Part 2 out of 5
Self-crushing and self-fettering; gleams are caught
From some far centre set by God to keep
His brave world spinning, or some drifting isle
Of swift wildfire shot out by the wide sweep
Of wings demoniac,
Far winnowing and black,
Our cheated souls to 'wilder and beguile.
Only the years, the imperturbable,
Impassionate years, can sheave the scattered rays
Into one sun, these mingled arrows tell
Each to its quiver, the divine and fell,
And life's lone meteors to their centre trace.
O Father, let me not die young!
Earth's beauty asks a heart and tongue
To give true love and praises to her worth;
Her sins and judgment-sufferings call
For fearless martyrs to redeem thy Earth
From her disastrous fall.
For though her summer hills and vales might seem
The fair creation of a poet's dream,--
Ay, of the Highest Poet,
Whose wordless rhythms are chanted by the gyres
Of constellate star-choirs,
That with deep melody flow and overflow it,--
The sweet Earth,--very sweet, despite
The rank grave-smell forever drifting in
Among the odors from her censers white
Of wave-swung lilies and of wind-swung roses,--
The Earth sad-sweet is deeply attaint with sin!
The pure air, which incloses
Her and her starry kin,
Still shudders with the unspent palpitating
Of a great Curse, that to its utmost shore
Thrills with a deadly shiver
Which has not ceased to quiver
Down all the ages, nathless the strong beating
Of Angel-wings, and the defiant roar
Of Earth's Titanic thunders.
Fair and sad,
In sin and beauty, our beloved Earth
Has need of all her sons to make her glad;
Has need of martyrs to re-fire the hearth
Of her quenched altars,--of heroic men
With Freedom's sword, or Truth's supernal pen,
To shape the worn-out mould of nobleness again.
And she has need of Poets who can string
Their harps with steel to catch the lightning's fire,
And pour her thunders from the clanging wire,
To cheer the hero, mingling with his cheer,
Arouse the laggard in the battle's rear,
Daunt the stern wicked, and from discord wring
Prevailing harmony, while the humblest soul
Who keeps the tune the warder angels sing
In golden choirs above,
And only wears, for crown and aureole,
The glow-worm light of lowliest human love,
Shall fill with low, sweet undertones the chasms
Of silence, 'twixt the booming thunder-spasms.
And Earth has need of Prophets fiery-lipped
And deep-souled, to announce the glorious dooms
Writ on the silent heavens in starry script,
And flashing fitfully from her shuddering tombs,--
Commissioned Angels of the new-born Faith,
To teach the immortality of Good,
The soul's God-likeness, Sin's coeval death,
And Man's indissoluble Brotherhood.
Yet never an age, when God has need of him,
Shall want its Man, predestined by that need,
To pour his life in fiery word or deed,--
The strong Archangel of the Elohim!
Earth's hollow want is prophet of his coming:
In the low murmur of her famished cry,
And heavy sobs breathed up despairingly,
Ye hear the near invisible humming
Of his wide wings that fan the lurid sky
Into cool ripples of new life and hope,
While far in its dissolving ether ope
Deeps beyond deeps, of sapphire calm, to cheer
With Sabbath gleams the troubled Now and Here.
Father! thy will be done,
Holy and righteous One!
Though the reluctant years
May never crown my throbbing brows with white,
Nor round my shoulders turn the golden light
Of my thick locks to wisdom's royal ermine:
Yet by the solitary tears,
Deeper than joy or sorrow,--by the thrill,
Higher than hope or terror, whose quick germen,
In those hot tears to sudden vigor sprung,
Sheds, even now, the fruits of graver age,--
By the long wrestle in which inward ill
Fell like a trampled viper to the ground.
By all that lifts me o'er my outward peers
To that supernal stage
Where soul dissolves the bonds by Nature bound,--
Fall when I may, by pale disease unstrung,
Or by the hand of fratricidal rage,
I cannot now die young!
* * * * *
ODDS AND ENDS FROM THE OLD WORLD
My first visit to Turin dates as far back as 1831. We are so personal,
that our impressions of things depend less on their intrinsic worth
than on such or such extrinsic circumstance which may affect our mental
vision at the moment. I suppose mine was affected by the mist and rain
which graced the capital of Piedmont on the morning of my arrival there.
Another incident, microscopic, and almost too ludicrous to mention,
had no less its weight in the scale of prepossession. I was tired and
hungry, and, while the _diligence_ was being unloaded, I entered a
_caffe_ close by, and called for some buttered toast. My hair (I had
plenty at that time) stood on end at the answer I received. There was no
buttered toast to be had, the waiter said. "It was not the custom." I
confess I augured ill of a city from whose _caffes_, unlike all others
throughout Italy, such a staple of breakfast was banished.
I am fond of buttered toast, I own. If it is a weakness, I candidly
plead guilty. My mother--bless her soul!--brought me up in the faith of
buttered toast. I had breakfasted upon it all my life. I could conceive
of no breakfast without it. Hence the shock I felt. "Not the custom!"
Why not, I wondered. A problem of no easy solution, I can tell you! It
has been haunting me for the last seven-and-twenty years. If I had a
thousand dollars,--a bold supposition for one of the brotherhood of the
pen,--I would even now found a prize, and adjudge that sum to the best
memoir on this question:--"Why is buttered toast excluded from the
_caffes_ of Turin?" It is not from lack of proper materials,--for heaps
of butter and mountains of rolls are to be seen on every side; it is not
from lack of taste,--for the people which has invented the _grisini_,
and delights in the white truffle, shows too keen a sense of what is
dainty not to exclude the charge of want of taste.
"Pray, what are the _grisini?_ what is the white truffle?" asks the
inquisitive reader.--The _grisini_ are bread idealized, bread under the
form of walking-sticks a third of a little finger in diameter, and from
which every the least particle of crumb has been carefully eliminated.
It is light, easy of digestion, cracks without effort under your teeth,
and melts in your mouth. It is savory eaten alone, excellent with your
viands, capital sopped in wine. A good Turinese would rather have no
dinner at all than sit down to one without a good-sized bundle of these
torrified reeds on his right or left. Beware of the spurious imitations
of this inimitable mixture of flour, which you will light on in some
_passages_ in Paris! They possess nothing of the _grisini_ but the name.
"I have it!" I fancy I hear some imaginative reader exclaim at this
place. "The passion for the _grisini_ accounts most naturally for the
want of buttered toast in Turin. Don't you see that it is replaced by
A mistake, a profound mistake. _Grisini_ are _never_ served with your
coffee or chocolate. Try again.
The white truffle,--white, mark you, and not to be confounded with its
black, hard, knotty, poor cousin of Perigord,--well, the white truffle
is--the white truffle. There are things which admit of no definition. It
would only spoil them. Define the Sun, if you dare. "Look at it," would
be your answer to the indiscreet questioner. And so I say to you,--Taste
it, the white truffle. Not that you will relish it, on a first or second
trial. No. It requires a sort of initiation. Ambrosia, depend upon it,
would prove unpalatable, at first, to organs degraded by coarse mortal
food. It has,--the white truffle, I mean, not the ambrosia, which I have
never tasted,--it has a shadow of a shade of mitigated garlic flavor,
which demands time and a certain training of the gustatory apparatus, to
be fully appreciated. Try again, and it will grow upon you,--again
and again, and you will go crazy after the white truffle. I have seen
persons, who had once turned up their noses at it, declare themselves
capable of any crime to get at it. Nature gave it to Piedmont, "_e poi
ruppe la stampa_." Gold you may find in different places, and under
different latitudes;--the white truffle is an exclusive growth of
To return. If it is not the want of proper materials, or of taste to use
them, what can be the cause of the unjust ostracism against buttered
A Genoese friend of mine accounts for it on the same principle on which
another friend of mine, a Polish refugee in London, accounted for the
difference, nay, in many points, the direct opposition, between English
and French habits of life,--that is to say, on the principle of national
antagonism. Why does the English Parliament hold its sittings at night?
my Polish friend would ask. The reason is obvious. _Because_, the French
Parliament sits in broad day, when it sits at all. Why is winter the
season of _villeggiatura_ in England? _Because_ in France it is summer
and autumn. Why are beards and moustaches tabooed in Great Britain?
_Because_ it is common to wear them in France. Why are new pipes
preferred in England for smoking? _Because_ in France the older and more
_culottee_ a pipe, the more welcome it is. And so on, _ad infinitum_.
Arguing on the same principle, my Genoese friend avers that buttered
toast is proscribed at Turin _because_ it is so justly popular in Genoa.
The Genoese, in fact, excel in the preparation of that dainty article.
They have, for the purpose, delicious little rolls, which they cut in
two and suit to all tastes and whims. The upper or under crust, soft or
hard, deep brown or light brown, with much or little butter, with cold
or hot butter, with butter visible or invisible:--be as capricious in
your orders as you like, and never fear tiring the waiter. Proteus
himself never took so many shapes.
There is some speciousness in my Genoese friend's argument. The
_Superba_, naturally enough, cannot forget that she was first and is
now second. Turin, on her side, does not intend to have her official
supremacy disputed. No wonder that the two noble cities should look at
each other rather surlily, and stick to their own individuality. "Hence
it is," concludes my friend, "that the comparatively easy Apennines have
proved to this day an impassable barrier to the buttered toast on one
side, and to the _grisini_ on the other."
"But not so to the white truffle," I put in, triumphantly. "The Genoese
have adopted that; and honor to them for having done so! What do you say
to this, eh?"
My friend scratched his head in quest of a new argument. We will leave
him to his embarrassment, and have done with this string of digressions.
I was saying, that my first visit to Turin dated as far back as 1831. On
that journey I had a singular travelling-companion, a beautiful fish,
a John Dory, carefully wrapped up, and neatly laid in a wicker-basket,
like a babe in its cradle. The officers of the _octroi_, who examined my
basket, complimented me on my choice,--nay, grew so enthusiastic about
my John Dory, that, if I remember right, they let it pass duty-free.
