The Project Gutenberg EBook of Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 56,
Number 350, December 1844, by Various

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Title: Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 56, Number 350, December 1844

Author: Various

Release Date: July 16, 2009 [EBook #29423]

Language: English

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No. CCCL.  DECEMBER, 1844.  Vol. LVI.


The Scottish Banking System, 671
The Milkman of Walworth, 687
Injured Ireland, 701
Singular Passages in the Life of a Russian Officer, 713
Traditions and Tales of Upper Lusatia. No IV. The Moor Maiden, 726
"That's What We Are," 741
Edmund Burke, 745
My College Friends. No. II. John Brown, 763
Nelson's Despatches and Letters, 775
Guizot, 786




To whom all Communications (post paid) must be addressed.




[Pg 671]




No. CCCL.  DECEMBER, 1844.  Vol. LVI.



When any important branch of national polity has been impeached, arraigned, and brought to stand its trial before the bar of public opinion, it is satisfactory to know that the subject has been thoroughly investigated, since a searching investigation alone can excuse a verdict, be it of acquittal or of condemnation. That no man can be twice tried upon the same indictment, is a proud boast of the British constitution. It would be well if the same rule were always applied when mightier interests than those of individuals are at stake!

It is just eighteen years ago since a ministry, feeble in practice, but strong in speculative theory, ventured to put forth its hand against the monetary system of Scotland, under shelter of which the country had improved and thriven to a degree of prosperity never experienced to the north of the Tweed before, and at a ratio which far exceeded that of any other nation in Europe. In the short space of half a century, the whole face of the country had changed. From a bleak, barren, and dilapidated region—for such she undoubtedly was for many years subsequent to the last rebellion of 1745—Scotland became, with the shortest possible transition, a favourite land of husbandry. Mosses and muirs, which, at all events since the forgotten days of the Jameses, had borne no other crop than rugged bent or stubborn heather, were subjected to the discipline of the plough, and produced a golden harvest of grain. Woods sprang up as if by magic, from the roots of the old Caledonian forest, to hide the nakedness of the land and redeem the national reproach. The towns and boroughs—which had never recovered from the terrible blow inflicted upon them by the failure of the Darien scheme, in which nearly the whole capital of Scotland was embarked, and which had lost the greater and more valuable portion of their trade, and dwindled down into almost hopeless insignificancy—began to revive again. New manufactures were established, the older ones were extended; the fisheries rose immensely in magnitude and importance; the mountainous districts were made profitable by the breeding and export of sheep and cattle; and even the rugged shores of the Hebrides furnished for a time a most profitable article of commerce. All this took place in a poor and very neglected country. England for a long time knew little of what as going on in the north; perhaps her eyes were then riveted, with more than the anxiety of a gamester's, upon the great stakes for which she was contending on the red battle-fields of Europe. This much she knew, that Scotland could produce in time of need—ay, and did produce—levies of men, whose high heroic courage, steady discipline, and daring intrepidity, were the theme[Pg 672] even of their enemies' admiration; and of these services she was, and is, justly and generously proud. But of the social condition of their northern neighbours, we repeat, the body of the English, at this period, were singularly ignorant. We had not very long before suffered the penalty of adherence to a fallen cause. We were considered to be still rather too irritable and dangerous for much interference; perhaps, also, it was thought that it might be cheaper to leave us to ourselves—and, so long as we paid our proportion of the common taxation, not to enquire too curiously into our own domestic system of management. In all respects, therefore, notwithstanding the war, we flourished.

Peace came; and with peace, as a matter of course, a more searching investigation into the internal state of the country. Then, for the first time, Scotland became a sort of marvel. Our agriculture, our commerce, our internal resources, so strangely and quickly augmented, attracted the attention of the politician; and the question was speedily mooted—"How, and by what means, have so poor a nation as the Scotch attained so singular a position?" And truly the facts were startling, and such as might justify an enquiry. The whole coined money in Scotland, at the date of the Union, was known not to have exceeded the sum of one million sterling; and a large part of this paltry sum was necessarily hoarded, and so withdrawn from circulation, throughout the whole period of the intestine troubles. That single million, therefore, held the place both of that part of the wealth of the country which is now represented by bank-notes, and also of that which is now deposited in the hands of the bankers. Aladdin's palace, which sprang up in one night at the bidding of the slaves of the lamp, could scarcely have been a greater paradox to the aged Sultan, than this increase of prosperity on the part of Scotland was to our southern legislators. How to explain the metamorphosis seemed for a time a mystery. One thing, at all events, was clear—that English gold had no participation in the change. North of the Tweed, a guinea was a suspected article, apt to be rung, and examined, and curiously weighed, before it was received in currency, and even then accepted with a certain reluctance. The favourite medium of circulation was paper-notes of one pound each, of somewhat dubious complexion to the eye of the stranger, but received and circulated by the Scottish people with the utmost readiness and confidence. The answer to the question was a short one—"We have prospered through our banking system."

It was some time—not until ten years of peace had elapsed—before any open attack was made upon that system, which had proved, if facts can prove any thing, the greatest imaginable boon to the nation; and which, be it always specially remembered, did not originate with the state, but with private individuals—upright, honourable, and patriotic men—who better deserve a monument to their memories, were that required, than the most successful conqueror whose march is on humbled thrones. During that period much was done with regard to internal relations, of which we, in common with every Scotsman who retains one spark of patriotic feeling, most heartily disapprove. The tendency towards centralization in London—the inevitable consequence of the Union treaty—was not only not counteracted, as we maintain it ought to have been, by a wise and paternal government, but forced and hurried on by an excessive exercise of power. Every remnant of our ancient institutions that could be rooted up, and all our local boards with hardly one exception, were transferred to the seat of government—regardless of the drain that was thereby made from the proper resources of the country, and the deep heart-burnings that such a system must necessarily create amongst a proud, observant, and jealous, though enduring people. These things we shall not dilate upon—though the temptation is triply strong, and we know how keenly that subject is felt by many of the best and most loyal of the land;—but in the mean time we shall pass over this period of gradual humiliation, and come at once to the first great attack that was made upon the source of all our national prosperity.

At the close of the year 1825, there[Pg *671] arrived a period of public distress, followed by a panic which fortunately has but rarely been felt in this country. We attributed it then, and we attribute it now, to an unexampled glut in the money market, which we hold to be in this trading country the most destructive of any, saving and excepting a glut in agricultural produce and labour; and for this very plain reason, that a glut of money resolves itself sooner or later into a glut of goods, thereby carrying the amount of production in the country far beyond the amount of the consumption and demand, and so necessarily for a time closing the door against all the outlets of industry. But it is of very little consequence to our present purpose how that distress was created. The effects were very grievous. In England the panic took effect, and a run was made upon the banks for gold; the consequence of which was, that a number of the private and joint-stock establishments failed. In Scotland, where the distress was certainly not less in proportion, there was not only no failure on the part of the banks, but no run, and no diminution in the usual credits. At this time, it is very proper to remark, that England had been thoroughly centralized; that is, that the whole course and tendency of its money market was to London; and indeed, for purposes of trade, the principal circulation of the important districts of Lancashire and others, seems to have been bills of exchange payable in London, with from twenty to fifty endorsements on each. With us such a system was unknown. Scotland, then as now, and we devoutly trust for ever, had her own internal circulation, and neither took nor gave, except when statutorily compelled, beyond the limits of her own jurisdiction.

The attention of the ministry was immediately directed to an investigation of the cause of the general distress. This was right and proper, and precisely what a cautious and well-meaning government ought to do under such circumstances, in order to prevent, if possible, the recurrence of a similar disaster. But unfortunately the ministers of the day, though well-meaning, were any thing but cautious. The majority of them were imbued with speculative notions of political economy. They were disciples of a school which rejects facts and cleaves implicitly to theory—men who threw considerations of circumstance, time, and national characteristics aside, as prejudices too low for even the momentary regard of a philosopher; in short, they wished to introduce the standard of an untried rule as the ne plus ultra of human sagacity, and remorselessly to overturn every existing institution—no matter at what sacrifice or risk—if it only seemed to stand in the way of the operation of their darling theories.

It was easy for men so tutored and trained, to overlook the necessary effect which fluctuation of the seasons at home and abroad must have upon the prices of either produce, of the effect of these prices upon manufactures, and the manifest and established fact that there is a point when production will exceed consumption. This state of things it is totally beyond the power of man to remedy. The facts of nature will always be found too strong for the theories of the political economist; but our rulers in the plenitude of their wisdom thought otherwise; and began to search within the social system for a cause of that disorder, which was neither more nor less than an epidemic, as totally beyond the reach of their prevention as if the College of Physicians were to issue their solemn fiat—"This year there shall be neither cholera nor fever." In searching for the cause, however, they stumbled upon an effect which they at once adroitly magnified into a cause. In England there had been a marked increase during the rise in the issue of the country banks. Here was an opportune discovery for the champions of metallic currency! and, accordingly, the paper system was prostrated in England to make way for its more glittering, often more slippery, and always more expensive rival.

Scotland, in the mean time, was going on in her old and steady footing. One and all of the banks—chartered, joint-stock, and private—were as firm as if each had been backed by the whole weight and responsibility of the state. Between them and the[Pg *672] public the most perfect confidence subsisted; and very nobly indeed, in that time of trial and distress, did the banks behave, in maintaining credits grievously depressed for the moment, but certain to revive with the return of general prosperity. This mutual confidence is the great secret of the success of the Scottish system. The banker is to the trader as a commercial physician—sometimes restrictive, sometimes liberal, but always a judicious friend. It is impossible to separate the interests of the two; and as they have risen together, so, in the event of a change, must they both equally decline. But we will not anticipate our defence, before we have adduced the facts upon which that defence is founded.

All at once, and without sounding any note of preparation, the ministry announced, that after the expiry of a given season, the whole Scottish banking system was to be changed, all paper currency under the five-pound note abolished, and a metallic circulation introduced and enforced. If Ben Nevis had burst forth at once in the full thunder of volcanic eruption, we could not have been more astonished. What! without complaint or enquiry—without the shadow of a cause shown, or a reason assigned, except it might be that reason—to a Scotsman the most unpalatable of all—the propriety of assimilating the institutions of both countries; in other words, of coercing Scotland to adopt the habit of her neighbours—to excavate the foundation-stone of our whole prosperity, and make us the victims of a theory which, even if sound, could not profess to give us one tittle more advantage than the course which we had so long pursued! We believe that if the annals of legislation were searched through, we could not find a parallel case of such wanton and unprovoked temerity!

We said then, and we say now, with even more emphatic earnestness, it is the curse of the age that every thing is to be managed by political economy and philosophy, and that local knowledge is to be utterly disregarded in the management of local interests. Centralize and assimilate—these were the watchwords of the ministers of that day; and for aught that we can see, Sir Robert Peel is determined to persevere in the theory. What excuse was there, then, for the attempt of any assimilation between the banking systems of the two countries? If it had been alleged that the Scotch paper currency was surreptitiously carried into England—that it was there supplanting the legal currency, and absorbing the gold in exchange, there might have been some show of reason for a slight modification of the system—at all events for a more stringent preventive check. But no such allegation was made. The most determined hater of the Scottish banks knew well that their paper never crossed the Border; for the very best of all possible reasons, that the notes were not a legal tender, and that five persons out of six to whom they might happen to be offered, would unhesitatingly reject them. Again, to absorb the gold would have been neither more nor less than partially to carry out the views entertained by the supporters of a metallic currency, and therefore surely, in their eyes, a venal, if not a meritorious, offence. But such was not the fact. In Scotland there was no such a thing known as a gold circulation. The fishermen, the cattle dealers, and the small traders, would not so much as take it; and the stranger who, through ignorance, had provided himself with a stock of the precious metal, was forced to have recourse to a Scottish bank in order to have it exchanged for notes. Beyond what lay in the bank reserves, there was literally none in the country; and therefore any idea of the interference of the currencies was too preposterous to be maintained.

But it is not here, or at this point, that we intend to discuss the propriety of the measure which was then proposed. Unfortunately, we are called upon to do so with reference to our own times, as well as to those which are now matter of history; and the remarks which we shall have occasion to offer are equally applicable to the one as to the other. In the mean time, let us see how the mere alarm engendered by that unlucky proposition affected Scotland, and what steps were taken to resist the threatened change.

First of all, we have it in evidence that the open threat of the ministerial[Pg 673] scheme produced within the country more actual distress and bankruptcies than had previously occurred during the period of the previous depression. This may seem a paradox to a stranger; but the reason will be readily understood, and the fact candidly admitted by every one who is conversant with the Scottish system of banking. A short explanation may be necessary. One large department of the business of every bank was the granting of cash-credits; a method of accommodation to the public which the experience of ninety-four years (cash-credits were granted by the Royal Bank of Scotland so early as 1729) had shown not only to be the safest to the bank, but by far the most advantageous to the public. Indeed it is not too much to say, that were those credits prohibited, and no other alteration made in the existing system, the mainspring of the machinery of Scottish banking would be broken, and its general utility impaired. With that point we shall deal more fully when we come to the consideration of the system in detail; at present it is only necessary to remark, that these credits had been maintained unimpaired during the period of depression, and were the fortunate means of averting ruin from many.

But the attitude which the ministry assumed was so formidable, and the prospect of a sweeping change so alarming, that the bankers were forced in self-defence, though sorely against their will, to make preparation for the worst contingencies. They were, so to speak, compelled to follow the example of England in 1745—to recall all their outlying forces from abroad, concentrate them at home, and leave their allies to fight their own battles as they best could, and to conquer or fall according to their ability or weakness. Their first step was rigidly to refuse the granting of any new cash-credits; their second, to withdraw—with as much tenderness as might be, but still to withdraw—those which were already in existence. It was then that the country at large began to feel how terribly their interests were compromised. The trader, who was driving an active business on the strength of his cash-credit, and turning over the amount of his bank-account it may be thirty times in the course of the year, found himself suddenly brought to a stand-still. The country gentleman, in the midst of his agricultural improvements, and at the very moment when their cessation would undo all that he had hitherto accomplished, was compelled either to desist for want of ready money, and throw his labourers on the parish, or to have recourse to the pernicious system of discounting bills at a ruinous rate of interest. The manufacturer, in despair, was reduced to close his works, and the operatives went forth to combine, or starve, or burn; for the hand of the ministry was upon them likewise, and their burden was sorer than their masters'.

These were the first fruits of the proposed metallic currency; and it soon became evident to all, that nothing was left for Scotland, if she wished to escape from universal ruin, but to offer a firm and most determined resistance. The struggle was felt throughout the length and breadth of the land to be one, which, if it did not actually involve existence, involved a greater commercial interest than had been at stake for more than a century before. The combination which took place in consequence was so extraordinary, that we may be pardoned if we express our wonder how any minister who witnessed it, can at this hour have the temerity to return to the charge. Party-spirit, always higher and keener in Scotland than elsewhere, was at once forgotten in the common cause. All ranks, from the peer to the peasant, rose up in wrath at the proposed innovation; and from every county, city, town, village, and corporation in the kingdom, indignant remonstrances were forwarded to the foot of the Throne, and to the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain. It was assuredly a dangerous experiment to make with a proud and jealous people. Old watchwords and old recollections, buried spells which it were safer to leave alone, began to revive amongst us; and many a lighter act of aggression, which had been passed over at the moment in silence, was then recalled and canvassed, and magnified into a serious grievance. In short,[Pg 674] Scotland, from the bottom of her heart, felt herself most deeply insulted.

It was at this time that the celebrated letters of Malachi Malagrowther appeared. To the general sentiments contained in that work, we subscribe without the slightest hesitation. Strong language is usually to be deprecated, but there are seasons when no language can be too strong. We think meanly of the man who can sit down to round his periods, and prune his language, and reduce his feelings to the level of cold mediocrity, when he knows that the best interests of his country are at stake, and that he is her chosen champion. And such, most assuredly, and beyond all comparison, was Sir Walter Scott. He went into that conflict like a giant, in a manner that disdained conventionalisms; he neither begged, nor prayed, nor conceded, but took his firm ground on the chartered liberties of his country, and spoke out in such manly and patriotic accents as Scotland has rarely heard since the days of Fletcher and Belhaven. All honour be to his memory! Were it for that good work alone, his name ought for ever to be immortal.

In consequence, ministry were condescending enough to allow a Parliamentary enquiry. Even that was not granted readily, as the prevailing impression in the cabinet seemed to be, that Scottish affairs were of too slight importance to occupy the time of the Imperial Parliament. The old country might be dealt with summarily, and left to remonstrate at its leisure. But the spirited resistance of our representatives, and it is no less incumbent upon us to add, that innate sense of justice in Englishmen, which will not suffer any one to be condemned unheard, procured us the investigation, upon the issue of which we were willing to rest our cause. The Scottish banking system underwent the severest of all scrutinies before committees of the Houses of Peers and of the Commons; and the following was the nature of the reports.

The committee of the House of Commons, after recapitulating the leading points which were brought out in evidence before them, came to the following conclusions—which it is very important to bring before the public now, as they refer not only to the deductions which the committee had formed from the history of the past, but to the special reasons which were to influence the legislature in future and prospective change.

"Upon a review of the evidence tendered to your committee, and forming their judgment upon that evidence, your committee cannot advise that a law should now be passed, prohibiting, from a period to be therein determined, the future issue in Scotland of notes below five pounds:—

"There are, in the opinion of your committee, sufficient grounds in the experience of the past for permitting another trial to be made of the compatibility of a paper circulation in Scotland with a circulation of specie in this country.

"Looking at the amount of notes current in Scotland, below the value of five pounds, and comparing it with the total amount of the paper currency of that country, it is very difficult to foresee the consequences of a law which should prohibit the future issue of notes constituting so large a proportion of the whole circulation.

"Your committee are certainly not convinced that it would affect the cash-credits to the extent apprehended by some of the witnesses; but they are unwilling, without stronger proof of necessity, to incur the risk of deranging, from any cause whatever, a system admirably calculated, in their opinion, to economize the use of capital, to excite and cherish a spirit of useful enterprise, and even to promote the moral habits of the people, by the direct inducements which it holds out to the maintenance of a character for industry, integrity, and prudence.

"At the same time that your committee recommend that the system of currency which has for so long a period prevailed in Scotland, should not, under existing circumstances, be disturbed, they feel it to be their duty to add, that they have formed their judgment upon a reference to the past, and upon the review of a state of things which may hereafter be considerably varied by the increasing wealth and commerce of Scotland, by the rapid extension of her commercial[Pg 675] intercourse with England, and by the new circumstances that may affect that intercourse after the re-establishment of a metallic currency in this country.

"Apart from these general observations, bearing upon the conclusions at which they have arrived, there are two circumstances to which your committee must more particularly advert.

"It is evident that if the small notes issued in Scotland should be current beyond the Border, they would have the effect, in proportion as their circulation should extend itself, of displacing the specie, and even in some degree the local currency of England. Such an interference with the system established for England would be a manifest and gross injustice to the bankers of this part of the empire. If it should take place, and it should be found impossible to frame a law consistent with sound and just principles of legislation, effectually restricting the circulation of Scotch notes within the limits of Scotland, there will be, in the opinion of your committee, no alternative but the extension to Scotland of the principle which the legislature has determined to apply to this country.

"The other circumstances to which your committee meant to refer, as bearing materially upon their present decision, will arise in the event of a considerable increase in the crime of forgery. Your committee called for returns of the number of prosecutions and convictions for forgery, and the offence of passing forged notes, during the last twenty years in Scotland, which returns will be found in the appendix. There appears to have been, during that period, no prosecutions for the crime of forgery; to have been eighty-six prosecutions for the offence of issuing forged promissory notes—fifty-two convictions; and eight instances in which the capital sentence of the law has been carried into effect."

This may, on the whole, be considered as an impartial report; and, as it is as well in every case to disencumber a question from specialties, we shall state here that experience has since shown that there has been no tendency whatever to the introduction of Scottish notes into England. With regard to the other special point referred to by the committee—that of forgery—such a thing as a forged bank-note is now unknown in Scotland. The evidence taken before the last committee on banks of issue in 1841, established the fact, that since the improved steel plates were brought into general use, there has never been a forgery of a note. Such being the case, it is unnecessary here to dispute the wisdom of that policy which would leave a great national institution at the mercy of a single forger. The experience of this last month alone might show how wretchedly that test would operate if applied even to the Bank of England.

Setting these specialties aside, the only possibly grounds which this committee saw for any future legislative interference were, "the increasing wealth and commerce of Scotland, the rapid extension of her commercial intercourse with England, and the circumstances which may affect that intercourse after the re-establishment of an English metallic currency." To us the first part of this reservation sounds somewhat like a threat of future bleeding when Scotland shall have become more pursy and plethoric. Nevertheless we are ready to join issue with our opponents on any of these grounds.

The report of the Lords was even more favourable; and, at the risk of being thought tedious, we cannot refrain from inserting their admirable digest of the evidence, which, for candour and clearness, might be taken as a universal model.

"With respect to Scotland, it is to be remarked, that during the period from 1766 to 1797, when no small notes were by law issuable in England, the portion of the currency in Scotland in which payments under five pounds were made, continued to consist almost entirely of notes of £1 and £1, 1s.; and that no inconvenience is known to have resulted from this difference in the currency of the two countries. This circumstance, amongst others, tends to prove that uniformity, however desirable, is not indispensably necessary. It is also proved, by the evidence and by the documents, that the banks of Scotland, whether chartered or joint-stock companies or pri[Pg 676]vate establishments, have for more than a century exhibited a stability which the committee believe to be unexampled in the history of banking; that they supported themselves from 1797 to 1812 without any protection from the restriction by which the Bank of England and that of Ireland were relieved from cash payments; that there was little demand for gold during the late embarrassments in the circulation; and that, in the whole period of their establishment, there are not more than two or three instances of bankruptcy. As, during the whole of this period, a large portion of their issues consisted almost entirely of notes not exceeding £1 or £1, 1s., there is the strongest reason for concluding, that, as far as respects the banks of Scotland, the issue of paper of that description has been found compatible with the highest degree of solidity; and that there is not, therefore, while they are conducted upon their present system, sufficient ground for proposing any alteration, with the view of adding to a solidity which has been so long sufficiently established.

"This solidity appears to derive a great support from the constant exchange of notes between the different banks, by which they become checks upon each other, and by which any over-issue is subject to immediate observation and correction.

"There is also one part of the system, which is stated by all the witnesses (in the opinion of the committee very justly stated) to have had the best effects upon the people of Scotland, and particularly upon the middling and poorer classes of society, in producing and encouraging habits of frugality and industry. The practice referred to is that of cash-credits. Any person who applies to a bank for a cash-credit is called upon to produce two or more competent securities, who are jointly bound, and after a full enquiry into the character of the applicant, the nature of his business, and the sufficiency of his securities, he is allowed to open a credit, and to draw upon the bank for the whole of its amount, or for such part as his daily transactions may require. To the credit of this account he pays in such sums as he may not have occasion to use, and interest is charged or credited upon the daily balance, as the case may be. From the facility which these cash-credits give to all the small transactions of the country, and from the opportunities which they afford to persons who begin business with little or no capital but their character, to employ profitably the minutest products of their industry, it cannot be doubted that the most important advantages are derived to the whole community. The advantage to the banks who give those cash-credits arises from the call which they continually produce for the issue of their paper, and from the opportunity which they afford for the profitable employment of part of their deposits. The banks are indeed so sensible that, in order to make this part of their business advantageous and secure, it is necessary that their cash-credits should (as they express it) be frequently operated upon, that they refuse to continue them unless this implied condition be fulfilled. The total amount of their cash-credits is stated by one witness to be five millions, on which the average amount advanced by the banks may be one-third.

"The manner in which the practice of deposits on receipt is conducted tends to produce the same desirable results. Sums to as low an amount as £10 (and in some instances lower) are taken by the banks from the depositor, who may claim them at demand. He receives an interest, usually about one per cent below the market rate. It is stated that these deposits are, to a great extent, left uncalled for from year to year, and that the depositors are in the habit of adding, at the end of each year, to the interest then accrued, the amount of their yearly savings; that the sums thus gradually accumulated belong chiefly to the labouring and industrious classes of the community; and that, when such accounts are closed, it is generally for the purpose of enabling the depositors either to purchase a house or to engage in business.

"It is contended by all the persons engaged in banking in Scotland, that the issue of one-pound notes is essential to the continuance both of their cash-credits and of the branch banks[Pg 677] established in the poorest and most remote districts. Whether the discontinuance of one-pound notes would necessarily operate to the full extent which they apprehend, in either of these respects, may perhaps admit of doubt; but the apprehensions entertained on this head, by the persons most immediately concerned, might, for a time at least, have nearly the same effect as the actual necessity; and there is strong reason to believe, that if the prohibition of one-pound notes should not ultimately overturn the whole system, it must for a considerable time materially affect it.

"The directors of the Bank of England, who have been examined before the committee, have given it as their opinion, that a circulation of notes of £1 in Scotland or in Ireland would not produce any effects injurious to the metallic circulation of England, provided such notes be respectively confined within the boundary of their own country.

"Notwithstanding the opinions which have been here detailed, the committee are, on the whole, so deeply impressed with the importance of a metallic circulation below £5 in England, not only for the benefit of England, but likewise for that of all the other parts of the empire, that if they were reduced to make an option between the establishment of such a metallic circulation in Scotland, or the abandonment of it in England, they would recommend the prohibition of small notes in Scotland. But they entertain a reasonable expectation, that legislative measures may be devised which will be effectual in preventing the introduction of Scotch paper into England; and unless such measures should in practice prove ineffectual, or unless some new circumstance should arise to derange the operations of the existing system in Scotland itself, or materially to affect the relations of trade and intercourse between Scotland and England, they are not disposed to recommend that the existing system of banking and currency in Scotland should be disturbed."

This is just what a Parliamentary report ought to be—calm, perspicuous, and decided. There is no circumlocution nor ambiguity of expression here. After a patient investigation into the whole question, and a minute examination of enemies as well as friends, the Lords arrived at the opinion, that the existing banking system of Scotland ought on all points to be maintained, and they not only stated their general conviction, but gave their reasons for upholding each part in detail, in the luminous manner which has always been the characteristic of that august Assembly, and which has established its proud reputation as not only the noblest, but the most upright tribunal of the world. It is worthy of the most marked attention, that the committee of the Lords in this report, which afterwards received the sanction of the House, advocated no temporary continuance of the banking system in Scotland, but were clearly of opinion that it should remain as a permanent institution. They evidently entertained no ideas, grounded upon mere expediency, that it would be prudent to wait until Scotland, by means of her cherished institutions and her own internal industry, arrived at that point of condition when it might be expedient to introduce the lancet, and drain off a little of her superfluous blood. They vent upon the righteous maxim—that a nation, as well as a man, is entitled to work out its own resources in peace, so long as it does not trench upon the industry or prerogatives of its neighbour, and so long as no impeachment can be laid against the prudence and stability of its institutions. We defy any man to read over this report, and to adduce one word from it which shall convey the idea that it was not intended as a final judgment, with the simple qualifications that we have stated in the last sentence.

These two reports saved the country—we trust we shall not hereafter be compelled to add, only for a time—from its great impending misfortune. The circulation in England became metallic, with what success it is not for us to say, whilst Scotland was allowed to retain her paper currency with at least most perfect satisfaction to herself. One pregnant fact, however, it would be unpardonable for us to omit—as showing the stability of the northern system when compared with[Pg 678] that practised in the south—that at the last investigation before a committee of the House of Commons in 1841, it was stated, that whereas in Scotland the whole loss sustained by the public from bank failures, for a century and a half, amounted to L. 32,000, the loss to the public, during the previous year in London alone, was estimated at ten times that amount!

Since 1826, we have had eighteen years' further experience of the system, without either detecting derangement in its organization, or the slightest diminution of confidence on the part of the public. There has been no interference with the metallic currency of England. Forgery is a crime now utterly unknown, as is also coining, beyond the insignificant counterfeits of the silver issue. This, in fact, is a great advantage which we have above the English in point of security, since we are exempt from the risk of receiving into circulation either base or light sovereigns, and since the banks provide for the deterioration of their notes by tear and wear, whilst the holder of a light sovereign has to pay the difference between the standard and the deficient weight. When we reflect upon the small amount of the wages of a labouring man, it is manifest how important this branch of the subject is; for were gold allowed in Scotland to supersede the paper currency, a fresh and most dangerous impetus would be given to the crime of coining; and there cannot be a doubt, that in the remoter districts, where gold is utterly unknown, a most lamentable series of frauds would be perpetrated, with little risk of detection, but with the cruelest consequences to the poor and illiterate classes.

We are not, however, inclined to adopt the opinion expressed by the committee of the House of Commons, to the extent of admitting that it would be either politic or just to disturb the whole banking system of a country on account of private frauds, whether forgeries or the fabrication of counterfeit coin. If their opinion was a sound one, the weight of evidence is now upon our side of the argument; but we hold that the interests at stake are far too great to be affected by any such minor details. If any new circumstance has arisen "to affect the relations of trade and intercourse between Scotland and England," we at least are wholly unconscious of the occurrence, and, of course, it is the duty of those who meditate a change to point it out, in order that it may be thoroughly scrutinized. Internally, the business of the banks has been increasing, and, commensurate with that increase, there has been a vast addition to the number of branch banks spread over the face of the country; so that, whereas in 1825 there was but one office for every 13,170 individuals, in 1841 there was an office for every 6600 of the population. This is plainly the inevitable effect of competition; but lest that increase should be founded upon by our opponents as a proof of over-circulation, we shall say a few words upon the subject of the exchange between the banks themselves, which is a leading feature of our whole system, and the most complete check against over-trading which human ingenuity could devise. Fortunately we have ample data for our statement in the evidence tendered to the committee on banks of issue in 1841.

It is right, however, to premise that, strictly speaking, there are not more, nay, there are positively fewer banks in Scotland at the present moment than there were in 1825, though the amount of paid-up capital in the banks is more than doubled. It is the branches alone which make this astonishing increase. Now, as a branch is merely a local agency of the parent bank, established at a distance for the sake of outlying business, the number of parties engaged in banking who are responsible to the public is not thereby increased, nor is the amount in circulation extended. In fact, the multiplication of the branch banks has been of extraordinary benefit to the public, by affording the inhabitants of even the remotest districts a ready, easy, and favourite method of deposit, and by extinguishing all risks of credit. Further, it has this manifest advantage, that the manager of the branch bank has far greater facilities of ascertaining the character, habits, and pursuits of those persons who may have received the advantage of a cash-[Pg 679]credit accommodation, and can immediately report to his superiors any circumstances which may render it advisable that the credit should be contracted or withdrawn. So far are we from holding that the multiplication of branch banks is any evil or incumbrance, that we look upon it as an increased security not only to the banker but the dealer. The latter, in fact, is the principal gainer; because a competition among the banks has always the effect of heightening the rate of interest given upon deposits, and of lowering the rates charged upon advances. Nor does this give any impetus to rash speculation on the part of the dealer, but directly the reverse. The deposits always increase with the advancing rate of interest; and experience has shown, that it is not until that rate declines to two per cent that deposited money is usually withdrawn, which is the signal of commencing speculation. To the mere speculator the banks afford no facilities, but the reverse. Their cash credits are only granted for the daily operations of persons actively engaged in trade, business, or commerce. So soon as that credit appears to be converted into a different channel, it is withdrawn, as alike dangerous to the user and unprofitable to the bank which has given it.

Of thirty-one banks in Scotland which issue notes, five only are chartered—that is, the responsibility of the proprietors in those established is confined to the amount of their subscribed capital. The remaining twenty-six are, with one or two exceptions, joint-stock banks, and the proprietors are liable to the public for the whole of the bank responsibilities to the last shilling of their private fortunes. The number of persons connected with these banks as shareholders is very great, almost every man of opulence in the country being a holder of stock to a greater or a less amount. That some jealousy must exist among so many competitors in a limited field, is an obvious matter of inference. Such jealousy, however, has only operated for the advantage of the public, by the maintenance of a common and vigilant watch upon the manner in which the affairs of each establishment are conducted, and against the intrusion of any new parties into the circle whose capital does not seem to warrant the likelihood of their ultimate stability. Accordingly, the Scottish bankers have arranged amongst themselves a mutual system of exchange, as stringent as if it had the force of statute, by means of which an over-issue of notes becomes a matter of perfect impossibility. Twice in every week the whole notes deposited with the different bank offices in Scotland are regularly interchanged. Now, with this system in operation, it is perfectly ludicrous to suppose that any bank would issue its paper rashly for the sake of an extended circulation. The whole notes in circulation throughout Scotland return to their respective banks in a period averaging from ten to eleven days in urban, and from a fortnight to three weeks in rural districts. In consequence of the rate of interest allowed by the banks, no person has any inducement to keep bank paper by him, but the reverse, and the general practice of the country is to keep the circulation at as low a rate as possible. The numerous branch banks which are situated up and down the country, are the means of taking the notes of their neighbours out of the circle as speedily as possible. In this way it is not possible for the circulation to be more than what is absolutely necessary for the transactions of the country.

If, therefore, any bank had been so rash as to grant accommodation without proper security, merely for the sake of obtaining a circulation, in ten days, or a fortnight at the furthest, it is compelled to account with the other banks for every note they have received. If it does not hold enough of their paper to redeem its own upon exchange, it is compelled to pay the difference in exchequer bills, a certain amount of which every bank is bound by mutual agreement to hold, the fractional parts of each thousand pounds being payable in Bank of England notes or in gold. In this way over-trading, in so far as regards the issue of paper, is so effectually guarded and controlled, that it would puzzle Parliament, with all its conceded conventional wisdom, to devise any plan alike so simple and expeditious.

[Pg 680]The amount of notes at present in circulation throughout Scotland is estimated at three millions, or at the very utmost three millions and a half. At certain times of the year, such as the great legal terms of Whitsunday and Martinmas, when money is universally paid over and received, there is, of course, a corresponding increase of issue for the moment which demands an extra supply of notes. It is never considered safe for a bank to have a smaller amount of notes in stock than the average amount which is out in circulation; so that the whole amount of bank-notes, both in circulation and in hand, may be calculated at seven millions. The fluctuation at the above terms is so remarkable, that we are tempted to give an account of the number of notes delivered and received by the bank of Scotland in exchange with other banks during the months of May and November 1840:—

May 1,   £ 51,000   £ 43,000
... 5,   52,000   32,000
... 8,   44,000   45,000
... 12,   43,000   48,000
... 15,   54,000   64,000
... 19,   *132,000   *172,000
... 22,   98,000   69,000
... 26,   38,000   33,000
Nov. 3,   38,000   32,000
... 6,   37,000   33,000
... 10,   51,000   61,000
... 13,   *99,000   *138,000
... 17,   67,000   80,000
... 20,   66,000   49,000
... 24,   52,000   33,000
... 27,   66,000   42,000
  *Term Settlements.  


It will be seen from the above table how rapidly the system of bank exchange absorbs the over-issue, and how instantaneously the paper drawn from one bank finds its way into the hands of another.

If further proof were required of the absurdity of the notion, that a paper circulation has a necessary tendency to over-issue, the following fact is conclusive. The banking capital in Scotland has more than doubled between the years 1825 and 1840—a triumphant proof of their increased stability; whilst the circulation has been nearly stationary, but, if any thing, rather diminished than otherwise. We quote from a report to the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce.

"The first return of the circulation was made in Scotland in 1825. Every one knows the extraordinary advance which Scotland has made between that period and 1840; for instance, in the former of these years, she manufactured 55,000 bales of cotton, in the latter, 120,000 bales. In 1826, the produce of the iron furnaces was 33,500 tons; in 1840, about 250,000 tons. In 1826, the banking capital of Scotland was £4,900,000; in 1840, it was about £10,000,000; yet with all this progress in industry and wealth, the circulation of notes, which in 1825 varied from £3,400,000 to £4,700,000, was in 1839 from £2,960,000 to £3,670,000, and in the first three months of 1840, £2,940,000."

We are induced to dwell the more strongly upon these facts, because we have strong suspicions that our opponents will endeavour to get at our monetary system by raising the senseless cry of over-issue—senseless at any time as a political maxim, it being the grossest fallacy to maintain that an increased issue is the cause of national distress, unless, indeed, it were possible to suppose that bankers were madmen enough to dispense[Pg 681] their paper without receiving a proper equivalent—not only senseless, but positively nefarious, when the clear broad fact stares them in the face, that Scotland has in fifteen years thrown double the amount of capital into its banking establishments, increased its productions in a threefold, and in some cases a sevenfold ratio, augmented its population by nearly half a million, (one-fifth part of the whole,) and yet kept its circulation so low as to exhibit an actual decrease.

If we were called upon to state the cause of this certainly singular fact, we should, without any hesitation, attribute it to the great increase of the bank branches. The establishment of a branch in a remote locality, has invariably, from the thrifty habits of the Scottish people, absorbed all the paper which otherwise would have been hoarded for a time, and left in the hands of the holders without any interest. It would thus seem, from practice, that the doctrines of the political economists upon this head are absolutely fallacious; that the increase of banks, supposing these banks to issue paper and to give interest on deposits, has a direct tendency to check over-circulation, and in fact does partially supersede it.

With these facts before us, we consider that the measure of last session, prohibiting any further issue of notes beyond those already taken out by the banks, is almost a dead letter. We have not the least fear, that under any circumstances there can be a call for a larger circulation; at the same time, we demur to the policy which ties our hands needlessly, and we object to all restriction where no case for restriction has been shown. We look upon that measure as especially unfair to the younger banks, whose circulation is not yet established, and whose progress has thus received a material check, from no fault of their own, but from want of ministerial notice. With every system where competition is the acknowledged principle, it is clearly impolitic to interfere; nor can we avoid the painful conviction, that this first measure, though comparatively light and generally unimportant, was put out by way of feeler, in order to test the temper of the Scottish people—to ascertain whether eighteen years of prosperity might not have made them a little more supple and pliable, and whether they were likely to oppose to innovation the same amount of obstinate resistance as before. It is dangerous to permit the smallest rent to be made in a wall, for, with dexterous management, that rent may be so widened, as to bring down the whole superstructure.

In the absence of any distinct charge against the Scottish banks, which were so honourably acquitted in 1826, we shall confine our further observations to the effects which must necessarily follow upon a change in the established currency. In doing so, we shall conjure up no phantoms of imaginary distress, but merely state the consequences as they have already been explained to Parliament by men who are far better able to judge than ourselves, and even—with deference be it said—than our legislators, of the substitution in Scotland of a metallic for a paper currency. That measure is to be considered, 1st, as it will affect the banks; 2dly, as it will affect the public.

The general effect of the change would be to derange the whole of the present system. The first result would probably be the abolition and withdrawal of all the branch banks throughout the kingdom. These offices are at present fed with notes which are payable at the office of the parent bank, whither, accordingly, they invariably return. These are supplied to them at no risk or expense, whereas the transmission of gold would not only be dangerous, but so expensive as entirely to swallow up the profits. Add to this, that the banks would no longer be able to allow interest on deposit accounts; at all events such interest would be merely fractional, and too insignificant to induce the continuance of the saving habit which now so fortunately prevails. In short, all the branch business would stagnate and die. The consequence of the removal of the branch banks would be the ruin of the Highlands.

Mr Kennedy's account of the profits of banking will explain the sweeping nature of the change. "A banker's[Pg 682] profits are derived from two sources—the brokerage upon the deposit money, and the returns that he gets from his circulation. We have tried to estimate the amount of deposits in Scotch banks, and we calculate it at about thirty millions; that, at the brokerage of one and a half per cent, yields £450,000 annually. The currency we will take at three millions, and that, at 5 per cent, is £150,000: making a gross sum of £600,000, which is the whole profit derived from banking in Scotland. Out of that are to be deducted the whole of the charges. From these figures it will be perceived that the gross profit of the currency is a fourth part of the gross profit of banking; but the expense that falls upon the currency is not so large as the expense that falls upon the other portions of the banking business; so that I should be inclined to say that, upon the average, the profit derived from the circulation bore the proportion of a third to the aggregate profit of banking."

Assuming Mr Kennedy's calculation to be correct, the profit of £600,000, derived by the banks, would thus be reduced to £400,000 by the change of currency.

But the diminution would not rest there. The brokerage upon the deposits—that is, the difference between the rates of interest given and charged by the banks—on the present calculated amount of deposits, is £450,000. from which the charges are deducted. Now we have already seen that the banks find it necessary, in order to encourage deposits, to give a liberal rate of interest; and we have also seen that, whenever interest falls to two per cent, the deposits are gradually withdrawn, and a period of speculation begins. Let us hear Mr John Thomson, of the Royal Bank, on the effect of a gold currency on deposit accounts:—"I think, on the operating deposits, we could scarcely allow any interest, and on the more steady deposits, that the rate of interest would require to be very considerably reduced."

It follows, therefore, according to all experience, that, if no interest were allowed, the deposits would be generally withdrawn for investment elsewhere; and thus another serious reduction would be made from the already attenuated amount of the Scottish bankers' profits. But besides the loss of profit on the small notes, there would be a further loss sustained by the necessity of keeping up a large stock of gold in the coffers of the bank. Hear Mr Thomson again upon this subject:—

"It would occasion greater loss than the mere profit on the small notes, inasmuch as at present we have to keep on hand a large stock of small notes, to fill up in the circle those that are taken from it by tear and wear, and to meet occasional demands. The present mode of keeping up this stock, which consists of our own notes, is done at no expense; if we had to keep a corresponding stock of gold to keep up the circle in the same proportion, we would, perhaps, if there is £1000 dispersed in small notes, require to keep up a protecting fund of £500 to meet that, or something in that proportion. So that, upon the whole, if there was £1,800,000, which was the sum assumed of notes in circulation, withdrawn, we would require to fill up the place, £1,800,000, in gold, and in order to fill our coffers with a protecting stock, perhaps from seven to nine hundred thousand, to keep up the stock; and, in addition to that, there is the expense of transmission from one part of the country to another, and the bringing it from London."


The small note circulation is here estimated at £1,800,000 but there is no doubt that it is now considerably larger. Taking it, however, at Mr Thomson's calculation, what a fearful amount of unoccupied and inoperative capital is here! This, be it observed also, is only the first reserve, which at present is represented by the small notes of the bank. According to the later evidence of Mr Blair, the Scottish banks are in the habit of holding, besides this, a further reserve of gold and Bank of England notes, equal to a fourth of their circulation, without taking into account exchequer bills, or other convertible securities which bear interest.

Thus it follows, as a matter of course, that if the small notes were abolished, and a gold currency established, there would not be room in the country for one-fourth of the pre[Pg 683]sent number of banks. If the banks are removed, and more especially the branches, which must inevitably fall, we should like to know from any theoretical economist, even from Sir Robert Peel, how the country is to be supplied with money?

So much for the effect which the introduction of a metallic currency would have upon the banking establishments. Let us now see what would be the consequence of the change upon the interests of the public, who are the dealers.

Now, although we hold, that upon every principle of public expediency and justice, the legislature are bound to regard with particular tenderness the interests of a body of men, who, like the Scottish bankers, have not only established, but administered for such a long time, the monetary system of the country with stability, temperance, indulgence, and success, equally removed from weak facility and from grasping avidity of gain; we must, nevertheless, allow that the interests of the public are paramount to theirs, and that if it can be shown that the public will be gainers, although the bankers should be losers by the change, the sooner the metallic currency is established amongst us the better. Here is the true test of the clause in the Treaty of Union, providing that no alteration shall be made on laws which concern private right excepting for the evident utility of the subjects within Scotland. There shall be no interference with private rights if that interference is not to benefit the public; if it does so, private right must of course give way, according to a rule universally adopted by every civilized nation. In speaking of the public, we, of course, restrict ourselves to Scotland; for although the Treaty of Union is not, strictly speaking, a federal one, and in the larger points of policy and general government is very clearly one of incorporation, it has yet this important ingredient of federality in its conception, that the laws of each country and their administration are left separate and entire, as also their customs and usages, so long as the same do not interfere with one another. It is a sore point with the supporters of a metallic currency, and a sad discouragement to their theories, that they have never been able in any way to shake the confidence of the Scottish public in the stability of their national bankers. It was no use drawing invidious comparisons between a weighty glittering guinea, fresh started from the mint of Mammon, and the homely unpretending well-thumbed issue of the North; it was no use hinting that a system which professed to dispense with bullion must of necessity be a mere illusion, which would go down with the first blast of misfortune, as easily as its fragile notes could be dispersed before a breeze of wind. The shrewd Scotsman knew, what apparently the economist had forgotten, that the piece of gold exhibited by the latter was in itself but a representative, and not the reality of property; that the gold to be acquired must be bought; that all representation of wealth within a country must be conventional in order to have any value; and further, that however fragile the despised paper might appear, that it was by convention and by law the representative of things more weighty and more solid than metal—of the manufactures of the country, of its agricultural produce, and, finally, of the land itself; all which were mortgaged for its redemption. It was in vain to talk to him of the rates of foreign exchange in the mystic jargon of the Bourse. He knew well, that when the Scottish mint was abolished, and the bullion trade transferred to London, that branch of traffic was placed utterly beyond his reach. He knew further, that the circulation of Scotland did not ebb or flow in accordance with the fluctuation of foreign exchanges, but from causes which were always within the reach of his own ken and observance. All scrutiny beyond that he left to the bank, in the solvency of which he placed the most implicit confidence; and accordingly he dealt with it as freely and as confidently as his father and grandfather had done before him, and laughed the theories of the political economists to scorn. Such is no overcharged statement of the sentiments which the Scottish customer entertains;—is he right, or is he wrong? and how would the change affect him?

[Pg 684]In the first place, he would receive no interest upon his deposit account. This point we have already touched upon, when proving that the banks would sustain great loss by the inevitable withdrawal of their deposits; but of course the profit to the bank is one thing, and the profit to the customer is another. An operating deposit account on which a fixed and universal rate of interest is paid, is a thing unknown in England. In that country, according to Mr John Gladstone, a Liverpool merchant, and a declared enemy to the Scottish currency, the bankers only give interest on deposits by special bargain, according to the length of time that these deposits shall be entrusted to their hands. This is clearly neither more nor less than permanent loan to the bank, and, like every other private contract, is arbitrary. But an operating deposit is a totally different matter, by which the circulation of the bank paper is promoted, and which acquires actual value from the frequency of its fluctuations. It is a system so easy in its working, that no householder in Scotland is without it; and for every shilling that he deposits in the bank, he receives regular interest, calculated from day to day, without any deduction or commission, at as high a rate as if he had left, for a stipulated period, a million of money unrecallable by him, to be employed in its trade by the bank. This is surely a great accommodation and encouragement to the trader. But see how the introduction of the metallic currency would affect us. Operating deposits there would be none; for, if the banker were not actually compelled to charge a certain per centage of commission, he would at least be able to pay no interest. Or let it be granted that, by great economy, (though we cannot well see how,) he could still afford to pay a diminished rate, the proportion would be too small to tempt the dealer to the constant system of deposit which now exists, and hoarding would be the inevitable result. Or suppose that the system of deposit should still continue in the large towns, what is to become of the country when the branch banks shall have been removed? A little topography might here be valuable, to correct the notions of the theorists, who would legislate precisely for the thinly inhabited districts of Kintail and Edderachylis, as they would for the town-covered surface of Lancashire.

But there would be more important losses to the public than the mere cessation of interest upon operating deposit accounts. All the witnesses who have been examined, agree that cash-credits must be immediately withdrawn. Of all the facilities that a mercantile country, or rather the foremost mercantile system of a country, can afford to industry, that of cash-credit is certainly the most unexceptionable. Take the case of a young man just about to start in business, whose connexion, habits, and education, are such as to give every possible augury for his future success. The res angustæ domi are probably hard upon him. He has no patrimony; his friends, though in fair credit, are not capitalists; and he has not of himself the opportunity of launching into trade, for the want of that one talent, which, if judiciously used, would in time multiply itself into ten. He cannot ask his friends to assist him in the discount of bills. Large as the affection of a Scotchman may be for some descriptions of paper, he has a kind of inherent repugnance to that sort of floating private currency, which in three or in six months is sure to return, coupled with an awkward protest, to his door. Probably in his own early experience, or in the days of his father, he has received a salutary lesson, better than a thousand treatises upon the law and practice of acceptance; and accordingly, while he will lend you his purse with readiness, he will not, for almost any consideration, subscribe his name to a bill. To persons thus situated, the accommodation granted by the bank cash-credits, is the greatest commercial boon that ever was devised; but as the committee of the House of Lords, in the report already quoted, has borne ample testimony in their favour, it is unnecessary for us to dwell with further minuteness on their utility.

We must again have recourse to Mr Thomson for an exposition of the reasons which, if a metallic currency[Pg 685] were forced upon us, would lead to the discontinuance of the cash-credits. "I do not think the cash-credits would be maintained at all; the banker's profits might be made up by the charge of a commission on each credit; but it is not probable that the holders of accounts would pay at such a rate, if they could borrow money upon bills at a cheaper rate, which they would do. They would discount bills at five per cent. A banker would not be disposed to come under the obligation to give a running credit with a cash account, and thereby bind himself to keep in his hands a stock of gold to supply the daily operations of a cash-account, while he might find it perfectly convenient to discount a bill and give the money away at once." In short, it has been stated, and distinctly proved, that the difference to the trader between an operating cash-credit and accommodation by discount, is the difference between paying five and a quarter by discount, and two and a half per cent by cash-credit. Are our merchants and traders prepared or disposed to submit to such a sacrifice; more especially when it is considered, that a bank will often refuse to discount a bill for £100, when it would make no difficulty, from its opportunities of control, in granting a cash-credit for five times that amount?

If individuals are thus to be crippled, the general commercial business of the country must retrograde as a matter of course. Still Edinburgh, and Glasgow, and the larger towns might, although they would suffer immensely, get over the crisis by adopting some system of internal arrangement, without experiencing a general crash. The great question, however, yet remains behind—What is to become of the country districts? To us who are familiar with almost the whole face of Scotland, it seems a gross absurdity to suppose, that under any circumstances, if the branch banks were withdrawn, a gold metallic currency could be made operative in the remoter districts. Mr Dunsmure, then secretary to the commissioners for the public fisheries, gave very singular evidence upon that point in 1826; so singular, indeed, that were it our purpose in this paper rather to amuse than to warn and protest, we should have dwelt more minutely upon his statements. Speaking of the silver currency, his evidence is as follows:—"The quantity of silver on the west coast is so very limited, that there is a great difficulty in getting a proper supply for the necessary purposes. Some of the people have been obliged to issue promissory notes for 5s., long after they had been prohibited by act of Parliament. I happened to be at Barra, and the officer there informed me that, having occasion to purchase some oats for a pony he found it necessary to keep, the farmer whom he paid for them declared he had not seen the face of a shilling for two years before." One of the individuals who was thus forced by necessity to contravene the statute, was a fish-curer and merchant, who kept a large store in Tobermory, and the form of his notes is at once curious and explanatory. "For want of change I owe you 5s., and for four of these tickets, I will give a one-pound note." The establishment of branch banks may somewhat have mended matters on the west coast, though we doubt if the improvement has been commensurate with that of other districts in Scotland, owing to the severe, and in our view mischievous, commercial enactment which supplanted the native manufacture of kelp, by the substitution of foreign barilla; but if the branches are removed, no discovery short of the philosopher's stone will establish the metallic currency there. Do our legislators seriously mean to compel the population of about one-fourth of Scotland, comprehending the whole western and northern divisions, to accept the fish-curer's notes, instead of those of a joint-stock bank, with its paid-up capital for security?

We have not space here to proceed with a minute analysis of the evidence which was formerly given. Suffice it to say, that it is of a much more serious nature than even those who have general notions upon the question can possibly anticipate. In the event of any change which shall derange the present system of currency, the landowners and agriculturists of every class must prepare themselves for crippled markets, curtailment of the sales of their produce, and consequently for a great reduction in the[Pg 686] rent and value of land. This will apply equally to the fisheries, the distilleries, and the linen trade—to every branch, in short, of internal manufacture, which is now prosperous, and which has become so from the superior ease, facility, and advantage of our present currency. Compared with these, the interests of the bankers are actually trifling. Such of them as may remain under the altered system, will no doubt, in one way or another, secure their profit; but for that profit the country at large will have to pay a heavy price.

The great question now for Scotland to determine is, whether these interests are to be sacrificed to the theories of any ministry whatever, without resistance of the most determined nature. That resistance, in our deliberate opinion, she is not only entitled, but bound, to make. We have purposely abstained from dwelling—nay, we have scarcely even touched—upon any points of extraneous irritation which may exist between the sister countries. Our wish is, that this question should be tried upon its own merits, independently of any such considerations; and we are glad to see that this line of conduct has been adopted by every one of the numerous bodies who have hitherto met to protest against the change. Believing thoroughly and sincerely that we have a clear case, both on the score of justice and expediency, we do not wish to revive any warmer feeling, though we are convinced that a word could arouse it. Scotland in this matter feels, and will speak, like a single man. We are sure of the unanimous support and energy of the members for the ancient kingdom; and although that phalanx forms but an integral part of the legislature of Great Britain, we will not allow ourselves to believe that any minister will proceed with so obnoxious a measure in the face of their united opposition. One word only of advice we shall venture to offer them, before they leave their native country to do battle in her behalf. Compromise nothing! Do not, as you value the interests of Scotland, permit even the smallest interference with a system which has already obtained the unqualified approval of the state. If you do, rely upon it that one change will be merely the forerunner of another—that the statute-book, in each succeeding session of Parliament, will exhibit new changes and new modifications, until, gradually and by piecemeal, we shall lose all the benefits of those national institutions which you are now ready and pledged to maintain whole and unimpaired. Any other line of tactics must, in the long run, prove not only injurious, but fatal, to the cause you support.

And now we have said our say. It is not for us—more especially as the batteries of our opponents are still masked—to remonstrate with an administration which assuredly, on many points, has a just claim to the support and confidence of the nation at large. Still we may insinuate the question—Is it very politic, in the present state of matters, to rouse up a feeling in peaceful Scotland which may, with little fanning of the fuel, terminate in an agitation quite as extensive as that which at present unhappily prevails in Ireland? It is not only wrong, but—what Talleyrand held to be a greater sin in a statesman—most injudicious, to overlook in such a matter the tendency of the national character. Scotchmen have long memories; and although the days of hereditary feuds have gone by, they are not the less apt to remember and to cherish injuries. Would it not, therefore, be prudent to adhere to the homely but excellent maxim, "Let well be alone;" and to abstain from forcing the country into a position which it is really unwilling to assume, merely for the sake of illustrating another proverb with which we close our remarks upon the Scottish Banking System—"It is possible to buy gold too dear."

[Pg 687]


Chapter I.

I was just fifteen, when the battle of Waterloo, (it will soon be thirty years ago,) by giving peace to Europe, enabled my father to gratify one of the principal desires of his heart, by sending me to finish my education at a German university. Our family was a Lincolnshire one, he its representative, and the inheritor of an encumbered estate, not much relieved by a portionless wife and several children, of whom I was the third and youngest son. My eldest brother was idle, lived at home, and played on the fiddle. Tom, my second brother, two years older than myself, had just entered the army time enough to be returned in the Gazette as severely wounded in the action of the 18th. I was destined for the church—as much, I believe, from my mother's proneness to Prelacy, (in a very different sense from its usual acceptation,) she being fond of expatiating on her descent from one of the Seven of immortal memory, as from my being a formal, bookish boy, of a reserved and rather contemplative disposition. The profession did not appear uncongenial to my taste; and although, from my classical education having been deplorably neglected, there was no small share of grinding and fag before me, I entered readily into my father's views; the more especially, as in them was comprehended the preliminary visit to Germany, the land of my early visions, where I hoped to be on more intimate terms than ever with my old acquaintances, the Spirit of the Brocken, the Wild Hunter, &c. &c.; or, mayhap, to carry to practical results in the heart of the Black Forest the lessons of natural freedom I had so largely acquired from Schiller. My father's object in sending me to Heidelberg was not, I believe, quite of so elevated a character.

