The Project Gutenberg EBook of Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 57,
No. 354, April 1845, by Various

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Title: Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 57, No. 354, April 1845

Author: Various

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Language: English

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No. CCCLIV. APRIL, 1845. Vol. LVII.





Virgil, Tasso, and Raphael,401
Ping-Kee's View of the Stage,415
The Midnight Watch,424
Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation,448
Marston; or, the Memoirs of a Statesman. Part XVI.,461
Betham's Etruria Celtica,474
Suspiria de Profundis: being a Sequel to the Confessions of an English Opium-Eater,489
North's Specimens of the British Critics. No. III.—Dryden,503




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




[Pg 401]


No. CCCLIV. APRIL, 1845. Vol. LVII.






Originality of conception and fidelity of observation in general mark the efforts of genius in the earlier ages of society; and it is then, accordingly, that those creative minds appear which stamp their own impress upon the character of a whole people, and communicate to their literature, in the most distant periods, a certain train of thought, a certain class of images, a certain family resemblance. Homer, Phidias, and Æschylus in ancient times—Dante, Michael Angelo, Ariosto, and Shakspeare in modern, belong to this exalted class. Each in his own department has struck out a new range of thought, and created a fresh brood of ideas, which, on "winged words," have taken their flight to distant regions, and to the end of the world will never cease to delight and influence mankind. Subsequent ages may refine their images, expand their sentiments, perhaps improve their expression; but they add little to the stock of their conceptions. The very greatness of their predecessors precludes fresh creations: the furrows of the ancient wheels are so deep that the modern chariot cannot avoid falling into them. So completely in all persons of education are the great works of antiquity incorporated with thought, that they arise involuntarily with every exercise of the faculty of taste, and insensibly recur to the cultivated mind, with all that it admires, and loves, and venerates.

But though originality of conception, the creation of imagery, and the invention of events belong to early ages, delicacy of taste, refinement of sentiment, perfection of expression, are the growth of a more advanced period of society. The characters which are delineated by the hand of Genius in early times, are those bold and original ones in which the features are distinctly marked, the lines clearly drawn, the peculiarities strongly brought out. The images which are adopted are those which have first occurred to the creative mind in forming a world of fancy: the similes employed, those which convey to the simple and unlettered mind the clearest or most vivid conception of the idea or event intended to be illustrated. Valour, pride, resolution, tenderness, patriotism, are the mental qualities which are there portrayed in imaginary characters, and called forth by fictitious events: and it is this first and noblest delineation of mental qualities in an historical gallery which has rendered the Iliad immortal. The images and similes of Homer are drawn from a close observation of nature, but they are not very varied in their range: he paints every incident, every occurrence, every feature, but he [Pg 402]is not much diversified in conception, and surprisingly identical in expression. His similes of a boar beset by hunters, of a lion prowling round a fold and repelled by the spear of the shepherd, of a panther leaping into a herd of cattle, are represented in the same words wherever he has a close fight of one of his heroes with a multitude of enemies to recount. So forcibly is the creative mind, in the first instance, fascinated by the variety and brilliancy of its conceptions, that it neglects and despises their subordinate details. It is careless of language, because it is intent on ideas: it is niggardly in language, because it is prodigal of thought. Homer's expressions or epithets are in general admirably chosen, and speak at once a graphic eye and an imaginative mind; but it is extraordinary how often they recur without any variation. It is the same with Ariosto: he is somewhat more varied in his expression, but even more identical in his details. Prodigal of invention, varied in imagination, unbounded in conception, in the incidents and great features of his story, he has very little diversity in its subordinate parts. He carries us over the whole earth, through the air, and to the moon: but giants, castles, knights, and errant damsels occur at every step, with hardly any alteration. The perpetual jousts of the knights, charging with the lance and then drawing the sword, are exactly parallel to the endless throwing of the spear and leaping from the chariot in the Iliad.

No man can read the Æneid without seeing that it has been constructed, both in its general conception and chief incidents, on the poems of Homer; and yet so exquisite was the taste, so refined the sentiment, so tender the heart of Virgil, that he has produced upon the world the impression of a great original author. Dante worshipped him as a species of divinity; he made him his guide through the infernal regions, to unfold the crimes of the wicked and the intentions of the Deity in the distribution of future rewards and punishments. Throughout the middle ages he was regarded as a sort of necromancer, a mighty magician, to whom the past and the future are alike known, and whose power even the elements of nature were constrained to obey. The "Sortes Virgilianæ," so well known, and so long practised in every country of Europe, arose from this belief. The imagery, mythology and characters of his epic poem are drawn from the Iliad: but in two particulars he is entirely original, and his genius has opened the two fountains from which the most prolific streams of beauty in modern poetry have flowed. He is the father of descriptive and amatory poetry. The passion of love, as we understand it, was unknown to Homer, as much as was the description of nature as a separate and substantive object. He has made the whole Iliad, indeed, turn upon the wrath of Achilles for the loss of Briseis; and he has painted, with inimitable tenderness and pathos, the conjugal attachment of Hector and Andromache; but he had no conception of love as a passion, mingled with sentiment, and independent of possession. The wrath of Achilles is the fury of an Eastern sultan whose harem has been violated: the parting of Hector and Andromache is the rending asunder of the domestic affections, the farewell from the family hearth, the breaking up of the home circle. But the love of Dido for Æneas is the refined passion which is the soul of the romances and of half the poetry of modern times. It was the creature of the imagination, the offspring of the soul from its own conceptions, kindled only into life by an external object. It arose from mental admiration; it was inhaled more by the ear than the eye; it was warmed at his recital of the sack of Troy, and his subsequent wanderings over the melancholy main. It had no resemblance to the seducing voluptuousness of Ovid, any more than the elegant indecencies of Catullus. It resembled the passion of Desdemona for Othello.

Homer painted with graphic fidelity and incomparable force, often with extraordinary beauty, the appearances of nature; but it was as illustrations, or for the purpose of similitude only, that he did so. It was on human events that his thoughts were fixed: it was the human heart, in all its various forms and changes, that he sought to depict. But Virgil was the[Pg 403] high-priest of nature, and he worshipped her with all a poet's fervour. He identifies himself with rural life, he describes with devout enthusiasm its joys, its occupations, its hardships: the rocks, the woods, the streams, awaken his ardent admiration; the animals and insects are the objects of his tender solicitude. When the Mantuan bard wrote,

——"Sæpe exiguus mus
Sub terram posuit domos atque horrea fecit,"

he was inspired with the same spirit that afterwards animated Burns when he contemplated the daisy, Cowper when he sympathized with the hare. The descriptive poetry of modern times has owed much to his exquisite eye and sensitive heart. Thomson, in his Seasons, has expanded the theme in a kindred spirit, and with prodigal magnificence. Scott and Byron have brought that branch of the poetic art to the highest perfection, by blending it with the moral affections, with the picturesque imagery of the olden time, with the magic of eastern or classical association. But none of our poets—how great soever their genius, how varied their materials—have exceeded, if they have equalled, the exquisite beauty of his descriptions; and the purest taste in observation, as the utmost beauty of expression, is still to be best attained by studying night and day the poems of Virgil.

Modern epic poetry arose in a different age, and was moulded by different circumstances. The mythology of antiquity was at an end, and with it had perished the gay and varied worship which had so long amused or excited an imaginative people. The empire of the Cæsars, with its grandeur and its recollections, had sunk into the dusk; the venerable letters, S. P. Q. R., no longer commanded the veneration of mankind. A new faith, enjoining moral duties, had descended upon the earth: a holier spirit had come to pervade the breasts of the faithful. An unknown race of fierce barbarians had broken into the decaying provinces of the Roman empire, and swept away their government, their laws, their property, and their institutions. But the Christian faith had proved more powerful than the arms of the legions; it alone had survived, amidst the general wreck of the civilized world. Mingling with the ardent feelings and fierce energy of the barbarian victors, it sat

——"a blooming bride
By valour's arm'd and awful side."

Incorporating itself with the very souls of the conquerors—descending on their heads with the waters of baptism, never leaving them till the moment of extreme unction—it moulded between these two extremes their whole character. A new principle superior to all earthly power was introduced—a paramount authority established, to which even the arm of victorious conquest was compelled to submit—ruthless warriors were seen kneeling at the feet of unarmed pontiffs. The crown of the Cæsars had more than once been lowered before the cross of the head of the faithful.

From the intensity and universality of these religious emotions, and the circumstance of the Holy Land being in the hands of the Saracens, with whom Christendom had maintained so long, and at times so doubtful, a struggle, a new passion had seized upon the people of modern Europe, to which no parallel is to be found in the previous or subsequent history of mankind. The desire to recover the Holy Sepulchre, and re-open it to the pilgrimages of the faithful, had come to inflame the minds of men with such vehemence, that nothing approaching to it had ever before occurred in the world. It had pervaded alike the great and the humble, the learned and the ignorant, the prince and the peasant. It had torn up whole nations from Europe, and precipitated them on Asia. It had caused myriads of armed men to cross the Hellespont. In Asia Minor, on the theatre of the contest of the Greeks and Trojans, it had brought vast armies into collision, far outnumbering the hosts led by Hector or Agamemnon. It had brought them together in a holier cause, and on more elevated motives, than prompted the Greek confederates to range themselves under the king of men. It had impelled Richard Cœur-de-Lion and Godfrey of Bouillon from Europe. It had[Pg 404] roused Saladin and Solyman the Magnificent in Asia. Unlike other popular passions, it had continued through successive generations. It had survived for centuries, and declined at length less from want of ardour in the cause, than from failure of the physical and material resources to maintain at so vast a distance so wasting a struggle, and supply the multitudes of the faithful whose bones whitened the valley of the Danube or the sands of Asia.

But religious and devout emotions had not alone become all-powerful from the blending of the ardour of a spiritual faith with the fierce energy of northern conquests. The northern nations had brought with them from their woods two principles unknown to the most civilized nations of antiquity. Tacitus has recorded, that a tribe in Germany maintained its authority solely by the justice of its decisions; and that in all the tribes, women were held in the highest respect, and frequently swayed the public councils on the most momentous occasions. It is in these two principles, the love of justice and respect for women, that the foundation was laid for the manners of chivalry, which form the grand characteristic and most ennobling feature of modern times. New elements were thence infused into the breast of the warriors, into the heart of women, into the songs of poetry. Chivalry had arisen with its dreams, its imaginations, its fantasy; but, at the same time, with its elevation, its disinterestedness, its magnanimity. The songs of the Troubadours had been heard in southern Europe; the courts of love had been held in Provence; the exploits of Charlemagne and Richard had resounded throughout the world. The chevalier sans peur et sans reproche, who dedicated himself to the service of God and of his lady, was a less natural, but he was a far more elevated being, than either Achilles or Æneas. Knights-errant, who went about in quest of adventures, redressing wrongs, succouring damsels, combating giants, defying sorcerers, delivering captives—faithful amidst every temptation to their lady-love, true amidst every danger to the Polar-star of duty—formed the leading characters in a species of romance, which is less likely, in all probability, to be durable in fame than the Iliad or the Æneid; but which is so, in a great degree, from the circumstance that the characters it portrays had, from an extraordinary combination of events, been strung upon a higher key than is likely to be sympathized with by future generations of man.

Ariosto was the great original mind in this extravagant but yet noble style of poetry; he was the Homer of this romance of modern Europe. He possessed the same fruitful invention, the same diversified conception, the same inexhaustible fancy as the Grecian bard; and in melody and occasional beauty of versification, he is often his superior. But he will bear no sort of comparison with Homer in knowledge of character or the delineation of the human heart. His heroes are almost all cast in one of two models, and bear one of two images and superscriptions. The Christian paladins are all gentle, true, devoted, magnanimous, unconquerable; the Saracen soldans haughty, cruel, perfidious, irascible, but desperately powerful in combat. No shades of difference and infinite diversity in character demonstrate, as in the Iliad, a profound knowledge and accurate observation of the human heart. No fierce and irascible Achilles disturbs the sympathy of the reader with the conquerors; no self-forgetting, but country-devoted Hector enlists our sympathies on the side of the vanquished. His imagination, like the winged steed of Astolfo, flies away with his judgment; it bears him to the uttermost parts of the earth, to the palace of the syren Alcina, to the halls in the moon, but it destroys all unity or identity of interest in the poem. The famous siege of Paris by the Saracens in the time of Charlemagne, which was so often expected during the middle ages, that it at last came to be believed to have been real, was the main point of his story; but he diverges from it so often, in search of adventures with particular knights, that we wellnigh forget the principal object of the poem, and feel no absorbing interest in the issue of any particular events, or the exploits of any particular heroes. He had no great moral to unfold, or single interest[Pg 405] to sustain, in his composition. His object was to amuse, not instruct—to fascinate, not improve. He is often as beautiful as Virgil in his descriptions, as lofty as Homer in his conceptions; but he as often equals Ovid in the questionable character of his adventures, or Catullus in the seducing warmth of his descriptions. There is no more amusing companion than the Orlando Furioso for the fireside; but there is none less likely to produce the heroes whom it is his object to portray.

That which Ariosto wants, Tasso has. The Jerusalem Delivered is, beyond all question, the epic poem of modern Europe. In it, as in the Iliad, unity of interest and of action is entirely preserved. It is one great struggle between Europe and Asia which is recorded; it is for the attack and defence of one city that the forces of Christendom and of Mahometanism are arrayed. But the object of contention, the moral character of the struggle, is incomparably higher in the modern than the ancient poem. It is not "another Helen who has fired another Troy;" it is no confederacy of valour, thirsting for the spoils of opulence, which is contending for victory. It is the pilgrim, not the host, whose wrongs have now roused Europe into action; it is not to ravish beauty from its seducer, but the holy sepulchre from its profaners, that Christendom has risen in arms. The characters of the chiefs correspond to the superior sanctity of their cause, and indicate the mighty step in advance which the human mind, under the influence of Christianity and civilization, had made since the days of Homer. In Godfrey of Bouillon we perceive enthusiasm guided by wisdom; difficulties overcome by resolution, self-subdued by devotion. Rinaldo, like Achilles, is led astray by beauty and the issue of the war is prolonged from the want of his resistless arm; but the difference between his passion for Armida, and the Grecian hero's wrath for the loss of Briseis, marks the influence of the refined gallantry of modern times. The exquisite episode of the flight of Erminia, the matchless pathos of the death of Clorinda, can be compared to nothing either in the Iliad or Æneid; they belong to the age of chivalry, and are the efflorescence of that strange but lofty aspiration of the human mind. Above all, there is a moral grandeur in the poem, a continued unity of interest, owing to a sustained elevation of purpose—a forgetfulness of self in the great cause of rescuing the holy sepulchre, which throws an air of sanctity around its beauties, and renders it the worthy epic of Europe in its noblest aspect.

Notwithstanding these inimitable beauties, the Jerusalem Delivered never has, and never will make the impression on the world which the Iliad has done. The reason is, that it is not equally drawn from nature; the characters are taken from romantic conception, not real life. The chiefs who assemble in council with Godfrey, the knights who strive before Jerusalem with Tancred, have little resemblance either to the greyhaired senators who direct human councils, or the youthful warriors who head actual armies. They are poetical abstractions, not living men. We read their speeches with interest, we contemplate their actions with admiration; but it never occurs to us that we have seen such men, or that the imagination of the poet has conceived any thing resembling the occurrences of real life. The whole is a fairy dream—charming, interesting, delightful, but still a dream. It bears the same resemblance to reality which the brilliant gossamer of a snow-clad forest, glittering in the morning sun, does to the boughs when clothed with the riches and varied by the hues of summer. It is the perfection of our conceptions of chivalry, mingled with the picturesque machinery of antiquity and romantic imagery of the East, told with the exquisite beauty of European versification. But it is a poetical conception only, not a delineation of real life. In Homer, again, the marvellous power of the poet consists in his deep insight into human character, his perfect knowledge of the human heart, and his inimitable fidelity of drawing every object, animate or inanimate. Aristotle said that he excelled all poets that ever appeared in "διαγνοια." Aristotle was right; no one can study the Iliad without feeling the justice of the observation. It is the[Pg 406] penetration, the piercing insight of the Greek bard, which constitute his passport to immortality. Other poets may equal him in variety of imagination; some may excel him in melody of versification or beauty of language: none will probably ever approach him in delineation of character, or clothing abstract conceptions in the flesh and blood of real life.

Considered with reference to unity of action and identity of interest, the Jerusalem Delivered, equal to the Iliad, is much superior to the Æneid. Virgil appears, in his admiration of Homer, to have aimed at uniting in his poem the beauties both of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and thence in a great measure his failure to rival either. While the first six books, which contain the wanderings of the Trojan exile and the dismal recital of the sack of Troy, are an evident imitation of the Odyssey, the last six, containing the strife in Italy, the efforts of the Trojans to gain a footing on the Ausonian shores, and the concluding single combat of Turnus and Æneas, are as evidently framed upon the model of the Iliad. But it is impossible in this manner to tack together two separate poems, and form an homogeneous whole from their junction. Patchwork will appear in spite of all the genius and taste of Virgil. Epic poetry, indeed, is not confined within the narrow limits of the Grecian stage; the poem may embrace a longer period than it requires to read it. But in epic poetry, as in all the fine arts, one unity is indispensable—the unity of interest or emotion. Unity of time and place is not to be disregarded to any great degree without manifest danger. The whole period embraced in the Iliad is only forty-eight days, and the interest of the piece—that which elapses from Hector lighting his fires before the Greek intrenchments till his death in front of the Scæan Gate—is only thirty-six hours. Tasso has the same unity of time, place, and interest in his poems: the scene is always around Jerusalem; the time not many weeks; the main object, the centre of the whole action, the capture of the city. The charming episodes of Erminia's flight and Armida's island are felt to be episodes only: they vary the narrative without distracting the interest. But in Virgil the interest is various and complicated, the scene continually shifting, the episodes usurp the place of the main story. At one time we are fascinated by the awful recital of the murder of Priam, the burning of Troy, and the flight of Æneas: at another, we weep with the sorrows of Dido at Carthage, and the exquisite pathos of his heart-rending lamentations: at a third, we are charmed by the descent into the infernal regions on the shores of Avernus, we sympathize with the patriotic effort of Turnus and the people of Ausonia to expel the invaders from the Italian shores. Though Virgil did not intend it, he has twice transferred the reader's sympathy from the hero of his story: once by his inimitable description of the mourning and death of Dido from the departure and perfidy of Æneas, and again, from the burst of patriotic feeling which he has represented as animating the Etruscan tribes at the violent intrusion of the Trojan invaders.

Virgil's heroes will bear no sort of comparison with those either of the Iliad or the Jerusalem Delivered. Æneas himself is a vain conceited man, proud of his piety and his wanderings, and destroying our admiration for either by the ostentation with which he brings them forward on all occasions. The well-known line,

"Sum pius Æneas, famâ super æthere notus,"

occurs too frequently to render it possible to take any interest in such a self-applauding character. Compare this with the patriotic devotion, the heroic courage, the domestic tenderness, the oblivion of self in Hector, in the Iliad, and it will at once appear how far deeper the insight into the human heart was in the Grecian than the Roman poet. One striking instance will at once illustrate this. When Hector parts from Andromache at the Scæan Gate, and after he has taken his infant son from his arms, he prays to Jupiter that he may become so celebrated that the people in seeing himself pass, may say only—"He far exceeds his father." What sentiment on the part of a hero himself, and at the [Pg 407]moment the bulwark and sole stay of Troy! But what does Virgil make Æneas say in similar circumstances?—"Learn, boy, virtue and true labour from ME, fortune from others."

What a difference between the thought in the two poets, and the interest which their words excite in the breast of the reader!

What an historical gallery, or rather what a gallery of imaginary portraits, does the Iliad contain! It is the embodying so many separate and well-distinguished characters, in different persons, which forms the grand characteristic—the unequalled supremacy of the poem. Only think of what they are. Achilles, vehement alike in anger and in grief, wrathful, impetuous, overbearing, "the most terrible character ever conceived by man;" yet not insensible at times to the tender emotions, loving his country, weeping for his father, devoted to his home, but yet determined to purchase deathless renown by a short life, ere he met the death he knew awaited him under the walls of Troy. Hector, calm, resolute, patriotic; sustaining by his single arm the conflict with a host of heroes; retaining by his single suavity the confederacy of many jealous and discordant nations; unconquerable in the field; undaunted in council; ever watching over his country; ever forgetful of himself; overflowing with domestic affection, yet prodigal of self-sacrifice; singly awaiting before the Scæan Gate the approach of Achilles, when his celestial armour shone like the setting sun, and all Troy in terror had sought refuge within the walls; deaf to the wailing even of Andromache and Priam, at the call of patriotic duty; and when betrayed by Minerva in the last conflict, and deprived of his home, yet drawing his sword to do deeds of which men might speak thereafter! Diomede, unsubdued even amidst the wreck of Grecian fortunes during the absence of Achilles, alone sustaining the war, when all around him quailed before the spear of Hector; and resolute to hold his ground with a few followers, even though the whole of his Grecian leaders fled in their ships. Agamemnon, proud, imperious, passionate; doing injustice in anger, yet willing to repair it on reflection; wresting the blue-eyed maid from Achilles in the first burst of fury, yet publicly acknowledging his fault in the council of the chiefs; sending embassies, and offering his own daughter, to obtain a reconciliation with the son of Peleus. Ulysses, wary alike in council and in action; provident in forming designs, intrepid in carrying them into execution; sparing of the blood of his soldiers, but unconquerable in the resolution with which they were led; ever counselling prudent measures, but ever ruled by invincible determination. Ajax, singly resisting the onset of the Trojan multitude; slowly retreating, covered by his broad shield; midway between the two armies, when all around him fled; striving with desperate resolution for the body of Patroclus, and covering the retreat of his followers who dragged along the lifeless hero, when Hector, clad in the shining panoply he had wrested from the Myrmidonian chief, was thundering in close pursuit. What has Virgil to exhibit as a set-off to this band of heroes—"Fortem Gyan, fortemque Cloanthum"—the boyish eagerness of Ascanius, the savage wrath of Turnus when bereaved of his bride! We seem, in passing from the Iliad to the Æneid, to have fallen, so far as character goes, from a race of giants to a brood of pigmies.

Modern partiality cannot claim for Tasso the merit of having conceived a band of heroes whose characters were as strongly marked, or boldly drawn, as those of the Grecian bard; yet may it justly claim for the Italian poet the second honours. Tasso did not draw his characters from nature, like Homer; he lived at a period when the manners of the heroic age had passed away, and the recollections of it were preserved only in the stanzas of poetry and the romances of the Troubadours; yet did the force of his genius, the elevation of his sentiments, the loftiness of his conceptions, in a great measure supply the defect, and produce a magnificent, and to this day unequalled, picture of the chivalry of modern Europe. Godfrey of Bouillon is the model of a Christian hero whose arm has been devoted to the sacred lance; antiquity did not, and could not, conceive any such [Pg 408]character. Hector is the nearest approach to it; but the patriotism of the Trojan chief is mingled with his domestic affections; it is for his father, his wife, his child, his hearth, his country, that he fights. In Godfrey, all these affections, warm and ennobling as they are, appear to be obliterated by the perpetual sense of a sacred duty superior to them all—by the intensity of the pious fervour which had concentrated all earthly affections. He is the personification of the Church militant, combating for its Saviour's cause. The profound feelings, the self-negation, the martyr-like spirit which had been nursed for centuries amidst the solitude of the cloister, appears in him brought forth into action, and producing the most intense enthusiasm, yet regulated by the caution of Ulysses, combined with the foresight of Agamemnon, sustained by the constancy of Ajax.

Rinaldo, youthful, vehement, impassioned, is the ideal of a hero not yet weaned from the passions of the world. Vehement, capricious, and irascible, he disturbs, like Achilles, the council of the chiefs by his wrath, and is seduced by the beauty of Armida to abandon the cause of the cross; yet even in her enchanted gardens, and when surrounded by all that can fascinate the imagination and allure the senses, the sparks of a noble nature are not extinct in his breast; he is recalled to his duty by the sight of her warriors; he flies the arms of the syren; he penetrates with invincible courage the enchanted forest; and when he descends purified from the stains of the world from the lofty mountain, on whose summit at sunrise he had dedicated himself to God, he is the worthy and invincible champion of the cross. Not less bold than his youthful rival, not less enthusiastic in his affections, Tancredi is the victim of a romantic passion. But it is no enchantress for whom he pines; it is no seducing frail one who allures him from the path of duty. Clorinda appears in the Saracen ranks; her arms combat with heroic power for the cause of Mahomet; the glance which has fascinated the Christian knight came from beneath the plumed helmet. Lofty enthusiasm has unstrung his arm—devoted tenderness has subdued his heart—the passion of love in its purest form has fascinated his soul; yet even this high-toned sentiment can yield to the influences of religion; and when Tancredi, after the fatal nocturnal conflict in which his sword pierced the bosom of his beloved, is visited by her in his dreams, and assured that she awaits him in Paradise, the soul of the Crusader is aroused within him, and he sets forth with ardent zeal to seek danger and death in the breach of Jerusalem. It cannot be said that these characters are so natural as those of Homer, at least they are not so similar to what is elsewhere seen in the world; and therefore they will never make the general impression which the heroes of the Iliad have done. But they are more refined—they are more exalted; and if less like what men are, they are perhaps not the less like what they ought to be.

How is it, then, if Virgil is so inferior to Homer and Tasso in the unity of action, the concentration of interest, and the delineation of character, that he has acquired his prodigious reputation among men? How is it that generation after generation has ratified the opinion of Dante, who called him his "Divine Master"—of Petrarch, who spent his life in the study of his works? How is it that his verses are so engraven in our recollection that they have become, as it were, a second nature to every cultivated mind, and insensibly recur whenever the beauty of poetry is felt, or the charms of nature experienced? Rest assured the judgment of so many ages is right: successive generations and different nations never concur in praising any author, unless his works, in some respects at least, have approached perfection. If we cannot discern the beauties, the conclusion to be drawn is that our taste is defective, rather than that so many ages and generations have concurred in lavishing their admiration on an unworthy object. Nor is it difficult to see in what the excellence of Virgil consists; we cannot read a page of him without perceiving what has fascinated the world, without concurring in the fascination. It is the tenderness of his heart, his exquisite pathos, his eye[Pg 409] for the beauty of nature, the unrivalled beauty of his language, which have given him immortality, and to the end of time render the study of his works the most perfect means of refining the taste and inspiring a genuine feeling of poetic beauty.

So melodious is the versification, so delicate the taste, so exquisite the feeling, so refined the sentiment of Virgil, that it may truly be said that he will ever remain the model on which the graces of composition in every future age must be formed. Of him more truly than any human being it may be said, "Nihil quod tetegit non ornavit." The Georgics demonstrate that, in the hands of genius, and under the guidance of taste, the most ordinary occupations of rural life may be treated with delicacy, and rendered prolific of beauty. The dressing of vines, the subduing of the clod by the sturdy heifers, the different manures for the soil, the sowing of seed, the reaping of harvest, the joys of the vintage, the vehemence of storms, the snows of winter, the heats of summer, the blossoms of spring, the riches of autumn, become in his hands prolific of description and prodigal of beauty. Even the dumb animals are the objects of his tender solicitude. We hear the heifers lowing for their accustomed meal in winter; we gaze on the sporting of the lambs in spring; we see the mountain goat suspended from the shaggy rock in summer; we sympathize with the provident industry of the bees; we even feel we have a friend in the little underground nest of the field mouse. The opening lines of the Eclogues, which every schoolboy knows by heart, give an earnest of the exquisite taste which pervades his writings:—

"Tityre, tu patulæ, recubans sub tegmine fagi,
Sylvestrem tenui musam meditaris avena;
Nos patriæ fines et dulcia linquimus arva.
Nos patriam fugimus: tu, Tityre, lentus in umbra,
Formosam resonare doces Amaryllida sylvas."

Virgil, it has been said, was so strongly impressed with the inferiority of the Æneid to what he conceived epic poetry should be, that he desired that poem to be thrown into the flames after his death; yet though deficient in the principal requisites of an epic poem, so far as the structure of the story and the delineation of the characters are concerned, what exquisite beauties does it contain—what an assemblage of lovely images has it brought together—what an irreparable loss would its destruction have been to all future generations of men! Not all the genius of subsequent ages could have supplied its place. There are beauties in the Æneid, which neither Thomson in descriptive, nor Racine in dramatic poetry, have been able to rival.

If Homer excels all subsequent writers in conception of character, vigour of imagination, and graphic delineation, Virgil is not less unrivalled in delicacy of sentiment, tenderness of feeling, and beauty of expression. There are many more striking scenes in the Iliad, more animating events, more awful apparitions; but in the Æneid, passages of extraordinary beauty are much more numerous. What is present to the imagination when we rise from the former, is the extraordinary series of brilliant or majestic images which it has presented; what is engraven on the memory when we conclude the latter, is the charming series of beautiful passages which it contains. There are many more events to recollect in the Grecian, but more lines to remember in the Roman poet. To the Iliad, subsequent ages have turned with one accord for images of heroism, traits of nature, grandeur of character. To the Æneid, subsequent times will ever have recourse for touches of pathos, expressions of tenderness, felicity of language. Flaxman drew his conception of heroic sculpture from the heroes of the Iliad: Racine borrowed his heart-rending pathetic from the sorrows of Dido. Homer struck out his conceptions with the bold hand, and in the gigantic proportions, of Michael Angelo's frescoes; Virgil finished his pictures with the exquisite grace of Raphael's Madonnas.

Virgil has been generally considered as unrivalled in the pathetic; but this observation requires to be taken with[Pg 410] a certain limitation. No man ever exceeded Homer in the pathetic, so far as he wished to portray it; but it was one branch only of that emotion that he cared to paint. It was the domestic pathetic that he delineated with such power: it was in the distresses of home life, the rending asunder of home affections, that he was so great a master. The grief of Andromache on the death of Hector, and the future fate of his son begging his bread from the cold charity of strangers—the wailings of Priam and Hecuba, when that noble chief awaited before the Scæan Gate the approach of Achilles—the passionate lamentations of the Grecian chief over the dead body of Patroclus—never were surpassed in any language; they abound with traits of nature, which, to the end of the world, will fascinate and melt the human heart. The tender melancholy of Evander for the fate of Pallas, who had perished by the spear of Turnus, is of the same description, and will bear a comparison with its touching predecessor. But these are all the sorrows of domestic life. Virgil and Tasso, in the description of the despair consequent on the severing of the ties of the passion of love, have opened a new field, unknown in the previous poetry of antiquity. It is to be found touched on in the tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides, and but touched on. The passion they represent under the name of love was not what we understand by the word, or what constitutes so important an element in the poetry and romance of modern Europe. It was not the imaginative flame feeding on hope, nursed by smiles, transcendent in enjoyment, but a furious mania, resembling rather, and classed with, the ravings of insanity. Destiny was the grand ruling power in Greek tragedy: the distress brought out was the striving of man against the iron chain of fate. Love as a passion, independent of destiny, detached from sense, feeding on the imagination, living in the presence of the beloved object, is glanced at in Catullus; but it is in Virgil that we must look for the perfect delineation of its suffering, a thorough knowledge of its nature—in Tasso, that it has been wrought up to the highest conceivable perfection.

But, for all that, we will not have old Homer defrauded of his dues. The Iliad cannot, for the reasons already mentioned, produce passages to be placed beside the pathetic tenderness of Dido's love for Æneas, the romantic chivalry of Tancredi, or Erminia's passion. But in the earlier and more natural affections, in the delineation of domestic grief, in the rending asunder the parental or filial ties, who has ever surpassed the pathetic simplicity of the Grecian bard? Where can we find such heart-rending words as Priam addresses to Hector, leaning over the towers of Troy, when his heroic son was calmly awaiting the approach of the god-like Achilles, resplendent in the panoply of Vulcan, and shielded by the Ægis of Minerva?

But we know not whether three lines in the Odyssey do not convey a still more touching picture of grief—so powerful is the wail of untaught nature. When Proteus informed Menelaus of the murder of Agamemnon, his grief is thus described—

" Ὣς ἔφατ᾿ · αὐτὰρ ἔμοιγε κατεκλάσθη φίλον ἦτορ
Κλαῖον δ᾽ ἐν ψαμάθοισι καθήμενος· οὐδέ νύ μοι κῆρ
Ἤθελ᾽ ἔτι ζώειν, καὶ ὁρᾴν φάος ἡελίοιο."
Odyssey, IV. 538.

"Thus he spoke; my soul was crushed within me; I sat weeping on the sand; nor had I the heart to wish to live, and behold the light of the sun." Here is the pathos of nature: "Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not."

One peculiar beauty belongs to the epic poems of antiquity, and especially Homer, from the combination of heroic sentiments and actions with a simplicity which will be looked for in vain, and in truth would be unseemly, in the later ages of society. We hear of princes, kings, and the daughters of kings, and our imagination immediately clothes them with the pomp and circumstance of modern royalty. But erelong some little [Pg 411]circumstance, let out as it were accidentally, brings us back at once to the simplicity and habits of early life. Bellerophon met the daughter of a king amidst the grassy meads, and a race of heroes sprung from this occasion; but he met her as he was tending his herds, and she her lambs. The beauteous daughters of the Trojan chiefs repaired to the hot and cold springs of the Scamander, near the Scæan Gate, but they went there to wash their clothes in its limpid fountains. The youngest daughter of Nestor, with the innocence of a child, though the beauty of womanhood, did, by her father's desire, to Telemachus the duties of the bath. Many a chief is described as rich; but generally the riches consist in flocks and herds, in wrought brass or golden ornaments—not unfrequently in meadows and garden-stuffs. This beauty could not, from the superior age of the world, belong to Tasso. His soldans are arrayed in all the pomp of Asiatic magnificence—his princes appear in the pride of feudal power—his princesses surrounded with the homage of chivalrous devotion. Virgil has often the same exquisite traits of nature, the same refreshing return to the young world, in the Æneid: He dwells on those peeps into pastoral simplicity as Tacitus did on the virtue of the Germans in the corrupted days of Roman society, when "corrumpere et corrumpi seculum vocatur." We may conceive the enchantment with which the Romans, when the Capitol was in all its splendour in the time of Augustus, read his charming description of its shaggy precipices in the days of Evander.

"Hinc ad Tarpeiam sedem et Capitolia ducit,
Aurea nunc, olim sylvestribus horrida dumis.
Jam tum religio pavidos terrebat agrestes
Dira loci; jam tum sylvam saxumque tremebant.
'Hoc nemus, hunc,' inquit, 'frondoso vertice collem,
Quis deus incertum est, habitat deus: Arcades ipsum
Credunt se vidisse Jovem, cum sæpe nigrantem
Ægida concuteret dextrâ nimbosque cieret.'
Talibus inter se dictis, ad tecta subibant
Pauperis Evandri, passimque armenta videbant
Romanoque foro, et lautis mugire Carinis."—Æneid, viii. 347.

What Homer was to Virgil, and Ariosto to Tasso, that Michael Angelo was to Raphael. Though both these illustrious men lived in the same age, yet the former was born nine years before the latter,[1] and he had attained to eminence while his younger rival was yet toiling in the obscurity of humble life. It was the sight of the magnificent frescoes of Michael Angelo that first emancipated Raphael from the stiff and formal, though beautiful style of his master, Pietro Perugino, and showed him of what his noble art was susceptible. So great was the genius, so ardent the effort, of the young aspirant, so rapid the progress of art in those days, when the genius of modern Europe, locked up during the long frost of the middle ages, burst forth with the vigour and beauty of a Canadian spring, that he had brought painting, which he had taken up in a state of infancy in the studio of Pietro Perugino, to absolute perfection when he died, at the age of thirty-seven. Seventeen years, in Raphael's hands, sufficed to bring an art as great and difficult as poetry to absolute perfection! Subsequent ages, vainly as yet attempting to imitate, can never hope to surpass him. How vast must have been the genius, how capacious the thought, how intense the labour, of the man who could thus master and bring to perfection this difficult art, in a period so short as, to men even of superior parts and unwearied application, barely to gain the command of the pencil!

Modern painting, as it appears in the works of Michael Angelo, Raphael, and Titian, is an art as elevated in kind as the highest flights of the epic or tragic muse, and it has been brought to a perfection to be paralleled only by the greatest conceptions of Grecian[Pg 412] statuary. If called upon to assign the arts which human genius had, since the beginning of the world, brought to absolute perfection, no one would hesitate to fix on Grecian sculpture and Italian painting. Imagination can conceive a more faultless poem than the Iliad, a more dignified series of characters than those of the Æneid, a more interesting epic than Paradise Lost; but it can figure nothing more perfect than the friezes of Phidias, or more heavenly than the Holy Families of Raphael. It is one of the most extraordinary and inexplicable facts recorded in the history of the human mind, that these two sister arts should both have been brought to perfection near each other, on the shores of the Mediterranean, in the lifetime of a single generation; for the transition from the marbles of Ægina to those of the Parthenon, made in the lifetime of Pericles, is as great as from the paintings of Pietro Perugino to those of Raphael, made in the lifetime of Leo X.

The sculpture of antiquity aimed chiefly, if not entirely, at the representation of a single figure. Even the procession on the frieze of the Parthenon is not sculpture—it is a series of isolated horsemen or figures passing. The group of Niobe and her children is the only attempt extant at telling a story, or representing emotion by a variety of figures. Within this limited range, the great sculptors carried the art to the highest imaginable perfection. The Apollo is the most perfect representation of manly beauty, the Venus of feminine grace and delicacy. The Laocoon exhibits the most fearful contortions and agonized expressions of pain and anguish in suffering humanity; the Fighting Gladiator—the most inimitable representation of war-like energy at its extreme tension—the Dying Warrior of the Capitol, of valour sinking beneath the ebbing stream of blood. The Hercules Farnese is the perfection of physical strength, the Jupiter Tonans of awful majesty, the Venus Calipyge of alluring beauty. Thus the expression of character was their great object; emotion was not overlooked, but it was studied only as it brought out or illustrated the permanent temper of mind. A collection of ancient statues is a vast imaginary gallery, in which, as in the heroes of the Iliad, every conceivable gradation of the human mind is exhibited, from the stern vengeance of Achilles, whom not even the massacre of half the Grecian host could melt, to the tender heart of Andromache, who wept her husband's valour, and her sad presentiments for her infant son.

In modern painting, as it appeared in the hands of Raphael and Michael Angelo, a wider range was attempted: more spiritual and touching objects had come to engross the human mind. The mere contemplation of abstract character—its delineation by the graphic representation of the human form, had ceased to be the principal object of genius. The temple of the unknown God was no longer to be filled with idols made under image of man. The gospel had been preached to the poor; the words of mercy and peace had been heard on the earth. Painting had come to be the auxiliary of religion; it was in the churches of a spiritual and suffering faith that its impression was to be produced. Calvary was to be presented to the eye; the feeling of the centurion. "Truly this man was the Son of God," engraven on the heart. It was to the faithful who were penetrated with the glad words of salvation, that the altar-pieces were addressed; it was the feeling of the song of Simeon that had gone forth on the earth. It was those divine feelings which painting, as it arose in modern Europe, was called to embody in the human form; it was to this heavenly mission that the genius of Italy was called. And if ever there was a mind fitted to answer such a call—if ever the spirit of the gospel was breathed into the human breast, that mind and that breast were those of Raphael.

Michael Angelo was the personification of the genius of Dante. The bold conceptions, the awful agonies, the enduring suffering which are brought forth in that immortal poet, had penetrated his kindred spirit, and realized the Inferno in the representation of the Last Judgment. But it was the Spirit of Christ which had been breathed into the heart of Raphael. The divine words, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid[Pg 413] them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven," had inspired his immortal conceptions. It is neither physical beauty nor mental character, as in the Greek sculpture, which is represented in his paintings. It is the Divine spirit breathed into the human heart; it is the incarnation of deity in the human form that formed the object of his pencil. He has succeeded in the attempt beyond any other human being that ever existed. If any works of man ever deserved the name of divine, they are the Holy Families of Raphael.

Superficial writers will ask, what has Raphael to do with Virgil? mere artists will enquire, how they are to be benefited by the study of Tasso? Those, again, who have reflected on the means by which the higher stages in any art are attained, will acknowledge that, at a certain elevation, their principles are the same.

To move the heart, whether by painting, poetry, or eloquence, requires the same mind. The means by which the effect is to be produced are not different. The one works, indeed, with the pencil, the other with the pen; the one composes in verse, the other in prose—but what then? These are the means to the end, they are not the end itself. There are many avenues to the human heart, but the inner doors in them all are to be opened only by one key, and that key is never denied to the suit of genius.

It is in his lesser pieces that the exquisite taste and divine conceptions of Raphael are chiefly to be seen. His greater paintings, the Transfiguration, the frescoes in the Vatican, the cartoons, are invaluable to the artist as studies, and specimens of the utmost power of drawing and energy of conception; but it is not there that the divine Raphael appears. In the larger ones his object was to cover space and display talent; and in the prosecution of these objects he never has been exceeded; but it is in his groups of two or three figures that his exquisite conceptions appear. It is there that he has given free scope to his exquisite conception, intended to represent in the maternal, and therefore universally felt affection, the divine spirit and parental tenderness of the gospel. "My son, give me thy heart," was what he always aimed at. "God is love," the idea which he ever strove to represent, as embodying the essence of the Christian faith. The Madonna della Seggiola at Florence, the Assumption of the Virgin at Dresden, the Madonna di Foligno in the Vatican, the Holy Family at Naples, St John in the Desert in the Tribune at Florence, the small Holy Family in the Louvre, the large Holy Family, with the flowers, brought from Fontainbleau, also in the Louvre, St Mark at Munich, and several of the lesser pieces of Raphael in the same rich collection in that city, are so many gems of art, embodying this conception, which to the end of the world, even when preserved only in the shadowy imitation of engraving, will improve the heart and refine the mind, as well as fascinate the imagination. It may be doubted if they ever will be equalled: excelled they can never be.

Whoever will study those inimitable productions, even when standing to gaze at the engravings from them in a print-shop window, will have no difficulty in feeling the justice of Cicero's remark, that all the arts which relate to humanity have a certain common bond, a species of consanguinity between them. The emotion produced by the highest excellence in them all is the same. So intense is this emotion, so burning the delight which it occasions, that it cannot be borne for any length of time: the mind's eye is averted from it as the eyeball is from the line of "insufferable brightness," as Gray calls it, which often precedes the setting of the sun. It is difficult to say in which this burning charm consists. Like genius or beauty, its presence is felt by all, but can be described by none. It would seem to be an emanation of Heaven—a chink, as it were, opened, which lets us feel for a few seconds the ethereal joys of a superior state of existence. But it is needless to seek to define what, all who have felt it must acknowledge, passes all understanding.

It is a common saying, even among persons of cultivated taste, that it is hopeless to attempt to advance any thing new on the beauties of ancient authors; that every thing that can be[Pg 414] said on the subject has already been exhausted, and that it is in the more recent fields of modern literature that it is alone possible to avoid repetition. We are decidedly of opinion that this idea is erroneous, and that its diffusion has done more than any thing else to degrade criticism to the low station which, with some honourable exceptions, it has so long held in the world of letters. But when ancient excellence is contemplated with a generous eye, even when the mind that sees is but slenderly gifted, who will say that nothing new will occur? When it meets kindred genius, when it is elevated by a congenial spirit, what a noble art does criticism become? What has it proved in the hands of Dryden and Pope, of Wilson and Macaulay? It is in the contemplation of ancient greatness, and its comparison with the parallel efforts of modern genius, that the highest flights of these gifted spirits have been attained, and the native generosity of real intellectual power most strikingly evinced. Criticism of words will soon come to an end; the notes of scholiasts and annotators are easily made, as apothecaries make drugs by pouring from one phial into another. But criticism of things, of ideas, of characters, of conceptions, can never come to an end; for every successive age is bringing forth fresh comparisons to make, and fresh combinations to exhibit. It is the outpouring of a heart overburdened with admiration which must be delivered, and will ever discover a new mode of deliverance.

How many subjects of critical comparison in this view, hitherto nearly untouched upon, has the literature of Europe, and even of this age, afforded! Æschylus, Shakspeare, and Schiller—Euripides, Alfieri, and Corneille—Sophocles, Metastasio, and Racine—Pindar, Horace, and Gray—Ovid, Ariosto, and Wieland—Lucretius, Darwin, and Campbell—Demosthenes, Cicero, and Burke—Thucydides, Tacitus, and Gibbon—Thomson, Cowper, and Claude Lorraine: such are a few which suggest themselves at first sight to every one who reflects on the rich retrospect of departed genius. It is like looking back to the Alps through the long and rich vista of Italian landscape; the scene continually varies, the features are ever new, the impression is constantly fresh, from the variety of intervening objects, though the glittering pinnacles of the inaccessible mountains ever shine from afar on the azure vault of heaven. Human genius is ever furnishing new proofs of departed excellence. Human magnanimity is ever exhibiting fresh examples of the fidelity of former descriptions, or the grandeur of former conception. What said Hector, drawing his sword, when, betrayed by Minerva in his last conflict with Achilles, he found himself without his lance in presence of his fully-armed and heaven-shielded antagonist? "Not at least inglorious shall I perish, but after doing some great thing that men may be spoken of in ages to come."[2]



[Pg 415]


This is not, O Cho-Ling-Kyang! a barbarian land, as in our foolish childhood we were taught; but, contrariwise, great is the wisdom of the English, and great their skill. Yea, I will not conceal the fact, that in some things they are worthy to be imitated by the best and most learned in the flowery land. Three moons have I resided in London, and devoted myself, with all the powers of my mind and body, to fulfil the task which you and the ever-venerated Chang-Feu have laid upon me. Convey to his benignant ear the words of my respect, and tell him that my brow is ever on the outer edge of his footstool. As I understand my office—having pondered over the same ever since the ship left the shore of my beloved country—it is, to give you a report of the manners and customs of the inhabitants of this extraordinary land, and smooth the way for the sending forth of an ambassador from the immaculate emperor to the governor of this nation. I have completely executed your commission, O excellent Cho-Ling-Kyang! and this was the manner of the doing thereof. When I embarked on board of the large ship with the three masts, which had for name the Walter Scott—after a great general who conquered a province called Scotland, and was presented with a blue button as a reward for his magnanimity—I was entirely ignorant of the language spoken by the mariners, with the exception of the short form of prayer which they constantly use when speaking of each others' eyes, and a few phrases not easily translatable into our refined tongue; and I accordingly experienced great difficulty in making myself understood. Notwithstanding, I soon got friendly with the captain, and also with the men—who pulled my back hair whenever I passed them, in the most warm and affectionate manner possible. I took greatly to study when I had overcome the sea-sickness; and although I could not master the pronunciation of their words, I soon arrived at a degree of skill, which enabled me to read their printed books. There was a large library on board of the ship, and all day long—with the aid of Morrison's wonderful dictionary—I toiled in the delightful task of making myself acquainted with the masterpieces of English literature. And this I considered the best preparation for the duty set before me; for without books, how could I furnish my mind with a knowledge of the past?—and without mastering the language, how could I understand the characters and modes of thought of the men who now are? I therefore studied history; but their historians write so much, and differ so greatly from each other, that it was perplexing to know if what they told was true—and I was utterly confused. But, fortunately, there was in the ship a young person, who had been sent out by his friends to a merchant's office in Canton; but had discovered that he was a great poet, and very clever man, and was going back to tell his father he would not hide his talents any more, but be a wonder to all men for his genius and abilities; and this young person was very kind to me. He advised me what to read—which was principally his own writings; and on my telling him I wished to study history, he said nobody cared for it now, and that all the history he knew was in Shakspeare's plays. This Shakspeare was a great writer long ago, who turned all the histories of his country into dramatic scenes; and they are acted on grand occasions before the Queen and her court at this very day. When I enquired of the young person how his countrymen preserved the memory of events which had happened since the death of the great Shakspeare, he said there were other people as clever perhaps as Shakspeare, who embalmed important incidents in immortal verse, but whom a brutal public did not sufficiently appreciate; and he offered to read to me a poem of his own called the Napoleonad, giving an account of a great war that happened some time ago—and which had been published, he said, week after week, in the Bath and Bristol Literary[Pg 416] Purveyor. He read it to me, and it was very fine; but I did not gain much information. I read various parts of English history in Shakspeare; but from the specimens he gives of the kings that reigned long ago in England, I fear they were a very cruel and barbarous race of men. One of the name of Lear gave up the kingdom to his three daughters, and two of them treated him very cruelly, turned him out of doors on a stormy night, put out his followers' eyes, and behaved very ill indeed. Another was called John—a bad man. Three Henries—the first two great fighters, and one of them a common highway robber in conjunction with a fat old gentleman who was a great coward, but boasted he killed the chief warrior of the enemy—and the other Henry, a weak old man, who was murdered by another very bad king called Richard. There was another Henry who sent away his wife—a fat, bloated, villanous kind of man; and after that no mention is made of any of the English kings in Shakspeare's history. And when I asked the young person if there had been any kings since, he said he had never heard of any except George the Third, grandfather of the present Queen. I demanded of him if all the plays in England were forced to be histories? and he said, no. And when I further enquired what they represented, and of what use they were, he said they were to hold a mirror up to nature, and to be the abstract and brief chronicle of the time; by which he afterwards explained to me he meant this—that although tragedies and the loftier portions of the drama treated generally of great events, yet that, in England, there were many men of extraordinary talent, who taught great moral lessons by means of the stage, and, above all things, never overstepped the modesty of nature, but in every scene gave a vivid and true imitation of the actual events of life. In short, that the best way of seeing English character was to study the English stage; for all classes of men were more fully, truly, and fairly represented there, than even in the House of Commons itself. The young person, to prove the truth of this, read me a comedy, which he was going to have acted at Covent-Garden Theatre; and it was very amusing, for he laughed excessively at every speech. You will easily believe, O Cho-Ling-Kyang! that I rejoiced greatly at hearing this account of the stage; and unbounded was my satisfaction in finding among the books in the library a large collection of English plays, which I studied deeply and took notes from, for my future guidance in mingling with society. What a blessing it is for a nation to be in possession of so useful an institution, where the actual manners of the time are brought exactly forward, and the people can see the different classes of society with all their different feelings and peculiarities—their modes of thought—their faults and weaknesses—their wishes and vices—as vividly produced as if the performers were in reality the very beings they represent! How it must instruct the boorish in the gracefulness of polished life—how it must reprove the bad by the contemplation of honest simplicity—and what an insight must it give to the foreigners, into all the secrets of the domestic existence of this great and extraordinary people! O Cho-Ling-Kyang! when the young person told me this, I said to my heart—"Be still—beat no more with the pulses of uncertainty—I shall only buy a perpetual ticket to the pit of the theatre, and write home a minute account of all I see and hear." On my arrival in London I took down the names of the theatres, and for three months I have studied character every night. Yet, though I devoted my nights to the stage, I pored all the morning over the many volumes I have collected of the printed dramas; and as they all agree in their descriptions, I think I cannot be deceived, and that you may safely present the subjoined result of my enquiries to the very sparkling eyes of the ever-venerated Chang-Feu. There are many ranks of men in this land, and he of the highest rank is called a lord. When young, a lord is always rich and gay, and a great admirer of the ladies; and it is also the case that many ladies are devotedly attached to him, and make no scruple to confess it to their chambermaids, before they have been acquainted with him half an hour. When the lord is old,[Pg 417] he is a stiff stupid man, who generally talks politics, and boasts how eloquent he is in the great national assembly. He is also always very harsh to his children, till they marry against his will, and then he forgives them, and prays for their happiness. The title bestowed on the wife, and sometimes on the daughter of a lord, is lady or ladyship; but this dignity is also possessed by the wives of a class of men very numerous in this country, who are called sirs.