The mistress of the house, at whose table it was served, paid it a
well-deserved tribute of admiration, but lamented the unskilfulness of
the hand which had cleaned it: "How stupid to cut it to the very throat!
See what a gap!" I laughed in my sleeve and held my tongue. It was a
frightful gap, to be sure,--but not bigger than was necessary to admit
of an oilskin-covered parcel, a pound at least in weight, a parcel full
to the brim of treasonable matter, revolutionary pamphlets, regulations
of secret societies, and what not. My John Dory was a horse of Troy in
miniature. But Turin stood this one better than Troy the other.
Turin was, or seemed to me, gloomy and chilly at that time, though the
season was mild, and the sky had cleared up. Jesuits, carabineers, and
spies lorded it; distrust was the order of the day. People went about
their business, exchanged a hasty and well-timed _sciao_, (_schiavo_,)
and gave up all genial intercourse. Far keener than the breath of
neighboring snow-capped Mount Cenis, the breath of despotism froze alike
tongues and souls. How could buttered toast, emblem of softness, thrive
in so hard a temperature? I left as soon as I could, and with a feeling
of relief akin to joy.
I was in no haste to revisit Turin, nor, had I been, would circumstances
have permitted my doing so. The fish had a tail for me as well as for
many others, and a very long tail too. Most of the years intervening
between 1831 and 1848 I had to spend abroad,--out of Italy, I mean. Time
enough for reflection. Plenty of worry and anxiety, and difficulties of
many a kind. Rough handling from the powers that were, cold indifference
from the masses. A flow of gentle sympathy, now and then, from a kindred
heart or two,--God bless them!--a live spring in a desert. A hard
apprenticeship,--still, useful in many ways, to develop the sense
of realities, to teach one to do without a host of things deemed
indispensable before to keep the soul in tune. I declare, for my part,
I don't regret those long years of erratic life. I bless them, on the
contrary; for they opened my eyes to the worth of my country. The right
point of view to take in physical or moral beauty, in its fulness, is
only at a distance.
The great convulsion of '48 flung wide the gates of Italy to the
wanderer, and I returned to Turin. I had left it at freezing-point,
and I found it at white-heat. Half Europe revolutionized,--France a
republic, Vienna in a blaze, Hungary in arms, Radetzky driven out of
Milan, a Piedmontese army in Lombardy,--there was more than enough to
turn the heads of the Seven Sages of Greece. No wonder ours were turned.
Serve a splendid banquet and pour out generous wine to a shipwrecked
crew who have long been starving, and ten to one they will overfeed
themselves and get drunk and quarrel. We did both, alas!--and those who
are drunk and quarrel are likely to be overpowered by those who keep
sober and united. We were divided about the sauce with which the hare
should be dressed, and, in the heat of argument, lost sight of this
little fact, that a hare, to be dressed at all, must first be caught.
The first reverses overtook us thus occupied. They did not sober us;
quite the contrary; we fell to doing what Manzoni's capons did.
By-the-by, since that revered name comes under my pen, I may as well
state, what every one will be glad to hear, that the author of the
"Promessi Sposi" has perfectly recovered from his late illness. It
cannot be but that the wail of a nation has reached even across the
Atlantic, without the aid of an electric cable. He looks strong and
healthy, and likely to be long spared to the love and veneration of his
country. I have this on the authority of a witness _de visu et auditu_,
a friend of his and mine, who visited the great man, not a fortnight
ago, in his retreat of Brusuglio, near Milan.
To leave the author for his book. Do you recollect Renzo tying four fat
capons by the legs, and carrying them, with their heads hanging down, to
Signor Azzeccagarbugli,--and the capons, in that awkward predicament,
finding no better occupation than to peck at each other? "As is too
often the case with companions in misfortune," observes the author, in
his quiet, humoristic way. We were just as wise. Instead of saying, _Mea
culpa_, we began to recriminate, and find fault with everything and
everybody. It was the fault of the Ministers, of the _Camarilla_, of the
army, of the big epaulets, of the King. Dynastic interest, of course,
was not forgotten in the indictment.
Dynastic interest, forsooth! So long as it combines and makes but one
with the interest of the nation, I should like to know where is the
great harm of it. As if kings alone were defiled with that pitch! As
if we had not, each and all of us, low and high, rich and poor, our
dynastic interest, and were not eager enough in its pursuit! As if
anybody scrupled at or were found fault with for pushing on his sons,
enlarging his business, rounding his estate, in the view of transmitting
it, thus improved, to his kindred and heirs!
But who thought of such things under the smart of defeat? I do not
intend, by this _post-facto_ grumbling, to give myself credit for having
been wiser than others. By no means. I played my part in the chorus of
fault-finders, and cried out as loud as anybody. The upshot was what
might have been expected. Independence went to the dogs--for a while.
Liberty, thank God, remained in this little corner, at least,--liberty,
the great lever for those who use it wisely. I know of nations, far more
experienced than we are in political matters, and whose programme in
1848 was far less complicated than ours, who cannot say as much for
The times were unpropitious to the buttered-toast question, and it
had quite slipped out of my mind. I have never traced the string of
associations which reminded me of it, on one certain morning. Once more
I made bold to ask if I could have buttered toast. "Impossible," said
the waiter, curtly. I was piqued. "How impossible?" said I. "Erase that
word from your Dictionary, if you are to drive the Austrians from Italy.
Take a roll, cut it in halves, have it toasted, and serve hot with
butter." Long was the manipulation, and the result but indifferent,--the
toast hard and cold, the butter far from fresh; but it was a step in
advance, and I chuckled over it. For a short time, alas! Mine was the
fate of all reformers. Routine stood in my way. The waiters fled at my
approach, and vied with each other as to who should _not_ serve me. I
gave up the attempt in disgust. Shortly after, I left Turin,--without
joy this time, but also without regret.
Ten years have elapsed, and here I am again, on my third visit. The
journey from Genoa to Turin took, ten years ago, twenty-four hours by
_diligence_. Now it is accomplished in four by railway. To say that this
accelerated ratio of travelling represents but fairly the average of
progress realized in almost all directions, within this space of
time, is no mere form of speech. To whatever side I turn, my eyes are
agreeably surprised by material signs of improvement. From what but
yesterday was waste land, where linen was spread to dry, steam-engines
raise their shrill cry, and a double terminus sends forth and receives,
in its turn, merchandise, passengers, and ideas. At the gate of the
city, so to say, a gigantic work, the piercing of Mount Cenis, is
actually going on. Where I left, literally left, cows browsing in peace,
two new quarters have risen, as if by magic,--that of Portanuova,
aristocratic and rich, and that of San Salvario, less showy, but not
less comfortable. A third is in contemplation; nay, already begun,--to
be raised on the spot where once stood the citadel, (and prison for
political offenders,) of sinister memory, now levelled with the ground.
I take this last as a capital novelty. Another, more significant still,
is the Protestant Temple, which stares me in the face,--a poor work of
Art, if you will, but no less the embodiment of one of the most precious
conquests, religious freedom. I would fain not grow emphatic,--but when
I contrast the present with the past, when I recollect, for instance,
how the Jews were formerly treated, and see them now in Parliament, I
cannot help warming up a little. Monuments to Balbo, the stanch patriot
and nervous biographer of Dante,--to General Bava, the conqueror at
Goito,--to Pepe, the heroic defender of Venice, grace the public walks.
One to Gioberti, the eminent philosopher, is in course of preparation.
If these are not signs of radically changed times, and changed for the
better, I don't know what are.
Nor is the moral less improved than the material physiognomy of the
city. I see a thriving, orderly community,--no trace of antagonism, but
a free, good-natured intercourse between all classes, and a general
look of ease and contentment. Of course, there are poor in Turin, as
everywhere else,--except Japan, if we may credit travellers; but nowhere
are my eyes saddened by the spectacle of that abject destitution which
blunts, nay, destroys, the sense of self-respect The operatives,
especially,--what are here called the _braccianti_,--this salt of all
cities, this nursery of the army and navy, this inexhaustible source of
production and riches, impress me by their appearance of comfort and
good-humor. It gladdens one's heart to watch them, as they walk arm in
arm of an evening, singing in chorus, or fill the pits of the cheaper
theatres, or sit down at fashionable _caffes_ in their jackets, with a
self-confidence and freedom of manner pleasant to behold. The play of
free institutions is not counteracted here, thank God, by the despotism
of conventionalities. No shadow of frigid respectability hangs over
people's actions and freezes spontaneousness.
But this is all on the surface; let us go deeper, if we can, and have a
peep at the workings beneath. I knock for information on this head at
the mind and heart of all sorts of people. I note down the answers of
the Minister and of the Deputy, as well as those of the waiter who
serves my coffee and of the man who blacks my shoes, and here is what
I find,--a growing sense of the benefits of liberty, a deep-rooted
attachment to the _Re galantuomo_, (the King, honest man,) a juster
appreciation of the difficulties which beset the national enterprise,
(the freeing of Italy from Austria,) and an honest confidence of
overcoming them with God's help. This last feeling, I am glad to say,
is, as it ought to be, general in the army. This is what I find in the
bulk. There is no lack of dissenters, who regret the past, and take a
gloomy view of the future. I describe no Utopia. Unanimity is no flower
of this earth.
This improved state of things and feelings, within so short a period of
time, reflects equal credit on the people which benefits by it and on
the men who have lately presided over its destinies. Among these last it
were invidious not to mention, with well-deserved praise, the active and
accomplished statesman who introduced free trade, caused Piedmont to
take its share in the Crimean War, and last, not least, by a bold and
skilful move, brought the Italian question before the Congress of Paris.
