The Project Gutenberg EBook of Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Vol. 66, No
409, November 1849, by Various

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Title: Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Vol. 66, No 409, November 1849

Author: Various

Release Date: September 26, 2013 [EBook #43814]

Language: English

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The Transportation Question,519
My Peninsular Medal. By an Old Peninsular. Part I.,539
Disenchantment. By Delta,563
Across the Atlantic,567
Peace and War Agitators,581
The French Novels of 1849,607
Dies Boreales. No. V. Christopher under Canvass,620


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[Pg 519]





The great question of Secondary Punishments has now been settled by experience, so far as the mother country is concerned. It is now known that imprisonment has no effect whatever, either in deterring from crime, or in reforming criminals. Government, albeit most unwilling to recur to the old system of transportation, has been compelled to do so by the unanimous voice of the country; by the difficulty of finding accommodation for the prodigious increase of prisoners in the jails of the kingdom; and by the still greater difficulty, in these days of cheapness and declining incomes, of getting the persons intrusted with the duty of providing additional prison accommodation, to engage in the costly and tedious work of additional erections. An order in council has expressly, and most wisely, authorised a return to transportation, under such regulations as seem best calculated to reform the convicts, and diminish the dread very generally felt in the colonies, of being flooded with an inundation of crime from the mother country. And the principal difficulty felt now is, to find a colony willing to receive the penal settlers, and incur the risks thought to be consequent on their unrestricted admission.

It is not surprising that government should have been driven from the ruinous system of substituting imprisonment for transportation; for the results, even during the short period that it was followed out, were absolutely appalling. The actual augmentation of criminals was the least part of the evil; the increase of serious crimes, in consequence of the hardened offenders not being sent out of the country, but generally liberated after eighteen months' or two years' confinement, was the insupportable evil. The demoralisation so strongly felt and loudly complained of in Van Diemen's Land, from the accumulation of criminals, was rapidly taking place in this country. The persons tried under the aggravation of previous convictions in Scotland, in the three last years, have stood as follows:—

Years.Total convicted.Under aggravation of previous convictions.

Parliamentary Reports, 1846-48.

So rapid an increase of crimes, and especially among criminals previously convicted, sufficiently demonstrates the inadequacy of imprisonment as a means either of deterring from crimes, or reforming the criminals. The same result appears in England, where the rapid increase of criminals sentenced to transportation, within the same period, demonstrates the total inefficacy of the new imprisonment system.

Years.England and Wales.Scotland.

And of the futility of the hope that the spread of education will have any effect in checking the increase of crime, decisive proof is afforded in the same criminal returns; for from them it appears that the number of educated criminals[Pg 520] in England is above twice, in Scotland above three times and a half that of the uneducated,—the numbers, during the last three years, being as follows:—

England and Wales.Scotland.

Parliamentary Returns, 1846-8.

Nay, what is still more alarming, it distinctly appears, from the same returns, that the proportion of educated criminals to uneducated is steadily on the increase in Great Britain. Take the centesimal proportions given in the last returns for England—those of 1848:—

Degrees of Instruction.1839.1840.1841.1842.1843.1844.1845.1846.1847.1848.
Unable to read or write,33.5333.3233.2132.3531.0029.7730.6130.6631.3931.93
Not ascertained,2.602.452.272.342.912.412.301.781.601.59

Parliamentary Returns for England, 1848, p. 12.

The great increase here is in the criminals who have received an imperfect education, which class has increased as much as that of the totally uneducated has diminished. Unhappily, imperfect education is precisely the species of instruction which alone, in the present days of cheapened production and diminishing wages, the great body of the poor are able to give to their children.

Mr Pearson, M.P., who has paid great attention to this subject, and whose high official situation in the city of London gives him such ample means of being acquainted with the practical working of the criminal law, has given the following valuable information in a public speech, which every one acquainted with the subject must know to be thoroughly well founded:—

"In the year 1810, which is the earliest account that we possess in any of our archives, the number of commitments, of assize and sessions cases, was 5146. In the year 1848, the number of commitments for sessions and assize cases was 30,349. Population during that period had increased but 60 per cent, whilst the commitments for crime had increased 420 per cent. I should not be candid with this assembly if I did not at once say, that there are various disturbing circumstances which intervene, during that period, to prevent the apparent increase of commitments being the real estimate of the actual increase. There was the transition from war to peace. We all know, that from the days of Hollingshed, the old chronicler, it has been said that war takes to itself a portion of the loose population, who find in the casualties of war, its dangers, rewards and profligate indulgences, something like a kindred feeling to the war made upon society by the predatory classes. Hence we find that, when war ceases, a number of that class of the community are thrown back on the honest portion of society, which, during the period of war, had been drained off. Besides this, there are other co-operating causes. There is the improved police, the constabulary, rural or metropolitan, who undoubtedly detect many of those offences which were formerly committed with impunity. There is also the act of parliament for paying prosecutors and witnesses their expenses, which led to an increased number of prosecutors in proportion to the number of crimes actually detected. These circumstances have, no doubt, exercised a considerable influence over the increase in the commitments; but after having for 35 years paid the closest attention to the subject, having filled, and still filling, a high office in regard to the administration of the law in the city of London, I am bound to say, that, making full deduction from the number which every feeling of anxiety to raise the country from the imputation of increasing in its criminal character dictates—after making every deduction, I am bound with shame and[Pg 521] humility to acknowledge, that it leaves a very large amount of increase in the actual, the positive number of commitments for crime. Sir, this is indeed a humiliating acknowledgment; but happily the statistics of this country, in other particulars, warrant us in drawing comfort from the conviction, that even this fact affords no true representation of the state of the moral character of the people—no evidence of their increasing degradation of character or conduct, in anything like the proportion or degree that those statistics would appear to show. I appeal to history—I appeal to the recollection of every man in this assembly, who, like myself, has passed the meridian of life, whether society has not advanced in morals as well as in arts, science, and literature, and everything which tends to improve the social character of the people. Let any man who has read not our country's history alone, but the tales and novels of former times—and we must frequently look to them, rather than to the records of history, for a faithful transcript of the morals of the age in which they were written,—let any man recur to the productions of Fielding and of Smollett, and say whether the habits, manners, and morals of the great masses of our population are not materially improved within the last century. Great popular delusions prevail as to the causes of the increase of commitments for criminal offences in this country, which I deem it to be my duty to endeavour to dispel. Some ascribe the increase to the want of instruction of our youth, some to the absence of religious teaching, some to the increased intemperance, and some to the increased poverty of the people. I assert that there is no foundation for the opinions that ascribe the increase of crime to these causes. If the absence of education were the cause of crime, surely crime would be found to have diminished since education has increased. For the purpose of comparing the present and past state of education, for its influence upon the criminal statistics of the nation, I will not go back to the time when the single Bible in the parish was chained to a pillar in the church; or when the barons affixed their cross to documents, from inability to write their names. I refer to dates, and times, and circumstances within our own recollection. In the year 1814 the report of the National Society says, there were only 100,000 children receiving the benefit of education. Now there are above 1,000,000 under that excellent institution, besides the tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands who are receiving education under the auspices of the Lancasterian Society Schools. But some may say that the value of education is not to be estimated by numbers. Well then, I reject numbers, if you please, and try it by its quality. I ask any man who listens to me if he does not know that the national schools, and other gratuitous establishments in this country, now give privileges in education which children in a respectable condition of life could hardly obtain, such was the defective state of instruction in this country, 40 or 50 years ago. (Cheers.) No man, therefore, can say that the increase of crime is attributable to the absence of education. If it were so, with education increased 800 per cent during the last 30 years, crime would have diminished, instead of increased, 400 per cent."—Times, Aug. 28, 1849.

The immense expense with which the maintenance of such prodigious numbers of prisoners in jail is attended, is another most serious evil, especially in these days of retrenchment, diminished profits, and economy. From the last Report of the Jail Commissioners for Scotland—that for 1848—it appears that the average cost of each prisoner over the whole country for a year, after deducting his earnings in confinement, is £16, 7s. 6d. As this is the cost after labour has been generally introduced into prisons, and the greatest efforts to reduce expense have been made, it may fairly be presumed that it cannot be reduced lower. The average number of prisoners constantly in jail in Scotland is now about 3500, which, at £16, 7s. 6d. a-head, will come to about £53,000 a-year.[1] Applying this proportion to the 60,000 criminals, now on an average constantly in confinement in the two islands,[2] the annual expense of their maintenance cannot be under a million sterling. The prison and county rates of England alone, which include the cost of prosecutions, are £1,300,000 a-year. But that result, enormous as it is in a country in which poor-rates and all local burdens are so rapidly augmenting, [Pg 522]is but a part of the evil. Under the present system a thief is seldom transported, at least in Scotland, till he has been three or four years plying his trade; during which period his gains by depredations, and expenses of maintenance, cannot have averaged less than £25 yearly. Thus it may with safety be affirmed, that every thief transported from Scotland has cost the country, before he goes, at least £100; and that has been expended in training him up to such habits of hardened depravity, that he is probably as great a curse to the colony to which he is sent, as he had proved a burden to that from which he was conveyed. Sixteen pounds would have been the cost of his transportation in the outset of his career, when, from his habits of crime not being matured, he had a fair chance of proving an acquisition, instead of a curse, to the place of his destination.

As the question of imprisonment or transportation, so far as Great Britain and Ireland are concerned, is now settled by the demonstrative evidence of the return of a reluctant government to the system which in an evil hour they abandoned, it may seem unnecessary to go into detail in order to show how absolutely necessary it was to do so; and how entirely the boasted system of imprisonment, with all its adjuncts of separation, silence, hard labour, and moral and religious instruction, has failed either in checking crime, or producing any visible reformation in the criminals. No one practically acquainted with the subject ever entertained the slightest doubt that this would be the case; and in two articles directed to the subject in this magazine, in 1844, we distinctly foretold what the result would be.[3] To those who, following in the wake of prelates or philanthropists, how respectable soever, such as Archbishop Whately, who know nothing whatever of the subject except from the fallacious evidence of parliamentary committees, worked up by their own theoretical imaginations, we recommend the study of the Tables below, compiled from the parliamentary returns since the imprisonment system began, to show to what a pass the adoption of their rash visions has brought the criminal administration of the country.[4]

It is not surprising that it should be so, and that all the pains taken, and philanthropy wasted, in endeavouring to reform criminals in jail in this country, or hindering them from returning to their old habits when let loose within it, should have proved abortive. Two reasons of paramount efficacy have rendered them all nugatory. The first of these is, that the theory regarding the possibility of reforming offenders when in prison, or suffering punishment in this country, is wholly erroneous, and proceeds on an entire misconception of the principles by which alone such a reformation can in any case be effected. In prison, how solitary so[Pg 523]ever, you can work only on the intellectual faculties. The active powers or feelings can receive no development within the four walls of a cell, for they have no object by which they can be called forth. But nine-tenths of mankind in any rank, and most certainly nineteen-twentieths of persons bred as criminals, are wholly inaccessible to the influence of the intellect, considered as a restraint or regulator of their passions. If they had been capable of being influenced in that way, they would never have become criminals. Persons who fall into the habits which bring them under the lash of the criminal law, are almost always those in whom, either from natural disposition, or the unhappy circumstances of early habits and training, the intellectual faculties are almost entirely in abeyance, so far as self-control is concerned; and any development they have is only directed to procuring gratification for, or furthering the objects of the senses. To address to such persons the moral discipline of a prison, however admirably conducted, is as hopeless as it would be to descant to a man born blind on the objects of sight, or to preach to an ignorant boor in the Greek or Hebrew tongue. Sense is to them all in all. Esau is the true prototype of this class of men; they are always ready to exchange their birthright for a mess of pottage.

No length of solitary confinement, or scarce any amount of moral or religious instruction, can awaken in them either the slightest repentance for their crimes, or the least power of self-control when temptation is again thrown in their way. They regard the period of imprisonment as a blank in their lives—a time of woful monotony and total deprivation of enjoyment, which only renders it the more imperative on them, the moment it is terminated, to begin anew with fresh zest their old enjoyments. Their first object is to make up for months of compulsory sobriety by days of voluntary intoxication. At the close of a short period of hideous saturnalia, they are generally involved in some fresh housebreaking or robbery, to pay for their long train of indulgence; and soon find themselves again immured in their old quarters, only the more determined to run through the same course of forced regularity and willing indulgence. They are often able to feign reformation, so as to impose on their jailors, and obtain liberation on pretended amendment of character. But it is rarely if ever that they are really reclaimed; and hence the perpetual recurrences of the same characters in the criminal courts; till the magistrates, tired of imprisoning them, send them to the assizes or quarter-sessions for transportation. Even then, however, their career is often far from being terminated in this country. The keepers of the public penitentiaries become tired of keeping them. When they cannot send them abroad, their cells are soon crowded; and they take advantage of a feigned amendment to open the prison doors and let them go. They are soon found again in their old haunts, and at their old practices. At the spring circuit held at Glasgow in April 1848, when the effects of the recent imprisonment mania were visible,—out of 117 ordinary criminals indicted, no less than twenty-two had been sentenced to transportation at Glasgow, for periods not less than seven years, within the preceding two years; and the previous conviction and sentence of transportation was charged as an aggravation of their new offence against each in the indictment.

The next reason which renders imprisonment, in an old society and amidst a redundant population, utterly inefficacious as a means of reforming criminals is, that, even if they do imbibe better ideas and principles during their confinement, they find it impossible on their liberation to get into any honest employment, or gain admission into any well-doing circle, where they may put their newly-acquired principles into practice. If, indeed, there existed a government or parochial institution, into which they might be received on leaving prison, and by which they might be marched straightway to the nearest seaport, and there embarked for Canada or Australia, a great step would be made towards giving them the means of durable reformation. But as there is none such in existence, and as they scarcely ever are possessed of money enough, on[Pg 524] leaving prison, to carry them across the Atlantic, they are of necessity obliged to remain in their own country—and that, to persons in their situation, is certain ruin. In new colonies, or thinly-peopled countries, such as Australia or Siberia, convicts, from the scarcity of labour, may in general be able to find employment; and from the absence of temptation, and the severance of the links which bound them to their old associates, they are often there found to do well. But nothing of that sort can be expected in an old and thickly-peopled country, where the competition for employment is universal, and masters, having the choice of honest servants of untainted character, cannot be expected to take persons who have been convicted of crimes, and exposed to the pollutions of a jail.

Practically speaking, it is impossible for persons who have been in jail to get into any honest or steady employment in their own country; and if they do by chance, or by the ignorance of their employers of their previous history, get into a situation, it is ere long discovered, by the associates who come about them, where they have been, and they speedily lose it. If you ask any person who has been transported in consequence of repeated convictions, why he did not take warning by the first, the answer uniformly is, that he could not get into employment, and was obliged to take to thieving, or starve. Add to this that the newly-reformed criminal, on leaving jail, and idling about, half starved, in search of work, of necessity, as well as from inclination, finds his way back to his old residence, where his character is known, and he is speedily surrounded by his old associates, who, in lieu of starving integrity, offer him a life of joyous and well-fed depravity. It can hardly be expected that human virtue, and least of all the infant virtue of a newly-reformed criminal, can withstand so rude a trial. Accordingly, when the author once asked Mr Brebner, the late governor of the Glasgow bridewell, what proportion of formed criminals he ever knew to have been reformed by prison discipline, he answered that the proportion was easily told, for he never knew one. And in the late debate in parliament on this subject, it was stated by the Home Secretary, Sir George Grey, that while the prison discipline at Pentonville promised the most cheering results, it was among those trained there, and subsequently transported, that the improvement was visible; for that no such results were observed among those who, after liberation, were allowed to remain in this country.

But while it is thus proved, both by principle and experience, that the moral reformation of offenders cannot be effected by imprisonment, even under the most improved system, in this country, yet, in one respect, a very great amelioration of the prisoner's habits, and extension of his powers, is evidently practicable. It is easy to teach a prisoner a trade; and such is the proficiency which is rapidly acquired by the undivided attention to one object in a jail, that one objection which has been stated to the imprisonment system is, that it interferes with the employment of honest industry out of doors. No one can walk through any of the well-regulated prisons in Great Britain without seeing that, whatever else you cannot do, it is easy to teach such a proficiency in trade to the convicts as may render them, if their depraved inclinations can be arrested, useful members of society, and give them the means of earning a livelihood by honest industry. Many of them are exceedingly clever, evince great aptitude for the learning of handicrafts, and exert the utmost diligence in their prosecution. Let no man, however, reckon on their reformation, because they are thus skilful and assiduous: turn them out of prison in this country, and you will soon see them drinking and thieving with increased alacrity, from the length of their previous confinement. It is evidently not intellectual cunning, or manual skill, or vigour in pursuit, which they in general want—it is the power of directing their faculties to proper objects, when at large in this country, which they are entirely without, and which no length of confinement, or amount of moral and religious instruction communicated in prison, is able to confer upon them. Here then is one great truth ascertained, by the[Pg 525] only sure guide in such matters—experience—that while it is wholly impossible to give prisoners the power of controlling their passions, or abstaining from their evil propensities, when at large, by any amount of prison discipline, it is always not only possible, but easy, to communicate to them such handicraft skill, or power of exercising trades, as may, the moment the wicked dispositions are brought under control, render them useful and even valuable members of society.

Experience equally proves that, though the moral reformation of convicts in this country is so rare as, practically speaking, to be considered as impossible, yet this is very far indeed from being the case when they are removed to a distant land, where all connexion with their old associates is at once and for ever broken; where an honest career is not only open, but easy, to the most depraved, and a boundless supply of fertile but unappropriated land affords scope for the exercise of the desire of gain on legitimate objects, and affords no facilities for the commission of crime, or the acquisition of property, by the short-hand methods of theft or robbery. Lord Brougham, in a most able work, which is little known only because it runs counter to the prejudices of the age, has well explained the causes of this peculiarity:—

"The new emigrants, who at various times continued to flock to the extensive country of America, were by no means of the same description with the first settlers. Some of these were the scourings of jails, banished for their crimes; many of them were persons of desperate fortunes, to whom every place was equally uninviting; or men of notoriously abandoned lives, to whom any region was acceptable that offered them a shelter from the vengeance of the law, or the voice of public indignation. But a change of scene will work some improvement upon the most dissolute of characters. It is much to be removed from the scenes with which villany has been constantly associated, and the companions who have rendered it agreeable. It is something to have the leisure of a long voyage, with its awakening terrors, to promote reflection. Besides, to regain once more the privilege of that good name, which every unknown man may claim until he is tried, presents a powerful temptation to reform, and furnishes an opportunity of amendment denied in the scenes of exposure and destruction. If the convicts in the colony of New Holland, though surrounded on the voyage and in the settlement by the companions of their iniquities, have in a great degree been reclaimed by the mere change of scene, what might not be expected from such a change as we are considering? But the honest acquisition of a little property, and its attendant importance, is, beyond any other circumstance, the one most calculated to reform the conduct of a needy and profligate man, by inspiring him with a respect for himself and a feeling of his stake in the community, and by putting a harmless and comfortable life at least within the reach of his exertions. If the property is of a nature to require constant industry, in order to render it of any value; if it calls forth that sort of industry which devotes the labourer to a solitary life in the open air, and repays him not with wealth and luxury, but with subsistence and ease; if, in short, it is property in land, divided into small portions and peopled by few inhabitants, no combination of circumstances can be figured to contribute more directly to the reformation of the new cultivator's character and manners."[5]

In addition to these admirable observations, it may be stated, as another, and perhaps the principal reason why transportation, when conducted on proper principles, is attended with such immediate and beneficial influences on the moral character of the convict, that it places him in situations where scope is afforded for the development of the domestic and generous affections. A counterpoise is provided to self. It is the impossibility of providing such a counterpoise within the four walls of a cell—the extreme difficulty of finding it, in any circumstances in which a prisoner can be placed, on his liberation from jail in his own country, which is the chief cause of the total failure of all attempts to work a moral reform on prisoners, when kept at home, by any, even the most approved system of jail discipline. But that which cannot be obtained at home is immediately, on transportation, found in the colonies. The criminal is no longer thrown back on [Pg 526]himself in the solitude of a cell—he is not surrounded by thieves and prostitutes, urging him to resume his old habits, on leaving it. The female convict, on arriving in New South Wales, is almost immediately married; ere long the male, if he is industrious and well-behaved, has the means of being so. Regular habits then come to supplant dissolute—the natural affections spring up in the heart with the creation of the objects on which they are to be exercised. The solitary tenant of a cell—the dissolute frequenter of spirit-cellars and bagnios, acquires a home. The affections of the fireside begin to spring up, because a fireside is obtained.

Incalculable is the effect of this change of circumstances on the character of the most depraved. Accordingly it is mentioned by Mr Cunningham, in his very interesting Account of New South Wales, that great numbers of young women taken from the streets of London, who have resisted all efforts of Christian zeal and philanthropy in Magdalene Asylums or Penitentiaries at home, and embark for New South Wales in the most shocking state of depravity, become sensibly improved in their manners, and are not unfrequently entirely reformed by forming, during the voyage, temporary connections with sailors, to whom, when the choice is once made, they generally remain faithful: so powerful and immediate is the effect of an approach even to a home, and lasting ties, on the female heart.[6] The feelings which offspring produces are never entirely obliterated in the breast of woman. It has been often observed, that though dissolute females generally, when they remain at home, find it impossible to reform their own lives, yet they rarely, if they have the power, fail to bring up their children at a distance from their haunts of iniquity. So powerful is the love of children, and the secret sense of shame at their own vices, in the breasts even of the most depraved of the female sex.

It has been proved, accordingly, by experience, on the very largest scale, not only that the reformation of offenders, when transported to a colony in a distant part of the world, takes place, if they are preserved in a due proportion of numerical inferiority to the untainted population, to an extent unparalleled in any other situation; but that, when so regulated, they constitute the greatest possible addition to the strength, progress, and riches of a colony. From official papers laid before parliament, before the unhappy crowding of convicts in New South Wales began, and the gang-system was introduced, it appears that between the years 1800 and 1817—that is, in seventeen years—out of 17,000 convicts transported to New South Wales, no less than six thousand had, at the close of the period, obtained their freedom from their good conduct, and had earned among them, by their free labour, property to the amount of £1,500,000! It may be safely affirmed that the history of the world does not afford so astonishing and gratifying an instance of the moral reformation of offenders, or one pointing so clearly to the true system to be pursued regarding them. It will be recollected that this reformation took place when 17,000 convicts were transported in seventeen years—that is, on an average, 1000 a-year only—and when the gang-system was unknown, and the convict on landing at Sidney was immediately assigned to a free colonist, by whom he was forthwith marched up the country into a remote situation, and employed under his master's direction in rural labour or occupations.

And that the colony itself prospers immensely from the forced labour of convicts being added, in not too great proportions, to the voluntary labour of freemen, is decisively proved by the astonishing progress which Australia has made during the last fifty years; the degree in which it has distanced all its competitors in which convict labour was unknown; and the marvellous amount of wealth and comfort, so much exceeding upon the whole that known in any other colony, which now exists among its inhabitants. We say upon the whole, because we are well aware that in some parts of Australia, particularly Van Diemen's Land, property has of late years been most seriously depreciated in value—partly from the monetary crisis, which [Pg 527]has affected that distant settlement as well as the rest of the empire, and partly from the inordinate number of convicts who have been sent to that one locality, from the vast increase of crime at home, and the cessations of transportation to Sidney;—a number which has greatly exceeded the proper and salutary proportion to freemen, and has been attended with the most disastrous results. But that the introduction of convicts, when not too depraved, and kept in due subordination by being in a small minority compared to the freemen, is, so far from being an evil, the greatest possible advantage to a colony, is decisively proved by the parliamentary returns quoted below, showing the comparative progress during a long course of years of Australia, aided by convict labour, and the Cape of Good Hope and Canada, which have not enjoyed that advantage. These returns are decisive. They demonstrate that the progress of the convict colonies, during the last half century, has been three times as rapid as that of those enjoying equal or greater advantages, to whom convicts have not been sent; and that the present state of comforts they enjoy, as measured by the amount per head of British manufactures they consume, is also triple that of any other colony who have been kept entirely clear from the supposed stain, but real advantages, of forced labour.[7]

Accordingly, the ablest and best-informed statistical writers and travellers on the Continent, struck with the safe and expeditious method of getting quit of and reforming its convicts which Great Britain enjoys, from its numerous colonies in every [Pg 528]part of the world, and the want of which is so severely felt in the Continental states, are unanimous in considering the possession of such colonies, and consequent power of unlimited transportation, as one of the very greatest social advantages which England enjoys. Hear what one of the most enlightened of those writers, M. Malte-Brun, says on the subject:—

"England has long been in the habit of disposing of its wicked citizens in a way at once philosophic and politic, by sending them out to cultivate distant colonies. It was thus that the shores of the Delaware and the Potomac were peopled in America. After the American war, they were at a loss where to send the convicts, and the Cape of Good Hope was first thought of; but, on the recommendation of the learned Sir Joseph Banks, New South Wales obtained the preference. The first vessel arrived at Botany Bay on the 20th January 1788, and brought out 760 convicts, and according to a census taken in 1821, exhibited the following results in thirty-three years, viz.—

Free settlers, men, women and children23,254

In 1832, that population had risen to 40,000 souls.[8] In 1821, there were in the colony 5000 horses, 120,000 horned cattle, and 350,000 sheep. It consumed, at that period, 8,500,000 francs' (£340,000) worth of English manufactures, being about £8, 10s. a-head, and exported to Europe about £100,000 worth in rude produce.

"Great division of opinion has existed in France, for a long course of years, on the possibility of diminishing the frequency of the punishment of death, as well as that of the galleys; but a serious difficulty has been alleged in the expense with which an establishment such as New South Wales would cost. It is worthy of remark, however, that from 1789 to the end of 1821, England had expended for the transport, maintenance, and other charges of 33,155 convicts, transported to New South Wales, £5,301,023, being scarce a third of what the prisoners would have cost in the prisons of Great Britain, without having the satisfaction of having changed into useful citizens those who were the shame and terror of society.

"When a vessel with convicts on board arrives in the colony, the men who are not married in it, are permitted to choose a wife among the female convicts. At the expiration of his term of punishment, every convict is at liberty to return to his own country, at his own expense. If he chooses to remain, he obtains a grant of land, and provisions for 18 months: if he is married the allotment is larger, and an adequate portion is allowed for each child. Numbers are provided with the means of emigration at the expense of government; they obtain 150 acres of land, seed-corn, and implements of husbandry. It is worthy of remark that, thanks to the vigilance of the authorities, the transported in that colony lose their depraved habits; that the women become well behaved and fruitful; and that the children do not inherit the vices of their parents. These results are sufficient to place the colony of New South Wales among the most noble philanthropic institutions in the world. After that, can any one ask the expense of the establishment?"—Malte-Brun, Géographie Universelle, xii. 194-196.

But here a fresh difficulty arises. Granting, it will be said, that transportation is so immense a benefit to the mother country, in affording a safe and certain vent for its criminals; and to the colonies, by providing them with so ample a supply of forced labour, what is to be done when they will not receive it? The colonies are all up in arms against transportation; not one can be persuaded, on any terms, to receive these convicts. When a ship with convicts arrives, they begin talking about separation and independence, and reminding us of Bunker's Hill and Saratoga. The Cape shows us with what feelings colonies which have not yet received them view the introduction of criminals; Van Diemen's Land, how well founded their apprehensions are of the consequences of such an invasion of civilised depravity. This difficulty, at first sight, appears not only serious but insurmountable. On a nearer examination, however, it will be found that, however formidable it may appear, it could easily be got over; and that it is entirely owing [Pg 529]to the true principles of transportation having been forgotten, and one of the first duties of government neglected by our rulers for the last thirty years.

It is very remarkable, and throws an important light on this question, that this horror at the influx of convicts, which has now become so general in the colonies as to render it almost impossible to find a place where they can with safety be landed, is entirely of recent origin. It never was heard of till within the last fifteen or twenty years. Previous to that time, and even much later, transportation was not only regarded by the penal colonies without aversion, but with the utmost possible complacency. They looked to a series of heavy assizes in Great Britain with the same feelings of anxious solicitude, as the working classes do to a good harvest, or the London tradesman to a gay and money-spending season. Spirits never were so high in Sidney, speculation never so rife, property never so valuable, profits never so certain, as when the convict ships arrived well stored with compulsory emigrants. If any one doubts this, let him open the early numbers of the Colonial Magazine, and he will find them filled with resolutions of public meetings in New South Wales, recounting the immense advantages the colony had derived from the forced labour of convicts, and most earnestly deprecating any intermission in their introduction. As a specimen, we subjoin a series of resolutions, by the Governor and Council of New South Wales, on a petition agreed to, at a public meeting held in Sidney, on 18th February 1838.

Resolutions of the Legislative Council, New South Wales, 17th July 1838.

4. Resolved.—That, in opinion of this council, the numerous free emigrants of character and capital, including many officers of the army and navy, and East India Company's service, who have settled in this colony, with their families, together with a rising generation of native-born subjects, constitute a body of colonists who, in the exercise of the social and moral relations of life, are not inferior to the inhabitants of any other dependency of the British crown, and are sufficient to impress a character of respectability upon the colony at large.

5. Resolved.—That, in the opinion of this council, the rapid and increasing advance of this colony, in the short space of fifty years from its first establishment, in rural, commercial, and financial prosperity, proves indisputably the activity, the enterprise, and industry of the colonists, and is wholly incompatible with the state of society represented to exist here.

6. Resolved.—That, in the opinion of this council, the strong desire manifested by the colonists generally, to obtain moral and religious instruction, and the liberal contributions, which have been made from private funds, towards this most essential object, abundantly testify that the advancement of virtue and religion amongst them is regarded with becoming solicitude.

7. Resolved.—That, in the opinion of this council, if transportation and assignment have hitherto failed to produce all the good effects anticipated by their projectors, such failure may be traced to circumstances, many of which are no longer in existence, whilst others are in rapid progress of amendment. Amongst the most prominent causes of failure may be adduced the absence, at the first establishment of the colony, of adequate religious and moral instruction, and the want of proper means of classification in the several gaols throughout the colony, as well as of a sufficient number of free emigrants, properly qualified to become the assignees of convicts, and to be intrusted with their management and control.

8. Resolved.—That, in the opinion of this council, the great extension which has latterly been afforded of moral and religious instruction, the classification which may in future be made in the numerous gaols now in progress of erection, upon the most approved principles of inspection and separation, the most effectual punishment and classification of offenders in ironed gangs, according to their improved system of management—the numerous free emigrants now eligible as the assignees of convicts, and the accumulated experience of half a century—form a combination of circumstances, which renders the colony better adapted at the present, than at any former period, to carry into effect the praiseworthy intentions of the first founders of the system of transportation and assignment, which had no less for its object reformation of character than a just infliction of punishment.

9. Resolved.—That, in the opinion of this[Pg 530] council, no system of penal discipline, or secondary punishment, will be found at once so cheap, so effective, and so reformatory, as that of well-regulated assignment—the good conduct of the convict, and his continuance at labour, being so obviously the interest of the assignee; whilst the partial solitude and privations, incidental to a pastoral or agricultural life in the remote districts of the colony, (which may be made the universal employment of convicts,) by effectually breaking a connexion with companions and habits of vice, is better calculated than any other system to produce moral reformation, when accompanied by adequate religious instruction.

10. Resolved.—That, in the opinion of this council, many men who, previously to their conviction, had been brought up in habits of idleness and vice, have acquired, by means of assignment, not only habits of industry and labour, but the knowledge of a remunerative employment, which, on becoming free, forms a strong inducement to continue in an honest course of life.

11. Resolved.—That, in the opinion of this council, the sudden discontinuance of transportation and assignment, by depriving the colonists of convict labour, must necessarily curtail their means of purchasing crown lands, and, consequently, the supply of funds for the purpose of immigration.

12. Resolved.—That, in the opinion of this council, the produce of the labour of convicts, in assignment, is thus one of the principal, though indirect means, of bringing into the colony free persons: it is obvious, therefore, that the continuance of emigration in any extended form, must necessarily depend upon the continuance of the assignment of convicts.[9]

It is not surprising that they viewed, at this period, the transportation system in this light; for under it they had made advances in population, comfort, and riches, unparalleled in any other age or country of the world.

How, then, has it happened that so great a change has come over the views of the colonists on this subject; and that the system which they formerly regarded, with reason, as the sheet-anchor of their prosperity, is now almost universally looked to with unqualified aversion, as the certain forerunner of their destruction? The answer is easy. It is because transportation, as formerly conducted, was a blessing, and because, as conducted of late years, it has become a curse, that the change of opinion has arisen in regard to it. The feelings of the colonists, in both cases, were founded on experience—both were, in the circumstances in which they arose, equally well founded, and both were therefore equally entitled to respect and attention. We have only to restore the circumstances in which the convicts were a blessing, to revive the times in which their arrival will be regarded as a boon. And to effect this, can easily be shown not only to be attended with no difficulty, but only to require the simultaneous adoption by government of a system of punishment at home, and of voluntary emigration at the public expense abroad, attended with a very trifling expense, and calculated to relieve, beyond any other measure that could by possibility be devised, the existing distress among the labouring classes of Great Britain and Ireland.

To render the introduction of penal labour into a colony an advantage, three things are necessary. 1st, that the convicts sent out should be for the most part instructed in some simple rural art or occupation, of use in the country into which they are to be transplanted. 2d, that they should in general be beginners in crime, and a small number of them only hardened in depravity. 3d, what is most important of all, that they should be preserved in a due proportion, never exceeding a fourth or a fifth to the free and untainted settlers. Under these conditions, their introduction will always prove a blessing, and will be hailed as a boon. If they are neglected, they will prove a curse, and their arrival be regarded as a punishment.

Various circumstances have contributed, of late years, to render the convict system a dreadful evil, instead of, as formerly, a signal benefit to the colonies. But that affords no ground for despair; on the contrary, it furnishes the most well-grounded reason for hope. We are suffering under the effects of an erroneous regimen, not any inherent malady in the patient. Change this treatment, and his health will soon return.

[Pg 531]

It is well known that the greatest pains have of late years been taken, in this country, to instruct prisoners in jail in some useful handicraft; and that, so far has this been carried, that our best-regulated jails are more in fact great houses of industry. The general penitentiary at Pentonville, in particular, where the convicts sentenced to transportation are trained, previous to their removal to the penal settlements, is a perfect model of arrangement and attention in this important respect. But it is equally well known that it is only of late years that this signal reform has come into operation; and we have the satisfaction of knowing that already its salutary effects have been evinced, in the most signal manner, with the convicts sent abroad. Previous to the year 1840, scarcely anything was done on any considerable scale, either to teach ordinary prisoners trades in jail, to separate them from each other, or to prepare them, in the public penitentiaries, for the duties in which they were to be engaged, when they arrived at their distant destination. The county jails, now resounding with the clang of ceaseless occupation, pursued by prisoners in their separate cells, then only re-echoed the din of riot and revelling in the day-rooms where the idle prisoners were huddled together, and beguiled the weary hours of their captivity by stories of perpetrated crime, or plans for its renewal the moment they got out of confinement. But the ideas of men are all formed on the experience of facts, or the thoughts driven into them, for a considerable time back. The present universal horror at transportation is founded on the experience of the prisoners with which, for a quarter of a century, New South Wales had been flooded, from the idle day-rooms or profligate hulks of Great Britain. Some years must elapse before the effects of the improved discipline received, and laborious habits acquired, in the jails and penitentiaries of the mother country, produces any general effect on public opinion in its distant colonies.

The relaxation of the severity of our penal code at home, during the last thirty years, however loudly called for by considerations of justice and humanity, has undoubtedly had a most pernicious influence on the class of convicts who have, during that period, been sent to the colonies. In so far as that change of system has diminished the frequency of the infliction of the punishment of death, and limited, practically speaking, that dreadful penalty to cases of wilful and inexcusable murder, it must command the assent of every benevolent and well-regulated mind. But, unfortunately, the change has not stopped there. It has descended through every department of our criminal jurisprudence, and come in that way to alter much for the worse the class of criminals who of late years have been sent to the penal colonies. The men who were formerly hanged are now for the most part transported; those formerly transported are now imprisoned; and those sent abroad have almost all, on repeated occasions, been previously confined, generally for a very long period. As imprisonment scarcely ever works any reformation on the moral character or habits of a prisoner, whatever improved skill in handicraft it may put into his fingers, this change has been attended with most serious and pernicious effect on the character of the convicts sent to the colonies, and gone far to produce the aversion with which they are now everywhere regarded.

It has been often observed, by those practically acquainted with the working of the transportation system in the colonies, that the Irish convicts were generally the best, and the Scotch, beyond all question, the worst who arrived. This peculiarity, so widely different from, in fact precisely the reverse of, what has been observed of the free settlers from these respective countries, in every part of the world, has frequently been made the subject of remark, and excited no little surprise. But the reason of it is evident, and, when once stated, perfectly satisfactory. The Scotch law, administered almost entirely by professional men, and on fixed principles, has long been based on the principle of transporting persons only who were deemed irreclaimable in this country. Very few have been sent abroad for half a century, from Scotland, who had not either committed some very grave offence, or[Pg 532] been four or five times, often eight or ten times, previously convicted and imprisoned. In Ireland, under the moderate and lenient sway of Irish county justices, a poacher was often transported who had merely been caught with a hare tucked up under his coat. Whatever we may think of the justice of such severe punishments for trivial offences, in the first instance, there can be but one opinion as to its tendency to lead a much better class of convicts from the Emerald Isle, than the opposite system did from the shores of Caledonia. Very probably, also, the system of giving prisoners "repeated opportunities of amendment," as it is called in this country—but which, in fact, would be more aptly styled "renewed opportunities for depravity"—has, from good but mistaken motives, been carried much too far in Scotland. Be this as it may, nothing is more certain than that the substitution of a race of repeatedly convicted and hardened offenders, under the milder system of punishment in Great Britain, during the last twenty years, for one comparatively uninitiated in crime, such as were formerly sent out, has had a most pernicious effect on the character of the convicts received in the colonies, and the sentiments with which their arrival was regarded.

But by far the most powerful cause, which has been in operation for above a quarter of a century, in destroying the beneficial effects of the system of transportation, and substituting the worst possible consequences in their stead, has been the sending out of convicts in too great a proportion to the free population, and the consequent necessity for substituting the gang for the assignment system. This is a matter of the very highest, indeed of paramount importance; and it may safely be affirmed that, unless a remedy is found for it, all efforts made to render the system of transportation palatable to the colonies will prove nugatory. Fortunately the means of remedying that evil are not only easy, but, comparatively speaking, cheap, and perfectly efficacious; and they promise, while they remedy the above-mentioned evil, to confer, in other respects, signal benefits both on the colonies and the mother country.

New South Wales was originally selected, and not without sufficient reasons, as the place for the establishment of penal colonies, because the distance of it from the mother country, and the length of the voyage, rendered it a very difficult matter either for runaway convicts, or those who had served their time, to get home again. Once sent out, you were, in the great majority of cases, clear of them for ever. This circumstance was no disadvantage, but rather the reverse, to the colony, and certainly a very great advantage to the parent state, as long as the number of convicts annually sent out was inconsiderable, and the whole convict population formed a small minority to the number of free settlers. When the whole number committed a-year in England was 4500, and in Scotland under 100, as it was in Great Britain in 1804 or 1805, the settlement of convicts on the distant shores of Australia worked well. They were glad to get the 300 or 400 annually sent out; they were benefited by their forced labour; and the free settlers were in sufficient numbers to keep them with ease in subjection, and prevent their habits from contaminating those of the free inhabitants of the colony. But when the commitments from Great Britain and Ireland had risen to 50,000 or 60,000 a-year, and the convicts sent out to 3000 or 4000 annually, as they have done for some years past, the case was entirely altered. The polluted stream became much too large and powerful for the land it was intended to fertilise; it did more harm than good, and became the object of uniform and undisguised aversion.

The distance of Australia from the mother country, which formerly had been so great an advantage to both parties, now became the greatest possible evil; because it prevented, at the time this great influx of convicts was going on, the immigration of freemen from preserving anything like a due proportion to it. When the convicts rose to 2000 and 3000 yearly, the free settlers should have been raised to 8000 or 10,000 annually. This would have kept all right; because the tainted population would have been always in a small minority com[Pg 533]pared to the virtuous; order would have been preserved by the decided majority of the well-disposed; and the assignment system, the parent of so much good, still rendered practicable by the ceaseless extension of free settlers in the wilds of nature. But the distance of Australia rendered this impracticable, when the emigration of freemen was left to its own unaided resources. Steam navigation contributed powerfully to throw it into the back-ground for all but the very highest class of emigrants. The voyage to Australia is one of fourteen thousand miles; it takes from five to six months, must still be performed by sailing vessels, and costs about £16 a-head for the ordinary class of emigrants. That to America is one of three thousand miles; it takes from a fortnight to three weeks, is performed by great numbers of steam as well as sailing vessels, and costs from £3 to £4 a-head for the same class of passengers.[10]

These facts are decisive, and must always continue so, against the choice of Australia, as the place of their destination, by the great bulk of ordinary emigrants. Several young men of good family, indeed, tempted by the high profits generally made there in the wool trade, and the boundless facilities for the multiplication of flocks which its prairies afforded, have settled there, and some have done well. But of ordinary labourers, and persons to do the work of common workmen, there has always been felt a very great deficiency, for this simple reason, that they could not afford the expense of the voyage. The settlers were almost entirely of the better class, and they were in no proportion at all to the number of the convicts. This distinctly appears, not only from the extravagant wages paid to shepherds and common labourers, generally not less than five or six shillings a-day, but from the very limited number of emigrants, even during the distress of the last three years, when the voluntary emigration had reached two hundred and fifty thousand annually from the British islands, who have gone to our colonies in New South Wales.[11]

This unhappy turn of affairs has been attended with a double disadvantage. In the first place, the vast increase in the number of convicts sent to Sydney, compared with the small number of free settlers, has for a long time past rendered the continuance of the assignment system impossible; and the gang system, to take off and embody the surplus numbers, became in a manner a matter of necessity. The manners of the colony, its habits, its prospects, its morality, have been seriously damaged by this change. The emancipated convicts who have made money, known by the name of "canary birds," have pressed upon the heels, and come to excite the jealousy, of the free settlers. The accumulation of convicts in the lower walks of life has checked the immigration of free labour, perpetuated the frightful inequality of the sexes, and led to the most lamentable disorders. The gang system, of necessity introduced, because free settlers did not [Pg 534]exist to take the convicts off under the assignment system, perpetuated in the colony the vices of the hulks, the depravity of the galleys. The whole benefits of transportation to the convicts, their whole chances of amendment, are lost, when, instead of being sent to rural labour in the solitude of the woods and the prairies, they are huddled together, in gangs of four or five hundred, without hope to counterbalance evil propensities, or inducement to resist the seduction of mutual bad example. These evils were so sensibly felt, and led to such energetic representations to the government at home, that at length the colony was pacified, but at the same time its progress checked, by an order in council in 1837, that no more convicts, for a limited time, should be sent to Sydney or its dependencies.

But this only shifted the seat of the evil, and augmented its intensity. The convicts, now swelled to above four thousand a-year, could not be kept at home; they required to be sent somewhere, and where was that place to be? Van Diemen's Land was selected, being the most southernly portion of New Holland, and of course the farthest removed from this country; and thither nearly the whole convicts of Great Britain and Ireland, soon above thirty-five hundred annually in number, were sent for several years. The consequence of this prodigious influx of criminals into an infant colony, so far removed from the parent state that it cost £20 a-head to send a common labourer there—and of course no free emigration in proportionate numbers could be expected without public aid—might easily have been anticipated. Government did nothing to encourage the simultaneous settlement of free settlers in that distant land, thus flooded with convicts, or so little as amounted to nothing. The consequence was, that, ere long, three-fifths of the inhabitants of the colony were convicts. Every one knows, none could have failed to anticipate the consequences. The morals of the settlement, thus having a majority of its inhabitants convicts, were essentially injured. Crimes unutterable were committed; the hideous inequality of the sexes induced its usual and frightful disorders; the police, how severe and vigilant soever, became unable to coerce the rapidly-increasing multitude of criminals; the most daring fled to the woods, where they became bush-rangers; life became insecure; property sank to half its former value. So powerful, and evidently well-founded, were the representations made on the subject to the legislature, that it became evident that a remedy must be applied; and this was done by an order in council in 1844, which suspended entirely for two years the transportation of male convicts to the colonies. That of females was still and most properly continued, in the hope that, by doing so, the inequality of the sexes in Australia might in some degree be corrected.

But this measure, like all the rest, not being founded on the right principle, has entirely failed. The accumulation of offenders in the British islands, from the stoppage of the usual vent by which they were formerly carried off, soon became insupportable. The jails were crowded to suffocation; it was ere long found to be necessary to liberate many persons, transported seven years, at the expiration of two, to make way for new inmates. The liberated convicts were soon back in their old haunts, and at their old practices; and the great increase of serious crimes, such as robberies, burglaries, and murders, demonstrated that the public morals in the great towns were rapidly giving way, under the influence of that worst species of criminals—returned convicts. The judges both of Great Britain and Ireland, in common with every person practically acquainted with the subject, and who had daily proofs, in the discharge of their important official duties, of the total failure of the imprisonment system, were unanimous in recommending a return to transportation. All the temporary expedients adopted, such as Gibraltar, Bermuda, &c., soon failed from the rapid increase of convicts, who greatly exceeded all the means left of taking them off. Government became convinced that they had made a step in the wrong direction; and they most wisely took counsel from experience, and determined to resume the practice of sending convicts abroad. But, on the threshold of the renewed attempt, they were met by the refusal[Pg 535] of the colonies to take them. The Cape is almost in rebellion on the subject; and in despair of finding a willing colony, it is said they have in contemplation to send them to be roasted under the White Cliffs, and increase the already redundant population of Malta.

It is not necessary to do any such thing. The solution of the transportation question is easy, the method to be followed perfectly efficacious. Government have only to commence the discharge of one of their most important social duties to get rid of all their difficulties, and render the immigration of criminals, as it was in time past, as great a blessing to the colonies, and as ardently desired, as of late years it has been a curse, and earnestly deprecated.

Transportation is a blessing to a colony when the convicts are kept in a minority, perhaps in a fourth or a fifth of the community to which they are sent, and when they are not hardened in crime, and all instructed in some useful trade. In such circumstances, they are the greatest possible addition to its strength, riches, and progress, and will always be gladly received.

Transportation is a curse when the convicts sent out are so numerous, and the free settlers so few, that the former forms a large proportion of the community compared to the latter, and when their habits are those of hardened irreclaimable criminals, instead of youthful novices in crime. If they become a majority, certain ruin may be anticipated to the colony thus flooded with crime.

The difficulties which now beset the transportation question have all arisen from our having pursued a course, of late years, which rendered the settlement of convicts a curse instead of a blessing, as it was at first, when the system was directly the reverse. To render it a blessing again, we have only to restore the circumstances which made it so formerly—sending out the convicts when not completely hardened in depravity, and in such a proportion to the free settlers as to keep them a small minority to the free and untainted part of the community. The immigration of convicts to our colonies is like that of the Irish into western Britain: everything depends on the proportion they bear to the remainder of the population. They are very useful if a fourth; they can be borne if they are a third; but let them become a majority, and they will soon land the country in the condition of Skibbereen or Connemara.

We cannot diminish the numbers of convicts transported; on the contrary, woful results have made us aware that it should be materially increased. Experience has taught us, also, that voluntary unaided emigration cannot enable the free settlers in Australia to keep pace with the rapid increase of crime in the British islands. What, then, is to be done? The answer is simple: Discharge in part the vast duty, so long neglected by government, of providing, at the public expense, for the emigration of a certain portion of the most indigent part of the community, who cannot get abroad on their own resources, and SETTLE THEM IN THE SAME COLONY WITH THE CONVICTS. Do this, and the labour market is lightened at home; the convicts are kept in a small minority abroad; the colony, thus aided by the combined virtue and penal labour of the mother country, is secured of prosperity and rapid progress; and its rate of increase will soon induce the other colonies to petition for a share of the prolific stream.

At present, there are, or at least should be, above 5000 criminals annually transported from the British islands.[12] The cost of settling a free labourer in Australia is about £16 a-head. To send 16,000 free labourers [Pg 536]with these 5000 criminals would cost just £256,000 a-year: call it £300,000 yearly, to make room for the probable increase of criminals, from the growing necessities or depravity of the mother country, and provide for the extra and unavoidable expenses of an infant establishment, and the transportation question is at once solved, a great relief is afforded to the distressed labourers of the parent state, and a certain market for our manufactures provided, which will double every two or three years, as long as the system is continued.

Let government, by an order in council, propose these terms to the colonies, and we shall see if any of them will refuse them. If none will close with them, let them at once establish a new colony on these principles, in some unoccupied part of New Holland. In twelve months, there will be a race for who is to get a share of the fertilising stream. Sixteen thousand free settlers, and five or six thousand convicts, annually sent to any colony, would cause its numbers to double every two, and its prosperity to triple in value every three years. Everything would go on in a geometrical progression. It would soon rival California in progress and reputation. Capital would rapidly follow this scene of activity and progress. Moneyed men are not slow in discovering where labour is plentiful and comparatively cheap, and where their investments are doubled in amount and value every two or three years. A colony thus powerfully supported by the parent state would soon distance all its competitors: while the Cape, New Zealand, and Australia were slumbering on with a population doubling every ten years, from the tardy and feeble support of free emigrants on their own resources, the establishment thus protected would double in two or three. Voluntary emigrants would crowd to the scene of activity, progress, and opulence. The 20,000 persons annually sent out would immediately become consumers of our manufactures to the extent of £150,000 a-year:[13] and this rate would be doubled the very next year! At the end of five or six years, it would amount to £800,000 or £900,000 annually. What a relief at once to the manufacturers of Great Britain, now labouring so severely under the combined effect of foreign competition and a declining home market, and the starving peasantry of Ireland, where half a million of stout labourers—admirable workmen in a foreign country, though wretched ones in their own—are pining in hopeless destitution, a burden upon their parishes, or flocking in ruinous multitudes to Liverpool and Glasgow.

