Part 4 out of 5
Mr. Zebedee Marvyn, the father of James, was the sample of an
individuality so purely the result of New England society and education,
that he must be embodied in our story as a representative man of the
He owned a large farm in the immediate vicinity of Newport, which he
worked with his own hands and kept under the most careful cultivation.
He was a man past the middle of life, with a white head, a keen blue
eye, and a face graven deeply with the lines of energy and thought. His
was one of those clearly-cut minds which New England forms among her
farmers, as she forms quartz crystals in her mountains, by a sort of
gradual influence flowing through every pore of her soil and system.
His education, properly so called, had been merely that of those common
schools and academies with which the States are thickly sown, and which
are the springs of so much intellectual activity. Here he had learned
to think and to inquire,--a process which had not ceased with his
school-days. Though toiling daily with his sons and hired man in all the
minutiae of a farmer's life, he kept an observant eye on the field of
literature, and there was not a new publication heard of that he did
not immediately find means to add it to his yearly increasing stock of
books. In particular was he a well-read and careful theologian, and all
the controversial tracts, sermons, and books, with which then, as ever
since, New England has abounded, not only lay on his shelves, but had
his pencilled annotations, queries, and comments thickly scattered along
their margins. There was scarce an office of public trust which had not
at one time or another been filled by him. He was deacon of the church,
chairman of the school-committee, justice of the peace, had been twice
representative in the State legislature, and was in permanence a sort of
adviser-general in all cases between neighbor and neighbor. Among other
acquisitions, he had gained some knowledge of the general forms of law,
and his advice was often asked in preference to that of the regular
His dwelling was one of those large, square, white, green-blinded
mansions, cool, clean, and roomy, wherein the respectability of New
England in those days rejoiced. The windows were shaded by clumps of
lilacs; the deep yard with its white fence inclosed a sweep of clean,
short grass, and a few fruit-trees. Opposite the house was a small
blacksmith's-shed, which, of a wet day, was sparkling and lively with
bellows and ringing forge, while Mr. Zebedee and his sons were hammering
and pounding and putting in order anything that was out of the way in
farming-tools or establishments. Not unfrequently the latest scientific
work or the last tractate of theology lay open by his side, the contents
of which would be discussed with a neighbor or two as they entered; for,
to say the truth, many a neighbor, less forehanded and thrifty, felt the
benefit of this arrangement of Mr. Zebedee, and would drop in to see if
he "wouldn't just tighten that rivet," or "kind o' ease out that 'ere
brace," or "let a feller have a turn with his bellows, or a stroke or
two on his anvil,"--to all which the good man consented with a grave
obligingness. The fact was, that, as nothing in the establishment of
Mr. Marvyn was often broken or lost or out of place, he had frequent
applications to lend to those less fortunate persons, always to be
found, who supply their own lack of considerateness from the abundance
of their neighbors.
He who is known always to be in hand, and always obliging, in a
neighborhood, stands the chance sometimes of having nothing for himself.
Mr. Zebedee reflected quietly on this subject, taking it, as he did all
others, into grave and orderly consideration, and finally provided a
complete set of tools, which he kept for the purpose of lending; and
when any of these were lent, he told the next applicant quietly, that
the axe or the hoe was already out, and thus he reconciled the Scripture
which commanded him to "do good and lend" with that law of order which
was written in his nature.
Early in life Mr. Marvyn had married one of the handsomest girls of
his acquaintance, who had brought him a thriving and healthy family of
children, of whom James was the youngest. Mrs. Marvyn was, at this
time, a tall, sad-eyed, gentle-mannered woman, thoughtful, earnest,
deep-natured, though sparing in the matter of words. In all her
household arrangements, she had the same thrift and order which
characterized her husband; but hers was a mind of a finer and higher
stamp than his.
In her bed-room, near by her work-basket, stood a table covered with
books,--and so systematic were her household arrangements, that she
never any day missed her regular hours for reading. One who should have
looked over this table would have seen there how eager and hungry a mind
was hid behind the silent eyes of this quiet woman. History, biography,
mathematics, volumes of the encyclopaedia, poetry, novels, all alike
found their time and place there,--and while she pursued her household
labors, the busy, active soul within travelled cycles and cycles of
thought, few of which ever found expression in words. What might be that
marvellous music of the _Miserere_, of which she read, that it convulsed
crowds and drew groans and tears from the most obdurate? What might be
those wondrous pictures of Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci? What would it
be to see the Apollo, the Venus? What was the charm that enchanted the
old marbles,--charm untold and inconceivable to one who had never seen
even the slightest approach to a work of art? Then those glaciers of
Switzerland, that grand, unapproachable mixture of beauty and sublimity
in her mountains!--what would it be to one who could see it? Then what
were all those harmonies of which she read,--masses, fugues, symphonies?
Oh, could she once hear the Miserere of Mozart, just to know what music
was like! And the cathedrals, what were they? How wonderful they must
be, with their forests of arches, many-colored as autumn-woods with
painted glass, and the chants and anthems rolling down their long
aisles! On all these things she pondered quietly, as she sat often on
Sundays in the old staring, rattle-windowed meeting-house, and looked at
the uncouth old pulpit, and heard the choir faw-sol-la-ing or singing
fuguing tunes; but of all this she said nothing.
Sometimes, for days, her thoughts would turn from these subjects and be
absorbed in mathematical or metaphysical studies. "I have been following
that treatise on Optics for a week, and never understood it till
to-day," she once said to her husband. "I have found now that there has
been a mistake in drawing the diagrams. I have corrected it, and now the
demonstration is complete.--Dinah, take care, that wood is hickory, and
it takes only seven sticks of that size to heat the oven."
It is not to be supposed that a woman of this sort was an inattentive
listener to preaching so stimulating to the intellect as that of Dr. H.
No pair of eyes followed the web of his reasonings with a keener and
more anxious watchfulness than those sad, deep-set, hazel ones; and as
she was drawn along the train of its inevitable logic, a close observer
might have seen how the shadows deepened over them. For, while others
listened for the clearness of the thought, for the acuteness of the
argument, she listened as a soul wide, fine-strung, acute, repressed,
whose every fibre is a nerve, listens to the problem of its own
destiny,--listened as the mother of a family listens, to know what were
the possibilities, the probabilities, of this mysterious existence of
ours to herself and those dearer to her than herself.
The consequence of all her listening was a history of deep inward
sadness. That exultant joy, or that entire submission, with which others
seemed to view the scheme of the universe, as thus unfolded, did not
visit her mind. Everything to her seemed shrouded in gloom and mystery;
and that darkness she received as a token of unregeneracy, as a sign
that she was one of those who are destined, by a mysterious decree,
never to receive the light of the glorious gospel of Christ. Hence,
while her husband was a deacon of the church, she, for years, had sat
in her pew while the sacramental elements were distributed, a mournful
spectator. Punctilious in every duty, exact, reverential, she still
regarded herself as a child of wrath, an enemy to God, and an heir
of perdition; nor could she see any hope of remedy, except in the
sovereign, mysterious decree of an Infinite and Unknown Power, a mercy
for which she waited with the sickness of hope deferred.
Her children had grown up successively around her, intelligent and
exemplary. Her eldest son was mathematical professor in one of the
leading colleges of New England. Her second son, who jointly with his
father superintended the farm, was a man of wide literary culture and of
fine mathematical genius; and not unfrequently, on winter evenings, the
son, father, and mother worked together, by their kitchen fireside, over
the calculations for the almanac for the ensuing year, which the son had
been appointed to edit.
Everything in the family arrangements was marked by a sober precision, a
grave and quiet self-possession. There was little demonstrativeness of
affection between parents and children, brothers and sisters, though
great mutual affection and confidence. It was not pride, nor sternness,
but a sort of habitual shamefacedness, that kept far back in each soul
those feelings which are the most beautiful in their outcome; but
after a while, the habit became so fixed a nature, that a caressing or
affectionate expression could not have passed the lips of one to another
without a painful awkwardness. Love was understood, once for all, to be
the basis on which their life was built. Once for all, they loved each
other, and after that, the less said, the better. It had cost the
woman's heart of Mrs. Marvyn some pangs, in the earlier part of her
wedlock, to accept of this _once for all_, in place of those
daily outgushings which every woman desires should be like God's
loving-kindness, "new every morning"; but hers, too, was a nature
strongly inclining inward, and, after a few tremulous movements, the
needle of her soul settled, and her life-lot was accepted,--not as what
she would like or could conceive, but as a reasonable and good one. Life
was a picture painted in low, cool tones, but in perfect keeping; and
though another and brighter style might have pleased better, she did not
quarrel with this.
Into this steady, decorous, highly-respectable circle the youngest
child, James, made a formidable irruption. One sometimes sees launched
into a family-circle a child of so different a nature from all the rest,
that it might seem as if, like an aerolite, he had fallen out of another
sphere. All the other babies of the Marvyn family had been of that
orderly, contented sort who sleep till it is convenient to take them up,
and while awake suck their thumbs contentedly and look up with large,
round eyes at the ceiling when it is not convenient for their elders
and betters that they should do anything else. In farther advanced
childhood, they had been quiet and decorous children, who could be all
dressed and set up in chairs, like so many dolls, of a Sunday morning,
patiently awaiting the stroke of the church-bell to be carried out and
put into the wagon which took them over the two-miles' road to church.
Possessed of such tranquil, orderly, and exemplary young offshoots, Mrs.
Marvyn had been considered eminent for her "faculty" in bringing up
But James was destined to put "faculty," and every other talent which
his mother possessed, to rout. He was an infant of moods and tenses, and
those not of any regular verb. He would cry of nights, and he would be
taken up of mornings, and he would not suck his thumb, nor a bundle of
caraway-seed tied in a rag and dipped in sweet milk, with which the good
gossips in vain endeavored to pacify him. He fought manfully with his
two great fat fists the battle of babyhood, utterly reversed all nursery
maxims, and reigned as baby over the whole prostrate household. When old
enough to run alone, his splendid black eyes and glossy rings of hair
were seen flashing and bobbing in every forbidden place and occupation.
Now trailing on his mother's gown, he assisted her in salting her butter
by throwing in small contributions of snuff or sugar, as the case might
be; and again, after one of those mysterious periods of silence which
are of most ominous significance in nursery experience, he would rise
from the demolition of her indigo-bag, showing a face ghastly with blue
streaks, and looking more like a gnome than the son of a respectable
mother. There was not a pitcher of any description of contents left
within reach of his little tiptoes and busy fingers that was not pulled
over upon his giddy head without in the least seeming to improve its
steadiness. In short, his mother remarked that she was thankful every
night when she had fairly gotten him into bed and asleep; James had
really got through one more day and killed neither himself nor any
one else. As a boy, the case was little better. He did not take to
study,--yawned over books, and cut out moulds for running anchors when
he should have been thinking of his columns of words in four syllables.
No mortal knew how he learned to read, for he never seemed to stop
running long enough to learn anything; and yet he did learn, and used
the talent in conning over travels, sea-voyages, and lives of heroes and
naval commanders. Spite of father, mother, and brother, he seemed
to possess the most extraordinary faculty of running up unsavory
acquaintances. He was hail-fellow well-met with every Tom and Jack and
Jim and Ben and Dick that strolled on the wharves, and astonished his
father with minutest particulars of every ship, schooner, and brig in
the harbor, together with biographical notes of the different Toms,
Dicks, and Harrys by whom they were worked.
There was but one member of the family that seemed to know at all what
to make of James, and that was their negro servant, Candace.