The "ladies," almost without exception, are very disagreeable people, and highly immoral, as they are always in love with some one else besides their husbands,—and are great gamblers at cards, and very malicious in their observations on their friends. The "sirs" are divided into two classes—sometimes they are fat rich old men who have made large fortunes by trade, and have handsome girls either of their own, or left to their charge by deceased relations,—and sometimes they are gay fascinating young men, running away with rich people's daughters, or stupid people's wives; but luckily they always take names that give fair warning of their character, so that they are generally foiled in their infamous attempts. And this is a fine illustration of the openness of the English disposition. A man here seldom conceals his propensities, but assumes a name which reveals all his character at once. Sir Brilliant Fashion, and Sir Bashful Constant, and Sir Harry Lovewit, show at once their respective peculiarities—as do Colonel Tornado, Tempest, Hurricane, Absolute, Rapid, and a thousand others that I have met with in my reading. But the thing which astonished me most of all was, that in this great mercantile nation, a merchant is very little appreciated unless he is in debt or a cheat; but the hero of most of the histories, if he is of a mercantile family, is over head and ears in the books of Jew usurers, and has left the respectable circle of his equals in rank, and spends his time and constitution in the gaieties of the lords and ladies. And that this has long been the case, is proved by old plays and new ones. There is a play in the oldest-looking of the volumes I possess, called, "How to grow Rich," which shows the style of manners in this respect forty or fifty years ago; and I will translate the beginning of it, that you may see a real picture of English society with your own eyes.

Mr Warford, the nephew of Mr Smalltrade, a banker, is in conversation with Mr Plainly, the head clerk:—

"Plainly.—Nay, do not think me curious or impertinent, Mr Warford. I have lived so long with you and your uncle, that I cannot see you unhappy without enquiring the cause.

"Warford.—My uncle is himself the cause. His weakness and credulity will undo us all.

"Plainly.—Excuse me, sir; but I'm afraid the young lady now on a visit at our banking-house, the charming Lady Henrietta, has she not made a very deep impression?

"Warford.—To confess the truth she has; and though, from my inferior situation in life, I can never aspire to the gaining of her affections, she may still have to thank me for saving her from ruin.

"Plainly.—From ruin, sir?

"Warford.—Ay; she is now on the very brink of it. When her father, Lord Orville, went abroad for his health, he gave her a fortune of eight thousand pounds, and left her to the care of her uncle, Sir Thomas Roundhead. At his country seat Mr Smalltrade met with her, and, being banker to her father, he thought it his duty to invite her to his house.

"Plainly.—And she had no sooner entered it than she became acquainted with Sir Charles and Miss Dazzle? I suspect their infamous designs.

"Warford.—Yes, Plainly, when Miss Dazzle has robbed her of her fortune at the gaming-table, Sir Charles is to attempt to deprive her of her honour; but if I don't shame and expose them! Oh, think of the heartfelt satisfaction in saving such a woman as Lady Henrietta! 'Tis true most of her fortune is already lost, and Sir Thomas is so offended at her conduct, that, wanting an heir to his estate, he has adopted his god-daughter Rosa."

In the next page we are shown the mode in which banking was carried on in country towns by persons who had the daughters of lords visiting them—who have gone abroad for their health, and left then such uncountable heaps of sycee silver.

[Pg 418]"Smalltrade.—There is nothing like a snug country bank.

[Enter a servant.

"Servant.—I want change for this draft of Sir Harry Hockley's.

"Smalltrade.—Very well, how much is it for?

"Servant.—A hundred pounds.


"Servant.—A hundred pounds.

"Smalltrade.—Mercy on me! you've set me all in a tremble. Draw on a country bank for a hundred pounds!—why, does your master suppose himself drawing on the bank of Amsterdam?

"Plainly.—True, sir; and, if you recollect, we had a large run upon us yesterday.

"Smalltrade.—So we had—a very large run! Sir Thomas Roundhead drew in one draft for the enormous sum of twenty-five pounds, and here's your master draws for a hundred. Talk of a country bank! the Bank of England couldn't stand this.

"Servant.—I can't tell, sir; Sir Harry said he had ten times the money in your hands.

"Smalltrade.—So he has, and what then? Doesn't he place money in my hands that it may be safe; and if he is to draw it out in large sums, that is, if he is to get it out when he wants it, where would be the use of a banker?"

In a succeeding scene, Miss Dazzle meets her brother Sir Charles, and says,—

"Welcome from London, brother! I have just left the idol of your heart, the charming Henrietta. As usual, the banker's nephew was attending her.

"Sir Charles.—Ay, ay, it's all pretty plain, but I won't be scandalous.

"Miss Dazzle.—Well, if she's his to-day she'll be yours to-morrow. I have seen Mr Smalltrade; he talks of becoming a partner; and, if you play your cards well, Lady Henrietta will be completely in your power.

"Sir Charles.—Yes, for when I've won all her money I can be generous enough to become her protector. Well, sister, we shall ruin them all."

It will be seen from this, O Cho-Ling-Kyang! that sirs and their sisters unite with country bankers in setting up a gaming-house—and that the method of treating a lord's daughter, is to ruin her first at cards, and in character afterwards. The picture of private life which I have quoted, is from the works of one Frederick Reynolds; the play was acted with the greatest applause, and has passed through a great many editions. So there can be no doubt of its presenting a true image of the usual course of events in this great and wonderful nation.

In another volume I find a similar representation. It is called, "The Way to get Married," and is written by one Thomas Morton. I will translate some passages for you, and you will see that the English are very different people in their own country from what they are in their counting-houses at Hong-Kong.

There was a gentleman of the name of Toby Allspice, a grocer, who was sheriff of his county, and expected by the death of an old maid, Miss Sarah Sapless, to succeed to thirty thousand pounds. He has a daughter who is very anxious to be "stylish," and marry a "lord" or a "sir," if she can.

To Mr Allspice's town goes a London merchant of the name of Dashall, who receives a letter on his arrival, and reads it to the whole of the audience:—

"Dashall, (reads).—'Dear Dashall, all's up. Transfer swears if you don't settle your beer account in a week, he'll blackboard you. Affectionate enquiries are making after you at Lloyd's; and to crown all, hops were so lively last market, that there is already a loss of thousands on that scheme. Nothing can save you but the ready. Yours,

"'Tim Tick.

"'N.B.—Green peas were yesterday sold at Leadenhall market at ninepence a-peck, so your bet of three thousand pounds on that event is lost.'—So! Lurched every way; stocks, insurance, hops, hazard, and green peas, all over the left shoulder; and then, like a flat, I must get pigeoned at Faro by ladies of quality, for the swagger of saying, 'The Duchess and I were curst jolly last night.' But confusion to despair! I'm no flincher. If I can but humbug Allspice out of a few thousands, and marry his daughter, I shall cut a gay figure, and make a splash yet.

"Waiter, (without.)—A room for Lady Sorrel.

"Dashall.—What the devil brings her here? Old and ugly as she is, I'll take decent odds that 'tis an intrigue.

[Enter Lady Sorrel.

"Lady Sorrel.—Inform my cousin[Pg 419] Caustic I'm here. Ah, Dashall! I suppose the warm weather has driven you from town?

"Dashall.—True, London was certainly too hot for me, but how could your ladyship leave the fascination of play?

"Lady Sorrel.—Hush! that's not my rural character. I always assimilate. The fact is, Dick, I have here a strange, plain-spoken, worthy, and wealthy relation; he gives me considerable sums to distribute in London to the needy, which I lose in play to people of fashion; and you'll allow that is giving them to the needy, and fulfilling the worthy donor's intentions.—Ha! ha!

"Dashall.—Then you are not here because your favourite, young Tangent, is arrived?—Eh?

"Lady Sorrel.—What, Dick, have you found out my attachment there? Well, I confess it; and if my regard be not, I'll take care my revenge shall be, gratified; and 'tis a great consolation that one is nearly as sweet as the other."

And when the above-named cousin of Lady Sorrel has a palaver with the same merchant Dashall, he is instructed in the inner secrets of the commercial world after the following guise:—

"Dashall.—Capital!—an old bugbear—never thought of now. No! paper, discount, does it all.


"Dashall.—Ay. Suppose I owe a tradesman—my tailor, for instance—two thousand pounds—

"Caustic.—A merchant owe his tailor two thousand pounds!—Mercy on me!

"Dashall.—I give him my note for double the sum—he discounts it—I touch half in the ready—note comes due—double the sum again—touch half again—and so on to the tune of fifty thousand pounds. If monopolies answer, make all straight; if not; smash into the Gazette. Brother merchants say, 'D——d fine fellow; lived in style—only traded beyond his capital.' So certificate's signed, ruin a hundred or two reptiles of retailers, and so begin the war again. That's the way to make a splash—devilish neat, isn't it? How you stare! you don't know nothing of life, old boy.

"Caustic.—Vulgar scoundrel!

"Dashall.—We are the boys in the city. Why, there's Sweetwort the brewer—don't you know Sweetwort? Dines an hour later than any duke in the kingdom—imports his own turtle—dresses turbot by a stop watch—has house-lamb fed on cream, and pigs on pine apples—gave a jollification t'other day—stokehole in the brew-house—asked a dozen peers—all glad to come—can't live as we do. Who make the splash in Hyde Park?—who fill the pit at the opera?—who inhabit the squares in the West? Why, the knowing ones from the East to be sure.

"Caustic.—Not the wise ones from the East, I'm sure.

"Dashall.—Who support the fashionable Faro tables? Oh, how the duchesses chuckle and rub their hands, when they see one of us!

"Caustic.—Duchesses keep gaming-tables!

"Dashall.—To be sure! How the devil should they live?"

Such, O learned Cho-Ling-Kyang! is the real life of those extraordinary beings who are so steady and plodding to outward appearance. Little would you suspect that, when one of the merchants of the factory got home, he would aid duchesses in the setting up of Faro tables, and mix with all the brilliant and dissolute society of a great city. To us, such thoughts would seem unnatural, and scarcely would the president of the Hong consider himself qualified to hold a chopstick in the presence of a yellow button. And I fear greatly; that in the extremity of your unbelief you say, Tush, tush—Ping-Kee is deceiving us by inventing foolish deceits! An English merchant would not make open profession of his bankruptcy; an English lady of rank would not exult in the number of people she had ruined by false play at cards; an English gentleman would not concert plans with his sister for the seduction of a lord's daughter; an English sheriff would not throw off his grocer's apron to go and receive the judges, while an English barrister put it on, and sold figs to the beautiful daughter of a British captain. But consider, O Cho-Ling-Kyang! that I am a man of veracity from my youth, and that if I make so bold as to invent, or even to misquote, there may be many beside you who can convict me at once. And if you persist in your doubts, and say, verily the writers of those plays give no true account of their countrymen, but write false things which[Pg 420] have no existence in reality, what shall we think of the countless numbers who go to see those representations, and take no steps to punish the authors for libels and defamations—but, contrariwise, applaud and clap their hands, and say "good, good"—would they do this if the picture had no resemblance? But they hold up the stage as a school of morals, and a copy of things that are. And another argument, O Cho-Ling-Kyang! that these dramas are drawn from experience and observation is, that they do not contradict each other, as they would assuredly do if they proceeded from any source but reality. No, no—great sir—believe me, that the scenes I have quoted are excellent descriptions of the characters introduced, and that their originals are to be met with every day. Again, perhaps you will say—not so; O Ping-Kee, the writers of those plays are stupid men—with shaved heads—that have no understanding, and receive no greater reward than the conjurers who catch balls on their foreheads, and balance long poles in the market-place! But the case is far different, as I will prove to you from the preface to one of those works, written by a lady called Inchbald, who herself wrote many comedies, and received much money for the same.

"It is well known that the English theatres never flourished as they do at present, (1807.) When it is enquired, why painting, poetry, and sculpture, decline in England? want of encouragment is the sure reply; but this reply cannot be given to the question, why dramatic literature fails? for never was there such high remuneration conferred upon every person, and every work belonging to the drama. A new play which, from a reputed wit of former times, would not with success bring him a hundred pounds, a manager will now purchase from a reputed blockhead at the price of near a thousand, and sustain all risk of whether it be condemned or not. Great must be the attraction of modern plays to repay such speculation. It is a consolation to the dramatist of the present age, that while his plays are more attractive than ever those of former writers were, those authors had their contemporary critics as well as he, though less acute and less severe indeed than the present race."

I have not time to reduce into celestial money the English sum of a thousand pounds; but it is great, yea, more than the value in three years of the longest peacock's feather in Pekin, and the value of a play is not diminished since then. Not many moons ago, there was a reward offered by one of the managers, of five hundred gold coins called guineas, to the person who should send to him the best comedy illustrative of present manners. O Cho-Ling-Kyang, the power of five hundred guineas in awakening the poetic powers of mankind! The great majority of the English nation for a whole year wrote nothing but plays; all the world was a stage, and all the men and women merely writers; and when the time came, all had broken down in the attempt, except ninety-six. But through these fourscore and sixteen dramas, all painting the habits and characteristics of the present time, the judges appointed by the manager had to read. And they read—and read; and when they came to a decision, lo! it was in favour of a lady—one of the cleverest authors, in other styles, that England has ever seen—bright, polished, witty; and although not in a dramatic form, more dramatic and lively than any professed play-writer since one called Sherry, from his fondness for drinking wine. 'Midst the applause of all the rest of the world, and the hatred and jealousy of her ninety-five competitors, she was presented with the money; and the manager, on looking through a hole in the curtain on the first night of the performance, saw the whole house crowded from the floor to the roof, and thought he had never so wisely laid out five hundred guineas in his life. "Oho!" said wise men to each other in the boxes, "we shall see ourselves as we are—no farcical exaggeration, no vulgar grievances; the woman is an observing woman, and has mixed in great society; moreover, it is the best play out of nearly a hundred; let us wait, it will be as good as the School for Scandal." And they stamped loud with their feet. The play was called the Day of Dupes; and wise men in the boxes were not exempt from the general fate. All were dupes together. For[Pg 421] the authoress was a wise woman, and jingled the five hundred guineas in a purse, and kept all her own clever observation of life and manners to be used on some other occasion, and took the same view and no other of English customs and character that Reynolds, and Morton, and O'Keefe, and Colman, had done before her. So her heroes and heroines flew about the stage, and talked funny things, and swore a little, and conversed in a provincial dialect called slang, and behaved exactly as Dashall, and Miss Dazzle, and Lord Sparkle had behaved before. Oh! was not this a triumph to the great authors of former days, and did it not prove that wise men in the boxes are foolish men when judging of the stage? It did, O Cho-Ling-Kyang! but a greater triumph was at hand. The manager having read and studied the preface by the female Inchbald, which I have translated for your instruction, and having given a small sum—so they consider five hundred guineas in this land of ingots—to a reputed wit, thought he would gain much silver if he obtained a drama from a reputed blockhead. And he was right in his calculation; for he applied to an author who had written farces in five acts, where various impossible things were done, and persons talked in great jokes invented long ago by a nobleman of the name of Miller, and behaved like the clown in a pantomime, without the advantage of being dressed in his parti-coloured garments; and in a short time this author furnished the manager with a comedy called Old Heads and Young Hearts. Oh! he knew so much of life, this famous author; he would show what the real state of society was; and, said I to myself, I will go and judge for myself. I will see whether the books I have been studying are filled with lies. I will see how gentlemen speak, and how ladies look and act. Oho! I will put Reynolds and Morton to the proof. I will put on my European dress. I will ask the way to the theatre. I will sit in the pit. So shall I be able to send to Cho-Ling-Kyang, and to the venerated Chang-Feu, an account from my personal experience of English fashionable life. And so the first person I saw on the stage was a young gentleman greatly in debt, a studier of the law, who lives in a building called the Temple, in a room meagrely furnished, and talks about his intimacy with duchesses, exactly as Dashall and Tangent had done before. Oh! said I, this is complete proof that the great Reynolds and great Morton drew from life, and also the great author of this beautiful play. His name, not the author's name, but the young gentleman's name, is Littleton Coke, after two sages of the law called Coke and Littleton; but he makes no money by his profession, and has found all his great friends desert him when he made application to them for a loan. Their names are Lord St James and Mister Deuceace. His brother also writes him a letter, enclosing the blessing of the Reverend Mr Rural, but no cash. But suddenly comes in Lord Charles Roebuck, the younger son of the Earl of Pompion, (for in this country all the younger sons of Earls take the title of "Lord,") and tells Mr Littleton Coke that he is in love with a lady he lifted out of a carriage that had been upset.

"Littleton.—Is that all?

"Roebuck.—Forbid it, Venus! No, with incredible trouble I traced them. The father, the dragon who guards this Hesperian fruit, is an old East Indian colonel, as proud as Lucifer, and as hot as his dominions. I hovered round the house for a week.


"Roebuck.—I saw her once for a second at the back garden-gate.

"Littleton.—To speak to her?

"Roebuck.—I hadn't time.

"Littleton.—No? Oh!

"Roebuck.—No. So I gave her a kiss.

"Littleton.—Excellent economy; and her name—

"Roebuck.—Is Rocket—her father, an eccentric old bully, turns his house into a barrack, mounts guard at the hall door; the poor girl can't move without a sentry, and I believe her lady's-maid is an old one-eyed corporal of artillery."

From this you will perceive, O Cho-Ling-Kyang! that the English are different from the Chinese in many respects; but that Colonel Rocket so far differs from his countrymen as to keep a strict guard over his daughter. There was a gentleman[Pg 422] of the name of Thunder in one of the volumes I read on board of the ship, who was very like this Rocket—probably his uncle; and he again was the son or grandson of an old admiral I read of in a book, called Trunnion—all evidently excellent men, and frequently met with in English society. The Earl of Pompion is prime minister of England, and of course a very clever man, and he has determined that his son shall marry his cousin Lady Alice, the widow of another lord—Lord George Hawthorn. She is called Lady Alice, though her husband's name was George; for it is usual for a lady to retain her Christian name in spite of her marriage, although instances, I am told, are known where a lady—even a duke's daughter—marrying a marquis's son, takes the Christian name of her husband along with his title, and calls herself Lady Thomas or Lady William; but the author of this drama, of course, knows best. Lord Charles Roebuck tries to avoid a marriage with Lady Alice, and begs Mr Littleton Coke to propose for her himself, which he of course agrees to do; and in preparation for which he would probably have found the large sum of twenty pounds he wished to borrow from Lord St James, very useful. In addition to the hand of the widow, who has a fortune of £5000 a-year, Lord Charles insures him a seat in Parliament; and the two friends go out in a great hurry on hearing a knock at the door, to take up their residence in the house of the Earl of Pompion.

The knock at the door is given by the brother of the young barrister, who speaks in a language which they told me was the vernacular of a foreign kingdom called York; he is accompanied by a priest of one of the religions tolerated in this country, called the Christian, which was once universal, but has now fallen into disrepute. They come in search of the spendthrift, and are taken for a money-lender and a bailiff by the young lawyer's clerk; and this makes a great laugh, it is so natural a mistake.

Lady Alice Hawthorn is a delightful lady. She has invited Colonel Rocket and his daughter to dine with Lord Pompion, (whom she calls Pompey, after a great philosopher in ancient Rome,) and who, she says, although he is her uncle, "talked impudence" to her when he was half tipsy at a ball at a place called Almacks. She tells the Earl that Colonel Rocket is rich and powerful; but in this she tells a non-verity—for she looked at me—even me—where I was sitting in the pit, and said he is "a half-pay colonel, with less interest than a treasury clerk, but a glorious old fellow; I'll bet he'll kiss the countess in a week. What fun!" I, even I, Ping-Kee, was so astonished, that I could say nothing, but sat and blushed very much at the communication; and still redder did my cheek become when I saw what followed. For when Lord Charles and the barrister came in, the young lord recognises Lady Alice's tones. "Blest voice," he says, surely it is—

"Lady Alice.—Your cousin Alice; how are you, Charley?—(he hesitates)—all right go on, I'm human nature, (he kisses her.) What's your friend's name?"

And then Mr Littleton Coke is presented to Lord and Lady Pompion, who receive him very kindly; for they mistake him for the foreign gentleman who does not speak English, his brother from the kingdom of York. And Lady Alice, besides asking her cousin to kiss her, lets the young barrister make love to her, and kiss her hand before they are acquainted ten minutes, and altogether gives a very fascinating idea of widows of high rank. Colonel Rocket always gives his commands in military language, as if he were at the head of his regiment, and Lord Charles Roebuck frightens the common people with his haughty looks. There is a very elegant gentleman, who is called a butler, and comes in to inform Lord Charles that dinner is on the table; and the second act ends in the following dignified manner:—

"Butler.—Ahem—dinner, my lord"—(a pause—he goes behind their causeuse)—"Dinner, my ———" (They start up confused.) Roebuck looks sternly at the butler, and they exeunt followed by Butler, bowing.

In the next act there is a great deal of kissing and talking, for which I could see no reason; and people ran[Pg 423] out and in, and up and down so much, that I became rather confused. But the old Bonze is very stupid, and makes a number of mistakes; and the young barrister is very gay, and treats Lady Alice as if she was no better than a dancer at a festival; and they all treat each other in such extraordinary ways, that I could only perceive that English young ladies and English young gentlemen, if they behaved in Canton as they do at home, would speedily be consigned to the lockup-house. But at last I was glad to recognise Lord Charles, disguised in top-boots and knee-breeches as a groom, and I was very proud of my cleverness in recognizing him; for his own father speaks to him for a long time, and never makes the discovery; and shortly after, Mr Littleton Coke appears, also disguised as a groom, but for what purpose I could not find out. And there was a long time employed in love-making again, and quarrelling and mistaking, till at last all things seemed to go right, and the old Bonze united the hands of the lovers on the stage, and we all laughed and clapped our hands. Of a truth, O Cho-Ling-Kyang! the persons who find fault with the drama are foolish. It is not with the drama such critics should find fault, but with the people who believe in real life in such a curious manner. No—it will not do to throw the blame of such representations on the author. He does nothing but paint what he sees. And therefore you will be wise if you send over to this people an ambassador who is not of the sect of the moral Con-fu-tse; for as he will have to mix in the society of Lady Alices and Countesses of Pompions, he might be shocked and degraded by meeting them, if he had any regard for female delicacy or manly feeling. It will not require a man of the abilities of the venerated Chang-Feu to twist round his thumb so very stupid a mortal as the Earl of Pompion, who is secretary of state; and, therefore, you may save much silver by engaging a common Button to conduct the negotiations with the English crown. I could see no one on the stage, or meet with any one in the books, bearing any resemblance to Pottinger or Davis; and, therefore, I suppose all the clever men are banished by this curious people, and all the silly ones kept at home. You will therefore be wise to make your treaties with the Pompions, who reside in Whitehall, rather than with the Goughs and Parkers, who are transported to Hong-Kong. In the mean time I will continue my researches, and I will also make personal experiments as to the veracity of the stage representations. I will go at once to one of the great men's houses, and will kiss his wife in a week, and disguise myself like a postilion, and run away with one of his daughters. And of the result I will make you aware. Such is the view of your servant Ping-Kee, who touches the ground you stand on with his forehead nine times—and one time more.



[Pg 424]


Chapter I.

"For the watch to babble and talk,
Is most tolerable, and not to be endured."

Much Ado about Nothing.

About the period when the civil wars between the Republican and Royalist parties in England had terminated, after the execution of the unfortunate Charles I., in the utter defeat of his son at the battle of Worcester, and the dispersion of all the adherents to the royal cause, a small castellated mansion, not far from the eastern coast of England, was garrisoned by a party of the Parliamentary troops.

This mansion, which had belonged to a Royalist family who had fled the land, having been seized upon and confiscated by the Parliamentary commissioners employed in sequestrating the property of confirmed enemies of the commonwealth, had been converted into a sort of fortress or stronghold, the natural defences and isolated position of which, rendered it peculiarly adapted as a place of confinement for prisoners of war. Its situation, at the same time, so near the coast, gave it an additional advantage as a post of observation, whence measures might be taken for the interception of such Royalists, who, proscribed as obstinate malignants, might be led to this part of the country in their attempts to seek the means of escape.

Flanked on one side by the waters of the river, this isolated house was cut off on the other three by a broad ditch or moat, being thus entirely surrounded by water, except at one point the most remote from the river, where it communicated by a wooden bridge with a causeway, lined by an avenue of trees, which served as an approach, and traversed at some length a low level tract of land before it reached the higher and more hilly country. A similar tract of level, but of a more marshy and swampy description, stretched along the opposite bank of the river, terminating at some distance by a line of low well-wooded hills. Not far from the house, which stood thus alone, like a solitary bittern in a Dutch landscape, the river widened suddenly into a large expanse of water, called in this part of England a "broad," which was itself only separated from the sea by a narrow strip of low sand-banks, and sandy downs or deanes, as they are there termed, and extended thus along the shore to some distance, when again assuming the form of a river, it poured its waters into the German Ocean.

Of the more ancient part of this mansion, which boasted (it was never well known upon what authority) a Roman origin, only a large circular tower was left, which was attached somewhat awkwardly, like an ill-adjusted headpiece, on to the more modern building. Although constructed in the comparatively peaceful times of Henry VII.'s reign, the more modern house had been evidently built with some ideas of strength and defence, and in a demi-castellated form, various smaller additions having been made to it at subsequent and different periods, without any great observance of order or style.

Behind the main body of the house thus irregularly constructed, was a species of small inner-court or garden, enclosed between the old tower and the walls that connected it with the mansion on one side, and a wing of the building which extended to the side of the stream on the other; whilst opposite to the back of the house, which was now wholly unoccupied, and almost in a ruinous state, a strong and thick parapet skirted the river, and completed the parallelogram.—Formerly an opening in the centre of this parapet had evidently conducted by several steps to the water's edge, in order to facilitate the communications with boats on the river; but it had now been blocked up[Pg 425] by a fresh mass of heavy brickwork and masonry, as if for the purpose of adding security to the place; and at the time we write, two culverins, mounted so as to be on a level with the top of the parapet, contributed to give to the spot the look of a fortified stronghold. The forms of flower-beds of prim shapes, the former decorations of the spot, might still be traced here and there in the now almost level and sandy surface of the coast, giving evidence that some pains had probably been originally bestowed upon this interior enclosure. But beyond these faint traces of flower-beds, nothing now remained of its better days but a few evergreens and other bushes, which, growing close by the parapet wall, had equally escaped the rude trampling of the unheeding soldiers, or the wanton devastations of some of the over-zealous of the day; men who looked upon all adornment of whatever kind, all appearance of gratification of a refined taste, however innocent, as sinful and condemnable. A vaulted passage traversed the wing of the building mentioned as stretching to the water's edge, and formed the usual and more direct communication between this sort of court and other parts of the establishment.

Late on a fine autumn afternoon of the year 1652, some little time after the battle of Worcester, a young man, musket on arm, paced up and down this inner court as sentinel. His dress, which partook of the military uniform of the times, without precisely belonging to any particular regiment, and the finer cloth of some parts of his attire, which was of a far finer texture than was customary upon the person of a common soldier, proved that he was one of the many volunteers who had enrolled themselves among the troops of the Parliamentary army, and probably of gentler birth than might be generally found employed in such humble military functions. Loose boots of so great a size towards their upper part, that each might have been imagined to contain, at least, half a calf-skin, mounted towards his large hose of plain but good material. A tuck or rapier of some length was girded round his loins; a corselet, with bandoleer slung around it, covered the front of his buff-coat; and a morion, destitute of all feather or ornament, concealed for the greater part his hair, closely clipped in compliance with the puritanical fashions of the times, the colour of which, however, might be divined by the fairness of the young mustache that curled lovingly about his upper lip.

Sometimes, as he paced backwards and forwards upon his lonesome watch, the eye of the young man rested for a while upon the dull swampy landscape, the chief beauty of which, at the moment, was a slight haze that hovered over stream and marsh, and stunted willow and distant hill, tinged with a golden hue from the slanting rays of the sun; the only living sights and sounds of which, were busy flights of gnats whirling up and down with drowsy hum; an occasional frog, that splashed from the opposite shore into the water with an uneasy croak; and one solitary fisherman, who, after having drawn up his boat among the rushes on the river's bank, near the opening upon the "broad," and left his line to float along the lazy stream, seemed to have lain down in his broad flat-bottomed punt, to sleep at his ease. Sometimes he paused to scrutinize more earnestly the heavy pile of the old tower, to guard all egress from which might be supposed, from his periodical examinations of its walls, to be the peculiar duty of his post. Sometimes again he gazed listlessly upon the marks of devastation, where the carved armorial bearings of the family to whom the mansion had belonged, had been hacked away from the walls of the building, and other symbols of nobility or religion had been wantonly mutilated or destroyed; and at such moments, an almost unconscious sigh would escape him, ill according with the tenets of the party which he evidently served. But most generally his attention was directed towards a low window in the first floor of the projecting wing, not very many feet above the level of the ground, in front of which a small wooden balcony, filled with flowers, showed that the occupant of the chamber to which it belonged was probably of the gentler[Pg 426] sex, and of an age when such matters are still objects of tender and careful solicitude. At these times, evidences of impatience, almost amounting to pettishness, would appear in his uneasy gestures; and after a scrutiny of some duration, he would again turn away to resume his pacing, with a look of trouble and annoyance upon his brow. The handsome features of that fine face, however, were not formed to express grief, nor that clear bright eye sorrowful thought; yet, such were the circumstances of the times, that whenever disengaging them from associations connected with the balconied window, as his reflections reverted to himself and his own position, his countenance would fall, and his eye cloud over with an expression of sadness.

Gerald Clynton was of old family and noble birth. His father, Lord Clynton, had doated upon his wife with the fondest and most exclusive affection; and the birth of Gerald, his second son, having been the occasion of her death in childbed, the agonized husband, who was inconsolable for her loss, had never been able to look upon the child, and, in its infant years, had banished it altogether from his sight. The time arrived, however, when it became necessary to remove the little boy from the sole care of menials, and to commence the rudiments of his education; and at that period Mr Lyle, the brother of the deceased Lady Clynton, finding the aversion of the father towards the poor innocent cause of the mother's death still more strongly rooted by time, and his whole paternal affections centred and lavished upon his eldest born, had taken the child to his home, and, being himself childless, had treated, and as it were adopted, the boy as his own son.

Time crept on. The boy grew into the youth; the youth approached to the man; but still Lord Clynton evinced no interest in his young son—gave no demonstration of awakening affection. With time also crept on the angry and troubled clouds that arose upon the political horizon of the land. The storm at length burst forth. The fatal struggle commenced between the unfortunate Charles and his Parliament; and the civil wars broke out. A stanch Royalist, Lord Clynton joined with enthusiasm the cause of the monarch; while Mr Lyle, whose tenets were of the Presbyterian persuasion, and whose political opinions were entirely of that party, found himself enrolled in the ranks of the Parliamentary army, in which his name and fortune and his active, but stern, cold courage, gave him much influence.

Entirely deprived of the affections of a father, whom he never remembered to have seen, and on whom, with the usual levity of boyhood, he seldom or never bestowed a passing thought, Gerald Clynton, or Gerald Lyle, as he was constantly called after his uncle—and most people knew not that he bore any other name—naturally imbibed the opinions and sentiments of his protector; and, when the civil war was openly declared, followed him to the camp. The reflection never crossed him, that the unknown author of his being might be engaged in the ranks of the enemy; that his uncle and his father might chance to meet face to face upon the battle-field; that either his real parent, or the parent of his affections, might fall by the hand of the other. To do justice to the feelings of the youth, no idea of the kind had ever been suggested to him by his uncle, not a word mentioned of the political sentiments of his father. Colonel Lyle—for such became his rank in the Parliamentary army—was a man of firm adherence to his principles; and although a cold, hard man, in all things but his affection for his adopted son, too earnest and eager a supporter of the party for which he battled, to allow such a proselyte to what he considered the just and upright cause—such a follower in his own footsteps as his nephew—to escape him on account of any family considerations, which he stigmatized as "prejudices to be despised and set at nought in so holy a matter."

Enrolled as a volunteer in his uncle's regiment, Gerald had, in some of the scanty moments of peace and repose snatched between the quickly following phases of the struggle, found opportunities to cultivate the acquaintance of an old friend of his uncle's—[Pg 427]an officer in the same regiment—or rather, it ought to be owned without reserve, the acquaintance of the fair daughter of that friend. In these troubled but precious moments it was, that Gerald's young heart first awakened to love; and when, upon the death of his uncle Colonel Lyle, who never recovered the wounds he had received upon the field of Naseby, old Lazarus Seaman received the command of the regiment, it was again the bright eyes of pretty Mistress Mildred that served as a loadstone to attach him to it, and to attract him to follow the troop which garrisoned the lone mansion upon the eastern coast of England; for Colonel Lazarus Seaman was the governor or commander of this impromptu sort of fortress; and Colonel Lazarus Seaman's daughter, his only and motherless child, quitted her father's side as little as possible. She it was who was the tenant of the room appertaining to that balconied window, and those bright and carefully-tended flowers, to which the eyes of Gerald now so often strayed, as he paced up and down the dull court, to perform the duties of sentinel.

Gerald's thoughts, however, as already intimated, were not placid, nor were they exclusively occupied by the object of his affections. They dwelt, from time to time, with grief upon his uncle, whose death had excited in him so many bitter regrets; and those sad recollections, in their turn, called forth in him other reflections of a new and painful nature. He recalled to mind how, in his dying moments, the self-elected father of his youth had summoned him to his side, and talked to him of that other father whom he had never known; how he had spoken, in broken accents, and with much remorse, of the possible hatred engendered between father and son; of his own regrets, now first clearly awakened in him, that he himself might have been the cause of such a consummation; and how then, with his last breath, he in vain endeavoured to murmur expressions of bitter repentance for some cruel wrong done, the nature of which no longer met the ear of the anxious listener, and was soon left for ever unexplained in the silence of death. These sad remembrances led to a train of thought of a most painful and harassing description. His position as a voluntary supporter of a cause repugnant to the principles of a father, whom, although unknown to him, it was his duty to honour and obey, and as affianced to the daughter of a man whose Republican principles were so decided, appeared to him involved with the most perplexing difficulties. New and conflicting feelings had arisen in the young man's breast. There was already within him a bitter struggle between love and duty—between long inculcated opinions and newly awakened emotions. As the one or the other feeling predominated, Gerald walked backwards and forwards with gloomy face, or turned to gaze upon the window, the closed casement of which seemed then to call forth from him gestures and words of a somewhat testy impatience.

"She knows that this is my hour for mounting guard, and yet she comes not to the window. She shows no sign of the least thought or care for me," he muttered angrily to himself, stamping more firmly and sharply as he recommenced his pacing, after a pause, in which he had eyed the window with bent brow and bitten lip. "But she does not love me," he added bitterly. "She has never loved me. She has never done otherwise than trifle with my affections—seeking for demonstrations of my love to feed her vanity, and then flinging them aside with the sick stomach of an over-pampered child. I am a fool to let myself be thus dragged at her skirts, in such tinselled leading-strings. No; I will loose myself from this thraldom. But what if she love another? More than once I have thought she looked with much complacency upon that young recruit—the new volunteer—that Maywood, I think they call him. Were it true, 'sdeath! I would slit his ears for him. God forgive me the oath!" Gerald asked no forgiveness for the revengeful thought.

He was still continuing his half-muttered soliloquy of jealousy and spite, when the click of a casement-hasp caught his lover's ear. In a[Pg 428] moment, the angry expression of his brow was cleared away like a mist before the sun—a bright gleam of satisfaction illumed his countenance, as he looked eagerly and hastily towards the window of Mistress Mildred's chamber. The casement opened, and first appeared a fair hand, which, with a long tapering jug of blue and white Dutch porcelain, was bestrewing water upon the flowers in the little wooden balcony. Then there stood at the open window a youthful female form; but the head was bent down so low over the flowers—the damsel was so absorbed in her gentle occupation—she was of course so completely unaware of the presence of any person in the court below who might expect a greeting from her, that it was difficult at first to distinguish the features. A pure white, pinched, and plaited cap covered the bended head, but not, however, so entirely, as fully to contain or hide a profusion of dark brown hair, which perhaps, according to the fashion of the times, it should have done. Through the flowers, also, that partially obscured the long low window, might be distinguished part of a sad-coloured gown, the simplicity of which, in its make, could not conceal, as perhaps it ought to have done, the rounded outlines of a full but graceful form; while, at the same time, its dull hue was charmingly relieved—of course without any intention of coquetry—by a ruff and gorget of the most glittering purity, and, at the end of the long sleeves, by two small, delicate, white cuffs, which seemed to be playing a game of rivalry with the little hands for the palm of fairness.

As Gerald hemmed, and coughed, and shuffled with his feet impatiently, he imagined, for a moment, that one hasty glance of the eyes which bent over the flowers was directed into the court, and then averted with the quickness of lightning, but he was no doubt mistaken; for when the task of watering the plants was at an end, the head was only raised to watch the clouds for a very short space of time—sufficient time, however, to show two dark pencilled eyebrows placed over a pair of bright dark eyes, in that peculiar arch which gives a look of tormenting espièglerie to the expression, and in the blooming cheeks, full, but not too full for grace, two laughter-loving dimples, which imparted to a lovely countenance a joyous and fascinating character—and then was again withdrawn. The fair white hand again already rested upon the hasp of the casement, as if to close it, when Gerald, who had waited with renewed feelings of vexation the greeting of his lady-love, called in a low, but almost angry tone of voice, "Mildred!—Mistress Mildred!"

"Master Gerald Lyle, is it you? Who would have thought that you were there?" said pretty Mistress Mildred, again showing at the window her arch countenance, the expression of which seemed to be at most wicked variance with her prim attire.

"Methinks a friendly greeting were not ill bestowed upon an old acquaintance," muttered the young man in the same tone of testy impatience.

"Know you not," responded the damsel, with something of the canting whine adopted at the time, and in a semi-serious tone, to the genuineness of which her dimples very naughtily gave a direct lie—whatever their mistress might have intended—"Know you not, that such bowings of the head, and kissings of the hand, are but vain and worldly symbols and delusions."

"Trifle not with me, I beseech you, Mildred," said the vexed lover, "for my heart is sad and my mind is harassed. During the weary hours of my watch, I have longed for a smile from that sweet face—a glance from those bright eyes, as my only solace; and yet the hours passed by and you came not to your window, although I had let you know that it was my duty to keep this watch; and when you did come, you would have left again without a single word to me. This was unkind. And now you are there, you bend your brow upon me with an angry look. What have I done to offend you, Mildred? You cannot doubt my love, my truth."

"And what is there in my conduct or in my words that can justify Master Lyle in thus treating me as a[Pg 429] trifler?" answered Mildred with a pouting air, avoiding any direct answer to all his other remarks. "Methinks I have every right to be offended at so unjust an accusation." But in spite of the gross offence, Mistress Mildred now seemed to have no thought of punishing it, by withdrawing from the window.

"I offend you! you know I would give the whole world, were it mine, to spare you one painful feeling," cried the young man. "It is you who wrong me, it is you who are unjust, and even now you seek to quarrel with me. But perhaps you wish to break the troth you have given me—perhaps your light heart has already offered its affections to another!"

"As you will, sir. Perhaps my light heart, as you are pleased to call it, would do well to seek some less morose and tetchy guardian," said the young lady, tossing up her head, and preparing again to close the windows.

But as her eye fell upon the despairing look and gestures of her lover, the arched eyebrow was unknit, and raised with an expression of comic vexation; a smile lurked for a moment in the dimples and corners of the pouting mouth; and then at last broke out into a fit of decided laughter.

After indulging a moment in her mirth, Mildred looked at the young man fondly and said, "Go to, Gerald! you show not the patient spirit of a Christian man; and even now your face wears such a frown, as methinks must have wrinkled the brow of the jealous blackamoor in those wicked stage-plays, of which my poor mother told me, before my father chid her for it, and bid her cease to speak of such vanities—fie now! out upon you! shall I throw you down my little mirror that you may see that face? Well! I am a naughty froward child. See there! I am sitting on the stool of penance, and I ask thee pardon."

"Forgive me also," cried Gerald, springing forward, his heart melting before the arch look of fondness that beamed down upon him. "Forgive me my pettish impatience with you, Mildred."

"Forgiveness of injuries is ordained unto us as our first of duties," rejoined Mildred with another demure look—which was all the wickeder for its demureness.

"But why came you not before, my Mildred?" said the lover, with a slight lingering tone of expostulation; "you know not the bitterness of those countless minutes of anxiety, and doubt, and eager waiting."

"I could not leave my father," replied Mildred more seriously; "although he knows and approves our attachment; he would have chid me had he been aware that I come to have speech of you from my window; and as it is, I have done wrong to come. Besides, he was weary, and bade me read to him, and I sat by his side, and read to him the Bible, until, in the midst of an exhortation to watch and pray, I heard a sound that he himself might have called an uplifting of the horn of Sion, and behold he was snoring in his chair; and then, in the naughtiness of my heart, I stole from his presence to come to my room—and—and—tend my flowers," she added with an arch smile.

"You thought of me then, and came, though late, to see me?" said Gerald eagerly.

"You? Did I not say my flowers, Master Gerald?" asked Mildred still laughing.

"Oh! mock me no longer, cruel girl! You know not all I have suffered during this tedious watch—all the doubts and fears with which my poor mind has been tortured. Did you know, you would console, not mock me, and one word would console all. Tell me you love me still."

"One word, you say—what shall it be?" said Mildred, raising her eyebrows as if to seek the word; and then, looking down upon him kindly, she added, "Ever."

"And you love none but me? you have no thought for any other?" continued the lover with an evident spice of jealousy still lurking in his mind.

"What! two words now?" said the laughing girl. "Are all lovers such arrant beggars? give them a penny and they ask a groat. Well! well! but one other, and that shall be the last. None"—and as Mildred[Pg 430] spoke, she bent herself over the balcony to smile on Gerald, and rested one tiny hand, of course unconsciously, on the outer framework.

"Thanks, thanks, my dear, my pretty, my darling Mildred!" exclaimed the young man, and as he spoke, he sprang, musket on arm, upon a stone bench, which stood out from the wall immediately under Mistress Mildred's window, and endeavoured to snatch the white hand that just peeped so invitingly over the edge of the low wooden balcony.

"Out upon you, Master Sentinel," said the young lady, putting back her hand. "Is it thus you keep your watch? Another such step and I shall sound the alarm, and denounce you as a deserter to your post. Look ye! your prisoner will escape."

Gerald instinctively turned his head to the old tower behind him, as he stepped down again from the stone bench, with somewhat of that tail-between-the-legs look, which a spaniel wears when repulsed from his mistress's lap. But there was no one stirring. He shook his head reproachfully at the laughing girl.

"Nay! I did but remind you of your duty," said Mildred; "and you know my father sets much store by the capture of this prisoner, whom he supposes to be some one of rank and note; a fugitive from the dispersed army of the malignants; perhaps a friend of the young King of Scots, and, as such, aware of his retreat."

"I saw him as they brought him hither, after capturing him in an attempt to gain the coast," replied the young soldier. "He is an old cavalier, of a stately and goodly presence, although cast down by his ill fortune. But enough of this. Tell me, Mildred"—But here the ears of the young couple caught the sound of a distant bell as it came booming over the water of the broad.

"Hush! It is the curfew from the town," said Mildred. "The watch will now be changed. Back! back! They will be here directly. I must away."

"Already," cried Gerald with vexation. "But another word, Mildred—but one—some token of your love until we meet again."

"Impossible!" replied the fair girl. "How can you ask me for a token? It were very wrong in me to give you such. You ask too much." Then, as she was about to close the window, she exclaimed again, "This poor rose wants trimming sadly. Alack! these early frosts destroy all my poor plants;" and taking up her scissors, which hung from her girdle, she snipped at a withered leaf. Perhaps Mildred's pretty little hand trembled, for of course it was an accident—the unfortunate scissors, instead of cutting the withered leaf; closed upon the very prettiest rose upon the little tree—that rose happened to hang over the edge of the balcony, and so it came to pass that it fell at Gerald's feet.

Gerald seized it and pressed it, like all true lovers from time immemorial, to his lips.

"Thanks! darling girl," he cried.

"Thanks! for what?" rejoined Mistress Mildred, putting on a very lamentable air. "Now, don't suppose I have done this purposely. My poor rose! how you crush it and tumble it in your hand. How could I be so awkward!" and with these words the window was wholly closed.

Gerald still stood with his eyes fixed upon the window, when a noise, as if a sharp rustling among leaves, startled him. Immediately upon the alert, he looked cautiously around; but there was no one in the court. He walked hastily to the parapet wall and bent over it—all was still except the boat of the fisherman, which he had before observed. It had apparently been rowed to another part of the river about the mansion, as a better place for fishing, without having been observed by the inattentive sentinel, for it was now floating down the stream towards the opening into the broad. The fisherman again lay motionless at the bottom of the boat. Suddenly a thought seemed to cross the young soldier's brain, for he sprang to the bushes still left growing near the parapet wall, and searched hastily among the leaves. From the ground beneath their thick shelter he raised a small packet. His musket was already jerked into his right arm to fire an alarm, in order that the fisherman might be pursued,[Pg 431] as suspected of attempting to establish a communication with the prisoner, when his eye fell upon the superscription of the packet. He stared for one moment with surprise; and then his colour changed, and he grew deadly pale. His eye hurried rapidly to the tower—an exclamation of bitter grief burst from his lips—and he stood aghast. At this moment the steps of the soldiers coming to relieve guard resounded along the vaulted passage communicating between the court and other parts of the mansion. At the sound the blood rushed back into Gerald's face, until it covered forehead and temples. He hastily replaced the packet in the hiding-place where he had discovered it, and stood with musket in arm, and in a state of ill-repressed agitation, awaiting the corporal and guard.

The young soldier who was now brought to relieve him from his post, was the same Mark Maywood of whom he had expressed his jealous doubts.

The usual ceremony of relieving guard was gone through; but although the words of order were few, these few words were communicated by Gerald in a brief angry tone, and received by the other young soldier with a cold frowning air. Between the two young men there appeared to exist feelings of an instinctive repulsion.

As he turned to leave the court, Gerald gave another anxious, eager look at the old tower, and glanced askance at the leafy hiding-place of the packet. Another troubled sigh burst from his heart; but whatever thoughts occupied him before passing under the vaulted passage, he raised his eyes to the well-known chamber casement, which was close by. He could evidently perceive Mildred's graceful form partly ensconced behind a hanging to her window. Was she watching his departure? No. It seemed to him as if her eyes were turned in the direction of the handsome young recruit—that detested Maywood. And he? Gerald looked round once more. He felt convinced that the young sentinel's eyes were fixed upon pretty Mistress Mildred's window. It was in a high state of agitation—a new fit of raging jealousy mingling with other painful and harassing emotions, that Gerald followed the corporal and soldiers from the court.


Chapter II.

"O, 'tis your son!
I know him not.
I'll be no father to so vile a son."

Rowley, (Woman Never Vexed.)
"Yet I have comfort, if by any means
I get a blessing from my father's hands."


Gerald sat with a troubled and moody air upon one of the stone benches of the low hall, which, formerly intended, perhaps, as a sort of waiting-room for the domestics of the establishment, was now used as the guard-room. Although his thoughts were not upon the objects around him, he seemed to be assiduously employed in cleaning and arranging his accoutrements—for in spite of his birth and the fortune bequeathed to him by his uncle, he was still left to fulfil the very humblest and most irksome duties of a military life.

It had been part of the severe Colonel Lyle's system of education to inure his adopted son to every toil and privation that might give health and hardihood to mind as well as body; and upon the same principle, when he had enrolled the boy as a volunteer in his own troop, he had compelled him to serve as a common soldier. The colonel's strict and somewhat overwrought sense of justice, as well as his peculiar political opinions, had led him, moreover, to declare, that whatever the artificial position of his adopted son in the supposed scale of society, it should be by merit only that the young volunteer should rise from the ranks through the various grades of military distinction; and upon his[Pg 432] deathbed he had urged his friend Seaman to pursue the same system, as long as Gerald should feel disposed to follow under him the career of arms. Although received, therefore, with certain reservations, upon an equality of footing into the family of Colonel Seaman, and in some measure looked upon as the accepted lover and future husband of the colonel's fair daughter, young Gerald found himself condemned to go through all the inferior duties and occupations of a common soldier.

Long accustomed, however, by his uncle's strict and unbending system of training, to hardships little regarded by a roughly-nurtured youth of his years, he never thought of murmuring against this harsh probation; and if, now, he pursued his occupation with a troubled brow, it was far other thoughts that caused that look of doubt and uneasiness.

The vaguest suspicions of his mistress's fickleness were sufficient to excite the jealous temperament of a youth like Gerald, whose naturally ardent and passionate disposition, whose hot Clynton blood had been only subdued, not quenched, by the strict education of his severe, cold uncle Lyle. But there were thoughts and feelings of a far more momentous and harassing nature which now assailed him. The packet which he had discovered among the bushes growing close upon the parapet wall, and which had evidently been conveyed by stealth within the precincts of the fortress, had borne the following superscription:—"For the Lord Clynton—these."

It was Lord Clynton, then—it was his own father, who was a prisoner within those walls.

Under sad auspices were his filial affections now first awakened. He was aware of the danger that must attend his unhappy parent should he be discovered to be, as was probably the case, one of those obstinate malignants, as they were termed, who, after having made reluctant submission when the fate of arms proved fatal to Charles I., had again joined the royalist troops when the standard was raised for the young prince, and fought in his cause, until the final overthrow at Worcester forced them into flight from the country. It was in an attempt of this kind that the prisoner had been taken. Gerald knew how almost certain would be the old cavalier's condemnation under such circumstances. But there were evidently hopes of saving him. Communications, it was clear, had been established with the prisoner by persons outside the walls of the fortress. It was known probably, that, by permission of the commander, the prisoner was allowed to take the air for a certain time daily, in the small court beneath the walls of the tower in which he was confined; and this opportunity was watched, it would seem, for the conveyance of the communication into the hand of the prisoner.

The conflicting struggle which had arisen in Gerald's mind, now gave place to one overpowering feeling. He was determined at all risks, and at whatever sacrifice to himself, to save his father. The breach of trust—the dereliction from his honour—the probability of being obliged to renounce the hand of the girl he loved, if detected in assisting in a plot to favour the evasion of the old cavalier—all faded away before his sight, and appeared as naught when compared with the hope of rescuing his father from his cruel situation. What the nature of the scheme was which Lord Clynton's friends seemed to be devising, in order to effect his escape, or how far he could assist in such a project, he was unable to divine. But the one thought was there, and mastered all—the thought that, on opening the way of escape before his father, he should be able to say, "Father, bless thy long-estranged son; it is he who saves thee." The rest was doubt, confusion, and darkness.

