The Project Gutenberg EBook of Library of the World's Best Literature,
Ancient and Modern  Volume 11, by Various

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Title: Library of the World's Best Literature, Ancient and Modern  Volume 11

Author: Various

Editor: Charles Dudley Warner

Release Date: April 7, 2008 [EBook #25015]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Annie McGuire and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at


Facsimile from an Edict of King Rotharis,

A.D. 643.


LXX  If anybody of another the great toe from the foot
severs, he pays solidi sixteen.
LXXI        If the second toe from the
foot he severs, he pays solidi six.
LXXII            If the third toe he
severs, he pays solidi three.
LXXIII        If the fourth toe he severs,
he pays solidi three.
LXXIIII        If the fifth toe he severs,
he pays solidi two.
LXXV        Upon all these damages
or injuries, above
described, which
among men exempt occurred,
therefore, a heavier punishment,
have we placed than
our ancestors, that the Faida (feud, vendetta), that
is, the hatred, after the receiving the above described
punishment, may cease, and,
moreover, not be required, nor craftiness

[Pg i]










[Pg ii]

Connoisseur Edition



[Pg iii]


Professor of Hebrew,
Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Professor of English in the Sheffield Scientific School of
Yale University, New Haven, Conn.

Professor of History and Political Science,
Princeton University, Princeton, N. J.

Professor of Literature, Columbia University, New York City.

President of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Late Professor of the Germanic and Scandinavian Languages
and Literatures,    Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

Director of the Lick Observatory, and Astronomer,
University of California, Berkeley, Cal.

Professor of the Romance Languages,
Tulane University, New Orleans, La.

Dean of the Department of Arts and Sciences, and Professor of
English and History, University of the South, Sewanee, Tenn.

Professor of Greek and Latin Literature,
University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill.

United States Commissioner of Education,
Bureau of Education, Washington, D.C.

Professor of Literature in the
Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.
[Pg v]



The Island ('The Buccaneer')
The Doom of Lee (same)
Paul and Abel ('Paul Felton')

A Dry Gale ('Two Years Before the Mast')
Every-Day Sea Life (same)
A Start; and Parting Company (same)

DANTE — 1265-1321


From 'The New Life':
Beginning of Love
The First Salutation of His Lady
Her Praise
Her Loveliness
Her Death
The Anniversary of Her Death
The Hope to Speak More Worthily of Her

From the 'Banquet':
Consolation of Philosophy
Desire of the Soul
The Noble Soul at the End of Life

From the 'Divine Comedy':
Hell—Entrance on the Journey Through the Eternal World
Hell—Punishment of Carnal Sinners
Purgatory—The Final Purgation
Purgatory—Meeting with His Lady in the Earthly Paradise
Paradise—The Final Vision

Ernest Renan ('Selected Essays')
Judaism (same)



Impressions of Travel ('A Naturalist's Voyage')
Genesis of 'The Origin of Species' ('Life and Letters')
Curious Atrophy of Æsthetic Taste (same)
Private Memorandum concerning His Little Daughter (same)
Religious Views (same)
Letters: To Miss Julia Wedgwood; To J. D. Hooker; To T. H. Huxley;
To E. Ray Lankester; To J. D. Hooker
The Struggle for Existence ('Origin of Species')
Geometrical Ratio of Increase (same)
Of the Nature of the Checks to Increase (same)
Complex Relations of All Animals and Plants to Each Other in the Struggle
for Existence (same)

Of Natural Selection: or the Survival of the Fittest (same)
Progressive Change Compared with Independent Creation (same)
Creative Design ('Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication')
Origin of the Human Species ('The Descent of Man')



The Two Tartarins
Of "Mental Mirage," As Distinguished From Lying
The Death Of The Dauphin
Jack Is Invited To Take Up A "Profession"
The City Of Iron And Fire
The Wrath Of A Queen>

MADAME DU DEFFAND (Marie de Vichy-Chamrond) — 1697-1780

Letters: To The Duchesse De Choiseul; To Mr. Crawford;
To Horace Walpole
Portrait Of Horace Walpole[Pg vii]

DANIEL DEFOE — 1661-1731


From 'Robinson Crusoe': Crusoe's Shipwreck; Crusoe Makes a New Home;
A Footprint

From 'History of the Plague in London':
Superstitious Fears of the People
How Quacks and Impositors Preyed on the Fears of the People
The People Are Quarantined in Their Houses
Moral Effects of the Plague
Terrible Scenes in the Streets
The Plague Due to Natural Causes
Spread of the Plague through Necessities of the Poor

From 'Colonel Jack':
Colonel Jack and Captain Jack Escape Arrest
Colonel Jack Finds Captain Jack Hard to Manage
Colonel Jack's First Wife Is Not Disposed to be Economical

The Devil Does Not Concern Himself with Petty Matters ('The Modern
History of the Devil')

Defoe Addresses His Public ('An Appeal to Honor and Justice')
Engaging a Maid-Servant ('Everybody's Business is Nobody's Business')
The Devil ('The True-Born Englishman')
There Is a God ('The Storm')


Multatuli's Last Words to the Reader ('Max Havelaar')
Idyll Of Saïdjah And Adinda ('Max Havelaar')

THOMAS DEKKER — 1570?-1637?

From 'The Gul's Horne Booke': How a Gallant Should Behave Himself in
                      Powles Walk
; Sleep

Praise of Fortune ('Old Fortunatus')
Content ('Patient Grissil')
Rustic Song ('The Sun's Darling')
Lullaby ('Patient Grissil')



[Pg viii] Confession of Louis XI.

DEMOSTHENES — 384-322 B.C.


The Third Philippic
Invective Against License of Speech
Justification of His Patriotic Policy


Charles Lamb ('Biographical Essays')
Despair ('Confessions of an English Opium-Eater')
The Dead Sister (same)
Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow (same)
Savannah-La-Mar (same)
The Bishop of Beauvais and Joan of Arc ('Miscellaneous Essays')


The Harvest ('Chants du Paysan')
In Good Quarters ('Poèmes Militaires')
"Good Fighting" (same)
Last Wishes (same)

RENÉ DESCARTES — 1596-1650

Of Certain Principles of Elementary Logical Thought ('Discourse on Method')
An Elementary Method of Inquiry (same)
The Idea of God ('Meditations')


The Present Duty
Conversion of the Church
Two Impressions ('Notes Contemporaines')

SIR AUBREY DE VERE — 1788-1846

The Crusaders
The Children Band ('The Crusaders')
The Rock of Cashel
The Right Use of Prayer
The Church
[Pg ix]

From the 'True History of the Conquest of Mexico':
Capture of Guatimotzin;
Mortality at the Conquest of Mexico;
Of Divine Aid in the Battle of Santa Maria de la Vitoria;
Cortés Destroys Certain Idols

CHARLES DIBDIN — 1745-1814

Sea Song
Song: The Heart of a Tar
Poor Jack
Tom Bowling



The One Thing Needful ('Hard Times')
The Boy at Mugby ('Mugby Junction')
Burning of Newgate ('Barnaby Rudge')
Monseigneur ('A Tale of Two Cities')
The Ivy Green

[Pg xi]



The Oldest Lombardic Manuscript (Colored Plate)
Dante Alighieri (Portrait)
Charles Robert Darwin (Portrait)
"The Ape-Man" (Photogravure)
Alphonse Daudet (Portrait)
Daniel Defoe (Portrait)
"Robinson Crusoe" (Facsimile)
Demosthenes (Portrait)
Thomas De Quincey (Portrait)
René Descartes (Portrait)
Charles Dickens (Portrait)
"Gadshill" (Photogravure)


Richard Henry Dana
Richard Henry Dana, Jr.
Madame du Deffand
Jean F. C. Delavigne
Paul Déroulède
Sir Aubrey De Vere
Charles Dibdin
[Pg 4285]



Richard H. Dana Richard H. Dana

ichard Henry Dana the elder, although he died less than twenty years in 1787, in Cambridge, four years after Washington Irving. He came of a distinguished and scholarly family: his father had been minister to Russia during the Revolution, and was afterwards Chief Justice of Massachusetts; through his mother he was descended from Anne Bradstreet. At the age of ten he went to Newport to live with his maternal grandfather, William Ellery, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and remained until he entered Harvard. The wild rock-bound coast scenery impressed him deeply, and ever after the sea was one of his ruling passions. Only one familiar with all the moods of the ocean could have written 'The Buccaneer'. After quitting college he studied law, and was admitted to the Boston bar. Literature however proved the stronger attraction, and in 1818 he left his profession to assist in conducting the then newly founded North American Review. The critical papers he contributed to it startled the conservative literary circles by their audacity in defending the new movement in English poetry, and passing lightly by their idol Pope. Indeed, his unpopularity debarred him from succeeding the first editor. He withdrew, and began the publication of The Idle Man in numbers, modeled on Salmagundi and the Sketch-Book. His contributions consisted of critical papers and his novelettes 'Paul Felton,' 'Tom Thornton,' and 'Edward and Mary.' Not finding many readers, he discontinued it after the first volume. He then contributed for some years to the New York Review, conducted by William Cullen Bryant, and to the United States Review. In 1827 appeared 'The Buccaneer and Other Poems'; in 1833 the same volume was enlarged and the contributions to The Idle Man were added, under the title 'Poems and Prose Writings.' Seventeen years later he closed his literary career by publishing the complete edition of his 'Poems and Prose Writings,' in two volumes, not having[Pg 4286] materially added either to his verse or fiction. After that time he lived in retirement, spending his summers in his seaside home by the rocks and breakers of Cape Ann, and the winters in Boston. He died in 1879.

Dana's literary activity falls within the first third of this century. During that period, unproductive of great work, he ranked among the foremost writers. His papers in the North American Review, as the first original criticism on this side of the Atlantic, marked an era in our letters. He was one of the first to recognize the genius of Wordsworth and of Coleridge; under the influence of the latter he wrote the poem by which he is chiefly known, 'The Buccaneer.' He claimed for it a basis of truth; it is in fact a story out of 'The Pirate's Own Book,' with the element of the supernatural added to convey the moral lesson. His verse is contained in a slender volume. It lacks fluency and melody, but shows keen perception of Nature's beauty, especially in her sterner, more solemn moods, and sympathy with the human heart. Dana was not so much a poet born with the inevitable gift of song (he would otherwise not have become almost silent during the last fifty years of his life), as a man of strong intellect who in his youth turned to verse for recreation.

Though best known by his poems, he stands out strongest and most original as novelist. 'Paul Felton,' his masterpiece in prose, is a powerful study of a diseased condition of mind. In its searching psychologic analysis it stands quite apart from the more or less flaccid production of its day. He indeed could not escape the influence of Charles Brockden Brown, whom he greatly admired, and he in turn reached out forward toward Poe and other writers of the analytic school. One powerful story of Poe's, indeed, seems to have been suggested by Dana's work: the demon horse in 'Metzengerstein' is a superior copy of the Spectre Horse in 'The Buccaneer.' These stories were not popular in his day: they are too remote from ordinary life, too gloomy and painful; they have no definite locality or nationality; their characters have little in common with every-day humanity. His prose style however is clear, direct, and strong.

Even after he ceased to write, he had an important influence on American letters by the independence of his opinions, his friendships with literary men, chief among whom was Bryant, and his live interest in the younger literature produced under conditions more favorable and more inspiring than he had known.[Pg 4287]


From 'The Buccaneer'

The Island lies nine leagues away;
Along its solitary shore
Of craggy rock and sandy bay,
No sound but ocean's roar,
Save where the bold wild sea-bird makes her home,
Her shrill cry coming through the sparkling foam.

But when the light winds lie at rest,
And on the glassy, heaving sea,
The black duck with her glossy breast
Sits swinging silently,
How beautiful! no ripples break the reach,
And silvery waves go noiseless up the beach.

And inland rests the green, warm dell;
The brook comes tinkling down its side;
From out the trees the Sabbath bell
Rings cheerful, far and wide,
Mingling its sound with bleatings of the flocks
That feed about the vale among the rocks.

Nor holy bell nor pastoral bleat
In former days within the vale;
Flapped in the bay the pirate's sheet;
Curses were on the gale;
Rich goods lay on the sand, and murdered men:
Pirate and wrecker kept their revels then.

But calm, low voices, words of grace,
Now slowly fall upon the ear;
A quiet look is in each face,
Subdued and holy fear.
Each motion gentle; all is kindly done—
Come, listen how from crime this Isle was won.
[Pg 4288]


From 'The Buccaneer'

Who's sitting on that long black ledge
Which makes so far out in the sea,
Feeling the kelp-weed on its edge?
Poor idle Matthew Lee!
So weak and pale? A year and little more.
And bravely did he lord it round this shore!

And on the shingles now he sits,
And rolls the pebbles 'neath his hands;
Now walks the beach; then stops by fits,
And scores the smooth wet sands;
Then tries each cliff and cove and jut that bounds
The isles; then home from many weary rounds.

They ask him why he wanders so,
From day to day, the uneven strand?
"I wish, I wish that I might go!
But I would go by land;
And there's no way that I can find—I've tried
All day and night!"—He seaward looked, and sighed.

It brought the tear to many an eye
That once his eye had made to quail.
"Lee, go with us; our sloop is nigh;
Come! help us hoist her sail."
He shook.—"You know the Spirit Horse I ride!
He'll let me on the sea with none beside!"

He views the ships that come and go,
Looking so like to living things.
O! 'tis a proud and gallant show
Of bright and broad-spread wings,
Making it light around them, as they keep
Their course right onward through the unsounded deep.

And where the far-off sand-bars lift
Their backs in long and narrow line,
The breakers shout, and leap, and shift,
And send the sparkling brine
Into the air, then rush to mimic strife:
[Pg 4289]Glad creatures of the sea, and full of life!—

But not to Lee. He sits alone;
No fellowship nor joy for him.
Borne down by woe, he makes no moan,
Though tears will sometimes dim
That asking eye—oh, how his worn thoughts crave—
Not joy again, but rest within the grave.

To-night the charmèd number's told.
"Twice have I come for thee," it said.
"Once more, and none shall thee behold.
Come! live one, to the dead!"—
So hears his soul, and fears the coming night;
Yet sick and weary of the soft calm light.

Again he sits within that room;
All day he leans at that still board;
None to bring comfort to his gloom,
Or speak a friendly word.
Weakened with fear, lone, haunted by remorse,
Poor shattered wretch, there waits he that pale Horse.

Not long he waits. Where now are gone
Peak, citadel, and tower, that stood
Beautiful, while the west sun shone
And bathed them in his flood
Of airy glory!—Sudden darkness fell;
And down they went,—peak, tower, citadel.

The darkness, like a dome of stone,
Ceils up the heavens. 'Tis hush as death—
All but the ocean's dull low moan.
How hard Lee draws his breath!
He shudders as he feels the working Power.
Arouse thee, Lee! up! man thee for thine hour!

'Tis close at hand; for there, once more,
The burning ship. Wide sheets of flame
And shafted fire she showed before;—
Twice thus she hither came;—
But now she rolls a naked hulk, and throws
A wasting light; then, settling, down she goes.

And where she sank, up slowly came
The Spectre Horse from out the sea.
And there he stands! His pale sides flame.
[Pg 4290]He'll meet thee shortly, Lee.

He treads the waters as a solid floor:
He's moving on. Lee waits him at the door.

They're met. "I know thou com'st for me,"
Lee's spirit to the Spectre said;
"I know that I must go with thee—
Take me not to the dead.
It was not I alone that did the deed!"
Dreadful the eye of that still, spectral Steed!

Lee cannot turn. There is a force
In that fixed eye which holds him fast.
How still they stand!—the man and horse.
"Thine hour is almost past."
"Oh, spare me," cries the wretch, "thou fearful one!"
"My time is full—I must not go alone."

"I'm weak and faint. Oh let me stay!"
"Nay, murderer, rest nor stay for thee!"
The horse and man are on their way;
He bears him to the sea.
Hark! how the Spectre breathes through this still night!
See, from his nostrils streams a deathly light!

He's on the beach, but stops not there;
He's on the sea! that dreadful horse!
Lee flings and writhes in wild despair!
In vain! The spirit-corse
Holds him by fearful spell; he cannot leap.
Within that horrid light he rides the deep.

It lights the sea around their track—
The curling comb, and dark steel wave:
There yet sits Lee the Spectre's back—
Gone! gone! and none to save!
They're seen no more; the night has shut them in.
May Heaven have pity on thee, man of sin!

The earth has washed away its stain;
The sealed-up sky is breaking forth,
Mustering its glorious hosts again,
From the far south and north;
The climbing moon plays on the rippling sea.—
Oh, whither on its waters rideth Lee?
[Pg 4291]


From 'Paul Felton'

He took a path which led through the fields back of his house, and wound among the steep rocks part way up the range of high hills, till it reached a small locust grove, where it ended. He began climbing a ridge near him, and reaching the top of it, beheld all around him a scene desolate and broken as the ocean. It looked for miles as if one immense gray rock had been heaved up and shattered by an earthquake. Here and there might be seen shooting out of the clefts, old trees, like masts at sea. It was as if the sea in a storm had become suddenly fixed, with all its ships upon it. The sun shone glaring and hot on it, but there was neither life, nor motion, nor sound; the spirit of desolation had gone over it, and it had become the place of death. His heart sunk within him, and something like a superstitious dread entered him. He tried to rouse himself, and look about with a composed mind. It was in vain—he felt as if some dreadful unseen power stood near him. He would have spoken, but he dared not in such a place.

To shake this off, he began clambering over one ridge after another, till, passing cautiously round a beetling rock, a sharp cry from out it shot through him. Every small jut and precipice sent it back with a Satanic taunt; and the crowd of hollows and points seemed for the instant alive with thousands of fiends. Paul's blood ran cold, and he scarcely breathed as he waited for their cry again; but all was still. Though his mind was of a superstitious cast, he had courage and fortitude; and ashamed of his weakness, he reached forward, and stooping down looked into the cavity. He started as his eye fell on the object within it. "Who and what are you?" cried he. "Come out, and let me see whether you are man or devil." And out crawled a miserable boy, looking as if shrunk up with fear and famine. "Speak, and tell me who you are, and what you do here," said Paul. The poor fellow's jaws moved and quivered, but he did not utter a sound. His spare frame shook, and his knees knocked against each other as in an ague fit. Paul looked at him for a moment. His loose shambly frame was nearly bare to the bones, his light sunburnt hair hung long and straight round his thin jaws and white eyes, that shone with a delirious glare, as if his mind had been terror-struck. There was a sickly, beseeching smile about[Pg 4292] his mouth. His skin, between the freckles, was as white as a leper's, and his teeth long and yellow. He appeared like one who had witnessed the destruction about him, and was the only living thing spared, to make death seem more horrible.

"Who put you here to starve?" said Paul to him.

"Nobody, sir."

"Why did you come, then?"

"Oh, I can't help it; I must come."

"Must! And why must you?" The boy looked round timidly, and crouching near Paul, said in a tremulous, low voice, his eyes glancing fearfully through the chasm, "'Tis He, 'tis He that makes me!" Paul turned suddenly round, and saw before him for the first time the deserted tract of pine wood and sand which has been described. "Who and where is he?" asked Paul impatiently, expecting to see some one.

"There, there, in the wood yonder," answered the boy, crouching still lower, and pointing with his finger, whilst his hand shook as if palsied.

"I see nothing," said Paul, "but these pines. What possesses you? Why do you shudder so, and look so pale? Do you take the shadows of the trees for devils?"

"Don't speak of them. They'll be on me, if you talk of them here," whispered the boy eagerly. Drops of sweat stood on his brow from the agony of terror he was in. As Paul looked at the lad, he felt something like fear creeping over him. He turned his eyes involuntarily to the wood again. "If we must not talk here," said he at last, "come along with me, and tell me what all this means." The boy rose, and followed close to Paul.

"Is it the Devil you have seen, that you shake so?"

"You have named him; I never must," said the boy. "I have seen strange sights, and heard sounds whispered close to my ears, so full of spite, and so dreadful, I dared not look round lest I should see some awful face at mine. I've thought I felt it touch me sometimes."

"And what wicked thing have you done, that they should haunt you so?"

"Oh, sir, I was a foolhardy boy. Two years ago I was not afraid of anything. Nobody dared go into the wood, or even so much as over the rocks, to look at it, after what happened there."—"I've heard a foolish story," said Paul.—"So once, sir,[Pg 4293] the thought took me that I would go there a-bird's-nesting, and bring home the eggs and show to the men. And it would never go out of my mind after, though I began to wish I hadn't thought any such thing. Every night when I went to bed I would lie and say to myself, 'To-morrow is the day for me to go;' and I did not like to be alone in the dark, and wanted some one with me to touch me when I had bad dreams. And when I waked in the morning, I felt as if something dreadful was coming upon me before night. Well, every day,—I don't know how it was,—I found myself near this ridge; and every time I went farther and farther up it, though I grew more and more frightened. And when I had gone as far as I dared, I was afraid to wait, but would turn and make away so fast that many a time I fell down some of these places, and got lamed and bruised. The boys began to think something, and would whisper each other and look at me; and when they found I saw them, they would turn away. It grew hard for me to be one at their games, though once I used to be the first chosen in. I can't tell how it was, but all this only made me go on; and as the boys kept out of the way, I began to feel as if I must do what I had thought of, and as if there was somebody, I couldn't think who, that was to have me and make me do what he pleased. So it went on, sir, day after day," continued the lad, in a weak, timid tone, but comforted at finding one to tell his story to; "till at last I reached as far as the hollow where you just now frighted me so, when I heard you near me. I didn't run off as I used to from the other places, but sat down under the rock. Then I looked out and saw the trees. I tried to get up and run home, but I couldn't; I dared not come out and go round the corner of the rock. I tried to look another way, but my eyes seemed fastened on the trees; I couldn't take 'em off. At last I thought something told me it was time for me to go on. I got up."

Here poor Abel shook so that he seized hold of Paul's arm to help him. Paul recoiled as if an unclean creature touched him. The boy shrunk back.

"Go on," said Paul recovering himself. The boy took comfort from the sound of another's voice:—"I went a little way down the hollow, sir, as if drawn along. Then I came to a steep place; I put my legs over to let myself down; my knees grew so weak I dared not trust myself; I tried to draw them up,[Pg 4294] but the strength was all gone out of them, and then my feet were as heavy as if made of lead. I gave a screech, and there was a yell close to me and for miles round, that nigh stunned me. I can't say how, but the last thing I knew was my leaping along the rocks, while there was nothing but flames of fire shooting all round me. It was scarce midday when I left home; and when I came to myself under the locusts it was growing dark."

"Rest here awhile," said Paul, looking at the boy as at some mysterious being, "and tell out your story."

Glad at being in company, the boy sat down upon the grass, and went on with his tale:—"I crawled home as well as I could, and went to bed. When I was falling asleep I had the same feeling I had when sitting over the rock. I dared not lie in bed any longer, for I couldn't keep awake while there. Glad was I when the day broke, and I saw a neighbor open his door and come out. I was not well all day, and I tried to think myself more ill than I was, because I somehow thought that then I needn't go to the wood. But the next day He was not to be put off; and I went, though I cried and prayed all the way that I might not be made to go. But I could not stop till I had got over the hill, and reached the sand round the wood. When I put my foot on it, all the joints in me jerked as if they would not hold together, so that I cried out with the pain. When I came under the trees there was a deep sound, and great shadows were all round me. My hair stood on end, and my eyes kept glimmering; yet I couldn't go back. I went on till I found a crow's nest. I climbed the tree, and took out the eggs. The old crow kept flying round and round me. As soon as I felt the eggs in my hand and my work done, I dropped from the tree and ran for the hollow. I can't tell how it was, but it seemed to me that I didn't gain a foot of ground—it was just as if the whole wood went with me. Then I thought He had me his. The ground began to bend and the trees to move. At last I was nigh blind. I struck against one tree and another till I fell to the ground. How long I lay there I can't tell; but when I came to I was on the sand, the sun blazing hot upon me and my skin scorched up. I was so stiff and ached so, I could hardly stand upright. I didn't feel or think anything after this; and hardly knew where I was till somebody came and touched me, and asked me whether I was walking in my sleep; and I looked up and found myself close home.[Pg 4295]

"The boys began to gather round me as if I were something strange; and when I looked at them they would move back from me. 'What have you been doing, Abel?' one of them asked me at last. 'No good, I warrant you,' answered another, who stood back of me. And when I turned around to speak to him he drew behind the others, as if afraid I should harm him;—and I was too weak and frightened to hurt a fly. 'See his hands; they are stained all over.'—'And there's a crow's egg, as I'm alive!' said another. 'And the crow is the Devil's bird, Tom, isn't it?' asked a little boy. 'O Abel, you've been to that wood and made yourself over to Him.'—They moved off one after another, every now and then turning round and looking at me as if I were cursed. After this they would not speak to me nor come nigh me. I heard people talking, and saw them going about, but not one of them all could I speak to, or get to come near me; it was dreadful, being so alone! I met a boy that used to be with me all day long; and I begged him not to go off from me so, and to stop, if it were only for a moment. 'You played with me once,' said I; 'and won't you do so much as look at me, or ask me how I am, when I am so weak and ill too?' He began to hang back a little, and I thought from his face that he pitied me. I could have cried for joy, and was going up to him, but he turned away. I called out after him, telling him that I would not so much as touch him with my finger, or come any nearer to him, if he would only stop and speak one word to me; but he went away shaking his head, and muttering something, I hardly knew what,—how that I did not belong to them, but was the Evil One's now. I sat down on a stone and cried, and wished that I was dead; for I couldn't help it, though it was wicked in me to do so."

"And is there no one," asked Paul, "who will notice you or speak to you? Do you live so alone now?" It made his heart ache to look down upon the pining, forlorn creature before him.

"Not a soul," whined out the boy. "My grandmother is dead now, and only the gentlefolks give me anything; for they don't seem afraid of me, though they look as if they didn't like me, and wanted me gone. All I can, I get to eat in the woods, and I beg out of the village. But I dare not go far, because I don't know when He will want me. But I am not alone, He's with me day and night. As I go along the street in the daytime, I feel Him near me, though I can't see Him; and it is as if He[Pg 4296] were speaking to me; and yet I don't hear any words. He makes me follow Him to that wood; and I have to sit the whole day where you found me, and I dare not complain nor move, till I feel He will let me go. I've looked at the pines, sometimes, till I have seen spirits moving all through them. Oh, 'tis an awful place; they breathe cold upon me when He makes me go there."

"Poor wretch!" said Paul.

"I'm weak and hungry, and yet when I try to eat, something chokes me; I don't love what I eat."

"Come along with me, and you shall have something to nourish and warm you; for you are pale and shiver, and look cold here in the very sun."

The boy looked up at Paul, and the tears rolled down his cheeks at hearing one speak so kindly to him. He got up and followed meekly after to the house.

Paul, seeing a servant in the yard, ordered the boy something to eat. The man cast his eye upon Abel, and then looked at Paul as if he had not understood him. "I spoke distinctly enough," said Paul; "and don't you see that the boy is nigh starved?" The man gave a mysterious look at both of them, and with a shake of his head as he turned away, went to do as he was bid.

"What means the fellow?" said Paul to himself as he entered the house. "Does he take me to be bound to Satan too? Yet there may be bonds upon the soul, though we know it not; and evil spirits at work within us, of which we little dream. And are there no beings but those seen of mortal eye or felt by mortal touch? Are there not passing in and around this piece of moving mold, in which the spirit is pent up, those whom it hears not? those whom it has no finer sense whereby to commune with? Are all the instant joys that come and go, we know not whence nor whither, but creations of the mind? Or are they not rather bright and heavenly messengers, whom when this spirit is set free it will see in all their beauty? whose sweet sounds it will then drink in? Yes, it is, it is so; and all around us is populous with beings, now invisible to us as this circling air."...

The moon was down and the sky overcast when they began to wind among the rocks. Though Paul's walks had lain of late in this direction, he was not enough acquainted with the[Pg 4297] passage to find his way through it in the dark. Abel, who had traversed it often in the night, alone and in terror, now took heart at having some one with him at such an hour, and offered unhesitatingly to lead. "The boy winds round those crags with the speed and ease of a stream," said Paul; "not so fast, Abel."

"Take hold of the root which shoots out over your head, sir, for 'tis ticklish work getting along just here. Do you feel it, sir?"

"I have hold," said Paul.

"Let yourself gently down by it, sir. You needn't be a bit afraid, for 'twill not give way; man couldn't have fastened it stronger."

This was the first time Abel had felt his power, or had been of consequence to any one, since the boys had turned him out from their games; and it gave him a momentary activity, and an unsettled sort of spirit, which he had never known since then. He had been shunned and abhorred; and he believed himself the victim of some demoniac power. To have another in this fearful bondage with him, as Paul had intimated, was a relief from his dreadful solitariness in his terrors and sufferings. "And he said that it was I who was to work a curse on him," muttered Abel. "It cannot be, surely, that such a thing as I am can harm a man like him!" And though Abel remembered Paul's kindness, and that this was to seal his own doom too, yet it stirred the spirit of pride within him.

"What are you muttering to yourself, there in the dark," demanded Paul; "or whom talk you with, you withered wretch?" Abel shook in every joint at the sound of Paul's harsh voice.

"It is so dreadfully still here," said Abel; "I hear nothing but your steps behind me, and they make me start." This was true; for notwithstanding his touch of instant pride, his terrors and his fear of Paul were as great as ever.

"Speak louder then," said Paul, "or hold your peace. I like not your muttering; it bodes no good."

"It may bring a curse to you, worse than that on me, if a worse can be," said Abel to himself; "but who can help it?"

Day broke before they cleared the ridge; a drizzling rain came on; and the wind, beginning to rise, drove through the crevices in the rocks with sharp whistling sounds which seemed to come from malignant spirits of the air.[Pg 4298]

They had scarcely entered the wood when the storm became furious; and the trees, swaying and beating with their branches against one another, seemed possessed of a supernatural madness, and engaged in wild conflict, as if there were life and passion in them; and their broken, decayed arms groaned like things in torment. The terror of these sights and sounds was too much for poor Abel; it nearly crazed him; and he set up a shriek that for a moment drowned the noise of the storm. It startled Paul; and when he looked at him, the boy's face was of a ghostly whiteness. The rain had drenched him to the skin; his clothes clung to his lean body, that shook as if it would come apart; his eyes flew wildly, and his teeth chattered against each other. The fears and torture of his mind gave something unearthly to his look, that made Paul start back. "Abel—boy—fiend—speak! What has seized you?"

"They told me so," cried Abel—"I've done it—I led the way for you—they're coming, they're coming—we're lost!"

"Peace, fool," said Paul, trying to shake off the power he felt Abel gaining over him, "and find us a shelter if you can."

"There's only the hut," said Abel, "and I wouldn't go into that if it rained fire."

"And why not?"

"I once felt that it was for me to go, and I went so near as to see in at the door. And I saw something in the hut—it was not a man, for it flitted by the opening just like a shadow; and I heard two muttering something to one another; it wasn't like other sounds, for as soon as I heard it, it made me stop my ears. I couldn't stay any longer, and I ran till I cleared the wood. Oh! 'tis His biding-place, when He comes to the wood."

"And is it of His own building?" asked Paul, sarcastically.

"No," answered Abel; "'twas built by the two wood-cutters; and one of them came to a bloody end, and they say the other died the same night, foaming at the mouth like one possessed. There it is," said he, almost breathless, as he crouched down and pointed at the hut under the trees. "Do not go, sir," he said, catching hold of the skirts of Paul's coat,—"I've never dared go nigher since."—"Let loose, boy," cried Paul, striking Abel's hand from his coat, "I'll not be fooled with." Abel, alarmed at being left alone, crawled after Paul as far as he dared go; then taking hold of him once more, made a supplicating motion to[Pg 4299] him to stop; he was afraid to speak. Paul pushed on without regarding him.

The hut stood on the edge of a sand-bank that was kept up by a large pine, whose roots and fibres, lying partly bare, looked like some giant spider that had half buried himself in the sand. On the right of the hut was a patch of broken ground, in which were still standing a few straggling dried stalks of Indian corn; and from two dead trees hung knotted pieces of broken line, which had formerly served for a clothesline. The hut was built of half-trimmed trunks of trees laid on each other, crossing at the four corners and running out at unequal lengths, the chinks partly filled in with sods and moss. The door, which lay on the floor, was of twisted boughs; and the roof, of the same, was caved in, and but partly kept out the sun and rain.

As Paul drew near the entrance he stopped, though the wind just then came in a heavy gust, and the rain fell like a flood. It was not a dread of what he might see within; but it seemed to him that there was a spell round him, drawing him nearer and nearer to its centre; and he felt the hand of some invisible power upon him. As he stepped into the hut a chill ran over him, and his eyes shut involuntarily. Abel watched him eagerly; and as he saw him enter, tossed his arms wildly shouting, "Gone, gone! They'll have me too—they're coming, they're coming!" and threw himself on his face to the ground.

Driven from home by his maddening passions, a perverse delight in self-torture had taken possession of Paul; and his mind so hungered for more intense excitement, that it craved to prove true all which its jealousy and superstition had imaged. He had walked on, lost in this fearful riot, but with no particular object in view, and taking only a kind of crazed joy in his bewildered state. Esther's love for him, which he at times thought past doubt feigned, the darkness of the night, and then the driving storm with its confused motions and sounds, made an uproar of the mind which drove out all settled purpose or thought.

The stillness of the place into which he had now entered, where was heard nothing but the slow, regular dripping of the rain from the broken roof upon the hard-trod floor; the lowered and distant sound of the storm without; the sudden change[Pg 4300] from the whirl and swaying of the trees to the steady walls of the building, put a sudden stop to the violent working of his brain, and he gradually fell into a stupor.

When Abel began to recover, he could scarcely raise himself from the ground. He looked round, but could see nothing of Paul. "They have bound us together," said he; "and something is drawing me toward him. There is no help for me; I must go whither he goes." As he was drawn nearer and nearer to the hut he seemed to struggle and hang back, as if pushed on against his will. At last he reached the doorway; and clinging to its side with a desperate hold, as if not to be forced in, put his head forward a little, casting a hasty glance into the building. "There he is, and alive!" breathed out Abel.

Paul's stupor was now beginning to leave him; his recollection was returning; and what had passed came back slowly and at intervals. There was something he had said to Esther before leaving home—he could not tell what; then his gazing after her as she drove from the house; then something of Abel,—and he sprang from the ground as if he felt the boy's touch again about his knees; then the ball-room, and a multitude of voices, and all talking of his wife. Suddenly she appeared darting by him; and Frank was there. Then came his agony and tortures again; all returned upon him as in the confusion of some horrible trance. Then the hut seemed to enlarge and the walls to rock; and shadows of those he knew, and of terrible beings he had never seen before, were flitting round him and mocking at him. His own substantial form seemed to him undergoing a change, and taking the shape and substance of the accursed ones at which he looked. As he felt the change going on he tried to utter a cry, but he could not make a sound nor move a limb. The ground under him rocked and pitched; it grew darker and darker, till everything was visionary; and he thought himself surrounded by spirits, and in the mansions of the damned. Something like a deep black cloud began to gather gradually round him. The gigantic structure, with its tall terrific arches, turned slowly into darkness, and the spirits within disappeared one after another, till as the ends of the cloud met and closed, he saw the last of them looking at him with an infernal laugh in his undefined visage.

Abel continued watching him in speechless agony. Paul's consciousness was now leaving him; his head began to swim—he[Pg 4301] reeled; and as his hand swept down the side of the hut, while trying to save himself, it struck against a rusty knife that had been left sticking loosely between the logs. "Let go, let go!" shrieked Abel; "there's blood on 't—'tis cursed, 'tis cursed." As Paul swung round with the knife in his hand, Abel sprang from the door with a shrill cry, and Paul sank on the floor, muttering to himself, "What said They?"

When he began to come to himself a little, he was still sitting on the ground, his back against the wall. His senses were yet confused. He thought he saw his wife near him, and a bloody knife by his side. After sitting a little longer his mind gradually grew clearer, and at last he felt for the first time that his hand held something. As his eye fell on it and he saw distinctly what it was, he leaped upright with a savage yell and dashed the knife from him as if it had been an asp stinging him. He stood with his bloodshot eyes fastened on it, his hands spread, and his body shrunk up with horror. "Forged in hell! and for me, for me!" he screamed, as he sprang forward and seized it with a convulsive grasp. "Damned pledge of the league that binds us!" he cried, holding it up and glaring wildly on it. "And yet a voice did warn me—of what, I know not. Which of ye put it in this hand? Speak—let me look on you? D'ye hear me, and will not answer? Nay, nay, what needs it? This tells me, though it speaks not. I know your promptings now," he said, folding his arms deliberately; "your work must be done; and I am doomed to it."[Pg 4302]



R.H. Dana, Jr. R. H. Dana, Jr.

he literary fame of Richard Henry Dana the younger rests on a single book, produced at the age of twenty-five. 'Two Years Before the Mast' stands unique in English literature: it reports a man's actual experiences at sea, yet touches the facts with a fine imagination. It is a bit of Dana's own life while on a vacation away from college. The manner in which he got his material was remarkable, but to the literature he came as by birthright, through his father, Richard Henry Dana the elder, then a well-known poet; novelist, and essayist. He was born in Cambridge in 1815, growing up in the intellectual atmosphere of that university town, and in due course of time entering Harvard College, where his father and grandfather before him had been trained in law and letters. An attack of the measles during his third year at college left him with weakened eyes, and an active outdoor life was prescribed as the only remedy. From boyhood up he had been passionately fond of the sea; small wonder, then, that he now determined to take a long sea voyage. Refusing a berth offered him on a vessel bound for the East Indies, he chose to go as common sailor before the mast, on a merchantman starting on a two-years' trading voyage around Cape Horn to California. At that time boys of good family from the New England coast towns often took such trips. Dana indeed found a companion in a former merchant's clerk of Boston. They left on August 14th, 1834, doubled Cape Horn, spent many months in the waters of the Pacific and on the coast of California, trading with the natives and taking in cargoes of hides, and returned to Boston in September, 1836. Young Dana, entirely cured of his weakness, re-entered college, graduated the next year, and then went to study in the law school of Harvard. During his cruise he had kept a journal, which he now worked over into the narrative that made him famous, and that bids fair to keep his name alive as long as boys, young or old, delight in sea stories. It is really not a story at all, but[Pg 4303] describes with much vivacity the whole history of a long trading voyage, the commonplace life of the sailor with its many hardships, including the savage brutality of captains with no restraint on passion or manners, and scant recreations; the sea in storm and calm, and the California coast before the gold fever, when but few Europeans were settled there, and hides were the chief export of a region whose riches lay still secreted under the earth. The great charm of the narrative lies in its simplicity and its frank statement of facts. Dana apparently did not invent anything, but depicted real men, men he had intimately known for two years, calling them even by their own names, and giving an unvarnished account of what they did and said. He never hung back from work or shirked his duty, but "roughed it" to the very end. As a result of these experiences, this book is the only one that gives any true idea of the sailor's life. Sea stories generally depend for their interest on the inventive skill of their authors; Dana knew how to hold the attention by a simple statement of facts. The book has all the charm and spontaneity of a keenly observant yet imaginative and cultivated mind, alive to all the aspects of the outer world, and gifted with that fine literary instinct which, knowing the value of words, expresses its thoughts with precision. Seafaring men have commented on his exactness in reproducing the sailor's phraseology. The book was published in 1840, translated into several languages, and adopted by the British Admiralty for distribution in the Navy. Few sailors are without a copy in their chest. 'The Seaman's Friend,' which Dana published in the following year, was inspired by his indignation at the abuses he had witnessed in the merchant marine.

Dana did not follow up his first success, and his life henceforth belongs to the history of the bar and politics of Massachusetts, rather than to literature. The fame of his book brought to his law office many admiralty cases. In 1848 he was one of the founders of the Free Soil party; later he became an active abolitionist, and took a large part in the local politics of his State. For a year he lectured on international law in Harvard college. He contributed to the North American Review, and wrote besides on various legal topics. His one other book on travel, 'To Cuba and Back, a Vacation Voyage,' the fruit of a trip to that island in 1859, though well written, never became popular. He retired from his profession in 1877, and spent the last years of his life in Paris and Italy. He died in Rome, January 6th, 1882.[Pg 4304]


From 'Two Years Before the Mast'

We had been below but a short time before we had the usual premonitions of a coming gale,—seas washing over the whole forward part of the vessel, and her bows beating against them with a force and sound like the driving of piles. The watch, too, seemed very busy trampling about decks and singing out at the ropes. A sailor can tell by the sound what sail is coming in; and in a short time we heard the top-gallant-sails come in, one after another, and then the flying jib. This seemed to ease her a good deal, and we were fast going off to the land of Nod, when—bang, bang, bang on the scuttle, and "All hands, reef topsails, ahoy!" started us out of our berths, and it not being very cold weather, we had nothing extra to put on, and were soon on deck. I shall never forget the fineness of the sight. It was a clear and rather a chilly night; the stars were twinkling with an intense brightness, and as far as the eye could reach there was not a cloud to be seen. The horizon met the sea in a defined line. A painter could not have painted so clear a sky. There was not a speck upon it. Yet it was blowing great guns from the northwest. When you can see a cloud to windward, you feel that there is a place for the wind to come from; but here it seemed to come from nowhere. No person could have told from the heavens, by their eyesight alone, that it was not a still summer's night. One reef after another we took in the topsails, and before we could get them hoisted up we heard a sound like a short quick rattling of thunder, and the jib was blown to atoms out of the bolt-rope. We got the topsails set, and the fragments of the jib stowed away, and the foretopmast staysail set in its place, when the great mainsail gaped open, and the sail ripped from head to foot. "Lay up on that main yard and furl the sail, before it blows to tatters!" shouted the captain; and in a moment we were up, gathering the remains of it upon the yard. We got it wrapped round the yard, and passed gaskets over it as snugly as possible, and were just on deck again, when with another loud rent, which was heard throughout the ship, the foretopsail, which had been double-reefed, split in two athwartships, just below the reef-band, from earing to earing. Here again it was—down[Pg 4305] yard, haul out reef-tackles, and lay out upon the yard for reefing. By hauling the reef-tackles chock-a-block we took the strain from the other earings, and passing the close-reef earing, and knotting the points carefully, we succeeded in setting the sail, close reefed.

We had but just got the rigging coiled up, and were waiting to hear "Go below the watch!" when the main royal worked loose from the gaskets, and blew directly out to leeward, flapping and shaking the mast like a wand. Here was a job for somebody. The royal must come in or be cut adrift, or the mast would be snapped short off. All the light hands in the starboard watch were sent up one after another, but they could do nothing with it. At length John, the tall Frenchman, the head of the starboard watch (and a better sailor never stepped upon a deck), sprang aloft, and by the help of his long arms and legs succeeded after a hard struggle,—the sail blowing over the yard-arm to leeward, and the skysail adrift directly over his head,—in smothering it and frapping it with long pieces of sinnet. He came very near being blown or shaken from the yard several times, but he was a true sailor, every finger a fish-hook. Having made the sail snug, he prepared to send the yard down, which was a long and difficult job; for frequently he was obliged to stop and hold on with all his might for several minutes, the ship pitching so as to make it impossible to do anything else at that height. The yard at length came down safe, and after it the fore and mizzen royal yards were sent down. All hands were then sent aloft, and for an hour or two we were hard at work, making the booms well fast, unreeving the studding sail and royal and skysail gear, getting rolling-ropes on the yard, setting up the weather breast-backstays, and making other preparations for a storm. It was a fine night for a gale, just cool and bracing enough for quick work, without being cold, and as bright as day. It was sport to have a gale in such weather as this. Yet it blew like a hurricane. The wind seemed to come with a spite, an edge to it, which threatened to scrape us off the yards. The force of the wind was greater than I had ever felt it before; but darkness, cold, and wet are the worst parts of a storm to a sailor.

Having got on deck again, we looked round to see what time of night it was, and whose watch. In a few minutes the man at the wheel struck four bells, and we found that the other[Pg 4306] watch was out and our own half out. Accordingly the starboard watch went below, and left the ship to us for a couple of hours, yet with orders to stand by for a call.

Hardly had they got below before away went the foretopmast staysail, blown to ribands. This was a small sail, which we could manage in the watch, so that we were not obliged to call up the other watch. We laid upon the bowsprit, where we were under water half the time, and took in the fragments of the sail; and as she must have some headsail on her, prepared to bend another staysail. We got the new one out into the nettings; seized on the tack, sheets, and halyards, and the hanks; manned the halyards, cut adrift the frapping-lines, and hoisted away; but before it was half-way up the stay it was blown all to pieces. When we belayed the halyards, there was nothing left but the bolt-rope. Now large eyes began to show themselves in the foresail; and knowing that it must soon go, the mate ordered us upon the yard to furl it. Being unwilling to call up the watch, who had been on deck all night, he roused out the carpenter, sailmaker, cook, and steward, and with their help we manned the foreyard, and after nearly half an hour's struggle, mastered the sail and got it well furled round the yard. The force of the wind had never been greater than at this moment. In going up the rigging it seemed absolutely to pin us down to the shrouds; and on the yard there was no such thing as turning a face to windward. Yet there was no driving sleet and darkness and wet and cold as off Cape Horn; and instead of stiff oilcloth suits, southwester caps, and thick boots, we had on hats, round jackets, duck trousers, light shoes, and everything light and easy. These things make a great difference to a sailor. When we got on deck the man at the wheel struck eight bells (four o'clock in the morning), and "All star-bowlines, ahoy!" brought the other watch up, but there was no going below for us. The gale was now at its height, "blowing like scissors and thumb-screws"; the captain was on deck; the ship, which was light, rolling and pitching as though she would shake the long sticks out of her, and the sails were gaping open and splitting in every direction. The mizzen-topsail, which was a comparatively new sail and close reefed, split from head to foot in the bunt; the foretopsail went in one rent from clew to caring, and was blowing to tatters; one of the chain bobstays parted; the spritsailyard sprung in the slings, the martingale[Pg 4307] had slued away off to leeward; and owing to the long dry weather the lee rigging hung in large bights at every lurch. One of the main-topgallant shrouds had parted; and to crown all, the galley had got adrift and gone over to leeward, and the anchor on the lee bow had worked loose and was thumping the side. Here was work enough for all hands for half a day. Our gang laid out on the mizzen-topsailyard, and after more than half an hour's hard work furled the sail, though it bellied out over our heads, and again, by a slat of the wind, blew in under the yard with a fearful jerk and almost threw us off from the foot-ropes.

Double gaskets were passed round the yards, rolling tackles and other gear bowsed taut, and everything made as secure as it could be. Coming down, we found the rest of the crew just coming down the fore rigging, having furled the tattered topsail, or rather, swathed it round the yard, which looked like a broken limb bandaged. There was no sail now on the ship but the spanker and the close-reefed main-topsail, which still held good. But this was too much after-sail, and order was given to furl the spanker. The brails were hauled up, and all the light hands in the starboard watch sent out on the gaff to pass the gaskets; but they could do nothing with it. The second mate swore at them for a parcel of "sogers," and sent up a couple of the best men; but they could do no better, and the gaff was lowered down. All hands were now employed in setting up the lee rigging, fishing the spritsail yard, lashing the galley, and getting tackles upon the martingale, to bowse it to windward. Being in the larboard watch, my duty was forward, to assist in setting up the martingale. Three of us were out on the martingale guys and back-ropes for more than half an hour, carrying out, hooking, and unhooking the tackles, several times buried in the seas, until the mate ordered us in from fear of our being washed off. The anchors were then to be taken up on the rail, which kept all hands on the forecastle for an hour, though every now and then the seas broke over it, washing the rigging off to leeward, filling the lee scuppers breast-high, and washing chock aft to the taffrail.

Having got everything secure again, we were promising ourselves some breakfast, for it was now nearly nine o'clock in the forenoon, when the main-topsail showed evident signs of giving way. Some sail must be kept on the ship, and the captain[Pg 4308] ordered the fore and main spencer gaffs to be lowered down, and the two spencers (which were storm sails, brand-new, small, and made of the strongest canvas) to be got up and bent; leaving the main-topsail to blow away, with a blessing on it, if it would only last until we could set the spencers. These we bent on very carefully, with strong robands and seizings, and making tackles fast to the clews, bowsed them down to the water-ways. By this time the main-topsail was among the things that have been, and we went aloft to stow away the remnant of the last sail of all those which were on the ship twenty-four hours before. The spencers were now the only whole sails on the ship, and being strong and small, and near the deck, presenting but little surface to the wind above the rail, promised to hold out well. Hove-to under these, and eased by having no sail above the tops, the ship rose and fell, and drifted off to leeward like a line-of-battle ship.

It was now eleven o'clock, and the watch was sent below to get breakfast, and at eight bells (noon), as everything was snug, although the gale had not in the least abated, the watch was set and the other watch and idlers sent below. For three days and three nights the gale continued with unabated fury, and with singular regularity. There were no lulls, and very little variation in its fierceness. Our ship, being light, rolled so as almost to send the fore yard-arm under water, and drifted off bodily to leeward. All this time there was not a cloud to be seen in the sky, day or night; no, not so large as a man's hand. Every morning the sun rose cloudless from the sea, and set again at night in the sea in a flood of light. The stars, too, came out of the blue one after another, night after night, unobscured, and twinkled as clear as on a still frosty night at home, until the day came upon them. All this time the sea was rolling in immense surges, white with foam, as far as the eye could reach, on every side; for we were now leagues and leagues from shore.[Pg 4309]


From 'Two Years Before the Mast'

The sole object was to make the time pass on. Any change was sought for which would break the monotony of the time; and even the two-hours' trick at the wheel, which came round to us in turn, once in every other watch, was looked upon as a relief. The never-failing resource of long yarns, which eke out many a watch, seemed to have failed us now; for we had been so long together that we had heard each other's stories told over and over again till we had them by heart; each one knew the whole history of each of the others, and we were fairly and literally talked out. Singing and joking we were in no humor for; and in fact any sound of mirth or laughter would have struck strangely upon our ears, and would not have been tolerated any more than whistling or a wind instrument. The last resort, that of speculating upon the future, seemed now to fail us; for our discouraging situation, and the danger we were really in (as we expected every day to find ourselves drifted back among the ice), "clapped a stopper" upon all that. From saying "when we get home," we began insensibly to alter it "if we get home," and at last the subject was dropped by a tacit consent.

In this state of things a new light was struck out, and a new field opened, by a change in the watch. One of our watch was laid up for two or three days by a bad hand (for in cold weather the least cut or bruise ripens into a sore), and his place was supplied by the carpenter. This was a windfall, and there was a contest who should have the carpenter to walk with him. As "Chips" was a man of some little education, and he and I had had a good deal of intercourse with each other, he fell in with me in my walk. He was a Finn, but spoke English well, and gave me long accounts of his country,—the customs, the trade, the towns, what little he knew of the government (I found he was no friend of Russia), his voyages, his first arrival in America, his marriage and courtship; he had married a country-woman of his, a dressmaker, whom he met with in Boston. I had very little to tell him of my quiet sedentary life at home; and in spite of our best efforts, which had protracted these yarns through five or six watches, we fairly talked each other out, and[Pg 4310] I turned him over to another man in the watch and put myself upon my own resources.

I commenced a deliberate system of time-killing, which united some profit with a cheering-up of the heavy hours. As soon as I came on deck, and took my place and regular walk, I began with repeating over to myself in regular order a string of matters which I had in my memory,—the multiplication table and the table of weights and measures; the Kanaka numerals; then the States of the Union, with their capitals; the counties of England, with their shire towns, and the kings of England in their order, and other things. This carried me through my facts, and being repeated deliberately, with long intervals, often eked out the first two bells. Then came the Ten Commandments, the thirty-ninth chapter of Job, and a few other passages from Scripture. The next in the order, which I seldom varied from, came Cowper's 'Castaway,' which was a great favorite with me; its solemn measure and gloomy character, as well as the incident it was founded upon, making it well suited to a lonely watch at sea. Then his 'Lines to Mary,' his address to the Jackdaw, and a short extract from 'Table Talk' (I abounded in Cowper, for I happened to have a volume of his poems in my chest); 'Ille et nefasto' from Horace, and Goethe's 'Erl-König.' After I had got through these, I allowed myself a more general range among everything that I could remember, both in prose and verse. In this way, with an occasional break by relieving the wheel, heaving the log, and going to the scuttle-butt for a drink of water, the longest watch was passed away; and I was so regular in my silent recitations that if there was no interruption by ship's duty I could tell very nearly the number of bells by my progress.

Our watches below were no more varied than the watch on deck. All washing, sewing, and reading was given up, and we did nothing but eat, sleep, and stand our watch, leading what might be called a Cape Horn life. The forecastle was too uncomfortable to sit up in; and whenever we were below, we were in our berths. To prevent the rain and the sea-water which broke over the bows from washing down, we were obliged to keep the scuttle closed, so that the forecastle was nearly air-tight. In this little wet leaky hole we were all quartered, in an atmosphere so bad that our lamp, which swung in the middle from the beams, sometimes actually burned blue, with a large circle of foul air[Pg 4311] about it. Still I was never in better health than after three weeks of this life. I gained a great deal of flesh, and we all ate like horses. At every watch when we came below, before turning in, the bread barge and beef kid were overhauled. Each man drank his quart of hot tea night and morning, and glad enough we were to get it; for no nectar and ambrosia were sweeter to the lazy immortals than was a pot of hot tea, a hard biscuit, and a slice of cold salt beef to us after a watch on deck. To be sure, we were mere animals, and had this life lasted a year instead of a month, we should have been little better than the ropes in the ship. Not a razor, nor a brush, nor a drop of water, except the rain and the spray, had come near us all the time: for we were on an allowance of fresh water—and who would strip and wash himself in salt water on deck, in the snow and ice, with the thermometer at zero?


From 'Two Years before the Mast'

The California had finished discharging her cargo, and was to get under way at the same time with us. Having washed down decks and got breakfast, the two vessels lay side by side in complete readiness for sea, our ensigns hanging from the peaks and our tall spars reflected from the glassy surface of the river, which since sunrise had been unbroken by a ripple. At length a few whiffs came across the water, and by eleven o'clock the regular northwest wind set steadily in. There was no need of calling all hands, for we had all been hanging about the forecastle the whole forenoon, and were ready for a start upon the first sign of a breeze. Often we turned our eyes aft upon the captain, who was walking the deck, with every now and then a look to windward. He made a sign to the mate, who came forward, took his station deliberately between the knightheads, cast a glance aloft, and called out, "All hands lay aloft and loose the sails!" We were half in the rigging before the order came, and never since we left Boston were the gaskets off the yards and the rigging overhauled in a shorter time. "All ready forward, sir!" "All ready the main!" "Crossjack yards all ready, sir!"[Pg 4312] "Lay down, all hands but one on each yard!" The yard-arm and bunt gaskets were cast off; and each sail hung by the jigger, with one man standing by the tie to let it go. At the same moment that we sprang aloft a dozen hands sprang into the rigging of the California, and in an instant were all over her yards; and her sails too were ready to be dropped at the word. In the mean time our bow gun had been loaded and run out, and its discharge was to be the signal for dropping the sails. A cloud of smoke came out of our bows; the echoes of the gun rattled our farewell among the hills of California, and the two ships were covered from head to foot with their white canvas. For a few minutes all was uproar and apparent confusion; men jumping about like monkeys in the rigging; ropes and blocks flying, orders given and answered amid the confused noises of men singing out at the ropes. The topsails came to the mastheads with "Cheerly, men!" and in a few minutes every sail was set, for the wind was light. The head sails were backed, the windlass came round "slip—slap" to the cry of the sailors;—"Hove short, sir," said the mate; "Up with him!"—"Ay, ay, sir." A few hearty and long heaves, and the anchor showed its head. "Hook cat!" The fall was stretched along the decks; all hands laid hold;—"Hurrah, for the last time," said the mate; and the anchor came to the cathead to the tune of 'Time for us to go,' with a rollicking chorus. Everything was done quick, as though it was for the last time. The head yards were filled away, and our ship began to move through the water on her homeward-bound course.

The California had got under way at the same moment, and we sailed down the narrow bay abreast, and were just off the mouth, and, gradually drawing ahead of her, were on the point of giving her three parting cheers, when suddenly we found ourselves stopped short, and the California ranging fast ahead of us. A bar stretches across the mouth of the harbor, with water enough to float common vessels; but being low in the water, and having kept well to leeward, as we were bound to the southward, we had stuck fast, while the California, being light, had floated over.

We kept all sail on, in the hope of forcing over; but failing in this, we hove back into the channel. This was something of a damper to us, and the captain looked not a little mortified and vexed. "This is the same place where the Rosa got ashore,[Pg 4313] sir," observed our red-headed second mate, most mal-àpropos. A malediction on the Rosa, and him too, was all the answer he got, and he slunk off to leeward. In a few minutes the force of the wind and the rising of the tide backed us into the stream, and we were on our way to our old anchoring place, the tide setting swiftly up, and the ship barely manageable in the light breeze. We came-to in our old berth opposite the hide-house, whose inmates were not a little surprised to see us return. We felt as though we were tied to California; and some of the crew swore that they never should get clear of the "bloody" coast.

In about half an hour, which was near high water, the order was given to man the windlass, and again the anchor was catted; but there was no song, and not a word was said about the last time. The California had come back on finding that we had returned, and was hove-to, waiting for us, off the point. This time we passed the bar safely, and were soon up with the California, who filled away, and kept us company. She seemed desirous of a trial of speed, and our captain accepted the challenge, although we were loaded down to the bolts of our chain-plates, as deep as a sand-barge, and bound so taut with our cargo that we were no more fit for a race than a man in fetters; while our antagonist was in her best trim. Being clear of the point, the breeze became stiff, and the royal-masts bent under our sails, but we would not take them in until we saw three boys spring aloft into the rigging of the California; when they were all furled at once, but with orders to our boys to stay aloft at the topgallant mastheads and loose them again at the word. It was my duty to furl the fore-royal; and, while standing by to loose it again, I had a fine view of the scene. From where I stood, the two vessels seemed nothing but spars and sails, while their narrow decks, far below, slanting over by the force of the wind aloft, appeared hardly capable of supporting the great fabrics raised upon them. The California was to windward of us, and had every advantage; yet, while the breeze was stiff, we held our own. As soon as it began to slacken, she ranged a little ahead, and the order was given to loose the royals. In an instant the gaskets were off and the bunt dropped. "Sheet home the fore royal!" "Weather sheets home!"—"Lee sheets home!"—"Hoist away, sir!" is bawled from aloft.[Pg 4314] "Overhaul your clew-lines!" shouts the mate. "Ay, ay, sir! all clear!" "Taut leech! belay! Well the lee brace; haul taut to windward,"—and the royals were set. These brought us up again; but the wind continuing light, the California set hers, and it was soon evident that she was walking away from us. Our captain then hailed and said that he should keep off to his course; adding, "She isn't the Alert now. If I had her in your trim she would have been out of sight by this time." This was good-naturedly answered from the California, and she braced sharp up, and stood close upon the wind up the coast; while we squared away our yards, and stood before the wind to the south-southwest. The California's crew manned her weather rigging, waved their hats in the air, and gave us three hearty cheers, which we answered as heartily, and the customary single cheer came back to us from over the water. She stood on her way, doomed to eighteen months' or two years' hard service upon that hated coast; while we were making our way home, to which every hour and every mile was bringing us nearer.[Pg 4315]






o acquire a love for the best poetry, and a just understanding of it, is the chief end of the study of literature; for it is by means of poetry that the imagination is quickened, nurtured, and invigorated, and it is only through the exercise of his imagination that man can live a life that is in a true sense worth living. For it is the imagination which lifts him from the petty, transient, and physical interests that engross the greater part of his time and thoughts in self-regarding pursuits, to the large, permanent, and spiritual interests that ennoble his nature, and transform him from a solitary individual into a member of the brotherhood of the human race.

In the poet the imagination works more powerfully and consistently than in other men, and thus qualifies him to become the teacher and inspirer of his fellows. He sees men, by its means, more clearly than they see themselves; he discloses them to themselves, and reveals to them their own dim ideals. He becomes the interpreter of his age to itself; and not merely of his own age is he the interpreter, but of man to man in all ages. For change as the world may in outward aspect, with the rise and fall of empires,—change as men may, from generation to generation, in knowledge, belief, and manners,—human nature remains unalterable in its elements, unchanged from age to age; and it is human nature, under its various guises, with which the great poets deal.

The Iliad and the Odyssey do not become antiquated to us. The characters of Shakespeare are perpetually modern. Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, stand alone in the closeness of their relation to nature. Each after his own manner gives us a view of life, as seen by the poetic imagination, such as no other poet has given to us. Homer, first of all poets, shows us individual personages sharply defined, but in the early stages of intellectual and moral development, the first representatives of the race at its conscious entrance upon the path of progress, with simple motives, simple theories of existence, simple and limited experience. He is plain and direct in the presentation[Pg 4316] of life, and in the substance no less than in the expression of his thought.

In Shakespeare's work the individual man is no less sharply defined, no less true to nature, but the long procession of his personages is wholly different in effect from that of the Iliad and the Odyssey. They have lost the simplicity of the older race; they are the products of a longer and more varied experience; they have become more complex. And Shakespeare is plain and direct neither in the substance of his thought nor in the expression of it. The world has grown older, and in the evolution of his nature man has become conscious of the irreconcilable paradoxes of life, and more or less aware that while he is infinite in faculty, he is also the quintessence of dust. But there is one essential characteristic in which Shakespeare and Homer resemble each other as poets,—that they both show to us the scene of life without the interference of their own personality. Each simply holds the mirror up to nature, and lets us see the reflection, without making comment on the show. If there be a lesson in it we must learn it for ourselves.

Dante comes between the two, and differs more widely from each of them than they from one another. They are primarily poets. He is primarily a moralist who is also a poet. Of Homer the man, and of Shakespeare the man, we know, and need to know, nothing; it is only with them as poets that we are concerned. But it is needful to know Dante as man, in order fully to appreciate him as poet. He gives us his world not as reflection from an unconscious and indifferent mirror, but as from a mirror that shapes and orders its reflections for a definite end beyond that of art, and extraneous to it. And in this lies the secret of Dante's hold upon so many and so various minds. He is the chief poet of man as a moral being.

To understand aright the work of any great poet we must know the conditions of his times; but this is not enough in the case of Dante. We must know not only the conditions of the generation to which he belonged, we must also know the specific conditions which shaped him into the man he was, and differentiated him from his fellows. How came he, endowed with a poetic imagination which puts him in the same class with Homer and Shakespeare, not to be content, like them, to give us a simple view of the phantasmagoria of life, but eager to use the fleeting images as instruments by which to enforce the lesson of righteousness, to set forth a theory of existence and a scheme of the universe?

The question cannot be answered without a consideration of the change wrought in the life and thoughts of men in Europe by the Christian doctrine as expounded and enforced by the Roman Church, and of the simultaneous changes in outward conditions resulting from [Pg 4317]the destruction of the ancient civilization, and the slow evolution of the modern world as it rose from the ruins of the old. The period which immediately preceded and followed the fall of the Roman Empire was too disorderly, confused, and broken for men during its course to be conscious of the directions in which they were treading. Century after century passed without settled institutions, without orderly language, without literature, without art. But institutions, languages, literature and art were germinating, and before the end of the eleventh century clear signs of a new civilization were manifest in Western Europe. The nations, distinguished by differences of race and history, were settling down within definite geographical limits; the various languages were shaping themselves for the uses of intercourse and of literature; institutions accommodated to actual needs were growing strong; here and there the social order was becoming comparatively tranquil and secure. Progress once begun became rapid, and the twelfth century is one of the most splendid periods of the intellectual life of man expressing itself in an infinite variety of noble and attractive forms. These new conditions were most strongly marked in France: in Provence at the South, and in and around the Île de France at the North; and from both these regions a quickening influence diffused itself eastward into Italy.

The conditions of Italy throughout the Dark and Middle Ages were widely different from those of other parts of Europe. Through all the ruin and confusion of these centuries a tradition of ancient culture and ancient power was handed down from generation to generation, strongly affecting the imagination of the Italian people, whether recent invaders or descendants of the old population. Italy had never had a national unity and life, and the divisions of her different regions remained as wide in the later as in the earlier times; but there was one sentiment which bound all her various and conflicting elements in a common bond, which touched every Italian heart and roused every Italian imagination,—the sentiment of the imperial grandeur and authority of Rome. Shrunken, feeble, fallen as the city was, the thought of what she had once been still occupied the fancy of the Italian people, determined their conceptions of the government of the world, and quickened within them a glow of patriotic pride. Her laws were still the main fount of whatsoever law existed for the maintenance of public and private right; the imperial dignity, however interrupted in transmission, however often assumed by foreign and barbarian conquerors, was still, to the imagination, supreme above all other earthly titles; the story of Roman deeds was known of all men; the legends of Roman heroes were the familiar tales of infancy and age. Cities that had risen since Rome fell claimed, with pardonable falsehood, to have had their origin from her,[Pg 4318] and their rulers adopted the designations of her consuls and her senators. The fragments of her literature that had survived the destruction of her culture were the models for the rude writers of ignorant centuries, and her language formed the basis for the new language which was gradually shaping itself in accordance with the slowly growing needs of expression. The traces of her material dominion, the ruins of her wide arch of empire, were still to be found from the far West to the farther East, and were but the types and emblems of her moral dominion in the law, the language, the customs, the traditions of the different lands. Nothing in the whole course of profane history has so affected the imaginations of men, or so influenced their destinies, as the achievements and authority of Rome.

The Roman Church inherited, together with the city, the tradition of Roman dominion over the world. Ancient Rome largely shaped modern Christianity,—by the transmission of the idea of the authority which the Empire once exerted to the Church which grew up upon its ruins. The tremendous drama of Roman history displayed itself to the imagination from scene to scene, from act to act, with completeness of poetic progress and climax,—first the growth, the extension, the absoluteness of material supremacy, the heathen being made the instruments of Divine power for preparing the world for the revelation of the true God; then the tragedy of Christ's death wrought by Roman hands, and the expiation of it in the fall of the Roman imperial power; followed by the new era in which Rome again was asserting herself as mistress of the world, but now with spiritual instead of material supremacy, and with a dominion against which the gates of hell itself should not prevail.

It was, indeed, not at once that this conception of the Church as the inheritor of the rights of Rome to the obedience of mankind took form. It grew slowly and against opposition. But at the end of the eleventh century, through the genius of Pope Gregory VII., the ideas hitherto disputed, of the supreme authority of the Pope within the Church and of the supremacy of the Church over the State, were established as the accepted ecclesiastical theory, and adopted as the basis of the definitely organized ecclesiastical system. Little more than a hundred years later, at the beginning of the thirteenth century, Innocent III. enforced the claims of the Church with a vigor and ability hardly less than that of his great predecessor, maintaining openly that the Pope—Pontifex Maximus—was the vicar of God upon earth.

This theory was the logical conclusion from a long series of historic premises; and resting upon a firm foundation of dogma, it was supported by the genuine belief, no less than by the worldly interests and ambitions, of those who profited by it. The ideal it[Pg 4319] presented was at once a simple and a noble conception,—narrow indeed, for the ignorance of men was such that only narrow conceptions, in matters relating to the nature and destiny of man and the order of the universe, were possible. But it was a theory that offered an apparently sufficient solution of the mysteries of religion, of the relation between God and man, between the visible creation and the unseen world. It was a theory of a material rather than a spiritual order: it reduced the things of the spirit into terms of the things of the flesh. It was crude, it was easily comprehensible, it was fitted to the mental conditions of the age.

The power which the Church claimed, and which to a large degree it exercised over the imagination and over the conduct of the Middle Ages, was the power which belonged to its head as the earthly representative and vicegerent of God. No wonder that such power was often abused, and that the corruption among the ministers of the Church was wide-spread. Yet in spite of abuse, in spite of corruption, the Church was the ark of civilization.

The religious—no less than the intellectual—life of Europe had revived in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and had displayed its fervor in the marvels of Crusades and of church-building,—external modes of manifesting zeal for the glory of God, and ardor for personal salvation. But with the progress of intelligence the spirit which had found its expression in these modes of service, now, in the thirteenth century in Italy, fired the hearts of men with an even more intense and far more vital flame, quickening within them sympathies which had long lain dormant, and which now at last burst into activity in efforts and sacrifices for the relief of misery, and for the bringing of all men within the fold of Christian brotherhood. St. Francis and St. Dominic, in founding their orders, and in setting an example to their brethren, only gave measure and direction to a common impulse.

Yet such were the general hardness of heart and cruelty of temper which had resulted from the centuries of violence, oppression, and suffering, out of which Italy with the rest of Europe was slowly emerging, that the strivings of religious emotion and the efforts of humane sympathy were less powerful to bring about an improvement in social order than influences which had their root in material conditions. Chief among these was the increasing strength of the civic communities, through the development of industry and of commerce. The people of the cities, united for the protection of their common interests, were gaining a sense of power. The little people, as they were called,—mechanics, tradesmen, and the like,—were organizing themselves, and growing strong enough to compel the great to submit to the restrictions of a more or less orderly and[Pg 4320] peaceful life. In spite of the violent contentions of the great, in spite of frequent civic uproar, of war with neighbors, of impassioned party disputes, in spite of incessant interruptions of their tranquillity, many of the cities of Italy were advancing in prosperity and wealth. No one of them made more rapid and steady progress than Florence.

The history of Florence during the thirteenth century is a splendid tale of civic energy and resolute self-confidence. The little city was full of eager and vigorous life. Her story abounds in picturesque incident. She had her experience of the turn of the wheel of Fortune, being now at the summit of power in Tuscany, now in the depths of defeat and humiliation.

The spiritual emotion, the improvement in the conditions of society, the increase of wealth, the growth in power of the cities of Italy, were naturally accompanied by a corresponding intellectual development, and the thirteenth century became for Italy what the twelfth had been for France, a period of splendid activity in the expression of her new life. Every mode of expression in literature and in the arts was sought and practiced, at first with feeble and ignorant hands, but with steady gain of mastery. At the beginning of the century the language was a mere spoken tongue, not yet shaped for literary use. But the example of Provence was strongly felt at the court of the Emperor Frederick II. in Sicily, and the first half of the century was not ended before many poets were imitating in the Italian tongue the poems of the troubadours. Form and substance were alike copied; there is scarcely a single original note; but the practice was of service in giving suppleness to the language, in forming it for nobler uses, and in opening the way for poetry which should be Italian in sentiment as well as in words. At the north of Italy the influence of the trouvères was felt in like manner. Everywhere the desire for expression was manifest. The spring had come, the young birds had begun to twitter, but no full song was yet heard. Love was the main theme of the poets, but it had few accents of sincerity; the common tone was artificial, was unreal.

In the second half of the century new voices are heard, with accents of genuine and natural feeling; the poets begin to treat the old themes with more freshness, and to deal with religion, politics, and morals, as well as with love. The language still possesses, indeed, the quality of youth; it is still pliant, its forms have not become stiffened by age, it is fit for larger use than has yet been made of it, and lies ready and waiting, like a noble instrument, for the hand of the master which shall draw from it its full harmonies and reveal its latent power in the service he exacts from it.

But it was not in poetry alone that the life of Italy found expression. Before the invention of printing,—which gave to the literary[Pg 4321] arts such an advantage as secured their pre-eminence,—architecture, sculpture, and painting were hardly less important means for the expression of the ideals of the imagination and the creative energy of man. The practice of them had never wholly ceased in Italy; but her native artists had lost the traditions of technical skill; their work was rude and childish. The conventional and lifeless forms of Byzantine art in its decline were adopted by workmen who no longer felt the impulse, and no longer possessed the capacity, of original design. Venice and Pisa, early enriched by Eastern commerce, and with citizens both instructed and inspired by knowledge of foreign lands, had begun great works of building even in the eleventh century; but these works had been designed, and mainly executed, by masters from abroad. But now the awakened soul of Italy breathed new life into all the arts in its efforts at self-expression. A splendid revival began. The inspiring influence of France was felt in the arts of construction and design as it had been felt in poetry. The magnificent display of the highest powers of the imagination and the intelligence in France, the creation during the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries of the unrivaled productions of Gothic art, stimulated and quickened the growth of the native art of Italy. But the French forms were seldom adopted for direct imitation, as the forms of Provençal poetry had been. The power of classic tradition was strong enough to resist their attraction. The taste of Italy rejected the marvels of Gothic design in favor of modes of expression inherited from her own past, but vivified with fresh spirit, and adapted to her new requirements. The inland cities, as they grew rich through native industry and powerful through the organization of their citizens, were stirred with rivalry to make themselves beautiful, and the motives of religion no less than those of civic pride contributed to their adornment. The Church was the object of interest common to all. Piety, superstition, pride, emulation, all alike called for art in which their spirit should be embodied. The imagination answered to the call. The eyes of the artist were once more opened to see the beauty of life, and his hand sought to reproduce it. The bonds of tradition were broken. The Greek marble vase on the platform of the Duomo at Pisa taught Niccola Pisano the right methods of sculpture, and directed him to the source of his art in the study of nature. His work was a new wonder and delight, and showed the way along which many followed him. Painting took her lesson from sculpture, and before the end of the century both arts had become responsive to the demand of the time, and had entered upon that course of triumph which was not to end till, three centuries later, chisel and brush dropped from hands enfeebled in the general decline of national vigor, and incapable of resistance to the tyrannous and exclusive autocracy of the printed page.[Pg 4322]

But it was not only the new birth of sentiment and emotion which quickened these arts: it was also the aroused curiosity of men concerning themselves, their history, and the earth. They felt their own ignorance. The vast region of the unknown, which encircled with its immeasurable spaces the little tract of the known world, appealed to their fancy and their spirit of enterprise, with its boundless promise and its innumerable allurements to adventure. Learning, long confined and starved in the cell of the monk, was coming out into the open world, and was gathering fresh stores alike from the past and the present. The treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of the Greeks were eagerly sought, especially in translations of Aristotle,—translations which, though imperfect indeed, and disfigured by numberless misinterpretations and mistakes, nevertheless contained a body of instruction invaluable as a guide and stimulant to the awakened intelligence. Encyclopedic compends of knowledge put at the disposition of students all that was known or fancied in the various fields of science. The division between knowledge and belief was not sharply drawn, and the wonders of legend and of fable were accepted with as ready a faith as the actual facts of observation and of experience. Travelers for gain or for adventure, and missionaries for the sake of religion, were venturing to lands hitherto unvisited. The growth of knowledge, small as it was compared with later increase, widened thought and deepened life. The increase of thought strengthened the faculties of the mind. Man becomes more truly man in proportion to what he knows, and one of the most striking and characteristic features of this great century is the advance of man through increase of knowledge out of childishness towards maturity. The insoluble problems which had been discussed with astonishing acuteness by the schoolmen of the preceding generation were giving place to a philosophy of more immediate application to the conduct and discipline of life. The 'Summa Theologica' of St. Thomas Aquinas not only treated with incomparable logic the vexed questions of scholastic philosophy, but brought all the resources of a noble and well-trained intelligence and of a fine moral sense to the study and determination of the order and government of the universe, and of the nature and destiny of man.

The scope of learning remained, indeed, at the end of the century, narrow in its range. The little tract of truth which men had acquired lay encompassed by ignorance, like a scant garden-plot surrounded by a high wall. But here and there the wall was broken through, and paths were leading out into wider fields to be won for culture, or into deserts wider still, in which the wanderers should perish.

But as yet there was no comprehensive and philosophic grasp of the new conditions in their total significance; no harmonizing of[Pg 4323] their various elements into one consistent scheme of human life; no criticism of the new life as a whole. For this task was required not only acquaintance with the whole range of existing knowledge, by which the conceptions of men in regard to themselves and the universe were determined, but also a profound view of the meaning of life itself, and an imaginative insight into the nature of man. A mere image of the drama of life as presented to the eye would not suffice. The meaning of it would be lost in the confusion and multiplicity of the scene. The only possible explanation and reconcilement of its aspects lay in the universal application to them of the moral law, and in the exhibition of man as a spiritual and immortal being for whom this world was but the first stage of existence. This was the task undertaken and accomplished by Dante.


Of the events in Dante's life few are precisely ascertained, but of its general course enough is known, either from his own statements or from external testimony, to show the essential relations between his life and his work, and the influence of his experience upon his convictions and character. Most of the biographies of him are untrustworthy, being largely built up upon a foundation of inferences and suppositions, and often filled out with traditions and stories of which the greater part are certainly false and few have a likelihood of truth. The only strictly contemporary account of him is that given by the excellent Chronicler of Florence, Giovanni Villani, a man of weight and judgment, who in the ninth book of his Chronicle, under the year 1321, recording Dante's death, adds a brief narrative of his life and works; because, as he says, "on account of the virtues and knowledge and worth of so great a citizen, it seems to us to be fitting to give a perpetual memorial of him in this our chronicle, although the noble works left by him in writing afford a true testimonial to him, and honorable fame to our city." "Dante was," says Villani, "an honorable and ancient citizen of Florence, of the gate of San Piero, and our neighbor." "He was a great master in almost every branch of knowledge, although he was a layman; he was a supreme poet and philosopher, and a perfect rhetorician alike in prose and verse, as well as a most noble orator in public speech, supreme in rhyme, with the most polished and beautiful style that had ever been in our language.... Because of his knowledge he was somewhat presumptuous, disdainful, and haughty; and, as it were after the manner of a philosopher, having little graciousness, he knew not well to bear himself with common people (conversare con laici)."[Pg 4324]

Dante was born in Florence, in May or June 1265. Of his family little is positively known.[1] It was not among the nobles of the city, but it had place among the well-to-do citizens who formed the body of the State and the main support of the Guelf party. Of Dante's early years, and the course of his education, nothing is known save what he himself tells us in his various writings or what may be inferred from them. Lionardo Bruni, eminent as an historian and as a public man, who wrote a Life of Dante about a hundred years after his death, cites a letter of which we have no other knowledge, in which, if the letter be genuine, the poet says that he took part in the battle of Campaldino, fought in June 1289. The words are:—"At the battle of Campaldino, in which the Ghibelline party was almost all slain and undone, I found myself not a child in arms, and I experienced great fear, and finally the greatest joy, because of the shifting fortunes of the fight." It seems likely that Dante was present, probably under arms, in the later part of the same summer, at the surrender to the Florentines of the Pisan stronghold of Caprona, where, he says ('Inferno,' xxi. 94-96), "I saw the foot soldiers afraid, who came out under compact from Caprona, seeing themselves among so many enemies."

Years passed before any other event in Dante's life is noted with a certain date. An imperfect record preserved in the Florentine archives mentions his taking part in a discussion in the so-called Council of a Hundred Men, on the 5th of June, 1296. This is of importance as indicating that he had before this time become a member of one of the twelve Arts,—enrollment in one of which was required for the acquisition of the right to exercise political functions in the State, and also as indicating that he had a place in the chief of those councils by which public measures were discussed and decided. The Art of which he was a member was that of the physicians and druggists (medici e speziali), an Art whose dealings included commerce in many of the products of the East.

Not far from this time, but whether before or after 1296 is uncertain, he married. His wife was Gemma dei Donati. The Donati were a powerful family among the grandi of the city, and played a leading part in the stormy life of Florence. Of Gemma nothing is known but her marriage.

Between 1297 and 1299, Dante, together with his brother Francesco, as appears from existing documentary evidence, were borrowers of considerable sums of money; and the largest of the debts thus[Pg 4325] incurred seem not to have been discharged till 1332, eleven years after his death, when they were paid by his sons Jacopo and Pietro.

In May 1299 he was sent as envoy from Florence to the little, not very distant, city of San Gemignano, to urge its community to take part in a general council of the Guelf communes of Tuscany.

In the next year, 1300, he was elected one of the six priors of Florence, to hold office from the 15th of June to the 15th of August. The priors, together with the "gonfalonier of justice" (who had command of the body of one thousand men who stood at their service), formed the chief magistracy of the city. Florence had such jealousy of its rulers that the priors held office but two months, so that in the course of each year thirty-six of the citizens were elected to this magistracy. The outgoing priors, associated with twelve of the leading citizens, two from each of the sestieri or wards of the city, chose their successors. Neither continuity nor steady vigor of policy was possible with an administration so shifting and of such varied composition, which by its very constitution was exposed at all times to intrigue and to attack. It was no wonder that Florence lay open to the reproach that her counsels were such that what she spun in October did not reach to mid-November ('Purgatory', vi. 142-144). His election to the priorate was the most important event in Dante's public life. "All my ills and all my troubles," he declared, "had occasion and beginning from my misfortunate election to the priorate, of which, though I was not worthy in respect of wisdom, yet I was not unworthy in fidelity and in age."[2]

The year 1300 was disastrous not only for Dante but for Florence. She was, at the end of the thirteenth century, by far the most flourishing and powerful city of Tuscany, full of vitality and energy, and beautiful as she was strong. She was not free from civil discord, but the predominance of the Guelf party was so complete within her walls that she suffered little from the strife between Guelf and Ghibelline, which for almost a century had divided Italy into two hostile camps. In the main the Guelf party was that of the common people and the industrious classes, and in general it afforded support to the Papacy as against the Empire, while it received, in return, support from the popes. The Ghibellines, on the other hand, were mainly of the noble class, and maintainers of the Empire. The growth of the industry and commerce of Florence in the last half of the century had resulted in the establishment of the popular power, and in the suppression of the Ghibelline interest. But a bitter quarrel broke out in one of the great families in the neighboring Guelf city of Pistoia, a quarrel which raged so furiously that Florence[Pg 4326] feared that it would result in the gain of power by the Ghibellines, and she adopted the fatal policy of compelling the heads of the contending factions to take up their residence within her walls. The result was that she herself became the seat of discord. Each of the two factions found ardent adherents, and, adopting the names by which they had been distinguished in Pistoia, Florence was almost instantly ablaze with the passionate quarrel between the Whites and the Blacks (Bianchi and Neri). The flames burned so high that the Pope, Boniface VIII., intervened to quench them. His intervention was vain.

It was just at this time that Dante became prior. The need of action to restore peace to the city was imperative, and the priors took the step of banishing the leaders of both divisions. Among those of the Bianchi was Dante's own nearest friend, Guido Cavalcante. The measure was insufficient to secure tranquillity and order. The city was in constant tumult; its conditions went from bad to worse. But in spite of civil broils, common affairs must still be attended to, and from a document preserved in the Archives at Florence we learn that on the 28th April, 1301, Dante was appointed superintendent, without salary, of works undertaken for the widening, straightening, and paving of the street of San Procolo and making it safe for travel. On the 13th of the same month he took part in a discussion, in the Council of the Heads of the twelve greater Arts, as to the mode of procedure in the election of future priors. On the 18th of June, in the Council of the Hundred Men, he advised against providing the Pope with a force of one hundred men which had been asked for; and again in September of the same year there is record, for the last time, of his taking part in the Council, in a discussion in regard "to the conservation of the Ordinances of Justice and the Statutes of the People."

These notices of the part taken by Dante in public affairs seem at first sight comparatively slight and unimportant; but were one constructing an ideal biography of him, it would be hard to devise records more appropriate to the character and principles of the man as they appear from his writings. The sense of the duty of the individual to the community of which he forms a part was one of his strongest convictions; and his being put in charge of the opening of the street of San Procolo, and making it safe for travel, "eo quod popularis comitatus absque strepitu et briga magnatum et potentum possunt secure venire ad dominos priores et vexilliferum justitiæ cum expedit" (so that the common people may, without uproar and harassing of magnates and mighty men, have access whenever it be desirable to the Lord Priors and the Standard-Bearer of Justice), affords a comment on his own criticism of his fellow-citizens, whose[Pg 4327] disposition to shirk the burden of public duty is more than once the subject of his satire. "Many refuse the common burden, but thy people, my Florence, eagerly replies without being called on, and cries, 'I load myself'" ('Purgatory,' vi. 133-135). His counsel against providing the Pope with troops was in conformity with his fixed political conviction that the function of the Papacy was to be confined to the spiritual government of mankind; and nothing could be more striking, as a chance incident, than that the last occasion on which he, whose heart was set on justice, took part in the counsels of his city, should have been for the discussion of the means for "the conservation of the ordinances of justice and the statutes of the people."

In the course of events in 1300 and 1301 the Bianchi proved the stronger of the two factions by which the city was divided, they resisted with success the efforts of the Pope in support of their rivals, and they were charged by their enemies with intent to restore the rule of the city to the Ghibellines. While affairs were in this state, Charles of Valois, brother to the King of France, Philip the Fair, was passing through Italy with a troop of horsemen to join Charles II. of Naples,[3] in the attempt to regain Sicily from the hands of Frederic of Aragon. The Pope favored the expedition, and held out flattering promises to Charles. The latter reached Anagni, where Boniface was residing, in September 1301. Here it was arranged that before proceeding to Sicily, Charles should undertake to reduce to obedience the refractory opponents of the Pope in Tuscany. The title of the Pacifier of Tuscany was bestowed on him, and he moved toward Florence with his own troop and a considerable additional force of men-at-arms. He was met on his way by deputies from Florence, to whom he made fair promises; and trusting to his good faith, the Florentines opened their gates to him and he entered the city on All Saints' Day (November 1st), 1301.

Charles had hardly established himself in his quarters before he cast his pledges to the wind. The exiled Neri, with his connivance, broke into the city, and for six days worked their will upon their enemies, slaying many of them, pillaging and burning their houses, while Charles looked on with apparent unconcern at the wide-spread ruin and devastation. New priors, all of them from the party of the Neri, entered upon office in mid-November, and a new Podestà, Cante dei Gabrielli of Agobbio, was charged with the administration of justice. The persecution of the Bianchi was carried on with consistent thoroughness: many were imprisoned, many fined, Charles[Pg 4328] sharing in the sums exacted from them. On the 27th of January, 1302, a decree was issued by the Podestà condemning five persons, one of whom was Dante, to fine and banishment on account of crimes alleged to have been committed by them while holding office as priors. "According to public report," said the decree, "they committed barratry, sought illicit gains, and practiced unjust extortions of money or goods." These general charges are set forth with elaborate legal phraseology, and with much repetition of phrase, but without statement of specific instances. The most important of them are that the accused had spent money of the commune in opposing the Pope, in resistance to the coming of Charles of Valois, and against the peace of the city and the Guelf party; that they had promoted discord in the city of Pistoia, and had caused the expulsion from that city of the Neri, the faithful adherents of the Holy Roman Church; and that they had caused Pistoia to break its union with Florence, and to refuse subjection to the Church and to Charles the Pacificator of Tuscany. These being the charges, the decree proceeded to declare that the accused, having been summoned to appear within a fixed time before the Podestà and his court to make their defense, under penalty for non-appearance of five thousand florins each, and having failed to do so, were now condemned to pay this sum and to restore their illicit gains; and if this were not done within three days from the publication of this sentence against them, all their possessions (bona) should be seized and destroyed; and should they make the required payment, they were nevertheless to stand banished from Tuscany for two years; and for perpetual memory of their misdeeds their names were to be inscribed in the Statutes of the People, and as swindlers and barrators they were never to hold office or benefice within the city or district of Florence.