During the summer of 1848, I rented a couple of rooms in the Via dell'
Arcivescovado. There often fell upon my ear, wafted across the court
from the windows opposite mine, a loud and regular declamation. I
fancied it was a preacher learning by heart his sermon, or an actor his
part. I was told one day that it was Count Cavour, the owner of the
house, who, as a prelude to his parliamentary career, was addressing an
imaginary assembly. The fact struck me the more, as the Count was not a
member of Parliament at the time. He was elected a Deputy and took his
seat not long after. I was present at his _debut_. It was not brilliant.
Count Cavour was not born an orator; his delivery was far from fluent.
He had many things to say, and wanted to say them all at once. The sense
of the House was not favorable to the new member,--that of the public
galleries still less so. No man was less spoiled by popularity than he.
I have no other reason for mentioning these particulars than to put in
relief the strength of will and the perseverance which one so situated
must have brought to bear, in order to conquer his own deficiencies and
the popular prejudice, and attain, against wind and tide, the high place
he holds in the estimation of Parliament and of the country. That Count
Cavour has made himself, if not properly an orator, in the high sense of
the word, a nervous, fluent, and most agreeable speaker, is sufficiently
attested by the untiring attention with which his speeches, occupying
sometimes two whole sittings, are listened to in both Houses. He never
puts them in writing, and seldom, if ever, makes use of notes.
Life is substantial in Turin, and on a broad, homely scale. By which you
are not to understand, either that the male portion of the inhabitants
feast on whole oxen, like Homer's heroes, or that, the fair sex are
draped in tunics of homespun wool, like the Roman matrons of old. They
are not so primitive as that. You may have at any restaurant a smaller
morsel than an ox or even an ox's shoulder; and as to ladies' finery,
there is no _article de Paris_, no indispensable inutility, no
crinoline, hoop, or cage, of impossible materials, shape, and
dimensions, which you may not find under the Portici, or in Vianuova,
a facility of which the Turinese beauties give themselves the benefit
rather freely. What I meant to say, when I spoke of life on a broad,
homely scale, was simply this:--that in Turin, generally speaking, the
great art of putting the appearance in the place of the substance, and
juggling the principal under the accessories, has yet to be learned. If
you ask for a room, a dinner, a bath, they take you in good earnest,
and supply you with the genuine article. When I put up at the _Hotel de
Londres_, from which I am writing, I had to run no gantlet between a
double line of solemn-looking, white-cravated waiters; yet I have only
to ring my bell, to be attended to with promptitude, with zeal, nay,
_con amore_. My kind hostess, Signora Viarengo, does not wear a triple
or quadruple row of flounces, but looks after my wardrobe when I am out,
and, if anything wants mending, has it mended. The room which I occupy
is not furnished in a dashing style, nor has it a _parquet cire_, but it
is on the first floor, and thrice as large and lofty and half as dear as
that I had at Meurice's on the _quatrieme_; and a Titan might stretch
himself down at ease on the bed in which I sleep. The dining-room of the
hotel is not glittering with gilt stucco and chandeliers; but the dinner
served to me there (and served at any hour) is copious and first-rate,--
four dishes of _entremets_, butter, _salame_, celery, radishes, to whet
the appetite,--a soup,--a first course of three dishes, two of meat, one
of vegetables,--a second of three dishes, one of them a roasted fowl,
--salad, a sweet dish,--a mountain of Parmesan, or Gorgonzola, with
peaches, pears, and grapes, for dessert. Gargantua would cry for mercy.
For all this, and a bottle of wine, I pay three francs. For the bath
establishment, close by, I lack the satisfaction, it is true, of seeing
my revered image reproduced _ad infinitum_, by a vista of mirrors; but I
have a bathing-tub like a lake, and linen enough to dry a hippopotamus.
If I go to the theatre, (there are five open at this season, November,
without reckoning three or four minor ones: Italian opera at the
Nazionale and the Carignano; Italian play at the Gerbino and the
Alfieri; French _vaudeville_ at the d'Angennes,)--if I go to the
theatre, the relative obscurity of the house, I own, allows me to enjoy
but imperfectly the display of fine toilets and ivory shoulders; but the
concentration of light on the stage enhances the scenic effect, and is
on the side of Art. At least, they think so here, and like it so. It is
This takes me back some twenty-seven years, to the waiter's answer, _a
propos_ of buttered toast, "It is not the custom," and recalls to me
that important question. Well, even that has not remained stationary in
the general movement. Not that buttered toast has received its great or
even small letters of naturalization. But you have only to ask for it,
and it will be served without demur. So far the neck of routine is
broken. What next? We shall find out on our fourth visit, if God grants
us life. Meanwhile I feel that Turin will be regretted this time.
* * * * *
From the lounge where Fred Shaw was lying, he could easily look out of
the low window into Senter Place, and at the usually "uninterrupted view
across the street." Just now it was interrupted so fully with a driving
snow-storm, that the houses opposite were scarcely visible. The wind
tossed the great flakes up and across and whirled them in circles, as if
loath to let them go at all to the ground. There was something lively
and merry in it, too, as if the flakes themselves were joyful and
dancing in the abundance of their life,--as if they and the wind had a
life of their own, as well as poor stupid mortals, that cowered under
cover, and shut themselves away from the broad, free air. How foolish
it is, to be sure! Here comes one now, turning into the place,--well
covered, a fur tippet about his face,--slapping his arms on his chest,
--a defiant smile on his brown face, and a look of expectancy in his
eyes. Yes! there they are at the window,--wife and children! The smile
melts into a broad laugh, as the snow-flakes dash madly at his eyes and
nose. There they are,--rosy, well, and warm! From the warmest corner of
his heart comes up a quick throb that takes away his breath;--he runs up
the steps,--the door opens,--one, two, three little faces,--it shuts.
The snow-flakes gallop on again, madly, joyfully.
Behind the man who ran up the steps, a girl of eighteen walked swiftly
and firmly over the drifting heaps on the sidewalk. Her eyes glanced
upward at the sky. There are four immense clouds, of a very light gray,
with silver edges, trying to meet over a speck of blue. They tumble and
clamber, and press all for the same point; but whether the wind is too
variable for them to gather in one mass, or for whatever meteorological
reason, she does not guess, but she is attracted to the sky and gazes at
it as she walks rapidly on.
Fred recognizes the blue eyes and glowing face, as they go past the
window. It is only Sister Minnie. Not coming here, after all! No. And
the clouds could not overcome and hide the blue sky. It shone out
serenely and hopefully, like Minnie's own encouraging spirit. She
breasts the storm gallantly. If she can only get round the corner into
C--Street! But here all the tempest seems collected to battle with
her--She wraps herself a little closer, and holds her breath. A few
steps more,--she turns round,--places her back full at the driving
storm,--and draws a long breath. Now for it! The flakes stop suddenly,
as if awed by the quiet determination in the young face. They fall to
the ground, stilly. The blue sky looks out, the sun shimmers white for
five minutes. Minnie walks rapidly, runs up the steps,--rings, and takes
into the house with her a full, fresh life, that vibrates from cellar to
attic in harmonious energy.
The afternoon wanes. Fred has dined. He takes his meerschaum from the
teapoy by his side and examines it critically. How for the color? Is it
just the right shade to stop? No. A very little darker. This is growing
quite beautiful. Almost like an agate. Which of those six is the
prettiest, after all? He thinks a seventh, which he remembers lying
on Little's mantel-piece, outdoes the whole. That of Little's was not
carved, nor silver-mounted even, and yet connoisseurs pronounced it
worth a hundred and fifty dollars. Not one of these is worth ten. He
smokes again, and looks at the cannel coal as it leaps into flame. The
room is very still; not a footfall can be heard in the house;--partly
because the doors are hung with a view to silence and the floors thickly
carpeted, and partly because there are only two servants in-doors, and
those men. The cook cannot speak English, and Fred's own man, a jewel in
his way, is taciturn to a fault. If Fred would be honest with himself,
he would acknowledge that the third-hand chatter of anybody's kitchen
would often be a delightful relief to his solitude. But then how could
he follow up his system of self-culture? That and society are quite
incompatible things. However, he yawns fearfully.
But what then? Has the man no mind, no cultivation, no taste? Things do
not indicate any such want. The walls of the room in which he is
just now lounging have their crimson and gold almost covered with
pictures,--copies of rare Murillos and Raphaels, and an original head of
a boy, by Greuze, with the lips as fresh as they were a hundred years
ago. An exquisite "Dying Stork," in bronze, stands on a bracket below
Sassoferrato's sweetest Madonna, and Retzsch's "Hamlet" lies open on a
side-table. The three Canovian Graces stand in a corner opposite him,
and he glances at the pedestal which stands ready to receive "Eve at the
Fountain." The pedestal has been there two weeks already, waiting for
the "Oxford" to arrive with its many precious Art-burdens. It stands
near the window; it will be a good light for it. Fred wishes, for the
hundredth time, that it would come along. There are books, surely? Oh,
yes, one side of the room is a complete bookcase,--tasteful, inside and
The small room which opens into this luxurious sitting-room has a high
north window, and near it stands Fred's easel, with a half-finished head
on a canvas. Already it has changed its aspect twenty times. Sometimes
it is a Nymph, sometimes a Naiad, sometimes Undine. Once, he dashed all
the green of the wood-nymph's forest, with one stroke, into green water,
intending to put in Undine, with a boat. He has not fulfilled his
intention; but he works on, with the luxurious abandonment of genius to
its spell, be it what it may. He does not care what it ends in. One
of Fred's theories is, that the imagination, by constant and intense
exercise, may so project the image it conceives, as to make it the
subject of ocular contemplation and imitation. Why not? All objects of
sight are painted on a Hat surface, and it is by experience, comparison,
nay, in some measure by the will, that we get our ideas of their shape
and distance. Poor Blake's insane painting of imaginary heads, which he
saw three or six feet from him, was the only true and rational method
of painting at all. Think of your thought,--intensify it,--create
it,--create it perfectly,--define it carefully,--group it gracefully,
--color it exquisitely,--project it, by an intense effort of the will,
into the space before you. There it stands. Now paint it.
