which he gave to Servilia, the beautiful mother of Brutus.
Washing the feet was a ceremony of ancient times, adopted not merely with a view, 1st, to personal comfort, in hotter climates; or, 2d, to decorum of appearance, where people walked about barefooted; but also, 3d, to the reclining posture in use at meals, which necessarily brought the feet into immediate contact with the cushions, squabs, &c. of couches.
Chemistry had its first origin in Arabia; and it is not impossible that the chemical nomenclature for gold and silver, viz. sol and luna, were derived from this early superstition of the Bedouin dress.
The Thalmud is the only Jewish authority which mentions such a utensil of the toilette as a comb, (vi. 39,) but without any particular description. Hartmann adds two remarks worth quoting. 1. That the Hebrew style of the coiffure may probably be collected from the Syrian coins; and, 2. That black hair being admired in Palestine, and the Jewish hair being naturally black, it is probable that the Jewish ladies did not color their hair, as the Romans did.
Or rather it was required only in a catarrh, or other cases of checked perspiration, which in those climates was not a case of common occurrence.
NOTE 9. By which was probably meant a color nearer to crimson, than to the blue class of purples.
NOTE 10. It has been doubted whether these trains were supported by train-bearers; but one argument makes it probable that they were not, viz. that they were particularly favorable to the peacock walk or strut, which was an express object of imitation in the gait of the Hebrew women.
I. The Syndon, mentioned by Isaiah, &c. was a delicate and transparent substance, like our tiffany, and in point of money value was fully on a level with the Caftan; but whether imported from Egypt, or imitated in the looms of the Hebrews and Phoenicians, is doubtful. It was worn next to the skin; and consequently, in the harems of the great, occupied the place of the under tunic (or chemise) previously described; and, as luxury advanced, there is reason to think that it was used as a night chemise.
II. The Caftan is the Kalaat of the East, so often mentioned by modern travellers; thus, for example, Thevenot (tom. iii. p. 352) says—'Le Roi fait assez souvent des presens a ses Khans, &c. L'on appelle ces presens Kalaat.' Chardin. (iii. 101,) 'On appelle Calaat les habits que le Roi donne par honeur.' And lately in Lord Amherst's progress through the northern provinces of our Indian empire, &c. we read continually of the Khelawt, or robe of state, as a present made by the native princes to distinguished officers.
The Caftan, or festival robe of the Hebrews, was, in my opinion, the [Greek Text: Peaelos] of the Greeks, or palla of the Romans. Among the points of resemblance are these:—
1. The palla was flung like a cloak or mantle, over the stola, or uppermost robe, 'Ad talos stola demissa et circundata palla.'
2. The palla not only descended in flowing draperies to the feet, (thus Tibullus, I. VII. C. 'Fusa sed ad teneros lutea palla pedes,') but absolutely swept the ground; 'Verrit humum Tyrio saturata murice palla.'
3. The palla was of the same wide compass, and equally distinguished for its splendor.
4. Like the Hebrew festival garment, the palla was a vestis seposita, and reserved for rare solemnities.
With respect to the [Greek Text: Peplos], Eustathius describes it as [Greek Text: megan xai peoixallea xai poixilon peobolaion]; and it would be easy in other respects to prove its identity with the Palla.
Salmasius, by the way, in commenting upon Tertullian, de Pallio, is quite wrong, where he says—'Palla nunquam de virili pallio dicitur.' Tibullus, tom. iii. iv. 35, sufficiently contradicts that opinion.
We have two ideas, which we are anxious to bring under public notice, with regard to Milton. The reader whom Providence shall send us will not measure the value of these ideas (we trust and hope) by their bulk. The reader indeed—that great idea!—is very often a more important person towards the fortune of an essay than the writer. Even 'the prosperity of a jest,' as Shakespeare tells us, lies less in its own merit than 'in the ear of him that hears it.' If he should happen to be unusually obtuse, the wittiest jest perishes—the most pointed is found blunt. So, with regard to books, should the reader on whom we build prove a sandy and treacherous foundation, the whole edifice, 'temple and tower,' must come to the ground. Should it happen, for instance, that the reader, inflicted upon ourselves for our sins, belongs to that class of people who listen to books in the ratio of their much speaking—find no eloquence in 32mo., and little force of argument except in such a folio as might knock him down upon occasion of his proving restive against its logic—in that case he will despise our present essay. Will despise it? He does despise it already: for already he sees that it is short. His contempt is a high a priori contempt: for he measures us by anticipation, and needs to wait for no experience in order to vindicate his sentence against us.
Yet, in one view, this brevity of an essayist does seem to warrant his reader in some little indignation. We, the writer, expect to bring over the reader to our opinion—else wherefore do we write? But, within so small a compass of ground, is it reasonable to look for such a result? 'Bear witness to the presumption of this essay,' we hear the reader complaining: 'It measures about fourteen inches by two—twenty-eight square inches at the most—and is it within human belief that I, simply as I stand here, shall be converted in so narrow an area? Here am I in a state of nature, as you may say. An acre of sound argument might do something: but here is a man who flatters himself—that, before I am advanced seven inches further in my studies, he is to work a notable change in my creed. By Castor and Pollux! he must think very superbly of himself, or very meanly of me.'
Too true, we reply, too true; but, perhaps, there are faults on both sides. The writer is too peremptory and exacting; the reader is too restive. The writer is too full of his office, which he fancies is that of a teacher or a professor speaking ex cathedra: the rebellious reader is oftentimes too determined that he will not learn. The one conceits himself booted and spurred, and mounted on his reader's back, with an express commission for riding him: the other is vicious, apt to bolt out of the course at every opening, and resolute in this point—that he will not be ridden.
There are some, meantime, who take a very different view of the relations existing between those well-known parties to a book—writer and reader. So far from regarding the writer as entitled to the homage of his reader, as if he were some feudal superior, they hold him little better than an actor bowing before the reader as his audience. The feudal relation of fealty [fidelitas] may subsist between them, but the places are inverted; the writer is the liegeman—the reader it is who claims to be the sovereign. Our own opinion inclines this way. It is clear that the writer exists for the sake of the reader, not the reader for the sake of the writer. Besides, the writer bears all sorts of characters, whilst the reader universally has credit for the best possible. We have all heard of 'the courteous reader,' 'the candid reader,' 'the enlightened reader.' But which of us ever heard of 'the discourteous reader,' 'the mulish reader,' 'the barbarous reader?' Doubtless there is no such person. The Goths and Vandals are all confined to the writers. 'The reader'—that great character—is ever wise, ever learned, ever courteous. Even in the worst of times, this great man preserved his purity. Even in the tenth and eleventh centuries, which we usually account the very noontide of darkness, he shone like a mould candle amongst basest dips. And perhaps it is our duty to presume all other virtues and graces as no less essential to him than his glorious 'candor,' his 'courtesy,' (surpassing that of Sir Gawain,) and his truly 'enlightened' understanding. Indeed, we very much question whether a writer, who carries with him a just feeling of his allegiance—a truly loyal writer—can lawfully suppose his sovereign, the reader, peccable or capable of error; and whether there is not even a shade of impiety in conceiving him liable to the affections of sleep, or of yawning.
Having thus, upon our knees as it were, done feudal homage to our great suzerain, the reader—having propitiated him with Persian adorations and with Phrygian genuflexions, let us now crave leave to convert him a little. Convert him!—that sounds 'un pen fort,' does it not? No, not at all. A cat may look at a king; and upon this or that out-of-the-way point a writer may presume to be more knowing than his reader—the serf may undertake to convert his lord. The reader is a great being—a great noun-substantive; but still, like a mere adjective, he is liable to the three degrees of comparison. He may rise above himself—he may transcend the ordinary level of readers, however exalted that level be. Being great, he may become greater. Full of light, he may yet labor with a spot or two of darkness. And such a spot we hold the prevalent opinion upon Milton in two particular questions of taste—questions that are not insulated, but diffusive; spreading themselves over the entire surface of the Paradise Lost, and also of the Paradise Regained; insomuch that, if Milton is wrong once, then he is wrong by many scores of times. Nay, which transcends all counting of cases or numerical estimates of error, if, in the separate instances, (be they few or be they many,) he is truly and indeed wrong—then he has erred, not by the case but by the principle; and that is a thousand times worse; for a separate case or instance of error may escape any man—may have been overlooked amongst the press of objects crowding on his eye; or, if not overlooked, if passed deliberately, may plead the ordinary privilege of human frailty. The man erred; and his error terminates in itself. But an error of principle does not terminate in itself; it is a fountain; it is self-diffusive; and it has a life of its own. The faults of a great man are in any case contagious; they are dazzling and delusive by means of the great man's general example. But his false principles have a worse contagion. They operate not only through the general haze and halo which invests a shining example; but even if transplanted where that example is unknown, they propagate themselves by the vitality inherent in all self-consistent principles, whether true or false.
Before we notice these two cases of Milton, first of all let us ask—Who and what is Milton? Dr. Johnson was furiously incensed with a certain man, by trade an author and manufacturer of books wholesale and retail, for introducing Milton's name into a certain index thus—'Milton, Mr. John.' That Mister, undoubtedly, was hard to digest. Yet very often it happens to the best of us—to men who are far enough from 'thinking small beer of themselves,'—that about ten o'clock, A. M., an official big-wig, sitting at Bow Street, calls upon the man to account for his sprees of the last night, for his feats in knocking down lamp-posts and extinguishing watchmen, by this ugly demand of—'Who and what are you, sir?' And perhaps the poor man, sick and penitential for want of soda water, really finds a considerable difficulty in replying satisfactorily to the worthy beek's apostrophe. Although, at five o'clock in the evening, should the culprit be returning into the country in the same coach as his awful interrogator, he might be very apt to look fierce, and retort this amiable inquiry, and with equal thirst for knowledge to demand, 'D—your eyes, if you come to that, who and what are you?' And the beek in his turn, though so apt to indulge his own curiosity at the expense of the public, might find it very difficult to satisfy that of others.
The same thing happens to authors; and to great authors beyond all others. So accustomed are we to survey a great man through the cloud of years that has gathered round him—so impossible is it to detach him from the pomp and equipage of all who have quoted him, copied him, echoed him, lectured about him, disputed about him, quarrelled about him, that in the case of any Anacharsis the Scythian coming amongst us—any savage, that is to say, uninstructed in our literature, but speaking our language, and feeling an interest in our great men—a man could hardly believe at first how perplexed he would feel—how utterly at a loss for any adequate answer to this question, suddenly proposed-'Who and what was Milton?' That is to say, what is the place which he fills in his own vernacular literature? what station does he hold in universal literature?
We, if abruptly called upon in that summary fashion to convey a commensurate idea of Milton, one which might at once correspond to his pretensions, and yet be readily intelligible to the savage, should answer perhaps thus:—Milton is not an author amongst authors, not a poet amongst poets, but a power amongst powers; and the Paradise Lost is not a book amongst books, not a poem amongst poems, but a central force amongst forces. Let us explain. There is this great distinction amongst books; some, though possibly the best in their class, are still no more than books—not indispensable, not incapable of supplementary representation by other books. If they had never been—if their place had continued for ages unfilled—not the less, upon a sufficient excitement arising, there would always have been found the ability, either directly to fill up the vacancy, or at least to meet the same passion virtually, though by a work differing in form. Thus, supposing Butler to have died in youth, and the Hudibras to have been intercepted by his premature death, still the ludicrous aspects of the Parliamentary war, and its fighting saints, were too striking to have perished. If not in a narrative form, the case would have come forward in the drama. Puritanical sanctity, in collision with the ordinary interests of life, and with its militant propensities, offered too striking a field for the Satiric Muse, in any case, to have passed in total neglect. The impulse was too strong for repression—it was a volcanic agency, that, by some opening or, other, must have worked a way for itself to the upper air. Yet Butler was a most original poet, and a creator within his own province. But, like many another original mind, there is little doubt that he quelled and repressed, by his own excellence, other minds of the same cast. Mere despair of excelling him, so far as not, after all, to seem imitators, drove back others who would have pressed into that arena, if not already brilliantly filled. Butler failing, there would have been another Butler, either in the same or in some analogous form.
But, with regard to Milton and the Miltonic power, the case is far otherwise. If the man had failed, the power would have failed. In that mode of power which he wielded, the function was exhausted in the man—species was identified with the individual—the poetry was incarnated in the poet.
Let it be remembered, that, of all powers which act upon man through his intellectual nature, the very rarest is that which we moderns call the Sublime. The Grecians had apparently no word for it, unless it were that which they meant by [Greek Text: to ogchodes]: for [Greek Text: upsos] was a comprehensive expression for all qualities which gave a character of grace or animation to the composition, such even as were philosophically opposed to the sublime. In the Roman poetry, and especially in Lucan, at times also Juvenal, there is an exhibition of a moral sublime, perfectly distinct from anything known to the Greek poetry. The delineations of republican grandeur, as expressing itself through the principal leaders in the Roman camps, or the trampling under foot of ordinary superstitions, as given in the reasons assigned to Labienus for passing the oracle of the Lybian Jupiter unconsulted, are in a style to which there is nothing corresponding in the whole Grecian literature, nor would they have been comprehensible to an Athenian. The famous line—'Jupiter est quodcunque vides, quodcunque moveris,' and the brief review of such questions as might be worthy of an oracular god, with the summary declaration, that every one of those points we know already by the light of nature, and could not know them better though Jupiter Ammon himself were to impress them on our attention—
'Scimus, et haec nobis non altius inseret Ammon:' all this is truly Roman in its sublimity; and so exclusively Roman, that there, and not in poets like the Augustan, expressly modelling their poems on Grecian types, ought the Roman mind to be studied.
On the other hand, for that species of the sublime which does not rest purely and merely on moral energies, but on a synthesis between man and nature—for what may properly be called the Ethico-physical Sublime—there is but one great model surviving in the Greek poetry, viz. the gigantic drama of the Prometheus crucified on Mount Elborus. And this drama differs so much from everything else, even in the poetry of Aeschylus, as the mythus itself differs so much from all the rest of the Grecian mythology, (belonging apparently to an age and a people more gloomy, austere, and nearer to the incunabula mundi, than those which bred the gay and sunny superstitions of Greece,) that much curiosity and speculation have naturally gathered round the subject of late years. Laying this one insulated case apart, and considering that the Hebrew poetry of Isaiah and Ezekiel, as having the benefit of inspiration, does not lie within the just limits of competition, we may affirm that there is no human composition which can be challenged as constitutionally sublime—sublime equally by its conception and by its execution, or as uniformly sublime from first to last, excepting the Paradise Lost. In Milton only, first and last, is the power of the sublime revealed. In Milton only does this great agency blaze and glow as a furnace kept up to a white heat—without intermission and without collapse.
If, therefore, Milton occupies this unique position—and let the reader question himself closely whether he can cite any other book than the Paradise Lost, as continuously sublime, or sublime even by its prevailing character—in that case there is a peculiarity of importance investing that one book which belongs to no other; and it must be important to dissipate any erroneous notions which affect the integrity of that book's estimation. Now, there are two notions countenanced by Addison and by Dr. Johnson, which tend greatly to disparage the character of its composition. If the two critics, one friendly, the other very malignant, but both meaning to be just, have in reality built upon sound principles, or at least upon a sound appreciation of Milton's principles—in that case there is a mortal taint diffused over the whole of the Paradise Lost: for not a single book is clear of one or other of the two errors which they charge upon him. We will briefly state the objections, and then as briefly reply to them, by exposing the true philosophy of Milton's practice. For we are very sure that, in doing as he did, this mighty poet was governed by no carelessness or oversight, (as is imagined,) but by a most refined theory of poetic effects.
I. The first of these two charges respects a supposed pedantry, or too ambitious a display of erudition. It is surprising to us that such an objection should have occurred to any man; both because, after all, the quantity of learning cannot be great for which any poem can find an opening; and because, in any poem burning with concentrated fire, like the Miltonic, the passion becomes a law to itself, and will not receive into connection with itself any parts so deficient in harmony, as a cold ostentation of learned illustrations must always have been found. Still, it is alleged that such words as frieze, architrave, cornice, zenith, &c., are words of art, out of place amongst the primitive simplicities of Paradise, and at war with Milton's purpose of exhibiting the Paradisaical state.
Now, here is displayed broadly the very perfection of ignorance, as measured against the very perfection of what may be called poetic science. We will lay open the true purpose of Milton, by a single illustration. In describing impressive scenery, as occurring in a hilly or a woody country, everybody must have noticed the habit which young ladies have of using the word amphitheatre: 'amphitheatre of woods'—'amphitheatre of hills,'—these are their constant expressions. Why? Is it because the word amphitheatre is a Grecian word? We question if one young lady in twenty knows that it is; and very certain we are that no word would recommend itself to her use by that origin, if she happened to be aware of it. The reason lurks here:—In the word theatre, is contained an evanescent image of a great audience—of a populous multitude. Now, this image—half withdrawn, half-flashed upon the eye—and combined with the word hills or forests, is thrown into powerful collision with the silence of hills—with the solitude of forests; each image, from reciprocal contradiction, brightens and vivifies the other. The two images act, and react, by strong repulsion and antagonism.
This principle we might exemplify, and explain at great length; but we impose a law of severe brevity upon ourselves. And we have said enough. Out of this one principle of subtle and lurking antagonism, may be explained everything which has been denounced under the idea of pedantry in Milton. It is the key to all that lavish pomp of art and knowledge which is sometimes put forward by Milton in situations of intense solitude, and in the bosom of primitive nature—as, for example, in the Eden of his great poem, and in the Wilderness of his Paradise Regained. The shadowy exhibition of a regal banquet in the desert, draws out and stimulates the sense of its utter solitude and remotion from men or cities. The images of architectural splendor, suddenly raised in the very centre of Paradise, as vanishing shows by the wand of a magician, bring into powerful relief the depth of silence, and the unpopulous solitude which possess this sanctuary of man whilst yet happy and innocent. Paradise could not, in any other way, or by any artifice less profound, have been made to give up its essential and differential characteristics in a form palpable to the imagination. As a place of rest, it was necessary that it should be placed in close collision with the unresting strife of cities; as a place of solitude, with the image of tumultuous crowds; as the centre of mere natural beauty in its gorgeous prime, with the images of elaborate architecture and of human workmanship; as a place of perfect innocence in seclusion, that it should be exhibited as the antagonist pole to the sin and misery of social man.
Such is the covert philosophy which governs Milton's practice, and which might be illustrated by many scores of passages from both the Paradise Lost and the Paradise Regained. [Footnote: For instance, this is the key to that image in the Paradise Regained, where Satan, on first emerging into sight, is compared to an old man gathering sticks 'to warm him on a winter's day.' This image, at first sight, seems little in harmony with the wild and awful character of the supreme fiend. No: it is not in harmony; nor is it meant to be in harmony. On the contrary, it is meant to be in antagonism and intense repulsion. The household image of old age, of human infirmity, and of domestic hearths, are all meant as a machinery for provoking and soliciting the fearful idea to which they are placed in collision, and as so many repelling poles.] In fact, a volume might be composed on this one chapter. And yet, from the blindness or inconsiderate examination of his critics, this latent wisdom—this cryptical science of poetic effects—in the mighty poet, has been misinterpreted, and set down to the account of defective skill, or even of puerile ostentation.
II. The second great charge against Milton is, prima facie, even more difficult to meet. It is the charge of having blended the Pagan and Christian forms. The great realities of angels and archangels are continually combined into the same groups with the fabulous impersonations of the Greek mythology. Eve is interlinked in comparisons with Pandora; sometimes again with Eurynome. Those impersonations, however, may be thought to have something of allegoric meaning in their conceptions, which in a measure corrects this Paganism of the idea. But Eve is also compared with Ceres, with Hebe, and other fixed forms of Pagan superstition. Other allusions to the Greek mythologic forms, or direct combination of them with the real existences of the Christian heavens, might be produced by scores, were it not that we decline to swell our paper beyond the necessity of the case. Now, surely this at least is an error. Can there be any answer to this?
At one time we were ourselves inclined to fear that Milton had been here caught tripping. In this instance, at least, he seems to be in error. But there is no trusting to appearances. In meditating upon the question, we happened to remember that the most colossal and Miltonic of painters had fallen into the very same fault, if fault it were. In his Last Judgment, Michael Angelo has introduced the Pagan deities in connection with the hierarchy of the Christian heavens. Now, it is very true that one great man cannot palliate the error of another great man, by committing the same error himself. But, though it cannot avail as an excuse, such a conformity of ideas serves as a summons to a much more vigilant examination of the case than might else be instituted. One man might err from inadvertency; but that two, and both men trained to habits of constant meditation, should fall into the same error—makes the marvel tenfold greater.
Now we confess that, as to Michael Angelo, we do not pretend to assign the precise key to the practice which he adopted. And to our feelings, after all that might be said in apology, there still remains an impression of incongruity in the visual exhibition and direct juxtaposition of the two orders of supernatural existence so potently repelling each other. But, as regards Milton, the justification is complete; it rests upon the following principle: In all other parts of Christianity, the two orders of superior beings, the Christian heaven and the Pagan pantheon, are felt to be incongruous—not as the pure opposed to the impure, (for, if that were the reason, then the Christian fiends should be incongruous with the angels, which they are not,)—but as the unreal opposed to the real. In all the hands of other poets, we feel that Jupiter, Mercury, Apollo, Diana, are not merely impure conceptions, but that they are baseless conceptions, phantoms of air, nonentities; and there is much the same objection, in point of just taste, to the combination of such fabulous beings in the same groups with glorified saints and angels, as there is to the combination, by a painter or a sculptor, of real flesh-and-blood creatures with allegoric abstractions.
This is the objection to such combination in all other poets. But this objection does not apply to Milton: it glances past him; and for the following reason: Milton has himself laid an early foundation for his introduction of the Pagan pantheon into Christian groups:—the false gods of the heathen world were, according to Milton, the fallen angels. They are not false, therefore, in the sense of being unreal, baseless, and having a merely fantastical existence, like our European fairies, but as having drawn aside mankind from a pure worship. As ruined angels under other names, they are no less real than the faithful and loyal angels of the Christian heavens. And in that one difference of the Miltonic creed, which the poet has brought pointedly and elaborately under his reader's notice by his matchless catalogue of the rebellious angels, and of their Pagan transformations in the very first book of the Paradise Lost, is laid beforehand the amplest foundation for his subsequent practice; and at the same time, therefore, the amplest answer to the charge preferred against him by Dr. Johnson, and by so many other critics, who had not sufficiently penetrated the latent theory on which he acted.
[FOOTNOTE: The History of Charlemagne; with a Sketch, and History of
France from the Fall of the Roman Empire to the Rise of the Carlovingian
Dynasty. By G.P.R. JAMES, Esq. VOL. II.]
History is sometimes treated under the splendid conception of 'philosophy teaching by example,' and sometimes as an 'old almanac;' and, agreeably to this latter estimate, we once heard a celebrated living professor of medicine, who has been since distinguished by royal favor, and honored with a title, making it his boast, that he had never charged his memory with one single historical fact; that, on the contrary, he had, out of profound contempt for a sort of knowledge so utterly without value in his eyes, anxiously sought to extirpate from his remembrance,—or, if that were impossible, to perplex and confound,—any relics of historical records which might happen to survive from his youthful studies. 'And I am happy to say,' added he, 'and it is consoling to have it in my power conscientiously to declare, that, although I have not been able to dismiss entirely from my mind some ridiculous fact about a succession of four great monarchies, (for human infirmity still clings to our best efforts, and will forever prevent our attaining perfection,) still I have happily succeeded in so far confounding all distinctions of things and persons, of time and of places, that I could not assign the era of any one transaction, as I humbly trust, within a thousand years. The whole vast series of history is become a wilderness to me; and my mind, as to all such absurd knowledge, under the blessing of Heaven, is pretty nearly a tabula rasa.' In this Gothic expression of self-congratulation upon the extent of his own ignorance, though doubtless founded upon what the Germans call an einseitig or one-sided estimate, there was however that sort of truth which is apprehended only by strong minds, and such as naturally adhere to extreme courses. Certainly the blank knowledge of facts, which is all that most readers gather from their historical studies, is a mere deposition of rubbish without cohesion, and resting upon no basis of theory (that is, of general comprehensive survey) applied to the political development of nations, and accounting for the great stages of their internal movements. Rightly and profitably to understand history, it ought to be studied in as many ways as it may be written. History, as a composition, falls into three separate arrangements, obeying three distinct laws, and addressing itself to three distinct objects. Its first and humblest office is to deliver a naked unadorned exposition of public events and their circumstances. This form of history may be styled the purely Narrative; the second form is that which may be styled the Scenical; and the third the Philosophic. What is meant by Philosophic History, is well understood in our present advanced state of society; and few histories are written except in the simplest condition of human culture, which do not in part assume its functions, or which are content to rest their entire attraction upon the abstract interest of facts. The privileges of this form have, however, been greatly abused; and the truth of facts has been so much forced to bend before preconceived theories, whereas every valid theory ought to be abstracted from the facts, that Mr. Southey and others in this day have set themselves to decry the whole genus and class—as essentially at war with the very primary purposes of the art. But, under whatever name, it is evident that philosophy, or an investigation of the true moving forces in every great train and sequence of national events, and an exhibition of the motives and the moral consequences in their largest extent which have concurred with these events, cannot be omitted in any history above the level of a childish understanding. Mr. Southey himself will be found to illustrate this necessity by his practice, whilst assailing it in principle. As to the other mode of history—history treated scenically, it is upon the whole the most delightful to the reader, and the most susceptible of art and ornament in the hands of a skilful composer. The most celebrated specimen in this department is the Decline and Fall of Gibbon. And to this class may in part [Footnote 1] be referred the Historical Sketches of Voltaire. Histories of this class proceed upon principles of selection, presupposing in the reader a general knowledge of the great cardinal incidents, and bringing forward into especial notice those only which are susceptible of being treated with distinguished effect.
These are the three separate modes of treating history; each has its distinct purposes; and all must contribute to make up a comprehensive total of historical knowledge. The first furnishes the facts; the second opens a thousand opportunities for pictures of manners and national temper in every stage of their growth; whilst the third abstracts the political or the ethical moral, and unfolds the philosophy which knits the history of one nation to that of others, and exhibits the whole under their internal connection, as parts of one great process, carrying on the great economy of human improvement by many stages in many regions at one and the same time.
Pursued upon this comprehensive scale, the study of history is the study of human nature. But some have continued to reject it, not upon any objection to the quality of the knowledge gained—but simply on the ground of its limited extent; contending that in public and political transactions, such as compose the matter of history, human nature exhibits itself upon too narrow a scale and under too monotonous an aspect; that under different names, and in connection with different dates and regions, events virtually the same are continually revolving; that whatever novelty may strike the ear, in passages of history taken from periods widely remote, affects the names only, and circumstances that are extra-essential; that the passions meantime, the motives, and (allowing for difference of manners) the means even, are subject to no variety; that in ancient or in modern history there is no real accession made to our knowledge of human nature: but that all proceeds by cycles of endless repetition; and in fact that, according to the old complaint, 'there is nothing new under the sun.' It is not true that 'there is nothing new under the sun,' This is the complaint, as all men know, of a jaded voluptuary, seeking for a new pleasure and finding none, for reasons which lay in his own vitiated nature. Why did he seek for novelty? Because old pleasures had ceased to stimulate his exhausted organs; and that was reason enough why no new pleasure, had any been found, would operate as such for him. The weariness of spirit, and the poverty of pleasure which he bemoaned as belonging to our human condition, were not in reality objective, (as a German philosopher would express himself,) or laid in the nature of things, and thus pressing upon all alike, but subjective, that is to say, derived from the peculiar state and affections of his own organs for apprehending pleasure. Not the apprehensibile, but the apprehendens, was in fault—not the pleasures, or the dewy freshness of pleasures, had decayed, but the sensibilities of him who thus undertook to appraise them.
More truly, and more philosophically, it may be said that there is nothing old under the sun, no absolute repetition. It is the well-known doctrine of Leibnitz, [Footnote 2] that amongst the familiar objects of our daily experience, there is no perfect identity. All in external nature proceeds by endless variety. Infinite change, illimitable novelty, inexhaustible difference, these are the foundations upon which nature builds and ratifies her purpose of individuality—so indispensable, amongst a thousand other great uses, to the very elements of social distinctions and social rights, But for the endless circumstances of difference which characterize external objects, the rights of property, for instance, would have stood upon no certain basis, nor admitted of any general or comprehensive guarantee.