In those days, when domestic slavery prevailed in New England, it was
quite a different thing in its aspects from the same institution in
more southern latitudes. The hard soil, unyielding to any but the most
considerate culture, the thrifty, close, shrewd habits of the people,
and their untiring activity and industry, prevented, among the mass of
the people, any great reliance on slave labor. It was something foreign,
grotesque, and picturesque in a life of the most matter-of-fact
sameness; it was even as if one should see clusters of palm-trees
scattered here and there among Yankee wooden meeting-houses, or open
one's eyes on clumps of yellow-striped aloes growing among hardhack and
huckleberry bushes in the pastures.
Added to this, there were from the very first, in New England, serious
doubts in the minds of thoughtful and conscientious people in reference
to the lawfulness of slavery; and this scruple prevented many from
availing themselves of it, and proved a restraint on all, so that
nothing like plantation-life existed, and what servants were owned were
scattered among different families, of which they came to be regarded
and to regard themselves as a legitimate part and portion,--Mr. Marvyn,
as a man of substance, numbering two or three in his establishment,
among whom Candace reigned chief. The presence of these tropical
specimens of humanity, with their wide, joyous, rich physical abundance
of nature and their hearty _abandon_ of outward expression, was a relief
to the still clear-cut lines in which the picture of New England life
was drawn, which an artist must appreciate.
No race has ever shown such infinite and rich capabilities of adaptation
to varying soil and circumstances as the negro. Alike to them the snows
of Canada, the hard, rocky land of New England, with its set lines and
orderly ways, or the gorgeous profusion and loose abundance of the
Southern States. Sambo and Cuffy expand under them all. New England yet
preserves among her hills and valleys the lingering echoes of the jokes
and jollities of various sable worthies, who saw alike in orthodoxy
and heterodoxy, in Dr. This-side and Dr. That-side, only food for
more abundant merriment;--in fact, the minister of those days not
unfrequently had his black shadow, a sort of African Boswell, who
powdered his wig, brushed his boots, defended and patronized his
sermons, and strutted complacently about as if through virtue of his
blackness he had absorbed every ray of his master's dignity and wisdom.
In families, the presence of these exotics was a godsend to the
children, supplying from the abundant outwardness and demonstrativeness
of their nature that aliment of sympathy so dear to childhood, which the
repressed and quiet habits of New England education denied. Many and
many a New Englander counts among his pleasantest early recollections
the memory of some of these genial creatures, who by their warmth of
nature were the first and most potent mesmerisers of his childish mind.
Candace was a powerfully built, majestic black woman, corpulent, heavy,
with a swinging majesty of motion like that of a ship in a ground-swell.
Her shining black skin and glistening white teeth were indications of
perfect physical vigor which had never known a day's sickness; her
turban, of broad red and yellow bandanna stripes, had even a warm
tropical glow; and her ample skirts were always ready to be spread over
every childish transgression of her youngest pet and favorite, James.
She used to hold him entranced long winter-evenings, while she sat
knitting in the chimney-corner, and crooned to him strange, wild African
legends of the things that she had seen in her childhood and early
days,--for she had been stolen when about fifteen years of age;
and these weird, dreamy talks increased the fervor of his roving
imagination, and his desire to explore the wonders of the wide and
unknown world. When rebuked or chastised, it was she who had secret
bowels of mercy for him, and hid doughnuts in her ample bosom to be
secretly administered to him in mitigation of the sentence that sent him
supperless to bed; and many a triangle of pie, many a wedge of cake, had
conveyed to him surreptitious consolations which his more conscientious
mother longed, but dared not, to impart. In fact, these ministrations,
if suspected, were winked at by Mrs. Marvyn, for two reasons: first,
that mothers are generally glad of any loving-kindness to an erring boy,
which they are not responsible for; and second, that Candace was so set
in her ways and opinions that one might as well come in front of a ship
under full sail as endeavor to stop her in a matter where her heart was
To be sure, she had her own private and special quarrels with "Massa
James" when he disputed any of her sovereign orders in the kitchen, and
would sometimes pursue him with uplifted rolling-pin and floury hands
when he had snatched a gingernut or cooky without suitable deference or
supplication, and would declare, roundly, that there "never was sich an
aggravatin' young un." But if, on the strength of this, any one
else ventured a reproof, Candace was immediately round on the other
side:--"Dat ar' chile gwin' to be spiled, 'cause dey's allers a-pickin'
on him;--he's well enough, on'y let him alone."
Well, under this miscellaneous assortment of influences,--through
the order and gravity and solemn monotone of life at home, with the
unceasing tick-tack of the clock forever resounding through clean,
empty-seeming rooms,--through the sea, ever shining, ever smiling,
dimpling, soliciting, like a magical charger who comes saddled and
bridled and offers to take you to fairyland,--through acquaintance with
all sorts of foreign, outlandish ragamuffins among the ships in the
harbor,--from disgust of slow-moving oxen, and long-drawn, endless
furrows round the fifteen-acre lot,--from misunderstandings with grave
elder brothers, and feeling somehow as if, he knew not why, he grieved
his mother all the time just by being what he was and couldn't help
being,--and, finally, by a bitter break with his father, in which came
that last wrench for an individual existence which some time or other
the young growing mind will give to old authority,--by all these united,
was the lot at length cast; for one evening James was missing at
supper, missing by the fireside, gone all night, not at home to
breakfast,--till, finally, a strange, weird, most heathenish-looking
cabin-boy, who had often been forbidden the premises by Mr. Marvyn,
brought in a letter, half-defiant, half-penitent, which announced that
James had sailed in the "Ariel" the evening before.
Mr. Zebedee Marvyn set his face as a flint, and said, "He went out from
us because he was not of us,"--whereat old Candace lifted her great
floury fist from the kneading-trough, and, shaking it like a large
snowball, said, "Oh, you go 'long, Massa Marvyn; ye'll live to count dat
ar' boy for de staff o' your old age yet, now I tell ye; got de makin'
o' ten or'nary men in him; kittles dat's full allers will bile over;
good yeast will blow out de cork,--lucky ef it don't bust de bottle.
Tell ye, der's angels has der hooks in sich, and when de Lord wants him
dey'll haul him in safe and sound." And Candace concluded her speech by
giving a lift to her whole batch of dough and flinging it down in the
trough with an emphasis that made the pewter on the dresser rattle.
This apparently irreverent way of expressing her mind, so contrary to
the deferential habits studiously inculcated in family discipline, had
grown to be so much a matter of course to all the family that nobody
ever thought of rebuking it. There was a sort of savage freedom about
her which they excused in right of her having been born and bred a
heathen, and of course not to be expected to come at once under the yoke
of civilization. In fact, you must all have noticed, my dear readers,
that there are some sorts of people for whom everybody turns out as they
would for a railroad-car, without stopping to ask why, and Candace was
one of them.
Moreover, Mr. Marvyn was not displeased with this defence of James,
as might be inferred from his mentioning it four or five times in the
course of the morning, to say how foolish it was,--wondering why it was
that Candace and everybody else got so infatuated with that boy,--and
ending, at last, after a long period of thought, with the remark, that
these poor African creatures often seemed to have a great deal of
shrewdness in them, and that he was often astonished at the penetration
that Candace showed.
At the end of the year James came home, more quiet and manly than he had
ever been known before,--so handsome with his sunburnt face, and his
keen, dark eyes, and glossy curls, that half the girls in the front
gallery lost their hearts the first Sunday he appeared in church. He was
tender as a woman to his mother, and followed her with his eyes, like a
lover, wherever she went; he made due and manly acknowledgments to his
father, but declared his fixed and settled intention to abide by the
profession he had chosen; and he brought home all sorts of strange
foreign gifts for every member of the household. Candace was glorified
with a flaming red and yellow turban of Moorish stuff, from Mogadore,
together with a pair of gorgeous yellow morocco slippers with peaked
toes, which, though there appeared no call to wear them in her common
course of life, she would put on her fat feet and contemplate with
daily satisfaction. She became increasingly strengthened thereby in the
conviction that the angels who had their hooks in Massa James's jacket
were already beginning to shorten the line.
[To be continued.]
THE PALM AND THE PINE.
When Peter led the First Crusade,
A Norseman wooed an Arab maid.
He loved her lithe and palmy grace,
And the dark beauty of her face:
She loved his cheeks, so ruddy fair,
His sunny eyes and yellow hair.
He called: she left her father's tent;
She followed whereso'er he went.
She left the palms of Palestine
To sit beneath the Norland pine.
She sang the musky Orient strains
Where Winter swept the snowy plains.
Their natures met like night and morn
What time the morning-star is born.
The child that from their meeting grew
Hung, like that star, between the two.
The glossy night his mother shed
From her long hair was on his head:
But in its shade they saw arise
The morning of his father's eyes.
Beneath the Orient's tawny stain
Wandered the Norseman's crimson vein:
Beneath the Northern force was seen
The Arab sense, alert and keen.
His were the Viking's sinewy hands,
The arching foot of Eastern lands.
And in his soul conflicting strove
Northern indifference, Southern love;
The chastity of temperate blood,
Impetuous passion's fiery flood;
The settled faith that nothing shakes,
The jealousy a breath awakes;
The planning Reason's sober gaze.
And Fancy's meteoric blaze.
And stronger, as he grew to man,
The contradicting natures ran,--
As mingled streams from Etna flow,
One born of fire, and one of snow.
And one impelled, and one withheld,
And one obeyed, and one rebelled.
One gave him force, the other fire;
This self-control, and that desire.
One filled his heart with fierce unrest;
With peace serene the other blessed.
He knew the depth and knew the height,
The bounds of darkness and of light;
And who these far extremes has seen
Must needs know all that lies between.
So, with untaught, instinctive art,
He read the myriad-natured heart.
He met the men of many a land;
They gave their souls into his hand;
And none of them was long unknown:
The hardest lesson was his own.
But how he lived, and where, and when,
It matters not to other men;
For, as a fountain disappears,
To gush again in later years,
So natures lost again may rise
After the lapse of centuries,--
May track the hidden course of blood
Through many a generation's flood,
Till, on some unsuspected field,
The latent lineage is revealed.
The hearts that met in Palestine,
And mingled 'neath the Norland pine.
Still beat with double pulse in mine.
THE PROFESSOR AT THE BREAKFAST-TABLE.
WHAT HE SAID, WHAT HE HEARD, AND WHAT HE SAW.
Back again!--A turtle--which means a tortoise--is fond of his shell; but
if you put a live coal on his back, he crawls out of it. So the boys
It is a libel on the turtle. He grows to his shell, and his shell is in
his body as much as his body is in his shell.--I don't think there
is one of our boarders quite so testudinous as I am. Nothing but a
combination of motives, more peremptory than the coal on the turtle's
back, could have got me to leave the shelter of my carapace; and after
memorable interviews, and kindest hospitalities, and grand sights, and
huge influx of patriotic pride,--for every American owns all America,--
"Creation's heir,--the world, the world is"
his, if anybody's,--I come back with the feeling which a boned turkey
might experience, if, retaining his consciousness, he were allowed to
resume his skeleton.
Welcome, O Fighting Gladiator, and Recumbent Cleopatra, and Dying
Warrior, whose classic outlines (reproduced in the calcined mineral of
Lutetia) crown my loaded shelves! Welcome, ye triumphs of pictorial art
(repeated by the magic graver) that look down upon me from the walls of
my sacred cell! Vesalius, as Titian drew him, high-fronted, still-eyed,
thick-bearded, with signet-ring, as beseems a gentleman, with book and
carelessly-held eyeglass, marking him a scholar; thou, too, Jan Kuyper,
commonly called Jan Praktiseer, old man of a century and seven years
besides, father of twenty sons and two daughters cut in copper by
Houbraken, bought from a portfolio on one of the Paris _quais_; and ye
Three Trees of Rembrandt, black in shadow against the blaze of sunlight;
and thou Rosy Cottager of Sir Joshua,--thy roses hinted by the peppery
burin of Bartolozzi; ye, too, of lower grades in nature, yet not
unlovely nor unrenowned, Young Bull of Paulus Potter, and Sleeping Cat
of Cornelius Visscher; welcome once more to my eyes! The old books
look out from the shelves, and I seem to read on their backs something
besides their titles,--a kind of solemn greeting. The crimson carpet
flushes warm under my feet. The arm-chair hugs me; the swivel-chair
spins round with me, as if it were giddy with pleasure; the vast
recumbent _fauteuil_ stretches itself out under my weight, as one joyous
with food and wine stretches in after-dinner laughter.
