The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 15, No. 88,
February, 1865, by Various

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Title: The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 15, No. 88, February, 1865

Author: Various

Release Date: October 2, 2009 [EBook #30157]

Language: English

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[Pg 129]



A Magazine of Literature, Art, and Politics.


Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1865, by Ticknor and Fields, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.

Transcriber's Note: Minor typos have been corrected and footnotes moved to the end of the article. Table of contents has been created for the HTML version.




On the 8th of July, 1843, Washington Allston died. Twenty-one years have since gone by; and already his name has a fine flavor of the past added to its own proper aroma.

In twenty-one years Art has made large advances, but not in the direction of imagination. In that rare and precious quality the works of Allston remain preëminent as before.

It is now so long ago as 1827 that the first exhibition of pictures at the Boston Athenæum took place; and then and there did Allston first become known to his American public. Returned from Europe after a long absence, he had for some years been living a retired, even a recluse life, was personally known to a few friends, and by name only to the public. The exhibition of some of his pictures on this occasion made known his genius to his fellow-citizens; and who, having once felt the strange charm of that genius, but recalls with joyful interest the happy hour when he was first brought under its influence? I well remember, even at this distance in time, the mystic, charmed presence that hung about the "Jeremiah dictating his Prophecy to Baruch the Scribe," "Beatrice," "The Flight of Florimel," "The Triumphal Song of Miriam on the Destruction of Pharaoh and his Host in the Red Sea," and "The Valentine." I was then young, and had yet to learn that the quality that so attracted me in these pictures is, indeed, the rarest virtue in any work of Art,—that, although pictures without imagination are without savor, yet that the larger number of those that are painted are destitute of that grace,—and that, when, in later years, I should visit the principal galleries of Europe, and see the masterpieces of each master, I still should return to the memory of Allston's works as to something most precious and unique in Art. I have also, since that time, come to believe, that, while every sensitive beholder must feel the charm of Allston's style, its intellectual ripeness can be fully appreciated only by the aid of a foreign culture.

Passing through Europe with this impression of Allston's genius, in the Venetians I first recognized his kindred; in Venice I found the school in which he had studied, and in which Nature had fitted him to study: for his eye for color was like his management of it,—Venetian. His [Pg 130]treatment of heads has a round, ripe, sweet fulness which reminds one of the heads in the "Paradiso" of Tintoretto,—that work which deserves a place in the foremost rank of the world's masterpieces. The great praise implied in this comparison is justly due to Allston. The texture and handling of his work are inimitable. Without any appearance of labor, all crudeness is absorbed; the outlines of objects are not so much softened as emptied of their color and substance, so that the light appears to pass them. The finishing is so judicious that the spectator believes he could see more on approaching nearer. The eye searches the shade, and sees and defines the objects at first concealed by it. The eye is not satiated, but by the most artful means excited to greater appetite. The coloring is not so much harmonious as harmony itself, out of which melodies of color play through the picture in a way that is found in no other master but Paul Veronese. As Allston himself expressed it, he liked to echo his colors; and as an echo is best heard where all else is silence, so the pure repose of these compositions gives extraordinary value to such delicate repetitions of color. The effect is, one might say, more musical than pictorial. This peculiar and musical effect is most noticeable in the landscapes. They are like odes, anthems, and symphonies. They run up the scale, beginning with the low-toned "Moonlight," through the great twilight piece called "After Sunset," the "Forest Scene," where it seems always afternoon, the gray "Mountain Landscape," a world composed of stern materials, the cool "Sunrise on the Mediterranean," up to the broad, pure, Elysian daylight of the "Italian Landscape," with atmosphere full of music, color, and perfume, cooled and shaded by the breezy pines, open far away to the sea, and the sky peopled with opalescent clouds, trooping wide on their celestial errands.

Of this last landscape the poetic merit is as great as the artistic excellence is unrivalled. Whoever has made pictures and handled colors knows well that a subject pitched on a high key of light is vastly more difficult to manage than one of which the highest light is not above the middle tint. To keep on that high key which belongs to broad daylight, and yet preserve harmony, repose, and atmosphere, is in the highest degree difficult; but here it is successfully done, and again reminds us of the Paul Veronese treatment. Though a quiet picture, it is full of brilliancy. It represents a broad and partly shaded expanse, full, also, of light and sweet sunshine, through which the eye travels till it rests on the distant mountain, rising majestically in grand volcanic forms from the horizon plains. The sky is filled with cloudy veils, floating, prismatic; some quiet water, crossed by a bridge which rests on round arches, is in the middle distance; and a few trees near the foreground form the group from which rises the stone-pine, which is the principal feature in the picture, and gives it its character. As I write this, I fear that any reader who has not seen the picture to which I refer will immediately think of Turner's Italian landscapes, so familiar to all the world through engravings, where a stone-pine is lifted against the sky as a mass of dark to contrast with the mass of light necessarily in the same region of the picture. But such effects, however legitimate and powerful in the hands of Turner, were not in Allston's manner; they would ruin and break the still harmony which was the law of his mind and of his compositions. Under this tree, on the path, fall flickering spots of sunshine, in which sit or stand two or three figures. The scarlet and white of their dresses, catching the sunshine, make the few high notes that cause the whole piece to throb like music.

There is also a large Swiss landscape, possessing in an extraordinary degree the pure, keen atmosphere, as well as the grand mountain forms, of the Alpine spaces. To look on this piece exhilarates as does the sight of the Alps themselves; and it strikes the[Pg 131] eye as a shrill trumpet sound the ear. This landscape, a grand antithesis to the last described, marks a great range of power in the mind that produced them both.

But Allston was not a landscape-painter. His landscapes are few in number, though great in excellence. They are poetic in the truest sense; they are laden with thought and life, and are of "imagination all compact." They transport the beholder to a fairer world, where, through and behind the lovely superficies of things, he sees the hidden ideal of each member,—of rock, sea, sky, earth, and forest,—and feels by a clear magnetism that he is in presence of the very truth of things.

We now come to a class of Allston's pictures which are known chiefly, perhaps only, in Boston. They are justly prized by their owners as possessions of inestimable value; they are the works that more than others display his peculiar genius. I allude to certain ideal heads and figures called by these names: "Beatrice," "Rosalie," "The Bride," "The Spanish Girl," "The Evening Hymn," "The Tuscan Girl," "Miriam," "The Valentine," "Lorenzo and Jessica," "The Flight of Florimel," "The Roman Lady," and others; and I shall give a short description of the most important of these, sometimes in my own words, and sometimes in those of one who is the only writer I can find who has said anything distinctive about the works of Allston. I refer to William Ware, who died in the act of preparing a course of lectures on the Genius of Allston,—a task for which he was well qualified by his artistic organization, his long study of Art, and his clear appreciation of Allston's power.

In these smaller ideal pieces Allston seems to have found his own genius, so peculiar are they, so different from the works of all other masters, and so divine in their expressive repose. I say divine in their repose with full intention; for this is a repose, not idle and voluptuous, not poetic and dreamy, but a repose full of life, a repose which commands and controls the beholder, and stirs within him that idealism that lies deep hidden in every mind. These pieces consist of heads and figures, mostly single, distinct as individuals, and each a heaven of beauty in itself.

The method of this artist was to suppress all the coarser beauties which make up the substance of common pictures. He was the least ad captandum of workers. He avoided bright eyes, curls, and contours, glancing lights, strong contrasts, and colors too crude for harmony. He reduced his beauty to her elements, so that an inner beauty might play through her features. Like the Catholic discipline which pales the face of the novice with vigils, seclusion, and fasting, and thus makes room and clears the way for the movements of the spirit, so in these figures every vulgar grace is suppressed. No classic contours, no languishing attitudes, no asking for admiration,—but a severe and chaste restraint, a modest sweetness, a slumbering intellectual atmosphere, a graceful self-possession, eyes so sincere and pure that heaven's light shines through them, and, beyond all, a hovering spiritual life that makes each form a presence.

Perhaps the two most remarkable and original of the pieces I have named above are the "Beatrice" and the "Rosalie." Of the "Beatrice" there has been much discussion whether she could have been intended to represent the Beatrice of Dante. To me it appears that there is nothing like that world- and heaven-renowned lady in this our Beatrice. She sits alone: one sees that in the expression of her eyes. Her dress is of almost conventual simplicity; the colors rich, but sober; the style flowing and mediæval. She has soft brown hair; soft, velvet-soft, brown eyes; features not salient, but rounded into the contours of the head; her whole expression receptive, yet radiant with sentiment. The complexion of a tender rose, equally diffused, gives an indescribable air of healthful delicacy to the face. The expression of the whole[Pg 132] figure is that of one in a very dream of sentiment. Her twilight eyes see without effort into the very soul of things, as other eyes look at their surfaces. The sentiment of this figure is so powerful that by its gentle charm it fastens the beholder, who gazes and cannot withdraw his eyes, wondering what is the spell that can so hold him to that face, which is hardly beautiful, surely without surface beauty. I once heard a person who was unaccustomed to the use of critical terms say of these creations of Allston, "Here is beauty, but not the beauty that glares on you"; and this phrase, so odd, but so original, well describes the beauty of this Beatrice, who, though now transfigured by sentiment and capable of being a home-goddess, does not seem intended to shine in starry circles.

But for the beauty of execution in this picture, it is unsurpassed. It is in this respect like the most beautiful things ever painted by Raphael,—like the Madonna del Cardellino, whose face has light within, "luce di dentro," as is the expressive Italian phrase,—and is also like another picture that I have seen, attributed to Raphael, in the collection of the late Baron Kestner at Rome.

Visiting the extremely curious and valuable gallery of this gentleman, the Hanoverian Minister at Rome, after making us begin at the beginning, among the very early masters, he led us on with courteous determination through his specimens of all the schools, and made us observe the characteristics of each school and each master, till at last we rested in the last room, where hung a single picture covered with a silken curtain. This at last, with sacred and reverent ceremony, was drawn aside, and revealed a portrait by Raphael,—the portrait of a lady, young and beautiful, and glowing with a tender sentiment which recalled to my remembrance these heads by Allston, not alone in the sentiment, but in the masterly beauty of the painting. M. Kestner told us he supposed the picture to be a portrait of that niece of Cardinal Bibbiena to whom Raphael was betrothed. The picture had come into his possession by one of those wonderful chances which have preserved so many valuable works from destruction. At a sale of pictures at Bologna, he told us he noticed a very ordinary head, badly enough painted, but with very beautiful hands,—hands which betrayed the work of a master; and he conjectured this to be some valuable picture, hastily covered with coarse work to deceive the emissaries of a conqueror when they came to select and carry off the most valuable pictures from the galleries of the conquered city. He gave his agent orders to purchase it, and when in his possession a little careful work removed the upper colors and discovered one of the most beautiful heads ever painted even by Raphael. Though it may and will seem extravagant, I am satisfied that there are several heads by Allston that would lose nothing by comparison with this admirable work. Indeed, though M. Kestner's picture is a portrait, it is a work so entirely in the same class with the "Beatrice," the "Rosalie," the "Valentine," and some other works of Allston, in sentiment and execution, that the comparison is fairly challenged.

"Rosalie" is different from "Beatrice." She seems listening to music; and so the little poem written by the author, and recited by him when showing the picture newly finished to his friends, describes her. The face indicates, not a dream of sentiment, like that of "Beatrice," but rather a rapture. She is "caught on a higher strain." She is a creature as passionate as tender; more like Juliet than like Miranda; fit to be the love of a poet, and to reward his song with the overflowing cup of love. In this figure also beauty melts into feeling. The composition of color is masterly; in the draperies it is inlaid in opposing fields, by which means the key of the whole is raised, and the rising rapture of expression powerfully seconded. Did I not fear to insist too much on what may be only a private fancy, I should say that these colors reverberate like some rich orchestral strain of music.[Pg 133]

"The Roman Lady reading." This Roman lady might be the mother of the Gracchi, so stately and of so grand a style is she. But she is a modern, for she reads from a book. She might be Vittoria Colonna, the loved of Michel Angelo, so grave, so dignified is her aspect. The whole figure is reading. A vital intelligence seems to pass from the eyes to the book. Nothing tender in this woman, who, if a Roman, takes life after the "high Roman fashion." The beauty and perfect representation of the hands should be noticed here, as well as in the "Rosalie" and "Beatrice."

"Triumphal Song of Miriam on the Destruction of Pharaoh and his Hosts in the Red Sea." This is a three-quarter length figure. She stands singing, with one hand holding the timbrel, the other thrown aloft, the whole form up-borne by the swelling triumphal song. I hardly know what it is in this picture which takes one back so far into the world's early days. The figure is neither antique nor modern; the face is not entirely of the Hebrew type, but the tossing exultation seems so truly to carry off the wild thrill of joy when a people is released from bondage, that it is almost unnecessary to put the words into her mouth,—"Sing ye to the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea." This figure is dramatically imaginative. In looking at it, one feels called on to sing triumphal songs with Miriam, and not to stand idly looking. The magnetism of the artist at the moment of conception powerfully seizes on the beholder.

"The Valentine" is described by William Ware[A] as follows.

"For the 'Valentine' I may say, though to some it may seem an extravagance, I have never been able to invent the terms that would sufficiently express my admiration of that picture,—I mean, of its color; though as a whole it is admirable for its composition, for the fewness of the objects admitted, for the simplicity and naturalness of the arrangement. But the charm is in the color of the flesh, of the head, of the two hands. The subject is a young woman reading a letter, holding the open letter with both the hands. The art can go no further, nor as I believe has it ever gone any further. Some pigments or artifices were unfortunately used, which have caused the surface to crack, and which require the picture now to be looked at at a further remove than the work on its own account needs or requires; it even demands a nearer approach, in order to be well seen, than these cracks will permit. But these accidental blemishes do not materially interfere with the appreciation and enjoyment of the picture. It has what I conceive to be that most rare merit,—it has the same universal hue of nature and truth in both the shadows and the lights which Nature has, but Art almost never, and which is the great cross to the artist. The great defect and the great difficulty, in imitating the hues of flesh, lies in the shadows and the half-shadows. You will often observe in otherwise excellent works of the most admirable masters, that, the moment their pencil passes to the shadows of the flesh, especially the half-shadows, truth, though not always a certain beauty, forsakes them. The shadows are true in their degree of dark, but false in tone and hue. They are true shadows, but not true flesh. You see the form of a face, neck, arm, hand in shadow, but not flesh in shade; and were that portion of the form sundered from its connection with the body, it could never be told, by its color alone, what it was designed to be. Allston's wonderful merit is, (and it was Titian's,) that the hue of life and flesh is the same in the shadow as in the light. It is not only shadow or dark, but it is flesh in shadow. The shadows of most artists, even very distinguished ones, are green, or brown, or black, or lead color, and have some strong and decided tint other than that of flesh. The difficulty with most seems to have been so insuperable, that they cut the knot at a single[Pg 134] blow, and surrendered the shadows of the flesh, as an impossibility, to green or brown or black. And in the general imitation of the flesh tints the greatest artists have apparently abandoned the task in despair, and contented themselves with a correct utterance of form and expression, with well-harmonized darks and lights, with little attention to the hues of Nature. Such was Caravaggio always, and Guercino often, and all their respective followers. Such was Michel Angelo, and often Raffaelle,—though at other times the color of Raffaelle is not inferior in truth and glory to Titian, greatest of the Venetian colorists: as in his portraits of Leo X., Julius, and some parts of his frescos. But for the most part, though he had the genius for everything, for color as well as form, yet one may conjecture he found color in its greatest excellence too laborious for the careful elaboration which can alone produce great results, too costly of time and toil, the sacrifice too great of the greater to the less. Allston was apparently never weary of the labor which would add one more tint of truth to the color of a head or a hand, or even of any object of still life, that entered into any of his compositions. Any eye that looks can see that it was a most laborious and difficult process by which he secured his results,—by no superficial wash of glaring pigments, as in the color of Rubens, whose carnations look as if he had finished the forms at once, the lights and the darks in solid opaque colors, and then with a free, broad brush or sponge washed in the carmine, lake, and vermilion, to confer the requisite amount of red,—but, on the contrary, wrought out in solid color from beginning to end, by a painful and sagacious formation, on the palette, of the very tint by which the effect, the lights, shadows, and half-shadows, and the thousand almost imperceptible gradations of hue which bind together the principal masses of light and shade, was to be produced."

Here Mr. Ware undoubtedly errs in attributing the success of Allston's flesh tints to the use of solid color alone. Such effects are not possible without the aid of transparent colors in glazing; but it is the judicious combination of solid with transparent pigments, combined not bodily on the palette, but in their use on the canvas, that gives to oil-painting all its unrivalled power in the hands of a master. Allston was accustomed to inlay his pictures in solid crude color with a medium that hardened like stone, and to leave them months and even years to dry before finishing them with the glazing colors, which worked in his hands like magic over such a well-hardened surface. By this method of working he was able to secure solidity of appearance, richness of color, unity of effect, and atmospheric repose and tenderness enveloping all objects in the picture. Many of his unfinished works are left in the first stage of this process, showing precisely how far he relied on the use of solid color; and by comparing the works left in this state with his finished pictures, one may see how much he was indebted to the use of transparent glazes for the beauty, tenderness, and variety of color in the last stages of his work.

In 1839 there was an exhibition in Boston of such of the works of Allston as could be borrowed for the occasion. This was managed by the friends of the artist for his benefit. The exhibition was held in Harding's Gallery, a square, well-lighted room, but too small for the larger pictures. It was, however, the best room that could be procured for the purpose. Here were shown forty-five pictures, including one or two drawings. There was something peculiarly happy in this exhibition of works by a single mind. On entering, the presence of the artist seemed to fill the room. The door-keeper held the door, but Allston held the room; for his spirit flowed from all the walls, and helped the spectator to see his work aright. This accompaniment of the artist's presence, which hangs about all truly artistic works, is disturbed in a miscellaneous collection, where jarring influences contend, and the worst pictures outshine[Pg 135] and outglare the best, and for a time triumph over them. But in this exhibition no such disturbance met one, but rather one was received into an atmosphere of peace and harmony, and in such a temper beheld the pictures.

The largest picture on the walls was "The Dead Man restored to Life by touching the Bones of the Prophet Elisha." This is a great subject, greatly treated, full of power and expression.

The next in size was "Jeremiah dictating his Prophecy to Baruch, the Scribe." This picture contains two figures, both seated. It is a picture the scale of which demands that it be seen from a distance, though its perfect execution makes a nearer view desirable also. If it were seen at the end of some church aisle, through arches, and with a good light upon it, the effect would be much enforced. It is a picture of extraordinary expression. The Prophet, the grandest figure among the sons of men, with those strange eyes that Allston loved to paint,—eyes which see verities, not objects,—is looking not upward, but forward, not into space, but into spirit; with one hand raised, as if listening, he receives the heavenly communication, which the beautiful youth at his feet is writing in a book. The force and beauty of this work are unsurpassed. It is a perfect picture: grand in design, perfect in composition, splendid in color, successful in execution, and the figures full of expression,—for the inspiration of the Prophet seems to overflow into the Scribe, whose attitude indicates enthusiastic receptiveness; it is, indeed, in every pictorial quality that can be named, admirable.

The other pictures in this collection, with the exception of the large Swiss landscape, were of cabinet size. Some of them have been already described in this paper. I will give Mr. Ware's description of "Lorenzo and Jessica," and of "The Spanish Girl." Mr. Ware says:—

"But perhaps the most exquisite examples of repose are the 'Lorenzo and Jessica,' and 'The Spanish Girl.' These are works also to which no perfection could be added,—from which, without loss, neither touch nor tint could be subtracted. We might search through all galleries, the Louvre or any other, for their equals or rivals in either conception or execution. I speak of these familiarly, because I suppose you all to be familiar with them. The first named, the 'Lorenzo and Jessica,' is a very small picture, one of the smallest of Allston's best ones; but no increase of size could have enlarged its beauty or in any sense have added to its value. The lovers sit side by side, their hands clasped, at the dim hour of twilight, all the world hushed into silence, not a cloud visible to speck the clear expanse of the darkening sky, as if themselves were the only creatures breathing in life, and they absorbed into each other, while their eyes, turned in the same direction, are turned upon the fading light of the gentle, but brilliant planet, as it sinks below the horizon: the gentle brilliancy, not the setting, the emblem of their mutual loves. As you dwell upon the scene, your only thought is, May this quiet beauty, this delicious calm, never be disturbed, but may

'The peace of the scene pass into the heart!'

In the background, breaking the line of the horizon, but in fine unison with the figures and the character of the atmosphere, are the faint outlines of a villa of Italian architecture, but to whose luxurious halls you can hardly wish the lovers should ever return, so long as they can remain sitting upon that bank. It is all painted in that deep, subdued, but rich tone, in which, except by the strongest light, the forms are scarcely to be made out, but to which, to the mind in some moods, a charm is lent, surpassing all the glory of the sun.

"'The Spanish Girl' is another example to the same point. It is one of the most beautiful and perfect of all of Mr. Allston's works. The Spanish girl gives her name to the picture, but it is one of those misnomers of which there are many among his works. One who looks at the picture scarcely ever looks[Pg 136] at, certainly cares nothing for, the Spanish girl, and regards her as merely giving her name to the picture; and when the mind recurs to it afterwards, however many years may have elapsed, while he can recall nothing of the beauty, the grace, or the charms of the Spanish maiden, the landscape, of which her presence is a mere inferior incident, is never forgotten, but remains forever as a part of the furniture of the mind. In this part of the picture, the landscape, it must be considered as one of the most felicitous works of genius, where, by a few significant tints and touches, there is unveiled a world of beauty. You see the roots of a single hill only, and a remote mountain-summit, but you think of Alps and Andes, and the eye presses onwards till it at last rests on a low cloud at the horizon. It is a mere snatch of Nature, but, though only that, every square inch of the surface has its meaning. It carries you back to what your mind imagines of the warm, reddish tints of the Brown Mountains of Cervantes, where the shepherds and shepherdesses of that pastoral scene passed their happy, sunny hours. The same deep feeling of repose is shown in all the half-developed objects of the hill-side, in the dull, sleepy tint of the summer air, and in the warm, motionless haze that wraps sky, land, tree, water, and cloud. It is quite wonderful by how few tints and touches, by what almost shadowy and indistinct forms, a whole world of poetry can be breathed into the soul, and the mind sent rambling off into pastures, fields, boundless deserts of imaginary pleasures, where only is warmth and sunshine and rest, where only poets dwell, and beauty wanders abroad with her sweeping train, and the realities of the working-day world are for a few moments happily forgotten."

"The Flight of Florimel" is an upright landscape. Florimel, on a white horse, is rushing with long leaps through the forest. The horse and rider are so near the front of the picture as to occupy an important space in the foreground. The lady, in her dress of beaten gold, with fair hair, and pale, frightened face, clings with both hands to her bridle, and half looks back towards her pursuer. The color of this picture is of exquisite beauty. The tender white and pale yellows of the horse and rider show like fairy colors in a fairy forest. The whole is wonderfully light and airy, flickering between light and shade. The forest has no heavy glooms. The light breaks through everywhere. The forms of the trees are light and piny; the red soil is seen, the roots of the trees, the broken turf, the sandy ground. All the colors are delightfully broken up in the mysterious half-light which confuses the outlines of every object, without making them shadowy. Such a picture one might see with half-shut eyes in a sunny wood, if one had more poetry than prose in one's head, and were well read in the "Faërie Queen."

"A Mother Watching her Sleeping Child." This is a very small picture, remarkable only for its tender sentiment and delightful coloring. The child is nude; the flesh tints of a tender rose, painted with that luminous effect which leaves no memory of paint or pencil-touch behind it.

"American Scenery." This is a small landscape, with something of the Indian Summer haze; and a solitary horseman trotting across the foreground with an indifferent manner, as if he would soon be out of sight, wonderfully enhances the quietness of the scene.

"Isaac of York." This head of a Jew is powerfully painted, warm and rich; as also are two heads called "Sketches of Polish Jews," which were painted at one sitting.

"A Portrait of Benjamin West, late President of the Royal Academy," has all the most admirable qualities that a simple portrait can have.

"A Portrait of the Artist, painted in Rome," is very interesting, from the youthful sweetness of the face.

"Head of St. Peter" is a study for the head of St. Peter in a large picture of the Angel delivering Peter from Prison. In this large picture, lately brought from England to Boston, the[Pg 137] head of the angel is of surpassing beauty, and makes a powerful contrast with that of the Apostle, whose strong Hebrew features are flooded with the light which surrounds his heavenly deliverer.

"The Sisters." This picture represents two young girls of three-quarter size, the back of one turned toward the spectator. In the Catalogue is a note by the artist, who says,—"The air and color of the head with golden hair was imitated from a picture by Titian, called the Portrait of his Daughter,—but not the character or the disposition of the hair, which in the portrait is a crop; the action of the portrait is also different, holding up a casket with both hands. The rest of the picture, with the exception of the curtain in the background, is original." Now this is a very modest as well as honest statement of the artist; for both the figures seem perfectly original, and do not recall Titian's Daughter to the memory, except as an example of a successful study of Titian's color, which I believe all are permitted, nay, recommended, to imitate, if they can. It is, however, quite true, that this picture is less Allstonian than the rest, which makes his explanation welcome. It was undoubtedly painted as a study, and was not an original suggestion of his own mind, as almost everything he has left evidently was,—if internal evidence is evidence enough. Allston himself said, that he never painted anything that did not cost him his whole mind; and those who read his genius in his works can easily believe this statement.

"The Tuscan Girl." This is a very lovely little picture. It is not a study of costume, but a picture of dreamy girlhood musing in a wood. The sentiment of this charming little picture is best described in a little poem with which its first appearance was accompanied, and which opens thus:—

"How pleasant and how sad the turning tide
Of human life, when side by side
The child and youth begin to glide
Along the vale of years:
The pure twin-being for a little space,
With lightsome heart, and yet a graver face,
Too young for woe, but not for tears!"

I will not occupy any more space with describing the pictures in this unique collection. All were not brought together that might have been. One very remarkable small picture, called "Spalatro, or the Bloody Hand," was not with these. Its distance from Boston probably prevented its being risked on the dangers of a long journey.

There are several pictures by Allston in England. Of these I cannot speak, as I have not seen them. Of one, however, "Elijah in the Desert," Mr. Ware gives so striking a description, that I will quote nearly the whole of it.

"I turn with more pleasure to another work of Mr. Allston, even though but few can ever have seen it, but which made upon my own mind, when I saw it immediately after it was completed, an impression of grandeur and beauty never to be effaced, and never recalled without new sentiments of enthusiastic admiration. I refer to his grand landscape of 'Elijah in the Desert,'—a large picture of perhaps six feet by four. It might have been more appropriately named an Asian or Arabian Desert. That is to say, it is a very unfortunate error to give to either a picture or a book a name which raises false expectations; especially is this the case when the name of the picture is a great or imposing one which greatly excites the imagination. What could be more so than this, 'Elijah in the Desert, fed by Ravens'? Extreme and fatal was the disappointment to many, on entering the room, when, looking on the picture, no Elijah was to be seen; at least you had to search for him among the subordinate objects, hidden away among the grotesque roots of an enormous banyan-tree; and the Prophet, when found at last, was hardly worth the pains of the search. But as soon as the intelligent visitor had recovered from his first disappointment, the objects which then immediately filled the eye taught him, that, though he had not found what he had been promised, a Prophet, he had found more than a Prophet, a landscape which in its sublimity excited the[Pg 138] imagination as powerfully as any gigantic form of the Elijah could have done, even though Michel Angelo had drawn it. It is meant to represent, and does perfectly represent, an illimitable desert, a boundless surface of barrenness and desolation, where Nature can bring forth nothing but seeds of death, and the only tree there is dead and withered, not a leaf to be seen nor possible. The only other objects, beside the level of the desert, either smooth with sand or rough with ragged rock, are a range of dark mountains on the right, heavy lowering clouds which overspread and overshadow the whole scene, the roots and wide-spread branches of an enormous banyan-tree, through the tortuous and leafless branches of which the distant landscape, the hills, rocks, clouds, and remote plains are seen. The roots of this huge tree of the desert, in all directions from the main trunk, rise upward, descend, and root themselves again in the earth, then again rise, again descend into the ground and root themselves, and so on, growing smaller and smaller as the process is repeated, till they disappear in the general level of the plain, or lose themselves among the rocks, like the knots and convolutions of a huge family of boa-constrictors. The branches, which almost completely fill the upper part of the picture, are done with such truth to general Nature, are so admirable in color, so wonderful in the treatment of their perspective, that the eye is soon happily withdrawn from any attention to the roots, among which the Prophet sits, receiving the food with which the ravens, as they float towards him, miraculously supply him.... You forgot the Prophet, the ravens, the roots, and almost the branches, though these were too vast and multitudinous to be overlooked, and were, moreover, truly characteristic, and dwelt only upon the heavy rolling clouds, the lifeless desert, the sublime masses of the distant mountains, and the indeterminate misty outline of the horizon, where earth and heaven became one. The picture was, therefore, a landscape of a most sublime, impressive character, and not a mere representation of a passage of Scripture history. It would have been a great gain to the work, if the Scripture passage could have been painted out, and the desert only left. But, as it is, it serves as one further illustration of the characteristic of Mr. Allston's art, of which I have already given several examples. For, melancholy, dark, and terrific almost, as are all the features of the scene, a strange calm broods over it all, as of an ocean, now overhung by black threatening clouds, dead and motionless, but the sure precursors of change and storm; and over the desert hang the clouds which were soon to break and deluge the parched earth and cover it again with verdure. But at present the only motion and life is in the little brook Cherith, as it winds along among the roots of the great tree. The sublime, after all, is better expressed in the calmness, repose, and silence of the 'Elijah,' than in the tempests of Poussin or Vernet, Wilson or Salvator Rosa."

"Belshazzar's Feast." Any criticism of Allston's works would be very imperfect which did not speak of his "Belshazzar's Feast,"—because, though the picture was never finished, it occupied so large a part of the life and thoughts of Allston, that it demands some mention. It had been an object of great interest among Allston's friends before it had been seen by one of them. It was intended by him to fulfil a commission from certain gentlemen of Boston for a large picture, the subject of which was to be chosen by himself. A sum of money was also placed at his disposal with the commission, in order to secure to him leisure and freedom from care, that he might work at his ease, and do justice to his thought. This commission was the result of the confidence in him and his genius which was felt by those friends who knew him best.

The picture was begun, went forward, and was nearly completed, when an important change in the structure of the work was determined on, and undertaken[Pg 139] with great courage. As often unfortunately happens in such cases, the interruption to the flow of thought was fatal to the success of the picture. It was laid aside for many years, but was the work actually in hand at the time of Allston's death. When, after that event, his studio was entered by his nearest friends, and the picture so long guarded with jealous reserve was first seen, it was found to be in a disorganized, almost chaotic state. But though fragmentary, the fragments were full of interest. Many passages were perfectly painted, and the whole intention was full of grandeur and beauty. But a picture left in that state should never have been publicly shown. Deeply interesting to artists, and to those familiar with the genius of Allston, it could be only a puzzling wonder to those who go to an exhibition to see finished pictures, and who do not understand those which are not finished. With this work such persons could have no concern. Yet, by what appears a great error of judgement, this worse than unfinished picture was made the subject of a public exhibition, though in a state of incompleteness which the artist during life would not permit his nearest friend to behold. And as if this violation of his wishes were not enough, a stolen and travestied copy soon appeared, and was heralded by placards, on which the words "Great Picture by Washington Allston" were seen in letters large enough to be read across the street, and on which the words "Copy of" were in such very small type that they were unnoticed, except by those who looked for them. This copy went to other cities, and gave of course a most erroneous impression of the great painter's genius.

Among the half-finished pictures found in the studio of Allston after his death were several designs on canvas in chalk or umber. These seemed so valuable, and their condition so perishable, that it was thought best to have them engraved. This was undertaken by a friend and admirer of the artist, Mr. S. H. Perkins, who arranged the designs and superintended the engraving, and published the work with the aid of a partial subscription and at his own risk. The brothers Cheney engraved the outlines, and with peculiar skill and feeling imitated the broadly expressive chalk lines by combining several delicately traced lines into one. These outlines and sketches were published in 1850.

There are, first six plates of outlines from heads and figures in a picture of "Michael setting the Watch." This picture must have been painted in England, and in unknown here except by these outlines. From these alone great strength of design might be inferred. There are, besides, "A Sibyl," sitting in a cave-like, rocky place, the eyes dilated with thought, the mouth tenderly fixed; the cave is open to the sea. This design would have proved one of the most characteristic works of Allston, had it been painted. "Dido and Æneas." Then four plates from figures of angels in "Jacob's Dream." This is a picture painted in England for Lord Egremont, and is mentioned in Leslie's Recollections, by the editor of that work, in a minor key of praise. Then comes the outline of a single figure, "Uriel sitting in the Sun." This picture was also painted in England. As Allston was fond of referring to it, and describing the methods he used to represent the light of the sun behind the angel, as if he felt satisfied with the result, it may be inferred that the effort to do so difficult a thing was successful. The sun was painted over a white ground with transparent glazings of the primary colors laid and dried separately, thus combining the colors prismatically to produce white light. The figure of the sitting angle is grandly original,—of the most noble proportions, and full of watchful life, as of one conscious of a great trust.

Then come three compositions, with many figures,—"Heliodorus," "Fairies on the Seashore," and "Titania's Court." These show as much power in composition as the single figures do in design.

The "Fairies on the Seashore" is an exquisitely graceful design, both in the[Pg 140] figures and the landscape. It is a perfect poem, even as it stands in the outline. A strip of sea, a breaking wave, a rocky island, and on the beach begins a stream of fairies, diminishing as it curves up into the sky. The last one on the shore seems lingering, and the next one to her draws her upwards. The design when painted would have had the lower part of the picture in the shadow of night, and the coming morn in the sky, the light of which should be caught on the distant figures up among the clouds.

"Titania's Court" is in a moon-lighted space in the forest. Six fairies are dancing in a ring. More are coming out of the depths of the wood and off its rocky heights, hand in hand,—a flow of graceful figures. On the right side of the picture sits Titania, served by her Indian page, who kneels before her, holding an acorn-cup. This page is delicately differenced from the fairies by his straight hair, his features, Asiatic, though handsome, his girdle and bracelets of pearls, and a short striped skirt about his loins. The fairies all have flowing drapery or none, and features regular as Greeks. Two little figures in the air above Titania's head are fanning her with butterflies' wings; others are bringing water in shells and flower-cups; others playing on musical instruments. This is better than most pictures of this often-painted subject, because in it fancy does not override imagination, but helps and serves it.

Another design was in chalk, on a dark canvas, of a ship at sea in a squall. This is wonderfully imitated in the engraving,—even all the blotches and erasures are there. The curves of the waves in a rolling sea were never better caught in all their subtle force. The clouds have great suggestions.

There is a figure of "The Prodigal Son," from a pencil drawing; and a "Prometheus," also from a pencil sketch.

Allston seemed equally at home in drawing powerful figures in action, or delicate dreamy figures in repose. He had the true imaginative power which realizes and understands all natural forms.

We have thus given a few words of description to some of these remarkable pictures. We do not hope to convey any idea of them to those who have not seen them, for a picture is by its very nature incapable of being described in words. That which makes it a picture takes it out of the sphere of words. Neither do we attempt to analyze the genius of this great painter. We can enumerate some of his artistic qualities: his power in color, so creative; the still, reposeful spirit of his creations, reminding one of Beato Angelico; his grandly expressive forms; his powerful color compositions; and above all, that greatest crowning merit, that his works are, almost without exception, vitalized by an imaginative force which makes them living presences. Such effects are not produced by talent, however great, by culture, however perfect, but by a mind which is a law to itself,—in other words, a genius. Such, and nothing less, was Washington Allston.


[A] Lectures on the Works and Genius of Washington Allston. Boston: Phillips, Sampson, & Co. 1852.

[Pg 141]



In the summer of 1812, when the good people of Connecticut were feeling uncommonly bitter about the declaration of war against England, and were abusing Mr. Madison in the roundest terms, there lived in the town of Canterbury a fiery old gentleman, of nearly sixty years, and a sterling Democrat, who took up the cudgels bravely for the Administration, and stoutly belabored Governor Roger Griswold for his tardy obedience to the President in calling out the militia, and for what he called his absurd pretensions in regard to State sovereignty. He was a man, too, who meant all that he said, and gave the best proof of it by offering his military services,—first to the Governor, and then to the United States General commanding the Department.

Nor was he wholly unfitted: he was erect, stanch, well knit together, and had served with immense credit in the local militia, in which he wore the title of Major. It does not appear that his offer was immediately accepted; but the following season he was invested with the command of a company, and was ordered back and forth to various threatened points along the seaboard. His home affairs, meantime, were left in charge of his son, a quiet young man of four-and-twenty, who for three years had been stumbling with a very reluctant spirit through the law-books in the Major's office, and who shared neither his father's ardor of temperament nor his political opinions. Eliza, a daughter of twenty summers, acted as mistress of the house, and stood in place of mother to a black-eyed little girl of thirteen,—the Major's daughter by a second wife, who had died only a few years before.

Notwithstanding the lack of political sympathy, there was yet a strong attachment between father and son. The latter admired immensely the energy and full-souled ardor of the old gentleman; and the father, in turn, was proud of the calm, meditative habit of mind which the son had inherited from his mother. "There is metal in the boy to make a judge of," the major used to say. And when Benjamin, shortly after his graduation at one of the lesser New England colleges, had given hint of his possible study of theology, the Major answered with a "Pooh! pooh!" which disturbed the son,—possibly weighed with him,—more than the longest opposing argument could have done. The manner of the father had conveyed, unwittingly enough, a notion of absurdity as attaching to the lad's engaging in such sacred studies, which overwhelmed him with a sense of his own unworthiness.

The Major, like all sound Democrats, had always been an ardent admirer of Mr. Jefferson and of the French political school. Benjamin had a wholesome horror of both,—not so much from any intimate knowledge of their theories, as by reason of a strong religious instinct, which had been developed under his mother's counsels into a rigid and exacting Puritanism.

The first wife of the Major had left behind her the reputation of "a saint." It was not undeserved: her quiet, constant charities,—her kindliness of look and manner, which were in themselves the best of charities,—a gentle, Christian way she had of dealing with all the vagrant humors of her husband,—and the constancy of her devotion to all duties, whether religious or domestic, gave her better claim to the saintly title than most who wear it. The Major knew this, and was proud to say it. "If," he was accustomed to say, "I am the most godless man in the parish, my wife is the most godly woman." Yet his godlessness was, after all, rather outside than real: it was a kind of effrontery, provoked into noisy display by the extravagant bigotries of those about him. He did not believe in monopolies[Pg 142] of opinion, but in good average dispersion of all sorts of thinking. On one occasion he had horrified his poor wife by bringing home a full set of Voltaire's Works; but having reasoned her—or fancying he had—into a belief in the entire harmlessness of the offending books, he gratified her immensely by placing them out of all sight and reach of the boy Benjamin.

He never interfered with the severe home course of religious instruction entered upon by the mother. On the contrary, he said, "The boy will need it all as an offset to the bedevilments that will overtake him in our profession." The Major had a very considerable country practice, and had been twice a member of the Legislature.

His second wife, a frivolous, indolent person, who had brought him a handsome dot, and left him the pretty black-eyed Mabel, never held equal position with the first. It was observed, however, with some surprise, that under the sway of the latter he was more punctilious and regular in religious observances than before,—a fact which the shrewd ones explained by his old doctrine of adjusting averages.

Benjamin, Eliza, and Mabel,—each in their way,—waited news from the military campaign of the Major with great anxiety; all the more because he was understood to be a severe disciplinarian, and it had been rumored in the parish that two or three of his company, of rank Federal opinions, had vowed they would sooner shoot the captain than any foreign enemy of the State. The Major, however, heard no guns in either front or rear up to the time of the British attack upon the borough of Stonington, in midsummer of 1814. In the defence here he was very active, in connection with a certain artillery force that had come down the river from Norwich; and although the attack of the British Admiral was a mere feint, yet for a while there was a very lively sprinkling of shot. The people of the little borough were duly frightened, the "Ramilies" seventy-four gun-ship of his Majesty enjoyed an excellent opportunity for long-range practice, and the militia gave an honest airing to their patriotism. The Major was wholly himself. "If the rascals would only attempt a landing!" said he; and as he spoke, a fragment of shell struck his sword-arm at the elbow. The wound was a grievous one, and the surgeon in attendance declared amputation to be necessary. The Major combated the decision for a while, but loss of blood weakened his firmness, and the operation was gone through with very bunglingly. Next morning a country wagon was procured to transport him home. The drive was an exceeding rough one, and the stump fell to bleeding. Most men would have lain by for a day or two, but the Major insisted upon pushing on for Canterbury, where he arrived late at night, very much exhausted.

The country physician declared, on examination next morning, that some readjustment of the amputated limb was necessary, which was submitted to by the Major in a very irritable humor. Friends and enemies of the wounded man were all kind and full of sympathy. Miss Eliza was in a flutter of dreary apprehension that rendered her incapable of doing anything effectively. Benjamin was as tender and as devoted as a woman. The wound healed in due time, but the Major did not rally. The drain upon his vitality had been too great; he fell into a general decline, which within a fortnight gave promise of fatal results. The Major met the truth like a veteran; he arranged his affairs, by the aid of his son, with a great show of method,—closed all in due time; and when he felt his breath growing short, called Benjamin, and like a good officer gave his last orders.

"Mabel," said he, "is provided for; it is but just that her mother's property should be settled on her; I have done so. For yourself and Eliza, you will have need of a close economy. I don't think you'll do much at law; you once thought of preaching; if you think so now, preach, Benjamin; there's something in it; at least it's better than Fed—Federalism."[Pg 143]

A fit of coughing seized him here, from which he never fairly rallied. Benjamin took his hand when he grew quiet, and prayed silently, while the Major slipped off the roll militant forever.


The funeral was appointed for the second day thereafter. The house was set in order for the occasion. Chairs were brought in from the neighbors. A little table, with a Bible upon it, was placed in the entrance-way at the foot of the stairs, that all might hear what the clergyman should say. The body lay in the parlor, with the Major's sword and cocked hat upon the coffin; and the old gentleman's face had never worn an air of so much dignity as it wore now. Death had refined away all trace of his irritable humors, of his passionate, hasty speech. It looked like the face of a good man,—so said nine out of ten who gazed on it that day; yet when the immediate family came up to take their last glimpse,—the two girls being in tears,—in that dreary half-hour after all was arranged, and the flocking-in of the neighbors was waited for, Benjamin, as calm as the dead face below him, was asking himself if the poor gentleman, his father, had not gone away to a place of torment. He feared it; nay, was he not bound to believe it by the whole force of his education? and his heart, in that hour, made only a feeble revolt against the belief. In the very presence of the grim messenger of the Eternal, who had come to seal the books and close the account, what right had human affection to make outcry? Death had wrought the work given him to do, like a good servant; had not he, too,—Benjamin,—a duty to fulfil? the purposes of Eternal Justice to recognize, to sanction, to approve? In the exaltation of his religious sentiment it seemed to him, for one crazy moment at least, that he would be justified in taking his place at the little table where prayer was to be said, and in setting forth, as one who knew so intimately the shortcomings of the deceased, all those weaknesses of the flesh and spirit by which the Devil had triumphed, and in warning all those who came to his burial of the judgments of God which would surely fall on them as on him, except they repented and believed. Was he not, indeed, commissioned, as it were, by the lips of the dead man to "cry aloud and spare not"?

Happily, however, the officiating clergyman was of a more even temper, and he said what little he had to say in way of "improvement of the occasion" to the text of "judge not, that ye be not judged."

"We are too apt," said he, (and he was now addressing a company that crowded the parlors and flowed over into the yard in front, where the men stood with heads uncovered,) "we are too apt to measure a man's position in the eye of God, and to assign him his rank in the future, by his conformity to the external observances of religion,—not remembering, in our complacency, that we see differently from those who look on from beyond the world, and that there are mysterious and secret relations of God with the conscience of every man, which we cannot measure or adjust. Let us hope that our deceased friend profited by such to insure his entrance into the Eternal City, whose streets are of gold, and the Lamb the light thereof."

The listeners said "Amen" to this in their hearts; but the son, still exalted by the fervor of that new purpose which he had formed by the father's death-bed, and riveted more surely as he looked last on his face, asked himself, if the old preacher had not allowed a kindly worldly prudence to blunt the sharpness of the Word. "Why not tell these friendly mourners," thought he, "that they may well shed their bitterest tears, for that this old man they mourn over has lived the life of the ungodly, has neglected all the appointed means of escape, has died the death of the unrighteous, and must surely suffer the pains of the second death? Should not the swift warning[Pg 144] be brought home to me and to them?"

Sudden contact with Death had refined all his old religious impressions to an intensity that shaped itself into a flaming sword of retribution. All this, however, as yet, lay within his own mind, not beating down his natural affection, or his grief, but struggling for reconcilement with them; no outward expression, even to those who clung to him so nearly, revealed it. The memorial-stone which he placed over his father's grave, and which possibly is standing now within the old churchyard of Canterbury, bore only this:—

Here lies the body of
a good husband; a kind father;
a patriot, who died for his country,
1st Sept., 1814.

And a little below,—

"Christ died for all."


It will be no contravention of the truth of this epitaph, to say that the Major had been always a most miserable manager of his private business affairs; it is even doubtful if the kindest fathers and best husbands are not apt to be. Certain it is, that, when Benjamin came to examine, in connection with a village attorney, (for the son had inherited the father's inaccessibility to "profit and loss" statements,) such loose accounts as the Major had left, it was found that the poor gentleman had lived up so closely to his income—whether as lawyer or military chieftain—as to leave his little home property subject to the payment of a good many outstanding debts. There appeared, indeed, a great parade of ledgers and day-books and statements of accounts; but it is by no means unusual for those who are careless or ignorant of business system to make a pretty show of the requisite implements, and to confuse themselves, in a pleasant way, with the intricacy of their own figures.

The Major sinned pretty largely in this way; so that it was plain, that, after the sale of all his available effects, including the library with its inhibited Voltaire, there would remain only enough to secure a respectable maintenance for Miss Eliza. To this end, Benjamin determined at once that the residue of the estate should be settled upon her,—reserving only so much as would comfortably maintain him during a three years' course of battling with Theology.

The younger sister, Mabel,—as has already been intimated,—was provided for by an interest in certain distinct and dividend-bearing securities, which—to the honor of the Major—had never been submitted to the alembic of his figures and "accounts current." She was placed at a school where she accomplished herself for three or four years; and put the seal to her accomplishments by marrying very suddenly, and without family consultation,—under which she usually proved restive,—a young fellow, who by aid of her snug fortune succeeded in establishing himself in a thriving business; and as early as the year 1820, Mabel, under her new name of Mrs. Brindlock, was the mistress of one of those fine merchant-palaces at the lower end of Greenwich Street in New York City, which commanded a view of the elegant Battery, and were the admiration of all country visitors.