As with external objects, so with human actions; amidst their infinite approximations and affinities, they are separated by circumstances of never-ending diversity. History may furnish her striking correspondences, Biography her splendid parallels, Rome may in certain cases appear but the mirror of Athens, England of Rome,—and yet, after all, no character can be cited, no great transaction, no revolution of 'high-viced cities,' no catastrophe of nations, which, in the midst of its resemblances to distant correspondences in other ages, docs not include features of abundant distinction and individualizing characteristics, so many and so important, as to yield its own peculiar matter for philosophical meditation and its own separate moral. Rare is the case in history, or (to speak with suitable boldness) there is none, which does not involve circumstances capable to a learned eye, without any external aid from chronology, of referring it to its own age. The doctrine of Leibnitz, on the grounds of individuality in the objects of sense, may, in fact, be profitably extended to all the great political actions of mankind. Many pass, in a popular sense, for pure transcripts or duplicates of similar cases in past times; but, accurately speaking, none are such truly and substantially. Neither are the differences, by which they are severally marked and featured, interesting only to the curiosity or to the spirit of minute research. All public acts in the degree in which they are great and comprehensive, are steeped in living feelings, and saturated with the spirit of their own age; and the features of their individuality, that is, the circumstances which chiefly distinguish them from their nearest parallels in other times, and chiefly prevent them from lapsing into blank repetitions of the same identical case, are generally the very cardinal points, the organs, and the depositories which lodge whatever best expresses the temper and tendencies of the age to which they belong. So far are these special points of distinction from being slight or trivial, that in them par excellence is gathered and concentrated, whatever a political philosopher would be best pleased to insulate and to converge within his field of view.
This, indeed, is evident upon consideration; and is in some sense implied in the very verbal enunciation of the proposition; vi termini, it should strike every man who reflects—that in great national transactions of different ages, so far resembling each other as to merit the description of parallels, all the circumstances of agreement—all those which compose the resemblance for the very reason that they are common to both periods of time, specially and characteristically belong to neither. It is the differential, and not the common—the points of special dissimilitude, not those of general similitude—which manifestly must be looked to, for the philosophic valuation of the times or the people—for the adjudication of their peculiar claims in a comparison with other times and other people—and for the appraisement of the progress made, whether positively for its total amount, or relatively to itself, for its rate of advance at each separate stage.
It is in this way of critical examination, that comparison and the collation of apparent parallels, from being a pure amusement of ingenuity, rises to a philosophic labor, and that the study of History becomes at once dignified and in a most practical sense profitable. It is the opinion of the subtlest and the most combining (if not the most useful) philosopher whom England has produced, that a true knowledge of history confers the gift of prophecy; or that intelligently and sagaciously to have looked backwards, is potentially to have looked forwards. For example, he is of opinion that any student of the great English civil war in the reign of Charles I., who should duly have noted the signs precurrent and concurrent of those days, and should also have read the contemporary political pamphlets, coming thus prepared, could not have failed, after a corresponding study of the French literature from 1750 to 1788, and in particular, after collecting the general sense and temper of the French people from the Cahiers, (or codes of instruction transmitted by the electoral bodies to the members of the first National Assembly,) to foresee in clear succession the long career of revolutionary frenzy, which soon afterwards deluged Europe with tears and blood. This may perhaps be conceded, and without prejudice to the doctrine just now delivered, of endless diversity in political events. For it is certain that the political movements of nations obey everlasting laws, and travel through the stages of known cycles, which thus insure enough of resemblance to guarantee the general outline of a sagacious prophecy; whilst on the other hand, the times, the people, and the extraordinary minds which, in such critical eras, soon reveal themselves at the head of affairs, never fail of producing their appropriate and characteristic results of difference. Sameness enough there will always be to encourage the true political seer; with difference enough to confer upon each revolution its separate character and its peculiar interest.
All this is strikingly illustrated in the history of those great revolutionary events, which belong to the life and times of the Emperor Charlemagne. If any one period in history might be supposed to offer a barren and unprofitable picture of war, rapine, and bloodshed—unfeatured by characteristic differences, and unimproved by any peculiar moral, it is this section of the European annals. Removed from our present times by a thousand years, divided from us by the profound gulf of what we usually denominate the dark ages; placed, in fact, entirely upon the farther [Footnote 3] side of that great barrier—this period of history can hardly be expected to receive much light from contemporary documents in an age so generally illiterate. Not from national archives, or state papers, when diplomacy was so rare, when so large a proportion of its simple transactions was conducted by personal intercourse, and after the destruction wrought amongst its slender chancery of written memorials by the revolution of one entire millenium. Still less could we have reason to hope for much light from private memoirs at a period when the means of writing were as slenderly diffused as the motives; when the rare endowments, natural and acquired, for composing history could so seldom happen to coincide with the opportunities for obtaining accurate information; when the writers were so few, and the audience so limited and so widely dispersed, to which they could then profitably address themselves. With or without illustration, however, the age itself and its rapid succession of wars between barbarous and semi-barbarous tribes, might, if any one chapter in history, be presumed barren of either interest or instruction, wearisomely monotonous; and, by comparison with any parallel section from the records of other nations in the earliest stages of dawning civilization, offering no one feature of novelty beyond the names of the combatants, their local and chronological relations, and the peculiar accidents and unimportant circumstances of variety in the conduct or issue of the several battles which they fought.
Yet, in contradiction to all these very plausible presumptions, even this remote period teems with its own peculiar and separate instruction. It is the first great station, so to speak, which we reach after entering the portals of modern [Footnote 4] history. It presents us with the evolution and propagation of Christianity in its present central abodes; with the great march of civilization, and the gathering within the pale of that mighty agency for elevating human nature, and beneath the gentle yoke of the only true and beneficent religion, of the last rebellious recusants among the European family of nations. We meet also, in conjunction with the other steps of the vast humanizing process then going on, the earliest efforts at legislation—recording at the same time the barbarous condition of those for whom they were designed, and the anti-barbarous views and aspirations of the legislator in the midst of his condescensions to the infirmities of his subjects. Here also we meet with the elementary state, growing and as yet imperfectly rooted, of feudalism. Here, too, we behold in their incunabula, forming and arranging themselves under the pressure of circumstances, the existing kingdoms of Christendom. So far, then, from being a mere echo, or repetition, of other passages in history, the period of Charlemagne is rich and novel in its instruction, and almost (we might say) unique in the quality of that instruction. For here only perhaps we see the social system forming itself in the mine, and the very process, as it were, of crystallization going on beneath our eyes. Mr. James, therefore, may be regarded as not less fortunate in the choice of his subject, than meritorious in its treatment; indeed, his work is not so much the best, as the only history of Charlemagne which will hereafter be cited. For it reposes upon a far greater body of research and collation, than has hitherto been applied [Footnote 4] even in France to this interesting theme; and in effect it is the first account of the great emperor and his times which can, with a due valuation of the term, be complimented with the title of a critical memoir. Charlemagne, 'the greatest man of the middle ages,' in the judgment of his present biographer, was born A. D. 742—seven years before his father assumed the name of King. This date has been disputed: but, on the whole, we may take it as settled, upon various collateral computations, that the year now assigned is the true one. The place is less certain: but we do not think Mr. James warranted in saying that it is 'unknown.' If every thing is to be pronounced 'unknown,' for which there is no absolute proof of a kind to satisfy forensic rules of evidence, or which has ever been made a question for debate, in that case we may apply a sponge to the greater part of history before the era of printing.
Aix-la-Chapelle, Mr. James goes on to tell us, is implied as the birth-place of one of the chief authorities. But our own impression is, that according to the general belief of succeeding ages, it was not Aix-la-Chapelle, but Ingelheim, a village near Mentz, to which that honor belonged. Some have supposed that Carlsburg, in Bavaria, was the true place of his birth; and, indeed, that it drew its name from that distinguished event. Frantzius, in particular, says, that in his day the castle of that place was still shown to travellers with the reverential interest attached to such a pretension. But, after all, he gives his own vote for Ingelheim; and it is singular that he does not so much as mention Aix-la-Chapelle. Of his education and his early years, Mr. James is of opinion that we know as little as of his birth-place. Certainly our information upon these particulars is neither full nor circumstantial; yet we know as much, perhaps, in these respects, of Charlemagne as of Napoleon Bonaparte. And remarkable enough it is, that not relatively, (or making allowances for the age,) but absolutely, Charlemagne was much more accomplished than Napoleon in the ordinary business of a modern education; Charlemagne, in the middle of the 8th century, than Napoleon in the latter end of the 18th. Charlemagne was, in fact, the most accomplished man of his age; Napoleon a sciolist for any age. The tutor of Charlemagne was Peter of Pisa, a man eminent at that time for his attainments in literature (in re grammatica). From him it was that Charlemagne learned Latin and Greek; Greek in such a degree 'ut sufficienter intelligeret,' and Latin to the extent of using it familiarly and fluently in conversation. Now, as to the man of the 18th century, Greek was to him as much a sealed language as Chinese; and, even with regard to Latin, his own secretary doubts, upon one occasion, whether he were sufficiently master of it to translate Juvenal's expressive words of Panem et Circenses. Yet he had enjoyed the benefits of an education in a Royal College, in a country which regards itself self-complacently as at the head of civilization. Again, there is a pretty strong tradition, (which could hardly arise but upon some foundation,) that Charlemagne had cultivated the Arabic so far as to talk it; [Footnote 6] having no motive to that attainment more urgent than that political considerations made it eligible for him to undertake an expedition against those who could negotiate in no other language. Now, let it be considered how very much more powerful arguments there were in Napoleon's position for mastering the German and the English. His continental policy moved entirely upon the pivot of central Europe, that is, the German system of nations—the great federation of powers upon the Rhine and the Danube. And, as to England, his policy and his passions alike pointed in that direction as uniformly and as inevitably as the needle to the Pole: every morning, we are told, tossing aside the Paris journals as so many babbling echoes of his own public illusions, expressing rather what was desired, than what was probable, he required of his secretary that he should read off into French the leading newspapers of England. And many were the times when he started up in fury, and passionately taxed his interpreter with mistranslation; sometimes as softening the expressions, sometimes as over-coloring their violence. Evidently he lay at the mercy of one whom he knew to be wanting in honor, and who had it in his power, either by way of abetting any sinister views of his own, or in collusion with others, to suppress—to add—to garble—and in every possible way to color and distort what he was interpreting. Yet neither could this humiliating sense of dependency on the one hand, nor the instant pressure of political interest on the other, ever urge Napoleon to the effort of learning English in the first case, German or Spanish in the second. Charlemagne again cultivated most strenuously and successfully, as an accomplishment peculiarly belonging to the functions of his high station, the art and practice of eloquence; and he had this reward of his exertions—that he was accounted the most eloquent man of his age: 'totis viribus ad orationem exercendam conversus naturalem facundiam ita roboravit studio, ut praeter [l. propter] promptum ac profluens sermonis genus _facile aevi sui eloquentissimus crederetur.'
Turn to Bonaparte. It was a saying of his sycophants, that he sometimes spoke like a god, and sometimes worse than the feeblest of mortals. But, says one who knew him well,—the mortal I have often heard, unfortunately never yet the god. He who sent down this sneer to posterity, was at Napoleon's right hand on the most memorable occasion of his whole career—that cardinal occasion, as we may aptly term it, (for upon that his whole fortunes hinged,) when he intruded violently upon the legislative body, dissolved the Directory and effected the revolution of the 18th Brumaire. That revolution it was which raised him to the Consular power; and by that revolution, considered in its manner and style, we may judge of Napoleon in several of his chief pretensions—courage, presence of mind, dignity, and eloquence; for then, if ever, these qualities were all in instant requisition; one word effectually urged by the antagonist parties, a breath, a gesture, a nod, suitably followed up, would have made the total difference between ruler of France and a traitor hurried away a la lanterne. It is true that the miserable imbecility of all who should have led the hostile parties, the irresolution and the quiet-loving temper of Moreau, the base timidity of Bernadotte, in fact, the total defect of heroic minds amongst the French of that day, neutralized the defects and more than compensated the blunders of Napoleon. But these were advantages that could not be depended on: a glass of brandy extraordinary might have emboldened the greatest poltroon to do that which, by once rousing a movement of popular enthusiasm, once making a beginning in that direction, would have precipitated the whole affair into hands which must have carried it far beyond the power of any party to control. Never, according to all human calculation, were eloquence and presence of mind so requisite: never was either so deplorably wanting. A passionate exposition of the national degradations inflicted by the imbecility of the Directors, an appeal to the Assembly as Frenchmen, contrasting the glories of 1796 with the humiliating campaigns that had followed, might, by connecting the new candidate for power with the public glory, and the existing rulers with all the dishonors which had settled on the French banners, have given an electric shock to the patriotism of the audience, such as would have been capable for the moment of absorbing their feelings as partisans. In a French assembly, movements of that nature, under a momentary impulse, are far from being uncommon. Here, then, if never before, and never again, the grandeur of the occasion demanded—almost, we might say, implored, and clamorously invoked, the effectual powers of eloquence and perfect self-possession. How was the occasion met? Let us turn to the actual scene, as painted in lively colors by a friend and an eye-witness: [Footnote 7]—'The accounts brought every instant to General Bonaparte determined him to enter the hall [of the Ancients] and take part in the debate. His entrance was hasty and in anger—no favorable prognostics of what he would say. The passage by which we entered led directly forward into the middle of the house; our backs were towards the door; Bonaparte had the President on his right; he could not see him quite in front. I found myself on the General's right; our clothes touched: Berthier was on his left.
'All the harangues composed for Bonaparte after the event differ from each other;—no miracle that. There was, in fact, none pronounced to the Ancients; unless a broken conversation with the President, carried on without nobleness, propriety, or dignity, may be called a speech. We heard only these words—"Brothers in arms—frankness of a soldier." The interrogatories of the President were clear. Nothing could be more confused or worse enounced, than the ambiguous and disjointed replies of Bonaparte. He spoke incoherently of volcanoes—secret agitations—victories—constitution violated. He found fault even with the 18th Fructidor, of which he had himself been the prime instigator and most powerful upholder.' [Not, reader, observe, from bold time-serving neglect of his own principles, but from absolute distraction of mind, and incoherency of purpose.] 'Then came Caesar—Cromwell—Tyrant'—[allusions which, of all others, were the most unseasonable for that crisis, and for his position.] 'He repeated several times—I have no more than that to tell you; and he had told them nothing. Then out came the words,—Liberty, Equality: for these every one saw he had not come to St. Cloud. Then his action became animated, and we lost him—comprehending nothing beyond 18th Fructidor, 30 Prairial, hypocrites, intriguers; I am not so; I shall declare all; I will abdicate the power when the danger which threatens the Republic has passed.' Then, after further instances of Napoleon's falsehood, and the self-contradictory movements of his disjointed babble, the secretary goes on thus: 'These interruptions, apostrophes, and interrogations, overwhelmed him; he believed himself lost. The disapprobation became more violent, and his discourse still more wanting in method and coherence. Sometimes he addressed the representatives, quite stultified; sometimes the military in the court,' [i. e. outside,] 'who were beyond hearing; then, without any transition, he spoke of the thunder of war—saying, I am accompanied by the god of war and fortune. The President then calmly observed to him that he found nothing, absolutely nothing, upon which they could deliberate; that all he had said was vague. Explain yourself, unfold the plots into which you have been invited to enter. Bonaparte repeated the same things; and in what style! No idea in truth can be formed of the whole scene, unless by those present. There was not the least order in all he stammered out (to speak sincerely) with the most inconceivable incoherence. Bonaparte was no orator. Perceiving the bad effect produced upon the meeting by this rhapsody, and the progressive confusion of the speaker, I whispered (pulling his coat gently at the same time)—'Retire, General, you no longer know what you are saying.' I made a sign to Berthier to second me in persuading him to leave the place; when suddenly, after stammering out a few words more, he turned round, saying, 'Let all who love me follow.' So ended this famous scene—in which, more than in any other upon record, eloquence and presence of mind were needful. And if it should be said that vagueness was not altogether the least eligible feature in a speech whose very purpose was to confuse, and to leave no room for answer, we reply—true; but then it was the vagueness of art, which promised to be serviceable, and that of preconcerted perplexity, not the vagueness of incoherence, and a rhapsody of utter contradiction. [Footnote 8]
What a contrast all this to the indefeasible majesty of Charlemagne—to his courage and presence of mind, which always rose with the occasion, and, above all, to his promptitude of winning eloquence, that promptum ac praftuens genus sermonis, which caused him to be accounted evi sui eloquentissimus!
Passing for a moment to minor accomplishments, we find that Charlemagne excelled in athletic and gymnastic exercises; he was a pancratiast. Bonaparte wanted those even which were essential to his own daily security. Charlemagne swam well; Bonaparte not at all. Charlemagne was a first-rate horseman even amongst the Franks; Napoleon rode ill originally, and no practice availed to give him a firm seat, a graceful equestrian deportment, or a skilful bridle hand. In a barbarous age the one possessed all the elegances and ornamental accomplishments of a gentleman; the other, in a most polished age, and in a nation of even false refinement, was the sole barbarian of his time; presenting, in his deficiencies, the picture of a low mechanic—and, in his positive qualities, the violence and brutality of a savage. [Footnote 9] Hence, by the way, the extreme folly of those who have attempted to trace a parallel between Napoleon and the first Caesar. The heaven-born Julius, as beyond all dispute the greatest man of ancient history in moral grandeur, and therefore raised unspeakably above comparison with one who was eminent, even amongst ordinary men, for the pettiness of his passions—so also, upon an intellectual trial, will be found to challenge pretty nearly an equal precedency. Meantime, allowing for the inequality of their advantages, even Caesar would not have disdained a comparison with Charlemagne. All the knowledge current in Rome, Athens, or Rhodes, at the period of Caesar's youth, the entire cycle of a nobleman's education in a republic where all noblemen were from their birth dedicated to public services, this—together with much and various knowledge peculiar to himself and his own separate objects—had Caesar mastered; whilst, in an age of science, and in a country where the fundamental science of mathematics was generally diffused in unrivalled perfection, it is well ascertained that Bonaparte's knowledge did not go beyond an elementary acquaintance with the first six books of Euclid; but, on the other hand, Charlemagne, even in that early age, was familiar with the intricate mathematics and the elaborate computus of Practical Astronomy.
But these collations, it will be said, are upon questions not primarily affecting their peculiar functions. They are questions more or less extra-judicial. The true point of comparison is upon the talents of policy in the first place, and strategies in the second. A trial between two celebrated performers in these departments, is at any rate difficult; and much more so when they are separated by vast intervals of time. Allowances must be made, so many and so various; compensations or balances struck upon so many diversities of situation; there is so much difference in the modes of warfare—offensive and defensive; the financial means, the available alliances, and other resources, are with so much difficulty appraised—in order to raise ourselves to that station from which the whole question can be overlooked, that nothing short of a general acquaintance with the history, statistics, and diplomacy of the two periods, can lay a ground for the solid adjudication of so large a comparison. Meantime, in the absence of such an investigation, pursued upon a scale of suitable proportions, what if we should sketch a rapid outline [Greek Text: os en tupo pexilabeln] of its elements, (to speak by a metaphor borrowed from practical astronomy)—i. e. of the principal and most conspicuous points which its path would traverse? How much these two men, each central to a mighty system in his own days, how largely and essentially they differed—whether in kind or in degree of merit, will appear in the course even of the hastiest sketch. The circumstances in which they agreed, and that these were sufficient to challenge an inquiry into their characteristic differences, and to support the interest of such an inquiry, will probably be familiar to most readers, as among the common places of general history which survive even in the daily records of conversation. Few people can fail to know—that each of these memorable men stood at the head of a new era in European history, and of a great movement in the social development of nations; that each laid the foundations for a new dynasty in his own family, the one by building forwards upon a basis already formed by his two immediate progenitors, the other by dexterously applying to a great political crisis his own military preponderance; and finally, that each forfeited within a very brief period—the one in his own person, the other in the persons of his immediate descendants—the giddy ascent which he had mastered, and all the distinctions which it conferred; in short, that 'Time, which gave, did his own gifts confound;' [Footnote 10] but with this mighty difference—that Time co-operated in the one case with extravagant folly in the individual, and in the other with the irresistible decrees of Providence.
Napoleon Bonaparte and Charlemagne were both, in a memorable degree, the favorites of fortune. It is true, that the latter found himself by inheritance in possession of a throne, which the other ascended by the fortunate use of his own military advantages. But the throne of Charlemagne had been recently won by his family, and in a way so nearly corresponding to that which was afterwards pursued by Napoleon, that in effect, considering how little this usurpation had been hallowed by time, the throne might in each case, if not won precisely on the same terms, be considered to be held by the same tenure. Charlemagne, not less than Napoleon, was the privileged child of revolution; he was required by the times, and indispensable to the crisis which had arisen for the Franks; and he was himself protected by the necessities to which he ministered. Clouds had risen, or were rising, at that era, on every quarter of France; from every side she was menaced by hostile demonstrations; and, without the counsels of a Charlemagne, and with an energy of action inferior to his, it is probable that she would have experienced misfortunes which, whilst they depressed herself, could not but have altered the destinies of Christendom for many ages to come. The resources of France, it is true, were immense; and, as regarded the positions of her enemies, they were admirably concentrated. But to be made available in the whole extent which the times demanded, it was essential that they should be wielded by a first-rate statesman, supported by a first-rate soldier. The statesman and the soldier were fortunately found united in the person of one man; and that man, by the rarest of combinations, the same who was clothed with the supreme power of the State. Less power, or power less harmonious, or power the most consummate, administered with less absolute skill, would doubtless have been found incompetent to struggle with the tempestuous assaults which then lowered over the entire frontier of France. It was natural, and, upon the known constitution of human nature, pretty nearly inevitable, that, in the course of the very extended warfare which followed, love for that glorious trade—so irritating and so contagious—should be largely developed in a mind as aspiring as Charlemagne's, and stirred by such generous sensibilities. Yet is it in no one instance recorded, that these sympathies with the pomp and circumstance of war, moved him to undertake so much as a single campaign, or an expedition which was not otherwise demanded by his judgment, or that they interfered even to bias or give an impulse to his judgment, where it had previously wavered. In every case he tried the force of negotiation before he appealed to arms; nay, sometimes he condescended so far in his love of peace, as to attempt purchasing with gold rights or concessions of expediency, which he knew himself in a situation amply to extort by arms. Nor where these courses were unavailing, and where peace was no longer to be maintained by any sacrifices, is it ever found that Charlemagne, in adopting the course of war, suffered himself to pursue it as an end valuable in and for itself. And yet that is a result not uncommon; for a long and conscientious resistance to a measure originally tempting to the feelings, once being renounced as utterly unavailing, not seldom issues in a headlong surrender of the heart to purposes so violently thwarted for a time. And even as a means, war was such in the eyes of Charlemagne to something beyond the customary ends of victory and domestic security. Of all conquerors, whose history is known sufficiently to throw light upon their motives, Charlemagne is the only one who looked forward to the benefit of those he conquered, as a principal element amongst the fruits of conquest. 'Doubtless,' says his present biographer, 'to defend his own infringed territory, and to punish the aggressors, formed a part of his design; but, beyond that, he aimed at civilizing a people whose barbarism had been for centuries the curse of the neighboring countries, and at the same time communicating to the cruel savages, who shed the blood of their enemies less in the battle than in the sacrifice, the bland and mitigating spirit of the Christian religion.'
This applies more particularly and circumstantially to his Saxon campaigns; but the spirit of the remark is of general application. At that time a weak light of literature was beginning to diffuse improvement in Italy, in France, and in England. France, by situation, geographically and politically speaking, by the prodigious advantage which she enjoyed exclusively of an undivided government, and consequently of entire unity in her counsels, was peculiarly fitted for communicating the benefits of intellectual culture to the rest of the European continent, and for sustaining the great mission of civilizing conquest. Above all, as the great central depository of Christian knowledge, she seemed specially stationed by Providence as a martial apostle for carrying by the sword that mighty blessing, which, even in an earthly sense, Charlemagne could not but value as the best engine of civilization, to the potent infidel nations on her southern and eastern frontier. A vast revolution was at hand for Europe; all her tribes were destined to be fused in a new crucible, to be recast in happier moulds, and to form one family of enlightened nations, to compose one great collective brotherhood, united by the tie of a common faith and a common hope, and hereafter to be known to the rest of the world, and to proclaim this unity, under the comprehensive name of Christendom. Baptism therefore was the indispensable condition and forerunner of civilization; and from the peculiar ferocity and the sanguinary superstitions which disfigured the Pagan nations in Central Europe, of which the leaders and the nearest to France were the Saxons, and from the bigotry and arrogant intolerance of the Mahometan nations who menaced her Spanish frontier, it was evident that by the sword only it was possible that baptism should be effectually propagated. War, therefore, for the highest purposes of peace, became the present and instant policy of France; bloodshed for the sake of a religion the most benign; and desolation with a view to permanent security. The Frankish Emperor was thus invited to indulge in this most captivating of luxuries—in the royal tiger-hunt of war—as being also at this time, and for a special purpose, the sternest of duties. He had a special dispensation for wielding at times a barbarian and exterminating sword—but for the extermination of barbarism; and he was privileged to be in a single instance an Attila, in order that Attilas might no more arise. Simply as the enemies, bitter and perfidious of France, the Saxons were a legitimate object of war; as the standing enemies of civilization, who would neither receive it for themselves, nor tolerate its peaceable enjoyment in others, they and Charlemagne stood opposed to each other as it were by hostile instincts. And this most merciful of conquerors was fully justified in departing for once, and in such a quarrel, from his general rule of conduct; and for a paramount purpose of comprehensive service to all mankind, we entirely agree with Mr. James, that Charlemagne had a sufficient plea, and that he has been censured only by calumnious libellers, or by the feeble- minded, for applying a Roman severity of punishment to treachery continually repeated. The question is one purely of policy; and it may be, as Mr. James is disposed to think, that in point of judgment the emperor erred; but certainly the case was one of great difficulty; for the very infirmity even of maternal indulgence, if obstinately and continually abused, must find its ultimate limit; and we have no right to suppose that Charlemagne made his election for the harsher course without a violent self-conflict. His former conduct towards those very people, his infinite forbearance, his long-suffering, his monitory threats, all make it a duty to presume that he suffered the acutest pangs in deciding upon a vindictive punishment; that he adopted this course as being virtually by its consequences the least sanguinary; and finally, that if he erred, it was not through his heart, but by resisting its very strongest impulses.
It is remarkable that both Charlemagne and Bonaparte succeeded as by inheritance to one great element of their enormous power; each found, ready to his hands, that vast development of martial enthusiasm, upon which, as its first condition, their victorious career reposed. Each also found the great armory of resources opened, which such a spirit, diffused over so vast a territory, must in any age ensure. Of Charlemagne, in an age when as yet the use of infantry was but imperfectly known, it may be said symbollically, that he found the universal people, patrician and plebeian, chieftain and vassal, with the left foot [Footnote 11] in the stirrup—of Napoleon, in an age when the use of artillery was first understood, that he found every man standing to his gun. Both, in short, found war in pro-cinctu—both found the people whom they governed, willing to support the privations and sacrifices which war imposes; hungering and thirsting for its glories, its pomps and triumphs; entering even with lively sympathy of pleasure into its hardships and its trials; and thus, from within and from without, prepared for military purposes. So far both had the same good fortune; [Footnote 12] neither had much merit. The enthusiasm of Napoleon's days was the birth of republican sentiments, and built on a reaction of civic and patriotic ardor. In the very plenitude of their rage against kings, the French Republic were threatened with attack, and with the desolation of their capital by a banded crusade of kings; and they rose in frenzy to meet the aggressors. The Allied Powers had themselves kindled the popular excitement which provoked this vast development of martial power amongst the French, and first brought their own warlike strength within their own knowledge. In the days of Charlemagne the same martial character was the result of ancient habits and training, encouraged and effectually organized by the energy of the aspiring mayors of the palace, or great lieutenants of the Merovingian kings. But agreeing in this—that they were indebted to others for the martial spirit which they found, and that they turned to their account a power not created by themselves, Charlemagne and Napoleon differed, however, in the utmost possible extent as to the final application of their borrowed advantages. Napoleon applied them to purposes the very opposite of those which had originally given them birth. Nothing less than patriotic ardor in defence of what had at one time appeared to be the cause of civil liberty, could have availed to evoke those mighty hosts which gathered in the early years of the Revolution on the German and Italian frontiers of France. Yet were these hosts applied, under the perfect despotism of Napoleon, to the final extinction of liberty; and the armies of Jacobinism, who had gone forth on a mission of liberation for Europe, were at last employed in riveting the chains of their compatriots, and forging others for the greater part of Christendom. Far otherwise was the conduct of Charlemagne. The Frankish government, though we are not circumstantially acquainted with its forms, is known to have been tempered by a large infusion of popular influence. This is proved, as Mr. James observes, by the deposition of Chilperic—by the grand national assemblies of the Champ de Mars—and by other great historical facts. Now, the situation of Charlemagne, successor to a throne already firmly established, and in his own person a mighty amplifier of its glories, and a leader in whom the Franks had unlimited confidence, threw into his hands an unexampled power of modifying the popular restraints upon himself in any degree he might desire.