Again and again did he turn over in his mind a thousand projects by which to aid in the evasion of the prisoner. Again and again did he endeavour to conjecture what might have been already purposed. All appeared to him to be impracticable on the one hand, and a mystery on the other. Already the consciousness of his secret induced him to look upon every one with suspicious eyes, as an enemy or a spy upon his conduct. But most of all, with that prejudice[Pg 433] which pointed him out his supposed rival as the object of peculiar hatred, did he look upon Mark Maywood as his enemy in this matter—that Mark Maywood, whose violent party feelings, and fierce Republican abhorrence of royalty and the adherents of the fallen royalty of England, had already manifested themselves in such frequent outbreaks since his arrival as a fresh recruit in the troop—that Mark Maywood, who, in case of the evasion of one of the detested cavaliers, would be foremost to hunt him to the death—that Mark Maywood, who, even now, kept watch over his father's prison, and might, if he discovered the packet which was intended for the old man's hand, thwart for ever the only means of the unfortunate prisoner's escape. And as this thought came across him, Gerald counted, in an agony of mind, all the possibilities by which the packet might meet the sentinel's eye. With beating heart he reviewed, in imagination, every leaf which hid it, every overhanging branch which might add to its concealment. Bitterly did he reproach himself in his heart, that he had thrown it back to its hiding-place so hastily and carelessly upon hearing the approach of the guard. It seemed to him that if the packet were discovered, it would have been he who had delivered up his father, who had betrayed the secret on which depended his father's safety. The thought, however, that the evening was closing in, somewhat consoled him. Eternally long seemed the time spent in this mute agony of doubt. At length the hour sounded for the relief of the guard, and Gerald's heart beat painfully. Now he might learn whether Maywood had made the dreaded discovery. He placed himself as if by chance in the passage through which the guard had to pass with the report to the governor, and gazed with scrutinizing look into the face of the young soldier as he went by, as if he could read an answer to his dreaded doubts in those dark eyes. Mark Maywood's face, to which, in spite of its beauty, the closely clipped dark hair in Roundhead fashion, contrasting with the thick mustache, gave a harsh and hard look, was stern, frowning, and expressive of that sullen severity which was usually put on by the enthusiasts of the day. In such a face Gerald could read nothing to dissipate his doubts, but every thing to strengthen them. Anxiously did he await the return of the relieved sentinel to the guard-room. But when Mark Maywood came at last, he interchanged but a few sentences with the older and sterner of his comrades, said not a word to Gerald, and, taking a well worn Bible in his hand, flung himself on a bench, and soon seemed lost in serious devotion. Once, in truth, Gerald fancied that he raised his eye to scan him, as if with scorn, and then indeed he first remarked that Maywood twisted between his fingers a rose. For a moment his aversion to the young soldier as an enemy to be dreaded for his father's sake, was absorbed in his hatred to him as a suspected rival. That rose? how had he obtained it? Could Mildred be so base as to encourage the handsome young enthusiast, who, in spite of his gloomy character, had evidently, to Gerald's jealous eye, shown himself feelingly alive to the attraction of pretty Mistress Mildred's charms? For a moment the feelings of jealousy so completely overpowered all others, that he started forward to challenge the young man to account for the possession of that rose. But again the thoughts of his father came across him. Such a challenge must necessarily involve him in a quarrel—a quarrel would be followed by an arrest for breach of discipline—a confinement of some hours, during which, he, who might have aided his father's escape, might perhaps have left him to perish; and swallowing with an effort all the bitter feelings that almost choked him—he again turned away and sought his hard couch.

Sleep he could not; or if he dozed, the conflicting feelings of doubt, apprehension for his father, and burning jealousy, still flitted through his mind like a troubled and tormenting nightmare; and the next day Gerald arose with the earliest dawn, in a state of mind the uneasiness of which seemed intolerable.

The morning broke—the day advanced—and as no new measures seemed to be taken with respect to the prisoner, Gerald's mind began[Pg 434] by degrees to be relieved from its trembling apprehensions as to the discovery of the packet; eagerly did he await the hour of his own guard, which, in the course of the morning, was announced to him to be at noon, and as usual in the small inner court. His heart beat with impatience to see whether the secret communication still remained in its hiding-place, and to facilitate, if possible, the means of its falling into his father's hands.

At length the hour arrived—Accompanied by the corporal and the other soldiers of the guard, he was taken to relieve his predecessor on the post, and after an interchange of the usual formalities, was left alone. His first impulse was to examine the bush into which, on the previous evening, had been flung the packet. After looking carefully around him, and, in spite of the absorbing thought which now occupied his attention, casting one glance, accompanied by a troubled sigh, upon Mildred's window, he approached the wall. Before, however, he could put aside the leaves, several heavy steps resounded through the vaulted passage, and Gerald drew back from the wall with all the seeming unconcern he could assume.

The persons who entered the court were the commander, Lazarus Seaman himself, and three soldiers. With a grave salute, and a few words to Gerald, the colonel gave directions that the heavy gate of the prison tower should be opened, and motioning to one of the soldiers who accompanied him to remain behind, he entered the tower with the two others, and was immediately heard mounting the winding stair leading to the room above, in which the prisoner was confined.

Again did Gerald's heart beat thick with apprehension. What could be the purpose of this visit of the governor to his prisoner? Had a report of the previous evening been the cause of this fresh examination? Did it result from the discovery of the secret packet? Gerald trembled—a moment's search among those bushes would convince him of the reality or vanity of his agonizing fears, and yet he did not dare to stir a step to solve his doubts. The eye of the other soldier was upon him. He listened with straining ears to catch the faintest sound that came from the tower, as if it had been possible for him to hear what passed in the chamber of the prisoner; striving, at the same time, to master all expression of his feelings, lest his secret should be read upon his brow by the very anxiety to conceal it. Useless effort; for the soldier who remained behind paid little heed to him, and would have been totally unable to comprehend his motives for uneasiness, had even its expression been visible.

At length the steps of the governor and his party were heard descending the stairs of the tower. As they emerged into the court, Gerald started with a fresh burst of uncontrollable agitation. The old cavalier followed the Roundhead colonel. With a few more words to signify to his prisoner that the time allotted to him to take the air in that court was but short, Lazarus Seaman again retired.

The soldier, already mentioned, remained behind as a sort of extra sentinel, or watch, to prevent all possibility of escape, during the time the prisoner was permitted to promenade the open space.

Gerald was in the presence of his father!

With what overpowering emotion did he now long to throw himself into those arms, and be pressed to his father's heart! And yet the utmost caution was necessary. A word might deprive him of all power to assist the prisoner in his projected escape. It was with the utmost difficulty that he restrained his feelings, and watched the noble form of the old cavalier as he paced slowly and sadly up and down the court.

That, then, was his father!

The dark mourning habit which Lord Clynton wore in imitation of many of the Royalist party, after the execution of their unfortunate master, although soiled and torn, gave him an air of dignity in spite of its look of sadness; and the long grizzled beard, which had evidently remained untrimmed, having been left probably to grow uncultured as a sign of sorrow, bestowed upon him an imposing expression, in spite of its neglected state.

[Pg 435]Although cast down and worn out by disappointment and vexation, there was evidently a feverish and testy impatience in the old man's manner, which was perhaps a symptom of the family temperament; and Gerald observed that from time to time he looked sharply at both the sentinels, and then cast a furtive glance at the clump of bushes near the wall. The packet then was supposed by the prisoner to be still there; but yet uneasiness and doubt were visible in his hasty looks. In reflecting upon the position of the barred window of the prisoner's chamber, Gerald remembered that its tenant might have witnessed the approach of the supposed fisherman, and divined his motive, without being able to see what had passed near the bushes themselves.

The old man was consequently still doubtful as to the safety of the communication which was to be the key to his escape, and even more anxious as to the means by which he might reach it. Gerald watched with palpitating heart, how, in his promenade, the old cavalier approached nearer and nearer, as if unconsciously, the parapet wall. Had he been alone, all, he said to himself, would have been well; but there was another witness to observe the prisoner's actions. Gerald in his turn also scrutinized the comrade of his watch, and turned over in his mind schemes to elude his vigilance.

The man employed upon the extra duty of this watch was well known to him by sight and reputation. He was said to have been originally of Dutch extraction; and certainly there was much in his heavy features, sleepy eyes, and phlegmatic temperament, which seemed to attest the truth of such a supposition—a supposition which was still more borne out by the report that he owned the euphonious appellation of Gideon Van Guse. This, however, was but vague hearsay; for, in imitation of the fantastic habit of some of the fanatics of the time, Gideon had adopted a pious cognomen, the softness of which he perhaps fancied to accord well with his own placable and quiet disposition. He went by the name of Godlamb Gideon, except upon those occasions when some of the more wicked of his comrades took advantage of certain drowsy and somniferous points in his indolent character, to bestow upon him the nickname of Go-to-bed Godlamb.

As Gerald cast his scrutinizing look upon him, Master Go-to-bed Godlamb was standing planted against a wall, in the full warmth of an autumnal sun, perched upon one leg, according to a habit which he seemed to have inherited, by a sort of instinct, from the cranes of the country of his fathers, and which he was generally observed to adopt when in a more than usually drowsy disposition. His other leg was twisted round its brother, in somewhat incomprehensible fashion. But in spite of this supposed indication of drowsiness, Gideon's light eyes stared out from under his preposterously high steeple hat with unusual wakefulness and rotundity, and gave to his not very expressive physiognomy the appearance of that of an owl.

Gerald thanked the good fortune that had sent him, at such a moment, a comrade of so drowsy and phlegmatic a nature. But it was in vain that he watched for some further indications of the usual results of Go-to-bed Godlamb's pious meditations. The eyes would still preserve a most provoking rotundity; nay, more, they appeared determined, out of the most obstinate spirit of opposition, to assume at that moment a liveliness they never had been known to assume before, since they had opened on the light of day.

The old cavalier still paced the court, but nearer to the bushes than before. Impatient, also, at the loss of the precious moments as they hurried by, Gerald approached his comrade.

"You seem weary, friend," he said.

"Yea, verily," answered Godlamb Gideon through his nose. "My soul is weary with long watching; but if the flesh be weak, the spirit is still strong."

"Give way, comrade, give way," insinuated Gerald; "I will keep watch for both, and none shall be the wiser."

"Nay, but the labourer is worthy of his hire," snorted Gideon with[Pg 436] much unction. "Odds pittikins, man," he blurted out immediately afterwards, in another and more natural tone, "would you have me in arrest again for sleeping on my post? That is to say," continued the Puritan soldier, casting up his eyes, and again resuming his canting whine, "verily and of a truth the hand of the scourger has been heavy upon me; the unjust have prevailed against me; but I will watch, that I fall not again into their toils."

Gerald turned away with impatient vexation. At that moment the old cavalier, who had taken advantage of the few words passing between the two sentinels, to approach the bushes unobserved, was bending down to possess himself of the packet. As Gerald turned he again drew back, his purpose unfulfilled.

Standing with his back to the other sentinel, Gerald now made a sign to the old man, with his finger placed upon his lips, to say not a word, but to repose his confidence in him. The prisoner started with surprise, and looked at the young soldier with a mixture of hope and doubt. Before making any further demonstration, Gerald again turned in his walk, to assure himself that Gideon observed nothing of this interchange of looks with the prisoner, and then again turning his back to him, placed his hand upon his heart with a look of fervour and truth, which would have been alone sufficient to inspire confidence in the old cavalier, and passing as near him as he could with prudence, murmured in a low tone, "Trust to me!" The old man again started; but there was more of pleasurable surprise, and less of doubt, in his expression. Gerald's heart beat wildly, as his father's eye beamed upon him for the first time with kindly and grateful feeling.

The young soldier again looked at his comrade. Gideon's eyes were now beginning to close, in the excess of his fervour over the pious page. Walking quietly to the protecting bushes, Gerald bent over the parapet as if to look into the stream, and plunging his arm at the same time into the leaves, felt for the packet. After a moment's fear and doubt, he touched it—he drew it forth. By a movement of his head, he saw the old man watching him with increasing agitation; but, giving him another look to re-assure him, Gerald rose from his posture, and was about to conceal the packet in his bandoleer, when it slipped from his fingers and fell to the ground. At the noise of the fall, Gideon's eyes again opened, and were lifted up with owl-like sagacity of expression. Gerald's foot was already upon the packet. Neither he nor the old cavalier dared to interchange a look. Gideon's eyes said, as plainly as eyes could speak, that they were not asleep, and had not been asleep, and never intended to go to sleep—in fact, were wonderfully wakeful. Aware that he could not remain motionless upon the spot where he stood, under the full stare of Gideon's eyes, Gerald let fall his musket, as if by accident, and then kneeling with his back to his fellow-sentinel, contrived adroitly to raise the packet at the same time with his musket, and to conceal it upon his person. The prisoner was following his movements with anxious eagerness.

Possessed of the precious document, Gerald now felt the impossibility of giving it into his father's hands, as long as the eyes of Godlamb Gideon were upon them. There appeared to him to be but one practicable manner of conveying the desired intelligence contained within it to the prisoner—namely, by examining himself the contents, in such a manner as not to excite the suspicions of his comrade, and then communicating them in low and broken sentences to his father.

Placed in such a position as not to be observed by Gideon, he took the packet from his bosom, and making the movement of breaking the fastening, looked imploringly at the old cavalier. The old man comprehended the glance, hesitated for a moment with a look of doubt, and then, clearing his brow with an expression of resolution, as if there were no other means, nodded his head stealthily to the young soldier, and moving to one of the stone benches fixed against the walls of the court, the furthest removed from the spot where Gideon stood, flung himself down upon it, and with his face buried between his hands, seemed absorbed in thought.

[Pg 437]From one of the capacious pockets of his full hose, Gerald now produced a book—it was the Bible; for it was the fashion of the times among the Puritanical party to carry the holy book about the person. With a short humble prayer that he might not be thought to desecrate the sacred volume by applying it to a purpose of concealment for his father's sake, he placed upon its open pages the letter, which formed the only contents of the packet, after having first torn away and concealed, unobserved, the envelope, and then resumed his monotonous pacing up and down the court.

Gideon observed his comrade's seeming devotion, and appearing determined to outrival him in excess of zeal, applied himself more sedulously than ever to his book.

"Your friends are on the alert—a lugger lies off the coast ready for your escape," said Gerald in a low tone to the old cavalier, as he passed as near to him in his walk as discretion would permit.

Such was the sense of the commencement of the communication. The old man made a gentle inclination of his head, to show that he understood him, without raising it from between his hands. The young soldier looked at Gideon; Gideon had shifted his legs, and perched himself in an attitude bearing a more direct resemblance to that of a reposing crane than ever. Gerald again cast his eyes upon his open book—

"All is prepared for to-night," he continued to mutter, as he again slowly passed the seat of the prisoner. "Have the bars of your window been cut by the file already conveyed to you?"

The old man again bowed his head with an affirmative movement.

As Gerald turned once more, Go-to-bed Godlamb was nodding his head over his book, as if in very enthusiastic approval of its contents, but unfortunately with so much energy—that he jerked it up again into an upright posture—and immediately began staring straight before him with great vehemence.

Gerald bit his lips with vexation, and continued his walk. His eyes were seemingly employed upon the page before him—

"A boat will be brought without noise under the walls at twelve this night," continued the anxious son, repassing his father, where he sat. "You must descend from your window by your bed-clothes."

Gerald resumed his walk. Gideon was winking and blinking with much energy—

"The only difficulty is to elude the vigilance of the sentinel who shall have the midnight watch"—muttered Gerald, as he again came back past the prisoner.

The old man raised his head, and looked at him anxiously.

Gideon was again nodding, but with a lesser degree of enthusiasm, as Gerald turned himself that way. The young man quickened his step, and was soon once more by his father's side—

"Every means that lie in my power shall be employed to favour your escape," whispered Gerald, with much emotion.

The prisoner gave him an enquiring glance, as if to ask his meaning—Gerald looked round—Godlamb was now snoring, after the fashion of a well-known farm-yard animal—not the one whose name he bore.

"God grant," continued the young man in much agitation, "that the lot fall to me to be the sentry on that watch—then all were well!"

"And who are you, young man," said the cavalier, "who thus interest yourself so warmly in my fate?"

Gerald could no longer command his feelings. He flung himself at the old man's feet.

"Father!" he exclaimed in smothered accents, "give me thy blessing."

"Your father! I!" cried the old cavalier; "you my son! you Gerald Clynton! no—no—Gerald Lyle, I should have said. Tell me not so."

"I am your son Gerald—Gerald Clynton—Oh, call me by that name!" exclaimed the kneeling young man in a choked voice; for the tears were starting into his eyes.

"Thou art no son of mine. I know thee not! Leave me!" said Lord Clynton, springing from his seat in bitter anger.

Go-to-bed Godlamb stirred uneasily upon his post. Gerald rose quickly[Pg 438] from his knees, trembling with agitation; for in spite of the violence of his emotion, he had sufficient presence of mind to look cautiously round at his sleeping comrade. Gideon's eyes were still closed over his book, in that profound mystery of devotion which was one of his most remarkable traits.

"My father!" cried Gerald imploringly to the old man, who now stood looking towards him with a harsh and stubborn expression of countenance, although the workings of emotion were faintly perceptible in the lineaments of his face.

Lord Clynton waved him impatiently away, and turned aside his head.

"Oh, repulse me not, my father!" cried Gerald with imploring looks. "Why am I still the proscribed son of your affections? What have I done, to be thus driven from your arms? Am I still—though innocent of all wrong—to pay so cruel a penalty for my unhappy birth?"

"Allude not to your mother!" exclaimed the old man passionately. "Defile not her memory even by a thought, base boy! Were she living still, she also would refuse to acknowledge her degenerate son."

"Great God! what have I done to merit this?" said the unhappy son, forgetting, in the agitation of his mind, the strict principles of the Puritanical party, which forbade as sinful this adjuration of the Deity—"I thought to save you, my father, from your cruel situation—I thought to aid your flight."

"Say rather," said the excited cavalier, giving way to his hot unreasonable temper, "to trample on the prisoner—to scoff at him, and triumph over him—to deliver him up to his enemies. What have I else to expect from the degenerate rebel to the religion of his fathers, his country, and his king. Go, boy—go, play the patriot at thy ease—reverse the tale of the Roman Brutus—and denounce thy father to the block!"

"Unjust! unkind!" said the young man, struggling with his tears, which now began to give place to feelings of indignation in him also. "But you have ever been so. You have driven me, an innocent babe, from your affections and your sight; and when now, first after long years, I beg a father's blessing—stretch forth my arm to earn a father's thanks—you spurn me from your feet, and heap unmerited obloquy upon my head."

"Unmerited!" echoed Lord Clynton. "Do you forget your disobedience? or do the convenient tenets of your hypocritical party permit you to erase the fifth commandment from the decalogue, and teach you that the honouring of your father is an idle observance, not to be weighed in the balance against the cause of the God of Israel and his people—so goes the phrase—does it not?"

"I understand you not," said Gerald. "In what have I refused to honour my father? whose face I see for the first time to-day—at least since I have thought and memory."

"In what?" exclaimed his father, with a bitter laugh, "said I not so? Honour and dishonour are in your new-fangled vocabulary but vain words, that you understand no longer. In what? If I, thy father—since to my shame I must be so—if I have been led by my overwhelming grief for that angel, who has long been at rest, to treat thee with wrong in thy childhood, my conscience has no longer a reproach to offer me; for my son has in return treated me with the bitterest scorn, and refused to come to those loving arms, which at last opened to receive him. In what? I have appealed to thee with the strongest appeal of a father's heart to join me in the true and joint cause of murdered royalty, and I find thee even now before me, with arms in thy hands, to aid the sacrilegious traitors to their king—may be to turn them with parricidal arm against thy father."

"Again I understand you not," repeated Gerald, gazing wistfully in his face. "Oh speak, explain—my father—this is a mystery to me!"

"Not understand me!" echoed Lord Clynton with scorn—"convenient phrase! convenient memory! You understood not perhaps those letters I addressed you, those letters in which I implored you to forget the past, and offered you a loving welcome to my heart. But you could dictate a letter to your uncle, in which you could upbraid me for my past[Pg 439] unkindness, and refuse to return. You understood not my urgent appeal to you to join the cause of truth and loyalty, and fight by your father's side. But you could dictate a second answer, worded with cold contempt, in which you could assert your rebellious right—degenerate boy!—to follow those principles you dared to my face to qualify as those of justice and religion."

"Letters!" repeated Gerald, astounded. "An appeal! I know of none—until my uncle's death I scarcely was aware I had a father to whom I owed a duty—I never heard that he followed another cause, but that which I was taught to believe the right."

"No letters! No appeal!" said his father, half in scornful mistrust, half in doubt.

"None—I protest to you, my father," replied the agitated youth. "Now—but only now—can I construe rightly the words my uncle uttered on his deathbed, which spoke of wrong he had done me and you."

"Can I believe all this?" said the passionate old cavalier, now evidently wavering in his wrath.

"As God lives," said Gerald; "that God whom I perhaps offend, that I thus call upon his name—that God who has said, 'Swear not at all.'" The old cavalier shrugged his shoulders at this evidence of the Puritanical education of his son. "I swear to you, that I know nothing of those matters."

Lord Clynton was evidently moved, although the rebellious spirit within still resisted the more affectionate promptings of his heart—

"Father, prove me," cried Gerald imploringly. "Let me live henceforth to serve you—let me die for you, if needs must be—let me save you from this prison—let me earn thy blessing—that blessing, which is my dearest treasure upon earth."

Gerald again bent down at the old man's feet. Lord Clynton still struggled with his feelings. There was still a contest in his heart between long-cherished anger, and newly-awakened confidence. Before either could again speak, the trampling of feet was once more heard along the vaulted passage. The agitated son rose quickly to his feet, and strove to repress his emotion. His father gave him one look; and that look he fondly construed into a look of kindness. In another moment the colonel entered the court, followed by two soldiers.

Gideon's poised leg fell to the ground; his eyes opened and stared out wonderfully. That troubled stare told, as if the eyes had had a tongue, that Go-to-bed Godlamb had been sleeping soundly on his post. Fortunately for the somnolent soldier, the sharp looks of Lazarus Seaman were not bent in his direction.

With a formal bow to his prisoner, Colonel Seaman informed him that the time allotted to him for exercise in the open air was past. With another formal inclination of the head, the old cavalier bowed to his jailer, and turned to mount the tower stair. He exchanged not another look with his son: but as he turned away, Gerald tried to read in his face a milder feeling.

"I will save him, or will die!" muttered Gerald to himself, as the party disappeared under the tower gateway. "I will force him to grant me that blessing he has refused me—I will earn it well;" and he determined in his mind that, come what might, he would find means to be appointed to the midnight watch.


Chapter III.

"Trifles light as air
Are, to the jealous, confirmation strong,
As proofs of holy writ."

"Honest soldier,
Who hath relieved you?—
Bernardo hath my place."


Left alone upon his post in the inner court, Gerald resolved in his mind what could best be done for his father. Every thing was already in[Pg 440] preparation for the prisoner's escape, but the success or failure of the whole enterprise turned solely upon the connivance or opposition of the sentinel upon duty at the hour when the escape was to be effected. Gerald did not doubt, however, that should he himself not have the good fortune to be chosen for the midnight watch, he would not find much difficulty in persuading the comrade to whom it should fall, to exchange it with him for a more commodious hour. He felt that there could be none who would not gladly accept his offer, and thus be left to enjoy their night's rest, instead of enduring the fatigues of a tedious night watch. Of his own safety, of the dishonour, the punishment that awaited him for abetting in the escape of a prisoner of such importance, he thought not a moment. All such considerations were lost in his hopes of rescuing his father. But still, in the vague uncertainty that hung over the events of that important night, in the impatience of his mind to arrive quickly at that awful hour—that hour which was to decide so much joy or misery for him—Gerald scarcely knew how to conceal his feverish agitation. He was aware, however, how necessary it was to avoid betraying any feelings that might excite the least suspicion; and he determined to appear as cold and as unconcerned as possible.

There was another also, although at this moment a secondary torment, which added to his trouble of mind. He was unable to disengage his thoughts entirely from those feelings of bitter and scorching jealousy, which various little indications of coquetry, displayed by the evidently coquettish little Puritan damsel, and certain marks of desire to seek her presence, and parade under her window, evinced by the hated Maywood, had planted in his heart—and in a jealous and impatient temperament like Gerald's, such seed, once sown, quickly grew up with rank luxuriance, and spread on every side, imbibing sustenance from every element that approached it, living, in want of better nourishment, upon the very air itself. Perhaps the sight of Mistress Mildred for a moment at her window, a passing word, or merely a kind smile, might have poured balm upon the ulcer of jealousy, soothed the pain and closed the wound—at least for the time. But during his long watch Gerald looked at that well-known window in vain. There was not a symptom of the fair girl's presence in her chamber, and Gerald's fertile imagination—the true imagination of the jealous lover—suggested to him a thousand doubts and fears of Mildred's truth, ingeniously invented self-tortures, weapons forged to be turned against himself—all mere vague conjectures, but assuming in his eyes all the solidity and reality of truth. If she were not in her chamber, he argued, where could she be? Perhaps with her father: and her father was dictating a despatch to that Mark Maywood, who served him sometimes as secretary; and Mildred was gazing on him with pleasure; and he was raising his eyes from time to time to hers—or perhaps she was in the other gardens or alleys about the house, and that Maywood was following her at a distance, not unobserved; or perhaps she passed close by him, and he muttered words of admiration or even of love, and she then listened with complacency; or perhaps the handsome young recruit whispered in her ear to ask her when he could see her pretty face again; and she smiled on him and said, that when his watch should be beneath her window she would come. Madness! Gerald would pursue his vision no further. But although the clouds of the vision rolled away, they left a dark chilling mist of suspicion upon his mind that he could not, perhaps did not strive to, shake off.

Relieved from his guard, Gerald returned to the guard-room—his mind in that agony of suspense and dread respecting his father, the disquietudes of which his jealous doubts scarcely diverted for a moment, and only rendered more hard to bear. On his way he again passed the detested Maywood. As he approached he evidently saw the young soldier crumple in his hand a paper he was reading, and hide it hastily about him. This was no fancy, he repeated to himself; this was reality. He had seen the look of confusion and trouble upon Maywood's face, the haste with which he hid that paper at his approach. There was no[Pg 441] longer any doubt. His hated rival was in correspondence already with his faithless mistress; and the contents of that written paper, what could they be, if not an acquiescence in some demand, a rendezvous granted, a meeting at her window? With rage in his heart, Gerald again longed to spring upon his rival and tear that paper from his bosom. But again prudence prevailed over passion. He felt that the life of his father depended upon his caution—his father—his father, whom he alone perhaps could save, whose blessing was to be his recompense. Swearing to tear for ever from his heart the vain, coquettish, heartless girl upon whom his affections had been so ill disposed—for thus, in his passion, he qualified his lady-love—he crushed down within him the violence of his angry feelings, and determined to defer his revenge, defer it only, until those few hours should be passed, those hours which should witness his father's escape and ensure his father's safety—and then die willingly, if such should chance to be his fate, in securing his vengeance. Strange mixture of noble feelings and base passions! Where were now the stern, strictly religious principles of his uncle and instructor? The fierce nature of his hot blood prevailed for the time over the better culture of his education.

At length the hour arrived when the soldiers were mustered in the outer court, before the front of the mansion, and the names of those called over who were appointed to the different watches of the night. How anxiously and eagerly did Gerald's heart beat as the midnight watch in the tower-court was named! Was it by a gracious and happy chance upon himself that the lot would fall? The name was pronounced. It was not his own. The sentinel appointed to this post, the man upon whom depended the destiny of his father, was another. But still, in spite of the first pang of disappointment—for disappointment would arise within him, although the chances had been so greatly against him—hope again revived in his heart. The sentinel whose post he coveted, whom he had to seduce into an exchange, whose watch he was to contrive to take from him as a favour, was one of the most easy of the whole troop to deal with, the lazy, phlegmatic, somnolent Godlamb Gideon, he whose very nickname was an augury and a warrant of success, the wight yclept Go-to-bed Godlamb.

After waiting till the assembled soldiers had dispersed, and a proper time had elapsed before seeking Gideon, Gerald again returned to the outer court before the house, where he knew it was the habit of the indolent soldier to bask and doze upon a certain sheltered bench, in the last rays of the setting sun, absorbed, he himself would declare, in his devotions. And there, in truth, he found the man he sought. But, confusion! there was another by his side, and that other was the man who, among all, he would have the most avoided. It was Mark Maywood. He stood by the side of Gideon's reclining form, and was speaking with much earnestness to the phlegmatic soldier, whose widely-opened eyes seemed to express more animation than of wont. No time, however, was to be lost. The night was approaching, and it was necessary to come at once to an arrangement with the allotted sentinel of the midnight watch.

Overcoming his repugnance, and fully determined to act with caution, Gerald assumed an air of unconcern, and sauntered to the spot where sat Godlamb Gideon. After greeting sulkily the handsome young recruit, to whom Gerald's presence seemed in nowise pleasing, he commenced with affected indifference his attack upon the heavy soldier.

"You are ever zealous, friend, in the good work," he said.

"Yea, and of a truth these crumbs of comfort have a blessed and pleasant savour in my nostrils," replied Godlamb Gideon, pressing his book between his hands, turning up the whites of his eyes, and snuffing through his nose, as though that member were stuffed up by the pleasant savour of which he spoke.

"But have a care that your zeal be not overmuch," continued Gerald, "and that you faint not by the way from the heaviness of your burden. Methinks your cheek is already pale from exceeding watching and prayer."

[Pg 442]"Verily I have fought the good fight, and I have run the good race, and peradventure the flesh faileth me," snorted the Puritan soldier.

"Your allotted post, then, falls heavy upon you" said Gerald, with an air of kind concern, "for you have the midnight watch, methinks. Indeed, I pity you, my good friend. Hear me. I will perform the duties of your part, and you shall rest this night from your labours; my mind is troubled, and I heed not the watching through the night. You will rise from your couch ready for new outpourings of spiritual thought, and refreshed"——

"As a giant refreshed with wine," interrupted Gideon with another snort: "yea, and so shall it be." Gerald's heart beat at what he considered an acceptance of his proposal; but Godlamb Gideon continued—"Thou art kind, and I thank thee no less that I refuse thy offer. Verily it would seem to be a gracious and an especial vouchsafing in my favour. For, behold, another hath released me from my task."

"Another!" cried Gerald with a tone of consternation that overcame his caution.

"Yea, this good youth hath proffered to relieve me of my heavy burden." Gideon pointed to Mark Maywood.

Gerald started with angry surprise. Maywood bit his lip, and turned his head aside.

"He has taken thy post!" said Gerald choking with rage.

Gideon nodded his heavy head.

The blood boiled in Gerald's veins and rushed into his cheek. He felt for a moment nearly suffocated with the violence of his passion. Since the young recruit had been anxious to obtain Gideon's weary post, there could be no doubt what was his purpose. There, and in the silence of the night, he would be able, under Mildred's window, to pour into her ear those words of love which he dared not openly profess. It was true, then, that Mildred had bid him try to obtain the post of sentinel in the inner court. That was their hour of rendezvous. Furious jealousy, joined to rage at losing that post, on which his father's whole fate depended, contributed to torture his mind. Not only would his detested rival find a favourable opportunity of holding converse with that faithless girl, but he would be there to prevent his father's escape—he, of all others—he, that fierce and violent Republican, that determined enemy of all adherents to the royal cause. If the vision of Maywood interchanging soft words with Mildred at her window tormented the unhappy lover, far more agonizing were the feelings that represented to him the stern young sentinel raising his musket upon his shoulder to arrest the escape of the old man—shooting him, perhaps, in his descent from the tower-window—bringing him bleeding to the earth. Horror! Convulsed with these accumulated feelings, he stood for a time speechless, struggling with his passions. When he looked again upon Maywood's face, that hated individual's eyes were bent on him with a stern but enquiring glance, and in evident discomposure. This very look was sufficient to confirm all the young lover's suspicions, and it was with the greatest difficulty that he could control his passion. He mastered himself, however, sufficiently to meet the glance of Maywood without giving vent to his wrath, and, turning to Gideon, he called him aside.

The indolent soldier evidently rose unwillingly, but he followed Gerald to a little distance, grumbling something about an "interruption to the inward outpourings of the spirit."

"Hark ye, Master Gideon," said Gerald, when they had got to some distance from Mark, "you must not do me wrong in this. I own that my request is not wholly disinterested. You know that I love our colonel's daughter, that I am affianced to her. Her chamber looks into that court, and at midnight"——

"Now, out on thee, Master Lyle," drawled Godlamb, with an hypocritical upturning of his eyes. "Wouldst thou make my watch a pretext for ungodly chambering and profane love passages?"

"How now, fellow!" exclaimed the young man in wrath. "What mean you by this insolence?" and he grasped Gideon's collar with violence. But immediately afterwards repenting of his excitement, he continued[Pg 443] with a calm tone although still in some irritation, "This is mere fooling, Gideon. I know you as you are—I know you to be a thorough hypocrite."

"Nay, but of a truth"—exclaimed the pacific Godlamb very sulkily.

"Hear me," interrupted Gerald. "It is not as you think—that Maywood loves her too. He also would keep the watch at midnight, in the hope to see her at the window—by chance, man, by chance—no otherwise; but I would hinder this, and"——

"Nay, but Master Maywood hath my word," again began Gideon.

"Nay, but Master Gideon slept whilom upon his post," continued Gerald, mimicking him. "And if Master Gideon be reported to his colonel, Master Gideon will have a week's arrest upon bread and water; but Master Gideon may do what he listeth."

"For the love of heaven," exclaimed Gideon, forgetting his Puritanical mask in his alarm; "you would not report me, comrade? S'wounds, you would not serve a poor fellow so scurvy a trick?"

"Upon one condition, then," replied Gerald. "Retract your word to that man; give me up your post at midnight; and I will be as silent as the grave."

"Lord have mercy upon us! Thou art as the cruel taskmasters of the children of Israel; and thy heart is hardened even as was Pharaoh's," whined Godlamb, again resuming his canting tone. "But be it even as thou wilt."

Gerald triumphed; the midnight watch was his; and with it his father's safety and his father's blessing.

They returned to the spot where Maywood still stood observing them, Gideon following in the rear, muttering something about "the hand of the ungodly being upon him."

"Speak, Gideon," said Gerald as they approached, "and thank your comrade here for his kindly proffered barter of hours; since it is I who take your post, you will not need his well-meant and disinterested civilities."

There was something of a sneer on Gerald's lip as he pronounced these words, which probably augmented the feelings of anger that now evidently flushed the usually cold face of Maywood and darkened his brow; for the latter appeared to tremble with suppressed passion as he advanced upon his rival with the words—

"How now, you, Master what's-your-name? What warrants you to interfere thus ill advisedly in my concerns? If this man has given up to me, at the midnight hour, the watch over that offshoot of a rotten and corrupted stem of tyranny, is it for you to stand between me and my purpose?"

"Your purpose is doubtless of the best, and truest, and worthiest," replied Gerald, with another flickering sneer upon his lip. "But this watch is mine now, by Master Gideon's consent, and these hours of the night I intend to devote to the watching of those whose security may need my care."

Mark Maywood bit his lip, and clenched his hands together in a vain effort to suppress his violent irritation.

"Hoity toity! Here's a coil about an old inveterate Amalekite!" said Gideon, in a mixture of his natural and assumed phraseology, prudently withdrawing at the same time to some distance from the angry young men, as if afraid lest an appeal to himself should involve him in the quarrel.

"Hark ye, sirrah," cried Maywood angrily, "I am not about to resign the right this man has yielded to me at the caprice of the first foolish fellow who chooses to cross my path, without making him repent his uncalled-for interference. What is it to me, this post? but browbeaten by a bullying boy, I never will be."

"Nor will I yield to a base and treacherous hypocrite like thee, Mark Maywood," exclaimed his angry antagonist.

The hands of both the young men were instantly upon their rapiers.

"By the mass, what are ye about?" exclaimed Gideon in alarm. "Trifle not with the carnal weapon! Would ye have us all in arrest before we can look about us? Forbear, men of wrath!"

But the phlegmatic Gideon kept at a prudent distance.

At these words other considerations[Pg 444] appeared suddenly to strike both the young men. In spite of their passion, both paused irresolute.

Gerald reflected that were he involved in a quarrel he would necessarily be prevented in any case, whether victorious over his adversary and then consigned to prison, or himself disabled, from forwarding his father's escape. His rival appeared actuated also by prudential motives, perhaps by the conscientious scruples of the party to which he belonged, perhaps by the thought of Mildred.

"This is truly ruffling and bawling like tavern hunters and drunkards," stammered Gerald, as if seeking an excuse for withdrawing from the fray. "But the time will come, Mark Maywood, when you shall not escape me."

"So be it, comrade," replied the other, again sheathing his half-drawn rapier. "I know you not; and can but barely divine your cause of enmity. But I will not fail you at the night-time. Till then let this suffice. The midnight watch is mine—mine by the first assent of yonder soldier to my proposal of exchange."

"No! Mine," again urged Gerald, "mine by his retractation of his prior consent, if such he gave."

"Come hither, comrade," cried Maywood to Gideon, who was suddenly absorbed once more in his devotions.

"Hear ye, Master Godlamb," said the other. But Go-to-bed Godlamb stirred not. He shrank from the appeal to himself.

"It is to me your post has been consigned, is it not so?" enquired the one.

"It is I who take it off your hands—speak," cried Gerald. "Remember, Gideon," he added with upraised finger.

"Speak, who is it?" said both at once. Gideon shuffled with his feet, and looked heavier and more embarrassed than ever; but as he caught sight of the warning finger, he absolutely shut his eyes in utter despair, and pointing at Gerald, with the words, "Verily, and of a truth, thou art the man," he hastened away as fast as his indolent nature would permit, "before he should fall into the toils of the angry Philistines," as he expressed it.

Gerald could not suppress a look of triumph. Whatever were Mark Maywood's feelings, he only expressed them by a dark scowl of disappointment, and then turned away without another word.


Chapter IV.

"'What hour now?'
'I think it lacks of twelve,'
'No, it is struck—'
'Indeed I heard it not.'"


The night had closed in—that night of so vital importance to his father's destiny—and Gerald sat alone in a small lower room, his heart beating high with hope, that he should contribute to his father's rescue.

He was lost in thought, when a firm hand laid on his shoulder roused him from his abstracted state. He turned his head, and saw, to his surprise, Mark Maywood by his side. The young man wore a calmer, clearer brow, although his usual cold, stern, almost determined expression still pervaded it.

"Comrade," said Maywood with much appearance of frankness in his manner, "I have spoken roughly without cause; I crave your pardon."

Gerald heard this unexpected address with great astonishment; and, before he answered, paused in much embarrassment.

"Let us be frank," continued Mark. "Had we been so before, much ill will and evil blood might have been spared. I have only divined your feelings from my own. You have not seen the pretty daughter of our colonel with admiration. Nor have I."

Gerald started with again rising wrath, but his rival interrupted him.

"Bear with me for a while," he continued, "and hear me out. You[Pg 445] have been here long. I am but a new-comer. You have the prior claim. Perhaps she returns your love. Had I known of this before—and as it is I have but guessed it, on witnessing your anxiety to hold this watch in the court, beneath her window—I had withdrawn, as is my duty. And now, comrade, I return to offer you the sacrifice of my newborn admiration, and at the same time my friendship."

"What you say seems fair and straightforward, Master Maywood," said Gerald, overcome by the frank manner of the young soldier, "and I thank you for this generosity and truth. My suspicions, then, did not deceive me? You love her, and you sought to see her to-night?"

"I did," said Maywood.

"And she, did she return your love? Did she herself accede to this meeting?"

Mark shook his head with a faint, doubtful smile, but gave no answer. Gerald's brow again grew gloomy, and he sank his head between his hands.

"Come! come! no more of this," pursued the other young soldier, with a cordiality of manner which Gerald had never before witnessed in his dark, stern aspect. "Let all be forgiven and forgotten. Come, pledge me in this one cup. These drinkings of toasts, as it is called, these pledgings over liquor are considered unseemly, and even ungodly by many; I know it well, but you cannot refuse to drink one cup with me, as earnest of our kindly feeling for the future."

For the first time Gerald now observed that Maywood bore under his arm a flagon of ale, and held in his left hand two cups of horn.

"I reject not your kindly feeling," answered Gerald; "but I am not wont to drink,"—and he repelled the cup which Maywood now filled for him.

"Nay! nay!" said Mark, sitting down by the table on which Gerald leant. "You wrong me by refusing this first offer of reconciliation. Come, comrade, this one."

Gerald took the cup of ale unwillingly, and only raised it to his lips. But Maywood shook his head at him—and Gerald, in compliance with his newly made friend's request, at last swallowed the contents.

"I am not used to these strong drinks," said Gerald, setting down the horn with evident distaste. "I like them not; but I have done this to show my willingness to meet you on friendly ground."

Maywood raised, in turn, his cup, but at the same moment calling to a dog that had followed him into the room, he said, "Down, Roger, down," and stooped to repulse it; immediately afterwards he raised the horn, and seemed to drain the ale to the last drop.

"One more, and then I will not urge you again," said Mark to Gerald, eyeing him with a sharp, enquiring look.

"No, no, not one," replied the young man with disgust. "Already this unusual drink has confused my head. I am accustomed to water only—such was my uncle's mode of educating me. It is strange how my brain turns with this fermented liquor. I have done wrong to drink it," and Gerald rubbed his heavy forehead, and strained his eyes. His powers of vision became more and more confused, and it was with difficulty that he could now see before him the face of Maywood, which to his intellect, disordered by the liquor, seemed to wear a strange expression of cunning, and triumphant contempt. He made an effort, however, to shake off this feeling and raise his sinking head, but in vain. A sensation of overpowering drowsiness crept over him more and more. The thought of his watch, however, was still uppermost in his mind, and he had yet power sufficient to reflect that there was still some time to midnight, and that a little slumber might restore him; and giving way to the oppressive sleep which came over him, he laid his head on the table, and was immediately lost to all sense of what was passing around him.

At first Gerald's sleep was heavy and complete. How long it remained so, he had no power to tell. At length, however, it became lighter, and grew more troubled and confused. Wild dreams began to course each[Pg 446] other through his brain—at first of an undefinable and fantastic nature—then they assumed a more definite shape. He dreamed of his father—that old, greyheaded cavalier, with his long white beard—and before him stood Lazarus Seaman, who accused him of absurd and imaginary crimes. And now they brought him into that open court—a file of soldiers were drawn up—their muskets were levelled at that old man's heart—Gerald struggled, and sought to spring between those deadly instruments and his doomed father, but his feet clove to the ground—he struggled in vain—the muskets were discharged, and his father fell weltering in his blood. With the last struggle of a convulsive nightmare, he started up, uttering a loud scream. It was but a frightful dream. And yet the noise of those fearful muskets—that discharge of artillery—still rang in his ears. As he opened his eyes, all was dark around him—the darkness of deep night. It was long before he could sufficiently recover his senses to remember what had passed; and when slowly the events of the day forced themselves upon his mind, his intellects seemed still confused and troubled. How strangely real now appeared the impression of that dream! It was with difficulty he could persuade himself that the firing had been imaginary; and even now there seemed a strange confusion of noise and voices around him; but that, surely, was the ringing in his head from the unusual draught he had taken.

Slowly his whole memory returned to him, and he recalled to himself that it was necessary for him to be ready to answer for Godlamb Gideon when that worthy's name was to be called over for the midnight watch. He staggered up unto his feet, and with difficulty found his way into the open air. As he gazed, with somewhat troubled brain, on the bright starlit sky, two or three soldiers hurried past them.

"Hark ye, comrade," he said to one, "how long is it yet to midnight?"

"Midnight! where have you been hiding yourself, comrade?" answered the man. "Midnight is long since past."

"Long since past!" screamed Gerald with frantic violence. "No! no! it is impossible—my post was at midnight in the tower court."

"Then you have escaped by wonderful interposition, friend, from the consequences of your absence; for I was there when the names were called, and 'present' was answered for the sentinel at the tower court."

"Father of mercy!" cried Gerald in despair. "What, then, has happened?"

"Happened!" echoed the soldier; "why, the prisoner has tried to escape! But didn't you hear the shots? They brought the old reprobate to the earth, of a surety."

Gerald uttered a loud groan and fell against the wall of the house; but in another moment he recovered himself by a desperate effort from a feeling of sickness and death, and repulsing violently the soldier who had come to his assistance, he rushed round the mansion with whirling brain and clenched teeth towards the tower court. His father had been killed—killed by his own folly. Rage, despair, contrition, self-horror, at having been so weak as to accept Maywood's proposal to drink that fatal drink which caused his deadly sleep, all tortured his heart, and drove him almost to madness. He could not doubt that it was that hated Maywood who had deceived him, drugged his liquour, cheated him into a sleep, in order to be present undisturbed at his rendezvous with Mildred; and now it was by his hand, by the hand of that villain, that his father had fallen.

All was commotion in the fortress. Gerald, as he rushed forward, heard the noise of voices and boats upon the water—the voice of Lazarus Seaman—now the men calling to each other. Horror-stricken, overwhelmed with despair, convulsed with rage, he bounded through the vaulted passage. In the moonlit court stood now but one figure alone—the sentinel, who was bending over the parapet, and seemed to be watching with interest the movement of the boats upon the water. With the rage of a tiger Gerald sprang upon him, and seized him by the collar with frenzied[Pg 447] gripe. It was, indeed, Maywood—pale, agitated, and excited.

"Villain! traitor! assassin!" screamed Gerald madly, frantic with passion and despair, "you have betrayed that greyheaded old man; you have murdered him; but I will have revenge! He was my father, and it is you have killed him."

"Your father!" exclaimed the young sentinel in a voice choked by emotion. "He was mine, and I have saved him."

Gerald released his hold and staggered back.

For a moment the young men stared at each other in bewildered surprise. Then all at once the truth flashed across them.

"Brother! brother!" burst simultaneously from their lips. "Gerald! Everard!" they exclaimed again; and Everard Clynton, flinging himself into his brother's arms, gave way to his suppressed agitation, and burst into a flood of tears. At this moment a distant sound of a gun came across the water; Everard sprang up and grasped his brother's arm.

"Hush!" he said, "three shots from the sea are the signal to me that he has escaped in safety to the vessel that awaits him."

Another boomed faintly across the broad. A pause of fearful interest followed, and then another. Once more the brothers fell into each others' arms.

In a few words Everard Clynton explained to his brother, how, after his father's capture, he had enlisted in the troop quartered in the fortress, in order to save him. How he had known from their friends without the means provided to effect his father's escape; how he, too, had sought, with desperation, the midnight watch upon which depended his father's delivery; and, finding himself overcome by his supposed rival, he had administered to him a sleeping draught in order to secure the post; how his pretended admiration for Mistress Mildred had been assumed in order to forward his views and colour his designs, by giving a pretext to his desire to obtain the post of sentry in the court; how Mildred had never given him any encouragement, Gerald's unreasonable jealousy having supplied the rest.

He had assisted his father to escape, and only long after his flight had given the alarm, and fired upon the water, pretending to call for a sudden pursuit.

Mark Maywood, however, was tried by a court-martial for negligence upon duty on the night of the prisoner's escape; but the constantly exhibited violence of the Republican principles which he had affected, as well as his zeal and exemplary good conduct since he had joined the troop, saved him in the colonel's eyes. He was acquitted. Shortly afterwards he disappeared altogether from the fortress, after an affectionate farewell to Gerald Clynton, who had the good fortune to receive, in due time, the assurance of his brother's safe escape to join his father in Flanders.

Not long afterwards, the death of Colonel Lazarus Seaman leaving his daughter an orphan, Gerald Clynton married pretty little Mistress Mildred, and, quitting the service, retired to Lyle-Court, the estate bequeathed to him by his uncle.

There is no doubt that pretty little Mistress Mildred's eyes were given to be coquettish in spite of themselves; but yet, notwithstanding sundry little symptoms of jealousy exhibited by Gerald, there is every reason to believe that he was as absurd and misled in his jealousy after as he was before his marriage, and that she made him a most excellent wife.

During the more peaceful times of the Protectorate, Gerald received news from time to time of the welfare of his father and his brother; and, upon the Restoration, he had the happiness of welcoming them to the English shores once more.

Although Lord Clynton always preserved a predilection for his elder son, yet he had somehow found out that Gerald bore an extraordinary resemblance to his deceased mother, and always treated him with the utmost love. He never forgot, also, the deep affection Gerald had displayed in his efforts to save him during that never-to-be-forgotten Midnight Watch.



[Pg 448]


We should take but a limited view of science if we supposed, that the laws of nature of which it is cognizant have for their object the continuance only and preservation of the several parts of the universe; they provide also for change, improvement, development, progression. By these laws not only are the same phenomena, the same things, perpetually reproduced, but new phenomena, new arrangements, new objects are being successively developed. In short, we are able to perceive, to a certain extent, that not only the world is preserved and renewed, but grows and is created according to great general laws, which are indeed no other than the great ideas of the Divine Mind.

The modern science of geology has more especially led us to extend our view of science in this direction. The discovery of those mute records of past changes which lay buried in the earth, has induced us to investigate with awakened curiosity those changes which are actually taking place before us in the broad day, and in our own generation; and the result has been a conviction, that in the activity of nature there was a provision made, not only for restoration from decay, and a perpetual renewal of the individuals of each species, but for successive transformations in the surface of the globe, fitting it for successive forms of vegetable and animal life. The plant that lives, and sows its seed, and dies, has not only provided for its own progeny; under many circumstances it prepares the soil for successors of a superior rank of vegetation—"Pioneers of vegetation," as Dr Macculloch calls them, "the lichens, and other analogous plants, seek their place where no others could exist; demanding no water, requiring no soil, careless alike of cold and heat, of the sun and of the storm; rootless, leafless, flowerless; clothing the naked rock, and forming additional soil for their successors." The whole tribe of corals, whose lives are sufficiently brief and sufficiently simple, are yet not permitted to die away from the scene, and leave it, as so many of us do, just as they found it; they build up such a mausoleum of their bones—(for what used to be considered as the shell of the animal, is now pronounced to be a sort of bony nucleus or skeleton)—that large islands are formed, and a corresponding displacement of the sea is occasioned. The little creatures heave up the ocean on us. The river that to the poet's eye flows on for ever in the same channel, "giving a kiss," and kisses only, to every pebble and every sedge "it overtaketh in its pilgrimage," is detected to be secretly scraping, abrading, cutting out the earth like a knife, and washing it away into the sea. On the other hand, the earthquake and the volcano, which were looked on as paroxysms and agonies of nature, are transformed in our imagination into the constant ministers of beneficent change, and of creative purposes; and the momentary violence they commit, is to be excused on the plea of the great and permanent good they effect. For it is they who build the hills and the mountains, whence flow the streams of abundance upon the earth, and which, instead of being the gigantic, melancholy ruins Bishop Burnet took them to be, are the palaces and storehouses of nature, which it is given in charge to these sons of Vulcan to construct and to repair from the ravages which the soft rains of heaven incessantly commit upon them.

Astronomy, too, notwithstanding the severe discipline she has undergone, has in these later times resumed all the boldness of her youth, and brought her stores of science to the construction of the most splendid cosmogony that ever attracted the faith of the learned. She has girt her long robe around her, and entered the lists with, and far outstripped, whatever is boldest in the speculations of the youngest of the sciences. The nebular hypothesis, though not yet entitled, as we think, to be considered other than an hypothesis, has assumed a shape and consistency which forbids an entire rejection of it, which enforces our respect, and which, at all[Pg 449] events, habituates the imagination to regard our planetary system as having probably been evolved, under the will of Providence, by the long operation of the established laws of matter.

It is quite a legitimate object of science, therefore, to view the laws of the physical world—whether they regard its mechanic movement, its chemistry, or its zoology—in their creative as well as reproductive functions; and it is the purpose of a work lately published, entitled "Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation," and which has drawn to itself considerable attention, to collect and arrange whatever hints or fragments of knowledge science affords, enabling us to bring the successive phenomena of creation under the formula of general laws. In this purpose it is impossible to find a shadow of blame, and the work will probably answer one good end, that of directing the studies of scientific men into paths but little or timidly explored. But unfortunately, what the author has collected as the results of science, are, in some instances, little else than the wild guess-work of speculation. He has no scruple whatever in imitating those early geographers, who, disliking the blank spaces of undiscovered regions, were in the habit in their charts

"Of placing elephants instead of towns."