Six weeks later, on the 10th of March, another decree of the Podestà was published, declaring the five citizens named in the preceding decree, together with ten others, to have practically confessed their guilt by their contumacy in non-appearance when summoned, and condemning them, if at any time any one of them should come into the power of Florence, to be burned to death ("talis perveniens igne comburatur sic quod moriatur").[4]

From this time forth till his death Dante was an exile. The character of the decrees is such that the charges brought against him have no force, and leave no suspicion resting upon his actions as an officer of the State. They are the outcome and expression of the[Pg 4329] bitterness of party rage, and they testify clearly only to his having been one of the leaders of the parties opposed to the pretensions of the Pope, and desirous to maintain the freedom of Florence from foreign intervention.

In April Charles left Florence, "having finished," says Villani, the eye-witness of these events, "that for which he had come, namely, under pretext of peace, having driven the White party from Florence; but from this proceeded many calamities and dangers to our city."

The course of Dante's external life in exile is hardly less obscure than that of his early days. Much concerning it may be inferred with some degree of probability from passages in his own writings, or from what is reported by others; but of actual certain facts there are few. For a time he seems to have remained with his companions in exile, of whom there were hundreds, but he soon separated himself from them in grave dissatisfaction, making a party by himself ('Paradiso,' xvii. 69), and found shelter at the court of the Scaligeri at Verona. In August 1306 he was among the witnesses to a contract at Padua. In October of the same year he was with Franceschino, Marchese Malespina, in the district called the Lunigiana, and empowered by him as his special procurator and envoy to establish the terms of peace for him and his brothers with the Bishop of Luni. His gratitude to the Malespini for their hospitality and good-will toward him is proved by one of the most splendid compliments ever paid in verse or prose, the magnificent eulogium of this great and powerful house with which the eighth canto of the 'Purgatory' closes. How long Dante remained with the Malespini, and whither he went after leaving them, is unknown. At some period of his exile he was at Lucca ('Purgatorio,' xxiv. 45); Villani states that he was at Bologna, and afterwards at Paris, and in many parts of the world. He wandered far and wide in Italy, and it may well be that in the course of his years of exile he went to Paris, drawn thither by the opportunities of learning which the University afforded; but nothing is known definitely of his going.

In 1311 the mists which obscure the greater part of Dante's life in exile are dispelled for a moment, by three letters of unquestioned authenticity, and we gain a clear view of the poet. In 1310 Henry of Luxemburg, a man who touched the imagination of his contemporaries by his striking presence and chivalric accomplishments as well as by his high character and generous aims, "a man just, religious, and strenuous in arms," having been elected Emperor, as Henry VII., prepared to enter Italy, with intent to confirm the imperial rights and to restore order to the distracted land. The Pope, Clement V., favored his coming, and the prospect opened by it was hailed not[Pg 4330] only by the Ghibellines with joy, but by a large part of the Guelfs as well; with the hope that the long discord and confusion, from which all had suffered, might be brought to end and give place to tranquillity and justice. Dante exulted in this new hope; and on the coming of the Emperor, late in 1310, he addressed an animated appeal to the rulers and people of Italy, exhorting them in impassioned words to rise up and do reverence to him whom the Lord of heaven and earth had ordained for their king. "Behold, now is the accepted time; rejoice, O Italy, dry thy tears; efface, O most beautiful, the traces of mourning; for he is at hand who shall deliver thee."

The first welcome of Henry was ardent, and with fair auspices he assumed at Milan, in January 1311, the Iron Crown, the crown of the King of Italy. Here at Milan Dante presented himself, and here with full heart he did homage upon his knees to the Emperor. But the popular welcome proved hollow; the illusions of hope speedily began to vanish; revolt broke out in many cities of Lombardy; Florence remained obdurate, and with great preparations for resistance put herself at the head of the enemies of the Emperor. Dante, disappointed and indignant, could not keep silence. He wrote a letter headed "Dante Alaghieri, a Florentine and undeservedly in exile, to the most wicked Florentines within the city." It begins with calm and eloquent words in regard to the divine foundation of the imperial power, and to the sufferings of Italy due to her having been left without its control to her own undivided will. Then it breaks forth in passionate denunciation of Florence for her impious arrogance in venturing to rise up in mad rebellion against the minister of God; and, warning her of the calamities which her blind obstinacy is preparing for her, it closes with threats of her impending ruin and desolation. This letter is dated from the springs of the Arno, on the 31st of March.

The growing force of the opposition which he encountered delayed the progress of Henry. Dante, impatient of delay, eager to see the accomplishment of his hope, on the 16th of April addressed Henry himself in a letter of exalted prophetic exhortation, full of Biblical language, and of illustrations drawn from sacred and profane story, urging him not to tarry, but trusting in God, to go out to meet and to slay the Goliath that stood against him. "Then the Philistines will flee, and Israel will be delivered, and we, exiles in Babylon, who groan as we remember the holy Jerusalem, shall then, as citizens breathing in peace, recall in joy the miseries of confusion." But all was in vain. The drama which had opened with such brilliant expectations was advancing to a tragic close. Italy became more confused and distracted than ever. One sad event followed after[Pg 4331] another. In May the brother of the Emperor fell at the siege of Brescia; in September his dearly loved wife Margarita, "a holy and good woman," died at Genoa. The forces hostile to him grew more and more formidable. He succeeded however in entering Rome in May 1312, but his enemies held half of the city, and the streets became the scene of bloody battles; St. Peter's was closed to him, and Henry, worn and disheartened and in peril, was compelled to submit to be ingloriously crowned at St. John Lateran. With diminished strength and with loss of influence he withdrew to Tuscany, and laid ineffectual siege to Florence. Month after month dragged along with miserable continuance of futile war. In the summer of 1313, collecting all his forces, Henry prepared to move southward against the King of Naples. But he was seized with illness, and on the 24th of August he died at Buonconvento, not far from Siena. With his death died the hope of union and of peace for Italy. His work, undertaken with high purpose and courage, had wholly failed. He had come to set Italy straight before she was ready ('Paradiso,' xxxi. 137). The clouds darkened over her. For Dante the cup of bitterness overflowed.

How Dante was busied, where he was abiding, during the last two years of Henry's stay in Italy, we have no knowledge. One striking fact relating to him is all that is recorded. In the summer of 1311 the Guelfs in Florence, in order to strengthen themselves against the Emperor, determined to relieve from ban and to recall from exile many of their banished fellow-citizens, confident that on returning home they would strengthen the city in its resistance against the Emperor. But to the general amnesty which was issued on the 2d of September there were large exceptions; and impressive evidence of the multitude of the exiles is afforded by the fact that more than a thousand were expressly excluded from the benefit of pardon, and were to remain banished and condemned as before. In the list of those thus still regarded as enemies of Florence stands the name of Dante.

The death of the Emperor was followed eight months later by that of the Pope, Clement V., under whom the papal throne had been removed from Rome to Avignon. There seemed a chance, if but feeble, that a new pope might restore the Church to the city which was its proper home, and thus at least one of the wounds of Italy be healed. The Conclave was bitterly divided; month after month went by without a choice, the fate of the Church and of Italy hanging uncertain in the balance. Dante, in whom religion and patriotism combined as a single passion, saw with grief that the return of the Church to Italy was likely to be lost through the selfishness, the jealousies, and the avarice of her chief prelates;[Pg 4332] and under the impulse of the deepest feeling he addressed a letter of remonstrance, reproach, and exhortation to the Italian cardinals, who formed but a small minority in the Conclave, but who might by union and persistence still secure the election of a pope favorable to the return. This letter is full of a noble but too vehement zeal. "It is for you, being one at heart, to fight manfully for the Bride of Christ; for the seat of the Bride, which is Rome; for our Italy, and in a word, for the whole commonwealth of pilgrims upon earth." But words were in vain; and after a struggle kept up for two years and three months, a pope was at last elected who was to fix the seat of the Papacy only the more firmly at Avignon. Once more Dante had to bear the pain of disappointment of hopes in which selfishness had no part.

And now for years he disappears from sight. What his life was he tells in a most touching passage near the beginning of his 'Convito':—"From the time when it pleased the citizens of Florence, the fairest and most famous daughter of Rome, to cast me out from her sweetest bosom (in which I had been born and nourished even to the summit of my life, and in which, at good peace with them, I desire with all my heart to repose my weary soul, and to end the time which is allotted to me), through almost all the regions to which our tongue extends I have gone a pilgrim, almost a beggar, displaying against my will the wound of fortune, which is wont often to be imputed unjustly to [the discredit of] him who is wounded. Truly I have been a bark without sail and without rudder, borne to divers ports and bays and shores by that dry wind which grievous poverty breathes forth, and I have appeared mean in the eyes of many who perchance, through some report, had imagined me in other form; and not only has my person been lowered in their sight, but every work of mine, whether done or to be done, has been held in less esteem."

Once more, and for the last time, during these wanderings he heard the voice of Florence addressed to him, and still in anger. A decree was issued[5] on the 6th of November, 1315, renewing the condemnation and banishment of numerous citizens, denounced as Ghibellines and rebels, including among them Dante Aldighieri and his sons. The persons named in this decree are charged with contumacy, and with the commission of ill deeds against the good state of the Commune of Florence and the Guelf party; and it is ordered that "if any[Pg 4333] of them shall fall into the power of the Commune he shall be taken to the place of Justice and there be beheaded." The motive is unknown which led to the inclusion in this decree of the sons of Dante, of whom there were two, now youths respectively a little more or a little less than twenty years old.[6]

It is probable that the last years of Dante's life were passed in Ravenna, under the protection of Guido da Polenta, lord of the city. It was here that he died, on September 14th, 1321. His two sons were with him, and probably also his daughter Beatrice. He was in his fifty-seventh year when he went from suffering and from exile to peace ('Paradiso,' x. 128).

Such are the few absolute facts known concerning the external events of Dante's life. A multitude of statements, often with much circumstantial detail, concerning other incidents, have been made by his biographers; a few rest upon a foundation of probability, but the mass are guess-work. There is no need to report them; for small as the sum of our actual knowledge is, it is enough for defining the field within which his spiritual life was enacted, and for showing the conditions under which his work was done, and by which its character was largely determined.


No poet has recorded his own inner life more fully or with greater sincerity than Dante. All his more important writings have essentially the character of a spiritual autobiography, extending from his boyhood to his latest years. Their quality and worth as works of literature are largely dependent upon their quality and interest as revelations of the nature of their writer. Their main significance lies in this double character.

The earliest of them is the 'Vita Nuova,' or New Life. It is the narrative in prose and verse of the beginning and course of the love which made life new for him in his youth, and which became the permanent inspiration of his later years, and the bond of union for him between earth and heaven, between the actual and the ideal, between the human and the divine. The little book begins with an account of the boy's first meeting, when he was nine years old, with[Pg 4334] a little maiden about a year younger, who so touched his heart that from that time forward Love lorded it over his soul. She was called Beatrice; but whether this was her true name, or whether, because of its significance of blessing, it was assigned to her as appropriate to her nature, is left in doubt. Who her parents were, and what were the events of her life, are also uncertain; though Boccaccio, who, some thirty years after Dante's death, wrote a biography of the poet in which fact and fancy are inextricably intermingled, reports that he had it upon good authority that she was the daughter of Folco Portinari, and became the wife of Simone de' Bardi. So far as Dante's relation to her is concerned, these matters are of no concern. Just nine years after their first meeting, years during which Dante says he had often seen her, and her image had stayed constantly with him, the lady of his love saluted him with such virtue that he seemed to see all the bounds of bliss, and having already recognized in himself the art of discoursing in rhyme, he made a sonnet in which he set forth a vision which had come to him after receiving his lady's salute. This sonnet has a twofold interest, as being the earliest of Dante's poetic composition preserved to us, and as describing a vision which connects it in motive with the vision of the 'Divine Comedy.' It is the poem of a 'prentice hand not yet master of its craft, and neither in manner nor in conception has it any marked distinction from the work of his predecessors and contemporaries. The narrative of the first incidents of his love forms the subject of the first part of the little book, consisting of ten poems and the prose comment upon them; then the poet takes up a new theme and devotes ten poems to the praise of his lady. The last of them is interrupted by her death, which took place on the 9th of June, 1290, when Dante was twenty-five years old. Then he takes up another new theme, and the next ten poems are devoted to his grief, to an episode of temporary unfaithfulness to the memory of Beatrice, and to the revival of fidelity of love for her. One poem, the last, remains; in which he tells how a sigh, issuing from his heart, and guided by Love, beholds his lady in glory in the empyrean. The book closes with these words:—

"After this sonnet a wonderful vision appeared to me, in which I saw things which made me resolve to speak no more of this blessed one until I could more worthily treat of her. And to attain to this, I study to the utmost of my power, as she truly knows. So that, if it shall please Him through whom all things live that my life be prolonged for some years, I hope to say of her what was never said of any woman. And then, may it please Him who is the Lord of Grace, that my soul may go to behold the glory of its lady, namely of that blessed Beatrice, who in glory looks upon the face of Him qui est per omnia sæcula benedictus" (who is blessed forever).

[Pg 4335]

There is nothing in the 'New Life' which indicates whether or not Beatrice was married, or which implies that the devotion of Dante to her was recognized by any special expression of regard on her part. No interviews between them are recorded; no tokens of love were exchanged. The reserve, the simple and unconscious dignity of Beatrice, distinguish her no less than her beauty, her grace, and her ineffable courtesy. The story, based upon actual experience, is ordered not in literal conformity with fact, but according to the ideal of the imagination; and its reality does not consist in the exactness of its record of events, but in the truth of its poetic conception. Under the narrative lies an allegory of the power of love to transfigure earthly things into the likeness of heavenly, and to lift the soul from things material and transitory to things spiritual and eternal.

While the little book exhibits many features of a literature in an early stage of development, and many of the characteristics of a youthful production, it is yet the first book of modern times which has such quality as to possess perpetual contemporaneousness. It has become in part archaic, but it does not become antiquated. It is the first book in a modern tongue in which prose begins to have freedom of structure, and ease of control over the resources of the language. It shows a steady progress in Dante's mastery of literary art. The stiffness and lack of rhythmical charm of the poems with which it begins disappear in the later sonnets and canzoni, and before its close it exhibits the full development of the sweet new style begun by Dante's predecessor Guido Guinicelli, and of which the secret lay in obedience to the dictates of nature within the heart.

The date of its compilation cannot be fixed with precision, but was probably not far from 1295; and the words with which it closes seem to indicate that the design of the 'Divine Comedy' had already taken a more or less definite shape in Dante's mind.

The deepest interest of the 'New Life' is the evidence which it affords in regard to Dante's character. The tenderness, sensitiveness, and delicacy of feeling, the depth of passion, the purity of soul which are manifest in it, leave no question as to the controlling qualities of his disposition. These qualities rest upon a foundation of manliness, and are buttressed by strong moral principles. At the very beginning of the book is a sentence, which shows that he had already gained that self-control which is the prime condition of strength and worth of character. In speaking of the power which his imagination gave to Love to rule over him, a power that had its source in the image of his lady, he adds, "Yet was that image of such noble virtue that it never suffered Love to rule me without the faithful counsel of the reason in those matters in which to listen to[Pg 4336] its counsel was useful." His faculties were already disciplined by study, and his gifts enriched with learning. He was scholar hardly less than poet. The range of his acquisitions was already wide, and it is plain that he had had the best instruction which Florence could provide; and nowhere else could better have been found.

The death of Beatrice was the beginning of a new period of Dante's self-development. So long as she lived she had led him along toward the right way. For a time, during the first ecstasy of grief at her loss, she still sustained him. After a while, he tells us, his mind, which was endeavoring to heal itself, sought for comfort in the mode which other comfortless ones had accepted for their consolation. He read Boëthius on the 'Consolations of Philosophy,' and the words of comfort in Cicero's 'Treatise on Friendship.' By these he was led to further studies of philosophy, and giving himself with ardor to its pursuit, he devoted himself to the acquisition of the wisdom of this earth, to the neglect, for a time, of the teachings of Divine revelation. He entered upon paths of study which did not lead to the higher truth, and at the same time he began to take active part himself in the affairs of the world. He was attracted by the allurements of life. He married; he took office. He shared in the pleasures of the day. He no longer listened to the voice of the spirit, nor was faithful to the image of Beatrice in following on earth the way which should lead him to her in heaven. But meanwhile he wrote verses which under the form of poems of love were celebrations of the beauty of Philosophy; and he was accomplishing himself in learning till he became master of all the erudition of his time; he was meditating deeply on politics, he was studying life even more than books, he was becoming one of the deepest of thinkers and one of the most accomplished of literary artists. But his life was of the world, worldly, and it did not satisfy him. At last a change came. He suddenly awoke to consciousness of how far he had strayed from that good of which Beatrice was the type; how basely he had deserted the true ideals of his youth; how perilous was the life of the world; how near he was to the loss of the hope of salvation. We know not fully how this change was wrought. All we know concerning it is to be gathered from passages in his later works, in which, as in the 'Convito,' he explains the allegorical significance of some of his poems, or as in the 'Divine Comedy,' he gives poetic form to his experience as it had shaped itself in his imagination. There are often difficulties in the interpretation of his words, nor are all his statements reconcilable with each other in detail. But I believe that in what I have set forth as the course of his life between the death of Beatrice and his exile, I have stated nothing which may not be confirmed by Dante's own testimony.[Pg 4337]

It is possible that during the latter part of this period Dante wrote the treatise 'On Monarchy,' in which he set forth his views as to the government of mankind. To ascertain the date of its composition is both less easy and less important than in the case of his other long works; because it contains few personal references, and no indications of the immediate conditions under which it was written. But it is of importance not only as an exposition of Dante's political theories and the broad principles upon which those theories rested, but still more as exhibiting his high ideals in regard to the order of society and the government of mankind. Its main doctrine might be called that of ideal Ghibellinism; and though its arguments are often unsound, and based upon fanciful propositions and incorrect analogies, though it exhibits the defects frequent in the reasoning of the time,—a lack of discrimination in regard to the value of authorities, and no sense of the true nature of evidence,—yet the spirit with which it is animated is so generous, and its object of such importance, that it possesses interest alike as an illustration of Dante's character, and as a monument in the history of political speculation.

Its purpose was, first, to establish the proposition that the empire, or supreme universal temporal monarchy, was necessary for the good order of the world; secondly, that the Roman people had rightfully attained the dignity of this empire; and thirdly, that the authority thus obtained was derived immediately from God, and was not dependent on any earthly agent or vicar of God. The discussion of the first proposition is the most interesting part of the treatise, for it involves the statement of Dante's general conception of the end of government and of the true political order. His argument begins with the striking assertion that the proper work of the human race, taken as a whole, is to bring into activity all the possibilities of the intelligence, first to the end of speculation, and secondly in the application of speculation to action. He goes on to declare that this can be achieved only in a state of peace; that peace is only to be secured under the rule of one supreme monarch; that thus the government of the earth is brought into correspondence with the Divine government of the universe; and that only under a universal supreme monarchy can justice be fully established and complete liberty enjoyed. The arguments to maintain these theses are ingenious, and in some instances forcible; but are too abstract, and too disregardful of the actual conditions of society. Dante's loftiness of view, his fine ideal of the possibilities of human life, and his ardent desire to improve its actual conditions, are manifest throughout, and give value to the little book as a treatise of morals beyond that which it possesses as a manual of practical politics.[Pg 4338]

There is little in the 'De Monarchia' which reflects the heat of the great secular debate between Guelf and Ghibelline; but something of the passion engendered by it finds expression in the opening of the third book, where Dante, after citing the words of the prophet Daniel, "He hath shut the lions' mouths and they have not hurt me, forasmuch as before him justice was found in me," goes on in substance as follows:—

"The truth concerning the matter which remains to be treated may perchance arouse indignation against me. But since Truth from her changeless throne appeals to me, and Solomon teaches us 'to meditate on truth, and to hate the wicked,' and the philosopher [Aristotle], our instructor in morals, urges us for the sake of truth to disregard what is dear to us, I, taking confidence from the words of Daniel in which the Divine power is declared to be the shield of the defenders of the truth, ... will enter on the present contest; and by the arm of Him who by his blood delivered us from the power of darkness, I will drive out from the lists the impious and the liar. Wherefore should I fear? since the Spirit, co-eternal with the Father and the Son, says through the mouth of David, 'The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance, he shall not be afraid of evil tidings.'"

These words perhaps justify the inference that the treatise was written before his exile, since after it his experience of calamity would have freed him from the anticipation of further evil from the hostility of those to whom his doctrine might be unacceptable.

But whether or not this be a correct inference, there can be no doubt that the years between the compilation of the 'New Life' and his banishment were years of rapid maturity of his powers, and largely devoted to the studies which made him a master in the field of learning. Keenly observant of the aspects of contemporary life, fascinated by the "immense and magic spectacle of human affairs," questioning deeply its significance, engaged actively in practical concerns, he ardently sought for the solution of the mysteries and the reconcilement of the confusions of human existence. The way to this solution seemed to lie through philosophy and learning, and in acquiring them he lifted himself above the turmoil of earth. All observation, experience, and acquisition served as material for his poetic and idealizing imagination, wherewith to construct an orderly scheme of the universe; all served for the defining and confirming of his moral judgments, all worked together for the harmonious development of his intellectual powers; all served to prepare him for the work which, already beginning to shape itself in his mind, was to become the main occupation of the remainder of his life, and to prove one of the abiding monuments of the highest achievements of mankind.

The 'De Monarchia' is written in Latin, and so also is a brief unfinished treatise, the work of some period during his exile, on the[Pg 4339] Common Speech, 'De Vulgari Eloquio.' It has intrinsic interest as the first critical study of language and of literature in modern times, as well as from the acute and sound judgments with which it abounds, and from its discussion of the various forms and topics of poetry, but still more from its numerous illustrations of Dante's personal experience and sentiment. Its object is to teach the right use of the common speech; instruction required by all, since all make use of the speech, it being that which all learn from birth, "by imitation and without rule. The other speech, which the Romans called Grammatica, is learned by study and according to rule.... Of these two the Common is the more noble, because it was the first used by the human race, and also because it is in use over all the world, though in different tongues; and again because it is natural to us, while the other is artificial." Speech, Dante declares, is the prerogative of man alone, not required by the angels and not possible for brutes; there was originally but one language, the Hebrew. In treating of this latter topic Dante introduces a personal reference of extraordinary interest in its bearing on his feeling in respect to his exile:—

"It is for those of such debased intelligence that they believe the place of their birth to be the most delightful under the sun, to prefer their own peculiar tongue, and to believe that it was that of Adam. But we whose country is the world, as the sea is for fishes, although we drank of the Arno before we were weaned, and so love Florence that because we loved it we suffer exile unjustly, support our judgment by reason rather than feeling. And though in respect to our pleasure and the repose of our senses, no sweeter place exists on earth than Florence, ... yet we hold it for certain that there are many more delightful regions and cities than Tuscany and Florence, where I was born and of which I am a citizen, and that many nations and people use a more pleasing and serviceable speech than the Italians."

The conclusion of this speculation is, that the Hebrew, which was the original language spoken by Adam, was preserved by the Hebrew people after the confusion of tongues at the building of the Tower of Babel, and thus became the language used by our Redeemer,—the language not of confusion but of grace.

But the purpose of the present treatise is not to consider all the divers languages even of Europe, but only that of Italy. Yet in Italy alone there is an immense variety of speech, and no one of the varieties is the true Italian language. That true, illustrious, courtly tongue is to be found nowhere in common use, but everywhere in select usage. It is the common speech "freed from rude words, involved constructions, defective pronunciation, and rustic accent; excellent, clear, perfect, urbane, and elect, as it may be seen in the[Pg 4340] poems of 'Cino da Pistoia and his friend,'"—that friend being Dante himself. They have attained to the glory of the tongue, and "how glorious truly it renders its servants we ourselves know, who to the sweetness of its glory hold our exile as naught."[7] This illustrious language, then, is the select Italian tongue, the tongue of the excellent poets in every part of Italy; and how and by whom it is to be used it is the purpose of this treatise to show.

The second book begins with the doctrine that the best speech is appropriate to the best conceptions; but the best conceptions exist only where there is learning and genius, and the best speech is consequently that only of those who possess them, and only the best subjects are worthy of being treated in it. These subjects fall under three heads: that of utility, or safety, which it is the object of arms to secure; that of delight, which is the end of love; that of worthiness, which is attained by virtue. These are the topics of the illustrious poets in the vulgar tongue; and of these, among the Italians, Cino da Pistoia has treated of love, and his friend (Dante) of rectitude.

The remainder of the second book is given to the various forms of poetry,—the canzone, the ballata, the sonnet,—and to the rules of versification. The work breaks off unfinished, in the middle of a sentence. There were to have been at least two books more; but, fragment as it is, the treatise is an invaluable document in the illustration of Dante's study of his own art, in its exhibition of his breadth of view, and in its testimony to his own consciousness of his position as the master of his native tongue, and as the poet of righteousness. He failed in his estimate of himself only as it fell short of the truth. He found the common tongue of Italy unformed, unstable, limited in powers of expression. He shaped it not only for his own needs, but for the needs of the Italian race. He developed its latent powers, enlarged its resources, and determined its form. The language as he used it is essentially the language of to-day,—not less so than the language of Shakespeare is the English of our use. In his poetic diction there is little that is not in accord with later usage; and while in prose the language has become more flexible, its constructions more varied and complex, its rhythm more perfected, his prose style at its best still remains unsurpassed in vigor, in directness, and in simplicity. Changeful from generation to generation as language is, and as Dante recognized it to be, it has not so changed in six hundred years that his tongue has become strange. There is no similar example in any other modern[Pg 4341] literature. The force of his genius, which thus gave to the form of his work a perpetual contemporaneousness, gave it also to the substance; and though the intellectual convictions of men have changed far more than their language, yet Dante's position as the poet of righteousness remains supreme.

It is surprising that with such a vast and difficult work as the 'Divine Comedy' engaging him, Dante should have found time and strength during his exile for the writing of treatises in prose so considerable as that on the Common Tongue, and the much longer and more important book which he called 'Il Convivio' or 'Il Convito' (The Banquet). It is apparent from various references in the course of the work that it was at least mainly written between 1307 and 1310. Its design was of large scope. It was to be composed of fifteen parts or treatises; but of these only four were completed, and such is their character both as regards their exhibition of the poet's nature and their exposition of the multifarious topics of philosophy, of science, and of morals treated in them, that the student of Dante and of mediæval thought cannot but feel a deep regret at the failure of the poet to carry his undertaking to its intended close. But though the work is imperfect as a whole, each of its four parts is complete and practically independent in itself.

Dante's object in the book was twofold. His opening words are a translation of what Matthew Arnold calls "that buoyant and immortal sentence with which Aristotle begins his Metaphysics,"—"All mankind naturally desire knowledge." But few can attain to what is desired by all, and innumerable are they who live always famished for want of this food. "Oh, blessed are the few who sit at that table where the bread of the angels is eaten, and wretched they who have food in common with the herds." "I, therefore, who do not sit at the blessed table, but having fled from the pasture of the crowd, gather up at the feet of those who sit at it what falls from them, and through the sweetness I taste in that which little by little I pick up, know the wretched life of those whom I have left behind me, and moved with pity for them, not forgetting myself, have reserved something for these wretched ones." These crumbs were the substance of the banquet which he proposed to spread for them. It was to have fourteen courses, and each of these courses was to have for its principal viand a canzone of which the subject should be Love and Virtue, and the bread served with each course was to be the exposition of these poems,—poems which for want of this exposition lay under the shadow of obscurity, so that by many their beauty was more esteemed than their goodness. They were in appearance mere poems of love, but under this aspect they concealed their true meaning, for the lady of his love was none other than Philosophy herself,[Pg 4342] and not sensual passion but virtue was their moving cause. The fear of reproach to which this misinterpretation might give occasion, and the desire to impart teaching which others could not give, were the two motives of his work.

There is much in the method and style of the 'Convito' which in its cumbrous artificiality exhibits an early stage in the exposition of thought in literary form, but Dante's earnestness of purpose is apparent in many passages of manly simplicity, and inspires life into the dry bones of his formal scholasticism. The book is a mingling of biographical narrative, shaped largely by the ideals of the imagination, with expositions of philosophical doctrine, disquisitions on matters of science, and discussion of moral truths. But one controlling purpose runs through all, to help men to attain that knowledge which shall lead them into the paths of righteousness.

For his theory of knowledge is, that it is the natural and innate desire of the soul, as essential to its own perfection in its ultimate union with God. The use of the reason, through which he partakes of the Divine nature, is the true life of man. Its right use in the pursuit of knowledge leads to philosophy, which is, as its name signifies, the love of wisdom, and its end is the attainment of virtue. It is because of imperfect knowledge that the love of man is turned to fallacious objects of desire, and his reason is perverted. Knowledge, then, is the prime source of good; ignorance, of evil. Through knowledge to wisdom is the true path of the soul in this life on her return to her Maker, to know whom is her native desire, and her perfect beatitude.

In the exposition of these truths in their various relations a multitude of topics of interest are touched upon, and a multitude of opinions expressed which exhibit the character of Dante's mind and the vast extent of the acquisitions by which his studies had enriched it. The intensity of his moral convictions and the firmness of his moral principles are no less striking in the discourse than the nobility of his genius and the breadth of his intellectual view. Limited and erroneous as are many of his scientific conceptions, there is little trace of superstition or bigotry in his opinions; and though his speculations rest on a false conception of the universe, the revolting dogmas of the common mediæval theology in respect to the human and the Divine nature find no place in them. The mingling of fancy with fact, the unsoundness of the premises from which conclusions are drawn, the errors in belief and in argument, do not affect the main object of his writing, and the 'Convito' may still be read with sympathy and with profit, as a treatise of moral doctrine by a man the loftiness of whose intelligence rose superior to the hampering limitations of his age.[Pg 4343]

In its general character and in its biographical revelations the 'Banquet' forms a connecting link between the 'New Life' and the 'Divine Comedy.' It is not possible to frame a complete reconciliation between all the statements of the 'Banquet' in respect to Dante's experience after the death of Beatrice, and the narrative of them in the 'New Life'; nor is it necessary, if we allow due place to the poetic and allegoric interpretation of events natural to Dante's genius. In the last part of the 'New Life' he tells of his infidelity to Beatrice in yielding himself to the attraction of a compassionate lady, in whose sight he found consolation. But the infidelity was of short duration, and, repenting it, he returned with renewed devotion to his only love. In the 'Convito' he tells us that the compassionate lady was no living person, but was the image of Philosophy, in whose teaching he had found comfort; and the poems which he then wrote and which had the form, and were in the terms of, poems of Love, were properly to be understood as addressed—not to any earthly lady, but—to the lady of the understanding, the most noble and beautiful Philosophy, the daughter of God. And as this image of Philosophy, as the fairest of women, whose eyes and whose smile reveal the joys of Paradise, gradually took clear form, it coalesced with the image of Beatrice herself, she who on earth had been the type to her lover of the beauty of eternal things, and who had revealed to him the Creator in his creature. But now having become one of the blessed in heaven, with a spiritual beauty transcending all earthly charm, she was no longer merely a type of heavenly things, but herself the guide to the knowledge of them, and the divinely commissioned revealer of the wisdom of God. She looking on the face of God reflected its light upon him who loved her. She was one with Divine Philosophy, and as such she appears, in living form, in the 'Divine Comedy,' and discloses to her lover the truth which is the native desire of the soul, and in the attainment of which is beatitude.

It is this conception which forms the bond of union between the 'New Life,' the 'Banquet,' and the 'Divine Comedy,' and not merely as literary compositions but as autobiographical records. Dante's life and his work are not to be regarded apart; they form a single whole, and they possess a dramatic development of unparalleled consistency and unity. The course of the events of his life shaped itself in accordance with an ideal of the imagination, and to this ideal his works correspond. His first writing, in his poems of love and in the story of the 'New Life,' forms as it were the first act of a drama which proceeds from act to act in its presentation of his life, with just proportion and due sequence, to its climax and final scene in the last words of the 'Divine Comedy.' It is as if Fate had[Pg 4344] foreordained the dramatic unity of his life and work, and impressing her decree upon his imagination, had made him her more or less conscious instrument in its fulfillment.

Had Dante written only his prose treatises and his minor poems, he would still have come down to us as the most commanding literary figure of the Middle Ages, the first modern with a true literary sense, the writer of love verses whose imagination was at once more delicate and more profound than that of any among the long train of his successors, save Shakespeare alone, and more free from sensual stain than that of Shakespeare; the poet of sweetest strain and fullest control of the resources of his art, the scholar of largest acquisition and of completest mastery over his acquisitions, and the moralist with higher ideals of conduct and more enlightened conceptions of duty than any other of the period to which he belonged. All this he would have been, and this would have secured for him a place among the immortals. But all this has but a comparatively small part in raising him to the station which he actually occupies, and in giving to him the influence which he still exerts. It was in the 'Divine Comedy' that his genius found its full expression, and it is to this supreme poem that all his other work serves as substructure.

The general scheme of this poem seems to have been early formed by him; and its actual composition was the main occupation of his years of exile, and must have been its main, one might say its sufficient, consolation. Never was a book of wider scope devised by man; and never was one more elaborate in detail, more varied in substance, or more complete in execution. It is unique in the consistency of its form with its spirit. It possesses such organic unity and proportion as to resemble a work of the creative spirit of Nature herself.

The motive which inspired Dante in the 'Divine Comedy' had its source in his sense of the wretchedness of man in this mortal life, owing to the false direction of his desires, through his ignorance and his misuse of his free will, the chief gift of God to him. The only means of rescue from this wretchedness was the exercise by man of his reason, enlightened by the divine grace, in the guidance of his life. To convince man of this truth, to bring home to him the conviction of the eternal consequences of his conduct in this world, to show him the path of salvation, was Dante's aim. As poet he had received a Divine commission to perform this work. To him the ten talents had been given, and it was for him to put them to the use for which they had been bestowed. It was a consecrated task to which both heaven and earth set their hand, and a loftier task was never undertaken. It was to be accomplished by expounding the design of God in the creation, by setting forth the material and[Pg 4345] moral order of the universe and the share of man in that order, and his consequent duty and destiny. This was not to be done in the form of abstract propositions addressed to the understanding, but in a poetic narrative which should appeal to the heart and arouse the imagination; a narrative in which human life should be portrayed as an unbroken spiritual existence, prefiguring in its mortal aspects and experience its immortal destiny. The poem was not to be a mere criticism of life, but a solution of its mystery, an explanation of its meaning, and a guide of its course.

To give force and effect to such a design the narrative must be one of personal experience, so conceived as to be a type of the universal experience of man. The poem was to be an allegory, and in making himself its protagonist Dante assumed a double part. He represents both the individual Dante, the actual man, and that man as the symbol of man in general. His description of his journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise has a literal veracity; and under the letter is the allegory of the conduct and consequences of all human life. The literal meaning and the allegorical are the web and woof of the fabric, in which the separate incidents are interwoven, with twofold thread, in designs of infinite variety, complexity, and beauty.

In the journey through Hell, Dante represents himself as guided by Virgil, who has been sent to his aid on the perilous way by Beatrice, incited by the Holy Virgin herself, in her infinite compassion for one who has strayed from the true way in the dark forest of the world. Virgil is the type of the right reason, that reason whose guidance, if followed, leads man to the attainment of the moral virtues, by the practice of which sin may be avoided, but which by themselves are not enough for salvation. These were the virtues of the virtuous heathen, unenlightened by divine revelation. Through the world, of whose evil Hell is the type and fulfillment, reason is the sufficient guide and guard along the perilous paths which man must traverse, exposed to the assaults of sin, subject to temptation, and compelled to face the very Devil himself. And when at last, worn and wearied by long-continued effort, and repentant of his frequent errors, he has overcome temptation, and entered on a course of purification through suffering and penitence, whereby he may obtain forgiveness and struggle upward to the height of moral virtue, reason still suffices to lead him on the difficult ascent, until he reaches the security and the joy of having overcome the world. But now reason no longer is sufficient. Another guide is needed to lead the soul through heavenly paths to the attainment of the divine virtues of faith, hope, and charity, by which the soul is made fit for Paradise. And here Beatrice, the type of theology, or knowledge of the things[Pg 4346] of God, takes the place of Virgil, and conducts the purified and redeemed soul on its return to its divine source, to the consummation of its desires and its bliss in the vision of God himself.

Such is the general scheme of the poem, in which the order of the universe is displayed and the life of man depicted, in scenes of immense dramatic variety and of unsurpassed imaginative reality. It embraces the whole field of human experience. Nature, art, the past, the present, learning, philosophy, all contribute to it. The mastery of the poet over all material which can serve him is complete; the force of his controlling imagination corresponds with the depth and intensity of his moral purpose. And herein lies the exceptional character of the poem, as at once a work of art of supreme beauty and a work of didactic morals of supreme significance. Art indeed cannot, if it would, divorce itself from morals. Into every work of art, whether the artist intend it or not, enters a moral element. But in art, beauty does not submit to be subordinated to any other end, and it is the marvel in Dante that while his main intent is didactic, he attains it by a means of art so perfect that only in a few rare passages does beauty fall a sacrifice to doctrine. The 'Divine Comedy' is indeed not less incomparable in its beauty than in its vast compass, the variety of its interest, and in the harmony of its form with its spirit. In his lectures 'On Translating Homer' Mr. Arnold, speaking of the metre of 'Paradise Lost,' says:—"To this metre, as used in the 'Paradise Lost,' our country owes the glory of having produced one of the only two poetical works in the grand style which are to be found in the modern languages; the 'Divine Comedy' of Dante is the other." But Mr. Arnold does not point out the extraordinary fact, in regard to the style of the 'Divine Comedy,' that this poem stands at the beginning of modern literature, that there was no previous modern standard of style, that the language was molded and the verse invented by Dante; that he did not borrow his style from the ancients, and that when he says to Virgil, "Thou art he from whom I took the fair style that has done me honor," he meant only that he had learned from him the principles of noble and adequate poetic expression. The style of the 'Divine Comedy' is as different from that of the Æneid as it is from that of 'Paradise Lost.'

There are few other works of man, perhaps there is no other, which afford such evidence as the 'Divine Comedy' of uninterrupted consistency of purpose, of sustained vigor of imagination, and of steady force of character controlling alike the vagaries of the poetic temperament, the wavering of human purpose, the fluctuation of human powers, and the untowardness of circumstance. From beginning to end of this work of many years there is no flagging of[Pg 4347] energy, no indication of weakness. The shoulders, burdened by a task almost too great for mortal strength, never tremble under their load.

The contrast between the inner and the outer life of Dante is one of the most impressive pictures of human experience; the pain, the privation, the humiliation of outward circumstance so bitter, so prolonged; the joy, the fullness, the exaltation of inward condition so complete, the achievement so great. Above all other poetry the 'Divine Comedy' is the expression of high character, and of a manly nature of surpassing breadth and tenderness of sympathy, of intensity of moral earnestness, and elevation of purpose. One closes the narrative of Dante's life and the study of his works with the conviction that he was not only one of the greatest among poets, but a man whose character gives to his poetry its highest and its most enduring interest.



For the student of Italian, the following books may be recommended as opening the way to the study of Dante's life and works:

1. Tutte le Opere di Dante Alighieri. Nuovamente rivedute nel testo da Dr. E. Moore. Oxford, 1894, 1 vol.; sm. 8vo; pp. x. 490. [The best text of Dante's works, and the only edition of them in one volume. Invaluable to the student.]

2. La Divina Commedia di Dante Alighieri. Riveduta ... e commentata da G. A. Scartazzini. 2d ediz., Milano. 1896, 1 vol.; sm. 8vo; pp. xx, 1034; col Rimario ed Indice, pp. 122. On the whole the most useful edition for the beginner. The historical and biographical notes and the references to the sources of Dante's allusions are abundant and good; but interpretations of difficult passages or words are not always unquestionable.

Scartazzini's edition of the 'Divina Commedia' in three volumes, with his volume of 'Prolegomeni,' may be commended to the more advanced student, who will find it, especially the volume of the 'Paradise,' a rich storehouse of information.

For the English reader the following books and essays will be useful:—Cary's translation of the 'Divine Comedy,' in blank verse[Pg 4348], modeled on Milton's verse, and remote from the tone of the original. This is the version of a refined scholar; it has been much admired and is generally quoted in England. It is furnished with good notes.

Longfellow's verse-for-verse unrhymed translation is far the most accurate of the English translations in verse, and is distinguished also for the verbal felicity of its renderings. The comment accompanying it is extensive and of great value, by far the best in English.

Of literal prose translations, there are among others that of the 'Inferno' by Dr. John Carlyle, which is of very great merit; that of the whole poem, with a comment of interest, by Mr. A. J. Butler; and that also of the whole poem and of the 'New Life' by C. E. Norton.

The various works on Dante by the Rev. Dr. Edward Moore, of Oxford, are all of the highest worth, and quite indispensable to the thorough student. Their titles are—'Contributions to the Textual Criticism of the Divina Commedia,' 'Time References in the Divina Commedia,' 'Dante and his Early Biographers,' and 'Studies in Dante.'

Lowell's essay on 'Dante' (prose works of James Russell Lowell, Riverside edition, Vol. iv.), and 'Dante,' an essay by the Rev. R. W. Church, late Dean of St. Paul's, should be read by every student. They will open the way to further reading. The 'Concordance to the Divine Comedy,' by Dr. E. A. Fay, published by Ginn and Company, Boston, for the Dante Society, is a book which the student should have always at hand.

C. E. N.
[Pg 4349]


In making the following translations from Dante's chief works, my attempt has been to choose passages which should each have interest in itself, but which, taken together, should have a natural sequence and should illustrate the development of the ruling ideas and controlling sentiment of Dante's life. But they lose much of their power and beauty in being separated from their context, and the reader should bear in mind that such is the closeness of texture of Dante's work, and so complete its unity, that extracts, however numerous and extended, fail to give an adequate impression of its character as a whole. Moreover, no poems suffer greater loss in translation than Dante's, for in no others is there so intimate a relation between the expression and the feeling, between the rhythmical form and the poetic substance.

C. E. N.


1. The beginning of love.
2. The first salutation of his Lady.
3. The praise of his Lady.
4. Her loveliness.
5. Her death.
6. The anniversary of her death.
7. The hope to speak more worthily of her.


1. The consolation of Philosophy.
2. The desire of the Soul.
3. The noble Soul at the end of Life.


1. Hell, Cantos i. and ii. The entrance on the journey
through the eternal world.
2. Hell, Canto v. The punishment of carnal sinners.
3. Purgatory, Canto xxvii. The final purgation.
4. Purgatory, Cantos xxx, xxxi. The meeting with his
Lady in the Earthly Paradise.
5. Paradise, Canto xxxiii. The final vision.
[Pg 4350]

The selections from the 'New Life' are from Professor Norton's translation, copyrighted 1867, 1892, 1895, and reprinted by permission of Professor Norton and of Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Boston, Mass.




Nine times now, since my birth, the heaven of light had turned almost to the same point in its own gyration, when the glorious Lady of my mind, who was called Beatrice by many who knew not why she was so called, first appeared before my eyes. She had already been in this life so long that in its course the starry heaven had moved toward the region of the East one of the twelve parts of a degree; so that at about the beginning of her ninth year she appeared to me, and I near the end of my ninth year saw her. She appeared to me clothed in a most noble color, a modest and becoming crimson, and she was girt and adorned in such wise as befitted her very youthful age....

From that time forward Love lorded it over my soul, which had been so speedily wedded to him: and he began to exercise over me such control and such lordship, through the power which my imagination gave to him, that it behoved me to do completely all his pleasure. He commanded me ofttimes that I should seek to see this youthful angel; so that I in my boyhood often went seeking her, and saw her of such noble and praiseworthy deportment, that truly of her might be said that word of the poet Homer, "She seems not the daughter of mortal man, but of God." And though her image, which stayed constantly with me, gave assurance to Love to hold lordship over me, yet it was of such noble virtue that it never suffered Love to rule me without the faithful counsel of the reason in those matters in which it was useful to hear such counsel. And since to dwell upon the passions and actions of such early youth seems like telling an idle tale, I will leave them, and, passing over many things which might be drawn from the original where these lie hidden, I will come to those words which are written in my memory under larger paragraphs.[Pg 4351]



When so many days had passed that nine years were exactly complete since the above-described apparition of this most gentle lady, on the last of these days it happened that this admirable lady appeared to me, clothed in purest white, between two gentle ladies, who were of greater age; and, passing along a street, she turned her eyes toward that place where I stood very timidly, and by her ineffable courtesy, which is to-day rewarded in the eternal world, saluted me with such virtue that it seemed to me then that I saw all the bounds of bliss.... And since it was the first time that her words came to my ears, I took in such sweetness that, as it were intoxicated, I turned away from the folk, and betaking myself to the solitude of my own chamber, I sat myself down to think of this most courteous lady.

And thinking of her, a sweet slumber overcame me, in which a marvelous vision appeared to me.... And [when I awoke] thinking on what had appeared to me, I resolved to make it known to many who were famous poets at that time; and since I had already seen in myself the art of discoursing in rhyme, I resolved to make a sonnet, in which I would salute all the liegemen of Love, and would write to them that which I had seen in my slumber.



Inasmuch as through my looks many persons had learned the secret of my heart, certain ladies who were met together, taking pleasure in one another's company, were well acquainted with my heart, because each of them had witnessed many of my discomfitures. And I, passing near them, as chance led me, was called by one of these gentle ladies; and she who had called me was a lady of very pleasing speech; so that when I drew nigh to them and saw plainly that my most gentle lady was not among them, reassuring myself, I saluted them and asked what might be their pleasure. The ladies were many, and certain of them were laughing together. There were others who were looking at me, awaiting what I might say. There were others who were talking together, one of whom, turning her eyes toward me, and calling me by name, said these words:—"To what end lovest thou this[Pg 4352] thy lady, since thou canst not sustain her presence? Tell it to us, for surely the end of such a love must be most strange." And when she had said these words to me, not only she, but all the others, began to await with their look my reply. Then I said to them these words:—"My ladies, the end of my love was formerly the salutation of this lady of whom you perchance are thinking, and in that dwelt the beatitude which was the end of all my desires. But since it has pleased her to deny it to me, my lord Love, through his grace, has placed all my beatitude in that which cannot fail me."

Then these ladies began to speak together: and as sometimes we see rain falling mingled with beautiful snow, so it seemed to me I saw their words issue mingled with sighs. And after they had somewhat spoken among themselves, this lady who had first spoken to me said to me yet these words:—"We pray thee that thou tell us wherein consists this beatitude of thine." And I, replying to her, said thus:—"In those words which praise my lady." And she replied:—"If thou hast told us the truth, those words which thou hadst said to her, setting forth thine own condition, must have been composed with other intent."

Then I, thinking on these words, as if ashamed, departed from them, and went saying within myself:—"Since there is such beatitude in those words which praise my lady, why has my speech been of aught else?" And therefore I resolved always henceforth to take for theme of my speech that which should be the praise of this most gentle one. And thinking much on this, I seemed to myself to have undertaken a theme too lofty for me, so that I dared not to begin; and thus I tarried some days with desire to speak, and with fear of beginning.

Then it came to pass that, walking on a road alongside of which was flowing a very clear stream, so great a desire to say somewhat in verse came upon me, that I began to consider the method I should observe; and I thought that to speak of her would not be becoming unless I were to speak to ladies in the second person; and not to every lady, but only to those who are gentle, and are not women merely. Then I say that my tongue spoke as if moved of its own accord, and said, Ladies that have intelligence of Love. These words I laid up in my mind with great joy, thinking to take them for my beginning; wherefore then, having returned to the above-mentioned city, after some days of thought, I began a canzone with this beginning.[Pg 4353]



This most gentle lady, of whom there has been discourse in the preceding words, came into such favor among the people, that when she passed along the way, persons ran to see her; which gave me wonderful joy. And when she was near any one, such modesty came into his heart that he dared not raise his eyes, or return her salutation; and of this many, as having experienced it, could bear witness for me to whoso might not believe it. She, crowned and clothed with humility, took her way, showing no pride in that which she saw and heard. Many said, when she had passed: "This is not a woman; rather she is one of the most beautiful angels of heaven." And others said: "She is a marvel. Blessed be the Lord who can work thus admirably!" I say that she showed herself so gentle and so full of all pleasantness, that those who looked on her comprehended in themselves a pure and sweet delight, such as they could not after tell in words; nor was there any who might look upon her but that at first he needs must sigh. These and more admirable things proceeded from her admirably and with power. Wherefore I, thinking upon this, desiring to resume the style of her praise, resolved to say words in which I would set forth her admirable and excellent influences, to the end that not only those who might actually behold her, but also others, should know of her whatever words could tell. Then I devised this sonnet:—

So gentle and so gracious doth appear
My lady when she giveth her salute,
That every tongue becometh, trembling, mute;
Nor do the eyes to look upon her dare.
Although she hears her praises, she doth go
Benignly vested with humility;
And like a thing come down she seems to be
From heaven to earth, a miracle to show.
So pleaseth she whoever cometh nigh,
She gives the heart a sweetness through the eyes,
Which none can understand who doth not prove.
And from her countenance there seems to move
A spirit sweet and in Love's very guise,
Who to the soul, in going, sayeth: Sigh!
[Pg 4354]



After that I began to think one day upon what I had said of my lady, that is, in these two preceding sonnets; and seeing in my thought that I had not spoken of that which at the present time she wrought in me, it seemed to me that I had spoken defectively; and therefore I resolved to say words in which I would tell how I seemed to myself to be disposed to her influence, and how her virtue wrought in me. And not believing that I could relate this in the brevity of a sonnet, I began then a canzone.

Quomodo sedet sola civitas plena populo! facta est quasi vidua domina gentium. [How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! How is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations.]

I was yet full of the design of this canzone, and had completed [one] stanza thereof, when the Lord of Justice called this most gentle one to glory, under the banner of that holy Queen Mary, whose name was ever spoken with greatest reverence by this blessed Beatrice.



On that day on which the year was complete since this lady was made one of the denizens of life eternal, I was seated in a place where, having her in mind, I was drawing an angel upon certain tablets. And while I was drawing it, I turned my eyes and saw at my side men to whom it was meet to do honor. They were looking on what I did, and, as was afterwards told me, they had been there already some time before I became aware of it. When I saw them I rose, and saluting them, said, "Another was just now with me, and on that account I was in thought." And when they had gone away, I returned to my work, namely, that of drawing figures of angels; and while doing this, a thought came to me of saying words in rhyme, as if for an anniversary poem of her, and of addressing those persons who had come to me.[Pg 4355]

After this, two gentle ladies sent to ask me to send them some of these rhymed words of mine; wherefore I, thinking on their nobleness, resolved to send to them and to make a new thing which I would send to them with these, in order that I might fulfill their prayers with the more honor. And I devised then a sonnet which relates my condition, and I sent it to them.

Beyond the sphere that widest orbit hath
Passes the sigh which issues from my heart:
A new Intelligence doth Love impart
In tears to him, which guides his upward path.
When at the place desired, his course he stays,
A lady he beholds in honor dight,
Who so doth shine that through her splendid light,
The pilgrim spirit upon her doth gaze.
He sees her such, that dark his words I find—
When he reports, his speech so subtle is
Unto the grieving heart which makes him tell;
But of that gentle one he speaks, I wis,
Since oft he bringeth Beatrice to mind,
So that, O ladies dear, I understand him well.



After this, a wonderful vision appeared to me, in which I saw things which made me resolve to speak no more of the blessed one, until I could more worthily treat of her. And to attain to this, I study to the utmost of my power, as she truly knows. So that, if it shall please Him through whom all things live that my life be prolonged for some years, I hope to say of her what was never said of any woman.

And then may it please him who is the Lord of Grace, that my soul may go to behold the glory of its lady, namely of that blessed Beatrice, who in glory looks upon the face of Him qui est per omnia sæcula benedictus [who is blessed forever].[Pg 4356]

The translations from the 'Convito' are made for 'A Library of the World's Best Literature' by Professor Norton




"When the first delight of my soul was lost, of which mention has already been made, I remained pierced with such affliction that no comfort availed me. Nevertheless, after some time, my mind, which was endeavoring to heal itself, undertook, since neither my own nor others' consoling availed, to turn to the mode which other comfortless ones had adopted for their consolation. And I set myself to reading that book of Boëthius, not known to many, in which he, a prisoner and an exile, had consoled himself. And hearing, moreover, that Tully had written a book in which, treating of friendship, he had introduced words of consolation for Lælius, a most excellent man, on the death of Scipio his friend, I set myself to read that. And although it was difficult for me at first to enter into their meaning, I finally entered into it, so far as my knowledge of Latin and a little of my own genius permitted; through which genius I already, as if in a dream, saw many things, as may be seen in the 'New Life.' And as it sometimes happens that a man goes seeking silver, and beyond his expectation finds gold, which a hidden occasion affords, not perchance without Divine guidance, so I, who was seeking to console myself, found not only relief for my tears, but the substance of authors, and of knowledge, and of books; reflecting upon which, I came to the conclusion that Philosophy, who was the Lady of these authors, this knowledge, and these books, was a supreme thing. And I imagined her as having the features of a gentle lady; and I could not imagine her in any but a compassionate act; wherefore my sense so willingly admired her in truth, that I could hardly turn it from her. And after this imagination I began to go there where she displayed herself truly, that is to say, to the school of the religious, and to the disputations of the philosophers, so that in a short time, perhaps in thirty months, I began to feel so much of her sweetness that the love of her chased away and destroyed every other thought."

'The Banquet,' ii. 13.
[Pg 4357]



The supreme desire of everything, and that first given by Nature, is to return to its source; and since God is the source of our souls and Maker of them in his own likeness, as is written, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness," to him this soul desires above all to return. And as a pilgrim, who goes along a road on which he never was before, thinks every house he sees afar off to be his inn, and not finding it so, directs his trust to the next, and thus from house to house till he comes to the inn, so our soul at once, on entering the new and untraveled road of this life, turns her eyes to the goal of her supreme good, and therefore whatever thing she sees which seems to have in it some good, she believes to be that. And because her knowledge at first is imperfect, not being experienced or instructed, small goods seem to her great, therefore she begins with desiring them. Wherefore we see children desire exceedingly an apple; and then proceeding further, desire a little bird; and further still a beautiful dress; and then a horse, and then a woman, and then riches not great, and then greater, and then as great as can be. And this happens because in none of these does she find that which she is seeking, and she trusts to find it further on....

Truly this way is lost by error as the roads of earth are; for as from one city to another there is of necessity one best and straightest way, and another that always leads away from it, that is, one which goes in another direction, and many others, some less diverging, and some approaching less near, so in human life are divers roads, of which one is the truest, and another the most deceitful, and certain ones less deceitful, and certain less true. And as we see that that which goes straightest to the city fulfills desire, and gives repose after weariness, and that which goes contrary never fulfills it, and can never give repose, so it falls out in our life: the good traveler arrives at the goal and repose, the mistaken never arrives there, but with much weariness of his mind always looks forward with greedy eyes.

'The Banquet,' iv. 12.
[Pg 4358]



The noble Soul in old age returns to God as to that port whence she set forth on the sea of this life. And as the good mariner, when he approaches port, furls his sails, and with slow course gently enters it, so should we furl the sails of our worldly affairs and turn to God with our whole mind and heart, so that we may arrive at that port with all sweetness and peace. And in regard to this we have from our own nature a great lesson of sweetness, that in such a death as this there is no pain nor any bitterness, but as a ripe fruit is easily and without violence detached from its twig, so our soul without affliction is parted from the body in which it has been. And just as to him who comes from a long journey, before he enters into the gate of his city, the citizens thereof go forth to meet him, so the citizens of the eternal life come to meet the noble Soul; and they do so through her good deeds and contemplations: for having now rendered herself to God, and withdrawn herself from worldly affairs and thoughts, she seems to see those whom she believes to be nigh unto God. Hear what Tully says in the person of the good Cato:—"With ardent zeal I lifted myself up to see your fathers whom I had loved, and not them only, but also those of whom I had heard speak." The noble Soul then at this age renders herself to God and awaits the end of life with great desire; and it seems to her that she is leaving the inn and returning to her own house, it seems to her that she is leaving the road and returning to the city, it seems to her that she is leaving the sea and returning to port.... And also the noble Soul at this age blesses the past times; and well may she bless them, because revolving them through her memory she recalls her right deeds, without which she could not arrive with such great riches or so great gain at the port to which she is approaching. And she does like the good merchant, who when he draws near his port, examines his getting, and says: "Had I not passed along such a way, I should not have this treasure, nor have gained that which I may enjoy in my city to which I am drawing near;" and therefore he blesses the way which he has come.

'The Banquet,' iv. 28.
[Pg 4359]

The selections from the 'Divina Commedia' are from Professor Norton's translation: copyrighted 1891 and 1892 and reprinted by permission of Professor Norton and of Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Publishers, Boston, Mass.




[Dante, astray in a wood, reaches the foot of a hill which he begins to ascend; he is hindered by three beasts; he turns back and is met by Virgil, who proposes to guide him into the eternal world.]

Midway upon the road of our life I found myself within a dark wood, for the right way had been missed. Ah! how hard a thing it is to tell what this wild and rough and dense wood was, which in thought renews the fear! So bitter is it that death is little more. But in order to treat of the good that I found, I will tell of the other things that I saw there. I cannot well recount how I entered it, so full was I of slumber at that point where I abandoned the true way. But after I had arrived at the foot of a hill, where that valley ended which had pierced my heart with fear, I looked on high and saw its shoulders clothed already with the rays of the planet[8] that leads men aright along every path. Then was the fear a little quieted which in the lake of my heart had lasted through the night that I passed so piteously. And even as one who, with spent breath, issued out of the sea upon the shore, turns to the perilous water and gazes, so did my soul, which still was flying, turn back to look again upon the pass which never had a living person left.

After I had rested a little my weary body, I took my way again along the desert slope, so that the firm foot was always the lower. And lo! almost at the beginning of the steep a she-leopard, light and very nimble, which was covered with a spotted coat. And she did not move from before my face, nay, rather hindered so my road that to return I oftentimes had turned.

The time was at the beginning of the morning, and the Sun was mounting upward with those stars that were with him when Love Divine first set in motion those beautiful things;[9] so that[Pg 4360] the hour of the time and the sweet season were occasion of good hope to me concerning that wild beast with the dappled skin. But not so that the sight which appeared to me of a lion did not give me fear. He seemed to be coming against me, with head high and with ravening hunger, so that it seemed that the air was affrighted at him. And a she-wolf, who with all cravings seemed laden in her meagreness, and already had made folk to live forlorn,—she caused me so much heaviness, with the fear that came from sight of her, that I lost hope of the height.[10] And such as he is who gains willingly, and the time arrives that makes him lose, who in all his thoughts weeps and is sad,—such made me the beast without repose that, coming on against me, little by little was pushing me back thither where the Sun is silent.

While I was falling back to the low place, before mine eyes appeared one who through long silence seemed faint-voiced. When I saw him in the great desert, "Have pity on me!" I cried to him, "whatso thou art, or shade or real man." He answered me:—"Not man; man once I was, and my parents were Lombards, and Mantuans by country both. I was born sub Julio, though late, and I lived at Rome under the good Augustus, in the time of the false and lying gods. Poet was I, and sang of that just son of Anchises who came from Troy after proud Ilion had been burned. But thou, why returnest thou to so great annoy? Why dost thou not ascend the delectable mountain which is the source and cause of every joy?" "Art thou then that Virgil and that fount which poureth forth so large a stream of speech?" replied I to him with bashful front: "O honor and light of the other poets! may the long study avail me, and the great love, which have made me search thy volume! Thou art my master and my author; thou alone art he from whom I took the fair style that has done me honor. Behold the beast because of which I turned; help me against her, famous sage, for she makes my veins and pulses tremble." "Thee it behoves to hold another course," he replied when he saw me weeping, "if thou wishest to escape from this savage place: for this beast, because of which thou criest out, lets not any one pass along her way, but so hinders him that she kills him; and she has a nature so malign and evil that she never sates her greedy will, and after[Pg 4361] food is hungrier than before. Many are the animals with which she wives, and there shall be more yet, till the hound shall come that will make her die of grief.... He shall hunt her through every town till he shall have set her back in hell, there whence envy first sent her forth. Wherefore I think and deem it for thy best that thou follow me, and I will be thy guide and will lead thee hence through the eternal place where thou shalt hear the despairing shrieks, shalt see the ancient spirits woful who each proclaim the second death. And then thou shalt see those who are contented in the fire, because they hope to come, whenever it may be, to the blessed folk; to whom if thou wilt thereafter ascend, there shall be a soul more worthy than I for that. With her I will leave thee at my departure; for that Emperor who reigneth thereabove, because I was rebellious to his law, wills not that into his city any one should come through me. In all parts he governs and there he reigns: there is his city and his lofty seat. O happy he whom thereto he elects!" And I to him:—"Poet, I beseech thee by that God whom thou didst not know, in order that I may escape this ill and worse, that thou lead me thither where thou now hast said, so that I may see the gate of St. Peter, and those whom thou makest so afflicted."

Then he moved on, and I behind him kept.



[Dante, doubtful of his own powers, is discouraged. Virgil cheers him by telling him that he has been sent to his aid by a blessed Spirit from Heaven. Dante casts off fear, and the poets proceed.]

The day was going, and the dusky air was taking the living things that are on earth from their fatigues, and I alone was preparing to sustain the war alike of the road, and of the woe which the mind that errs not shall retrace. O Muses, O lofty genius, now assist me! O mind that didst inscribe that which I saw, here shall thy nobility appear! I began:—

"Poet, that guidest me, consider my virtue, if it be sufficient, ere to the deep pass thou trustest me. Thou sayest that the parent of Silvius while still corruptible went to the immortal[Pg 4362] world and was there in the body. Wherefore if the Adversary of every ill was then courteous, thinking on the high effect that should proceed from him, and on the Who and the What,[11] it seemeth not unmeet to a man of understanding; for in the empyreal heaven he had been chosen for father of revered Rome and of her empire; both which (to say truth indeed) were ordained for the holy place where the successor of the greater Peter has his seat. Through this going, whereof thou givest him vaunt, he learned things which were the cause of his victory and of the papal mantle! Afterward the Chosen Vessel went thither to bring thence comfort to that faith which is the beginning of the way of salvation. But I, why go I thither? or who concedes it? I am not Æneas, I am not Paul; me worthy of this, neither I nor others think; wherefore if I give myself up to go, I fear lest the going may be mad. Thou art wise, thou understandest better than I speak."

And as is he who unwills what he willed, and because of new thoughts changes his design, so that he quite withdraws from beginning, such I became on that dark hillside; wherefore in my thought I abandoned the enterprise which had been so hasty in its beginning.

"If I have rightly understood thy speech," replied that shade of the magnanimous one, "thy soul is hurt by cowardice, which oftentimes encumbers a man so that it turns him back from honorable enterprise, as false seeing doth a beast when it is startled. In order that thou loose thee from this fear I will tell thee wherefore I have come, and what I heard at the first moment that I grieved for thee. I was among those who are suspended,[12] and a Lady called me, so blessed and beautiful that I besought her to command. Her eyes were more lucent than the star, and she began to speak to me sweet and low, with angelic voice, in her own tongue:—'O courteous Mantuan soul! of whom the fame yet lasts in the world, and shall last so long as the world endures, a friend of mine and not of fortune is upon the desert hillside, so hindered on his road that he has turned for fear; and I am afraid, through that which I have heard of him in heaven, lest he already be so astray that I may have risen late to his succor. Now do thou move, and with thy speech ornate, and with whatever is needful for his deliverance, assist him so that I may be[Pg 4363] consoled for him. I am Beatrice who make thee go. I come from a place whither I desire to return. Love moved me, and makes me speak. When I shall be before my Lord, I will commend thee often to him.' Then she was silent, and thereon I began:—'O Lady of Virtue, thou alone through whom the human race surpasses all contained within that heaven which has the smallest circles![13] so pleasing unto me is thy command that to obey it, were it already done, were slow to me. Thou hast no need further to open unto me thy will; but tell me the cause why thou guardest not thyself from descending down here into this centre, from the ample place whither thou burnest to return.' 'Since thou wishest to know so inwardly, I will tell thee briefly,' she replied to me, 'wherefore I am not afraid to come here within. One ought to be afraid of those things only that have power to do another harm; of other things not, for they are not fearful. I am made by God, thanks be to him, such that your misery touches me not, nor does the flame of this burning assail me. A gentle Lady is in heaven who hath pity for this hindrance whereto I send thee, so that stern judgment there above she breaks. She summoned Lucia in her request, and said, "Thy faithful one now hath need of thee, and unto thee I commend him." Lucia,[14] the foe of every cruel one, rose and came to the place where I was, seated with the ancient Rachael. She said:—"Beatrice, true praise of God, why dost thou not succor him who so loved thee that for thee he came forth from the vulgar throng? Dost thou not hear the pity of his plaint? Dost thou not see the death that combats him beside the stream whereof the sea hath no vaunt?" In the world never were persons swift to seek their good, and to fly their harm, as I, after these words were uttered, came here below, from my blessed seat, putting my trust in thy upright speech, which honors thee and them who have heard it.' After she had said this to me, weeping she turned her lucent eyes, whereby she made me more speedy in coming. And I came to thee as she willed. Thee have I delivered from that wild beast that took from thee the short ascent of the beautiful mountain. What is it then? Why, why dost thou hold back? why dost thou harbor such cowardice in thy heart? why hast thou not daring and boldness, since three blessed Ladies care for thee in the court of Heaven, and my speech pledges thee such good?"

[Pg 4364]As flowerets, bent and closed by the chill of night, after the sun shines on them straighten themselves all open on their stem, so my weak virtue became, and such good daring hastened to my heart that I began like one enfranchised:—"O compassionate she who succored! and thou courteous who didst speedily obey the true words that she addressed to thee! Thou by thy words hast so disposed my heart with desire of going, that I have returned unto my first intent. Go on now, for one sole will is in us both: thou leader, thou Lord, and thou Master." Thus I said to him; and when he had moved on, I entered along the deep and savage road.



[The Second Circle, that of Carnal Sinners.—Minos.—Shades renowned of old.—Francesca da Rimini.]

Thus I descended from the first circle down into the second, which girdles less space, and so much more woe that it goads to wailing. There abides Minos horribly, and snarls; he examines the sins at the entrance; he judges, and he sends according as he entwines himself. I mean that when the miscreant spirit comes there before him, it confesses itself wholly, and that discerner of sins sees what place of Hell is for it; he girdles himself with his tail so many times as the degrees he wills it should be sent down. Always before him stand many of them. They go, in turn, each to the judgment; they speak, and hear, and then are whirled below.

"O thou that comest to the woful inn," said Minos to me, when he saw me, leaving the act of so great an office, "beware how thou enterest, and to whom thou intrustest thyself; let not the amplitude of the entrance deceive thee." And my Leader to him, "Why then dost thou cry out? Hinder not his fated going; thus is it willed there where is power to do that which is willed; and ask thou no more."

Now the woful notes begin to make themselves heard; now am I come where much lamentation smites me. I had come into a place mute of all light, that bellows as the sea does in a tempest, if it be combated by opposing winds. The infernal hurricane that never rests carries along the spirits with its rapine; whirling and smiting it molests them. When they arrive before its rushing blast, here are shrieks, and bewailing, and lamenting;[Pg 4365] here they blaspheme the power Divine. I understood that to such torment are condemned the carnal sinners who subject reason unto lust. And as their wings bear along the starlings in the cold season in a troop large and full, so that blast the evil spirits; hither, thither, down, up, it carries them; no hope ever comforts them, not of repose, but even of less pain.

And as the cranes go singing their lays, making in air a long line of themselves, so saw I come, uttering wails, shades borne along by the aforesaid strife. Wherefore I said, "Master, who are those folk whom the black air so castigates?" "The first of these of whom thou wishest to have knowledge," said he to me then, "was empress of many tongues. To the vice of luxury was she so abandoned that lust she made licit in her law, to take away the blame she had incurred. She is Semiramis, of whom it is read that she succeeded Ninus and had been his spouse; she held the land which the Soldan rules. The other is she who, for love, slew herself and broke faith to the ashes of Sichaeus. Next is Cleopatra, the luxurious. See Helen, for whom so long a time of ill revolved; and see the great Achilles, who at the end fought with love. See Paris, Tristan—" and more than a thousand shades he showed me with his finger, and named them whom love had parted from our life.

After I had heard my Teacher name the dames of eld and the cavaliers, pity overcame me, and I was well-nigh bewildered. I began, "Poet, willingly would I speak with those two that go together, and seem to be so light upon the wind." And he to me, "Thou shalt see when they shall be nearer to us, and do thou then pray them by that love which leads them, and they will come." Soon as the wind sways them toward us I lifted my voice: "O weary souls, come speak to us, if One forbid it not."

As doves, called by desire, with wings open and steady, fly through the air to their sweet nest, borne by their will, these issued from the troop where Dido is, coming to us through the malign air, so strong was the compassionate cry:—

"O living creature, gracious and benign, that goest through the lurid air visiting us who stained the world blood-red,—if the King of the universe were a friend we would pray him for thy peace, since thou hast pity on our perverse ill. Of what it pleases thee to hear, and what to speak, we will hear and we will speak to you, while the wind, as now, is hushed for us. The city where I was born sits upon the sea-shore, where the[Pg 4366] Po, with his followers, descends to have peace. Love, that on gentle heart quickly lays hold, seized him for the fair person that was taken from me, and the mode still hurts me. Love, which absolves no loved one from loving, seized me for the pleasing of him so strongly that, as thou seest, it does not even now abandon me. Love brought us to one death. Caina waits him who quenched our life." These words were borne to us from them.

Soon as I had heard those injured souls I bowed my face, and held it down, until the Poet said to me, "What art thou thinking?" When I replied, I began:—"Alas! how many sweet thoughts, how great desire, led these unto the woful pass." Then I turned me again to them, and I spoke, and began, "Francesca, thy torments make me sad and piteous to weeping. But tell me, at the time of the sweet sighs by what and how did love concede to you to know the dubious desires?" And she to me, "There is no greater woe than in misery to remember the happy time, and that thy Teacher knows. But if to know the first root of our love thou hast so great a longing, I will do like one who weeps and tells.

"We were reading one day, for delight, of Lancelot, how love constrained him. We were alone and without any suspicion. Many times that reading made us lift our eyes, and took the color from our faces, but only one point was that which overcame us. When we read of the longed-for smile being kissed by such a lover, this one, who never from me shall be divided, kissed my mouth all trembling. Galahaut[15] was the book, and he who wrote it. That day we read in it no farther."

While one spirit said this, the other was weeping so that through pity I swooned as if I had been dying, and fell as a dead body falls.[Pg 4367]




[Seventh Ledge: the Lustful.—Passage through the flames.—Stairway in the rock.—Night upon the stairs.—Dream of Dante.—Morning.—Ascent to the Earthly Paradise.—Last words of Virgil.]

As when he darts forth his first rays there where his Maker shed his blood (Ebro falling tinder the lofty Scales, and the waves in the Ganges scorched by noon), so the sun was now standing; so that the day was departing, when the glad Angel of God appeared to us[16]. Outside the flame he was standing on the bank, and was singing "Beati mundo corde" [Blessed are the pure in heart], in a voice far more living than ours: then, "No one goes further, ye holy souls, if first the fire sting not; enter into it, and to the song beyond be ye not deaf," he said to us, when we were near him. Whereat I became such, when I heard him, as is he who in the pit is put[17]. With hands clasped upwards, I stretched forward, looking at the fire, and imagining vividly human bodies I had once seen burnt. The good Escorts turned toward me, and Virgil said to me, "My son, here may be torment, but not death. Bethink thee! bethink thee! and if I even upon Geryon guided thee safe, what shall I do now that I am nearer God? Believe for certain that if within the belly of this flame thou shouldst stand full a thousand years, it could not make thee bald of one hair. And if thou perchance believest that I deceive thee, draw near to it, and make trial for thyself with thine own hands on the hem of thy garments. Put aside now, put aside every fear; turn hitherward, and come on secure."

And I still motionless and against conscience!

When he saw me still stand motionless and obdurate, he said, disturbed a little, "Now see, son, between Beatrice and thee is this wall."

As at the name of Thisbe, Pyramus, at point of death, opened his eyelids and looked at her, what time the mulberry[Pg 4368] became vermilion, so, my obduracy becoming softened, I turned me to the wise Leader, hearing the name that in my memory is ever welling up. Whereat he nodded his head, and said, "How! do we want to stay on this side?" Then he smiled as one doth at a child who is conquered by an apple.

Then within the fire he set himself before me, praying Statius that he would come behind, who previously, on the long road, had divided us. When I was in, into boiling glass I would have thrown myself to cool me, so without measure was the burning there. My sweet Father, to encourage me, went talking ever of Beatrice, saying, "I seem already to see her eyes."

A voice was guiding us, which was singing on the other side, and we, ever attentive to it, came forth there where was the ascent. "Venite, benedicti Patris mei" [Come, ye blessed of my Father], sounded within a light that was there such that it overcame me, and I could not look on it. "The sun departs," it added, "and the evening comes; tarry not, but hasten your steps so long as the west grows not dark."

The way mounted straight, through the rock, in such direction that I cut off in front of me the rays of the sun which was already low. And of few stairs had we made essay ere, by the vanishing of the shadow, both I and my Sages perceived behind us the setting of the sun. And before the horizon in all its immense regions had become of one aspect, and night had all her dispensations, each of us made of a stair his bed; for the nature of the mountain took from us the power more than the delight of ascending.

As goats, who have been swift and wayward on the peaks ere they are fed, become tranquil as they ruminate, silent in the shade while the sun is hot, watched by the herdsman, who on his staff is leaning and leaning guards them; and as the shepherd, who lodges out of doors, passes the night beside his quiet flock, watching that the wild beast may not scatter it: such were we all three then, I like a goat, and they like shepherds, hemmed in on this side and on that by the high rock. Little of the outside could there appear, but through that little I saw the stars both brighter and larger than their wont. Thus ruminating, and thus gazing upon them, sleep overcame me, sleep which oft before a deed be done knows news thereof.

At the hour, I think, when from the east on the mountain first beamed Cytherea, who with fire of love seems always burning,[Pg 4369] I seemed in dream to see a lady, young and beautiful, going through a meadow gathering flowers, and singing; she was saying, "Let him know, whoso asks my name, that I am Leah, and I go moving my fair hands around to make myself a garland. To please me at the glass here I adorn me, but my sister Rachel never withdraws from her mirror, and sits all day. She is as fain to look with her fair eyes as I to adorn me with my hands. Her seeing, and me doing, satisfies."[18]

And now before the splendors which precede the dawn, and rise the more grateful unto pilgrims as in returning they lodge less remote[19], the shadows fled away on every side, and my sleep with them; whereupon I rose, seeing my great Masters already risen. "That pleasant apple which through so many branches the care of mortals goes seeking, to-day shall put in peace thy hungerings." Virgil used words such as these toward me, and never were there gifts which could be equal in pleasure to these. Such wish upon wish came to me to be above, that at every step thereafter I felt the feathers growing for my flight.

When beneath us all the stairway had been run, and we were on the topmost step, Virgil fixed his eyes on me, and said, "The temporal fire and the eternal thou hast seen, son, and art come to a place where of myself no further onward I discern. I have brought thee here with understanding and with art: thine own pleasure now take thou for guide; forth art thou from the steep ways, forth art thou from the narrow. See there the sun, which on thy front doth shine; see the young grass, the flowers, the shrubs, which here the earth of itself alone produces. Until rejoicing come the beautiful eyes which weeping made me come to thee, thou canst sit down and thou canst go among them. Expect no more or word or sign from me. Free, upright, and sane is thine own free will, and it would be wrong not to act according to its pleasure; wherefore thee over thyself I crown and mitre."[Pg 4370]



[Beatrice appears.—Departure of Virgil.—Reproof of Dante by Beatrice.—Confession of Dante.—Passage of Lethe.—Unveiling of Beatrice.]

When the septentrion of the first heaven,[20] which never setting knew, nor rising, nor veil of other cloud than sin,—and which was making every one there acquainted with his duty, as the lower[21] makes whoever turns the helm to come to port,—stopped still, the truthful people who had come first between the griffon and it, turned to the chariot as to their peace, and one of them, as if sent from heaven, singing, cried thrice, "Veni, sponsa, de Libano" [Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse], and all the others after.

As the blessed at the last trump will arise swiftly, each from his tomb, singing Hallelujah with recovered voice, so upon the divine chariot, ad vocem tanti senis [at the voice of so great an elder], rose up a hundred ministers and messengers of life eternal. All were saying, "Benedictus, qui venis" [Blessed thou that comest], and, scattering flowers above and around, "Manibus o date lilia plenis" [Oh, give lilies with full hands].[22]

I have seen ere now at the beginning of the day the eastern region all rosy, while the rest of the heaven was beautiful with fair clear sky; and the face of the sun rise shaded, so that through the tempering of vapors the eye sustained it a long while. Thus within a cloud of flowers, which from the angelic hands was ascending, and falling down again within and without, a lady, with olive wreath above a white veil, appeared to me, robed with the color of living flame beneath a green mantle.[23] And my spirit that now for so long a time had not been broken down, trembling with amazement at her presence, without[Pg 4371] having more knowledge by the eyes, through occult virtue that proceeded from her, felt the great potency of ancient love.

Soon as upon my sight the lofty virtue smote, which already had transfixed me ere I was out of boyhood, I turned me to the left with the confidence with which the little child runs to his mother when he is frightened, or when he is troubled, to say to Virgil, "Less than a drachm of blood remains in me that doth not tremble; I recognize the signals of the ancient flame,"[24]—but Virgil had left us deprived of himself; Virgil, sweetest Father, Virgil, to whom I for my salvation gave me. Nor did all which the ancient mother lost[25] avail unto my cheeks, cleansed with dew,[26] that they should not turn dark again with tears.

"Dante, though Virgil be gone away, weep not yet, for it behoves thee to weep by another sword."

Like an admiral who, on poop or on prow, comes to see the people that are serving on the other ships, and encourages them to do well, upon the left border of the chariot—when I turned me at the sound of my own name, which of necessity is registered here—I saw the Lady, who had first appeared to me veiled beneath the angelic festival, directing her eyes toward me across the stream; although the veil which descended from her head, circled by the leaf of Minerva, did not allow her to appear distinctly. Royally, still haughty in her mien, she went on, as one who speaks and keeps back his warmest speech: "Look at me well: I am indeed, I am indeed Beatrice. How hast thou deigned to approach the mountain? Didst thou know that man is happy here?" My eyes fell down into the clear fount; but seeing myself in it I drew them to the grass, such great shame burdened my brow. As to the son the mother seems proud, so she seemed to me; for somewhat bitter tasteth the savor of stern pity.

She was silent, and the angels sang of a sudden, "In te, Domine, speravi" [In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust];[27] but beyond "pedes meos" [my feet] they did not pass. Even as the snow, among the living rafters upon the back of Italy, is congealed, blown, and packed by Slavonian winds, then melting[Pg 4372] trickles through itself, if only the land that loses shadow[28] breathe so that it seems a fire that melts the candle: so was I without tears and sighs before the song of those who time their notes after the notes of the eternal circles. But when I heard in their sweet accords their compassion for me, more than if they had said, "Lady, why dost thou so confound him?" the ice that was bound tight around my heart became breath and water, and with anguish poured from my breast through my mouth and eyes.

She, still standing motionless on the aforesaid side of the chariot, then turned her words to those pious[29] beings thus:—"Ye watch in the eternal day, so that nor night nor slumber robs from you one step the world may make along its ways; wherefore my reply is with greater care, that he who is weeping yonder may understand me, so that fault and grief may be of one measure. Not only through the working of the great wheels,[30] which direct every seed to some end according as the stars are its companions, but through largess of divine graces, which have for their rain vapors so lofty that our sight goes not near thereto,—this man was such in his new life, virtually, that every right habit would have made admirable proof in him. But so much the more malign and more savage becomes the land ill-sown and untilled, as it has more of good terrestrial vigor. Some time did I sustain him with my face; showing my youthful eyes to him, I led him with me turned in right direction. So soon as I was upon the threshold of my second age, and had changed life, this one took himself from me, and gave himself to others. When from flesh to spirit I had ascended, and beauty and virtue were increased in me, I was less dear and less pleasing to him; and he turned his steps along a way not true, following false images of good, which pay no promise in full. Nor did it avail me to win by entreaty[31] inspirations with which, both in dream and otherwise, I called him back; so little did he heed them. So low he fell that all means for his salvation were already short, save showing him the lost people.[32] For this I visited the gate of the dead, and to him, who has conducted him up hither, my prayers were borne with weeping. The high[Pg 4373] decree of God would be broken, if Lethe should be passed, and such viands should be tasted without any scot of repentance which may pour forth tears."

"O thou who art on the further side of the sacred river," turning her speech with the point to me, which only by the edge had seemed to me keen, she began anew, going on without delay, "say, say if this be true: to so great an accusation it behoves that thine own confession be conjoined." My power was so confused that my voice moved, and became extinct before it could be released by its organs. A little she bore it; then she said, "What thinkest thou? Reply to me; for the sad memories in thee are not yet injured by the water."[33] Confusion and fear together mingled forced such a "Yes" from my mouth that the eyes were needed for the understanding of it.

As a crossbow breaks its cord and its bow when it shoots with too great tension, and with less force the shaft hits the mark, so did I burst under that heavy load, pouring forth tears and sighs, and the voice slackened along its passage. Whereupon she to me:—"Within those desires of mine[34] that were leading thee to love the Good beyond which there is nothing whereto man may aspire, what trenches running traverse, or what chains didst thou find, for which thou wert obliged thus to abandon the hope of passing onward? And what enticements, or what advantages on the brow of the others[35] were displayed, for which thou wert obliged to court them?" After the drawing of a bitter sigh, hardly had I the voice that answered, and the lips with difficulty gave it form. Weeping, I said, "The present things with their false pleasure turned my steps soon as your face was hidden." And she:—"Hadst thou been silent, or hadst thou denied that which thou dost confess, thy fault would be not less noted, by such a Judge is it known. But when the accusation of the sin bursts from one's own cheek, in our court the wheel turns itself back against the edge. But yet, that thou mayst now bear shame for thy error, and that another time, hearing the Sirens, thou mayst be stronger, lay aside the seed of weeping and listen; so shalt thou hear how in opposite direction my buried flesh ought to have moved thee. Never did nature or art present to thee pleasure such as the fair limbs[Pg 4374] wherein I was inclosed; and they are scattered in earth. And if the supreme pleasure thus failed thee through my death, what mortal things ought then to have drawn thee into its desire? Forsooth thou oughtest, at the first arrow of things deceitful, to have risen up, following me who was no longer such. Nor should thy wings have weighed thee downward to await more blows, either girl or other vanity of so brief a use. The young little bird awaits two or three; but before the eyes of the full-fledged the net is spread in vain, the arrow shot."

As children, ashamed, dumb, with eyes upon the ground, stand listening and conscience-stricken and repentant, so was I standing. And she said, "Since through hearing thou art grieved, lift up thy beard and thou shalt receive more grief in seeing." With less resistance is a sturdy oak uprooted by a native wind, or by one from the land of Iarbas,[36] than I raised up my chin at her command; and when by the beard she asked for my eyes, truly I recognized the venom of the argument.[37] And as my face stretched upward, my sight perceived that those primal creatures were resting from their strewing, and my eyes, still little assured, saw Beatrice turned toward the animal that is only one person in two natures. Beneath her veil and beyond the stream she seemed to me more to surpass her ancient self, than she surpassed the others here when she was here. So pricked me there the nettle of repentance, that of all other things the one which most turned me aside unto its love became most hostile to me.[38]

Such contrition stung my heart that I fell overcome; and what I then became she knows who afforded me the cause.

Then, when my heart restored my outward faculties, I saw above me the lady whom I had found alone,[39] and she was saying, "Hold me, hold me." She had drawn me into the stream up to the throat, and dragging me behind was moving upon the water light as a shuttle. When I was near the blessed shore, "Asperges me"[40] I heard so sweetly that I cannot remember it, far less[Pg 4375] can write it. The beautiful lady opened her arms, clasped my head, and plunged me in where it behoved that I should swallow the water. Then she took me, and, thus bathed, brought me within the dance of the four beautiful ones,[41] and each of them covered me with her arm. "Here we are nymphs, and in heaven we are stars; ere Beatrice had descended to the world we were ordained unto her for her handmaids. We will lead thee to her eyes; but in the joyous light which is within them, the three yonder[42] who deeper gaze shall make keen thine own." Thus singing they began; and then to the breast of the griffon they led me with them, where Beatrice was standing turned toward us. They said, "See that thou sparest not thy sight: we have placed thee before the emeralds whence Love of old drew his arrows upon thee." A thousand desires hotter than flame bound my eyes to the relucent eyes which only upon the griffon were standing fixed. As the sun in a mirror, not otherwise, the twofold animal was gleaming therewithin, now with one, now with another mode.[43] Think, Reader, if I marveled when I saw the thing stand quiet in itself, while in its image it was transmuting itself.

While, full of amazement and glad, my soul was tasting that food which, sating of itself, causes hunger for itself, the other three, showing themselves in their bearing of loftier order, came forward dancing to their angelic melody. "Turn, Beatrice, turn thy holy eyes," was their song, "upon thy faithful one, who to see thee has taken so many steps. For grace do us the grace that thou unveil to him thy mouth, so that he may discern the second beauty which thou concealest."

O splendor of living light eternal! Who hath become so pallid under the shadow of Parnassus, or hath so drunk at its cistern, that he would not seem to have his mind incumbered, trying to represent thee as thou didst appear there where in harmony the heaven overshadows thee, when in the open air thou didst thyself disclose?[Pg 4376]




[Dante, having been brought by Beatrice to Paradise in the Empyrean, is left by her in charge of St. Bernard, while she takes her place among the blessed.—Prayer of St. Bernard to the Virgin.—Her intercession.—The vision of God.—The end of desire.]

"Virgin Mother, daughter of thine own Son, humble and exalted more than any creature, fixed term of the eternal counsel, thou art she who didst so ennoble human nature that its own Maker disdained not to become His own making. Within thy womb was rekindled the love through whose warmth this flower has thus blossomed in the eternal peace. Here thou art to us the noonday torch of charity, and below, among mortals, thou art the living fount of hope. Lady, thou art so great, and so availest, that whoso wishes grace, and has not recourse to thee, wishes his desire to fly without wings. Thy benignity not only succors him who asks, but oftentimes freely foreruns the asking. In thee mercy, in thee pity, in thee magnificence, in thee whatever of goodness is in any creature, are united. Now doth this man, who, from the lowest abyss of the universe, far even as here, has seen one by one the lives of spirits, supplicate thee, through grace, for virtue such that he may be able with his eyes to uplift himself higher toward the Ultimate Salvation. And I, who never for my own vision burned more than I do for his, proffer to thee all my prayers, and pray that they be not scant, that with thy prayers thou wouldst dissipate for him every cloud of his mortality, so that the Supreme Pleasure may be displayed to him. Further I pray thee, Queen, who canst what so thou wilt, that, after so great a vision, thou wouldst preserve his affections sound. May thy guardianship vanquish human impulses. Behold Beatrice with all the blessed for my prayers clasp their hands to thee."

