Project Gutenberg's Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 453, by Various

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Title: Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 453
       Volume 18, New Series, September 4, 1852

Author: Various

Editor: William Chambers
        Robert Chambers

Release Date: August 1, 2007 [EBook #22199]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


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Banner: Chambers' Edinburgh Journal


No. 453.   New Series. SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 1852. Priced.


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Occupied as most of us are with our respective worldly concerns, and accustomed to see the routine of common events going on smoothly from age to age, we are little apt to reflect on natural events of a tremendous character, which modern science shews might possibly happen, and that on any day of any year. We think of the land as a firm and solid thing—as terra firma, in short—not recollecting that geology shews how it may rise or sink, so as to pass into new relations to the enveloping sea; how it may be raised, for instance, to such an extent as to throw every port inland, or so far lowered as to submerge the richest and most populous regions. No doubt, the relations of sea and land have been much as they are during historical time; but it is at the same time past all doubt, that the last great geological event, in respect of most countries known, was a submergence which produced the marine alluvial deposits; and when we find that Scandinavia is slowly but steadily rising in some parts at this moment, and that a thousand miles of the west coast of South America rose four feet in a single night only thirty years ago, we cannot feel quite assured, that the agencies which produced that submergence, and the subsequent re-emergence, are at an end. We likewise forgot, in these cool districts of the earth, that we are not quite beyond the hazard of subterranean fire. There are numberless extinct volcanoes in both Britain and France; there are some on the banks of the Rhine; indeed, they are thick-sown everywhere. Now, an extinct volcano is not quite so safe a neighbour as many may suppose. Vesuvius was an extinct volcano from time immemorial till the year 63, when it suddenly broke out again, and soon after destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum; since which time it has never again subsided into entire inactivity. Suppose Arthur's Seat, which is 'within a mile of Edinburgh town,' were to recommence business in like manner, we should like to know at how many years' purchase house property in that beautiful New Town would be selling next day. Yet what is there about an old volcano here more than an old volcano in Italy, to give assurance that its means of annoyance and destruction are absolutely extinguished?

There is, however, in the showings of science, a more serious danger than any of these. Comets were once regarded as most terrific objects, but only in a superstitious way, perplexing nations with fear of change, and shaking pestilence from their horrid hair. During an intermediate enlightened time, these notions passed away; and we have even come to think, that such a visitant of our skies may exercise a beneficial influence. We at least recollect when old gentlemen, after dinner, brightened up at the mention of 'claret 1811,' merrily attributing the extraordinary merits of the liquor to the comet of that year. But comets, in the cool eye of modern science, are not without their terrors. Crossing as they often do the paths of the planets in their progress to and from their perihelia, it cannot but be that they should now and then come in contact with one of these spheres. One, called Lexell's, did come athwart the satellites of Jupiter in 1769, and once again in 1779, so as to be deranged in its own course. It made, indeed, no observable change in the movements of the Jovian train, being of too light a consistence for that; but can we doubt, that it might nevertheless seriously affect the condition of their surfaces, and especially any animal life existing thereon? This very comet, on the 28th of June 1770, passed the earth at a distance only six times that of the moon. There is another called Biela's, which revisits the sun every six years, or a little more; and this busy traveller actually crossed our orbit in 1832, only a month before we passed through the same point in space! Another, which made a grand appearance in the western sky in March 1843, would have involved us in its tail, if we had been only a fortnight earlier at a particular place! Rather fine shaving that in the celestial economics. Now, if we consider that as many as eight comets have been observed telescopically in a single year (1846), we must see that the chance of a collision of this kind is not quite so small as to be unworthy of regard. If it be true that there are thousands of comets, all of which make periodical visits to the near neighbourhood of the sun, it must be evident that the earth, being itself not far, comparatively speaking, from that luminary, must be rather liable as otherwise to a brush from one of these wanderers; and, indeed, the wonder is, that several thousand years should have passed without, so far as we know, any one such collision having taken place.

Seeing what a highly-organised system is formed by the physical and organic arrangements upon our planet, one is apt to think that the scheme of Providence must have been framed with a provision for the complete exclusion of such accidents. To allow of the sudden undoing of all this fair scene, which it has taken thousands of years to bring out in its full proportions, seems like a wanton destruction of valuable property, and we are not disposed to believe that such a thing could be permitted. But we must at the same time remember, that our sense of what is important and consequential has a regard to the earth alone, which is but a trifling atom in the universe. Who can tell what are the limits which the Master of worlds has set to mundane [pg 146]calamity? And assuredly, even though a whole solar system were here and there, now and then, to be remodelled in respect of all such arrangements as have been spoken of, it could not be supposed to be a very great event in the progress of the entire scheme, seeing that astronomy has taught us to regard such systems as no more than particles in the dust-cloud or grains of sand on the sea-shore. It must, then, in sober reasoning be admitted, that our mere abhorrence of so much destruction is no guidance to our judgment on this point; and that for anything we can see of the plans of Providence, an entanglement of our globe with a comet may take place any day, with consequences incalculably damaging for the meantime, though not conclusively destructive, and perhaps necessary as a step towards an improved system of things—the bringing in of what Ben Jonson calls 'an age of better metal.'

In the frame of mind which these speculations induce—not very greatly alarmed about such extraordinary contingencies, yet not insensible to the solemnity of the thought of what may come to pass even before our living eyes—it is curious, and not necessarily unpleasant, to consider what might be the actual phenomena attending a cometary collision. We know not what comets are composed of, but are certain that they consist of some palpable matter, however diffused, for they observe the rules of motion in their revolutions round the sun. On the whole, the most plausible supposition as to their composition, is that which regards them as watery vapour or cloud, of great tenuity. How like, for example, to the doings of a cloud, is the splitting into two, which has been occasionally observed in them! Well, if they be clouds, the coming of one into contact with our earth would most likely deposit with us an immense addition to our stock of water. It would be instantaneous, or nearly so. Only think of a sudden fall of water sufficient to raise the ocean a hundred feet, and submerge all parts of the land which were less than that height above the present level of the sea! There would, of course, be a fearful abridgment of our continents; all big islands would be made little; and many littler ones would cease to be. The surviving lands would be so swept by the flood, that scarcely any of the present features would remain unchanged. All animals and movable things would be engulfed. In a few minutes, this brawling, chattering, bustling world would be stilled in universal death. What a settlement of 'questions' there! What a strike of work! What a command of Silence!

A board of bank directors was hesitating about a bill for L.100, some thinking it rather indifferent paper, others viewing it more favourably; when down comes the cometic flood, and while the manager rings his bell to see what is the matter, it enters by doors and windows, and in an instant closes the whole concern. A criminal court was sitting in expectation of the return of the jury with their verdict. There was one thinking that death may not be far from his door, and a hundred pitying him in the contrast of their own assurance from the imminent foe, when lo! the flood, and judges, jury, criminal, and sympathising audience, are all instantly on a level. A sanitary commission was deliberating on impediments to the bringing in of fresh and the taking away of foul water, and wondering if there ever would be a body of their denomination which could do anything it wished to do for the benefit of a mild, expectant, inactive, suffering public. The comet pours in its fresh water on the instant, and the whole difficulties of the case are at once resolved. A synod had been called to consider some nice point, hardly palpable to common understandings, but which everybody thought a very important point notwithstanding, and three gentlemen speaking at once to contrary purposes were about to be interrupted by a fourth of a different opinion still, when enter comet—a real Moderator—and at one stroke decides what poor mankind had been wrangling about for centuries, and what, to all appearance, but for this 'redding straik,' they would have wrangled about for centuries to come. Lord Augustus Anser had demanded satisfaction of the Honourable Mr Pavo for an injurious remark, and they were proceeding by railway to make a deadly end of it, when, lo! the comet dashes in like an undesired train from a siding, and quashes one of the prettiest quarrels which has happened for a twelvemonth. There was an unpleasant dispute with America about a herring-barrel, and barrels of a different kind were likely to be resorted to to settle it. The Admiralty was all astir as to how many vessels it might be necessary to set afloat for the business. Brother Jonathan was calculating what could be made of the crisis in working out the election of a president. The comet takes upon itself to set the whole naval force of both countries afloat—the 'origo mali' too—and at the same time to countermand the presidential election. So that matter passes. Another president was on the point of electing himself emperor—a loving pair was about to be wed—the Court of Chancery was just commencing a career of reform—a new author was starting into fame with the most brilliant novel of the season—when the comet thwarts every hope. Lloyd's had never calculated on such an accident. On 'Change, if there had been time for a moment's remark, it would have been regarded as a most unheard-of thing. The life-assurance companies, having in their tables made no allowance for such a contingency, would have been ruined by so many policies 'emerging' (oh, word of mockery!) at once, had it not been that there were no survivors to claim the various amounts. Debts, bonds, contracts, obligations of all kinds, in like manner were absolved by the comet, and Creation itself left to open a new score in, it is to be hoped, a less blotted book.

Considered as a reform, our possible event must be viewed with great interest. The patriot's heart is broken, in the ordinary current of things, by the passive resistance he meets with from the great, inert mass of prejudice and contrary interest. His most generous views are thwarted by thousands of accidents which there was no foreseeing when he put the affair down on paper. Tories hate and scandalise him; despots put him in prison; he only can bequeath his scheme to be wrought out by the happy man of a happier age. Here, however, comes me in a besom which sweeps all the old peccant institutions away at one whisk. Church and state are severed, and for ever. The Holy Alliance against the liberties of mankind is broken up—the pomp and corruption of courts is annihilated—bribery and bigotry are no more. What a clean sweep!—how hopeless reaction! Surely the most extravagant views of the Destructives must be gratified and contented at last.

If the event shall ever happen, it cannot be doubted that the present Mankind will leave many interesting memorials of themselves and their progress for the examination of a new race, should such ever arise. When the geologist of the after-world begins his work—who can tell how many hundreds of thousands of years hence?—he will find, over all our stratification and palæontology, a drift containing the remains of the ancient human species—here a tibia of a stockbroker, there the skull of a poet—here a lady's dressing-case in a fossilised state, there a gentleman's box of cigars: besides all these odds and ends, there will doubtless be ruins of temples, fortresses, ships, gin-palaces, and other pertinents of an active, passionate humanity, the purposes of which will form most curious matter of speculation for the more angelic species then at last come upon the earth. Nothing in writing or print will have survived to convey an idea of the state of our knowledge, or of the attainments of our great writers; but it is possible [pg 147]that a few inscriptions may be disinterred, and that through these some glimpses may be obtained of our history, though of a most detached and confused nature. Probably, the most puzzling thing of all will be our warlike implements and munitions; for to one who never thought of harming his neighbour, how incomprehensible must be any tool designed expressly for that purpose! If the intent of these articles be penetrated, they will doubtless be ranged in museums as curious monuments of passions long extinct, just as we see the instruments of torture used by the Inquisition and other ancient judicatories hung up in antiquarian collections of our own day.

Well, well, my dear brethren—you have read thus far without, I hope, being too much distressed by the idea of the physical contingencies to which it is shewn we are liable. Probably you have, each of you, too many matters of sore concern pressing closely upon you, to be much incommoded by possibilities of so infinitesimal a character. It cannot, nevertheless, be amiss, that you should know these amongst other things that may any day leap from the laps of the Parcæ, were it only to expand your souls a little with things superior to the eternal commonplaces of life. It is, after all, a great thing to be a part of so great a system as that revealed to us in the external frame of things, and to feel in what a mighty hand our destiny lies. Even in the danger of what is here styled a Possible Event, there is a grandeur—both as to the event itself, and the Power under whose permission it will, if at all, take place, and our filial relations to that Power, which never leaves us without hope—which, to a high and purified mind, must be felt as more than reconciling.