He is fond of dwelling on this theory; and as nobody takes the trouble
to contradict him, he has come to believe it truth, through hearing it
often repeated. He has explained it to Minnie more than twenty times,
and says he is almost ready to paint. Not quite. He must lie on the sofa
a year, perhaps two years longer, before he will be able to satisfy
himself. But then, what is a year, two, ten years, in an eternity of
The conception being completely projected from the brain in a visible
form, what remains but the mechanical imitation of it? Anybody can do
that. The thing is the conception. In vain Minnie suggests the vulgar
notion of acquiring facility by drawing and copying things in general.
"Entirely unnecessary, Minnie. What! is not genius before rules? Why
should I imitate Titian's tints, when I can copy my own fancies? When I
get my ideal perfected, you will soon see it real. I can copy it in
half an hour. If it is in me, it will come out of me, like Curran's
"But," says Minnie, doubtfully, looking at the easel where the golden
curls and heavenly eyes of an angel are obscured by the russet-brown of
a beginning wood-nymph, "why don't you keep to one idea, Fred?"
"Oh, because I choose to be fancy-free. I will not have my imagination
trammelled. Let it wander at its own sweet will. You will see, Minnie,
by-and-by. Now, here I have been getting up a head,--not painting it,
you know. Sometimes I can almost see the eyes. But they elude me,--I
haven't quite command of them yet. But I shall get it,--I shall get it
Minnie remembers the same things said to her ever since she was a child.
Fred used to tell it all over to her then. He was so much older than she
was,--fourteen years,--that she was quite flattered by being thought
worthy to listen to his theories of all sorts. However, since she had
come to think for herself, one by one all these theories had faded out
of her mind and seemed like last year's clouds. She had discovered that
it was useless to controvert them, and generally listened with some
pretence of patience. The last time she had said, at the first pause,--
"Now, Fred, I must go. But I want you to contribute a little, if you
will, to my poor's library, and if you will, a little, too, to poor
"Little Sister Minnie," answered Fred, curtly, "don't annoy me. If you
enjoy digging out beggar-women, and adorning them with all sorts of
comforts and pleasures, do it. I don't ask you not to. Will you give me
the same privilege of following my own pleasure?"
"But, Fred!" said Minnie, astonished, "only last week, what did you do
for poor Sophia? More than I could in a year,--two, three years! For
you know I have only my thirty dollars quarterly for everything, and
sometimes I have so little to give!"
"Why do you give, then, dear Minnie?" said Fred, languidly smiling.
"Oh, if you ask that, why did you give, last Monday? You gave--let me
see--fifty-four dollars; every cent you had in your purse. Oh,
the things I bought for her with it! Paid rent, bought medicine,
blankets,--oh, so many needed comforts! Now, why did _you_ give?" said
Minnie, with a triumphant smile,--"for now I have him," she thought.
"To save myself pain,--that's all."
Minnie looked puzzled.
"Nothing else, I do assure you. No very great virtue in that. The fact
was, I was bored, and, to tell the truth, somewhat shocked, by your
'poor Sophia's' ailments, which I came upon so inopportunely,--and I
was glad to empty my pockets to get rid of the uncomfortable feeling."
"Well, then, save yourself pain again, Fred,--for I assure you she
suffers constantly for want of simple alleviations, which a small sum of
money would afford her. Oh, she needs so many things, and everything is
so dear! And she has so many helpless children, and no husband, and so
bowed with rheumatism"--
"Minnie! excuse me for interrupting you; but can you find nothing but
rheumatism to talk about? It is of all subjects the least tasteful to
"My dear Fred!" And there Minnie stopped. She was both hurt and puzzled.
Fred laughed. His good-humor returned at the sight of her mystified
face, and the opportunity of explaining some of his theories of morals.
"In the first place, Minnie, what do we live for?"
Minnie had not thought. She was only eighteen, and had acted.
"Well, I dare say you have never considered the subject. I have, a great
deal. You see, Minnie, we are born to pursue happiness. You allow that."
"Yes,--I suppose so," said Minnie.
"Well, then, if I look at the wrong thing, and call it happiness, it is
my mistake, and I only shall pay for it. You find your happiness in an
active life and works of mercy. Very well, do so. You devote a certain
part of your income, small as it is, to that sort of pleasure. I devote
mine to my pleasures. They are different from yours. You might call them
selfish. What then? So are yours. I don't say you are not modest and
humble, and all that; but you do enjoy your old women, and your fussy
charity-schools. Very well. That is all I do with my drawing, my
lounging, my smoking, my reading. And I think, Minnie," added Fred,
laughing, "I have the added grace of humility; for I am far from making
a merit of my sort of life."
"No,--it would be difficult to make a merit of it," said Minnie.
That was clear enough. Fred loved to have her for an auditor. So long as
she could not see over him, he was as good as infinite to her.
"In the first place, Minnie, you must allow, it is a duty to surround
ourselves with the beautiful in all things. It conduces to the highest
self-culture; and self-culture is our first duty."
"Is it? Surely, it cannot be! Oh, you mean we ought rather to attend to
our own faults than those of others?"
"I mean as I say. Self-culture is our first duty, both moral and
intellectual. I might add, also, that to take care of Number One is a
dictate of common prudence. You allow that? Well. First, then, the body
cared for, all right. Then the morals,--attend to your own, and let
other people's alone. Then, thirdly, your intellect. Now, then, it
becomes a positive duty, 'the duty that lies nearest to me,' to
cultivate that. And to do that, Minnie, I am obliged to draw on myself
to my very last dollar. To refine the taste by familiarity with the
highest objects of taste, to appreciate Art, to develop the intellect,
to bring one's self to conceive and grasp the Universal, the Beautiful,
to raise one's self in the scale of created things by creative fancies
imitating the Highest,--ah! in fact, Minnie, self-culture becomes a
duty,--indeed, our first duty."
Something in Minnie's face--it was not a smile--made Fred turn the
subject a little.
"Now, really, if every one would take care of one, and that one himself,
don't you see there would be no more want or suffering in this weary
world? no more need of blankets or dispensaries? Each is happy,
comfortable, and self-cultured in his proportion. A universal harmony
prevails. Like the planets, self-revolving, and moving, each in his
chosen orbit, they shout and sing for joy. How much better this than
to be eccentrically darting off in search of somebody's tears to wipe,
somebody's wounds to bandage,--who, indeed, would have neither wounds
nor grief, if they would follow my simple rule!"
Minnie laughed a little at her brother's grave sophistry, but had no
wish to contest the point with him.
"It is no merit in me, but, as you say, rather self-indulgence, to be
looking up and relieving destitute cases. But it would be merit in you,
if you don't like it; and you might have all that, and none of the
Her bright face glowed; and Fred liked to look at her when she was
excited; the coloring beat Titian's, he thought.
"You don't know how painful to me it is to hold out empty hands to so
But now Minnie's face looked so sorrowful that there was nothing
specially beautiful in the coloring, and Fred said, impatiently,--
"You bore me, Minnie. I am waiting to take my afternoon nap."
And he turned positively over towards the wall.
The sight of Minnie, swiftly walking through the driving storm to-day,
brought up to Fred's memory all the talk they had had in that very room,
he lying in the same place, a fortnight ago. Since that day he had not
seen Minnie, except casually; and, indeed, she seemed very busy and
very happy, if one might judge by her lighted face and her laden arm.
Something keener than philosophy, subtiler than Epicurus, pricked Fred,
as Minnie vanished into the cloud of snowflakes.
He glanced around the apartment. It was still luxurious; but "custom had
staled the infinite variety" of its ornament and furnishing. Already he
was dissatisfied with this and that. Where to place a new bas-relief
that had struck him at Cotton's the day before, and which he had
purchased on the spot, without considering that there was no room for
it in the library? There it leaned against the wall,--not so big as the
Vicar's family-picture, but quite as much in the way.
"The room looks loaded. I ought to have a gallery for these things. I
wonder if I couldn't buy Carter's house, and push a gallery through from
the top of my stairway."
He touched the bell, and lay down again.
Martin entered softly, let down the crimson curtains, so as to exclude
the vanishing light, and stirred the crimson cannel into a newer
"This weather frets my nerves, Martin. My face aches. Give me the bottle
of chloroform in my chamber."
He inhaled the subtile fluid two or three times, and handed it back to
Martin. It made no difference, he said. He would try to sleep. So Martin
went out on tiptoe and closed the door.
The chloroform probably did relieve him, for he thought no more of the
uneasiness in his face; but he was not only not at all sleepy, but
every sense seemed wide awake,--wide awake to its utmost capacity of
perception. It was as if a misty veil were suddenly removed from before
his eyes, and he saw, what indeed had always been there, but what in his
abstraction or inattention he had never before noticed. For instance, he
noticed at once that Martin had not quite closed the curtains, but had
left an inch or two open, and the window open besides. The air, however,
had grown soft, and the wind must have gone down, for it did not stir
the drapery. He looked again, to be certain he was right. Yes,--there
was an inch clear, where the wind might come in, if it liked. Martin was
growing blind or stupid. However, he did not so much think that. On the
whole, it was more likely that his own senses were sharpening.
That would be a good thing, though,--to be wiser and sharper and
clearer-sighted than all the rest of the world! He would like that
advantage. And why might he not have it? Already he perceived a marked
difference from his usual sensuous condition. It was unnatural,
preternatural,--and yet, a state which could be produced at will. It
was easily done. Just homoeopathy, in fact. A little sniff, a minute
dose, and he could see and hear with a miraculous clearness; but people
would take a dozen, and then they grew stupid.