The eyes beloved and revered by God, fixed on the speaker, showed to us how pleasing unto her are devout prayers. Then to the Eternal Light were they directed, on which it is not to be believed that eye so clear is turned by any creature.

And I, who to the end of all desires was approaching, even as I ought, ended within myself the ardor of my longings. Bernard was beckoning to me, and was smiling, that I should look upward; but I was already, of my own accord, such as he wished; for my sight, becoming pure, was entering more and more through the radiance of the lofty Light which of itself is true.[44]

Thenceforward my vision was greater than our speech, which yields to such a sight, and the memory yields to such excess.

As is he who dreaming sees, and after the dream the passion remains imprinted, and the rest returns not to the mind, such am I; for my vision almost wholly fails, while the sweetness that was born of it yet distills within my heart. Thus the snow is by the sun unsealed; thus on the wind, in the light leaves, was lost the saying of the Sibyl.

O Supreme Light, that so high upliftest Thyself from mortal conceptions, re-lend a little to my mind of what Thou didst appear, and make my tongue so powerful that it may be able to leave one single spark of Thy glory for the future people; for by returning somewhat to my memory and by sounding a little in these verses, more of Thy victory shall be conceived.

I think that by the keenness of the living ray which I endured, I should have been dazzled if my eyes had been averted from it. And it comes to my mind that for this reason I was the more hardy to sustain so much, that I joined my look unto the Infinite Goodness.

O abundant Grace, whereby I presumed to fix my eyes through the Eternal Light so far that there I consummated my vision!

In its depth I saw that whatsoever is dispersed through the universe is there included, bound with love in one volume; substance and accidents and their modes, fused together, as it were, in such wise, that that of which I speak is one simple Light. The universal form of this knot[45] I believe that I saw, because in saying this I feel that I more abundantly rejoice. One instant only is greater oblivion for me than five-and-twenty centuries to the emprise which made Neptune wonder at the shadow of Argo.[46]

[Pg 4378]Thus my mind, wholly rapt, was gazing fixed, motionless, and intent, and ever with gazing grew enkindled. In that Light one becomes such that it is impossible he should ever consent to turn himself from it for other sight; because the Good which is the object of the will is all collected in it, and outside of it that is defective which is perfect there.

Now will my speech be shorter even in respect to that which I remember, than an infant's who still bathes his tongue at the breast. Not because more than one simple semblance was in the Living Light wherein I was gazing, which is always such as it was before; but through my sight, which was growing strong in me as I looked, one sole appearance, as I myself changed, was altering itself to me.

Within the profound and clear subsistence of the lofty Light appeared to me three circles of three colors and of one dimension; and one appeared reflected by the other, as Iris by Iris, and the third appeared fire which from the one and from the other is equally breathed forth.

O how short is the telling, and how feeble toward my conception! and this toward what I saw is such that it suffices not to call it little.

O Light Eternal, that sole dwellest in Thyself, sole understandest Thyself, and, by Thyself understood and understanding, lovest and smilest on Thyself! That circle, which, thus conceived, appeared in Thee as a reflected light, being somewhile regarded by my eyes, seemed to me depicted within itself, of its own very color, by our effigy, wherefore my sight was wholly set upon it. As is the geometer who wholly applies himself to measure the circle, and finds not by thinking that principle of which he is in need, such was I at that new sight. I wished to see how the image accorded with the circle, and how it has its place therein; but my own wings were not for this, had it not been that my mind was smitten by a flash in which its wish came.[47]

To my high fantasy here power failed; but now my desire and my will, like a wheel which evenly is moved, the Love was turning which moves the Sun and the other stars.[48]

[Pg 4377]



good example of the latter-day enlightened savant is the French Jew, James Darmesteter, whose premature death robbed the modern world of scholarship of one of its most distinguished figures. Scholars who do noble service in adding to the sum total of human knowledge often are specialists, the nature of whose work excludes them from general interest and appreciation. It was not so with this man,—not alone an Oriental philologist of more than national repute, but a broadly cultured, original mind, an enlightened spirit, and a master of literary expression. Darmesteter calls for recognition as a maker of literature as well as a scientist.

The son of a humble Jewish bookbinder, subjected to the disadvantages and hardships of poverty, James Darmesteter was born at Chateau-Salins in Lorraine in 1849, but got his education in Paris, early imbibing the Jewish traditions, familiar from youth with the Bible and the Talmud. At the public school, whence he was graduated at eighteen, he showed his remarkable intellectual powers and attracted the attention of scholars like Bréal and Burnouf, who, noting his aptitude for languages, advised devotion to Oriental linguistics. After several years of uncertainty, years spent with books and in travel, and in the desultory production of poetry and fiction, philological study was undertaken as his life work, with remarkable results. For twenty years he labored in this field, and his appointment in 1882 to succeed Renan as Secretary of the Asiatic Society of France speaks volumes for the position he won. In 1885 he became professor of Iranian languages and literature in the College of France. Other scholastic honors fell to him in due course and good measure.

As a scholar Darmesteter's most important labors were the exposition of Zoroastrianism, the national faith of ancient Persia, which he made a specialty; and his French translation of and commentary on the Avesta, the Bible of that religion. As an interpreter of Zoroaster he sought to unite synthetically two opposing modern schools: that which relied solely upon native traditions, and that which, regarding these as untrustworthy, drew its conclusions from an examination of the text, supplemented by the aid of Sanskrit on the side of language and of the Vedas on the side of religion. Darmesteter's work was thus boldly comprehensive. He found in the Avesta the influence of such discordant elements as the Bible, Buddha, and[Pg 4380] Greek philosophy, and believed that in its present form it was composed at a later time than has been supposed. These technical questions are still mooted points with the critics. The translation of the Avesta will perhaps stand as his greatest achievement. A herculean labor of four years, it was rewarded by the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres with the 20,000-franc prize given but once in a decade for the work which, in the Academy's opinion, had best served or brought most honor to the country.

But the technical accomplishments of learning represent but a fragment of Darmesteter's amazing mental activity. He wrote a striking book on the Mahdi, the tenacious belief in the Mohammedan Messiah taking hold on his imagination. He was versed in English literature, edited Shakespeare, and introduced his countrymen to Browning. While in Afghanistan on a philological mission he gathered, merely as a side pursuit, a unique collection of Afghan folk-songs, and the result was a fascinating and valuable paper in a new field. He helped to found a leading French review. Articles of travel, critiques on subjects political, religious, literary, and social, fell fast from his pen. In his general essays on these broader, more vital aspects of thought and life, he is an artist in literary expression, a writer with a distinct and great gift for form. Here his vigorous mind, ample training, his humanistic tastes and humanitarian aspirations, are all finely in evidence.

The English reader who seeks an introduction to Darmesteter is directed to his 'Selected Essays,' translated by Helen B. Jastrow, edited with a memoir by Professor Morris Jastrow, Jr. (Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Boston). There is a translation by Ada S. Ballin of his 'The Mahdi' (Harper and Brothers, New York); and in the Contemporary Review for January, 1895, is a noble appreciation of Darmesteter by his friend Gaston Paris. In the 'Sacred Books of the East' will be found an English rendering of the Avesta by Darmesteter and Mills.

As a thinker in the philosophical sense Darmesteter was remarkable. Early breaking away from orthodox Judaism, his philological and historical researches led him to accept the conclusions of destructive criticism with regard to the Bible; and a disciple of Renan, he became enrolled among those scholars who see in science the one explanation of the universe. But possessing, along with his keen analytic powers, a nature dominantly ethical, he made humanity his idol. His patriotism for France was intense; and, a Jew always sympathetic to the wonderful history of his people,—in his later years by a brilliant, poetical, almost audacious interpretation of the Old Testament,—he found a solution of the riddle of life in the Hebrew prophets. What he deemed their essential faith—Judaism[Pg 4381] stripped of ritual and legend—he declared to be in harmony with the scientific creed of the present: belief in the unity of moral law,—the Old Testament Jehovah; and belief in the eventual triumph of justice upon this earth,—the modern substitute for the New Testament heaven. This doctrine, which in most hands would be cold and comfortless enough, he makes vital, engaging, through the passionate presentation of an eloquent lover of his fellow-man. In a word, Darmesteter was a Positivist, dowered, like that other noble Positivist George Eliot, with a nature sensitive to spiritual issues.

An idyllic passage in Darmesteter's toilful scholar life was his tender friendship with the gifted English woman, A. Mary F. Robinson. Attracted by her lovely verse, the intellectual companionship ripened into love, and for his half-dozen final years he enjoyed her wifely aid and sympathy in what seems to have been an ideal union. The end, when it came, was quick and painless. Always of a frail constitution, stunted in body from childhood, he died in harness, October 19th, 1894, his head falling forward on his desk as he wrote. The tributes that followed make plain the enthusiastic admiration James Darmesteter awakened in those who knew him best. The leading Orientalist of his generation, he added to the permanent acquisitions of scholarship, and made his impress as one of the remarkable personalities of France in the late nineteenth century. In the language of a friend, "a Jew by race, a Greek by culture, a Frenchman in heart," he furnishes another illustration of that strain of genius which seems like a compensatory gift to the Jewish folk for its manifold buffetings at the hand of Fate.


From 'Selected Essays': copyrighted 1895 by Houghton, Mifflin and Company

The mistaken judgments passed upon M. Renan are due to the fact that in his work he did not place the emphasis upon the Good, but upon the True. Men concluded that for him, therefore, science was the whole of life. The environment in which he was formed was forgotten,—an environment in which the moral sense was exquisite and perfect, while the scientific sense was nil. He did not need to discover the moral sense,—it was the very atmosphere in which he lived. When the scientific sense awoke in him, and he beheld the world and history transfigured by it, he was dazzled, and the influence lasted throughout his life. He dreamed of making France understand this new revelation; he was the apostle of[Pg 4382] this gospel of truth and science, but in heart and mind he never attacked what is permanent and divine in the other gospel. Thus he was a complete man, and deserved the disdain of dilettantes morally dead, and of mystics scientifically atonic.

What heritage has M. Renan left to posterity? As a scholar he created religious criticism in France, and prepared for universal science that incomparable instrument, the Corpus. As an author he bequeathed to universal art, pages which will endure, and to him may be applied what he said of George Sand:—"He had the divine faculty of giving wings to his subject, of producing under the form of fine art the idea which in other hands remained crude and formless." As a philosopher he left behind a mass of ideas which he did not care to collect in doctrinal shape, but which nevertheless constitute a coherent whole. One thing only in this world is certain,—duty. One truth is plain in the course of the world as science reveals it: the world is advancing to a higher, more perfect form of being. The supreme happiness of man is to draw nearer to this God to come, contemplating him in science, and preparing, by action, the advent of a humanity nobler, better endowed, and more akin to the ideal Being.


From 'Selected Essays': copyrighted 1895 by Houghton, Mifflin and Company

Judaism has not made the miraculous the basis of its dogma, nor installed the supernatural as a permanent factor in the progress of events. Its miracles, from the time of the Middle Ages, are but a poetic detail, a legendary recital, a picturesque decoration; and its cosmogony, borrowed in haste from Babylon by the last compiler of the Bible, with the stories of the apple and the serpent, over which so many Christian generations have labored, never greatly disturbed the imagination of the rabbis, nor weighed very heavily upon the thought of the Jewish philosophers. Its rites were never "an instrument of faith," an expedient to "lull" rebellious thought into faith; they are merely cherished customs, a symbol of the family, of transitory value, and destined to disappear when there shall be but one family in a world converted to the one truth. Set aside all these miracles,[Pg 4383] all these rites, and behind them will be found the two great dogmas which, ever since the prophets, constitute the whole of Judaism—the Divine unity and Messianism; unity of law throughout the world, and the terrestrial triumph of justice in humanity. These are the two dogmas which at the present time illuminate humanity in its progress, both in the scientific and social order of things, and which are termed in modern parlance unity of forces and belief in progress.

For this reason, Judaism is the only religion that has never entered into conflict, and never can, with either science or social progress, and that has witnessed, and still witnesses, all their conquests without a sense of fear. These are not hostile forces that it accepts or submits to merely from a spirit of toleration or policy, in order to save the remains of its power by a compromise. They are old friendly voices, which it recognizes and salutes with joy; for it has heard them resound for centuries already, in the axioms of free thought and in the cry of the suffering heart. For this reason the Jews, in all the countries which have entered upon the new path, have begun to take a share in all the great works of civilization, in the triple field of science, of art, and of action; and that share, far from being an insignificant one, is out of all proportion to the brief time that has elapsed since their enfranchisement.

Does this mean that Judaism should nurse dreams of ambition, and think of realizing one day that "invisible church of the future" invoked by some in prayer? This would be an illusion, whether on the part of a narrow sectarian, or on that of an enlightened individual. The truth however remains, that the Jewish spirit can still be a factor in this world, making for the highest science, for unending progress; and that the mission of the Bible is not yet complete. The Bible is not responsible for the partial miscarriage of Christianity, due to the compromises made by its organizers, who, in their too great zeal to conquer and convert Paganism, were themselves converted by it. But everything in Christianity which comes in a direct line from Judaism lives, and will live; and it is Judaism which through Christianity has cast into the old polytheistic world, to ferment there until the end of time, the sentiment of unity, and an impatience to bring about charity and justice. The reign of the Bible, and also of the Evangelists in so far as they were inspired by the Bible, can become established only in proportion as the[Pg 4384] positive religions connected with it lose their power. Great religions outlive their altars and their priests. Hellenism, abolished, counts less skeptics to-day than in the days of Socrates and Anaxagoras. The gods of Homer died when Phidias carved them in marble, and now they are immortally enthroned in the thought and heart of Europe. The Cross may crumble into dust, but there were words spoken under its shadow in Galilee, the echo of which will forever vibrate in the human conscience. And when the nation who made the Bible shall have disappeared,—the race and the cult,—though leaving no visible trace of its passage upon earth, its imprint will remain in the depth of the heart of generations, who will, unconsciously perhaps, live upon what has thus been implanted in their breasts. Humanity, as it is fashioned in the dreams of those who desire to be called freethinkers, may with the lips deny the Bible and its work; but humanity can never deny it in its heart, without the sacrifice of the best that it contains, faith in unity and hope for justice, and without a relapse into the mythology and the "might makes right" of thirty centuries ago.[Pg 4385]





harles Robert Darwin, the great naturalist and author of the "Darwinian theory," was the son of Dr. Robert Waring Darwin (1766-1848) and grandson of Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802). He was born at Shrewsbury on February 12th, 1809. W. E. Gladstone, Alfred Tennyson, and Abraham Lincoln were born in the same year. Charles Darwin was the youngest of a family of four, having an elder brother and two sisters. He was sent to a day school at Shrewsbury in the year of his mother's death, 1817. At this age he tells us that the passion for "collecting" which leads a man to be a systematic naturalist, a virtuoso, or a miser, was very strong in him, and was clearly innate, as none of his brothers or sisters had this taste. A year later he was removed to the Shrewsbury grammar school, where he profited little by the education in the dead languages administered, and incurred (as even to-day would be the case in English schools) the rebukes of the head-master Butler for "wasting his time" upon such unprofitable subjects as natural history and chemistry, which he pursued "out of school."

When Charles was sixteen his father sent him to Edinburgh to study medicine, but after two sessions there he was removed and sent to Cambridge (1828) with the intention that he should become a clergyman. In 1831 he took his B. A. degree as what is called a "pass-man." In those days the injurious system of competitive examinations had not laid hold of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge as it has since, and Darwin quietly took a pass degree whilst studying a variety of subjects of interest to him, without a thought of excelling in an examination. He was fond of all field sports, of dogs and horses, and also spent much time in excursions, collecting and observing with Henslow the professor of botany, and Sedgwick the celebrated geologist. An undergraduate friend of those days has declared that "he was the most genial, warm-hearted, generous and affectionate of friends; his sympathies were with all that was good and true; he had a cordial hatred for everything false, or vile, or cruel, or mean, or dishonorable. He was not only great but pre-eminently good, and just and lovable."

Through Henslow and the sound advice of his uncle Josiah Wedgwood (the son of the potter of Etruria) he accepted an offer to[Pg 4386] accompany Captain Fitzroy as naturalist on H. M. S. Beagle, which was to make an extensive surveying expedition. The voyage lasted from December 27th, 1831, to October 2d, 1836. It was, Darwin himself says, "by far the most important event in my life, and has determined my whole career." He had great opportunities of making explorations on land whilst the ship was engaged in her surveying work in various parts of the southern hemisphere, and made extensive collections of plants and animals, fossil as well as living forms, terrestrial as well as marine. On his return he was busy with the description of these results, and took up his residence in London. His 'Journal of Researches' was published in 1839, and is now familiar to many readers in its third edition, published in 1860 under the title 'A Naturalist's Voyage; Journal of Researches into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries visited during the Voyage of H. M. S. Beagle round the World, under the command of Captain Fitzroy, R.N.'

This was Darwin's first book, and is universally held to be one of the most delightful records of a naturalist's travels ever produced. It is to be placed alongside of Humboldt's 'Personal Narrative,' and is the model followed by the authors of other delightful books of travel of a later date, such as Wallace's 'Malay Archipelago,' Moseley's 'Naturalist on the Challenger,' and Belt's 'Naturalist in Nicaragua.' We have given in our selections from Darwin's writings the final pages of 'A Naturalist's Voyage' as an example of the style which characterizes the book. In it Darwin shows himself an ardent and profound lover of the luxuriant beauty of nature in the tropics, a kindly observer of men, whether missionaries or savages; an incessant student of natural things—rocks, plants, and animals; and one with a mind so keenly set upon explaining these things and assigning them to their causes, that none of his observations are trivial, but all of value and many of first-rate importance. The book is addressed, as are all of Darwin's books, to the general reader. It seemed to be natural to him to try and explain his observations and reasonings which led to them and followed from them to a wide circle of his fellow-men. The reader at once feels that Darwin is an honest and modest man, who desires his sympathy and seeks for his companionship in the enjoyment of his voyage and the interesting facts and theories gathered by him in distant lands. The quiet unassuming style of the narrative, and the careful explanation of details in such a way as to appeal to those who have little or no knowledge of natural history, gives a charm to the 'Naturalist's Voyage' which is possessed in no less a degree by his later books. A writer in the Quarterly Review in 1839 wrote, in reviewing the 'Naturalist's Voyage,' of the "charm arising from the freshness of heart which is thrown[Pg 4387] over these pages of a strong intellectual man and an acute and deep observer." The places visited in the course of the Beagle's voyage, concerning each of which Darwin has something to say, were the Cape Verd Islands, St. Paul's Rocks, Fernando Noronha, parts of South America, Tierra del Fuego, the Galapagos Islands, the Falkland Islands, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, Tasmania, Keeling Island, the Maldives, Mauritius, St. Helena, Ascension. The most important discoveries recorded in the book—also treated at greater length in special scientific memoirs—are the explanation of the ring-like form of coral islands, the geological structure of St. Helena and other islands, and the relation of the living inhabitants—great tortoises, lizards, birds, and various plants—of the various islands of the Galapagos Archipelago to those of South America.

In 1839 (shortly before the publication of his journal) Darwin married his first cousin, Emma Wedgwood, daughter of Josiah Wedgwood of Maer, and in 1842 they took the country-house and little property of Down near Orpington in Kent, which remained his home and the seat of his labors for forty years; that is, until his death on April 19th, 1882. In a letter to his friend Captain Fitzroy of the Beagle, written in 1846, Darwin says, "My life goes on like clockwork, and I am fixed on the spot where I shall end it." Happily, he was possessed of ample private fortune, and never undertook any teaching work nor gave any of his strength to the making of money. He was able to devote himself entirely to the studies in which he took delight; and though suffering from weak health due to a hereditary form of dyspepsia, he presented the rare spectacle of a man of leisure more fully occupied, more absorbed in constant and exhausting labors, than many a lawyer, doctor, professor, or man of letters. His voyage seems to have satisfied once for all his need for traveling, and his absences from Down were but few and brief during the rest of his life. Here most of his children were born, five sons and three daughters. One little girl died in childhood; the rest grew up around him and remained throughout his life in the closest terms of intimacy and affection with him and their mother. Here he carried on his experiments in greenhouse, garden, and paddock; here he collected his library and wrote his great books. He became a man of well-considered habits and method, carefully arranging his day's occupation so as to give so many hours to noting the results of experiments, so many to writing and reading, and an hour or two to exercise in his grounds or a ride, and playing with his children. Frequently he was stopped for days and even weeks from all intellectual labor by attacks of vomiting and giddiness. Great, as were his sufferings on account of ill health, it is not improbable that the retirement of life which was thus forced on him, to a very large[Pg 4388] extent determined his wonderful assiduity in study and led to the production by him of so many great works.

In later years these attacks were liable to ensue upon prolonged conversation with visitors, if a subject of scientific interest were discussed. His wife, who throughout their long and happy union devoted herself to the care of her husband so as to enable him to do a maximum amount of work with least suffering in health, would come and fetch him away after half an hour's talk, that he might lie down alone in a quiet room. Then after an hour or so he would return with a smile, like a boy released from punishment, and launch again with a merry laugh into talk. Never was there an invalid who bore his maladies so cheerfully, or who made so light of a terrible burden. Although he was frequently seasick during the voyage of the Beagle, he did not attribute his condition in later life in any way to that experience, but to inherited weakness. During the hours passed in his study he found it necessary to rest at intervals, and adopted regularly the plan of writing for an hour and of then lying down for half an hour, whilst his wife or daughter read to him a novel! After half an hour he would again resume his work, and again after an hour return to the novel. In this way he got through the greater part of the circulating libraries' contents. He declared that he had no taste for literature, but liked a story, especially about a pretty girl; and he would only read those in which all ended well. Authors of stories ending in death and failure ought, he declared, to be hung!

He rarely went to London, on account of his health, and consequently kept up a very large correspondence with scientific friends, especially with Lyell, Hooker, and Huxley. He made it a rule to preserve every letter he received, and his friends were careful to preserve his; so that in the 'Life and Letters' published after his death by his son Frank—who in later years lived with his father and assisted him in his work—we have a most interesting record of the progress of his speculations, as well as a delightful revelation of his beautiful character. His house was large enough to accommodate several guests at a time; and it was his delight to receive here for a week's end not only his old friends and companions, but younger naturalists, and others, the companions of his sons and daughters. Over six feet in height, with a slight stoop of his high shoulders, with a brow of unparalleled development overshadowing his merry blue eyes, and a long gray beard and mustache,—he presented the ideal picture of a natural philosopher. His bearing was, however, free from all pose of superior wisdom or authority. The most charming and unaffected gayety, and an eager innate courtesy and goodness of heart, were its dominant notes. His personality was no less[Pg 4389] fascinating and rare in quality than are the immortal products of his intellect.

The history of the great works which Darwin produced, and especially of his theory of the Origin of Species, is best given in his own words. The passage which is here referred to is a portion of an autobiographical sketch written by him in 1876, not for publication but for the use of his family, and is printed in the 'Life and Letters.' Taken together with the statement as to his views on religion, it gives a great insight both into the character and mental quality of the writer. It is especially remarkable as the attempt of a truly honest and modest man to account for the wonderful height of celebrity and intellectual eminence to which he was no less astonished than pleased to find himself raised. But it also furnishes the reader with an admirable catalogue raisonné of his books, arranged in chronological order.

A few more notes as to Darwin's character will help the reader to appreciate his work. His friendships were remarkable, characterized on his side by the warmest and most generous feeling. Henslow, Fitzroy, Lyell, Hooker, and Huxley stand out as his chief friends and correspondents. Henslow was professor of botany at Cambridge, and took Darwin with him when a student there for walks, collecting plants and insects. His admiration for Henslow's character, and his tribute to his fine simplicity and warmth of feeling in matters involving the wrongs of a down-trodden class or cruelty to an individual, are evidence of deep sympathy between the natures of Darwin and his first teacher. Of Fitzroy, the captain of H.M.S. Beagle—with whom he quarreled for a day because Fitzroy defended slavery—Darwin says that he was in many ways the noblest character he ever knew. His love and admiration for Lyell were unbounded. Lyell was the man who taught him the method—the application of the causes at present discoverable in nature to the past history of the earth—by which he was led to the solution of the question as to the origin of organic forms on the earth's surface. He regarded Lyell, who with Mrs. Lyell often visited him at Down, more than any other man as his master and teacher. Hooker—still happily surviving from among this noble group of men—was his "dear old friend"; his most constant and unwearied correspondent; he from whom Darwin could always extract the most valuable facts and opinions in the field of botanical science, and the one upon whose help he always relied. Huxley was for Darwin not merely a delightful and charming friend, but a "wonderful man,"—a most daring, skillful champion, whose feats of literary swordsmanship made Darwin both tremble and rejoice. Samples of his correspondence with these fellow-workers are given below. The[Pg 4390] letter to Hooker (September 26th, 1862) is particularly interesting, as recording one of the most important discoveries of his later years,—confirmed by the subsequent researches of Gardiner and others,—and as containing a pretty confession of his jealous desire to exalt the status of plants. Often he spoke and wrote in his letters of individual plants with which he was experimenting as "little rascals."

Darwin shared with other great men whose natures approach perfection, an unusual sympathy with and power over dogs, and a love for children. The latter trait is most beautifully expressed in a note which was found amongst his papers, giving an account of his little girl, who died at the age of ten years. Written for his own eyes only, it is a most delicate and tender composition, and should be pondered side by side with his frank and—necessarily to some readers—almost terrifying statement of his thoughts on religion.

Darwin's only self-indulgence was snuff-taking. In later years he smoked an occasional cigarette, but his real "little weakness" was snuff. It is difficult to suppose that he did not benefit by the habit, careful as he was to keep it in check. He kept his snuff-box in the hall of his house, so that he should have to take the trouble of a walk in order to get a pinch, and not have too easy an access to the magic powder.

The impression made on him by his own success and the overwhelming praise and even reverence which he received from all parts of the world, was characteristic of his charming nature. Darwin did not receive these proofs of the triumphs of his views with the solemnity of an inflated reformer who has laid his law upon the whole world of thought. Quite otherwise. He was simply delighted. He chuckled gayly over the spread of his views, almost as a sportsman—and we must remember that in his young days he was a sportsman—may rejoice in the triumphs of his own favorite "racer," or even as a schoolboy may be proud and happy in the success of "the eleven" of which he is captain. He delighted to count up the sale of his books, not specially for the money value it represented, though he was too sensible to be indifferent to that, but because it proved to him that his long and arduous life of thought, experiment, and literary work was not in vain. To have been or to have posed as being indifferent to popular success, would have required a man of less vivid sympathy with his fellow-men: to have been puffed up and pretentious would have needed one less gifted with a sense of humor, less conscious of the littleness of one man, however talented, in the vast procession of life on the earth's surface. His delight in his work and its success was of the perfect and natural kind, which he could communicate to his wife and daughters, and might have been shared by a child.[Pg 4391]

I, who write of him here, had the great privilege of staying with him from time to time at Down, and I find it difficult to record the strangely mixed feeling of reverential admiration and extreme personal attachment and affection with which I came to regard him. I have never known or heard of a man who combined with such exceptional intellectual power so much cheeriness and love of humor, and such ideal kindness, courtesy, and modesty. Owing to the fact that my father was a naturalist and man of letters, I as a boy knew Henslow and Lyell, Darwin's teachers, and have myself enjoyed a naturalist's walk with the one and the geological discussions of the other. I first saw Darwin himself in 1853, when he was recommended to my boyish imagination as "a man who had ridden up a mountain on the back of a tortoise" (in the Galapagos Islands)! When I began to work at and write on zoology he showed his kindness of heart by writing to me in praise of my first book: he wrote to me later in answer to my appeal for guidance, that "physiological experiment on animals is justifiable for real investigation; but not for mere damnable and detestable curiosity. It is a subject which makes me sick with horror, so I will not say another word about it, else I shall not sleep to-night." When I prosecuted Slade the spiritualistic impostor, and obtained his conviction at Bow Street as a common rogue, Darwin was much interested, and after the affair was over wrote to say that he was sure that I had been at great expense in effecting what he considered to be a public benefit, and that he should like to be allowed to contribute ten pounds to the cost of the prosecution. He was ever ready in this way to help by timely gifts of money what he thought to be a good cause, as for instance in the erection of the Zoological Station of Naples by Dr. Anton Dohrn, to which he gave a hundred pounds. His most characteristic minor trait which I remember, was his sitting in his drawing-room at Down in his high-seated arm-chair, and whilst laughing at some story or joke, slapping his thigh with his right hand and exclaiming, with a quite innocent and French freedom of speech, "O my God! That's very good. That's capital." Perhaps one of the most interesting things that I ever heard him say was when, after describing to me an experiment in which he had placed under a bell-jar some pollen from a male flower, together with an unfertilized female flower, in order to see whether, when kept at a distance but under the same jar, the one would act in any way on the other, he remarked:—"That's a fool's experiment. But I love fools' experiments. I am always making them." A great deal might be written as comment on that statement. Perhaps the thoughts which it suggests may be summed up by the proposition that even a wise experiment when made by a fool generally leads to a false conclusion, but that fools' experiments[Pg 4392] conducted by a genius often prove to be leaps through the dark into great discoveries.

As examples of Darwin's writings I have chosen, in addition to those already mentioned, certain passages from his great book on the 'Origin of Species,' in which he explains what he understands by the terms "Natural Selection" and the "Struggle for Existence." These terms invented by Darwin—but specially the latter—have become "household words." The history of his thoughts on the subject of the Origin of Species is given in the account of his books, written by himself and already referred to. His letter to Professor Asa Gray (September 5th, 1857) is a most valuable brief exposition of his theory and an admirable sample of his correspondence. The distinguished American botanist was one of his most constant correspondents and a dear personal friend.

I have also given as an extract the final pages of the 'Origin of Species,' in which Darwin eloquently defends the view of nature to which his theory leads. A similar and important passage on the subject of 'Creative Design' is also given: it is taken from that wonderful collection of facts and arguments published by Darwin under the title of 'The Variation of Plants and Animals under Domestication.' It cannot be too definitely stated, as Darwin himself insisted, that his theory of the Origin of Species is essentially an extension of the argument used by Lyell in his 'Principles of Geology.' Just as Lyell accounted for the huge masses of stratified rocks, the upheaved mountain chains, the deep valleys, and the shifting seas of the earth's surface, by adducing the long-continued cumulative action of causes which are at this present moment in operation and can be observed and measured at the present day: so Darwin demonstrates that natural variation, and consequent selection by "breeders" and "fanciers" at the present day, give rise to new forms of plants and animals; and that the cumulative, long-continued action of Natural Selection in the Struggle for Existence, or the survival of favorable variations, can and must have effected changes, the magnitude of which is only limited by the length of time during which the process has been going on.

The style of Darwin's writings is remarkable for the absence of all affectation, of all attempt at epigram, literary allusion, or rhetoric. In this it is admirably suited to its subject. At the same time there is no sacrifice of clearness to brevity, nor are technical terms used in place of ordinary language. The greatest pains are obviously given by the author to enable his reader to thoroughly understand the matter in hand. Further, the reader is treated not only with this courtesy of full explanation, but with extreme fairness and modesty. Darwin never slurs over a difficulty nor minimizes it. He[Pg 4393] states objections and awkward facts prominently, and without shirking proceeds to deal with them by citation of experiment or observation carried out by him for the purpose. His modesty towards his reader is a delightful characteristic. He simply desires to persuade you as one reasonable friend may persuade another. He never thrusts a conclusion nor even a step towards a conclusion upon you, by a demand for your confidence in him as an authority, or by an unfair weighting of the arguments which he balances, or by a juggle of word-play. The consequence is that though Darwin himself thought he had no literary ability, and labored over and re-wrote his sentences, we have in his works a model of clear exposition of a great argument, and the most remarkable example of persuasive style in the English language—persuasive because of its transparent honesty and scrupulous moderation.

Darwin enjoyed rather better health in the last ten years of his life than before, and was able to work and write constantly. For some four months before his death, but not until then, it was evident that his heart was seriously diseased. He died on April 19th, 1882, at the age of seventy-three. Almost his last words were, "I am not the least afraid to die." In 1879 he added to the manuscript of his autobiography already referred to, these words:—"As for myself, I believe that I have acted rightly in steadily following and devoting my life to Science. I feel no remorse from having committed any great sin, but have often and often regretted that I have not done more direct good to my fellow-creatures."

From his early manhood to old age, the desire to do what was right determined the employment of his powers. He has done to his fellow-creatures an imperishable good, in leaving to them his writings and the example of his noble life.

signature of E. Ray Lankester


From 'A Naturalist's Voyage'

Among the scenes which are deeply impressed on my mind, none exceed in sublimity the primeval forests undefaced by the hand of man; whether those of Brazil, where the powers of Life are predominant, or those of Tierra del Fuego, where Death and Decay prevail. Both are temples filled with the varied productions of the God of Nature; no one can stand in[Pg 4394] these solitudes unmoved, and not feel that there is more in man than the mere breath of his body. In calling up images of the past, I find that the plains of Patagonia frequently cross before my eyes; yet these plains are pronounced by all wretched and useless. They can be described only by negative characters: without habitations, without water, without trees, without mountains, they support merely a few dwarf plants. Why then—and the case is not peculiar to myself—have these arid wastes taken so firm a hold on my memory? Why have not the still more level, the greener and more fertile pampas, which are serviceable to mankind, produced an equal impression? I can scarcely analyze these feelings; but it must be partly owing to the free scope given to the imagination. The plains of Patagonia are boundless, for they are scarcely passable, and hence unknown; they bear the stamp of having lasted, as they are now, for ages, and there appears no limit to their duration through future time. If, as the ancients supposed, the flat earth was surrounded by an impassable breadth of water, or by deserts heated to an intolerable excess, who would not look at these last boundaries to man's knowledge with deep but ill-defined sensations?

Lastly, of natural scenery, the views from lofty mountains, though certainly in one sense not beautiful, are very memorable. When looking down from the highest crest of the Cordillera, the mind, undisturbed by minute details, was filled with the stupendous dimensions of the surrounding masses.

Of individual objects, perhaps nothing is more certain to create astonishment than the first sight in his native haunt of a barbarian—of man in his lowest and most savage state. One's mind hurries back over past centuries, and then asks: Could our progenitors have been men like these? men whose very signs and expressions are less intelligible to us than those of the domesticated animals; men who do not possess the instinct of those animals, nor yet appear to boast of human reason, or at least of arts consequent on that reason. I do not believe it is possible to describe or paint the difference between savage and civilized man. It is the difference between a wild and tame animal; and part of the interest in beholding a savage is the same which would lead every one to desire to see the lion in his desert, the tiger tearing his prey in the jungle, or the rhinoceros wandering over the wild plains of Africa.[Pg 4395]

Among the other most remarkable spectacles which we have beheld may be ranked the Southern Cross, the cloud of Magellan, and the other constellations of the southern hemisphere—the water-spout—the glacier leading its blue stream of ice, overhanging the sea in a bold precipice—a lagoon island raised by the reef-building corals—an active volcano—and the overwhelming effects of a violent earthquake. These latter phenomena perhaps possess for me a peculiar interest, from their intimate connection with the geological structure of the world. The earthquake, however, must be to every one a most impressive event: the earth, considered from our earliest childhood as the type of solidity, has oscillated like a thin crust beneath our feet; and in seeing the labored works of man in a moment overthrown, we feel the insignificance of his boasted power.

It has been said that the love of the chase is an inherent delight in man—a relic of an instinctive passion. If so, I am sure the pleasure of living in the open air, with the sky for a roof and the ground for a table, is part of the same feeling; it is the savage returning to his wild and native habits. I always look back to our boat cruises and my land journeys, when through unfrequented countries, with an extreme delight, which no scenes of civilization could have created. I do not doubt that every traveler must remember the glowing sense of happiness which he experienced when he first breathed in a foreign clime, where the civilized man had seldom or never trod.

There are several other sources of enjoyment in a long voyage which are of a more reasonable nature. The map of the world ceases to be a blank; it becomes a picture full of the most varied and animated figures. Each part assumes its proper dimensions; continents are not looked at in the light of islands, or islands considered as mere specks, which are in truth larger than many kingdoms of Europe. Africa, or North and South America, are well-sounding names, and easily pronounced; but it is not until having sailed for weeks along small portions of their shores that one is thoroughly convinced what vast spaces on our immense world these names imply.

From seeing the present state, it is impossible not to look forward with high expectations to the future progress of nearly an entire hemisphere. The march of improvement consequent on the introduction of Christianity throughout the South Sea probably stands by itself in the records of history. It is the[Pg 4396] more striking when we remember that only sixty years since, Cook, whose excellent judgment none will dispute, could foresee no prospect of a change. Yet these changes have now been effected by the philanthropic spirit of the British nation.

In the same quarter of the globe Australia is rising, or indeed may be said to have risen, into a grand centre of civilization, which at some not very remote period will rule as empress over the southern hemisphere. It is impossible for an Englishman to behold these distant colonies without a high pride and satisfaction. To hoist the British flag seems to draw with it, as a certain consequence, wealth, prosperity, and civilization.

In conclusion, it appears to me that nothing can be more improving to a young naturalist than a journey in distant countries. It both sharpens and partly allays that want and craving which, as Sir J. Herschel remarks, a man experiences although every corporeal sense be fully satisfied. The excitement from the novelty of objects, and the chance of success, stimulate him to increased activity. Moreover, as a number of isolated facts soon become uninteresting, the habit of comparison leads to generalization. On the other hand, as the traveler stays but a short time in each place, his descriptions must generally consist of mere sketches instead of detailed observations. Hence arises, as I have found to my cost, a constant tendency to fill up the wide gaps of knowledge by inaccurate and superficial hypotheses.

But I have too deeply enjoyed the voyage not to recommend any naturalist,—although he must not expect to be so fortunate in his companions as I have been,—to take all chances, and to start, on travels by land if possible, if otherwise on a long voyage. He may feel assured he will meet with no difficulties or dangers, excepting in rare cases, nearly so bad as he beforehand anticipates. In a moral point of view the effect ought to be to teach him good-humored patience, freedom from selfishness, the habit of acting for himself, and of making the best of every occurrence. In short, he ought to partake of the characteristic qualities of most sailors. Traveling ought also to teach him distrust; but at the same time he will discover how many truly kind-hearted people there are with whom he never before had, or ever again will have, any further communication, who yet are ready to offer him the most disinterested assistance.[Pg 4397]


From 'Life and Letters'

After several fruitless searches in Surrey and elsewhere, we found this house and purchased it. I was pleased with the diversified appearance of vegetation proper to a chalk district, and so unlike what I had been accustomed to in the Midland counties; and still more pleased with the extreme quietness and rusticity of the place. It is not however quite so retired a place as a writer in a German periodical makes it, who says that my house can be approached only by a mule-track! Our fixing ourselves here has answered admirably in one way which we did not anticipate,—namely, by being very convenient for frequent visits from our children.

Few persons can have lived a more retired life than we have done. Besides short visits to the houses of relations, and occasionally to the seaside or elsewhere, we have gone nowhere. During the first part of our residence we went a little into society, and received a few friends here; but my health almost always suffered from the excitement, violent shivering and vomiting attacks being thus brought on. I have therefore been compelled for many years to give up all dinner parties; and this has been somewhat of a deprivation to me, as such parties always put me into high spirits. From the same cause I have been able to invite here very few scientific acquaintances....

During the voyage of the Beagle I had been deeply impressed by discovering in the Pampean formation great fossil animals, covered with armor like that on the existing armadillos; secondly, by the manner in which closely allied animals replace one another in proceeding southwards over the Continent; and thirdly, by the South-American character of most of the productions of the Galapagos Archipelago, and more especially by the manner in which they differ slightly on each island of the group; none of the islands appearing to be very ancient in a geological sense.

It was evident that such facts as these, as well as many others, could only be explained on the supposition that species gradually become modified; and the subject haunted me. But it was equally evident that neither the action of the surrounding conditions, nor the will of the organisms (especially in the case of plants), could account for the innumerable cases in which[Pg 4398] organisms of every kind are beautifully adapted to their habits of life; for instance, a woodpecker or a tree-frog to climb trees, or a seed for dispersal by hooks or plumes. I had always been much struck by such adaptations, and until these could be explained it seemed to me almost useless to endeavor to prove by indirect evidence that species have been modified.

After my return to England it appeared to me that by following the example of Lyell in Geology, and by collecting all facts which bore in any way on the variation of animals and plants under domestication and nature, some light might perhaps be thrown on the whole subject. My first note-book was opened in July 1837. I worked on true Baconian principles; and without any theory collected facts on a wholesale scale, more especially with respect to domesticated productions, by printed inquiries, by conversation with skillful breeders and gardeners, and by extensive reading. When I see the list of books of all kinds which I read and abstracted, including whole series of Journals and Transactions, I am surprised at my industry. I soon perceived that selection was the keystone of man's success in making useful races of animals and plants. But how selection could be applied to organisms living in a state of nature, remained for some time a mystery to me.

In October 1838—that is, fifteen months after I had begun my systematic inquiry—I happened to read for amusement 'Malthus on Population'; and being well prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on from long-continued observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances favorable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavorable ones to be destroyed. The result of this would be the formation of new species. Here then I had at last got a theory by which to work; but I was so anxious to avoid prejudice that I determined not for some time to write even the briefest sketch of it. In June 1842 I first allowed myself the satisfaction of writing a very brief abstract of my theory in pencil in thirty-five pages; and this was enlarged during the summer of 1844 into one of two hundred and thirty pages, which I had fairly copied out and still possess.


Photogravure from a painting by Gabriel Max.

Professor Max has long been known to the greater public through those wonderful pictures in which some tragic fate, some heart-break of mankind, has found expression; but only an inner circle of intimates has known the artist as an able student of nature. He has thought much and deeply upon the existence and origin of things; and his studies in comparative anatomy have given him unusual preparation for the treatment of the present subject. The entire picture is made up of yellowish and brownish-gray tones, expressive of the twilight of the forest. The skin of the female is about the shade of that of the Southern European of to-day; that of the male is darker. The most interesting of the three figures is the young ape-mother, who reclines against a tree-trunk and offers her breast to her first-born. The expression of the face is remarkable; happiness at the possession of the child mingles with misgiving for its future. The tear which trembles upon her cheek seems indicative of the flood of tears which is to run down the history of her descendants. The father has less of this feeling, and stands upright beside his wife and child and looks down upon them with an air of pride and paternal joy. The original painting is owned by the celebrated Darwinian philosopher Ernest Haeckel of Jena.

But at that time I overlooked one problem of great importance; and it is astonishing to me, except on the principle of Columbus and his egg, how I could have overlooked it and its [Pg 4399]solution. This problem is the tendency in organic beings descended from the same stock to diverge in character as they become modified. That they have diverged greatly is obvious from the manner in which species of all kinds can be classed under genera, genera under families, families under sub-orders, and so forth: and I can remember the very spot in the road, whilst in my carriage, when to my joy the solution occurred to me; and this was long after I had come to Down. The solution, as I believe, is that the modified offspring of all dominant and increasing forms tend to become adapted to many and highly diversified places in the economy of nature.

Early in 1856 Lyell advised me to write out my views pretty fully, and I began at once to do so on a scale three or four times as extensive as that which was afterwards followed in my 'Origin of Species'; yet it was only an abstract of the materials which I had collected, and I got through about half the work on this scale. But my plans were overthrown, for early in the summer of 1858 Mr. Wallace, who was then in the Malay Archipelago, sent me an essay 'On the Tendency of Varieties to depart Indefinitely from the Original Type'; and this essay contained exactly the same theory as mine. Mr. Wallace expressed the wish that if I thought well of his essay, I should send it to Lyell for perusal.

The circumstances under which I consented, at the request of Lyell and Hooker, to allow of an abstract from my MS., together with a letter to Asa Gray dated September 5th 1857, to be published at the same time with Wallace's essay, are given in the 'Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society,' 1858, page 45. I was at first very unwilling to consent, as I thought Mr. Wallace might consider my doing so unjustifiable, for I did not then know how generous and noble was his disposition. The extract from my MS. and the letter to Asa Gray had neither been intended for publication, and were badly written. Mr. Wallace's essay, on the other hand, was admirably expressed and quite clear. Nevertheless, our joint productions excited very little attention, and the only published notice of them which I can remember was by Professor Haughton of Dublin, whose verdict was that all that was new in them was false, and what was true was old. This shows how necessary it is that any new view should be explained at considerable length in order to arouse public attention....[Pg 4400]

My habits are methodical, and this has been of not a little use for my particular line of work. Lastly, I have had ample leisure from not having to earn my own bread. Even ill health, though it has annihilated several years of my life, has saved me from the distractions of society and amusement.

Therefore my success as a man of science, whatever this may have amounted to, has been determined as far as I can judge by complex and diversified mental qualities and conditions. Of these, the most important have been the love of science, unbounded patience in long reflecting over any subject, industry in observing and collecting facts, and a fair share of invention as well as of common-sense. With such moderate abilities as I possess, it is truly surprising that I should have influenced to a considerable extent the belief of scientific men on some important points.


From 'Life and Letters'

There seems to be a sort of fatality in my mind, leading me to put at first my statement or proposition in a wrong or awkward form. Formerly I used to think about my sentences before writing them down; but for several years I have found that it saves time to scribble in a vile hand whole pages as quickly as I possibly can, contracting half the words; and then correct deliberately. Sentences thus scribbled down are often better ones than I could have written deliberately.

Having said thus much about my manner of writing, I will add that with my large books I spend a good deal of time over the general arrangement of the matter. I first make the rudest outline in two or three pages, and then a larger one in several pages, a few words or one word standing for a whole discussion or a series of facts. Each one of these headings is again enlarged and often transferred before I begin to write in extenso. As in several of my books facts observed by others have been very extensively used, and as I have always had several quite distinct subjects in hand at the same time, I may mention that I keep from thirty to forty large portfolios in cabinets with labeled shelves, into which I can at once put a detached reference or[Pg 4401] memorandum. I have bought many books, and at their ends I make an index of all the facts that concern my work; or if the book is not my own, write out a separate abstract, and of such abstracts I have a large drawer full. Before beginning on any subject I look to all the short indexes and make a general and classified index, and by taking the one or more proper portfolios, I have all the information collected during my life ready for use.

I have said that in one respect my mind has changed during the last twenty or thirty years. Up to the age of thirty, or beyond it, poetry of many kinds, such as the works of Milton, Gray, Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley, gave me great pleasure; and even as a schoolboy I took intense delight in Shakespeare, especially in the historical plays. I have also said that formerly pictures gave me considerable, and music very great delight. But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry: I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me. I have also almost lost my taste for pictures or music. Music generally sets me thinking too energetically on what I have been at work on, instead of giving me pleasure. I retain some taste for fine scenery, but it does not cause me the exquisite delight which it formerly did. On the other hand, novels which are works of the imagination, though not of a very high order, have been for years a wonderful relief and pleasure to me, and I often bless all novelists. A surprising number have been read aloud to me, and I like all if moderately good, and if they do not end unhappily—against which a law ought to be passed. A novel, according to my taste, does not come into the first class unless it contains some person whom one can thoroughly love, and if a pretty woman, all the better.

This curious and lamentable loss of the higher æsthetic tastes is all the odder, as books on history, biographies, and travels (independently of any scientific facts which they may contain), and essays on all sorts of subjects, interest me as much as ever they did. My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts; but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain alone on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive. A man with a mind more highly organized or better constituted than mine would not, I suppose, have thus suffered:[Pg 4402] and if I had to live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied would thus have been kept active through use. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.


From 'Life and Letters'

Our poor child Annie was born in Gower Street on March 2d, 1841, and expired at Malvern at midday on the 23d of April, 1851.

I write these few pages, as I think in after years, if we live, the impressions now put down will recall more vividly her chief characteristics. From whatever point I look back at her, the main feature in her disposition which at once rises before me is her buoyant joyousness, tempered by two other characteristics; namely, her sensitiveness, which might easily have been overlooked by a stranger, and her strong affection. Her joyousness and animal spirits radiated from her whole countenance, and rendered every movement elastic and full of life and vigor. It was delightful and cheerful to behold her. Her dear face now rises before me, as she used sometimes to come running down-stairs with a stolen pinch of snuff for me, her whole form radiant with the pleasure of giving pleasure. Even when playing with her cousins, when her joyousness almost passed into boisterousness, a single glance of my eye, not of displeasure (for I thank God I hardly ever cast one on her), but of want of sympathy, would for some minutes alter her whole countenance.

The other point in her character, which made her joyousness and spirits so delightful, was her strong affection, which was of a most clinging, fondling nature. When quite a baby this showed itself in never being easy without touching her mother when in bed with her; and quite lately she would, when poorly, fondle for any length of time one of her mother's arms. When very unwell, her mother lying down beside her seemed to soothe her in a manner quite different from what it would have[Pg 4403] done to any of our other children. So again she would at almost any time spend half an hour in arranging my hair, "making it," as she called it, "beautiful," or in smoothing, the poor dear darling! my collar or cuffs—in short, in fondling me.

Besides her joyousness thus tempered, she was in her manners remarkably cordial, frank, open, straightforward, natural, and without any shade of reserve. Her whole mind was pure and transparent. One felt one knew her thoroughly and could trust her. I always thought that come what might, we should have had in our old age at least one loving soul which nothing could have changed. All her movements were vigorous, active, and usually graceful. When going round the Sand-walk with me, although I walked fast, yet she often used to go before, pirouetting in the most elegant way, her dear face bright all the time with the sweetest smiles. Occasionally she had a pretty coquettish manner towards me, the memory of which is charming. She often used exaggerated language, and when I quizzed her by exaggerating what she had said, how clearly can I now see the little toss of the head, and exclamation of "Oh, papa, what a shame of you!" In the last short illness, her conduct in simple truth was angelic. She never once complained; never became fretful; was ever considerate of others, and was thankful in the most gentle, pathetic manner for everything done for her. When so exhausted that she could hardly speak, she praised everything that was given her, and said some tea "was beautifully good." When I gave her some water she said, "I quite thank you;" and these I believe were the last precious words ever addressed by her dear lips to me.

We have lost the joy of the household and the solace of our old age. She must have known how we loved her. Oh that she could now know how deeply, how tenderly, we do still and shall ever love her dear joyous face! Blessings on her!

April 30th, 1851.
[Pg 4404]


From 'Life and Letters'

I am much engaged, an old man, and out of health, and I cannot spare time to answer your questions fully,—nor indeed can they be answered. Science has nothing to do with Christ, except in so far as the habit of scientific research makes a man cautious in admitting evidence. For myself, I do not believe that there ever has been any revelation. As for a future life, every man must judge for himself between conflicting vague probabilities....

During these two years [October 1836 to January 1839] I was led to think much about religion.

Whilst on board the Beagle I was quite orthodox, and I remember being heartily laughed at by several of the officers (though themselves orthodox) for quoting the Bible as an unanswerable authority on some point of morality. I suppose it was the novelty of the argument that amused them. But I had gradually come by this time—i.e. 1836 to 1839—to see that the Old Testament was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos. The question then continually rose before my mind and would not be banished,—is it credible that if God were now to make a revelation to the Hindoos, he would permit it to be connected with the belief in Vishnu, Siva, etc., as Christianity is connected with the Old Testament? This appeared to me utterly incredible.

By further reflecting that the clearest evidence would be requisite to make any sane man believe in the miracles by which Christianity is supported,—and that the more we know of the fixed laws of nature the more incredible do miracles become,—that the men at that time were ignorant and credulous to a degree almost incomprehensible by us,—that the Gospels cannot be proved to have been written simultaneously with the events,—that they differ in many important details, far too important, as it seemed to me, to be admitted as the usual inaccuracies of eye-witnesses;—by such reflections as these, which I give not as having the least novelty or value, but as they influenced me,—I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation. The fact that many false religions have spread over large portions of the earth like wild-fire had some weight with me.[Pg 4405]

But I was very unwilling to give up my belief; I feel sure of this, for I can well remember often and often inventing day-dreams of old letters between distinguished Romans, and manuscripts being discovered at Pompeii or elsewhere, which confirmed in the most striking manner all that was written in the Gospels. But I found it more and more difficult, with free scope given to my imagination, to invent evidence which would suffice to convince me. Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress.

Although I did not think much about the existence of a personal God until a considerably later period of my life, I will here give the vague conclusions to which I have been driven. The old argument from design in Nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered. We can no longer argue that for instance the beautiful hinge of a bivalve shell must have been made by an intelligent being, like the hinge of a door by man. There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings, and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows. But I have discussed this subject at the end of my book on the 'Variations of Domesticated Animals and Plants'; and the argument there given has never, as far as I can see, been answered.

But passing over the endless beautiful adaptations which we everywhere meet with, it may be asked, How can the generally beneficent arrangement of the world be accounted for? Some writers indeed are so much impressed with the amount of suffering in the world, that they doubt, if we look to all sentient beings, whether there is more of misery or of happiness; whether the world as a whole is a good or bad one. According to my judgment happiness decidedly prevails, though this would be very difficult to prove. If the truth of this conclusion be granted, it harmonizes well with the effects which we might expect from natural selection. If all the individuals of any species were habitually to suffer to an extreme degree, they would neglect to propagate their kind; but we have no reason to believe that this has ever, or at least often, occurred. Some other considerations moreover lead to the belief that all sentient beings have been formed so as to enjoy, as a general rule, happiness.[Pg 4406]

Every one who believes as I do, that all the corporeal and mental organs (excepting those which are neither advantageous nor disadvantageous to the possessor) of all beings have been developed through natural selection, or the survival of the fittest, together with use or habit, will admit that these organs have been formed so that their possessors may compete successfully with other beings, and thus increase in number. Now an animal may be led to pursue that course of action which is most beneficial to the species by suffering, such as pain, hunger, thirst, and fear; or by pleasure, as in eating and drinking, and in the propagation of the species, etc.; or by both means combined, as in the search for food. But pain or suffering of any kind, if long continued, causes depression and lessens the power of action, yet is well adapted to make a creature guard itself against any great or sudden evil. Pleasurable sensations, on the other hand, may be long continued without any depressing effect; on the contrary, they stimulate the whole system to increased action. Hence it has come to pass that most or all sentient beings have been developed in such a manner, through natural selection, that pleasurable sensations serve as their habitual guides. We see this in the pleasure from exertion, even occasionally from great exertion of the body or mind,—in the pleasure of our daily meals, and especially in the pleasure derived from sociability, and from loving our families. The sum of such pleasures as these, which are habitual or frequently recurrent, give, as I can hardly doubt, to most sentient beings an excess of happiness over misery, although many occasionally suffer much. Such suffering is quite compatible with the belief in natural selection, which is not perfect in its action, but tends only to render each species as successful as possible in the battle for life with other species, in wonderfully complex and changing circumstances.

That there is much suffering in the world, no one disputes. Some have attempted to explain this with reference to man by imagining that it serves for his moral improvement. But the number of men in the world is as nothing compared with that of all other sentient beings, and they often suffer greatly without any moral improvement. This very old argument from the existence of suffering against the existence of an intelligent First Cause seems to me a strong one; whereas, as just remarked, the presence of much suffering agrees well with the view that[Pg 4407] all organic beings have been developed through variation and natural selection.

At the present day, the most usual argument for the existence of an intelligent God is drawn from the deep inward conviction and feelings which are experienced by most persons.

Formerly I was led by feelings such as those just referred to (although I do not think that the religious sentiment was ever strongly developed in me), to the firm conviction of the existence of God and of the immortality of the soul. In my Journal I wrote that whilst standing in the midst of the grandeur of a Brazilian forest, "it is not possible to give an adequate idea of the higher feelings of wonder, admiration, and devotion, which fill and elevate the mind." I well remember my conviction that there is more in man than the mere breath of his body. But now the grandest scenes would not cause any such convictions and feelings to rise in my mind. It may be truly said that I am like a man who has become color-blind, and the universal belief by men of the existence of redness makes my present loss of perception of not the least value as evidence. This argument would be a valid one if all men of all races had the same inward conviction of the existence of one God; but we know that this is very far from being the case. Therefore I cannot see that such inward convictions and feelings are of any weight as evidence of what really exists. The state of mind which grand scenes formerly excited in me, and which was intimately connected with a belief in God, did not essentially differ from that which is often called the sense of sublimity; and however difficult it may be to explain the genesis of this sense, it can hardly be advanced as an argument for the existence of God, any more than the powerful though vague and similar feelings excited by music.

With respect to immortality, nothing shows me [so clearly] how strong and almost instinctive a belief it is, as the consideration of the view now held by most physicists, namely, that the sun with all the planets will in time grow too cold for life, unless indeed some great body dashes into the sun, and thus gives it fresh life. Believing as I do that man in the distant future will be a far more perfect creature than he now is, it is an intolerable thought that he and all other sentient beings are doomed to complete annihilation after such long-continued slow progress. To those who fully admit the immortality of[Pg 4408] the human soul, the destruction of our world will not appear so dreadful.

Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the reason, and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man, with his capacity of looking far backward and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause, having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist. This conclusion was strong in my mind about the time, as far as I can remember, when I wrote the 'Origin of Species'; and it is since that time that it has very gradually, with many fluctuations, become weaker. But then arises the doubt: Can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animals, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions?

I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems. The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic.


From 'Life and Letters'

July 11th [1861].

Some one has sent us 'Macmillan,' and I must tell you how much I admire your article; though at the same time I must confess that I could not clearly follow you in some parts, which probably is in main part due to my not being at all accustomed to metaphysical trains of thought. I think that you understand my book perfectly, and that I find a very rare event with my critics. The ideas in the last page have several times vaguely crossed my mind. Owing to several correspondents I have been led lately to think, or rather to try to think, over some of the chief points discussed by you. But the result has been with me a maze—something like thinking on the origin of evil, to which you allude. The mind refuses to look at this universe, being what it is, without having been designed; yet[Pg 4409] where one would most expect design,—viz., in the structure of a sentient being,—the more I think on the subject, the less I can see proof of design. Asa Gray and some others look at each variation, or at least at each beneficial variation (which A. Gray would compare with the rain-drops which do not fall on the sea, but on to the land to fertilize it), as having been providentially designed. Yet when I asked him whether he looks at each variation in the rock-pigeon, by which man has made by accumulation a pouter or fantail pigeon, as providentially designed for man's amusement, he does not know what to answer; and if he or any one admits [that] these variations are accidental, as far as purpose is concerned (of course not accidental as to their cause or origin), then I can see no reason why he should rank the accumulated variations by which the beautifully adapted woodpecker has been formed, as providentially designed. For it would be easy to imagine the enlarged crop of the pouter, or tail of the fantail, as of some use to birds in a state of nature, having peculiar habits of life. These are the considerations which perplex me about design; but whether you will care to hear them, I know not....

[On the subject of design, he wrote (July 1860) to Dr. Gray:—]

One word more on "designed laws" and "undesigned results." I see a bird which I want for food, take my gun and kill it; I do this designedly. An innocent and good man stands under a tree and is killed by a flash of lightning. Do you believe (and I really should like to hear) that God designedly killed this man? Many or most persons do believe this; I can't and don't. If you believe so, do you believe that when a swallow snaps up a gnat, that God designed that that particular swallow should snap up that particular gnat at that particular instant? I believe that the man and the gnat are in the same predicament. If the death of neither man nor gnat is designed, I see no good reason to believe that their first birth or production should be necessarily designed.[Pg 4410]


From 'Life and Letters'

Down, February 24th [1863].

My Dear Hooker:

I am astonished at your note. I have not seen the Athenæum, but I have sent for it, and may get it to-morrow; and will then say what I think.

I have read Lyell's book ['The Antiquity of Man']. The whole certainly struck me as a compilation, but of the highest class; for when possible the facts have been verified on the spot, making it almost an original work. The Glacial chapters seem to me best, and in parts magnificent. I could hardly judge about Man, as all the gloss of novelty was completely worn off. But certainly the aggregation of the evidence produced a very striking effect on my mind. The chapter comparing language and changes of species seems most ingenious and interesting. He has shown great skill in picking out salient points in the argument for change of species; but I am deeply disappointed (I do not mean personally) to find that his timidity prevents him giving any judgment.... From all my communications with him, I must ever think that he has really entirely lost faith in the immutability of species; and yet one of his strongest sentences is nearly as follows: "If it should ever be rendered highly probable that species change by variation and natural selection," etc., etc. I had hoped he would have guided the public as far as his own belief went.... One thing does please me on this subject, that he seems to appreciate your work. No doubt the public or a part may be induced to think that as he gives to us a larger space than to Lamarck, he must think there is something in our views. When reading the brain chapter, it struck me forcibly that if he had said openly that he believed in change of species, and as a consequence that man was derived from some quadrumanous animal, it would have been very proper to have discussed by compilation the differences in the most important organ, viz., the brain. As it is, the chapter seems to me to come in rather by the head and shoulders. I do not think (but then I am as prejudiced as Falconer and Huxley, or more so) that it is too[Pg 4411] severe. It struck me as given with judicial force. It might perhaps be said with truth that he had no business to judge on a subject on which he knows nothing; but compilers must do this to a certain extent. (You know I value and rank high compilers, being one myself.) I have taken you at your word, and scribbled at great length. If I get the Athenæum to-morrow, I will add my impression of Owen's letter....

The Lyells are coming here on Sunday evening to stay till Wednesday. I dread it, but I must say how much disappointed I am that he has not spoken out on species, still less on man. And the best of the joke is that he thinks he has acted with the courage of a martyr of old. I hope I may have taken an exaggerated view of his timidity, and shall particularly be glad of your opinion on this head. When I got his book I turned over the pages, and saw he had discussed the subject of species, and said that I thought he would do more to convert the public than all of us; and now (which makes the case worse for me) I must, in common honesty, retract. I wish to Heaven he had said not a word on the subject.

Wednesday Morning.—I have read the Athenæum. I do not think Lyell will be nearly so much annoyed as you expect. The concluding sentence is no doubt very stinging. No one but a good anatomist could unravel Owen's letter; at least it is quite beyond me....

Lyell's memory plays him false when he says all anatomists were astonished at Owen's paper: it was often quoted with approbation. I well remember Lyell's admiration at this new classification! (Do not repeat this.) I remember it because, though I knew nothing whatever about the brain, I felt a conviction that a classification thus founded on a single character would break down, and it seemed to me a great error not to separate more completely the Marsupialia....

What an accursed evil it is that there should be all this quarreling, within what ought to be the peaceful realms of science.

I will go to my own present subject of inheritance and forget it all for a time. Farewell, my dear old friend.

C. Darwin.
[Pg 4412]


From 'Life and Letters'

October 3d, 1864.

My Dear Huxley:

If I do not pour out my admiration of your article on Kölliker, I shall explode. I never read anything better done. I had much wished his article answered, and indeed thought of doing so myself, so that I considered several points. You have hit on all, and on some in addition, and oh, by Jove, how well you have done it! As I read on and came to point after point on which I had thought, I could not help jeering and scoffing at myself, to see how infinitely better you had done it than I could have done. Well, if any one who does not understand Natural Selection will read this, he will be a blockhead if it is not as clear as daylight. Old Flourens was hardly worth the powder and shot; but how capitally you bring in about the Academician, and your metaphor of the sea-sand is inimitable.

It is a marvel to me how you can resist becoming a regular reviewer. Well, I have exploded now, and it has done me a deal of good.


From 'Life and Letters'

Down, March 15th [1870].

My Dear Sir:

I do not know whether you will consider me a very troublesome man, but I have just finished your book, and cannot resist telling you how the whole has much interested me. No doubt, as you say, there must be much speculation on such a subject, and certain results cannot be reached; but all your views are highly suggestive, and to my mind that is high praise. I have been all the more interested, as I am now writing on closely allied though not quite identical points. I was pleased to see you refer to my much despised child, 'Pangenesis,' who I think will some day, under some better nurse, turn out a fine stripling. It has also pleased me to see how thoroughly you appreciate (and I do not think that this is general with the men of science) H. Spencer; I suspect that hereafter he will be looked at as by far the greatest living philosopher in England; perhaps equal to any that have[Pg 4413] lived. But I have no business to trouble you with my notions. With sincere thanks for the interest which your work has given me, I remain, yours very faithfully,

Ch. Darwin.


From 'Life and Letters'

Cliff Cottage, Bournemouth, September 26th, 1862.

My Dear Hooker:

Do not read this till you have leisure. If that blessed moment ever comes, I should be very glad to have your opinion on the subject of this letter. I am led to the opinion that Drosera must have diffused matter in organic connection, closely analogous to the nervous matter of animals. When the glans of one of the papillæ or tentacles in its natural position is supplied with nitrogenized fluid and certain other stimulants, or when loaded with an extremely slight weight, or when struck several times with a needle, the pedicel bends near its base in under one minute. These varied stimulants are conveyed down the pedicel by some means; it cannot be vibration, for drops of fluid put on quite quietly cause the movement; it cannot be absorption of the fluid from cell to cell, for I can see the rate of absorption, which, though quick, is far slower, and in Dionæa the transmission is instantaneous; analogy from animals would point to transmission through nervous matter. Reflecting on the rapid power of absorption in the glans, the extreme sensibility of the whole organ, and the conspicuous movement caused by varied stimulants, I have tried a number of substances which are not caustic or corrosive, ... but most of which are known to have a remarkable action on the nervous matter of animals. You will see the results in the inclosed paper. As the nervous matter of different animals is differently acted on by the same poisons, one would not expect the same action on plants and animals; only, if plants have diffused nervous matter, some degree of analogous action. And this is partially the case. Considering these experiments, together with the previously made remarks on the functions of the parts, I cannot avoid the conclusion that Drosera possesses matter at least in some degree analogous in constitution and function to nervous matter. Now do tell me what you think, as far as you can judge from my abstract. Of course many more experiments would have to be[Pg 4414] tried; but in former years I tried on the whole leaf, instead of on separate glands, a number of innocuous substances, such as sugar, gum, starch, etc., and they produced no effect. Your opinion will aid me in deciding some future year in going on with this subject. I should not have thought it worth attempting, but I had nothing on earth to do.

My dear Hooker, yours very sincerely,

Ch. Darwin.

P.S.—We return home on Monday 28th. Thank Heaven!


From the 'Origin of Species'

Before entering on the subject of this chapter, I must make a few preliminary remarks, to show how the struggle for existence bears on Natural Selection. It has been seen in the last chapter that amongst organic beings in a state of nature there is some individual variability; indeed, I am not aware that this has ever been disputed. It is immaterial for us whether a multitude of doubtful forms be called species, or sub-species, or varieties; what rank, for instance, the two or three hundred doubtful forms of British plants are entitled to hold, if the existence of any well-marked varieties be admitted. But the mere existence of individual variability and of some few well-marked varieties, though necessary as the foundation for the work, helps us but little in understanding how species arise in nature. How have all those exquisite adaptations of one part of the organization to another part, and to the conditions of life, and of one organic being to another being, been perfected? We see these beautiful co-adaptations most plainly in the woodpecker and the mistletoe; and only a little less plainly in the humblest parasite which clings to the hairs of a quadruped or feathers of a bird; in the structure of the beetle which dives through the water; in the plumed seed which is wafted by the gentlest breeze: in short, we see beautiful adaptations everywhere and in every part of the organic world.

Again, it may be asked, how is it that varieties, which I have called incipient species, become ultimately converted into good and distinct species, which in most cases obviously differ from each other far more than do the varieties of the same species?[Pg 4415] How do those groups of species, which constitute what are called distinct genera, and which differ from each other more than do the species of the same genus, arise? All these results, as we shall more fully see in the next chapter, follow from the struggle for life. Owing to this struggle, variations, however slight and from whatever cause proceeding, if they be in any degree profitable to the individuals of a species, in their infinitely complex relations to other organic beings and to their physical conditions of life, will tend to the preservation of such individuals, and will generally be inherited by the offspring. The offspring also will thus have a better chance of surviving; for of the many individuals of any species which are periodically born, but a small number can survive. I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term Natural Selection, in order to mark its relation to man's power of selection. But the expression often used by Mr. Herbert Spencer, of the Survival of the Fittest, is more accurate and is sometimes equally convenient. We have seen that man by selection can certainly produce great results, and can adapt organic beings to his own uses, through the accumulation of slight but useful variations given to him by the hand of Nature. But Natural Selection, as we shall hereafter see, is a power incessantly ready for action, and is as immeasurably superior to man's feeble efforts as the works of Nature are to those of Art.

We will now discuss in a little more detail the struggle for existence. In my future work this subject will be treated, as it well deserves, at greater length. The elder De Candolle and Lyell have largely and philosophically shown that all organic beings are exposed to severe competition. In regard to plants, no one has treated this subject with more spirit and ability than W. Herbert, Dean of Manchester, evidently the result of his great horticultural knowledge. Nothing is easier than to admit in words the truth of the universal struggle for life, or more difficult—at least I have found it so—than constantly to bear this conclusion in mind. Yet unless it be thoroughly ingrained in the mind, the whole economy of nature, with every fact on distribution, rarity, abundance, extinction, and variation, will be dimly seen or quite misunderstood. We behold the face of nature bright with gladness, we often see superabundance of food; we do not see, or we forget, that the birds which are idly[Pg 4416] singing round us mostly live on insects or seeds, and are thus constantly destroying life; or we forget how largely these songsters, or their eggs, or their nestlings, are destroyed by birds and beasts of prey; we do not always bear in mind that though food may be now superabundant, it is not so at all seasons of each recurring year.

I should premise that I use this term in a large and metaphorical sense, including dependence of one being on another, and including (which is more important) not only the life of the individual, but success in leaving progeny. Two canine animals, in a time of dearth, may be truly said to struggle with each other which shall get food and live. But a plant on the edge of a desert is said to struggle for life against the drought, though more properly it should be said to be dependent on the moisture. A plant which annually produces a thousand seeds, of which only one on an average comes to maturity, may be more truly said to struggle with the plants of the same and other kinds which already clothe the ground. The mistletoe is dependent on the apple and a few other trees, but can only in a far-fetched sense be said to struggle with these trees, for if too many of these parasites grow on the same tree, it languishes and dies. But several seedling mistletoes, growing close together on the same branch, may more truly be said to struggle with each other. As the mistletoe is disseminated by birds, its existence depends on them; and it may metaphorically be said to struggle with other fruit-bearing plants, in tempting the birds to devour and thus disseminate its seeds. In these several senses, which pass into each other, I use for convenience's sake the general term of Struggle for Existence.


From 'Origin of Species'

A struggle for existence inevitably follows from the high rate at which all organic beings tend to increase. Every being which during its natural lifetime produces several eggs or seeds must suffer destruction during some period of its life, and during some season or occasional year; otherwise, on the principle of geometrical increase, its numbers would quickly become[Pg 4417] so inordinately great that no country could support the product. Hence, as more individuals are produced than can possibly survive, there must in every case be a struggle for existence, either one individual with another of the same species, or with the individuals of distinct species, or with the physical conditions of life. It is the doctrine of Malthus applied with manifold force to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms; for in this case there can be no artificial increase of food, and no prudential restraint from marriage. Although some species may be now increasing, more or less rapidly, in numbers, all cannot do so, for the world would not hold them.

There is no exception to the rule that every organic being naturally increases at so high a rate that if not destroyed, the earth would soon be covered by the progeny of a single pair. Even slow-breeding man has doubled in twenty-five years; and at this rate, in less than a thousand years there would literally not be standing-room for his progeny. Linnæus has calculated that if an annual plant produced only two seeds—and there is no plant so unproductive as this—and their seedlings next year produced two, and so on, then in twenty years there would be a million plants. The elephant is reckoned the slowest breeder of all known animals, and I have taken some pains to estimate its probable minimum rate of natural increase; it will be safest to assume that it begins breeding when thirty years old: and goes on breeding till ninety years old, bringing forth six young in the interval, and surviving till one hundred years old: if this be so, after a period of from 740 to 750 years there would be nearly nineteen million elephants alive, descended from the first pair.

But we have better evidence on this subject than mere theoretical calculations, namely, the numerous recorded cases of the astonishingly rapid increase of various animals in a state of nature, when circumstances have been favorable to them during two or three following seasons. Still more striking is the evidence from our domestic animals of many kinds which have run wild in several parts of the world; if the statements of the rate of increase of slow-breeding cattle and horses in South America, and latterly in Australia, had not been well authenticated, they would have been incredible. So it is with plants; cases could be given of introduced plants which have become common throughout whole islands in a period of less than ten years. Several of[Pg 4418] the plants, such as the cardoon and a tall thistle, which are now the commonest over the wide plains of La Plata, clothing square leagues of surface almost to the exclusion of every other plant, have been introduced from Europe; and there are plants which now range in India, as I hear from Falconer, from Cape Comorin to the Himalaya, which have been imported from America since its discovery. In such cases—and endless others could be given—no one supposes that the fertility of the animals or plants has been suddenly and temporarily increased in any sensible degree. The obvious explanation is that the conditions of life have been highly favorable, and that there has consequently been less destruction of the old and young, and that nearly all the young have been enabled to breed. Their geometrical ratio of increase, the result of which never fails to be surprising, simply explains their extraordinarily rapid increase and wide diffusion in their new homes.

In a state of nature almost every full-grown plant annually produces seed, and amongst animals there are very few which do not annually pair. Hence we may confidently assert that all plants and animals are tending to increase at a geometrical ratio,—that all would rapidly stock every station in which they could anyhow exist,—and that this geometrical tendency to increase must be checked by destruction at some period of life. Our familiarity with the larger domestic animals tends, I think, to mislead us: we see no great destruction falling on them, but we do not keep in mind that thousands are annually slaughtered for food, and that in a state of nature an equal number would have somehow to be disposed of.

The only difference between organisms which annually produce eggs or seeds by the thousand, and those which produce extremely few, is that the slow breeders would require a few more years to people, under favorable conditions, a whole district, let it be ever so large. The condor lays a couple of eggs and the ostrich a score, and yet in the same country the condor may be the more numerous of the two; the Fulmar petrel lays but one egg, yet it is believed to be the most numerous bird in the world. One fly deposits hundreds of eggs, and another, like the hippobosca, a single one; but this difference does not determine how many individuals of the two species can be supported in a district. A large number of eggs is of some importance to those species which depend on a fluctuating amount of food, for[Pg 4419] it allows them rapidly to increase in number. But the real importance of a large number of eggs or seeds is to make up for much destruction at some period of life; and this period in the great majority of cases is an early one. If an animal can in any way protect its own eggs or young, a small number may be produced, and yet the average stock be fully kept up; but if many eggs or young are destroyed, many must be produced, or the species will become extinct. It would suffice to keep up the full number of a tree which lived on an average for a thousand years, if a single seed were produced once in a thousand years, supposing that this seed were never destroyed, and could be insured to germinate in a fitting place. So that, in all cases, the average number of any animal or plant depends only indirectly on the number of its eggs or seeds.

In looking at nature, it is most necessary to keep the foregoing considerations always in mind—never to forget that every single organic being may be said to be striving to the utmost to increase in numbers; that each lives by a struggle at some period of its life; that heavy destruction inevitably falls either on the young or old, during each generation or at recurrent intervals. Lighten any check, mitigate the destruction ever so little, and the number of the species will almost instantaneously increase to any amount.


From 'The Origin of Species'

The causes which check the natural tendency of each species to increase are most obscure. Look at the most vigorous species: by as much as it swarms in numbers, by so much will it tend to increase still further. We know not exactly what the checks are, even in a single instance. Nor will this surprise any one who reflects how ignorant we are on this head, even in regard to mankind, although so incomparably better known than any other animal. This subject of the checks to increase has been ably treated by several authors, and I hope in a future work to discuss it at considerable length, more especially in regard to the feral animals of South America. Here I will make only a few remarks, just to recall to the reader's mind some[Pg 4420] of the chief points. Eggs or very young animals seem generally to suffer most, but this is not invariably the case. With plants there is a vast destruction of seeds; but from some observations which I have made, it appears that the seedlings suffer most, from germinating in ground already thickly stocked with other plants. Seedlings also are destroyed in vast numbers by various enemies: for instance, on a piece of ground three feet long and two wide, dug and cleared, and where there could be no choking from other plants, I marked all the seedlings of our native weeds as they came up, and out of 357 no less than 295 were destroyed, chiefly by slugs and insects. If turf which has long been mown—and the case would be the same with turf closely browsed by quadrupeds—be let to grow, the more vigorous plants gradually kill the less vigorous though fully grown plants; thus out of twenty species growing on a little plot of mown turf (three feet by four) nine species perished, from the other species being allowed to grow up freely.

The amount of food for each species of course gives the extreme limit to which each can increase; but very frequently it is not the obtaining food, but the serving as prey to other animals, which determines the average numbers of a species. Thus there seems to be little doubt that the stock of partridges, grouse, and hares in any large estate depends chiefly on the destruction of vermin. If not one head of game were shot during the next twenty years in England, and at the same time if no vermin were destroyed, there would in all probability be less game than at present, although hundreds of thousands of game animals are now annually shot. On the other hand, in some cases, as with the elephant, none are destroyed by beasts of prey; for even the tiger in India most rarely dares to attack a young elephant protected by its dam.

Climate plays an important part in determining the average numbers of a species, and periodical seasons of extreme cold or drought seem to be the most effective of all checks. I estimated (chiefly from the greatly reduced numbers of nests in the spring) that the winter of 1854-5 destroyed four-fifths of the birds in my own grounds; and this is a tremendous destruction, when we remember that ten per cent, is an extraordinarily severe mortality from epidemics with man. The action of climate seems at first sight to be quite independent of the struggle for existence; but in so far as climate chiefly acts in reducing food, it brings[Pg 4421] on the most severe struggle between the individuals, whether of the same or of distinct species, which subsist on the same kind of food. Even when climate,—for instance, extreme cold,—acts directly, it will be the least vigorous individuals, or those which have got least food through the advancing winter, which will suffer most.

When we travel from south to north, or from a damp region to a dry, we invariably see some species gradually getting rarer and rarer, and finally disappearing; and the change of climate being conspicuous, we are tempted to attribute the whole effect to its direct action. But this is a false view; we forget that each species, even where it most abounds, is constantly suffering enormous destruction at some period of its life, from enemies or from competitors for the same place and food; and if these enemies or competitors be in the least degree favored by any slight change of climate, they will increase in numbers; and as each area is already fully stocked with inhabitants, the other species must decrease. When we travel southward and see a species decreasing in numbers, we may feel sure that the cause lies quite as much in other species being favored as in this one being hurt. So it is when we travel northward; but in a somewhat lesser degree, for the number of species of all kinds, and therefore of competitors, decreases northward; hence in going northward, or in ascending a mountain, we far oftener meet with stunted forms, due to the directly injurious action of climate, than we do in proceeding southward or in descending a mountain. When we reach the arctic regions, or snow-capped summits, or absolute deserts, the struggle for life is almost exclusively with the elements.

That climate acts in main part indirectly by favoring other species, we clearly see in the prodigious number of plants which in our gardens can perfectly well endure our climate, but which never become naturalized, for they cannot compete with our native plants nor resist destruction by our native animals.

When a species, owing to highly favorable circumstances, increases inordinately in numbers in a small tract, epidemics—at least, this seems generally to occur with our game animals—often ensue; and here we have a limiting check independent of the struggle for life. But even some of these so-called epidemics appear to be due to parasitic worms, which have from some cause, possibly in part through facility of diffusion amongst the[Pg 4422] crowded animals, been disproportionally favored: and here comes in a sort of struggle between the parasite and its prey.

On the other hand, in many cases, a large stock of individuals of the same species, relatively to the numbers of its enemies, is absolutely necessary for its preservation. Thus we can easily raise plenty of corn and rape-seed, etc., in our fields, because the seeds are in great excess compared with the number of birds which feed on them; nor can the birds, though having a superabundance of food at this one season, increase in number proportionally to the supply of seed, as their numbers are checked during winter; but any one who has tried, knows how troublesome it is to get seed from a few wheat or other such plants in a garden: I have in this case lost every single seed. This view of the necessity of a large stock of the same species for its preservation, explains I believe some singular facts in nature, such as that of very rare plants being sometimes extremely abundant in the few spots where they do exist; and that of some social plants being social, that is, abounding in individuals, even on the extreme verge of their range. For in such cases, we may believe that a plant could exist only where the conditions of its life were so favorable that many could exist together and thus save the species from utter destruction. I should add that the good effects of inter-crossing, and the ill effects of close inter-breeding, no doubt come into play in many of these cases; but I will not here enlarge on this subject.


From the 'Origin of Species'

Many cases are on record, showing how complex and unexpected are the checks and relations between organic beings which have to struggle together in the same country. I will give only a single instance, which though a simple one interested me. In Staffordshire, on the estate of a relation where I had ample means of investigation, there was a large and extremely barren heath which had never been touched by the hand of man; but several hundred acres of exactly the same nature had been inclosed twenty-five years previously[Pg 4423] and planted with Scotch fir. The change in the native vegetation of the planted part of the heath was most remarkable, more than is generally seen in passing from one quite different soil to another: not only the proportional numbers of the heath-plants were wholly changed, but twelve species of plants (not counting grasses and carices) flourished in the plantations, which could not be found on the heath. The effect on the insects must have been still greater, for six insectivorous birds were very common in the plantations which were not to be seen on the heath; and the heath was frequented by two or three distinct insectivorous birds. Here we see how potent has been the effect of the introduction of a single tree, nothing whatever else having been done, with the exception of the land having been inclosed so that cattle could not enter.

But how important an element inclosure is, I plainly saw near Farnham in Surrey. Here there are extensive heaths with a few clumps of old Scotch firs on the distant hill-tops: within the last ten years large spaces have been inclosed, and self-sown firs are now springing up in multitudes, so close together that all cannot live. When I ascertained that these young trees had not been sown or planted, I was so much surprised at their numbers that I went to several points of view, whence I could examine hundreds of acres of the uninclosed heath, and literally I could not see a single Scotch fir except the old planted clumps. But on looking closely between the stems of the heath, I found a multitude of seedlings and little trees which had been perpetually browsed down by the cattle. In one square yard, at a point some hundred yards distant from one of the old clumps, I counted thirty-two little trees; and one of them, with twenty-six rings of growth, had during many years tried to raise its head above the stems of the heath, and had failed. No wonder that as soon as the land was inclosed it became thickly clothed with vigorously growing young firs. Yet the heath was so extremely barren and so extensive that no one would ever have imagined that cattle would have so closely and effectually searched it for food.

Here we see that cattle absolutely determine the existence of the Scotch fir; but in several parts of the world insects determine the existence of cattle. Perhaps Paraguay offers the most curious instance of this; for here neither cattle nor horses nor dogs have ever run wild, though they swarm southward and[Pg 4424] northward in a feral state; and Azara and Rengger have shown that this is caused by the greater number in Paraguay of a certain fly, which lays its eggs in the navels of these animals when first born. The increase of these flies, numerous as they are, must be habitually checked by some means, probably by other parasitic insects. Hence if certain insectivorous birds were to decrease in Paraguay, the parasitic insects would probably increase; and this would lessen the number of the navel-frequenting flies; then cattle and horses would become feral, and this would certainly greatly alter (as indeed I have observed in parts of South America) the vegetation; this again would largely affect the insects; and this, as we have just seen in Staffordshire, the insectivorous birds,—and so onwards in ever increasing circles of complexity. Not that under nature the relations will ever be as simple as this. Battle within battle must be continually recurring with varying success; and yet in the long run the forces are so nicely balanced that the face of nature remains for long periods of time uniform, though assuredly the merest trifle would give the victory to one organic being over another. Nevertheless, so profound is our ignorance and so high our presumption, that we marvel when we hear of the extinction of an organic being; and as we do not see the cause, we invoke cataclysms to desolate the world, or invent laws on the duration of the forms of life!


From the 'Origin of Species'

Several writers have misapprehended or objected to the term Natural Selection. Some have even imagined that Natural Selection induces variability, whereas it implies only the preservation of such variations as arise and are beneficial to the being under its conditions of life. No one objects to agriculturists speaking of the potent effects of man's selection; and in this case the individual differences given by nature, which man for some object selects, must of necessity first occur. Others have objected that the term selection implies conscious choice in the animals which become modified; and it has even been urged that as plants have no volition, Natural Selection is not applicable to[Pg 4425] them! In the literal sense of the word, no doubt. Natural Selection is a false term; but who ever objected to chemists speaking of the elective affinities of the various elements?—and yet an acid cannot strictly be said to elect the base with which it in preference combines. It has been said that I speak of Natural Selection as an active power or Deity; but who objects to an author speaking of the attraction of gravity as ruling the movements of the planets? Every one knows what is meant and is implied by such metaphorical expressions; and they are almost necessary for brevity. So again it is difficult to avoid personifying the word Nature; but I mean by nature only the aggregate action and product of many natural laws, and by laws the sequence of events as ascertained by us. With a little familiarity such superficial objections will be forgotten.

We shall best understand the probable course of Natural Selection by taking the case of a country undergoing some slight physical change; for instance, of climate. The proportional numbers of its inhabitants will almost immediately undergo a change, and some species will probably become extinct. We may conclude, from what we have seen of the intimate and complex manner in which the inhabitants of each country are bound together, that any change in the numerical proportions of the inhabitants, independently of the change of climate itself, would seriously affect the others. If the country were open on its borders, new forms would certainly immigrate, and this would likewise seriously disturb the relations of some of the former inhabitants. Let it be remembered how powerful the influence of a single introduced tree or mammal has been shown to be. But in the case of an island, or of a country partly surrounded by barriers, into which new and better adapted forms could not freely enter, we should then have places in the economy of nature which would assuredly be better filled up if some of the original inhabitants were in some manner modified; for had the area been open to immigration, these same places would have been seized on by intruders. In such cases, slight modifications which in any way favored the individuals of any species by better adapting them to their altered conditions, would tend to be preserved; and Natural Selection would have free scope for the work of improvement.

We have good reason to believe, as shown in the first chapter, that changes in the conditions of life give a tendency to[Pg 4426] increased variability; and in the foregoing cases the conditions have changed, and this would manifestly be favorable to Natural Selection by affording a better chance of the occurrence of profitable variations. Unless such occur, Natural Selection can do nothing. Under the term of "variations," it must never be forgotten that mere individual differences are included. As man can produce a great result with his domestic animals and plants by adding up in any given direction individual differences, so could Natural Selection, but far more easily from having incomparably longer time for action. Nor do I believe that any great physical change, as of climate, or any unusual degree of isolation to check immigration, is necessary in order that new and unoccupied places should be left, for Natural Selection to fill up by improving some of the varying inhabitants. For as all the inhabitants of each country are struggling together with nicely balanced forces, extremely slight modifications in the structure or habits of one species would often give it an advantage over others; and still further modifications of the same kind would often still further increase the advantage, as long as the species continued under the same conditions of life and profited by similar means of subsistence and defense. No country can be named, in which all the native inhabitants are now so perfectly adapted to each other and to the physical conditions under which they live, that none of them could be still better adapted or improved; for in all countries the natives have been so far conquered by naturalized productions that they have allowed some foreigners to take firm possession of the land. And as foreigners have thus in every country beaten some of the natives, we may safely conclude that the natives might have been modified with advantage, so as to have better resisted the intruders.