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We have been reading with profound interest the life and letters of one of the great men of Germany, Barthold Niebuhr, published very recently in an English garb.[1] The original work we have not seen, but we understand it is about one-third larger than the present selection, made in a great measure under the auspices of the Chevalier Bunsen, the friend of Niebuhr, and his immediate successor in the Prussian embassy to Rome. The interest of the book is, indeed, principally derived from the private letters of Niebuhr, the greater part of which were addressed to his early friend, Mme Hensler, whose younger sister was his first wife, and her niece his second. Most unfortunately, the valuable series of his letters to his father was destroyed by fire a short time before his own death; but the account given of him by Mme Hensler is quite sufficient to connect all that remains; and from this, and one or two other sources open to us, we shall try to fill up our present narrative.

Niebuhr is one of those men whose advent forms an era in the history of human knowledge. It is a mistake, however, to suppose that he was the first to infuse even into Roman story that element of doubt which has changed the whole fabric of historical science. If Niebuhr was a mere sceptic, he would be only the humble follower of Bayle, Lesurgnes de Pouilly, and other writers of the last century; but his merit lies in reconstruction—in the jealous care with which he distinguishes between the true monuments of history and the mass of traditional rubbish in which they lay entombed. In his Roman history, however, although by that alone he is known in England, we find only a portion of the intellectual man: he was learned in the learning of all times, modern as well as ancient; and yet he was so completely immersed, not merely as an observer, but as a participator, in the business of the world and the great events of his own time, that even literature seems to have been little more than a study indulged in during the pauses of active life. The history of a mind so vast is by no means, we are aware, adapted for pages like ours; and yet it seems important—indeed indispensable—that in a popular journal, flowing on with the spirit of the age, we should trace some authentic records of the character and career of the man.

Carsten Niebuhr, the father of the historian, had not the advantages of early education. He was no more than a free peasant, living on the marsh-farm in Friesland, which had been possessed by several generations of his ancestors; but at the age of two-and-twenty he put himself under mathematical tutorship at Hamburg, and then studied at Gottingen. He was invited to join a mission which the Danish government determined to send into Arabia; and the proposal, at first scarcely made in earnest to the half-educated young farmer, was accepted by him with eagerness. By a singular fatality, he was the only one of the travellers sent out on this expedition who returned; he was absent more than six years, during four of which he was alone, all his companions being dead. He had added largely to what was previously known of Egypt; had made scientific observations of great value in the deserts of Arabia, and undergone prodigious hardships; but the most remarkable thing was, that his eagerness to fulfil in some measure the purposes of the expedition, made the whole journey a work of preparation and study, as well as of actual exploration. In 1773, being then just forty years of age, he married the orphan daughter of Dr Blumenberg, a Thuringian physician, and lived at Copenhagen, with the rank of captain of engineers, till the year 1778. He then removed to Meldorf, a town in the province of Ditmarsch, Holstein, where he settled for life as collector of the revenues of the district.

Barthold George Niebuhr was born in Copenhagen on the 27th of August 1776; but with the little old town of Meldorf—once the capital of an ancient commonwealth—his earliest associations were connected. A kind of rude equality still reigned in the manners of the rustic population, which was not likely to be disturbed by the influx of the world into a bleak and gloomy district remote from the great roads. Here young Niebuhr grew up a studious and solitary boy; instructed by his father in French, the rudiments of Latin, and above all, in geography and history, which the old traveller taught him to illustrate by maps and plans, and by digging regular fortifications in the garden. The sheriff of Meldorf, and editor of the Deutsches Museum, a man of both fancy and learning, assisted in this early education; and the boy—who had never been a child—employed himself, even at seven years of age, in writing down the instructions he received. In future years, he regretted his having thus 'lost the life of a child.' 'I found matter for my childish fancy only in books, engravings, or conversation. I drew into its sphere all I read, and I read without reason and without aim; but the real world was closed to me, and I could not conceive or imagine anything which had not been first conceived or imagined by another.'

From this second-hand world he removed at the age of thirteen, when he was sent to the school at Meldorf, where the principal, Dr Jäger, gave him as much attention as he could spare for a pupil, who, though much the youngest, was the most advanced in the class. Afterwards, finding it was impossible to do for him what this strange child required, Dr Jäger advised his removal, and gave him a private lesson of an hour every day instead. This was continued with only a few months' interruption and unsuccessful trial of a [pg 148]school at Hamburg, till Barthold was eighteen, when he was sent to the university of Kiel.

His interest in politics dated from a very early period. At the age of eleven, he studied the newspapers, English ones especially, which he read with ease; and his knowledge of geography enabled him to follow all the details of a campaign with vivid interest.

His going to the university was an important incident in his life. His particular vocation, indeed, seems to have been clear enough from even an earlier period; for though he was a learned linguist, history especially, and philology, were the pursuits to which his heart was given. The letters he wrote from Kiel to his parents are amiable, full of affectionate outpourings about the new men and women to whom he was introduced, about his studies, and about his theories. He profits by the kindness of the physician, Dr Hensler, whose house and friendly advice were always accessible; but he declines evening-parties; and contemplates the mountain of knowledge, up whose steep sides he has yet to climb, with profound awe and some anxiety. 'My head swims when I survey what I have yet to learn—philosophy, mathematics, physics, chemistry, natural history. Then, too, I must perfect myself in history, German, and French; study Roman law, and the political constitutions of Europe, as far as I can, &c.; and all this must be done within five years at most.... I must know all these things; but how I shall learn them, Heaven knows! That I shall require them as a learned man, or in any position I may occupy, I am fully convinced.'

In Dr Hensler's house he saw frequently Mme Hensler, the widow of the doctor's son. She was six years older than Niebuhr; but to him, unused to female society, and admitted at once into domestic familiarity with a sensible and engaging woman, this disparity was nothing—perhaps, indeed, it added to the charm. From other sources, we learn that he at first became attached to Mme Hensler herself; but being discouraged as a lover, allowed her to introduce him to her younger sister, Amelia Behrens, a beautiful and intellectual woman; and although the attachment he then formed was not sudden or violent, it became very profound. After his engagement with this lady in 1797, and before his marriage, he visited England; and in Scotland—chiefly in Edinburgh—he spent nearly a year. The account given in his letters of his sojourn in our capital, would interest and amuse many of its present inhabitants. The Edinburgh of 1797 was more different perhaps from its present self in outward things, than in mental characteristics. His remarks on the want of a more open manifestation of feeling and affection among his friends there are striking. 'It is quite a national trait,' he says, 'not to dwell on what concerns us personally, upon what fills our heart; and it is as unnatural to them to hear me speak of the topics upon which I am feeling strongly, as it would be to do the same themselves.... I am far from attributing it to coldness in these good people. It is altogether national, and it is the same with every one I have known here, whatever their rank, calling, learning, or sex. It has quite surprised me, for example, that if you meet a person in whose family some one has been ill, he will hardly allude to it, beyond a short answer to your inquiries, or speak of it with any feeling. In this way, it must be allowed, people may easily be independent of each other. I believe firmly that the Scots love their children—that Playfair is a good father; and yet the former only speak of them because they have them with them in the evenings, and the boys make their presence known: the latter behaves exactly as if his boy were not in the room. So far from inviting me to speak of my relations, so far from Mr Scott making any inquiries as to my father's position—though he is, nevertheless, as much attached to him as possible—they have met every attempt on my part to talk to them on these subjects with a silence which admits of no other explanation, than that it is not in good taste to say much about these things. They have never once asked after my mother and sister.' We have copied the above, because there is no trace in any part of Niebuhr's writings, former or latter, of narrow national judgments; and he repeatedly bears testimony to the fatherly kindness with which he was welcomed, especially in the two houses mentioned in the above extract. It is simply the sense of a difference, and a difference we should be inclined to regret as well as he, between the German and the English or Scotch habit. We shall never forget the earnest, pained manner in which a young German in England once said, when adverting to the case of some very irreproachable English youths, who yet were never heard to express a feeling, scarcely to utter a kind thing: 'Your young countrymen seem to me positively ashamed of being good.'

The diligence of Niebuhr, though often impeded by illness, was immense. Languages, philosophy, history, natural science, all took their turn. His number of languages was not short of twenty at this time, and in some he was profoundly versed—in most, very respectably. But the most remarkable thing through life was his memory, and its wonderful combination of retentiveness and readiness. This, rather than the imaginative power, it was that made his descriptions so graphic. Seeing and retaining everything, he painted as if all history was before him. When he spoke of a striking event, the coast, the mountain-line, or the plain, all the accompaniments rose up and were grouped before him. You felt carried away with him, as if he had lived there, and was taking you up by the way.

His return to Denmark took place late in 1799. A double appointment awaited him at Copenhagen—two government offices, neither bringing in a large salary, but sufficient to allow of his marrying; and accordingly Amelia Behrens became his wife in May 1800. The five following years found him engaged in the civil service at Copenhagen—sometimes in very onerous and uncongenial duties, sometimes in a position of peril, for the bombardment of the city under Nelson took place in 1801, and he keenly entered into every political incident. During this period of five years, his official service was more than once changed, but it seems always to have been connected with finance. He still found time for study, straining every power of his mind, he says, at one time in investigating Roman history, sure 'that the representations of all the moderns, without exception, are but mistaken, imperfect glimpses of the truth.' This Copenhagen life allowed him time but for one visit to his parents; and a disappointment which annoyed him considerably, in what, he thought, a just expectation of preferment, disposed him, in 1806, to accept an offer from the Prussian government of a post at Berlin not unlike that he had occupied in Copenhagen, but promising many advantages in society and literary opportunities.

Never was there a more disastrous commencement of a new career. The Niebuhrs reached Berlin in October 5, 1806, and on the 14th came the dreadful battles of Jena and Auerstadt, while Napoleon, with his conquering army, marched rapidly upon the city, and seven of the Prussian ministers gave in their allegiance to the French without even the ceremony of communicating with their king. The new bank-director shared in the general misfortune, and was forced to fly, with the court and ministry, first to Danzig, then to Konigsberg, afterwards to Memel and Riga. A fearful time it was; yet still Niebuhr could write soothingly to his parents: 'You must not be uneasy: I can earn a living either as a scholar or a merchant; and if I do not succeed in one country, I shall in another.' To Mme Hensler also he wrote cheeringly, but under caution, for all letters were [pg 149]unsafe. In the meantime, the indefatigable student took the opportunity of learning Russian and Sclavonic.

It is difficult to follow out his course distinctly during the next three and a half trying years. He was always employed in the finance department, and for some little time was a privy-councillor; but he differed widely in his views from some of those with whom he worked. His letters shew the most conscientious desire to put aside every thought of personal ease, and to avert from the poor people around, if possible, some part of the calamity which hostile armies and bad government entailed on them; and it is delightful to observe his perfect honesty and plainness of speech as a statesman—his high ideas of truthfulness in all things. Yet they were mournful years; and his health at last thoroughly failing, he sent in his resignation to the king of Prussia, and solicited the office of historiographer, vacant by the death of Müller. This was granted; and in 1810, he and his wife once more found a settled home at Berlin.

And now came the happiest time of his life; though the great delicacy of his wife's health was an obstacle to the feeling of security, and though still the menaces of Napoleon sounded fearfully loud, if not close at hand. The breathing-time, however, was delightful. The university of Berlin was now just opened, and thither came intelligent professors, men of renown in art and science, in knowledge and wisdom. As historiographer to the king, Niebuhr's part was to lecture on history; and now, for the first time, the treasures he had long been amassing came into direct use as the means, through his management, of instructing other minds. He had never before delivered public lectures, and his advantages in manner were not great; but the success of his first essays on the history of Rome, proves how solid and real must have been the information he had to bestow. He was attended not merely by the young men, but by members of the academy, by professors, by military and public men of all grades. It is no wonder that he succeeded thus: he was half a Roman by nature and feeling.