The boarders were pleased to say that they were glad to get me back. One
of them ventured a compliment, namely,--that I talked as if I believed
what I said.--This was apparently considered something unusual, by its
One who means to talk with entire sincerity,--I said,--always feels
himself in danger of two things, namely,--an affectation of bluntness,
like that of which Cornwall accuses Kent in "Lear," and actual rudeness.
What a man wants to do, in talking with a stranger, is to get and to
give as much of the best and most real life that belongs to the two
talkers as the time will let him. Life is short, and conversation apt to
run to mere words. Mr. Hue I think it is, who tells us some very good
stories about the way in which two Chinese gentlemen contrive to keep up
a long talk without saying a word which has any meaning in it. Something
like this is occasionally heard on this side of the Great Wall. The best
Chinese talkers I know are some pretty women whom I meet from time to
time. Pleasant, airy, complimentary, the little flakes of flattery
glimmering in their talk like the bits of gold-leaf in _eau-de-vie de
Dantzic_; their accents flowing on in a soft ripple,--never a wave,
and never a calm; words nicely fitted, but never a colored phrase or a
high-flavored epithet; they turn air into syllables so gracefully, that
we find meaning for the music they make as we find faces in the coals
and fairy palaces in the clouds. There is something very odd, though,
about this mechanical talk.
You have sometimes been in a train on the railroad when the engine was
detached a long way from the station you were approaching? Well, you
have noticed how quietly and rapidly the cars kept on, just as if the
locomotive were drawing them? Indeed, you would not have suspected that
you were travelling on the strength of a dead fact, if you had not seen
the engine running away from you on a side-track. Upon my conscience,
I believe some of these pretty women detach their minds entirely,
sometimes, from their talk,--and, what is more, that we never know the
difference. Their lips let off the fluty syllables just as their fingers
would sprinkle the music-drops from their pianos; unconscious habit
turns the phrase of thought into words just as it does that of music
into notes.--Well, they govern the world, for all that,--these
sweet-lipped women,--because beauty is the index of a larger fact than
----The Bombazine wanted an explanation.
Madam,--said I,--wisdom is the abstract of the past, but beauty is the
promise of the future.
----All this, however, is not what I was going to say. Here am I,
suppose, sealed--we will say at a dinner-table--alongside of an
intelligent Englishman. We look in each other's faces,--we exchange a
dozen words. One thing is settled: we mean not to offend each other,--to
be perfectly courteous,--more than courteous; for we are the entertainer
and the entertained, and cherish particularly amiable feelings to each
other. The claret is good; and if our blood reddens a little with its
warm crimson, we are none the less kind for it.
----I don't think people that talk over their victuals are like to say
anything very great, especially if they get their heads muddled with
strong drink before they begin jabberin'.
The Bombazine uttered this with a sugary sourness, as if the words had
been steeped in a solution of acetate of lead.--The boys of my time used
to call a hit like this a "side-winder."
----I must finish this woman.--
Madam,--I said,--the Great Teacher seems to have been fond of talking as
he sat at meat. Because this was a good while ago, in a far-off place,
you forget what the true fact of it was,--that those were real dinners,
where people were hungry and thirsty, and where you met a very
miscellaneous company. Probably there was a great deal of loose talk
among the guests; at any rate, there was always wine, we may believe.
Whatever may be the hygienic advantages or disadvantages of wine,--and
I for one, except for certain particular ends, believe in water, and, I
blush to say it, in black tea,--there is no doubt about its being the
grand specific against dull dinners. A score of people come together in
all moods of mind and body. The problem is, in the space of one hour,
more or less, to bring them all into the same condition of slightly
exalted life. Food alone is enough for one person, perhaps,--talk,
alone, for another; but the grand equalizer and fraternizer, which works
up the radiators to their maximum radiation, and the absorbents to their
maximum receptivity, is now just where it was when
"The conscious water saw its Lord and
--when six great vessels containing water, which seems to have been
carefully purified, so as to be ready for the marriage-feast, were
changed into the best of wine. I once wrote a song about wine, in which
I spoke so warmly of it, that I was afraid some would think it was
written _inter pocula_; whereas it was composed in the bosom of my
family, under the most tranquillizing domestic influences.
----The divinity-student turned towards me, looking mischievous.--Can
you tell me,--he said,--who wrote a song for a temperance celebration
once, of which the following is a verse?--
Alas for the loved one, too gentle and fair
The joys of the banquet to chasten and share!
Her eye lost its light that his goblet might shine,
And the rose of her cheek was dissolved in his wine!
_I_ did,--I answered.--What are you going to do about it?--I will tell
you another line I wrote long ago:--
Don't be "consistent,"--but be simply _true_.
The longer I live, the more I am satisfied of two things: first, that
the truest lives are those that are cut rose-diamond-fashion, with many
facets answering to the many-planed aspects of the world about them;
secondly, that society is always trying in some way or other to grind
us down to a single flat surface. It is hard work to resist this
grinding-down action.--Now give me a chance. Better eternal and
universal abstinence than the brutalities of those days that made wives
and mothers and daughters and sisters blush for those whom they should
have honored, as they came reeling home from their debauches! Yet better
even excess than lying and hypocrisy; and if wine is upon all our
tables, let us praise it for its color and fragrance and social
tendency, so far as it deserves, and not hug a bottle in the closet and
pretend not to know the use of a wine-glass at a public dinner! I think
you will find that people who honestly mean to be true really contradict
themselves much more rarely than those who try to be "consistent." But
a great many things we say can be made to appear contradictory, simply
because they are partial views of a truth, and may often look unlike at
first, as a front view of a face and its profile often do.
Here is a distinguished divine, for whom I have great respect, for I owe
him a charming hour at one of our literary anniversaries, and he has
often spoken noble words; but he holds up a remark of my friend the
"Autocrat,"--which I grieve to say he twice misquotes, by omitting the
very word which gives it its significance,--the word _fluid_, intended
to typify the mobility of the restricted will,--holds it up, I say, as
if it attacked the reality of the self-determining principle, instead
of illustrating its limitations by an image. Now I will not explain any
farther, still less defend, and least of all attack, but simply quote
a few lines from one of my friend's poems, printed more than ten years
ago, and ask the distinguished gentleman where _he_ has ever asserted
more strongly or absolutely the independent will of the "subcreative
centre," as my heretical friend has elsewhere called man.
--Thought, conscience, will, to make them all thy own
He rent a pillar from the eternal throne!
--Made in His image, thou must nobly dare
The thorny crown of sovereignty to share.
--Think not too meanly of thy low estate;
Thou hast a choice; to choose is to create!
If he will look a little closely, he will see that the profile and the
full-face views of the will are both true and perfectly consistent.
Now let us come back, after this long digression, to the conversation
with the intelligent Englishman. We begin skirmishing with a few light
ideas,--testing for thoughts,--as our electro-chemical friend, De Sauty,
if there were such a person, would test for his current; trying a little
litmus-paper for acids, and then a slip of turmeric-paper for alkalies,
as chemists do with unknown compounds; flinging the lead, and looking
at the shells and sands it brings up to find out whether we are like
to keep in shallow water, or shall have to drop the deep-sea line;--in
short, seeing what we have to deal with. If the Englishman gets his
Hs pretty well placed, he comes from one of the higher grades of the
British social order, and we shall find him a good companion.
But, after all, here is a great fact between us. We belong to two
different civilizations, and, until we recognize what separates us, we
are talking like Pyramus and Thisbe,--without any hole in the wall to
talk through. Therefore, on the whole, if he were a superior fellow,
incapable of mistaking it for personal conceit, I think I would let out
the fact of the real American feeling about Old-World folks. They are
children to us in certain points of view. They are playing with toys we
have done with for whole generations. That silly little drum they are
always beating on, and the trumpet and the feather they make so much
noise and cut such a figure with, we have not quite outgrown, but play
with much less seriously and constantly than they do. Then there is a
whole museum of wigs, and masks, and lace-coats, and gold-sticks, and
grimaces, and phrases, which we laugh at, honestly, without affectation,
that are still used in the Old-World puppet-shows. I don't think we
on our part ever understand the Englishman's concentrated loyalty and
specialized reverence. But then we do think more of a man, as such,
(barring some little difficulties about race and complexion which the
Englishman will touch us on presently,) than any people that ever lived
did think of him. Our reverence is a great deal wider, if it is less
intense. We have caste among us, to some extent, it is true; but there
is never a collar on the American wolf-dog such as you often see on the
English mastiff, notwithstanding his robust, hearty individuality.
This confronting of two civilizations is always a grand sensation to me;
it is like cutting through the isthmus and letting the two oceans swim
into each other's laps. The trouble is, it is so difficult to let out
the whole American nature without its self-assertion seeming to take a
personal character. But I never enjoy the Englishman so much as when he
talks of church and king like Manco Capac among the Peruvians. Then you
get the real British flavor, which the cosmopolite Englishman loses. The
best conversation I have had with one of them for a long time, lively,
fluent, courteous, delightful, was a variation and illustrative
development in elegant phrases of the following short sentences.
_Englishman_.--Sir, your New-World civilization is barbarism.
_American_.--Sir, your Old-World development is infancy.
How much better this thorough interpenetration of ideas than a barren
interchange of courtesies, or a bush-fighting argument, in which each
man tries to cover as much of himself and expose as much of his opponent
as the tangled thicket of the disputed ground will let him!
----My thoughts flow in layers or strata, at least three deep. I follow
a slow person's talk, and keep a perfectly clear under-current of my own
beneath it. My friend the Autocrat has already made a similar remark.
Under both runs obscurely a consciousness belonging to a third train of
reflections, independent of the two others. I will try to write out a
mental movement in three parts.
A.--First part, or Mental Soprano,--thought follows a woman talking.
B.--Second part, or Mental Barytone,--my running accompaniment.
C.--Third part, or Mental Basso,--low grumble of an importunate
A.--White lace, three skirts, looped with flowers, wreath of
apple-blossoms, gold bracelets, diamond pin and earrings, the most
delicious _berthe_ you ever saw, white satin slippers----
B.--Deuse take her! What a fool she is! Hear her chatter! (Look out of
window just here.--Two pages and a half of description, if it were
all written out, in one tenth of a second.)--Go ahead, old lady! (Eye
catches picture over fireplace.) There's that infernal family nose! Came
over in the "Mayflower" on the first old fool's face. Why don't they
wear a ring in it?
C.--You'll be late at lecture,--late at lecture,--late,--late,--late----
I observe that a deep layer of thought sometimes makes itself felt
through the superincumbent strata, thus:--The usual single or double
currents shall flow on, but there shall be an influence blending with
them, disturbing them in an obscure way, until all at once I say,--Oh,
there! I knew there was something troubling me,--and the thought which
had been working through comes up to the surface clear, definite, and
articulates itself,--a disagreeable duty, perhaps, or an unpleasant
The inner world of thought and the outer world of events are alike in
this, that they are both brimful. There is no space between consecutive
thoughts or between the never-ending series of actions. All pack tight,
and mould their surfaces against each other, so that in the long run
there is a wonderful average uniformity in the forms of both thoughts
and actions,--just as you find that cylinders crowded all become
hexagonal prisms, and spheres pressed together are formed into regular
Every event that a man would master must be mounted on the run, and no
man ever caught the reins of a thought except as it galloped by him. So,
to carry out, with another comparison, my remark about the layers of
thought, we may consider the mind, as it moves among thoughts or events,
like a circus-rider whirling round with a great troop of horses. He can
mount a fact or an idea, and guide it more or less completely, but he
cannot stop it. So, as I said in another way at the beginning, he can
stride two or three thoughts at once, but not break their steady walk,
trot, or gallop. He can only take his foot from the saddle of one
thought and put it on that of another.