Benjamin had needed only his father's hint, (for which he was ever grateful,) and the solemn scenes of his death and burial, to lead him to an entire renunciation of his law-craft and to an engagement in fervid study for the ministry. This he prosecuted at first with a devout old gentleman who had been a pupil of President Edwards; and this private reading was finished off by a course at Andover. His studies completed, he was licensed to preach; and not long after, without any consideration of what the future of this world might have in store for him, he committed the error which so many[Pg 145] grave and serious men are prone to commit,—that is to say, he married hastily, after only two or three months of solemn courtship, a charming girl of nineteen, whose only idea of meeting the difficulties of this life was to love her dear Benjamin with her whole heart, and to keep the parlor dusted.

But unfortunately there was no parlor to dust The consequence was that the newly married couple were compelled to establish a temporary home upon the second floor of the comfortable house of Mr. Handby, a well-to-do farmer, and the father of the bride. Here the new clergyman devoted himself resolutely to Tillotson, to Edwards, to John Newton, and in the intervals prepared some score or more of sermons,—to all which Mrs. Johns devoutly listening in their fresh state, without ever a wink, entered upon the conscientious duties of a wife. From time to time some old clergyman of the neighborhood would ask the Major's son to assist him in the Sabbath services; and at rarer intervals the Reverend Mr. Johns was invited to some far-away township where the illness or absence of the settled minister might keep the new licentiate for four or five weeks; on which occasions the late Miss Handby was most zealous in preparing a world of comforts for the journey, and invariably followed him up with one or two double letters, "hoping her dear Benjamin was careful to wear the muffler which his Rachel had knit for him, and not to expose his precious throat,"—or "longing for that quiet home of their own, which would not make necessary these cruel separations, and where she should have the uninterrupted society of her dear Benjamin."

To all such the conscientious husband dutifully replied, "thankful for his Rachel's expression of interest in such a sinner as himself, and trusting that she would not forget that health or the comforts of this world were but of comparatively small importance, since this was 'not our abiding city.' He trusted, too, that she would not allow the transitory affections of this life, however dear they might be, to engross her to the neglect of those which were far more important. He permitted himself to hope that Rachel" (he was chary of endearing epithets) "would not murmur against the dispensations of Providence, and would be content with whatever He might provide; and hoping that Mr. Handby and family were in their usual health, remained her Christian friend and devoted husband, Benjamin Johns."

It so happened, that, after this discursive life had lasted for some ten months, a serious difficulty arose between the clergyman and the parish of the neighboring town of Ashfield. The person who served as the spiritual director of the people was suspected of leaning strongly toward some current heresy of the day; and the suspicion being once set on foot, there was not a sermon the poor man could preach but some quidnunc of the parish snuffed somewhere in it the taint of the false doctrine. The due convocations and committees of inquiry followed sharply after, and the incumbent received his dismissal in due form at the hands of some "brother in the bonds of the Gospel."

A few weeks later, Giles Elderkin of Ashfield, "Society's Committee," invited, by letter, the Reverend Benjamin Johns to come and "fill their pulpit the following Lord's day"; and added,—"If you conclude to preach for us, I shall be pleased to have you put up at my house over the Sabbath."

"There you are," said Mr. Handby, when the matter was announced in family conclave,—"just the man for them. They like sober, solid preaching in Ashfield."

"I call it real providential," said Mrs. Handby; "fust-rate folks, and 't a'n't a long drive over for Rachel."

Little Mrs. Johns looked upon the grave, earnest face of her husband with delight and pride, but said nothing.

"I know Squire Elderkin," says Mr. Handby, meditatively,—"a clever man, and a forehanded man, very. It's a rich parish, son-in-law; they ought to do well by you."[Pg 146]

"I don't like," says Mr. Johns, "to look at what may become my spiritual duty in that light."

"I wouldn't," returned Mr. Handby; "but when you are as old as I am, son-in-law, you'll know that we have to keep a kind of side-look upon the good things of this world,—else we shouldn't be placed in it."

"He heareth the young ravens when they cry," said the minister, gravely.

"Just it," says Mr. Handby; "but I don't want your young ravens to be crying."

At which Rachel, with the slightest possible suffusion of color, and a pretty affectation of horror, said,—

"Now, papa!"

There was an interuption here, and the conclave broke up; but Rachel, stepping briskly to the place she loved so well, beside the minister, said, softly,—

"I hope you'll go, Benjamin; and do, please, preach that beautiful sermon on Revelations."


Thirty or forty years ago there lay scattered about over Southern New England a great many quiet inland towns, numbering from a thousand to two or three thousand inhabitants, which boasted a little old-fashioned "society" of their own,—which had their important men who were heirs to some snug country property, and their gambrel-roofed houses odorous with traditions of old-time visits by some worthies of the Colonial period, or of the Revolution. The good, prim dames, in starched caps and spectacles, who presided over such houses, were proud of their tidy parlors,—of their old India china,—of their beds of thyme and sage in the garden,—of their big Family Bible with brazen clasps,—and, most times, of their minister.

One Orthodox Congregational Society extended its benignant patronage over all the people of such town; or, if a stray Episcopalian or Seven-Day Baptist were here and there living under the wing of the parish, they were regarded with a serene and stately gravity, as necessary exceptions to the law of Divine Providence,—like scattered instances of red hair or of bow-legs in otherwise well-favored families.

There were no wires stretching over the country to shock the nerves of the good gossips with the thought that their neighbors knew more than they. There were no heathenisms of the cities, no tenpins, no travelling circus, no progressive young men of heretical tendencies. Such towns were as quiet as a sheepfold. Sauntering down their broad central street, along which all the houses were clustered with a somewhat dreary uniformity of aspect, one might of a summer's day hear the rumble of the town mill in some adjoining valley, busy with the town grist; in autumn, the flip-flap of the flails came pulsing on the ear from half a score of wide-open barns that yawned with plenty; and in winter, the clang of axes on the near hills smote sharply upon the frosty stillness, and would be straightway followed by the booming crash of some great tree.

But civilization and the railways have debauched all such quiet, stately, steady towns. There are none of them left. If the iron cordon of travel, by a little divergence, has spared their quietude, leaving them stranded upon a beach where the tide of active business never flows, all their dignities are gone. The men of foresight and enterprise have drifted away to new centres of influence. The bustling dames in starched caps have gone down childless to their graves, or, disgusted with gossip at second hand, have sought more immediate contact with the world. A German tailor, may be, has hung out his sign over the door of some mouldering mansion, where, in other days, a doughty judge of the county court, with a great raft of children, kept his honors and his family warm. A slatternly "carryall," with a driver who reeks of bad spirit, keeps up uneasy communication with the outside world, traversing twice or three times a day the[Pg 147] league of drive which lies between the post-office and the railway-station. A few iron-pated farmers, and a few gentlemen of Irish extraction who keep tavern and stores, divide among themselves the official honors of the town.

If, on the other hand, the people maintain their old thrift and importance by actual contact with some great thoroughfare of travel, their old quietude is exploded; a mushroom station has sprung up; mushroom villas flank all the hills; the girls wear mushroom hats. A turreted monster of a chapel from some flamboyant tower bellows out its Sunday warning to a new set of church-goers. There is a little coterie of "superior intelligences," who talk of the humanities, and diffuse their airy rationalism over here and there a circle of the progressive town. Even the meeting house, which was the great congregational centre of the town religion, has lost its venerable air, taken off by some new fancy of variegated painting. The high, square pews are turned into low-backed seats, that flame on a summer Sunday with such gorgeous millinery as would have shocked the grave people of thirty years ago. The deep bass note which once pealed from the belfry with a solemn and solitary dignity of sound has now lost it all amid the jangle of a half-dozen bells of lighter and airier twang. Even the parson himself will not be that grave man of stately bearing, who met the rarest fun only benignantly, and to whom all the villagers bowed,—but some new creature full of the logic of the schools and the latest conventionalisms of manner. The homespun disciples of other days would be brought grievously to the blush, if some deep note of the old bell should suddenly summon them to the presence of so fine a teacher, encompassed with such pretty appliances of upholstery; and, counting their chances better in the strait path they knew on uncarpeted floors and between high pews, they would slink back into their graves content,—all the more content, perhaps, if they should listen to the service of the new teacher, and, in their common-sense way, reckon what chance the dapper talker might have,—as compared with the solemn soberness of the old pastor,—in opening the ponderous doors for them upon the courts above.

Into this metamorphosed condition the town of Ashfield has possibly fallen in these latter days; but in the good year 1819, when the Reverend Benjamin Johns was invited for the first time to fill its pulpit of an early autumn Sunday, it was still in possession of all its palmy quietude and of its ancient cheery importance. And to that old date we will now transfer ourselves.


Every other day the stage-coach comes into Ashfield from the north, on the Hartford turnpike, and rumbles through the main street of the town, seesawing upon its leathern thoroughbraces. Just where the pike forks into the main northern road, and where the scattered farm-houses begin to group more thickly along the way, the country Jehu prepares for a triumphant entry by giving a long, clean cut to the lead-horses, and two or three shortened, sharp blows with his doubled lash to those upon the wheel; then, moistening his lip, he disengages the tin horn from its socket, and, with one more spirited "chirrup" to his team and a petulant flirt of the lines, he gives out, with tremendous explosive efforts, a series of blasts that are heard all down the street. Here and there a blind is coyly opened, and some old dame in ruffled cap peers out, or some stout wench at a back door stands gazing with her arms a-kimbo. The horn rattles back into its socket again; the lines are tightened, and the long lash smacks once more around the reeking flanks of the leaders. Yonder, in his sooty shop, stands the smith, keeping up with his elbow a lazy sway upon his bellows, while he looks admiringly over coach and team, and gives an inquisitive glance at the nigh leader's foot, that[Pg 148] he shod only yesterday. A flock of geese, startled from a mud-puddle through which the coach dashes on, rush away with outstretched necks, and wings at their widest, and a great uproar of gabble. Two school-girls—home for the nooning—are idling over a gateway, half swinging, half musing, gazing intently. There is a gambrel-roofed mansion, with a balustrade along its upper pitch, and quaint ogees of ancient joinery over the hall-door; and through the cleanly scrubbed parlor-windows is to be seen a prim dame, who turns one spectacled glance upon the passing coach, and then resumes her sewing. There are red houses, with their corners and barge-boards dressed off with white, and on the door-step of one a green tub that flames with a great pink hydrangea. Scattered along the way are huge ashes, sycamores, elms, in somewhat devious line; and from a pendent bough of one of these last a trio of school-boys are seeking to beat down the swaying nest of an oriole with a convergent fire of pebbles.

The coach flounders on,—past an old house with stone chimney, (on which an old date stands coarsely cut,) and with front door divided down its middle, with a huge brazen knocker upon its right half,—with two St. Luke's crosses in its lower panels, and two diamond-shaped "lights" above. Hereabout the street widens into what seems a common; and not far below, sitting squarely and authoritatively in the middle of the common, is the red-roofed meeting-house, with tall spire, and in its shadow the humble belfry of the town academy. Opposite these there comes into the main street a highway from the east; and upon one of the corners thus formed stands the Eagle Tavern, its sign creaking appetizingly on a branch of an overhanging sycamore, under which the stage-coach dashes up to the tavern-door, to unlade its passengers for dinner, and to find a fresh relay of horses.

Upon the opposite corner is the country store of Abner Tew, Esq., postmaster during the successive administrations of Mr. Madison and Mr. Monroe. He comes out presently from his shop-door, which is divided horizontally, the upper half being open in all ordinary weathers; and the lower half, as he closes it after him, gives a warning jingle to a little bell within. A spare, short, hatchet-faced man is Abner Tew, who walks over with a prompt business-step to receive a leathern pouch from the stage-driver. He returns with it,—a few eager townspeople following upon his steps,—reenters his shop, and delivers the pouch within a glazed door in the corner, where the postmistress ex officio Mrs. Abner Tew, a tall, gaunt woman in black bombazine and spectacles, proceeds to assort the Ashfield mail. By reason of this division of duties, the shop is known familiarly as the shop of "the Tew partners."

Among the waiting expectant, who loiter about among the sugar-barrels of the grocery department, there presently appears—with a new tinkle of the little bell—a stout, ruddy man, just past middle age, in broad-brimmed white beaver and sober homespun suit, who is met with a deferential "Good day, Squire," from one and another, as he falls successively into short parley with them. A self-possessed, cheery man, who has strong opinions, and does not fear to express them; Selectman for the last eight years; who has presided in town-meeting time out of mind; member of the Legislature, and once a Senator for the district. This was Giles Elderkin, Esq., the gentleman who, on behalf of the Ecclesiastical Society, had conducted the correspondence with the Reverend Mr. Johns; and he was now waiting his reply. Thus is presently brought to him by the postmistress, who, catching a glimpse of the Squire through the glazed door, has taken the precaution to adjust her cap-strings and dexterously to flirt one or two of the more apparent creases out of her dingy bombazine. The letter brings acceptance, which the Squire, having made out by private study near to the dusky window, announces to Mrs. Tew,—begging her to[Pg 149] inform the people who should happen in from "up the road."

"I hope he'll suit, Squire," says Mrs. Tew.

"I hope he may,—hope he may, Mrs. Tew; I hear well of him; there's good blood in him. I knew his father, the Major,—likely man. I hope he may, Mrs. Tew."

And the Squire, having penned a little notice, by favor of one of the Tew partners, proceeds to affix it to the meeting-house door; after which he walks to his own house, with the assured step of a man who is conscious of having accomplished an important duty. It is the very house we just now saw with the ponderous ogees over its front, the balustrade upon its roof, and the dame in spectacles at the window: this latter being the spinster, Miss Meacham, elder sister to the wife of the Squire, and taking upon herself, with active zeal and a neatness that knew no bounds, the office of housekeeper. This was rendered necessary in a manner by the engagement of Mrs. Elderkin with a group of young flax-haired children, and periodic threats of addition to the same. The hospitalities of the house were fully established, and no state official could visit the town without hearty invitation to the Squire's table. The spinster received the announcement of the minister's coming with a quiet gravity, and betook herself to the needed preparation.


Mr. Johns, meantime, when he had left the Handby parlor, where we saw him last, and was fairly upon the stair, had replied to the suggestion of his little wife about the sermon on Revelations with a fugitive kiss, and said, "I will think of it, Rachel."

And he did think of it,—thought of it so well, that he left the beautiful sermon in his drawer, and took with him a couple of strong doctrinal discourses, upon the private hearing of which his charming wife had commented by dropping asleep (poor thing!) in her chair.

But the strong men and women of Ashfield relished them better. There was a sermon for the morning on "Regeneration the work only of grace"; and another for the afternoon, on the outer leaf of which was written, in the parson's bold hand, "The doctrine of Election compatible with the infinite goodness of God." It is hard to say which of the two was the better, or which commended itself most to the church full of people who listened. Deacon Tourtelot,—a short, wiry man, with reddish whiskers brushed primly forward,—sitting under the very droppings of the pulpit, with painful erectness, and listening grimly throughout, was inclined to the sermon of the morning. Dame Tourtelot, who overtopped her husband by half a head, and from her great scoop hat, trimmed with green, kept her keen eyes fastened intently upon the minister on trial, was enlisted in the same belief, until she heard the Deacon's timid expression of preference, when she pounced upon him, and declared for the Election discourse. It was not her way to allow him to enjoy an opinion of his own getting. Miss Almira, their only child, and now grown into a spare womanhood, that was decorated with another scoop hat akin to the mother's,—from under which hung two yellow festoons of ringlets tied with lively blue ribbons,—was steadfastly observant; though wearing a fagged air before the day was over, and consulting on one or two occasions a little vial of "salts," with a side movement of the head, and an inquiring nostril.

Squire Elderkin, having thrown himself into a comfortable position in the corner of his square pew, is cheerfully attentive; and at one or two of the more marked passages of the sermon bestows a nod of approval, and a glance at Miss Meacham and Mrs. Elderkin, to receive their acknowledgment of the same. The young Elderkins (of whom three are of meeting-house size) are variously affected: Miss Dora, being turned of six, wears an air of some[Pg 150] weariness, and having despatched all the edible matter upon a stalk of caraway, she uses the despoiled brush in keeping the youngest boy, Ned, in a state of uneasy wakefulness. Bob, ranking between the two in point of years, and being mechanically inclined, devotes himself to turning in their sockets the little bobbins which form a balustrade around the top of the pew; but being diverted from this very suddenly by a sharp squeak that calls the attention of his Aunt Joanna, he assumes the penitential air of listener for full five minutes; afterward he relieves himself by constructing a small meeting-house out of the psalm-books and Bible, his Aunt Joanna's spectacle-case serving for a steeple.

There was an air of subdued reverence in the new clergyman, which was not only agreeable to the people in itself, but seemed to very many thoughtful ones to imply a certain respect for them and for the parish. The men of that day in Ashfield were intolerant of mere elegances, or of any jauntiness of manner. But Mr. Johns was so calm and serious, and yet gave so earnest expression to the old beliefs they had so long cherished,—he was so clearly wedded to all those rigidities by which the good people thought it a merit to cramp their religious thinking,—that there was but one opinion of his fitness.

Deacon Tourtelot, sidling down the aisle after service, out of hearing of his consort, says to Elderkin, "Smart man, Squire."

And the Squire nods acquiescence. "Sound sermonizer,—sound sermonizer, Deacon."

These two opinions were as good as a majority-vote in the town of Ashfield,—all the more since the Squire was a thorough-going Jeffersonian Democrat, and the Deacon a warm Federalist, so far as the poor man could be warm at anything, who was on the alert every hour of his life to escape the hammer of his wife's reproaches.

So it happened that the parish was called together, and an invitation extended to Brother Johns to continue his ministrations for a month further. Of course the novitiate understood this to be the crucial test; and he accepted it with a composure, and a lack of impertinent effort to please them overmuch, which altogether charmed them. On four successive Saturdays he drove over to Ashfield,—sometimes stopping with one or the other of the two deacons, and at other times with Squire Elderkin,—and on one or two occasions taking his wife by special invitation. Of her, too, the people of Ashfield had but one opinion: that she was of a ductile temper was most easy to be seen; and there was not a strong-minded woman of the parish but anticipated with delight the power and pleasure of moulding her to her wishes. The husband continued to preach agreeably to their notions of orthodoxy, and at the end of the month they gave him a "call," with the promise of four hundred dollars a year, besides sundry odds and ends made up by donation visits and otherwise.

This sum, which was not an inconsiderable one for those days, enabled the clergyman to rent as a parsonage the old house we have seen, with the big brazen knocker, and diamond lights in either half of its green door. It stood under the shade of two huge ashes, at a little remove back from the street, and within easy walk from the central common. A heavy dentilated cornice, from which the paint was peeling away in flaky patches, hung over the windows of the second floor. Within the door was a little entry—(for years and years the pastor's hat and cane used to lie upon a table that stood just within the door); from the entry a cramped stairway, by three sharp angles, led to the floor above. To the right and left were two low parlors. The sun was shining broadly in the south one when the couple first entered the house.

"Good!" said Rachel, with her pleasant, brisk tone,—"this shall be your study, Benjamin; the bookcase here, the table there, a nice warm carpet, we'll paper it with blue, the Major's sword shall be hung over the mantel."[Pg 151]

"Tut! tut!" says the clergyman, "a sword, Rachel,—in my study?"

"To be sure! why not?" says Rachel. "And if you like, I will hang my picture, with the doves and the olive-branch, above it; and there shall be a shelf for hyacinths in the window."

Thus she ran on in her pretty house-wifely manner, cooing like the doves she talked of, plotting the arrangement of the parlor opposite, of the long dining-room stretching athwart the house in the rear, and of the kitchen under a roof of its own, still farther back,—he all the while giving grave assent, as if he listened to her contrivance: he was only listening to the music of a sweet voice that somehow charmed his ear, and thanking God in his heart that such music was bestowed upon a sinful world, and praying that he might never listen too fondly.

Behind the house were yard, garden, orchard, and this last drooping away to a meadow. Over all these the pair of light feet pattered beside the master. "Here shall be lilies," she said; "there, a great bunch of mother's peonies; and by the gate, hollyhocks";—he, by this time, plotting a sermon upon the vanities of the world.

Yet in due time it came to pass that the parsonage was all arranged according to the fancies of its mistress,—even to the Major's sword and the twin doves. Esther, a stout middle-aged dame, and stanch Congregationalist, recommended by the good women of the parish, is installed in the kitchen as maid-of-all-work. As gardener, groom, (a sedate pony and square-topped chaise forming part of the establishment,) factotum, in short,—there is the frowzy-headed man Larkin, who has his quarters in an airy loft above the kitchen.

The brass knocker is scoured to its brightest. The parish is neighborly. Dame Tourtelot is impressive in her proffers of advice. The Tew partners, Elderkin, Meacham, and all the rest, meet the new housekeepers open-handed. Before mid-winter, the smoke of this new home was piling lazily into the sky above the tree-tops of Ashfield,—a home, as we shall find by and by, of much trial and much cheer. Twenty years after, and the master of it was master of it still,—strong, seemingly, as ever; the brass knocker shining on the door; the sword and the doves in place. But the pattering feet,—the voice that made music,—the tender, wifely plotting,—the cheery sunshine that smote upon her as she talked,—alas for us!—"All is Vanity!"


A little more than two centuries ago, Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury published his great treatise on government, under the title of "Leviathan; or, the Matter, Form, and Power of the Commonwealth, Ecclesiastical and Civil,"—in which he denied that man is born a social being, that government has any natural foundation, and, in a word, all of what men now agree to be the first principles, and receive as axioms, of social and civil science; and declared that man is a beast of prey, a wolf, whose natural state is war, and that government is only a contrivance of men for their own gain, a strong chain thrown over the citizen,—organized, despotic, unprincipled power. To this faithless and impious work, which at least did good by shocking the world and rallying many of the best minds to develop and defend the true principles of society and the state, he put a fit frontispiece, a picture of the vast form[Pg 152] of Leviathan, the Sovereign State, the Mortal God,—a gigantic figure, like that of Giant Despair or the horrid shapes we have sometimes seen pictured as brooding over the Valley of the Shadow of Death,—a Titanic form, whose crowned head and mailed body fill the background and rise above the distant hills and mountain-peaks in the broad landscape which is spread out below, with fields, rivers, harbors, cities, castles, churches, towns and villages, and ships upon the seas and in the ports. Its body and limbs are made up of countless human figures, of every class, all bending reverently toward the sovereign head. Its arms stretch forward to the foreground. In one hand it holds a magnificent crosier, in the other a mighty sword, which reach across and cover the whole. It is surrounded with emblems of power, of which it is the life and embodiment. In the front is a fortified city, with its streets and gate, its cathedral rising high above all other structures, surmounted by the cross, the flag flying from the forts, the sentinel on the ramparts. Its fortresses seem to defy and command the whole empire over which Leviathan predominates. To show more fully how all-pervading and resistless is the power of this monster made of mortal men, and the means and extent of its control in Church and State, to impress the senses, the emblems of its spheres and its instruments are depicted below. First is a castle on a rocky height, with the smoke rolling from its battlements, from which a cannon has just been fired; opposite, a church, with a figure holding the cross above its roof of faith; here a coronet, opposite a mitre; here is a cannon, to thunder in civil war; opposite are the mythic thunderbolts for the fulminations of the Church; below are arms, drums, banners and flags, helmet and halberd, spear and sword and matchlock; opposite appears a front, between the devilish horns of which, marked "dilemma," is formed a sort of trophy, made up of a trident spear, labelled "syllogism," and bifurcated weapons, named "real and intentional," "spiritual and temporal," and one beyond whose long straight point, labelled "direct," there is another sharp, keen one, curving round and covering it, labelled "indirect"; last is the battle-field, with armies rushing together in deadly charge, their flags flying above the long lines whose sloping spears bristle above the clouds of smoke and dust, the cavalry and foot engaged with sabres and pistols, men and horses fallen, the victors, the wounded, the dying, and the dead,—the dread arbitrament of war; opposite, the judges ranged in formal order, with their caps and black robes,—a Rhadamanthine tribunal. Seeing such a summary and embodiment of his idea, a man will shudder the more he ponders on such a conception of the state as such a monstrous idol, which men have fashioned out of their own bodies and invested with the attributes of superhuman power, and worshipped as the creator of Justice and Law, Peace and Order, Truth and Religion, and served and obeyed as their Tyrant and King.

The American state,—which, as Franklin said, "first set forth religious truth as the basis of government," formed by the people, who, calling on all mankind to witness their solemn appeal to the Supreme Judge of the world, "pledged themselves," as Adams said, "to extinguish Slavery as soon as practicable,"—the state formed to establish justice,—the state for which the founders reverently adopted as the true emblem the Goddess of Liberty,—had, at the time when Slavery, the patricide, waged this war to finish the revolution already almost complete, so essentially changed, that it bore a striking resemblance to that dreadful picture of the giant form of the Leviathan. Populus Romanus repente factus est alius.

It will be difficult to decide which branch of our government was most efficient in producing this change; as it will be difficult for one who considers the principle, or want of principle, on which this Juggernaut was constructed, to decide which would be the more horrible, a decision by battle or by the[Pg 153] robed ministers of evil. But as the Leviathan, Slavery,—the Mortal God, the incarnation of Evil,—is growing more and more shadowy, and men again behold the heavenly Guardian of their State, Americans feel, and the world agrees, that war, though it reaches other classes and in different form, is really attended with less horror and woe at the time than several judicial decisions have occasioned; and that the lasting results of battles are incalculably more insignificant than the judgments of courts may be.

Roger Brooke Taney was, when nearly sixty years old, placed at the head of the Judiciary, at a critical time in American affairs. The Slave Power, so successful in extending its dominion, and already the controlling influence in the government, was pressing its unholy and arrogant demands openly and without shame. It had destroyed civil liberty in the Slave States, and was fast destroying it in the Free. It was stifling the right of petition in Congress, and smothering free speech in the States. The Executive was recommending that the mails should be sifted for its safety. The question of the right of Slavery in the Territories and the Free States was taking form, and the slave-catchers claimed to hunt their prey through the Northern States, without regard to the rights of freemen or the law of the land. Taney had long been known as an astute and skilful lawyer, a man of ability and learning in his profession—as ability and learning are commonly gauged. He had been Attorney-General of Maryland, and in 1831 had been appointed Attorney-General of the United States. He was an ardent partisan supporter of the administration; and in 1833, when Duane refused to remove the deposits, he was appointed to the Treasury as a willing servant, and did not hesitate to do what was expected of him.

In 1835, while the country was deeply agitated by questions concerning the rights of States and the powers of the government, he was nominated to a vacancy on the Supreme Bench. His opinions on those questions were well known, and the consideration of his nomination indefinitely postponed.

But some time after the death of Chief Justice Marshall, which occurred on the 6th of July, 1835, Taney was nominated as his successor, and in 1836, the political complexion of the Senate having in the mean time changed, was confirmed by party influence, and took his seat at the head of the Judiciary in January, 1837.

He was essentially a partisan judge, as much so as were the judges of King Charles, who decided for the ship-money in accordance with their previously announced opinions. The President wrote him a letter in which he thanked him for abandoning the duties of his profession and promptly aiding him by removing the deposits; and Webster declared he was the pliant tool of the Executive. The Massachusetts, Kentucky, and New York cases in the very first volume of the Reports showed that, if not swift to do the work for which he had been selected, he did not hesitate to embody his political principles in judicial decisions. But we do not intend to examine these, or to review the long series of decisions, extending over more than a quarter of a century, and through more than thirty volumes, on the common or even the grander questions discussed in that tribunal, which will all, or nearly all, be unknown,—save to the profession,—and will have but little influence on the welfare of the country and the course of history. We would consider only the more important of those decisions touching Slavery, the cause of this Revolution, which have already shaped the course of events, and become the record of his character as a jurist, a patriot, and a man.

His private opinions about Slavery are not matter of comment or inquiry. There are two official opinions given by him while Attorney-General in 1831 which relate to the matter. In one of these he had to consider whether the United States would protect the right of a slave-master over his slave, employed[Pg 154] as a seaman on a ship trading to one of the States, in which he expressed the opinion that the United States could not, by treaty, control the several States in the exercise of their power of declaring a slave free on being brought within their limits. In the other, he held that a person removing his slaves with him to Texas, merely for a temporary sojourn, and with the intention of returning again in a short time to the United States, might safely bring his slaves back with him. But he then declared, that if the owner had placed his slaves in Texas as their domicile, he would be liable to prosecution, under the act of Congress, if he should bring them back into the United States.

In 1837, the very year Taney took his seat on the Supreme Bench, he gave the opinion of the Court in the cases of the Garonne and the Fortune, two vessels libelled, under the act of 1818, for bringing as slaves into New Orleans persons who had, in 1831 and 1835, been carried to France and some of them manumitted there. The judge then said that, "assuming that by French law they were entitled to freedom, there is nothing in this act to prevent their mistress bringing them back and holding them as before."

He seems to have considered it immaterial, or to have been ignorant, that, in accordance with the maxim, "Once free, forever free," declared in the courts of his own State of Maryland, the courts of Louisiana held, as did those of Kentucky and other States also, that, "having been for one moment in France, it was not in the power of her former owner to reduce her again to slavery," and to have forgotten the doctrines of one of his own opinions.

Slavery, when he came upon the bench, began to look to the Supreme Court as its surest defence.

The Prigg case, as it is called, or, as lawyers call it, Prigg vs. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, was an amicable suit; the parties in interest being the States of Maryland and Pennsylvania, which were represented by the ablest counsel, who came into court, as Johnson, Attorney-General of Pennsylvania, said, "to terminate disputes and contentions which were arising, and had for years arisen, along the border line between them, on the subject of the escape and delivering up of fugitive slaves." The counsel regarded themselves, as he said, as engaged in "the work of peace," and "of patriotism also."

Edward Prigg and others were indicted in Pennsylvania for kidnapping a negro woman on the 1st of April, 1837. The cause came to trial before the York Quarter Sessions, May 22, 1839; and the counsel agreed that a special verdict should be taken and judgment rendered, and thereupon the case carried up, so as to present the questions of law arising, under the Pennsylvania Emancipation Act of 1780, upon the United States act of 1793 touching fugitives from labor, and the statute of Pennsylvania passed in 1826, which provided for the seizure and surrender of fugitive slaves and for the punishment of kidnapping. The case was made up and presented in that spirit of compromise which has been the bane and delusion of America, (as if there could be any compromise of justice,)—the counsel for Pennsylvania claiming that their statute was auxiliary to that of the United States, really beneficial to Slavery, and that they advocated the true interests of the South as well as of the Union and the North,—in order to have the Judiciary authoritatively settle the vital question of the rights of the master in the seizure, and of the States in the rendition, of fugitive slaves. The Court decided, fully, that the master had a right to seize his fugitive slave wherever he could find him, and take him back without process; that the law of 1793 was constitutional; and that the United States had the exclusive power of legislation on that matter.

But this did not satisfy Chief Justice Taney. He agreed that the master had the right of seizure. He declared that this right was the law of each State, and that no State had power to abrogate or alter it, and foreshadowed the[Pg 155] idea that the Constitution carried Slavery over all the Territories and States. But he dissented from the Court when they held the Pennsylvania act to be invalid. And without relying on any principle, without any discussion of, or the slightest allusion to, any authorities or the great fundamental questions involved in that issue, he coolly depicted the inconveniences the slave-catcher might be subject to in States where there was but one District Judge, and how essentially he would be aided by the State legislation; and pointed out to his brethren those "consequences" which they did "not contemplate" and to which they "did not suppose the opinion they had given would lead." And he said that, where the States had such statutes, "it had not heretofore been supposed necessary, in order to justify those laws, to refer them to the questionable powers of internal and local police. They were believed to stand upon surer and safer grounds, to secure the delivery of the fugitive slave to his lawful owner."

Counsel said, "The long, impatient struggle on that question was nearly over. The decision of this Court would put it at rest." It was not so. This decision was made in 1843. But from that time the strife over that question was more violent than ever. The Slave Power took this decision as a new concession and guaranty. It certainly affirmed the right of the master to exercise his absolute power, in the most offensive form, to be beyond control of all legislation whatever, State or National. The Court doubtless meant, as the States and the counsel did, by giving to Congress the exclusive power of legislation on the surrender of fugitives from labor, to settle this question in such form as to satisfy the Slave Power.

If the opinion of Mr. Webster be worth anything, they forgot the maxim, "Judicis est jus dicere, non dare." Most surely Taney ignored his State-Rights doctrines when, looking far on for the interests of Slavery and the convenience of slave hunters, he held the United States authorized to legislate on the matter; and, disguising the poison under the phrase, "the Constitution and every clause of it is part of the law of every State of the land," he put forth the dogma that the rendition clause merely provided for the rights of citizens, "put them under protection of the General Government," and made "the rights of the master the law of each State." He was declaring a rule of government, not a rule of law, and creating a theory for the defence of property in man.

In 1850 he went a step farther. A Kentucky slave-owner had been in the habit of letting some of his slaves go into Ohio to sing as minstrels. He filed a bill against a steamboat and her captain to recover the value of those slaves, who, after their return, had been carried across the river and escaped. It must be remembered that they had not first escaped, but had been carried to Ohio. But here, again, without recurring to any of the principles presented and fairly involved in such an issue, again looking far on to consequences in the interest of Slavery, again ignoring, not only the first principles of jurisprudence and the declared ends of the Constitution, but even his own political State-Rights doctrine, (for if these men had not escaped, why could not Ohio free them?) he declared a doctrine pregnant with mischief,—that each State had the absolute right to decide the status of all persons within its limits. This, too, has gone with war. But his intent is none the less clear. The theory was obviously stated with a far-reaching view to remote consequences. And it must be considered in connection with the fact that, in lieu of the old rule which had been recognized by the Slave States, that a slave, by being carried to a Free State or domiciled for a day in a foreign country by whose law he was enfranchised, was liberated forever,—once free, free forever and everywhere,—the Slave Power was beginning to assert a new rule for reënslavement by recapture and on return.

But the Slave Power, having controlled the executive and directed the legislative branch of the government, again[Pg 156] turned to judicial power as the surest, and best able to work out easily the largest and most lasting results. The Dred Scott case was begun in 1854, and brought up, twice argued, and finally decided in 1856; Chief Justice Taney delivering the opinion of the Court. The facts and result of that case are well known. In a cause dismissed for want of jurisdiction, this Court pretended to decide that no person of African slave descent could ever be a citizen of the United States, and that the adoption of the Missouri Compromise line by the Congress of 1820, acquiesced in for thirty-five years, was unconstitutional. This doctrine was entirely extrajudicial, and, as one of the judges declared, "an assumption of authority."

We do not propose to discuss this decision. It was the lowest depth. It probably did more than all legislative and executive usurpations to revive the spirit of liberty,—to recall the country to the principles of the founders of the Constitution. It began the good work,—evoking the truth, by showing its own fiendish principles,—which the war is likely to finish forever. We wish, however, to give an analysis of the doctrines and reasons on which his decision was based, and therefrom to show what is the true place of Roger Brooke Taney as a jurist and a patriot.

Now the course of his argument was this,—admitting that all persons who were citizens of the several States at the time of the adoption of the Constitution became citizens of the United States, to show that persons of African descent, whose ancestors had been slaves, were not in any State citizens.

And first, he tries to show this "by the legislation and histories of the times, and the language used in the Declaration of Independence"; and after referring to the laws of two or three Colonies restricting intermarriage of races, and affirming that, though freed, colored persons were in all the Colonies held to be no part of the people, and declaring that "in no nation was this opinion more uniformly acted upon than by the English government and people," admitting that "the general words 'all men are created equal,' etc., would seem to embrace the whole human family," and that the framers of the Declaration were "high in their sense of honor, and incapable of asserting principles inconsistent with those on which they were acting," he argues that, because they had not fully carried out, and did not afterwards fully carry out, their avowed principles by instant and universal emancipation, therefore he can give to as plain and absolute words as were ever written, expressive of universal laws, a force just opposite to their terms;—a new form of argument, which begins by assuming the truth of the proposition desired, and ends by denying the truth of the admitted premises.

He then proceeds, to inquire if the terms "we, the people," in the Constitution, embraced the persons in question. Here, too, he admits that they did embrace all who were members of the several States. Then, turning round the power given Congress to end the slave-trade after 1808, and arguing from it as a reserved right to acquire property till that time; laying aside the fact that the framers of the Declaration had acted on their declared principles, and that in many States, as in Massachusetts and Vermont, even in Southern States, as in North Carolina they remained till 1837, many freed colored persons were citizens at that time, with the remark, that "the numbers that had been emancipated at that time were but few in comparison with those held in slavery," assuming that the very acts of the States suppressing the slave-trade helped instead of destroying his argument; arguing from the fact that Congress had not authorized the naturalization of colored persons, or enrolled them in the militia; arguing even from State laws passed in the most passionate moments as late as 1833; going back to the old Colonial acts of Maryland in 1717, and of Massachusetts in 1705; even coming down to the fact that Caleb Cushing gave his opinion that they could not have passports as citizens; denying that the "free inhabitants" in the Articles of[Pg 157] Confederation, which he was forced to concede did in terms embrace freemen, actually did include them, because the quota of land forces was proportioned to the white inhabitants,—he affirmed that they were not and never could become citizens, that neither the States nor the nation had power to lift them from their abject condition. The United States could naturalize Indians. But neither the United States nor the individual States could make colored persons citizens.

The Chief Justice stated that colored persons were not, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, citizens under the laws of the several States and the laws of the civilized world. But he knew, for it had been shown to him in the arguments, that such persons, and many who had been slaves, were then citizens in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and North Carolina, as they likewise were in Vermont, Pennsylvania, and in other States. And he knew—for in 1831 he himself said it was "a fixed principle of the law of England, that a slave becomes free as soon as he touches her shores"—that he declared as law what was not the law of civilized nations; that in 1762 Lord Northington declared that "as soon as a man sets foot on English ground he is free"; and that Lord Mansfield had, in 1772, held that "Slavery is so odious that it cannot be established without positive law." He knew (or he declared what he did not know) that at that day the sentiment in France was so directly to the contrary, that in 1791 the law was "Tout individu est libre aussitôt qu'il est en France." At the time to which he referred, public opinion in the American States and in foreign countries, and the legislation of the various States, were just the opposite of what he stated them to be. Liberty was just at the moment more truly the sentiment of the country and of states in amity with it than at any other. The assertion, that colored persons could not be and were not citizens of the several States, was simply false. In most if not in all of the States such persons were citizens. In 1776, the Quakers refused fellowship with such as held slaves; that sect, through all the States, enfranchised their slaves, who, on such enfranchisement, became citizens. American courts were not behind the English courts. States adopted the language of the Declaration into their Constitutions for the purpose of universal emancipation, and the courts decided that that was its effect. At the time of the adoption of the Constitution the leading men of all sections considered emancipation essential to the realization of the American idea; for their government was founded on a theory, and avowed principles, which rendered it necessary, and which, with the performance of the pledges of the States and the exercise of the powers directly given to the Union, would make liberty universal and perpetual.

Taney even argued that persons of African descent could not be citizens, because they could "enter every State when they pleased, without pass or passport, and without obstruction, to sojourn there as long as they pleased, to go where they please, at every hour of the day or night, without molestation, unless they committed some violation of law for which a white man would be punished; and it would give them full liberty of speech, in public and in private, upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might speak, to hold public meetings," and "to bear arms"! As if this would not be to a true jurist and just judge expounding a Constitution made "to establish justice" itself the ground to for deciding that citizenship was opened to them by emancipation; as if the blessings of liberty ought not to prevail over any inconveniences to slave-holders.

His argument from subsequent legislation was perfectly idle. For, at most, the statutes of Naturalization and Enrolment merely showed that Congress did not then choose to apply to colored persons the power given to them in absolute terms, and which he admits they had as to Indians. While in other statutes, as that of 1808, of Seamen, and in several treaties, as, for instance, those whereby Louisiana, Florida, and New[Pg 158] Mexico were acquired, colored persons are expressly named as citizens.

Having denied the clear facts of history, renounced the obligation of explicit language, professed to stand on an argument every member of which was destructive of his conclusion, he thus stated the result: "They were at that time," 1789, "considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the government might choose to grant them"; that the opinion had obtained "for more than a century" that they were "beings of an inferior order," with "no rights which the white man was bound to respect," who "might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery," "an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic wherever a profit could be made of it"; and this opinion was then "fixed and universal in the civilized portion of the white race,"—"an axiom in morals as well as politics." He then declares, that to call them "citizens" would be "an abuse of terms" "not calculated to exalt the character of the American citizen in the eyes of other nations."

No wonder the nations pointed the finger of scorn, and cried out, "Is this the perfection of beauty, the joy of the whole earth? Shade of Jefferson! is this the reading America was to give the Declaration? Did you publish a lie to the world? Spirits of Franklin, Adams, and Washington! is this your work? Americans! is this your character?"

He declares, further, that the Court has no right to change the construction of the Constitution; that "it speaks in the same words, with the same meaning and intent, with which it spoke when it came from the hands of its framers, and was voted on and adopted by the people of the United States. Any other rule of construction would abrogate the judicial character of this Court, and make it the mere reflex of the popular opinion or passion of the day. This Court was not created by the Constitution for such purposes. Higher and graver trusts have been confided to it; and it must not falter in the path of duty!" Would to God it had not faltered in the path of duty, that it had been true to those higher and graver trusts! Would that it had not been the mere reflex of popular opinion or the passion of the day, that it had not abrogated its judicial character! Would that it had read the plain words in the holy spirit in which they were written! Would that it had left the Constitution as it was, and, instead of thus writing its own condemnation, had shown how efficient an instrument that Constitution would be, if fearlessly used to carry out the great principles of humanity for which its preamble declares it was established!

Here is the key to the new distinction between the Constitution as it is and the Constitution as it was. But as it was in the beginning, so it is and shall be.

But Taney could not stop here. Compromises had been made through the other branches of the government,—compromises held sacred for more than a generation, in the vain hope to appease the insatiate lust of the Slave Power. He went on with a longer and lower argument to declare one branch of the Compromise—the act of Congress prohibiting slavery in territory north of 36° 30'—void.

Even more,—for he seemed determined to make clean work of it,—he went on to say that a slave who had been made free by being taken (not escaping, but by being carried by his owner) to a Free State was reduced to slavery again on arriving back in the State from which he had been taken, and that that was the result of Strader vs. Graham, which declared that the status of persons, whether free or slave, depended on the State law. Here, again, he sacrificed his cherished party principles to his love for Slavery. Else how could the State to which the slave had been carried be deprived of its right to enfranchise, or how could the United[Pg 159] States power be extended further than to the expressly granted case of escape?

But no. He was a judicial Calhoun. His dogma was that the fundamental law guaranteed property in man. He declared that therefore Congress could not interfere with it in the Territories. Before he was judge, he admitted the right of sojourn. There was but one step more,—the sacred right of slave property in Free States. It was involved in what he had already said, and was not so great an anomaly as he had already sanctioned; for if the Constitution guarantees this property in every State,—if the States do not reserve the power to interfere with it,—if, in case of escape, Congress has the power to reclaim it,—why is not the owner to be guaranteed it in the States as well as in the Territories?

In looking across this long judicial Sahara of twenty-seven years, there is but one oasis. In the Amistad case, the Court did declare that Cinque and the rest, who had been kidnapped, had the right to regain their natural liberty, even at the cost of the lives of those who held them in bondage; and for once the Court, speaking by Story, did appeal to the laws of nature and of nations, and decide the case "upon the eternal principles of justice." But all else is, in the light of this question of Slavery, by which this age will be remembered and judged, a dreary, barren waste of shifting, blinding, stifling sand.

History will tell whether America is to be judged by the words spoken by him who so long held the highest seat in her courts. We do not think she has fallen to such a depth. He did not speak for her; but he did for himself.

By this record will the world judge Chief Justice Taney. His great familiarity with the special practice; his knowledge of the peculiar jurisdiction of his tribunals; his acquaintance with the doctrines and decisions of the common law, with equity and admiralty; his opinions on corporate and municipal powers and rights, on land claims, State boundaries, the Gaines case, the Girard will, on corporations; his decisions on patent-rights and on copyrights; his opinions extending admiralty jurisdiction to inner waters, on liability of public officers, and rights of State or national taxation, on the liquor and passenger laws, on State insolvent laws, on commercial questions, on belligerent rights, and on the organization of States,—after doing service for the day in the mechanical branch of his craft, will soon be all forgotten. But the slavocrats' revolution of the last two generations, and the Secession war, and the triumph of Liberty, will be the theme of the world; and he, of all who precipitated them, will be most likely, after the traitor leaders, to be held in infamous remembrance; for he did more than any other individual,—more than any President, if not more than all,—more in one hour than the Legislature in thirty years,—to extend the Slave Power. Indeed, he had solemnly decided all and more than all that President Buchanan, closing his long political life of servility in imbecility, in December, 1860, asked to have adopted as an "explanatory amendment" of the Constitution, to fully satisfy the Slave Power. Well would it have been for that Power, for a while at least, had its members recollected that "no tyranny is so secure, none so remediless, as that of executive courts"; well for them,—if it is better to rule in hell than serve in heaven,—but worse for the world, had they been patient. But the dose of poison was too great. Nature relieved itself. War came, not the ruin, but the only salvation, of the state.

The movements of events have been so rapid, the work of generations being done in as many years, that Taney's character is already historic; and we can judge of it by his relation to the great event which alone will preserve it from oblivion.

In judging his public character as the head of the Judiciary of America, consider the cause he sought to promote, his motives, the means he used, his resources as a jurist and a lawyer in that cause, the intended effect and actual results.[Pg 160]

And of the cause this must be said and agreed by all, that there was never one of which a court could take cognizance in America, England, or the world so utterly evil and infamous as that of Slavery in the United States. Did he realize its extent? Yes, there were "few freedmen compared with the slaves," say only sixty thousand out of seven hundred thousand in 1789. He fully realized that, in repudiating the promise made for those seven hundred thousand, a pledge made with the most solemn appeal to man and to God, he utterly destroyed the rights and hopes of four million men. He knew he was deciding, for a vast empire, weal or woe; and he knew it was woe, or he had no sense of justice.

And his motives? He was not venal, not corrupt, not a respecter of persons. But there is something bad besides venality, corruption, and personal partiality. The worst of motives is disposition to serve the cause of evil. The country knows, the world will declare, none served it so well. But was he conscious of serving it? Yes,—unless the traitors so eagerly sought to put all these interests under his jurisdiction without motive,—unless his eager and unnecessary, and, as was declared and is now agreed, assumed jurisdiction over it, his "far-seeing" care and untiring defence of them, their appeal to his decisions, were all mistakes,—unless all these, and his manner, their motives, and the assured results, coincided so as by the law of chances was impossible,—he was conscious. To deny it is to say that he was imbued with the spirit of evil.

The world knows by what means he assumed to settle these questions. We have seen something of the nature of his arguments. With these, too, men are somewhat familiar, and by these let them judge of him as a jurist.