—'Nunquam libertas gratior exit, Quam sub rege pio'—
is the general doctrine. But as to the Franks, in particular, if they resembled their modern representatives in their most conspicuous moral feature, it would be more true to say, that the bribe and the almost magical seduction for them, capable of charming away their sternest resolutions, and of relaxing the hand of the patriot when grasping his noblest birthright, has ever lain in great military success, in the power of bringing victory to the national standards, and in continued offerings on the altar of public vanity. In their estimate for above a thousand years, it has been found true that the harvest of a few splendid campaigns, reaped upon the fields of neighboring nations, far outweighs any amount of humbler blessings in the shape of civil and political privileges. Charlemagne as a conqueror, and by far the greatest illustrator of the Frankish name, might easily have conciliated their gratitude and admiration into a surrender of popular rights; or, profiting by his high situation, and the confidence reposed in him, he might have undermined their props; or, by a direct exertion of his power, he might have peremptorily resumed them. Slowly and surely, or summarily and with violence, this great emperor had the national privileges in his power. But the beneficence of his purposes required no such aggression on the rights of his subjects. War brought with it naturally some extension of power; and a military jurisdiction is necessarily armed with some discretionary license. But in the civil exercise of his authority, the emperor was content with the powers awarded to him by law and custom. His great schemes of policy were all of a nature to prepare his subjects for a condition of larger political influence; he could not in consistency be adverse to an end towards which he so anxiously prepared the means. And it is certain, that, although some German writers have attempted to fasten upon Charlemagne a charge of vexatious inquisition into the minor police of domestic life, and into petty details of economy below the majesty of his official character, even their vigilance of research—sharpened by malice—has been unable to detect throughout his long reign, and in the hurry of sudden exigencies natural to a state of uninterrupted warfare and alarm, one single act of tyranny, personal revenge, or violation of the existing laws. Charlemagne, like Napoleon, had bitter enemies—some who were such to his government and his public purposes; some again to his person upon motives of private revenge. Tassilo, for example, the Duke of Bavaria, and Desiderius, the King of the Lombards, acted against him upon the bitterest instigations of feminine resentment; each of these princes conceiving himself concerned in a family quarrel, pursued the cause which he had adopted in the most ferocious spirit of revenge, and would undoubtedly have inflicted death upon Charlemagne, had he fallen into their power. Of this he must himself have been sensible; and yet, when the chance of war threw both of them into his power, he forbore to exercise even those rights of retaliation for their many provocations which the custom of that age sanctioned universally; he neither mutilated nor deprived them of sight. Confinement to religious seclusion was all that he inflicted; and in the case of Tassilo, where mercy could be more safely exercised, he pardoned him so often, that it became evident in what current his feelings ran, wherever the cruel necessities of the public service allowed him to indulge them.
In the conspiracy formed against him, upon the provocations offered to the Frankish nobility by his third wife, he showed the same spirit of excessive clemency,—a clemency which again reminds us of the first Caesar, and which was not merely parental, but often recalls to us the long-suffering and tenderness of spirit which belong to the infirmity of maternal affection. Here are no Palms, executed for no real offence known to the laws of his country, and without a trial such as any laws in any country would have conceded. No innocent D'Enghiens murdered, without the shadow of provocation, and purely on account of his own reversionary rights; not for doing or meditating wrong, but because the claims which unfortunately he inherited might by possibility become available in his person; not, therefore, even as an enemy by intention or premeditation; not even as an apparent competitor, but in the rare character of a competitor presumptive; one who might become an ideal competitor by the extinction of a whole family, and even then no substantial competitor until after a revolution in France, which must already have undermined the throne of Bonaparte. To his own subjects, and his own kinsmen, never did Charlemagne forget to be, in acts, as well as words, a parent. In his foreign relations, it is true, for one single purpose of effectual warning Charlemagne put forth a solitary trait of Roman harshness. This is the case which we have already noticed and defended; and, with a view to the comparison with Napoleon, remarkable enough it is, that the numbers sacrificed on this occasion are pretty nearly the same as on the celebrated massacre at Jaffa, perpetrated by Napoleon in council. [Footnote 13] In the Saxon, as in the Syrian massacre, the numbers were between four and five thousand; not that the numbers or the scale of the transaction can affect its principle, but it is well to know it, because then to its author, as now to us who sit as judges upon it, that circumstance cannot be supposed to have failed in drawing the very keenest attention to its previous consideration. A butchery, that was in a numerical sense so vast, cannot be supposed to have escaped its author in a hurry, or to be open to any of the usual palliations from precipitance or inattention. Charlemagne and Napoleon must equally be presumed to have regarded this act on all sides, to have weighed it in and for itself, and to have traversed by anticipation the whole sum of its consequences. In the one case we find a general, the leader of a soi-disant Christian army, the representative of the 'most Christian' nation, and, as amongst infidels, specially charged with the duty of supporting the sanctity of Christian good faith, unfortunately pledged by his own most confidential and accredited agents, officers bearing on their persons the known ensigns of his aides-de-camp, to a comprehensive promise of mercy to a large body of Turkish troops, having arms in their hands, and otherwise well-disposed and well able to have made a desperate defence. This promise was peculiarly embarrassing; provisions ran short, and, to detain them as prisoners, would draw murmurs from his own troops, now suffering hardships themselves. On the other hand, to have turned them adrift would have insured their speedy re-appearance as active enemies to a diminished and debilitated army; for, as to sending them off by sea, that measure was impracticable, as well from want of shipping as from the presence of the English. Such was the dilemma, doubtless perplexing enough, but not more so than in ten thousand other cases, for which their own appropriate ten thousand remedies have been found. What was the issue? The entire body of gallant (many, doubtless, young and innocent) soldiers, disarmed upon the faith of a solemn guarantee from a Christian general, standing in the very steps of the noble (and the more noble, because bigoted) Crusaders, were all mowed down by the musketry of their thrice accursed enemy; and, by way of crowning treachery with treachery, some few who had swum off to a point of rock in the sea, were lured back to destruction under a second series of promises, violated almost at the very instant when uttered. A larger or more damnable murder does not stain the memory of any brigand, buccaneer, or pirate; nor has any army, Huns, Vandals, or Mogul Tartars, ever polluted itself by so base a perfidy; for, in this memorable tragedy, the whole army were accomplices.
Now, as to Charlemagne, he had tried the effect of forgiveness and lenity often in vain. Clemency was misinterpreted; it had been, and it would be, construed into conscious weakness. Under these circumstances, with a view, undoubtedly, to the final extinction of rebellions which involved infinite bloodshed on both sides, he permitted one trial to be made of a severe and sanguinary chastisement. It failed; insurrections proceeded as before, and it was not repeated. But the main difference in the principle of the two cases is this, that Charlemagne had exacted no penalty but one, which the laws of war in that age conferred, and even in this age the laws of allegiance. However bloody, therefore, this tragedy was no murder. It was a judicial punishment, built upon known acts and admitted laws, designed in mercy, consented to unwillingly, and finally repented. Lastly, instead of being one in a multitude of acts bearing the same character, it stood alone in a long career of intercourse with wild and ferocious nations, owning no control but that of the spear and sword.
Many are the points of comparison, and some of them remarkable enough, in the other circumstances of the two careers, separated by a thousand years. Both effected the passage of the Great St. Bernard; [Footnote 14] but the one in an age when mechanical forces, and the aids of art, were yet imperfectly developed; the other in an age when science had armed the arts of war and of locomotion with the fabulous powers of the Titans, and with the whole resources of a mighty nation at his immediate disposal. Both, by means of this extraordinary feat, achieved the conquest of Lombardy in a single hour; but Charlemagne, without once risking the original impression of this coup d'eclat; Napoleon, on the other hand, so entirely squandering and forfeiting his own success, that in the battle which followed he was at first utterly defeated, and but for the blunder of his enemy, and the sudden aid of an accomplished friend, irretrievably. Both suffered politically by the repudiation of a wife; but Charlemagne, under adequate provocation, and with no final result of evil; Bonaparte under heavy aggravations of ingratitude and indiscretion. Both assumed the character of a patron to learning and learned men; but Napoleon, in an age when knowledge of every kind was self-patronized—when no possible exertions of power could avail to crush it—and yet, under these circumstances, with utter insincerity. Charlemagne, on the other hand, at a time when the countenance of a powerful protector made the whole difference between revival and a long extinction—and what was still more to the purpose of doing honor to his memory, not merely in a spirit of sincerity, but of fervid activity. Not content with drawing counsel and aid from the cells of Northumberland, even the short time which he passed at Rome, he had 'collected a number of grammarians (that is litterateurs) and arithmeticians, the poor remains of the orators and philosophers of the past, and engaged them to accompany him from Italy to France.'
What resulted in each case from these great efforts and prodigious successes? Each failed in laying the foundations of any permanent inheritance to his own glory in his own family. But Bonaparte lived to lay in ruins even his personal interest in this great edifice of empire; and that entirely by his own desperate presumption, precipitance, and absolute defect of self-command. Charlemagne, on his part, lost nothing of what he had gained: if his posterity did not long maintain the elevation to which he had raised them, that did but the more proclaim the grandeur of the mind which had reared a colossal empire, that sunk under any powers inferior to his own. If the empire itself lost its unity, and divided into sections, even thus it did not lose the splendor and prosperity of its separate parts; and the praise remains entire—let succeeding princes, as conservators, have failed as much and as excusably as they might—that he erected the following splendid empire:—The whole of France and Belgium, with their natural boundaries of the Alps, the Pyrenees, the Ocean, the Mediterranean; to the south, Spain, between the Ebro and the Pyrenees; and to the north, the whole of Germany, up to the banks of the Elbe. Italy, as far as the Lower Calabria, was either governed by his son, or tributary to his crown; Dalmatia, Croatia, Liburnia, and Istria, (with the exception of the maritime cities,) were joined to the territories, which he had himself conquered, of Hungary and Bohemia. As far as the conflux of the Danube with the Teyss and the Save, the east of Europe acknowledged his power. Most of the Sclavonian tribes, between the Elbe and the Vistula, paid tribute and professed obedience; and Corsica, Sardinia, with the Balearic Islands, were dependent upon his possessions in Italy and Spain.
His moral were yet greater than his territorial conquests: In the eloquent language of his present historian, 'he snatched from darkness all the lands he conquered; and may be said to have added the whole of Germany to the world.' Wherever he moved, civilization followed his footsteps. What he conquered was emphatically the conquest of his own genius; and his vast empire was, in a peculiar sense, his own creation. And what, under general circumstances, would have exposed the hollowness and insufficiency of his establishment, was for him, in particular, the seal and attestation of his extraordinary grandeur of mind. His empire dissolved after he had departed; his dominions lost their cohesion, and slipped away from the nerveless hands which succeeded; a sufficient evidence—were there no other—that all the vast resources of the Frankish throne, wielded by imbecile minds, were inadequate to maintain that which, in the hands of a Charlemagne, they had availed to conquer and cement.
In part we say, because in part also the characteristic differences of these works depend upon the particular mode of the narrative. For narration itself, as applied to history, admits of a triple arrangement—dogmatic, sceptical, and critical; dogmatic, which adopts the current records without examination; sceptical, as Horace Walpole's Richard III., Laing's Dissertation on Perkin Warbeck, or on the Gowrie Conspiracy, which expressly undertakes to probe and try the unsound parts of the story; and critical, which, after an examination of this nature, selects from the whole body of materials such as are coherent. There is besides another ground of difference in the quality of historical narratives, viz. between those which move by means of great public events, and those which (like the Caesars of Suetonius, and the French Memoirs), referring to such events as are already known, and keeping them in the background, crowd their foreground with those personal and domestic notices which we call anecdotes.
Leibnitz, (who was twice in England,) when walking in Kensington Gardens with the Princess of Wales, whose admiration oscillated between this great countryman of her own, and Sir Isaac Newton, the corresponding idol of her adopted country, took occasion, from the beautiful scene about them, to explain in a lively way, and at the same time to illustrate and verify this favorite thesis: Turning to a gentleman in attendance upon her Royal Highness, he challenged him to produce two leaves from any tree or shrub, which should be exact duplicates or facsimiles of each other in those lines which variegate the surface. The challenge was accepted; but the result justified Leibnitz. It is in fact upon this infinite variety in the superficial lines of the human palm, that Palmistry is grounded, (or the science of divination by the hieroglyphics written on each man's hand,) and has its prima facie justification. Were it otherwise, this mode of divination would not have even a plausible sanction; for, without the inexhaustible varieties which are actually found in the combinations of these lines, and which give to each separate individual his own separate type, the same identical fortunes must be often repeated; and there would be no foundation for assigning to each his peculiar and characteristic destiny.
According to the general estimate of philosophical history, the tenth century (or perhaps the tenth and the eleventh conjointly) must be regarded as the meridian, or the perfect midnight, of the dark ages.
It has repeatedly been made a question—at what era we are to date the transition from ancient to modern history. This question merits a separate dissertation. Meantime it is sufficient to say in this place—that Justinian in the 6th century will unanimously be referred to the ancient division, Charlemagne in the 8th to the modern. These then are two limits fixed in each direction; and somewhere between them must lie the frontier line. Now the era of Mahomet in the 7th century is evidently the exact and perfect line of demarcation; not only as pretty nearly bisecting the debatable ground, but also because the rise of the Mohammedan power, as operating so powerfully upon the Christian kingdoms of the south, and through them upon the whole of Christendom, at that time beginning to mould themselves and to knit, marks in the most eminent sense the birth of a new era.
Or, in fact, than is likely to manifest itself to an unlearned reader of Mr. James's own book; for he has omitted to load his margin with references to authorities in many scores of instances where he might, and perhaps where he ought, to have accredited his narrative by those indications of research.
'Arabice loquutum esse Aigolando Saracenorum regulo, Turpinus (the famous Archbishop) auctor est; nec id fide indignum. Dum enim in expeditione Hispanica praecipuam belli molem in illum vertit, facile temporis tractu notitiam linguae sibi comparare potuit.' FRANTZ. Hist. Car. Mag. That is, he had time sufficient for this acquisition, and a motive sufficient.
Not having the French original of Bourrienne's work, we are compelled to quote from Dr. Memes's translation, which, however, is everywhere incorrect, and in a degree absolutely astonishing; and, where not incorrect, offensive from vulgarisms or ludicrous expressions. Thus, he translates un drole, a droll fellow—wide as the poles from the true meaning, Again, the verb devoir, in all tenses, that eternal stumbling-block to bad French scholars, is uniformly mistranslated. As an instance of ignoble language, at p. 294, vol. I., he says, 'Josephine was delighted with the disposition of her goodman,' a word used only by underbred people. But of all the absurdities which disfigure the work, what follows is perhaps the most striking:—'Kleber,' he says, 'took a precognition of the army,' p. 231, vol. I. A precognition! What Pagan ceremony may that be? Know, reader, that this monster of a word is a technical term of Scotch law; and even to the Scotch, excepting those few who know a little of law, absolutely unintelligible. In speaking thus harshly, we are far from meaning any thing unkind to Dr. M., whom, on the contrary, for his honorable sentiments in relation to the merits of Bonaparte, we greatly respect. But that as nothing to do with French translation—the condition of which, in this country, is perfectly scandalous.
Some people may fancy that this scene of that day's drama was got up merely to save appearances by a semblance of discussion, and that in effect it mattered not how the performance was conducted where all was scenical, and the ultimate reliance, after all, on the bayonet. But it is certain that this view is erroneous, and that the final decision of the soldiery, even up to the very moment of the crisis, was still doubtful. Some time after this exhibition, 'the hesitation reigning among the troops,' says Bourrienne, 'still continued.' And in reality it was a mere accident of pantomime, and a clap-trap of sentiment, which finally gave a sudden turn in Napoleon's favor to their wavering resolutions.
We have occasionally such expressions as—'When wild in woods the noble savage ran.' These descriptions rest upon false conceptions; in fact, no such combination anywhere exists as a man having the training of a savage, or occupying the exposed and naked situation of a savage, who is at the same time in any moral sense at liberty to be noble-minded. Men are moulded by the circumstances in which they stand habitually; and the insecurity of savage life, by making it impossible to forego any sort of advantages, obliterates the very idea of honor. Hence, with all savages alike, the point of honor lies in treachery—in stratagem—and the utmost excess of what is dishonorable, according to the estimate of cultivated man.
Or perhaps the right, for the Prussian cavalry (who drew their custom from some regiments in the service of Gustavus Adolphus; and they again traditionally from others) are always trained to mount in this way.
It is painful to any man of honorable feelings that, whilst a great rival nation is pursuing the ennobling profession of arms, his own should be reproached contemptuously with a sordid dedication to commerce. However, on the one hand, things are not always as they seem; commerce has its ennobling effects, direct or indirect; war its barbarizing degradations. And, on the other hand, the facts even are not exactly as prima facie they were supposed; for the truth is, that, in proportion to its total population, England had more men in arms during the last war than France. But, generally speaking, the case may be stated thus: the British nation is, by original constitution of mind, and by long enjoyment of liberty, a far nobler people than the French. And hence we see the reason and necessity that the French should, with a view to something like a final balance in the effect, be trained to a nobler profession. Compensations are every where produced or encouraged by nature and by Providence; and a nobler discipline in the one nation is doubtless some equilibrium to a nobler nature in the other.
In council, we say purposely and in candor; for the only pleas in palliation ever set up by Napoleon's apologists, are these two—necessity, the devil's plea, in the first place; secondly, that the guilt of the transaction, whether more or less, was divided between the general and his council.
And from the fact of that corps in Charlemagne's army, which effected the passage, having been commanded by his uncle, Duke Bernard, this mountain previously known as the Mons Jovis, (and, by corruption, Mont le Joux,) very justly obtained the name which it still retains.
'Journal of a Tour in Greece and the Ionian Islands.' By WILLIAM MURE, of Caldwell.
What are the nuisances, special to Greece, which repel tourists from that country? They are three;—robbers, fleas, and dogs. It is remarkable that all are, in one sense, respectable nuisances—they are ancient, and of classical descent. The monuments still existing from pre-Christian ages, in memory of honest travellers assassinated by brigands of klephts, (Kleptai,) show that the old respectable calling of freebooters by sea and land, which Thucydides, in a well-known passage, describes as so reputable an investment for capital during the times preceding his own, and, as to northern Greece, even during his own, had never entirely languished, as with us it has done, for two generations, on the heaths of Bagshot, Hounslow, or Finchley. Well situated as these grounds were for doing business, lying at such convenient distances from the metropolis, and studying the convenience of all parties, (since, if a man were destined to lose a burden on his road, surely it was pleasing to his feelings that he had not been suffered to act as porter over ninety or a hundred miles, in the service of one who would neither pay him nor thank him); yet, finally, what through banks, and what through policemen, the concern has dwindled to nothing. In England, we believe, this concern was technically known amongst men of business and 'family men,' as the 'Low Toby.' In Greece it was called [Greek: laeseia]; and Homericaliy speaking, it was perhaps the only profession thoroughly respectable. A few other callings are mentioned in the Odyssey as furnishing regular bread to decent men—viz. the doctor's, the fortune-teller's or conjurer's, and the armorer's. Indeed it is clear, from the offer made to Ulysses of a job, in the way of hedging and ditching, that sturdy big-boned beggars, or what used to be called 'Abraham men' in southern England, were not held to have forfeited any heraldic dignity attached to the rank of pauper, (which was considerable,) by taking a farmer's pay where mendicancy happened to be 'looking downwards.' Even honest labor was tolerated, though, of course, disgraceful. But the Corinthian order of society, to borrow Burke's image, was the bold sea-rover, the buccaneer, or, (if you will call him so) the robber in all his varieties. Titles were, at that time, not much in use—honorary titles we mean; but had our prefix of 'Right Honorable' existed, it would have been assigned to burglars, and by no means to privy-councillors; as again our English prefix of 'Venerable' would have been settled, not on so sheepish a character as the archdeacon, but on the spirited appropriator of church plate. We were surprised lately to find, in a German work of some authority, so gross a misconception of Thucydides, as that of supposing him to be in jest. Nothing of the sort. The question which he represents as once current, on speaking a ship in the Mediterranean—'Pray, gentlemen, are you robbers?' actually occurs in Homer; and to Homer, no doubt, the historian alludes. It neither was, nor could be conceived, as other than complimentary; for the alternative supposition presumed him that mean and well-known character—the merchant, who basely paid for what he took. It was plainly asking—Are you a knight grand-cross of some martial order, or a sort of costermonger? And we give it as no hasty or fanciful opinion, that the South Sea islands (which Bougainville held to be in a state of considerable civilization) had, in fact, reached the precise stage of Homeric Greece. The power of levying war, as yet not sequestered by the ruling power of each community, was a private right inherent in every individual of any one state against all individuals of any other. Captain Cook's ship, the Resolution, and her consort, the Adventure, were as much independent states and objects of lawful war to the islanders, as Owyhee, in the Sandwich group, was to Tongataboo in the Friendly group. So that to have taken an Old Bailey view of the thefts committed was unjust, and, besides, inefectual; the true remedy being by way of treaty or convention with the chiefs of every island. And perhaps, if Homer had tried it, the same remedy (in effect, regular payments of black-mail) might have been found available in his day.
It is too late to suggest that idea now. The princely pirates are gone; and the last dividend has been paid upon their booty; so that, whether he gained or lost by them, Homer's estate is not liable to any future inquisitions from commissioners of bankruptcy or other sharks. He, whether amongst the plundered, or, as is more probable, a considerable shareholder in the joint-stock privateers from Tenedos, &c., is safe both from further funding and refunding. We are not. And the first question of moment to any future tourist is, what may be the present value, at a British insurance office, of any given life risked upon a tour in Greece? Much will, of course, depend upon the extent and the particular route. A late prime minister of Greece, under the reigning king Otho, actually perished by means of one day's pleasure excursion from Athens, though meeting neither thief nor robber. He lost his way: and this being scandalous in an ex-chancellor of the exchequer having ladies under his guidance, who were obliged, like those in the Midsummer Night's Dream, to pass the night, in an Athenian wood, his excellency died of vexation. Where may not men find a death? But we ask after the calculation of any office which takes extra risks: and, as a basis for such a calculation, we submit the range of tour sketched by Pausanius, more than sixteen centuries back—that [Greek: Pansapachae periodos], as Colonel Leake describes it, which carries a man through the heart of all that can chiefly interest in Greece. Where are the chances upon such a compass of Greek travelling, having only the ordinary escort and arms, or having no arms, (which the learned agree in thinking the safer plan at present,) that a given traveller will revisit the glimpses of an English moon, or again embrace his 'placens uxor?' As with regard to Ireland, it is one stock trick of Whiggery to treat the chances of assassination in the light of an English hypochondriacal chimaera, so for a different reason it has been with regard to Italy, and soon will be for Greece. Twenty years ago it was a fine subject for jesting—the English idea of stilettos in Rome, and masqued bravos, and assassins who charged so much an inch for the depth of their wounds. But all the laughter did not save a youthful English marriage party from being atrociously massacred; a grave English professional man with his wife from being carried off to a mountainous captivity, and reserved from slaughter only by the prospect of ransom; a British nobleman's son from death or the consequences of Italian barbarity; or a prince, the brother of Napoleon, from having the security of his mansion violated, and the most valuable captives carried off by daylight from his household. In Greece apparently the state of things is worse, because absolutely worse under a far slighter temptation. But Mr. Mure is of opinion that Greek robbers have private reasons as yet for sparing English tourists.
So far then is certain: viz. that the positive danger is greater in poverty-stricken Greece than in rich and splendid Italy. But as to the valuation of the danger, it is probably as yet imperfect from mere defect of experience: the total amount of travellers is unknown. And it may be argued that at least Colonel Leake, Mr. Dodwell, and our present Mr. Mure, with as many more as have written books, cannot be among the killed, wounded, or missing. There is evidence in octavo that they are yet 'to the fore.' Still with respect to books, after all, they may have been posthumous works: or, to put the case in another form, who knows how many excellent works in medium quarto, not less than crown octavo, may have been suppressed and intercepted in their rudiments by these expurgatorial ruffians? Mr. Mure mentions as the exquisite reason for the present fashion of shooting from an ambush first, and settling accounts afterwards, that by this means they evade the chances of a contest. The Greek robber, it seems, knows as well as Cicero that 'non semper viator a latrone, nonnunquam etiam latro a viatore occiditur'—a disappointment that makes one laugh exceedingly. Now this rule as to armed travellers is likely to bear hard upon our countrymen, who being rich, (else how come they in Greece?) will surely be brilliantly armed; and thus again it may be said, in a sense somewhat different from Juvenal's—
Et vacuus cantat coram latrone viator;
Vacuus not of money, but of pistols. Yet on the other hand, though possibly sound law for the thickets of Mount Cithaeron, this would be too unsafe a policy as a general rule: too often it is the exposure of a helpless exterior which first suggests the outrage. And perhaps the best suggestion for the present would be, that travellers should carry in their hands an apparent telescope or a reputed walking-cane; which peaceful and natural part of his appointments will first operate to draw out his lurking forest friend from his advantage; and on closer colloquy, if this friend should turn restive, then the 'Tuscan artist's tube,' contrived of course a double debt to pay, will suddenly reveal another sort of tube, insinuating an argument sufficient for the refutation of any sophism whatever. This is the best compromise which we can put forward with the present dilemma in Greece, where it seems that to be armed or to be unarmed is almost equally perilous. But our secret opinion is, that in all countries alike, the only absolute safeguard against highway robbery is—a railway; for then the tables are turned; not he who is stopped—incurs the risk, but he who stops: we question whether Samson himself could have pulled up his namesake on the Liverpool railway. Recently, indeed, in the Court of Common Pleas, on a motion to show cause by Sergeant Bompas, in Hewitt v. Price, Tindal (Chief-Justice) said—'We cannot call a railway a public [Footnote 1] security, I think,' (laughter:) but we think otherwise. In spite of 'laughter,' we consider it a specific against the Low Toby. And, en attendant, there is but one step towards amelioration of things for Greece, which lies in summary ejecting of the Bavarian locusts. Where all offices of profit or honor are engrossed by needy aliens, you cannot expect a cheerful temper in the people. And, unhappily, from moody discontent in Greece to the taking of purses is a short transition.
Thus have we disposed of 'St. Nicholas's Clerks.' Next we come to fleas and dogs:—Have we a remedy for these? We have: but as to fleas, applicable or not, according to the purpose with which a man travels. If, as happened at times to Mr. Mure, a natural, and, for his readers, a beneficial anxiety to see something of domestic habits, overcomes all sense of personal inconvenience, he will wish, at any cost, to sleep in Grecian bedrooms, and to sit by German hearths. On the other hand, though sensible of the honor attached to being bit by a flea lineally descended from an Athenian flea that in one day may possibly have bit three such men as Pericles, Phidias, and Euripides, many quiet unambitious travellers might choose to dispense with 'glory,' and content themselves with the view of Greek external nature. To these persons we would recommend the plan of carrying amongst their baggage a tent, with portable camp-beds; one of those, as originally invented upon the encouragement of the Peninsular campaigns from 1809 to 1814, and subsequently improved, would meet all ordinary wants. It is objected, indeed, that by this time the Grecian fleas must have colonized the very hills and woods; as once, we remember, upon Westminster Bridge, to a person who proposed bathing in the Thames by way of a ready ablution from the July dust, another replied, 'My dear sir, by no means; the river itself is dusty. Consider what it is to have received the dust of London for nineteen hundred years since Caesar's invasion.' But in any case the water cups, in which the bed-posts rest, forbid the transit of creatures not able to swim or to fly. A flea indeed leaps; and, by all report, in a way that far beats a tiger—taking the standard of measurement from the bodies of the competitors. But even this may be remedied: giving the maximum leap of a normal flea, it is always easy to raise the bed indefinitely from the ground—space upwards is unlimited—and the supporters of the bed may be made to meet in one pillar, coated with so viscous a substance as to put even a flea into chancery.