Indeed, his book is an assemblage of all that is most venturous and most fanciful in modern speculation, in which the most conspicuous place is allotted to a modification of Lamarck's theory on the development of animal life.

The charge of an atheistic tendency, as it is the heaviest which can be made against a work, so it is the last which ought to be hazarded without sufficient cause. In general, owing to the very sacredness of the subject, we feel disposed, in all suspicious cases, to pass over in silence both accusation and defence; and if in the present instance we depart, for a moment, from this line of conduct, it is only to give expression to a conviction—which we share, we believe, with all who have both the interest of science and the interest of theology at heart—that the fair efforts of the scientific enquirer should never be impeded by needless objections of a theological character. What we mean is this: though a suspicion may cross the mind, that a writer does not hold the religious tenets which we should desire to see every where advocated; yet if we are persuaded, at the same time, that this laxity of faith has no real logical connexion with the scientific results with which he is occupied, we ought not to inflict on them any portion of our suspicion or distrust. We shall always protest against confounding the legitimate attempts of science with the erroneous principles of certain schools of metaphysics, which may or may not be connected with them. If there is atheism in the world, we know whence it comes; we know well it is in a very different laboratory than that of the chemist that it has been distilled.

The unknown author before us, repeatedly protests against being numbered amongst atheistic philosophers; on our own part, we are thoroughly convinced that no formula of physical science could possibly interfere with a rational belief in the power and wisdom of God; what remains, then, but to treat his book purely in a scientific point of view?

To reduce to a system the acts of creation, or the development of the several forms of animal life, no more impeaches the authorship of creation, than to trace the laws by which the world is upheld and its phenomena perpetually renewed. The presumption naturally rises in the mind, that the same Great Being would adopt the same mode of action in both cases. If, for instance, the nebular hypothesis, to which we have already alluded, should be received as a scientific account of the proximate origin of our planetary system, this, as Mr Whewell has shown in his "Bridgewater Treatise," would serve only to enlighten and elevate our conception of the power of God. And indeed to a mind accustomed—as is every educated mind—to regard the operations of Deity as essentially differing from the limited, sudden, evanescent impulses of a human agent, it is distressing to be compelled to picture to itself the power of God as put forth in[Pg 450] any other manner than in those slow, mysterious, universal laws, which have so plainly an eternity to work in; it pains the imagination to be obliged to assimilate those operations, for a moment, to the brief energy of a human will, or the manipulations of a human hand. Does not the language even of a Christian poet, when he speaks of God as launching from his ample palm the rolling planets into space, in some measure offend us? Do we not avoid as much as possible all such similitudes, as being derogatory to our notions of the Supreme?

There are still, indeed, some men of narrow prejudices who look upon every fresh attempt to reduce the phenomena of nature to general laws, and to limit those occasions on which it is necessary to conceive of a direct and separate interposition of divine power, as a fresh encroachment on the prerogatives of the Deity, or a concealed attack upon his very existence. And yet these very same men are daily appealing to such laws of the creation as have already been established, for their great proofs of the existence and the wisdom of God! Their imagination has remained utterly untutored by the little knowledge which they have rather learned to repeat than to apprehend. Whatever words they may utter, of subtle and high-sounding import, concerning the purely spiritual nature of the Divine Being, it is, in fact, a Jupiter Tonans clad in human lineaments, and invested with human passions, that their heart is yearning after. Such objectors as these can only be beaten back, and chained down, by what some one has called the brute force of public opinion.

Some little time ago men of this class deemed it irreligious to speak of the laws of the human mind; it savoured of necessity, of fatalism; they now applaud a Dr Chalmers when he writes his Bridgewater Treatise, to illustrate the attributes of God in the laws of the mental as well as the physical world.

No, there is nothing atheistic, nothing irreligious, in the attempt to conceive creation, as well as reproduction, carried on by universal laws. For what is the difference between individual isolated acts, and acts capable of being expressed in a general formula? This only, that in the second case the same act is repeated in constant sequence with other acts, and probably repeated in many places at the same time. The divine work is only multiplied. If the creation of a world should be proved to be as orderly and systematic as that of a plant, this may make worlds more common to the imagination, but it cannot make the power that creates them less marvellous.

But while we would reprove the narrowness of spirit that finds, in any of the discoveries of science, a source of disquietude for the interests of religion, we have here an observation to make of an opposite character, which we think of some importance, and which we shall again, in reviewing the theories of our author, have occasion to insist upon. It is undoubtedly true that there rises in the minds of every person at all tinctured with science, a presumption that every phenomenon we witness might be, if our knowledge enabled us, reduced under the expression of some general law; and that whatever changes are, or have been, produced in the world, might be traced to the interwoven operations of such laws. But however prevalent and justifiable such a presumption may be, we hold it no sound philosophy to give it so complete a preponderance as to debar the mind from contemplating the possibility of quite other and independent acts of divine power, the possibility of the abrupt introduction into our system of new facts, or series of facts, with their appropriate laws. The author before us, in his anxiety to explain, after a scientific manner, the introduction of life, and the various species of animals, into the globe, seems to have thought himself entitled to have recourse to the wildest hypothesis rather than to the immediate intervention of creative power; as if it were something altogether unphilosophical to suppose that there could be such a thing as a quite new development of that plastic energy. It is not even necessary that we should urge, that if a Creator exist, it is a most unwarrantable supposition to imagine that all his creative power has been exhausted. We say, even to an atheistic philosophy, that it is an[Pg 451] unauthorized limitation that would forbid the mind to contemplate the possibility of the uprise, in time, of entirely new phenomena. Can any philosopher, of any school whatever, be justified in saying, that there shall be no new fact introduced into the universe?—that its laws cannot be added to? Why should he recoil from the introduction of any thing new? If he is one whose last formula stands thus, whatever is, is—this new fact will also fall, with others, into his formula. Of this, also, he can say, whatever is, is. There is, we repeat, a strong presumption in favour of a scientific sequence, of an unbroken order of events; but this presumption is not to authorize any hypothesis whatever in order to escape from the other alternative, an immediate intervention of creative power. This, also, is a probability which philosophy recognises, and in which a rational mind may choose to rest till science brings to him some definite result.

We are very far from intending to follow the author of the Vestiges of the Natural History of the Creation through all the sciences along which his track has led him. We shall limit ourselves to what forms the most peculiar and startling portion of his work—to his theory of the origin and development of animal life.

But for the discoveries of geology a certain philosophy might have been content to say of the animal creation, that it was the law of nature that life should beget life—that reproduction, like nutrition, to which it has been assimilated, is a part of the definition of life—and that, as to a commencement of the various tribes of animals, we are no more bound to look for this than for the commencement of any other of the phenomena of nature. From the researches, however, of geology, it is evident that there was a time when this earth revolved around the sun a barren and untenanted globe—that there was a time when life did make its first appearance, and that in different epochs of the world's existence there have flourished very different species of animals than those which now inhabit it. Here, at all events, the imagination cannot gain that imperfect repose which it finds in the contemplation of an eternal series. It is a plain historical fact, that life had a beginning on this earth, and that from time to time new forms of life, new species of vegetables and animals, have been introduced upon the scene. Here are two great facts to be accounted for, or to be left standing out, unconnected in their origin with that interlinked series of events which creation elsewhere displays. Life reproduces life, the plant its seed, the animal its young, each after its kind, such is the law; but this law itself, when was it promulgated, or when and how did it come into force and operation?

For ourselves, in the present imperfect condition of our knowledge, we are satisfied with referring life, in all its countless forms, at once to the interposing will of the Creator. We listen, however, with curiosity and attention to any theory which the naturalist or physiologist may have to propose, so he proceed in the fair road of induction. There is nothing in the laws of life which forbids, but much, on the contrary, which invites, to the same pains-taking examination which has been bestowed, with more or less success, on other phenomena of nature.

But what is the resolution of this problem which the author of the Vestiges proposes? Assuredly not one which indicates the boldness of advancing science, but one of those hardy conjectures which are permitted to arise only in the infancy of a science, and which show how clear the field is, hitherto, of certain knowledge—how open to the very wantonness of speculation. Very little has been done towards determining the laws of life, and therefore the space is still free to those busy dreamers, who are to science what constructors of Utopias are to history and politics. His solution is simple enough, and with good reason may it be simple, since it depends on nothing but the will of its framer. The germ of life—that primary cell with its granule, in which some physiologists have detected the first elementary form of life—he finds to be a product of chemistry. From this germ, cell, or animalcule, or whatever it may be called, has been developed, in succession, all the various forms of existence—each form having, at some[Pg 452] propitious moment, given birth to the form just above it, which again has not only propagated itself, but produced an offspring of a still higher grade in the scale of creation. Thus the introduction of life, and the various species of animals, is easily accounted for. "It has pleased Providence to arrange, that one species should give birth to another, till the second highest gave birth to man, who is the very highest."—(P. 234.) Under favourable skies, some remarkable baboon had, we presume, a family of Hottentots, whose facial angle, we believe, ranks them, with physiologists, next to the brute creation; these grew, and multiplied, and separated from the tribes of the Simiæ; under a system of improved diet, and perhaps by change of climate, they became first tawny, and then white, and at last rose into that Caucasian family of which we here, in England, boast ourselves to be distinguished members.

Such a solution as this most people will at once regard as utterly unworthy of serious consideration. This progressive development is nowhere seen, and contradicts all that we do see; for no progeny, even amongst hybrids, was ever known to be of a superior order, in the animal creation, to both its parents. Such a proposed origin of the human race would be sufficient, with most of us, for its condemnation. "Give us at least," we exclaim, "a man to begin with—some savage and his squaw—some Iceland dwarf if you will, wrapt in his nutritious oils—something in the shape of humanity!" In short, it is a thing to be scoffed away, and deserving only of a niche in some future Hudibras. But although the theory is thus rash and absurd, and requires only to be stated to be scouted, the author, in his exposition of it, advances some propositions which are deserving of attention, and for this reason it is we propose to give to his arguments a brief examination.

The theory divides itself into two parts—the production of organic life from the inorganic world; and the progressive development of the several species from the first simple elementary forms of life.

Spontaneous, or, as our author calls it, aboriginal generation, is a doctrine neither new, nor without its supporters. But unfortunately for his purposes, the class of cases of spontaneous generation which appear to be at all trustworthy, are those in which the animalcule, or other creatures, have been produced either within living bodies, (entozoa,) or from the putrefaction of vegetable or animal life, the decay and dissolution of some previous organization. Here life still produces life, though like does not produce like. It is well known that, amongst some of the lower class of animals, as amongst certain of the polypi, reproduction is nothing more than a species of growth; a bud sprouts out of the body, which, separating itself, becomes a new animal. With such an analogy before us, there appears nothing very improbable in the supposition that entozoa, and other descriptions of living creatures, should be produced from the tissues of the higher animals, either on a separation of their component parts when they decay, or on a partial separation when the animal is inflicted with disease. We make no profession of faith on this subject; we content ourselves with observing, that this class of cases, where the evidence is strongest, and approaches nearest to conviction, lends no support whatever to our author's hypothesis, and provides him with no commencement of vital phenomena. Of cases where life has been produced by the operation of purely chemical laws on inorganic matter, there are certainly none which will satisfy a cautious enquirer.

If Mr Crosse or Mr Weekes produce a species of worm by the agency of electricity, it is impossible to say that the germ of life was not previously existing in the fluid through which the electricity passed. When lime is thrown upon a field, and clover springs up, it is the far more probable supposition that the seed was there, but owing to ungenial circumstances had not germinated; for no one who has mentioned this fact has ventured to say that the experiment would always succeed, and that lime thrown upon a certain description of soil would in all parts of the world produce clover. Not to add, that it would be strange indeed if such an instance[Pg 453] were solitary, and that other vegetation should not be produced by similar means.[3]

Vegetable and animal life, we ought here to mention, are considered by our author as both derived from the same elementary germ which branches out into the two great kingdoms of nature; so that it is of equal importance to him to find a case of spontaneous generation amongst the plants as amongst the animals. We must, therefore, extend the observation we made on a certain class of cases amongst animals, to an analagous class of supposed cases of spontaneous generation amongst vegetables. If that downy mould, for instance, which the good housewife finds upon her pots of jam, be considered as a vegetable, and be supposed to have grown without seed, it would be somewhat analagous to the entozoa amongst animals; it would be a vegetation produced by the decay of a previous vegetation.

It is only necessary to recall to mind the instances which naturalists record of the minuteness of the seeds of life, and the manner in which they may lie for a long time concealed, in order to induce us to presume, in the majority of examples that are alleged of spontaneous generation, the previous existence of the seed or the germ. Take the following from Dr Carpenter's work on Comparative Physiology:—"Another very curious example of fungous vegetation, in a situation where its existence was not until recently suspected, is presented in the process of fermentation. It appears from microscopic examination of a mass of yeast, that it consists of a number of minute disconnected vesicles, which closely resemble those of the Red Snow, and appear to constitute one of the simplest forms of vegetation. These, like seeds, nay remain for almost any length of time in an inactive condition without losing their vitality; but when placed in a fluid in which any kind of sugary matter is contained, they commence vegetating actively, provided the temperature is sufficiently high; and they assist in producing that change in the composition of the fluid which is known under the name of fermentation."—P. 74. With such instances before us, the experiments of Messieurs Crosse and Weekes must be conducted with singular care and judgment, in order to lead to any satisfactory result.

Let us be allowed to say, that the experiments of those gentlemen excite in us no horror or alarm. A Frankenstein who produces nothing worse than a harmless worm, may surely be suffered to go blameless. Let these electricians pursue their experiments, and make all the worms they can. They will incur no very grave responsibility for such additions as they can make to that stream of life which is pouring from every crack and crevice of the earth. Some persons have a vague idea, that there is something derogatory to the lowest form of animal life to have its origin in merely inorganic elements; an idea which results perhaps not so much from any subtle and elevated conceptions of life, as from an imagination unawakened to the dignity and the marvel of the inorganic world. What is motion but a sort of life? a life of activity if not of feeling. Suppose—what indeed nowhere exists—an inert matter, and let it be suddenly endowed with motion, so that two particles should fly towards each other from the utmost bounds of the universe; were not this almost as strange a property as that which endows an irritable tissue or an organ of secretion? Is not the world one—the creature of one God—dividing itself, with constant interchange of parts, into the sentient and the non-sentient, in order, so to speak, to become conscious of itself? Are we to place a great chasm between the sentient and the non-sentient, so that it shall be derogation to a poor[Pg 454] worm to have no higher genealogy than the element which is the lightning of heaven, and too much honour to the subtle chemistry of the earth to be the father of a crawling subject, of some bag, or sack, or imperceptible globule of animal life? No; we have no recoil against this generation of an animalcule by the wonderful chemistry of God; our objection to this doctrine is, that it is not proved.

But, proved or not, our author has still the most difficult part of his task to accomplish. From his animated globule he has to develop the whole creation of vegetable and animal life. We shall be contented with watching its development through one branch, that of the animal kingdom.

The idea of the development of the animal creation from certain primary rudiments or simple forms of life, is due, we believe, to Lamarck; and although his peculiar theory has met, and deservedly, with ridicule, we do not hesitate to say that it is far more plausible, and substantially far more rational, than that which our author has substituted. Geology reveals to us a gradual extinction of species, accompanied by a successive appearance of new species;[4] it reveals to us also that the surface of the earth has undergone great mutations; that land and sea have frequently changed places; and that the climate of the several regions of the world, owing to many causes, has greatly varied. Natural history is replete with striking accounts of the modifications produced in a race of animals by the change of climate, diet, and the enforcement of new habits; and linking all these facts together, it does not appear a very violent supposition, nor one that departs from the frequent analogies of nature, to say, that the causes which have brought about the extinction of certain species may have also operated to the development of new species. The manifest error of Lamarck was an egregious exaggeration of certain well-known truths. Because external circumstances may do much in directing the inherent power of development[Pg 455] possessed by a given organization, he resolved that it should do every thing. The camelopard was to get his long neck by stretching for his food; and the duck her web-foot by paddling in the water. But the author before us breaks loose entirely from the region of facts; or rather he announces to us, on his own responsibility, an entirely new fact—that it is the law of animal life that each species should, from time to time, produce a brood of the species next in order of perfection or complexity of organization. With him, this development is the result merely of a law of generation which he himself has devised to meet the emergency.

Amongst the laws of life, the most conspicuous and undoubted is this—that each species reproduces itself, that like begets like. This law our author cannot of course gainsay; but he appends to it another overruling law, that from time to time, at long intervals, the like does not beget the like, but the different and superior form of organization. In other words, the old law changes from time to time. Of this novel description of law he borrows the following illustration of Mr Babbage:—

Unquestionably, what we ordinarily see of nature is calculated to impress a conviction that each species invariably produces its like. But I would here call attention to a remarkable illustration of natural law, which has been brought forward by Mr Babbage in his Ninth Bridgewater Treatise. The reader is requested to suppose himself seated before the calculating machine and observing it. It is moved by a weight, and there is a wheel which revolves through a small angle round its axis, at short intervals, presenting to the eye successively a series of numbers engraved on its divided circumference.

"Let the figures thus seen, be the series 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, &c. &c., of natural numbers, each of which exceeds its immediate antecedent by unity.

"Now, reader," says Mr Babbage, "let me ask you how long you will have counted before you are firmly convinced that the engine has been so adjusted that it will continue, whilst its motion is maintained, to produce the same series of natural numbers. Some minds are so constituted, that after passing the first hundred terms they will be satisfied that they are acquainted with the law. After seeing five hundred terms, few will doubt; and after the fifty thousandth term, the propensity to believe that the succeeding term will be fifty thousand and one, will be almost irresistible. That term will be fifty thousand and one, and the same regular succession will continue; the five millionth, and the fifty millionth term will still appear in their expected order, and one unbroken chain of natural numbers will pass before your eyes from one up to one hundred million.

"True to the vast induction which has been made the next succeeding term will be one hundred million and one; but the next number presented by the rim of the wheel, instead of being, one hundred million and two, is one hundred million ten thousand and two. The law changes."

The illustration is carried through a page or two more, but we have quoted all that is essential.

Mr Babbage makes a very useless parade here of his calculating machine. A common household clock that strikes the hours, would illustrate all that his machine can possibly illustrate. If the reader seat himself before that homely piece of mechanism, he will hear it tick for sixty minutes, when the law of the machine will change, and it will strike.

In a scientific point of view it is absurd to talk about the law of his machine. His machine partakes only of the laws of mechanics, which, we presume, are as constant there as elsewhere. Our only definition of law is, a sequence that is constant; deny its constancy, and you deny it to be law; it is a mere contradiction in terms to speak of a law that changes.

If, therefore, our author, guided by this illustration of Mr Babbage's, proclaims a law of animal life which changes of itself from time to time, he is departing from the fundamental principle of all science—he who is so zealous to reduce all phenomenon to the formula of science! Anxious to escape from an abrupt interposition of creative power, he introduces a sudden mutability in the laws themselves of nature! If it be said that he does not (although his words imply it) insist upon a single law of nature that varies at intervals, but[Pg 456] contends for a variable result, produced by the law of reproduction acting under varied circumstances, and in co-operation with different laws—then was Mr Babbage's machine of no use whatever to him, nor did he stand in need of any peculiar illustration. There is not a class of phenomena which does not exhibit this variety of result by the diversified co-operation of laws constant in themselves. The frozen river becomes motionless; it ceases to flow; yet no one attributes any inconstancy to the laws of heat, or the laws of hydrostatics.

Quitting these abstractions, in which the writer before has shown himself no very great adept, let us enquire by what arguments he attempts to support his peculiar principles of development. That on which he appears chiefly to rely is the fact, that the embryo of one of the higher animals passes through the fœtal stages of the lower animals—the fish, the reptile, the bird—before it assumes its last definite shape. From this he would infer, that the germ of life is alike in all, and that it depends only on peculiarities of gestation whether it shall become a fish, a fowl, or a mammal. He lays particular stress on the circumstance, that the brain of the human embryo passes through these several stages.

But, 1. In order to derive any thing like an argument here, surely the whole human embryo, and not the brain only, ought to undergo these changes. But not only in man, in the other mammalia to which allusion is made, it is never the entire animal which passes through these transformations.

2. If the embryo of one of the mammalia pass through the fœtal stages of the fish and the bird, the embryo fish bears the same transitory resemblance to the fœtal condition of the bird or the mammal. So that the order here is reversed, and nothing appears proved but that some deviations of form are in all cases assumed before the final shape is adopted. And,

3. The physiologists who have made this branch of their science an especial study, tell us, as the result of their microscopic observations, that the embryo of the higher animals pursues a different course of development, from the very earliest stages, to that of the lower animals. It cannot be, therefore, according to the diagram that the author presents to us, that the same germ which is nourished up to a certain point to be fish, would, if transferred to other care and a better system of nutrition, be nourished into a bird or a mammal. If it is to be a mammal, it must be fashioned accordingly from the very beginning.

We will content ourselves with quoting, as our authority for these assertions, a passage from Dr Carpenter's work on Comparative Physiology; and we cite this author the more willingly, because he is certainly not one who is himself disposed to damp the ardour of speculation, and because the very similarity of some of his views, or expressions, renders him, at all events, an unexceptionable witness on this occasion.

"Allusion has been made to the correspondence which is discernible between the transitory forms exhibited by the embryos of the higher beings, and the permanent conditions of the lower. When this was first observed, it was stated as a general law, that all the higher animals, in the progress of their development, pass through a series of forms analogous to those encountered in ascending the animal scale. But this is not correct, for the entire animal never does exhibit such resemblance, except in a few particular cases to which allusion has already been made, (the case of the frog, and others, who undergo what is commonly called a metamorphosis.) And the resemblance, or analogy, which exists between individual organs, has no reference to their forms, but to their condition or grade of development. Thus we find the heart of the mammalia, which finally possesses four distinct cavities, at first in the condition of a prolonged tube, being a dilatation of the principal arterial trunk, and resembling the dorsal vessel of the articulated classes; subsequently it becomes shortened in relation to the rest of the structure, and presents a greater diameter, whilst a division of its cavity into two parts—a ventricle and an auricle—is evident, as in fishes; a third cavity, like that possessed by reptiles, is next formed by the subdivision of the[Pg 457] auricle previously existing; and lastly, a fourth chamber is produced by the growth of a partition across the ventricle; and in perfect harmony with these changes are the metamorphoses presented by the system of vessels immediately proceeding from the heart. In like manner, the evolution of the brain in man is found to present conditions which may be successively compared with those of the fish, reptile bird, lower mammalia, and higher mammalia; but in no instance is there an exact identity between any of these. It is to be remembered, that every animal must pass through some change in the progress of its development, from its embryonic to its adult condition; and the correspondence is much closer between the embryonic fish and the fœtal bird, or mammal, than between these and the adult fish."—(P. 196.)

And take, also, the following short passage from the preface of the same work, where the author has been speaking of the latest discoveries of physiologists on the development of the embryo.

"Thus, when we ascend the scale of being, in either of the two organized kingdoms, we observe the principle of specialisation remarkably illustrated in the development of the germ into the perfect structure. In the lowest of each kind, the first-formed membranous expansion has the same character throughout, and the whole enters into the fully-developed structure. In higher grades the whole remains, but the organs evolved from the centre have evidently the most elevated character. In the highest none but the most central portion is persistent; the remainder forming organs of a temporary and subservient nature."

The fact that the animal kingdom exhibits a gradual progression from forms the most simple to forms the most complex, is, of course, appropriated by our author as a proof of his theory of successive development. It is well known, that whilst this scale of being is an idea which occurs to every observer, the naturalist finds insuperable difficulties in arranging the several species of animals according to such a scale. To relieve himself from these, the author has taken under his patronage what, in honour of its founder, he calls the Macleay System, in which the animal kingdom is "arranged along a series of close affinities, in a circular form;" into which circles we will excuse ourselves from entering. It is a system as confused as it is fantastic; and our author, who writes in general in a clear and lucid manner, in vain attempts to present us with an intelligible exposition of it. Arrange the animal creation how you will, in a line or in circles, there is one fact open to every observer, that however fine may be the gradations amongst the lower animals, the difference between the higher animals is very distinctly marked. It is a difference which does not at all accord with the hypothesis of our author, "that the simplest and most primitive type gave birth to the type next above it, and this again produced the next higher, and so on to the very highest, the stages of advance being in all cases very small—namely, from one species only to another; so that the phenomenon has always been of simple and modest character." Whilst he confines himself to mollusks, and suchlike obscure creatures, the phenomenon he supposes may not be very startling; but when he ascends to the higher and larger animals, whose forms and habits are well known to us—when he has to find a father for the horse, the lion, the rhinoceros, the elephant—his phenomenon, we are sure, will no longer retain its "simple and modest character."

Naturalists have observed, that there is a striking uniformity of plan even amongst animals of very different habits, and which, perhaps, inhabit different elements; they have remarked, that this uniformity is adhered to even when it appears to answer no specific purpose, as when in the fin of a whale the unbending bone bears the semblance of the jointed hand. This, too, is pressed into the service of our author's hypothesis. It is a curious fact. But if we say of it, that it appears to hint the existence of some law, and to tempt the investigation of the physiologist, we assign to it all the scientific importance that it can possibly deserve.

Some physiologists, we must be permitted to observe, have rather amused themselves by a display of ingenuity, than profited science by[Pg 458] their discoveries of a unity of structure in animals of the most opposite description. It is easy to surprise the imagination by pointing out unexpected resemblances, if all cases of diversity are at the same time kept out of view. These writers will mention, for instance, that all quadrupeds have uniformly seven bones in the neck. The giraffe has no more than the pig. But they refuse to mention at the same time, that in birds the number varies from nine to twenty-three, and in reptiles from three to eight. Sometimes the merest fancy is indulged. We are told that in the pulpy substance of a certain mollusk there are lines drawn presenting a sketch of a vertebrated animal, and it is gravely intimated that nature seems to have made a rough design of the next work of art she was about to produce.

When Dr Carpenter tells us, in exemplifying this law of unity of composition, that "the skull is but an expansion of the three highest vertebræ, modified to afford space for the development of the contained brain and of the organs of sense," p. 191—is he much wiser than those entomologists whom he had been previously criticising for "maintaining that the wing of an insect is a modification of its leg?" Verily we suspect that if Martinus Scriblerus had had his attention drawn to this manner of viewing things, it would have greatly excited his learned ingenuity; he would probably have begun to apply this scientific method to a variety of things, and found a unity of composition never before dreamt of. What should have prevented him from casting a philosophic glance upon the furniture of his room? With less ingenuity than certain physiologists, he would easily detect a marvellous unity of plan. He would have probably taken the table with its four legs, and the disk they support, as his great type of joinery, and would have traced a modification of this type in all the articles around him. The chair is manifestly nothing else than the table, with a development of the hinder legs commonly called the back. From the chair to the sofa the transition would be ridiculously easy; indeed the sofa can only be considered as a variety of the chair, produced by a high state of cultivation. In the footstool, or ottoman, the disk of the table has become thick and pulpy, while its legs have dwindled into small globular supports. This exaggeration of the upper portion at the expense of the lower, is carried a step further in the chest of drawers, where the small globular supports bear a singular disproportion to the corpulent figure they sustain. In some varieties even these knob-like legs are wanting; but precisely in these cases, he would observe, the knobs invariably re-appear in the shape of handles, which are still a sort of paw. What is the fire-screen, he would say, but a table with the disk in a vertical position? What the four-post bedstead but a reduplication of the original type, a table placed on a table, the upper one being laid open? If he had had the advantage of reading Mr Dickens, he would have mentioned, in confirmation of this view, that young Mr Weller, when sleeping under a table, congratulates himself upon enjoying the luxury of a four-post bedstead. The coal-scuttle might perhaps present some difficulties; but if he might be allowed to approach it through the loo-table, he would doubtless succeed in tracing here also the unity of composition. In the loo-table the four legs have collapsed into a central column! The coal-scuttle is only a loo-table with the edges of the disk curled up—assuming a bonnet-like shape, the result, perhaps, of its long domesticity. In short, we believe the only insuperable difficulty Martin would encounter, would be, when, after having completed his survey, he would run off to the joiner to convince him of the unity of plan on which he had been so unconsciously working.

It was a bold step of our author's to adduce the geographical distribution of the several species of animals as a proof of his law of development. To most minds it would have immediately occurred as an objection. Each region of the earth has its own peculiar fauna, and this difference is not accountable on any known influence of soil or climate. What can explain the peculiar fauna of New Holland? If all the varieties of animal life spring from one and the same germ under the uniform laws of nature, how is it that in some[Pg 459] regions, fitted in every respect for the support of animal life, no animals whatever of the higher order are found? "New Zealand, which may be compared in dimensions to Ireland united with Scotland, which extends over more than 700 miles in latitude, and is in its many parts 90 miles broad, with varied stations, a fine climate, and land of all heights, from 14,000 feet downwards, does not possess one indigenous quadruped, with the exception of a small rat."—Lyell's Principles of Geology, Vol. i. p. 102. Other instances equally striking might be mentioned. How are we to explain them upon our author's hypothesis? Are we to make supposition upon supposition, and presume that the land of New Zealand had not been long enough emerged from the sea to allow of the ample development of the original germ of life; and that, if the rat had been left to himself, he would in process of time have peopled the whole region with dogs, and horses, and oxen, or some other analogous quadrupeds?

But our readers have perhaps heard sufficient of an hypothesis which is built only on a series of conjectures, and we ourselves are wearied with a too easy victory. There are many other topics in the book which would far better reward discussion than the one we have chosen—as, for instance, the geological views here put forward, the claims of phrenology, and the difference between instinct and intelligence; but if disposed to treat these subjects, we could have found other and more suitable opportunities; we thought it fit to select that which forms the peculiarity of the present work.

But absurd as the matter is, we must complete the account which the author gives of the development of that race in which we are chiefly interested—man. We have seen, that according to his law of progressive generation, and as an instance of what he denominates "a modest and simple phenomenon," man was one day born of the monkey or the ape. But this discovered law has not only thus happily introduced the human being upon the earth, it also throws light upon the diversities which exist in the family of man.

"The causes of the various external peculiarities of mankind, now require some attention. Why, it is asked, are the Africans black, and generally marked by ungainly forms? Why the flat features of the Chinese, and the comparatively well-formed figures of the Caucasians? Why the Mongolians generally yellow, the Americans red, and the Canadians white? These questions were complete puzzles to all early writers; but physiology has lately thrown a great light upon them. It is now shown that the brain, after completing the series of animal transformations, passes through the characters in which it appears in the Negro, Malay American, and Mongolian nations, and finally becomes Caucasian. The face partakes of these alterations. The leading characters, in short, of the various races of mankind, are simply representations of particular states in the development of the highest or Caucasian type. The Negro exhibits permanently the imperfect brain, projecting lower jaw,[5] and slender bent limbs of a Caucasian child some considerable time before the period of its birth. The aboriginal American represents the same child nearer birth. The Mongolian is an arrested infant newly born. And so forth."

So that we Caucasians are, at least, the only full grown children: all others are more or less abortions. Indeed we might be described, in the language of this theory, as the only animals on the face of the earth who pass through the full period of gestation. And yet even this honour may be disputed; perhaps we ourselves are but imperfect developments of that germ of life which is the progenitor of us all. The author darkly intimates that we may be supplanted from our high place in this world, that another and more powerful and sagacious race may be born of us, who may treat us no better than we have treated the monkeys and other species of the brute creation. This is the severest blow of all. After having humbled our[Pg 460] pride according to this philosopher's bidding, and taught ourselves to look upon the ape with due feelings of filial respect—after having acknowledged some sturdy baboon for our only Adam, and some malicious monkey for our sweet mother Eve—after having brought ourselves to see in the lower animals the same mental and moral faculties which we boast of, and to confess that the same psychology applies to both, with a slight modification in our theory of the origin of ideas—after having practised all this condescension, to be threatened with complete dethronement from our high place in the world!—to be told that we, too, shall have to obey a master who may govern us as man governs the horse! What a millennium to look forward to!

"Is our race but the initial of the grand crowning type? Are there yet to be species superior to us in organization, purer in feeling, more powerful in device and art, and who shall take a rule over us? There is in this nothing improbable on other grounds. The present race, rude and impulsive as it is, is perhaps the best adapted to the present state of things in the world; but the external world goes through slow and gradual changes, which may leave it in time a much serener field of existence. There may then be occasion for a nobler type of humanity, which shall complete the zoological circle on this planet, and realize some of the dreams of the purest spirits of the present race."—P. 276.

Melancholy prospect for man! When the earth becomes a serener field of existence, then will a race appear to take rule over him. Might not he become serener too? Is it thus that are to be solved all our social problems, all our discussions upon the perfectibility of man, all our vague but obstinate prophecies of some more rational and happier scheme of existence? This homo is to survive, it seems, only to make railroads for the future angelus.

On the authorship of this production we have no communication or conjecture to make. The writer has been successful, as far as we know, in preserving his incognito; and as the rumours that have reached our ear have all been again contradicted, we think it wisest to abstain from circulating any of then. We heard it pleasantly said that the author had been followed down as far as Lancashire, and that then all further trace of him had been lost. We think he might be traced further north than Lancashire. The style in one or two places bears symptoms of a Scottish origin. Occupied with the wild theory it promulgates, we have not said much of the literary merits of the work. Nor is there much to say. It is written in a clear, unpretending style, but somewhat careless and inexact. The exposition in the first portions of the work, the astronomical and geological, appeared to us particularly good. The author's knowledge of science is such as is gleaned by that sort of student who is denominated, in prefaces, the general reader; he is not, we should apprehend, a labourer in any one of its departments, but thankfully receives whatever is brought to his door of the results of science. With this chance-gathered stock he has ventured to frame, or rather to defend, his speculations. The sudden success of the work is not, we think, what any one could have prognosticated. It is a success which its singularity has gained for it, and which its superficiality will soon again forfeit.

We may mention that this notice was written after a perusal of the first edition. In the third edition, we observe that some passages have been slightly modified or omitted; but the hypothesis put forward is substantially the same.



[Pg 461]


Part XVI.

"Have I not in my time heard lions roar?
Have I not heard the sea, puft up with wind,
Rage like an angry boar chafed with sweat?
Have I not heard great ordnance in the field,
And Heaven's artillery thunder in the skies?
Have I not in the pitched battle heard
Loud 'larums, neighing steeds, and trumpets clang?"


The insurrection had broken out; there could now be no scepticism on the subject. Some hundreds of armed men were already crowding the grounds in front of the mansion; and from the shouts which rose in every quarter, and still more from the fires which blazed on every hill round the horizon, the numbers of the insurgents must have amounted to thousands. It was evident that we were in a pitfall, and that resistance was only the protraction of a fate which was now inevitable. The shrieks of the females and the despondency of the men, who naturally thought that their last hour was come, were enough to dishearten all resolution. For a few minutes, the only orders which I could give were to bar the doors and close the windows. The multitude, new to hostile enterprises, had till now kept at some distance, warned by their losses in the skirmish with the yeomanry, and probably expecting the arrival of troops. But the sight of our precautions, few and feeble as they were, gave them new courage; and discharges of musketry began to drop their bullets into the midst of our startled assemblage. It is only justice to the national intrepidity to say, that every measure which I proposed for defence was unhesitatingly adopted; and that one of my chief difficulties was to prevent rash sallies, which must have only terminated in loss of life. The short interval now allowed to us was employed in barricading the mansion, which was built almost with the strength of a fortress, and posting every man who could handle a musket or pistol, at the windows. Still I knew that this species of defence could not last long; and my only hope for our lives was, that the firing might bring some of the troops who patrolled the country to our assistance. But the discharges became closer and heavier, and still no sound of succour was to be heard. My situation became more anxious every moment; all looked up to me for their guidance; and though my garrison were brave and obedient, as became the high-spirited sons of Ireland, there seemed the strongest probability that the night would end in a general massacre. Yet there was no faint-heartedness under the roof; our fire was stoutly kept up whenever the assailants came within range; and as I hurried from chamber to chamber to ascertain the condition of our defence and give directions, I found all firm. Still the terrors of the females—the sight of the first women of the province flying for refuge to every corner where they might escape the balls, which now poured into every window; the actual wounds of some, visible by the blood streaming down their splendid dresses; the horror-stricken looks of the groups clinging to each other for hopeless protection; and the actual semblance of death in others fainting on the sofas and floors, and all this under an incessant roar of musketry—made me often wish that I could give way to the gallant impatience of my friends within the mansion, and take the desperate hazard of plunging into the midst of the multitude.

But a new danger awaited us; a succession of shrieks from one of the upper apartments caught my ear, and on rushing to the spot, and forcing my way through a crowd of women half frantic with alarm, I saw some of the outbuildings, immediately connected[Pg 462] with the mansion, wrapped in a sheet of fire. The insurgents had at last found out the true way to subdue our resistance; and we obviously had no alternative but to throw ourselves on their mercy, or die with arms in our hands. Yet, to surrender was perhaps only to suffer a more protracted death, degraded by shame; and when I looked round me on the helplessness of the noble and beautiful women around me, and thought of the agony which must be felt by us on seeing them thrown into the power of the assassins who were now roaring with triumph and vengeance, I dismissed all thoughts of submission at once, and determined to take the chances of resistance while any man among us had the power to draw a trigger. In rushing through the mansion, to make its defenders in the front aware of the new misfortune which threatened us, I happened to pass through the ball-room, where the corpse of its noble and brave master was. One figure was standing there, with his back to me, and evidently gazing on the body. All else was solitary. Of all the friends, guests, and domestics, not one had remained. Loud as were the shouts outside, and constant as was the crashing of the musketry, I could hear a groan, which seemed to come from the very heart of that lonely bystander. I sprang towards him; he turned at the sound of my step, and, to my surprise, I saw the face of the man whose share in the insurrection I had so singularly ascertained. I had a loaded musket in my hand, and my first impulse, in the indignation of the moment, was to discharge its contents through his heart. But he looked at me with a countenance of such utter dejection, that I dropped its muzzle to the ground, and demanded "What had brought him there at such a time?" "This!" he exclaimed, pointing to the pallid form on the sofa. "To that man I owed every thing. To his protection, to his generosity, to his nobleness of heart, I owed my education, my hopes, all my prospects in life. I should have died a thousand deaths rather than see a hair of his head touched—and now, there he lies." He sank upon his knees, took the hand of the dead, and wept over it in agony.

But I had no leisure to wait upon his remorse; the volleys were pouring in, and the glare of the burning buildings showed me that the flames were making fearful progress. "This," said I, "is your work. This murder is but the first-fruits of your treason; probably every life in this house is destined to butchery within the hour." He sprang on his feet. "No, no," he cried, "we are not murderers. This is the frenzy of the populace. Regeneration must not begin by massacre."

The thought suddenly struck me that I might make his fears, or his compunctions, at the moment available.

"You are at my mercy," said I. "I might justly put you to death at the instant, as a rebel, in the fact; or I might deliver you up to the law, when your fate would be inevitable. I can make no compromise. But, if you would make such atonement to your own conscience as may be found in undoing a part of the desperate wrong which you have done, go out to those robbers and murderers who are now thirsting for our blood, and put a stop to their atrocities if you can; save the lives of those in the house; or, if you cannot, die in the only attempt which can retrieve your memory."

He looked at me with a lacklustre eye for a moment, and uttered a few wild words, as if his mind was wandering. I sternly repeated my demand, and at length he agreed to try his influence with the multitude. I threw open the door, and sent him out, adding the words—"I shall have my eye upon you. If I find you swerve, I shall fire at you, in preference to any other man in the mob. We shall die together." He went forth, and I heard his recognition by the rebels, in their loud shouts, and their heavier fire against our feeble defences. But, after a few moments, the shouting and the fire ceased together. There was a pause; from its strangeness after the tumult of the last hour, scarcely less startling than the uproar. They appeared to be deliberating on his proposition. But while we remained in this suspense, another change came; loud altercations were[Pg 463] heard; and the pause was interrupted by a renewed rush to the assault. We now looked upon all as hopeless, and expected only to perish in the flames, which were rolling in broad sheets over the roof of the mansion. There was no symptom of faint-heartedness among us; but our ammunition was almost exhausted, and every countenance was pale with despair; another half hour, and our fate must be decided. In this extremity, with every sense wound up to its utmost pitch, I thought that I heard the distant trampling of cavalry. It came nearer still. There was evident confusion among the rebels. At length a trumpet sounded the charge, and a squadron of horse rushed into the lawn, sabring and firing among the multitude. The struggle was fierce, but brief; and before we could unbar the doors, and burst out to take a part in the mêlée, all was done; the rebels had fled, the grounds were cleared, and the dragoons were gathering their prisoners.

All was now congratulation; and I received thanks from gallant lips, and from bright eyes, which might have flattered one fonder of flattery. All imputed their safety to the address with which I had employed the feelings of the rebel leader. But for the pause produced by his presence, all must have perished. It had given time for the cavalry to come up; they having been bewildered in crossing the country, and floundering through the wretched by-roads which then formed the disgrace of Ireland. Life is a chapter of accidents; and even their arrival had been a matter of accident. An aide-de-camp of the viceroy had been sent in search of me with despatches: the officer in command at the next town had persuaded him, much against his will, to take as his escort one of the night patroles of horse; and thus were saved a hundred and fifty lives of the first personages of the province. By morning the mansion, and all within it, would probably have been embers.

The aide-de-camp's despatches were sufficiently alarming. The lord-lieutenant had received from England details of the intended insurrection. The privy council had been summoned, and the usual commands issued to keep the troops throughout the country on the alert; but the information was still so imperfect, the skill of the conspirators was so adroitly exerted in keeping their secret, and the outcry of the powerful parliamentary Opposition was so indignant and contemptuous at the remotest hint of popular disaffection, that the Government was virtually paralysed.

But the question was now decided; the scene which I had just witnessed unhappily left no room for doubt, and I determined to set off for the metropolis without delay. I had no sooner expressed my intention, than I was assailed on all hands with advice, and even with entreaties, to postpone my journey until the flight of the rebels was fully ascertained, or at least till daylight gave me a better chance of personal safety. But every moment now seemed to me more precious than the last; and, breaking through a circle of the noble and the fair, I threw myself on my horse, and with the aide-de-camp and a couple of dragoons for my escort, soon left the whole scene of entreaty and terror, sorrow and triumph, behind.

We rode hard through the night, observing frequent signs of the extended insurrection, in fires on the mountains, and the gatherings of peasantry on the roads—sometimes compelled to turn out of our way, by the evidence of their being armed and in military organization; and at others dashing through the groups, and taking them by surprise. A few shots fired at random, or the rage and roar of the crowd as we scattered them right and left in our gallop, were all that belonged to personal adventure; and when the dawn showed us from one of the hills round the capital the quiet city glittering in the first sunshine, all looked so lovely and so tranquil, that it required the desperate recollections of the night to believe in the existence of a vast and powerful combination, prepared to cover the land with burning and blood.

Within a few hours after my arrival, the privy council assembled; my intelligence was received as it deserved; it decided the wavering, and gave increased determination to the bold. Still, our sitting was long and anxious. The peril was now[Pg 464] undeniable, but the extent, the object, and the remedy, were alike obscure. It is not, of course, within my purpose to reveal the secrets of councils, in which all is transacted under the deepest bond of confidence; but it may be fairly told, that our deliberations often completely reversed the proverb, that "In the multitude of councillors there is safety," if by safety is meant either promptitude or penetration.

But there was one man among them, who would have distinguished himself in any council upon earth. He was a lawyer, and holding the highest office of his profession. But his ambition was still higher than his office, and his ability was equal to his ambition. Bold by nature, and rendered bolder by the constant success of his career, he would have been a matchless minister in a despotic government. Living under the old régime of France, the laurels of a Richelieu or a Mazarin might have found a formidable competitor in this man of daring and decision. He wanted but their scale of action, to have exhibited all their virtues, and perhaps all their vices.

At the bar, his career had been one of unexampled rapidity. He had scarcely appeared, when he burst through the crowd, and took the stand to which all the dignities of the profession seem the natural inheritance. He had scarcely set his foot on the floor, before he overtopped the bench. But the courts of justice were too narrow for him. It was in Parliament that he found the true atmosphere for his loftiness of flight, and keenness of vision. At that time the study of public speaking had become a fashion, and the genius of the country, singularly excitable, always ardent, and always making its noblest efforts under the spell of public display, exhibited the most brilliant proofs of its title to popularity. But in the very blaze of those triumphs, the Attorney-general showed that there were other weapons of public warfare, not less original and not less triumphant. No orator, and even no rhetorician, he seemed to despise alike the lustre of imagination and the graces of language. But he substituted a force, that often obtained the victory over both. Abrupt, bold, and scornful, his words struck home. He had all the power of plain things. He brought down no lightning from the heaven of invention, he summoned no flame from below; but the torch in his hand burned with withering power, and he wielded it without fear of man. By constitution haughty, his pride actually gave him power in debate. Men, and those able men too, often shrank from the conflict with one whose very look seemed to warn them of their temerity. But to this natural faculty of overthrow he added remarkable knowledge of public life, high legal repute, and the incomparable advantage of his early training in a profession which opens out the recesses of the soul, habitually forces imposture into light, and cross-examines the villain into reluctant veracity. There never was in Parliament a more remorseless or more effectual hand, in stripping off the tinsel of political pretension. His logic was contemptuous, and his contempt was logical. His blows were all straightforward. He wasted no time in the flourish of the sword; he struck with the point. Even to the most powerful of his opponents this assault was formidable. But with the inferior ranks of Opposition, he threw aside the sword and assumed the axe. Obviously regarding them as criminals against common sense and national polity, he treated them as the executioner might treat culprits already bound to the wheel, measuring the place for his blows with the professional eye, and crushing limb after limb at his leisure. The imperfect reports of debating in his day, have deprived parliamentary recollection of the most memorable of those great displays. But their evidence is given in the fact, that with the most numerous, powerful, and able Opposition of Ireland in his front, and the feeblest Ministerial strength behind him, the Attorney-general governed the parliament until the hour when its gates were closed for ever—when its substance was dissipated into thin air, and all but its memories sank into the returnless grave.

In the House of Lords, as chancellor, he instantly became the virtual viceroy. It is true, that a succession[Pg 465] of opulent and accomplished noblemen, every two or three years, were transmitted from Whitehall to the Castle, to pillow themselves upon a splendid sinecure, rehearse an annual King's speech, exhibit the acknowledged elegance of noble English life, and, having given the destined number of balls and suppers, await the warrant of a secretary's letter to terminate their political existence. But the chancellor was made of "sterner stuff." His material was not soluble by a blast of ministerial breath. Not even the giant grasp of Pitt would have dared to pluck the sceptre from his hand. If struck, he might have answered the blow as the flint answers, by fire. But the premier had higher reasons for leaving him in the possession of power; he was pure. In all the uproar of public calumny, no voice was ever heard impeaching his integrity; with the ten thousand arrows of party flying round him from every quarter, none ever found a chink in his ministerial mail. He loved power, as all men do who are worthy of it. He disdained wealth, as all men do who are fitted to use it. He scorned the popularity of the day, as all men do who know the essential baseness of its purchase; and aspiring after a name in the annals of his country, like all men to whom it is due—like them, he proudly left the debt to be discharged by posterity.

The chancellor was not without his faults. His scorn was too palpable. He despised too many, and the many too much. His haughtiness converted the perishable and purchasable malice of party, into the "study of revenge, immortal hate." When he struck down an opponent in the fair strife of Parliament, his scorn was like poison in the wound, and the blow was never forgotten but in the grave. But as a statesman, his chief and unconquerable misfortune was the narrowness of his scene of action. He was but the ruler of a province, while his faculties were fitted for the administration of an empire. His errors were the offspring of his position. He was the strong man within four walls; by the very length of his stride striking against them at every step, and bruised by the very energy of his impulse against his hopeless boundaries.

At length a time of desperate trial arose. The Rebellion of 1798 burst out. He had foreseen it. But the men of the Castle, lolling on their couches, would not believe in its possibility. The men of the populace, stirring up the rabble with the point of the dagger, derided him as a libeller of the people; and even the Government of England—too anxiously engaged in watching the movements of the French legions from the heights of Dover, to have time for a glance at disturbers behind the Irish Channel—for a time left him to his fate. But he was equal to the emergency. He had been scoffingly called "the Cassandra of the aristocracy;" but he had neither the fortunes nor the failures of a Cassandra; he had not forfeited his virtues for his gift, and his prophecy was too soon and too terribly realized to be disbelieved. Of such times it is painful to speak, but of the men by whom such times are met, it is dishonourable not to speak with homage. Almost abandoned by authority, assailed almost by a nation, with the ground shaking under his feet, and the whole frame of Government quivering at every roar of the multitude in arms, he stood the shock, and finally restored the country. Language like this has not been the first tribute to the memory of this ardent, vigorous, and unshrinking statesman. But its chief use, and the noblest use of all tributes to the tomb of civil heroism, is, to tell others by what strength of principle, and by what perseverance of purpose, the rescue of nations is alone to be achieved. In the midst of alarm excited by the extent of the revolt, of ignorance from the novelty of the crisis, and of indecision from the dread of responsibility, he stood firm. The original intrepidity of his nature was even strengthened by the perils of the time; and with the whole storm of unpopularity roaring round him, he sternly pursued his course, and combated the surge, until it sank, and the state vessel neared, if it did not yet enter, the harbour.

It is the natural fate of such men, in such times, to be misunderstood, and to be maligned. The libel which cast every stone within its reach at his living name, long continued to heap them on his grave. But all this has[Pg 466] passed away, and the manlier portion of his countrymen now appeal to the administration of the "Great Chancellor," in proof of the national capacity for the highest trusts of empire.

Why has not the history of this man, and of his day, been written? Why has not some generous spirit, impelled alike by a sense of justice and a sense of patriotism, adopted this argument for the intellectual opulence and moral energy which may still exist in the Irish mind? Is there no descendant to claim the performance of a duty, which would reflect a lustre on himself from the light which his filial piety planted on the sepulchre? Or why are the recollections of rebels to be taken down from the gibbet, and embalmed in history, while the name of him who smote the rebellion is suffered to moulder away?

I am not writing a panegyric. He had his infirmities; his temper was too excitable, and his measures were too prompt for prudence. But his heart was sound, and his spirit was made for the guidance of a state in the hour of its danger. If a feebler mind had then presided in the public councils, Ireland, within a twelvemonth, would have been a republic; and in every hour since, would have been agonizing under the daggers of rival factions, or paying the fearful price of her frenzy in indissoluble chains.

If this were the single act of his life, it was sufficient for fame. It is enough to inscribe on the mausoleum of any man, that "he rescued his country from a Democracy!"