There is not in them all one faint recognition of the axioms of law,—one position founded on the laws of nature or the rules of eternal justice and the right,—one notice of the great primal rules laid down by all jurists and great judges of ancient and modern times, or of the precepts of religion by which any magistrate in a Christian land must expect to be governed, or to be held infamous forever. Nay, more: he does not recognize at all those fundamental principles of the Constitution and Declaration which are stated in plain terms in the first lines of both. He did worse than torture and pervert language: he reversed its meaning. He denied the undoubted facts of history. He denied the settled truths of science. He slandered the memory of the founders of the government and framers of the Declaration. He was ready to cover the most glorious page of the history of his country with infamy, and insulted the intelligence and virtue of the civilized world.

Where, outside his "axiom in morals and politics" can be found so monstrous a combination of ignorance, injustice, falsehood, and impiety? Ignorant of the meaning of an "axiom"; denying the truths of science; falsifying history; setting above the Constitution the most odious theory of tyranny, long before exploded; scoffing at the rules of justice and sentiments of humanity,—he tied in a knot those cords which must end the life of his country or be burst in revolution.

He well knew, too, what would be the effects of his decision. Avowedly he was ready to lay the time-honored principles of civil right and the ancient law at the feet of the Slave Power. The passions of a mighty people never raged more fiercely than whilst that last cause was before his court,—save in open war; and there was almost war then. He well-knew nothing would so force them to desperation,—the desperation of unlicensed barbarism or the immovable determination of truth and justice driven to the wall. He knew, or if he did not, was so ignorant that he was incompetent, that in such a contest on such fundamental principles, such a decision must end in revolution and civil war. If he dreamed of peace, then he was ready to seal the doom of four million, and at the end of this century of ten million souls.

In all these decisions he appeals to[Pg 161] no one great principle. There is little in all his judgments to raise him above the rank of respectable jurists; and in these, presenting the fairest occasion ever offered to a true lawyer, to one fit to be called an American, nothing that will not cover his name with infamy, where, on far lesser occasions, Hale and Holt, Somers and Mansfield, covered theirs with honor, and added to the glory of their country, and did good to mankind.

He was not, indeed, of that class of the bad to which the profane Jeffreys and Scroggs and the obscene Kelyng belong. But he was as prone to the wrong as was Chief Justice Fleming in sustaining impositions, and Chancellor Ellesmere in supporting benevolences for King James; as ready to do it as Hyde and Heath were to legalize "general warrants" "by expositions of the law"; as Finch and Jones, Brampton and Coventry, were to legalize "ship-money" for King Charles; as swift as Dudley was under Andros; as Bernard and Hutchinson and Oliver were in Colonial times to serve King George III.; as judges have been in later times to do like evil work. Some of these, perhaps, had no conscious intent to do specific wrong. Their failure was judicial blindness; their sin, unconscious love of evil. But this question of Slavery towers above all others that Taney ever had to consider; America professed a loftier standard of justice than England ever adopted; the question of the liberty of a race is more important, the question whether the State is founded on might or on right is more vital, than those of warrants and ship-money, benevolences and loans; and Roger Brooke Taney sinks below all these tools of Tyranny.

Hobbes said, that, "when it should be thought contrary to the interest of men that have dominion that the three angles of a triangle should equal two right angles, that truth would be suppressed." Taney did deny truths far plainer than that,—the axioms of right itself. He did more than any other man to make actual that awful picture of the Great Leviathan, the Mortal God. How just, how true, were those last symbols of the State founded on mortal power! The end of the dread conflict of battle is the same as the end of the equally dreadful issue of the Court.

But those he served themselves with the sword cut the knot he so securely tied; his own State was tearing off the poisoned robe in the very hour in which he was called before the Judge of all. America stood forth once more the same she was when the old man was a boy. The work which he had watched for years and generations, the work of evil to which all the art of man and the power of the State had been subservient, that work which he sought to finish with the fatal decree of his august bench, one cannon-shot shattered forever.

He is dead. Slavery is dying. The destiny of the country is in the hand of the Eternal Lord.

[Pg 162]


A Legend of "The Red, White, and Blue," A.D. 1154-1864

A strong and mighty Angel,
Calm, terrible, and bright,
The cross in blended red and blue
Upon his mantle white!
Two captives by him kneeling,
Each on his broken chain,
Sang praise to God who raiseth
The dead to life again!
Dropping his cross-wrought mantle,
"Wear this," the Angel said;
"Take thou, O Freedom's priest, its sign,—
The white, the blue, and red."
Then rose up John de Matha
In the strength the Lord Christ gave,
And begged through all the land of France
The ransom of the slave.
The gates of tower and castle
Before him open flew,
The drawbridge at his coming fell,
The door-bolt backward drew.
For all men owned his errand,
And paid his righteous tax;
And the hearts of lord and peasant
Were in his hands as wax.
At last, outbound from Tunis,
His bark her anchor weighed,
Freighted with seven score Christian souls
Whose ransom he had paid.
But, torn by Paynim hatred,
Her sails in tatters hung;
And on the wild waves, rudderless,
A shattered hulk she swung.
"God save us!" cried the captain,
"For nought can man avail:
Oh, woe betide the ship that lacks
Her rudder and her sail!
[Pg 163]
"Behind us are the Moormen;
At sea we sink or strand:
There's death upon the water,
There's death upon the land!"
Then up spake John de Matha:
"God's errands never fail!
Take thou the mantle which I wear,
And make of it a sail."
They raised the cross-wrought mantle,
The blue, the white, the red;
And straight before the wind off-shore
The ship of Freedom sped.
"God help us!" cried the seamen,
"For vain is mortal skill:
The good ship on a stormy sea
Is drifting at its will."
Then up spake John de Matha:
"My mariners, never fear!
The Lord whose breath has filled her sail
May well our vessel steer!"
So on through storm and darkness
They drove for weary hours;
And lo! the third gray morning shone
On Ostia's friendly towers.
And on the walls the watchers
The ship of mercy knew,—
They knew far off its holy cross,
The red, the white, and blue.
And the bells in all the steeples
Rang out in glad accord,
To welcome home to Christian soil
The ransomed of the Lord.
So runs the ancient legend
By bard and painter told;
And lo! the cycle rounds again,
The new is as the old!
With rudder foully broken,
And sails by traitors torn,
Our Country on a midnight sea
Is waiting for the morn.
[Pg 164]
Before her, nameless terror;
Behind, the pirate foe;
The clouds are black above her,
The sea is white below.
The hope of all who suffer,
The dread of all who wrong;
She drifts in darkness and in storm,
How long, O Lord! how long?
But courage, O my mariners!
Ye shall not suffer wreck,
While up to God the freedman's prayers
Are rising from your deck.
Is not your sail the banner
Which God hath blest anew,
The mantle that De Matha wore,
The red, the white, the blue?
Its hues are all of heaven,—
The red of sunset's dye,
The whiteness of the moon-lit cloud,
The blue of morning's sky.
Wait cheerily, then, O mariners,
For daylight and for land;
The breath of God is in your sail,
Your rudder is His hand.
Sail on, sail on, deep-freighted
With blessings and with hopes;
The saints of old with shadowy hands
Are pulling at your ropes.
Behind ye holy martyrs
Uplift the palm and crown;
Before ye unborn ages send
Their benedictions down.
Take heart from John de Matha!—
God's errands never fail!
Sweep on through storm and darkness,
The thunder and the hail!
Sail on! The morning cometh,
The port ye yet shall win;
And all the bells of God shall ring
The good ship bravely in!

[Pg 165]





All of us children were sent to the public school as soon as we were old enough. There was no urgency required to get us off in the morning, as we were too fond of books and reading to be found lagging as to time, neither were we often caught at the tail of a class. Fred was particularly smart in his studies, and was generally so much in advance of myself as to be able to give me great assistance in things that I did not fully understand, and there was so much affection between us that he was always ready to play the teacher to us at home.

When fifteen years old, I was taken from school,—my education was finished,—that is to say, I had received all I was to get, and that was supposed to be enough for me: I was not to shine in the world. Though far short of what the children of wealthy parents receive at fashionable establishments, yet it was quite sufficient for my station in life, which no one expected me to rise above. I had not studied either French or music or dancing, nor sported fine dresses or showy bonnets; for our whole bringing up was in keeping with our position. Was I not to be a sewing-girl?—and how improper it would have been to educate me with tastes which all the earnings of a sewing-girl would be unable to gratify! I presume, that, if we had had the means, notwithstanding our peculiarly strict training, we should have been indulged in some of these superfluities. I know that I could easily have learned to enjoy them quite as much as others do. But we were so taught at home that the desire for them was never so strong as to occasion grief because it could not be gratified. I think we were quite as happy without them.

As soon as I had left school, my mother installed me as her assistant seamstress. She had at intervals continued to work for the slop-shops, in spite of the low prices and the discourteous treatment she received; and now, when established as her regular helper, I saw and learned more of the trials inseparable from such an employment. I had also grown old enough to understand what they were, and how mortifying to an honorable self-respect. But I took to the needle with almost as great a liking—at least at the beginning—as to my books. The desire to assist my mother was also an absorbing one. I was as anxious to make good wages as she was; for I now consumed more stuff for dresses, as well as a more costly material, and in other ways increased the family expenses. It was the same with Fred and Jane,—they were growing older, and added to the general cost of housekeeping, but without being able to contribute anything toward meeting it.

A girl in my station in life feels an honorable ambition to clothe herself and pay for her board, as soon as she reaches eighteen years of age. This praiseworthy desire seems to prevail universally with those who have no portion to expect from parents, if their domestic training has been of the right character. It does not spring from exacting demands of either father or mother, but from a natural feeling of duty and propriety, and a commendable pride to be thus far independent. If able to earn money at any reputable employment, such girls eagerly embrace it. They pay their parents from their[Pg 166] weekly wages as punctually as if boarding with a stranger, and it is to many of them a serious grief when dull times come on and prevent them from earning sufficient to continue these payments.

So unjustly low is the established scale of female wages, that girls of this class are rarely able to save anything. They earn from two to three dollars per week, and in thousands of cases not more than half of the larger sum. It is because of these extremely small wages that the price of board for a working-woman is established at so low a figure,—being graduated to her ability to pay. But low as the price may be, it consumes the chief part of her earnings, leaving her little to bestow on the apparel in which every American woman feels a proper pride in clothing herself. She must dress neatly at least, no matter how the doing so may stint her in respect of all bodily or mental recreation; for, with her, appearance is everything. A mean dress would in many places exclude her from employment,—while a neat one would insure it. Then, if working with other girls in factories, or binderies, or other places where girls are largely employed, and where even a fashionable style of dress is generally to be observed, she feels it necessary to maintain a style equal to that of her fellow-workers. Thus the tax imposed upon her by the absolute necessity of keeping up a genteel appearance absorbs all the remainder of her little earnings.

Not so with the servant-girl in a family. She pays no board-tax,—her earnings are all profit. But thus having more to spend on dress, she clothes herself in expensive fabrics, until she generally outshines even her mistress. So numerous is this class in our country, so high are their wages, and so uniformly do they spend their earnings in costly goods of foreign manufacture, all now paying an excessive import duty, that I am half inclined to think these foreign cooks and chambermaids may even be depended on to pay the interest of the public debt, if not the great bulk of the debt itself. Their consumption of imported fabrics on which a high duty is levied is very large, and no increase of price seems to prevent them from continuing to purchase. Whoever shall inquire of a shopkeeper on this subject will be told that this class of women generally buy the most expensive goods. Indeed, one has only to observe them in the street to see that they all have silks as essential to their outfit, with abundance of laces and other foreign stuffs.

The change from the low wages, the hard work, and the mean fare in Ireland to the high pay, the light work, and the abundant food of the kitchens in this country, seems to produce a total revolution in their habits and aspirations. Look at them as they land upon our wharves, all of them in the commonest attire, the very coarsest shoes, many without bonnets. Mark the contrast in their appearance which only a few months' employment as cooks or chambermaids produces. Every thread of the cheap home-made fabrics in which they came to this country has disappeared; and in place of them may be seen flashy silks or equally flashy chintzes or delaines, all the product of foreign looms. Every dollar they may have thus far earned has been spent in personal adornment. At home, extremely low wages and scanty employment made money comparatively unattainable. Here, high wages and an active competition for their services have put money into their hands so plenteously as to open to them a new life. They see that American women generally dress extravagantly; that even their own countrywomen whom they meet on their arrival here are expensively attired; and the power of these pernicious examples is such, that, when aided by that natural fondness for personal decoration which I freely confess to be inherent in my sex, they begin their new career by imitating them. At home, public example taught them to be saving of their money; here, it teaches no other lesson than to spend it. There, it came slowly and painfully, and was consequently valued; here, it comes[Pg 167] readily and for the asking, and is parted with almost as quickly as it has been earned. I have never been the victim of this common infatuation, to spend my last dollar on a dress that would not become my station; I have been the architect of my own bonnets; I have never been the owner of a silken outfit.

The idea of this class of women being large enough to pay the interest on our public debt, in the shape of duties on the imported goods which they consume, will of course excite a smile in all to whom it is suggested. It will be a wonder, moreover, how the attention of a quiet sewing-girl like myself should have been drawn to a subject so exclusively within the domain of masculine thought. But all know that the nation has been feeling the pressure of a universal rise of prices. When any woman comes to buy the commonest article of dry goods for the family, she finds that foreign fabrics are generally much higher in price than goods of the same quality made in this country. On asking the reason for this difference, she is told it is owing to the tariff, to the greatly enhanced duty that has been put on foreign goods, and that those who buy and consume them must pay this duty in the shape of an increase of price. I have resolutely refused to purchase the imported goods, and preferred those made at home, thus unconsciously becoming a member of the woman's league for the support of domestic manufactures.

But it is not so with the army of foreign servant-girls among us. They choose the finest and most expensive articles, loaded as they are with a heavy duty. There are millions of American women who purchase in the same way. This craving after foreign luxuries seems to be unconquerable by anything short of absolute inability to indulge in it. But I suppose there must always be somebody to purchase and consume these imported goods. And perhaps, after all, it is well that there should be; for if the nation is to pay a great sum every year for interest out of its import duties, it could hardly raise the means, unless there were an army of thoughtless American women and Irish servant-girls to help it do so. If they are willing to undertake the task, I am sure they have my consent.

If the reader should be surprised at the idea of the interest on the public debt being paid from the extravagance of one class of women, he will be more so at the assertion made by a speaker in the highest deliberative body in the country, that another class would be able to pay the debt itself. He said our dairy-women alone were able to do it,—that in ten years they would churn it out,—because within that short period they would produce butter enough to discharge the whole amount. This may be all true; for how should I know the number of cows in this country, or the disposition of the dairy-maids? But I presume he had not consulted them as to whether they were willing to milk cows and churn butter for a term of ten years for the sole benefit of the nation. I am inclined to think they would make no such patriotic sacrifice, except on compulsion. But with tawdry servant-girls and equally tawdry ladies, the case is widely different; the latter pursue their great task voluntarily; indeed, it would seem that they rather enjoy it; so that the more one reflects on the idea, the less absurd does it appear.

It is very certain that the Irish who come among us have for many years been sending home millions of dollars to pay the passage hither of friends whom they had left behind. When these friends arrive here, and have earned money enough, they repeat the process of sending for others whom they in turn have left. The most limited inquiry will show how universal this system of thus helping one another has become. Thus the stream of remittances swells annually. The millions of money so transmitted proves the ability of this class to achieve great pecuniary results in a certain direction. That they thus exert themselves is strong evidence of the intense affection[Pg 168] existing among them. There are innumerable instances of the father of a large family of children coming out as a pioneer, then sending for the most useful child, and their joint savings being devoted to sending for others, until finally the amount becomes large enough to bring the mother with the younger children,—the latter being meanwhile generally supported at home from savings remitted with affectionate punctuality from this country, until the happy day when they, too, receive the order for a passage. Many times the entire family of a widowed mother, with the mother herself, has been thus transferred to our shores from the savings of the son or daughter who first ventured over. I refer to this remarkable trait in the Irish character, not to censure, but to praise.

But they remit only a fraction of their total earnings, yet that fraction constitutes a very large sum. The remainder, which so many of them spend principally in dress, must be enormous. I have neither the taste nor the talent for reducing it to figures; but the more one looks at this question, the more reasonable does the idea seem that the Irish servant-girls, together with the flash women of this country, have deliberately undertaken to pay the interest on our great national debt.

How much it costs to clothe one of these gaudy creatures I cannot say; but the silks and finery worn by them are known to every shopkeeper as expensive articles. As I have never been able to indulge in such, I have been content to admire them as they flirted by me in the street, or swept up the aisles of our church on Sunday. It is so natural for a woman to admire ornament in dress, that I could not avoid being struck with the finish of an exquisite bonnet, the shape of a fashionable cloak, or the pattern of an elegant collar. All these were paraded through the streets and in the church, as much to my gratification as to that of the wearers. They felt a pride in making the display, and a pleasure in beholding it. I was like the poor lodger in the upper story of an old house, the windows of which overlooked a magnificent garden. The wealthy proprietor had lavished on his domain all that taste and art and money could command to make it gorgeous with shrubbery and flowers. The poor lodger, equally fond of floral beauties, beheld their glories, and inhaled their soft perfumes, as fully and as appreciatively as the owner. No emotion of envy disturbed her,—no longing to possess that of which she enjoyed gratuitously so abundant a share. Her mere oversight was all the possession she desired.

It was ever thus with me when the fine dresses of others swept by me over the pavement. I confess that I admired, but no repining thought ever came to disturb the perfect contentment with which I regarded my plainer costume. It was no grief to me to be unable to indulge in these luxuries. I saw them all, which was more than even the wearers could say. They wore them for the gratification of the crowd of lookers-on; and if the crowd were gratified, their mission was fulfilled. But I did sometimes think upon the cost of these expensive outfits,—how some girls equally poor with me must toil and struggle to obtain means for an indulgence so unbecoming their position,—how others, the wealthy ones, who, having never earned a dollar, knew nothing of its value, clothed themselves with all the lavish finery that money could command, while the meek sewing-girl who passed them on her way to the tailor's might perhaps be kept from starving by the sums expended on the rich silks which hung round them in superfluous flounces, or the costly brilliants which depended from their ears.

It was said by Solomon, that "every wise woman buildeth her house." It was averred by another wise man, that the mother of a family must furnish it with brains, and that he never knew a man or woman of large capacity who had a foolish mother. It is historically true that the great men of all ages have been the children of wise and careful mothers. Such women understand the[Pg 169] art of skilfully managing the whole machinery of the family. Taste and manners come to such by nature. They cultivate the heart, the mind, and the conscience. They moderate the aspirations of their daughters, and purify and elevate those of their sons. It is from the influence which such mothers exercise over the household that respectability and happiness result. My mother taught us moderation in our views, and conformity to our position in life, especially to avoid overstepping it in the article of dress. She was at the very foundation of our house; it may be said that she built it. While, therefore, our appearance was uniformly neat and genteel, none of us were at any time dressed extravagantly. Thus educated from childhood, it became a fixed habit of the mind to feel no envious longings at the display which others made.

But curiosity could not be repressed. It was always interesting to know the cost of this or that fine article which others wore. There was little difficulty in obtaining this information as to the outfits of our neighbors. The fine lady invariably told her acquaintances how much her cloak or bonnet cost, and from these the information was communicated to the servants, whence it quickly radiated over the entire neighborhood. The pride seemed to be, not that the new bonnet was a superb affair, but that such a fashionable artist produced it, and that it cost so much money. Had it been equally beautiful at half the cost, or the handiwork of an obscure milliner, it would have been considered mean. Thus, instead of a necessity for being extravagant, it struck me there was a desire to be so, and principally in order that others, when they looked on the display, might be awed into deference, if not into admiration, by exact knowledge of the number of dollars which dangled from the shoulders of the fashionable butterfly. This boastful parade of information as to how much one expends in this or that article implies an undertone of vulgarity peculiar to those who have nothing but money to be proud of. The cultivated and truly genteel mind is never guilty of it. Yet it somehow prevails too extensively among American women. Display is a sort of mania with too many of them. A family in moderate circumstances marries off a daughter with a portion of only two or three thousand dollars, yet it is all laid out in furnishing a house which is twice as spacious as a first start in life can possibly require. Not a dollar is saved for the future. The wedding also has its shams. Costly silver plate is hired in large quantities from the manufacturer, and spread ostentatiously over tables, to which the wedding-guests are invited, that they may admire the pretended presents thus insincerely represented as having been made to the bride. When the feast is over, it is all returned to the maker. Truth is sacrificed to display. The latter must be had, no matter what may become of the former.

As I was animated by the common ambition of all properly educated girls in my position, to pay my own way, so I worked with my needle with the utmost assiduity. I worked constantly on such garments as my mother could obtain from the shops, going with her to secure them, as well as to deliver such as we had made up, each of us very frequently carrying a heavy bundle to and fro. Should the tailor sell the cheapest article in his shop, scarcely weighing a pound, he was all courtesy to the buyer, and his messenger would be despatched half over the city to deliver it. Not so, however, with the sewing-women. There was no messenger to wait on them; their heavy bundles they must carry for themselves.

The prices paid to us were always low. As the character of the work varied, so did the price. Sometimes we brought home shirts to make up at only twenty cents apiece, sometimes pantaloons at a trifle more, and sometimes vests at a shilling. No fine lady knows how many thousand stitches are required to make up one of these garments, because she has never thus employed her fingers. But I know, because[Pg 170] I have often sat a whole day and far into the night, in making a single shirt. No matter how sick one might feel, or how sultry and relaxing the weather, the work must go on; for it must be delivered within a specified time. I have seen the most heartless advertisements in the newspapers, calling on some one, giving even her name and the place of her residence, to return to the tailor certain articles she had taken to make up, with a threat to prosecute her, if they were not returned immediately. But the poor sewing-girl thus publicly traduced as a thief may have been taken ill, and been thus disabled from completing her task; she may have lived a great distance from the shop, and had no one to send with notice of her illness, so as to account for the non-delivery of the work; yet in her helplessness the stigma of dishonesty has been cruelly cast upon her.

One of my schoolmates, the eldest child of a widow who had five others to provide for, had just begun working for a shop situated a full mile from her mother's residence. She was a bright, lively, and highly sensitive girl of sixteen. The day after bringing home a heavy bundle of coarse pantaloons, she was taken down with brain-fever. It was believed that she had been overcome by the effort required of her young and fragile frame in carrying the great burden under a hot noonday sun. She languished for days, but with intervals of consciousness, during which her inability to finish the work at the stipulated time was her constant anxiety. Her mother soothed her apprehension by assurances that a delay of a few days in the delivery could be of no consequence; and so believing, in fact, she sent no message to the tailor that her child was ill and unable to complete her task. A week of suffering thus passed. Saturday came and went without the work being delivered to her employer. But the poor girl was better, even convalescent; another week would probably enable her to resume the needle. On Sunday I went to see her. She was quiet, and in her right mind, but still anxious about her failure to be punctual.

I volunteered to call the next morning and inform the employer of her illness. I did so. He was in a mean shop, whose whole contents had been displayed in thick festoons, of jackets, shirts, and pantaloons, on the outside, where a man was pacing to and fro upon the pavement, whose vocation it was to accost and convert into a purchaser every passer-by who chanced even to look, at his goods. I was most unfavorably impressed with all that I saw about the shop. When I went in, the impression deepened. There sat the proprietor in his shirt-sleeves, a vulgar-looking creature, smoking a cigar; neither did he rise or cease to puff when I accosted him. Why should he? I was only a sewing-girl. I told him my business,—that my friend had been ill and unable to complete her work, but that she was now recovering, and would return it before many days. Putting on a sneer so sinister and vicious that it was long before I ceased to carry it in my memory, he replied,—

"It's of no consequence,—I've seen to it. She's too late."

Though the man's manner was offensive, yet I attached no particular meaning to his words. But on reaching home, my mother showed me an advertisement in a widely circulated penny-paper which we took, warning the poor sick sewing-girl to return her work immediately, on pain of being prosecuted. There was her name in full, and the number of the house in the little court where she lived. My mother was almost in tears over the announcement. We knew the family well; they were extremely poor, had been greatly afflicted by sickness, while the mother was a model of patient industry, with so deep a sense of religious obligation that nothing but her perfect reliance on the wisdom and goodness of God could have supported her through all her multiplied afflictions. Her husband had been for years a miserable drunkard, as well as dreadfully abusive of his wife and family. The daughter had sat next to[Pg 171] me at school, to and from which we had been in the daily habit of going together. I had a strong affection for her. It was natural that I should be overwhelmed with indignation at the man who had perpetrated this wanton outrage, and excited with alarm for my poor friend, should she be made acquainted with it. All day I was in an agony of apprehension for her. It was impossible for me to go to her, as she lived a great way off, and we, too, had work on our hands which was pressingly required at the end of the week.

But that evening I stole off to see her. I had no sooner set foot within the narrow court than it was apparent that something had gone wrong. There was a group of neighbors gathered round the door, conversing in a subdued tone, as if overtaken by a common calamity. They told me that my poor young friend was dying! Some one, at the very hour when I was in the shop of the unfeeling tailor, excusing the delinquency of his sick sewing-girl, had incautiously gone up into her chamber with the morning paper, and, in the absence of her mother, had read to the unfortunate girl the terrible proclamation of her shame. The effect was immediate and violent. The fever on her brain came back with renewed intensity, and absolute madness supervened. All day she raved with agonizing incoherency, no medical skill availing to mitigate the violence of the attack. As evening came on, it brought exhaustion of strength, with indications of speedy dissolution. When I reached the bedside, the poor body lay calm and still; but the yet unconquered mind was breaking forth in occasional flashes of consciousness. Suddenly starting up and looking round the group at her bedside, she exclaimed,—

"A thief, mother! I am not a thief!"

Oh, this death-bed—the first that I had ever seen—was awful! But my nervous organization enabled me to witness it without trepidation or alarm. Love, sympathy, regret, and indignation were the only emotions that took possession of my heart. I even held in my own the now almost pulseless hand of this poor victim of a brutal persecution, and felt the lessening current of her innocent life become weaker and weaker. For three long hours—long indeed to me, but far longer to her—we watched and prayed. Suddenly the restlessness of immediate dissolution came over her. Turning to her mother, she again exclaimed, as if perfectly conscious,—

"Dear mother, tell them I was not a thief!"

Oh, it was grievous unto heart-breaking to see and hear all this! But it was the last effort, the last word, the closing scene. I felt the pulsation stop short; I looked into her face; I saw that respiration had ceased; I saw the lustre of the living eye suddenly disappear: her gentle spirit had burst the shackles which detained it here, and winged its flight, we humbly trusted, to a mansion of eternal rest.

Not until then did a single tear come to relieve me. We sat by the poor girl's bedside in weeping silence. No heavier heart went to its pillow that night than mine.

I have related this incident as an illustration of the hazards to which needle-women are exposed when dealing with the more unprincipled employers. I will not say that tragedies of this character are of frequent occurrence,—or that the provocation to them has not been too often given. There have no doubt been frequent instances of employers being defrauded by sewing-women who have dishonestly failed to return the work taken out, even giving to them a fictitious name and residence. In such cases, an effort to obtain redress by public exposure, the only apparent remedy, might seem excusable. But though the fraud is vexatious, yet, as the utmost that a sewing-girl could steal would be of small value, the resort to newspaper exposure seems to be a very harsh mode of obtaining restitution. It appears to me that vengeance, more than restitution, is the object of him who hastily adopts it. It may lead to sad and even[Pg 172] fatal mistakes,—fatal to life itself, as well as to the purest reputation, the only capital which too many sewing-women possess.

My weekly earnings with the needle, while a girl, never reached a sum more than enough to board and clothe me. But I felt proud of being able to accomplish even what I did. When any little sum for recreation was wanted, it was cheerfully handed out to me, but our recreations were rare and cheap, for we selected those which were moderate and homely. My father taught me to work in the garden; and there I spent many odd hours in hoeing among the vegetables and flowers, clearing the beds of weeds, and raking the ground smooth and even. This employment was beneficial to health and appetite, and afforded an excellent opportunity for reflection. He taught me all the botanical names that he had picked up from the gentlemen for whom he worked, having acquired an amusing fondness for remembering and repeating them. I learned them all, because he desired me to do so, and because I saw it gratified him for me to take an interest in such things. I do not think this kind of knowledge did him much good; for he was unable to give reasons when I inquired for them.

But for the use of these sonorous designations for common things was a sort of conversational hobby with him. I cannot say that he was unduly proud of the little draughts of learning he had thus taken at the neighboring fountains, but rather that it became a sort of passion with him, yet regulated by a sincere desire to impart to his children all the knowledge he had himself acquired. There was great merriment among us when he first began to use some of these hard botanical names. He did so with the utmost gravity of countenance, which only increased our amusement. I remember one summer evening he told Fred, on leaving the supper-table, to go out and pull up a Phytolacca that was going to seed just over the garden-fence. Fred stopped in amazement at hearing so strange a word; and I confess that it bewildered even me. Then followed the very explanation which father had intended to give. He told us it was a poke-bush.

"Oh," said Fred, with a broad laugh, "is that all?"

But the word was forthwith written down, so as to impress it on our memories, and none of us have yet forgotten it. It was singular, moreover, how the imitative faculty gained strength among us. We children acquired the habit of speaking of all our garden-plants by such outlandish names as father then taught us,—not seriously, of course, but as a capital piece of fun. We knew no more of relations and affinities than he, and so used these names much as parrots repeat the chance phrases they sometimes learn; still, the faint glimmerings of knowledge thus early shed upon our minds came back to us in after life, and, explained and illustrated by study and observation, now serve as positive lights to the understanding.

I thus learned a great deal by working in the garden, and at the same time became extremely fond of it, taking the utmost delight in planting the seeds and watching the growth of even a cabbage-head, as well as in keeping the ground clear of interloping weeds. I even learned to combine the useful with the beautiful, which some have declared to be the highest phase of art. Fred did all the digging, and in dry times was very ready to water whatever might be suffering from drought.

My mother encouraged these labors as aids to health. The time they occupied could be spared from the needle, as the garden required attention but a few months, and only occasionally even then, while the needle could be employed the whole year round. Besides, the family earnings were not all absorbed by our weekly expenses. We had no rent to pay, and there was nothing laid out in improvements. Hence a small portion of father's earnings was carefully laid by every week,—not enough to make us rich, but still sufficient to prevent us, if continued, from ever becoming poor.[Pg 173]

While thus industriously working with the needle, we began to feel the effect on female labor which the introduction of sewing-machines had occasioned. The prices given by the tailors were not only becoming less and less, but our employers were continually more exacting as to the quality of the work, and evidently more independent of us. In very busy seasons, when they really needed all the clothing we could make up, they were courteous enough, because they were then unable to do without us. But the introduction of sewing-machines seemed to revolutionize their behavior. As every movement of the machine was exactly like every other, so there was an astonishing uniformity in the work it performed; and if it made the first stitch neatly, all the succeeding ones must be equally neat. Hence the beautiful regularity of the work it turned out. It looked nicer than any we could do by hand, though in reality not more substantial. Its amazing rapidity of execution was another element of superiority, against which, it was believed, no sewing-woman could successfully contend.

Heretofore, I had noticed that our employers had, on numerous occasions, set up the most frivolous pretexts for reducing our wages. In all my experience they never once advanced them, even when crowding us so hard as to compel us to sew half the night. The standing cry was that we must work for less, but there was never a lisp of giving us more. At one time the reason was—for reasons were plenty enough—that the merchant had advanced the prices of his cloths; at another, that a new tariff had enhanced the cost of goods; at another, that the men in their employ had struck for higher wages. Generally, the reason alleged for the new imposition on us was foolish and unsatisfactory, and to most women, who knew so little of merchandise and tariffs, quite incomprehensible. The whole drift was, that, as others laid it on the tailors, the latter must lay it on the sewing-women. But all the reasons thus set before us I turned over in my mind, and thought a great deal about. I never had the uncomplaining timidity of my mother, when dealing with these men,—and so, on more than one occasion, was bold enough to speak out for our rights. It struck me, from the various pretexts set up for cutting down our scanty wages, that they were untrue, and had been trumped up for the sole purpose of cheapening our work. Some of them were so transparently false that I wondered how any one could have the impudence to present them. Those who did so must have considered a sewing-woman as either too dull to detect the fallacy, or too timid to expose and resent it.

We had on one occasion just begun sewing for a tailor who was considered to be of the better class,—that is, one who kept a shop in a fashionable street, and sold a finer and better description of goods than were to be found in the slop-shops,—and while making up a dozen fine vests, were congratulating ourselves on having advanced a step in our profession. The man was very civil to us, and had justly acquired the reputation, among the sewing-women, of dealing fairly and courteously with those he employed. When our first dozen vests were done, we took them in. There was a decided commendation as to the excellence of the work,—it was entirely satisfactory,—the price was paid,—but if we wanted more, he would have to pay us so much less. This was at the very beginning of the season, when such vests would be in demand. Had it been at the close, when sales were dull and little work needed, I could have understood why a reduction was demanded, or why no more vests were to be given out; but now I could not, and felt mortified and indignant.

My mother said nothing. On such occasions she invariably submitted to the imposition without remonstrance. It is the misfortune of most sewing-women to be obliged to bear these hard exactions in silence. Continued employment is with them so great a necessity as to compel them to do so. But[Pg 174] not feeling this urgency myself, and being now grown a little older, and no doubt a little bolder, I ventured to address the tailor in reply.

"Why do you ask us to take less for our work, Sir?"

"Goods have gone up, Miss," he responded. "The importers charge us twenty per cent more."

"Do you require them to take less, as you do us?"

"Oh," said he, "they're very independent. We may buy or not, they say, just as we please. Everybody wants these goods,—they are very scarce in the market, and we must pay the advance or go without them."

"Then," I added, "if the goods are so scarce and desirable, the vests made of them ought to be equally so, and thus command a corresponding advance from the consumer."

"Certainly," he quickly replied, "we put the advanced cost on the buyer."

"Then the same reason holds good to make him pay more and us to take less," I replied, with an impetuosity of tone and manner that I could not resist, "If you get the advance out of him, why do you take it off of us?"

I saw that my mother was growing restless and uneasy, but I continued,—

"Do you consider the reason you have given for reducing our scanty wages to be either just or generous? You require us to sit up half the night to get this work done, that you may supply customers who, by your own statement, will pay you as good a profit on our next week's work as you get on that which we have just delivered. You advance your own prices, but cut down ours. By the money paid us you see that we have made only four dollars in the week, and now you ask us to work for three. Can two women live on three dollars a week? You might"——

I was so fully under way, that there is no knowing what more I might have said, had not my mother stopped me short. But my indignation was roused, and I was about to begin again, when the tailor interposed by saying,—

"Do as you please, Miss,—that's my price,—and yours too, or not, just as you choose."

Just then the man's wife came into the shop, and called off his attention from us. I noticed that she was dressed in the extreme of the fashion. There were silks, and laces, and jewelry in abundance, the profits of the unrequited toil of many poor sewing-women. I told my mother we would take no more vests from this shop, and would look for a new employer, and started to go out. But she, being less excitable, lingered, asked for a second bundle, and came out with it on her arm. I carried it home, but it weighed heavily on my hands. We made up the vests, but the otherwise pleasant labor of my needle was embittered by the reflection of how great a wrong had been done to us. The sting of this imposition continued to rankle in my heart so long as we were the bondwomen of this particular man.

This persistent tendency to a reduction of wages acquired new strength from the introduction of sewing-machines. As they came gradually into general use, we found the cry raised in all the shops that machine-work was so much better than hand-work, that nothing but the former was wanted,—customers would have no other. I am satisfied that this also was to some extent a mere pretext to accomplish a fresh reduction of prices. The work may really have been better done, yet, notwithstanding that fact, we were told the shops would continue to employ us at hand-work, if we would do it at the same rate with the machine-work. It was thus evident that it was not a question as to the quality of the sewing, but simply one of price. Machinery had been made to compete with muscle, and we were fairly in a dilemma which occasioned us an amount of uneasiness that was truly distressing.

I did not attempt to fly in the face of this state of things by argument or repining. I saw the result—at least I thought so—from the beginning. To satisfy my doubts, I first went to see the machines while in operation. How they[Pg 175] could possibly overcome the mechanical perplexities of needle and thread I could not imagine; neither, when I saw them performing their work with such beautiful simplicity, could I clearly understand how it was done. But my curiosity was gratified, and my doubts resolved,—the great fact was made manifest. It struck me with a sort of dismay. My mother was with me on this occasion, and she was quite as much discouraged as myself, for her darling theory of the supremacy of the needle had been blown to the winds. She would be compelled to admit that hereafter the machine was to be paramount, and the seamstress comparatively obsolete.

It could not be denied that the machines were capable of doing work as beautifully as it could be done by needle-women. Then we were confounded by the amazing rapidity with which they made the stitches. We saw that it was vain to expect our slow fingers to compete with the lightning-like velocity attained by simply putting the foot upon a treadle. I have no doubt that thousands of sewing-girls, all over the country, were equally astonished and disheartened, when they came to be assured of the success of these machines. They must have seen, as we did, that prices would speedily go down. Indeed, all who were in immediate communication with the tailors became aware, at a very early day, of the downward tendency. I confess that no other result was to be expected, and that in this instance the call upon us was not entirely a pretext of the tailors, but a necessity forced upon them by a new agency suddenly introduced into their business, which they must immediately counteract or embrace, or else give up their occupation.

The first tailor who bought a dozen machines found no difficulty in having as many girls taught to operate them. The makers saw to it that no impediment to their sale should occur from girls of ordinary intelligence being unable to use them; so the first sewers were taught either by the inventors themselves or by the skilled mechanics who constructed the machines. As the girls learned quickly, so, when only a small number had become expert at using them, they served as teachers to others. Thus the operatives were multiplied almost as rapidly as the machines. It was quite as difficult, at the first introduction, to obtain the machines as it was to procure operators, so immediately was the invention recognized by a vast industrial interest as the forerunner of a complete revolution in all departments of sewing.

But, as already mentioned, the first tailor who bought machines was able to set them at work directly. As one machine would perform about as much in a day as ten women, the saving in the labor of the nine thus dispensed with enabled him to reduce the price of his manufactured goods to a figure so low that he could undersell all others in the trade. Cheapness being everywhere the cry, he who sold at the lowest rates was able to dispose of the most goods. It is not likely that he gave his customers the full benefit of all the saving made by discharging nine girls out of ten. This was large; for, while he saved their wages, he made little or no advance in those of the remaining girl, who now did on a machine as much work as the whole ten had previously done with their needles. The only difference to her was, that she dropped the needle, and employed a machine. She was, in either case, a mere sewing-girl; and if she made her two or three dollars a week, it was enough. She had never made more: why should she be permitted to do so now? It would have been altogether contrary to usage to permit such a hand to have any benefit from any general improvement or economy in the employer's great establishment. The men are frequently able to exact it, but the women never.

A tailor thus underselling all others, and yet making greater profits than ever, invited imitation and competition. All who were able to procure machines[Pg 176] did so as fast as the inventors could supply the demand. This became so enormous and pressing that new manufactories were speedily established, and rival machines came into use by scores. Clothing-shops and other establishments went into operation with a hundred machines in each, throwing multitudes of sewing-women out of employment. Steam was called in to take the place of female fingers. The human, machine was suddenly discarded,—turned off, without notice or compunction, to seek other occupation, or to suffer for want of it.

No wonder that we should be dismayed when such a prospect as this was seen opening itself before us. Neither is it to be wondered at that prices broke down as the revolution progressed. I was confounded at the low rates to which wages fell. The price for making a shirt was reduced one half. Fine bosoms, crowded with plaits and full of seams, were made for a few cents per dozen. Even the mean slop-shop work was so poorly paid, that no woman, working full time, could earn much more than a dollar a week. If ill, or with a family of children to look after, her case was apparently hopeless. How all the sewing-women thus suddenly reduced to idleness were to gain a livelihood I could not comprehend. A cry of distress rose up from the toiling inmates of many a humble home around us. The privilege to toil had been suddenly withdrawn from them.

Even my mother, as I have said, began to wake up from the delusion under which she had hitherto labored, that the needle was a woman's best and surest dependence; for here was a revolution that had not entered into her imagination. Though not at any time impoverished or even straitened by it, yet she saw how others were; and it led her to think that women might be not only usefully employed at many new things, but that they ought to be qualified by education for even a variety of occupations, so that, when one staff gave way, another would remain to lean upon. I suggested that the reason why so many were at that time idle was, that all of them had been brought up to do the same thing,—to sew,—and that they did not seek employment in other pursuits because their industrial education had not been sufficiently diversified; they were not qualified, and consequently would not be employed.

A woman can become expert at the needle only by proper training through a regular apprenticeship. If necessary in that instance, it is equally so in all others. Every great city abounds in employments for which women are especially fitted, both mentally and physically; and they are shut out from them only for want of proper training, and the deplorable absence of available facilities for acquiring it. The boy is apprenticed, serves out his time, and secures remunerative wages. Why not give a similar training to his sister? If girls were properly instructed, they would be profitably employed. It has been so with the seamstress: why should it be otherwise in a different sphere?

At no time had we been in the habit of telling my father the particulars of our experience with the tailors. He heard only incidentally how little we earned, while our greatest grievances were rarely spoken of before him. The truth is, that he had a very poor opinion of the craft. I am sure, that, if he had known as much of them as we did, it would have been even more unfavorable. But here was an entirely new trouble to be met and overcome, requiring the utmost wisdom of the whole family to master it. As to our ceasing work, no one dreamed of that; the anxiety was, to be kept at it. Our consultations and discussions were consequently frequent and long. My father joined in these with great interest, but could suggest no remedy.

I had noticed that our penny paper was crowded with advertisements for girls who understood working on a sewing-machine; and I learned from several of my acquaintances that not only was the demand for such operatives unlimited, but that an expert hand was able to earn quite as much as[Pg 177] with the needle formerly, while some were earning much more. It struck me that I had overlooked the important fact that all the sewing for the public was still to be done by women, even though machines had been invented on which to do it: in our first depression, we had innocently supposed that in future it was to be done by men. It was obvious, then, that our only course was to get machines,—one for my mother, and one for myself. I knew that I should learn quickly, and was sure that I could earn as much as any one else.

My mother entered heartily into the plan, as it held out to us the certainty of continued employment. We explained the case to my father, and he also approved of the project, and agreed to buy us a machine. He thought it better to begin with only one, to see whether we could understand it, and find a sale for our work, as well as how we liked it. Besides, when these machines were first made, the inventors exacted an exorbitant price for them,—they, too, in this way levying a cruel tax on the sewing-women. The cost at that time was from a hundred and twenty to a hundred and fifty dollars. My father could manage to provide us with one, but the expense of two was more than he could assume. I was then within a few weeks of being eighteen; and it was arranged that I should devote the intervening time to learning how to operate a machine, by attending one of the schools for beginners then opened by lady teachers, and that the new purchase should be my birthday present. So, paying ten dollars for instruction, and agreeing to work eight weeks without wages, I took my position, with more than a dozen others, as a learner at the sewing-machine.



There is a class of persons to whom art in general is but a fashionable luxury, and music in particular but an agreeable sound, an elegant superfluity serving to relieve the tedium of conversation at a soiree, and fill up the space between sorbets and supper. To such, any philosophical discussion on the æsthetics of art must seem as puerile an occupation as that of the fairy who spent her time weighing grains of dust with a spider's web. Artists, to whom, through a foreign prejudice which dates back to the barbarism of the Middle Ages, they persist in refusing any high place in the social scale, are to them only petty tradesmen dealing in suspicious wares (in most instances unshrewdly, since they rarely get rich, which aggravates their position); while what they call performers are looked upon by them as mere tricksters or jugglers, who profit by the dexterity of their fingers, as dancers and acrobats by the suppleness of their limbs. The painter whose works decorate their saloons figures in the budget of their expenses on a line with the upholsterer, whose hangings they speak of in the same breath with Church's "Heart of the Andes," and Rosa Bonheur's "Cattle Fair."

It is not for such people that I write; but there are others,—and to these I address myself,—who recognize in the artist the privileged instrument of a moral and civilizing influence; who appreciate art because they derive from it pure and ennobling inspirations; who respect it because it is the highest expression of human thought, aiming at the absolute ideal; and who love it as[Pg 178] we love the friend to whom we confide our joys and sorrows, and in whom we find a faithful response to every movement of the soul.

Lamartine has said, with truth, "Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends." In fact, music is a psycho-physical phenomenon. In its germ, it is a sensation; in its full development, an ideal. It is sufficient not to be deaf to perceive music, at least, if not to appreciate it. Even idiots and maniacs are subject to its influence. Not being restricted to any precise sense, going beyond the mere letter, and expressing only states of the soul, it has this advantage over literature, that every one can assimilate it to his own passions, and adapt it to the sentiments which rule him. Its power, limited in the intellectual order to the imitative passions, is in that of the imagination unlimited. It responds to an interior, indefinable sense possessed by all,—the ideal.

Literature is always objective: it speaks to the understanding, and determines in us impressions in keeping with the determined sense which it expresses. Music, on the contrary, may be, in turn, objective and subjective, according to the disposition in which we find ourselves at the moment of hearing it. It is objective when, affected only by the purely physical sensation of sound, we listen to it passively, and it suggests to us impressions. A march, a waltz, a flute imitating the nightingale, the chromatic scale imitating the murmuring of the wind in the "Pastoral Symphony," may be taken as examples.

It is subjective when, under the empire of a latent impression, we discover in its general character an accordance with our psychological state, and we assimilate it to ourselves; it is then like a mirror in which we see reflected the movements which agitate us, with a fidelity all the more exact from the fact that, without being conscious of it, we ourselves are the painters of the picture which unrolls itself before our imagination.

Let me explain. Play a melancholy air to a proscript thinking of his distant home; to a deserted lover; to a mother mourning the loss of a child; to a vanquished warrior;—and be assured they will all appropriate to themselves the plaintive harmonies, and fancy they detect in them the accents of their own grief.

The fact of music is still a mystery. We know that it is composed of three principles,—air, vibration, and rhythmic symmetry. Strike an object in an exhausted receiver, and it produces no sound, because no air is there; touch a ringing glass, and the sound stops, because there is no vibration; take away the rhythm of the simplest air by changing the duration of the notes that compose it, and you render it obscure and unrecognizable, because you have destroyed its symmetry.

But why, then, do not several hammers striking in cadence produce music? They certainly comply with the three conditions of air, vibration, and rhythm. Why is the accord of a third so pleasing to the ear? Why is the minor mode so suggestive of sadness? There is the mystery,—there the unexplained phenomenon.

We restrict ourselves to saying that music, which, like speech, is perceived through the medium of the ear, does not, like speech, call upon the brain for an explanation of the sensation produced by the vibration on the nerves; it addresses itself to a mysterious agent within us, which is superior to intelligence, since it is independent of it, and makes us feel that which we can neither conceive nor explain.

Let us examine the various attributes of the musical phenomenon.