He looked again around the room. Was it fancy, now? Perhaps it was. It
was not likely the Madonna was winking in a heretic's parlor. Besides,
it was the same sort of no-motion he had watched many a time in the
twilight, when the door seemed to swing backward and forward in the
dusky air, following the dilation and contraction of his own eyes. He
tried it now on the Madonna. He opened his eyes as widely as possible,
and the drooping lids of the picture evidently half-raised themselves
from the dark, soft orbs. He nearly closed his own, and hers bent again
in serenest contemplation.
He looked at the bronze figure of the "Dying Stork," which was placed
below the picture, and started to see that it moved also, and with a
strange, unnatural, galvanic sort of movement, like the "animated oat,"
which moves when placed on the hand after being warmed a moment in the
mouth. The legs sprung against the reeds and flags, in the same way.
Lastly, he looked at the bas-relief which stood near, leaning against
the wall. It was very, very strange. Had the old fable of Pygmalion a
truth in it, then? And could the same genius that created also give life
and warmth to its productions? Beneath the marble he could see the soft,
living pulse, distinctly; and the wind that blew over the mountains,
beyond the river, ruffled the waves about the tiny boat. Even the star
above the child's head sparkled in the depths of the sky.
Fred was delighted. "It is enchantment!" he said. But no,--it was one
of those miracles that have not yet become commonplace. The poetic life
that his perceptions were now able to enjoy, in inanimate nature, would
be such a perpetual gratification to his taste,--such an incentive to
explorations and discoveries! He could not felicitate himself enough.
"A thousand times better than the microscope," said he to himself
again. "Atoms are annoying and disgusting to look at, with their
incomprehensible and frightful minuteness, and their horrible celerity.
One does not like to think that everything is composed of myriads, be
they ever so beautiful,--which they are not, that ever I could see, but
chiefly all head or a wriggling tail. Bah! This is much better. Hark! I
can hear the waves dash,--the hope-song of the child,--and the breeze
moving against the delicate sails!
"How delightful it will be to travel, with this new-found faculty!
Whenever I choose, I can have the talking bird, the singing tree, and
the laughing water! I always thought those peeps into irrational nature
the chief charm of the Arabian tales. How little did I dream of ever
being able to read with my own eyes the riddle of the world! By-the-way,
let me look at my Graces, and see if they, too, are conscious forms of
He turned to the group. Alas! even the Graces were not proof against the
ordeal of constant society. Perhaps, if he had reflected, he would
not have expected it. In truth, it was surprising to see how many
disagreeable sentiments they all three contrived to express, without
untwining their arms, or loosening their fond and graceful hold on each
other. A slight elevation of the eyebrow, a curve of the lovely mouth,
or a shrug from the Parian shoulders,--how expressive,--how surprising!
But Fred need not have been surprised; they never set up for Faith,
Hope, and Charity. What he most wondered at was that they still looked
so lovely, when they were clearly full of all pagan naughtiness. They
might as well have been women.
Fred pondered on this for some time. Then, it seemed, everything had
a latent life in it. He had suspected as much. "There is always a
something," said he, "in what we make, not only beyond what we intend
to make, but different from it. We study a long time the powers of
position,--in chess, for example;--how much is produced by one move
that we did not anticipate, and perhaps cannot ascertain,--certainly not
prevent! How many times we are wittier than we meant to be,--striking
out, by our unconscious blow, thoughts related to the one we utter, but
far more brilliant,--and ourselves becoming conscious of the very good
thing we have said only by its effect on the company! So it is, I fancy,
with all our mental movements. The brain acts independently of the will
in sleep. Why not, in a great measure, when awake? Probably, as all
Nature has a movement of its own, so all Art may be made to have, by
the infusion and absorption of so much of the creative energy of the
artist,--hidden to the common eye, but palpitating to the instructed
touch, throbbing or sparkling to the instructed eye. Yes, it must be
so. The south-wind sighs a thousand times more mournfully through the
keyhole than Thalberg can make it do on the piano. What music there was
in those stones the man brought round, the other day, and played on with
a stick! And now, the sound here from the gas-tube, how wailing, how
sorrowful!--now, how triumphant!"
Fred was so delighted with watching the gas-burner, and listening to the
wild music which floated through it, that he did not at first observe
that the wind had risen and was blowing almost a gale. Presently, in his
speculations as to the cause of such a sudden flood of melody, he hit on
the possibility of a current of air.
"But, then, how comes the air to be so full of music? Never mind,--I'll
put the window down."
However, just as he was putting it down, a snow-flake, one of a hundred,
all pressing for the same point, flew past him, and alighted on the
green velvet tabouret.
It was nothing,--only a snow-flake,--and another time, Fred would have
thought nothing of it. But in the novel awakening of his faculties, even
a snow-flake had a new interest. With intense eagerness he watched the
movement of the little thing,--and yet, feeling that he might be on
forbidden ground, he had the presence of mind to seem not to see or
hear. If inanimate Nature were once to suspect his new insight, what a
bustle there would be! He almost closed his eyes, and lay still, where
he could watch and yet seem asleep. His prudence and caution were well
The snow-flake was, as he suspected, as much alive as the wind; and that
was singing, shouting, dying away in ecstasies, at this very moment.
He glanced at her. Lithe, sparkling, graceful, she gathered her soft
drapery about her, and stood poised delicately on one foot, while she
looked around the apartment in which she found herself. Fred could see
that she was moulded more beautifully than the Graces,--by so much more
as Nature is fairer than all Art,--and that she had an inward pure
coldness, beside which Diana's was only stone. Yet it was not
indifference, like that of the wild huntress,--not an incapacity to
feel, but only that her time had not come; when it should, she would
melt as well as another. Now she stood still and calm. She did not
once look at him. She had seen human beings before,--plenty of them.
Something else attracted her,--thrilled her, evidently; for the
faintest rose-color suffused her beautiful form; she changed her
attitude, and bent forward her graceful head.
Something about "warming his hands by thinking on the frosty Caucasus"
passed through Fred's mind, and some law of association impelled him to
look at the fire. It was queer enough, that, as many times as he had
looked at that fire by the hour together, he had never before noticed
its shape or expression. Only last night, he had watched it, dancing and
flickering just as it did now, and never; once suspected the truth!
Mailed figures! Yes, plenty of them,--golden-helmeted and sworded like
the seraphim! A glorious band, gathering, twining, shooting past each
other,--jousting, tilting,--with blazing banners, and a field broader
than that of the "Cloth of Gold"; for this reached to and mingled with
the clouds--yea, tinted them with flame-color and roses,--and garlanded
the earth with crimson blossoms that nestled among her forests on the
far-off horizon. What a wide field, indeed! And how far might these
blazes and flames go, when once they set out? To the stars, perhaps.
Fred did not see what should stop them. The atmosphere might, possibly.
He must study that out.
Meanwhile how strangely far he could see! What a power it was! What a
new interest it gave to Nature! Nature, he must confess, had always
seemed rather flat to him, on the whole. He had always liked
the imitations better than the original,--pictures better than
people,--busts better than philosophers. But now the case is altered. He
has got what his friend Norris calls "glorification-spectacles." Now he
can have perpetual amusement. Why, it is vastly better than Asmodeus
peeping in at the tops of houses. By the same token, snow-flakes are
more interesting than humanity.
Speaking of snow-flakes, what does he see, but that she is evidently
yielding to the soft enchantment of the nearest flame-god,--drawn
thither by resistless affinity, and melting, in his burning arms, to
the most delicate vapor! Snowflake no more, yet not absorbed nor lost!
Rather taking her true place, transported from the earth-tempests to a
warmer and higher sphere of action.
That might be, but not yet. In their new vaporous condition, in which
both had lost some of their prominent qualities, they had acquired new
relations, perhaps new duties. At all events, they did not at once
ascend to their kindred ether,--but swam, glided, floated, above
and around, and finally separated. Watching them keenly, Fred could
distinctly see that the sometime snow-flake left her sphere and came
gradually towards himself. As the vaporous shape floated nearer, it also
grew larger, so that, although Fred could not have said certainly that
the size was human, it relieved him from the impression of any fairy
or elf or sprite. No, it was nothing of that sort. It was just the
gentlest, calmest, serenest face and form in the world,--with the same
look of pure sweetness he had noticed on her first entrance,--with a
peculiar surprised look in her wide-open eyes, that he had seen but in
one human face. As well tell the truth,--the face, expression, and all,
were as like Annie Peyton's, as her portrait, drawn in water-colors,
could possibly have been.
The shape sat down by him,--her vaporous garment still folding softly
around her, and her clear, open eyes fixed on him. There was no need of
speech, for he read her face as if written by Heaven's own hand; and the
coarse and selfish philosophy which had sufficed partially to stun and
confuse Minnie fled at the presence of the spirit. Not a word still from
the calm, sweet face. It looked on him with pity and surprise. Then all
the ideas and convictions that throng on the mind warped, but not lost,
pressed on him. He hid his face in the sofa-cushions.
His presence of mind returned as a new thought struck him. It was an
ocular delusion, surely. He sprang up, took three or four turns across
the room, rubbed his eyes smartly, and took his seat again. For a moment
he would not look towards the chair. When at last he did look, the airy,
soft form was still there, looking steadily into his eyes.
"What an idea!" exclaimed he, impatiently. "I might put my hands through
it, like the flame of a candle. It is nothing but vapor. What is it made
of? Nothing but a snow-flake and the gas from cannel coal. I saw it,
myself, melting and falling together into this beautiful shape. But then
it is only a shape. It is not a body. Oh, but then it may be a soul! Who
knows what souls are made of? Snow-flakes and vapor, perhaps. Who knows
He looked about the room. Everything was in its natural and usual place.