After a month's preliminary bustle, I set out. The Lincoln Light-o'-Heart coach took me up a couple of miles from my father's—and with me a chest of stores that would have sufficed for the north-west passage. Furnished with a letter to a friend in London, who was prepared to forward me by the first vessel offering for Holland, I accomplished the journey to town satisfactorily. On arriving in London, I found Mr Sainsbury, the friend already mentioned, awaiting me at the coach-office in Lad Lane. He was my father's banker—a little red-faced hospitable man, fond of Welsh rabbits, Hessian boots, and of wearing his watch-chain down to his knees. He welcomed me very cordially, said he had not had time as yet to make the necessary enquiries about my passage; but as he was sure no vessel would sail for Helvoetsluys for at least a week, he insisted upon my putting up at his residence while I remained. Oppressed as I was with fretting and fatigue, it was a matter of indifference to me at the moment where I stayed while in town. I therefore, with a proper expression of thanks, accepted the invitation. A job coach conveyed us in a short time to Mr Sainsbury's abode. He lived at Walworth, at that period an extensive suburb on the Surrey side of London, but long since incorporated into the great mass of the metropolis. The street in which the mansion stood was large, the houses were spacious and handsome, their tenants, as I learned afterwards, opulent and respectable. It was late in August; my friend's family were all at Margate; and I found none to do the honours of the house but himself and his eldest son, a young man of prepossessing appearance and intelligent manners. On finding I was not disposed to go out the following morning, he recommended me to the library and some portfolios of choice engravings, and, promising to return early in the afternoon, departed for his haunts of business in the city.

I found the library tolerably comprehensive for its size; and having glanced along its ranges, I tumbled over Hogarth and Gillray on the print-stands for some time. I settled upon my usual efficacious remedy in[Pg 688] desultory hours—old Burton's Anatomie, and dropped with it into the window-seat. I have seldom found him to fail me on such emergencies—his quaintness, his humour, the lavish prodigality of learning and extraordinary thinking that loads his pages, never to me lose their freshness. Yet on the present occasion I found them fix me with more difficulty than I ever before, or I believe since, experienced. My mind wandered constantly from the page back to home, forward to Heidelberg, and, after a while, I laid down the volume to gaze vacantly through the window. It overlooked the street. Yet here the day was so piteously wet there was nothing to arrest my half-drowsy eye or half-dreamy attention. No young ladies in the opposite windows. They were all at Hastings or Brighton. No neat serving-wenches chattering on the area steps—not even a barrel-organ to blow out one's patience—no vagabond on stilts, with a pipe and dancing-dogs—no Punch—no nothing!—Once, a ruffian with four babbies, two in his arms and two more at his ankles, strolled down the street, chanting—"In Jury is God known"—his hat off, and the rain streaming down at his nose as from a gable-spout. But he, too, vanished. Occasionally a dripping umbrella hurried past, showing nothing but thin legs in tights and top-boots, or thick ones in worsteds and pattens. At one o'clock the milkman passed along the street silently, and with a soberer knock than usually announces the presence of that functionary. I counted him at number 45, 46, 47, 48—number 49 was beyond the range of the window; but I believe I accompanied him with my ear up to number 144—where the multiplication-table ends. He was assisted in his vocation by his wife, who attended him—very devotedly too, for I remarked she seemed regardless of the weather, and carried no umbrella. Wearied out completely by the monotony and dulness of the street, I next sank into a doze, which destroyed one hour further towards dinner, and the remnant of time I managed to dispose of by writing a large portion of a long letter to my mother. My dinner was a tête-à-tête one with John Sainsbury—his father having been called away to Margate on affairs connected with the residents there. Finding myself labouring under a cold, I avoided wine, and while my companion discussed his Château Margaut, I kept up a languid conversation with him, enlivened occasionally by the snap of a walnut-shell or indifferent pun, with now and then an enquiry or remark respecting the street passengers. Amongst those, the milk-vender and lady at the moment happened to pass along—"By the by," I said, "there is one peculiarity about that Pair I cannot help remarking. I observe, that wherever, or at whatever pace, the man moves, his female companion always keeps at the one exact distance behind him—about three yards or so—See, just as they stand now at No. 46! I never perceive her approach nearer. She seems a most assiduous wife."

"Wife!" rejoined Sainsbury, with a motion of the lip that might have been a smile, but for the gravity of his other features—"she is not his wife."

"Wife, or friend then," I said, correcting myself.

"She is not his friend either."

"Well, his sister or relative."

"Neither sister nor relative—in fact," he said, "I don't think she is any thing to him."

"But the deuce is in it, man, you don't mean to say that she is not a most devoted friend who thus so closely, and at all hours, it appears to me, attends him and assists"——

"She does not assist him," again interrupted Sainsbury.

"I mean, shares his toil."

"She has no participation whatever in his business. Come," he said, rising and advancing to the window, "I see you are puzzled; nor are you the first who has been at fault respecting that extraordinary Pair. Just observe them for a moment," and he threw up the sash to afford me the means of glancing after them along the street; "you perceive that there is not the slightest communication between them. He has just stopped at that house, No. 50, and there stands the woman, rigid as a statue, only three yards behind him; now he has done and moves rapidly on—how exactly she follows! He stops[Pg 689] again, and see, she is motionless; now, he proceeds slowly across the street to that house with the lofty portico, but, slowly or quickly, there she is close at hand."

"How very odd!" I said; "they never speak."

"Speak! Watch him narrowly, and you will see he never for a single instant looks behind him. Here they come this way, on his return homewards. You hear the shout from those idle throngs that have just caught a glimpse of yonder balloon; you see that man never turns, never pauses, never looks up; he knows who is behind him, and hurries on. There, he has turned the corner, and, certain as his death, she has vanished in his footsteps. Singular—most singular!" he muttered to himself half musingly.

"But surely their home reconciles them?"

"They don't live together! On the contrary, I believe, they dwell far asunder; and we of this neighbourhood, who have seen them for years, have just as little cause to conclude that they are known personally to each other as you have, who have only beheld them once or twice."

"But this strange companionship, this existence of attraction and repulsion, which I have witnessed those two days, it surely does not always continue. You talk of years"——

"Yes, several years; and during that time the man has not been once missed from his business, nor ever found pursuing it unwatched or unattended by that woman, more constant, in truth, than his very shadow."

"Why, here is mystery and romance with a vengeance! ready made, too, at one's threshold, without having to seek it out in hall or bower. 'Tis a trifle low to be sure; had it been a shepherd and shepherdess it might do, but a milkman and a—may I say?—milkmaid."

"I assure you there is no quiz whatever in it. It is just as you see it and say it—a downright mystery, and one that, perhaps, will never be cleared up."

"I think the clue, my dear fellow, a very simple one—the woman is mad."

"Not a bit of it; she is perfectly rational; of intelligence, I am told, far beyond her apparent station in life—a little reserved, to be sure."

"Then he is a lunatic, and she his keeper—eh?"

"For that I refer you to the cook, and all of that respectable calling who transact business with the fellow. If he must be characterized by any one particular quality, I would say that there is far more of the villain than the fool about him."

"Pray, be kind enough," I said, "to tell me all you know respecting this curious Pair. I am really interested in them."

"In what I have said already," replied Sainsbury, resuming his seat, "I have told you all, or very nearly all, that I, or I believe any body else, knows of them. My little information is chiefly acquired from hearing the servants gossip about them; but I very well remember that, on the first appearance of the Pair in this vicinity, they excited a good deal of speculation and enquiry amongst every class in Walworth. It is now more than eight years ago since this man's predecessor—the purveyor, as he grandiloquently was wont to call himself, of milk to this large district—died. His dairies, which I fancy were lucrative things enough, were immediately sold, and taken by a person who, we were informed, would not only continue to supply Walworth with their produce, but, from motives of caprice or economy, would deliver it himself. Accordingly, the man you have seen pass this evening appeared; and all was uniform and punctual as before. In a few days, however, he came, attended by that mysterious female, dogged precisely as you have seen him an hour ago, and at once the heart of every cook and kitchen-maid in the parish was on fire with curiosity and suspicion. From the kitchen the contagion spread to the drawing-room, and commissions of enquiry, in the shape of tea-parties, were held in every house relative to the strange milk-vender and his stranger shadow. To those who asked him any questions on the matter, and very few ventured to do so—for his manner, though civil, had reserve and sullenness, and there was in his deportment a decent propriety,[Pg 690] that repulsed, or rather prevented, enquiry—he usually answered that he 'knew nothing of the woman who followed him;' 'that he dared to say it was from some whim;' 'that she was welcome to do so if she pleased;' 'she had the same right of highway as any other person,' and suchlike evasive replies."

"But his companion—I should rather say, his attendant—from her sex, she would, at least, be something more communicative?"

"Not at all. She was very seldom spoken to upon any subject. She kept aloof from all who seemed disposed to be inquisitive; and if she ever came within range, as the sailors say, of a question, she never gave an intelligible, or at least satisfactory, answer. Besides, as she was never seen save in the track of him whom she lives but to pursue, her own sex have had no opportunity of conciliating her into an acquaintanceship, and their patience and curiosity have long consumed themselves away."

"Then, after all, it may be only the whim of an eccentric woman that leads her thus to persecute an inoffensive, industrious person?"

"I cannot think so. I am persuaded there is some peculiar occurrence in their past lives that has thus mysteriously associated them—some conscious secret that, by its influence, draws them forcibly into contact. What the nature of this strange sympathy may be, I cannot form the least idea."

"Has no one attempted to unriddle it before now?"

"Not with any prospect of success. Of course there have been a thousand conjectures. Among the lower orders of people, the prevalent opinion is, that the woman once possessed a large sum of money, out of which this Maunsell (for such is his name) contrived to cheat her; and that she has ever since haunted him, as they very appropriately term it. But this offence I am inclined to think infinitely too light a one to draw upon him the grievous punishment which has been so many years inflicted on him. One of our neighbours, Rochfort, a very matter-of-fact sort of man, not at all given to the marvellous, asserts, that he witnessed by accident what he is sure was the first meeting of the Pair after the man's arrival in this quarter. It was late in the evening; Rochfort was standing, he says, in the shadow of a gateway that breaks up the long blank wall of a large timber-yard that belongs to him, at some distance from this, and which skirts a lonely and unfrequented road leading to Kennington. He is positive there was not a human being but himself within sight or hearing, when he perceived the milkman coming along by the wall, his footsteps echoing loudly up the dusty path. Not choosing to encounter a stranger at the moment in such a spot, my friend withdrew further into the shadow of the gateway. The man, in passing it, happening to drop some pieces of money from his hand, stooped to recover then; and while so engaged, a female, who, Rochfort asserts, must have risen out of the earth on the instant, suddenly appeared standing at the searcher's side, perfectly motionless, and muffled in those dark funereal garments that have since been so familiar to our eyes. On lifting his head the man perceived her, started, but, my informant says, it was more the subdued start of one accustomed to face horror, than the overwhelming dismay of a person terrified for the first time: he folded his arms, as if endeavouring to collect himself, but his whole frame shook convulsively. He was about to speak, when a noise of workmen approaching up the archway stopped him, and, turning away, he hastened on—that dark spectral woman gliding noiselessly after him."

"Perhaps," I said, with a forced laugh—for, despite of myself, the story was exciting my imagination as well as curiosity—"she really is a visitant from another world."

"There are not wanting those who say so," replied my friend; "but however ghost-like her mission and appearance may be, I believe there is no doubt that as yet she is a denizen in the flesh."

"And this Pair—where and how do they reside?"

"The man lives at his dairies, a considerable way from here, and although he has, I am told, an extensive establishment, never goes out but on his daily business. He is of[Pg 691] a serious, methodistical disposition, and, I understand, affects devotional reading a good deal; yet he is never seen at a place of worship. He is unmarried, nor does any relative or companion reside with him. The woman—it is hardly known where she lives; in some miserable lonely room far away, buried in the heart of one of those dismal courts that lurk in the outlets of London, her way of life and means of support equally unknown, the one object of her existence palpable to all—to come forth at the grey of daybreak in winter and summer, in storm or shine, and seat herself at a little distance from that man's abode, until he makes his appearance: when he was passed her, to rise, to follow, to track him through the livelong day with that unflagging constancy poets are fond of ascribing to unquenchable love, which the early Greeks attributed to their impersonations of immortal Hate."

"Surely the wild and doubtful surmises that those circumstances have raised in people's minds must have had an injurious effect on Maunsell's business?"

"Not at all; on the contrary, I think it has assisted it. Every neighbourhood loves to have a mystery of its own, and we, you must confess, have got a superlative one. The man has been found scrupulously honest, regular, and exact in his dealings; and were we to lose him now, and get a mere common-place person to succeed him, half the housewives of Walworth would perish of inanition. And now," said Sainsbury, rising, "That I have imparted to you all I know respecting the milkman and his familiar, let us to the drawing-room and seek some coffee."


Chapter II.

The night that followed this conversation was to me a most uncomfortable one. The episode in the day's occurrences had made so deep an impression on me, that it excluded all other thoughts from my mind, which it occupied so intently, that, upon retiring to my chamber, several hours elapsed before I sought repose. I did so at last, but in vain. Between the fever attendant upon my indisposition, and the irksomeness of frame caused by mental inquietude, sleep was completely banished from my eyelids, or visited them only in short and broken slumbers, peopled by the distorted images of my waking thoughts. The mysterious Pair were again before me. I saw them gliding through the long street, the man hastening on in that attitude, so strikingly described by Coleridge, like one

"Who walks in fear and dread;
And having once turn'd round, walks on,
And turns no more his head,
Because he knows a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread"—

the woman keeping on his track with the constancy of Doom. Or I was standing a witness to their first meeting in the grim Dark on that lonely road, their eyes of hate and fear staring wildly into each other. Sometimes I found myself spellbound between the two, the centre upon which their fearful sympathies revolved, the object upon which their long pent-up passions were about to burst. Starting from those visions, my waking fancies were hardly less tormenting. I was just at that season of youth, before the calmer and nobler faculties have acquired maturity and tone; when incidents that vary but little from the ordinary economy of life, seen through the medium of the imagination, assume a magnitude of distinctness not properly their own. On the present occasion, however, my friend's recital was well calculated to arouse the speculations of a romantic fancy; and mine was now fully employed in forming a thousand conjectures in elucidation of the curious circumstances he had repeated to me. What could be the relation between those strange parties? Was it attachment in the one and aversion in the other? Or had one, as was commonly supposed, been the plundered victim—the other the Despoiler? Neither of these cases could be so. A petty office of police would have relieved the persecuted—a court of law would have redressed the rob[Pg 692]bery. Monomania had been known to instigate persons to a line of conduct as perseveringly painful as this woman pursued; but then there could be no motive why the object of her attention should, for years, resign himself to a system of annoyance that drew upon him so much of remark and obloquy. Or could the female be the hired instrument of persecution in the hands of others? The poverty, the utter joylessness of her solitary life, precluded the supposition. No! crime, I felt convinced—crime was at the bottom of it all! and crime, too, of no ordinary quality. Was the man intent upon committing some deadly offence against society? and was it to prevent its commission that he was so assiduously watched by his companion? Perhaps he meditated breaking that instinctive canon which the Most High has so wisely fixed against "self-slaughter." Or had some hideous deed already been perpetrated? Was it by one, or both? or was one a soul black with guilt—the other a spirit of innocence? The more I indulged in those heated fancies, the wilder they became. Was the woman, after all, a Being endowed with vitality? The suddenness of her first appearance before the man watching at the gate—the fearful hour—the lonely spot—her noiseless tread—her silent demeanour—her sepulchral dress—almost warranted the contrary opinion. Had she fallen by the hand of this Maunsell? and was the apparition, which we are told ever lives by the side of the murderer, thus permitted to haunt him, embodied before the eyes of men? Such were the troubled thoughts that disturbed me throughout the night. Long before sunrise I was up, endeavouring to calm the fever into which I had wrought myself, by pacing my apartment in the cool of morning. A brilliant sunshine ushered in the day, and under its enlivening influence my perturbed spirits gradually subsided to their usual tone. At breakfast, I confess, I was disposed again to enter on the topic, if an opportunity occurred; but Sainsbury, occupied in some letters of importance that had arrived, talked but little, and did not recur to the subject of the previous evening. This did not assist to allay the interest which had been so powerfully excited in my bosom. The continuance of my cold once more served me as a plea for remaining within doors; and, upon our parting for the day, I did not hesitate to retire to the dining-parlour, whose windows looked directly on the street, and there, shutting myself up, I awaited the arrival of the hour at which the extraordinary pair generally appeared, determined to satisfy myself by a closer observation than I had hitherto made.

Exactly as noon sounded, I saw him stop at an opposite door, and—did I see rightly? Yes—alone. No; I had not approached sufficiently close to the window; when I did, she, too, was there, at the same slight distance behind, in the same silent, patient, motionless attitude. He went on, and, steady as his shadow, she pursued. I now resolved to see them still closer, and for that purpose proceeded to the hall-door, where I remained carelessly standing until the man approached it. I could observe that he walked at an even deliberate pace; and as he carried none of the cumbrous machinery distinctive of his craft, his step was steady and unimpeded. He was a low-sized, well-made man, probably somewhat more than forty years of age. He was neatly dressed; his attire being a suit of some of those grave colours and primitive patterns which find so much favour in the eyes of staid Dissenters, and persons of that class. Indeed, I could see by his whole deportment, that the occupation he pursued was one of choice, not of necessity. His features were regular, nor was there in his countenance any thing remarkable, except that it was pale and subdued, with a look of endurance which peculiar circumstances perhaps imparted to it. What I chiefly noticed, was an evident consciousness about the man that some disagreeable object lurked behind him; and when I caught his eye, which I did once or twice, I could see in its glance that he quite understood why my attention was directed to him. He did not utter a word in my hearing, and there was altogether in his appearance an air of depression and reserve which still further aided the impression Sainsbury's story had made on my imagination.[Pg 693] When he next paused, his short progress brought his attendant close to me—in every way a more striking and interesting person. She was a woman tall in stature, of an erect figure, finely proportioned, as well as the coarse mourning garments and large dark cloak in which she was muffled allowed me to judge. She must have been, in youth, very handsome; but on her thin ashen cheek premature age had already made unusual ravage. She could not, from the unbroken and graceful outline of her form, be much more than thirty; but her face was marked with the passionate traces of nearly double that period. Nothing of life I ever beheld exhibited the paleness—the monumental paleness of that face. On the brow, on the cheek, all was the aspect of the grave. Yet life—intenser life than thrills the soul of Beauty in her bridal bower, dwelt in the working of those thin compressed lips—lurked beneath those heavy downcast lids, burned in those dark wild eyes, whose flashes I more than once arrested ere she passed from before me. Writing at the interval of time I now do, and disposed as I am to deal severely with the fantastic imaginations of my youth, I have not in any way exaggerated the appearance this singular female exhibited. Should the reader suspect me of such an error, a moment's reflection will convince him that she who could—from whatever motive it might be—adopt the strange purpose to which she had devoted her solitary life, must have been characterized by energies of mind that would of necessity have filled and informed her frame, and imparted to her an air that altogether distinguished her from ordinary persons. I observed that she seemed wholly regardless of what was passing around her, appearing to be entirely absorbed in one great duty—the business of her existence—that of attending on the individual whose steps she so closely followed. He made no movement that, I thought, escaped her. Insensible, apparently, to every thing else, her glance showed that never for a moment did she cease to watch him, eager, my fancy suggested, to catch the slightest indication of his turning round and encountering her gaze. If so, her vigilance, as long as I beheld the Pair, was in vain. The man never ventured to look behind him. In half an hour they had vanished from the street.

They re-appeared in the evening again as usual, and then, and for several subsequent days, (for I did not feel well enough to undergo some twenty or thirty hours' sea-sickness in the packet that offered the Saturday after my arrival,) I took a morbid and eager pleasure in awaiting the visits and observing the motions of those inscrutable beings. Sainsbury and his son were amused, but not surprised, at the anxiety I evinced to obtain a nearer insight into Maunsell's history. My curiosity and vigilance were, however, fruitless. The Pair performed their revolutions with a cold uniformity, a silent perseverance, that I found sufficiently monotonous; and at length, after one or two baffled attempts to engage the man in conversation, and which never proceeded beyond a few common-place words, (about his companion there was a something indefinable that prevented me from ever addressing her,) I relinquished any further hope of penetrating the mystery. Towards the close of my stay, and as my indisposition wore away, the Sainsburys complimented me by giving one or two dinner-parties, and these, with some morning visits and rambles with the men I met at the house, served to draw my attention from the matter; so that by the time I had fairly embarked on board the Blitzen, bound for Helvoetsluys, the circumstances which had occupied me so intently for the last fortnight were beginning to take their place among the remembrances of the past.


Chapter III.

The passage to the Dutch coast, and my journey onward to Heidelberg, were performed without interruption, and were unenlivened by any incident that deserves relating. As it is not my intention to dwell upon the[Pg 694] vicissitudes of my career at the high school and university, I shall merely say that, attending very little to the conventional and arbitrary distinctions by which the students of Germany choose to classify themselves—caring still less for chores, brand-foxes, and Burschenschafft, and nothing at all for noisy suppers and their drunken refrain

"Toujours fidèle et sans souci
C'est l'ordre du Crambambuli!"—

I very earnestly bent myself to second the intentions of my father. For three years, diligently and indefatigably, I pursued a course of severe application to long-neglected studies, which enabled me fairly to redeem the time I had squandered in early youth. Nor is it unworthy of remark, that, as is often the case with imaginative people, the temptations which had appeared so inviting when beheld from a distance, failed in their powers of allurement on a nearer approach. The Spirit of the Brocken and I made no advances in intimacy, and I rode through the Black Forest without a desire to enroll myself amongst its freebooters.

The fourth year of my stay at Heidelberg was drawing to a close, when, in pursuance of arrangements entered into with my father, I returned to England. Upon reaching London, I drove to my kind friends at Walworth, where I experienced the same ready welcome as before, accompanied by many congratulations upon my academical success, of which they had heard from time to time from my family. It was the middle of winter—the second or third week in December—when London exhibits all that joyous bustle of plenteousness and good cheer, amidst which its citizens celebrate the festival of Christmas. As Mrs Sainsbury and her daughters were now at home, I was easily prevailed on to prolong my visit for a few days before I departed for Lincolnshire. The moment I entered the house, the rooms and their associations recalled to me forcibly the mysterious Pair, whose proceedings had filled my mind with so much of curiosity and interest when I was last a sojourner in the abode. During my residence in Germany I had not forgotten them; and although the austerity of my pursuits in that country had schooled my fancy to a soberer pace, I could not forbear from enquiring, in one or two letters which I had occasion to write to the younger Sainsbury, whether the milkman of Walworth and his Shadow still pursued their rounds uninterrupted, or if any thing had transpired that could enlighten our conjectures on their history. My correspondent always neglected, or forgot, to satisfy me in this particular; and it was therefore with something, I am ashamed to say, nearly approaching to anxiety, that on the morning after my arrival—for the gay variety of the social circle had monopolized my attention until then—I once more, after so long an interval, seated myself in the library window, under pretence of seeking a passage in Herder, which I had quoted for Julia Sainsbury the preceding evening, and awaited the hour of noon.

And there, before the clock of the neighbouring church had ceased striking, with the selfsame step, in the same subdued attire in which I saw him four years ago, came gliding up the street the dark, sullen milkman; and there, too, close behind him as ever, followed his shadowy companion! It is in vain to deny it. I could feel my heart beating audibly when I beheld them, as if they were unsubstantial visitants, whose appearance I expected the grave would have interdicted from my eyes for ever. It was a dim, bitter, wintry day, and showers of sleet were drifting heavily on the fierce and angry wind, soaking the man's garments through and through, and sweeping aside the thin habiliments of the female, as though they would tear them from her slender form, and leave it a prey to the keen wrath of the elements. Yet the Pair passed upon their way, seemingly regardless of weather that had banished all other creatures from the streets. As they stopped beneath the window where I sat, I scrutinized them eagerly, to see whether time, or toil, or the terrors of such winters as that now raging, had wrought the work of ruin I would have expected in their frames. In that of the woman there was but little alteration. She[Pg 695] was thinner and paler perhaps, and the poorness of her dress betokened no doubt an increase in her sufferings and privations; but her glance, when I could catch it, had more of fiery blackness: her mouth more of compressed determination than when I formerly beheld her. But in Maunsell there was a striking change: his figure was stooped, his cheek hollow, his eye sunk; in a word, his aspect now bore the signs of that mental misery which, on an earlier occasion, I had looked for in one subjected like him to such long, and steady, and undying persecution. Mournful beings! I internally exclaimed, as they proceeded from my sight, whatever sinful sorrow thus serves to link together your discordant existences, it must indeed be of a damning nature, if such a career as yours does not go far to expiate it!

That day, on the re-assembling of the family, I did not fail to allude to the subject of the milkman, and to express my surprise at his tenacity to life, as well as at the fixedness of purpose that enabled him to pursue his occupation through a long series of years, under such remarkable circumstances. I found, however, that the ladies only smiled at the interest which my manner exhibited; some of them assuring me, at the same time, that the neighbourhood was now so accustomed to the matter, that, although calculated to arrest the attention of a stranger, to them it had ceased to be either a source of curiosity or enquiry. I believe they added, that of late the man's health had begun to fail, and that once or twice, when he happened to be confined from indisposition, his companion's visits were interrupted by the occurrence, although she still kept her vigilance in exercise by watching unremittingly for his re-appearance.

After a few pleasant days passed in London, I proceeded to Lincolnshire, and had the happiness of finding my family well when I arrived at home. My father was quite satisfied with the letters I conveyed from Professor Von Slammerbogen; my mother delighted to receive me in any character, whether that of pedant or prodigal. Nicholas, my elder brother, I found as much attached, as when I left him, to practising "Dull Care", upon the violin. In Tom, however, there was a considerable modification, he having left his sinister arm at Hougomont, in exchange for a three months' campaign in country quarters and a Waterloo medal. In the following term I entered at Cambridge, as my father had originally planned; and in due time, upon obtaining my degree, was admitted into holy orders. My first curacy, it is singular enough, was obtained through the influence of our friend the Walworth banker, and was that of St ——'s, in his neighbourhood, but nearer to town, and the centre of a poor but densely peopled district. The scene of life I now entered upon was truly laborious and painful. Resolved to perform its duties diligently to the best of my ability, I found every moment I could spare from refreshment and sleep hardly sufficient for the claims which the Comfortless, whom I had to console, the Sick, whom I had to succour, the Profligate, to reclaim, the Sceptic, to convince, made upon my time. Wholesome and profitable to my spirit, I trust, was this discipline! It seems to me a thing inexplicable, how a man can advocate the interests, the benefits of religion—can impress upon others the divine precepts of Christianity, and be himself not a partaker in the blessings he imparts. Such a one, I hope, I have long ceased to be; and although I do not profess to have attained that degree of zealous fervour and devotion, which sees, in the light and graceful relaxations of life nothing but the darkness and allurements of sin, I humbly believe I have endeavoured to make my course, as much as in me was possible, conformable to the doctrines I have taught.

Upon settling in London, I gladly renewed my acquaintance with the Sainsburys; yet so arduous were the duties of my profession, that, for the first two years in which I resided in St ——'s parish, I saw but little of this amiable family. Towards the close of that period, the aid of an additional curate, appointed to assist in the district, afforded me a little more leisure time, and I was enabled occasionally to spend an evening at Walworth. In passing to and from my friend's house, I now and then[Pg 696] met, and ever with renewed interest and surprise, the dark Pair still plodding their melancholy, interminable rounds. The last time I beheld them, I remember calculating, as they passed me, the number of years they had been thus incomprehensibly associated, and speculating on how many more should elapse before age and death terminated that melancholy partnership. In about two months after, I dined at the banker's, and the first intelligence with which John Sainsbury greeted me, was the news that the milkman of Walworth and his companion had at length disappeared. Maunsell, he said, had died some weeks before, after a couple of days' illness. No one seemed to know of what disorder—general debility, it was thought; no doctor had been called in; and not having left a will, his property went to some distant relative. With respect to the woman, she was last noticed, the evening of his death, sitting in the usual spot—within sight of the gateway leading to his house—where she generally awaited his appearance. She was not there the following morning; nor was she seen again. As the deceased had made no disclosure respecting her, nor left any papers that could tend to explain their connexion, all chance, it was concluded, of clearing up the mystery was at an end for ever. I confess this disappointed me not a little. I found I had, whenever the strange Pair occurred to my recollection, unconsciously entertained a conviction that I should, at some period or other, learn their history; and now that all opportunity of so doing had vanished, the fancies of my early youth again returned, and occupied me with their wild suggestions for a longer time than was either pleasing or justifiable. The coincidence, however, which had brought me so often into contact with those singular persons, was not fated as yet to discontinue.


Chapter IV.

It was, I think, about half a year from this period, that, in returning late one evening from the neighbourhood of Russell Square, where my father, during a short visit he was compelled to make to town, had taken lodgings, I missed my way, and got entangled in the intricacies of the numerous narrow streets and alleys that lie between that quarter of London and the eastern end of Holborn. Intending to avail myself of some of the public conveyances homewards, I had attempted to shorten my passage to the great thoroughfares, and in doing so had thus gone astray. As it was past ten o'clock I was necessarily hurried, and yet the heat and heaviness of the night—it was July—prevented me freeing myself as rapidly as I should otherwise have done from the squalid and disagreeable avenues in which I had got entangled. I was just pausing to enquire my way of a slatternly-looking woman, who stood considerably in front of the door of a dirty-looking house in one of the dirtiest lanes I had yet explored, and who, with an apron thrown round her shoulders, to supply, it seemed to me, the absence of their appropriate garments, appeared, from the direction of her looks, to be awaiting some one's arrival, when a lad hastened up the opposite side of the alley, and breathlessly announced to her, that "the docther wouldn't come 'thout he first got his fee."

"Holy Mary, mother of ——! Oh, wisha, what am I to do!" exclaimed the woman in a strong Irish accent, with that elision of apostrophe into complaint peculiar to her country.

"If she goes on this way till mornin', two men wouldn't hould her, let alone one colleen.[1] Run, Micky, to the 'seer, an' let him get her to the hospiddle, or my heart 'll be broke from her."

"How dove I know where the 'seer lives at this hour o' the night?" expostulated the boy.

[Pg 697]"There's a wake in Tim Reilly's second floor—can't you go there, and they'll tell you—can't you?"

The messenger disappeared, and I now, before putting the question for which I had stopped, asked the woman soothingly the cause of her perturbation.

"Is it what's the matther, sir? Matther enough thin—a poor crethur of a woman lodgin' with me is took very bad with the fever. She wasn't to say so bad entirely till this evenin', when she begin to rave, and 'sist upon gettin' up; an' goin' on with terrible talk, that it would frighten the heart o' you to hear her."

"How long," I said, "has she been ill?"

"Wisha, sir, she was never well since the day she darkened my dure; but I think 'tis the heat o' the weather, an' her never stirrin' out, an' the weakness entirely, an' the impression on her heart, that is killin' her now."

"And has she had no advice?"

"Sorrow the 'vice—you'd think she'd go into fits when I mentioned a docther to her; and as to a priest or a ministher—my dear life, I might as well mention a blunderbush."

Well accustomed to hear of, and witness, such suffering as the woman described, I was about to proceed in quest of a physician myself, if she had paused in the first part of the sentence just finished. The concluding remarks arrested me.

"I am a clergyman," I said; "will you let me see this poor person?"

"An' a thousand welcomes, sir. I know you're not the Revern' Misthur Falvey, that I goes to a' Christmas an' Easther—nor the ministher convenient here. Maybe you're"——

"I'm quite unknown here; but by allowing me to see your patient, I shall be able to judge if she is in a fit state to be removed to an hospital; or, if instantly necessary, I shall myself procure medical advice for her."

The woman entered the house and I followed her, waiting, as she requested me, in the dark entry, until she procured from the sick chamber the only light that I presume was burning in the dwelling. She then re-appeared at the head of the stairs, and requested me to ascend.

Lighting me up four ruinous flights of steps, leading to rooms that appeared to be tenanted by beings as miserable as herself, she ushered me into an apartment of such large dimensions that the weak rushlight she carried left its extremity in absolute darkness. It was wretchedly furnished. At the farthest end from the door was a bed, by the side of which stood a coarse-looking girl about fifteen, engaged in preventing—now by soothing, now by forcible restraint—the invalid who occupied it from attempting to rise.

"Not another moment—not one moment longer! I must get up—he is waiting for me! See! I am late already, for 'tis daybreak—though you cannot see the dawn through that dismal rain. Let me go—wretch, wretch!—let me go; he shall not stir one step that I won't be near him to remind him of"——

Leaving the candle near the door, my guide approached the bed, and beckoned me to follow. I advanced, and even through the misty shadows that enveloped the place, I recognised, in the emaciated Form struggling on the couch, her wild flashing eyes now wilder with fever and insanity, the well-remembered wanderer who had so often excited my interest in Walworth.

"Ha!" she continued, after stopping suddenly, as lunatics will do when a stranger unexpectedly appears, and intently observing me for some minutes. "Ha! I knew I was late—see there. He has come to seek me, for the first time, too, for seventeen—eighteen-oh! so many long years. Ha, ha! all in black, too—Barnard—and you've brought your wealthy bride"—and she glanced at the woman, who stood beside me; "but, faugh, how her limbs rattle—not a whole bone," she said, with a hysterical laugh, "in her beautiful body!"

In this way she continued to rave, during the short time I remained in the apartment. I attempted to ask her a few questions, to ascertain, if possible, how far the distraction of her mind was consequent upon her disorder; but her only replies were mad and incoherent allusions to past scenes and occurrences, that seemed entirely to engross her attention. Finding my presence of no avail, I[Pg 698] quitted the place, and was about to deposit a small sum with the hostess for the sufferer's use, when she very ingenuously informed me it was not at the moment necessary, that person herself having always, in the payment of her weekly rent, entrusted to her hands money sufficient to supply the wants of several ensuing days.

"An' though we're sometimes bad enough off, sir, when the boys don't get the work at Mr Cubitt's, still, shure, if I was to wrong a poor sickly crethur like that of her thrifle of change, 'twould melt away the weight o' myself in goold if I had it."

I could not help smiling at this unwonted display of honesty in so unexpected a quarter, and promising her that such care and attention to her sick tenant should not go unrewarded, I departed, escorted by "Micky," who had returned to say that no intelligence of the 'seer was to be obtained at Tim Reilly's. On making our way into Holborn, I called at the nearest surgeon's, and, giving him my address, I dispatched him back with the boy, directing him, at the same time, not to allow the woman to be removed unless her disorder was a contagious one, (which, I was persuaded, it was not,) and requesting, should the aid of a physician be necessary, he would at once procure it, for which, with all other expenses, I would be answerable. Touching this latter point, the lad had informed me as we came along, that he did not think their lodger was at all at a loss for money, as she procured it about once a-month, he thought, (the only time she ever went abroad,) from some "gentleman's office in the coorts."

Although living at such a distance, I contrived to see the unfortunate invalid several times in the following week. I found I was right as to the nature of her disorder. An eminent physician had been called in once or twice during its most violent paroxysms, and stated, that it was likely her malady was not the cause, but the consequence, of some extraordinary mental excitement. Under the judicious treatment he pointed out, the fever gradually subsided, and for a short time there was an appearance in the patient of returning convalescence. But her physical energies were exhausted, and it was evident that a very short period would terminate her existence. Reason, too, never wholly resumed its functions, if indeed it had ever of late years exercised them in that wearied brain. Her ideas assumed a certain degree of coherency. She was able to converse occasionally with calmness, to recognise faces familiar to her, and appeared sensible of and even grateful for my visits, and the assiduity with which I sought to awaken her to some preparation for the great approaching change; but

"the delicate chain
Of thought, once tangled, never clear'd again:"

never wholly cleared. The lightning of insanity flashed continually from the heavy cloud that hung upon her soul. The allusions, too, she was in the habit of making to some transactions of bygone years, were of so startling a nature, that I was fully confirmed in my early impression she had been at one time of her life implicated in some wonderful, nay, heinous occurrence. Upon this point it was my intention, if possible, to win her gradually to confide to me the secret of her guilt or wrongs, hoping by this means to relieve her spirit by seeming to share in its burdens and distress.

With the quick perception of persons labouring like her under mental aberration, she seemed to anticipate my purpose. I was one morning sitting by her bedside, when she suddenly began—

"You asked me yesterday if I remembered having ever seen you before this illness—this late attack—and I said no. It was false. I spoke as I thought at the time; but, in looking at you now, I recollect you were one of those people I often met at Walworth. I even think you once attempted to get into his confidence—(now, do not interrupt me.) You likewise desired to know why one like me, who appears superior in mind and language to the wretched class amongst whom you find her, should have led the life——Stay! send for a sheriff's officer, and I will tell you."

I assured her I saw no necessity at that moment for the presence of such a person; and, as she appeared some[Pg 699]what more excited than I had seen her for several days, I endeavoured to lead her away from the subject that occupied her, by turning the conversation to some indifferent topic. But it would not do. She still reverted to the point at which she had broken off; and I was at length obliged to let her pursue the course of her own thoughts as she pleased.

"Did you ever think me handsome? Many once thought me so; but that is long ago. My father was still handsomer. He was the younger of two brothers, both wealthy. They were plain Devonshire farmers—each, too, was a widower, with each a daughter. So far for their likeness to one another. Now for the contrast. My father spent his wealth, died, and left me a beggar. Her's (my pretty cousin Martha's) saved it, and left his child an heiress—a Temptation—a prize for all the bumpkins and graziers about us. I was glad to live with her. We kept house together. We were both of an age—young, handsome, lively, and for our station, or rather for a higher one, well educated. Here again ceased the resemblance. Like my father, I was open, guileless, unsuspecting—and it destroyed me. She was mean, cunning, treacherous, and would—but hell was too strong for her—have triumphed. My cousin had numerous offers of marriage. I had none. Among several young men who frequented our society, was a substantial farmer named Barnard. You have seen him. When you first beheld him he was little altered. He had ever that cursed look of Cain upon his forehead, though I branded it a little deeper. Do not thus stop me!—breath!—I have breath enough. Barnard was gay, smooth, agreeable—what was more, he was my suitor—the only one amid throngs that was attentive, kind, obliging to me. I felt first grateful, and next loved him—you shall hear how well.

"Our match began to be talked of. Martha from some whim disapproved of it. He ceased to visit at the house—but I would not give him up; and while he contemplated, as I thought, arrangements for our marriage, we often met alone. Judgment is over with him now—mine is at hand, and I will not load him with guilt that, after all, may not be his. He was the only being that cared for me on earth, and I clung to him with a tenfold affection. How do I know but it was this mad confidence that first awoke the villain in his soul? That wine"—

I held the glass to her lips; and, while I wiped the damp drops of agony from her brow, I besought her to defer the sequel of her story until she was more capable of pursuing it.

"No," she said; "it must be now, or not at all. I am stronger than I have been for months to-day. Where was I?—Stealing back day after day to Martha's, a trampled, but not an unhoping spirit; for I still looked forward to his fulfilling his promise. He once more was a visitor at our house. I did not know why—I did not care—he was there, and I was satisfied: I had no eyes for any thing else. But the blow was coming. It fell—it smote us all to dust.

"I was one morning occupied alone in some domestic duty, when I heard Barnard's name pronounced by two female servants of our farm, who were employed in the next apartment. I listened—poor souls! they were merely agreeing 'how natural it was for Mr Barnard to have jilted Miss—(but let my very name be unpronounced)—and taken up with Miss Martha, who had all the fortune.' Was it not a natural remark? So natural, that every being in the country had already made it but her whose heart it broke to hear it. I rushed from the spot, a mist spreading before my eyes as I hastened on. I sought out Barnard; I found him, and alone. I told him of the report I had overheard. He said it was not new to him. I charged him with perfidy—he avowed it. Half-dreaming, I attempted to catch his hand. He coolly withdrew it. I knelt before him—I clasped his knees—I wept, and prayed he would bless me by treading me to death beneath his feet. He extricated himself with a laugh, bid me not be a fool, and left me.

"Before I rose from the spot where I had fallen, a dreadful shadow passed, as it were, suddenly across me, and some black passion I had never known till then took possession of my spirit.[Pg 700] It was jealousy. I returned home, and hastened to have an interview with Martha. Hitherto I had been of a quiet, timid disposition—I was now bold from frenzy and betrayed affection. I upbraided my cousin with duplicity, with meanness in receiving the addresses of the man betrothed to her relative. She retorted by drawing comparisons between our attractions, personal as well as pecuniary. At these I smiled—bitterly perhaps, but still I smiled. She scoffed at my pleas that Barnard was my affianced husband, declared her intention of marrying him, and ended by insinuating that I had lost him by the very unguardedness of my affection. I never smiled again.

"I was mad from that day forward. My whole existence changed. I was a dissembler—a liar—for my life was a long lie—and, come near—I am a murderer. I lived blindly on—a day was fixed for their marriage—but, though I knew not how it was to be—I knew another would never stand at the altar as his bride.

"She and I had apparently been reconciled—I saw Barnard no more, save in her presence—I lulled them both into a belief that I was a poor, trodden, and stingless thing.

"The Sunday preceding the wedding-day arrived. It was a lovely evening in summer, and Martha and he and I wandered far away into the fields—they to taste the freshness of nature, I, to wonder the flowers did not wither beneath our tread; for we were all alike evil and abandoned. In our way, we visited a mill that was soon to become the property of Barnard in right of his bride. In passing through the different lofts into which it was divided, we paused in one to admire the immense and complicated machinery connected with the great wheel that worked the manufactory. Martha, ever capricious and perverse, wished to see the engine set in motion. But there was not a servant—not a creature, save ourselves—within a mile of the spot at the moment. Barnard, however, volunteered to go to the mill-dam outside, and, on a signal from us, to undo the wicket that kept back the waters from the wheel. I watched him from the window till he took his station at the spot. Just then Martha, who, with perverse inquisitiveness, had been standing caged within the iron framework of the engines, in hastening to leave it missed her footing, and stumbled backward again within its circle. A streak as of fire flashed through the place. I waved my hand; there was the sudden rush of tumbling water, a faint shriek, and then the roar and thunder of the enormous wheels hurrying on, grinding and tearing her to pieces. And then came the horrorstruck look of Him, crying out to Heaven in his vain impotency, and my own mad laughter, ringing high over it all!

"His consternation and despair—his wild attempts to stay the progress of the crashing machinery—his wrath at my exultation—only raised me to a higher state of frenzy—that frenzy of heart and brain that never went from me more. I hollowed in his ear how I had done it—and when he flung himself on the ground in a passion of remorse and grief, I danced round him, proclaiming my hate and guilt, and summoning him to give me up to justice. It was now his turn to quiver under the lash of conscience. He accused himself of the ruin I had wrought—acknowledged his falsehood—cried aloud for mercy—and still I exulted with a fiercer laughter, with a louder demand that he would give me to the gibbet. He endeavored to fly from the spot. I pursued him. I never left him again. There was a long illness—a blot upon my memory. I cannot tell you any thing of its duration. Her remains were found—there was an enquiry—he was the only witness—he kept our secret. On my recovery, I found he had sold his property, and departed to some distant quarter in the north of England. I tracked him there. I had vowed to haunt his soul with the memory of my crime, until he surrendered me to justice. He sought to shun me, by changing his name and removing from one place of residence to another; but in vain. My revenge was as hard and cruel as his own look on the morning, in his orchard, when he spurned me fainting from his feet. Go where he would, I pursued. At last he settled near London—in that place where you first beheld us. You know the rest of our career. If guilt can be atoned[Pg 701] for by human suffering—the wrath of years—the raging wind—the scorching sun—ruined youth—premature age—privation, misery, madness, and hate, have well atoned for ours. You shake your head. It is not so? Well, you were the first to teach me to vent my burning thoughts in prayer. Pray with me now. I seem to have lived all my evil passions over again in this last hour. Do not leave me yet, but—pray!"

Such was the disastrous tale imparted to me in almost the last interview I had with its hapless narrator. Either the recollections she had lived through, as she said, in so short a space, or the exertions caused by its recital, were too much for her enfeebled intellect. Delirium shortly after returned, and continued to within a few hours of her dissolution, which occurred on the evening of the following day. I was present when she expired. She instructed me where to find the agent, who paid her a small stipend derived from a distant relative, (to whom, by her uncle's will, his property descended,) that I might apprise him of her death. She was quite sensible at the awful moment; and there is still a hope mingled with the melancholy remembrance that her last entreaty to me was—to "pray!"


The miseries of the Irish people, and the oppressions under which they groan, form the topics of conversation in every quarter of the globe—you hear of them at Rome and at Constantinople—they are discussed on the prairies of Texas and in the wilds of the Oregon—in Paris and at Vienna you are bored by their constant repetition. The "smart" American contributes his dollars, and the "pious Belgian"[2] his prayers, to effect their redress; and they have fairly driven from the field of compassion all sympathy for the plundered Jews and persecuted Poles. The restless Frenchman speculates on them as the certain means by which England may be humiliated; and impatiently awaits the moment when, under the guidance of the young De Joinville, fifty thousand of "les braves" may be thrown on the coast of Ireland, and take advantage of the national disaffection, for the double purpose of mortally wounding his ancient enemy, and of giving, as a boon to its oppressed inhabitants, that liberty of which he talks so much and knows so little. Doubtless the sufferings of this patient people have, before now, drawn tears from the sensitive eyes of "the brother of the sun;" and the "sagacious and enlightened Lin" has already suggested to his celestial master the propriety of dispatching some of his invincible war-junks to effect the liberation of the degraded slaves of the "red and blue devils" who have so cruelly annoyed him. Every one has heard, and every one talks, of Irish grievances; but no one seems to know exactly what those grievances are: their existence appears to be so unquestionable, that to dispute it is not only useless but almost disreputable; and yet if one venture to enquire of those who declaim most loudly against them wherein they consist, they limit themselves to generalities, and quote the admitted state of the country as proof positive of English injustice and Saxon misrule.

That the inhabitants of distant countries should believe what they hear so constantly asserted, cannot be a matter of much surprise; nor that the enemies of England and of order should credit what it suits their inclinations to believe; but that those who live close to the scene of such grievous inflictions—that those who are the [Pg 702]fellow-subjects of the oppressed, and who may be said to be the instruments whereby those enormities are perpetrated—should take for granted all they hear stated, without endeavouring to discover the truth of those assertions or the extent of their own culpability, does seem to us almost incredible. Yet so it is. Irish grievances are now in fashion. The most glaring fabrications are swallowed with anxiety if they only profess to be recitals of Irish sufferings; and the British people seem ready to yield to the clamours of mendacious and designing demagogues, measures not only detrimental to the interests of the country for whose welfare they profess so much anxiety, but absolutely ruinous to the glory and the power of their own.

We will not stop here to discuss the benefits which we are told would accrue to the Irish nation from the success of a measure which never can be carried while Ireland holds loyal subjects, or Britain has an arm to wield; but we shall at once proceed to ascertain if those glaring injustices, which make us the world's table-talk, really exist, and if the admitted misery of the Irish people can, with truth, be attributed to the unjust or partial legislation of the British Parliament.

We do not seek to deny, that the interests of Ireland have not been neglected or unfairly dealt by, in former times. With that we have nothing now to do; we take the existing state of things, and we maintain, and will, we trust, convince our readers, that instead of being oppressed or wronged by legislative enactments, Ireland is (as matters are at present managed) greatly favoured, and that instead of complaining of injustice, her inhabitants should be most grateful for the exemptions which are granted them, and for the fostering care which a Conservative government has extended, and is still anxious to extend to them.

In supporting our view of the case, we shall appeal to facts—facts which, if untrue, can easily be refuted; and first, we shall apply ourselves to the amount of taxation imposed on Ireland by the Imperial Parliament. The Irish people are exempt from every species of direct taxation! and their indirect taxes are not more than those to which the inhabitants of England and Scotland are subject. Thus, while the English and Scotch gentleman is taxed for his servants, his carriages, his horses, his dogs, and his armorial bearings—and, in addition, pays, in common with the trading and operative classes, his window-tax—the Irish gentleman and tradesman are totally free from all such imposts. And though, at first sight, this exemption would seem to benefit only the wealthier classes, still when we find, as is certainly the case, that it enables the Irish gentry to keep much larger establishments than men of similar fortune could attempt to do in this country; that consequently more persons are employed as servants; that it enhances the value of horses by increasing the demand for them; that it also greatly adds to the number of carriages used, and, of course, to the employment of the artisan—we must admit that it has no slight influence on the condition both of the tradesman and the agriculturist.

Ireland pays no income-tax! (at least no Irishman need pay it if he choose to reside at home;) for the Minister and the Parliament, so hostile to Irish interests, have only subjected the absentees to its operation; and we find, that in the year ending the 10th October 1844—

England and Scotland paid by assessed taxes,   £4,204,855
By income-tax,     5,158,470
  Total,   £9,363,325


While under those two heads, "injured, persecuted Ireland" paid not one shilling!

Thus we see, that a sum of over nine millions is annually levied from off the inhabitants of the "favoured" portions of the British empire, towards which "oppressed Ireland" is not called upon to contribute sixpence!

It may be said, those taxes only affect the wealthy, and it is not their grievances which call so loudly for redress; it is the burdens imposed on[Pg 703] the poor landholders which demand our attention.

We have, in a former Number of this Magazine, see Vol. lv. p. 638, shown that the rents paid for land in Ireland are at least one-third less than the rents paid in England; (but were it even otherwise, the right to dispose of property to the best advantage could not be by law interfered with.) In that article we stated, that in addition to his rent, the English occupier is subject by law to the payment of tithes, which in many instances amount to more than the entire rent imposed on the Irish tenant; and that by recent enactments, the payment of the Protestant church has been transferred from the Irish tenantry to the landlords, nine-tenths of whom are Protestants; that the English tenant pays all the poor-rates, while the Irish tenant is only called on to pay the half; and that while the former is subject to county and parochial rates, in addition to turnpikes, which are a heavy burden, the latter pays only the county cess, the amount of which depends very much on his own conduct. We cannot, then, discover that the Irish peasantry are subject to any pecuniary grievances which legislation has inflicted, or could remove; neither can we perceive any neglect of their interests evinced by the British Minister or the Saxon Parliament; but, on the contrary, we see that they have been specially protected by particular enactments against the payment of charges to which the occupiers of the other portions of the United Kingdom are still subject. If the Irish farmers set their faces against the commission of crime, instead of tacitly, if not openly, affording protection to the greatest delinquents, it is clear that the amount of the county cess, the only tax the tenant pays, might be greatly diminished; the constabulary force might be, under more favourable circumstances, reduced from nine thousand men (its present strength) to half that number; and if the people abstained from houghing the cattle or burning the houses of those who are obnoxious to them, the county rates would not amount to more than one-third of the sum at present levied. Thus, then, the amount of the only direct tax the peasantry have to pay, is mainly dependent on the peaceable condition of the country: if the people be orderly and obedient to the laws, its amount is reduced; if otherwise, and they have heavy assessments to pay, to reimburse those they have injured, no one is to blame for it but themselves. We would, then, ask any candid man, if it would be possible for any government to act more leniently towards Ireland as regards taxation? She is exempt from her proportion of the nine millions levied from the other portions of the United Kingdom; and many of the local assessments to which her inhabitants are subject, were, by special enactments, removed from the shoulders of the occupiers of the soil, and placed on those of the proprietors.

Thus, then, under the head of taxation, no injustice can be said to be committed.

The extent of the Irish representation, and the laws regulating the elective franchise, both in the cities and counties, form a prominent portion of Irish grievances; yet if the efficiency of the representation is to be judged by the influence which it exercises on the councils of the empire, or the registration laws be tested by the results which they have produced, the Irish have little reason to complain of either. The very exemption from taxation to the amount we have already stated, proves one of two things—either that the British minister and British representation are peculiarly partial to the interests of Ireland, (which would destroy the favourite doctrine of "English hatred and Saxon oppression;") or that the Irish representation is powerful enough not only to protect their constituents from injustice, but to secure them peculiar advantages. That the amount of representation already enjoyed by Ireland is at least sufficient for all constitutional purposes, cannot be doubted; for every one knows that by the Radical portion of it alone, an administration odious to the people of Great Britain, and rejected by their representatives, was for years kept in office, and that through its instrumentality both Whig and Tory ministers have been compelled to abandon measures which they believed to be beneficial, and which they brought forward in a spirit[Pg 704] of good feeling, and with a desire to promote the best interests of the country.

In the first Parliament elected under the Reform Bill, and after the system of registration now complained of came into operation, the Irish representation consisted of

Liberals,            74
Conservatives,   31

Now, when it is borne in mind, that beyond all question at least nine-tenths of the landed property of Ireland is possessed by the Conservative party, and that that party was able to secure to itself little more than a fourth of the representation, it must be admitted that numbers told, and that the mass was represented in a ratio beyond what the constitution contemplates. So far, then, as relates to the laws regulating the elective franchise, if they are to be judged of by the results which they produced, the Liberal party have nothing to complain of, and the Roman Catholics still less; of the Radical majority, they numbered thirty-five, or nearly one-half; and if eligible men could be had of their body, or if their leaders wished it, undoubtedly persons of their profession might have been returned in every instance in which liberal Protestants were seated. They had the power to effect this: if they abstained from using it, influenced either by good taste or motives of prudence, they still have no reason to complain of the law—it placed the power in their hands; their own discretion alone restrained its exercise.

The agitators proclaim that their number in Parliament has diminished, and that they have lost cities and counties, because the constituency has decreased under the "emaciating influence of the registration law." It is true the Irish constituency has diminished, and that the Destructives have lost many places; but the diminution in the constituency has not been caused by the state of the law—and this they know full well—but by the disinclination of the respectable portion of the people to make themselves any longer their tools! Under the law when first called into operation, the Radicals had an overwhelming majority. The same men who registered and voted in 1832 and in 1837, are generally still in existence—the same tenures under which they registered still continue—the same assistant barristers before whom they registered (or ones more favourable to their interests) still preside; it is clear, therefore, that if the people were inclined to claim the franchise, they have only to take the necessary steps to secure it—but they won't. They were persecuted between the priests and their landlords—they see the hollowness of the agitators, who used them for their own purposes, and then left them to ruin; and, as the surest way to avoid trouble, they don't register at all; the landlords not having any influence over their votes, and not wishing to quarrel with them, don't induce them to do so—and they have hitherto resisted the efforts of the country agents of the Corn Exchange. What man of sense would put himself upon the register, when he well knows that any deviation from the path pointed out to him by the priest, would not only entail curses and persecutions on himself, but insult and outrage on the innocent members of his family? Who would establish his right to vote, when he would be called on to exercise that right with his grave dug before his dwelling, and the death's head and cross-bones affixed to his door!!