1. Music is a physical agent. It communicates to the body shocks which agitate the members to their base. In churches the flame of the candles oscillates to the quake of the organ. A powerful orchestra near a sheet of water ruffles its surface. A learned traveller speaks of an iron ring which swings to and fro to the murmur of the Tivoli Falls. In Switzerland I excited at will,[Pg 179] in a poor child afflicted with a frightful nervous malady, hysterical and catalyptic crises, by playing in the minor key of E flat. The celebrated Doctor Bertier asserts that the sound of a drum gives him the colic. Certain medical men state that the notes of the trumpet quicken the pulse and induce slight perspiration. The sound of the bassoon is cold; the notes of the French horn at a distance, and of the harp, are voluptuous. The flute played softly in the middle register calms the nerves. The low notes of the piano frighten children. I once had a dog who would generally sleep on hearing music, but the moment I played in the minor key he would bark piteously. The dog of a celebrated singer whom I knew would moan bitterly, and give signs of violent suffering, the instant that his mistress chanted a chromatic gamut. A certain chord produces on my sense of hearing the same effect as the heliotrope on my sense of smell and the pine-apple on my sense of taste. Rachel's voice delighted the ear by its ring before one had time to seize the sense of what was said, or appreciate the purity of her diction.

We may affirm, then, that musical sound, rhythmical or not, agitates the whole physical economy,—quickens the pulse, incites perspiration, and produces a pleasant momentary irritation of the nervous system.

2. Music is a moral agent. Through the medium of the nervous system, the direct interpreter of emotion, it calls into play the higher faculties; its language is that of sentiment Furthermore, the motives which have presided over particular musical combinations establish links between the composer and the listener. We sigh with Bellini in the finale of La Somnambula; we shudder with Weber in the sublime phantasmagoria of Der Freischutz; the mystic inspirations of Palestrina, the masses of Mozart, transport us to the celestial regions, toward which they rise like a melodious incense. Music awakens in us reminiscences, souvenirs, associations. When we have wept over a song, it ever after seems to us bathed in tears.

A celebrated pianist tells me that, in a city where he was giving concerts, he became acquainted with a charming young girl. He was twenty years old, and had all the poetic and generous illusions of that romantic age. She was sixteen. They loved each other without daring to confess it, and perhaps without knowing it themselves. But the hour of separation came: he was passing his last evening at her house. Observed by the family, he could only furtively join hands with her at the moment of parting. The poem was but commenced, to be arrested at the first page: he never saw her again. Disheartened, distracted with grief, he wandered through the dark streets, until at two in the morning he found himself again under her windows. She too was awake. Their thoughts, drawn together by that divine tie which merits the name of love only in the morning of life, met in unison, for she was playing gently in the solitude of her chamber the first notes of a mazurka which they had danced together. "Tears came to my eyes," said my friend, "on hearing this music, which seemed to me sublime; it was the stifled plaint of her heart; it was her grief which exhaled from her fingers; it was the eternal adieu. For years I believed this mazurka to be a marvellous inspiration, and it was not till long after, when age had dispelled my illusions and obliterated the adored image, that I discovered it was only a vulgar and trivial commonplace: the gold was changed to brass."

The old man, chilled by years, may be insensible to the pathetic accents of Rossini, of Mozart: but repeat to him the simple songs of his youth, the present vanishes, and the illusions of the past come back again. I once knew an old Spanish general who detested music. One day I began to play to him my "Siege of Saragossa," in which is introduced the "Marcha Real" (Spanish national air), and he wept like a child. This air recalled to him the immortal defence of the heroic city, behind[Pg 180] the falling walls of which he had fought against the French, and sounded to him, he said, like the voice of all the holy affections expressed by the word home. The mercenary Swiss troops, when in France and Naples, could not hear the "Ranz des Vaches" (the shepherd song of old and rude Helvetia) without being overcome by it. When from mountain to mountain the signal of revolt summoned to the cause the three insurgent Cantons, the desertions caused by this air became so frequent that the government prohibited it. The reader will remember the comic effect produced upon the French troops in the Crimea by the Highlanders marching to battle to the sound of the bagpipe, whose harsh, piercing notes inspired these brave mountaineers with valor, by recalling to them their country and its heroic legends. Napoleon III. finds himself compelled to allow the Arab troops incorporated into his army their barbarous tam-tam music, lest they revolt. The measured beat of the drum sustains the soldier in long marches which otherwise would be insupportable. The Marseillaise contributed as much toward the republican victories of 1793, when France was invaded, as the genius of General Dumouriez.

3. Music is a complex agent. It acts at once on life, on the instinct, the forces, the organism. It has a psychological action. The negroes charm serpents by whistling to them; it is said that fawns are captivated by a melodious voice; the bear is aroused with the fife; canaries and sparrows enjoy the flageolet; in the Antilles, lizards are enticed from their retreats by the whistle; spiders have an affection for fiddlers; in Switzerland, the herdsmen attach to the necks of their handsomest cows a large bell, of which they are so proud, that, while they are allowed to wear it, they march at the head of the herd; in Andalusia, the mules lose their spirit and their power of endurance, if deprived of the numerous bells with which it is customary to deck these intelligent animals; in the mountains of Scotland and Switzerland, the herds pasture best to the sound of the bagpipe; and in the Oberland, cattle strayed from the herd are recalled by the notes of the trumpet.

Donizetti, a year before his death, had lost all his faculties, in consequence of a softening of the spinal marrow. Every means was resorted to for reviving a spark of that intellect once so vigorous; but all failed. In a single instance only he exhibited a gleam of intelligence; and that was on hearing one of his friends play the septette of his opera of "Lucia." "Poor Donizetti!" said he; "what a pity he should have died so soon!" And this was all.

In 1848, after the terrible insurrection which made of Paris a vast slaughter-house, to conceal my sadness and my disgust I went to the house of one of my friends, who was superintendent of the immense insane asylum in Clermont-sur-Oise. He had a small organ, and was a tolerably good singer. I composed a mass, to the first performance of which we invited a few artists from Paris and several of the most docile inmates of the asylum. I was struck with the bearing of the latter, and asked my friend to repeat the experiment, and extend the number of invitations. The result was so favorable, that we were soon able to form a choir from among the patients, of both sexes, who rehearsed on Saturdays the hymns and chants they were to sing on Sunday at mass. A raving lunatic, a priest, who was getting more and more intractable every day, and who often had to be put in a strait-jacket, noticed the periodical absence of some of the inmates, and exhibited curiosity to know what they were doing. The following Saturday, seeing some of his companions preparing to go to rehearsal, he expressed a desire to go with them. The doctor told him he might go on condition that he would allow himself to be shaved and decently dressed. This was a thorny point, for he would never attend to his person, and became furious when required to dress; but, to our great astonishment, he consented at once. This day he not only listened to the music quietly, but was[Pg 181] detected several times joining his voice with that of the choir. When I left Clermont, my poor old priest was one of the most constant attendants at the rehearsals. He still had his violent periods, but they were less frequent; and when Saturday arrived, he always dressed himself with care, and waited impatiently for the hour to go to chapel.

To resume: Music being a physical agent,—that is to say, acting on the individual without the aid of his intelligence; a moral agent,—that is to say, reviving his memory, exciting his imagination, developing his sentiment; and a complex agent,—that is to say, having a physiological action on the instinct, the organism, the forces, of man,—I deduce from this that it is one of the most powerful means for ennobling the mind, elevating the morals, and, above all, refining the manners. This truth is now so well recognized in Europe that we see choral societies—Orpheons and others—multiplying as by enchantment, under the powerful impulse given them by the state. I speak not simply of Germany, which is a singing nation, whose laborious, peaceful, intelligent people have in all time associated choral music as well with their labors as with their pleasures; but I may cite particularly France, which counts to-day more than eight hundred Orpheon societies, composed of workingmen. How many of these, who formerly dissipated their leisure time at drinking-houses, now find an ennobling recreation in these associations, where the spirit of union and fraternity is engendered and developed! And if we could get at the statistics of crime, who can doubt that they would show it had diminished in proportion to the increase of these societies? In fact, men are better, the heart is in some sort purified, when impregnated with the noble harmonies of a fine chorus; and it is difficult not to treat as a brother one whose voice has mingled with your own, and whose heart has been united to yours in a community of pure and joyful emotions. If Orpheon societies ever become established in America, be assured that bar-rooms, the plague of the country, will cease, with revolvers and bowie-knives, to be popular institutions.

Music, when employed in the service of religion, has always been its most powerful auxiliary. The organ did more for Catholicism in the Middle Ages than all its preaching; and Palestrina and Marcello have reclaimed and still reclaim more infidels than all the doctors of the Church.

We enter a house of worship. Still under the empire of the external world, we carry there our worldly thoughts and occupations; a thousand distractions deter us from religious reflection and meditation. The word of the preacher reaches the ear indeed, but only as a vague sound. The sense of what is said is arrested at the surface, without penetrating the heart. But let the grand voice of the organ be heard, and our whole being is moved; the physical world disappears, the eyes of the soul open; we bow the head, we bend the knee, and our thoughts, disengaged from matter, soar to the eternal regions of the Good, the Beautiful, and the True.

[Pg 182]


Here or hereafter? In the body here,
Or in the soul hereafter do we writhe,
Atoning for the malice of our lives?
Of the uncounted millions that have died,
Not one has slipped the napkin from his chin
And loosed the jaw to tell us: even he,
The intrepid Captain, who gave life to find
A doubtful way through clanging worlds of ice,—
A fine inquisitive spirit, you would think,
One to cross-question Fate complacently,
Less for his own sake than Science's,—
Not even he, with his rich gathered lore,
Returns from that dark journey down to death.
Here or hereafter? Only this I know,
That, whatsoever happen afterwards,
Some men do penance on this side the grave.
Thus Regnald Garnaut for his cruel heart.
Owner and lord was he of Garnaut Hall,
A relic of the Norman conquerors,—
A quaint, rook-haunted pile of masonry,
From whose top battlement, a windy height,
Regnald could view his twenty prosperous farms;
His creaking mill, that, perched upon a cliff,
With outspread wings seemed ever taking flight;
The red-roofed cottages, the high-walled park,
The noisy aviary, and, nearer by,
The snow-white Doric parsonage,—all his own.
And all his own were chests of antique plate,
Horses and hounds and falcons, curious books,
Chain-armor, helmets, Gobelin tapestry,
And half a mile of painted ancestors.
Lord of these things, he wanted one thing more,
Not having which, all else to him was dross.
For Agnes Vail, the curate's only child,—
A little Saxon wild-flower that had grown
Unheeded into beauty day by day,
And much too delicate for this rude world,—
With that intuitive wisdom of the pure,
Saw that he loved her beauty, not herself,
And shrank from him, and when he came to speech
Parried his meaning with a woman's wit,
Then sobbed an hour when she was all alone.
And Regnald's mighty vanity was hurt.
"Why, then," snarled he, "if I had asked the Queen
To pick me some fair woman from the Court,
'T were but the asking. A blind curate's girl,
[Pg 183] It seems, is somewhat difficult,—must have,
To warm her feet, our coronet withal!"
And Agnes evermore avoided him,
Clinging more closely to the old man's side;
And in the chapel never raised an eye,
But knelt there like a medieval saint,
Her holiness her buckler and her shield,—
That, and the golden floss of her long hair.
And Regnald felt that somehow he was foiled,—
Foiled, but not beaten. He would have his way.
Had not the Garnauts always had their will
These six or seven centuries, more or less?
Meanwhile he chafed; but shortly after this
Regnald received the sorest hurt of all.
For, one eve, lounging idly in the close,
Watching the windows of the parsonage,
He heard low voices in the alder-trees,
Voices he knew, and one that sweetly said,
"Thine!" and he paused with choking heart, and saw
Eustace, his brother, and fair Agnes Vail
In the soft moonrise lingering with clasped hands.
The two passed on, and Regnald hid himself
Among the brushwood, where his vulpine eyes
Dilated in the darkness as they passed.
There, in the dark, he lay a bitter hour
Gnawing his nails, and then arose unseen
And crept away with murder in his soul.
Eustace! curse on him, with his handsome eyes!
Regnald had envied Eustace many a day,—
Envied his fame, and that exceeding grace
And courtliness which he had learned at Court
Of Sidney, Raleigh, Essex, and the rest:
For when their father, lean Sir Egbert, died,
Eustace, whose fortune dangled at his thigh,—
A Damask blade,—had hastened to the Court
To line his purse, perchance to build a name;
And catching there the passion of the time,
He, with a score of doughty Devon lads,
Sailed with bold Drake into the Spanish seas;
Returning whence, with several ugly scars,—
Which made him lovelier in women's eyes,—
And many a chest of ingots,—not the less
These latter made him lovely,—sunned himself,
Sometimes at Court, sometimes at Garnaut Hall,—
At Court, by favor of the Virgin Queen,
For great Elizabeth had smiled on him.
So Regnald, who was neither good nor brave
Nor graceful, liked not Eustace from the start,
And this night hated him. With angry brows,
[Pg 184] He sat in a bleak chamber of the Hall,
His fingers toying with his poniard's point
Abstractedly. Three times the ancient clock,
Bolt-upright like a mummy in its case,
Doled out the hour: at length the round red moon,
Rising above the ghostly poplar-tops,
Looked in on Regnald nursing his dark thought,
Looked in on the stiff portraits on the wall,
And dead Sir Egbert's empty coat-of-mail.
A quick step sounded on the gravel-walk,
And then came Eustace, humming a sea-song,
Of how the Grace of Devon, with ten guns,
And Master Raleigh on the quarter-deck,
Bore down and tackled the great galleon,
Madre de Dios, raked her fore and aft,
And took her bullion,—singing, light at heart,
His first love's first kiss warm upon his lip.
Straight onward came young Eustace to his death!
For hidden behind the arras near the stair
Stood Regnald, like the Demon in the play,
Grasping his rapier part-way down the blade
To strike the foul blow with its heavy hilt.
Straight on came Eustace,—blithely ran the song,
"Old England's darlings are her hearts of oak."
The lights were out, and not a soul astir,
Or else the dead man's scabbard, as it clashed
Against the marble pavement when he fell,
Had brought a witness. Not a breath or sound,
Only the sad wind wailing in the tower,
Only the mastiff growling in his sleep,
Outside the gate, and pawing at his dream.
Now in a wing of that old gallery,
Hung with the relics of forgotten feuds,
A certain door, which none but Regnald knew,
Was fashioned like the panels of the wall,
And so concealed by carven grapes and flowers
A man could search for it a dozen years
And swear it was not, though his touch had been
Upon the very panel where it was.
The secret spring that opened it unclosed
An inner door of iron-studded oak,
Guarding a narrow chamber, where, perchance,
Some bygone lord of Garnaut Hall had hid
His threatened treasure, or, most like, bestowed
Some too adventurous antagonist.
Sealed in the compass of that stifling room,
A man might live, at best, but half an hour.
Hither did Regnald bear his brother's corse
And set it down. Perhaps he paused to gaze
[Pg 185] A moment on the quiet moon-lit face,
The face yet beautiful with new-told love!
Perhaps his heart misgave him,—or, perhaps——
Now, whether 't was some dark avenging Hand,
Or whether 't was some fatal freak of wind,
We may not know, but suddenly the door
Without slammed to, and there was Regnald shut
Beyond escape, for on the inner side
Was neither spring nor bolt to set him free!
Mother of Mercy! what were a whole life
Of pain and penury and conscience-smart
To that half-hour of Regnald's with his Dead?
—The joyous sun rose over the white cliffs
Of Devon, sparkled through the poplar-tops,
And broke the death-like slumber of the Hall.
The keeper fetched their breakfast to the hounds;
The smart, young ostler whistled in the stalls;
The pretty housemaid tripped from room to room;
And grave and grand behind his master's chair,
But wroth within to have the partridge spoil,
The senile butler waited for his lord.
But neither Regnald nor young Eustace came.
And when 't was found that neither slept at Hall
That night, their couches being still unpressed,
The servants stared. And as the day wore on,
And evening came, and then another day,
And yet another, till a week had gone,
The wonder spread, and riders sent in haste
Scoured the country, dragged the neighboring streams,
Tracked wayward footprints to the great chalk bluffs,
But found not Regnald, lord of Garnaut Hall.
The place that knew him knew him never more.
The red leaf withered and the green leaf grew.
And Agnes Vail, the little Saxon rose,
Waxed pale and paler, till the country-folk
Half guessed her fate was somehow intertwined
With that dark house. When her pure soul had passed,—
Just as a perfume floats from out the world,—
Wild tales were told of how the brothers loved
The self-same maid, whom neither one would wed
Because the other loved her as his life;
And that the two, at midnight, in despair,
From one sheer cliff plunged headlong in the sea.
And when, at night, the hoarse east-wind rose high,
Rattled the lintels, clamoring at the door,
The children huddled closer round the hearth
And whispered very softly with themselves,
"That's Master Regnald looking for his Bride!"
[Pg 186]
The red leaf withered and the green leaf grew.
Decay and dolor settled on the Hall.
The wind went howling in the dismal rooms,
Rustling the arras; and the wainscot-mouse
Gnawed through the mighty Garnauts on the wall,
And made a lodging for her glossy young
In dead Sir Egbert's empty coat-of-mail;
The griffon dropped from off the blazoned shield;
The stables rotted; and a poisonous vine
Stretched its rank nets across the lonely lawn.
For no one went there,—'t was a haunted spot.
A legend killed it for a kindly home,—
A grim estate, which every heir in turn
Left to the orgies of the wind and rain,
The newt, the toad, the spider, and the mouse.
The red leaf withered and the green leaf grew.
And once, 't is said, the Queen reached out her hand
And let it rest on Cecil's velvet sleeve,
And said, "I prithee, Cecil, tell us now,
Was 't ever known what happened to those men,—
Those Garnauts?—were they never, never found?"
The weasel face had fain looked wise for her,
But no one of that century ever knew.
The red leaf withered and the green leaf grew.
And in that year the good Prince Albert died
The land changed owners, and the new-made lord
Sent down his workmen to revamp the Hall
And make the waste place blossom as the rose.
By chance, a workman in the eastern wing,
Fitting the cornice, stumbled on a door,
Which creaked, and seemed to open of itself;
And there within the chamber, on the flags,
He saw two figures in outlandish guise
Of hose and doublet,—one stretched out full-length,
And one half fallen forward on his breast,
Holding the other's hand with vice-like grip:
One face was calm, the other sad as death,
With something in it of a pleading look,
As might befall a man that dies at prayer.
Amazed, the workman hallooed to his mates
To see the wonder; but ere they could come,
The figures crumbled and were shapeless dust.

[Pg 187]


In that remote period of history which is especially visited upon us in our school-days, in expiation of the sins of our forefathers, there nourished seven poets at the court of Ptolemy Philadelphus. Royal favor and amiable dispositions united them in a club: public applause and self-appreciation led them to call it The Pleiades. In the middle of the sixteenth century, Pierre Ronsard, emulous of Greek fame, took to him six other poets more wretched than himself, and made up a second Pleiades for France. The third rising of this rhythmical constellation was seen in Connecticut a long time ago.

Connecticut is pleasant, with wooded hills and a beautiful river; plenteous with tobacco and cheese; fruitful of merchants, missionaries, sailors, peddlers, and singlewomen;—but there are no poets known to exist there, unless it be that well-paid band who write the rhymed puffs of cheap garments and cosmetics. The brisk little democratic State has turned its brains upon its machinery. Not a snug valley, with a few drops of water at the bottom of it, but rattles with the manufacture of notions, great and small,—axes and pistols, carriages and clocks, tin pans and toys, hats, garters, combs, buttons, and pins. You see that the enterprising natives can turn out any article on which a profit may be made,—except poetry. That product, you would say, was out of the question. Nevertheless, the species poet, although extinct, did once exist on that soil. The evidence is conclusive that palaeozoic verse-makers wandered over those hills in bygone ages. Their moss-grown remains, still visible here and there, are as unmistakable as the footprints of the huge wading birds in the red sandstone of Middletown and Chatham. Où la poésie va-t'elle se nicher? How came the Muses to settle in Connecticut?

Dr. Samuel Peters, in his trustworthy history of the Colony, gives no answer to this question; but among the oldest inhabitants of remote Barkhamstead, for whom it is said General Washington and the worthies of his date still have a being in the flesh, there lingers a mythological tradition which may explain this aberration of Connecticut character. The legend runs thus.

In the first half of the eighteenth century, English readers were entertained with elaborate allegories, in which the passions, the vices, and even the habits of mankind were personified. Lighter ethical topics were served up in letters from Philotryphus, Septimius, or others ending in us, and in communications from Flirtilla, Jack Modish, and Co. Eastern tales and apologues, meditations on human life, essays on morality, inquiries as to whether the arts and sciences were serviceable or prejudicial to the human race, dissertations on the wisdom and virtue of the Chinese, were all the fashion in literature. The Genius of authorship, or the Demon, if you prefer it, was so precise, refined, exquisite in manner, and so transcendentally moral in ethics, that he had become almost insufferable to his master, Apollo. The God was a little tired, if the truth were known, with the monotonous chant of Pope, in spite of his wit. He began to think that something more was required, to satisfy the soul than polished periods and abstract didactic morality,—and was not much surprised when he observed that Prior, after dining with Addison and Co., liked to finish the evening with a common soldier and his wife, and refresh his mind over a pipe and a pot of beer. But Pope was dead, and so was Thomson, and Goldsmith not yet heard from. There was a famine of literary invention in England. Out of work and wages for himself and his[Pg 188] troupe, "disgusted at the age and clime, barren of every glorious theme," Phoebus Apollo determined to emigrate. Berkeley had reported favorably of the new Western Continent: it was a land of poetical promise to the Bishop.

"There shall be sung another golden age,
The rise of empire and of arts;
The good and great inspiring epic rage,
The wisest heads and noblest hearts."

Trusting in the judgment of a man who had every virtue under heaven, the God of Song shipped with the tuneful Nine for America. Owing, perhaps, to insufficiency of transportation, the Graces were left behind. The vessel sailed past Rhode Island in a fog, and disembarked its precious freight at New Haven, in the Colony of Connecticut. In the pleasant summer weather, the distinguished foreigners travelled northward as far as Litchfield Hill, and thence to Hartford, on the banks of the beautiful river. They found the land well wooded and well watered; the natives good-natured, industrious, and intelligent: but the scenery was monotonous to the Pierian colonists, and the people distasteful. The clipped hair and penitential scowl of the men made heavy the hearts of the Muses; their daughters and wives had a sharp, harsh, pert "tang" in their speech, that grated upon the ears of Apollo, who held with King Lear as to the excellence of a low, soft voice in woman. Each native seemed to the strangers sadly alike in looks, dress, manners, and pursuits, to every other native. Of Art they were absolutely ignorant. They built their temples on the same model as their barns. Poetry meant Psalms sung through their noses to the accompaniment of a bass-viol. Of other musical instruments, they knew only the Jews-harp for home delectation, and the drum and fife for training-days. Doctrinal religion furnished them with a mental relaxation which supplied the place of amusement. Sandemanians, Adamites, Peterites, Bowlists, Davisonians, and Rogereens, though agreeing mainly in essentials, found vast gratification in playing against each other at theological dialectics. On one cardinal point of discipline only—the necessity of administering creature comfort to the sinful body—did all sects zealously unite. They offered copious, though coarse, libations to Bacchus, in the spirit-stirring rum of their native land.[B]

After careful observation, the nine ladies conferred together, and decided that in this part of the world their sphere of usefulness was limited and their mission a failure. Polymnia, Urania, and Clio might get into good society, but Thalia and Terpsichore were sure to be set in the stocks; and what was poor Erato to expect, but a whipping, in a commonwealth that forbade its women to uncover their necks or to expose their arms above the wrists? They made up their minds not to "locate"; packed up barbiton and phorminx, mask and cothurn, took the first ship bound to Europe, and quietly sailed away. Their stay was short, but they left their mark. To this day Phoebes are numerous in Connecticut, and nine women to one man has become the customary proportion of the sexes. As Greece had Parnassus, Helicon, and Pindus, Connecticut had New Haven, Hartford, and Litchfield Hill,—halting-places of the illustrious travellers. There they scattered the seeds of poetry,—seeds which fell upon stony places, but, warmed by the genial influence of the Sun-God, sprang up and brought forth such fruit as we shall see.

John Trumbull was born in Watertown, a.d. 1750; two years later, in Northampton, came Timothy Dwight: both of the best New England breed: Dwight, a grandson of Jonathan Edwards; Trumbull, cousin to kind old Governor Trumbull, (whose pompous manner in transacting the most trifling public business amused Chastellux and the Hussar officers at Windham,) and consequently second cousin to the son[Pg 189] of the Governor, Colonel John Trumbull, whose paintings might possibly have added to the amusement of the gay Frenchmen, had they stayed in America long enough to see them. Cowley, Milton, and Pope lisped in numbers; but the precocity of Trumbull was even more surprising. He passed his college examination at the age of eight, in the lap of a Dr. Emmons; but was remanded to the nursery to give his stature time to catch up with his acquirements. Dwight, too, was ready for college at eight, and was actually entered at thirteen.

About this time there were symptoms of an æsthetical thaw in Connecticut. There had been no such word as play in the dictionary of the New-Englanders. They worked hard on their stony soil, and read hard in their stony books of doctrine. That stimulant to the mind, outside of daily routine, which the human race must have under all circumstances, (we call it excitement nowadays,) was found by the better sort in theological quarrels, by the baser in New England rum,—the two things most cheering to the spirit of man, if Byron is to be believed. Education meant solid learning,—that is to say, studies bearing upon divinity, law, medicine, or merchandise; and to peruse works of the imagination was considered an idle waste of time,—indeed, as partaking somewhat of the nature of sin. But the growing taste of Connecticut was no longer satisfied with Dr. Watts's moral lyrics, whose jingle is still so instructive and pleasant to extreme youth. Milton and Dryden, Thomson and Pope, were read and admired; "The Spectator" was quoted as the standard of style and of good manners; and daring spirits even ventured upon Richardson's novels and "Tristram Shandy."

While in this literary revival all Yale was anxious, young Dwight and Trumbull were indulging in hope. Smitten with the love of verse, Dwight announced his rising genius (these are the words of the "Connecticut Magazine and New Haven Gazette") by versions of two odes of Horace, and by "America," a poem after the manner of Pope's "Windsor Forest." At the age of nineteen he invoked the venerable Muse who has been called in as the "Poet's Lucina," since Homer established her professional reputation, and dashed boldly at the epic,—"the greatest work human nature is capable of." His great work was "The Conquest of Canaan." Trumbull, more modest, wrote "The Progress of Dulness," in three cantos. To these young men of genius came later two other nurslings of the Muses,—David Humphreys from Derby, and Joel Barlow from Reading. They caught the poetical distemper. Barlow, fired by Dwight's example, began "The Vision of Columbus." The four friends, young and hopeful, encouraging and praising each other, gained some local reputation by fugitive pieces in imitation of English models, published "Spectator" essays in the New Haven papers, and forestalled all cavillers by damning the critics after the method used by Dryden and Pope against Settle and Cibber.

Trumbull chose the law as a profession, and went to Boston to finish his studies in 1773. A clerk in the office of John Adams, who lodged with Gushing, Speaker of the Massachusetts House, could have read but little law in the midst of that political whirlwind which was driving men of every trade and profession into revolution. Boston stubbornly persevered in the resolution not to consume British goods, notwithstanding the efforts of the Addressers and Protesters and Tories generally, who preached their antiquated doctrines of passive obedience and divine right, and painted in their darkest colors the privation and suffering caused by the blockade. Trumbull joined the Whigs, pen in hand, and laid stoutly about him both in prose and verse. Then came the skirmish at Lexington, and all New England sprang to arms. Dwight joined the army as chaplain. Humphreys volunteered on Putnam's staff. Barlow served in the ranks at the Battle of White Plains; and then, after devoting his mind to theology for six weeks, accepted[Pg 190] the position of chaplain in a Massachusetts regiment. The little knot of poets was broken up. One of them asked in mournful numbers,—

"Amid the roar of drums and guns,
When meet again the Muses' sons?"

They met again after the thunder and lightning were over, but in another place. New Haven saw the rising of the constellation; its meridian brilliancy shone upon Hartford. At the close of the war, the four poetical luminaries, as they were called by the "Connecticut Magazine and New Haven Gazette," hung up the sword in Hartford and grasped the lyre. The epidemic of verse broke out again. The four added to their number Dr. Lemuel Hopkins, a physician, Richard Alsop, a gentleman of much cultivation, and Theodore Dwight, a younger brother of Timothy. There were now seven stars of the first magnitude. Many other aspirants to a place in the heavens were necessarily excluded; among them, two are worthy of notice,—Noah Webster, who was already then and there meditating his method for teaching the American people to mispel, and Oliver Wolcott, afterward Secretary of the Treasury. Bound by the sweet influences of the Pleiades, Wolcott wrote a poem,—"The Judgment of Paris." His biographer, who has read it, has given his critical opinion that "it would be much worse than Barlow's epic, were it not much shorter."

The year 1783 brought peace with England, but it found matters in a dangerous and unsettled state at home. After seven years of revolution it takes some time to bring a people down to the safe and sober jog-trot of every-day life. The lower classes were demoralized by the license and tumult of war, and by poverty; they were surly and turbulent, and showed a disposition to shake off yokes domestic as well as foreign,—the yoke of taxation in particular: for every man of them believed that he had already done more, suffered more, and paid more, than his fair share. The calamity of a worthless paper legal-tender currency added to the general discontent. Hence any public measure involving further disbursements met with angry opposition. Large arrears of pay were due to soldiers, and bounties had been promised to induce them to disband peacefully, and to compensate them for the depreciation of the currency. Congress had also granted five years' extra pay to officers, in lieu of the half-pay for life which was first voted. The army, in consequence, became very unpopular. A great clamor was raised against the Cincinnati Society, and factious patriots pretended to see in it the foundation of an hereditary aristocracy. The public irritability, excited by pretexts like these, broke out into violence. In Connecticut, mobs collected to prevent the army officers from receiving the certificates for the five years' pay, and a convention was assembled to elect men pledged to non-payment. Shay and Shattuck headed an insurrection in Massachusetts. There were riots at Exeter, in New Hampshire. When Shay's band was defeated and driven out of the State, Rhode Island—then sometimes called Rogue's Island, from her paper-money operations—refused to give up the refugee rebels. The times looked gloomy. The nation, relieved from the foreign pressure which had bound the Colonies together, seemed tumbling to pieces; each State was an independent sovereignty, free to go to ruin in its own way. The necessity for a strong central government to replace English rule became evident to all judicious men; for, as one Pelatiah Webster remarked, "Thirteen staves, and ne'er a hoop, cannot make a barrel." The Hartford Wits had fought out the war against King George; they now took up the pen against King Mob, and placed themselves in rank with the friends of order, good government, and union. Hence the "Anarchiad." An ancient epic on "the Restoration of Chaos and Substantial Blight" was dug up in the ruins of an old Indian fort, where Madoc, the mythical Welsh Columbus, or some of his descendants, had buried it. Colonel Humphreys, who[Pg 191] had read the "Rolliad" in England, suggested the plan; Barlow, Hopkins, and Trumbull joined with him in carrying it out. Extracts from the "Anarchiad" were prepared when wanted, and the verses applied fresh to the enfeebled body politic. They chanted the dangers and difficulties of the old Federation and the advantages of the new Constitution. Union was the burden of their song; and they took a prophetic view of the stormy future, if thirteen independent States should divide this territory between them.

"Shall lordly Hudson part contending powers,
And broad Potomac lave two hostile shores?
Must Alleghany's sacred summits bear
The impious bulwarks of perpetual war?
His hundred streams receive your heroes slain,
And bear your sons inglorious to the main?"

We, miserrimi, have lived to see it, and to see modern Shayites vote to establish such a state of things forever.

When the new government was firmly settled and found to work well, the same class of men who had opposed the Union formed the Anti-Federal, Democratic, or French party. The Hartford school were Federalists, of course. Theodore Dwight and Alsop, assisted by Dr. Hopkins, published in the local papers "The Political Greenhouse" and "The Echo,"—an imitation of "The Anti-Jacobin,"—"to check the progress of false taste in writing, and to stem the torrent of Jacobinism in America and the hideous morality of revolutionary madness." It was a place and time when, in the Hartford vocabulary,

"Patriot stood synonymous with rogue";

and their versified squibs were let off at men rather than at measures. As a specimen of their mode of treatment, let us take Matthew Lyon, first an Irish redemptioner bought by a farmer in Derby, then an Anti-Federal champion and member of Congress from Vermont; once famous for publishing Barlow's letter to Senator Baldwin,—for his trial under the Alien and Sedition Act,—for the personal difficulty when

"He seized the tongs
To avenge his wrongs,
And Griswold thus engaged."

The Hartford poets notice him thus:—

"This beast within a few short years
Was purchased for a yoke of steers;
But now the wise Vermonters say
He's worth six hundred cents a day."

Other leaders of the Anti-Federal party fare no better. Mr. Jefferson's literary and scientific whims came in for a share of ridicule.

"Great sire of stories past belief;
Historian of the Mingo chief;
Philosopher of Indians' hair;
Inventor of a rocking-chair;
The correspondent of Mazzei,
And Banneker, less black than he," et seq.

The paper containing this paragraph had the felicity of being quoted in Congress by the Honorable John Nicholas, of Virginia, to prove that Connecticut wished to lead the United States into a war with France. The honorable gentleman read on until he came to the passage,—

"Each Jacobin began to stir,
And sat as though on chestnut-burr,"

when he stopped short. Mr. Dana of Connecticut took up the quotation and finished it, to the great amusement of the House.

The last number was published in 1805. As we look over the "Echo," and find nothing in it but doggerel,—generally very dull doggerel,—we might wonder at the applause it obtained, if we did not recollect how fiercely the two great parties engaged each other. In a riot, any stick, stone, or ignoble fragment of household pottery is valuable as a missile weapon.

While the constellation was shining resplendent over Connecticut, each bright star had its own particular twinkle. Trumbull had his "Progress of Dulness," in three cantos,—an imitation, in manner, of Goldsmith's "Double Transformation." The title is happy. The decline of Miss Harriet Simper from bellehood to an autumnal marriage, in Canto III., is more tiresome than the progress of Tom Brainless from the plough-tail to the pulpit, in Canto I. The Reverend Mr. Brainless, when called and settled,—

"On Sunday in his best array
Deals forth the dulness of the day."
[Pg 192]

These two lines, descriptive, unfortunately, of too many ministrations, are all that have survived of the three cantos. Trumbull's chef d'œuvre is "McFingal," begun before the war and finished soon after the peace. The poem covers the whole Revolutionary period, from the Boston tea-party to the final humiliation of Great Britain: Lord North and General Gage, Hutchinson, Judge Oliver, and Treasurer Gray; Doctors Sam. Peters and Seabury; passive obedience and divine right; no taxation without representation; Rivington the printer, Massachusettensis, and Samuel Adams; Yankee Doodle; who began the war? town-meetings, liberty-poles, mobs, tarring, feathering, and smoking Tories; Tryon, Galloway, Burgoyne, Prescott, Guy Carleton; paper-money, regulation, and tender; in short, all the men and topics which preserve our polyphilosophohistorical societies from lethargic extinction. "McFingal" hit the taste of the times; it was very successful. But although thirty editions were sold in shops or hawked about by peddlers, there was no copyright law in the land, and Trumbull took more praise than solid pudding by his poetry. It was reprinted in England, and found its way to France. The Marquis de Chastellux, an author himself, took an especial interest in American literature. He wrote to congratulate Trumbull upon his excellent poem, and took the opportunity to lay down "the conditions prescribed for burlesque poetry." "These, Sir, you have happily seized and perfectly complied with.... I believe that you have rifled every flower which that kind of poetry could offer.... Nor do I hesitate to assure you that I prefer it to every work of the kind,—even to Hudibras." Notwithstanding the opinion of the pompous Marquis, nobody reads "McFingal." Time has blotted out most of the four cantos. There are left a few lines, often quoted by gentlemen of the press, and invariably ascribed to "Hudibras":—

"For any man with half an eye
What stands before him can espy;
But optics sharp it needs, I ween,
To see what is not to be seen."
"But as some muskets so contrive it
As oft to miss the mark they drive at,
And though well aimed at duck or plover,
Bear wide and kick their owners over."
"No man e'er felt the halter draw
With good opinion of the law."

The last two verses have passed into immortality as a proverb. Perhaps a few other grains of corn might be picked out of these hundred and seventy pages of chaff.

Dr. Dwight staked his fame on "The Conquest of Canaan," an attempt to make an Iliad out of the Old Testament. Eleven books; nine thousand six hundred and seventy-two dreary verses, full of battles and thunderstorms; peopled with Irad, Jabin, Hanniel, Hezron, Zimri, and others like them, more colorless and shadowy than the brave Gyas and the brave Cloanthus. Not a line of this epic has survived. Shorter and much better is "Greenfield Hill," a didactic poem, composed, the author said, to amuse and to instruct in economical, political, and moral sentiments. Greenfield was, for a time, the scene of the Doctor's professional labors. His descriptions of New England character, of the prosperity and comfort of New England life, are accurate, but not vivid. The book is full of good sense, but there is little poetry in it. True to the literary instincts of the Pleiads, he shines with reflected light, and works after Thomson and Goldsmith so closely that in many passages imitation passes into parody.

Like Timotheus of Greece, Timothy of Connecticut

"to his breathing flute and sounding lyre
Could swell the soul to rage, or kindle soft desire."

He wrote a war chant; he wrote psalms; and there is a song in the "Litchfield Collection" in which he attempts to kindle soft desire. Here is an extract:—

No longer, then, fair maid, delay
The promised scenes of bliss,
Nor idly give another day
The joys assigned to this.[Pg 193]
"Quit, then, oh, quit, thou lovely maid!
Thy bashful virgin pride,"—

and so on sings the Doctor. Who would have thought that

"profound Solomon would tune a jig,
Or Nestor play at pushpin with the boys,"

as Shakspeare has it? who would have expected erotic tints and Epicurean morality from the author of "The Conquest of Canaan," and of four volumes of orthodox and weighty theology?

The "Ode to Columbia,"

"Columbia! Columbia! to glory arise,
The queen of the world and the child of the skies!"

written when Dwight was a chaplain in the Revolutionary Army, is probably more known to the moderns than any of his poetical efforts. It is a vision of the future greatness of the new-born nation,—short, spirited, and finished with more care than he was in the habit of giving to his verses.

In like manner the brave and burly Colonel

"Humphreys charmed the listening throng;
Sweetly he sang amid the clang of arms."

At Washington's head-quarters in Peekskill he composed "An Address to the Armies of the United States." It was recited publicly in London, and translated by Chastellux into French prose. Three years later he published a poem on the "Happiness of America," which ran through ten editions. In it the gallant man-at-rhymes tells the story of his own campaigns:—

"From whom I learnt the martial art;
With what high chiefs I played my early part:
With Parsons first, whose eye with piercing ken
Reads through their hearts the characters of men.
Then how I aided in the following scene
Death-daring Putnam, then immortal Greene.
Then how great Washington my youth approved,
In rank preferred and as a parent loved;
(For each fine feeling in his bosom blends,—
The first of heroes, sages, patriots, friends!)
With him what hours on warlike plans I spent
Beneath the shadow of th' imperial tent;
With him how oft I went the nightly round
Through moving hosts, or slept on tented ground;
From him how oft (nor far below the first
In high behests and confidential trust,)—
From him how oft I bore the dread commands
Which destined for the fight the eager bands;
With him how oft I passed th' eventful day,
Rode by his side as down the long array
His awful voice the columns taught to form,
To point the thunders and to pour the storm."

This extract will give a fair idea of the Colonel's manner. A poem on "The Future Glory of the United States of America," another on "The Industry of the United States of America," and "The Death of General Washington," make up his credentials to a seat on the American Parnassus.

Joel Barlow, "Virgilian Barlow," is the most remarkable of the cluster. He started in the race of life with ten competitors of his own blood, and came in a successful adventurer in both hemispheres. After serving in the army with musket and prayer-book, he practised law, edited a newspaper, kept a book-shop,—and having exhausted the variety of callings offered by Connecticut, went to France as agent for the Scioto Land Company, and opened an office in Paris with a grand flourish of advertisements. "Farms for sale on the banks of the Ohio, la belle rivière; the finest district of the United States! Healthful and delightful climate; scarcely any frost in winter; fertile soil; a boundless inland navigation; magnificent forests of a tree from which sugar flows; excellent fishing and fowling; venison in abundance; no wolves, lions, or tigers; no taxes; no military duty. All these unexampled advantages offered to colonists at five shillings the acre!" The speculation took well. Nothing was talked of but the free and rural life to be led on the banks of the Scioto. Brissot's foolish book on America confirmed the promises of Barlow, and stimulated the ardor of purchasers.

The Scioto Company turned out to be a swindling land-company, the precursor of many that have resembled it. The lands they offered had been bought of the Ohio Company, but were never paid for. When the poor French barbers, fiddlers, and bakers, as they are called in a contemporary narrative, reached the banks of la belle rivière, they found that their title-deeds were good for nothing, and that the woods produced savages instead of sugar. Some died of privation, some were scalped, and some found their way to New Orleans. The few who remained[Pg 194] eventually obtained a grant of a few acres from the Ohio Company, by paying for them over again.

In the mean time the French Revolution had broken out, and Barlow saw the visions and dreamed the dreams of the enthusiasts of that day. He dropped the land business, and he dropped his New England prejudices, religious as well as political, and his New England common sense. Connecticut men who wander into other lands and other opinions seem peculiarly subject to such violent transformations. Some of the most ignivorous of our Southern countrymen are the offspring of Connecticut; and, strange as it may appear, the sober land of the pumpkin and onion exports more arbiters of elegance and punctilio, more judges without appeal of horses, wine, and beauty, more gentlemen of the most sensitive and demonstrative honor, than any other Northern State.

Inspired by the instincts of his race, Barlow fancied he saw the approach of a new era of perfection. To hasten its advent in England, he translated Volney's "Ruins," and went to London to publish his translation. There he wrote his "Advice to the Privileged Classes," a political pamphlet, and became an active member of the Constitution Society. The Society commissioned him as delegate to the French Convention, with an address of congratulation and a gift of a thousand pairs of shoes. The Convention rewarded him with the dignity of Citoyen Francais. Barlow adopted the character, and carried it out. He sang at a supper a parody of "God save the King," composed by himself.

"Fame, let thy trumpet sound!
Tell all the world around
How Capet fell!
And when great George's poll
Shall in the basket roll,
Let mercy then control
The Guillotine!
"God save the Guillotine,
Till England's King and Queen
Her power shall prove;
When all the sceptred crew
Have paid their homage to
The Guillotine!"

A few years before, Barlow had dedicated the "Vision of Columbus" to poor Capet, whose destruction he celebrates so pleasantly,—with many assurances of the gratitude of America, and of his own veneration. "Cœlum, non animum," would never have been written, if Horace had properly understood Connecticut character.

Barlow's zeal was pleasing to the rulers of France. They sent him and the Abbé Grégoire to revolutionize Savoy, and to divide it into departments. After his return, he became rich by speculation, and lived handsomely in the Hotel de Clermont-Tonnerre. His reputation extended to his own country. The United States employed him to negotiate with the Barbary pirates,—that is to say, to buy off the wretched cutthroats who infested the Mediterranean. He went to Africa, and made arrangements which were considered advantageous then, and would be hooted at as disgraceful now. In the treaty with Algiers occurred a passage that gave great offence to his friends at home, and to Federalists in general. It was to this effect, if not in these words: "That the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."

In 1805, after seventeen years of absence, Barlow returned to America, built himself a house near Washington, and called it Kalorama. Jefferson and the Democrats received him with open arms; he embraced them with equal warmth, and was a very great man for some time. A new edition of the "Columbiad" completed his fame,—an edition gotten up at his own expense, with engravings by his friend Robert Fulton; the paper, type, illustrations, and binding, far superior to anything as yet produced by American publishers. At the request of the President, Barlow went back to France as Minister, in the place of General Armstrong. It was the winter of the Russian campaign. A personal interview with the Emperor on the subject of the Berlin and Milan Decrees seemed necessary, and Barlow hurried to Wilna to[Pg 195] meet him. The weather was unusually severe, the roads rough, and the accommodations wretched. Cold and exposure brought on a violent illness; and Barlow expired in a miserable hut near Cracow. The "Columbiad" is an enlargement, or rather a dilution, of the "Vision of Columbus," by the addition of some two thousand verses. The epic opens with Columbus in prison; to him enters Hesper, an angel. The angel leads Columbus to the Mount of Vision, whence he beholds the panorama of the Western Continent he had discovered. Hesper acts as showman, and explains the tableaux as they roll on. He points out the geographical features of America, not forgetting Connecticut River; relates the history of Mexico and of Peru, and explains the origin of races, cautioning Columbus against the theory of several Adams. Turning north, he describes the settlement of the English colonies, and narrates the old French War of General Wolfe and the American Revolution, with the customary episodes,—Saratoga, Yorktown, Major André, Miss McCrea, and the prison-ships. Finally, the angel predicts the glory of the world's future,—perpetual peace, unrestricted commerce, public works, health and longevity, one universal language. The globe, "one confederate, independent sway," shall

"Spread with the sun, and bound the walks of day;
One central system, one all-ruling soul,
Live through the parts, and regulate the whole."

There is evidently no room for the serpent Secession in Barlow's paradise. This grand federation of the terrestrial ball is governed by a general council of elderly married men, "long rows of reverend sires sublime," presided over by a "sire elect shining in peerless grandeur." The delegates hold their sessions in Mesopotamia, within a "sacred mansion" of high architectural pretensions.

"On rocks of adamant the walls ascend,
Tall columns heave, and sky-like arches bend;
Bright o'er the golden roof the glittering spires
Far in the concave meet the solar fires;
Four blazing fronts, with gates unfolding high,
Look with immortal splendor round the sky."

In the spacious court of the capitol of the world stands the statue of the Genius of Earth, holding Truth's mighty mirror in his hand. On the pedestal are carved the noblest arts of man. Beneath the footstool of the Genius,

"all destructive things,
The mask of priesthood and the mace of kings,
Lie trampled in the dust; for here, at last,
Fraud, folly, error, all their emblems cast.
Each envoy here unloads his weary hand
Of some old idol from his native land.
One flings a pagod on the mingled heap;
One lays a crescent, one a cross to sleep;
Swords, sceptres, mitres, crowns and globes and stars,
Codes of false fame and stimulants to wars,
Sink in the settling mass. Since guile began,
These are the agents of the woes of man."

It will be observed that Barlow improved slightly upon the old loyalist cry, "Une loi, un roi, une foi." One government, one reverend sire elect, and no religion, was his theory of the future of mankind.

Few men in these degenerate days have the endurance to read the "Columbiad" through; but "Hasty Pudding," which Barlow celebrated in verse as good sound republican diet, may be read with some pleasure. It belongs to the same class of poems as Philips's "Cider," Dyer's "Fleece," and Grainger's "Sugar-Cane," and is quite as good as most of them.