As man can produce, and certainly has produced, a great result by his methodical and unconscious means of selection, what may not Natural Selection effect? Man can act only on external and visible characters; Nature, if I may be allowed to personify the natural preservation or survival of the fittest, cares nothing for appearances, except in so far as they are useful to any being. She can act on every internal organ, on every shade of constitutional difference, on the whole machinery of life. Man selects only for his own good; Nature only for that of the being which she tends. Every selected character is fully exercised by her, as is implied by the fact of their selection. Man keeps the natives[Pg 4427] of many climates in the same country; he seldom exercises each selected character in some peculiar and fitting manner; he feeds a long and a short-beaked pigeon on the same food; he does not exercise a long-backed or long-legged quadruped in any peculiar manner; he exposes sheep with long and short wool to the same climate. He does not allow the most vigorous males to struggle for the females. He does not rigidly destroy all inferior animals, but protects during each varying season, as far as lies in his power, all his productions. He often begins his selection by some half-monstrous form; or at least by some modification prominent enough to catch the eye or to be plainly useful to him. Under Nature, the slightest differences of structure or constitution may well turn the nicely balanced scale in the struggle for life, and so be preserved. How fleeting are the wishes and efforts of man! How short his time, and consequently how poor will be his results, compared with those accumulated by Nature during whole geological periods! Can we wonder then that Nature's productions should be far "truer" in character than man's productions; that they should be infinitely better adapted to the most complex conditions of life, and should plainly bear the stamp of far higher workmanship?

It may metaphorically be said that Natural Selection is daily and hourly scrutinizing, throughout the world, the slightest variations; rejecting those that are bad, preserving and adding up all that are good; silently and insensibly working, whenever and wherever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being in relation to its organic and inorganic conditions of life. We see nothing of these slow changes in progress until the hand of time has marked the lapse of ages, and then so imperfect is our view into long-past geological ages, that we see only that the forms of life are now different from what they formerly were.

In order that any great amount of modification should be effected in a species, a variety when once formed must again, perhaps after a long interval of time, vary or present individual differences of the same favorable nature as before; and these must be again preserved, and so onward step by step. Seeing that individual differences of the same kind perpetually recur, this can hardly be considered as an unwarrantable assumption. But whether it is true, we can judge only by seeing how far the hypothesis accords with and explains the general phenomena of nature. On the other hand, the ordinary belief that the amount[Pg 4428] of possible variation is a strictly limited quantity, is likewise a simple assumption.

Although Natural Selection can act only through and for the good of each being, yet characters and structures, which we are apt to consider as of very trifling importance, may thus be acted on. When we see leaf-eating insects green, and bark-feeders mottled gray; the Alpine ptarmigan white in winter, the red grouse the color of heather,—we must believe that these tints are of service to these birds and insects in preserving them from danger. Grouse, if not destroyed at some period of their lives, would increase in countless numbers; they are known to suffer largely from birds of prey; and hawks are guided by eyesight to their prey—so much so, that on parts of the Continent persons are warned not to keep white pigeons, as being the most liable to destruction. Hence Natural Selection might be effective in giving the proper color to each kind of grouse, and in keeping that color, when once acquired, true and constant. Nor ought we to think that the occasional destruction of an animal of any particular color would produce little effect: we should remember how essential it is in a flock of white sheep to destroy a lamb with the faintest trace of black. We have seen how the color of hogs which feed on the "paint-root" in Virginia, determines whether they shall live or die. In plants, the down on the fruit and the color of the flesh are considered by botanists as characters of the most trifling importance; yet we hear from an excellent horticulturist, Downing, that in the United States smooth-skinned fruits suffer far more from a beetle, a curculio, than those with down; that purple plums suffer far more from a certain disease than yellow plums; whereas another disease attacks yellow-fleshed peaches far more than those with other colored flesh. If with all the aids of art, these slight differences make a great difference in cultivating the several varieties, assuredly, in a state of nature, where the trees would have to struggle with other trees and with a host of enemies, such differences would effectually settle which variety, whether a smooth or downy, a yellow or a purple-fleshed fruit, should succeed.

In looking at many small points of difference between species, which, as far as our ignorance permits us to judge, seem quite unimportant, we must not forget that climate, food, etc., have no doubt produced some direct effect. It is also necessary to bear in mind that owing to the law of correlation, when one part[Pg 4429] varies, and the variations are accumulated through Natural Selection, other modifications, often of the most unexpected nature, will ensue.

As we see that those variations which under domestication appear at any particular period of life, tend to reappear in the offspring at the same period;—for instance, in the shape, size, and flavor of the seeds of the many varieties of our culinary and agricultural plants; in the caterpillar and cocoon stages of the varieties of the silkworm; in the eggs of poultry, and in the color of the down of their chickens; in the horns of our sheep and cattle when nearly adult; so in a state of nature Natural Selection will be enabled to act on and modify organic beings at any age, by the accumulation of variations profitable at that age, and by their inheritance at a corresponding age. If it profit a plant to have its seeds more and more widely disseminated by the wind, I can see no greater difficulty in this being effected through Natural Selection, than in the cotton-planter increasing and improving by selection the down in the pods on his cotton-trees. Natural Selection may modify and adapt the larva of an insect to a score of contingencies wholly different from those which concern the mature insect; and these modifications may effect, through correlation, the structure of the adult. So, conversely, modifications in the adult may affect the structure of the larva; but in all cases Natural Selection will insure that they shall not be injurious: for if they were so, the species would become extinct.

Natural Selection will modify the structure of the young in relation to the parent, and of the parent in relation to the young. In social animals it will adapt the structure of each individual for the benefit of the whole community, if the community profits by the selected change. What Natural Selection cannot do, is to modify the structure of one species, without giving it any advantage, for the good of another species; and though statements to this effect may be found in works of natural history, I cannot find one case which will bear investigation. A structure used only once in an animal's life, if of high importance to it, might be modified to any extent by Natural Selection; for instance, the great jaws possessed by certain insects, used exclusively for opening the cocoon, or the hard tip to the beak of unhatched birds, used for breaking the eggs. It has been asserted that of the best short-beaked tumbler-pigeons a greater[Pg 4430] number perish in the egg than are able to get out of it; so that fanciers assist in the act of hatching. Now if Nature had to make the beak of a full-grown pigeon very short for the bird's own advantage, the process of modification would be very slow, and there would be simultaneously the most rigorous selection of all the young birds within the egg, which had the most powerful and hardest beaks, for all with weak beaks would inevitably perish; or more delicate and more easily broken shells might be selected, the thickness of the shell being known to vary like every other structure.

It may be well here to remark that with all beings there must be much fortuitous destruction, which can have little or no influence on the course of Natural Selection. For instance, a vast number of eggs or seeds are annually devoured, and these could be modified through Natural Selection only if they varied in some manner which protected them from their enemies. Yet many of these eggs or seeds would perhaps, if not destroyed, have yielded individuals better adapted to their conditions of life than any of those which happened to survive. So again a vast number of mature animals and plants, whether or not they be the best adapted to their conditions, must be annually destroyed by accidental causes, which would not be in the least degree mitigated by certain changes of structure or constitution which would in other ways be beneficial to the species. But let the destruction of the adults be ever so heavy, if the number which can exist in any district be not wholly kept down by such causes,—or gain, let the destruction of eggs or seeds be so great that only a hundredth or a thousandth part are developed,—yet of those which do survive, the best adapted individuals, supposing that there is any variability in a favorable direction, will tend to propagate their kind in larger numbers than the less well adapted. If the numbers be wholly kept down by the causes just indicated, as will often have been the case, Natural Selection will be powerless in certain beneficial directions; but this is no valid objection to its efficiency at other times and in other ways; for we are far from having any reason to suppose that many species ever undergo modification and improvement at the same time in the same area.[Pg 4431]


From the 'Origin of Species'

Authors of the highest eminence seem to be fully satisfied with the view that each species has been independently created. To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes, like those determining the birth and death of an individual. When I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long before the first bed of the Cambrian system was deposited, they seem to me to become ennobled. Judging from the past, we may safely infer that not one living species will transmit its unaltered likeness to a distant futurity. And of the species now living, very few will transmit progeny of any kind to a far distant futurity; for the manner in which all organic beings are grouped shows that the greater number of species in each genus, and all the species in many genera, have left no descendants, but have become utterly extinct. We can so far take a prophetic glance into futurity as to foretell that it will be the common and widely spread species, belonging to the larger and dominant groups within each class, which will ultimately prevail and procreate new and dominant species. As all the living forms of life are the lineal descendants of those which lived long before the Cambrian epoch, we may feel certain that the ordinary succession by generation has never once been broken, and that no cataclysm has desolated the whole world. Hence we may look with some confidence to a secure future of great length. And as Natural Selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection.

It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest[Pg 4432] sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance, which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the conditions of life, and from use and disuse: a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving,—namely, the production of the higher animals,—directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been and are being evolved.


From 'The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication'

Some authors have declared that natural selection explains nothing, unless the precise cause of each slight individual difference be made clear. If it were explained to a savage utterly ignorant of the art of building, how the edifice had been raised stone upon stone, and why wedge-formed fragments were used for the arches, flat stones for the roof, etc.; and if the use of each part and of the whole building were pointed out, it would be unreasonable if he declared that nothing had been made clear to him, because the precise cause of the shape of each fragment could not be told. But this is a nearly parallel case with the objection that selection explains nothing, because we know not the cause of each individual difference in the structure of each being.

The shape of the fragments of stone at the base of our precipice may be called accidental, but this is not strictly correct; for the shape of each depends on a long sequence of events, all obeying natural laws: on the nature of the rock, on the lines of deposition or cleavage, on the form of the mountain, which depends on its upheaval and subsequent denudation, and lastly on the storm or earthquake which throws down the fragments. But in regard to the use to which the fragments may be put, their shape may be strictly said to be accidental. And here we[Pg 4433] are led to face a great difficulty, in alluding to which I am aware that I am traveling beyond my proper province. An omniscient Creator must have foreseen every consequence which results from the laws imposed by him. But can it be reasonably maintained that the Creator intentionally ordered, if we use the words in any ordinary sense, that certain fragments of rock should assume certain shapes so that the builder might erect his edifice? If the various laws which have determined the shape of each fragment were not predetermined for the builder's sake, can it be maintained with any greater probability that he specially ordained for the sake of the breeder each of the innumerable variations in our domestic animals and plants;—many of these variations being of no service to man, and not beneficial, far more often injurious, to the creatures themselves? Did he ordain that the crop and tail-feathers of the pigeon should vary, in order that the fancier might make his grotesque pouter and fantail breeds? Did he cause the frame and mental qualities of the dog to vary in order that a breed might be formed of indomitable ferocity, with jaws fitted to pin down the bull for man's brutal sport? But if we give up the principle in one case,—if we do not admit that the variations of the primeval dog were intentionally guided in order that the greyhound, for instance, that perfect image of symmetry and vigor, might be formed,—no shadow of reason can be assigned for the belief that variations, alike in nature and the result of the same general laws, which have been the groundwork through natural selection of the formation of the most perfectly adapted animals in the world, man included, were intentionally and specially guided. However much we may wish it, we can hardly follow Professor Asa Gray in his belief that "variation has been led along certain beneficial lines," like a stream "along definite and useful lines of irrigation." If we assume that each particular variation was from the beginning of all time preordained, then that plasticity of organization which leads to many injurious deviations of structure, as well as the redundant power of reproduction which inevitably leads to a struggle for existence, and as a consequence, to the natural selection or survival of the fittest,—must appear to us superfluous laws of Nature. On the other hand, an omnipotent and omniscient Creator ordains everything and foresees everything. Thus we are brought face to face with a difficulty as insoluble as is that of free-will and predestination.[Pg 4434]


From 'The Descent of Man'

The main conclusion arrived at in this work—namely, that man is descended from some lowly organized form—will, I regret to think, be highly distasteful to many persons. But there can hardly be a doubt that we are descended from barbarians. The astonishment which I felt on first seeing a party of Fuegians on a wild and broken shore will never be forgotten by me, for the reflection at once rushed into my mind—Such were our ancestors. These men were absolutely naked and bedaubed with paint.... They possessed hardly any arts, and like wild animals, lived on what they could catch; they had no government, and were merciless to every one not of their own small tribe. He who has seen a savage in his native land will not feel much shame if forced to acknowledge that the blood of some more humble creature flows in his veins. For my own part, I would as soon be descended from that heroic little monkey who braved his dreaded enemy in order to save the life of his keeper; or from that old baboon who, descending from the mountains, carried away in triumph his young comrade from a crowd of astonished dogs,—as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practices infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is haunted by the grossest superstitions.

Man may be excused for feeling some pride at having risen, though not through his own exertions, to the very summit of the organic scale; and the fact of his having thus risen, instead of having been aboriginally placed there, may give him hopes for a still higher destiny in the distant future. But we are not here concerned with hopes or fears, only with the truth as far as our reason allows us to discover it. I have given the evidence to the best of my ability; and we must acknowledge, as it seems to me, that Man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his godlike intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system,—with all these exalted powers, Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.[Pg 4435]





orty years have now elapsed since a lad of seventeen, shivering under his light summer dress in a cold misty morning, was waiting, with an empty stomach, for the opening of a "dairy" in the Quartier Latin. Young as he was, he looked still younger: a pale, eager, intellectual face, with flashing eyes, delicately carved features, and a virgin forest of dark hair falling low on his brow. He had been an usher for a twelvemonth at a small college in the South of France, and he had just arrived in Paris after a two-days' journey in a third-class railway carriage, during which time he had tasted no food and no drink except a few drops of brandy from the flask of some charitable sailors. And there he was, with two francs left in his pocket, and an unlimited supply of courage, cheerfulness, and ambition, fully determined to make the whole world familiar with the obscure name of Alphonse Daudet.

We all know how well he has succeeded in winning for himself a foremost place in the ranks of French contemporary literature, and indeed of literature in general. There is no doubt that he was admirably equipped for the great struggle on which he was about to enter; but it may be also remarked that he had not to fight it out alone and with his own solitary resources, but found at the very outset useful and strong auxiliaries. He was to have a powerful though somewhat selfish and indolent patron in the famous Duke of Morny, who admitted him among his secretaries before he was twenty years old. Then he had the good fortune to attract the attention and to take the fancy of Villemessant, the editor of the Figaro, who at first sight gave him a place in his nursery of young talents. He had a kind and devoted brother, who cheerfully shared with him the little money he had to live upon, and thus saved him from the unspeakable miseries which would inevitably attend a literary début at such an early age and under such inauspicious circumstances. Later on, he was still more fortunate in securing a loving and intelligent wife, who was to be to him, in the words of the holy Scriptures, "a companion of his rank," a wife who was not only to become a help and a comfort, but a literary adviser, a moral guide, and a second conscience far more strict and exacting than his own; a wife who taught[Pg 4436] him how to direct and husband his precious faculties,—how to turn them to the noblest use and highest ends.

But before that was to come, the first thing was to find a publisher; and after long looking in vain for one throughout the whole city, he at last discovered the man he wanted, at his door, in the close vicinity of that Hotel du Sinat, in the Rue de Tournon, where the two brothers Daudet had taken up their abode. That publisher was Jules Tardieu, himself an author of some merit (under the transparent pseudonym of J. T. de St. Germain): a mild, quiet humorist of the optimistic school, a Topffer on a small scale and with reduced proportions.

And thus it happened that a few months after the lad's arrival in Paris an elegant booklet, with the attractive title 'Les Amoureuses' (Women in Love) printed in red letters on its snow-white cover, made its appearance under the galeries de l'Odéon, where in the absence of political emotions, the youth of the Quartier was eagerly looking for literary novelties, and where Daudet himself had been wandering often, in the hope of an occasional acquaintance with the great critics and journalists of the day who made the galeries their favorite resort.

I have read that the book was a failure; that the young author was unable to pay the printer, and was accordingly served with stamped paper at the official residence of Morny, where he was then acting as secretary; that the duke, far from showing any displeasure at the occurrence, was delighted to find his secretary in hot water with the bailiffs, and that he arranged the matter in the most paternal spirit. This may be a pretty little story, but I fear it is a "legend." I cannot reconcile it with the fact that four years after the first publication, the same publisher gave the public another edition of 'Les Amoureuses' and that the young poet dedicated it to him as a token of respect and gratitude. The truth is that Daudet's little volume not only did not pass unnoticed, but received a good deal of attention, chiefly from the young men. Many thought that a new Musset was born in their midst, only a few months after the real one had been laid down to his last sleep in the Père Lachaise, under the trembling shadow of his favorite willow-tree. Young Daudet alluded to the unfortunate poet—

"... mort de dégoût, de tristesse, et d'absinthe;"—

and he tried to imitate the half cynical, half nostalgic skepticism which had made the author of 'Les Nuits' so powerful over the minds of the new generation and so dear to their hearts.

But it did not seem perfectly genuine. When Daudet said, "My heart is old," no one believed it, and he did not believe it [Pg 4437]himself, for he entitled the piece 'Fanfaronnade'; and in fact it was nothing more than a fanfaronnade. The book was full of the freshness, buoyancy, and frolicsome petulance of youth. Here and there a few reminiscences might be traced to the earliest poets of the sixteenth century, more particularly to Clement Marot. A tinge of the expiring romanticism lingered in 'Les Amoureuses' with a much more substantial admixture of the spirit of an age which made pleasure-hunting its paramount occupation. The precocious child could modulate the 'Romance à Madame' as well as the page of Beaumarchais, if not better; but he could also laugh it down in Gavroche's sneering way; he could intersperse a song of love with the irony of the boulevard or the more genial humor of his native South. He was at his best in the tale of 'Les Prunes'—

"Si vous voulez savoir comment
Nous nous aimâmes pour des prunes"—

That exquisite little piece survived long the youthful volume of 'Les Amoureuses.' In those days, when Coquelin's monologues and saynètes were yet unknown, the brothers Lionnet, then in the height of their vogue, delighted the drawing-rooms with the miniature masterpiece.

Still, those who had prophesied the advent of a new poet were doomed to disappointment. Every one knows what Sainte-Beuve once said about the short-lived existence, in most of us, of a poet whom the real man is to survive. Shall we say that this was the case with Daudet, who never, as far as the world knows, wrote verses after twenty-five? No; the poet was not to die in him, but lived on and lives still to this day. Only he has always written in prose.

After his successful début, Daudet felt his way in different directions. In collaboration with M. Ernest Lepine, who has since made a reputation under the name of Quatrelles, he had a drama, 'The Last Idol' performed at the Odéon theatre,—at that same Odéon which in his first days of Paris seems to have been the centre of his life and of his ambitions. But he more frequently appeared before the public as a journalist and a humorist, a writer of light articles and short stories. Nothing can give a more true, more vivacious, and on the whole more favorable impression of the Daudet of the period than the 'Lettres de Mon Moulin' (Letters from My Windmill). They owe their title to an old deserted windmill where Alphonse Daudet seems to have lived some time in complete seclusion, forgetting, or trying to forget, the excitement of Parisian life. The preface, most curiously disguised under the form of a mock contract which is supposed to transfer the ownership from the old proprietor to the poet, and professes to give the état de lieux or description of the place, is an amusing parody of legal jargon. The next chapter[Pg 4438] describes the installation of the new master in the same happy vein, with all the odd circumstances attending it.

Throughout the rest of the volume, Daudet disappears and reappears, as his fancy prompts him to do. Now he lets himself be carried back to past memories and distant places; now he gives us a mediæval tale or a domestic drama of to-day compressed into a few brief pages, or a picture of rural life, or a glimpse of that literary hell from which he had just escaped and to which he was soon to return. He changed his tone and his subject with amazing versatility, from the bitterest satire to idyllic sweetness, or to a pleasant kind of clever naïveté which is truly his own. We see him musing among the firs and the pine-trees of his native Provence, or riding on the top of the diligence under the scorching sun and listening, in a Sterne-like fashion, to the conversation which took place between the facetious baker and the unhappy knife-grinder, or chatting familiarly with Frederic Mistral, who takes him into the confidence of his poetical dreams. Then, again, we see him sitting down at the table of an Algerian sheik; or wandering on the gloomy rocks where the Semillante was lost, and trying to revive the awful tragedy of her last minutes; or shut up in a solitary light-house with the keepers for weeks and weeks together, content with the society and with the fare of those poor, rough, uncultivated men, cut off from the whole world, alone with the stormy winds and his stormy thoughts. Wherever his morbid restlessness takes him, whatever part he chooses to assume, whether he wants to move us to laughter or to tears, we can but follow him fascinated and spell-bound, and in harmony with his moods. Daudet when he wrote those letters was already a perfect master of all the resources of the language. What he had seen or felt, he could make us see and feel. He could make old words new with the freshness, ardor, and sincerity of the personal impressions which he was pouring into them unceasingly.

The 'Letters from My Mill' had been scattered here and there through different newspapers, and at different times. They were reprinted in the form of a book in 1868. The year before he had given to the public 'Le Petit Chose' (A Little Chap), which is better known, I believe, to the English-speaking races under the rather misleading title of 'My Brother Jack.' 'Le Petit Chose' was a commercial success, but it is doubtful whether it will rank as high among Daudet's productions as the 'Lettres de Mon Moulin.' He began to compose it in February 1866, during one of those misanthropic fits to which he was subject at periodical intervals, and which either paralyzed altogether, or quickened into fever, his creative faculties. He finished the work two years later in a very different mood, immediately after his marriage. As might have been expected, the two[Pg 4439] parts are very dissimilar, and it must be confessed greatly unequal. 'Le Petit Chose' has reminded more than one reader of 'David Copperfield'; and it cannot be denied that the two works bear some resemblance both as regards manner and matter. But though Dickens was then widely read and much admired in France, plagiarism is out of the question. If there is a little of Dickens about 'Le Petit Chose,' there is a great deal more of Daudet himself in it. Young Eyssette, the hero of the novel, starts in life as Daudet had done and at the same period of life, in the quality of an usher at a small provincial college. Whether we take it as a fiction, with its innumerable bits of delicate humor, lovely descriptions of places and glimpses of characters in humble life, or whether we accept it as an autobiography which is likely to bring us into closer acquaintance with the inner soul of a great man, the first part is delightful reading. But we lose sight of him through all the adventures, at once wild and commonplace, which are crowding in the second part, to culminate into the most unconvincing dénouement. Even when speaking of himself, Daudet is sometimes at a disadvantage, perhaps because, as he justly observed, "it is too early at twenty-five to comment upon one's own past career." Only the old man is able to look at his former self through the distance of years and to see it as it stood once, in its true light and with its real proportions.

'Tartarin of Tarascon' saw the light for the first time in 1872. Strange to say, the readers of the Petit Moniteur, to whom it was first offered in a serial form, did not like it. In consequence of their marked disapproval, the publication had to be abandoned and was then resumed through the columns of another newspaper. This time the mistake was entirely on the side of the public. For—apart from the fact that the immortal Tartarin was not yet Tartarin, but answered to the much less typical name of Chapatin—the general outlines of the character were already visible in all their distinctness from the beginning, as all those who have read the introductory chapters will readily admit. And the same lines were to be followed with an undeviating fixity of artistic purpose and with unfailing verve and spirit to the last. 'The Prodigious Adventures of Tartarin,' 'Tartarin on the Alps,' and 'Port-Tarascon,' form a trilogy; and I know of no other example in modern French literature of so long and so well sustained a joke. How is it then that we never grow tired of Tartarin? It is probably because beneath the surface of Daudet's playful absurdity there underlies a rich substratum of good common-sense and keen observation. Since 'Don Quixote' was written, no caricature has ever been more human or more true than Tartarin.

Frenchmen are not, as is frequently asserted by their Anglo-Saxon critics, totally unfit to appreciate humor, when it is mingled with the[Pg 4440] study of man's nature and seasoned with that high-spiced irony of which they have been so fond at all times, from the days of Villon to those of Rochefort. Still, Daudet would never have acquired such a complete mastery over the general public in his own country, if he had not been able to gratify their taste for that graphic and faithful description of manners and characters, which in other centuries put the moralists into fashion. Realism never disappears altogether from French literature: it was at that moment all-powerful. Zola was coming to the front with the first volumes of the well-known 'Rougon-Macquart' and Daudet in 1874 entered on the same path, though in a different spirit, with 'Fromont Jeune et Risler Ainé.' The success was immediate and immense. The French bourgeoisie accepted it at once as a true picture of its vices and its virtues. The novel might, it is true, savor a little of Parisian cockneyism. Fastidious critics might discover in it some mixture of weak sentimentalism, or a few traces of Dickensian affectation and cheap tricks in story-telling. Young men of the new social school might take exception to that old-fashioned democracy which had its apotheosis in Risler senior. Despite all those objections, it was pronounced a masterpiece of legitimate pathos and sound observation. Even the minor characters were judged striking, and Delobelle's name, for instance, occurs at once to our mind whenever we try to realize the image of the modern cabotin.

'Jack,' which came next, exceeded the usual length of French novels. "Too much paper, my son!" old Flaubert majestically observed with a smile when the author presented him with a copy of his book. As for George Sand, she felt so sick at heart and so depressed when she had finished reading 'Jack,' that she could work no more and had to remain idle for three or four days. A painful book, indeed, a distressing book, but how fascinating! And is not its wonderful influence over the readers exemplified in the most striking manner by the fact that it had the power to unnerve and to incapacitate for her daily task that most valiant of all intellectual laborers, that hardest of hard workers, George Sand?

The lost ground, if there had been any lost at all, was soon regained with 'Le Nabab' (The Nabob) and 'Les Rois en Exil' (Kings in Exile). They took the reader to a higher sphere of emotion and thought, showed us greater men fighting for greater things on a wider theatre than the middle-class life in which Fromont and Risler had moved. At the same time they kept the balance more evenly than 'Jack' had done between the two elements of human drama, good and evil, hope and despair, laughter and tears. But a higher triumph was to be achieved with 'Numa Roumestan,' which brought Daudet's literary fame to its zenith.[Pg 4441]

'Tartarin' had not exhausted all that the author had to say of meridional ways and manners. The Provençal character has its dramatic as well as its comic aspect. In 'Numa Roumestan' we have the farce and the tragedy blended together into a coherent whole. We have a Tartarin whose power over man and woman is not a mockery but a reality, who can win love and sympathy and admiration, not in little Tarascon, mind you, but in Paris; who sends joy abroad and creates torture at home; a charming companion, a kind master, a subtle politician, a wonderful talker, but a light-hearted and faithless husband, a genial liar, a smiling and good-natured deceiver; the true image of the gifted adventurer who periodically emerges from the South and goes northward finally to conquer and govern the whole country.

As Zola has remarked, the author of 'Numa Roumestan' poured himself out into that book with his double nature, North and South, the rich sensuous imagination, the indolent easy-going optimism of his native land, and the stern moral sensitiveness which was partly characteristic of his own mind, partly acquired by painful and protracted experience. To depict his hero he had only to consult the most intimate records of his own lifelong struggle. For he had been trying desperately to evince Roumestan out of his own being. He had fought and conquered, but only partially conquered. And on this partial failure we must congratulate him and congratulate ourselves. He said once that "Provençal landscape without sunshine is dull and uninteresting." The same may be said of his literary genius. It wants sunshine, or else it loses half its loveliness and its irresistible charm. 'Roumestan' is full of sunshine, and there is no other among his books, except 'Tartarin,' where the bright and happy light of the South plays more freely and more gracefully.

The novel is equally strong if you examine it from a different standpoint. Nothing can be artistically better and more enchanting than the Farandole scene, or more amusing than Roumestan's intrigue with the young opera singer; nothing can be more grand than old Le Quesnoy's confession of sin and shame, or more affecting than the closing scene where Rosalie is taught forgiveness by her dying sister. Other parts in Daudet's work may sound hollow; 'Numa Roumestan' will stand the most critical scrutiny as a drama, as a work of art, as a faithful representation of life. Daudet's talents were then at their best and united in happy combination for that splendid effort which was not to be renewed.

In 'Sapho' Daudet described the modern courtesan, in 'L'Évangéliste' a desperate case of religious madness. In 'L'Immortel' he gave vent to his feelings against the French Academy, which had repulsed him once and to which he turned his back forever in disgust.[Pg 4442] The angry writer pursued his enemy to death. In his unforgiving mood, he was not satisfied before he had drowned the Academy in the muddy waters of the Seine, with its unfortunate Secrétaire-perpetuel, Astier-Réhu. The general verdict was that the vengeance was altogether out of proportion to the offense; and that despite all its brilliancy of wit and elaborate incisiveness of style, the satire was really too violent and too personal to give real enjoyment to unbiased and unprejudiced readers.

At different periods of his career Daudet had tried his hand as a dramatist, but never succeeded in getting a firm foot on the French stage. Play-goers still remember the signal failure of 'Lise Tavernier,' the indifferent reception of 'L'Arlésienne,' or more recently, of 'L'Obstacle.' All his successful novels have been dramatized, but their popularity in that new form fell far short of the common expectation. As an explanation of the fact various reasons may be suggested. Daudet, I am inclined to think, is endowed with real dramatic powers, not with scenic qualities; and from their conventional point of view, old stagers will pronounce the construction of his novels too weak for plays to be built upon them. Again, in the play-house we miss the man who tells the story, the happy presence—so unlike Flaubert's cheerless impassibility—the generous anger, the hearty laugh, the delightful humor, that strange something which seems to appeal to every one of us in particular when we read his novels. Dickens was once heard to say, on a public occasion, that he owed his prodigious world-wide popularity to this: that he was "so very human." The words will apply with equal felicity to Daudet's success. He never troubles to conceal from his readers that he is a man. When the critic of the future has to assign him a place and to compare his productions with the writings of his great contemporary and fellow-worker Émile Zola, it will occur to him that Daudet never had the steady-going indomitable energy, the ox-like patience, the large and comprehensive intellect which are so characteristic in the master of Médan; that he recoiled from assuming, like the author of 'Germinal' and 'Lourdes,' a bold and definite position in the social and religious strife of our days; that he never dreamt for a moment of taking the survey of a whole society and covering the entire ground on which it stands with his books.

Such a task—the critic will say—would have been uncongenial to him. The scientist is careful to explain everything and to omit nothing; he aims at completeness. But Daudet is an artist, not a scientist. He is a poet in the primitive sense of the word, or, as he styled himself in one of his books, a "trouvère." He has creative power, but he has at the same time his share of the minor gift of[Pg 4443] observation. He had to write for a public of strongly realistic tendencies, who understood and desired nothing better than the faithful, accurate, almost scientific description of life. Daudet could supply the demand, but as he was not born a realist, whatever social influences he had been subjected to, he remained free from the faults and excesses of the school. He borrowed from it all that was good and sound; he accepted realism as a practical method, not as an ultimate result and a consummation. Again, he was preserved from the danger of going down too deep and too low into the unclean mysteries of modern humanity, not so much perhaps by moral delicacy as by an artistic distaste for all that is repulsive and unseemly. For those reasons, it would not be surprising if—when Death has made him young again—Alphonse Daudet was destined to outlive and outshine many who have enjoyed an equal or even greater celebrity during this century. He will command an ever increasing circle of admirers and friends, and generations yet unborn will grow warm in his sunshine.

signature of Augustin Filon


From 'Tartarin of Tarascon'

Answer me, you will say, how the mischief is it that Tartarin of Tarascon never left Tarascon, with all this mania for adventure, need of powerful sensations, and folly about travel, rides, and journeys from the Pole to the Equator?

For that is a fact: up to the age of five-and-forty, the dreadless Tarasconian had never once slept outside his own room. He had not even taken that obligatory trip to Marseilles which every sound Provençal makes upon coming of age. The most of his knowledge included Beaucaire, and yet that's not far from Tarascon, there being merely the bridge to go over. Unfortunately, this rascally bridge has so often been blown away by the gales, it is so long and frail, and the Rhône has such a width at this spot that—well, faith! you understand! Tartarin of Tarascon preferred terra firma.

We are afraid we must make a clean breast of it: in our hero there were two very distinct characters. Some Father of the[Pg 4444] Church has said: "I feel there are two men in me." He would have spoken truly in saying this about Tartarin, who carried in his frame the soul of Don Quixote, the same chivalric impulses, heroic ideal, and crankiness for the grandiose and romantic; but, worse is the luck! he had not the body of the celebrated hidalgo, that thin and meagre apology for a body, on which material life failed to take a hold; one that could get through twenty nights without its breast-plate being unbuckled, and forty-eight hours on a handful of rice. On the contrary, Tartarin's body was a stout honest bully of a body, very fat, very weighty, most sensual and fond of coddling, highly touchy, full of low-class appetite and homely requirements—the short, paunchy body on stumps of the immortal Sancho Panza.

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in the one same man! you will readily comprehend what a cat-and-dog couple they made! what strife! what clapperclawing! Oh, the fine dialogue for Lucian or Saint-Évremond to write, between the two Tartarins—Quixote-Tartarin and Sancho-Tartarin! Quixote-Tartarin firing up on the stories of Gustave Aimard, and shouting, "Up and at 'em!" and Sancho-Tartarin thinking only of the rheumatics ahead, and murmuring, "I mean to stay at home."



[Highly excited]
[Quite calmly]

Cover yourself with glory, Tartarin.
Tartarin, cover yourself with flannel.

[Still more excitedly]
[Still more calmly]

Oh for the terrible double-barreled
rifle! Oh for bowie-knives,
lassos, and moccasins!

Oh for the thick knitted waist-coats!
and warm knee-caps!
Oh for the welcome padded
caps with ear-flaps!

[Above all self-control]
[Ringing up the maid]

A battle-axe! fetch me a battle-axe!

Now then, Jeannette, do bring
up that chocolate!

Whereupon Jeannette would appear with an unusually good cup of chocolate, just right in warmth, sweetly smelling, and[Pg 4445] with the play of light on watered silk upon its unctuous surface, and with succulent grilled steak flavored with anise-seed, which would set Sancho-Tartarin off on the broad grin, and into a laugh that drowned the shouts of Quixote-Tartarin.

Thus it came about that Tartarin of Tarascon never had left Tarascon.


From 'Tartarin of Tarascor'

Under one conjunction of circumstances, Tartarin did however once almost start out upon a great voyage.

The three brothers Garcio-Camus, natives of Tarascon, established in business at Shanghai, offered him the managership of one of their branches there. This undoubtedly presented the kind of life he hankered after. Plenty of active business, a whole army of understrappers to order about, and connections with Russia, Persia, Turkey in Asia—in short, to be a merchant prince.

In Tartarin's mouth, the title of Merchant Prince thundered out as something stunning!

The house of Garcio-Camus had the further advantage of sometimes being favored with a call from the Tartars. Then the doors would be slammed shut, all the clerks flew to arms, up ran the consular flag, and zizz! phit! bang! out of the windows upon the Tartars.

I need not tell you with what enthusiasm Quixote-Tartarin clutched this proposition; sad to say, Sancho-Tartarin did not see it in the same light, and as he was the stronger party, it never came to anything. But in the town there was much talk about it. Would he go or would he not? "I'll lay he will"—and "I'll wager he won't!" It was the event of the week. In the upshot, Tartarin did not depart, but the matter redounded to his credit none the less. Going or not going to Shanghai was all one to Tarascon. Tartarin's journey was so much talked about that people got to believe he had done it and returned, and at the club in the evening members would actually ask for information on life at Shanghai, the manners and customs and climate, about opium, and commerce.[Pg 4446]

Deeply read up, Tartarin would graciously furnish the particulars desired, and in the end the good fellow was not quite sure himself about not having gone to Shanghai; so that after relating for the hundredth time how the Tartars came down on the trading post, it would most naturally happen him to add:—

"Then I made my men take up arms and hoist the consular flag, and zizz! phit! bang! out of the windows upon the Tartars."

On hearing this, the whole club would quiver.

"But according to that, this Tartarin of yours is an awful liar."

"No, no, a thousand times over, no! Tartarin is no liar."

"But the man ought to know that he has never been to Shanghai—"

"Why, of course, he knows that; but still—"

"But still," you see—mark that! It is high time for the law to be laid down once for all on the reputation as drawers of the long bow which Northerners fling at Southerners. There are no Baron Munchausens in the South of France, neither at Nîmes nor Marseilles, Toulouse nor Tarascon. The Southerner does not deceive, but is self-deceived. He does not always tell the cold-drawn truth, but he believes he does. His falsehood is not falsehood, but a kind of mental mirage.

Yes, purely mirage! The better to follow me, you should actually follow me into the South, and you will see I am right. You have only to look at that Lucifer's own country, where the sun transmogrifies everything, and magnifies it beyond life-size. The little hills of Provence are no bigger than the Butte Montmartre, but they will loom up like the Rocky Mountains; the Square House at Nîmes—a mere model to put on your sideboard—will seem grander than St. Peter's. You will see—in brief, the only exaggerator in the South is Old Sol, for he does enlarge everything he touches. What was Sparta in its days of splendor? a pitiful hamlet. What was Athens? at the most, a second-class town; and yet in history both appear to us as enormous cities. This is a sample of what the sun can do.

Are you going to be astonished, after this, that the same sun falling upon Tarascon should have made of an ex-captain in the Army Clothing Factory, like Bravida, the "brave commandant"; of a sprout, an Indian fig-tree; and of a man who had missed going to Shanghai one who had been there?[Pg 4447]


From 'Letters from My Windmill'

The little Dauphin is ill; the little Dauphin will die. In all the churches of the kingdom the Holy Sacrament is laid ready day and night, and tapers are burning, for the recovery of the royal child. The streets of the old town are sad and silent; the bells ring no more; the carriages are driven very slowly. The curious townspeople are gathered just outside the palace, and are staring in through the grating of the gates at the guards, with their golden helmets, who walk the court with an important air. The entire castle is in a state of anxiety; the chamberlains and major-domos go up and down the staircase, and run through the marble halls. The galleries are filled with pages and courtiers in silk clothing, who go from group to group collecting later news in a low voice. On the large porches can be seen the ladies of honor, bathed in tears, bowing their heads and wiping their eyes with pretty embroidered handkerchiefs. In the orangery is a numerous assembly of doctors in long robes: one can see them through the panes gesticulating in their long sleeves, and shaking their wigs knowingly. The little Dauphin's tutor and squire are waiting before the door, anxious for the decision of the faculty. Scullions pass by without saluting them. The squire swears like a pagan; the tutor recites verses from Horace. And during this time down by the stables one can hear a long plaintive neighing. It is the Dauphin's little sorrel pony, whom the grooms are neglecting, and who calls sadly from his empty manger. And the King—where is his Majesty the King? The King has shut himself up in a room in a remote part of the castle. Their Majesties do not like to be seen weeping. But the Queen—that is different. Seated by the little prince's pillow, her beautiful face bathed in tears, she sobs bitterly before every one, just as a peasant mother would.

In his lace crib is the little Dauphin, whiter than the cushions on which he reposes, with closed eyelids. They think he is sleeping; but no, the little Dauphin does not sleep. He turns toward his mother, and seeing that she weeps, he says to her, "Madame my Queen, why do you weep? Do you think truly that I am going to die?" The Queen wishes to reply, but sobs prevent her speaking. "Pray do not cry, Madame my Queen.[Pg 4448] You forget that I am the Dauphin, and Dauphins cannot die thus." The Queen sobs more bitterly still, and the little Dauphin begins to be frightened. "Hola!" he says, "I do not wish to have Death come and take me; and I shall know how to prevent his coming here. Bring forth forty lancers, our strongest, to mount guard around our bed; a hundred cannon night and day; torches lighted beneath our windows. And unhappy Death if he dares to approach us then!" The Queen gives a sign to please the royal child. Forthwith, one can hear heavy cannon being rolled across the courtyard; and forty soldiers, halberds in hand, come and range themselves around the room: they are veterans, with gray moustaches. The little Dauphin claps his hands feebly as he sees them, and recognizing one he calls him by name, "Lorrain! Lorrain!" The old soldier takes a step towards the bed. "I love you well, my good Lorrain. Let me see your big sword. If Death comes to take me, we must kill him, must we not?" Lorrain replies, "Yes, Monseigneur," as the big tears run down his bronzed cheeks.

At this moment the chaplain approaches the little Dauphin, and talks to him for some time in a low tone, showing him a crucifix. The little Dauphin listens with an astonished air; then suddenly interrupting, "I understand well what you say, Monsieur l'Abbé; but after all, could not my little friend Beppo die in my place, if we should give him a great deal of money?"

The chaplain continues talking to him in a low voice, and the little Dauphin looks more and more astonished. When the chaplain has finished, the little Dauphin resumes, with a heavy sigh, "All that you tell me is very sad, Monsieur l'Abbé, but one thing consoles me: up there, in the paradise of stars, I shall still be the Dauphin. I know that our good God is my cousin, and would not fail to treat me according to my rank." Then he adds, turning to his mother, "Have my finest garments brought—my ermine cloak and velvet slippers. I wish to array myself for the angels, and enter paradise dressed as a Dauphin."

A third time the chaplain bends over the little prince, and talks a long time in whispering tones. The royal child interrupts him in anger, in the midst of his discourse, and cries, "Then it is no use to be Dauphin,—it is nothing at all;" and not wishing to hear more, he turns toward the wall weeping.

Translation of Mary Corey.
[Pg 4449]


From 'Jack'

"Do you hear, Jack?" resumed D'Argenton, with flashing eyes and outstretched arm. "In four years you will be a good workman; that is to say, the noblest, grandest thing that can exist in this world of slavery and servitude. In four years you will be that sacred, venerated thing, a good workman!"

Yes, indeed he heard it!—"a good workman." Only he was bewildered and was trying to understand.

The child had seen workmen in Paris. There were some who lived in the Passage des Douze Maisons, and not far from the Gymnase there was a factory, from which he often watched them as they left work at about six o'clock; a crowd of dirty-looking men with their blouses all stained with oil, and their rough hands blackened and deformed by work.

The idea that he would have to wear a blouse struck him at once. He remembered the tone of contempt with which his mother would say: "Those are workmen, men in blouses,"—the care she took in the streets to avoid the contact of their soiled garments. Labassindre's fine speeches on the duties and influence of the working-man in the nineteenth century attenuated and contradicted, it is true, these vague impressions. But what he did understand, and that most clearly and bitterly, was that he must go away, leave the forest whose tree-tops he saw from the window, leave the Rivalses, leave his mother, his mother whom he had recovered at the cost of so much pain, and whom he loved so tenderly.

What on earth was she doing at that window all this time, seeming so indifferent to all that was going on around her? Within the last few minutes, however, she had lost her immovable indifference. A convulsive shudder seemed to shake her from head to foot, and the hand she held over her eyes closed over them as if she were hiding tears. Was it then so sad a sight that she beheld yonder in the country, on the far horizon where the sun sets, and where so many dreams, so many illusions, so many loves and passions sink and disappear, never to return?[Pg 4450]

"Then I shall have to go away?" inquired the child in a smothered voice, and the automatic air of one who lets his thought speak, the one thought that absorbed him.

At this artless question all the members of the tribunal looked at each other with a smile of pity; but over there at the window a great sob was heard.

"We shall start in a week, my lad," answered Labassindre briskly. "I have not seen my brother for a long time. I shall avail myself of this opportunity to renew my acquaintance with the fire of my old forge, by Jove!"

As he spoke, he turned back his sleeve, distending the muscles of his brawny, hairy, tattooed arm, till they looked ready to burst.

"He is superb," said Dr. Hirsch.

D'Argenton, however, who did not lose sight of the sobbing woman standing at the window, had an absent air, and a terrible frown gathering on his brow.

"You can go, Jack," he said to the child, "and prepare to start in a week."

Jack went down-stairs, dazed and stupefied, repeating to himself, "In a week! in a week!" The street door was open; he rushed out, bare-headed, just as he was, dashed through the village to the house of his friends, and meeting the Doctor, who was just going out, informed him in a few words of what had taken place.

Monsieur Rivals was indignant.

"A workman! They want to make a workman of you? Is that what they call looking after your prospects in life? Wait a moment. I am going to speak myself to monsieur your step-father."

The villagers who saw them pass by, the worthy Doctor gesticulating and talking out loud, and little Jack, bare-headed and breathless from running, said, "There is certainly some one very ill at Les Aulnettes."

No one was ill, most assuredly. When the Doctor arrived they were sitting down to table; for on account of the capricious appetite of the master of the house, and as in all places where ennui reigns supreme, the hours for the meals were constantly being changed.

The faces around were cheerful; Charlotte could even be heard humming on the stairs as she came down from her room.[Pg 4451]

"I should like to say a word to you, M. d'Argenton," said old Rivals with quivering lips.

The poet twirled his moustache:—

"Well, Doctor, sit down there. They shall give you a plate and you can say your word while you eat your breakfast."

"No, thank you, I am not hungry; besides, what I have to say to you as well as to Madame"—he bowed to Charlotte, who had just come in—"is strictly private."

"I think I can guess your errand," said D'Argenton, who did not care for a tête-à-tête conversation with the Doctor. "It is about the child, is it not?"

"You are right; it is about the child."

"In that case you can speak. These gentlemen know the circumstances, and my actions are always too loyal and too disinterested for me to fear the light of day."

"But, my dear!" Charlotte ventured to say, shocked for many reasons at the idea of this discussion before strangers.

"You can speak, Doctor," said D'Argenton coldly.

Standing upright in front of the table, the Doctor began:—

"Jack has just told me that you intend to send him as an apprentice to the iron works at Indret. Is this serious? Come!"

"Quite serious, my dear Doctor."

"Take care," pursued M. Rivals, restraining his anger; "that child has not been brought up for so hard a life. At a growing age you are going to throw him out of his element into new surroundings, a new atmosphere. His health, his life are involved. He has none of the requisites needed to bear this. He is not strong enough."

"Oh! allow me, my dear colleague," put in Dr. Hirsch solemnly.

M. Rivals shrugged his shoulders, and without even looking at him, went on:—

"It is I who tell you so, Madame."

He pointedly addressed himself to Charlotte, who was singularly embarrassed by this appeal to her repressed feelings.

"Your child cannot possibly endure a life of this sort. You surely know him, you who are his mother. You know that his nature is a refined and delicate one, and that it will be unable to resist fatigue. And here I only speak of the physical pain. But do you not know what terrible sufferings a child so well gifted, with a mind so capable and ready to receive all kinds of[Pg 4452] knowledge, will feel in the forced inaction, the death of intellectual faculties to which you are about to condemn him?"

"You are mistaken, Doctor," said D'Argenton, who was getting very angry. "I know the fellow better than any one. I have tried him. He is only fit for manual labor. His aptitudes lie there, and there only. And it is when I furnish him with the means of developing his aptitudes, when I put into his hands a magnificent profession, that instead of thanking me, my fine gentleman goes off complaining to strangers, seeking protectors outside of his own home."

Jack was going to protest. His friend however saved him the trouble.

"He did not come to complain. He only informed me of your decision, and I said to him what I now repeat to him before you all:—'Jack, my child, do not let them do it. Throw yourself into the arms of your parents, of your mother who loves you, of your mother's husband, who for her sake must love you. Entreat them, implore them. Ask them what you have done to deserve to be thus degraded, to be made lower than themselves!'"

"Doctor," exclaimed Labassindre, bringing his fist heavily down upon the table, making it tremble and shake, "the tool does not degrade the man, it ennobles him. The tool is the regenerator of mankind. Christ handled a plane when he was ten years of age."

"That is indeed true," said Charlotte, who at once conjured up the vision of her little Jack dressed for the procession of the Fête-Dieu as the child Jesus, armed with a little plane.

"Don't be taken in by such balderdash, Madame," said the exasperated doctor. "To make a workman of your son is to separate him from you forever. If you were to send him to the other end of the world, he could not be further from your mind, from your heart; for you would have, in this case, means of drawing together again, whereas social distances are irremediable. You will see. The day will come when you will be ashamed of your child, when you will find his hands rough, his language coarse, his sentiments totally different from yours. He will stand one day before you, before his mother, as before a stranger of higher rank than himself,—not only humbled, but degraded."

Jack, who had hitherto not uttered a word, but had listened attentively from a corner near the sideboard, was suddenly[Pg 4453] alarmed at the idea of any possible disaffection springing up between his mother and himself.

He advanced into the middle of the room, and steadying his voice:—

"I will not be a workman," he said in a determined manner.

"O Jack!" murmured Charlotte, faltering.

This time it was D'Argenton who spoke.

"Oh, really! you will not be a workman? Look at this fine gentleman who will or who will not accept a thing that I have decided. You will not be a workman, eh? But you are quite willing to be clothed, fed, and amused. Well, I solemnly declare that I have had enough of you, you horrid little parasite; and that if you do not choose to work, I for my part refuse to be any longer your victim."

He stopped abruptly, and passing from his mad rage to the chilly manner which was habitual to him:—

"Go up to your room," he said; "I will consider what remains to be done."

"What remains to be done, my dear D'Argenton, I will soon tell you."

But Jack did not hear the end of Monsieur Rivals's phrase, D'Argenton with a shove having thrust him out.

The noise of the discussion reached him in his room, like the various parts in a great orchestra. He distinguished and recognized all the voices, but they melted one into the other, united by their resonance, and made a discordant uproar through which some bits of phrases were alone intelligible.

"It is an infamous lie."

"Messieurs! Messieurs!"

"Life is not a romance."

"Sacred blouse, beûh! beûh!"

At last old Rivals's voice could be heard thundering as he crossed the threshold:—

"May I be hanged if ever I put my foot in your house again!"

Then the door was violently slammed, and a great silence fell on the dining-room, broken only by the clatter of knives and forks.

They were breakfasting.

"You wish to degrade him, to make him something lower than yourself." The child remembered that phrase, and he felt that this was indeed his enemy's intention.[Pg 4454]

Well, no; a thousand times no—he would not be a workman.

The door opened, and his mother came in.

She had cried a great deal, had shed real tears, tears such as furrow the cheek. For the first time, a mother showed herself in that pretty woman's face, an afflicted and sorrowing mother.

"Listen to me, Jack," she said, striving to appear severe; "I must speak very seriously to you. You have made me very unhappy by putting yourself in open rebellion against your real friends, and by refusing to accept the situation they offer you. I am well aware that there is in the new existence—"

While she spoke, she carefully avoided meeting the child's eyes, for they had such an expression of desperate grief and heartfelt reproach that she would not have been able to resist their appeal.

"—That there is, in the new existence we have chosen for you, an apparent inconsistency with the life you have hitherto been leading. I confess that I was myself at first rather startled by it, but you heard, did you not, what was said to you? The position of a workman is no longer what it used to be; oh no! not at all the same thing, not at all. You must know that the time of the working-man has now come. The middle classes have had their day, the aristocracy likewise. Although, I must say, the aristocracy—Moreover, is it not more natural at your age, to allow yourself to be guided by those who love you, and who are experienced?"

A sob from the child interrupted her.

"Then you too send me away; you too send me away."

This time the mother could no longer resist. She took him in her arms, clasped him passionately to her heart:—

"I send you away? How can you imagine such a thing? Is it possible? Come, be calm; don't tremble and give way like that. You know how I love you, and how, if it only depended on me, we would never leave each other. But we must be reasonable, and think a little of the future. Alas! the future is already dark enough for us."

And in one of those outbursts of words that she still had sometimes when freed from the presence of the master, she endeavored to explain to Jack, with all kinds of hesitations and reticences, the irregularity of their position.

"You see, my darling, you are still very young; there are many things you cannot understand. Some day, when you are[Pg 4455] older, I will reveal to you the secret of your birth; quite a romance, my dear! Some day I will tell you the name of your father, and the unheard-of fatality of which your mother and yourself have been the victims. But for the present, what you must know and thoroughly comprehend, is that nothing here belongs to us, my poor child, and that we are absolutely dependent on him. How can I therefore oppose your departure, especially when I know that he wants you to leave for your good? I cannot ask him for anything more. He has already done so much for us. Besides, he is not rich, and this terrible artistic career is so expensive! He could not undertake the expense of your education. What will become of me between you two? We must come to a decision. Remember that it was a profession you were being given. Would you not be proud of being independent, of gaining your own livelihood, of being your own master?"

She saw at once by the flash in the child's eye that she had struck home; and in a low tone, in the caressing, coaxing voice of a mother, she murmured:—

"Do it for my sake, Jack; will you? Put yourself in a position that will enable you soon to gain your livelihood. Who knows if some day I may not be obliged myself to have recourse to you as my only protector, my only friend?"

Did she really think what she said? Was it a presentiment, one of those sudden glimpses into the future which unfold to us our destiny and reveal the failure and disappointments of our existence? Or had she been merely carried away in the whirlwind words of her impulsive sentimentality?

In any case she could not have found a better argument to convince that little generous spirit. The effect was instantaneous. The idea that his mother might want him, that he could help her by his work, suddenly decided him.

He looked her straight in the face.

"Swear that you will always love me, that you will never be ashamed of me when my hands are blackened!"

"If I shall love you, my Jack!"

Her only answer was to cover him with kisses, hiding her agitation and her remorse under her passionate embraces; but from that moment the wretched woman knew remorse, knew it for the rest of her life; and could never think of her child without feeling a stab in her heart.[Pg 4456]

He however, as though he understood all the shame, uncertainty, and terror concealed under these caresses, dashed towards the stairs, to avoid dwelling on it.

"Come, mamma, let us go down. I am going to tell him I accept his offer."

Down-stairs the "Failures" were still at table. They were all struck by the grave and determined look on Jack's face.

"I beg your pardon," he said to D'Argenton. "I did wrong in refusing your proposal. I now accept it, and thank you."


From 'Jack'

The singer rose and stood upright in the boat, in which he and the child were crossing the Loire a little above Paimbœuf, and with a wide sweeping gesture of the arms, as if he would have clasped the river within them, exclaimed:—

"Look at that, old boy; is not that grand?"

Notwithstanding the touch of grotesqueness and commonplace in the actor's admiration, it was well justified by the splendid landscape unrolling before their eyes.

It was about four o'clock in the afternoon. A July sun, a sun of melting silver, spread a long luminous pathway of rays upon the waters. In the air was a tremulous reverberation, a mist of light, through which appeared the gleaming light of the river, active and silent, flashing upon the sight with the rapidity of a mirage. Dimly seen sails high in the air, which in this dazzling hour seem pale as flax, pass in the distance as if in flight. They were great barges coming from Noirmoutiers, laden to the very edge with white salt sparkling all over with shining spangles, and worked by picturesque crews; men with the great three-cornered hat of the Breton salt-worker, and women whose great cushioned caps with butterfly wings were as white and glittering as the salt. Then there were coasting vessels like floating drays, their decks piled with sacks of flour and casks; tugs dragging interminable lines of barges, or perhaps some three-master of Nantes arriving from the other side of the world, returning to the native land after two years' absence, and moving up the river with a slow, almost solemn motion, as if bearing within it a silent contemplation of the old country, and the[Pg 4457] mysterious poetry belonging to all things that come from afar. Notwithstanding the July heat, a strong breeze blew freshly over the lovely scene, for the wind came up from the coast with the cheerful freshness of the open sea, and let it be guessed that a little further away, beyond those hurrying waves already abandoned by the calm tranquillity of still waters, lay the deep green of the limitless ocean, with its billows, its fogs, and its tempests.

"And Indret? where is it?" asks Jack.

"There, that island in front of us."

In the silvery mist which enveloped the island, Jack saw confusedly lines of great poplars and tall chimneys, whence issued a thick filthy smoke, spreading over all, blackening even the sky above it. At the same time he heard a clamorous and resounding din, hammers falling on wrought and sheet iron, dull sounds, ringing sounds, variously re-echoed by the sonority of the water; and over everything a continuous and perpetual droning, as if the island had been a great steamer, stopped, and murmuring, moving its paddles while at anchor, and its machinery while yet motionless.

As the boat approached the shore, slowly and yet more slowly,—for the tide ran strongly and was hard to fight against,—the child began to distinguish long buildings with low roofs, blackened walls extending on all sides with uniform dreariness; then, on the banks of the river as far as the eye could reach, long lines of enormous boilers painted with red lead, the startling color giving a wildly fantastic effect. Government transports, steam launches, ranged alongside the quay, lay waiting till these boilers should be put on board by means of a great crane near at hand, which viewed from a distance looked like a gigantic gibbet.

At the foot of this gallows stood a man watching the approach of the boat.

"It is Roudic," said the singer; and from the deepest depths he brought forth a formidable "hurrah!" which made itself heard even in the midst of all the din of forging and hammering.

"Is that you, young 'un?"

"Yes, by Jove, it is I; are there two such notes as mine in the whole world?"

The boat touched the shore, and the two brothers sprang into each other's arms with a mighty greeting.

They were alike; but Roudic was much older, and wanting in that embonpoint so quickly acquired by singers in the exercise of trills and sustained notes. Instead of the pointed beard of[Pg 4458] his brother, he was shaven, sunburnt; and his sailor's cap, a blue wool knitted cap, shaded a true Breton face, tanned by the sea, cut in granite, with small eyes, and a keen glance sharpened by the minute work of a fitter and adjuster.

"And how are all at home?" asked Labassindre. "Clarisse, Zénaïde, every one?"

"Every one is quite well, thank Heaven. Ah, ah! this is our new apprentice. He looks like a nice little chap; only he doesn't look over strong."

"Strong as a horse, my dear fellow, and warranted by the Paris doctors."

"So much the better, then, for ours is a roughish trade. And now, if you are ready, let us go and see the manager."

They followed a long alley of fine trees that soon changed into a street, such as is found in small towns, bordered by white houses, clean and all alike. Here lived a certain number of the factory workmen, the foremen, and first hands. The others were located on the opposite bank, at Montagne or at Basse Indre.

At this hour all was silent, life and movement being concentrated within the iron works; and had it not been for the linen drying at the windows, the flower-pots ranged near the panes, the occasional cry of a child, or the rhythmical rocking of a cradle heard through some half-opened door, the place might have been deemed uninhabited.

"Oh! the flag's down," said the singer, as they reached the gate leading to the workshops. "What frights that confounded flag has given me before now."

And he explained to his "old Jack," that five minutes after the arrival of the workmen for the opening hour, the flag over the gate was lowered, and thus it was announced that the doors were closed. So much the worse for those who were late; they were marked down as absent, and at the third offense dismissed.

While he was giving these explanations, his brother conferred with the gate-keeper, and they were admitted within the doors of the establishment. The din was frightful; whistlings, groanings, grindings, varying but never diminishing, were re-echoed from many vast triangular-roofed sheds, standing at intervals on a sloping ground intersected by numerous railways.

An iron city!

Their footsteps rang upon plates of metal incrusted in the earth. They picked their way amid heaps of bar iron, pig iron, ingots of copper; between rows of worn-out guns brought hither[Pg 4459] to be melted down, rusty outside, all black within and almost smoking still, venerable masters of fire about to perish by fire.

Roudic, as they passed along, pointed out the various quarters of the establishment: "This is the setting-up room, these the workshops of the great lathe and little lathe, the braziery, the forges, the foundry." He had to shout, so deafening was the noise.

Jack, half dazed, looked with surprise through the workshop doors, nearly all open on account of the heat, at a swarming of upraised arms, of blackened faces, of machinery in motion in a cave-like darkness, dull and deep, lit up by brief flashes of red light.

Out poured the hot air, with mingled odors of coal, burned clay, molten iron and the impalpable black dust, sharp and burning, which in the sunlight had a metallic sparkle, the glitter of coal that may become diamond.

But what gave a special character to these formidable works was the perpetual commotion of both earth and air, a continual trepidation, something like the striving of a huge beast imprisoned beneath the foundry, whose groans and burning breath burst hissing out through the yawning chimneys. Jack, fearful of appearing too much of a novice, dared not ask what it was made this noise, which even at a distance had so impressed him....

As they talked, they passed along the streets of the iron-works laid with rails, crowded at this hour, the working day just at an end, with a concourse of men of all kinds and sizes and trades; a motley of blouses, pilot jackets, the coats of the designers mixing with the uniforms of the overseers.

The gravity with which this deliverance from toil was effected struck Jack forcibly. He compared this scene with the cries, the jostling on the pavements which in Paris enliven the exit from the workshops, and make it as noisy as that of a school. Here, rule and discipline were sensibly felt, just as on board a man-of-war.

A warm mist of steam floated over this mass of human beings, a steam that the sea breeze had not yet dispersed, and which hung like a heavy cloud in the stillness of this July evening. From the now silent workshops evaporated the odors of the forge. Steam whistled forth in the gutters, sweat stood on all the foreheads, and the panting that had puzzled Jack a little[Pg 4460] while ago had given place to a breath of relief from these two thousand chests wearied with the day's labor.

As he passed through the crowd, Labassindre was soon recognized.

"Hullo! young 'un, how are you?"

He was surrounded, his hand eagerly shaken, and from one to another passed the words:—

"Here, look at Roudic's brother, the fellow who makes four thousand pounds a year just by singing."

Every one wished to see him, for one of the legends of the workshops was this supposed fortune of the quondam blacksmith, and since his departure more than one young fellow-worker had searched to the very bottom of his larynx, to try if the famous note, the note worth millions, were not by some happy chance to be found there.

In the midst of this cortège of admirers, whom his theatrical costume impressed still more, the singer walked along with his head in the air, talking and laughing, casting "Good morning, Father So-and-so! Good morning, Mother What-'s-your-name!" towards the little houses enlivened by women's faces looking out, towards the public-houses and cook-shops which were frequent in this part of Indret; where also hawkers of all kinds held sway, exposing their merchandise in the open air: blouses, shoes, hats, kerchiefs, all the ambulating trumpery to be found in the neighborhood of camps, barracks, and factories.

As they made their way through this display of wares, Jack imagined he saw a familiar face, a smile, parting the various groups to reach him; but it was only a lightning flash, a mere vision swept away at once by the ever changing tide of the mass flowing away and dispersing through the great industrial city, and spreading itself over to the other side of the river in long ferry-boats, active, numerous, heavily laden, as if it were the passage of an army.

Evening was closing in over the dispersing crowd. The sun went down. The wind freshened, moving the poplars like palms; and the spectacle was imposing of the toiling island in its turn sinking to repose, restored to nature for the night. As the smoke cleared, masses of verdure became visible between the workshops. The river could be heard lapping the banks; and the swallows, skimming the water with tiny twitter, fluttered around the great boilers ranged along the quay.[Pg 4461]


From 'Kings in Exile'

All the magic beauty of that June night poured in through the wide-open casement in the great hall. A single lighted candelabrum scarcely disturbed the mystery of the moonlight, which streamed in like a "milky way." On the table, across some dusty old papers, lay a crucifix of oxydized silver. By the side of the crucifix was a thick broad sheet of parchment, covered with a big and tremulous writing. It was the death-warrant of royalty, wanting nothing but the signature, one stroke of the pen, and a strong and violent effort of will to give this; and that was the reason why this weak King hesitated, sitting motionless, his elbows resting on the table, by the lighted candles prepared for the royal seal.

Near him, anxious, prying, yet soft and smooth, like a night-moth or the black bat that haunts ruins, Lebeau, the confidential valet, watched him and silently encouraged him; for they had arrived at the decisive moment that the gang had for months expected, with alternate hopes and fears, with all the trepidation, all the uncertainty attending a business dependent upon such a puppet as this King. Notwithstanding the magnetism of this overpowering desire, Christian, pen in hand, could not bring himself to sign. Sunk down in his arm-chair, he gazed at the parchment, and was lost in thought. It was not that he cared for that crown, which he had neither wished for nor loved, which as a child he had found too heavy, and that later in life had bowed him down and crushed him by its terrible responsibilities. He had felt no scruple in laying it aside, leaving it in the corner of a room which he never entered, forgetting it as much as possible when he was out; but he was scared at the sudden determination, the irrevocable step he was about to take. However, there was no other way of procuring money for his new existence, no other means of meeting the hundred and twenty thousand pounds' worth of bills he had signed, on which payment would soon be due, and which the usurer, a certain Pichery, picture-dealer, refused to renew. Could he allow an execution to be put in at Saint-Mandé? And the Queen, the royal child; what would become of them in that case? If he must have a scene—for he foresaw the terrible clamor his[Pg 4462] cowardice must rouse—was it not better to have it now, and brave once for all anger and recriminations? And then—all this was not really the determining reason.

He had promised the Comtesse to sign this renunciation; and on the faith of this promise, Séphora had consented to let her husband start alone for London, and had accepted the mansion Avenue de Messine, and the title and name that published her to the world as the king's mistress, reserving, however, anything further till the day when Christian himself would bring her the deed, signed by his own hand. She assigned for this conduct the reasons of a woman in love: he might, later on, return to Illyria, abandon her for the throne and power; she would not be the first person whom these terrible State reasons have made tremble and weep. D'Axel, Wattelet, all the gommeux of the Grand Club little guessed when the king, quitting the Avenue de Messine, rejoined them at the club with heavy fevered eyes, that he had spent the evening on a divan, by turns repulsed or encouraged, his feelings played upon, his nerves unstrung by the constant resistance; rolling himself at the feet of an immovable, determined woman, who with a supple opposition abandoned to his impassioned embrace only the cold little Parisian hands, so skillful in defense and evasion, while she imprinted on his lips the scorching flame of the enrapturing words:—"Oh! when you have ceased to be king, I shall be all yours—all yours!" She made him pass through all the dangerous phases of passion and coldness; and often at the theatre, after an icy greeting and a rapid smile, would slowly draw off her gloves and cast him a tender glance; then, putting her bare hand in his, she would seem to offer it up to his ardent kiss.

"Then you say, Lebeau, that Pichery will not renew?"

"He will not, sire. If the bills are not paid, the bailiffs will be put in."

How well he emphasized with a despairing moan the word "bailiffs," so as to convey the feeling of all the sinister formalities that would follow: bills protested, an execution, the royal hearth desecrated, the family turned out of doors. Christian saw nothing of all this. His imagination carried him far away to the Avenue de Messine: he saw himself arriving there in the middle of the night, eager and quivering; ascending with stealthy and hurried step the heavily carpeted stairs, entering the room where the night-light burned, mysteriously veiled under[Pg 4463] lace:—"It is done—I am no longer king. You are mine, mine." And the loved one held out her hand.

"Come," he exclaimed, starting out of his fleeting dream.

And he signed.

The door opened and the Queen appeared. Her presence in Christian's rooms at such an hour was so unforeseen, so unexpected, they had lived so long apart, that neither the King in the act of signing his infamy, nor Lebeau, who stood watching him, turned round at the slight noise she made. They thought it was Boscovich coming up from the garden. Gliding lightly like a shadow, she was already near the table, and had reached the two accomplices, when Lebeau saw her. With her finger on her lips she motioned him to be silent, and continued to advance, wishing to convict the king in the very act of his treachery, and avoid all evasion, subterfuge, or useless dissimulation; but the valet set her order at defiance and gave the alarm, "The Queen, sire!"

The Dalmatian, furious, struck straight in the face of this malevolent caitiff with the powerful hand of a woman accustomed to handle the reins; and drawing herself up erect, waited till the wretch had disappeared before she addressed the king.

"What has happened, my dear Frédérique? and to what am I indebted for—?"

Standing bent over the table that he strove to hide, in a graceful attitude that showed off his silk jacket embroidered in pink, he smiled, and although his lips were rather pale, his voice remained calm, his speech easy, with that polished elegance which never left him when addressing his wife, and which placed a barrier between them like a hard lacquer screen adorned with flowery and intricate arabesques. With one word, one gesture, she put aside the barrier behind which he would fain have sheltered himself.

"Oh! no phrases, no grimacing—if you please. I know what you were writing there. Do not try to give me the lie."

Then drawing nearer, overwhelming his timorous objection by her haughty bearing:—

"Listen to me, Christian," and there was something in her tone that gave an impression of solemnity to her words; "listen to me: you have made me suffer cruelly since I became your wife. I have never said anything but once—the first time, you remember. After that, when I saw that you had ceased to love[Pg 4464] me, I left you to yourself. Not that I was ignorant of anything you did—not one of your infidelities, not one of your follies remained unknown to me. For you must indeed be mad, mad like your father, who died of exhaustion, mad with love for Lola; mad like your grandfather John, who died in a shameful delirium, foaming and framing kisses with the death-rattle in his throat, and uttering words that made the Sisters of Charity grow pale. Yes, it is the same fevered blood, the same hellish passion that devours you. At Ragusa, on the nights of the sortie, it was at Fœdora's that they sought you. I knew it, I knew that she had left her theatre to follow you. I never uttered a single reproach. The honor of your name was saved. And when the King was absent from the ramparts, I took care his place should not be empty. But here in Paris—"

Till now she had spoken slowly, coldly, in a tone of pity and maternal reproof, as though inspired thereto by the downcast eyes and pouting mouth of the King, who looked like a vicious child receiving a scolding. But the name of Paris exasperated her. A city without faith, a city cynical and accursed, its blood-stained stones ever ready for sedition and barricades! What possessed these poor fallen kings, that they came to take refuge in this Sodom! It was Paris, it was its atmosphere tainted by carnage and vice that completed the ruin of the historical houses; it was this that had made Christian lose what the maddest of his ancestors had always known how to preserve—the respect and pride of their race. Oh! When on the very day of their arrival, the first night of their exile, she had seen him so excited, so gay, while all around him were secretly weeping, Frédérique had guessed the humiliation and shame she would have to undergo. Then in one breath, without pausing, with cutting words that lashed the pallid face of the royal rake, and striped it red as with a whip, she recalled one after the other all his follies, his rapid descent from pleasure to vice, and vice to crime.

"You have deceived me under my very eyes, in my own house; adultery has sat at my table, it has brushed against my dress. When you were tired of that dollish little face who had not even the grace to conceal her tears, you went to the gutter, wallowing shamelessly in the slime and mud of the streets, and bringing back the dregs of your orgies, of your sickly remorse, all the pollution of the mire. Remember how I saw you totter and stammer on that morning, when for the second time you lost[Pg 4465] your throne. What have you not done! Holy Mother of angels! What have you not done! You have traded with the royal seal, you have sold crosses and titles."

And in a lower tone, as though she feared lest the stillness and silence of the night might hear, she added:—

"You have stolen, yes, stolen! Those diamonds, those stones torn from the crown—it was you who did it, and I allowed my faithful Greb to be suspected and dismissed. The theft being known, it was necessary to find a sham culprit to prevent the real one ever being discovered. For this has been my one, my constant preoccupation: to uphold the King, to keep him untouched; to accept everything for that purpose, even the shame which in the eyes of the world will end by sullying me. I had adopted a watchword that sustained me, and encouraged me in my hours of trial: 'All for the crown!' And now you want to sell it—that crown that has cost me such anguish and such tears; you want to barter it for gold, for the lifeless mask of that Jewess, whom you had the indecency to bring face to face with me to-day."

Crushed, bending low his head, he had hitherto listened without a word, but the insult directed against the woman he loved roused him. Looking fixedly at the queen, his face bearing the traces of her cutting words, he said politely, but very firmly:—

"Well, no, you are mistaken. The woman you mention has had nothing to do with the determination I have taken. What I am doing is done for you, for me, for our common happiness. Tell me, are you not weary of this life of privations and expedients? Do you think that I am ignorant of what is going on here; that I do not suffer when I see you harassed by a pack of tradespeople and duns? The other day when that man was shouting in the yard I was coming in and heard him. Had it not been for Rosen I would have crushed him under the wheels of my phaeton. And you—you were watching his departure behind the curtains of your window. A nice position for a Queen. We owe money to every one. There is a universal outcry against us. Half the servants are unpaid. The tutor even has received nothing for the last ten months. Madame de Silvis pays herself by majestically wearing your old dresses. And there are days when my councilor, the keeper of the royal seals, borrows from my valet the wherewithal to buy snuff. You see I am well acquainted with the state of things. And you do not[Pg 4466] know my debts yet. I am over head and ears in debt. Everything is giving way around us. A pretty state of things, indeed; you will see that diadem of yours sold one day at the corner of a street with old knives and forks."

Little by little, gradually carried away by his own scoffing nature and the jesting habits of his set, he dropped the moderate tone he commenced with, and in his insolent little snuffling voice began to dwell upon the ludicrous side of the situation, with jeers and mockery, borrowed no doubt from Séphora, who never lost an opportunity of demolishing by her sneering observations the few remaining scruples of her lover.

"You will accuse me of making phrases, but it is you who deafen yourself with words. What, after all, is that crown of Illyria that you are always talking about? It is worth nothing except on a king's head; elsewhere it is obstruction, a useless thing, which for flight is carried hidden away in a bonnet-box or exposed under a glass shade like the laurels of an actor or the blossoms of a concierge's bridal wreath. You must be convinced of one thing, Frédérique. A king is truly king only on the throne, with power to rule; fallen, he is nothing, less than nothing, a rag. Vainly do we cling to etiquette, to our titles, always bringing forward our Majesty, on the panels of our carriages, on the studs of our cuffs, hampering ourselves with an empty ceremonial. It is all hypocrisy on our part, and mere politeness and pity on the part of those who surround us—our friends and our servants. Here I am King Christian II. for you, for Rosen, for a few faithful ones. Outside I become a man like the rest, M. Christian Two. Not even a surname, only 'Christian,' like an actor of the Gaété."

He stopped, out of breath; he did not remember having ever spoken so long standing. The shrill notes of the night-birds, the prolonged trills of the nightingales, broke the silence of the night. A big moth that had singed its wings at the lights flew about, thumping against the walls. This fluttering distress and the smothered sobs of the Queen were the only sounds to be heard; she knew how to meet rage and violence, but was powerless before this scoffing banter, so foreign to her sincere nature; it found her unarmed, like the valiant soldier who expects straight blows and feels only the harassing stings of insects. Seeing her break down, Christian thought her vanquished, and to complete his victory he put the finishing touch to the burlesque[Pg 4467] picture he had drawn of kings in exile. "What a pitiful figure they cut, all these poor princes in partibus, figurants of royalty, who drape themselves in the frippery of the principal characters, and declaim before the empty benches without a farthing of receipts! Would they not be wiser if they held their peace and returned to the obscurity of common life? For those who have money there is some excuse. Their riches give them some right to cling to these grandeurs. But the others, the poor cousins of Palermo for instance, crowded together in a tiny house with their horrid Italian cookery. It smells of onions when the door is opened. Worthy folk certainly, but what an existence! And those are not the worst off. The other day a Bourbon, a real Bourbon, ran after an omnibus. 'Full, sir,' said the conductor. But he kept on running. 'Don't I tell you it is full, my good man?' He got angry; he would have wished to be called 'Monseigneur'—as if that should be known by the tie of his cravat! Operetta kings, I tell you, Frédérique. It is to escape from this ridiculous position, to insure a dignified and decent existence, that I have made up my mind to sign this."

And he added, suddenly revealing the tortuous Slavonic nature molded by the Jesuits:—"Moreover, this signature is really a mere farce. Our own property is returned to us, that is all, and I shall not consider myself in the slightest degree bound by this. Who knows?—these very thousands of pounds may help us to recover the throne."

The Queen impetuously raised her head, looked him straight in the eyes for a moment, then shrugged her shoulders, saying:

"Do not make yourself out viler than you are. You know that when once you have signed—but no. The truth is, you lack strength and fortitude; you desert your kingly post at the most perilous moment, when a new society, that will acknowledge neither God nor master, pursues with its hatred the representatives of Divine right, makes the heavens tremble over their heads and the earth under their steps. The assassin's knife, bombs, bullets, all serve their purpose. Treachery and murder are on every side. In the midst of our pageantry or our festivities, the best of us as well as the worst, not one of us does not start if only a man steps forward out of the crowd. Hardly a petition that does not conceal a dagger. On leaving his palace what king is certain of returning alive? And this is the hour you choose to leave the field!"[Pg 4468]

"Ah! if fighting could do it!" eagerly said Christian II. "But to struggle as we do against ridicule, against poverty, against all the petty meannesses of life, and feel that we only sink deeper every day—"

A ray of hope lit up her eyes:—"Is it true? would you fight? Then listen."

Breathlessly she related, in a few rapid words, the expedition she and Elysée had been preparing for the last three months by letters, proclamations, and dispatches, which Father Alphée, ever on the move, carried from one mountain village to the other. This time it was not to the nobility they appealed, but to the people; the muleteers, the porters of Ragusa, the market-gardeners of Breno, of La Brazza, the islanders who go to market in their feluccas, the nation which had remained faithful to the monarchical tradition, which was ready to rise and die for its king, on condition that he should lead them. Companies were forming, the watchword was already circulating, only the signal now remained to be given.

The Queen, hurling her words at Christian to rout his weakness by a vigorous charge, had a cruel pang when she saw him shake his head, showing an indifference which was even greater than his discouragement. Perhaps at the bottom of his heart he was annoyed that the expedition should have been so far organized without his knowledge. But he did not believe in the feasibility of the plan. It would not be possible to advance into the country; they would be compelled to hold the islands, and devastate a beautiful country with very little chance of success: a second edition of the Duc de Palma's adventure, a useless effusion of blood.

"No, really, my dear Frédérique, you are led away by the fanaticism of your chaplain and the wild enthusiasm of that hot-headed Gascon. I also have my sources of information, far more reliable than yours. The truth is, that in Dalmatia, as in many other countries, monarchy has had its day. They are tired of it, they will have no more of it."

"Oh! I know the coward who will have no more of it," said the Queen. And she went out hurriedly, leaving Christian much surprised that the scene should have ended so abruptly. He hastily thrust the deed into his pocket, and prepared to go out in his turn, when Frédérique reappeared, accompanied this time by the little prince.[Pg 4469]

Roused out of his sleep and hurriedly dressed, Zara, who had passed from the hands of his nurse to those of the Queen without a word having been uttered, opened wide his bewildered eyes under his auburn curls, but asked no questions; he remembered confusedly in his poor little dizzy head similar awakenings for hasty flights, in the midst of pallid faces and breathless exclamations. It was thus that he had acquired the habit of passive obedience; that he allowed himself to be led anywhere, provided the Queen called him in her grave and resolute voice, and held ready for his childish weakness the shelter of her tender arms and the support of her strong shoulder. She had said: "Come!" and he had come with confidence, surprised only at the surrounding silence, so different from those other stormy nights, with their visions of blood and flames, roar of cannon, and rattle of musketry.

He saw the King standing, no longer the careless good-natured father who at times surprised him in his bed or crossed the schoolroom with an encouraging smile, but a stern father, whose expression of annoyance became more accentuated as he saw them enter. Frédérique, without uttering one word, led the child to the feet of Christian II. and abruptly kneeling, placed him before her, crossing his little fingers in her joined hands:—

"The king will not listen to me, perhaps he will listen to you, Zara. Come, say with me, 'Father.'" The timid voice repeated, "Father."

"'My father! my king! I implore! do not despoil your child. Do not deprive him of the crown he is to wear one day. Remember that it is not yours alone; it comes from afar, from God himself, who gave it six hundred years ago to the house of Illyria. God has chosen me to be a king, father. It is my inheritance, my treasure; you have no right to take it from me.'"

The little prince accompanied his fervent murmur with the imploring looks of a supplicant; but Christian turned away his head, shrugged his shoulders, and furious though still polite, he muttered a few words between his teeth: "Exaggeration! most improper; turn the child's head." Then he tried to withdraw and gain the door. With one bound the Queen was on her feet, caught sight of the table from which the parchment had disappeared, and comprehending at once that the infamous deed was signed, that the king had it in his possession, gave a despairing shriek:[Pg 4470]


He continued to advance towards the door.

She made a step forward, picking up her dress as if to pursue him; then suddenly said:—

"Well, be it so."

He stopped short and turned round. She was standing before the open window, her foot upon the narrow stone balcony, with one arm clasping her son ready to bear him into death, the other extended menacingly towards the cowardly deserter. The moon lit up from without this dramatic group.

"To an operetta King, a Queen of tragedy," she said, stern and terrible. "If you do not burn this instant what you have just signed, and swear on the cross that it will never be repeated, your race is ended, crushed, wife and child, there on the stones."

Such earnestness seemed to inspire her vibrating tone, her splendid figure bent towards the emptiness of space as though to spring, that the King, terrified, dashed forward to stop her.


At the cry of his father, at the quiver of the arm that held him, the child—who was entirely out of the window—thought that all was finished, that they were about to die. He never uttered a word nor a moan; was he not going with his mother? Only, his tiny hands clutched the queen's neck convulsively, and throwing back his head with his fair hair hanging down, the little victim closed his eyes before the appalling horror of the fall.

Christian could no longer resist. The resignation, the courage of this child, who of his future kingly duties already knew the first—to die well—overcame him. His heart was bursting. He threw upon the table the crumpled parchment which for a moment he had been nervously holding in his hand, and fell sobbing in an arm-chair. Frédérique, still suspicious, read the deed through from the first line to the very signature, then going up to a candle, she burned it till the flame scorched her fingers, shaking the ashes upon the table; she then left the room, carrying off her son, who was already falling asleep in her arms in his heroically tragic attitude.

Translation of Laura Ensor and E. Bartow.
[Pg 4471]




Madame Du Deffand Madame Du Deffand

adame du Deffand is interesting as a personality, a type, and an influence. Living through nearly the whole of the eighteenth century, she assimilated its wealth of new ideas, and was herself a product of the thought-revolution already kindling the spirit of 1789.

She very early showed her mental independence by puzzling questions upon religion. The eloquent Massillon attempted to win her to orthodoxy. But he soon gave up the task, told the Sisters to buy her a catechism, and went off declaring her charming. The inefficacy of the catechism was proved later, when the precocious girl developed into the graceful, unscrupulous society woman. She was always fascinating to the brightest men and women of her own and other lands. But the early years of social triumph, when she still had the beautiful eyes admired by Voltaire, are less significant than the nearly thirty years of blindness in the convent of St. Joseph, which after her affliction she made her home. Here she held her famous receptions for the literary and social celebrities of Paris. Here Mademoiselle Lespinasse endured a miserable ten years as her companion, then rebelled against her exactions, and left to establish a rival salon of her own, aided by her devoted D'Alembert. His preference Madame du Deffand never forgave. Henceforth she opposed philosophy, and demanded from her devotees only stimulus and amusement. It was here that Horace Walpole found the "blind old woman" in her tub-like chair, and began the friendship and intellectual flirtation of fifteen years. It proved a great interest in her life, notwithstanding Walpole's dread of ridicule at a suggestion of romance between his middle-aged self and this woman twenty years older.

She was a power in the lives of many famous people, intimate with Madame de Staël, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Madame de Choiseul, the Duchess of Luxembourg, Madame Necker, Hume, Madame de[Pg 4472] Genlis. In her salon old creeds were argued down, new ideas disseminated, and bons mots and witty gossip circulated. She has recounted what went on, and explained the reign of clever women in her century. Ignoring her blindness, she lived her life as gayly as she could in visiting, feasting, opera-going, and letter-writing. But even her social supremacy and brilliant correspondence with Voltaire, Walpole, and others, did not satisfy her. She wished to appeal to the heart, and she appealed only to the head. Of all ills she most dreaded ennui, and the very dread of it made her unhappy. She became more and more insufficient to herself, until at eighty-three she died with clear-sighted indifference.

"She was perhaps the wittiest woman who ever lived," says Saintsbury. Hers was an inextinguishable wit, always alert, epigrammatic, enriching the language with proverbial phrases.

During her life Voltaire's science of unbelief and Rousseau's appeal to nature and sentiment were stimulating Europe. For Rousseau, Madame du Deffand had no respect; but Voltaire's philosophy appealed to her egotism. It bade a human being investigate his own puzzles, and seek solution in himself. Madame du Deffand agreed, but failed to find satisfaction in her anxious analysis; she envied believers in God, and longed for illusions, yet allowed herself none. Jealous, exacting, critical, with all the arrogance of the old aristocracy, she was as merciless to herself as to others. "All my judgments have been false and daring and too hasty.... I have never known any one perfectly.... To whom then can I have recourse?" she cries despairingly.

Sainte-Beuve emphasizes her noblest quality: with all her faults she was true. She lived out her life frankly, boldly, without self-deception or imposition. So in the entertaining volumes of her letters and pen-portraits of acquaintances, she has left a valuable record. She takes us back a century, and shows not only how people looked and what they did, but how they thought and felt.


Paris, Sunday, December 28th, 1766.

Do you know, dear Grandmama [a pet name], that you are the greatest philosopher that ever lived? Your predecessors spoke equally well, perhaps, but they were less consistent in their conduct. All your reasonings start from the same sentiment, and that makes the perfect accord one always feels between what you say and what you do. I know very well why,[Pg 4473] loving you madly, I am ill at ease with you. It is because I know that you must pity everybody who is unlike yourself. My desire to please you, the brief time that I am permitted with you, and my eagerness to profit by it, all trouble, embarrass, intimidate me and discompose me.

I exaggerate, I utter platitudes; and end by being disgusted with myself, and eager to rectify the impression I may have made upon you.

You wish me to write to M. de Choiseul, and to make my letter pretty and bright. Ah, indeed! I'm the ruler of my own imagination, am I! I depend upon chance. A purpose to do or to say such or such a thing takes away the possibility. I am not in the least like you. I do not hold in my hands the springs of my spirit. However, I will write to M. de Choiseul. I will seize a propitious moment. The surest means of making it come is to feel hurried.

I am sending you an extract from an impertinent little pamphlet entitled 'Letter to the Author of the Justification of Jean Jacques.' You will see how it treats our friend. I am not sure that it should be allowed; whether M. de Choiseul should not talk to M. de Sartines about it. It is for you to decide, dear Grandmama, if it is suitable, and if M. de Choiseul ought to permit licenses so impertinent.

I am dying to see you. In spite of my fear, in spite of my dreads, I am convinced that you love me because I love you.


Sunday, March 9th, 1766.

I read your letter to Madame de Forcalquier, or rather I gave it to her to read. I thought from her tone that she liked it, but she will not commit herself. She is more than incomprehensible. The Trinity is not more mysterious. She is composed of systems, which she does not understand herself; great words, great principles, great strains of music, of which nothing remains. However, I am of your opinion, that she is worth more than all my other acquaintances. She agrees that it would be delightful to have you live in this country; but if she were only to see you en passant, it hardly matters whether you came or not; that she has not forgotten you, but that she will forget[Pg 4474] you. Eh! Why shouldn't she forget you? She does not know you.... A hundred speeches of the sort which vex me.

They say of people who have too much vivacity that they were put in too hot an oven. They might say of her, on the contrary, that she is underdone. She is the sketch of a beautiful work, but it is not finished. What is certain is, that her sentiments, if she has sentiments, are sincere, and that she does not bore you. I showed her your letter because I thought that would give you pleasure; but be sure that no one in the world, not even she, shall see what you write me in future except Niart [her secretary], who as you know is a well.