As to dogs, the case is not so easily settled; and before the reader is in a condition to judge of our remedy, he ought to know the evil in its whole extent. After all allowances for vermin that waken you before your time, or assassins that send you to sleep before your time, no single Greek nuisance can be placed on the same scale with the dogs attached to every menage, whether household or pastoral. Surely as a stranger approaches to any inhospitable door of the peasantry, often before he knows of such a door as in rerum natura, out bounds upon him by huge careering leaps a horrid infuriated ruffian of a dog—oftentimes a huge moloss, big as an English cow—active as a leopard, fierce as a hyena but more powerful by much, and quite as little disposed to hear reason. So situated—seeing an enemy in motion with whom it would be as idle to negotiate as with an earthquake—what is the bravest man to do? Shoot him? Ay; that was pretty much the course taken by a young man who lived before Troy: and see what came of it. This man, in fact a boy of seventeen, had walked out to see the city of Mycenae, leaving his elder cousin at the hotel sipping his wine. Out sprang a huge dog from the principal house in what you might call the High street of Mycenae; the young man's heart began to palpitate; he was in that state of excitement which affects most people when fear mingles with excessive anger. What was he to do? Pistols he had none. And, as nobody came out to his aid, he put his hand to the ground; seized a chermadion, (or paving-stone), smashed the skull of the odious brute, and with quite as much merit as Count Robert of Paris was entitled to have claimed from his lucky hit in the dungeon, then walked off to report his little exploit to his cousin at the hotel. But what followed? The wretches in the house, who never cared to show themselves so long as it might only be the dog killing a boy, all came tumbling out by crowds when it became clear that a boy had killed the dog. 'A la lanterne!' they yelled out; valiantly charged en masse: and among them they managed to kill the boy. But there was a reckoning to pay for this. Had they known who it was that sat drinking at the hotel, they would have thought twice before they backed their brute. That cousin, whom the poor boy had left at his wine, happened to be an ugly customer—Hercules incog. It is needless to specify the result. The child unborn had reason to rue the murder of the boy. For his cousin proved quite as deaf to all argument or submission as their own foul thief of a dog or themselves. Suffice it—that the royal house of Mycenae, in the language of Napoleon's edicts, ceased to reign. But here is the evil; few men leave a Hercules at their hotel; and all will have to stand the vindictive fury of the natives for their canine friends, if you should pistol them. Be it in deliverance of your own life, or even of a lady's by your side, no apology would be listened to. In fact, besides the disproportionate annoyance to a traveller's nerves, that he shall be kept uneasy at every turn of the road in mere anxiety as to the next recurrence of struggles so desperate, it arms the indignation of a bold Briton beforehand—that a horrid brute shall be thought entitled to kill him; and if he does, it is pronounced an accident: but if he, a son of the mighty island, kills the brute, instantly a little hybrid Greek peasant shall treat it as murder.
Many years ago, we experienced the selfsame annoyance in the north of England. Let no man talk of courage in such cases. Most justly did Marechal Saxe ask an officer sneeringly, who protested that he had never known the sensation of fear, and could not well imagine what it was like, had he never snuffed a candle with his fingers? 'because in that case,' said the veteran, 'I fancy you must have felt afraid of burning your thumb.' A brave man, on a service of known danger, braces up his mind by a distinct effort to the necessities of his duty. The great sentiment that it is his duty, the sentiments of honor and of country, reconcile him to the service while it lasts. No use, besides, in ducking before shot, or dodging, or skulking; he that faces the storm most cheerfully, has after all the best chance of escaping—were that the object of consideration. But, as soon as this trial is over, and the energy called forth by a high tension of duty has relaxed, the very same man often shrinks from ordinary trials of his prowess. Having, perhaps, little reason for confidence in his own bodily strength, seeing no honor in the struggle, and sure that no duty would be hallowed by any result, he shrinks from it in a way which surprises those who have heard of his martial character. Brave men in extremities are many times the most nervous, and the shyest under perils of a mean order. We, without claiming the benefit of these particular distinctions, happened to be specially 'soft' on this one danger from dogs. Not from the mere terror of a bite, but from the shocking doubt besieging such a case for four or five months that hydrophobia may supervene. Think, excellent reader, if we should suddenly prove hydrophobous in the middle of this paper, how would you distinguish the hydrophobous from the non-hydrophobous parts? You would say, as Voltaire of Rousseau, 'sa plume apparemment brulera le papier.' Such being the horror ever before our mind, images of eyeballs starting from their sockets, spasms suffocating the throat—we could not see a dog starting off into a yell of sudden discovery bound for the foot of our legs, but that undoubtedly a mixed sensation of panic and fury overshadowed us; a [Greek: Chermadion] was not always at hand; and without practice we could have little confidence in our power of sending it home, else many is the head we should have crushed. Sometimes, where more than one dog happened to be accomplices in the outrage, we were not altogether out of danger. 'Euripides,' we said, 'was really torn to pieces by the dogs of a sovereign prince; in Hounslow, but a month since, a little girl was all but worried by the buck-hounds of a greater sovereign than Archelaus; and why not we by the dogs of a farmer?' The scene lay in Westmorland and Cumberland. Oftentimes it would happen that in summer we had turned aside from the road, or perhaps the road itself forced us to pass a farm-house from which the family might be absent in the hayfield. Unhappily the dogs in such a case are often left behind. And many have been the fierce contests in which we have embarked; for, as to retreating, be it known that there (as in Greece) the murderous savages will pursue you—sometimes far into the high road. That result it was which uniformly brought us back to a sense of our own wrong, and finally of our rights. 'Come,' we used to say, 'this is too much; here at least is the king's highway, and things are come to a pretty pass indeed, if we, who partake of a common nature with the king, and write good Latin, whereas all the world knows what sort of Latin is found among dogs, may not have as good a right to standing-room as a low-bred quadruped with a tail like you.' Non usque adeo summis permiscuit ima longa dies, &c. We remember no instance which ever so powerfully illustrated the courage given by the consciousness of rectitude. So long as we felt that we were trespassing on the grounds of a stranger, we certainly sneaked, we seek not to deny it. But once landed on the high-road, where we knew our own title to be as good as the dog's, not all the world should have persuaded us to budge one foot.
Our reason for going back to these old Cumbrian remembrances will be found in what follows. Deeply incensed at the insults we had been obliged to put up with for years, brooding oftentimes over
'Wrongs unredress'd, and insults unaveng'd,'
we asked ourselves—Is vengeance hopeless? And at length we hit upon the following scheme of retribution. This it is which we propose as applicable to Greece. Well acquainted with the indomitable spirit of the bull-dog, and the fidelity of the mastiff, we determined to obtain two such companions; to re-traverse our old ground; to make a point of visiting every house where we had been grossly insulted by dogs; and to commit our cause to the management of these new allies. 'Let us see,' said we, 'if they will speak in the same bullying tone this time.' 'But with what ulterior views?' the dispassionate reader asks. The same, we answer, which Mr. Pitt professed as the objects of the Revolutionary war—'Indemnity for the past, and security for the future.' Years, however, passed on; Charles X. fell from his throne; the Reform Bill passed; other things occurred, and as last this change struck us—that the dogs, on whom our vengeance would alight, generally speaking, must belong to a second generation, or even a third, in descent from our personal enemies. Now, this vengeance 'by procuration' seemed no vengeance at all. But a plan which failed, as regarded our own past wrongs, may yet apply admirably to a wrong current and in progress. If we Englishmen may not pistol Greek canine ruffians, at any rate we suppose an English bulldog has a right to make a tour in Greece, A mastiff, if he pays for his food and lodgings, possesses as good a title, to see Athens and the Peloponnesus as a Bavarian, and a better than a Turk; and, if he cannot be suffered to pass quietly along the roads on his own private affairs, the more is the pity. But assuredly the consequences will not fall on him; we know enough of the sublime courage bestowed on that heroic animal, to be satisfied that he will shake the life out of any enemy that Greece can show. The embassy sent by Napoleon to the Schah of Persia about the year 1810, complained much and often of the huge dogs scattered over all parts of Western Asia, whether Turkish or Persian; and, by later travels amongst the Himalayas, it seems that the same gigantic ruffians prevail in Central Asia. But the noble English bull-dogs, who, being but three in number, did not hesitate for one instant to rush upon the enormous lion at Warwick, will face any enemy in the world, and will come off victors, unless hyperbolically overweighted; a peril which need not be apprehended, except perhaps in Laconia or Messenia.
Here, therefore, we should be disposed to leave the subject. But, as it is curious for itself, is confessedly of importance to the traveller, and has thrown light upon a passage in the Odyssey that had previously been unintelligible—we go on to one other suggestion furnished by the author before us. It is really a discovery; and is more worthy of a place in annotations upon Homer than nine in ten of all that we read;—
'Among the numerous points of resemblance with which the classical traveller cannot fail to be struck, between the habits of pastoral and agricultural life as still exemplified in Greece, and those which formerly prevailed in the same country, there is none more calculated to arrest his attention than the correspondence of the shepherds' encampments, scattered on the face of the less cultivated districts, with the settlements of the same kind whose concerns are so frequently brought forward in the imagery of the Iliad and Odyssey. Accordingly, the passage of Homer to which the existing peculiarity above described,' (viz. of pelting off dogs by large jagged stones,) 'affords the-most appropriate commentary, is the scene where Ulysses, disguised as a beggar, in approaching the farm of the swineherd, is fiercely assaulted by the dogs, but delivered by the master of the establishment. Pope's translation, with the exception of one or two expressions,' (amongst which Mr. Mure notices mastiff as "not a good term for a sheep-dog,") 'here conveys with tolerable fidelity the spirit of the original:—
'"Soon as Ulysses near the enclosure drew,
With open mouths the furious mastiffs flew;
Down sate the sage; and, cautious to withstand,
Let fall the offensive truncheon from his hand.
Sudden the master runs—aloud he calls;
And from his hasty hand the leather falls;
With show'rs of stones he drives them far away;
The scatter'd dogs around at distance bay."'
ODYSS. xiv. 29.
First, however, let us state the personal adventure which occasions this reference to Homer, as it illustrates a feature in Greek scenery, and in the composition of Greek society. In the early part of his travels, on a day when Mr. Mure was within a few hours of the immortal Mesolonghi, he (as better mounted) had ridden a-head of his suite. Suddenly he came upon 'an encampment of small, low, reed wigwams,' which in form resembled 'the pastoral capanne of the Roman plain;' but were 'vastly inferior in size and structure.' Women and children were sitting outside: but finally there crawled forth from the little miserable hovels two or three male figures of such gigantic dimensions as seemed beyond the capacity of the entire dwellings. Several others joined them, all remarkable for size and beauty. And one, whose air of authority bespoke his real rank of chief, Mr. Mure pronounces 'a most magnificent-looking barbarian,' This was a nomad tribe of Wallachian shepherds, descended (it is supposed) from the Dacian colonies, Romans intermingled with natives, founded by the later Caesars; the prevalent features of their faces are, it seems, Italian; their language is powerfully veined with Latin; their dress differing from that of all their Albanian neighbors, resembles the dress of Dacian captives sculptured on the triumphal monuments of Rome; and lastly, their peculiar name, Vlack Wallachian, indicates in the Sclavonic language pretty much the same relation to a foreign origin, as in German is indicated by the word Welsh: an affinity of which word is said to exist in our word Walnut, where wall (as the late Mr. Coleridge thinks) means alien, outlandish. The evidence therefore is as direct for their non-Grecian descent as could be desired. But they are interesting to Greece at this time, because annually migrating from Thessaly in the summer, and diffusing themselves in the patriarchal style with their wives, their children, and their flocks, over the sunny vales of Boeotia, of Peloponnesus, and in general of southern Greece. Their men are huge, but they are the mildest of the human race. Their dogs are huge, also; so far the parallel holds. We regret that strict regard to truth forbids us to pursue the comparison.
'I found myself on a sudden,' says Mr. Mure, 'surrounded by a fierce pack of dogs, of size proportioned to that of their masters, and which rushed forth on every side as if bent on devouring both myself and beast: being altogether unprovided with any means of defence but the rope-end of the same halter that supplied my stirrups, I was (I confess) not a little disconcerted by the assault of so unexpected an enemy.' From this he was soon delivered at the moment by some of the gentle giants, who 'pelted off the animals with the large loose stones that lay scattered over the rocky surface of the heath.' But upon the character of the nuisance, and upon the particular remedy employed—both of which are classical, and older than Troy, Mr. Mure makes the following explanations:—
'The number and ferocity of the dogs that guard the Greek hamlets and sheepfolds, as compared with those kept for similar purposes in other parts of the world, is one of the peculiarities of this country which not only first attracts the attention of the tourist, but is chiefly calculated to excite his alarm, and call into exercise his prowess or presence of mind. It is also amongst the features of modern Greek life that supply the most curious illustrations of classical antiquity. Their attacks are not confined to those who approach the premises of which they are the appointed guardians;' they do not limit themselves to defensive war: 'in many districts they are in the habit of rushing from a considerable distance to torment the traveller passing along the public track; and when the pastoral colonies, as is often the case, occur at frequent intervals, the nuisance becomes quite intolerable.' But in cases where the succession is less continuous, we should imagine that the nuisance was in the same proportion more dangerous; and Mr. Mure acknowledges—that under certain circumstances, to a solitary stranger the risk would be serious; though generally, and in the case of cavalcades, the dogs fasten chiefly upon the horses. But endless are the compensations which we find in the distributions of nature. Is there a bane? Near it lies an antidote. Is there a disease? Look for a specific in that same neighborhood. Here, also, the universal rule prevails. As it was destined that Greece in all ages should be scourged by this intestine enemy, it was provided that a twofold specific should travel concurrently with the evil. And because the vegetable specific, in the shape of oaken cudgels, was liable to local failure, (at this moment, in fact, from the wreck of her woods by means of incendiary armies, Greece is, for a season, disafforested,) there exists a second specific of a mineral character, which (please Heaven?) shall never fail, so long as Greece is Greece. 'The usual weapons of defence, employed in such cases by the natives, are the large loose stones with which the soil is everywhere strewed—a natural feature of this region, to which also belongs its own proper share of classic interest.' The character of the rocks prevailing in those mountain ridges which intersect the whole of Greece is, that whilst in its interior texture 'of iron-hard consistency,' yet at the surface it is 'broken into detached fragments of infinitely varied dimensions.' Balls, bullets, grape, and canister shot, have all been 'parked' in inexhaustible magazines; whilst the leading feature which strikes the mind with amazement in this natural artillery, is its fine retail distribution. Everywhere you may meet an enemy: stoop, and everywhere there is shot piled for use. We see a Leibnitzian preestablished harmony between the character of the stratification and the character of the dogs. Cardinal de Retz explains why that war, in the minority of Louis XIV., was called the Fronde; and it seems that in Greece, where an immortal fronde was inevitable, an immortal magazine was supplied for it—one which has been and will continue to be, under all revolutions, for the uncultured tracts present the missiles equally diffused; and the first rudiments of culture show themselves in collections of these missiles along the roads. Hence, in fact, a general mistake of tourists. 'It is certain,' says Mr. Mure, 'that many of the circular mounds, which are noticed in the itineraries under the rubric of ancient tumulus, have been heaped up in this manner. It is to these stones that travellers, and the population at large instinctively have recourse, as the most effectual weapon against the assaults of the dogs.' The small shot of pebbles, however, or even stones equal to pigeon's eggs, would avail nothing: 'those selected are seldom smaller than a man, exerting his whole force, can conveniently lift and throw with one hand.' Thence, in fact, and from no other cause, comes (as Mr. Mure observes) the Homeric designation of such stones, viz. chermadion, or handful; of which he also cites the definition given by Lucian, [Greek text: lithos cheiroplaethaes], a hand-filling stone. Ninety generations have passed since the Trojan war, and each of the ninety has used the same bountiful magazine. All readers of the Iliad must remember how often Ajax or Hector, took up chermadia, 'such as twice five men in our degenerate days could barely lift,' launching them at light-armed foes, who positively would not come nearer to take their just share of the sword or spear. 'The weapon is the more effectual, owing to the nature of the rock itself, broken as it is in its whole surface into angular and sharp-pointed inequalities, which add greatly to the severity of the wound inflicted. Hence, as most travellers will have experienced, a fall amongst the Greek rocks is unusually painful.' It is pleasing to find Homer familiar not only with the use of the weapon, but with its finest external 'developments.' Not only the stone must be a bouncer, a chermadion, with some of the properties (we believe) marking a good cricket-ball, but it ought to be [Greek Text: ochxioeis]—such is the Homeric epithet of endearment, his caressing description of a good brainer, viz. splinting-jagged.
This fact of the chermadic weight attached to the good war-stone explains, as Mr. Mure ingeniously remarks, a simile of Homer's, which ought to have been pure nonsense for Pope and Cowper; viz. that in describing a dense mist, such as we foolishly imagine peculiar to our own British climate, and meaning to say that a man could scarcely descry an object somewhat ahead of his own station, he says, [Greek Text: tosson tis t'ep leussel oson t'epi laan iaesi]: so far does man see as lie hurls a stone. Now, in the skirmish of 'bickering,' this would argue no great limitation of eyesight. 'Why, man, how far would you see? Would you see round a corner?' 'A shot of several hundred yards,' says Mr. Mure, 'were no great feat for a country lad well skilled in the art of stone-throwing.' But this is not Homer's meaning—'The cloud of dust' (which went before an army advancing, and which it is that Homer compares to a mist on the hills perplexing the shepherd) 'was certainly much denser than to admit of the view extending to such a distance. In the Homeric sense, as allusive to the hurling of the ponderous chermadion, the figure is correct and expressive.' And here, as everywhere, we see the Horatian parenthesis upon Homer, as one, qui nil molitur inepte, who never speaks vaguely, never wants a reason, and never loses sight of a reality, amply sustained. Here, then, is a local resource to the British tourist besides the imported one of the bull-dog. And it is remarkable that, except where the dogs are preternaturally audacious, a mere hint of the chermadion suffices. Late in our own experience too late for glory, we made the discovery that all dogs have a mysterious reverence for a trundling stone. It calls off attention from the human object, and strikes alarm into the caitiff's mind. He thinks the stone alive. Upon this hint we thought it possible to improve: stooping down, we 'made believe' to launch a stone, when, in fact, we had none; and the effect generally followed. So well is this understood in Greece that, according to a popular opinion reported by Mr. Mure, the prevailing habit in Grecian dogs, as well as bitches, of absenting themselves from church, grows out of the frequent bowing and genuflexions practised in the course of the service. The congregation, one and all, simultaneously stoop; the dog's wickedness has made him well acquainted with the meaning of that act; it is a symbol but too significant to his conscience; and he takes to his heels with the belief that a whole salvo of one hundred and one chermadia are fastening on his devoted 'hurdies.'
Here, therefore, is a suggestion at once practically useful, and which furnishes more than one important elucidation to passages in Homer hitherto unintelligible. For the sake of one other such passage, we shall, before dismissing the subject, pause upon a novel fact, communicated by Mr. Mure, which is equally seasonable as a new Homeric light, and as a serviceable hint in a situation of extremity.
In the passage already quoted under Pope's version from Odyssey, xiv. 29, what is the meaning of that singular couplet—
'Down sate the sage; and cautious to withstand,
Let fall the offensive truncheon from his hand.' [Footnote 2]
Mr. Mure's very singular explanation will remind the naturalist of something resembling it in the habits of buffaloes. Dampier mentions a case which he witnessed in some island with a Malay population, where a herd of buffaloes continued to describe concentric circles, by continually narrowing around a party of sailors; and at last submitted only to the control of children not too far beyond the state of infancy. The white breed of wild cattle, once so well known at Lord Tankerville's in Northumberland, and at one point in the south-west of Scotland, had a similar instinct for regulating the fury of their own attack; but it was understood that when the final circle had been woven, the spell was perfect; and that the herd would 'do business' most effectually. As respects the Homeric case, 'I,' (says Mr. Mure,) 'am probably not the only reader who has been puzzled to understand the object of this manoeuvre' (the sitting down) 'on the part of the hero. I was first led to appreciate its full value in the following manner:—At Argos one evening, at the table of General Gordon,' (then commanding-in-chief throughout the Morea, and the best historian of the Greek revolution, but who subsequently resigned, and died in the spring of 1841, at his seat in Aberdeenshire,) 'the conversation happened to turn, as it frequently does where tourists are in company, on this very subject of the number and fierceness of the Grecian dogs; when one of the company remarked that he knew of a very simple expedient for appeasing their fury. Happening on a journey to miss his road, and being overtaken by darkness, he sought refuge for the night at a pastoral settlement by the wayside. As he approached, the dogs rushed out upon him; and the consequences might have been serious had he not been rescued by an old shepherd, (the Eumeus of the fold,) who after pelting off his assailants, gave him a hospitable reception in his hut. The guest made some remark on the zeal of his dogs, and on the danger to which he had been exposed from their attack. The old man replied 'that it was his own fault, from not taking the customary precaution in such an emergency; that he ought to have stopped, and sate down until some person came to protect him.' Here we have the very act of Ulysses; with the necessary circumstance that he laid aside his arms; after which the two parties were under a provisional treaty. And Adam Smith's doubtful assumption that dogs are incapable of exchange, or reciprocal understanding, seems still more doubtful. As this expedient was new to the traveller, 'he made some further inquiries; and was assured that, if any person in such a predicament will simply seat himself on the ground, laying aside his weapon of defence, the dogs will also squat in a circle round him; that, as long as he remains quiet, they will follow his example; but that, as soon as he rises and moves forward, they will renew their assault. This story, though told without the least reference to the Odyssey, at once brought home to my own mind the scene at the fold of Eumeus with the most vivid reality. The existence of the custom was confirmed by other persons present, from their own observation or experience.' Yet, what if the night were such as is often found even in Southern Greece during winter—a black frost; and that all the belligerents were found in the morning symmetrically grouped as petrifactions? However, here again we have the Homer qui nil molitur inepte, who addressed a people of known habits. Yet quare—as a matter of some moment for Homeric disputes—were these habits of Ionian colonies, or exclusively of Greece Proper?
But enough of the repulsive features in Greek travelling. We, for our part, have endeavored to meet them with remedies both good and novel. Now let us turn to a different question. What are the positive attractions of Greece? What motives are there to a tour so costly? What are the Pros, supposing the Cons dismissed? This is a more difficult question than is imagined: so difficult that most people set out without waiting for the answer: they travel first and leave to providential contingencies the chance that, on a review of the tour in its course, some adequate motive may suggest itself. Certainly it may be said, that the word Greece already in itself contains an adequate motive; and we do not deny that a young man, full of animal ardor and high classical recollections, may, without blame, give way to the mere instincts of wandering. It is a fine thing to bundle up your traps at an hour's warning, and fixing your eye upon some bright particular star, to say—'I will travel after thee: I will have no other mark: I will chase thy rising or thy setting: that is, on Mr. Wordsworth's hint derived from a Scottish lake, to move on a general object of stepping westwards, or stepping eastwards. But there are few men qualified to travel, who stand in this free 'unhoused' condition of license to spend money, to lose time, or to court peril. In balancing the pretensions of different regions to a distinction so costly as an effectual tour, money it is, simply the consideration of cost, which furnishes the chief or sole ground of administration; having but 100 pounds sterling disposable in any one summer, a man finds his field of choice circumscribed at once: and rare is the household that can allow twice that sum annually. He contents himself with the Rhine, or possibly, if more adventurous, he may explore the passes of the Pyrenees; he may unthread the mazes of romantic Auvergne, or make a stretch even to the Western Alps of Savoy.
But, for the Mediterranean, and especially for the Levant—these he resigns to richer men; to those who can command from three to five hundred pounds. And next, having submitted to this preliminary limitation of radius, he is guided in selecting from what remains by some indistinct prejudice of his early reading. Many are they in England who start with a blind faith, inherited from Mrs. Radeliffe's romances, and thousands beside, that, in Southern France or in Italy, from the Milanese down to the furthest nook of the Sicilies, it is physically impossible for the tourist to go wrong. And thus it happens, that a spectacle, somewhat painful to good sense, is annually renewed of confiding households leaving a real Calabria in Montgomeryshire or Devonshire, for dreary, sunburned flats in Bavaria, in Provence, in Languedoc, or in the 'Legations' of the Papal territory. 'Vintagers,' at a distance, how romantic a sound! Hops—on the other hand—how mercenary, nay, how culinary, by the feeling connected with their use, or their taxation! Arcadian shepherds again, or Sicilian from the 'bank of delicate Galesus,' can these be other than poetic? The hunter of the Alpine ibex—can he be other than picturesque? A sandalled monk mysteriously cowled, and in the distance, (but be sure of that!) a band of robbers reposing at noon amidst some Salvator-Rosa-looking solitudes of Calabria—how often have such elements, semi-consciously grouped, and flashing upon the indistinct mirrors lighted up by early reading, seduced English good sense into undertakings terminating in angry disappointment! We acknowledge that the English are the only nation under this romantic delusion; but so saying, we pronounce a very mixed censure upon our country. In itself it is certainly a folly, which other nations (Germany excepted) are not above, but below: a folly which presupposes a most remarkable distinction for our literature, significant in a high moral degree. The plain truth is—that Southern Europe has no romance in its household literature; has not an organ for comprehending what it is that we mean by Radcliffian romance. The old ancestral romance of knightly adventure, the Sangreal, the Round Table, &c., exists for Southern Europe as an antiquarian subject; or if treated aesthetically, simply as a subject adapted to the ludicrous. And the secondary romance of our later literature is to the south unintelligible. No Frenchman, Spaniard, or Italian, at all comprehends the grand poetic feeling employed and nursed by narrative fictions through the last seventy years in England, though connected by us with their own supposed scenery.
Generally, in speaking of Southern Europe, it may be affirmed that the idea of heightening any of the grander passions by association with the shadowy and darker forms of natural scenery, heaths, mountainous recesses, 'forests drear,' or the sad desolation of a silent sea-shore, of the desert, or of the ocean, is an idea not developed amongst them, nor capable of combining with their serious feelings. By the evidence of their literature, viz. of their poetry, their drama, their novels, it is an interest to which the whole race is deaf and blind. A Frenchman or an Italian (for the Italian, in many features of Gallic insensibility, will be found ultra-Gallican) can understand a state in which the moving principle is sympathy with the world of conscience. Not that his own country will furnish him with any grand exemplification of such an interest; but, merely as a human being, he cannot escape from a certain degree of human sympathy with the dread tumults going on in that vast theatre—a conscience-haunted mind. So far he stands on common ground; but how this mode of shedding terror can borrow any alliance from chapels, from ruins, from monastic piles, from Inquisition dungeons, inscrutable to human justice, or dread of confessionals,—all this is unfathomably mysterious to Southern Europe. The Southern imagination is passively and abjectly dependent on social interests; and these must conform to modern types. Hence, partly, the reason that only the British travel. The German is generally too poor. The Frenchman desires nothing but what he finds at home: having Paris at hand, why should he seek an inferior Paris in distant lands? To an Englishman this demur could seldom exist. He may think, and, with introductions into the higher modes of aristocratic life, he may know that London and St. Petersburg are far more magnificent capitals than Paris; but that will not repel his travelling instincts. A superior London he does not credit or desire; but what he seeks is not a superior, it is a different, life;—not new degrees of old things, but new kinds of experience are what he asks. His scale of conception is ampler; whereas, generally, the Frenchman is absorbed into one ideal. Why else is it, that, after you have allowed for a few Frenchmen carried of necessity into foreign lands by the diplomatic concerns of so vast a country, and for a few artists travelling in quest of gain or improvement, we hear of no French travellers as a class? And why is it that, except as regards Egypt, where there happens to lurk a secret political object in reversion for France, German literature builds its historic or antiquarian researches almost exclusively upon English travellers? Our travellers may happen or not to be professional; but they are never found travelling for professional objects. Some have been merchants or bankers, many have been ecclesiastics; but neither commercial nor clerical or religious purposes have furnished any working motive, unless where, as express missionaries, they have prepared their readers to expect such a bias to their researches. Colonel Leake, the most accurate of travellers, is a soldier; and in reviewing the field of Marathon, of Plataa, and others deriving their interest from later wars, he makes a casual use of his soldiership. Captain Beaufort, again, as a sailor, uses his nautical skill where it is properly called for. But in the larger proportions of their works, even the professional are not professional; whilst such is our academic discipline, that all alike are scholars. And in this quality of merit the author before us holds a distinguished rank. He is no artist, though manifesting the eye learned in art and in landscape. He is not professionally a soldier; he is so only by that secondary tie, which, in our island, connects the landed aristocracy with the landed militia; yet though not, in a technical sense, military, he disputes, with such as are, difficult questions of Greek martial history. He is no regular agriculturist, yet he conveys a good general impression of the Greek condition with relation to landed wealth or landed skill, as modified at this moment by the unfortunate restraints on a soil handed over, in its best parts, by a Turkish aristocracy that had engrossed them, to a Bavarian that cannot use them. In short, Mr. Mure is simply a territorial gentleman; elevated enough to have stood a contest for the representation of a great Scottish county; of general information; and, in particular, he is an excellent Greek scholar; which latter fact we gather, not from anything we have heard, but from these three indications meeting together;—1. That his verbal use of Greek, in trying the true meaning of names, (such as Mycene, the island of Asteris, &c.,) is original as well as accurate. 2. That his display of reading (not volunteered or selected, but determined by accidents of local suggestion) is ample. 3. That the frugality of his Greek citations is as remarkable as their pertinence. He is never tempted into trite references; nor ever allows his page to be encumbered by more of such learning than is severely needed.