There is little to be said about Alsop. He was a scholarly gentleman, who published a few mild versions from the Italian and the Scandinavian, and a poem on the "Memory of Washington," and was considerate enough not to publish a poem on the "Charms of Fancy," which still exists, we believe, in manuscript. In some verses extracted from it by the editors of the "Cyclopædia of American Literature" we recognize with interest that traveller of the future who is to moralize over the ruins of the present,—known to all readers as Macaulay's New-Zealander, although Goldsmith, Kirke White, and others had already introduced him to the public. Alsop brings this Wandering Jew of literature from Nootka Sound to gaze on "many a shattered pile and broken stone," where "fair Bostonia," "York's proud emporium,"[Pg 196] or Philadelphia, "caught the admiring gaze."

The wild-eyed, excitable Dr. Hopkins had more vigor and originality than his brother stars. There is much rough humor in his burlesque of the essay of Brackenridge of Pittsburg on the Indian War:—

"As if our God
One single thought on Indians e'er bestowed;
To them his care extends, or even knew,
Before Columbus told him, where they grew";

and in his epitaph on the "Victim of a Cancer Quack":—

"The case was this:—a pimple rose
Southeast a little of his nose,
Which daily reddened and grew bigger,
As too much drinking gave it vigor";

and in the "Hypocrite's Hope":—

"Blest is the man who from the womb
To saintship him betakes;
And when too soon his child shall come,
A long confession makes";

and in the squib on Ethan Allen's infidel book:—

"Lo! Allen 'scaped from British jails,
His tushes broke by biting nails,
Appears in hyperborean skies,
To tell the world the Bible lies."

Dr. Hopkins published very little; he might be excused, if he had written more.

Addison said, he never yet knew an author who had not his admirers. The Connecticut authors were no exception to this rule. To begin with, they admired themselves, and they admired one another; each played squire to his gifted friend, and sounded the trumpet of his fame. It was, "See! Trumbull leads the train," or "the ardent throng"; "Trumbull! earliest boast of Fame"; "Lo! Trumbull wakes the lyre."

"Superior poet, in whose classic strain
In bright accordance wit and fancy reign;
Whose powers of genius in their ample range
Comprise each subject and each tuneful change,
Each charm of melody to Phoebus dear,
The grave, the gay, the tender, the severe."

Barlow is "a Child of Genius"; Columbus owes much of his glory to him.

"In Virgilian Barlow's tuneful lines
With added splendor great Columbus shines."

Then we have "Majestic Dwight, sublime in epic strain"; "Blest Dwight"; Dwight of "Homeric fire." Colonel Humphreys is fully up to the regulation standard:—

"In lore of nations skilled and brave in arms,
See Humphreys glorious from the field retire,
Sheathe the glad sword and string the sounding lyre."

Dwight thought "McFingal" much superior to "Hudibras"; and Hopkinson, the author of "Hail Columbia," mentions, as a melancholy instance of æsthetic hallucination, that Secretary Wolcott, whose taste in literature was otherwise good, had an excessive admiration for "The Conquest of Canaan." A general chorus of neighbors and friends rose in the columns of the "Connecticut Magazine and New Haven Gazette":—"It is with a noble and patriotic pride that America boasts of her Barlow, Dwight, Trumbull, and Humphreys, the poetical luminaries of Connecticut"; and all true New-Englanders preferred their home-made verses to the best imported article. The fame of the Seven extended into the neighboring States; Boston, not yet the Athens of America, confessed "that Pegasus was not backed by better horsemen from any part of the Union." But the glory grew fainter as the distance increased from the centre of illumination. In New York, praise was qualified. The Rev. Samuel Miller of that city, who published in 1800 "A Brief Retrospect of the Literature of the Eighteenth Century," calls Mr. Trumbull a respectable poet, thinks that Dr. Dwight's "Greenfield Hill" is entitled to considerable praise, and finds much poetic merit in Mr. Barlow's "Vision"; but he closes the chapter sadly, with a touch of Johnson's vigor:—"The annals of American literature are short and simple. The history of poverty is usually neither very various nor very interesting." Farther South the voice of the scoffer was heard. Mr. Robert Morris ventured to say in the Assembly of Pennsylvania, that America had not as yet produced a good poet. Great surprise and indignation, when this speech reached the eyes of the Connecticut men! Morris might understand banking, but in taste he was absurdly deficient. No poets! What did he call[Pg 197] John Trumbull of Hartford, and Joel Barlow, author of "The Vision of Columbus"? "We appeal to the bar of taste, whether the writings of the poets now living in Connecticut are not equal to anything which the present age can produce in the English language."

Cowper showed excellent sense when he wrote,—"Wherever else I am accounted dull, let me at least pass for a genius at Olney." The Hartford Wits passed for geniuses in Connecticut, which is better, as far as the genius is concerned, than any extent or duration of posthumous fame. Let their shades, then, be satisfied with the good things in the way of praise they received in their lives; for between us and them there is fixed a great gulf of oblivion, into which Time, the merciless critic from whose judgment there is no appeal, has tumbled their works.

In 1793, a volume of "American Poems, Selected and Original," was published in Litchfield by subscription. A second volume was promised, if the first met with "that success which the value of the poems it contained seemed to warrant"; but no second volume appeared. When Hopkins died, in 1801, the constellation was sinking fast to the horizon; a few years later it had set, and only elderly inhabitants remembered when the Down-Eastern sky was made bright by it. Barlow's magnificent edition revived the recollection for a time, and the old defiant cry was raised again, that the "Columbiad" was comparable, not to say superior, to any poem that had appeared in Europe since the independence of the United States. But English reviewers refused to chime in. Their critical remarks were not flattering, although merciful as compared with the jeers of the "Edinburgh" at Byron's "Hours of Idleness," or the angry abuse with which the earlier productions of the Lake School were received. Nevertheless, Paulding, Ingersoll, and Walsh, indignant, sprang to their quills, and attacked the prejudiced British with the argumentum ad hominem, England's "sores and blotches," etc.; the argumentum Tu quoque, "We're as good a poet as you are, and a better, too"; and, lastly, pleaded minority in bar of adverse criticism, "We are a young nation," and so on. This was to yield the point. If a young nation necessarily writes verses similar in quality to those of very young persons, it would always be proper to take Uncle Toby's advice, "and say no more about it." Deaf to Walsh's "Appeal," and to Inchiquin's "Letters," Sydney Smith, as late as January, 1820, asked, in the "Edinburgh," that well-known and stinging question, "In the four quarters of the globe, who reads an American book?" Even at home, "Hesper" and "The Mount of Vision" soon faded out of sight. At that time, 1808-1810, readers of verse had, not to mention Cowper, "The Lay of the Last Minstrel" and "Marmion," "Gertrude of Wyoming," "Thalaba," Moore's "Anacreon," and two volumes by William Wordsworth,—poems with which the American producer was unable to compete. In 1820 Samuel G. Goodrich of Hartford published a complete edition of Trumbull's works in two volumes, the type large and the paper excellent,—with a portrait of the author, and good engravings of McFingal in the Cellar, and of Abijah Mann bearing the Town Resolves of Marshfield to Boston. The sale did not repay the outlay. When Trumbull died, in 1831, he was as completely forgotten as any Revolutionary colonel or captain.

Humphreys once feeling, that, in spite of all his struggles, he was not doing much, exclaimed,—

"Why, niggard language, dost thou balk my soul?"

He did not see the reason why: his soul had not much to say. This was the trouble with them all. There was not a spark of genuine poetic fire in the Seven. They sang without an ear for music; they strewed their pages with faded artificial flowers which they mistook for Nature, and endeavored to overcome sterility of imagination and want of passion by veneering with magniloquent epithets. They padded their ill-favored Muse, belaced and beruffled[Pg 198] her, and covered her with garments stiffened with tawdry embroidery to hide her leanness; they overpowdered and overrouged to give her the beauty Providence had refused. I say their Muse, but they had no Muse of their own; they imported an inferior one from England, and tried her in every style,—Pope's and Dryden's, Goldsmith's and Gray's, and never rose above a poor imitation; producing something which looked like a model, but lacked its flavor: wooden poetry, in short,—a genuine product of the soil.

Judging from their allusions to themselves, no one of the Seven mistrusted his own poetical powers or the gifts of his colleagues. They seem to have died in their error, unrepentant, in the comfortable hope of an hereafter of fame. Their works have faded out of sight like an unfinished photograph. It was a sad waste of human endeavor, a profitless employment of labor, unusual in Connecticut.[C]

But, although thus "wrecked upon the rock of rhyme," these bards of Connecticut were not mere waste-paper of mankind, as Franklin sneeringly called our poets, but sensible, well-educated gentlemen of good English stock, of the best social position, and industrious in their business; for Alsop was the only one who "left no calling for the idle trade." Hopkins stood at the head of his profession. Dwight was beloved and respected as minister, legislator, theologian, and President of Yale College. Trumbull was a member of the State Legislature, State's Attorney, and Judge of the Supreme Court. Humphreys served on Washington's staff, received a sword from Congress for his gallantry at Yorktown, was Secretary of Legation at Paris, Minister to Portugal and Spain, and introduced merino sheep into New England. Barlow, as we have already seen, was Ambassador to France at the time of his death. All of these, except Trumbull, had borne arms, and did not throw away their shields like Archilochus and Horace. They were sincere patriots, who honestly predicted a future of boundless progress in wealth, science, religion, and virtue for the United States,—the exemplar of liberty and justice to the world, "surpassing all nations that have ever existed, in magnitude, felicity, and duration." And on the other hand, every one of them believed in the decline and impending fall of their old enemy, Great Britain. Barlow's "Hesper" even hints that a Columbus from New England may one day rediscover the Old World.

After the peace, when the closer union of the States under one general government was proposed, the Hartford Wits worked hard to argue down and to laugh down the bitter and absurd opposition which sprang up. That great question was settled definitively by the adoption of the new Constitution, and another took its place: How is this document to be interpreted? The Hartford men, excepting, of course, Joel Barlow, the Lost Pleiad of the group, whose head had been turned by the bewildering theories of his French fellow-citizens, were warmly in favor of administering the new government on Federal principles. Were not the Federalists right? More than thirty years ago, De Tocqueville pronounced in their favor; De Witt, in his recent essay on Jefferson, comes to the same decision: both observers who have no party-feelings nor class-prejudices to mislead them. And have not the last few years given us all light enough to see that abstractly, as statesmen, the Federal leaders were right? As politicians, in the degraded American sense of the word, they were unskilful; they accelerated the downfall of their party by injudicious measures and by petty rivalries. But although their ruin might have been adjourned, it could not have been avoided; we now know that their fate was inevitable.[Pg 199] The democracy must have run over them and trodden them out by the sheer brute force of numbers; no superiority in wisdom or in virtue could have saved them long.

In those hot and angry days a mania politica raged among the inhabitants of the United States. One could no longer recognize the sensible people who had fought the British stoutly for seven years, without the slightest idea that they were struggling for anything more than independence of foreign rule. Thomas Paine and Joel Barlow, graduates of the great French Revolution University, had come to teach them the new jargon: the virtue and wisdom of the people; the natural rights of man; the natural propensity of rulers and priests to ignore them; and other similar high-sounding words, the shibboleth and the mainstay of the Democratic party to this day. The Anti-Federalists were as much pleased to learn that they had been contending for these beautiful phrases as was Monsieur Jourdain when told he had been speaking de la prose all his life. They assumed the title of Citizen, invented that of Citess to please strong-minded sisters, and became as crazy as Monsieur Jourdain when invested with the dignity of Mamamouchi. They proclaimed that the government of the United States, like all other governments, was naturally hostile to the rights of the people; France was their only hope; if the leagued despotisms succeeded against her, they would soon send their engines of destruction among them. They planted trees of liberty, and danced about them, and sang the Carmagnole with variations from Yankee Doodle; they offered their lives for liberty, which was in no danger, not even from their follies; and swore destruction to tyrants, as if that unpopular class of persons existed in the United States. They were the people,—the wise, the pure,—who could do no wrong. The Federalists were aristocrats, monocrats,—lovers of court ceremonies and levees, chariots and servants and plate. The distinguished chief of the French party, whose "heart was a perpetual bleeding fountain of philanthropy," was not above pretending to believe that his opponents were striving to "establish the hell of monarchy" in this republican paradise, and were "ready to surrender the commerce of the country, and almost every privilege as a free, sovereign, and independent nation, to the British." Even such a man as Samuel Adams, at a dinner on board of a French frigate, could put the bonnet rouge on his venerable head, and pray that "France alone might rule the seas."

The New-Englanders laughed at the charge of monarchical predilections, so absurdly inconsistent with their history, their laws, habits, and feelings. Before the war, leading men in other Colonies had affected to dread their levelling propensities; and General Charles Lee had said of them, with some truth, that they were the only Americans who had a single republican qualification or idea. Freedom was an old fireside acquaintance; they knew that the dishevelled, hysterical creature the Gallo-Democrats worshipped was a delusion, and feared she might prove a snare. Their common sense taught them to pay little attention to a priori disquisitions on natural rights, social compacts, etc.,—metaphysics of politics, nugatory for all practical American purposes,—and to reject as ridiculous the promised millennium of supreme reason and perfected man. From a long experience in the management of public affairs, they learned that our new government was in danger from its weakness rather than from its strength; hence they rejected the fatal doctrine of State rights, the root of the greatest political evil, Secession. In the theories and in the measures of the Democrats, in the very absurdity of the accusations made against themselves, they thought they perceived a reckless purpose to relax authority for the sake of popularity, which would lead to mob-rule, more distasteful to the orderly Yankee than any other form of tyranny. Moreover, in the Eastern States most of the Anti-Federalists[Pg 200] belonged to the lowest class of society; and, not content with urging their pernicious public policy, the more turbulent of the party showed a strong inclination to adopt French principles in religion and morals, as well as in government. Robespierre had announced pompously, "L'Atheisme est aristocratique." New England Federalists thought it democratic on this side of the ocean. If they must choose between the Tri-Color and the Cross of St. George, they preferred the Cross. There was no guillotine in Great Britain,—no capering about plaster statues of the Goddess of Reason; people read their Bibles, went to church, and respected the holy sacrament of matrimony. But they wished for neither a France nor an England; they desired to make an America after their own hearts,—religious, just, orderly, and industrious; they believed that on the Federalist plan such a nation could be built up, and on no other; they opposed Jeffersonian politics then as they oppose Jeffersonian-Davis politics now, and they were as heartily abused then as they have been since, and as foolishly.

It must be confessed that the Hartford Wits did ample injustice to their antagonists. Mr. Jefferson was certainly not an Avatar of the enemy of mankind, nor were his followers atheists, anarchists, and rogues. But in 1799 there were no shabbier Democrats than those of Connecticut. If we may judge of the old race by a few surviving specimens, we may pardon our poets, if they added contempt to theoretical disapprobation, and, in their eagerness to

"Confound their politics"


"Expose their knavish tricks,"

allowed their feelings to exaggerate the unpleasant traits of the master and of his disciples.

The Hartford men were on the losing side. Federalism expired with the election of Monroe. Its degenerate successor, Whiggism, had no principles of value, and only lagged in the rear of the Democratic advance. Statesmanship and good sense went hopelessly down before the discipline of party and the hunger for office; and with each year it became easier to catch a well-meaning, but short-sighted public in any trap baited with the usual ad captandum commonplaces. We are very frequently told that "History is philosophy teaching by example,"—one of those copy-book apophthegms which people love to repeat as if they contained important truth. But the teachings of history or of philosophy never reach the ears of the multitude; they are drowned by the din of selfish rogues or of blind enthusiasts. Poor stupid humanity goes round and round like a mill-horse in a dreary ring of political follies. The cast-off sophisms and rhetorical rubbish of a past generation are patched up, scoured, and offered to the credulous present as something novel and excellent. People do not know how often the rotten stuff has been used and thrown away, and accept it readily. After a while, they discover to their cost, as their ancestors did before them, that it is good for nothing. But even if it were possible to have a grand international patent-office for political devices, where the venerable machines, so often reinvented to break down again, could be labelled worthless, and exhibited to all the world, I fear that the newest pet demagogue would persuade the voters of his district, in spite of their eyes, that he had contrived an improvement to make some one of the rickety old things work. No wonder that Dr. Franklin lost patience, when he saw how sadly reason was perverted by ignorance, selfishness, and wickedness, and wished "that mankind had never been endowed with a reasoning faculty, since they know so little how to make use of it, and so often mislead themselves by it, and that they had been furnished with a good sensible instinct instead of it."

Connecticut should be proud of her poets: not as literary luminaries of the first magnitude, but as manly citizens, who sincerely loved justice, order, self-control;—in two words, genuine freedom;[Pg 201] as cultivated gentlemen, who belonged to a class no longer numerous.

"This small, this blest secluded State
Still meets unmoved the blasts of Fate."

Unmoved, indeed, as in Federal times, but suffering sadly from depletion. The great West and the city of New York have sucked her best blood. There still remain inventive machinists, acute money-changers, acutest peddlers; but the seed of the Muses has run out. No more Pleiades at Hartford; no three "mighties," like Hosmer, Ellsworth, and Johnson; no lawyers of infinite wit, like Tracy and Daggett; no Wolcotts or Shermans: but the small State can boast that she has still within her borders many sons full of the spirit shown by Comfort Sage and by Return Jonathan Meigs, when they marched for Boston at the head of their companies as soon as the news of Lexington reached Connecticut.


[B] It may interest temperance men to learn that somewhat later than the period alluded to above, Connecticut paid excise on 400,000 gallons of rum yearly,—about two gallons to each inhabitant, young and old, male and female.

[C] Philip Freneau, whose Jacobin newspaper was despised by all good Federalists, wrote better verses than the All Connecticut Seven. His "Indian Burying-Ground" is worthy of a place in an anthology. This stanza has often been ascribed to Campbell; it is as good as any one in Schiller's "Nadowessie Death-Lament,"—

"By midnight moons, o'er glistening dews,
In vestments for the chase arrayed,
The hunter still the deer pursues;
The hunter and the deer a shade."




Our schooner sailed once up and down the coast of Labrador, skirting it for a distance of five hundred miles; but in these papers I sail back and forth as many times as I please. Having, therefore, followed up the ice, I am again at Sleupe Harbor, our first port, and invite thee to go with us in a day's pursuit of Eider-Duck; for among these innumerable islands the eider breeds, and not elsewhere in considerable numbers, so far as we could learn, short of—somewhere in the remote North. Bradford, this morning, June 15th, has hired the two Canadians to take him to the bird-haunts in their own boat, and to shoot for him,—kindly offering a place to the Judge and myself.

The word Eider had long been to me a name to conjure with. At some far-away period in childhood it got imbedded in my fancy, and in process of time had acquired that subtilest, indefinable fascination which belongs only to imaginative reminiscence. In the future, I suppose, all this existence will have become such a childhood, its earth changed to sky, its dulness sharpened to a tender, delicious poignancy of allurement and suggestion. And were it not bliss enough for an immortality, this boundless deepening and refining of experience through memory and imagination? Only to feel thrilling in one's being chords of connection with times immeasurably bygone! only to be fed with ethereal remembrance out of a youth scarcely less ancient than the stars! Pity Tithonus no more; or pity him only because in him age had become the enemy of itself, and spilled the wine from its own cup.

The wind was ahead, and blew freshly down through the wilderness of islands, sweeping between granite shores along many and many a winding channel; the boat careened almost to her gunwale, yielding easily at first, but holding hard when well down, as good boats will; the waves beat saucily against her, now and then also catching up a handful of spray, and flinging it full in our faces, not forbearing once or twice to dash it between the open lips of a talker, salting his speech somewhat too much for his comfort, though not too much for the entertainment of his interlocutors; while overhead the rifted gray was traversed by whited seams, making another wilderness of islands in the clouds. We had gone a mile, and were now sailing smoothly in the lee of an island, when Bradford exclaimed, "See there! What's that? Why, that's a 'sea-goose.' Can you get him for me?" (to[Pg 202] the elder Canadian). I had snuggled down in the bottom of the boat, and sprang up, expecting, from the word "goose," to see a large and not handsome bird, when instead appeared the tiniest tid-bit of swimming elegance that eye ever beheld. Reddish about neck and breast, graceful as a swan in form and motion, while not larger than a swallow, light as the lightest feather on the water, turning its curving neck and dainty head to look,—it seemed more like an embodied fancy than a creature inured to the chill of Arctic seas and the savagery of Arctic storms. What goose first gave it the name "sea-goose" passes conjecture. "Sea-fairy" were more appropriate.

This was the Hyperborean Phalarope,—a big name for so tiny a creature. Nuttall says that in 1833 great numbers of them appeared about Chelsea Beach. Ruddy, airy, fairy, feathered Graces, they must seem in our practical Yankee land like a mythology on wings, a flock of exquisite old Grecian fancies, flitting, light, and sweetly strange, and almost impossible, through the atmosphere of modern industries.

Soon a new attraction. It was a bird in the water quite near, about the size of a pigeon, though slenderer, glossy black, save a patch of pure white on the wing, and with an eye that glittered like a black jewel.

"Sea-pigeon," said the artist, and desired his skilful Canadian to secure the prize. The other arose and took deliberate aim. The bird, now not more than ten yards distant, did not offer to fly, and made no attempt to swim away, but kept its paddles well under it, with its head turned from us, while it swung lightly from side to side, glancing backward with its keen, audacious eye, now over this shoulder, now over that. The gun flashed; the shot spattered over the spot where a bird had been; but quicker than a flash that creature was under water and well out of harm's way! The shot could have been scarcely out of the muzzle before he had disappeared. To see such inconceivable celerity reminded one that the wings of gnats, which vibrate fifteen thousand times in a second, and light, that makes (vide Tyndale) twenty and odd millions of undulations in going an inch, are not without their fellow-wonders in Nature. Meanwhile the whole performance was so cool and neat that I could not afterwards help thinking of this creature as a humorist, and picturing it as quietly chuckling to itself under water. With reason, too; for above water was such a prolonged and ludicrous stare of amazement from at least three pairs of eyes as might satisfy the most immoderate appetite for the laughable.

This artful dodger was the Black Guillemot. It cannot be shot, if its eye is on the fowler. Eager for "specimens," I tried my long, powerful ducking-gun upon it an hour or two later, sufficiently to prove this. The birds would wait and watch, all the while glancing from side to side, and dip, dip, dipping their bills in the water with infinite wary quickness of movement, and yet with an air of audacious unconcern; but the pull at the trigger seemed to touch some nerve in them, and by the same act you fired your shot at them and fired them under water.

The curious dipping of the bill just alluded to is mentioned as characteristic of the Phalaropes, though I did not observe it, and is thought to be a snapping-up of minute Crustacea. But in the case of the Black Guillemot, I question if this be its true explanation. The bird makes this movement only when on the alert. Several of them are frolicking together; you show yourself, and instantly their bills begin to dip,—each movement being quick as lightning, but with a second of space between. I thought it partly an escape-valve for their nervous excitement, and partly a keeping in practice of their readiness to dive. To suppose them taking food under such circumstances,—one would fain think himself more formidable in their eyes than that coolness would imply.

In the afternoon, however, of this day—to anticipate a little—my specimen was obtained. While the boat[Pg 203] waited at the shore of a low island, the Judge and I sauntered up the smooth, bare granite slope to the ridge, and, looking over a breast-high wall of solid rock, saw a flock of these birds in a cove on the opposite side.

"Shall I fire?" I said.

"You couldn't hit them; they are more than two gun-shots off. However," added the Judge, presently, "your Long Tom will reach one gunshot, and fire one and a half more; it will do no harm to try."

I fired at the farthest; they went under, but when they returned to the surface one had come to grief. I walked leisurely towards them, and stood on the shore, reloading; but they gave me no heed; they were intent on their stricken comrade. Gathering around him, they began pulling at him with their bills, trying to replace him in an upright position. The poor fellow strove to comply, for he was not yet quite dead; but quickly fell over again on the side. They renewed their efforts, assiduously playing Good Samaritan to this brother who had fallen among human thieves. At last they got impatient, and pecked at him sharply, evidently looking on him as wanting in pluck. They had seemed very human before; but when they began to be vexed at him because he would not gratify their benevolence with the sense of success, I really could see no reason why they should be masquerading there in feathers, being as human as anybody!

It was an elegant bird, with its fine shape, its plumage of glossy jet and snow, and its legs of bright scarlet, bright as name. Use it has, too, for its flame-legs in the frigid seas it frequents; for it is found in the uttermost North, and dares all the severities of Polar cold.

But we have got into the afternoon too quickly, and now return to our morning pursuit of eider-duck. It was not long after the above spectacle of magic disappearance that the elder Canadian rose, went forward, and fired his piece. Two large birds, one black and white, the other brown, sprang up from the water and flew briskly away,—flew, as I thought, out of sight; the man meanwhile returning to his seat and the helm, with the same composed silence, and the same attractive, inscrutable face as before. But three hundred yards farther on we came to the male bird, quite dead. I was near firing upon it, being led by its motion on the waves to think it alive, and not in the least connecting it with the bird. I had but just now seen flying off in all apparent health,—when the Canadian, touching Bradford, and pointing, said quietly, "Dead," and the latter shouted to me accordingly. Presently, as the boat swept past, I stooped and drew it in,—a beautiful creature, with velvety violet black accompanied by dark olive-green about the head, while the neck, breast, and back were white as snow, and all the rest a glistening black.

"An eider! King eider!" cried the Artist, joyfully. Then, "Isn't it a king eider?" he said to the Canadian, holding it up.

The other nodded.

"Really a king eider!" murmured the Artist, as he now bent over it with bright eyes.

It was not, but the male of the other species, though I knew no better at the time. The king duck is one of the most Arctic of all Arctic birds, and condescends to Lower Labrador only in winter, nor then frequently. A temperature at the freezing-point is to him a mere oven, which one should be a salamander to live in; with the thermometer thirty or forty degrees lower, he is still sweltered; while his custom of growing his own coat, though it saves him from shoddy, expense, and Paris fashions, has the disadvantage that he cannot strip it off at pleasure, not even when away from the ladies and the dinner-table. He is fain, therefore, to keep well away toward the Polar North, where the climate is more temperate and pleasing, leaving Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to roast themselves, if they will do so.

While the boat sailed on, still seeking the eider-island,—which at first, so[Pg 204] the Artist said, was "half a mile off," then "a piece farther," then "right up here," then "just ahead," and now threatened to keep ahead,—I nested myself again in the bottom, and renewed an old boy-custom by studying the elder Canadian's physiognomy. It was strangely attractive, and yet strangely impenetrable, a rare out-door face, clean and firm as naked granite after a rain, healthful as balsam-firs, and so honestly weather-beaten that one could not help regarding it as a feature of natural scenery. All out-of-doors was implied in it, and it belonged as much to the horizon as to the nearest objects. The eye, with its unceasing, imperturbable search, never an instant relaxing its intentness, and never seeming to make an effort any more than the sky in looking blue, asserted this relationship, for by the same glance it seemed to take in equally the farthest and the nearest; only over us in the boat it passed always as over vacant space. Yet any question was answered at once with quiet, willing brevity, not as if he had been interrupted in his thoughts, or was recalled to a recognition of our existence, but just as he would turn the tiller in steering his boat,—while the eye still continued its conversation with that impersonal, elemental company which he seemed to keep. I found it out of my power to relate myself to him as an individual. In most faces you study special character; but in him it was somewhat older and more primitive,—somewhat which seemed to be rather existence itself than any special form of it. One felt in him that same world-old secret which haunts ancient woods, and would have asked him to utter it, were not its presence the only utterance it can have. Alas, he that speaks must use English, French, or some language which is partly conventional; and that pre-Adamite or Saturnian vernacular in which we are all trying to speak has no verbal sign. Poets, indeed, contrive to catch it, one knows not how, in the meshes of ordinary language, and only therefore are poets; but to frame in it any question or answer suited to the wants of the understanding is a feat beyond man's power. It is true that Mr. Herbert Spencer, having, by diligent, heroic self-desiccation, got his mind into the purely adult, dried-beef condition, well freed from all boy-juices of imagination, has discovered that all Fact in this universe, which cannot be verbally formulated and made a scientific dogma, is without significance to man's spirit, however it may be negatively implied as a vacant somewhat by his logic. For which discovery the incomparable man will please accept my profoundest ingratitude.

After "positive philosophy," the croak of ravens, the hoot of owls, anything that has the touch, the charm, and infinite suggestion of Nature and life, will be more than welcome; and in good time we have reached the desired island.

Not to find eiders, though, but only Saddle-Back Gulls, a crowd of which arose on our approach, and hovered about at safe, yet tantalizing distance, keeping up their monotonous, piping scream. The saddle-back, a large, powerful white bird, with a patch of black crossing it like a saddle, is the great enemy of the eider, pillaging its nest and devouring its young at every opportunity, and had probably driven the ducks from this place. It is a pirate of pirates, a Semmes in the air, cowardly toward equals, relentless toward the weak and unweaponed; and the chief care of the mother duck is to protect her little brood from these greedy confederates. One of the coolest, yet wariest rascals in the world, it can scarcely be surprised, but lingers about, just beyond gun-shot range, screaming, as if it said, "Why don't you fire? Fire!—who cares?" I came at length to cherish toward them no little animosity, and would willingly have played Kearsarge upon them, could any challenge have drawn them from port. But during the whole cruise not one of them consoled us with so much as a feather.

The flight of this bird meanwhile is magnificent,—so full of powerful grace, of achieving leisure and ease. Nothing can be more striking than its contrast[Pg 205] with the labored propulsion of the duck. A few slow waves of the wing, and there it is high in the air; then a droop, a decline, but so light and soft, so exquisitely graduated, that the downward drift of a feather seems lumpish and leaden in the comparison; then again up it goes with such an ease as if it rose by specific levity, like smoke from a chimney in a day of calm; and aloft it wheels, circles, floats, and at length sails on its broad vans away, passing in a few minutes over wide spaces, and yet, with its leisurely stroke, seeming engaged only in airing its pinions. One might fancy it the very spirit of motion imaged in a picturesque symbol.

In that delightful book, "Out-Door Papers," the author celebrates charmingly the charm of birds; but I, who am more humanist than naturalist, would say rather, What exhaustless fascination in their flight!—for this appears to touch by some subtile suggestion upon the hope or dream of man. I am, indeed, now—though always, please God, a boy—not so young a boy as once, when I could be unhappy for the want of wings, and deem, for a moment, that life is little worth without them; yet never does a bird fly in my view, especially if its flight be lofty and sustained, but it seems to carry some deep, immemorial secret of my existence, as if my immortal life flew with it. Sweet fugitive, when will it fly with me? Whenever it does,—and something assures me that one day it will,—then the new heavens and new earth! Meanwhile the intimation of it puts to the lip some unseen cup, out of which, in a soft ecstasy of pain that is better than pleasure, I quaff peace, peace. It is not always nor often that one is open to this supreme charm; but it comes at times, and then to hope all and believe all is easy as to breathe.

This mood also carries me farther than almost anything else into childhood; for, in the height of it, I can go back by link after link of remembrance, and see myself ... there ... and there ... and there again ... and at last deep into the rosy suffusion of dawn,—still looking up, and intent on that airy motion. To this day I know birds better by their flight than by their forms, unless it be the form of the wing.

I tried to see what it is which gives to the flight of some birds that look of majestic ease. Partly it is due to the slow stroke, but more, I thought, to the flexibility of the wing, and to the fact that this is less directly up-and-down in its action than that of the duck, for example. The chief effort of the duck is to sustain its weight. Consequently the wing must lie flat (comparatively) upon the air, and be kept straight out, economizing its vertical pressure; and hence the noticeable stiffness and toilsomeness of its progression. The gull, less concerned to sustain itself, uses the wing more flexibly, bending it slightly at the elbow, and pressing back the outer portion with each stroke. So a heavy swimmer must keep his hands flat, pressing down upon the water to hold up his head; while one who swims very lightly handles them more freely and flexibly, using them at pleasure to assist his progress. Yet the matter refuses to be wholly explained, and remains partly a mystery. Darwin, when in Patagonia, observed condors circling in the air, and saw them sail half an hour by the watch without any smallest vibration of the wings and without the smallest perceptible descent. I used in boyhood to see bald eagles do the same for a considerable period, though I never timed them exactly, and wonder at it now as I did then.

Away now to another island, still seeking ducks. Arrived, the Canadians land, in order, in Bradford's behalf, to have the first chance; while the Judge and I, who pretend to no skill with the gun, remain awhile behind. The island had the shape described in our first paper: a gentle slope and rock-beach on one side,—a steep, broken, half-precipitous descent on the other. Landing presently, I went slowly along the slope,—slowly, for one's feet sank deep at every step in the elastic moss, so that it was like walking on a feather-bed.[Pg 206] Some patches of shrubbery, two and a half or three feet high,—the first approach to woody growth I had seen,—drew my attention; and it is curious now to think what importance they had in my eyes, as if here were the promise of a new world. I hastened towards them, forgetting the coveted ducks; and the Canadian's gun, which sounded in the distance, did not reawaken my ambition. Forgetting or remembering were probably much the same; for I had scarcely fired a gun in twenty and odd years, never had taken a bird on the wing, and, besides, must now fire from the left shoulder,—the right eye being like Goldsmith's tea-cups, "wisely kept for show." But as I touched the shrubbery there was a stir, a rustle, a whirr, and away went a large brown bird, scurrying off toward the sea. Upon the impulse of the moment, I up gun, and blazed after. To my amazement, the bird fell. I stumped off for my prize, actually achieving a sort of run, the first for years,—pretty sure, however, that the creature was making game of me rather than I of it, and would rise and flirt its tail in my face when I should be near enough to make the mockery poignant. No, the poor thing's game was up. It was a large bird, of an orange-brown hue, mottled with faint white and shadings of black. A powerful relenting came over me, and I could have sat down and cried like a baby, had that been suitable for a "boy" of my years.

"Do you know that was pretty well done?" cried a voice.

It was Bradford, who was hurrying up. I had no heart to answer; I was not jolly.

"Why, it's a female eider," he said, when near; "you've shot an eider on the wing!"

O tempora! O mores! then the Elder was glad!—all his compunction drowned in the pleasure of connecting himself, even through the gates of death, with a youthful fascination.

It now occurred to me—and the conjecture proved correct—that these plats of shrubbery must serve as hiding-places for the duck. The Canadians, whose behavior was all along mysterious, had forborne to give us any hint. I was vexed at them then, but had no reason perhaps. This was their larder, which they could not wish to impoverish. Besides, fishermen and visitors on this coast are so sweeping and ruthless in their destructions, that one might reasonably desire to protect the birds against them. It is not so much by shooting the birds as by destroying their eggs that the mischief is done. A party will take possession of an island at night, carry off every egg that can be found, and throw it into the sea,—then, returning next forenoon, take the fresh eggs laid in the mean time for food. On the whole, I feel less like blaming our guides than like returning to make apologies. Yet to us also the ducks are necessary, for we have no fresh meat but such as our guns obtain; and to one seeking health, this was a matter of some serious moment.

The elder Canadian has also shot a duck, and, besides, a red-breasted diver, a noble bird; and with these prizes we set sail for another island, frequented by "Tinkers." The day meanwhile had cleared, the sun shone richly, and we began to see somewhat of the glory, as well as grimness, of Labrador. Away to the southwest, eminent over the lesser islands, rose Mecatina, all tossed into wild billows of blue, with purple in the hollows; while to the north the hills of the mainland lifted themselves up to hold fellowship with it in height and hue.

"Tinker," we found, meant Murre and Razor-Billed Auk. These are finely shaped birds, black above and white below, twice the size of a pigeon, and closely resembling each other, save in the bill. That of the murre is not noticeable; but the other's is singularly shaped, and marked with delicate, finely cut grooves, the central one being nicely touched with a line of white, while a similar thread of white runs from the bill to the eye.

I notice it thus, because it suggested to me a reflection. Looking at this bill,[Pg 207] I asked myself how Darwin's theory comported with it. "The struggle for life,"—are all the forms of organic existence due to that? But how did the struggle for life cut these grooves, paint these ornamental lines? "Beauty is its own excuse for being"; and that Nature respects beauty is, to my mind, nothing less than fatal to the Darwinian hypothesis. That his law exists as a modifying influence I freely admit, and accredit him with an important addition to our thought upon such matters; that it is the sole formative influence I shall be better prepared to believe when I see that beauty is not regarded in Nature, but is a mere casual attendant upon use. The artist Greenough did, indeed, strenuously maintain this last. But the sloth and the bird-of-paradise are equally useful to themselves; if beauty were but an aspect of use, these should be equally comely in our eyes. No; "the struggle for life" has not grooved the bill of the auk, and painted the tail of the peacock, any more, so far as I can see, than it has given to evening and morning their scarlet and gold. And so my auk said to me, "Any attempt to string existence upon a single thread has failed and will fail, unless it be that thread which man can never formulate, never stretch out into a straight line,—the Eternal Unity, God."

These birds have a catlike instinct of fidelity to old haunts, and, having once chosen a habitat, adhere to it, despite many a year of persecution. They prefer inaccessible cliffs, on every projecting shelf and jut of which the eggs are laid, but also inhabit islands where are many clefts, fissures, and holes made by tumbled masses of rock. This at which we had arrived was not much more than a hundred feet high; and the cliffs in which it terminated on one side were scarcely to be named inaccessible. The number of birds upon it seemed to our novice-eyes immense, but at a later period would have seemed trivial. They are always flying about the shores, and have also a laudable curiosity, which leads them to investigate when any strange form appears or any strange noise is made in the neighborhood of their homes.

On landing, the Judge made off to the left, and was soon heard from,—as it afterwards appeared, with immediate success. The Canadian and myself took our station upon a broad platform some forty feet above the sea, with steep rocks behind, and were soon busily engaged in—missing! It was nothing but bang! pish! bang! pshaw! for half an hour. It could not be said that the birds were indifferent to the prospect of being immortalized as specimens. On the contrary, they showed an appreciation of the honor, and an open zeal to obtain it, which were worthy of the highest commendation. But they very properly declined to be bungled even into a taxidermist paradise. Nothing could be more admirably orthodox than their resolution to be immortalized secundum artem; and considering how many are ready to sneak, without the smallest regard to desert or self-respect, into any attainable post mortem felicity, this honorable cut direct to all mere aukward and heterodox inductions into happiness begot in me toward these creatures sentiments of the highest consideration. All the while they kept flying past, often near, but always going through the air like a dart, as if they would say, "Take, but earn!"

At first the effect of this superior behavior on their part was to produce humiliation, and, along with this, a weak, nervous excitement, and an attempt to reach my ends by mere determination. I accordingly got to pulling upon them with a vehemence which probably disturbed my aim, as if I had been drawing at a halibut rather than at a trigger. But the gates which are appointed to fly open before a high behavior are but as the barred gates of Destiny toward mere low strength. The gods and birds were immitigable. I must do better, not merely do more.

Meditating on these matters, and moved by the lofty demeanor of my challengers, I at length proceeded seriously to self-amendment. Exchanging[Pg 208] my large duck-shot for some of smaller size, I no longer blurted at my auk when he was just abreast; but, deferentially allowing him to pass, and then, aiming after him, as if I accepted his lead, I gently suggested to him my desires; whereupon, in the most becoming manner, he descended and plumped into the sea, without so much as flapping a wing, or being guilty of the faintest impropriety. It was beautiful. Continuing this behavior, I found my attentions uniformly reciprocated. Once, indeed, when I fell into a shade of brusquerie, the individual whom I had complimented stood upon his self-respect, and, as I thought, flew away; but Bradford, who had courteously come up just as I began to succeed, was so kind as to see him fall punctiliously into the water, when he had gone far enough to suggest a reprimand of my slight unseemliness. And now, when the Artist was Christian enough to exclaim, "Why, Blank, I did not know you were such a shot!" I thought it high time to rest on my (back and) laurels. Reposing, therefore, upon the round leathern pillow which was my inseparable and invaluable companion, I enjoyed my spine-ache cum dignitate till the others were ready to return.

On the way to the ship an eider sprang up from a steep ridge we were passing, and fell in a second, Bradford exclaiming, "That's the best shot to-day!" The yawl soon followed us. Ph—— had taken two eiders on the wing; we had six in all. Others brought auks and murres; but the Judge still led the van. Next morning the Colonel and Judge brought in four eiders,—the last for the entire voyage. Others were afterward seen, but only seen. The Parson, some weeks later, closed our intrusive intimacy with them by an attempt to capture some of their young in the water. It couldn't be done. They were only a few days old, but, rich in pre-natal instruction, they always waited until the hand was just upon them,—not to waste any part of their stay beneath water,—and then—under in a moment. One saw that pirate saddle-back must needs bestir himself in order to catch them, and one could appreciate the sagacity of the mother duck in hurrying her brood, almost as soon as they are born, into the water.

And so farewell, eiders! If all goes to my wish, you shall yet have a place on other-world islands and seas, where saddle-backs shall not pillage your nests, nor coat-backs point at you any Long Tom!

We give account only of what was characteristic, and therefore will now jump five weeks of time and a hundred leagues of space. But since this is a long leap, a few stepping-stones will be convenient. The Parson, then, has brought in on the way a nice batch of velvet duck, noticeable for their extremely large, oval, elevated, scarlet nostrils; we have shot at seals, and almost hit them in the most admirable manner; we have hunted for an indubitable polar bear,—and found a dog and a midnight mystification; we have played at chess, euchre, backgammon, whist, debating-club, story-telling, nightmare,—one of our number developing an incomparable genius for the last; we have played at getting tolerable cooking out of two slovens, one of whom knows nothing, and the other everything but his business,—and have lost the game; we have played at catching trout, and found this the best joke of all. There are beautiful brook-trout on the coast of Labrador. They say so; it is so. Beautiful trout,—mostly visible to the naked eye! Not many of them, but enough to gratify an elegant curiosity.

But here we are, July 21, lat. 54° 30'. Bradford has hooked an iceberg, and will "play him" for the afternoon. Half a mile off is an island of the character common to most of the innumerable islands strown all along from Cape Charles to Cape Chudleigh,—an alp submerged to within three hundred feet of the summit. Such islands, and such a coast! But this is a notable "bird-island." So three of us are set ashore there with our[Pg 209] guns, the indefatigable Professor coming along also with his perpetual net.

The island—which is rather two islands than one, for straight through it, toward the eastern extremity, goes the narrowest possible chasm—proved precipitous and inaccessible, save in a bit of inlet at the hither opening of this chasm and on three rods of sloping rock to the right. Like almost all its fellows, however, it raises one side higher than the other; and conjecturing that the farther and higher face would be the favorite haunt of these cliff-loving birds,—murres and auks again,—I left my companions busily shooting near the landing, and made my way up and across. It was no easy task, for the wild rock was tossed and tilted, broken and heaped and saw-toothed, as if it represented some savage spasm or fit of madness in Nature. But clambering, sliding, creeping, zigzagging, turning back to find new openings, and in every manner persisting, I slowly got on; while deep down in the chasm on my left,—a hundred feet deep, and in the middle not more than a foot wide, though champered away a little at the top,—the water surged in and out with a thunderous, muffled sough and moan, like a Titan under the earth, pinned down eternally in pain. It was awfully impressive,—so impressive that I reflected neither upon it nor on myself. With this immitigable, adamantine wildness about me, and that abysmal, booming stifle of plaint, to which all the air trembled, sounding from below, I became another being, and the very universe was no longer itself; past and future were not, and I was a dumb atomy creeping over the bare peaks of existence, while out of the blind heart of the world issued an everlasting prayer,—a prayer without hope! And this, too, if not boy's play, was a true piece of boy-experience. I can recall—and better now by the aid of this half-hour—moments in childhood when existence became thus awful, when it overpowered, overwhelmed me, and when time, instead of melting in golden ripeness into the fruitful eternity that lies before, seemed to fall back, doomed forever, into the naked eternity behind. Goethe's "Erl-King," almost alone in modern literature, touches truly, and on its shadowed side, the immeasurable secret which haunts and dominates the heart of a child; while Wordsworth's "Ode on the Intimations of Immortality in Childhood" is our noblest suggestion of its illuminated obverse side.

At length I issued upon the opposite face of the island, and found myself on a shelf of rock about three feet wide, with one hundred and fifty feet, more or less, of vertical cliff beneath, and about the same height of half-cliff behind and above. It was a pretty perch, and gave one a feeling of consequence; for what pigmy perched on Alps ever failed to consider his elevation one of stature strictly, and not at all of position? The outer edge of the shelf rose, inclosing me as in a box, so that I was safe as the owner of an annuity based upon United States securities. Away to my right the perpendicular cliff rose higher still, and, being there covered with clefts, cavelets, and narrow shelves, was the peculiar home of the birds, who had taken possession of this island on a long lease.

Their numbers were inconceivable. Two hundred yards off in the water was an island of them, an acre of feathery black. To the right I could see them now and then ascending in literal clouds; and the sober Ph——, who rowed along here beyond my view, saw the cliffs, as he looked up, white for a half-mile with their snowy breasts, and could find no words to express his sense of their multitude.

But so far as I was concerned,—for my comrades did better,—it was the birds themselves that did the sporting that afternoon. They came streaming by, never crowding together so that more than one could be included in the chances of shot, but incessantly trailing along, and scurrying past with the speed of an arrow. I peppered away, with little result but that of spicing their afternoon's enjoyment for them; for the wicked creatures took it all in the jolliest way, flinging[Pg 210] themselves past with a flirt and a wink, just as if I had been no lord of creation at all. I had disdained to shoot them when at rest; for there seemed to be some ancient compact between us, by which they were to have their chance and I mine. But when one came and planted himself on a little jut thirty yards to my right, and mocked me with a look of patronage, seeming to regard me as the weaker party and to incline to my side, I broke the pact, and, masking my hurt conceit under some virtuous indignation against him as a deserter and traitor, turned and smote him under the fifth rib.

And now it came upon me that I must secure that bird. To shoot without obtaining were mere wantonness. Yes, I would have him, and justify myself to myself. To do it was difficult, even in Labradorian boy-eyes. Between me and the auk the upper half of the cliff made a deep recess, terminating in a right angle, with a platform of granite some seventy-five feet below. Along both faces of this recess, nearly on a level with myself, ran a shelf not more than six inches wide, with vertical wall above and beneath; and on this I must go. I began, therefore, working along this, proceeding with care, observing my footing, and clutching with my hands whatever knob or crevice I could find. But when near the angle, I found that the shelf terminated some two feet short of its apex, and began again at about the same distance beyond. Seeking about cautiously for finger-hold, I reached out my left foot, and planted it on the opposite side, but could not stretch far enough to make a place for the right foot when I should withdraw it. I began debating with myself, whether, in case I should swing across and rest on the left foot alone, I could work this along and make room for the right. I knew that the process would have to be repeated on my return; so I must estimate two chances at once.

And now for the first time, as I stood thus, some faint misgiving arose in me, some faint question whether I was not doing one unjustifiable thing to avoid doing another. It occurred to me that there was another personage,—not a bird-seeking boy, like this one here, but a grave man,—with whom I had an important connection, and who cherished serious purposes and had many hopes of worthy labor yet to fulfil. Was I doing the fair thing by him? He was not here, to be sure; I had left him somewhere between Worcester and Labrador, with due pledge of reunion; but even in his absence he was to be considered. Besides, he was my master, and though he had permitted me to go gambolling off by myself, on my promise to bring him back a more serviceable spine, yet his claim remained, and I should be dishonorable to ignore it.