I have just made you a fine promise that I will not show your letters; perhaps I shall never be able to show them. Truly, truly, I am like Madame de Forcalquier, and do not know you!

I spent three hours with Mr. Walpole yesterday, but only half an hour alone with him. Lord George and his wife returned his short call, but your Dr. James stayed there all the time. He is a very gloomy, uninteresting man.

Have you seen Jean Jacques? Is he still in London? Have you seen your father? Imagine yourself tête-à-tête with me in the corner of the fireplace, and answer all my questions, but especially those which concern your health. Have you seen the doctors? Have they ordered you the waters? And tell me too, honestly, if I shall ever see you again. Reflect that you are only twenty-five years old, that I am a hundred, and that it only requires a brief kindness to put pleasure in my life. No, I will not assume the pathetic. Do just what pleases you.


Tuesday, August 5th, 1766.

I have received your letter of July 31st—no number, sheets of different sizes. All these observations mean nothing, unless it is that a person without anything to do or to think occupies herself with puerile things. Indeed, I should do very wrong not to profit by all your lessons, and to persist in the error of believing in friendship, and regarding it as a good; no, no; I renounce my errors, and am absolutely persuaded that of all illusions that is the most dangerous.[Pg 4475]

You who are the apostle of this wise doctrine, receive my confession and my vows never to love, never to seek to be loved by any one; but tell me if it is permitted to desire the return of agreeable persons; if one may long for news of them, and if to be interested in them and to let them know it is to lack virtue, good sense, and proper behavior. I am awaiting enlightenment. I cannot doubt your sincerity; you have given me too many proofs of it; explain yourself without reserve.

Wednesday, 6th.

Of all the things in your letter, what struck me the most yesterday were your moralizings on friendship, which forced me to reply at once. I was interrupted by Monsieur and Madame de Beauvan, who came to take me to supper with them in the country at the good Duchess of Saint-Pierre's. I returned early. I did not close my eyes during the night. I woke up Niart [her secretary] earlier than usual to go on with my letter, and to re-read me yours. I am better pleased with it this morning than I was yesterday. The matter of friendship shocked me less. I find that the conclusion is—let us be friends without friendship. Ah well, so be it; I consent. Perhaps it is agreeable; let us learn by experience, and for that—see each other the oftener! In truth, you have only a comic actress, a deaf woman, and some chickens to leave, as you have only a blind woman and many goslings to find; but I promise you that the blind woman will have much to ask and much to tell.

I do not know what to say to you about your ministry. You have entertained me so little with politics, that if others had not informed me, all that goes on with you would be less intelligible to me than the affairs of China. They have told me something of the character of the count; and as for this certain good comrade [Conway], I think I know him perfectly. I am pleased that he has remained, but not that he does not oppose your philosophy. All your opinions are beautiful and praiseworthy; but if I were in his place I should certainly hinder you from making use of them, and not regulate my conduct by your moderation and disinterestedness. Oh! as for my lord, you cannot keep him,—that's the public cry. It seems to me that the brother and sister-in-law are not pleased. Do you not detest the people? From the agrarian law to your monument, your lamps, and your[Pg 4476] black standard, its joy, its sadness, its applause, its complaints, are all odious to me. But I am going back to speak to you about yourself. You say that your fortune, instead of augmenting, will suffer diminution. I am much afraid of that. No liberty without a competency. Remember that. If your economy falls upon your trips to France I shall be miserable. But listen to this without getting vexed.

I possess, as you know, a small lodging-room belonging to me, little worthy of the son of Robert Walpole, but which may satisfy the philosopher Horace. If he found it convenient, he could occupy it without incurring the slightest ridicule. He can consult sensible people, and while waiting, be persuaded that it is not my personal interest which induces me to offer it to him.

Honestly, my mentor, you could not do better than take it. You would be near me or a hundred leagues from me if you liked it better. It would not engage you to any attention nor any assiduity; we would renew our vows against friendship. It would even be necessary to render more observance to the Idol [Comtesse de Boufflers]; for who could be shocked, if not she? Pont-de-Veyle, who approves and advises this arrangement, claims that even the Idol would find nothing to oppose. Think of that.

Grandmama returned yesterday morning. My favor with her is better established. She will take supper with me Friday; and as the supper was arranged without foreseeing that she would be there, she will find a company which will not exactly suit her,—among others the Idol, and the Archbishop of Toulouse.

I shall have many things to tell you when I see you. It may be that they will hardly interest you, but it will be the world of my Strawberry Hill.

You agree with me about the letters, which pleases me. I believe myself a genius when I find myself in agreement with you. This Prince Geoffrin is excellent. Surely heaven is witness that I do not love you, but I am forced to find you very agreeable.

Are you waiting until your arrival here to give a jug to the Maréchale de Luxembourg? I see no necessity of making a present to the Idol; incense, incense, that is all it wants!

I have a great desire that you should read a Memoir of La Chalottais; it is very rare, very much "prohibited," but I am intriguing to get it.[Pg 4477]

M. de Beauvan begs you to send me a febrifuge for him. It is from Dr. James, I think. There are two kinds; one is mild and the other violent. He requires a louis's worth of each.

You are mightily deceiving yourself if you think Voltaire author of the analysis of the romance of 'Héloise'. The author is a man from Bordeaux, a friend of M. de Secondat. Àpropos of Voltaire, he has had the King of Prussia sounded to know if he would consent to give him asylum at Wesel in case he were obliged to leave his abode. This his Majesty has very willingly granted.

Good-by. I am counting upon being able in future to give you news of your court and your ministry. I have made a new acquaintance, who is a favorite of Lord Bute and the most intimate friend of Lord Holderness. I do not doubt that this lord is aiming at my Lord Rochefort's place, who they say scarcely troubles himself about the embassy.

Write me, I beg you, at least once a week.

Tell me if M. Crawford is in Scotland.

It is thought that the first news from Rome will inform us of the death of Chevalier Macdonald.


November, 1765.

No, no! I do not want to draw your likeness; nobody knows you less than I. Sometimes you seem to me what I wish you were, sometimes what I fear you may be, and perhaps never what you really are. I know very well that you have a great deal of wit of all kinds and all styles, and you must know it better than any one.

But your character should be painted, and of that I am not a good judge. It would require indifference, or impartiality at least. However, I can tell you that you are a very sincere man, that you have principles, that you are brave, that you pride yourself upon your firmness; that when you have come to a decision, good or bad, nothing induces you to change it, so that your firmness sometimes resembles obstinacy. Your heart is good and your friendship strong, but neither tender nor facile. Your fear of being weak makes you hard. You are on your guard against all sensibility. You cannot refuse to render valuable[Pg 4478] services to your friends; you sacrifice your own interest to them, but you refuse them the slightest of favors. Kind and humane to all about you, you do not give yourself the slightest trouble to please your friends in little ways.

Your disposition is very agreeable although not very even. All your ways are noble, easy, and natural. Your desire to please does not lead you into affectation. Your knowledge of the world and your experience have given you a great contempt for men, and taught you how to live with them. You know that all their assurances go for nothing. In exchange you give them politeness and consideration, and all those who do not care about being loved are content with you.

I do not know whether you have much feeling. If you have, you fight it as a weakness. You permit yourself only that which seems virtuous. You are a philosopher; you have no vanity, although you have a great deal of self-love. But your self-love does not blind you; it rather makes you exaggerate your faults than conceal them. You never extol yourself except when you are forced to do so by comparing yourself with other men. You possess discernment, very delicate tact, very correct taste; your tone is excellent.

You would have been the best possible companion in past centuries; you are in this, and you would be in those to come. Englishman as you are, your manners belong to all countries.

You have an unpardonable weakness to which you sacrifice your feelings and submit your conduct—the fear of ridicule. It makes you dependent upon the opinion of fools; and your friends are not safe from the impressions against them which fools choose to give you.

Your judgment is easily confused. You are aware of this weakness, which you control by the firmness with which you pursue your resolutions. Your opposition to any deviation is sometimes pushed too far, and exercised in matters not worth the trouble.

Your instincts are noble and generous. You do good for the pleasure of doing it, without ostentation, without claiming gratitude; in short, your spirit is beautiful and high.[Pg 4479]





aniel Defoe, one of the most vigorous and voluminous writers of the last decade of the seventeenth and the first quarter of the eighteenth centuries, was born in St. Giles parish, Cripplegate, in 1660 or 1661, and died near London in 1731. His father was a butcher named Foe, and the evolution of the son's name through the various forms of D. Foe, De Foe, Defoe, to Daniel Defoe, the present accepted form, did not begin much before he reached the age of forty. He was educated at the "dissenting school" of a Mr. Martin in Newington Green, and was intended for the Presbyterian ministry. Although the training at this school was not inferior to that to be obtained at the universities,—and indeed superior in one respect, since all the exercises were in English,—the fact that he had never been "in residence" set Defoe a little apart from the literary society of the day. Swift, Pope, Addison, Arbuthnot, and the rest, considered him untrained and uncultured, and habitually spoke of him with the contempt which the regular feels for the volunteer. Swift referred to him as "an illiterate fellow whose name I forget," and Pope actually inserted his name in the 'Dunciad':—

"Earless on high stood unabashed De Foe."

This line is false in two ways, for Defoe's ears were not clipped, though he was condemned to stand in the pillory; and there can hardly be a greater incongruity conceived than there is between our idea of a dunce and the energetic, shifty, wide-awake Defoe,—though for that matter a scholar like Bentley and a wit like Colley Cibber are as much out of place in the poet's ill-natured catalogue. Defoe angrily resented the taunts of the university men and their professional assumption of superiority, and answered Swift that "he had been in his time master of five languages and had not lost them yet," and challenged John Tutchin to "translate with him any Latin, French, or Italian author, and then retranslate them crosswise, for twenty pounds each book."

Notwithstanding the great activity of Defoe's pen (over two hundred pamphlets and books, most of them of considerable length, are[Pg 4480] known to be his; and it is more than probable that much of his work was anonymous and has perished, or could be only partly disinterred by laborious conjecture) he found time to engage twice in business, once as a factor in hosiery and once as a maker of tiles. In each venture he seems to have been unfortunate, and his business experience is alluded to here only because his practical knowledge of mercantile matters is evident in all his work. Even his pirates like Captain Bob Singleton, and adventurers like Colonel Jack, have a decided commercial flavor. They keep a weather eye on the profit-and-loss account, and retire like thrifty traders on a well-earned competency. It is worth mentioning, however, to Defoe's credit, that in one or two instances at least he paid his debts in full, after compromising with his creditors.

Defoe's writings, though all marked by his strong but limited personality, fall naturally into three classes:—

First, his political writings, in which may be included his wretched attempts at political satire, and most of his journalistic work. This is included in numberless pamphlets, broad-sheets, newspapers, and the like, and is admirable expository matter on the public questions of the day. Second, his fiction, 'Robinson Crusoe,' 'Captain Singleton,' 'Colonel Jack,' 'Roxana,' and 'Moll Flanders.' Third, his miscellaneous work; innumerable biographies and papers like the 'History of the Plague,' the 'Account of the Great Storm,' 'The True Relation of the Apparition of One Mrs. Veal,' etc. Between the last two classes there is a close connection, since both were written for the market; and his fictions proper are cast in the autobiographical form and are founded on incidents in the lives of real persons, and his biographies contain a large proportion of fiction.

Some knowledge of Defoe's political work is necessary to a comprehension of the early eighteenth century. During his life the power of the people and of the House of Commons was slowly extended, and the foundations of the modern English Constitution were laid. The trading and manufacturing classes, especially in the city of London, increased in wealth and political consequence. The reading public on which a popular writer could rely, widened. With these changes—partly as cause and purely as consequence—came the establishment of "News Journals" and "Reviews." Besides Addison's Spectator for the more cultured classes, multitudes of periodicals were founded which aimed to reach a more general public. The old method of a broad-sheet or the pamphlet, hawked in the streets or exposed for sale and cried at the book-stalls, was still in use, but the regular issue of a news-letter was taking its place. Defoe attacked the public in both ways with unwearied assiduity. His poem 'The True-Born Englishman' was sold in the streets to the astonishing [Pg 4481]number of eighty thousand. In 1704 he established the Review, a bi-weekly. It ran to 1713, and Defoe wrote nearly all of each number. Afterwards he was for eight years main contributor and substantially manager of Mist's Journal, a Tory organ; and one of the most serious and well-founded charges against this first great journalist is, that he was deficient in journalistic honor, and remained in the pay of the Whig Ministry while attached to the Opposition organ. During this period he founded and conducted several other journals.

Defoe possessed in a large measure the journalistic sense. No one ever had a finer instinct in the subtle arts of "working the public" and of advertising. When the notorious Jack Sheppard was condemned, he visited him at Newgate, wrote his life, and had the highwayman, standing under the gallows, send for a copy and deliver it as his "last speech and dying confession." There is a certain breadth and originality in this stroke, hardly to be paralleled in modern journalism. Defoe had the knack of singling out from the mass of passing events whatever would be likely to interest the public. He brought out an account in some newspaper, and if successful, made the occurrence the subject of a longer article in pamphlet or book form. He was always on the lookout for matter, which he utilized with a pen of marvelous rapidity. The gazette or embryonic newspaper was at first confined to a rehearsal of news. Defoe invented the leading article or "news-letter" of weekly comment, and the society column of Mercure Scandaleuse.

The list of Defoe's political pamphlets is a large one, but they are of more interest to the historian than to the general reader. While they are far inferior in construction and victorious good sense to Sydney Smith's magazine articles on kindred topics, and to Swift's 'Drapier's Letters' in subtle appeals to the prejudices of the ignorant, they show a remarkable command over the method of reaching the plain people,—to use President Lincoln's phrase, and taking it to mean that great body of quiet persons who desire on the whole to be fair in their judgments, but who must have their duty made quite evident before they see it. Defoe is never vituperative—that is, vituperative for a time when Pope and Swift and Dennis made their personal invective so much higher flavored than modern taste endures. He seems to have been tolerant by nature; and although this proceeds in his case from the fact that his moral enthusiasm was never very warm, and not from any innate refinement of nature, he is entitled to the credit of moderation in the use of abusive language. He is tolerant, too, of those who differ from him in politics and religion; and though it is absurd to suppose, as some of his biographers have done, that he was so far in advance of his century as to have advocated the political soundness of free trade, he[Pg 4482] shows in his treatment of commercial questions the marks of a broad and comprehensive mind. He speaks of foreigners in a cosmopolitan spirit, with the exception of the Portuguese, for whom he seems to feel a lively dislike, founded possibly on some of his early business experiences. The reader will remember the dignified and courteous demeanor of the Spaniards in 'Robinson Crusoe'; and although the violent antipathy of the previous generation to Spanish Romanists had abated, Defoe's freedom from insular prejudice is noteworthy, the more so that a "discreet and sober bearing," such as he gives his Spaniards, seems to have been his ideal of conduct. Defoe is a great journalist, and although he is a typical hack, writing timely articles for pay, he has a touch of genius. He was always successful in gaining the ear of his public; and in the one instance where he hit upon a subject of universal interest, the life of the solitary castaway thrown absolutely on his own resources, he wrote a book, without any effort or departure from his usual style, which has been as popular with succeeding generations as it was with his own. It is a mistake to call 'Robinson Crusoe' a "great boy's book,"—unless we regard the boy nature as persistent in all men, and perhaps it is in all healthy men,—for it treats the unaided conflict with nature and circumstance, which is the essence of adult life, with unequaled simplicity and force. Crusoe is not merely an adventurer; he is the human will, courage, resolution, stripped of all the adventitious support of society. He has the elements of universal humanity, though in detail he is as distinctly English as Odysseus is Greek.

The characters of Defoe's other novels—Colonel Jack, Captain Singleton, Moll Flanders, and Roxana—are so repulsive, and so entirely unaware of their repulsiveness, that we can take little interest in them. Possibly an exception might be made in favor of Colonel Jack, who evinces at times an amusing humor. All are criminals, and the conflict of the criminal with the forces of society may be the subject of the most powerful fiction. But these books are inartistic in several regards. No criminals, even allowing them to be hypocrites, ever disclose themselves in the open-hearted manner of these autobiographers. Vice always pays to virtue the homage of a certain reticence in details. Despite all his Newgate experiences and his acquaintance with noted felons, Defoe never understood either the weakness or the strength of the criminal type. So all his harlots and thieves and outcasts are decidedly amateurish. A serious transgression of the moral law is to them a very slight matter, to be soon forgotten after a temporary fit of repentance, and a long course of evil living in no wise interferes with a comfortable and respectable old age. His pirates have none of the desperation and brutal heroism of sin. Stevenson's John Silver or Israel Hands is worth a schooner-load of[Pg 4483] them. Neither they nor their author seem to value virtue very highly, though they are acutely sensitive to the discomfort of an evil reputation. Possibly such people may be true to a certain type of humanity, but they are exceedingly uninteresting. A writer who takes so narrow a view cannot produce a great book, even though his lack of moral scope and insight is partly compensated by a vivid presentation of life on the low plane from which he views it.

'Moll Flanders' and 'Roxana' are very coarse books, but it can hardly be said that they are harmful or corrupting. They are simply vulgar. Vice has preserved all its evil by preserving all its grossness. Passion is reduced to mere animalism, and is depicted with the brutal directness of Hogarth. This may be good morals, but it is unpleasant art. It is true that Defoe's test of a writer was that he should "please and serve his public," and in providing amusement he was not more refined nor more coarse than those whom he addressed; but a writer should look a little deeper and aim a little higher than the average morality of his day. Otherwise he may please but will not serve his generation, in any true sense of literary service.

Defoe is sometimes spoken of as the first great realist. In a limited sense this may be true. No doubt he presents the surface of a limited area of the eighteenth-century world with fidelity. With the final establishment of Protestantism, the increase of trade, and the building of physical science on the broad foundations laid down by Newton, England had become more mundane than at any other period. The intense faith and the imaginative quality of the seventeenth century were deadened. The eighteenth century kept its eyes on the earth, and though it found a great many interesting and wonderful things there, and though it laid the foundations of England's industrial greatness, it was neither a spiritual nor an artistic age. The novel was in its infancy; and as if a "true story" was more worthy of respect than an invention, it received from Defoe an air of verisimilitude and is usually based on some real events. He is careful to embellish his fictions with little bits of realism. Thus, Moll Flanders gives an inventory of the goods she took to America, and in the 'History of the Plague' Defoe adds a note to his description of a burial-ground:—"N.B. The author of this Journal lies buried in that very ground, being at his own desire, his sister having been buried there a few weeks before." This enumeration of particulars certainly gives an air of reality, but it is a trick easily caught, and it is only now and then that he hits—as in the above instance—on the characteristic circumstance which gives life and reality to the narrative. Except in 'Robinson Crusoe,' much of his detail is irrelevant and tiresome. But all the events on the lonely island are admirably harmonized and have a cumulative effect. The second[Pg 4484] part,—after the rescue,—written to take advantage of the popularity of the first, is vastly inferior. The artistic selective power is not exercised. This same concrete imagination which sees minute details is also evident in his contemporary Swift, but with him it works at the bidding of a far more fervid and emotional spirit.

Defoe is a pioneer in novel-writing and in journalism, and in both he shows wonderful readiness in appreciating what the public would like and energy in supplying them with it. To the inventor or discoverer of a new form we cannot deny great credit. Most writers imitate, but it cannot be said that Defoe founded himself on any predecessor, while his successors are numbered by hundreds. A certain relationship could be traced between his work, and the picaresque tales of France and Spain on the one hand and the contemporary journals of actual adventure on the other; but not one close enough to detract from his claim to original power.

Some of Defoe's political work, like 'The True-Born Englishman,' 'The Shortest Way with Dissenters,' 'Reasons against the Succession of the House of Hanover,' are written in the ironical tone. Mr. Saintsbury seems to think that Defoe's method is not truly ironical, because it differs from Swift's; but if we remember that one writer differeth from another in irony, there is no reason to deny Defoe's mastery of this penetrating weapon, especially when we find that he imposed on both parties. The judges told him that "irony of that sort would bring him to the gallows," but the eighteenth-century law of libel was more rigid in its constructions than the canons of literary art.

Defoe made several attempts at poetical satire, which are sufficient to show that he lacked either the talent or the patience to write political verse. Compared with Dryden's or Pope's, his work is mere doggerel, enlivened by occasional vigorous couplets like—

"Wherever God erects a house of prayer,
The devil always builds a chapel there:
And 'twill be found upon examination
The latter has the largest congregation."


"No panegyric needs their praise record—
An Englishman ne'er wants his own good word."

But an examination will confirm the impression that Defoe was not a poet, as surely as the re-reading of 'Robinson Crusoe' will strengthen our hereditary belief that he was a great writer of prose.

signature (Charles F Johnson)

[Pg 4485]



Nothing can describe the confusion of thought which I felt when I sunk into the water; for though I swam very well, yet I could not deliver myself from the waves so as to draw my breath; till that wave having driven me or rather carried me a vast way on towards the shore, and having spent itself, went back, and left me upon the land almost dry, but half dead with the water I took in. I had so much presence of mind as well as breath left, that seeing myself nearer the mainland than I expected, I got upon my feet, and endeavored to make on towards the land as fast as I could, before another wave should return and take me up again; but I soon found it was impossible to avoid it; for I saw the sea coming after me as high as a great hill, and as furious as an enemy which I had no means or strength to contend with: my business was to hold my breath, and raise myself upon the water, if I could; and so by swimming to preserve my breathing, and pilot myself towards the shore if possible; my greatest concern now being that the wave, as it would carry me a great way towards the shore when it came on, might not carry me back again with it when it gave back towards the sea.

The wave that came upon me again, buried me at once twenty or thirty feet deep in its own body; and I could feel myself carried with a mighty force and swiftness towards the shore, a very great way; but I held my breath, and assisted myself to swim still forward with all my might. I was ready to burst with holding my breath, when, as I felt myself rising up, so to my immediate relief I found my head and hands shoot out above the surface of the water; and though it was not two seconds of time that I could keep myself so, yet it relieved me greatly, gave me breath and new courage. I was covered again with water a good while, but not so long but I held it out; and finding the water had spent itself, and began to return, I struck forward against the return of the waves, and felt ground again with my feet. I stood still a few moments to recover breath, and till the water went from me, and then took to my heels and ran with what strength I had farther towards the shore.[Pg 4486] But neither would this deliver me from the fury of the sea, which came pouring in after me again; and twice more I was lifted up by the waves and carried forward as before, the shore being very flat.

The last time of these two had well-nigh been fatal to me; for the sea having hurried me along as before, landed me, or rather dashed me, against a piece of rock, and that with such force that it left me senseless, and indeed helpless as to my own deliverance; for the blow taking my side and breast, beat the breath as it were quite out of my body, and had it returned again immediately I must have been strangled in the water; but I recovered a little before the return of the waves, and seeing I should again be covered with the water, I resolved to hold fast by a piece of the rock, and so to hold my breath if possible till the wave went back. Now, as the waves were not so high as the first, being nearer land, I held my hold till the wave abated, and then fetched another run, which brought me so near the shore, that the next wave, though it went over me, yet did not so swallow me up as to carry me away; and the next run I took, I got to the mainland, where to my great comfort I clambered up the cliffs of the shore, and sat me down upon the grass, free from danger and quite out of the reach of the water.

I was now landed, and safe on shore; and began to look up and thank God that my life was saved, in a case wherein there were, some minutes before, scarce any room to hope. I believe it is impossible to express, to the life, what the ecstasies and transports of the soul are when it is so saved, as I may say, out of the grave: and I did not wonder now at the custom, viz., that when a malefactor who has the halter about his neck is tied up, and just going to be turned off, and has a reprieve brought to him,—I say I do not wonder that they bring a surgeon with it, to let him blood that very moment they tell him of it; that the surprise may not drive the animal spirits from the heart and overwhelm him.

"For sudden joys, like griefs, confound at first."

I walked about the shore, lifting up my hands, and my whole being, as I may say, wrapped up in the contemplation of my deliverance; making a thousand gestures and motions which I cannot describe; reflecting upon my comrades that were drowned, and that there should not be one soul saved but myself; for as [Pg 4487]for them, I never saw them afterwards, or any sign of them, except three of the hats, one cap, and two shoes that were not fellows.


Facsimile, somewhat reduced, of the frontispiece to the first edition of

Robinson Crusoe.


The full title reads:—The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson
Crusoe, of York, Mariner: Who lived eight-and-twenty years all alone,
on an uninhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth
of the Great River of Oroonoque: Having been cast on
Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the others perished
but himself. With An Account how he
was at last as strangely deliver'd by
Pyrates. Written by Himself.

I cast my eyes to the stranded vessel—when the breach and froth of the sea being so big I could hardly see it, it lay so far off—and considered, Lord! how was it possible I could get on shore?


I soon found the place I was in was not for my settlement, particularly because it was upon a low moorish ground, near the sea, and I believed it would not be wholesome; and more particularly because there was no fresh water near it; so I resolved to find a more healthy and more convenient spot of ground.

I consulted several things in my situation which I found would be proper for me: first, air and fresh water, I just now mentioned; secondly, shelter from the heat of the sun; thirdly, security from ravenous creatures, whether men or beasts; fourthly, a view to the sea, that if God sent any ship in sight, I might not lose any advantage for my deliverance, of which I was not willing to banish all my expectation yet.

I searched for a place proper for this. I found a little plain on the side of a rising hill, whose front towards this little plain was steep as a house-side, so that nothing could come down upon me from the top. On the side of this rock there was a hollow place, worn a little way in, like the entrance or door of a cave; but there was not really any cave, or way into the rock at all.

On the flat of the green, just before this hollow place, I resolved to pitch my tent. This plain was not above a hundred yards broad, and about twice as long, and lay like a green before my door; and at the end of it descended irregularly every way down into the low ground by the seaside. It was on the N. N. W. side of the hill, so that it was sheltered from the heat every day, till it came to a W. and by S. sun, or thereabouts, which in those countries is near the setting.

Before I set up my tent I drew a half-circle before the hollow place, which took in about ten yards in its semi-diameter from the rock, and twenty yards in its diameter from its beginning and ending.

In this half-circle I pitched two rows of long stakes, driving them into the ground till they stood very firm like piles, the[Pg 4488] biggest end being out of the ground about five feet and a half, and sharpened on the top. The two rows did not stand above six inches from one another.

Then I took the pieces of cable which I cut in the ship, and laid them in rows, one upon another, within the circle between these two rows of stakes, up to the top, placing other stakes in the inside, leaning against them, about two feet and a half high, like a spur to a post: and this fence was so strong that neither man nor beast could get into it or over it. This cost me a great deal of time and labor, especially to cut the piles in the woods, bring them to the place, and drive them into the earth.

The entrance into this place I made to be not by a door, but by a short ladder to go over the top; which ladder, when I was in, I lifted over after me; and so I was completely fenced in and fortified, as I thought, from all the world, and consequently slept secure in the night, which otherwise I could not have done; though as it appeared afterwards, there was no need of all this caution against the enemies that I apprehended danger from.


It happened one day about noon, going toward my boat, I was exceedingly surprised with the print of a man's naked foot on the shore, which was very plain to be seen on the sand. I stood like one thunderstruck, or as if I had seen an apparition. I listened, I looked about me, but I could hear nothing or see anything; I went up to a rising ground to look farther; I went up the shore and down the shore, but it was all one: I could see no other impression but that one. I went to it again to see if there were any more, and to observe if it might not be my fancy; but there was no room for that, for there was exactly the print of a foot—toes, heel, and every part of a foot. How it came hither I knew not, nor could I in the least imagine; but after innumerable fluttering thoughts, like a man perfectly confused and out of myself, I came home to my fortification, not feeling, as we say, the ground I went on, but terrified to the last degree, looking behind me at every two or three steps, mistaking every bush and tree, and fancying every stump at a distance to be a man. Nor is it possible to describe how many various shapes my affrighted imagination represented things to me in, how many wild ideas were found every moment in my fancy, and[Pg 4489] what strange unaccountable whimseys came into my thoughts by the way. When I came to my castle (for so I think I called it ever after this) I fled into it like one pursued. Whether I went over by the ladder, as first contrived, or went in at the hole in the rock, which I had called a door, I cannot remember; no, nor could I remember the next morning, for never frightened hare fled to cover or fox to earth with more terror of mind than I to this retreat.



But I must go back again to the beginning of this surprising time; while the fears of the people were young, they were increased strangely by several odd incidents, which put altogether, it was really a wonder the whole body of the people did not rise as one man and abandon their dwellings, leaving the place as a space of ground designed by heaven for an Akeldama doomed to be destroyed from the face of the earth, and that all that would be found in it would perish with it. I shall name but a few of these things; but sure they were so many, and so many wizards and cunning people propagating them, that I have often wondered there was any (women especially) left behind.

In the first place, a blazing star or comet appeared for several months before the plague, as there did the year after, another, a little before the fire; the old women, and the phlegmatic hypochondriac part of the other sex, whom I could almost call the old women too, remarked, especially afterward, though not till both those judgments were over, that those two comets passed directly over the city, and that so very near the houses that it was plain they imported something peculiar to the city alone. That the comet before the pestilence was of a faint, dull, languid color, and its motion very heavy, solemn, and slow; but that the comet before the fire was bright and sparkling, or as others said, flaming, and its motion swift and furious; and that accordingly one foretold a heavy judgment, slow but severe, terrible, and frightful, as was the plague. But the other foretold a stroke, sudden, swift, and fiery, as was the conflagration; nay, so particular some people were, that as they looked upon that comet preceding the fire they fancied that they not only saw it[Pg 4490] pass swiftly and fiercely, and could perceive the motion with their eye, but they even heard it,—that it made a rushing mighty noise, fierce and terrible, though at a distance and but just perceivable.

I saw both these stars, and I must confess, had had so much of the common notion of such things in my head that I was apt to look upon them as the forerunners and warnings of God's judgments; and especially when the plague had followed the first, I saw yet another of the like kind, I could not but say, God had not yet sufficiently scourged the city.

The apprehensions of the people were likewise strangely increased by the error of the times, in which I think the people, from what principle I cannot imagine, were more addicted to prophecies and astrological conjurations, dreams, and old wives' tales, than ever they were before or since: whether this unhappy temper was originally raised by the follies of some people who got money by it,—that is to say, by printing predictions and prognostications,—I know not; but certain it is, books frighted them terribly; such as 'Lily's Almanack,' 'Gadbury's Astrological Predictions,' 'Poor Robin's Almanack,' and the like; also several pretended religious books, one entitled, 'Come out of Her, my People, lest Ye be Partakers of her Plagues'; another called 'Fair Warning'; another, 'Britain's Remembrancer'; and many such, all or most part of which foretold, directly or covertly, the ruin of the city; nay, some were so enthusiastically bold as to run about the streets with their oral predictions, pretending they were sent to preach to the city; and one in particular, who like Jonah to Nineveh, cried in the streets, "Yet forty days, and London shall be destroyed." I will not be positive whether he said forty days or yet a few days. Another ran about naked, except a pair of drawers about his waist, crying day and night, like a man that Josephus mentions, who cried, "Woe to Jerusalem!" a little before the destruction of that city; so this poor naked creature cried, "Oh! the great and the dreadful God!" and said no more, but repeated those words continually, with a voice and countenance full of horror, a swift pace; and nobody could ever find him to stop, or rest, or take any sustenance, at least that ever I could hear of. I met this poor creature several times in the streets, and would have spoken to him, but he would not enter into speech with me or any one else, but kept on his dismal cries continually.[Pg 4491]

These things terrified the people to the last degree; and especially when two or three times, as I have mentioned already, they found one or two in the hills, dead of the plague at St. Giles's.

Next to these public things were the dreams of old women; or I should say, the interpretation of old women upon other people's dreams; and these put abundance of people even out of their wits. Some heard voices warning them to be gone, for that there would be such a plague in London, so that the living would not be able to bury the dead; others saw apparitions in the air; and I must be allowed to say of both, I hope without breach of charity, that they heard voices that never spake, and saw sights that never appeared; but the imagination of the people was really turned wayward and possessed; and no wonder if they who were poring continually at the clouds saw shapes and figures, representations and appearances, which had nothing in them but air and vapor. Here they told us they saw a flaming sword held in a hand, coming out of a cloud, with a point hanging directly over the city. There they saw hearses and coffins in the air carrying to be buried. And there again, heaps of dead bodies lying unburied and the like; just as the imagination of the poor terrified people furnished them with matter to work upon.

"So hypochondriac fancies represent
Ships, armies, battles in the firmament;
Till steady eyes the exhalations solve,
And all to its first matter, cloud, resolve."

I could fill this account with the strange relations such people give every day of what they have seen; and every one was so positive of their having seen what they pretended to see, that there was no contradicting them without breach of friendship, or being accounted rude and unmannerly on the one hand and profane and impenetrable on the other. One time before the plague was begun, otherwise than as I have said in St. Giles's,—I think it was in March,—seeing a crowd of people in the street I joined with them to satisfy my curiosity, and found them all staring up into the air to see what a woman told them appeared plain to her, which was an angel clothed in white, with a fiery sword in his hand, waving it or brandishing it over his head. She described every part of the figure to the life, showed them the[Pg 4492] motion and the form, and the poor people came into it so eagerly and with so much readiness: "Yes! I see it all plainly," says one, "there's the sword as plain as can be;" another saw the angel; one saw his very face, and cried out what a glorious creature he was! One saw one thing, and one another. I looked as earnestly as the rest, but perhaps not with so much willingness to be imposed upon; and I said indeed that I could see nothing but a white cloud, bright on one side by the shining of the sun upon the other part. The woman endeavored to show it me, but could not make me confess that I saw it, which indeed if I had, I must have lied; but the woman turning to me looked me in the face and fancied I laughed, in which her imagination deceived her too, for I really did not laugh, but was seriously reflecting how the poor people were terrified by the force of their own imagination. However, she turned to me, called me a profane fellow and a scoffer, told me that it was a time of God's anger, and dreadful judgments were approaching, and that despisers such as I should wander and perish.

The people about her seemed disgusted as well as she, and I found there was no persuading them that I did not laugh at them, and that I should be rather mobbed by them than be able to undeceive them. So I left them, and this appearance passed for as real as the blazing star itself.

Another encounter I had in the open day also; and this was in going through a narrow passage from Petty France into Bishopsgate Churchyard, by a row of almshouses. There are two churchyards to Bishopsgate Church or parish; one we go over to pass from the place called Petty France into Bishopsgate Street, coming out just by the church door; the other is on the side of the narrow passage where the almshouses are on the left, and a dwarf wall with a palisade on it on the right hand, and the city wall on the other side more to the right.

In this narrow passage stands a man looking through the palisades into the burying-place, and as many people as the narrowness of the place would admit to stop without hindering the passage of others; and he was talking mighty eagerly to them, and pointing now to one place, then to another, and affirming that he saw a ghost walking upon such a gravestone there: he described the shape, the posture, and the movement of it so exactly, that it was the greatest amazement to him in the world that everybody did not see it as well as he. On a sudden he[Pg 4493] would cry, "There it is! Now it comes this way!" then, "'Tis turned back!" till at length he persuaded the people into so firm a belief of it, that one fancied he saw it; and thus he came every day making a strange hubbub, considering it was so narrow a passage, till Bishopsgate clock struck eleven, and then the ghost would seem to start, and as if he were called away, disappear on a sudden.

I looked earnestly every way and at the very moment that this man directed, but could not see the least appearance of anything; but so positive was this poor man that he gave them vapors in abundance, and sent them away trembling and frightened, till at length few people that knew of it cared to go through that passage, and hardly anybody by night on any account whatever.

This ghost, as the poor man affirmed, made signs to the houses, and to the ground, and to the people, plainly intimating, or else they so understanding it, that abundance of people should come to be buried in that churchyard, as indeed happened; but that he saw such aspects, I must acknowledge I never believed, nor could I see anything of it myself, though I looked most earnestly to see it if possible.


I cannot omit a subtlety of one of those quack operators, with which he gulled the poor people to crowd about him, but did nothing for them without money. He had, it seems, added to his bills which he gave out in the streets, this advertisement in capital letters; viz., "He gives advice to the poor for nothing."

Abundance of people came to him accordingly, to whom he made a great many fine speeches, examined them of the state of their health and of the constitution of their bodies, and told them many good things to do which were of no great moment; but the issue and conclusion of all was, that he had a preparation which, if they took such a quantity of every morning, he would pawn his life that they should never have the plague,—no, though they lived in the house with people that were infected. This made the people all resolve to have it; but then the price of that was so much,—I think it was half a crown. "But, sir," says one poor woman, "I am a poor almswoman, and am kept by the parish, and your bills say you give the poor your help for[Pg 4494] nothing." "Ay, good woman," says the doctor, "so I do, as I published there; I give my advice, but not my physic!" "Alas, sir," says she, "that is a snare laid for the poor then, for you give them your advice for nothing: that is to say, you advise them gratis, to buy your physic for their money; so does every shopkeeper with his wares." Here the woman began to give him ill words, and stood at his door all that day, telling her tale to all the people that came, till the doctor, finding she turned away his customers, was obliged to call her up-stairs again and give her his box of physic for nothing, which perhaps too was good for nothing when she had it.


This shutting up of houses was at first counted a very cruel and unchristian method, and the poor people so confined made bitter lamentations; complaints of the severity of it were also daily brought to my lord mayor, of houses causelessly and some maliciously shut up; I cannot say, but upon inquiry, many that complained so loudly were found in a condition to be continued; and others again, inspection being made upon the sick person and the sickness not appearing infectious, or if uncertain, yet on his being content to be carried to the pest-house, was released.

As I went along Houndsditch one morning about eight o'clock there was a great noise; it is true indeed that there was not much crowd, because the people were not very free to gather together, or to stay together when they were there, nor did I stay long there; but the outcry was loud enough to prompt my curiosity, and I called to one who looked out of a window, and asked what was the matter.

A watchman, it seems, had been employed to keep his post at the door of a house which was infected, or said to be infected, and was shut up; he had been there all night for two nights together, as he told his story, and the day watchman had been there one day, and was now come to relieve him; all this while no noise had been heard in the house, no light had been seen, they called for nothing, sent him on no errands, which used to be the chief business of the watchman, neither had they given him any disturbance, as he said, from Monday afternoon, when he heard a great crying and screaming in the house, which as he supposed was occasioned by some of the family dying just at[Pg 4495] that time. It seems the night before, the dead-cart, as it was called, had been stopt there, and a servant-maid had been brought down to the door dead, and the buriers or bearers, as they were called, put her into the cart, wrapped only in a green rug, and carried her away.

The watchman had knocked at the door, it seems, when he heard that noise and crying as above, and nobody answered a great while; but at last one looked out and said with an angry quick tone, and yet a kind of crying voice, or a voice of one that was crying, "What d'ye want, that you make such a knocking?" He answered, "I am the watchman; how do you do? What is the matter?" The person answered, "What is that to you? Stop the dead-cart." This, it seems, was about one o'clock; soon after, as the fellow said, he stopped the dead-cart, and then knocked again, but nobody answered; he continued knocking, and the bellman called out several times, "Bring out your dead;" but nobody answered, till the man that drove the cart, being called to other houses, would stay no longer, and drove away.

The watchman knew not what to make of all this, so he let them alone till the morning man, or day watchman, as they called him, came to relieve him. Giving him an account of the particulars, they knocked at the door a great while, but nobody answered, and they observed that the window or casement at which the person looked out who had answered before, continued open, being up two pair of stairs.

Upon this the two men, to satisfy their curiosity, got a long ladder, and one of them went up to the window and looked into the room, where he saw a woman lying dead upon the floor in a dismal manner, having no clothes on her but her shift; but though he called aloud, and putting in his long staff, knocked hard on the floor, yet nobody stirred or answered; neither could he hear any noise in the house.

He came down upon this, and acquainted his fellow, who went up also, and finding it just so, they resolved to acquaint either the lord mayor or some other magistrate of it, but did not offer to go in at the window. The magistrate, it seems, upon the information of the two men ordered the house to be broken open, a constable and other persons being appointed to be present, that nothing might be plundered; and accordingly it was so done, when nobody was found in the house but that young woman, who having been infected and past recovery, the[Pg 4496] rest had left her to die by herself, and every one gone, having found some way to delude the watchman and to get open the door, or get out at some back door, or over the tops of the houses, so that he knew nothing of it; and as to those cries and shrieks which he heard, it was supposed they were the passionate cries of the family at this bitter parting, which to be sure it was to them all, this being the sister to the mistress of the family. The man of the house, his wife, several children and servants, being all gone and fled; whether sick or sound, that I could never learn, nor indeed did I make much inquiry after it.


Here we may observe, and I hope it will not be amiss to take notice of it, that a near view of death would soon reconcile men of good principles one to another, and that it is chiefly owing to our easy situation in life, and our putting these things far from us, that our breaches are fomented, ill blood continued, prejudices, breach of charity and of Christian union so much kept and so far carried on among us as it is: another plague year would reconcile all these differences; a close conversing with death or with diseases that threaten death would scum off the gall from our tempers, remove the animosities among us, and bring us to see with differing eyes than those which we looked on things before; as the people who had been used to join with the church were reconciled at this time with the admitting the Dissenters, who with an uncommon prejudice had broken off from the communion of the Church of England, were now content to come to their parish churches, and to conform to the worship which they did not approve of before; but as the terror of the infection abated, those things all returned again to their less desirable channel, and to the course they were in before.

I mention this but historically. I have no mind to enter into arguments to move either or both sides to a more charitable compliance one with another; I do not see that it is probable such a discourse would be either suitable or successful; the breaches seem rather to widen, and tend to a widening farther than to closing; and who am I that I should think myself able to influence either one side or the other? But this I may repeat again, that it is evident death will reconcile us all—on the other side the grave we shall be all brethren again; in heaven, whither[Pg 4497] I hope we may come from all parties and persuasions, we shall find neither prejudice nor scruple; there we shall be of one principle and of one opinion. Why we cannot be content to go hand in hand to the place where we shall join heart and hand, without the least hesitation and with the most complete harmony and affection; I say, why we cannot do so here, I can say nothing to, neither shall I say anything more of it but that it remains to be lamented.


This [38,195 deaths in about a month] was a prodigious number of itself; but if I should add the reasons which I have to believe that this account was deficient, and how deficient it was, you would with me make no scruple to believe that there died above 10,000 a week for all those weeks, and a proportion for several weeks both before and after. The confusion among the people, especially within the city, at that time was inexpressible; the terror was so great at last that the courage of the people appointed to carry away the dead began to fail them; nay, several of them died, although they had the distemper before, and were recovered; and some of them dropped down when they had been carrying the bodies even at the pitside, and just ready to throw them in; and this confusion was greater in the city, because they had flattered themselves with hopes of escaping, and thought the bitterness of death was past. One cart, they told us, going up to Shoreditch, was forsaken by the drivers, or being left to one man to drive, he died in the street; and the horses, going on, overthrew the cart and left the bodies, some thrown here, some there, in a dismal manner. Another cart was, it seems, found in the great pit in Finsbury Fields, the driver being dead, or having been gone and abandoned it; and the horses running too near it, the cart fell in and drew the horses in also. It was suggested that the driver was thrown in with it and that the cart fell upon him, by reason his whip was seen to be in the pit among the bodies; but that, I suppose, could not be certain.

In our parish of Aldgate the dead-carts were several times, as I have heard, found standing at the churchyard gate, full of dead bodies; but neither bellman, nor driver, nor any one else with it. Neither in these nor in many other cases did they know what bodies they had in their cart, for sometimes they were let down with ropes out of balconies and out of windows; and sometimes[Pg 4498] the bearers brought them to the cart, sometimes other people; nor, as the men themselves said, did they trouble themselves to keep any account of the numbers.


I would be far from lessening the awe of the judgments of God, and the reverence to his Providence, which ought always to be on our minds on such occasions as these; doubtless the visitation itself is a stroke from heaven upon a city, or country, or nation where it falls, a messenger of his vengeance, and a loud call to that nation, or country, or city, to humiliation and repentance, according to that of the prophet Jeremiah, xviii. 7, 8: "At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom to pluck up, and pull down, and destroy it; if that nation against whom I have pronounced turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them." Now to prompt due impressions of the awe of God on the minds of men on such occasions, and not to lessen them, it is that I have left those minutes upon record.

I say, therefore, I reflect upon no man for putting the reason of those things upon the immediate hand of God, and the appointment and direction of his Providence; nay, on the contrary there were many wonderful deliverances of persons when infected, which intimate singular and remarkable Providence in the particular instances to which they refer; and I esteem my own deliverance to be one next to miraculous, and do record it with thankfulness.

But when I am speaking of the plague as a distemper arising from natural causes, we must consider it as it was really propagated by natural means; nor is it at all the less a judgment for its being under the conduct of human causes and effects: for as the Divine power has formed the whole scheme of nature, and maintains nature in its course, so the same power thinks fit to let his own actings with men, whether of mercy or judgment, to go on in the ordinary course of natural causes, and he is pleased to act by those natural causes as the ordinary means; excepting and reserving to himself nevertheless a power to act in a supernatural way when he sees occasion. Now it is evident that in the case of an infection there is no apparent extraordinary occasion for supernatural operation, but the ordinary course of things[Pg 4499] appears sufficiently armed and made capable of all the effects that heaven usually directs by a contagion. Among these causes and effects, this of the secret conveyance of infection, imperceptible and unavoidable, is more than sufficient to execute the fierceness of Divine vengeance, without putting it upon supernaturals and miracles.

This acute penetrating nature of the disease itself was such, and the infection was received so imperceptibly, that the most exact caution could not secure us while in the place; but I must be allowed to believe,—and I have so many examples fresh in my memory to convince me of it that I think none can resist their evidence,—I say, I must be allowed to believe that no one in this whole nation ever received the sickness or infection but who received it in the ordinary way of infection from somebody, or the clothes, or touch, or stench of somebody that was infected before.


Before people came to right notions of the infection, and of infecting one another, people were only shy of those that were really sick; a man with a cap upon his head, or with cloths round his neck, which was the case of those that had swellings there,—such was indeed frightful. But when we saw a gentleman dressed, with his band on, and his gloves in his hand, his hat upon his head, and his hair combed, of such we had not the least apprehensions, and people conversed a great while freely, especially with their neighbors and such as they knew. But when the physicians assured us that the danger was as well from the sound,—that is, the seemingly sound,—as the sick, and that those people that thought themselves entirely free were oftentimes the most fatal; and that it came to be generally understood that people were sensible of it, and of the reason of it; then, I say, they began to be jealous of everybody, and a vast number of people locked themselves up so as not to come abroad into any company at all, nor suffer any that had been abroad in promiscuous company to come into their houses or near them; at least not so near them as to be within the reach of their breath or of any smell from them; and when they were obliged to converse at a distance with strangers, they would always have preservatives in their mouths, and about their clothes, to repel and keep off the infection.[Pg 4500]

It must be acknowledged that when people began to use these cautions, they were less exposed to danger, and the infection did not break into such houses so furiously as it did into others before; and thousands of families were preserved, speaking with due reserve to the direction of divine Providence, by that means.

But it was impossible to beat anything into the heads of the poor; they went on with the usual impetuosity of their tempers, full of outcries and lamentations when taken, but madly careless of themselves, foolhardy and obstinate, while they were well. Where they could get employment, they pushed into any kind of business, the most dangerous and the most liable to infection; and if they were spoken to, their answer would be:—"I must trust in God for that; if I am taken, then I am provided for, and there is an end of me;" and the like. Or thus:—"Why, what must I do? I cannot starve; I had as good have the plague as perish for want; I have no work, what could I do? I must do this or beg." Suppose it was burying the dead, or attending the sick, or watching infected houses, which were all terrible hazards; but their tale was generally the same. It is true, necessity was a justifiable, warrantable plea, and nothing could be better; but their way of talk was much the same where the necessities were not the same. This adventurous conduct of the poor was that which brought the plague among them in a most furious manner; and this, joined to the distress of their circumstances when taken, was the reason why they died so by heaps; for I cannot say I could observe one jot of better husbandry among them,—I mean the laboring poor,—while they were all well and getting money, than there was before, but as lavish, as extravagant, and as thoughtless for to-morrow as ever; so that when they came to be taken sick, they were immediately in the utmost distress, as well for want as for sickness, as well for lack of food as lack of health.[Pg 4501]



We had not parleyed thus long, but though in the dead of the night, came a man to the other inn door—for as I said above, there are two inns at that place—and called for a pot of beer; but the people were all in bed, and would not rise; he asked them if they had seen two fellows come that way upon one horse. The man said he had; that they went by in the afternoon, and asked the way to Cambridge, but did not stop only to drink one mug. "Oh!" says he, "are they gone to Cambridge? Then I'll be with them quickly." I was awake in a little garret of the next inn, where we lodged; and hearing the fellow call at the door, got up and went to the window, having some uneasiness at every noise I heard; and by that means heard the whole story. Now the case is plain, our hour was not come; our fate had determined other things for us, and we were to be reserved for it. The matter was thus:—When we first came to Bournbridge we called at the first house and asked the way to Cambridge, drank a mug of beer, and went on, and they might see us turn off to go the way they directed; but night coming on, and we being very weary, we thought we should not find the way; and we came back in the dusk of the evening and went into the other house, being the first as we came back, as that where we called before was the first as we went forward.

You may be sure I was alarmed now, as indeed I had reason to be. The Captain was in bed and fast asleep, but I wakened him, and roused him with a noise that frighted him enough. "Rise, Jack," said I, "we are both ruined; they are come after us hither." Indeed, I was wrong to terrify him at that rate; for he started and jumped out of bed and ran directly to the window, not knowing where he was, and not quite awake, was just going to jump out of the window, but I laid hold of him. "What are you going to do?" says I. "I won't be taken," says he; "let me alone; where are they?"

This was all confusion; and he was so out of himself with the fright, and being overcome with sleep, that I had much to do to prevent his jumping out of the window. However, I held him fast and thoroughly wakened him, and then all was well again and he was presently composed.[Pg 4502]

Then I told him the story, and we sat together upon the bedside, considering what we should do; upon the whole, as the fellow that called was apparently gone to Cambridge, we had nothing to fear, but to be quiet till daybreak, and then to mount and be gone.

Accordingly, as soon as day peeped we were up; and having happily informed ourselves of the road at the other house, and being told that the road to Cambridge turned off on the left hand, and that the road to Newmarket lay straight forward: I say, having learnt this, the Captain told me he would walk away on foot towards Newmarket, and so when I came to go out I should appear as a single traveler; and accordingly he went out immediately, and away he walked, and he traveled so hard that when I came to follow I thought once that he had dropped me, for though I rode hard, I got no sight of him for an hour. At length, having passed the great bank called the Devil's Ditch, I found him and took him up behind me, and we rode double till we came almost to the end of Newmarket town. Just at the hither house in the town stood a horse at a door, just as it was at Puckeridge. "Now," says Jack, "if the horse was at the other end of the town I would have him, as sure as we had the other at Puckeridge;" but it would not do; so he got down, and walked through the town on the right-hand side of the way.

He had not got half through the town, but the horse, having somehow or other got loose, came trotting gently on by himself, and nobody following him. The Captain, an old soldier at such work, as soon as the horse was got a pretty way before him, and that he saw nobody followed, sets up a run after the horse, and the horse, hearing him follow, ran the faster; then the Captain calls out, "Stop the horse!" and by this time the horse was got almost to the farther end of the town; the people of the house where he stood not missing him all the while.

Upon his calling out "Stop the horse!" the poor people of the town, such as were next at hand, ran from both sides of the way and stopped the horse for him, as readily as could be, and held him for him till he came up; he very gravely comes up to the horse, hits him a blow or two, and calls him "dog" for running away; gives the man twopence that catched him for him, mounts, and away he comes after me.

This was the oddest adventure that could have happened, for the horse stole the Captain, the Captain did not steal the horse.[Pg 4503] When he came up to me, "Now, Colonel Jack," says he, "what do you say to good luck? Would you have had me refuse the horse, when he came so civilly to ask me to ride?"—"No, no," said I; "you have got this horse by your wit, not by design; and you may go on now, I think; you are in a safer condition than I am, if we are taken."


We arrived here very easy and safe, and while we were considering of what way we should travel next, we found we were got to a point, and that there was no way now left but that by the Washes into Lincolnshire, and that was represented as very dangerous; so an opportunity offering of a man that was traveling over the fens, we took him for our guide, and went with him to Spalding, and from thence to a town called Deeping, and so to Stamford in Lincolnshire.

This is a large populous town, and it was market day when we came to it; so we put in at a little house at the hither end of the town, and walked into the town. Here it was not possible to restrain my Captain from playing his feats of art, and my heart ached for him; I told him I would not go with him, for he would not promise to leave off, and I was so terribly concerned at the apprehensions of his venturous humor that I would not so much as stir out of my lodging; but it was in vain to persuade him. He went into the market and found a mountebank there, which was what he wanted. How he picked two pockets there in one quarter of an hour, and brought to our quarters a piece of new holland of eight or nine ells, a piece of stuff, and played three or four pranks more in less than two hours; and how afterwards he robbed a doctor of physic, and yet came off clear in them: all this, I say, as above, belongs to his story, not mine.

I scolded heartily at him when he came back, and told him he would certainly ruin himself and me too before he left off, and threatened in so many words that I would leave him and go back, and carry the horse to Puckeridge, where we borrowed it, and so go to London by myself.

He promised amendment, but as we resolved (now we were in the great road) to travel by night, so, it being not yet night, he gives me the slip again; and was not gone half an hour, but he comes back with a gold watch in his hand. "Come," says he,[Pg 4504] "why ain't you ready? I am ready to go as soon as you will:" and with that he pulls out the gold watch. I was amazed at such a thing as that in a country town; but it seems there were prayers at one of the churches in the evening, and he, placing himself as the occasion directed, found the way to be so near a lady as to get it from her side, and walked off with it unperceived.

The same night we went away by moonlight, after having the satisfaction to hear the watch cried, and ten guineas offered for it again; he would have been glad of the ten guineas instead of the watch, but durst not venture to carry it home. "Well," says I, "you are afraid, and indeed you have reason; give it to me; I will venture to carry it again;" but he would not let me, but told me that when we came into Scotland we might sell anything there without danger; which was true indeed, for there they asked us no questions.

We set out, as I said, in the evening by moonlight, and traveled hard, the road being very plain and large, till we came to Grantham, by which time it was about two in the morning, and all the town as it were dead asleep; so we went on for Newark, where we reached about eight in the morning, and there we lay down and slept most of the day; and by this sleeping so continually in the daytime, I kept him from doing a great deal of mischief which he would otherwise have done.


We soon found a house proper for our dwelling, and so went to housekeeping; we had not been long together but I found that gay temper of my wife returned, and she threw off the mask of her gravity and good conduct that I had so long fancied was her mere natural disposition, and now, having no more occasion for disguises, she resolved to seem nothing but what she really was, a wild untamed colt, perfectly loose, and careless to conceal any part, no, not the worst of her conduct.

She carried on this air of levity to such an excess that I could not but be dissatisfied at the expense of it, for she kept company that I did not like, lived beyond what I could support, and sometimes lost at play more than I cared to pay; upon which one day I took occasion to mention it, but lightly, and[Pg 4505] said to her by way of raillery that we lived merrily for as long as it would last. She turned short upon me: "What do you mean?" says she; "why, you do not pretend to be uneasy, do ye?" "No, no, madam, not I, by no means; it is no business of mine, you know," said I, "to inquire what my wife spends, or whether she spends more than I can afford, or less; I only desire the favor to know, as near as you can guess, how long you will please to take to dispatch me, for I would not be too long a-dying."

"I do not know what you talk of," says she. "You may die as leisurely or as hastily as you please, when your time comes; I ain't a-going to kill you, as I know of."

"But you are going to starve me, madam," said I; "and hunger is as leisurely a death as breaking upon the wheel."

"I starve you! why, are not you a great Virginia merchant, and did not I bring you £1500? What would you have? Sure, you can maintain a wife out of that, can't you?"

"Yes, madam," says I, "I could maintain a wife, but not a gamester, though you had brought me £1500 a year; no estate is big enough for a box and dice."

She took fire at that, and flew out in a passion, and after a great many bitter words told me in short that she saw no occasion to alter her conduct; and as for not maintaining her, when I could not maintain her longer she would find some way or other to maintain herself.

Some time after the first rattle of this kind she vouchsafed to let me know that she was pleased to be with child; I was at first glad of it, in hopes it would help to abate her madness; but it was all one, and her being with child only added to the rest, for she made such preparations for her lying-in, and other appendixes of a child's being born, that in short I found she would be downright distracted; and I took the liberty to tell her one day she would soon bring herself and me to destruction, and entreated her to consider that such figures as those were quite above us and out of our circle; and in short, that I neither could nor would allow such expenses; that at this rate two or three children would effectually ruin me, and that I desired her to consider what she was doing.

She told me with an air of disdain that it was none of her business to consider anything of that matter; that if I could not allow it she would allow it herself, and I might do my worst.[Pg 4506]

I begged her to consider things for all that, and not drive me to extremities; that I married her to love and cherish her, and use her as a good wife ought to be used, but not to be ruined and undone by her. In a word, nothing could mollify her, nor any argument persuade her to moderation; but withal she took it so heinously that I should pretend to restrain her, that she told me in so many words she would drop her burthen with me, and then if I did not like it she would take care of herself; she would not live with me an hour, for she would not be restrained, not she; and talked a long while at that rate.

I told her, as to her child, which she called her burthen, it should be no burthen to me; as to the rest she might do as she pleased; it might however do me this favor, that I should have no more lyings-in at the rate of £136 at a time, as I found she intended it should be now. She told me she could not tell that; if she had no more by me, she hoped she should by somebody else. "Say you so, madam?" said I; "then they that get them shall keep them." She did not know that neither, she said, and so turned it off jeering, and as it were laughing at me.

This last discourse nettled me, I must confess, and the more because I had a great deal of it and very often; till, in short, we began at length to enter into a friendly treaty about parting.

Nothing could be more criminal than the several discourses we had upon this subject; she demanded a separate maintenance, and in particular, at the rate of £300 a year; and I demanded security of her that she should not run me in debt; she demanding the keeping of the child, with an allowance of £100 a year for that, and I demanding that I should be secured from being charged for keeping any she might have by somebody else, as she had threatened me.

In the interval, and during these contests, she dropped her burthen (as she called it), and brought me a son, a very fine child.

She was content during her lying-in to abate a little, though it was but a very little indeed, of the great expense she had intended; and with some difficulty and persuasion was content with a suit of child-bed linen of £15 instead of one she had intended of threescore; and this she magnified as a particular testimony of her condescension, and a yielding to my avaricious temper, as she called it.[Pg 4507]


From 'The Modern History of the Devil'

Nor will I undertake to tell you, till I have talked farther with him about it, how far the Devil is concerned to discover frauds, detect murders, reveal secrets, and especially to tell where any money is hid, and show folks where to find it; it is an odd thing that Satan should think it of consequence to come and tell us where such a miser hid a strong box, or where such an old woman buried her chamberpot full of money, the value of all which is perhaps but a trifle, when, at the same time he lets so many veins of gold, so many unexhausted mines, nay, mountains of silver (as we may depend on it are hid in the bowels of the earth, and which it would be so much to the good of whole nations to discover), lie still there, and never say one word of them to anybody. Besides, how does the Devil's doing things so foreign to himself, and so out of his way, agree with the rest of his character; namely, showing a friendly disposition to mankind, or doing beneficent things? This is so beneath Satan's quality, and looks so little, that I scarce know what to say to it; but that which is still more pungent in the case is, these things are so out of his road, and so foreign to his calling, that it shocks our faith in them, and seems to clash with all the just notions we have of him and of his business in the world. The like is to be said of those merry little turns we bring him in acting with us and upon us upon trifling and simple occasions, such as tumbling chairs and stools about house, setting pots and kettles bottom upward, tossing the glass and crockery-ware about without breaking, and such-like mean foolish things, beneath the dignity of the Devil, who in my opinion is rather employed in setting the world with the bottom upward, tumbling kings and crowns about, and dashing the nations one against another; raising tempests and storms, whether at sea or on shore; and in a word, doing capital mischiefs, suitable to his nature and agreeable to his name Devil, and suited to that circumstance of his condition which I have fully represented in the primitive part of his exiled state.

But to bring in the Devil playing at push-pin with the world, or like Domitian, catching flies,—that is to say, doing nothing to[Pg 4508] the purpose,—this is not only deluding ourselves, but putting a slur upon the Devil himself; and I say, I shall not dishonor Satan so much as to suppose anything in it; however, as I must have a care to how I take away the proper materials of winter-evening frippery, and leave the goodwives nothing of the Devil to frighten the children with, I shall carry the weighty point no farther. No doubt the Devil and Dr. Faustus were very intimate; I should rob you of a very significant proverb if I should so much as doubt it. No doubt the Devil showed himself in the glass to that fair lady who looked in to see where to place her patches; but then it should follow too that the Devil is an enemy to the ladies wearing patches, and that has some difficulties in it which we cannot easily reconcile; but we must tell the story, and leave out the consequences.


From 'An Appeal to Honor and Justice'

I hope the time has come at last when the voice of moderate principles may be heard. Hitherto the noise has been so great, and the prejudices and passions of men so strong, that it had been but in vain to offer at any argument, or for any man to talk of giving a reason for his actions; and this alone has been the cause why, when other men, who I think have less to say in their own defense, are appealing to the public and struggling to defend themselves, I alone have been silent under the infinite clamors and reproaches, causeless curses, unusual threatenings, and the most unjust and unjurious treatment in the world.

I hear much of people's calling out to punish the guilty, but very few are concerned to clear the innocent. I hope some will be inclined to judge impartially, and have yet reserved so much of the Christian as to believe, and at least to hope, that a rational creature cannot abandon himself so as to act without some reason, and are willing not only to have me defend myself, but to be able to answer for me where they hear me causelessly insulted by others, and therefore are willing to have such just arguments put into their mouths as the cause will bear.

As for those who are prepossessed, and according to the modern justice of parties are resolved to be so, let them go; I[Pg 4509] am not arguing with them, but against them; they act so contrary to justice, to reason, to religion, so contrary to the rules of Christians and of good manners, that they are not to be argued with, but to be exposed or entirely neglected. I have a receipt against all the uneasiness which it may be supposed to give me, and that is, to contemn slander, and think it not worth the least concern; neither should I think it worth while to give any answer to it, if it were not on some other accounts, of which I shall speak as I go on. If any young man ask me why I am in such haste to publish this matter at this time, among many other good reasons which I could give, these are some:—

1. I think I have long enough been made Fabula Vulgi, and borne the weight of general slander; and I should be wanting to truth, to my family, and to myself, if I did not give a fair and true state of my conduct, for impartial men to judge of when I am no more in being to answer for myself.

2. By the hints of mortality, and by the infirmities of a life of sorrow and fatigue, I have reason to think I am not a great way off from, if not very near to, the great ocean of eternity, and the time may not be long ere I embark on the last voyage. Wherefore I think I should even accounts with this world before I go, that no actions [slanders] may lie against my heirs, executors, administrators, and assigns, to disturb them in the peaceable possession of their father's [character] inheritance.

3. I fear—God grant I have not a second sight in it—that this lucid interval of temper and moderation which shines, though dimly too, upon us at this time, will be of but short continuance; and that some men, who know not how to use the advantage God has put into their hands with moderation, will push, in spite of the best Prince in the world, at such extravagant things, and act with such an intemperate forwardness, as will revive the heats and animosities which wise and good men were in hopes should be allayed by the happy accession of the King to the throne.

It is and ever was my opinion, that moderation is the only virtue by which the peace and tranquillity of this nation can be preserved. Even the King himself—I believe his Majesty will allow me that freedom—can only be happy in the enjoyment of the crown by a moderative administration. If his Majesty should be obliged, contrary to his known disposition, to join with intemperate councils, if it does not lessen his security I am persuaded[Pg 4510] it will lessen his satisfaction. It cannot be pleasant or agreeable, and I think it cannot be safe, to any just prince to rule over a divided people, split into incensed and exasperated parties. Though a skillful mariner may have courage to master a tempest, and goes fearless through a storm, yet he can never be said to delight in the danger; a fresh fair gale and a quiet sea is the pleasure of his voyage, and we have a saying worth notice to them that are otherwise minded,—"Quit ama periculum, periebat in illo."


From "Everybody's Business is Nobody's Business"

Besides, the fear of spoiling their clothes makes them afraid of household work, so that in a little time we shall have none but chambermaids and nurserymaids; and of this let me give you one instance. My family is composed of myself and sister, a man and maid; and being without the last, a young wench came to hire herself. The man was gone out, and my sister above-stairs, so I opened the door myself, and this person presented herself to my view, dressed completely, more like a visitor than a servant-maid; she, not knowing me, asked for my sister. "Pray, madam," said I, "be pleased to walk into the parlor; she shall wait on you presently." Accordingly I handed madam in, who took it very cordially. After some apology I left her alone for a minute or two, while I, stupid wretch! ran up to my sister and told her there was a gentlewoman below come to visit her. "Dear brother," said she, "don't leave her alone; go down and entertain her while I dress myself." Accordingly down I went, and talked of indifferent affairs; meanwhile my sister dressed herself all over again, not being willing to be seen in an undress. At last she came down dressed as clean as her visitor; but how great was my surprise when I found my fine lady a common servant-wench.

My sister, understanding what she was, began to inquire what wages she expected. She modestly asked but eight pounds a year. The next question was, "What work she could do to deserve such wages?" to which she answered she could clean a house, or dress a common family dinner. "But cannot you wash," replied my sister, "or get up linen?" She answered in the[Pg 4511] negative, and said she would undertake neither, nor would she go into a family that did not put out their linen to wash and hire a charwoman to scour. She desired to see the house, and having carefully surveyed it, said the work was too hard for her, nor could she undertake it. This put my sister beyond all patience, and me into the greatest admiration. "Young woman," she said, "you have made a mistake; I want a housemaid, and you are a chambermaid." "No, madam," replied she, "I am not needlewoman enough for that." "And yet you ask eight pounds a year," replied my sister. "Yes, madam," said she, "nor shall I bate a farthing." "Then get you gone for a lazy impudent baggage," said I; "you want to be a boarder, not a servant; have you a fortune or estate, that you dress at that rate?" "No, sir," said she, "but I hope I may wear what I work for without offense." "What! you work?" interrupted my sister; "why, you do not seem willing to undertake any work; you will not wash nor scour; you cannot dress a dinner for company; you are no needlewoman; and our little house of two rooms on a floor is too much for you. For God's sake, what can you do?" "Madam," replied she pertly, "I know my business, and do not fear service; there are more places than parish churches: if you wash at home, you should have a laundrymaid; if you give entertainments, you must have a cookmaid; if you have any needlework, you should have a chambermaid; and such a house as this is enough for a housemaid, in all conscience."

I was so pleased at the wit, and astonished at the impudence of the girl, so dismissed her with thanks for her instructions, assuring her that when I kept four maids she should be housemaid if she pleased.


From 'The True-Born Englishman'

Wherever God erects a house of prayer,
The Devil always builds a chapel there;
And 'twill be found upon examination,
The latter has the largest congregation.
For ever since he first debauched the mind,
He made a perfect conquest of mankind.
With uniformity of service, he
[Pg 4512]Reigns with general aristocracy.
No non-conforming sects disturb his reign,
For of his yoke there's very few complain.
He knows the genius and the inclination,
And matches proper sins for every nation.
He needs no standing army government;
He always rules us by our own consent;
His laws are easy, and his gentle sway
Makes it exceeding pleasant to obey.
The list of his vicegerents and commanders
Outdoes your Cæsars or your Alexanders.
They never fail of his infernal aid,
And he's as certain ne'er to be betrayed.
Through all the world they spread his vast command,
And death's eternal empire is maintained.
They rule so politicly and so well,
As if they were Lords Justices of hell;
Duly divided to debauch mankind,
And plant infernal dictates in his mind.


From 'The Storm'

For in the darkest of the black abode
There's not a devil but believes a God.
Old Lucifer has sometimes tried
To have himself deified;
But devils nor men the being of God denied,
Till men of late found out new ways to sin,
And turned the devil out to let the Atheist in.
But when the mighty element began,
And storms the weighty truth explain,
Almighty power upon the whirlwind rode,
And every blast proclaimed aloud
There is, there is, there is a God.
[Pg 4513]



en years after 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' there appeared in Amsterdam a book that caused as great a sensation among the Dutch coffee-traders on the Amstel, as had Harriet Beecher Stowe's wonderful story among the slaveholders at the South. This book was 'Max Havelaar,' and its author, veiled under the suggestive pen-name of "Multatuli" ("who have suffered much"), at once became famous. It frankly admitted that it was a novel with a purpose, and this purpose was to bring home to his countrymen the untold sufferings and oppression to which the natives of the Dutch East Indies were subjected, in order that the largest possible profit might flow into the coffers of the people of Holland. Multatuli, under the disguise of fiction, professed to give facts he had himself collected on the spot.

Eduard Douwes Dekker, born in 1820 in Amsterdam, went as a youth of seventeen to the Dutch colonies. There for nearly twenty years he was in the employ of the government, obtaining at last the post of Assistant Resident of Lebak, a province of Java. In this responsible position he used his influence to stem the abuses and extortions practiced by the native chiefs against the defenseless populace. But his humanitarianism clashed with the interests of his government, and sacrificing a brilliant career to a principle, he sent in his resignation and returned to Holland in 1856 a poor man. He began to put his experiences on paper, and in 1860 published the book that made him famous. 'Max Havelaar' is a bitter arraignment of the Dutch colonial system, and gives a more excruciating picture of the slavery of the natives of fair "Insulind" than ever existed in the South. For nearly three hundred years Dutch burghers on the Scheldt, the Maas, and the Amstel, have waxed fat on the labors of the Malays of the far East. In these islands of the East-Indian Archipelago the relations between the Europeans and the Dutch are peculiar, based on the policy of the government of getting the largest possible revenues out of these fertile possessions. Practically the native is a Dutch subject, and the product of his labor goes directly to Holland; nominally he is still ruled by his tribal chief, to whom he is blindly and superstitiously devoted. Playing on this feudal attachment, the Dutch, while theoretically pledging themselves to protect the defenseless populace against rapacity, have yet[Pg 4514] so arranged the administration that the chiefs have unlimited opportunities of extortion. They are paid premiums on whatever their provinces furnish for the foreign market, and as they have practically full control over the persons and property of their subjects, they force these poor wretches to contribute whatever they may demand in unpaid labor and provisions, besides the land taxes.

And there is yet another hardship. Rice is the staple product of Java, but as that does not pay so well as coffee, sugar, indigo, or spices, the Javanese is driven away from the rice fields he loves, and famine is often the result.

"Famine? in Java, the rich and fertile, famine? Yes, reader, a few years ago whole districts were depopulated by famine; mothers offered to sell their children for food; mothers ate their own children. But then the mother country interfered. In the halls of the Dutch Parliament complaints were made, and the then reigning governor had to give orders that the extension of the so-called European market should no longer be pushed to the extremity of famine."

The book is an eloquent plea for more humane treatment of these wretches. In glowing colors Dekker paints the condition of Java, its scenery, its inhabitants, the extortions of the native regents, and the rapacity of the European traders. The truth of these accusations has never been disputed; indeed, it has been said that he kept on this side of exaggeration. At the International Congress for the Promotion of Social Science, at Amsterdam in 1863, he challenged his critics to prove him false, but no one came forward. One high government official indeed said that he could refute 'Max Havelaar,' but that it was not in his interest to do so.

Despite the sensation the book made, affairs in the East remained pretty much the same as before. Dekker tried in vain to get some influence in Holland, but he had killed himself politically by avowing that 'Max Havelaar' was not written in the interests of either party, but was the utterance of a champion of humanity. Thoroughly disappointed in his countrymen, he exiled himself and went to live in Germany in 1866. But he did not therefore lay down a pen that had become in his hands a powerful weapon. He published a number of books on political, social, and philosophic subjects, in the form of stories, dramas, aphorisms, or polemics. Noteworthy among these are his fine parables, the novel 'La Sainte Vierge' (The Holy Virgin); the drama in blank, 'Vorstenschool' (School for Princes), containing many fine thoughts, and still one of the most popular plays of the day; and the incomplete 'Geschiedem's van Wontertje Pieterse' (Story of Wontertje Pieterse), published in 1888 by his widow, who also brought out his letters, and in 1892 a complete edition of his works.[Pg 4515]

The writings of Dekker are marked by a fiery yet careful style, Oriental richness of imagery, and originality and independence of thought. He wrote as social reformer, and attacked with unrivaled power of sarcasm all manner of cant, sham, and red-tape. His works betray the disappointment of a defeated idealist. He was a man of marked individuality, and strongly attracted or repelled others. For the last few years of his life he ceased to write, and lived in retirement in Nieder-Ingelheim on the Rhine, where he died February 19th, 1887.


From 'Max Havelaar'

Yes, I, Multatuli, "who have suffered much,"—I take the pen. I do not make any excuses for the form of my book,—that form was thought proper to obtain my object.... I will be read! Yes, I will be read. I will be read by statesmen who are obliged to pay attention to the signs of the times; by men of letters, who must also look into the book of which so many bad things are said; by merchants, who have an interest in the coffee auctions; by lady's-maids, who read me for a few farthings; by governors-general in retirement; by ministers who have something to do; by the lackeys of these Excellencies; by mutes, who, more majorum, will say that I attack God Almighty, when I attack only the god which they made according to their own image; by the members of the representative chambers, who must know what happens in the extensive possessions over the sea which belong to Holland....

Ay, I shall be read!

When I obtain this I shall be content, for I did not intend to write well.... I wished to write so as to be heard; and as one who cries "Stop thief!" does not care about the style of his impromptu address to the public, I too am indifferent to criticism of the manner in which I cried my "Stop thief!"

"The book is a medley; there is no order, nothing but a desire to make a sensation. The style is bad; the author is inexperienced; no talent, no method."

Good! good! ... all very well! ... but the Javanese are ill-treated. For the merit of my book is this: that refutation of its main features is impossible. And the greater[Pg 4516] the disapprobation of my book the better I shall be pleased, for the chance of being heard will be so much the greater;—and that is what I desire.

But you whom I dare to interrupt in your business or in your retirement,—ye ministers and governors-general,—do not calculate too much upon the inexperience of my pen. I could exercise it, and perhaps by dint of some exertion, attain to that skill which would make the truth heard by the people. Then I should ask of that people a place in the representative chambers, were it only to protest against the certificates which are given vice versa by Indian functionaries.

To protest against the endless expeditions sent, and heroic deeds performed against poor miserable creatures, whose ill treatment has driven them to revolt.

To protest against the cowardice of general orders, that brand the honor of the nation by invoking public charity on behalf of the victims of inveterate piracy.

It is true those rebels were reduced by starvation to skeletons, while those pirates could defend themselves.

And if that place were refused me, ... if I were still disbelieved, ... then I should translate my book into the few languages that I know, and the many that I yet can learn, to put that question to Europe which I have in vain put to Holland.

And in every capital such a refrain as this would be heard: "There is a band of robbers between Germany and the Scheldt!"

And if this were of no avail, ... then I should translate my book into Malay, Javanese, Soudanese, Alfoer, Boegi, and Battah.

And I should sharpen Klewangs, the scimitars and the sabres, by rousing with warlike songs the minds of those martyrs whom I have promised to help—I, Multatuli, would do this!

Yes! delivery and help, lawfully if possible;—lawfully with violence if need be.

And that would be very pernicious to the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company!

For I am no fly-rescuing poet, no rapt dreamer like the down-trodden Havelaar, who did his duty with the courage of a lion, and endured starvation with the patience of a marmot in winter.

This book is an introduction....

I shall increase in strength and sharpness of weapons, according as it may be necessary.[Pg 4517]

Heaven grant that it may not be necessary!...

No, it will not be necessary! For it is to thee I dedicate my book: William the Third, King, Grand Duke, Prince, ... more than Prince, Grand Duke, and King, ... Emperor of the magnificent empire of Insulind, which winds about the equator like a garland of emeralds!...

I ask Thee if it be thine Imperial will that the Havelaars should be bespattered with the mud of Slymerings and Dry-stubbles; and that thy more than thirty millions of Subjects far away should be ill treated and should suffer extortion in Thy name!


From 'Max Havelaar'

Saïdjah's father had a buffalo, with which he plowed his field. When this buffalo was taken away from him by the district chief at Parang-Koodjang he was very dejected, and did not speak a word for many a day. For the time for plowing was come, and he had to fear that if the rice field was not worked in time, the opportunity to sow would be lost, and lastly, that there would be no paddy to cut, none to keep in the store-room of the house. He feared that his wife would have no rice, nor Saïdjah himself, who was still a child, nor his little brothers and sisters. And the district chief too would accuse him to the Assistant Resident if he was behindhand in the payment of his land taxes, for this is punished by the law. Saïdjah's father then took a poniard which was an heirloom from his father. The poniard was not very handsome, but there were silver bands round the sheath, and at the end there was a silver plate. He sold this poniard to a Chinaman who dwelt in the capital, and came home with twenty-four guilders, for which money he bought another buffalo.

Saïdjah, who was then about seven years old, soon made friends with the new buffalo. It is not without meaning that I say "made friends," for it is indeed touching to see how the buffalo is attached to the little boy who watches over and feeds him. The large strong animal bends its heavy head to the right, to the left, or downward, just as the pressure of the child's finger, which he knows and understands, directs.[Pg 4518]

Such a friendship little Saïdjah had soon been able to make with the new-comer. The buffalo turned willingly on reaching the end of the field, and did not lose an inch of ground when plowing backwards the new furrow. Quite near were the rice fields of the father of Adinda (the child that was to marry Saïdjah); and when the little brothers of Adinda came to the limit of their fields just at the same time that the father of Saïdjah was there with his plow, then the children called out merrily to each other, and each praised the strength and the docility of his buffalo. Saïdjah was nine and Adinda six, when this buffalo was taken by the chief of the district of Parang-Koodjang. Saïdjah's father, who was very poor, thereupon sold to a Chinaman two silver curtain-hooks—heirlooms from the parents of his wife—for eighteen guilders, and bought a new buffalo.

When this buffalo had also been taken away and slaughtered—

(I told you, reader, that my story is monotonous)

... Saïdjah's father fled out of the country, for he was much afraid of being punished for not paying his land taxes, and he had not another heirloom to sell, that he might buy a new buffalo. However, he went on for some years after the loss of his last buffalo, by working with hired animals for plowing; but that is a very ungrateful labor, and moreover sad for a person who has had buffaloes of his own.

Saïdjah's mother died of grief; and then it was that his father, in a moment of dejection, fled from Bantam in order to endeavor to get labor in the Buitenzorg districts.

But he was punished with stripes because he had left Lebak without a passport, and was brought back by the police to Badoer. But he was not long in prison, for he died soon afterwards. Saïdjah was already fifteen years of age when his father set out for Buitenzorg; and he did not accompany him hither, because he had other plans in view. He had been told that there were at Batavia many gentlemen who drove in two-wheeled carriages, and that it would be easy for him to get a post as driver. He would gain much in that way if he behaved well,—perhaps be able to save in three years enough money to buy two buffaloes. This was a smiling prospect for him. He entered Adinda's house, and communicated to her his plans.

"Think of it! when I come back, we shall be old enough to marry and shall possess two buffaloes: ... but if I find you married?"[Pg 4519]

"Saïdjah, you know very well that I shall marry nobody but you; my father promised me to your father."

"And you yourself?"

"I shall marry you, you may be sure of that."

"When I come back, I will call from afar off."

"Who shall hear it, if we are stamping rice in the village?"

"That is true, ... but Adinda—... oh yes, this is better; wait for me under the oak wood, under the Retapan."

"But Saïdjah, how can I know when I am to go to the Retapan?"

"Count the moons; I shall stay away three times twelve moons.... See, Adinda, at every new moon cut a notch in your rice block. When you have cut three times twelve lines, I will be under the Retapan the next day: ... do you promise to be there?"

"Yes, Saïdjah, I will be there under the Retapan, near the oak wood, when you come back."

[Saïdjah returns with money and trinkets at the appointed time, but does not find Adinda under the Retapan.]

... But if she were ill or ... dead?

Like a wounded stag Saïdjah flew along the path leading from the Retapan to the village where Adinda lived. But ... was it hurry, his eagerness, that prevented him from finding Adinda's house? He had already rushed to the end of the road, through the village, and like one mad he returned and beat his head because he must have passed her house without seeing it. But again he was at the entrance to the village, and ... O God, was it a dream?...

Again he had not found the house of Adinda. Again he flew back and suddenly stood still.... And the women of Badoer came out of their houses, and saw with sorrow poor Saïdjah standing there, for they knew him and understood that he was looking for the house of Adinda, and they knew that there was no house of Adinda in the village of Badoer.

For when the district chief of Parang-Koodjang had taken away Adinda's father's buffaloes ...

(I told you, reader! that my narrative was monotonous.)

... Adinda's mother died of grief, and her baby sister died because she had no mother, and had no one to suckle her.[Pg 4520] And Adinda's father, who feared to be punished for not paying his land taxes ...

(I know, I know that my tale is monotonous.)

... had fled out of the country; he had taken Adinda and her brother with him. He had gone to Tjilang-Rahan, bordering on the sea. There he had concealed himself in the woods and waited for some others that had been robbed of their buffaloes by the district chief of Parang-Koodjang, and all of whom feared punishment for not paying their land taxes. Then they had at night taken possession of a fishing boat, and steered northward to the Lampoons.

[Saïdjah, following their route] arrived in the Lampoons, where the inhabitants were in insurrection against the Dutch rule. He joined a troop of Badoer men, not so much to fight as to seek Adinda; for he had a tender heart, and was more disposed to sorrow than to bitterness.

One day that the insurgents had been beaten, he wandered through a village that had just been taken by the Dutch, and was therefore in flames. Saïdjah knew that the troop that had been destroyed there consisted for the most part of Badoer men. He wandered like a ghost among the houses which were not yet burned down, and found the corpse of Adinda's father with a bayonet wound in the breast. Near him Saïdjah saw the three murdered brothers of Adinda, still only children, and a little further lay the corpse of Adinda, naked and horribly mutilated.

Then Saïdjah went to meet some soldiers who were driving, at the point of the bayonet, the surviving insurgents into the fire of the burning houses; he embraced the broad bayonets, pressed forward with all his might, and still repulsed the soldiers with a last exertion, until their weapons were buried to the sockets in his breast.[Pg 4521]



homas Dekker, the genial realist, the Dickens of Jacobean London, has left in his works the impress of a most lovable personality, but the facts with which to surround that personality are of the scantiest. He was born about 1570 in London; at least in 1637 he speaks of himself as over threescore years of age. This is the only clue we have to the date of his birth. He came probably of a tradesman's family, for he describes better than any of his fellows in art the life of the lower middle class, and enters into the thoughts and feelings of that class with a heartiness which is possible only after long and familiar association. He was not a university man, but absorbed his classical knowledge as Shakespeare did, through association with the wits of his time.

He is first mentioned in Henslowe's diary in 1597, and after that his name appears frequently. He was evidently a dramatic hack, working for that manager, adapting and making over old plays and writing new ones. He must have been popular too, for his name appears oftener than that of any of his associates. Yet his industry and popularity could not always keep him above water. Henslowe was not a generous paymaster, and the unlucky dramatist knew the inside of the debtor's prison cell; more than once the manager advanced sums to bail him out. Oldys says he was in prison from 1613 to 1616. After 1637 we find his name no more.

As a dramatist, Dekker was most active between the years 1598 and 1602. In one of those years alone he was engaged on twelve plays. Many of these have been lost; of the few that remain, two of the most characteristic belong to this period. 'The Shoemaker's Holiday,' published in 1599, shows Dekker on his genial, realistic side, with his sense of fun and his hearty sympathy with the life of the people. It bubbles over with the delight in mere living, and is full of kindly feeling toward all the world. It was sure to appeal to its audience, especially to the pit, where the tradesmen and artisans with their wives applauded, and noisiest of all, the 'prentices shouted their satisfaction: here they saw themselves and their masters brought on the stage, somewhat idealized, but still full of frolic and good-nature. It is one of the brightest and pleasantest of Elizabethan comedies. Close on its heels followed 'The Pleasant Comedy of Old Fortunatus.' Here Dekker the idealist, the poet of luxurious fancy[Pg 4522] and rich yet delicate imagination, is seen at his best. Fortunatus with his wishing-hat and wonderful purse appealed to the romantic spirit of the time, when men still sailed in search of the Hesperides, compounded the elixir of youth, and sought for the philosopher's stone. Dekker worked over an old play of the same name; the subject of both was taken from the old German volksbuch 'Fortunatus' of 1519. Among the collaborators of Dekker at this time was Ben Jonson. Both these men were realists, but Jonson slashed into life with bitter satire, whereas Dekker cloaked over its frailties with a tender humor. Again, Jonson was a conscientious artist, aiming at perfection; Dekker, while capable of much higher poetry, was often careless and slipshod. No wonder that the dictator scorned his somewhat irresponsible co-worker. The precise nature of their quarrel, one of the most famous among authors, is not known; it culminated in 1601, when Jonson produced 'The Poetaster,' a play in which Dekker and Marston were mercilessly ridiculed. Dekker replied shortly in 'Satiromastix, or the Untrussing of the Humorous Poet,' a burlesque full of good-natured mockery of his antagonist.

Dekker wrote, in conjunction with Webster, 'Westward Ho,' Northward Ho,' and 'Sir Thomas Wyatt'; with Middleton, 'The Roaring Girl'; with Massinger, 'The Virgin Martyr'; and with Ford, 'The Sun's Darling' and 'The Witch of Edmonton.' Among the products of Dekker's old age, 'Match Me in London' is ranked among his half-dozen best plays, and 'The Wonder of a Kingdom' is fair journeyman's work.

One of the most versatile of the later Elizabethans,—prolonging their style and ideas into the new world of the Stuarts,—Dekker was also prominent as pamphleteer. He first appeared as such in 1603, with 'The Wonderfull Yeare 1603, wherein is showed the picture of London lying sicke of the Plague,' a vivid description of the pest, which undoubtedly served Defoe as model in his famous book on the same subject. The best known of his many pamphlets, however, is 'The Gul's Horne Booke,' a graphic description of the ways and manners of the gallants of the time. These various tracts are invaluable for the light they throw on the social life of Jacobean London.

Lastly, Dekker as song-writer must not be forgotten. He had the genuine lyric gift, and poured forth his bird-notes, sweet, fresh, and spontaneous, full of the singer's joy in his song. He also wrote some very beautiful prayers.

Varied and unequal as Dekker's work is, he is one of the hardest among the Elizabethans to classify. He at times rises to the very heights of poetic inspiration, soaring above most of his contemporaries, to drop all of a sudden down to a dead level of prose. But he makes up for his shortcomings by his whole-hearted, manly view[Pg 4523] of life, his compassion for the weak, his sympathy with the lowly, his determination to make the best of everything, and to show the good hidden away under the evil.