The first news of the revolt which reached England, produced a formidable effect on the legislature. Even the sagacity of the premier had been deceived, and his cabinet evidently staggered on the effect of the surprise. Opposition had been equally startled, and were still more perplexed in their decision. Dealing for years in all the high-sounding topics of national wrong and national difficulty, they were astonished at the first actual realization of popular revenge. The Englishman had heard of wars as the child hears of spectres—none had seen them, and the narratives served only to excite the imagination. But the tremendous novelty of revolt was now at their doors. Whether the Irish revolters acted in concert with the undying hostility of France, or with the factions reform of England; the danger in either case assumed a shape of the most appalling magnitude. Opposition, in the very prospect of power, shrank from possession; as the stormers of a fortress might start back when they saw the walls rolling down before them in some sudden convulsion of nature. They had predicted every casualty which could befall a country, ruled by a cabinet inexorably closed against themselves. But when their predictions had changed their character from the fantastic and remote into the substantial and immediate—when the clouds which they so often predicted to be advancing over the prosperity of the land, seemed to have suddenly rushed forward, and condensed and darkened with the full freight of national havoc; they as suddenly flew to shelter in utter inaction, and left the minister to meet the storm. Pitt was soon equal to the crisis. The orders which he dispatched to Ireland were stamped with all the considerate vigour of his matchless ability. I had sent him all the information which could be obtained of the progress and purposes of the revolt, with the suggestions arising from the contingency. His remarks on my communication were brief, but incomparably clear, direct, and decided. Their tenor was, that I should distinguish accurately between the deluded and the deluders—that I should assure the loyal of the unhesitating support of England—and that, in all instances, I should cultivate the national loyalty, reward the generous obedience, and sympathize with all the gallant and generous qualities of a people with whom every thing was to be done, by taking an interest in their feelings. These principles were so entirely my own, that I acted upon them with double zeal, and with complete success. The loyalty of Ireland rapidly exhibited itself in the most willing sacrifices; all ranks of opinion coincided in the necessity of bold and instant action; and from day to day, party, absorbed in the sense of the national exigency, disappeared, and patriotism rose. The leading men of both sides of the House ranged[Pg 467] themselves in the ranks of the voluntary corps which came forward to assist in the public defence, and the fine metaphor which had once made the senate thunder with applause—"The serpent's teeth, sown in the ground, sprang up armed men,"—was now amply, but more fortunately, realized. The bitternesses and schisms of public opinion were hidden in the earth, and the harvest was a brave and spontaneous armament of men prepared to undergo all hazards for the sake of their country.

"Happy," says the French wit, "the land which has nothing for history." This happiness has never belonged to Ireland. Her annals are a romance. But the period of which I speak exhibited her senatorial strength with an energy, almost compensating for her popular misfortunes. While Parliament in England languished, parliament in Ireland started into sudden power. It was aroused by the visible presence of the public peril. Ireland was the outpost, while England was the camp; there the skirmish was at its height, while the great English brigade moved up slowly from the rear. The ardour and activity of the national temperament were exercised in perpetual conflict, and every conflict produced some new champion.

The actual construction of the senate house stimulated the national propensity for display. The House of Commons was an immense circular hall, surmounted with a lofty dome. A gallery supported by columns was formed round the base of the dome, with seats for seven hundred persons, but on crowded occasions capable of containing more; the whole highly ornamented, and constituting a rotunda, uniting grandeur with remarkable architectural elegance. Thus every member acted in the sight of a large audience, however thin might be the assemblage below; for the curiosity attached to the debates was so powerful, that the spacious gallery was generally full. But the nature of that audience excited the still stronger temptation to the bold extravagances of the Irish temperament. The chief portion of this auditory were females, and those the most distinguished of Ireland; women of wit, beauty, and title, the leaders of fashion, and often the most vivid and zealous partizans in politics—of all audiences, the most hazardous to the soberness of public deliberation. As if with the express purpose of including every element adverse to the calmness of council, the students of the neighbouring university possessed the privilege of entrée to the gallery; and there, with the heated imaginations of youth, and every feeling trained by the theories of Greek and Roman Republicanism, they sat, night after night, watching the ministerial movements of a harassed monarchy.

What must be the condition of a minister, rising before such an audience, to pronounce the grave doctrines of public prudence; to oppose argument to brilliant declamation; to proclaim regulated obedience, in the midst of spirits fantastic as the winds; and to lay restraints, essential to the public peace, on a population proud of their past defiances, and ready to welcome even civil war? I was not conscious of any natural timidity; nor have I ever found occasion to distrust my nerve on any great demand; but I must acknowledge, that when in some of the leading debates of that most absorbing and most perilous period, I rose to take the initiative, the sight of the vast audience to whom I raised my eyes, was one of the severest trials of my philosophy. The members round me excited no alarm; with them I was prepared to grapple; it was a contest of argument; I had facts for their facts, answers for their captiousness, and a fearless tongue for their declamation. But the gallery thus filled was beyond my reach; its passions and prejudices were inaccessible by any logic of mine; and I stood before them, less as in the presence of a casual auditory than of a tribunal, and at that tribunal, less as an advocate than as a culprit on the point of being arraigned.

Another peculiar evil resulted from the admission of this crowd, and of its composition. Every casual collision of debate became personal. The most trivial play of pleasantry was embittered into an insult; the simplest sting of passing controversy was often to be healed only by a rencounter in the field. For the whole was acted on a public stage, with the élite of the[Pg 468] nation looking down on the performance. The hundreds of bright eyes glancing down from the gallery, were critics whose contempt was not to be resisted; and no public assembly, since the days of the Polish pospolite, ever settled so many points of debate in the shape of points of honour.

At length Opposition rallied, and resolved to make a general assault upon the Administration. Like their English friends, they had been stunned for a while by the suddenness of the outbreak. But as the Turkish populace, in a conflagration or the plague, no sooner recover from their first fright than they discover the cause in the government, and march to demand the head of the vizier; the popular orators had no sooner found leisure to look round them, than they marshalled their bands, and demanded the dismissal of all antagonist authority. I was first to be torn down. I stood in the gate, and while I held the keys, there was no entrance for expectant ambition. I waved the flag in the breach, and until the banner was swept away, the storm was ineffectual. Yet this turning the whole weight of party vindictiveness on my head, gave me a new courage, the courage of passion, the determination which arises from a sense of injury, and which magnifies with the magnitude of the trial. In other times, I might have abandoned the struggle; but, with the eyes of a nation thus brought upon me, and all the ablest men of the opposite benches making my overthrow the very prize of their victory, I determined "to stand the hazard of the die."

The eventful night came at last; for days before, every organ of public opinion was in the most feverish activity; lampoons, pamphlets, and letters to the leading journals, the whole machinery of the paragraph-world was in full work round me; and even the Administration despaired of my being able to resist the uproar—all but one, and that one the noblest and the most gifted of them all, my friend the chancellor. I had sat long past midnight with him on the eve of the coming struggle; and I received his plaudits for my determination. He talked with all his usual loftiness, but with more than his usual feeling.

"Within the next twenty-four hours," said he, "your fate will be decided. But, in public life, the event is not the dishonour; it is the countenance with which we meet it, that makes all the difference between success and shame. If you fall, you will fall like a man of character. If you triumph, your success will be unalloyed by any baseness of purchase." I told him sincerely, that I saw in the vigour and resolution of his conduct a model for public men. "However the matter may turn out in the debate," said he, rising and taking his leave, "there shall be no humiliation in the conduct of government, even if we should be defeated. Persevere to the last. The world is all chances, and ten to one of them are in favour of the man who is resolved not to be frightened out of any thing. Farewell."

Still, the crisis was a trying one, and my occupation during the day was but little calculated to smooth its anxieties. The intelligence from the county announced the increased extent of the revolt; and the intercepted correspondence gave startling proof of an organization altogether superior to the rude tumults of an angry peasantry. Several sharp encounters had taken place with the soldiery, and in some of them, the troops, scattered in small detachments and unprepared, had suffered losses. Insurrectionary proclamations had been issued, and the revolt was already assuming a military form; camps were collected on the mountains, and the arming of the population was become general. My day was occupied in writing hurried despatches to the magistrates and officers in command of the disturbed districts; until the moment when the debate was expected to begin. On my way to the House, every thing round me conspired to give a gloomy impression to my mind, weary and dark as it was already. Public alarm was at its height and the city, with the usual exaggerations of undefined danger, presented the appearance of a place about to be taken by storm. The streets were crowded with people hurrying in search of news, or gathered in groups retailing what they had obtained, and evidently filled with the most formidable conceptions of the public danger. The armed [Pg 469]yeomanry were hurrying to their stations for the night, patrols of cavalry were moving out to scour the environs, and the carriages of the gentry from the adjoining counties were driving to the hotels, crowded with children and domestics; while waggons loaded with the furniture of families resident in the metropolis, were making their way for security into the country. All was confusion, hurry, and consternation. The scene of a great city in alarm is absolutely inconceivable but by those who have been on the spot. It singularly harassed and exhausted me; and at length, for the purpose of escaping the whole sight and sensation together, I turned from the spacious range of streets which led to the House; and made my way along one of the narrow and obscure lanes which, by a libel on the national taste, were still suffered to remain in the vicinity of an edifice worthy of the days of Imperial Rome.

My choice was an unlucky one, for I had scarcely gone a hundred yards, when I found my passage obstructed by a crowd evidently waiting with some sinister purpose. A signal was given, and I was called on to answer. I had no answer to make, but required that I should be suffered to pass on. "A spy, a spy! down with him!" was the exclamation of a dozen voices. A rush was made upon me, and notwithstanding my struggle to break through, I was overwhelmed, grasped by the arms, and hurried into the entrance of a house in utter darkness. I expected only a dagger in my heart, and from the muttered tones and words which escaped my captors, not one of whom could I discern, I seemed evidently about to encounter the fate of the spy which they deemed me. But, convinced that nothing was to be gained by submission, I loudly demanded by what right I was seized, declared myself a member of Parliament, and threatened them with the especial vengeance of the law, for obstructing me in the performance of my duty.

This announcement evidently had its effect, at least in changing the subject of their consultation; and, after another whisper, one of their number stepped up to me, and said that I must follow him. My refusal brought the group again round me, and I was forced down the stairs, and through a succession of airless and ruined vaults, until we reached a massive door. There a signal was given, and was answered from within; but the door continued closed.

My emotions during all this period were agonizing. I might not have felt more than others that fear of death which belongs to human nature; but death, in darkness, without the power of a struggle, or the chance of my fate being ever accounted for; death by the hands of assassins, and in a spot of obscure butchery, was doubly appalling. But an hour before, I had been the first man in the country, and now what was I? an unhappy object of ruffian thirst of blood, destined to die in a charnel, and be tossed among the rubbish of ruffian hands, to moulder unknown. Without condescending to implore, I now strongly attempted to reason with my captors on the atrocity of offering violence to a stranger, and on the certainty that they would gain more by giving me my liberty, than they could possibly do by burying their knives in my bosom. But all was in vain. They made no reply. One conception alone was wanting to the torture of the time; and it came. I heard through the depth of the vaults the sound of a church clock striking "eight." It was the very hour which had been agreed on for commencing the debate of the night. What must be thought of my absence? What answer could be made to any enquiry for my presence? What conceivable escape could my character as a minister have, from the charge of scandalous neglect, or more scandalous pusillanimity; from treachery to my friends, or from an utter insensibility to personal name and official honour in myself? The thought had nearly deprived me of my senses. The perspiration of mental torment ran down my face. I stamped the ground, and would have dashed my forehead against the wall, had not the whole group instantly clung round me. A few moments more of this wretchedness, and I must have died; but the door at length was cautiously opened, and I bounded in.

At a long narrow table, on which[Pg 470] were a few lights, and several books and rolls of paper, sat about twenty men, evidently of the lower order, though one or two exhibited a marked superiority to the rest. A case of pistols lay on the table, which had probably been brought out on the signal of my arrival; and in the corners of the room, or rather vault, were several muskets and other weapons piled against the wall. From the obvious disturbance of the meeting, I was clearly an unwelcome guest; and, after a general sweep of the papers off the table, and a whisper which communicated to the chairman the circumstances of my capture, I was asked my name, and "why I had intruded on their meeting?" To the latter question my reply was an indignant demand, "why my liberty had been infringed on?" To the former, I gave my name and office at full length, and in a tone of authority. No announcement could have been more startling. The president actually bounded from his chair; others plucked out knives and pistols; all looked pallid and thunderstruck. With the first minister of the realm in this cavern of conspirators, every life of whom was in peril of the axe; my presence among them was like the dropping of a shell into a powder magazine.

But the dismay soon passed; their native daring returned, and I saw that my fate hung once more on the balance. After a brief consultation, and many a gloomy glance at their prisoner, the president summed up the opinion of the board. "You must be sensible, sir," said he, addressing me; "that in times like the present, every man must be prepared to make sacrifices for his cause. The call of Ireland has summoned us here—that call is irresistible; and whatever may be our feelings, for you, sir, who have been brought into this place wholly without our desire, the interests of a great country, determined to be free, must not be put in competition with the life of any individual, be his rank what it may." He paused, but a general murmur of applause showed the full approval of his grim auditory. "You, sir," he continued, with the solemnity of a judge passing sentence, "are one great obstacle to the possession of our public rights. You are a man of talents and courage, and so much the more dangerous to the patriot cause. You would disdain our folly, if we threw away the chance which fortune has put into our hands;—you must die. If we were in your power, the scaffold would be our portion. You are now in ours, and the question between us is decided." I felt, from his tone, that all remonstrance was useless; and I scorned to supplicate. "Do as you will," I indignantly exclaimed. "I make but one request. It is, that no imputation shall be suffered to rest on my memory; that the manner of my death shall be made known; and that no man shall ever be suffered to believe that I died a coward or a traitor." "It shall be done," slowly pronounced the president. I heard the click of a trigger, and looking up at the sound, saw one of the sitters at this board of terror, without moving from his place, deliberately levelling it at my head. I closed my eyes. In the next instant, I heard a scuffle; the pistol was knocked out of his hand, and a voice hurriedly exclaimed, "Are you all mad? For what purpose is this butchery? Whom are you about to murder? Do you want to bring a curse upon our cause?" All rose in confusion; but the stranger made but one spring to the spot where I stood, and fixing his eyes on me with astonishment, loudly repeated my name. As the light fell on him, I recollected at once, though his hat was deeply drawn over his eyes, and a huge cloak was wrapped round him, palpably for the purpose of concealment, the rebel leader whom I had so strangely met before. He turned to the table. "And is it in this infamous way," he fiercely exclaimed, "that you show your love of liberty? Is it in blood that you are to dip your charter; is it in making every man of common sense despise, and every man of humanity abhor you, that you are to seek for popular good-will? Down with your weapons! The first man who dares to use them, I declare a traitor to his country!" His energy made an impression; and giving me his hand, which, even in that anxious moment, I could perceive to be as cold as stone, he pronounced the words, "Sir, you are free!" But for[Pg 471] this they were not prepared; and some exclamations rose, in which they seemed to regard him as false to the cause, and the words—"sold," and "traitor"—were more than once audible. He flamed out at the charge, and passionately demanded proofs. He then touched another string. "Now listen to what I have to tell you, and then call me traitor, if you will. You are in the jaws of ruin. I have but just discovered that Government has obtained knowledge of your meeting; and that within five minutes every man of you will be arrested. I flew to save you; now judge of my honour to the cause. You have only to make your escape, and thank the chance which has rescued your lives." Still my safety was not complete. There were furious spirits among them, who talked of revenge for the blood already shed, and graver spirits who insisted on my being kept as a hostage. But my protector declaimed so powerfully on the folly of exacting terms from me under duress; on the wisdom of appealing to my generosity in case of reverses; and, above all, on the certainty of their falling into the hands of authority, if they wasted their time in quarrelling as to my disposal; that he again brought them to a pause. A loud knocking at the door of one of the distant vaults, and a sound like the breaking down of the wall, gave a sudden success to his argument, and the meeting, snatching up their papers and weapons, glided away as silently as so many shadows.

I naturally attempted to thank my protector, but he put his finger to his lip and pointed to the quarter from which the police were apparently forcing their way into the subterranean. This was clearly a time of peril for himself as well as his associates, and I followed him silently through the windings of this hideous locale. We shortly reached the open air, and I cannot describe the solemn and grateful sense with which I saw the sky above my head, the lights glimmering in the windows, and felt that I was once more in the land of the living. My conductor led me within sight of the door of the House of Commons, and, with a slight pressure of the hand, turned from me, and was lost among the crowd. I rushed in, exhausted, overpowered, sinking with apprehension of the evil which might have been done in my absence, and blushing at the shame which probably awaited me.

But I was fortunately disappointed. By some means, which I could never subsequently ascertain, a rumour of my seizure had reached the House; and the strongest alarm was excited by the dread of my assassination. The commencement of the debate was suspended. Opposition, with the dignified courtesy which distinguished their leaders, even proposed the adjournment of their motion; the messengers of the House were dispatched in all directions to bring some tidings of me; and I had afterwards the satisfaction to find that none imputed my absence to any motive unbecoming my personal and official honour. Thus, when I entered the House, nervous with apprehension, I was received with a general cheer; my colleagues crowded round me with enquiries and congratulations; members crossed from the opposite benches to express their welcome. The galaxy of the living and the lovely in the gallery, which the expectation of the great debate had filled with all the fashionable portion of the capital, chiefly, too, in full dress, as was the custom of the time, glanced down approvingly on me; and, when at last I took my seat, I felt myself flattered by being the centre of one of the most splendid and interesting assemblies in the world.

The House was at length hushed, and Grattan rose. I cannot revert to the memory of that extraordinary man, without a mixture of admiration and melancholy—admiration for his talents, and melancholy for the feeling that such talents should expire with the time, and be buried in the common dust of the sepulchre. As a senatorial orator, he was incontestably the greatest whom I have ever heard. With but little pathos, and with no pleasantry, I never heard any man so universally, perpetually, and powerfully, command the attention of the House. Thee was the remarkable peculiarity in his language, that while the happiest study of others is to conceal their art, his simplicity had the manner of art. It was keen, [Pg 472]concentrated, and polished, by nature. His element was grandeur; the plainest conception in his hands, assumed a loftiness and power which elevated the mind of his hearers, as much as it convinced their reason. As it was said of Michael Angelo, that every touch of his chisel was life, and that he struck out features and forms from the marble with the power of a creator, Grattan's mastery of high conceptions was so innate, that he invested every topic with a sudden magnitude, which gave the most casual things a commanding existence to the popular eye. It was thus, that the grievance of a casual impost, the delinquencies of a police, the artifices of an election, or the informalities of a measure of finance, became under his hand historic subjects, immortal themes, splendid features, and recollections of intellectual triumph. If the Pyramids were built to contain the dust of nameless kings and sacrificed cattle, his eloquence erected over materials equally transitory, memorials equally imperishable.

His style has been criticised, and has been called affected and epigrammatic. But, what is style to the true orator? His triumph is effect—what is to him its compound? What is it to the man who has the thunderbolt in his hands, of what various, nay, what earthly—nay, what vaporous, material it may be formed? Its blaze, its rapidity, and its penetration, are its essential value; and smiting, piercing, and consuming, it is the instrument of irresistible power.

But Grattan was an orator by profession, and the only one of his day. The great English speakers adopted oratory simply as the means of their public superiority. Pitt's was the oratory of a ruler of empire; with Fox, oratory was the strong, massive, and yet flexible instrument of a leader of party. But with Grattan it was a faculty, making a portion of the man, scarcely connected with external things, and neither curbed nor guided by the necessities of his political existence. If Grattan had been born among the backwoodsmen, he would have been an orator, and have been persuasive among the men of the hatchet and the rifle. Wherever the tongue of man could have given superiority, or the flow and vigour of conception could have given pleasure, he would have attained eminence and dispensed delight. If he had not found an audience, he would have addressed the torrents and the trees; he would have sent forth his voice to the inaccessible mountains, and have appealed to the inscrutable stars. It is admitted, that in the suffering condition of Ireland, he had a prodigious opportunity; but, among thousands of bold, ardent, and intellectual men, what is his praise who alone rushes to their front, and seizes the opportunity? The English rule over the sister country has been charged sometimes as tyranny, which was a libel; and sometimes as injustice, which was an error; but it had an unhappy quality which embraced the evils of both—it was invidious. The only map of Ireland which lay before the English cabinet of the eighteenth century, was the map of the sixteenth—a chart spotted with the gore of many battles, not the less bloody that they were obscure; and disfigured with huge, discoloured spaces of barbarism. They forgot the lapse of time, and that time had since covered the graves of the past with a living race, and was filling up the swamps of the wilderness with the vigour and the passions of a new and glowing people. They still governed on the guidance of the obsolete map, and continued to administer a civilized nation with the only sceptre fit for barbarism—the sword. By a similar misconception, while they declared the islands one indivisible empire, they governed them on the principle of eternal separation. No Irishman was ever called across the narrow strait between the two countries, to take a share in the offices, or enjoy the honors of England. Irish ambition, thwarted in its own country, might wander for ever, like Virgil's unburied ghosts, on the banks of the Irish Channel, without a hope of passing that political Styx. The sole connexion of the islands was between Whitehall and the Castle—between power and placemen—between cabinets and viceroys. It never descended to the level of the nation. It was a slight and scarcely visible communication, a galvanic wire, significant only at the extremities, instead[Pg 473] of a public language and human association—instead of a bond of heart with heart—an amalgamation of people with people. Posterity will scarcely believe that the neglect of unity should have so nearly approached to the study of separation. Even the coin of the two countries was different in impress and in value—the privileges of trade were different—the tenure of property was different—the regulations of the customs (things which penetrate through all ranks) were different—and a whole army of revenue officers were embodied to carry on those commercial hostilities. The shores of the "Sister Islands" presented to each other the view of rival frontiers, and the passage of a fragment of Irish produce was as impracticable as if it had been contraband of war.

It was Grattan who first broke down this barrier, and he thus rendered the mighty service of doubling the strength of the empire; perhaps rendered the still mightier service of averting its separation and its ruin. As the nation had grown strong, it had grown sullen; its disgust was ripening into wrath; and its sense of injury might speedily have sought its relief in national revenge. And yet it is only justice to acknowledge that this evil arose simply from negligence on the part of England; that there was no design of tyranny, none of the capriciousness of superiority, none of the sultan spirit in the treatment of the rayah. But no minister had yet started up in English councils capable of the boldness of throwing open the barrier; none of intellectual stature sufficient to look beyond the old partition wall of the countries; no example of that statesmanlike sagacity which discovers in the present the shape of the future, and pierces the mists, which, to inferior minds, magnify the near into giant size, while they extinguish the distant altogether. But no man can ever write the annals of England, without a growing consciousness that magnanimity has been the instinct of her dominion; that she has been liberal on principle, and honest by nature; that even in the chillest and darkest hour of her sovereignity, this influence has existed unimpaired, and like gravitation on the globe, that it has accompanied and impelled her, day and night alike, through the whole circuit of her proud and powerful career.

This was the glorious period of Grattan's public life. His task, by universal confession, was the noblest that could be enjoined on man, and he sustained it with powers fitted to its nobleness. On the later portion of his history I have no desire to touch. The most hazardous temptation of early eminence is the fondness which it generates for perpetual publicity. The almost preternatural trial of human fortitude is, to see faction with its vulgar and easy triumph seizing the fame, which was once to be won only by the purest and rarest achievements of patriotism. When the banner which had flamed at the head of the nation on their march to Right, and which was consigned to the hand of Grattan as its legitimate bearer, was raised again, in a day threatening the subversion of every throne of Europe; he exhibited a jealousy of his obscure competitors, unworthy of his renown. But he did not join in their procession. He was unstained. If he felt the avarice of ambition, he exhibited no decay of that original dignity of nature, which, in his political nonage, had made him the leader of bearded men, and a model to the maturity of his country's virtue.

On this night he spoke with remarkable power, but in a style wholly distinct from his former appeals to the passions of the House. His accents, usually sharp and high, were now lingering and low; his fiery phraseology was solemn and touching, and even his gesture, habitually wild, distorted, and pantomimical, was subdued and simple. He seemed to labour under an unavowed impression of the share which the declamatory zeal of his party had to lay to its charge in the national peril. But I never saw more expressive evidence of his genius, than on this night of universal consternation. His language, ominous and sorrowful, had the force of an oracle, and was listened to like an oracle. No eye or ear strayed from him for a moment, while he wandered dejectedly among the leading events of the time, throwing a brief and gloomy light over each in passing, as if he carried a funeral[Pg 474] lamp in his hand, and was straying among tombs. This was to me a wholly new aspect of his extraordinary faculties. I had regarded rapidity, brilliancy, and boldness of thought, as his inseparable attributes; but his speech was now a magnificent elegy. I had seen him, when he furnished my mind almost with the image of some of those men of might and mystery, sent to denounce the guilt, and heap coals of fire on the heads of nations. He now gave me the image of the prophet, lamenting over the desolation which he had once proclaimed, and deprecating less the crimes than the calamities of the land of his nativity. I never was more struck with the richness and variety of his conceptions, but their sadness was sublime. Again, I desire to guard against the supposition, that I implicitly did homage to either his talents or his political views. From the latter, I often and deeply dissented; in the former I could often perceive the infirmity that belongs even to the highest natural powers He was no "faultless monster." I am content to recollect him as a first-rate human being. He had enemies and may have them still. But all private feelings are hourly more and more extinguished in the burst of praise, still ascending round the spot where his dust is laid. Time does ultimate justice to all, and while it crumbles down the fabricated fame, only clears and separates the solid renown from the common level of things. The foibles of human character pass away. The fluctuations of the human features are forgotten in the fixed majesty of the statue; and the foes of the living man unite in carrying the memorial of the mighty dead to its place in that temple, where posterity comes to refresh its spirit, and elevate its nature, with the worship of genius and virtue.




Herodotus has this amusing story of a philological experiment made by the Egyptian king Psammetichus, who may, not inappropriately, be termed the James the First of his dynasty:—

"The Egyptians, before the reign of Psammetichus, considered themselves the oldest of mankind; but, after the reign of Psammetichus, enquiry having been made as to whether that were the case, thenceforth they considered the Phrygians to be their elders, themselves being next in seniority. For Psammetichus, finding no satisfactory solution to his enquiry on this subject, devised the following plan: He took two infant boys, born of humble parents, and committed them to the care of a shepherd, to be educated in this manner—that he should not permit any one to utter a sound in their hearing, but should keep them by themselves in a lonely house, admitting only she-goats at stated times to suckle them, and rendering them the other requisite services himself. So he did so; and Psammetichus directed him, as soon as the infants should cease their inarticulate cries, that he should carefully note what word they should first utter. And so it was, that, after the lapse of two years, both infants, with outstretched hands, running to meet their attendant the shepherd, as he entered one day, cried out, 'becco.' Of which the shepherd at first made no report, but hearing them reiterate the same, as often as he went to visit them, he informed his lord, and, by his commands, brought the boys and exhibited them; whereupon Psammetichus, as soon as he heard them, enquired 'what nation they were who called any thing by the name of becco?' to which enquiry he learned for answer, that the Phrygians call bread by that name. So the Egyptians being convinced by that argument, conceded the point, that the Phrygians had existed before them. 'All which,' says the father of history, 'I learned from the priests of Vulcan at Memphis.'"

This story, after exciting the smiles of the learned for about two thousand years, fell, in an evil hour for the peace of mind of modern philologers, into the hands of John Goropius Becan, a man of letters at Antwerp, who, recollecting[Pg 475] that bec has a like signification in Dutch, (bec in that language meaning bread, and becker, as in our own, a baker,) immediately jumped to the conclusion, that Dutch must have been the language of the Phrygians, and that the Dutch were consequently the most ancient of mankind. This insane proposition he puts forward as the sole foundation of his two great folios, entitled, "Origines Antwerpianæ, sive Cimmeriorum Beceselana," printed at Antwerp in 1569, in which he derives all the nations of antiquity from the Dutch, and makes all the names of gods, demigods, heroes, and places of the Old World, to have their only proper and characteristic signification in that language. The grave precision with which he lays the first and only foundation-stone of this monstrous superstructure, is sufficiently entertaining. "The Phrygians spoke the Scythic (i. e. the High-Dutch) tongue; and the Egyptians allowed the Phrygian language to be the primitive one. For when their king had ascertained that bec was a word of the original language of mankind, and could not understand it, he was informed that, among the Phrygians, it signified bread; whereupon he adjudged that language to be of all others the first in which bec hath that meaning; which bec being, at this day, our word for bread, and becker ("baker") for bread-maker, it stands, consequently, confessed, on this most ancient testimony of Psammetichus, that our language is, of all others, the first and oldest." From so extravagant a commencement, nothing but the most fantastical results could be expected, and the reader will not be surprised to find Goropius making Adam and Eve a Dutchman and a Dutchwoman, as one of the very first corollaries from his fundamental proposition; the Patriarchs follow; then the Gentile gods, goddesses, and heroes; the Titans, the Cyclops, the pigmies, griffins, and

"Gorgons, and hydras, and chimeras dire,"—

nations, tribes, territories, seas, rivers, lakes, mountains, valleys, cities, and villages—all are drawn into this vast vortex of nonsense, set agoing originally by the single syllable bec, which, after all, if this story of the priests of Vulcan have any foundation in fact, was, most probably, nothing more than an imitation of the peculiar cry of the goats by which the infants had been suckled. Goropius's book was published at a time when the learned world were in no humour to tolerate such absurdities; and therefore, although exhibiting a considerable amount of learning in its own mad way, and a proportionate and characteristic degree of ingenuity, it called forth one of the severest reproofs that literary presumption has ever brought down, from the pen of Joseph Scaliger, whose condemnation was re-echoed by all the literary men of note of the day. It being part of Goropius's system that the ancient Gauls were Dutch, and the task of showing all the known words of the old Gaulish language to be significant in Dutch, being, consequently, incumbent on him as a first step to his bolder speculations on the unexplained names of men and places, he had, among others, given some ridiculous Dutch equivalents from the word ambactus, which, as we are informed by Festus, meant a slave or retainer in the old Gaulish tongue. Scaliger, shortly after, editing Festus, with annotations, and coming to the word in question, took that opportunity to administer to Goropius the following castigation—"I am unable to restrain my laughter," he says, "at what this singularly audacious and impudent person has written against Turnebus on this word. But, as all his books exhibit nothing else than a most impudent confidence in himself, so I reject his opinion on this matter as utterly impertinent and nonsensical. Never have I read greater absurdities; never have I seen, neither heard of greater or more audacious temerity, seeking, as he does, to derive all languages from his own barbarous dialect, so as to make the Hebrew itself inferior to the Dutch; nay, even reprehending Moses for taking the names of the patriarchs from his native Hebrew. Unlucky patriarchs and fathers, that were born Philistines of Palestine, and not Dutchmen of Antwerp!" Abrahan Mylius, another great scholar, though not of so extended a reputation as either of the Scaligers,[Pg 476] soon after expressed much the same sentiments. "I am not," he says, "so full of wantonness as to be able to crack his insufferably absurd jokes with Becan, and give the palm of antiquity to the language of Flanders in preference to the Hebrew, making it the parent tongue not only of all other languages, but of the Hebrew itself." Schrevelius, the lexicographer, gave vent to his contempt in verse:—

"Quis tales probet oscitationes!
Quis has respectat meras chimeras!
Non Judæus Apella de proseucha,
Non qui de Solymis venit perustis,
Aut quisquam de grege Tabatariorum
Queis phœni cophinique cura major:
Cimmerii denique non puto probabunt
Et si prognatos Japhet putantur
Gomoroque parente procreati."

Our own Cambden, about the same time commencing his great work on British Antiquities, began by a protestation against being supposed "insaniam Becani insanire." Justus Lipsius alone, of all the learned men of the day, restrained the expression of positive indignation. "We often speak of Becan and his book about our language," he says, writing to Schottius, "and have frequent jokes on the subject. He, as you know, would have it not only to be an elegant and polished tongue, but the primitive one, and mother of all the rest. But we

'Stupuimus omnes tentamina tanta
Conatusque novos.'

And, indeed, many of us laugh heartily. What do I? I love the man himself, and I admire his quick, keen, and happy wit; happy, indeed, if he would turn it to some other subject-matter. But these speculations of his, what credit can we give to them, or what advantage expect from them? Whom shall I persuade that our language is thus supremely ancient—thus pregnant with mysterious meanings? That we here, next the Frozen Pole, are the earliest of mankind? that we alone preserve our language unadulterate and free from foreign admixture? Such assertions challenge laughter, not opposition." Goropius did not live to make any reply, dying shortly after in 1572; but his etymological mantle descended on a worthy successor, in the person of his countryman Adrien Von Scrieck, lord of Rodorn, who followed up the subject, on a slightly modified plan, in three-and-twenty books of Celtic and Belgic Origins, published at Ypres A.D. 1614. Scrieck adopted as the principle of his investigation this position from the Cratylus of Plato. "All things possess some quality which is the proper reason of their respective names; and those words which express things as they exist, are the true names, whereas those that give a contrary meaning are spurious." Nothing can be truer than this, provided only we knew the existing characteristics of each object, as the original namers had them in view when imposing their nomenclature; but when this clue is wanting, no labyrinth can lead an adventurer into more hopeless error. All articulate sounds necessarily resemble one another, and there is no name, either of a place or of a person, in any articulate language, that may not be constrained to bear some resemblance in sound to some words of any other given language. These, it is true, will seldom make sense, and never be truly appropriate; yet, with a little sleight-of-hand, dropping a letter here and adding one there, substituting a mute for a liquid or a liquid for a mute, and so forth, the ingenious etymologist will sometimes produce an equivalent, sounding not unlike the original, and making some sort of sense not altogether inapplicable to the subject-matter. As, for instance, if any one, impressed with the conviction that our own language is the mother tongue of mankind, were to derive Crotona from "Crow-town," he would produce an equivalent, sounding much the same, and having a meaning which might possibly have been quite applicable to Crotona, though 'tis pretty certain that it was not as "a city of kites and crows" that place originally obtained its designation. So Swift's "All-eggs-under-the-grate" sounds very nearly identical with the name of the Macedonian conqueror, though it by no means follows that the son of Philip either was partial to poached eggs, or named accordingly.

Absurd and ridiculous as these instances may appear, they hardly[Pg 477] exceed the folly of some of Becan's and Scrieck's derivations from the Dutch. Thus Goropius makes Απολλως Af-hol-los, ("off-hole-loose,") i. e. "ex antro libera," or "I loose (the rays of light) off, or out of, the hole or cavern (of darkness!") and thus Scrieck derives Sequana (the river Seine) from see gang, i. e. "via maris," or the "gang-way to the sea!" and Cecrops from sea-crops, i. e. "a marinâ gulâ," because, we suppose, the Cecropidæ came to Greece with their crops full, (or empty, as the case might be,) after their sea voyage from Egypt.

The indignation and contempt of the learned world seem to have spent themselves on Goropius; and Scrieck's preposterous labour appears only to have excited laughter. The most illustrious writers in every department of erudition had just ceased to occupy the stage. Scrieck, coming out with his thousand folios of puerilities among a public familiar with the works of the two Scaligers, of Cassaubon, Lipsius, Cluver, Cambden, and the other great lights of learning that shed such a lustre on the latter end of the sixteenth century, was regarded much as Beau Coates may have been in latter days, presenting himself in the character of Romeo before audiences accustomed to the highest histrionic efforts of the Kembles. And as Coates, not satisfied with convulsing his audience by dying before them in the regular course of the play, would sometimes die over and over again for their entertainment; so Scrieck, not content with torturing all the names of men and places in Chaldea, Phœnicia, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Gaul, into Dutch equivalents, through the three-and-twenty books of his first impression, followed up his fantasy, in 1615, by an additional essay, in which whatever was extravagant before, became, if possible, still more transcendently nonsensical. Perhaps no part of the entire work is more characteristic of the vanity and blindness of the writer than his preface to this second part, where he gravely takes his guide, Goropius, to task for founding so large a work as the Becceselana on so small a foundation as the "bec" of Psammetichus, and regrets that his predecessor did not confine himself to etymons more consistent with the local and personal characteristics of his several subjects. For his own part the ground he goes upon is this, that the names of men and places among the Chaldeans, Egyptians, Greeks, and Latins, as also among the Scythians, Celts, Etruscans, and Belgæ, (which latter, he says, are all Celts,) are properly significant in that Scythic tongue which the Belgæ and Dutch to this day preserve; whence it follows, says he, "as an argument superior to all exception, that not only the Chaldaic, Egyptian, Greek, and Latin tongues (he does not mention the Hebrew, which he concedes to be the language of Paradise) are inferior and posterior to the tongue now used by the Belgæ and Dutch; but also that the same Belgæ and Dutchmen are extracted from a more ancient people, and a higher original, than the said Chaldeans, Egyptians, Greeks, or Romans."

And that this may appear by sufficient proofs, he proceeds to show that the chief names of men and places in each of these counties are rightly significant in Dutch, and not in their respective proper languages: as, for example—

"AdamScythicè Ad-ham, sive Haid-am, ens conjunctivum, 'a united entity.' The Chaldeans," says he, "interpreted Adam to mean 'red,' for what reason I cannot see. It doth not appear a name of sufficient dignity for the first and most perfect and absolute of men. 'Tis much more to the purpose that he should have got the name of an united entity, from the first institution of marriage by his Creator.

"Evai. e. heve, significat prægnans vel elevata, ab elevatione ventris; than which nothing could be said more in rem.

"NoeN'hohe, that is, altus, celsus; as Noah was at the head of time after the deluge. The Chaldeans interpret it cessatio, quies; but Noah," says he, "had neither rest nor quiet during the deluge.

"Mosesmos-es, that is, the 'mud of the waters;' being, when an infant, exposed and raised out of the mud and slime of the river Nile. The Chaldeans interpret his name 'raised,' simply according to the mere circumstance of his being taken up; but the Celtic (i. e. the Dutch) signification denotes the whole fact.

[Pg 478]"DavidD'af-heid, that is to say, 'lowness,' 'humility.' For David was not only of a low stature, but, above all, low and humble in his mind, as appears from 1 Kings," &c. &c.

After Teutonising the Hebrew in this manner, he next proceeds to the Egyptian.

"Aegyptoshaeg-up-t'hos, that is 'sylvæ supra altitudines,' 'the woody heights above.' (How this is exactly applicable he does not inform us.)

"NilusN'hil-ho, that is, the 'high descent,' to wit, of waters; for the Nile descends from the Mountains of the Moon, which are very high.

"Sebenuticum—(a town of the Delta,) Seben-vuyticum, that is, 'the seven-fold outcome;' for the Nile is seven-fold, and hath seven mouths or outlets.

"PharosPhær-ho, signifying adnavigatio alti, or the navigation towards the high places; for Pharos is an island with a lofty tower," &c. &c.

Then he takes his course into Greece and Latium, but it would be idle to follow him through a hundredth part of these vagaries. In not a single instance does he pay the least attention to what the Greeks and Romans themselves thought or taught on these subjects, except, indeed, in the solitary case of the Peloponnesus, which he admits may possibly have had its name from Pelops, though he thinks it more likely that it expresses the more appropriate Scythic phrase Pfel-op-on-es—"Campus superior ad aquas," or the fell or plain up, on, or above the water.

Coming in the course of his peregrinations to Etruria, and being equally successful in making all the ancient names of men and places there significant in Dutch, he boldly attempts the interpretation of the Eugubian tablets. These singular remains of the extinct language of Etruria, had already exercised the skill of some of the best scholars of the 16th century, but none of them had succeeded in bending this new bow of Ulysses. To the insane all things are easy. Scrieck made no more of the task than did Ulysses—

"When the wary hero wise,
His hand now familiar with the bow,
Poising it and examining—at once;
As when in harp and song adept, a bard
Unlabouring strains the chord to a new lyre,
The twisted entrails of a sheep below
With fingers nice inserting, and above—
With such facility Ulysses bent
His own huge bow, and with his right hand play'd
The nerve, which in its quick vibration sung
Clear as a swallow's voice."

With equal confidence Scrieck addresses himself to decipher the tablets of Gubbio. "That the Dutch was the language of Etruria," he says, "appears not only from these unquestionably Celtic (i. e. Dutch) names of the most ancient places in Italy, but also by that extraordinary monument of antiquity, the Etruscan inscription, which, Gruter writes me, was found some years back at Eugubio (Gubbio) in Etruria, on eight brazen tablets: the first written in inverted Greek letters, and the rest in Latin characters." These, upon examination, he pronounces to be clearly Dutch, and as a specimen adds some sentences of the sixth table, beginning—Serverent: pemimums: serverent: deitu: etais euo: primater, &c.; and containing, according to his account, near the end the following passage: Serba martia epustote serfia serfir martia tensa serfir sarfer martia fututo. Of which he gives the following version, premising that the 's' in his copy has an additional stroke, which makes it sound st. Sterve mar tie evverstote sterfte sterver maer tier duersaft sterte sterver mar tier vut-vute; i. e. "Let him only die the death who is an extern; let them only die the death who are externs; let them only die the death who are outer externs;" being, as he says, a deprecation merely of the evils of mortality, and a prayer for their infliction on strangers, as Horace says—

Hinc bellum lacrymosum, hinc miseram famem
Pestemque a populo et principe Cæsare, in
Persas atque Britannos,
Vestrâ motus aget prece."

Having rendered this and the incantation for the cure of sprains, given in Cato, "De Re Rustica," into the old Dutch, of which we have had so many specimens, he closes this summary of[Pg 479] his labours with the declaration, that whoever, after these proofs, will assert that the Etruscan language was other than the Dutch, cannot be considered otherwise than as non compos mentis.

We had little expectation, when laughing at these vagaries of Scrieck and Becan, many years ago, that it would yet be our lot to see the same follies revived in our own time, and among ourselves. But follies are like fashions, which, having once prevailed in the metropolis, usually run the round of the provinces. And so this fantastic trick of interpreting the names of antiquity by modern equivalents, spreading from the schools of Antwerp and Ypres, still shows itself occasionally in the outskirts of the republic of letters, and has here lately had a new Avatar, fully as absurd as any of its prior exhibitions, among those Jupiters Stators of every exploded folly of the Continent—the English writers on the antiquities of Ireland.

This new Irish Becceselana is entitled "Etruria-Celtica. Etruscan Literature and Antiquities investigated, or the language of that ancient and illustrious people compared and identified with the Iberno-Celtic, and both shown to be Phœnician, by Sir William Betham, Ulster King-at-Arms, Vice-President of the Royal Dublin Society, F.S.A., M.R.I.A., &c. &c."[6] This title exhibits a design in no respect different from that of Goropius and Scrieck, except in the substitution of the Iberno-Celtic, by the Irish writer, for the Belgico-Celtic equivalents of the Dutch. If there were sufficient reason to suppose that the vice-president of the Royal Dublin Society was acquainted with the Greek and Latin writers who concur in establishing the non-identity of these nations, we would say that he exhibits as culpable a contempt for their authority as his Batavian precursors; but Sir William Betham appears scarcely to have read on the subject at all; and what was wilful presumption on their part, may be the innocence of mere want of knowledge on his; for both Scrieck and Becan were perfectly aware that, in identifying so many nations of antiquity with their own, they were flying in the face of all authority; but Betham Hibernicizes all the nations from Taprobana to Thule, apparently unconscious of any recorded reason against their universal identity.

That the Etruscans spoke Irish, he concludes just as Goropius concluded that the Phrygians spoke Dutch, from the coincidence of a single word having, as he alleges, the same sound and meaning in each; and as a single passage from Herodotus was the sole foundation for the vast inverted pyramid of nonsense piled up by Goropius on that individual point, (and kept from toppling over only by sheer force of impudence,) so the single well-known passage from Suetonius, ascertaining the Etruscan Aesar to be a designation of the Deity, (Aesar being also, as it is said, Irish for the same,) gives the only ground on which Betham rests his extravagant assertion, that the Eugubian inscriptions contain an account of the discovery of Ireland by the Etruscan navigators, and with a pretended version of which, through the medium of Irish, as he alleges, he has filled the whole first volume of his book.

"In reading in Suetonius the life of Augustus," he says, "I found that Aesar in the Etruscan tongue signified God. The import in Irish being the same, it struck me forcibly that this might not be accidental, but that the Etruscan language might be essentially Celtic, and therefore capable of interpretation by the Irish. On examination, the conjecture proved well-founded. The results of the investigation, consequent on the discovery of this clue, will be found in the following pages."

It is true the Etruscan Aesar is said to have a like meaning with an alleged Irish word, coined and spelled by Vallancy aosfhear; but it has also an identical meaning with the Indian eswara, and the Egyptian osiris, and the Islandic aesæ, which makes æsar in the plural; and it would be just as reasonable to infer, that therefore the Etruscans spoke the Hindostanee, or the Coptic, or the Islandic language, as that they spoke Irish.

All the nations of Christendom[Pg 480] give God the name Christ; but he would be justly deemed insane who would argue, that therefore English is the proper medium of interpretation for a Russian ukase.

Common sense, without any further learning, might have told Sir William Betham, that till he stood on some surer ground than the coincidence of a single word, even supposing that word a genuine one, it would be the excess of folly to venture on such an application of a modern language; and further learning (if he had possessed it) would have confirmed the suggestion of common sense. With a moderate amount of learning, he would have known that, besides the names of known deities—Kupra, Nyrtia, Mantus, Aukelos, Camillus, corresponding to the heathen Juno, Fortuna, Pluto, Aurora, Mercury—there are also several other Etruscan words of which we know the meanings, such as faland, the heavens; andras, the north wind; lucumo, a king; drouna, a kingdom or principality; damnos, a horse; capra, a goat; agalletor, a youth; verse, fire; ites, the ides of a month; hister, a stage-player; subulo, a trumpeter; italos, a bull; arimoi, monkeys, antar, an eagle; arakos, a lark; gnis, a crane; capys, a falcon; gapos, a chariot; burros, a bowl; atarin, a wine-cruet; nanos, a wanderer; mantissa, an increase or addition; turseis, a space enclosed with walls; and several others, not one of which bears the remotest resemblance to any Irish or Celtic word of equivalent meaning.

Further learning, also, would have taught him the hopelessness of reconciling the Etruscan with any of the languages of Europe known as spoken languages immediately before the Christian era—Dionysius of Halicarnassus having expressly declared, that neither in language nor in customs were the Etruscans of his time similar to any other known nation; and Dionysius was well acquainted with both Celts and Phœnicians.

Besides, the Phœnician equivalents for most of the Etruscan words in the list we have just enumerated, are known, and ought to have been known to any writer undertaking an investigation of either language; and if known to Sir William Betham, ought at once to have deterred him from this preposterous attempt. Thus the Phœnician equivalent of aesar is aloni or alonim; of kypra, astarte; of nyrtia, god; of mantus, much; of faland, samen; of andras, carbon; of lucumo malaho; of damnos, rackabe, &c. &c., in none of which, except samen, does there appear the least similarity, either with the Etruscan or the Irish words of like signification. So also in respect of a number of Gaulish words, the meanings of which have come down to us, and of which no one pretending competency to such enquiries ought to be ignorant, but of the existence of which this vice-president of a leading literary society of Ireland seems utterly unconscious. But fools will rush in where angels fear to tread, and Ignoramus walks with confidence where Eruditus fears to take a step. Reader, do not think that Christopher is too severe! For what but condemnation and contempt can any rational mind conceive, for a writer so incapable of dealing with even the rudiments of his subject, and yet so presumptuous in the temerity of his ignorance, as to declare that "till now not a scintilla of light has appeared on the subject of Etruscan antiquities?" We can pardon learned trifling, but when a man wholly unlearned, on a subject of the greatest interest to the learned world, presumes to dogmatize in this manner, we strip him in an instant, and have no mercy in exposing to both learned and simple the nakedness of his pretensions.

Still facts are facts, and if the fact be, that the tablets of Gubbio are written in the Irish language, and that Sir William Betham, though as ignorant of his subject as was the boy who invented the safety-valve of the steam-engine, has happened in any way, by skill or by chance, learnedly or unadvisedly, modestly or arrogantly, on the truth, let him, together with the condemnation, have the credit he deserves, if not as a Columbus of a new world of letters, at least as a Madoc or a Thorfinn.

The first line of the first table, reading from right to left, he reads thus: we say he, for the very form of some of the letters are still doubtful:—Pune:[Pg 481] Carne: Speturie: Atuerie: Abiecati: Naroclum. Is this Irish? If so, we would expect some six Irish words to be adduced, of corresponding sound, and having a grammatical dependence and sensible meaning among themselves. Instead of this, Betham professes to find the equivalent expressions in twenty-four Irish, or quasi-Irish words, which have neither grammatical relation to one another, nor any coherent meaning in their united senses—viz. Pune car na is be tur i e at i i er i e a bi e ca ta na ra ac lu am; i. e. "Phœnician to Carne (the turn) it is night voyage in it likewise in knowledge great in it the being away how it is the going with water on the ocean." And this he tells us, being interpreted, signifies, "O Phœnicians, this is a statement of the night voyage to Carne, (the turn,[7]) and of the manner of going such great seawise over by the waters of the ocean!"

The only glimmering of any thing like meaning in this string of unconnected verbiage, appears in the detached phrases "night voyage," "the being away," and "going with water on the ocean." But the syllable be, which he renders "night," (on what authority Night and Chaos only know,) is not found in the original; and "being away," depends for its meaning wholly on the certainty that e means "away" in that collocation of words, and not "it," as in the phrases immediately preceding; and there is no suggestion of any reason why it should not here have the same signification as above, or why it should not mean "of" or "from," in both of which senses the writer employs it in the subsequent sentences. "Going with water on the ocean," owes its only pretension to meaning, however absurd, to "going" and "ocean;" but there is no am for "ocean" in the original, and the "ra" which he interprets "going" and "moving," is wholly a coinage of his own brain.

The same may be observed throughout the endless rigmarole of "moon," "stars," "steering," "ocean," "night," "day," "knowledge," "science," and "O Phœnician!" that succeed one another in monotonous repetition for the next 200 pages. Wherever there appears the least symptom of connected meaning or applicable language, (admitting the preposterous supposition that these tables are the records of early voyagers to Ireland,) we invariably find that either the original is departed from, or that the alleged equivalents belong to no known language of articulately-speaking men.

Taking the same liberty of arbitrary division, any one of moderate ingenuity might turn these inscriptions into a jargon just as readable in any language of the world. Divide any sentence of any articulate language into syllables, and apply these alleged Irish words used by Betham as their equivalents, and you may make it an equally authentic record of a voyage to Ireland or to the moon, or a recipe for the toothache, or any thing else you please, with the greatest facility.

Curious reader, tell us, pray, which is the more readable jargon—this,

"God to knowledge agreeable it is quick and water lonely star indeed the to it in day the month this in knowledge with is from the sea very solitary being water with the water the voyage always the coast steering being throughout moon to knowledge in water God indeed the water to danger this the in knowledge with with altogether to night the man from current the being water the to cause knowledge steering water by Ocean the north."

Or this?

"Was which security day and night inform Phœnician from night means in defence by skill throughout the means being also water means voyage from the means as indeed the voyage in it far away people water of the sea in gentle inward it is by wisdom day and night in it is gentle indeed the sea by science which by night in the will be to will be means of the star it far away Phœnician far away steering night and day and then to whence is in the ocean night sailing happy."

We believe most of our readers will incline to say that the one is about[Pg 482] as insane gibberish as the other; or if they discover a distinction, will give the palm of a less degree of incoherency to the first. The first is our own; the second is Betham's—being his literal version of the first three sentences of the second table, and in no material respect different from his version of any other three sentences of any of the rest of the series.[8] The other is our own literal version, on the same principle, of a sentence of his own, marked in italics in the following extracts, in which he defends his arbitrary division of the Etruscan text into monosyllables, though the punctuation of the original plainly divides it into many-syllabled words.

In defence of this unjustifiable corruption of the original, he alleges these excuses—

"In the chapter on language, p. 52, &c., are a few remarks upon the division of the words in these inscriptions, in answer to the criticism of the learned Committee of the Royal Irish Academy, who charged me with 'having made alterations' in the text unwarrantably, 'especially in the division of the words.' The charge of having made any alterations is altogether groundless, I might add unjust, uncourteous, and uncalled for. I have not altered a single letter. I have added a letter here and there in the Irish, when, by the genius and character of that language, it was justifiable, as (when) the addition of a word was required to make sense, and when in the original the sound did not require it to be expressed; but this is fully answered and explained in the chapter alluded to. The 'division of the words' requires a few brief observations here.

"It will be observed that in the first five tables there are divisions marked with colons, thus (:); in the sixth and seventh tables, and in the Perugian inscription, the divisions are marked with a single period (.)