The assertions of the agitators, that they have lost ground because the constituencies have been diminished by the operation of the laws regulating the possession of the elective franchise, is of a piece with all their other reckless falsehoods; but fortunately it is more easy of disproof. It does appear by parliamentary returns, that the Irish constituency has decreased, on the whole, in small degree; but it is rather curious and unfortunate for those truth-loving gentlemen, that, in every instance in which they have been beaten, the constituencies have greatly increased, and that they have only diminished in those counties in which their interest is all-powerful.[3] For instance, Antrim, in 1832, (when a Liberal was returned,) had on the register 3487 electors; and, in 1837, [Pg 705]when a Conservative was seated, 4079.[4]

Belfast, in 1832, when two Liberals were returned, had 1650; in 1841, when two Conservatives were elected, 4334.

Carlow, in 1832, when two Liberals were returned, had 1246; and in 1841, when the Tories beat O'Connell's own son, 1757.

Down had in 1832, when a Liberal was returned, 3130; and in 1837, when a Tory was substituted, 3305.

Dublin County had in 1832, when two Liberals were returned, 2025; and in 1841, when two Tories displaced them, 2820.

Dublin City had in 1832, when O'Connell was triumphantly returned, 7008; and in 1841, when he was beaten, 12,290.

Longford had in 1832, when two Liberals were returned, 1294; and in 1841, when one of them was displaced by a Tory, 1388.

Queen's County had in 1832, when one Liberal was returned, 1471; and in 1835, when two Conservatives were elected, 1673.

Thus we see, by unquestionable proof, that instead of being benefited by an increase of the constituencies, the cause of the Destructives has invariably suffered by their enlargement; and yet sure we are, that most persons on this side the water believe in the truth of the Liberator's lamentations, and suppose that those patriots who have been rejected by the votes of the most independent electors and largest constituencies in Ireland, have lost their seats solely because the names on the register had been greatly diminished, and the Liberal portion of the people deprived of their rights, by the "emaciating influence" of a bad law.

But if there be defects in the registry laws, who are to blame for their continuance? The "great grievance" connected with them of which Mr O'Connell complained, was, "that from the ambiguous wording of the act, some assistant barristers adopted the solvent tenant test," instead of "the beneficial interest test,"[5] which he and those who acted with him thought to be its legitimate construction. This unquestionably would make a vast difference to the claimant; and so thought Sir Robert Peel. He brought in a bill clearly establishing "the [Pg 706]beneficial interest test." And to remedy another objection founded on the fact of tenants at will in England having the right to vote, while the Irish law debarred persons similarly circumstanced, he proposed to give the franchise to all occupiers of certain quantities of land, merely from the fact of possession;[6] and yet Mr O'Connell was the first to denounce the measure! The agitators complain of defects in the law, and the minister agrees to amend them; the patriots claim for the Irish a full equality in the registration law granted to England, and more is conceded. When headed by their "august leader," they denounce the redress of those injustices of which they complained as "An additional insult," and they raise such a clamour because what they formerly asked for was about to be granted, that the minister was compelled to succumb, and the bill was withdrawn.

The next item in the catalogue of grievances is the municipal law. None has been more frequently or more forcibly dwelt on; its injustice, and tendency to exclude the "Liberal" inhabitants of the towns and cities of Ireland from local influence and political power, form prominent topics in the speeches of every patriot orator. Let us see with what justice.

It must be admitted that there is considerable Conservative property and respectability in the Irish corporate towns; and yet what has been the result of the elections under this municipal law so loudly declaimed against?—There are thirty-three corporations in Ireland, all of which, with one solitary exception, (that of Belfast,) are not only Liberal but downright Revolutionary. The number of the friends of order in the town-councils is so small, that they can accomplish nothing. Overwhelming majorities have voted addresses to the "convicted conspirators," and their mayors formed a deputation to present them, and proceeded in state to the "dungeon of the martyrs;" and yet this law, which lays the corporations of Ireland at the feet of O'Connell, forms "one of the greatest oppressions under which his devoted country groans." He has unlimited influence in all. What more would he have? what more could any law give him?

Men ought to have a little modesty; but the "Liberator" has gained so much by reckless assertion that he is justified in persevering in its practice. He has often said, that "he never knew any statement tell, or any argument, however powerful, attain the desired end, if only once repeated;" and on this principle he acts. He repeats and repeats again, in the teeth of contradiction and disproof, what he wishes to have believed; and the result shows the wisdom of his proceeding. Those who contradict soon get tired, while, by perseverance, he is left in full possession of the field.

It has been said that the Irish Roman Catholics have been debarred, by the unfair exercise of political patronage, from the attainment of those offices at the bar and in the administration to which they were rendered eligible by the Emancipation Act. The Whigs promoted three Roman Catholics—Mr Shiel, Mr Wyse, and Mr O'Ferrall; these gentlemen retired with their party, and if Sir Robert Peel offered them place to-morrow, they would, as a matter of course, refuse it. These are the only persons of their religion unpledged to "Repeal of the Union" at present in the House, who would have any claim on the score of abilities to official station; it surely cannot be expected that a Conservative minister would give power to men pledged to the dismemberment of the British empire, and the supporters of a measure which he has so unequivocally denounced; neither can it be supposed that any man would be such a fool as to place red-hot Repealers in the important office of stipendiary magis[Pg 707]trate, when the wishes of the government might be thwarted and the safety of the country compromised by their partisanship.

The Repealers admit their determination to accomplish the destruction of "Saxon rule" in Ireland, and at the same time modestly declaim against the Saxon government, because they will not give them power or confidential employment, by means of which they might more securely carry out their intentions. Sir Robert Peel has taken every occasion, to the great detriment and dissatisfaction of his steadfast supporters, to give place to such of the Roman Catholic party as were at all eligible; if the number of such persons be limited, the Roman Catholics themselves, and not the minister, are to blame.

As to the bar, the list of Roman Catholics was run out before he came to power. There was no one amongst them whose standing in his profession would have at all justified the minister in placing him on the bench; and he had men of his own party, distinguished for their acquirements, whose interests he could not overlook, whose claims were recognised even by Mr O'Connell himself, and whose conduct, since their promotion, has been unimpeachable.

The agitators cannot, in justice, blame him for having recourse to the Conservative bar, for when in trouble they sought protection from its ranks themselves. Except Mr Shiel, who was merely employed to make a speech, and whose legal knowledge was never insisted on by his friends; and Mr Precursor Pigott, who was retained lest a slur should be thrown on the Whigs—all the leading lawyers who conducted the defence in the "monster trial" were Protestants and Conservatives of the highest order.

But what has this much-abused minister done to conciliate Ireland since he came to office? He has nearly trebled the grant for national education, and still continues the system adopted by the Whigs and patronised by the priests, in opposition to a powerful and influential portion of his own supporters;—he found a board of charitable bequests composed altogether of Protestants, and seeing, as he stated, "that two-thirds of the property they had to administer was Roman Catholic," he dissolved that board and constituted another, in which the Roman Catholics have an equality, and may under certain circumstances have a majority;[7]—he found the mortmain laws in existence, and he repealed them; now any man who wishes may endow the Roman Catholic church to any extent he pleases. Yet these last concessions have been denounced by priests and bishops as an additional insult, as an unjustifiable and tyrannical interference with their rights. And why? Because Sir Robert Peel clogged the measure with the condition, that any testator so leaving property should have his will made and registered three months before his death. Because he wishes to protect the interests of the Roman Catholic laity, by securing them against the interference of the clergy when their relatives are at the point of death, he stirs the bile and rouses the indignation of ravenous and pelf-seeking ecclesiastics. He brought in a bill to remedy what was said to be the great defect in the registration laws, and it was not his fault that it was not carried; he proposed to extend the franchise, and he was denounced for doing so by the advocates of universal suffrage; he has promoted the formation of railways; he has issued a commission to enquire into the oppressions said to be perpetrated on their tenantry by the Irish landlords; and he has subjected Irish absentees to the payment of the property tax.

Whig promises "in favour of Ireland" were used by Mr O'Connell as arguments to procure the abatement of the Repeal agitation; although no man knew better than he did, that if his "base, brutal, and bloody" friends had even the inclination, they had not the power, to carry out their intentions. Tory promises of a still more conciliatory nature are used as a stimulus to its extension; al[Pg 708]though Mr O'Connell equally well knows that what Sir Robert Peel promises, his influence with the English people may probably enable him to accomplish. Ay, but that is just what the sagacious demagogue wishes to prevent. If his grievances were removed, the pretence for agitation would be destroyed. If there be real grievances, and if Mr O'Connell wished to have then redressed, why not attempt to do so? The ministry are willing to assist him—the public feeling and the opinion of Parliament are decidedly in his favour; yet what measures have he or his followers proposed for the adoption of the legislature? The truth is, nothing annoys him more than the desire manifested by the premier and the Parliament to remove all just grounds of complaint, and therefore it is that he has fixed on "repeal of the union," which he knows to be impracticable. A man's own interest must be considered, and "the Liberator" is well aware that, if agitation ceased, the twenty thousand a-year paid him by the "starving people" as a recompense for having patriotically rejected an office worth but five, would cease also.

We have alluded to the amount of taxation imposed on Ireland, to prove that injustice is not perpetrated upon her under that most touching head;—we have exposed the fictitious grievances, and recounted the measures passed and promised by Sir Robert Peel, to show how groundless the complaints of the agitators are, and that if there be wrongs, there is, on his part, a sincere desire to redress them;—and we have adverted to the manner in which those beneficent acts and promises, so favourable to their views and injurious to his administration, have been received by those who profess to be the friends, and are the leaders, of the people for whose welfare they are intended—to convince the British minister and the British people of the absolute impossibility of satisfying men, whose own selfish interest lies at the bottom of all their actions, and who fabricate grievances that, under the pretence of seeking their redress, they may be afforded opportunities of inculcating treason.

What more is there which can be effected by Parliament which would better the state of the Irish peasantry, while they suffer themselves to be made the dupes of every headless demagogue, and while they, by their own atrocities, drive from amongst them every person who is willing or able to afford them employment? The existing laws cannot repress the cruel outrages which they commit. Can an act of Parliament humanize their minds, or impart mercy to their hearts? The law cannot fix a maximum for rent; and if it could, it would be only to increase their turbulence, without any mitigating comforts. Extend the franchise, it will only enable them to accomplish more political mischief—for they reject as nothing all measures, however beneficial, which do not tend to the dismemberment of the empire; endow their church, and they accuse you of corrupting it; truckle to them, and you but make them more exacting; coerce them, and you benefit themselves and save the country.

That Ireland does labour under evils, no man can doubt; but they are evils which have grown up under an exploded system, which all modern legislation has tended to remedy, but which no legislation can at once remove. The education of the people, heretofore altogether neglected, is now being attended to; but years will have passed before any favourable change can be effected through its instrumentality; and if things be suffered to progress as they have lately done, evil instead of good must result from the enlightenment of the people by means of a system which imparts knowledge without inculcating religion. If you extend their information, and still leave them under the political sway of those who induce the more ignorant by the most monstrous promises, and compel the more instructed and better disposed by unchecked intimidation, to follow in their wake, it is clear that you but endow the demagogues with more power, and render the enemies of order more capable of effecting their designs. The memorable expressions of one who was the champion of a people's privileges and the victim of their ferocity, are most true, that "to inform a people of their rights before[Pg 709] instructing them and making them familiar with their duties, leads naturally to the abuse of liberty and the usurpation of individuals; it is like opening a passage for the torrent before a channel has been prepared to receive, or banks to direct it."[8]

Yes, Ireland is afflicted by evils, but those evils are created not so much by the defects of the law, or by the neglect and tyranny of the better classes, as by the total demoralization of the lower. The Irish peasant, naturally brave, generous, and faithful, is, by the system under which he is brought up, rendered cruel, merciless, and deceitful. There may be, and probably are, hardships inflicted by some of the landlords; but they are produced in most instances by criminal and precedent acts on the part of the people. In no country in the world are the rights of property so ill understood or so recklessly violated: the industrious man fears to surround his cottage with a garden, because his fruit and vegetables would be carried off by his lazy and dishonest neighbours; and he is deterred from growing turnips, which would add to his wealth, from the certain knowledge that his utmost care cannot preserve them. Amongst no people on the face of the earth are the obligations of an oath or the discharge of the moral duties so utterly disregarded: any man, the greatest culprit, can find persons to prove an alibi; the most atrocious assassin has but to seek protection to obtain it. Where in the civilized world, but in Ireland, can you find a "sliding-scale" of fees for the perpetration of murder?

And why is this so? Because the religious instruction of the people has been totally neglected; because their priests have become politicians, and stopping at nothing to accomplish their objects, they teach the peasantry by private precept and example to disrespect and disregard those doctrines which they publicly inculcate; because their bishops, pitchforked from the potatoe-basket to the palace, become drunk with the incense offered to their vulgar vanity, and the patronage granted in return for their unprincipled political support, instead of checking the misconduct of the subordinates, stimulate them to still further violence,[9] and stop at nothing which can forward their objects; because the opinions of the people are formed on the statements and advice of mendicant agitators who have but one object in view, their own pecuniary aggrandizement; because a rabid and revolutionary press, concealing its ultimate designs under the praiseworthy and proper motive of affording protection to the weak, seeks to overturn all law and order, and pandering to the worst passions of an ignorant and ferocious populace, goads them, by the most unfounded and mischievous statements, to the commission of crime, and then adduces the atrocity of their acts as a proof of the injustice of their treatment. Every murder is palliated, because it arises from "the occupation of land." Every brutal assassination is paraded as "a fact" for Lord Devon, and is recommended to that nobleman's attention; not that the helpless and unoffending family of the victim may be afforded redress, but that the executioner of their parent may obtain commiseration. No matter what the conduct of the tenant may have been—no matter what arrears of rent he may have owed—to evict him is a crime, which, in the eyes of those unprincipled journalists, seems to justify an immediate recourse to "the wild justice of revenge." The rights of property are said to be guaranteed by the law—while the exercise of those rights is rendered impossible by the combination of unprincipled men, and the force of a morbid public opinion. He who would think it "monstrous" that a merchant should be debarred from the right of issuing exe[Pg 710]cution against his creditor, shudders with horror at the idea of a landlord distraining for his unpaid rent. And the individual who delights in the metropolitan improvements, and glories in the opening of St Giles's, though it drive thousands of "the suffering poor" at once and unrecompensed from their miserable abodes, considers the improvement of an Irish estate as too dearly purchased, if effected by the expulsion of one ill-conditioned and remunerated ruffian.

But this morbid public opinion only feels for the lawless, the idle, and overholding tenant; for the landlord it has no sympathy—he may be robbed of his rights, he may be unable to educate or support his family, because he cannot obtain his rents, but his sufferings create no feeling in his favour; his case forms no fact for Lord Devon. The accomplished, the well-born, and the good, may be driven from the homes of their ancestors, and reduced to beggary, because the dishonest occupiers will neither pay their engagements nor surrender their lands, and no one laments their fate. The gentleman may be forced to emigrate, and be sent into exile by his necessities, without any notice being taken of such an event. But let a tenant who has been profligate, dishonest, and reduced to poverty by his own misconduct, be dispossessed of the smallest portion of ground on which he eked out a wretched existence, and which, if he had it in fee, would not be sufficient to support his family—let such an one be but dispossessed, and, even though he be afforded the means of emigrating to countries where land is plenty and wages remunerative, the "Liberal press" will teem with "the horrors and the cruelties" of "the Irish system!" Doubtless it would be most desirable that every man should be possessed of a sufficiency of land, and that he should (if you will) have it in fee; but how is this to be accomplished? The Irish population is too dense to be comfortably supported on the extent of soil which the country possesses, without the assistance of manufactures; and the conduct of the people, under the guidance of their leaders, effectually prevents their establishment. There is but one way, under existing circumstances, by means of which this happy state could be produced, and that is by following the example of the French revolutionists, by cutting the throats or otherwise disposing of the present proprietors, and then selling to the peasantry at the moderate prices which were formerly fixed on by the Convention.

The Irish gentleman is held up to public disapprobation because he has a lawless and pauper tenantry; and if he attempt to improve their moral and social condition, by removing the worst conducted, and enlarging the holdings of the others, so as to enable them to live in comfort, his conduct is considered still more odious, even though he send the dispossessed at his own expense to those colonies to which thousands of the best disposed of the people voluntarily emigrate. What, in God's name, is he to do? While all remain, it is an absolute impossibility that good can be effected for any. The evil is sedulously pointed out, and the only practicable remedy is resisted by the same persons—the friends, "par excellence," of the people!

This moral disorganization, and the total disrespect for the rights of property by which it is accompanied, creates other evils as its necessary consequences; it produces hostility and ill feeling between the higher and the lower classes, augments absenteeism, and deprives the peasantry of the personal superintendence of those who would really have their interests at heart, and by whose example they would be benefited. Nor can we be surprised that any person whose circumstances enables him to do so should reside out of Ireland; when we see every man of rank and fortune who relinquishes the pleasures of the capital, and the enjoyments of society, for the purpose of settling on his estates, and performing his duties, subjected to the abuse of every scurrilous priest, and the insults of every penniless agitator. Landlords naturally wish to reside at home where their possessions, in a wholesome state of society, would secure them local influence and respect; but unless the Irish gentleman bows to the dictates of every local representative of the "august leader," he is deprived of[Pg 711] both, and risks his personal safety into the bargain. No men profess to lament absenteeism more than the priests and agitators. But how do they act? They declare against the non-residence of the proprietors; but their sole object in doing so is to rouse the feelings of their auditors, and thus prepare them for the performance of what they wish them to effect. What encouragement do they or their creatures afford to such as do return? We like facts. The Marquis of Waterford, a bold and daring sportsman, boundless in his charities, frank and cordial in his manners, not obnoxious on account of his politics, and admitted on all hands to be one of the very best landlords in Ireland—in fact, just such a character as the Irish would admire—he comes to reside and spend his eighty thousand a-year in the country, and how is he treated? He gets up a splendid sporting establishment in Tipperary; his hounds and horses were twice poisoned; and this not being found sufficient to drive him from the neighbourhood, in which he was affording amusement and spending money, his offices were fired, and his servants with difficulty saved their lives. Compelled to abandon Tipperary, he betakes himself to his family mansion in Waterford; and how is he received there? Why, in his own town and within his hearing, we find the "meek and Christian priest" addressing his tenants and labourers, the men whom he employs and supports, after the following fashion:—"Men of Portlan! you were the leading men who put down the Beresford in '26, (the marquis's father.) I call on you now, having put down one set of tyrants, to put down another set of tyrants," (the marquis himself.)[10] Does such conduct (and this is but one instance of many which we could adduce) evince a desire, on the part of the "pastors of the people," to encourage the residence of the gentry, or a wish to procure for the peasantry those blessings which they paint in such glowing terms as sure to ensue from their landlords living and spending their incomes amongst them? Much as the priests and agitators declaim against absenteeism, nothing would be more contrary to their wishes than that the absentees should return. They have no desire to share their influence with others; and hence it is that an excuse is always made for quarrelling with every resident who cannot be made subservient to their wishes; and while they steadily persevere in their system of annoyance and offence, they as lustily reiterate their lamentations on a state of things which their own conduct tends to produce.

That we are justified in attributing the poverty, the misery, and the crimes of the Roman Catholic peasantry to the constant state of agitation and excitement in which they are kept by their leaders, and the bad example set them by their religious instructors, and not to any pecuniary burdens (legislative or local) imposed upon them, we can easily prove, by a reference to the condition of that portion of the Irish people who are not subject to their control or corrupted by their influence. It is well known that in the province of Ulster land fetches at least one-third more rent than in either of the other provinces, although the quality of the soil is by no means so good. Yet what is the condition of the people? what their habits? what the appearance of the country in this less favoured district? We shall let an authority often quoted by Mr O'Connell answer our question.

Mr Kohl[11] tells us, that "the main root of Irish misery is to be sought in the indolence, levity, extravagance, and want of energy of the national character." And again, in passing from that portion of the country where the majority of the inhabitants profess the Roman Catholic religion, to that in which the great bulk of the population are Protestants, or Presbyterians, the same writer says—"On the other side of these miserable hills, whose inhabitants are years before they can afford to get the holes mended in their potato-kettles—the most [Pg 712]indispensable and important article of furniture in an Irish cabin—the territory of Leinster ends, and that of Ulster begins. The coach rattled over the boundary line, and all at once we seemed to have entered a new world. I am not in the slightest degree exaggerating when I say, that every thing was as suddenly changed as if by an enchanter's wand. The dirty cabins by the road-side were succeeded by neat, pretty, cheerful-looking cottages; regular plantations, well cultivated fields, pleasant little cottage-gardens, and shady lines of trees, met the eye on every side. At first I could scarcely believe my own eyes, and thought that at all events the change must be merely local and temporary, caused by the better management of that particular estate. No counter change, however, appeared; the improvement lasted the whole way to Newry; and, from Newry to Belfast, every thing continued to show me that I had entered the country of a totally different people—namely, the district of the Scottish settlers, the active and industrious Presbyterians."

Nor can we be surprised at the condition of this unhappy country when we see the Executive looking quietly on, when the public press has become the apologist of crime, and public sympathy is enlisted on the side of the evil-doers.

Four murders have, within the last month, been perpetrated in Tipperary, which were all but justified by the local papers, because they were supposed to have been the acts of tenants dispossessed for non-payment of rent. They excited no horror. A fifth was added to the bloody catalogue, which roused the indignation of the virtuous Vindicator;[12] and why? Solely because it was the result of a private quarrel.

"We own," says this respectable guardian of public morality, "that such a system of murderous aggression as this, remote from any of those agrarian causes which may account for crime, is calculated to fill every mind with indignation."[13] Are we not justified in demanding of the government how long this state of things is to be permitted to continue? how long the lives and properties of the respectable and loyal inhabitants of Ireland are to be left at the mercy and the disposal of a ferocious and bloodstained populace? how much further open and undisguised treason is to be allowed to proceed?

The Taleian policy will not answer. Mr O'Connell may abandon his plans, falsify his promises, and break his most solemn engagements—but there will be no relief; he will still be supported so long as his agitation is unchecked—so long as the people think that through the instrumentality of his measures their designs may be accomplished. And if, after a further period of excitement, after a still increasing belief in their own ability to attain the avowed object of their wishes, "the free possession of the land," the peasantry should be deserted or betrayed by their leaders, the best that could then be expected would be the horrors of an unsuccessful servile war. Mean time the enemies of Great Britain are openly apprised of the disaffection of the Irish people, who but bide their time and wait their opportunity.

[Pg 713]


During a twelvemonth's residence in a continental city, I became acquainted with a Russian officer, whom I will designate by the name of Adrian. He was a man still in the prime of life, but who had endured much sorrow and calamity, which had imparted a tinge of melancholy to his character, and rendered him apparently indifferent to most of the enjoyments that men usually seek. He was no longer in the Russian service, did not appear to be rich, kept two horses, upon which he used to take long solitary rides, that constituted apparently his only pleasure. He had seen much of the world, and his life had evidently been an adventurous one; but he was not communicative on matters regarding himself, although on general subjects he would sometimes converse willingly, and when he did so, his conversation was highly interesting. He was one of those persons with whom it is difficult to become intimate beyond a certain point; and although I had reason to believe that he liked me, and for nearly a year we passed a portion of each day together, he never laid aside a degree of reserve, or approached in any way to a confidential intercourse.

I was one day reading in my room, when Adrian's servant came in all haste to summon me to his master, who had been thrown from his horse, and was not expected to survive the injuries he had received. I hurried to the hotel, and found my unfortunate friend suffering greatly, but perfectly calm and collected. Two medical men, who had been called in, had already informed him that his end was rapidly approaching. He had appeared little moved by the intelligence. I approached his bedside; he took my hand, and pressed it kindly. I was deeply grieved at the sad state in which I found him; but time was too short to be wasted in expressions of sympathy and sorrow, and I thought I should better show the regard I really felt for him, by offering to be of any service in my power with respect to the arrangement of his affairs, or the execution of such wishes as he might form.

"My affairs are all in order," he said; "my will, and the address of my nearest surviving relative, are in yonder writing-desk. I have no debts, and whatever sum is derived from the sale of my personal effects, I wish to be given to the hospitals of the town."

He drew a ring, set with an antique cameo, from his finger.

"Accept this," he said to me, "as a slight memorial of our acquaintance, which has been productive of much pleasure to me."

He paused, exhausted by the exertion he had made to speak. After a few moments, he resumed. "You have at times seemed to wish to hear something of my past life," said he, with a faint smile. "Amongst my papers is a small leathern portfolio, which I give to you, with the manuscript it contains. These gentlemen," added he, looking at the physicians, "will bear witness to the bequest."

At this moment the Roman Catholic priest, who had been sent for, entered the room, and Adrian expressed a wish to be left alone with him. That same evening he expired.

I had no difficulty in obtaining possession of the portfolio bequeathed to me. In the papers it contained were recorded a series of incidents so extraordinary, that I am still in doubt whether to consider them as having really happened, or as being the invention of a fantastical and overstrained imagination. I kept the MS. by me for some time, but have finally resolved to translate and publish it, merely substituting fictitious names for those set down in the original. The narrative is in some respects incomplete, but whether in consequence of Adrian's sudden death, or because no further circumstances connected with it came to his knowledge, I am of course unable to say. It is as follows:—

I am by birth a Russian, but my[Pg 714] childhood and youth were passed at Hamburg. Owing to the early age at which I lost my father, my recollections of him are necessarily but imperfect. I remember him as a tall handsome man, somewhat careworn, constantly engaged in the correspondence rendered necessary by his numerous commercial speculations, and frequently absent from home upon journeys or voyages of greater or less duration. His life had been an anxious one, and his success by no means constant; but he still persevered, led on by a sanguine temperament, to hope for that fortune which had hitherto constantly eluded his grasp.

It was shortly after my tenth birth-day, and we were anxiously expecting my father's return from a voyage to the East Indies. Before his departure he had promised my mother, that if he succeeded in the objects of this distance expedition, he would retire from business, and settle down quietly to pass the rest of his days in the country. The letters received from him led her to believe that the result of his voyage had been satisfactory, and she was therefore anticipating his return with double pleasure. At last, one evening news was brought that the ship in which he had taken his passage was come into port, and just as my mother and myself were leaving the house to go and welcome the wanderer, my father made his appearance. I will pass over the transports of joy with which he was received. So soon as they had a little subsided, he presented to us, under the name of the Signor Manucci, a dark fine-looking man, who accompanied him, and whom he had invited to sup with him. I say with him, because, to our great surprise and disappointment, neither my mother nor myself were admitted to partake of the meal. Hitherto my father's return from his voyages had been celebrated as a sort of festival. A large table was laid out, and our friends came in to welcome him, to ask him innumerable questions, and tell him all that had occurred during his absence. On this occasion, however, things were arranged very differently. My father, instead of joining his family and friends at supper, caused the meal to be served in a separate room for himself and the Italian; and long after they had done eating, I could hear them, as I lay in bed, walking up and down the apartment, and discoursing earnestly together in a foreign tongue. My bed had been made for that night upon a sofa in one of the sitting-rooms which adjoined my father's apartment. My usual sleeping-room was given up to the stranger, who was to pass the night at our house.

My temperament was naturally a nervous one, and my father's return had so excited me that I found it impossible to sleep, but lay tossing about till long after every body in the house had apparently retired to rest. The strong smell of sea-water proceeding from my father's cloak, which was lying on a chair near my bed, perhaps also contributed to keep me awake; and when I at last began to doze, I fancied myself on board ship, and every thing around me seemed tumbling and rolling about as in a storm. After lying for some time in this dreamy state, I at last fell into an uneasy feverish slumber. For long after that night, I was unable to decide whether what then occurred was a frightful dream or a still more frightful reality. It was only by connecting subsequent circumstances and discoveries with my indistinct recollections, that some years afterwards I became convinced of the reality of what I that night witnessed.

I had scarcely fallen asleep, as it seemed to me, when I was awakened by the creaking of the door leading into my father's room. It was hastily opened, and the stranger appeared, bearing a lamp in his hand, and apparently much agitated. He walked several times up and down both rooms, as if one had been too small for him in his then excited state. At last he began to speak to himself in broken sentences, some of which reached my ear. "I leave to-morrow," he said; "when I return, all will be over—all—the fool!" Then he took another turn through the room, and paused suddenly before a large mirror. "Do I look like a murderer?" he exclaimed wildly, and with a ghastly rolling of his eyes. Then suddenly tearing off a black wig and whiskers which he[Pg 715] wore, he stood before me an old and greyheaded man. At this moment he for the first time noticed my temporary bed.

"Ha!" he muttered, with a start, "how imprudent!" He immediately replaced his wig, and with noiseless steps approached my couch. Terrified as I was, I had yet sufficient presence of mind to counterfeit sleep; and the stranger, after standing a minute or two beside me, went softly into my father's room, the door of which he shut behind him.

When I awoke the next morning, and thought of this strange incident, it assumed so vague and indefinite a form, that I set it down as the illusion of a dream. Every thing was as usual in the house; my father, it is true, seemed thoughtful and grave, but that was nothing uncommon with him. He spoke kindly to me, and apologised to my mother for his seclusion of the preceding evening; but said that he had been compelled to discuss matters of the greatest importance with the Signor Manucci, who was then sitting beside him at breakfast. My mother was too delighted at her husband's return to be very implacable; and if the evening had been clouded by disappointment, our morning meal was, to make amends, a picture of harmony and perfect happiness.

About noon, Manucci took an affectionate leave of my father, and departed; not, however, till he had promised that he would shortly renew his visit. The day passed without incident. My father had planned an excursion into the country for the following morning, to visit an old friend who resided a few leagues from Hamburg. I was awakened at an early hour, in order to get ready to accompany him and my mother. I hastily dressed myself, and went down into the parlour. What was my surprise, when on entering the room I saw my father lying pale and suffering upon a sofa, while my mother was sitting beside him in tears, anxiously awaiting the arrival of a physician who had been sent for, and who presently made his appearance. He felt my father's pulse, enquired the symptoms, and finally pronounced him to be in a state of considerable danger. Each successive half hour increased the sick man's sufferings, and before the afternoon he was speechless.

In sadness and anxiety we were surrounding my father's couch, when suddenly a carriage stopped at the house door, and the next instant Manucci entered the apartment. He expressed the utmost grief and sympathy upon learning my father's illness, sat down beside the dying man, for such he now was, and took his hand. My father beckoned his friend to stoop down, that he might whisper something to him; but although his lips moved, an inarticulate muttering was all that he could utter. He then, with an expression of almost despairing grief upon his countenance, took my hand and that of Manucci, joined them together in his, which were already damp and chill with the approach of death, and pressed them to his heart with a deep sigh. The next instant there was a convulsive movement of his limbs—a rattle in his throat. My father was dead.

I shall never forget that moment. It was with some difficulty that Manucci and myself withdrew our hands from those of my father, which clutched them tightly in the agony of death. It was the first corpse I had ever looked upon, and although of a parent whom I dearly loved, I yet recoiled from it with an irrepressible shudder. The stranger, too, inspired me with an invincible repugnance. I could not forget my dream, or vision, or whatever it was, when I had seen him changed into a grey repulsive-looking old man, and the mysterious words—"Do I look like a murderer?" rang ever in my ears.

My mother's grief at her sudden bereavement was boundless. She was incapable of arranging or ordering any thing; and as my tender years prevented me from being of any use, Manucci took upon himself the management of every thing. Through his exertions, the arrangements for the funeral were rapidly completed; and I followed to the grave the body of my unfortunate father, who had died, so said the doctor, of a stroke of apoplexy. Child as I was, I was greatly struck by the coincidence between this sudden death, and the singular dream I had had not forty-eight[Pg 716] hours previous to it. I said nothing, however; for I feared Manucci, and should not have thought my life safe had he heard that I related my dream to any one. In after years, when I was better able to form a judgment on these matters, I thought it useless to renew the grief of my poor mother, then becoming old and infirm, by a communication of what I had witnessed on that memorable night, or by inspiring her with doubts as to the real cause of her husband's death.

Meanwhile Manucci busied himself in the arrangement of my father's affairs, concerning which he appeared perfectly well informed. In the course of their liquidation, he became acquainted with many of the chief people in Hamburg, who all spoke very highly of his talents, and seemed captivated by his agreeable conversation and varied acquirements. In an incredibly short time he had made himself numerous friends, who courted his society and invited him to their houses. Nobody knew any thing more of him than what he himself chose to say, which was very little. It was rumoured, however, that he belonged to a religious fraternity—but whether of the Jesuits, or some other order, no one knew, nor was it possible to trace the origin of the report. Manucci himself, the object of all these conjectures, seemed perfectly unconscious of, or indifferent to them. He took a house at a short distance from the town, close to a small country residence to which my mother had retired; and in conformity with my father's last and mutely expressed wish, showed a most friendly disposition towards me, interesting himself in my studies, and to a certain extent superintending my education. He visited us very frequently, and gradually I became accustomed to his presence, and my aversion to him diminished. The remembrance of my dream grew fainter and fainter, and the guilty agitation and strange appearance of Manucci on the night of his arrival at Hamburg, lost the sharp distinctness of outline with which they had at first been engraved upon my memory. I regarded all that I had seen that night as a dream, and nothing more.

The house inhabited by Manucci was of handsome exterior, and situated in the middle of a large garden. The door was rarely opened to visitors, and, besides the Italian, an old servant-maid was its only inmate. I myself was never admitted within its walls till I had attained my seventeenth year; but when I was, the curious arrangements of the dwelling made a strong impression upon my fancy. The whole of the ground floor was one large hall, of which the ceiling was supported by pillars, and whence a staircase led to three apartments, one used as a sitting-room, another as bed-chamber, and the third, which was kept constantly shut, as a study. The sitting-room, instead of doors, had green silk curtains in the doorways. Eight chandeliers were fixed in pairs upon the wall, and between them were four black marble tablets, on which were engraved in golden letters, the words:—Watch! Pray! Labour! Love! In a recess was a sort of altar, above which was suspended a valuable painting from the hand of one of the old masters. Behind a folding screen in the sleeping-room, stood the bed, which was surrounded by sabres, daggers, stilettoes, and pistols of various calibre; and from this room a strong door, clenched and bound with iron, led into the study, the interior of which I never saw. Altogether, the house made such a strange and unpleasant impression upon me, that I felt no wish to repeat my visit.

Manucci had now been residing seven years amongst us, leading a peaceful and quiet life, a frequent visitor at our house, well looked upon and liked by all who knew him. Although there was certainly a degree of mystery attaching to him, yet no one was suspicious of him, nor had the voice of scandal ever been lifted up to his prejudice. He was friendly and attentive to my mother, kind to me, courteous to every one, seemed perfectly contented with his mode of life, and never talked of changing it. Our astonishment was consequently so much the greater, when one morning we learnt his sudden disappearance from the neighbourhood. Enquiries were made in every direction, but none had seen him depart. His shrivelled old housekeeper was also nowhere to be found.

[Pg 717]It was within a few weeks after this strange disappearance, that I obtained the first insight into the character of the mysterious Italian. After my father's death, and the winding up of his affairs, his papers and letters had been put in boxes and locked up in a closet. I one day took it into my head to rummage these papers. There were vast numbers of bills of lading and exchange, insurance papers and the like, all matters of no interest to me; but at last, upon untying a bundle of miscellaneous documents, a small packet fell out which seemed likely to reward my search. It consisted of fragments of letters, much damaged by fire, and which, to judge from the size of the half-burned envelope that contained them, and that had apparently been originally used for a much larger parcel, probably formed only a small part of a collection of letters that had been accidentally or intentionally destroyed by the flames.

Here are some of these fragments of letters.

"... The society of a man whose acquaintance I have made since my arrival here, becomes each day more agreeable to me. He has seen a vast deal of the world, and his mind is stored with the most varied knowledge, to such a degree that it sometimes appears to me as if the longest life would be insufficient to acquire all that he has learned. Our acquaintance was made in an odd place enough—a gambling-house, to which I had gone as a matter of curiosity. He was sitting away from the tables, and addressed some trifling remark to me, to which I replied. He then, as if he had known who and what I was, began talking of the commerce in which I am engaged, and displayed an intimate acquaintance with mercantile affairs. Our conversation had already become animated and interesting, when it was interrupted by a noise and bustle in the play-room; and several persons came up to my new acquaintance, and congratulated him. It appeared that he had staked sum equivalent to the whole amount there was in the bank, and it was while the game was being played that we had entered into conversation. He now went to the table, and received his winnings from the disconcerted bankers with an appearance of perfect indifference, returning them at the same time, a handsome sum—that they might have, as he said, a chance of recovering what he had won from them! Then, after giving me his address, and inviting me to call on him, he left the house" ...

"... The diamonds ... enormous value ... excellent bargain ... twenty thousand pounds sterling" ...

(This letter had been nearly destroyed by the fire.)

"... It is some days since I have seen my new friend, although his agreeable conversation and manners render his society more pleasing to me at every interview. I am embarrassed about this purchase of diamonds, which I an very desirous of making, but find myself without sufficient funds for the purpose. If M—— would join me in the speculation, his recent winnings would be more than is wanted to make up the deficiency. I must propose it to him ...

"... I have just returned from a visit to M——. It appears that he is an Italian by birth, although speaking several languages as well as a native, and that he is travelling for the affairs of an important association of which he is a member. He has travelled a great deal in Germany, and will probably return thither shortly. To-day he told me that he was glad to have won the large sum to which I alluded in a former letter; that he had much need of it for a great object he had in view, but for which he was still afraid it would scarcely suffice. Upon hearing this, I resolved to say nothing to him about the partnership in the diamond speculation ...

"... It is impossible for me to describe to you the fascination which this man exercises over me. You know that I do not usually exaggerate, although inclined to the mystical and romantic. I have lived too little on land, however, for any ideas of that nature to have taken much hold upon my mind. At sea, the movement of the winds and waves, the unintermitting intercourse with one's fellow-men—the whole life of a mari[Pg 718]ner, in short, leaves little leisure for such fancies. But here, in this tropical clime, where the heavens are of so deep a blue, and the leaves of so bright a green, where the imagination is worked upon by Oriental scenery and magnificence, and the very air one breathes is laden with perfumes from the flower-fields and spice-groves of Araby the Blest, here is the land of fiction and reverie, and here I at times think that my new and most agreeable friend has laid me under a spell equally pleasant and potent in its effects—a spell from which I have neither wish nor ability to emancipate myself. Yet why should I wish to escape an influence exercised only for my good, and by which I must benefit? My greatest happiness is in the friendship of this man, my greatest trust and reliance are in his counsels. Stern is he, bold, almost rash in his actions, but ever successful; and when he has an end to gain, nothing can withstand him, no obstacle bar him from its attainment....

"... in the kindest manner lent me the sum I wanted to complete the purchase-money of the diamonds, but obstinately refuses to share the profits which, on my return to Europe, are sure to accrue from this speculation. What generosity! M—— is assuredly the most disinterested and the truest of friends. We are becoming each day more attached to each other. He has formed a project to come and settle near Hamburg, and there we shall pass the rest of our days together. He is a most singular and interesting person. I shall weary you, perhaps, by all these details; but every thing that relates to him interests me. Only think, the other day I found in a cabinet in his apartment, a mask, which he told me he had himself made. I never saw such a masterpiece. It was of wax, imitating perfectly a human countenance, of an expression eminently attractive, although sad. He was not in the room when I found it, in seeking for a book he had promised to lend me. He came in when I had just taken it out of the drawer in which it was, and an angry exclamation" ...


These disjointed but significant fragments were all of any interest that the flames had spared. From them, however, I acquired a moral certainty that Manucci was my father's murderer. In order to obtain possession of the diamonds, of which no trace had been found after my father's death, the perfidious Italian had doubtless administered to him some deadly poison. This must have been so skilfully prepared as not to take effect till the murderer had left the house a sufficiently long time to prevent any risk of suspicion attaching to him.

Burning to avenge my unfortunate parent, I now set to work with the utmost energy to discover what had become of Manucci. I caused enquiries to be made in every direction, and resorted to every means I could devise to find out the assassin; but for a long time all was in vain. It was not till several years after my mother's death that we again met—a meeting which, like our first, was to me fraught with bitter sorrow.

I had been for some time in the Russian service, and the regiment to which I belonged was quartered at a village a few leagues from Warsaw. At the period I speak of, a country house in the neighbourhood of the village belonged to, and was occupied by, General Count Gutzkoff, a nobleman of ancient descent and great wealth, and who had an only daughter called Natalie, the perfection of feminine grace and beauty. The villa had been christened Natalina, after his daughter, and no expense had been spared to render it and the grounds attached to it worthy of their lovely sponsor. Amongst other embellishments, a large portion of the park had been laid out in miniature imitation of Swiss scenery, with chalêts, and waterfalls, and artificial mountains, that must have taken a vast time and labour to construct. There was an excellent house in this part of the grounds, inhabited by a sort of intendant or steward, and in this house rooms were assigned to me, I having been quartered upon General Gutzkoff. I had thus many opportunities of seeing Natalie, whose charms soon inspired me with a passion which, to my inexpressible joy, I after a time found to be reciprocated by her. I am not writing a romance,[Pg 719] but a plain narrative of some of the strangest incidents in my life; I will, therefore, pass over the rise and progress of our attachment, of the existence of which the general at length became aware. He was a proud and ambitious man, and my small fortune and lieutenant's epaulette by no means qualified me in his eyes to become his son-in-law. Natalie was threatened with a convent, and I was requested to discontinue my visits to the house. About the same time, I heard it rumoured that a rich cousin, then stopping with the general, was the intended husband of the young countess.

For some days I found it impossible to obtain a meeting with Natalie, although I put every stratagem in practice, and sought every opportunity of meeting her in her walks. After the general's positive, although courteous prohibition, I of course could not think of returning to his house. It was therefore with much anxiety that I looked forward to a ball which was to be given by a rich old Smyrniot, who lived at Warsaw. He was acquainted with the officers of my regiment, and to console us, as he said, for the dulness of our country quarters, he proposed to give a fête sufficiently splendid to attract the ladies of the capital to the village where we were stationed. He was intimate with General Gutzkoff, who lent him for the occasion the part of his domain called the Swiss park, and there the fête was to be held. I made sure of meeting Natalie there, and perhaps even of finding an opportunity of speaking to her unobserved by her father.

The much wished-for evening came, and a numerous and brilliant company was assembled in the gardens. The long alleys of trees were rendered light as day by a profusion of lamps, of which the globes of painted crystal were suspended by wires from tree to tree, and appeared to float unsupported upon the air. Under two large pavilions of various colours, flooring had been laid down, and chalked in fanciful devices. These were for the dancers. Several bands of music were placed in different parts of the grounds; and in the various cottages and Swiss dairies tables were laid out, covered with the most exquisite refreshments and delicate wines. On either side of the principal fountains were transparencies, with emblems and mottoes complimentary to the guests and to the noble owner of the park; and, finally, that nothing might be wanting to the gratification of every taste, a crimson tent, richly decorated, contained a faro-table, upon which a large bank in gold was placed. Crowds of officers, and of beautiful women splendidly attired, thronged the dancing rooms or rambled through the illuminated walks. Natalie was there, but accompanied by her father and cousin, so that I could not venture to accost her. She looked sad, I thought, but more lovely than ever; and when at last she sat down in one of the summer-houses, I approached as near as I could without being myself seen, in order at least to have the pleasure of gazing on her sweet countenance. I was leaning against a tree, cursing the cruel fate that separated me from the object of my love, when one of my comrades came up and asked me if I would not go to the faro-room. There was a man there, he said playing with the most wonderful luck that had ever been seen. He had already broken two banks, and seemed likely to do the same with a third that had been put down. I was in no humour to take interest in such matters, and should have declined my brother officer's invitation, had I not just then seen Natalie and her companions get up and take the direction of the gambling tent. I followed with my friend. The play that was going on had, however, no attraction for me; I had no eyes for any one but Natalie, and was almost unaware of what was passing around me. After standing for a short time near the table, the general turned aside to talk with the colonel of my regiment, and his cousin went to speak with some ladies who had just entered. The moment was favourable for exchanging a few words with Natalie. I was about to approach her, when there was a sudden bustle and loud exclamations round the table.

"See there!" exclaimed my comrade, "he has won again."

[Pg 720]I glanced hastily at the fortunate player, and then started back petrified by surprise. It was Manucci.

My first impulse upon beholding the man whom I had been so long seeking, and whom I held for my father's murderer, was instantly to seize him and tax him with his crime. An instant's reflection, however, suggested to me the impropriety of such a course. What evidence had I to offer before a court of law in support of my accusation? The tale I had to tell was far too extraordinary a one to be believed on the unsupported testimony of an accuser. This man seemed well known to several of the guests who stood near him; he wore the decorations of two or three foreign orders, and appeared to be a person of some mark. Might I not even be deceived by a strong resemblance? At any rate, it was sufficient if I kept him in sight till I had an opportunity of making enquiries concerning him. If it were Manucci, I was determined he should not escape me.

I was still gazing hard at the stranger, and becoming each moment more and more convinced of his identity with Manucci, when, to my great surprise, I saw him leave the table and approach Natalie. She seemed to know him; they exchanged a few sentences, and then, passing through a door, they left the tent together. I hurried after them as fast as the crowd of persons through which I had to make my way would allow me. On getting out of the tent I saw no signs either of Natalie or the stranger. They could not be far—they must have turned down one of the numerous sidepaths; and I darted in quest of them down the first I came to. I had run and walked over nearly half the grounds without finding them, when I met the general and his cousin, who, with looks of some suspicion, asked me if I had seen Natalie. I told them with whom I had last seen her; but my description of the stranger, although minute and accurate, did not enable the general to recognise in him any one of his acquaintance; and separating, we resumed our search in different directions with increased anxiety and redoubled care.

While thus engaged, loud cries were suddenly heard proceeding from the upper floor of one of the châlets or ornamental cottages near which I was then passing, and of which the lower part only was used for the purposes of the fête. I hastened thither, rushed up the staircase, and, in so doing, ran against an officer who was carrying down Natalie in his arms. She was senseless. At that moment her father arrived and took charge of her. Above stairs, all was confusion and alarm, and a number of the guests were seeking the villain who had dared to insult or ill-treat the young countess. But he was nowhere to be found, and it was supposed that he had jumped out of the window, and, favoured by the darkness, had made his escape. Natalie, when she recovered from her swoon, was still too weak and too terrified to give any explanation concerning the matter. She was conveyed to her father's house, the fête was broken up, and the guests took their departure. My brother officers and myself mounted our horses, and rode in every direction to endeavour to find the offender. All our researches, however, were fruitless.

Strange to say, this singular incident excited much less attention, and was much more rapidly forgotten, than could possibly have been expected, especially when the rank and importance of the offended party were considered. After the first day, few efforts seemed to be made for the discovery of the stranger except by myself; and all that I did towards that end was unsuccessful. The murderer of my father, the spoiler of my inheritance, the vile insulter of the woman I loved, had for this time eluded my vengeance.

About a fortnight after the fête, it became publicly rumoured that any project of marriage which might have been contemplated by General Gutzkoff between his daughter and her cousin, was at an end, and that Natalie was to take the veil. It was known that, before the death of the late countess, who was an exceedingly religious woman, it had been in agitation to devote Natalie to a religious life; but when the general became a widower, nothing more had been heard of the plan. It now almost seemed[Pg 721] as if its revival and contemplated execution were in some way consequent on the strange incident at the ball. The matter, however, was far too delicate for any one to question concerning it those who alone could have given information. At the appointed time Natalie entered as novice a convent of Ursulines, situated at about a league from her father's villa.

The first news of this event was a terrible shock to me. In spite of the small favour with which the general regarded my attachment to his daughter, I had still hoped that time or circumstances might bring about some change in his sentiments. But the cloister opposed a yet stronger bar to my wishes than the will of a parent, and the vows once pronounced, which at the end of one short year Natalie would have to utter, I might bid farewell to hope. Our separation would then be irrevocable and eternal in this world. It was necessary, therefore, to make the best use of the short space of her noviciate, in order to put in execution one of the numerous plans which I devised for freeing her from the state of holy bondage which I was certain she had only through compulsion been induced to enter. Day and night I hovered about the convent, in hopes of catching a glimpse of Natalie, or of finding an opportunity of giving her a letter, in which I strenuously urged her to accept a plan of escape that I proposed to her. At last an opportunity occurred. She was walking in the convent garden with another novice, who left her for an instant to gather some flowers. I was watching all their movements, and at this moment I threw my letter at Natalie's feet. She took it up, retired into a shrubbery walk to read it, and presently returned.

"To-morrow," said she, "the answer—here."

With what anxious impatience did I look forward to her reply, and with what despairing feelings did it fill me when I received it! In it Natalie spoke of her approaching death as of an event of the occurrence of which she was thoroughly persuaded, and besought me to give up all hopes of again seeing her.

At this period of the year the nuns of the Ursuline convent inhabited their summer cells, which were a row of buildings situated in the convent garden. Natalie had the last cell, which was separated by several empty ones from those of the other sisters. It was on the second day after I received her letter that the nuns were surprised by her not opening her door at the usual hour. They waited some time for her appearance, but in vain. They knocked; there was no answer. At last the door was forced open and Natalie was found lying dead upon the floor of the cell. She had evidently been dragged out of bed with great violence; her features were distorted with pain and struggling, and in her left breast was a wound which had been the cause of her death. The murderer had broken in through the roof of the cell.

The news of this horrible occurrence flew with lightning swiftness through the neighbourhood and to Warsaw. Nobody doubted that there was some connexion between the crime and the singular occurrence at the ball, although it was impossible to say what that connexion was. Every attempt to discover and apprehend the murderer proved unavailing.

In order to see Natalie for the last time, I repaired to the convent church, in which, according to custom, her corpse was laid out. With faltering and uncertain steps I passed through the aisle, and reached the chapel where the remains of her I had so fondly loved were lying. I stepped up to the bier, but the next instant turned away my face. I lacked courage to look upon the cold corpse of my adored mistress. A violent dizziness seized me, the pillars around me seemed to turn and twist about, and the roof of the church to shake. I sank senseless upon a chair.

How long I may have remained in that state I am unable to say. It was night when consciousness returned, and the moon was shedding its cold, clear light through the high Gothic windows. I felt heated and excited; all manner of strange fancies passed through my head, the predominant one being to go at once and wander about the world, till I should discover the fiend to whom the misery I now suffered was attributable. Be[Pg 722]fore doing so, however, I must see my Natalie once more. I stepped up to the coffin. Natalie lay there in her nun's garments, a crucifix upon her breast, and a veil surrounding her face, which, to my inexpressible astonishment and horror, I now saw was covered with a mask.

I was at first unable to explain this singular circumstance, but then it occurred to me that her lovely features had been said to be much distorted in death, and doubtless her friends had taken this means of concealing them from the gaze of vulgar curiosity. I would see her though, I thought; I would kiss those lips, once so warm and love-breathing, now so pale and chilled. The better if, in her death-like embrace, I found an end to my life and suffering. I stretched out my hand to detach the mask, which was by no means unpleasing in its appearance. It reminded me of the one spoken of by my father in one of his letters; and as I stood looking at it, I little by little persuaded myself it must be the same. The lips curved into a mournful smile, an attractive expression on the features; only the sockets for the eyes were empty, and through them shone the glazed orbs of the departed.

Whilst given up to these reflections, I suddenly heard a slight rustling noise near me. I looked round, and saw a muffled figure sitting at a short distance off, in which I thought I recognized some old nun keeping her drowsy vigil by the dead. I took no heed of her, but stretched out my hand to tear the mask from Natalie's face, when suddenly the figure rose, and with three long, noiseless strides, stood close beside me. The robe in which it was muffled opened, and I beheld—Manucci! not the Manucci I had seen at the faro-table, nor yet he who had lived for years near my mother's house, but the grey old man who had appeared to me on the night of my father's arrival, and had said, "Do I look like a murderer?"

"Thou here, villain!" I exclaimed, on beholding this unexpected apparition. "The hand of heaven is in this!"

I stretched forth my arm to seize the murderer, who thus braved me beside the corpse of his last victim; but as I did so I experienced a strange stunning sensation, and fell, as though struck by a thunderbolt, lifeless to the ground. The first persons who entered the church upon the following morning found me in this state, and carried me to the nearest house, where I lay for weeks in a raging fever, during which time Natalie was buried, and the flowers that sprang up on her grave were withered by the frosts and snows of winter. When I at last became convalescent, and re-appeared amongst men, Natalie was forgotten; and the strange circumstances that had occurred to me in the church would have obtained no credence, or at most would have been considered as the precursors of fever, the visions resulting from a heated imagination and exhausted frame. Indeed my memory was in so confused a state, and the weeks I had passed in the unconsciousness of delirium, caused every thing that had previously happened to appear so remote and indistinct, that I was myself almost unable to give any clear and definite form to the occurrences that preceded my illness. My health was greatly shaken, and I was no longer equal to any occupation that required sustained exertion and application. I resigned my commission, therefore, and formed a plan to divide my life amongst the various large cities of Europe, changing from time to time, and constantly endeavouring to seize again the thread that had escaped me, and if possible to discover and unmask the vile impostor who had destroyed my life's happiness. I may, perhaps, some day write down the various and strange adventures that I have met with during these researches, and in my wandering course of life. In this portfolio, however, I will put nothing but what relates to any further discoveries I may make concerning the base Italian and his machinations.

Here Adrian's manuscript ended; but between the two following blank leaves I found a letter dated from St Petersburg, written in a different hand, and that seemed to form a sort of appendix or continuation to the preceding narrative. This letter, from the different dates scattered through[Pg 723] it, appeared to have been continued from time to time, several weeks elapsing between its commencement and the period at which it was sent off. The envelope was wanting, and there was no address; but, from its contents, it appeared that it had not been written to Adrian, but to a friend of his who had handed it to him. At the end came a dozen lines in Adrian's handwriting, leaving off somewhat abruptly. Here follows the letter:—

St Petersburg, 12th June.


My dear Augustus,—Of all the wealthy and distinguished foreigners whom this gay season has brought together in St Petersburg, not any attract so much attention as the Marchese d'Emiliano and his daughter. The father is as remarkable for his learning and talents as the daughter is for her innumerable graces and accomplishments, which draw all eyes upon her. She has only one extraordinary peculiarity, which is—but stay, I will first describe her to you, so that this singularity, when I tell you of it, may appear the more striking. Picture to yourself a brunette, slender and perfectly formed, possessing the exact and beautiful proportions of a Grecian statue—a foot smaller and better shaped than I ever yet beheld—an exquisite hand, slender and tapering, not one of those short fleshy hands with dimpled fingers, which it is now the fashion to admire, but for which no precedent is to be found in the Medicean goddess or in any other standard of beauty. A magnificent bust, an arm like alabaster, a profusion of dark flowing hair, grace in every movement. But—now comes the wonder, my friend—instead of a face corresponding in beauty with this perfect form, there is—a mask. Can you imagine a greater absurdity? and yet they are people who, in every other respect, show extreme good taste.