"Toil, envy, want, the patron and the jail,"—

these he knew from bitter experience, yet never allowed them to overcloud his buoyant spirits, but made them serve his artistic purposes. Joyousness is the prevailing note of his work, mingled with a pathetic undertone of patience.



Now for your venturing into the Walke: be circumspect and wary what piller you come in at, and take heed in any case (as you love the reputation of your honour) that you avoide the serving-man's dogg; but bend your course directly in the middle line, that the whole body of the Church may appear to be yours; where, in view of all, you may publish your suit in what manner you affect most, either with the slide of your cloake from the one shoulder, and then you must (as twere in anger) suddenly snatch at the middle of the inside (if it be taffata at the least) and so by the meanes your costly lining is betrayed, or else by the pretty advantage of complement. But one note by the way do I especially wooe you to, the neglect of which makes many of our gallants cheape and ordinary; that you by no means be seen above fowre turnes, but in the fifth make your selfe away, either in some of the Sempsters' shops, the new Tobacco-office, or amongst the Bookesellers, where, if you cannot reade, exercise your smoke, and inquire who has writ against this divine weede, &c. For this withdrawing yourselfe a little will much benefite your suit, which else by too long walking would be stale to the whole spectators: but howsoever, if Powles Jacks be up with their elbowes, and quarrelling to strike eleven, as soone as ever the clock has parted them and ended the fray with his hammer, let not the Duke's gallery conteyne you any longer, but passe away apace in open view. In which departure, if by chance you either encounter, or aloofe off throw your inquisitive eye upon any knight or squire, being your familiar, salute him not[Pg 4524] by his name of Sir such a one, or so, but call him Ned or Jack, &c. This will set off your estimation with great men: and if (tho there bee a dozen companies betweene you, tis the better) hee call aloud to you (for thats most gentile), to know where he shall find you at two a clock, tell him at such an Ordinary, or such; and bee sure to name those that are deerest; and whither none but your gallants resort. After dinner you may appeare againe, having translated yourselfe out of your English cloth cloak, into a light Turky-grogram (if you have that happiness of shifting) and then be seene (for a turn or two) to correct your teeth with some quill or silver instrument, and to cleanse your gummes with a wrought handkercher: It skilles not whether you dinde or no (thats best knowne to your stomach) or in what place you dinde, though it were with cheese (of your owne mother's making, in your chamber or study).... Suck this humour up especially. Put off to none, unlesse his hatband be of a newer fashion than yours, and three degrees quainter; but for him that wears a trebled cipres about his hatte (though he were an Alderman's sonne), never move to him; for hees suspected to be worse than a gull and not worth the putting off to, that cannot observe the time of his hatband, nor know what fashioned block is most kin to his head: for in my opinion, ye braine that cannot choose his felt well (being the head ornament) must needes powre folly into all the rest of the members, and be an absolute confirmed foule in Summâ Totali.... The great dyal is your last monument; these bestow some half of the threescore minutes, to observe the sawciness of the jaikes that are above the man in the moone there; the strangenesse of the motion will quit your labour. Besides you may heere have fit occasion to discover your watch, by taking it forth and setting the wheeles to the time of Powles, which, I assure you, goes truer by five notes then S. Sepulchers chimes. The benefit that will arise from hence is this, that you publish your charge in maintaining a gilded clocke; and withall the world shall know that you are a time-server. By this I imagine you have walkt your bellyful, and thereupon being weary, or (which rather I believe) being most gentlemanlike hungry, it is fit that I brought you in to the Duke; so (because he follows the fashion of great men, in keeping no house, and that therefore you must go seeke your dinner) suffer me to take you by the hand, and lead you into an Ordinary.[Pg 4525]


Do but consider what an excellent thing sleep is; it is so inestimable a jewel that if a tyrant would give his crown for an hour's slumber, it cannot be bought; yea, so greatly are we indebted to this kinsman of death, that we owe the better tributary half of our life to him; and there is good cause why we should do so; for sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together. Who complains of want, of wounds, of cares, of great men's oppressions, of captivity, whilst he sleepeth? Beggars in their beds take as much pleasure as kings. Can we therefore surfeit on this delicate ambrosia? Can we drink too much of that, whereof to taste too little tumbles us into a churchyard; and to use it but indifferently throws us into Bedlam? No, no. Look upon Endymion, the moon's minion, who slept threescore and fifteen years, and was not a hair the worse for it. Can lying abed till noon then, being not the threescore and fifteenth thousand part of his nap, be hurtful?


From 'Old Fortunatus'

Fortune smiles, cry holiday!
Dimples on her cheek do dwell.
Fortune frowns, cry well-a-day!
Her love is heaven, her hate is hell.
Since heaven and hell obey her power,—
Tremble when her eyes do lower.
Since heaven and hell her power obey,
When she smiles, cry holiday!
Holiday with joy we cry,
And bend and bend, and merrily
Sing hymns to Fortune's deity,
Sing hymns to Fortune's deity.


Let us sing merrily, merrily, merrily,
With our songs let heaven resound.
Fortune's hands our heads have crowned.
Let us sing merrily, merrily, merrily.
[Pg 4526]


From 'Patient Grissil'

Art thou poor, yet hast thou golden slumbers?
O sweet Content!
Art thou rich, yet is thy mind perplexed?
O punishment!
Dost thou laugh to see how fools are vexed
To add to golden numbers golden numbers?
O sweet Content, O sweet, O sweet Content!

Work apace, apace, apace, apace,
Honest labor bears a lovely face.
Then hey nonny, nonny; hey nonny, nonny.

Canst drink the waters of the crispèd spring?
O sweet Content!
Swim'st thou in wealth, yet sink'st in thine own tears?
O Punishment!
Then he that patiently Want's burden bears
No burden bears, but is a king, a king.
O sweet Content, O sweet, O sweet Content!


From 'The Sun's Darling'

Haymakers, rakers, reapers, and mowers,
Wait on your Summer Queen!
Dress up with musk-rose her eglantine bowers,
Daffodils strew the green!
Sing, dance, and play,
'Tis holiday!
The sun does bravely shine
On our ears of corn.
Rich as a pearl
Comes every girl.
This is mine, this is mine, this is mine.
Let us die ere away they be borne.

Bow to our Sun, to our Queen, and that fair one
Come to behold our sports:
Each bonny lass here is counted a rare one,
[Pg 4527]As those in princes' courts.
These and we
With country glee,
Will teach the woods to resound,
And the hills with echoes hollow.
Skipping lambs
Their bleating dams
'Mongst kids shall trip it round;
For joy thus our wenches we follow.

Wind, jolly huntsmen, your neat bugles shrilly,
Hounds, make a lusty cry;
Spring up, you falconers, partridges freely,
Then let your brave hawks fly!
Horses amain,
Over ridge, over plain,
The dogs have the stag in chase:
'Tis a sport to content a king.
So ho! ho! through the skies
How the proud birds flies,
And sousing, kills with a grace!
Now the deer falls; hark! how they ring.


From 'Patient Grissil'

Golden slumbers kiss your eyes,
Smiles awake you when you rise.
Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cry,
And I will sing a lullaby.
Rock them, rock them, lullaby.

Care is heavy, therefore sleep you.
You are care, and care must keep you.
Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cry,
And I will sing a lullaby.
Rock them, rock them, lullaby.
[Pg 4528]




Casimir Delavigne Casimir Delavigne

his French lyrical poet and dramatist, born in Havre in 1793, and brought up at Paris, was awarded a prize by the Académie Française in 1811, elected a member of that illustrious body July 7th, 1825, and died December 11th, 1843. When hardly twenty years of age he had already made his name famous by dithyrambs, the form of which, imitated from the ancients, enabled him to express in sufficiently poetic manner quite modern sentiments. Possessed of brilliant and easy imagination, moderately enthusiastic, and more sober than powerful, he hit upon a lucky vein which promptly led him to fame. He described the recent disasters of his country in fine odes entitled 'Messéniennes,' in allusion to the chants in which the defeated Messenians deplored the hardships inflicted on them by the Spartans. Those political elegies were named—'La Bataille de Waterloo' (The Battle of Waterloo); 'La Dévastation du Musée' (The Spoliation of the Museum); 'Sur le Besoin de S'unir après le Départ des Étrangers' (On the Necessity of Union after the Departure of the Foreigners). They expressed emotions agitating the mind of the country. At the same time they appealed to the heart of the "liberals" of the period by uttering their regrets for vanished power, their rancor against the victorious party, their fears for threatened liberty. The circumstances, the passions of the day, as also the awakening of young and new talent, all concurred to favor Casimir Delavigne, who almost from the very first attained high reputation. In 1819 the publication of two more Messéniennes, on the life and death of Joan of Arc,—inspired like the first with deep patriotic fervor,—was received with enthusiasm.

Earlier even than the day of Lamartine and Victor Hugo, Casimir Delavigne had the glory of stirring the heart of France. He had the added merit of maintaining, after Beaumarchais and before Émile[Pg 4529] Augier, the dignity of high comedy. Ingenious scenes of life, lively and spirited details, grace and delicacy of style, save from oblivion such pieces as 'L'École des Vieillards' (The School of Age), first performed by the great artists Mademoiselle Mars and Talma; and 'Don Juan d'Autriche' (Don John of Austria), a prose comedy. Other dramas of his—'Marino Faliero,' 'Les Vêpres Siciliennes' (The Sicilian Vespers), 'Louis XI.,' 'Les Enfants d'Edouard' (The Children of Edward), and 'La Fille du Cid' (The Daughter of the Cid)—are still read with admiration, or acted to applauding spectators. A pure disciple of Racine at first, Delavigne deftly managed to adopt some innovations of the romanticist school. 'Marino Faliero' was the first of his productions in which, relinquishing the so-called classic rules, he endeavored, as a French critic fitly remarks, to introduce a kind of eclecticism in stage literature; a bold attempt, tempered with prudent reserve, in which he wisely combined the processes favored by the new school with current tradition. That play is indeed a happy mixture of drama and comedy. It contains familiar dialogues and noble outbursts, which however do not violate the proprieties of academic style.

Though he never displayed the genius of Lamartine or of Victor Hugo, and though some of his pictures have faded since the appearance of the dazzling productions of the great masters of romanticism, Casimir Delavigne still ranks high in the literature of his country and century, thanks to the lofty and steady qualities, to the tender and generous feeling, to the noble independence, which were the honorable characteristics of his talent and his individuality. His works, first published in Paris in 1843 in six octavo volumes, went through many subsequent editions.

Signature: Frederic Loliée


[On the point of dying, Louis XI. clings desperately to life, and summons before him a holy monk, Francis de Paula, whom he implores to work a miracle in his favor and prolong his life.]

Dramatis personæ:—King Louis XI, and Saint Francis de Paula, founder of the order of the Franciscan friars.

Louis—We are alone now.

Francis—What do you wish of me?

Louis [who has knelt down]—At your knees see me trembling with hope and fear.[Pg 4530]

Francis—What can I do for you?

Louis—Everything, Father; you can do everything: you can call the dead to life again.


Louis—To the dead you say, "Leave your graves!" and they leave them.

Francis—Who? I?

Louis—You bid our ailments to be cured.

Francis—I, my son?

Louis—And they are cured. When you command the skies clear, the wind suddenly blows or likewise abates; the falling thunderbolt at your command moves back to the clouds. Oh, I implore you, who in the air can keep up the beneficent dew or let it pour its welcome freshness on the withering plant, impart fresh vigor to my old limbs. See me; I am dying; revive my drooping energy; stretch ye out your arms to me, touch ye those livid features of mine, and the spell of your hands will cause my wrinkles to vanish.

Francis—What do you ask of me? You surprise me, my son. Am I equal to God? From your lips I first learn that I go abroad rendering oracles, and with my hands working miracles.

Louis—At least ten years, father! grant me ten more years to live, and upon you I shall lavish honors and presents.... I shall found shrines to your name, in gold and jasper shall have your relics set; but!—twenty years more life are too little a reward for so much wealth and incense. I beseech you, work a whole miracle! Do not cut so short the thread of my life. A whole miracle! give me new life and prolong my days!

Francis—To do God's work is not in his creature's power. What! when everything dies, you alone should last! King, such is not God's will. I his feeble creature cannot alter for you the course of nature. All that which grows must vanish, all that which is born must perish, man himself and his works, the tree and its fruit alike. All that produces does so only for a time; 'tis the law here below, for eternity death alone shall fructify.

Louis—You wear out my patience. Do your duty, monk! Work in my favor your marvelous power; for if you refuse, I shall compel you. Do you forget that I am a king? The holy oil anointed my forehead. Oh, pardon me! but it is your duty to do more for kings, for crowned heads, than for those obscure[Pg 4531] and unfortunate wretches whom, but for your prayers, God in heaven would never have remembered.

Francis—Kings and their subjects are equal in the eyes of the Lord; he owes you his aid as to the rest of his children; be more just to yourself, and claim for your soul that help for which you beg.

Louis [eagerly]—No, not so much at a time: let us now mind the body; I shall think of the soul by-and-by.

Francis—It is your remorse, O King, 'tis that smarting wound inflicted by your crimes, which slowly drags your body to final ruin.

Louis—The priests absolved me.

Francis—Vain hope! The weight of your present alarms is made up of thirty years of iniquitous life. Confess your shame, disclose your sins, and let sincere repentance wash away your defiled soul.

Louis—Should I get cured?


Louis—Say yes, promise that I shall. I am going to confess all.

Francis—To me?

Louis—Such is my will. Listen.

Francis [seating himself whilst the King stands up with clasped hands]—Speak then, sinner, who summon me to perform this holy ministry.

Louis [after having recited mentally the Confiteor]—I cannot and dare not refuse.

Francis—What are your sins?

Louis—Through fear of the Dauphin, the late King died of starvation.

Francis—A son shortened his own father's old age!

Louis—I was that Dauphin.

Francis—You were!

Louis—My father's weakness was ruining France. A favorite ruled. France must have perished had not the King done so. State interests are higher than—

Francis—Confess thy sins, thou wicked son; do not excuse thy wrong-doings.

Louis—I had a brother.

Francis—What of him?

Louis—Who died ... poisoned.[Pg 4532]

Francis—Were you instrumental in his death?

Louis—They suspected me.

Francis—God Almighty!

Louis—If those who said so fell in my power!...

Francis—Is it true?

Louis—His ghost rising from the grave can alone with impunity accuse me of his death.

Francis—So you were guilty of it?

Louis—The traitor deserved it!

Francis [rising]—You would escape your just punishment! Tremble! I was your brother, I am now your judge. Crushed under your sin, bend low your head. Return to nothingness, empty Majesty! I no longer see the King, I hear the criminal: to your knees, fratricide!

Louis [falling on his knees]—I shudder.


Louis [crawling to the monk and catching hold of his garments]—I own my fault, have pity on me! I beat my breast and repent another crime. I do not excuse it.

Francis [resuming his seat]—Is this not all?

Louis—Nemours!... He was a conspirator. But his death.... His crime was proved. But under his scaffold his children's tears.... Thrice against his lord he had taken up arms. His life-blood spattered them. Yet his death was but just.

Francis—Cruel, cruel King!

Louis—Just, but severe; I confess it: I punished ... but no, I have committed crimes. In mid-air the fatal knot has strangled my victims; in murderous pits they have been stabbed with steel; the waters have put an end to them, the earth has acted as their jailer. Prisoners buried beneath these towers groan forgotten in their depths.

Francis—Oh! since there are wrongs which you can still repair, come!

Louis—Where to?

Francis—Let us set free those prisoners.

Louis—Statecraft forbids.

Francis [kneeling before the King]—Charity orders: come, and save your soul.

Louis—And risk my crown! As a king, I cannot.

Francis—As a Christian, you must.[Pg 4533]

Louis—I have repented. Let that suffice.

Francis [rising]—That avails nothing.

Louis—Have I not confessed my sins?

Francis—They are not condoned while you persist in them.

Louis—The Church has indulgences which a king can pay for.

Francis—God's pardon is not to be bought: we must deserve it.

Louis [in despair]—I claim it by right of my anguish! O Father, if you knew my sufferings, you would shed tears of pity! The intolerable bodily pain I endure constitutes but half my troubles and my least suffering, I desire the places where I cannot be. Everywhere remorse pursues me; I avoid the living; I live among the dead. I spend dreadful days and nights more terrible. The darkness assumes visible shapes; silence disturbs me, and when I pray to my Savior I hear his voice say: "What would you with me, accursed?" When asleep, a demon sits on my chest: I drive him away, and a naked sword stabs me furiously; I rise aghast; human blood inundates my couch, and my hand, seized by a hand cold as death, is plunged in that blood and feels hideous moving débris....

Francis—Ah, wretched man!

Louis—You shudder. Such are my days and nights; my sleep, my life. Yet, dying, I agonize to live, and fear to drink the last drop of that bitter cup.

Francis—Come then. Forgive the wrongs others have done you, and thus abate your own tortures. A deed of mercy will buy you rest, and when you awake, some voice at least will bless your name. Come. Do not tarry.

Louis—Wait! Wait!

Francis—Will the Lord wait?


Francis—But to-morrow, to-night, now, perhaps, death awaits you.

Louis—I am well protected.

Francis—The unloved are ill protected. [Tries to drag the King along.] Come! Come!

Louis [pushing him aside]—-Give me time, time to make up my mind.

Francis—I leave you, murderer. I cannot forgive your crimes.[Pg 4534]

Louis [terrified]—What! do you condemn me?

Francis—God may forgive all! When he still hesitates, how could I condemn? Take advantage of the delay he grants you; weep, pray, obtain from his mercy the softening of your heart towards those unfortunates. Forgive, and let the light of day shine for them once more. When you seized the attribute of Divine vengeance they denounced your name from the depth of their jails in their bitter anguish, and their shrieks and moans drowned your prayers. Now end those sufferings, and God shall hear your prayers.

Translated for 'A Library of the World's Best Literature.' [Pg 4535]


(384-322 B.C.)



he lot of Demosthenes, the great Athenian orator, was cast in evil times. The glorious days of his country's brilliant political pre-eminence among Grecian States, and of her still more brilliant pre-eminence as a leader and torch-bearer to the world in its progress towards enlightenment and freedom, were well-nigh over. In arms she had been crushed by the brute force of Sparta. But this was not her deepest humiliation; she had indeed risen again to great power, under the leadership of generals and statesmen in whom something of the old-time Athenian spirit still persisted; but the duration of that power had been brief. The deepest humiliation of a State is not in the loss of military prestige or of material resources, but in the degeneracy of its citizens, in the overthrow and scorn of high ideals; and so it was in Athens at the time of Demosthenes's political activity.

The Athenians had become a pampered, ease-loving people. They still cherished a cheap admiration for the great achievements of their fathers. Stirring appeals to the glories of Marathon and Salamis would arouse them to—pass patriotic resolutions. Any suggestion of self-sacrifice, of service on the fleet or in the field, was dangerous. A law made it a capital offense to propose to use, even in meeting any great emergency, the fund set aside to supply the folk with amusements. They preferred to hire mercenaries to undergo their hardships and to fight their battles; but they were not willing to pay their hirelings. The commander had to find pay for his soldiers in the booty taken from their enemies; or failing that, by plundering their friends. It must be admitted, however, that the patriots at home were always ready and most willing to try, to convict, and to punish the commanders upon any charge of misdemeanor in office.

There were not wanting men of integrity and true patriotism, and of great ability, as Isocrates and Phocion, who accepted as inevitable the decline of the power of Athens, and advocated a policy of passive non-interference in foreign affairs, unless it were to take part in a united effort against Persia. But the mass of the people, instead of offering their own means and their bodies to the service of their country, deemed it rather the part of the State to supply their needs[Pg 4536] and their amusements. They considered that they had performed, to the full, their duty as citizens when they had taken part in the noisy debates of the Assembly, or had sat as paid jurymen in the never-ending succession of court procedures of this most litigious of peoples. Among men even in their better days not callous to the allurements of bribes judiciously administered, it was a logical sequence that corruption should now pervade all classes and conditions.

Literature and art, too, shared the general decadence, as it ever must be, since they always respond to the dominant ideals of a time and a people. To this general statement the exception must be noted that philosophy, as represented by Plato and Aristotle, and oratory, as represented by a long succession of Attic orators, had developed into higher and better forms. The history of human experience has shown that philosophy often becomes more subtle and more profound in times when men fall away from their ancient high standards, and become shaken in their old beliefs. So oratory attains its perfect flower in periods of the greatest stress and danger, whether from foreign foes or from internal discord. Both these forms of utterance of the active human intellect show, in their highest attainment, the realization of imminent emergency and the effort to point out a way of betterment and safety.

Not only the condition of affairs at home was full of portent of coming disaster. The course of events in other parts of Greece and in the barbarian kingdom of Macedon seemed all to be converging to one inevitable result,—the extinction of Hellenic freedom. When a nation or a race becomes unfit to possess longer the most precious of heritages, a free and honorable place among nations, then the time and the occasion and the man will not be long wanting to co-operate with the internal subversive force in consummating the final catastrophe. "If Philip should die," said Demosthenes, "the Athenians would quickly make themselves another Philip."

Throughout Greece, mutual jealousy and hatred among the States, each too weak to cope with a strong foreign foe, prevented such united action as might have made the country secure from any barbarian power; and that at a time when it was threatened by an enemy far more formidable than had been Xerxes with all his millions.

The Greeks at first entirely underrated the danger from Philip and the Macedonians. They had, up to this time, despised these barbarians. Demosthenes, in the third Philippic, reproaches his countrymen with enduring insult and outrage from a vile barbarian out of Macedon, whence formerly not even a respectable slave could be obtained. It is indeed doubtful whether the world has ever seen a man, placed [Pg 4537]in a position of great power, more capable of seizing every opportunity and of using every agency, fair or foul, for accomplishing his ambitious purposes, than was Philip of Macedon. The Greeks were most unfortunate in their enemy.

Philip understood the Greek people thoroughly. He had received his early training among them while a hostage at Thebes. He found in their petty feuds, in their indolence and corruptibility, his opportunity to carry into effect his matured plans of conquest. His energy never slept; his influence was ever present. When he was far away, extending his boundaries among the barbarians, his money was still active in Athens and elsewhere. His agents, often among the ablest men in a community, were busy using every cunning means at the command of the wonderful Greek ingenuity to conceal the danger or to reconcile the fickle people to a change that promised fine rewards for the sale of their liberty. Then he began to trim off one by one the outlying colonies and dependencies of the Greek States. His next step was to be the obtaining of a foothold in Greece proper.

The chief obstacle to Philip's progress was Athens, degenerate as she was, and his chief opponent in Athens was Demosthenes. This Philip understood very well; but he treated both the city and the great statesman always with a remarkable leniency. More than once Athens, inflamed by Demosthenes, flashed into her old-time energy and activity, and stayed the Macedonian's course; as when, in his first bold march towards the heart of Greece, he found himself confronted at Thermopylæ by Athenian troops; and again when prompt succor from Athens saved Byzantium for the time. But the emergency once past, the ardor of the Athenians died down as quickly as it had flamed up.

The Social War (357-355 B.C.) left Athens stripped almost bare of allies, and was practically a victory for Philip. The Sacred War (357-346 B.C.) between Thebes and Phocis, turning upon an affront offered to the Delphian god, gave Philip the eagerly sought-for opportunity of interfering in the internal affairs of Greece. He became the successful champion of the god, and received as his reward a place in the great Amphictyonic Council. He thus secured recognition of his claims to being a Greek, since none but Greeks might sit in this council. He had, moreover, in crushing the Phocians, destroyed a formidable power of resistance to his plans.

Such were the times and such the conditions in which Demosthenes entered upon his strenuous public life. He was born most probably in 384 B.C., though some authorities give preference to 382 B.C. as the year of his birth. He was the son of Demosthenes and Cleobule. His father was a respectable and wealthy Athenian citizen, a manufacturer of cutlery and upholstering. His mother was the[Pg 4538] daughter of Gylon, an Athenian citizen resident in the region of the Crimea.

Misfortune fell early upon him. At the age of seven he was left fatherless. His large patrimony fell into the hands of unprincipled guardians. Nature seems almost maliciously to have concentrated in him a number of blemishes, any one of which might have checked effectually the ambition of any ordinary man to excel in the profession Demosthenes chose for himself. He was not strong of body, his features were sinister, and his manner was ungraceful,—a grievous drawback among a people with whom physical beauty might cover a multitude of sins, and physical imperfections were a reproach.

He seems to have enjoyed the best facilities in his youth for training his mind, though he complains that his teachers were not paid by his guardians; and he is reported to have developed a fondness for oratory at an early age. In his maturing years, he was taught by the great lawyer, Isæus; and must often have listened to the orator and rhetorician Isocrates, if he was not indeed actually instructed by him. When once he had determined to make himself an orator, he set himself to work with immense energy to overcome the natural disadvantages that stood in the way of his success. By hard training he strengthened his weak voice and lungs; it is related that he cured himself of a painful habit of stammering; and he subjected himself to the most vigorous course of study preparatory to his profession, cutting himself off from all social enjoyments.

His success as an orator, however, was not immediate. He tasted all the bitterness of failure on more than one occasion; but after temporary discouragement he redoubled his efforts to correct the faults that were made so distressingly plain to him by the unsparing but salutary criticism of his audience. Without doubt, these conflicts and rebuffs of his earlier years served to strengthen and deepen the moral character of Demosthenes, as well as to improve his art. They contributed to form a man capable of spending his whole life in unflagging devotion to a high purpose, and that in the face of the greatest difficulties and dangers. The dominant purpose of his life was the preservation of the freedom of the Greek States from the control of any foreign power, and the maintenance of the pre-eminent position of Athens among these States. In this combination of a splendid intellect, an indomitable will, and a great purpose, we find the true basis of Demosthenes's greatness.

When at the age of eighteen he came into the wreck of his patrimony, he at once began suit against Aphobos, one of his unfaithful guardians. He conducted his case himself. So well did he plead his cause that he received a verdict for a large amount. He seems, however, owing to the trickery of his opponent, never to have recovered[Pg 4539] the money. He became now a professional writer of speeches for clients in private suits of every kind, sometimes appearing in court himself as advocate.

In 355-354 B.C. he entered upon his career as public orator and statesman. He had now found his field of action, and till the end of his eventful life he was a most prominent figure in the great issues that concerned the welfare of Athens and of Greece. He was long unquestionably the leading man among the Athenians. By splendid ability as orator and statesman he was repeatedly able to thwart the plans of the traitors in the pay of Philip, even though they were led by the adept and eloquent Æschines. His influence was powerful in the Peloponnesus, and he succeeded, in 338 B.C., in even uniting the bitter hereditary enemies Thebes and Athens for one final, desperate, but unsuccessful struggle against the Macedonian power.

Demosthenes soon awoke to the danger threatening his country from the barbarian kingdom in the north, though not even he understood at first how grave was the danger. The series of great speeches relating to Philip—the First Philippic; the three Olynthiacs, 'On the Peace,' 'On the Embassy,' 'On the Chersonese'; the Second and Third Philippics—-show an increasing intensity and fire as the danger became more and more imminent. These orations were delivered in the period 351-341 B.C.

When the cause of Greek freedom had been overwhelmed at Chæronea, in the defeat of the allied Thebans and Athenians, Demosthenes, who had organized the unsuccessful resistance to Philip, still retained the favor of his countrymen, fickle as they were. With the exception of a short period of disfavor, he practically regulated the policy of Athens till his death in 322 B.C.

In 336 B.C., on motion of Ctesiphon, a golden crown was voted to Demosthenes by the Senate, in recognition of certain eminent services and generous contributions from his own means to the needs of the State. The decree was not confirmed by the Assembly, owing to the opposition of Æschines, who gave notice that he would bring suit against Ctesiphon for proposing an illegal measure. The case did not come up for trial, however, till 330 B.C., six years later. (The reason for this delay has never been clearly revealed.)

When Ctesiphon was summoned to appear, it was well understood that it was not he but Demosthenes who was in reality to be tried, and that the public and private record of the latter would be subjected to the most rigorous scrutiny. On that memorable occasion, people gathered from all over Greece to witness the oratorical duel of the two champions—for Demosthenes was to reply to Æschines. The speech of Æschines was a brilliant and bitter arraignment of Demosthenes; but so triumphant was the reply of the latter, that his[Pg 4540] opponent, in mortification, went into voluntary exile. The speech of Demosthenes 'On the Crown' has been generally accepted by ancients and moderns as the supreme attainment in the oratory of antiquity.

It is evident that a man the never-swerving champion of a cause which demanded the greatest sacrifice from a people devoted to self-indulgence, the never-sleeping opponent of the hirelings of a foreign enemy, and a persistent obstacle to men of honest conviction who advocated a policy different from that which seemed best to him, would of necessity bring upon himself bitter hostility and accusations of the most serious character. And such was the case. Demosthenes has been accused of many crimes and immoralities, some of them so different in character as to be almost mutually exclusive. The most serious charge is that of receiving a bribe from Harpalus, the absconding treasurer of Alexander. He was tried upon this charge, convicted, fined fifty talents, and thrown into prison. Thence he escaped to go into a miserable exile.

How far and how seriously the character of Demosthenes is compromised by this and other attacks, it is not possible to decide to the satisfaction of all. The results of the contest in regard to the crown and the trial in the Harpalus matter were very different; but the verdict of neither trial, even if they were not conflicting, could be accepted as decisive. To me, the evidence,—weighed as we weigh other evidence, with a just appreciation of the source of the charges, the powerful testimony of the man's public life viewed as a whole, and the lofty position maintained in the face of all odds among a petulant people whom he would not flatter, but openly reproved for their vices,—the evidence, I say, read in this light justifies the conclusion that the orator was a man of high moral character, and that in the Harpalus affair he was the victim of the Macedonian faction and of the misled patriotic party, co-operating for the time being.

When the tidings of the death of Alexander startled the world, Demosthenes at once, though in exile, became intensely active in arousing the patriots to strike one more blow for liberty. He was recalled to Athens, restored to his high place, and became again the chief influence in preparing for the last desperate resistance to the Macedonians. When the cause of Greek freedom was finally lost, Demosthenes went into exile; a price was set upon his head; and when the Macedonian soldiers, led by a Greek traitor, were about to lay hands upon him in the temple of Poseidon at Calauria, he sucked the poison which he always carried ready in his pen, and died rather than yield himself to the hated enemies of his country.

It remains only to say that the general consensus of ancient and modern opinion is, that Demosthenes was the supreme figure in the brilliant line of orators of antiquity. The chief general characteristics[Pg 4541] in all Demosthenes's public oratory are a sustained intensity and a merciless directness. Swift as waves before a gale, every word bears straight toward the final goal of his purpose. We are hardly conscious even of the artistic taste which fits each phrase, and sentence, and episode, to the larger occasion as well as to each other. Indeed, we lose the rhetorician altogether in the devoted pleader, the patriot, the self-forgetful chief of a noble but losing cause. His careful study of the great orators who had preceded him undoubtedly taught him much; yet it was his own original and creative power, lodged in a far-sighted, generous, and fearless nature, that enabled him to leave to mankind a series of forensic masterpieces hardly rivaled in any age or country.

Signature: Robert Shark



This speech was delivered about three months after the second Philippic, while Philip was advancing into Thrace, and threatening both the Chersonese and the Propontine coast. No new event had happened which called for any special consultation; but Demosthenes, alarmed by the formidable character of Philip's enterprises and vast military preparations, felt the necessity of rousing the Athenians to exertion.

Many speeches, men of Athens, are made in almost every Assembly about the hostilities of Philip, hostilities which ever since the treaty of peace he has been committing as well against you as against the rest of the Greeks; and all, I am sure, are ready to avow, though they forbear to do so, that our counsels and our measures should be directed to his humiliation and chastisement: nevertheless, so low have our affairs been brought by inattention and negligence, I fear it is harsh truth to say, that if all the orators had sought to suggest and you to pass resolutions for the utter ruining of the commonwealth, we could not methinks be worse off than we are. A variety of circumstances may have brought us to this state; our affairs have not declined from one or two causes only: but if you rightly examine, you will find it chiefly owing to the orators, who study to please you rather than advise for the best. Some of whom, Athenians, seeking to maintain the basis of their own[Pg 4542] power and repute, have no forethought for the future, and therefore think you also ought to have none; others, accusing and calumniating practical statesmen, labor only to make Athens punish Athens, and in such occupation to engage her that Philip may have liberty to say and do what he pleases. Politics of this kind are common here, but are the causes of your failures and embarrassment. I beg, Athenians, that you will not resent my plain speaking of the truth. Only consider. You hold liberty of speech in other matters to be the general right of all residents in Athens, insomuch that you allow a measure of it even to foreigners and slaves, and many servants may be seen among you speaking their thoughts more freely than citizens in some other States; and yet you have altogether banished it from your councils. The result has been, that in the Assembly you give yourselves airs and are flattered at hearing nothing but compliments; in your measures and proceedings you are brought to the utmost peril. If such be your disposition now, I must be silent: if you will listen to good advice without flattery, I am ready to speak. For though our affairs are in a deplorable condition, though many sacrifices have been made, still if you will choose to perform your duty it is possible to repair it all. A paradox, and yet a truth, am I about to state. That which is the most lamentable in the past is best for the future. How is this? Because you performed no part of your duty, great or small, and therefore you fared ill: had you done all that became you, and your situation were the same, there would be no hope of amendment. Philip has indeed prevailed over your sloth and negligence, but not over the country; you have not been worsted; you have not even bestirred yourselves.

If now we were all agreed that Philip is at war with Athens and infringing the peace, nothing would a speaker need to urge or advise but the safest and easiest way of resisting him. But since, at the very time when Philip is capturing cities and retaining divers of our dominions and assailing all people, there are men so unreasonable as to listen to repeated declarations in the Assembly that some of us are kindling war, one must be cautious and set this matter right: for whoever moves or advises a measure of defense is in danger of being accused afterwards as author of the war.

I will first then examine and determine this point, whether it be in our power to deliberate on peace or war. If the country[Pg 4543] may be at peace, if it depends on us (to begin with this), I say we ought to maintain peace; and I call upon the affirmant to move a resolution, to take some measure, and not to palter with us. But if another, having arms in his hand and a large force around him, amuses you with the name of peace while he carries on the operations of war, what is left but to defend yourselves? You may profess to be at peace if you like, as he does; I quarrel not with that. But if any man supposes this to be a peace, which will enable Philip to master all else and attack you last, he is a madman, or he talks of a peace observed towards him by you, not towards you by him. This it is that Philip purchases by all his expenditure—the privilege of assailing you without being assailed in turn.

If we really wait until he avows that he is at war with us, we are the simplest of mortals: for he would not declare that, though he marched even against Attica and Piræus; at least if we may judge from his conduct to others. For example, to the Olynthians he declared when he was forty furlongs from their city, that there was no alternative, but either they must quit Olynthus or he Macedonia; though before that time, whenever he was accused of such an intent, he took it ill and sent ambassadors to justify himself. Again, he marched toward the Phocians as if they were allies, and there were Phocian envoys who accompanied his march, and many among you contended that his advance would not benefit the Thebans. And he came into Thessaly of late as a friend and ally, yet he has taken possession of Pheræ; and lastly he told these wretched people of Oreus that he had sent his soldiers out of good-will to visit them, as he heard they were in trouble and dissension, and it was the part of allies and true friends to lend assistance on such occasions. People who would never have harmed him, though they might have adopted measures of defense, he chose to deceive rather than warn them of his attack; and think ye he would declare war against you before he began it, and that while you are willing to be deceived? Impossible. He would be the silliest of mankind, if whilst you the injured parties make no complaint against him, but are accusing your own countrymen, he should terminate your intestine strife and jealousies, warn you to turn against him, and remove the pretexts of his hirelings for asserting, to amuse you, that he makes no war upon Athens. O heavens! would any rational being judge by words rather than[Pg 4544] by actions, who is at peace with him and who at war? Surely none. Well then, tell me now: when he sends mercenaries into Chersonesus, which the king and all the Greeks have acknowledged to be yours, when he avows himself an auxiliary and writes us word so, what are such proceedings? He says he is not at war; I cannot however admit such conduct to be an observance of the peace; far otherwise: I say, by his attempt on Megara, by his setting up despotism in Eubœa, by his present advance into Thrace, by his intrigues in Peloponnesus, by the whole course of operations with his army, he has been breaking the peace and making war upon you; unless indeed you will say that those who establish batteries are not at war until they apply them to the walls. But that you will not say: for whoever contrives and prepares the means for my conquest, is at war with me before he darts or draws the bow. What, if anything should happen, is the risk you run? The alienation of the Hellespont, the subjection of Megara and Eubœa to your enemy, the siding of the Peloponnesians with him. Then can I allow that one who sets such an engine at work against Athens is at peace with her? Quite the contrary. From the day that he destroyed the Phocians I date his commencement of hostilities. Defend yourselves instantly, and I say you will be wise: delay it, and you may wish in vain to do so hereafter. So much do I dissent from your other counselors, men of Athens, that I deem any discussion about Chersonesus or Byzantium out of place. Succor them,—I advise that,—watch that no harm befalls them, send all necessary supplies to your troops in that quarter; but let your deliberations be for the safety of all Greece, as being in the utmost peril. I must tell you why I am so alarmed at the state of our affairs, that if my reasonings are correct, you may share them, and make some provision at least for yourselves, however disinclined to do so for others; but if in your judgment I talk nonsense and absurdity, you may treat me as crazed, and not listen to me either now or in future.

That Philip from a mean and humble origin has grown mighty, that the Greeks are jealous and quarreling among themselves, that it was far more wonderful for him to rise from that insignificance than it would now be, after so many acquisitions, to conquer what is left: these, and similar matters which I might dwell upon, I pass over. But I observe that all people, beginning with you, have conceded to him a right which in former[Pg 4545] times has been the subject of contest in every Grecian war. And what is this? The right of doing what he pleases, openly fleecing and pillaging the Greeks, one after another, attacking and enslaving their cities. You were at the head of the Greeks for seventy-three years, the Lacedæmonians for twenty-nine; and the Thebans had some power in these latter times after the battle of Leuctra. Yet neither you my countrymen, nor Thebans, nor Lacedæmonians, were ever licensed by the Greeks to act as you pleased; far otherwise. When you, or rather the Athenians of that time, appeared to be dealing harshly with certain people, all the rest, even such as had no complaint against Athens, thought proper to side with the injured parties in a war against her. So, when the Lacedæmonians became masters and succeeded to your empire, on their attempting to encroach and make oppressive innovations a general war was declared against them, even by such as had no cause of complaint. But wherefore mention other people? We ourselves and the Lacedæmonians, although at the outset we could not allege any mutual injuries, thought proper to make war for the injustice that we saw done to our neighbors. Yet all the faults committed by the Spartans in those thirty years, and by our ancestors in the seventy, are less, men of Athens, than the wrongs which in thirteen incomplete years that Philip has been uppermost he has inflicted on the Greeks: nay, they are scarcely a fraction of these, as may easily be shown in a few words. Olynthus and Methone and Apollonia, and thirty-two cities on the borders of Thrace, I pass over; all which he has so cruelly destroyed, that a visitor could hardly tell if they were ever inhabited; and of the Phocians, so considerable a people exterminated, I say nothing. But what is the condition of Thessaly? Has he not taken away her constitutions and her cities, and established tetrarchies, to parcel her out, not only by cities, but also by provinces, for subjection? Are not the Eubœan States governed now by despots, and that in an island near to Thebes and Athens? Does he not expressly write in his epistles, "I am at peace with those who are willing to obey me?" Nor does he write so and not act accordingly. He is gone to the Hellespont; he marched formerly against Ambracia; Elis, such an important city in Peloponnesus, he possesses; he plotted lately to get Megara: neither Hellenic nor barbaric land contains the man's ambition.[Pg 4546]

And we the Greek community, seeing and hearing this, instead of sending embassies to one another about it and expressing indignation, are in such a miserable state, so intrenched in our separate towns, that to this day we can attempt nothing that interest or necessity requires; we cannot combine, or form any association for succor and alliance; we look unconcernedly on the man's growing power, each resolving, methinks, to enjoy the interval that another is destroyed in, not caring or striving for the salvation of Greece: for none can be ignorant that Philip, like some course or attack of fever or other disease, is coming even on those that yet seem very far removed. And you must be sensible that whatever wrong the Greeks sustained from Lacedæmonians or from us was at least inflicted by genuine people of Greece; and it might be felt in the same manner as if a lawful son, born to a large fortune, committed some fault or error in the management of it; on that ground one would consider him open to censure and reproach, yet it could not be said that he was an alien, and not heir to the property which he so dealt with. But if a slave or a spurious child wasted and spoiled what he had no interest in—Heavens! how much more heinous and hateful would all have pronounced it! And yet in regard to Philip and his conduct they feel not this, although he is not only no Greek and no way akin to Greeks, but not even a barbarian of a place honorable to mention; in fact, a vile fellow of Macedon, from which a respectable slave could not be purchased formerly.

What is wanting to make his insolence complete? Besides his destruction of Grecian cities, does he not hold the Pythian games, the common festival of Greece, and if he comes not himself, send his vassals to preside? Is he not master of Thermopylæ and the passes into Greece, and holds he not those places by garrisons and mercenaries? Has he not thrust aside Thessalians, ourselves, Dorians, the whole Amphictyonic body, and got pre-audience of the oracle, to which even the Greeks do not all pretend? Yet the Greeks endure to see all this; methinks they view it as they would a hailstorm, each praying that it may not fall on himself, none trying to prevent it. And not only are the outrages which he does to Greece submitted to, but even the private wrongs of every people: nothing can go beyond this! Still under these indignities we are all slack and[Pg 4547] disheartened, and look towards our neighbors, distrusting one another instead of the common enemy. And how think ye a man who behaves so insolently to all, how will he act when he gets each separately under his control?

But what has caused the mischief? There must be some cause, some good reason why the Greeks were so eager for liberty then, and now are eager for servitude. There was something, men of Athens, something in the hearts of the multitude then which there is not now, which overcame the wealth of Persia and maintained the freedom of Greece, and quailed not under any battle by land or sea; the loss whereof has ruined all, and thrown the affairs of Greece into confusion. What was this? Nothing subtle or clever: simply that whoever took money from the aspirants for power or the corrupters of Greece were universally detested; it was dreadful to be convicted of bribery; the severest punishment was inflicted on the guilty, and there was no intercession or pardon. The favorable moments for enterprise which fortune frequently offers to the careless against the vigilant, to them that will do nothing against those that discharge all their duty, could not be bought from orators or generals; no more could mutual concord, nor distrust of tyrants and barbarians, nor anything of the kind. But now all such principles have been sold as in open market, and those imported in exchange, by which Greece is ruined and diseased. What are they? Envy where a man gets a bribe; laughter if he confesses it; mercy to the convicted; hatred of those that denounce the crime; all the usual attendants upon corruption. For as to ships and men and revenues and abundance of other materials, all that may be reckoned as constituting national strength—assuredly the Greeks of our day are more fully and perfectly supplied with such advantages than Greeks of the olden time. But they are all rendered useless, unavailable, unprofitable, by the agency of these traffickers.

That such is the present state of things, you must see without requiring my testimony; that it was different in former times I will demonstrate, not by speaking my own words, but by showing an inscription of your ancestors, which they graved on a brazen column and deposited in the citadel, not for their own benefit (they were right-minded enough without such records), but for a memorial and example to instruct you how seriously such conduct should be taken up. What says the inscription[Pg 4548] then? It says:—"Let Arthmius, son of Pythonax the Zelite, be declared an outlaw and an enemy of the Athenian people and their allies, him and his family." Then the cause is written why this was done: because he brought the Median gold into Peloponnesus. That is the inscription. By the gods! only consider and reflect among yourselves what must have been the spirit, what the dignity of those Athenians who acted so. One Arthmius a Zelite, subject of the king (for Zelea is in Asia), because in his master's service he brought gold into Peloponnesus,—not to Athens,—they proclaimed an enemy of the Athenians and their allies, him and his family, and outlawed. That is not by the outlawry commonly spoken of: for what would a Zelite care, to be excluded from Athenian franchises? It means not that; but in the statutes of homicide it is written, in cases where a prosecution for murder is not allowed, but killing is sanctioned, "and let him die an outlaw," says the legislator; by which he means that whoever kills such a person shall be unpolluted. Therefore they considered that the preservation of all Greece was their own concern (but for such opinion, they would not have cared whether people in Peloponnesus were bought and corrupted); and whomsoever they discovered taking bribes, they chastised and punished so severely as to record their names in brass. The natural result was, that Greece was formidable to the barbarian, not the barbarian to Greece. 'Tis not so now: since neither in this nor in other respects are your sentiments the same. But what are they? You know yourselves; why am I to upbraid you with everything? The Greeks in general are alike, and no better than you. Therefore I say, our present affairs demand earnest attention and wholesome counsel.

There is a foolish saying of persons who wish to make us easy, that Philip is not yet as powerful as the Lacedæmonians were formerly, who ruled everywhere by land and sea, and had the king for their ally, and nothing withstood them; yet Athens resisted even that nation, and was not destroyed. I myself believe that while everything has received great improvement, and the present bears no resemblance to the past, nothing has been so changed and improved as the practice of war. For anciently, as I am informed, the Lacedæmonians and all Grecian people would for four or five months during the season, only, invade and ravage the land of their enemies with heavy-armed and national troops, and return home again; and their ideas were so old-fashioned,[Pg 4549] or rather national, that they never purchased an advantage from any; theirs was a legitimate and open warfare. But now you doubtless perceive that the majority of disasters have been effected by treason; nothing is done in fair field or combat. You hear of Philip marching where he pleases, not because he commands troops of the line, but because he has attached to him a host of skirmishers, cavalry, archers, mercenaries, and the like. When with these he falls upon a people in civil dissension, and none (through mistrust) will march out to defend the country, he applies engines and besieges them. I need not mention that he makes no difference between winter and summer, that he has no stated season of repose. You, knowing these things, reflecting on them, must not let the war approach your territories, nor get your necks broken, relying on the simplicity of the old war with the Lacedæmonians; but take the longest time beforehand for defensive measures and preparations, see that he stirs not from home, avoid any decisive engagement. For a war, if we choose, men of Athens, to pursue a right course, we have many natural advantages; such as the position of his kingdom, which we may extensively plunder and ravage, and a thousand more; but for a battle he is better trained than we are.

Nor is it enough to adopt these resolutions and oppose him by warlike measures: you must on calculation and on principle abhor his advocates here, remembering that it is impossible to overcome your enemies abroad until you have chastised those who are his ministers within the city. Which, by Jupiter and all the gods, you cannot and will not do! You have arrived at such a pitch of folly or madness or—I know not what to call it: I am tempted often to think that some evil genius is driving you to ruin—that for the sake of scandal or envy or jest or any other cause, you command hirelings to speak (some of whom would not deny themselves to be hirelings), and laugh when they abuse people. And this, bad as it is, is not the worst; you have allowed these persons more liberty for their political conduct than your faithful counselors; and see what evils are caused by listening to such men with indulgence. I will mention facts that you will all remember.

In Olynthus some of the statesmen were in Philip's interest, doing everything for him; some were on the honest side, aiming to preserve their fellow-citizens from slavery. Which party, now, destroyed their country? or which betrayed the cavalry, by whose[Pg 4550] betrayal Olynthus fell? The creatures of Philip; they that, while the city stood, slandered and calumniated the honest counselors so effectually that the Olynthian people were induced to banish Apollonides.

Nor is it there only, and nowhere else, that such practice has been ruinous.

What can be the reason—perhaps you wonder—why the Olynthians were more indulgent to Philip's advocates than to their own? The same which operates with you. They who advise for the best cannot always gratify their audience, though they would; for the safety of the State must be attended to; their opponents by the very counsel which is agreeable advance Philip's interest. One party required contribution, the other said there was no necessity; one were for war and mistrust, the other for peace, until they were ensnared. And so on for everything else (not to dwell on particulars); the one made speeches to please for the moment, and gave no annoyance; the other offered salutary counsel that was offensive. Many rights did the people surrender at last, not from any such motive of indulgence or ignorance, but submitting in the belief that all was lost. Which, by Jupiter and Apollo, I fear will be your case, when on calculation you see that nothing can be done. I pray, men of Athens, it may never come to this! Better die a thousand deaths than render homage to Philip, or sacrifice any of your faithful counselors. A fine recompense have the people of Oreus got, for trusting themselves to Philip's friends and spurning Euphræus! Finely are the Eretrian commons rewarded, for having driven away your ambassadors and yielded to Clitarchus! Yes; they are slaves, exposed to the lash and the torture. Finely he spared the Olynthians! It is folly and cowardice to cherish such hopes, and while you take evil counsel and shirk every duty, and even listen to those who plead for your enemies, to think you inhabit a city of such magnitude that you cannot suffer any serious misfortune. Yea, and it is disgraceful to exclaim on any occurrence, when it is too late, "Who would have expected it? However—this or that should have been done, the other left undone." Many things could the Olynthians mention now, which if foreseen at the time would have prevented their destruction. Many could the Orites mention, many the Phocians, and each of the ruined States. But what would it avail them? As long as the vessel is safe, whether it be great or small, the mariner, the[Pg 4551] pilot, every man in turn should exert himself, and prevent its being overturned either by accident or design: but when the sea hath rolled over it, their efforts are vain. And we likewise, O Athenians, whilst we are safe, with a magnificent city, plentiful resources, lofty reputation—what must we do? Many of you, I dare say, have been longing to ask. Well then, I will tell you; I will move a resolution; pass it, if you please.

First, let us prepare for our own defense; provide ourselves, I mean, with ships, money, and troops—for surely, though all other people consented to be slaves, we at least ought to struggle for freedom. When we have completed our own preparations and made them apparent to the Greeks, then let us invite the rest, and send our ambassadors everywhere with the intelligence, to Peloponnesus, to Rhodes, to Chios, to the king, I say (for it concerns his interests not to let Philip make universal conquest); that, if you prevail, you may have partners of your dangers and expenses in case of necessity, or at all events that you may delay the operations. For since the war is against an individual, not against the collected power of a State, even this may be useful; as were the embassies last year to Peloponnesus, and the remonstrances with which I and the other envoys went round and arrested Philip's progress, so that he neither attacked Ambracia nor started for Peloponnesus. I say not, however, that you should invite the rest without adopting measures to protect yourselves; it would be folly, while you sacrifice your own interest, to profess a regard for that of strangers, or to alarm others about the future, whilst for the present you are unconcerned. I advise not this; I bid you send supplies to the troops in Chersonesus, and do what else they require; prepare yourselves and make every effort first, then summon, gather, instruct the rest of the Greeks. That is the duty of a State possessing a dignity such as yours. If you imagine that Chalcidians or Megarians will save Greece, while you run away from the contest, you imagine wrong. Well for any of those people if they are safe themselves! This work belongs to you; this privilege your ancestors bequeathed to you, the prize of many perilous exertions. But if every one will sit seeking his pleasure, and studying to be idle himself, never will he find others to do his work; and more than this, I fear we shall be under the necessity of doing all that we like not at one time. Were proxies to be had, our inactivity would have found them long ago; but they are not.[Pg 4552]

Such are the measures which I advise, which I propose; adopt them, and even yet, I believe, our prosperity may be re-established. If any man has better advice to offer, let him communicate it openly. Whatever you determine, I pray to all the gods for a happy result.

Translation of Charles R. Kennedy.


This, you must be convinced, is a struggle for existence. You cannot overcome your enemies abroad till you have punished your enemies, his ministers, at home. They will be the stumbling-blocks which prevent you reaching the others. Why, do you suppose, Philip now insults you? To other people he at least renders services though he deceives them, while he is already threatening you. Look for instance at the Thessalians. It was by many benefits conferred on them that he seduced them into their present bondage. And then the Olynthians, again,—how he cheated them, first giving them Potidæa and several other places, is really beyond description. Now he is enticing the Thebans by giving up to them Bœotia, and delivering them from a toilsome and vexatious war. Each of these people did get a certain advantage; but some of them have suffered what all the world knows; others will suffer whatever may hereafter befall them. As for you, I recount not all that has been taken from you, but how shamefully have you been treated and despoiled! Why is it that Philip deals so differently with you and with others? Because yours is the only State in Greece in which the privilege is allowed of speaking for the enemy, and a citizen taking a bribe may safely address the Assembly, though you have been robbed of your dominions. It was not safe at Olynthus to be Philip's advocate, unless the Olynthian commonalty had shared the advantage by possession of Potidæa. It was not safe in Thessaly to be Philip's advocate, unless the people of Thessaly had secured the advantage by Philip's expelling their tyrants and restoring the Synod at Pylæ. It was not safe in Thebes, until he gave up Bœotia to them and destroyed the Phocians. Yet at Athens, though Philip has deprived you of Amphipolis and the territory round Cardia—nay, is making Eubœa a fortress as a check upon us, and is advancing to attack Byzantium—it is safe to speak in Philip's behalf.[Pg 4553]


Do not go about repeating that Greece owes all her misfortunes to one man. No, not to one man, but to many abandoned men distributed throughout the different States, of whom, by earth and heaven, Æschines is one. If the truth were to be spoken without reserve, I should not hesitate to call him the common scourge of all the men, the districts, and the cities which have perished; for the sower of the seed is answerable for the crop....

I affirm that if the future had been apparent to us all,—if you, Æschines, had foretold it and proclaimed it at the top of your voice instead of preserving total silence,—nevertheless the State ought not to have deviated from her course, if she had regard to her own honor, the traditions of the past, or the judgment of posterity. As it is, she is looked upon as having failed in her policy,—the common lot of all mankind when such is the will of heaven; but if, claiming to be the foremost State of Greece, she had deserted her post, she would have incurred the reproach of betraying Greece to Philip. If we had abandoned without a struggle all which our forefathers braved every danger to win, who would not have spurned you, Æschines? How could we have looked in the face the strangers who flock to our city, if things had reached their present pass,—Philip the chosen leader and lord of all,—while others without our assistance had borne the struggle to avert this consummation? We! who have never in times past preferred inglorious safety to peril in the path of honor. Is there a Greek or a barbarian who does not know that Thebes at the height of her power, and Sparta before her—ay, and even the King of Persia himself—would have been only glad to compromise with us, and that we might have had what we chose, and possessed our own in peace, had we been willing to obey orders and to suffer another to put himself at the head of Greece? But it was not possible,—it was not a thing which the Athenians of those days could do. It was against their nature, their genius, and their traditions; and no human persuasion could induce them to side with a wrong-doer because he was powerful, and to embrace subjection because it was safe. No; to the last our country has fought and jeopardized herself for honor and glory and pre-eminence. A noble choice, in harmony with your national character, as you testify by your respect[Pg 4554] for the memories of your ancestors who have so acted. And you are in the right; for who can withhold admiration from the heroism of the men who shrank not from leaving their city and their fatherland, and embarking in their war-ships, rather than submit to foreign dictation? Why, Themistocles, who counseled this step, was elected general; and the man who counseled submission was stoned to death—and not he only, for his wife was stoned by your wives, as he was by you. The Athenians of those days went not in quest of an orator or a general who could help them to prosperous slavery; but they scorned life itself, if it were not the life of freedom. Each of them regarded himself as the child not only of his father and of his mother, but of his country; and what is the difference? He who looks on himself as merely the child of his parents, awaits death in the ordinary course of nature; while he who looks on himself as the child also of his country, will be ready to lay down his life rather than see her enslaved....

Do I take credit to myself for having inspired you with sentiments worthy of your ancestors? Such presumption would expose me to the just rebuke of every man who hears me. What I maintain is, that these very sentiments are your own; that the spirit of Athens was the same before my time,—though I do claim to have had a share in the application of these principles to each successive crisis. Æschines, therefore, when he impeaches our whole policy, and seeks to exasperate you against me as the author of all your alarms and perils, in his anxiety to deprive me of present credit is really laboring to rob you of your everlasting renown. If by your vote against Ctesiphon you condemn my policy, you will pronounce yourselves to have been in the wrong, instead of having suffered what has befallen you through the cruel injustice of fortune. But it cannot be; you have not been in the wrong, men of Athens, in doing battle for the freedom and salvation of all: I swear it by your forefathers, who bore the battle's brunt at Marathon; by those who stood in arms at Platæa; by those who fought the sea fight at Salamis; by the heroes of Artemisium, and many more whose resting-place in our national monuments attests that, that as our country buried, so she honored, all alike—victors and vanquished. She was right; for what brave men could do, all did, though a higher power was master of their fate.[Pg 4555]





e Quincey's popular reputation is largely due to his autobiographical essays,—to his 'Confessions.' Whatever may be the merits of his other writings, the general public, as in the case of Rousseau, of Dante, of St. Augustine, and of many another, has, with its instinctive and unquenchable desire for knowledge of the inner life of men of great emotional and imaginative power, singled out De Quincey's 'Confessions' as the most significant of his works. There has arisen a popular legend of De Quincey, making him (not unlike Dante, who had seen hell with his bodily eyes) a man who had felt in his own person the infernal pangs and pleasures consequent upon enormous and almost unique excesses in the use of that Oriental drug which possesses for us all such a romantic attraction. He became the "English Opium-Eater"; and even the most recent and authoritative edition of his writings, that of the late Professor Masson, did not hesitate in advertisements to avail itself of a title so familiar and so sensational.

To a great degree, this feeling on the part of the public is natural and proper. De Quincey's opium habit, begun in his youth under circumstances that modern physicians have guessed to be justifiable, and continued throughout the remainder of his life,—at first without self-restraint, at last in what was for him moderation,—has rendered him a striking and isolated figure in Western lands.

We have a right eagerly to ask: On this strongly marked temperament, so delicately imaginative and so keenly logical, so receptive and so retentive, a type alike of the philosopher and the poet, the scholar and the musician—on such a contemplative genius, what were the effects of so great and so constant indulgence in a drug noted for its power of heightening and extending, for a season, the whole range of the imaginative faculties?

Justifiable as such feelings may be, however, they tend to wrong De Quincey's memory and to limit our conceptions of his character and genius. He was no vulgar opium drunkard; he was, to all appearances, singularly free even from the petty vices to which eaters of the drug are supposed to be peculiarly liable. To be sure, he was not without his eccentricities. He was absent-mindedly careless in his attire, unusual in his hours of waking and sleeping, odd[Pg 4556] in his habits of work, ludicrously ignorant of the value of money, solitary, prone to whims, by turns reticent and loquacious. But for all his eccentricities, De Quincey—unlike Poe, for example—is not a possible object for pity or patronage; they would be foolish who could doubt his word or mistrust his motives. He was "queer," as most great Englishmen of letters of his time were; but the more his at first enigmatic character comes to light, through his own letters and through the recollections of his friends, the more clearly do we see him to have been a pure-minded and well-bred man, kind, honest, generous, and gentle. His life was almost wholly passed among books,—books in many languages, books of many kinds and times. These he incessantly read and annotated. And the treasures of this wide reading, stored in a retentive and imaginative mind, form the basis of almost all his work that is not distinctly autobiographical.

De Quincey's writings, as collected by himself (and more recently by Professor Masson), fill fourteen good-sized volumes, and consist of about two hundred and fifteen separate pieces, all of which were contributed to various periodicals between 1813, when at the age of thirty-eight he suddenly found himself and his family dependent for support on his literary efforts, to his death in 1859. Books, sustained efforts of construction, he did not except in a single instance, and probably could not, produce; his mind held rich stores of information on many subjects, but his habit of thought was essentially non-consecutive and his method merely that of the brilliant talker, who illumines delightfully many a subject, treating none, however, with reserved power and thorough care. His attitude toward his work, it is worth while to notice, was an admirable one. His task was often that of a hack writer; his spirit never. His life was frugal and modest in the extreme; and though writing brought him bread and fame, he seems never, in any recorded instance, to have concerned himself with its commercial value. He wrote from a full mind and with genuine inspiration, and lived and died a man of letters from pure love of letters and not of worldly gain.

As we have noticed, it is the autobiographical part of De Quincey's writing—the 'Confessions' of one who could call every day for "a glass of laudanum negus, warm, and without sugar"—that has made him famous, and which deserves first our critical attention. It consists of four or five hundred pages of somewhat disconnected sketches, including the 'Confessions of an English Opium-Eater' and 'Suspiria de Profundis.' De Quincey himself speaks of them as "a far higher class of composition" than his philosophical or historical writings,—declaring them to be, unlike the comparatively matter-of-fact memoirs of Rousseau and St. Augustine, "modes of impassioned prose, ranging[Pg 4557] under no precedents that I am aware of in any literature." What De Quincey attempted was to clothe in words scenes from the world of dreams,—a lyric fashion, as it were, wholly in keeping with contemporary taste and aspiration, which under the penetrating influence of romanticism were maintaining the poetical value and interest of isolated and excited personal feeling.

Like Dante, whose 'Vita Nuova' De Quincey's 'Confessions' greatly resemble in their essential characteristics of method, he had lived from childhood in a world of dreams. Both felt keenly the pleasures and sorrows of the outer world, but in both contemplative imagination was so strong that the actual fact—the real Beatrice, if you will—became as nothing to that same fact transmuted through idealizing thought. De Quincey was early impressed by the remarkable fashion in which dreams or reveries weave together the separate strands of wakeful existence. Before he was two years old he had, he says, "a remarkable dream of terrific grandeur about a favorite nurse, which is interesting to myself for this reason,—that it demonstrates my dreaming tendencies to have been constitutional, and not dependent on laudanum." At the same age he "connected a profound sense of pathos with the reappearance, very early in the spring, of some crocuses." These two incidents are a key to the working of De Quincey's mind. Waking or sleeping, his intellect had the rare power of using the facts of life as the composer might use a song of the street, building on a wandering ballad a whole symphony of transfigured sound, retaining skillfully, in the midst of the new and majestic music, the winning qualities of the popular strain. To such a boy, with an imaginative mind, an impassioned nature, and a memory which retained and developed powerfully year by year all associations involving the feelings of grandeur, magnificence, or immensity,—to such a boy, life and experience were but the storing up of material which the creative mind might weave into literature that had the form of prose and the nature of poetry.

De Quincey shared Dante's rare capacity for retaining strong visual images, his rare power of weaving them into a new and wonderful fabric. But De Quincey, though as learned and as acute as Dante, had not Dante's religious and philosophical convictions. A blind faith and scholastic reason were the foundations of the great vision of the 'Divine Comedy.' De Quincey had not the strong but limited conception of the world on which to base his imagination, he had not the high religious vision to nerve him to higher contemplation, and his work can never serve in any way as a guide and message to mankind. De Quincey's visions, however, have the merit of not being forced. He did not resolve to see what faith and reason bade him.[Pg 4558]

While all controlled reasoning was suspended under the incantation of opium, his quick mind, without conscious intent, without prejudice or purpose, assembled such mysterious and wonderful sights and sounds as the naked soul might see and hear in the world of actual experience. For De Quincey's range of action and association was not as narrow as might seem. He had walked the streets of London friendless and starving, saved from death by a dram given by one even more wretched than he, only a few months after he had talked with the king. De Quincey's latent images are therefore not grotesque or mediæval, not conditioned by any philosophical theory, not of any Inferno or Paradise. The elements of his visions are the simple elements of all our striking experiences: the faces of the dead, the grieving child, the tired woman, the strange foreign face, the tramp of horses' feet. And opium merely magnified these simple elements, rendered them grand and beautiful without giving them any forced connection or relative meaning. We recognize the traces of our own transfigured experience, but we are relieved from the necessity of accepting it as having an inner meaning. De Quincey's singular hold on our affection seems, therefore, to be his rare quality of presenting the unusual but typical dream or reverie as a beautiful object of interest, without endeavoring to give it the character of an allegory or a fable.

The greater part of De Quincey's writings however are historical, critical, and philosophical in character rather than autobiographical; but these are now much neglected. We sometimes read a little of 'Joan of Arc,' and no one can read it without great admiration; the 'Flight of the Tartars' has even become a part of "prescribed" literature in our American schools; but of other essays than these we have as a rule only a dim impression or a faint memory. There are obvious reasons why De Quincey's historical and philosophical writings, in an age which devotes itself so largely to similar pursuits, no longer recommend themselves to the popular taste. His method is too discursive and leisurely; his subjects as a rule too remote from current interest; his line of thought too intricate. These failings, from our point of view, are the more to be regretted because there has never been an English essayist more entertaining or suggestive than De Quincey. His works cover a very wide range of subject-matter,—from the 'Knocking on the Gate in Macbeth' to the 'Casuistry of Roman Meals' and the 'Toilet of a Hebrew Lady.' His topics are always piquant. Like Poe, De Quincey loved puzzling questions, the cryptograms, the tangled under sides of things, where there are many and conflicting facts to sift and correlate, the points that are now usually settled in foot-notes and by references to German authorities. In dealing with such subjects he showed not only[Pg 4559] that he possessed the same keen logic which entertains us in Poe, but that he was the master of great stores of learned information. We are never wholly convinced, perhaps, of the eternal truth of his conclusions, but we like to watch him arrive at them. They seem fresh and strange, and we are dazzled by the constantly changing material. Nothing can be more delightful than the constant influx of new objects of thought, the unexpected incidents, the seemingly inexpugnable logic that ends in paradox, the play of human interest in a topic to which all living interest seems alien. There is scarcely a page in all De Quincey's writings that taken by itself is actually dull. In each, one receives a vivid impression of the same lithe and active mind, examining with lively curiosity even a recondite subject: cracking a joke here and dropping a tear there, and never intermitting the smooth flow of acute but often irrelevant observation. The generation that habitually neglects De Quincey has lost little important historical and philosophical information, perhaps, but it has certainly deprived itself of a constant source of entertainment.

As a stylist De Quincey marked a new ideal in English; that of impassioned prose, as he himself expresses it,—prose which deliberately exalts its subject-matter, as the opera does its. And it was really as an opera that De Quincey conceived of the essay. It was to have its recitatives, its mediocre passages, the well and firmly handled parts of ordinary discourse. All comparatively unornamented matter was, however, but preparative to the lyric outburst,—the strophe and antistrophe of modulated song. In this conception of style others had preceded him,—Milton notably,—but only half consciously and not with sustained success. There could be no great English prose until the eighteenth century had trimmed the tangled periods of the seventeenth, and the romantic movement of the nineteenth added fire and enthusiasm to the clear but conventional style of the eighteenth. Ruskin and Carlyle have both the same element of bravura, as will be seen if one tries to analyze their best passages as music. But in De Quincey this lyric arrangement is at once more delicate and more obvious, as the reader may assure himself if he re-read his favorite passages, noticing how many of them are in essence exclamatory, or actually vocative, as it were. In this ideal of impassioned prose De Quincey gave to the prose of the latter part of the century its keynote. Macaulay is everywhere equally impassioned or unimpassioned; the smooth-flowing and useful canal, rather than the picturesque river in which rapids follow the long reaches of even water, and are in turn succeeded by them. To conceive of style as music,—as symmetry, proportion, and measure, only secondarily dependent on the clear exposition of the actual subject-matter,—that is De Quincey's ideal, and there Pater and Stevenson have followed him.[Pg 4560]

De Quincey's fame has not gone far beyond the circle of those who speak his native tongue. A recent French critic finds him rough and rude, sinister even in his wit. In that circle however his reputation has been high, though he has not been without stern critics. Mr. Leslie Stephen insists that his logic is more apparent than real: that his humor is spun out and trivial, his jests ill-timed and ill-made. His claim that his 'Confessions' created a new genre is futile; they confess nothing epoch-making,—no real crises of soul, merely the adventures of a truant schoolboy, the recollections of a drunkard. He was full of contemptuous and effeminate British prejudices against agnosticism and Continental geniuses. "And so," Mr. Stephen continues, "in a life of seventy-three years De Quincey read extensively and thought acutely by fits, ate an enormous quantity of opium, wrote a few pages which revealed new capacities in the language, and provided a good deal of respectable padding for the magazines."

Not a single one of the charges can be wholly denied; on analysis De Quincey proves guilty of all these offenses against ideal culture. Rough jocoseness, diffusiveness, local prejudice, a life spent on details, a lack of philosophy.—these are faults, but they are British faults, Anglo-Saxon faults. They scarcely limit affection or greatly diminish respect. De Quincey was a sophist, a rhetorician, a brilliant talker. There are men of that sort in every club, in every community. We forgive their eccentricity, their lack of fine humor, the most rigid logic, or the highest learning. We do not attempt to reply to them. It is enough if the stream of discourse flows gently on from their lips. A rich and well-modulated vocabulary, finely turned phrases, amusing quips and conceits of fancy, acute observations, a rich store of recondite learning, these charm and hold us. Such a talker, such a writer, was De Quincey. Such was his task, to amuse, to interest, and at times to instruct us. One deeper note he struck rarely, but always with the master's hand, the vibrating note felt in passages characteristic of immensity, solitude, grandeur; and it is to that note that De Quincey owes the individuality of his style and his fame.

There are few facts in De Quincey's long career that bear directly on the criticism of his works. Like Ruskin, he was the son of a well-to-do and cultivated merchant, but the elder De Quincey unfortunately died too early to be of any help in life to his impulsive and unpractical boy, who quarreled with his guardians, ran away from school, and neglected his routine duties at Oxford. His admiration for Wordsworth and Coleridge led him to the Lake country, where he married and settled down. The necessity of providing for his family at last aroused him from his life of meditation and indulgence in[Pg 4561] opium, and brought him into connection with the periodicals of the day. After the death of his wife in 1840 he moved with his children to the vicinity of Edinburgh, where in somewhat eccentric solitude he spent the last twenty years of his uneventful life.



From 'Biographical Essays'

It sounds paradoxical, but is not so in a bad sense, to say that in every literature of large compass some authors will be found to rest much of the interest which surrounds them on their essential non-popularity. They are good for the very reason that they are not in conformity to the current taste. They interest because to the world they are not interesting. They attract by means of their repulsion. Not as though it could separately furnish a reason for loving a book, that the majority of men had found it repulsive. Prima facie, it must suggest some presumption against a book that it has failed to gain public attention. To have roused hostility indeed, to have kindled a feud against its own principles or its temper, may happen to be a good sign. That argues power. Hatred may be promising. The deepest revolutions of mind sometimes begin in hatred. But simply to have left a reader unimpressed is in itself a neutral result, from which the inference is doubtful. Yet even that, even simple failure to impress, may happen at times to be a result from positive powers in a writer, from special originalities such as rarely reflect themselves in the mirror of the ordinary understanding. It seems little to be perceived, how much the great Scriptural idea of the worldly and the unworldly is found to emerge in literature as well as in life. In reality, the very same combinations of moral qualities, infinitely varied, which compose the harsh physiognomy of what we call worldliness in the living groups of life, must unavoidably present themselves in books. A library divides into sections of worldly and unworldly, even as a crowd of men divides into that same majority and minority. The world has an instinct for recognizing its own, and recoils from certain qualities when exemplified in books, with the same[Pg 4562] disgust or defective sympathy as would have governed it in real life. From qualities for instance of childlike simplicity, of shy profundity, or of inspired self-communion, the world does and must turn away its face towards grosser, bolder, more determined, or more intelligible expressions of character and intellect; and not otherwise in literature, nor at all less in literature, than it does, in the realities of life.

Charles Lamb, if any ever was, is amongst the class here contemplated; he, if any ever has, ranks amongst writers whose works are destined to be forever unpopular, and yet forever interesting; interesting moreover by means of those very qualities which guarantee their non-popularity. The same qualities which will be found forbidding to the worldly and the thoughtless, which will be found insipid to many even amongst robust and powerful minds, are exactly those which will continue to command a select audience in every generation. The prose essays, under the signature of "Elia," form the most delightful section amongst Lamb's works. They traverse a peculiar field of observation, sequestered from general interest: and they are composed in a spirit too delicate and unobtrusive to catch the ear of the noisy crowd, clamoring for strong sensations. But this retiring delicacy itself, the pensiveness checkered by gleams of the fanciful, and the humor that is touched with cross lights of pathos, together with the picturesque quaintness of the objects casually described, whether men, or things, or usages; and in the rear of all this, the constant recurrence to ancient recollections and to decaying forms of household life, as things retiring before the tumult of new and revolutionary generations;—these traits in combination communicate to the papers a grace and strength of originality which nothing in any literature approaches, whether for degree or kind of excellence, except the most felicitous papers of Addison, such as those on Sir Roger de Coverley, and some others in the same vein of composition. They resemble Addison's papers also in the diction, which is natural and idiomatic even to carelessness. They are equally faithful to the truth of nature; and in this only they differ remarkably—that the sketches of Elia reflect the stamp and impress of the writer's own character, whereas in all those of Addison the personal peculiarities of the delineator (though known to the reader from the beginning through the account of the club) are nearly quiescent. Now and then they are recalled into a momentary[Pg 4563] notice, but they do not act, or at all modify his pictures of Sir Roger or Will Wimble. They are slightly and amiably eccentric; but the Spectator himself, in describing them, takes the station of an ordinary observer.

Everywhere, indeed, in the writings of Lamb, and not merely in his 'Elia,' the character of the writer co-operates in an undercurrent to make the effect of the thing written. To understand in the fullest sense either the gayety or the tenderness of a particular passage, you must have some insight into the peculiar bias of the writer's mind, whether native and original, or impressed gradually by the accidents of situation; whether simply developed out of predispositions by the action of life, or violently scorched into the constitution by some fierce fever of calamity. There is in modern literature a whole class of writers, though not a large one, standing within the same category; some marked originality of character in the writer becomes a coefficient with what he says to a common result; you must sympathize with this personality in the author before you can appreciate the most significant parts of his views. In most books the writer figures as a mere abstraction, without sex or age or local station, whom the reader banishes from his thoughts. What is written seems to proceed from a blank intellect, not from a man clothed with fleshly peculiarities and differences. These peculiarities and differences neither do, nor (generally speaking) could intermingle with the texture of the thoughts so as to modify their force or their direction. In such books—and they form the vast majority—there is nothing to be found or to be looked for beyond the direct objective. (Sit venia verbo!) But in a small section of books, the objective in the thought becomes confluent with the subjective in the thinker—the two forces unite for a joint product; and fully to enjoy the product, or fully to apprehend either element, both must be known. It is singular and worth inquiring into, for the reason that the Greek and Roman literature had no such books. Timon of Athens, or Diogenes, one may conceive qualified for this mode of authorship, had journalism existed to rouse them in those days; their "articles" would no doubt have been fearfully caustic. But as they failed to produce anything, and Lucian in an after age is scarcely characteristic enough for the purpose, perhaps we may pronounce Rabelais and Montaigne the earliest of writers in the class described. In the century following theirs came Sir Thomas Browne, and immediately[Pg 4564] after him La Fontaine. Then came Swift, Sterne, with others less distinguished; in Germany, Hippel the friend of Kant, Harmann the obscure, and the greatest of the whole body—John Paul Friedrich Richter. In him, from the strength and determinateness of his nature as well as from the great extent of his writing, the philosophy of this interaction between the author as a human agency and his theme as an intellectual reagency might best be studied. From him might be derived the largest number of cases, illustrating boldly this absorption of the universal into the concrete—of the pure intellect into the human nature of the author. But nowhere could illustrations be found more interesting—shy, delicate, evanescent—shy as lightning, delicate and evanescent as the colored pencilings on a frosty night from the Northern Lights, than in the better parts of Lamb.

To appreciate Lamb, therefore, it is requisite that his character and temperament should be understood in their coyest and most wayward features. A capital defect it would be if these could not be gathered silently from Lamb's works themselves. It would be a fatal mode of dependency upon an alien and separable accident if they needed an external commentary. But they do not. The syllables lurk up and down the writings of Lamb, which decipher his eccentric nature. His character lies there dispersed in anagram; and to any attentive reader the re-gathering and restoration of the total word from its scattered parts is inevitable without an effort. Still it is always a satisfaction in knowing a result, to know also its why and how; and in so far as every character is likely to be modified by the particular experience, sad or joyous, through which the life has traveled, it is a good contribution towards the knowledge of that resulting character as a whole to have a sketch of that particular experience. What trials did it impose? What energies did it task? What temptations did it unfold? These calls upon the moral powers, which in music so stormy many a life is doomed to hear,—how were they faced? The character in a capital degree molds oftentimes the life, but the life always in a subordinate degree molds the character. And the character being in this case of Lamb so much of a key to the writings, it becomes important that the life should be traced, however briefly, as a key to the character.[Pg 4565]


From 'Confessions of an English Opium-Eater'

Then suddenly would come a dream of far different character—a tumultuous dream—commencing with a music such as now I often heard in sleep, music of preparation and of awakening suspense. The undulations of fast gathering tumults were like the opening of the Coronation Anthem; and like that, gave the feeling of a multitudinous movement, of infinite cavalcades filing off, and the tread of innumerable armies. The morning was come of a mighty day—a day of crisis and of ultimate hope for human nature, then suffering mysterious eclipse, and laboring in some dread extremity. Somewhere, but I knew not where,—somehow, but I knew not how,—by some beings, but I knew not by whom,—a battle, a strife, an agony, was traveling through all its stages,—was evolving itself, like the catastrophe of some mighty drama; with which my sympathy was the more insupportable from deepening confusion as to its local scene, its cause, its nature, and its undecipherable issue. I (as is usual in dreams, where of necessity we make ourselves central to every movement) had the power, and yet had not the power, to decide it. I had the power, if I could raise myself to will it; and yet again had not the power, for the weight of twenty Atlantics was upon me, or the oppression of inexpiable guilt. "Deeper than ever plummet sounded," I lay inactive. Then like a chorus the passion deepened. Some greater interest was at stake, some mightier cause than ever yet the sword had pleaded or trumpet had proclaimed. Then came sudden alarms; hurryings to and fro; trepidations of innumerable fugitives, I knew not whether from the good cause or the bad; darkness and lights; tempest and human faces; and at last, with the sense that all was lost, female forms, and the features that were worth all the world to me; and but a moment allowed—and clasped hands, with heart-breaking partings, and then—everlasting farewells! and with a sigh such as the caves of hell sighed when the incestuous mother uttered the abhorred name of Death, the sound was reverberated—everlasting farewells! and again, and yet again reverberated—everlasting farewells!

And I awoke in struggles, and cried aloud, "I will sleep no more!"[Pg 4566]


From 'Confessions of an English Opium-Eater'

On the day after my sister's death, whilst the sweet temple of her brain was yet unviolated by human scrutiny, I formed my own scheme for seeing her once more. Not for the world would I have made this known, nor have suffered a witness to accompany me. I had never heard of feelings that take the name of "sentimental," nor dreamed of such a possibility. But grief even in a child hates the light, and shrinks from human eyes. The house was large, there were two staircases; and by one of these I knew that about noon, when all would be quiet, I could steal up into her chamber. I imagine that it was exactly high noon when I reached the chamber door; it was locked, but the key was not taken away. Entering, I closed the door so softly that although it opened upon a hall which ascended through all the stories, no echo ran along the silent walls. Then turning around, I sought my sister's face. But the bed had been moved, and the back was now turned. Nothing met my eyes but one large window wide open, through which the sun of midsummer at noonday was showering down torrents of splendor. The weather was dry, the sky was cloudless, the blue depths seemed the express types of infinity; and it was not possible for eye to behold or for heart to conceive any symbols more pathetic of life and the glory of life.

Let me pause for one instant in approaching a remembrance so affecting and revolutionary for my own mind, and one which (if any earthly remembrance) will survive for me in the hour of death,—to remind some readers, and to inform others, that in the original 'Opium Confessions' I endeavored to explain the reason why death, cæteris paribus, is more profoundly affecting in summer than in other parts of the year; so far at least as it is liable to any modification at all from accidents of scenery or season. The reason, as I there suggested, lies in the antagonism between the tropical redundancy of life in summer and the dark sterilities of the grave. The summer we see, the grave we haunt with our thoughts; the glory is around us, the darkness is within us. And the two coming into collision, each exalts the other into stronger relief. But in my case there was even a subtler reason why the summer had this intense power of[Pg 4567] vivifying the spectacle or the thoughts of death. And recollecting it, often I have been struck with the important truth, that far more of our deepest thoughts and feelings pass to us through perplexed combinations of concrete objects, pass to us as involutes (if I may coin that word) in compound experiences incapable of being disentangled, than ever reach us directly and in their own abstract shapes. It had happened that amongst our nursery collection of books was the Bible, illustrated with many pictures. And in long dark evenings, as my three sisters with myself sate by the firelight round the guard of our nursery, no book was so much in request amongst us. It ruled us and swayed us as mysteriously as music. One young nurse, whom we all loved, before any candle was lighted would often strain her eye to read it for us; and sometimes, according to her simple powers, would endeavor to explain what we found obscure. We, the children, were all constitutionally touched with pensiveness; the fitful gloom and sudden lambencies of the room by firelight suited our evening state of feelings; and they suited also the divine revelations of power and mysterious beauty which awed us. Above all, the story of a just man—man and yet not man, real above all things and yet shadowy above all things, who had suffered the passion of death in Palestine—slept upon our minds like early dawn upon the waters.

The nurse knew and explained to us the chief differences in Oriental climates; and all these differences (as it happens) express themselves in the great varieties of summer. The cloudless sun-lights of Syria—those seemed to argue everlasting summer; the disciples plucking the ears of corn—that must be summer; but above all, the very name of Palm Sunday (a festival in the English Church) troubled me like an anthem. "Sunday!" what was that? That was the day of peace which masked another peace, deeper than the heart of man can comprehend. "Palms!" what were they? That was an equivocal word; palms in the sense of trophies expressed the pomps of life; palms as a product of nature expressed the pomps of summer. Yet still, even this explanation does not suffice; it was not merely by the peace and by the summer, by the deep sound of rest below all rest, and of ascending glory, that I had been haunted. It was also because Jerusalem stood near to those deep images both in time and in place. The great event of Jerusalem was at hand when Palm Sunday came; and the scene of that Sunday was near in place to[Pg 4568] Jerusalem. Yet what then was Jerusalem? Did I fancy it to be the omphalos (navel) of the earth? That pretension had once been made for Jerusalem, and once for Delphi; and both pretensions had become ridiculous as the figure of the planet became known. Yes, but if not of the earth, for earth's tenant Jerusalem was the omphalos of mortality. Yet how? There on the contrary it was, as we infants understood, that mortality had been trampled under foot. True; but for that very reason, there it was that mortality had opened its very gloomiest crater. There it was indeed that the human had risen on wings from the grave; but for that reason, there also it was that the Divine had been swallowed up by the abyss; the lesser star could not rise before the greater would submit to eclipse. Summer therefore had connected itself with death, not merely as a mode of antagonism, but also through intricate relations to Scriptural scenery and events.

Out of this digression, which was almost necessary for the purpose of showing how inextricably my feelings and images of death were entangled with those of summer, I return to the bedchamber of my sister. From the gorgeous sunlight I turned round to the corpse. There lay the sweet childish figure, there the angel face; and as people usually fancy, it was said in the house that no features had suffered any change. Had they not? The forehead indeed,—the serene and noble forehead,—that might be the same; but the frozen eyelids, the darkness that seemed to steal from beneath them, the marble lips, the stiffening hands laid palm to palm as if repeating the supplications of closing anguish,—could these be mistaken for life? Had it been so, wherefore did I not spring to those heavenly lips with tears and never-ending kisses? But so it was not. I stood checked for a moment; awe, not fear, fell upon me; and whilst I stood, a solemn wind began to blow,—the most mournful that ear ever heard. Mournful! that is saying nothing. It was a wind that had swept the fields of mortality for a hundred centuries. Many times since, upon a summer day, when the sun is about the hottest, I have remarked the same wind arising and uttering the same hollow, solemn, Memnonian, but saintly swell; it is in this world the one sole audible symbol of eternity. And three times in my life I have happened to hear the same sound in the same circumstances; namely, when standing between an open window and a dead body on a summer day.[Pg 4569]

Instantly, when my ear caught this vast Æolian intonation, when my eye filled with the golden fullness of life, the pomps and glory of the heavens outside, and, turning, when it settled upon the frost which overspread my sister's face, instantly a trance fell upon me. A vault seemed to open in the zenith of the far blue sky a shaft which ran up forever. I in spirit rose, as if on billows that also ran up the shaft forever, and the billows seemed to pursue the throne of God; but that also ran before us and fled away continually. The flight and the pursuit seemed to go on for ever and ever. Frost, gathering frost, some Sarsar wind of death, seemed to repel me; I slept—for how long I cannot say; slowly I recovered my self-possession, and found myself standing as before, close to my sister's bed.

O flight of the solitary child to the solitary God—flight from the ruined corpse to the throne that could not be ruined!—how rich wert thou in truth for after years! Rapture of grief that, being too mighty for a child to sustain, foundest a happy oblivion in a heaven-born dream, and within that sleep didst conceal a dream; whose meaning, in after years, when slowly I deciphered, suddenly there flashed upon me new light; and even by the grief of a child, as I will show you, reader, hereafter, were confounded the falsehoods of philosophers.

In the 'Opium Confessions' I touched a little upon the extraordinary power connected with opium (after long use) of amplifying the dimensions of time. Space also it amplifies, by degrees that are sometimes terrific. But time it is upon which the exalting and multiplying power of opium chiefly spends its operation. Time becomes infinitely elastic, stretching out to such immeasurable and vanishing termini that it seems ridiculous to compute the sense of it, on waking, by expressions commensurate to human life. As in starry fields one computes by diameters of the earth's orbit, or of Jupiter's, so in valuing the virtual time lived during some dreams, the measurement by generations is ridiculous—by millennia is ridiculous; by æons, I should say, if æons were more determinate, would be also ridiculous. On this single occasion, however, in my life, the very inverse phenomenon occurred. But why speak of it in connection with opium? Could a child of six years old have been under that influence? No, but simply because it so exactly reversed the operation of opium. Instead of a short interval expanding into a vast one, upon this occasion a long one had contracted into a minute. I have reason[Pg 4570] to believe that a very long one had elapsed during this wandering or suspension of my perfect mind. When I returned to myself, there was a foot (or I fancied so) on the stairs. I was alarmed; for I believed that if anybody should detect me, means would be taken to prevent my coming again. Hastily, therefore, I kissed the lips that I should kiss no more, and slunk like a guilty thing with stealthy steps from the room. Thus perished the vision, loveliest amongst all the shows which earth has revealed to me; thus mutilated was the parting which should have lasted forever; thus tainted with fear was the farewell sacred to love and grief, to perfect love and perfect grief.