So passed the happy years of his professorship. But again the noise of war was heard, and he and all his coadjutors had to take up arms, and fight the battle of Prussia against the great tyrant of Europe. Most touching anecdotes are told of the bravery and fine behaviour of the native troops. Perhaps no war was ever more nobly sustained, and with such anxious avoidance of cruelty. What a moment it was to Prussia when the news of Bonaparte's abdication reached the country! when there might be some hope of reaping the harvests they had sown, and rebuilding their ruined villages! But the Niebuhrs were never again to know the calm and happy days they had enjoyed. Mme Niebuhr, who had long been declining, was grievously changed for the worse by the anxieties of the war. On the 2d of May 1815, her husband received at Berlin news of his father's death; and on the 21st of June, his beloved Amelia followed. The good Mme Hensler, who had taken alarm, was near to soothe her last hours, and to comfort the husband. Niebuhr had never spoken to his wife of her approaching end: though longing to know her parting wishes, he dared not break the physician's orders against excitement. Once only, a few days before her death, as he was holding her in his arms, he asked her if there was nothing he could do for her sake—no pleasure he could give her. She replied, with a look of unutterable love: 'You shall finish your history whether I live or die!'

They had no family—he was therefore left alone. At first, nature gave way, and it seemed as if he had imbibed his wife's disease—pulmonary consumption—and that he regarded the legacy as a blessing; but his higher nature triumphed. He promised Mme Hensler to live, and try to accomplish his Amelia's wishes, and she, by her kindly influence, won him to something more. She saw that to him a lonely life was nearly impossible, and she had another partner in store for him—Gretchen Hensler, a niece of her late husband. Again he took her counsel; and again, which is perhaps the most extraordinary part of the affair, it proved that she had judged as well for both parties as possible. There was no concealment in the matter; the new Mme Niebuhr perfectly understood his character and his sorrow—understood that she could not be to him what Amelia had been; but she married him in faith and hope, and the life she brought him was peaceful and ultimately happy.

Then another change had to be made. He could no longer bear Berlin. Every one saw that a different position was desirable, and what better than a residence in that country which his literary labours had seemed to mark out as his own? The king of Prussia wanted an ambassador at Rome, to negotiate with the pope certain matters touching the interests of his Catholic subjects, and Niebuhr's appointment was the most natural one possible.

His first impressions of Rome were not favourable, and his first letter was even querulous; but soon his clear single mind grew strong again; and the spirit of his correspondence during the whole seven years of his Roman residence is delightful. Children brought out the fatherly part of his character; his wife was ever his loving and devoted companion; some powerful and interesting minds sought his companionship; and a taste for art was improved by intercourse with the rising young artists who were then at Rome—Cornelius, Overbeck, Schadow; but, above all, the education of Marcus, his eldest child and only boy, who can wonder if he became more and more of a Roman, and if he closed the seventh year of his residence mournfully when preparing for his return to Germany?

His mission had been a difficult one—not that the papal court was unfriendly, but the home instructions were not always clear and consistent. An earnest Protestant himself, he was yet profoundly alive to the duties of rulers towards all their subjects, of all religious beliefs, and wished in every negotiation to make sure of a large measure of real freedom.

When at length the concordatives were agreed to, he was anxious for a recall, on account, chiefly, of the delicate state of Mme Niebuhr's health; but for this he had some little time to wait. It is interesting to see the manner in which he was affected by the passing events of this time.

'Idle talk,' says M. Bunsen, 'on matters of lofty import, and a dwelling with pleasure upon trifling topics, were equally abhorrent to him. I shall never forget how Niebuhr spoke at a princely table in Rome, during the bloody scenes in Greece, of Suli and the Suliots, and the future of the Christian Hellenes, in much the same terms as he has spoken to posterity in a passage of his Roman history, which breathes a noble indignation, and a sense that the brand of infamy still cleaves to us. The prince, a high-minded, amiable, and intelligent man, listened, as did his guests, with attention and sympathy; a serious mood seemed to come over the whole party; a pause occurred. One of the guests, a diplomatist, of Mephistophelian aspect and species, took advantage of it to turn the conversation. One of the eternally repeated trifles of the day—a so-called piece of news that must be repeated to the prince—was skilfully used as a stepping-stone; and in ten minutes, the whole table was alive with a dispute between the spokesman and another person who had contradicted him on a most important point—what "aurora" signified in the slang of the Roman coffeehouses, whether a mixture of chocolate with coffee or not. Niebuhr was silent. At last, with quiet earnestness [pg 150]and dignified mien, he spoke these words: "What heavy chastisements must be still in store for us, when, in such times, and with such events still occurring around us, we can be entertained with such miserable trifles!" All were mute, and Niebuhr also. A long pause ensued; and the mysteries of the Caffé Nuovo were not mentioned again that day.'

The life which Niebuhr led after returning to Germany, was not remarkable as to incident, but it abounded in useful and noble pursuit. He still shunned Berlin; and, on the whole, the university of Bonn appeared to him as the best and most suitable residence for the family, now consisting of five children. He did not take any actual professorship, but he lectured and he wrote. Here he became the centre of a circle of the highest minds of Germany. All prized him; all, young and old, felt the benefit of his presence, his labours, and example. He regularly worked at the history of Rome; but he cultivated his garden, taught and played with his children, and built himself a house. The time was not all passed at Bonn; in 1829, the family visited Holstein and Mme Hensler. A twelve years' absence had produced many alterations, but the love of country and early home was wrought into Niebuhr's heart, and he enjoyed this renewal of youth. A sad calamity, however, awaited him at Bonn. On the night of February the 6th 1830, the new house he had built with such pleasure and care, was burnt completely down. Very little could be saved—excepting, indeed, that the books, being the first object to which his neighbours were attracted when the family were rescued, were for the most part preserved, and also the manuscript of the second volume of his Roman history. The whole correspondence with his father, and many other letters and papers, were destroyed.

This event, though a great shock, he bore with much calmness, and set himself to restore what was lost. Foreign politics did not lose their interest; on the contrary, the French Revolution of 1830 excited all his ardour. At first, he was alarmed, anticipating fresh horrors; but the welcome he gave to Louis-Philippe was most enthusiastic. Dr Arnold describes him as being made quite happy by this turn of the page of present life, and deeply indignant with the Bourbon ministers. His ardour in this cause was indeed the immediate occasion of his fatal illness; for while the French trials were pending, he would go every evening, through severe cold, in the depth of winter, to the news-rooms, and by this exposure caught the inflammatory cold of which he died. On the evening of Christmas-day 1830, this formidable attack began; and on the 1st of January 1831, the excellent man breathed his last, fully conscious of his impending fate, and not less so of that of his beloved partner, who had nursed him during the first two days, but was afterwards too ill to leave her bed. When her husband was informed of this, he turned his face to the wall, and was heard to murmur: 'Hapless house! to lose father and mother at once!' Then, 'Pray to God, children; He alone can help us'—and his attendants saw that he himself was seeking comfort in prayer. Poor Mme Niebuhr survived him but nine days. She had her children with her, and tried to give them counsel; but the shock had been too great for her broken health; she rests in the same grave with him, not far from the glorious river. The king of Prussia erected a monument to his honour.

Niebuhr was only a few months more than fifty-four. Mrs Austin, who saw him in 1828, says: 'His person was diminutive, almost to meanness, but his presence very imposing. His head and eye were grand, austere, and commanding. He had all the authority of intelligence, and looked and spoke like one not used to contradiction. He lived a life of study and domestic seclusion, but he conversed freely and unreservedly.' His habits, we are told by another writer, were temperate and regular. 'He entered with earnest sympathy into all the little interests and conventional jokes of his family and friends; and he writes with quite as much eagerness about Marcus's learning great E; or Cornelia's flowered frock for her birthday, as about consuls or cabinets.' Niebuhr himself says: 'I shall teach little Amelia to write myself, for her mother has no time for it; and the poor little thing might be jealous of Marcus, if one of us did not teach her.' His consideration for his dependents may be illustrated by this remark: 'I wish I had taken the governess's room when we got into the house first; but, anti-revolutionist as I am, I am too much of a democrat to turn her out now in right of superior rank.'

Of his character, some faint idea may be formed from our sketch and extracts; but of the beauty of his thoughts, his soundness, sagacity, the perfect simplicity of his whole style of character, a large acquaintance with his free outpourings to his friends can alone give an adequate notion. We regard them as among the very best private letters we know—of their kind, we mean—for they are not witty, not playful. The reader will not find lightness and grace, but strength and manliness, and, in a remarkable degree, affectionateness. They are the charming utterances of a clear and honest mind, and have made us thankful for the privilege of knowing the inner life of one whose outward works have long had our admiration.


[1] By the Chevalier Bunsen and Professors Brandis and Loebell. 2 vols. 8vo. London: Chapman & Hall. 1852.


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There never was a contested election in the borough of Great Tattleton that I remember but one, and it took place on what was termed the last appeal to the country in the matter of the Reform Bill. Staid and substantial fathers of families doubtless recollect the strife of parties and opinions which filled those times, and in which themselves took part, with all the bootless haste and fervour of twenty; feeling especially indignant that they were not yet householders, as their incorruptible votes might save the nation. England has floated safely through many a conflict of the old and new since then, and more of the kind are coming; but no event in our national history ever appeared to the denizens of Tattleton of half such magnitude as that contested election. Tattleton was an ancient and respectable borough. It has a railway station now, but looks much as it did at the time of my story—a small, old-fashioned country town, situated among corn and orchard lands in one of the cider-making counties, with a newspaper, a sheriff's court, and sundry quiet shops and alehouses. There is an old church there, with high Gothic windows full of painted glass, quaint carving, strange tombs, and a suit of knightly armour hanging between two tattered banners, which the sexton says were carried some time in the wars. Tradition says also, that there is a fine old painting in fresco, whitewashed over from the Reformation, but of that I know nothing. The town had other antiquities. Its stocks were a marvel of age and efficiency. A ducking-stool for scolds yet remained in the courthouse, beside the beam with which they weighed witches against the Bible; but the oldest thing in Great Tattleton was its charter: a native antiquary demonstrated, that it had been signed by King John the day after Runnymede; and among other superannuated privileges, it conferred on the free burghers the right of trade and toll, ward and gibbet, besides that of electing their own mayor and one loyal commoner, to serve in the king's parliament.

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We all believed that Palladium of Tattleton to be kept somewhere in the church, and generations had returned their representatives according to its provisions. But the bounds of the borough were so devious, and the free burghers so thinly scattered among us, that all elections within the memory of man had been quietly managed by the mayor, the town-clerk, and the sheriff. Moreover, an old gateway and two crazy posts had something to do in the business by right of ancient custom. In short, Tattleton was what the advocates of the whole Bill were apt to term a close and sometimes a rotten borough. Its representation had become hereditary—some said, since the Long Parliament—in the Stopford family, who owned at least half the soil, and were supposed to be as old as its charter. One of their ancestors had built the church, another wore the armour and captured the banners that hung in it. The family pew and vault were there; and they had been squires and justices of peace from father to son, dispensing hospitality, work, and law, at their seat of Fern Hall—a great old manor-house, standing deep in a thickly-wooded dell not half a mile from Tattleton. So far as I could learn, the Stopfords had given no ornaments to state or church, but theirs was pre-eminently a safe house. Its martlets were generally fortunate in their connections; and its chiefs had supported the character of moderate reformers, each in his generation. At home, they were lenient magistrates and prudent landlords, never overtaxing their tenantry, and rarely enforcing the game-laws. None of them ever took a first step; but all improvements in the neighbourhood, if once commenced, were certain of their countenance; and in parliament they always voted for any measure of reform which it was evident the people would want no longer.