"In the first few lines of the first table it appears, that, although these divisions generally include perfect syllables and words, yet the same words are differently divided. In the fifth line, the second division contains JUBEBATREBUMPERACNE, and in the fourth division PERAKNE stands alone. The first division of this fifth line contains SAKRE:—in the next line it is worded thus, UNUERIETUSAKRE; this same variation of division pervades all the tables, and indeed almost every line of each table; the same may be observed on the Perugian inscription. The hypercriticism of the learned committee was therefore altogether erroneous, and their observations not borne out.[9] These marks are evidently not intended as divisions of words, but of sentences, and they are not sufficiently precise even in that respect to constitute an accurate guide. The syllabic division, however, is governed by rule, is precise, uniform, fixed, and consistent, and may therefore be acted on with some degree of certainty. Instances occur where three or four consonants follow each other, and vowels are altogether omitted; but a little exertion of sagacity, after some practice and study, enables us to judge of this and supply the omissions."—(Vol. i. p. 369.)

And again, in the passage referred to at p. 53,

"Whether I was arbitrary and unauthorized in the division of the words, will now appear by comparison, as the columns stand in juxtaposition, and all are able to judge. The division is merely made into syllables, which, so far from being an unnatural or arbitrary division, is the only division which could be reasonably and fairly adopted."

[Pg 483]That is to say Hibernicè, or rather BethamicèThe ti fis e on is mear i lu om a do an do is i la bil se i i ac is o bar bro om be en go (⁂ we only "add a letter here and there in the Irish, when, by the genius and character of that language, it is justifiable, as when the addition of a vowel is required to make sense, and when in the original the sound does not require it to be explained,") an en na tur al ur ar bi tre re ti fis i en is the an lu ti fis si an i i ac co al do be re as a ra be lu an do fa i ar lu a taob tuait.

But are these singular-looking syllables Irish? They certainly are neither sense nor grammar; but we take them all as they appear, with their alleged meanings in English, from that copious store of ungrammatical nonsense called Irish, collected in those pretended versions of the tables of Gubbio; and the reader has already seen what a characteristic jargon they make when rendered by their English equivalents.

His fatuity and presumption appear almost incredible. Knowing but a single Etruscan word, and that a word of two syllables, and finding it, as he alleges, identical with an Irish word also of two syllables, he concludes that the Etruscan and Irish languages are the same, and both monosyllabic. Had he known all that men of ordinary learning know upon the subject, he would have known that of the remaining two or three-and-thirty ascertained Etruscan words, some are of two—some of three—some of four syllables—but not one of them all a monosyllable. Yet thus ignorant even of the commonest rudiments of learning on his subject, he takes it upon him to talk of men of real learning in the following strain—

"That the language of Etruria has hitherto defied the laborious investigations of the learned of Italy, is now on all hands admitted. Passavi, Gori, and Landsi, have done something to obscure, but little if any thing towards its elucidation. Nor have the German investigators been more successful. Dr Lepsius has lately given an account of the Eugubian tables, and Dr Grotefend a work on the rudiments of the Umbrian tongue, and still the subject is as much at sea as ever. These profound scholars have made no real impression—no light has been elicited—the meaning of a single word has not been obtained with any certainty. The solemn, learned, trifling, and absurd speculations of Passavi, Gori, and Landsi, and their followers, are now treated with deserved contempt. This is an age of critical enquiry; commonplace twaddling, inane generalities, and magniloquent essays and lectures, even if delivered by professors who enjoy the happiness of presiding over Roman colleges, only excite derision. Learned savans must now put forth reasonable and intelligible postulates, and opinions must be supported by facts, or they will only expose themselves to deserved contempt."—(Vol. i. p. 22.)

Swift himself could not hit the style of the literary quack more perfectly. "I have considered the gross abuse of astrology in this kingdom," says Mr Bickerstaff, "and upon debating the matter with myself, I could not possibly lay the fault upon the art, but upon those gross impostors who have set up to be the artists. I know several learned men have contended that the whole is a cheat; and whoever hath not bent his studies that way, may be excused for thinking so, when he sees in how wretched a manner that noble art is treated by a few mean illiterate traders between us and the stars; who import a yearly stock of nonsense, lies, folly, and impertinence, which they offer to the world as genuine from the planets, though they descend from no greater height than their own brains. I intend in a short time to publish a large and rational defence of this art; and therefore shall say no more in its justification at present." But here, indeed, the comparison falls; for while Bickerstaff postpones his proofs for another occasion, Betham proudly displays his "reasonable and intelligible postulate," in his one fact, that the dissyllable Aesar is God alike in Etruscan and in Irish. Whence he concludes that Etruscan and Irish are, therefore, the same language, and that both consist of words of one syllable each. "The discovery," he says, (Vol. ii. page 286,) "if 'wonderful' was also accidental, at least the first clue to it was the solitary fact mentioned in Vol. i. p. 33, of the passage in Suetonius' life of Augustus, where Aesar is said to[Pg 484] mean, in the Etruscan language, God. So small a spark lighted up the large fire." We are irresistibly reminded of Goropius and his "consequenter fatendum est antiquissimâ hoc Psammetichi sententiâ."

The translation of the Eugubian tablets, however, is but a part of the huge mass of absurdity piled up on these two little syllables, Ae-sar. There is a second volume, in which all the topographical extravagances of Scrieck are played over again, præconis ad fastidium, with this difference, however, that where Scrieck, in his interpretations, gave genuine Dutch, Betham, in his, gives spurious Irish; for he owns himself, that "if a sentence be formed of these obsolete monosyllabic words, the translation in English making good sense, the original, if read to the best Irish scholar of the day, will appear to him an unknown tongue." He begins first with Sanconiathan, which he makes the name of the book, not of the author, sean cead na than; i. e. "the old beginning of time," when the gods spoke in monosyllabic Irish, and called chaos cead-os, "the first intelligence." And here it must be admitted that the Dutchmen are outdone: for neither Becan nor Scrieck went above Adam. But Betham is as much at home on Olympus as either of the Dutchmen was in Paradise; and with the aid of his monosyllabic glossary, transmutes the celestials into Teagues and Oonahs as fast as his sybilline syllables can be put together. Apollo is ab ol lo, "the mighty lord of the waters;" (this is hardly as good as the off-hole-loose of Goropius:) Minerva is Ma na er ar fad, (a terribly long recipe for a name this,) or "the good, the illustrious guiding wisdom." Hermes is tur-mees, "the messenger of the wind." Hercules is er cu lais, "the illustrious hero of light;" but he seems to be sadly at sea for a derivation for Neptune, whom he is obliged to turn into a Tyrrhenian catamaran or Irish currow, Naebh tonn "the ship of the sea." Jupiter (not being an Etruscan, he is not here allowed the pas) iudh bit er, "day being great," (which is a very dark saying.) Bacchus, bac aois, "the sustainer of time." Mercury, meer cu re, "the swift champion of the moon"—really this is mere lunacy. Any one might, with equal plausibility, derive the whole Pantheon from the English, as Apollo, "aye follow," because day always follows night, and Apollo always followed pretty girls, Daphne in particular; Mercury, "mirk hurry," because Mercury hurried the ghosts down through the mirk or murky darkness to the Styx. Hercules, "he reckless," because Hercules was a great daredevil. Venus, "vain is," because a pretty woman is too often vain of her good looks. Juno, "do now," because people were in the habit of making their requests to her, or, perhaps, because Jupiter used to say so when he wished her to give him a kiss. Jupiter, "stupider," because it was natural that Juno should say he was the stupider of the two when they happened to differ; or, pace viri tanti, "you pitier," when poor mortals raised their sorrowful supplications to him.

Scrieck's foundation for all his extravagant topographical derivations was the passage from Plato. Doctor Johnson seems to have been the Plato of these new etymological rambles; but we apprehend that neither the Greek nor the British philosopher would be much edified by the philological excursions of the Irish disciple. Nothing can be more perfect in its way than the dogmatic audacity with which he assigns his derivations; it is in the true vein of Bickerstaff, and a model to quacks of all classes.

"Before we commence our examination into the geographical divisions of Italy, it is necessary to say something of that portion of the world with which the Phœnicians became for the first time acquainted after their settlements in Syria, since called Europe, by an accident as trivial and unlikely to happen as that by which the new world in modern times was denominated America, that is, by a blunder of the Greeks. The fable of the rape of Europa, &c., was a mere national allegory, of which the following is the substance. When the Phœnician Homeritæ had discovered the Mediterranean, &c.—they sent out vessels to explore it, e, 'it,' u, 'from,' ro, 'to go,' ba, 'was,' tur, 'voyage,' ros, 'to the promontory;' I. E. it was to go from a voyage to (Italy) the promontory. This was, as usual of the Greeks taking sound for sense, made into a lady and a[Pg 485] bulltur ros must be the Greek ταῦρος, and the Lady Europa was to ride the bull to Crete, which was one of the first discoveries and settlements. Of the children or results, Minos has been already explained as mian, 'minis,' nos, 'knowledge,' or 'the art of mining.' Rhadamanthus means nothing more than that the voyage to Crete was the first great result of discoveries on this sea: ra, 'going,' ad, 'illustrious,' am, 'great sea,' en, 'the,' tus, 'first.' So simple is the explanation!—(Vol. ii. p. 244.)

Scrieck had some remains of the modesty of learning, which prevent his becoming a complete master of this style. The Peloponnesus might perhaps possibly, he owned, have been derived from Pelops; though 'twas more likely it should come from Pfel-op-on, &c. &c. That admission was ill-judged: he ought to have denied that Pelops ever existed, and laughed at the blundering Greeks. But the Irishman is a deacon of his craft, and settles the point like an adept. "Peloponnesus, according to the Greek, the island of Pelops. But the name was of much greater antiquity than Greek civilization, and was, like all others, given by the Phœnicians. Pelops was an imaginary character. The meaning of the word is, the promontory of the courteous people; bel, 'mouth,' aiobh, 'courteous,' a, 'the', neas, 'promontory,' aos, 'community, race of people.'"—(Vol. ii. p. 254.)

When Partridge, the almanack-maker, had overlived the fatal day assigned for his decease by Bickerstaff, he intimated as much to his friends and the public, assuring them that he was not only then alive, but had also been alive on the very 29th March, when the wise astrologer had foretold he should die.

"Now," says Bickerstaff in reply, "I will plainly prove him to be dead out of his own almanack for this year, and from the very passage which he produceth to make us think him alive. He says, he is not only now alive, but was alive upon that very 29th of March which I foretold he should die on; by this he declares his opinion that a man may be alive now who was not alive a twelvemonth ago. And, indeed, there lies the sophistry of his argument. He dares not assert that he was alive ever since that 29th of March, but that he is now alive, and was so on that day. I grant the latter, for he did not die till night, as appears by the printed account of his death in a letter to a lord, and whether he since revived I leave the world to judge. This, indeed, is perfect cavilling; and I am ashamed to dwell any longer upon it."

So if the shade of Pelops will receive our counsel, we advise him to abstain from vouching any of the family of Tantalus to testify to the reality of his existence; for he has to deal with a Bickerstaff, by whom it has been demonstrated that Tantalus is nothing but tain tal ais, "water receding backwards," or an incarnation of those fabulous times when water was supposed to run uphill, whence it appears that the whole race of Atreus is a mere series of non-existences. It is true we take this latter derivation from an extract from another of this judicious discriminator's labours, in the Transactions of his Academy, where, among other etymological curiosities, we have that very Irish youth Narcissus, a beautiful youth, who, seeing his own image reflected in a stream, became enamoured of it, thinking it the nymph of the water. Naobh ceas as—"the sight of a nymph in the stream." Pythia, "the priestess of Apollo at Delphos. She always delivered her oracles in hexameter verses, and with musical intonation—pitead, 'music,' from whence the name."[10]

[Pg 486]Sanconiathon, no longer the "old beginning of time," appears here as san, "holy," con, "understanding, sense, or wise men," niod, "real," tain, "of the country"—"the sacred writer or wise recorder of the events of his country." Pygmalion, big, "little," mallein, "mule," the little mule, or person of a low stature and obstinate disposition. This is hardly so good as Swift's pigmy lion. "Pasiphæ, ba sabas, 'the propensity, fancy, or disposition of a cow;' and, proh pudor, Venus, 'herself,' bhean, 'the woman,' aois, 'of the community'—pronounced vanus, 'the —— or woman of the town!'"

But to come back to the geographical division of the Levant, to which e u ro ba tur ros, which the foolish Greeks construed Europa and the bull, were only preparatory, we have another luculent example of the Bickerstaff style in Gallia Togata.

"It is said the country was called Togata by the Romans, because they wore the Roman toga or gown. This seems doubtful, for when a country became a Roman province, the same reason for the name should apply universally. We must therefore seek a more satisfactory derivation for that name, to be found in the circumstances of the country. Gallia Togata consists of the plain country intersected by the Po and its numerous tributaries, and surrounded on the north and west by the high ranges of the Alps, on the south by the Apennines, and on the east by the Adriatic. It is, perhaps, the best-watered and most fertile country in Europe, enjoying a delightful climate. Its name, Togata, says all this, togh, it is the chosen land, or, to use an English idiom, choice land, the most desirable and delightful country; togh a ta, literally the chosen spot or place. Sound, not sense, suggested the Roman derivation."

Of course Gallia Braccata and Gallia Comata had just as little to say to "long hair," or a "pair of breeches," as Gallia Togata to a Roman gown, and the application of gens togata to the inhabitants of Italy, as contradistinguished from the transalpine and other provinces, was altogether a blunder of the ancients.

"We have before us again Creta, the largest of the Greek islands. Its name is derived by some from the Curetes, who are said to have been its first inhabitants; by others from the nymph Crete, daughter of Hesperus; and by others from Creos, a son of Jupiter, and the nymph Idœa. These are private conceits. It derives its name from its shape and external appearance from the sea; and had such an island been discovered in modern times by English navigators, it would have been called the ridge island, the precise meaning of its name in Celtic creit a, "the ridge," putting the article last, in conformity to idiom."

Cythera, "one of the Ionian Islands. Like all the other names for which the Greeks had no known origin, they derived it from an individual called Cytherus. It is subject to heavy showers, from which the name cith, showers, er, great, a, the,—that is, the island of heavy showers."

Zacynthus.—"A small island to the south of Cephalonia, (ce fal ia; i. e. the fruitful plains country.) The Greeks say the island was named from a companion of Hercules, who, dying from the bite of a serpent, was buried there. It was so called, because a strong current is there first felt by the mariner coming from the east, za cing thus, current, strong, first."

We really find some difficulty in believing that it is not Swift's Essay on the Antiquity of the English Language that we have before us.

"My present attempt is to assert the antiquity of our English tongue, which, as I shall undertake to prove by invincible arguments, hath varied very little for these two thousand six hundred and thirty-four years past. And my proof shall be drawn from etymology, wherein I shall use my matter much better than Skinner, Verstegan, Cambden, and many other superficial pretenders have done; for I will put no force upon[Pg 487] the words, nor desire any more favour than to allow for the usual accidents of composition, or the avoiding a cacophonia.

"I will begin with the Grecians, among whom the most ancient are the Greek leaders on both sides at the siege of Troy. For it is plain, from Homer, that the Trojans spoke Greek, as well as the Grecians. Of these latter Achilles was the most valiant. This hero was of a restless, unquiet nature, and therefore, as Guy of Warwick was called a Kill-care, and another terrible man a Kill-Devil, so this general was called a Kill-Ease, or destroyer of ease, and at length by corruption Achilles.

"Hector, on the other side, was the bravest among the Trojans. He had destroyed so many of the Greeks by hacking and tearing them, that his soldiers, when they saw him fighting, would cry out, 'Now the enemy will be hackt—now he will be tore.' At last, by putting both words together, the appellation was given to their leader under the name of Hack-tore, and, for the more commodious sounding, Hector.

"The next I shall mention is Andromache, the famous wife of Hector. Her father was a Scottish gentleman of a noble family still subsisting in that ancient kingdom; but being a foreigner in Troy, to which city he led some of his countrymen in the defence of Priam, as Dictys Cretensis learnedly observes, Hector fell in love with his daughter, and the father's name was Andrew Mackay. The young lady was called by the same name, only a little softened to the Greek accent."

And now, and as no Irish antiquary can be well supposed to write a complete book without giving his own theory of the round towers of that country, we come to the chapter on these singular structures, in which, of course, all former enquirers are proved to have been egregiously wrong, and a new theory established on incontrovertible evidence; viz. that the round towers were monuments erected over different incarnations of the god Buddho. As usual, there is the alleged mistake of sound for sense to account for the reason why their common appellation of clogteach, or "bell house," should not truly express their use.

"I shall remark upon a vulgar error which has had great currency among Irish antiquarians, who have asserted that they were called clogteach, 'steeples, belfries.' Bells are of comparatively recent introduction into Ireland, and clock, from which the word has evidently been derived, still more modern. The blunder has arisen from ignorance of the language. I have a memorandum in an Irish MS., that they were called by the people leactaidh, that is, monuments of the dead, the sound of which has been mistaken by those who but imperfectly knew the language. Many writers have been mistaken by this."

The memorandum in the Irish MS. looks very like Bickerstaff's Letter to a Lord. We could wager our crutch against the baton of the Ulster king, that the memorandum is in his own or his scribe's handwriting, and the language in which it is imagined, a variety of that new dialect in which Mr Silk Buckingham declares that his Irish friends converse with the Phœnician aborigines of Mount Atlas. But the proof of the pudding is the eating of it, and it seems that under one of the towers they have found Buddho himself, body and bones, which puts the matter beyond controversy; for if Buddho be buried under the tower, the tower itself must needs be Buddho's monument. At p. 210, (Vol. ii.,) we have a representation of the Indian divinity (how comes it that Buddho is not made an Etruscan?) lying buried in the basement of the tower at a place called Ardmore. There seems to be no question that a skeleton was got in the bottom of this tower, and another in another; and the discoverers of the fact deserve credit for their addition to the slight stock of knowledge that the Irish antiquarians seem to possess of those which are perhaps the most singular monuments in their country; but that the bones are those of a Buddho! really this exceeds our largest estimate of human fatuity.

But for the communications announcing these discoveries, the two volumes would be altogether destitute of a single fact, or even useful hint, bearing on the diversified subjects which their prodigiously ignorant and audacious author has presumed to handle. How far the fact of these skeletons being found in such a situation, may affect the rational investigation of the question, we do not pretend to judge. We would merely [Pg 488]observe, that human interments are found under most ecclesiastical foundations, and that their occurrence under the "turres ecclesiasticæ" of Cambrensis, seems at present no more wonderful than their occurrence in the vaults of an ordinary church.

But we really were surprised, after our long familiarity with "the holy illustrious guiding one of the sea"—"the mighty lord of the waters"—"the swift champion of the moon," and the other moonstruck pseudo deities of the Eugubian tables, to find the chief place and honour in the island of their own discovery and adoption taken from them, and bestowed on the Indian Buddho. The "swift champion of the moon" seems to have been sensible of the affront, and to have made his indignation perceptible in the suggestion of an argument that can hardly have descended from any but the lunar sphere; viz. that because the Buddhists of the east raise monumental dagobas over the relics of their deity, and the Irish round towers, as is alleged, (by a nameless interpolation in a nameless Irish MS.,) have been called by a name arguing monumental purposes, that therefore the Irish towers are dagobas, and any bones that may be found in or about their foundations are relics of Buddho. The dagobas of Ceylon and India are buildings of a totally different character from these towers; they do strongly resemble the pyramidal structures of Yucatan, but bear not the remotest likeness to any round tower either in Ireland or elsewhere. Such facts might furnish grounds for arguing an identity between Buddho and Quaccalcoatle, (and such an identity appears by no means improbable;) but thence to attempt the deduction of any argument applicable to the round towers in Ireland or Great Britain, only shows the illogical constitution of the arguer's mind.

We have given the book and the subject more space than we intended, and certainly much more than the former, by itself, is worth; but the subject is one that, whether magnified into an undue importance by having been repeatedly treated by men of note and learning or not, does, in the present state of European literature, stand high among the loftiest marks aimed at by human intellect; and any one singling himself from the crowd of lookers-on, and addressing himself to hit it, makes himself, for the moment, the observed of the whole learned world, and by his success or his failure acquires honour, or brings down reproach upon his country. We cannot permit British literature to be scandalized by the failure of one from our ranks who is manifestly inadequate to the task even of handling his piece, much less of bringing down the popinjay, without condemning the rashness of the attempt, and exonerating ourselves from any charge of participating in it.



[Pg 489]


Part I.—(Continued from last Number.)

"But you forgot her," says the Cynic; "you happened one day to forget this sister of yours?"—Why not? To cite the beautiful words of Wallenstein,

"What pang
Is permanent with man? From the highest
As from the vilest thing of every day
He learns to wean himself. For the strong hours
Conquer him."[11]

Yes, there lies the fountain of human oblivions. It is TIME, the great conqueror, it is the "strong hours" whose batteries storm every passion of men. For, in the fine expression of Schiller, "Was verschmerzte nicht der mensch?" What sorrow is it in man that will not finally fret itself to sleep? Conquering, at last, gates of brass, or pyramids of granite, why should it be a marvel to us, or a triumph to Time, that he is able to conquer a frail human heart?

However, for this once my Cynic must submit to be told—that he is wrong. Doubtless, it is presumption in me to suggest that his sneers can ever go awry, any more than the shafts of Apollo. But still, however impossible such a thing is, in this one case it happens that they have. And when it happens that they do not, I will tell you, reader, why in my opinion it is; and you will see that it warrants no exultation in the Cynic. Repeatedly I have heard a mother reproaching herself, when the birthday revolved of the little daughter whom so suddenly she had lost, with her own insensibility that could so soon need a remembrancer of the day. But, besides, that the majority of people in this world (as being people called to labour) have no time left for cherishing grief by solitude and meditation, always it is proper to ask whether the memory of the lost person were chiefly dependent upon a visual image. No death is usually half so affecting as the death of a young child from two to five years old.

But yet for the same reason which makes the grief more exquisite, generally for such a loss it is likely to be more perishable. Wherever the image, visually or audibly, of the lost person is more essential to the life of the grief, there the grief will be more transitory.

Faces begin soon (in Shakspeare's fine expression) to "dislimn:" features fluctuate: combinations of feature unsettle. Even the expression becomes a mere idea that you can describe to another, but not an image that you can reproduce for yourself. Therefore it is that the faces of infants, though they are divine as flowers in a savanna of Texas, or as the carolling of birds in a forest, are, like flowers in Texas, and the carolling of birds in a forest, soon overtaken by the pursuing darkness that swallows up all things human. All glories of flesh vanish; and this, the glory of infantine beauty seen in the mirror of the memory, soonest of all. But when the departed person worked upon yourself by powers that were intellectual and moral—powers in the flesh, though not of the flesh—the memorials in your own heart become more steadfast, if less affecting at the first. Now, in my sister were combined for me both graces—the graces of childhood, and the graces of expanding thought. Besides that, as regards merely the personal image, always the smooth rotundity of baby features must vanish sooner, as being less individual than the features in a child of eight, touched with a pensive tenderness, and exalted into a characteristic expression by a premature intellect.

Rarely do things perish from my memory that are worth remembering. Rubbish dies instantly. Hence it happens that passages in Latin or[Pg 490] English poets which I never could have read but once, (and that thirty years ago,) often begin to blossom anew when I am lying awake, unable to sleep. I become a distinguished compositor in the darkness; and, with my aërial composing-stick, sometimes I "set up" half a page of verses, that would be found tolerably correct if collated with the volume that I never had in my hand but once. I mention this in no spirit of boasting. Far from it; for, on the contrary, amongst my mortifications have been compliments to my memory, when, in fact, any compliment that I had merited was due to the higher faculty of an electric aptitude for seizing analogies, and by means of those aërial pontoons passing over like lightning from one topic to another. Still it is a fact, that this pertinacious life of memory for things that simply touch the ear without touching the consciousness, does in fact beset me. Said but once, said but softly, not marked at all, words revive before me in darkness and solitude; and they arrange themselves gradually into sentences, but through an effort sometimes of a distressing kind, to which I am in a manner forced to become a party. This being so, it was no great instance of that power—that three separate passages in the funeral service, all of which but one had escaped my notice at the time, and even that one as to the part I am going to mention, but all of which must have struck on my ear, restored themselves perfectly when I was lying awake in bed; and though struck by their beauty, I was also incensed by what seemed to be the harsh sentiment expressed in two of these passages. I will cite all the three in an abbreviated form, both for my immediate purpose, and for the indirect purpose of giving to those unacquainted with the English funeral service some specimen of its beauty.

The first passage was this, "Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God, of his great mercy, to take unto himself the soul of our dear sister here departed, we therefore commit her body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life." * * *

I pause to remark that a sublime effect arises at this point through a sudden rapturous interpolation from the Apocalypse, which, according to the rubric, "shall be said or sung;" but always let it be sung, and by the full choir:—

"I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, from henceforth blessed are the dead which die in the Lord; even so saith the Spirit; for they rest from their labours."

The second passage, almost immediately succeeding to this awful burst of heavenly trumpets, and the one which more particularly offended me, though otherwise even then, in my seventh year, I could not but be touched by its beauty, was this:—"Almighty God, with whom do live the spirits of them that depart hence in the Lord, and with whom the souls of the faithful, after they are delivered from the burden of the flesh, are in joy and felicity; We give thee hearty thanks that it hath pleased thee to deliver this our sister out of the miseries of this sinful world; beseeching thee, that it may please thee of thy gracious goodness shortly to accomplish the number of thine elect, and to hasten thy kingdom." * *

In what world was I living when a man (calling himself a man of God) could stand up publicly and give God "hearty thanks" that he had taken away my sister? But, young child, understand—taken her away from the miseries of this sinful world. Oh yes! I hear what you say; I understand that; but that makes no difference at all. She being gone, this world doubtless (as you say) is a world of unhappiness. But for me ubi Cæsar, ibi Roma—where my sister was, there was paradise; no matter whether in heaven above, or on the earth beneath. And he had taken her away, cruel priest! of his "great mercy?" I did not presume, child though I was, to think rebelliously against that. The reason was not any hypocritical or canting submission where my heart yielded none, but because already my deep musing intellect had perceived a mystery and a labyrinth in the economies of this world. God, I saw, moved not as we moved—walked not as we walked—thought not as we think. Still I saw no mercy to myself, a poor frail dependent creature—torn away so suddenly from the prop on which altogether it depended. Oh yes! perhaps[Pg 491] there was; and many years after I came to suspect it. Nevertheless it was a benignity that pointed far a-head; such as by a child could not have been perceived, because then the great arch had not come round; could not have been recognized if it had come round; could not have been valued if it had even been dimly recognized.

Finally, as the closing prayer in the whole service stood, this—which I acknowledged then, and now acknowledge, as equally beautiful and consolatory; for in this was no harsh peremptory challenge to the infirmities of human grief as to a thing not meriting notice in a religious rite. On the contrary, there was a gracious condescension from the great apostle to grief, as to a passion that he might perhaps himself have participated.

"Oh, merciful God! the father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the resurrection and the life, in whom whosoever believeth shall live, though he die; who also taught us by his holy apostle St Paul not to be sorry, as men without hope, for them that sleep in him; We meekly beseech thee, O Father! to raise us from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness; that, when we shall depart this life, we may rest in him as our hope is—that this our sister doth."

Ah, that was beautiful; that was heavenly! We might be sorry, we had leave to be sorry; only not without hope. And we were by hope to rest in Him, as this our sister doth. And howsoever a man may think that he is without hope, I, that have read the writing upon these great abysses of grief, and viewed their shadows under the correction of mightier shadows from deeper abysses since then, abysses of aboriginal fear and eldest darkness, in which yet I believe that all hope had not absolutely died, know that he is in a natural error. If, for a moment, I and so many others, wallowing in the dust of affliction, could yet rise up suddenly like the dry corpse[12] which stood upright in the glory of life when touched by the bones of the prophet; if in those vast choral anthems, heard by my childish ear, the voice of God wrapt itself as in a cloud of music, saying—"Child, that sorrowest, I command thee to rise up and ascend for a season into my heaven of heavens"—then it was plain that despair, that the anguish of darkness, was not essential to such sorrow, but might come and go even as light comes and goes upon our troubled earth.

Yes! the light may come and go; grief may wax and wane; grief may sink; and grief again may rise, as in impassioned minds oftentimes it does, even to the heaven of heavens; but there is a necessity—that, if too much left to itself in solitude, finally it will descend into a depth from which there is no re-ascent; into a disease which seems no disease; into a languishing which, from its very sweetness, perplexes the mind and is fancied to be very health. Witchcraft has seized upon you, nympholepsy has struck you. Now you rave no more. You acquiesce; nay, you are passionately delighted in your condition. Sweet becomes the grave, because you also hope immediately to travel thither: luxurious is the separation, because only perhaps for a few weeks shall it exist for you; and it will then prove but the brief summer night that had retarded a little, by a refinement of rapture, the heavenly dawn of reunion. Inevitable sometimes it is in solitude—that this should happen with minds morbidly meditative; that, when we stretch out our arms in darkness, vainly striving to draw back the sweet faces that have vanished, slowly arises a new stratagem of grief, and we say—"Be it that they no more come back to us, yet what hinders but we should go to them?"

Perilous is that crisis for the young. In its effect perfectly the same as the ignoble witchcraft of the poor African Obeah,[13] this sublimer witchcraft of grief will, if left to follow its own[Pg 492] natural course, terminate in the same catastrophe of death. Poetry, which neglects no phenomena that are interesting to the heart of man, has sometimes touched a little

"On the sublime attractions of the grave."

But you think that these attractions, existing at times for the adult, could not exist for the child. Understand that you are wrong. Understand that these attractions do exist for the child; and perhaps as much more strongly than they can exist for the adult, by the whole difference between the concentration of a childish love, and the inevitable distraction upon multiplied objects of any love that can affect an adult. There is a German superstition (well-known by a popular translation) of the Erl-king's Daughter, who fixes her love upon some child, and seeks to wile him away into her own shadowy kingdom in forests.

"Who is it that rides through the forest so fast?"

It is a knight, who carries his child before him on the saddle. The Erl-king's Daughter rides on his right hand, and still whispers temptations to the infant audible only to him.

"If thou wilt, dear baby, with me go away,
We will see a fine show, we will play a fine play."

The consent of the baby is essential to her success. And finally she does succeed. Other charms, other temptations, would have been requisite for me. My intellect was too advanced for those fascinations. But could the Erl-king's Daughter have revealed herself to me, and promised to lead me where my sister was, she might have wiled me by the hand into the dimmest forests upon earth. Languishing was my condition at that time. Still I languished for things "which" (a voice from heaven seemed to answer through my own heart) "cannot be granted;" and which, when again I languished, again the voice repeated, "cannot be granted."

Well it was for me that, at this crisis, I was summoned to put on the harness of life, by commencing my classical studies under one of my guardians, a clergyman of the English Church, and (so far as regarded Latin) a most accomplished scholar.

At the very commencement of my new studies, there happened an incident which afflicted me much for a short time, and left behind a gloomy impression, that suffering and wretchedness were diffused amongst all creatures that breathe. A person had given me a kitten. There are three animals which seem, beyond all others, to reflect the beauty of human infancy in two of its elements—viz. joy, and guileless innocence, though less in its third element of simplicity, because that requires language for its full expression: these three animals are the kitten, the lamb, and the fawn. Other creatures may be as happy, but they do not show it so much. Great was the love which poor silly I had for this little kitten; but, as I left home at ten in the morning, and did not return till near five in the afternoon, I was obliged, with some anxiety, to throw it for those seven hours upon its own discretion, as infirm a basis for reasonable hope as could be imagined. I did not wish the kitten, indeed, at all less foolish than it was, except just when I was leaving home, and then its exceeding folly gave me a pang. Just about that time, it happened that we had received, as a present from Leicestershire, a fine young Newfoundland dog, who was under a cloud of disgrace for crimes of his[Pg 493] youthful blood committed in that county. One day he had taken too great a liberty with a pretty little cousin of mine, Emma H——, about four years old. He had, in fact, bitten off her cheek, which, remaining attached by a shred, was, through the energy of a governess, replaced, and subsequently healed without a scar. His name being Turk, he was immediately pronounced by the best Greek scholar of that neighbourhood, ἐπωνυμος (i. e. named significantly, or reporting his nature in his name.) But as Miss Emma confessed to having been engaged in taking away a bone from him, on which subject no dog can be taught to understand a joke, it did not strike our own authorities that he was to be considered in a state of reprobation; and as our gardens (near to a great town) were, on account chiefly of melons, constantly robbed, it was held that a moderate degree of fierceness was rather a favourable trait in his character. My poor kitten, it was supposed, had been engaged in the same playful trespass upon Turk's property as my Leicestershire cousin, and Turk laid her dead on the spot. It is impossible to describe my grief when the case was made known to me at five o'clock in the evening, by a man's holding out the little creature dead: she that I had left so full of glorious life—life which even in a kitten is infinite—was now stretched in motionless repose. I remember that there was a large coal stack in the yard. I dropped my Latin books, sat down upon a huge block of coal, and burst into a passion of tears. The man, struck with my tumultuous grief, hurried into the house; and from the lower regions deployed instantly the women of the laundry and the kitchen. No one subject is so absolutely sacred, and enjoys so classical a sanctity among girls, as 1. Grief; and 2. Love which is unfortunate. All the young women took me up in their arms and kissed me; and last of all, an elderly who was the cook, not only kissed me, but wept so audibly, from some suggestion doubtless of grief personal to herself, that I threw my arms about her neck and kissed her also. It is probable, as I now suppose, some account of my grief for my sister had reached them. Else I was never allowed to visit their region of the house. But, however that might be, afterwards it struck me, that if I had met with so much sympathy, or with any sympathy at all, from the servant chiefly connected with myself in the desolating grief I had suffered, possibly I should not have been so profoundly shaken.

But did I in the mean time feel anger towards Turk? Not the least. And the reason was this:—My guardian, who taught me Latin, was in the habit of coming over and dining at my mother's table whenever he pleased. On these occasions he, who like myself pitied dependant animals, went invariably into the yard of the offices, taking me with him, and unchained the dogs. There were two—Grim, a mastiff, and Turk, our young friend. My guardian was a bold athletic man, and delighted in dogs. He told me, which also my own heart told me, that these poor dogs languished out their lives under this confinement. The moment that I and my guardian (ego et rex meus) appeared in sight of the two kennels, it is impossible to express the joy of the dogs. Turk was usually restless; Grim slept away his life in surliness. But at the sight of us—of my little insignificant self and my six-foot guardian—both dogs yelled with delight. We unfastened their chains with our own hands, they licking our hands; and as to myself, licking my miserable little face; and at one bound they re-entered upon their natural heritage of joy. Always we took them through the fields, where they molested nothing, and closed with giving them a cold bath in the brook which bounded my father's property. What despair must have possessed our dogs when they were taken back to their hateful prisons! and I, for my part, not enduring to see their misery, slunk away when the rechaining commenced. It was in vain to tell me that all people, who had property out of doors to protect, chained up dogs in the same way; this only proved the extent of the oppression; for a monstrous oppression it did seem, that creatures, boiling with life and the desires of life, should be thus detained in captivity until they were set free by death. That liberation visited poor[Pg 494] Grim and Turk sooner than any of us expected, for they were both poisoned within the year that followed by a party of burglars. At the end of that year I was reading the Æneid; and it struck me, who remembered the howling recusancy of Turk, as a peculiarly fine circumstance, introduced amongst the horrors of Tartarus, that sudden gleam of powerful animals, full of life and conscious rights, rebelling against chains:—

"Iræque leonum
Vincla recusantum."[14]

Virgil had doubtless picked up that gem in his visits at feeding-time to the caveæ of the Roman amphitheatre. But the rights of brute creatures to a merciful forbearance on the part of man, could not enter into the feeblest conceptions of one belonging to a nation that, (although too noble to be wantonly cruel,) yet in the same amphitheatre manifested so little regard even to human rights. Under Christianity, the condition of the brute has improved, and will improve much more. There is ample room. For I am sorry to say, that the commonest vice of Christian children, too often surveyed with careless eyes by mothers, that in their human relations are full of kindness, is cruelty to the inferior creatures thrown upon their mercy. For my own part, what had formed the groundwork of my happiness, (since joyous was my nature, though overspread with a cloud of sadness,) had been from the first a heart overflowing with love. And I had drunk in too profoundly the spirit of Christianity from our many nursery readings, not to read also in its divine words the justification of my own tendencies. That which I desired, was the thing which I ought to desire; the mercy that I loved was the mercy that God had blessed. From the sermon on the Mount resounded for ever in my ears—"Blessed are the merciful!" I needed not to add—"For they shall obtain mercy." By lips so holy, and when standing in the atmosphere of truths so divine, simply to have been blessed—that was a sufficient ratification; every truth so revealed, and so hallowed by position, starts into sudden life, and becomes to itself its own authentication, needing no proof to convince, needing no promise to allure.

It may well be supposed, therefore, that, having so early awakened within me what may be philosophically called the transcendental justice of Christianity, I blamed not Turk for yielding to the coercion of his nature. He had killed the object of my love. But, besides that he was under the constraint of a primary appetite—Turk was himself the victim of a killing oppression. He was doomed to a fretful existence so long as he should exist at all. Nothing could reconcile this to my benignity, which at that time rested upon two pillars—upon the deep, deep heart which God had given to me at my birth, and upon exquisite health. Up to the age of two, and almost through that entire space of twenty-four months, I had suffered from ague; but when that left me, all germs and traces of ill health fled away for ever—except only such (and those how curable!) as I inherited from my schoolboy distresses in London, or had created by means of opium. Even the long ague was not without ministrations of favour to my prevailing temper; and on the whole, no subject for pity; since naturally it won for me the sweet caresses of female tenderness both young and old. I was a little petted; but you see by this time, reader, that I must have been too much of a philosopher, even in the year one ab urbe condita of my frail earthly tenement, to abuse such indulgence. It also won for me a ride on horseback whenever the weather permitted. I was placed on a pillow, in front of a cankered old man, upon a large white horse, not so[Pg 495] young as I was, but still showing traces of blood. And even the old man, who was both the oldest and the worst of the three, talked with gentleness to myself, reserving his surliness—for all the rest of the world.

These things pressed with a gracious power of incubation upon my predispositions; and in my overflowing love I did things fitted to make the reader laugh, and sometimes fitted to bring myself into perplexity. One instance from a thousand may illustrate the combination of both effects. At four years old, I had repeatedly seen the housemaid raising her long broom and pursuing (generally destroying) a vagrant spider. The holiness of all life, in my eyes, forced me to devise plots for saving the poor doomed wretch; and thinking intercession likely to prove useless, my policy was—to draw off the housemaid on pretence of showing her a picture, until the spider, already en route, should have had time to escape. Very soon, however, the shrewd housemaid, marking the coincidence of these picture exhibitions with the agonies of fugitive spiders, detected my stratagem; so that, if the reader will pardon an expression borrowed from the street, henceforwards the picture was "no go." However, as she approved of my motive, she told me of the many murders that the spider had committed, and next (which was worse) of the many that he certainly would commit if reprieved. This staggered me. I could have gladly forgiven the past; but it did seem a false mercy to spare one spider in order to scatter death amongst fifty flies. I thought timidly for a moment, of suggesting that people sometimes repented, and that he might repent; but I checked myself, on considering that I had never read any account, and that she might laugh at the idea, of a penitent spider. To desist was a necessity in these circumstances. But the difficulty which the housemaid had suggested, did not depart; it troubled my musing mind to perceive, that the welfare of one creature might stand upon the ruin of another: and the case of the spider remained thenceforwards even more perplexing to my understanding than it was painful to my heart.

The reader is likely to differ from me upon the question, moved by recurring to such experiences of childhood, whether much value attaches to the perceptions and intellectual glimpses of a child. Children, like men, range through a gamut that is infinite, of temperaments and characters, ascending from the very dust below our feet to highest heaven. I have seen children that were sensual, brutal, devilish. But, thanks be to the vis medicatrix of human nature, and to the goodness of God, these are as rare exhibitions as all other monsters. People thought, when seeing such odious travesties and burlesques upon lovely human infancy, that perhaps the little wretches might be kilcrops.[15] Yet, possibly, (it has since occurred to me,) even these children of the fiend, as they seemed, might have one chord in their horrible natures that answered to the call of some sublime purpose. There is a mimic instance of this kind, often found amongst ourselves in natures that are not really "horrible," but which seem such to persons viewing them from a station not sufficiently central:—Always there are mischievous boys in a neighbourhood, boys who tie canisters to the tails of cats belonging to ladies—a thing which greatly I disapprove; and who rob orchards—a thing which slightly I disapprove; and behold! the next day, on meeting the injured ladies, they say to me, "Oh, my dear friend, never pretend to argue for him! This boy, we shall all see, will come to be hanged." Well, that seems a disagreeable prospect for all parties; so I change the subject; and lo! five years later, there is an English frigate fighting with a frigate of heavier metal, (no matter of what nation.) The noble captain has manœuvred, as only his countrymen can manœuvre; he has delivered his broadsides, as only the proud islanders can deliver them. Suddenly[Pg 496] he sees the opening for a coup-de-main; through his speaking-trumpet he shouts—"Where are my boarders?" And instantly rise upon the deck, with the gaiety of boyhood, in white shirt sleeves bound with black ribands, fifty men, the élite of the crew; and behold! at the very head of them, cutlass in hand, is our friend the tyer of canisters to the tails of ladies' cats—a thing which greatly I disapprove, and also the robber of orchards—a thing which slightly I disapprove. But here is a man that will not suffer you either greatly or slightly to disapprove him. Fire celestial burns in his eye; his nation, his glorious nation, is in his mind; himself he regards no more than the life of a cat, or the ruin of a canister. On the deck of the enemy he throws himself with rapture, and if he is amongst the killed, if he for an object so gloriously unselfish lays down with joy his life and glittering youth, mark this—that, perhaps, he will not be the least in heaven.

But coming back to the case of childhood, I maintain steadfastly—that, into all the elementary feelings of man, children look with more searching gaze than adults. My opinion is, that where circumstances favour, where the heart is deep, where humility and tenderness exist in strength, where the situation is favourable as to solitude and as to genial feelings, children have a specific power of contemplating the truth, which departs as they enter the world. It is clear to me, that children, upon elementary paths which require no knowledge of the world to unravel, tread more firmly than men; have a more pathetic sense of the beauty which lies in justice; and, according to the immortal ode of our great laureate, [ode "On the Intimations of Immortality in Childhood,"] a far closer communion with God. I, if you observe, do not much intermeddle with religion, properly so called. My path lies on the interspace between religion and philosophy, that connects them both. Yet here for once I shall trespass on grounds not properly mine, and desire you to observe in St Matthew, chap. xxi., and v. 15, who were those that, crying in the temple, made the first public recognition of Christianity. Then, if you say, "Oh, but children echo what they hear, and are no independent authorities!" I must request you to extend your reading into v. 16, where you will find that the testimony of these children, as bearing an original value, was ratified by the highest testimony; and the recognition of these children did itself receive a heavenly recognition. And this could not have been, unless there were children in Jerusalem who saw into truth with a far sharper eye than Sanhedrims and Rabbis.

It is impossible, with respect to any memorable grief, that it can be adequately exhibited so as to indicate the enormity of the convulsion which really it caused, without viewing it under a variety of aspects—a thing which is here almost necessary for the effect of proportion to what follows: 1st, for instance, in its immediate pressure, so stunning and confounding; 2dly, in its oscillations, as in its earlier agitations, frantic with tumults, that borrow the wings of the winds; or in its diseased impulses of sick languishing desire, through which sorrow transforms itself to a sunny angel, that beckons us to a sweet repose. These phases of revolving affection I have already sketched. And I shall also sketch a third, i. e. where the affliction, seemingly hushing itself to sleep, suddenly soars upwards again upon combining with another mode of sorrow; viz. anxiety without definite limits, and the trouble of a reproaching conscience. As sometimes,[16] upon the English lakes, waterfowl that have careered in the air until the eye is wearied with the eternal wheelings of their inimitable flight—Grecian simplicities of motion, amidst a labyrinthine infinity of curves that would baffle the geometry of Apollonius—seek the water at last, as if with some settled purpose (you imagine) of[Pg 497] reposing. Ah, how little have you understood the omnipotence of that life which they inherit! They want no rest; they laugh at resting; all is "make believe," as when an infant hides its laughing face behind its mother's shawl. For a moment it is still. Is it meaning to rest? Will its impatient heart endure to lurk there for long? Ask rather if a cataract will stop from fatigue. Will a sunbeam sleep on its travels? Or the Atlantic rest from its labours? As little can the infant, as little can the waterfowl of the lakes, suspend their play, except as a variety of play, or rest unless when nature compels them. Suddenly starts off the infant, suddenly ascend the birds, to new evolutions as incalculable as the caprices of a kaleidoscope; and the glory of their motions, from the mixed immortalities of beauty and inexhaustible variety, becomes at least pathetic to survey. So also, and with such life of variation, do the primary convulsions of nature—such, perhaps, as only primary[17] formations in the human system can experience—come round again and again by reverberating shocks.

The new intercourse with my guardian, and the changes of scene which naturally it led to, were of use in weaning my mind from the mere disease which threatened it in case I had been left any longer to my total solitude. But out of these changes grew an incident which restored my grief, though in a more troubled shape, and now for the first time associated with something, like remorse and deadly anxiety. I can safely say that this was my earliest trespass, and perhaps a venial one—all things considered. Nobody ever discovered it; and but for my own frankness it would not be know to this day. But that I could not know; and for years, that is from seven or earlier up to ten, such was my simplicity, that I lived in constant terror. This, though it revived my grief, did me probably great service; because it was no longer a state of languishing desire tending to torpor, but of feverish irritation and gnawing care that kept alive the activity of my understanding. The case was this:—It happened that I had now, and commencing with my first introduction to Latin studies, a large weekly allowance of pocket-money, too large for my age, but safely entrusted to myself, who never spent or desired to spend one fraction of it upon any thing but books. But all proved too little for my colossal schemes. Had the Vatican, the Bodleian, and the Bibliothéque du Roi been all emptied into one collection for my private gratification, little progress would have been made towards content in this particular craving. Very soon I had run ahead of my allowance, and was about three guineas deep in debt. There I paused; for deep anxiety now began to oppress me as to the course in which this mysterious (and indeed guilty) current of debt would finally flow. For the present it was frozen up; but I had some reason for thinking that Christmas thawed all debts whatsoever, and set them in motion towards innumerable pockets. Now my debt would be thawed with all the rest; and in what direction would it flow? There was no river that would carry it off to sea; to somebody's pocket it would beyond a doubt make its way; and who was that somebody? This question haunted me for ever. Christmas had come, Christmas had gone, and I heard nothing of the three guineas. But I was not easier for that. Far rather I would have heard of it; for this[Pg 498] indefinite approach of a loitering catastrophe gnawed and fretted my feelings. No Grecian audience ever waited with more shuddering horror for the anagnorisis[18] of the Œdipus, than I for the explosion of my debt. Had I been less ignorant, I should have proposed to mortgage my weekly allowance for the debt, or to form a sinking fund for redeeming it; for the weekly sum was nearly five per cent on the entire debt. But I had a mysterious awe of ever alluding to it. This arose from my want of some confidential friend; whilst my grief pointed continually to the remembrance—that so it had not always been. But was not the bookseller to blame in suffering a child scarcely seven years old to contract such a debt? Not in the least. He was both a rich man, who could not possibly care for my trifling custom, and notoriously an honourable man. Indeed the money which I myself spent every week in books, would reasonably have caused him to presume that so small a sum as three guineas might well be authorized by my family. He stood, however, on plainer ground. For my guardian, who was very indolent, (as people chose to call it,) that is, like his little melancholy ward, spent all his time in reading, often enough would send me to the bookseller's with a written order for books. This was to prevent my forgetting. But when he found that such a thing as "forgetting" in the case of a book, was wholly out of the question for me, the trouble of writing was dismissed. And thus I had become factor-general on the part of my guardian, both for his books, and for such as were wanted on my own account in the natural course of my education. My private "little account" had therefore in fact flowed homewards at Christmas, not (as I anticipated) in the shape of an independent current, but as a little tributary rill that was lost in the waters of some more important river. This I now know, but could not then have known with any certainty. So far, however, the affair would gradually have sunk out of my anxieties as time wore on. But there was another item in the case, which, from the excess of my ignorance, preyed upon my spirits far more keenly; and this, keeping itself alive, kept also the other incident alive. With respect to the debt, I was not so ignorant as to think it of much danger by the mere amount: my own allowance furnished a scale for preventing that mistake: it was the principle, the having presumed to contract debts on my own account, that I feared to have exposed. But this other case was a ground for anxiety even as regarded the amount; not really; but under the jesting representation made to me, which I (as ever before and after) swallowed in perfect faith. Amongst the books which I had bought, all English, was a history of Great Britain, commencing of course with Brutus and a thousand years of impossibilities; these fables being generously thrown in as a little gratuitous extra to the mass of truths which were to follow. This was to be completed in sixty or eighty parts, I believe. But there was another work left more indefinite as to its ultimate extent, and which from its nature seemed to imply a far wider range. It was a general history of navigation, supported by a vast body of voyages. Now, when I considered with myself what a huge thing the sea was, and that so many thousands of captains, commodores, admirals, were eternally running up and down it, and scoring lines upon its face so rankly, that in some of the main "streets" and "squares" (as one might call them) their tracks would blend into one undistinguishable blot,—I began to fear that such a work tended to infinity. What was little England to the universal sea? And yet that went perhaps to fourscore parts. Not enduring the uncertainty that now besieged my tranquillity, I resolved to know the worst; and on a day ever memorable to me I went down to the bookseller's. He was a mild elderly man, and to myself had always shown a kind indulgent manner. Partly perhaps he had been struck by my extreme[Pg 499] gravity; and partly, during the many conversations I had with him, on occasion of my guardian's orders for books, with my laughable simplicity. But there was another reason which had early won for me his paternal regard. For the first three or four months I had found Latin something of a drudgery; and the incident which for ever knocked away the "shores," at that time preventing my launch upon the general bosom of Latin literature, was this:—One day the bookseller took down a Beza's Latin Testament; and, opening it, asked me to translate for him the chapter which he pointed to. I was struck by perceiving that it was the great chapter of St Paul on the grave and resurrection. I had never seen a Latin version: yet from the simplicity of the scriptural style in any translation, (though Beza's is far from good) I could not well have failed in construing. But as it happened to be this particular chapter, which in English I had read again and again with so passionate a sense of its grandeur, I read it off with a fluency and effect like some great opera-singer uttering a rapturous bravura. My kind old friend expressed himself gratified, making me a present of the book as a mark of his approbation. And it is remarkable, that from this moment, when the deep memory of the English words had forced me into seeing the precise correspondence of the two concurrent streams—Latin and English—never again did any difficulty arise to check the velocity of my progress in this particular language. At less than eleven years of age, when as yet I was a very indifferent Grecian, I had become a brilliant master of Latinity, as my Alcaics and Choriambics remain to testify: and the whole occasion of a change so memorable to a boy, was this casual summons to translate a composition with which my heart was filled. Ever after this he showed me a caressing kindness, and so condescendingly, that generally he would leave any people for a moment with whom he was engaged, to come and speak to me. On this fatal day, however, for such it proved to me, he could not do this. He saw me, indeed, and nodded, but could not leave a party of elderly strangers. This accident threw me unavoidably upon one of his young people. Now this was a market-day; and there was a press of country people present, whom I did not wish to hear my question. Never did human creature, with his heart palpitating at Delphi for the solution of some killing mystery, stand before the priestess of the oracle, with lips that moved more sadly than mine, when now advancing to a smiling young man at a desk. His answer was to decide, though I could not exactly know that, whether for the next two years I was to have an hour of peace. He was a handsome, good-natured young man, but full of fun and frolic; and I dare say was amused with what must have seemed to him the absurd anxiety of my features. I described the work to him, and he understood me at once: how many volumes did he think it would extend to? There was a whimsical expression perhaps of drollery about his eyes, but which unhappily, under my preconceptions, I translated into scorn, as he replied,—"How may volumes? Oh! really I can't say, maybe a matter of 15,000, be the same more or less." "More?" I said in horror, altogether neglecting the contingency of "less." "Why," he said, "we can't settle these things to a nicety. But, considering the subject," [ay, that was the very thing which I myself considered,] "I should say, there might be some trifle over, as suppose 400 or 500 volumes, be the same more or less." What, then, here there might be supplements to supplements—the work might positively never end. On one pretence or another, if an author or publisher might add 500 volumes, he might add another round 15,000. Indeed it strikes one even now, that by the time all the one-legged commodores and yellow admirals of that generation had exhausted their long yarns, another generation would have grown another crop of the same gallant spinners. I asked no more, but slunk out of the shop, and never again entered it with cheerfulness, or propounded any frank questions as heretofore. For I was now seriously afraid of pointing attention to myself as one that, by having purchased some numbers, and obtained others on credit, had silently contracted an engagement to take all the rest, though they should stretch to the crack of doom.[Pg 500] Certainly I had never heard of a work that extended to 15,000 volumes; but still there was no natural impossibility that it should; and, if in any case, in none so reasonably as one upon the inexhaustible sea. Besides, any slight mistake as to the letter of the number, could not affect the horror of the final prospect. I saw by the imprint, and I heard, that this work emanated from London, a vast centre of mystery to me, and the more so, as a thing unseen at any time by my eyes, and nearly 200 miles distant. I felt the fatal truth, that here was a ghostly cobweb radiating into all the provinces from the mighty metropolis. I secretly had trodden upon the outer circumference, had damaged or deranged the fine threads and links,—concealment or reparation there could be none. Slowly perhaps, but surely, the vibration would travel back to London. The ancient spider that sat there at the centre, would rush along the network through all longitudes and latitudes, until he found the responsible caitiff, author of so much mischief. Even, with less ignorance than mine, there was something to appal a child's imagination in the vast systematic machinery by which any elaborate work could disperse itself, could levy money, could put questions and get answers—all in profound silence, nay, even in darkness—searching every nook of every town, and of every hamlet in so populous a kingdom. I had some dim terrors, also, connected with the Stationers' Company. I had often observed them in popular works threatening unknown men with unknown chastisements, for offences equally unknown; nay, to myself, absolutely inconceivable. Could I be the mysterious criminal so long pointed out, as it were, in prophecy? I figured the stationers, doubtless all powerful men, pulling at one rope, and my unhappy self hanging at the other end. But an image, which seems now even more ludicrous than the rest, at that time was the one most connected with the revival of my grief. It occurred to my subtlety, that the Stationers' Company, or any other company, could not possibly demand the money until they had delivered the volumes. And, as no man could say that I had ever positively refused to receive them, they would have no pretence for not accomplishing this delivery in a civil manner. Unless I should turn out to be no customer at all, at present it was clear that I had a right to be considered a most excellent customer; one, in fact, who had given an order for fifteen thousand volumes. Then rose up before me this great opera-house "scena" of the delivery. There would be a ring at the front door. A waggoner in the front, with a bland voice, would ask for "a young gentleman who had given an order to their house." Looking out, I should perceive a procession of carts and waggons, all advancing in measured movements; each in turn would present its rear, deliver its cargo of volumes, by shooting them, like a load of coals, on the lawn, and wheel off to the rear, by way of clearing the road for its successors. Then the impossibility of even asking the servants to cover with sheets, or counterpanes, or tablecloths, such a mountainous, such a "star-y-pointing" record of my past offences lying in so conspicuous a situation! Men would not know my guilt merely, they would see it. But the reason why this form of the consequences, so much more than any other, stuck by my imagination was, that it connected itself with one of the Arabian nights which had particularly interested myself and my sister. It was that tale, where a young porter, having his ropes about his person, had stumbled into the special "preserve" of some old magician. He finds a beautiful lady imprisoned, to whom (and not without prospects of success) he recommends himself as a suitor, more in harmony with her own years than a withered magician. At this crisis the magician returns. The young man bolts, and for that day successfully; but unluckily he leaves his ropes behind. Next morning he hears the magician, too honest by half, enquiring at the front door, with much expression of condolence, for the unfortunate young man who had lost his ropes in his own zenana. Upon this story I used to amuse my sister, by ventriloquizing to the magician from the lips of the trembling young man—"Oh, Mr Magician, these ropes cannot be mine! They are far too good; and one wouldn't like, you know, to rob some other[Pg 501] poor young man. If you please, Mr Magician, I never had money enough to buy so beautiful a set of ropes." But argument is thrown away upon a magician, and off he sets on his travels with the young porter—not forgetting to take the ropes along with him.