From the lips of this mask proceeds a voice which, for melody and sweetness, I have never heard equaled. In speaking, its tones are of silver, but when she sings one forgets mask and every thing else to give one's-self up to an ecstacy of perfect enjoyment. She knows a vast deal of Italian, French, and Spanish music, languages that she speaks with the utmost purity, and she accompanies herself alternately on piano, guitar, or mandoline, of which instruments she is a perfect mistress. Her dancing is no less admirable than her singing; and, at every ball to which she goes, crowds collect around her to watch the sylph-like grace with which she glides through the dance. In short, she unites every womanly accomplishment, and yet this heavenly creature persists in concealing her face under that vile mask, which fits so closely that not the smallest portion of her countenance can be perceived. However hideous the latter may be, it would be preferable to this horrid covering. Not that the mask is ugly; on the contrary, it is the handsomest I ever saw, and in itself has nothing disagreeable. It is formed of wax, and has a mournful expression which is quite attractive, at least when its owner sits still; but when she moves or speaks, the dead look of the mask has an indescribably unpleasant effect. Several persons have indirectly questioned the Marchese on this subject, but he evades or turns off their enquiries with all the tact of a consummate man of the world. Of course it would be indelicate, if not unfeeling, to ask her about it. Meantime the public amuses itself with all sorts of absurd suppositions. First it is a vow; then she has got a pig's face; then her waiting-maid had said that she had once caught her unmasked, and that her face was covered with feathers and had a beak in the middle of it. Then, again, it is a stratagem, to try the man whom she shall marry, and to see if he will love her for something besides her appearance, and on her wedding-day she will take off the mask and disclose features of perfect beauty. All this is of course mere gossip; for nobody knows any thing about these Italians, except that the Marchese is enormously rich, and that his daughter, in spite of her mask, is the most amiable and fascinating of women. Amongst other absurdities, a report was spread that the marquis was no other than the celebrated St Germains, who, as is well known, was himself no other than the Wandering Jew. It is ridiculous to hear the extraordinary things they tell of him.[Pg 724] Only the other day it was asserted that he had been met in a distant country, where he passed under another name, and was remarkable for his constant and almost suspicious success in gambling. I should be very curious to trace all these reports to their source. Their inventors can at least have no lack of imagination. The fact is, that there is unquestionably something strange and mysterious about the old man—but what does it amount to after all? He is an old Italian marquis, his foreign manners and appearance, and imposing title, work upon the imagination of us northerns, and at once make us suspect an adventurer in this worthy old nobleman. The mere presence of Natalie (that is his daughter's name) is sufficient to refute such a suspicion. She is the incarnation of all that is pure and beautiful; and I confess to you, my friend, that I am each day becoming more and more the slave of her attractions. If in society she exhibits her varied accomplishments, on the other hand, when we are alone, she is the simple and unsophisticated girl. During our tête-à-têtes, however, it has not escaped me that she is frequently melancholy; a something seems at times to weigh upon her spirits; and, although she evidently struggles to hide this, she has been unable to conceal it from my close and interested observation. Yes, my friend, interested, for deeply interested I am in all that concerns Natalie; and, I own to you, that in spite of her mask, in spite of the mystery that surrounds her, nothing would make me so happy as to call her mine.


27th June.—A week ago it was Natalie's birth-day. She had felt herself somewhat indisposed, and had begged the Marchese not to invite any guests. Nevertheless, when I called to offer my good wishes on the occasion, they kept me there till evening. We then walked out in the garden—Natalie and myself, that is to say—and sat down upon a rustic seat, amidst a cluster of flowering shrubs that perfumed the air around us. I know not of what we spoke, but, after a short time, I found myself with my arm round Natalie's waist, her hand clasped in mine, her mask—alas! that I cannot say her face—resting upon my shoulder. It was one of those sweet moments with which past and future have nought to do, but during which one lives upon the present. Gradually my lips drew nearer and nearer to her waxen ones, but, half-jesting, she turned her head away. I became more persevering, and without saying any thing to her I raised my arm gently till my hand touched her hair, amongst which the fastenings of the mask were apparently concealed. In another moment the mystery would be solved, and I should gaze doubtless on the most lovely countenance that ever blessed a lover's sight. At that very instant she uttered a sort of shriek, and sprang from my embrace. In vain did I entreat and supplicate her to suffer me to remove that envious mask. She was inexorable, and just then, attracted perhaps by Natalie's cry, the Marchese appeared.

"What!" said he in a distant and somewhat angry tone and manner, "nearly midnight, and you are still here?"

The time had indeed passed rapidly. The hint was too direct for me to do otherwise than apologize and depart.

Since that evening they have treated me with some coolness, nor can I wonder at it. My constant visits to their house have become the talk of all St Petersburg; and it is evident that I must either declare myself the suitor of Natalie or avoid her altogether. Avoid her! How can I do it? Do not blame me, Augustus, when I tell you that I have decided to go this day to the Marquis and ask his daughter's hand. Rank, fortune, every thing in short, is suitable. Only that mystery—but I will not think of it. I lay down my pen, and go instantly to execute my intention.


30th June.—You will set me down as a fool when you read what I last wrote. I should perhaps say the same of you, were our positions reversed; and yet, were you not my old friend and comrade, I should feel disposed to be angry with you for saying it of me on this occasion. She is mine, Augustus—mine by her own[Pg 725] and her father's promise. My friend, I am unutterably happy. I am not able to look forward with any thing like coolness to the moment when she shall remove that odious mask, and disclose the lovely countenance which I am persuaded it conceals.


8th July.—I cannot understand Natalie. She seems happy at the prospect of becoming my wife; and yet that same melancholy which I have before noticed, hangs about her, and seems impossible to be dissipated. Can she have had some previous attachment, some disappointed affection, which has left its lingering regrets, and which her present engagement recalls more vividly to her recollection? And yet, why torment myself thus? She loves me—that I cannot doubt; and surely her approaching change of condition, and the separation from her father which it must sooner or later entail, are sufficient to account for an occasional pensiveness on the part of a young and susceptible girl. In vain do I seek for any other probable cause of her melancholy. At times I fancy that she has some disclosure or confession to make to me, which she has difficulty in repressing.


23d July.—The secret is out. Natalie is ugly. You laugh already at the poor dupe. But beware of laughing too soon: for he can be no dupe who becomes the husband of Natalie; should her face prove as hideous as that of Medusa. You will perceive from this that I have not yet seen it, nor, truth to tell, am I now so anxious to do so. She has been tormenting herself with the fear that I should cease to love her when I once saw her unmasked, and has reproached herself innumerable times for having encouraged my passion. She has decided what to do. On her marriage-day, before I lead her to the altar, I am to see her without her mask. To-morrow is that day; and although I am prepared for the very worst, yet my uneasiness increases with every hour that brings me nearer to the decisive moment. My regrets are infinite that she has persisted so long in her disguise. If at the commencement of our attachment she had had the courage to remove that fatal mask, I must still have loved her; no deformity of feature would have been sufficient to neutralize the effect of her other charms and accomplishments. But now, at the moment that I have been looking forward to as the happiest of my life, to have my bliss disturbed by such a revelation—it is cruel! Yet how can I blame her for conduct so natural in a woman who loves? She feared to see my growing affection turned into aversion, and delayed to the utmost the much dreaded disclosure. Enough for to-day. I send off this letter. After my marriage you shall hear from me again. Ever yours,

Paul S——.


What a ray of light thrown upon my dark uncertainties! "To St Petersburg, instantly! The trace is found!"

Such was my exclamation after reading the above letter, which was communicated to me at Vienna by an old and tried friend. In an incredibly short time I had reached the Russian capital. What I there learned was as follows:—

On the day appointed for the marriage of Natalie d'Emiliano and the young Swedish count, Paul S——, when all were in readiness to proceed to the church, and the guests were only waiting the appearance of the bride and bridegroom, a piercing cry was suddenly heard in a room adjoining that in which the bridal party was assembled. The company hurried, in the direction of the sound, and there found the Count lying apparently lifeless on the floor, while the bride was hastily securing the fastenings of her mask. The guests thronged round the former, and tried every means of recovering him from the death-like swoon into which he had fallen. After much trouble they were successful. The Marchese and Natalie were then sought for, but both had disappeared; and neither of them were ever afterwards seen or heard of in St Petersburg. The bridegroom could never be induced to tell what it was that the mask concealed.

[Pg 726]


No. IV.

The Moor Maiden.

"Wildernesses and heaths are not the only spots that boast of their Fata Morgana," said Woldemar, in a society of torch-bearers which regularly assembled in the old castle on Christmas night.

"The vision appears in a hundred places, in shapes answering to the peculiarity of soil and country in which she rises. Here she is an apparition of the air, beaming with splendour; there she unfolds herself in glittering mist. On the unbounded plain, you behold her in the form of an enchanted city—a paradise of leafy loveliness, or it may be simply as a fantastic Erl-King, a giddy dazzling vapour. Let her appear, however, where and how she will, she is ever seductive, mysterious, and beautiful, and attended with the awe of a strange nameless delight.

"You know the high table-land, strewed with countless blocks of granite, between C—— and K——. Inclosed upon two sides by mountains and thick groves of beech, it would be a perfect desert but for the clear crystal brook which purls its way along the glistening stones. This labyrinthine brook, indeed, fills the barren spot with animation, whilst it creates too that singular power of attraction which we cannot explain to ourselves, but which, nevertheless, becomes our unfailing companion in regions with which the heart of the people has intimately associated itself by tales of wonder and tradition.

"The Tradition touching this very table-land is dim and shapeless, like the thick mist of a sultry summer's day, hanging over hill and valley. It is most convenient to the common working mind to retain and hold fast in a history only so much as is needful for the great catastrophe. The people are content to abide by the beginning and end of things, not concerning themselves with the important connecting links. All that lies between is left to the imagination of the more inquisitive to fill up. A tradition of this order occurs to me this moment, and, by your leave, I will do my best to complete it:—

"A mysterious curse lay upon the noble house of Gottmar. No male scion was suffered to perpetuate the race. The bride of his selection died on her wedding-day, and he himself was doomed to follow quickly after. The rich possessions passed to the nearest relative, who, by virtue of an ancient law, assumed the name of Gottmar. The family was very ancient. It traced its origin back to the Sclavonian priests, the sacrificers to the God Mahr, and bore in its armorial ensigns a sacrificial axe and a blood channel, in shape like that which at this day is found cut into the granite-blocks of the high mountain that bears the name of Gottmar. The later descendants of this powerful and widely-ramified house could no longer explain the cause of their cruel condition. It had been deemed advisable by their ancestors to exterminate every record of it, hoping thereby perhaps to weaken, in the course of time, the curse itself. The precaution was fruitless. No alteration whatever took place in the fate of the doomed family, which at length was regarded, no less by itself than by the world, as the outlawed of heaven.

"The last living representative of the house of Gottmar entered upon the family inheritance upon the death of his cousin. Bolko was a mild yet enthusiastic youth, glowing with deep, ripe feeling, and needy of human love. He had little joy in the acquisition of what, in other circumstances, might have been considered his enviable fortune. He thought only of the miserable destiny that sentenced him to celibacy or death. His immediate predecessor, riding across a heath to take a last farewell of his bride, had been struck dead by lightning, and the maiden herself had been hurled from life at the edge of a precipice.[Pg 727] Bolko, attired in mourning, sat at the window of his lofty castle, and surveyed the lovely prospect before him, bathed as it was in the golden light of evening. Here were rich forests, there teeming fields; in the depths of the valleys prosperous labouring villages; and in the far distance, towering above all, the blue crests and jagged peaks of a mountain region.

"'And all has become mine!' he exclaimed, resting his forehead dejectedly upon his hand; 'to pass quickly away again, and unenjoyed! And I, in ignorance, why! To be a sinner, a criminal, and not conscious of one criminal aspiration. Yet, to be punished for crime—to be killed for crime. Oh, it is hard! And heaven, sweet and fair as she appears, is crueler than I could have believed.'

"His preceptor, confessor and friend stepped into the apartment. Hubert was an aged man, learned and pious, and well skilled, it was believed, in cabalistic science. He had buried three Gottmars, and received their last confessions. From these he had drawn conjectures and conclusions which induced him to investigate the traditions current amongst the people respecting his unhappy patrons; and out of all, he was able at last to form a picture of probability, to the completeness of which some demonstrative evidence of its truth was wanting. At the period of which I speak—it was still before the Reformation—books were held in slender esteem. Nevertheless, there was a library in Gottmar castle, consisting of numerous manuscripts, the production of monks, and chiefly on religious subjects. The lords of the castle, engaged in the chase, in fishing, and other knightly pastimes, had not, from time out of mind, disturbed the repose of their written treasures. They lay piled one upon another, covered with dust, mildewed, and worm-eaten. Hubert, in the prosecution of his purpose, did not fail to examine the neglected documents; and he had reason to rejoice at his labours, when he found amongst the rolls a learned treatise on astrology, a science which he himself had studied with unwearied industry and ardour. His joy and astonishment, however, were not complete, until he found himself master of a decaying parchment, which, in almost obsolete characters, expounded to his eager senses the mysterious destiny of the house of Gottmar. He hugged the knowledge to his soul, deciphered the ancient syllables in his own quiet cell, and waited for the proper hour to communicate the marvellous secret to his lord and pupil. He heard the complainings of the youthful Bolko, and he recognised in them a hint from heaven. He now approached him with tenderness, and pressed his pupil's hand.

"'Courage, my son!' said he. 'The veil is withdrawn.'

"Bolko drew a heavy sigh.

"'I have spoken the truth, my child!' continued Hubert. 'Believe and trust!'

"'Thanks for thy kind words, good Hubert,' replied the youth. 'I revere thy wisdom, I esteem thy love. How shall I believe that it has been permitted thee to break open the gloomy vaults of the past?'

"'And yet if this were so! If an auspicious—a heaven-sent chance'—


"'Hast thou courage, Bolko, to penetrate into the past?—Then read this roll attentively. It offers us the means, as I most solemnly believe, to weaken, if not annihilate, the curse which has so long persecuted thy unhappy race.'

"Hubert drew a parchment from the folds of his garment, and placed it in the hands of the astounded Bolko. The priest immediately withdrew. The youthful noble as quickly drew a chair to the window; and by the vanishing light of the evening sky, he read the following history:—

"'This is the last Confession of Walter, baron of Gottmar, which I, his Confessor, write down by his command, that it may be preserved in everlasting remembrance, by all who are Descendants of the House of Gottmar.

"'My great-uncle Herbert, the tenth inheritor of this territory, was a passionate lover of the chase. In all seasons of the year, in good weather and in bad, by day and night, he scoured the boundless forests which he called his own. In his time, the hunting of the boar was a noble and[Pg 728] especial sport, and hence the breeding of these beasts was diligently fostered and encouraged. The immense forests of beech and fir upon the slopes of the mountain which bears our name, attracted to their neighbourhood an extraordinary number of these boars; so that at all times my ancestor could indulge his passion to the full. During one of his grand expeditions, two remarkable events had place. A gigantic boar dug open with his tusks a marvellously clear spring, which bubbled forth so vigorously, and purled so bright and cool along the mossy fields, that a brook was formed from it immediately. This discharged itself into the low grounds with rare turns and windings; so that Herbert was fain to fix a village there, and to name it after the boar, and the brook which his ferocity had brought to light. Whilst this was happening on the western declivity of the mountain, a similar accident took place upon the slope projecting to the eastward. Here, in like manner, a considerable bed of turf was discovered, and close upon it, beneath granitic sand, another powerful spring. This Herbert caused empty itself into large ponds; and the turf-pit he had worked by skilful men, over whom he placed as chief Wittehold his page. The profit from this turf was so large that the wealth of Herbert grew more and more, and the population of the newly-founded village rose as rapidly; since every new settler was suffered to take on the turf-bed as much fuel as he needed for firing during the space of five years.

"'Wittehold, too, the overseer, was well contented with his post. He enjoyed the confidence of his lord, and became independent. He married; and, after the lapse of a year, had the happiness to press a lovely child to his fond bosom. But the birth of the child cost him the life of her mother. Herbert promised to provide for the orphan, and maintained his word. My great-uncle was a bachelor, who had never been able to meet with a maiden possessing all the qualities which he demanded in a wife. He postponed the all-important step of marriage from year to year, without suffering any inconvenience from the delay.

"'In the mean time the beautiful daughter of Wittehold—who had, I know not why, been christened Auriola—grew to womanhood, and unfolded a sweetness and grace that fascinated all beholders. Herbert, whose heart had so long resisted the attacks of love, was not proof against the beauty, ingenuousness, and innocence of Auriola. He confessed his affection to the maiden, and petitioned Wittehold for his child. With the last, contrary to expectation, he found but little favour. Wittehold submitted that his daughter was not born to be the consort of so great and rich a lord, and respectfully declined the honour of her advancement. Moreover, he had already promised her to a faithful comrade, a worthy overseer at the turf-works. Herbert expostulated, appealed to his protection of Auriola, to her affection for him, but in vain. He plied the obstinate Wittehold with threats. In spite of them the latter held out: he did more; he bore his child with his own hand from the castle, and carried her to his cottage near the pit, hoping, by such a step, and by sound remonstrance, to lead his fascinated master on to other and to better thoughts.

"'The conduct of Wittehold threw Auriola into a deep melancholy. She hurried to the cottage door a hundred times a-day, and looked with straining eye towards the lofty castle of her lover. Her father being absent, she would bound, swift as a fawn, through the silvery grass that trembled and sparkled in the sunny light, and seat herself upon the high margin of the spring, feeding her vision with the pearly drops that bubbled from the bottom. The spot, visited by few, was rendered almost sacred by a cluster of broad-armed beech-trees that overshadowed it. Herbert encountered his Auriola in this retreat. Who shall tell their joy? Herbert urged his suit—Auriola followed him through bush and thicket, and was powerless before his ardent supplications. Wittehold surprised the pair. His fury and indignation were ungovernable. Herbert, in self-defence, had recourse to his good sword, but this was as a lath against the ire of his assailant. Wittehold slew his lord. Not yet satisfied, the madman pursued his[Pg 729] fugitive child, whose screams for aid only brought her to a speedier end. He met her at the spring—there seized the trembling creature, and mercilessly cast her in. The maiden struggled for an instant; but, the short conflict over, she uttered a piteous wail, and sank for ever beneath the softly-rippling water. Even whilst she struggled, the inhuman father raised his clenched fist, and pointed with it towards Gottmar's castle. 'God of heaven!' he exclaimed, 'hear my curse; and may it fall like the unerring bolt upon this execrated race. May no male offspring take to his arms a bride, or brighten his hearth with her presence, until a Gottmar restore my daughter's virgin honour. Until this happen, let the poor victim be accursed, and evil work with the posterity of her betrayer!' The miserable murderer invoked the infernal powers to assist in the fulfilment of his curse, and then, as if beside himself, ran to the turf-pits. Here he procured a shovel and an axe. With their help he choked up the crystal grave of his daughter, and diverted the strong current into the pit, which it soon flooded. This done, he fled into the woods, and has not since been heard of. But his curse has been fulfilled with frightful regularity in the family of Gottmar. Not one has married with impunity. Bridegroom and bride have fallen. Auriola, crying for vengeance, hovers above the turf-pit, which since that hour has become a wide unfathomable moor.

Heinrich Wendelin, Chaplain.'


"The hand of Bolko dropped as he finished the narrative. The evening twilight thickened before his eyes. He sank into a solemn musing. When he awoke from it, Hubert was again at his side.

"'Hast thou read?' enquired the teacher.

"Bolko slowly raised his head, and looked full in the face of his confessor.

"'Canst thou vouch for this, Hubert?' he asked in his turn. 'Is it genuine, is it true?'

"'Since when hast thou learned to suspect me of deception?' replied the old man calmly.

"'Forgive me, Hubert. This narrative confounds me. I am unable to distinguish truth from falsehood. But do thou advise me. What dost thou think of it? Can a curse such as this is represented to have been—can it have retained its force so long?'

"'Universal nature is one tremendous mystery,' replied the priest; 'who shall decide wherein her power consists? At the best we can but conjecture at her connexion with the world of man—her weaving and working. No one can deny that a solemn curse, spoken with a determined and haughty purpose, has often, on the very instant, accomplished its fulfilment. If this be so, why may it not work again and again? The disregarded belief of the people—that a curse floats in the air until it finds its victim, and then drops down upon him—is not so worthless as men would have us think. There is at least expressed in it, dimly and perhaps unconsciously, the inseparable union that subsists between the spirit of man and the all-governing spirit of nature.'

"The youth had risen from his chair, and was pacing the apartment to appease his agitated soul.

"'Well, well!' said he, drawing a heavy breath; 'it is a decree which we must receive without a murmur, and suffer patiently.'

"'And who says that?' replied the priest with quickness. 'The wisdom of nature has created an antidote for every poison.'

"'Art thou serious?' asked Bolko earnestly.

"'Heaven is merciful!' continued Hubert. 'Pardon is unlimited where repentance is sincere.'

"'Who shall repent in this case?' answered Bolko. 'The criminal is long since dead. Can another atone for his offence?'

"'Dost thou yet doubt, and art thou my pupil?' said Hubert. 'The will can kill and also vivify.'

"The eyes of Bolko sparkled in the gloomy chamber. He grasped the hand of his aged teacher, and drew him to the casement.

"'Speak!' he exclaimed. 'I will hear thee, and do thy bidding—do all that thou holdest lawful and right.'

"Hubert directed his countenance, over which a few hoary locks still lingered, towards the landscape before them.

[Pg 730]"'You have often heard, my son,' said he, 'that yon desolate spot, called to this day the Gold Spring, is the deadliest spot on earth to those who bear your name. Far as the wood extends on either side, extended formerly the turf-pit. The deep moor is covered now by an unsteady earth-crust, overgrown with pale red sedge, and from its centre, as from a grotto, the beautiful rivulet ripples forth that irrigates and renders fruitful all your land. I doubt not that this grotto, with its golden vault of granite, is the very spring into which the furious Wittehold cast his daughter. The place is to this hour deemed unholy. No one willingly sets foot there; no man ventures to draw water from the fount. Temerity has already been punished for the attempt. Strange sights have met the eyes of the daring one, and he has fled like a coward from the spot. Have not many seen—have not I myself beheld that fairy-like, almost transparent form, with her unearthly pitcher, drawing water from the spring, then pouring it over the moor in curious arches by sun and moonlight; and ever so, that the rays of light kindled therein the most huey gleamings? Is it not well attested, that when at such times mortals have addressed her, the delicate creature has grown o' the sudden pale—paler and more transparent, until, melting into silvery cloud, she has glided pillar-like along the moor, and vanished at length into the cool and wondrous grotto?'

"'You describe the Maiden of the Moor,' said Bolko, interrupting him.

"'So she is called!' returned Hubert. 'It was her apparition which drew my attention to the neighbourhood, and to the tales that are current respecting it. When I had discovered the manuscript, I saw at once in the Maiden of the Moor the complaining spirit of the unhappy Auriola.'

"'And the spirit, as you deem, may be appeased?'

"'Assuredly, my son; and thou art he who must perform the expiation.'

"'I!—Father Hubert?—I'——

"'Thou art guileless, sound of heart, leading a life of innocence and nature. To a pure spirit, a determined will, a feeling heart—much is possible.'

"'But how, father?—how?'

"Hubert remained silent for a few minutes. He then proceeded—

"'Thy heart is still free, but it yearns for love—for the mysterious, magical response of another—a womanly, heart. It may be that Auriola will afford thee thy delight, if thou couldst once behold her.'

"'What! The Moor Maiden! Father, thou mockest me. What can this female be to me, appearing as a vision to man, a creature of air?'

"'And if she appear to thee, hast thou courage to address her?'

"'Father, a lovely form shall hardly frighten me,' said Bolko, with a smile.

"'I exact thy promise,' said Hubert quickly. 'From this day forward, shun the Gold Spring no more. Thou art a lover of nature and her creations. I have seen thee for hours lost in admiration of the form and colour of choice butterflies. That spot abounds in the rarest. Thou mayst find them at any hour of the day. It would seem, indeed, that the delicate insects of peace had retreated thither to find security from the tumult of busy money-lusting men. The realm of the Moor Maiden is the paradise of these tenderest of winged beauties. Bolko, thou wilt visit them!'

"The baron gave his right hand to his preceptor without uttering one word of assurance or affirmation. Hubert had done. He left his young lord to his own meditations.

"Bolko passed some days in restless suspense. Now he was a wanderer in the woods, now a prisoner in the apartment that looked upon the moor, watching intently during the day every slight phenomenon that arose there. The morning and evening mist and the yellow vapour of noon were his best discoveries. Not a human being approached a place shunned, as it appeared, by every living thing. The conversation, however, with Hubert had proved a secret spur to him, and he found no rest until he visited the dreary moor in person. It was late in the afternoon, when, furnished with a hunting-knife and insect-net, he set out on his adventure. Bolko had never before visited the spring, and his surprise was[Pg 731] naturally great when he beheld the peculiar condition of the soil around him. Along the entire surface of the notorious moor—and its extent was considerable—there appeared a singularly-coloured sedge. It was not red, or yellow, or brown, but a mixture of all three, and it marked, by the sharpest line, the confines of the moor from the green turf of the remaining country. At every step, the ground, although very strong, yielded, as it threatening to give way. Towards the centre of the moor there was an elevation surrounded with bushes. This was the source of the silvery water that took its serpentine course along the moor, and through the luxuriant woods beyond.

"Bolko made his way towards this point, and, reaching it, his eye rested with delight upon the basin and its border of golden granite. The water ascended noiselessly from its immeasurable depths in countless glistening pearls. Over the refreshing fountain, and far away upon the nodding blades of grass, and bearded turf-flowers, hovered, in giddy graceful sport, a variegated troop of gorgeous butterflies. The majestic and solemn Silver-mantle, the cherub of these winged dwellers of the air, the soft and exquisite Peacock's-eye, the burning Purple-bird, were here assembled. Bolko was ravished with the sight, and thought of nothing but a glorious capture. Delicate and lovely as the creatures were, his cruel hand robbed them of their gladsome life; and he pursued them further and further across the moor, and with such ardour and desire, that he forgot all other things, and suffered the very object of his visit to escape from his remembrance. Suddenly, and in the act of imprisoning a multitude of these illuminated beings, he perceived a Maiden sitting at the extremity of the moor, her back towards him. Her form was slender, and her hair, golden as the sun, travelled in burnished tresses from her shoulders to the earth, where it curled along the moor-grass like rays of the divine orb itself. After the manner of Sclavonian girls, the stranger wore a closely-fitting snow-white cap, or rather frontlet, from which, as from a chaplet, the beautiful hair streamed down. Bolko had approached the maiden unperceived, near enough to discern a butterfly of rare magnitude and unequaled beauty oscillating about her marble forehead. The youth stole cautiously behind the fair one, and tried to catch the flutterer. He touched the maiden in his eager movement, and she turned round immediately.

"'Forgive me, lovely child!' said he. 'I'——The words died upon his tongue. He could say no more. The butterfly escaped from his hands, and flew slowly towards the Gold Spring, changing its brilliant colours with every motion of its wing.

"The singular beauty of the maiden had struck the baron dumb. From a soft transparent countenance of the purest form, there beamed upon him a pair of eyes which had derived their holy light from the very fountain-head of Love. She wore an uncommon but most becoming dress.

"To a party-coloured gown, scarcely reaching to her ankle, was attached a sky-blue boddice in front, united by perfect silver clasps, and not so closely as to prevent the sweetest glimmering of a snow-white virgin bosom. Her arms, round, delicate, and pure as marble, were uncovered to the shoulders. Her small feet were bare, yet protected partly by fairy-looking slippers profusely ornamented. The beauteous object smiled upon the youth, and answered him in a voice that dropped like melody upon his ear.

"'Thou art the robber then,' said she; 'the merciless purloiner of my fairest thoughts! Can I wonder now that I have been so destitute of late!'

"'How?' stammered Bolko, more astonished than ever.

"'Strange man!' continued the maiden, in the same ravishing voice, 'thou revelest with thy fancies, and dost thou wonder that I, too, love to dally with my thoughts and dreams? The tiny creatures whom thou hast taken from me were, and still are, threads of my heart, which I permit at times to issue into the sunny light of day. Restore them, living, and beautiful as thou hast found them, or I accuse thee of breaking this poor heart!'

"'Who art thou, sweetest child?'

"'They call me Auriola. I know[Pg 732] thee well. Thou art Bolko of Gottmar—Bolko, the accursed!'

"'Yes—the accursed!' repeated the youth, pressing his hands to his eyes as if he would forget his doom. When he removed them, Auriola had risen, and was standing before him. Her lovely countenance, her matchless eyes were turned full upon him. At her feet he perceived an earthen pitcher of a peculiar and not ungraceful form. It bore a strong resemblance to the sacrificial pitchers which are still discovered in places once inhabited by Sclavonians.

"'What wilt thou, poor child?' said Bolko in a tone of kindness. 'Can I help thee?'

"Auriola smiled.

"'Thou hast come to me at thine own bidding. I invited thee not, for I invite none. Yet he who visits me must do my will. Thou hast wrought me pain in stealing away the thoughts which were soaring in mid air decked in their brightest robes. Thou must be punished for thy misdeed. Come!'

"The marvellous creature took Bolko's hand, and drew him after her towards the Gold Spring. Before her, and above her head, the butterflies formed with their magnificent wing-shells a glowing arched pavilion. The youth was allured by an irresistible attraction, and would not, if he could, have dragged himself away from the celestial being; albeit, he still regarded her as a mere apparition. Every feeling, every thought, every desire of his heart, streamed towards Auriola. Fleeting shadow that she was, he loved her already to idolatry.

"At the margin of the spring, Auriola released her companion, descended the grotto with her pitcher, and filled it with the purest water. In a few minutes she was again at his side. She placed the pitcher on the ground, and her two hands upon the shoulders of the youth. In this trustful, graceful, loving posture, fixing her wondrous eyes upon the boy, the maiden spoke.

"'And canst thou love, too?'

"He answered not; but he pressed the beauteous Auriola to his heart, and passionately kissed her forehead. But Bolko started back affrighted, for he had kissed a forehead colder than ice.

"'Note me well!' said she, and her voice sounded more melancholy than before. She seated herself upon the high ledge of the spring, drew Bolko beside her, and placed the pitcher of water between herself and him. The butterflies stood now in the full light of the sun over the rippling spring. A scattered few only still hovered about the moor.

"'We must tarry yet awhile,' said Auriola, 'until my heart is quite my own again!' As she spoke, her ecstatic eyes glanced to the single flutterers on the moor. As if caught by a magnet, they directed their flight instantly towards the Gold Spring.

"'Now I am myself—for what is yet wanting rests in thee. Take heed!'

"Auriola now poured from the pitcher into her small left hand as much water as this would hold, and extended the right to her companion. He, surprised by love, encircled the maiden's waist, brought his ear close to her delicate cheek, and watched with eagerness her strange performance. Auriola blew at first softly, then more vehemently, into the hollow of her hand, so that the water, bubbling up, ran to the slender rosy fingers, and, in glittering drops, sprinkled from the finger-tips.

"'Look!' she exclaimed, 'look! Tell me what thou see'st?'

"The pearly drops had scarcely touched the air before they joined, when, on the instant, a vision rose before the sight. There was a bright green meadow, edged by waving beech-trees, through whose foliage the evening sun shed burnished gold. A youth was on his knees before a maiden, in the act of offering her a golden ring. The picture was, in the beginning, dim and indistinct, but it grew clearer and clearer, until by degrees it dissolved again, and was lost in the atmosphere.

"'What means this, Auriola?' enquired the ravished Bolko. 'Chain not my unguarded heart to thine with such witchery. Misery and death will be the penalty.'

"'Dream and listen,' replied Auriola. 'Hearts and souls have nothing better to do. We do but speak into the future, to catch back the tones which strike in unison with our desires.'

[Pg 733]"'Our future?' whispered Bolko.

"'Say thine, if it likes thee better,' answered Auriola, filling her hand anew with water, and once more urging the sparkling fluid towards her finger-ends. Bolko perceived a horseman galloping across a gloomy heath, and looking back with horror. This apparition, like the former, shone distinctly for a time, and then, in the same manner, vanished by degrees, and expired.

"'And what is this?' asked Bolko.

"Auriola shook her head in silence, poured water again into her hand, and blew it again along her fingers into the air. A lofty, many-towered castle was visible. A rope-ladder was fastened to a gallery. A man was climbing up. As soon as he reached the gallery, the vision was lost.

"'It is the castle of my ancestors!' cried Bolko.

"'Thou art mistaken,' answered Auriola. 'But tell me—canst thou love?'

"Her voice was again mournful.

"The youth drew the fair questioner to his heart. His lips fastened on hers, and hallowing fire streamed through his frame.

"Auriola heaved a melancholy sigh, and once more filled her hand with water. At the usual signal there arose a brilliantly illuminated hall. Dancers, gaily dressed, were in happy motion. Music was heard, and then the strains and the colours died away in the twilight.

"'I smart!' exclaimed Bolko. 'I am tortured! My soul is gnawed with agony!'

"'Hush, and listen,' said Auriola, in a tone of command—filling her hand, and impelling the crystal water into the air, as before. A roaring was heard, like the course of a hurricane sweeping through a forest. The air grew black. Then the moon broke through night and mist, and lit up a hilly region, surrounded by wood and cliff. Out of the wood issued a carriage and four, making at full speed for a solitary open space, that looked dismal and deserted. The form of a maiden floated before the carriage, her painfully smiling countenance ever turned towards it until she evaporated, like a cloud, in the wood. A flash of lightning from the murky sky struck a beech-tree, near whose flames the carriage slowly disappeared into the ground.

"This vision at an end, Auriola bent her head, and tears fell upon her bosom.

"'Lovely enchantress,' said Bolko, 'why perform these miracles if they afflict thee?'

"'Because there is no longer love upon the earth.'

"'Say not so!' exclaimed the youth. 'Love still exists—deep, eternal, holy love. I feel it now. Auriola, I, whose arms never encircled maiden yet—I love thee, Auriola, with every fibre of my body—with every faculty of my soul. I will be thine—thine for ever; be thou mine, my Auriola!'

"'Be constant!' The words were uttered in the clear voice of Auriola; as if from the air. Bolko saw the lovely form grow pale, felt her vanishing, at his heart. The brilliant cloud of butterflies arose from the spring, and flew towards heaven by a hundred roads. A thin misty streak sank into the grotto. Bolko was alone upon the barren moor. Sultry vapours were exhaling in the twilight. Indescribable sensations preyed on the soul of Bolko, as he remembered that he had given his heart to one who was no longer a dweller upon earth—that he had plighted his faith to the Maiden of the Moor. He hurried from the scene of his unhallowed engagement, to seek from the wisdom of his Hubert consolation for the peace of mind which had been so sadly disturbed, if not for ever taken from him.

"The priest listened to the account of Auriola's appearance with secret delight, and did not fail to comfort the unhappy youth. Bolko, restored to peace, passed the night in blissful dreams. Once more the sweet form of the Moor Maiden floated before him—once more the magical pictures gleamed, ravishing his senses. With sunrise he quitted the castle, and obeyed the sorcery that allured him to the moor. All fear and alarm had disappeared. Solitude, erewhile so hateful to him, was now enchanting! The stony, brown, and barren plain, the gloomy confines of the wood, the vapours of the boggy soil, united to create an earthly paradise. He took[Pg 734] his seat upon the margin of the limpid spring, and, gazing on the charmed waters, invoked the presence of the fair magician. Auriola, however, appeared not. At noon he quitted the moor unsatisfied, but the approach of evening found him there again. Still she came not, and nothing remained to assure him of the reality of his former interview but the illuminated winged cloud of butterflies which, like a living rainbow, overarched the spring. Impatient and distressed, the ardent lover scoured the extensive moor, and at last approached the borders of the forest. Suddenly he saw—scarce twenty paces from him—the wished-for figure gliding through the rustling grass, the earthen pitcher drooping from her hand. Auriola regarded him not, but waved the vessel gracefully around her head, scattering its contents in glittering jets, that leaped about her like garlands of the precious diamond.

"'Auriola!' exclaimed the boy, rushing forward as he spoke. 'My own Auriola—mine, now and for ever!' He threw himself before her, seized her hand, and in an instant fixed a golden ring upon her taper finger.

"The maiden offered no resistance. But when the passionate Bolko rose from the ground, and was about to embrace his beloved, she lifted the ring-decked hand, and, in a voice of touching melancholy, exclaimed—


"Bolko followed the direction of her finger. Over the live and swarming cloud there appeared, now here, now there, the apparition of the previous evening; only that to-day it was larger and more distinct, and continued longer to the view.

"Bolko recognised, to his astonishment, the forms of Auriola and himself.

"'What does this mean?' said Bolko. 'Is it reality or illusion?'

"'Thou beholdest!' answered Auriola. 'The air abhors falsehood, and reflects nothing but truth.'

"Bolko advanced. Auriola waved the pitcher, and the vision was lost.

"'Wilt thou be constant?' asked the maid. 'Misery is mine if thou canst forget this day and its betrothal.'

"The eyes of Bolko were fixed in amazement on the air where the picture had shone so palpable a moment before. He saw not, he heard not, Auriola, and the agony of the preceding evening tortured his whole frame. When he recovered his suspended faculties, Auriola was gone. The usual tranquil, solemn repose, the old desolate gloom, universally prevailed. The low-lying meadows breathed out their thin vapours, the more distant ponds were enveloped in mist, and the grey shadows vanished by degrees from hill and thicket.

"Bolko arrived, agitated and breathless, at his castle gate. He went at once to the library, where he found, as he expected, his friend and counsellor.

"'Save me, save me, father!' cried the young lord. 'Thou hast beguiled me into a compact with a being of another world. Womanly love has cozened and betrayed me. Passion has overmastered me. I have bound myself to the Moor Maiden, and am eternally made over to her sorcery.'

"'And wherefore should this frighten you?' replied the hoary chaplain. 'Thou hast done my bidding; and since thou art permitted to destroy a curse which threatens to annihilate thy race, gratitude, not fear, should move thee. Yonder Moor Maiden contents herself with the sweet semblance, and will not ask for dull reality. Auriola never looks to wed thee—never to possess thee—body and soul.'

"'But I love her—love her to madness!' cried Bolko, furiously.

"'Love her still; always love her with a spiritual and pure affection. This will not hinder thee from bestowing the other half of thy affection upon some fair daughter of Eve, worthy of thy heart.'

"'And is this to be spiritually faithful?' said Bolko, in a reproachful tone.

"'No earthly passion, my son,' continued Hubert, 'can either break or abolish the spiritual faith which thou hast vowed to Auriola. When thou hast loved a daughter of Eve, thou wilt see, feel, and be satisfied, that between the love of thy earthly bride and of the enchanting Auriola, there is a difference as wide as heaven from earth.'

"Bolko heaved a bitter sigh, and[Pg 735] shook his head in doubt. Nevertheless, he meditated long and seriously upon all that Hubert said. By degrees, even, he acknowledged to himself, that the kernel, the pure light of a deep truth, glimmered in his words, although in a manner veiled. He began to question his own heart; the more probable, nay, the more desirable seemed the consummation of Hubert's promises. For reasons, which he could scarcely explain to himself, he studiously avoided another visit to the moor. But in the meanwhile, that which originally had been a half-formed wish, and scarcely that, ripened into absorbing passion, vehement desire. Incessant thought nourished the ever-glowing flame, which burned the brighter, the more the spiritual love of Auriola receded and grew faint. Remembrance, it is true, still clung with a devout aspiration upon that beauteous image, but it resembled rather the placid feeling of a holy friendship, than the impetuous throbbing of a young and passionate love. 'Hubert is right!' said the youth; 'I will follow his direction. Auriola, lovely and rapturous being, angelic, spiritual, and human, will rejoice with the Accursed, when he carries to his desolate home the mistress of his castle—the wife of his bosom.'

"Opportunity is seldom wanting when inclination needs its service. About three miles from Gottmar, amongst the mountains, majestically rose the battlements of a proud castle. Baron T——, its wealthy master, had already visited Bolko upon his accession to the family estates, and Bolko now determined to acknowledge his neighbour's act of kindness. Had the baron been childless, it is very likely that Bolko would still have remembered what was due to society, and to his own station in the world; and it is equally true, that the fact of his possessing a young and lovely daughter, did not diminish the youthful noble's desire to act conformably to usage and propriety. Unfortunately for the intention of his visit, Bolko learned, on his arrival at the castle, that the baron was from home. In his stead, however, a maiden greeted him, slender of figure, noble in bearing. It was very strange, but it is certain, that the tumultuous feelings which of late had stirred within him unrestrained—were suddenly chained and riveted upon an object that afforded them a sweet tranquillity. Emma was gentle, frank, and beauteous as the blushing rose. In Bolko's frame of mind, could she fail to make a deep impression upon his young and too susceptible soul? He lingered at her side hour after hour, and was himself astonished to find the darkness of night creeping over the earth, and he not more prepared for departure than he had been on entering the castle-gates some hours before. However, the knight did not make his appearance, and good breeding suggested to unwilling ears that it was time to retire. Bolko said farewell—more tenderly, perhaps, than he supposed or meant; and as the delicate hand of Emma lay involuntarily in his own, he flattered himself that he felt his pressure softly returned, and that he could perceive a smile of contentment escaping from her lips as he promised to pay a second visit 'shortly.'

"The night was very dark: a few stars only twinkled through the thin veil which covered the heavens. Bolko madly spurred his steed, and the high-spirited animal, who needed no such incitement, bounded like a deer towards home. The thoughts of the baron were no longer with him, but imprisoned in the happy room in which he had passed so many blissful hours. Trusting to the instinct of the horse, the master took no heed of the road: and the trustworthy servant, scenting the vicinity of his stable, found easily for himself the best and shortest paths towards that wished-for spot. The trees became thinner and thinner, falling back on either side, whilst a flat and barren region lay before horse and rider. The former snorted and pranced, and the latter could not distinguish the locality through the blackness. Bolko coaxed the steed, and gently urged him forwards. But the animal trembled, and, in spite of bridle and spur, struck to the side, and swept along the skirts of the forest, without touching so much as with a hoof the gloomy-looking heath. Accustomed to the surrounding darkness, the eye of Bolko was at length able to discern—not without a creeping of horror—the ruddy and unsteady[Pg 736] reed-grass. The moor and the Gold Spring were on one side of him. Pale stripes of fog, like ribbed vaults, were spread above him, giving a sacredness to the air, with which all other things strangely contrasted. The mind of Bolko, against his will, reverted to Auriola; his heart beat, as though he were conscious of a heavy fault—of some inhuman crime. He turned his gaze from the moor, and, with an effort, directed it towards the dark forest, to which the horse galloped at full speed.

"The words, 'Be Constant!' fell loudly and articulately upon the ears of Bolko—uttered in a tone rather of supplication than of demand or threatening. He turned his horse's head in terror, and—oh amazement! sitting at the edge of the fountain, covered with a bright veil, hemmed with diamonds, was—Auriola! Her fair and loosened hair, encompassed, as at their first meeting, her entire body, and glittering, curled along the ground. Her right hand was stretched high above her lovely head, holding between forefinger and thumb the ring with which the already inconstant Bolko had espoused her.

"'Be Constant!' The words re-echoed from the moor: the streaks of fog descended. Over the maiden's head beamed forth a shining spot—gaining in size, and forming itself into a picture. Bolko, shuddering, beheld the second vision of Auriola's enchantment, and looked upon himself as he had burst a few minutes before upon the moor.

"Auriola beckoned to the youth, and pointed to the picture. Then once again, more melancholy, more mournfully, more entreatingly upon the distracted ears of Bolko came—the repeated cry of admonition—'Be Constant!'

"The youth galloped for his life. He reached his home paler than death, and refused to be comforted even by the wisdom of his preceptor.

"From this time, Bolko ceased to visit the moor in search of Auriola. The daughter of earth had inspired him with a love that admitted of no commingling of affection. Memory however, refused to lose sight of her. It obtruded her form upon him, the more determinedly he endeavoured to thrust it from his mind by dwelling upon the charms of his Emma. He repeated his visit at the castle, and was soon a constant guest there. He confessed his love to Emma, and she did not rebuke him. Her father was less tender. He roundly refused his daughter's hand. 'He had no desire,' he said, 'to make his child unhappy. He knew well enough how every Lord of Gottmar was obliged to harbour an evil Kobold in his house, who couldn't endure the sight of women, and no sooner met one than he mercilessly strangled her. No, sir baron,' he continued, 'it cannot be. Take not unkindly the answer which I give thee. It touches not thy noble person, which pleases me right well, but simply thy house and castle Kobold. Remove the creature, or at least its power of doing harm, and thou art welcome here. But before that time, I pray thee come not again, lest I should forget myself, and do that which both of us would be sorry for.'

"The lovers protested against the decision, and Bolko tried hard to convince the old baron that the mysterious power which had so long and so fatally reigned over the house of Gottmar, was propitiated, and no longer hurtful. Hubert attested the repeated asseverations of his pupil, but nothing could bring conviction to the stubborn veteran. He swore they were all in a league, or building castles in the air, and he persisted in his resolution.

"It was autumn. The days were declining. Showers and tempests swept through the forest. Upon a night, brightened by no moonbeam or glittering star, Emma sat melancholy and alone in her apartment. The heavy embroidered curtains were drawn across the high windows of the balcony, which jutted out as a point of observation from the castle-wall. At intervals, the maiden applied her delicate ear to the window, catching eagerly at every strange sound muttered forth by the growing storm. She had resumed her seat many times, when the castle-bell tolled eleven, and almost at the same moment the cry of a screech-owl was distinctly heard. The expectant damsel glided on tiptoe to the window, and listened eagerly. The cry was repeated. Em[Pg 737]ma's eye sparkled at length with joy, a deep blush overspread her cheeks, and she produced from an aperture a ladder of twine, which she fastened to the casement. The cry of the owl was heard for the third time. The ladder was dropped, and in another instant a vigorous youth had mounted it.

"Bolko and Emma, happy and blessed, were in each other's arms, and they forgot all but the delicious present. Vows of love and constancy were exchanged, and rings were given, in remembrance of the blissful hour. But strange to say, as Bolko was about to adorn the hand of Emma with the pledge of his affection, a fearful gust of wind burst the window open, and blew into the room a little glistening object that rolled to Bolko's feet and settled there. Emma raised it from the ground, and discovered in her hand a broken ring.

"Bolko saw and trembled. It was his gift to Auriola. He fixed his eyes upon the broken symbol, and there glared before them the third charmed picture created from the waters. The rope-ladder, the balcony Emma and himself, all grouped, and taking the shape and form of that bright vision. Bolko glanced at the window, dreading to meet the reproachful look of Auriola; but instead of this, he heard with no less horror the approaching footsteps of his Emma's father.

"'Fly, Bolko, fly!' exclaimed the maiden. 'My father! We are lost!'

"Bolko hurried to the recess, and would have escaped, had not the malicious wind already carried away the rope-ladder. A prisoner and unarmed, he expected nothing short of death at the hands of the baron. The latter entered the apartment, stood for a few seconds in silence at the door, and measured the criminals with looks of stern severity.

"'My aged eye did not deceive me, then!' he said, at length, advancing to the trembling lovers.

"'Baron!' said Bolko, hesitatingly.

"'Silence, sir!' continued the old knight. 'If I should act now as my fathers would have done, I should fling you through that very window which helped you, like a robber, into this room; but I charge myself with blame already in this business, and I am more disposed to mercy. Come hither, young man. I know the fire and boldness of our youth. Give my child your hand; you are her future husband. May God prosper you both, and send his blessing on your union!'

"Bolko quaffed with the sturdy Baron of T—— until an early hour of the morning. The happy Emma acted the part of Hebe, and presented the flagons to the merry carousers.

"'Why have you withheld this from me?' asked Hubert, when Bolko related to him the unaccountable restoration of the ring. 'Oh, youth, youth! inconsiderate even to madness, and only content to listen to the voice of wisdom when they can of themselves find no outlet from difficulty and danger.'

"Bolko stood with folded arms at the window, gazing into the forest, and upon the lofty turrets of Castle T—— peeping in the grey distance above it.

"'Thou hast not visited the moor of late?' asked Hubert, after a pause.

"'What should I do there?' answered Bolko peevishly. 'Why should I spend my days in chasing an apparition, the mere creation of an over-heated fancy?'

"'Beware whom thou calumniatest!' said Hubert solemnly. 'Beware of the mysterious being that can deal out weal or woe to thee and all thy race! One whom thou mightest have appeased hadst thou been obedient and followed my instructions.'

"'Thy instructions!' repeated Bolko hastily. 'It is because I have listened too patiently to thy advice, because I have connected myself with thy aërial and capricious schemes, that I am the most miserable of men. But for thy persuasion and thy childish parchment, I should never have dreamed of making love to a ghost.'

"Hubert disregarded the youth's reproaches.

"'Rage avails not here,' he said calmly. 'Wisdom alone can save thee. Listen to me. Women are women ever, even such as we call supernatural—easy to anger, easy to persuade—before flattery the weakest of the weak. Praise the ugliest for her beauty, and she smiles graciously,[Pg 738] yea, with the mirror before her eyes. Speak the plain truth, and you are a rough uncouth companion. They thrive best upon the sugary food of delusion—therefore, delude them. It is the rattle of these eternal glorious children!'

"'What wouldst thou have me do?'

"'Cast the ring into the Spring, and pray to Auriola for forgiveness.'

"'And if she prove obstinate?'

"'Have no fear; she will forgive you. Here is the ring; take it; it is once more united!'

"Bolko took the pledge from Hubert, and hastened to the moor. The high grass was already withered by storm and cold; it lay bent down upon the marshy earth-crust, which now breathed out its vapour more abundantly than ever, wrapping the Gold Spring in one enduring mist. If this spot looked barren and deserted in summer, the abandonment was increased a hundred-fold in autumn. Even the butterflies were gone. The damp and chilly fog only was visible; nothing could be heard but the monotonous current of the rippling water.

"The boggy ground yielded to the foot more readily than ever, and Bolko trod it with a faltering step. He approached the spring, and, suing for reconciliation, dropped the ring into the charmed element. As though he feared some extraordinary result from the act, he covered his eyes with his hands, and could with difficulty summon courage to remove them. When he did so, he perceived the fog receding by degrees from the confines of the moor, and the graceful form of Auriola standing before him at a little distance. As at their first meeting, her countenance was averted. She waved the earthen pitcher as was her wont, and bathed the ground on which she went with flashes of the brilliant water.

"'Auriola!' cried Bolko, in a voice that carried the tenderness of love, the sorrow of repentance, to the ear of the listener—'gentle Auriola!' She turned her face towards the imploring youth, placed the pitcher at her side, and beckoned him to approach.

"'My father was right!' said the Moor Maiden. 'No Gottmar but is fickle and inconstant. Well it is for thee, youth, that thou art here of thy own free-will, and didst not tarry for my summons. Thou hast kept thy promise badly, and thou wilt keep it so again, if I give thee no monitor to aid thee. Take this, and carry it, henceforward, in thy bosom; it will protect thee from harm, and keep thee faithful in spirit, albeit in heart thou art already estranged from me.'

"With these words, the enchantress placed upon the neck of Bolko a chain braided of her own golden hair, to which was attached a small box wrought of the shards of the Peacock's eye and Purple-bird. In the tiny case, trembling with its ever-changing light, was one pearly drop from the spring.

"'Lose or give away this jewel,' proceeded Auriola—'this jewel, which is a portion of my heart, and thy ruin and the destruction of thy house is certain. Love, or at least its symbol, can and must avert the curse of my father!'

"Bolko looked into the earnest and marvellously bright eyes of Auriola, as she pronounced his doom. His heart belonged once more to the Maiden of the Moor, and his gaze made known his passion. She touched his forehead with her transparent fingers, poured the last drops of water into the hollow of her hand, and in her usual manner blew the little curling waves into the misty air. A multitude of images arose, but in scarcely finished outline. The moist atmosphere seemed to hinder their accomplishment.

"'Now, farewell!' said Auriola. 'Thou hast beheld. Thy life is troubled, as are the feelings which sway thy heart. Love truly and wholly, as aforetime thou lovedst me, and the mirror of thought will again display its clear bright pictures.

"Auriola took the pitcher, and her bare feet, scarcely disturbing the faded blades of grass, glided towards the margin of the spring, where she melted into air.

"Emma and Bolko were united in holy matrimony. The halls of Castle T—— overflowed with joyous guests. Music delighted the noble visitors during the marriage-feast, and a happier scene could not be imagined. All hearts joined in wishing prosperity to[Pg 739] the bridal pair, and the latter seemed to entertain no fears for their bright future. The banquet over, the guests, preceded by the newly-married couple, withdrew to the adjoining saloon. The old knights seated themselves in the niches of the windows, having still many goblets to empty over the dice-box, whilst the younger spirits disposed themselves for dancing. Bolko, with his high-born bride, commenced the ball. If they were happy before, they were now at the very porch of a terrestrial heaven. They made but short pauses in their pleasure, and these only that they might mingle again the more intensely in the delightful measure.

"It was during the jocund dance that Bolko's doublet suddenly opened, and the mysterious little box flew out. The bridegroom was made aware of the accident by the exclamations of his partner.

"'Oh! look, look, Bolko! See that magnificent butterfly! How singular at this season of the year!'

"Emma caught at the little beauty, and Bolko discovered his fault.

"'Hold, hold!' said he, in a whisper. 'That is no butterfly for thee, my love! Its colours play for me alone!'

"Emma looked enquiringly at her husband, then more closely at the little box, glowing in a fire of colours, and she beheld the golden hair chain to which it was attached.

"'A chain too! and what beautiful hair!' The maiden caught at the prize, and continued, 'Who gave thee this hair and the sweet case! Dearest Bolko, to whom does it belong? Why have you never mentioned this? What need was there of secresy?'

"Emma sobbed, and Bolko hardly knowing what excuse to offer, withdrew her to a neighbouring room.

"'Promise me, dearest Emma,' said he, 'to be calm and patient, and you shall know every thing.'

"The young wife looked at him distrustfully.

"'Make known to me the history and contents of the little box, and I will restrain my curiosity until——to-morrow.'

"'Content, my beloved, so let it be; as we return to Gottmar all shall be cleared up.'

"'Oh, I unhappy!' exclaimed the girl, bursting into tears.

"'Say rather happy, dearest. Since all our happiness flows from the history of this chain; from this alone. Sweetest, let us return to the dance.'

"Emma resigned her arm to her young lord with a sullen resignation. As the latter opened the folding-doors of the saloon, and gazed for a few seconds upon the dancing throng, he seemed to possess a distant remembrance of the scene. The Gothic arches, the window niches, the gaily-attired musicians, the groups of dancers—the whole scene had once before been present to his eyes. He taxed his memory until his thoughts carried him to the bleak and barren moor. Had not the dazzling vision flowed into the sunny evening air over the white transparent fingers of the ethereal Auriola? He acknowledged it, and shuddered.

"The dance was at an end. The guests had departed. In the eyes of the newly-married Emma a tear of troubled joy trembled, as she sank upon the bosom of her young and doating husband.

"Upon the following morning, Bolko already repented him of his hasty promise, and delayed his departure by every means in his power. The weather favoured him, for hail and storm were pouring down upon the earth. As the day declined, Bolko found it impossible to conceal his disquietude; and Emma, when she perceived his anxiety, attributed it at once to conscious guilt. This conviction on her part only made her urge their departure with greater perseverance. There remained at last no good ground for refusal, and Bolko silently acquiesced in her wish.

"For some time the young couple sat side by side, and were very sparing of their speech. Bolko, indeed, was dumb. The inquisitive Emma, however, had not so powerful an excuse for silence. In a few kind words she reminded her lord of his pledged word, and begged him to confide in her.

"'Emma,' said Bolko in reply, and in a serious tone, 'if I comply with thy request, I risk the eternal happiness of both. I have promised that which I cannot perform without a[Pg 740] breach of faith. Thou canst gain nothing by my communication, and I pray thee, therefore, give me back my promise.'