With regard to the general motives for travelling, his for Greece had naturally some relation to his previous reading; but perhaps an occasional cause, making his true motives operative, may have been his casual proximity to Greece at starting—for he was then residing in Italy. Others, however, amongst those qualified to succeed him, wanting this advantage, will desire some positive objects of a high value, in a tour both difficult as regards hardships, costly, and too tedious, even with the aids of steam, for those whose starting point is England. These objects, real or imaginary, in a Greek tour, co-extensive with the new limits of Greek jurisdiction, let us now review:—
I. The Greek People.—It is with a view to the Greeks personally, the men, women, and children, who in one sense at least, viz., as occupants of the Greek soil, represent the ancient classical Greeks, that the traveller will undertake this labor. Representatives in one sense! Why, how now? are they not such in all senses? Do they not trace their descent from the classical Greeks?' We are sorry to say not; or in so doubtful a way, that the interest derived from that source is too languid to sustain itself against the opposing considerations. Some authors have peremptorily denied that one drop of genuine Grecian blood, transmitted from the countrymen of Pericles, now flows in the veins of any Greek subject. Falmereyer, the German, is at the head (we believe) of those who take that view. And many who think Falmereyer in excess, make these unpleasant concessions; viz., 1st, that in Athens and throughout Attica, where, by special preference, one would wish to see the Grecian cast of face predominating, there, to a single family almost, you may affirm all to be Albanian. Well; but what is Albanian? For the Albanian race, as having its headquarters in regions once undoubtedly occupied by a Greek race. Epirus, for instance, Acarnania, &c., may still be Grecian by descent: but unfortunately it is not so. The Albanians are no more Grecian, and notoriously no more represent the old legitimate Greeks, who thumped the Persians and whom the Romans thumped, than the modern English represent the Britons, or the modern Lowland Scotch represent the Scoti, of the centuries immediately following the Christian era. Both English and Lowland Scotch, for the first five centuries after the Christian era, were ranging the forests of north Germany or of southern Sweden. The men who fought with Caesar, if now represented at all, are so in Wales, in Cornwall, or other western recesses of the island. And the Albanians are held to be a Sclavonic race—such at least is the accredited theory; so that modern Greece is connected with Russia not merely by the bond of a common church, but also by blood, since the Russian people is the supreme branch of the Sclavonic race. This is the first concession made which limits any remnant of the true Greek blood to parts of the ancient Hellas not foremost in general interest, nor most likely to be visited.
A second is, that if any claim to a true Grecian descent does exist extensively, it must be looked for amongst Mahometan clans, descended from renegades of former days, now confounded with our Mussulmans ejected from Greece, and living in Thrace, or other regions under the Sultan's sceptre. But even here the purity of the descent is in the last degree uncertain.
This case is remarkable. From the stationary character of all things in the East, there was a probability beforehand, that several nations—as in particular, four that we will mention: the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Persians, the Affghans—should have presented the same purity of descent, untainted by alien blood, which we find in the children of Ishmael, and the children of his half-brother the patriarch Isaac. Yet, in that case, where would have been the miraculous unity of race predicted for these two nations exclusively by the Scriptures? The fact is, the four nations mentioned have been so profoundly changed by deluges of foreign conquest or foreign intrusion, that at this day, perhaps, no solitary individual could be found whose ancestral line had not been confounded with other bloods. The Arabs only, and the Jews, are under no suspicion of this hybrid mixture. Vast deserts, which insulate one side of the Arabian peninsula; the sea, which insulates the other sides, have, with other causes, preserved the Arab blood from all general attaint of its purity. Ceremonies, institutions, awful scruples of conscience, and through many centuries, misery and legal persecution, have maintained a still more impassable gulf between the Jews and other races. Spain is the only Christian land where the native blood was at any time intermingled with the Jewish; and hence one cause for the early vigilance of the Inquisition in that country more than elsewhere; hence also the horror of a Jewish taint in the Spanish hidalgo; Judaism masquing itself in Christianity, was so keenly suspected, or so haughtily disclaimed, simply because so largely it existed. It was, however, under a very peculiar state of society, that, even during an interval, and in a corner, Jews could have intermarried with Christians. Generally, the intensity of reciprocated hatred, long oppression upon the one side, deep degradation upon the other, perpetuated the alienation, had the repulsion of creeds even relaxed. And hence, at this day, the intense purity of the Jewish blood, though probably more than six millions of individuals.
But with respect to the Grecians, as no barrier has ever existed between them and any other [Footnote 3] race than the Turks, and these only in the shape of religious scruples, which on one side had the highest political temptation to give way, there was no pledge stronger than individual character, there could be no national or corporate pledge, for the maintenance of this insulation. As therefore, in many recorded cases, the strongest barrier (viz., that against Mahometan alliances) is known to have given way, as in other cases innumerable, but forgotten, it must be presumed to have given way? this inference follows, viz., that if anywhere the Grecian blood remains in purity, the fact will be entirely without evidence; and for us, the result will be the same as if the fact had no existence. Simply as a matter of curiosity, if our own opinion were asked as to the probability, that in any situation, a true-blooded population yet survives at this day, we should answer that, if anywhere, it will be found in the most sterile of the Greek islands. Yet, even there the bare probability of such a result will have been open to many disturbances; and especially if the island happen to be much in the way of navigators, or the harbors happen to be convenient, or if it happen to furnish a good stage in a succession of stages, (according to the ancient usages of Mediterranean seamanship), or if it possessed towns containing accumulations of provisions or other stores, or offered good watering-places; under any of these endowments, an island might be tempting to pirates, or to roving adventurers, or to remote overpeopled parts of Italy, Africa, Asia Minor, &c.; in short, to any vicious city where but one man amongst the poorer classes knew the local invitations to murderous aggressions. Under so many contingencies operative through so many centuries, and revolutions so vast upon nations so multiplied, we believe that even a poor unproductive soil is no absolute pledge for non-molestation to the most obscure of recesses.
For instance, the poorest district of the large island Crete, might (if any could) be presumed to have a true Greek population. There is little to be found in that district beyond the means of bare subsistence; and (considering the prodigious advantages of the ground for defensive war) little to be looked for by an invader but hard knocks, 'more kicks than halfpence,' so long as there was any indigenous population to stand up and kick. But often it must have happened in a course of centuries, that plague, small-pox, cholera, the sweating-sickness, or other scourges of universal Europe and Asia, would absolutely depopulate a region no larger than an island; as in fact, within our brief knowledge of the New Hollanders, has happened through small-pox alone, to entire tribes of those savages, and, upon a scale still more awful, to the American Indians. In such cases, mere strangers would oftentimes enter upon the lands as a derelict. The Sfakians, in that recess of Crete which we have noticed, are not supposed by scholars to be a true Grecian race; nor do we account them such. And one reason of our own, superadded to the common reasons against allowing a Greek origin, is this:—The Sfakians are a large-limbed, fine-looking race, more resembling the Wallachians whom we have already noticed, than the other races of Crete, or the other Greek islanders, and like the Wallachians, are often of colossal stature. But the classical Greeks, we are pretty certain, were a race of little men. We have more arguments than one for this belief. But one will be sufficient. The Athenian painter who recorded the battle of Marathon in fresco upon the walls of a portico, was fined for representing the Persians as conspicuously taller than the Greeks. But why?—why should any artist have ascribed such an advantage to the enemy, unless because it was a fact? What plausible motive, other than the notoriety of the fact, can be imagined in the painter? In reality, this artist proceeded as a general rule amongst the Greeks, and a rule strictly, if not almost superstitiously observed, and of ancient establishment, which was, that all conquerors in any contest, or at any games, olympic, or whatsoever they might be, were memorialized by statues exactly representing the living man in the year of victory, taken even with their personal defects. The dimensions were preserved with such painful fidelity, as though the object had been to collect and preserve for posterity, a series from every generation, of those men who might be presumed by their trophies to have been the models by natural prefiguration for that particular gymnastic accomplishment in which they had severally excelled. [See the Acad. des Inscriptions, about the year 1725.] At the time of Marathon, fought against the Lieutenant of Darius, the Olympic games had existed for two hundred years, minus thirteen; and at the closing battle of Plataea, fought against the Lieutenant of Xerxes, for two hundred, minus only two. During all this period, it is known for certain, perhaps even from far older times, that this rule of exact portraiture, a rigid demand for duplicates or fac-similes of the individual men, had prevailed in Greece. The enormous amount of Persian corpses buried by the Greeks, (or perhaps by Persian prisoners,) in the Polyandrium on the field of battle, would be measured and observed by the artists against the public application for their services. And the armor of those select men-at-arms, or [Greek Text: oplitai], who had regular suits of armor, would remain for many centuries suspended as consecrated anathaeyata in the Grecian temples; so that Greek artists would never want sure records of the Persian dimensions. Were it not for this rule, applied sternly to all real conflicts, it might have been open to imagine that the artist had exaggerated the persons of the enemy by way of exalting to posterity the terrors which their ancestors had faced; a more logical vanity than that inverse artifice imputed to Alexander, of burying in the Punjaub gigantic mangers and hyperbolical suits of armor, under the conceit of impressing remote ages with a romantic idea of the bodily proportions in the men and horses composing the elite of the Macedonian army. This was the true secret for disenchanting the martial pretensions of his army. Were you indeed such colossal men? In that case, the less is your merit; of which most part belongs manifestly to a physical advantage: and in the ages of no gunpowder the advantage was less equivocal than it is at present. In the other direction, the logic of the Greek artist who painted Marathon is more cogent. The Persians were numerically superior, though doubtless this superiority has been greatly exaggerated, not wilfully so much as from natural mistakes incident to the Oriental composition of armies; and still more on the Grecian side, from extreme inaccuracy in the original reports, which was so great that even Herodotus, who stood removed from Plataea at the time of commencing his labors, by pretty much the same interval as we in 1842 from Waterloo, is rightly observed by Colonel Leake (Travels in Greece) to have stated to him the Greek numbers on the great day of Plataea, rather from the basis of fixed rateable contingents which each state was bound to furnish, than of any positive return that he could allege. However, on the whole, it seems undeniable that even at Platsea, much more at Marathon, the Persians had the advantage in numbers. If, besides this numerical advantage, they had another in qualities of bodily structure, the inference was the greater to the Grecian merit. So far from slighting a Persian advantage which really existed, a Greek painter might rather be suspected of inventing one which did not. We apprehend, however, that he invented nothing. For, besides that subsequent intercourse with Persians would have defeated the effect of his representation had it reposed on a fiction, it is known that the Greeks did not rightly appreciate tallness. 'Procerity,' to use Dr. Johnson's stately word in speaking of the stately Prussian regiment, was underrated in Greece; perhaps for this reason, that in some principal gymnastic contests, running, leaping, horsemanship, and charioteering, it really was a disadvantage. And hence possibly arose a fact which has been often noticed with surprise; viz. that the legendary Hercules was never delineated by the Greek artists as more than an athletic man of the ordinary standard with respect to height and bulk. The Greek imagination was extravagantly mastered by physical excellence; this is proved by the almost inconceivable value attached to gymnastic merit. Nowhere, except in Greece, could a lyrical enthusiasm have been made available in such a service. But amongst physical qualities they did not adequately value that of lofty stature. At all events, the rule of portraiture—the whole portrait and nothing but the portrait—which we have mentioned as absolute for Greece, coerced the painter into the advantageous distinction for the Persians which we have mentioned. And this rule, as servile to the fact, is decisive for the Greek proportions of body in comparison with the Persian.
But were not some tribes amongst the Greeks celebrated for their stature? Yes; the Daulians, for instance, both men and women: and in some modern tourist we remember a distinction of the same kind claimed for the present occupants of Daulis. But the ancient claim bad reference only to the Grecian scale. Tall, were they? Yes, but tall for Grecians. The Romans were possibly a shade taller than the Greeks, but they also were a little race of men. This is certain. And, if a man were incautious enough to plead in answer the standard of the modern Italians, who are often both tall and athletic, he must be reminded that to Tramontanes, in fact, such as Goths, Heruli, Scyrra, Lombards, and other tribes of the Rhine, Lech, or Danube, Italy is indebted for the improved breed of her carcasses. [Footnote 4] Man, instead of degenerating according to the scandalous folly of books, very slowly improves everywhere; and the carcasses of the existing generation, weighed off, million for million, against the carcasses of any pre-Christian generation, we feel confident would be found to have the advantage by many thousands of stones [the butchers' stone is eight pounds] upon each million. And universally the best prima facie title to a pure Greek descent will be an elegantly formed, but somewhat under-sized, person, with a lively, animated, and intelligent physiognomy; of which last may be said, that, if never in the highest sense rising to the noble, on the other hand, it never sinks to the brutal. At Liverpool we used to see in one day many hundreds of Greek sailors from all parts of the Levant; these were amongst the most probable descendants from the children of Ion or of OEolus, and the character of their person was what we describe—short but symmetrical figures and faces, upon the whole, delicately chiselled. These men generally came from the Greek islands.
Meantime, what is Mr. Mure's opinion upon this much-vexed question? Into the general problem he declines to enter; not, we may be sure, from want of ability to treat it with novelty and truth. But we collect that he sees no reason for disputing the general impression, that an Albanian or hybrid population is mainly in possession of the soil, and that perhaps he would say, lis est de paupere regno; for, if there is no beauty concerned in the decision, nor any of the quality of physical superiority, the less seems the value of the dispute. To appropriate a set of plain faces, to identify the descent of ordinary bodies, seems labor lost. And in the race now nominally claiming to be Grecian, Mr. Mure evidently finds only plain faces, and ordinary bodies. Those, whom at any time he commends for beauty or other advantages of person, are tribes confessedly alien; and, on the other hand, with respect to those claiming to be Greek, he pronounces a pointed condemnation by disparaging their women. It is notoriously a duty of the female sex to be beautiful, if they can, with a view to the recreation of us males—whom Lily's Grammar affirms to be 'of the worthier gender.' Sitting at breakfast, (which consisted 'of red herrings and Gruyere cheese,') upon the shore of Megara, Mr. Mure beheld the Megarensian lasses mustering in force for a general ablution of the Megarensian linen. The nymphs had not turned out upon the usual principles of feminine gatherings—
'Spectatum venit, venit spectentur it ipsae;'
and yet, between them, the two parties reciprocated the functions. Each to the other was a true spectacle. A long Scotchman,
'Qui sicca solus secum spatiatur arena,'
and holding in his dexter mauley a red herring, whilst a white table-cloth (the centre of his motions) would proclaim some mysterious rite, must to the young ladies have seemed a merman suddenly come up from the sea, without sound of conch; whilst to him the large deputation from female Megara furnished an extra theatre for the inspection of Greek beauty. 'There was no river mouth visible, the operation being performed in the briny sea itself;' and, so far from this being unusual, Mr. Mure notices it as a question of embarrassment to the men of Plutarch's age, why the Phoeacian princess in the Odyssey did not wash in the sea, but mysteriously preferred the river, (Sympos, I. qu. 9;) but as to beauty, says Mr. Mure, 'I looked in vain for a figure, which either as to face or form could claim even a remote resemblance to Nausicaa. The modern Greek woman indeed appeared to me, upon the whole, about the most ill-favored I have met with in any country.' And it attests the sef-consistency of Mr. Mure, that in Aracova, the only place where he notices the women as having any pretensions to beauty, he and others agree that their countenances are not true to the national type; they are generally reputed to offer something much nearer to the bloom and the embonpoint of female rustics in Germany; and accordingly, it is by the Bavarian officers of King Otho's army that these fair Aracovites have been chiefly raised into celebrity. We cannot immediately find the passage in Mr. Mure's book relating to Aracova; but we remember that, although admitting the men to be a tolerably handsome race, he was disappointed in the females. Tall they are, and stout, but not, he thinks, beautiful.
Yet, in dismissing this subject of personal appearance, as the most plausible test now surviving for the claim of a pure Greek descent, we must not forget to explain—that it is far from our design to countenance the hypothesis of any abrupt supercession, at any period or by any means, to the old Grecian blood. The very phrase of 'national type,' which we used in the last paragraph, and the diffusion of a language essentially Greek, argue at once a slow and gradational transition of the population into its present physical condition. Mr. Mure somewhere describes, as amongst the characteristics of the present race, swarth-iness and leanness. These we suspect to have been also characteristics of the old original ton d'apameibomenoi Greeks. If so, the fact would seem to argue, that the changes, after all, had not been on a scale sufficient to obliterate the primitive type of Hellenic nature; whilst the existence of any diffused type marks a tendency to national unity, and shows that some one element has so much predominated as to fuse the rest into a homogeneous whole. Indeed, it is pretty certain that a powerful cross in any human breed, whatever effects it may have in other respects, leaves the intellect improved—if not in the very highest qualities, yet in mobility, activity, and pertinacity of attention. The Greek nation has also shown itself morally improved; their revolutionary war evoked and tried, as in a furnace, the very finest qualities of courage, both adventurous and enduring; and we heartily agree in the sentiment delivered so ably by Mr. Mure, that the struggles of these poor shepherds and herdsmen, driven into caves and thickets, and having no great rallying principle but the banner of the Cross against the Crescent, were as much more truly sublime in suffering and in daring, than the classical struggles against the Persians, as they are and will be more obscure in the page of general history. We do not at all question great stamina and noble elements in the modern Greek character—generations of independence will carry this character to excellence; but still we affirm, that he who looks for direct descendants from the race of Miliades, Pericles, or Epaminondas, is likely to be disappointed; and most disappointed in that Athens, which for all of us alike (as appealing to our imaginative feelings) still continues to be what it was for Cicero—true and very Greece; in which, therefore, of all cities locally recalling the classical times, we can least brook a disappointment.
If not the people of Greece, is it then the NATURAL SCENERY of Greece which can justify the tourist in this preference? Upon this subject it is difficult to dispute. What a man is likely to relish in scenery—what style or mode of the natural picturesque; and secondly, what weight or value he will allow to his own preferences—are questions exceedingly variable. And the latter of these questions is the more important; for the objection is far less likely to arise against this mode of scenery or that, since every characteristic mode is relished as a change, than universally against all modes alike as adequate indemnifications for the toils of travelling. Female travellers are apt to talk of 'scenery' as all in all, but men require a social interest superadded. Mere scenery palls upon the mind, where it is the sole and ever-present attraction relied on. It should come unbidden and unthought of, like the warbling of birds, to sustain itself in power. And at feeding-time we observe that men of all nations and languages, Tros Tyriusve, grow savage, if, by a fine scene, you endeavor to make amends for a bad beef-steak. The scenery of the Himalaya will not 'draw houses' till it finds itself on a line of good hotels.
This difference, noted above, between the knowledge and the power of a scenery hunter may be often seen illustrated in the fields of art. How common is the old sapless connoisseur in pictures, who retains his learned eye and his distinguished skill, but whose sensibilities are as dry as summer dust to the interests of the art. On the other hand, daily you see young people whose hearts and souls are in the forests and the hills, but for whom the eye is perfectly untutored. If, now, to the differences in this respect you add the extensive differences which prevail as to the kinds of scenery, it is easy to understand how rich in the materials for schism must be every party that starts up on the excitement of mere scenery. Some laud the Caucasus; some the northern and eastern valleys of Spain; some the Alpine scenery; some the Pyrenean. All these are different; and from all alike differs again what Mr. Mure classes as the classical character of scenery. For this, he thinks a regular education of the eye requisite. Such an education he himself had obtained from a residence in Italy. And, subject to that condition, he supposes the scenery on the Eurotas (to the eastern side of the Peloponnesus) the most delightful in Europe. We know not. It may be so. For ourselves, the obscure sense of being or moving under a vast superincumbency of some great natural power, as of a mighty forest, or a trackless succession of mountainous labyrinths, has a charm of secret force far better than any distinct scenes to which we are introduced. Such things ought not to be. But still so it is—that tours in search of the picturesque are peculiarly apt to break up in quarrels. Perhaps on the same principle which has caused a fact generally noticed, viz. that conchologists, butterfly-fanciers, &c., are unusually prone to commit felonies, because too little of a human interest circulates through their arid pursuits. The morbid irritation accumulates until the amateur rushes, out with a knife, lets blood in some quarter, and so restores his own connection with the vitalities of human nature. In any case, we advise the Greek tourist to have at least two strings to his bow besides scenery.
III.—Is it, then, the monuments of the antique, the memorials of Pericles and Phidias, which a man should seek in Greece? If so, no great use in going beyond Athens. Because, though more solemn images survive in other places, associated with powers more mysterious and ages more remote, as the gate of Lions at Mycense, or the relics yet standing (and perhaps to stand for ever) of Cyclopian cities, forms of art that for thousands of years have been dying away through dimness of outlines and vegetable overgrowth into forms of nature—yet in Athens only is there a great open museum of such monuments. The Athenian buildings, though none of them Homeric in point of origin, are old enough for us. Two-and-a-half millennia satisfy our grovelling aspirations. And Mr. Mure himself, whilst insisting on their too youthful character, admits that they are 'superior in number, variety, and elegance to those which the united cities of Greece can now show.' Yet even these pure monuments have been combined with modern aftergrowths, as in the case of the Propylyoea, of which multitudes doubt [Mr. Mure in particular] whether they can now be detached from the connection with effect. For more reasons than one, it will, perhaps, be advisable to leave them in their present condition, and that is as hybrid as the population. But, with respect to Athenian buildings, it strikes our feelings—that finish and harmony are essential conditions to their effect. Ruins are becoming to Gothic buildings—decay is there seen in a graceful form; but to an Attic building decay is more expressive of disease—it is scrofula; it is phagedoenic ulcer. And unless the Bavarian government can do more than is now held out or hoped, towards the restoration and disengagement of the public buildings surmounting the city, we doubt whether there will not be as much of pain as of an artist's pleasure in a visit to the Athenian capital, though now raised to the rank of metropolis for universal Greece.
IV.—There are, however, mixed monuments, not artificial in their origin, but which gradually came to act upon the feelings as such from their use, and habitual connection with human purposes. Such for instance is the Acro-Corinthus, of which Mr. Mure says—that it 'is by far the most striking object that I have ever seen, either abroad or at home. Neither the Acropolis of Athens, nor the Larissa of Argos, nor even Gibraltar, can enter into the remotest competition with this gigantic citadel.' Indeed, when a man is aware of the impression produced by a perpendicular rock over six hundred feet high, he may judge of the stupendous effect from a citadel rising almost insulated in the centre of a plain, sloping to the sea, and ascending to the height of nineteen hundred feet.
Objects of this class, together with the mournful Pelasgic remains, the ruins or ruined plans which point back to Egypt, and to Phoenicia, these may serve as a further bribe to the tourist in Greece. If a collection of all the objects in every class, according to the best order of succession for the traveller, were arranged skilfully, we believe that a maritime circuit of Greece, with a few landings and short excursions, would bring the whole of what is first-rate within a brief period of weeks and an easy effort. As to the people, they will become more or less entitled to a separate interest, according to the improvement and improved popularity of their government. And upon that will depend much of the comfort, much even of the safety, to be looked for by tourists. The prospects at present are not brilliant. A government and a court, drawn from a needy aristocracy like the Bavarian, are not suited to a needy people, struggling with the difficulties of a new colony. However, we will hope for the best. And for the tourist in Greece as it is, perhaps Mr. Mure's work is the best fitted for popularity. He touches all things sufficiently, but exhausts none. And we add, very sincerely, this antithesis, as due to him, that of what may be called personal guides, or those who maintain a current of personal interest in their adventures, or in the selecting from their private experience, he is the most learned; whilst of learned guides he is, in the sense explained, the most amusingly personal.
Chief Justice squinted probably at the Versailles affair, where parties were incinerated; for which, in Yorkshire, there is a local word—crozelled, applied to those who lie down upon a treacherous lime-pit, whose crust gives way to their weight. But if he meant security in the sense of public funds, Chief-Justice was still more in error, as he will soon learn. For the British Railways now yield a regular income of three millions per annum—one tenth of the interest of the national debt; offer as steady an investment as the 3 per cent consols; and will soon be quoted in other securities.
As respects the elegance of this translation, there is good reason to warn the reader—that much of the Odyssey was let off by-contract, like any poor-house proposal for 'clods' and 'stickings' of beef, to low undertakers, such as Broome and Fenton. Considering the ample fortune which Pope drew from the whole work, we have often been struck by the inexplicable indulgence with which this scandalous partition is treated by Pope's biographers. It is simply the lowest act of self- degradation ever connected with literature.
Some will urge the intolerance of the Greeks for Christians of the Latin Church. But that did not hinder alliances, and ambitious attempts at such alliances, with their Venetian masters in the most distinguished of the Greek houses. Witness the infernal atrocities by which the Venetian government avenged at times what they viewed as unpardonable presumption. See their own records.
It may be remarked, as a general prevailing tendency amongst the great Italian masters of painting, that there is the same conspicuous leaning to regard the gigantic as a vulgar straining after effect. Witness St. Paul before Agrippa, and St. Paul at Athens; Alexander the Great, or the Archangel Michael. Nowhere throughout the whole world is the opposite defect carried to a more intolerable excess than amongst the low (but we regret to add—and in all but the very highest) of London artists. Many things, which the wretched Von Raumer said of English art, were abominable and malicious falsehooods; circulated not for London, but for Berlin, and Dresden, where English engravers and landscape-painters are too justly prized by the wealthy purchasers nor to be hated by the needy sellers. Indeed to hear Von Raumer's account of our water-color exhibitions, you would suppose that such men as Turner, Dewint, Prout, and many others, had no merit whatever, and no name except in London. Raumer is not an honest man. But had he fixed his charges on the book-decorators amongst us, what an unlimited field for ridicule the most reasonable! In most sentimental poems, the musing young gentlemen and ladies usually run to seven and eight feet high. And in a late popular novel connected with the Tower of London, by Mr. Ainsworth, [which really pushes its falsifications of history to an unpardonable length, as e.g. in the case of the gentle victim lady Jane Grey,] the Spanish ambassador seems to us at least fourteen feet high; and his legs meant for some ambassador who happened to be twenty-seven feet high.
Lord Carlisle's recent lecture upon Pope, addressed to an audience of artisans, drew the public attention first of all upon himself—that was inevitable. No man can depart conspicuously from the usages or the apparent sympathies of his own class, under whatsoever motive, but that of necessity he will awaken for the immediate and the first result of his act an emotion of curiosity. But all curiosity is allied to the comic, and is not an ennobling emotion, either for him who feels it or for him who is its object. A second, however, and more thoughtful consideration of such an act may redeem it from this vulgarizing taint of oddity. Reflection may satisfy us, as in the present case it did satisfy those persons who were best acquainted with Lord Carlisle's public character, that this eccentric step had been adopted, not in ostentation, with any view to its eccentricity, but in spite of its eccentricity, and from impulses of large prospective benignity that would not suffer itself to be defeated by the chances of immediate misconstruction.
Whether advantageous, therefore, to Lord Carlisle, or disadvantageous (and in that case, I believe, most unjust), the first impressions derived from this remarkable lecture pointed themselves exclusively to the person of the lecturer—to his general qualifications for such a task, and to his possible motives for undertaking it. Nobody inquired what it was that the noble lord had been discussing, so great was every man's astonishment that before such an audience any noble lord should have condescended to discuss anything at all. But gradually all wonder subsides—de jure, in nine days; and, after this collapse of the primary interest, there was leisure for a secondary interest to gather about the subject of the patrician lecture. Had it any cryptical meaning? Coming from a man so closely connected with the government, could it be open to any hieroglyphic or ulterior interpretations, intelligible to Whigs, and significant to ministerial partisans? Finally, this secondary interest has usurped upon what originally had been a purely personal interest. POPE! What novelty was there, still open to even literary gleaners, about him, a man that had been in his grave for one hundred and six years? What could there remain to say on such a theme? And what was it, in fact, that Lord Carlisle had said to his Yorkshire audience?