At first, indeed, these considerations seemed vague, far-fetched, little better than affectations. The clear thing to be done was to get that bird. This done, I could consider the rest. To admit any other thought militated in some way against the singleness and compactness of my being. Wise or unwise, what had I to do with far-off matters of that sort? My business was to succeed in a certain task, not to be sage and so forth. I actually felt a kind of shame to be debating any other than the all-important question, Can I get my right foot over here beside the left? Nor was it till certain faces pictured themselves to my mind, that the heart took part with reason, and the tangential left foot returned, rounding itself once more into the proper orbit of my life. I had been standing there perhaps a minute.

It was an invaluable experience. It carried me farther into the heart of the boy-world than I had gone for twenty-five years and more. And as the boy-world is the big world, the life of too many being but another and less attractive phase of boyhood, it supplied a gloss to the book of daily observation, which I could on no account part with. The inconceivable indifference of most men to considerations of speculative truth became conceivable. The way in which the axioms of sages slip off from multitudes, as mere vague "glittering[Pg 211] generalities," good enough for cherishers of the "intuitions" to lisp of by moonlight, but sheer fiddle-dee-dee to firmly built men,—the commentary of the able lawyer upon Emerson's lecture, "I don't understand it, but my girls do!"—all this appears in a new light. Are not most men working along some cliff, financial or other, after a bird? And do they not honestly regard it as mere nonsense to be thinking about being sage and so forth, when the real question is how to get the right foot across here beside the left?

I had gone back to my perch, where a rueful, puerile remorse tugged now and then at my elbow, and said, "But that bird! You haven't given up that bird?" when the Professor appeared on the apex of the island above, shouting, "Here's a"—hawk, I thought he said, and caught up my gun. But what? Fox? Yes,—"blue fox."

Now, then, up the cliff! Creep, crawl, wriggle, slide, clamber, scramble, clutch, climb, here jumping—actually jumping, I!—over a crevice, then drawing myself round an insuperable jut by two honest sturdy weeds—many thanks to them!—which had the consideration to be there and to plant themselves firmly in the rock; at last I reached the height, puffing like a high-pressure steam-engine.

"H-h-h-where—ff! ff!—h-is-ee?"

"Right over here. I've been chasing him this last half-hour. Finally, the audacious little rascal would stick up his head over a rock, and bark at me."

I soon had him; and was again struck with the vivacity which may be exhibited by a creature whose life is really ended. As I fired, the animal gave a loud "whish!" and sped away like the wind, disappearing behind a jut of rock five or six rods farther away; but five feet from that point I found it dead. This post mortem activity, they told me, was made possible by the small size of the shot. Perhaps, then, a creature slain with a missile sufficiently subtile might go an indefinite time without finding it out, supposing itself alive and well. Institutions and politicians, we have all known, possess this power of ignoring their own decease. Judaism has been dead these eighteen hundred years; yet here are Jew synagogues in New York and Boston. Were the like true of individuals, it might explain to us some lives which seem inexplicable on any other hypothesis. I think, for example, of some editors, who are evidently post-dating their decease; and when these go on writing leading articles, and being sweet upon "our brethren of the South," one does not say, "Disloyal," but only, "So long in learning what has happened!"

My prize was the white fox, a year old, and not quite in adult costume. How it got upon this island were matter for conjecture. Probably on the ice.

Another skip,—and here we are upon another of these summits surrounded by sea. The home of Puffins this is. The puffin is an odd little fellow, smaller than the auk, but of the same general hue, with a short neck and a queer bill. This is very thin from side to side, twice as wide up and down as it is long, strongly marked with concentric scarlet ridges, and altogether agrees so little with this plain-looking bird, that one can scarcely regard it as belonging naturally to him, and fancies that he must lay it aside at night, as people do false teeth. It is an easy bird to take flying; for, on seeing you, it peaks its wings downward in a manner indescribably prim and prudish, and scales past, turning its stubby neck, and inspecting you with an air of comical, muddy gravity and curiosity. My comrade, Ph——, got two dozen to my eight; but I was consoled with a large Arctic falcon, which had been dining at fashionable hours on a full-grown puffin, having set its table in a deep gorge between vertical walls. It was of the kind called by Audubon Falco Labradora, concerning which Professor Baird, of the Smithsonian Institute, who has had the kindness to write to me, doubts whether it may not be an immature stage of Falco Candicans, one of the two undoubted species of Arctic falcons.[Pg 212] Captain Handy, however, a very observant and intelligent man, was sure, from the feeling of the bones, that it must be an old bird.

Once more only I will ask the reader to accompany me. We had gone ashore in a place called Stag Bay, not to hunt stags, but to seek a bear, to whose acquaintance we seemed to have obtained a preliminary introduction by trustworthy informations. Bruin, however, positively declined the smallest approach to intimacy, refusing even to look at our cards, and sending out the most hopeless "Not at home." Separating, therefore, we strolled on the beach,—for a beach there actually was at this place,—and observing some Piping Plovers, tiny waders, I made for them. One of them stood as sentinel on a rock, and, thinking the ornithologist might like him for a specimen, I fired. The large shot scattered around him, the distance being considerable, without injury; but I insisted on his being dead, and searched as if enough of searching would in some way cause him to be so. It wouldn't, however; and I was about turning away, when, a rod or two off, I saw him evidently desperately wounded. "Ah! there is my bird, after all," I muttered, and started with a leisurely step to pick it up. Terrified at my approach, the little wretch began to hobble and flutter away, keeping about his original distance. I quickened my pace; he exerted his broken strength still more, and made out to mend his. I walked as rapidly as I could; but new terror lent the poor thing new wings, and it contrived—I could not for my life conjecture how—to keep a little beyond my reach. It would not do to leave him suffering thus; and I coaxed myself into a quick run, when up the little hypocrite sprang, and scudded away like a bee! Not the faintest suspicion of its being otherwise than at death's door had entered my mind until that moment, though I had seen this trick less skilfully performed before.

Returning, I went to the top of the beach and began examining the coarse grass which grew there, thinking that the nests must be hereabout, and desirous of a peep at the eggs. I had hardly pushed my foot in this grass a few times, when another wounded bird appeared but a few feet off. The emergency being uncommon, it put forth all its histrionic power, and never Booth or Siddons did so well. With breast ploughing in the sand, head falling helplessly from side to side, feet kicking out spasmodically and yet feebly behind, and wings fluttering and beating brokenly on the beach, it seemed the very symbol of fear, pain, and weakness, I made a sudden spring forward,—off it went, but immediately returned when I pushed my foot again toward the grass, renewing its speaking pantomime. I could not represent suffering so well, if I really felt it. With a convulsive kick, its poor little helpless head went under, and it tumbled over on the side; then it swooned, was dying; the wings flattened out on the sand, quivering, but quivering less and less; it gasped with open mouth and closing eye, but the gasps grew fainter and fainter; at last it lay still, dead; but when I poked once more in the grass, it revived to endure another spasm of agony, and die again. "Dear, witty little Garrick," I said, "had you a thousand lives and ten thousand eggs, I would not for a kingdom touch one of them!" and I wished he could show me some enemy to his peace, that I might make war upon the felon forthwith.

And in this becoming frame of mind I ended my chapter of "Boy's Play in Labrador."

[Pg 213]


My little birds, with backs as brown
As sand, and throats as white as frost,
I've searched the summer up and down,
And think the other birds have lost
The tunes you sang, so sweet, so low,
About the old house, long ago.
My little flowers, that with your bloom
So hid the grass you grew upon,
A child's foot scarce had any room
Between you,—are you dead and gone?
I've searched through fields and gardens rare,
Nor found your likeness anywhere.
My little hearts, that beat so high
With love to God, and trust in men,
Oh, come to me, and say if I
But dream, or was I dreaming then,
What time we sat within the glow
Of the old-house hearth, long ago?
My little hearts, so fond, so true,
I searched the world all far and wide,
And never found the like of you:
God grant we meet the other side
The darkness 'twixt us now that stands,
In that new house not made with hands!




In 1816 the wandering and unsettled ways of the poet were calmed and harmonized in the home of the Gillmans at Highgate, where the remainder of his days, nearly twenty years, were passed in entire quiet and comparative happiness. Mr. Gillman was a surgeon; and it is understood that Coleridge went to reside with him chiefly to be under his surveillance, to break himself of the fearful habit he had contracted of opium-eating,—a habit that grievously impaired his mind, engendered self-reproach, and embittered the best years of his life.[D] He was the guest and the beloved friend as well as the patient of Mr. Gillman; and the devoted attachment[Pg 214] of that excellent man and his estimable wife supplied the calm contentment and seraphic peace, such as might have been the dream of the poet and the hope of the man. Honored be the name and reverenced the memory of this true friend! He died on the 1st of June, 1837, having arranged to publish a life of Coleridge, of which he produced but the first volume.[E]

Coleridge's habit of taking opium was no secret. In 1816 it must have reached a fearful pitch. It had produced "during many years an accumulation of bodily suffering that wasted the frame, poisoned the sources of enjoyment, and entailed an intolerable mental load that scarcely knew cessation"; the poet himself called it "the accursed drug." In 1814 Cottle wrote him a strong protest against this terrible and ruinous habit, entreating him to renounce it. Coleridge said in reply, "You have poured oil into the raw and festering wound of an old friend, Cottle, but it is oil of vitriol!" He accounts for the "accursed habit" by stating that he had taken to it first to obtain relief from intense bodily suffering; and he seriously contemplated entering a private insane asylum as the surest means of its removal. His remorse was terrible and perpetual; he was "rolling rudderless," "the wreck of what he once was," "wretched, helpless, and hopeless."

He revealed this "dominion" to De Quincey "with a deep expression of horror at the hideous bondage." It was this "conspiracy of himself against himself" that was the poison of his life. He describes it with frantic pathos as "the scourge, the curse, the one almighty blight, which had desolated his life," the thief

"to steal
From my own nature all the natural man."

The habit was, it would seem, commenced in 1802; and if Mr. Cottle is to be credited, in 1814 he had been long accustomed to take "from two quarts of laudanum in a week to a pint a day." He did, however, ultimately conquer it.

It was during his residence with Mr. Gillman that I knew Coleridge. He had arranged to write for "The Amulet"; and circumstances warranted my often seeing him,—a privilege of which I gladly availed myself. In this home at Highgate, where all even of his whims were studied with affectionate and attentive care, he preferred the quiet of home influences to the excitements of society; and although I more than once met there his friend Charles Lamb, and other noteworthy men, I usually found him, to my delight, alone. There he cultivated flowers, fed his pensioners, the birds, and wooed the little children who gambolled on the heath, where he took his daily walks.

It is a beautiful view,—such as can be rarely seen out of England,—that which the poet had from the window of his bed-chamber. Underneath, a valley, rich in "Patrician trees," divides the hill of Highgate from that of Hampstead; the tower of the old church at Hampstead rises above a thick wood,—a dense forest it seems, although here and there a graceful villa stands out from among the dark green drapery that infolds it. It was easy to imagine the poet often contrasting this scene with that of "Brockan's sov'ran height," where no "finer influence of friend or child" had greeted him, and exclaiming,—

"O thou Queen!
Thou delegated Deity of Earth,
O dear, dear England!"

And what a wonderful change there is in the scene, when the pilgrim to this shrine at Highgate leaves the garden and walks a few steps beyond the elm avenue that still fronts the house!

Forty years have brought houses all about the heath, and shut in the prospect; but from any ascent you may see regal Windsor on one side and Gravesend on the other,—twenty miles of view,[Pg 215] look which way you will. But when the poet dwelt there, all London was within ken, a few yards from his door.

The house has undergone some changes, but the garden is much as it was when I used to find the poet feeding his birds there: it has the same wall—moss-covered now—that overhangs the dell; a shady tree-walk shelters it from sun and rain,—it was the poet's walk at midday; a venerable climber, the Glycenas, was no doubt planted by the poet's hand: it was new to England when the poet was old, and what more likely than that his friends would have bidden him plant it where it has since flourished forty years or more?

I was fortunate in sharing some of the regard of Mr. and Mrs. Gillman; after the poet's death, they gave me his inkstand, (a plain inkstand of wood,) which is before me as I write, and a myrtle on which his eyes were fixed as he died. It is now an aged and gnarled tree in our conservatory.[F]

One of the very few letters of Coleridge I have preserved I transcribe, as it illustrates his goodness of heart and willingness to put himself to inconvenience for others.

"Dear Sir,"—it runs,—"I received some five days ago a letter depicting the distress and urgent want of a widow and a sister, with whom, during the husband's lifetime, I was for two or three years a housemate; and yesterday the poor lady came up herself, almost clamorously soliciting me, not, indeed, to assist her from my own purse,—for she was previously assured that there was nothing therein,—but to exert myself to collect the sum of twenty pounds, which would save her from God knows what. On this hopeless task,—for perhaps never man whose name had been so often in print for praise or reprobation had so few intimates as myself,—when I recollected that before I left Highgate for the seaside you had been so kind as to intimate that you considered some trifle due to me,—whatever it be, it will go some way to eke out the sum which I have with a sick heart been all this day trotting about to make up, guinea by guinea. You will do me a real service, (for my health perceptibly sinks under this unaccustomed flurry of my spirits,) if you could make it convenient to inclose to me, however small the sum may be, if it amount to a bank-note of any denomination, directed 'Grove, Highgate,' where I am, and expect to be any time for the next eight months. In the mean time, believe me

"Yours obliged,
"S. T. Coleridge.
"4th December, 1828."

I find also, at the back of one of his manuscripts, the following poem, which I believe to be unpublished; for I cannot trace it in any edition of his collected works.


Lady. If Love be dead.
Poet.                               And I aver it.
Lady. Tell me, Bard, where Love lies buried.
Poet. Love lies buried where 'twas born:
O gentle Dame, think it no scorn,
If in my fancy I presume
To call thy bosom poor Love's tomb,—
And on that tomb to read the line,
"Here lies a Love that once seemed mine,
But caught a cold, as I divine,
And died at length of a decline!"
[Pg 216]

I here copy his autograph lines, as he wrote them in Mrs. Hall's album. They will be found, too, as a note, in the "Biographia Literaria."


"The butterfly the ancient Grecians made
The soul's fair emblem, and its only name:
But of the soul escaped the slavish trade
Of earthly life! For in this mortal frame
Ours is the reptile's lot, much toil, much blame,
Manifold motions, making little speed,
And to deform and kill the things whereon we feed!
"S. T. Coleridge.
"30th April, 1830."

All who had the honor of the poet's friendship or acquaintance speak of the marvellous gift which gave to this illustrious man almost a character of inspiration. The wonderful eloquence of his conversation can be comprehended only by those who have heard him speak. It was sparkling at times, and at times profound; but the melody of his voice, the impressive solemnity of his manner, the radiant glories of his intellectual countenance, bore off, as it were, the thoughts of the listener from his discourse; and it was rarely that he carried away from the poet any of the gems that fell from his lips.

Montgomery describes the poetry of Coleridge as like electricity, "flashing at rapid intervals with the utmost intensity of effect,"—and contrasts it with that of Wordsworth, like galvanism, "not less powerful, but rather continuous than sudden in its wonderful influence." But of his poems it is needless for me to speak; some of them are familiar to all readers of the English tongue throughout the world. Wilson, in the "Noctes," says, "Wind him up, and away he goes,—discoursing most excellent music, without a discord, full, ample, inexhaustible, serious, and divine"; and in another place, "He becomes inspired by his own silver voice, and pours out wisdom like a sea." Wordsworth speaks of him "as quite an epicure in sound." The painter Haydon speaks of his eloquence and "lazy luxury of poetical outpouring"; and Rogers ("Table-Talk") is reported to have said, "One morning, breakfasting with me, he talked for three hours without intermission, so admirably that I wish every word he uttered had been written down": but he does not quote a single sentence of all the poet said;[G] and a writer in the "Quarterly Review" expresses his belief that "nothing is too high for the grasp of his conversation, nothing too low: it glanced from earth to heaven, from heaven to earth, with a speed and a splendor, an ease and a power, that almost seemed inspired." (Nor did I ever find him incoherent, as some have pretended; but I agree with De Quincey, that he had the largest and most spacious intellect, the subtilest and the most comprehensive that has yet existed among men.) Of Coleridge, Shelley writes,—

"All things he seemed to understand,
Of old or new, at sea or land,
Save his own soul, which was a mist."

I have listened to him more than once for above an hour, of course without putting in a single word: I would as soon have bellowed a loose song while a nightingale was singing. There was rarely much change of countenance; his face was at that time (it is said from his habit of opium-eating) overladen with flesh, and its expression impaired; yet to me it was so tender and gentle and gracious and loving, that I could have knelt at the old man's feet almost in adoration. My own hair is white now; yet I have much the same feeling as I had then, whenever the form of the venerable man rises in memory before me. I cannot recall now, and I believe could not recall at the time, so as to preserve, as a cherished thing in my remembrance, a single sentence of the many sentences I heard him utter; yet in his "Table-Talk" there is a world of wisdom,—and that is only a collection of scraps, chance-gathered. If any left his presence unsatisfied, it resulted[Pg 217] rather from the superabundance than the paucity of the feast.[H]

I can recall many evening rambles with him over the high lands that look down on London; but the memory I cherish most is linked with a crowded street, where the clumsy and the coarse jostled the old man eloquent, as if he had been earthly, of the earth. It was in the Strand: he pointed out to me the window of a room in the office of the "Morning Post," where he had consumed much midnight oil; and then for half an hour he talked of the sorrowful joy he had often felt, when, leaving the office as day was dawning, he heard the song of a caged lark that sang his orisons from the lattice of an artisan, who was rising to begin his labor as the poet was pacing homewards to rest after his work all night. Thirty years had passed; but that unforgotten melody, that dear bird's song, gave him then as much true pleasure as when, to his wearied head and heart, it was the matin hymn of Nature.

I remember once meeting him in Paternoster Row. He was inquiring his way to Bread Street, Cheapside; and of course I endeavored to explain to him, that, if he walked straight on for about two hundred yards and took the fourth turning to the right, it would be the street he wanted. I perceived him gazing so vague and unenlightened, that I could not help expressing my surprise, as I looked earnestly at his forehead and saw the organ of locality unusually prominent above the eyebrows. He took my meaning, laughed, and said, "I see what you are looking at. Why, at school my head was beaten into a mass of bumps, because I could not point out Paris in a map of France." It is said that Spurzheim pronounced him to be a mathematician, and affirmed that he could not be a poet. Such opinion the great phrenologist could not have expressed; for undoubtedly he had a large organ of ideality, although at first it was not perceptible, in consequence of the great breadth and height of his profound forehead.

More than once I met there that most remarkable man,—"martyr and saint," as Mrs. Oliphant styles him, and as perhaps he was,—the Rev. Edward Irving. The two, he and Coleridge, were singular contrasts,—in appearance, that is to say, for their minds and souls were in harmony.[I] The Scotch minister was tall, powerful in frame, and of great physical vigor, "a gaunt and gigantic figure," his long, black, curly hair hanging partially over his shoulders. His features were large and strongly marked; but the expression was grievously marred, like that of Whitefield, by a squint that deduced much from his "apostolic" character, and must have operated prejudicially as regarded his mission. His mouth was exquisitely cut. It might have been a model for a sculptor who desired to portray strong will combined with generous sympathy. Yet he looked what he was,—a brave man, a man whom no abuse could humble, no injuries subdue, no oppression crush. To me he realized the idea of the Baptist St. John; and I imagine the comparison must have been made often.

In the pulpit, where, I lament to say, I heard Irving but once, and then not under the peculiar influences that so often swayed and guided him, he was undoubtedly an orator, thoroughly earnest in his work, and, beyond all question, deeply and solemnly impressed with the truths of the mission to which[Pg 218] he was devoted. At times, no doubt, his manner, action, and appearance bordered on the grotesque; but it was impossible to listen without being carried away by the intense fervor and fiery zeal with which he dwelt on the promises or annunciated the threats of the Prophets, "his predecessors." His vehemence was often startling, sometimes appalling. Leigh Hunt called him, with much truth, "the Boanerges of the Temple." He was a soldier, as well as a servant, of the cross. Few men of his age aroused more bitter or more unjust and unchristian hostility. He was in advance of his time; perhaps, if he were living now, he would still be so; for the spirituality of his nature cannot yet be understood. There were not wanting those who decried him as a pretender, a hypocrite, and a cheat. Those who knew him best depose to the honesty of his heart, the depth of his convictions, the fervor of his faith; and many yet live who will indorse this eloquent tribute of his biographer:—"To him, mean thoughts and unbelieving hearts were the only things miraculous and out of Nature"; he "desired to know nothing in heaven or earth, neither comfort nor peace nor any consolation, but the will and work of the Master he loved." Irving died comparatively young: there were but forty-two years between his birth and death. More than thirty years have passed since he was called from earth; and to this generation the name of Edward Irving is little more than a sound, "signifying nothing." Yet it was a power in his day; and the seed he scattered cannot all have fallen among thorns. His love for Coleridge was devoted, a mingling of admiration, affection, and respect.

They were made acquainted by a mutual friend, Basil Montagu, who himself occupied no humble station in intellectual society. His "evenings" were often rare mental treats. He presented the most refined picture of a gentleman, tall, slight, courteous, seemingly ever smiling, yet without an approach to insincerity. He had the esteem of his contemporaries, and the homage of the finer spirits of his time. They were earned and merited. Those who knew him knew also his wife. Mrs. Montagu was one of the most admirable women I have ever known: she was likened to Mrs. Siddons, and forcibly recalled the portraits of that admirably gifted woman. Tall and stately, and with evidence, which Time had by no means obliterated, of great beauty in youth, her expression somewhat severe, yet gracious in manner and generous in words. She had been the honored associate of many of the most intellectual men and women of the age; and not a few of them were her familiar friends.[J]

Whenever it was my privilege to be admitted to the evening meetings at Highgate, I met some of the men who were then famous, and have since become parts of the literature of England.

I attended one of the lectures delivered by Coleridge at the Royal Institution, and I strive to recall him as he stood before his audience. There was but little animation; his theme did not seem to stir him into life; even the usual repose of his countenance was rarely broken up; he used little or no action; and his voice, though mellifluous, was monotonous: he lacked, indeed, that earnestness without which no man is truly eloquent.

At the time I speak of, he was growing corpulent and heavy: being seldom free from pain, he moved apparently with difficulty, yet liked to walk up and down and about the room as he talked, pausing now and then as if oppressed by suffering.

I need not say that I was a silent listener during the evenings at Highgate to which I have referred, when there were present some of those who now "rule us from their urns"; but I was free to gaze on the venerable man,—one of the humblest, but one of the most fervid, perhaps, of the worshippers[Pg 219] by whom he was surrounded,—and to treasure in memory the poet's gracious and loving looks, the "thick, waving, silver hair," the still, clear, blue eye; and on such occasions I used to leave him as if I were in a waking dream, trying to recall, here and there, a sentence of the many weighty and mellifluous sentences I had heard,—seldom with success,—and feeling at the moment as if I had been surfeited with honey.

The portrait of Coleridge is best drawn by his friend Wordsworth, and it sufficiently pictures him:—

"A noticeable man, with large, gray eyes,
And a pale face, that seemed undoubtedly
As if a blooming face it ought to be;
Heavy his low-hung lip did oft appear,
Depressed by weight of moving phantasy;
Profound his forehead was, though not severe."

Wordsworth elsewhere speaks of him as "the brooding poet with the heavenly eyes," and as, "often too much in love with his own dejection." The earliest word-portrait we have of him was drawn by Wordsworth's sister in 1797:—"At first I thought him very plain,—that is, for about three minutes. He is pale, thin, has a wide mouth, thick lips, longish, loose-growing, half-curling, rough, black hair. His eye is large and full, and not dark, but gray;—such an eye as would receive from a heavy soul the dullest expression, but it speaks every emotion of his animated mind. He has fine, dark eyebrows, and an overhanging forehead."

This is De Quincey's sketch of him in 1807:—"In height he seemed about five feet eight inches, in reality he was an inch and a half taller.[K] His person was broad and full, and tended even to corpulence; his complexion was fair, though not what painters technically call fair, because it was associated with black hair; his eyes were soft and large in their expression, and it was by a peculiar appearance of haze or dimness which mixed with their light." "A lady of Bristol," writes De Quincey, "assured me she had not seen a young man so engaging in his exterior as Coleridge when young, in 1796. He had then a blooming and healthy complexion, beautiful and luxuriant hair, falling in natural curls over his shoulders."

Lockhart says,—"Coleridge has a grand head, but very ill-balanced, and the features of the face are coarse; although, to be sure, nothing can surpass the depth of meaning in his eyes, and the unutterable dreamy luxury of his lips."

Hazlitt describes him in early manhood as "with a complexion clear and even light, a forehead broad and high, as if built of ivory, with large projecting eyebrows, and his eyes rolling beneath them like a sea with darkened lustre. His mouth was rather open, his chin good-humored and round, and his nose small. His hair, black and glossy as the raven's wing, fell in smooth masses over his forehead,—long, liberal hair, peculiar to enthusiasts."

Sir Humphry Davy, writing of Coleridge in 1808, says,—"His mind is a wilderness, in which the cedar and the oak, which might aspire to the skies, are stunted in their growth by underwood, thorns, briers, and parasitical plants; with the most exalted genius, enlarged views, sensitive heart, and enlightened mind, he will be the victim of want of order, precision, and regularity."

Leigh Hunt speaks of his open, indolent, good-natured mouth, and of his forehead as "prodigious,—a great piece of placid marble."

Wordsworth again:—

"Noisy he was, and gamesome as a boy,
Tossing his limbs about him in delight."

In the autumn of 1833, Emerson, on his second visit to England, called on Coleridge. He found him "to appearance a short, thick, old man, with bright blue eyes, and fine clear complexion."

A minute and certainly a true picture is that which Carlyle formed of him, in words, some years later, and probably not long before his removal from earth:—"Brow[Pg 220] and head were round, and of massive weight, but the face was flabby and irresolute. The deep eyes, of a light hazel, were as full of sorrow as of inspiration; confused pain looked mildly from them, as in a kind of mild astonishment. The whole figure and air, good and amiable otherwise, might be called flabby and irresolute,—expressive of weakness under possibility of strength. He hung loosely on his limbs, with knees bent and stooping attitude; in walking he rather shuffled than decisively stepped; and a lady once remarked, he never could fix which side of the garden-walk would suit him best, but continually shifted in corkscrew fashion, and kept trying both. A heavy-laden, high-aspiring, and surely much-suffering man. His voice, naturally soft and good, had contracted itself into a plaintive snuffle and sing-song; he spoke as if preaching,—you would have said preaching earnestly, and also hopelessly, the weightiest things."

Such, according to these high authorities, was the outer man Coleridge,—he who

"in bewitching words, with happy heart,
Did chant the vision of that ancient man,
That bright-eyed mariner."

There are several portraits painted of him. The best would appear to be that which was made by Allston, at Rome, in 1806. Wordsworth speaks of it as "the only likeness of the great original that ever gave me the least pleasure." That by Northcote strongly recalls him to my remembrance: the dreamy eyes; the full, round, yet pale face,—

"that seemed undoubtedly
As if a blooming face it ought to be";

the pleasant mouth; the "low-hung" lip; the broad and lofty forehead,—

"Profound, though not severe."

In his later days he took snuff largely, "Whatever he may have been in youth," writes Mr. Gillman, "in manhood he was scrupulously clean in his person, and especially took great care of his hands by frequent ablutions."

Although in his youth and earlier manhood Coleridge had been

"through life
Chasing chance-started friendships,"

not long before his death he is described as "thankful for the deep, calm peace of mind he then enjoyed,—a peace such as he had never before experienced, nor scarcely hoped for." All things were then looked at by him through an atmosphere by which all were reconciled and harmonized.

It is true, he did but little of the promised and purposed much. His friend, Justice Talfourd, while testifying to the benignity of his nature, describes his life as "one splendid and sad prospectus,"—and, according to Wordsworth, "his mental power was frozen at its marvellous source";[L] yet what a world of wealth he has bequeathed to us, although the whole produce of his pen, in poetry, is compressed within one single small volume!

Thus writes Talfourd, in his "Memorials of Charles Lamb":—"After a long and painful illness, borne with heroic patience, which concealed the intensity of his sufferings from the by-standers, Coleridge died,"—if that can be called death which removes the soul from its impediment of clay, extends immeasurably its sphere of usefulness, and perpetuates the power to benefit mankind so long as earth endures.

Within a few months past I again drove to Highgate, and visited the house in which the poet passed so many happy years of calm contentment and seraphic peace,—again repeated those lines which, next to his higher faith, were the faith by which his life was ruled and guided:—

"He prayeth best who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all!"

[Pg 221]

His remains lie in a vault in the graveyard of the old church at Highgate. He was a stranger in the parish where he died, notwithstanding his long residence there, and was therefore interred alone; not long afterwards, however, the vault was built to receive the body of his wife: there they rest together. It is inclosed by a thick iron grating, and the interior is lined with white marble. When I visited the tomb in 1864, one of the marble slabs had accidentally given way, and the coffin was partially exposed. I laid my hand upon it in solemn reverence, and gratefully recalled to memory him who, in his own emphatic words, had

"Here found life in death."


[D] De Quincey more than insinuates that, instead of Gillman persuading Coleridge to relinquish opium, Coleridge seduced Gillman into taking it.

[E] Gillman published but one volume of a Life of Coleridge. The volume he gave me contains his corrections for another edition. De Quincey says of it that "it is a thing deader than a door-nail,—which is waiting vainly, and for thousands of years is doomed to wait, for its sister volume, namely, Volume Second." It must be ever regretted, that of the poet's later life, of which he knew so much, he wrote nothing; but the world was justified in expecting in the details of his earlier pilgrimage something which it did not get.

[F] Mrs. Gillman gave me also the following sonnet. I believe it never to have been published; but although she requested I "would not have copies of it made to give away," I presume the prohibition cannot now be binding, after a lapse of thirty years since I received it. The poet, he who wrote the sonnet, and the admirable woman to whom it was addressed, have long since met.


"And thou art gone, most loved, most honored friend!
No, never more thy gentle voice shall blend
With air of Earth its pure, ideal tones,—
Binding in one, as with harmonious zones,
The heart and intellect. And I no more
Shall with thee gaze on that unfathomed deep,
The Human Soul: as when, pushed off the shore,
Thy mystic bark would through the darkness sweep,
Itself the while so bright! For oft we seemed
As on some starless sea,—all dark above,
All dark below,—yet, onward as we drove,
To plough up light that ever round us streamed
But he who mourns is not as one bereft
Of all he loved: thy living Truths are left.

"Washington Allston.

Cambridge Port, Massachusetts, America.

"For my still dear friend, Mrs. Gillman, of the Grove, Highgate."

[G] Madame de Staël is reported to have said that Coleridge was "rich in a monologue, but poor in a dialogue."

[H] It may not be forgotten that the Rev. Edward Irving, in dedicating to Coleridge one of his books, acknowledges obligations to the venerable sage for many valuable teachings, "as a spiritual man and as a Christian pastor": lessons derived from his "conversations" concerning the revelations of the Christian faith,—"helps in the way of truth,"—"from listening to his discourses." Coleridge has said, "he never found the smallest hitch or impediment in the fullest utterance of his most subtile fancies by word of mouth."

[I] Their friendship lasted for years, and was full of kindness on the part of the philosopher, and of reverential respect on that of Irving, who, following the natural instinct of his own ingenuous nature, changed in an instant in such a presence from the orator, who, speaking in God's name, assumed a certain austere pomp of position,—more like an authoritative priest than a simple presbyter,—into the simple and candid listener, more ready to learn than he was to teach.

[J] "Barry Cornwall" is the husband of her daughter by a prior marriage; and Adelaide Procter, during her brief life, made a name that will live with the best poets of our day.

[K] De Quincey elsewhere states his height to be five feet ten,—exactly the height of Wordsworth: both having been measured in the studio of Haydon.

[L] Very early in his life, Lord Egmont said of him, "he talks very much like an angel, and does nothing at all." De Quincey speaks of his indolence as "inconceivable;" and Joseph Cottle relates some amusing instances of his forgetfulness, even of the hour at which he had arranged to deliver a lecture to an assembled audience.




"Papa, what are you going to give us this winter for our evening readings?" said Jennie.

"I am thinking, for one thing," I replied, "of preaching a course of household sermons from a very odd text prefixed to a discourse which I found at the bottom of the pamphlet-barrel in the garret."

"Don't say sermon, papa,—it has such a dreadful sound; and on winter evenings one wants something entertaining."

"Well, treatise, then," said I, "or discourse, or essay, or prelection; I'm not particular as to words."

"But what is the queer text that you found at the bottom of the pamphlet-barrel?"

"It was one preached upon by your mother's great-great-grandfather, the very savory and much-respected Simeon Shuttleworth, 'on the occasion of the melancholy defections and divisions among the godly in the town of West Dofield'; and it runs thus,—'Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.'"

"It's a curious text enough; but I can't imagine what you are going to make of it."

"Simply an essay on Little Foxes," said I; "by which I mean those unsuspected, unwatched, insignificant little causes that nibble away domestic happiness, and make home less than so noble an institution should be. You may build beautiful, convenient, attractive houses,—you may hang the walls with lovely pictures and stud them with gems of Art; and there may be living there together persons bound by blood and affection in one common interest, leading a life common to themselves and apart from others; and these persons may each one of them be possessed of good and noble traits; there may be a common basis of affection, of generosity, of good principle, of religion; and yet, through the influence of some of these perverse, nibbling, insignificant little foxes, half the clusters of happiness on these so promising vines may fail to come to maturity. A little community of people, all of whom would be willing to die for each other, may not be able to live happily together; that is, they may have far less happiness than their circumstances, their fine and excellent traits, entitle them to expect.

"The reason for this in general is that home is a place not only of strong affections, but of entire unreserves; it is life's undress rehearsal, its back-room, its dressing-room, from which we go[Pg 222] forth to more careful and guarded intercourse, leaving behind us much débris of cast-off and every-day clothing. Hence has arisen the common proverb, 'No man is a hero to his valet-de-chambre'; and the common warning, 'If you wish to keep your friend, don't go and live with him.'"

"Which is only another way of saying," said my wife, "that we are all human and imperfect; and the nearer you get to any human being, the more defects you see. The characters that can stand the test of daily intimacy are about as numerous as four-leaved clovers in a meadow; in general, those who do not annoy you with positive faults bore you with their insipidity.' The evenness and beauty of a strong, well-defined nature, perfectly governed and balanced, is about the last thing one is likely to meet with in one's researches into life."

"But what I have to say," replied I, "is this,—that, family-life being a state of unreserve, a state in which there are few of those barriers and veils that keep people in the world from seeing each other's defects and mutually jarring and grating upon each other, it is remarkable that it is entered upon and maintained generally with less reflection, less care and forethought, than pertain to most kinds of business which men and women set their hands to. A man does not undertake to run an engine or manage a piece of machinery without some careful examination of its parts and capabilities, and some inquiry whether he have the necessary knowledge, skill, and strength to make it do itself and him justice. A man does not try to play on the violin without seeing if his fingers are long and flexible enough to bring out the harmonies and raise his performance above the grade of dismal scraping to that of divine music. What should we think of a man who should set a whole orchestra of instruments upon playing together without the least provision or forethought as to their chording, and then howl and tear his hair at the result? It is not the fault of the instruments that they grate harsh thunders together; they may each be noble and of celestial temper; but united without regard to their nature, dire confusion is the result. Still worse were it, if a man were supposed so stupid as to expect of each instrument a rôle opposed to its nature,—if he asked of the octave-flute a bass solo, and condemned the trombone because it could not do the work of the many-voiced violin.

"Yet just so carelessly is the work of forming a family often performed. A man and woman come together from some affinity, some partial accord of their nature which has inspired mutual affection. There is generally very little careful consideration of who and what they are,—no thought of the reciprocal influence of mutual traits,—no previous chording and testing of the instruments which are to make lifelong harmony or discord,—and after a short period of engagement, in which all their mutual relations are made as opposite as possible to those which must follow marriage, these two furnish their house and begin life together. Ten to one, the domestic roof is supposed at once the proper refuge for relations and friends on both sides, who also are introduced into the interior concert without any special consideration of what is likely to be the operation of character on character, the play of instrument with instrument; then follow children, each of whom is a separate entity, a separate will, a separate force in the family; and thus, with the lesser forces of servants and dependants, a family is made up. And there is no wonder if all these chance-assorted instruments, playing together, sometimes make quite as much discord, as harmony. For if the husband and wife chord, the wife's sister or husband's mother may introduce a discord; and then again, each child of marked character introduces another possibility of confusion. The conservative forces of human nature are so strong and so various, that with all these drawbacks the family state is after all the best and purest happiness that earth affords. But then, with cultivation and care, it might be a great deal happier.[Pg 223] Very fair pears have been raised by dropping a seed into a good soil and letting it alone for years; but finer and choicer are raised by the watchings, tendings, prunings of the gardener. Wild grape-vines bore very fine grapes, and an abundance of them, before our friend Dr. Grant took up his abode at Iona, and, studying the laws of Nature, conjured up new species of rarer fruit and flavor out of the old. And so, if all the little foxes that infest our domestic vine and fig-tree were once hunted out and killed, we might have fairer clusters and fruit all winter."

"But, papa," said Jennie, "to come to the foxes; let's know what they are."

"Well, as the text says, little foxes, the pet foxes of good people, unsuspected little animals,—on the whole, often thought to be really creditable little beasts, that may do good, and at all events cannot do much harm. And as I have taken to the Puritanic order in my discourse, I shall set them in sevens, as Noah did his clean beasts in the ark. Now my seven little foxes are these:—Fault-finding, Intolerance, Reticence, Irritability; Exactingness, Discourtesy, Self-Will. And here," turning to my sermon, "is what I have to say about the first of them."

Fault-finding,—a most respectable little animal, that many people let run freely among their domestic vines, under the notion that he helps the growth of the grapes, and is the principal means of keeping them in order.

Now it may safely be set down as a maxim, that nobody likes to be found fault with, but everybody likes to find fault when things do not suit him.

Let my courteous reader ask him- or herself if he or she does not experience a relief and pleasure in finding fault with or about whatever troubles them.

This appears at first sight an anomaly in the provisions of Nature. Generally we are so constituted that what it is a pleasure to us to do it is a pleasure to our neighbor to have us do. It is a pleasure to give, and a pleasure to receive. It is a pleasure to love, and a pleasure to be loved; a pleasure to admire, a pleasure to be admired. It is a pleasure also to find fault, but not a pleasure to be found fault with. Furthermore, those people whose sensitiveness of temperament leads them to find the most fault are precisely those who can least bear to be found fault with; they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on other men's shoulders, but they themselves cannot bear the weight of a finger.

Now the difficulty in the case is this: There are things in life that need to be altered; and that things may be altered, they must be spoken of to the people whose business it is to make the change. This opens wide the door of fault-finding to well-disposed people, and gives them latitude of conscience to impose on their fellows all the annoyances which they themselves feel. The father and mother of a family are fault-finders, ex officio; and to them flows back the tide of every separate individual's complaints in the domestic circle, till often the whole air of the house is chilled and darkened by a drizzling Scotch mist of querulousness. Very bad are these mists for grape-vines, and produce mildew in many a fair cluster.

Enthusius falls in love with Hermione, because she looks like a moonbeam,—because she is ethereal as a summer cloud, spirituelle. He commences forthwith the perpetual adoration system that precedes marriage. He assures her that she is too good for this world, too delicate and fair for any of the uses of poor mortality,—that she ought to tread on roses, sleep on the clouds,—that she ought never to shed a tear, know a fatigue, or make an exertion, but live apart in some bright, ethereal sphere worthy of her charms. All which is duly chanted in her ear in moonlight walks or sails, and so often repeated that a sensible girl may be excused for believing that a little of it may be true.[Pg 224]

Now comes marriage,—and it turns out that Enthusius is very particular as to his coffee, that he is excessively disturbed, if his meals are at all irregular, and that he cannot be comfortable with any table arrangements which do not resemble those of his notable mother, lately deceased in the odor of sanctity; he also wants his house in perfect order at all hours. Still he does not propose to provide a trained housekeeper; it is all to be effected by means of certain raw Irish girls, under the superintendence of this angel who was to tread on roses, sleep on clouds, and never know an earthly care. Neither has Enthusius ever considered it a part of a husband's duty to bear personal inconveniences in silence. He would freely shed his blood for Hermione,—nay, has often frantically proposed the same in the hours of courtship, when of course nobody wanted it done, and it could answer no manner of use; and thus to the idyllic dialogues of that period succeed such as these:—

"My dear, this tea is smoked: can't you get Jane into the way of making it better?"

"My dear, I have tried; but she will not do as I tell her."

"Well, all I know is, other people can have good tea, and I should think we might."

And again at dinner:—

"My dear, this mutton is overdone again; it is always overdone."

"Not always, dear, because you recollect on Monday you said it was just right."

"Well, almost always."

"Well, my dear, the reason to-day was, I had company in the parlor, and could not go out to caution Bridget, as I generally do. It's very difficult to get things done with such a girl."

"My mother's things were always well done, no matter what her girl was."

Again: "My dear, you must speak to the servants about wasting the coal. I never saw such a consumption of fuel in a family of our size"; or, "My dear, how can you let Maggie tear the morning paper?" or, "My dear, I shall actually have to give up coming to dinner, if my dinners cannot be regular"; or, "My dear, I wish you would look at the way my shirts are ironed,—it is perfectly scandalous"; or, "My dear, you must not let Johnnie finger the mirror in the parlor"; or, "My dear, you must stop the children from playing in the garret"; or, "My dear, you must see that Maggie doesn't leave the mat out on the railing when she sweeps the front hall"; and so on, up-stairs and down-stairs, in the lady's chamber, in attic, garret, and cellar, "my dear" is to see that nothing goes wrong, and she is found fault with when anything does.

Yet Enthusius, when occasionally he finds his sometime angel in tears, and she tells him he does not love her as he once did, repudiates the charge with all his heart, and declares he loves her more than ever,—and perhaps he does. The only thing is that she has passed out of the plane of moonshine and poetry into that of actualities. While she was considered an angel, a star, a bird, an evening cloud, of course there was nothing to be found fault with in her; but now that the angel has become chief business-partner in an earthly working firm, relations are different. Enthusius could say the same things over again under the same circumstances, but unfortunately now they never are in the same circumstances. Enthusius is simply a man who is in the habit of speaking from impulse, and saying a thing merely and only because he feels it. Before marriage he worshipped and adored his wife as an ideal being dwelling in the land of dreams and poetries, and did his very best to make her unpractical and unfitted to enjoy the life to which he was to introduce her after marriage. After marriage he still yields unreflectingly to present impulses, which are no longer to praise, but to criticize and condemn. The very sensibility to beauty and love of elegance, which made him admire her before marriage, now transferred to the arrangement of the domestic ménage, lead him daily to perceive[Pg 225] a hundred defects and find a hundred annoyances.

Thus far we suppose an amiable, submissive wife, who is only grieved, not provoked,—who has no sense of injustice, and meekly strives to make good the hard conditions of her lot. Such poor, little, faded women have we seen, looking for all the world like plants that have been nursed and forced into bloom in the steam-heat of the conservatory, and are now sickly and yellow, dropping leaf by leaf, in the dry, dusty parlor.

But there is another side of the picture,—where the wife, provoked and indignant, takes up the fault-finding trade in return, and with the keen arrows of her woman's wit searches and penetrates every joint of the husband's armor, showing herself full as unjust and far more culpable in this sort of conflict.

Saddest of all sad things is it to see two once very dear friends employing all that peculiar knowledge of each other which love had given them only to harass and provoke,—thrusting and piercing with a certainty of aim that only past habits of confidence and affection could have put in their power, wounding their own hearts with every deadly thrust they make at one another, and all for such inexpressibly miserable trifles as usually form the openings of fault-finding dramas.

For the contentions that loosen the very foundations of love, that crumble away all its fine traceries and carved work, about what miserable, worthless things do they commonly begin!—a dinner underdone, too much oil consumed, a newspaper torn, a waste of coal or soap, a dish broken!—and for this miserable sort of trash, very good, very generous, very religious people will sometimes waste and throw away by double-handfuls the very thing for which houses are built, and coal burned, and all the paraphernalia of a home established,—their happiness. Better cold coffee, smoky tea, burnt meat, better any inconvenience, any loss, than a loss of love; and nothing so surely burns away love as constant fault-finding.

For fault-finding once allowed as a habit between two near and dear friends comes in time to establish a chronic soreness, so that the mildest, the most reasonable suggestion, the gentlest implied reproof, occasions burning irritation; and when this morbid stage has once set in, the restoration of love seems wellnigh impossible.

For example: Enthusius, having got up this morning in the best of humors, in the most playful tones begs Hermione not to make the tails of her gs quite so long; and Hermione fires up with—

"And, pray, what else wouldn't you wish me to do? Perhaps you would be so good, when you have leisure, as to make out an alphabetical list of the things in me that need correcting."

"My dear, you are unreasonable."

"I don't think so. I should like to get to the end of the requirements of my lord and master sometimes."

"Now, my dear, you really are very silly."

"Please say something original, my dear. I have heard that till it has lost the charm of novelty."

"Come now, Hermione, don't let's quarrel."

"My dear Sir, who thinks of quarrelling? Not I; I'm sure I was only asking to be directed. I trust some time, if I live to be ninety, to suit your fastidious taste. I trust the coffee is right this morning, and the tea, and the toast, and the steak, and the servants, and the front-hall mat, and the upper-story hall-door, and the basement premises; and now I suppose I am to be trained in respect to my general education. I shall set about the tails of my gs at once, but trust you will prepare a list of any other little things that need emendation."

Enthusius pushes away his coffee, and drums on the table.

"If I might be allowed one small criticism, my dear, I should observe that it is not good manners to drum on the table," said his fair opposite.

"Hermione, you are enough to drive a man frantic!" exclaims Enthusius,[Pg 226] rushing out with bitterness in his soul, and a determination to take his dinner at Delmonico's.

Enthusius feels himself an abused man, and thinks there never was such a sprite of a woman,—the most utterly unreasonable, provoking human being he ever met with. What he does not think of is, that it is his own inconsiderate, constant fault-finding that has made every nerve so sensitive and sore, that the mildest suggestion of advice or reproof on the most indifferent subject is impossible. He has not, to be sure, been the guilty partner in this morning's encounter; he has said only what is fair and proper, and she has been unreasonable and cross; but, after all, the fault is remotely his.