But where is the £300,000 to come from? The Chancellor of the Exchequer has no money; taxation has reached its limits; and loans are out of the question. What! have free trade and a restricted currency, then, so quickly prostrated the resources of the country, that the nation which, in 1813, with eighteen millions of inhabitants, at the close of a twenty years' costly war, raised £72,000,000 by taxation, and £80,000,000 by loan, cannot now, with thirty millions, for so very important an object, after thirty-three years of unbroken peace, muster up £300,000 a-year? A shilling a gallon on the 6,259,000 gallons of whisky annually consumed in Scotland alone, in demoralising the community, would provide the requisite sum, and tend to equalise the ruinous exemption which Scotland now enjoys in the manufacture of that attractive and pernicious liquor. A similar duty on the 12,000,000 gallons annually consumed in England, would raise double the sum. But if government, despite the £100,000,000 we were promised by free trade, cannot afford £300,000 a-year for this vital object, let it be laid on the counties as part of the prison or county rates. A little reflection would soon show every person of sense in the country, that its amount could speedily be saved in prison and poor rates.

Simultaneously with this change, an alteration, equally loudly called for, should take place in the administration of our criminal law at home. The present system of inflicting short imprisonments at first, and reserving long imprisonments and transportation for criminals who have plied their [Pg 537]trade of pillage for two or three years, should be abolished. Imprisonment should consist of three kinds:—1. A very short imprisonment, perhaps of a week or ten days, for the youngest criminals and a first trifling offence, intended to terrify merely. 2. For a second offence, however trivial—or a first, if considerable, and indicating an association with professional thieves—a long imprisonment of nine months or a year, sufficient to teach every one a trade, should invariably be inflicted. 3. The criminal who has been thus imprisoned, and taught a trade, should, when next convicted, be instantly transported. In this way a triple advantage would be gained. 1. The immense number of prisoners now constantly in confinement in the British islands would be materially lessened, and the prison-rates proportionally relieved. 2. The cost of now maintaining a convict in one of the public penitentiaries, to prepare him for transportation, not less than £17 or £18, would be almost entirely saved; he would be prepared for it, in the great majority of cases, by his previous imprisonment. 3. The character and habits of the convicts sent out would be materially improved, by getting comparatively young and untainted men for penal labour, instead of old offenders, who have learned no other trade than that of thieving. To the country it would undoubtedly save £60 or £80 on each criminal transported, by removing him at the commencement of his career, when his reformation was possible, instead of waiting till its close, when he had lived for three or four years in flash-houses and prisons at the public expense, paid in depredations or prison rates, and acquired nothing but habits which rendered any change of character abroad difficult, if not impossible. The prisons would become, instead of mere receptacles of vice, great houses of industry, where the most dangerous and burdensome part of our population would be trained for a life of industry and utility in the colonies.

For a similar reason, the great object in poor-houses, houses of refuge, hospitals, and other institutions where the destitute poor children are maintained at the public expense, or that of foundations bequeathed by the piety of former times, should be to prepare the young of both sexes, by previous education, for the habits and duties of colonists; and, when they become adults, to send them abroad at the expense of the public or the institution. Incalculable would be the blessings which would ensue, both to the public morals and the public expenditure, from the steady adoption of this principle. It is a lamentable fact, well known to all practically acquainted with this subject, that a large proportion of the orphan or destitute boys, educated in this manner at the public expense, in public institutions, become thieves, and nearly all the girls prostitutes. It could not be otherwise with young creatures of both sexes, turned out without a home, relation, or friend, shortly after the age of puberty, into the midst of an old and luxurious community, overloaded with labour, abounding in snares, thickly beset with temptations. Removed to Australia, the Cape, or Canada, they might do well, and would prove as great a blessing in those colonies, where labour is dear, women wanted, and land boundless, as they are a burden here, where labour is cheap, women redundant, and land all occupied. Every shilling laid out in the training the youth of both sexes in such situations, for the duties of colonial life, and sending them to it when adults, would save three in future prison or poor rates. A pauper or criminal, costing the nation £15 or £20 a-year, would be converted into an independent man living on his labour, and consuming £7 or £8 worth yearly of the manufactures of his native country.

The number of emigrants who now annually leave the British shores, is above 250,000![14] No such migration of mankind is on record since the days when the Goths and Vandals overthrew the Roman empire, and settled amidst its ruins. It might naturally have been supposed that so prodigious a removal of persons, most of them in [Pg 538]the prime of life, would have contributed in a material degree to lighten the market of labour, and lessen the number of persons who, by idleness or desperation, are thrown into habits of crime. But the result has been just the reverse; and perhaps nothing has contributed so powerfully to increase crime, and augment destitution among the labouring classes of late years, as this very emigration. The reason is evident. It is for the most part the wrong class which has gone abroad. It is the employer, not the employed; the holders of little capitals, not the holders of none. Left to its own unaided resources, emigration could be undertaken only by persons possessed of some funds to pay their passage. It took £100 to transport a family to Australia; £20 or £30 to America. The destitute, the insolvent, the helpless, could not get away, and they fell in overwhelming and crushing multitudes on the parish funds, county rates, and charity of the benevolent at home. Labour became everywhere redundant, because so many of the employers of labour had gone away. The grand object for all real lovers of their country now, should be to induce government or the counties to provide means for the emigration, on a large scale, of destitute labourers, chained by their poverty to the soil. About 150,000 persons have annually emigrated from Ireland for the last three years, carrying with them above half its agricultural capital; and the consequence is, that in many districts the land is uncultivated, and the banknotes in circulation, which, in 1846, were £7,500,000, have sunk in August 1849 to £3,833,000![15] The small cultivators, the employers of the poor, have disappeared, and with them their capital—leaving only to the owners of land a crowd of starving, unemployed labourers, to consume their rents. A million of such starving labourers now oppress the industry of Ireland. Such is the result of agitation at home, and free trade in emigration abroad. The American papers tell us, that each of these starving Irishmen, if strong and healthy, is worth 1000 dollars to the United States. Free-trade emigration can never send them out—it can transport only those who can pay. A large increase of penal emigration, coupled with such a proportionate influx, at the public expense, of free settlers, as would prevent it from becoming an evil, at once solves the transportation question, and is the first step in the right direction in that of Emigration.

[Pg 539]


[1] Prison Report 1848, p. 73.

[2] In 1848, the number committed for serious offences was 73,770.

[3] See the "Increase of Crime, and Imprisonment, and Transportation," Blackwood's Magazine, May and July 1844, vol. lv. p. 532, and vol. lvi. p. 1.

[4] Table showing the number of commitments for serious offences in the undermentioned years in England, Scotland, and Ireland:—

Parliamentary Returns, 1842-8.

* Irish Rebellion.

[5] Brougham's Colonial Policy, i. 61, 62.

[6] Cunningham's New South Wales, i. 262.

[7] Table showing the annual exports of British manufactures to the undermentioned Colonies, from 1828 to 1846.

Years.Canada, &c. Without Convicts.The Cape, Without Convicts.Australia, With Convicts.
Porter's Parliamentary Tables, 1846, p. 121. Exports, per head, to the following countries in 1836.
Population.Exports.Proportion per head.
United States of America,14,000,000£12,425,605£0 17 6
Canada, &c.,1,500,0002,739,2911 16 0
British West India Islands,900,0003,786,4533 12 0
Australia,100,000835,6378 14 0
Porter's Parliamentary Tables.

[8] It now (1849) exceeds 200,000 souls.

[9] Colonial Magazine, i. 431, 433.

[10] While we write these lines, the following advertisement, which appeared in the Times of Oct. 10, will illustrate this vital difference:—

"Emigration.—The undersigned are prepared to forward intending emigrants to every colony now open for colonisation, at the following rates of passage-money:—To Sydney, £15; Melbourne, £15; Adelaide, £15; Swan River, £20; Van Diemen's Land, £20; New Zealand, £18; Cape of Good Hope, £10; Natal, £10; California, £25; New York, £2, 10s.; Philadelphia, £2, 10s.; New Orleans, £3.—Harrison & Co.11 Union Street, Birmingham."

[11] Emigrants from Great Britain and Ireland to Australia and New Zealand:—


Porter's Parliamentary Tables, 1846, p. 236.

[12] Sentenced to be transported—

* Rebellion.

Parliamentary Returns, 1846-8.

[13] At the rate of £7, 14s. a-head—the present rate in Australia.

[14] Viz.:—1847, 258,000; 1848, 248,000; 1849, understood to be still larger.—Parliamentary Reports.

[15] See Dublin University Magazine, October 1849, p. 372.




On the evening of the 13th of February last, I was sitting in my library, at my residence in —— Square, when a double knock at the door announced the postman. Betty presently entered, bringing, not as I anticipated, a letter or two, but a small packet, which evidently excited her curiosity, as it did mine.

The first thing upon the said packet that caught my eye was a large seal of red wax—the royal arms!—then, above the direction, "On Her Majesty's service!"—just beneath, the word, "Medal!" Yes, the medal that I had earned five-and-thirty years before, in the hard-fought fight on the hill of Toulouse—long expected, it was come at last! And, let me tell you, a very handsome medal, too; well designed, well executed; and accompanied with a very civil letter, from that old soldier, and true soldier's friend, Lord Fitzroy Somerset, the military secretary. This letter being, no doubt, precisely the same as hundreds of "Old Peninsulars" have by this time received, I presume I am guilty of no breach of confidence in here transcribing it for the benefit of my readers:—

"Horse-Guards, 31st January 1849.

"Sir,—I am directed by the Commander-in-Chief to transmit to you the Medal and Clasps graciously awarded to you by her Majesty under the general order of the first of June 1847. I have the honour to be, &c.

"Fitzroy Somerset."

As I never attempt to describe my own feelings, except such as are describable, I shall not relate what I now felt on the receipt of this much desired, anxiously expected medal. But this I will say;—long live the Queen! long live Queen Victoria! God bless her! Oh, it was a kind thought: it was a gracious act. It comes to cheer the heart of many an old soldier, and of many a middle-aged gentleman like myself, who got nothing but honour and aching bones for his share in the Peninsular glories; and now has something that he can add to the archives of his family, and leave to those who come after him. "Graciously awarded to you by her Majesty:" Yes; and I feel it as much so, as if her Majesty's own gracious hands had placed it in mine. And, if ever she wants defenders, so long as this arm can wield—but enough: romance would be out of place.

After the delivery of the medals had been proceeding for some time, I was coming, one morning, out of the Horse-Guards, when I met old Major Snaffle, who had just got his. The major belongs to that class who are known in the army by the name of "grumblers;" and, having been knocked down by the wind of a shot at the Trocadero, having been brought away in the last boat but nineteen from Corunna, having seen the battle of Salamanca from the top of a tree, having been seized with the ague but an hour before the storming of Badajoz, having again been very ill in the south of France from eating unripe grapes, having regularly drawn his pay and allowances, and never having been absent from his regiment on sick leave when he could not get it, now justly deems himself a very ill-used man, because more has not been done for him. "Well, major," said I, "I wish you joy. So you have got your medal at last." "Yes," growled the major, or rather grunted, "at last I have got it. Long time, though, six-and-thirty years—long time to wait for half-a-crown."

My own profession, at present, is very different from that of arms. Nor can I presume, having been in but one general action, to rank with those brave old fire-eaters of the Peninsular army, whose medals with many clasps—bar above bar—tell of six, seven, eight, critical combats or more, in which they took a part under the illustrious Wellington, in Portu[Pg 540]gal, in Spain, in the south of France. By the bye, how I should like to see the Duke's own medal! What a lot of bars HE must have!—what a glorious ladder, step rising above step in regular succession, when he sits down to soup in his field-marshal's coat! But I was going to say—to return from great things to small—so far from being able to claim high military honours for myself, though serving under his Grace's orders in the Peninsular war, I was not there at all in a strictly military capacity. Yet as, from this very circumstance, I had opportunities of seeing scenes, characters, and incidents, connected with the British army, of a different kind from those described by other writers on the subject, I am induced, by the arrival of my medal, to place on record a short narrative of my personal adventures in the Peninsula and south of France.

Yet, ere I commence the yarn, a word, one word, for the honoured dead. Many, who came home safe from the Peninsula, fell at Waterloo. Others were borne from the western ports of Europe across the Atlantic, to be marks for Kentucky riflemen and New England bushfighters. Of the survivors, multitudes upon multitudes have gradually dropped off; and those who now remain, of the legions that conquered at Vimeira, at Vittoria, and at Orthes, to receive her Majesty's gracious gift, are probably fewer in number than those who are gone. One "Old Peninsular" I have heard of, in whose own family and connexions, had all lived, there would have been fourteen or fifteen claimants of the medal. He is now, if he still survives, the only one left. In my own connexions we should have made seven; and now, besides myself, there remains only one venerable uncle, who is comfortably located in a snug berth in Canada. There was my honoured father, who received the thanks of parliament for his services at Corunna, and pounded the French batteries at Cadiz. There was my cousin, Tom Impett, of the 53d, whom I found with a musket-ball in his leg two days after the battle of Toulouse, in a house full of wounded men and officers. He died in Canada. There was another venerable uncle, as kind an uncle as ever breathed, and as honest a man as ever lived. He died, to his honour, far from rich, after having been personally responsible for millions upon millions of public money, the sinews of war, all paid away in hard cash for our Peninsular expenses. He was generally known at headquarters by a comical modification of his two Christian names. There was Captain, afterwards Colonel B——, of the Royal Engineers, a quiet, mild-tempered man, with military ardour glowing in his breast—the man of education and the gentleman. We met near the platform of St Cyprien; and he had the kindness to entertain me with a calm disquisition on the fight, while we were both in the thick of it. He had his share of professional employment in the Peninsular sieges, and got a bad wound or two; but lived to fortify Spike Island, and was at length lost at sea. And then there was colonel H——, who commanded a Portuguese brigade with the rank of brigadier-general—an extraordinary composition of waggery, shrewdness, chivalry, and professional talent. He came down to Lisbon while I was there, on his way to England, quite worn out with hard service and the effect of his wounds, or, as he told us himself, "unripped at every seam." He died not many days after, on his passage to England.

Now for myself. I commenced keeping my terms at Trinity College, Cambridge, in the year 1809, the seventeenth of my age. A college life was not altogether my own choice; for nearly all the males of my family, for three generations, had served or were serving their country either in the army, navy, or marines, to the number of some ten or twelve; and I myself had always looked forward to wearing the king's uniform. Moreover, as the Peninsular war had already commenced when I went to college, and I had learned at school the use of the broadsword and small sword, had been drilled, and could handle a musket, my thoughts often turned to military scenes, especially when I read in the daily journals of victories won, first by Sir Arthur Wellesley, then by Lord Wellington. But, once at Cambridge, I caught the[Pg 541] fever of academic emulation. My cousin B—— (brother of the Captain B—— above mentioned,) had been senior wrangler, and had given me some useful hints as to the mode of reading with effect; I read hard, obtained a Trinity scholarship in my first year, first class the same year, ditto the second year, and stood fair for a place among the wranglers. But now my health broke; not, however, from hard living, but from hard study. I was compelled to give up; and, not choosing to read for a middling degree after having been booked for a high one, determined to go out among the hoys. Now my penchant for military adventure returned with full force. I was miserably out of health, with an excellent constitution—in proof of which I always found that I lost ground by nursing, but gained by a rough open-air life. A campaign or two would be just the thing for me. And I beg to offer this suggestion to growing young gentlemen who are sickly, and consequently hipped, as I was. If, with rough living—that is, with much moving about, and constant exposure to the atmosphere—you grow worse, I can give you no comfort; you are a poor creature, take all the care of yourself you can. But if, with the same kind of life, you grow better, stronger, stouter, heartier, saucier, depend upon it, you have some stamina. This was my case. I saw that a sedentary life was not the life I was made for; an active life was the life for me; and my thoughts dwelt more and more on the Peninsula. I rubbed up my French, procured a Gil Blas in Spanish, ditto in Portuguese, a Portuguese and a Spanish grammar, and, for a sick man, made wonderful progress in all the three languages.

But, alas! there was a hitch. I was an only son, and an only child—intended for the law! My dear father had already made me a present, while at school, of Fortescue De Laudibus; and I had already gobbled up a portion of that excellent work—for I was always an omnivorous reader—and had digested it too. And then what would my dear mother say, if I talked to her about going to be shot at for the benefit of my health? It was a delicate point to manage, and how to manage it I knew not.

In the long vacation of 1812, which closed my third year at Trinity College, Cambridge, I brought matters to an explanation. My father's ship, the——, 74, was then in the Downs, and we had lodgings on Walmer beach. I stated my desire to enter the army, and my firm conviction that nothing else would restore my shattered constitution. But my father was inflexible, my mother answered all my arguments, and I saw that I had no chance.

But when one way of gaining an object fails, another sometimes presents itself. My two uncles, of whom I have spoken, were already in the Peninsula, both of them in the same department, the senior at the head of it, with the privilege of occasionally nominating his own clerks. Their friends in England heard from them now and then; and I saw a letter from my senior uncle to a particular old crony of his own, who had influential connexions, asking him why he did not come out to the army with the rank of A. D. P. M. G.,[16] instead of staying at home, and eating roast pig for supper.

Like all the hipped, a miserable race, I was constantly thinking about myself; and now a happy thought struck me. As to parliamentary interest, to be sure I had none. Besides, being under one-and-twenty, I was not of an age to aspire to an officer's rank, in a department of so much responsibility as the paymaster-general's; therefore, the above standing of assistant-deputy, which put an epaulet on the shoulder at once, was not to be thought of. But then, if Buonaparte would only have the kindness to keep us in hot water two or three years longer, I might rise to the said rank by previous good conduct in the office of clerk, and that my uncle could get me at once.

[Pg 542]

I again broke ground with my honoured parents. My father assured me that, if I went to Lisbon, where he had been stationed with his ship, I should find it a hell upon earth: though I afterwards learned that he had contrived to spend a tolerably happy life there. "And as to your being attached to headquarters, and following the movements of the army, I," said he, "have seen quite enough of service ashore to be able to tell you that you will be soon sick of that." But, to cut the story short, my dear mother now began to incline to my view of the subject. To be sure a clerkship was not exactly what they had thought of for me—but it might lead to something better—no man's education was complete without a tour on the Continent—the usual tour through France, Italy, and the south of Germany, was rendered impossible by the war—and where, in all Europe, could a young man travel, except in Spain and Portugal? Fighting, and paying those who fought, were different things—I might keep out of the way of bullets, and yet contrive to see the world. In short, these arguments prevailed. A letter was written out to my uncle, begging him to write a letter to the head office in London, nominating me as one of his clerks for Peninsular service. I went back to Cambridge, attacked Spanish and Portuguese with renewed ferocity, took my degree of A. B., and returned home in the early part of 1813, just in time to meet a letter from the best of uncles, stating that he had written to the home authorities, and was anxiously expecting my valuable assistance in the Peninsula.

Nothing was now wanting but the nomination from London. That anxious month! Morning after morning I watched for the postman's knock; and, at every such summons, it was myself that opened the door to him. But great bodies move slowly, and official dignity delights to announce itself by tardiness of action. At length the wished-for communication arrived; a letter, "On His Majesty's Service," of no common magnitude; a seal of correspondent amplitude; and an intimation, in terms of stately brevity, that I was appointed a clerk of the military chest attached to the Peninsular army, and was to attend at the office in London to receive my instructions.

During that month the bustle of preparation, in our usually quiet domicile, had been immense. Stockings sufficient to set up a Cheapside hosier, shirts enough for a voyage to India, flannel commensurate with a visit to the North Pole—everything, in short, that could be thought of, was prepared for the occasion with kind and provident care. I said farewell, reached London, reported myself, got my orders and an advance, booked my place for Falmouth, and found myself the same evening a passenger to Exeter by the fast coach.

In those times, the journey from London to Falmouth by the fast coach was a light off-hand affair of two nights and two days. We reached Exeter on the second night, and there I was allowed the indulgence of three hours' bed, till the Falmouth coach was ready to start. As part of the said three hours was occupied in undressing and dressing, and part also in saying my prayers, I entered the new vehicle far more disposed for sleep than for conversation. But there I found, to my consternation, a very chatty passenger, perfectly fresh! He was a man of universal information—in short, a talented individual, and an intellectual character; had his own ideas upon morals, politics, theology, physics, metaphysics, and general literature; was particularly anxious to impart them; and was travelling to obtain orders in the rum and hollands line. Ah, what a night was that! Oh the dismal suffering which a prosy talker inflicts on a weary head! Of all nuisances, the most unconscious is the bore. I do think the Speaker of the House of Commons is the most ill-used man in the three kingdoms. Reflect: he must not only hear—he must listen! And then think what a time!—hour after hour, and day after day! For a period amounting, in the aggregate, to no small portion of the life of man, must that unfortunate victim of British institutions sit and hearken to

"Now a louder, now a weaker,
Now a snorter, now a squeaker;
How I pity Mr Speaker!"

Some portion of such suffering I my[Pg 543]self was now compelled to endure, by my communicative friend in the Falmouth coach. To be sure, it was only a single proser; but then there was variety in one. He commenced by a few remarks on the weather, by which he introduced a disquisition on meteorology. He then passed, by an easy transition, to the question of secondary punishments; glanced at the theory of gravitation; dwelt for some time on heraldry; touched on hydrostatics; was large on logarithms; then digressed on the American war; proposed emendations of our authorised version; discussed the Neptunian theory; and at length suspended his course, to inform me that I was decidedly the most agreeable fellow-traveller he had ever met with. The fact is, I was sitting up all this time in the corner of the coach, in a state of agony and indignation indescribable, meditating some mode of putting a stop to the annoyance, and mentally seeking a solution to the question—What right has a very stupid person to make your brain a thoroughfare for his stupid ideas, especially when you would particularly like to go to sleep? He mistook my silence for attention, and thought he was appreciated. This went on till daylight—continued to breakfast-time—proceeded during breakfast—ceased not when we had re-entered the coach-talk, talk, talk, de omnibus rebus et quibusdam aliis—still the same stream of stuff. That long, that dreary journey from Exeter to Falmouth! The soft lull of somnolency came at length to my relief; and I began to nod my assent, much to my tormentor's gratification. But presently I was dead asleep; and, most unfortunately, my head dropped forward into the pit of his stomach. The breath, knocked out of his body, escaped with a gasp, like an Indian's "ugh!" In a moment I was broad awake, and made a thousand apologies, which he politely accepted, and renewed the thread of his discourse. Again, I dropped off; and again my head dropped forward. Another "ugh!" another ocean of apologies, another resumption of the endless yarn. The other passengers, two sedate and remarkably silent gentlemen of Falmouth, in broad-brimmed hats and drab coats of a peculiar cut, had each his weather-eye open, and began to enjoy the joke amazingly. Gradually, once more, the incessant clack subsided in my ears to a pleasing hum; I was off; the cervical, dorsal, and lumbar muscles once more lost their tension beneath the narcotic influence of incessant sound; and my drowsy head gave a pitch as before, with the same results—"ugh!"—apologies unlimited—ditto accepted—and more yarn. The Quakers—I beg their pardon, the "Friends"—are, you must know, eminently humourists. This, please to take notice, arises from their superior intelligence, and high degree of mental culture; the result of which is high susceptibility. You might now have seen, in our two fellow-travellers in the Falmouth coach, what you would see nowhere but in their "connexion"—two men ready to die of laughing, and each looking as grave as a judge. For a few miles it went on. Talk—sleep—head pitched into bread-basket—"ugh!"—pungent and profound regrets—regrets accepted—talk recommenced—and so on with a perpetual da capo. At length the most gifted of gratuitous lecturers began to perceive that he was contributing to the amusement of the party in a way that he had not intended, and grew indignant. But I pacified him, as we drove into Falmouth, by politely soliciting a card of his house; stepped out of the coach into the coffee-room of the hotel, out of the coffee-room into bed as soon as it was ready, and made up for two sleepless nights by not coming down to breakfast till two o'clock the next day.

The Lisbon packet was not to sail for a week. My extra baggage arrived in due time by the heavy; and I occupied the interval, as best I could, in a pedestrian survey of the environs of Falmouth, walks to Truro, Pendennis Castle, &c. I was much delighted with clouted cream, and gave the landlady an unlimited order always to let me have a john dory for dinner, when there was one in the market. N.B.—No place like Falmouth for john dories. Clouted cream always ask for, when you go into the West—very good with tea, not bad with coffee; and mem., unimpeachable with apple-pie.

[Pg 544]

The packet, that was to have the honour of conveying me from Falmouth to Lisbon, was a little tub of a gun-brig, yclept the Princess Wilhelmina. Judging from her entire want of all the qualities requisite for the service on which she was employed, I presume she must have obtained the situation through some member of parliament. Her captain was laid up with the gout; and we were to be commanded by the mate, who turned out to be a Yankee, and an ugly customer; but more of him anon. At the same hotel where I had established my habitat, was a military party, three in number, waiting, like myself, for the sailing of the packet; yet not, like myself, men fresh in the service, but all three regular "Peninsulars"—men who had returned on leave from the British army, and were now about to join, in time for the opening of the campaign. They had established themselves in a front drawing-room on the first floor, seemed very fond of music, and had good voices. But as they always sang together, and each sang his own song, it was not easy to determine the vocal powers of each. The coffee-room was quite good enough for me; and there I had the honour of forming the acquaintance of another fellow-voyager that was to be—a partner in a large London house in the Manchester line, whom, to avoid personality, I beg leave to distinguish by the name of Gingham. He had many of the peculiarities of Cockneyism, and some that were entirely his own; but I found him a very pleasant companion, and we perambulated the town and neighbourhood in company.


My first chapter brought me, on my way to Portugal, as far as the Royal Hotel, Falmouth. At this stage of my travels, I must beg to detain the reader for a short space; for here it is that I may be said to have had my seasoning; here, in fact, I obtained my first introduction to military society, and to military life, as it prevailed at the British headquarters in the Peninsula. This advantage I gained by falling in with the party of "Peninsulars" already mentioned, who were on their way out, like myself. I must also make my readers better acquainted with my friend Gingham, whom I hope they will not dislike on further knowledge. Gingham and I afterwards campaigned in company. I must premise that he had a touch of romance; and, as I afterwards discovered, had not been brought up as a merchant.

It was the early spring of 1813: a year big with events of import to Spain, to France, to England, and, in fact, to the whole of Europe. On leaving London by the fast coach, we had bowled away over frozen roads. But at Falmouth, the trees were budding in the hedgerows, the sun was shining, the birds were singing; while the soft air stole gently by, and, whispering, sportively saluted us as it passed, like some coy nymph invisible—that idea was Gingham's—the sky was clear, and the haze danced in the sunshine on the distant hills—Gingham again. Towards the afternoon, it generally fell calm. The capacious harbour, smooth as glass, though gently undulating at its entrance, with the swell of the Atlantic that rolled lazily in, bore on its bosom not only the tub-like Princess Wilhelmina and her Yankee mate, but many a noble vessel of ampler tonnage, that showed no water-line in the transparent and silent mirror on which it floated, and seemed to hang suspended between earth and heaven, motionless in the sun-lit and misty ether.

A very odd fish was that Gingham. We enjoyed our walks amazingly. He was going out to Lisbon in a large way, on a mission of mercantile speculation, with full authority from his firm to do anything and everything, whether in the way of contracts for the army, buying up commissariat bills, engaging in monetary transactions, or, above all—for that was his chief object—forming a Peninsular connexion, and opening a new market for British goods. His was, indeed, a voyage of enterprise and of discovery; not, however, his first. His manners were precise. He was a higgler in[Pg 545] little things, but had large ideas, and lots of gentlemanly feeling. Like many other Cockneys of those days, he was always dressed, and always conscious of being dressed. His hat was white, with the exception of the interior green of the brim, which matched with his spectacles. His gloves were white, his unmentionables were white, and so was his waistcoat. His white cravat was tied before in a sort of pilot-balloon, or white rosicrucian puff. His hair also was pomatum'd, and powdered white. His very pigtail, all but the narrow silk ribbon that held it together, was white. His coat was not white, but a light pepper-and-salt, approaching to white. On the whole, there was so much white in his general appearance, that on board the packet he at once received the name of "the white man." He was generally well-informed, but particularly so in matters of commerce. Our intimacy increased rapidly, and I afterwards, indeed very soon, found the advantage of it. He was naturally of a communicative disposition, while he had much to communicate that was worth knowing. In me he found a willing hearer; for I was glad to receive any kind of useful information. With the prospect before us of a campaign in common, we soon knocked up a sort of friendship.

Gingham could do the handsome thing. Two days before our embarkation he insisted on my dining with him—taking my chop with him, he called it—in return for half a beefsteak, which he had accepted from me at breakfast, his own being delayed. I entered the coffee-room at the appointed hour; but was ushered up stairs into a private room with some degree of ceremony by the waiter, who, I observed, had on gloves, knees, silk stockings, and pumps.

Gingham was there. He had ordered a regular spread. We sat down. The landlord, who had not hitherto made himself visible, emerged on this festive occasion, brought in the soup, bowed, and retired. Gingham said grace. The soup excellent: it was turtle! "Capital turtle!" said I; "had no idea that anything half so good was to be had in all Falmouth." "Always take a small stock when I travel," said Gingham; "got a dozen three-quart cases from Cornhill. Just found room for it in my travelling store-closet." "Travelling store-closet!" thought I: "what a capital fellow to campaign with!"

Soup removed. Re-enter landlord, attended by waiter. John dory, in compliment to me, splendid. Large soles, fried. "I despise the man that boils a sole," said Gingham. It was despicable, I admitted. "My dear sir," said he, "allow me to lay down a principle, which you will find useful as long as you live. With boiled fish—turbot, for instance, or john dory—always take sauce. You did quite right, in allowing me to help you to sauce just now. But with fried fish, at least with fried sole—this, for instance—never, never permit sauce or melted butter to be put upon your plate." It was a manœuvre to get me to try the sole, after the john dory. "Fried sole without butter?" said I. "Try it my way," said Gingham, helping me: "take some salt—that's right—now put to that a modicum of cayenne—there—a little more—don't be afraid of putting enough—cayenne, though hot, is not heating, like common pepper—now mix them well together with the point of your knife." I obeyed implicitly. "Now then," said Gingham, with a look of exultation, "TRY THAT." I tried it; and owned that I had never known, till then, the right way of eating fried sole. It was excellent, even after the john dory. Try it, only try it, the first time a fried sole appears on the dinner table, under which are your legs.

A peculiar sound at the side-table now announced that he of the pumps was opening a bottle of champagne. Up to that moment we had managed to put up with Madeira, which was the fashionable dinner wine in those days. N.B.—Good wine to be got at Falmouth. It comes direct from abroad, not viâ London.

Fish removed. Door opens. Though rejoicing in those days in a very fair appetite, I was rather alarmed, after such a commencement of our humble meal, at the thought of what might be coming. But Gingham had a delicacy of taste, which never overdid things.[Pg 546] Enter once more the landlord, bearing an elegant little saddle of Dartmoor mutton, and audibly whispering to the waiter, "Boiled fowls and tongue to follow." I commenced this history with a resolution to conceal nothing; therefore, away with reserve: both mutton, fowls, and tongue were excellent. "A little more Madeira, Mr Y—," said Gingham. The currant jelly had distasted my mouth. I merely put the glass to my lips, and set it down again. Gingham observed, and at once discovered the reason. "Take a mouthful of potato," said Gingham, "the hottest you can find in the dish." My taste was restored. Table cleared again. I hoped the next entrée would be the cheese and celery.

During the short armistice, Gingham, who delighted to communicate useful knowledge, resumed the subject of the potato. Like all merchants who pay frequent visits to the Peninsula—and Gingham had been there often—he was knowing in wines, and in everything vinous. "Yes," said he, "nothing like a mouthful of hot potato to make you taste wine. There are lots of things besides, but none equal to that. The invention is my own."

"Then," replied I, "I presume you use it at Oporto and Xeres, when you make purchases?"

"Why, not exactly that neither," said he. "The worst of it is, it makes all wine relish alike, bad as well as good. Now, in buying wine, you want something to distinguish the good wine from the bad. And for this purpose—" The landlord and waiter reappeared.

"Sorry, Mr Y—, there is no game," said Gingham. "Fine jack hare in the larder this morning, but rather late in the season. Wouldn't have it. Can you finish off with one or two light things in the French way?"

"My dear sir, my dear sir!"

The table was this time covered with such a display of pâtisserie, macaroni, and made dishes, as would have formed of itself a very handsome petit souper for half-a-dozen people. Gingham wanted me to try everything, and set me an example.

The whole concluded, and the cloth about to be removed, "Mr Gingham," said I, "you said grace before dinner, and I think I ought to say grace now." The waiter drew up reverently with his back to the sideboard, adjusted his neckcloth, and tightened with his right hand the glove upon his left.

We sat sipping our wine, and nibbling at a very handsome dessert. I wanted to know more about distinguishing good wine from bad.

"I have made large purchases of wine on commission," said Gingham, "for private friends; and that, you know, is a delicate business, and sometimes a thankless one. But I never bought a bad lot yet; and if they found fault with it, I wouldn't let them have it—kept it myself, or sold it for more in the market."

"You were just on the point," said I, "of mentioning a method of distinguishing good wine from bad."

"Well," replied he, "those fellows there, on the other side of the Bay of Biscay, have methods innumerable. After all, taste, judgment, and experience must decide. The Oporto wine-merchants, who know what they are about, use a sort of silver saucer, with its centre bulging upwards. In this saucer they make the wine spin round. My plan is different."

"I should like to know it," said I.

"Well, sir," said he, "mix with water—two-thirds water to one-third wine. Then try it."


"If there is any bad taste in the wine, the mixing brings it out. Did you never notice in London, even if the port or sherry seems passable alone, when you water it the compound is truly horrid, too nauseous to drink?"

"The fact is, though a moderate man, I am not very fond of watering wine."

"The fact is," continued Gingham, "there is very little good wine to be got in London, always excepting such places, for instance, as the Chapter. When you return, after having tasted wine in the wine countries, you will be of my opinion. Much that you get is merely poor wine of the inferior growths, coloured, flavoured, and dressed up with bad brandy for the London market. That sort comes from abroad. And much that you[Pg 547] get is not wine at all, but a decoction; a vile decoction, sir; not a drop of wine in its composition. That sort is the London particular." I felt that I was receiving ideas.

"Now, sir," said Gingham, "my cold-water test detects this. If what you get for wine is a decoction, a compound, and nothing but a compound, no wine in it, then the water—about two-thirds to one-third—detects the filthy reality. Add a lump or two of sugar, and you get as beastly a dose of physic as was ever made up in a doctor's shop."

"Just such a dose," I replied, "as I remember getting, now you mention it, as I came down here by the fast coach, at an inn where I asked, by way of a change, for a glass of cold white-wine negus. The slice of lemon was an improvement, having done duty before in a glass of gin punch."

"Shouldn't wonder," said Gingham. "And if what you buy for port or sherry be not absolutely a decoction, but only inferior wine made up, then the water equally acts as a detective. For the dilution has the effect of separating, so to speak, the respective tastes of the component parts—brings them out, sir; and you get each distinct. You get, on the one hand, the taste of the bad brandy, harsh, raw, and empyreumatic: and you get, on the other hand, the taste of the poor, paltry wine, wretched stuff, the true vinho ordinario flavour, that makes you think at once of some dirty roadside Portuguese posada, swarming with fleas."

"But what if you water really good wine?"

"Why, then," said Gingham, "the flavour, though diluted, is still the flavour of good wine."

"I should like," said I, "to be knowing in wines."

Seeing in me a willing learner, he was about to open. But at this moment the mail drove into the yard of the hotel; and, knowing that Gingham was always ravenous for the London journals on their first arrival, I insisted on our going down into the public room, taking a cup of coffee, and reading the papers. We had talked about wines; but, being neither of us topers, had taken only a moderate quantum suff., though all of the best kind. Gingham, out of compliment to me, wished to prolong the sitting. But, knowing his penchant for a wet newspaper, I was inflexible. We rose from the table.

I felt that I had been handsomely entertained, and that something handsome ought to be said. The pleasing consciousness, however, of having eaten a good dinner, though it excited my finest feelings, did not confer the faculty of expressing them. I began:

"Sir, Mr Gingham; I feel we ought not to leave this room, till I have expressed the emotions—" Then, taking a new departure, "Really, sir, your kind hospitality to a comparative stranger—"

"Well, sir," said Gingham, laughing, "I will tell you how it was. Do you remember your first breakfast in the coffee-room, the day after your arrival by the mail? I was present, and enjoyed it amazingly."

"Oh, sir! oh, sir!" said I, a leetle taken aback; "really I was enormously hungry. In fact I had eaten nothing during my two days' previous journey; and was so sleepy on my arrival, that I got to bed as fast as I could, without thinking of ordering supper. And when I came down next morning, or rather afternoon, why, to tell you the truth, I made it breakfast and dinner in one; and perhaps I did seem a little savage in my first onset on the Falmouth—"

"No, NO, NO!" exclaimed Gingham, interrupting me. "That was not it. No, NO, NO! far from it. My dear sir, you merely disposed of two or three plates of ham and eggs; then a few muffins, with about half-a-dozen basins of tea. After that—let me see—after that, to the best of my recollection—after that, you took nothing, no, nothing, but the mutton chops. No, sir, it was not the quantity. I have often made as hearty a meal myself; and, if we campaign together, I trust we shall often make as hearty a meal together. Nothing like campaigning for an appetite. No, sir; that was not it. It was your manner of taking it."

"My manner of taking it? Really! And pray what did you see in my manner of taking it?"

"Sir," said Gingham, with emotion, "I know this house. I have[Pg 548] long used this house. Everything in this house is good. The accommodation is good. The attendance is good. The wine is good. The dinners are good. The breakfasts are good. Now, sir, I have seen some persons conduct themselves in this house in a manner that filled me with scorn, disgust, and indignation. They arrive by the London mail, sir, as you did, and go to bed. In the morning they come down into the public room, and order breakfast. They breakfast, not like you, my dear sir, very moderately, but enormously. That I could forgive; after a long journey it is excusable. But, sir, what I cannot tolerate is this: They find fault with everything. The tea is bad; the coffee is bad. They take up the silver cream-jug; examine the clouted cream; smell to it—yes, sir; they actually smell to it—and smelling to anything, I need not say, is as great a bêtise as a man can commit at table—ask the waiter what he means by bringing them such stuff as that; and, before they have done, gobble up the whole, and perhaps call for more."

"Call for more? Why, that, I think, is exactly what I did."

"Yes, my dear sir," said Gingham, "you enjoyed it; and you took a pretty good lot of it; but you did not find fault with it. Not so the people I am talking of. The fact is, sir, we Londoners have a great idea of keeping up our dignity. These persons wish to pass for people of importance; and they think importance is announced by finding fault. Item, they are enormously, indecently hungry, and fully intend to make a breakfast for two, but wish to do it surreptitiously. On the arrival of the beefsteak, they turn round the dish, and look at it contemptuously, longing, all the while, to fall to. Yes, sir, they turn round the dish two or three times; then stick their fork into the steak, and turn it over and over; perhaps hold it up, suspended by a single prong, and examine it critically; and end all by pushing away their plate, drawing the dish into its place, and bolting the whole beefsteak, without taking time to masticate. Sir, there was a man in that coffee-room this morning, who grumbled at everything, and ate like a dog. In short, they clear the table of eatables and drinkables; then call the waiter, and reproach him, with a savage look, for bringing them a tough beefsteak; and, in a plaintive voice, like ill-used men, inquire if there is any cold meat-pie."

I owned, from personal observation in the public room, to the general correctness of this sketch.

"Now you, sir," continued Gingham, "enjoyed your breakfast, and made a good one; but found fault with nothing; because, I presume, there was nothing to find fault with. I like to see a man enjoy his meals. And if he does, I like to see him show it. It is one of the tokens by which I judge of character. Your conduct, my dear sir, commanded my respect. Shall I say more? It won my esteem. Then and there my resolution was formed, to invite you, at the first convenient opportunity, to partake of my humble hospitality."

It was too much. I extended my fist. A shaking of hands, of some continuance—cordial on my part, and evidently so on Gingham's, by the pain I felt in my shoulder.

"Well, sir," said Gingham, "I had already learned that you were a passenger for the Peninsula. I was a passenger for the Peninsula; and, as we were to sail together, and probably to campaign together, I resolved to introduce myself. I said, this lad—I beg your pardon, this youth—excuse me, this gentleman, this young gentleman—for I guess you have some ten years the advantage of me in that respect—this gentleman is, like myself, bound for the headquarters of the Peninsular army. I know something of campaigning; he knows nothing. We campaign together."

"Well now," said I, "that is just what I should like amazingly."

Gingham now took the initiative, and put forth his paw. Again we tackled, and, in the true pump-handle style, so dear to Englishmen, expressed mutual cordiality: only that this time, being better prepared, I reversed the electric stream, and brought tears into Gingham's eyes. He sung out, "Oh!" and rubbed his arm.

[Pg 549]

"The rest," said Gingham, "is easily told. After breakfast you walked out into the court-yard, lit a cigar, and stood on the steps. I lit another, followed, and had the pleasure of making your acquaintance."

I gave audible expression to my profound self-congratulations.

"Allow me, however, to add," said Gingham, "you raised yourself greatly in my esteem by asking the waiter for a red herring. The request evinced a superiority to vulgar prejudices. Your way of putting it, too, was in perfect good keeping: for you did not commit yourself by ordering a red herring; but asked whether you could have one in the coffee-room. Believe me, I was pained, when he stated that red herrings were not permitted; and could but admire your self-denial, in accepting, as a substitute, the mutton-chops."

We adjourned to the public room.

Gingham had entertained me hospitably and handsomely. Yet this was the same Gingham who, when I made him take part of my beefsteak at breakfast, because his own was delayed, proposed that we should desire the waiter to tell the landlady to charge only half a beefsteak to me, and half a beefsteak to him, Gingham. My rejection of this proposal was the immediate occasion of the dinner, at which the reader has just been present.

While we were eviscerating the papers, fresh from London, Gingham leaned over the table, with the air of a man who had something important to communicate. He looked me earnestly in the face.

"Mr Y——," said he, "what do you say—to a red herring—this evening—for supper?"

"Thank you. You must excuse me. Nothing more to-night, but one cup of coffee, and perhaps a cigar. Not even an anchovy toast. I really couldn't."

"Well, then," said Gingham, "to-morrow at breakfast. We will engage a room up stairs, and ask leave of nobody. I have brought down a small barrel from London—always take some when I visit the Peninsula—get them in Lower Thames Street. You will pronounce them excellent."

The offer was too good to be declined.

Next morning we ordered breakfast up stairs. Indeed, a fire had been lit in one of the parlours, by Gingham's directions; and there I found him, with the table laid, and the herrings ready for cooking. Gingham had secured a small Dutch oven; not with the design of baking the herrings—no, no, he knew better than that—but to keep them hot when done. The doing he reserved to himself, on the plea of experience. I was not to assist, except in eating them.

"Do you understand cookery, Mr Y—?" said Gingham.

I ingenuously owned my deficiency in that branch of education, which is no part of the Cambridge curriculum.

"Three months at headquarters," said he, "will make you an excellent cook."

It so happened that the parlour, in which we had located ourselves for the purpose of cooking our herrings, was not that in which we had dined the day before, but one adjoining the larger apartment occupied by the three military gentlemen, with whom we were to cross the Bay of Biscay. A boarding, removable at pleasure, was the only separation between the two rooms. We had not yet become acquainted.

Shortly after I joined Gingham, two of the three entered their parlour; presently the third followed. They rang the bell, and ordered breakfast, all in high good humour, and talking incessantly. We were not listeners, but could not help hearing every word that was said.

"Good blow-out that, yesterday."—"Pity we didn't know of it sooner; might as well have dined with them."—"Turtle, too."—"'Pon your honour?"—"Turtle, and lots of champagne. Caught the waiter swigging off the end of a bottle in the passage."—"Who are they?"—"Don't know; can't make them out. Both going out with us in the packet, though."—"Think I remember seeing the white fellow at Cadiz; almost sure I did; and afterwards again at Madrid. Always wore his hair in that way, well floured and larded, except when it[Pg 550] was too hot, and combed down straight on each side of his ugly face."—"What a nose! Prodigious! A regular proboscis."—"Yes, and all on one side, like the rudder of a barge."—"Let me tell you, a very good thing; for if it was straight, it would be always in his way."—"Always in his way? Why it would trip him up when he walked."—Omnes, "Ha, ha, ha."—"Going with us, do you say? Hope he don't snore. Why, such a tromba as that would keep a whole line-of-battle ship awake."—"Bet you a dollar he's blind of one eye."—"Done." "Done. Book it, major."—"I'll trouble you for a dollar. He does walk a little sideways, but it isn't his eye."—"What is it, then? One-eyed people always walk sideways."—"Why, I'll tell you, now. It's a principle which most people observe through life."—"What principle?"—"Guess."—"Come, tell us, old fellow. None of your nonsense."—"D'ye give it up?"—"Yes, I give it up. Come, tell us."—"Follow your nose."—Omnes, "Ha, ha, ha."—"Capital! capital! That's the best we've had for some time. Follow your nose! Capital! Ha, ha, ha."—"Well, that's it, depend upon it. Other people follow their noses by walking straight forward. That white fellow walks sideways, but still follows his nose."—"No, no, major. Your theory is fallacious. When he walks his nose points backwards. His nose points over his left shoulder, and he walks right shoulders forward." I looked at Gingham, and laughed. Gingham was looking rather grave, and feeling his nose. "No, no. I tell you he walks left shoulders forward."—"Bet you a dollar."—"Done."—"Done. Book it, major."—"I'll trouble you for a dollar. Saw him this morning, all in a bustle. Took particular notice of his nose."—"Who is the young chap?"—"Oh, he's a regular Johnny Newcome, that's evident."—"Johnny Newcome? Yes; but I wish he wasn't such a chap for john dories. Price in the market is doubled." Gingham laughed and looked at me. "Suppose he's a sub going out to join his regiment."—"No, no. Got such lots of baggage. No regimental officer would be ass enough to take such a heap of trunks. Load for three mules."—"He'll soon knock up. Those long fellows always knock up."—"Shouldn't wonder if he gets the fever next autumn. Then what will his mammy say?"—"Well, but what did they dine about? Thousand pities we did not join them."—"Oh, I suppose it was something of a parting feed; taking leave of Old England, you know: toasting Miss Ann Chovy, Miss Mary Gold, Miss Polly Anthus, and all that kind of thing."—"Hang it all; a good dinner for eight people; thousand pities we missed it."

By this time, our cookery was proceeding in due course. Two splendid bloaters, whole, lay extended where chestnuts are roasted; while two more, split open, hung suspended from a large toasting-fork, held by Gingham, who told me to look and learn, but not to meddle. With a clear bright fire, they soon began to spit. Nor was there wanting another token of our operations. For now the savoury odour of four red herrings, simultaneously under a brisk process of culinary preparation, diffused itself through the apartment, and no doubt through the whole hotel, from the cellar to the attics. The effect on our friends in the next room was instantaneous. Conversation ceased. Then there was a deal of sniffing—then audible whispering and suppressed laughter—then again, a dead silence. Gingham and I exchanged looks. "We must be acquainted," said Gingham, quietly; "and the sooner the better." I saw he had made up his mind, and was prepared for what was about to take place. Then the conversation was heard a little louder, but not distinguishable. There was evidently a council of war. Much laughter. Then, audibly spoken, "Are you fond of herrings?"—"Very; capital for breakfast."—"So am I, very; that is, of red herrings. Fresh, can't endure them."—"Nor I; they have such a horrid SMELL. But a bloater,—often dined off them up the country; didn't we, major?"—"Oh yes, lots of times. But you were moderate. Never could manage above half-a-dozen at a sitting."—"Ring for the waiter."—"No, no; nonsense. Major M—, YOU." After a moment's pause, one of the party left the room; walked, appa[Pg 551]rently to the end of the passage; then walked back again; opened our door; entered, and politely apologised for the mistake. He was a middle-aged, well-built, gentlemanly-looking man, with bonhomie beaming in his countenance, and came at once to business. His eye dropped upon the herrings.

"Beg ten thousand pardons. Oh! I see it's here. We perceived that bloaters were frying somewhere in the house, and thought we should like to try a few. Will you have the kindness to inform me where they can be procured? Didn't know there was a single bloater in all Falmouth."

I, in my simplicity, thought the major was really asking for information, and was going to tell him of several shops where I had seen bloaters; but Gingham was too quick for me.

"Here is a barrel-full," said Gingham, pointing to the corner of the room. "Shall be most happy to supply you and your friends with any quantity. Do me the favour to accept of two or three dozen."

"Oh no, sir," said Major M—, drawing up, as if he had been misunderstood. The major was playing a higher game. "Couldn't think of such a thing. Thought you had procured them in the town."

"Indeed, sir," said Gingham, "I don't think the town contains their equals. They are from London direct. Always take a small barrel with me when I visit the Peninsula. Get them in Lower Thames Street."

"Really, a most excellent idea," said Major M—. "I wish I had done the same. Well, I think I never will return to headquarters again without taking a barrel of red herrings." The Major cast a sort of domesticated look about the room, as if he felt quite at home with us.

"Go it, Major!" said an opening in the partition, sotto voce.

"Come, Major," said Gingham, "I see you and the gentlemen your companions are old campaigners. So am I. Suppose we waive ceremony. You see we have got our cooking apparatus all ready. Suppose—do us the favour—excuse the shortness of the invitation—I shall be delighted, and so will my friend here, if you and your party will oblige us with your company to breakfast."

"Yes, yes, Major," said the crevice, as before. "Yes, Major, yes," said another crevice.

"Really, sir," said the Major, with an admirably assumed look of polite embarrassment, and turning a deaf ear to his two prompters behind the scenes—"really, sir, I hardly know how to thank you sufficiently for your obliging invitation. But—shall we not intrude? You meant to breakfast in private. You have, perhaps, business? Matters to arrange, preparatory to the voyage?"

"None in the world, sir," said Gingham, "till after breakfast. Our only business here is to cook our bloaters and eat them, which we could not do in the public room below. Do, pray, oblige us by negotiating this little affair, Major, and persuade your friends to favour us with their company."

The Major, in fact, was negotiating already; and a capital negotiator he made. He might, had he pleased, have walked off, at an earlier stage of the proceedings, with a whole pile of herrings; and even that, at college, we should have thought a capital coup. But the Major was not so green.