O Ahasuerus, everlasting Jew! fable or not a fable, thou, when first starting on thy endless pilgrimage of woe,—thou, when first flying through the gates of Jerusalem and vainly yearning to leave the pursuing curse behind thee,—couldst not more certainly have read thy doom of sorrow in the misgivings of thy troubled brain, than I when passing forever from my sister's room. The worm was at my heart; and confining myself to that state of life, I may say, the worm that could not die. For if when standing upon the threshold of manhood, I had ceased to feel its perpetual gnawings, that was because a vast expansion of intellect,—it was because new hopes, new necessities, and the frenzy of youthful blood, had translated me into a new creature. Man is doubtless one by some subtle nexus that we cannot perceive, extending from the new-born infant to the superannuated dotard; but as regards many affections and passions incident to his nature at different stages, he is not one: the unity of man in this respect is coextensive only with the particular stage to which the passion belongs. Some passions, as that of sexual love, are celestial by one half of their origin, animal and earthly by the other half. These will not survive their own appropriate stage. But love which is altogether holy, like that between two children, will revisit undoubtedly by glimpses the silence and the darkness of old age; and I repeat my belief—that unless bodily torment should forbid it, that final experience in my sister's bedroom, or some other in which her innocence was concerned, will rise again for me to illuminate the hour of death.[Pg 4571]


From 'Confessions of an English Opium-Eater'

Oftentimes at Oxford I saw Levana in my dreams. I knew her by her Roman symbols. Who is Levana? Reader, that do not pretend to have leisure for very much scholarship, you will not be angry with me for telling you. Levana was the Roman goddess that performed for the new-born infant the earliest office of ennobling kindness,—typical, by its mode, of that grandeur which belongs to man everywhere, and of that benignity in powers invisible which even in pagan worlds sometimes descends to sustain it. At the very moment of birth, just as the infant tasted for the first time the atmosphere of our troubled planet, it was laid on the ground. That might, bear different interpretations. But immediately, lest so grand a creature should grovel there for more than one instant, either the paternal hand as proxy for the goddess Levana, or some near kinsman as proxy for the father, raised it upright, bade it look erect as the king of all this world, and presented its forehead to the stars, saying perhaps in his heart, "Behold what is greater than yourselves!" This symbolic act represented the function of Levana. And that mysterious lady, who never revealed her face (except to me in dreams), but always acted by delegation, had her name from the Latin verb (as still it is the Italian verb) levare, to raise aloft.

This is the explanation of Levana. And hence it has arisen that some people have understood by Levana the tutelary power that controls the education of the nursery. She that would not suffer at his birth even a prefigurative or mimic degradation for her awful ward, far less could be supposed to suffer the real degradation attaching to the non-development of his powers. She therefore watches over human education.

Therefore it is that Levana often communes with the powers that shake man's heart: therefore it is that she dotes upon grief. "These ladies," said I softly to myself, on seeing the ministers with whom Levana was conversing, "these are the Sorrows; and they are three in number, as the Graces are three, who dress man's life with beauty; the Parcæ are three, who weave the dark arras of man's life in their mysterious loom always with colors sad in part, sometimes angry with tragic crimson and black;[Pg 4572] the Furies are three, who visit, with retributions called from the other side of the grave, offenses that walk upon this; and once even the Muses were but three, who fit the harp, the trumpet, or the lute, to the great burdens of man's impassioned creations. These are the Sorrows, all three of whom I know." The last words I say now; but in Oxford I said, "One of whom I know, and the others too surely I shall know." For already in my fervent youth I saw (dimly relieved upon the dark background of my dreams) the imperfect lineaments of the awful sisters. These sisters—by what name shall we call them?

If I say simply "The Sorrows," there will be a chance of mistaking the term; it might be understood of individual sorrow,—separate cases of sorrow,—whereas I want a term expressing the mighty abstractions that incarnate themselves in all individual sufferings of man's heart; and I wish to have these abstractions presented as impersonations; that is, as clothed with human attributes of life, and with functions pointing to flesh. Let us call them therefore Our Ladies of Sorrow.

The eldest of the three is named Mater Lachrymarum, Our Lady of Tears. She it is that night and day raves and moans, calling for vanished faces. She stood in Rama, where a voice was heard of lamentation.—Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted. She it was that stood in Bethlehem on the night when Herod's sword swept its nurseries of Innocents, and the little feet were stiffened forever, which, heard at times as they tottered along floors overhead, woke pulses of love in household hearts that were not unmarked in heaven.

Her eyes are sweet and subtile, wild and sleepy, by turns; oftentimes rising to the clouds, oftentimes challenging the heavens. She wears a diadem round her head. And I knew by childish memories that she could go abroad upon the winds, when she heard that sobbing of litanies, or the thundering of organs, and when she beheld the mustering of summer clouds. This sister, the elder, it is that carries keys more than papal at her girdle, which open every cottage and every palace. She, to my knowledge, sate all last summer by the bedside of the blind beggar, him that so often and so gladly I talked with: whose pious daughter, eight years old, with the sunny countenance, resisted the temptations of play and village mirth to travel all day long on dusty roads with her afflicted father. For this did God send her a great reward. In the springtime of the year,[Pg 4573] and whilst yet her own spring was budding, he recalled her to himself. But her blind father mourns forever over her; still he dreams at midnight that the little guiding hand is locked within his own; and still he wakens to a darkness that is now within a second and a deeper darkness. This Mater Lachrymarum also has been sitting all this winter of 1844-5 within the bedchamber of the Czar, bringing before his eyes a daughter (not less pious) that vanished to God not less suddenly, and left behind her a darkness not less profound. By the power of her keys it is that Our Lady of Tears glides, a ghostly intruder, into the chambers of sleepless men, sleepless women, sleepless children, from Ganges to the Nile, from Nile to Mississippi. And her, because she is the first-born of her house, and has the widest empire, let us honor with the title of "Madonna."

The second sister is called Mater Suspiriorum, Our Lady of Sighs. She never scales the clouds, nor walks abroad upon the winds. She wears no diadem. And her eyes, if they were ever seen, would be neither sweet nor subtile; no man could read their story; they would be found filled with perishing dreams, and with wrecks of forgotten delirium. But she raises not her eyes; her head, on which sits a dilapidated turban, droops forever, forever fastens on the dust. She weeps not. She groans not. But she sighs inaudibly at intervals. Her sister Madonna is oftentimes stormy and frantic, raging in the highest against Heaven, and demanding back her darlings. But Our Lady of Sighs never clamors, never defies, dreams not of rebellious aspirations. She is humble to abjectness. Hers is the meekness that belongs to the hopeless. Murmur she may, but it is in her sleep. Whisper she may, but it is to herself in the twilight. Mutter she does at times, but it is in solitary places that are desolate as she is desolate, in ruined cities, and when the sun has gone down to his rest. This sister is the visitor of the Pariah; of the Jew; of the bondsman to the oar in the Mediterranean galleys; of the English criminal in Norfolk Island, blotted out from the books of remembrance in sweet far-off England; of the baffled penitent reverting his eyes forever upon a solitary grave, which to him seems the altar overthrown of some past and bloody sacrifice, on which altar no oblations can now be availing, whether towards pardon that he might implore, or towards reparation that he might attempt. Every slave that at noonday looks up to the tropical sun with timid reproach, as he points with one hand to[Pg 4574] the earth, our general mother, but for him a stepmother,—as he points with the other hand to the Bible, our general teacher, but against him sealed and sequestered; every woman sitting in darkness, without love to shelter her head or hope to illumine her solitude, because the heaven-born instincts kindling in her nature germs of holy affections, which God implanted in her womanly bosom, having been stifled by social necessities, now burn sullenly to waste like sepulchral lamps among the ancients; every nun defrauded of her unreturning May-time by wicked kinsmen, whom God will judge; every captive in every dungeon; all that are betrayed, and all that are rejected; outcasts by traditionary law, and children of hereditary disgrace:—all these walk with Our Lady of Sighs. She also carries a key; but she needs it little. For her kingdom is chiefly amongst the tents of Shem, and the houseless vagrant of every clime. Yet in the very highest ranks of man she finds chapels of her own; and even in glorious England there are some that, to the world, carry their heads as proudly as the reindeer, who yet secretly have received her mark upon their foreheads.

But the third sister, who is also the youngest—! Hush! whisper whilst we talk of her! Her kingdom is not large, or else no flesh should live; but within that kingdom all power is hers. Her head, turreted like that of Cybele, rises almost beyond the reach of sight. She droops not; and her eyes rising so high might be hidden by distance. But being what they are, they cannot be hidden; through the treble veil of crape which she wears, the fierce light of a blazing misery, that rests not for matins or for vespers, for noon of day or noon of night, for ebbing or for flowing tide, may be read from the very ground. She is the defier of God. She also is the mother of lunacies, and the suggestress of suicides. Deep lie the roots of her power; but narrow is the nation that she rules. For she can approach only those in whom a profound nature has been upheaved by central convulsions; in whom the heart trembles and the brain rocks under conspiracies of tempest from without and tempest from within. Madonna moves with uncertain steps, fast or slow, but still with tragic grace. Our Lady of Sighs creeps timidly and stealthily. But this youngest sister moves with incalculable motions, bounding, and with a tiger's leaps. She carries no key; for though coming rarely amongst men, she storms all doors at which she is permitted to enter at all. And her name is Mater Tenebrarum,—Our Lady of Darkness.[Pg 4575]

These were the Semnai Theai, or Sublime Goddesses, these were the Eumenides, or Gracious Ladies (so called by antiquity in shuddering propitiation) of my Oxford dreams. Madonna spoke. She spoke by her mysterious hand. Touching my head, she beckoned to our Lady of Sighs; and what she spoke, translated out of the signs which (except in dreams) no man reads, was this:—

"Lo! here is he whom in childhood I dedicated to my altars. This is he that once I made my darling. Him I led astray, him I beguiled, and from heaven I stole away his young heart to mine. Through me did he become idolatrous; and through me it was, by languishing desires, that he worshiped the worm, and prayed to the wormy grave. Holy was the grave to him; lovely was its darkness; saintly its corruption. Him, this young idolator, I have seasoned for thee, dear gentle Sister of Sighs! Do thou take him now to thy heart, and season him for our dreadful sister. And thou,"—turning to the Mater Tenebrarum, she said,—"wicked sister, that temptest and hatest, do thou take him from her. See that thy sceptre lie heavy on his head. Suffer not woman and her tenderness to sit near him in his darkness. Banish the frailties of hope, wither the relenting of love, scorch the fountains of tears, curse him as only thou canst curse. So shall he be accomplished in the furnace, so shall he see the things that ought not to be seen, sights that are abominable, and secrets that are unutterable. So shall he read elder truths, sad truths, grand truths, fearful truths. So shall he rise again before he dies. And so shall our commission be accomplished which from God we had,—to plague his heart until he had unfolded the capacities of his spirit."


From 'Confessions of an English Opium-Eater'

God smote Savannah-la-mar, and in one night by earthquake removed her, with all her towers standing and population sleeping, from the steadfast foundations of the shore to the coral floors of ocean. And God said:—"Pompeii did I bury and conceal from men through seventeen centuries; this city I will bury, but not conceal. She shall be a monument to men of my mysterious anger, set in azure light through generations to come;[Pg 4576] for I will enshrine her in a crystal dome of my tropic seas." This city therefore, like a mighty galleon with all her apparel mounted, streamers flying, and tackling perfect, seems floating along the noiseless depths of ocean; and oftentimes in glassy calms, through the translucid atmosphere of water that now stretches like an air-woven awning above the silent encampment, mariners from every clime look down into her courts and terraces, count her gates, and number the spires of her churches. She is one ample cemetery, and has been for many a year; but in the mighty calms that brood for weeks over tropic latitudes, she fascinates the eye with a Fata Morgana revelation as of human life still subsisting, in submarine asylums sacred from the storms that torment our upper air.

Thither, lured by the loveliness of cerulean depths, by the peace of human dwellings privileged from molestation, by the gleam of marble altars sleeping in everlasting sanctity, oftentimes in dreams did I and the Dark Interpreter cleave the watery veil that divided us from her streets. We looked into the belfries, where the pendulous bells were waiting in vain for the summons which should awaken their marriage peals; together we touched the mighty organ keys, that sang no jubilates for the ear of Heaven, that sang no requiems for the ear of human sorrow; together we searched the silent nurseries, where the children were all asleep, and had been asleep through five generations. "They are waiting for the heavenly dawn," whispered the Interpreter to himself: "and when that comes, the bells and the organs will utter a jubilate repeated by the echoes of Paradise." Then turning to me he said:—"This is sad, this is piteous; but less would not have sufficed for the purpose of God. Look here. Put into a Roman clepsydra one hundred drops of water; let these run out as the sands in an hour-glass, every drop measuring the hundredth part of a second, so that each shall represent but the three-hundred-and-sixty-thousandth part of an hour. Now count the drops as they race along; and when the fiftieth of the hundred is passing, behold! forty-nine are not, because already they have perished; and fifty are not, because they are yet to come. You see therefore how narrow, how incalculably narrow, is the true and actual present. Of that time which we call the present, hardly a hundredth part but belongs either to a past which has fled, or to a future which is still on the wing. It has perished, or it is not born. It was, or it is[Pg 4577] not. Yet even this approximation to the truth is infinitely false. For again subdivide that solitary drop, which only was found to represent the present, into a lower series of similar fractions, and the actual present which you arrest measures now but the thirty-six-millionth of an hour; and so by infinite declensions the true and very present, in which only we live and enjoy, will vanish into a mote of a mote, distinguishable only by a heavenly vision. Therefore the present, which only man possesses, offers less capacity for his footing than the slenderest film that ever spider twisted from her womb. Therefore also even this incalculable shadow from the narrowest pencil of moonlight is more transitory than geometry can measure, or thought of angel can overtake. The time which is, contracts into a mathematic point; and even that point perishes a thousand times before we can utter its birth. All is finite in the present; and even that finite is infinite in its velocity of flight towards death. But in God there is nothing finite; but in God there is nothing transitory; but in God there can be nothing that tends to death. Therefore it follows that for God there can be no present. The future is the present of God, and to the future it is that he sacrifices the human present. Therefore it is that he works by earthquake. Therefore it is that he works by grief. Oh, deep is the plowing of earthquake! Oh, deep"—(and his voice swelled like a sanctus rising from the choir of a cathedral)—"Oh, deep is the plowing of grief! But oftentimes less would not suffice for the agriculture of God. Upon a night of earthquake he builds a thousand years of pleasant habitations for man. Upon the sorrow of an infant he raises oftentimes from human intellects glorious vintages that could not else have been. Less than these fierce plowshares would not have stirred the stubborn soil. The one is needed for earth, our planet,—for earth itself as the dwelling-place of man; but the other is needed yet oftener for God's mightiest instrument,—yes" (and he looked solemnly at myself), "is needed for the mysterious children of the earth!"[Pg 4578]


From 'Miscellaneous Essays'

Bishop of Beauvais! thy victim died in fire upon a scaffold—thou upon a down bed. But for the departing minutes of life, both are oftentimes alike. At the farewell crisis, when the gates of death are opening, and flesh is resting from its struggles, oftentimes the tortured and torturer have the same truce from carnal torment; both sink together into sleep; together both, sometimes, kindle into dreams. When the mortal mists were gathering fast upon you two, bishop and shepherd girl,—when the pavilions of life were closing up their shadowy curtains about you,—let us try, through the gigantic glooms, to decipher the flying features of your separate visions.

The shepherd girl that had delivered France—she from her dungeon, she from her baiting at the stake, she from her duel with fire, as she entered her last dream saw Domrémy, saw the fountain of Domrémy, saw the pomp of forests in which her childhood had wandered. That Easter festival which man had denied to her languishing heart, that resurrection of springtime which the darkness of dungeons had intercepted from her, hungering after the glorious liberty of forests, were by God given back into her hands, as jewels that had been stolen from her by robbers. With those, perhaps (for the minutes of dreams can stretch into ages), was given back to her by God the bliss of childhood. By special privilege, for her might be created in this farewell dream, a second childhood, innocent as the first; but not, like that, sad with the gloom of a fearful mission in the rear. The mission had now been fulfilled. The storm was weathered, the skirts even of that mighty storm were drawing off. The blood that she was to reckon for had been exacted; the tears that she was to shed in secret had been paid to the last. The hatred to herself in all eyes had been faced steadily, had been suffered, had been survived.

Bishop of Beauvais! because the guilt-burdened man is in dreams haunted and waylaid by the most frightful of his crimes; and because upon that fluctuating mirror, rising from the fens of death, most of all are reflected the sweet countenances which the man has laid in ruins; therefore I know, bishop, that you also, entering your final dream, saw Domrémy. That fountain of which the witnesses spoke so much, showed itself to your eyes in pure morning dews; but neither dews nor the holy[Pg 4579] dawn could cleanse away the bright spots of innocent blood upon its surface. By the fountain, bishop, you saw a woman seated, that hid her face. But as you draw near, the woman raises her wasted features. Would Domrémy know them again for the features of her child? Ah, but you know them, bishop, well! Oh mercy! what a groan was that which the servants, waiting outside the bishop's dream at his bedside, heard from his laboring heart, as at this moment he turned away from the fountain and the woman, seeking rest in the forests afar off. Yet not so to escape the woman, whom once again he must behold before he dies. In the forests to which he prays for pity, will he find a respite? What a tumult, what a gathering of feet is there! In glades where only wild deer should run, armies and nations are assembling; towering in the fluctuating crowd are phantoms that belong to departed hours. There is the great English Prince, Regent of France. There is my lord of Winchester, the princely cardinal that died and made no sign. There is the Bishop of Beauvais, clinging to the shelter of thickets. What building is that which hands so rapid are raising? Is it a martyr's scaffold? Will they burn the child of Domrémy a second time? No; it is a tribunal that rises to the clouds; and two nations stand around it, waiting for a trial. Shall my Lord of Beauvais sit upon the judgment seat, and again number the hours for the innocent? Ah! no; he is the prisoner at the bar. Already all is waiting; the mighty audience is gathered, the Court are hurrying to their seats, the witnesses are arrayed, the trumpets are sounding, the judge is taking his place. Oh! but this is sudden. My lord, have you no counsel?—"Counsel I have none; in heaven above, or on earth beneath, counselor there is none now that would take a brief from me; all are silent." Is it indeed come to this? Alas! the time is short, the tumult is wondrous, the crowd stretches away into infinity; but yet I will search in it for somebody to take your brief: I know of somebody that will be your counsel. Who is this that cometh from Domrémy? Who is she in bloody coronation robes from Rheims? Who is she that cometh with blackened flesh from walking the furnaces of Rouen? This is she, the shepherd girl, counselor that had none for herself, whom I choose, bishop, for yours. She it is, I engage, that shall take my lord's brief. She it is, bishop, that would plead for you: yes, bishop, SHE—when heaven and earth are silent.[Pg 4580]



Paul Déroulède Paul Déroulède

aul Déroulède received his education in Paris, where he was born. In accordance with the wishes of his friends, he was educated for the law; but before even applying for admission to the bar he yielded to the poetic instinct that had been strong in him since boyhood, and began, under the name of Jean Rebel, to send verses to the Parisian periodicals. When only twenty-three years of age he wrote for the Académie Française a one-act drama in verse, 'Juan Strenner,' which however was not a success. The outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war in the same year roused his martial spirit; he enlisted, and at once entered active service, in which he distinguished himself by acts of signal bravery. A wound near the close of the hostilities took him from the field; and it was during the retirement thus enforced that he wrote the lyrics, 'Songs of the Soldier,' that first made him famous throughout his native country.

Not since the days of the 'Marseillaise' had the fighting spirit of the French people found such sympathetic expression; his songs were read and sung all over the country; they received the highest honor of the Academy, and their popularity continued after peace was declared, nearly one hundred and fifty editions having been exhausted up to 1895. Déroulède now devoted himself to literature and politics. 'New Songs of the Soldier' and a volume of 'Songs of the Peasant,' almost as popular as the war songs, were interspersed with two more dramatic works, also in verse, one of which, 'L'Hetman,' was received on the stage with great favor. A cantata, 'Vive la France,' written in 1880, was set to music by Gounod. He also wrote a novel and some treatises dealing with armies and fighting, but his prose works did not attract much attention.

Déroulède's best verses are distinguished for their inspiration and genuine enthusiasm. Careless of form and finish, not always stopping to make sure of his rhymes or perfect his metre, he gave the freest vent to his emotions. Some of the heart-glow which makes[Pg 4581] the exhilaration of Burns's poems infectious is found in his songs, but they are generally so entirely French that its scope is limited in a way that the Scotch poet's, despite his vernacular, was not. The Frenchman's sympathy is always with the harder side of life. In the 'Songs of the Soldier' he plays on chords of steel. These verses resound with the blast of the bugle, the roll of the drum, the flash of the sword, the rattle of musketry, the boom of the cannon; and even in the 'Songs of the Peasant' it is the corn and the wine, as the fruit of toil, that appeal to him, rather than the grass and the flowers embellishing the fields.


From 'Chants du Paysan'

The wheat, the hardy wheat is rippling on the breeze.
'Tis our great mother's sacred mantle spread afar,
Old Earth revered, who gives us life, in whom we are,
We the dull clay the living God molds as he please.

The wheat, the hardy wheat bends down its heavy head,
Blessèd and consecrate by the Eternal hand;
The stalks are green although the yellow ears expand:
Keep them, O Lord, from 'neath the tempest's crushing tread!

The wheat, the hardy wheat spreads like a golden sea
Whose harvesters—bent low beneath the sun's fierce light,
Stanch galley-slaves, whose oar is now the sickle bright—
Cleave down the waves before them falling ceaselessly.

The wheat, the hardy wheat ranged in its serried rows,
Seems like some noble camp upon the distant plain.
Glory to God!—the crickets chirp their wide refrain;
From sheaf to sheaf the welcome bread-song sweeping goes.

Translated for 'A Library of the World's Best Literature,' by Thomas Walsh. [Pg 4582]


From 'Poèmes Militaires'

Mirebeau, 1871

Good old woman, bother not.
Or the place will be too hot:
You might let the fire grow old—
Save your fagots for the cold:
I am drying through and through.

But she, stopping not to hear,
Shook the smoldering ashes near:
"Soldier, not too warm for you!"

Good old woman, do not mind;
At the storehouse I have dined:
Save your vintage and your ham,
And this cloth—such as I am
Are not used to—save it too.

But she heard not what I said—
Filled my glass and cut the bread:
"Soldier, it is here for you!"

Good old woman—sheets for me!
Faith, you treat me royally:
And your stable? on your hay?
There at length my limbs to lay?
I shall sleep like monarchs true.

But she would not be denied
Of the sheets, and spread them wide:
"Soldier, it is made for you!"

Morning came—the parting tear:
Well—good-by! What have we here?
My old knapsack full of food!
Dear old creature—hostess good—
Why indulge me as you do?

It was all that she could say,
Smiling in a tearful way:
"I have one at war like you!"

Translated for 'A Library of the World's Best Literature,' by Thomas Walsh. [Pg 4583]


From 'Poèmes Militaires'

The Kroumirs leave their mountain den;
Sing, bullets, sing! and bugles, blow!
Good fighting to our gallant men,
And happy they who follow, when,
Brothers in arms so dear, these go.

Yea, happy they who serve our France,
And neither pain nor danger fly;
But in the front of war's advance
Still deem it but a glorious chance,
To be among the brave who die!

No splendid war do we begin,
No glory waits us when 'tis past;
But marching through the fiery din,
We see our serried ranks grow thin,
And blood of Frenchmen welling fast.

French blood!—a treasure so august,
And hoarded with such jealous care,
To crush oppression's strength unjust,
With all the force of right robust,
And buy us back our honor fair:—

We yield it now to duty's claim,
And freely pour out all our store;
Who judges, frees us still from blame;
The Kroumirs' muskets war proclaim:—
In answer let French cannon roar!

Good fighting! and God be your shield,
Our pride's avengers, brave and true!
France watches you upon the field.
Who wear her colors never yield,
For 'tis her heart ye bear with you!

Translated for 'A Library of the World's Best Literature,' by Katharine Hillard. [Pg 4584]


From 'Poèmes Militaires'

A grave for me—a grave—and why?
I do not wish to sleep alone:
Let me within the trenches lie,
Side by side with my soldiers thrown.

Dear old comrades of wars gone by,
Come, 'tis our final "halt" is nigh:
Clasp your brave hearts to my own.

A sheet for me—a sheet—and why?
Such is for them on their beds who moan:
The field is the soldier's place to die,
The field of carnage, of blood and bone.

Dear old comrades of wars gone by,
This is the prayer of my soul's last sigh:
Clasp your brave hearts to my own.

Tears for me—these tears—and why?
Knells let the vanquished foe intone!
France delivered!—I still can cry,
France delivered—invaders flown!

Dear old comrades of wars gone by,
Pain is nothing, and death—a lie!
Clasp your brave hearts to my own!

Translated for 'A Library of the World's Best Literature,' by Thomas Walsh. [Pg 4585]




he broad scope of literature is illustrated by its inclusion of the writings of René Descartes (Latinized, Renatus Cartesius). Deliberately turning away from books, and making naught alike of learned precedent and literary form, he yet could not but avail himself unconsciously of the heritage which he had discarded.

This notable figure in seventeenth-century philosophy was born of ancient family at La Haye, in Touraine, France, March 31st, 1596; and died at Stockholm, Sweden, February 11th, 1650. From a pleasant student life of eight years in the Jesuit college at La Flèche, he went forth in his seventeenth year with unusual acquirements in mathematics and languages, but in deep dissatisfaction with the long dominant scholastic philosophy and the whole method prescribed for arriving at truth. In a strong youthful revolt, his first step was a decision to discharge his mind of all the prejudices into which his education had trained his thinking. As a beginning in this work he went to Paris, for observation of facts and of men. There, having drifted through a twelvemonth of moderate dissipation, he secluded himself for nearly two years of mathematical study, as though purposing to reduce his universe to an equation in order to solve it. The laws of number he could trust, since their lines configured the eternal harmony.

At the age of twenty-one he entered on a military service of two years in the army of the Netherlands, and then of about two years in the Bavarian army. From 1621, for about four years, he was roaming as an observer of men and nature in Germany, Belgium, and Italy, afterward sojourning in Paris about three and a half years. In 1629 he began twenty years of study and authorship in practical seclusion in Holland. His little work, 'Discours de la Méthode' (Leyden, 1637), is often declared to have been the basis for a reconstitution of the science of thought. It would now perhaps be viewed by the majority of critics rather as a necessary clearing of antiquated rubbish from the ground on which the new construction was to rise. Next to it among his works are usually ranked 'Meditationes de Prima Philosophia,' and 'Principia Philosophiæ.'

The long sojourn in Holland was ended in September 1649, in response to an urgent invitation from the studious young Queen[Pg 4586] Christina of Sweden, who wanted the now famous philosopher as an ornament to her court. After some hesitancy he sailed for Stockholm, where only five months afterward he died.

It has been said of Descartes that he was a spectator rather than an active worker in affairs. He was no hero, no patriot, no adherent of any party. He entered armies, but not from love of a cause; the army was a sphere in which he could closely observe the aspects of human life. He was never married, and probably had little concern with love. His attachment to a few friends seems to have been sincere. For literature as such he cared little. Erudition, scholarship, historic love, literary elegance, were nothing to him. Art and æsthetics did not appeal to him. Probably he was not a great reader, even of philosophic writers. He delighted in observing facts with a view to finding, stating, and systematizing their relations in one all-comprehending scheme. He never allowed himself to attack the Church in either its doctrine or its discipline. As a writer, though making no attempt at elegance in style, he is deemed remarkably clear and direct when the abstruseness of his usual themes is considered.

Descartes's method in philosophy gives signs of formation on the model of a process in mathematics. In all investigations he would ascertain first what must exist by necessity; thus establishing axioms evidenced in all experience, because independent of all experience. The study of mathematics for use in other departments drew him into investigations whose results made it a new science. He reformed its clumsy nomenclature, also the algebraic use of letters for quantities; he introduced system into the use of exponents to denote the powers of a quantity, thus opening the way for the binomial theorem; he was the first to throw clear light on the negative roots of equations; his is the theorem by use of which the maximum number of positive or negative roots of an equation can be ascertained. Analytical geometry originated with his investigation of the nature and origin of curves.

His mathematical improvements opened the way for the reform of physical science and for its immense modern advance. In his optical investigations he established the law of refraction of light. His ingenious theory of the vortices—tracing gravity, magnetism, light, and heat, to the whirling or revolving movements of the molecules of matter with which the universe is filled—was accepted as science for about a quarter of a century.

In mental science Descartes's primary instrument for search of truth was Doubt: everything was to be doubted until it had been proved. This was provisional skepticism, merely to provide against foregone conclusions. It was not to preclude belief, but to summon [Pg 4587]and assure belief as distinct from the inane submission to authority, to prejudice, or to impulse. In this process of doubting everything, the philosopher comes at last to one fact which he cannot doubt—the fact that he exists; for if he did not exist he could not be thinking his doubt. Cogito, ergo sum is one point of absolute knowledge; it is a clear and ultimate perception.

The first principle of his philosophy is, that our consciousness is truthful in its proper sphere, also that our thought is truthful and trustworthy under these two conditions—when the thought is clear and vivid, and when it is held to a theme utterly distinct from every other theme; since it is impossible for us to believe that either man who thinks, or the universe concerning which he thinks, is organized on the basis of a lie. There are "necessary truths," and they are discoverable.

A second principle is, the inevitable ascent of our thought from the fragmentary to the perfect, from the finite to the infinite. Thus the thought of the infinite is an "innate idea," a part of man's potential consciousness. This principle (set forth in one of the selections given herewith) is the Cartesian form of the a priori argument for the Divine existence, which like other a priori forms is viewed by critics not as a proof in pure logic, but as a commanding and luminous appeal to man's entire moral and intellectual nature.

A third principle is, that the material universe is necessarily reduced in our thought ultimately to two forms, extension and local movement—extension signifying matter, local movement signifying force. There is no such thing as empty space; there are no ultimate indivisible atoms; the universe is infinitely full of matter.

A fourth principle is, that the soul and matter are subsistences so fundamentally and absolutely distinct that they cannot act in reciprocal relations. This compelled Descartes to resort to his strained supposition that all correspondence or synchronism between bodily movements and mental or spiritual activities is merely reflex or automatic, or else is produced directly by act of Deity. For relief from this violent hypothesis, Leibnitz modified the Cartesian philosophy by his famous theory of a pre-established harmony.

Descartes did a great work, but it was not an abiding reconstruction: indeed, it was not construction so much as it was a dream—one of the grandest and most suggestive in the history of thought. Its audacious disparagement of the whole scholastic method startled Europe, upon the dead air of whose philosophy it came as a refreshing breath of transcendental thought. Its suggestions and inspirations are traceable as a permanent enrichment, though its vast fabric swiftly dissolved. The early enthusiasm for it in French literary circles and among professors in the universities of Holland scarcely[Pg 4588] outlasted a generation. Within a dozen years after the philosopher's death, the Cartesian philosophy was prohibited by ecclesiastical authorities and excluded from the schools. In the British Isles and in Germany the system has been usually considered as an interesting curiosity in the cabinet of philosophies. Yet the unity of all truth through relations vital, subtle, firm, and universal, though seen only in a vision of the night, abides when the night is gone.

With the impressive and noteworthy 'Discours de la Méthode' (Leyden, 1637), were published three essays supporting it: 'La Dioptrïque,' 'Les Météores,' 'La Géométrie.' Of his other works, the most important are 'Meditationes de Prima Philosophia' (Paris, 1641; Amsterdam, 1642), and 'Principia Philosophiæ' (Amsterdam, 1644). A useful English translation of his most important writings, with an introduction, is by John Veitch, LL.D.,—'The Method, Meditations, and Selections from the Principles' (Edinburgh, 1853; 6th ed., Blackwoods, Edinburgh and London, 1879). See also, English translations of portions of his philosophical works, by W. Cunningham (1877), Lowndes (1878), Mahaffy (1880), Martineau (1885), Henry Rogers, Huxley, and L. Stephen.

For his Life, see 'Vie de Descartes,' by Baillet (2 vols. 1691); 'Descartes sa Vie,' etc., by Millet (2 vols. 1867-71); 'Descartes and his School,' by Kuno Fischer (English translation, 1887).


From the 'Discourse on Method'

As a multitude of laws often only hampers justice, so that a State is best governed when, with few laws, these are rigidly administered; in like manner, instead of the great number of precepts of which Logic is composed, I believed that the four following would prove perfectly sufficient for me, provided I took the firm and unwavering resolution never in a single instance to fail in observing them.

The first was never to accept anything for true which I did not clearly know to be such; that is to say, carefully to avoid precipitancy and prejudice, and to comprise nothing more in my judgment than what was presented to my mind so clearly and distinctly as to exclude all ground of doubt.

The second, to divide each of the difficulties under examination into as many parts as possible, and as might be necessary for its adequate solution.[Pg 4589]

The third, to conduct my thoughts in such order that, by commencing with objects the simplest and easiest to know, I might ascend by little and little, and as it were step by step, to the knowledge of the more complex; assigning in thought a certain order even to those objects which in their own nature do not stand in a relation of antecedence and sequence.

And the last, in every case to make enumerations so complete, and reviews so general, that it might be assured that nothing was omitted.

The long chains of simple and easy reasonings by means of which geometers are accustomed to reach the conclusions of their most difficult demonstrations, had led me to imagine that all things to the knowledge of which man is competent are mutually connected in the same way, and that there is nothing so far removed from us as to be beyond our reach, or so hidden that we cannot discover it, provided only we abstain from accepting the false for the true, and always preserve in our thoughts the order necessary for the deduction of one truth from another. And I had little difficulty in determining the objects with which it was necessary to commence, for I was already persuaded that it must be with the simplest and easiest to know, and, considering that of all those who have hitherto sought truth in the Sciences, the mathematicians alone have been able to find any demonstrations,—that is, any certain and evident reasons,—I did not doubt but that such must have been the rule of their investigations. I resolved to commence, therefore, with the examination of the simplest objects, not anticipating, however, from this any other advantage than that to be found in accustoming my mind to the love and nourishment of truth, and to a distaste for all such reasonings as were unsound. But I had no intention on that account of attempting to master all the particular sciences commonly denominated Mathematics: but observing that however different their objects, they all agree in considering only the various relations or proportions subsisting among those objects, I thought it best for my purpose to consider these proportions in the most general form possible; without referring them to any objects in particular, except such as would most facilitate the knowledge of them, and without by any means restricting them to these, that afterwards I might thus be the better able to apply them to every other class of objects to which they are legitimately applicable. Perceiving, further, that in order to[Pg 4590] understand these relations I should sometimes have to consider them one by one, and sometimes only to bear them in mind, or embrace them in the aggregate, I thought that in order the better to consider them individually, I should view them as subsisting between straight lines, than which I could find no objects more simple, or capable of being more distinctly represented to my imagination and senses; and on the other hand, that in order to retain them in the memory, or embrace an aggregate of many, I should express them by certain characters the briefest possible. In this way I believed that I could borrow all that was best both in geometrical analysis and in algebra, and correct all the defects of the one by help of the other.


From the 'Discourse on Method'

Seeing that our senses sometimes deceive us, I was willing to suppose that there existed nothing really such as they presented to us; and because some men err in reasoning and fall into paralogisms, even on the simplest matters of geometry, I, convinced that I was as open to error as any other, rejected as false all the reasonings I had hitherto taken for demonstrations; and finally, when I considered that the very same thoughts (presentations) which we experience when awake may also be experienced when we are asleep, while there is at that time not one of them true, I supposed that all the objects (presentations) that had ever entered into my mind when awake had in them no more truth than the illusions of my dreams. But immediately upon this I observed that whilst I thus wished to think that all was false, it was absolutely necessary that I, who thus thought, should be somewhat; and as I observed that this truth,—"I think, hence I am,"—was so certain and of such evidence that no ground of doubt, however extravagant, could be alleged by the skeptics capable of shaking it, I concluded that I might without scruple accept it as the first principle of the philosophy of which I was in search.

In the next place, I attentively examined what I was, and as I observed that I could suppose that I had no body, and that there was no world nor any place in which I might be; but that I could not therefore suppose that I was not; and that on[Pg 4591] the contrary, from the very circumstance that I thought to doubt of the truth of other things, it most clearly and certainly followed that I was; while on the other hand, if I had only ceased to think, although all the other objects which I had ever imagined had been in reality existent, I would have had no reason to believe that I existed; I thence concluded that I was a substance whose whole essence or nature consists only in thinking, and which, that it may exist, has need of no place, nor is dependent on any material thing; so that "I"—that is to say, the mind by which I am what I am—is wholly distinct from the body, and is even more easily known than the latter, and is such that although the latter were not, it would still continue to be all that it is.

After this I inquired in general into what is essential to the truth and certainty of a proposition; for since I had discovered one which I knew to be true, I thought that I must likewise be able to discover the ground of this certitude. And as I observed that in the words "I think, hence I am," there is nothing at all which gives me assurance of their truth beyond this, that I see very clearly that in order to think it is necessary to exist,—I concluded that I might take, as a general rule, the principle that all the things which we very clearly and distinctly conceive are true; only observing however that there is some difficulty in rightly determining the objects which we distinctly conceive.

In the next place, from reflecting on the circumstance that I doubted, and that consequently my being was not wholly perfect (for I clearly saw that it was a greater perfection to know than to doubt), I was led to inquire whence I had learned to think of something more perfect than myself; and I clearly recognized that I must hold this notion from some Nature which in reality was more perfect. As for the thoughts of many other objects external to me, as of the sky, the earth, light, heat, and a thousand more, I was less at a loss to know whence these came; for since I remarked in them nothing which seemed to render them superior to myself, I could believe that if these were true, they were dependences on my own nature in so far as it possessed a certain perfection; and if they were false, that I held them from nothing,—that is to say, that they were in me because of a certain imperfection of my nature. But this could not be the case with the idea of a Nature more perfect than myself: for to receive it from nothing was a thing manifestly impossible; and[Pg 4592] because it is not less repugnant that the more perfect should be an effect of and dependence on the less perfect, than that something should proceed from nothing, it was equally impossible that I could hold it from myself: accordingly it but remained that it had been placed in me by a Nature which was in reality more perfect than mine, and which even possessed within itself all the perfections of which I could form any idea,—that is to say, in a single word, which was God....

I was disposed straightway to search for other truths; and when I had represented to myself the object of the geometers, which I conceived to be a continuous body, or a space indefinitely extended in length, breadth, and height or depth, divisible into divers parts which admit of different figures and sizes, and of being moved or transposed in all manner of ways (for all this the geometers suppose to be in the object they contemplate), I went over some of their simplest demonstrations. And in the first place, I observed that the great certitude which by common consent is accorded to these demonstrations is founded solely upon this, that they are clearly conceived in accordance with the rules I have already laid down. In the next place, I perceived that there was nothing at all in these demonstrations which could assure me of the existence of their object: thus, for example, supposing a triangle to be given, I distinctly perceived that its three angles were necessarily equal to two right angles, but I did not on that account perceive anything which could assure me that any triangle existed; while on the contrary, recurring to the examination of the idea of a Perfect Being, I found that the existence of the Being was comprised in the idea in the same way that the equality of its three angles to two right angles is comprised in the idea of a triangle, or as in the idea of a sphere, the equidistance of all points on its surface from the centre, or even still more clearly; and that consequently it is at least as certain that God, who is this Perfect Being, is, or exists, as any demonstration of geometry can be.[Pg 4593]


From the 'Meditations'

There only remains, therefore, the idea of God, in which I must consider whether there is anything that cannot be supposed to originate with myself. By the name God I understand a substance infinite, eternal, immutable, independent, all-knowing, all-powerful, and by which I myself, and every other thing that exists,—if any such there be,—were created. But these properties are so great and excellent, that the more attentively I consider them, the less I feel persuaded that the idea I have of them owes its origin to myself alone. And thus it is absolutely necessary to conclude, from all that I have before said, that God exists; for though the idea of substance be in my mind owing to this,—that I myself am a substance,—I should not however have the idea of an infinite substance, seeing I am a finite being, unless it were given me by some substance in reality infinite.

And I must not imagine that I do not apprehend the infinite by a true idea, but only by the negation of the finite, in the same way that I comprehend repose and darkness by the negation of motion and light: since, on the contrary, I clearly perceive that there is more reality in the infinite substance than in the finite, and therefore that in some way I possess the perception (notion) of the infinite before that of the finite, that is, the perception of God before that of myself; for how could I know that I doubt, desire, or that something is wanting to me, and that I am not wholly perfect, if I possessed no idea of a being more perfect than myself, by comparison with which I knew the deficiencies of my nature?

And it cannot be said that this idea of God is perhaps materially false, and consequently that it may have arisen from nothing (in other words, that it may exist in me from my imperfection), as I before said of the ideas of heat and cold, and the like; for on the contrary, as this idea is very clear and distinct, and contains in itself more objective reality than any other, there can be no one of itself more true, or less open to the suspicion of falsity.

The idea, I say, of a being supremely perfect and infinite, is in the highest degree true; for although perhaps we may imagine[Pg 4594] that such a being does not exist, we nevertheless cannot suppose that this idea represents nothing real, as I have already said of the idea of cold. It is likewise clear and distinct in the highest degree, since whatever the mind clearly and distinctly conceives as real or true, and as implying any perfection, is contained entire in this idea. And this is true, nevertheless, although I do not comprehend the infinite, and although there may be in God an infinity of things that I cannot comprehend, nor perhaps even compass by thought in any way; for it is of the nature of the infinite that it should not be comprehended by the finite: and it is enough that I rightly understand this, and judge that all which I clearly perceive, and in which I know there is some perfection, and perhaps also an infinity of properties of which I am ignorant, are formally or eminently in God, in order that the idea I have of him may become the most true, clear, and distinct of all the ideas in my mind.

But perhaps I am something more than I suppose myself to be; and it may be that all those perfections which I attribute to God in some way exist potentially in me, although they do not yet show themselves and are not reduced to act. Indeed, I am already conscious that my knowledge is being increased and perfected by degrees; and I see nothing to prevent it from thus gradually increasing to infinity, nor any reason why, after such increase and perfection, I should not be able thereby to acquire all the other perfections of the Divine nature; nor in fine, why the power I possess of acquiring those perfections, if it really now exist in me, should not be sufficient to produce the ideas of them. Yet on looking more closely into the matter I discover that this cannot be; for in the first place, although it were true that my knowledge daily acquired new degrees of perfection, and although there were potentially in my nature much that was not as yet actually in it, still all these excellences make not the slightest approach to the idea I have of the Deity, in whom there is no perfection merely potentially, but all actually existent; for it is even an unmistakable token of imperfection in my knowledge, that it is augmented by degrees. Further, although my knowledge increase more and more, nevertheless I am not therefore induced to think that it will ever be actually infinite, since it can never reach that point beyond which it shall be incapable of further increase. But I conceive God as actually infinite, so that nothing can be added to his perfection. And in[Pg 4595] fine, I readily perceive that the objective being of an idea cannot be produced by a being that is merely potentially existent,—which properly speaking is nothing, but only a being existing formally or actually.

And truly, I see nothing in all that I have now said which it is not easy for any one who shall carefully consider it, to discern by the natural light; but when I allow my attention in some degree to relax, the vision of my mind being obscured and as it were blinded by the images of sensible objects, I do not readily remember the reason why the idea of a being more perfect than myself must of necessity have proceeded from a being in reality more perfect. On this account I am here desirous to inquire further whether I, who possess this idea of God, could exist supposing there were no God. And I ask, from whom could I in that case derive my existence? Perhaps from myself, or from my parents, or from some other causes less perfect than God; for anything more perfect, or even equal to God, cannot be thought or imagined. But if I were independent of every other existence, and were myself the author of my being, I should doubt of nothing, I should desire nothing, and in fine, no perfection would be wanting to me; for I should have bestowed upon myself every perfection of which I possess the idea, and I should thus be God. And it must not be imagined that what is now wanting to me is perhaps of more difficult acquisition than that of which I am already possessed; for on the contrary, it is quite manifest that it was a matter of much higher difficulty that I, a thinking being, should arise from nothing, than it would be for me to acquire the knowledge of many things of which I am ignorant, and which are merely the accidents of a thinking substance; and certainly, if I possessed of myself the greater perfection of which I have now spoken,—in other words, if I were the author of my own existence,—I would not at least have denied to myself things that may be more easily obtained, as that infinite variety of knowledge of which I am at present destitute. I could not indeed have denied to myself any property which I perceive is contained in the idea of God, because there is none of these that seems to be more difficult to make or acquire; and if there were any that should happen to be more difficult to acquire, they would certainly appear so to me (supposing that I myself were the source of the other things I possess), because I should discover in them a limit to my power.[Pg 4596]




hat a man stands for, in the life and literature of his day, is easily enough estimated when his name passes current in his language for a hitherto undesignated shade of meaning. One of the most acute and sensitive of contemporary French critics, M. Jules Lemaître, in an article on an evolutionary phase in modern literature, expresses its significant characteristic to be—"L'idéal de vie intérieure, la morale absolue,—si je puis m'exprimer ainsi, le Desjardinisme" (The ideal of spiritual life, absolute morality,—if I may so express myself, Desjardinism). The term, quickly appropriated by another French critic, and one of the remarkable women of letters of her day,—the late Baronne Blaze de Bury,—is literally interpreted as "summing up whatever is highest and purest and of most rare attainment in the idealism of the present hour." And she further, with the intuition of her sex, feeling a pertinent question before it is put, singles out the vital germ of difference which distinguishes this young writer as typical of the idealism of the hour, and makes him its name-giver:—"What is in other men the indirect and hidden source of their public acts, is in Paul Desjardins the direct source of life itself—the life to be lived; and also of the mode in which that life is to be conceived and to be made apparent to the world." Of the life, "sincerity is its prime virtue. Each leader proves his faith by his individual conduct, as by his judgments on events and men. The pure passion of abstract thought fires each to do the best that is his to do. His life is to be the word-for-word translation of his own spirit."

The death-bed repentance of a century, born skeptical, reared decadent, and professing practical materialism; the conversion of a literature from the pure passion of the senses to the pure passion of abstract thought; the assumption of an apostolic mission by journalists, novelists, playwrights, college professors, and scientific masters, will doubtless furnish the century to come with one of its most curious and interesting fields of study. It is an episode in evolution which may indeed be termed dramatic, this fifth act of the nineteenth-century epic of France,—or it might be called, of Paris; the story of its pilgrimage from revolution to evolution. M. Melchior de Voguë, himself one of the apostles of the new life, or of the new[Pg 4597] work in the old life, of France, describes the preparation of the national soil for the growth of Desjardinism. He says:—

"The French children who were born just before 1870 grew up in an atmosphere of patriotic mourning and amidst the discouragement of defeat. National life, such as it became reconstituted after that terrible shock, revealed to them on all sides nothing but abortive hopes, paltry struggles of interest, and a society without any other hierarchy but that of money, and without other principle or ideal than the pursuit of material enjoyment. Literature ... reflected these same tendencies; it was dejected or vile, and distressed the heart by its artistic dryness or disgusted it by its trivial realism. Science itself ... began to appear to many what it is in reality, namely, a means, not an end; its prestige declined and its infallibility was questioned.... Above all, it was clear from too evident social symptoms that if science can satisfy some very distinguished minds, it can do nothing to moralize and discipline societies....

"For a hundred years after the destruction of the religious and political dogmas of the past, France had lived as best she could on some few fragile dogmas, which had in their turn been consecrated by a naïve superstition; these dogmas were the principles of 1789—the almightiness of reason, the efficacy of absolute liberty, the sovereignty of the people—in a word, the whole credo of the revolution.... In order to shake that faith [in these principles] ... it was necessary that human reason, proclaimed infallible, should turn its arms against itself. And that is what happened. Scientific criticism, after having ruined old dogmatism, ... made as short work of the revolutionary legend as of the monarchical one, and showed itself as pitiless for the rights of man as it had been for the rights of God. All these causes combined, sufficiently explain the nihilism and pessimism which invaded the souls of the young during the past ten years.... Clear-sighted boys analyzed life with a vigor and a precision unknown to their predecessors; having analyzed it, they found it bad; they turned away from life with fear and horror. There was heard from the peaks of intelligence a great cry of discouragement:—'Beware of deceitful nature; fear life, emancipate yourselves from life!' This cry was first uttered by the masters of contemporary thought,—a Schopenhauer, a Taine, a Tolstoy; below them, thousands of humbler voices repeat it in chorus. According to each one's turn of mind, the new philosophy assumed shades different in appearance—Buddhist nirvana, atheistic nihilism, mystic asceticism; but all these theories proceeded from the same sentiment, and all these doctrines may be reduced to the same formula:—'Let us depreciate life, let us escape from its snares.'"

Paul Desjardins, by name and family, belongs to the old bourgeoisie of France, that reserve force of Gallic virtue to which the French people always look for help in political and moral crises. Like most of the young men of distinction in the French world of letters, he combines professional and literary work; he is professor of rhetoric at the Lycée Veuves in Paris, and a member of the brilliant editorial staff of the Journal des Débats. Paris offered to his grasp[Pg 4598] her same old choice of subjects, to his eye the same aspects of life, which form her one freehold for all artists, and he had but the instrument of his guild—his pen; the series of his collected contributions to journals and magazines bear a no more distinctive title than the hackneyed one of 'Notes Contemporaines,' but the sub-titles betray at once the trend of originality: 'Great Souls and Little Lives,' 'The Obscure Ones,' 'Companions of the New Life'; and in the treatment of these subjects, and especially in his sketches of character and critical essays upon the literature of his day, Desjardins's originality resolves itself more and more clearly into spirituality of thought, expressed in an incorruptible simplicity of style. To quote from Madame de Bury again:—"One of the chief characteristics of Paul Desjardins's utterances is their total disinterestedness, their absolute detachment from self. Nowhere else have you the same indescribable purity, the same boundless generosity of joy in others' good, the same pervading altruism."

These writings were the expression of a mind on a journey, a quest,—not of any one definite mind, for so completely has the personality of the author been subdued to his mission, that his mind seems typical of the general mind of young France in quest of spirituality, his individuality a common one to all participants in the new movement, as it is called.

In 1892 the boldest effort of Desjardins's,—a small pamphlet, 'The Present Duty,'—appeared. It created a sensation in the thinking world of Paris. It marked a definite stage accomplished in the new movement, and an arrival at one stopping-place at least. While the critics were still diagnosing over the pamphlet as a theory, a small band of men, avowing the same convictions as Desjardins, proceeded to test it as a practical truth. They enrolled themselves into a "Union for Moral Action," which had for its object to associate together, without regard to religious or political beliefs, all serious-minded men who cared to work for the formation of a healthy public opinion, for a moral awakening, and for the education and strengthening of the modern decadent or enervated will power. In general, it is common interests, doctrines, needs, that bring men together in associations. The Union for Moral Action sought, on the contrary, to associate men of diverse interests and opinions—adversaries even,—into collaboration for the common morality. In response to the interpellations, questions, and doubts evoked by 'The Present Duty,' Desjardins published in the Débats a series of articles on 'The Conversion of the Church.' They contributed still more to differentiate him from the other leaders of the new movement; in fact, few caring to share the responsibility of such radical utterances, he has been left in literary isolation in his advanced position: a position which,[Pg 4599] although it can but command the admiration and respect of the press and the educational and religious contingent of Paris, none the less attracts sarcasm and irony in the world's centre of wit, sensual tolerance, and moral skepticism. As the reproach of his literary confrères expresses it, the author has given way before the apostle. The "life to be lived" commanded the sacrifice. Desjardins makes now but rare appearances in his old journalistic places, and in literature he has determinately severed connections through which fame and fortune might confidently be expected. He now gives his writings anonymously to the small weekly publication, the official organ of the Union for Moral Action, depending for his living upon his professorial position in the Collège St. Stanislas.

'Une Critique,' one of Desjardins's earliest essays, strikes the note of his life and writings at a time when he himself was unconscious of its portentous meaning to his world and his literature:—

"Whatever deserves to be, deserves the best attention of our intellect. Everything calls for interest, only it must be an interest divested of self-interest, and sincere. But above all we must labor—labor hard—to understand, respect, and tenderly love in others whatever contains one single grain of simple intrinsic Goodness. Believe me, this is everywhere, and it is everywhere to be found, if you will only look for it....

"The supremacy of the truly Good!—here lies the root of the whole teaching—the whole new way of looking at things and judging men....

"New views of the universality of our world, of poetry, of religion, of kindness (human kindness), of virtue, of worth!... Think it over; these are the objects on which our new generation is fixing its thoughts, and trying to awaken yours. This it is which is so new!"

Translation of Madame Blaze de Bury.


[Pg 4600]


There are many of us who at times have forgotten our personal troubles, however great they were, by picturing to ourselves the moral distress of souls around us, and by meditating on the possible remedy for this universal ill. Some remain serene before this spectacle; they resign themselves to fatal evil and inextricable doubt; they look with cold blood on that which is. Others, like the one who speaks here, are more affirmative because they are more impassioned, more wounded, knowing neither how to forget nor how to be patient, nor yet how to despair peaceably; they are less troubled by that which is, than by that which ought to be; they have even turned towards that which ought to be, as towards the salvation for which their whole heart is calling. It is their weakness not to know how to interest themselves for any length of time in what does not in some way assume the aspect of a duty that concerns them. They do not contest, in fact, that it is a weakness not to be able to look with a disinterested eye on disease, corporal or spiritual; a weakness to feel the necessity of having something to do at the bedside of the dying, even if that something be in vain,—to employ the anguish of one's heart in preparing, even up to the supreme moment, remedies in the shadow of the chamber.

We are in a state of war. It would be almost cowardly to be silent about our intimate beliefs, for they are contradicted and attacked. We must not content ourselves with a pacification or truce which will permit us with facile weakness to open all the pores of our intelligence to ideas contrary to our conviction. It is necessary on the contrary to gird ourselves, to intrench ourselves. There is to-day, between us and many of our contemporaries, an irreconcilable disagreement that must be faced, a great combat in which parts must be taken. As far as I can see this is what it is. In a word, are subjection to animal instinct, egoism, falsehood, absolutely evil, or are they merely "inelegances"?—that is to say, things deprecated just at present, but which, well ornamented and perfumed with grace, might not again attract us, satisfy us, furnish us a type of life equivalent after all to the life of the sages and saints; for nothing shows us with certainty that the latter is any better than the former.[Pg 4601] Are justice and love a sure good, a sure law, and the harbor of safety? Or are they possible illusions, probable vanities? Have we a destiny, an ideal, or are we agitating ourselves without cause and without purpose for the amusement of some malicious demiurge, or simply for the absurd caprice of great Pan? This is the question that divides consciences. A great subject of dispute; surely greater than that of the divinity of Jesus Christ, for example, than that even of the existence of a personal God, or of any other purely speculative question you please; and above all, one more urgent: for there are counter-blows in it, which frighten me in my every-day existence,—me, a man kept to the business of living from the hour I awake to the light until the hour I go to sleep; and according to the answer I may give myself on this point, is the spirit in which I dig in my little garden.

Personally I have taken sides, after reflection; after experience also, I do profess with conviction that humanity has a destiny and that we live for something. What is to be understood exactly by this word humanity? In short, I know not, only that this, of which I know nothing, does not exist yet, but it is on the road to existence, on the road to make itself known; and that it concerns me who am here. What must be understood by this word destiny? I do not know much more; I have only, so far, dreams about it, dreams born of some profound but incommunicable love, which an equal love only could understand; my conscience is not pure enough to conceive a stronger conviction; I only affirm that this destiny of humanity, if it were known, would be such that all men, ignorant or simple, could participate in it. It is already something to know that, in short, I see at least by lightning-flashes, from which side the future will shine; and I walk towards it, and live thus, climbing up in a steep dark forest towards a point where a light is divined, a light that cannot deceive me, but which the obtruding branches of a complicated and apparent life hide from me. That which will bring me nearer it is not arguing about the probable nature of the light, but walking; I mean, fortifying in myself and others a will for the Good....

We have on one side undecided and lukewarm allies, on the other adversaries; and we are forced necessarily to combat. This necessity will become clearer each day; ... it is the "antagonism of negatives and positives—of those who tend to destroy[Pg 4602] and those who tend to reconstruct."... There is no question here, be it understood, of knowing whether we are deceiving ourselves in choosing such or such a particular duty; that I would concede without trouble, having always estimated that our moral judgments, like our acts, have need of ceaseless revision and amelioration, according to an endless progression. There is a question of much more; of knowing in an absolute manner whether there be a duty for us or not.... Good is in fact that which ought to be. Like Christ, who according to St. Paul is not a Yes and a No, but a Yes, duty is a Yes; to slip into it the shadow of a possibility of a No is to destroy it....

The men of to-day are thus negatives or positives, as they range themselves under one opinion or the other. And they must range themselves under one of the two. They cannot escape. The question which divides us, to know whether we live in vain, imposes itself upon every one who opens his lips or moves his finger, upon every conscious being who breathes. That So-and-so never speaks of it, never thinks of it, may be; but their lives answer for them and testify loudly enough. I confess that at first sight the negatives seem for the moment the more numerous. They include many groups, which I shall not enumerate here. I range with them the charming uncertain ones, like M. Renan and his melodious disciples, the sombre and nihilistic Buddhists; all those to whom the law of the completion of man through the good is indeed foolish and chimerical, since their lives imply the negation of it: I mean to say the immense multitude of those who live in any kind of way, good easy people, refined possibly, from caprice, coquetry or laziness, but in complete moral anæsthesia.

Now we come to the positives. They include first of all, true Christians, and all true Jews, attached to the profound spirit of their religion; then the philosophers and poets who affirm or sing the moral ideal, the new disciples of Plato, the Stoics, the Kantians, famous or unknown, to whom life alone, outside of all speculation, is a solid affirmation of the possibility and sufficiency of the good. That the actions of these men and women, on the way to creating themselves free beings, human beings, have the same value as doctrine, cannot be denied. They labor and suffer here and there, each one in his own cell; each one making his own goodness consist in the realization of what he believes to be the absolute good; making themselves faithful servants of something;[Pg 4603] existing outside of themselves; the city, religion, charity, justice, truth even, or beauty, conceived as modes of adoration.... All these compose, it seems to me, one and the same Church, having the philosophers and poets of duty for doctors of divinity, the heroes of duty for congregation. These may be called by the general name of "Positives."

Let our eyes be opened: everything that surrounds us is vitiated; many of the children playing on the promenades are sickly, their little faces are often enough marked with livid blotches, their bones are often enough twisted, sad symptoms of the degradation of parents. At every street corner are distributed libertine productions by traders in the depravity of the weak. If any one wishes to recognize the furnace of vice burning within us, let him observe merely the looks cast upon an honest woman as she passes, by respectable men, old men. What savage expressions intercepted under the feverish light of the electric lamps! What tension, what spasms of covetousness! What hallucinations of pleasure and of gold! Tragic matter here, but low tragedies à la Balzac, not those acted under an open sky by heroes. A few pistol-shots from time to time, a few poisonings, some drownings: that is all that transpires of the interior evil. The rest passes away in suppressed tears, brooding hatreds, in accepted shame. In such confusion the consciences of the best, of the most disinterested ones, lose the cleanness of their stamp. "You are smiling there at an obscenity," said I to a friend; he protested; then reflecting, agreed with me, quite astonished that he had not perceived it. Honest men are troubled by all this circumjacent corruption. And rightly so, for at the bottom they are parts of it; they are distinguished from it only by more cleanliness, education, elegance, but not by principle.

In fact, from top to bottom, all this society lives on sensation; that is the common trait through it all, and it is graded according to the quality of its sensations.... Fundamentally there is only sensation, with here and there unequally subtle nerves. There are no terms less reconcilable one to another than research of sensation and moral obligation. There is nothing more opposed. Therefore he who expects all from his sensations depends absolutely on externals, upon the fortuitous things of life, in all their incoherence; he is no longer a self-centre, he feels himself no longer responsible, his personality is dissolved, evaporated; it[Pg 4604] does not react, and ambient nature already absorbs him, like some dead thing....

And this is where we are. I recognize then the evil; I see it in its extent. Nevertheless, to paint this lamentable picture once more is not to show our moral ideas. Our moral idea is what we believe touching the life which shall be best; it is not exactly our life.

Ever since the antique Medea of Ovid uttered that cry, many others, one after another, have groaned over the fact that, seeing the best and approving it, they yet follow the worst—alas!

Such a sorrow is to-day profound and universal; there where vice abounds, sorrow superabounds. It is no longer that melancholy born of the insufficiency of external reality, once for all recognized, that felt by Obermann and proud romanticists; but a humble, narrow, ragged rancor, mixed with disdain, with disgust, born of our insufficiency to ourselves, perceived thoroughly. Never, I believe, have we been more generally sad than in these times. And it is that which saves us; I find here our greatness. He alone is lost who feels himself at ease and healthful in evil; consciences without anxiety are the only hopeless ones. Let us hope then, for it cannot be denied that we feel we are very ill. It is apparent that we are in labor with something which shall be our cure. The symptoms of this painful labor are not lacking. The works which are appearing now, pre-eminent in form, but obscure and hesitating in principles, bear signs of the stress in which they were conceived; soon they will seem merely specious. In the poetry, romance, painting, music, of to-day, how many exquisite works are born, not of energy guided by love, but only of a dream of energy, a dream of love, on the shores of inconsolable exile! The truth is, we no longer know what to become; when any one of the antique misfortunes strikes us,—death, abandonment, ruin,—we no longer bear it as our fathers did. We no longer know the dignified, peaceful mournings of old; but under an unexpected stroke, the torment, the complicated rending in the heart, show that it has been secretly undermined. We feel indeed divided within ourselves, and we need to be unified; but the inward unification is possible only for the absolutely debauched or the absolutely good man; there is no via media; half-virtue rends us....[Pg 4605]

Our spiritual life being in truth miracle and mystery, I do not know how to explain what each one knows so well; I do not know how there is developed within us that sublime state known and described under different names by Socrates, Plato, Plotinus, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, St. Paul, St. Augustine, Tauler, the author of the 'Imitation,' Shelley, Emerson, Tolstoy: but I know that such a state, which we all know by experience, merits alone the name of positive morality.... Well then, history shows that what is true of each one of us personally, is true of society.


While a purer spirit is visibly awakening in ailing humanity and turning it again to Christ, the religion of Christ is rejuvenating. His church is no longer motionless. Thus, in the midst of a great confusion, two religious movements which correspond with one another are defining themselves with sufficient clearness.

On the one side, men without any precise faith, and who thought themselves without any faith, have perceived that they carry within themselves that which they sought: an explanation of themselves, say a principle of salvation. At whatever point these thinking men arrive, it is apparent at the present that they are progressing in the way of the Evangel, and following the path of the cross.... On the other side, the Roman Catholic Church, governed by a vigilant Pope, has declared herself. She has spoken of love, at the moment when all were thirsty for love and self-forgetfulness; she intercedes for the suffering masses, at the moment when others were going to do it outside of her, perhaps against her. And more, she is resolutely to-day accenting spirituality, after having so long accented ritual or policy. The new spiritualists and the renewed Christians are thus pushed forward to a meeting with one another by the need of their practical co-operation, and also perhaps by the consciousness of their intimate kinship. They are marching from both sides, with the same rallying cry, Fraternity and sacrifice! Here they are flying from the city of the plain, where a material civilization reigns, and claiming to suffice all; they are emigrating, they know not whither, if it be only towards the heights; there[Pg 4606] they are descending from their high, narrow, clerical, shut-in fastness.

The conversion that the Church should make is a conversion of the heart. It must become again a school of true liberty and love. Herein lies all the anxiety of the moment; and the great Catholic question lies not between the Church and the Republic, but between the Church and the People, or rather between the Church and the pure Spirit. By loving the people in truth, and by making itself the people, it is clear that the Catholic Church would simply be returning to its original source. Now, returning to its original source is, in a word, all that the Church should do; and that which, following her example, all old institutions should do so as to live and to make us live. To last, means to be re-born perpetually. In truth, each one of these institutions was born in former times, from a definite need of the soul. And at first they responded exactly to it, and that is why they prevailed; all their strength came from the fact that they were necessary; their weakness comes from the fact that they are no longer so. At first the religious community was formed of the imperious necessity of a deliverance from evil; it was not for ornament, not for the charm of burning incense under arches; ... neither was it formed to do what kings, warriors, and judges are sufficient to do; these last would have absorbed it, but they cannot,—although they try to do so every day; but they can never do so, unless the Church abandons her own functions to usurp theirs. She would then, by forgetting her destination, commit suicide. But even then, another church would form in response to the spiritual hunger and thirst which never ceases. Thus the whole problem of the existence of an institution is to remain forever necessary, and therefore faithful to its original source.

Let us add that civil society cannot maintain itself without also constant rejuvenation,—becoming young again; it also exists only by the active consent of willing minds. It is essential for the harmony of the whole that each person should be an individual and not an automaton. As men, divided by the external accidents of habit, condition, fortune, and united by that which is fundamental within them, the weakening of that which is within them disintegrates them; and thence the principal cause of our divisions comes from hardly any one to-day being in his heart that which he appears to be. Therefore, to bring back diverse[Pg 4607] conditions to their original source and to the reason of their being, to re-establish the principle in the centre of the life of each, is to do the work of unification. To say to the priests, "Be primitive Christians, imitate the chosen Master," is, socially speaking, a good action which all Christians and non-Christians should applaud, for the salvation of all depends upon it. The remedy of our malady, without doubt, lies not in having all France to mass, but first that all should make their faith the rule of their actions. That which lies at the bottom of our consciences is the thing by which we are brothers.


From 'Notes Contemporaines'

Two impressions have remained with me. They date from a month's wandering in Switzerland, at a time when there are no tourists to be met. The first is of the exquisite scenes of wintry Nature, as she shows herself at this season, when none come to visit her—still, reposeful, silent, veiled—how much more touching and impressive than when profaned by the summer crowd! This is the moment when the Jura should be seen! The pine woods on the hills are but faintly powdered with snow, and the patches of dry rusty vegetation beneath lie on the gray stones like the broad red stains of blood. Seeds hang here and there on the bare branches, mixed with the tendrils of the wild vine, or with ghostly clusters of what were the flowers of the clematis. The falling leaves are golden; those already fallen are of an ashen gray. The delicate tracery overhead is of infinite complexity, exquisite in its endless detail; and the whole of this disrobed Nature, in its unadorned simplicity, has an impress of sincerity that reminds you of the drawings of Holbein. Flat pools of shallow water lie about, carpeted with mosses and mirroring the sky; the smoke of the huts rises upward gaunt and straight. No one is near; there are no passers-by; and there is no sound, except that of a waterfall, fuller in its rush than at any other season. Silence—a silence so fragile that the step of a single wayfarer on the road would be enough to break it—reigns undisturbed, and covers everything like a winding-sheet.

My second impression is of another kind, though almost as comforting, at least by the contrast; it was given me by the conversation of the peasant folk, plain humble mountaineers. The[Pg 4608] speech and thought of these men is plain and direct, devoid of artifice, clear and fathomable; they furnish you an unvarnished tale of their own simple experience—the life experience of a man, no more! They neither invent nor disguise, and are totally incapable of presenting either fact or circumstances in a way that shall suggest to the hearer another or a different sense. Our woeful habit of ridiculing what lies indeed at the bottom of our hearts they have never learned; they copy, line by line and stroke by stroke, the meaning that is in them, the intentions of their inner mind. In our Parisian haunts, it seems to me that their success would be a problem; but they are heedless of "success"; and to us, when we escape from our vitiated centres, from an atmosphere poisoned by that perpetual straining after effect, the pure undressed simplicity of these "primitives" is as refreshing as to our over-excited and exhausted nerves are the green, quiet, hidden nooks of their Alpine solitudes. With them there is no need of imaginative expression; the trouble of thought is useless; their words are the transparent revelation of their beliefs. The calm brought to the hyper-civilized spirit by this plainness and directness of Nature is absolutely indescribable; and when I came to reflect on the profoundness of mental quietude—I might say of consolation—that I had attained to during my wanderings, I could not help recognizing what a cruel, fatal part is played in the lives of all of us by irony. It is, with Frenchmen, a kind of veneer, worn even by the most unpretentious in place of whatever may be real in them; and where this outward seeming is absent, they are completely at a loss.

Well-bred Frenchmen rarely if ever have or pronounce an opinion, or pass a judgment—unless with a playful obliquity of judgment, and on things in general. They assume an air of knowing what they are talking about, and of having probed the vanity of all human effort before they have ever attempted or approached it; and even this indifference, this disdain, this apparent dislike to the responsibility of so much as an opinion,—even this is not natural, not innate; its formula is not of its own creation; it is but the repetition of what was originated by some one else. The truth is, that in our atmosphere all affirmative action is difficult; it is hard either to be or to do. This habit of irony has destroyed all healthful activity here. It is a mere instrument of evil; if you grasp it, it turns to mischief in your hands, and either slips from and eludes them, or wounds you, as often as not, mortally.[Pg 4609]



Sir Aubrey de Vere Sir Aubrey de Vere

t Curragh Chase, in the picturesque county of Limerick, Ireland, Aubrey Hunt was born in 1788. On the death of his father he succeeded to the baronetcy and took the name of De Vere. Though his deep love of nature prompted him while very young to write descriptive verses, it was the drama that first seriously attracted him. This form he chose for his first painstaking work, 'Julian the Apostate.' The play opens at the time when Julian, having renounced the faith of his household oppressors, is allowed as a pagan worshiper to participate in the Eleusinian mysteries; when, it is said, he consented to the assassination of his uncle the Emperor Constantius. It found an admiring and enthusiastic audience and received unstinted praise from the critics. One wrote, "Lord Byron has produced nothing equal to it;" and another, "Scott has nothing so intellectual or so elevated among his exquisite sketches."

'Mary Tudor,' a drama written two years before his death in 1846, is his "most considerable work," says his son, and "an expression of his sympathy with great qualities obscured by great errors and great calamities." The sonnet was however the form of composition he preferred, and as a sonneteer he will be remembered. His sonnets are mainly historical, though he wrote also some religious and descriptive ones which Wordsworth considered "the most perfect of our age." His earlier ones, modeled after those of Petrarch and Filicaja, are inferior in imagery, phraseology, and nobility of thought to those produced under the influence of Wordsworth, a poet whose genius De Vere was among the first to acknowledge, and whose friendship he regarded as one of the chief honors of his life.

Like his friend, De Vere was a patriot, and in his historical sonnets he has recorded his love for the land of his remoter ancestors, whereas in the 'Lamentations of Ireland' he has expressed with great ardor his love for the land of his birth. In 1842 he published 'The Song of Faith,' which with the exception of a few translations was all he gave the world in twenty years. Devoted to his occupations as a country gentleman, and being of a singularly modest[Pg 4610] disposition, he neither loved nor courted fame, nor found in it any incentive to action.

Sir Aubrey De Vere was not in the modern acceptance of the term a national poet, nor was he, as so many of his contemporaries, anti-Irish. He modeled his poems on the great English writers, but all he wrote is pervaded with a deep sympathy for Ireland, and that at a time when such sympathy was rare.


The flattering crowd wreathe laurels for the brow
Of blood-stained chief or regal conqueror;
To Cæsar or the Macedonian bow;
Meteors of earth that set to rise no more:
A hero-worship, as of old? Not now
Should chieftain bend with servile reverence o'er
The fading pageantry of Paynim lore.
True heroes they whose consecrated vow
Led them to Jewry, fighting for the Cross;
While not by Avarice lured, or lust of power
Inspired, they combated that Christ should reign,
And life laid down for him counted no loss.
On Dorylæum's plain, by Antioch's tower,
And Ascalon, sleep well the martyred slain.


From 'The Crusaders'

All holy influences dwell within
The breast of childhood; instincts fresh from God
Inspire it, ere the heart beneath the rod
Of grief hath bled, or caught the plague of sin.
How mighty was this fervor which could win
Its way to infant souls!—and was the sod
Of Palestine by infant Croises trod?
Like Joseph went they forth, or Benjamin,
In all their touching beauty to redeem?
And did their soft lips kiss the Sepulchre?
Alas! the lovely pageant, as a dream,
Faded! They sank not through ignoble fear;
They felt not Moslem steel. By mountain stream,
In sands, in fens, they died—no mother near!
[Pg 4611]


Royal and saintly Cashel! I would gaze
Upon the wreck of thy departed powers
Not in the dewy light of matin hours,
Nor in the meridian pomp of summer blaze,
But at the close of dim autumnal days,
When the sun's parting glance, through slanting showers,
Sheds o'er thy rock-throned battlements and towers
Such awful gleams as brighten o'er decay's
Prophetic cheek. At such a time, methinks,
There breathes from thy lone courts and voiceless aisles
A melancholy moral; such as sinks
On the lone traveler's heart amid the piles
Of vast Persepolis on her mountain stand,
Or Thebes half buried in the desert sand.


Therefore when thou wouldst pray, or dost thine alms,
Blow not a trump before thee; hypocrites
Do thus, vaingloriously; the common streets
Boast of their largess, echoing their psalms.
On such the laud of man, like unctuous balms,
Falls with sweet savor. Impious counterfeits!
Prating of heaven, for earth their bosom beats!
Grasping at weeds, they lose immortal palms!
God needs not iteration nor vain cries:
That man communion with his God might share
Below, Christ gave the ordinance of prayer:
Vague ambages and witless ecstasies
Avail not: ere a voice to prayer be given,
The heart should rise on wings of love to heaven.


Ay, wisely do we call her Mother—she
Who from her liberal breath breathes sustenance
To nations; a majestic charity!
No marble symbol cold, in suppliant glance
[Pg 4612]Deceitful smiling; strenuous her advance,
Yet calm; while holy ardors, fancy-free,
Direct her measured steps: in every chance
Sedate—as Una 'neath the forest tree
Encompassed by the lions. Why, alas!
Must her perverse and thoughtless children turn
From her example? Why must the sulky breath
Of Bigotry stain Charity's pure glass?
Poison the springs of Art and Science—burn
The brain through life, and sear the heart in death?


Sad is our youth, for it is ever going,
Crumbling away beneath our very feet;
Sad is our life, for onward it is flowing
In currents unperceived, because so fleet;
Sad are our hopes, for they were sweet in sowing—
But tares, self-sown, have overtopped the wheat;
Sad are our joys, for they were sweet in blowing—
And still, oh still, their dying breath is sweet;
And sweet is youth, although it hath bereft us
Of that which made our childhood sweeter still;
And sweet is middle life, for it hath left us
A nearer good to cure an older ill;
And sweet are all things, when we learn to prize them
Not for their sake, but His who grants them, or denies them!
[Pg 4613]



ernal Diaz del Castillo, one of the chief chroniclers of the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards, was born at Medina del Campo in Old Castile, about the year 1498. Concerning the date of his death, authorities differ widely. He died in Guatemala, perhaps not long after 1570, but some say not until 1593.

Of humble origin, he determined while still a youth to seek his fortune in the New World. In 1514 he went with Pedrarias to Darien and Cuba. He was a common soldier with Córdoba in the first expedition to Yucatan in 1517. He accompanied Grijalva to Mexico in the following year, and finally enlisted under the banner of Cortés. In every event that marked the career of that brilliant commander in Mexico, Diaz had a part; he was engaged in one hundred and nineteen battles, and was present at the siege and surrender of the capital in 1521. Of unswerving loyalty and bravery, according to his own naïve statement, he was frequently appointed by Cortés to highly important missions. When Cortés set out to subdue the defection under Cristoval de Olid at Honduras, Diaz followed his old chief in the terrible journey through the forests and swamps.

On his return he presumably adopted the life of a planter, although he had complained loudly of the meagre allotment of land and laborers which the conqueror gave him. In 1568, however, after the lapse of half a century, when Cortés had been dead twenty-one years, we find the veteran comfortably established as regidor (a civic officer) of the city of Guatemala, and busily engaged on the narrative of the heroic deeds of his youth. In his introduction to the 'Historia' Diaz frankly admits that his principal motive in taking up his pen was to vindicate the valor of himself and others, who had been completely overshadowed by the exaggerated reputation of Cortés.

When fairly started, he happened to run across the 'Crónica de la Nueva España' (Saragossa, 1554) of Gomara, secretary and chaplain to Cortés, 1540-47. At first the rough old soldier threw down his pen in despair, on noting the polished style of the scholar; but when he became aware of the gross inaccuracies of his predecessor, who had never even set foot in America, he determined, so he declares, to write above all things a faithful narrative of the stirring events in which he had participated. Thus was completed his 'Historia[Pg 4614] Verdadera de la Conquista de la Nueva España.' For some reason this valuable manuscript lay neglected in a private library for about sixty years. Finally it fell into the hands of Father Alonso Remor, a sagacious priest, who published it at Madrid in 1632.

The narrative of this soldier historian, although clumsy, full of digressions and repetitions, and laying bare his ignorance, simplicity, and vanity, will nevertheless always be read with far more interest than the weightier works of Las Casas, Gomara, or Herrera. Prescott explained the secret of its fascination when he said:—

"Bernal Diaz, the untutored child of nature, is a most true and literal copyist of nature. He transfers the scenes of real life by a sort of daguerreotype process, if I may so say, to his pages. He is among chroniclers what Defoe is among novelists.... All the picturesque scenes and romantic incidents of the campaign are reflected in his pages as in a mirror. The lapse of fifty years has had no power over the spirit of the veteran. The fire of youth glows in every line of his rude history, and as he calls up the scenes of the past, the remembrance of the brave companions who are gone gives, it may be, a warmer coloring to the picture than if it had been made at an earlier period."

A fairly good English translation of the work of Bernal Diaz appeared in London in 1800, under the title of 'True History of the Conquest of Mexico.'


Translation of Maurice Keatinge: London, 1800


Sandoval at this moment made a signal for the flotilla to close up to him, and perceived that Guatimotzin was prisoner to Holguin, who was taking him to Cortés. Upon this he ordered his rowers to exert their utmost to bring him up to Holguin's vessel, and having arrived by the side of it, he demanded Guatimotzin to be delivered to him as general of the whole force; but Holguin refused, alleging that he had no claim whatever.

A vessel which went to carry the intelligence of the great event, brought also to Cortés, who was then on the summit of the great temple in the Taltelulco, very near the part of the lake where Guatimotzin was captured, an account of the dispute between his officers. Cortés immediately dispatched Luis Marin and Francisco de Lugo to bring the whole party together to his quarters, and thus to stop all litigation; but he enjoined them not to omit treating Guatimotzin and his queen with the greatest respect.[Pg 4615] During the interval he employed himself in arranging a state, as well as he could, with cloths and mantles. He also prepared a table with refreshments, to receive his prisoners. As soon as they appeared he went forward to meet them, and embracing Guatimotzin, treated him and all his attendants with every mark of respect.

The unfortunate monarch, with tears in his eyes, and sinking under affliction, then addressed him in the following words:—"Malintzin! I have done that which was my duty in the defense of my kingdom and people; my efforts have failed, and being now brought by force a prisoner in your hands, draw that poniard from your side and stab me to the heart."

Cortés embraced and used every expression to comfort him, by assurances that he held him in high estimation for the valor and firmness he had shown, and that he had required a submission from him and the people at the time that they could no longer reasonably hope for success, in order to prevent further destruction; but that was all past, and no more to be thought of it; he should continue to reign over the people as he had done before. Cortés then inquired after his queen, to which Guatimotzin replied that in consequence of the compliance of Sandoval with his request, she and her women remained in the piraguas until Cortés should decide as to their fate. The general then caused them to be sent for, and treated them in the best manner his situation afforded. The evening was drawing on, and it appeared likely to rain; he therefore sent the whole royal family to Cuyoacan, under the care of Sandoval. The rest of the troops then returned to their former quarters; we to ours of Tacuba, and Cortés, proceeding to Cuyoacan, took the command there, sending Sandoval to resume his station at Tepeaquilla. Thus was the siege of Mexico brought to a conclusion by the capture of Guatimotzin and his chiefs, on the thirteenth of August, at the hour of vespers, being the day of St. Hyppolitus, in the year of our Lord one thousand five hundred and twenty-one. Glorified by our Lord Jesus Christ, and Our Lady the Holy Virgin Mary his blessed mother, Amen!

Guatimotzin was of a noble appearance both in person and countenance; his features were rather large and cheerful, with lively eyes. His age was about twenty-three or four years, and his complexion very fair for an Indian. His queen, the niece of Montezuma, was young and very handsome.[Pg 4616]


What I am going to mention is truth, and I swear and say amen to it. I have read of the destruction of Jerusalem, but I cannot conceive that the mortality there exceeded this of Mexico; for all the people from the distant provinces which belonged to this empire had concentrated themselves here, where they mostly died. The streets, the squares, the houses, and the courts of the Taltelulco were covered with dead bodies; we could not step without treading on them; the lake and canals were filled with them, and the stench was intolerable. For this reason, our troops, immediately after the capture of the royal family, retired to their former quarters. Cortés himself was for some time ill from the effect of it.


I will now proceed to describe the person and disposition of the Marquis [Cortés]. He was of good stature and strongly built, of a rather pale complexion and serious countenance. His features were, if faulty, rather too small; his eyes mild and grave. His beard was black, thin, and scanty; his hair in the same manner. His breast and shoulders were broad, and his body very thin. He was very well limbed, and his legs rather bowed; an excellent horseman, and dexterous in the use of arms. He also possessed the heart and mind which is the principal part of the business. I have heard that when he was a lad in Hispaniola he was very wild about women, and that he had several duels with able swordsmen, in which he always came off with victory. He had the scar of a sword wound near his under lip, which appeared through his beard if closely examined, and which he received in some of those affairs. In his appearance, manners, transactions, conversation, table, and dress, everything bore the appearance of a great lord. His clothes were according to the fashion of the time; he was not fond of silks, damasks, or velvets, but everything plain, and very handsome; nor did he wear large chains of gold, but a small one of fine workmanship bearing the image of Our Lady the Blessed Virgin with her precious Son in her arms, and a Latin motto; and on the reverse, St. John the Baptist with another motto. He wore on his finger a ring with a very fine diamond, and in his cap, which according to the fashion of that day was of velvet, he bore a medal, the[Pg 4617] head and motto of which I do not recollect; but latterly he wore a plain cloth cap without any ornament.

His table was always magnificently attended and served, with four major-domos or principal officers, a number of pages, and a great quantity of plate, both gold and silver. He dined heartily at midday, and drank a glass of wine mixed with water, of about half a pint. He was not nice in his food, nor expensive, except on particular occasions where he saw the propriety of it. He was very affable with all his captains and soldiers, especially those who accompanied him in his first expedition from Cuba. He was a Latinist, and as I have been told, a bachelor of laws. He was also something of a poet, and a very good rhetorician; very devout to Our Holy Virgin and to St. Peter, St. Jago, and St. John the Baptist, and charitable to the poor. When he swore he used to say, "By my conscience!" and when he was angry with any of us his friends, he would say, "Oh! may you repent it." When he was very angry, the veins in his throat and forehead used to swell, and when in great wrath he would not utter a syllable to any one. He was very patient under insults or injuries; for some of the soldiers were at times very rude and abusive to him; but he never resented their conduct, although he had often great reason to do so. In such cases he used only to say "Be silent!" or "Go away, in God's name, and take care not to repeat this conduct or I will have you punished." He was very determined and headstrong in all business of war, not attending to any remonstrances on account of danger; an instance of which he showed in the attack of those fortresses called the Rocks of the Marquis, which he forced us to scale, contrary to our opinions, and when neither courage, council, nor wisdom could give any rational hope of success....

Where we had to erect a fortress, Cortés was the hardest laborer in the trenches; when we were going into battle, he was as forward as any.

Cortés was very fond of play, both at cards and dice, and while playing he was very affable and good-humored. He used frequently at such times those cant expressions which are customary amongst persons who game. In military service he practiced the most strict attention to discipline, constantly going the rounds in person during the night, visiting the quarters of the soldiers and severely reprehending those whom he found without their armor and appointments and not ready to turn out;[Pg 4618] repeating to them the proverb that "It is a bad sheep which cannot carry its own wool."

On our expedition to Higueras I perceived that he had acquired a habit which I had never before observed in him, and it was this: after eating, if he did not get his siesta or sleep, his stomach was affected and he fell sick. For this reason, when on the journey, let the rain be ever so heavy or the sun ever so hot, he always reposed for a short time after his repast, a carpet or cloak being spread under a tree, on which he lay down; and having slept a short time, he mounted his horse and proceeded on his journey. When we were engaged in the wars during the conquest of New Spain, he was very thin and slender; but after his return from Higueras he grew fat, and acquired a belly. He at this time trimmed his beard, which had now begun to grow white, in the short fashion. In his early life he was very liberal, but grew close latterly, some of his servants complaining that he did not pay them as he ought; and I have also to observe that in his latter undertakings he never succeeded. Perhaps such was the will of Heaven, his reward being reserved for another place; for he was a good cavalier, and very devout to the Holy Virgin, and also to St. Paul and other Holy Saints. God pardon him his sins, and me mine; and give me a good end, which is better than all conquests and victories over Indians.


In his account of this action, Gomara says that previous to the arrival of the main body of the cavalry under Cortés, Francisco de Morla appeared in the field upon a gray dappled horse, and that it was one of the holy Apostles, St. Peter or St. Jago, disguised under his person. I say that all our works and victories are guided by the hand of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that in this battle there were so many enemies to every one of us, that they could have buried us under the dust they could have held in their hands, but that the great mercy of God aided us throughout. What Gomara asserts might be the case, and I, sinner as I am, was not worthy to be permitted to see it. What I did see was Francisco de Morla, riding in company with Cortés and the rest upon a chestnut horse; and that circumstance and all the others of that day appear to me, at this moment that I am writing, as if actually passing in view of these sinful eyes. But[Pg 4619] although I, unworthy sinner that I am, was unfit to behold either of those holy Apostles, upwards of four hundred of us were present: let their testimony be taken. Let inquiry also be made how it happened that when the town was founded on that spot, it was not named after one or other of those holy Apostles, and called St. Jago de la Vitoria, or St. Pedro de la Vitoria, as it was Santa Maria, and a church erected and dedicated to one of those holy saints. Very bad Christians were we indeed, according to the account of Gomara, who, when God sent us his Apostles to fight at our head, did not every day after acknowledge and return thanks for so great a mercy! Would to heaven that it were so; but until I read the chronicle of Gomara I never heard of it, nor was it ever mentioned amongst the conquerors who were then present.


There was on the island of Cozumel a temple, and some hideous idols, to which all the Indians of the neighboring districts used to go frequently in solemn procession.... Cortés summoned all the caciques and chief persons to come to him, and as well as he could, by signs and interpretations, explained to them that the idols which they worshiped were not gods, but evil things which would draw their souls down to hell, and that if they wished to remain in a brotherly connection with us, they must pull them down and place in their stead the crucifix of our Lord, by whose assistance they would obtain good harvests and the salvation of their souls; with many other good and holy reasons, which he expressed very well. The priests and chiefs replied that they worshiped these gods as their ancestors had done, because they were kind to them; and that if we attempted to molest them, the gods would convince us of their power by destroying us in the sea. Cortés then ordered them to be prostrated, which we immediately did, rolling them down some steps. He next sent for lime, of which there was abundance in the place, and Indian masons, by whom under our direction a very handsome altar was constructed, whereon we placed an image of the Holy Virgin; and the carpenters having made a crucifix, which was erected in a small chapel close to the altar, mass was said by the Reverend Father Juan Diaz, and listened to by the priests, chiefs, and the rest of the natives, with great attention.[Pg 4620]



Charles Dibdin Charles Dibdin

he saying, "Let me make the songs of a nation and I care not who makes its laws," receives an interesting illustration in the sea songs of Charles Dibdin. They were written at a momentous period in English history. The splendid gallantry and skill of England's sailors, and the genius of her naval commanders, had made her mistress of the seas, and the key of all combinations against the French Cæsar. The sterling qualities of the British seaman are the inspiration of Dibdin's songs.