----What is the saddle of a thought? Why, a word, of course.--Twenty
years after you have dismissed a thought, it suddenly wedges up to you
through the press, as if it had been steadily galloping round and round
all that time without a rider.
The will does not act in the interspaces of thought, for there are no
such interspaces, but simply steps from the back of one moving thought
upon that of another.
----I should like to ask,--said the divinity-student,--since we are
getting into metaphysics, how you can admit space, if all things are in
contact, and how you can admit time, if it is always _now_ to something.
--I will thank you for the dry toast,--was my answer.
----I wonder if you know this class of philosophers in books or
elsewhere. One of them makes his bow to the public, and exhibits an
unfortunate truth bandaged up so that it cannot stir hand or foot,--as
helpless, apparently, and unable to take care of itself, as an Egyptian
mummy. He then proceeds, with the air and method of a master, to take
off the bandages. Nothing can be neater than the way in which he does
it. But as he takes off layer after layer, the truth seems to grow
smaller and smaller, and some of its outlines begin to look like
something we have seen before. At last, when he has got them all off,
and the truth struts out naked, we recognize it as a diminutive and
familiar acquaintance whom we have known in the streets all our lives.
The fact is, the philosopher has coaxed the truth into his study and put
all those bandages on; of course it is not very hard for him to take
them off. Still, a great many people like to watch the process,--he does
it so neatly!
Dear! dear! I am ashamed to write and talk, sometimes, when I see how
those functions of the large-brained, thumb-opposing plantigrade are
abused by my fellow-vertebrates,--perhaps by myself. How they spar for
wind, instead of hitting from the shoulder!
----The young fellow called John arose and placed himself in a neat
fighting attitude.--Fetch on the fellah that makes them long words!--he
said,--and planted a straight hit with the right fist in the concave
palm of the left hand with a click like a cup and ball.--You small boy
there, hurry up that "Webster's Unabridged!"
The little gentleman with the malformation, before described, shocked
the propriety of the breakfast-table by a loud utterance of three words,
of which the two last were "Webster's Unabridged," and the first was an
emphatic monosyllable.--Beg pardon,--he added,--forgot myself. But let
us have an English dictionary, if we are to have any. I don't believe in
clipping the coin of the realm, Sir! If I put a weathercock on my house,
Sir, I want it to tell which way the wind blows up aloft,--off from the
prairies to the ocean, or off from the ocean to the prairies, or any
way it wants to blow! I don't want a weathercock with a winch in an old
gentleman's study that he can take hold of and turn, so that the vane
shall point west when the great wind overhead is blowing east with all
its might, Sir! Wait till we give you a dictionary, Sir! It takes Boston
to do that thing, Sir!
----Some folks think water can't run down-hill anywhere out of
Boston,--remarked the Koh-i-noor.
I don't know what _some folks think_ so well as I know what _some fools
say_,--rejoined Little Boston.--If importing most dry goods made the
best scholars, I dare say you would know where to look for 'em.--Mr.
Webster couldn't spell, Sir, or wouldn't spell, Sir,--at any rate, he
didn't spell; and the end of it was a fight between the owners of
some copyrights and the dignity of this noble language which we have
inherited from our English fathers,--language!--the blood of the soul,
Sir! into which our thoughts run and out of which they grow! We know
what a word is worth here in Boston. Young Sam Adams got up on the stage
at Commencement, out at Cambridge there, with his gown on, the Governor
and Council looking on in the name of his Majesty, King George the
Second, and the girls looking down out of the galleries, and taught
people how to spell a word that wasn't in the Colonial dictionaries!
_R-e, re, s-i-s, sis, t-a-n-c-e, tance, Resistance!_ That was in '43,
and it was a good many years before the Boston boys began spelling it
with their muskets;--but when they did begin, they spelt it so loud that
the old bedridden women in the English almshouses heard every syllable!
Yes, yes, yes,--it was a good while before those other two Boston boys
got the class so far along that it could spell those two hard words,
_Independence_ and _Union!_ I tell you what, there are a thousand lives,
aye, sometimes a million, go to get a new word into a language that is
worth speaking. We know what language means too well here in Boston to
play tricks with it. We never make a new word till we have made a new
thing or a new thought, Sir! When we shaped the new mould of this
continent, we had to make a few. When, by God's permission, we abrogated
the primal curse of maternity, we had to make a word or two. The
cutwater of this great Leviathan clipper, the OCCIDENTAL,--this
thirty-masted wind-and-steam wave-crusher,--must throw a little spray
over the human vocabulary as it splits the waters of a new world's
He rose as he spoke, until his stature seemed to swell into the fair
human proportions. His feet must have been on the upper round of his
high chair;--that was the only way I could account for it.
Puts her through fust-rate,--said the young fellow whom the boarders
The venerable and kind-looking old gentleman who sits opposite said he
remembered Sam Adams as Governor. An old man in a brown coat. Saw him
take the Chair on Boston Common. Was a boy then, and remembers sitting
on the fence in front of the old Hancock house. Recollects he had a
glazed 'lection-bun, and sat eating it and looking down on to the
Common. Lalocks flowered late that year, and he got a great bunch off
from the bushes in the Hancock front-yard.
Them 'lection buns are no go,--said the young man John, so called.--I
know the trick. Give a fellah a fo'penny bun in the mornin', an' he
downs the whole of it. In about an hour it swells up in his stomach as
big as a football, and his feedin's sp'ilt for _that_ day. That's the
way to stop off a young one from eatin' up all the 'lection dinner.
Salem! Salem! not Boston,--shouted the little man.
But the Koh-i-noor laughed a great rasping laugh, and the boy
Benjamin Franklin looked sharp at his mother, as if he remembered the
bun-experiment as a part of his past personal history.
Little Boston was holding a fork in his left hand. He stabbed a boulder
of home-made bread with it, mechanically, and looked at it as if it
ought to shriek. It did not,--but he sat as if watching it.
----Language is a solemn thing,--I said.--It grows out of life,--out of
its agonies and ecstasies, its wants and its weariness. Every language
is a temple, in which the soul of those who speak it is enshrined.
Because time softens its outlines and rounds the sharp angles of its
cornices, shall a fellow take a pickaxe to help time? Let me tell you
what comes of meddling with things that can take care of themselves.--A
friend of mine had a watch given him, when he was a boy,--a "bull's
eye," with a loose silver case that came off like an oyster-shell from
its contents; you know them,--the cases that you hang on your thumb,
while the _core_ or the real watch lies in your hand as naked as a
peeled apple. Well, he began with taking off the case, and so on from
one liberty to another, until he got it fairly open, and there were the
works, as good as if they were alive,--crown-wheel, balance-wheel, and
all the rest. All right except one thing,--there was a confounded little
_hair_ had got tangled round the balance-wheel. So my young Solomon
got a pair of tweezers, and caught hold of the _hair_ very
nicely, and pulled it right out, without touching any of the
wheels,--when,--buzzzZZZ! and the watch had done up twenty-four hours in
double magnetic-telegraph time!--The English language was wound up to
run some thousands of years, I trust; but if everybody is to be pulling
at everything he thinks is a _hair_, our grandchildren will have to
make the discovery that it is a hair-_spring_, and the old Anglo-Norman
soul's-timekeeper will run down, as so many other dialects have done
before it. I can't stand this meddling any better than you, Sir. But
we have a great deal to be proud of in the lifelong labors of that old
lexicographer, and we mustn't be ungrateful. Besides, don't let us
deceive ourselves, the war of the dictionaries is only a disguised
rivalry of cities, colleges, and especially of publishers. After all,
the language will shape itself by larger forces than phonography and
dictionary-making. You may spade up the ocean as much as you like, and
harrow it afterwards, if you can,--but the moon will still lead the
tides, and the winds will form their surface.
----Do you know Richardson's Dictionary?--I said to my neighbor the
Haoew?--said the divinity-student.--He colored, as he noticed on my face
a twitch in one of the muscles which tuck up the corner of the mouth,
(_zygomaticus major_,) and which I could not hold back from making a
little movement on its own account.
It was too late.--A country-boy, lassoed when he was a half-grown colt.
Just as good as a city-boy, and in some ways, perhaps, better,--but
caught a little too old not to carry some marks of his earlier ways of
life. Foreigners, who have talked a strange tongue half their lives,
return to the language of their childhood in their dying hours.
Gentlemen in fine linen, and scholars in large libraries, taken by
surprise, or in a careless moment, will sometimes let slip a word they
knew as boys in homespun and have not spoken since that time,--but it
lay there under all their culture. That is one way you may know the
country-boys after they have grown rich or celebrated; another is by the
odd old family names, particularly those of the Hebrew prophets, which
the good old people have saddled them with.
----Boston has enough of England about it to make a good English
dictionary,--said that fresh-looking youth whom I have mentioned as
sitting at the right upper corner of the table.
I turned and looked him full in the face,--for the pure, manly
intonations arrested me. The voice was youthful, but full of
character.--I suppose some persons have a peculiar susceptibility in the
matter of voice.--Hear this.
Not long after the American Revolution, a young lady was sitting in her
father's chaise in a street of this town of Boston. She overheard a
little girl talking or singing, and was mightily taken with the tones of
her voice. Nothing would satisfy her but she must have that little girl
come and live in her father's house. So the child came, being then nine
years old. Until her marriage she remained under the same roof with
the young lady. Her children became successively inmates of the lady's
dwelling; and now, _seventy_ years, or thereabouts, since the young lady
heard the child singing, one of that child's children and one of her
grandchildren are with her in that home, where she, no longer young,
except in heart, passes her peaceful days.--Three generations linked
together by so light a breath of accident!
I liked the sound of this youth's voice, I said, and his look when I
came to observe him a little more closely. His complexion had something
better than the bloom and freshness which had first attracted me;--it
had that diffused _tone_ which is a sure index of wholesome lusty life.
A fine liberal style of nature it seemed to be: hair crisped, moustache
springing thick and dark, head firmly planted, lips finished, as one
commonly sees them in gentlemen's families, a pupil well contracted, and
a mouth that opened frankly with a white flash of teeth that looked as
if they could serve him as they say Ethan Allen's used to serve their
owner,--to draw nails with. This is the kind of fellow to walk a
frigate's deck and bowl his broadsides into the "Gallant Thunderbomb,"
or any forty-portholed adventurer who would like to exchange a few tons
of iron compliments.--I don't know what put this into my head, for it
was not till some time afterward I learned the young fellow had been in
the naval school at Annapolis. Something had happened to change his plan
of life, and he was now studying engineering and architecture in Boston.
When the youth made the short remark which drew my attention to him, the
little deformed gentleman turned round and took a long look at him.
Good for the Boston boy!--he said.
I am not a Boston boy,--said the youth, smiling,--I am a Marylander.
I don't care where you come from,--we'll make a Boston man of you,--said
the little gentleman.--Pray, what part of Maryland did you come from,
and how shall I call you?
The poor youth had to speak pretty loud, as he was at the right upper
corner of the table, and Little Boston next the lower left-hand corner.
His face flushed a little, but he answered pleasantly,--telling who
he was, as if the little man's infirmity gave him a right to ask any
questions he wanted to.
Here is the place for you to sit,--said the little gentleman, pointing
to the vacant chair next his own, at the corner.