When Enthusius awoke, after marriage, to find in his Hermione in very deed only a bird, a star, a flower, but no housekeeper, why did he not face the matter like an honest man? Why did he not remember all the fine things about dependence and uselessness with which he had been filling her head for a year or two, and in common honesty exact no more from her than he had bargained for? Can a bird make a good business-manager? Can a flower oversee Biddy and Mike, and impart to their uncircumcised ears the high crafts and mysteries of elegant housekeeping?

If his little wife has to learn her domestic rôle of household duty, as most girls do, by a thousand mortifications, a thousand perplexities, a thousand failures, let him, in ordinary fairness, make it as easy to her as possible. Let him remember with what admiring smiles, before marriage, he received her pretty professions of utter helplessness and incapacity in domestic matters, finding only poetry and grace in what, after marriage, proved an annoyance.

And if a man finds that he has a wife ill adapted to wifely duties, does it follow that the best thing he can do is to blurt out, without form or ceremony, all the criticisms and corrections which may occur to him in the many details of household life? He would not dare to speak with as little preface, apology, or circumlocution, to his business-manager, to his butcher, or his baker. When Enthusius was a bachelor, he never criticized the table at his boarding-house without some reflection, and studying to take unto himself acceptable words whereby to soften the asperity of the criticism. The laws of society require that a man should qualify, soften, and wisely time his admonitions to those he meets in the outer world, or they will turn again and rend him. But to his own wife, in his own house and home, he can find fault without ceremony or softening. So he can; and he can awake, in the course of a year or two, to find his wife a changed woman, and his home unendurable. He may find, too, that unceremonious fault-finding is a game that two can play at, and that a woman can shoot her arrows with far more precision and skill than a man.

But the fault lies not always on the side of the husband. Quite as often is a devoted, patient, good-tempered man harassed and hunted and baited by the inconsiderate fault-finding of a wife whose principal talent seems to lie in the ability at first glance to discover and make manifest the weak point in everything.

We have seen the most generous, the most warm-hearted and obliging of mortals, under this sort of training, made the most morose and disobliging of husbands. Sure to be found fault with, whatever they do, they have at last ceased doing. The disappointment of not pleasing they have abated by not trying to please.

We once knew a man who married a spoiled beauty, whose murmurs, exactions, and caprices were infinite. He had at last, as a refuge to his wearied nerves, settled down into a habit of utter disregard and neglect; he treated her wishes and her complaints with equal indifference, and went on with his life as nearly as possible as if she did not exist. He silently provided for her what he thought proper, without troubling himself to notice her requests[Pg 227] or listen to her grievances. Sickness came, but the heart of her husband was cold and gone; there was no sympathy left to warm her. Death came, and he breathed freely as a man released. He married again,—a woman with no beauty, but much love and goodness,—a woman who asked little, blamed seldom, and then with all the tact and address which the utmost thoughtfulness could devise; and the passive, negligent husband became the attentive, devoted slave of her will. He was in her hands as clay in the hands of the potter; the least breath or suggestion of criticism from her lips, who criticized so little and so thoughtfully, weighed more with him than many outspoken words. So different is the same human being, according to the touch of the hand which plays upon him!

I have spoken hitherto of fault-finding as between husband and wife: its consequences are even worse as respects children. The habit once suffered to grow up between the two that constitute the head of the family descends and runs through all the branches. Children are more hurt by indiscriminate, thoughtless fault-finding than by any other one thing. Often a child has all the sensitiveness and all the susceptibility of a grown person, added to the faults of childhood. Nothing about him is right as yet; he is immature and faulty at all points, and everybody feels at perfect liberty to criticize him to right and left, above, below, and around, till he takes refuge either in callous hardness or irritable moroseness.

A bright, noisy boy rushes in from school, eager to tell his mother something he has on his heart, and Number One cries out,—

"Oh, you've left the door open! I do wish you wouldn't always leave the door open! And do look at the mud on your shoes! How many times must I tell you to wipe your feet?"

"Now there you've thrown your cap on the sofa again. When will you learn to hang it up?"

"Don't put your slate there; that isn't the place for it."

"How dirty your hands are! what have you been doing?"

"Don't sit in that chair; you break the springs, jouncing."

"Mercy! how your hair looks! Do go up-stairs and comb it."

"There, if you haven't torn the braid all off your coat! Dear me, what a boy!"

"Don't speak so loud; your voice goes through my head."

"I want to know, Jim, if it was you that broke up that barrel that I have been saving for brown flour."

"I believe it was you, Jim, that hacked the edge of my razor."

"Jim's been writing at my desk, and blotted three sheets of the best paper."

Now the question is, if any of the grown people of the family had to run the gantlet of a string of criticisms on themselves equally true as those that salute unlucky Jim, would they be any better-natured about it than he is?

No; but they are grown-up people; they have rights that others are bound to respect. Everybody cannot tell them exactly what he thinks about everything they do. If every one could and did, would there not be terrible reactions?

Servants in general are only grown-up children, and the same considerations apply to them. A raw, untrained Irish girl introduced into an elegant house has her head bewildered in every direction. There are the gas-pipes, the water-pipes, the whole paraphernalia of elegant and delicate conveniences, about which a thousand little details are to be learned, the neglect of any one of which may flood the house, or poison it with foul air, or bring innumerable inconveniences. The setting of a genteel table and the waiting upon it involve fifty possibilities of mistake, each one of which will grate on the nerves of a whole family. There is no wonder, then, that the occasions of fault-finding in families are so constant and harassing; and there is no wonder that mistress and maid often meet each other on the terms of the bear and the man who fell together fifty feet down from the limb of a high tree, and lay at[Pg 228] the bottom of it, looking each other in the face in helpless, growling despair. The mistress is rasped, irritated, despairing, and with good reason: the maid is the same, and with equally good reason. Yet let the mistress be suddenly introduced into a printing-office, and required, with what little teaching could be given her in a few rapid directions, to set up the editorial of a morning paper, and it is probable she would be as stupid and bewildered as Biddy in her beautifully arranged house.

There are elegant houses which, from causes like these, are ever vexed like the troubled sea that cannot rest. Literally, their table has become a snare before them, and that which should have been for their welfare a trap. Their gas and their water and their fire and their elegancies and ornaments, all in unskilled, blundering hands, seem only so many guns in the hands of Satan, through which he fires at their Christian graces day and night,—so that, if their house is kept in order, their temper and religion are not.

I am speaking now to the consciousness of thousands of women who are in will and purpose real saints. Their souls go up to heaven—its love, its purity, its rest—with every hymn and prayer and sacrament in church; and they come home to be mortified, disgraced, and made to despise themselves, for the unlovely tempers, the hasty words, the cross looks, the universal nervous irritability, that result from this constant jarring of finely toned chords under unskilled hands.

Talk of hair-cloth shirts, and scourgings, and sleeping on ashes, as means of saintship! there is no need of them in our country. Let a woman once look at her domestic trials as her hair-cloth, her ashes, her scourges,—accept them,—rejoice in them,—smile and be quiet, silent, patient, and loving under them,—and the convent can teach her no more; she is a victorious saint.

When the damper of the furnace is turned the wrong way by Paddy, after the five hundredth time of explanation, and the whole family awakes coughing, sneezing, strangling,—when the gas is blown out in the nursery by Biddy, who has been instructed every day for weeks in the danger of such a proceeding,—when the tumblers on the dinner-table are found dim and streaked, after weeks of training in the simple business of washing and wiping,—when the ivory-handled knives and forks are left soaking in hot dish-water, after incessant explanations of the consequences,—when four or five half-civilized beings, above, below, and all over the house, are constantly forgetting the most important things at the very moment it is most necessary they should remember them,—there is no hope for the mistress morally, unless she can in very deed and truth accept her trials religiously, and conquer by accepting. It is not apostles alone who can take pleasure in necessities and distresses, but mothers and housewives also, if they would learn of the Apostle, might say, "When I am weak, then am I strong."

The burden ceases to gall when we have learned how to carry it. We can suffer patiently, if we see any good come of it, and say, as an old black woman of our acquaintance did of an event that crossed her purpose, "Well, Lord, if it's you, send it along."

But that this may be done, that home-life, in our unsettled, changing state of society, may become peaceful and restful, there is one Christian grace, much treated of by mystic writers, that must return to its honor in the Christian Church. I mean—the grace of silence.

No words can express, no tongue can tell, the value of not speaking. "Speech is silvern, but silence is golden," is an old and very precious proverb.

"But," say many voices, "what is to become of us, if we may not speak? Must we not correct our children and our servants and each other? Must we let people go on doing wrong to the end of the chapter?"

No; fault must be found; faults must be told, errors corrected. Reproof and admonition are duties of householders[Pg 229] to their families, and of all true friends to one another.

But, gentle reader, let us look over life, our own lives and the lives of others, and ask, How much of the fault-finding which prevails has the least tendency to do any good? How much of it is well-timed, well-pointed, deliberate, and just, so spoken as to be effective?

"A wise reprover upon an obedient ear" is one of the rare things spoken of by Solomon,—the rarest, perhaps, to be met with. How many really religious people put any of their religion into their manner of performing this most difficult office? We find fault with a stove or furnace which creates heat only to go up chimney and not warm the house. We say it is wasteful. Just so wasteful often seem prayer-meetings, church-services, and sacraments; they create and excite lovely, gentle, holy feelings,—but, if these do not pass out into the atmosphere of daily life, and warm and clear the air of our homes, there is a great waste in our religion.

We have been on our knees, confessing humbly that we are as awkward in heavenly things, as unfit for the Heavenly Jerusalem, as Biddy and Mike, and the little beggar-girl on our door-steps, are for our parlors. We have deplored our errors daily, hourly, and confessed that "the remembrance of them is grievous unto us, the burden of them is intolerable," and then we draw near in the sacrament to that Incarnate Divinity whose infinite love covers all our imperfections with the mantle of His perfections. But when we return, do we take our servants and children by the throat because they are as untrained and awkward and careless in earthly things as we have been in heavenly? Does no remembrance of Christ's infinite patience temper our impatience, when we have spoken seventy times seven, and our words have been disregarded? There is no mistake as to the sincerity of the religion which the church excites. What we want is to have it used in common life, instead of going up like hot air in a fireplace to lose itself in the infinite abysses above.

In reproving and fault-finding, we have beautiful examples in Holy Writ. When Saint Paul has a reproof to administer to delinquent Christians, how does he temper it with gentleness and praise! how does he first make honorable note of all the good there is to be spoken of! how does he give assurance of his prayers and love!—and when at last the arrow flies, it goes all the straighter to the mark for this carefulness.

But there was a greater, a purer, a lovelier than Paul, who made His home on earth with twelve plain men, ignorant, prejudiced, slow to learn,—and who to the very day of His death were still contending on a point which He had repeatedly explained, and troubling His last earthly hours with the old contest, "Who should be greatest." When all else failed, on His knees before them as their servant, tenderly performing for love the office of a slave, he said, "If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet."

When parents, employers, and masters learn to reprove in this spirit, reproofs will be more effective than they now are. It was by the exercise of this spirit that Fénelon transformed the proud, petulant, irritable, selfish Duke of Burgundy, making him humble, gentle, tolerant of others, and severe only to himself: it was he who had for his motto, that "Perfection alone can bear with imperfection."

But apart from the fault-finding which has a definite aim, how much is there that does not profess or intend or try to do anything more than give vent to an irritated state of feeling! The nettle stings us, and we toss it with both hands at our neighbor; the fire burns us, and we throw coals and hot ashes at all and sundry of those about us.

There is fretfulness, a mizzling, drizzling rain of discomforting remark; there is grumbling, a northeast storm that never clears; there is scolding, the thunderstorm with lightning and hail. All these are worse than useless; they are positive sins, by whomsoever indulged,—sins[Pg 230] as great and real as many that are shuddered at in polite society.

All these are for the most part but the venting on our fellow-beings of morbid feelings resulting from dyspepsia, overtaxed nerves, or general ill health.

A minister eats too much mince-pie, goes to his weekly lecture, and, seeing only half a dozen people there, proceeds to grumble at those half-dozen for the sins of such as stay away. "The Church is cold, there is no interest in religion," and so on: a simple outpouring of the blues.

You and I do in one week the work we ought to do in six; we overtax nerve and brain, and then have weeks of darkness in which everything at home seems running to destruction. The servants never were so careless, the children never so noisy, the house never so disorderly, the State never so ill-governed, the Church evidently going over to Antichrist. The only thing, after all, in which the existing condition of affairs differs from that of a week ago is, that we have used up our nervous energy, and are looking at the world through blue spectacles. We ought to resist the devil of fault-finding at this point, and cultivate silence as a grace till our nerves are rested. There are times when no one should trust himself to judge his neighbors, or reprove his children and servants, or find fault with his friends,—for he is so sharp-set that he cannot strike a note without striking too hard. Then is the time to try the grace of silence, and, what is better than silence, the power of prayer.

But it being premised that we are never to fret, never to grumble, never to scold, and yet it being our duty in some way to make known and get rectified the faults of others, it remains to ask how; and on this head we will improvise a parable of two women.

Mrs. Standfast is a woman of high tone, and possessed of a power of moral principle that impresses one even as sublime. All her perceptions of right and wrong are clear, exact, and minute; she is charitable to the poor, kind to the sick and suffering, and devoutly and earnestly religious. In all the minutiæ of woman's life she manifests an inconceivable precision and perfection. Everything she does is perfectly done. She is true to all her promises to the very letter, and so punctual that railroad time might be kept by her instead of a chronometer.

Yet, with all these excellent traits, Mrs. Standfast has not the faculty of making a happy home. She is that most hopeless of fault-finders,—a fault-finder from principle. She has a high, correct standard for everything in the world, from the regulation of the thoughts down to the spreading of a sheet or the hemming of a towel; and to this exact standard she feels it her duty to bring every one in her household. She does not often scold, she is not actually fretful, but she exercises over her household a calm, inflexible severity, rebuking every fault; she overlooks nothing, she excuses nothing, she will accept of nothing in any part of her domain but absolute perfection; and her reproofs are aimed with a true and steady point, and sent with a force that makes them felt by the most obdurate.

Hence, though she is rarely seen out of temper, and seldom or never scolds, yet she drives every one around her to despair by the use of the calmest and most elegant English. Her servants fear, but do not love her. Her husband, an impulsive, generous man, somewhat inconsiderate and careless in his habits, is at times perfectly desperate under the accumulated load of her disapprobation. Her children regard her as inhabiting some high, distant, unapproachable mountain-top of goodness, whence she is always looking down with reproving eyes on naughty boys and girls. They wonder how it is that so excellent a mamma should have children who, let them try to be good as hard as they can, are always sure to do something dreadful every day.

The trouble with Mrs. Standfast is, not that she has a high standard, and not that she purposes and means to bring every one up to it, but that she does not take the right way. She has[Pg 231] set it down that to blame a wrong-doer is the only way to cure wrong. She has never learned that it is as much her duty to praise as to blame, and that people are drawn to do right by being praised when they do it, rather than driven by being blamed when they do not.

Right across the way from Mrs. Standfast is Mrs. Easy, a pretty little creature, with not a tithe of her moral worth,—a merry, pleasure-loving woman, of no particular force of principle, whose great object in life is to avoid its disagreeables and to secure its pleasures.

Little Mrs. Easy is adored by her husband, her children, her servants, merely because it is her nature to say pleasant things to every one. It is a mere tact of pleasing, which she uses without knowing it. While Mrs. Standfast, surveying her well-set dining-table, runs her keen eye over everything, and at last brings up with, "Jane, look at that black spot on the salt-spoon! I am astonished at your carelessness!"—Mrs. Easy would say, "Why, Jane, where did you learn to set a table so nicely? All looking beautifully, except—ah! let's see—just give a rub to this salt-spoon;—now all is quite perfect." Mrs. Standfast's servants and children hear only of their failures; these are always before them and her. Mrs. Easy's servants hear of their successes. She praises their good points; tells them they are doing well in this, that, and the other particular; and finally exhorts them, on the strength of having done so many things well, to improve in what is yet lacking. Mrs. Easy's husband feels that he is always a hero in her eyes, and her children feel that they are dear good children, notwithstanding Mrs. Easy sometimes has her little tiffs of displeasure, and scolds roundly when something falls out as it should not.

The two families show how much more may be done by a very ordinary woman, through the mere instinct of praising and pleasing, than by the greatest worth, piety, and principle, seeking to lift human nature by a lever that never was meant to lift it by.

The faults and mistakes of us poor human beings are as often perpetuated by despair as by any other one thing. Have we not all been burdened by a consciousness of faults that we were slow to correct because we felt discouraged? Have we not been sensible of a real help sometimes from the presence of a friend who thought well of us, believed in us, set our virtues in the best light, and put our faults in the background?

Let us depend upon it, that the flesh and blood that are in us—the needs, the wants, the despondencies—are in each of our fellows, in every awkward servant and careless child.

Finally, let us all resolve,—

First, to attain to the grace of silence.

Second, to deem all fault-finding that does no good a sin; and to resolve, when we are happy ourselves, not to poison the atmosphere for our neighbors by calling on them to remark every painful and disagreeable feature of their daily life.

Third, to practise the grace and virtue of praise. We have all been taught that it is our duty to praise God, but few of us have reflected on our duty to praise men; and yet for the same reason that we should praise the divine goodness it is our duty to praise human excellence.

We should praise our friends,—our near and dear ones; we should look on and think of their virtues till their faults fade away; and when we love most, and see most to love, then only is the wise time wisely to speak of what should still be altered.

Parents should look out for occasions to commend their children, as carefully as they seek to reprove their faults; and employers should praise the good their servants do as strictly as they blame the evil.

Whoever undertakes to use this weapon will find that praise goes farther in many cases than blame. Watch till a blundering servant does something well,[Pg 232] and then praise him for it, and you will see a new fire lighted in the eye, and often you will find that in that one respect at least you have secured excellence thenceforward.

When you blame, which should be seldom, let it be alone with the person, quietly, considerately, and with all the tact you are possessed of. The fashion of reproving children and servants in the presence of others cannot be too much deprecated. Pride, stubbornness, and self-will are aroused by this, while a more private reproof might be received with thankfulness.

As a general rule, I would say, treat children in these respects just as you would grown people; they are grown people in miniature, and need as careful consideration of their feelings as any of us.

Lastly, let us all make a bead-roll, a holy rosary, of all that is good and agreeable in our position, our surroundings, our daily lot, of all that is good and agreeable in our friends, our children, our servants, and charge ourselves to repeat it daily, till the habit of our minds be to praise and to commend; and so doing, we shall catch and kill one Little Fox who hath destroyed many tender grapes.


L. M. S., Jun.,

Sepult. Dec. 21, 1864.

Drift, snows of winter, o'er the turf
That hides in death his cherished form!
And roar, ye pine-trees, like the surf
That breaks before this eastern storm!
O turbulent December blast!
O night tempestuous and grim!
Ye cannot chill or overcast
The tender thought that dwells on him!
Wilder the tumult he defied,
Darker the leaden storm he braved,
Where swept the battle's smoking tide,
And banners, torn and blackened, waved.
Not scathless he amid the fray:
"Shot through the lungs,"—the message went:
Now surely Love shall find a way
To hold him here at home content.
"Oh, thou hast done enough," Love cried,
"For duty, fame,—enough, indeed!"
He touched his sabre, and replied,—
"It is our country's hour of need."
[Pg 233]
Back to the field, from respite brief,
Back to the battle's fiery breath,
Hurried our young high-hearted chief
To lead the charge where waited Death.
Oh, fallen in manhood's fairest noon,—
We will remember, 'mid our sighs,
He never yields his life too soon,
For country and for right who dies.


For three years I had been a thorough believer in the United States Sanitary Commission. Reading carefully its publications, listening with tearful interest to the narrations of those who had been its immediate workers at the front, following in imagination its campaigns of love and mercy, from Antietam to Gettysburg, from Belle Plain to City Point, and thence to the very smoke and carnage of the actual battle-field, I had come to cherish an unfeigned admiration for it and its work. For three years, too, I had been an earnest laborer at one of its outposts,—striving with others ever to deepen the interest and increase the fidelity of the loyal men and women of a loyal New England town. I was prepared then, both from my hearty respect for the charity and from my general conception of the nature and vastness of its operations, to welcome every opportunity to improve my knowledge of its plans and practical workings. I therefore gladly accepted the invitation which came to me to visit the head-quarters of the Commission at Washington, and to examine for myself the character and amount of the benefits which it confers.

The evening of August 23d found me, after a speedy and pleasant trip southward, safely ensconced in the sanctum of my good friend Mr. Knapp, the head of the Special Relief Department. Starting from that base of operations, I spent two crowded weeks in ceaseless inquiries. Every avenue of information was thrown wide open. Two days I wandered, but not aimlessly, from office to office, from storehouse to storehouse, from soldiers' home to soldiers' home, conversing with the men who have given themselves up unstintedly to this charity, examining the books of the Commission, gathering statistics, seeing, as it were, the hungry soldier fed and the naked soldier clothed, and the sick and wounded soldier cared for with a more than fraternal kindness. I visited the hospitals, and with my own hands distributed the Sanitary delicacies to the suffering men. Steaming down the Chesapeake, and up the James, and along its homeless shores, I came to City Point; was a day and a night on board the Sanitary barges, whence full streams of comfort are flowing with an unbroken current to all our diverging camps; passed a tranquil, beautiful Sabbath in that city of the sick and wounded, whose white tents look down from the bluffs upon the turbid river; rode thirteen miles out almost to the Weldon Road, then in sharp contest between our Fifth Army Corps and the Rebels; from the hills which Baldy Smith stormed in June saw the spires of Petersburg; went from tent to tent and from bedside to bedside in the field hospitals of the Fifth and Ninth Corps, where the luxuries prepared by willing hands at home were bringing life and strength to fevered lips and broken bodies.[Pg 234] I came back with my courage re-animated, and with a more perfect faith in the ultimate triumph of the good cause. I came back with a heartier respect for our soldiers, whose patience in hardship and courage in danger are rivalled only by the heroism with which they bear the pains of sickness and wounds. I came back especially with the conviction, that, no matter how much we had contributed to the Sanitary work, we had done only that which it was our duty to do, and that, so long as we could furnish shelter for our families and food for our children, it was our plain obligation to give and to continue giving out of our riches or out of our poverty.

I have felt that in no way could I do better service than by seeking to answer for others the very questions which my fortnight with the Sanitary has answered for me. Most, no doubt, have a general conviction that the charity inaugurated by the Sanitary Commission is at once marvellous in its extent and unique in the history of war. All, perhaps, are prepared to allow that the heart which conceived such an enterprise, and the mind which organized it, and the persistent will which carried it to a successful issue, are entitled to all the praise which we can give them. Few will deny now that this and kindred associations, by decreasing the waste of war, will affect in an important degree our national fortunes. And most, indeed, know something even about the details of Sanitary work. They comprehend, at least, that through its agency many a homely comfort and many a home luxury find their way to the wards of great hospitals. They have seen, too, the Commission step forward in great emergencies, after some terrible battle, when every energy of Government was burdened and overburdened by the gigantic demands of the hour, and from its storehouses send thousands of packages, and from its offices hundreds of relief agents, to help to meet almost unprecedented exigencies.

But what people wish to know, and what, despite all that has been written, they do not know fully and definitely, is how and when and where, and through what channels and by what methods, the Commission works: precisely how the millions which have been poured into its treasury from public contributions and private benefactions have been coined into comfort for the soldier,—how the thousands and hundreds of thousands of garments which have gone forth to unknown destinations have been made warmth for his body and cheer to his soul. The whole height and depth and length and breadth of Sanitary work, what varied activities and what multiform charities are included in the great circumference of its organization,—of that not one in twenty has any adequate conception. And all about that is what everybody wishes to know. The curiosity, moreover, which dictates such queries, is a natural and laudable curiosity. Those who have given at every call, and often from scanty means, and those who have plied the needle summer and winter, early and late, have a right to put such questions. The Commission wishes to answer all proper inquiries fully and unreservedly. It would throw open its operations to the broadest sunlight. It believes that the more entirely it is known, in its successes and its failures alike, the more sure it is to be liberally sustained. To bring the humblest contributor from the most distant branch, as it were, into immediate communication with the front is a work most desirable to be done. I do not wish to glorify the Commission, nor to theorize about it, nor to discuss its relative merit as compared with that of kindred organizations,—but rather to tell just what it is doing, precisely where the money goes, and exactly what kinds of good are attempted.

The work of the Sanitary Commission may be naturally and conveniently classed under five heads.

First, the work undertaken for the prevention of sickness and suffering.

Second, the Special Relief Department.

Third, the Hospital Directory.[Pg 235]

Fourth, the assistance given to stationary hospitals.

Fifth, the grand operations in the front, on or near the actual battle-field.

The efforts for the prevention of suffering and sickness are first in order of time, and possibly first in importance. When this war commenced, we had no wounded and we had no sick. What we did have was a crowd of men full of untrained courage, but who knew little or nothing about military discipline, and as little in regard to what was necessary for the preservation of their health. What we did have was hundreds and thousands of officers, taken from every walk of life, who were, for the most part, men of great natural intelligence, but who did not at all comprehend that it was their duty not only to lead their men in battle, but to care for their health and their habits, and who had never dreamed that such homely considerations as what are the best modes of cooking food, what are the most healthy localities in which to pitch tents, what is the right position for drains, had anything to do with the art of war. What we did have was surgeons, many of whom had achieved an honorable reputation in the walks of civil life, but who, on this new field, were alike inexperienced and untried. The manifest danger was, that this mass of living valor and embodied patriotism would simply be squandered,—that, as in the terrible Walcheren Expedition, or in the Crimea, the men whose strength and courage might decide a campaign would only furnish food for the hospital and the grave.

Who should avert this danger? The Government could not. It had no time to sit down and study sanitary science. It was bringing together everything, where it found—nothing. Out of farmers and merchants and students it was organizing the most efficient of armies. It was sending its agents all over the world to buy guns and munitions of war. It was tasking our factories to produce blankets and overcoats, knapsacks and haversacks, wagons and tents, and all that goes to make up the multifarious equipment of an army. It was peering into our dock-yards to find steamers and sailing-vessels out of which to gather makeshift navies, until it could find leisure to build stancher ships. Manifestly the Government had no time for such a work. The existing Medical Bureau was hardly equal to the task. Organized to take charge of an army of ten thousand men, in the twinkling of an eye that army became five hundred thousand. At the beginning of the war the medical staff must have been very busy and very heavily burdened. With great hospitals to build, with troops of willing, but young and inexperienced surgeons to train to a knowledge of their duties and to send east and west and north and south, with every department of medical science to be enlarged at once to the proportions of the war, it had little leisure for excursions into fresh fields of inquiry. That it brought order so quickly out of chaos, that it was able to extemporize a good working system, is a sufficient testimony to its general fidelity and efficiency. It was the Sanitary Commission which undertook this special duty. It undertook to find out some of the laws of health which apply to army life, and then to scatter the knowledge of those laws broadcast.

Prevention, therefore, effort not so much to comfort and cure the sick soldier as to keep him from being sick at all, was, in order of time, properly the first work. And it is doubtful whether at the outset anything more was contemplated. The memorial to the War Department in May, 1861, says explicitly that the object of the Commission "is to bring to bear upon the health, comfort, and morale of our troops the fullest and ripest teachings of sanitary science." How many of the contributors to the funds of the Society are aware what an immense work in this direction has been undertaken, and how much has been accomplished to prevent sickness and the consequent depletion and perhaps defeat of our[Pg 236] armies? As I have already indicated, at the commencement of the war we knew little or nothing about what was necessary to keep men in military service well,—what food, what clothing, what tents, what camps, what recreations, what everything, I may say. Now the Sanitary Commission has made searching inquiries touching every point of camp and soldier life,—gathering in facts from all quarters, and seeking to attain to some fixed sanitary principles. It has sent the most eminent medical men on tours of inspection to all our camps, who have put questions and given hints to the very men to whom they were of the most direct importance. As a result, we have a mass of facts, which, in the breadth of the field which they cover, in the number of vital questions which they settle, and in the fulness and accuracy of the testimony by which they are sustained, are worth more than all the sanitary statistics of all other nations put together.

And we are to consider that these inquiries were from the beginning turned to practical use. If you look over your pile of dusty pamphlets, very likely you will find a little Sanitary tract entitled, "Rules for Preserving the Health of the Soldier." This was issued almost before the war had seriously begun. Or you will come across paper containing the last results of the last foreign investigations. So early was the good seed of sanitary knowledge sown. We must remember, too, how many mooted, yet vital questions have now been put to rest. Take an example,—Quinine. Everybody had a general notion that quinine was as valuable as a preventive of disease as a cure. But how definite was our knowledge? How many knew when and in what positions and to what extent it was valuable? As early as 1861 the Commission prepared and published what has been justly termed an exhaustive monograph on the whole subject, collecting into a brief space all the best testimony bearing upon the question. This was the beginning of an investigation which, pursued through a vast number of cases, has demonstrated, that, in peculiar localities and under certain circumstances, quinine in full doses is an almost absolute necessity. And in such localities, and under such circumstances, Government issues now a daily ration to every man, saving who can tell how many valuable lives? One more illustration,—Camps. Suppose you were to lead a thousand men into the Southern country. Would you know where to encamp them? whether with a southern or a northern exposure? on a breezy hill, or in a sheltered valley? beneath the shade of groves, or out in the broad sunshine? Could you tell what kind of soil was healthiest, or how near to each other you could safely pitch your tents, or whether it would be best for your men to sleep on the bare ground or on straw or on pine boughs? Yet, if you inquire, you will find that all these questions and countless others are definitely settled,—thanks in a great measure to the Sanitary Commission, which has gladly given its ounce of prevention, that it may spare its pound of cure.

If you imagine that the need of this work of prevention has ceased, you are greatly mistaken. Only last summer, in the single month of June, the Commission distributed, in the Army of the Potomac alone, over a hundred tons of canned fruits and tomatoes, and not less than five thousand barrels of pickles and fresh vegetables. It is hardly too much to say that what the Commission did in this respect has gone far towards enabling our gallant army to disappoint the hopes of the enemy, and to hold, amid the deadly assaults of malaria, the vantage-ground which it has won before Petersburg and Richmond. All through the spring and summer, too, at Chattanooga, on the very soil which war had ploughed and desolated, invalid soldiers have been cultivating hundreds of acres of vegetables. And on the rugged sides of Missionary Ridge, and along the sunny slopes of Central Tennessee, the same forethought has brought to perfection,[Pg 237] in many a deserted vineyard, the purple glory of the grape. And this not merely to cure, but to prevent, to keep up the strength and vigor of the brave men who have marched victoriously from the banks of the Ohio to Atlanta.

Nor is it likely that the value of this office will cease so long as the war lasts. In the future, as in the past, new conditions, new exigencies, and new dangers will arise. And to the end the foresight which guards will be as true a friend to the soldier as the kindness which assuages his pains. Looking back, therefore, upon the whole field, and speaking with a full understanding of the meaning of the language, I am ready to affirm, that, if the Sanitary Commission had undertaken nothing but the work of preventing sickness, and had accomplished nothing in any other direction, the army and the country would have received in that alone an ample return for all the money which has been lavished.

I come now to the Special Relief Department. I should call this a sort of philanthropic drag-net, differing from that mentioned in the Gospel in that it seems to gather up nothing bad which needs to be thrown away. In other words, it appeared to me as though any and every kind of Sanitary good which ought to be done, and yet was not large enough or distinct enough to constitute a separate branch, was set down as Special Relief. The whole system of homes and lodges to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless comes directly under the head of Special Relief. The immense collection of back pay, bounties, pensions, and prize-money, which is made gratuitously by the Commission, is Special Relief. Visits to the hospitals are under the direction of this same department. And even the Directory and the vast work done at the front perhaps legitimately belong to it. We can readily conceive, therefore, that the Commission has no department which is larger or more important, or which covers so wide and diversified a field of activity. Let us survey that field a little closer.

Sanitary homes and lodges,—what are they? A soldier is discharged, or he has a furlough. He is not well and strong,—and he has no money, certainly none to spare. He ought not to sleep on the ground, and he ought not to go hungry. But what is everybody's business is apt to be nobody's business. Fortunately the Commission has seen and met this want. In Washington, on H Street, there is a block of rough, but comfortable one-story wooden buildings, erected for various purposes of Special Relief, and, amongst others, for the very one which I have mentioned. In the first place, there is a large room containing ninety-six berths, where any soldier, having proper claims, can obtain decent lodging free of expense. In the second place, there is a kitchen, and a neat, cheerful dining-room, with seats for a hundred and fifty. Here plain and substantial meals are furnished to all comers. This table of one hundred and fifty has often, and indeed usually, to be spread three times; so that the Commission feeds daily at this place alone some four hundred soldiers, and lodges ninety to a hundred more. The home which I have now described is simply for transient calls.

Near the depot there is a home of a more permanent character. When a soldier is discharged from the service, the Government has, in the nature of the case, no further charge of him. Suppose now that he is taken sick, with, no money in his purse and no friends, near. Can you imagine a position more forlorn? And forlorn indeed it would, be, were it not for the Commission. The sick home is a large three-story building, with three or four one-story buildings added on each side. Here there is furnished food for all; then one hundred and fifty beds for those who are not really sick, but only ailing and worn-out; then bathing-rooms; and, finally, a reading-room. There is here, too, a hospital ward, with the requisite nurses and medical attendance. In this ward I saw a little boy, apparently not over[Pg 238] twelve years of age, who had strayed from his home,—if, alas, he had one!—and followed to the field an Ohio regiment of hundred-days' men, and who had been taken sick and left behind. Who he was or where from nobody knew. Tenderly cared for, but likely to die! A sad sight to look upon! One feature more. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday a physician goes from the home in Washington to New York, taking charge of those who are too sick or too crippled to care for themselves; while the relief agents procure for the sick soldier the half-price ticket to which he is entitled, or else give him one, and such articles of clothing as are needful to send him in comfort to his own home.

I must not fail to speak in this connection of another beautiful ministry,—the home for soldiers' wives and mothers. A soldier is like other human beings. In his sickness he yearns for a sight of the familiar faces, and sends for wife or mother; or wife or mother, unable to bear longer the uncertainty, when she can get no tidings from the absent, starts for Washington. There, searching vainly for husband or son, she spends all or nearly all her money. Or if she finds him, it may well be that he has no funds with which to help her. In the little buildings on one side of the refuge for the sick are rooms where some sixty-five can receive decent lodging and nourishing food; and if actually penniless, the Commission will procure them tickets and send them back to their friends.

We often hear people wondering, almost in a skeptical tone, where all the Commission's money goes. When I was at Washington and City Point, I only asked where it all came from. Consider what it must cost simply to feed and lodge these soldiers and their wives at Washington. And then remember that this is but one of many similar homes scattered everywhere: at Baltimore, Washington, and Alexandria, in the Eastern Department; at Louisville, Nashville, Chattanooga, in the Western; at New Orleans and Baton Rouge, in the Southwestern; and at many another place beside. And, finally, reflect that this whole system of homes is really but one portion of one branch of Sanitary work.

The collection of back pay, bounties, and pensions,—how many have a definite idea of this work? Not many, I suspect. Yet it takes all the time of many persons to accomplish it, and it was the branch of Sanitary work which awakened in my own mind the deepest regard; for it has its foundation in a higher virtue than any mere sentimental charity,—yea, in the highest virtue known in heaven or on earth,—justice. However impossible it may be to prevent such occurrences, certainly it is a cruel and undeserved hardship to a soldier who has served faithfully and fought for his country, and has perhaps been wounded and almost died at the post of honor and duty, that he should be unable to obtain his hard-earned pittance, when, too, he needs it for his own comfort, or when it may be that his family need it to keep them from absolute suffering.

Look at a single class of these collections,—the back pay of sick men. Government, we all allow, must have some system in its disbursements. It should not pay money without a voucher, and the proper voucher of a soldier is the pay-roll of the regiment or company of which he is a member. Now a sick or wounded man drops out of the ranks. He gets into a field hospital to which he does not belong. He is transferred from one hospital to another, from hospital to convalescent camp, and finally, it may be, is put on the list of men to be discharged for physical disability. Meanwhile his commanding officer does not know where he is, cannot trace him thinks it very likely that he is a deserter. On pay-day the man's name is not on the roll, and, having no voucher, he gets no money. You say that there ought to be a remedy. There is none. It would be difficult to devise one. What shall the soldier do? He cannot go from point to point to collect evidence, for he is sick. Besides, he is[Pg 239] utterly ignorant of the necessary forms. If he applies to a lawyer, it costs him often from one half to three quarters of all he gets. Very likely the lawyer cannot afford to take care of one or two petty cases for a less price. In this emergency the Commission steps in, and, with its knowledge of routine and its credit in all quarters, obtains for the poor fellow for nothing what he has in vain sought for in other ways. Take one single case, and what they would call at the Relief Office an easy case. Study it attentively, and you will get an idea of all cases,—and you will understand, moreover, how much work has to be done, and how impossible it would be for a sick man to do it.

Charles W. J—— is a member of Company K, One Hundred and Twenty-First New York Regiment, and he has been transferred to this company and regiment from Company F of the Sixteenth New York. He has been thus transferred for the reason that the Sixteenth New York is a two years' regiment, whose time has expired, while he is a three years' recruit, who has a year or two more to serve. Now he claims that pay is due him from November 1, 1863, to August 1, 1864, and that he needs his pay very much to send home to his wife. He represents that he was at Schuyler Hospital from the time he left the ranks until December 17, 1863; that then he was sent to Convalescent Camp, New York Harbor; and on December 29 to Camp of Distribution at Alexandria; whence, February 8, 1864, he was brought to Staunton Hospital, Washington, where he now is. He has never joined his new regiment, has only been transferred with others to its rolls. His new officers have never seen him, and do not know where he is. The relief agent hears the story and then sets about proving all its details: first, that the man was a member of the Sixteenth New York Regiment; second, that he has been transferred to the One Hundred and Twenty-First Regiment; third, that he has never been paid beyond November 1, 1863; fourth, that he has really been in the various hospitals and camps which he mentions. This evidence is procured by writing to agents and surgeons at convalescent and distributing camps, and at Hospital Schuyler, and by examining the rolls of the Sixteenth and One Hundred and Twenty-First Regiments. In a few days or weeks the man's story is proved to be correct, and he is put into a position to receive his pay,—a satisfaction not simply in a pecuniary sense, but also to his soldierly pride, by removing an undeserved charge of desertion.

Now I beg my readers not to imagine that this is a difficult case. At the Relief Rooms they treasure up and mysteriously display, much as I suspect a soldier would flaunt a captured battle-flag, a certain roll of paper, I dare not say how many yards long, covered with certificates from one end to the other, obtained from all parts of the country and from all sorts of persons, and all necessary in order to secure perhaps a three or six months' pay of one sick soldier. The correspondence of the back-pay department is itself a burden. From thirty to forty letters on an average are received daily at one of its offices. They are written in all languages,—English, German, French,—and must be read, translated, and the ideas, conveyed often in the blindest style, ascertained and answered.

A new branch has been recently added,—the collection of pay for the families of those who are prisoners in Rebeldom. But as this involves no new principles or fresh details, I pass it by. Another class of cases should receive a moment's notice. This includes the collection of bounties for discharged soldiers, of pensions for wounded soldiers, of bounty, back pay, and pensions for the families of deceased soldiers, and of prize-money for sailors. These cases are not, as a general rule, as intricate as those which I have already considered, inasmuch as the proper departments have a regular system of investigation, and take up and examine for themselves each case in its turn. All that the Commission does is to put the[Pg 240] soldier on the right track, and to make out and present for him the fitting application. It undertook this because Washington was infested with a horde of sharpers, who, by false representations, defrauded the soldiers out of large sums.

I cannot more appropriately close this branch of my subject than by stating the simple fact, that during the months of July and August the relief agents examined and brought to a successful issue 809 cases of back pay and bounty-money, averaging $125,—203 cases of invalid pensions, 378 cases of widows' pensions, and 10 cases of naval pensions, averaging $8 a month,—and 121 cases of prize-money, averaging $80.

I have only to add that the amount of good which can be done in this direction seems to be limited only by the capacity of those who undertake to do it. A relief agent said to me, in conversation, that in one hospital in Philadelphia there were several hundreds who claimed, but were unable to collect their just dues,—and that what was true of this hospital was true to a less extent of all of them.

The Hospital Directory is a most interesting branch of Sanitary work. Not because it will compare with many other branches in extent of usefulness, but because it shows what a wide-reaching philanthropy is at work, seeking to furnish every possible alleviation to the inevitable hardships of war. Whoever has at any time had a sick or wounded friend in the army knows how difficult it often is to obtain any intelligence about him. I have in mind a poor woman, who exhausted every resource in seeking to ascertain the whereabouts of a sick son, and who never received any tidings of him, until one day, months after, he came home, worn-out and broken, to die. The regiment is in active service and passes on, while the sick man goes back. He has several transfers, too,—first to the corps hospital on the field, then to the army hospital at City Point, then to Washington, and very possibly again to some hospital in Baltimore, Philadelphia, or other city or town farther north, and on that account believed to be more healthy. Meanwhile, amid all these changes, the man may be delirious, or from some other cause unable to communicate with his friends. How shall they get information? The Commission undertakes to keep a correct list of all the sick and wounded men who are in regular hospitals. They obtain their information from the official returns of the surgeons. I do not mean to say that these lists are absolutely correct. They approximate as nearly to correctness as they ever can, until surgeons are perfectly prompt and careful in their reports.

The amount of work done is very great. Seven hundred thousand names have been recorded in this Directory, between October, 1862, and July, 1864. From ten to twenty-five applications for information are made each day by letter, and from one hundred to two hundred and fifty personally or through the various State agencies. Branch offices, working upon a similar plan, have been established at Louisville and elsewhere.

The subject of assistance to regular hospitals may be despatched in a few words,—not because the gifts are insignificant, but because the method of giving is so regular and easy to explain. Whenever the surgeon of any hospital needs articles which are extras, and so not supplied by the Government, or which, if allowed, the Government is deficient in at the time, he makes a requisition upon the Commission; and if his requisition is deemed to be a reasonable one, it is approved, and the goods delivered on his receipt for the same. As to the amount given, I can only say that something is sent almost every day even to the hospitals near Washington and the great cities, and that the amount bestowed increases just in proportion to the distance of the hospital from the great Government centres of supply. This is a noiseless and unostentatious charity,—sometimes,[Pg 241] I am tempted to think, too noiseless and unostentatious. A few weeks ago, a lady friend visited one of the hospitals near Washington, carrying with her for distribution some Sanitary goods. She gave a handkerchief to one of the sick men. He took it, looked at it, read the mark in the corner, paused as if he had received a new idea, and then spoke out his mind thus:—"I have been in this hospital six months, and this is the first thing I ever received from the Sanitary Commission."—"But," she replied, "have you not had this and that?" mentioning several luxuries supplied to this very hospital for extra diet.—"Oh, yes, often!"—"Well, every one of these articles came from the Sanitary Commission."

Just now the Sanitary is seeking to enter into closer relations with the hospitals through the agency of regular visitors. The advantages of such a policy are manifest. The reports of the visitors will enable the directors to see more clearly the real wants of the sick; and the frequent presence and inquiries of such visitors will tend to repress the undue appropriation of hospital stores by attendants. But the highest benefit will be the change and cheer it will introduce into the monotony of hospital life. If you are sick at home, you are glad to have your neighbor step in and bring the healthy bracing air of out-door life into the dimness and languor of your invalid existence. Much more does the sick soldier like it,—for ennui, far more than pain, is his great burden. When I was at Washington, I accepted with great satisfaction an invitation to go with a Sanitary visitor on her round of duty. When we came to the hospital, I asked the ward-master if he would like to have me distribute among his patients the articles I had brought. He said that he should, for he thought it would do the poor fellows good to see me and receive the gifts from my own hands. The moment I entered there was a stir. Those who could hobble about stumped up to me to see what was going on; some others sat up in bed, full of alertness; while the sickest greeted me with a languid smile. As I went from cot to cot, the politeness of la belle France, with which a little Frenchman in the corner touched the tassel of his variegated nightcap at me, and the untranslatable gutturals, full of honest satisfaction, with which his German neighbors saluted me, and the "God bless your honor," which a cheery son of Old Erin showered down upon me, and the simple "Thank you, Sir," which came up on all sides from our true-hearted New England boys, were alike refreshing to my soul. No doubt the single peach or two which with hearty good-will were given to them were as good as a feast; and it may be that the little comforts which I left behind me, and which had been borne thither on the wings of this divine charity, perhaps from some village nestling among the rocky hills of New England, or from some hamlet basking in the sunlight on the broad prairies of the West, had magic power to bring to that place of suffering some breath of the atmosphere of home to cheer the sinking heart, or some fragrant memory of far-off home-affection to make it better. I came away with the feeling that visits from sunny-hearted people, and gifts from friendly hands, must be a positive blessing to these sick and wounded people.

Of course the deepest throb of interest is given to the work at the front of battle. That is natural. It is work done on the very spots where the fortunes of our nation are being decided,—on the spots whither all eyes are turned, and towards which all our hopes and prayers go forth. It is work surrounded by every element of pathos and tragic interest. The wavering fortunes of the fight, the heroic courage which sustains a doubtful conflict, the masterly skill that turns disaster into triumph, the awful carnage, the terrible suffering, the manly patience of the wounded, all combine to fix the attention there and upon everything, which is transacted there. The question is constantly asked,—What[Pg 242] is the Sanitary doing at the front? what at City Point? what at Winchester? are natural questions. Let me state first the general plan and method of what I may call a Sanitary campaign, and afterwards add what I saw with my own eyes at City Point and before Petersburg, and what I heard from those who had themselves been actors in the scenes which they described.

When the army moves out from its encampment to the field of active warfare, two or three Sanitary wagons, loaded with hospital stores of all sorts, and accompanied by a sufficient number of relief agents, move with each army corps. These are for the supply of present need, and for use during the march, or after such skirmishes and fights as may occur before the Commission can establish a new base. In this way some of the Commission agents have followed General Grant's army all the way from the Rapidan, through the Wilderness, across the Mattapony, over the James, on to the very last advance towards the Southside Railroad,—refilling their wagons with stores as opportunity has occurred. As soon now as the march commences and the campaign opens, preparations upon an extensive scale are made at Washington for the great probable demand. Steamers are chartered, loaded, and sent with a large force of relief agents to the vicinity of the probable battle-fields; or if the campaign is away from water communication, loaded wagons are held in readiness. The moment the locality of the struggle is determined, then, under the orders of the Provost Marshal, an empty house is seized and made the Sanitary head-quarters or general storehouse; or else some canal-barge is moored at the crazy Virginia wharf, and used for the same purpose. This storehouse is kept constantly full from Washington, or else from Baltimore and New York; and the branch depots which are now established in each army corps are fed from it, while the hospitals in their turn make requisitions for all needful supplies on these branch depots. That is to say, the arrangements, though rougher and less permanent in their character, approximate very nearly to the arrangements at Washington.