There was, therefore, a double aspect in the public interest—one looking to the rank of the lecturer, one to the singularity of his theme. There was the curiosity that connected itself with the assumption of a troublesome duty in the service of the lowest ranks by a volunteer from the highest; and, secondly, there was another curiosity connecting itself with the choice of a subject that had no special reference to this particular generation, and seemed to have no special adaptation to the intellectual capacities of a working audience.
This double aspect of the public surprise suggests a double question. The volunteer assumption by a nobleman of this particular office in this particular service may, in the eyes of some people, bear a philosophic value, as though it indicated some changes going on beneath the surface of society in the relations of our English aristocracy to our English laboring body. On the other hand, it will be regarded by multitudes as the casual caprice of an individual—a caprice of vanity by those who do not know Lord Carlisle's personal qualities, a caprice of patriotic benevolence by those who do. According to the construction of the case as thus indicated, oscillating between a question of profound revolution moving subterraneously amongst us, and a purely personal question, such a discussion would ascend to the philosophic level, or sink to the level of gossip. The other direction of the public surprise points to a question that will interest a far greater body of thinkers. Whatever judgment may be formed on the general fact that a nobleman of ancient descent has thought fit to come forward as a lecturer to the humblest of his countrymen upon subjects detached from politics, there will yet remain a call for a second judgment upon the fitness of the particular subject selected for a lecture under such remarkable circumstances. The two questions are entirely disconnected. It is on the latter, viz., the character and pretensions of Pope, as selected by Lord Carlisle for such an inaugural experiment, that I myself feel much interest. Universally it must have been felt as an objection, that such a selection had no special adaptation to the age or to the audience. I say this with no wish to undervalue the lecture, which I understand to have been ably composed, nor the services of the lecturer, whose motives and public character, in common with most of his countrymen, I admire. I speak of it at all only as a public opportunity suddenly laid open for drawing attention to the true pretensions of Pope, as the most brilliant writer of his own class in European literature; or, at least, of drawing attention to some characteristics in the most popular section of Pope's works which hitherto have lurked unnoticed.
This is my object, and none that can be supposed personal to Lord Carlisle. Pope, as the subject of the lecture, and not the earlier question as to the propriety of any lecture at all, under the circumstances recited, furnishes my thesis—that thesis on which the reader will understand me to speak with decision, not with the decision of arrogance, but with that which rightfully belongs to a faithful study of the author. The editors of Pope are not all equally careless, but all are careless; and, under the shelter of this carelessness, the most deep-seated vices of Pope's moral and satirical sketches have escaped detection, or at least have escaped exposure. These, and the other errors traditionally connected with the rank and valuation of Pope as a classic, are what I profess to speak of deliberately and firmly. Meantime, to the extent of a few sentences, I will take the liberty of suggesting, rather than delivering, an opinion upon the other question, viz., the prudence in a man holding Lord Carlisle's rank of lecturing at all to any public audience. But on this part of the subject I beg to be understood as speaking doubtfully, conjecturally, and without a sufficient basis of facts.
The late Dr. Arnold of Rugby, notoriously a man of great ingenuity, possessing also prodigious fertility of thought, and armed with the rare advantage of being almost demoniacally in earnest, was, however (in some sort of balance to these splendid gifts), tainted to excess with the scrofula of impracticable crotchets. That was the opinion secretly held about him by most of his nearest friends; and it is notorious that he scarcely ever published a pamphlet or contribution to a journal in which he did not contrive to offend all parties, both friendly and hostile, by some ebullition of this capricious character. He hated, for instance, the High Church with a hatred more than theological; and that would have recommended him to the favorable consideration of many thousands of persons in this realm, the same who have been secretly foremost in the recent outbreak of fanaticism against the Roman Catholics; but unfortunately it happened that, although not hating the Low Church (the self-styled Evangelicals), he despised them so profoundly as to make all alliance between them impossible. He hated also many individuals; but, not to do him any injustice, most (or perhaps all) of these were people that had been long dead; and amongst them, by the way, was Livy, the historian; whom I distinguish by name, as furnishing, perhaps, the liveliest illustration of the whimsical and all but lunatic excess to which these personal hatreds were sometimes pushed; for it is a fact that, when the course of an Italian tour had brought him unavoidably to the birthplace of Livy, Dr. Arnold felicitated himself upon having borne the air of that city—in fact, upon having survived such a collision with the local remembrances of the poor historian, very much in those terms which Mr. Governor Holwell might have used on finding himself 'pretty bobbish' on the morning after the memorable night in the Black Hole of Calcutta: he could hardly believe that he still lived. [Footnote 1] And yet, how had the eloquent historian trespassed on his patience and his weak powers of toleration? Livy was certainly not very learned in the archaeologies of his own country; where all men had gone astray, he went astray. And in geography, as regarded the Italian movements of Hannibal, he erred with his eyes open. But these were no objects of Livy's ambition: what he aspired to do was, to tell the story, 'the tale divine,' of Roman energy and perseverance; and he so told it that no man, as regards the mere artifices of narration, would ever have presumed to tell it after him. I cite this particular case as illustrating the furnace-heat of Dr. Arnold's antipathies, unless where some consideration of kindness and Christian charity interposed to temper his fury. This check naturally offered itself only with regard to individuals: and therefore, in dealing with institutions, he acknowledged no check at all, but gave full swing to the license of his wrath. Amongst our own institutions, that one which he seems most profoundly to have hated was our nobility; or, speaking more generally, our aristocracy. Some deadly aboriginal schism he seems to have imagined between this order and the democratic orders; some predestined feud as between the head of the serpent and the heel of man.
Accordingly, as one of the means most clamorously invoked by our social position for averting some dreadful convulsion constantly brooding over England, he insists upon a closer approximation between our highest classes and our lowest. Especially he seems to think that the peasantry needed to be conciliated by more familiar intercourse, or more open expressions of interest in their concerns, and by domiciliary visits not offered in too oppressive a spirit of condescension. But the close observer of our social condition will differ with Dr. Arnold at starting, as to the facts. The ancient territorial nobility are not those who offend by hauteur. On the contrary, a spirit of parental kindness marks the intercourse of the old authentic aristocracy with their dependants, and especially with the two classes of peasants on their own estates, and their domestic servants. [Footnote 2] Those who really offend on this point, are the nouveaux riches—the parvenus. And yet it would be great injustice to say that even these offend habitually. No laws of classification are so false as those which originate in human scurrility. Aldermen, until very lately, were by an old traditional scurrility so proverbially classed as gluttons and cormorants, hovering over dinner-tables, with no other characteristics whatever, or openings to any redeeming qualities, that men became as seriously perplexed in our days at meeting an eloquent, enlightened, and accomplished alderman, as they would have been by an introduction to a benevolent cut-throat, or a patriotic incendiary. The same thing happened in ancient days. Quite as obstinate as any modern prejudice against a London alderman was the old Attic prejudice against the natives of Boeotia. Originally it had grown up under two causes—first, the animosities incident to neighborhood too close; secondly, the difference of bodily constitution consequent upon a radically different descent. The blood was different; and by a wider difference, perhaps, than that between Celtic and Teutonic. The garrulous Athenian despised the hesitating (but for that reason more reflecting) Boeotian; and this feeling was carried so far, that at last it provoked satire itself to turn round with scorn upon the very prejudice which the spirit of satire had originally kindled. Disgusted with this arrogant assumption of disgust, the Roman satirist reminded the scorners that men not inferior to the greatest of their own had been bred, or might be bred, amongst those whom they scorned:—
'Summos posse viros, et magna exempla daturos,
Vervecum in patria, crassoque sub are nasci.'
Now, if there is any similar alienation between our lowest classes and our highest, such as Doctor Arnold imagined to exist in England, at least it does not assume any such character of disgust, nor clothe itself in similar expressions of scorn. Practical jealousy, so far as it exists at all, lies between classes much less widely separated. The master manufacturer is sometimes jealous of those amongst his ministerial agents who tread too nearly upon his own traces; he is jealous sometimes of their advances in domestic refinement, he is jealous of their aspirations after a higher education. And on their part, the workmen are apt to regard their masters as having an ultimate interest violently conflicting with their own. In these strata of society there really are symptoms of mutual distrust and hostility. Capital and the aristocracy of wealth is a standing object of suspicion, of fear, and therefore of angry irritation to the working-classes. But as to the aristocracy of rank and high birth, either it is little known to those classes, as happens in the most populous hives of our manufacturing industry, and is regarded, therefore, with no positive feeling of any kind, or else, as in the more exclusively agricultural and pastoral districts, is looked up to by the peasantry with blind feelings of reverence as amongst the immemorial monuments of the past— involved in one common mist of antiquity with the rivers and the hills of the district, with the cathedrals and their own ancestors. A half-religious sentiment of reverence for an old time-out-of-mind family associated with some antique residence, hall, or abbey, or castle, is a well-known affection of the rural mind in England; and if in one half it points to an infirmity not far off from legendary superstition, in the other half it wears the grace of chivalry and legendary romance. Any malignant scoff, therefore, against the peerage of England, such as calling the House of Lords a Hospital of Incurables, has always been a town-bred scurrility, not only never adopted by the simple rural laborer, but not even known to him, or distinctly intelligible supposing it were.
If, therefore, there are great convulsions lying in wait for the framework of our English society; if, and more in sorrow than in hope, some vast attempt may be anticipated for recasting the whole of our social organization; and if it is probable that this attempt will commence in the blind wrath of maddened or despairing labor—still there is no ground for thinking, with Dr. Arnold, that this wrath, however blind (unless treacherously misled), would apply itself primarily to the destruction of our old landed aristocracy. It would often find itself grievously in error and self-baffled, even when following its first headlong impulses of revenge; but these are the impulses that it would follow, and none of these would primarily point in that direction. Suppose, however, that the probabilities were different, and that a policy of conciliation were become peculiarly needful to the aristocracy—which is what Dr. Arnold does suppose—in that case might not the course indicated by Lord Carlisle, viz., advancing upon a new line of intellectual communication with the laboring classes, be the surest mode of retrieving their affections, as most likely to flatter their self-esteem in its noblest aspirations?
One swallow, it is true, cannot make a summer; and others of the aristocracy must repeat the experiment of Lord Carlisle before any ground can be won for the interest of the order. Even in Lord Carlisle, it might be added, the experiment, if it were not followed up, would not count for more than a caprice. But, on the other hand, think as we may of the probable results, in reference to the purposes of its author, we ought to regard it as a sufficient justification that thus the ice has been broken, that thus a beginning has been made, and thus a sanction established under which no man, if otherwise free to enter upon such a path, needs ever again to find an obstacle in rank the highest or in blood the most ancient. He is authorized by a Howard; and though doubts must still linger about the propriety of such a course, when estimated as a means to a specific end, yet for itself, in reference to the prudery of social decorum, we may now pronounce that to lecture without fee or reward before any audience whatever is henceforth privileged by authentic precedent; and, unless adulterating with political partisanship, is consecrated by its own noble purposes.
Still, if it be urged that these noble purposes are not ratified and sealed by a solitary experiment, I should answer that undoubtedly Lord Carlisle has placed himself under a silent obligation to renew his generous effort; or, in the event of his failing to do so, will have made himself a debtor to public censure, as one who has planned what he has not been strong enough to accomplish, and has founded a staircase or a portico to a temple yet in the clouds. Had he the ulterior purposes assumed? Then, by deserting or neglecting them, he puts on record the instability of his own will. Had he no these ulterior purposes? Then, and in that confession, vanishes into vapor the whole dignity of his bold pretensions, as the navigator who first doubled the Cape of Storms [Footnote 3] into an untried sea.
But against a man dealing presumably with a noble purpose we should reckon nobly. Mean jealousies have no place in circumstances where, as yet, no meanness has been exhibited. The exaction would be too severe upon Lord Carlisle, if, by one act of kindness, he had pledged himself to a thousand; and if, because once his graciousness had been conspicuous, he were held bound over, in all time coming, to the unintermitting energies of a missionary amongst pagans. The laboring men of Yorkshire have not the clamorous necessities of pagans; and therefore Lord Carlisle has not assumed the duties of a working missionary. When, by personally coming forward to lecture, he inaugurated a new era of intellectual prospects for the sons of toil, implicitly he promised that he would himself, from time to time, come forward to co-operate with a movement that had owed its birth to his own summons and impulse. But if he cannot honorably release himself from engagements voluntarily assumed, on the other hand he cannot justly be loaded with the responsibility of a continued participation in the Details of the work which he has set in motion. By sympathy with the liberal purposes of an intellectual movement, he gives to that movement its initial impulse. Henceforward it suffices if at intervals he continues to it such expressions of the same sympathy as may sustain its original activity, or at least may sustain the credit of his own consistency. It cannot be expected that any person in the circumstances of Lord Carlisle should continue even intermittingly to lecture. It is enough if, by any other modes of encouragement, or by inciting others to follow the precedent which he has set, he continues to express an unabated interest in the great cause of intellectual progress amongst poor men.
A doubt may be raised, meantime, whether literature is the proper channel into which the intellectual energies of the poor should be directed. For the affirmative it may be urged, that the interest in literature is universal, whilst the interest in science is exceedingly limited. On the other hand, it may truly be retorted that the scientific interest may be artificially extended by culture; and that these two great advantages would in that case arise: 1. That the apparatus of means and instruments is much smaller in the one case than the other; 2. That science opens into a progression of growing interest; whereas literature, having no determined order of advance, and offering no regular succession of stages to the student, does not with the same certainty secure a self-maintaining growth of pleasureable excitement. Some remedy, however, will be applied to this last evil, if a regular plan of study should ever be devised for literature, and perhaps that may be found not impossible.
But now, coming to the second question, namely, this question, If any lecture at all, why upon Pope? We may see reason to think that Lord Carlisle was in error. To make a choice which is not altogether the best, will not of necessity argue an error; because much must be allowed to constitutional differences of judgment or of sensibility, which may be all equally right as against any philosophic attempts to prove any one of them wrong. And a lecturer who is possibly aware of not having made the choice which was absolutely best, may defend himself upon the ground that accidental advantages of a personal kind, such as previous familiarity with the subject, or preconformity of taste to the characteristic qualities of the author selected, may have qualified him to lecture on that theme with more effect and with more benefit, than upon a theme confessedly higher but less tractable for himself with his own peculiar preparations. Here, however, the case is different. What might be no error per se, becomes one if the special circumstances of the situation show it to have rested upon a deep misconception. Given the audience which Lord Carlisle had before him, the audience which he anticipated, and which he proposed to himself as the modulating law for the quality and style of his lecture, that same choice becomes a profound error which, for a different audience, more refined or more miscellaneous, would have been no error at all. I do not fear that I shall offend Lord Carlisle, so upright as he has always shown himself, so manly, and so faithful to his own views of truth, by repeating firmly that such a choice in such a situation argues a deep misconception of the true intellectual agencies by which Pope acts as a power in literature, and of the moral relations to general human sensibilities or universal nature which such agencies involve. My belief is, that, if a prize had been offered for a bad and malappropriate subject, none worse could have been suggested; unless, perhaps, it had been the Letters of Madame de Sevigne, or the Fables of La Fontaine; in both of which cases the delicacies and subtle felicities of treatment are even more microscopic, more shy, and more inapprehensible without a special training and culture, than in Pope, And in this point they all agree, with no great difference amongst the three, that the sort of culture which forms the previous condition for enjoying them (a conditio sine qua non) is not of a kind to be won from study. Even of that a mechanic artisan, whose daily bread depends upon his labor, cannot have had much. But the dedication of a life to books would here avail but litttle. What is needed must be the sort of culture won from complex social intercourse; and of, this the laboring artisan can have had none at all. Even the higher ranks, during those stages of society when social meetings are difficult, are rare, and consequently have their whole intellectual opportunities exhausted in forms and elaborate ceremonials, are not able to develope what may be called the social sense, that living, trembling sensibility to the expressions and the electric changes of human thought and feeling, so infinite as they are potentially, and as they will show themselves to be when the intercourse is free, is sudden, is spontaneous, and therefore has not leisure to be false, amongst all varieties of combination as to sex, age, rank, position, and personal accomplishments. Up to the time of James the First, society amongst ourselves wore a picturesque and even a scenical exterior: but the inner life and its pulsations had not then been revealed. Great passions were required to stir the freezing waters; so that certain kinds of comedy, in which such passions are inappropriate, could not then exist. And partly to this case it was amongst the early Romans, united with the almost Asiatic seclusion from social meetings of female influence or in any virtual sense even of female presence, that we must ascribe the meagreness of the true social interest, and of the dialogue exhibited by Plautus. Two separate frosts, during a century otherwise so full of movement as the sixteenth in England, repressed and killed all germinations of free intellectual or social intercourse amongst ourselves. One was the national reserve;' and this was strengthened by concurring with a national temperament—not phlegmatic (as is so falsely alleged), but melancholic, dignified, and for that reason, if there had been no other, anti-mercurial. But the main cause of this reserve lay in the infrequency of visits consequent upon the difficulties of local movement. The other frost lay in the Spanish stateliness and the inflexibility of our social ceremonies. Our social meetings of this period, even for purposes of pleasure, were true solemnities. With usage of politeness that laid a weight of silence and delay upon every movement of a social company, rapid motion of thought or fancy became in a literal sense physically impossible. Not until, first, our capital city had prodigiously expanded; not until, secondly, our representative system had so unfolded its tendencies as to bring politics within the lawful privilege of ordinary conversation; not until, thirdly, the expansions of commerce had forced us into the continual necessity of talking with strangers; fourthly, not until all these changes, gradually breaking up the repulsion which separated our ungarrulous nation, had been ratified by continual improvements applied to the construction of roads and the arts of locomotion, could it be said that such a state of social intercourse existed as would naturalty prompt the mind to seek food for its own intellectual activity in contemplating the phenomena of that intercourse. The primary aspects and the rapid changes of such an object could not arise until the object itself arose. Satire, which follows social intercourse as a shadow follows a body, was chained up till then. In Marston and in Donne (a man yet unappreciated) satire first began to respire freely, but applying itself too much, as in the great dramatists contemporary with Shakspeare, to the exterior play of society. Under Charles II. in the hands of Dryden, and under Anne in those of Pope, the larger and more intellectual sweep of satire showed that social activities were now appreaching to their culmination. Now, at length, it became evident that a new mode of pleasure had been ripened, and that a great instinct of the intellect had opened for itself an appropriate channel. No longer were social parties the old heraldic solemnities [Footnote 4] enjoined by red letters in the almanac, in which the chief objects were to discharge some arrear of ceremonious debt, or to ventilate old velvets, or to apricate and refresh old gouty systems and old traditions of feudal ostentation, which both alike suffered and grew smoke-dried under too rigorous a seclusion. By a great transmigration, festal assemblages had assumed their proper station, and had unfolded their capacities, as true auxiliaries to the same general functions of intellect—otherwise expressing themselves and feeding themselves through literature, through the fine arts, and through scenic representations. A new world of pleasures had opened itself, offering new subjects of activity to the intellect, but also presupposing a new discipline and experience for enjoying them.
Precisely at this point starts off what I presume to think the great error of Lord Carlisle. He postulates as if it were a mere gift of inevitable instinct, what too certainly is the gift, and the tardy gift, of training; which training, again, is not to be won from efforts of study, but is in the nature of a slow deposition—or sediment, as it were—from a constant, perhaps at the moment, an unconscious, experience. Apparently the error is twofold: first, an oversight, in which it is probable that, without altogether overlooking the truth, Lord Carlisle allowed to it a very insufficient emphasis; but, secondly, a positive misconception of a broad character. The oversight is probably his own, and originating in a general habit of too large and liberal concession; but the misconception, I suspect, that he owes to another.
First, concerning the first. It is evidently assumed, in the adoption of Pope for his subject, that mechanic artists, as a body, are capable of appreciating Pope. I deny it; and in this I offer them no affront. If they cannot enjoy, or if often they cannot so much as understand Pope, on the other hand they can both enjoy and understand a far greater poet. It is no insult; but, on the contrary, it is often a secret compliment to the simplicity and the breadth of a man's intellectual nature that he cannot enter into the artificial, the tortuous, the conventional. Many a rude mind has comprehended to the full, both Milton in his elementary grandeur and Shakspeare in his impassioned depths, that could not have even dimly guessed at the meaning of a situation in comedy where the comic rested upon arbitrary rules and conventional proprieties. In all satiric sketches of society, even where the direct object may happen to have a catholic intelligibility, there is much amongst the allusions that surround and invest it which no man will ever understand that has not personally mixed in society, or understand without very disproportional commentaries; and even in that case he will not enjoy it. This is true of such compositions as a class; but Pope, in reference to this difficulty, is disadvantageously distinguished even amongst his order. Dryden, for instance, is far larger and more capacious in his satire, and in all the genial parts would approach the level of universal sympathies; whereas Pope, besides that the basis of his ridicule is continually too narrow, local, and casual, is rank to utter corruption with a disease far deeper than false refinement or conventionalism. Pardon me, reader, if I use a coarse word and a malignant word, which I should abhor to use unless where, as in this case, I seek to rouse the vigilance of the inattentive by the apparent intemperance of the language. Pope, in too many instances, for the sake of some momentary and farcical effect, deliberately assumes the license of a liar. Not only he adopts the language of moral indignation where we know that it could not possibly have existed, seeing that the story to which this pretended indignation is attached was to Pope's knowledge a pure fabrication, but he also cites, as weighty evidences in the forum of morality, anecdotes which he had gravely transplanted from a jest-book. [Footnote 5] Upon this, however, the most painful feature amongst Pope's literary habits, I will not dwell, as I shall immediately have occasion to notice it again. I notice it at all only for its too certain effect in limiting the sympathy with Pope's satiric and moral writings. Absolute truth and simplicity are demanded by all of us as preconditions to any sympathy with moral expressions of anger or intolerance. In all conventionalism there is a philosophic falsehood; and that would be more than sufficient to repel all general sympathy with Pope from the mind of the laboring man, apart from the effect of direct falsification applied to facts, or of fantastic extravagance applied to opinions. Of this bar to the popularity of Pope, it cannot be supposed that Lord Carlisle was unaware. Doubtless he knew it, but did not allow it the weight which in practice it would be found to deserve. Yet why? Suppose that the unpopular tendency in Pope's writings were of a nature to be surmounted—upon a sufficient motive arising, suppose it not absolutely impossible to bring Pope within the toleration of working-men, upon whom, however, all that is bad would tell fearfully, and most of Pope's peculiar brilliancy would absolutely go for nothing—this notwithstanding, suppose the point established that by huge efforts, by pulling and hauling, by coaxing and flattering, and invita Minerva, the working-man might at length be converted to Pope; yet, finally, when all was over, what object, what commensurate end, could be alleged in justification of so much preternatural effort? You have got your man into harness, that is true, and in a sullen fashion he pulls at his burden. But, after all, why not have yoked him according to his own original inclinations, and suffered him to pull where he would pull cheerfully? You have quelled a natural resistance, but clearly with so much loss of power to all parties as was spent uponthe resistance; and with what final gain to any party?
The answer to this lies in the second of the errors which I have imputed to Lord Carlisle. The first error was, perhaps, no more than an undervaluation of the truth. The second, if I divine it rightly, rests upon a total misconception, viz., the attribution to Pope of some special authority as a moral teacher. And this, if it were really so, would go far to justify Lord Carlisle in his attempt to fix the attention of literary students amongst the working-classes upon the writings of Pope. Rightly he would judge, that some leading classic must furnish the central object for the general studies. Each man would have his own separate favorites; but it would be well that the whole community of students should also have some common point of interest and discussion. Pope, for such a purpose, has some real advantages. He is far enough from our own times to stand aloof from the corroding controversies of the age—he is near enough to speak in a diction but slightly differing from our own. He is sparkling with wit and brilliant good sense, and his poems are all separately short. But if Lord Carlisle count it for his main advantage that he is by distinction a moral poet, and this I must suppose in order to find any solution whatever for the eagerness to press him upon the attention of our most numerous classes, when is it that this idea has originated? I suspect that it is derived originally from a distinguished man of genius in the last generation, viz., Lord Byron. Amongst the guardians of Lord Byron, one was the late Lord Carlisle; and Lord Byron was, besides, connected by blood with the House of Howard: so that there were natural reasons why a man of such extraordinary intellectual power should early obtain a profound influence over the present Earl of Carlisle. And the prejudice, which I suppose to have been first planted by Lord Byron, would very easily strengthen itself by the general cast of Pope's topics and pretensions. He writes with a showy air of disparaging riches, of doing homage to private worth, of honoring patriotism, and so on, through all the commonplaces of creditable morality. But in the midst of this surface display, and in defiance of his ostentatious pretensions, Pope is not in any deep or sincere sense a moral thinker; and in his own heart there was a misgiving, not to be silenced, that he was not. Yet this is strange. Surely, Lord Carlisle, a man of ability and experience, might have credit given him for power to form a right judgment on such a question as that—power undoubtedly, if he had ever been led to use his power, that is, to make up his opinion in resistance to the popular impression. But to this very probably he never had any motive; and the reason why I presume to set up my individual opinion in this case against that of the multitude is, because I know experimentally that, until a man has a sincere interest in such a question, and sets himself diligently to examine and collate the facts, he will pretty certainly have no title to give any verdict on the case.
What made Lord Byron undertake the patronage of Pope? It was, as usually happened with him, a motive of hostility to some contemporaries. He wished to write up Pope by way of writing down others. But, whatever were the motive, we may judge of the style in which he carried out his intentions by the following well-known mot. Having mentioned the poets, he compares them with the moralists—'the moralists,' these are his words, 'the moralists, their betters.' How, or in what sense that would satisfy even a lampooner, are moralists as a class the 'betters' in a collation with poets as a class? It is pretty clear at starting that, in order to be a moralist of the first rank, that is, to carry a great moral truth with heart-shaking force into the mind, a moralist must begin by becoming a poet. For instance, 'to justify the ways of God to man.' That is a grand moral doctrine; but to utter the doctrine authentically a man must write a 'Paradise Lost.' The order of precedency, therefore, between poets and moralists, as laid down by Lord Byron, is very soon inverted by a slight effort of reflection.
But without exacting from a man so self-willed as Lord Byron (and at that moment in a great passion) any philosophic vigor, it may be worth while, so far as the case concerns Pope, to ponder for one moment upon this invidious comparison, and to expose the fallacy which it conceals. By the term moralist we indicate two kinds of thinkers, differing as much in quality as a chestnut horse from horse chestnut, and in rank as a Roman proconsul from the nautical consul's first clerk at a seaport. A clerical moralist in a pulpit, reading a sermon, is a moralist in the sense of one who applies the rules of a known ethical system, viz., that system which is contained in the New Testament, to the ordinary cases of human action. Such a man pretends to no originality—it would be criminal in him to do so; or, if he seeks for novelty in any shape or degree, it is exclusively in the quality of his illustrations. But there is another use of the word moralist, which indicates an intellectual architect of the first class. A Grecian moralist was one who published a new theory of morals—that is, he assumed some new central principle, from which he endeavored, with more or less success, to derive all the virtues and vices, and thus introduced new relations amongst the keys or elementary gamut of our moral nature. [Footnote 6] For example, the Peripatetic system of morality, that of Aristotle, had for its fundamental principle, that all vices formed one or other of two polar extremes, one pole being in excess, the other in defect; and that the corresponding virtue lay on an equatorial line between these two poles. Here, because the new principle became a law of coercion for the entire system, since it must be carried out harmoniously with regard to every element that could move a question, the difficulties were great, and hardly to be met by mere artifices of ingenuity. The legislative principle needed to be profound and comprehensive; and a moralist in this sense, the founder of an ethical system, really looked something like a great man.
But, valued upon that scale. Pope is nobody; or in Newmarket language, if ranked against Chrysippus, or Plato, or Aristotle, or Epicurus, he would be found 'nowhere.' He is reduced, therefore, at one blow to the level of a pulpit moralist, or mere applier of moral laws to human actions. And in a function so exceedingly humble, philosophically considered, how could he pretend to precedency in respect of anybody, unless it were the amen clerk, or the sexton?
In reality, however, the case is worse, If a man did really bring all human actions under the light of any moral system whatever, provided that he could do so sternly, justly, and without favor this way or that, he would perform an exemplary service, such as no man ever has performed. And this is what we mean by casuistry, which is the application of a moral principle to the cases arising in human life. A case means a genuine class of human acts, but differentiated in the way that law cases are. For we see that every case in the law courts conforms in the major part to the genuine class; but always, or nearly always, it presents some one differential feature peculiar to itself; and the question about it always is, Whether the differential feature is sufficient to take it out of the universal rule, or whether, in fact, it ought not to disturb the incidence of the legal rule? This is what we mean by casuistry. All law in its practical processes is a mode of casuistry. And it is clear that any practical ethics, ethics applied to the realities of life, ought to take the professed shape of casuistry. We do not evade the thing by evading the name. But because casuistry under that name, has been chiefly cultivated by the Roman Catholic Church, we Protestants, with our ridiculous prudery, find a stumbling-block in the very name. This, however, is the only service that can be rendered to morality among us. And nothing approaching to this has been attempted by Pope.