"Well, sir, since you are so very pressing, I shall have the pleasure of communicating to my comrades your kind invitation; and I presume," he added, bowing politely to me, "I may also have the honour of saying, the invitation of your friend, Captain Y—."

I bowed in return, too much taken by surprise to disclaim the rank so unexpectedly conferred; and a little sore at being saluted "captain," by the same voice which I had heard, just before, proclaiming aloud, that if I was a regimental officer I was an ass. The Major bowed again; backed out of the room, still bowing, and closed the door.

The remaining negotiation was not of long continuance. His two friends were already in the passage, hard by the entrance of our apartment. A dead silence—one irrepressible burst of laughter, instantly hushed—again dead silence—a tap at the door—door opened by Gingham—and enter the three Peninsulars.

[Pg 552]

I really could not help admiring the perfectly free and easy, but at the same time quiet, self-possessed, and gentlemanly style of their entrée, and of their bearing during the first few moments of our interview. Gingham expressed his gratification; was happy to see them. Advancing on their right flank, taking up a central position, and then facing to the left, "Allow me," said the major, "to avail myself of my brief priority of acquaintance, and to introduce—Captain Gabion, of the Royal Engineers," (bowing, on both sides)—"and Mr Commissary Capsicum," (more bowing,)—"half-brothers, I need not say—the family likeness is so striking." Gingham presented Mr Y—. Mr Y—(booby!) presented Gingham.

"Not very striking that family likeness, though," thought I, of course taking seriously what the wag of a major spoke with perfect seriousness. The captain of the Engineers was a pale-looking man, buttoned up to the chin in his regulation frock-coat, rather above the common height, air military and symmetrical. Education had traced on his countenance the lines of thought; and, in short, his whole appearance was a little aristocratic, and what we now call distingué. His "half-brother," the commissary, on the contrary, who appeared at least twelve years his senior, was a short, pursy, puffy man; with a full, rubicund, oleaginous, and pimpled visage; a large, spongy, purple blob of a nose, its broad lower extremity pendulous, and slightly oscillatory when he moved; a humorous twinkle in his eye, which was constantly on the range in search of fun; two black, bushy tufts for eyebrows; his hair distributed over his ample pericranium in large detached flocks, each flock growing a way of its own, and no two alike; coat flying open; waistcoat open, all but the two bottom buttons; a bull neck, with very little cravat; and a profuse display of shirt and frill. His shirt and frill, imperfectly closed, revealed his grizzly chest; while his nether extremities were set off to great advantage by a pair of tight blue kerseymere pantaloons with a scarlet stripe; and something—I suppose, as bustles were not then the fashion, it must have been his tailors' clumsiness—imparted a peculiar breadth and bulge to the tail of his coat. He wore splendid gaiters of bright nankeen, with mother-of-pearl buttons. No ceremony when gentlemen meet. We were all quite at home in a moment.

There was a little hitch. All the party were quite of one mind and will, in the project and purpose of cooking and eating bloaters. But how were five cooks to cook at one fire?

We all saw it together. I looked at the partition. "Better unship that," said the commissary. The commissary, I soon saw, was, by common consent, the commanding officer of the party. We went to work; and in no time the partition was cleverly removed, and stowed away on one side. We thus made our small parlour a large one, with the additional advantage of two fires instead of one for our culinary operations. Gingham, meanwhile, had slipped out of the room; but returned in a few minutes, looking quite innocent. He had been absent to some purpose, as the result shortly proved. We now found full employment with the herrings, roasting and toasting. Gingham, the captain, and the major, at the larger fire; I and Mr Commissary Capsicum at the other.

Gingham, when he left the room, had given his order; a carte blanche to the whole establishment to extemporise as handsome a breakfast as circumstances would permit, with a special caveat against delay.

Enter the waiter, with a tray, and a large tablecloth.—Previous set-out transferred from the table to the tray, and placed on the sideboard.—Two tables run into one—fresh tablecloth laid.—Exit waiter.

Enter waiter again, with plates, cups and saucers, knives, forks, and spoons, basin, two sugar-basins—in short, all the apparatus of a breakfast-table.—The whole laid, in the twinkling of an eye.—Exit waiter.

Enter waiter a third time, with a large tray—bread, (varieties,) butter, water-cresses, ham, tongue, cold fillet of veal, cold chicken, cold pigeon-pie, all the cold eatables.—Boots handed in from the door a large block of quince marmalade, on a silver salver.[Pg 553]—Boots handed in small jars: potted shrimps, pickled oysters, pot of Scotch honey, strawberry jam, other jams.—Boots handed in one larger jar, a Portuguese conserve, quartos de marmelas. (N. B. quinces cut up into lumps, and boiled in Brazilian sugar. Portuguese beat all the world in sweetmeats, and quartos de marmelas beat all the rest.) I guessed Gingham had given the landlady the key of his travelling store-chest.—Boots handed in milk, cream, clouted cream. Boots handed in two splendid brass kettles of boiling water, one of which waiter placed on each fire.—Exit waiter.

A temporary pause. During this lull, the utmost energies of the house were in exercise below, to provide with despatch the remaining matériel of our humble meal. I observed, from time to time, that he of the commissariat eyed the preparations with peculiar benignity. It was all in his way, as I subsequently had the pleasure of experiencing, among the sources of the Adour and the Garonne. "Ever been with the army?" said he.—"Never," said I; "but hope to be soon."—"Hope you'll often dine with me. But don't spoil that fine bloater. There, hold it a little further from the fire. Red herring should be toasted, not burnt to death. Done, when the backbone is crisp; not before. But should not be done quickly, like murder in Shakspeare. Do it slowly, my dear sir; do it slowly. If you do it fast, you burn all the flavour out of it." I saw he was a connoisseur.

Yet—stupid, conceited, arrogant young coxcomb—so inexperienced was I then, so indignant at the shadow of interference, so unaccustomed to anything that bore the least semblance of control, I inwardly curled at even these valuable and truly philanthropic suggestions—thought it all exceedingly odd, and took it for dictation.

Lots of bloaters were now toasted or roasted, and prepared for eating. Just as we were ready, for the fourth time enter waiter, bringing eggs, coffee-pot, two tea-pots, (tea and coffee ready,) muffins, hot buttered rolls, &c., &c., &c. But among the etceteras I really must pause, to specify a certain delicate sort of round west-country breakfast cake—piles of which were also brought in, buttered and smoking hot. Gingham whispered the waiter, "Keep on bringing them."

Gingham, with his usual judgment, had prohibited anything hot in the shape of chops, steaks, cutlets, grills, rashers, or even kidneys. It was a herring breakfast; and he excluded what would only have divided the appetite, and interfered with the bloaters.

We made a capital breakfast. Everything was excellent. The pile of breakfast cakes received perpetual accessions, but never gained in height. The bloaters, however, were the staple of our meal; and Gingham's barrel suffered a considerable reduction. As we were all sensible people, or wished to appear so, there was very little talk; and what there was referred to the important business in hand. At length it was clear that we had breakfasted. Gingham was beginning to recommend the knick-knackeries—jams, pickled oysters, marmalade. Each seemed disposed to pause, yet none had quite left off. Our guests were evidently telegraphing, and exchanging looks of approval, when—

Enter the waiter once more, bringing, upon a silver tray, two curiously shaped bottles cased in a sort of wicker-work, with glasses. A splendid Italian liqueur! It was sipped, approved, tossed off with wonderful despatch. One by one we gradually leaned back in our chairs, and the bottles began to move round, as if spontaneously. That is, I cannot exactly say I saw any one pass them; but from time to time, first here, first there, I noticed a little finger pointing to the ceiling; a movement which certainly had something to do with the progress of the bottles. We sat, sipped, and chatted. Our breakfast was an accomplished fact.

"Hear, hear, hear!" Mr Commissary Capsicum was on his legs. Knuckles rapped; glasses jingled; "Hear, hear, hear!"—The telegraphic communications of his two friends had intimated to him their wishes: the unexpected bonus of the liqueur, coming in at the last, had awakened, in his own bosom, its most benevolent emotions: he rose to acknowledge our hospitality; and in his friends' name, as[Pg 554] well as in his own, to invite us that day to dinner.

His address I shall not attempt to report. It was brief, well-bred, and well-expressed; had several good points, and was heard with immense applause. He invited us to dinner; gave Gingham's health and mine; and concluded by observing that, "conscious that he had not made a neat and appropriate speech, he begged leave," (filling, and suiting the action to the word,) "to drink long life and prosperity to us, in a neat and appropriate bumper." Considering it was our first meeting, I did think that was a little broad.

Gingham returned thanks, and gave the health of Major M—, R.A. Major M— returned thanks.

I returned thanks, and gave the health of Captain Gabion, R.E.

Captain Gabion returned thanks, sat down, and rose a second time, but was anticipated by Gingham again, who gave the health of Mr Commissary Capsicum.

Mr Commissary Capsicum returned thanks.

With respect to the dinner, it would not do. It was our last day before sailing; Gingham had whole reams of letters to write; I also had matters to attend to; we pleaded the circumstances, and begged to be excused. Our friends saw the difficulty, and reluctantly accepted our apologies.

There was a moment's pause. Then all three rose from the table at once, again thanked us politely for our hospitality, and withdrew to their private apartments. Shortly after, looking out of the window, I saw them walking down the street, all arm in arm, and each puffing a cigar.

Gingham stood pensive by the fire, his elbow on the mantelpiece, his head leaning on his hand.

"I fear," said I, "your exertions to entertain your guests have wearied you."

He made no reply. I went up to him. He seemed to awake as from a reverie.

"Hang it!" said Gingham, in a plaintive tone, "there should have been some mashed potatoes."

"Never mind, my dear sir—excellent breakfast; everything went off capitally. I, for one, enjoyed it amazingly."

"Yes," said Gingham, mournfully; "but, to make the thing complete, there should have been some mashed potatoes with the bloaters. Had I only known of it in time! By the bye," added he, "I thought once or twice, you did not seem entirely at your ease. Nothing more gentlemanly, my dear sir, than your general manner. But at times, it struck me, you did appear a little—a little—stiffish. You must get rid of that before we reach headquarters."

"Well," said I, "I'll tell you. That 'captain' stuck in my gizzard. There's the truth. Coupled with what we heard previously, and Major M— must have known that we heard it, it was just the same as calling me a donkey to my face."

"Oh, that's nothing," said Gingham. "Don't distress yourself about such trifles as that."

"To tell you the truth," said I, "the whole thing appeared to me a little too free and easy. Here were you and I preparing to take a quiet breakfast, when those three guerilla fellows, with their off-hand Peninsular manners, actually took us by storm, made a most ferocious attack on your barrel of herrings, sunk it one-third, drank up your two bottles of liqueurs, and civilly wished us good morning. Now, when I was at college, to be sure we were merry enough, no etiquette, no ceremony there. But then there was a certain gentlemanly feeling, which forbade vulgar familiarity in any shape. And as to people that assumed, or made free, I always kept them at arm's length."

"Well, Mr Y—," said Gingham, "I see plainly how it is. Follow my advice. If you can't take a joke, resign your appointment, forfeit your money, and return to London. You'll find it awkward enough living among military men on actual service."

"I trust," said I, "by adhering to my invariable rule, never to offer a deliberate insult, but at the same time never to brook one, go where I will, I shall be fortunate enough to escape disagreeable rencontres."

"Nonsense!" said Gingham, looking very serious, and speaking quite in a sharp and peremptory tone—"nonsense!" Then softening a little, "Rencontres, my dear sir? Ren[Pg 555]contres? Nothing of the kind. Rencontres? You talk like a militia officer. Rencontres? You'll soon dismiss all that kind of thing from your thoughts, after you have seen two or three rencontres with the French. Rencontres? No, no; no field of forty footsteps at headquarters. Rencontres? It would be a perfect absurdity, where men have the chance of being shot gratis every day of their lives, without going out of the way for it. Rencontres? No; I did not mean that. What I meant to say was this: you would infallibly be made a general butt. Rencontres? Why, Mr Y—, if you show any nonsense of that sort, you'll be tormented to death. Rencontres? Oh, what lots of fun they'll take out of you! Meanwhile, think yourself fortunate that you are now getting a seasoning. I am truly glad, for your sake, that you have had the opportunity here at Falmouth, and will have the opportunity on your passage out, of seeing something of military men and modes before you join. You may, and probably will, be dubbed, on your arrival, a Johnny Newcome. But, at any rate, you will not be a Johnny Raw."

Gingham closed the conference by walking to the other end of the room, and steadfastly contemplating his own beautiful physiognomy in the glass. During our conversation, his hand had frequently visited his nose. He now stood opposite the mirror, slewing his head first this way, then that, and at length broke silence:—

"Well, I was not aware of it; but I do think that my nose is a little crooked."

"I presume," said I, "you have no sisters?"

"I have none," replied Gingham.

"Nor are you, I apprehend, a married man?"

"There, alas, you are right again," said Gingham; "but what has that to do with it?"

"Your wife, or your sisters, if you had any, would have told you that you have a very crooked nose."

"Well, but," said Gingham, "there's my mother. My dear mother never told me that my nose was crooked."

"Your mother, probably, is totally unconscious of the fact; and, should she hear any one else assert such a thing, would deny it most strenuously."

"Nay, but," said Gingham, "though I have neither sister nor wife, and supposing my dear mother to be blind to my personal defects, I have—in short, Mr Y—, before I left London, I took a tender leave of her whom I hope to persuade, on my next return from the Peninsula, to accept the hand and the heart of a Gingham. She did not tell me that my nose was crooked. She mentioned various obstacles to our union; but she never mentioned that."

"Then," said I, "depend upon it, she means to have you. And depend upon this, too; she will tell you your nose is crooked when you have made her Mrs Gingham, if she does not tell you so before."

"As to my walking sideways," said Gingham, "that's a palpable fiction."

"Here," said I, "come to this extremity of the room, and place yourself opposite the glass." He came, and placed himself accordingly.

"Now walk straight down upon, the glass, keeping your eye fixed upon your reflected nose."

"What nose? Which nose?" said Gingham, in a state of obvious alarm. "Do you mean the nose in my face?"

"I mean your nose in the glass." He walked as I had directed.

"Well, really," said Gingham, it's extraordinary; it's very curious. When I walk and look at my nose in the glass, it appears quite straight again—just as it ought to be, in the middle of my face."

"That's just it," said I. "Then you walk sideways. Depend upon it, if you walked straight, your nose would appear crooked."

He repeated the experiment again, and again, muttering to himself, "Very remarkable, very curious; quite a natural phenomenon."

"Don't distress yourself about your nose," said I; "it is a good enough nose, in magnitude respectable, though not strictly rectilinear. Make yourself easy; and say, with Erasmus, 'Nihil me pœnitet hugeous nasi.'"

[Pg 556]


Where Gingham got his classical knowledge, I had not at this time ascertained. Certain it is, he was a very fair classic. But there was one dreadful drawback to his character, and, in a man of his gravity, a strange one: I mean his offensive, horrid practice of making most atrocious Latin puns. A pun in English he viewed with utter contempt. It stirred his bile. No English pun escaped his lips. But for a Latin pun, he scrupled not to lay under contribution even the first-rate Latin poets, Virgil, Ovid—nay, his favourite author, Horace; and if I, influenced by bad example, was weak enough, in an unguarded moment, to commit the same offence, he stole my puns, and made them again as his own.

On the eve of our embarkation we strolled forth, after an early dinner, for a parting view of the sunset from the castle. Walking up town, we met the man of rum, the sleep-murdering Macbeth of the mail-coach. Still he was talking—for want of company, talking to himself. But his eyes were set, half-closed, and dim; his aspect was peculiarly meditative, and his course curvilinear. He had taken on board plus æquo of his own samples. Perceiving our approach, he gave a lurch to clear us. But his legs, being not altogether under management, brought him exactly in the direction which he sought to shun; his stomach, which had already suffered so many assaults in the coach, most unfortunately impinged upon my elbow; and again it was "ugh!" His gummy eyes expanded, and gleamed on us like two fresh-opened oysters. Awhile he gazed with drunken gravity; then, turning round, bent over the roadside gutter, as if about to tumble in, and jocosely imitated the operation of drawing a cork. His organs of vision then assumed a slow movement of horizontal oscillation, and gradually settled on a pastry-cook's shop over the way. Towards this point he directed his zigzag approaches, recommencing his agreeable conference with himself, in terms of which we could catch only the words—"Archimedes—screw—pneumatic chemistry—soda water—pop!" He left with us the odour of a very bad cigar, which led Gingham to remark that he was "backy plenus" in more senses than one.

The influence of bad example is dreadful. Emerging from the town in our way to the castle, we met a merry party, male and female, all equestrians save some six or eight, who occupied the interior and exterior of a post-chaise. Gingham, who saw into a thing at once, pronounced them a wedding party; and a buxom dame, who was mounted on a lively little west country galloway, the bride. "Pony subit conjux," said I. "Yes," said Gingham; "but if that dear lady rides so near the carriage, oh! oh! oh! she will infallibly be capsized! 'Pony sub curru nimium propinqui!'" We reached the hill in time, saw a glorious sunset, and returned to letter-writing, and a light supper on hashed duck.

As Gingham appears more than once upon the stage in the course of my Peninsular adventures, and I should really be sorry to annoy the reader, as much as I was annoyed myself, with his perpetual and abominable perversions of classic latinity, I beg leave to dispose of this part of the subject at once, before we get to sea. Suffice it to say, then, that in the spring of the year 1838, just a quarter of a century after the period of which I am now writing, I once more left London for Falmouth, en route to Lisbon, though with an object far different from that of my voyage now to be recorded, and in a far different capacity. Science, in these five-and-twenty years, had done wonders; and I had secured my passage in London, not by a miserable tub of a sailing packet, but by a well-found and fast Peninsular steamer. The day before the steamer was to start from Falmouth, I walked down to the water's side to take a view of her. On the quay stood Gingham. By one of those strange coincidences which sometimes happen in life, we had again met at Falmouth, and were again to cross the Bay of Biscay in company. I[Pg 557] recognised him: he did not recognise me. Time had somewhat changed his look, his dress very little. Its predominant aspect was still white. His nose, too, was unmistakeable. Perceiving at once that he was, like myself, a passenger to the Peninsula, I availed myself of the freedom conceded in such cases, and commenced a conversation by some remark on the steamer.

"I presume, sir," said he, "you are a passenger?"

"Yes, Mr Gingham, and so are you. Glad to meet you." He stared, but admitted the fact.

"But, sir," said he, "you have the advantage of me."

"Well, well," said I, "you'll find me out to-morrow on board the Guadalquivir. Fine ship that. To-morrow, you know, as Horace said, when he was off by the steamer:-'Cras, ingins! iterabimus æquor!"

The effect was instantaneous. Gingham did not speak, he shouted:—"Dine with me: I have got a john dory."

We walked off to the town—I rubbing my shoulder, which Gingham shook, when he shook my hand—he, for a few paces, thoughtful and silent. I expected a burst of sentiment.

"By the bye," said Gingham, "while your hand was in, you might just as well have quoted the other line, for that, also, refers to our voyage."

"The other line?"

"Yes, the other line. Don't you see that pair of rooks flying over the harbour?"

"Rooks fly in droves. I see no rooks."

"Right," said he; "they are a couple of crows."

"But the line from Horace, referring to our voyage?"

"Not only referring to it," said Gingham, "but highly encouraging. 'Nil desperandum two crow duce, et auspice two crow."

"Gingham, you are incorrigible."

To reach the street from the water's side we had to pass through a narrow passage, and there met the stewardess of the steamer, who was going on board. She stalked along in clogs on tiptoe, her left hand gathering up, behind, her cloak, gown, petticoat, &c., while her right hand bore an umbrella one size larger than a parasol, and a reticule one size less than a pannier; emerging from which pannier appeared the ugly mug of an enormous Portuguese red ram cat, the pet of the stewardess, and the constant companion of her Peninsular voyages.

"My cat inter omnes," said Gingham.

But I have rambled, and am a quarter of a century wide of the mark. The period of which I have now to write, the important period to which my present narrative refers, is not the more recent year, 1838, but the remoter year, 1813, glorious in the annals of England; the year that saw the commencement of Napoleon's downfall; the year of triumph and rout beneath the walls of Vittoria; the year of a still sterner and equally successful conflict at St Sebastian; the year, too, that furnished a name for a princess of a royal line, that Queen Victoria who, in her high estate and royal clemency, remembered and rewarded the long-forgotten and long unrecompensed heroes of those bygone times. In the early spring of that year, 1813, I was there at Falmouth, a raw youth, launched on the wide world in search of adventure, burning to reach the headquarters of the Peninsular army, fully capable of making a fool of myself when I got there, and anxiously waiting for the sailing of the Princess Wilhelmina gun-brig, which, for want of a better, performed the office of Lisbon packet. It was well for me that, at Falmouth, I had already fallen into friendly hands.

On the morning of our embarkation, March the—th, 1813, Gingham went early on board the packet, for his personal baggage was bulky and various, to see to its stowage—part in his berth, part in the hold. It was settled between us that he was to return ashore, that we were to breakfast together at the hotel, and afterwards go off together to the packet, which was still lying in the harbour, and was to sail about noon.

I waited breakfast for Gingham, but no Gingham came. At length I received a long note from him, dated on board the packet. It began by stating that an attempt had been made to impose upon him, and that he was[Pg 558] determined not to stand it. The attempted imposition, as I learned from him afterwards, was this:—

Gingham walked down from the hotel to the water's side, and engaged a boat, which was to take him on board the packet for eighteen-pence; he, Gingham, understanding thereby, according to the tenor of many previous bargains at the same rate of payment, that he was to be taken on board, and put on shore again. On this, however, the last day of our abode at Falmouth, the two boatmen, thinking they might safely try it on, and conjecturing also that Gingham's time might possibly be too valuable to be wasted in discussion, determined to take a different view of the subject, and exact a second fare for landing him. The boat reached the packet, Gingham went on board, the boatmen made fast to a harbour-buoy, and waited the result. Gingham went below, made his arrangements, came on deck, and hailed his boat to take him ashore. The elder boatman civilly touched his hat, and remarked, with a winning smile, that they hadn't been paid "nuffin" for bringing him on board. Gingham replied, that he should pay as usual when they had got back to the quay. The boatman, courteous as before, again touched his hat, and answered, simpering, "Beg your pardon, sir, but this ear last day, when the peckit's hoff, jeddlemen hol-ways pays bode ways, cumin aboard, and goon back again." "Oh, do they?" said Gingham, and walked down into the cabin, where he quietly wrote his note to me, in a hand that beat copperplate; and breakfasted upon sea biscuit, junk, and ship's cocoa, the steward not having yet got off his stock of groceries for the voyage. Everybody on board knew Gingham, and he had no difficulty in getting his note brought ashore in the ship's boat, without the knowledge of the two 'longshore fellows, who were riding at the buoy, and who still thought they had the best of the bargain—as it is a rule in harbour, or at any rate was in those days, that no private passenger by a packet passed or repassed except by 'longshore boats. Gingham was now all right, and did not care one farthing for the boatmen; for he already had the bulk of his things on board, he was on board himself, and his note advised me respecting his remaining matters ashore. He continued below, having resolved, as he told me afterwards, to keep the boatmen waiting alongside till the packet was off, and then give them ninepence. Meanwhile he sent up, by the steward, an injunction to the people on deck, who enjoyed not a little the false position of the two boatmen, not on any account to let them come on board.

Gingham's note to me, which was, as I have already intimated, a beautiful specimen of commercial penmanship, was to the following effect:—That he was detained on board by his determination to resist a gross imposition; that the laundress had still in her keeping a small quantity of his linen, which she was to bring to the hotel about breakfast-time; that he had settled with the servants that morning; and that the landlady was indebted to him in the sum of two shillings, he having paid his bill the night before, in which bill was included the charge of two shillings for a cold-meat breakfast, which he should not take; that he requested me to get back the two shillings from the landlady; that he would also thank me to receive the linen from the laundress, see that it was correct per invoice, (washing-bill, I presume,) check her account, liquidate it, and bring the linen on board with me.

Meanwhile a circumstance arose, which was of great moment in itself, and gave Gingham a further advantage in his affair with the two Falmouth lads. An extra mail for Lisbon had arrived from London, sent off by despatch to catch the packet before she sailed; and, by management of Gingham's partners, who were influential people, brought Gingham letters on a matter of some importance. These letters were taken off to Gingham by a trusty drab-coated Falmouth "Friend," in another 'longshore boat, and rendered it absolutely requisite that he should go ashore, and perhaps defer his voyage. The packet at this time was surrounded with boats and bustle, the two boatmen still fast to the buoy; and Gingham had no difficulty in returning ashore by the boat which brought off his mercantile friend,[Pg 559] without being observed by them. In fact, they were half asleep, still secure, as they thought, of their victim, and affording no small sport to the crew of the packet, who saw how things were going. I shall only mention here, that the communication, received by Gingham from London, related to a grand financial speculation, an idea of his own, having reference to the monetary transactions at headquarters, which were very large, and as well conducted as circumstances permitted, but attended with great difficulties, and considerable loss to the British government. Gingham's plan would have been backed by private capital to any amount. It was knocked on the head by the peace of 1814: but I have more to say about it hereafter.

True to her time, the laundress arrived at the hotel; not bringing, as Gingham had described it, a small quantity of linen, but attended by a man with a barrow, wheeling two large buck-baskets, each piled with an immense heap of shirts, white inexpressibles, white double-breasted dimity waistcoats,—in short every thing white,—a stock for a voyage to China. On the interior of the collar of one of the said white double-breasted dimity waistcoats, I noticed the cypher

!—No. 1 of the fourth dozen! So profuse was Gingham in his provision for the habiliment of his own elegant exterior. I settled with the laundress, engaged the barrow-man to go off with me in charge of the linen, and take back the baskets, finished my breakfast, paid my bill, and went on board. Such was my first embarkation for the Peninsula. Little dreaming that there was a spoke in my wheel, and that some time was still to elapse between my departure from Falmouth and my arrival at the British headquarters, I had longed for the day of the packet's sailing. But now, when the wished-for moment had arrived, a lot of little things, coming upon me at the last, quite put it out of my head that I was quitting my native land, and about to enter on new scenes, mingle with strangers, embark in active life, and master—where alone they could be mastered, on their vernacular soil—two ancient, expressive, and kindred languages, which I had conned rudimentally on the banks of Cam. Nor did I dream that I went to earn a prospective claim to a Peninsular Medal; and jot down mental memoranda, still vividly legible, of all I heard and saw, for the information and amusement of readers then unborn. "Gooin' off to the peckit, sir? Here, Bill, hand the jeddleman's boxes." Then, when we were half way to the brig,—"Wherry 'ot on the worter, sir. Ope you'll be ginnerous a little hextry for the luggidge, sir. Wherry dry work pullin', sir."

Gingham, when I reached the packet, was not on board. The cause of his absence was explained to me by the steward, who assisted in stowing away the contents of the two buck-baskets in Gingham's berth. During this operation, the steward, who fully participated in the antipathy to 'longshore boatmen common to his class, communicated to me, with no small glee, the occurrences of the morning; and begged me to take a sight, when I went on deck, of the two expectant gentlemen at the buoy. There they were, sure enough, very much at their ease—quite satisfied that Gingham would want to be taken ashore again before the packet sailed, that theirs was the boat that must take him, and that they had the game in their own hands.

On deck I met our three breakfast guests of the day before. They greeted me cordially, made many inquiries after Gingham, and introduced me, as a particular old crony of theirs, to Staff-Surgeon Pledget, who had arrived by the mail overnight, and was also a passenger to Lisbon, on his return to the British army. I soon began to perceive that it was a standing rule with my three new acquaintances, regular "Peninsulars," to extract fun from even the most common incidents—in fact, from everybody and everything. Staff-Surgeon Pledget, as able a man in his profession as any staff-surgeon attached to the Peninsular army, was matter-of-fact personified; and the dignified cordiality with which he received an old crony of theirs, evidently afforded the three hoaxers[Pg 560] extraordinary sport. Major M—— did the presentation with perfect coolness and amenity. Gammon was his element. Mr Commissary Capsicum winked his eye in the richest style of comedy, and nearly made me spoil all by laughing. Captain Gabion looked gravely on, and laughed internally. His sides shook, his elbows twitched, and his countenance wore its usual expression of melancholy.

Presently after was seen approaching a man-of-war's boat, pulling at the steady rate, which indicated that it conveyed an officer of rank. The boat came alongside with a graceful sweep; twelve oars stood upright, as if by magic; and a tall, military-looking man, who had lost an arm, rose, politely took leave of the lieutenant in charge of the boat, ascended the ship's side, with the aid of his single hand, faster than some people perform the same difficult operation with two, and stood on deck. This was the brave Colonel —— of the cavalry, who was going out with us to rejoin his regiment. He had lost his arm at Oporto, on that memorable occasion when the French, to their astonishment, found the British army on their side of the Douro; and when the British army, too, quite surprised at finding itself, as if by magic, on the opposite bank of a broad, deep, and rapid river, and struck with admiration at the bold conception and skilful execution which had effected the transition under the enemy's nose, with one consent dubbed its illustrious leader "Old Douro." By that title, from that time forward, he was commonly known at headquarters: and is it not a glorious one, so won, and so conferred, and truly worthy of descending in his family? On that occasion, I was told, Colonel ---- charged through the enemy at the head of his regiment, and, as one good turn deserves another, thought he might as well charge back again. It was in this second charge that he lost his arm.

Arrived on deck, the colonel made a somewhat semicircular bow to all of us, and immediately recognised Major M——. His valet followed him, and presently went below. The next moment, the colonel began to take a first view of the vessel, and turned from us for that purpose. Captain Gabion, first nudging Mr Commissary Capsicum, whispered Major M——, "Come, major, give us the colonel." The major, having an arm too many, in a twinkling whipped one behind him, stepped to the gangway, and did the colonel's first appearance to the life. To execute the colonel's recognition of himself, for want of a better substitute, he advanced, with the colonel's three military strides, to me. I, carried away by the drollery of the scene, so far forgot myself that I did the major. This caused a general laugh; the colonel turned round, and caught me and the major bowing, grimacing, and shaking hands. He saw at once what had been going on, and laughed too. But the major wished to shift the responsibility. "That Pledget," said he, "keeps us in a constant roar." Mr Staff-Surgeon Pledget looked a little surprised. When the major gave us the colonel's horizontal salutation to the company assembled, Pledget took it all in earnest, and bowed in return.

One other arrival followed. A shore boat came off, having four more passengers—a lady, two gentlemen, and a female attendant. One of the said gentlemen, an Irishman, was the lady's brother: she, in face and form, a perfect specimen of Irish beauty; he, both in person and in feature, all that might be expected in the brother of such a sister. In this respect he presented a remarkable contrast to their fellow-passenger, who was a young Irish officer of the East India Company's navy, and, what made it more remarkable, the accepted swain, as we afterwards had every reason to conclude, of his fair countrywoman. How shall I describe this lovely youth? His head was large; his face prodigiously large and flat; his features were ludicrously diminutive. Fancy a full moon seen broad and white through a Shetland mist—in short, a full moon of putty; then fancy, stuck exactly in the centre of this moon, the little screwed-up pug face of a little ugly monkey, and you have him to a T. His two little twinkling eyes, deep sunk beneath the beetling brow of his prominent and massive forehead, and in such close proximity that nothing separated them but the bridge of his nose, were constantly and inquisitively[Pg 561] on the move. The nose itself was too insignificant to merit a description. Yet it was not exactly what is called a squashed nose, but a nose without a nib. It conveyed to you, indeed, the painful impression that some unfeeling barber had sliced off its extremity, and left the two unprotected nostrils staring you full in the face, like the open ports of a ship. His ears were like an elephant's,—large, loose, thin, flat, and un-hemmed. His mouth, like that described by a distinguished authoress, "had a physiognomy of its own." Not very observable when quiescent, in speaking it became curiously expressive, and, at times, enormously elongated or strangely curvilinear. It had also, under the same circumstances, another peculiarity. It was a travelling mouth: yes, it travelled. When it talked, it was constantly shifting its position, not only up and down, but sideways and obliquely. In the utterance of a single sentence, it would traverse the whole extent of his face. It was now high, now low; now on this side, now on that. It ranged, at will, the whole breadth of his countenance from ear to ear; so that at times he was all mouth on one side of his face, and no mouth on the other. This gave him the additional advantage, that his profile could maintain a dialogue with you, as well as another man's full face. When conversing with his lady-love, side by side at the dinner-table, he never turned to look at her—he had no need. Viewing her with one eye, like a duck, in tones of deferential tenderness he addressed her from the cheek that was nearest hers. His perfectly well-bred deportment, nay, elegance of manner, his inexhaustible fund of good humour, and amusing waggery, did not, I am sorry to say, prevent his acquiring, and bearing during the voyage, the name of Joey: allusive, I presume, to the feats of mouth performed in those days by the far-famed Grimaldi. The malevolent suspicion, that a title so derogatory was any suggestion of mine, I scorn to notice. To this, however, I do confess, that, ere we had been four-and-twenty hours at sea, as a slight token of my profound veneration for the stateliest and the loveliest of Erin's daughters, I proposed, and it was carried unanimously, that she should bear the name of Juno. And, the colonel having pronounced her brother a perfect Apollo, I also proposed, and it was also carried unanimously, that we should call him Mr Belvidere. But I am anticipating. On the practice of giving sobriquets, so common at headquarters, much remains to be said hereafter. As to the maid-servant, she was a quiet little Irishwoman of about five-and-thirty, in a duffle cloak with pink bows, snug straw bonnet neatly tied under her chin with a pink ribbon, and snow-white cotton stockings, exhibiting a rather broad instep, which led me to conjecture that she had not always worn shoes. Her mistress called her Kitty, and that name she was allowed to keep, as no one on board thought he could improve it.

It is time to get to sea. Gingham, where are you? what are you about? We shall be off, and leave you behind. Noon, our hour of sailing, was now near at hand. The anchor was hove short; the sails were shaking in the wind; the skipper came on board; the foresail was then set; still there was no Gingham. Those talented individuals, the two boatmen, still supposing Gingham was on board, were getting a little uneasy. They were now wide awake, and anxiously peering at the ship with their hands over their eyes, watching every one that came on deck, but watching in vain. Their uneasiness evidently increased, as our remaining time diminished; till at length, as the town clock struck twelve, the capstan was manned. The anchor was then hove to the tune of "Off she goes," performed on a single fife in admirable time, marked by the tread of many feet. The flood-tide was beginning to make; but we didn't care for that, as we had wind enough from the north-east, and to spare. Other sails were now set, and we were beginning to get way; while I was intently eyeing the shore, expecting to see Gingham shove off, and perfectly sure he would come, because he had taken no steps for the re-landing of his baggage.

But I did not look in the right direction. Gingham, detained to the last moment, and then, having settled[Pg 562] all things to his satisfaction, at liberty to prosecute his voyage, had made his arrangements with his usual judgment. It was a near thing though. He put off from a part of the town lower down than the quay from which he usually embarked, so as to cut in upon us as we glided down the harbour; and was within a few fathoms of the ship before I saw him. He was then standing upright in his boat, completely absorbed in a London paper, but with one hand waving his umbrella, without looking up, to stop the ship. Stopping the ship was out of the question. Indeed, I fancied the skipper would have been glad to go without him. The boat, coming end on, and not very cleverly handled by the Falmouth fellows, bumped against the side of the ship, which, as she was now under way, they were afraid of missing altogether; and the shock almost pitched Gingham and his umbrella into the water. He came on board amidst general laughter, and the hearty greetings of such of the passengers as knew him—none heartier than mine. "How his green spectacles would have frightened the fishes!" said Mr Commissary Capsicum to Captain Gabion. "Don't joke on such a serious subject," replied the captain; "had he gone over, we should have quitted England without getting a sight of the last London newspaper."

The two worthies, who, still expecting to see Gingham emerge from the cabin, had so long waited for him in vain, were by this time in an awkward predicament. When the ship first began to move, they had no resource but to unmoor from the buoy, out oars, and pull away in company. But this, it was soon clear, would not do. The ship was getting more and more way, and, had they pulled their hearts out, would soon have left them astern; when, as their only chance, they pulled close alongside, and made free with a rope's end that was dragging through the water. This one of them held, after giving it a turn round a bench; while the other kept off the boat from the ship's side by means of the boat-hook. While they were being thus dragged through the water, each, as he could, from time to time touching his hat, each beseechingly simpering, each saying something that nobody could hear, and both anxiously looking for Gingham on deck, to their great surprise they saw him come alongside in another boat, as I have already related; and, before they could say Jack Robinson, he was on board.

After our first greetings, I called Gingham's attention to the disagreeable position of our two friends, who were still holding on alongside, and dragging through the water. Indeed, I was disposed to hold an argument with him on the subject, and thought a different view might be taken of their case. "No, no," said Gingham; "this is the first time any Falmouth man has ever attempted to impose upon me, and I mean it to be the last."

The breeze, no unusual circumstance in such localities, stiffened as we approached the entrance of the harbour, where the high land closes in, and the sea-way is comparatively narrow; and, meeting the swell which came tumbling in from the ocean with the flood-tide, knocked up a little bit of an ugly ripple. The situation of the two boatmen was becoming every moment more awkward. We were now going six knots, (through the water, mind you, not making six knots—that, against such a current, was quite beyond our tubby little Wilhelmina's capabilities;) the ripple was gradually becoming nastier; the boatmen, still touching their hats from time to time, still blandly smiling, and still making unheard but pathetic appeals to Gingham's generosity, did not like to let go till they had got something; and I really thought the end must be, that their boat would be swamped alongside. At length, Gingham put an end to the farce, by screwing up ninepence in a bit of paper, and throwing it into the boat, telling them it was threepence more than they deserved. They then let go; and we left them poppling up and down, like a cork, in the broken water, and scuffling about in the bottom of the boat for the scattered coin.


[16] For the benefit of the uninitiated, assistant-deputy-paymaster-general; A. A. D. P. M. G., acting-assistant-deputy-paymaster-general; a long title, but not so long, by four syllables, as that of the letter-carrier of a certain German war-office—Ober-kriegsversammlungrathsverhandlungpapieraufhebergehülfe.

[Pg 563]



Although from Adam stained with crime,
A halo girds the path of time,
As 'twere things humble with sublime,
Divine with mortal blending,
And that which is, with that which seems,—
Till blazoned o'er were Jacob's dreams
With heaven's angelic hosts, in streams,
Descending and ascending.
Ask of the clouds, why Eden's dyes
Have vanished from the sunset skies?
Ask of the winds, why harmonies
Now breathe not in their voices?
Ask of the spring, why from the bloom
Of lilies comes a less perfume?
And why the linnet, 'mid the broom,
Less lustily rejoices?
Silent are now the sylvan tents;
The elves to airy elements
Resolved are gone; grim castled rents
No more show demons gazing,
With evil eyes, on wandering men;
And, where the dragon had his den
Of fire, within the haunted glen,
Now herds unharmed are grazing.[17]

[Pg 564]

No more, as horror stirs the trees,
The path-belated peasant sees
Witches, adown the sleety breeze,
To Lapland flats careering:[18]
As on through storms the Sea-kings sweep,
No more the Kraken huge, asleep,
Looms like an island, 'mid the deep,
Rising and disappearing.
No more, reclined by Cona's streams,
Before the seer, in waking dreams,
The dim funereal pageant gleams,
Futurity fore-showing;
No more, released from churchyard trance,
Athwart blue midnight, spectres glance,
Or mingle in the bridal dance,
To vanish ere cock-crowing.[19]

[Pg 565]

Alas! that Fancy's fount should cease!
In rose-hues limn'd, the myths of Greece
Have waned to dreams—the Colchian fleece,
And labours of Alcides:—
Nay, Homer, even thy mighty line—
Thy living tale of Troy divine—
The sceptic scholiast doubts if thine,
Or Priam, or Pelides!
As silence listens to the lark,
And orient beams disperse the dark,
How sweet to roam abroad, and mark
Their gold the fields adorning:
But, when we think of where are they,
Whose bosoms like our own were gay,
While April gladdened life's young day,
Joy takes the garb of mourning.
Warm gushing thro' the heart come back
The thoughts that brightened boyhood's track;
And hopes, as 'twere from midnight black,
All star-like re-awaken;
Until we feel how, one by one,
The faces of the loved are gone,
And grieve for those left here alone,
Not those who have been taken.
The past returns in all we see,
The billowy cloud, and branching tree;
In all we hear—the bird and bee
Remind of pleasures cherish'd;
When all is lost it loved the best,
Oh! pity on that vacant breast,
Which would not rather be at rest,
Than pine amid the perish'd!
A balmy eve! the round white moon
Emparadises midmost June,
Tune trills the nightingale on tune—
What magic! when a lover,
To him, who now, gray-haired and lone,
[Pg 566] Bends o'er the sad sepulchral stone
Of her, whose heart was once his own:
Ah! bright dream briefly over!
See how from port the vessel glides
With streamered masts, o'er halcyon tides;
Its laggard course the sea-boy chides,
All loath that calms should bind him;
But distance only chains him more,
With love-links, to his native shore,
And sleep's best dream is to restore
The home he left behind him.
To sanguine youth's enraptured eye,
Heaven has its reflex in the sky,
The winds themselves have melody,
Like harp some seraph sweepeth;
A silver decks the hawthorn bloom,
A legend shrines the mossy tomb,
And spirits throng the starry gloom,
Her reign when midnight keepeth.
Silence o'erhangs the Delphic cave;
Where strove the bravest of the brave,
Naught met the wandering Byron, save
A lone, deserted barrow;
And Fancy's iris waned away,
When Wordsworth ventured to survey,
Beneath the light of common day,
The dowie dens of Yarrow.
Little we dream—when life is new,
And Nature fresh and fair to view,
When throbs the heart to pleasure true,
As if for naught it wanted,—
That, year by year, and ray by ray,
Romance's sunlight dies away,
And long before the hair is gray,
The heart is disenchanted.


[17] A clearer day has dispelled the marvels, which showed themselves in heaven above and in earth beneath, when twilight and superstition went hand in hand. Horace's

"Somnia, terrores magicos, miracula, sagas,
Nocturnos Lemures, portentaque Thessala,"

as well as Milton's

"Gorgons, Hydras, and Chimæras dire,"

have all been found wanting, when reduced to the admeasurements of science; and the "sounds that syllable men's names, on sands, and shores, and desert wildernesses," are quenched in silence, or only exist in what James Hogg most poetically terms

"That undefined and mingled hum,
Voice of the desert, never dumb."

The inductive philosophy was "the bare bodkin" which gave many a pleasant vision "its quietus." "Homo, naturæ minister," saith Lord Bacon, "et interpres, tantum facit et intelligit, quantum de naturæ ordine se vel mente observaverit: nec amplius scit nec potest."—Nov. Organum, Aph. I.

The fabulous dragon has long acted a conspicuous part in the poetry both of the north and south. We find him in the legends of Regnar Lodbrog and Kempion, and in the episode of Brandimarte in the second book of the Orlando Inamorato. He is also to be recognised as the huge snake of the Edda; and figures with ourselves in the stories of the Chevalier St George and the Dragon—of Moor of Moorhall and the Dragon of Wantley—in the Dragon of Loriton—in the Laidley Worm of Spindleton Heugh—in the Flying Serpent of Lockburne—the Snake of Wormieston, &c. &c. Bartholinus and Saxo-Grammaticus volunteer us some curious information regarding a species of these monsters, whose particular office was to keep watch over hidden treasure. The winged Gryphon is of "auld descent," and has held a place in unnatural history from Herodotus (Thalia, 116, and Melpomene, 13, 27) to Milton (Paradise Lost, book v.)—

"As when a Gryphon, through the wilderness,
With wingèd course, o'er hill or moory dale,
Pursues the Arimaspian," &c.

[18] Of the many mysterious chapters of the human mind, surely one of the most obscure and puzzling is that of witchcraft. For some reason, not sufficiently explained, Lapland was set down as a favourite seat of the orgies of the "Midnight Hags." When, in the ballad of "The Witch of Fife," the auld gudeman, in the exercise of his conjugal authority, questions his errant spouse regarding her nocturnal absences without leave, she is made ecstatically to answer,

"Whan we came to the Lapland lone,
The fairies war all in array;
For all the genii of the North
War keepyng their holyday.
The warlocke man and the weird womyng,
And the fays of the woode and the steep,
And the phantom hunteris all were there,
And the mermaidis of the deep.
And they washit us all with the witch-water,
Distillit fra the moorland dew,
Quhill our beauty bloomit like the Lapland rose,
That wylde in the foreste grew."

Queen's Wake, Night 1st.

"Like, but oh how different," are these unearthly goings on to the details in the Walpurgis Night of Faust (Act v. Scene 1.) The "phantom-hunters" of the north were not the "Wilde Jäger" of Burger, or "the Erl-king" of Goethe. It is related by Hearne, that the tribes of the Chippewas Indians suppose the northern lights to be occasioned by the frisking of herds of deer in the fields above, caused by the hallo and chase of their departed friends.

[19] It is very probable, that the apparitional visit of "Alonzo the Brave" to the bridal of "the Fair Imogene," was suggested to M. G. Lewis, by the story in the old chronicles of the skeleton masquer taking his place among the wedding revellers, at Jedburgh Castle, on the night when Alexander III., in 1286, espoused as his second queen, Joleta, daughter of the Count le Dreux. These were the palmy days of portents; and the prophecy uttered by Thomas of Ercildoune, of the storm which was to roar

"From Ross's hills to Solway sea,"

was supposed to have had its fulfilment in the death of the lamented monarch, which occurred, only a few months after the appearance of the skeleton masquer, by a fall from his horse, over a precipice, while hunting between Burntisland and Kinghorn, at a place still called "the King's Wood-end."

Wordsworth appears to have had the subject in his eye, in two of the stanzas of his lyric, entitled Presentiments,—the last of which runs as follows:—

"Ye daunt the proud array of war,
Pervade the lonely ocean far
As sail hath been unfurled,
For dancers in the festive hall
What ghostly partners hath your call
Fetched from the shadowy world."

Poetical Works, 1845, p. 176.

The same incident has been made the subject of some very spirited verses, in a little volume—Ballads and Lays from Scottish History—published in 1844; and which, I fear, has not attracted the attention to which its intrinsic merits assuredly entitle it.

[Pg 567]


Another book from the active pen of our American acquaintance, the able seaman. The question having been raised whether Mr Herman Melville has really served before the mast, and has actually, like the heroine of a well-known pathetic ballad, disfigured his lily-white fingers with the nasty pitch and tar, he does his best to dissipate all such doubts by the title-page of his new work, on which, in large capitals, is proclaimed that Redburn is "The Sailor-boy Confessions and Reminiscences of the son of a gentleman in the merchant service;" and, collaterally, by a dedication to his younger brother, "now a sailor on a voyage to China." An unmerited importance has perhaps been given to the inquiry whether Mr Melville's voyages were made on quarterdeck or on forecastle, and are genuine adventures or mere Robinsonades. The book, not the writer, concerns the critic; and even as there assuredly are circumstances that might induce a youth of gentle birth and breeding to don flannel shirt, and put fist in tar-bucket as a merchant seaman, so the probably unpleasant nature of those circumstances precludes too inquisitive investigation into them. We accept Mr Melville, therefore, for what he professes to be, and we accept his books, also, with pleasure and gratitude when good, just as we neglect and reject them when they are the contrary. Redburn, we are bound to admit, is entitled to a more favourable verdict than the author's last previous work. We do not like it so well as Typee and Omoo; and, although quite aware that this is a class of fiction to which one cannot often return without finding it pall, by reason of a certain inevitable sameness, we yet are quite sure we should not have liked it so well as those two books, even though priority of publication had brought it to a palate unsated with that particular sort of literary diet. Nevertheless, after a decided and deplorable retrogression, Mr Melville seems likely to go a-head again, if he will only take time and pains, and not over-write himself, and avoid certain affectations and pedantry unworthy a man of his ability. Many of the defects of Mardi are corrected in Redburn. We gladly miss much of the obscurity and nonsense that abound in the former work. The style, too, of this one is more natural and manly; and even in the minor matter of a title, we find reason to congratulate Mr Melville on improved taste, inasmuch as we think an English book is better fitted with an English-sounding name than with uncouth dissyllables from Polynesia, however convenient these may be found for the purposes of the puff provocative.