You're go'n' to have a young lady next you, if you wait till
to-morrow,--said the landlady to Little Boston.
He did not reply, but I had a fancy, that he changed color. It can't
be that _he_ has susceptibilities with reference to a contingent young
lady! It can't be that he has had experiences which make him sensitive!
Nature could not be quite so cruel as to set a heart throbbing in
that poor little cage of ribs! There is no use in wasting notes of
admiration. I must ask the landlady about him.
These are some of the facts she furnished.--Has not been long with her.
Brought a sight of furniture,--couldn't hardly get some of it up-stairs.
Hasn't seemed particularly attentive to the ladies. The Bombazine
(whom she calls Cousin something or other) has tried to enter into
conversation with him, but retired with the impression that he was
indifferent to ladies' society. Paid his bill the other day without
saying a word about it. Paid it in gold,--had a great heap of
twenty-dollar pieces. Hires her best room. Thinks he is a very nice
little man, but lives dreadful lonely up in his chamber. Wants the care
of some capable nuss. Never pitied anybody more in her life,--never see
a more interestin' person.
----My intention was, when I began making these notes, to let them
consist principally of conversations between myself and the other
boarders. So they will, very probably; but my curiosity is excited about
this little boarder of ours, and my reader must not be disappointed, if
I sometimes interrupt a discussion to give an account of whatever fact
or traits I may discover about him. It so happens that his room is
next to mine, and I have the opportunity of observing many of his ways
without any active movements of curiosity. That his room contains heavy
furniture, that he is a restless little body and is apt to be up late,
that he talks to himself, and keeps mainly to himself, is nearly all I
have found out.
One curious circumstance happened lately, which I mention without
drawing an absolute inference.--Being at the studio of a sculptor with
whom I am acquainted, the other day, I saw a remarkable cast of a _left
arm_. On my asking where the model came from, he said it was taken
direct from the arm of a _deformed person_, who had employed one of the
Italian moulders to make the cast. It was a curious case, it should
seem, of one beautiful limb upon a frame otherwise singularly
imperfect.--I have repeatedly noticed this little gentleman's use of his
left arm. Can he have furnished the model I saw at the sculptor's?
----So we are to have a new boarder to-morrow. I hope there will be
something pretty and pleasant about her. A woman with a creamy
voice, and finished in _alto rilievo_, would be a variety in the
boarding-house,--a little more marrow and a little less sinew than our
landlady and her daughter and the bombazine-clad female, all of whom are
of the turkey-drumstick style of organization. I don't mean that these
are our only female companions; but the rest being conversational
non-combatants, mostly still, sad feeders, who take in their food as
locomotives take in wood and water, and then wither away from the table
like blossoms that never come to fruit, I have not yet referred to them
I wonder what kind of a young person we shall see in that empty chair
----I read this song to the boarders after breakfast the other morning.
It was written for our fellows;--you know who they are, of course.
Has there any old fellow got mixed with the boys?
If there has, take him out, without making a noise!
Hang the Almanac's cheat and the Catalogue's spite!
Old Time is a liar! We're twenty to-night!
We're twenty! We're twenty! Who says we are more?
He's tipsy,--young jackanapes!--show him the door!--
"Gray temples at twenty?"--Yes! _white_, if we please;
Where the snow-flakes fall thickest there's nothing can freeze!
Was it snowing I spoke of? Excuse the mistake!
Look close,--you will see not a sign of a flake;
We want some new garlands for those we have shed,--
And these are white roses in place of the red!
We've a trick, we young fellows, you may have been told,
Of talking (in public) as if we were old;--
That boy we call "Doctor," and this we call "Judge";--
It's a neat little fiction,--of course it's all fudge.
That fellow's the "Speaker,"--the one on the right;
"Mr. Mayor," my young one, how are you to-night?
That's our "Member of Congress," we say when we chaff;
There's the "Reverend" What's his name?--don't make me laugh!
That boy with the grave mathematical look
Made believe he had written a wonderful book,
And the ROYAL ACADEMY thought it was _true!_
So they chose him right in; a good joke it was, too!
There's a boy,--we pretend,--with a three-decker-brain,
That could harness a team with a logical chain;
When he spoke for our manhood in syllabled fire,
We called him "The Justice," but now he's "The Squire."
And there's a nice youngster of excellent pith,--
Fate tried to conceal him by naming him Smith,--
But he shouted a song for the brave and the free,--
--Just read on his medal,--"My country,"--"of thee!"
You hear that boy laughing?--You think he's all fun,--
But the angels laugh, too, at the good he has done
The children laugh loud as they troop to his call,
And the poor man that knows him laughs loudest of all!
Yes, we're boys,--always playing with tongue or with pen,--
And I sometimes have asked,--Shall we ever be men?
Shall we always be youthful and laughing and gay,
Till the last dear companion drops smiling away?
Then here's to our boyhood, its gold and its gray!
The stars of its Winter, the dews of its May!
And when we have done with our life-lasting toys
Dear Father, take care of thy children, the Boys!
* * * * *
[Footnote A: _The Works of William Shakespeare_. Edited, etc., by
RICHARD GRANT WHITE. Vols. II., III., IV., and V. Boston: Little, Brown,
& Co. 1858]
We doubt if posterity owe a greater debt to any two men living in 1623
than to the two obscure actors who in that year published the first
folio edition of Shakspeare's plays. But for them, it is more than
likely that such of his works as had remained to that time imprinted
would have been irrecoverably lost, and among them were "Julius Caesar,"
"The Tempest," and "Macbeth." But are we to believe them when they
assert that they present to us the plays which they reprinted from
stolen and surreptitious copies "cured and perfect of their limbs," and
those which are original in their edition "absolute in their numbers as
he [Shakspeare] conceived them"? Alas, we have read too many theatrical
announcements, have been taught too often that the value of the promise
was in an inverse ratio to the generosity of the exclamation-marks, too
easily to believe that! Nay, we have seen numberless processions of
healthy kine enter our native village unheralded save by the lusty
shouts of drovers, while a wretched calf, cursed by stepdame Nature with
two heads, was brought to us in a triumphal car, avant-couriered by
a band of music as abnormal as itself, and announced as the greatest
wonder of the age. If a double allowance of vituline brains deserve such
honor, there are few commentators on Shakspeare that would have gone
afoot, and the trumpets of Messieurs Heminge and Condell call up in our
minds too many monstrous and deformed associations.
What, then, is the value of the first folio as an authority? We are
inclined to think that Mr. Collier (for obvious reasons) underrates
it, and that Mr. White sometimes errs in the opposite direction. For
eighteen of the plays it is the only authority we have, and the only
one also for four others in their complete form. It is admitted that
in several instances Heminge and Condell reprinted the earlier quarto
impressions with a few changes, sometimes for the better and sometimes
for the worse; and it is most probable that copies of those editions
(whether surreptitious or not) had taken the place of the original
prompter's books, as being more convenient and legible. Even in these
cases it is not safe to conclude that all or even any of the variations
were made by the hand of Shakspeare himself. And where the players
printed from manuscript, is it likely to have been that of the author?
The probability is small that a writer so busy as Shakspeare must have
been during his productive period should have copied out their parts for
the actors, himself, or that one so indifferent as he seems to have been
to the mere literary fortunes of his works should have given any great
care to the correction of such copies, if made by others. The copies
exclusively in the hands of Heminge and Condell were, it is manifest,
in some cases, very imperfect, whether we account for the fact by the
burning of the Globe Theatre or by the necessary wear and tear of years,
and (what is worthy of notice) they are plainly more defective in some
parts than in others. "Measure for Measure" is an example of this, and
we are not satisfied with being told that its ruggedness of verse is
intentional, or that its obscurity is due to the fact that Shakspeare
grew more elliptical in his style as he grew older. Profounder in
thought he doubtless became; though, in a mind like his, we believe that
this would imply only a more absolute supremacy in expression. But, from
whatever original we suppose either the quartos or the first folio to
have been printed, it is more than questionable whether the
proof-sheets had the advantage of any revision other than that of the
printing-office. Steevens was of opinion that authors in the time of
Shakspeare never read their own proof-sheets; and Mr. Spedding, in his
recent edition of Bacon, comes independently to the same conclusion.[B]
We may be very sure that Heminge and Condell did not, as vicars, take
upon themselves a disagreeable task which the author would have been too
careless to assume.
[Footnote B: Vol. III. p. 348, _note_. He grounds his belief, not on the
misprinting of words, but on the misplacing of whole paragraphs. We were
struck with the same thing in the original edition of Chapman's _Biron's
Conspiracy and Tragedy_. One of the misprints which Mr. Spedding notices
affords both a hint and a warning to the conjectural emendator. In the
edition of _The Advancement of Learning_ printed in 1605 occurs the
word _dusinesse_. In a later edition this was conjecturally changed to
_business_; but the occurrence of _vertigine_ in the Latin translation
enables Mr. Spedding to print rightly, _dizziness_.]
Nevertheless, however strong a case may be made out against the Folio of
1623, whatever sins of omission we may lay to the charge of Heminge and
Condell, or of commission to that of the printers, it remains the only
text we have with any claims whatever to authenticity. It should be
deferred to as authority in all cases where it does not make Shakspeare
write bad sense, uncouth metre, or false grammar, of all which we
believe him to have been more supremely incapable than any other man who
ever wrote English. Yet we would not speak unkindly even of the blunders
of the Folio. They have put bread into the mouth of many an honest
editor, publisher, and printer, for the last century and a half; and he
who loves the comic side of human nature will find the serious notes of
a _variorum_ edition of Shakspeare as funny reading as the funny ones
are serious. Scarce a commentator of them all, for more than a hundred
years, but thought, as Alphonso of Castile did of Creation, that, if
he had only been at Shakspeare's elbow, he could have given valuable
advice; scarce one who did not know off-hand that there was never a
seaport in Bohemia,--as if Shakspeare's world were one which Mercator
could have projected; scarce one but was satisfied that his ten
finger-tips were a sufficient key to those astronomic wonders of poise
and counterpoise, of planetary law and cometary seeming-exception, in
his metres; scarce one but thought he could gauge like an ale-firkin
that intuition whose edging shallows may have been sounded, but
whose abysses, stretching down amid the sunless roots of Being and
Consciousness, mock the plummet; scarce one but could speak with
condescending approval of that prodigious intelligence so utterly
without congener that our baffled language must coin an adjective to
qualify it, and none is so audacious as to say Shakspearian of any
other. And yet, in the midst of our impatience, we cannot help thinking
also of how much healthy mental activity this one man has been the
occasion, how much good he has indirectly done to society by withdrawing
men to investigations and habits of thought that secluded them from
baser attractions, for how many he has enlarged the circle of study and
reflection; since there is nothing in history or politics, nothing in
art or science, nothing in physics or metaphysics, that is not sooner or
later taxed for his illustration. This is partially true of all great
minds, open and sensitive to truth and beauty through any large arc
of their circumference; but it is true in an unexampled sense of
Shakspeare, the vast round of whose balanced nature seems to have been
equatorial, and to have had a southward exposure and a summer sympathy
at every point, so that life, society, statecraft serve us at last but
as commentaries on him, and whatever we have gathered of thought, of
knowledge, and of experience, confronted with his marvellous page,
shrinks to a mere footnote, the stepping-stone to some hitherto
inaccessible verse. We admire in Homer the blind placid mirror of the
world's young manhood, the bard who escapes from his misfortune in poems
all memory, all life and bustle, adventure and picture; we revere in
Dante that compressed force of lifelong passion which could make a
private experience cosmopolitan in its reach and everlasting in its
significance; we respect in Goethe the Aristotelian poet, wise by
weariless observation, witty with intention, the stately _Geheimerrath_
of a provincial court in the empire of Nature. As we study these, we
seem in our limited way to penetrate into their consciousness and to
measure and master their methods;--but with Shakspeare it is just the
other way; the more we have familiarized ourselves with the operations
of our own consciousness, the more do we find, in reading him, that
he has been beforehand with us, and that, while we have been vainly
endeavoring to find the door of his being, he has searched every nook
and cranny of our own. While other poets and dramatists embody isolated
phases of character and work inward from the phenomenon to the special
law which it illustrates, he seems in some strange way unitary with
human nature itself, and his own soul to have been the law- and
life-giving power of which his creations are only the phenomena. We
justify or criticize the characters of other writers by our memory and
experience, and pronounce them natural or unnatural; but he seems to
have worked in the very stuff of which memory and experience are made,
and we recognize his truth to Nature by an innate and unacquired
sympathy, as if he alone possessed the secret of the "ideal form and
universal mould," and embodied generic types rather than individuals.