It was, therefore, in accordance with family principles and practice, that the then reigning squire and M. P., Levison Stopford, Esquire, should take his seat on the ministerial benches, and vote in and out of parliament for the Bill with which all England rang. Levison Stopford did not make brilliant speeches, but he had a fair share of prominence in county business, was a middling landlord, a respectable head of a family, connected by marriage with a Whig peer, the father of a promising son, and, as the newspapers said, four lovely daughters. All these recommendations to public favour could not secure him against division in his native borough. There were Conservatives among us, who clung to the time-honoured institutions of Tattleton, and could not consent to see their ancient privileges, charter, old posts, and all, submerged in those of two adjoining boroughs—Little Tattleton, whose constituency consisted of the beadle, and Lumberdale, to which the earl always nominated his second son; for people already understood, that on the passing of the Bill these three should become one, at least in elections.

Sir Jonas Underwood, of Little Tattleton Park, did not like that prospect—he had been regularly returned by the loyal and independent beadle ever since his majority, a period of some forty years—neither did the Earl of Lumberdale, as the present state of things made his second son's canvass by no means difficult. Both the earl and the baronet possessed some property, and more influence, in our borough, by help of which they warned the loyal Conservatives that their country was in danger, and exhorted Great Tattleton to rush to the rescue. The mayor said, that though he respected birth and breeding, yet, if a country gentleman like Mr Stopford would so far disgrace his family as to vote for a measure which must break down the British constitution, and utterly ruin England in less than twenty years, he, for his own part, felt called upon to oppose him. The town-clerk always said as the mayor did: all the Tories in Tattleton took them for examples, by degrees a party was formed against Stopford on what had hitherto been his own ground; and long before the dissolution, it was known that they intended, as the phrase is, 'to start' Sommerset Cloudesly, Esquire, as an opposing candidate in the Conservative interest.

Sommerset Cloudesly occupied a large but neat brick house on the verge of our town's liberties, with a meadow-like lawn in front, and acres of orchard in the rear. His father had been a small farmer, who bettered his fortune by all manner of money-making speculations—the last of which, a cider-manufactory, and a mill, together with a house he had built, the orchard he had planted, and a handsome strip of landed property, descending to his only son, made him the second man in Tattleton. Sommerset had been what is called carefully educated: ten years of his life had been spent in the house of a clergyman, who received select boarders as part of his own family; five more at a college in Oxford under the direction of a staid tutor; and the residue in a series of fidgets through the house and land left him by his father; for at the time of our story, the worthy cider-maker had long gone to his account.

Sommerset was a tall, thin, genteel-looking man, in his thirtieth year. Motherless, sisterless, and wifeless—strange to say, under such circumstances, he was restless too. It was not a weight of crime that pressed upon his conscience. Cloudesly's life had been as harmless as those of his own apple-trees. It was not inordinate ambition that disturbed his days, for though, like most of us, Sommerset would have rather preferred being a great man, could greatness be easily come at, he lost no labour in its pursuit. Neither was it love that besieged his peace; for, except Miss Lily Prior, old Tom the brewer's daughter, who sat in the same pew at church, Sommerset had never been known to look on one of womankind with attention. Perhaps the carefulness of his education might have done it. Life could not be entirely folded up like a napkin, and put into its proper drawer; and everything annoyed Sommerset Cloudesly. The coming off of his waistcoat button was the destruction of Messina. The world was going to ruin if his horse lost a shoe. Like the idle family in the Eastern tale, he could draw a disturbance from the future also, and many a heart-quake had he regarding what might happen. His Oxford tutor had made him a strong Tory; old Cloudesly had averred, that was the only politics for a gentleman; and though Sommerset believed in all the alarms of his time, his faith being particularly strong for terrors, he had always supposed himself to be somebody. Sir Jonas and the Earl of Lumberdale assured him he was the hope of Tattleton; and, in an evil hour, he consented, in electioneering phrase, to contest the borough.

With his relations, who regarded Sommerset as their top branch, the step was in high favour; and all his friends came out strong in approbation, excepting old Tom Prior. He had been the consulting friend and boon-companion of old Cloudesly forty years before, when the one began to brew beer and the other to make cider. Tom's brewery had not paid him so well as old Cloudesly's apples. He had been the first to establish a business of the kind in Tattleton. There were three there at the time of the election; but the townspeople still knew him familiarly as the brewer, though he had long become a sleeping partner, having saved enough for himself and his old wife to live on in a cottage covered with grape vines, at the end of a long green lane in which the main street of Tattleton dwindled away. There was, besides, a thousand pounds for Lily, the heiress-apparent, moreover, of his interest in the brewery. Tom said 'he had no notion of politics, being entirely given to beer; and who was right about that there Bill he couldn't say, but he never knowed an honest man as made money by a contested election.' Old Mrs Prior always echoed what her husband said, besides knitting [pg 152]a perpetual stocking that was her only occupation; but Tom and his wife were old people now, and in small intimacy with the college-bred young Cloudesly, though they sat in the same church-pew, and some thought their daughter Lily was also a friend to our proposed member. Lily was as pretty a girl as could be found in all Tattleton, which, together with her prospects, rather insured admirers; but Lily took no trouble with any of them, and it was believed that the old folks rather wished she should not be in a hurry.

That was no wonder; for, in this fidgety world, Lily Prior was a treasure. Nothing ever disturbed her. Her hair might go out of curl, or her friends out of humour; her bonnet might take unbecoming fits, as I am told bonnets sometimes do, but her equanimity remained unruffled, and her days were spent in knitting beside her mother in the little oak parlour, taking quiet walks, and hoeing peacefully in her own flower-garden. Spiteful people said, that Lily was beginning to look old-maidish, but I never saw it in her calm face. It was also said—what didn't they say in Great Tattleton?—that her muslin dress and crimped collar were more carefully arranged when Sommerset Cloudesly might be expected to walk that way; but Lily's strongest demonstration was 'Dear me!' and that she said on hearing of his intended contest. A perilous contest it seemed for Sommerset Cloudesly. Stopford was by far the richer and more influential man; the interest of his party, his aristocratic connections, and his individual pride, all determined him to keep his ground; and the generally prudent man had been heard to declare, that he would spend to the last sixpence of his property, rather than see himself unseated by an upstart simpleton.

Sommerset and his friends had, of course, the accredited weapons of their party wherewith to attack the adversary, and Stopford was called everything, from Radical up to Atheist. Thus the battle began, and fiercely was it fought; but suffice it to say, that all the usual means for obtaining the independent suffrage of freeborn Englishmen were put in requisition. Voters suddenly emerged from corners wherein no freeholds had been previously dreamed of; others were unaccountably absent on the polling-days; the alehouses abounded in trade, and the town in all disorderliness. There was everlasting controversy over claims of residence and ownership, with numerous appeals to our famous charter; and prosecutions for assault and battery occupied our town lawyers the whole succeeding year.

What spites and quarrels are still flourishing among my old neighbours which owe their origin to that election! How many long friendships it split up, and how much family peace it disturbed, I cannot precisely state; but the like did happen. Neither is it within my memory's scope to enlarge on the Countess Dowager of Lumberdale and her seven charming daughters, in elegant morning-dresses, appearing at the poll, where they shook hands with everybody, and shewed a singular acquaintance with family history; nor to relate how Lord Littlemore, Stopford's brother-in-law, and the proudest peer in England, made calls on small shopkeepers and farmers, perhaps to shew what rank could do on important occasions. No manœuvre was left untried by the rival factions, nor any cause of dispute omitted, and the strife increased in bitterness every day. Readers, can any of you explain why people so generally run into the way of whatever they most fear? I never could; but the case is common, and Sommerset Cloudesly was a striking instance. What waves of worry passed over him! and what heaps of annoyance were piled on his spirit during that county election!—a rather tedious business in those unreformed days. His peace was killed with cabbage-stocks on the hustings; his days were devastated by groans; and his soul harrowed by hisses. Nevertheless, both his friends and enemies were amazed to see how well Cloudesly acquitted himself; his speeches, when they could be heard, were models of neat eloquence; and his colours—pea-green and white—were sported with genteel triumph. By and by, however, it became evident to his most sanguine supporter that Sommerset had no chance; Sir Jonas and Lord Lumberdale themselves advised him to give up the contest; but the man had been persuaded that the safety of Great Tattleton, if not that of the British nation, depended on him, and a persuasion once in Sommerset's head was not easily got out. He believed on, in spite of them and fortune. I never found out precisely what the business cost him; nobody dared inquire, and he burned all the accounts; but at length the last day's poll was taken, and amid cheers, yells, and a newly-begun row, Levison Stopford, Esq., was declared duly elected.

Men cannot have Waterloos of their own every day. No wonder, then, that the honourable member's glory was too great for his prudence: scarcely had the poll closed, when it became generally known in front of the Stopford Arms, that there were two barrels of strong beer, which his liberality had devoted to the populace. On the publication of this intelligence, the ancient ceremony of chairing went on with more than usual vigour. It was a quiet autumn evening, but there was no peace for Tattleton. The shops and houses of Stopford's friends were lighting up in every quarter for a grand illumination, while the opposition and the stingy were closing as quickly as possible. Half the rabble of the county were gathered in the streets; all our own respectability occupied doors and windows; and forth from the town-hall, in a substantial armchair, decorated with bunches of ribbons, blue and red—the Stopford colours—borne in high triumph by his most zealous and noisy adherents, came the newly-chosen senator (a rather stout gentleman, and father of a hopeful family), scattering coppers and silver with no sparing hand, from a large canvas bag, among the crowd, who roared and scrambled in all the might of beer. Old politicians said it was a great victory for Whig principles, and many a joke was cracked at the unsuccessful candidate's expense. Some believed he had retired behind bolt and bar; others that he was defying fortune at a late dinner. If the latter statement were true, Sommerset's company must have been small. The Earl and Sir Jonas had long since washed their hands of him, as incorrigibly obstinate. The more influential of his supporters kept out of sight, being rather ashamed of the losing side; and, I grieve to say, the barrels had utterly shaken the faith of many a voteless adherent, the freeholders of our streets and lanes, who now shouted Stopford instead of Cloudesly for ever. Some there were, nevertheless, with souls above barrels—men who had votes, and men who had none—and they collected their forces at the foot of the main street, as vantage-ground from which to groan at the above-mentioned procession, and inform Mr Stopford of their intentions to unseat him for bribery and corruption.

Great Tattleton was not a fighting place—a serious riot had never occurred within the memory of its 'oldest inhabitant;' yet on that evening quiet people began to feel uneasy; and my particular friend, Miss Croply, had selected it as a fitting occasion for her tea-party. Miss Croply was a maiden lady of some fifty years, and great note among us. She drew dividends at the bank; kept her own establishment, consisting of a maid and a boy; and gave select parties. Moreover, Miss Croply was a Tory after her own fashion. She said there was nothing she hated but Radicals and reformers, for all they wanted was to bring down the respectable people, and maybe break the banks. On these principles, she had been in great fervour for Sommerset Cloudesly; and by way of testifying that his defeat had not broken her spirit, Miss Croply assembled [pg 153]the Priors, myself, and two or three other favoured friends, to tea and crumpets prepared by her own fair hands. These requisites were on the table, and the party assembled in the little drawing-room, all but Lily, whom her mother had left to manage some domestic matter (the old lady was particular at times); but at its conclusion, Lily was to come through the lane, over the fields, and up Miss Croply's garden, to avoid the crowd, and shew the beautiful new bonnet she had received that morning as a present from her aunt. We all knew Lily to be exact; but the hour had come, and not the woman.

'Don't draw that curtain, if you please, Mr Prior; I would not gratify the low creatures by looking out!' said Miss Croply, as shouts louder than ordinary rose from the street, and old Tom stepped to the window. The noise came nearer. It sounded like, 'Miss Prior for ever!' We rushed in a body to the windows. Miss Croply herself drew the curtain. There was a woman borne in a garden-chair, dangerously high, by the most zealous of the Cloudeslyites, while the rest followed in applauding procession, augmented every moment, and Tom's hands went together like the 'crack of doom' as he exclaimed: 'By jingo, it's my own daughter!'