Redburn comprises four months of the life of a hardy wrong-headed lad, who ships himself on board a trading vessel, for the voyage from New York to Liverpool and back. As there is no question of shipwreck, storm, pirates, mutiny, or any other nautico-dramatic incidents, during Wellingborough Redburn's voyage out and home; and as the events of his brief abode in England are neither numerous nor (with the exception of one rather far-fetched episode) by any means extraordinary, it is evident that a good deal of detail and ingenuity are necessary to fill two volumes, on so simple and commonplace a theme. So a chapter is devoted to the causes of his addiction to the sea, and shows how it was that childish reminiscences of a seaport town, and stories of maritime adventure told him by his father, who had many times crossed the Atlantic, and visions of European magnificence, and, above all, the frequent contemplation of an old-fashioned glass ship which stood in his mother's sitting-room, and which is described with considerable minuteness, and some rather feeble attempts at the facetious—how all these things combined had imbued young Wellingborough with a strong craving after salt water. Other circumstances concurred to drive him [Pg 568]forth upon the world. He hints at family misfortunes. His father had been a merchant at New York, in a flourishing business. Things were now less prosperous. "Some time previous, my mother had removed from New York to a pleasant village on the Hudson river, where we lived in a small house, in a quiet way. Sad disappointments in several plans which I had sketched for my future life; the necessity of doing something for myself, united to a naturally roving disposition, had now conspired within me to send me to sea as a sailor." And yet it would appear that he might have done better than plunge thus recklessly into the hardships and evil associations of a merchantman's forecastle; for he more than half admits that he was erring and wilful, and that he had kind relatives and sympathising patrons, who would have put him in the way of earning a living otherwise. Redburn, however, seems to have been in some respects as precocious as in others we shall presently find him simple and inexperienced. A mere boy, adversity had already converted him into a misanthrope, at an age when most lads are as yet without plans for their future, and know not disappointment in any more important matters than a treat to the play, or an extra week's holiday. The forwardness of the rising generation is remarkable enough in England, and has been amusingly hit off by one of our cleverest caricaturists. In America, therefore, which notoriously goes a-head of the old country in most particulars, and whose inhabitants lay claim to an extraordinary share of railroad and earthquake in their composition, boyish precocity is possibly still more remarkable; and one must not wonder at finding Master Redburn talking in misanthropic vein of the world's treatment of him, how bleak and cheerless everything seemed, and how "the warm soul of him had been flogged out by adversity." This, at an age when the stinging memory of the schoolmaster's taws must still have been tolerably vivid about the seat of his breeks, seems rather absurd to begin with. It was under the influence of such feelings, however, that this infant Timon left his home to cast his lot upon the wide waters. His friends were evidently either very angry with him or very poor; for they allowed him to depart with but one dollar in his pocket, a big shooting-jacket with foxes' heads on the buttons, and a little bundle, containing his entire kit, slung at the end of the fowling-piece which his good-natured elder brother pressed upon him at parting. Thus equipped, he tramps of to the steamer that is to carry him down the Hudson, early on a raw morning, along a muddy road, and through a drizzling rain. The skyey influences will at times affect even the most stoical, and the dismal aspect of external nature makes Master Redburn revert to his blighted prospects—how his soul is afflicted with mildew, "and the fruit which, with others, is only blasted after ripeness, with him is nipped in the first blossom and bud." The blight he complains of is evidently of a most virulent description, for it "leaves such a scar that the air of Paradise might not erase it." As he has just before told us how, whilst walking along, his fingers "worked moodily at the stock and trigger" of his brother's rifle, and that he had thought this was indeed "the proper way to begin life, with a gun in your hand," we feel, upon hearing him croak so desperately, some apprehension for his personal safety, and think his brother would have done as well to have kept his gun. On this last point we quite make up our minds, when we shortly afterwards find him levelling the weapon at the left eye of a steamboat passenger who is so imprudent as to stare at him, and bullying the steward for demanding the fare, (which is two dollars, whereas Redburn has but one,) and looking cat-a-mounts at his less needy fellow-voyagers, because they have the rudeness to enjoy their roast beef dinner, whilst he has had the improvidence to leave home without even a crust in his wallet. It seems the author's aim to start his hero in life under every possible circumstance of disadvantage and hardship; and to do this, he rather loses sight of probability. At last, however, Redburn reaches New York, with gun and bundle, foxes' heads and shooting-jacket, and hastens to visit a friend of his brother's, to whom he is recommended. A kind[Pg 569] welcome, good supper, and warm bed, go some way towards dissipating his ill humour; and next morning the friend accompanies him to the docks to seek a ship. But none of his brother's kindnesses prosper him. The gun, as we have seen, has already led him to the verge of homicide, the foxes' heads are yet to be the source of innumerable vexations; and Mr Jones, a silly young man, does more harm than good, by taking the direction of Redburn's affairs, and acting as his spokesman with Captain Riga, of the regular trader, Highlander, then loading for Liverpool.

"We found the captain in the cabin, which was a very handsome one, lined with mahogany and maple; and the steward, an elegant-looking mulatto, in a gorgeous turban, was setting out, on a sort of sideboard, some dinner-service which looked like silver, but it was only Britannia ware highly polished. As soon as I clapped my eye on the captain, I thought to myself he was just the captain to suit me. He was a fine-looking man, about forty, splendidly dressed, with very black whiskers and very white teeth, and what I took to be a free frank look out of a large hazel eye. I liked him amazingly."

The scene that ensues is quietly humorous, and reminds us a good deal of Marryat, in whose style of novel we think Mr Melville would succeed. The upshot of the conference is that Redburn ships as a boy on board the Highlander. By vaunting his respectability, and the wealth of his relations, his injudicious friend furnishes Riga with a pretext for withholding the customary advance of pay; and although the sale of the fowling-piece to a Jew pawnbroker produces wherewith to purchase a red woollen shirt, a tarpaulin hat, and jack-knife, Redburn goes on board but slenderly provided. His reception is not very cheering.

"When I reached the deck, I saw no one but a large man in a large dripping pea-jacket, who was calking down the main-hatches.

"'What do you want, Pillgarlic?' said he.

"'I've shipped to sail in this ship,' I replied, assuming a little dignity to chastise his familiarity.

"'What for—a tailor?' said he, looking at my shooting-jacket.

"I answered that I was going as a 'boy;' for so I was technically put down on the articles.

"'Well,' said he, 'have you got your traps aboard?'

"I told him I didn't know there were any rats in the ship, and hadn't brought any 'trap.'

"At this he laughed out with a great guffaw, and said there must be hay-seed in my hair.

"This made me mad; but, thinking he must be one of the sailors who was going in the ship, I thought it wouldn't be wise to make an enemy of him, so only asked him where the men slept in the vessel, for I wanted to put my clothes away.

"'Where's your clothes?' said he.

"'Here in my bundle,' said I, holding it up.

"'Well, if that's all you've got,' he cried, 'you'd better chuck it overboard. But go forward, go forward to the forecastle; that's the place you live in aboard here.'

"And with that he directed me to a sort of hole in the deck of the bow of the ship; but looking down, and seeing how dark it was, I asked him for a light.

"'Strike your eyes together and make one,' said he, 'we don't have any lights here.' So I groped my way down into the forecastle, which smelt so bad of old ropes and tar, that it almost made me sick. After waiting patiently, I began to see a little; and, looking round, at last perceived I was in a smoky-looking place, with twelve wooden boxes stuck round the sides. In some of these boxes were large chests, which I at once supposed to belong to the sailors, who must have taken that method of appropriating their 'bunks,' as I afterwards found these boxes were called. And so it turned out.

"After examining them for a while, I selected an empty one, and put my bundle right in the middle of it, so that there might be no mistake about my claim to the place, particularly as the bundle was so small."

The ship is not to sail till the next day; the crew are not yet aboard; there is no mess, and Redburn has no money. He passes a wretched night in his evil-smelling bunk, and next morning is crawling about the deck, weak from hunger, when he is accosted by the first mate, who curses him for a lubber, asks his name, swears it is too long to be handy, rebaptizes him by that of Buttons, and sets him to clean out the pig-pen, and grease the[Pg 570] main-topmast. Having accomplished these savoury duties, and narrowly escaped falling overboard from his unwonted elevation, Redburn is ordered to the quarterdeck, where the men are divided into watches, and he falls to the lot of his friend the first mate, who tries hard to get rid of him to Mr Rigs, the second mate; but Mr Rigs refuses the tyro, even as a free gift. Redburn now gets sea-sick, and, when ordered on deck to stand the first night-watch, from eight o'clock to midnight, he, feeling qualmish, requests one of the sailors to make his excuses very civilly to the chief mate, for that he thinks he will go below and spend the night in his bunk. The sailor, a good-natured Greenlander, laughs at his simplicity, and doctors him with a canikin of rum and some ship biscuits, which enable him to get through his watch. Minute incidents of this kind, reflections, reminiscences, and thoughts of home, occupy many chapters; and, at times, one is inclined to think they are dwelt upon at too great length: but, as before hinted, it is necessary to do something to fill two volumes. A slight inconsistency strikes us in this first portion of the book. Redburn, a sharp enough lad on shore, and who, it has been seen, is altogether precocious in experience of the world's disappointments, seems converted, by the first sniff of salt water, into as arrant a simpleton as ever made mirth in a cockpit. Mr Melville must surely have had Peter Simple in his head, when describing "Buttons" at his first deck-washing. "The water began to splash about all over the decks, and I began to think I should surely get my feet wet, and catch my death of cold. So I went to the chief mate and told him I thought I would just step below, till this miserable wetting was over; for I did not have any waterproof boots, and an aunt of mine had died of consumption. But he only roared out for me to get a broom, and go to scrubbing, or he would prove a worse consumption to me than ever got hold of my poor aunt." Now Redburn, from what has previously been seen of him, was evidently not the lad to care a rush about wet soles, or even about a thorough ducking. On the Hudson river steamer, he had voluntarily walked the deck in a dreary storm till soaked through; and his first night on board the Highlander had been passed uncomplainingly in wet clothes. He has borne hunger and thirst and other disagreeables most manfully, and the impression given of him is quite that of a stubborn hardy fellow. So that this sudden fear of a splashing is evidently introduced merely to afford Mr Melville opportunity of making a little mild fun, and is altogether out of character. Equally so is the elaborate naiveté with which Redburn inquires of a sailor whether, as the big bell on the forecastle "hung right over the scuttle that went down to the place where the watch below were sleeping, such a ringing every little while would not tend to disturb them, and beget unpleasant dreams." The account of his attempts at intimacy with the captain, although humorous enough, is liable to a similar objection; and, in so sharp a lad, such simple blunders are not sufficiently accounted for by ignorance of sea usages. His recollection of the bland urbanity with which Captain Riga had received him and Mr Jones, when they first boarded the Highlander, induces him to believe that he may reckon on sympathy and attention in that quarter, when bullied by the rough sailors, and abused by the snappish mate. He had vague ideas of Sunday dinners in the cabin, of an occasional lesson in navigation, or an evening game at chess. Desirous to realise these pleasant visions, but observing that the captain takes no notice of him, and altogether omits to invite him aft, Buttons, as he is now universally called on board the trader, thinks it may be expected that he, the younger man, should make the first advances. His pig-sty and chicken-coop cleanings have not greatly improved the aspect of his clothes, or the colour of his hands; but a bucket of water gets off the worst of the stains, and a selection from his limited wardrobe converts him into a decent enough figure for a forecastle, although he still would not have excited much admiration in Broadway or Bond Street.

[Pg 571]

"When the sailors saw me thus employed, they did not know what to make of it, and wanted to know whether I was dressing to go ashore. I told them no, for we were then out of sight of land, but that I was going to pay my respects to the captain. Upon which they all laughed and shouted, as if I were a simpleton; although there seemed nothing so very simple in going to make an evening call upon a friend. When some of them tried to dissuade me, saying I was green and raw; but Jackson, who sat looking on, cried out with a hideous grin—'Let him go, let him go, men; he's a nice boy. Let him go; the captain has some nuts and raisins for him.' And so he was going on, when one of his violent fits of coughing seized him, and he almost choked.... For want of kids, I slipped on a pair of woollen mittens, which my mother had knit for me to carry to sea. As I was putting them on, Jackson asked me whether he shouldn't call a carriage; and another bade me not forget to present his best respects to the skipper. I left them all tittering, and, coming on deck, was passing the cook-house, when the old cook called after me, saying I had forgot my cane."

The Jackson here referred to is a prominent character in the book, an important personage amongst the inmates of the Highlander's forecastle. He was a yellow-visaged, whiskerless, squinting, broken-nosed ruffian, and his head was bald, "except in the nape of his neck and just behind the ears, where it was stuck over with short little tufts, and looked like a worn-out shoe-brush." He claimed near relationship with General Jackson, was a good seaman and a great bully, and, although physically weak, and broken down by excess and disease, the other sailors gave way to, and even petted him. He had been at sea ever since his early childhood, and he told strange wild tales of his experiences in many lands and on many distant seas, and of perils encountered in Portuguese slavers on the African coast, and of Batavian fevers and Malay pirates, and the like horrible things, which composed, indeed, all his conversation, save when he found fault with his shipmates, and cursed, and reviled, and jeered at them—all of which they patiently endured, as though they feared the devil that glared out of "his deep, subtle, infernal-looking eye." All who have read Omoo, (the best of Mr Melville's books,) will remember that the author is an adept in the sketching of nautical originals. Jackson is by no means a bad portrait, and doubtless he is "founded on fact;" although much of his savage picturesqueness may be attributed to the clever pencil of his former shipmate. Riga is another good hit. The handsome captain, with the fine clothes and the shining black whiskers, who spoke so smooth and looked so sleek when his craft lay moored by New York quay, is altogether another sort of character when once the anchor is up. Seamen never judge a captain by his shore-going looks. Tyrants and martinets afloat are often all simper and benevolence across a mahogany plank ashore. But certainly there never was a more thorough metamorphosis than a four-and-twenty hours' sail produced in Captain Riga. His glossy suit and gallant airs disappeared altogether. "He wore nothing but old-fashioned snuff-coloured coats, with high collars and short waists, and faded short-legged pantaloons, very tight about the knees, and vests that did not conceal his waistbands, owing to their being so short, just like a little boy's. And his hats were all caved in and battered, as if they had been knocked about in a cellar, and his boots were sadly patched. Indeed, I began to think he was but a shabby fellow after all, particularly as his whiskers lost their gloss, and he went days together without shaving; and his hair, by a sort of miracle, began to grow of a pepper and salt colour, which might have been owing, though, to his discontinuing the use of some kind of dye while at sea. I put him down as a sort of impostor." This the captain certainly is, and ultimately proves to be something worse, for he swindles poor Buttons and another unfortunate "boy" out of their hard-earned wages, and proves himself altogether a far worse fellow than the rough mate, whose first salutation is often a curse or a cuff, but who, nevertheless, has some heart and humanity under his coarse envelope. Of various other individuals of the ship's company sketches are given, and prominent amongst these is the dandy mulatto steward, called Lavender by the crew,[Pg 572] from his having been a barber in New York. Following the example of the captain, whose immediate dependant he is, Lavender, when at sea, lays by his gorgeous turban, and sports his wool, profusely scented with the residue of his stock in trade. "He was a sentimental sort of darky, and read the Three Spaniards and Charlotte Temple, and carried a lock of frizzled hair in his vest pocket, which he frequently volunteered to show to people, with his handkerchief to his eyes." It must have been sympathy of race, not congeniality of disposition, that made cronies of Lavender and the methodistical black cook. Thompson, the sable Soyer of the Highlander, was known as the Doctor, according to the nautical practice of confounding the medical and the gastronomical professions. He is a capital portrait, scarcely caricatured. On a Sunday morning, "he sat over his boiling pots, reading out of a book which was very much soiled, and covered with grease spots, for he kept it stuck into a little leather strap, nailed to the keg where he kept the fat skimmed off the water in which the salt beef was cooked." This book was the Bible, and what with the heat of the five-feet-square kitchen, and his violent efforts to comprehend the more mysterious passages of scripture, the beads of sweat would roll off the Doctor's brow as he sat upon a narrow shelf, opposite the stove, and so close to it that he had to spread his legs out wide to keep them from scorching. During the whole voyage he was never known to wash his face but once, and that was on a dark night, in one of his own soup-pots. His coffee, by courtesy so called, was a most extraordinary compound, and would not bear analysis. Sometimes it tasted fishy, at others salt; then it would have a cheesy flavour, or—but we abridge the unsavoury details with which Redburn disgusts us upon this head. Sambo's devotional practices precluded due attention to his culinary duties. For his narrow caboose he entertained a warm affection. "In fair weather he spread the skirt of an old jacket before the door by way of a mat, and screwed a small ringbolt into the door for a knocker, and wrote his name, 'Mr Thompson,' over it, with a bit of red chalk." The old negro stands before us as we read; cooking, praying, perspiring, and with all the ludicrous self-sufficiency of his tribe. Mr Melville is very happy in these little touches. Max the Dutchman is another original. Although married to two highly respectable wives, one at Liverpool and the other at New York, at sea he is quite an old bachelor, precise and finical, with old-fashioned straight-laced notions about the duties of sailor boys, which he tries hard to inculcate upon Redburn. Upon the whole, however, Red Max, as he is sometimes called—his shirt, cheeks, hair, and whiskers being all of that colour—is tolerably kind to the youngster, in whose welfare he occasionally shows some little interest. Jack Blunt, to whose description the author devotes the greater part of a chapter, is not quite so happy a hit—rather overdone—overloaded with peculiarities. Although quite a young fellow, his hair is turning gray, and, to check this premature sign of age, he thrice in the day anoints his bushy locks with Trafalgar Oil and Copenhagen Elixir, invaluable preparations retailed to him by a knavish Yankee apothecary. He is also greatly addicted to drugging himself: takes three pills every morning with his coffee, and every now and then pours down "a flowing bumper of horse salts." Then he has a turn for romance, and sings sentimental songs, which must have had an odd enough sound from the lips of one whose general appearance is that of "a fat porpoise standing on end;" and he believes in witchcraft, and studies a dream-book, and mutters Irish invocations for a breeze when the ship is becalmed, &c., &c. Rather much of all this, Mr Melville, and not equal, by a long chalk, to what you once before did in the same line. As we read, we cannot help a comparison with some former pencillings of yours, which, although earlier made, referred to a later voyage. Involuntarily we are carried back to the rat-and-cockroach-haunted hull of the crazy little Jule, and to the strange collection of originals that therein did dwell. We think of bold Jermin and timid Captain Guy, and, above all, of that glorious fellow Doctor Long-Ghost. We remember the easy natural tone, and[Pg 573] well-sustained interest of the book in which they figured; and, desirous though we are to praise, we are compelled to admit that, in Redburn, Mr Melville comes not up to the mark he himself has made. It is evident that, on his debut, he threw off the rich cream of his experiences, and he must not marvel if readers have thereby been rendered dainty, and grumble a little when served with the skim-milk. Redburn is a clever book, as books now go, and we are far from visiting it with wholesale condemnation; but it certainly lacks the spontaneous flow and racy originality of the author's South Sea narration.

To proceed, however. "Redburn grows intolerably flat and stupid over some outlandish old guide-books." Such is the heading of Chapter XXX.; and, from what Mr Melville says, we do not, in this instance, presume to differ. We are now in Liverpool. Much of what Redburn there sees, says, and does, will be more interesting to American than to English readers, although to many even of the latter there will be novelty in his minute account of sailor life ashore—of their boarding-houses, haunts, and habits; of the German emigrant ships, and the salt-droghers and Lascars, and of other matters seemingly commonplace, but in which his observant eye detects much that escapes ordinary gazers. We ourselves, to whom the aspect and ways of the great trading city of northern England are by no means unfamiliar, have derived some new lights from Redburn's account of what he there saw. Clergymen of the Church of England, we are informed, stand up on old casks, at quay corners, arrayed in full canonicals, and preach thus, al fresco, to sailors and loose women. Paupers are allowed to linger and perish unaided, almost in the public thoroughfare, within sight and knowledge of neighbours and police. Curious, seemingly, of the horrible, Redburn visits the dead-house, where he sees "a sailor stretched out, stark and stiff, with the sleeve of his frock rolled up, and showing his name and date of birth tattooed upon his arm. It was a sight full of suggestions: he seemed his own head-stone." We would implore Mr Melville to beware of a fault by no means uncommon with a certain school of writers at the present day, but into which it would be unworthy a man of his ability to fall. We refer to that straining for striking similes, at the expense of truth and good taste, of which he has here furnished us with a glaring example. A dead sailor's name is tattooed upon his arm; therefore—mark the consequence—he seems his own head-stone. How totally inapt is this; how violent and distorted the figure! Such tricks of pen may, by a sort of tinsel glitter, dazzle for a moment superficial persons, who weigh not what they read; but they will never obtain favour, or enhance a reputation with any for whose verdict Mr Melville need care. Neither will he, we apprehend, gain much praise, that is worth having, for such exaggerated exhibitions of the horrible as that afforded in chapter VI. of his second volume. Passing through Lancelott's Hey, a narrow street of warehouses, Redburn heard "a feeble wail, which seemed to come out of the earth.... I advanced to an opening, which communicated downwards with deep tiers of cellars beneath a crumbling old warehouse; and there, some fifteen feet below the walk, crouching in nameless squalor, with her head bowed over, was the figure of what had been a woman. Her blue arms folded to her livid bosom two shrunken things like children, that leaned towards her, one on each side. At first I knew not whether they were dead or alive. They made no sign; they did not move or stir; but from the vault came that soul-sickening wail." We cannot quite realise the "opening" in question, but take it for granted to be some sufficiently dreary den, and are only puzzled to conjecture how, considering its depth, the woman and children got there. Redburn himself seems at a loss to account for it. This, however, his compassionate heart tarried not to inquire; but, perceiving the poor creatures were nearly dead with want, he hurried to procure them assistance. In an open space hard by, some squalid old women, the wretched chiffonières of the docks, were gathering flakes of cotton in the dirt heaps. To these Redburn appealed. They knew of the beggar-woman and her brats, who had been three days in[Pg 574] the pit or vault, with nothing to eat, but they would not meddle in the matter; and one hag, with an exaggerated morality that does not sound very probable, declared "Betsy Jennings deserved it, for she had never been married!" Turning into a more frequented street, Redburn met a policeman. "None of my business, Jack," was the reply to his application. "I don't belong to that street. But what business is it of yours? Are you not a Yankee?"

"Yes," said I; "but come, I will help you to remove that woman, if you say so."

"There now, Jack, go on board your ship, and stick to it, and leave these matters to the town."

Two more policemen were applied to with a like result. Appeals to the porter at an adjacent warehouse, to Handsome Mary the hostess, and Brandy Nan the cook at the Sailors' boarding-house, were equally fruitless. Redburn took some bread and cheese from his dinner-room, and carried it to the sufferers, to whom he gave water to drink in his hat—descending with great difficulty into the vault, which was like a well. The two children ate, but the woman refused. And then Redburn found a dead infant amongst her rags, (he describes its appearance with harrowing minuteness,) and almost repented having brought food to the survivors, for it could but prolong their misery, without hope of permanent relief. And on reflection, "I felt an almost irresistible impulse to do them the last mercy, of in some way putting an end to their horrible lives; and I should almost have done so, I think, had I not been deterred by thought of the law. For I well knew that the law, which would let them perish of themselves, without giving them one sup of water, would spend a thousand pounds, if necessary, in convicting him who should so much as offer to relieve them from their miserable existence." The whole chapter is in this agreeable style, and indeed we suppress the more revolting and exaggerated passages. Two days longer, Redburn informs us, the objects of his compassion linger in their foul retreat, and then the bread he throws to them remains untasted. They are dead, and a horrible stench arises from the opening. The next time he passes, the corpses have disappeared, and quicklime strews the ground. Within a few hours of their death the nuisance has been detected and removed, although for five days, according to Redburn, they had been allowed to die by inches, within a few yards of frequented streets, and with the full knowledge and acquiescence of sundry policemen. We need hardly waste a comment on the more than improbable, on the utterly absurd character, of this incident. It will be apparent to all readers. Mr Melville is, of course, at liberty to introduce fictitious adventure into what professes to be a narrative of real events; the thing is done every day, and doubtless he largely avails of the privilege. He has also a clear right to deal in the lugubrious, and even in the loathsome, if he thinks an occasional dash of tragedy will advantageously relieve the humorous features of his book. But here he is perverting truth, and leading into error the simple persons who put their faith in him. And, from the consideration of such misguidance, we naturally glide into the story of Master Harry Bolton. Redburn had been at Liverpool four weeks, and began to suspect that was all he was likely to see of the country, and that he must return to New York without obtaining the most distant glimpse of "the old abbeys, and the York minsters, and the lord mayors, and coronations, and the maypoles and fox-hunters, and Derby races, and dukes, and duchesses, and Count d'Orsays," which his boyish reading had given him the habit of associating with England,—when he one day made acquaintance, at the sign of the Baltimore Clipper, with "a handsome, accomplished, but unfortunate youth, one of those small but perfectly-formed beings who seem to have been born in cocoons. His complexion was a mantling brunette, feminine as a girl's; his feet were small; his hands were white; and his eyes were large, black, and womanly; and, poetry aside, his voice was as the sound of a harp." It is natural to wonder what this dainty gentleman does in the sailors' quarter of Liverpool, and how he comes to rub his dandified costume against the tarry[Pg 575] jackets of the Clippers' habitual frequenters. On these points we are presently enlightened. Harry Bolton was born at Bury St Edmunds. At a very early age he came into possession of five thousand pounds, went up to London, was at once admitted into the most aristocratic circles, gambled and dissipated his money in a single winter, made two voyages to the East Indies as midshipman in a Company's ship, squandered his pay, and was now about to seek his fortune in the New World. On reaching Liverpool, he took it into his head, for the romance of the thing, to ship as a sailor, and work his passage. Hence his presence at the docks, and his acquaintance with Redburn, who, delighted with his new acquaintance, prevails on him to offer his services to Captain Riga of the Highlander, who graciously accepts them.

"I now had a comrade in my afternoon strolls and Sunday excursions; and as Harry was a generous fellow, he shared with me his purse and his heart. He sold off several more of his fine vests and trousers, his silver-keyed flute and enamelled guitar; and a portion of the money thus furnished was pleasantly spent in refreshing ourselves at the roadside inns, in the vicinity of the town. Reclining side by side in some agreeable nook, we exchanged our experiences of the past. Harry enlarged upon the fascinations of a London life; described the curricle he used to drive in Hyde Park; gave me the measurement of Madame Vestris' ankle; alluded to his first introduction, at a club, to the madcap Marquis of Waterford; told over the sums he had lost upon the turf on a Derby day; and made various but enigmatical allusions to a certain Lady Georgiana Theresa, the noble daughter of an anonymous earl."

Even Redburn, inexperienced as he is in the ways of the old country, is inclined to suspect his new friend of "spending funds of reminiscences not his own,"—that being as near an approach as he can make to accusing the he-brunette with the harp-like voice of telling lies—until one day, when passing a fashionable hotel, Harry points out to him "a remarkable elegant coat and pantaloons, standing upright on the hotel steps, and containing a young buck, tapping his teeth with an ivory-headed riding-whip." The buck is "very thin and limber about the legs, with small feet like a doll's, and a small, glossy head like a seal's," and presently he steps to "the open window of a flashing carriage which drew up: and, throwing himself into an interesting posture, with the sole of one boot vertically exposed, so as to show the stamp on it—a coronet—fell into a sparkling conversation with a magnificent white satin hat, surmounted by a regal marabout feather, inside." The young gentleman with the seal's-head and the coroneted-boot, is, as Harry assures Redburn, whilst dragging him hastily round a corner, Lord Lovely, a most particular "old chum" of his own. "Sailors," Redburn somewhere observes, "only go round the world without going into it; and their reminiscences of travel are only a dim recollection of a chain of tap-rooms surrounding the globe, parallel with the equator." This being the case, we would have him abstain from giving glimpses of the English aristocracy, his knowledge of which seems to be based upon the revelations of Sunday newspapers, and upon that class of novels usually supposed to be written by discarded valets-de-chambre. But we are not let off with this peep at a truant fashionable. Mr Bolton, having found a purse, or picked a pocket, or in some way or other replenished his exchequer, rigs out Redburn in a decent suit of clothes, and carries him off to London, previously disguising himself with false whiskers and mustaches. Enchanted to visit the capital, Redburn does not inquire too particularly concerning these suspicious proceedings, but takes all for granted, until he finds himself "dropped down in the evening among gas-lights, under a great roof in Euston Square. London at last," he exclaims, "and in the West End!" If not quite in the West End, he is soon transported thither by the agency of a cab, and introduced by his friend into a "semi-public place of opulent entertainment," such as certainly exists nowhere (at least in London) but in our sailor-author's lively imagination. The number of this enchanted mansion is forty, it is approached by high steps, and has a purple light at the door. Can any one help us with a conjecture? The following passage we take[Pg 576] to be good of its kind: "The cabman being paid, Harry, adjusting his whiskers and mustaches, and bidding me assume a lounging look, pushed his hat a little to one side, and then, locking arms, we sauntered into the house, myself feeling not a little abashed—it was so long since I had been in any courtly society." A pair of tailors strutting into a casino. It would seem there are cockneys even in America. The "courtly society" into which the Yankee sailor boy and his anomalous acquaintance now intrude themselves is that of "knots of gentlemanly men, seated at numerous Moorish-looking tables, supported by Caryatides of turbaned slaves, with cut decanters and taper-waisted glasses, journals, and cigars before them." We regret we have not room for the description of the magnificent interior, which is a remarkable specimen of fine writing; but we must devote a word to the presiding genius of the mysterious palace, were it only for the sake of a simile indulged in by Redburn. At the further end of the brilliant apartment, "behind a rich mahogany turret-like structure, was a very handsome florid old man, with snow-white hair and whiskers, and in a snow-white jacket—he looked like an almond-tree in blossom." Enshrined in mahogany turrets, and adorned by so imaginative a pen, who would suspect this benign and blooming old sinner of condescending to direct waiters and receive silver. Nevertheless these, we are told, are his chief duties—in short, we are allowed to suppose that he is the steward of this club, hell, tavern, or whatever else it is intended to be. Bolton speaks a word to the almond tree, who appears surprised, and they leave the room together. Redburn remains over a decanter of pale-yellow wine, and catches unintelligible sentences, in which the words Loo and Rouge occur. Presently Bolton returns, his face rather flushed, and drags away Redburn, not, as the latter hoped, for a ramble, "perhaps to Apsley House, in the Park, to get a sly peep at the old Duke before he retired for the night," but up magnificent staircases, through rosewood-doors and palatial halls, of all which we have a most florid, high-flown, and classical description. Again Bolton leaves him, after being very oracular and mysterious, and giving him money for his journey back to Liverpool, and a letter which he is to leave at Bury, should he (the aforesaid Bolton) not return before morning. And thereupon he departs with the almond-tree, and Redburn is left to his meditations, and hears dice rattle, has visions of frantic men rushing along corridors, and fancies he sees reptiles crawling over the mirrors, and at last, what with wine, excitement, and fatigue, he falls asleep. He is roused by Harry Bolton, very pale and desperate, who draws a dirk, and nails his empty purse to the table, and whistles fiercely, and finally screams for brandy. Now all this sort of thing, we can assure its author, is in the very stalest style of minor-theatre melodrama. We perfectly remember our intense gratification when witnessing, at country fairs in our boyish days, a thrilling domestic tragedy, in which the murderer rushes on the stage with a chalked face and a gory carving-knife, howling for "Brandy! Brandy!!" swallows a goblet of strong toast and water, and is tranquillised. But surely Mr Melville had no need to recur to such antiquated traditions. Nor had he any need to introduce this fantastical gambling episode, unless it were upon the principle of the old cakes of roses in the apothecary's shop—to make up a show. We unhesitatingly qualify the whole of this London expedition as utter rubbish, intended evidently to be very fine and effective, but which totally misses the mark. Why will not Mr Melville stick to the ship? There he is at home. The worst passages of his sea-going narrative are better than the best of his metropolitan experiences. In fact, the introduction at all of the male brunette is quite impertinent. Having got him, Mr Melville finds it necessary to do something with him, and he is greatly puzzled what that is to be. Bolton's character is full of inconsistencies. Notwithstanding his two voyages to the East Indies, and his great notion of "the romance" of working his passage as a common sailor, when he comes to do duty on board the Highlander he proves him[Pg 577]self totally ignorant of nautical matters, and is so nerveless a mariner that, on ascending a mast, he nearly falls into the sea, and nothing can induce him again to go aloft. This entails upon him the contempt and ill-treatment of his officers and shipmates, and he leads a dog's life between Liverpool and New York. "Few landsmen can imagine the depressing and self-humiliating effect of finding one's self, for the first time, at the beck of illiterate sea-tyrants, with no opportunity of exhibiting any trait about you but your ignorance of everything connected with the sea-life that you lead, and the duties you are constantly called on to perform. In such a sphere, and under such circumstances, Isaac Newton and Lord Bacon would be sea-clowns and bumpkins, and Napoleon Buonaparte be cuffed and kicked without remorse. In more than one instance I have seen the truth of this; and Harry, poor Harry, proved no exception." Poor Harry, nervous, effeminate, and sensitive, was worried like a hare by the rude sea-dogs amongst whom he had so imprudently thrust himself. His sole means of propitiating his tormentors was by his voice, and "many a night was he called upon to sing for those who, through the day, had insulted and derided him." Amidst his many sufferings, Redburn was his only comforter, and at times, of an evening, they would creep under the lee of the long-boat and talk of the past, and still oftener of the future; for Harry referred but unwillingly to things gone by, and especially would never explain any of the mysteries of their London expedition, and had bound Redburn by an oath not to question him concerning it. He confessed, however, that his resources were at end; that besides a chest of clothes—relics of former finery—he had but a few shillings in the world; and, although several years his senior, he was glad to take counsel of the sailor boy as to his future course of life, and what he could do in America to earn a living, for he was determined never to return to England. And when Redburn suggested that his friend's musical talents might possibly be turned to account, Harry caught at the idea, and volunteered the following curious information:—

"In some places in England, he said, it was customary for two or three young men of highly respectable families, of undoubted antiquity, but unfortunately in lamentably decayed circumstances, and threadbare coats—it was customary for two or three young gentlemen, so situated, to obtain their livelihood by their voices; coining their silvery songs into silvery shillings. They wandered from door to door, and rang the bell—Are the ladies and gentlemen in? Seeing them at least gentlemanly-looking, if not sumptuously apparelled, the servant generally admitted them at once; and when the people entered to greet them, their spokesman would rise with a gentle bow, and a smile, and say, We come, ladies and gentlemen, to sing you a song; we are singers, at your service. And so, without waiting reply, forth they burst into song; and, having most mellifluous voices, enchanted and transported all auditors; so much so, that at the conclusion of the entertainment they very seldom failed to be well recompensed, and departed with an invitation to return again, and make the occupants of that dwelling once more delighted and happy."

Should it not be added that these errant minstrels of ancient family, decayed circumstances, and courtly manners, had their faces lamp-blacked, and carried bones and banjos, and sang songs in negro slang with gurgling choruses? Some such professors we have occasionally seen parading the streets of English towns, although we are not aware of their being customarily welcomed in drawing-rooms. We ask Mr Herman Melville to explain to us his intention in this sort of writing. Does it contain some subtle satire, imperceptible to our dull optics? Does he mean it to be humorous? Or is he writing seriously? (although that seems scarcely possible,) and does he imagine he is here recording a common English custom? If this last be the case, we strongly urge him immediately to commence a work "On the Manners and Customs of the British Isles." We promise him a review, and guarantee the book's success. But we have not quite done with Harry Bolton, and may as well finish him off whilst our hand is in. Objections[Pg 578] being found to troubadourising in New York, the notion of a clerkship is started, Harry being a good penman; and this brings on a discussion about hands, and Redburn utterly scouts the idea of slender fingers and small feet being indicative of gentle birth and far descent, because the half-caste paupers in Lima are dainty-handed and wee-footed, and moreover, he adds, with crushing force of argument, a fish has no feet at all! But poor Harry's tender digits and rosy nails have grievously suffered from the pollution of tar-pots, and the rough contact of ropes, and oftentimes he bewails his hand's degradation, and sighs for the palmy days when it handed countesses to their coaches, and pledged Lady Blessington, and ratified a bond to Lord Lovely, &c. &c. All which is abundantly tedious and commonplace, and will not bear dwelling upon.

Part of the Highlander's cargo on home-voyage was five hundred emigrants, to accommodate whom the "between-decks" was fitted up with bunks, rapidly constructed of coarse planks, and having something the appearance of dog-kennels. The weather proved unfavourable, the voyage long, the provisions of many of the emigrants (who were chiefly Irish) ran short, and the consequences were disorder, suffering, and disease. Once more upon his own ground, and telling of things which he knows, and has doubtless seen, Mr Melville again rises in our estimation. His details of emigrant life on board are good; and so is his account of the sailors' shifts for tobacco, which runs short, and of Jackson's selfishness, and singular ascendency over the crew. And also, very graphic indeed, is the picture of the steerage, when the malignant epidemic breaks out, and it becomes a lazar-house, frightful with filth and fever, where the wild ignorant Irishmen sat smoking tea leaves on their chests, and rise in furious revolt, to prevent the crew from taking the necessary sanitary measures of purification, until at last favourable breezes came, and fair mild days, and fever fled, and the human stable (for it was no better) was cleansed, and the Highlander bowled cheerily onwards, over a pleasant sea, towards the much-desired haven. Two incidents of especial prominence occur during the voyage—one at its outset, the other near its close. Whilst yet in the Prince's Dock, three drunken sailors are brought on board the Highlander by the crimps. One of them, a Portuguese, senseless from intoxication, is lowered on deck by a rope and rolled into his bunk, where the crimp tucks him in, and desires he may not be disturbed till out at sea. There he lies, regardless of the mate's angry calls, and seemingly sunk in a trance, until an unpleasant odour in the forecastle arouses attention, and Jackson discovers that the man is dead. Yet the other sailors doubt it, especially when, upon Red Max holding a light to his face, "the yellow flame wavered for a moment at the seaman's motionless mouth. But then, to the silent horror of all, two threads of greenish fire, like a forked tongue, darted out from between the lips; and in a moment the cadaverous face was crawled over by a swarm of wormlike flames. The lamp dropped from the hand of Max, and went out, which covered all over with spires and sparkles of flame, that faintly crackled in the silence; the uncovered parts of the body burned before us, precisely like a phosphorescent shark in a midnight sea." Spirit-drinking, the seaman's bane, had made an end of Miguel the Portuguese. What shocked Redburn particularly, was Jackson's opinion "that the man had been actually dead when brought on board the ship; and that knowingly, and merely for the sake of the month's advance, paid into his hand upon the strength of the bill he presented, the body-snatching crimp had shipped a corpse on board the Highlander." The men trembled at the supernatural aspect of the burning body, but reckless Jackson, with a fierce jeer, bade them hurl it overboard, which was done. Jackson knew not how soon the waves were to close over his own corpse. Off Cape Cod, when the smell of land was strong in the nostrils of the weary emigrants, orders were given, one dark night, in a stiff breeze, to reef topsails; and Jackson, who had been deadly ill and off duty most part of the voyage, came upon[Pg 579] deck, to the surprise of many, to do his duty with the rest, by way of reminder, perhaps, to the captain, that he was alive and expected his wages. Having pointed pretty freely to Mr Melville's defects, it is fair to give an example of his happier manner.

"At no time could Jackson better signalise his disposition to work, than upon an occasion like the present; which generally attracts every soul on deck, from the captain to the child in the steerage.

"His aspect was damp and deathlike; the blue hollows of his eyes were like vaults full of snakes, [another of Mr Melville's outrageous similes]; and, issuing so unexpectedly from his dark tomb in the forecastle, he looked like a man raised from the dead.

"Before the sailors had made fast the reef-tackle, Jackson was tottering up the rigging; thus getting the start of them, and securing his place at the extreme weather end of the topsail-yard—which is accounted the post of honour. For it was one of the characteristics of this man, that, though when on duty he would shy away from mere dull work in a calm, yet in tempest time he always claimed the van, and would yield it to none; and this, perhaps, was one cause of his unbounded dominion over the men.

"Soon we were all strung along the main-topsail yard; the ship rearing and plunging under us, like a runaway steed; each man griping his reef-point, and sideways leaning, dragging the sail over towards Jackson, whose business it was to confine the reef corner to the yard.

"His hat and shoes were off; and he rode the yard-arm end, leaning backward to the gale, and pulling at the earing-rope like a bridle. At all times, this is a moment of frantic exertion with sailors, whose spirits seem then to partake of the commotion of the elements, as they hang in the gale, between heaven and earth—and then it is, too, that they are the most profane.

"'Haul out to windward!' coughed Jackson with a blasphemous cry, and he threw himself back with a violent strain upon the bridle in his hand. But the wild words were hardly out of his mouth when his hands dropped to his side, and the bellying sail was spattered with a torrent of blood from his lungs.

"As the man next him stretched out his arm to save, Jackson fell headlong from the yard, and, with a long seethe, plunged like a diver into the sea.

"It was when the ship had rolled to windward; which, with the long projection of the yard-arm over the side, made him strike far out upon the water. His fall was seen by the whole upward-gazing crowd on deck, some of whom were spotted with the blood that trickled from the sail, while they raised a spontaneous cry, so shrill and wild, that a blind man might have known something deadly had happened.

"Clutching our reef-points, we hung over the stick, and gazed down to the one white, bubbling spot, which had closed over the head of our shipmate; but the next minute it was brewed into the common yeast of the waves, and Jackson never arose. We waited a few moments, expecting an order to descend, haul back the foreyard, and man the boat; but instead of that, the next sound that greeted us was, 'Bear a hand, and reef away, men!' from the mate."

If it be possible (we are aware that it is very difficult) for an author to form a correct estimate of his own productions, it must surely have struck Mr Melville, whilst glancing over the proof-sheets of Redburn, that plain, vigorous, unaffected writing of this sort is a far superior style of thing to rhapsodies about Italian boys and hurdy-gurdies, to gairish descriptions of imaginary gambling-houses, and to sentimental effusions about Harry Bolton, his "Bury blade," and his "Zebra," as he called him—the latter word being used, we suppose, to indicate that the young man was only one remove from a donkey. We can assure Mr Melville he is most effective when most simple and unpretending; and if he will put away affectation and curb the eccentricities of his fancy, we see no reason for his not becoming a very agreeable writer of nautical fictions. He will never have the power of a Cringle, or the sustained humour and vivacity of a Marryat, but he may do very well without aspiring to rival the masters of the art.

Redburn is not a novel; it has no plot; the mysterious visit to London remains more or less an enigma to the end. But having said so much about Harry Bolton, the author deems it expedient to add a tag touching the fate of this worthy, whom Redburn left in New York; in charge of a friend, during his own temporary absence, and who had disappeared on[Pg 580] his return. For years he hears nothing of him, but then falls in, whilst on a whaling cruise in the Pacific, with an English sailor, who tells how a poor little fellow, a countryman of his, a gentleman's son, and who sang like a bird, had fallen over the side of a Nantucket craft, and been jammed between ship and whale. And this is Harry Bolton. A most lame and impotent conclusion, and as improbable a one as could well be devised, seeing that a sailor's life was the very last the broken down gambler was likely to choose, after his experience of his utter incapacity for it, and after the persecution and torments he had endured from his rude shipmates on board the Highlander.

When this review of his last work meets the eye of Mr Herman Melville, which probably it will do, we would have him bear in mind that, if we have now dwelt upon his failings, it is in the hope of inducing him to amend them; and that we have already, on a former occasion, expended at least as much time and space on a laudation of his merits, and many undeniable good qualities, as a writer. It always gives us pleasure to speak favourably of a book by an American author, when we conscientiously can do so. First, because Americans, although cousins, are not of the house; although allied by blood, they are in some sort strangers; and it is an act of more graceful courtesy to laud a stranger than one of ourselves. Secondly, because we hope thereby to encourage Americans to the cultivation of literature—to induce some to write, who, having talent, have not hitherto revealed it; and to stimulate those who have already written to increased exertion and better things. For it were false modesty on our part to ignore the fact, that the words of Maga have much weight and many readers throughout the whole length and breadth of the Union—that her verdict is respectfully heard, not only in the city, but in the hamlet, and even in those remote back-woods where the law of Lynch prevails. And, thirdly, we gladly praise an American book because we praise none but good books, and we desire to see many such written in America, in the hope that she will at last awake to the advantages of an international copyright. For surely it is little creditable to a great country to see her men of genius and talent, her Irvings and Prescotts, and we will also say her Coopers and Melvilles, publishing their works in a foreign capital, as the sole means of obtaining that fair remuneration which, although it should never be the sole object, is yet the legitimate and honourable reward of the labourer in literature's paths.


[20] Redburn: his First Voyage. By Herman Melville, author of Typee, Omoo, and Mardi. 2 vols. London, 1849.

[Pg 581]


If the experience of the last twelve months has not opened the eyes of the most inveterate of Mr Cobden's quondam admirers to the real quality of their idol, we very much fear that such unhappy persons are beyond the reach of the moral oculist. From the first moment of his appearance upon the political stage, while yet unbe-praised by Peel, and unrewarded by that splendid testimonial, accorded unto him by judicious patriots, one moiety of whom have since done penance for their premature liberality in the Gazette, we understood the true capabilities of the man, and scrupled not to say that a more conceited personage never battered the front of a hustings. Some excellent but decidedly weak-minded people were rather offended with the freedom of our remarks upon the self-sufficient Cagliostro of free trade, in whose powers of transmutation they were disposed to place implicit reliance and belief. The Tamworth certificate, which we shrewdly suspect its author would now give a trifle to recall, was founded on as evidence sufficient to condemn our obstinate blindness and illiberality; for who could doubt the soundness of an opinion emanating from a statesman who was just then depositing, in a mahogany wheelbarrow, the first sod, raised with a silver spade, on a railway which, when completed, was to prove a perfect California to the shareholders? It is not impossible that, at this moment, some of the shareholders may be on their way to the actual California—having found, through bitter experience, that some kinds of diggings are anything but productive, and having learned that elderly orators, who make a practice of studying the gyrations of the weather-cock, may be sometimes mistaken in their calculations. Matters fared worse with us, when it was bruited through the trumpet of fame, that, in every considerable capital of Europe, multitudes had assembled to do homage to the apostle of the new era. Our compassionate friends, possibly deeming us irretrievably committed to folly, put on mourning for our transgression, and ceased to combat with our adversaries, who classed us with the worst of unbelievers. One facetious gentleman proposed that we should be exhibited in a glass-case, as a specimen of an extinct animal; another, indulging in a more daring flight of fancy, stigmatised us as a cankerworm, gnawing at the root of the tree of liberty. We fairly confess that we were pained at the alienation of friends whom we had previously considered as staunch as the steel of Toledo: as for our foemen, we, being used to that kind of warfare, treated them with consummate indifference. Yet not the less, on that account, did we diligently peruse the journals, which, from various lands, winged their way to the table of our study, each announcing, in varied speech, that Richard Cobden was expatiating upon the blessings of free-trade and unlimited calico to the nations. These we had not studied long, ere we discovered that, upon one or two unfortunate points, there was a want of understanding between the parties who thus fraternised. The foreign audiences knew nothing whatever about the principles which the orator propounded; and the orator knew, if possible, still less of the languages in which the compliments of the audiences were conveyed. In so far as any interchange of ideas was concerned, Mr Cobden might as well have been dining on cold roast monkey with the King of Congo and his court, as with the bearded patriots who entertained him in Italy and Spain. His talk about reciprocity was about as distinct to their comprehension, as would have been his definition of the differential calculus; nevertheless their shoutings fell no whit less gratefully on the ear of the Manchester manufacturer, who interpreted the same according to his own sweet will, and sent home bragging bulletins to his backers, descriptive of the thirst for commercial interchange which raged throughout Europe, and of the pacific tendencies of the age. Need we remind our readers of what followed? Never had unfortunate[Pg 582] prophet been possessed by a more lying and delusive demon. The words were hardly out of his mouth, before the thunderstorm of revolution broke in all its fury upon France, and rolled in devastating wrath over every kingdom of the Continent. Amongst the foremost agents in this unholy work were the friends and entertainers of Mr Cobden, for whose tranquil dispositions he had been foolish enough to volunteer a pledge. How he must have cursed "my friend Cremieux," when he found that unscrupulous gentleman giving the lie to all his asseverations! No man, unless cased in a threefold covering of brass, could have held up his head to the public, after so thorough and instantaneous an exposure of his miserable fallacies. But our Richard is not to be easily put down. No one understands the trade of the agitator better; for, when baffled, put to silence, and covered with ridicule on one topic, he straightway shifts his ground, and is heard declaiming on another. It is his misfortune that he has been compelled to do this rather frequently, for in no one single instance have events realised his predictions. Free trade, which was to make every man rich, has plunged the nation in misery. Reciprocity, for all practical purposes, is an obsolete word in the dictionary. The Continental apostles of commercial exchange have been amusing themselves by cutting each others' throats, and hatching villanous schemes for the subversion of all government; nor has one of them a maravedi left, to expend in the purchase of calico. The colonies are up in arms against the policy of the mother country. Undismayed by these failures, still the undaunted Cobden lifts up his oracular voice, advocating in turn the extension of the suffrage, the abolition of standing armies, financial reform, and what not. It matters not to him that, on each new attempt, the rotten tub on which he takes his stand is either kicked from under his feet, or goes crashing down beneath the weight of the husky orator—up he starts from the mire like a new Antæus, and, without stopping to wipe away the unsavoury stains from his visage, holds forth upon a different text, the paragon of pertinacious preachers. We could almost find it in our hearts to be sorry that such singular pluck should go without its adequate reward. But a patriot of this stamp is sure to become a nuisance. However numerous his audience may be at first, they are apt to decline when the folly of the harangue is made patent to the meanest capacity, and when current events everlastingly combine to expose the nature of the imposture. The popularity of Cobden, for some time back, has been terribly on the wane. Few and far between are his present political ovations; and even men of his own class begin to consider him a humbug. We are given to understand that, in a majority of the commercial rooms, the first glass of the statutory pint of wine is no longer graced with an aspiration for his prosperity and length of years; and some ungrateful recreants of the road now hint, that to his baleful influence may be attributed the woful diminution of orders. That exceedingly mangy establishment, ycleped the Free-trade Club, of which he was the father and founder, has just given up the ghost; and great is the joy of the denizens of St James's Square at being relieved from the visitations of the crew that haunted its ungarnished halls. Ordinary men might be disheartened by a succession of such reverses—not so Cobden. Like an ancient Roman, he gathers his calico around him, and announces to a gratified world that he is ready to measure inches with the Autocrat of all the Russias!

Cobden is fond of this kind of feat. About a year ago he put out the same challenge to the Duke of Wellington and the Horse Guards, just as we find it announced in the columns of Bell's Life in London, that Charles Onions of Birmingham is ready to pitch into the Champion of England for five pounds aside, and that his money is deposited at the bar of the Pig and Whistles. But even as the said champion does not reply to the defiance of the full-flavoured Charles, so silent was He of the hundred fights when Richard summoned him to the field. Failing this meditated encounter, our pugnacious manufacturer next despatches a cartel to Nicholas, and no[Pg 583] response having arrived from St Petersburg, he magnanimously professes himself ready to serve out the house of Hapsburg! Really there is no setting bounds to the valour or the ambition of this vaunting Achilles, who, far stronger than his prototype, or even than the fabled Hercules, states that he can crumple up kingdoms in his hand as easily as a sheet of foolscap. We stand absolutely appalled at the temerity of unappeasable Pelides.

Our readers are probably aware that, for some time past, there has been an attempt to preach up a sort of seedy Crusade, having for its ostensible object the universal pacification of mankind. With such an aim no good man or sincere Christian can quarrel. Peace and good-will are expressly inculcated by the Gospel, and even upon lower grounds than these we are all predisposed in their favour. So that, when America sent us a new Peter the Hermit, in the shape of one Elihu Burritt, heretofore a hammerer of iron, people were at a loss to comprehend what sort of a mission that could be, which, without any fresh revelation, was to put the matter in a clearer light than was ever exhibited before. We care not to acknowledge that we were of the number of those who classed the said Elihu with the gang of itinerant lecturers, who turn a questionable penny by holding forth to ignorant audiences upon subjects utterly beyond their own contracted comprehension. Nor have we seen any reason to alter our opinion since; for the accession of any amount of noodles, be they English, French, Dutch, Flemish, or Chinese, can in no way give importance to a movement which is simply and radically absurd. If the doctrines and precepts of Christianity cannot establish peace, cheek aggression, suppress insubordination, or hasten the coming of the millennium, we may be excused for doubting, surely, the power of Peace Congresses, even when presided over by so saintly a personage as Victor Hugo, to accomplish those desirable ends. We do not know whether Alexander Dumas has as yet given in his adhesion. If not, it is a pity, for his presence would decidedly give additional interest to the meetings.