The fire burned merrily; the wind swept fitfully without, and all
was quiet within. A very uncomfortable feeling, of mingled awe and
curiosity, took possession of him. He did not quite like to look at the
shape. He thought,--
"Can this be the spiritual body that St. Paul says is to supersede the
natural one? If this is indeed, the soul of Annie Peyton,--why, she
knows, somehow, what is in mine. And, by Jove! I can see her soul now,
too, without any trouble! She can't hide her real feelings now from me,
any more than I can my character from her. There's some good in it,
With some effort, he raised his eyes,--very respectfully, indeed;
for though he was only about to look at a soul, he was full as much
overpowered as if it had been the body. His eyes fell.
"If I dared to look! But she knows how I feel. I suppose she sees me
now,--shivering from head to foot like a----Somehow, I can't look her
in the eyes. However, this won't do!" And he looked quickly and timidly
into the now smiling face.
He need not have been so timid. If a soul could discern evil, it could,
also, good; and this spirit was quick to see the last. Without a
word,--but when were words necessary to souls?--with only a glance, she
expressed so much love and pity for him, that Fred was ashamed to look
her in the face. "Oh! if she could really see him," he thought, "would
she look so?" Perhaps so. For the Intelligence that sees the evil
can clearest of all see the mitigations, the causes, and the sore
temptations; and the fruit of the widest knowledge is the widest love.
Something like this passed from the soul that sat opposite Fred into his
awakening and sensitive consciousness:--
"You have never tasted the pleasures of useful activity," the sweet face
said. "Come with me, and we will look together, and see what good may
come, and also what enjoyment, from it."
Now it was, for the first time, that Fred fully understood his position.
It came like a gleam of light on his puzzled intellect, and made that
quite clear which had before been so mystical and cloudy, that he had
been ready to rub his eyes, and to doubt, almost, the evidence of his
senses. He remembered his old and a thousand times repeated theory of
"projected images." Here it was. Instead of a fancy, a thought, here was
the whole of Annie Peyton's soul (which, to be sure, had often enough
occupied his mind) projected from his own, perhaps, so as to be a
subject of contemplation to his bodily eyes. Or, what was more likely,
the soul itself of Annie Peyton might have left her body for a time in
a dream. It was among the possibilities, though he had never before
believed it to be. But then, again, how could his soul go off on an
exploring tour with Annie's? His soul was safe in his body, and that,
namely, the body, lying on the sofa,--the room close, the window down.
Just then, he glanced toward the window, and remembered that he had not
fastened it at all. There was room enough for a soul to pass easily. But
then, again, how was his soul to pass,--to get out, in the first place,
of his body? Easily enough. The concentrated effort of will, which could
give shape to a fancy, and place it outside the eye, could, by sustained
action, separate all the perceptive powers from the senses,--in short,
the spirit from its envelope.
"To know, to perceive, to suffer, to rejoice, do not require skin and
bones. The heart weeps while the eye is dry; the lips smile while the
heart is breaking. One might have a conventional soul,--to keep house,
as it were, and do all the honors of society, while the real one went
abroad to regions of truth and beauty, and bathed in living waters!"
While Fred continued so to think and speculate, and also to separate,
and, as it were, classify his ideas, he was pleased to perceive,
that, without any very strong volition on his part, but only from the
analytical processes of his reason, that portion of his mind which
perceived and enjoyed the truth of things became condensed and separated
from the conventional, the factitious, and the merely sensual. The
qualities, or states, or whatever the metaphysician calls them, fell
off him, as garments do in a dream, and left himself, his very self,
separate, and a little distant, from his body. He perceived this rather
than saw it. He knew it, but could not assert it. The body, with its
bodily wants and limitations, leaned on the couch, half slumberously;
while the mind, himself, full of vague aspirations, keen intellectual
hunger, and overlaid with error, obstinacy, and the thick crust of
self-contemplation, which stifles all true progress,--these assimilated
qualities made himself, what he felt he was, not an attractive object to
himself more than to anybody else. All his perceptions pointed inward,
and cramped and narrowed his existence. He felt very, very small.
"This is strange," he reasoned, "that I should have such a sense of
contraction! I crowd on myself, as it were. My thoughts hit me, press
me, instead of elevating me. I cannot see why; for the habit of looking
up to no goodness or intelligence but the Supreme must surely be a good
one, and self-education and development the noblest process for a human
He said this in a mechanical sort of way, as if it were a lesson he
remembered at school. But it made no impression on him, and did not
relieve his difficulty. He knew it, somehow, to be false, and felt
it falling off as he spoke, as if it were the last remnant of gauzy
Fred had never been fond of church-going, nor was he much given to
reading the Holy Scriptures. Indeed, he rather affected the style of the
Latter-Day Saints, who look for a better and nobler Messiah than came in
the Son of Mary. But just now, fifty texts of Scripture, which he must
have learned long ago at his mother's knee, came crowding upon his
"Though I have all gifts, and have not charity, I am nothing."
"He that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."
"He that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen, how can he love God,
whom he hath not seen?"
"Little children, love one another."
"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."
And so on,--interminably. In a helpless, vague way, he looked at the
shadow by his side.
"You like pictures, and paint them," said she, speaking for the first
time;--and the voice was precisely the tone he had recognized in the
music of the wind; he had thought then it was like hers;--"look with me
at these two."
They were, indeed, magnificent pictures. They reached from floor to
ceiling. Fred was artist enough to enjoy fully the wide sweep of sky and
land,--the mountains in the distance, and the firmament studded with
stars. A figure wandered up and down the space, sometimes to the tops
of the mountains, sometimes to the clefts of the rocks. When he saw the
stars, he calculated their distances;--when he saw the moon, he weighed
her, and guessed about the atmosphere on the other side;--when the gold
and diamonds shone in the clefts of the rocks, he gathered and analyzed
them. The Leviathan he studied and classed. He groped and reached
constantly, and, having gathered, looked at his gatherings,
dissatisfied. He was ever searching out knowledge. Meanwhile, a gnat put
him in a passion, and unleavened bread destroyed his peace. Though he
might sleep on rose-leaves, as he could not command the wind, they came
often to double under him, and annoy him with bad dreams.
"When shall I be a disembodied spirit, and no longer subject to the
petty annoyances that belong to the flesh?" cried he, fretfully. "My
knowledge, too, is a moth,--only vexing me by a sense of the limitations
of my condition. If I could grasp Nature,--if I could handle the
stars,--if I could wake the thunder,--if I could summon the cloud! That
would be worth something,--to send the comets on their errands! But what
avails it, to know that they go?--how far from me when they start, and
how many millions of miles before they turn to come back? If I could
move only one of these subtile energies that mock me while I look them
in the face!"
The philosopher dozed. A storm came on, and swept over all creation.
When he awoke, it was clearing away, and one side of the heavens was
heaped with gold-lined clouds, and the darkness of the other spanned
with the seven-hued bow. He looked admiringly at the clouds and
critically at the rainbow, and added to his memorandum-book.
"What use?" said he, mournfully; "delicate dew, and refracted light!"
He continued to ponder and murmur, to explore, to ascertain, to grumble.
He had rheumatic pains, for the elements had no mercy on him; he rubbed
himself as he was able, and added to his stores of knowledge. He was
very, very learned. When he reached a shelter, he lay down. If no human
love welcomed him, and no gentle lip soothed him, he had self-culture,
especially in the sciences.
All this Fred knew as soon as he looked at him.
"If he were wise, he would not stop at knowledge, which is, of course,
unsatisfactory,--but dive beyond, as I have done, into the essence of
things," said Fred to himself. "If he could pierce through the veil that
covers all things, he would find amusement enough to last a lifetime. In
vegetable life, the jealousies and passions of flowers,--in the quiet
eventfulness of the mineral kingdom, to see forms of living beauty in
crystals,--finally, in all the under-mechanism of creation, what a
fund of enjoyment and instruction! I think I should never cease to be
delighted and entertained."
Fred glanced from the picture to the fireplace. The shovel and tongs
were just laughing at him; and though they composed their countenances
immediately, he had caught the expression, and was excessively annoyed.
Philosophy at length came to his aid, especially as the poker expressed
only profound deference, preserving a martial attitude and immovable
features. After all, why should he care for a pair of tongs? One must
cultivate phlegm, if one is a philosopher; and a shovel, after all, is
not so bad as a pretty woman. He heard the cool wind distinctly blowing
across the mountains in the picture, and saw the stars coming out again.
Then Fred knew he had been looking at a diorama, and that the exhibition
He heard a hearty laugh at a little distance, and perceived that the
picture, which at first had seemed to spread out over the whole wall,
was really divided into two parts, something like an exhibition he
remembered of dissolving views. This was delightful. The first picture
faded out into gloom, and gave place to a bright, cheerful room in the
third story of a house in the city. There were only two rooms,--this,
and a small anteroom. The furniture was simple, even poor. Through the
window the snow was seen falling, and the blaze flickered, in cheerful
contrast, on the hearth. A woman, neither young nor pretty, stood with
an astonished expression, and an elderly man laughed loudly, and sat
down before the fire.
"What in the world shall I do?" said the woman.
"Do, my dear?--why, bring me my dressing-gown"; said he, laughing again
so cheerily, that it was contagious; and as she brought the coarse
wadded garment he asked for, she laughed too.
"A pretty kettle of fish!" said she.
"Yes! Now what shall we do? Not a dollar in our pockets!"
"Nor a coat to your back!" broke in the woman.
Then they both laughed again, loudly and heartily.
Fred remembered now what they were laughing at. The man was a minister,
well known in Boston, and the woman was his wife. He had just come in,
running through the storm, and almost out of breath.
"Wife! my coat! Don't you see I am in my shirt-sleeves? I've got a
snow-bank on my back!"
"Why! where in the world--what have you done with your coat?"