"Bolko could not have preferred a more untimely suit. Emma, inquisitive, suspicious, and jealous, would rather have been put to death in torture than have given up her claim. She refused his petition at once; implored, threatened, implored again; and, finding all such efforts only darkened Bolko's humour, proceeded to flattery and coaxing. She promised the most perfect secresy, and used, in short, every artifice by which woman knows how to overcome the strongest resolutions of weak man. Bolko grew tender-hearted, and then related to his wife all that he had to tell;—the history of the malediction that rested on his family, and the singular manner in which he had effected the expiation.

"Emma listened to the narrative not without an inward pique and lively jealousy.

"'I thank thee, Bolko, for thy confidence,' said she. 'Fear not my prudence. But for the charm, thou wilt not surely wear it so near thy bosom.'

"'Next my heart, beloved—since there it shields us both from ruin.'

"Emma bit her lips with womanly vexation.

"'Thou canst not wish,' continued Bolko, 'that I should take it thence.'

"'I do, I do!' replied the jealous wife. 'I wish it. I insist upon it—now—this very instant.'

"The storm increased in fury. The fir-trees were beating together as if in battle.

"'It is impossible!' cried Bolko. 'Thou art mad to ask it.'

"'Then shall I mistrust thy love,' continued Emma, 'or canst thou hope for my affection whilst that ghostly gift divides us? Never! Inhuman man, thou wilt teach me to hate thee.'

"The carriage drove rapidly through the hurricane into the midst of the forest. The wind bellowed, the yellow lightning glared, and thunder crashed and resounded fearfully from the distant valleys.

"'It is the warning voice of heaven!' said Bolko. 'Its lightnings will reach us if I yield to thy entreaty.'

"'Heaven has nothing in common with enchanters and sorcerers,' replied Emma; 'nature is uttering a summons to thee, and—whilst a devoted wife embraces thee—protects and defends thee against demoniac powers, bids thee renounce all witchcraft, and put aside the unholy gift.'

"Bolko answered not, but peered through the door carriage windows to learn his exact situation. The dark pinnacles of Gottmar lay immediately before him. Above his head the tempest lowered, hurling its lightnings on every side.

"'Art thou angry with me?' enquired Emma sorrowfully, leaning her ringleted head upon the bosom of her husband. Bolko pressed her forehead to his lips. Emma threw her arms about his neck. She wept, she kissed, she coaxed him; they were the fondest lovers, as in the earliest days of their attachment. The heart of Bolko was melted. In the intoxication of happiness he forgot his danger; and reposing on Emma's bosom, did not perceive that she untied his doublet, and heedfully but eagerly searched for the amulet. She was mistress of it before Bolko could suspect her intention.

"'It is mine, it is mine!' almost shrieked the young wife in her delight, snatching away both chain and box. The next moment the carriage window was drawn down and the precious objects thrown into the storm. Bolko caught at them, but too late. A gust of wind had already clutched them, and carried them away.

"A flash of lightning struck a beech-tree, that blazed, awfully illuminating the whole neighbourhood. The horses took fright, plunged aside, then tore with the carriage towards a treeless melancholy-looking plain. Bolko recognised the spot at the first brief glance.

"'The moor! the moor!' he screamed to the driver; but the latter had lost all power over the snorting steeds, who bore the fated carriage in a whizzing gallop towards the marsh. The blazing beech-tree rendered the surrounding objects fearfully distinct. Bolko could descry the figure of Auriola at the margin of the spring.[Pg 741] Between her fingers glittered the ring, and words of lamentation issuing from her lips, dropped into the soul of Bolko and paralysed it."

"'Auriola, Auriola!' exclaimed the youth, supporting the pale and quivering Emma—'forgive me! forgive me!'

"The Moor Maiden dropped the ring into the well, and it vanished like an unearthly flame. Auriola herself, slowly and like a mist, descended after it. She held her hand above her head, and it seemed to point to the onward-dashing carriage.

"Horror upon horror! the carriage itself began to sink into the earth—quicker and quicker.

"'We are sinking! Heaven help us!' cried the driver. Bolko burst the carriage door open, but escape was impossible. The moor had given way around him. The horses were already swallowed up in the abyss. The pale earth-crust trembled and heaved like flakes of ice upon a loosening river. It separated, and huge pieces were precipitated and hurled against each other. In a few seconds horses and carriage, bride and bridegroom, had disappeared for ever. As the moor closed over them, the hand of Auriola vanished.

"The Curse of her father was accomplished.

"On the same night, Gottmar castle was struck by lightning. It burned to the ground, and there the aged Hubert found his grave."


"Careful and troubled about many things,"
(Alas! that it should be so with us still
As in the time of Martha,) I went forth
Harass'd and heartsick, with hot aching brow,
Thought fever'd, happy to escape myself.

Beauteous that bright May morning! All about
Sweet influences of earth, and air, and sky,
Harmoniously accordant. I alone,
The troubled spirit that had driven me forth,
In dissonance with that fair frame of things
So blissfully serene. God had not yet
Let fall the weight of chastening that makes dumb
The murmuring lip, and stills the rebel heart,
Ending all earthly interests, and I call'd
(O Heaven!) that incomplete experience—Grief.

It would not do. The momentary sense
Of soft refreshing coolness pass'd away;
Back came the troublous thoughts, and, all in vain,
I strove with the tormentors: All in vain,
Applied me with forced interest to peruse
Fair nature's outspread volume: All in vain,
Look'd up admiring at the dappling clouds
And depths cerulean: Even as I gazed,
The film—the earthly film obscured my vision,
And in the lower region, sore perplex'd,
Again I wander'd; and again shook off
With vex'd impatience the besetting cares,
And set me straight to gather as I walk'd
A field-flower nosegay. Plentiful the choice;
[Pg 742]And, in few moments, of all hues I held
A glowing handful. In a few moments more
Where are they? Dropping as I went along
Unheeded on my path, and I was gone—
Wandering again in muse of thought perplex'd.

Despairingly I sought the social scene—
Sound—motion—action—intercourse of words
Scarcely of mind—rare privilege!—We talk'd—
Oh! how we talk'd! Discuss'd and solved all questions:
Physics and metaphysics—books and authors—
Fashion and dress—our neighbours and ourselves.
But even as the senseless changes rang,
And I help'd ring them, in my secret soul
Grew weariness, disgust, and self-contempt;
And more disturb'd in spirit, I retraced,
More cynically sad, my homeward way.

It led me through the churchyard, and methought
There entering, as I let the iron gate
Swing to behind me, that the change was good—
The unquiet living, for the quiet dead.
And at that moment, from the old church tower
A knell resounded—"Man to his long home"
Drew near. "The mourners went about the streets;"
And there, few paces onward to the right,
Close by the pathway, was an open grave,
Not of the humbler sort, shaped newly out,
Narrow and deep in the dark mould; when closed,
To be roofed over with the living sod,
And left for all adornment (and so best)
To Nature's reverential hand. The tomb,
Made ready there for a fresh habitant,
Was that of an old family. I knew it.—
A very ancient altar-tomb, where Time
With his rough fretwork mark'd the sculptor's art
Feebly elaborate—heraldic shields
And mortuary emblems, half effaced,
Deep sunken at one end, of many names,
Graven with suitable inscriptions, each
Upon the shelving slab and sides; scarce now
Might any but an antiquarian eye
Make out a letter. Five-and-fifty years
The door of that dark dwelling had shut in
The last admitted sleeper. She, 'twas said,
Died of a broken heart—a widow'd mother
Following her only child, by violent death
Cut off untimely, and—the whisper ran—
By his own hand. The tomb was ancient then,
When they two were interr'd; and they, the first
For whom, within the memory of man,
It had been open'd; and their names fill'd up
(With sharp-cut newness mocking the old stone)
The last remaining space. And so it seem'd
The gathering was complete; the appointed number
Laid in the sleeping chamber, and seal'd up
Inviolate till the great gathering day.
The few remaining of the name dispersed—
[Pg 743]The family fortunes dwindled—till at last
They sank into decay, and out of sight,
And out of memory; till an aged man
Pass'd by some parish very far away
To die in ours—his legal settlement—
Claim'd kindred with the long-forgotten race,
Its sole survivor, and in right thereof,
Of that affinity, to moulder with them
In the old family grave.

"A natural wish,"
Said the authorities; "and sure enough
He was of the old stock—the last descendant—
And it would cost no more to bury him
Under the old crack'd tombstone, with its scutcheons,
Than in the common ground." So, graciously,
The boon was granted, and he died content.
And now the pauper's funeral had set forth,
And the bell toll'd—not many strokes, nor long—
Pauper's allowance. He was coming home.
But while the train was yet a good way off—
The workhouse burial train—I stopp'd to look
Upon the scene before me; and methought
Oh! that some gifted painter could behold
And give duration to that living picture,
So rich in moral and pictorial beauty,
If seen arightly by the spiritual eye
As with the bodily organ!

The old tomb,
With its quaint tracery, gilded here and there
With sunlight glancing through the o'er-arching lime,
Far flinging its cool shadow, flickering light—
Our greyhair'd sexton, with his hard grey face,
(A living tombstone!) resting on his mattock
By the low portal; and just over right,
His back against the lime-tree, his thin hands
Lock'd in each other—hanging down before him
As with their own dead weight—a tall slim youth
With hollow hectic cheek, and pale parch'd lip,
And labouring breath, and eyes upon the ground
Fast rooted, as if taking measurement
Betime for his own grave. I stopp'd a moment,
Contemplating those thinkers—youth and age—
Mark'd for the sickle; as it seem'd—the unripe
To be first gather'd. Stepping forward, then,
Down to the house of death, in vague expectance,
I sent a curious, not unshrinking, gaze.
There lay the burning brain and broken heart,
Long, long at rest: and many a Thing beside
That had been life—warm, sentient, busy life—
Had hunger'd, thirsted, laugh'd, wept, hoped, and fear'd—
Hated and loved—enjoy'd and agonized.
Where of all this, was all I look'd to see?
The mass of crumbling coffins—some belike
(The undermost) with their contents crush'd in,
Flatten'd, and shapeless. Even in this damp vault,
With more completeness could the old Destroyer
Have done his darkling work? Yet lo! I look'd
Into a small square chamber, swept and clean,
[Pg 744]Except that on one side, against the wall,
Lay a few fragments of dark rotten wood,
And a small heap of fine, rich, reddish earth
Was piled up in a corner.

"How is this?"
In stupid wonderment I ask'd myself,
And dull of apprehension. Turning, then,
To the old sexton—"Tell me, friend," I said,
"Here should be many coffins—Where are they?
And"—pointing to the earth-heap—"what is that?"

He raised his eyes to mine with a strange look
And strangely meaning smile; and I repeated—
(For not a word he spoke)—my witless question.

Then with a deep distinctness he made answer,
Distinct and slow, looking from whence I pointed,
Full in my face again, and what he said
Thrill'd through my very soul—"That's what we are!"

So I was answer'd. Sermons upon death
I had heard many. Lectures by the score
Upon life's vanities. But never words
Of mortal preacher to my heart struck home
With such convicting sense and suddenness
As that plain-spoken homily, so brief,
Of the unletter'd man.

"That's what we are!"—
Repeating after him, I murmur'd low
In deep acknowledgment, and bow'd the head
Profoundly reverential. A deep calm
Came over me, and to the inward eye
Vivid perception. Set against each other,
I saw weigh'd out the things of time and sense,
And of eternity;—and oh! how light
Look'd in that truthful hour the earthly scale!
And oh! what strength, when from the penal doom
Nature recoil'd, in His remember'd words:
"I am the Resurrection and the Life."

And other words of that Divinest Speaker
(Words to all mourners of all times address'd)
Seem'd spoken to me as I went along
In prayerful thought, slow musing on my way—
"Believe in me"—"Let not your hearts be troubled"—
And sure I could have promised in that hour,
But that I knew myself how fallible,
That never more should cross or care of this life
Disquiet or distress me. So I came,
Chasten'd in spirit, to my home again,
Composed and comforted, and cross'd the threshold
That day "a wiser, not a sadder, woman."


[Pg 745]


Burke died in 1797, and yet, after the lapse of almost half a century, the world is eager to treasure every recollection of his name. This is the true tribute to a great man, and the only tribute which is worth the wishes of a great man. The perishable nature of all the memorials of human hands has justly been the theme of every moralist, since tombs first bore an image or an inscription. Yet, such as they are, they ought to be given; but they are all that man can give. The nobler monument must be raised by the individual himself, and must be the work of his lifetime; its guardianship must be in the hands, not of sacristans and chapters, but in those of the world; his panegyric must be found, not in the extravagance or adulation of his marble, but in the universal voice which records his career, and cherishes his name as a new stimulant of public virtue.

We have no intention of retracing the steps by which this memorable man gradually rose to so high a rank in the estimation of his own times. No history of intellectual eminence during the latter half of the nineteenth century—the most troubled, important, and productive period of human annals since the birth of the European kingdoms—can be written, without giving some testimonial to his genius in every page. But his progress was not limited to his Age. He is still progressive. While his great contemporaries have passed away, honoured indeed, and leaving magnificent proofs of their powers, in the honour and security of their country, Burke has not merely retained his position before the national eye, but has continually assumed a loftier stature, and shone with a more radiant illumination. The great politician of his day, he has become the noblest philosopher of ours. Every man who desires to know the true theory of public morals, and the actual causes which influence the rise and fall of thrones, makes his volumes a study; every man who desires to learn how the most solemn and essential truths may not merely be adorned, but invigorated, by the richest colourings of imagination, must labour to discover the secret of his composition; and every man who, born in party, desires to emancipate his mind from the egotism, bitterness, and barrenness of party, or achieve the still nobler and more difficult task of turning its evils into good, and of making it an instrument of triumph for the general cause of mankind, must measure the merits and success of his enterprise by its similarity to the struggles, the motives, and the ultimate triumph of Edmund Burke.

The present volumes contain a considerable portion of the correspondence which Burke carried on with his personal and public friends during the most stirring period of his life. The papers had been put in trust of the late French Lawrence the civilian, and brother to the late Archbishop of Cashel, with whom was combined in the trust Dr King, afterwards Bishop of Rochester, both able men and particular friends of Burke. But Lawrence, while full of the intention of giving a life of his celebrated friend, died in 1809, and the papers were bequeathed by the widow of Burke, who died in 1812, to the Bishop of Rochester, the Right Hon. W. Elliot, and Earl Fitzwilliam, for the publication of such parts as had not already appeared. This duty chiefly devolved upon Dr King, who had been made Bishop of Rochester in 1808. Personal infirmity, and that most distressing of all infirmities, decay of sight, retarded the publishing of the works; but sixteen volumes were completed. The bishop's death in 1828, put an end to all the hopes which had been long entertained, of an authentic life from his pen.

On this melancholy event, the papers came into the possession of the late Earl Fitzwilliam, from whom they devolved to the present Earl, [Pg 746]who, with Sir Richard Bourke, a distant relative of the family, and personally intimate with Burke during the last eight years of his life, has undertaken the present collection of his letters. Those letters which required explanation have been supplied with intelligent and necessary notes, and the whole forms a singularly important publication.

Many of Burke's earliest letters were written to a Richard Shackleton, the son of a Quaker at whose school Burke with his two brothers had been placed in 1741. In 1743, he was placed in the college of Dublin, and then commenced his correspondence with Shackleton. Even those letters exhibit, at the age of little more than fifteen, the sentiments which his mature life was spent in establishing and enlarging. He says of sectaries, and this was to a sectary himself, "I assure you, I don't think near so favourably of those sectaries you mentioned, (he had just spoken of the comparative safety of virtuous heathens, who, not having known the name of Christianity, were not to be judged by its law,) many of those sectaries breaking, as they themselves confessed, for matters of indifference, and no way concerned in the only affair that is necessary, viz. salvation; and what a great crime schism is, you can't be ignorant. This, and the reasons in my last, and if you consider what will occur to yourself, together with several texts, will bring you to my way of thinking on that point. Let us endeavour to live according to the rules of the Gospel; and he that prescribed them, I hope, will consider our endeavours to please him, and assist us in our designs.

"I don't like that part of your letter, wherein you say you had the testimony of well-doing in your breast. Whenever such notions rise again, endeavour to suppress them. We should always be in no other than the state of a penitent, because the most righteous of us is no better than a sinner. Read the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican who prayed in the temple."

We next have a letter exhibiting the effect of external things on the writer's mind, and expressed with almost the picturesque power of his higher days. He tells his friend, that he will endeavour to answer his letter in good-humour, "though every thing around," he says, "conspires to excite in him a contrary disposition—the melancholy gloom of the day, the whistling winds, and the hoarse rumbling of the swollen Liffey, with a flood which, even where I write, lays close siege to our own street, not permitting any to go in or out to supply us with the necessaries of life."

After some statements of the rise of the river, he says, "It gives me pleasure to see nature in those great though terrible scenes; it fills the mind with grand ideas, and turns the soul in upon herself. This, together with the sedentary life I lead, forced some reflections on me, which perhaps would otherwise not have occurred. I considered how little man is, yet, in his own mind, how great. He is lord and master of all things, yet scarce can command any thing. What well laid, and what better executed scheme of his is there, but what a small change of nature is entirely able to defeat and abolish. If but one element happens to encroach a little upon another, what confusion may it not create in his affairs, what havoc, what destruction: the servant destined to his use, confines, menaces, and frequently destroys this mighty, this feeble lord."

One of those letters mentions his feelings on the defeat of the luckless Charles Edward, whose hopes of the British crown were extinguished by the battle of Culloden, (April 16, 1746.) "The Pretender, who gave us so much disturbance for some time past, is at length, with all his adherents, utterly defeated, and himself (as some say) taken prisoner. 'Tis strange to see how the minds of the people are in a few days changed. The very men who, but a while ago, while they were alarmed by his progress, so heartily cursed and hated those unfortunate creatures, are now all pity, and wish it could be terminated without bloodshed. I am sure I share in the general compassion. It is, indeed, melancholy to consider the state of those unhappy gentlemen who engaged in this affair, (as for the rest,[Pg 747] they lose but their lives,) who have thrown away their lives and fortunes, and destroyed their families for ever, in what, I believe, they thought a just cause." Those sentiments exhibit the early propensity of Burke's mind to a generous dealing with political opponents. He was a Protestant, a zealous admirer of the constitution of 1688, as all Irish Protestants were in his day, whether old or young; and yet he feels an unequivocal, as it was a just compassion for the brave men, who, under an impulse of misapplied loyalty, and in obedience to a mistaken sense of duty, went headlong to their ruin, for a prince who was a Papist, and thus would have been, like his father, a most hazardous sovereign to the liberties and religion of England.

In allusion to his collegiate career, he describes himself as having taken up every successive subject, with an ardour which, however, speedily declined.

"First, I was greatly taken with natural philosophy, which, while I should have given my mind to logic, employed me incessantly, (logic forming a principal part of the first year's studies.) This I call my furor mathematicus. But this worked off as soon as I began to read it in the college. This threw me back to logic and metaphysics. Here I remained a good while, and with much pleasure, and this was my furor logicus—a disease very common in the days of ignorance, and very uncommon in these enlightened times. Next succeeded the furor historicus, which also had its day, but is now no more, being absorbed in the furor poeticus, which (as skilful physicians assure me) is difficultly cured. But doctors differ, and I don't despair of a cure." Fortunately, he at last accomplished that cure, for his early poetry gives no indications of future excellence. His prose is much more poetic, even in those early letters, than his verse. A great poet unquestionably is a great man; but Burke's greatness was to be achieved in another sphere. It is only in the visions of prophecy that we see the Lion with wings. Burke entered his name at the Middle Temple in April 1747, and went to London to keep his terms in 1750. He was now twenty-two years old, and his constitution being delicate, and apparently consumptive, he adopted, during this period of his residence in England, a habit to which he probably owed his strength of constitution in after-life. During the vacations, he spent his time in travelling about England, generally in company with a friend and relative, Mr William Burke. Though his finances were by no means narrow—his father being a man of success in his profession—Burke probably travelled the greater part of those journeys on foot. When he found an agreeable country town or village, he fixed his quarters there, leading a regular life, rising early, taking frequent exercise, and employing himself according to the inclinations of the hour. There could be no wiser use of his leisure; exercise of the frame is health of the mind, open air is life to the student, change of scene is mental vigour to an enquiring, active, and eager spirit; and thus the feeble boy invigorated himself for the most strenuous labours of the man, and laid the foundation for a career of eminent usefulness and public honour for nearly half a century of the most stirring period of the modern world.

Some of his letters touch, in his style of grave humour, on these pleasant wanderings.—"You have compared me, for my rambling disposition, to the sun. Sincerely, I can't help finding a likeness myself, for they say the sun sends down much the same influences whenever he comes into the same signs. Now I am influenced to shake off my laziness, and write to you at the same time of the year, and from the same west country I wrote my last in. Since I had your letter I have often shifted the scene. I spent part of the winter, that is the term time, in London, and part in Croydon in Surrey. About the beginning of the summer, finding myself attacked with my old complaints, I went once more to Bristol, and found the same benefit." Of his adventures at Monmouth, he says they would almost compose a novel, and of a more curious kind than is generally issued from the press. He and his relative formed the topic of the town, both while they were there and after they left it. "The most innocent[Pg 748] scheme," said he, "they guessed, was that of fortune-hunting; and when they saw us quit the town without wives, the lower sort sagaciously judged us spies to the French king. What is much more odd is, that here my companion and I puzzled them as much as we did at Monmouth, [he was then at Turlaine in Wiltshire,] for this is a place of very great trade in making fine cloths, in which they employ a great number of hands. The first conjecture, for they could not fancy how any other sort of people could spend so much of their time at books; but finding that we receive from time to time a good many letters, they conclude us merchants. They at last began to apprehend that we were spies from Spain on their trade." Still they appeared mysterious; and the old woman in whose lodgings they lived, paid them the rather ambiguous compliment of saying, "I believe that you be gentlemen, but I ask no questions." "What makes the thing still better," says Burke, "about the same time we came hither, arrived a little parson equally a stranger; but he spent a good part of his time in shooting and other country amusements, got drunk at night, got drunk in the morning, and became intimate with every body in the village. But he surprised nobody, no questions were asked about him, because he lived like the rest of the world. But that two men should come into a strange country, and partake of none of the country diversions, seek no acquaintance, and live entirely recluse, is something so inexplicable as to puzzle the wisest heads, even that of the parish-clerk himself."

About the year 1756, Burke, still without a profession—for though he had kept his terms he was never called to the bar—began to feel the restlessness, perhaps the self-condemnation, natural to every man who feels life advancing on him without an object. He now determined to try his strength as an author, and published his Vindication of Natural Society—a pamphlet in which, adopting the showy style of Bolingbroke, but pushing his arguments to the extreme, he shows the fallacy of his principles. This work excited considerable attention at the time. The name of the author remained unknown, and the imitation was so complete, that for some time it was regarded as a posthumous work of the infidel lord. Burke, in one of his later publications, exclaims—Who now reads Bolingbroke? who ever read him through? We may be assured, at least, that one read him through; and that one was Edmund Burke. The dashing rhetoric, and headlong statements of Bolingbroke; his singular affluence of language, and his easy disregard of fact; the boundless lavishing and overflow of an excitable and glowing mind, on topics in which prejudice and passion equally hurried him onward, and which the bitter recollections of thwarted ambition made him regard as things to be trampled on, if his own fame was to survive, was incomparably transferred by Burke to his own pages. The performance produced a remarkable sensation amongst the leaders of public opinion and literature. Chesterfield pronounced it to be from the pen of Bolingbroke. Mallet, the literary lord's residuary legatee, was forced to disclaim it by public advertisement; but Mallet's credit was not of the firmest order, and his denial was scarcely believed until Burke's name, as the author, was known. But his Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of the Sublime and Beautiful, brought him more unequivocal applause. His theory on this subject has been disputed, and is obviously disputable; but it was chiefly written at the age of nineteen; it has never been wholly superseded, and, for elegance of diction, has never been equaled. It brought him into immediate intercourse with all that may be called the fashion of literature—Lyttleton, Warburton, Soame Jenyns, Hume, Reynolds, Lord Bath, Johnson, the greatest though the least influential of them all, and Mrs Montague, the least but the most influential of them all. There must have been a good deal of what is called fortune in this successful introduction to the higher orders of London society; for many a work of superior intelligence and more important originality has been produced, without making its author known be[Pg 749]yond the counter of the publisher. But what chance began his merits completed. The work was unquestionably fit for the hands of blue-stockingism; the topic was pleasing to literary romance; the very title had a charm for the species of philosophy which lounges on sofas, and talks metaphysics in the intervals of the concert or the card-table. It may surprise us, that in an age when so many manly and muscular understandings existed at the same time in London, things so infinitely trifling as conversaziones should have been endured; but conversaziones there were, and Burke's book was precisely made to their admiration. It is no dishonour to the matured abilities of this great man, that he produced a book which found its natural place on the toilet-tables, and its natural praise in the tongues of the Mrs Montagues of this world. It might have been worse; he never thought it worth his while to make it better; the theory is worth nothing, but the language is elegant; and the whole, regarded as the achievement of a youth of nineteen, does honour to the spirit of his study, and the polish of his pen.

A change was now to take place in Burke's whole career. He might have perished in poverty, notwithstanding his genius, except for the chance which introduced him to Fitzherbert, a graceful and accomplished man, who united to a high tone of fashionable life a gratification in the intercourse of intelligent society. Partly through this gentleman's interference, and partly through that of the late Earl of Charlemont, Burke was introduced to William Gerard Hamilton, who shortly after went to Ireland as secretary to the lord-lieutenant, Lord Halifax. However, this connexion, though it continued for six years, was evidently an uneasy one to Burke; and a letter written by him in the second year of his private secretaryship to Hamilton, shows how little they were fitted for cordial association. A pension of L.300 a-year was assigned to Burke as a remuneration for his services, which, however, he evidently seemed to regard in the light of a retaining fee. In consequence of this conception, and the fear of being fettered for life, Burke wrote a letter, stating that it would be necessary to give a portion of his time to publication on his own account.

"Whatever advantages," said he, "I have acquired, have been owing to some small degree of literary reputation. It would be hard to persuade me that any further services which your kindness may propose for me, or any in which my friends may co-operate with you, will not be greatly facilitated by doing something to cultivate and keep alive the same reputation. I am fully sensible that this reputation may be as much hazarded as forwarded by a new publication; but because a certain oblivion is the consequence to writers of my inferior class of an entire neglect of publication, I consider it such a risk as must sometimes be run. For this purpose some short time, at convenient intervals, and especially at the dead time of the year, it would be requisite to study and consult proper books. The matter may be very easily settled by a good understanding between ourselves, and by a discreet liberty, which I think you would not wish to restrain, or I to abuse."

However, it will be seen that Gerard Hamilton thought differently on the subject. We break off this part of the correspondence, for the purpose of introducing a fragment of that wisdom which formed so early and so promising a portion of the mind of Burke. In writing of his brother Richard to his Irish friend, he says—"Poor Dick sets off at the beginning of next week for the Granadas, [in which he had obtained a place under government.] He goes in good health and spirits, which are all but little enough to battle with a bad climate and a bad season. But it must be submitted to. Providence never intended, to much the greater part, an entire life of ease and quiet. A peaceable, honourable, and affluent decline of life must be purchased by a laborious or hazardous youth; and every day, I think more and more that it is well worth the purchase. Poverty and age suit very ill together, and a course of struggling is miserable indeed, when strength is decayed and hope gone. Turpe senex miles!"

Burke's quarrel with Hamilton ended in his resigning his pension. His[Pg 750] feelings appear to have been deeply hurt by Hamilton's superciliousness, and his demand for the right to employ the whole time of his private secretary. In a long explanatory letter to Hutchinson, a leading member of the Irish parliament, and father of the late Lord Donoughmore, he says, indignantly enough—"I flatter myself to let you see that I deserved to be considered in another manner than as one of Mr Hamilton's cattle, or as a piece of his household stuff. Six of the best years of my life he took me from every pursuit of literary reputation, or of improvement of my fortune. In that time he made his own fortune, a very great one; and he has also taken to himself the very little one which I had made. In all this time you may easily conceive how much I felt at being left behind by almost all my contemporaries. There never was a season more favourable for any man who chose to enter into the career of public life; and I think I am not guilty of ostentation in supposing my own moral character and my industry, my friends and connexions, when Mr H. first sought my acquaintance, were not at all inferior to those of several whose fortune is at this day upon a very different footing from mine."

It is evident that Burke's mind was at this period turned to authorship, and that his chief quarrel arose from the petty and pragmatical demand of Hamilton, that he should abandon it altogether. Burke soon had ample revenge, if it was to be found in the obscurity into which Hamilton rapidly fell, and the burlesque which alone revived his name from its obscurity. The contrast between the two must have been a lesson to the vanity of the one, as pungent as was its triumph. If ever the fate of Tantalus was realized to man, it was in the perpetual thirst and perpetual disappointment of Hamilton for public name. The cup never reached his lips but it was instantly dry; while Burke was seen reveling in the full flow of public renown—buoyant on the stream into which so many others plunged only to sink, and steering his noble course with a full mastery of the current. "Single-speech Hamilton" became a title of ridicule, while Burke was pouring forth, night after night, speech after speech, rich in the most sparkling and most solid opulence of the mind. He must have been more or less than man, to have never cast a glance at the decrepitude of the formal coxcomb whom he once acknowledged as his leader, and compared his shrunk shape with the vigorous and athletic proportions of his own intellectual stature. Hamilton, too, must have had many a pang. The wretched nervousness of character which at once stimulated him to pine for distinction, and disqualified him from obtaining it, must have made his life miserable. If the magnificent conception of the poet's Prometheus could be lowered to any thing so trivial as a disappointed politician of the eighteenth century, its burlesque might be amply shown in a mind helplessly struggling against a sense of its own inferiority, gnawed by envy at the success of better men, and with only sufficient intellectual sensibility remaining to have that gnawing constantly renewed.

Burke's letters to the chief Irishmen with whom his residence in Dublin had brought him into intercourse, long continued indignant. "Having presumed," said he, in one of those explanatory letters, "to put a test to me, which no man not born in Africa ever thought of taking, on my refusal he broke off all connexion with me in the most insolent manner. He, indeed, entered into two several negotiations afterwards, but both poisoned in their first principles by the same spirit of injustice with which he set out in his first dealings with me. I, therefore, could never give way to his proposals. The whole ended by his possessing himself of that small reward for my services which, I since find, he had a very small share in procuring for me. After, or, indeed, rather during his negotiations, he endeavoured to stain my character and injure my future fortune, by every calumny his malice could suggest. This is the case of my connexion with Mr Hamilton."

If all this be true—and whoever impeached the veracity of Burke in any thing?—the more effectually his enemy was trampled the better: malice can be punished sufficiently only by extirpation.

A powerful letter to Henry Flood,[Pg 751] then one of the leading members of the Irish House of Commons, shows how deeply Burke felt the vexation of Hamilton's conduct, and not less explicitly administers the moral, of how much must be suffered by every man who enters into the conflicts of public life. Flood, too, had his share of those vexations; perhaps more of them than his correspondent. Henry Flood was one of the most remarkable men whom Ireland had produced. Commencing his career with a handsome fortune, he had plunged into the dissipation which was almost demanded of men of family in his day; but some accidental impression (we believe a fit of illness) suddenly changed his whole course. He turned his attention to public life, entered the House of Commons, and suddenly astonished every body by his total transformation from a mere man of fashion to a vigorous and brilliant public orator. He was the most logical of public speakers, without the formality of logic, and the most imaginative, without the flourish of fancy. For ten years, Flood was the leader of the House, on whichever side he stood. He was occasionally in opposition, and the champion of opposition politics in his earlier career; but at length, unfortunately alike for his feelings and his fame, he grew indolent, accepted an almost sinecure place, and indulged himself in ease and silence for full ten years. A loss like this was irreparable, in the short duration allotted to the living supremacy of statesmanship. No man in the records of the English parliament has been at his highest vigour for more than ten years; he may have been rising before, or inheriting a portion of his parliamentary distinction—enough to give dignity to his decline; but his true time has past, and thenceforth he must be satisfied with the reflection of his own renown. Flood had already passed his hour when he was startled by the newborn splendour of Grattan. The contest instantly commenced between those extraordinary men, and was carried on for a while with singular animation, and not less singular animosity. The ground of contest was the constitution of 1782. The exciting cause of contest was the wrath of Flood at seeing the laurels which he had relinquished seized by a younger champion, and the daring, yet justified confidence of Grattan in his own admirable powers to win and wear them. Flood, in the bitterest pungency of political epigram, charged Grattan with having sold himself to the people, and then sold the people to the minister for prompt payment. (A vote of £50,000 had been passed to purchase an estate for Grattan.) Grattan retorted, that "Flood, after having sold himself to the minister, was angry only because he was interrupted in the attempt to sell himself to the people." The country, fond of the game of partizanship, ranged itself under the banners of both, alternately hissed and applauded both, and at length abandoned both, and in its new fondness for change, adopted the bolder banners of revolution. Both were fighting for a shadow, and both must have known it; but the prize of rhetoric was not to be given up without a struggle. The "constitution" was rapidly forgotten, when Flood retired into England and obscurity; and Grattan, who had been left, if not victor, at least possessor of the field, grew tired of struggles without a purpose, and plaudits without a reward. The absurdity of affecting an independence which could not exist an hour but by the protection of England, and the burlesque of a parliament into which no man entered but in expectation of a job; the scandal of an Irish slave-market, and the costliness of purchasing representatives, only to be sold by them in turn, became so palpable to the national eye, that the nation contemptuously cashiered the legislature. The gamblers who had made their fortunes off the people, and had amused themselves with building a house of cards, saw their paper fabric fall at the first breath; and the nation looked on the fall with the negligent scorn excited in rational eyes by detected imposture. The attempt is once more prepared, but Ireland will have no house of cards, still less will she suffer the building of an hospital for decayed fashion and impotent intrigue—a receptacle for political incurables—and meritorious, in the sight even of its projectors, simply for affording them snug stewardships, showy governorships, and the whole sinecure sys[Pg 752]tem of emolument without responsibility.

Burke again repeats to Flood his wrath at Hamilton's provocation.—"The occasion of our difference was not any act whatsoever on my part, it was entirely on his—by a voluntary, but most insolent and intolerable demand, amounting to no less than a claim of servitude during the whole course of my life." He then alludes to the position of political parties, and gives a sketch of the great Earl of Chatham which shows the hand of a master. "Nothing but an intractable temper in your friend Pitt can prevent an admirable and most lasting system from being put together; and this crisis will show whether pride or patriotism be predominant in his character, for you may be assured that he has it now in his power to come into the service of his country upon any plan of politics he may choose to dictate; with great and honourable claims to himself and to every friend he has in the world, and with such a stretch of power as will be equal to every thing but absolute despotism over the king and kingdom. A few days will show whether he will take his part, or that of continuing on his bank at Hayes, (his country-seat,) talking fustian, excluded from all ministerial, and incapable of all parliamentary service; for his gout is worse than ever, but his pride may disable him more than his gout."

We then have an odd rambling letter from Dr Leland, the author of a History of Ireland, a heavy performance but an honest one, and by far the best and least unfortunate of the unfortunate attempts to rationalize the caprices and calamities of that unhappy country. Leland's letter is written in congratulation to the two brothers, Edmund and William Burke, the former having been appointed private secretary to the Marquis of Rockingham in July 1765, the latter one of the under secretaries of state. In speaking of Ireland, this writer says, sensibly enough, "Let who will come to govern us poor wretches, I care not, provided we are decently governed. I would not have his secretary a jolly, good-humoured abandoned profligate, (the most dangerous character in society,) or a sullen, vain, proud, selfish, cankered-hearted, envious reptile—though what matter who is either lieutenant or secretary?"

Burke was not at this time in Parliament, nor until the 26th of December in this year, when he was returned for the borough of Wendover, through the influence of Lord Verney. A letter from Dr Markham, afterwards archbishop of York, shows the degree of estimation in which his abilities were held, and the expectations which he excited among able men, at a period when his parliamentary faculties were still unknown. He says to William Burke,—"I was informed of Ned's cold by a letter from Skynner. I am very glad to hear it is so much better. I should be grieved to hear he was ill at any time, and particularly at so critical a time as this. I think much will depend on his outset. I wish him to appear at once in some important question. If he has but that confidence in his strength which I have always had, he cannot fail of appearing with lustre. I am very glad to hear from you that he feels his own consequence as well as the crisis of his situation. He is now on the ground on which I have been so many years wishing to see him. One splendid day will crush the malevolence of enemies, as well as the envy of some who often praise him. When his reputation is once established, the common voice will either silence malignity or destroy its effect."

This was written three days after Burke's entrance into Parliament. It is curious to see, in the letters of those early correspondents, most of them accomplished and practical men, how fully they were possessed with a sense of his promised superiority. "You are now, I am certain," says Leland, "a man of business, deeply immersed in public affairs, commercial and political. You will show yourself a man of business in the House of Commons, and you will not, I am certain, build your reputation and consequence there upon a single studied manufactured piece of eloquence, and then, like the brazen head, shut your mouth for ever. I trust I shall hear of your rising regularly, though ra[Pg 753]pidly; that I shall hear of ministers begging that you would be pleased to accept of being vice-treasurer of Ireland, and then of your soaring so high as to be quite out of view of such insects as I—and so good-night, my dear Ned. If ever chance should bring us together, we are quite ruined as companions. The saunterings, the readings, the laughings, and the dosings in Mount Gallagher (his country-seat) are all over. Your head is filled with questions, divisions, and majorities. My thoughts are employed on Louth and Warburton."

Burke began his parliamentary triumphs with but little delay. The colonies were the grand subject of the time, and Burke instantly devoted himself to that subject with the whole force of his capacious intellect. He was regarded by the House, on the first speech which he made on this voluminous topic, as exhibiting extraordinary knowledge, combined with a power of language unequalled save by Chatham himself. One of the letters of congratulations is from Dr Marriott, who was afterwards judge of the court of admiralty. "Permit me to tell you that you are the person the least sensible of the members of the House of Commons, how much glory you acquired last Monday night; and it would be an additional satisfaction to you that this testimony comes from a judge of public speaking, the most disinterested and capable of judging of it. Dr Hay assures me that your speech was far superior to that of any other speaker on the colonies that night. I could not refrain from acquainting you with an opinion, which must so greatly encourage you to proceed, and to place the palm of the orator with those which you have already acquired of the writer and the philosopher." Hay was afterwards judge of the admiralty. At his death he was succeeded by Marriott. He was of the Bedford party, which, as it was wholly opposed to the Rockingham, made the testimony more valuable.

Burke's second speech was equally the subject of admiration. A second letter from Marriott, with whom he had had some conversation expressive of his own diffidence, at least as to his manner, in addressing the House, mentions once more the opinion of Dr Hay, for whose taste Marriott seems to have had great deference. "His opinion," he writes, "is, that nothing could be more remote from awkwardness or constraint than your manner; that your style, ideas, and expression, were peculiarly your own; natural and unaffected, and so different from the cant of the House, or from the jargon of the bar, that he could not imagine any thing more agreeable; that you did not dwell upon a point till you had tired it out, as is the way of most speakers, but kept on with fresh ideas crowding upon you, and rising one out of another, all leading to one point, which was constantly kept in view to the audience; and, although every thing seemed a kind of new political philosophy, yet it was all to the purpose and well-connected, so as to produce the effect; and that he admired your last speech the more as it was impromptu. I thought he was describing to me a Greek orator, whose select orations I had translated four times when I first went to the university, and therefore marked the traits of this character. It was impossible for me not to communicate to you a decision from so great a master himself, though differing from you in party, that you may go on in a way you have begun, with such glory to yourself, and to which you add so much by being so little sensible of it."

In 1766 the Rockingham ministry was suddenly dashed to the ground, and all its connexions, of course, went down along with it. The marquis was a man of great estate and excellent intentions, but his ministry realized the Indian fable of the globe being painted on a tortoise—the merit of the political tortoise being, in this instance, to stand still, while its ambition unfortunately was to move. The consequence naturally followed, that the world took its own course, and left the tortoise behind. But Burke had distinguished himself so much that offers of office were made to him from the succeeding administration. Those he declined, and commenced that neutral existence which, with the majority of politicians, is worse than none. There was a weakness in Burke's character which[Pg 754] did him infinite mischief for the first ten years of his political life. We shall not call it an affectation in the instance of so great a man, but it paid all the penalties of folly—and this was his propensity to feel, or at least to express, a personal affection for the men whom he politically followed. Even of Hamilton, the most supercilious and least loveable of mankind, Burke speaks with a tenderness absolutely ridiculous amongst politicians. Of Lord Rockingham he seldom speaks but in a tone of romance, singularly inapplicable to that formal and frigid figure of aristocracy. Of Fox, in latter days, he spoke in a sentimental tone worthy only of a lover on the French stage; and, in all these instances, he was doubtless laughed at, notwithstanding all his sensibilities. With the highest admiration of his genius, we must believe, for the sake of his understanding, that he adopted this style merely for fashion's sake; for familiarity, which is akin to fondness, as we are told by the poets that pity is akin to love, was much the foolish fashion of the day. Men of the highest rank, and doubtless of the haughtiest arrogance, were called Tom, and Dick, and Harry; and this silliness was the language of high life, until the French Revolution and the democratic war at home taught them, that if they adopted the phraseology of their own footmen, their footmen would probably take possession of their title-deeds. The hollowness of public life is as soon discovered as the haughtiness of public men. A man of heart like Burke ought to have disdained even the language of courtiership, and while he observed the decorums of society, scorned to stoop even to the phraseology of humiliation. But one of the most curious features of this obsolete day is the manner in which the country was disposed of. No game of whist, in one of the lordly clubs of St James's Square, was ever more exclusively played. It was simply a question whether his Grace of Bedford would be content with a quarter or a half of the cabinet, or whether the Marquis of Rockingham would be satisfied with two-fifths, or the Earl of Shelburne should have all or should share power with the Duke of Portland. In all those barterings and borrowings we never hear the name of the nation. No whisper announces that there is such a thing in existence as the people. No allusion ever proceeds from the stately lips, or offends the "ears polite," of the embroidered conclave, referring to either the interests, the feelings, or the necessities of the nation. All was done as in an assemblage of a higher race of existence, calmly carving out the world for themselves—a tribe of Epicurean deities, with the cabinet for their Olympus, stooping to our inferior region only to enjoy their own atmosphere afterwards with the greater zest, or shift their quarters, like the poet's Jupiter, when tired of the dust and clamour of war, moving off on his clouds and with his attendant goddesses, to the tranquil realms of the Hippomolgi.

And this highbred condition of affairs was the more repulsive, from the fact that the greater number of those disposers of office and dividers of empire were among the emptiest of mankind. The succession of ministers, from the days of Walpole, (unquestionably a shrewd, though a coarse mind, and profligate personage,) with the exception of Chatham, was a list of silken imbeciles; very rich, or very highborn, or very handsomely supplied with boroughs, but, in all other senses, the last men who should have been entrusted with power.

We have to thank the satirists, the public misfortunes, and even the demagogues, for extinguishing this smooth and pacific system. Junius, with his sarcastic pen, the American war, and even the gross impudence of Wilkes, stirred the public mind to remember that it had a voice in the state. A manlier period succeeded; and we shall no more hear of the government being divided among the select party, like a twelfth cake, nor see the interests of a nation which represents the interests of the globe, compromised to suit the contending claims of full-dressed frivolity.

As a specimen of this courtly affair, we give a few fragments from a confidential letter of Burke to the Marquis of Rockingham. "Lord Shelburne still continues in administration, though as adverse and as much dis[Pg 755]liked as ever.—The Duke of Grafton continues, I hear, his old complaints of his situation, and his genuine desire of holding it as long as he can. At same time, Lord Shelburne gets loose too. I know that Lord Camden, who adhered to him in these late divisions, has given him up, and gone over to the Duke of Grafton. The Bedfords are horridly frightened at all this, for fear of seeing the table they had so well covered, and at which they sat down with so good an appetite, kicked down in the scuffle. They find things not ripe at present for bringing in Grenville, and that any capital move just now would only betray their weakness in the closet and the nation." Thus, those noble personages had it all to themselves. Again—

"If Grenville was peculiarly exceptionable, another middle person might have the Treasury. I fancy their middleman to be the same they had in their thoughts this time twelve-month—Lord Gower. They talked of the Duke of Northumberland as a proper person for the Treasury, in case of the Duke of Grafton's going out. The truth is, the Bedfords will never act any part, either fair or amiable, with your lordship or your friends, until they see you in a situation to give the law to them." No doubt all this was perfectly true; the whole was selfish, supercilious, and exclusive; one red riband matched against another, one garter balanced against a rival fragment of blue; the whole a court-ball, in which the nation had no more share than if it had been danced in the saloon of Windsor; a masquerade in which the political minuet was gravely danced by the peerage in character, and of which the nation heard scarcely even the fiddles. But those times have passed away, and, for the honour of common sense, they have passed never to return.

The long contested authorship of "Junius's Letters" makes the subject of a brief portion of his correspondence. A letter from Charles Townshend, brother of Lord Sidney, says—"I met Fitzherbert last night, and talked to him on the subject of our late conversation. I told him that I had heard that he had asserted that you were the author of 'Junius's Letters,' for which I was very sorry, because, if it reached your ears, it would give you a great deal of concern. He assured me, that he had only said that the ministry now looked upon you as the author, but that he had constantly contradicted the report whenever it was mentioned in his company, particularly yesterday and the day before, to persons who affirmed that you were now fixed on as the writer of those papers. He declared that he was convinced in his own mind that you were not concerned in the publication, and that he had said so." This letter was written in 1771. Burke replies to it, in two days after, in a letter of thanks, unequivocally denying that he had any share in those letters. "My friends I have satisfied; my enemies shall never have any direct satisfaction from me. The ministry, I am told, are convinced of my having written Junius, on the authority of a miserable bookseller's preface, in which there are not three lines of common truth or sense. I have never once condescended to take the least notice of their invectives, or publicly to deny the fact on which some of them were grounded. At the same time to you or to any of my friends, I have been as ready as I ought to be in disclaiming, in the most precise terms, writings that are as superior, perhaps, to my talents, as they are most certainly different in many essential points from my regards and my principles." Burke seems to have been constantly bored on this subject, for he writes an angry letter to Markham, then bishop of Chester. Charles Townshend writes to him again to say that the Public require a more distinct disclaimer. Burke answers, "I have, I daresay to nine-tenths of my acquaintances, denied my being the author of Junius, or having any knowledge of the author, whenever the thing was mentioned, whether in jest or earnest. I now give you my word and honour that I am not the author of Junius, and that I know not the author of that paper, and I do authorize you to say so."

We believe that this is the first time in which Burke's disclaimer has been made public; but our only surprise in the matter is, how he could at any time have been considered as the author of Junius. We should have rather said that he was the last man in the kingdom who ought to[Pg 756] have been suspected. The styles of Burke and Junius are totally different: the one loose and flowing, the other terse and pungent; the one lofty and imaginative, the other level and stern; the one taking large views on every subject, and evidently delighting in the largeness of those views, the other fixing steadily and fiercely upon the immediate object of attack, and shooting every arrow point-blank. Of course, we have no intention of wandering into a topic so thoroughly beaten as that of the authorship of Junius; but we must acknowledge, if Sir Philip Francis was not the man, no other nominal candidate for the honour has been brought forward with equal claims. The only objection which we have ever heard to his title as author is, his not making it in person; for he was said to be a man of such inordinate admiration of his own powers, that he could not have kept the secret. It has been said, too, that no fear, after the lapse of twenty years, could have prevented its being divulged. But there are other motives than fear which might act upon a proud and powerful spirit. The author of a work like Junius was clearly contemptuous of mankind, and more contemptuous in proportion to the rank of his victims. To such a man even the excitement produced by the general enquiry into the authorship might be a triumph in itself. Though a solitary, it might be a high gratification to a morbid spirit of disdain, to see himself a problem to mankind, to hear perpetual arguments raised on his identity, and see the puzzled pens of the pamphleteering word all busy in sketching an ideal likeness which each fancied to be the original. If we could imagine the shade of Swift or Shaftesbury, of Scarron or Rabelais, to walk invisibly through the world playing its bitter and fantastic tricks in the ways of men, stinging some, astounding others, and startling all, we perhaps would approach nearest to the feelings which might, now and then, have indulged the habitual scorn and stimulated the conscious power of Junius.

It has also been said that Sir Philip Francis was not equal to the composition of those masterly letters; and it must be acknowledged that, though he made some very powerful and pointed speeches in the House of Commons, they wanted the penetration and the polish of Junius. But there are several letters by Sir Philip Francis in these volumes, which, though evidently written in the haste and desultoriness of private correspondence, exhibit conceptions strongly resembling the sarcastic strength and high-wrought point of Junius.

The Hastings' trial brought Francis full before the public; and we have a letter from Burke describing one of his speeches on this subject, which, with his usual good nature, he sent to the orator's wife. It is dated April 20, 1787.—"My dear madam, I cannot, with all honest appetite, or clear conscience, sit down to my breakfast, unless I first give you an account, which will make your family breakfast as pleasant to you, as I wish all your family meetings to be. I have the satisfaction of telling you, that, not in my judgment only, but in that of all who heard him, no man ever acquitted himself, on a day of great expectation, so well as Mr Francis did yesterday. He was clear, precise, forcible, and eloquent, in a high degree. No intricate business was ever better unravelled, and no iniquity ever placed so effectually to produce its natural horror and disgust. * * * * All who heard him were delighted, except those whose mortification ought to give pleasure to every good mind. He was two hours and a half on his legs, and he never lost attention for a moment."

We give a curious specimen of the daring criticism which this applauded personage now and then ventured, even on the authorship of Burke. In 1790, Burke had prepared his celebrated work on the French Revolution for the press early in the year, and appears to have sent fragments of it to several of his friends. Casual circumstances delayed the work until October. Francis's letter was written in February. It begins—"I am sorry you should have the trouble of sending for the printed paper you lent me yesterday, though I own I cannot much regret even a fault of my own, that helps to delay the publication of that paper. [This was probably a proof sheet of the Reflections.] It is[Pg 757] the proper province, and ought to be the privilege, of an inferior to criticise and advise. The best possible critic of the Iliad, would be, ipso facto, and by virtue of that very character, incapable of being the author of it. Standing as I do in this relation to you, you would renounce your superiority, if you refused to be advised by me. Remember that this is one of the most singular, that it may be the most distinguished, and ought to be one of the most deliberate acts of your life. Your writings have hitherto been the delight and instruction of your own country. You now undertake to correct and instruct another nation; and your appeal in effect is to all Europe." After then objecting to Burke's exposure of Price and his fellow pamphleteers, as beneath the writer and his subject, he attacks him for his panegyric on the Queen of France. He then sneeringly asks, "Pray, sir, how long have you felt yourself so desperately disposed to admire the ladies of Germany?" This was an allusion to Queen Charlotte, whom Burke's particular friends had long regarded as one of their impediments to power. He proceeds—"The mischief you are going to do yourself, is to my apprehension, palpable. It is visible. It will be audible. I snuff it in the wind. I taste it already. I feel it in every sense; and so will you hereafter." This letter certainly wants the polish of Junius, but it has the power of bitter thought, and it sneers with practised piquancy. Of course, a broad line is to be drawn between a work of study and the work of the moment—between the elaborate vigour which prunes and purifies every straggling shoot away, and exhibits its production for a prize-show, and the careless luxuriance which suffers the tree to throw out its shoots under no direction, but that of the prolific power of nature. Yet the plant is the same, and though we by no means say, that even this letter gives demonstration, yet the arrogant ease of the style is such, as we should have expected to find in the familiar correspondence of Junius. His letter obviously excited in Burke a mixture of pain and indignation.

He answered it the next day in a long and eloquent vindication which was oddly enough inclosed in a letter from his son, scarcely less than menacing. It begins—"My dear sir, You must conceive that your letter, combating many old ideas of my father's, and proposing many new ones, could not fail to set his mind at work, and to make him address the effect of those operations to you. I must, therefore, entreat you not to draw him aside from the many and great labours he has in hand, by any further written communications of this kind, which would, indeed, be very useful, because they are valuable, if they were conveyed at a time when there was leisure to settle opinions." Those are hard hits at the critic, but harder were still to come. "There is one thing of which I must inform you. It is, that my father's opinions are never hastily adopted, and that even those ideas which have often appeared to me only the effect of momentary heat, or casual impression, I have afterwards found, beyond a possibility of doubt, to be the result of systematic meditation, perhaps of years. * * * * The thing, I say, is a paradox, but when we talk of things superior to ourselves, what is not paradox?"

He strikes harder still. "When we say, that one man is wiser than another, we allow that the wiser man forms his opinions upon grounds and principles which, though to him justly conclusive, cannot be comprehended and received by him who is less wise. To be wise, is only to see deeper, and further, and differently from others."

Yet this strong rebuke, which was followed by a long letter from Burke himself, half indignant, half argumentative, does not seem to have disturbed the temper of Francis, proverbially petulant as he was, if it did not rather raise his respect for both parties. He tells Burke, in a subsequent letter, that he has looked for his work, his Reflections on the Revolution, with great impatience, and read it with studious delight. He proceeds—"My dear Mr Burke, when I took what is vulgarly called the liberty of opposing my thoughts and wishes to the publication of yours, on the late transactions in France, I do assure you that I was not moved so much by a difference of opinion on the subject, as by[Pg 758] an apprehension of the personal uneasiness which, one way or other, I thought you would suffer by it. I know that virtue would be useless, if it were not active, and that it can rarely be active without exciting the most malignant of all enmity, that in which envy predominates, and which, having no injury to complain of, has no ostensible motive either to resent or to forgive." (How like Junius is all this! The likeness is still stronger as it proceeds.) "I have not yet had it in my power to read more than one third of your book. I must taste it deliberately. The flavour is too high—the wine is too rich; I cannot take a draught of it." In another passage he gives a powerful sketch of popery. In speaking of the French monarchy, and its presumed mildness in the last century, he attributes the cessation of its severities to the European change of manners. "We do not pillage and massacre quite so furiously as our ancestors used to do. Why? Because these nations are more enlightened—because the Christian religion is, de facto, not in force in the world! Suspect me not of meaning the Christian religion of the gospel. I mean that which was enforced, rather than taught, by priests, by bishops, and by cardinals; which laid waste a province, and then formed a monastery; which, after destroying a great portion of the human species, provided, as far as it could, for the utter extinction of future population, by instituting numberless retreats for celibacy; which set up an ideal being called the Church, capable of possessing property of all sorts for the pious use of its ministers, incapable of alienating, and whose property its usufructuaries very wisely said it should be sacrilege to invade; that religion, in short, which was practised, or professed, and with great zeal too, by tyrants and villains of every denomination."