In this Cervantes alone has approached him; and Don Quixote and Sancho,
like the men and women of Shakspeare, are the contemporaries of
every generation, because they are not products of an artificial and
transitory society, but because they are animated by the primeval and
unchanging forces of that humanity which underlies and survives the
forever-fickle creeds and ceremonials of the parochial corners which we
who dwell in them sublimely call The World.
But the dropping of our _variorum_ volume upon the floor recalls us
from our reverie, and, as we pick it up, we ask ourselves sadly, Is it
fitting that we should have a Shakspeare according to plodding Malone
or coarse-minded Steevens, both of whom would have had the headache all
their lives after, could one of the Warwickshire plebeian's conceptions
have got into their brains and stretched them, and who would have hidden
under their bedclothes in a cold-sweat of terror, could they have
seen the awful vision of Macbeth as he saw it? No! and to every other
commentator who has wantonly tampered with the text, or obscured it
with his inky cloud of paraphrase, we feel inclined to apply the
quadrisyllable name of the brother of Agis, king of Sparta. Clearly, we
should be grateful to an editor who feels it his chief duty to scrape
away these barnacles from the brave old hull, to replace with the
original heart-of-oak the planks where these small but patient
terebrators have bored away the tough fibre to fill the gap with
This task Mr. White has undertaken, and, after such conscientious
examination of his work as the importance of it demands, after a painful
comparison, note by note, and reading by reading, of his edition with
those of Messrs. Knight, Collier, and Dyce, our opinion of his ability
and fitness for his task has been heightened and confirmed. Not that we
always agree with him,--not that we do not think that in respect of the
Folio text he has sometimes erred on the side of superstitious reverence
for it, and sometimes in too rashly abandoning it,--but, making all
due exceptions, we think that his edition is, in the phrase of our New
England fathers in Israel, for substance, scope, and aim, the best
hitherto published. The chief matter must in all cases be the text, and
the faults we find in him do not, as a general rule, affect that. Some
of them are faults which his own better judgment, we think, will lead
him to avoid in his forthcoming volumes; and in regard to some, he will
probably honestly disagree with us as to their being faults at all. No
conceivable edition of Shakspeare would satisfy all tastes;--sometimes
we have attached associations to received readings which make impartial
perception impossible; sometimes we have imparted our own meaning to
a passage by too steady pondering over it, just as in twilight an
inanimate thing will seem to move, if we look at it long, though the
wavering be truly in our own overstrained vision; sometimes our personal
temperament will insensibly warp our judgment;--but Mr. White has
generally shown so just a discrimination, that there are few instances
where we dissent, and in these a pencil will enable every one to edit
for himself. Any criticism of an edition of Shakspeare must necessarily
concern itself with seemingly insignificant matters, often with a
comma or a syllable,--and the danger is always of degenerating into a
captiousness and word-catching unworthy the lover of truth for its own
sake. We shall endeavor to be minute without being small.
Mr. White reserves for a first volume (not yet published) his notices
of Shakspeare's life, his remarks upon the text, and other general
introductory topics. In the second volume, he gives us an excellent copy
of the Droeshout portrait, the preliminary matter of the Folio of 1628,
with notices of the writers of commendatory verses thereto prefixed, and
of the principal actors who performed parts in Shakspeare's plays. We
notice particularly his discussion of the authorship of the verses
signed J.M.S. as a good example of the delicacy and acuteness of his
criticism. Though he has the great authority of Coleridge against him,
we think that he has constructed a very ingenious, strong, and even
convincing argument against the Milton theory. Each play is preceded
by an Introduction, remarkably well digested and condensed, giving an
account of the text, and of the sources from which Shakspeare helped
himself to plots or incidents. We cannot but commend highly the
self-restraint which marks these brief and pithy prefaces, and the
pertinency of every sentence to the matter in hand. The Germans, (to
whom we are undeniably indebted for the first philosophic appreciation
of the poet,) being debarred by their alienage from the tempting
parliament of verbal commentary and conflict, have made themselves such
ample amends by expatiations in the unfenced field of aesthetics and
of that constructive criticism which is too often confined to the
architecture of Castles in Spain, that we feel as if Dogberry had
charged us in relation to them with that hopelessly bewildering
commission to "_comprehend_ all vagrom men" which we have hitherto
considered applicable only to peripatetic lecturers. Mr. White wisely
and kindly leaves us to Shakspeare and our own imaginations,--two very
potent spells to conjure with,--and seems to be aware of the fact, that,
in its application to a creative mind like that of the great Poet, the
science of teleology may sometimes find itself as much at fault as it so
often is in attempting to fathom the designs of the Infinite Creator.
Rabelais solves the grave problem of the goodliness of Friar John's nose
by the comprehensive formula, "Because God willed it so"; and it is well
for us in most cases to enjoy Shakspeare in the same pious way,--to
smell a rose without bothering ourselves about its having been made
expressly to serve the turn of the essence-peddlers of Shiraz. We yield
the more credit to Mr. White's self-denial in this respect, because
his notes prove him to be capable of profound as well as delicate and
sympathetic exegesis. Shakspeare himself has left us a pregnant satire
on dogmatical and categorical esthetics (which commonly in discussion
soon lose their ceremonious tails and are reduced to the internecine dog
and cat of their bald first syllables) in the cloud-scene between Hamlet
and Polonius, suggesting exquisitely how futile is any attempt at a
cast-iron definition of those perpetually metamorphic impressions of the
beautiful, whose source is as much in the man who looks as in the thing
he sees. And elsewhere more directly,--Mr. White must allow us the old
reading for the sake of our illustration,--he has told us how
Master of passion, sways it to the mood
Of what it likes or loathes."
We are glad to see, likewise, with what becoming indifference the matter
of Shakspeare's indebtedness to others is treated by Mr. White in his
Introductions. There are many commentators who seem to think they have
wormed themselves into the secret of the Master's inspiration when they
have discovered the sources of his plots. But what he took was by right
of eminent domain; and was he not to resuscitate a theme and make it
immortal, because some botcher had tried his hand upon it before, and
left it for stone-dead? Because he could not help throwing sizes, was he
to avoid the dice which for others would only come up ames-ace?
Up to the middle of 1854,[C] there had been published in England and on
the Continent eighty-eight complete editions of Shakspeare in English,
thirty-two in German, six in French, and five, more or less complete,
in Italian. Beside these, his works had been translated into Dutch,
(1778-82,) into Danish, (1807-28,) into Hungarian, (1824,) into Polish,
(1842,) and into Swedish (1847-51). The numerous American editions are
not reckoned in this statement; and, to give an adequate notion of the
extent of the Shakspeare-literature, we should add that the number of
separately-printed comments and other illustrative publications already
exceeds five hundred. No other poet except Dante has received such
appreciation,--and not even he, if we consider in Shakspeare's case the
greater bulk of the works and the difficulty of the language. After so
many people had used their best wit and had their say, could there be
any unconsidered trifle left for a new editor? Could the sharpest eyes
find more needles in this enormous haystack? We do not pretend to have
examined the whole of this polyglot library, nay, but for Herr Sillig,
we had never heard of most of the books in it, but we are tolerably
familiar with the more important English editions, and with some of the
German comments,[D] and we must say that the freshness of many of Mr.
White's observations struck us with very agreeable surprise. We are
not fond of off-hand opinions on any subject, much more on one so
multifarious and complex as this,--we are a great deal too ready with
them in America, and pronounce upon pictures and poems with a _b'hoyish_
nonchalance that would be amusing, were it not for its ill consequence
to Art,--but we love the expression of honest praise, of sifted and
considerate judgment, and we think that a laborious collation justifies
us in saying that in acute discrimination of aesthetic shades of
expression, and often of textual niceties, Mr. White is superior to any
[Footnote C: _Die Shakspere-Literatur bis Mitte_ 1854. Zusammengestellt
und herausgegeben von P.H. SILLIG. Leipzig. 1854.]
[Footnote D: Among which (setting aside a few remarks of Goethe) we are
inclined to value as highly us anything Tieck's _Essay on the Element of
the Wonderful in Shakspeare_.]
In proof of what we have said, we will refer to a few of the notes which
have particularly pleased us, and which show originality of view.
(_Tempest_, Act ii. Sc. 2.)
"'_Nor scrape_ trenchering, _nor wash, dish_.'
"Dryden, Theobald, Dyce, Halliwell, and Hudson would have 'trenchering'
a typographical error for 'trencher,' which they introduce into the
text. Surely they must all have forgotten that _Caliban_ was drunk,
and, after singing 'firing' and 'requiring,' would naturally sing
'trenchering.' There is a drunken swing in the original line which is
entirely lost in the precise, curtailed rhythm of--
'_Nor scrape_ trencher, _nor wash dish_.'"
Other editors had retained "trenchering," but none, that we know, ever
gave so good a reason for it. Equally good is his justification of
himself for omitting Theobald's interpolation of "Did she nod?" in "Two
Gentlemen of Verona," Act i. Sc. 1. Other examples may be found in the
readings, "There is a lady of Verona here," (same play, Act iii. Sc. 1);
"Yet reason dares her _on_," (_Measure for Measure_, Act iv. Sc. 4);
"Hark, how the villain would _glose_ now," (same play, Act v. Sc. 1);
"The forced fallacy," (_Comedy of Errors_, Act ii. Sc. 1); in the note
on "Cupid is a good hare-finder," (_Much Ado_, Act i. Sc. 3); the
admirable note on "Examine those men," (same play, Act iii. Sc. 1); the
readings, "Out on thee! Seeming!" (same play, Act iv. Sc. 1); "For I
have only silent been," (ibid.); "Goodly Count-Confect," and note, (same
play, Act iv. Sc. 2); the note on "I do beseech thee, remember thy
courtesy," (_Love's Labor's Lost_, Act v. Sc. 1); on "Mounsieur Cobweb,"
and "Help Cavalery Cobweb to scratch," (_Mid. Night's D_., Act iv. Sc.
1); on "Or in the night," etc. (same play, Act v. Sc. 1); on "Is sum of
nothing," (_Merchant of Venice_, Act iii. Sc. 2); on "Stays me here at
home unkept," (_As you like it_, Act i. Sc. 1); on "Unquestionable
spirit," (same play, Act iii. Sc. 2); on "Move the still-piecing air,"
(_All's Well_, etc., Act ii. Sc. 2); and on "What is not holy," (same
play, Act iv. Sc. 2). We have referred to a few only out of the many
instances that have attracted our notice, and these chiefly for their
bearing on what we have said of the editor's refinement of appreciation
and originality of view. The merely illustrative and explanatory notes
are also full and judicious, containing all that it is important the
reader should know, and a great deal which it will entertain him to
learn. In the Introductions to the several plays, too, we find many
_obiter dicta_ of Mr. White which are excellent in their clearness of
critical perception and conciseness of phrase. From that to the "Comedy
of Errors" we quote the following sentence:--
"Concerning the place and the period of the action of this play, it
seems that Shakspeare did not trouble himself to form a very accurate
idea. The Ephesus of "The Comedy of Errors" is much like the Bohemia of
"The Winter's Tale,"--a remote, unknown place, yet with a familiar and
imposing name, and therefore well suited to the purposes of one who, as
poet and dramatist, cared much for men and little for things, and to
whose perception the accidental was entirely eclipsed by the essential.