Lily it was, in her pretty green gown, white shawl, and gay new bonnet—it was trimmed with pale-green and white: as for her face, it expressed nothing but 'Dear me!' I never saw such philosophy. Out rushed Tom, so did all the men of us, and followed the crowd up the street, and down the lane to the front of Cloudesly's house, where we arrived just in time to see the gallant Sommerset hand Lily from her chair with the air of a man about to kneel. Poor Cloudesly! he was both weak and strong, but a good fellow at heart.

'She wore my colours, and suffered for my sake,' was all he said, as with Lily on his arm he marched back with us to Miss Croply's drawing-room, followed by the crowd, shouting: 'Prior and Cloudesly for ever!'

'Lily, dear, what's the meaning of this?' said old Mrs Prior.

'I thought I would take a look,' said Lily calmly; 'and they all got about me, saying I had on Mr Cloudesly's colours, and'——

'So you did wear his colours,' cried Miss Croply; 'and I'm proud of you for keeping up your principles! Mrs Prior, I always knew there was something great in that girl!'

'It's just the bonnet my aunt sent me,' said Lily; 'and I didn't mean'——

'Never mind what you meant,' cried Miss Croply, in whose mind policy as well as romance might have been at work at that moment: 'we don't want no excuses.'

In short, Lily was made a heroine that evening. Her father and mother thought themselves called upon to rebuke, but it was done rather in the encouraging style, especially when Mr Cloudesly gave the company to understand that henceforth he was to be considered Lily's humble servant. Isn't that the proper phrase, readers? And Miss Prior, who had not her composure to regain, coloured slightly, and finished the matter by saying: 'Dear me!'

I have heard from herself, that she had put on her aunt's bonnet, and come quietly through the lane, when it struck her that she would like to see what was going on, as Miss Croply would allow no looking out at the low creatures; so nearer and nearer to the street did Lily wend, till a boy—are not boys at the bottom of all mischief?—raised the shout that she was wearing Mr Cloudesly's colours; the phalanx then surrounded her, and improvised the triumph which we witnessed. The Tattleton Chronicle was remarkably full upon it. I think, till this day, Lily is regarded as a devoted heroine by all the Tories of Tattleton, for there are Tories there still. But we had a splendid wedding at our church, under Mr Stopford's very nose, before he went to parliament. I can vouch for old Tom and Miss Croply leading off a country-dance the same evening in Prior Cottage; but it is two-and-twenty years ago. There is a tombstone over the old man and his wife. Miss Croply has left her bank deposit to three nieces. Sommerset Cloudesly grew less fidgety long ago, and some people say less genteel, but he brews the best beer, and makes the best cider now in the county. There are ten children in the brick-house, but Mrs Cloudesly looks as composed as ever; and when her husband reads to her at work on the winter nights, as he dutifully does, in the newspapers, she sometimes remarks, at the close of long parliamentary debates, to which Sommerset was always partial: 'What trouble those people have in that House of Commons, my love! Wasn't it really good for you that you lost the Tattleton election?'


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Our readers may probably have from time to time read allusions to 'Sailors' Homes,' without precisely understanding the nature of these institutions. They are based on the fact that sailors, as a class, are little better than children when ashore, and require to be providently cared for, to save them from imposition and misery. The seaman when afloat is so thoroughly accustomed to obey orders, and to be directed and instructed in everything, that he never thinks for himself, and never acquires the least forethought or capability of guiding himself in any position apart from the active duties of his profession; consequently, from time out of mind, he has been especially doomed to be victimised on the land. No sooner has he been paid off after a voyage, than he is—at least at all the great ports—beset with 'crimps,' 'runners,' and other land-sharks, who entice him to low public-houses and lodging-houses, where he is plundered with such extraordinary dispatch, that he frequently loses the results of many months of toil in a few days, or even a few hours.

Of all men, seamen have pre-eminently a claim on public sympathy and protection; no class needs the latter more, and, strange to say, no class has, until a comparatively recent period, received it less. In the words of Thomas Clarkson: 'The grievances of mercantile seamen are a national and crying evil;' and when we reflect on their importance, both as regards commerce and war, it will be acknowledged that it is a national duty to do all that is possible to protect them while ashore, and to ameliorate and improve their lot in every practical way. But this, like many other national duties, has been left to the voluntary exertions of a few practical philanthropists. In the words of Mr Sheriff Alison (now Sir A. Alison), when addressing a meeting at Glasgow, with the view of founding a 'Home' there: 'The seamen are placed in very peculiar circumstances—their virtues are exhibited at sea, and their vices are exhibited on shore. The community is benefited by the former, and they, the sailors, are the victims of the latter. It is therefore more incumbent on those who are enriched by their industry, and protected by their valour, to prevent their falling into those vices to which unhappily so many of them are addicted. As had been so well stated, they could do nothing to improve the character of the seaman without at the same time benefiting all classes of the community.'

There is weighty truth in the last sentence. Undoubtedly, any and all improvements, whether of the physical or moral condition of one class of the community, reacts on all. But especially in the case of seamen, the result would be beneficial to the nation in an incalculable degree. Raise the moral character of the sailor, by inducing in him reformed and provident habits, and he will soon feel that he has a stake in the prosperity and security of his country; and he [pg 154]will indeed repay all that has been done for him by his steady industry in peace, and by his gallantry in war; for we think it is a great error to suppose, as some do, that a mere reckless outcast will fight more bravely than a man who feels that he is a responsible and respected citizen of a great nation, with his own proportionate interests involved in the results of the conflict.

It is to protect the seaman from extortion and temptation while ashore, and to elevate him in the social scale, that the excellent institutions called Sailors' Homes have been projected. Their object is to insure a respectable and truly comfortable 'home' to seamen, at an exceedingly moderate rate of payment; together with other advantages to be hereafter alluded to. An able pamphlet on the subject, by Mr Montague Gore, has recently been published, and we are indebted to him for the statistical information we are about to lay before the reader.

It appears that Captain Elliott, R.N., was the first who conceived the idea of founding Sailors' Homes. This was in 1828. In 1833, one was established at Charleston, in South Carolina; but the first in England was under the auspices of Mr Green, the great shipbuilder and ship-owner of Blackwall, near London, and he originally designed it only for his own numerous seamen, although by a recent regulation others are admitted. Captain Hall, R.N., deserves worthy mention as one of the first promoters of Sailors' Homes, and he has for years indefatigably devoted himself to their formation. He recently visited the chief ports in the kingdom, to observe personally the condition of seamen ashore, and to advocate the establishment of Homes.

The first public Sailors' Home was that of Wells Street, London. It was opened in May 1835; and Mr Gore informs us, that from that time up to December 31, 1851, no less than '54,026 seamen were received into the institution, of which number 15,055 were old or returned boarders. Last year the inmates amounted to 4633, and L.25,160 passed through the secretary's hand of money left in his charge, L.2500 of which was deposited in the savings-bank. The building in Wells Street is capable of holding 320 men, each of whom has a separate berth. The terms of admission are 14s. per week for full-grown men; 12s. per week for lads; and 10s. 6d. per week for apprentices. For this sum they are entitled to lodging [washing also], and four excellent meals daily; the dietary is admirable.... The terms and regulations of Mr Green's establishment are nearly the same as those in Wells Street. It is capable of holding 200 men; and here, too, are to be found equally gratifying proofs of provident habits, instances having occurred of men having as much as L.100 in the Poplar Bank.'

Good libraries are provided at these Sailors' Homes, and the morning-prayers of the Church of England are duly read; but the attendance of the inmates is perfectly voluntary, and no distinction of religious creed bars their admission. This is as it should be, and we have heard the Wells Street Home spoken of in terms of praise and gratitude by seamen who have been boarders there. Seamen of the best character thankfully flock to the Homes, and, consequently, captains prefer to ship their crews from them. Mr Gore says, that in one year 112 ships were manned from the Home in Wells Street.

The Portsmouth Home was opened in April 1851, and has been greatly supported and enlarged by the munificent contributions of the sovereign and some of the nobility. It receives British sailors at 13s. per week for men, and 10s. for boys and apprentices. Concerning it, Sir Edward Parry, governor of Haslar Naval Hospital, says: 'The practice formerly prevalent with the crimps, and other sharks, of besetting the gates of the Hospital, to waylay and beguile the invalids on their discharge, is now almost at an end. This is, I believe, principally to be attributed to our Portsmouth Sailors' Home, from which establishment a boat is generally sent every discharge-day, to give the invalids the opportunity of going there without difficulty—the regulations of the Home being posted up in various parts of the hospital. I am sure it is a comfort and a blessing to all who go there.'

A Home was opened in Dublin in July 1848; and at Bristol, Plymouth, Cork, Dundee, &c., Homes are in course of formation. A magnificent Sailors' Home has long been in course of establishment at Liverpool; but it is not yet opened, although nearly finished. Influential meetings have also been held at Aberdeen, Glasgow, Greenock, &c., to establish Homes at these several ports. No one can conceive how absolutely necessary such institutions are but those who, like ourselves, have seen the way in which seamen are robbed and led astray ashore. Mr Gore gives the public a little insight into the case. 'I visited,' says he,' a short time ago, some of the houses at Wapping and its neighbourhood, into which the sailors are decoyed. These houses are kept by crimps, who waylay the unsuspecting sailors; they are by them conducted to these places, where they find music and dancing going forward; they are induced to take up their abode there, and are often plundered of every farthing they possess. In some houses, I saw several foreigners; and in the days when burking was common, many of these unfortunates were made away with. In Bristol, when a ship arrives, the sailors are surrounded by a set of miscreants, who are called "runners," and are taken by them to houses of the lowest description.... Instances innumerable might be stated of the horrible state of the dens to which seamen are obliged to resort for want of more respectable residences; robberies are of frequent occurrence; and in one, I fear not a solitary case, murder was committed.'

Our object in giving those extracts is, to shew the vital necessity for the formation of Homes at all our leading ports. At Liverpool, for instance, the crimps are so active and speculative in driving their abominable traffic, that no sooner do they hear of a man-of-war being paid off at Portsmouth, or any other naval port, than they send their agents to entice the sailors down to Liverpool. Let us quote one solitary example of the way in which Poor Jack is plundered. 'When Her Majesty's ship Raleigh was paid off at Portsmouth, many of the men were so plundered, that they were obliged to apply to the magistrates for redress. It appears from the notes of the evidence taken before them, that seven of these men were charged L.102 for three days' entertainment at a low public-house, one item being L.6, 2s. for two hours' ride in an omnibus; and a messmate, who came to breakfast with them, was compelled to pay 17s. 4d. for two eggs, some salt beef, and a cup of coffee. It is gratifying to state, at the same time, that nineteen men of this ship were received into the Sailors' Home, Wells Street, London, taking with them L.222, besides their remittance-bills.'

We will make one more extract from Mr Gore's interesting brochure: 'Every seaport has a direct interest in the improvement of the character of the seamen who frequent it, and whose example must exercise considerable influence on the rest of the community. To the ship-owners, as well as to their men, the Homes cannot fail of proving in the highest degree advantageous. Their ships are now often manned by men upon whom, when at foreign ports, little or no dependence can be placed. They care little about the ship in which they sail; they are heedless as to what port they shall return; but the establishment of Homes will induce those who have experienced their advantages, to be desirous of returning to them. It will render the seamen better men and better citizens, and it will cause them to continue with their masters.' We cordially endorse these opinions.

[pg 155]

One great obstacle to the speedy formation of Sailors' Homes, seems to be the outlay necessary in the shape of buildings, &c. On this point we offer, with deference, a suggestion of our own. It is, that hulls of large old ships be bought and fitted up as floating-homes. Such establishments would accommodate a large number of seamen in a very comfortable manner, and could be kept up at an exceedingly moderate annual outlay for repairs. Surely the proprietors of the docks in our large ports could, and would afford a convenient mooring-place at a merely nominal rent.