What is it, then, that he has attempted? Certainly he imagines himself to have done something or other in behalf of moral philosophy. For in a well-known couplet he informs us—
'That not in Fancy's maze he lingered long, But stooped to Truth, and moralized his song.'
Upon these lines a lady once made to me this very acute and significant remark. The particular direction, she said, in which Pope fancied that he came upon Truth, showed pretty clearly what sort of truth it was that he searched after. Had he represented Fancy, as often is done, soaring aloft amongst the clouds, then, because Truth must be held to lie in the opposite direction, there might have been pleaded a necessity for descending upon Truth, like one who is looking for mushrooms. But as Fancy, by good luck, is simply described as roaming about amongst labyrinths, which are always constructed upon dead levels, he had left it free for himself to soar after Truth into the clouds. But that was a mode of truth which Pope cared little for; if she chose to go galavanting amongst the clouds, Pope, for his part, was the last person to follow her. Neither was he the man to go down into a well in search of her. Truth was not liable to wet feet—but Pope was. And he had no such ardor for Truth as would ever lead him to forget that wells were damp, and bronchitis alarming to a man of his constitution.
Whatever service Pope may have meditated to the philosophy of morals, he has certainly performed none. The direct contributions which he offered to this philosophy in his 'Essay on Man,' are not of a nature to satisfy any party; because at present the whole system may be read into different, and sometimes into opposite meanings, according to the quality of the integrations supplied for filling up the chasms in the chain of the development. The sort of service, however, expected from Pope in such a field, falls in better with the style of his satires and moral epistles than of a work professedly metaphysical. Here, however, most eminently it is that the falseness and hypocrisy which besieged his satirical career have made themselves manifest; and the dilemma for any working-man who should apply himself to these sections of Pope's writings is precisely this: Reading them with the slight and languid attention which belongs to ordinary reading, they will make no particular discoveries of Pope's hollowness and treacherous infidelities to the truth, whether as to things or persons; but in such a case neither will they reap any benefit. On the other hand, if they so far carry out Lord Carlisle's advice as to enter upon the study of Pope in the spirit of earnest students, and so as really to possess themselves of the key to his inner mind, they will rise from their labors not so much in any spirit of gratitude for enlarged and humanizing views of man, as in a spirit of cynical disgust at finding that such views can be so easily counterfeited, and so often virtually betrayed.
[The paper of last month, [Footnote 7] on Lord Carlisle's lecture, having been written under the oppression of a nervous illness, accompanied by great suffering, may probably enough have been found heavy. Another objection to that paper is, that it too easily assumes the radical falseness, of Pope, as a notorious fact needing no evidence or illustration. To myself it did not need either. But to any casual reader, whose attention had never been attracted to the circumstantialities of Pope's satiric sketches, this assumption would be startling; and it would have done him a service to offer a few exemplifications of the vice attributed to Pope, both as substantiating the charge, and as investing it with some little amusement. This it had been my intention to do at the moment; but being disabled by the illness above-mentioned, I now supply the omission.]
Whom shall we pronounce a fit writer to be laid before an auditory of working-men, as a model of what is just in composition—fit either for conciliating their regard to literature at first or afterwards for sustaining it? The qualifications for such a writer are apparently these two: first, that he should deal chiefly with the elder and elementary affections of man, and under those relations which concern man's grandest capacities;—secondly, that he should treat his subject with solemnity, and not with sneer—with earnestness, as one under a prophet's burden of impassioned truth, and not with the levity of a girl hunting a chance-started caprice. I admire Pope in the very highest degree; but I admire him as a pyrotechnic for producing brilliant and evanescent effects out of elements that have hardly a moment's life within them. There is a flash and a startling explosion, then there is a dazzling coruscation, all purple and gold; the eye aches under the suddenness of a display that, springing like a burning arrow out of darkness, rushes back into darkness with arrowy speed, and in a moment all is over. Like festal shows, or the hurrying music of such shows—
'It was, and it is not.'
Untruly, therefore, was it ever fancied of Pope, that he belonged by his classification to the family of the Drydens. Dryden had within him a principle of continuity which was not satisfied without lingering upon his own thoughts, brooding over them, and oftentimes pursuing them through their unlinkings with the sequaciousness (pardon a Coleridgian word) that belongs to some process of creative nature, such as the unfolding of a flower. But Pope was all jets and tongues of flame; all showers of scintillation and sparkle. Dryden followed, genially, an impulse of his healthy nature. Pope obeyed, spasmodically, an overmastering febrile paroxysm. Even in these constitutional differences between the two are written and are legible the corresponding necessities of 'utter falsehood in Pope, and of loyalty to truth in Dryden.' Strange it is to recall this one striking fact, that if once in his life Dryden might reasonably have been suspected of falsehood, it was in the capital matter of religion. He ratted from his Protestant faith; and according to the literal origin of that figure he ratted; for he abjured it as rats abjure a ship in which their instinct of divination has deciphered a destiny of ruin, and at the very moment when Popery wore the promise of a triumph that might, at any rate, have lasted his time. Dryden was a Papist by apostasy; and perhaps, not to speak uncharitably, upon some bias from self-interest. Pope, on the other hand, was a Papist by birth, and by a tie of honor; and he resisted all temptations to desert his afflicted faith, which temptations lay in bribes of great magnitude prospectively, and in persecutions for the present that were painfully humiliating. How base a time-server does Dryden appear on the one side!—on the other, how much of a martyr should we be disposed to pronounce Pope! And yet, for all that, such is the overruling force of a nature originally sincere, the apostate Dryden wore upon his brow the grace of sincerity, whilst the pseudo-martyr Pope, in the midst of actual fidelity to his Church, was at his heart a traitor—in the very oath of his allegiance to his spiritual mistress had a lie upon his lips, scoffed at her whilst kneeling in homage to her pretensions, and secretly forswore her doctrines whilst suffering insults in her service.
The differences as to truth and falsehood lay exactly where, by all the external symptoms, they ought not to have lain. But the reason for this anomaly was, that to Dryden sincerity had been a perpetual necessity of his intellectual nature, whilst Pope, distracted by his own activities of mind, living in an irreligious generation, and beset by infidel friends, had early lost his anchorage of traditional belief; and yet, upon an honorable scruple of fidelity to the suffering church of his fathers, he sought often to dissemble the fact of his own scepticism, which yet often he thirsted ostentatiously to parade. Through a motive of truthfulness he became false. And in this particular instance he would, at any rate, have become false, whatever had been the native constitution of his mind. It was a mere impossibility to reconcile any real allegiance to his church with his known irreverence to religion. But upon far more subjects than this Pope was habitually false in the quality of his thoughts, always insincere, never by any accident in earnest, and consequently many times caught in ruinous self-contradiction. Is that the sort of writer to furnish an advantageous study for the precious leisure, precious as rubies, of the toil-worn artisan?
The root and the pledge of this falseness in Pope lay in a disease of his mind, which he (like the Roman poet Horace) mistook for a feature of preternatural strength; and this disease was the incapacity of self-determination towards any paramount or abiding principles. Horace, in a well-known passage, had congratulated himself upon this disease as upon a trophy of philosophic emancipation:
'Nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri,
Quo me cunque rapit tempestas, deferor liospes:'
which words Pope thus translates, and applies to himself in his English adaptation of this epistle:—
'But ask not to what doctors I apply—
Sworn to no master, of no sect am I.
As drives the storm, at any door I knock;
And house with Montaigne now, or now with Locke.'
That is, neither one poet nor the other having, as regarded philosophy, any internal principle of gravitation or determining impulse to draw him in one direction rather than another, was left to the random control of momentary taste, accident, or caprice; and this indetermination of pure, unballasted levity both Pope and Horace mistook for a special privilege of philosophic strength. Others, it seems, were chained and coerced by sertain fixed aspects of truth, and their efforts were overruled accordingly in one uniform line of direction. But they, the two brilliant poets, fluttered on butterfly-wings to the right and the left, obeying no guidance but that of some instant and fugitive sensibility to some momentary phasis of beauty. In this dream of drunken eclecticism, and in the original possibility of such an eclecticism, lay the ground of that enormous falsehood which Pope practised from youth to age. An eclectic philosopher already, in the very title which he assumes, proclaims his self-complacency in the large liberty of error purchased by the renunciation of all controlling principles. Having severed the towing-line which connected him with any external force of guiding and compulsory truth, he is free to go astray in any one of ten thousand false radiations from the true centre of rest. By his own choice he is wandering in a forest all but pathless,
—-'ubi passim. Pallantes error recto de tramite pellit;'
and a forest not of sixty days' journey, like that old Hercynian forest of Caesar's time, but a forest which sixty generations have not availed to traverse or familiarize in any one direction.
For Horace, as I have endeavored to explain in the note, the apology is so much the readier as his intrusions into this province of philosophy are slighter, more careless, and more indirect. But Pope's are wilful, premeditated, with malice aforethought; and his falsehoods wear a more malignant air, because they frequently concern truth speculative, and are therefore presumably more deliberate in their origin, and more influential in the result. It is precisely this part of Pope's errors that would prove most perplexing to the unlearned student. Beyond a doubt the 'Essay on Man' would, in virtue of its subject, prove the most attractive to a laboring man of all Pope's writings, as most of all promising a glimpse into a world of permanence and of mysterious grandeur, and having an interest, therefore, transcendent to any that could be derived from the fleeting aspects of manners or social conventionalisms, though illuminated and vivified by satire. Here would be the most advantageous and remunerative station to take for one who should undertake a formal exposure of Pope's hollow-heartedness; that is, it would most commensurately reward the pains and difficulties of such an investigation. But it would be too long a task for this situation, and it would be too polemic. It would move through a jungle of controversies. For, to quote a remark which I once made myself in print, the 'Essay on Man' in one point resembles some doubtful inscriptions in ancient forms of Oriental languages, which, being made up elliptically of mere consonants, can be read into very different senses according to the different sets of vowels which the particular reader may choose to interpolate. According to the choice of the interpreter, it may be read into a loyal or a treasonable meaning. Instead of this I prefer, as more amusing, as less elaborate, and as briefer, to expose a few of Pope's personal falsehoods, and falsehoods as to the notorieties of fact. Truths speculative oftentimes, drives its roots into depth so dark, that the falsifications to which it is liable, though detected, cannot always be exposed to the light of day—the result is known, but not therefore seen. Truth personal, on the other hand, may be easily made to confront its falsifier, not with refutation only, but with the visible shame of refutation. Such sharoe would settle upon every page of Pope's satires and moral epistles, oftentimes upon every couplet, if any censor, armed with an adequate knowledge of the facts, were to prosecute the inquest. Apd the general impression from such an inquest would be, that Pope never delineated a character, nor uttered a sentiment, nor breathed an aspiration, which he, would not willingly have recast, have retracted, have abjured or trampled under foot with the curses assigned to heresy, if by sueh an act he could have added a hue of brilliancy to his coloring, or a new depth to his shadows. There is nothing he would not have sacrificed, not the most solemn of his opinions, nor the most pathetic memorial from his personal experiences, in return for a sufficient consideration, which consideration meant always with him poetic effect. It is not, as too commonly is believed, that he was reckless of other people's feelings; so far from that, he had a morbid facility in his kindness; and in cases where he had no reason to suspect any lurking hostility, he showed even a paralytic benignity. But, simply and constitutionally, he was incapable of a sincere thought or a sincere emotion. Nothing that ever he uttered, were it even a prayer to God, but he had a fancy for reading it backwards. And he was evermore false, not as loving or preferring falsehood, but as one who could not in his heart perceive much real difference between what people affected to call falsehood and what they affected to call truth. Volumes might be filled with illustrations; I content myself with three or four.
I. Pope felt intellectually that it was philosophic, and also that it wore an air of nobility, not to despise poverty. Morally, however, he felt inversely: nature and the accidents of his life had made it his necessity to despise nothing so heartily. If in any one sentiment he ever was absolutely sincere, if there can be cited one insulated case upon which he found it difficult to play the hypocrite, it was in the case of that intense scorn with which he regarded poverty, and all the painful circumstances that form the equipage of poverty. To look at a pale, dejected fellow-creature creeping along the highway, and to have reason for thinking that he has not tasted food since yesterday—what a pang would such a sight, accompanied by such a thought, inflict upon many a million of benign human hearts! But in Pope, left to his spontaneous nature, such a sight and such a thought would have moved only fits of laughter. Not that he would have refused the poor creature a shilling, but still he would have laughed. For hunger, and cold, and poverty, appeared to him only in the light of drolleries, and too generally of scoundrelisms. Still he was aware that some caution was requisite in giving public expression to such feelings. Accordingly, when he came forward in gala-dress as a philosopher, he assumed the serene air of one upon whom all such idle distinctions as rich and poor were literally thrown away. But watch him: follow his steps for a few minutes, and the deep realities of his nature will unmask themselves. For example, in the first book of the 'Dunciad' he has occasion to mention Dennis:—
'And all the mighty mad in Dennis raged.'
Upon this line (the 106th) of the text he hangs a note, in the course of which he quotes a few sentences about Dennis from Theobald. One of these begins thus: 'Did we really know how much this poor man suffers by being contradicted,' &c.; upon which Pope thinks proper to intercalate the following pathetic parenthesis in italics: I wish that reflection on POVERTY had been spared.' How amiable! how pretty! Could Joseph Surface have more dexterously improved the occasion: 'The man that disparages poverty, is a man that—' &c. It is manifest, however, at a glance, that this virtuous indignation is altogether misplaced; for 'poor' in the quotation from Theobald has no reference whatever to poverty as the antithesis to wealth. What a pity that a whole phial of such excellent scenical morality should thus have been uncorked and poured out upon the wrong man and the wrong occasion! Really, this unhappy blunder extorts from me as many tears of laughter as ever poverty extorted from Pope. Meantime, reader, watch what follows. Wounded so deeply in his feelings by this constrained homage to poverty, Pope finds himself unable to resettle the equilibrium in his nervous system until he has taken out his revenge by an extra kicking administered to some old mendicant or vagrant lying in a ditch.
At line 106 comes the flourish about Dennis's poverty. Just nine lines ahead, keeping close as a policeman upon the heels' of a thief, you come up with Pope in the very act of maltreating Gibber, upon no motive or pretence whatever, small or great, but that he (the said Gibber) was guilty of poverty. Pope had detected him—and this is Pope's own account of the assault—in an overt act of poverty. He deposes, as if it were an ample justification of his own violence, that Gibber had been caught in the very act—not of supping meanly, coarsely, vulgarly, as upon tripe, for instance, or other offal—but absolutely in the act of not supping at all!
'Swearing and supperless the hero sate.'
Here one is irresistibly reminded of the old story about the cat who was transformed into a princess: she played the role with admirable decorum, until one day a mouse ran across the floor of the royal saloon, when immediately the old instinct and the hereditary hatred proved too much for the artificial nature, and her highness vanished over a six-barred gate in a furious mouse-chase. Pope, treading in the steps of this model, fancies himself reconciled to poverty. Poverty, however, suddenly presents herself, not as a high poetic abstraction, but in that one of her many shapes which to Pope had always seemed the most comic as well as the most hateful. Instantly Pope's ancient malice is rekindled; and in line 115 we find him assaulting that very calamity under one name, which under another, at line 106, he had treated with an ostentatious superfluity of indulgence.
II. I have already noticed that some of Pope's most pointed examples which he presents to you as drawn from his own experience of life, are in fact due to jest-books; and some (offered as facts) are pure coinages of his own brain. When he makes his miser at the last gasp so tenacious of the worldly rights then slipping from his grasp as that he refuses to resign a particular manor, Pope forgot that even a jest-book must govern its jokes by some regard to the realities of life, and that amongst these realities is the very nature and operation of a will. A miser is not, therefore, a fool; and he knows that no possible testamentary abdication of an estate disturbs his own absolute command over it so long as he lives, or bars his power of revoking the bequest. The moral instruction is in this case so poor, that no reader cares much upon what sort of foundation the story itself rests. For such a story a lie may be a decent basis. True; but not so senseless a lie. If the old miser was delirious, there is an end of his responsibilities; and nobody has a right to draw upon him for moral lessons or warnings. If he was not delirirous, the case could not have happened. Modelled in the same spirit are all Pope's pretended portraitures of women; and the more they ought to have been true, as professing to be studies from life, the more atrociously they are false, and false in the transcendent sense of being impossible. Heaps of contradiction, or of revolting extravagance, do not verify themselves to our loathing incredulity because the artist chooses to come forward with his arms akimbo, saying angrily, 'But I tell you, sir, these are not fancy-pieces! These ladies whom I have here lampooned are familiarly known to me—they are my particular friends. I see them every day in the undiess of confiding friendship. They betray all their foibles to me in the certainty that I shall take no advantage of their candor; and will you, coming a century later, presume to dispute the fidelity or the value of my contemporary portraits?' Yes, and upon these two grounds: first (as to the fidelity), that the pretended portraits are delineations of impossible people; and secondly (as to the value), that, if after all they could be sworn to as copies faithful to the originals, not the less are they to be repelled as abnormal, and so far beyond the intelligibilities of nature as practically to mean nothing, neither teaching nor warning. The two Duchesses of Marlborough, for instance, Sarah and Henrietta, are atrocious caricatures, and constructed on the desperate principle of catching at a momentary stare or grin, by means of anarchy in the features imputed, and truculent antithesis in the expression. Who does not feel that these are the fierce pasquinades, and the coarse pasquinades, of some malignant electioneering contest? Is there a line that breathes the simplicity and single-heartedness of truth? Equal disgust settles upon every word that Pope ever wrote against Lady Mary W. Montagu. Having once come to hate her rancorously, and finding his hatred envenomed by the consciousness that Lady Mary had long ceased to care two straws for all the malice of all the wits in Christendom, Pope labored at his own spite, filing it and burnishing it as a hand-polisher works at the the blade of a scymitar. For years he had forgotten to ask after the realities of nature as they existed in Lady Mary, and considered only what had the best chance of stinging her profoundly. He looked out for a 'raw' into which he might lay the lash; not seeking it in the real woman, but generally in the nature and sensibilities of abstract woman. Whatever seemed to disfigure the idea of womanhood, that, by reiterated touches, he worked into his portraits of Lady Mary; and at length, no doubt, he had altogether obliterated from his own remembrance the true features of her whom he so much detested. On this class of Pope's satiric sketches I do not, however, wish to linger, having heretofore examined some of the more prominent cases with close attention.
My last paper on Pope has been taxed with exaggeration. This charge comes from a London weekly journal (The Leader) distinguished by its ability, by its hardihood of speculation, by its comprehensive candor, but, in my eyes, still more advantageously distinguished by its deep sincerity. Such qualities give a special value to the courtesies of that journal; and I in particular, as a literary man, have to thank it for repeated instances of kindness the most indulgent on any occasion which has brought up the mention of my name. Such qualities of necessity give a corresponding value to its censures. And accordingly, as a point of duty, I directed my attention immediately to this censure. Whatever was still unprinted I reviewed; and whatever struck me as open to objection I removed. And if the result after all has been that I do not altogether concur in the criticism of The Leader, the reason is because, as upon re-examination it strikes me, in the worst cases Pope has not left room for exaggeration. I do not see any actual exaggeration, simply because I do not see that any exaggeration is possible. But though I thus found myself unable sincerely to make the sacrifice of my own opinion, another sacrifice of a different kind I have made, viz., that of half my paper. I cancelled one half—viz., that half which was occupied with cases in Pope of disingenuousness, and perhaps of moral falsehood or collusion with other people's falsehood, but not of falsehood atrociously literal and conscious; meaning thus to diminish by one half the penance of those who do not like to see Pope assaulted, although forced by uneasiness to watch the assault;—feeling with which I heartily sympathize; and meaning, on the other hand, in justification of mylelf, to throw the reader's attention more effectively, because more exclusively, upon such cases of frantic and moonstruck falsehood as could allow no room for suspense or mitigation of judgment. Of these I have selected two, one relating to the Duke of Buckingham, and the other to the history and derivation of English literature. Generally, I believe, that to a just appreciation of Pope's falseness, levity, and self-contradiction, it is almost essential that a reader should have studied him with the purpose of becoming his editor. This at one time was my own purpose; and thus it was that I became acquainted with qualities prevailing in Pope which, in the midst of my great admiration for him, would have made such a purpose difficult of execution. For in the relation between author and editor, any harshness of reproach on the part of the latter, or any expression of alienation and imperfect sympathy, seems unbecoming in one who has spontaneously assumed the office of a patronus to a client, and are uniformly painful to the reader. On this account it is that the late Mr. Roscoe figures amongst all editors of Pope as by far the most agreeable. He has a just tenderness for the memory and merits of the great writer whom he undertakes to edit; this feeling keeps his annotations clear from the petulance of Joseph Warton and the malice of Bowles; whilst, not having happened to see Pope's errors in the same light as myself, he suffers from no conflict between his natural indulgence to intellectual splendor and his conscientious reverence for truth.
But if the reader is shocked with Pope's false reading of phenomena, where not the circumstances so much as the construction of the circumstances may be challenged, what must he think of those cases in which downright facts, and incidents the most notorious, have been outrageously falsified only in obedience to a vulgar craving for effect in the dramatic situations, or by way of pointing a moral for the stimulation of torpid sensibilities? Take, for instance, the death of the second Villiers, Duke of Buckingham—a story which, in Pope's version of it, has travelled into a popularity that may be called national; and yet, the whole is one tissue of falsehoods—and of falsehoods that must have been known for such by Pope not less than to most of his contemporary readers. Suppose them not known, and the whole must have wanted all natural interest. For this interest lay in the Duke's character, in his superb accomplishments and natural advantages, in his fine person, in his vast wealth, and in the admirable versatility of his intellectual powers, which made him alternately the idol and the terror of all circles that he approached, which caused Lord Clarendon to tremble with impotent malice in his chancellor's robes, and Dry den to shiver with panic under his laureate crowns. Now, wherever these features of the case were not known, the story was no more than any ordinary death arising out of a fox-chase. But those to whom they were known must, at the same time, have known the audacious falsehood which disfigures the story in Pope's way of telling it. Without the personal interest, the incidents were nothing; and with that interest, at starting, Pope's romance must have defeated itself by its fabulous coloring. Let me recall to the reader the principal lines in this famous description:—
'In the worst inn's worst room, with mat half hung,
The floors of plaster and the walls of dung,
On once a flock-bed, but repaired with straw,
With tape-tied curtains never meant to draw,
The George and Garter dangling from that bed
Where tawdry yellow strove with dirty red,
Great Villiers lies! Alas! how changed from him,
That life of pleasure, and that soul of whim,
Gallant and gay in Cliveden's proud alcove,
The bower of wanton Shrewsbury and love;
There, victor of his health, of fortune, friends,
And fame, the lord of useless thousands ends.'
Without stopping to examine these famous lines as to thought and expression (both of which are scandalously vicious), what I wish the reader to remark is, the one pervading falsehood which connects them. Wherefore this minute and purely fanciful description of the road-side cabaret, with its bedroom and bed? Wherefore this impertinent and also fraudulent circumstantiality? It is, as Pope would tell you, for the sake of impressing with more vivacity the abject poverty to which the Duke's follies had brought him. The wretched bed, for instance, is meant to be the exponent of the empty purse which could purchase no better. And, for fear that you might miss this construction of the passage, Pope himself tells you, in a prose note, that the Duke 'died in a remote inn in Yorkshire, reduced to the utmost misery.' Being engaged in the business of dying, it could hardly be expected that the Duke should be particularly happy. But what Pope means you to understand by 'misery' is poverty; the prose note simply reiterates the words, 'victor of fortune,' in the text. Now, had the truth been really so, what moral would such a story exemplify beyond the vulgar one of pecuniary improvidence? And yet surely this was not the cause of the Duke's being thrown from his horse. Meantime, Pope well knew that the whole was a ridiculous fable. The Duke had the misfortune to be fatally injured in a fox-chase. In such an extremity, naturally, his servants carry him into the house nearest at hand, which happens to be an alehouse—not 'the worst,' since there was no other; nor was it possible that, to a man of his distinction, once the lord-lieutenant of that very East Riding, any room would be offered worse than the very best that contained a bed. In these dreadful circumstances, it is not easy to measure the levity which can linger upon the description of such exquisite impertinences as the housewifely defects of the walls, the curtains, the flock-bed, &c. But Pope was at his wit's end for a striking falsehood. He needed for a momentary effect some tale of a great lord, once fabulously rich, who had not left himself the price of a halter or of a pauper's bed. And thus, for the sake of extorting a stare of wonderment from a mob of gaping readers, he did not scruple to give birth and currency to the grossest of legendary lies. The Duke's death happened a few months before Pope's birth. But the last of the Villiers family that wore a ducal coronet was far too memorable a person to have died under the cloud of obscurity which Pope's representation presumes. He was the most interesting person of the Alcibiades class [Footnote 9] that perhaps ever existed; and Pope's mendacious story found acceptance only amongst an after-generation unacquainted with the realities of the case. There was not so much as a popular rumor to countenance Pope. The story was a pure, gratuitous invention of his own. Even at the time of his death, the Duke of Buckingham was generally reputed to have sixty thousand per annum, and chiefly from land; an income at that period absolutely without precedent or parallel in Europe. In this there might be some exaggeration, as usually there is in such cases. But the 'Fairfax Papers' have recently made it manifest that Pope's tale was the wildest of fictions. The Duke of Buckingham had, to some extent, suffered from his loyalty to the Crown, though apparently sheltered from the main fury of the storm by the interest of his Presbyterian father-in-law; and in his own person he had at one time been carelessly profuse. But all this was nothing. The sting of Pope's story requires him to have been a pauper; and yet—O heaven and incredulous earth!—a pauper hunting upon blood-horses, in a star and garter, and perhaps in a collar of SS! The plain, historical truth, meanwhile, survives, that this pauper was simply the richest man in Christendom; and that, except Aladdin (Oh, yes; always except Aladdin of the Arabian Nights!) there never had been a richer. And thus collapses the whole fable, like a soap-bubble punctured by a surgeon's probe.
II. Yet even this specimen of Pope's propensity to falsehood is far from being the worst. Here were facts scandalously distorted. Falsehoods they were; but, if it had pleased God, they might have been truths. Next, however, comes a fiction so maniacally gross, so incoherent, and so rife with internal contradictions, as to involve its own exposure, literally shrinking from its own intelligible enunciation, burrowing in sentences kept aloof from the text, and calling upon foot-notes to cover it. The case will speak for itself. Pope had undertaken to translate the well-known epistle of Horace to Augustus Caesar; not literally, but upon the principle of adapting it to a modern and English treatment of its topics. Caesar, upon this system, becomes George the Second—a very strange sort of Caesar; and Pope is supposed to have been laughing at him, which may be the color that Pope gave to the travesty amongst his private circle; otherwise there is nothing in the expressions to sustain such a construction. Rome, with a little more propriety, masquerades as England, and France as Greece, or, more strictly, as Athens. Now, by such a transformation, already from the very beginning Pope was preparing for himself a dire necessity of falsehood. And he must have known it. Once launched upon such a course, he became pledged and committed to all the difficulties which it might impose. Desperate necessities would arise, from which nothing but desperate lying and hard swearing could extricate him. The impossibility of carrying through the parallel by means of genuine correspondences threw him for his sole resource upon such as were extravagantly spurious; and apparently he had made up his mind to cut his way through the ice, though all the truths that ever were embattled against Baron Munchausen should oppose his advance. Accordingly about the middle of the Epistle, a dilemma occurs from which no escape or deliverance is possible, except by an almighty falsehood. Take the leap Pope must, or else he must turn back when half-way through. Horace had occasion to observe that, after Rome had made a conquest of Greece by force of arms, captive Greece retaliated upon her conqueror by another kind of victory, namely, by that of arts: [Footnote 10]—
'Graecia capta ferum ietorera cepit, et artes
Intulit agresti Latio.'