"Oh! that I am almost ashamed to tell you; it seems such a parading sort
o' thing to do in the streets! But you may depend, I didn't stand at the
corners long, to be seen of men, in this driving storm! Fact was, wife,
I just took it off of my back, and gave it to poor old M'Carty;--he'd
nothing on but rags, and was fairly shaking with the cold. I knew I'd
another to home,--and what does a man want of two coats? One's enough
for anybody. Besides, didn't our Lord particularly tell his disciples
not to have but one? Say, now, wife!"
The wife looked blank and embarrassed.
"Well, wife! what now?"
"Only"----and she paused again.
"Only what? Out with it! You think it was silly! But, wife, you'd 'a'
done the same thing;--you couldn't 'a' helped it, nohow. Providence
seemed to 'a' cast him in my way o' purpose. I tell you, wife, it was as
plain-spoken as it could be,--'Be ye warmed!' Why, you'd 'a' done the
same thing, wife!"
"My goodness! I _have_ done it, husband! A man and his wife and three
little children came along, not half an hour ago, looking so miserable
and cold, that, as I thought, as you say, you had one coat, and that
was all you really needed, I just out with the other, and put it on the
man's back. The thankfullest creature you ever saw!"
And here the man had broken into the hearty laugh Fred heard.
When the man put on his dressing-gown, which was comfortable for the
fireside, the wife renewed her question. He answered with a bright
"The Son of Man, my dear we know, had not where to lay his head; but
then he always trusted in God. God never fails his children. Thanks to
Him!" added he, reverently, and raising loving eyes to heaven, as if he
really spoke to somebody there,--"Thanks to Him! there's bountiful hands
and tender hearts, a plenty of 'em, in the city of Boston. I've only got
to strike, and the waters 'll flow out! yes,--rivers of water!"
The wife looked down, and said, meditatively, "It makes me think what
our dear Saviour said to poor Peter,--'O thou of little faith, wherefore
didst thou doubt?'"
The man answered in a clear, joyful tone, "Oh, you won't doubt more'n
half a minute to time, wife!--and I won't doubt at all!"
With that, the two aged Christians struck up a sweet Wesleyan melody;
and that, too, was in the same soft minor key that Fred had heard
singing through the gas-burner. They finished the little hymn, and
the woman scraped some corn from a cob into the corn-popper. In a few
minutes, she had filled a large bowl with the parched corn.
"I declare, they look like them hyacinths in the window,--don't they?
What a lovely white color!"
"I think, wife," answered the man, as he took a handful of the kernels
and looked at them, "this corn is a good deal like human nature. When
we're all shut up in ourselves, we're poor creatures;--but touch us with
the live coals of the Holy Spirit, and we turn out something refreshing.
Fact is, wife, we're good for nothing, till we're turned inside out."
The picture faded. It was a very homely one.
Fred turned to the soul by his side, but she was no longer visible.
"Escaped, somehow! I wonder, now, how?"
But he had scarcely spoken, when he saw, by a slight movement of the
door, that she must have gone out that way. It was just closing. With a
tremendous effort of will, he tried to follow her, but in vain. He
had been so much in the habit of looking after himself only, that his
untrained faculties refused to obey him. As a last resource, he sank
passively towards the form which still lay prone on the couch. How he
was again to join soul and body he could not guess. But, apparently,
there was no difficulty. The spirit which had called him out of himself,
for a little while, had departed, and, with her, both the power and the
desire of separation. He joined his sensuous existence with ease and
pleasure, and with no perceptible lapse of consciousness. No sooner had
he obtained the use of his tongue, than he made an inarticulate noise.
The door, which had been all that time swinging, opened again, and the
velvet-footed Martin appeared.
"Who went out, Martin?"
"Out of here, Sir? No one, Sir."
"Who opened the door, then?--What's that in your hand?"
"The chloroform, Sir, you just handed me."
"Just handed you?"
"Yes, Sir;--you gave it back to me not a quarter of a minute ago."
"Have I been asleep, Martin?"
"I should judge not, Sir. You didn't take more than two sniffs at the
bottle. I just had time to go to the door when you spoke to me."
"Martin,--is the window close?"
"Perfectly close, Sir."
"You may go."
* * * * *
PALFREY'S AND ARNOLD'S HISTORIES.[A]
[Footnote A: _History of New England during the Stuart Dynasty._ By John
Gorham Palfrey. Vol. I. Boston: Little, Brown, & Co. 1858. 8vo. pp. 638.
_History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations._ By
Samuel Greene Arnold & Co. 1859. 8vo. pp. 574.]
The London "Times," in its comments upon a recent desponding utterance
of foreboding for our republic, by President Buchanan, in his Fort
Duquesne Letter, affirms that the horizon of England is clearing while
our own is darkening. Mr. Bright, true to the omen of his name, thinks
better of our country. He seizes upon all fit occasions, as in his late
speech at Manchester, to hold up to his countrymen the opposite view,
so far at least as concerns our republic. He loves to recommend to
his constituents American notions and institutions. Perhaps it may be
allowed,--though this is hardly to be affirmed, if any decisive argument
depends upon it,--that the peculiar institutions, political and social,
of the two nations, have been on trial long enough, side by side,
through the same race of men and in the pursuit of the same interests,
to enable a wise discerner to strike the balance between them, in
respect to their efficiency and their security as intrusted with the
welfare and destiny of millions. If we can learn to look at the
large experiment in that light, all that helps to put the real issue
intelligently before us will be of equal interest to us, from whichever
side of the water it may present itself. For ourselves, we believe that
the best security against despair for our country is a knowledge of its
history. If the study of our annals does not train up patriots among us,
we must consent to lose our heritage. We are glad to be assured that our
historians do not intend to allow the republic to decay before they have
written out in full the tale of its life. Their records, well digested,
may prove to be the pledges of its vigor and permanence.
There are those in the land, who, for reasons suggested by President
Buchanan, and for others, of darker omen, to which he makes no
reference, do despair, or greatly fear. What with an honest hate of some
public iniquities among us,--the tolerance and strengthening of which
many of our politicians regard as the vital conditions of our national
existence,--and a dread of the excesses incident to our large liberty,
it is not strange that some of our own citizens should accord in
sentiment with the London "Times." Probably the same proportion of
persons may be now living among the native population of our national
soil, appeared at the era of the Revolution, preferring English
institutions to our own, and predicting that her government will outlast
our own. Discussions raised upon the present aspect of affairs in either
country will not settle the issue thus opened. A real knowledge of our
own institutions and a reasonable confidence in their permanence are
to be found only in an intelligent and very intimate acquaintance with
their growth and development. In our histories are to be found the
materials of our prophecies.
We welcome, therefore, with infinite satisfaction, the two admirable
volumes whose titles we have set down. For reasons which will appear
before we conclude our remarks upon them, we find it convenient to unite
their titles and to write about them together; but for distinctness of
subject and marked individuality in the mode of treatment, no two books
can stand more widely apart. Abilities and culture and aptitudes of the
very highest order have been brought to the composition of each of
them. An exhaustive use of abundant materials, and a most conscientious
fidelity in digesting them into high-toned philosophical narrations, are
marked features of both the volumes, and we will not venture upon the
ungracious office of instituting comparisons, in these respects, between
their authors. We must make a slight report of the story of each of
them, and of the method and spirit in which it is told, and then
confront them for mutual cross-examination.
Our historians have learned to write their books with full as much
reference to their being read abroad as at home. The problem with which
they first have to deal, therefore, is, how to make the men and the
incidents and the cardinal points of our annals look as large to
foreigners as they do to us. Many of our town-histories are written in
the tone and style of Mr. Poole's "Little Pedlington,"--the epithet
_Little_ being suppressed in the title, but obtruded on every page. The
intensity and emphasis of our historic strain appear to foreigners to be
disproportionate to the subject-matter of the story. Mr. Punch always
represents a Yankee as larger than his garments. His trousers never
cover his ankles; his cuffs stop far short of his wrists; his long neck
extends beyond the reach of even his capacious collar; and the bone in
him lacks amplitude of muscle. But Mr. Punch, with all his wisdom, does
not fully understand the composition of a Yankee, as the greatest common
multiple of a Teuton, Dane, Norman, Frank, Kelt, and Englishman. Dr.
Palfrey's volume will largely conciliate our cousins beyond the water
to our own conceit of our annals, because, more distinctly and cogently
than any previous record in pamphlet or folio, it identifies the springs
and purposes of our heroic age with an era and a type of men which
English historians now exalt on their own noblest pages.
Dr. Palfrey has had precisely that natural endowment, training,
experience, mental discipline, and intercourse with the world in public
and private relations, to furnish him with the best qualifications for
the work to which he has devoted the autumn of an eminently useful and
honored life. The sinewy fibre of his theme is religion. And he is a
religious man of the highest pattern, deeply skilled in its scholarly
lore, erudite in its Scriptural and controversial elements, and
practised in the sagacity which it imparts for understanding and
interpreting human nature. Religion enters into the subject-matter of
his narrative, not so much in its philosophical bearings as in its
civico-ecclesiastical and institutional relations; where it becomes the
spine of the social fabric, traversed and perforated with the nervous
life-chords for all the members of the organism. His education has
been that of the highest ideal of New England,--through books and men,
through professional duties and public services, bringing him into
relations with youth, with men and women, and with the forms and the
routine work of civil and political administrations. He has at his
command the language of devotion, the rhetoric and logic of philosophy,
and the technicalities of jurisprudence. To his personal friends, and
they are very many in every walk of life, it is a matter of grateful
recognition that he escaped from a political arena whose conflicts were
not congenial with his delicacy of taste or of conscience, in season to
give the vigor of his best years to the composition of a work which will
spread his fame to other lands and identify it forever with what is of
most reverent and honored remembrance on his native soil.