Here now was the case, that had once seemed so impressive to me in a mere fiction from a far-distant age and land, literally reproduced in myself. For what did it matter whether a magician dunned one with old ropes for his engines of torture, or Stationers' Hall with 15,000 volumes, (in the rear of which there might also be ropes?) Should I have ventriloquized, would my sister have laughed, had either of us but guessed the possibility that I myself, and within one twelve months, and, alas! standing alone in the world as regarded confidential counsel, should repeat within my own inner experience the shadowy panic of the young Bagdat intruder upon the privacy of magicians? It appeared, then, that I had been reading a legend concerning myself in the Arabian Nights. I had been contemplated in types a thousand years before on the banks of the Tigris. It was horror and grief that prompted that thought.

Oh, heavens! that the misery of a child should by possibility become the laughter of adults!—that even I, the sufferer, should be capable of amusing myself, as if it had been a jest, with what for three years had constituted the secret affliction of my life, and its eternal trepidation—like the ticking of a death-watch to patients lying awake in the plague. I durst ask no counsel; there was no one to ask. Possibly my sister could lave given me none in a case which neither of us should have understood, and where to seek for information from others, would have been at once to betray the whole reason for seeking it. But, if no advice, she would have given me her pity, and the expression of her endless love; and, with the relief of sympathy, that heals for a season all distresses, she would have given me that exquisite luxury—the knowledge that, having parted with my secret, yet also I had not parted with it, since it was in the power only of one that could much less betray me than I could betray myself. At this time, that is about the year when I suffered most, I was reading Cæsar. Oh, laurelled scholar—sun-bright intellect—"foremost man of all this world"—how often did I make out of thy immortal volume a pillow to support my wearied brow, as at evening, on my homeward road, I used to turn into some silent field, where I might give way unobserved to the reveries which besieged me! I wondered, and found no end of wondering, at the revolution that one short year had made in my happiness. I wondered that such billows could overtake me! At the beginning of that year how radiantly happy! At the end how insupportably alone!

"Into what depth thou see'st,
From what height fallen."

For ever I searched the abysses with some wandering thoughts unintelligible to myself. For ever I dallied with some obscure notion, how my sister's love might be made in some dim way available for delivering me from misery; or else how the misery I had suffered and was suffering might be made, in some way equally dim, the ransom for winning back her love.

Here pause, reader! Imagine yourself seated in some cloud-scaling swing, oscillating under the impulse of lunatic hands; for the strength of lunacy may belong to human dreams, the fearful caprice of lunacy, and the malice of lunacy, whilst the victim of those dreams may be all the more certainly removed from lunacy; even as a bridge gathers cohesion and strength from the increasing resistance into which it is forced by increasing pressure. Seated in such a swing, fast as you reach the lowest point of depression, may you rely on racing up to a starry altitude of corresponding ascent. Ups and downs you will see, heights and depths, in our fiery course together, such as will sometimes tempt you to look shyly and suspiciously at me, your guide, and the ruler of the oscillations. Here, at the point where I have called a halt, the reader has reached the lowest depth in my nursery afflictions. From that point, according to the principles of art which govern the movement of these Confessions, I had meant to launch him upwards through the whole arch of ascending visions[Pg 502] which seemed requisite to balance the sweep downwards, so recently described in his course. But accidents of the press have made it impossible to accomplish this purpose in the present month's journal. There is reason to regret that the advantages of position, which were essential to the full effect of passages planned for equipoise and mutual resistance, have thus been lost. Meantime, upon the principle of the mariner who rigs a jury-mast in default of his regular spars, I find my resource in a sort of "jury" peroration—not sufficient in the way of a balance by its proportions, but sufficient to indicate the quality of the balance which I had contemplated. He who has really read the preceding parts of these present Confessions, will be aware that a stricter scrutiny of the past, such as was natural after the whole economy of the dreaming faculty had been convulsed beyond all precedents on record, led me to the conviction that not one agency, but two agencies, had co-operated to the tremendous result. The nursery experience had been the ally and the natural co-efficient of the opium. For that reason it was that the nursery experience has been narrated. Logically, it bears the very same relation to the convulsions of the dreaming faculty as the opium. The idealizing tendency existed in the dream-theatre of my childhood; but the preternatural strength of its action and colouring was first developed after the confluence of the two causes. The reader must suppose me at Oxford: twelve years and a half are gone by; I am in the glory of youthful happiness; but I have now first tampered with opium; and now first the agitations of my childhood reopened in strength, now first they swept in upon the brain with power and the grandeur of recovered life, under the separate and the concurring inspirations of opium.

Once again, after twelve years' interval, the nursery of my childhood expanded before me—my sister was moaning in bed—I was beginning to be restless with fears not intelligible to myself. Once again the nurse, but now dilated to colossal proportions, stood as upon some Grecian stage with her uplifted hand, and like the superb Medea standing alone with her children in the nursery at Corinth,[19] smote me senseless to the ground. Again, I was in the chamber with my sister's corpse—again the pomps of life rose up in silence, the glory of summer, the frost of death. Dream formed itself mysteriously within dream; within these Oxford dreams remoulded itself continually the trance in my sister's chamber,—the blue heavens, the everlasting vault, the soaring billows, the throne steeped in the thought (but not the sight) of "Him that sate thereon;" the flight, the pursuit, the irrecoverable steps of my return to earth. Once more the funeral procession gathered; the priest in his white surplice stood waiting with a book in his hand by the side of an open grave, the sacristan with his shovel; the coffin sank; the dust to dust descended. Again I was in the church on a heavenly Sunday morning. The golden sunlight of God slept amongst the heads of his apostles, his martyrs, his saints; the fragment from the litany—the fragment from the clouds—awoke again the lawny beds that went up to scale the heavens—awoke again the shadowy arms that moved downwards to meet them. Once again, arose the swell of the anthem—the burst of the Hallelujah chorus—the storm—the trampling movement of the choral passion—the agitation of my own trembling sympathy—the tumult of the choir—the wrath of the organ. Once more I, that wallowed, became he that rose up to the clouds. And now in Oxford, all was bound up into unity; the first state and the last were melted into each other as in some sunny glorifying haze. For high above my own station, hovered a gleaming host of heavenly beings, surrounding the pillows of the dying children. And such beings sympathize equally with sorrow that grovels and with sorrow that soars. Such beings pity alike the children that are languishing in death, and the children that live only to languish in tears.



[Pg 503]

North's Specimens of the British Critics.

No. III.


Sir Walter Scott's admirable Life of Dryden concludes with this passage:—"I have thus detailed the life, and offered some remarks on the literary character, of John Dryden; who, educated in a pedantic taste and a fanatical religion, was destined, if not to give laws to the stage of England, at least to defend its liberties; to improve burlesque into satire; to free translation from the fetters of verbal metaphrase, and exclude from it the license of paraphrase; to teach posterity the powerful and varied poetical harmony of which their language was capable; to give an example of the lyric ode of unapproached excellence; and to leave a name second only to those of Milton and of Shakspeare." Two names we miss, and muse where the immortal author of Waverley would have placed them; not surely below Dryden's—those of Chaucer and Spenser.

Let those Four names form a constellation—and the star Dryden, large and bright though it be, must not be looked for in the same region of the heavens. First in the second order of English poets—let glorious John keep the place assigned him by the greatest of Scotsmen. We desire not that he shall vacate the throne. But between the first order and the second, let that be remembered which seems here to have been forgotten, that immeasurable spaces intervene. "Second only to Shakspeare and Milton," implies near approach to them of another greatness inferior but in degree, and Dryden is thus lifted up in our imagination into the sphere of the Creators. On such mention of Milton, let us converse about him for a short half hour, and then venture to descend on Dryden, not with precipitation, but as in a balloon.

To an Englishman recollecting the poetical glories of his country, the Seventeenth Century often appears as the mother of one great name—Milton. Original and mighty poets express, at its highest, the mind of their time as it is localized on their own soil. With Elizabeth the splendour of the feudal and chivalrous ages for England finally sets. A world expires, and erelong a new world rises. The Wars which signalize the new period, contrast deeply with those which heretofore tore the land. Those were the factions of high lineages. Now, thought seizes the weapons of earthly warfare. The rights vesting in an English subject by the statutes of the country—the rights vesting in man, as the subject of civil government, by the laws of God and nature, are scanned by awakened reason, and put arms into men's hands. The highest of all the interests of the human being—higher than all others, as eternity excels time—Religion—is equally debated. The Protestant church is beleaguered by hostile sects—the Reformation subjected to the demand for a more searching and effective reform. Creed, worship, ecclesiastical discipline and government, all come into debate. A thraldom of opinion—a bondage of authority, that held for many centuries the nation bound together in no powerless union, is, upon the sudden, broken up. Men will know why they obey and why they believe; and human laws and divine truths are searched, as far as the wit of man is capable, to the roots. It is the spirit of the new time that has broken forth, and begins ambitiously, and riotously, to try its powers, but nobly, magnanimously, and heroically too. Milton owned and showed himself a son of the time. Gifted with powers eminently fitted for severe investigation—apt for learning, and learned beyond most men—of a temper adverse and rebellious to an assumed and ungrounded control—large-hearted and large-minded to comprehend the diverse interests of men—personally fearless—devout in the highest and[Pg 504] boldest sense of the word; namely, as acknowledging no supreme law but from heaven, and as confiding in the immediate communication of divine assistance to the faithful servants of heaven—possessing, moreover, in amplest measure, that peculiar endowment of sovereign poets which enables them to stand up as the teachers of a lofty and tender wisdom, as moral prophets to the species, the clear faculty of profound self-inspection—he was prepared to share in the intellectual strife and change of that day, even had some interposing, pacific angel charmed away from the bosom of the land all other warfare and revolution—and to shine in that age's work, even had the muse never smiled upon his cradled forehead, never laid the magical murmurs of song on his chosen lips. He was a politician, a theologian of his age—amidst the demolition of established things, the clang of arms, and the streaming of blood, whether in the field or upon the scaffold, a thinker and a writer.

There are times that naturally produce real, others that naturally produce imitative poetry. Tranquil, stagnating times, produce the imitative; times that rouse in man self-consciousnesses, produce the real. All great poetry has a moral foundation. It is imagination building upon the great, deep, universal, eternal human will. Therefore profound sympathy with man, and profound intelligence of man, aided by, or growing out of, that profound sympathy, is vital to the true poet. But in stagnating times both sympathy with man sleeps, and the disclosure of man sleeps. Troubled times bring out humanity—show its terrible depths—also its might and grandeur—both ways its truth. A great poet seems to require his birth in an age when there are about him great self-revelations of man, for his vaticination. Moreover, his own particular being is more deeply and strongly stirred and shown to him in such a time. But the moral tempest may be too violent for poetry—as the Civil War of the Roses appeared to blast it and all letters—that of the Parliament contrariwise. The intellect of Milton, in the Paradise Lost, shows that it had seen "the giant-world enraged."

Happily for the literary fame of his country—for the solid exaltation in these latter ages of the sublime art which he cultivated—for the lovers of poetry who by inheritance or by acquisition speak the masculine and expressive language which he still ennobled—for the serene fame of the august poet himself—the political repose which a new change (the restoration of detruded and exiled royalty to its ancestral throne) spread over the land, by shutting up the public hopes of the civil and ecclesiastical republican in despair, and by crushing his faction in the dust, gave him back, in the visionary blindness of undecaying age, to "the still air of delightful studies," in order that, in seclusion from all "barbarous dissonance," he might achieve the work destined to him from the beginning—not less than the greatest ever achieved by man.

Educated by such a strife to power—and not more sublimely gifted than strenuously exercised—Milton had constantly carried in his soul the twofold consciousness of the highest destination. He knew himself born a great poet; and the names of great poets sounding through all time, rang in his ears. What Homer was to his people and to his language, he would be to his; and this was the lower vocation—glorious as earthly things may be glorious—and self-respecting while he thought of his own head as of one that shall be laurel-bound; yet magnanimous and public-spirited, while he trusted to shed upon his language and upon his country the beams of his own fame. This, we say, was his lower vocation, taken among thoughts and feelings high but merely human. But a higher one accompanied it. The sense of a sanctity native to the human soul, and indestructible—the assiduous hallowing of himself, and of all his powers, by religious offices that seek nothing lower than communion with the fountain-head of all holiness and of all good. And Milton, labouring "in the eye of his great taskmaster"—trained by all recluse and silent studies—trained by the turmoil raging around him of the times, and by his own share in the general contention—according to the self-dedication of his mind trained within the temple—he, stricken with darkness,[Pg 505] and amidst the gloom of extinguished earthly hopes, assumed the singing robes of the poet.

The purpose of the Paradise Lost is wholly religious. He strikes the loudest, and, at the same time, the sweetest-toned harp of the Muse with the hand of a Christian theologian. He girds up all the highest powers of the human mind to wrestling with the most arduous question with which the human faculties can engage—the all-involving question—How is the world governed? Do we live under chance, or fate, or Providence? Is there a God? And is he holy, loving, wise, and just? He will

"Assert eternal providence,
And justify the ways of God to man."

The justifying answer he reads in the Scriptures. Man fell, tempted from without by another, but by the act of his own free-will, and by his own choice. Thus, according to the theology of Milton, is the divine Rule of the universe completely justified in the sin into which man has fallen—in the punishment which has fallen upon man. The Justice of God is cleared. And his Love? That shines out, when man has perversely fallen, by the Covenant of Mercy, by finding out for him a Redeemer. And thus the two events in the history of mankind, which the Scriptures present as infinitely surpassing all others in importance, which are cardinal to the destinies of the human race, upon which all our woe, and, in the highest sense, all our weal are hung, become the subject of the work—the Fall of man consoled by the promise and undertaking of his Redemption.

The narrative of the Fall, delivered with an awful and a pathetic simplicity to us in a few words in the first chapter of Genesis, becomes accordingly the groundwork of the Poem; and these few words, with a few more scattered through the Scriptures, and barely hinting Celestial transactions, the War and Fall of the Angels, are by a genius, as daringly as powerfully creative, expanded into the mighty dimensions of an Epic. That unspeakable hope, foreshown to Adam as to be accomplished in distant generations, pouring an exhilarating beam upon the darkness of man's self-wrought destruction, which saves the catastrophe of the poem from utter despair, and which tranquillizes the sadness, has to be interwoven in the poet's narrative of the Fall. How stupendous the art that has disposed and ordered the immensity!—comprehended the complexity of the subject into a clearly harmonized, musically proportionate Whole!

Unless the Paradise Lost had risen from the soul of Milton as a hymn—unless he had begun to sing as a worshipper with his hands uplifted before the altar of incense, the choice of the subject would have been more than bold—it would have been the daring of presumption—an act of impiety. For he will put in dialogue God the Father and God the Son—disclosing their supreme counsels. He has prayed to the Third Person of the Godhead for light and succour. If this were a fetch of human wit, it was in the austere zealot and puritan a mockery. To a devout Roman Catholic poet, we could forgive every thing. For nursed among legends and visual representations of the invisible—panoplied in a childlike imposed faith from the access of impiety—his paternoster and his ave-marie more familiar to his lips than his bread, almost so as their breath—the most audacious representations may come to him vividly and naturally, without a scruple and without a thought. But Milton, the purged, the chastened, a spiritual iconoclast, drinking his faith by his own thirst on the waters of Zion, a champion whose weapons from the armoury of God "are given him tempered"—he to holy things cannot lay other than an awful hand. We know that he believed himself under a peculiar guidance. Surely, he had had visions of glory which, when he designed the poem that would include scenes in heaven, offered themselves again almost like very revelations. If we hesitate in believing this of him, it is because we conceive in him a stern intellectual pride and strength, which could not easily kneel to adore. But there we should greatly err. For he recognized in himself—

"Self-knowing, and from thence
Magnanimous to correspond with heaven"—

that capacity of song which nothing[Pg 506] but sacred Epos could satisfy. Diodati asks him—"Quid studes?" and he answers—"Mehercle, immortalitatem!" This might persuade us that he finally chose the Fall of Man as he at first had chosen King Arthur. But not so. When Arthur dropped away from his purposes, naturally displaced by the after-choice, the will toward an Epic underwent an answerable revolution. The first subject was called by the "longing after immortality." But another longing, or the longing after another immortality, carried the will and the man to the second. The learning and the learned art of the Paradise Lost, concur in inclining us to look upon Milton as an artist rather than a worshipper. On closer consideration of its spirit, we cannot think of his putting his hand to such a work without the inwardly felt conviction that God was with him in it.

And, what is the feeling with which a youthful mind first regards the Paradise Lost? A holy awe—something as if it were a second Bible. So, too, have felt towards it our great poets. Elwood, the Quaker, has told us, but we cannot believe him, that he suggested to Milton the Paradise Regained! Hardly credible that, being the natural sequel and complement of the Paradise Lost, it should not have occurred to Milton. Pray, did the Quaker suggest the treatment? To conceive that man was virtually redeemed when Jesus had avouched, by proof, his perfect obedience, was a view, we think, proper to spring in a religious mind. It is remarkable, however, certainly, that the Atoning Sacrifice, which in the Paradise Lost is brought into the front of the Divine rule and of the poem, in the Paradise Regained hardly appears—if at all. In both you see the holy awe with which Milton shuns describing the scenes of the Passion. Between Adam and Michael, on that "top of speculation" the Visions end at the Deluge. The Crucifixion falls amongst the recorded events, and is told with few and sparing words. You must think that the removal of the dread Crucifixion from the action of the Paradise Regained recommended that action to the poet—contradicting Warburton, who blames him, as a poet, for not having chosen the more stupendous action. Milton thus obtained further a perfect Greek simplicity of plan. The Crucifixion has always seemed profaned when any modern poet has dared to describe it.

The Samson Agonistes was, you know, Milton's last work. How suitable, above all other subjects, to the Hebrew soul within him! Their common blindness—the simplicity of character that is proper to a strong man—"the plain heroic magnitude of mind"—the absolute dependence on God, that is to say, trustful dependence brought out by blindness—the submission under the visiting hand of heaven provoked by Samson's own disobedience—God's especial selection of him as his own, a dedicated Nazarite—his call to be a national deliverer—All these combined to affect his devout imagination; while one might almost think, that in the youthful Milton the same fancy had delighted in the prowess and exploits of Samson which rejoiced in the heroes of chivalrous fable.

What are Dryden's works to these? How shall we compare Poet with Poet—Man with Man?

Let us then turn to the other clauses in Sir Walter's eulogium, and we shall be able to go along with him in much—not all—of what he affirms of his darling Dryden. He was verily A GREAT TRANSLATOR. But before speaking of his performances, or of his principles, in that Fine Art, Translation, let us say a few words on its range and power.

It is indeed most desirable to have the gift of tongues, though the "myriad-minded" man had but that of his own. There are people who can parley all the European languages, even like so many natives, and read you off-hand any strange-looking page, be it even MS., you can submit to their eyes. Yet, we believe, they always most feelingly understand the "old familiar faces" of the words they got by heart in lisping them, and that became a part of their being, not by process of study, but by that seeming inspiration, through which childhood is ever joyfully acquiring multifarious lore in the spirit of love. In waking and sleeping dreams we speak our mother tongue. In it we make[Pg 507] love—in it we say our prayers. Had he lived till he was fourscore, John Leyden, in the dotage of genius, would have maundered by the banks of the Ganges in the Doric that charmed his ears among the murmurs of the Teviot. Heaven bless the man who invented Translation! Heaven bless Translators all—especially those who give us in English all thoughts, rich and rare, that took life in foreign attire, and continue to charm human hearts, and souls, and minds, in a change of light that shows them sometimes even more beautiful than when first they had a place among airy creatures!

But methinks we hear some wiseacre, who is no wizard, exclaim:—"Oh! to be enjoyed, it must be read in the original!" What! the Bible? You have no Hebrew, and little Greek, but surely you sometimes dip into the Old and into the New Testament.

To treat the question more argumentatively, let Prose Composition be divided into History, Philosophy, Oratory. In History, Translation—say into English—is easiest, and in all cases practicable. The information transferred is the chief thing asked, even if Style be lost—with some writers a small, with others no doubt a considerable, with a few a great loss. But the facts, that is, the events, and all the characters too, can be turned over, although one finer historical fact—the spirit of the country and time, as breathing in the very Style of the artist, may, yet need not, evaporate. The Translator, however, should be himself an historian or antiquary, and should confine himself—as, indeed, if left to himself he will do—to the nation in whose fate he happens to have had awakened in him—by influences hard to tell, and perhaps to himself unknown—the perpetual interest of a sympathy that endears to him, above all others, that especial region, and the ages that like shadows have passed over it.

In Philosophy, the Translator's task is harder, and it is higher; but its accomplishment is open to the zealous lover of truth. The whole philosophy must be thoroughly possessed by him, or meanings will be lost from, or imposed on, the author—cases fatal both. Besides, of all writers, a philosopher most collects extensive and penetrating theories into chosen words. No dictionary—the soul only of the philosopher interprets these words. In the new language, you must have great power and mastery to seize equivalents if there; if not, to create them, or to extricate yourself with circumlocutions that do not bewilder or mislead—precise and exquisite. Have we, in our language, many, any such Translations? Not Taylor's or Sydenham's Plato—not Gillies's Aristotle. Coleridge is dead—but De Quincey is alive.

In Oratory, the Style is all in all. It is the ipsissimus homo. He who "wielded at will that fierce democratic," does not appear unless the thunder growl and the lightning dazzle. From what hand shall it fulmine over England as over Greece? Yet the matter, the facts, the order, the logic, are all easily enough to be transferred—not the passion and the splendour, except by an orator, and even hardly by him; but Brougham has grappled manfully with Demosthenes, though he hath somewhat diminished the power of the Crown.

But in Poetry. Ay, there the difficulties grow—there all are collected—and one equal to all, or nearly so, is added—Verse! Of all writers, the poet is the most exquisite in his words. His creations revolve in them—live in them—breathe and burn. Shakspeare expresses this—"the poet's pen turns them to shape." Ariel, and Lear, and Hamlet, are not except in the very words—their very own words. For the poet, of all men, feels most susceptibly, sensitively, perceptively, acutely, accurately, clearly, tenderly, kindly—the contact of his mind with yours; and the words are the medium of contact! Yet, most of the Iliad may be transferred—for it is a history. The manners are easily depicted in a Translation—so is the wonderful thinking that remains to us therein from that remote lost world—and makes the substratum of the poem. In short, that old world which Homer preserves, can be shown in a Translation, but not Homer himself. The simplicity, and sweetness, and majesty, and the musical soul and art, require Greek, and old Greek. A[Pg 508] translation into Attic Greek by Sophocles, would not be Homer. Into modern English? Alas, and alack-a-day! An English translator might better undertake Euripides than Sophocles, and Sophocles than Æschylus. Æschylus, Pindar, Homer—these are the three terrors of Translation. Why? They are doubly so remote! Distant so far, and distant so high! We should not, ourselves, much care for undertaking Apollonius Rhodius, and Callimachus, although the Alexandrian schoolmaster abounds in the poetical riches of the Greek tongue, and the Cyrenaic hymnist has an unattainable spirit of grace and elastic step. Yet we could, with a safe conscience, try; because if less glory be attempted by the translator, less can be lost for his original. Whereas, if we let down Homer, Pindar, Æschylus, we are lowering the heights of the human spirit—crimen læsœ majestatis. In poetry the absolutely creative power of the human spirit—that immense endowment and privilege of the human being—is at its height. Many view this endowment and privilege with scepticism—renouncing their own glory—denying themselves. Therefore, it is always important, in civilized times, that the majesty and might of poetry be sustained—surrounded by a body-guard of opinion. In rude times it can take good care of itself. Then the king walks among the people safe in their faith and love. Now you tremble to diminish the reverence of that creation. But courage! All cannot read Greek, and they are, as fellow men of Homer, entitled to as much of him as they can get. Chapman, Pope, Cowper, Sotheby, all taken together, impress an Englishman (Scotsman included) who is no Grecian, with a belief in greatness. And then for the perpetual feeding of his faith he has his own Chaucer, Spenser, Shakspeare, Milton.

Translation, you see then, O gracious perusers! has divers motives. One is ambitious. It is to help in giving the poet his due fame, and that is a motive honourably sprung, since it comes of the belief that the poet belongs to the species at large; and that accordingly his praise has not had its full reverberation, until it has rebounded from all hearts. Of the same impulse, but dealing justice in another direction, is the wish that the less learned shall not, from that accident, forfeit their share of the common patrimony; and that surely is among the best of all reasons. A peculiar sort of zeal is to cultivate the vernacular literature by transplanting the great works of other more happily cultivated languages, as we naturalize fair and useful exotics. This is an early thought, and goes off as the country advances. Probably the different reasons of Translation would affect, even materially, the characters of Translation; or at least, if they coexist, the predominance of one over the other moving causes. The different purposes will even give different orders of Translators. To undertake to aid in diffusing the version of Homer to the ends of the West, would ask an Englishman tolerably confident in his own powers. It breathed in the fiery spirit of George Chapman, who having rolled out the Iliad in our stateliest numbers, the Odyssey in more moderate strain, and finally dispatched the Homeric Minora, begins his own Epilogue of three consecutive labours, with

"The work that I WAS BORN TO DO IS DONE!"

A little reflection will suggest to many a wishing Translator, that HE is in danger of rather doing injustice to the celebrity of an admired original. Incapables! refrain, desist, be dumb.

The use of Translations to the literature that has received them has been questioned. The native genius and energies of a country may, it has been feared, be oppressed by the importation of wealth and luxuries. The Hygeian maxim to remain poor for the sake of health and strength, is hard to act upon. In another sense, we might rather look upon the introduced strangers as dangerous rivals, who rouse us to woo with better devotion, and so are useful. Besides, it looks like a timid policy to refuse to know what our fellows have done. Milton was not subdued, but inflamed, by conversing with all the great originals. Burns did not the less Dorically tune his reed, because Pope had sounded in his ear echoes of the Scamandrian trumpet-blast. The truer and more encouraging doctrine[Pg 509] rather seems to be, that if the land has in its mould the right nurture of genius, genius will strike its roots, and lift its flowers. In the mean time, it is to be considered, against such a policy of jealous protection, that not the influence on the vernacular literature is the first legitimate claim, but the gain of enlightenment for the human mind, intent upon enlarging itself by bringing under ken every where that which itself has been, and that which itself has done every where.

The great distinction which we have observed in these remarks on Translation, between compositions in Prose and Verse, seems here to demand from us some remarks. A question of the very highest importance in literature arises—can the Fictitious which the poet relates in Verse be as well related in Prose? The voice of all ages, countries, languages, answers—NO! The literature of every civilized nation presents this phenomenon—a division broad and deep, running through it, and marked by that distinction in the musical structure of discourse, which we habitually designate by the names, Prose and Verse. The distinction, as we all know, is as decided in the substance itself of the composition, as it is in the musical putting together of the words. Homer, Pindar, Alcæus, Æschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, or Lucretius, Virgil, Horace, Ovid, upon the one side; and upon the other, Herodotus and Thucydides, Demosthenes, Plato, and the Stagyrite—or under another still fortunate sky, Livy, Cæsar, Tacitus, Cicero and Seneca—here bare names of the poets on the one side, of the writers of prose on the other, express alike to our soberest judgment, and to our most awakened enthusiasm, nothing less than two distinct Worlds of Thinking.

How so commanding, so permeating, so vivifying, and so transfusing a power should reside in a fact of human speech, seemingly so slight and slender as that ruled and mechanical adjustment of a few syllables which we call a verse, is perhaps not explicable by our philosophy; but of the power itself, the uniform history of mankind leaves us no liberty to doubt. Yet may we understand something of this wonderful agency; and conceive how the new and strange wealth of music brought out from words, of which the speaker in verse finds himself the privileged master, may lift up, as on wings, his courage to think and utter. We may suppose that the sweet and melting, or the solemn, the prolonged, the proud swell, or flow, or fall of his own numbers, may surprise his own ear, and seize his own soul with unexpected emotions; and that off his guard and unawares, and, as grave ancient writers have said, in a sort of sacred madness, he may be hurried into inventions of greatness, of wonder, and beauty, which would have remained for ever locked up and forbidden to the colder and more reserved temper, which seems fittingly to accompany prose, the accustomed language of Reason. Versification is Measure, and it is Harmony. If you hear the measure you listen expectantly, and there is a recurring pleasure in the fulfilment of that expectation. But the pleasure thus afforded would soon be exhausted, did not the power of Harmony tell. That is a musical pleasure which cannot be exhausted. Here, then, is a reason why the natural music of speech shall be elaborated to its height in verse. You assume that the mind of the orator, the historian, the philosopher, is given up wholly to the truth of his matter. Therefore in him the palpable study of harmonious periods (as in Isocrates) impairs your confidence in his earnestness and sincerity. Not so, we venture to say, in the case of the poet. In his composition the very law of the verse instals the sound in a sort of mysterious sovereignty over the sense. He hurries or he protracts—he swells notes as of an organ, he attenuates them as of a flute. He seeks in the sound of words their power—and their power is great—to paint notions and things—to imitate the twanging of a bow, the hissing of an arrow, the roaring of the winds, the weltering of the waves. His verse laughs with merriment, and wails with sorrow; and that, which would in a grave writer of prose be frivolous, be sonorous trifles, crowns his muse with praise. Consequences follow, deeply penetrating into the substance of the whole composition, which is thus[Pg 510] delivered up, in a manner unknown to prose, to the wonder-working power of a delighted inspiration.

We know if any one begins to recite a passage of Milton, that we expect to hear a charm of sound which we never for a moment dream of hearing in prose—a new and a more beautiful speech. For having made one mode of speech more musical than another, we have placed it more immediately under the dominion of the faculty by which we are cognizant of beauty. Accordingly we feel, and know, and universally admit, although Eloquence is musical, that Poetry far excels Eloquence in its alliance with the beautiful. Music is beauty, addressing itself to the sense of hearing, and therefore the beautiful is showered upon poetry, and therein everlastingly enshrined. Verse, then, is a language seized upon by the soul gratifying itself in the indulgence of its own emotions, under a law of beauty. Thus we have seen a power introduced into human discourse, by a cause that hardly promised such wonderful effects. A modulation of sounds, a musical rising, and falling, and flowing, fitted for expressing a fervour, a boldness, an enthusiasm in the thinking, suddenly transforms the whole character of composition, creates or infuses a new spirit of thought. A kind of literature is produced, of a peculiar, and that the highest order—Poetry. We have seen this take many beautiful, august, and imposing forms—the majesty of the Epopeia—the pathetic energy of the Tragic Drama—the rapturous exaltation and prodigal splendour of the Lyrical Ode. The names of the species recal the names of the great works belonging to each, and of the great masters whose memory the works have made immortal. Those masters of the divine art thus breathing delight, are numbered among the loftiest and most powerful spirits. Nations, illustrious in peace and war, heroic in character and action, founders of stable and flourishing republics and empires, have set on the front of their renown the fame of having produced this or that other glorious poem. What wonder, since the poet, in forms given by imagination, embodies the profoundest, the loftiest, the tenderest, the innermost acts and movements of that soul which lives in every human bosom? What wonder if each of us loves the poet, when in his work, as in a celestial mirror, each of us beholds himself naturally and truly pictured, and yet ennobled? What wonder if the nation, proud of itself, of its position, and of its memories, exalts its own darling son of song, who may have fixed, in a precious throng of imperishable words, the peculiar spirit of thinking, of loving, of daring, which has made the nation what it has been, is, and hopes long to be? What wonder if humankind, when mighty ages have departed, and languages once cultivated in their beauty, have ceased from being spoken, should bring across lands and seas crowns of undying laurels to cast at the feet of some awful poet who cannot die? In whose true, capacious, and prophetic mind, the coming civilization of his own people was long beforehand anticipated and predisposed? And in whose antique verse we, the offspring of other ages, and tongues, and races, drink still the freshly-flowing and ever-living waters of original and unexhausted humanity?

Oh! how shall such strains as these, in which each single word and syllable has in itself a spell, more potent by its position, survive, in undiminished force and beauty, the art that would fain spirit them away out of one language, which they have breathed all life long, into another which they have to learn to love? Lived there ever such a magician? Never.

There is reason for sadness in the above little paragraph. But after due rumination, let us forget it, and proceed. Hear Dryden prosing away upon paraphrase, and metaphrase, and imitation, in his very best style.

"All translation, I suppose, may be reduced to these three heads—First, that of metaphrase, or turning an author, word by word, and line by line, from one language into another. Thus, or near this manner, was Horace his Art of Poetry translated by Ben Jonson. The second way is that of paraphrase, or translation with latitude, where the author is kept in view by the translator, so as never to be lost, but his words are not so strictly followed as his sense; and that, too, is admitted to be[Pg 511] amplified, but not altered. Such is Mr Waller's translation of Virgil's fourth Æneid. The third way is that of imitation, where the translator (if now he has not lost that name) assumes the liberty, not only to vary from the words and sense, but to forsake them both as he sees occasion, and taking only some general hints from the original, to run divisions on the ground-work as he pleases. Such is Mr Cowley's practice in turning two odes of Pindar, and one of Horace, into English.

"Concerning the first of these methods, our master, Horace, has given us this caution—

'Nec verbum verbo curabis reddere, fidus Interpres'———

'Nor word for word too faithfully translate,'

as the Earl of Roscommon has excellently rendered it. 'Too faithfully is, indeed, pedantically.' It is a faith like that which proceeds from superstition, blind and zealous. Take it in the expression of Sir John Denham to Sir Richard Fanshaw, on his version of the Pastor Fido

'That servile path thou nobly dost decline,
Of tracing word by word, and line by line:
A new and nobler way thou dost pursue,
To make translations, and translators too;
They but preserve the ashes, thou the flame,
True to his sense, but truer to his fame.'

"It is almost impossible to translate verbally, and well, at the same time; for the Latin (a most severe and compendious language) often expresses that in one word, which either the barbarity or the narrowness of modern tongues cannot supply in more. It is frequent, also, that the conceit is couched in some expression which will be lost in English—

'Aque iidem venti vela fidemque ferent.'

What poet of our nation is so happy as to express this thought literally in English, and to strike wit, or almost sense, out of it?

"In short, the verbal copier is encumbered with so many difficulties at once, that he can never disentangle himself from them all. He is to consider, at the same time, the thought of his author, and his words, and to find out the counterpart to each in another language; and besides this, he is to confine himself to the compass of numbers, and the slavery of rhyme. It is much like dancing on ropes with fettered legs; a man may shun a fall by using caution, but the gracefulness of motion is not to be expected; and when we have said the best of it, it is but a foolish task, for no sober man would put himself into a danger for the applause of escaping without breaking his neck. We see Ben Jonson could not avoid obscurity in his literal translation of Horace, attempted in the same compass of lines; nay, Horace himself could scarce have done it to a Greek poet,

'Brevis esse laboro, obscurus fio:'

either perspicuity or gracefulness will frequently be wanting. Horace has, indeed, avoided both these rocks in his translation of the three first lines of Homer's Odyssey, which he has contracted into two:—

'Dic mihi, musa, virum, captæ post tempora Trojæ
Qui mores hominum multorum vidit, et urbes.

'Muse, speak the man, who, since the siege of Troy,
So many towns, such change of manners saw.'

But then the sufferings of Ulysses, which are a considerable part of that sentence, are omitted—

Ὃς μάλα πολλὰ

The consideration of these difficulties, in a servile, literal translation, not long since made two of our famous wits, Sir John Denham and Mr Cowley, to contrive another way of turning authors into our tongue, called, by the latter of them, imitation. As they were friends, I suppose they communicated their thoughts on this subject to each other; and, therefore, their reasons for it are little different, though the practice of one is much more moderate. I take imitation of an author, in their sense, to be an endeavour of a later poet to write like one who has written before him on the same subject; that is, not to translate his words, or to be confined to his sense, but only to set him as a pattern, and to write as he supposes that author would have done, had he lived in our age and in our country. Yet I dare not say that either of them have carried this libertine way of rendering authors (as Mr Cowley calls it) so far as my definition reaches, for, in the Pindaric Odes, the customs and ceremonies of ancient Greece are still preserved. But I know not what mischief may arise hereafter from the example of such an innovation, when writers of unequal parts to him shall imitate so bold an undertaking. To add and to diminish what we please, in the way avowed by him, ought only to be granted to Mr Cowley, and that, too,[Pg 512] only in his translation of Pindar; because he alone was able to make him amends, by giving him better of his own, whenever he refused his author's thoughts. Pindar is generally known to be a dark writer, to want connexion, (I mean as to our understanding,) to soar out of sight, and to leave his reader at a gaze. So wild and ungovernable a poet cannot be translated literally; his genius is too strong to bear a chain, and, Samson-like, he shakes it off. A genius so elevated and unconfixed as Mr Cowley's was but necessary to make Pindar speak English, and that was to be performed by no other way than imitation. But if Virgil, or Ovid, or any regular intelligible authors, be thus used, it is no longer to be called their work, when neither the thoughts nor words are drawn from the original; but instead of them there is something new produced, which is almost the creation of another hand. By this way, it is true, somewhat that is excellent may be invented, perhaps more excellent than the first design; though Virgil must be still excepted, when that perhaps takes place. Yet he who is inquisitive to know an author's thoughts, will be disappointed in his expectation; and it is not always that a man will be contented to have a present made him when he expects the payment of a debt. To state it fairly; imitation of an author is the most advantageous way for a translator to show himself, but the greatest wrong which can be done to the memory and reputation of the dead. Sir John Denham (who advised more liberty than he took himself) gives his reason for his innovation in his admirable preface before the translation of the second Æneid. 'Poetry is of so subtle a spirit, that in pouring out of one language into another, it will all evaporate; and, if a new spirit be not added in the transfusion, there will remain nothing but a caput mortuum.' I confess this argument holds good against a literal translation; but who defends it? Imitation and verbal version are, in my opinion, the two extremes which ought to be avoided; and therefore, when I have proposed the mean betwixt them, it will be seen how far this argument will reach.

"No man is capable of translating poetry, who, besides a genius to that art, is not a master both of his author's language and of his own; nor must we understand the language only of the poet, but his particular turn of thoughts and expression, which are the characters that distinguish, and, as it were, individuate him from all other writers. When we are come thus far it is time to look into ourselves, to conform our genius to his, to give his thought either the same turn, if our tongue will bear it, or, if not, to vary but the dress, not to alter or destroy the substance. The like care must be taken of the more outward ornaments—the words. When they appear (which is but seldom) literally graceful, it were an injury to the author that they should be changed. But, since every language is so full of its own proprieties, that what is beautiful in one is often barbarous, nay, sometimes nonsense, in another, it would be unreasonable to limit a translator to the narrow compass of his author's words; it is enough if he choose out some expression which does not vitiate the sense. I suppose he may stretch his chain to such a latitude, but, by innovation of thoughts, methinks he breaks it. By this means the spirit of an author may be transfused, and yet not lost; and thus it is plain that the reason alleged by Sir John Denham has no further force than the expression; for thought, if it be translated truly, cannot be lost in another language; but the words that convey it to our apprehension (which are the image and ornament of that thought) may be so ill chosen, as to make it appear in an unhandsome dress, and rob it of its native lustre. There is, therefore, a liberty to be allowed for the expression; neither is it necessary that words and lines should be confined to the measure of the original. The sense of an author, generally speaking, is to be sacred and inviolable. If the fancy of Ovid be luxuriant it is his character to be so; and if I retrench it he is no longer Ovid. It will be replied, that he receives advantage by this lopping of his superfluous branches, but I rejoin that a translator has no such right. When a painter copies from the life, I suppose he has no privilege to alter features and lineaments, under pretence that his picture will look better: perhaps the face which he has drawn would be more exact if the eyes and nose were altered; but it is his business to make it resemble the original. In two cases only there may a seeming difficulty arise; that is, if the thought be notoriously trivial or dishonest; but the same answer will serve[Pg 513] for both, that then they ought not to be translated—

'Et qua
Desperes tractata nitescere posse, relinquas.'

"Thus I have ventured to give my opinion on this subject against the authority of two great men, but, I hope, without offence to either of their memories; for I both loved them living, and reverence them now they are dead. But if, after what I have urged, it be thought by better judges that the praise of a translation consists in adding new beauties to the piece, thereby to recompense the loss which it sustains by change of language, I shall be willing to be taught better, and recant. In the meantime, it seems to me that the true reason why we have so few versions which are tolerable, is not from the too close pursuing of the author's sense, but because that there are so few who have all the talents which are requisite for translation, and that there is so little praise, and so small encouragement, for so considerable a part of learning."

We could write a useful commentary on each paragraph of that lively dissertation. The positions laid down are not, in all their extent, tenable; and Dryden himself, in other places, advocates principles of Translation altogether different from these, and violates them in his practice by a thousand beauties as well as faults. We confine ourselves to one or two remarks.

Dryden, in assigning the qualifications of a poetical Translator, seems to speak with due caution—"He must have a genius to the art." How much, then, of the powers are asked in him which go to making the original poet? Not the great creative genius. In order effectively to translating the Song of Achilles, he need not have been able to invent the character of Achilles, or to delineate it, if he found it, as Homer might largely, invented in tradition to his hands. But he must be the adequate critic of the Song full and whole. He must feel the Achilles whom Homer has given him, through chilling blood, and thrilling nerve, and almost through shivering, shuddering bone. Neither need he be, inverse and word possibly, the creator for thoughts of his own. That Homer is. He is not called upon to be, in his own strength, an audacious, impetuous, majestic, and magnanimous thinker. It is enough if he have the sensibility, the simplicity, the sincerity, the sympathy, and the intellectual capacity, to become all this, on the strength of another. But if he could not create the thoughts, neither could he, upon his own behalf, create the verbal and metrical expression of the thoughts; for in these last is the inspiration that brings into the light of existence both words and music. Yet nothing seems to hinder, but that if endowed for perfectly accepting and appropriating the thoughts, he may then become in secondary place inspired, and a creator for the "new utterance." In all our observation of the various constitutions bestowed, in different men, upon the common human mind, nothing appears to forbid that an exquisite and mastering faculty of language, such as shall place the wealth of a mother-tongue at command, and an exquisite ear and talent for melodious and significant numbers, may be lodged in a spirit that is not gifted with original invention. Much rather, the recognition of the compensating and separable way in which faculties are dealt, would lead us to look from time to time, for children of the Muse gifted for supereminent Translators. Do we not see engravers, not themselves exalted and accomplished masters, who yet absorb into their transcript the soul of the master? Dryden's phrase, "have a genius," seems to express this qualified gifting—the enthusiasm, and the narrower creative faculty excellently given, and kept alive and active by cultivation and exercise.

Hoole's Orlando Furioso, and Jerusalem Delivered, are among the world's duller achievements in the art of Translation. They have obtained some favour of public opinion by the interest which will break through them, and which they in their unambitious way singularly attest—the interest of the matter. What is the native deficiency which extinguishes in them every glimmer of the original Style? The clerk at the India-House, or some other house, had not, in the moulding of heart or brain, any touch of the romantic. And Ariosto and Tasso are the two poets of Romance. Take a translator of no higher intellectual endowment than Mr Hoole—[Pg 514]perform some unknown adjuration to the goddess Nature, which shall move her to infuse into him the species of sensibility which grounds the two poems, and which we have said that we desiderate in the bold Accountant,—read the poems through with him, taking care that he understands them—as far as a matter of the sort may be seen to, teach him, which is all fair, a trick or two of our English verse to relieve the terrible couplet monotony—run an eye over the MS. on its way to the printer, and he shall have enriched the literature of his country with, if not two rightly representative, yet too justifiable Translations.

Dryden's defence of the manner in which Pindar has been made to speak English by Cowley, cannot be sustained. A translator must give the meaning of his author so as that they who are scholars in the vernacular only—for to the unread and uncultivated he does not address himself—may be as nearly as possible so impressed and affected as scholars in the original tongue are by the author; or, soaring a little more ambitiously, as nearly as may be as they were affected to whom the original work was native. To Anglicize Pindar is not the adventure. It is to Hellenize an English reader. Homer is not dyed in Grecism as Pindar is. The profound, universal, overpowering humanity of Homer makes him of the soil everywhere. The boundaries of nations, and of races, fade out and vanish. He and we are of the family—of the brotherhood—Man. That is all that we feel and know. The manners are a little gone by. That is all the difference. We read an ancestral chronicle, rather than the diary of to-day. But Pindar is all Greek—Greek to the backbone. There the stately and splendid mythology stands in its own power—not allied to us by infused human blood—but estranged from us in a dazling, divine glory. The great theological poet of Greece, the hymnist of her deities, remembers, in celebrating athlete and charioteer, his grave and superior function. To hear Pindar in English, you must open your wings, and away to the field of Elis, or the Isthmian strand. Under the canopying smoke of London or Edinburgh, even amongst the beautiful fields of England or Scotland, there is nothing to be made of him. You must be a Greek among Greeks.

Therefore, in the Translator, no condescension to our ignorance at least. And no ignoble dread of our ignorant prejudices. The difficult connexion of the thoughts which Dryden duly allows to the foreign and ancient poet, a commentary might clear, where it does as much for the reader of the Greek; or sometimes, possibly, a word interpolated might help. But the difficulty of translating Pindar is quite distinct from his obscurity. For it is his light. It is the super-terrestrial splendour of the lyrical phraseology which satisfied the Greek imagination, lifted into transport by the ardour, joy, and triumph, of those Panhellenic Games. It is the simple, yet dignified strength of the short, pithy, sage Sentences. It is the rendering of the now bold and abrupt, now enchained sequences of expressive sound, in those measures which we hardly yet know how to scan. It is not the track but the wing of the Theban eagle that is the desperation.

It is always delightful to hear Dryden speaking of Cowley. He was indeed a man made to be loved. But to students in the divine art, his poetry will for ever remain the great puzzle. His "Pindarque Odes, written in imitation of the style and manner of the Odes of Pindar," are unique. Cowley was a scholar. In Latin verse he is one of the greatest among the modern masters; and he had much Greek. There can be no doubt that he could construe Pindar—none that he could have understood him—had he tried to do so. "If a man should undertake to translate Pindar word for word, it would be thought that one madman had translated another." Instead, therefore, of translating him word for word, "the ingenious Cowley" set about imitating his style and manner, and that he thought might best be effected by changing his measures, and discarding almost all his words, except the proper names, to which he added many others of person or place, illustrious at the time, or in tradition. Events and exploits brought vividly back by Pindar to the memory of listeners, to whom a word sufficed, are descanted on by Cowley in explanatory strains, often unintelligible to all[Pg 515] living men. The two opening lies of his first Imitation characterize his muse.