These volumes show, in a strong light, the energy with which Burke watched over his party in the House of Commons, and the importance of his guardianship. He seems to have been called on for his advice in all great transactions, and to have watched over its interests during the period of Fox's absence. In 1788 the mental illness of George III. became decided, and the prospect of a regency with the Prince of Wales at its head, awoke all the long excluded ambition of the Whigs. Fox was at that period in Italy, and he was sent for by express to lead the party in the assault on office. He immediately turned his face to England, and arrived on the 24th of November, four days after the meeting of Parliament, which had, however, immediately adjourned to the fourth of the following month, for the purpose of ascertaining the health of his majesty. On this occasion Burke addressed to Fox a long and powerful letter, marking out the line which the parties should take, giving his opinion with singular distinctness, and expressing himself in the tone of one who felt his authority. He begins—"My dear Fox, If I have not been to see you before this time, it was not owing to my not having missed you in your absence, or my not having much rejoiced in your return. But I know that you are indifferent to every thing in friendship but the substance, and all proceedings of ceremony have, for many years, been out of the question between you and me." In allusion to the probable formation of a new ministry, he observes—"I do not think that a great deal of time is allowed you. Perhaps it is not for your interest that this state of things should continue long, even supposing that the exigencies of government should suffer it to remain on its present footing; but I speak without book. I remember a story of Fitzpatrick in his American campaign, that he used to say to the officers who were in the same tent, before they were up, that the only meals they had to consider how they were to procure for that day, were breakfast, dinner, and supper. I am worse off; for there are five meals necessary, and I do not know at present how to feel secure of one of them. The king, the prince, the Lords, the Commons, and the People." He then urges a bold line of policy—the public examination of the physicians, the acting independently of the ministers, and a movement on the part of the prince worthy of his station; but which, unhappily for the Whigs, was neither adopted by Fox, nor was consistent with the courtly indolence of[Pg 759] the future king. "Might it not be better," says Burke boldly, "for the prince at once to assure himself, to communicate the king's melancholy state by a message to the Houses, and to desire their counsel and support in such an exigency? It would put him forward with advantage in the eyes of the people; it would teach them to look upon him with respect, as a person possessed of the spirit of command; and it would, I am persuaded, stifle a hundred cabals, both in parliament and elsewhere, which, if they were cherished by his apparent remissness and indecision, would produce to him a vexatious and disgraceful regency and reign."

Lord Thurlow seems, in some way or other, to have given offence to every remarkable man of his day. At once crafty and insolent, he toiled for power with an indefatigable labour, as he indulged his sense of authority by an intolerable arrogance. Among the multitude of distinguished men whom this legal savage irritated, was Sir William Jones, the Orientalist. He thus writes to Burke, "I heard last night, with surprise and affliction, that the Θηριον (the wild-beast—Thurlow) was to continue in office. Now, I can assure you, from my own positive knowledge, and I know him well, that though he hates our species in general, yet his particular hatred is directed against none more virulently, than against Lord North, and the friends of the late excellent marquis. He will, indeed, make fair promises, and enter into engagements, because he is the most interested of mortals; but his ferocity in opposing the Contractors' Bill, may convince you how little he thinks himself bound by his compacts. He will take a delight in obstructing all your plans, and will never say, 'Aha, I am satisfied,' until he has overthrown you. In fact, you will not be ministers, but tenants by copy of court-roll at the will of the lord. If you remove him, and put the seal in commission, his natural indolence is such, that he will give you little trouble, because he will give himself none; but, if he continue among you, his great joy will be, and you may rely upon my intelligence, to attack the reports of your select committee, to support all those whom you condemn, and to condemn all the measures which you may support. In a word, if Caliban remain in power, there will be no Prospero in this fascinated island."

At this period, Jones was panting for an Indian judgeship, which he obtained shortly after, and proceeded to Calcutta. It may be doubted, whether his career would not have been happier and loftier had he remained at home. His indefatigable diligence must have soon conquered the difficulties of legal knowledge, and his early intercourse with the leading men of his time, would, in the common course of things, have raised him to distinction. He died at forty-seven, too early to accomplish any work of solid utility, but not too early to spread his reputation through Europe, for an extraordinary proficiency in the languages of India. Later scholars speak lightly of this multifarious knowledge, and nothing can be more probable, than that attainment of many languages, with any approach to their fluent use, is beyond the power of man. But his diligence was exemplary, his memory retentive, and his understanding accomplished by classical knowledge; with those qualities, much might be done in any pursuit; and though modern orientalists protest against the superficiality of his acquirements, their variety has been admitted, and still remain unrivaled.

Jones had his fits of despondency, like less fortunate men, and concludes his letter, by intimating a speculation, not unlike that of Burke himself in his earlier time:—"As for me, I should either settle as a lawyer at Philadelphia, whither I have been invited, or retire on my small independence to Oxford; if I had not in England a very strong attachment, and many dear friends."

One of Burke's most anxious efforts was to make his son Richard a statesman. The efforts were unsuccessful. Richard was a good son, and willing to second the desires of his father; but nature had decided otherwise, and he remained honest and amiable, but without advancing a step. Burke first sent him on a kind of semi-embassy to the headquarters of the emigrant princes at Coblentz, and he[Pg 760] there carried on a semi-negotiation. But success was not to be the fate of any thing connected with these unfortunate men, and failure was scarcely a demerit, from its universality. The next experiment was sending him as a species of private envoy to the Irish Roman Catholics; but there his failure was even more conspicuous, though perhaps it was equally inevitable. Burke's imagination was at once his unrivaled gift and his perpetual impediment. Like a lover, his eye was no sooner caught, than he invested its charmer with all conceivable attractions. This susceptibility made him irresistible in a cause worthy of his powers, but plunged him into difficulties where the object was inferior to his capacity, and unworthy of his heart. His early admiration of Fox, of Whiggism, and Reform, was the rapture of an innamorato. He could discover no defects; he disdained all doubts as a dishonourable scepticism, and challenged all obstacles, as evidences of his energy, and trophies of his success. His prosecution of Hastings, a bold piece of patriot honesty, rapidly fermented into a splendid blunder. The culprit, who ought to have been tried at the Old Bailey, was elevated into a national criminal; and the assembled majesty of the legislature was summoned to settle a case in the lapse of years, which would have been decided in a day by "twelve good men and true," in a box in the city. It was in this ardour of spirit that he adopted the Romish cause. No man knew more thoroughly the measureless value of an established church, the endless, causeless, and acrid bitterness of sectarianism, and the mixture of unlearned doctrine and factious politics which constitute their creeds. Against Popery in power, Italian, German, or French, in the days of Louis Quatorze, he would have pledged himself on the ancestral altar to perpetual hostility. But the romance of popery in Ireland struck his fancy; he saw nothing but a figure drooping with long travel in pursuit of privilege; a pious pilgrim, or exhausted giant. Sitting in his closet at Beconsfield, he pictured the downcast eyes and dishevelled hair; the limbs loaded with fetters, and the hands help up in remediless supplication. He grew enamoured of his portraiture, and without waiting a moment to enquire whether it in the slightest degree resembled the reality, he volunteered the championship of Irish popery. His son was commissioned to represent him in this disastrous connexion. But Richard, once on the spot, was instantly and completely undeceived. Instead of his "fair penitent," he found a brawny, bustling Thalestris, wild as the winds, and fierce with the intoxication of impunity. The mild temperament of the plodding missionary was baffled, burlesqued, and thrown into fever: he laboured with humble diligence, but laboured in vain; he talked of conciliation, while popery talked of conquest; he proposed concession, while faction shouted triumph; and, when he suggested the suppression of the old and sharp acerbities of the sects, he was answered by universal laughter.

Burke, awakened at last to the truth of things, recalled him, in a long despatch, concluding in these words—"If you find the Roman Catholics irreconcilable with each other, and that government is resolved to side with them, or rather, to direct those who would betray the rest, then, my clear opinion is, that you ought not to wait the playing the last card of a losing hand. It would be disreputable to you. But when you have given your instruction to the very few in whom you can place confidence for their future temperate and persevering proceeding, that you will then, with a cool and steady dignity, take your leave." So ended the attempt of this man of genius and sensibility to guide an Irish faction in the paths of public tranquillity. He had forgotten that clamour was their livelihood, and grievance their stock in trade. In the simplicity of a noble spirit, he had eloquently implored quacks to take their degrees and follow practice, and solemnly advised travelling showmen not to disturb the public ear by the braying of their cracked trumpets, and he succeeded accordingly. Great as he unquestionably was, he could not make bricks without straw; and after wondering at the perversity of fortune, and lavishing his indignant soul on a hundred splendid perplexities touching the nature of politicians[Pg 761] in general, and of Irish politicians in particular, he gave up Ireland as a problem too profound for his analysis, and to be postponed till the discovery of the philosopher's stone.

Richard remained in Ireland for a few months, until he saw the Romish petition thrown out in the House of Commons by an immense majority. He then returned to London, and with the rather forward air of an accredited minister, applied for an interview with the ministry. He was answered by a prompt note from Dundas, sarcastically informing him that there was a viceroy in Ireland, whom his Majesty's government had sent there for the purpose of transacting public business; that they considered him a very proper person for the purpose, and that, in consequence, they saw no positive necessity for managing Irish affairs through any other. "If," says this quiet rebuff, "any of his Majesty's Catholic subjects have any request or representation which they wish to lay before his Majesty, they cannot be at a loss for the means of doing so, in a manner much more proper and authentic, than through the channel of private conversation. Having stated this to you, I shall forbear making any observations on the contents of your letter."

On the 2d of August, 1794, his favourite son died, and Burke received the blow with the feelings of one, who regarded the hand of destiny as uplifted against him. His excessive sensibility was agonized by an event melancholy in its nature to all, but which a wise man will regard as the will of the Great Disposer, and a religious man will believe to be a chastisement in mercy.

Burke was both wise and religious, but his feelings habitually bewildered him. All the images of desolation rushed across his creative mind. He was "an uprooted tree," a stream whose course was swallowed up by an earthquake, a wanderer in the wilderness of the world, a man struck down by a thunderbolt! From those fearful fantasies, however, the emergency of public affairs soon summoned him to the exercise of his noble powers; and he gave his country and the world, perhaps the most powerful, certainly the most superb and imaginative, of all his works, the fiery pamphlets on the "regicide peace."

On this unhappy occasion for the condolence of friendship, he received many tributes; but we cannot help quoting one from the celebrated Grattan, which, though characterized by the peculiarities of his style, seems to us a model of tenderness and beauty.

"August 26, 1794.


"My Dear Sir,

"May I be permitted to sympathize where I cannot presume to console.

"The misfortunes of your family are a public care. The late one is to me a personal loss. I have a double right to affliction, and to join my grief, and to express my deep and cordial concern at that hideous stroke which has deprived me of a friend, you of a son, and your country of a promise that would communicate to posterity the living blessings of your genius and your virtue. Your friends may now condole with you, that you should have now no other prospect of immortality than that which is common to Cicero and to Bacon; such as never can be interrupted while there exists the beauty of order, or the love of virtue, and can fear no death except what barbarity may impose on the globe.

"If the same strength of reason which could persuade any other man to bear any misfortune, can administer to the proprietor a few drops of comfort, we may hope that your condition admits of relief. The greatest possible calamity which can be imposed on man, we hope may be supported by the greatest human understanding. For comfort, your friends must refer you to the exercise of its faculties, and to the contemplation of its gigantic proportions—Dura solatia—of which nothing can deprive you while you live. And, though death should mow down every thing about you, and plunder you of your domestic existence, you would still be the owner of a conscious superiority in life, and immortality after it.—I am, my dear sir, with the highest respect and regard,

"Yours most truly,
"H. Grattan."


We must hastily conclude.

The threatened ruin of Europe awakened Burke from this reverie at the tomb of his son. He required strong stimulants, and in the French Revolution, and the shock of nations,[Pg 762] he found them. He now put the trumpet to his lips, and

"Blew a blast so loud and dread,
Were ne'er prophetic sounds so full of woe."

His appeal pierced to the heart of the nation. England had never succumbed, but an indefatigable faction had played every art of quackery to set her faculties asleep, with the appearance of having her eyes more open than ever. Whiggism, by its tricks, was mesmerising the common sense of the country. From this adventitious torpor Burke recalled her to her natural temperament, restored sight to her eyes, taught her to resume the sword, and sent her forth to commence that career of victory which was consummated in the Tuilleries.

His advocacy of the Popish question was one of his romances. Popery was his "Jane Shore," fainting and feeble, wandering through the highways with those delicate limbs which had once been arrayed in silk and velvet, and soliciting the "charity of all good Christians" to her fallen condition. His nature was chivalric, and he at once unsheathed his sword for so affecting a specimen of penitence and pauperism; but he soon recovered from this hazardous compassion, and left the pilgrim to fitter protectors. But if he had lived till our day, what would Burke have thought of his delusion now? with what self-ridicule must he not have looked upon the burlesque grievances and the profitable privations? what an instructive lesson must not his powerful scorn of charlatanry have given to us, on the display of the whole system of sleight-of-hand, the popular cups and balls, the low dexterity and the rabble plunder? or, to sum all in one word, the reduction of all the claims, the rights, and the efforts of a party pronouncing itself national, to the collection of an annual tribute; the whole huge and rattling machinery of popular agitation, grinding simply for the "rint." How would this lion of the desert, shaking the forest with his roar, have looked on Jackoo, going round, shaking the penny box! Woe be to Jackoo if he had come within reach of his talons!

The volumes, of which we have given an account altogether too brief and too rapid for their importance, deserve to be studied, as containing some of the richest transcripts of the richest mind of England. Letters from various eminent persons diversify them, but the staple is Burke. If their style seldom rises to the elated ardour and buoyant strength of his speeches and pamphlets, they exhibit all his wisdom; they display the entire depth of that current which public difficulties and obstructions swelled into a cataract. We have the image of Burke reposing, but still we have all the proportion, all the dignity, and all the colossal grandeur of the form, ruling senates, and marshaling the mind of nations for the greatest of their fields.

Various notes illustrate the volumes, and the edition does every credit to Lord Fitzwilliam and General Bourke.

[Pg 763]


No. II.

John Brown.

A heavy snow-storm, which confined Chesterton and myself pretty much to the walls of the college for the next few days, prevented us from paying our friend Brown a visit in his new quarters so soon after his installation as we intended. When we did succeed in wading there upon the commencement of a thaw, we found him rather sulky. The sweets of retirement had become somewhat doubtful; the Grange was certainly not the place one would have deliberately chosen to be snowed up in; and so far John was unfortunate in his first week of commencing hermit.

We found him in full possession of his easy chair, with Bruin extended on the only piece of carpeting in the room, which did duty as a hearth-rug. There was a volume of Sophocles open upon the table, with a watch on one side of it; the Quarterly Review had not at that time taken upon itself to enlighten undergraduates as to their real state of mind, and the secrets of successful reading, or there would doubtless have been the miniature of some fair girl on the other. (What the effect of such "companions to the classics" may be in general, I perhaps am no judge. I detest "fair girls," in the first place; but I have not yet forgotten, if the reader has, that a pair of dark eyes were the ruin of three months' reading in my own case.) However, there was no pictured face, except the watch-face, to cheer the studies of John Brown; and, perhaps, for that reason, our friend had evidently been asleep. How very glad he was to see us, was betrayed immediately by the copious abuse which he showered on us for not having come before.

"Why, what an unreasonable fellow you are!" said Chesterton; "If you wanted to see us, why on earth could'nt you come up to college? We can manage to keep the cold out there, quite as well as in your old castle here, I fancy; and as neither of us are web-footed any more than yourself, I don't really see why we are to do all the dabbling about this precious weather."

"Oh! I forgot; you have not seen the little note of remembrance which our darling dons were kind enough to send me before they broke up for the vacation?"

"No—what do you mean?"

"Oh! I'll find it for you in a moment." And he produced a letter sealed with the college arms, which ran as follows:—

"—— Coll. Common Room,
Dec. —, 18—.


"The principal and fellows regret to be under the unpleasant necessity of intimating to Mr Brown, that, although they do not feel called upon to notice his having fixed his residence in the immediate neighbourhood of Oxford—a step, which, under the circumstances, they cannot look upon as otherwise than ill-judged—he must consider himself strictly prohibited from appearing within the college walls at any time during the ensuing vacation."


"Now there's a civil card by way of P.P.C. Don't you call that a spiteful concoction? Silver and Hodgett's last—and worthy of them. So now, unless you want me to be rusticated for a term or two, you need not be over-civil in your invitations. But I'll tell you what you shall do: Hawthorne shall send over that box of Silvas he had just opened, (if they are good, you shall order some more,) and I'll keep that Westphalia you talked about here, if you like, Chesterton; and then you may come here to breakfast, lunch, or supper, if you please—but mind, I won't give you dinners; I'm not going to have Mrs Nutt put upon—or myself either."

We agreed to the terms with some modifications, and proceeded with some interest to inspect John's domestic arrangements. They were comfortable, though in some points peculiar. A sort of stand in one corner, covered with red baise, which supported a plaster bust of our most gracious majesty, and gave an air of mock grandeur to the apartment, proved, upon nearer inspection, to be nothing more or less than a barrel of Hall and Tawney's ale, an old-[Pg 764]fashioned cabinet, once gay with lacquered gold and colours, which the industrious rubbings of Mrs Nutt and her hand-maid were fast effacing—the depository perhaps of carefully penned love-missives, and broidered gloves, jewels, and perfumes, and suchlike shreds and patches of feminine taste or trickery, in other times—now served as a resting-place for the heterogeneous treasures of a bachelor's private cupboard. Cigars and captain's biscuits, open letters and unpaid bills, packs of cards and lecture note-books; odd gloves, odd pence, and odd things of all kinds—these filled the drawers: while, from the lower recesses, our friend, in course of time, produced a decanter of port and a Stilton. There was an old-fashioned sofa, one of that stiff-backed, hard-hearted generation, which no man thinks of sitting down upon twice, and three or four of those comfortable high-backed arm-chairs, in which, when once fairly seated, in pleasant company, one never wishes to get up again; a round oak table occupied the space opposite the fire, and another in one corner held the few books which formed John Brown's studies at the present. One window looked into the wet meadows by which the house was nearly surrounded, and the other commanded a view of the square inclosure before mentioned as now forming the farm-yard—in former days the inner court of the mansion.

"Why, Brown, old fellow, you're quite a lively look-out here," said Chesterton, who had for some minutes been contemplating, apparently with much interest, the goings on below. "I wish they kept pigs and chickens in the college quadrangle. I declare, for the last three days, in this horrid snow, I've watched for hours out of my window, (that fellow Hawthorne has taken to reading, and sports oak against me till luncheon time,) and I hav'n't seen a moving creature. I began to fancy myself up in the Great St Bernard among the monks; and when that brute of yours came up and howled at my door the other day, I almost expected to find him carrying a frozen child on his back, and got out the cherry brandy to be ready for the worst—didn't I, Hawthorne?"

"I found you one day with Bruin shivering before the fire, and the cherry brandy on the table, certainly."

"Well, that's the explanation of it, I assure you. But you must have found it precious dull shut up here by yourself, Brown?"

"Why, yes—rather—sometimes—in spite of the pigs and poultry. Their proceedings are rather monotonous. I feed that brood of chickens, which have taken upon themselves to come into the world this unnatural weather, with bread-crumbs out of my window twice a-day. Ah! I see the old hen has only four to-day; one is gone since yesterday, and one the day before; there's consumption in the family, that's plain; and they have always wet feet; I want Mrs Nutt to make them worsted socks, and to let me put Burgundy pitch-plasters on their throats, but she won't."

"But come," said Chesterton, "suppose you give us some lunch, Brown; 'prome reconditum Cæcubum'—(I'm getting desperately classical;) that is, being freely translated—lift up that red baise drapery of yours, and let's taste the tap."

The tap was tasted, and approved of; so was the Stilton: and then we sat over the fire for an hour, and smoked some of the Silvas: then we paid a visit to Mrs Nutt in her penetralia, and astonished her with our acquaintance with dairy matters; hazarded a criticism or two upon the pigs, which were well received, and were not so fortunate in our attempts to cultivate an intimacy with the incorruptible Boxer; and then set off on our return to Oxford, persuading Brown to start with us, as the afternoon was fine, in order to freshen his faculties by a stroll in the High Street.

Shorn, indeed, of all the glories of a full term, in which it had so lately shone, and looking doubly cold, cheerless, and deserted, in all the sloppy dirtiness of half-melted snow, was that never-equalled, and never-to-be-forgotten street! which the stranger gazes on with somewhat of an envious admiration, the freshman with an awful kind of delight—which the departing bachelor of arts quits with a half-concealed regret, and which the occasionally-returning master re-enters with feelings which are perhaps a mixture of all these; a stranger's admiration, an emancipated school-boy's delight, and a regret, either mellowed by passing years into a tender recollection, or blunted into indifference by altered habits, or embittered[Pg 765] by severed ties and disappointed hopes. We strolled once up and down its long sweep, but there was nothing to invite a longer promenade. Cigar-dealers stood at their shop-doors, or leaned over their counters, with their hands in their breeches-pockets, smoking their own genuine Havannahs in desperate independence: here a livery-stable keeper, with a couple of questionable friends, rattled a tandem over the stones, as if such things never were let out at two guineas a-day: then a fishmonger, whose wide front, but a week before, teemed with such quantity and quality, as spoke audibly to every passer-by of bursary dinners and passing suppers, was now soliciting a customer to take his choice of three lank cod-fish, ticketed at so much per lb. Billiard-rooms were silent, save where a solitary marker practised impossible strokes: print-shops exhibited a dull uniformity of stale engravings; and the innumerable horde of mongrel puppies of all varieties, that, particularly towards the end of term, are dragged about three or four in a string, and recommended as real Blenheims, genuine King Charles's, or "one of old Webb's black and tan, real good uns for rats"—had disappeared from public life, to come out again, possibly, as Oxford sausages.

In this kind of way the three first weeks of the vacation passed over without any very notable occurences. We were quiet enough in college—there is no fun in two men kicking up a row for the amusement of each other; even in the eye of the law three are required to constitute a riot; so, on the strength of our good characters, albeit somewhat recent of acquisition, we dined two or three times with the fellows who were still in residence, and who, to do them justice, sank a point or so from the usual stiffness of the common room, and made our evenings agreeable enough. We certainly flattered ourselves, that if they found us in turbot and champagne, we contributed at least our share to the more intellectual part of the entertainment; we kept within due bounds, of course, and never overstepped that respect which young men are usually the more willing to pay to age and station the less rigidly it is exacted; but we made the old oak pannels ring with such hearty laughter as they seldom heard; and the pictures of founders and benefactors might have longed to come down from their frames to welcome even the shadow of those good old times when sound learning and hearty good fellowship were not, as now, hereditary enemies in Oxford. If my graver companions, from the calm dignity of collegiate office, deign to look back upon the evenings thus spent with two undergraduates in a Christmas vacation, when, unbending from the formal and conventional dulness of term and its duties, they interchanged with us anecdote and jest, and mingled with the sparkling imaginations of youth the reminiscences of riper years—I am sure they will have no cause to regret their share in those not ungraceful saturnalia, even though they may remember that the hour at which we separated was not always what we used to call "canonical."

We paid our friend almost daily visits in his banishment. The history of the expedition was generally the same; a walk out, a lunch, a cigar or two, a chat with farmer Nutt or his wife, a review of the last litter of pigs, or an enquiry as to the increasing muster-roll of lambs. We did not make much progress in farming matters. Chesterton was the most enterprising, and succeeded in ploughing a furrow in that kind of line which heralds call wavy, and would, as he declared, have made a very fair hand of thrashing, if he could but have hit the sheaf oftener, and his own head not quite so often. The most important events that took place during this time at the Grange, were the installation of a successor to the barrel in the corner, and the catching of an enormous rat, who had escaped poison and traps to be snapped up in broad daylight, in an unguarded moment by Bruin. Still John Brown declared that on the whole he got on very well; we all read moderately; the examination was too near to be trifled with, and an occasional gallop with the harriers made our only really idle days.

We had not, since our first visit, heard John recur at all to the subject of the Dean; and to say the truth, we began to hope for his sake, that[Pg 766] he had given up a game which, however much longer it might be contested, had evidently begun to be a losing one on his part. But we were mistaken. We found him one morning in high spirits, and evidently in possession of some joke which he was anxious to impart.

"Shut the door and sit down," said he, before we were fairly within his premises. "I have a letter to show you."

"From the Dean?" (There was something in his manner, which made us sure that personage was concerned in some way.)

"No; but from his good mamma—from dear old Mrs Hodgett; you didn't know we were correspondents? Why, I wrote to her, you see, to ask where she lived now that she had resigned business, as I would not on any account have given up so valuable an acquaintance; and I begged her, at the same time, to order me a dozen pair of stockings from Mogg. (I assure you they were capital articles I had from him at first, and he's a very honest fellow; if you've sent that sparkling Moselle here to-day that you promised, Master Harry, we'll drink Mogg's very good health.) Well, I wrote to her, and here is her answer. You see Hodgett has been poisoning the old lady's mind."

I cannot give all John Brown's comments upon worthy Mrs Hodgett's epistle, without doing him great injustice in the recital; but here the contents are verbatim.

"Dear Sir,—Your favour of last week came safe to hand, and was very glad to find you was well, as it leaves us at present. Concerning your calling here next journey, am sorry to say shall be from home at that time. Sir, I should have been very glad to see you, but my son says you are not of an undeniable character, which, in a widow woman's establishment, must be first consideration. That was what I said to Mr Spriggins. Betsy, my daughter, as you know, is to be married to him next month. I don't think he is quite so steady as some, in regard that he must have his cigar and his tilberry on Sundays—John Mogg never did; but we can't all be Moggs in this world, or there wouldn't be no great failures.

"S. Hodgett, in declining business, returns thanks for all past favours, and remain, Dear Sir,

"Your obedient servant,
"J. Spriggins,
(late S. Hodgett.)

"P.S.—I am afraid college is a sad place for such young men as is not steady. Mrs Hicks, our great butcher's lady, told me that, when her son, who was a remarkable good lad, came home from Cambridge college after being there only two months, they found a short pipe in his best coat pocket, and he called his father 'governor,' which, as Mrs H. said, he never was, and he wouldn't wear his nightcap."


"Well," said Chesterton, when we had read this original document two or three times over, "it doesn't seem quite usual for a man to sign his own testimonials, especially when, as in Mr Spriggins's case, they are not the most flattering. Do you suppose he really wrote this, or signed it by mistake, or what is it?

"Neither one nor the other. Don't you see, the old lady, in declining the linen-drapery, merges her own identity in that of her successor? There's no such firm as 'Hodgett' now, it's 'Spriggins,' and she thinks it necessary to sign accordingly. Here's the card enclosed."

"Well, there's one thing very certain, that Mrs Hodgett declines doing business with you in future, John."

"Yes; and I'm rather annoyed at it. I meant to have got Mogg to come down and see me at Oxford, and should have asked the Dean to meet him. I don't see how he could have refused; any way, I think I could have paid him in full for his late good offices. Well, I am not quite sure now, when I've taken my degree, that I sha'n't go and see the old lady again, and win her heart by paying a wedding-visit to the Spriggins's. I'll take you with me, if you like, Hawthorne, and introduce you as Lord some-body-or-other, an intimate friend of the dean's—or stay, Chesterton will make the best lord of the two. Look with what supreme disgust he is eyeing poor Mrs Nutt's best wine-glasses. Come now, I think[Pg 767] that vine-leaf pattern is quite Horatian; and if you turn up your nose at that, Master Harry, you shall have your wine out of a tea-cup next time you come here. Draw the cork of that Moselle, and then I have something else to tell you. Do either of you men care about shooting, or can you shoot?"

"Why, I flatter myself I can," said Chesterton. "I'll bet you I'll hit two eggs right and left, nine tines out of ten, as often as you like to throw them up."

"I don't call that shooting; and you had better not let Mrs Nutt hear you talk of breaking eggs right and left in any such extravagant manner. But what I was going to say is this, that some friend of old Nutt's has some ground near here for which he has the deputation, and I have been offered a day's shooting there, for myself and any friend I like to bring. Now, I don't shoot—though I remember the days when I was a dead pot-shot at a blackbird; but if either of you are sportsmen, or fancy you are, which amounts to much the same thing, why, you can have a day at this place if you like, and I will go with you on condition you don't carry your guns cocked. Mind, I can't promise what sort of sport you will have, as it is too near Oxford not to be pretty well poached over; but you can try."

Shooting over a man's ground without leave (especially if in the face of a "notice" to the contrary) is decidedly the best sport, but unfortunately one of those stolen delights which only schoolboys and poachers can with any sort of conscience enjoy. Shooting with leave comes next, but is immeasurably inferior in point of piquancy. Shooting in one's own preserves at birds which have been reared and turned out, and cost you on the average about five guineas per brace, is decidedly the most fashionable, and consequently—the dullest. A day's shooting of any kind about Oxford, was a rare privilege, confined chiefly to those who were fortunate enough to be fellows of St ——, or to have an acquaintance among the surrounding squirearchy. True, that there were some enterprising spirits, who would gallop out some three or four miles to a corner of Lord A——'s preserves, give their horses in charge to a trusty follower, and after firing half a dozen shots, bag their two or three brace of pheasants, remount and dash off to Oxford, before the keepers, whom the sound of guns in their very sanctuary was sure to draw to the spot, could have any chance of coming up with them. But such exploits were deservedly rather reprobated than otherwise, even when judged by the under-graduate scale of morality; and even in the parties concerned, were the offspring rather of a Robin-Hood-like lawlessness than a genuine spirit of poaching.

We of course were delighted with the proposition which would have had quite sufficient attraction for us at any time; but coming in the dulness of vacation, it was an offer to be jumped at. "What game is there in this place?" said Chesterton. "Is there any cover shooting?"

"Oh, I can't tell you any thing about the place! It's about a mile off, but I never saw it. There's a good deal of ground to go over, I believe."

"What shall we do for dogs?"

"Mrs Nutt will lend you Boxer, I daresay; and Bruin is a capital hand at putting up water-rats."

"Stuff! I can borrow some dogs, though. And now, what day shall it be?"

The day was fixed, the dogs procured, the occupant of the property was to send a man to meet us and show us the ground, and it was settled that we were to come to breakfast at the farm at half-past seven precisely, and make a long day of it. Much to his disgust, we roused the deputy porter from his bed at seven on a raw foggy morning; and with a lad leading the dogs, and carrying guns and ammunition, we made our way to Farmer Nutt's. We were proceeding up-stairs, as usual, to Brown's apartment, when we heard our friend's voice hailing us from the "house," as the large hall was called which the farmer and his wife used as a kind of superior kitchen. There we found him snugly seated by a glorious fire, superintending his hostess in the slicing and broiling of a piece of ham such as Oxfordshire and Berkshire farm-houses may well pride[Pg 768] themselves upon; while a large pile of crisp brown toast was basking in front of the hearth, supported on a round brass footman. It was a sight which might have given a man an appetite at any time, but, after a two-mile walk on a cold winter's morning, it was like a glimpse of paradise.

"Here," said Brown—"here's breakfast, old fellows. Come and make your bows to Mrs Nutt, who is the very pattern of breakfast makers, and fit to concoct tea for the Emperor of China. Ah! if ever I marry, Mrs Nutt, it shall be somebody who is just like you."

Mrs Nutt laughed merrily, and welcomed us with many curtsies, and hopes that we should find things comfortable; and when the worthy farmer, after a brief apology, sat down with us, and the strong black tea and rich cream were duly amalgamated, what a breakfast we did make! There was not much conversation; but such a hissing and frizzling of ham upon the gridiron, such a crumping of toast and rattling of knives, forks, cups and saucers, surely five people seldom made. We were hungry enough; and our hospitable entertainers were so pressing in their attentions, that we caught ourselves eating plum-cake with broiled ham, honey with fresh-laid eggs, and taking gulps of strong tea and sips of raspberry-brandy alternately. We bore up against it all, however, wonderfully; the prospect of a long day's walk put headache and indigestion out of the question, and we were beginning to think of moving when certain ominous preparations on the part of our hostess attracted our attention. A hot slice of toast having been saturated with brandy, she proceeded, to our undisguised amazement, to pour upon it the richest and thickest cream her dairy could produce, and to cover this again with sundry wavy lines of treacle. This was the bonne bouche with which, in her part of the world, Devonshire I think she said, a breakfast to be perfect must always conclude. Start not, delicate reader, until you have had an opportunity of trying this remarkable compound; but take my word for it, it only wants a French name to make it a first-rate sweetmeat. We too regarded it at first with fear and trembling; tasted it out of courtesy to the fair compoundress, and finally, like Oliver Twist, asked for more.

"Now these gentlemen know what a breakfast is, Mr Nutt," said John; "but I am afraid we can't introduce your good wife's receipt into college; our cows give nothing but skim-milk. Well, now we had better be off, if you mean to have any shooting."

Off we set accordingly, and had to trudge a mile or so before we got into our preserves. There were some not unpromising covers; the lad who was to be our guide professed some vague reminiscences of having seen pheasants there "a bit ago;" and there was no question as to a hare having been started so lately as yesterday morning. We began our day, therefore, with somewhat sanguine expectations, which, however, every subsequent half-hour's progress gradually dispelled. We tumbled out of one deep ditch into another, scrambled perseveringly through brambles and brushwood, saw places where pheasants ought to have been, and places where they had been, but never saw a bird except a jack-snipe in the distance. The only sport we had was in the untiring energy of the lad already mentioned, who, long after the dogs had given it up as a bad job, continued to beat every bush as diligently as at first starting, and kept up a form of hortatory interjections addressed to the invisible game, with a hopeful perseverance which was really enviable. One satisfaction we had; towards the close of the day we started the hare from a bush which had certainly been tried at least twice before; she fell victim to a platoon fire of four barrels; the second, I believe, brought her down, but we were anxious to have all the shots we could get. And, in truth, there was some credit in killing her, for Mr Nutt, to whom we presented her, declared that she was so tough, he wondered how the shots ever got through her skin.

It takes something more serious than a bad day's sport to damp youthful spirits; and upon our return we found the good farmer's wife much more annoyed at our failure than ourselves. "Why, the chap as has the deputation told my master he had killed ten brace of pheasants there[Pg 769] this season!" He killed the last he could find before he sent us there, no doubt. Nothing dispirited, we sat down to a leg of mutton, which Brown had so far departed from his household economy as to order for us at six, and enjoyed our evening as thoroughly as if we had been a triple impersonation of Colonel Hawker in point of successful sportmanship. Nor was it until after the second bottle of port that we began to accuse each other of being sleepy.

"Well," said I at last, "it is about time for us to be off; it wants but three minutes of half-past eleven, and we shall have sharp work of it now to get into college by twelve. What sort of a night is it?"

The shutters of the sitting-room were closed, and I stepped into the bed-room adjoining in order to look out. The window opened into the court-yard; the moon was shining pretty brightly in spite of the fog, and I was just turning round to remark that we should have a dry walk home, when I saw two figures steal quietly across the yard, apparently from the gateway, and disappear in one of the outhouses. It was too late for any of the men about the farm to be out, in all probability; I was certain neither of the two figures was Farmer Nutt himself, so I quietly closed the door between the sitting and bed rooms, in order that no light might be seen, and watched the spot where I had lost sight of them. In a few seconds, I distinctly saw a third man come over the yard-gates, (which were secured inside at night,) and after apparently reconnoitring for a moment or two, move in the same direction as the others. I returned at once to the room where I had left Brown and Chesterton, closing the bed-room door hastily and noiselessly, and motioning them to be silent.

"I say, Hawthorne, what's up?" said Harry Chesterton, pausing, with a parting cigar half-lighted.

I confess I was somewhat flurried, and my account of what I had seen was not the most distinct.

"Oh!" said Chesterton, "it's some of the girl's sweethearts, I dare say; let's go down and have 'em out, Brown—shall we?"

Brown shook his head.

"Put out the lights," said I.

We did so, and then opened the shutters of the sitting-room window. We had hardly done so when the bright flash of a lantern was visible from the opposite side of the yard. For a few minutes we could see nothing else, and were obliged to hide carefully behind the shutters to avoid being noticed from below.

"Is that old Nutt?" said I.

Brown thought not. He never knew him carry a lantern.

At that moment the light disappeared, and in a few seconds we heard a loud knocking at the back-door.

"That must be the farmer come home," said I.

"No," said Brown, looking carefully into the yard, where we could now plainly distinguish at least three persons, and overhear voices in a low tone—"No; old Nutt's brown greatcoat would cover all three of those fellows."

"What stall we do," said Chesterton, seizing his double-barrel, which stood in the corner. "Shall we open the window and threaten to fire?"

"With an empty gun?" said Brown: "no, no, that won't do. Not but what they would run away fast enough, perhaps; but I think, if they really are come to attack the house, we ought not to let them off so easily. What say you, Hawthorne?"

"Certainly not; but they can hardly be housebreakers, or they would not keep knocking at the door," said I, as the sounds were repeated more loudly than before.

"I don't know that; every body about here is perfectly aware that old Nutt is gone to Woodstock fair; and they might give a pretty good guess, even supposing they did not watch him, that he would not be home till late; and if Mrs Nutt or any of the servants are fools enough to open the door, it's an easier way of getting in than breaking it open. However, there's no time to be lost; here's a box of lucifers; come into this dark passage, you two, and get a candle lighted, while I go and try to get up Mrs Nutt. I can find my way in the dark."

"By Jove, Brown," said Chesterton and myself in the same breath, "you sha'n't go about the house by yourself—we'll come with you."

[Pg 770]"And break your necks down some of the old staircases; or, at all events, make row enough to let your friends below know that there's somebody moving in this part of the house. No, just keep quiet where you are—there's good fellows—and take care not to show the light." And taking off his shoes, Brown proceeded along the old passages, which seemed to creak more than usual out of very spitefulness, into the unknown regions where lay the unconscious Mrs Nutt.

Having got a light, after the usual number of scrapings with the lucifers, we were awaiting his return with some impatience, when a third and more violent series of knocks at the door were followed by the sound of a female voice. Concealing the light, we crept to the window of the sitting-room, whence we could now distinguish only one figure standing by the door, with whom Mrs Nutt appeared to be holding a communication from a window above.

"Who's there? What do you want?"

"It's me with a note from Master Nutt, missus. I don't think he's a-coming home to-night."

"Where did you bring it from? Where is he?"

"He were at the Bear at Woodstock when I saw him."

"Well, wait a bit till I get a light, and I'll come down."

In another minute we were joined by Brown; so quietly did he step, that in our absorbing interest in the conversation in the yard, we were both somewhat startled at his sudden appearance.

"Well, Brown," said Chesterton, "now what shall we do? I'll put a load in this, however," and he proceeded to the passage, where there was less risk of the light betraying us, in order to do so.

"Now," said Brown, "if we can but get that fellow once into the house, we'll have him at all events. We had better all come down-stairs quietly. If we can only persuade Mrs Nutt to come with us to speak to him while we open the door, depend upon it we shall trap him; but she's in a terrible way, poor soul! she wants me to let her call out murder, and I am afraid now she'll spoil it all. But she has the servant with her, who seems rather a plucky girl, and I hope she can manage her. Now, come on quickly, Chesterton, and hide the light when you get into the long passage, because there are no shutters to the windows. The women will meet us at the bottom of the stairs."

My gun had been left in the kitchen; I seized the poker, and we all proceeded cautiously along the passage, and down-stairs. Poor Mrs Nutt, as pale as death, and scarcely able to stand, was waiting for us, with the servant girl. But it was with the greatest difficulty we could get her to listen to any such proposition as opening the door; she was much more inclined to side with Chesterton, who wanted to present the gun at the fellow from the window, and fire if he made any attempt either to effect an entrance, or to run away.

At last, however, by the persuasion of the servant, who really was a heroine in her way, we got her into the passage at the end of which the door in question was situated; but as nothing could induce her to speak to the fellow outside, beyond a very faint "Who's there?" the girl took up the dialogue, and enquired the man's name.

"Tom Smith; I've got a note for the missus, and something to say to her besides. Let's in—there's a good wench; I've been a-knocking here this half hour already."

It had been agreed that I was to open the door, and shut and bolt it, if possible, the instant the speaker had entered. Brown and Chesterton stood just inside a small pantry, ready to secure their man as soon as he was fairly inside, and the women were to make their escape out of harm's way, as soon as their services as a decoy could be dispensed with.

It was a moment of breathless expectation while I withdrew the bolts. Hardly had I done so, when the door flew violently open, and with a silent but determined rush three men entered. I shut the door instinctively, but it was evident that our plan was defeated, and we had now only to fight it out. There was a scream from the women, whose curiosity had not allowed them to retreat beyond the foot of the staircase—a rush forward on the part of Brown and Chesterton—an oath or two from the intruders[Pg 771] at finding themselves so unexpectedly confronted—and then, for a moment or two, an ominous pause on both sides. It was broken by Chesterton, who clubbed his gun, and brought the first man to the ground. Nearly at the same time I grappled with the last who had entered, whilst a heavy crow-bar, in the hands of the third, after describing an arc within an inch or two of my own head, descended with a horrible dull sound (I hear it now) upon that of poor Chesterton, who fell heavily, whilst in the act of springing forwards, across his prostrate antagonist. Again the murderous weapon was uplifted—I vainly endeavoured to fling my opponent and myself against the striker—I heard a scream, and saw the poor servant girl rush forward with a sort of desperate instinct, armed with no other weapon than the candlestick—when a report, that sounded like a volley, shook the whole passage—a bright flash threw out the whole scene vividly for a moment—the robber with his back to me with his weapon poised, and the blackened face of the other glaring savagely into my own—then followed total darkness—the ringing of the iron-bar upon the bricks—a stifled groan—and then a silence more horrible than all.

"Get a light!" said Brown at last; "get a light for heaven's sake, Mrs Nutt, or somebody. Hawthorne, are you hurt?"

"No, no," said I; "it was you that fired, John?"

"Yes," said he; "we can do nothing now till we have a light."

The whole affair, from the unbolting the door to the firing the shot, had not occupied nearly a minute; nor was it much longer before the trembling women succeeded in relighting the candle from the embers of the kitchen hearth; but they were moments into which one crowded almost years of thought; and I remember now with astonishment how every miserable consequence of poor Chesterton's probably fate came vividly and irresistibly before my imagination during those few hurried breathings of suspense—how his father could be told of it—how desolate would be now the home of which he was the hope and idol, (I knew his family)—how the college would mourn for him; nay, even such wretched particulars as how we were to move him to Oxford—whether he would be buried there—whether he would have a monument in the chapel—and a thousand such trivial fancies, were running through my mind with a distressing minuteness which those only who have known such moments can understand.

At last the light came. In my eagerness to ascertain the state of poor Chesterton, I quite forgot the villain with whom I had been struggling. We had mutually relaxed our hold upon hearing the shot; and he now took the opportunity of our whole attention being directed elsewhere, to open the door and effect his escape. We had too much of other business in our hands to think of following him.

The second man lay close to my feet. I stepped over him, and raised Chesterton's head upon my arm; the eyes were half open, but I could detect no sign of life. I told Brown I feared it was all over.

"I know it is," said he; "he is shot through the heart. I aimed there. But what could I do?"

I turned round, and it was with somewhat of an angry feeling that I saw Brown examining the breast of the man who had last fallen, utterly indifferent, as it seemed, to the dreadful fate of our poor friend.

"For heaven's sake," said I, "let that villain alone, and help me to move poor Harry: I believe he is gone."

"Ay, poor Harry!" said Brown somewhat vacantly: "I wish that blow had fallen on me! And was that shot too late after all? Your gun hung fire, Hawthorne—it did indeed. Poor Harry!"

I was so absorbed in anxiety for Chesterton that Brown's strange manner made no great impression on me at the time. The first man, who had been merely stunned by the blow from the but-end of the gun, was now beginning to revive, and I begged Brown to get something to secure him with.

"I don't think, sir," said Mrs Nutt who had recovered her terror sufficiently to offer her assistance, and whose coarse red hands, having removed Chesterton's neck-kerchief, and loosened his shirt-collar, now showed in strong contrast with his fair skin, but had nevertheless all a woman's sensibility about them—"I don't[Pg 772] think but what the poor young gentleman has life in him—I am sure I can feel his heart beat."

"Oh yes, oh yes, Mrs Nutt—he cannot be dead—send for a surgeon! Hawthorne, why don't you send for a surgeon?"

"There's none nigher than Oxford," said Mrs Nutt.

"I'll go for un," said the girl. "I ben't afear'd;" and she turned pale and shook like a leaf; but the spirit was willing, and she persisted she was ready to go. However it turned out that there was a labourer's cottage about a quarter of a mile off, and she was finally dispatched there for assistance.

Few people know the ready humanity which exists among the lower orders: the man must have run all the way to Oxford, for he returned in little more than half an hour, before the surgeon could dress and mount his horse.

However, Chesterton was evidently still living; and when the surgeon did arrive he gave some hopes of his recovery. The weight of the blow had been in some degree broken by the gun which poor Harry had raised in his hand, and this only could have saved the skull from fracture.

Of course we had soon plenty of volunteers who were ready to be useful in any way; and when at last the police had made their appearance, and removed both the living and the dead, and Chesterton had been laid in Brown's room, and the surgeon, having applied the usual remedies, had composedly accepted Mrs Nutt's offer to make up a bed for him, and betaken himself thereto, as if such events were to him matters of everyday occurrence—I suppose they were—it struck me, for the first time, that there was a remarkable contrast between Brown's hurried manner and disturbed countenance now, compared with his perfect coolness and self-possession while the danger seemed most imminent, which even Chesterton's dangerous state did not sufficiently account for.

"How lucky it was, Brown," said I, "my gun had a load of duck-shot in it! Don't you remember I was going to have fired it off? And that you should have laid your hand upon it in the kitchen! I looked for it as we came by, but could not see it."

"I'll tell you what, Hawthorne: I almost wish I had not seen it: I should not have had a man's life to answer for."

"Why, Brown," said I with some surprise, "surely you can have no scruple about that poor wretch's death? Why, he has all but murdered poor Harry—if, indeed, he ever gets over it."

"Very true, very true," replied Brown, looking at the bed where Chesterton was lying in utter unconsciousness; "he seems to sleep very quietly now. I don't think he knew any one just now when he opened his eyes: did you see the blow, Hawthorne?"

"Yes," said I; "the lock of the gun is broken, and I fancy that saved him; but he would have had little chance from a second: that shot came just in time."

"I covered the man from the moment he first raised the bar: your head was in a line with him, or I should have fired sooner. I hardly thought you would have escaped some part of the charge as it was. Well, if poor Harry lives, perhaps it is well as it is, if not"—

"You have but spared the hangman some trouble," said I. "Come, man, don't give way to this morbid feeling. I don't say but what it does you credit, Brown, to regret the necessity for taking a man's life, even to save your friend's; but, depend upon it, your conduct to-night is justifiable before a far higher inquest than the coroner's. Do you think if I had been in your place I should have hesitated one instant? No! nor have been half as scrupulous afterwards, I fear."

"You have not blood upon your hand," said Brown gloomily. "And remember, if we had taken poor Chesterton's advice, and frightened them off at first, all this might have been spared; it was my folly in determining to take upon myself the office of thief-taker—cursed folly it was!"

The impression which the events of the last hour had left upon my own mind was any thing but a pleasant one; but I was obliged to assume an indifference which I did not feel, and use a lighter tone than I should willingly have done in speaking of the death of a fellow-creature, however[Pg 773] unavoidable, in order to keep up Brown's spirits, and prevent him from dwelling upon his share in the catastrophe with that morbid degree of sensitiveness, of the effects of which I began to be really apprehensive. He wanted me to lie down and try to sleep, saying that he would watch with Chesterton; but this I was in no mood to agree to, even had I not been unwilling to leave him to his present reflections; so we drew a small table close to the fire in the sitting-room, leaving the door open that we might hear any movement of the patient, and waited for daybreak with feelings to which perhaps we had been too little accustomed. They were doubtless wholesome for us in after life; but at the time those hours of watching were painful indeed. It was a night which, then and since, I wished could be blotted from my page of life, and be as if it had never been. I have grown older and sadder, if not wiser, since, and feel now that there are recollections in which I then took delight which I could far more safely part with.

The danger in Chesterton's case, though at one time imminent, was soon over; and a few days' quiet at the farm enabled him to be removed to college. Reading was, of course, forbidden him for some time; and before term began, he had left Oxford with his father, to keep perfectly quiet for a few months in the country. The gratitude which he and all his family expressed to Brown as having been undoubtedly the means of saving his life, was naturally unbounded; and it did more than all else to reconcile him to the idea which haunted him, as he declared, day and night, of having that man's blood upon his head. I knew that Chesterton had warmly pressed him to come home with him; but as his name was down for the approaching examination, for which he was quite sufficiently prepared, it was not without astonishment that I heard him one morning, just before Chesterton's departure, announce his intention of going down with him and his father.

"I think," said he, "the constant sight of poor Harry will do me good just now; I am not given to romancing, Hawthorne, as you know; but waking or sleeping, when I am by myself, I see that man standing with the crow-bar uplifted just as he was when I shot him; and I think, if I can but manage to get Harry Chesterton's figure between him and me, as it was that night, and feel that pulling the trigger perhaps saved his life, why then the picture will be something less horrible that it is now."

"Well," said I, "John, I think you do right; but I can tell you this, that the same sort of tableau is very often before my eyes; and the horror that I feel is what I did then—seeing Chesterton's brains knocked out, as I thought, and struggling in vain to get near him; sooner than feel that again in reality—the thought of it is bad enough—I'd shoot that villain ten times running, if I only had the chance."

"You never had the chance, Hawthorne; pray God you never may."

Such was nearly my last interview, for some years, with my friend John Brown; for I had taken my degree and left college before he came up again to pass his examination. He was subpoenaed, with myself, as a witness on the trial of the man whom we had secured, which took place at the next assizes; but I was informed by the prisoner's attorney of his intention to plead guilty, the case against him being such a strong one; Brown was thus enabled without much risk to remain in the country with Chesterton, and we were both spared being placed in the painful position of important witnesses in a trial of life and death.

The man's confession was full, and apparently honest; and it was a satisfaction to find that the wretch who had fallen was a man of well-known desperate character, and probably, as the prisoner asserted, the concocter of the whole business: while all were murderers in intention. Had they succeeded in effecting their object by plundering the house, Farmer Nutt, whose habits of staying somewhat late from home on fair nights were well known to all the neighbourhood, was to have been waylaid on the towing-path which led to his house, and as, although a quiet man, there was a good deal of resolute spirit about him, and he would have had a heavy purse with him, the proceeds of stock sold at the fair, with which[Pg 774] he would not easily have parted, there was no question but that he would have found a grave in the canal. Of Brown's lodging in the house the party were well aware; but they had laid their plans so warily for effecting an entrance without noise, and easily overpowering the women, that they hoped either altogether to avoid disturbing his quarter of the house, or making it evident to him that resistance was useless. Of course, our appearance was wholly unexpected; they had watched for some time, but we had been so quiet for the last hour (being in truth more than half asleep) that they had no suspicion of there being any one stirring in Brown's rooms.

I saw the unfortunate prisoner several times, and found him open and communicative on every subject but one. Any information with regard to his accomplice who had escaped, he always steadily refused; nor did a single unguarded word ever drop from him in conversation with any one by which the slightest clue could be obtained as to his identity. Even the police inspector, the most plausible and unscrupulous of his class, a perfect Machiavel among the Peelers, who could make a prisoner believe he was his only friend while he was doing his best to put the halter round his neck, even his practised policy was unsuccessful here. There was little doubt, however, that it was some person familiar with the premises, from the circumstance that poor Boxer, whose silence on the night of the attack we had all been surprised at, and who was not of a mood to be easily inveigled by strangers, even with the usual attractions of poisoned meat, &c., had disappeared, and was never heard of from that time forth. Suspicion of course fell upon several; but the matter remains to this day, I believe, a mystery. The prisoner, as I have said, pleaded guilty, and received sentence of death; under the circumstances of the crime, and its nearly fatal result, no other could be expected; nor did the judge who tried him hold out the slightest hope of mercy. But his full confession, with regard to himself and the man who had fallen, with honourable silence as to their more fortunate companion, his youth, (he was but a year older than myself,) and his whole bearing since his imprisonment, had impressed myself and others deeply in his favour; a memorial of the case was drawn up representing that justice might well be satisfied with the violent death of one criminal already, and after being signed by all parties of any influence in the neighbourhood, was forwarded for presentation to the crown. But the judge declared that he could not, consistently with his duty, back our application, and, to our extreme disappointment, an answer was returned that the law in this case must take its course. A private and personal interest was at work, however, which for once proved more powerful than judges or home secretaries. Brown had signed our memorial of course; but, dreading an unfavourable reply, had forwarded through other channels a short but strong remonstrance directly to the Queen. He spoke touchingly of his own distressed state of mind at having so young in life been compelled in defence of his friend to take the life of a fellow-creature, and prayed her Majesty "to restore, as she only could, his peace of mind, by giving him a life in exchange for that which he had taken away." A letter accompanied a reprieve by return of post, addressed to John Brown, which he preserves with a care almost superstitious; it contains a few short lines, dictated by a royal spirit and a woman's heart, and signed "Victoria." Victoria! mercy and humanity, the victory was indeed yours!

Of John Brown I have little to add. Like others with whom I was at one time so long and intimately allied, I have seen nothing of him now for years. The Dean was relieved as if from an incubus when he left college, though I believe there was a cessation of all open hostility after his return from Chesterton's. At least the only authenticated mention of any allusion to old grievances on my friend's part is, that when he paid Mr Hodgett the usual fees which fall to the Dean's share, upon taking his B.A., he asked him "whether he allowed discount for ready money?"




[Pg 775]


The common idea of a sailor—whether with a commodore's broad pendant, a lieutenant's wooden leg, or a foremast-man's pigtail—was, at one time, a wild, thoughtless, rollicking man, with very broad shoulders and a very red face, who talked incessantly about shivering his timbers, and thought no more of eating a score or two of Frenchmen than if they had been sprats. Such was the effect of the veracious chronicles of our countryman Tobias, and the lifelike descriptions of old Trunnion, and Tom Bowling, and the rest. The jack-tar, as represented by him—with the addition, perhaps, of a few softening features, but still the man of blood and 'ounds, breathing fire and smoke, and with a constant inclination to luff helms and steer a point or two to windward—has retained possession of the stage to the present time; and Mr T. P. Cooke still shuffles, and rolls, and dances, and fights—the beau-ideal and impersonation of the instrument with which Britannia rules the waves. And that the canvass waves of the Surrey are admirably ruled by such instruments, we have no intention of disputing; nor would it be possible to place visibly before the public the peculiar qualifications that constitute a first-rate sailor, any more than those which form a first-rate lawyer. The freaks of a young templar have as much to do with the triumphs of Lord Eldon, as the dash and vivacity of any fictitious middy have to do with the First of June. Sailors are made of sterner stuff; and of all classes of men, have their highest faculties called earliest into use, and kept most constantly in exercise. Let no man, therefore, think of the navy as a last resource for the stupidest of his sons. He will chew salt-junk, and walk with an easy negligence acquired from a course of practice in the Bay of Biscay; and in due time arrive at his double epaulettes, and be a blockhead to the end of the chapter. But all this stupidity, we humbly conceive, might have found as fitting an arena in Westminster Hall, or even in Westminster Abbey—with reverence be it spoken—as on the quarter-deck of a man-of-war; for we maintain it is of less consequence for a man to be a great pleader or an eloquent divine, (where the utmost extent of evil resulting from the absence of eloquence and acuteness is a law-suit lost or a congregation lulled to sleep,) than that he should be active, energetic, skilful, in one of the "leviathans afloat on the brine." Science, zeal, courage, and self-reliance, are very pretty qualities to find in the fool of the family—and without these, no man can ever be a sailor. But what opportunity is there in the navy for the display of the wonderful abilities of the fool of the family's antipode, the genius? Nothing will do for the surpassing brightness of some Highland star but law or politics; so Donald has Latin and Greek shovelled into him out of the dignified hat of some prebendary or bishop, goes to Oxford, talks on all manner of subjects as if his tongue had discovered the perpetual motion, goes to the bar, where the said motion is the only one he is called upon to make, forces himself into high society, wriggles his way into Parliament—the true Trophonius's cave of aspiring orators—and becomes a silent Demosthenes, as he has long been a lawless Coke; an ends at last in a paroxysm of wonder that his creditors are hard-hearted and his country ungrateful, so that, instead of being promoted to a seat at the Admiralty, he is removed to one in the Fleet—which brings him very nearly to the same position he would have been placed in, if a true estimate had been formed of his powers at first. Oh fathers! if Tom is a donkey, keep him at home or make him an attorney—it is amazing how a few years in "the office" will brighten him—but don't trust the lives of men, and the honour of the flag, to any but the [Pg 776]best and wisest of your sons. Such a school for moral training has never been devised as one of the floating colleges that carry guns. The youngest midshipman acquires habits of command, the oldest captain practises the ennobling virtue of obedience; and these, we take it, form the alpha and omega of man's useful existence. Power gives self-respect, responsibility gives caution, and subjection gives humility. With all these united, as they are in every rank in the service, the character has little room left for improvement; tenderness and generosity, in addition, make a man a Collingwood or Pellew—genius and heroism make him a Nelson.