Even on the score of originality, the founders of the Peace Associations cannot claim any merit. The idea was long ago struck out, and promulgated, by that very respectable sect the Quakers; and though in modern times some of that fraternity, John Bright for example, have shown themselves more addicted to wrangling than befits the lamb-like docility of their profession, we believe that opposition to warfare is still their leading tenet. We can see no reason, therefore, why the bread should be so unceremoniously taken from the mouth of Obadiah. If the ingenious author of Lucretia Borgia and Hans of Iceland wishes to become the leader of a great pacific movement, he ought, in common justice, to adopt the uniform of the existing corps. He certainly should treat the promenaders of the Boulevards to a glimpse of the broad-brimmed hat and sober drab terminations, and conform to the phraseology as well as the habiliments of the followers of William Penn.

It may be questionable whether, if the experiment of free trade had succeeded, Elihu would have obtained the countenance of so potent an auxiliary as Cobden. Our powers of arithmetic are too limited to enable us, at this moment, to recall the precise amount of additional annual wealth which the member for the West Riding, and the wiseacres of The Economist, confidently predicted as the necessary gain to the nation; it was something, the bare mention of which was enough to cause a Pactolus to distil from the chops of a Chancellor of the Exchequer, especially if he belonged to the Whig persuasion, and was, therefore, unaccustomed to the miracle of a bursting revenue. But as no such miracle ensued; and as, on the contrary, Sir Charles Wood was put to his wit's end—no very formidable stretch—to diminish a horrible deficit by the sale of rope-ends, rusty metal, and other material which was classed under the head of government stores, it was clearly high time for our nimble Cobden to shift his ground. Accordingly he fell foul of the army, which he would fain have insisted on disbanding; and this move, of course, brought him within the range of the[Pg 584] orbit already occupied by the eccentric Elihu.

It is not very easy to attain to a distinct understanding of the means which the Peace Association proposed to adopt, for carrying out this benevolent scheme. Most of the gentlemen who have already figured at their debates are so excessively muddleheaded, that it seems impossible to extract from their speeches the vestige of a distinct idea. This much, however, after diligent study, we have gathered, that it is proposed to substitute arbitration in place of war, and to render that mode of arrangement almost necessary by a general European disarmament. Nothing could tally better with the views of Cobden. A higher principle than that of mere retrenchment is thus brought to bear upon his darling scheme of wiping off the army and the navy; and we must needs confess that, to a considerable proportion of the population of modern Europe, the scheme must be extremely palatable.

Standing armies, we are told, are of no earthly use in the time of peace, and their expense is obviously undeniable. If peace could be made universal and perpetual, there would be an end of standing armies. The best means for securing perpetual peace is to do away with standing armies, because without standing armies there would be no facilities for war. This is the sort of argument which we are now asked to accept; but, unfortunately, we demur both to the premises and the conclusion. Indeed, in a matter of this kind, we utterly repudiate the aid of logic, even were it a great deal more scientifically employed. That of the free-traders is, if possible, worse than their arithmetic, though, a year or two ago, they were ready to have staked their existence on the infallibility of the latter.

The experience of the last eighteen months has given us all some tangible proof of the advantages of standing armies. Setting aside the Denmark affair, and also the occupation of Rome, there has been one aggressive war waged in Europe by sovereign against sovereign. That war, we need hardly say, was commenced by Charles Albert of Sardinia, who, basely and perfidiously availing himself of the intestine difficulties of Austria, attempted to seize the opportunity of making himself master of Lombardy. We need not recapitulate the history of that campaign, so glorious to the veteran Radetsky, and so shameful to his unprincipled opponent: but it is well worth remarking, that the whole of the sympathies of Mr Cobden and his radical confederates are enlisted on the side of the Italian insurgents; and that, with all their professed horror for war, we never hear them attribute the slightest blame to the Sardinians for having marched in hostile array across the frontier of a friendly power. Nor is this all. In every case where the torch of insurrection has been lighted, we find the advocates of peace clamorous in their approbation of the movement. Without knowledge, without judgment, without anything like due consideration either of the provocation given on the one side, or the license claimed on the other, they have invariably lent their voices to swell the revolutionary cry, and backed the drunken populace in their howl against order and government. Whoever was loyal and true has been branded as a ruffian and a murderer. Assassination, when it proceeded from the mob, was in their eyes no offence at all. Some of them, employing terms which we never thought to have heard an Englishman utter, have rather chuckled over the spectacle of nobles, priests, and statesmen stabbed, shot down, hewn with axes, or torn limb from limb by savages, whose atrocity was not equalled by that of the worst actors in the early French Revolution,—and have not been ashamed to vindicate the authors of such hideous outrage.

Aggressive war we deprecate, to say the least of it, as strongly as any peace orator who ever spouted from a platform; but we by no means think that peace, in the catholic sense of the word, can be at all endangered by the maintenance of standing armies. So far as the military establishment of Great Britain is concerned, we have already had occasion, in a former paper, to show that it is barely sufficient for the occupation of our large and numerous colonies, and greatly inferior in proportion to that of any other country in Europe. We cer[Pg 585]tainly do not intend to resume that discussion, because the sense of the nation has unequivocally condemned the pragmatic fools who provoked it; and even the Whigs, who coquetted with them, have seen the folly of their ways, and are not likely, in a hurry, to attempt any numerical reduction. But we go a great deal farther. We maintain, that without the assistance of the standing armies throughout Europe during the late critical juncture, anarchy would now have been triumphant, and civilisation have received a check so terrible, that ages might have elapsed before we could have recovered from its effects. Revolution is incalculably a greater disaster than war; and the higher the point of civilisation to which a nation has attained before it permits the democratic flame, smothering beneath the surface of all society, to burst out into fury, the more dangerous and difficult to extinguish must be the conflagration. But for the regular army of France, red republicanism would now be triumphant, and a new Reign of Terror have begun. The armies and discipline of Prussia alone preserved the Rhenish provinces and the Palatinate from anarchy, plunder, and devastation; and, failing those of Austria, Vienna would have been a heap of ashes. Ultra-democrats, in all ages, have exclaimed against standing armies as instruments of tyranny for suppressing and overawing the people, and they have argued that such a force is incompatible with free institutions. Such declamation is perfectly natural, both now and heretofore, when we reflect who the individuals are that use it. No class of persons are more bitter against the police than the professional thieves. To them the constable's baton also is an emblem of intolerable tyranny, because it interferes with those liberal ideas regarding the distribution of property which have been philosophically expounded and reduced to ethics by certain sages of the socialist school. The democrat hates the soldier, because he considers him an obstacle in the way of that political regeneration which is merely another word for the institution of a reign of terror.

We do not, however, think it necessary to enter into any elaborate exposition of the idleness of the peace movement. So long as the gentlemen who have gratuitously constituted themselves a congress exhibit so much common sense as to retain the semblance of consistency, we should hardly feel ourselves called upon to interfere in any way with their arrangements. We should be the last people in the world to grudge to Mr Ewart, or any other senator of such limited calibre, the little notoriety which he may chance to pick up by figuring in Paris as a champion of pacific fraternity. The paths towards the Temple of Fame are many and devious; and if a man feels himself utterly wanting in that intellectual strength which is necessary for attaining the summit by the legitimate and beaten road, he is certainly entitled to clamber up to any odd pinnacle from which he can make himself, for a moment, the object of observation. In minor theatres, it is not uncommon to find a broken-down tragedian attempting to achieve some popularity in a humble line, by jumping as Harlequin through a clock, or distorting his ochre-coated visage by grinning magnanimously as the clown. To such feats no fair exception can be taken; and we doubt not that a roar of laughter, proceeding from the throats of the most ignorant assemblage of numskulls, is as grateful to the ears of the performer as would be the applause of the most enlightened and fastidious audience. We believe that, in the case of the Congress, audience and orators were extremely well suited to the capacity of each other. The people of Paris, who drank in the rolling periods of the pacificators, were exceedingly amused with the exhibition; and testified their delight, by greeting the reproduction of the farce, in the shape of a Vaudeville at the Théâtre des Variétés, with unextinguishable shouts of laughter!

Neither shall we make any comment upon the singularity of the time selected for these demonstrations. The members of the Congress expressly set forth, that it was their desire to impress upon the governments of Europe the folly of maintaining large establishments, and we presume that they entertained some reasonable hope that their remonstrances might at least be heard. We need scarcely point out to[Pg 586] our readers the eminent fitness of the present juncture for carrying these views into effect. We have great faith in the extent and power of human idiocy, but we hardly supposed that any body of men could have been congregated, possessed of so much collective imbecility as to conceive that this was a proper moment for securing the conviction, or enlisting the sympathies of any government in their scheme. We are, however, forced to conclude, that a good many of them are sincere; and, believing this, our regard for their honesty rises in a corresponding ratio with the decline of our respect for the measure of their intellects. It would probably be unjust and wrong to confound some of these simple souls with men of the stamp of their new ally, who use their association merely as a means for the promulgation of part of their political opinions, but who, in reality, are so far from being the friends of peace, that they seem bent upon using their utmost efforts to involve the whole of Europe in a new and desolating war. While, therefore, we drop for the present any further notice of the proceedings of the Peace Congress, we feel it our imperative duty to trace the steps of Mr Cobden since, arrayed in sheep's clothing, he chose to make his appearance in the midst of that innocent assembly.

Whatever sympathy may have been shown in certain quarters towards the Italian insurgents, that feeling has been materially lessened by the awful spectacles afforded by insurgent rule. We are, in this country, a great deal too apt to be carried into extravagance by our abstract regard for constitutional freedom. We forget that our own system has been the gradual work of ages; that the enlightenment and education of the people has invariably preceded every measure of substantial reform; and that it is quite possible that other nations may not be fitted to receive like institutions, or to work out the social problem, without more than British restraint. Arbitrary government, being quite foreign to our own notions, is invariably regarded by us with dislike; and our decided impulse, on the appearance of each new insurrection, is to attribute the whole of the blame to the inflexibility of the sovereign power. So long as this feeling is merely confined to expression of opinion at home, it is comparatively, though not altogether, harmless. Undue weight is attached abroad to the articles of the press, enunciated with perfect freedom, but certainly not always expressing the sense of the community; and foreign statesmen, unable to appreciate this license, have ere now taken umbrage at diatribes, which, could the matter be investigated, would be found to proceed from exceedingly humble sources. So long, however, as our government professed and acted upon the principles of non-interference, there was little likelihood of our being embroiled in disputes with which we had no concern, simply on account of liberal meetings, tavern speeches, or hebdomadal objurgations of despotism.

The real danger commenced when a government, calling itself liberal, began to interfere, most unjustifiably and most unwisely, with the concerns of its neighbours. Powerless to do good at home, the Whigs have ever shown themselves most ready to do mischief abroad; and probably, in the whole history of British diplomacy, there stands recorded no transaction more deplorable, from first to last, than the part which Lord Palmerston has taken in the late Italian movements. It is the fashion to laud the present Foreign Secretary as a man of consummate ability; nor is it possible to deny that, so far as speech-making is concerned, he certainly surpasses his colleagues. We were almost inclined to go farther, and admit that no one could equal him in dexterity of reading official documents, so as to mystify and distort their meaning; but were we to assign him pre-eminence in this department, we should do signal injustice to Earl Grey, who unquestionably stands unrivalled in the art of coopering a despatch. Ability Lord Palmerston certainly has, but we deny that he has shown it in his late Italian negotiations. Restless activity is not a proof of diplomatic talent, any more than an appetite for intrigue, or a perverse obstinacy of purpose. Men of the above temperament have, in all ages, been held incompetent for the duties of so delicate[Pg 587] and difficult a station as that of minister of foreign affairs; and yet who will deny that the whole course of our recent diplomatic relations with the south of Europe, has been marked by an unusual display of restlessness, obstinacy, and intrigue? Public men must submit to have their labours judged of by their fruits; it is the penalty attached to their high office, and most righteously so, since the destinies of nations are committed to their hands. Lord Palmerston may possibly have thought that, by dictating to the governments of Italy the nature of the relations which, in his opinion, ought to subsist between them and their subjects, he was consulting the honour and advantage of England, fulfilling his duty to the utmost, and providing for the maintenance of the public tranquillity of Europe. We say it is possible that such was his thought and intention; but, if so, surely never yet did a man, possessing more than common ability, resort to such extraordinary means, or employ such incapable agents. Of all the men who could have been selected for such a service, Lord Minto was incalculably the worst. We have nothing whatever to say against that nobleman in his private capacity; but, throughout his whole public, we cannot say useful, career, he has never, on one occasion, exhibited a spark even of ordinary talent, and it is more than questioned by many, whether his intelligence rises to the ordinary level. Through accident and connexion he has been thrust into state employment, and has never rendered himself otherwise remarkable than for a most egregious partiality for those of his family, kindred, and name. And yet this was the accredited agent sent out by Lord Palmerston to expound the intentions and views of Great Britain, not only to the sovereigns of Italy, but also to their revolted subjects.

We say nothing of the diplomatic employment of such a representative as Mr Abercromby, at the court of Turin. The correspondence contained in the Blue Books laid before parliament, shows how singularly ignorant that minister was of the real posture of affairs in Italy; how eagerly he caught at every insinuation which was thrown out against the good faith and pacific policy of Austria; and how completely he was made the tool and the dupe of the revolutionary party. It is enough to note the fruits of the Palmerstonian policy, which have been, so far as we are concerned, the utter annihilation of all respect for the British name in Italy, insurrections, wild and wasting civil war, and, finally, the occupation of Rome by the French. Whatever may be thought of the prudence of this latter move, or whatever may be its remote consequences, this at least is certain, that, but for Oudinot and his army, the Eternal City would have been given up as a prey to the vilest congregation of ruffians that ever profaned the name of liberty by inscribing it on their blood-stained banners. To associate the cause of such men with that of legitimate freedom is an utter perversion of terms; and those who have been rash enough to do so must stand convicted, before the world, of complete ignorance of their subject. No pen, we believe, could adequately describe the atrocities which were perpetrated in Rome, from the day when Count Rossi fell by the poniard of the assassin, on the steps of the Quirinal palace, down to that on which the gates were opened for the admittance of the besieging army. Not the least of Popish miracles was the escape of Pius himself, who beheld his secretary slain, and his bodyguard butchered by his side. Of these things modern liberalism takes little note: it hears not the blood of innocent and unoffending priests cry out for vengeance from the pavement; it makes no account of pillage and spoliation, of ransacked convent, or of harried home. It proclaims its sympathy aloud with the robber and the bravo, and is not ashamed to throw the veil of patriotism over the enormities of the brigand Garibaldi!

When, therefore, not only a considerable portion of the press of this country, but the government itself, is found espousing the cause of revolution in the south of Europe, we need not be surprised if other governments, at a period of so much danger and insecurity, regard Great Britain as a renegade to the cause of order. Our position at present is, in reality, one of great difficulty, and such as ought[Pg 588] to make us extremely cautious of indulging in unnecessary bravado. The state of our financial affairs is anything but encouraging. We are answerable for a larger debt than any other nation of the world; and our economists are so sensible of the weight of our burdens, that they would fain persuade us to denude ourselves even of the ordinary means of defence. Our foreign exports are stationary; our imports immensely increasing; our home market reduced, for the present, to a state of terrible prostration. Free trade, by destroying the value of agricultural produce, has almost extinguished our last hope of restoring tranquillity to Ireland, and of raising that unhappy country to the level of the sister kingdoms. It is in vain that we have crippled ourselves to stay the recurring famine of years, since our statesmen are leagued with famine, and resolute to persevere in their iniquity. The old hatred of the Celt to the Saxon is still burning in the bosoms of a large proportion of the misguided population of Ireland; and were any opportunity afforded, it would break forth as violently as ever. So that, even within the girdle of the four seas, we are not exactly in that situation which might justify our provoking unnecessary hostility from abroad. So far we are entirely at one with the Peace Congress. When we look to the state of our colonies, the prospect is not more encouraging. Through Whig misrule, our tenure of the Canadas has become exceedingly precarious. The West Indies are writhing in ruin; and even the inhabitants of the Cape are rampant, from the duplicity of the Colonial Office. Our interest is most clearly and obviously identified with the cause of order; for, were Britain once actively engaged in a general war, it is possible that the presence of her forces would be required in more than a single point. Of the final result, in the event of such a calamity, we have no doubt, but not the less, on that account, should we deeply deplore the struggle.

Such being our sentiments, it is with considerable pain that we feel ourselves called upon to notice as strong an instance of charlatanism and presumption as was ever exhibited in this country. Fortunately, on this occasion, the offender has gone so far that no one can be blind to his delinquencies; for, if there be any truth in the abstract principles of the Peace Association, their last disciple has disowned them; if the doctrines of free trade were intended to have universal application, Richard Cobden, in the face of the universe, has entered his protest against them. It signifies very little to us, and less to the powers against whom he has thundered his anathemas, what Mr Cobden thinks proper either to profess or repudiate; still, as he has been pleased to attempt the performance of the part of Guy Fawkes, we judge it necessary to conduct him from the coal-cellar, and to throw the light of the lantern upon his visage, and that of his accomplices. And, first, a word or two as to the occasion of his last appearance.

The recent Hungarian rising is by no means to be classed in the same category with the wretched Italian insurrections. Much as it is to be deplored that any misunderstanding should have arisen between the Austrian cabinet and the Hungarian Diet, so serious as to have occasioned a war; we look upon the latter body as uninfluenced by those wild democratic notions which have been and are still prevalent in the west of Europe. Whatever may have been the case with Kossuth, and some of his more ambitious confederates, the mass of the Hungarian people had no wish whatever to rise in rebellion against their king. Their quarrel was that of a minor state to which certain privileges had been guaranteed; against the presumed infringement of which, by their more powerful neighbour, they first protested, and finally had recourse to arms. Their avowed object, throughout the earlier part of the struggle, was not to overturn, but to maintain, certain existing institutions: and it is remarkable that, from the day on which Kossuth threw off the mask, and renounced allegiance to his sovereign, the Hungarians lost confidence in their leader, and their former energy decayed. We need not now discuss the abstract justice of the Hungarian claims; but whatever may be thought of these, we must, in common fairness[Pg 589] to Austria, consider her peculiar position at the time when they were sought to be enforced. Concessions which, during a season of tranquillity, might have been gracefully made, were rendered almost impossible when demanded with threats, in the midst of insurrection and revolt. It was but too obvious that the leaders of the Hungarian movement, forgetful of their fealty to the chief of that great empire of which their country formed a part, were bent upon increasing instead of lessening the difficulties with which Austria was everywhere surrounded, and eager to avail themselves of distractions elsewhere, for the purpose of dictating insolent and exorbitant terms. In short, we believe that the real claims of Hungary, however they may have formed the foundation of the discontent which ripened into war, were used by Kossuth and his colleagues as instruments for their own ambition; and that, by throwing off the mask too precipitately, they opened the eyes of their followers to the true nature of their designs, and forfeited that support which the realm was ready to accord the men who, with a single and patriotic purpose, demanded nothing more than the recognition of the rights of their country.

It was but natural that the intervention of Russia should have been viewed with some uneasiness in the west of Europe. Every movement of that colossal power beyond the boundaries of its own territory excites a feeling of jealousy, singularly disproportionate to the real character of its resources, if Mr Cobden's estimate of these should be adopted as the true one; and we fairly confess that we have no desire to see any considerable augmentation made to the territorial possessions of the Czar. But the assistance which, on this occasion, has been sent to Austria by Russia, however much we may regret the occasion which called the latter into activity, cannot surely be tortured into any aggressive design. Apart from all our jealousies, it was a magnanimous movement on the part of one powerful sovereign in favour of a harassed ally; nor can we see how that assistance could have been refused by Russia, without incurring the reproach of bad faith, and running imminent risk with regard to her own dependencies. Those active revolutionists, the Poles, whose presence behind every barricade has been conspicuously marked and unblushingly avowed, showed themselves foremost in all the disturbances which threatened the dismemberment of Austria. By them the Hungarian army was principally officered; and it now appears, from the intercepted correspondence of their nominal chief, that the Hungarian insurrection was relied upon as the first step for a fresh attempt towards the restoration of a Polish kingdom. Under these circumstances, the Czar felt himself imperatively called upon to act; and his honour has been amply vindicated by the withdrawal of his forces after his mission was accomplished, and the Hungarian insurrection quelled.

It would undoubtedly have been far more satisfactory to every one, if the differences between Austria and Hungary could have been settled without an appeal to arms; but such a settlement was, we apprehend, utterly beyond the powers even of the Peace Congress to effect; and the next best thing is to know that tranquillity has actually been restored. That a great deal of sympathy should be shown for the Hungarians, is, under the circumstances, by no means unnatural. It is no exaggeration to say, that hardly one man out of a thousand, in Britain, comprehends the merits of the dispute, or is able, if called upon, to give an intelligible account of the quarrel. Such amount of knowledge, however, is by no means necessary to qualify a platform orator for holding forth at a moment's notice; and, accordingly, meetings expressive of sympathy with the persecuted Hungarians were called in many of our larger towns, and the usual amount of rhodomontade uttered, by gentlemen who make a point of exhibiting their elocutionary powers upon the slightest colourable pretence. Had these meetings been held earlier, they might have been worth something. We shall not go the length of assuring the very shallow and conceited personages who constitute the oratorical rump, or public debating society of Edinburgh, that their opi[Pg 590]nions are likely to be esteemed of surpassing importance, even if they were to be heard of so far as St Petersburg or Vienna; for their utter ignorance of the aspect of foreign affairs is such as would excite ridicule in the bosoms of those whom they profess to patronise and applaud. But if they really were impressed with the notion that the claims of Hungary were of such mighty importance, how was it that they tarried until the consideration of all constitutional questions had been swallowed up in war—until those who fully understood the true position of Hungary, and her rights as legally guaranteed and defined, were forced to acknowledge that, through the violence, treachery, and ambition of the insurgent nobles, all hope of a pacific settlement had disappeared; and that the best result which Europe could hope for, was the speedy quenching of an insurrection, now broadly revolutionary and republican, and threatening to spread still wider the devastating flames of anarchy? The explanation we believe to be a very simple one. Most of them knew as much of the affairs of Cappadocia as they did of those of Hungary, and they would have been equally ready to spout in favour of either country.

Late in July, Mr Bernal Osborne, backed by Mr R. M. Milnes, whose knowledge of politics is about equal to his skill in the construction of dactyls, brought forward the Hungarian question in the House of Commons, and thereby gave Lord Palmerston an opportunity of unbosoming himself on that branch of our European relations. His lordship's speech, on that occasion, was very much lauded at the time; but on referring to it now, we are somewhat at a loss to understand how it could have given satisfaction to any one. It was, indeed, as insulting to Austria, whose back was then supposed to be at the wall, as any opponent of constitutional government could have desired. Alliance was sneered at, as a mere empty word of no significance whatever: nor can we much wonder at this ebullition, considering the manner in which his lordship has thought proper to deal with other powers, who attached some value to the term. This topic was, further, a congenial one, inasmuch as it afforded the Foreign Secretary an opportunity of gibing at his predecessor, Lord Aberdeen, whose sense of honour does not permit him to identify the solemn treaties of nations with folios of waste paper; and who, therefore, was held up to ridicule as a pattern of "antiquated imbecility." But, after all this persiflage, which could serve no purpose whatever, save that of giving vent to an unusual secretion of Palmerstonian bile, it appeared that his lordship was actually to do nothing at all. He regretted, just as much as we do, and probably not more than the Austrian cabinet, that no accommodation of differences had taken place. He said, very truly, that whatever the result of the struggle might be, it could not strengthen the stability of the Austrian empire; but at the same time he distinctly repudiated all intention of interfering beyond mere passive advice, and he could not deny the right of Austria, if it thought proper, to call in the aid of the Russian arms. His conclusion, in short, was sound, and we only regret that, while it was so, the tone and temper of his speech were not equally judicious. This debate in the House of Commons was immediately followed up by a public meeting at the London Tavern, presided over by Mr Alderman Salomons.

We had not the good fortune to be present on that occasion; but, from the accounts contained in the morning papers, it must have been an assemblage of a singularly motley kind. There was a considerable muster of Radical members of parliament; the Financial Reform and the Peace Associations were respectively represented; Lord Nugent and Mr Milnes stood forth as delegates from the Bards of Britain; Julian Harney and Mr G. W. M. Reynolds headed a numerous band of Chartists; and Lord Dudley Stuart, as a matter of course, was surrounded by a whiskered phalanx of Poles, Hungarians, Italians, Germans, and Sicilians, each one striving to look more patriotically ferocious than his neighbour. The first sympathetic resolution was moved by a Quaker, and seconded by no less a person than Richard Cobden, who had only been prevented from attending the previous debate in the House[Pg 591] of Commons by a swan-hopping expedition on the Thames.

Then it was that Mr Cobden first favoured the world with some economical views, so exceedingly novel and startling, as to excite, even in that audience, unequivocal symptoms of incredulity. He set out by laying it down as a general rule, that every separate state ought to be left to the management of its own affairs, without the interference of any foreign power whatever. "If," said he, "this had been a question simply between Hungary and Austria, I should not have appeared here to-day, nor indeed would it have been necessary for any of us to have appeared here to-day. So long as the Hungarians were left to settle their affairs with the government of Vienna, they were perfectly competent to do it, without the interference of the citizens of London." This is intelligible enough. So long as central governments are merely fighting with their own dependencies, there is no room at all, according to Mr Cobden, for interference. It matters not which side prevails: they must be left wholly to themselves. This doctrine could not, we think, have been very acceptable to the Poles; since it amounts to an entire admission that Russia has a right to deal with them at her pleasure; neither is it altogether consistent with our ideas, or interpretation of the law of nations. But it is Cobden's view, and therefore let it pass, to him, then, it mattered nothing whether Goth or Hun prevailed—it was the intervention of Russia that peremptorily called him to the platform. Now we must own, that we cannot understand this sort of reasoning, though it may possibly be suited to the capacities of a Manchester audience. If, as many people no doubt conscientiously believe, Austria was trampling upon the liberties of a brave and loyal people, not only justice, but humanity demands that our sympathies should be enlisted on their side. We cannot acquiesce in a doctrine which would have left the Greeks (lamentably small sense as they have shown of the benefits of liberty) to toil on for ever under the grievous yoke of the Ottoman: nor are we prepared to carry our apathy to so extreme a length. The intervention of Russia could not, by any possibility, alter the complexion of the quarrel. It might either crush freedom, or maintain constitutional government and the balance of power in Europe; but the principle of the contest, whatever that might be, was declared before Russia appeared, and according as men view it, so should their sympathies be given. The whole question, however, as Mr Cobden put the case, turned upon Russian interference.

If Mr Cobden's next door neighbour happened to have a dispute with his operatives, touching the interpretation of certain points of the Charter, and if the latter, in their zeal for enlightenment, were to set fire to their master's premises, we apprehend that the honourable member for the West Riding, (having neglected his own insurance,) might blamelessly bear a hand to quench the threatening conflagration. Further, if he were assured that the said operatives, assisted by a gang of deserters from his own mills, were trying their hands at an incendiary experiment, preliminary to operating upon his calico warehouses, how could he be blamed, if he sallied to attack the rioters in their first position? Yet, if we are permitted to compare very great things with small, this was precisely the situation of Russia. If she did not assist Austria, the flame would have been kindled in her own provinces; if the Hungarian insurrection had triumphed, Poland would have been up in arms. With the old partition of Poland we have nothing now to do, any more than with the junction of the Slavonic provinces with Austria. Right or wrong, these have long become acknowledged facts in European history, and the boundary divisions have been acquiesced in by a congress of the assembled nations. We cannot go back upon matters of ancient right and occupation; were we to do so, the peace of every nation in Europe must necessarily be disturbed, and no alternative would remain, save the Utopian one of parcelling out territory according to the language of the inhabitants. Boundaries must be settled somehow. They were so settled, by the consent of all the nations, at the treaty of[Pg 592] Vienna; and our duty, as well as our interest, is to adhere to that arrangement. Russia, by assisting Austria, has in no way contravened any of the stipulations of that treaty. From the moment when the Hungarian party declared their country independent, and proclaimed a republic, a new cause of discord and misrule was opened in the east of Europe, and the greatest of the eastern potentates was not only entitled but forced to interfere. It by no means follows that we, who uphold this view, have any partiality or liking for Russian institutions. No man who lives in a free country, like ours, can possibly sympathise with despotism, serfism, and that enormous stretch of feudal power which is given to a privileged class—we must regard such things with a feeling nearly akin to abhorrence; nor can we, with our Saxon notions, fancy existence even tolerable in such a state of society. But our likings or disgusts cannot alter matters as they stand. We cannot force other nations to see with our eyes, to think with our thoughts, or to adapt their constitutions according to the measure of our accredited standard of excellence. That amount of irresponsible and uncontrolled action which we term freedom, presupposes the existence of a large and general spread of intelligence throughout the community, fixed laws of property, consolidated social relationship, pure administration of justice, and wisdom and temperance on the part of the governed and the governor. Such things are not the rapid results of months, or years, or centuries. They are of slow growth, but they are the inevitable fruits of order; and very blind and ignorant must that man be who does not see the hand of progress at work even in the institutions of Russia. That country emerged from barbarism later than the rest of Europe, but, since the days of Peter the Czar, its strides towards civilisation have been most rapid. Commerce has been established, manufactures introduced, learning and the arts cultivated, and such a foundation laid as, in no very long time, must perforce secure to all ranks of the people a larger share of freedom than they are now qualified to enjoy. Revolution cannot hasten such a state of matters, but it may materially retard it. Foolish and short-sighted men seem to think that revolt is a synonymous term with freedom, and, accordingly, they hail each fresh outbreak with shouts of indiscriminate approval. They can draw no distinction between the revolt of the barons and that of Jack Cade in England; they are as ready to applaud Spartacus as Brutus; they think a peasant's war as meritorious as the up-raising of the standard of the League. They never stop to consider that freedom is a mere relative term, and that it is worse than useless to pluck down one form of government by violence, unless a better is to be reared in its stead. And who can venture to say that this would have been the case with Hungary? Who would predict it with certainty even of Poland, were that dismembered kingdom to be restored? It is notorious that Poland went to pieces under the weight of its elective monarchy, and the perpetual feuds, turbulence, and tyranny of a lawless and fierce aristocracy. No doubt, men will fight for these things—they will fight for traditions, and bad ones too, as keenly as for the most substantial benefits. A century ago, the Highlanders would have fought to the death for clanship, chieftainship, heritable jurisdictions, and the right of foray and of feud; but will any man now raise up his voice in favour of the old patriarchal constitution? In Ireland, at this moment, we believe that a large body of the Celts is willing to stand up for a restoration of the days of Malachi of the Golden Collar—a form of government which, we presume, even an O'Connell would decline. This is just the case with our sympathisers. They take it for granted that, because there is revolt, there must be a struggle for freedom, and they are perfectly ready to accept, without the slightest examination, any legend that may be coined for the nonce. Gullible as a considerable number of the British public may be, especially that section of the public which delights in platform oratory, we really could not have believed that any assemblage could be so utterly ignorant, as to receive a statement to[Pg 593] the effect that the old constitution of Hungary bore a close resemblance to our own!

We are tempted here to insert an extract from the works of a popular writer regarding the constitution of Poland, because it expresses, in excellent language, the opinions which we are attempting to set forth in this article, and denounces the folly of those who confound the term freedom with its just and rational application. Will the reader favour us by perusing the following passage with attention?—when he has done so, we shall state from whose eloquent pen it proceeded.

"Of how trifling consequence it must be to the practical minded and humane people of Great Britain, or to the world at large, whether Poland be governed by a king of this dynasty or of that—whether he be lineally descended from Boleslas the Great, or of the line of the Jagellons—contrasted with the importance of the inquiries as to the social and political condition of its people—whether they be as well or worse governed, clothed, fed, and lodged in the present day as compared with any former period,—whether the mass of the people be elevated in the scale of moral and religious beings,—whether the country enjoys a smaller or a larger amount of the blessings of peace; or whether the laws for the protection of life and property are more or less justly administered. These are the all-important inquiries about which we busy ourselves; and it is to cheat us of our stores of philanthropy, by an appeal to the sympathy with which we regard these vital interests of a whole people, that the declaimers and writers upon the subject invariably appeal to us on behalf of the oppressed and enslaved Polish nation—carefully obscuring, amidst the cloud of epithets about 'ancient freedom,' 'national independence,' 'glorious republic,' and the like, the fact that, previously to the dismemberment, the term nation implied only the nobles;—that, down to the partition of their territory, about nineteen out of every twenty of the inhabitants were slaves, possessing no rights, civil or political; that about one in every twenty was a nobleman—and that that body of nobles formed the very worst aristocracy of ancient or modern times; putting up and pulling down their kings at pleasure; passing selfish laws, which gave them the power of life and death over their serfs, whom they sold and bought like dogs or horses; usurping, to each of themselves, the privileges of a petty sovereign, and denying to all besides the meanest rights of human beings; and, scorning all pursuits as degrading, except that of the sword, they engaged in incessant wars with neighbouring states, or plunged their own country into all the horrors of anarchy, for the purpose of giving employment to themselves and their dependants." And the same writer, after remarking upon the character and conduct of the privileged class in Poland, in language which is just as applicable to those of the Hungarian nobles, thus accounts for the insurrection in 1830. The Italics are his own. "We hesitate not emphatically to assert, that it was wholly, and solely, and exclusively, at the instigation, and for the selfish benefit, of this aristocratic faction of the people, that the Polish nation suffered for twelve months the horrors of civil war, was thrown back in her career of improvement, and has since had to endure the rigours of a conqueror's vengeance. The Russian government was aware of this; and its severity has since been chiefly directed towards the nobility." And in a note appended to the above paragraph he says, "The peasants joined, to a considerable extent, the standard of revolt; but this was to be expected, in consequence of the influence necessarily exercised over them by the superior classes. Besides, patriotism or nationality is an instinctive virtue, that sometimes burns the brightest in the rudest and least reasoning minds; and its manifestation bears no proportion to the value of the possessions defended, or the object to be gained. The Russian serfs at Borodino, the Turkish slaves at Ismail, and the lazzaroni of Naples, fought for their masters and oppressors more obstinately than the free citizens of Paris or Washington did, at a subsequent period, in defence of those capitals."

And who was the author of these very lucid and really excellent remarks? We reply, Richard Cobden, Esq. The curious in such[Pg 594] matters will find these, and many similar passages, in a pamphlet entitled Russia, by a Manchester Manufacturer, which was published in 1836, for the purpose of showing that, on the whole, it would be an advantage to British commerce if Russia were to lay violent hands on Turkey, and possess herself of Constantinople!

But it is time we should return to the London Tavern meeting, where we left Mr Cobden, this time denouncing the active interference of Russia. Here the apostle of peace was certainly upon ticklish ground. Large as his estimate undoubtedly is of his own influence and power, he could hardly expect, that, because he and some other gentlemen of inferior endowments were pleased to hold a meeting in the London Tavern, and pass resolutions condemnatory of the conduct of the Czar, the immediate consequence would be a withdrawal of the Russian forces. Under such circumstances, as he must have perfectly well known, the expression of his opinion was not worth the splinter of a rush to the Hungarians, unless, indeed, he were prepared to follow up his words by deeds. On the other hand, he was debarred, by some fifty public declarations, from advocating the propriety of a war: not only upon the general pacific principle—for that might easily have been evaded,—but upon economical considerations connected with his darling scheme of reducing the British navy and army, which would be clearly incompatible with the commencement of a general European conflict. An ordinary man, entertaining such views and sentiments, would probably have considered himself as lodged between the horns of an inextricable dilemma. Not so Cobden, whose genius rose to the difficulty. The experience of a hundred platform fights had taught him this great truth, that no proposition was too monstrous to be crammed down the public throat, provided the operator possessed the requisite share of effrontery; and he straightway proceeded, secundum artem, to exhibit a masterpiece of his skill.

Probably not one man in all that room but had been impressed, from his youth upwards, with a wholesome terror and respect for the magnitude of the Russian power. That, at all events, was the feeling of the Poles, and decidedly of the Polish champions. But in less than an instant they were disabused. Most of our readers must have seen how a small figure, painted on a tiny slip of glass, may, when passed through the aperture of a magic lantern, be made to reflect the attitude and dimensions of a giant: Cobden's trick was exactly the opposite of this; he made the actual giant appear in the dwindled proportions of a dwarf. "I will tell you," said he, "how we can bring moral force to bear on these armed despots. We can stop the supplies. (Loud cheers.) Why, Russia can't carry on two campaigns beyond her own frontiers, without coming to Western Europe for a loan. She never has done so, without being either subsidised by England, or borrowing money from Amsterdam. I tell you I have paid a visit there, and I assert that they cannot carry on two campaigns in Hungary, without either borrowing money in Western Europe or robbing the bank at St Petersburg. (A laugh, and a cry of 'Question.') That must be a Russian agent, a spy, for this is the question. I know," continued our magniloquent Richard, "that the Russian party, here and abroad, would rather that I should send against them a squadron of cavalry and a battery of cannon, than that I should fire off the facts that I am about to tell you. I say, then, that Russia cannot carry on two campaigns without a loan." We believe that the latter part of Mr Cobden's statement is tolerably accurate, so that he need not give himself any further trouble about the production of his indicated horse and artillery. We agree with him that Russia might be puzzled to carry on two vigorous campaigns without a loan; but we should be glad to know what country in Europe is not in the same predicament? War, as everybody knows, is a very costly matter—not much cheaper than revolution, though a good deal more speedy in its results—and every nation which engages in it must, perforce, liquidate the expense. Great Britain could not, any more than Russia, go to war without a loan. In such an event, the only[Pg 595] difference would be that the British loan must necessarily be six or seven times greater than that of Russia, for this simple reason, that Russia has a large standing army levied and prepared, whereas we have not. Now what is there to prevent Russia from negotiating a loan? The first question, we apprehend, is the state of her finances—let us see whether there is any symptom of approaching bankruptcy in these. The debt of Russia, according to the most recent authorities, is seventy-six millions, being as near as possible one tenth of our own. Her revenue is about seventeen millions, or one-third of ours. So far, therefore, as the mere elements of credit go, Russia would, in the eyes of the capitalist, be the more eligible debtor of the two. There could, we apprehend, be no possible doubt of her solvency, for, with large resources behind, she has a mere fraction of a debt, and her power of raising revenue by taxes has been little exercised. Our readers will better understand this by keeping in mind, that, while the revenue presently levied is just one-third of ours, the population of Russia is considerably more than double that of Great Britain and Ireland. Mr Cobden, however, accepting, as we presume he must do, the above official facts, draws from them inferences of a very startling character. "Don't let any one talk," said he, "of Russian resources. It is the poorest and most beggarly country in Europe. It has not a farthing. Last year there was an immense deficit in its income as compared with its expenditure, and during the present financial year it will be far worse. Russia a strong political power! Why, there is not so gigantic a political imposture in all Europe." And again, "Russia a strong, a powerful, and a rich country! Don't believe any one who tells you so in future. Refer them to me." We feel deeply obliged to Mr Cobden for the last suggestion, but we would rather, with his permission, refer to facts. If the poorest and most beggarly country in Europe has contrived to rear its magnificent metropolis from the marshes of the gelid Neva, to create and maintain large and well-equipped fleets in the Baltic and the Black seas, and to keep up a standing army of about half a million of men, without increasing its permanent debt beyond the amount already specified, all we shall say is, that the semi-civilised Russian is in possession of an economical secret utterly unknown to the statesmen of more favoured climes, and that the single farthing in his hand, has produced results more wonderful than any achieved by the potency of the lamp of Aladdin. But the climax has yet to come. Waxing bolder and bolder on the strength of each successive assertion of Russian weakness and impotency, the Apostle of Peace assumed the attitude of defiance: "If Russia should take a step that required England, or any other great maritime power, like the United States, to attack that power, why, we should fall like a thunderbolt upon her. You would in six months crumple that empire up, or drive it into its own dreary fastnesses, as I now crumple up that piece of paper in my hand!!!" Here is a pretty fellow for you! This invincible fire-eater is the same man who, for the last couple of years, has been agitating for the reduction of the army and navy, on the ground that the whole world was in a state of the profoundest peace, and likely so to remain! This crumpler-up and defier of empires is the gentleman who held forth this bygone summer, at Paris, on the wickedness of war, and on the spread of fraternity and brotherly love among the nations! Why, if old Admiral Drake had risen from the dead, he could not have spoken in a more warlike strain, only the temper and tone of his remarks would have been different. A hero is bold but temperate: a demagogue blustering and pot-valiant.

It is but right to say, that this impudent and mischievous trash, though of course abundantly cheered by many of the poor creatures who knew no better, did not altogether impose upon the meeting. Mr Bernal Osborne could not find it in his conscience to acquiesce, even tacitly, in this monstrous attempt at imposition, and accordingly, though "he coincided in much that had been said by the member for the West Riding, he must take the liberty to say that, in exposing the weakness of Russia, he[Pg 596] had gone rather too far. Forewarned was forearmed, and let them not lay it to their hearts that the great empire was not to be feared, but despised." And therefore, he, Mr Osborne, "would be sorry if any man in the meeting should go away with the impression that the monstrous Pansclavonic empire was to be thoroughly despised." Neither did the chairman exactly approve of the line of discussion which had been introduced by Mr Cobden. He said, with great truth, that they had nothing to do at present with the resources of Russia; their business being simply to consider the wrongs of Hungary, and to give utterance to such an expression of opinion as might act upon the British government. Mr Salomons is a practical man, and understands the use of mob-meetings, which is to coerce and compel Whig administrations to do precisely what the frequenters of the London Tavern desire. Better versed, by a great deal, in monetary matters than Mr Cobden, he knows that financial discussions are utterly out of place in such an assemblage; and, moreover, we have a strong suspicion that the latter part of Mr Cobden's speech, to which we are just about to refer, must have sounded harshly in the ears of a gentleman of the Hebrew persuasion, initiated, after the custom of his tribe, in the mysteries of borrowing and lending. Up to this point we have considered Mr Cobden in the united character of peace-maker and bully: let us now see how he contrives to combine the hitherto antagonistic qualities of free-trader and restrictionist.

Having, satisfactorily to himself, demonstrated the pitiable weakness of Russia, and having got over the notorious fact of her large bullion deposit, and her purchases in the British funds, by explaining that the first is the foundation of her currency, and the second a private operation of the Bank of St Petersburg—an establishment which, according to his showing, is no way connected with the government—Mr Cobden proceeded to unravel his schemes for paring the claws of the northern Bear. It has the merit of pure simplicity. Not one penny is henceforward to be lent to the Russian government. The capitalists of Europe are henceforth to look, not to the security, but to the motives of the borrowing power. If they think that the money required is to be expended in purchasing munitions of war, in fitting out an armament, or in any other way hostile to the continuance of peace, they are grimly to close their coffers, shake their heads, and refuse to advance one single sixpence, whatever be the amount of percentage offered; and this kind of moral force, Mr Cobden thinks, would not only be effectual, but can easily be brought into action. Let us hear him. "Now, will any one in the city of London dare to be a party to a loan to Russia, either directly or openly, or by agency and copartnership with any house in Amsterdam or Paris? Will any one dare, I say, to come before the citizens of this free country, and avow that he has lent his money for the purpose of cutting the throats of the innocent people of Hungary? I have heard such a project talked of. But let it only assume a shape, and I promise you that we, the peace party, will have such a meeting as has not yet been held in London, for the purpose of denouncing the blood-stained project—for the purpose of pointing the finger of scorn at the house, or the individuals, who would employ their money in such a manner—for the purpose of fixing an indelible stigma of infamy upon the men who would lend their money for such a vile, unchristian, and barbarous purpose. That is my moral force. As for Austria, no one, I suppose, would ever think of lending her money." We shall, by-and-by, have occasion to see more of Mr Cobden in connexion with the Austrian loan; in the mean time, let us keep to the general proposition. The meaning of the above unadorned fustian is simply this—that no man shall, in future, presume to lend his money without consulting the views of Mr Cobden and his respectable confederates. This ukase—and a magnificent one it is—was rapturously received by his audience; a fiat of approval which we set no great store on, seeing that, in all probability, not fifty of those excellent philanthropists could command as many pounds for the permanent purpose of investment. But the idea[Pg 597] of controlling, by their sweet voices, the monetary operations of the great banking-houses of the world, the Rothschilds, the Barings, and the Hopes, was too delicious a hallucination not to be rewarded with a corresponding cheer. Now, setting aside the absolute impudence of the proposal—for we presume Mr Cobden must have known that he had as much power to stay the flux of the tides, as to regulate the actions of the money-lenders—what are we to think of the new principle enunciated by the veteran free-trader? What becomes of the grand doctrine of buying in the cheapest and selling in the dearest market, without the slightest regard to any other earthly consideration, save that of price? Will Mr Cobden NOW venture to persuade us that he had some mental reservation, when he propounded that ever-memorable axiom; or that dealers in coin were to be regulated by a different code of moral laws from that which was laid down for the use of the more fortunate dealers in calico? We presume, that, without cotton, and blankets, and machinery exported from this country, the slaves of Cuba could hardly be made to work—why, then, should we not clap an embargo on these articles, and point with the finger of scorn, disgust, and execration, to every man who traffics in that unholy trade? And yet, if our memory serves us right, no very long time has elapsed since we beggared our West Indian colonies, solely to drive a larger trade in those articles with the slave plantations, for behoof of Messrs Cobden and Co. Slavery, we presume, is an institution not congenial to the mind of Mr Cobden—at least we hope not, and we are sure he would not be willing to admit it. In point of humanity, it is rather worse than war; why not, then, let us have a strong exercise of moral force to abolish it, by stopping the supplies? The withdrawal of our custom, for three or four years, would effectually knock Cuba on the head. Why not try it? We should like to see Mr Cobden's face, if such a proposition were made in Parliament; and yet is it not as rational, and a great deal more feasible, than the other? But it is a positive waste of time to dwell further upon such a glaring absurdity as this. Baron Rothschild, member-elect though he be for the city of London, will care very little for the extended digit of Mr Cobden, and will doubtless consult his own interest, without troubling himself about Manchester demagogues, when the next Russian loan is proposed.

Having delivered himself of this remarkable oration, Mr Cobden very wisely withdrew; perhaps he had a slight suspicion of the scene which was presently to follow. The majority of the meeting consisted of gentlemen whose notions about moral force were exceedingly vague and general. Their strong British instincts, inflamed by the stimulus of beer, led them to question the use of abstract sympathy, unless it was to be followed up by action; and accordingly Mr Reynolds, a person of some literary as well as political notoriety, thought it his duty to give a more practical turn to the deliberations of the meeting, and thereby cut short several interesting harangues. We quote from the report of the Times of 24th July.

"Mr G. W. M. Reynolds, whose remarks were frequently followed by interruption and cries of 'question,' next addressed the meeting. He avowed his belief, that in so holy, sacred, and solemn a cause, England must even go to war in defence of Hungary, if necessary. (This assertion was received with such hearty cheering as proved that the speaker had expressed the sentiments of the vast body of the meeting.) All the moral effects of that meeting (continued Mr Reynolds) would be perfectly useless, unless they were prepared to go further. If the government would employ some of the ships that were now rotting in our harbours, and some of the troops now marching about London, that would really benefit the Hungarians. (Cheers.) France used to be regarded as a barrier against Russia, but France was no longer so, because that humbug Louis Napoleon (tremendous cheers—and three hearty groans for Louis Napoleon)—that rank impostor (continued cheering)—

"The Chairman here interfered, and much interruption ensued. If anything could disturb and injure the cause which they were met to support, it was such remarks as they had just heard. ("No, no.") If he (the Chairman) were a spy of Russia, he should follow out the course pursued by Mr Reynolds. (Much confusion and disapprobation.)"

[Pg 598]

We really cannot see wherein the author of the Mysteries of London was to blame. His proposition had, at all events, the merit of being intelligible, which Mr Cobden's was not, and he clearly spoke the sentiments of the large majority of the unwashed. He certainly went a little out of his way, to denounce the President of the French Republic as an impostor: a deviation which we regret the more, as he might have found ample scope for such expositions without going further than the speeches of the gentlemen who immediately preceded him. We need not linger over the ensuing scene. Mr Duncan—"said to be a Chartist poet"—attempted to address the meeting, but seems to have failed. We do not remember to have met with any of Mr Duncan's lyrics, but we have a distinct impression of having seen a gentleman of his name, and imputed principles, at the bar of the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh. But if the sacred voice of one poet was not listened to, the same meed of inattention was bestowed upon another. The arms of Mr R. M. Milnes were seen hopelessly gesticulating above the press; and Lord Dudley Stuart, for once, was cut short in his stereotyped harangue. The case was perfectly clear: Reynolds was the only man who had enunciated a practical idea, and accordingly the voice of the meeting was unequivocally declared for war.

We hope that the Peace Congress, and the economists, and the free-traders, are all equally delighted with this notable exhibition of their hero. If they are so, we certainly have no further commentary to offer. To secure peace, Mr Cobden openly defies and challenges Russia; to further economy, he does his best to inflame the passions of the people, and to get up a cry for war; to vindicate free trade, he proposes henceforward to coerce Lombard Street. Is there, in all the history of imposture, an instance comparable to this? Possibly there may be; but, if so, we are certain it was better veiled.