Anachronisms are scattered through it with a profusion which could only
be the result of entire indifference,--in fact, of an absolute want of
thought on the subject."--Vol. III. 189.
We think this could not be better said, if only we might supplant
"things" with the more precise word "facts"; for about _things_
Shakspeare was never careless. It is only that deciduous foliage of
facts which every generation leaves heaps of behind it dry, and dead,
that he rustles through with eyes so royally unconcerned. As a good
example of Mr. White's style, we should be inclined to cite the
Introduction to "Love's Labor's Lost," from which we detach this single
"It is ever the ambitious way of youthful genius to aim at novelty of
form in its first essays, while yet in treatment it falls unconsciously
into a vein of reminiscence; afterward it is apt to return to
established forms, and to show originality of treatment."
The temptation which too easily besets an editor of Shakspeare is to
differ, if possible, from everybody who has gone before him, though but
as between the N.E. and N.N.E. points in the circumference of a hair. We
do not find Mr. White guilty in this respect for what he has done, but
sometimes for what he has left undone in allowing the Folio text to
remain. The instance that has surprised us most is his not admitting
(_As You Like it_, Act iv. Sc. 1) the reading,--"The foolish _coroners_
of that age found it was Hero of Sestos," instead of the unmeaning one,
"_chroniclers_." He has been forced, for the sake of sense, to make some
changes in the Folio text which seem to us quite as violent, and we
cannot help thinking that the gain in aptness of phrase and coherence of
meaning would have justified him in doing as much here. He admits, in
his note on the passage, that the change is "very plausible"; but adds,
"If we can at will reduce a perfectly appropriate and uncorrupted word
of ten letters to one of eight, and strike out such marked letters as
_h_, _l_, and _e_, we may re-write Shakspeare at our pleasure." Mr.
White has already admitted that "_chroniclers_" is not _perfectly_
appropriate in admitting that the change is "very plausible"; and he has
no right to assume that the word is uncorrupted,--for that is the very
point in question. As to the disparity in the number of letters, no one
familiar with misprints will be surprised at it; and Mr. Spedding, in
the edition of Bacon already referred to, furnishes us with an example
of blunder[E] precisely the reverse, in which one word of eight letters
is given for two of ten, (_sciences_ for _six princess_,)--the printer
in both cases having set up his first impression of what the word was
for the word itself. Had this occurred in Shakspeare, instead of Bacon,
we should have had a series of _variorum_ notes like this:--
[Footnote E: Bacon's Works, by Ellis, Spedding, & Heath. Vol. III. p.
"That _sixpence_ was the word used by our author scarcely admits of
doubt. From a number of parallel passages we select the following:--
'Live on _sixpence_ a day, and earn it.'--_Abernethy_.
'I give thee sixpence? I will see thee and-so-forthed
'Be shot for _sixpence_ on a battlefield.'--_Tennyson_.
'Half a crown, two shillings and _sixpence_.'--_Niemand's Dictionary_.
Moreover, we find our author using precisely the same word in the
'Midsummer Night's Dream':--
'Thus hath he lost sixpence a day during his life.'" JONES.
"Had the passage read '_two_ princes,' we might have thought it genuine;
since 'the two kings of Brentford' must have been familiar to our great
poet, and he was also likely to have that number deeply impressed on
his mind by the awful tragedy in the tower, (see _Richard the Third_,)
where, it is remarkable, precisely that number of royal offspring
suffered at the hands of the crook-backed tyrant. The citation from
Niemand's Dictionary, by the Rev. Mr. Jones, tells as much in favor of
_two princes_ as of _sixpence_; for how could the miseries of a divided
empire be more emphatically portrayed than in the striking, and, as it
seems to me, touching phrase, HALF _a crown?_ Could we in any way read
'_three_ princes,' we should find strong support in the tradition of
'the three kings of Cologne,' and in the Arabian story of the 'Three
Calenders.' The line quoted by Thomson, (Shakspeare, by Thomson, Vol.
X. p. 701.) 'Under which King Bezonian, speak or die!' (though we agree
with him in preferring his pointing to the ordinary and meaningless
'Under which King, Bezonian,' etc.) unhappily can throw no light on the
present passage till we know how many King Bezonians are intended,
and who they were. Perhaps we should read _Belzonian_, and suppose a
reference to the Egyptian monarchs whose tombs were first explored by
the intrepid Belzoni. The epithet would certainly be appropriate and in
Shakspeare's best manner; but among so many monarchs, a choice of two,
or even three, would be embarrassing and invidious." BROWN.
"As for the 'Three Calenders,' there can be no reasonable question that
Shakspeare was well acquainted with the story; for that he had travelled
extensively in the East I have proved in my 'Essay to show that Sir
Thomas Roe and William Shakspeare were identical'; and that he was
familiar with the Oriental languages must be apparent to any one who has
read my note on '_Concolinel_' (_Love's Labor's Lost_, Act iii. Sc. 1).
But that 'six princes' is the true reading is clear from the parallel
passage in "Richard the Third," which I am surprised that the usually
accurate Mr. Brown should have overlooked,--'Methinks there be Six
Richmonds in the field.'" ROBINSON.
"I was at first inclined to the opinion of the late Mr. Robinson, but
maturer consideration has caused me to agree with the eloquent and
erudite Jones. There is a definite meaning in the word _sixpence_; and
a similar error of the press in Lord Bacon's 'Advancement of Learning,'
where the context shows that _sixpences_ and not _sciences_ was the word
intended, leads me to suspect that the title of his _opus magnum_ should
be _De Augmentis Sixpenciarum_. Viewing the matter as a political
economist, such a topic would have been more worthy of the Lord
Chancellor of England; it would have been more in accordance with what
we know of the character of 'the meanest of mankind'; and the exquisite
humor of the title would tally precisely with what Ben Jonson tells us
in his 'Discoveries,' under the head _Dominus Verulamius_, that
'his language _(where he could spare or pass by a jest)_ was nobly
censorious.' Sir Thomas More had the same proneness to merriment,
a coincidence the more striking as both these great men were Lord
Chancellors. A comic stroke of this description would have been highly
attractive to a mind so constituted, and might easily escape the notice
of a printer, who was more likely to be intent upon the literal accuracy
of the Latin than on the watch for extraordinary flights of humor."
But we must return from our excursion into an imaginary _variorum_,
delightful because it requires no eyesight and no thought, to the more
serious duty of examining the notes of Mr. White. We have mentioned a
single instance in which we differ with him as to the propriety of a
fanatical adherence to the text of the Folio of 1623. We differ, because
we think that sense is not all that we have a right to expect from
Shakspeare,--that it is, indeed, merely the body in which his genius
creates a soul of meaning, nay, oftentimes a double one, exoteric and
esoteric, the _spiritus astralis_ and the _anima caelestis_. Had the
passage been in verse, where the change might have damaged the rhythm,
--had it been one of those ecstasies of Shakspearian imagination,
to tamper with which because _we_ could not understand it would be
Bottom-like presumption,--one of those tempests of passion where every
word reeks hot and sulphurous, like a thunderstone new-fallen,--in any
of these cases we should have agreed with Mr. White that to abstain was
a duty. But in a sentence of lightsome and careless prose, and where the
chances are great that the word to be changed is the accident of the
printer and not the choice of the author, we say, give us a text that is
true to the context and the aesthetic instinct rather than to the Folio,
even were that Pandora-box only half as full of manifest corruptions as
In the "Two Gentlemen of Verona," (Act iii. Sc. 1,) Mr. White prefers,
"She is not to be fasting in respect of her breath," to "She is not to
be _kissed_ fasting in respect of her breath,"--an emendation made by
Rowe,[F] and found also in Mr. Collier's Corrected Folio of 1632. We
cannot agree with him in a reading which seems to us to destroy all the
point of the passage.
[Footnote F: Mr. Dyce says the word supplied by Rowe was "fasting," a
manifest slip of the pen, and worth notice only as showing how easily
errors may be committed.]
In Dumain's ode, (_Love's Labor's Lost_, Act iv. Sc. 3,) beginning,
"On a day, (alack the day!)
Love, whose month is ever May,"
Mr. White chooses to read
"Thou, for whom Jove would swear
Juno but an Ethiop were,"
rather than accept Pope's suggestion of "ev'n Jove," or the far better
"great Jove" of Mr. Collier's Corrected Folio,--affirming that "the
quantity and accent proper to 'thou' make any addition to the line
superfluous." We should like to hear Mr. White read the verse as he
prints it. The result would be something of this kind:--
Thou-ou for whom Jove would swear,--
which would be like the 'bow-wow-wow before the Lord' of the old
country-choirs. To our ear it is quite out of the question; and,
moreover, we affirm that in dissyllabic (which we, for want of a better
name, call iambic and trochaic) measures the omission of a half-foot
is an impossibility, and all the more so when, as in this case, the
preceding syllable is strongly accented. Even had the poem been meant
for singing, which it was not, for Dumain reads it, the quantity would
be false, though the ear might more easily excuse it. Such an omission
would be not only possible, but sometimes very effective, in trisyllabic
measures,--as, for instance, in anapests like these,--
"'Tis the middle of night by the castle clock,
And the owls have awakened the crowing cock,"--
where iambs or spondees may take the place of the first or second foot
with no shock to the ear, though the change of rhythm be sensible
'Tis th[)e] d[=e][=e]p midnight by the castle clock,
And [)o]wls have awakened the crowing cock.
We quite agree with Mr. White and Mr. Knight in their hearty dislike of
the Steevens-system of versification, but we think that Coleridge (who,
although the best English metrist since Milton, often thought lazily and
talked loosely) has misled both of them in what he has said about the
pauses and retardations of verse. In that noblest of our verses, the
unrhymed iambic pentameter, two short or lightly-accented syllables
may often gracefully and effectively take the place of a long or
heavily-accented one; but great metrists contrive their pauses by the
artistic choice and position of their syllables, and not by leaving
them out. Metre is the solvent in which alone thought and emotion can
perfectly coalesce,--the thought confining the emotion within decorous
limitations of law, the emotion beguiling the thought into somewhat of
its own fluent grace and rebellious animation. That is ill metre which
does not read itself in the mouth of a man thoroughly penetrated with
the meaning of what he reads; and only a man as thoroughly possessed
of the meaning of what he writes can produce any metre that is not
sing-song. Not that we would have Shakspeare's metre tinkered where it
seems defective, but that we would not have palpable gaps defended as
intentional by the utterly unsatisfactory assumption of pauses and
retardations. Mr. White has in many cases wisely and properly made
halting verses perfect in their limbs by easy transpositions, and we
think he is perfectly right in refusing to interpolate a syllable, but
wrong in assuming that we have Shakspeare's metre where we have no metre
at all. We are not speaking of seeming irregularities, of lines broken
up by rapid dialogue or cut short by the gulp of voiceless passion, nor
do we forget that Shakspeare wrote for the tongue and not the eye, but
we do not believe he ever left an unmusical period. Especially is this
true of passages where the lyrical sentiment predominates, and we beg
Mr. White to reconsider whether we owe the reading
"All overcanopied with luscious woodbine"
(instead of _lush_)
to the printers of the Folio or to Shakspeare. Even if we accept
Steevens's "whereon" instead of "where" in the first verse of this
exquisite piece of melody, and read (as Mr. White does not)
"I know a bank whereon the wild thyme grows,"
it leaves the peculiar _lilt_ of the metre unchanged. The varied
accentuation of the verses is striking; and would any one convince
himself of the variety of which this measure is capable, let him try to
read this passage, and the speech of Prospero, beginning "Ye elves of
hills," to the same tune. In the verses,
"And ye that on the sands with printless foot
Do chase the ebbing Neptune, | and do fly him
When he comes back,"
observe how the pauses are contrived to echo the sense and give the
effect of flux and reflux. Versification was understood in that day as
never since, and no treatise on English verse so good, in all respects,
as that of Campion (1602) has ever been written. Coleridge learned from
him how to write his "Catullian hendeca-syllables," and did not better
[Footnote G: For the comprehension of the laws of some of the lighter
measures, no book is so instructive as Mother Goose's Melodies. That
excellent lady was one of the best metrists the language has produced.]