Many of these were first given at Dibdin's monodramatic entertainments at the Sans Souci Theatre in London, or as parts of his musical dramas. They appealed at once to Englishmen, and were sung by every ship's crew; they fired the national spirit, and played so important a part in the quickening of English patriotism that the government, recognizing their stirring force in animating the naval enthusiasm during the Napoleonic wars, granted a pension of £200 a year to the "Ocean Bard of England."

Charles Dibdin was born in 1745, in a small village near the great seaport of Southampton. His love of the salt air drew him often to the ocean's shores, where he saw the ships of all lands pass and repass, and heard the merry sailors' songs. And yet his own songs, upon which his title to a place in literature rests, were incidental products of his active mind. He was an actor, a dramatist, and a composer as well. He wrote some thirty minor plays and the once popular operettas of 'The Shepherd's Artifice,' 'The Padlock,' 'The Quaker,' and 'The Waterman.' He wrote also a 'History of the Stage,' 'Musical Tour through England,' and an autobiography which bore the title 'Professional Life.' His two novels are now forgotten, but it is interesting to recall that for the Stratford Jubilee in honor of Shakespeare, the words of which were by Garrick, Dibdin composed the much admired songs, dances, and serenades. He wrote more than thirteen hundred songs, most of which had of course only a brief existence; but there[Pg 4621] were enough of them, burning with genuine lyric fire, to entitle him to grateful remembrance among England's poets.

In all of these songs, whether the theme be his native land or the wind-swept seas that close it round, love is the poet's real inspiration; love of old England and her sovereign, love of the wealth-bringing ocean, love of the good ship that sails its waves. This fundamental affection for the things of which he sings has endeared the songs of Dibdin to the heart of the British sailor; and in this lies the proof of their genuineness. His songs are simple and melodious; there is a manly ring in their word and rhythm; they have the swagger and the fearlessness of the typical tar; they have, too, the beat of his true heart, his kindly waggery, his sturdy fidelity to his country and his king. There is nothing quite like them in any other literature.


I sailed in the good ship the Kitty,
With a smart blowing gale and rough sea;
Left my Polly, the lads call so pretty,
Safe at her anchor. Yo, Yea!

She blubbered salt tears when we parted,
And cried "Now be constant to me!"
I told her not to be down-hearted,
So up went the anchor. Yo, Yea!

And from that time, no worse nor no better,
I've thought on just nothing but she,
Nor could grog nor flip make me forget her,—
She's my best bower-anchor. Yo, Yea!

When the wind whistled larboard and starboard,
And the storm came on weather and lee,
The hope I with her should be harbored
Was my cable and anchor. Yo, Yea!

And yet, my boys, would you believe me?
I returned with no rhino from sea;
Mistress Polly would never receive me,
So again I heav'd anchor. Yo, Yea!
[Pg 4622]


Yet though I've no fortune to offer,
I've something to put on a par;
Come, then, and accept of my proffer,—
'Tis the kind honest heart of a tar.

Ne'er let such a trifle as this is,
Girls, be to my pleasure a bar;
You'll be rich though 'tis only in kisses,
With the kind honest heart of a tar.

Besides, I am none of your ninnies;
The next time I come from afar,
I'll give you a lapful of guineas,
With the kind honest heart of a tar.

Your lords, with such fine baby faces,
That strut in a garter and star,—
Have they, under their tambour and laces,
The kind honest heart of a tar?


Go patter to lubbers and swabs, do you see,
'Bout danger, and fear, and the like;
A tight-water boat and good sea-room give me,
And it ain't to a little I'll strike.
Though the tempest topgallant-mast smack smooth should smite
And shiver each splinter of wood,
Clear the deck, stow the yards, and house everything tight,
And under reef foresail we'll scud:
Avast! nor don't think me a milksop so soft,
To be taken for trifles aback;
For they say there's a Providence sits up aloft,
To keep watch for the life of poor Jack!

I heard our good chaplain palaver one day
About souls, heaven, mercy, and such;
And, my timbers! what lingo he'd coil and belay;
Why, 'twas just all as one as High Dutch;
For he said how a sparrow can't founder, d'ye see,
[Pg 4623]Without orders that come down below;
And a many fine things that proved clearly to me oft
That Providence takes us in tow:
For, says he, do you mind me, let storms ne'er so oft
Take the topsails of sailors aback,
There's a sweet little cherub that sits up aloft,
To keep watch for the life of poor Jack!

I said to our Poll (for d'ye see, she would cry
When last we weighed anchor for sea),
What argufies sniveling and piping your eye?
Why, what a young fool you must be!
Can't you see the world's wide, and there's room for us all,
Both for seamen and lubbers ashore?
And so if to old Davy I go, my dear Poll,
Why, you never will hear of me more.
What then? all's a hazard: come, don't be so soft;
Perhaps I may, laughing, come back;
For d'ye see? there's a cherub sits smiling aloft,
To keep watch for the life of poor Jack.

D'ye mind me? a sailor should be every inch
All as one as a piece of the ship,
And with her brave the world, without offering to flinch,
From the moment the anchor's a-trip.
As for me, in all weathers, all times, sides, and ends,
Naught's a trouble from duty that springs;
For my heart is my Poll's, and my rhino's my friend's,
And as for my life, 'tis the King's.
Even when my time comes, ne'er believe me so soft;
As for grief to be taken aback;
For the same little cherub that sits up aloft
Will look out a good berth for poor Jack.


Here, a sheer hulk, lies poor Tom Bowling,
The darling of our crew;
No more he'll hear the tempest howling,
For Death has broached him to.
His form was of the manliest beauty,
His heart was kind and soft;
Faithful below he did his duty,
[Pg 4624]But now he's gone aloft.

Tom never from his word departed
His virtues were so rare;
His friends were many and true-hearted,
His Poll was kind and fair:
And then he'd sing so blithe and jolly;
Ah, many's the time and oft!
But mirth is turned to melancholy,
For Tom is gone aloft.

Yet shall poor Tom find pleasant weather,
When He who all commands
Shall give, to call life's crew together,
The word to pipe all hands.
Thus Death, who kings and tars dispatches,
In vain Tom's life has doffed;
For though his body's under hatches,
His soul is gone aloft.
[Pg 4625]



hen a great genius arises he makes his place in the world and explains himself. Criticism does not make him and cannot unmake him. He may have great defects and great faults. By exposing them and dwelling upon them, the critics may apparently nibble him all away. When the critics get through, however, he remains pretty much the force he was originally. For real genius is a sort of elemental force that enters the human world, both for good and evil, and leaves its lasting impression. It is like a new river, of waters sweet and bitter, clear and muddy, bearing on its bosom ships and wrecks, the lovely and the ugly, the incongruous elements of human life and human contrivance. When it floods and overflows, the critics run away; when it subsides the critics come back and begin to analyze it, and say, "It wasn't much of a shower."

Charles Dickens is to be judged, like any other genius, by what he created, what he brought into the world. We are not called on to say whether he was as great as Homer, as Shakespeare, as Cervantes, as Fielding, as Manzoni, as Thackeray. He was always quite himself, and followed no model, though thousands of writers have attempted to follow him and acquire the title of being Dickens-y. For over half a century he had the ear of the English-reading public the world over. It laughed with him, it cried with him, it hungered after him. Whatever he wrote, it must read; whenever he read, it crowded to hear his masterly interpretations; when he acted, it was delighted with his histrionic cleverness. In all these manifestations there was the attraction of a most winning personality.

He invented a new kind of irresistible humor, he told stories that went to the heart of humanity, he amused, he warmed, he cheered the world. We almost think that modern Christmas was his invention, such an apostle was he of kindliness and brotherly love, of sympathy with the poor and the struggling, of charity which is not condescension. He made pictures of low life, and perhaps unreal shadows of high life, and vivid scenes that lighted up great periods of history. For producing effects and holding the reader he was a wizard with his pen. And so the world hung on him, read him and re-read him, recited him, declaimed him, put him into reading-books, diffused him in common speech and in all literature. In all English literature his characters are familiar, stand for types, and need no explanation. And now, having filled itself up with him, been[Pg 4626] saturated with him, made him in some ways as common as the air, does the world tire of him, turn on him, say that it cannot read him any more, that he is commonplace? If so, the world has made him commonplace. But the publishers' and booksellers' accounts show no diminution in his popularity with the new generation.

At a dinner where Dickens was discussed, a gentleman won distinction by this sole contribution to the conversation:—"There is no evidence in Dickens's works that he ever read a book." It is true that Dickens drew most of his material from his own observation of life, and from his fertile imagination, which was often fantastic. It is true that he could not be called in the narrow sense a literary writer, that he made no literary mosaic, and few allusions to the literature of the world. Is it not probable that he had the art to assimilate his material? For it is impossible that any writer could pour out such a great flood about the world and human nature without refreshing his own mind at the great fountains of literature. And when we turn to such a tale as 'The Tale of Two Cities,' we are conscious of the vast amount of reading and study he must have done in order to give us such a true and vivid picture of the Revolutionary period.

It has been said that Dickens did not write good English, that he could not draw a lady or a gentleman, that he often makes ear-marks and personal peculiarities stand for character, that he is sometimes turgid when he would be impressive, sometimes stilted when he would be fine, that his sentiment is often false and worked up, that his attempts at tragedy are melodramatic, and that sometimes his comedy comes near being farcical. His whole literary attitude has been compared to his boyish fondness for striking apparel.

There is some truth in all these criticisms, though they do not occur spontaneously to a fresh reader while he is under the spell of Dickens, nor were they much brought forward when he was creating a new school and setting a fashion for an admiring world. His style, which is quite a part of this singular man, can easily be pulled in pieces and condemned, and it is not a safe one to imitate. No doubt he wrought for effects, for he was a magician, and used exaggeration in high lights and low lights on his crowded canvas. Say what you will of all these defects, of his lack of classic literary training, of his tendency to melodrama, of his tricks of style, even of a ray of lime-light here and there, it remains that he is a great power, a tremendous force in modern life; half an hour of him is worth a lifetime of his self-conscious analyzers, and the world is a more cheerful and sympathetic world because of the loving and lovable presence in it of Charles Dickens.

A sketch of his life and writings, necessarily much condensed for use here, has been furnished by Mr. Laurence Hutton.


[Pg 4627]



Charles Dickens was born at Landport in Portsea, on the 7th of February, 1812. His childhood was a very unhappy one. He describes himself in one of his essays as "a very queer, small boy," and his biographer tells us that he was very sickly as well as very small. He had little schooling, and numberless hard knocks, and rough and toilsome was the first quarter of his journey through life. Many of the passages in 'David Copperfield' are literally true pictures of his own early experiences, and much of that work may be accepted as autobiographical. He was fond of putting himself and his own people into his books, and of drawing his scenes and his characters from real life, sometimes only slightly disguised. Tradition says that he built both Mr. Micawber and Mr. Turveydrop out of his own father; that Mrs. Nickleby was based upon his own mother; and that his wife, who was the Dora of 'Copperfield' in the beginning of their married life, became in later years the Flora of 'Little Dorrit.' The elder Dickens had unquestionably some of the traits ascribed to the unpractical friend of Copperfield's youth, and something of the cruel self-indulgence and pompous deportment of the dancing-master in 'Bleak House.' And it was during his father's imprisonment for debt when the son was but a youth, that Dickens got his intimate knowledge of the Marshalsea, and of the heart-breaking existence of its inmates. Some years before 'Copperfield' was written, he described in a fragment of actual autobiography, quoted by Forster, the following scene:—

"My father was waiting for me in the lodge [of the Debtor's Prison]; and we went up to his room, on the top story but one, and cried very much. And he told me, I remember, to take warning by the Marshalsea, and to observe that if a man had twenty pounds a year, and spent nineteen pounds nineteen shillings and sixpence, he would be happy; but that a shilling spent the other way would make him wretched."

In these chambers Dickens afterwards put Mr. Dorrit. And while the father remained in confinement, the son lived for a time in a back attic in Lant Street, Borough, which was to become the home of the eccentric Robert Sawyer, and the scene of a famous supper party given to do honor to Mr. Pickwick "and the other chaps." "If a man wishes to abstract himself from the world, to remove himself from the reach of temptation, to place himself beyond the possibility of any inducement to look out of the window, he should by all means go to Lant Street." Lant Street still exists, as Mr. Pickwick found it, and as Dickens knew it between 1822 and 1824. He[Pg 4628] had numerous lodgings, alone and with his family, during those hard times; all of them of the same miserable, wretched character; and it is interesting to know that the original of Mrs. Pipchin was his landlady in Camden Town, and that the original of the Marchioness waited on the elder Dickens during his stay in the Marshalsea.

The story of the unhappy drudgery of the young Copperfield is the story of the young Dickens without exaggeration.

"No words can express the secret agony of my soul as I sunk into this companionship," he wrote in 1845 or 1846,—"compared these every-day associates with those of my happier childhood, and felt my early hopes of growing up to be a learned and distinguished man crushed in my breast. The deep remembrance of the sense I had of being utterly neglected and hopeless; of the shame I felt in my position; of the misery it was to my young heart to believe that, day by day, what I had learned, and thought, and delighted in, and raised my fancy and my emulation up by, was passing away from me, never to be brought back any more, cannot be written. My whole nature was so penetrated with the grief and humiliation of such considerations, that even now, famous and caressed and happy, I often forget, in my dreams, that I have a dear wife and children; even that I am a man; and I wander desolately back to that time of my life."

In the course of a few years, happily, the cloud lifted; and in 1831, when Dickens was a youth of nineteen, we find him beginning life as a reporting journalist. He wrote occasional "pieces" for the magazines, and some faint hope of growing up to be a distinguished and learned man rose again, no doubt, in his breast. N. P. Willis met him one day in 1835, when, as Willis expresses it, Dickens was a "paragraphist" for the London Morning Chronicle. The "paragraphist," according to Willis, was lodging in the most crowded part of Holborn, in an uncarpeted and bleak-looking room, with a deal table, two or three chairs, and a few books. It was up a long flight of stairs, this room; and its occupant "was dressed very much as he has since described Dick Swiveller—minus the swell look. His hair was cropped close to his head, his clothes were scant, though jauntily cut; and after exchanging a ragged office coat for a shabby blue, he stood by the door collarless and buttoned up, the very personification, I thought, of a close sailer to the wind.... Not long after this Macrone sent me the sheets of 'Sketches by Boz,' with a note saying they were by the gentleman [Dickens] who went with us to Newgate. I read the book with amazement at the genius displayed in it; and in my note of reply assured Macrone that I thought his fortune was made, as a publisher, if he could monopolize the author." This picture is very graphic. But it must be accepted with a grain of salt.

The 'Sketches by Boz, Illustrative of Every-Day Life and Every-Day People,' Dickens's first printed book, appeared in 1835. A further[Pg 4629] series of papers, bearing the same title, was published the next year. "Boz" was the nickname he had bestowed upon his younger brother Augustus, in honor of the Moses of the 'Vicar of Wakefield.' The word, pronounced through the nose, became "Boses," afterwards shortened to "Boz," which, said Dickens, "was a very familiar household word to me long before I was an author. And so I came to adopt it." The sketches, the character of which is explained in their sub-title, were regarded as unusually clever things of their kind. They attracted at once great attention in England, and established the fact that a new star had risen in the firmament of British letters.

Dickens was married on the 2d of April, 1836, to Miss Catherine Hogarth, just a week after he had published the first shilling number of 'The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club: Edited by Boz.' The work appeared in book form the next year. Its success was phenomenal, and it brought to its author not only fame but a fixed sum per annum, which is better. It assured his comfort in the present and in the future, and it wiped out all the care and troubles of his past. It was in itself the result of an accident. Messrs. Chapman and Hall, attracted by the popularity of the Sketches, proposed to their author a series of monthly articles to illustrate certain pictures of a comic character by Robert Seymour, an artist in their employment. Dickens assented, upon the condition that "the plates were to be so modified that they would arise naturally out of the text." And so between them Mr. Pickwick was born, although under the saddest of circumstances; for only a single number had appeared when Seymour died by his own hand. Hablot K. Browne succeeded him, signing the name of "Phiz"; and with "Boz" was "Phiz" long associated in other prosperous ventures. Mr. Pickwick is a benevolent, tender-hearted elderly gentleman, who, as the president of a club organized "for the purpose of investigating the source of the Hampstead ponds," journeys about England in all directions with three companions, to whom he acts as guide, philosopher, and friend. He is an amiable old goose, and his companions are equally verdant and unsophisticated; but since 1837 they have been as famous as any men in fiction. The story is a long one, the pages are crowded with incidents and with characters. It is disconnected, often exaggerated, much of it is as improbable as it is impossible, but it has made the world laugh for sixty years now; and it still holds its own unique place in the hearts of men.

From this period the pen of Dickens was never idle for thirty-three years. 'Pickwick' was succeeded by 'Oliver Twist,' begun in Bentley's Magazine in January, 1837, and printed in book form in 1838. It is the story of the progress of a parish boy, and it is sad and serious in its character. The hero was born and brought up in a[Pg 4630] workhouse. He was starved and ill-treated; but he always retained his innocence and his purity of mind. He fell among thieves,—Bill and Nancy Sykes, Fagin and the Artful Dodger, to whom much powerful description is devoted,—but he triumphed in the end. The life of the very poor and of the very degraded among the people of England during the latter end of the first half of the nineteenth century is admirably portrayed; and for the first time in their existence the British blackguards of both sexes were exhibited in fiction, clad in all their instincts of low brutality, and without that glamour of attractive romance which the earlier writers had given to Jack Sheppard, to Jonathan Wild, or to Moll Flanders.

Two dramatic compositions by Dickens, neither of them adding very much to his reputation, appeared in 1836, to wit:—'The Stranger Gentleman, A Comic Burletta in Three Acts'; and 'The Village Coquette,' a comic opera in two acts. They were presented upon the stage towards the close of that year, with fair success.

In 1838 Dickens edited the Memoirs of Joseph Grimaldi, a celebrated clown. His share in the composition of this work was comparatively small, and consisted of a Preface, dated February of that year. It was followed by 'Sketches of Young Gentlemen,' and by 'The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby,' both published in 1839. To this latter he signed his name, Charles Dickens, dropping from that period the pseudonym of "Boz." The titular hero is the son of a poor country gentleman. He makes his own way in the world as the usher of a Yorkshire school, as an actor in a traveling troupe, and as the clerk and finally the partner in a prosperous mercantile house in London. Smike, his pupil; Crummles, his theatrical manager; Ninetta Crummles, the Infant Phenomenon of the company, Newman Noggs, the clerk of his uncle Ralph Nickleby, the Cheeryble Brothers, his employers, are among the most successful and charming of Dickens's earlier creations. "Mr. Squeers and his school," he says, "were faint and feeble pictures of an existing reality, purposely subdued and kept down lest they should be deemed impossible." That such establishments ceased to exist in reality in England after the appearance of 'Nickleby,' is proof enough of the good his pictures did in this and in many other ways.

In 1840-1841 appeared 'Master Humphrey's Clock,' comprising the two stories of 'The Old Curiosity Shop' and 'Barnaby Rudge,' which were subsequently printed separately. The story of Little Nell, the gentle, lovable inmate of the Curiosity Shop, is one of the most sad and tender tales in fiction, and Dickens himself confessed that he was almost heart-broken when she died. Her path was crossed by Quilp, a cunning and malicious dwarf of hideous appearance, who consumed hard-boiled eggs, shells and all, for his breakfast; ate his[Pg 4631] prawns with their heads and their tails on, drank scalding hot tea, and performed so many horrifying acts that one almost doubted that he was human; and by Christopher Nubbles, a shock-headed, shambling, awkward, devoted lad, the only element of cheerfulness that ever came into her life. In this book appear Richard Swiveller and his Marchioness, Sampson and Sarah Brass and Mrs. Jarley, who to be appreciated must be seen and known, as Dickens has drawn them, at full length.

Barnaby Rudge was a half-witted lad, who, not knowing what he did, joined the Gordon rioters—the scenes are laid in the "No Popery" times of 1779—because he was permitted to carry a flag and to wear a blue ribbon. The history of that exciting period of English semi-political, semi-religious excitement is graphically set down. Prominent figures in the book are Grip the raven, whose cry was "I'm a devil," "Never say die"; and Miss Dolly Varden, the blooming daughter of the Clerkenwell locksmith, who has given her name to the modern feminine costume of the Watteauesque style.

The literary results of Dickens's first visit to the United States, in 1842, when he was thirty years of age, were 'American Notes, for General Circulation'; published in that year, and containing portions of 'Martin Chuzzlewit,' which appeared in 1844. His observations in the 'Notes' upon the new country and its inhabitants gave great offense to the American people, and were perhaps not in the best taste. He saw the crude and ridiculous side of his hosts, he emphasized their faults, while he paid little attention to their virtues; and his criticisms and strictures rankled in the sensitive American mind for many years.

Martin Chuzzlewit, the hero of the novel bearing his name, spent some time in the western half-settled portion of America, with Mark Tapley, his light-hearted, optimistic friend and companion. The pictures of the morals and the manners of the men and women with whom the emigrants were brought into contact were anything but flattering, and they served to widen the temporary breach between Dickens and his many admirers in the United States. The English scenes of 'Chuzzlewit' are very powerfully drawn. Tom and Ruth Pinch, Pecksniff, Sarah Gamp, and Betsey Prig are among the leading characters in the work.

In 1843 appeared the 'Christmas Carol,' the first and perhaps the best of that series of tales of peace and good-will, with which, at the Christmas time, the name of Dickens is so pleasantly and familiarly associated. It was followed by 'The Chimes' in 1844, by 'The Cricket on the Hearth' in 1845, by 'The Haunted Man' in 1848, all the work of Dickens himself; and by other productions written by Dickens in collaboration with other men. Concerning these holiday[Pg 4632] stories, some unknown writer said in the public press at the time of Dickens's death: "He has not only pleased us—he has softened the hearts of a whole generation. He made charity fashionable; he awakened pity in the hearts of sixty millions of people. He made a whole generation keep Christmas with acts of helpfulness to the poor; and every barefooted boy and girl in the streets of England and America to-day fares a little better, gets fewer cuffs and more pudding, because Charles Dickens wrote."

In 1846 he produced his 'Pictures from Italy'; 'The Battle of Life, A Love Story,' and began in periodical form his 'Dealings with the Firm of Dombey and Son, Wholesale, Retail, and for Exportation,' published in book form in 1847. Here we have the pathetic story of Little Paul, the tragic fate of Carker, the amusing episode of Jack Bunsby with his designing widow, and the devotion of Susan Nipper, Mr. Toots, Captain Cuttle, and Sol Gills to the gentle, patient, lovable Florence.

On the 'Personal History of David Copperfield,' published in 1850, and of Dickens's share in its plot, something has already been said here. It is perhaps the most popular of all his productions, containing as it does Mr. Dick, the Peggottys, the Micawbers, the Heeps, Betsey Trotwood, Steerforth, Tommy Traddles, Dora, Agnes, and Little Emily, in all of whom the world has been so deeply interested for so many years.

'A Child's History of England' and 'Bleak House' saw the light in 1853. The romance was written as a protest and a warning against the law's delays, as exhibited in the Court of Chancery; and it contains the tragedy of Sir Leicester and Lady Dedlock, and the short but touching story of Poor Jo.

'Hard Times,' a tale in one volume, was printed in 1854. It introduces the Gradgrind family.

'Little Dorrit' appeared in 1857. In this book he returns to the Debtor's Prison of Micawber and of his own father. Little Dorrit herself was "the child of the Marshalsea," in which she was born and brought up; and the whole story is an appeal against the injustice of depriving of personal liberty those who cannot pay their bills, or meet their notes, however small. Its prominent characters are the Clennams, mother and son, the Meagleses, Flintwinch, Sir Decimus Tite Barnacle, Rigaud and Little Cavalletto.

'A Tale of Two Cities,' a remarkable departure for Dickens, and unlike any of his other works, was the book of the year 1859. It is conceded, even by those who are not counted among the admirers of its author, to be a most vivid and correct picture of Paris during the time of the Revolution, when the guillotine was the king of France. Its central figure, Sydney Carton, one of the most heroic characters[Pg 4633] in romance, gives his life to restore his friend to the girl whom they both love.

'The Uncommercial Traveller,' a number of sketches and stories originally published in his weekly journal All the Year Round, appeared in 1860. They were supplemented in 1868 by another volume bearing the same title, and containing eleven other papers collected from the same periodical.

'Great Expectations,' 1861, like 'Copperfield,' is the story of a boy's childhood told by the boy himself, but by a boy with feelings, sentiments, and experiences very different from those of the earlier work. The plot is not altogether a cheerful one, but many of the characters are original and charming; notably Joe Gargery, Jaggles, Wemmick, the exceedingly eccentric Miss Havisham, and the very amiable and simple Biddy.

'Somebody's Luggage,' 1862; 'Mrs. Lirriper's Lodgings' 1863; 'Mrs. Lirriper's Legacy,' 1864; 'Dr. Marigold's Prescription,' 1865, 'Mugby Junction,' 1866; and 'No Thoroughfare,' 1867,—Christmas stories, all of them,—were written by Dickens in collaboration with other writers.

'Our Mutual Friend,' the last completed work of Dickens, was printed in 1865. Mr. Boffin, the Golden Dustman with the great heart, Silas Wegg, Mr. Venus, the Riderhoods, Jenny Wren, the Podsnaps, the Veneerings, Betty Higden, Mrs. Wilfer, and the "Boofer Lady," are as fresh and as original as are any of his creations, and show no trace of the coming disaster.

Before the completion of 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood' Dickens died at his home, Gadshill Place, literally in harness, and without warning, on the 9th of June, 1870.

But six numbers of this last work appeared, in periodical form. Its author left no notes of what was to follow, and the Mystery has never been solved. Mr. Charles Collins, Dickens's son-in-law, however, in a private letter to Mr. Augustin Daly of New York, who had proposed to dramatize the tale, gave some general outline of the scheme for 'Edwin Drood.' "The titular character," he said, "was never to reappear, he having been murdered by Jasper. The girl Rosa, not having been really attached to Edwin, was not to lament his loss very long, and was, I believe, to admit the sailor, Mr. Tartar, to supply his place. It was intended that Jasper should urge on the search after Edwin, and the pursuit of the murderer, thus endeavoring to divert suspicion from himself, the real murderer. As to anything further, it would be purely conjectural."

Besides this immense amount of admirable work, Dickens founded, conducted, and edited two successful periodicals, Household Words, established in March 1850, and followed by All the Year Round,[Pg 4634] beginning in April 1859. To these he contributed many sketches and stories. He began public readings in London in 1858; and continued them with great profit to himself, and with great satisfaction to immense audiences, for upwards of twelve years. He appeared in all the leading cities of Great Britain; and he was enormously popular as a reader in America during his second and last visit in 1868.

As an after-dinner and occasional speaker Dickens was rarely equaled; and as an actor upon the amateur stage, in plays of his own composition, he was inimitable.

Of his attempts at verse, 'The Ivy Green' is the only one that is held in remembrance.

A strong argument in favor of what may be called "the staying qualities" of Dickens is the fact that his characters, even in a mutilated, unsatisfactory form, have held the stage for half a century or more, and still have power to attract and move great audiences, wherever is spoken the language in which he wrote. The dramatization of the novel is universally and justly regarded as the most ephemeral and worthless of dramatic production; and the novels of Dickens, on account of their length, of the great number of figures he introduces, of the variety and occasional exaggeration of his dialogues and his situations, have been peculiarly difficult of adaptation to theatrical purposes. Nevertheless the world laughed and cried over Micawber, Captain Cuttle, Dan'l Peggotty, and Caleb Plummer, behind the footlights, years after Dolly Spanker, Aminadab Sleek, Timothy Toodles, Alfred Evelyn, and Geoffrey Dalk, their contemporaries in the standard and legitimate drama, created solely and particularly for dramatic representation, were absolutely forgotten. And Sir Henry Irving, sixty years after the production of 'Pickwick,' drew great crowds to see his Alfred Jingle, while that picturesque and ingenious swindler Robert Macaire, Jingle's once famous and familiar confrère in plausible rascality, was never seen on the boards, except as he was burlesqued and caricatured in comic opera.

It is pretty safe to say—and not in a Pickwickian sense—that Pecksniff will live almost as long as hypocrisy lasts; that Heep will not be forgotten while mock humility exists; that Mr. Dick will go down to posterity arm-in-arm with Charles the First, whom he could not avoid in his memorial; that Barkis will be quoted until men cease to be willin'. And so long as cheap, rough coats cover faith, charity, and honest hearts, the world will remember that Captain Cuttle and the Peggottys were so clad.

Photogravure from a Photograph.

[Pg 4635]


From 'Hard Times'

"Now what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!"

The scene was a plain, bare, monotonous vault of a schoolroom, and the speaker's square forefinger emphasized his observations by underscoring every sentence with a line on the school-master's sleeve. The emphasis was helped by the speaker's square wall of a forehead, which had his eyebrows for its base, while his eyes found commodious cellarage in two dark caves, overshadowed by the wall. The emphasis was helped by the speaker's mouth, which was wide, thin, and hard set. The emphasis was helped by the speaker's voice, which was inflexible, dry, and dictatorial. The emphasis was helped by the speaker's hair, which bristled on the skirts of his bald head, a plantation of firs to keep the wind from its shining surface, all covered with knobs, like the crust of a plum pie, as if the head had scarcely warehouse-room for the hard facts stored inside. The speaker's obstinate carriage, square coat, square legs, square shoulders,—nay, his very neckcloth, trained to take him by the throat with an unaccommodating grasp like a stubborn fact, as it was,—all helped the emphasis.

"In this life we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!"

The speaker, and the schoolmaster, and the third grown person present, all backed a little, and swept with their eyes the inclined plane of little vessels then and there arranged in order, ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim.

Thomas Gradgrind, sir. A man of realities. A man of facts and calculations. A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four, and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into allowing for anything over. Thomas Gradgrind, sir,—peremptorily[Pg 4636] Thomas,—Thomas Gradgrind. With a rule and a pair of scales, and the multiplication table always in his pocket, sir, ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature, and tell you exactly what it comes to. It is a mere question of figures, a case of simple arithmetic. You might hope to get some other nonsensical belief into the head of George Gradgrind, or Augustus Gradgrind, or John Gradgrind, or Joseph Gradgrind (all supposititious, non-existent persons), but into the head of Thomas Gradgrind—no, sir!

In such terms Mr. Gradgrind always mentally introduced himself, whether to his private circle of acquaintance, or to the public in general. In such terms, no doubt, substituting the words "boys and girls," for "sir," Thomas Gradgrind now presented Thomas Gradgrind to the little pitchers before him, who were to be filled so full of facts.

Indeed, as he eagerly sparkled at them from the cellarage before mentioned, he seemed a kind of cannon loaded to the muzzle with facts, and prepared to blow them clean out of the regions of childhood at one discharge. He seemed a galvanizing apparatus, too, charged with a grim mechanical substitute for the tender young imaginations that were to be stormed away.

"Girl number twenty," said Mr. Gradgrind, squarely pointing with his square forefinger; "I don't know that girl. Who is that girl?"

"Sissy Jupe, sir," explained number twenty, blushing, standing up, and courtesying.

"Sissy is not a name," said Mr. Gradgrind. "Don't call yourself Sissy. Call yourself Cecilia."

"It's father as calls me Sissy, sir," returned the young girl in a trembling voice, and with another courtesy.

"Then he has no business to do it," said Mr. Gradgrind. "Tell him he mustn't. Cecilia Jupe. Let me see. What is your father?"

"He belongs to the horse-riding, if you please, sir."

Mr. Gradgrind frowned, and waved off the objectionable calling with his hand.

"We don't want to know anything about that here. You mustn't tell us about that here. Your father breaks horses, don't he?"

"If you please, sir, when they can get any to break, they do break horses in the ring, sir."[Pg 4637]

"You mustn't tell us about the ring here. Very well, then. Describe your father as a horsebreaker. He doctors sick horses, I dare say?"

"Oh yes, sir."

"Very well, then. He is a veterinary surgeon, a farrier, and horsebreaker. Give me your definition of a horse."

(Sissy Jupe thrown into the greatest alarm by this demand.)

"Girl number twenty unable to define a horse!" said Mr. Gradgrind, for the general behoof of all the little pitchers. "Girl number twenty possessed of no facts in reference to one of the commonest of animals! Some boy's definition of a horse. Bitzer, yours."

The square finger, moving here and there, lighted suddenly on Bitzer, perhaps because he chanced to sit in the same ray of sunlight which, darting in at one of the bare windows of the intensely whitewashed room, irradiated Sissy. For the boys and girls sat on the face of the inclined plane in two compact bodies, divided up the centre by a narrow interval; and Sissy, being at the corner of a row on the sunny side, came in for the beginning of a sunbeam, of which Bitzer, being at the corner of a row on the other side, a few rows in advance, caught the end. But whereas the girl was so dark-eyed and dark-haired that she seemed to receive a deeper and more lustrous color from the sun when it shone upon her, the boy was so light-eyed and light-haired that the selfsame rays appeared to draw out of him what little color he ever possessed. His cold eyes would hardly have been eyes, but for the short ends of lashes which, by bringing them into immediate contrast with something paler than themselves, expressed their form. His short-cropped hair might have been a mere continuation of the sandy freckles on his forehead and face. His skin was so unwholesomely deficient in the natural tinge, that he looked as though if he were cut he would bleed white.

"Bitzer," said Thomas Gradgrind. "Your definition of a horse."

"Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth; namely, twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth." Thus (and much more) Bitzer.[Pg 4638]

"Now, girl number twenty," said Mr. Gradgrind, "you know what a horse is."

She courtesied again, and would have blushed deeper, if she could have blushed deeper than she had blushed all this time. Bitzer, after rapidly blinking at Thomas Gradgrind with both eyes at once, and so catching the light upon his quivering ends of lashes that they looked like the antennæ of busy insects, put his knuckles to his freckled forehead, and sat down again.

The third gentleman now stepped forth. A mighty man at cutting and drying, he was; a government officer; in his way (and in most other people's too), a professed pugilist; always in training, always with a system to force down the general throat like a bolus, always to be heard of at the bar of his little Public-office, ready to fight all England. To continue in fistic phraseology, he had a genius for coming up to the scratch, wherever and whatever it was, and proving himself an ugly customer. He would go in and damage any subject whatever with his right, follow up with his left, stop, exchange, counter, bore his opponent (he always fought All England) to the ropes, and fall upon him neatly. He was certain to knock the wind out of common-sense, and render that unlucky adversary deaf to the call of time. And he had it in charge from high authority to bring about the great public-office Millennium, when Commissioners should reign upon earth.

"Very well," said this gentleman, briskly smiling, and folding his arms. "That's a horse. Now, let me ask you girls and boys, Would you paper a room with representations of horses?"

After a pause one-half of the children cried in chorus, "Yes, sir!" Upon which the other half, seeing in the gentleman's face that Yes was wrong, cried out in chorus, "No, sir!"—as the custom is in these examinations.

"Of course, No. Why wouldn't you?"

A pause. One corpulent slow boy, with a wheezy manner of breathing, ventured the answer, Because he wouldn't paper a room at all, but would paint it.

"You must paper it," said the gentleman, rather warmly.

"You must paper it," said Thomas Gradgrind, "whether you like it or not. Don't tell us you wouldn't paper it. What do you mean, boy?"[Pg 4639]

"I'll explain to you, then," said the gentleman, after another and dismal pause, "why you wouldn't paper a room with representations of horses. Do you ever see horses walking up and down the sides of rooms in reality—in fact? Do you?"

"Yes, sir!" from one-half. "No, sir!" from the other.

"Of course no," said the gentleman, with an indignant look at the wrong half. "Why, then, you are not to see anywhere what you don't see in fact; you are not to have anywhere what you don't have in fact. What is called Taste is only another name for Fact."

Thomas Gradgrind nodded his approbation.

"This is a new principle, a discovery, a great discovery," said the gentleman. "Now, I'll try you again. Suppose you were going to carpet a room. Would you use a carpet having a representation of flowers upon it?"

There being a general conviction by this time that "No, sir!" was always the right answer to this gentleman, the chorus of No was very strong. Only a few feeble stragglers said Yes; among them Sissy Jupe.

"Girl number twenty," said the gentleman, smiling in the calm strength of knowledge.

Sissy blushed, and stood up.

"So you would carpet your room—or your husband's room, if you were a grown woman, and had a husband—with representations of flowers, would you?" said the gentleman. "Why would you?"

"If you please, sir, I am very fond of flowers," returned the girl.

"And is that why you would put tables and chairs upon them, and have people walking over them with heavy boots?"

"It wouldn't hurt them, sir. They wouldn't crush and wither, if you please, sir. They would be the pictures of what was very pretty and pleasant, and I would fancy—"

"Ay, ay, ay! But you mustn't fancy," cried the gentleman, quite elated by coming so happily to his point. "That's it! You are never to fancy."

"You are not, Cecilia Jupe," Thomas Gradgrind solemnly repeated, "to do anything of that kind."

"Fact, fact, fact!" said the gentleman. And "Fact, fact, fact!" repeated Thomas Gradgrind.[Pg 4640]

"You are to be in all things regulated and governed," said the gentleman, "by fact. We hope to have, before long, a board of fact, composed of commissioners of fact, who will force the people to be a people of fact, and of nothing but fact. You must discard the word Fancy altogether. You have nothing to do with it. You are not to have in any object of use or ornament what would be a contradiction in fact. You don't walk upon flowers in fact; you cannot be allowed to walk upon flowers in carpets. You don't find that foreign birds and butterflies come and perch upon your crockery; you cannot be permitted to paint foreign birds and butterflies upon your crockery. You never meet with quadrupeds going up and down walls; you must not have quadrupeds represented upon walls. You must use," said the gentleman, "for all these purposes, combinations and modifications (in primary colors) of mathematical figures, which are susceptible of proof and demonstration. This is the new discovery. This is fact. This is taste."

The girl courtesied, and sat down. She was very young, and she looked as if she were frightened by the matter-of-fact prospect the world afforded.

"Now, if Mr. M'Choakumchild," said the gentleman, "will proceed to give his first lesson here, Mr. Gradgrind, I shall be happy, at your request, to observe his mode of procedure."

Mr. Gradgrind was much obliged. "Mr. M'Choakumchild, we only wait for you."

So Mr. M'Choakumchild began in his best manner. He and some one hundred and forty other schoolmasters had been lately turned at the same time, in the same factory, on the same principles, like so many pianoforte legs. He had been put through an immense variety of paces, and had answered volumes of head-breaking questions. Orthography, etymology, syntax, and prosody, biography, astronomy, geography, and general cosmography, the sciences of compound proportion, algebra, land-surveying and leveling, vocal music, and drawing from models, were all at the ends of his ten chilled fingers. He had worked his stony way into her Majesty's most Honorable Privy Council's Schedule B, and had taken the bloom off the higher branches of mathematics and physical science, French, German, Latin, and Greek. He knew all about all the Water Sheds of all the world (whatever they are), and all the histories of all the peoples, and all the[Pg 4641] names of all the rivers and mountains, and all the productions, manners, and customs of all the countries, and all their boundaries and bearings on the two-and-thirty points of the compass. Ah, rather overdone, M'Choakumchild. If he had only learned a little less, how infinitely better he might have taught much more!

He went to work in this preparatory lesson not unlike Morgiana in the 'Forty Thieves': looking into all the vessels ranged before him, one after another, to see what they contained. Say, good M'Choakumchild. When from thy boiling store thou shalt fill each jar brim-full, by-and-by, dost thou think that then wilt always kill outright the robber Fancy lurking within—or sometimes only maim him and distort him!


From 'Mugby Junction'

I am the boy at Mugby. That's about what I am.

You don't know what I mean? What a pity! But I think you do. I think you must. Look here. I am the Boy at what is called The Refreshment Room at Mugby Junction, and what's proudest boast is, that it never yet refreshed a mortal being.

Up in a corner of the Down Refreshment Room at Mugby Junction, in the height of twenty-seven cross draughts (I've often counted 'em while they brush the First Class hair twenty-seven ways), behind the bottles, among the glasses, bounded on the nor'west by the beer, stood pretty far to the right of a metallic object that's at times the tea-urn and at times the soup-tureen, according to the nature of the last twang imparted to its contents, which are the same groundwork, fended off from the traveler by a barrier of stale sponge-cakes erected atop of the counter, and lastly exposed sideways to the glare of Our Missis's eye—you ask a Boy so sitiwated, next time you stop in a hurry at Mugby, for anything to drink; you take particular notice that he'll try to seem not to hear you, that he'll appear in a absent manner to survey the Line through a transparent medium composed of your head and body, and that he won't serve you as long as you can possibly bear it. That's me.[Pg 4642]

What a lark it is! We are the Model Establishment, we are, at Mugby. Other Refreshment Rooms send their imperfect young ladies up to be finished off by our Missis. For some of the young ladies, when they're new to the business, come into it mild! Ah! Our Missis, she soon takes that out of 'em. Why, I originally come into the business meek myself. But Our Missis, she soon took that out of me.

What a delightful lark it is! I look upon us Refreshmenters as ockipying the only proudly independent footing on the Line. There's Papers, for instance,—my honorable friend, if he will allow me to call him so,—him as belongs to Smith's bookstall. Why, he no more dares to be up to our Refreshmenting games than he dares to jump atop of a locomotive with her steam at full pressure, and cut away upon her alone, driving himself, at limited-mail speed. Papers, he'd get his head punched at every compartment, first, second, and third, the whole length of a train, if he was to ventur' to imitate my demeanor. It's the same with the porters, the same with the guards, the same with the ticket clerks, the same the whole way up to the secretary, traffic manager, or very chairman. There ain't a one among 'em on the nobly independent footing we are. Did you ever catch one of them, when you wanted anything of him, making a system of surveying the Line through a transparent medium composed of your head and body? I should hope not.

You should see our Bandolining Room at Mugby Junction. It's led to by the door behind the counter, which you'll notice usually stands ajar, and it's the room where Our Missis and our young ladies Bandolines their hair. You should see 'em at it, betwixt trains, Bandolining away, as if they was anointing themselves for the combat. When you're telegraphed you should see their noses all a-going up with scorn, as if it was a part of the working of the same Cooke and Wheatstone electrical machinery. You should hear Our Missis give the word, "Here comes the Beast to be Fed!" and then you should see 'em indignantly skipping across the Line, from the Up to the Down, or Wicer Warsaw, and begin to pitch the stale pastry into the plates, and chuck the sawdust sangwiches under the glass covers, and get out the—ha, ha, ha!—the Sherry,—O my eye, my eye!—for your Refreshment.

It's only in the Isle of the Brave and Land of the Free (by which of course I mean to say Britannia) that Refreshmenting[Pg 4643] is so effective, so 'olesome, so constitutional a check upon the public. There was a foreigner, which having politely, with his hat off, beseeched our young ladies and Our Missis for "a leetel gloss hoff prarndee," and having had the Line surveyed through him by all, and no other acknowledgment, was a-proceeding at last to help himself, as seems to be the custom in his own country, when Our Missis, with her hair almost a-coming un-Bandolined with rage, and her eyes omitting sparks, flew at him, cotched the decanter out of his hand, and said, "Put it down! I won't allow that!" The foreigner turned pale, stepped back with his arms stretched out in front of him, his hands clasped, and his shoulders riz, and exclaimed:—"Ah! Is it possible, this! That these disdaineous females and this ferocious old woman are placed here by the administration, not only to empoison the voyagers, but to affront them! Great Heaven! How arrives it? The English people. Or is he then a slave? Or idiot?" Another time a merry, wide-awake American gent had tried the sawdust and spit it out, and had tried the Sherry and spit that out, and had tried in vain to sustain exhausted natur' upon Butter-Scotch, and had been rather extra Bandolined and Line-surveyed through, when as the bell was ringing and he paid Our Missis, he says, very loud and good-tempered:—"I tell Yew what 'tis, ma'arm. I la'af. Theer! I la'af. I Dew. I oughter ha' seen most things, for I hail from the Onlimited side of the Atlantic Ocean, and I haive traveled right slick over the Limited, head on through Jeerusalemm and the East, and likeways France and Italy Europe Old World, and am now upon the track to the Chief Europian Village; but such an Institution as Yew, and Yewer young ladies, and Yewer fixin's solid and liquid, afore the glorious Tarnal I never did see yet! And if I hain't found the eighth wonder of monarchical Creation, in finding Yew, and Yewer young ladies, and Yewer fixin's solid and liquid, all as aforesaid, established in a country where the people air not absolute Loo-naticks, I am Extra Double Darned with a Nip and Frizzle to the innermostest grit! Wheerfur—Theer!—I la'af! I Dew, ma'arm. I la'af!" And so he went, stamping and shaking his sides, along the platform all the way to his own compartment.

I think it was her standing up agin the Foreigner as give Our Missis the idea of going over to France, and droring a comparison betwixt Refreshmenting as followed among the frog-eaters[Pg 4644] and Refreshmenting as triumphant in the Isle of the Brave and Land of the Free (by which of course I mean to say agin, Britannia). Our young ladies, Miss Whiff, Miss Piff, and Mrs. Sniff, was unanimous opposed to her going: for, as they says to Our Missis one and all, it is well beknown to the hends of the herth as no other nation except Britain has a idea of anythink, but above all of business. Why then should you tire yourself to prove what is a'ready proved? Our Missis, however (being a teazer at all pints), stood out grim obstinate, and got a return pass by Southeastern Tidal, to go right through, if such should be her dispositions, to Marseilles.

Sniff is husband to Mrs. Sniff, and is a regular insignificant cove. He looks arter the sawdust department in a back room, and is sometimes, when we are very hard put to it, let behind the counter with a corkscrew; but never when it can be helped, his demeanor towards the public being disgusting servile. How Mrs. Sniff ever come so far to lower herself as to marry him, I don't know; but I suppose he does, and I should think he wished he didn't, for he leads a awful life. Mrs. Sniff couldn't be much harder with him if he was public. Similarly, Miss Whiff and Miss Piff, taking the tone of Mrs. Sniff, they shoulder Sniff about when he is let in with a corkscrew, and they whisk things out of his hands when in his servility he is a-going to let the public have 'em, and they snap him up when in the crawling baseness of his spirit he is a-going to answer a public question, and they drore more tears into his eyes than ever the mustard does, which he all day long lays on to the sawdust. (But it ain't strong.) Once when Sniff had the repulsiveness to reach across to get the milkpot to hand over for a baby, I see Our Missis in her rage catch him by both his shoulders, and spin him out into the Bandolining Room.

But Mrs. Sniff—how different! She's the one! She's the one as you'll notice to be always looking another away from you when you look at her. She's the one with the small waist buckled in tight in front, and with the lace cuffs at her wrists, which she puts on the edge of the counter before her, and stands a-smoothing while the public foams. This smoothing the cuffs and looking another way while the public foams is the last accomplishment taught to the young ladies as come to Mugby to be finished by Our Missis; and it's always taught by Mrs. Sniff.[Pg 4645]

When Our Missis went away upon her journey, Mrs. Sniff was left in charge. She did hold the public in check most beautiful! In all my time, I never see half so many cups of tea given without milk to people as wanted it with, nor half so many cups of tea with milk given to people as wanted it without. When foaming ensued, Mrs. Sniff would say, "Then you'd better settle it among yourselves, and change with one another." It was a most highly delicious lark. I enjoyed the Refreshmenting business more than ever, and was so glad I had took to it when young.

Our Missis returned. It got circulated among the young ladies, and it, as it might be, penetrated to me through the crevices of the Bandolining Room, that she had Orrors to reveal, if revelations so contemptible could be dignified with the name. Agitation become weakened. Excitement was up in the stirrups. Expectation stood a-tiptoe. At length it was put forth that on our slackest evening in the week, and at our slackest time of that evening betwixt trains, Our Missis would give her views of foreign Refreshmenting, in the Bandolining Room.

It was arranged tasteful for the purpose. The Bandolining table and glass was hid in a corner, a arm-chair was elevated on a packing-case for Our Missis's ockypation, a table and a tumbler of water (no sherry in it, thankee) was placed beside it. Two of the pupils, the season being autumn, and hollyhocks and daliahs being in, ornamented the wall with three devices in those flowers. On one might be read, "May Albion never Learn"; on another, "Keep the Public Down"; on another, "Our Refreshmenting Charter." The whole had a beautiful appearance, with which the beauty of the sentiments corresponded.

On Our Missis's brow was wrote Severity, as she ascended the fatal platform. (Not that that was anythink new.) Miss Whiff and Miss Piff sat at her feet. Three chairs from the Waiting Room might have been perceived by a average eye, in front of her, on which the pupils was accommodated. Behind them a very close observer might have discerned a Boy. Myself.

"Where," said Our Missis, glancing gloomily around, "is Sniff?"

"I thought it better," answered Mrs. Sniff, "that he should not be let come in. He is such an Ass."

"No doubt," assented Our Missis. "But for that reason is it not desirable to improve his mind?"[Pg 4646]

"Oh, nothing will ever improve him," said Mrs. Sniff.

"However," pursued Our Missis, "call him in, Ezekiel."

I called him in. The appearance of the low-minded cove was hailed with disapprobation from all sides, on account of his having brought his corkscrew with him. He pleaded "the force of habit."

"The force!" said Mrs. Sniff. "Don't let us have you talking about force, for Gracious's sake. There! Do stand still where you are, with your back against the wall."

He is a smiling piece of vacancy, and he smiled in the mean way in which he will even smile at the public if he gets a chance (language can say no meaner of him), and he stood upright near the door, with the back of his head agin the wall, as if he was a waiting for somebody to come and measure his heighth for the Army.

"I should not enter, ladies," says Our Missis, "on the revolting disclosures I am about to make, if it was not in the hope that they will cause you to be yet more implacable in the exercise of the power you wield in a constitutional country, and yet more devoted to the constitutional motto which I see before me,"—it was behind her, but the words sounded better so,—"'May Albion never learn!'"

Here the pupils as had made the motto admired it, and cried, "Hear! Hear! Hear!" Sniff, showing an inclination to join in chorus, got himself frowned down by every brow.

"The baseness of the French," pursued Our Missis, "as displayed in the fawning nature of their Refreshmenting, equals, if not surpasses, anythink as was ever heard of the baseness of the celebrated Bonaparte."

Miss Whiff, Miss Piff, and me, we drored a heavy breath, equal to saying, "We thought as much!" Miss Whiff and Miss Piff seeming to object to my droring mine along with theirs, I drored another to aggravate 'em.

"Shall I be believed," says Our Missis, with flashing eyes, "when I tell you that no sooner had I set my foot upon that treacherous shore—"

Here Sniff, either busting out mad, or thinking aloud, says, in a low voice, "Feet. Plural, you know."

The cowering that come upon him when he was spurned by all eyes, added to his being beneath contempt, was sufficient punishment for a cove so groveling. In the midst of a silence[Pg 4647] rendered more impressive by the turned-up female noses with which it was pervaded, Our Missis went on:—

"Shall I be believed when I tell you, that no sooner had I landed," this word with a killing look at Sniff, "on that treacherous shore, then I was ushered into a Refreshment Room where there were—I do not exaggerate—actually eatable things to eat?"

A groan burst from the ladies. I not only did myself the honor of jining, but also of lengthening it out.

"Where there were," Our Missis added, "not only eatable things to eat, but also drinkable things to drink?"

A murmur, swelling almost into a scream, ariz. Miss Piff, trembling with indignation, called out, "Name!"

"I will name," said Our Missis. "There was roast fowls, hot and cold; there was smoking roast veal surrounded with browned potatoes; there was hot soup with (again I ask, shall I be credited?) nothing bitter in it, and no flour to choke off the consumer; there was a variety of cold dishes set off with jelly; there was salad; there was—mark me!—fresh pastry, and that of a light construction; there was a luscious show of fruit; there was bottles and decanters of sound small wine, of every size, and adapted to every pocket; the same odious statement will apply to brandy; and these were set out upon the counter so that all could help themselves."

Our Missis's lips so quivered, that Mrs. Sniff, though scarcely less convulsed than she were, got up and held the tumbler to them.

"This," proceeds Our Missis, "was my first unconstitutional experience. Well would it have been if it had been my last and worst. But no. As I proceeded farther into that enslaved and ignorant land, its aspect became more hideous. I need not explain to this assembly the ingredients and formation of the British Refreshment sangwich?"

Universal laughter,—except from Sniff, who as sangwich-cutter, shook his head in a state of the utmost dejection as he stood with it agin the wall.

"Well!" said Our Missis, with dilated nostrils. "Take a fresh, crisp, long, crusty penny loaf made of the whitest and best flour. Cut it longwise through the middle. Insert a fair and nicely fitting slice of ham. Tie a smart piece of ribbon round the middle of the whole to bind it together. Add at one[Pg 4648] end a neat wrapper of clean white paper by which to hold it. And the universal French Refreshment sangwich busts on your disgusted vision."

A cry of "Shame!" from all—except Sniff, which rubbed his stomach with a soothing hand.

"I need not," said Our Missis, "explain to this assembly the usual formation and fitting of the British Refreshment room?"

No, no, and laughter; Sniff agin shaking his head in low spirits agin the wall.

"Well," said Our Missis, "what would you say to a general decoration of everythink, to hangings (sometimes elegant), to easy velvet furniture, to abundance of little tables, to abundance of little seats, to brisk bright waiters, to great convenience, to a prevailing cleanliness and tastefulness, postively addressing the public, and making the Beast thinking itself worth the pains?"

Contemptous fury on the part of all the ladies. Mrs. Sniff looking as if she wanted somebody to hold her, and everybody else looking as if they'd rayther not.

"Three times," said Our Missis, working herself into a truly terrimenjious state,—"three times did I see these shameful things, only between the coast and Paris, and not counting either: at Hazebroucke, at Arras, at Amiens. But worse remains. Tell me, what would you call a person who should propose in England that there should be kept, say at our own model Mugby Junction, pretty baskets, each holding an assorted cold lunch and dessert for one, each at a certain fixed price, and each within a passenger's power to take away, to empty in the carriage at perfect leisure, and to return at another station fifty or a hundred miles farther on?"

There was disagreement what such a person should be called. Whether revolutionist, atheist, Bright (I said him), or Un-English. Miss Piff screeched her shrill opinion last, in the words, "A malignant maniac!"

"I adopt," says Our Missis, "the brand set upon such a person by the righteous indignation of my friend Miss Piff. A malignant maniac. Know, then, that that malignant maniac has sprung from the congenial soil of France, and that his malignant madness was in unchecked action on this same part of my journey."

I noticed that Sniff was rubbing his hands, and that Mrs. Sniff had got her eye upon him. But I did not take more[Pg 4649] particular notice, owing to the excited state in which the young ladies was, and to feeling myself called upon to keep it up with a howl.

"On my experience south of Paris," said Our Missis, in a deep tone, "I will not expatiate. Too loathsome were the task! But fancy this. Fancy a guard coming round, with the train at full speed, to inquire how many for dinner. Fancy his telegraphing forward the number of diners. Fancy every one expected, and the table elegantly laid for the complete party. Fancy a charming dinner, in a charming room, and the head cook, concerned for the honor of every dish, superintending in his clean white jacket and cap. Fancy the Beast traveling six hundred miles on end, very fast, and with great punctuality, yet being taught to expect all this to be done for it!"

A spirited chorus of "The Beast!"

I noticed that Sniff was agin a-rubbing his stomach with a soothing hand, and that he had drored up one leg. But agin I didn't take particular notice, looking on myself as called upon to stimilate public feeling. It being a lark besides.

"Putting everything together," said Our Missis, "French Refreshmenting comes to this, and oh, it comes to a nice total! First: eatable things to eat, and drinkable things to drink."

A groan from the young ladies, kep' up by me.

"Second: convenience, and even elegance."

Another groan from the young ladies, kep' up by me.

"Third: moderate charges."

This time a groan from me, kep' up by the young ladies.

"Fourth:—and here," says Our Missis, "I claim your angriest sympathy,—attention, common civility, nay, even politeness!"

Me and the young ladies regularly raging mad all together.

"And I cannot in conclusion," says Our Missis with her spitefullest sneer, "give you a completer pictur of that despicable nation (after what I have related), than assuring you that they wouldn't bear our constitutional ways and noble independence at Mugby Junction for a single month, and that they would turn us to the right-about and put another system in our places as soon as look at us; perhaps sooner, for I do not believe they have the good taste to care to look at us twice."

The swelling tumult was arrested in its rise. Sniff, bore away by his servile disposition, had drored up his leg with a higher and a higher relish, and was now discovered to be waving his[Pg 4650] corkscrew over his head. It was at this moment that Mrs. Sniff, who had kep' her eye upon him like the fabled obelisk, descended on her victim. Our Missis followed them both out, and cries was heard in the sawdust department.

You come into the Down Refreshment Room at the Junction, making believe you don't know me, and I'll pint you out with my right thumb over my shoulder which is Our Missis, and which is Miss Whiff, and which is Miss Piff, and which is Mrs. Sniff. But you won't get a chance to see Sniff, because he disappeared that night. Whether he perished, tore to pieces, I cannot say; but his corkscrew alone remains to bear witness to the servility of his disposition.


From 'Barnaby Rudge'

During the whole of this day, every regiment in or near the metropolis was on duty in one or other part of the town; and the regulars and militia, in obedience to the orders which were sent to every barrack and station within twenty-four hours' journey, began to pour in by all the roads. But the disturbances had attained to such a formidable height, and the rioters had grown with impunity to be so audacious, that the sight of this great force, continually augmented by new arrivals, instead of operating as a check, stimulated them to outrages of greater hardihood than any they had yet committed; and helped to kindle a flame in London the like of which had never been beheld, even in its ancient and rebellious times.

All yesterday, and on this day likewise, the commander-in-chief endeavored to arouse the magistrates to a sense of their duty, and in particular the Lord Mayor, who was the faintest-hearted and most timid of them all. With this object, large bodies of the soldiery were several times dispatched to the Mansion House to await his orders: but as he could by no threats or persuasions be induced to give any, and as the men remained in the open street,—fruitlessly for any good purpose, and thrivingly for a very bad one,—these laudable attempts did harm rather than good. For the crowd, becoming speedily acquainted with the Lord Mayor's temper, did not fail to take advantage of it by boasting that even the civil authorities were opposed to the[Pg 4651] Papists, and could not find it in their hearts to molest those who were guilty of no other offense. These vaunts they took care to make within the hearing of the soldiers: and they, being naturally loath to quarrel with the people, received their advances kindly enough; answering, when they were asked if they desired to fire upon their countrymen, "No, they would be damned if they did;" and showing much honest simplicity and good-nature. The feeling that the military were No Popery men, and were ripe for disobeying orders and joining the mob, soon became very prevalent in consequence. Rumors of their disaffection, and of their leaning towards the popular cause, spread from mouth to mouth with astonishing rapidity; and whenever they were drawn up idly in the streets or squares there was sure to be a crowd about them, cheering, and shaking hands, and treating them with a great show of confidence and affection.

By this time the crowd was everywhere; all concealment and disguise were laid aside, and they pervaded the whole town. If any man among them wanted money, he had but to knock at the door of a dwelling-house, or walk into a shop, and demand it in the rioters' name, and his demand was instantly complied with. The peaceable citizens being afraid to lay hands upon them singly and alone, it may be easily supposed that when gathered together in bodies they were perfectly secure from interruption. They assembled in the streets, traversed them at their will and pleasure, and publicly concerted their plans. Business was quite suspended; the greater part of the shops were closed; most of the houses displayed a blue flag in token of their adherence to the popular side; and even the Jews in Houndsditch, Whitechapel, and those quarters, wrote upon their doors or window-shutters, "This House is a True Protestant." The crowd was the law, and never was the law held in greater dread or more implicitly obeyed.

It was about six o'clock in the evening when a vast mob poured into Lincoln's Inn Fields by every avenue, and divided—evidently in pursuance of a previous design—into several parties. It must not be understood that this arrangement was known to the whole crowd, but that it was the work of a few leaders who, mingling with the men as they came upon the ground, and calling to them to fall into this or that party, effected it as rapidly as if it had been determined on by a council of the whole number, and every man had known his place.[Pg 4652]

It was perfectly notorious to the assemblage that the largest body, which comprehended about two-thirds of the whole, was designed for the attack on Newgate. It comprehended all the rioters who had been conspicuous in any of their former proceedings; all those whom they recommended as daring hands and fit for the work; all those whose companions had been taken in the riots; and a great number of people who were relatives or friends of felons in the jail. This last class included not only the most desperate and utterly abandoned villains in London, but some who were comparatively innocent. There was more than one woman there, disguised in man's attire, and bent upon the rescue of a child or brother. There were the two sons of a man who lay under sentence of death, and who was to be executed along with three others, on the next day but one. There was a great party of boys whose fellow pickpockets were in the prison; and at the skirts of all, a score of miserable women, outcasts from the world, seeking to release some other fallen creature as miserable as themselves, or moved by a general sympathy perhaps—God knows—with all who were without hope and wretched.

Old swords, and pistols without ball or powder; sledge-hammers, knives, axes, saws, and weapons pillaged from the butchers' shops; a forest of iron bars and wooden clubs; long ladders for scaling the walls, each carried on the shoulders of a dozen men; lighted torches; tow smeared with pitch, and tar, and brimstone; staves roughly plucked from fence and paling; and even crutches taken from crippled beggars in the streets, composed their arms. When all was ready, Hugh and Dennis, with Simon Tappertit between them, led the way. Roaring and chafing like an angry sea, the crowd pressed after them.

Instead of going straight down Holborn to the jail, as all expected, their leaders took the way to Clerkenwell, and pouring down a quiet street, halted before a locksmith's house—the Golden Key....

The locksmith was taken to the head of the crowd, and required to walk between his two conductors; the whole body was put in rapid motion; and without any shouting or noise they bore down straight on Newgate and halted in a dense mass before the prison gate.[Pg 4653]

Breaking the silence they had hitherto preserved, they raised a great cry as soon as they were ranged before the jail, and demanded to speak with the governor. Their visit was not wholly unexpected, for his house, which fronted the street, was strongly barricaded, the wicket-gate of the prison was closed up, and at no loophole or grating was any person to be seen. Before they had repeated their summons many times, a man appeared upon the roof of the governor's house, and asked what it was they wanted.

Some said one thing, some another, and some only groaned and hissed. It being now nearly dark, and the house high, many persons in the throng were not aware that any one had come to answer them, and continued their clamor until the intelligence was gradually diffused through the whole concourse. Ten minutes or more elapsed before any one voice could be heard with tolerable distinctness; during which interval the figure remained perched alone, against the summer evening sky, looking down into the troubled street.

"Are you," said Hugh at length, "Mr. Akerman, the head jailer here?"

"Of course he is, brother," whispered Dennis. But Hugh, without minding him, took his answer from the man himself.

"Yes," he said; "I am."

"You have got some friends of ours in your custody, master."

"I have a good many people in my custody." He glanced downward as he spoke, into the jail; and the feeling that he could see into the different yards, and that he overlooked everything which was hidden from their view by the rugged walls, so lashed and goaded the mob that they howled like wolves.

"Deliver up our friends," said Hugh, "and you may keep the rest."

"It's my duty to keep them all. I shall do my duty."

"If you don't throw the doors open, we shall break 'em down," said Hugh; "for we will have the rioters out."

"All I can do, good people," Akerman replied, "is to exhort you to disperse; and to remind you that the consequences of any disturbance in this place will be very severe, and bitterly repented by most of you, when it is too late."

He made as though he would retire when he had said these words, but he was checked by the voice of the locksmith.

"Mr. Akerman!" cried Gabriel, "Mr. Akerman!"[Pg 4654]

"I will hear no more from any of you," replied the governor, turning towards the speaker, and waving his hand.

"But I am not one of them," said Gabriel. "I am an honest man, Mr. Akerman; a respectable tradesman—Gabriel Varden, the locksmith. You know me?"

"You among the crowd!" cried the governor in an altered voice.

"Brought here by force—brought here to pick the lock of the great door for them," rejoined the locksmith. "Bear witness for me, Mr. Akerman, that I refuse to do it; and that I will not do it, come what may of my refusal. If any violence is done to me, please to remember this."

"Is there no way of helping you?" said the governor.

"None, Mr. Akerman. You'll do your duty, and I'll do mine. Once again, you robbers and cut-throats," said the locksmith, turning round upon them, "I refuse. Ah! Howl till you're hoarse. I refuse."

"Stay—stay!" said the jailer, hastily. "Mr. Varden, I know you for a worthy man, and one who would do no unlawful act except upon compulsion—"

"Upon compulsion, sir," interposed the locksmith, who felt that the tone in which this was said conveyed the speaker's impression that he had ample excuse for yielding to the furious multitude who beset and hemmed him in on every side, and among whom he stood, an old man, quite alone,—"upon compulsion, sir, I'll do nothing."

"Where is that man," said the keeper, anxiously, "who spoke to me just now?"

"Here!" Hugh replied.

"Do you know what the guilt of murder is, and that by keeping that honest tradesman at your side you endanger his life!"

"We know it very well," he answered; "for what else did we bring him here? Let's have our friends, master, and you shall have your friend. Is that fair, lads?"

The mob replied to him with a loud hurrah!

"You see how it is, sir," cried Varden. "Keep 'em out, in King George's name. Remember what I have said. Good-night!"

There was no more parley. A shower of stones and other missiles compelled the keeper of the jail to retire; and the mob,[Pg 4655] pressing on, and swarming round the walls, forced Gabriel Varden close up to the door.

In vain the basket of tools was laid upon the ground before him, and he was urged in turn by promises, by blows, by offers of reward and threats of instant death, to do the office for which they had brought him there. "No," cried the sturdy locksmith, "I will not."

He had never loved his life so well as then, but nothing could move him. The savage faces that glared upon him, look where he would; the cries of those who thirsted like wild animals for his blood; the sight of men pressing forward, and trampling down their fellows, as they strove to reach him, and struck at him above the heads of other men, with axes and with iron bars; all failed to daunt him. He looked from man to man and face to face, and still, with quickened breath and lessening color, cried firmly, "I will not!"

Dennis dealt him a blow upon the face which felled him to the ground. He sprang up again like a man in the prime of life, and with blood upon his forehead caught him by the throat.

"You cowardly dog!" he said: "Give me my daughter! Give me my daughter!"

They struggled together. Some cried "Kill him!" and some (but they were not near enough) strove to trample him to death. Tug as he would at the old man's wrists, the hangman could not force him to unclinch his hands.

"Is this all the return you make me, you ungrateful monster?" he articulated with great difficulty, and with many oaths.

"Give me my daughter!" cried the locksmith, who was now as fierce as those who gathered round him; "give me my daughter!"

He was down again, and up, and down once more, and buffeting with a score of them, who bandied him from hand to hand, when one tall fellow, fresh from a slaughter-house, whose dress and great thigh-boots smoked hot with grease and blood, raised a pole-axe, and swearing a horrible oath, aimed it at the old man's uncovered head. At that instant, and in the very act, he fell himself, as if struck by lightning, and over his body a one-armed man came darting to the locksmith's side. Another man was with him, and both caught the locksmith roughly in their grasp.[Pg 4656]

"Leave him to us!" they cried to Hugh—struggling as they spoke, to force a passage backward through the crowd. "Leave him to us. Why do you waste your whole strength on such as he, when a couple of men can finish him in as many minutes! You lose time. Remember the prisoners! remember Barnaby!"

The cry ran through the mob. Hammers began to rattle on the walls; and every man strove to reach the prison, and be among the foremost rank. Fighting their way through the press and struggle, as desperately as if they were in the midst of enemies rather than their own friends, the two men retreated with the locksmith between them, and dragged him through the very heart of the concourse.

And now the strokes began to fall like hail upon the gate and on the strong building; for those who could not reach the door spent their fierce rage on anything—even on the great blocks of stone, which shivered their weapons into fragments, and made their hands and arms to tingle as if the walls were active in their stout resistance, and dealt them back their blows. The clash of iron ringing upon iron mingled with the deafening tumult and sounded high above it, as the great sledge-hammers rattled on the nailed and plated door: the sparks flew off in showers; men worked in gangs, and at short intervals relieved each other, that all their strength might be devoted to the work; but there stood the portal still, as grim and dark and strong as ever, and saving for the dints upon its battered surface, quite unchanged.

While some brought all their energies to bear upon this toilsome task, and some, rearing ladders against the prison, tried to clamber to the summit of the walls they were too short to scale, and some again engaged a body of police a hundred strong, and beat them back and trod them under foot by force of numbers, others besieged the house on which the jailer had appeared, and driving in the door, brought out his furniture and piled it up against the prison gate to make a bonfire which should burn it down. As soon as this device was understood, all those who had labored hitherto cast down their tools and helped to swell the heap, which reached half-way across the street, and was so high that those who threw more fuel on the top got up by ladders. When all the keeper's goods were flung upon this costly pile, to the last fragment, they smeared it with the pitch and tar and rosin they had brought, and sprinkled it with turpentine.[Pg 4657] To all the woodwork round the prison doors they did the like, leaving not a joist or beam untouched. This infernal christening performed, they fired the pile with lighted matches and with blazing tow, and then stood by, awaiting the result.

The furniture being very dry and rendered more combustible by wax and oil, besides the arts they had used, took fire at once. The flames roared high and fiercely, blackening the prison wall, and twining up its lofty front like burning serpents. At first they crowded round the blaze, and vented their exultation only in their looks; but when it grew hotter and fiercer—when it crackled, leaped, and roared, like a great furnace—when it shone upon the opposite houses and lighted up not only the pale and wondering faces at the windows, but the inmost corners of each habitation—when, through the deep red heat and glow, the fire was seen sporting and toying with the door, now clinging to its obdurate surface, now gliding off with fierce inconstancy and soaring high into the sky, anon returning to fold it in its burning grasp and lure it to its ruin—when it shone and gleamed so brightly that the church clock of St. Sepulchre's, so often pointing to the hour of death, was legible as in broad day, and the vane upon its steeple-top glittered in the unwonted light like something richly jeweled—when blackened stone and sombre brick grew ruddy in the deep reflection, and windows shone like burnished gold, dotting the longest distance in the fiery vista with their specks of brightness—when wall and tower and roof and chimney-stack seemed drunk, and in the flickering glare appeared to reel and stagger—when scores of objects, never seen before, burst out upon the view, and things the most familiar put on some new aspect—then the mob began to join the whirl, and with loud yells, and shouts, and clamor, such as happily is seldom heard, bestirred themselves to feed the fire and keep it at its height.

Although the heat was so intense that the paint on the houses over against the prison parched and crackled up, and swelling into boils as it were, from excess of torture, broke and crumbled away; although the glass fell from the window-sashes, and the lead and iron on the roofs blistered the incautious hand that touched them, and the sparrows in the eaves took wing, and rendered giddy by the smoke, fell fluttering down upon the blazing pile;—still the fire was tended unceasingly by busy hands, and round it men were going always. They never slackened in their[Pg 4658] zeal, or kept aloof, but pressed upon the flames so hard that those in front had much ado to save themselves from being thrust in; if one man swooned or dropped, a dozen struggled for his place, and that, although they knew the pain and thirst and pressure to be unendurable. Those who fell down in fainting fits, and were not crushed or burned, were carried to an inn-yard close at hand, and dashed with water from a pump; of which buckets full were passed from man to man among the crowd; but such was the strong desire of all to drink, and such the fighting to be first, that for the most part the whole contents were spilled upon the ground, without the lips of one man being moistened.

Meanwhile, and in the midst of all the roar and outcry, those who were nearest to the pile heaped up again the burning fragments that came toppling down, and raked the fire about the door, which, although a sheet of flame, was still a door fast locked and barred, and kept them out. Great pieces of blazing wood were passed, besides, above the people's heads to such as stood about the ladders, and some of these, climbing up to the topmost stave, and holding on with one hand by the prison wall, exerted all their skill and force to cast these fire-brands on the roof, or down into the yards within. In many instances their efforts were successful, which occasioned a new and appalling addition to the horrors of the scene; for the prisoners within, seeing from between their bars that the fire caught in many places and thrived fiercely, and being all locked up in strong cells for the night, began to know that they were in danger of being burned alive. This terrible fear, spreading from cell to cell and from yard to yard, vented itself in such dismal cries and wailings, and in such dreadful shrieks for help, that the whole jail resounded with the noise; which was loudly heard even above the shouting of the mob and roaring of the flames, and was so full of agony and despair that it made the boldest tremble....

The women who were looking on shrieked loudly, beat their hands together, stopped their ears, and many fainted; the men who were not near the walls and active in the siege, rather than do nothing tore up the pavement of the street, and did so with a haste and fury they could not have surpassed if that had been the jail, and they were near their object. Not one living creature in the throng was for an instant still. The whole great mass were mad.[Pg 4659]

A shout! Another! Another yet, though few knew why, or what it meant. But those around the gate had seen it slowly yield, and drop from its topmost hinge. It hung on that side by but one, but it was upright still because of the bar, and its having sunk of its own weight into the heap of ashes at its foot. There was now a gap at the top of the doorway, through which could be descried a gloomy passage, cavernous and dark. Pile up the fire!

It burned fiercely. The door was red-hot, and the gap wider. They vainly tried to shield their faces with their hands, and standing as if in readiness for a spring, watched the place. Dark figures, some crawling on their hands and knees, some carried in the arms of others, were seen to pass along the roof. It was plain the jail could hold out no longer. The keeper and his officers, and their wives and children, were escaping. Pile up the fire!

The door sank down again: it settled deeper in the cinders—tottered—yielded—was down!

As they shouted again, they fell back for a moment, and left a clear space about the fire that lay between them and the jail entry. Hugh leaped upon the blazing heap, and scattering a train of sparks into the air, and making the dark lobby glitter with those that hung upon his dress, dashed into the jail.

The hangman followed. And then so many rushed upon their track that the fire got trodden down and thinly strewn about the street; but there was no need of it now, for inside and out, the prison was in flames.

During the whole course of the terrible scene which was now at its height, one man in the jail suffered a degree of fear and mental torment which had no parallel in the endurance even of those who lay under sentence of death.

When the rioters first assembled before the building, the murderer was roused from sleep—if such slumbers as his may have that blessed name—by the roar of voices, and the struggling of a great crowd. He started up as these sounds met his ear, and sitting on his bedstead, listened.

After a short interval of silence the noise burst out again. Still listening attentively, he made out in course of time that the jail was besieged by a furious multitude. His guilty conscience instantly arrayed these men against himself, and brought[Pg 4660] the fear upon him that he would be singled out and torn to pieces.

Once impressed with the terror of this conceit, everything tended to confirm and strengthen it. His double crime, the circumstances under which it had been committed, the length of time that had elapsed, and its discovery in spite of all, made him as it were the visible object of the Almighty's wrath. In all the crime and vice and moral gloom of the great pest-house of the capital, he stood alone, marked and singled out by his great guilt, a Lucifer among the devils. The other prisoners were a host, hiding and sheltering each other—a crowd like that without the walls. He was one man against the whole united concourse; a single, solitary, lonely man, from whom the very captives in the jail fell off and shrunk appalled.

It might be that the intelligence of his capture having been bruited abroad, they had come there purposely to drag him out and kill him in the street; or it might be that they were the rioters, and in pursuance of an old design had come to sack the prison. But in either case he had no belief or hope that they would spare him. Every shout they raised and every sound they made was a blow upon his heart. As the attack went on, he grew more wild and frantic in his terror; tried to pull away the bars that guarded the chimney and prevented him from climbing up; called loudly on the turnkeys to cluster round the cell and save him from the fury of the rabble, or put him in some dungeon underground, no matter of what depth, how dark it was, or loathsome, or beset with rats and creeping things, so that it hid him and was hard to find.

But no one came, or answered him. Fearful, even while he cried to them, of attracting attention, he was silent. By-and-by he saw, as he looked from his grated window, a strange glimmering on the stone walls and pavement of the yard. It was feeble at first, and came and went, as though some officers with torches were passing to and fro upon the roof of the prison. Soon it reddened, and lighted brands came whirling down, spattering the ground with fire, and burning sullenly in corners. One rolled beneath a wooden bench and set it in a blaze; another caught a water-spout, and so went climbing up the wall, leaving a long straight track of fire behind it. After a time, a slow thick shower of burning fragments, from some upper portion of the prison which was blazing nigh, began to fall before his[Pg 4661] door. Remembering that it opened outwards, he knew that every spark which fell upon the heap, and in the act lost its bright life and died an ugly speck of dust and rubbish, helped to entomb him in a living grave. Still, though the jail resounded with shrieks and cries for help,—though the fire bounded up as if each separate name had had a tiger's life, and roared as though in every one there were a hungry voice—though the heat began to grow intense, and the air suffocating, and the clamor without increased, and the danger of his situation even from one merciless element was every moment more extreme,—still he was afraid to raise his voice again, lest the crowd should break in, and should, of their own ears or from the information given them by the other prisoners, get the clew to his place of confinement. Thus fearful alike of those within the prison and of those without; of noise and silence; light and darkness; of being released, and being left there to die: he was so tortured and tormented, that nothing man has ever done to man in the horrible caprice of power and cruelty, exceeds his self-inflicted punishment.

Now, now, the door was down. Now they came rushing through the jail, calling to each other in the vaulted passages; clashing the iron gates dividing yard from yard; beating at the doors of cells and wards; wrenching off bolts and locks and bars; tearing down the doorposts to get men out; endeavoring to drag them by main force through gaps and windows where a child could scarcely pass; whooping and yelling without a moment's rest; and running through the heat and flames as if they were cased in metal. By their legs, their arms, the hair upon their heads, they dragged the prisoners out. Some threw themselves upon the captives as they got towards the door, and tried to file away their irons; some danced about them with a frenzied joy, and rent their clothes, and were ready, as it seemed, to tear them limb from limb. Now a party of a dozen men came darting through the yard into which the murderer cast fearful glances from his darkened window; dragging a prisoner along the ground, whose dress they had nearly torn from his body in their mad eagerness to set him free, and who was bleeding and senseless in their hands. Now a score of prisoners ran to and fro, who had lost themselves in the intricacies of the prison, and were so bewildered with the noise and glare that they knew not where to turn or what to do, and still cried out for help as loudly as before. Anon some famished wretch,[Pg 4662] whose theft had been a loaf of bread or scrap of butcher's meat, came skulking past, barefooted—going slowly away because that jail, his house, was burning; not because he had any other, or had friends to meet, or old haunts to revisit, or any liberty to gain but liberty to starve and die. And then a knot of highwaymen went trooping by, conducted by the friends they had among the crowd, who muffled their fetters as they went along with handkerchiefs and bands of hay, and wrapped them in coats and cloaks, and gave them drink from bottles, and held it to their lips, because of their handcuffs which there was no time to remove. All this, and Heaven knows how much more, was done amidst a noise, a hurry, and distraction, like nothing that we know of even in our dreams; which seemed forever on the rise, and never to decrease for the space of a single instant.

He was still looking down from his window upon these things, when a band of men with torches, ladders, axes, and many kinds of weapons, poured into the yard, and hammering at his door, inquired if there were any prisoner within. He left the window when he saw them coming, and drew back into the remotest corner of the cell; but although he returned them no answer, they had a fancy that some one was inside, for they presently set ladders against it, and began to tear away the bars at the casement; not only that, indeed, but with pickaxes to hew down the very stones in the wall.

As soon as they had made a breach at the window, large enough for the admission of a man's head, one of them thrust in a torch and looked all round the room. He followed this man's gaze until it rested on himself, and heard him demand why he had not answered, but made him no reply.

In the general surprise and wonder, they were used to this; without saying anything more, they enlarged the breach until it was large enough to admit the body of a man, and then came dropping down upon the floor, one after another, until the cell was full. They caught him up among them, handed him to the window, and those who stood upon the ladders passed him down upon the pavement of the yard. Then the rest came out, one after another, and bidding him fly and lose no time, or the way would be choked up, hurried away to rescue others.

It seemed not a minute's work from first to last. He staggered to his feet, incredulous of what had happened, when the[Pg 4663] yard was filled again, and a crowd rushed on, hurrying Barnaby among them. In another minute—not so much: another minute! the same instant, with no lapse or interval between!—he and his son were being passed from hand to hand, through the dense crowd in the street, and were glancing backward at a burning pile which some one said was Newgate....

When he [the hangman] had issued his instructions relative to every other part of the building, and the mob were dispersed from end to end, and busy at their work, he took a bundle of keys from a kind of cupboard in the wall, and going by a private passage near the chapel (it joined the governor's house, and was then on fire), betook himself to the condemned cells, which were a series of small, strong, dismal rooms, opening on a low gallery, guarded at the end at which he entered by a strong iron wicket, and at its opposite extremity by two doors and a thick grate. Having double-locked the wicket and assured himself that the other entrances were well secured, he sat down on a bench in the gallery and sucked the head of his stick with an air of the utmost complacency, tranquillity, and contentment.

It would have been strange enough, a man's enjoying himself in this quiet manner while the prison was burning and such a tumult was cleaving the air, though he had been outside the walls. But here in the very heart of the building, and moreover, with the prayers and cries of the four men under sentence sounding in his ears, and their hands, stretched out through the gratings in their cell doors, clasped in frantic entreaty before his very eyes, it was particularly remarkable. Indeed, Mr. Dennis appeared to think it an uncommon circumstance, and to banter himself upon it; for he thrust his hat on one side as some men do when they are in a waggish humor, sucked the head of his stick with a higher relish, and smiled as though he would say:—"Dennis, you're a rum dog; you're a queer fellow; you're capital company, Dennis, and quite a character!"

He sat in this way for some minutes, while the four men in the cells, certain that somebody had entered the gallery but unable to see who, gave vent to such piteous entreaties as wretches in their miserable condition may be supposed to have been inspired with; urging whoever it was to set them at liberty, for the love of Heaven; and protesting with great fervor, and truly enough perhaps for the time, that if they escaped they would amend their ways, and would never, never, never again do wrong[Pg 4664] before God or man, but would lead penitent and sober lives, and sorrowfully repent the crimes they had committed. The terrible energy with which they spoke would have moved any person, no matter how good or just (if any good or just person could have strayed into that sad place that night), to set them at liberty, and while he would have left any other punishment to its free course, to save them from this last dreadful and repulsive penalty; which never turned a man inclined to evil, and has hardened thousands who were half inclined to good.

Mr. Dennis, who had been bred and nurtured in the good old school, and had administered the good old laws on the good old plan, always once and sometimes twice every six weeks, for a long time bore these appeals with a deal of philosophy. Being at last, however, rather disturbed in his pleasant reflection by their repetition, he rapped at one of the doors with his stick, and cried,—

"Hold your noise there, will you?"...

Mr. Dennis resumed in a sort of coaxing tone:—

"Now look'ee here, you four. I'm come here to take care of you, and see that you ain't burnt, instead of the other thing. It's no use you making any noise, for you won't be found out by them as has broken in, and you'll only be hoarse when you come to the speeches,—which is a pity. What I say in respect to the speeches always is, 'Give it mouth.' That's my maxim. Give it mouth. I've heerd," said the hangman, pulling off his hat to take his handkerchief from the crown and wipe his face, and then putting it on again a little more on one side than before, "I've heerd a eloquence on them boards,—you know what boards I mean,—and have heerd a degree of mouth given to them speeches, that they was as clear as a bell, and as good as a play. There's a pattern! And always, when a thing of this natur's to come off, what I stand up for is a proper frame of mind. Let's have a proper frame of mind, and we can go through with it, creditable—pleasant—sociable. Whatever you do (and I address myself in particular to you in the furthest), never snivel. I'd sooner by half, though I lose by it, see a man tear his clothes a-purpose to spile 'em before they come to me, than find him sniveling. It is ten to one a better frame of mind, every way!"[Pg 4665]


From 'A Tale of Two Cities'

Monseigneur, one of the great lords in power at the Court, held his fortnightly reception in his grand hotel in Paris. Monseigneur was in his inner room, his sanctuary of sanctuaries, the Holiest of Holiests to the crowd of worshipers in the suite of rooms without. Monseigneur was about to take his chocolate. Monseigneur could swallow a great many things with ease, and was by some few sullen minds supposed to be rather rapidly swallowing France; but his morning's chocolate could not so much as get into the throat of Monseigneur without the aid of four strong men besides the Cook.

Yes. It took four men, all four ablaze with gorgeous decoration, and the Chief of them unable to exist with fewer than two gold watches in his pocket, emulative of the noble and chaste fashion set by Monseigneur, to conduct the happy chocolate to Monseigneur's lips. One lackey carried the chocolate pot into the sacred presence; a second milled and frothed the chocolate with the little instrument he bore for that function; a third presented the favored napkin; a fourth (he of the two gold watches) poured the chocolate out. It was impossible for Monseigneur to dispense with one of these attendants on the chocolate and hold his high place under the admiring heavens. Deep would have been the blot upon his escutcheon if his chocolate had been ignobly waited on by only three men; he must have died of two.

Monseigneur had been out at a little supper last night, where the Comedy and the Grand Opera were charmingly represented. Monseigneur was out at a little supper most nights, with fascinating company. So polite and so impressible was Monseigneur, that the Comedy and the Grand Opera had far more influence with him in the tiresome articles of state affairs and state secrets than the needs of all France. A happy circumstance for France, as the like always is for all countries similarly favored!—always was for England (by way of example) in the regretted days of the merry Stuart who sold it.

Monseigneur had one truly noble idea of general public business, which was to let everything go on in its own way; of particular public business, Monseigneur had the other truly noble[Pg 4666] idea that it must all go his way—tend to his own power and pocket. Of his pleasures, general and particular, Monseigneur had the other truly noble idea, that the world was made for them. The text of his order (altered from the original by only a pronoun, which is not much) ran, "The earth and the fullness thereof are mine, saith Monseigneur."

Yet Monseigneur had slowly found that vulgar embarrassments crept into his affairs, both private and public; and he had, as to both classes of affairs, allied himself perforce with a Farmer-General. As to finances public, because Monseigneur could not make anything at all of them, and must consequently let them out to somebody who could; as to finances private, because Farmers-General were rich, and Monseigneur, after generations of great luxury and expense, was growing poor. Hence Monseigneur had taken his sister from a convent while there was yet time to ward off the impending veil, the cheapest garment she could wear, and had bestowed her as a prize upon a very rich Farmer-General, poor in family. Which Farmer-General, carrying an appropriate cane with a golden apple on the top of it, was now among the company in the outer rooms, much prostrated before by mankind—always excepting superior mankind of the blood of Monseigneur, who, his own wife included, looked down upon him with the loftiest contempt.

A sumptuous man was the Farmer-General. Thirty horses stood in his stables, twenty-four male domestics sat in his halls, six body-women waited on his wife. As one who pretend