The evil luck of Mr Cobden still clung to him. Within a very short time after this memorable meeting was held, the Hungarian armies surrendered at discretion, and the insurrection was thoroughly quenched. Not two, not even one complete campaign, were necessary to put an end to an ill-advised struggle, in which the hearts of the Hungarian people were never sincerely enlisted; and good men hoped that the sword might now be sheathed in the eastern territories of Europe. That portion of the press which had sympathised with the insurgents, and hailed with frantic delight the suicidal resolution of the Hungarian chiefs to separate themselves for ever from the house of Austria, was terribly mortified at a result so speedy and unexpected; and did its best to keep up the excitement at home, by multiplying special instances of cruelty and barbarity said to have been wrought by the victors on the persons of their vanquished foemen. That many such instances really occurred we do not for a moment doubt. When the passions of men have been inflamed by civil war, and whetted by a desire for vengeance, it is always difficult for the authorities to preserve a proper restraint. This is the case even among civilised nations; and when we reflect that a large portion of the troops on either side engaged in the Hungarian war, cannot with any justice be termed civilised, it is no wonder if deeds of wanton atrocity should occur. Indeed, late events may lead us to question how far civilisation, on such occasions, can ever operate as a check. Who could have believed that last year, in Frankfort, a young and gallant nobleman, whose sole offence was, the free expressions of his opinions in a parliament convened by universal suffrage, should have been put to death at noonday by lingering torments, and his groans of agony echoed back by the laughter of his brutal assassins? The names of Felix Lichnowsky and Von Auerswaldt will surely long be remembered to the infamy of that city which was the birthplace of Goethe, and boasted of itself as the refined capital of the Rhenish provinces. A veil of mystery still hangs over the circumstances connected with the assassination of Count Latour; and though we are unwilling to give currency to a rumour, which would entail infamy on the memory of one who has since passed to his account, the[Pg 599] victim of an unbridled ambition, strong suspicions exist that a Hungarian minister was directly privy to that act of dastardly and cruel murder. But there is no manner of doubt at all as to the atrocities which were committed in Vienna when that hapless city was in the hands of the red republicans and the Poles. Pillage, murder, and violation were crimes of every-day occurrence, and it is not wonderful if the memory of these wrongs has in some instances goaded on the victors to a revenge which all must deplore. As to the military executions which have taken place, we have a word to say. The suppression of almost every revolt has been followed by strong measures on the part of the conquerors, against those who excited the insurrection. Our own history is full of them. Succeeding generations, according to their estimate of the justness of the cause which they espoused, have blamed, or pitied, or applauded the conduct of the men who thus perilled and lost their lives; but the necessity of such executions has rarely or never been questioned. We allude, of course, to those who have been the leaders and instigators of the movement, and upon whom the responsibility, and the expiation for the blood which has been shed must fall; not to the subordinates who ought to be, and almost always are, the proper objects of mercy. The most ardent Jacobite, while he deplored the death, and vindicated the principles of Lords Balmerino and Kilmarnock, never thought of blaming the government of the day for having sent those devoted noblemen to the block. But in their case the execution assumed the character of a terrible national solemnity—not hastily enacted, but following after a deliberate trial before unprejudiced judges, upon which the attention and interest of the whole country was concentrated. And, therefore, while posterity has been unanimous in expressing its abhorrence of the bloody butcheries of William, Duke of Cumberland, after the battle of Culloden, no reflection has been thrown upon the ministers of George II. for having allowed the law to take its course against the more prominent leaders of the rebellion, even though the sympathies of many good men have been enlisted on the losing side. Now, we do not hesitate to condemn most strongly the conduct of Austria on the present occasion. No judicial process, so far as we can learn, has been instituted against the captive chiefs, save that which is equivalent to no process at all—the sentence of a court-martial. Except in cases of the most absolute necessity, the functions of the soldier and the judge ought never to be combined and confounded. When the flame of civil war is once trodden out, the civil law ought immediately to resume its wonted supremacy. Treason and rebellion are undoubtedly the highest of all crimes; but, being the highest, it is therefore the more necessary that they should be subjected to the gravest investigation; so that in no way may the punishment inflicted, on account of a heinous breach of the law, be mistaken, even by the most ignorant, for an act of hurried vengeance. We may perhaps have no right to object to the measure of the punishment. We cannot know what charges were brought, or even substantiated against the unfortunate Hungarian leaders of Arad. We are quite unaware what disclosures may have been laid before the Austrian government as to the participation of Count Bathyany in Kossuth's republican schemes. One and all of them may have been guilty in the worst degree; one and all of them may have deserved to die; and it is even possible that circumstances may have rendered such a terrible example necessary, for the future preservation of order; but the manner in which the punishment has been dealt, is, we think, wholly indefensible. It is no answer to say, that the administration of the laws of Austria is different from that of our own, and that we are not entitled to apply the measure of a foreign standard. No point of legal technicality, or even consuetude is involved; there is but one law which, whatever be its extrinsic form, ought to regulate such a proceeding as this—a law which, we trust, is acknowledged in Austria as well as in Britain—the law of justice and humanity. The most suspected criminal, when arraigned before secret and biassed judges, loses, in the[Pg 600] estimation of the public, half his imputed criminality. He has not had a fair trial; and, if condemned, it is possible that his execution may be considered rather as a case of martyrdom, than as one of righteous punishment. A court-martial never is a satisfactory tribunal; least of all can it be satisfactory when the object of its inquiry arises from a civil war. The judges have seen too much of the actual misery and ruin which has occurred to be impartial. That propensity to vengeance, from which it can hardly be said that even the noblest nature is altogether exempt, so nearly akin is it to righteous indignation, is at such times unnaturally excited. The fiery zeal, which shows so graceful in the soldier, is utterly unsuited to the ermine; and when the ermine is thrown, as in this instance, above the soldier's uniform, there can be very little doubt that ancient habit and inflamed passion will supersede judicial deliberation. By acting thus, we conscientiously believe that Austria has inflicted a serious injury on herself. She has given to those who are her enemies a heavy cause of argument and reproach against those who are her well-wishers; and the immediate and not unnatural result will be an increased amount of sympathy for the political fugitives, and a great disinclination to canvass their true motives and their characters. Francis Joseph at the outset of his reign will be stigmatised—most unjustly, indeed, for the fault lies not with him—as a relentless tyrant, and all who escape from tyranny are sure of popular though indiscriminate compassion.

We have thought it our duty to make those remarks at the present time, because out of this Hungarian affair a question has arisen in which we are to a certain extent implicated, and which may possibly, though we do not think probably, be productive of most serious results. We allude, of course, to the joint demand of Russia and Austria upon Turkey for the surrender of the political fugitives at Widdin. In common with the whole public press of this country, we consider such a demand, on general grounds, to be unexampled and unjust. The abstract right of every independent nation to afford shelter to political fugitives, has, we believe, never been questioned; but, even had it been doubtful, there are very many reasons, founded upon humanity and honour, why all of us should combine to protest against a claim so imperiously and threateningly advanced. Cases may arise, and have arisen, where the privilege has been scandalously abused. For example, the Baden insurgents have fled for shelter across the frontier of Switzerland, and have there remained hatching treason, collecting adherents, and waiting for an opportunity of renewing their treasonable designs. In such a case, we conceive that the threatened government has a decided right to require the sheltering country to remove or banish those fugitives from its territory, and in the event of a refusal, to declare that a proper casus belli. But this, it will be seen, is widely different from a demand for the surrender of the fugitives; and we presume that, in the case of the Hungarians, no allegation can be made, that they have sought harbour, and remain in Turkey, with a view towards renewing their attempt. Unquestionably it is quite competent for states to enter into treaties in fulfilment of which political fugitives must be surrendered when claimed. Such a treaty is said to exist between Russia and Turkey; but it is clearly not applicable in the case of such of the Hungarian refugees as have claimed the shelter of the latter power. Russia, in this quarrel, appears only as the ally of Austria; and she can have no right to admit the latter to a direct participation in any of the stipulations contained in her peculiar treaty. No Hungarian is a subject of Russia; and, therefore, under that treaty, he cannot possibly be reclaimed. With regard to the Polish refugees, there certainly does seem to be a difference; and we care not to own, that we feel far less interest for them than for the Hungarians. Their own national struggle excited throughout Europe great sympathy and compassion. No matter what were the merits of the kind of government which they sought to restore—no man could be cold-blooded enough to forget that the kingdom of Poland had been[Pg 601] violently seized and partitioned; and though sober reason, and, in fact, good faith, compelled us to abstain from espousing the cause of those who, by solemn European treaty, had been confirmed as subjects but who had risen as rebels, we yet gave our hospitality to the fugitive Poles with a heartiness greater and more sincere than was ever accorded on any other occasion. All ranks in this country, and in France, combined to do them honour; and the general wish in both countries was, not to afford them a mere temporary shelter, but to give them a permanent habitation. For this purpose, and to fit them for industrial employment, the British government gave an annual grant of money, and the private subscriptions were munificent. Some of the exiles most creditably availed themselves of the means so placed within their reach, and have become amongst us useful and esteemed citizens. But there were others, and the larger number, who utterly misinterpreted this sympathy, and never would abandon their dreams of Polish restoration. For this we cannot blame them; and we must needs allow that they received much encouragement to persevere in those dreams from men who ought to have been wiser. They took undue advantage of their situation, and preferred living in idleness, though certainly not in affluence, upon eleemosynary aid, to gaining their bread honourably by active industry and exertion. This was certainly not the best way of securing the affection of a practical people like the British to them and to their cause; and the result has been, that the moral prestige of the Poles has greatly declined in this country. We are not arguing from inference, but from facts; for we are perfectly certain that if the Emperor Nicholas had made his visit to London in 1834, instead of nine or ten years later, his reception by the public would have been materially different. Since then, the Poles have altogether forfeited the esteem of the friends of order, by coming forward as the most active agents and instigators of revolution all over the continent of Europe. In France, in Italy, in Germany, and above all, in Hungary, they have thrust themselves forward in quarrels with which they had nothing to do, and even have violated that hospitality which was accorded them on account of their misfortunes. It is time that they should learn that the British public has no sympathy with unprincipled condottieri. No amount of tyranny, inflicted by one nation, will entitle an exile deliberately to arm himself against the constitution of another. Foreign service—manly open service indeed is honourable, but foreign conspiracy is, beyond all doubt, one of the basest and the worst of crimes. Now, we are not versed enough in treaties to know what are the exact terms of the conditions made between Russia and Turkey. We hope, for the sake of Bem, Dembinski, and the others, that they merely apply to the surrender of those who shall take refuge in the neighbouring territory on account of war waged, or revolt raised, against their sovereigns; and though, should such be the nature of the contract, there may still be a doubt whether the Poles are entitled to plead exemption under it, that doubt, we presume, will be given in their favour by the sheltering power; at all events, we think it very unlikely that any distinction will be drawn betwixt the two classes of refugees. Still we are compelled to maintain our honest and sincere conviction that, apart from other and greater considerations, there is nothing in this demand of Russia and Austria, to justify us in active interference. The demand has not been made on us; it does not refer to British subjects; and it in no way concerns our honour. We have nothing more to do with it, in the abstract, than if it was a demand made by the Shah of Persia upon the Emperor of China. We beg especial attention to this point, because we observe that some of our journalists assume that Great Britain and France will act together vigorously in resisting the demand. Now, we hold, that, though both countries may have a clear right to protest against such a demand, on the ground of its being at variance with the law of nations, neither of them has the right to make that a pretext for ulterior measures, or for resorting to the desperate expedient of a war. The representatives[Pg 602] of both powers, it is said, have advised the Porte to return a firm refusal to the demand; and, since their advice was asked, we hold that they were clearly right in doing so. They were acting merely as assessors, or rather as expounders of international law. But suppose that Russia should make this declinature a casus belli with Turkey,—what then? We have in that case a most decided interest; because it is part of our policy that Russia shall not, under any pretext whatever, lay her hand upon the Turkish dominions, or force the passage of the Dardanelles. Our policy may be wrong, and Mr Cobden thinks, or thought so: still we are committed to that view; and we can hardly escape from interpreting the conduct of Russia, if she shall persist in enforcing her demand by dint of arms, into an overt attempt to get possession of the Turkish territory. But France has no such interest as we have. Our reason for disputing the possession of Turkey with Russia is a purely selfish one. We wish to prevent the latter power from coming into dangerous proximity with Egypt, and we have a kind of vague idea that some attack is meditated upon our Indian provinces. It is quite possible that these notions may be visionary or greatly exaggerated, and that Russia wants nothing more than an open passage from the Black Sea—a right which, if free-trade doctrines are to be held of universal application, it does seem rather hard to deny to her. Still, such is our idea, and in our present temper we shall probably act accordingly. But France has no real interest at stake. She has nothing to lose, suppose Russia got possession of Turkey to-morrow; and we are very much mistaken if she will go to war from a mere spirit of chivalry, and in behalf of a few refugees with whom she is in no way connected. However disturbed may be the state of France, or however inflammable may be the minds of her population, she has statesmen who will not suffer her to be committed to so egregious an act of folly. If Russia perseveres in her demand to the utmost, on Britain will fall, in the first instance at least, the whole weight of the resistance. We agree with the Times, that "this demand for the surrender of the refugees, is either a wanton outrage for an object too trifling to be insisted on, or else it masks a more serious intention of hostility against the Turkish empire;" but we are not prepared to adopt the conclusion of that able journal, that "the governments and the nations of Western Europe are resolved to oppose that demand, even to the last extremity." On the contrary, we believe that the opposition would be left to Great Britain alone.

We trust no apology is necessary for having wandered from our text on a topic of so much interest; however, we ask Mr Cobden's pardon for having left him uncourteously so long.

We were remarking that ill-luck in the way of prophecy and presentiment still clung to Mr Cobden, even as Care is said to follow the horseman. Hungary speedily succumbed, and Russia did not ask for a loan. Now that the Hungarians were beaten and victory impossible, we presume the next best thing for that unfortunate people would be to bind up their wounds, and let them return as speedily as might be to their usual industrial employments. Austria, at the conclusion of the contest, finds herself largely out of pocket. She has troops whose pay is greatly in arrear, and she has made temporary loans which it is absolutely necessary to discharge. She might, if she were so disposed, liquidate the claims of the first, by letting them loose upon the conquered Hungarians, from whom they probably could still contrive to exact a fair modicum of booty; she might pay off the latter by resorting to wholesale confiscation, and by sweeping into her public treasury whatever the war has left of value. But Austria has no desire to proceed to either extremity. She knows very well that it is not for her interest that Hungary should become a sterile waste; and she is further aware that the best mode of securing tranquillity for the future, is to foster industry, and to abstain from laying any additional burden upon the already impoverished people. Therefore, meditating no further conquest, but, on the contrary, anxious to sit down to the sober work of reparation, Austria[Pg 603] proposes to borrow in the public money-markets of Europe a sum of seven millions. The advertisement meets the eye of Mr Cobden, who straightway rose in wrath, indited a letter to a certain Mr Edmund Fry, ordaining him to convene a public meeting in London, for the purpose of considering the said advertisement, and agreeing "to an address to the friends of peace and disarmament throughout the world, on the general question of loans for war purposes," and on the 8th October, the intrepid orator again mounted on the platform. This time, we are sorry to remark, that the meeting was neither so variously nor so interestingly attended as before. The Chartists very properly thought that they had nothing whatever to do with foreign loans; and, besides, that they had already been regaled with an ample allowance of Mr Cobden's eloquence on the subject. The two parliamentary poets were doubtless writing odes, and did not come. Also there was but a poor sprinkling of M.P.'s; but Lord Dudley Stuart was at his post, and Friend Alexander; and beyond these twain there appeared no notable whomsoever. Mr Reynolds must have been sadly missed.

Mr Cobden's first speech at this meeting—for the lack of orators was such, that he was compelled to indulge his audience with two—was a very dull and dreary affair indeed. He began first with loans in general, and went on in his usual style of asseveration. "I say that, as I have gone through the length and breadth of this country with Adam Smith in my hand to advocate the principles of free trade, I can stand here with Adam Smith also in my hand, to denounce, not merely for its inherent waste of national wealth, not only because it anticipates income and consumes capital, but also on the ground of injustice to posterity, in saddling upon our heirs a debt we have no right to call upon them to pay—the loans we have this day met to consider." It is very hard that unfortunate Adam Smith should be made answerable for all the eccentricities of Mr Cobden. Little did the poor man think, whilst hammering his brains at Kirkcaldy, that their product was to be explained at a future time, according to the sweet will of so accomplished a commentator! Adam Smith had a great deal too much sense to expect that wars would cease to arise, and government loans to be contracted. His remark is not directed against loans, but against the funding or accumulation of them, which most of us, in the present generation, are quite ready to admit to be all evil. The remedy to which he pointed, was the establishment of a sinking-fund to prevent debt from accumulating; but so long as Mr Cobden's economical views are acted on, and the currency maintained on its present basis, the idea of a sinking-fund is altogether visionary. The evil which Adam Smith complains of is permanent funding, not loan. There is nothing imprudent in a man borrowing a thousand pounds from his banker, if he regularly sets apart an annual sum out of his income for its repayment: but it is a very different thing when he hands over the debt undiminished for his successor to discharge.

Having preluded with this little piece of hocus, Mr Cobden came to the point, and attempted to show that Austria was in such a state of insolvency that it was not safe for any one to lend money to her. We by no means object to this sort of exposition. If it be true that the finances of the borrowing party are in a dismal state, we are none the worse for the information; if the statement is false, it is sure to be speedily disproved. We have no objection to concede to Mr Cobden the possession of that almost preternatural amount of knowledge, which is his daily and perpetual boast. When he tells us that he knows all about the produce of the mines of Siberia, because "I have been there, and I know what is the value of those mines"—when he speaks positively as to the amount of specie in the vaults of the fortress of St Petersburg, and states that he knows it—"because I have been on the spot, and made it my business to understand these things"—and when, with regard to the general question of Russian finance, he observes that "few men, probably not six men in England, have had my opportunities of investigating and ascertaining upon[Pg 604] the best and safest authority on the spot, where alone you can properly understand the matter, what actually is the state of the resources of Russia,"—we listen with a kind of awe to the words of this egotistical Exile of Siberia. But though not six men in England are qualified to compete with him in his knowledge of Russian affairs, we suspect that it would be no difficult matter to find six clerks in a single banking establishment a great deal better acquainted with the state of Austrian finance than Mr Cobden. His object, it would appear, is less to warn the great capitalists—who indeed may be supposed to be perfectly capable of taking care of themselves—against the danger of handing over their money to Austria, than to secure the poor labouring man with ten pounds to spare, against defraudment. We were not previously aware that people with ten pounds to spare were in the habit of investing them in the foreign funds. We hope to heaven such is not the case, for we happen to be acquainted with several very estimable porters and Celtic chairmen, who have saved a little money; and, should the mania for foreign investment have reached them, we should tremble to approach any corner of a street where those excellent creatures are wont to linger, lest we should be assailed with the question, "Hoo's the Peroovian four per cents?" or, "Div ye ken if they're gaun to pay the interest on the New Bonos Areas bonds?" We have hitherto been labouring under the delusion that the accumulations of the working classes were safe in the British Savings Banks, or Funds; but we are now sorry to learn from Mr Cobden that such is not the case. "I knew myself," said Mr Cobden, "many years ago, when resident in the city, a man who worked as a porter on weekly wages—his family and himself being reduced to that state that they had no other earthly dependence—and yet that man had Spanish bonds to the nominal amount of £2000 in his pocket. They were not worth more than waste paper, and came into the hands of poor men like this porter, who had no experience and knowledge in such matters; and it is to guard such poor men that I now utter the voice of warning." We have not read anything more affecting since we perused The Dairyman's Daughter. Mr Cobden does not tell us that he immediately organised a subscription for the behoof of the wronged individual; but we think it probable that he did so, and, if it be not too late, we shall be glad to contribute our mite—on one condition. The next time Mr Cobden tells this story, will he be good enough to specify the precise sum which the porter paid for those bonds? Our reason for requiring particular information as to this point, is founded on a fact which lately came to our knowledge, viz. that the name of a promising chimney-sweep stands recorded in the books of a certain railway company, which shall be nameless, as the proprietor of stock in new shares, to an amount of nearly double that possessed by Mr Cobden's acquaintance. The railway has not paid a single farthing of dividend, several calls are still due, and the market price of those shares is considerably below zero. The chimney-sweep is a steady young man, whose only failing is an inveterate attachment to whisky: he never was in possession of five pounds in his life, except on the day when he became the nominal proprietor of that stock. We make Mr Cobden a present of this anecdote, in case he should have occasion, in the course of some future crusade, to warn labouring people against indulging in railway speculation. It is quite as genuine and forcible an illustration as his own; and we suspect that for one person in the position of the porter, there are at this moment some hundreds in possession of transferred certificates, like the chimney-sweep.

In sober sadness, it is pitiable to see a man reduced, for sheer lack of argument, to such wretched clap-trap as this. The wildest kind of rant about freedom and tyranny would have been more to the purpose, and infinitely more grateful to the popular ear. Mr Cobden's estimate of his own position and European importance is delicious. "I have no hesitation in saying that there is not a government in Europe that is not frowning upon this meeting!" What a mercy it is that Nicholas had no[Pg 605] suspicion of the tremendous influence of the man who was once rash enough to trust himself in his dominions! We positively tremble at the thought of what might have ensued had Mr Cobden been detected on his visit to the Siberian mines! The governments of Europe frowning on Mr Cobden's meeting—what a subject for the classical painter!

We need hardly trouble our readers with any remarks upon the speech of Lord Dudley Stuart. His monomania on Continental subjects is well known, and he carries it so far as to hazard the most extravagant statements. For example, he set out with insinuating that this Austrian loan was neither more nor less than a deliberate attempt at swindling, seeing that it had not received the sanction of the Diet; "and, consequently," said Lord Dudley, "nothing could be easier than for the Austrian government, whenever they found it inconvenient to pay the interest of the loan, to turn round and call those who had advanced the money very simple people, and tell them that they ought to have made due inquiry before parting with it. It might be said that this would be a most extraordinary and outrageous course for any government to adopt; but they lived in times when monarchs performed acts of the most unusual and the most outrageous description; and it seemed almost as if the dark ages had returned, such scenes of barbarity and cruelty were being enacted throughout Europe, by order, and in the name of established governments." Lord Dudley Stuart is one of those who think that no crowned head can sit down comfortably to supper, unless he has previously immolated a victim. His idea of the dark ages is derived from the popular legend of Raw-head and Bloody-bones. Confiding, and it would appear with justice, in the singular ignorance of his audience, he went on to say:—"Certain writers and speakers were never tired of uttering warnings against the danger of an infuriated mob. But had any of those popular outbreaks, as they were called, ever been attended with an amount of cruelty, rapine, and spoliation, to be named in comparison with the deeds of the despots of Europe? At Paris, Vienna, and Rome, for a time, power was in the hands of the people—the wild democracy, as it was called. Where were their deeds of blood and spoliation?" Lord Dudley Stuart might just as well have asked, where were the victims of the guillotine during the supremacy of Robespierre. We have known metaphysicians who could not be brought to an acknowledgment that the continent of America has an actual existence, or that the battle of Waterloo was ever fought, owing to what they were pleased to style a want of sufficient evidence. Lord Dudley Stuart is precisely in the same situation. He has patronised foreign patriots to such an extent, that he believes every one of them to be a saint; and if he saw with his own eyes a democrat piking a proprietor, he would probably consider it a mere deceptio visus. Not that he is in the slightest degree short-sighted, or incredulous, whenever he can get hold of a story reflecting on the other side. On the contrary, he favoured his audience with a minute description of several floggings and executions, which he had, no doubt, received from his foreign correspondents; and actually threw the blame of the apostacy of some of his Polish protegees from the Christian faith upon the Czar! This is a topic upon which we would rather not touch. Men have been known to deny their Saviour for the sake of escaping from the most hideous personal agony, but we never heard before of apostacy committed for such motives as Lord Dudley has assigned. "Some, but very few men, whose lives had been devoted to fighting against Russia, and whose religion seemed to consist in that alone, lured, no doubt, by the hope of entering the Turkish army, and again waging war against their implacable enemies, Russia and Austria, had been induced to accept the offers of the Porte, and to embrace Islamism." We hope it may be long before we shall be again asked to express our sympathy for those wretched renegades from their faith.

Mr Cobden having gathered wind, again started up; and this time he did not confine himself to mere economical prose. We rather think that he felt slightly jealous of the cheering[Pg 606] which Lord Dudley Stuart's more animated speech had elicited; for it is a well-known fact that the majority of people would rather listen to the details of an atrocious murder, than to a dissertation upon Adam Smith. Accordingly he came out hot, furious, pugnacious, and withal remarkably irrelevant. Throwing aside all consideration of the Austrian loan, he fell foul of the Czar, whom he facetiously compared to Nebuchadnezzar. Listen to the Apostle of peace! "The man was incapable of appreciating anything but a physical-force argument, and he (Mr Cobden) did not think he was departing from his peace principles, in resorting to a mode of admonition which the nature of the animal was capable of understanding. He surely might be excused from admonishing, if it were possible, a wild bull, that, if he did not take care, he might run his head against something harder even than his own skull. He therefore said, that if the Emperor of Russia attacked us, we might hermetically seal the ports of Russia, and there would be an end of the matter. There could be no fighting between England and Russia. If the question were put to a jury of twelve competent men, belonging to any maritime power, who were perfectly indifferent to the quarrel, they would at once say that as England and Russia could not come to collision by land, the only question was, what naval force would be required by England to blockade Petersburg, Archangel, Odessa and Riga for six months of the year, and that the frost would keep up the blockade for the other six months." But the best is yet to come. Mr Cobden is perfectly aware that the sentiments of such an eminent European personage as himself must have terrible weight on the Continent. When the Czar reads the report of the speeches delivered at the London Tavern, he will burst into a paroxysm of fury, order some hundred serfs to be instantly knouted to death, and send for the minister of marine. When it is known at Vienna that Cobden has declared against the Austrian loan, Francis Joseph will gnash his teeth, and desire Jellachich, Radetsky, and Haynan to concert measures with his brother emperor for taking vengeance for this unparalleled affront. What, then, are we to do? Is there no danger to Great Britain from such a combination? None—for we have a guarantee. A greater than Nicholas has promised to stand between us and peril. People of Great Britain! read the following paragraph, and then lie down in security under the charge of your protecting angel.

"If he (Mr Cobden) were told that he ran the risk of provoking these brutal tyrants to come here and attack this country, HE WOULD REPLY THAT HE WAS PREPARED TO TAKE THE RISK UPON HIMSELF OF ALL THAT THEY COULD DO!"

After this, we have not another word to say. Yes—one. Before Mr Cobden's meeting broke up, the Austrian loan had been subscribed for to more than the required amount.

[Pg 607]


During the twelve months that have elapsed since we devoted a sheet of Maga to a flying glance at French novels and novelists, there has been a formidable accumulation upon our shelves of the produce of Paris and Brussels presses. Were their merit as considerable as their number, the regiment of pink, blue, and yellow octavos and duodecimos would need a whole magazine to do them justice. As it is, however, a line a volume would be too much to devote to some of them. The lull in literature which ensued in France, on the shock of the February revolution, has been succeeded by a revival of activity. Most of the old stagers have resumed the quill, and a few "green hands" have come forward. As yet, however, the efforts of the former have in few instances been particularly happy; whilst amongst the latter, there is no appearance worthy of note. Upon the whole, we think that the ladies have been at least as successful as the men. Here is a trio of tales from feminine pens, as good as anything that now lies before us. Hélène, although it may not greatly augment the well-established reputation of that accomplished authoress, Madame Charles Reybaud, is yet a very pleasing novel, approaching in character rather to a graceful English moral tale, than to the commonly received idea of a French romance. It is a story of the first Revolution; the scene is in Provence, and subsequently at Rochefort, on board ship, and in French Guiana. The chief characters are Helen, and her father, the Count do Blanquefort, a steadfast royalist, who traces back his ancestry to the crusades; her lover, a plebeian and Montagnard; her godmother, Madame do Rocabert, and Dom Massiot, a fanatic priest. Lovers of mysterious intrigues, and complicated plots, need not seek them in Madame Reybaud's novels, whose charm resides for the most part in elegance of style, graceful description, and delicate and truthful delineation of character. In one of her recent tales—a very attractive, if not a very probable one—Le Cadet de Colobrières, she admirably sketches the interior of a poor nobleman's dwelling, where all was pride, penury, and privation, for appearance sake. The companion and contrast to that painful picture, is her description of the domestic arrangements of Castle Rocabert, where ease, placidity, and comfort reign; where the ancient furniture is solid and handsome, the apartments commodious, the cheer abundant; where the antiquated waiting women, and venerable serving men, are clad after the most approved fashion of Louis the Fifteenth's day, and disciplined in accordance with the most precious traditions of aristocratic houses. Madame de Rocabert herself is a fine portrait, from the old French régime. Forty years long has she dwelt in her lonely chateau, isolated from the world, on the summit of a cloud-capped rock. Widowed at the age of twenty of an adored husband, she shut herself up to weep, and, as she hoped, to die. Contrary to her expectation, little by little she was comforted; she lived, she grew old. Time and religion had appeased her sorrow, and dried her tears. There is a tenderness and grace in Madame Reybaud's account of the widow's mourning and consolation, which reminds us of the exquisite pathos and natural touches of Madame d'Arbouville. That such a comparison should occur to us, is of itself a high compliment to Madame Reybaud, who, however, is unquestionably a very talented writer, and to the examination of whose collective works it is not impossible we may hereafter devote an article. At present, we pass on to a lady of a different stamp, who does not very often obtain commendation at our hands; and yet, in this instance, we know not why we should withhold approval from George Sand's last novel, La Petite Fadette, one of those seductive trifles which only Madame Dudevant can produce, and is free from the pernicious tendencies that disfigure too many of her works. In this place we can say little about it. A sketch of the plot would be of small interest, for it is[Pg 608] as slight and inartificial as well may be; and an attempt to analyse the book's peculiar charm would lead us a length incompatible with the omnium-gatherum design of this article. La Petite Fadette is a story of peasant habits and superstitions, and these are treated with that consummate artistical skill for which George Sand is celebrated—every coarser tint of the picture mellowed and softened, but never wholly suppressed. Fadette, a precocious and clever child, and her brother, a poor deformed cripple, dwelt with their grandmother, a beldame cunning in herbs and simples, and who practises as a sort of quack doctress. The three are of no good repute in the country-side; Fadette, especially, with her large black eyes and Moorish complexion, her elf-like bearing and old-fashioned attire, is alternately feared and persecuted by the village children, who have nicknamed her the Cricket. But although her tongue is sharp, and often malicious, and her humour wilful and strange, the gipsy has both heart and head; and, above all, she has the true woman's skill to make herself beloved by him on whom she has secretly fixed her affections. This is the hero of the story—Landry, the handsome son of a farmer. Love works miracles with the spiteful slovenly Cricket, who hitherto has dressed like her grandmother, and squabbled with all comers. Although the style of George Sand's books is little favourable to extract, and that in this one the difficulty is increased by the introduction of provincialisms and peasant phrases, we will nevertheless translate the account of Fadette's transformation, and of its effect upon Landry, upon whom, as the reader will perceive, the charm has already begun to work.

"Sunday came at last, and Landry was one of the first at mass. He entered the church before the bells began to ring, knowing that la petite Fadette was accustomed to come early, because she always made long prayers, for which many laughed at her. He saw a little girl kneeling in the chapel of the Holy Virgin, but her back was turned to him, and her face was hidden in her hands, that she might pray without disturbance. It was Fadette's attitude, but it was neither her head-dress nor her figure, and Landry went out again to see if he could not meet her in the porch, which, in our country, we call the guenillière, because the ragged beggars stand there during service. But Fadette's rags were the only ones he could not see there. He heard mass without perceiving her, until, chancing to look again at the girl who was praying so devoutly in the chapel, he saw her raise her head, and recognised his Cricket, although her dress and appearance were quite new to him. The clothes were still the same—her petticoat of drugget, her red apron, and her linen coif without lace; but during the week she had washed and re-cut and re-sewn all that. Her gown was longer, and fell decently over her stockings, which were very white, as was also her coif, which had assumed the new shape, and was neatly set upon her well-combed black hair; her neckerchief was new, and of a pretty pale yellow, which set off her brown skin to advantage. Her boddice, too, she had lengthened, and, instead of looking like a piece of wood dressed up, her figure was as slender and supple as the body of a fine honey-bee. Besides all this, I know not with what extract of flowers or herbs she had washed her hands and face during the week, but her pale face and tiny hands looked as clear and as delicate as the white hawthorn in spring.

"Landry, seeing her so changed, let his prayer-book fall, and at the noise little Fadette turned herself about, and her eyes met his. Her cheek turned a little red—not redder than the wild rose of the hedges; but that made her appear quite pretty—the more so that her black eyes, against which none had ever been able to say anything, sparkled so brightly, that, for the moment, she seemed transfigured. And once more Landry thought to himself:

"'She is a witch; she wished to become pretty, from ugly that she was, and behold the miracle has been wrought!'

"A chill of terror came over him, but his fear did not prevent his having so strong a desire to approach and speak to her, that his heart throbbed with impatience till the mass was at an end.

"But she did not look at him again,[Pg 609] and instead of going to run and sport with the children after her prayers, she departed so discreetly, that there was hardly time to notice how changed and improved she was. Landry dared not follow her, the less so that Sylvinet would not leave him a moment; but in about an hour he succeeded in escaping; and this time, his heart urging and directing him, he found little Fadette gravely tending her flock in the hollow road which they call the Traine-au-Gendarme, because one of the king's gendarmes was killed there by the people of La Cosse, in the old times, when they wished to force poor people to pay taillage, and to work without wage, contrary to the terms of the law, which already was hard enough, such as they had made it."

But it is not sufficient to win Landry's heart: Fadette has much more to overcome. Public prejudice, the dislike of her lover's family, her own poverty, are stumbling-blocks, seemingly insurmountable, in her path to happiness. She yields not to discouragement; and finally, by her energy and discretion, she conquers antipathies, converts foes into friends, and attains her ends—all of which are legitimate, and some highly praiseworthy. The narrative of her tribulations, constancy, and ultimate triumph, is couched in a style of studied simplicity, but remarkable fascination. Slight as it is, a mere bluette, La Petite Fadette is a graceful and very engaging story; and it would be ungrateful to investigate too closely the amount of varnish applied by Madame Dudevant to her pictures of the manners, language, and morals of French peasantry.

La Famille Récour is the last book, by a lady novelist, to which we shall now refer. It is the best of a series of six, intended as pictures of French society, in successive centuries, closing with the nineteenth. The five previous novels, which were published at pretty long intervals, being of no very striking merit, we were agreeably surprised by the lively and well-sustained interest of this romance, the last, Madame de Bawr informs us, which she intends to offer to the public. Paul Récour, the penniless nephew of a rich capitalist, is defrauded by a forged will of his uncle's inheritance, which goes to a worthless cousin, who also obtains the hand of a girl between whom and Paul an ardent attachment exists. The chief interest of the tale hinges on Paul's struggles, after an interval of deep despondency, against poverty and the world—struggles in which he is warmly encouraged by his friend Alfred, a successful feuilletoniste and dramatic author; and by a warmhearted but improvident physician, M. Duvernoy, whose daughter Paul ultimately marries, out of gratitude, and to save her from the destitution to which her father's extravagance and approaching death are about to consign her. Paul is a charming character—a model of amiability, generosity, and self-devotion, and yet not too perfect to be probable. There is a strong interest in the account of his combat with adversity, and of the tribulations arising from the folly and thoughtlessness of his wife, and the implacable hostility of his treacherous cousin. How the story ends need not here be told. The first four-fifths of the book entitle it to a high place amongst the French light literature of the year 1849; but then it begins to flag, and the termination is lame and tame—a falling off which strikes the more from its contrast with the preceding portion. The authoress appears, in some degree, conscious of this defect, and prepares her readers for it in her preface. "The second volume," she says, "was written amidst the anguish and alarm which revolutions occasion to a poor old woman. Although but ill-satisfied with my work, I have not courage to recommence it. I appeal, then, to the reader's indulgence for my last romance, happy in the consciousness that my pen has never traced a single word which was not dictated by my lively desire to lead men to virtue." So humble and amiable an apology disarms criticism.

Having given precedence to the ladies, we look around for some of their male colleagues who may deserve a word. Amongst the new candidates for the favour of romance-readers is a writer, signing himself Marquis de Foudras, and whose debut, if we err not, was made in conjunction with a M. de Montepin, in a romance en[Pg 610]titled Les Chévaliers du Lansquenet—a long-winded imitation of the Sue school, extremely feeble, and in execrable taste, but which, nevertheless, obtained a sort of circulating library success. Encouraged by this, Messrs Foudras and Montepin achieved a second novel, upon the whole a shade better than the first; and then, dissolving their association, set off scribbling, each "on his own hook;" and threaten to become as prolific, although not as popular, as the great Dumas himself. The last production of M. de Foudras bears the not unattractive title of Les Gentilhommes Chasseurs. It is a series of sporting sketches and anecdotes, of various merit, in most of which the author—who would evidently convince us that he is a genuine marquis, and not a plebeian under a pseudonyme—himself has cut a more or less distinguished figure. To the curious in the science of venery, as practised in various parts of France, these two volumes may have some interest; and the closing and longest sketch of the series, a tale of shooting and smuggling adventures in the Alps, is, we suspect, the best thing the author has written. Unless, indeed, we except his account of a stag-hunt in Burgundy in 1785, in which he gives a most animated and graphic account of the mishaps of a dull-dog of an Englishman, who arrives from the further extremity of Italy to join the party of French sportsmen. Of course Lord Henry is formal, peevish, and unpolished; the very model, in short, of an English nobleman. Disdaining to mount French horses, which, he politely informs his entertainer, have no speed, and cannot leap, he has had four hunters brought from England, upon one of which, "a lineal descendant of Arabian Godolphin, and whose dam was a mare unconquered at Newmarket," he follows the first day's hunt, by the side of a beautiful countess, by whose charms he is violently smitten, and who rides a little old Limousin mare, of piteous exterior, but great merit. The pace is severe, the country heavy, the Arabian's grandson receives the go-by from the Limousin cob, and shows signs of distress. The following passage exhibits the author's extraordinary acquaintance with the customs and usages of the English hunting-field,—"We were still a-head, and had leaped I know not how many hedges, ditches, and ravines, when I observed that Lord Henry, who had refused to take either a whip or spurs, struck repeated blows on the flank of his horse, which, still galloping, writhed under the pressure of its master's fist. Looking with more attention, I presently discovered in milord's hand a sharp and glittering object, in which I recognised one of the elegant chased gold toothpicks which men carried in those days. I saw at once that poor Cœur-de-Lion was done up." In spite of the toothpick, Cœur-de-Lion refuses a leap, whereupon his master hurls away the singular spur, leaps from his saddle, draws his hunting-knife, and plunges it to the hilt in the horse's breast!—with which taste of his quality, we bid a long farewell to the Marquis de Foudras.

It were strange indeed if the name of Dumas did not more than once appear on the numerous title-pages before us. We find it in half-a-dozen different places. The amusing Charlatan, who, in the first fervour and novelty of the republican regime, seemed disposed to abandon romance for politics, has found time to unite both. Whilst writing a monthly journal, in which he professes to give the detailed history of Europe day by day—forming, as his puffs assure us, the most complete existing narrative of political events since February 1848—he has also produced, in the course of the last twelve months, some twenty-five or thirty volumes of frivolities. Thus, whilst with one hand he instructs, with the other he entertains the public. For our part, we have enjoyed too many hearty laughs, both with and at M. Dumas, not to have all inclination to praise him when possible. In the present instance, and with respect to his last year's tribute to French literature, we regret to say it is quite impossible. He has been trifling with his reputation, and with the public patience. Since last we mentioned him, he has added a dozen volumes to the Vicomte de Bragelonne, which nevertheless still drags itself along, without prospect of a termination. A tissue of greater improbabilities and absurdities we have rarely[Pg 611] encountered. Certainly no one but Alexander Dumas would have ventured to strain out so flimsy a web to so unconscionable a length. Are there, we wonder, in France or elsewhere, any persons so simple as to rely on his representations of historical characters and events? The notions they must form of French kings and heroes, courtiers and statesmen, are assuredly of the strangest. We doubt if, in any country but France, a writer could preserve the popularity Dumas enjoys, who caricatured and made ridiculous, as he continually does, the greatest men whose names honour its chronicles. Besides the wearisome adventures of Mr Bragelonne and the eternal Musketeers, M. Dumas has given forth the first three or four volumes of a rambling story, founded on the well-known affair of Marie Antoinette's diamond necklace. Then he has completed the account of his Spanish rambles, which we rather expected he would have left incomplete, seeing the very small degree of favour with which the first instalment of those most trivial letters was received. In the intervals of these various labours, he has thrown off a history of the regency, and a historical romance, of which Edward III. of England is the hero. The latter we have not read. On French ground, M. Dumas is sometimes unsuccessful, but when he meddles with English personages he is invariably absurd. Finally, and we believe this closes the catalogue—although we will not answer but that some trifle of half-a-dozen volumes may have escaped our notice—M. Dumas, gliding, with his usual facility of transition, from the historical to the speculative, has begun a series of ghost-stories, whose probable length it is difficult to foretell, seeing that what he calls the introduction occupies two volumes. Some of these tales are tolerably original, others are old stories dressed up à la Dumas. They are preceded by a dedication to M. Dumas' former patron, the Duke of Montpensier, and by a letter to his friend Véron, editor of the Constitutionnel, theatrical manager, &c. These two epistles are by no means the least diverting part of the book. M. Dumas, whom we heard of, twenty months ago, as a fervid partisan and armed supporter of the republic, appears to have already changed his mind, and to hanker after a monarchy. Some passages of his letter to his friend are amusingly conceited and characteristic. "My dear Véron," he writes, "you have often told me, during those evening meetings, now of too rare occurrence, where each man talks at leisure, telling the dream of his heart, following the caprice of his wit, or squandering the treasures of his memory—you have often told me, that, since Scheherazade, and after Nodier, I am one of the most amusing narrators you know. To-day you write to me that, en attendant a long romance from my pen—one of my interminable romances, in which I comprise a whole century—you would be glad of some tales, two, four, or six volumes at most—poor flowers from my garden—to serve as an interlude amidst the political preoccupations of the moment: between the trials at Bourges, for instance, and the elections of the month of May. Alas! my friend, the times are sad, and my tales, I warn you, will not be gay. Weary of what I daily see occurring in the real world, you must allow me to seek the subjects of my narratives in an imaginary one. Alas! I greatly fear that all minds somewhat elevated, somewhat poetical and addicted to reverie, are now situated similarly to mine; in quest—that is to say, of the ideal—sole refuge left us by God against reality." After striking this desponding chord, the melancholy poet of elevated mind proceeds to regret the good old times, to deplore the degeneracy of the age, to declare himself inferior to his grandfather, and to express his conviction that his son will be inferior to himself. We are sorry for M. Dumas, junior. "It is true," continues Alexander, "that each day we take a step towards liberty, equality, fraternity, three great words which the Revolution of 1793—you know, the other, the dowager—let loose upon modern society as she might have done a tiger, a lion, and a bear, disguised in lambskins; empty words, unfortunately, which were read, through the smoke of June, on our public monuments all battered with bullets." After so reactionary a tirade, let M. Dumas beware lest, in[Pg 612] the first fight that occurs in Paris streets, a Red cartridge snatch him from an admiring world. His moan made for republican illusions, he proceeds to cry the coronach over French society, unhinged, disorganised, destroyed, by successive revolutions. And he calls to mind a visit he paid, in his childhood, to a very old lady, a relic of the past century, and widow of King Louis Philippe's grandfather, to whom Napoleon paid an annuity of one hundred thousand crowns—for what? "For having preserved in her drawing-rooms the traditions of good society of the times of Louis XIV. and Louis XV. It is just half what the chamber now gives his nephew for making France forget what his uncle desired she should remember." Take that, President Buonaparte, and go elsewhere for a character than to the Débit de Romans of Mr Alexander Dumas. How is it you have neglected to propitiate the suffrage of the melancholy poet? Repair forthwith the omission. Summon him to the Elysée. Pamper, caress, and consult him, or tremble for the stability of your presidential chair! After Louis Napoleon, comes the turn of the legislative chamber; apropos of which M. Dumas quotes the Marquis d'Argenson's memoirs, where the courtier of 1750 bewails the degeneracy of the times neither more nor less than does the dramatic author of a century later. "People complain," M. d'Argenson says, "that in our day there is no longer any conversation in France. I well know the reason. It is that our cotemporaries daily become less patient listeners. They listen badly, or rather they listen not at all. I have remarked this in the very best circles I frequent." "Now, my dear friend," argues M. Dumas, with irresistible logic, "what is the best society one can frequent at the present day? Very certainly it is that which eight millions of electors have judged worthy to represent the interests, the opinions, the genius of France. It is the chamber, in short. Well! enter the chamber, at a venture, any day and hour that you please. The odds are a hundred to one, that you will find one man speaking in the tribune, and five or six hundred others sitting on the benches, not listening, but interrupting him. And this is so true, that there is an article of the constitution of 1848 prohibiting interruptions. Again, reckon the number of boxes on the ear, and fisticuffs given in the chamber during a year that it has existed—they are innumerable. All in the name—be it well understood—of liberty, equality, and fraternity!" Rather strange language in the mouth of a citizen of the young republic; and its oddness diminishes the surprise with which we find, on turning the page, the captor of the Tuileries paying his devoirs to the most presently prosperous member of the house of Orleans. "Monseigneur," he says, to the illustrious husband of the Infanta Louisa, "this book is composed for you, written purposely for you. Like all men of elevated minds, you believe in the impossible," &c. &c. Then a flourish about Galileo, Columbus, and Fulton, and a quotation from Shakspeare, some of whose plays M. Dumas has been so condescending as to translate and improve. Then poor Scheherazade is dragged in again, always apropos of "I, Alexander," and then, the flourish of trumpets over, the fun begins and phantoms enter.

Although not generally partial to tales of diablerie—a style which the Germans have overdone, and in which few writers of other nations have succeeded—we have been much amused by the story of Jean le Trouveur, in which, upon the old yarn of a pact with the evil one, M. Paul de Musset has strung a clever and spirited series of Gil-Blas-like adventures, interspersed with vivid glimpses of historical events and personages, with here and there a garnishing of quiet satire. "The life of Jean le Trouveur," says the ingenious and painstaking author of these three pleasant little volumes, "is one of those histories which the people tell, and nobody has written.... This fantastical personage is known in several countries, under different names. In Provence he is called Jean l'Heureux; in Arragon, Don Juan el Pajarero—that is to say, the Fowler or Birdcatcher; in Italy Giovanni il Trovatore. His real name will be found in the course of the fol[Pg 613]lowing narration. His death was related to me in Lower Brittany, where I did not expect to meet with him. This circumstance decided me to write his history, uniting the various chronicles, whose connexion is evident." That accomplished antiquarian and legendary, M. Prosper Mérimée, would doubtless be able to tell us whether this be a mere author's subterfuge, or a veritable account of the sources whence M. de Musset derived the amusing adventures of John the Finder. We ourselves are not sufficiently versed in the traditions of Provence and Italy, Arragon and Brittany, to decide, nor is it of much interest to inquire. M. de Musset may possibly have found the clay, but he has made the bricks and built the house. It is a light and pleasant edifice, and does him credit.

The main outline of the story of Jean le Trouveur is soon told, and has no great novelty. The interest lies in the varied incidents that crowd every chapter. In the year 1699 there dwelt at Arles, in Provence, a commander of Malta, by name Anthony Quiqueran, Lord of Beaujeu. After an adventurous career, and innumerable valiant exploits achieved in the wars of the Order against Turks and barbarians; after commanding the galleys of Malta in a hundred successful sea-fights, and enduring a long captivity in the fortress of the Seven Towers, this brave man, at the age of nearly eighty years, dwelt tranquilly in his castle of Beaujeu, reposing, in the enjoyment of perfect health, from the fatigues of his long and busy life, and awaiting with seeming resignation and confidence the inevitable summons of death. Only two peculiarities struck the neighbours of the old knight: one of which was, that he avoided speaking of his past adventures; the other, that he would attend mass but at a particular convent, and that even there he never entered the chapel, but kneeled on a chair in the porch, his face covered with his hands, until the service was concluded. It was supposed by many that he was bound by a vow, and that his conduct was a mark of penitence and humiliation. And although the commander never went to confession, or the communion table, his life was so pure, his charities were so numerous, and he had rendered such great services to the cause of religion, that none ventured to blame his eccentricities and omissions. But one stormy day a little old Turk, the fashion of whose garments was a century old, landed from a brigantine, which had made its way up the Rhone in spite of wind, and, to the wonder of the assembled population, approached the commander of Malta, and said to him—"Anthony Quiqueran, you have but three days left to fulfil your engagements." An hour later, the old knight is in the convent chapel, assisting at a mass, which he has requested the superior to say for him. But when the priest takes the sacred wafer it falls from his hands, a gust of wind extinguishes the tapers, and a confused murmur of voices is heard in the lateral nave of the church. In spite of himself, the officiant utters a malediction instead of a prayer, and, horror-stricken, he descends the steps of the altar, at whose foot M. de Beaujeu lies senseless, his face against the ground. The ensuing chapters contain the commander's confession. Long previously, when languishing in hopeless captivity in a Turkish dungeon, he had made a compact with a demon, by which he was to enjoy liberty and health, and thirty years of glory and good fortune. At the end of that term he must find another person to take his place on similar conditions, or his soul was the property of the fiend. Scarcely was the bargain concluded, when he doubted its reality, and was disposed to attribute it to the delirium of fever. In the uncertainty, he studiously abstained from the advantage of the compact, hoping thereby to expiate its sin. His health returned, his liberty was given him, but he sought neither glory, nor wealth, nor honours, living retired upon ten thousand crowns a-year, the gift of the King of France and other princes, for his services to Christendom, practising good works, and cultivating his garden. He began to hope that this long course of virtue and self-denial had redeemed his sin, when the warning of the demon, in the garb of the Turkish captain, renewed his alarm, and the inter[Pg 614]rupted mass convinced him of the graceless state of his soul. No act of penitence, the superior now assured him, could atone his crime. Too high-minded to seek a substitute, and endeavour to shift its penalty upon another's shoulders, M. de Beaujeu attempts the only reparation in his power, by bequeathing half his wealth to charities. To inherit the other moiety, he entreats the superior to select a foundling worthy of such good fortune. The superior is not at a loss. "I have got exactly what you want," he says; "the chorister who answered at the mass at which you swooned away has no relations. I picked him up in the street on a winter's night, fourteen years ago, and since then he has never left me. He has no vocation for the church, and you will do a good action in restoring him to the world." The chorister boy, who had been baptised Jean le Trouvé, is sent for, but cannot at first be found; for the excellent reason that, hidden in the recesses of the superior's bookcase, behind a row of enormous folios, he had listened to all that had passed between the commander and the monk. As soon as he can escape he repairs to the castle of Beaujeu, where his good looks, his simplicity and vivacity, interest the old knight, who receives him kindly, resolves to make him his heir, and sends him back to the convent to announce his determination to the superior. The foundling is grateful. His joy at his brilliant prospects is damped by the recollection of the commander's confession and despair. He resolves to astonish his benefactor by the greatness of his gratitude. The following extract, which has a good deal of the Hoffmannsche flavour, will show how he sets about it.