But not through flowery paths do genius and heroism tread on their path to fame. What a length of weary way, with what antres vast and deserts idle, and pathless wildernesses bestrown, lay between the Raisonable of 1770 and the Victory of 1805! and yet through them all, the traveller's eye was unalterably fixed on the great light that his soul saw filling the whole sky with its radiance, and which he knew the whole time was reflected from the Baltic, and the Nile, and Trafalgar. The letters of Nelson just given to the public by the industry of Sir Harris Nicolas, will hereafter be the manual of the sailor, as the sister service has found a guide in the Despatches of the Duke of Wellington. All that was to be expected from the well-known talent of the editor, united to an enthusiasm for his hero, which has carried him triumphantly through the extraordinary labour of investigating and ascertaining every fact in the slightest degree bearing upon his subject, is to be found in this volume, in which, from the beginning to the end, by a continued series of letters, Nelson is made his own historian; and we sincerely believe, divesting ourselves as far as possible of all prejudice and partiality, that no character ever came purer from the ordeal of unreserved communication—where not a thought is concealed or an expression studied—than the true friend, the good son, the affectionate brother, Horatio Nelson. The correspondence in this volume only extends from 1777 to 1794, and no blot has yet occurred to mar the brightness of a character where there is so much to like, that the reader finds it difficult to dwell on the heroic parts of it which he is only called upon to admire. When the volume ends, he is only thirty-six years old, and is captain of the Agamemnon; but his path is clearly traced out—his name is in men's mouths and his character established. And, looking over the whole correspondence, nothing, perhaps, is so striking as the early development of his peculiar qualities, and the firm unswerving line he struck into from the beginning and continued in to the last. A self-reliance, amounting in weaker and less equally-balanced natures to doggedness and conceit—a clear perception of the circumstances of a case almost resembling intuition—a patriotism verging on the romantic, and a sense of duty never for a moment yielding to the "whips and scorns that patient merit of the unworthy takes," are displayed in every incident of his life, from the time that he left the quiet parsonage-house at Burnham Thorpe, till he finished his glorious career.

At twelve years of age, he joined his uncle in the Raisonable sixty-four, and served in her as midshipman for five months; and few people would have been able to discover the future hero in the feeble boy he must have been at that time. Still less, perhaps, would they have expected the future Bronte, a few months later, in the person of a little fellow, no longer a midshipman in the Royal Navy, but a working "youngster" on board a West India ship, as he informs us in his "Sketch of my Life," belonging to the house of Hibbert, Purrier, and Horton, from which he returned to the Triumph at Chatham, a good practical seaman, but with a horror of the Royal Navy, and a firm belief in a saying then constant with the seamen, "Aft the most honour, forward the better man." The next situation we find him in, will probably shock the delicate feelings of tender mammas, who expect their sons to be admirals without any apprenticeship; for he is rated on the books of the Triumph as "captain's servant" for one year, two months, and two days. We may in some measure relieve their[Pg 777] minds, by assuring them, that he did not wear livery, and was never called upon to brush the captain's coat. But the horrid man submitted even to lower degradation, in order to get experience in his profession, which our Reginald Augustus could never have thought of; for he tells us, that "when the expedition towards the North Pole was fitted out, although no boys were allowed to go in the ships—as of no use—yet nothing could prevent my using every interest to go with Captain Lutwidge in the Carcass, and as I fancied I was to fill a man's place. I begged I might be his cockswain; which, finding my ardent desire for going with him, Captain Lutwidge complied with."

And Cockswain Nelson "exerted himself, (when the boats were fitted out to quit the two ships blocked up in the ice,) to have the command of a four-oared cutter raised upon, which was given him, with twelve men; and he prided himself in fancying he could navigate her better than any other boat in the ship."

And we will back the cockswain to any amount, though he was then only fifteen, and probably did not weigh more than five stone.

But the vulgarity of the fellow will be the death of us, and our Laura Matilda will never listen without disgust to the "Death of Nelson" again; for he tells us, that on the return of the Polar expedition, he was placed in the Racehorse of twenty guns, with Captain Farmer, and watched in the foretop!!! And it is probable, during all these mutations, that he very seldom tasted venison, and drank very little champagne. But even in the absence of those usual luxuries of the cockpit, he made himself a thorough seaman; and when serving in the Worcester sixty-four, with Captain Mark Robinson, he says, with characteristic, because fully justified pride, "although my age might have been a sufficient cause for not entrusting me with the charge of a watch, yet Captain Robinson used to says, he felt as easy when I was upon deck as any officer in the ship."

And this brings us to 1777, the date of his commission, and the commencement of his correspondence. After the simple statement of his course of life, we shall hardly be called upon to observe, that Nelson was no great scholar, as we perceive that his school education was finished when he was twelve years old. And we owe hearty thanks to Sir Harris Nicolas for having restored the letters to their original language, uncicerorian as it may be; for he informs us, that some of those which had been formerly published in the different biographies of the hero, were so improved and beautified that it was difficult to recognise them. By proper clipping and pruning, altering some sentences and exchanging others, an ingenious editor might transmogriphy these simple epistles into the philippics of Junius; and therefore we derive complete satisfaction from the conviction, that, in this compilation, every sentence is exactly as it was written. With one other observation, (which we make for the sake of the Laura Matildas who are horrified at the "cockswain,") we shall proceed to give such extracts from the letters as we consider the most characteristic; and "that 'ere observation," as was said by Mr Liston, "is this here," that Nelson was of what is usually called a very good family—being nearly connected with the Walpoles, Earls of Orford, and the Turners of Warham, in Norfolk. But for further information on this point, we refer them to an abstract of the pedigree prefixed to the letters. In the year 1777, and several following years, Nelson's principal correspondents were his brother, the Rev. William Nelson, who succeeded as second Baron Nelson of the Nile and of Hilborough, and was created Earl Nelson—Captain William Locker, then in command of the Lowestoffe, of whom very interesting memoirs have been published by his son Edward Hawke Locker, Esq., late a commissioner of Greenwich Hospital—the Rev. Edmund Nelson (his father)—besides the secretary to the Admiralty, and the official personages to whom his despatches were addressed.

To show the affectionate nature of the man, we shall quote his first letter to Captain Locker, who was one of his dearest friends. The address of the letter is wanting, but it would appear to have been written during[Pg 778] Captain Locker's temporary absence from his ship, in consequence of ill health:—

"Lowestoffe, at Sea,
August 12, 1777.

"My most worthy Friend—I am exceedingly obliged to you for the good opinion you entertain of me, and will do my utmost that you may have no occasion to change it. I hope God Almighty will be pleased to spare your life for your own sake and that of your family; but should any thing happen to you (which I sincerely pray God may not) you may be assured that nothing shall be wanting on my part for the taking care of your effects, and delivering safe to Mrs Locker such of them as may be thought proper not to be disposed of. You mentioned the word consolation in your letter—I shall have a very great one, when I think I have served faithfully the best of friends, and the most amiable of women. All the services I can render to your family, you may be assured shall be done; and shall never end but with my life; and may God Almighty, of his great goodness, keep, bless, and preserve you and your family, is the most fervent prayer of your faithful servant,

"Horatio Nelson."


In 1781 he was appointed commander of the Albemarle, of twenty-eight guns, and in the following year had a narrow escape from a strong French force in Boston Bay. The sailing qualities of the Albemarle beat the line-of-battle ships, and he immediately brought to for a frigate that formed part of the chasing squadron, but his courtesy was declined, and the frigate bore away. He dwells, in several of his letters, on his good fortune in getting off; but, in the following one to his father, he omits all mention of his challenge to the pursuer:—

"Albemarle, Isle of Bic,
River St Lawrence
October 19, 1782.


"My dear Father—I wrote to Mr Suckling when I was at Newfoundland, but I have not had an opportunity of writing to you till this time. I expected to have sailed for England on the first of November, but our destination is now altered, for we sail with a fleet for New York to-morrow; and from there I think it very likely we shall go to the grand theatre of actions—the West Indies; but, in our line of life, we are sure of no one thing. When I reach New York you shall hear what becomes of me; but, while I have health, it is indifferent to me (were it not for the pleasure of seeing you and my brothers and sisters) where I go. Health, that greatest of blessings, is what I never truly enjoyed till I saw fair Canada. The change it has wrought I am convinced is truly wonderful. I most sincerely wish, my dear father, I could compliment you the same way; but I hope Bath has done you a great deal of good this summer. I have not had much success in the prize way, but it is all in good time, and I do not know I ought to complain; for, though I took several, but had not the good fortune to get one safe into port, yet, on the other side, I escaped from five French men-of-war in a wonderful manner.... Farewell, my dearest father, and assure yourself I always am, and ever shall be, your dutiful son,

"Horatio Nelson."


In the following month he writes to his friend Locker—"I am a candidate with Lord Hood for a line-of-battle ship; he has honoured me highly by a letter, for wishing to go off this station to a station of service, and has promised me his friendship. Prince William is with him." And Sir Harris Nicolas adds in a note—"H. R. H. Prince William Henry, third son of King George III, afterwards Duke of Clarence, Admiral of the Fleet, (Lord High Admiral?) and King William IV." The Prince honoured Nelson with his warmest friendship, and many letters in this collection were addressed to his Royal Highness.

The following description of Nelson by the prince is extremely interesting:—

"I was then a midshipman on board the Barfleur, lying in the Narrows off Staten Island, and had the watch on deck, when Captain Nelson of the Albemarle came in his barge alongside, who appeared to be the merest boy of a captain I ever beheld; and his dress was worthy of attention. He had on a full laced uniform; his lank unpowdered hair was tied in a stiff Hessian tail of an extraordinary length, the old-fashioned flaps of his waistcoat added to the general quaintness of his figure, and produced an appearance which particularly attracted my notice, for I had never seen any thing like it before, nor could I imagine who[Pg 779] he was or what he came about. My doubts were, however, removed when Lord Hood introduced me to him. There was something irresistibly pleasing in his address and conversation, and an enthusiasm, when speaking on professional subjects, that showed he was no common being. Nelson, after this, went with us to the West Indies, and served under Lord Hood's flag during his indefatigable cruize off Cape François. Throughout the whole of the American war the height of Nelson's ambition was to command a line-of-battle ship; as for prize-money, it never entered his thoughts; he had always in view the character of his maternal uncle. I found him warmly attached to my father, and singularly humane; he had the honour of the king's service and the independence of the British navy particularly at heart; and his mind glowed with this idea as much when he was simply captain of the Albemarle, and had obtained none of the honours of his country, as when he was afterwards decorated with so much well-earned distinction."


Nelson's opinion of the prince, as a seaman, was scarcely less high; and it says not a little, in favour of both parties, that their friendship appears to have been founded on mutual respect. In July, 1783, the Albemarle was paid off; and Nelson having finished the war, as he expresses it in a letter to his friend Mr Ross, without a fortune, but without a speck on his character, remained nine months on half-pay. But as he determined to make use of his spare time in mastering the French—a feat which he afterwards accomplished without a grammar—he resolved to go to France with his friend Captain James Macnamara for that purpose. There are some very Nelsonian sentences in his correspondence while in the land of the Mounseers. His contempt for epaulettes—which were not introduced into the English navy till 1795—is very amusing; and he little thought, that in one of the dandified officers he despised so much, he should find one of his most distinguished comrades, the gallant Sir Alexander Ball:—

To William Locker, Esq.
"St Omer, Nov. 2, 1783.



"My dear sir—Our travels, since we left you, have been extended to a much greater length then I apprehended; but I must do Captain Mac the justice to say it was all my doings, and in a great measure against his advice; but experience bought is the best; and all mine I have paid pretty dearly for. We dined at Canterbury the day we parted from you, and called at Captain Sandys' house, but he was just gone out to dinner in the country, therefore we did not see him. We slept at Dover, and next morning at seven o'clock put to sea with a fine north-west wind, and at half-past ten we were safe at breakfast in Monsieur Grandsire's house at Calais. His mother kept it when Hogarth wrote his Gate of Calais. Sterne's Sentimental Journey is the best description I can give of our tour. Mac advised me to go first to St Omer, as he had experienced the difficulty of attempting to fix in any place where there are no English; after dinner we set off, intended for Montreuil, sixty miles from Calais; they told us we travelled en poste, but I am sure we did not get on more than four miles an hour. I was highly diverted with looking what a curious figure the postilions in their jack-boots, and their rats of horses, made together. Their chaises have no springs, and the roads generally paved like London streets; therefore you will naturally suppose we were pretty well shook together by the time we had travelled two posts and a half, which is fifteen miles, to Marquise. Here we were shown into an inn—they called it, I should have called it a pig-stye: we were shown into a room with two straw beds, and with great difficulty they mustered up clean sheets, and gave us two pigeons for supper, upon a dirty cloth, and wooden-handled knives. Oh, what a transition from happy England!

"But we laughed at the repast, and went to bed with the determination that nothing should ruffle our tempers. Having slept very well, we set off at daylight for Boulogne, where we breakfasted. This place was full of English; I suppose because wine is so very cheap. We went on after breakfast for Montreuil, and passed through the finest corn country that my eyes ever beheld, diversified with fine woods, sometimes for miles together, through noble forests. The roads mostly were planted with trees, which made as fine an avenue as to any gentleman's country-seat. Montreuil is thirty miles from Boulogne, situated upon a small hill, in the middle of a fine plain, which reached as far as the eye could carry you, except towards the sea, which is about [Pg 780]twelve miles from it. We put up at the same house, and with the same jolly landlord that recommended Le Fleur to Sterne. Here we wished much to be fixed; but neither good lodgings or masters could be had here—for there are no middling class of people. Sixty noblemen's families lived in the town, who owned the vast plain round it, and the rest very poor indeed. This is the finest country for game that ever was; partridges twopence-halfpenny a couple, pheasants and woodcocks in proportion; and, in short, every species of poultry. We dined, supped, lay, and breakfasted next day, Saturday; then we proceeded on our tour, leaving Montreuil, you will suppose, with great regret.

"We reached Abbeville at eight o'clock; but, unluckily for us, two Englishmen, one of whom called himself Lord Kingsland—I can hardly suppose it to be him—and a Mr Bullock, decamped at three o'clock that afternoon in debt to every shopkeeper in the place. These gentlemen kept elegant houses, horses, &c. We found the town in an uproar; and as no masters could be had at this place that could speak a word of English, and that all masters that could speak English grammatically attend at the places that are frequented by the English, which is, St Omer, Lisle, Dunkirk, and Boulogne, to the northward of Paris, and as I had no intention of travelling to the south of France till the spring, at any rate, I determined, with Mac's advice, to steer for St Omer, where we arrived last Tuesday; and I own I was surprised to find, that instead of a dirty, nasty town, which I had always heard it represented, to find a large city, well paved, good streets, and well lighted.

"We lodge in a pleasant French family, and have our dinners sent from a traiteur's. There are two very agreeable young ladies, daughters, who honour us with their company pretty often. One always makes our breakfast, and the other our tea, and play a game at cards in the evening. Therefore I must learn French, if 'tis only for the pleasure of talking to them; for they do not speak a word of English. Here are a great number of English in this place; but we visit only two families; for, if I did, I should never speak French. Two noble captains are here—Ball and Shepard. You do not know, I believe, either of them. They wear fine epaulettes, for which I think them great coxcombs. They have not visited me; and I shall not, be assured, court their acquaintance. You must be heartily tired of this long epistle, if you can read it; but I have the worst pen in the world, and I can't mend it. God bless you; and, be assured, I am your sincere friend, and affectionate humble servant,

"Horatio Nelson."



In another letter from St Omer, he returns to the charge against Dandy Ball and Shepard:—

"Here are two navy captains, Ball and Shepard, at this place; but we do not visit. They are very fine gentlemen, with epaulettes. You may suppose, I hold them a little cheap for putting on any part of a Frenchman's uniform."


And in a short time after, he seems to have made up his mind on two very important points—politics and the French people.

To his brother William.

"... As to your having enlisted under the banners of the Walpoles, [Whigs,] you might as well have enlisted under those of my grandmother. They are altogether the merest set of cyphers that ever existed—in public affairs, I mean. Mr Pitt, depend upon it, will stand against all opposition. An honest man must always, in the end, get the better of a villain. But I have done with politics. Let who will get in, I shall be left out."

"In about a week or fortnight, I think of returning to the Continent till autumn, when I shall bring a horse, and stay the winter at Burnham. I return to many charming women; but no charming woman will return with me. I want to be a proficient in the language, which is my only reason for returning. I hate their country and their manners."


In March of this year, (1784,) he was appointed to the Boreas frigate of twenty-eight guns; and had the honour (not very highly valued) of carrying out Lady Hughes, the wife of the admiral on the Leeward Island station, and a number of other people, who did not add much to the efficiency of a man-of-war. It was on this station that he had first an opportunity of showing the determination and fearlessness of his character in maintaining what he thought the right—though ill supported, as was to be expected, by the authorities at home—against local interests, which any other man would not have ventured to oppos[Pg 781]e. We are not about to enter into the history of Nelson's conduct in defence of the Navigation Act, further than as the correspondence on the subject brings out some of his peculiarities; and the result shows, as usual, the policy of firmness, and the certainty of success to those who are determined to obtain it.

The Americans, after the recognition of their independence, were by no means willing to surrender some of the advantages they had enjoyed when colonists of Great Britain. Among these was an unrestricted trade with the West Indies. In order to retain this advantage, they stuck at nothing in the way of oaths and declarations; and, as the American trade was of great consequence to the islanders, their false pretences were in all cases supported by the merchants, and even the custom-house authorities were persuaded to encourage the frauds. A captain of the navy, twenty-six years of age, undertook to put an end to these operations; and, in the course of a very short time, he found himself in as hot water as any gentleman can require.

To William Locker, Esq.
"Boreas, Baseterre Road,
January 15, 1785.




"The longer I am upon this station the worse I like it. Our commander has not that opinion of his own sense that he ought to have. He is led by the advice of the islanders to admit the Yankees to a trade—at least, to wink at it. He does not give himself that weight that I think an English admiral ought to do. I, for one, am determined not to suffer the Yankees to come where my ship is; for I am sure, if once the Americans are admitted to any kind of intercourse with these islands, the views of the Loyalists in settling in Nova Scotia are entirely done away. They will first become the carriers, and next have possession of our islands, are we ever again embroiled in a French war. The residents of these islands are Americans by connexion and by interest, and are inimical to Great Britain. They are as great rebels as ever were in America, had they the power to show it. After what I have said, you will believe I am not very popular with the people. They have never visited me, and I have not had a foot in any house since I have been on the station, and all for doing my duty by being true to the interests of Great Britain. A petition from the President and Council has gone to the Governor-general and admiral, to request the admission of Americans. I have given my answer to the admiral upon the subject—how he will like it I know not; but I am determined to suppress the admission of foreigners all in my power. I have told the Customs that I will complain if they admit any foreigner to an entry. An American arrives—sprung a leak, a mast, and what not—makes a protest—gets admittance—sells his cargo for ready money—goes to Martinico—buys molasses—and so round and round. But I hate them all. The Loyalist cannot do it, consequently must sell a little dearer."


His narrative to the admiral on the same subject is as follows:—

"January 11 or 12, 1785.



"Sir—I yesterday received your order of the 29th of December, wherein you direct me, in execution of your first order, dated the 12th of November, (which is, in fact, strictly requiring us to put the Act of Navigation, upon which the wealth and safety of Great Britain so much depends, in force,) to observe the following directions, viz, to cause foreigners to anchor by his Majesty's ship under my command, except in cases of immediate and urgent distress, until her arrival and situation, in all respects, shall be reported to his Majesty's governor, or his representative, at any of the islands where I may fall in with such foreign ships or vessels; and that if the governor, or his representative, should give leave for admitting such vessels, strictly charging me not to hinder them or interfere in their subsequent proceedings.

"I ever have been, as in duty bound, always ready to co-operate with his Majesty's governors, or their representatives, in doing whatever has been for the benefit of Great Britain. No governor will, I am sure, do such an illegal act as to countenance the admission of foreigners into the ports of their islands, nor dare any officer of his Majesty's Customs enter such foreigners, without they are in such distress that necessity obliges them to unlade their cargoes; and then only to sell such a part of it as will pay the costs. In distress, no individual shall exceed me in acts of generosity; and, in judging of their distress, no person can know better than sea officers, of which[Pg 782] I shall inform the governors, &c., when they acquaint me for what reason they have countenanced the admission of foreigners.

"I beg leave to hope, that I may be properly understood, when I venture to say, that, at a time when Great Britain is using every endeavour to suppress illicit trade at home, it is not wished that the ships on this station should be singular, by being the only spectators of the illegal trade, which I know is carried on at these islands. The governors may be imposed on by false declarations; we, who are on the spot, cannot. General Shirley told me and Captain Collingwood how much he approved of the methods that were carrying on for suppressing the illegal trade with America; that it had ever been his wish, and that he had used every means in his power, by proclamation and otherwise, to hinder it; but they came to him with protests, and swore through every thing, (even, as the sea-phrase is, through a nine-inch plank;) therefore got admittance, as he could not examine the vessels himself; and, further, by the Thynne packet, he had received a letter from Lord Sydney, one of his Majesty's principal secretaries of state, saying that Administration were determined that American ships and vessels should not have any intercourse with our West India islands; and that he had, upon an address from the Assembly, petitioning that he would relax the king's proclamation for the exclusion of Americans, transmitted it to Lord Sydney to be laid before the king. The answer to General Shirley was, that his Majesty firmly believed and hoped that all his orders which were received by his governors would be strictly obeyed.

"Whilst I have the honour to command an English man-of-war, I never shall allow myself to be subservient to the will of any governor, nor co-operate with him in doing illegal acts. Presidents of council I feel myself superior to. They shall make proper application to me for whatever they may want to come by water.

"If I rightly understand your order of the 29th of December, it is founded upon an opinion of the king's attorney-general, viz. 'That it is legal for governors or their representatives to admit foreigners into the ports of their governments, if they think fit.' How the king's attorney-general conceives he has a right to give an illegal opinion, which I assert the above is, he must answer for. I know the navigation laws. I am, Sir, &c.

"Horatio Nelson."



But the troubles of the unfortunate Horatio were not over; for just at this time arose another vexed and vexatious question, as to whether a senior officer on half-pay—though holding a commissionership of the navy—could be empowered by the admiral on the station to hoist a broad pendant; and after a spirited correspondence, the point was decided, though apparently in a very shilly-shally shabby way, in Nelson's favour—for it is accompanied with a reprimand—the Admiralty informing him, that he ought to have submitted his doubts to the commander-in-chief on the station, instead of having taken on himself "to control the exercise of the functions of his appointment"—whatever that may mean.

Too much activity, even in a good cause, is apt to excite the enmity of the idle drones who have got on without any activity at all, and for some years the zeal of Nelson got him into disfavour with his superiors in the service. And yet his whole conduct was regulated by the strictest sense of duty, and his letters—even those in which he shows most independence—never give the slightest occasion to suspect that his actions arose from self-will and disobedience. On this point he is very explicit.

He writes to the admiral—"This, sir, I hope you will transmit to my lords commissioners, that they nor any other of my superior officers may have the smallest idea that I shall ever dispute the orders of my superiors."

And to the Admiralty, on the same occasion—"I must beg their lordships' indulgence to hear reasons for my conduct, that it may never go abroad into the world I ever had an idea to dispute the orders of my superior officer, neither admiral, commodore, or captain."

The plot in the mean time thickens, and his anger increases against the audacious swindling of the Yankees, aided by the islanders; and in his own defence he goes, according to his custom, to the fountain-head, and lays his complaint before the secretary of state. "My name," he says, "most probably is unknown to your lordship," (Lo[Pg 783]rd Sydney,) "but my character as a man, I trust, will bear the strictest investigation; therefore I take the liberty of sending enclosed a letter, though written some few years ago, which I hope will impress your lordship with a favourable opinion of me. I stand for myself, no great connexion to support me if inclined to fall; therefore my good name, as a man, an officer, and an Englishman, I must be very careful of. My greatest pride is to discharge my duty faithfully; my greatest ambition to receive approbation for my conduct."

The chicaneries of the law were brought to bear on the captain of the Boreas, and by means of a writ for his arrest, (on the trumped-up plea of detention and imprisonment of some fraudulent Americans—true ancestors of the repudiators of the present day,) he was forced to remain on board ship for several months, but was at last released from durance by the tardy undertaking given by government to be answerable for his defence.

The lukewarmness of his superiors, and the villanies of law, were not enough to fill up his time, and, in the very midst of these agitating matters, he adds a third: he met Mrs Nisbet, and fell in love. His letters, however, are not entirely composed of sighs and lightning; and it gives a high idea of the lady's sense to perceive the calm, yet real, affection she inspired. We shall only quote one of his letters to his lady-love, to show the style of them all, and also to show his feelings towards Prince William Henry, (King William IV.,) who was at this time under his command as captain of the Pegasus.

"Off Antigua, December 12, 1786.



"Our young prince is a gallant man; he is indeed volatile, but always with great good-nature. There were two balls during his stay, and some of the old ladies were mortified that H. R. H. would not dance with them; but he says he is determined to enjoy the privilege of all other men, that of asking any lady he pleases.

"Wednesday.—We arrived here this morning at daylight. His Royal Highness dined with me, and, of course, the governor. I can tell you a piece of news, which is, that the prince is fully determined, and has made me promise him, that he shall be at our wedding; and he says he will give you to me. His Royal Highness has not yet been in a private house to visit, and is determined never to do it except in this instance. You know I will ever strive to bear such a character as may render it no discredit to any man to take notice of me. There is no action in my whole life but what is honourable; and I am the more happy at this time on that account; for I would, if possible, or in my power, have no man near the prince who can have the smallest impeachment as to character; for as an individual, I love him, as a prince, I honour and revere him. My telling you this history is as to myself; my thoughts on all subjects are open to you. We shall certainly go to Barbadoes from this island, and when I shall see you is not possible for me to guess, so much for marrying a sailor. We are often separated, but I trust our affections are not by any means on that account diminished. Our country has the first demand for our services; and private convenience or happiness must ever give way to the public good. Give my love to Josiah. Heaven bless and return you safe to your most affectionate

"Horatio Nelson."



The attachment here professed for the prince seems to have been caused not less by the loyalty of Nelson's nature than by the real good qualities of the sailor king. It is probable he tried to form himself (professionally) on the model of his young commodore, and a better original it was impossible for him to study. A certain young lieutenant, of the name of Schomberg, conceiving that he was injuriously treated in an order of the day, issued by his Royal Highness on board the Pegasus, applied to Nelson for a court-martial to enquire into the charge alleged against him. Nelson granted the court-martial, and placed the complainant in arrest till a sufficient number could be collected for his trial, and expressed his opinion of such frivolous applications in the following general order:—

"By Horatio Nelson, Esquire, Captain of his Majesty's ship Boreas.

"For the better maintaining discipline and good government in the king's squadron under my command.

"I think it necessary to inform t[Pg 784]he officers, that if any one of them shall presume to write to the commander of the squadron (unless there shall be ships enough present to bring them to immediate trial) for a court-martial to investigate their conduct, on a frivolous pretence, thereby depriving his majesty of their services by obliging the commander of the squadron to confine them, that I shall and do consider such conduct as a direct breach of the 14th and part of the 19th articles of war, and shall order them to be tried for the same.

"Given under my hand, &c.
"Horatio Nelson."


This probably had the desired effect, and the business was afterwards adjusted without having recourse to a court-martial, though not without bringing upon Nelson a rap over the knuckles on his return to England. In order to obtain the proper court, he had directed the prince to take his ship to the Jamaica station on his way to Halifax in Nova Scotia, and the following paragraph contains their lordships' decision:—

"My lords are not satisfied with the reasons you have given for altering the destination of the Pegasus, and for sending the Rattler sloop to Jamaica; and that, for having taken upon you to send the latter away from the station to which their lordships had appointed her, you will be answerable for the consequence, if the crown should be put to any needless expense upon that account."


We must close this account of the frivolous court-martial with an admirable letter from Nelson to the prince.

"Portsmouth 27th July, 1787.



"If to be truly great is to be truly good, (as we are taught to believe,) it never was stronger verified than in your Royal Highness in the instance of Mr Schomberg. You have supported your character, yet, at the same time, by an amiable condescension, have saved an officer from appearing before a court-martial, which ever must hurt him. Resentment, I know, your Royal highness never had, or, I am sure, ever will bear any one. It is a passion incompatible with the character of a man of honour. Schomberg was too hasty, certainly, in writing his letter, but now you are parted, pardon me, my prince, when I presume to recommend that Schomberg may stand in your royal favour as if he had never sailed with you; and that, at some future day, you will serve him. There only wants this to place your character in the highest point of view. None of us are without failings. Schomberg's was being rather too hasty; but that, put in competition with his being a good officer, will not, I am bold to say, be taken in the scale against him."


There is one characteristic circumstance in this collection, namely, the number of letters written by Nelson in recommendation of all who have behaved well under his command. He was desirous of acting to others as, he boasts in one of his letters with pride and exultation, he had been treated by Lord Howe. "You ask, by what interest did I get a ship? I answer, having served with credit, was my recommendation to Lord Howe, first lord of the admiralty."

The following is an application on behalf of a certain boatswain called Joseph King, which we quote on account of the extraordinary politeness,—owing, perhaps, to his study at St Omer—with which Nelson designates his protégé.

To Philip Stephens, Esq., Admiralty.

"Boreas, 21st Sept. 1787.


"On the 20th, Charles Green, late acting boatswain, was entered as boatswain of his majesty's ship under my command, agreeable to a warrant dated at the Navy Pay-office, the 13th instant. I am, therefore, requested by Joseph King, to write to their lordships, to request they will be pleased to appoint him to some other ship, as he hopes he has done nothing deserving of being superseded; and I beg leave to recommend him as a most excellent gentleman.—I am, &c.

"Horatio Nelson."



Whether this application was successful or not, even the industry of the editor has not discovered, but we fear that, at this point of his history, Nelson's recommendation was of no great weight with the Admiralty. His biographers, indeed, Clarke and M'Arthur, say, that at this time the treatment he received disgusted him with his profession, and that he had even determined never to set his foot again on board a king's ship, but resign his commission at once. But Sir Harris Nicolas very justly is sceptical as to the truth of this anecdote, fro[Pg 785]m the fact, that there is no allusion to any intention of the kind in his correspondence. And from what we see of his disposition in all his letters, we feel assured that a thought of leaving the navy never entered his mind, and that he would have considered the withdrawal of his services as little short of treason. But there occurred now a long interval of idleness, or at least of life ashore. The Boreas was paid off in December 1787, and he was only appointed to the Agamemnon in January 1793.

The four years of peace passed happily away, principally at Burnham with his father; and there is little to quote till we find him on his own element again. He writes to Hercules Ross, a West India merchant, with whom he had formed a steady friendship while on that station; and we adduce the passage as a further corroboration of Sir Harris Nicolas's doubts about the authenticity of Clarke and M'Arthur's anecdote.

"You have given up all the toils and anxieties of business, whilst I must still buffet the waves—in search of what? That thing called honour, is now, alas, thought of no more. My integrity cannot be mended, I hope; but my fortune, God knows, has grown worse for the service. So much for serving my country. But the devil, ever willing to tempt the virtuous, (pardon this flattery of myself,) has made me offer, if any ships should be sent to destroy his majesty of Morocco's ports, to be there; and I have some reason to think that, should any more come of it, my humble services will be accepted. I have invariably laid down, and followed close, a plan of what ought to be uppermost in the breast of an officer; that it is much better to serve an ungrateful country, than to give up his own fame. Posterity will do him justice; a uniform conduct of honour and integrity seldom fails of bringing a man to the goal of fame at last."


But in spite of the coolness of the jacks-in-office, and the cold shoulder they turned to the little troublesome captain in the time of peace, no sooner were we likely to come to loggerheads with the French, than they turned their eyes to the quiet Norfolk parsonage, and made the amende to the iracundus Achilles.

War with France was declared on the 11th of February 1793, and on the 7th of January, Nelson writes as follows:—

To Mrs Nelson.

"Post nubila Phœbus. After clouds comes sunshine. The Admiralty so smile on me, that really I am as much surprised as when they frowned. Lord Chatham yesterday made many apologies for not having given me a ship before this time, and said, that if I chose to take a sixty-four to begin with, I should be appointed to one as soon as she was ready, and whenever it was in his power, I should be removed into a seventy-four. Every thing indicated war. One of our ships looking into Brest, has been fired into; the shot is now at the Admiralty. You will send my father this news, which I am sure will please him.—Love to Josiah, and believe me, your most affectionate

"Horatio Nelson."




The appointment of Nelson to the Agamemnon, a name which he did nearly as much to immortalize as Homer, is the great epoch of his professional life. But though his letters, which now rise to the rank of despatches, become more interesting to those who watch his progress as an officer, there are comparatively fewer which let us into the character of the man. Besides this, the incidents of his career after this time are so well known, that little new can be expected. What novelty, however, there was to be obtained has not escaped the research of the editor, from whom (till we meet him in another volume, when Nelson will again become interesting in his individual capacity, as his secret and confidential letters in the Carraccioli and Lady Hamilton's period, come to be laid before us) we part with feelings of gratitude and respect.

[Pg 786]


Machiavel was the first historian who seems to have formed a conception of the philosophy of history. Before his time, the narrative of human events was little more than a series of biographies, imperfectly connected together by a few slight sketches of the empires on which the actions of their heroes were exerted. In this style of history, the ancient writers were, and to the end of time probably will continue to be, altogether inimitable. Their skill in narrating a story, in developing the events of a life, in tracing the fortunes of a city or a state, as they were raised by a succession of illustrious patriots, or sunk by a series of oppressive tyrants, has never been approached in modern times. The histories of Xenophon and Thucydides, of Livy and Sallust, of Cæsar and Tacitus, are all more or less formed on this model; and the more extended view of history, as embracing an account of the countries the transactions of which were narrated, originally formed, and to a great part executed, by the father of history, Herodotus, appears to have been, in an unaccountable manner, lost by his successors.

In these immortal works, however, human transactions are uniformly regarded as they have been affected by, or called forth the agency of, individual men. We are never presented with the view of society in a mass; as influenced by a series of causes and effects independent of the agency of individual man—or, to speak more correctly, in the development of which the agency is an unconscious, and often almost a passive, instrument. Constantly regarding history as an extensive species of biography, they not only did not withdraw the eye to the distance necessary to obtain such a general view of the progress of things, but they did the reverse. Their great object was to bring the eye so close as to see the whole virtues or vices of the principal figures, which they exhibited on their moving panorama; and in so doing they rendered it incapable of perceiving, at the same time, the movement of the whole social body of which they formed a part. Even Livy, in his pictured narrative of Roman victories, is essentially biographical. His inimitable work owes its enduring celebrity to the charming episodes of individuals, or graphic pictures of particular events with which it abounds; scarce any general views on the progress of society, or the causes to which its astonishing progress in the Roman state was owing, are to be found. In the introduction to the life of Catiline, Sallust has given, with unequalled power, a sketch of the causes which corrupted the republic; and if his work had been pursued in the same style, it would indeed have been a philosophical history. But neither the Catiline nor the Jugurthine war are histories; they are chapters of history, containing two interesting biographies. Scattered through the writings of Tacitus, are to be found numerous caustic and profound observations on human nature, and the increasing vices and selfishness of a corrupted age: but, like the maxims of Rochefoucault, it is to individual, not general, humanity that they refer; and they strike us as so admirably just because they do not describe general causes operating upon society as a body—which often make little impression save on a few reflecting minds—but strike direct to the human heart in a way which comes home to the breast of every individual who reads them.

Never was a juster observation than that the human mind is never quiescent; it may not give the external symptoms of action, but it does not cease to have the internal action: it sleeps, but even then it dreams. Writers innumerable have declaimed on the night of the Middle Ages—on the deluge of barbarism which, under the Goths, flooded the world—on the torpor of the human mind, under the combined pressure of savage violence and priestly superstition; yet this was precisely the period when the minds of men, deprived of external vent, turned inwards on themselves; and that the learned and thoughtful, shut out from any active part in society by the general prevalence of military violence, sought, in the solitude of the cloister, employment in reflecting on the mind itself, and the general causes which, under its guidance, operated upon society. The influence of this great chan[Pg 787]ge in the direction of thought at once appeared when knowledge, liberated from the cloister and the university, again took its place among the affairs of men. Machiavel in Italy, and Bacon in England, for the first time in the annals of knowledge, reasoned upon human affairs as a science. They spoke of the minds of men as permanently governed by certain causes, and of known principles, always leading to the same results; they treated of politics as a science in which certain known laws existed, and could be discovered, as in mechanics and hydraulics. This was a great step in advance, and demonstrated that the superior age of the world, and the wide sphere to which political observation had now been applied, had permitted the accumulation of such an increased store of facts, as permitted deductions, founded on experience, to be formed in regard to the affairs of nations. Still more, it showed that the attention of writers had been drawn to the general causes of human affairs; that they reasoned on the actions of men as a subject of abstract thought; regarded effects formerly produced as likely to recur from a similar combination of circumstances; and formed conclusions for the regulation of future conduct, from the results of past experience. This tendency is, in an especial manner, conspicuous in the Discorsi of Machiavel, where certain general propositions are stated, deduced, indeed, from the events of Roman story, but announced as lasting truths, applicable to every future generation and circumstances of men. In depth of view and justness of observation, these views of the Florentine statesman never were surpassed. Bacon's essays relate, for the most part, to subjects of morals, or domestic and private life; but not unfrequently he touches on the general concerns of nations, and with the same profound observation of the past, and philosophic anticipation of the future.

Voltaire professed to elevate history in France from the jejune and trifling details of genealogy, courts, wars, and negotiations, in which it had hitherto, in his country, been involved, to the more general contemplation of arts and philosophy, and the progress of human affairs; and, in some respects, he certainly effected a great reformation on the ponderous annalists who had preceded him. But the foundation of his history was still biography; he regarded human events only as they were grouped round two or three great men, or as they were influenced by the speculations of men of letters and science. The history of France he stigmatized as savage and worthless till the reign of Louis XIV.; the Russians he looked upon as bitter barbarians till the time of Peter the Great. He thought the philosophers alone all in all; till they arose, and a sovereign appeared, who collected them round his throne, and shed on them the rays of royal favour, human events were not worth narrating; they were merely the contests of one set of savages plundering another. Religion, in his eyes, was a mere priestly delusion to enslave and benighten mankind; from its oppression the greatest miseries of modern times had flowed; the first step in the emancipation of the human mind was to chase for ever from the earth those sacerdotal tyrants. The most free-thinking historian will now admit, that these views are essentially erroneous; he will allow that, viewing Christianity merely as a human institution, its effect in restraining the violence of feudal anarchy was incalculable; long anterior to the date of the philosophers, he will look for the broad foundation on which national character and institutions, for good or for evil, have been formed. Voltaire was of great service to history, by turning it from courts and camps to the progress of literature, science, and the arts—to the delineation of manners, and the preparation of anecdotes descriptive of character; but, notwithstanding all his talent, he never got a glimpse of the general causes which influence society. He gave us the history of philosophy, but not the philosophy of history.

The ardent genius and pictorial eye [Pg 788]of Gibbon rendered him an incomparable delineator of events; and his powerful mind made him seize the general and characteristic features of society and manners, as they appear in different parts of the world, as well as the traits of individual greatness. His descriptions of the Roman empire in the zenith of its power, as it existed in the time of Augustus—of its decline and long-protracted old age, under Constantine and his successors on the Byzantine throne—of the manners of the pastoral nations, who, under different names, and for a succession of ages, pressed upon and at last overturned the empire—of the Saracens, who, issuing from the lands of Arabia, with the Koran in one hand and the cimeter in the other, urged on their resistless course, till they were arrested by the Atlantic on the one side, and the Indian ocean on the other—of the stern crusaders, who, nursed amid the cloistered shades and castellated realms of Europe, struggled with that devastating horde "when 'twas strongest, and ruled it when 'twas wildest"—of the long agony, silent decay, and ultimate resurrection of the Eternal City—are so many immortal pictures, which, to the end of the world, will fascinate every ardent and imaginative mind. But, not withstanding this incomparable talent for general and characteristic description, he had not the mind necessary for a philosophical analysis of the series of causes which influence human events. He viewed religion with a jaundiced and prejudiced eye—the fatal bequest of his age and French education, unworthy alike of his native candour and inherent strength of understanding. He had profound philosophic ideas, and occasionally let them out with admirable effect; but the turn of his mind was essentially descriptive, and his powers were such, in that brilliant department, that they wiled him from the less inviting contemplation of general causes. We turn over his fascinating pages without ever wearying; but without ever discovering the general progress or apparent tendency of human affairs. We look in vain for the profound reflections of Machiavel on the permanent results of certain political combinations or experiments. He has led us through a "mighty maze;" but he has made no attempt to show it "not without a plan."

Hume is commonly called a philosophical historian, and so he is; but he has even less than Gibbon the power of unfolding the general causes which influence the progress of human events. He was not, properly speaking, a philosophic historian, but a philosopher writing history—and these are very different things. The practical statesman will often make a better delineator of the progress of human affairs than the philosophic recluse; for he is more practically acquainted with their secret Springs: it was not in the schools, but the forum or the palace, that Sallust, Tacitus, and Burke acquired their deep insight into the human heart. Hume was gifted with admirable sagacity in political economy; and it is the good sense and depth of his views on that important subject, then for the first time brought to bear on the annals of man, that has chiefly gained for him, and with justice, the character of a philosophic historian. To this may be added the admirable clearness and rhetorical powers with which he has stated the principal arguments for and against the great changes in the English institutions which it fell to his lot to recount—arguments far abler than were either used by, or occurred to, the actors by whom they were brought about; for it is seldom that a Hume is found in the councils of men. With equal ability, too, he has given periodical sketches of manners, customs, and habits, mingled with valuable details on finance, commerce, and prices—all elements, and most important ones, in the formation of philosophical history. We owe a deep debt of gratitude to the man who has rescued these important facts from the ponderous folios where they were slumbering in forgotten obscurity, and brought them into the broad light of philosophic observation and popular narrative. But, notwithstanding all this, Hume is far from being gifted with the philosophy of history. He has collected or prepared many of the facts necessary for the science, but he has made little progress in it himself. He was essentially a sceptic. He aimed rather at spreading doubts than shedding light. Like Voltaire[Pg 789] and Gibbon, he was scandalously prejudiced and unjust on the subject of religion; and to write modern history without correct views on that subject, is like playing Hamlet without the character of the Prince of Denmark. He was too indolent to acquire the vast store of facts indispensable for correct generalization on the varied theatre of human affairs, and often drew hasty and incorrect conclusions from the events which particularly came under his observation. Thus the repeated indecisive battles between the fleets of Charles II. and the Dutch, drew from him the observation, apparently justified by their results, that sea-fights are seldom so important or decisive as those at land. The fact is just the reverse. Witness the battle of Salamis, which repelled from Europe the tide of Persian invasion; that of Actium, which gave a master to the Roman world; that of Sluys, which exposed France to the dreadful English invasions, begun under Edward III.; that of Lepanto, which rolled back from Christendom the wave of Mahometan conquest; the defeat of the Armada, which permanently established the Reformation in Northern Europe; that of La Hogue, which broke the maritime strength of Louis XIV.; that of Trafalgar, which for ever took "ships, colonies, and commerce" from Napoleon, and spread them with the British colonial empire over half the globe.

Montesquieu owes his colossal reputation chiefly to his Esprit des Loix; but the Grandeur et Decadence des Romains is by much the greater work. It has never attained nearly the reputation in this country which it deserves, either in consequence of the English mind being less partial than the French to the philosophy of human affairs, or, as is more probable, from the system of education at our universities being so exclusively devoted to the study of words, that our scholars never arrive at the knowledge of things. It is impossible to imagine a work in which the philosophy of history is more ably condensed, or where there is exhibited, in a short space, a more profound view of the general causes to which the long-continued greatness and ultimate decline of that celebrated people were owing. It is to be regretted only that he did not come to modern times and other ages with the same masterly survey; the information collected in the Esprit des Loix would have furnished him with ample materials for such a work. In that noble treatise, the same philosophic and generalizing spirit is conspicuous; but there is too great a love of system, an obvious partiality for fanciful analogies, and, not unfrequently, conclusions hastily deduced from insufficient data. These errors, the natural result of a philosophic and profound mind wandering without a guide in the mighty maze of human transactions, are entirely avoided in the Grandeur et Decadence des Romains, where he was retained by authentic history to a known train of events, and where his imaginative spirit and marked turn for generalization found sufficient scope, and no more, to produce the most perfect commentary on the annals of a single people of which the human mind can boast.

Bossuet, in his Universal History, aimed at a higher object; he professed to give nothing less than a development of the plan of Providence in the government of human affairs, during the whole of antiquity, and down to the reign of Charlemagne. The idea was magnificent, and the mental powers, as well as eloquence, of the Bishop of Meaux promised the greatest results from such an undertaking. But the execution has by no means corresponded to the conception. Voltaire has said, that he professed to give a view of universal history, and he has only given the history of the Jews; and there is too much truth in the observation. He never got out of the fetters of his ecclesiastical education; the Jews were the centre round which he supposed all other nations revolved. His mind was polemical, not philosophic; a great theologian, he was but an indifferent historian. In one particular, indeed, his observations are admirable, and, at times, in the highest degree impressive. He never loses sight of the divine superintendence of human affairs; he sees in all the revolutions of empires the progress of a mighty plan for the ultimate redemp[Pg 790]tion of mankind; and he traces the workings of this superintending power in all the transactions of man. But it may be doubted whether he took the correct view of this sublime but mysterious subject. He supposes the divine agency to influence directly the affairs of men—not through the medium of general laws, or the adaptation of our active propensities to the varying circumstances of our condition. Hence his views strike at the freedom of human actions; he makes men and nations little more than the puppets by which the Deity works out the great drama of human affairs. Without disputing the reality of such immediate agency in some particular cases, it may safely be affirmed, that by far the greater part of the affairs of men are left entirely to their own guidance, and that their actions are overruled, not directed, by Almighty power to work out the purposes of Divine beneficence.

That which Bossuet left undone, Robertson did. The first volume of his Charles V. may justly be regarded as the greatest step which the human mind had yet made in the philosophy of history. Extending his views beyond the admirable survey which Montesquieu had given of the rise and decline of the Roman empire, he aimed at giving a view of the progress of society in modern times. This matter, of the progress of society, was a favourite subject at that period with political philosophers; and by combining the speculations of these ingenious men with the solid basis of facts which his erudition and industry had worked out, Robertson succeeded in producing the most luminous, and at the same time just, view of the progress of nations that had yet been exhibited among mankind. The philosophy of history here appeared in its full lustre. Men and nations were exhibited in their just proportions. Society was viewed, not only in its details, but its masses; the general causes which influence its progress, running into or mutually affecting each other, and yet all conspiring with more or less efficacy to bring about a general result, were exhibited in the most lucid and masterly manner. The great causes which have contributed to form the elements of modern society—the decaying civilization of Rome—the irruption of the northern nations—the prostration and degradation of the conquered people—the revival of the military spirit with the private wars of the nobles—the feudal system and institution of chivalry—the crusades, and revival of letters following the capture of Constantinople by the Turks—the invention of printing, and consequent extension of knowledge to the great body of the people—the discovery of the compass, and, with it, of America, by Columbus, and doubling of the Cape of Good Hope by Vasco de Gama—the discovery of gunpowder, and prodigious change thereby effected in the implements of human destruction—are all there treated in the most luminous manner, and, in general, with the justest discrimination. The vast agency of general causes upon the progress of mankind now became apparent: unseen powers, like the deities of Homer in the war of Troy, were seen to mingle at every stop with the tide of sublunary affairs; and so powerful and irresistible does their agency, when once revealed, appear, that we are perhaps now likely to fall into the opposite extreme, and to ascribe too little to individual effort or character. Men and nations seem to be alike borne forward on the surface of a mighty stream, which they are equally incapable of arresting or directing; and, after surveying the vain and impotent attempts of individuals to extricate themselves from the current, we are apt to exclaim with the philosopher,[16] "He has dashed with his oar to hasten the cataract; he has waved with his fan to give speed to the winds."

A nearer examination, however, will convince every candid enquirer, that individual character exercises, if not a paramount, yet a very powerful influence on human affairs. Whoever investigates minutely any period of history will find, on the one hand, that general causes affecting the whole of society are in constant operation;[Pg 791] and on the other, that these general causes themselves are often set in motion, or directed in their effects, by particular men. Thus, of what efficacy were the constancy of Pitt, the foresight of Burke, the arm of Nelson, the wisdom of Wellington, the genius of Wellesley, in bringing to maturity the British empire, and spreading the Anglo-Saxon race, in pursuance of its appointed mission, over half the globe! What marvellous effect had the heroism and skill of Robert Bruce upon the subsequent history of Scotland, and, through it, on the fortunes of the British race! Thus biography, or the deeds or thoughts of illustrious men, still forms a most important, and certainly the most interesting, part even of general history; and the perfection of that noble art consists, not in the exclusive delineation of individual achievement, or the concentration of attention on general causes, but in the union of the two in due proportions, as they really exist in nature, and determine, by their combined operation, the direction of human affairs. The talent now required in the historian partakes, accordingly, of this two-fold character. He is expected to write philosophy and biography: skill in drawing individual character, the power of describing individual achievements, with a clear perception of general causes, and the generalizing faculty of enlarged philosophy. He must combine in his mind the powers of the microscope and the telescope; be ready, like the steam-engine, at one time to twist a fibre, at another to propel an hundred-gun ship. Hence the rarity of eminence in this branch of knowledge; and if we could conceive a writer who, to the ardent genius and descriptive powers of Gibbon, should unite the lucid glance and just discrimination of Robertson, and the calm sense and reasoning powers of Hume, he would form a more perfect historian than ever has, or probably ever will appear upon earth.

With all his generalizing powers, however, Robertson fell into one defect—or rather, he was unable, in one respect, to extricate himself from the prejudices of his age and profession. He was not a freethinker—on the contrary, he was a sincere and pious divine; but he lived in an age of freethinkers—they had the chief influence in the formation of a writer's fame; and he was too desirous of literary reputation to incur the hazard of ridicule or contempt, by assigning too prominent a place to the obnoxious topic. Thence he has ascribed far too little influence to Christianity, in restraining the ferocity of savage manners, preserving alive the remains of ancient knowledge, and laying in general freedom the broad and deep foundations of European society. He has not overlooked these topics, but he has not given them their due place, nor assigned them their proper weight. He lived and died in comparative retirement; and he was never able to shake himself free from the prejudices of his country and education, on the subject of Romish religion. Not that he exaggerated the abuses and enormities of the Roman Catholic superstition which brought about the Reformation, nor the vast benefits which Luther conferred upon mankind by bringing them to light; both were so great, that they hardly admitted of exaggeration. His error—and, in the delineation of the progress of society in modern Europe, it was a very great one—consisted in overlooking the beneficial effect of that very superstition, then so pernicious, in a prior age of the world, when violence was universal, crime prevalent alike in high and low places, and government impotent to check either the tyranny of the great or the madness of the people. Then it was that superstition was the greatest blessing which Providence, in mercy, could bestow on mankind; for it effected what the wisdom of the learned or the efforts of the active were alike unable to effect; it restrained the violence by imaginary, which was inaccessible to the force of real, terrors; and spread that protection under the shadow of the Cross, which could never have been obtained by the power of the sword. Robertson was wholly insensible to these early and inestimable blessings of the Christian faith; he has admirably delineated the beneficial influence of the Crusades upon subsequent society, but on this all-important topic he is silent. Yet, whoever has studied the condition of European[Pg 792] society in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries, as it has since been developed in the admirable works of Sismondi, Thierry, Michelet, and Guizot, must be aware that the services, not merely of Christianity, but of the superstitions which had usurped its place, were, during that long period, incalculable; and that, but for them, European society would infallibly have sunk, as Asiatic in every age has done, beneath the desolating sword of barbarian power.

Sismondi—if the magnitude, and in many respects the merit, of his works be considered—must be regarded as one of the greatest historians of modern times. His "History of the Italian Republics" in sixteen, of the "Monarchy of France" in thirty volumes, attest the variety and extent of his antiquarian researches, as well as the indefatigable industry of his pen: his "Literature of the South of Europe" in four, and "Miscellaneous Essays" in three volumes, show how happily he has blended these weighty investigations with the lighter topics of literature and poetry, and the political philosophy which, in recent times, has come to occupy so large a place in the study of all who have turned their mind to the progress of human affairs. Nor is the least part of his merit to be found in the admirable skill with which he has condensed, each in two volumes, his great histories, for the benefit of that numerous class of readers who, unable or unwilling to face the formidable undertaking of going through his great histories, are desirous of obtaining such a brief summary of their leading events as may suffice for persons of ordinary perseverance or education. His mind was essentially philosophical; and it is the philosophy of modern history, accordingly, which he has exerted himself so strenuously to unfold. He views society at a distance, and exhibits its great changes in their just proportions, and, in general, with their true effects. His success in this arduous undertaking has been great indeed. He has completed the picture of which Robertson had only formed the sketch—and completed it with such a prodigious collection of materials, and so lucid an arrangement of them in their appropriate places, as to have left future ages little to do but draw the just conclusions from the results of his labours.

With all these merits, and they are great, and with this rare combination of antiquarian industry with philosophic generalization, Sismondi is far from being a perfect historian. He did well to abridge his great works; for he will find few readers who will have perseverance enough to go through them. An abridgement was tried of Gibbon; but it had little success, and has never since been attempted. You might as well publish an abridgement of Waverley or Ivanhoe. Every reader of the Decline and Fall must feel that condensation is impossible, without an omission of interest or a curtailment of beauty. Sismondi, with all his admirable qualities as a general and philosophic historian, wants the one thing needful in exciting interest—descriptive and dramatic power. He was a man of great vigour of thought and clearness of observation, but little genius—at least of that kind of genius which is necessary to move the feelings or warm the imagination. That was his principal defect; and it will prevent his great works from ever commanding the attention of a numerous body of general readers, however much they may be esteemed by the learned and studious. Conscious of this deficiency, he makes scarce any attempt to make his narrative interesting; but, reserving his whole strength for general views on the progress of society, or philosophic observations on its most important changes, he fills up the intermediate space with long quotations from chronicles, memoirs, and state papers—a sure way, if the selection is not made with great judgment, of rendering the whole insupportably tedious. Every narrative, to be interesting, should be given in the writer's own words, unless on those occasions, by no means frequent, when some striking or remarkable expressions of a speaker, or contemporary writer, are to be preserved. Unity of style and expression is as indispensable in a history which is to move the heart, or fascinate the imagination, as in a tragedy, a painting, or an epic poem.