Now, in the corresponding case (as Pope had arranged it) between England and France, the parallel certainly held good as far as the military conquest. England, it was undeniable, had conquered France in that sense, as completely as ever Rome had conquered Greece or Macedon. Two English kings had seated themselves in succession upon the throne of France—one virtually, one formally. So far all was tight, and held water. Nothing could disturb that part of the case. But next came the retaliatory conquest, by means of arts and letters. How was this to be dealt with? What shadow or dream of a correspondency could be made out there? What impudence could face that? Already, in Pope's ears, sounded the trumpet of recall; and Pope mused a, little: but 'No,' he said in effect, 'I will not turn back. Why should I? It is but one astounding falsehood that is wanted to set me free.' I will venture to say that Mendez Pinto, the Portuguese liar, that Sir John Mandeville, the traveller, that Baron Munchausen, the most philosophic of bold adventurers into the back settlements of lying, never soared into such an aerial bounce, never cleared such a rasper of a fence, as did Pope on this occasion. He boldly took it upon his honor and credit that our English armies, in the times of Agincourt and the Regent Bedford, found in France a real, full-grown French literature, packed it up in their baggage-wagons, and brought it home to England. The passage from Horace, part of which has been cited above, stands thus in the translation of Pope:—
'We conquered France, but felt our captive's charms—
Her arts victorious triumphed o'er our arms;
Britain to soft refinements less a foe,
Wit grew polite, and numbers learned to flow.'
Ten years then, before Joan of Arc's execution, [Footnote 11] viz., about 1420 (if we are to believe Pope), or even fifteen years, France had a great domestic literature; and this unknown literature has actually furnished a basis to our own. Let us understand clearly what it is that Pope means to assert. For it is no easy matter to do that where a man dodges behind texts and notes, and shuffles between verse and prose, mystifying the reader, and designing to do so. Under the torture of cross-examination let us force Pope to explain what literature that is which, having glorified France, became the venerable mother of a fine English literature in an early stage of the fifteenth century? The reader, perhaps, fancies that possibly Pope may have expressed himself erroneously only from being a little hurried or a little confused. Not at all. I know my man better, perhaps, than the reader does; and I know that he is trying to hoax us. He is not confused himself, but is bent upon confusing us; and I am bent upon preventing him. And, therefore, again I ask sternly, What literature is this which very early in the fifteenth century, as early as Agincourt, we English found prospering in France, and which, for the benefit of the English intellect, such men as Ancient Pistol, Nym, Bardolph, Fluellen, Capt. Macmorris, Jamy, and other well-known literati in the army of Henry V., transplanted (or, 'as the wise it call,' conveyed) to England? Agincourt was fought in 1415; exactly four centuries before Waterloo. That was the beginning of our domination in France; and soon after the middle of that same fifteenth century, viz., about 1452, our domination was at an end. During that interval, therefore, it must have been, then, or not at all, that this great intellectual revolution worked by France upon England was begun and completed. Naturally, at this point, the most submissive and sycophantish of Pope's friends would feel moved by the devil of curiosity, if not absolutely by the devil of suspicion, humbly to ask for a name or two, just as a specimen, from this great host of Anglo-Gallic wits. Pope felt (and groaned as he felt) that so reasonable a demand could not be evaded. 'This comes of telling lies,' must have been his bitter reflection: 'one lie makes a necessity for another.' However, he reflected that this second lie need not be introduced into the text, where it would have the fatal effect of blowing up the whole bubble: it might be hidden away in a foot-note. Not one person in twenty would read it, and he that did might easily suppose the note to be some unauthorized impertinence of a foolish commentator. Secretly therefore, silently, stealthily—so as to draw as little attention as possible—Pope introduced into a note his wicked little brazen solution of his own wicked and brazen conundrum. France, such was the proposition, had worked a miracle upon English ground; as if with some magician's rod, she had called up spawn innumerable of authors, lyric, epic, dramatic, pastoral, each after his kind. But by whom had France moved in this creation as the chief demi-urgus? By whom, Mr. Pope? Name, name, Mr. Pope! 'Ay,' we must suppose the unhappy man to reply, 'that's the very question which I was going to answer, if you wouldn't be so violent.' 'Well, answer it then. Take your own time, but answer; for we don't mean to be put off without some kind of answer.' 'Listen, then,' said Pope, 'and I'll whisper it into your ear; for it's a sort of secret.' Now think, reader, of a secret upon a matter like this, which (if true at all) must be known to the antipodes. However, let us have the secret. 'The secret,' replied Pope, 'is, that some time in the reign of Charles the Second—when I won't be positive, but I'm sure it was after the Restoration—three gentlemen wrote an eighteen-penny pamphlet.' 'Good! And what were the gentlemen's names?' 'One was Edmund Waller, the poet; one was Mr. Go-dolphin; and the other was Lord Dorset.' 'This trinity of wits, then, you say, Mr. Pope, produced a mountain, price eighteen-pence, and this mountain produced a mouse.' 'Oh, no! it was just the other way. They produced a mouse, price eighteen-pence, and this mouse produced a mountain, viz., the total English literature.' O day and night, but this is wondrous strange! The total English literature—not the tottle only, but the tottle of the whole, like an oak and the masts of some great amiral, that once slept in an acorn—absolutely lying hid in an eighteen-penny pamphlet! And what, now, might this pamphlet be about? Was it about the curing of bacon, or the sublimer art of sowing moonshine broadcast? It was, says Pope, if you must know everything, a translation from the French. And judiciously chosen; for it was the worst (and surely everybody must think it proper to keep back the best, until the English had earned a right to such luxuries by showing a proper sense of their value)—the worst it was, and by very much the worst, of all Corneille's dramas; and its name was 'Pompey.' Pompey, was it? And so, then, from Pompey's loins we, the whole armies of English litterateurs, grubs and eagles, are lineally descended. So says Pope. So he must say, In obedience to his own line of argument. And, this being the case, one would be glad to have a look at Pompey. It is hard upon us literati, that are the children of Pompey, not to have a look at the author of our existence. But our chance of such a look is small indeed. For Pompey, you are to understand, reader, never advanced so far as to a second edition. That was a poor return on the part of England for Pompey's services. And my too sceptical mind at one time inclined to doubt even Pompey's first edition; which was wrong, and could have occurred only to a lover of paradoxes. For Warton (not Tom, but Joe) had actually seen Pompey, and records his opinion of him, which happened to be this: that Pompey was 'pitiful enough.' These are Joe's own words. Still, I do not see that one witness establishes a fact of this magnitude. A shade of doubt, therefore, continues to linger over Pompey's very existence; and the upshot is, that Pompey (not the great, but confessedly) the doubtful, eighteen-penny Pompey, but, in any case, Pompey, 'the Pitiful,' is the Great overriding and tutelary power, under whose inspiration and inaugurating impulse our English literature has blossomed and ripened, root, stem, and branch, through the life-struggles of five centuries, into its present colossal proportions.
Here pause, reader, and look back upon the separate reticulations—so as, if possible, to connect them—in this network of hideous extravagance; where as elsewhere it happens, that one villany, hides another, and that the mere depth of the umbrage spread by fraudulent mystifications is the very cause which conceals the extent of those mystifications. Contemplated in a languid mood, or without original interest in the subject, that enormity of falsehood fails to strike, which, under circumstances personally interesting, would seem absolutely incredible. The outrage upon the intellect actually obscures and withdraws the outrage upon the facts. And, inversely, the affronts to historical accuracy obscure the affronts to good sense. Look steadily for a moment at the three points in the array of impeachments:—
I. In the Red-rose invasion of France, Pope assumes, as a matter of notoriety, that the English invading force went from a land of semi-barbarism to a land of literature and refinement: the simple fact being so conspicuously the other way, that, whilst France had no literature at all, consequently could have nothing to give (there being no book extensively diffused in the France of that period, except the 'De Imitatione Christi,') [Footnote 13] England, on the other hand, had so bright a jewel to offer, that to this hour the whole of Christendom has not matched it or approached it. Even at present, in the case so often supposed, that a man were marooned, that is, confined (as regarded his residence) to one desert island, and marooned also as to books, confined I mean (as regarded his reading) to one sole book, his choice (if he read English) would probably oscillate between Shakspeare and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Now, the Canterbury Tales had been finished about thirty-five years before Agincourt; so exquisitely false, even in this point, is Pope's account. Against the nothing of beggarly France was even then to be set a work which has not been rivalled, and probably will not be rivalled, on our planet.
II. In this comparison of the France and England then existing, historically Pope betrays an ignorance which is humiliating. He speaks of France as if that name, of course, covered the same states and provinces that it now covers. But take away from the France of this day the parts then possessed by Burgundy—take away Alsace, and Lorraine, and Franche Compte—take away the alien territories adjacent to Spain and Navarre—take away Avignon, &c.—take away the extensive duchy of Britanny, &c.—and what remains of that which constituted the France of Pope's day? But even that which did remain had no cohesion or unity as regarded any expanded sentiment of nationality, or the possibilities of a common literature. The moral anachronisms of Pope in this case are absolutely frightful—and the physical anachronisms of Pope also; for the simple want of roads, by intercepting all peaceful and pleasurable intercourse, must have intercepted all growth of nationality, unless when a rare community of selfish interest happened to arise, as when the whole was threatened with conquest or with famine through foreign aggression upon a part.
III. That particular section of the French literature through which, Pope pretends to think (for think he does not) that France absolutely created our own, was the drama. Eighteen-penny Pompey belongs to this section. Now, most unhappily, these two broad facts are emblazoned beyond all power of impudence to darken them. The first is, that our English drama was closing,' or actually had closed, just about the time when the French was opening. Shakspeare notoriously died in 1616, when Corneille [Footnote 14] was yet a child of ten, and the last of Shakspeare's great contemporary dramatists died, according to my remembrance, in 1636; and, in 1635, one year earlier, was first performed the first successful tragedy (the 'Medea') of Corneille. About seven or eight years after that, the Puritans officially suppressed the English drama by suppressing the theatres. At the opening of the Parliamentary war, the elder (that is, the immortal) English drama had finished its career. But Racine, the chief pillar of the French, did not begin until Cromwell was dead and gone, and Charles II. was restored. So, here we have the Asopian fable of the lamb troubling the waters for the wolf; or, in the Greek proverb, ano potamon. The other fact is, that, as no section whatever of the French literature has ever availed to influence, or in the slightest degree to modify, our own, it happens that the dramatic section in particular, which Pope insists on as the galvanizing force operating upon our seers, has been in the most signal repulsion to our own. All the other sections have been simply inert and neutral; but the drama has ever been in murderous antagonism to every principle and agency by which our own lives and moves. [Footnote 15] And to make this outrage upon truth and sense even more outrageous, Pope had not the excuse of those effeminate critics, sometimes found amongst ourselves, who recognise no special divinity in our own drama; that would have been one great crime the more, but it would have been one inconsistency the less. For Pope had been amongst the earliest editors of Shakspeare; he had written a memorable preface to this edition. The edition, it is true, was shocking; and if the preface even was disfigured by concessions to a feeble system of dramatic criticism, rhetorically it was brilliant with the expression of a genuine enthusiasm as to Shakspeare, and a true sympathy with his colossal power.
IV. Yet even this may not be the worst. Even below this deep perhaps there opens a lower deep. I submit that, when a man is asked for a specimen of the Agincourt French literature, he cannot safely produce a specimen from a literature two hundred and fifty years younger without some risk of facing a writ de lunatico inquirendo. Pompey the Pitiful (or, if the reader is vexed at hearing him so called, let us call him, with Lord Biron, in 'Love's Labor's Lost,' 'more than great, great Pompey—Pompey the Huge') was not published, even in France, until about two centuries and a quarter had elapsed from Agincourt. But, as respects England, eighteen-penny Pompey was not revealed; the fulness of time for his avatar amongst us did not arrive until something like two hundred and sixty years had winged their flight from Agincourt. And yet Pope's doctrine had been that, in the conquest of France, we English first met with the Prometheus that introduced us to the knowledge of fire and intellectual arts. Is not this ghastly? Elsewhere, indeed, Pope skulks away from his own doctrine, and talks of 'correctness' as the particular grace for which we were indebted to France. But this will not do. In his own 'Art of Criticism,' about verse 715, he describes 'us brave Britons' as incorrigibly rebellious in that particular. We have no correctness, it seems, nor ever had; and therefore, except upon Sir Richard Blackmore's principle of stealing a suit of clothes 'from a naked Pict,' it is hard to see how we need to thank France for that which, as to us, has no existence. Then, again, Pope acquiesced at other times in an opinion of his early friends, that not Pompey, but himself, was the predestined patriarch of 'correctness.' Walsh, who was a sublime old blockhead, suggested to Pope that 'correctness' was the only tight-rope upon which a fresh literary performer in England could henceforth dance with any advantage of novelty; all other tight-ropes and slack-ropes of every description having been preoccupied by elder funambulists. Both Walsh and Pope forgot ever once to ask themselves what it was that they meant by 'correctness;' an idea that, in its application to France, Akenside afterwards sternly ridiculed. Neither of the two literati stopped to consider whether it was correctness in thought, or metrical correctness, or correctness in syntax and idiom; as to all of which, by comparison with other poets, Pope is conspicuously deficient. But no matter what they meant, or if they meant nothing at all. Unmeaning, or in any case inconsistent, as this talk about 'correctness' may be, we cannot allow Pope so to escape from his own hyperbolical absurdities. It was not by a little pruning or weeding that France, according to his original proposition, had bettered our native literature—it was by genial incubation, by acts of vital creation. She, upon our crab-tree cudgel of Agincourt, had engrafted her own peaches and apricots—our sterile thorn France had inoculated with roses. English literature was the Eve that, in the shape of a rib, had been abstracted from the side of the slumbering Pompey—of unconscious Pompey the Huge. And all at the small charge of eighteen-pence! O heavens, to think of that! By any possibility, that the cost, the total 'damage' of our English literature should have been eighteen-pence!—that a shilling should actually be coming to us out of half-a-crown!
'Tantae molis erat Romanam condere gentem.'
A similar instance of a craze beyond the bounds of perfect physical sanity may be found in Dr. Arnold's nervous paroxysm of horror on hearing St. Paul placed on a level with St. John the Evangelist.
And by the way, as to servants, a great man may offend in two ways: either by treating his servants himself superciliously, or secondly, which is quite reconcilable with the most paternal behavior on his own part, by suffering them to treat the public superciliously. Accordingly, all novelists who happen to have no acquaintance with the realities of life as it now exists, especially therefore rustic Scotch novelists, describe the servants of noblemen as 'insolent and pampered menials.' But, on the contrary, at no houses whatever are persons of doubtful appearance and anomalous costume, sure of more respectful attention than at those of the great feudal aristocracy. At a merchant's or a banker's house, it is odds but the porter or the footman will govern himself in his behavior by his own private construction of the case, which (as to foreigners) is pretty sure to be wrong. But in London, at a nobleman's door, the servants show, by the readiness of their civilities to all such questionable comers, that they have taken their lessons from a higher source than their own inexperience or unlearned fancies.
'Cape of Storms,' which should primae facie be the Cape of Terrors. But it bears a deep allegoric sense to the bold wrestler with such terrors, that in English, and at length to all the world, this Cape of Terrors has transfigured itself into the Cape of Good Hope.
'Heraldic solemnities'— 'Therefore are feasts so solemn and so rare; Since seldom coming in the long year set, Like precious stones they thinly placed are, Or captain jewels in the carcanet.' Shakspeare, 52d Sonnet.
'I give and I bequeath, old Euclio said'—and the ridiculous story of the dying epicure insisting upon having his luxurious dish brought back to his death-bed (for why not? since at any rate, eating or not eating, he was doomed to die) are amongst the lowest rubbish of jest-books—having done duty for the Christian and the Pagan worlds through a course of eighteen centuries. Not to linger upon the nursery silliness that could swallow the legend of epicureanism surviving up to the very brink of the grave, and when even the hypocrisy of medical hope had ceased to flatter, what a cruel memento of the infirmity charged upon himself was Pope preparing whilst he intended nothing worse than a falsehood! He meant only to tell a lie; naturally, perhaps, saying to himself, What's one lie more or less? And behold, if his friends are to be believed, he was unconsciously writing a sort of hieroglyphic epitaph for his own tomb-stone. Dr. Johnson's taste for petty gossip was so keen, that I distrust all his anecdotes. That Pope killed himself by potted lampreys, which he had dressed with his own hands, I greatly doubt; but if anything inclines me to believe it, chiefly it is the fury of his invectives against epicures and gluttons. What most of all he attacked as a moralist was the particular vice which most of all besieged him.
Upon this principle I doubt not that we should interpret the sayings attributed to the seven wise men of Greece. If we regard them as insulated aphorisms, they strike us all as mere impertinences; for by what right is some one prudential admonition separarately illuminated and left as a solemn legacy to all posterity in slight of others equally cogent? For instance, Meden agan—nothing in excess—is a maxim not to be neglected, but still not entitled to the exclusive homage which is implied in its present acceptation. The mistake, meantime, I believe to be, not in the Grecian pleiad of sages, but in ourselves, who have falsely apprehended them. The man, for instance (Bias was it, or who?), who left me this old saw about excess, did not mean to bias me in favor of that one moral caution; this would have argued a craze in favor of one element amongst many. What he meant was, to indicate the radix out of which his particular system was expanded. It was the key-note out of which, under the laws of thorough-bass, were generated the whole chord and its affinities. Whilst the whole evolution of the system was in lively remembrance, there needed no more than this short-hand memento for recalling it. But now, when the lapse of time has left the little maxim stranded on a shore of wrecks, naturally it happens that what was in old days the keystone of an arch has come to be compounded with its superfluous rubbish.
It is no matter of wonder or complaint that a paper written by a correspondent a distance of four hundred miles, or something more, from the press, requiring, therefore, a diaulos of above eight hundred miles for every letter and its answer, a distance which becomes strictly infinite in the case when the correspondent sends no answer at all, should exhibit some press errors. These, having now done their worst, I will not vex the reader or the compositor by recalling. Only with respect to one, viz., the word genuine, which is twice printed for the true word generic, I make an exception, as it defeats the meaning in a way that may have perplexed a painstaking reader. Such readers are rare, and deserve encouragement. [The same diaulos which Mr. De Quincey laments is also the cause of his present paper appearing incomplete. It will be resumed in the next number.—Ed.]
'The two brilliant poets.' As regards Horace, it is scarcely worth while to direct the reader's attention upon inconsistency of this imaginary defiance to philosophic authority with his profession elsewhere of allegiance to Epicurus; for had it even been possible to direct the poet's own attention upon it, the same spirit of frank simplicity which has converted his very cowardice, his unmitigated cowardice (relicta non bene parmula), into one of those amiable and winning frailties which, once having come to know it, on no account could we consent to forego—would have reconciled us all by some inimitable picturesqueness of candor to inconsistency the most shocking as to the fulfilment of some great moral obligation; just as from the brute restiveness of a word (Equotuticum), that positively would not come into the harness of hexameter verse, he has extracted a gay, laughing alias (viz., 'versu quod dicere non est'); a pleasantry which is nowhere so well paralleled as by Southey's on the name of Admiral Tchichakoff:—
'A name which you all must know very well,
Which nobody can speak, and nobody can spell.'
Vain would it be to fasten any blame upon a poet armed with such heaven-born playfulness that upon a verbal defect he raises a triumph of art, and upon a personal defect raises a perpetual memento of smiling and affectionate forgiveness. We 'condone' his cowardice, to use language of Doctors' Commons, many times over, before we know whether he would have cared for our condonation; and protest our unanimous belief, that, if he did run away from battle, he ran no faster than a gentleman ought to run. In fact, his character would have wanted its amiable unity had he not been a coward, or had he not been a rake. Vain were it to level reproaches at him, for whom all reproaches become only occasions of further and surplus honor. But, in fact, for any serious purposes of Horace, philosophy was not wanted. Some slight pretence of that kind served to throw a shade of pensiveness over his convivial revels, and thus to rescue them from the taint of plebeian grossness. So far, and no farther, a slight coloring of philosophy was needed for his moral musings. But Pope's case is different. The moral breathings of Horace are natural exhalations rising spontaneously from the heart under the ordinary gleams of chance and change in the human things that lay around him. But Pope is more ambitious. He is not content with borrowing from philosophy the grace of a passing sanction or countersign, but undertakes to lend her a systematic coherency of development, and sometimes even a fundamental basis. In his 'Essay on Man,' his morals connect themselves with metaphysics. The metaphysics had been gathered together in his chance eclectic rambles amongst books of philosophy, such as Montaigne, Charron, and latterly amongst the fossil rubbish and debris of Bayle's Dictionary. Much also had been suggested to his piercing intellect in conversation, especially with Lord Bolingbroke; but not so exclusively by any means with him as the calumniators of Pope would have us suppose. Adopt he did from all quarters, but Pope was not the man servilely to beg or to steal. It was indispensable to his own comfort that he should at least understand the meaning of what he took from others, though seldom indeed he understood its wider relations, or pursued its ultimate consequences. Hence came anguish and horror upon Pope in his latter days, such as rarely can have visited any but the deathbed of some memorable criminal. To have rejected the verba magistri might seem well, it might look promising, as all real freedom is promising, for the interests of truth; but he forgot that, in rejecting the master, he had also rejected the doctrine—the guiding principle—the unity of direction secured for the inquirer by the master's particular system with its deep internal cohesion. Coming upon his own distracted choice of principles from opposite angles and lines of direction, he found that what once and under one aspect had seemed to him a guiding light, and one of the buoys for narrowing the uncertainties of a difficult navigation, absolutely under another aspect, differently approached and differently associated, did the treacherous office of a spanselled horse, as in past days upon the Cornish and the South Irish coast it was employed—expressly for showing false signals, and leading right amongst breakers. That hortus siccus of pet notions, which had won Pope's fancy in their insulated and separate existence, when brought together as parts and elements of the same system in the elaborate and haughty 'Essay on Man,' absolutely refused to cohere. No doctoring, no darning, could disguise their essential inter-repulsion. Dismal rents, chasms, hiatuses, gaped and grinned in a theory whose very office and arrogant pretension had been to harmonize the dislocated face of nature, and to do that in the way of justification for God which God had forgotten to do for himself. How if an enemy should come, and fill up these ugly chasms with some poisonous fungus of a nature to spread the dry rot through the main timbers of the vessel? And, in fact, such an enemy did come. This enemy spread dismay through Pope's heart. Pope found himself suddenly shown up as an anti-social monster, as an incendiary, as a disorganizer of man's most aspiring hopes. 'O Heavens! What is to be done? what can be done?' he cried out. 'When I wrote that passage, which now seems so wicked, certainly I meant something very good; or, if I didn't, at any rate I meant to mean it.' The case was singular; if no friend of the author's could offer a decent account of its meaning, to a certainty the author could not. Luckily, however, there are two ways of filling up chasms; and Warburton, who had reasons best known to himself for cultivating Pope's favor, besides considerable practice during his youth in a special pleader's office, took the desperate case in hand. He caulked the chasms with philosophic oakum, he 'payed' them with dialectic pitch, he sheathed them with copper and brass by means of audacious dogmatism and insolent quibbles, until the enemy seemed to have been silenced, and the vessel righted so far as to float. The result, however, as a permanent result, was this—that the demurs which had once been raised (however feebly pressed) against the poem, considered in the light of a system compatible with religion, settled upon it permanently as a sullen cloud of suspicion that a century has not availed to dissipate.
'The most interesting person of the Alcibiades class.' But it is thoroughly characteristic of Pope, that the one solitary trait in the Duke's career which interested him, was the fact that a man so familiar with voluptuous splendor should have died on a flock-bed patched with straw. How advantageously does Dryden come forward on this occasion! He, as Mr. Bayes, had some bitter wrongs to avenge; and he was left at liberty to execute this revenge after his own heart, for he survived the Duke by a dozen years. Yet he took no revenge at all. He, with natural goodness and magnanimity, declined to kick the dead lion. And in the memorable lines, all alive and trembling with impassioned insight into the demoniac versatility of the Duke's character, how generously does he forbear every expression of scorn, and cover the man's frailties with a mantle of comprehensive apology, and, in fact, the true apology, by gathering them together, one and all, as the united results of some secret nympholepsy, or some sacred Pythian inspiration:—
'Blest madman! that could every hour employ
In something new to wish or to enjoy;
Now all for rhyming, wenching, fiddling, drinking;
Beside ten thousand freaks that died in thinking'
Strangely enough, the only Duke of Buckingham that interested Pope was not the Villiers that so profoundly interested Dryden and his own generation, but in every sense a mock Duke of Buckingham, a pantomimic duke, that is known only for having built a palace as fine as gilt gingerbread, and for having built a pauper poem. Some time after the death of the Villiers duke, and the consequent extinction of the title, Sheffield, Lord Mulgrave, obtained a patent creating him, not Duke of Buckingham, but by a pawnbroker's dodge, devised between himself and his attorney, Duke of Buckingham_shire_; the ostensible reason for which, as alleged by himself, was, that he apprehended some lurking claim to the old title that might come forward to his own confusion at a future time, and in that case he was ready with this demur: 'You mistake, I am not ham, but ham_shire_.' Such was his account of the matter. Mine is different: I tell the reason thus. He had known the Villiers of old, he knew well how that lubricated gladiator had defied all the powers of Chancery and the Privy Council, for months after months, once to get a 'grip' of him, or a hawk over him. It was the old familiar case of trying to catch a pig (but in this instance a wild boar of the forest) whose tail has been soaped. (See Lord Clarendon, not his History but his Life.) What the Birmingham duke therefore really feared was, that the worst room, the tawdry curtains, the flock-bed, &c., were all a pyramid of lies; that the Villiers had not been thrown; had probably not died at all; but was only 'trying it on,' in readiness for a great demonstration against himself; and that, in case the title of Buckingham were ever finally given away, the Villiers would be heard clattering on horseback up the grand staircase of the new-built Buckingham House, like the marble statue in 'Don Juan,' with a double commission against the false duke and the Government as joint-traders in stolen goods. But if Pope were callous to the splendor of the true Buckingham, what was it that drew him to the false one? Pope must have been well aware that, amongst all the poetic triflers of the day, there was not one more ripe for the 'Dunciad.' Like the jaws of the hungry grave (Acherontis avari), the 'Dunciad' yawned for him, whilst yet only in dim conception as a remote possibility. He was, besides, the most vain-glorious of men; and, being anxious above all things to connect himself with the blood royal, he had conceived the presumptuous thought of wooing Queen Anne (then the unmarried Princess Anne). Being rejected, of course, rather than have no connection at all with royalty, he transferred his courtship to a young lady born on the wrong side of the blanket, namely, the daughter of James II. by Miss Sedley. Her he married, and they reigned together in great pomp over Buckingham House. But how should this have attracted Pope? The fact, I fear is, that Pope admired him, in spite of his verses, as a man rich and prosperous. One morning, in some of his own verses, he lodged a compliment to the Duke as a poet and a critic: immediately the Duke was down upon him with an answering salute of twenty-one guns, and ever afterwards they were friends. But I repeat that, in Pope's own judgment, nine out of ten who found their way into that great menagerie of the 'Dunciad,' had not by half so well established their right of entrance as the Duke.
Even this is open to demur. The Roman literature during the main Punic War with Hannibal, though unavoidably reached by some slight influence from the literature of Greece, was rich in native power and raciness. Left to itself, and less disturbed by direct imitation applied to foreign models, the Roman literature would probably have taken a wider compass, and fulfilled a nobler destiny.
'Joan of Arc's execution'—viz., not by any English, but virtually by a French tribunal, as now, at last, is satisfactorily established by the recent publication, at Paris, of the judicial process itself in its full official records.
The notes are now (i. e., in all modern editions) assigned to their separate authors; though not always in a way to prevent doubts. For instance, Roscoe's notes, except that they are always distinguished by kindness and good sense, are indicated only by the absence of any distinguishing signature. But in the early editions great carelessness prevailed as to this point, and, sometimes, intentional dissimulation.
Which was probably not of French origin. Thomas-a-Kempis, Gerson, and others, have had the credit of it; but the point is still doubtful. When I say that it was extensively diffused, naturally I mean so far as it was possible before the invention of printing. One generation after Agincourt this invention was beginning to move, after which—that is, in two generations—the multiplication of copies, and even of separate editions and separate translations, ran beyond all power of registration. It is one amongst the wonders of the world; and the reason I have formerly explained. Froissart belongs to the courts of England and of Burgundy much more than to that of France.
Hardi, it is scarcely necessary to mention; as he never became a power even in France, and out of France was quite unknown. He coincided in point of time, I believe, most nearly with Francis Beaumont.
Italian, Spanish, and finally German poetry have in succession exercised some slight influence, more or less, over our English poetry. But I have formerly endeavored to show that it is something worse than a mere historical blunder, that, in fact, it involves a gross misconception and a confusion in the understanding, to suppose that there ever has been what has been called a French school in our literature, unless it is supposed that the unimpassioned understanding, or the understanding speaking' in a minor key of passion, is a French invention.