In "Measure for Measure," (Act i. Sc. 1,) in this passage,--
"what's open made
To justice, that justice seizes: what knows the law
That thieves do pass on thieves?"
does Mr. White believe the "that" and "what" are Shakspeare's? Does he
"To justice, that justice seizes: what knows the law"
an alexandrine,--and an alexandrine worthy of a student and admirer of
Spenser? Should we read it thus, we should dread Martial's sarcasm of,
_Sed male cum recitas_. We believe that Shakspeare wrote
"What's open made
To Justice, Justice seizes; knows the Law
That thieve do pass on thieves?"
We have pointed out a passage or two where we think Mr. White follows
the Folio text too literally. Two instances we have noted where he has
altered, as we think, for the worse. The first is (_Tempest_, Act in.
Sc. 3) where Mr. White reads,
"You are three men of sin whom Destiny
(That hath to instrument this lower world
And what is in't) the never-surfeited sea
Hath caused to belch you up,--and on this island
Where man doth not inhabit; you 'mongst men
Being most unfit to live. I have made you mad."
The Folio reads, "Hath caused to belch up you"; and Mr. White says in
his note, "The tautological repetition of the pronoun was a habit,
almost a custom, with the Elizabethan dramatists." This may be true,
(though we think the assertion rash,) but certainly never as in
this case. We think the Folio right, except in its punctuation. The
repetition of the "you" is emphatic, not tautological, and is demanded
by the whole meaning of the passage. Ariel is taunting the persons
she addresses, with the intention of angering them; and the "you" is
repeated, because those highly respectable men cannot at first bring
their minds to believe that such unsavory epithets are addressed to
them. We should punctuate thus, following the order of the words in the
"Hath caused to belch up,--you! and on this island,
Where man doth not inhabit;--you 'mongst men
Being most unfit to live. I have made you mad."
In the "Comedy of Errors," (Act ii. Sc. 2,) Adriana, suspecting her
husband of unfaithfulness, says to him,--
"For, if we two be one, and thou play false,
I do digest the poison of thy flesh,
Being strumpeted by thy contagion.
Keep, then, fair league and truce with thy
I live distained, thou undishonored."
Such is the reading of the Folio. Mr. White reads,
"I live distained, thou one dishonored."
But we cannot help thinking that the true reading should be,
"I live distained, though undishonored,"
which is a less forced construction, and coincides with the rest of the
passage,--"I am contaminate through thee, though in myself immaculate."
In "As You Like it," (Act ii. Sc. 3,) Mr. White (with the Folio and some
recent editors) calls the Duke's wrestler, "the _bonny_ priser of the
Duke." The common reading is "bony," which seems to us better, though
we believe _brawny_ to be the word intended. We likewise question
Mr. White's explanation of the word _priser_, which, he says, "is
prize-fighter, one who wins prizes." One who "fights for prizes" would
have been better; but we suspect that the word is more nearly akin
with the French _prise_ (in the sense of _venir aux prises_) than with
_prix_. We should prefer also "Aristotle's ethicks" (_Taming of the
Shrew_, Act i. Sc. 1) to the ordinary "Aristotle's checks," which is
retained by Mr. White. In "Much Ado about Nothing," (Act ii. Sc. 1,) we
have no doubt that Mr. Collier's corrector is right in reading "_sink_
apace," though Mr. White states authoritatively that Shakspeare would
not have so written. It is only fair to Mr. White, however, to say that
he is generally open-minded toward readings suggested by others, and
that he accepts nearly all those of Mr. Collier's Corrected Folio on
which honest lovers of Shakspeare would be likely to agree. In comparing
his notes with the text, our eye was caught by a verse in which there
seems so manifest a corruption that we shall venture to throw down the
discord-apple of a conjectural emendation. In the "Merchant of Venice,"
(Act iii. Sc. 2,) where Bassanio is making his choice among the caskets,
after a long speech about "outward shows" and "ornament," he is made to
say that ornament is,
"in a word,
The seeming truth which cunning _times_ put on
To entrap the wisest."
We find it hard to believe that _times_ is the right word here, and
strongly suspect that it has stolen the place of _tires_. The whole
previous tenor of the speech, and especially of the images immediately
preceding that in question, appears to demand such a word.
We have said, that we considered the style and matter of Mr. White's
notes excellent. Indeed, to the purely illustrative notes we should
hardly make an exception. There are two or three which we think in
questionable taste, and one where the temptation to say a sharp
thing has led the editor to vulgarize the admirable Benedick, and to
misinterpret the text in a way so unusual for him that it is worth a
comment. When Benedick's friends are discussing the symptoms which show
him to be in love, Claudio asks,
"When was he wont to wash his face?"
Mr. White annotates thus:--
"That the benign effect of the tender passion upon _Benedick_ in this
regard should be so particularly noticed, requires, perhaps, the remark,
that in Shakspeare's time our race had not abandoned itself to that
reckless use of water, whether for ablution or potation, which has more
recently become one of its characteristic traits."
Now, if there could be any doubt that "wash" means _cosmetic_ here, the
next speech of Don Pedro ("Yea, or to _paint_ himself?") would remove
it. The gentlemen of all periods in history have been so near at least
to godliness as is implied in cleanliness. The very first direction in
the old German poem of "Tisch-zucht" is to wash before coming to table;
and in "Parzival," Gurnamanz specially inculcates on his catechumen the
social duty of always thoroughly cleansing himself on laying aside his
armor. Such instances could be multiplied without end.
In annotating Shakspeare, it would, perhaps, be asking too much of
an editor to give credit to its first finder for every scrap of
illustration. The immense mass of notes already existing may, perhaps,
be fairly looked upon as a kind of dictionary, open to every one,
and the use of which implies no indebtedness. Mr. White, in general,
indicates the source whence he has drawn, though we have sometimes found
him negligent in this respect. He says, in the Advertisement prefixed to
his second volume, "that in every case, where no such credit is
given for a restoration, a conjecture, or a quotation, the editor is
responsible for it; and as he is disinclined to the giving of much
prominence to claims of this sort, he has, in those cases, merely
remarked, that 'hitherto' the text has stood thus or so." We have not
been at the trouble of verifying every one of Mr. White's "hithertos,"
but we did so in two plays, and found in "Midsummer Night's Dream" four,
and in "Much Ado" two cases, where the reading claimed as a restoration
occurred also in Mr. Knight's excellent edition of 1842. These
oversights do not affect the correctness of Mr. White's text, but they
diminish our confidence in the accuracy of the collation to which he
The chief objection which we have to make against Mr. White's text is,
that he has perversely allowed it to continue disfigured by vulgarisms
of grammar and spelling. For example, he gives us _misconster_, and
says, "This is not a mis-spelling or loose spelling of 'misconstrue,'
but the old form of the word." Mr. Dyce insisted on the same
cacographical nicety in his "Remarks" on the editions of Mr. Collier and
Mr. Knight, but abandons it in his own with the artless admission that
_misconstrue_ also occurs in the Folio. In one of the Camden Society's
publications is a letter from Friar John Hylsey to Thomas Cromwell, in
which we find "As God is my jugge";[H] but we do not believe that _jug_
was an old form of _judge_, though a philological convict might fancy
that the former word was a derivative of the latter. Had the phrase
occurred in Shakspeare, we should have had somebody defending it as
tenderly poetical. We cannot but think it a sacrifice in Mr. White that
he has given up the _whatsomeres_ of the Folio. He does retain _puisny_
as the old form, but why not spell it _puisne_ and so indicate its
meaning? Mr. White informs us that "the grammatical form in use in
Shakspeare's day" was to have the verb govern a nominative case!
Accordingly, he perpetuates the following oversight of the poet or
blunder of the printer:--
[Footnote H: _Suppression of the Monasteries_, p. 13.]
"What he is, indeed,
More suits you to conceive, than _I_ to speak of."
Again, he says that _who_, as an objective case, "is in accordance with
the grammatical usage of Shakspeare's day," (Vol. II. p. 86,) and that,
"considering the unsettled state of minor grammatical relations in
Shakspeare's time," it is possible that he wrote _whom_ as a nominative
(Vol. V. p. 393). But the most extraordinary instance is where he makes
a nominative plural agree with a verb in the second person singular,
(Vol. III. p. 121,) and justifies it by saying that "such disagreements
... are not uncommon in Shakspeare's writings, and those of his
contemporaries." The passage reads as follows in Mr. White's edition:--
"A breath thou art,
Servile to all the skiey influences
That dost this habitation where thou keep'st
Hanmer (mistaking the meaning) read _do_. Porson objected, on the ground
that it was _thou_ and not _influences_ which governed _dost_. Porson
was certainly right, and we wonder how any one could ever have
understood the passage in any other way. The mediaevals had as much
trouble in reconciling free-will with judicial astrology as we with the
divine foreknowledge. A passage in Dante, it appears to us, throws light
on the meaning of the Duke's speech:--
"Lo cielo i vostri movimenti inizia;
Non dico tutti; ma posto ch' io 'l dica
Lume v' e dato a bene ed a malizia,
E libero voler che, se fatica
Nelle prime battaglie col ciel dura,
Poi vince tutto se ben si notrica."
_Purg._, Cant. xvi.
_Cielo_ is here used for the influence of the stars, as is clear from a
parallel passage in the "Convito." Accordingly, "Though servile to all
the skyey influences, it is thou, breath as thou art, that dost hourly
afflict thy body with the results of sin." But even if this be not the
meaning, is Mr. White correct in saying that _influence_ had no plural
at that time?[I] Had he forgotten "the sweet _influences_ of Pleiades"?
The word occurs in this form not only in our version of the Bible,
but in that of Cranmer, and in the "Breeches" Bible. So in Chapman's
"Byron's Conspiracy," (Ed. 1608, B. 3,)
"Where the beames of starres have carv'd
Their powerful _influences_."
[Footnote I: Mr. White cites Dr. Richardson, but the Doctor is not
always a safe guide.]
Mr. White repeatedly couples together the translators of the Bible and
Shakspeare, but he seems to have studied their grammar but carelessly.
"_Whom_ therefore ye ignorantly worship, _him_ declare I unto you," is a
case in point, and we ought never to forget our danger from that dusky
personage who goes about "seeking _whom_ he may devour." At a time
when correction of the press was so imperfect, one instance of true
construction should outweigh twenty false, and nothing could be easier
than the mistake of _who_ for _whom_, when the latter was written
_wh[=o]_. A glance at Ben Jonson's English Grammar is worth more than
all theorizing. Mr. White thinks it probable that Shakspeare understood
French, Latin, and Italian, but not--English!
The truth is, that, however forms of spelling varied, (as they must
where both writers and printers spelt phonographically,) the forms of
grammatical construction were as strict then as now. There were some
differences of usage, as where two nominatives coupled by a conjunction
severally governed the verb, and where certain nouns in the plural were