But, in addition to this, Sismondi's general views, though ordinarily just, and always expressed with clearness[Pg 793] and precision, are not always to be taken without examination. Like Robertson, he was never able to extricate himself entirely from the early prejudices of his country and education; hardly any of the Geneva school of philosophers have been able to do so. Brought up in that learned and able, but narrow, and in some respects bigoted community, he was early engaged in the vast undertaking of the History of the Italian Republics. Thus, before he was well aware of it, and at a time of life, when the opinions are flexible, and easily moulded by external impressions, he became irrevocably enamoured of such little communities as he had lived in, or was describing, and imbibed all the prejudices against the Church of Rome, which have naturally, from close proximity, and the endurance of unutterable evils at its hands, been ever prevalent among the Calvinists of Geneva. These causes have tinged his otherwise impartial views with two signal prejudices, which appear in all his writings where these subjects are even remotely alluded to. His partiality for municipal institutions, and the social system depending on them, is as extravagant, as his aversion to the Church of Rome is conspicuous and intemperate. His idea of a perfect society would be a confederacy of little republics, governed by popularly elected magistrates, holding the scarlet old lady of Rome in utter abomination, and governed in matters of religion by the Presbyterian forms, and the tenets of Calvin. It is not to be wondered at, that the annalist of the countries of Tasso and Dante, of Titian and Machiavel, of Petrarch and Leonardo da Vinci, of Galileo and Michael Angelo, should conceive, that in no other state of society is such scope afforded for mental cultivation and the development of the highest efforts of genius. Still less is it surprising, that the historian of the crusade against the Albigenses, of the unheard-of atrocities of Simon de Montfort, of the wholesale massacres, burnings, and torturings, which have brought such indelible disgrace on the Roman priesthood, should feel deeply interested in a faith which has extricated his own country from the abominable persecution. But still, this indulgence of these natural, and in some respects praiseworthy, feelings, has blinded Sismondi to the insurmountable evils of a confederacy of small republics at this time, amidst surrounding, powerful, and monarchical states; and to the inappreciable blessings of the Christian faith, and even of the Romish superstition, before the period when these infamous cruelties began, when their warfare was only with the oppressor, their struggles with the destroyers of the human race.

But truth is great, and will prevail. Those just views of modern society, which neither the luminous eye of Robertson, nor the learned research and philosophic mind of Sismondi could reach, have been brought forward by a writer of surpassing ability, whose fame as an historian and a philosopher is for the time overshadowed by the more fleeting celebrity of the statesman and the politician. We will not speak of M. GUIZOT in the latter character, much as we are tempted to do so, by the high and honourable part which he has long borne in European diplomacy, and the signal ability with which, in the midst of a short-sighted and rebellious generation, clamouring, as the Romans of old, for the multis utile bellum, he has sustained his sovereign's wise and magnanimous resolution to maintain peace. We are too near the time to appreciate the magnitude of these blessings; men would not now believe through what a crisis the British empire, unconscious of its danger, passed, when M. Thiers was dismissed, three years and a half ago, by Louis Philippe, and M. Guizot called to the helm. But when the time arrives, as arrive it will, that the diplomatic secrets of that period are brought to light; when the instructions of the revolutionary minister to the admiral of the Toulon fleet are made known, and the marvellous chance which prevented their being acted upon by him, has become matter of history; it will be admitted, that the civilized world have good cause to thank M. Guizot for saving it from a contest as vehement, as perilous, and[Pg 794] probably as disastrous to all concerned, as that which followed the French Revolution.

Our present business is with M. Guizot as a historian and philosopher; a character in which he will be remembered, long after his services to humanity as a statesman and a minister have ceased to attract the attention of men. In those respects, we place him in the very highest rank among the writers of modern Europe. It must be understood, however, in what his greatness consists, lest the readers, expecting what they will not find, experience disappointment, when they begin the study of his works. He is neither imaginative nor pictorial; he seldom aims at the pathetic, and has little eloquence. He is not a Livy nor a Gibbon. Nature has not given him either dramatic or descriptive powers. He is a man of the highest genius; but it consists not in narrating particular events, or describing individual achievement. It is in the discovery of general causes; in tracing the operation of changes in society, which escape ordinary observation: in seeing whence man has come, and whether he is going, that his greatness consists: and in that loftiest of the regions of history, he is unrivaled. We know of no author who has traced the changes of society, and the general causes which determine the fate of nations, with such just views and so much sagacious discrimination. He is not properly speaking, an historian; his vocation and object were different. He is a great discourser on history. If ever the philosophy of history was embodied in a human being, it is in M. Guizot.

The style of this great author is, in every respect, suited to his subject. He does not aim at the highest flights of fancy; makes no attempt to warm the soul or melt the feelings; is seldom imaginative, and never descriptive. But he is uniformly lucid, sagacious, and discriminating; deduces his conclusions with admirable clearness from his premises, and occasionally warms from the innate grandeur of his subject into a glow of fervent eloquence. He seems to treat of human affairs, as if he viewed them from a loftier sphere than other men; as if he were elevated above the usual struggles and contests of humanity; and a superior power had withdrawn the veil which shrouds their secret causes and course from the gaze of sublunary beings. He cares not to dive into the secrets of cabinets; attaches little, perhaps too little, importance to individual character; but fixes his steady gaze on the great and lasting causes which, in a durable manner, influence human affairs. He views them not from year to year but from century to century; and, when considered in that view, it is astonishing how much the importance of individual agency disappears. Important in their generation—sometimes almost omnipotent for good or for evil while they live—particular men, how great soever, rarely leave any very important consequences behind them; or at least rarely do what other men might not have done as effectually as them, and which was not already determined by the tendency of the human mind, and the tide, either of flow or ebb, by which human affairs were at the time wafted to and fro. The desperate struggles of war or of ambition in which they were engaged, and in which so much genius and capacity were exerted, are swept over by the flood of time, and seldom leave any lasting trace behind. It is the men who determine the direction of this tide, who imprint their character on general thought, who are the real directors of human affairs; it is the giants of thought who, in the end, govern the world—kings and ministers, princes and generals, warriors and legislators, are but the ministers of their blessings or their curses to mankind. But their dominion seldom begins till themselves are mouldering in their graves.

Guizot's largest work, in point of size, is his translation of Gibbon's Rome; and the just and philosophic spirit in which he viewed he course of human affairs, was admirably calculated to provide an antidote to the sceptical sneers which, in a writer of such genius and strength of understanding, are at once the marvel and the disgrace of that immortal work. He has begun also a history of the Eng[Pg 795]lish Revolution, to which he was led by having been the editor of a valuable collection of Memoirs relating to the great Rebellion, translated into French, in twenty-five volumes. But this work only got the length of two volumes, and came no further down than the death of Charles I., an epoch no further on in the English than the execution of Louis in the French revolution. This history is clear, lucid, and valuable; but it is written with little eloquence, and has met with no great success: the author's powers were not of the dramatic or pictorial kind necessary to paint that dreadful story. These were editorial or industrial labours unworthy of Guizot's mind; it was when he delivered lectures from the chair of history in Paris, that his genius shone forth in its proper sphere and its true lustre.

His Civilisation en France, in five volumes, Civilisation Européenne, and Essais sur l'Histoire de France, each in one volume, are the fruits of these professional labours. The same profound thought, sagacious discrimination, and lucid view, are conspicuous in them all; but they possess different degrees of interest to the English reader. The Civilisation en France is the groundwork of the whole, and it enters at large into the whole details, historical, legal, and antiquarian, essential for its illustration, and the proof of the various propositions which it contains. In the Civilisation Européenne, and Essays on the History of France, however, the general results are given with equal clearness and greater brevity. We do not hesitate to say, that they appear to us to throw more light on the history of society in modern Europe, and the general progress of mankind, from the exertions of its inhabitants, than any other works in existence; and it is of them, especially the first, that we propose to give our readers some account.

The most important event which ever occurred in the history of mankind, is the one concerning which contemporary writers have given us the least satisfactory accounts. Beyond all doubt the overthrow of Rome by the Goths was the most momentous catastrophe which has occurred on the earth since the deluge; yet, if we examine either the historians of antiquity or the earliest of modern times, we find it wholly impossible to understand to what cause so great a catastrophe had been owing. What gave, in the third and fourth centuries, so prodigious an impulse to the northern nations, and enabled them, after being so long repelled by the arms of Rome, finally to prevail over it? What, still more, so completely paralysed the strength of the empire during that period, and produced that astonishing weakness in the ancient conquerors of the world, which rendered them the easy prey of those whom they had so often subdued? The ancient writers content themselves with saying, that the people became corrupted; that they lost their military courage; that the recruiting of the legions, in the free inhabitants of the empire, became impossible; and that the semi-barbarous tribes on the frontier could not be relied on to uphold its fortunes. But a very little reflection must be sufficient to show that there must have been much more in it than this, before a race of conquerors was converted into one of slaves; before the legions fled before the barbarians, and the strength of the civilized was overthrown by the energy of the savage world. For what prevented a revenue from being raised in the third or fourth, as well as the first or second centuries? Corruption in its worst form had doubtless pervaded the higher ranks in Rome from the Emperor downward; but these vices are the faults of the exalted and the affluent only; they never have, and never will, extend generally to the great body of the community; for this plain reason, that they are not rich enough to purchase them. But the remarkable thing is, that in the decline of the empire, it was in the lower ranks that the greatest and most fatal weakness first appeared. Long before the race of the Patricians had become extinct, the free cultivators had disappeared from the fields. Leaders and generals of the most consummate abilities, of the greatest daring, frequently arose; but their efforts proved in the end ineffectual, from the impossibility of finding a sturdy race of followers to fill their ranks. The legion[Pg 796]ary Italian soldier was awanting—his place was imperfectly supplied by the rude Dacian, the hardy German, the faithless Goth. So completely were the inhabitants of the provinces within the Rhine and the Danube paralysed, that they ceased to make any resistance to the hordes of invaders; and the fortunes of the empire were, for several generations, sustained solely by the heroic efforts of individual leaders—Belisarius, Narces, Julian, Aurelian, Constantine, and many others—whose renown, though it could not rouse the pacific inhabitants to warlike efforts, yet attracted military adventurers from all parts of the world to their standard. Now, what weakened and destroyed the rural population? It could not be luxury; on the contrary, they were suffering under excess of poverty, and bent down beneath a load of taxes, which in Gaul, in the time of Constantine, amounted, as Gibbon tells us, to nine pounds sterling on every freeman? What was it, then, which occasioned the depopulation and weakness? This is what it behoves us to know—this it is which ancient history has left unknown.

It is here that the vast step in the philosophy of history made from ancient to modern times is apparent. From a few detached hints and insulated facts, left by the ancient annalists, apparently ignorant of their value, and careless of their preservation, modern industry, guided by the light of philosophy, has reared up the true solution of the difficulty, and revealed the real causes, hidden from the ordinary gaze, which, even in the midst of its greatest prosperity, gradually, but certainly, undermined the strength of the empire. Michelet, in his Gaule sous les Romains, a most able and interesting work—Thierry, in his Domination Romaine en Gaule, and his Histoire des Rois Merovingians—Sismondi, in the three first volumes of his Histoire des Français—and Guizot, in his Civilisation Européenne, and the first volumes of his Essais sur l'Histoire de France—have applied their great powers to this most interesting subject. It may safely be affirmed, that they have got to the bottom of the subject, and lifted up the veil from one of the darkest, and yet most momentous, changes in the history of mankind. Guizot gives the following account of the principal causes which silently undermined the strength of the empire, flowing from the peculiar organization of ancient society:—

"When Rome extended, what did it do? Follow its history, and you will find that it was everlastingly engaged in conquering or founding cities. It was with cities that it fought—with cities that it contracted—into cities that it sent colonies. The history of the conquest of the world by Rome, is nothing but the history of the conquest and foundation of a great number of cities. In the East, the expansion of the Roman power assumed, from the very outset, a somewhat dissimilar character; the population was differently distributed from the West, and much less concentrated in cities; but in the European world, the foundation or conquest of towns was the uniform result of Roman conquest. In Gaul and Spain, in Italy, it was constantly towns which opposed the barrier to Roman domination, and towns which were founded or garrisoned by the legions, or strengthened by colonies, to retain them when vanquished in a state of subjection. Great roads stretched from one town to another; the multitude of cross roads which now intersect each other in every direction, was unknown. They had nothing in common with that multitude of little monuments, villages, churches, castles, villas, and cottages, which now cover our provinces. Rome has bequeathed to us nothing, either in its capital or its provinces, but the municipal character, which produced immense monuments on certain points, destined for the use of the vast population which was there assembled together.

"From this peculiar conformation of society in Europe, under the Roman dominion, consisting of a vast conglomeration of cities, with each a dependent territory, all independent of each other, arose the absolute necessity for a central and absolute government. One municipality in Rome might conquer the world: but to retain it in subjection, and provide for the government of all its multifarious parts, was a very different matter. This was one of the chief causes of the general adoption of a strong concentrated government un[Pg 797]der the empire. Such centralized despotism not only succeeded in restraining and regulating all the incoherent members of the vast dominion, but the idea of a central irresistible authority insinuated itself into men's minds every where, at the same time, with wonderful facility. At first sight, one is astonished to see, in that prodigious and ill-united aggregate of little republics, in that accumulation of separate municipalities, spring up so suddenly an unbounded respect for the sacred authority of the empire. But the truth is, it had become a matter of absolute necessity, that the bond which held together the different parts of this heterogeneous dominion should be very powerful; and this it was which gave it so ready a reception in the minds of men.

"But when the vigour of the central power declined during a course of ages, from the pressure of external warfare, and the weakness of internal corruption, this necessity was no longer felt. The capital ceased to be able to provide for the provinces, it rather sought protection from them. During four centuries, the central power of the emperors incessantly struggled against this increasing debility; but the moment at length arrived, when all the practised skill of despotism, over the long insouciance of servitude, could no longer keep together the huge and unwieldy body. In the fourth century, we see it at once break up and disunite; the barbarians entered on all sides from without, the provinces ceased to oppose any resistance from within; the cities to evince any regard for the general welfare; and, as in the disaster of a shipwreck, every one looked out for his individual safety. Thus, on the dissolution of the empire, the same general state of society presented itself as in its cradle. The imperial authority sunk into the dust, and municipal institutions alone survived the disaster. This, then, was the chief legacy which the ancient bequeathed to the modern world—for it alone survived the storm by which the former had been destroyed—cities and a municipal organization every where established. But it was not the only legacy. Beside it, there was the recollection at least of the awful majesty of the emperor—of a distant, unseen, but sacred and irresistible power. These are the two ideas which antiquity bequeathed to modern times. On the one hand, the municipal régime, its rules, customs, and principles of liberty: on the other a common, general, civil legislation; and the idea of absolute power, of a sacred majesty, the principle of order and servitude."—(Civilization Européenne, 20, 23.)


The causes which produced the extraordinary, and at first sight unaccountable, depopulation of the country districts, not only in Italy, but in Gaul, Spain, and all the European provinces of the Roman empire, are explained by Guizot in his Essays on the History of France, and have been fully demonstrated by Sismondi, Thierry, and Michelet. They were a natural consequence of the municipal system, then universally established as the very basis of civilization in the whole Roman empire, and may be seen urging, from a similar cause, the Turkish empire to dissolution at this day. This was the imposition of a certain fixed duty, as a burden on each municipality, to be raised, indeed, by its own members, but admitting of no diminution, save under the most special circumstances, and on an express exemption by the emperor. Had the great bulk of the people been free, and the empire prosperous, this fixity of impost would have been the greatest of all blessings. It is the precise boon so frequently and earnestly implored by our ryots in India, and indeed by the cultivators all over the East. But when the empire was beset on all sides with enemies—only the more rapacious and pressing, that the might of the legions had so long confined them within the comparatively narrow limits of their own sterile territories—and disasters, frequent and serious, were laying waste the frontier provinces, it became the most dreadful of all scourges; because, as the assessment on each district was fixed, and scarcely ever suffered any abatement, every disaster experienced increased the burden on the survivors who had escaped it; until they became bent down under such a weight of taxation, as, coupled with the small number of freemen on whom it exclusively fell, crushed every attempt at productive industry. It was the same thing as if all the farmers on each estate were to be bound to make up, annually, the same amount[Pg 798] of rent to their landlord, no matter how many of them had become insolvent. We know how long the agriculture of Britain, in a period of declining prices and frequent disaster, would exist under such a system.

Add to this the necessary effect which the free circulation of grain throughout the whole Roman world had in depressing the agriculture of Italy, Gaul, and Greece. They were unable to withstand the competition of Egypt, Lybia, and Sicily—the storehouses of the world; where the benignity of the climate, and the riches of the soil, rewarded seventy or an hundred fold the labours of the husbandman. Gaul, where the increase was only seven-fold—Italy, where it seldom exceeded twelve—Spain, where it was never so high, were crushed in the struggle. The mistress of the world, as Tacitus bewails, had come to depend for her subsistence on the floods of the Nile. Unable to compete with the cheap grain raised in the more favoured regions of the south, the cultivators of Italy and Gaul gradually retired from the contest. They devoted their extensive estates to pasturage, because live cattle or dairy produce could not bear the expense of being shipped from Africa; and the race of agriculturists, the strength of the legions, disappeared in the fields, and was lost in the needy and indolent crowd of urban citizens, in part maintained by tributes in corn brought from Egypt and Lybia. This augmented the burdens upon those who remained in the rural districts; for, as the taxes of each municipality remained the same, every one that withdrew into the towns left an additional burden on the shoulders of his brethren who remained behind. So powerful was the operation of these two causes—the fixity in the state burdens payable by each municipality, and the constantly declining prices, owing to the vast import from agricultural regions more favoured by nature—that it fully equaled the effect of the ravages of the barbarians in the frontier provinces exposed to their incursions; and the depopulation of the rural districts was as complete in Italy and Gaul, before a barbarian had passed the Alps or set his foot across the Rhine, as in the plains between the Alps or the Adriatic and the Danube, which had for long been ravaged by their arms.

Domestic slavery conspired with these evils to prevent the healing power of nature from closing these yawning wounds. Gibbon estimates the number of slaves throughout the empire, in its latter days, at a number equal to that of the freemen; in other words, one half of the whole inhabitants were in a state of servitude;[17] and as there were 120,000,000 souls under the Roman sway, sixty millions were in that degraded condition. There is reason to believe that the number of the slaves was still greater than this estimate, and at least double that of the freemen; for it is known by an authentic enumeration, that, in the time of the Emperor Claudius, the number of citizens in the empire was only 6,945,000 men, who, with their families, might amount to twenty millions of souls; and the total number of freemen was about double that of the citizens.[18] In one family alone, in the time of Pliny, there were 4116 slaves.[19] But take the number of slaves, according to Gibbon's computation, at only half the entire population, what a prodigious abstraction must this multitude of slaves have made from the physical and moral strength of the empire! Half the people requiring food, needing restraint, incapable of trust, and yet adding nothing to the muster-roll of the legions, or the persons by whom the fixed and immovable annual taxes were to be made good! In what state would the British empire now be, if we were subjected to the action of similar causes of ruin? A vast and unwieldy dominion, exposed on every side to the incursions of barbarous and hostile nations, daily increasing in numbers, and augmenting in military skill; a fixed taxation, for which the whole free inhabitants of every municipality were jointly and severally responsible, to meet the increasing military esta[Pg 799]blishment required by these perils; a declining, and at length extinct, agriculture in the central provinces of the empire, owing to the deluge of cheap grain from its fertile extremities, wafted over the waters of the Mediterranean; multitudes of turbulent freemen in cities, kept quiet by daily distribution of provisions at the public expense, from the imperial granaries; and a half, or two-thirds, of the whole population in a state of slavery—neither bearing any share of the public burdens, nor adding to the strength of the military array of the empire. Such are the discoveries of modern philosophy, as to the causes of the decline and ultimate fall of the Roman empire, gleaned from a few facts, accidentally preserved by the ancient writers, apparently unconscious of their value! It is a noble science which, in so short a time, has presented such a gift to mankind.

Guizot has announced, and ably illustrated, a great truth, which, when traced to its legitimate consequences, will be found to go far towards dispelling many of the pernicious innovating dogmas which have so long been afloat in the world. It is this, that whenever an institution, though apparently pernicious in our eyes, has long existed, and under a great variety of circumstances, we may rest assured that it in reality has been attended with some advantages which counterbalance its evils, and that upon the whole it is beneficial in its tendency. This important principle is thus stated:—

"Independent of the efforts of man, there is established by a law of providence, which it is impossible to mistake, and which is analagous to what we witness in the natural world, a certain measure of order, reason, and justice, without which society cannot exist. From the single fact of its endurance we may conclude, with certainty, that a society is not completely absurd, insensate, or iniquitous; that it is not destitute of the elements of reason, truth, and justice—which alone can give life to society. If the more that society developes itself, the stronger does this principle become—if it is daily accepted by a greater number of men, it is a certain proof that in the lapse of time there has been progressively introduced into it more reason, more justice, more right. It is thus that the idea of political legitimacy has arisen.

"This principle has for its foundation, in the first instance, at least in a certain degree, the great principles of moral legitimacy—justice, reason, truth. Then came the sanction of time, which always begets the presumption of reason having directed arrangements which have long endured. In the early periods of society, we too often find force and falsehood ruling the cradles of royalty, aristocracy, democracy, and even the church; but every where you will see this force and falsehood yielding to the reforming hand of time, and right and truth taking their place in the rulers of civilization. It is this progressive infusion of right and truth which has by degrees developed the idea of political legitimacy; it is thus that it has become established in modern civilization. At different times, indeed, attempts have been made to substitute for this idea the banner of despotic power; but, in doing so, they have turned it aside from its true origin. It is so little the banner of despotic power, that it is in the name of right and justice that it has overspread the world. As little is it exclusive: it belongs neither to persons, classes, nor sects; it arises wherever the idea of right has developed itself. We shall meet with this principle in systems the most opposite: in the feudal system, in the municipalities of Flanders and Germany, in the republics of Italy, as well as in simple monarchies. It is a character diffused through the various elements of modern civilization, and the perception of which is indispensable to the right understanding of its history."—(Lecture iii. 9, 11; Civilization Européenne.)


No principle ever was announced of more practical importance in legislating for mankind, than is contained in this passage. The doctrine is somewhat obscurely stated, and not with the precision which in general distinguishes the French writers; but the import of it seems to be this—That no system of government can long exist among men, unless it is substantially, and in the majority of cases, founded in reason and justice, and sanctioned by experienced utility for the people among whom it exists; and therefore, that we may predicate with perfect certainty of any institution[Pg 800] which has been generally extended and long established, that it has been upon the whole beneficial, and should be modified or altered with a very cautious hand. That this proposition is true, will probably be disputed by none who have thought much and dispassionately on human affairs; for all human institutions are formed and supported by men, and unless men had some reason for supporting them, they would speedily sink to the ground. It is in vain to say a privileged class have got possession of the power, and they make use of it to perpetuate these abuses. Doubtless, they are always sufficiently inclined to do so; but a privileged class, or a despot, is always a mere handful against the great body of the people; and unless their power is supported by the force of general opinion, founded on experienced utility upon the whole, it could not maintain its ground a single week. And this explains a fact observed by an able and ingenious writer of the present day,[20] that if almost all the great convulsions recorded in history are attentively considered, it will be found, that after a brief period of strenuous, and often almost superhuman effort, on the part of the people, they have terminated in the establishment of a government and institutions differing scarcely, except in name, from that which had preceded the struggle. It is hardly necessary to remark how striking a confirmation the English revolution of 1688, and the French of 1830, afford of this truth.

And this explains what is the true meaning of, and solid foundation for, that reverence for antiquity which is so strongly implanted in human nature, and is never forgotten for any considerable time without inducing the most dreadful disasters upon society. It means that those institutions which have descended to us in actual practice from our ancestors, come sanctioned by the experience of ages; and that they could not have stood so long a test unless they had been recommended, in some degree at least, by their utility. It is not that our ancestors were wiser than we are; they were certainly less informed, and probably were, on that account, in the general case, less judicious. But time has swept away their follies, which were doubtless great enough, as it has done the worthless ephemeral literature with which they, as we, were overwhelmed; and nothing has stood the test of ages, and come down to us through a series of generations, of their ideas or institutions, but what had some utility in human feelings and necessities, and was on the whole expedient at the time when it arose. Its utility may have ceased by the change of manners or of the circumstances of society—that may be a good reason for cautiously modifying or altering it—but rely upon it, it was once useful, if it has existed long; and the presumption of present and continuing utility requires to be strongly outweighed by forcible considerations before it is abandoned. Lord Bacon has told us, in words which can never become trite, so profound is their wisdom, that our changes, to be beneficial, should resemble those of time, which, though the greatest of all innovators, works out its alterations so gradually that they are never perceived. Guizot makes, in the same spirit, the following fine observation on the slow march of Supreme wisdom in the government of the world:—

"If we turn our eyes to history, we shall find that all the great developments of the human mind have turned to the advantage of society—all the great struggles of humanity to the good of mankind. It is not, indeed, immediately that these efforts take place; ages often elapse, a thousand obstacles intervene, before they are fully developed; but when we survey a long course of ages, we see that all has been accomplished. The march of Providence is not subjected to narrow limits; it cares not to develope to-day the consequences of a principle which it has established yesterday; it will bring them forth in ages, when the appointed hour has arrived; and its course is not the less sure that it is slow. The throne of the Almighty rests on time—it marches through its boundless expanse as the gods of Homer through space—it makes[Pg 801] a step, and ages have passed away. How many ages elapsed, how many changes ensued, before the regeneration of the inner man, by means of Christianity, exercised on the social state its great and salutary influence! Nevertheless, it has at length succeeded. No one can mistake its effects at this time."—(Lecture i. 24.)


In surveying the progress of civilization in modern, as compared with ancient times, two features stand prominent as distinguishing the one from the other. These are the church and the feudal system. They were precisely the circumstances which gave the most umbrage to the philosophers of the eighteenth century, and which awakened the greatest transports of indignation among the ardent multitudes who, at its close, brought about the French Revolution. Very different is the light in which the eye of true philosophy, enlightened by the experience of their abolition, views these great distinctive features of modern society.

"Immense," says Guizot, "was the influence which the Christian church exercised over the civilization of modern Europe. In the outset, it was an incalculable advantage to have a moral power, a power destitute of physical force, which reposed only on mental convictions and moral feelings, established amidst that deluge of physical force and selfish violence which overwhelmed society at that period. Had the Christian church not existed, the world would have been delivered over to the influence of physical strength, in its coarsest and most revolting form. It alone exercised a moral power. It did more; it spread abroad the idea of a rule of obedience, a heavenly power, to which all human beings, how great soever, were subjected, and which was above all human laws. That of itself was a safeguard against the greatest evils of society; for it affected the minds of those by whom they were brought about; it professed that belief—the foundation of the salvation of humanity—that there is above all existing institutions, superior to all human laws, a permanent and divine law, sometimes called Reason, sometimes Divine Command, but which, under whatever name it goes, is for ever the same.

"Then the church commenced a great work—the separation of the spiritual and temporal power. That separation is the origin of liberty of conscience; it rests on no other principle than that which lies at the bottom of the widest and most extended toleration. The separation of the spiritual and temporal power rests on the principle, that physical force is neither entitled to act, nor can ever have any lasting influence, on thoughts, conviction, truth; it flows from the eternal distinction between the world of thought and the world of action, the world of interior conviction and that of external facts. In truth, that principle of the liberty of conscience, for which Europe has combated and suffered so much, which has so slowly triumphed, and often against the utmost efforts of the clergy themselves, was first founded by the doctrine of the separation of the temporal and spiritual power, in the cradle of European civilization. It is the Christian church which, by the necessities of its situation to defend itself against the assaults of barbarism, introduced and maintained it. The presence of a moral influence, the maintenance of a Divine law, the separation of the temporal and spiritual power, are the three great blessings which the Christian church has diffused in the dark ages over European society.

"The influence of the Christian church was great and beneficent for another reason. The bishop and clergy erelong became the principal municipal magistrates: they were the chancellors and ministers of kings—the rulers, except in the camp and the field, of mankind. When the Roman empire crumbled into dust, when the central power of the emperors and the legions disappeared, there remained, we have seen, no other authority in the state but the municipal functionaries. But they themselves had fallen into a state of apathy and despair; the heavy burdens of despotism, the oppressive taxes of the municipalities, the incursions of the fierce barbarians, had reduced them to despair. No protection to society, no revival of industry, no shielding of innocence, could be expected from their exertions. The clergy, again, formed a society within itself; fresh, young, vigorous, sheltered by the prevailing faith, which speedily drew to itself all the learning and intellectual strength that remained in the state. The bishops and priests, full of life and of zeal, naturally were recurred to in order to fill all civil situations requiring thought or informa[Pg 802]tion. It is wrong to reproach their exercise of these powers as an usurpation; they alone were capable of exercising them. Thus has the natural course of things prescribed for all ages and countries. The clergy alone were mentally strong and morally zealous: they became all-powerful. It is the law of the universe."—(Lecture iii. 27, 31; Civilization Européenne.)


Nothing can be more just or important than these observations; and they throw a new and consoling light on the progress and ultimate destiny of European society. They are as original as they are momentous. Robertson, with his honest horror of the innumerable corruptions which, in the time of Leo X. and Luther, brought about the Reformation—Sismondi, with his natural detestation of a faith which had urged on the dreadful cruelties of the crusade of the Albigenses, and which produced the revocation of the edict of Nantes—have alike overlooked these important truths, so essential to a right understanding of the history of modern society. They saw that the arrogance and cruelty of the Roman clergy had produced innumerable evils in later times; that their venality in regard to indulgences and abuse of absolution had brought religion itself into discredit; that the absurd and incredible tenets which they still attempted to force on mankind, had gone far to alienate the intellectual strength of modern Europe, during the last century, from their support. Seeing this, they condemned it absolutely, for all times and in all places. They fell into the usual error of men in reasoning on former from their own times. They could not make "the past and the future predominate over the present." They felt the absurdity of many of the legends which the devout Catholics received as undoubted truths, and they saw no use in perpetuating the belief in them; and thence they conceived that they must always have been equally unserviceable, forgetting that the eighteenth was not the eighth century; and that, during the dark ages, violence would have rioted without control, if, when reason was in abeyance, knowledge scanty, and military strength alone in estimation, superstition had not thrown its unseen fetters over the barbarian's arms. They saw that the Romish clergy, during five centuries, had laboured strenuously, and often with the most frightful cruelty, to crush independence of thought in matters of faith, and chain the human mind to the tenets, often absurd and erroneous, of her Papal creed; and they forgot that, during five preceding centuries, the Christian church had laboured as assiduously to establish the independence of thought from physical coercion, and had alone kept alive, during the interregnum of reason, the sparks of knowledge and the principles of freedom.

In the same liberal and enlightened spirit Guizot views the feudal system, the next grand characteristic of modern times.

"A decisive proof that, in the tenth century, the feudal system had become necessary, and was, in truth, the only social state possible, is to be found in the universality of its adoption. Universally, upon the cessation of barbarism, the feudal forms were adopted. At the first moment of barbarian conquest, men saw only the triumph of chaos. All unity, all general civilization disappeared, on all sides was seen society falling into dissolution; and, in its stead, arising a multitude of little, obscure, isolated communities. This appeared to all the contemporaries nothing short of universal anarchy. The poets, the chroniclers of the time, viewed it as the approach of the end of the world. It was, in truth, the end of the ancient world; but the commencement of a new one, placed on a broad basis, and with large means of social improvement and individual happiness.

"Then it was that the feudal system became necessary, inevitable. It was the only possible means of emerging from the general chaos. The whole of Europe, accordingly, at the same time adopted it. Even those portions of society which were most strangers, apparently, to that system, entered warmly into its spirit, and were fain to share in its protection. The crown, the church, the communities, were constrained to accommodate themselves to it. The churches became suzerain or vassal; the burghs had their lords and their feuars; the monasteries and abbeys had their feudal retainers, as well as the temporal barons. Royalty itself was disguised under the name of a feudal superior. Every thing was given in fief; not only lands, but certain[Pg 803] rights flowing from them, as that of cutting wood, fisheries, or the like. The church made subinfeudations of their casual revenues, as the dues on marriages, funerals, and baptisms."


The establishment of the feudal system thus universally in Europe, produced one effect, the importance of which can hardly be exaggerated. Hitherto the mass of mankind had been collected under the municipal institutions which had been universal in antiquity, in cities, or wandered in vagabond hordes through the country. Under the feudal system these men lived isolated, each in his own habitation, at a great distance from each other. A glance will show that this single circumstance must have exercised on the character of society, and the course of civilization, the social preponderance; the government of society passed at once from the towns to the country—private took the lead of public property—private prevailed over public life. Such was the first effect, and it was an effect purely material, of the establishment of the feudal system. But other effects, still more material, followed, of a moral kind, which have exercised the most important effects on the European manners and mind.

"The feudal proprietor established himself in an isolated place, which, for his own protection, he rendered secure. He lived there, with his wife, his children, and a few faithful friends, who shared his hospitality, and contributed to his defence. Around the castle, in its vicinity, were established the farmers and serfs who cultivated his domain. In the midst of that inferior, but yet allied and protected population, religion planted a church, and introduced a priest. He was usually the chaplain of the castle, and at the same time the curate of the village; in subsequent ages these two characters were separated; the village pastor resided beside his church. This was the primitive feudal society—the cradle, as it were, of the European and Christian world.

"From this state of things necessarily arose a prodigious superiority on the part of the possessor of the fief, alike in his own eyes, and in the eyes of those who surrounded him. The feeling of individual importance, of personal freedom, was the ruling principle of savage life; but here a new feeling was introduced—the importance of a proprietor, of the chief of a family, of a master, predominated over that of an individual. From this situation arose an immense feeling of superiority—a superiority peculiar to the feudal ages, and entirely different from any thing which had yet been experienced in the world. Like the feudal lord, the Roman patrician was the head of a family, a master, a landlord. He was, moreover, a religious magistrate, a pontiff in the interior of his family. He was, moreover, a member of the municipality in which his property was situated, and perhaps one of the august senate, which, in name at least, still ruled the empire. But all this importance and dignity was derived from without—the patrician shared it with the other members of his municipality—with the corporation of which he formed a part. The importance of the feudal lord, again, was purely individual—he owed nothing to another; all the power he enjoyed emanated from himself alone. What a feeling of individual consequence must such a situation have inspired—what pride, what insolence, must it have engendered in his mind! Above him was no superior, of whose orders he was to be the mere interpreter or organ—around him were no equals. No all-powerful municipality made his wishes bend to its own—no superior authority exercised a control over his wishes, he knew no bridle on his inclinations, but the limits of his power, or the presence of danger.

"Another consequence, hitherto not sufficiently attended to, but of vast importance, flowed from this society.

"The patriarchal society, of which the Bible and the Oriental monuments offer the model, was the first combination of men. The chief of a tribe lived with his children, his relations, the different generations who have assembled around him. This was the situation of Abraham—of the patriarchs: it is still that of the Arab tribes which perpetuate their manners. The clan, of which remains still exist in the mountains of Scotland, and the sept of Ireland, is a modification of the patriarchal society: it is the family of the chief, expanded during a succession of generations, and forming a little aggregation of dependents, still influenced by the same attachments, and subjected to the same authority. But the feudal community was very different. Allied at first to the clan, it was yet in many essential particulars dissimilar. There did not exist[Pg 804] between its members the bond of relationship; they were not of the same blood; they often did not speak the same language. The feudal lord belonged to a foreign and conquering, his serfs to a domestic and vanquished race. Their employments were as various as their feelings and their traditions. The lord lived in his castle, with his wife, his children, and relations: the serfs on the estate, of a different race, of different names, toiled in the cottages around. This difference was prodigious—it exercised a most powerful effect on the domestic habits of modern Europe. It engendered the attachments of home: it brought women into their proper sphere in domestic life. The little society of freemen, who lived in the midst of an alien race in the castle, were all in all to each other. No forum or theatres were at hand, with their cares or their pleasures; no city enjoyments were a counterpoise to the pleasures of country life. War and the chase broke in, it is true, grievously at times, upon this scene of domestic peace. But war and the chase could not last for ever; and, in the long intervals of undisturbed repose, family attachments formed the chief solace of life. Thus it was that WOMEN acquired their paramount influence—thence the manners of chivalry, and the gallantry of modern times; they were but an extension of the courtesy and habits of the castle. The word courtesy shows it—it was in the court of the castle that the habits it denotes were learned."—(Lecture iv. 13, 17; Civilization Européenne.)


We have exhausted, perhaps exceeded, our limits; and we have only extracted a few of the most striking ideas from the first hundred pages of one of Guizot's works—ex uno disce omnes. The translation of them has been an agreeable occupation for a few evenings; but they awake one mournful impression—the voice which uttered so many noble and enlightened sentiments is now silent; the genius which once cast abroad light on the history of man, is lost in the vortex of present politics. The philosopher, the historian, are merged in the statesman—the instructor of all in the governor of one generation. Great as have been his services, brilliant his course in the new career into which he has been launched, it is as nothing compared to that which he has left; for the one confers present distinction, the other immortal fame.




[1] Little girl—or girl, merely.

[2] Mr O'Connell stated in his speech, after "the liberation," that that most unexpected and miraculous event had been publicly prayed for in all the churches of Belgium.

[3] Taken from Lewis's Statistics of the Four Reformed Parliaments.

[4] The following account of the number of freeholders on the register, in 1837, when the number was largest, and in 1841, taken from Lewis's tables, will show an immense decrease in those counties completely under the control of the priests and agitators, and where their power is unassailable.

    1837.   1841.
Clare,   3170 1785
Cork,   4180 3706
Galway county,   3074 1990
Galway town,   2084 1600
King's county,   1520 1078
Limerick city,   2813 1670
Limerick county,   2850 1893
Mayo,   1569 1064
Meath,   1850 1236
Roscommon,   2077 1059
Tipperary,   3460 2464
Waterford,   1494 802
Wexford,   3031 1739

All those counties and cities are, and always have been, represented by Radicals and Repealers; so that it appears the Repeal party are invariably best off where there are least freeholders, notwithstanding their constant complaints of what they suffer by the domination of the constituencies.

[5] Qualifying under the "solvent tenant test," (which was generally adopted by the Conservative barristers,) the claimant was obliged to swear and to prove that "he could obtain from a good and solvent tenant a clear yearly rent of ten pounds over and above what he paid himself," while the freeholder, qualifying under "the beneficial interest test," (which was acted on by the Whig and Radical barristers,) had only to prove that the crops and produce raised on his land by his own labour, yielded him a surplus of ten pounds over and above the amount of his rent.

[6] In England, the right to vote is given to tenants at will paying £50 rent; it was proposed to grant it to those in Ireland who paid £30 rent.

[7] Two judges, who are ex-officio members, may be Roman Catholics; the numbers would then stand seven and six.

[8] Bailly's Memoirs.

[9] The Rev. Gregory Lynch of Westland Row, openly charges the agitating bishops with having forged the signature of many priests to the protest which they have published against the Charitable Bequests Bill. See his letter, an extract from which is published in the Irish correspondence of The Times, 27th October.

[10] Extract from the speech of the Rev. Mr Henebury, as reported in the Irish correspondence of the Times newspaper, July 3, 1844.

[11] Kohl's Ireland.

[12] The local newspaper.

[13] Irish correspondent of the Times, Nov. 1, 1844.

[14] Correspondence of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke. Edited by Earl Fitzwilliam and Sir Richard Bourke, K.C.B. 4 vols. 8vo. Rivingtons, London.

[15] Nelson's Despatches and Letters, with Notes. By Sir Harris Nicolas.

[16] Ferguson.

[17] Gibbon.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Plin. Hist. Nat., xxxiii. 47.

[20] Mr James's Preface to Mary of Burgundy.

[Pg 805]


Affghanistan, 133
general review of the question regarding, 135
motives for the expedition to, 136
means for effecting the objects sought, 141
comparison of the competitors for the throne, 142
resistance to taxation in, 148
causes of the British disasters in, 150, 151.

Agitation the cause of the evils of Ireland, 709.

Alison, Archibald, Esq., speech of, at the Burns' festival, 390.

Ancient canal between the Nile and the Red Sea, historical account of the, 182.

Artist's morning song, the, from Goethe, 419.

Auckland, Lord, review of his Affghanistan policy, 133.

Aytoun, W. E., Esq., speech of, at the Burns' festival, 392.

Banking System, the Scottish, 671*.

Barrett, Elizabeth B., review of the poems of, 621.

Bell, H. G., Esq., speech of, at the Burns' festival, 389.

Blanc, M., his history of ten years reviewed, 265.

Bossuet, character of, as a historian, 789.

Braxfield, lord, letter relating to, 620.

Brenn, the, a Gaulish chief, career of, 471.

Bride of Corinth, the, from Goethe, 57.

Bruce, heart of the, a ballad, 15.

Burke, Edmund, review of the correspondence of, 745.

Burns' festival, account of the, 370
order of the procession, 373
the banquet, 376
speeches of Lord Eglinton, ib.
Professor Wilson, 378
Sir John McNeill, 388
H.G. Bell, Esq., 389
Archibald Alison, Esq., 390
W. E. Aytoun, Esq., 392
Colonel Mure, 393
Sir James Campbell, the Lord Justice-General, &c., 395
stanzas for, by Delta, 399.

Cabul, the war with, 133.

Campbell, Sir James, speech of, at the Burns' festival, 395.

Canal between the Nile and Red Sea, historical account of the, 182.

Castle on the mountain, the, from Goethe, 425.

Catania, 33.

Catharine of Russia, sketch of, 410.

Causes of the increase of crime, on the, 1
districts in which greatest, ib.
in the manufacturing districts, 6
strikes, 8.

Cavalier, the old Scottish, a ballad, 195.

Clarkson, sonnet to, 619.

Commitments for crime, tables of, 1, 2.

Cours de Littérature Dramatique, review of, 237.

Crime, causes of the increase of, 1
in the manufacturing districts, 6
increase of, by strikes, 8
by infant labour, 9
inefficiency of the proposed preventives of, 13.

Cupid as a landscape painter, from Geothe, 417.

Delphi, defeat of the Gauls at, 472.

Delta, stanzas for the Burns' festival by, 399
the tombless man, a dream, by, 583.

Doleful lay of the noble wife of Asan Aga, the, from Goethe, 67.

Don John and the heretics of Flanders, 36
Part II., 49.

Dost Mohammed, character of, 142.

Dunning, anecdotes of, 249, 264.

Dwarf's well, the, a legend of Upper Lusatia, 196.

Earthquake of Lisbon, the, 102.

Education, effect of imperfect, in Ireland, 708.

Eglinton, the Earl of, speeches of, at the Burns' festival, 376, 395, 396.

Eldon, Lord, sketch of the career of,
his early life, 245
his first struggles, 249
and first success, 251
enters parliament, 253
becomes solicitor-general, 257
attorney-general, 259
chief-justice of the Common Pleas, 262
and lord chancellor, ib.
his subsequent career, 263.

Emperor, week of an
an account of the visit of the Emperor Nicholas, 127.

Erl king, the, from Goethe, 63.

Etched thoughts by the Etching Club, review of, 153.

Execution of Montrose, the, a ballad, 289.

Fairy tutor, the, a legend of Upper Lusatia, 83.

Falkland islands, affair of the, 406.

Finlay's Greece under the Romans, review of, 524.

First love, from Goethe, 61.
[Pg 806]
Fisher, the, from Goethe, 65.

Fourier and his system, sketch of, 591.

Frederick the Great, anecdotes of, 404, 409.

French socialists, 588.

Galatia, Gaulish kingdom of, 478.

Gauls, Thierry's history of, reviewed, 466.

Gibbon, character of, as a historian, 788.

Girardin, M., 237.

God, the, and the Bayaderé, from Goethe, 421.

Goethe, Poems and Ballads of, No. I. Introduction, 54
the bride of Corinth, 57
first love, 61
who'll buy a Cupid? 62
second life, ib.
the erl-king, 63
Mignon, 64
the fisher, 65
the minstrel, ib.
the violet, 66
the doleful lay of the noble wife of Asan Aga, 67
No. II. Cupid as a landscape painter, 417
the artist's morning song, 419
the god and the bayaderé, 421
the treasure-seeker, 423
the castle on the mountain, 425
Philine's song, 426
to my mistress, 427
the wild rose, ib.
a night thought, 428
Prometheus, ib.
new love, new life, 429
separation, 430
the magician's apprentice, ib.

Great Britain, increase of crime in, 1.

Great country's little wars, a, review of, 133.

Great drought, the, 433
Chap. II., 436
Chap. III., 438
Chap. IV., 440
Chap. V., 442
Chap. VI., 452.

Greece under the Romans, review of, 524.

Grievances of Ireland, examination of the alleged, 701
the true, 708.

Guizot, M., review of the historical works of, 786.

Hardy, trial of, for high treason, 261.

Harris, James, career of, 401.

Heart of the Bruce, the, a ballad, 15.

Hill, Mr Sergeant, anecdotes of, 247.

Histoire des dix ans, review of, 265.

Historical account of the ancient canal between the Nile and the Red Sea, 182.

Hope, the Right Hon. Charles, letter from, 620.

Hume, character of, as a historian, 788.

Hydro Bacchus, 77.

Increase of crime, causes of, 1
districts in which greatest, ib.

Infant labour, increase of crime attributable to, 9.

Injured Ireland, 701.

Introduction to his poems, from Goethe, 54.

Ireland, increase of crime in, 1
examination of the question as to the injuries of, 701
its comparative freedom from taxation, 702
its representation in parliament, 703
municipal law, 706
alleged debarring of Roman Catholics from office, 707
true evils of, and their causes, 708.

Irish state trials, reversal of the judgment, 539.

It is no fiction, 364.

Jesuits, expulsion of the, from Portugal, 109
extinction of the order, 112.

Johnson, Dr, anecdotes of, 247, 257.

Knights, last of the
Don John and the heretics of Flanders, 36
Part II., 49.

Lamartine, review of the travels of, 657.

Last of the knights, the
Don John and the heretics of Flanders, 36
Part II., 49.

Lee, J., anecdotes of, 249, 255.

Letter to the editor, from the Right Hon. Charles Hope, 620.

Life in Louisiana, Chap. I., a Voyage on the Red River, 507
Chap. II., Creole life, 514
Chap. III., quite unexpected, 518.

Lines on the landing, of Louis Philippe, by B. Simmons, 654.

Lisbon, the great earthquake of, 102.

Louis Philippe, elevation of, to the throne, 272
lines on the landing of, by B. Simmons, 654.

Louisiana, life in, Chap. I., 507
Chap. II., 514
Chap. III., 518.

Love chase, in prose, a, Chap. I., 164
Chap. II., 166
Chap. III., 170
Chap. IV., 173
Chap. V., 178.

Lunatic asylum of Palermo, the, 20.

Lusatia, traditions and tales of, No. II.,
the fairy tutor, 83
No. III., the dwarf's well, 196
No. IV., the moor maiden, 726.

Lushington on the Affghan war, 133.

Luther, an ode, 80.

Machiavel, character of, as a historian, 787.

McNeill, Sir John, speech of, at the Burns' festival, 388.

Magician's apprentice, the, from Goethe, 430.

Maid of Orleans, remarks on the, 216.

Malmesbury, life of the Earl of, reviewed, 401.

Manufacturing districts, increase of crime in the, 2.

Marston; or, Memoirs of a Statesman
Part XII., 114
Part XIII., 343
Part XIV., 601.

Martin Luther, an ode, 80.

Memoirs of a Statesman—see Marston.

Memoirs of the Marquis of Pombal, review of, 100.

Memoranda of a month's tour in Sicily
the museum of Palermo, 20
lunatic asylum, ib.
[Pg 807]miscellanea, 21
journey to Segeste, 23
Sicilian inns, 24
approach to Messina, 28
journey to Taormina, 30
Catania, 33

Messina, approach to, 28.

Mignon, from Goethe, 64.

Milkman of Walworth, the, Chap. I., 687
Chap. II., 691
Chap. III., 693
Chap. IV., 696.

Minstrel, the, from Goethe, 65.

Montesquieu, character of, as a historian, 789.

Montrose, execution of, a ballad, 289.

Moor maiden, the, 726.

Mure, Colonel, speech of, at the Burns' festival, 393.

Museum of Palermo, the, 20.

My college friends
No. I. John Brown, 569
No. II., the same concluded, 763.

My first love, a sketch in New York, 69.

My last courtship; or, life in Louisiana
Chap. I. A voyage on the Red River, 507
Chap. II., Creole life, 514
Chap. III., quite unexpected, 518.

Natural history of man, Prichard's, review of, 312.

Nelson's dispatches and letters, review of, 775.

New love, new life, from Goethe, 429.

Nicholas, the Emperor, visit of, to Great Britain, 127.

Night on the banks of the Tennessee, a, 278.

Night thought, a, from Goethe, 428.

Nile and the Red Sea, the, historical account of the ancient canal between, 182.

North, Lord, anecdotes of, 255.

O'Connell case, the
Was the judgment rightly reversed? 539
statement of the case, 541
the indictment, 542
verdict of the jury, 544
the motion in arrest of judgment, 545
the judgment, ib.
the writ of error, ib.
opinions of the judges, 548
and of the peers, 553
general remarks on the case, 561

Old Scottish cavalier, the, a ballad, by W. E. A., 195.

Oporto wine company, origin of the, 106.

Palermo, sketches of, 20.

Passages in the life of a Russian officer, 713.

Patmore's poems, review of, 331.

Philine's song, from Goethe, 426.

Poems and ballads of Goethe, the
No. I. Introduction, 54
the bride of Corinth, 57
first love, 61
who'll buy a Cupid, 62
second life, ib.
the erl-king, 63
Mignon, 64
the fisher, 65
the minstrel, ib.
the violet, 66
the doleful lay of the noble wife of Asan Aga, 67
No. II. Cupid as a landscape painter, 417
the artist's morning song, 419
the god and the bayaderé, 421
the treasure-seeker, 423
the castle on the mountain, 425
Philine's song, 426
to my mistress, 427
the wild rose, ib.
a night thought, 428
Prometheus, ib.
new love, new life, 429
separation, 430
the magician's apprentice, ib.

The heart of the Bruce, 15
poems and ballads of Goethe, No. I., 54
Hydro Bacchus, 77
Martin Luther, an ode, 80
the old Scottish cavalier, 195
the execution of Montrose 289
stanzas for the Burns' festival, by Delta, 399
poems and ballads of Goethe, No. II., 417
the tombless man, by Delta, 583
sonnet to Clarkson, 619
Westminster hall and the works of art, by B. Simmons, 652
lines on the landing of Louis Philippe, by the same, 654
"That's what we are," 741.

Poland, the partition of, 405, 407.

Pombal, Marquis of, sketch of the career of, 100.

Portugal, history of, during the administration of the Marquis of Pombal, 100.

Prichard's natural history of man, review of, 312.

Prometheus, from Goethe, 428.

Ptolemy, completion of the canal between the Nile and the Red Sea by, 185.

Radzivil, Prince, sketch of, 406.

Red Sea and the Nile, history of the ancient canal between, 182.

Remarks on Schiller's maid of Orleans, 216.

Smith's memoirs of the Marquis of Pombal, 100
Lushington's a great country's little wars, 133
Etched thoughts by the Etching Club, 153
M. Girardin's cours de littérature dramatique, 237
Twiss's memoirs of the Earl of Eldon, 245
Blanc's histoire de dix ans, 265
Prichard's natural history of man, 312
Poems by Coventry Patmore, 331
Life of Lord Malmesbury, 401
Thierry's history of the Gauls, 466
Finlay's Greece under the Romans, 524
Reybaud on French socialism, 588
Poems by Elizabeth B. Barrett, 621
Lamartine's travels, 657
Burke's correspondence, 745
Nelson's despatches and letters, 775
Guizot, 786.

Reybaud on French socialism, review of, 588.
[Pg 808]
Robertson, character of, as a historian, 790.

Russian officer, passages in the life of a, 713.

St Simon, sketch of, 273.

Schiller's maid of Orleans, remarks on, 216.

Scotland, increase of crime in, 1.

Scott, Sir John see Eldon.

Scott, Sir William, sketches of, 246, 254.

Scottish banking system, the, 671*.

Scottish cavalier, the, a ballad, 195.

Scottish peasantry, character of the, 370.

Second life, from Goethe, 62.

Segeste, journey to, 23.

Separation, from Goethe, 430.

Shah Soojah, character of, 143.

Sicilian inns, 24.

Sicily, memorandum of a month's tour in
the museum of Palermo, 20
the lunatic asylum, ib.
miscellanea, 21
journey to Segeste, 23
Sicilian inns, 24
approach to Messina, 28
journey to Taormina, 30
Catania, 33.

Simmons, B., Westminster hall and the works of art by, 652
lines on the landing of Louis Philippe by, 654.

Sismondi, character of, as a historian, 792.

Sketch in New York, a My first love, 69.

Smith's memoirs of the Marquis of Pombal, review of, 100.

Socialism in France, history of, 588.

Some remarks on Schiller's maid of Orleans, 216.

Sonnet to Clarkson, 619.

Stanzas for the Burns' festival, by Delta, 299.

Stolen child, the, a true tale of the Backwoods, 227.

Stowell, Lord, sketches of, 246, 254.

Strikes as a cause of the increase of crime, 8.

Taormina, journey to, 30.

Taxation, resistance to, in Affghanistan, 149
comparative lightness of in Ireland, 702.

Tender conscience, a, 454.

Tennessee, a night on the banks of the, 278.

"That's what we are," a poem, 741.

Thierry's history of the Gauls, review of, 466.

Thurlow, Lord, anecdotes of, 258, 259, 263.

To my mistress, from Goethe, 427.

Tombless man, the, a dream, by Delta, 583.

Traditions and tales of Upper Lusatia, No. II., the fairy tutor, 83
No. III., the dwarf's well, 196
No. IV., the moor maiden, 726.

Treasure seeker, the, from Goethe, 423.

Twiss's life of Lord Eldon, review of, 245.

Up stream; or steam-boat reminiscences, 64.

Violet, the, from Goethe, 66.

Voltaire, character of, as a historian, 787.

W. E. A., Heart of the Bruce by, 15
the old Scottish cavalier by, 195
the execution of Montrose, by, 289.

Walworth, the milkman of, 687.

Week of an emperor, the, 127.

Westminster hall and the works of art on a free admission day, by B. Simmons, 652.

Who'll buy a Cupid, from Goethe, 62.

Wild rose, the, from Goethe, 427.

Wilson, Professor, speech of, at the Burns' festival, 378.

Witchfinder, the Part I., 297
conclusion, 487.

Writ of error, proceedings on the, 545.





Edinburgh: Printed by Ballantyne and Hughes, Paul's Work.



Transcriber's Notes:

The original text includes two page 671 and two 672; the second of each is preceded by an asterisk as is presented in this document.

Additional spacing after some of the block quotes is intentional to indicate both the end of a quotation and the beginning of a new paragraph as is in the original text.

The original Greek included a variant form of "rho" which could not be duplicated.

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume
56, Number 350, December 1844, by Various


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