In conclusion, we may mention, that an establishment of a kindred nature to Sailors' Homes is the 'Asylum for Distressed Seamen' in London. It is supported by voluntary contributions, and receives destitute seamen of all nations. It lodges 100 inmates, and provides them with two good meals daily. It were to be wished that similar asylums were established at every port in the empire.

The philanthropist, Thomas Clarkson, shortly before his death, proposed that all public-houses for seamen's lodgings should be licensed under strict special regulations. This, we think, would be a step in the right direction; but there is nothing like a regular Sailors' Home. Nevertheless, even in the large ports, licensed lodging-houses would be exceedingly useful as auxiliaries to the Homes.



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Uncle Tom's Cabin is the title of an American work, respecting which it is alleged that fifty thousand copies, weighing fifty-five tons, were disposed of in the short period of eight weeks. So high a degree of popularity could not rest on an insufficient foundation.[2] The book is a species of novel or story, designed to portray in vivid colours negro-life in the slave states of America; and such is the graphic and truth-like way in which the authoress, Harriet Beecher Stowe, has strung the whole together, that the production has not only enlisted the sympathy of the Abolitionists, but roused something like a sense of shame in the holders of slaves—hitherto impervious to all remonstrance on the subject. A cheap London reprint of this somewhat interesting book enables us to give a slight sketch of its character.

Uncle Tom is a middle-aged negro slave, on the farm of a Mr Shelby, in Kentucky; he has learned to read, is pious and exemplary, and his hut is resorted to for edification by old and young in the neighbourhood. Tom is married, has several children, and is highly trustworthy. Between his family and that of his owner there is an agreeable intercourse, and to all appearance he is likely to live and die on the estate; but his master falls into pecuniary difficulties; becomes indebted to a wretch, Haley, a dealer in slaves from the south; and he is obliged to part with so much live property to wipe out his obligations. It is arranged that Tom must go, and along with him a young female slave, Eliza, almost white, who is married, and has hitherto acted as lady's-maid to Mrs Shelby. Eliza's pretty boy, Harry, makes up the lot. The first point of interest in the narrative turns on Eliza and her child; and we cannot do better than allow the authoress to enter on the history of this unfortunate female slave and her husband. It is said to be drawn from the life.

'Eliza had been brought up by her mistress from girlhood as a petted and indulged favourite. The traveller in the south must often have remarked that peculiar air of refinement, that softness of voice and manner, which seems in many cases to be a particular gift to the quadroon and mulatto women. These natural graces in the quadroon are often united with beauty of the most dazzling kind, and in almost every case with a personal appearance prepossessing and agreeable. Eliza, such as we have described her, is not a fancy sketch, but taken from remembrance, as we saw her years ago in Kentucky. Safe under the protecting care of her mistress, Eliza had reached maturity without those temptations which make beauty so fatal an inheritance to a slave. She had been married to a bright and talented young mulatto man, who was a slave on a neighbouring estate, and bore the name of George Harris.

'This young man had been hired out by his master to work in a bagging factory, where his adroitness and ingenuity caused him to be considered the first hand in the place. He had invented a machine for the cleaning of the hemp, which, considering the education and circumstances of the inventor, displayed quite as much mechanical genius as Whitney's cotton-gin. He was possessed of a handsome person and pleasing manners, and was a general favourite in the factory. Nevertheless, as this young man was in the eye of the law not a man, but a thing, all these superior qualifications were subject to the control of a vulgar, narrow-minded, tyrannical master. This same gentleman, having heard of the fame of George's invention, took a ride over to the factory, to see what this intelligent chattel had been about. He was received with great enthusiasm by the employer, who congratulated him on possessing so valuable a slave. He was waited upon over the factory, shewn the machinery by George, who, in high spirits, talked so fluently, held himself so erect, looked so handsome and manly, that his master began to feel an uneasy consciousness of inferiority. What business had his slave to be marching round the country, inventing machines, and holding up his head among gentlemen? He'd soon put a stop to it. He'd take him back, and put him to hoeing and digging, and "see if he'd step about so smart." Accordingly, the manufacturer and all hands concerned were astounded when he suddenly demanded George's wages, and announced his intention of taking him home.

"But, Mr Harris," remonstrated the manufacturer, "isn't this rather sudden?"

"What if it is? Isn't the man mine?"

"We would be willing, sir, to increase the rate of compensation."

"No object at all, sir. I don't need to hire any of my hands out, unless I've a mind to."

"But, sir, he seems peculiarly adapted to this business."

"Daresay he may be; never was much adapted to anything that I set him about, I'll be bound."

"But only think of his inventing this machine," interposed one of the workmen, rather unluckily.

"O yes!—a machine for saving work, is it? He'd invent that, I'll be bound; let a nigger alone for that any time. They are all labour-saving machines themselves, every one of 'em. No, he shall tramp!"

'George had stood like one transfixed at hearing his doom thus suddenly pronounced by a power that he knew was irresistible. He folded his arms, tightly pressed in his lips, but a whole volcano of bitter feelings burned in his bosom, and sent streams of fire through his veins. He breathed short, and his large dark eyes flashed like live coals; and he might have broken out into some dangerous ebullition, had not the kindly manufacturer touched him on the arm, and said, in a low tone: "Give way, George: go with him for the present. We'll try to help you yet."

'The tyrant observed the whisper, and conjectured its import, though he could not hear what was said; [pg 156]and he inwardly strengthened himself in his determination to keep the power he possessed over his victim. George was taken home, and put to the meanest drudgery of the farm. He had been able to repress every disrespectful word; but the flashing eye, the gloomy and troubled brow, were part of a natural language that could not be repressed—indubitable signs, which shewed too plainly that the man could not become a thing.

'It was during the happy period of his employment in the factory that George had seen and married his wife. During that period—being much trusted and favoured by his employer—he had free liberty to come and go at discretion. The marriage was highly approved of by Mrs Shelby, who, with a little womanly complacency in match-making, felt pleased to unite her handsome favourite with one of her own class, who seemed in every way suited to her; and so they were married in her mistress's great parlour, and her mistress herself adorned the bride's beautiful hair with orange-blossoms, and threw over it the bridal veil, which certainly could scarce have rested on a fairer head; and there was no lack of white gloves, and cake and wine—of admiring guests to praise the bride's beauty, and her mistress's indulgence and liberality. For a year or two, Eliza saw her husband frequently, and there was nothing to interrupt their happiness, except the loss of two infant children, to whom she was passionately attached, and whom she mourned with a grief so intense as to call for gentle remonstrance from her mistress, who sought, with maternal anxiety, to direct her naturally passionate feelings within the bounds of reason and religion.

'After the birth of little Harry, however, she had gradually become tranquillised and settled; and every bleeding tie and throbbing nerve, once more entwined with that little life, seemed to become sound and healthful; and Eliza was a happy woman up to the time that her husband was rudely torn from his kind employer, and brought under the iron sway of his legal owner.

'The manufacturer, true to his word, visited Mr Harris a week or two after George had been taken away, when, as he hoped, the heat of the occasion had passed away, and tried every possible inducement to lead him to restore him to his former employment.

"You needn't trouble yourself to talk any longer," said he doggedly; "I know my own business, sir."

"I did not presume to interfere with it, sir. I only thought that you might think it for your interest to let your man to us on the terms proposed."

"Oh, I understand the matter well enough. I saw your winking and whispering the day I took him out of the factory; but you don't come it over me that way. It's a free country, sir; the man's mine, and I do what I please with him—that's it."

'And so fell George's last hope: nothing before him but a life of toil and drudgery, rendered more bitter by every little smarting vexation and indignity which tyrannical ingenuity could devise.' One day George visited his wife in a distracted state of feeling. '"I have been careful, and I have been patient," said he; "but it's growing worse and worse: flesh and blood can't bear it any longer. Every chance he can get to insult and torment me, he takes. I thought I could do my work well, and keep on quiet, and have some time to read and learn out of work-hours; but the more he sees I can do, the more he loads on. He says that though I don't say anything, he sees I've got the devil in me, and he means to bring it out; and one of these days it will come out in a way that he wont like, or I'm mistaken."

"O dear! what shall we do?" said Eliza mournfully.

"It was only yesterday," said George, "as I was busy loading stones into a cart, that young Mas'r Tom stood there, slashing his whip so near the horse, that the creature was frightened. I asked him to stop, as pleasant as I could: he just kept right on. I begged him again, and then he turned on me, and began striking me. I held his hand, and then he screamed, and kicked, and ran to his father, and told him that I was fighting him. He came in a rage, and said he'd teach me who was my master; and he tied me to a tree, and cut switches for young master, and told him that he might whip me till he was tired; and he did do it. If I don't make him remember it some time!" And the brow of the young man grew dark, and his eyes burned with an expression that made his young wife tremble. "Who made this man my master—that's what I want to know?" he said.

"Well," said Eliza mournfully, "I always thought that I must obey my master and mistress, or I couldn't be a Christian."

"There is some sense in it, in your case: they have brought you up like a child—fed you, clothed you, indulged you, and taught you, so that you have a good education—that is some reason why they should claim you. But I have been kicked, and cuffed, and sworn at, and at the best only let alone; and what do I owe? I've paid for all my keeping a hundred times over. I won't bear it—no, I won't!" he said, clenching his hand with a fierce frown.

'Eliza trembled, and was silent. She had never seen her husband in this mood before, and her gentle system of ethics seemed to bend like a reed in the surges of such passions.'

The end of this is, that George absconds, and is followed by his wife and child, for she had overheard the bargain as to her transfer, and was resolved to gain her liberty or die in the attempt. She leaves the house stealthily at night, with her boy in her arms, hurries over fields, through swamps and forests, and actually arrives at the Ohio without hinderance. 'Her first glance was at the river, which lay, like Jordan, between her and the Canaan of liberty on the other side. It was now early spring, and the river was swollen and turbulent; great cakes of floating ice were swinging heavily to and fro in the turbid waters. Owing to the peculiar form of the shore on the Kentucky side, the land bending far out into the water, the ice had been lodged and detained in great quantities, and the narrow channel which swept round the bend was full of ice, piled one cake over another, thus forming a temporary barrier to the descending ice, which lodged, and formed a great undulating raft, filling up the whole river, and extending almost to the Kentucky shore. Eliza stood for a moment contemplating this unfavourable aspect of things, which she saw at once must prevent the usual ferry-boat from running, and then turned into a small public-house on the bank, to make a few inquiries.' While resting here, Haley, her infuriated pursuer, who had tracked her, arrived at the ferry, guided, not very willingly, by two slaves, Sam and Andy. Eliza caught a glimpse of the trader, and, frantic with terror, rushed forth. 'A thousand lives seemed to be concentrated in that one moment to Eliza. Her room opened by a side-door to the river. She caught her child, and sprang down the steps towards it. The trader caught a full glimpse of her, just as she was disappearing down the bank; and throwing himself from his horse, and calling loudly on Sam and Andy, he was after her like a hound after a deer. In that dizzy moment her feet to her scarce seemed to touch the ground, and a moment brought her to the water's edge. Right on behind they came; and, nerved with strength such as God gives only to the desperate, with one wild cry and flying leap she vaulted sheer over the turbid current by the shore on to the raft of ice beyond. It was a desperate leap—impossible to anything but madness and despair; and Haley, Sam, and Andy, instinctively cried out, and lifted up their hands, as she did it.

[pg 157]'The huge green fragment of ice on which she alighted pitched and creaked as her weight came on it, but she stayed there not a moment. With wild cries and desperate energy, she leaped to another and still another cake; stumbling, leaping, slipping, springing upwards again! Her shoes are gone—her stockings cut from her feet—while blood marked every step; but she saw nothing, felt nothing, till dimly, as in a dream, she saw the Ohio side, and a man helping her up the bank.