In the street of La Trouille, which took its name from the fortress built by the Emperor Constantine, dwelt a barber, who, to follow the mode of the barbers and bath-keepers of Paris, sold wine and entertained gamesters. Young men, sailors, merchants, and citizens of Arles, resorted to his shop—some to transact business; others to discuss matters of gallantry or pleasure; others, again, to seek dupes. Of a night, sounds of quarrel were often heard in the shop, to which the town-archers had more than once paid a visit. If a stranger staked his coin on a turn of the cards, or throw of the dice, it was no mere hazard that transferred his ducats to the pockets of the regular frequenters of the house. Seated upon a post, opposite to this honest establishment, John the Foundling watched each face that entered or came out. After some time, he saw approaching from afar the captain of the brigantine, with his flat turban and his great matchlock pistol. When the Turk reached the barber's door, John placed himself before him.

"Sir stranger," said the boy, "did you not arrive here this morning from the East, on important business which concerns the Commander de Beaujeu?"

"Si," replied the Turk; "but I may also say that it is business which concerns you not."

"You mistake," said John; "it does concern me, and I come on purpose to speak to you about it."

"'Tis possible," said the old captain; "ma mi non voler, mi non poter, mi non aver tempo."

"Nevertheless," firmly retorted John, "you must find time to hear me. What I have to communicate to you is of the utmost importance."

"Do me the pleasure de andar al diable!" cried the Turk, in his Franco-Italian jargon.

"I am there already," replied the lad; "rest assured that I know who you are. I will not leave you till you have given me a hearing."

The old Mussulman, who had hitherto averted his head to try to break off the conversation, at last raised his melancholy and aquiline countenance. With his yellow eyes he fixed an angry gaze upon the chorister, and said to him in a full strong voice:—

"Well, enter this shop with me. We will presently speak together."

There was company in the barber's shop of the Rue de la Trouille, when little John and the captain of the brigantine raised the curtain of checked linen which served as a door. In a corner of the apartment, four men, seated round a table, were absorbed in a game at cards, to which they appeared to pay extreme attention, although the stake was but of a few[Pg 615] miserable sous. One of the gamblers examined, with the corner of his eye, the two persons who entered; and, seeing it was only a lad and a Turk of mean and shabby appearance, he again gave all his attention to the game. The master of the shop conceived no greater degree of esteem for the new comers, for he did not move from the stool on which he was sharpening his razors. At the further end of the apartment a servant stood beside the fire, and stirred with a stick the dirty linen of the week, which boiled and bubbled in a copper caldron. A damaged hour-glass upon a board pretended to mark the passage of time; and small tables, surrounded with straw-bottomed stools, awaited the drinkers whom evening usually brought. Bidding the chorister to be seated, the captain of the brigantine placed himself at one of the tables, and called for wine for all the company. The barber hasted to fetch a jug of Rhone wine, and as many goblets as there were persons in the room. When all the glasses were filled, the captain bid the barber distribute them, and exclaimed, as he emptied his own at a draft.—

"A la salute de Leurs Seigneuries!"

Thereupon the four gamblers exchanged significant glances, whispered a few words, and then, as if the politeness of the Turkish gentleman had caused them as much pleasure as surprise, they pocketed their stakes and discontinued their game. With gracious and gallant air, and smiling countenance, one hand upon the hip and the other armed with the goblet, the four gentlemen approached the old Turk with a courteous mien, intended to eclipse all the graces of the courtiers of Versailles. But there was no need of a magnifying-glass to discern the true character of the four companions; the adventurer was detectible at once in their threadbare coats, their collars of false lace, and in the various details of their dress, where dirt and frippery were ill concealed by trick and tawdry. A moderately experienced eye would easily have seen that it was vice which had fattened some of them, and made others lean. The most portly of the four, approaching the Turkish gentleman, thanked him in the name of his friends, and placed his empty glass upon the table with so polite and kindly an air, that the Turk, touched by his good grace, took the wine jug and refilled the four goblets to the brim. Some compliments were exchanged, and all sorts of titles used; so that by the time the jug was empty they had got to calling each other Excellency. The barber, putting his mouth to the captain's ear, with such intense gravity that one might have thought him angry, assured him that these gentlemen were of the very first quality, whereat the Turk testified his joy by placing his hand on his lips and on his forehead. In proportion as mutual esteem and good understanding augmented, the contents of the jug diminished. A second was called for; it was speedily emptied in honour of the happy chance that had brought the jovial company together. A third disappeared amidst promises of frequent future meetings, and a fourth was drained amidst shaking of hands, friendly embraces, and unlimited offers of service.

The barber, a man of taste, observed to his guests, that four jugs amongst five persons made an uneven reckoning, which it would need the mathematical powers of Barême duly to adjust. For symmetry's sake, therefore, a fifth jug was brought, out of which the topers drank the health of the king, of their Amphitryon, and of Barême, so appositely quoted. The four seedy gentlemen greatly admired the intrepidity with which the little old man tossed off his bumpers. Their project of making the captain drunk was too transparent to escape any spectator less innocent than the chorister; but in vain did they seek signs of intoxication on the imperturbable countenance of the old Turk. In reply to each toast and protestation of friendship, the captain emptied his glass, and said:—

"Much obliged, gentlemen; mi trop flatté."

No sparkle of the eyes, no movement of the muscles, broke the monotony of his faded visage. His parchment complexion preserved its yellow tint. On the other hand, the cheeks of the four adventurers began to flush purple; they unbuttoned their doublets, and used their hats as fans. The[Pg 616] signs of intoxication they watched for in their neighbour were multiplied in their own persons. At last they got quite drunk. He of the four whose head was the coolest proposed a game at cards.

"I plainly see," said the Turk, accepting, "that the Signori n'esser pas joueurs per habitude."

"And how," exclaimed one of the adventurers, "did your excellency infer from our physiognomy that incontestible truth?"

"Perché," replied the Turk, "on my arrival you broke off in the middle of your game. A professed gambler never did such a thing."

They were in ecstasies at the noble foreigner's penetration, and they called for the dice. When the captain drew forth his long purse, stuffed with génovèses,[21] the four gentlemen experienced a sudden shock, as if a thunderbolt had passed between them without touching them, and this emotion half sobered them. The Turk placed one of the large gold pieces upon the table, saying he would hold whatever stake his good friends chose to venture. The others said that a génovèse was a large sum, but that nothing in the world should make them flinch from the honour of contending with so courteous an adversary. By uniting their purses, they hoped to be able to hold the whole of his stake. And accordingly, from the depths of their fobs, the gentlemen produced so many six-livre and three-livre pieces, that they succeeded in making up the thirty-two crowns, which were equivalent to the génovèse. They played the sum in a rubber. The Turk won the first game, then the second; and the four adventurers, on beholding him sweep away their pile of coin, were suddenly and completely sobered. The captain willingly agreed to give them their revenge. The difficulty was to find the two-and-thirty crowns. By dint of rummaging their pockets, the gentlemen exhibited four-and-twenty livres: but this was only a quarter of the sum. The oldest of the adventurers then took the buckle from his hat, and threw it on the table, swearing by the soul of his uncle that the trinket was worth two hundred livres, although even the simple chorister discerned the emeralds that adorned it to be but bits of bottle-glass. Like a generous player, the old Turk made no difficulties; he agreed that the buckle should stand for two hundred livres, and it was staked to the extent of twenty-four crowns. This time the dice was so favourable to the captain, that the game was not even disputed. His adversaries were astounded: they twisted their mustaches till they nearly pulled them up by the roots; they rubbed their eyes, and cursed the good wine of Rhone. In the third game, the glass jewel, already pledged for twenty-four crowns, passed entire into the possession of the Turk. Then the excited gamblers threw upon the table their rings, their sword-knots, and the swords themselves, assigning to all these things imaginary value, which the Turk feigned to accept as genuine. Not a single game did they win. The captain took a string, and proceeded to tie together the tinsel and old iron he had won, when he felt a hand insinuate itself into the pocket of his ample hose. He seized this hand, and holding it up in the air—

"Messirs," he said, "vous esser des coquins. Mi saper que vous aver triché."

"Triché!" cried one of the sharpers. "He strips us to the very shirt, and then accuses us of cheating! Morbleu! Such insolence demands punishment."

A volley of abuse and a storm of blows descended simultaneously upon the little old man. The four adventurers, thinking to have an easy bargain of so puny a personage, threw themselves upon him to search his pockets; but in vain did they ransack every fold of his loose garments. The purse of gold génovèses was not to be found; and unfortunately the old Turk, in his struggles, upset the tripod which supported the copper caldron. A flood of hot water boiled about the legs of the thieves, who uttered lamentable cries. But it was far worse when they saw the overturned caldron continue to pour forth its scalding stream as unceasingly as the allegoric urn of Scamander. The four [Pg 617]sharpers and the barber, perched upon stools, beheld, with deadly terror, the boiling lake gradually rising around them. Their situation resembled that in which Homer has placed the valiant and light-footed Achilles; but as these rogues had not the intrepid soul of the son of Peleus, they called piteously upon God and all the saints of paradise; mingling, from the force of habit, not a few imprecations with their prayers. The wizened carcase of the old Turk must have been proof against fire and water, for he walked with the streaming flood up to his knees. Lifting the chorister upon his shoulders, he issued, dry-footed, from the barber's shop, like Moses from the bosom of the Red Sea. The river of boiling water waited but his departure to re-enter its bed. This prodigy suddenly took place, without any one being able to tell how. The water subsided, and flowed away rapidly, leaving the various objects in the shop uninjured, with the exception of the legs of the four adventurers, which were somewhat deteriorated. The servant, hurrying back at sound of the scuffle, raised the caldron, and resumed the stirring of her dirty linen, unsuspicious of the sorcery that had just been practised. The barber and the four sharpers took counsel together, and deliberated amongst themselves whether it was proper to denounce the waterproof and incombustible old gentleman to the authorities. The quantity of hot water that had been spilled being out of all proportion with the capacity of the kettle, it seemed a case for hanging or burning alive the author of the infernal jest. The barber, however, assured his customers that learned physicians had recently made many marvellous discoveries, in which the old Turk might possibly be versed. He also deemed it prudent not lightly to put himself in communication with the authorities, lest they should seek to inform themselves as to the manner in which the cards were shuffled in his shop. It was his opinion that the offender should be generously pardoned, unless, indeed, an opportunity occurred of knocking him on the head in some dark corner. This opinion met with general approbation.

Whilst this council of war is held, Jean and the old Turk are in confabulation, and a bargain is at last concluded, by which the commander's soul is redeemed, and Jean is to have five years of earthly prosperity, at the end of which time, if he has failed to find a substitute, his spiritual part becomes the demon's property. Two years later we find Jean upon the road to Montpellier, well mounted and equipped, and his purse well lined. Although but in his eighteenth year, he is already a gay gallant, with some knowledge of the world, and eager for adventures. These he meets with in abundance. A mark, imprinted upon his arm by his attendant demon, causes him to be recognised as the son of the Chevalier de Cerdagne. Thus ennobled, he feels that he may aspire to all things, and soon we find him pushing his fortune in Italy, attached to the person of the French Marshal de Marchin, discovering the Baron d'Isola's conspiracy against the life of Philip V. of Spain, and gaining laurels in the campaigns of the War of Succession. There is much variety and interest in some of his adventures, and the supernatural agency is sufficiently lost sight of not to be wearisome. Time glides away, and the fatal term of five years is within a few days of its completion. But Jean le Trouvé, now le Trouveur, is in no want of substitutes. Two volunteers present themselves; one his supposed sister, Mademoiselle de Cerdagne, whom he has warmly befriended in certain love difficulties; the other a convent gardener, whom he has made his private secretary, and whose name is Giulio Alberoni. The demon, who still affects the form of an old Turkish sailor, receives Alberoni in lieu of Jean, to whom, however,—foreseeing that the young man's good fortune may be the means of bringing him many other victims—he offers a new contract on very advantageous terms. But Jean de Cerdagne, who is now Spanish ambassador at Venice, with the title of prince, and in the enjoyment of immense wealth, refuses the offer, anxious to save his soul. He soon discovers that his good fortune is at an end. The real son of the Chevalier de Cerdagne turns up, Jean is disgraced, stripped of his honours and dignities, and his vast property is[Pg 618] confiscated by the Inquisition. The ex-ambassador exchanges for a squalid disguise his rich costume of satin and velvet, and we next find him a member of a secret society in the thieves' quarter of Venice. The worshipful fraternity of Chiodo—so called from their sign of recognition, which is a rusty nail—live by the exercise of various small trades and occupations, which, although not strictly beggary or theft, are but a degree removed from these culpable resources. Jean, whose conscience has become squeamish, will accept none but honest employment. But the malice of the demon pursues him, and he succeeds in nothing. He stations himself at a ferry to catch gondolas with a boat-hook, and bring them gently alongside the quay; he stands at a bridge stairs, to afford support to passengers over the stones, slippery with the slime of the lagoons; he takes post in front of the Doge's palace, with a vessel of fresh water and a well-polished goblet, to supply passers-by. Many accept his stout arm, and drink his cool beverage, but none think of rewarding him. Not all his efforts and attention are sufficient to coax a sou from the pockets of his careless customers. At last, upon the third day, he receives a piece of copper, and trusts that the charm is broken. The coin proves a bad one. His seizure by the authorities, and transportation to Zara, relieve him of care for his subsistence. At last, pushed by misery, and in imminent danger of punishment for having struck a Venetian officer, Jean succumbs to temptation, and renews his infernal compact. A Venetian senator adopts him, and he discovers, but too late, that had he delayed for a few minutes his recourse to diabolical aid, he would have stood in no need of it. He proceeds to Spain, where he has many adventures and quarrels with his former secretary, Alberoni, now a powerful minister. His contract again at an end, he would gladly abstain from renewing it, but is hunted by the Inquisition into the arms of the fiend. After a lapse of years, he is again shown to us in Paris, and, finally, in Brittany, where he meets his death, but, at the eleventh hour, disappoints the expectant demon, (who in a manner outwits himself,) and re-enters the bosom of the church, his bad bargain being taken off his hands by an ambitious village priest. The book, which has an agreeable vivacity, closes with an attempt to explain a portion of its supernatural incidents by a reference to popular tradition and peasant credulity. Near the ramparts of the Breton town of Guérande, an antiquary shows M. de Musset a moss-grown stone, with a Latin epitaph, which antiquary and novelist explain each after his own fashion.

"Let us see if you understand that, M. le Parisien," said the antiquary. "Up to the two last words we shall agree; but what think you of the Ars. Inf.?"

"It appears to me," I replied, "that the popular chronicle perfectly explains the whole epitaph—Ars. Inf. means ars inferna; that is to say,—'Here reposes Jean Capello, citizen of Venice, whose body was sent to the grave, and his soul to heaven, by infernal artifices.'"

"A translation worthy of a romance writer," said the antiquary. "You believe then in the devil, in compact with evil spirits, in absurd legends invented by ignorance and superstition amidst the evening gossip of our peasants? You believe that, in 1718, a parish priest of Guérande flew away into the air, after having redeemed the soul of this Jean Capello. You are very credulous, M. le Parisien. This Venetian, who came here but to die, was simply poisoned by the priest, who took to flight; the town doctor, having opened the body, found traces of the poison. That is why they engraved upon the tomb these syllables: Ars. Inf., which signify arsenici infusio, an infusion of arsenic. I will offer you another interpretation—Jean Capello was perhaps a salt-maker, killed by some accident in our salt-works, and as in 1718 labourers of that class were very miserable, they engraved upon this stone, to express the humility of his station, Ars. Inf., that is to say, inferior craft."

"Upon my word!" I exclaimed, "that explanation is perfectly absurd. I keep to the popular version: Jean le Trouveur was sent to heaven by the stratagems of the demon himself. Let sceptics laugh at my superstition,[Pg 619] I shall not quarrel with them for their incredulity."

We see little else worthy of extract or comment in the mass of books before us. M. Méry, whose extraordinary notions of English men and things we exhibited in a former article, has given forth a rhapsodical history, entitled Le Transporté, beginning with the Infernal Machine, and ending with Surcouf the Pirate, full of conspiracies, dungeons, desperate sea-fights, and tropical scenery, where English line-of-battle ships are braved by French corvettes, and where the transitions are so numerous, and the variety so great, that we may almost say everything is to be found in its pages, except probability. Mr Dumas the younger, who follows at respectful distance in his father's footsteps, and publishes a volume or two per month, has not yet, so far as we have been able to discover, produced anything that attains mediocrity. M. Sue has dished up, since last we have adverted to him, two or three more capital sins, his illustrations of which are chiefly remarkable for an appearance of great effort, suggestive of the pitiable plight of an author who, having pledged himself to public and publishers for the production of a series of novels on given subjects, is compelled to work out his task, however unwilling his mood. This is certainly the most fatal species of book-making—a selling by the cubic foot of a man's soul and imagination. Evil as it is, the system is largely acted upon in France at the present day. Home politics having lost much of the absorbing interest they possessed twelve months ago, the Paris newspapers are resorting to their old stratagems to maintain and increase their circulation. Prominent amongst these is the holding out of great attractions in the way of literary feuilletons. Accordingly, they contract with popular writers for a name and a date, which are forthwith printed in large capitals at the head of their leading columns. Thus, one journal promises its readers six volumes by M. Dumas, to be published in its feuilleton, to commence on a day named, and to be entitled Les Femmes. The odds are heavy, that Alexander himself has not the least idea what the said six volumes are to be about; but he relies on his fertility, and then so vague and comprehensive a title gives large latitude. Moreover, he has time before him, although he has promised in the interval to supply the same newspaper with a single volume, to be called Un Homme Fort, and to conclude the long procession of Fantômes, a thousand and one in number, which now for some time past has been gliding before the astonished eyes of the readers of the Constitutionnel. Other journals follow the same plan with other authors, and in France no writer now thinks of publishing a work of fiction elsewhere than at the foot of a newspaper. To this feuilleton system, pushed to an extreme, and entailing the necessity of introducing into each day's fragment an amount of incident mystery or pungent matter, sufficient to carry the reader over twenty-four hours, and make him anxious for the morrow's return, is chiefly to be attributed the very great change for the worse that of late has been observable in the class of French literature at present under consideration. Its actual condition is certainly anything but vigorous and flourishing, and until a manifest improvement takes place, we are hardly likely again to pass it in review.


[21] A large gold coin, then worth nearly a hundred French livres.

[Pg 620]

Dies Boreales.

No. V.


Camp at Cladich.

SceneThe Pavilion. TimeAfter breakfast.



I begin to be doubtful of this day. On your visits to us, Talboys, you have been most unfortunate in weather. This is more like August than June.


The very word, my dear sir. It is indeed most august weather.


Five weeks to-day since we pitched our Camp—and we have had the Beautiful of the Year in all its varieties; but the spiteful Season seems to owe you some old grudge, Talboys—and to make it a point still to assail your arrival with "thunder, lightning, and with rain."


"I tax not you, ye Elements! with unkindness." I feel assured they mean nothing personal to me—and though this sort of work may not be very favourable to Angling, 'tis quite a day for tidying our Tackle—and making up our Books. But don't you think, sir, that the Tent would look nothing the worse with some artificial light in this obscuration of the natural?


Put on the gas. Pretty invention, the Gutta Percha tube, isn't it? The Electric Telegraph is nothing to it. Tent illuminated in a moment, at a pig's whisper.


Were I to wish, sir, for anything to happen now to the weather at all, it would be just ever so little toning down of that one constituent of the orchestral harmony of the Storm which men call—howling. The Thunder is perfect—but that one Wind Instrument is slightly out of tune—he is most anxious to do his best—his motive is unimpeachable; but he has no idea how much more impressive—how much more popular—would be a somewhat subdued style. There again—that's positive discord—does he mean to disconcert the Concert—or does he forget that he is not a Solo?


That must be a deluge of—hail.


So much the better. Hitherto we have had but rain. "Mysterious horrors! Hail!"

"'Twas a rough night.
My young remembrance cannot parallel
A fellow to it."


Suppose we resume yesterday's conversation?


By all manner of means. Let's sit close—and speak loud—else all will be dumb show. The whole world's one waterfall.


Take up Knight on Taste. Look at the dog-ear.

[Pg 621]


"The most perfect instance of this kind is the Tragedy of Macbeth, in which the character of an ungrateful traitor, murderer, usurper, and tyrant, is made in the highest degree interesting by the sublime flashes of generosity, magnanimity, courage, and tenderness, which continually burst forth in the manly but ineffective struggle of every exalted quality that can dignify and adorn the human mind, first against the allurements of ambition, and afterwards against the pangs of remorse and horrors of despair. Though his wife has been the cause of all his crimes and sufferings, neither the agony of his distress, nor the fury of his rage, ever draw from him an angry word, or upbraiding expression towards her; but even when, at her instigation, he is about to add the murder of his friend and late colleague to that of his sovereign, kinsman, and benefactor, he is chiefly anxious that she should not share the guilt of his blood:—'Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck! till thou applaud the deed.' How much more real grandeur and exaltation of character is displayed in one such simple expression from the heart, than in all the laboured pomp of rhetorical amplification."


What think you of that, Talboys?


Why, like much of the cant of criticism, it sounds at once queer and commonplace. I seem to have heard it before many thousand times, and yet never to have heard it at all till this moment.




Full of audacious assertions, that can be forgiven but in the belief that Payne Knight had never read the tragedy, even with the most ordinary attention.




Cursed nonsense. Beg pardon, sir—sink cursed—mere nonsense—out and out nonsense—nonsense by itself nonsense.


How so?


A foolish libel on Shakspeare. Was he the man to make the character of an ungrateful traitor, murderer, usurper, and tyrant, interesting by sublime flashes of generosity, magnanimity, courage, and tenderness, and—do I repeat the words correctly?—of every exalted quality that can dignify and adorn the human mind.


Buller—keep up that face—you are positively beautiful—


No quizzing—I am ugly—but I have a good figure—look at that leg, sir!


I prefer the other.


There have been Poets among us who fain would—if they could—have so violated nature; but their fabrications have been felt to be falsehoods—and no quackery may resuscitate drowned lies.


Shakspeare nowhere insists on the virtues of Macbeth—he leaves their measure indeterminate. That the villain may have had some good points we are all willing to believe—few people are without them;—nor have I any quarrel with those who believe he had high qualities, and is corrupted by ambition. But what high qualities had he shown before Shakspeare sets him personally before us to judge for ourselves? Valour—courage—intrepidity—call it what you will—Martial Virtue—

[Pg 622]

"For brave Macbeth, (well he deserves that name,)
Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel,
Which smoked with bloody execution
Like valour's minion,
Carved out his passage till he faced the slave;
And ne'er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him,
Till he unseam'd him from the nave to the chaps,
And fixed his head upon our battlements."

The "bleeding Serjeant" pursues his panegyric till he grows faint—and is led off speechless; others take it up—and we are thus—and in other ways—prepared to look on Macbeth as a paragon of bravery, loyalty, and patriotism.


So had seemed Cawdor.


Good. Shakspeare sets Macbeth before us under the most imposing circumstances of a warlike age; but of his inner character as yet he has told us nothing—we are to find that out for ourselves during the Drama. If there be sublime flashes of generosity, magnanimity, and every exalted virtue, we have eyes to see, unless indeed blinded by the lightning—and if the sublime flashes be frequent, and the struggle of every exalted quality that can adorn the human mind, though ineffectual, yet strong—why, then, we must not only pity and forgive, but admire and love the "traitor, murderer, usurper, and tyrant," with all the poetical and philosophical fervour of that amiable enthusiast, Mr Payne Knight.


Somehow or other I cannot help having an affection for Macbeth.


You had better leave the Tent, sir.


No. I won't.


Give us then, my dear Buller, your Theory of the Thane's character.


"Theory, God bless you, I have none to give, sir." Warlike valour, as you said, is marked first and last—at the opening, and at the end. Surely a good and great quality, at least for poetical purposes. High general reputation won and held. The opinion of the wounded soldier was that of the whole army; and when he himself says, "I have bought golden opinions from all sorts of people, which would be worn now in their newest gloss, not thrown aside so soon," I accept that he then truly describes his position in men's minds.


All true. But we soon gain, too, this insight into his constitution, that the pillar upon which he has built up life is Reputation, and not Respect of Law—not Self-Respect; that the point which Shakspeare above all others intends in him, is that his is a spirit not self-stayed—leaning upon outward stays—and therefore—


Liable to all—


Don't take the words out of my mouth, sir; or rather, don't put them into my mouth, sir.


Touchy to-day.


The strongest expression of this character is his throwing himself upon the illicit divinings of futurity, upon counsellors known for infernal; and you see what subjugating sway the Three Spirits take at once over him. On the contrary, the Thaness is self-stayed; and this difference grounds the poetical opposition of the two personages. In Macbeth, I suppose a certain splendour[Pg 623] of character—magnificence of action high—a certain impure generosity—mixed up of some kindliness and sympathy, and of the pleasure from self-elation and self-expansion in a victorious career, and of that ambition which feeds on public esteem.


Ay—just so, sir.


Now mark, Buller—this is a character which, if the path of duty and the path of personal ambition were laid out by the Sisters to be one and the same path, might walk through life in sunlight and honour, and invest the tomb with proud and revered trophies. To show such a spirit wrecked and hurled into infamy—the ill-woven sails rent into shreds by the whirlwind—is a lesson worthy the Play and the Poet—and such a lesson as I think Shakspeare likely to have designed—or, without preaching about lessons, such an ethical revelation as I think likely to have caught hold upon Shakspeare's intelligence. It would seem to me a dramatically-poetical subject. The mightiest of temptations occurs to a mind, full of powers, endowed with available moral elements, but without set virtue—without principles—"and down goes all before it." If the essential delineation of Macbeth be this conflict of Moral elements—of good and evil—of light and darkness—I see a very poetical conception; if merely a hardened and bloody hypocrite from the beginning, I see none. But I need not say to you, gentlemen, that all this is as far as may be from the exaggerated panegyric on his character by Payne Knight.


Macbeth is a brave man—so is Banquo—so are we Four, brave men—they in their way and day—we in ours—they as Celts and Soldiers—we as Saxons and Civilians—and we had all need to be so—for hark! in the midst of ours, "Thunder and Lightning, and enter Three Witches."


I cannot say that I understand distinctly their first Confabulation.


That's a pity. A sensible man like you should understand everything. But what if Shakspeare himself did not distinctly understand it? There may have been original errata in the report, as extended by himself from notes taken in short-hand on the spot—light bad—noise worse—voices of Weird Sisters worst—matter obscure—manner uncouth—why really, Buller, all things considered, Shakspeare has shown himself a very pretty Penny-a-liner.


I cry you mercy, sir.


Where are the Witches on their first appearance, at the very opening of the wonderful Tragedy?


An open Place, with thunder and lightning.


I know that—the words are written down.


Somewhere or other—anywhere—nowhere.


In Fife or Forfar? Or some one or other of your outlandish, or inlandish, Lowland or Highland Counties?


Not knowing, can't say. Probably.


"When the Hurly Burly's done,
When the Battle's lost and won."

What Hurly Burly? What Battle? That in which Macbeth is then engaged? And which is to be brought to issue ere "set of sun" of the day on which "enter Three Witches?"

[Pg 624]


Let it be so.


"Upon the heath,
There to meet with Macbeth."

The Witches, then, are to meet with Macbeth on the heath on the Evening of the Battle?


It would seem so.


They are "posters over sea and land"—and, like whiffs of lightning, can outsail and outride the sound of thunder. But Macbeth and Banquo must have had on their seven-league boots.


They must.


"A drum, a drum!
Macbeth doth come."

Was he with the advanced guard of the Army?


Not unlikely—attended by his Staff. Generals, on such occasions, usually ride—but perhaps Macbeth and Banquo, being in kilts, preferred walking in their seven-league boots. Thomas Campbell has said, "When the drum of the Scottish Army is heard on the wild heath, and when I fancy it advancing with its bowmen in front, and its spears and banners in the distance, I am always disappointed with Macbeth's entrance at the head of a few kilted actors." The army may have been there—but they did not see the Weirds—nor, I believe, did the Weirds see them. With Macbeth and Banquo alone had they to do: we see no Army at that hour—we hear no drums—we are deaf even to the Great Highland Bagpipe, though He, you may be sure, was not dumb—all "plaided and plumed in their tartan array" the Highland Host ceased to be—like vanished shadows—at the first apparition of "those so withered and so wild in their attire"—not of the earth though on it, and alive somewhere till this day—while generations after generations of mere Fighting Men have been disbanded by dusty Death.


I wish to know where and when had been the Fighting? The Norwegian—one Sweno, had come down very handsomely at Inchcolm with ten thousand dollars—a sum in those days equal to a million of money in Scotland——


Seward, speak on subjects you understand. What do you know, sir, of the value of money in those days in Scotland?


But where had been all the Fighting? There would seem to have been two hurley-burleys.


I see your drift, Seward. Time and Place, through the First Scene of the First Act, are past finding out. It has been asked—Was Shakspeare ever in Scotland? Never. There is not one word in this Tragedy leading a Scotsman to think so—many showing he never had that happiness. Let him deal with our localities according to his own sovereign will and pleasure, as a prevailing Poet. But let no man point out his dealings with our localities as proofs of his having such knowledge of them as implies personal acquaintance with them gained by a longer or shorter visit in Scotland. The Fights at the beginning seem to be in Fife. The Soldier, there wounded, delivers his relation at the King's Camp before Forres. He has crawled, in half-an-hour, or an hour—or two hours—say seventy, eighty, or a hundred miles, or more—crossing the ridge of the Grampians. Rather smart. I do not know what you think here of Time; but I think that Space is here pretty well done for. The Time of the Action of Shakspeare's Plays has never yet, so far as I know,[Pg 625] been, in any one Play, carefully investigated—never investigated at all; and I now announce to you Three—don't mention it—that I have made discoveries here that will astound the whole world, and demand a New Criticism of the entire Shakspearean Drama.


Let us have one now, I beseech you, sir.


Not now.


No sleep in the Tent till we have it, sir. I do dearly love astounding discoveries—and at this time of day, in astounding discovery in Shakspeare! May it not prove a Mare's Nest!


The Tragedy of Macbeth is a prodigious Tragedy, because in it the Chariot of Nemesis visibly rides in the lurid thunder-sky. Because in it the ill motions of a human soul, which Theologians account for by referring them all to suggestions of Beelzebub, are expounded in visible, mysterious, tangible, terrible shape and symbolisation by the Witches. It is great by the character and person, workings and sufferings, of Lady Macbeth—by the immense poetical power in doing the Witches—mingling for once in the world the Homely-Grotesque and the Sublime—extinguishing the Vulgar in the Sublime—by the bond, whatsoever it be, between Macbeth and his wife—by making us tolerate her and him——


Didn't I say that in my own way, sir? And didn't you reprove me for saying it, and order me out of the Tent?


And what of the Witches?


Had you not stopt me. I say now, sir, that nobody understands Shakspeare's Hecate. Who is She? Each of the Three Weirds is = one Witch + one of the Three Fates—therefore the union of two incompatible natures—more than in a Centaur. Oh! Sir! what a hand that was which bound the two into one—inseverably! There they are for ever as the Centaurs are. But the gross Witch prevails; which Shakspeare needed for securing belief, and he has it, full. Hecate, sir, comes in to balance the disproportion—she lifts into Mythology—and strengthens the mythological tincture. So does the "Pit of Acheron." That is classical. To the best of my remembrance, no mention of any such Pit in the Old or New Statistical Account of Scotland.


And, in the Incantation Scene, those Apparitions! Mysterious, ominous, picturesque—and self-willed. They are commanded by the Witches, but under a limitation. Their oracular power is their own. They are of unknown orders—as if for the occasion created in Hell.


Talboys, are you asleep—or are you at Chess with your eyes shut?


At Chess with my eyes shut. I shall send off my move to my friend Stirling by first post. But my ears were open—and I ask—when did Macbeth first design the murder of Duncan? Does not everybody think—in the moment after the Witches have first accosted and left him? Does not—it may be asked—the whole moral significancy of the Witches disappear, unless the invasion of hell into Macbeth's bosom is first made by their presence and voices?


No. The whole moral significancy of the Witches only then appears, when we are assured that they address themselves only to those who already have been tampering with their conscience. "Good sir! why do you start, and seem to fear things that do sound so fair?" That question put to Macbeth by Banquo turns our eyes to his face—and we see Guilt. There was no start[Pg 626] at "Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor,"—but at the word "King" well might he start; for —— eh?


We must look up the Scene.


No need for that. You have it by heart—recite it.


"Macbeth. So foul and fair a day I have not seen.
Banquo. How far is't call'd to Forres?—What are these,
So wither'd, and so wild in their attire;
That look not like the inhabitants of the earth,
And yet are on't? Live you? or are you aught
That man may question? You seem to understand me,
By each at once her choppy finger laying
Upon her skinny lips:—You should be women,
And yet your beards forbid me to interpret
That you are so.
Macbeth. Speak, if you can;—What are you?
1st Witch. All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis!
2d Witch. All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Cawdor!
3d Witch. All hail, Macbeth! that shalt be king hereafter.
Banquo. Good sir, why do you start; and seem to fear
Things that do sound so fair?—I' the name of truth,
Are ye fantastical, or that indeed
Which outwardly ye show? My noble partner
You greet with present grace, and great prediction
Of noble having, and of royal hope,
That he seems rapt withal; to me you speak not:
If you can look into the seeds of time,
And say which grain will grow, and which will not;
Speak then to me, who neither beg, nor fear
Your favours nor your hate.
1st Witch. Hail!
2d Witch. Hail!
3d Witch. Hail!
1st Witch. Lesser than Macbeth, and greater.
2d Witch. Not so happy, yet much happier.
3d Witch. Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none:
So, all hail, Macbeth and Banquo!
1st Witch. Banquo and Macbeth, all hail!
Macbeth. Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more:
By Sinel's death, I know, I am thane of Glamis;
But how of Cawdor? the thane of Cawdor lives,
A prosperous gentleman; and to be king,
Stands not within the prospect of belief,
No more than to be Cawdor. Say, from whence
You owe this strange intelligence? or why
Upon this blasted heath you stop our way
With such prophetic greeting?—Speak, I charge you.

[Witches vanish.

Banquo. The earth hath bubbles, as the water has,
And these are of them:—Whither are they vanish'd?
Macbeth. Into the air, and what seem'd corporal, melted
As breath into the wind. 'Would they had staid!
Banquo. Were such things here, as we do speak about?
Or have we eaten of the insane root,
That takes the reason prisoner.
Macbeth. Your children shall be kings.
Banquo. You shall be king.
Macbeth. And thane of Cawdor too; went it not so?
Banquo. To the self-same tune, and words."


Charles Kemble himself could not have given it more impressively.


You make him blush, sir.

[Pg 627]


Attend to that "start" of Macbeth, Talboys.


He might well start on being told of a sudden, by such seers, that he was hereafter to be King of Scotland.


There was more in the start than that, my lad, else Shakspeare would not have so directed our eyes to it. I say again—it was the start—of a murderer.


And what if I say it was not? But I have the candour to confess, that I am not familiar with the starts of murderers—so may possibly be mistaken.


Omit what intervenes—and give us the Soliloquy, Talboys. But before you do so, let me merely remind you that Macbeth's mind, from the little he says in the interim, is manifestly ruminating on something bad, ere he breaks out into Soliloquy.


"Two truths are told,
As happy prologues to the swelling act
Of the imperial theme—I thank you, gentlemen.—
This supernatural soliciting
Cannot be ill—cannot be good:—If ill,
Why hath it given me earnest of success,
Commencing in a truth? I am Thane of Cawdor:
If good, why do I yield to that suggestion
Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair,
And make my seated heart knock at my ribs
Against the use of nature? Present fears
Are less than horrible imaginings:
My thought whose murder is yet but fantastical
Shakes so my single state of man, that function
Is smothered in surmise; and nothing is,
But what is not."


Now, my dear Talboys, you will agree with me in thinking that this first great and pregnant, although brief soliloquy, stands for germ, type, and law of the whole Play, and of its criticism—and for clue to the labyrinth of the Thane's character. "Out of this wood do not desire to go." Out of it I do not expect soon to go. I regard William as a fair Poet and a reasonable Philosopher; but as a supereminent Play-wright. The First Soliloquy must speak the nature of Macbeth, else the Craftsman has no skill in his trade. A Soliloquy reveals. That is its function. Therein is the soul heard and seen discoursing with itself—within itself; and if you carry your eye through—up to the First Appearance of Lady Macbeth—this Soliloquy is distinctly the highest point of the Tragedy—the tragic acme—or dome—or pinnacle—therefore of power indefinite, infinite. On this rock I stand, a Colossus ready to be thrown down by—an Earthquake.


Pushed off by—a shove.


Not by a thousand Buller-power. Can you believe, Buller, that the word of the Third Witch, "that shalt be King Hereafter," sows the murder in Macbeth's heart, and that it springs up, flowers, and fruits with such fearful rapidity.


Why—Yes and No.


Attend, Talboys, to the words "supernatural soliciting." What "supernatural soliciting" to evil is there here? Not a syllable had the Weird Sisters breathed about Murder. But now there is much soliloquising—and Cawdor contemplates himself objectively—seen busy upon an elderly gentleman[Pg 628] called Duncan—after a fashion that so frightens him subjectively—that Banquo cannot help whispering to Rosse and Angus—

"See how our partner's rapt!"


"My thought whose murder's yet fantastical." I agree with you, sir, in suspecting he must have thought of the murder.


It is from no leaning towards the Weird Sisters—whom I never set eyes on but once, and then without interchanging a word, leapt momentarily out of this world into that pitch-pot of a pond in Glenco—it is, I say, from no leaning towards the Weird Sisters that I take this view of Macbeth's character. No "sublime flashes of generosity, magnanimity, tenderness, and every exalted quality that can dignify and adorn the human mind," do I ever suffer to pass by without approbation, when coruscating from the character of any well-disposed man, real or imaginary, however unaccountable at other times his conduct may appear to be; but Shakspeare, who knew Macbeth better than any of us, has here assured us that he was in heart a murderer—for how long he does not specify—before he had ever seen a birse on any of the Weird Sisters' beards. But let's be canny. Talboys—pray, what is the meaning of the word "soliciting," "preternatural soliciting," in this Soliloquy?


Soliciting, sir, is, in my interpreting, "an appealing, intimate visitation."


Right. The appeal is general—as that challenge of a trumpet—Fairy Queen, book III., canto xii., stanza 1—

"Signe of nigh battail or got victorye"—

which, all indeterminate, is notwithstanding a challenge—operates, and is felt as such.


So a thundering knock at your door—which may be a friend or an enemy. It comes as a summoning. It is more than internal urging and inciting of me by my own thoughts—for mark, sir, the rigour of the word "supernatural," which throws the soliciting off his own soul upon the Weirds. The word is really undetermined to pleasure or pain—the essential thought being that there is a searching or penetrating provocative—a stirring up of that which lay dead and still. Next is the debate whether this intrusive, and pungent, and stimulant assault of a presence and an oracle be good or ill?


Does the hope live in him for a moment that this home-visiting is not ill—that the Spirits are not ill? They have spoken truth so far—ergo, the Third "All hail!" shall be true, too. But more than that—they have spoken truth. Ergo, they are not spirits of Evil. That hope dies in the same instant, submerged in the stormy waves which the blast from hell arouses. The infernal revelation glares clear before him—a Crown held out by the hand of Murder. One or two struggles occur. Then the truth stands before him fixed and immutable—"Evil, be thou my good." He is dedicated: and passive to fate. I cannot comprehend this so feeble debate in the mind of a good man—I cannot comprehend any such debate at all in the mind of a previously settled and determined murderer; but I can comprehend and feel its awful significancy in the mind of a man already in a most perilous moral condition.


The "start" shows that the spark has caught—it has fallen into a tun of gunpowder.


The touch of Ithuriel's spear.


May we not say, then, that perhaps the Witches have shown no more than this—the Fascination of Contact between Passion and Opportunity?

[Pg 629]


To Philosophy reading the hieroglyphic; but to the People what? To them they are a reality. They seize the imagination with all power. They come like "blasts from hell"—like spirits of Plague, whose breath—whose very sight kills.

"Within them Hell
They bring, and round about them; nor from Hell
One step, no more than from themselves, can fly."

The contagion of their presence, in spite of what we have been saying, almost reconciles my understanding to what it would otherwise revolt from, the suddenness with which the penetration of Macbeth into futurity lays fast hold upon Murder.


Pretty fast—though it gives a twist or two in his handling.


Lady Macbeth herself corroborates your judgment and Shakspeare's on her husband's character.


Does she?


She does. In that dreadful parley between them on the night of the Murder—she reminds him of a time when

"Nor time nor place
Did then adhere, and yet you would make both;
They have made themselves, and that their fitness now
Does unmake you."

This—mark you, sir—must have been before the Play began!


I have often thought of the words—and Shakspeare himself has so adjusted the action of the Play as that, since the encounter with the Weirds, no opportunity had occurred to Macbeth for the "making of time and place." Therefore it must, as you say, have been before it. Buller, what say you now?




True, she speaks of his being "full of the milk of human kindness." The words have become favourites with us, who are an affectionate and domestic people—and are lovingly applied to the loving; but Lady Macbeth attached no such profound sense to them as we do; and meant merely that she thought her husband would, after all, much prefer greatness unbought by blood; and, at the time she referred to, it is probable he would; but that she meant no more than that, is plain from the continuation of her praise, in which her ideas get not a little confused; and her words, interpret them as you will, leave nothing "milky" in Macbeth at all. Milk of human kindness, indeed!


"What thou would'st highly,
That would'st thou holily; would'st not play false,
And yet would'st wrongly win: thou'dst have great Glamis,
That which cries, 'Thus thou must do, if thou have it;
And that which rather thou dost fear to do
Than wishest should be undone.'"

That is her Ladyship's notion of the "milk of human kindness"! "I wish somebody would murder Duncan—as for murdering him myself, I am much too tender-hearted and humane for perpetrating such cruelty with my own hand!"


Won't you believe a Wife to be a good judge of her Husband's disposition?


Not Lady Macbeth. For does not she herself tell us, at the same time, that he had formerly schemed how to commit Murder?

[Pg 630]


Gagged again.


I see no reason for doubting that she was attached to her husband; and Shakspeare loved to put into the lips of women beautiful expressions of love—but he did not intend that we should be deceived thereby in our moral judgements.


Did this ever occur to you, sir? Macbeth, when hiring the murderers who are to look after Banquo and Fleance, cites a conversation in which he had demonstrated to them that the oppression under which they had long suffered, and which they had supposed to proceed from Macbeth, proceeded really from Banquo? My firm belief is that it proceeded from Macbeth—that their suspicion was right—that Macbeth is misleading them—and that Shakspeare means you to apprehend this. But why should Macbeth have oppressed his inferiors, unless he had been—long since—of a tyrannical nature? He oppresses his inferiors—they are sickened and angered with the world—by his oppression—he tells them 'twas not he but another who had oppressed them—and that other—at his instigation—they willingly murder. An ugly affair altogether.


Very. But let us keep to the First Act—and see what a hypocrite Macbeth has so very soon become—what a savage assassin! He has just followed up his Soliloquy with these significant lines—

"Come what come may,
Time and the hour run through the roughest day;"

when he recollects that Banquo, Rosse, and Angus are standing near. Richard himself is not more wily—guily—smily—and oily; to the Lords his condescension is already quite kingly—

"Kind gentlemen, your pains
Are registered where every day I turn
The leaf to read them"—


And soon after, to the King how obsequious!

"The service and the loyalty I owe,
In doing it, pays itself. Your Highness' part
Is to receive our duties; and our duties
Are to your throne and state, children, and servants;
Which do but what they should by doing everything
Safe toward you love and honour."

What would Payne Knight have said to all that? This to his King, whom he has resolved, first good opportunity, to murder!


Duncan is now too happy for this wicked world.

"My plenteous joys,
Wanton in fulness, seek to hide themselves
In drops of sorrow."

Invaders—traitors—now there are none. Peace is restored to the Land—the Throne rock-fast—the line secure—

"We will establish our estate upon
Our eldest, Malcolm; whom we name hereafter,
The Prince of Cumberland: which honour must
Not, unaccompanied, invest him only,
But signs of nobleness, like stars, shall shine
On all deservers."

Now was the time for "the manly but ineffectual struggle of every exalted quality that can dignify and exalt the human mind"—for a few sublime flashes at least of generosity and tenderness, et cetera—now when the Gracious Duncan is loading him with honours, and, better than all honours,[Pg 631] lavishing on him the boundless effusions of a grateful and royal heart. The Prince of Cumberland! Ha, ha!

"The Prince of Cumberland!—That is a step
On which I must fall down, or else o'erleap,
For in my way it lies."

But the remorseless miscreant becomes poetical—

"Stars, hide your fires!
Let not light see my black and deep desires:
The eye wink at the hand! yet let that be,
Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see!"

The milk of human kindness has coagulated into the curd of inhuman ferocity—and all this—slanderers say—is the sole work of the Weird Sisters! No. His wicked heart—because it is wicked—believes in their Prophecy—the end is assured to him—and the means are at once suggested to his own slaughterous nature. No supernatural soliciting here, which a better man would not successfully have resisted. I again repudiate—should it be preferred against me—the charge of a tendresse towards the Bearded Beauties of the Blasted Heath; but rather would I marry them all Three—one after the other—nay all three at once, and as many more as there may be in our Celtic Mythology—than see your Sophia, Seward, or, Buller, your—


We have but Marmy.


Wedded to a Macbeth.


We know your affection, my dear sir, for your goddaughter. She is insured.


Well, this Milk of Human Kindness is off at a hand-gallop to Inverness. The King has announced a Royal Visit to Macbeth's own Castle. But Cawdor had before this despatched a letter to his lady, from which Shakspeare has given us an extract. And then, as I understand it, a special messenger besides, to say "the King comes here to-night." Which of the two is the more impatient to be at work 'tis hard to say; but the idea of the murder originated with the male Prisoner. We have his wife's word for it—she told him so to his face—and he did not deny it. We have his own word for it—he told himself so to his own face—and he never denies it at any time during the play.


You said, a little while ago, sir, that you believed Macbeth and his wife were a happy couple.


Not I. I said she was attached to him—and I say now that the wise men are not of the Seven, who point to her reception of her husband, on his arrival at home, as a proof of her want of affection. They seem to think she ought to have rushed into his arms—slobbered upon his shoulder—and so forth. For had he not been at the Wars? Pshaw! The most tender-hearted Thanesses of those days—even those that kept albums—would have been ashamed of weeping on sending their Thanes off to battle—much more on receiving them back in a sound skin—with new honours nodding on their plumes. Lady Macbeth was not one of the turtle-doves—fit mate she for the King of the Vultures. I am too good an ornithologist to call them Eagles. She received her mate fittingly—with murder in her soul; but more cruel—more selfish than he, she could not be—nor, perhaps, was she less; but she was more resolute—and resolution even in evil—in such circumstances as hers—seems to argue a superior nature to his, who, while he keeps vacillating, as if it were between good and evil, betrays all the time the bias that is surely inclining him to evil, into which he makes a sudden and sure wheel at last.


The Weirds—the Weirds!—the Weirds have done it all!

[Pg 632]


Macbeth—Macbeth!—Macbeth has done it all!


Furies and Fates!


Who make the wicked their victims!


Is she sublime in her wickedness?


It would, I fear, be wrong to say so. But I was speaking of Macbeth's character—not of hers—and, in comparison with him, she may seem a great creature. They are now utterly alone—and of the two he has been the more familiar with murder. Between them, Duncan already is a dead man. But how pitiful—at such a time and at such a greeting—Macbeth's cautions—

"My dearest Love,
Duncan comes here to-night!
Lady.—And when goes hence?
Macbeth.—To-morrow, as he purposes.
Lady.—Oh, never
Shall sun that morrow see!"

Why, Talboys, does not the poor devil—


Poor devil! Macbeth a poor devil?


Why, Buller, does not the poor devil?


Poor devil! Macbeth a poor devil?


Why, Seward, does not the poor devil—


Speak up—speak out? Is he afraid of the spiders? You know him, sir—you see through him.


Ay, Seward—reserved and close as he is—he wants nerve—pluck—he is close upon the coward—and that would be well, were there the slightest tendency towards change of purpose in the Pale Face; but there is none—he is as cruel as ever—the more close the more cruel—the more irresolute the more murderous—for to murder he is sure to come. Seward, you said well—why does not the poor devil speak up—speak out? Is he afraid of the spiders?


Murderous-looking villain—no need of words.


I did not say, sir, there was any need of words. Why, will you always be contradicting one?


Me? I? I hope I shall never live to see the day on which I contradict Christopher North in his own Tent. At least—rudely.


Do it rudely—not as you did now—and often do—as if you were agreeing with me—but you are incurable. I say, my dear Talboys, that Macbeth so bold in a "twa-haun'd crack" with himself in a Soliloquy—so figurative—and so fond of swearing by the Stars and old Mother Night, who were not aware of his existence—should not have been thus tongue-tied to his own wife in their own secretest chamber—should have unlocked and flung open the door of his heart to her—like a Man. I blush for him—I do. So did his wife.


I don't find that in the record.


Don't you? "Your face, my Thane, is as a book where men may read[Pg 633] strange matters." She sees in his face self-alarm at his own murderous intentions. And so she counsels him about his face—like a self-collected, trustworthy woman. "To beguile the time, look like the time;" with further good stern advice. But—"We shall speak farther," is all she can get from him in answer to conjugal assurances that should have given him a palpitation at the heart, and set his eyes on fire—

"He that's coming
Must be provided for; and you shall put
This night's great business into my despatch;
Which shall, to all our nights and days to come,
Give solely sovereign sway and Masterdom."