"Queen of all harmonious things,
Dancing words, and speaking things."

The words do dance indeed; and "Cowley's Medley" combines the Polka and the Gallopade.

Yet throughout these Two Odes (the Second Olympic and the First Nemæan) may be detected flowing the poetry of Pindar. Compare Cowley with him—book in hand—and ever and anon you behold Pindar. Cowley all along had him in his mind—but Cowley's mind played him queer tricks—his heart never; yet had he a soul capable of taking flight with the Theban eagle. There are many fine lines, sentimental and descriptive, in these extraordinary performances. There is sometimes "a golden ferment" on the page, which, for the moment, pleases more than the cold correctness of Carey. For example—The Isle of the Blest.

"Far other lot befalls the good;
A life from trouble free;
Nor with laborious hands
To vex the stubborn lands,
Nor beat the billowy sea
For a scanty livelihood.
But with the honour'd of the gods,
Who love the faithful, their abodes;
By day or night the sun quits not their sphere,
Living a dateless age without a tear.
The others urge meanwhile,
Loathsome to light their endless toil.
But whoso thrice on either side
With firm endurance have been tried,
Keeping the soul exempted still
Through every change from taint of ill,
To the tower of Saturn they
Travel Jove's eternal way.
On that blest Isle's enchanted ground,
Airs from ocean breathe around;
Burn the bright immortal flowers,
Some on beds, and some on bowers,
From the branches hanging high;
Some fed by waters where they lie;
Of whose blossoms these do braid
Armlets, and crowns their brows to shade.
Such bliss is their's, assured by just decree
Of Rhadamanth, who doth the judgment share
With father Saturn, spouse of Rhea, she
Who hath o'er all in heav'n the highest chair.
With them are Peleus, Cadmus number'd,
And he, whom as in trance he slumber'd,
His mother Thetis wafted there,
Softening the heart of Jove with prayer,
Her own Achilles, that o'erthrew
Hector, gigantic column of old Troy,
And valiant Cycnus slew,
And Morning's Æthiop boy."


"Whilst in the lands of unexhausted light
O'er which the godlike sun's unwearied light,
Ne'er winks in clouds, nor sleeps in night,
An endless spring of age the good enjoy,
Where neither want does pinch, nor plenty cloy.
There neither earth nor sea they plow,
Nor ought to labour owe
For food, that whilst it nourishes does decay,
And in the lamp of life consumes away.
Thrice had these men through mortal bodies past,
Did thrice the tryal undergo,
Till all their little dross was purged at last,
The furnace had no more to do.
There in rich Saturn's peaceful state
Were they for sacred treasures placed—
The Muse-discovered world of Islands Fortunate.

Soft-footed winds with tuneful voyces there
Dance through the perfumed air.
There silver rivers through enamell'd meadows glide,
And golden trees enrich their side.
Th' illustrious leaves no dropping autumn fear,
And jewels for their fruit they bear,
Which by the blest are gathered
For bracelets to the arm, and garlands to the head.
Here all the heroes and their poets live,
Wise Radamanthus did the sentence give,
Who for his justice was thought fit
[Pg 516]With sovereign Saturn on the bench to sit.
Peleus here, and Cadmus reign.
Here great Achilles, wrathful now no more,
Since his blest mother (who before
Had try'd it on his body in vain)
Dipt now his soul in Stygian lake,
Which did from thence a divine hardness take,
That does from passion and from vice invulnerable make."

Carey's commencement is dull—his close is good—but the whole will never, on this earth, be gotten by heart. Cowley's conceits are cruel in Pindar's case—yet, in spite of them, there is a strange sublimity in the strain—at the end moral grandeur. Reginald Heber and Abraham Moore—especially Reginald—excel Carey; but Pindar in English is reserved for another age.

Dryden dashed at every poet—Theocritus, Lucretius, Persius, Horace, Juvenal, Ovid, Virgil, Homer—each in his turn unhesitatingly doth he take into his translating hands. In his Essay on Satire, he compares with one another the three Roman Satirists; but though he draws their characters with his usual force and freedom of touch, they are not finely distinctive—if coloured con amore, yet without due consideration. In the Preface to the Second Miscellany, he says of Horace's Satires, that they "are incomparably beyond Juvenal's, if to laugh and rally is to be preferred to raillery and declaiming." In his Essay, he says, "In my particular opinion, Juvenal is the more delightful writer." And again—"Juvenal is of a more vigorous and masculine wit; he gives me as much pleasure as I can bear; he fully satisfies my expectation; he treats his subject home; his spleen is raised, and he raises mine. I have the pleasure of concernment in all he says; he drives his reader along with him. * * * His thoughts are sharper; his indignation against vice more vehement; his spirit has more of the commonwealth genius; he treats tyranny and all the vices attending it, as they deserve, with the utmost rigour; and consequently a noble soul is better pleased with a zealous vindicator of Roman liberty, than with a temporizing poet, a well-manner'd court-slave, and a man who is often afraid of laughing in the right place, who is ever decent because he is naturally servile." Is this Quintus Horatius Flaccus!

In Dryden and Juvenal are met peer and peer. Indignant scorn and moral disgust instigated the nervous hand of Juvenal, moulded to wield the scourge of satire. He is an orator in verse, speaking with power and command, skilled in the strength of the Roman speech, and practised in the weapons of rhetoric. But he is nevertheless a poet. Seized with impressions, you see his sail caught with driving gusts, if his eye be on the card. He snatches images right and left on his impetuous way, and flings them forth suddenly and vividly, so that they always tell. Perhaps he is more apt at binding a weighty thought in fewer words than his Translator, who felt himself as this disadvantage when he expressively portrayed the Latin as "a severe and compendious language." The Roman satirist has more care of himself; he maintains a prouder step; and the justifying incentive to this kind of poetry, hate with disdain of the vices and miseries to be lashed, more possesses his bosom. And what a wild insurrection of crimes and vices! What a challenge to hate and disdain in the minds in which the tradition of the antique virtues, the old mores, those edifiers of the sublime Republic, had yet life! Rome under Nero and Domitian! Pedants have presumed to question the sincerity of his indignation, and have more than hinted that his power of picturing those enormous profligacies was inspired by the pleasure of a depraved imagination. Never was there falser charge. The times and the topics were not for delicate handling,—they were to be looked at boldly in the face,—and if spoken of at all, at full, and with unmistakable words.

There is no gloating in his eyes when fixed in fire on guilt. Antipathy and abhorrence load with more revolting colours the hideous visage, from which, but for that moral purpose, they would recoil. But what, it may be asked, is the worth and use of a satire that drags out vices from their hiding-holes to flay them in[Pg 517] sunshine? They had no hiding-holes. They affronted the daylight. But the question must be answered more comprehensively. The things told are—the corruption of our own spirit has engendered them—and every great city, in one age or another, is a Rome. Consult Cowper. To know such things is one bitter and offending lesson in the knowledge of our nature. For the pure and simple such records are not written. It is a galling disclosure, a frightful warning for the anomalous race of the proud-impure. Gifford finely said of this greatest of satirists, that, "disregarding the claims of a vain urbanity, and fixing all his soul on the eternal distinctions of moral good and evil, he laboured with a magnificence of language peculiar to himself to set forth the loveliness of virtue, and the deformity and horror of vice, in full and perfect display." The loveliness of virtue! Ay, in many a picture of the innocence and simplicity of the olden time—unelaborate but truthful—ever and anon presented for a few moments to show how happy humanity is in its goodness, and how its wickedness is degradation and misery. And there are many prolonged lofty strains sounding the praise of victorious virtue. They are for all time—and they, too, that magnify and glorify the spirit of liberty, then exiled from the city it had built, and never more to have dominion there, but regnant now in nations that know how to prize the genius it still continued to inspire when public virtue was dead.

Yet Dryden has not been altogether successful with Juvenal. In many places he is most slovenly—in many elaborately coarse beyond the coarseness ready-made to his hand—in some of the great passages, he leaves out what he feared to equal, and, in the face of all the principles in his own creed on Translation, he often paraphrases with all possible effrontery, and lets himself loose to what is called imitation, till the original evanishes, to return, however, on a sudden, apparition-like, and with a voice of power, giving assurance of the real Juvenal.

His criticism on Lucretius is characteristic of them both. See how rashly, we had almost said foolishly, he rates the Epicurean for his belief in the mortality of the soul. Were there no better reason afforded by the light of nature, for a belief in its immortality than what Dryden throws out, human nature would not so earnestly have embraced, and so profoundly felt, and so clearly seen, the truth of the Christian dispensation.

"If he was not of the best age of Roman poetry, he was at least of that which preceded it; and he himself refined it to that degree of perfection, both in the language and the thoughts, that he left an easy task to Virgil; who as he succeeded him in time, so he copied his excellences; for the method of the Georgics is plainly derived from him. Lucretius had chosen a subject naturally crabbed; he, therefore, adorned it with poetical descriptions, and precepts of morality, in the beginning and ending of his books, which you see Virgil has imitated with great success in those four books, which, in my opinion, are more perfect in their kind than even his divine Æneid. The turn of his verses he has likewise followed in those places where Lucretius has most laboured, and some of his very lines he has transplanted into his own works, without much variation. If I am not mistaken, the distinguishing character of Lucretius, (I mean of his soul and genius,) is a certain kind of noble pride, and positive assertion of his opinions. He is every where confident of his own reason, and assuming an absolute command, not only over his vulgar reader, but even his patron Memmius. For he is always bidding him attend, as if he had the rod over him; and using a magisterial authority while he instructs him. From his time to ours, I know none so like him as our poet and philosopher of Malmesbury. This is that perpetual dictatorship which is exercised by Lucretius, who, though often in the wrong, yet seems to deal bona fide with his reader and tells him nothing but what he thinks; in which plain sincerity, I believe, he differs from our Hobbes, who could not but be convinced, or at least doubt of some eternal truths, which he has opposed. But for Lucretius, he seems to disdain all manner of replies, and is so confident of his cause, that he is beforehand with his antagonists; urging for them whatever he imagined they could say, and leaving them, as he supposes, without an objection for the future; all this too, with so much scorn and indignation, as if he were assured of the triumph before he entered into [Pg 518]the lists. From this sublime and daring genius of his, it must of necessity come to pass, that his thoughts must be masculine, full of argumentation, and that sufficiently warm. From the same fiery temper proceeds the loftiness of his expressions, and the perpetual torrent of his verse, where the barrenness of his subject does not too much constrain the quickness of his fancy. For there is no doubt to be made, but that he could have been every where as poetical as he is in his descriptions, and in the moral part of his philosophy, if he had not aimed more to instruct, in his system of nature, than to delight. But he was bent on making Memmius a materialist, and teaching him to defy an invisible power; in short, he was so much an atheist, that he forgot sometimes to be a poet. These are the considerations which I had of that author, before I attempted to translate some parts of him. And, accordingly, I laid by my natural diffidence and scepticism for a while, to take up that dogmatical way of his, which, as I said, is so much his character as to make him that individual poet. As for his opinions concerning the mortality of the soul, they are so absurd, that I cannot if I would, believe them. I think a future state demonstrable even by natural arguments; at least, to take away rewards and punishments, is only a pleasing prospect to a man who resolves before hand not to live morally. But, on the other side, the thought of being nothing after death is a burden insupportable to a virtuous man, even though a heathen. We naturally aim at happiness, and cannot bear to have it confined to the shortness of our present being; especially when we consider that virtue is generally unhappy in this world, and vice fortunate; so that it is hope of futurity alone, that makes this life tolerable in expectation of a better. Who would not commit all the excesses to which he is prompted by his natural inclinations, if he may do them with security while he is alive, and be incapable of punishment after he is dead? If he be cunning and secret enough to avoid the laws, there is no band of morality to restrain him; for fame and reputation are weak ties; many men have not the least sense of them. Powerful men are only awed by them, as they conduce to their interest, and that not always, when a passion is predominant; and no man will be contained within the bounds of duty when he may safely transgress them. These are my thoughts abstractedly, and without entering into the notions of our Christian faith, which is the proper business of divines.

"But there are other arguments in this poem (which I have turned into English) not belonging to the mortality of the soul, which are strong enough to a reasonable man, to make him less in love with life, and consequently in less apprehension of death. Such are the natural satiety proceeding from a perpetual enjoyment of the same things; the inconveniences of old age, which make him incapable of corporeal pleasures, the decay of understanding and memory, which render him contemptible, and useless to others. These, and many other reasons, so pathetically urged, so beautifully expressed, so adorned with examples, and so admirably raised by the prosopopeia of nature, who is brought in speaking to her children with so much authority and vigour, deserve the pains I have taken with them, which, I hope, have not been unsuccessful or unworthy of my author; at least, I must take the liberty to own, that I was pleased with my own endeavours, which but rarely happens to me; and that I am not dissatisfied upon the review of any thing I have done in this author."

Lucretius is a poet of a sublimer order than Dryden. Yet have they psychical affinities. The rush of poetical composition characterizes both—a ready pomp and splendour—more prodigality than economy—bold felicity rather than finish, though neither is that wanting—mastery of language and measure—touches from the natural world, that fall in more as a colouring of style, than the utterances of a heart imbued with a deep love of nature. Indeed, if the genial belongs to the physiognomy of Dryden's writing, the cordial is hardly a constituent in the character of either poet, although at need both can find eloquent expression even for the pathetic. In both, if in different measure, a sceptical vein is inherent; but in Lucretius this arms itself in logic, and he appears in his cosmogony as a philosophical atheist. In Dryden it might seem rather a humour leaned to, because on that side lies the pleasure of mockery and scoffing. Lucretius pleads his philosophy like a man who is incredulous in earnest. But you can seldom say what it is that Dryden embraces with seriousness,[Pg 519] unless it be, in his better and happier undertakings, his own part in executing the work. The subject-matter might seem almost always rather accidentally brought to him, than affectionately sought by him; once out of his hands, it is dismissed from his heart; he often seems utterly to have forgotten opinions and persons in whom, not long before, he had taken the liveliest interest—careless of inconsistencies even in the same essay, assuredly one of the most self-contradicting of mortals. No man, some say, has a right to question another's religious faith, but all men have a right to judge of the professed principles on which it has been adopted, when those principles have been triumphantly propounded to the public in controversial treatises of elaborate verse. To reason powerfully not only in verse but rhyme, is no common achievement, and such fame is justly Dryden's; but how would the same reasoning have looked in prose? His controversy with Stillingfleet shows—but so so. Does Lucretius write from a strong heart and a seduced understanding? Or, is it now to be quoted as a blameable unbelief that ridded itself of the Greek and Roman Heaven and Hell? There is one great and essential difference on the side of the Epicurean. An original poet, he seems to speak from a sweeping contemplation of the universe. We grudge that the boundless exuberance of painting should go to decorate the argumentation of an unfruitful system of doctrine. We want the sympathy with the purpose of the poet, that should for us harmonize the poem. He often strikes singularly high tones. Witness, among many other great passages, his argument on death, and his thunderstorm. And had the description of the heifer bemoaning and seeking her lost calf been Virgil's, we should have thought it had sprung from the heart of rural simplicity and love. Dryden and Lucretius agree in the negligent indifference which they show, when mere argumentation is in hand, to smoothness and ornament, and also in the wonderful facility with which they compel logical forms to obey the measure. There they are indeed truly great.

Lucretius's magnificent opening has invited Dryden to put forth his happiest strength. The profuse eloquence and beauty of the original is rendered. The passage, which may compete with any piece of translation in the language, is, with Dryden, a fragment:—

"Delight of human kind, and gods above,
Parent of Rome, propitious Queen of Love;
Whose vital power, air, earth, and sea supplies,
And breeds whate'er is born beneath the rolling skies;
For every kind, by thy prolific might,
Springs, and beholds the regions of the light.
Thee, goddess, thee the clouds and tempests fear,
And at thy pleasing presence disappear;
For thee the land in fragrant flowers is drest;
For thee the ocean smiles, and smooths her wavy breast,
And heaven itself with more serene and purer light is blest.
For when the rising spring adorns the mead,
And a new scene of nature stands display'd,
When teeming buds, and cheerful greens appear,
And western gales unlock the lazy year;
The joyous birds thy welcome first express,
Whose native songs thy genial fire confess;
Then savage beasts bound o'er their slighted food,
Struck with thy darts, and tempt the raging flood.
All nature is thy gift; earth, air, and sea;
Of all that breathes; the various progeny,
Stung with delight, is goaded on by thee.
O'er barren mountains, o'er the flowery plain,
The leafy forest, and the liquid main,
Extends thy uncontroll'd and boundless reign;
Through all the living regions dost thou move,
[Pg 520]And scatter'st, where thou goest, the kindly seeds of love.
Since, then, the race of every living thing
Obeys thy power; since nothing new can spring
Without thy warmth, without thy influence bear,
Or beautiful or lovesome can appear;
Be thou my aid, my tuneful song inspire,
And kindle with thy own productive fire;
While all thy province, Nature, I survey,
And sing to Memmius an immortal lay
Of heaven and earth, and every where thy wondrous power display:
To Memmius, under thy sweet influence born,
Whom thou with all thy gifts and graces dost adorn;
The rather then assist my muse and me,
Infusing verses worthy him and thee.
Meantime on land and sea let barbarous discord cease,
And lull the listening world in universal peace.
To thee mankind their soft repose must owe,
For thou alone that blessing canst bestow;
Because the brutal business of the war
Is managed by thy dreadful servant's care;
Who oft retires from fighting fields, to prove
The pleasing pains of thy eternal love;
And panting on thy breast, supinely lies,
While with thy heavenly form he feeds his eyes.
When, wishing all, he nothing can deny,
Thy charms in that auspicious moment try;
With winning eloquence our peace implore,
And quiet to the weary world restore."

Excellent English! and excellently representative of the Latin!

Dryden sometimes estranges his language from vulgar use by a Latinism; (he, himself, insists upon this, as a deliberate act of enriching our poor and barbarous tongue;) and in his highest writings, even where he has good matter that will sustain itself at due poetical height, here and there he has touches of an ornamental, imitative, and false poetical diction. But that is not his own style—not the style which he uses where he is fully himself. This is pure English, simple, masculine; turned into poetry by a true life of expression, and by the inhering melody of the numbers. That Lucretian Exordium he must have written in one of his happiest veins—under the sting of the poetical œstrum. It is an instance where he was called to his task by desire.

In his greatest undertaking—his Translation of Virgil—he often had to write when the fervour was low and slack. The task was to be driven on; and it was luck if the best places of his author fell to the uncertain hour of his own inspiration. So possibly we may understand why sometimes, when his original seems to challenge a full exertion of power, he comes short of himself. The weariness of the long labour must often apologise for languor, where the claims of the matter are less importunate. But it is not easy—when culling for comparison some of the majestic or softer strains into which Virgil has thrown his full soul, which he has wrought with his most loving and exquisite skill—wholly to shut the door of belief against the uncharitable suggestion,—that the Translator less livelily apprehended, than you yourself do, some Virgilian charm, which lay away from his own manner of thinking, and feeling, and of poetical art.

The story, so marvellous and pathetic, of the Thracian harper-king, and his bride stung by the serpent, is from of old the own tale of lovers and poets. The heart of the Lover dares the terrific and unimaginable road; and the voice and hand of the Minstrel subdue all impossibilities. Virgil was fortunate in a link, which gave to his Italian Man of the Fields an interest in the antique, strange, and touching Hellenic tradition; and he has improved his opportunity worthily of his theme, of his work, and of himself. The dexterous episode of Aristæus, visited with a plague in his bee-hives, for his fault in the death of Eurydice, ends, and by ending[Pg 521] consummates, the poem which took life in the soul of the Mincian ploughboy, and to which the chief artist of Augustan Rome was content in bequeathing the perpetual trust of his fame. Impassioned, profound tenderness,—the creating high and pure spirit of beauty—the outwardly watchful and sensitive eye and ear—with tones at will fetched by listening imagination from the great deep of the wonderful, the solemn, the sublime,—these, and crowning these, that sweet, and subtle, and rare mastery, which avails, through translucent words, to reveal quick or slow motions and varying hues of the now visible mind—which on the stream of articulate sounds rolls along, self-evolving, and changing as the passion changes, a power of music,—these all are surprisingly contained within the Seventy-Five Verses which unfold the anger of Orpheus, now a forlorn and yet powerful ghost, and of the Nymphs, once her companions, for the twice-lost Eurydice.

It is a hard but a fair trial to set the Translator against the best of his author. It is to be presumed that Dryden, matched against the best of Virgil, has done his best. We have not room for the whole diamond, but shall display one or two of the brightest facets. Who has forgotten that shrinking of the awed and tender imagination, which shuns the actual telling that Eurydice died? Which announces her as doomed to die—Moritura! then says merely that she did not see in the deep grass the huge water-snake before her feet guarding the river-bank along which she fled! and then turns to pour on the ear the clamorous wail of her companions.

"Illa quidem, dum te fugeret per flumina præceps,
Immanem ante pedes hydrum moritura puella
Servantem ripas altâ non vidit in herbâ."

At this first losing of Eurydice, the impetuous, wild wail of the Nymph-sisterhood may, in the verse of the Mantuan, be heard with one burst, swelling and ringing over how many hills, champaigns, and rivers!

At chorus æqualis Dryadum clamore supremos
Implerunt montes; flerunt Rhodopeiæ arces,
Altaque Pangaea, ac Rhesi Mavortia tellus,
Atque Getæ, atque Hebrus, et Actias Orithyia.

That the vivid emphasis of a stormy sorrow—given to a picture of sound in the foregoing verses, by that distinctiveness of the multitudinous repetition—declines in the melodious four English representatives to a greatly more generalized expression, must, one may think, be ascribed to Dryden's despair of reconciling in his own rougher tongue the geography and the music. Nevertheless, the version is evidently and successfully studied, to mourn and complain.

But all her fellow nymphs the mountains tear
With loud lament, and break the yielding air:
The realms of Mars remurmur all around,
And echoes to the Athenian shores resound.

It is good, but hardly reaches the purpose of the original clamour, so passionate, dirge-like, unearthly, and supernatural—at once telling the death—as they say that in some countries the king's death is never told in words, but with a clangour of shrieks only from the palace-top, which is echoed by voices to voices on to the borders of his kingdom—at once, we say, supplying this point of the relation, and impressing upon you the superhuman character of the mourners, who are able not only to deplore, but likewise mysteriously and mightily to avenge.

The next three lines are also, as might be presumed, at the height, for they describe the paragon of lovers and harpers harping his affliction of love—

Ipse cavâ solans ægrum testudine amorem,
Te dulcis conjux, te solo in litore secum,
Te veniente die, te decedente, canebat!

Musical, dolorous iteration, iteration! Musical, woe-begone iteration, iteration! What have we in English?

"The unhappy husband, husband now no more,
Did, on his tuneful harp, his loss deplore,
[Pg 522]And sought his mournful mind with music to restore.
On thee, dear wife, in desarts all alone,
He call'd, sigh'd, sang; his griefs with day begun,
Nor were they finish'd with the setting sun."

Studied verses undoubtedly—musical, and mournful, and iterative. The two triplets of rhyme have unquestionably this meaning; and the bold choice of the homely-affectionate, "dear wife," to render the more ornate "dulcis conjux," is of a sincere simplicity, and as good English as may be. We see here a poetical method of equivalents—for "on thee he call'd, sigh'd, sang," is intended to render the urgency and incessancy of Te, Te, Te, Te! But the singular and purely Virgilian artifice of construction in the second and third line, is abandoned without hope of imitation.

Orpheus goes down into hell.

"Tænarias etiam fauces, alta ostia Ditis,
Et caligantem nigrâ formidine lucum
Ingressus, Manesque adiit, Regemque tremendum,
Nesciaque humanis precibus mansuescere corda."

"Even to the dark dominions of the night
He took his way, thro' forests void of light,
And dared amidst the trembling ghosts to sing,
And stood before the inexorable king."

They are good verses, and might satisfy an English reader who knew not the original: albeit they do not attain—how should they?—to the sullen weight of dark dread that loads the Latin Hexameters. Look at that—REGEMQUE TREMENDUM! And then, still, the insisting upon something more! To what nameless Powers do they belong—those unassigned hearts, that are without the experience and intelligence of complying with human prayers?

The infatuation—dementia—which, on the verge of the rejoined light, turns back too soon the head of Orpheus towards her who follows him, is by Virgil said to be

"Ignoscenda quidem, scirent si ignoscere Manes!"

A verse awful by the measure which it preserves between the human of the first half—ignoscenda quidem—and the infernal of the second half—scirent si ignoscere Manes. It places before us, in comparison, the Flexible, which lives in sunshine upon the earth—and the Inflexible, which reigns in the gloom of Erebus underneath it.

What does Dryden? He takes down the still, severe majesty of Virgil by too much of the Flexible—by a double dose of humanity.

"A fault which easy pardon might receive,
Were lovers judges, or could Hell forgive."

It is remarkable that he has himself quoted the line of Virgil with great praise, as one that approaches, within measure, to an Ovidian "turn." He has himself overstepped the measure, and made it quite Ovidian.

The four verses which describe the fault of Orpheus, and the perception of it in hell, are unsurpassed:—

"Restitit; Eurydicenque suam jam luce sub ipsâ,
Immemor, heu! victusque animi respexit. Ibi omnis
Effusus labor: atque immitis rupta tyranni
Fœdera: terque fragor stagnis auditus Avernis."

Only note the growing pathos from the beloved name to the naming of the dread act. Eurydicensuamjam luce sub ipsâimmemorheu!victusque animiRESPEXIT. Five links! Look, too, what a long way on in the verse that sin of backward-looking has brought you. There shall hardly be found another verse in Virgil which has a pause of that magnitude at that advance, in the measure. It is a great stretching on of the thought against the law of music, which usually controls you to place the logical in coincidence with the musical—stop; but here you are urged on into the very midst, and beyond the midst, of the last dactyl—a musical sleight which must needs heighten that feeling, impressed by the grammatical structure, of a voluntary delay,—of unwillingness to utter the word fraught with inevitable death—that mortal RESPEXIT! After this, there is here no poured out toil—no clashing and rending—No! here is the deep note of victory—the proclamation sounding out from the abyss that the prize which was carried off is[Pg 523] regained. Thrice down—down—as low as the pools of Avernus breaks out a peal—

"Terque fragor stagnis auditus Avernis."

This is the master with whom—and this the language, and this the measure with which—our translator competes—"imparibus armis."

"For, near the confines of ethereal light,
And longing for the glimmering of a sight,
The unwary lover cast his eyes behind,
Forgetful of the law, nor master of his mind.
Straight all his hopes exhaled in empty smoke,
And his long toils were forfeit for a look.
Three flashes of blue lightning gave the sign
Of covenants broke, three peals of thunder join."

The falling off—the failure at the end is deplorable indeed; yet Dryden recovers himself, and much of what follows is very fine.

The outline of the Iliad interests man's everyday heart. A wife carried off—the retaliation—an invasion or siege—a fair captive withheld from ransom—a displeased God sending a plague—a high prince wronged, offended, sullenly withdrawn to his tent—war prosperous and adverse—a dear friend lost and wailed—a general by his death reconciled—that death avenged—a dead son redeemed by his father, and mourned by his people,—To receive all this sufferance into the heart's depths, wants no specific association—no grounding historical knowledge. By virtue of those anthropical elements—which are, by a change of accidents, one to him and you, Homer, who happens to be a Greek, makes you one, and a Trojan too, or rather you are with him in the human regions, and that fact sufficeth for all your soul's desires. But, though no critic, and unversed in the laws of Epos, which by the way are only discoverable in the poem which he created in obedience to them, and that were first revealed to him from heaven by its inspiring genius—nevertheless, you are affected throughout all your being by those laws, and but by them could not have been made "greater than you know," by the Iliad. For the main action, or Achilleid, though you may not know it, has four great steps. From Achilles' wrong by Agamemnon to the death of Patroclus, is a movement of one tenor. From the death of Patroclus to the death of Hector, is an entirely new movement, though causally bound in the closest manner to that antecedent. The Games and Funeral of Patroclus is an independent action. The Restoration of Hector's body is a dependent, and necessarily springing action, having a certain subsistency within itself. To the whole the seat of moving power is the bosom of Achilles. All the parts have perfect inter-obligation. Cut away any one, and there would be not a perilous gash, but a detruncation fatal to the living frame. There is vital integrity from the beginning to the end. Nowhere can you stop till the great poet stops. Then you obtain rest—not glad rest; for say not that the Iliad ends happily. The spirit of war sits on the sepulchral mound of Hector expecting its prey, and the topmost towers of Ilion, in the gloom of doom, lower with the ruining that shall soon hide Mount Ida in a night of dust.

Forbid it, ye muses all! that we should whisper a word in dispraise of Maro. But for what it is, not for what it is not, we love the Æneid. The wafting over sea from an Asiatic to an Italian soil, and the setting there of the acorn, which by the decree of the Destinies shall, in distant ages, grow up into Rome, and the overshadowing Roman Empire—this majestic theme appeals to the reason, and to the reason taught in the history of the world. It is a deliberate, not an impassioning interest. And how dominionless over our sympathy has the glowing and tender-hearted Virgil, perhaps unavoidably, made the Hero, who impersonates his rational interest! How unlike is this Æneas to that Achilles, round whose young head, sacred to glory, Homer has gathered, as about one magnetic centre, his tearful, fiery, turbulent, majestic, and magnanimous humanities!

Confess we must, reluctantly, that Æneas chills the Æneid. It was not that Virgil had embraced a design greater than his poetical strength. But it was in more than one respect[Pg 524] unfortunately, unpoetically, conditioned. That political foundation itself is to be made good by aggressive arms; and by tearing a betrothed and enamoured beautiful bride from the youthful and stately chivalrous prince, her lover, slain in fight against the invaders; whilst the poor girl is to be made over to a widower, of whose gallantry the most that we know is his ill-care of his wife, and his running away from his mistress.

And thus, alas! it cannot be denied, the design of the Æneis is carried through without our great natural sympathies, as respects its end—against them as respects its means. An insuperable difficulty! Did Virgil mistake, then, in taking the subject? One hardly dares say so. The national tradition offers to the national Epic poet the national Epic transaction; and he accepts the offer. In doing so he allies by his theme his own to the Homeric Epos. With all this, however, we do feel that fiery, and all-powerful, and all-comprehensive genius projects the outline of the Iliad upon the canvass; whilst in this poetical history of the Trojan plantation in Italy, we can ascribe to the general disposition and invention hardly more than a prudent and skilful intelligence. But the poetical soul, the creative fire then enters to possess the remainder of the task. Was, after all, a pitched battle not exactly the thing in the world the most kindly to the feelings and the best meted to the understanding of the poet, commissioned to renown with verse the people who fought more, and more successful, pitched battles than any other in the world?

Were Virgil to write now, and you had to allot him his theme, what would it be? A romance of knight-errantry? You would allot him none. You would leave him free to the suggestions of his own delicious spirit. But he thought himself bound to the Latin Epos. To speak in true critical severity, the Æneis has no Hero. It has a HEROINE. And who, pray, is SHE? The seven-hilled Queen of the World. Like another Cybele, with her turreted diadem, and gods for her children, in her arms and in her lap. Herself heaven-descended—Imperial Rome.

The two prophetical episodes—the Muster of the pre-existing ghosts before the eyes of the great human ancestor, Anchises, in his Elysium—and those anticipatory narrative Embossings of the Vulcanian shield, become in this view integral and principal portions of the poem. That reviewing beside that Elysian river, of the souls that are to animate Roman breasts, and to figure in Roman chronicles, gave opportunity to Virgil of one Prophecy that mingled mourning with triumph, and triumph with mourning. Victorious over the Punic—victorious over the Gallic foe—carrying to the temple the arms which he, a leader, stripped from a leader—the third consecrator of such spoils—goes Marcellus. But who is He that moves at the side of the hero? A youth, distinguished by his beauty and by his lustrous arms. The Souls throng, with officious tumult, about him—and how much he resembles his great companion! But on his destined brow sits no triumphal lustre—mists and night cling about his head. Who is it? Æneas enquires—and Anchises would fain withhold the reply. It is the descendant of that elder Marcellus; and promises, were fatal decrees mutable, to renew the prowess and praises of his famed progenitor. Fatal decrees might not change, and the nephew of Augustus, the destined successor of his reign, and the hopes of the Romans—OBIIT. You have often wept over Virgil's verses—here are Dryden's:—

"Æneas here beheld, of form divine,
A godlike youth in glittering armour shine,
With great Marcellus keeping equal pace;
But gloomy were his eyes, dejected was his face.
He saw, and wond'ring, ask'd his airy guide,
What and of whence was he, who press'd the hero's side?
'His son, or one of his illustrious name
How like the former, and almost the same!
Observe the crowds that compass him around;
All gaze, and all admire, and raise shouting sound:
[Pg 525]But hov'ring mists around his brows are spread,
And night, with sable shades, involve his head.'
'Seek not to know (the ghost replied with tears)
The sorrows of thy sons in future years.
This youth (the blissful vision of a day)
Shall just be shown on earth, then snatch'd away.
The gods too high had raised the Roman state,
Were but their gifts as permanent as great.
What groans of men shall fill the Martian field!
How fierce a blaze his flaming pile shall yield!
What funeral pomp shall floating Tyber see,
When, rising from his bed, he views the sad solemnity!
No youth shall equal hopes of glory give,
No youth afford so great a cause to grieve.
The Trojan honour, and the Roman boast,
Admired when living, and adored when lost!
Mirror of ancient faith in early youth!
Undaunted worth, inviolable truth!
No foe, unpunish'd, in the fighting-field
Shall dare thee, foot to foot, with sword and shield.
Much less in arms oppose thy matchless force,
When thy sharp spurs shall urge thy foaming horse.
Ah! couldst thou break through Fate's severe decree,
A new Marcellus shall arise in thee!
Full canisters of fragrant lilies bring,
Mix'd with the purple roses of the spring;
Let me with funeral flowers his body strow;
This gift which parents to their children owe,
This unavailing gift, at least, I may bestow!'"

Here is an excellent flow. The sorrow and the pride and the public love which are the life of the original, are all taken to heart by the translator, who succeeds in imparting to you the most touching of poetical eulogies. You find, as usually every where, that the vigorous purpose of the original is maintained, and well rendered, but that certain Virgilian fascinations, which—whether they bewitch your heart or your fancy or our ear, you do not know—are hardly given you back. Thus it might be very hard to say what you have found that you cannot forget again, in such a verse as that which introduces to your eye the subject of the more effusive praise.

"Atque hic Æneas, una namque ire videbat
Egregium formâ juvenem, et fulgentibus armis."

Yet you do not again forget that second line.

Dryden's rendering is equivalent for the meaning, and unblameable.

"Æneas here beheld of form divine,
A godlike youth in glittering armour shine

The phrase is even heightened; but it does not loiter, like that other, in your memory. The very heightening has injured the image—the shadow that shone brighter in simple words.

The shadow then thrown across—

"Sed frons læta parum"—

is well given, with a variation, by—

"But gloomy were his eyes."

The lightlessness is feelingly placed where the chief light should be.

The unequalled

"Ostendent terris hunc tantum Fata,"

so fully signifying the magnitude of the gift offered and withdrawn—so sadly the brief promise, and all so concisely, meets with a soft and bright rendering in

"The blissful vision of a day."

But Dryden's "shown on earth," less positively affirms the loss fallen upon the earth, than the Latin "shall show to the nations."

The praise involving the recollection of the manners which were—

"Heu pietas! heu prisca fides! invictaque bello

is given with admirable fervour.

"Mirror of ancient faith, in early youth
Undaunted worth! inviolable truth!"

[Pg 526]As for those three words that smote, as the tradition goes, the heart of the too deeply concerned auditress, the bereaved mother herself, to swooning—

"Tu Marcellus eris!"—

they are no doubt, in their overwhelming simplicity, untransferable to our uncouth idiom; and our ears may thank Dryden for the skill with which, by a "New Marcellus," and an otherwise explanatory paraphrase, he has kept the Virgilian music. Meantime the passionate vehemence of the breaking away from that prophecy of intolerable grief—the call for the bestrewment of flowers—

"Manibus date lilia plenis," &c.—

must be weakened, if the moment of the transition is to fall, as we see it in Dryden, at the interval between verse and verse, and not, as we have just seen it with Virgil, at the juncture within the verse of hemistich with hemistich.

"Tu Marcellus eris.—Manibus date lilia plenis," &c.

There is a pause in that line, during which the mother, had she not swooned, might have calmed her heart!

It is usual to discover that Virgil wants originality—that he transcribes his battles from Homer. In truth, it was not easy, with fights of the Homeric ages, to do otherwise. However, Virgil has done otherwise, if any one will be at the pains to look.

For instance, an incident, not in the battles by the Xanthus, is the following:—

A powerful Tuscan warrior, infuriated by the ill fighting of his men, distinguishes himself by an extraordinary feat. Clasping round the body, and so unhorsing a lighter antagonist, he rides off with him; snaps the javelin, which his captive still grasps, near the head, and with its point probes and aims for a vulnerable place. The unfortunate Latine, as he lies across the horse's neck, struggles, and will baffle the deathly blow. Landseer could suggest no more vivid comparison, than one which leaps into your own imagination—a snake soused upon by an eagle.

"So stoops the yellow eagle from on high,
And bears a speckled serpent through the sky,
Fastening his crooked talons on the prey:
The prisoner hisses through the liquid way;
Resists the royal hawk, and though oppresst,
She fights in columns and erects her crest:
Turn'd to her foe, she stiffens every scale,
And shoots her forky tongue, and whisks her threat'ning tail.
Against the victor all defence is weak;
The imperial bird still plies her with his beak,
He tears her bowels, and her heart he gores,
Then clasps his pinions and securely soars."

A glorious paraphrase!

This is an incident more like a knight of Ariosto's, the terrible Sarazin Rhodomont, or Orlando himself, than Homer's, who did not, indeed, combat on horseback.

But speaking of the moderns, we will venture to say, that if Virgil has copied, he is also an original who has been copied. And we will ask, who is the prototype of the ladies, turned knights, who flourish in favour with our poets of romance?—with Ariosto, with Tasso, with our own Spenser? Who but the heroic virgin ally of the Rutulian prince—who but Camilla?

We name her, however, neither for her own sake, nor for Virgil's, but for Dryden's, who seems also to have taken her into favour, and to have written, with a peculiar spirit and feeling, the parts of the poem which represent her in action.

She leads her Amazons into Italian fields, warring against the fate-driven fugitives of overthrown Troy. Whence were her Amazon followers? Whence is She? Her history her divine patroness, Diana, relates. Her father, the strong-limbed, rude-souled Metabus, a wild and intractable Volscian king, fled from the face and from the pursuit of his people. He bore, in his arms, one dear treasure; a companion of his flight; yet an infant—this daughter. He flies. The Amasenus, in flood, bars his way. More doubtful for his charge than for himself, hastily, with love-prompted art, he swathes the babe in stripped bark—binds her to the shaft of his huge oaken spear—dedicates her with a prayer to the virgin[Pg 527] goddess of woods, and of the woodland chase—hurls, from a gigantic hand, the weapon across the tempestuous flood—and, ere his pursuers have reached him, plunges in, breasts the waters, and, saving and saved, swims across. In the forest depths, amongst imbosoming hills, the rugged sire fosters the vowed follower of Diana. The nursling of the wild grows up a bold and skilled huntress; and now that war storms in the land, she, with her huntress companions, joins the war. Some unexplained reconciliation, or perhaps restoration, has taken effect; for, along with her armed maidens, she leads the troops of the Volscians. In the field she fights like a virago; but her entrance thither was against the desire of the goddess, for it dooms her to die. Her eager following of a gorgeously armed warrior exposes her to a treacherous aim, and she falls. The provident goddess had put her own bow, and an arrow from her own quiver, into the hands of a nymph chosen to execute the vengeance of the impending death, and that arrow flies to its mark.

"Nor, after that, in towns which walls enclose,
Would trust his hunted life amidst his foes;
But, rough, in open air he chose to lie;
Earth was his couch, his covering was the sky.
On hills unshorn, or in a desert den,
He shunn'd the dire society of men.
A shepherd's solitary life he led;
His daughter with the milk of mares he fed.
The dugs of bears, and every savage beast,
He drew, and through her lips the liquor press'd.
The little amazon could scarcely go,
He loads her with a quiver and a bow;
And, that she might her staggering steps command,
He with a slender javelin fills her hand.
Her flowing hair no golden fillet bound;
Nor swept her trailing robe the dusty ground.
Instead of these, a tiger's hide o'erspread
Her back and shoulders, fasten'd to her head.
The flying dart she first attempts to fling,
And round her tender temples toss'd the sling;
Then as her strength with years increased, began
To pierce aloft in air the soaring swan,
And from the clouds to fetch the heron and the crane.
The Tuscan matrons with each other vied,
To bless their rival sons with such a bride;
But she disdains their love, to share with me
The sylvan shades, and vow'd virginity.
And oh! I wish, contented with my cares
Of savage spoils, she had not sought the wars.
Then had she been of my celestial train,
And shunn'd the fate that dooms her to be slain.
But since, opposing heaven's decree, she goes
To find her death among forbidden foes,
Haste with these arms, and take thy steepy flight,
Where, with the gods adverse, the Latins fight.
This bow to thee, this quiver, I bequeath,
This chosen arrow, to avenge her death:
By whate'er hand Camilla shall be slain,
Or of the Trojan or Italian train,
Let him not pass unpunish'd from the plain.
Then, in a hollow cloud, myself will aid
To bear the breathless body of my maid:
Unspoil'd shall be her arms, and unprofaned
Her holy limbs with any human hand,
And in a marble tomb laid in her native land."

What is Virgil's in this fair and romantically cast fiction? What hints did the traditionary fable give him? You are not concerned to make an[Pg 528] enquiry which you have no means of satisfying. You must hold Camilla to be as much Virgil's as any thing is Homer's in the Iliad. The painting throughout is to the life, and perfectly graceful. The subject was one likely to attach the imagination of a modern poet, and you feel all along, that pleasure inspirits the happy translation of Dryden.

The Destruction of Troy, the Love of Dido, the Descent into Hell, entire Cantos of the poem, take deep and lasting possession of every reader; and, like the first and second books of the Paradise Lost, too much seduce admiration from the remainder of the work. You pick out from the whole Italian war, Lausus, Pallas, Nisus, and Euryalus, and think that you have done with Virgil.

We beg to propose a literary experiment. Homer has left us two poems—a War, and a Wandering. Virgil has bequeathed us one, representing those two, and that proportionally; although in the Latin the Odyssey comes first, and the Iliad follows. For the first six Æneids relate the wandering; whilst the latter six display the war. Let us, therefore, fairly cut the great outrolling, unfolding picture in two, and have two poems, distinct, although closely allied; twins, moulded in one womb, nourished from the same blood. We dare to predict that the poem of "Æneas in Italy," now considered with its own independent interests, and after its own art and management, will duly compete with its rival, "Æneas Fugitive."

How the whole movement, and march, and original conduct of the Italian war will come out! The peaceful entertainment of the Trojans by Latinus, moved with old and new prophecies, and his ready offer of his daughter, Lavinia, to Æneas in marriage—the adverse interposition of Juno—her summoning of Alecto from hell—the glad Fury's fine discharge of her part—her maddening of the Queen Amata, who loves Turnus, hates the strangers, and catches in her own madness all the Latian mothers—the INFURIATING of the young, gallant, ardent, defrauded, princely lover himself—a splendid scene, where the hot warrior's jeers of the fiend in her beldam disguise, sting her Tartarean heart as if it had been a woman's, and for the very wrath she reveals her terrible self—then that exquisite incident, won from the new matter of the poet, from the PASTORAL manners with which he is historically obliged to deal in Italy—the Fury's third and last feat—her drawing-on of Ascanius's hounds to hunt the beautiful favourite stag, which the daughter of the King's chief herdsman petted—and, thence, a quarrel, a skirmish, slaughter begun, and the whole population of the plains aroused. And so with bacchanal women, with Rutulians, and with his own rude liegemen in tumult, the old King overborne—shutting himself up in his palace; and war inflamed in Hesperia, to the full heart's-wish of Jove's imperial wife, who has nothing left her to do more than, descending again from the sky, to push open with her own hands the brazen-gated temple of Janus.

All this is very poetical—is very different from the Iliad, and is perfectly measured to the scale of a war, moved, not by confederated Greece for the overthrow of an Asiatic empire, but by the tribes of the coast for beating back the crews of a few straggling ships from planting a colony, who have nothing on their side but their valour, their fame, and their fates.

Analyze this war; make out for yourself, distinctly, the story, of which in a poem one always too easily loses the sequence, delight and emotion making one less observant; then understand the poetical workings out, in their places and after their bearings; and you will satisfy yourself, that although the cleaving of heads, and the transpiercing of trunks, and the hewing off of limbs, are processes that must always keep up a certain general resemblance to themselves, you have not a campaign imitated from the Iliad; but an original one—proper to person and place.


Edinburgh: Printed by Ballantyne and Hughes, Paul's Work.




[1] Raphael was born in 1483, Michael Angelo in 1474.


"Μὴ μὰν ἀσπουδει γε καὶ ἀκλειῶς ἀπολοίμην
᾽Αλλὰ μέγα ῥέξας τι καὶ ἐσσομενοιοι πυθέσθαι."
Iliad, XXII. 304.

[3] We were about to make some remarks on the alleged production of animated globules in albumen by electricity; but we find that, in a note to the third edition, the author virtually relinquishes this ground. We had made enquiries amongst scientific men; but no such experiment had been received or accredited amongst them.

[4] "In tracing the series of fossiliferous formations, from the most ancient to the more modern, the first deposits in which we meet with assemblages of organic remains having a near analogy to the Fauna of certain parts of the globe in our own time, are those commonly called tertiary. Even in the Eocene, or oldest subdivision of these tertiary formations, some few of the testacea belong to existing species, although almost all of them, and apparently all the associated vertebrata, are now extinct. These Eocene strata are succeeded by a great number of modern deposits, which depart gradually in the character of their fossils from the Eocene type, and approach more and more to that of the living creation. In the present state of science, it is chiefly by the aid of shells that we are enabled to arrive at the results; for, of all classes, the testacea are the most generally diffused in a fossil state, and may be called the medals principally employed by nature in recording the chronology of past events. In the Miocene deposits, which succeed next to the Eocene, we begin to find a considerable number, although still a minority, of recent species intermixed with some fossils common to the preceding epoch. We then arrive at the Pliocene strata, in which species now contemporary with man begin to preponderate, and in the newest of which nine-tenths of the fossils agree with species still inhabiting the neighbouring sea.

"In thus passing from the older to the newer members of the tertiary system, we meet with many chasms; but none which separate entirely, and by a broad line of demarcation, one state of the organic world from another. There are no signs of an abrupt termination of one Fauna and Flora, and the starting into life of new and wholly distinct forms. Although we are far from being able to demonstrate geologically an insensible transition from the Eocene to the recent Fauna, yet we may affirm that the more we enlarge and perfect our survey of Europe, the more nearly do we approximate to such a continuous series, and the more gradually are we conducted from times when many of the genera and nearly all the species were extinct, to those in which scarcely a single species flourished which we do not know to exist at present."—Lyell's Principles of Geology. Vol. i. p. 283.

[5] This lower jaw is described in another part of the work as showing in the human embryo the last trace of the monkey.

[6] Printed at Dublin for Philip Dixon Hardy & Sons, 1842.

[7] A place in Ireland?

[8] We subjoin the original Etruscan text as read by our author, with its alleged Irish equivalents.

Bucucum : iubiu : pune : ubef : furfath : tref : bitluf : turuf : | marte : thurie : fetu : pupleeper : tutas : hubinas : tutaper : icubina : | batuba : ferine : fetu : puni : fetu : arbic : ustentu : cutep : pes- nimu.

Bu co com iudh be in Pune u be fa for fath tre fa be at lu fa tur u fa | mer ta tur i e fad u prob lu bar to ta is i iudh be i na is to ta bar i co be i na | ba do ba fa ain e fad u Puni fad u ar be iudh us tan do co taib be sni mo.

[9] It appears that the Royal Irish Academy had refused to publish these speculations in its Transactions. We are surprised they should have admitted some others of the same stamp, to which reference is made further on.

[10] "Now, as Serapio was about to have added something of the same nature, the stranger, taking the words out of his mouth—I am wonderfully pleased, said he, to hear discourses upon such subjects as these; but am constrained to claim your first promise, to tell the reason wherefore now the Pythian prophetess no longer delivers her oracles in poetic numbers and measures. Upon which Theo interposing—It cannot be denied, said he, but that there have been great changes and innovations in reference to poetry and the sciences, yet it is as certain that from all antiquity oracles have been delivered in prose. For we find in Thucydides that the Lacedæmonians, desirous to know the issue of the war then entered into against the Athenians, were answered in prose." * * * "And so of Dinomenes the Sicilian, Procles, tyrant of Epidaurus and Timarchus; and, which is more, the oracular answers, according to which Lycurgus conferred the form of the Lacedæmonian commonwealth, were also so given."—Plutarch. Moral.

[11] Death of Wallenstein, Act v. Scene 1, (Coleridge's Translation,) relating to his remembrances of the younger Piccolomini.

[12] "Like the dry corpse which stood upright."—See the Second Book of Kings, chap. xiii. v. 20 and 21. Thirty years ago this impressive incident was made the subject of a large altar-piece by Mr Alston, an interesting American artist, then resident in London.

[13] "African Obeah."—Thirty-years ago it would not have been necessary to say one word of the Obi or Obeah magic; because at that time several distinguished writers (Miss Edgeworth, for instance, in her Belinda) had made use of this superstition in fictions, and because the remarkable history of Three-finger'd Jack, a story brought upon the stage, had made the superstition notorious as a fact. Now, however, so long after the case has probably passed out of the public mind, it may be proper to mention—that when an Obeah man, i. e., a professor of this dark collusion with human fears and human credulity, had once woven his dreadful net of ghostly terrors, and had thrown it over his selected victim, vainly did that victim flutter, struggle, languish in the meshes; unless the spells were reversed, he generally perished; and without a wound except from his own too domineering fancy.

[14] What follows, I think, (for book I have none of any kind where this paper is proceeding,) viz. et serâ sub nocte rudentum, is probably a mistake of Virgil's; the lions did not roar because night was approaching, but because night brought with it their principal meal, and consequently the impatience of hunger.

[15] "Kilcrops."—See, amongst Southey's early poems, one upon this superstition. Southey argues contra; but for my part, I should have been more disposed to hold a brief on the other side.

[16] In this place I derive my feeling partly from a lovely sketch of the appearance, in verse, by Mr Wordsworth; partly from my own experience of the case; and, not having the poems here, I know not how to proportion my acknowledgments.

[17] "And so, then," the Cynic objects, "you rank your own mind (and you tell us so frankly) amongst the primary formations?" As I love to annoy him, it would give me pleasure to reply—"Perhaps I do." But as I never answer more questions than are necessary, I confine myself to saying, that this is not a necessary construction of the words. Some minds stand nearer to the type of the original nature in man, are truer than others to the great magnet in our dark planet. Minds that are impassioned on a more colossal scale than ordinary, deeper in their vibrations, and more extensive in the scale of their vibrations—whether, in other parts of their intellectual system, they had or had not a corresponding compass—will tremble to greater depths from a fearful convulsion, and will come round by a longer curve of undulations.

[18] i. e. (As on account of English readers is added,) the recognition of his true identity, which in one moment, and by a horrid flash of revelation, connects him with acts incestuous, murderous, parricidal, in the past, and with a mysterious fatality of woe lurking in the future.

[19] Euripides.

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume
57, No. 354, April 1845, by Various


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