"Yer a brave gal, now, whoever ye ar!" said the man.

'Eliza recognised the voice and face of a man who owned a farm not far from her old home.

"Oh, Mr Symmes!—save me—do save me—do hide me!" said Eliza.

"Why, what's this?" said the man. "Why, if 'tan't Shelby's gal!"

"My child!—this boy—he'd sold him! There is his mas'r," said she, pointing to the Kentucky shore. "Oh, Mr Symmes, you've got a little boy."

"So I have," said the man, as he roughly, but kindly, drew her up the steep bank. "Besides, you're a right brave gal. I like grit wherever I see it."

'When they had gained the top of the bank, the man paused. "I'd be glad to do something for ye," said he; "but then there's nowhar I could take ye. The best I can do is to tell ye to go thar," said he, pointing to a large white house which stood by itself, off the main street of the village. "Go thar; they're kind folks. Thar's no kind o' danger but they'll help you: they're up to all that sort o' thing."

"The Lord bless you!" said Eliza earnestly.

"No 'casion, no 'casion in the world," said the man. "What I've done's of no 'count."

"And oh, surely, sir, you won't tell any one!"

"Go to thunder, gal! What do you take a feller for? In course not," said the man. "Come, now, go along like a likely, sensible gal, as you are. You've arnt your liberty, and you shall have it, for all me."

'The woman folded her child to her bosom, and walked firmly and swiftly away. The man stood and looked after her.

"Shelby, now, mebbe won't think this yer the most neighbourly thing in the world; but what's a feller to do? If he catches one of my gals in the same fix, he's welcome to pay back. Somehow I never could see no kind o' critter a-strivin' and pantin', and trying to clar theirselves, with the dogs arter 'em, and go agin 'em. Besides, I don't see no kind of 'casion for me to be hunter and catcher for other folks neither."

'So spoke this poor heathenish Kentuckian, who had not been instructed in his constitutional relations, and consequently was betrayed into acting in a sort of Christianised manner, which, if he had been better situated and more enlightened, he would not have been left to do.

'Haley had stood a perfectly amazed spectator of the scene, till Eliza had disappeared up the bank, when he turned a blank, inquiring look on Sam and Andy.

"That ar was a tolable fair stroke of business," said Sam.

"The gal's got seven devils in her, I believe," said Haley. "How like a wild-cat she jumped!"

"Wal, now," said Sam, scratching his head, "I hope mas'r'll 'scuse us tryin' dat ar road. Don't think I feel spry enough for dat ar, noway!" and Sam gave a hoarse chuckle.

"You laugh!" said the trader with a growl. "I'll make ye laugh t'other side yer mouths!" and he began laying about their heads with his riding-whip.

'Both ducked, and ran shouting up the bank, and were on their horses before he was up.

"Good-evening, mas'r," said Sam, with much gravity. "I berry much 'spect missis be anxious. Missis wouldn't hear of our ridin' the critters over Lizy's bridge to-night;" and he started off, followed by Andy, at full speed, their shouts of laughter coming faintly on the wind.'

Having gone this length, we may as well conclude the episode of Eliza. It may be generally known, that runaway slaves are in many instances favoured by the kindly aid of a denomination unwearied in well-doing—the Society of Friends. By a family belonging to this respectable body, Eliza, her child, and husband, were succoured and forwarded, under various disguises, to the northern frontier of the States, on their way to Canada. For the final crisis, on the shore of Lake Erie, Eliza was dressed in male attire, and seemed a handsome young man. Harry figured as a little girl.

'Mrs Smyth, a respectable woman from the settlement of Canada, whither they were fleeing, being fortunately about crossing the lake to return thither, had consented to appear as the aunt of little Harry; and in order to attach him to her, he had been allowed to remain the last two days under her sole charge; and an extra amount of petting, joined to an indefinite amount of seed-cakes and candy, had cemented a very close attachment on the part of the young gentleman.

'The hack drove to the wharf. The two young men, as they appeared, walked up the plank into the boat, Eliza gallantly giving her arm to Mrs Smyth, and George attending to their baggage.

'George was standing at the captain's office, settling for his party, when he overheard two men talking by his side.

"I've watched every one that came on board," said one, "and I know they're not on this boat."

'The voice was that of the clerk of the boat. The speaker whom he addressed was Marks, a friend of Haley, who had come on to Sandusky, seeking whom he might devour.

"You would scarcely know the woman from a white one," said Marks. "The man is a very light mulatto. He has a brand in one of his hands."

'The hand with which George was taking the tickets and change trembled a little; but he turned coolly around, fixed an unconcerned glance on the face of the speaker, and walked leisurely toward another part of the boat, where Eliza stood waiting for him.

'Mrs Smyth, with little Harry, sought the seclusion of the ladies' cabin, where the dark beauty of the supposed little girl drew many flattering comments from the passengers.

'George had the satisfaction, as the bell rang out its farewell peal, to see Marks walk down the plank, to the shore; and drew a long sigh of relief when the boat had put a returnless distance between them.

'It was a superb day. The blue waves of Lake Erie danced rippling and sparkling in the sunlight. A fresh breeze blew from the shore, and the lordly boat ploughed her way right gallantly onward.

'Oh what an untold world there is in one human heart! Who thought, as George walked calmly up and down the deck of the steamer, with his shy companion at his side, of all that was burning in his bosom? The mighty good that seemed approaching seemed too good, too fair, even to be a reality; and he felt a jealous dread every moment of the day that something would rise to snatch it from him.

'But the boat swept on—hours fleeted, and, at last, clear and full rose the blessed English shore—shores charmed by a mighty spell—with one touch to dissolve every incantation of slavery, no matter in what language pronounced, or by what national power confirmed.

'George and his wife stood arm in arm as the boat neared the small town of Amherstberg, in Canada. His breath grew thick and short; a mist gathered before his eyes; he silently pressed the little hand that lay trembling on his arm. The bell rang—the boat stopped. Scarcely seeing what he did, he looked out his baggage, and gathered his little party. The [pg 158]company were landed on the shore. They stood still till the boat had cleared; and then, with tears and embracings, the husband and wife, with their wondering child in their arms, knelt down, and lifted up their hearts to God!

''Twas something like the burst from death to life;
From the grave's cerements to the robes of heaven;
From sin's dominion, and from passion's strife,
To the pure freedom of a soul forgiven;
Where all the bonds of death and hell are riven,
And mortal puts on immortality,
When Mercy's hand hath turned the golden key,
And Mercy's voice hath said: "Rejoice, thy soul is free."

'The party were soon guided by Mrs Smyth to the hospitable abode of a good missionary, whom Christian charity has placed here as a shepherd to the outcast and wandering, who are constantly finding an asylum on this shore.

'Who can speak the blessedness of that first day of freedom? Is not the sense of liberty a higher and finer one than any of the five? To move, speak, and breathe, go out and come in unwatched and free from danger! Who can speak the blessings of that rest which comes down on the free man's pillow, under laws which insure to him the rights that God has given to man? How fair and precious to that mother was that sleeping child's face, endeared by the memory of a thousand dangers! How impossible was it to sleep in the exuberant possession of such blessedness! And yet these two had not one acre of ground, not a roof that they could call their own; they had spent their all, to the last dollar. They had nothing more than the birds of the air, or the flowers of the field; yet they could not sleep for joy. "O ye who take freedom from man, with what words shall ye answer it to God?"'

With this episode, we close for the present, and will go into the history of Uncle Tom in a subsequent paper.


[2] We understand that Mrs H. B. Stowe has received from her publishers the sum of ten thousand three hundred dollars, as her copyright premium on three months' sale of Uncle Tom's Cabin.-Boston newspaper.


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The same passion for gold-seeking, which in our day has developed itself in a new form, raged in Europe from the depth of the middle ages till the eighteenth century was far advanced. By the arrival of the latter period, however, a good deal of discredit had been thrown upon the business; awkward revelations had been made; well-authenticated facts had been turned outside in; and, in fine, the world's dread laugh helped not a little to put down the conviction of ages. That conviction did not relate to the existence of natural hoards of the precious metal. Such idle dreams were left to the fanciful and superstitious, whose stores were usually situated in the bosom of mountains, and guarded by gnomes and demons. The others were more rational and practical: they sought to obtain their end by means of legitimate science, based upon virtue and religious faith. This basis is the only thing that since then has been unanimously abandoned; for philosophers are still by no means agreed as to the impossibility of making gold.

Only a few of the gold-seekers of the present day are literary men, for the pickaxe does not very naturally replace the pen; but at the time we speak of, almost the whole tribe were authors. Borel, in 1654, makes the list amount to 4000; but this is an exaggeration; many of his names being imaginary, and some cut into several pieces. We have before us, however, a catalogue by a less zealous compiler, brought between eighty and ninety years further down, containing about 2500 treatises by about 900 authors—a number which we consider not the least remarkable of the facts connected with the hermetic science. All these works, with the exception of a small number, are in Latin; and ten of them are the production of a certain Bernard Trevisanus, to give him his learned name, although he was born at Padua in 1406. We do not, however, particularise this author on account of the value of his books, for we are thankful to say we have never seen his Secret Work of Chemistry, or his Philosophers' Egg, or, in fact, a single line he has written;[3] but we look upon him in his personal character as the very ideal of a gold-seeker; and we are on that account anxious to rescue his name from the obscurity in which it rests.

Bernard's attachment for his life-long profession was spontaneous, perhaps instinctive. He had no need to apply himself to make the precious metals, for he was born with a piece of one of them in his mouth—the piece which is technically called a silver spoon. He had the rank of count; and his father, a doctor of medicine, leaving him a sufficient fortune, he had nothing to do but to enjoy the world in any way he thought fit. We shall see how he managed. When only fourteen years of age, he fell in with one of the works of the Arabian physician Rhasis, and this led him, after four years' labour, to the fountain-head of the occult philosophy, Geber. The latter, next to Hermes himself, is the acknowledged chief of the science, and Trevisan found himself in good hands; although he wished he had made his acquaintance earlier, as he had already spent to no purpose about 800 crowns. The reader must not suppose that the wealth of adepts vanished in the common operations of chemistry; for in point of fact, the material consumed was the material sought for—gold. Some, indeed, supposed that by subliming or purifying the imperfect metals to a high enough degree, they might convert them into the perfect one; but in general it was acknowledged that there was no way of making gold but by means of gold itself. The philosopher's stone, as it was called, was a powder containing the pure essence of gold, and how to obtain this was the question.

Trevisan was not without friends and advisers in the great search. Philosophers gathered about him like bees; and by their assistance, together with the formulæ in the works of Geber, he had soon spent 2000 crowns more. But he was not discouraged. He applied to the treatises of Archelaus, Rufreissa, and Sacro-bosco; associated a monk with him in his experiments; and in the course of three years had rectified spirits of wine more than thirty times, till it reached a point at which no glass was strong enough to hold it. That was very well; but it cost more than 300 crowns, and he was no nearer his object than before.

He now began to dissolve, congeal, and sublime common salt, sal-ammonia, the alums, and copperas; and in distillation, circulation, and sublimation, he spent twelve busy years, at a cost of about 6000 crowns. Trevisan almost lost faith in human science, and set himself earnestly to pray for illumination. In this he was assisted by a magistrate of his own country; but while invoking divine aid, they were all the while working away with marine salt. This substance they continued to rectify for eight months without finding any change in its nature. It will be seen, that the object of all these experiments was to find a solvent powerful enough to separate the essence of gold from its material, the spirit from the body; but it now struck him like a flash of lightning, that aqua fortis must be the thing; and throwing himself upon this substance in its state of greatest intensity, he tried it first upon silver, then upon common mercury—but all in vain.