A few details need to be added. Where the distance from the battle-field to the base of supplies is great, what are called feeding-stations are established every few miles, and here the wounded on foot or in ambulances can stop and take the refreshments or stimulants necessary to sustain them on their painful journey. At the steamboat-landing the Commission has a lodge and agents, with crackers and beef-tea, coffee and tea, ice-water and stimulants, ready to be administered to such as need. Relief agents go up on the boats to help care for the wounded; and at Washington the same scene of active kindness is often enacted on their arrival as at their departure. This is the general plan of action everywhere, modified to suit circumstances, but always essentially the same. It will apply just as well West as East,—only for the names Baltimore, Washington, and City Point, you must put Louisville, Nashville, and Chattanooga.

When I was at City Point, the base of operations had been established there more than two months; and though there was much sickness, and the wounded were being brought in daily by hundreds from the prolonged struggle for the Weldon Road, everything moved on with the regularity of clock-work. As you neared the landing, coming up the James, you saw, a little farther up the river, the red flag of the Sanitary Commission floating over the three barges which were its office, its storehouse, and its distributing store for the whole Army of the Potomac. Climbing up the steep road to the top of the bluff, and advancing over the undulating plain a mile, you come to a city,—the city of hospitals. The white tents are arranged in lines of almost mathematical accuracy. The camp is intersected by roads broad and clean. Every corps, and every division of every corps, has its allotted square. Somewhere in these larger squares your eye will be sure to catch sight of the[Pg 243] Sanitary flag, and beneath it a tent, where is the corps station. You enter, and you find within, if not as great an amount, at least as varied a supply, of hospital stores as you would find anywhere, waiting for surgeons' orders. To a very great extent, the extra diet for all the sick and wounded is furnished from these stores; and very largely the cooking of it is overseen by ladies connected with the Commission. In every corps there are from five to fifteen relief agents, whose duty it is to go through the wards once, twice, three times in each day, to see what the sick need for their comfort, to ascertain that they really get what is ordered, and in every way to alleviate suffering and to promote cheerfulness and health.

I shall never forget a tour which I made with a relief agent through the wards for the blacks, both because it showed me what a watchful supervision a really faithful person can exercise, and because it gave such an opportunity to observe closely the conduct of these people. The demeanor of the colored patients is really beautiful,—so gentle, so polite, so grateful for the least kindness. And then the evidences of a desire for mental improvement and religious life which meet you everywhere are very touching. Go from bed to bed, and you see in their hands primers, spelling-books, and Bibles, and the poor, worn, sick creatures, the moment they feel one throb of returning health, striving to master their alphabet or spell out their Bible. In the evening, or rather in the fading twilight, some two hundred of them crept from the wards, and seated themselves in a circle around a black exhorter. Religion to them was a real thing; and so their worship had the beauty of sincerity, while I ought to add that it was not marked by that grotesque extravagance sometimes attributed to it. One cannot but think better of the whole race after the experience of such a Sabbath. The only drawback to your satisfaction is, that they die quicker and from less cause than the whites. They have not the same stubborn hopefulness and hilarity. Why, indeed, should they have?

Speaking of the white soldiers, everybody who goes into their hospitals is happily disappointed,—you see so much order and cheerfulness, and so little evidence of pain and misery. The soldier is quite as much a hero in the hospital as on the battle-field. Give him anything to be cheerful about, and he will improve the opportunity. You see men who have lost an arm or a leg, or whose heads have been bruised almost out of likeness to humanity, as jolly as they can be over little comforts and pleasures which ordinary eyes can hardly see with a magnifying-glass. So it happens that a camp of six thousand sick and wounded, which seems at a distance a concentration of human misery that you cannot bear to behold, when near does not look half so lugubrious as you expected; and you are tempted to accuse the sick men of having entered into a conspiracy to look unnaturally happy.

If you go back now six or thirteen miles to the field hospitals, you find nothing essentially different. The system and its practical workings are the same. But it is a perpetual astonishment to find that here, near to the banks of a river that has not a respectable village on its shores from Fortress Monroe to Richmond,—here, in a houseless and desolate land which can be reached only by roads which are intersected by gullies, which plunge into sloughs of despond, which lose themselves in the ridges of what were once cornfields, or meander amid stumps of what so lately stood a forest,—that here you have every comfort for the sick: all needed articles of clothing, the shirts and drawers, the socks and slippers; and all the delicacies, too, the farinas, the jellies, the canned meats and fruits, the concentrated milk, the palatable drinks and stimulants, and even fresh fruits and vegetables. And in such profusion, too! I asked the chief agent of the Commission in the Ninth Corps how many orders he filled in a day. "Look for yourself." I took[Pg 244] down the orders; and there they were, one hundred and twenty strong, some for little and some for much, some for a single article and some for a dozen articles.

But it is not in camps of long standing that the wounded and sick suffer for want of care or lack of comforts. It is when the base is suddenly changed, when all order is broken up, when there are no tents at hand, when the stores are scattered, nobody knows where, after a great battle perhaps, and the wounded are pouring in upon you like a flood, and when it seems as if no human energy and no mortal capacity of transportation could supply the wants both of the well and the sick, the almost insatiable demands of the battle-field and the equally unfathomable needs of the hospital, it is then that the misery comes, and it is then that the Commission does its grandest work. After the Battles of the Wilderness and Spottsylvania, twenty-five thousand wounded were crowded into Fredericksburg, where but ten thousand were expected. For a time supplies of all kinds seemed to be literally exhausted. There were no beds. There was not even straw. There were not surgeons enough nor attendants enough. There was hardly a supply of food. Some found it difficult to get a drop of cold water. Poor, wounded men, who had wearily trudged from the battle-field and taken refuge in a deserted house, remained hours and a day without care, and without seeing the face of any but their wounded comrades. Then the Sanitary Commission sent its hundred and fifty agents to help the overburdened surgeons. Then every morning it despatched its steamer down the Potomac crowded with necessaries and comforts. Then with ceaseless industry its twenty wagons, groaning under their burden, went to and fro over the wretched road from Belle Plain to Fredericksburg. A credible witness says that for several days nearly all the bandages and a large proportion of the hospital supplies came from its treasury. No mind can discern and no tongue can declare what valuable lives it saved and what sufferings it alleviated. Who shall say that Christian charity has not its triumphs proud as were ever won on battle-field? If the Commission could boast only of its first twenty-four hours at Antietam and Gettysburg and its forty-eight hours at Fredericksburg, it would have earned the everlasting gratitude and praise of all true men.

But is there not a reverse to this picture? Are there no drawbacks to this success? Is there no chapter of abortive plans, of unfaithful agents, of surgeons and attendants appropriating or squandering charitable gifts? These are questions which are often honestly asked, and the doubts which they express or awaken have cooled the zeal and slackened the industry of many an earnest worker. There is no end to the stories which have been put in circulation. I remember a certain mythical blanket which figured in the early part of the war, and which, though despatched to the soldier, was found a few weeks after by its owner adorning the best bed of a hotel in Washington. To be sure, it seemed to have pursued a wandering life,—for now it was sent from the full stores of a lady in Lexington, and now it was stripped perhaps by a poor widow from the bed of her children, and then it was heard from far off in the West, ever seeking, but never reaching, its true destination. Without heeding any such stories, although they have done infinite mischief, I answer to honest queries, that I have no doubt that sometimes the stores of the Commission are both squandered and misappropriated. I do not positively know it; but I am sure that it would be a miracle, if they were not. It would be the first time in human history that so large and varied a business, and extending over such a breadth of country and such a period of time, was transacted without waste. Look at the facts. Here are thousands of United States surgeons and attendants of all ages and characters through whose hands many of these gifts must necessarily go. What wonder, if here and there one should[Pg 245] be found whose principles were weaker than his appetites? Consider also the temptations. These men are hard-worked, often scantily fed. Every nerve is tried by the constant presence of suffering, and every sense by fetid odors. Would it be surprising, if they sometimes craved the luxuries which were so close at hand? Moreover, the Commission mission employs hundreds of men, the very best it can get, but it would be too much to ask that all should be models of prudence, watchfulness, and integrity.

I allow, then, that some misappropriation is not improbable. At the same time I do say, that every department is vigilantly watched, and that the losses are trivial, compared with the immense benefits. I do say, emphatically, that to bring a wholesale charge against whole classes, whose members are generally as high-minded and honorable as any other, to accuse them as a body of wretched peculations, is simply false and slanderous. I maintain that fidelity is the rule, and that its reverse is the petty exception; and that it would be in opposition to all rules by which men conduct their lives to suffer such exceptions to influence our conduct, or diminish our contributions to a good cause. In business how often we are harassed by petty dishonesty or great frauds! Nevertheless, the tide of business sweeps on. Why? Because the good so outweighs the evil. The railroad employee is negligent, and some terrible accident occurs. But the railroad keeps on running all the same; for the public convenience and welfare are the law of its life, and private peril and loss but an occasional episode. By the same rule, we support, without misgiving, the Commission, because the good which it certainly does, and the suffering it relieves, in their immensity cover up and put out of sight mistakes, which are incident to all human enterprise, and which are guarded against with all possible vigilance.

But allow all the good which is claimed, and that the good far transcends any possible evil, and then we are met by these further questions: Is such an organization necessary? Cannot Government do the work? And if so, ought not Government to do it?

I might with propriety answer: Suppose that Government ought to do the work and does not, shall we fold our hands and let our soldiers suffer? But the truth is, Government does do its duty. Some persons foolishly exaggerate the work of the Commission. They talk as though it were the only salvation of the wounded, as though the Government let everything go, and that, if the Commission and kindred societies did not step in, there would not be so much as a wreck of our army left. Such talk is simply preposterous. The Commission, considered as a free, spontaneous offering of a loyal people to the cause of our common country, is a wonderful enterprise. The Commission, standing ready to supply any deficiency, to remedy any defect, and to meet any unforeseen emergency, has done a good work that cannot be forgotten. But, compared with what Government expends upon the sick, its resources are nothing. I have not the figures at hand, though I have seen them; and it is hardly too much to say, that, where the society has doled out a penny, the Government has lavished a pound.

No sane defender, therefore, of this charity supports it on any such ground as that it is the principal benefactor of the soldier. The Commission alone could no more support our hospitals than it could the universe. But the homely adage, "It is best to have two strings to your bow," applies wonderfully to the case. In practical life men act upon this maxim. They like to have an adjunct to the best-working machinery, a sort of reserved power. Every sensible person sees that our mail arrangements furnish to the whole people admirable facilities. Nevertheless, we like to have an express, and occasionally to send letters and packages by it. When the children are sick, there is nothing so good as the advice of the trusted family[Pg 246] physician and the unwearied care of the mother. Yet when the physician has done his work and gone his way, and when the mother is worn out by days of anxiety and nights of watching, we deem it a great blessing, if there is a kind neighbor who will come in, not to assume the work, but to help it on a little. The Commission, looking at the hospitals and the armies from a different point of view, sees much that another overlooks, and in an emergency, when all help is too little, brings fresh aid that is a priceless blessing. To the plain, substantial volume of public appropriations it adds the beautiful supplement of private benefactions. That is all that it pretends to do.

There are some special reflections that bear upon the point which we are considering. This war was sprung upon an unwarlike people. The officers of Government, when they entered upon their work, had no thought of the gigantic burdens which have fallen upon their shoulders. Since the war began, Government, like everybody else, has had to learn new duties, and to learn them amid the stress and perplexity of a great conflict. And among other things, it has been obliged, in some respects, to recast its medical regulations to meet the prodigious enlargement of its medical work. Beyond a doubt, much help, which, on account of this imperfection of the medical code itself, or of the inexperience of many who administered it, was needed by our hospitals at the commencement of the war, is not needed now, and much help that is needed now may not, if the war lasts, be needed in the future. But it takes time to move the machinery of a great state. And when any change is to become the permanent law of public action, it ought to take both time and thought to effect it. You do not wish to alter and re-alter the framework of a state or of a state's activity as you would patch up a ruinous old house. If you work at all in any department, you should wish to work on a massive, well-considered plan, so that what you do may last. It is not likely, therefore, that, in the great field of suffering which the war has laid open to us, the public ministries will either be so quickly or so perfectly adjusted as to make private ministries a superfluity.

Neither do we reflect enough upon the limitations of human power. We think sometimes of Government as a great living organism of boundless resources. But, after all, in any department of state, what plans, what overlooks, what vitalizes, is one single human mind. And it is not easy to get minds anywhere clear enough and capacious enough for the large duties. It is easy to obtain men who can command a company well. It is not difficult to find those who can control efficiently a regiment. There are many to whom the care of five thousand men is no burden; a few who are adequate to an army corps. But the generals who can handle with skill a hundred thousand men, and make these giant masses do their bidding, are the rare jewels in war's diadem. Even so is it in every department of life. It is perhaps impossible to find a mind which can sweep over the whole field of our medical operations, and prepare for every emergency and avoid every mistake; not because all men are unfaithful or incapable, but because there must be a limit to the most capacious intellect. Looking simply at the structure of the human mind, we might have foreseen, what facts have amply demonstrated, that in a war of such magnitude as that which we are now waging there always must be room for an organization like the Sanitary Commission to do its largest and noblest work.

But, above and beyond all such reflections, there are great national and patriotic considerations which more than justify, yea, demand, the existence of our war charities. Allowing that the outward comfort of the soldier (and who would grant it?) might be accomplished just as well in some other way,—allowing that in a merely sanitary aspect the Government could have done all that voluntary organizations have undertaken, and have done it as well as[Pg 247] they or better than they,—even then we do not allow for a moment that what has been spent has been wasted. What is the Sanitary Commission, and what are kindred associations, but so many bonds of love and kindness to bind the soldier to his home, and to keep him always a loyal citizen in every hope and in every heart-throb? This is the influence which we can least of all afford to lose. He must have been blind who did not see at the outset of the war, that, beyond the immediate danger of the hour, there were other perils. We were trying the most tremendous experiment that was ever tried by any people. Out of the most peaceful of races we were creating a nation of soldiers. In a few months, where there seemed to be scarcely the elements of martial strength, we were organizing an army which was to be at once gigantic and efficient. Who could calculate the effect of such a swift change? The questions many a patriotic heart might have asked were these: When this wicked Rebellion is ended,—when these myriads of our brethren whose lives have been bound up in that wondrous collective life, the life of a great army, shall return to their quiet homes by the hills and streams of New England or on the rolling prairies of the West, will they be able to merge their life again in the simple life of the community out of which they came? Will they find content at the plough, by the loom, in the workshop, in the tranquil labors of civil life? Can they, in short, put off the harness of the soldier, and resume the robe of the citizen? Many a one could have wished to say to every soldier, as he went forth to the war, "Remember, that, if God spares your life, in a few months or a few years you will come back, not officers, not privates, but sons and husbands and brothers, for whom some home is waiting and some human heart throbbing. Never forget that your true home is not in that fort beside those frowning cannon, not on that tented field amid the glory and power of military array, but that it nestles beneath yonder hill, or stands out in sunshine on some fertile plain. Remember that you are a citizen yet, with every instinct, with every sympathy, with every interest, and with every duty of a citizen."

Can we overestimate the influence of these associations, of these Soldiers'-Aid Societies, rising up in every city and village, in producing just such a state of mind, in keeping the soldier one of us, one of the people? Five hundred thousand hearts following with deep interest his fortunes,—twice five hundred thousand hands laboring for his comfort,—millions of dollars freely lavished to relieve his sufferings,—millions more of tokens of kindness and good-will going forth, every one of them a message from the home to the camp: what is all this but weaving a strong network of alliance between civil and military life, between the citizen at home and the citizen soldier? If our army is a remarkable body, more pure, more clement, more patriotic than other armies,—if our soldier is everywhere and always a true-hearted citizen,—it is because the army and soldier have not been cast off from public sympathy, but cherished and bound to every free institution and every peaceful association by golden cords of love. The good our Commissions have done in this respect cannot be exaggerated; it is incalculable.

Nor should we forget the influence they have had on ourselves,—the reflex influence which they have been pouring back into the hearts of our people at home, to quicken their patriotism, We often say that the sons and brothers are what the mothers and sisters make them. Can you estimate the electric force which runs like an irresistible moral contagion from heart to heart in a community all of whose mothers and daughters are sparing that they may spend, and learning the value of liberty and country by laboring for them? It does not seem possible, that, amid the divers interests and selfish schemes of men, we ever could have sustained this war, and carried it to a successful issue, had it not been for the moral cement[Pg 248] which these wide-spread philanthropic enterprises have supplied. Every man who has given liberally to support the Commission has become a missionary of patriotism; every woman who has cut and made the garments and rolled the bandages and knit the socks has become a missionary. And so the country has been full of missionaries, true-hearted and loyal, pleading, "Be patient, put up with inconveniences, suffer exactions, bear anything, rather than sacrifice the nationality our fathers bequeathed to us!" And if our country is saved, it will be in no small degree because so many have been prompted by their benevolent activity to take a deep personal interest in the struggle and in the men who are carrying on the struggle.

These national and patriotic influences are the crowning blessings which come in the train of the charities of the war; and they constitute one of their highest claims to our affection and respect. The unpatriotic utterances which in these latter days so often pain our ears, the weariness of burdens which tempt so many to be ready to accept anything and to sacrifice anything to be rid of them, admonish us that we need another uprising of the people and another re-birth of patriotism; and they show us that we should cherish more and more everything which fosters noble and national sentiments. And when this war is over, and the land is redeemed, and we come to ask what things have strengthened us to meet and overcome our common peril, may we not prophesy that high among the instrumentalities which have husbanded our strength, and fed our patriotism, and knit more closely the distant parts of our land and its divided interests, will be placed the United States Sanitary Commission?



It took a long while for artists to understand that the Greek face was the ideal face merely to Greek sculptors. During the baser ages of the sculpturesque art, (how far towards our own day the epicycle inclusive of those ages extended it would be invidious for us to say,) sculpture consisted of the nearest imitation of Greek models which was possible of attainment by talents, with an occasional intercalated genius, hampered by prevailing modes. That the Greek face was beautiful, none could doubt. That in the sovereign points of intellect it was the absolute beau-ideal is open to great doubt. Apart from all such questions, the fact of subservience exists. Even Benjamin Robert Haydon, the man who thought himself called to be the æsthetic saviour of the age, knew no other, no better way of making himself master of solid form than by lying down in the cold with a candle before the Elgin marbles. Let not this be mistaken as a slur upon one of the most devoted men in history,—a man who surely lived, and who, aside from the pangs of poverty, probably died, for the regeneration of Art. We only mean to select an instance preëminent over all that can be mentioned, to show that until a very late date even the most learned men in the Art-world had not cut loose from the fascination of old models, considered not as suggestive, but as dominant. There is nothing in the sculptors of Haydon's period to prove that their view differed essentially from that of the most self-devoted theorist among painters.

We hold that it has been left for America to complete the æsthetic, as well as the social and political emancipation of the world. The fact that pre-Raphaelism began in England (we refer to the new saints standing on their toe-nails, not the old ones) proves nothing respecting the origination of Art's highest liberty. In the first place, the man[Pg 249] who was selected by the Elisha to be the Elijah of the school would under no circumstances have chosen a fiery chariot to go up in, but would have taken the Lord Mayor's coach, (if he could have got it without paying,) and, like a true Englishman, been preceded by heralds, and after-run by lackeys. The idea of Turner en martyre is to a calm spectator simply amusing. If "a neglected disciple of Truth" had met him out a-sketching, and asked him for help, or a peep, he would have shut up his book with a slap, and said, like the celebrated laird, "Puir bodie! fin' a penny for yer ain sel'." In the second place, this Elijah never dropped his mantle on the soi-disant Elisha. Search over the whole range of walls where (with their color somewhat the worse for time) Turner's pictures are preserved, and if any critic but Ruskin's self can find the qualities which unite Turner with modern pre-Raphaelism, we will buy the view of Köln and make it a present to him. In the third place, apart from all ancestry or indorsement, we regard modern pre-Raphaelism, as a school full of vital mistakes. It refuses to acknowledge this preëminent, eternal fact of Art, that the entire truth of Nature cannot be copied: in other words and larger, that the artist must select between the major and the minor facts of the outer world; that, before he executes, he must pronounce whether he will embody the essential effect, that which steals on the soul and possesses it without painful analysis, or the separate details which belong to the geometrician and destroy the effect,—still further, whether he will make us feel what Nature says, or examine below her voice into the vibration of the chordæ vocales.

We have not touched on pre-Raphaelism with the idea of attacking it, still less of defending it, and not at all of discussing it. Our view has been simply to excuse the assertion that with America has begun, must necessarily begin and belong, the enfranchisement of Art from subservience to a type,—the opening of its doors into the open air of æsthetic catholicity.

Years ago, the writer in several places presented to the consideration of American Art-lovers the plaster bust of "The Old Trapper," as one of the foremost things which up to that period had been done by any man for such enfranchisement as that referred to above. Palmer, the noble master and teacher of the sculptor who created this bust, had done many things entirely outside of the old ring-fence, had made himself famous by them; but this, on some accounts, seemed to us the chief, because the most audacious of all. What did it represent? Simply an old, worn, peril-tried, battle-scarred man, who had fought grislies and Indians,—walked leagues with his canoe on his back,—camped under snow-peaks,—dined on his rifle's market,—had nothing but his heroic pluck, patience, and American individuality, to fascinate people,—and now, under a rough fur cap of his own making, showed a face without a line that was Greek in it, and said to Launt Thompson, "Make me, if you dare!"

What we then admired in "The Old Trapper" we now admire in Miss Hosmer's "Zenobia."

There now stands on exhibition in this country one of the finest examples of the spirit which animates our best American artists in their selection of ideals, and their execution of them on the catholic principle.

Miss Hosmer has not thought it necessary to color her statue, because she knew that the utmost capability of sculpture is the expression of form,—that, had she colored it, she would have brought it into competition with a Nature entirely beyond her in mere details, and made it a doll instead of a statue. Neither has she made it a travel-stained woman with a carpet-bag, because in history all mean details melt away, and we see its actors at great distances like the Athené, and because our whole idea of Zenobia is this:—

A Queen led in Chains.

Neither has she made her Zenobia a Greek woman, because she was a Palmyrene. What she has made her is this:—

Our idea of Zenobia won from Romance and History.

This Zenobia is a queen. She is proud as she was when she sat in pillared state, under gorgeous canopies, with a hundred slaves at her beck, and a devoted people within reach of her couriers. She does not tremble or swerve, though she has her head down. That head is bowed only because she is a woman, and she will not give the look of love to the man who has forced her after him. Her lip has no weakness in it. She is a lady, and knows that there is something higher than joy or pain. Miss Hosmer has evidently believed nothing of the legends to the effect that she did swerve afterward, else she could not have put that[Pg 250] noble soul in her heroine's mouth. Or did she believe the swerving, she must have felt that Aurelian had the right, after all pain and wrong, to come and claim the queen,—to say,—

"I did all this wrong for you, and you were worth it."

The face (perhaps, with the present necessities of a catholicized Art, its most important excellence) is not a Greek face, but a much farther Oriental.

The bas-reliefs of Layard's Nineveh are not more characteristic, national, faithful to the probable facts in that best aspect of facts with which Art has to do.

As for the figure, none of those who from Roman studios have hitherto sent us their work have ever given a juster idea of their advancement in the understanding of the human anatomy. The bones of the right metatarsus show as they would under the flesh of a queenly foot. The right foot is the one flexed in Zenobia's walking, and that foot has never been used to support the weight of burdens; it has gone bare without being soiled. The shoulders perfectly carry the head, and no anatomist could suggest a place where they might be bent or erected in truer relative proportion to either of the feet. The dejection of the right arm is a wonderful compromise between the valor of a queen who has fought her last and best, and the grief of a woman who has no further resource left to her womanliness.

Both arms, in their anatomy, in their truthfulness to the queenly circumstances, may equally delight and challenge criticism. The chains which the queen carries are smaller than we suspect a Roman conqueror put even upon a woman and a queen; but let that pass,—for they do not hurt the harmony of the idea, and are simply a matter of detail, which womanly sympathy might well have erred in since chivalric days, though their adherence to actual truth would not have blemished the idea. At all events, Zenobia holds them like a queen, so as not to hurt her. She will remember her glory.

The drapery of the statue is a subordinate matter; but that has been attended to as true artists attend to even the least things which wait on a great idea. The tassels of the robe have been chiselled by Miss Hosmer's marble-cutter with a care which shows that the last as well as the first part of the work went on under her womanly supervision. Every fold of the robe, which must have been copied from the cast, falls and swings before our eyes as the position demands. Grace and truth lie in the least wrinkle of a garment which needs no after-cast of the anatomist's cloak of charity to hide a sin.

In many respects, we regard Miss Hosmer's "Zenobia" as one of the very highest honors paid by American Art to our earliest assertions of its dominant destiny.


Patriotism in Poetry and Prose. Being Selected Passages from Lectures and Patriotic Readings. By James E. Murdoch. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co. 12mo.

This volume, published in aid of the funds of the Sanitary Commission, is one of the indications of the patriotism of the time. Mr. Murdoch, an eminent and estimable actor and elocutionist, has been engaged, ever since the war began, in doing his part towards rousing and sustaining the enthusiasm of the people, by scattering the burning words of patriotic poets in our Western camps and towns. The volume contains specimens of lyric poetry which have stood the test of actual delivery before soldiers who were facing the grim realities of war. Sometimes the elocutionist has been so near the enemy as to have a shell come into whizzing or screaming competition with the clear and ringing tones of his voice; at other times, he has cheered with "The American Flag," "Old Ironsides," or "The Union," audiences shivering with cold and famishing on a short allowance of hard-tack. He has seen the American soldier under all circumstances, and practically understands all the avenues to his heart and brain. Many of the poems in the volume which have obtained a national popularity were originally written at his suggestion. This is especially true of the sounding lyrics of[Pg 251] Boker, Read, and Janvier. His own hearty and well-considered words, so full of manly feeling and genuine patriotism, are none the worse for catching a little of that inflation which the sights of the hospital and the battle-field, and a sympathy with the average sentiment of sensitive crowds, are so sure to provoke in an earnest and ardent mind. The poets who are represented in this volume have cause for gratification in the assurance that they have been more generally read than any of their American contemporaries. It is estimated that Mr. Murdoch has recited their pieces to a quarter of million of people during the last four years. In the hospital, in the camp, before the lyceum audience, they have been made to do their good work of comforting, rousing, or inflaming their auditors. They have sent many a volunteer to the front, and nerved him afterwards at the moment of danger. And certainly the friends of the soldiers will desire to read what soldiers have so heartily applauded, especially as the money they give for the book goes to sustain the most popular and beneficent of all charities.

Philosophy as Absolute Science, founded in the Universal Laws of Being, and including Ontology, Theology, and Psychology made one, as Spirit, Soul, and Body. By E. L. and A. L. Frothingham. Volume I. Boston: Walker, Wise, & Co.

We must go back to the time when a certain father and son of Crete stretched their waxen wings and soared boldly into space, to discover any "external representation" of the sublime attempt of the authors of this volume. Yet it may reasonably be objected that in the Dædalian legend we can detect but a partial and deceptive correspondence; for, whereas we read that one of the ancient voyagers, having ventured too near the sun, met his end by a distressing casualty, it is certain, that, when the reader loses sight of this modern family-excursion in the metaphysical ether, both parties are pushing vigorously on, wings in capital condition, wind never better, and the grand tour of the universe in process of most happy accomplishment. And let it here be mentioned that the senior of the gentlemen whose names are given upon the title-page is understood to resemble the classical artificer in being inventor and manufacturer of pinions for the two. Mr. E. L. Frothingham is to be regarded as substantially the author of the volume before us.

And so Philosophy is not dead, after all! Mr. Lewes's rather handsome resolutions, of which copies have been forwarded to the friends of the supposed deceased, turn out to be premature; Dr. Mansel's pious obituary is an impertinence; Comte and Buckle, Mill and Spencer, are not the spendthrift heirs of her homestead estate in Dreamland. The Positive Mrs. Gamp may continue to assure us that the bantling "never breathed to speak on in this wale," but the perennial showman persists in depicting it "quite contrairy in a livin' state, and performing beautiful upon the 'arp." We play with metaphors, hesitating to characterize this latest Minerva-birth. For it is either that "new sensation" demanded by the Sir Charles Coldstream who has used up all religions and all philosophies, or, being a reductio ad absurdum of speculative pretension, it fulfils the promise of a recent quack advertisement, and is in very truth "The Metaphysical Cure."

Perhaps it were better to cancel the preceding paragraphs. Is not any savor of banter out of place in the reception we are bound to accord to an alleged solution of the unthinkable problem which underlies creation and man's position therein? If the impulse which first controlled us is not denied expression, it is because it implies at once the worst that can be said of a very extraordinary performance. Let this worst be written roughly, and in a single sentence. To the vast majority of upright and thoughtful men who are at present living and laboring in the world, Mr. Frothingham's "Philosophy as Absolute Science" can be saved from being infinitely repulsive only by being infinitely ridiculous. But to stop with this assertion would give no adequate impression of an earnest and most conscientious work. A remarkable mind, even if a misdirected one, has mounted upon the battlements of its system, and proclaimed victory over all things. Of all tellers of marvels, Swedenborg alone is so absolutely free from a vulgar fanaticism, and so innocent of any appeal to passion, prejudice, or taste. With an equipoise of disposition which is almost provoking, Mr. Frothingham announces as dogmas speculations from whose sweep and immensity the human mind recoils. Having posited his principles, he confidently proceeds to deduce a system which shall include every[Pg 252] spiritual and material fact of which man can take cognizance. And he is too genuine a philosopher to be troubled at the practical application of his discoveries. He repudiates with contempt whatever expression has been found for the energy of the purest and noblest leaders of modern society. Esculapius is not accommodated with the sacrifice of so much as a February chicken. The manly works of Wilberforce and Garrison, the gracious influence of Channing, the stalwart conviction of Parker, the deep perception of Emerson,—all these must be beaten down under our feet as the incarnate Satan of the Litany. But if this is rather rough treatment for the advance-guard of civilization, the brethren in the rear rank are prevented from taking the comfort to which they seem to be justly entitled. For we are utterly unable to understand what a recent reviewer means in commending this work to conservatives as a noble text-book and grand summary of arguments in favor of their positions. The truth is, that no conservative can possibly accept the system. For it is constantly shown that what may be called a progressive bouleversement is to every individual a necessary advance, securing to him experiences which are essential to the realization of that spiritual consciousness which is alone capable of receiving the Absolute Philosophy. The editor of the "Richmond Examiner" must become as he of the "Liberator," and the Bishop of Vermont must meditate a John Brown raid, before either of them can receive the ultimate redemption now published to the world.

From what Mr. Frothingham calls "an internal-natural point of observation," which we understand to be that of a great majority of the most intelligent and gifted people at present on the earth, the results of this scheme appear so false and contradictory as to furnish its very adequate refutation. Nevertheless, there doubtless exists a class of spiritually minded, cultivated, unsatisfied men and women who will feel that the sober sincerity of this voice crying in the commercial wilderness must challenge a respectful hearing. Such persons will find no difficulty in accepting the statement, that a system of Absolute Truth must be "contrary to the natural conceptions of the mind, to the facts of the natural consciousness, and to the inclinations of the natural heart." Their past experiences have told them that no precision of human speech can reveal a spiritual condition, or even render intelligible the highest mental operations. Instead of the "this-will-never-do" dictum of superficial and carnal criticism, they will offer patient study, and be content that much shall appear foolish and meaningless until a change in the interior being can interpret it aright. It is just to mention that a very few persons of the character described have already received Mr. Frothingham's philosophy, and profess to find it full of instruction and delight. And let it not be concealed that no one who did not possess the very abundant leisure necessary for investigation and meditation, and had not passed through mental states represented by Romanism, Protestantism, Unitarianism, and Transcendentalism, could be accepted by the veriest neophyte as a competent reviewer. We attempt nothing more than a very humble notice which may bring the existence of this latest salvation before some of the scattered fellowship who are ready for it. We despair of making any statement concerning it which believers would not consider ludicrously inadequate or absolutely false. All and singular are accordingly warned that what is here printed comes from a mental point of view totally opposed to the alleged Truth, as well as from that limited amount of application which a regular calling in the week and customary church-going on Sunday has left at our disposal.

Mr. Frothingham claims to have obtained cognizance of certain laws which govern the relations of the Universe. He maintains that the natural understanding of man is led through various educative processes to that vague and variously interpreted condition known as Transcendentalism. This final manifestation, although no other than Antichrist and the Man of Sin in person, is a necessary forerunner of our possible redemption through acceptance of the ultimate Gospel. For external philosophy has here reached its lowest form, which is necessarily self-destructive; and so ends what may be called the natural development of the human consciousness. The personal principle has achieved its utmost might of self-assertion against that which is universal. Selfishness now appears in its most destructive form, demanding the liberty instead of the subjection of men. Sympathy usurps the seat of Justice, the individual is cruel under pretence of being kind, and fanaticism and mischief are baptized as Duty. The divinely ordained institutions of society are sacrificed, and ruin and chaos[Pg 253] inevitably result. Having shown that Philosophy, developed in its natural form, can produce nothing better than Pantheism, Atheism, Anthropomorphism, and Skepticism, there arises an inquiry for the causes which have produced these seemingly unhappy results. And now it appears "that the Consciousness must be developed in its natural form from a natural point of view before its spiritual form can be developed; and therefore that Philosophy must be developed as a natural production in three spheres before it can be realized as a Universal Spiritual Science." Again, the Cause of All has hitherto been conceived from a pagan, Unitarian, and naturalistic point of view. For, if we understand Mr. Frothingham, the Pope is not a whit sounder than M. Renan,—the Head of the Church being unable to "consciously appropriate" his own theological formularies, until, governed by a Unitarian and naturalistic law, they are contradicted in being incarnated. Philosophy, then, hitherto demanding that everything should be realized from one Universal Cause or Substance, "has failed to explain the nature of God and the nature of man from any rational point of view." It has been obliged to "recognize necessity as the universal law of life, and to conceive the production of the phenomenal from the absolute,—therefore of man from God; and also the production of the finite from the infinite,—therefore of diversity from unity, of evil from good, and of death from life; which is the greatest violation of rationality that can possibly be supposed." But it is now time to state, or rather faintly to adumbrate, the grand assumption of this singular work. There are held to be two Spiritual Causes, whose union is the condition of all existence. Each of these Causes, represented under the terms of Infinite and Finite Law, are conceived to be threefold principles which act and operate together as Death and Life. Neither the Infinite nor the Finite Principle can obtain definite manifestation without the aid of the other; but there is a capacity in the latter for becoming receptive and productive from the former. And from this august union come all the works of creation, where death is still made productive from life, evil from good, the natural from the spiritual,—this last happy productiveness never taking place by any development of the natural, but only by means of a spiritual conception and birth. Every individual must commence his existence as a dualistic substance necessarily discordant and unreal. Through various appearances, representing an experience of opposing spiritual laws, he reaches a position where true spiritual life becomes possible through presentation to the consciousness of the opposing Spiritual Laws already noticed. The solemn moment of choice, when for the first and only time man can be said to be a free agent, has now arrived. Affinities for the Laws of Death and Life are felt within him. He may become productive from the Infinite for universal ends, or from the Finite for those which are personal. He is saved or lost at his own election.

Within the limits to which we are restricted, it is impossible to give any account of the multiplex and abstruse details into which the system is carried. The present volume contains an ontology constructed upon the new basis. It shows varied study, and abounds in ponderous quotations and laborious analyses. It will be profoundly interesting to the few who are able to accept as axioms the teacher's assumptions, and to trace a vigorous deduction in the changes which are rung upon a small set of words. By a legitimate course of reasoning from his primal conception, Mr. Frothingham claims to have demonstrated the fact of Tripersonality in the Deity. He finds the universal law of spiritual life through Marriage or the union of opposites through voluntary sacrifice. It is likewise maintained that all the important statements of Absolute Science are represented in Philosophy, the Scriptures, and the Church,—each abounding in poetic symbols of absolute facts now for the first time revealed. The Bible is held to be of supernatural origin and universal application,—though of course its real significance has hitherto been hidden from men. An exgesis of the Book of Job is given in the appendix as a specimen of what may be disclosed in the sacred records from this ultimate position of belief.

Mr. Frothingham's claims are in some measure those of a seer. His immense show of philosophical apparatus, his prodigality of logical balance-wheels and escapements, resemble the superfluous clock-work of the "automaton" which plays its game as the gentleman concealed inside shall judge expedient. It is of course impossible to probe the Two Absolutes, or the wonderful marriage which takes place between them. Mr. Frothingham sees that so it is. Men of aspirations as high, and of[Pg 254] intellect as cultivated, will think that they have no difficulty in seeing quite as distinctly that so it is not. Others, lovers of Truth, zealous for human welfare, may look up a moment from their patient study of phenomena in their coexistences and successions, and humbly confess their inability to see into the matter at all. But it is to be observed that the most distinguished representatives of the two classes of the world's instructors have at present come to nearly identical conclusions as to what should be the aims of human society. Mr. Henry James and Mr. Herbert Spencer, Mr. Emerson and Dr. Draper, would find little difficulty in working together in a state cabinet or on a legislative committee. Without discussing the breadth or character of their several knowledges or intuitions, they would probably approve the same measures, and agree in the routine which, under existing circumstances, it was best to pursue. But unless Mr. Frothingham should be wrecked upon a desolate island, and there be visited by picnics of Transcendentalists from whom he might occasionally reclaim a Caucasian Man Friday, we cannot see what practical parturition can come of his mighty labor. He offers nothing which is capable of becoming incorporated with the existing intelligence of the age. He furnishes no acceptable basis for the caution of maturity or the generous vision of youth. Charles Lamb's recipe for witnessing with any quietude of conscience the artificial comedy of the last century was, to regard the whole as a passing pageant, and to accept with cheerful unconcern its issues for life and death. Some such state of mind must be commended to the student of this Philosophy. Let him be indifferent to that great act of political justice which Abraham Lincoln was constrained to do. Let him have no glow of satisfaction in the improved condition of woman, allowed to own herself and to hold the property which her labor accumulates. Let him not remember how she has repaid every effort made in her behalf by marking the gauge upon the thermometer of civilization, and by raising man as he raises her. In short, let him provisionally stand upon such a platform as might be constructed by a committee of which Legree was chairman and Bluebeard the rest of it, and if he does not accept "Absolute Science," he will at least be patient in reading what may be said in its behalf. But if, in justice to ourselves, we present the obvious objections of the general reader, in justice to Mr. Frothingham, we are bound to confess that they shrivel in the blaze of special illumination with which he has been favored. He grants the value of effort as it appears in the accepted channels of the day, but contends that its value is confined to the development and growth of the individual who exercises it. It furnishes a groundwork which at the right time shall provide the material suggestive of supernatural thought. It prepares the sacrifice that will be necessary in view of the new order of spiritual experiences now presented for the first time to the consciousness of man.

It scarcely need be said that Mr. Frothingham does not expect to make many proselytes. He is well aware that his stupendous gift of a supreme and ultimate Philosophy will produce no perceptible effect upon the public. A complaint of taxes and a gossip of stocks continue audible; but no neighbor drops in to tell us that the Mystery of Mysteries has received elucidation, and that a man may know even as he is known. It is fortunate that the lofty aim of a sincere and earnest thinker is its own sufficient recompense. The quality of mind which struggles out of the easy-going electicism which at present contents the majority of cultivated men, and achieves a position where our poor half-truths combine in a grand organic whole, is beyond the reach of human congratulation. And the results of such conscientious and arduous striving we are bound to receive with respect. To the disciples of Mr. Frothingham we shall doubtless seem to have uttered some superficial commonplaces about his creed, and have displayed our total inability to penetrate to its true profundities. They will probably say that his theory can tolerate no partial statement, and that the attempts of the uninitiated can compass nothing but caricature and burlesque. We cordially give them the advantage of this supposed stricture, and as cordially refer all earnest inquirers to this first instalment of the heroic work. We say heroic, and would abate the adjective of no jot of meaning. It requires the stuff of which heroes are made to promulgate a religious idea so unadapted to the conscious demands of any order or condition of men. A few persons of redundant leisure, touched with the restlessness in belief which is characteristic of the time, may thread the mazes of "Absolute Science" until they awaken the desirable perception of it coherency and strength. We[Pg 255] know that there is somewhere a flock awaiting the leadership of any vigorous mind which does not doubt its mission, and mocks at all question and compromise. Especially is it the duty of those who feel that they have attained the necessary condition of "transcendental imbecility" to test the enormous pretension of a doctrine of whose reception they alone are capable. Whether Mr. Frothingham's book is wise and satisfying, they only can tell us. It is our humbler duty to declare that we have found it decidedly interesting, and perfectly harmless. The old charge of corrupting youth cannot be preferred against this newest of philosophers. For as error is dangerous only in proportion to its plausibility, the risk encountered by the reader is infinitesimal.

Looking toward Sunset. By L. Maria Child. Boston: Ticknor & Fields.

For forty years it has been the good fortune of Mrs. Child to achieve a series of separate literary successes, whose accumulated value justly gives her a high claim to gratitude. Every one of her chief works has been a separate venture in some new field, always daring, always successful, always valuable. Her "Juvenile Miscellany" was the delight of all American childhood, when childish books were few. Her "Hobomok" was one of the very first attempts to make this country the scene of historical fiction. In the freshness of literary success, she did not hesitate to sacrifice all her newly won popularity, for years, by the publication of her remarkable "Appeal for the Class of Americans called Africans," a book unsurpassed in ability and comprehensiveness by any of the innumerable later works on the same subject,—works which would not even now supersede it, except that its facts and statistics have become obsolete. Time and the progress of the community at length did her justice once more, and her charming "Letters from New York" brought all her popularity back. Turning away, however, from fame won by such light labors, she devoted years of her life to the compilation of her great work on the "Progress of Religious Ideas," a book unequalled in the English language as a magazine of the religious aspirations of the race. And now, still longing to look in some new direction, she finds that direction in "Sunset,"—the only region towards which her name and her nature have alike excused her from turning her gaze before.

This volume is a collection of essays and poems, old and new, original and selected, but all bearing on the theme of old age. Her authors range from Cicero to Dickens, from Mrs. Barbauld to Theodore Parker. The book includes that unequalled essay by Jean Paul, "Recollections of the Best Hours of Life for the Hour of Death"; and then makes easily the transition to that delicious scene of humor and pathos from "Cranford," where dear Miss Matty meets again the lover of her youth. Some trifling errors might be noticed here and there, such as occur even in books looking this side of "Sunset": as when Burns's line, "But now your brow is beld, John," is needlessly translated into "But now your head's turned bald, John,"—where the version is balder than the head. It is singular, too, how long it takes to convince the community that Milton did not write the verses, "I am old and blind," and that Mrs. Howell of Philadelphia did. Mrs. Child discreetly cites for them no author at all, and thus escapes better than the editor of the new series of "Hymns for the Ages," who boldly appends to the poem, "Milton, 1608-1674." Yet Mrs. Child's early ventures in the way of writing speeches for James Otis and sermons for Whitefield should have made her a sharper detective of the ingenuity of others. Those successful imitations, published originally in her novel of "The Rebels," have hardly yet ceased to pass current in the school elocution-books.

Nothing occurs to us as being omitted from this collection, which justly belongs there, unless she could have rescued from the manuscript that charming essay, read by President Quincy at a certain Cambridge dinner, wherein that beloved veteran—Roscius sua arte—taught his academic children to grow old.

The Autobiography of a New England Farm-House. A Book. By N. H. Chamberlain. New York: Carleton.

We have read this little book with some tenderness, and have been interested in its calm, homelike pictures. The author appears to have been drawn by a sincere affinity towards the poet to whom he does himself the honor to dedicate his story in words of simple and sincere appreciation.

There is a pellucid stillness, like that of[Pg 256] a summer lake, over the pages wherein the story lies reflected. And this perhaps we may consider to be the charm and value of the book. But the author does not remember that only those things are read which must be said; therefore the simple incidents of his narrative are forced into a growth of many instead of few chapters, and the long-drawn cord becomes weak, and will not easily lead us to the end. He also betrays his lack of art by printing verses which stick like deep sea-shells far below the high-water mark of poetry. Nevertheless, there is a fine New England color and flavor in the book which attract us, and a gentle, high-minded peace reigns throughout the volume.

Is the author young? we are tempted to ask. Then let him turn priest straightway, and enter the temple of Art, and let him weave his pictures sacredly of the pure gold fibres of inspiration and thought.

Lowell Lectures. The Problem of Human Destiny; or, The End of Providence in the World and Man. By Orville Dewey, D.D. New York: James Miller.

The publication of a second edition of this thoughtful, genial, and eloquent volume enables us to correct the omission of not noticing it on its first appearance a few months ago. Originally prepared as a course of lectures for the Lowell Institute, and repeated with marked success in various cities of the Union, the mode of treatment is of course popular rather than scientific. The subject is necessarily complicated with the problem of evil; but the design is not so much to attempt a new solution of the problem as to present, in a vivid and impressive form, certain invigorating and consoling truths which relieve the weight of its burden. The most comprehensive definition of evil, to all minds which are forced, by the contradiction involved in the affirmation of two Infinites, to deny its essential existence, is that which declares it to be imperfect good. But as this definition implies that evil characterizes all grades of created being, and includes the saint singing in heaven as well as the savage prowling in the woods, it carries with it little help or satisfaction to the practical will and conscience. Dr. Dewey takes up the problem at one or two removes from its purely abstract essence, and fastens on its concrete manifestations, and the compensations for its existence in the system of the world. The leading ideas he aims to inculcate are these: that the system of the moral world is a system of spontaneous development, having for its object human culture; that man, being free, must do, within the sphere of his permitted activity, what he will, and therefore is free to do what is wrong; that, in order that his growth may be free and rational, the system of treatment under which he lives must be one of general laws, and not of capricious expedients; and that there are two restraints on his wild or pernicious activity,—one inward, from his moral nature, the other outward, from material Nature. After illustrating these at considerable, though by no means tedious length, Dr. Dewey proceeds to exhibit the adaptation of the material world to human culture,—the physical and moral constitution of man, and the complexity of his being,—the mental and moral activity elicited by his connection with Nature and life,—the problems of pain, hereditary evil, and death, which affect his individual existence,—the problems of bad or defective institutions and usages, religious, political, and warlike, which affect his social existence,—and the testimony of history to human progress, and to the principles of human spontaneity and divine control which underlie it.

But this bare enumeration conveys no impression of the richness of the author's matter or the fineness of his spirit. The volume is full of interesting facts, gathered from a wide range of thoughtful reading, literary, historical, theological, and scientific, and of facts, too, which are associated with thoughts and related to a plan. The judgments expressed on all the vital questions which come up in the discussion of the theme bear the impress of genuine convictions. They are not merely the assent of the understanding to propositions, but of the soul to truths; and many must have been subjected to the test of personal experience as well as mental scrutiny. The first requisite of a work on the problem of human destiny is, that it should kindle the reader into sympathy with human nature, and lodge in his mind an abiding conviction of the reality of human progress; and this requisite Dr. Dewey's volume satisfies better than many treatises of more scientific exactness and more ambitious pretensions.

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 15, No.
88, February, 1865, by Various


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