There spoke one worthy to be a Queen!




Ay—in that age—in that country. 'Twas not then the custom "to speak daggers but use none." Did Shakspeare mean to dignify, to magnify Macbeth by such demeanour? No—to degrade and minimise the murderer.


My dear sir, I cordially agree with every word you utter. Go on—my dear sir—to instruct—to illumine—


To bring out "sublime flashes of magnanimity, courage, tenderness," in Macbeth—


"Of every exalted quality that can dignify and adorn the human mind"—the mind of Macbeth in his struggle with the allurements of ambition!


Observe, how this reticence—on the part of Macbeth—contrasted with his wife's eagerness and exultation, makes her, for the moment, seem the wickeder of the two—the fiercer and the more cruel. For the moment only; for we soon ask ourselves what means this un-husbandly reserve in him who had sent her that letter—and then a messenger to tell her the king was coming—and who had sworn to himself as savagely as she now does, not to let slip this opportunity of cutting his king's throat. He is well-pleased to see that his wife is as bloody-minded as himself—that she will not only give all necessary assistance—as an associate—but concert the when, and the where, and the how—and if need be, with her own hand deal the blow.


She did not then know that Macbeth had made up his mind to murder Duncan that very night. But we know it. She has instantly made up hers—we know how; but being as yet unassured of her husband, she welcomes him home with a Declaration that must have more than answered his fondest hopes; and, therefore, he is almost mute—the few words he does utter seem to indicate no settled purpose—Duncan may fulfil his intention of going in the morning, or he may not; but we know that the silence of the murderer now is because the murderess is manifestly all he could wish—and that, had she shown any reluctance, he would have resumed his eloquence, and, to convert her to his way of thinking, argued as powerfully as he did when converting himself.


You carry on at such a pace, sir, there's no keeping up with you. Pull up, that I may ask you a very simple question. On his arrival at his castle, Macbeth finds his wife reading a letter from her amiable spouse, about the Weird Sisters. Pray, when was that letter written?


At what hour precisely? That I can't say. It must, however, have been written before Macbeth had been presented to the King—for there is no allusion in it to the King's intention to visit their Castle. I believe it to have been written about an hour or so after the prophecy of the Weirds—either in some[Pg 634] place of refreshment by the roadside—or in such a Tent as this—kept ready for the General in the King's Camp at Forres. He despatched it by a Gilly—a fast one like your Cornwall Clipper—and then tumbled in.


When did she receive it?


Early next morning.


How could that be, since she is reading it, as her husband steps in, well on, as I take it, in the afternoon?


Buller, you are a blockhead. There had she, for many hours, been sitting, and walking about with it, now rumpled up in her fist—now crunkled up between her breasts—now locked up in a safe—now spread out like a sampler on that tasty little oak table—and sometimes she might have been heard by the servants—had they had the unusual curiosity to listen at the door—murmuring like a stock-dove—anon hooting like an owl—by-and-by barking like an eagle—then bellowing liker a hart than a hind—almost howling like a wolf—and why not?—now singing a snatch of an old Gaelic air, with a clear, wild, sweet voice, like that of "a human!"

"Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be
What thou art promised."
"Hie thee hither,
That I may pour my spirits in thine ear,
And chastise with the valour of my tongue,
All that impedes thee from the golden round,
Which Fate and metaphysical aid doth seem
To have thee crown'd withal."


Grand indeed.


It is grand indeed. But, my dear Buller, was that all she had said to herself, think you? No—no—no. But it was all Shakspeare had time for on the Stage. Oh, sirs! The Time of the Stage is but a simulacrum of true Time. That must be done at one stroke, on the Stage, which in a Life takes ten. The Stage persuades that in one conversation, or soliloquy, which Life may do in twenty—you have not leisure or good-will for the ambages and iterations of the Real.


See an artist with a pen in his hand, challenged; and with a few lines he will exhibit a pathetic story. From how many millions has he given you—One? The units which he abstracts, represent sufficiently and satisfactorily the millions of lines and surfaces which he neglects.


So in Poetry. You take little for much. You need not wonder, then, that on an attendant entering and saying, "The King comes here to-night," she cries, "Thou'rt mad to say it!" Had you happened to tell her so half-an-hour ago, who knows but that she might have received it with a stately smile, that hardly moved a muscle on her high-featured front, and gave a merciful look to her green eyes even when she was communing with Murder!


What hurry and haste had been on all sides to get into the House of Murder!

"Where's the Thane of Cawdor?
We coursed him, at the heels, and had a purpose
To be his purveyor: but he rides well:
And his great love, sharp as his spur, hath holp him
To his home before us—Fair and noble Hostess,
We are your guest to-night."

Ay, where is the Thane of Cawdor? I, for one, not knowing, can't say. The gracious Duncan desires much to see him as well as his gracious Hostess.

[Pg 635]

"Give me your hand:
Conduct me to mine host: we love him highly,
And shall continue our graces towards him.
By your leave, Hostess."

Ay—where's the Thane of Cawdor? Why did not Shakspeare show him to us, sitting at supper with the King?


Did he sup with the King?


I believe he sat down—but got up again—and left the Chamber.


His wife seeks him out. "He has almost supped. Why have you left the Chamber?" "Has he asked for me?" "Know ye not he has?"


On Macbeth's Soliloquy, which his wife's entrance here interrupts, how much inconsiderate comment have not moralists made! Here—they have said—is the struggle of a good man with temptation. Hearken, say they—to the voice of Conscience! What does the good man, in this hour of trial, say to himself? He says to himself—"I have made up my mind to assassinate my benefactor in my own house—the only doubt I have, is about the consequences to myself in the world to come." Well, then—"We'd jump the world to come. But if I murder him—may not others murder me? Retribution even in this world." Call you that the voice of Conscience?




He then goes on to descant to himself about the relation in which he stands to Duncan, and apparently discovers for the first time, that "he's here in double trust;" and that as his host, his kinsman, and his subject, he should "against his murderer shut the door, not bear the knife myself."


A man of genius.


Besides, Duncan is not only a King, but a good King—

"So clear in his great office, that his virtues
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against
The deep damnation of his taking-off."

That is much better morality—keep there, Macbeth—or thereabouts—and Duncan's life is tolerably safe—at least for one night. But Shakspeare knew his man—and what manner of man he is we hear in the unbearable context, that never yet has been quoted by any one who had ears to distinguish between the true and the false.

"And pity, like a naked new-born babe,
Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubim, hors'd
Upon the sightless couriers of the air,
Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,
That tears shall drown the wind."

Cant and fustian. Shakspeare knew that cant and fustian would come at that moment from the mouth of Macbeth. Accordingly, he offers but a poor resistance to the rhetoric that comes rushing from his wife's heart—even that sentiment which is thought so fine—and 'tis well enough in its way—

"I dare do all that may become a man;
Who dares do more is none"—

is set aside at once by—

"What beast was it, then,
That made you break this enterprise to me?"

We hear no more of "Pity like a naked new-born babe"—but at her horrid scheme of the murder—

[Pg 636]

"Bring forth men-children only!
For thy undaunted mettle should compose
Nothing but males!"

Shakspeare does not paint here a grand and desperate struggle between good and evil thoughts in Macbeth's mind—but a mock fight; had there been any deep sincerity in the feeling expressed in the bombast—had there been any true feeling at all—it would have revived and deepened—not faded and died almost—at the picture drawn by Lady Macbeth of their victim—

"When Duncan is asleep,
Whereto the rather shall his day's hard journey
Soundly invite him,"

the words that had just left his own lips—

"His virtues
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against
The deep damnation of his taking-off,"

would have re-rung in his ears; and a strange medley—words and music—would they have made—with his wife's

"When in swinish sleep
Their drenched natures lie, as in a death,
What cannot you and I perform upon
The unguarded Duncan?"

That is my idea of the Soliloquy. Think on it.


The best critics tell us that Shakspeare's Lady Macbeth has a commanding Intellect. Certes she has a commanding Will. I do not see what a commanding Intellect has to do in a Tragedy of this kind—or what opportunity she has of showing it. Do you, sir?


I do not.


Her Intellect seems pretty much on a par with Macbeth's in the planning of the murder.


I defy any human Intellect to devise well an atrocious Murder. Pray, how would you have murdered Duncan?


Ask me rather how I would—this night—murder Christopher North.


No more of that—no dallying in that direction. You make me shudder. Shakspeare knew that a circumspect murder is an impossibility—that a murder of a King in the murderer's own house, with expectation of non-discovery, is the irrationality of infatuation. The poor Idiot chuckles at the poor Fury's device as at once original and plausible—and, next hour, what single soul in the Castle does not know who did the deed?


High Intellect indeed!


The original murder is bad to the uttermost. I mean badly contrived. What colour was there in colouring the two Grooms? No two men kill their master, and then go to bed again in his room with bloody faces and poignards.


If this was really a very bad plot altogether, it is her Ladyship's as much—far more than his Lordship's. Against whom, then, do we conclude? Her? I think not—but the Poet. He is the badly-contriving assassin. He does not intend lowering your esteem for her Ladyship's talents. Am I, sir, to think that William himself, after the same game, would have hunted no better? I believe he would; but he thinks that this will carry the Plot through for the Stage well enough. The House, seeing and hearing, will not stay to[Pg 637] criticise. The Horror persuades Belief. He knew the whole mystery of murder.


My dear Buller, wheel nearer me. I would not lose a word you say.


Did Macbeth commit an error in killing the two Grooms? And does his Lady think so?


A gross error, and his Lady thinks so.


Why was it a gross error—and why did his lady think so?


Because—why—I really can't tell.


Nor I. The question leads to formidable difficulties—either way. But answer me this. Is her swooning at the close of her husband's most graphic picture of the position of the corpses—real or pretended?








I reserve my opinion.


Not a faint—but a feint. She cannot undo that which is done; nor hinder that which he will do next. She must mind her own business. Now distinctly her own business is—to faint. A high-bred, sensitive, innocent Lady, startled from her sleep to find her guest and King murdered, and the room full of aghast nobles, cannot possibly do anything else but faint. Lady Macbeth, who "all particulars of duty knows," faints accordingly.


Seward, we are ready to hear you.


She has been about a business that must have somewhat shook her nerves—granting them to be of iron. She would herself have murdered Duncan had he not resembled her Father as he slept; and on sudden discernment of that dreadful resemblance, her soul must have shuddered, if her body served her to stagger away from parricide. On the deed being done, she is terrified after a different manner from the doer of the deed; but her terror is as great; and though she says—

"The sleeping and the dead
Are but as pictures—'tis the eye of childhood
That fears a painted Devil—"

believe me that her face was like ashes, as she returned to the chamber to gild the faces of the grooms with the dead man's blood. That knocking, too, alarmed the Lady—believe me—as much as her husband; and to keep cool and collected before him, so as to be able to support him at that moment with her advice, must have tried the utmost strength of her nature. Call her Fiend—she was Woman. Down stairs she comes—and stands among them all, at first like one alarmed only—astounded by what she hears—and striving to simulate the ignorance of the innocent—"What, in our house?" "Too cruel anywhere!" What she must have suffered then, Shakspeare lets us conceive for ourselves; and what on her husband's elaborate description of his inconsiderate additional murders. "The whole is too much for her"—she "is perplexed in the extreme"—and the sinner swoons.


Seward suggests a bold, strong, deep, tragical turn of the scene—that she faints actually. Well—so be it. I shall say, first, that I think it a weakness[Pg 638] in my favourite; but I will go so far as to add that I can let it pass for a not unpardonable weakness—the occasion given. But I must deal otherwise with her biographer. Him I shall hold to a strict rendering of account. I will know of him what he is about, and what she is about. If she faints really, and against her will, having forcible reasons for holding her will clear, she must be shown fighting to the last effort of will, against the assault of womanly nature, and drop, vanquished, as one dead, without a sound. But the Thaness calls out lustily—she remembers, "as we shall make our griefs and clamours roar upon his death." She makes noise enough—takes good care to attract everybody's attention to her performance—for which I commend her. Calculate as nicely as you will—she distracts or diverts speculation, and makes an interesting and agreeable break in the conversation.—I think that the obvious meaning is the right meaning—and that she faints on purpose.


Decided in favour of Feint.


You might have had the good manners to ask for my opinion.


I beg a thousand pardons, Buller.


A hundred will do, North. In Davies' Anecdotes of the Stage, I remember reading that Garrick would not trust Mrs Pritchard with the Swoon—and that Macklin thought Mrs Porter alone could have been endured by the audience. Therefore, by the Great Manager, Lady Macbeth was not allowed in the Scene to appear at all. His belief was, that with her Ladyship it was a feint—and that the Gods, aware of that, unless restrained by profound respect for the actress, would have laughed—as at something rather comic. If the Gods, in Shakspeare's days, were as the Gods in Garrick's, William, methinks, would not, on any account, have exposed the Lady to derision at such a time. But I suspect the Gods of the Globe would not have laughed, whatever they might have thought of her sincerity, and that she did appear before them in a Scene from which nothing could account for her absence. She was not, I verily believe, given to fainting—perhaps this was the first time she had ever fainted since she was a girl. Now I believe she did. She would have stood by her husband at all hazards, had she been able, both on his account and her own; she would not have so deserted him at such a critical juncture; her character was of boldness rather than duplicity; her business now—her duty—was to brazen it out; but she grew sick—qualms of conscience, however terrible, can be borne by sinners standing upright at the mouth of hell—but the flesh of man is weak, in its utmost strength, when moulded to woman's form—other qualms assail suddenly the earthly tenement—the breath is choked—the "distracted globe" grows dizzy—they that look out of the windows know not what they see—the body reels, lapses, sinks, and at full length smites the floor.


Well said—Chairman of the Quarter-sessions.


Nor, with all submission, my dear Sir, can I think you treat your favourite murderess, on this trying occasion, with your usual fairness and candour. All she says, is, "Help me hence, ho!" Macduff says, "Look to the Lady"—and Banquo says, "Look to the Lady"—and she is "carried off." Some critic or other—I think Malone—says that Macbeth shows he knows "'tis a feint" by not going to her assistance. Perhaps he was mistaken—know it he could not. And nothing more likely to make a woman faint than that revelling and wallowing of his in that bloody description.


By the Casting Vote of the President—Feint.


Let's to Lunch.


Go. You will find me sitting here when you come back.

[Pg 639]

Scene II.

SceneThe Pavilion. Timeafter Lunch.



Claudius, the Uncle-king in Hamlet, is perhaps the most odious character in all Shakspeare. But he does no unnecessary murders. He has killed the Father, and will the Son, all in regular order. But Macbeth plunges himself, like a drunken man, into unnecessary and injurious cruelties. He throws like a reckless gamester. If I am to own the truth, I don't know why he is so cruel. I don't think that he takes any pleasure in mere cruelty, like Nero—


What do we know of Nero? Was he mad?


I don't think that he takes any pleasure in mere cruelty, like Nero; but he seems to be under some infatuation that drags or drives him along. To kill is, in every difficulty, the ready resource that occurs to him—as if to go on murdering were, by some law of the Universe, the penalty which you must pay for having once murdered.


I think, Sir, that without contradicting anything we said before Lunch about his Lordship or his Kingship, we may conceive in the natural Macbeth considerable force of Moral Intuition.


We may.


Of Moral Intelligence?




Of Moral Obedience?




Moral Intuition, and Moral Intelligence breaking out, from time to time, all through—we understand how there is engendered in him strong self-dissatisfaction—thence perpetual goadings on—and desperate attempts to lose conscience in more and more crime.


Ay—Seward—even so. He tells you that he stakes soul and body upon the throw for a Crown. He has got the Crown—and paid for it. He must keep it—else he has bartered soul and body—for nothing! To make his first crime good—he strides gigantically along the road of which it opened the gate.


An almost morbid impressibility of imagination is energetically stamped, and universally recognised in the Thane, and I think, sir, that it warrants, to a certain extent, a sincerity of the mental movements. He really sees a fantastical dagger—he really hears fantastical voices—perhaps he really sees a fantastical Ghost. All this in him is Nature—not artifice—and a nature deeply, terribly, tempestuously commoved by the near contact of a murder imminent—doing—done. It is more like a murderer a-making than a murderer made.


See, sir, how precisely this characteristic is proposed.

[Pg 640]


By whom?


By Shakspeare, in that first Soliloquy. The poetry colouring, throughout, his discourse, is its natural efflorescence.


Talboys, Seward, you have spoken well.


And I have spoken ill?


I have not said so.


We have all Four of us spoken well—we have all Four of us spoken ill—and we have all Four of us spoken but so-so—now and heretofore—in this Tent—hang the wind—there's no hearing twelve words in ten a body says. Honoured sir, I beg permission to say that I cannot admit the Canon laid down by your Reverence, an hour or two ago, or a minute or two ago, that Macbeth's extravagant language is designed by Shakspeare to designate hypocrisy.




You commended Talboys and Seward for noticing the imaginative—the poetical character of Macbeth's mind. There we find the reason of his extravagant language. It may, as you said, be cant and fustian—or it may not—but why attribute to hypocrisy—as you did—what may have flowed from his genius? Poets may rant as loud as he, and yet be honest men. "In a fine frenzy rolling," their eyes may fasten on fustian.


Good—go on. Deduct.


Besides, sir, the Stage had such a language of its own; and I cannot help thinking that Shakspeare often, and too frankly, gave in to it.


He did.


I would, however, much rather believe that if Shakspeare meant anything by it in Macbeth's Oratory or Poetry, he intended thereby rather to impress on us that last noticed constituent of his nature—a vehement seizure of imagination. I believe, sir, that in the hortatory scene Lady Macbeth really vanquishes—as the scene ostensibly shows—his irresolution. And if Shakspeare means irresolution, I do not know why the grounds thereof which Shakspeare assigns to Macbeth should not be accepted as the true grounds. The Dramatist would seem to me to demand too much of me, if, under the grounds which he expresses, he requires me to discard these, and to discover and express others.


I do not know, sir, if that horrible Invocation of hers to the Spirits of Murder to unsex her, be held by many to imply that she has no need of their help?


It is held by many to prove that she was not a woman but a fiend. It proves the reverse. I infer from it that she does need their help—and, what is more, that she gets it. Nothing so dreadful, in the whole range of Man's Tragic Drama, as that Murder. But I see Seward is growing pale—we know his infirmity—and for the present shun it.


Thank you, sir.


I may, however, ask a question about Banquo's Ghost.


Well—well—do so.

[Pg 641]


You put the question to me, sir? I am inclined to think, sir, that no real Ghost sits on the Stool—but that Shakspeare meant it as with the Daggers. On the Stage he appears—that is an abuse.


Not so sure of that, Talboys.


Had Macbeth himself continued to believe that the first-seen Ghost was a real Ghost, he would not, could not have ventured so soon after its disappearance to say again, "And to our dear friend Banquo." He does say it—and then again diseased imagination assails him at the rash words. Lady Macbeth reasons with him again, and he finally is persuaded that the Ghost, both times, had been but brain-sick creations.

"My strange and self-abuse
Is the initiate fear, that wants hard use:—
I am but young in deed."


That certainly looks as if he did then know he had been deceived. But perhaps he only censures himself for being too much agitated by a real ghost.


That won't do.


But go back, my dear Talboys, to the first enacting of the Play. What could the audience have understood to be happening, without other direction of their thoughts than the terrified Macbeth's bewildered words? He never mentions Banquo's name—and recollect that nobody sitting there then knew that Banquo had been murdered. The dagger is not in point. Then the spectators heard him say, "Is this a dagger that I see before me?" And if no dagger was there, they could at once see that 'twas phantasy.


Something in that.


A settler.


I entirely separate the two questions—first, how did the Manager of the Globe Theatre have the King's Seat at the Feast filled; and second, what does the highest poetical Canon deliver. I speak now, but to the first. Now, here the rule is—"the audience must understand, and at once, what that which they see and hear means"—that Rule must govern the art of the drama in the Manager's practice. You allow that, Talboys?


I do.


Rash—Talboys—rash: he's getting you into a net.


That is not my way, Buller. Well, then, suppose Macbeth acted for the first time to an audience, who are to establish it for a stock-play or to damn it. Would the Manager commit the whole power of a scene which is perhaps the most—singly—effective of the whole Play—


No—no—not the most effective of the whole Play—


The rival, then, of the Murder Scene—the Sleep-Walking stands aloof and aloft—to the chance of a true divination by the whole Globe audience? I think not. The argument is of a vulgar tone, I confess, and extremely literal, but it is after the measure of my poor faculties.


In confirmation of what you say, sir, it has been lately asserted that one of the two appearings at least is not Banquo's—but Duncan's. How is that to be settled but by a real Ghost—or Ghosts?

[Pg 642]


And I ask, what has Shakspeare himself undeniably done elsewhere? In Henry VIII., Queen Katherine sleeps and dreams. Her Dream enters, and performs various acts—somewhat expressive—minutely contrived and prescribed. It is a mute Dream, which she with shut eyes sees—which you in pit, boxes, and gallery see—which her attendants, watching about her upon the stage, do not see.


And in Richard III—He dreams, and so does Richmond. Eight Ghosts rise in succession and speak to Richard first, and to the Earl next—each hears, I suppose, what concerns himself—they seem to be present in the two Tents at once.


In Cymbeline, Posthumus dreams. His Dream enters—Ghosts and even Jupiter! They act and speak; and this Dream has a reality—for Jupiter hands or tosses a parchment-roll to one of the Ghosts, who lays it, as bidden, on the breast of the Dreamer, where he, on awaking, perceives it! I call all this physically strong, sir, for the representation of the metaphysically thought.


If Buller may speak, Buller would observe, that once or twice both Ariel and Prospero come forward "invisible." And in Spenser, the Dream of which Morpheus lends the use to Archimago, is—carried.


We all remember the Dream which Jupiter sends to Agamemnon, and which, while standing at his bed's-head, puts on the shape of Nestor and speaks;—the Ghost of Patroclus—the actual Ghost which stands at the bed's-head of Achilles, and is his Dream.


My friends, Poetry gives a body to the bodiless. The Stage of Shakspeare was rude, and gross. In my boyhood, I saw the Ghosts appear to John Kemble in Richard III. Now they may be abolished with Banquo. So may be Queen Katherine's Angels. But Shakspeare and his Audience had no difficulty about one person's seeing what another does not—or one's not seeing, rather, that which another does. Nor had Homer, when Achilles alone, in the Quarrel Scene, sees Minerva. Shakspeare and his Audience had no difficulty about the bodily representation of Thoughts—the inward by the outward. Shakspeare and the Great Old Poets leave vague, shadowy, mist-shrouded, and indeterminate the boundaries between the Thought and the Existent—the Real and the Unreal. I am able to believe with you, Talboys, that Banquo's Ghost was understood by Shakspeare, the Poet, to be the Phantasm of the murderer's guilt-and-fear-shaken soul; but was required by Shakspeare, the Manager of the Globe Theatre, to rise up through a trap-door, mealy-faced and blood-boultered, and so make "the Table full."


Seward, do bid him speak of Lady Macbeth.


Oblige me, sir—don't now—after dinner, if you will.


I shall merely allude now, as exceedingly poetical treatment, to the discretion throughout used in the SHOWING of Lady Macbeth. You might almost say that she never takes a step on the stage, that does not thrill the Theatre. Not a waste word, gesture, or look. All at the studied fulness of sublime tragical power—yet all wonderfully tempered and governed. I doubt if Shakspeare could have given a good account of everything that he makes Macbeth say—but of all that She says he could.


As far as I am able to judge, she but once in the whole Play loses her perfect self-mastery—when the servant surprises her by announcing the King's coming. She answers, 'thou'rt mad to say it;' which is a manner of speaking[Pg 643] used by those who cannot, or can hardly believe tidings that fill them with exceeding joy. It is not the manner of a Lady to her servant who unexpectedly announces the arrival of a high—of the highest visitor. She recovers herself instantly. 'Is not thy master with him, who, wer't so, would have informed for preparation?' This is a turn colouring her exclamation, and is spoken in the most self-possessed, argumentative, demonstrative tone. The preceding words had been torn from her; now she has passed, with inimitable dexterity, from the dreamed Queen, to the usual mistress of her household—to the huswife.


In the Fourth Act—she is not seen at all. But in the Fifth, lo! and behold! and at once we know why she had been absent—we see and are turned to living stone by the revelation of the terrible truth. I am always inclined to conceive Lady Macbeth's night-walking as the summit, or topmost peak of all tragic conception and execution—in Prose, too, the crowning of Poetry! But it must be, because these are the ipsissima verba—yea, the escaping sighs and moans of the bared soul. There must be nothing, not even the thin and translucent veil of the verse, betwixt her soul showing itself, and yours beholding. Words which your "hearing latches" from the threefold abyss of Night, Sleep, and Conscience! What place for the enchantment of any music is here? Besides, she speaks in a whisper. The Siddons did—audible distinctly, throughout the stilled immense theatre. Here music is not—sound is not—only an anguished soul's faint breathings—gaspings. And observe that Lady Macbeth carries—a candle—besides washing her hands—and besides speaking prose—three departures from the severe and elect method, to bring out that supreme revelation. I have been told that the great Mrs Pritchard used to touch the palm with the tips of her fingers, for the washing, keeping candle in hand;—that the Siddons first set down her candle, that she might come forwards, and wash her hands in earnest, one over the other, as if she were at her wash-hand stand, with plenty of water in her basin—that when Sheridan got intelligence of her design so to do, he ran shrieking to her, and, with tears in his eyes, besought that she would not, at one stroke, overthrow Drury Lane—that she persisted, and turned the thousands of bosoms to marble.


Our dear, dear Master.


You will remember, my friends, her four rhymed lines—uttered to herself in Act Third. They are very remarkable—

"Nought's had, all's spent,
Where our desire is got without content:
'Tis safer to be that which we destroy,
Than, by destruction, dwell in doubtful joy."

They are her only waking acknowledgments of having mistaken life! So—they forebode the Sleep-Walking, and the Death—as an owl, or a raven, or vulture, or any fowl of obscene wing, might flit between the sun and a crowned but doomed head—the shadow but of a moment, yet ominous, for the augur, of an entire fatal catastrophe.


They do. But to say the truth, I had either forgot them, or never discovered their significancy. O that William Shakspeare!


O that Christopher North!


Speak so, friends—'tis absurd, but I like it.


It is sincere.


At last they call him "black Macbeth," and "this dead Butcher." And[Pg 644] with good reason. They also call her "his fiend-like Queen," which last expression I regard as highly offensive.


And they call her so not without strong reason.


A bold, bad woman—not a Fiend. I ask—Did she, or did she not, "with violent hand foredo her life?" They mention it as a rumour. The Doctor desires that all means of self-harm may be kept out of her way. Yet the impression on us, as the thing proceeds, is, that she dies of pure remorse—which I believe. She is visibly dying. The cry of women, announcing her death, is rather as of those who stood around the bed watching, and when the heart at the touch of the invisible finger stops, shriek—than of one after the other coming in and finding the self-slain—a confused, informal, perplexing, and perplexed proceeding—but the Cry of Women is formal, regular for the stated occasion. You may say, indeed, that she poisoned herself—and so died in bed—watched. Under the precautions, that is unlikely—too refined. The manner of Seyton, "The Queen, my Lord, is dead," shows to me that it was hourly expected. How these few words would seek into you, did you first read the Play in mature age! She died a natural death—of remorse. Take my word for it—the rumour to the contrary was natural to the lip and ear of Hate.


A question of primary import is—What is the relation of feeling between him and her? The natural impression, I think, is, that the confiding affection—the intimate confidence—is "there"—of a husband and wife who love one another—to whom all interests are in common, and are consulted in common. Without this belief, the Magic of the Tragedy perishes—vanishes to me. "My dearest love, Duncan comes here to-night." "Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest Chuck"—a marvellous phrase for Melpomene. It is the full union—for ill purposes—that we know habitually for good purposes—that to me tempers the Murder Tragedy.


Yet believe me, my dear Talboys—that of all the murders Macbeth may have committed, she knew beforehand but of ONE—Duncan's. The haunted somnambulist speaks the truth—the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.


"The Thane of Fife had a Wife." Does not that imply that she was privy to that Murder?


No. Except that she takes upon herself all the murders that are the offspring, legitimate or illegitimate, of that First Murder. But we know that Macbeth, in a sudden fit of fury, ordered the Macduffs to be massacred when on leaving the Cave Lenox told him of the Thane's flight.


That is decisive.


A woman, she feels for a murdered woman. That is all—a touch of nature—from Shakspeare's profound and pitiful heart.


"The Queen, my lord, is dead." "She should have died hereafter; There would have been a time for such a word"—Often have I meditated on the meaning of these words—yet even now I do not fully feel or understand them.


Nor I. This seems to look from them—"so pressed by outward besiegings, I have not capacity to entertain the blow as it requires to be entertained. With a free soul I could have measured it. Now I cannot."


Give us, sir, a commentary on the Revelations of the Sleeping Spectre.


I dare not. Let's be cheerful. I ask this—when you see and hear Kemble[Pg 645]-Macbeth—and Siddons-Macbeth—whom do you believe that you see and hear? I affirm that you at one and the same instant—(or at the most in two immediately successive instants—yet I believe in one and the same instant)—know that you see and hear Kemble—or if that accomplished gentleman and admirable actor—Macready be performing the part—then Macready;—and yet believe that you see and hear Lord Macbeth. I aver that you entertain a mixt—confused—self-contradictory state of mind—that two elements of thought which cannot co-subsist do co-subsist.


De jure they cannot—DE FACTO they do.


Just so.


They co-subsist fighting, and yet harmonising—there is half-belief—semi-illusion.


I claim the acknowledgment of such a state—which any one who chooses may better describe, but which shall come to that effect—for the lowest substratum of all science and criticism concerning Poesy. Will anybody grant me this, then I will reason with him about Poesy, for we begin with something in common. Will anybody deny me this, then I will not argue with him about Poesy, for we set out with nothing in common.


We grant you all you ask—we are all agreed—"our unanimity is wonderful."


Leave out the great Brother and Sister, and take the Personated alone. I know that Othello and Desdemona never existed—that an Italian Novelist began, and an English Dramatist ended them—and there they are. But do I not believe in their existence, "their loves and woes?" Yes I do believe in their existence, in their loves and woes—and I hate Iago accordingly with a vicious, unchristian, personal, active, malignant hatred.


Dr Johnson's celebrated expression, "all the belief that Poetry claims"——


Celebrated! Where is it?


Preface to Shakspeare—is idle, and frivolous, and false?


It is. He belies his own experience. He cannot make up his mind to admit the irrational thought of belief which you at once reject and accept. But exactly the half acceptance, and the half rejection, separates poetry from—prose.


That is, sir, the poetical from the prosaic.


Just so. It is the life and soul of all poetry—the lusus—the make-believe—the glamour and the gramarye. I do not know—gentlemen—I wish to be told, whether I am now throwing away words upon the setting up of a pyramid which was built by Cheops, and is only here and there crumbling a little, or whether the world requires that the position shall be formally argued and acknowledged. Johnson, as you reminded me, Talboys, did not admit it.


That he tells us in so many words. Has any more versed and profound master in criticism, before or since, authentically and authoritatively, luminously, cogently, explicitly, psychologically, metaphysically, physiologically, psychologically, propounded, reasoned out, legislated, and enthroned the Dogma?


I know not, Talboys. Do you admit the Dogma?

[Pg 646]


I do.


Impersonation—Apostrophe—of the absent; every poetical motion of the Soul; the whole pathetic beholding of Nature—involve the secret existence and necessity of this irrational psychical state for grounding the Logic of Poesy.


Go on, sir.


I will—but in a new direction. Before everything else, I desire, for the settlement of this particular question, a foundation for, and some progress in the science of Murder Tragedies.


I know properly two.


Two only? Pray name.


This of Macbeth and Richard III.


The Agamemnon—the Choephoræ—the Electra—the Medea—


In the Agamemnon, your regard is drawn to Agamemnon himself and to Cassandra. However, it is after a measure a prototype. Clytemnestra has in it a principality. Medea stands eminent—but then she is in the right.


In the right?


Jason at least is altogether in the wrong. But we must—for obvious reasons—discuss the Greek drama by itself; therefore not a word more about it now.


Richard III., and Macbeth and his wife, are in their Plays the principal people. You must go along with them to a certain guarded extent—else the Play is done for. To be kept abhorring and abhorring, for Five Acts together, you can't stand.


Oh! that the difference between Poetry and Life were once for all set down—and not only once for all, but every time that it comes in question.


My dear sir, do gratify Seward's very reasonable desire, and once for all set down the difference.


You bear suicides on the stage, and tyrannicides and other cides—all simple homicide—much murder. Even Romeo's killing Tybalt in the street, in reparation for Mercutio's death, you would take rather differently, if happening to-day in Pall Mall, or Moray Place.


We have assuredly for the Stage a qualified scheme of sentiment—grounded no doubt on our modern or every-day morality—but specifically modified by Imagination—by Poetry—for the use of the dramatist. Till we have set down what we do bear, and why, we are not prepared for distinguishing what we won't bear, and why.






And if so, sufficient for the nonce. Hamlet's uncle, Claudius, seems to me to be the most that can be borne of one purely abhorrible. He is made disgust[Pg 647]ing besides—drunken and foul. Able he is—for he won the Queen by "witchcraft of his wit;" but he is made endurable by his diminished proportion in the Play—many others overpowering and hiding him.


Pardon me, sir, but I have occasionally felt, in course of this conversation, that you were seeking—in opposition to Payne Knight—to reduce Macbeth to a species of Claudius. I agree with you in thinking that Shakspeare would not give a Claudius so large a proportion of his drama. The pain would be predominant and insupportable.


I would fain hope you have misunderstood me, Buller.


Sometimes, sir, it is not easy for a plain man to know what you would be at.






Richard III. is a hypocrite—a hard, cold murderer from of old—and yet you bear him. I suppose, friends, chiefly from his pre-eminent Intellectual Faculties, and his perfectly courageous and self-possessed Will. You do support your conscience—or traffic with it—by saying all along—we are only conducting him to the retribution of Bosworth Field. But, friends, if these motions in Macbeth, which look like revealings and breathings of some better elements, are sheer and vile hypocrisy—if it is merely his manhood that quails, which his wife has to virilify—a dastard and a hypocrite, and no more—I cannot abide him—there is too much of a bad business, and then I must think Shakspeare has committed an egregious error in Poetry. Richard III. is a bold, heroic hypocrite. He knows he is one. He lies to Man—never to his own Conscience, or to Heaven.




Never. There he is clear-sighted, and stands, like Satan, in open and impious rebellion.


But your Macbeth, sir, would be a shuffling Puritan—a mixture of Holy Willie and Greenacre. Forgive me——








My dear Buller—you have misunderstood me—I assure you you have. Some of my expressions may have been too strong—not sufficiently qualified.


I accept the explanation. But be more guarded in future, my dear sir.


I will.


On that assurance I ask you, sir, how is the Tragedy of Macbeth morally saved? That is, how does the degree of complacency with which we consider the two murderers not morally taint ourselves—not leave us predisposed murderers?


That is a question of infinite compass and fathom—answered then only when the whole Theory of Poesy has been expounded.

[Pg 648]




The difference established between our contemplation of the Stage and of Life.


I hardly expect that to be done this Summer in this Tent.


Friends! Utilitarians and Religionists shudder and shun. They consider the Stage and Life as of one and the same kind—look on both through one glass.




The Utilitarian will settle the whole question of Life upon half its data—the lowest half. He accepts Agriculture, which he understands logically—but rejects Imagination, which he does not understand at all—because, if you sow it in the track of his plough, no wheat springs. Assuredly not; a different plough must furrow a different soil for that seed and that harvest.


Now, my dear sir, you speak like yourself. You always do so—the rashness was all on my side.


Nobody cares—hold your tongue.


The Religionist errs from the opposite quarter. He brings measures from Heaven to measure things of the Earth. He weighs Clay in the balance of Spirit. I call him a Religionist who overruns with religious rules and conceptions things that do not come under them—completely distinct from the native simplicity and sovereignty of Religion in a piously religious heart. Both of them are confounders of the sciences which investigate the Facts and the Laws of Nature, visible and invisible—subduing inquiry under preconception.


Was that the Gong—or but thunder?


The Gong.


I smell sea-trout.

Scene III.

SceneDeeside. Timeafter Dinner.



One hour more—and no more—to Shakspeare.


May we crack nuts?


By all means. And here they are for you to crack.


Now for some of your astounding Discoveries.


If you gather the Movement, scene by scene, of the Action of this Drama, you see a few weeks, or it may be months. There must be time to hear that[Pg 649] Malcolm and his brother have reached England and Ireland—time for the King of England to interest himself in behalf of Malcolm, and muster his array. More than this seems unrequired. But the zenith of tyranny to which Macbeth has arrived, and particularly the manner of describing the desolation of Scotland by the speakers in England, conveys to you the notion of a long, long dismal reign. Of old it always used to do so with me; so that when I came to visit the question of the Time, I felt myself as if baffled and puzzled, not finding the time I had looked for, demonstrable. Samuel Johnson has had the same impression, but has not scrutinised the data. He goes probably by the old Chronicler for the actual time, and this, one would think, must have floated before Shakspeare's own mind.


Nobody can read the Scenes in England without seeing long-protracted time.

"Malcolm. Let us seek out some desolate shade, and there
Weep our sad bosoms empty.
Macduff. Let us rather
Hold fast the mortal sword, and, like good men,
Bestride our down-fallen birthdom: Each new morn,
New widows howl; new orphans cry; new sorrows
Strike heaven on the face, that it resounds
As if it felt with Scotland, and yell'd out
Like syllable of dolour."


Ay, Talboys, that is true Shakspeare. No Poet—before or since—has in so few words presented such a picture. No poet, before or since, has used such words. He writes like a man inspired.


And in the same dialogue Malcolm says—

"I think our country sinks beneath the yoke;
It weeps, it bleeds; and each new day a gash
Is added to her wounds."


Go on, my dear Talboys. Your memory is a treasury of all the highest Poetry of Shakspeare. Go on.


And hear Rosse, on his joining Malcolm and Macduff in this scene, the latest arrival from Scotland:—

"Macduff. Stands Scotland where it did?
Rosse. Alas, poor country!
Almost afraid to know itself! It cannot
Be call'd our mother, but our grave: where nothing,
But who knows nothing, is once seen to smile;
Where sighs and groans, and shrieks that rent the air,
Are made, not mark'd; where violent sorrow seems
A modern ecstasy; the dead man's knell
Is there scarce ask'd, for who; and good men's lives
Expire before the flowers in their caps,
Dying, or ere they sicken."


Words known to all the world, yet coming on the ear of each individual listener with force unweaken'd by familiarity, power increased by repetition, as it will be over all Scottish breasts in secula seculorum.


By Heavens! he smiles! There is a sarcastic smile on that incomprehensible face of yours, sir—of which no man in this Tent, I am sure, may divine the reason.


I was not aware of it. Now, my dear Talboys, let us here endeavour to[Pg 650] ascertain Shakspeare's Time. Here we have long time with a vengeance—and here we have short time; for this is the Picture of the State of Poor Scotland before the Murder of Macduff's Wife and Children.






Macduff, moved by Rosse's words, asks him, you know, Talboys, "how does my wife?" And then ensues the affecting account of her murder, which you need not recite. Now, I ask, when was the murder of Lady Macduff perpetrated? Two days—certainly not more—after the murder of Banquo. Macbeth, incensed by the flight of Fleance, goes, the morning after the murder of Banquo, to the Weirds, to know by "the worst means, the worst." You know what they showed him—and that, as they vanished, he exclaimed—

"Where are they? Gone?—Let this pernicious hour
Stand aye accursed in the calendar!—
Come in, without there!
Enter Lenox.
Len. What's your grace's will?
Macb. Saw you the weird sisters?
Len. No, my lord.
Macb. Came they not by you?
Len. No, indeed, my lord.
Macb. Infected be the air whereon they ride;
And damn'd all those that trust them!—I did hear
The galloping of horse: Who was't came by?
Len. 'Tis two or three, my lord, that bring you word,
Macduff is fled to England.
Macb. Fled to England?
Len. Ay, my good lord.
Macb. Time, thou anticipat'st my dread exploits:
The flighty purpose never is o'ertook,
Unless the deed go with it: from this moment,
The very firstlings of my heart shall be
The firstlings of my hand. And even now
To crown my thoughts with acts, be it thought and done:
The castle of Macduff I will surprise;
Seize upon Fife; give to the edge o' the sword
His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls
That trace his line. No boasting like a fool:
This deed I'll do, before this purpose cool."

And his purpose does not cool—for the whole Family are murdered. When, then, took place the murder of Banquo? Why, a week or two after the Murder of Duncan. A very short time indeed, then, intervened between the first and the last of these Murders. And yet from those pictures of Scotland, painted in England for our information and horror, we have before us a long, long time, all filled up with butchery over all the land! But I say there had been no such butchery—or anything resembling it. There was, as yet, little amiss with Scotland. Look at the linking of Acts II. and III. End of Act II., Macbeth is gone to Scone—to be invested. Beginning of Act III., Banquo says, in soliloquy, in Palace of Fores, "Thou hast it now." I ask, when is this NOW? Assuredly just after the Coronation. The Court was moved from Scone to Fores, which, we may gather from finding Duncan there formerly, to be the usual Royal Residence. "Enter Macbeth as King." "Our great Feast"—our "solemn Supper"—"this day's Council"—all have the aspect of new taking on the style of Royalty. "Thou hast it NOW," is formal—weighed—and in a position that gives it authority—at the very beginning of an Act—therefore intended to mark time—a very pointing of the finger on the dial.


Good image—short and apt.

[Pg 651]


Let me perpend.


Do, sir, let him perpend.


Banquo fears "Thou play'dst most foully for it;" he goes no farther—not a word of any tyranny done. All the style of an incipient, dangerous Rule—clouds, but no red rain yet. And I need not point out to you, Talboys, who carry Shakspeare unnecessarily in a secret pocket of that strange Sporting Jacket, which the more I look at it the greater is my wonder—that Macbeth's behaviour at the Banquet, on seeing Banquo nodding at him from his own stool, proves him to have been then young in blood.

"My strange and self-abuse
Is the initiate fear that wants hard use.
We are yet but young in deed."

He had a week or two before committed a first-rate murder, Duncan's—that night he had, by hired hands, got a second-rate job done, Banquo's—and the day following he gave orders for a bloody business on a more extended scale, the Macduffs. But nothing here the least like Rosse's, or Macduff's, or Malcolm's Picture of Scotland—during those few weeks. For Shakspeare forgot what the true time was—his own time—the short time; and introduced long time at the same time—why, he himself no doubt knew—and you no doubt, Talboys, know also—and will you have the goodness to tell the "why" to the Tent?


In ten minutes. Are you done?


Not quite. Meanwhile—Two Clocks are going at once—which of the two gives the true time of Day?


Short and apt. Go on, Sir.


I call that an Astounding Discovery. Macduff speaks as if he knew that Scotland had been for ever so long desolated by the Tyrant—and yet till Rosse told him, never had he heard of the Murder of his own Wife! Here Shakspeare either forgot himself wholly, and the short time he had himself assigned—or, with his eyes open, forced in the long time upon the short—in wilful violation of possibility! All silent?


After supper—you shall be answered.


Not by any man now sitting here—or elsewhere.


That remains to be heard.


Pray, Talboys, explain to me this. The Banquet scene breaks up in most admired disorder—"stand not upon the order of your going—but go at once,"—quoth the Queen. The King, in a state of great excitement, says to her—

"I will to-morrow,
(Betimes I will,) unto the weird sisters:
More shall they speak; for now I am bent to know,
By the worst means, the worst: for mine own good,
All causes shall give way; I am in blood
Stept in so far, that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o'er."

One might have thought not quite so tedious; as yet he had murdered only Duncan and his grooms, and to-night Banquo. Well, he does go "to-morrow and by times" to the Cave.

[Pg 652]

"Witch.—By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes:
Open, locks, whoever knocks.
Macbeth.—How now, you secret, Black, and midnight Hags?"

It is a "dark Cave"—dark at all times—and now "by times" of the morning! Now—observe—Lenox goes along with Macbeth—on such occasions 'tis natural to wish "one of ourselves" to be at hand. And Lenox had been at the Banquet. Had he gone to bed after that strange Supper? No doubt, for an hour or two—like the rest of "the Family." But whether he went to bed or not, then and there he and another Lord had a confidential and miraculous conversation.


Miraculous! What's miraculous about it?


Lenox says to the other Lord—

"My former speeches have but hit your thoughts,
Which can interpret further; only, I say,
Things have been strangely borne: the gracious Duncan
Was pitied of Macbeth—marry he was dead.
And the right valiant Banquo walked too late;
Whom, you may say, if it please you, Fleance killed,
For Fleance fled."

Who told him all this about Banquo and Fleance? He speaks of it quite familiarly to the "other lord," as a thing well known in all its bearings. But not a soul but Macbeth, and the Three Murderers themselves, could possibly have known anything about it! As for Banquo, "Safe in a ditch he bides,"—and Fleance had fled. The body may, perhaps in a few days, be found, and, though "with twenty trenched gashes on its head," identified as Banquo's, and, in a few weeks, Fleance may turn up in Wales. Nay, the Three Murderers may confess. But now all is hush; and Lenox, unless endowed with second sight, or clairvoyance, could know nothing of the murder. Yet, from his way of speaking of it, one might imagine crowner's 'quest had sitten on the body—and the report been in the Times between supper and that after-supper confab! I am overthrown—everted—subverted—the contradiction is flagrant—the impossibility monstrous—I swoon.




Thank you, Buller. That's revivifying—I see now all objects distinctly. Where was I? O, ay. The "other Lord" seems as warlock-wise as Lenox—for he looks forward to times when

"We may again
Give to our tables meat, sleep to our nights;
Free from our feasts and banquets bloody knives."

An allusion, beyond doubt, to the murder of Banquo! A sudden thought strikes me. Why, not only must the real, actual, spiritual, corporeal Ghost of Banquo sate on the stool, but "Lenox and the other Lord," as well as Macbeth, saw him.


Are you serious, sir?


So serious that I can scarcely hope to recover my usual spirits to-day. Have you, gentlemen, among you any more plausible solution to offer? All mum. One word more with you. Lenox tells the "other Lord"

"From broad words, and 'cause he fail'd
His presence at the tyrant's feast, I hear,
Macduff lives in disgrace; Sir, can you tell
Where he bestows himself?"

[Pg 653]

And the "other Lord," who is wonderfully well informed for a person "strictly anonymous," replies that Macduff—

"Is gone to pray the holy king, (Edward) on his aid
To wake Northumberland, and warlike Siward."

Nay, he minutely describes Macduff's surly reception of the King's messenger, sent to invite him to the Banquet, and the happy style of that official on getting the Thane of Fife's "absolute, Sir, not I," and D. I. O.! And the same nameless "Lord in waiting" says to Lenox, that

"this report
Hath so exasperate the king, that he
Prepares for some attempt of war."

I should like to know first where and when these two gifted individuals picked up all this information? The king himself had told the Queen, that same night, that he had not sent to Macduff—but that he had heard "by the way" that he was not coming to the Banquet—and he only learns the flight of Macduff after the Cauldron Scene—that is at end of it:—

"Macbeth. Come in, without there!
Enter Lenox.
Lenox. What's your Grace's will?
Macbeth. Saw you the Weird Sisters?
Lenox. No, indeed, my Lord.
Macbeth. Infected be the air whereon they ride;
And damn'd all those that trust them!—I did hear
The galloping of horse: Who was't came by?
Lenox. 'Tis two or three, my Lord, that bring you word,
Macduff is fled to England.
Macbeth. Fled to England?"

For an Usurper and Tyrant, his Majesty is singularly ill-informed about the movements of his most dangerous Thanes! But Lenox, I think, must have been not a little surprised at that moment to find that, so far from the exasperated Tyrant having "prepared for some attempt of war" with England—he had not till then positively known that Macduff had fled! I pause, as a man pauses who has no more to say—not for a reply. But to be sure, Talboys will reply to anything—and were I to say that the Moon is made of green cheese, he would say—yellow—


If of weeping Parmesan, then I—of the "cheese without a tear"—Double Gloster.


The whole Dialogue between Lenox and the Lord is miraculous. It abounds with knowledge of events that had not happened—and could not have happened—on the showing of Shakspeare himself; but I do not believe that there is another man now alive who knows that Lenox and the "other Lord" are caught up and strangled in that noose of Time. Did the Poet? You would think, from the way they go on, that one ground of war, one motive of Macduff's going, is the murder of Banquo—perpetrated since he is gone off!




Gentlemen, I have given you a specimen or two of Shakspeare's way of dealing with Time—and I can elicit no reply. You are one and all dumbfoundered. What will you be—where will you be—when I—


Have announced "all my astounding discoveries!" and where, also, will be poor Shakspeare—where his Critics?


Friends, Countrymen, and Romans, lend me your ears! A dazzling[Pg 654] spell is upon us that veils from our apprehension all incompatibilities—all impossibilities—for he dips the Swan-quill in Power—and Power is that which you must accept from him, and so to the utter oblivion, while we read or behold, of them all. To go to work with such inquiries is to try to articulate thunder. What do I intend? That Shakspeare is only to be thus criticised? Apollo forbid—forbid the Nine! I intend Prologomena to the Criticism of Shakspeare. I intend mowing and burning the brambles before ploughing the soil. I intend showing where we must not look for the Art and the Genius of Shakspeare, as a step to discovering where we must. I suspect—I know—that Criticism has oscillated from one extreme to another, in the mind of the country—from denying all art, to acknowledging consummated art, and no flaw. I would find the true Point. Stamped and staring upon the front of these Tragedies is a conflict. He, the Poet, beholds Life—he, the Poet, is on the Stage. The littleness of the Globe Theatre mixes with the greatness of human affairs. You think of the Green-room and the Scene-shifters. I think that when we have stripped away the disguises and incumbrances of the Power, we shall see, naked, and strong, and beautiful, the statue moulded by Jupiter.

Printed by William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh.

Transcriber's Notes:

Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.

Simple typographical and spelling errors were corrected.

Added anchor for unanchored footnote on p. 567.

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Vol.
66, No 409, November 1849, by Various


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