However, our Bernard was still in the flower of his age—he was only forty-six: nothing for a philosopher. He began to travel, with the view of collecting wisdom [pg 159]in his way; and at length fell in with Maître Geoffrey Leuvrier, a Cistercian monk, a man after his own heart. These congenial companions set to work at first upon hens' eggs, calcining even the shells; till at the end of eight laborious years, devoted to these and other substances, they had acquired the skill of at least preparing in an artistic manner the furnaces used in their operations. After this, he attached himself to another theological friend, who was prothonotary of Berghes, in Flanders; and with him he worked during fourteen months in distilling copperas with vinegar. But the result of the experiments was nothing better than a quartan-ague.

When Bernard began to get better, the interesting intelligence came to his ears, that Maître Henry, confessor of the Emperor Ferdinand III., possessed the secret of the philosopher's stone. Our adept, therefore, set out at once for Germany, and by means of the good offices of friends, and the liberal expenditure of money, obtained an introduction to the fortunate man. With him he set to work with a good heart; but after rectifying and dissolving till they were tired, he found that he had only succeeded in melting away 300 crowns more of his wealth. The thing grew serious. He was now fifty-eight. He could afford to dally no longer: it was necessary to find the secret of the hermetic science at once, or give up the search. Trevisan pondered over his critical position for two entire months; but at the end of that time a ray of hope flashed across the gloom of his meditations. The nature of the hope we do not know; we can only tell what was the course of action on which it determined him. He arose suddenly from his depression, and, girding up his loins, began to travel. He went first to Rome; then to Spain; then to Turkey; then to Greece. He passed into Egypt; then into Barbary; then visited Rhodes; and then traversed a portion of Palestine and Persia. He then returned to France, by way of Messina, and visited England, Scotland, and finally Germany. Wherever he went, it was the same thing. The phantom he followed fled as he pursued; and alike in the heart of London, and in the deserts of the Holy Land, he saw appearing, and then vanishing, in the distance—

The unreached paradise of his despair.

That the secret existed, there could be no doubt; for it was a part of Trevisan's creed that it was born before the Flood; that it was revealed to the Israelites in their passage through the Desert; and that it had thus been handed down through the various generations of men. In his own travels, there was no want of true philosophers here, there, and everywhere. But they were alone; they kept their science to themselves; and they fixed upon the inquirer a stony gaze, which petrified his heart. Pretenders, on the contrary, were as open as day—there was no end to their civilities: but their favours were expensive; they cost altogether, including his travelling expenses, about 13,000 crowns; and he was at length obliged to sell an estate which had produced him the agreeable little revenue of 8000 German florins.

Bernard was now sixty-two years of age, within a year of his grand climacteric. He had succeeded in divesting himself by degrees of all his property, with the exception of what afforded him a very bare subsistence; and his relatives, incensed at a conduct which their ignorance of science prevented them from appreciating, had turned their backs upon him. Poor, friendless, and alone, he had hatched his Philosophers' Egg to some purpose; and now what was he to do? He must, in the first place, find some cheap retirement, where he could at least live; and accordingly he set out for a place he had visited in his travels—the island of Rhodes. Why he should have chosen the island of Rhodes more than any other island, or an island more than any part of the mainland, it would be difficult to tell. But Bernard speedily saw that he had been conducted thither by the hand of destiny; for in his solitary wanderings he encountered a monk whom he at once recognised as a kindred spirit. It would be too long to tell how they fell into talk about the Companions of Cadmus, the Doves of Diana, the Dragon, the Serpent, and the Nymphs; of the Male, the Female, and the Hermaphrodite; of the Hermetic Sulphur which exists in gold, and of the means of coagulating with this sulphur the sacred Mercury. Suffice it to say, that their conversation excited in them an intense desire to experiment, and an absolute conviction that the collision of two such intellects would strike out the sublime spark of truth. But how to manage? Gold could not be made without the aid of gold; and they had not a piece between them. But here the lucky stars of our philosopher interposed. Bernard fell in with a merchant to whom his family was known, and his adventures unknown; and the good man had the kindness to lend him 8000 florins. This was a trifling debt to incur at a time when he stood on the very brink of the Secret; and the two friends set to work with a will. They occupied themselves for three years in dissolving gold and silver; and then discovered that their fund was exhausted, and that nothing remained to them of all their labours but the embers of the fire.

Trevisan applied to philosophy for consolation: he set himself to read attentively Arnold of Villenova. This 'great theologian, skilful physician, and learned alchemist,' as we are assured by Andreas, a celebrated lawyer of his day, was in the habit of making gold at pleasure; but not satisfied with this triumph, he would needs interfere in the concerns of religion, and more especially scandalised the whole orthodox world by affirming, 'that the works of charity and medicine are more agreeable to God than the services of the altar.' He was likewise the master in the sublime science of the famous Raymond Lully, who, as is well known to English history (although the fact is omitted by the historians), converted in one operation 50,000 lbs. weight of mercury, lead, and tin, into pure gold, which was coined into rose nobles. Raymond, like his master, was a great theologian, and the grand aspiration of his life, to which he finally fell a martyr, was the conversion of the infidels. In reading him, also—for Bernard was led naturally from one to the other—he was greatly struck with that blending of religion with science which is observable in almost all the Hermetic books, where the practical part of Christianity, the love of God and man, is inculcated as the fundamental maxim. On this he pondered for eight years, by which time he had attained the ripe age of seventy-three, and then at length the mind of the adept opened to the Secret he had been so long and so blindly pursuing.

His Search was successful. He was now able to separate the pure spirit from the material gold that had all his life been harmonising and fusing, and while reading the books of the alchemists, to collect their truths, and pass over their errors as dross. It was two years before he had fairly accustomed his mind to this view of the subject; but his life was prolonged for five years more, during which time, notwithstanding his poverty and solitude, he probably enjoyed the only real happiness he had ever known. He reached the age of eighty-four, and, in the year 1490, gave up his last breath with a smile. If a bystander had inquired at the moment he was passing away, what it was which gave this illumination to his countenance, and this tranquillity to his heart, he would doubtless have answered, the philosopher's stone.

After his death, he obtained the reputation he had missed when living. His works were widely circulated, and some of them printed so late as 1672. They were reckoned an important help to the student of hermetic science; and the name of the luckless Bernard Trevisan was always included in the list of great adepts.


[3] The French author of the catalogue we allude to (1742) while declaring that it is good for people to know what the books are, counsels them to read very little of them, and to do nothing at all that they recommend.

[pg 160]


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The want of a ready means of lowering boats from vessels in distressed circumstances, has been exemplified with the most tragical results in such cases as those of the Orion, Birkenhead, and Amazon. Mr W. S. Lacon, late of the H.E.I.C.'s service, has invented a plan for making them quickly available, which seems likely to be successful. It was tried on the 5th August by the Regatta Committee at Folkestone, with the approval of a great number of persons professionally qualified to pronounce on the subject. The wind was blowing strongly from the southwest, with a heavy surge running. This proved fortunate, for the better testing of the efficacy of the system. In the first trial, a boat was lowered from the steamer by one man, with several persons on board, and alighted on the water, abaft of the larboard paddle-box, with the utmost safety and apparent comfort, the tackle being released momentarily by the weight of the boat's descent, the vessel at the time steaming at the rate of 12½ knots per hour. It was afterwards hoisted up again by two men. At the second trial, the boat was lowered and cleared from the ship by one man, with Mr Lacon and three men on board, the vessel at the time maintaining full speed. The same experiments were performed several times during the day, in a similarly successful manner. The apparatus employed by Mr Lacon is very compact and simple, being fixed under the deck-seats, so as to be not in the least incommodious. In treating of this patent invention, the Liverpool Mercury says, Mr Lacon has succeeded in 'solving a problem which has hitherto baffled the ingenuity of scientific and practical men, and attaining the "desideratum of lowering boats evenly, and of rapidly disengaging the tackles," by a self-acting contrivance. Mr Lacon takes as his principle the well-known axiom in mechanics, that what is gained in power is lost in time; and although he approves of the method at present in use, as being the best for hoisting up boats: he (seeing that the hoisting need never be a hurried operation) substitutes two single ropes or chains, which, being secured to two broad slings passing round the body of the boat, are then brought inboard on davits, and carried to two concave barrels connected together by means of a shaft. The ends of the ropes or chains are secured to the barrels in such a manner that they will support any amount of weight until such time as the boat has reached the water, when they will disconnect and fall away from their attachment by their own weight, by which means he prevents the possibility of a ship, in its onward progress through a rough sea, dragging forward a lowered boat sideways, and capsizing or swamping it. By means, then, of a friction-strap and pulley round the shaft, one man is enabled to regulate the descent of the boat, which will go down by its own weight; and by means of the parallel action of the two barrels, he lowers both ends uniformly, and insures the boat falling in a proper position on the water.'


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There are, in every fully-peopled country, large numbers of persons whose lives are passed in hardship and misery, and whose greatest exertions can do no more for them than procure the barest means of subsistence. These are greatly to be pitied, and it should be the study of the government, and of all who possess the means, to remove, as far as possible, the causes of their misfortune. It cannot, however, be said that any competition, save only that which they themselves naturally and necessarily exhibit among their class, for obtaining the inadequate amount of employment for which they are fitted, is chargeable with the hardships they endure. It is a melancholy truth, as concerns the individuals, that we cannot extend to them any indirect relief without tending to increase the evil by raising an addition to their number. How, then, is their condition to be mended? The only way, it appears to me, is to fit them for entering into competition with others above them in the social scale by means of instruction, which shall enable them to give a greater value to the services which they render, and thus entitle them to command a greater value of services in return. We need entertain no fear lest, by this letting in competition upon the class above them, we shall lower these latter in the scale of society. So long as the capital in the country shall continue to increase in a greater proportion than its population, there must always be found additional employment and better remuneration for those whose labour is capable of adding to the national wealth. It may with more truth be stated, that the consequence to the community of the existence of any large number of destitute persons, is to keep down the general rate of wages, positively, through the absorption of capital required for their relief, and, negatively, through the absence of those additions to capital which the surplus services of instructed artisans always occasion.—G. R. Porter's Lecture at Wandsworth, entitled 'Services for Services.' London: Clowes. 1851.


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Shepherd loquitur.—An' a wee bit name—canna it carry a weight o' love?—Noctes Ambrosianæ, No. lxxii.

A wee bit name! O wae's the heart
When nought but that is left,
But doubly dear it comes to be
When time a' else hath reft,
An' youth, an' hope, an' innocence,
An' happiness, an' hame,
Are a' concentred in a word,
That word—a wee bit name.
Back through the weary waste o' years
My memory is borne,
An' gurglin' streams, an' thickets green,
An' fields o' yellow corn:
An' lanely glens, an' sunny hills
Upon my spirit gleam,
The phantoms o' the past before
That spell—a wee bit name.
O vision sweet! a fair, fair face,
A young, but thochtfu' brow,
Twa gentle een o' azure sheen,
Are beamin' on me noo.
Be still, my beatin' heart—be still;
It's but an idle dream:
She heeds na though wi' tremblin' joy
I breathe a wee bit name.
A wee bit name! O lives there ane
That never, never felt
Its pathos an' its wizard power
To saften and to melt?
No—callous though the bosom be
Wi' years o' sin an' shame,
'Twill melt like snaw in summer's sun
Before some wee bit name.
A wee bit name! the rod whose touch
Bids hidden waters start,
The torch that lichts the pile upon
The altar o' the heart,
An' kindles what wad else decay,
Into a holy flame:
A sacred influence may lie
Within a wee bit name!

Printed and Published by W. and R. Chambers, High Street, Edinburgh. Also sold by W. S. Orr, Amen Corner, London; D. N. Chambers, 55 West Nile Street, Glasgow; and J. M'Glashan, 50 Upper Sackville Street, Dublin.—Advertisements for Monthly Parts are requested to be sent to Maxwell & Co., 31 Nicholas Lane, Lombard Street, London, to whom all applications respecting their insertion must be made.

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