The historian's work, when done after the best pattern, involves a duty
to his readers and a privilege for himself. To them he is bound to
present all the essential facts, authenticated, illustrated, and
carefully disposed in their natural relations. For himself, having done
this, he is at liberty to construct his own theory, to follow his own
philosophy, and to pronounce judicial decisions. The highest exaction to
be made of an historian, and the loftiest function which he could claim
to exercise, are expressed in these two conditions. The noble privilege
and opportunity secured in the latter condition are the only adequate
reward for the drudgery of the labor required in the former. It would
be foolish to raise a question whether it be more essential for an
historian to be faithful in his narration or to be wise in his comments.
Only the statement we have made will serve to remind us how essential
the philosophy of human nature is to throw life into a record of old
The two books in our hands, where their specific themes are identical,
substantially accord in their relation of facts,--allowing for a few
exceptional cases,--but they differ widely in their philosophy. Very
much of the fresh interest which both of them will create in their
respective subjects will be found in the collisions of their philosophy.
Dr. Palfrey had a favorable opportunity for undertaking to write anew
the history of New England. Those who have yet to acquaint themselves
with that history say there was no occasion for this reiterated labor.
If such persons will merely read over his notes, without wasting any of
their precious time upon his text, they will discover their mistake.
There are in those notes matters new even to adepts. All the recent
materials which have been lavishly contributed from public and private
stores by public and private researches amount in sum and in importance
to an actual necessity for their digest and incorporation into a new
history. Dr. Palfrey has used these with a most patient fidelity, and
his references to them and his extracts from them convey to his readers
the results of an amount of labor which the most grateful of them will
not be likely to overestimate. While he speaks to us in his text, he
allows those whom we most wish to hear to speak to us in his rich and
well-chosen excerpts from a mountain-heap of authorities.
The Dedication of the volume to Dr. Sparks has in it a rare felicity,
which is to be referred to two facts: first, that the writer had some
peculiarly touching and grateful things to say; and, second, that
he knew how to say them in language fitted to the sentiment. In his
Preface, he announces his purpose with its plan, refers us to his
authorities and sources, and recognizes his obligations to individual
friends. Some of the choicest matters in his Notes are the results of
his own personal research in England.
The limit which he sets for himself will carry forward his History to
the time of the English Revolution, thus embracing our annals during the
vitality of our first Charter. That Charter, its origin, transfer, and
subsequent service as the basis of government, the reiterated efforts
to wrest it, and the persistent resolution to hold it, give to it a
symbolic significance which warrants the dating of an epoch by it Dr.
Palfrey regards our local political existence as commencing from the
hour in which that document, with its official representatives, reached
these shores. We have seen criticisms disputing this position, but, as
we think, not even plausible, still less effective to discredit it. We
must have an incident, besides a _punctum temporis_, for our start in
government; and where could we find a better one than that on which the
whole subsequent course and character of the government depended? We
go, then, for the old Charter, and for the setting up of a jurisdiction
under it here. It was an admirable and every way convenient document;
good for securing rights, impotent as impairing liberties. It comforted
the "Magistrates" to have it to fall back upon, when its provisions
harmonized with their purposes; nor did they allow themselves to be
embarrassed by it, when it appeared that some of their purposes were
not fully provided for in it. That Charter got wonderfully aired and
invigorated on its ocean-passage. The salt water agreed with its
constitution. In a single instance, at least, it falsified the old
maxim,--_Coeium, nun animum, mutant, qui trans mare currunt_. That was
a marvellous piece of parchment. So far as Massachusetts was concerned,
the Declaration of Independence was interlined upon it in sympathetic
We hardly know of fifty octavo pages anywhere in which so much
investigation and labor condense their results so intelligibly into such
useful information as in each of the first two chapters of this volume.
The first is devoted to the Physical Geography of the Peninsula of
New England, its Natural History, and its Aborigines; the second is a
summary sketch of the Early Voyages and Explorations. In this we find
the most discriminating view which we have ever seen of the marvellous
adventures of John Smith,--so happily and suggestively described as the
"fugitive slave" who was "the founder of Virginia." The notes on the
credibility and authenticity of the narrations connected with his name
are admirable. In reading these two chapters, one must muse upon
the wilderness trampings and the ocean perils of the keen-set and
all-enduring men who furnished the material for these high-seasoned
"Puritanism in England" is, of course, the author's starting-point. Here
he finds his men and their principles. A partial reformation is the most
mischievous influence that can work in society. It unsettles, but is not
willing to rebuild, even when it can learn how to do so. Reaction and
excess are the Scylla and Charybdis of its perils. Compromise is the
very essence of a partial reformation; and compromise in matters of
moral and religious concern, where it is not folly, is crime. Where any
party has been in earnest in a strife, there is no honest end at which
it can rest till it reaches the goal of righteousness. The active
element of Puritanism was the persistency of a religious party in
pursuing a purpose which was yielded up, at a point short of its full
attainment, by another branch of the party, which up to that point had
made common cause with them. To speak plainly, the English Puritans
regarded their former prelatical and conformist associates as traitors
to a holy cause. They had engaged together in good faith in the work of
reformation. They had suffered together. When the time came for triumph,
a schism divided them; and the more zealous smarted from wounds
inflicted by the lukewarm. It appeared that the Prelatists had been
looking to ends of state policy, while the Puritans kept religion in
view. The Conformists thought their ends were reached when Roman prelacy
was set aside, and certain local ecclesiastical changes had been
effected; but the real Puritans wanted to get and to establish the
Dr. Palfrey tells this story concisely, but emphatically. He takes two
stages of the Puritan development in England, from which to deduce
respectively the emigration to Plymouth and to Massachusetts Bay.
Stopping at intervals to make intelligible the perplexities connected
with the patents and charters, his narrative is thenceforward
continuous, admitting new threads to be woven into it as the pattern
and the fabric both become richer. For the first time we have the full
connection presented in solid history between the Scrooby Church and
Plymouth Colony. And the tracing is beautifully done. An artist may find
his paintings in these pages. Our poets may here find themes which will
be the more tempting and rewarding, the more closely they are held
to severe historic verity. They will find, that, after all, the most
promising materials for the imagination to deal with are facts. The
residence of the exiles in Holland, their debates and arrangements with
respect to a more distant remove, the ocean passage, the first forlorn
experiences during two winters at Plymouth, are vividly presented. The
paragraph, on page 182, beginning, "A visitor to Plymouth," gives us
a picture better than that which hangs in the Pilgrim Hall. If the
sternest foe of the Pilgrims across the water could have looked upon
the exiles in their winter dreariness, hungry, wasted, dying, cowering
beneath the accumulation of their woes, he might have regarded the scene
as presenting but a reasonable retribution upon a stolid obstinacy in
the most direful and needless self-inflictions. "Why could they not have
been content to cling to the comforts of Old England, and to restrain
their wilfulness of spirit?" The question is answered now differently
from what it would have been then. We have used one wrong word about
those exiles, in speaking of them as _cowering_ under their woes. They
did not _cower_, but _breasted _them.
After another most pregnant and exhaustive episode on Puritan politics
in England, Dr. Palfrey brings in that thread of his story on which is
strung the fortune of Massachusetts. It is here that Englishmen will
find explained some of our vaunting views of the importance of our
annals. Dr. Palfrey, in this and in other chapters, traces with skill
and exactness the course of public measures and events in England,
through kingly tyrannies and popular resistance, which ended by
harmonizing the institutions of the mother country for a little while
with those which had sprung up in this wilderness. He soon comes upon
ticklish matters, but his touch and hold are firm, because he feels sure
that he is dealing with men who understood themselves, and who were
at least resolute and honest, to whatever degree they may have erred.
Probably, like many of us who are aware that we could not possibly have
lived comfortably with our ancestors, he feels all the more bound on
that account to set their memory in the light of their noblest and least
selfish ends. He is stout and unflinching in his championship of those
ancestors: he sees in their experiment a lofty ideal; he vindicates
their policy in the measures for realizing it; nor does he withhold
apologetic or vindicatory words where "unmeet persons" among the whites
or Indians stood in the way of it.
Henceforward Dr. Palfrey has to follow out each thread of his story
by itself, as by-and-by he will have to gather them into one cord. He
traces the developments of months and years in the original settlements,
and pursues them as they lead him to new territory in the Northeast
and the Southwest, into Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Another
episode on the opening of the Civil War at home, which invited a large
return of the exiles, and a record of the original confederacy of the
New England Colonies, bring us to the present close of his labors. May
they be speedily continued! and may we enjoy the reality, as we now do
the promise of them!
We turn now to Mr. Arnold's book. The field which it traverses is
narrower as regards space, but its spirit is large and generous, and its
subject-matter is of the loftiest significance. If the writer does not
indulge us with many disquisitions, it is not from lack of ability.
Wherever, as in his moralizings upon King Philip's War, and in his
incidental comments upon the peculiarities and temper of his prominent
men, he allows us to meet his own mind, he is uniformly wise and
interesting. He stands by Rhode Island as does Dr. Palfrey by
Massachusetts; and seeing that for a far longer period than the two
books run on together the two Colonies were at strife, we are glad to
have before us both the ways in which the story may be told. There are
various sharp judgments on Massachusetts men and principles in the Rhode
Island book. The argument is in good hands on either side.
Mr. Arnold begins with the first occupation of Rhode Island by white
men, and conducts his narrative to the close of the century. His
research has been faithful. His style is chaste, forcible, and often
picturesque. He has seen the world widely, and he knows human nature.
He understands very well what a place of honor and what a well-proved
assurance of safety distinctive Rhode Island principles have attained.
The issue, having been found so triumphant, has dignified to the
historian the early, humble, and bewildering steps and processes through
which it was reached. The narrative on his pages is the most distracting
one ever written in the annals of civilized men. Every conceivable
element of strife, discord, agitation, alarm, dissension, and bitterness
is to be found in it,--redeemed only by a prevailing integrity,
right-mindedness, and right-heartedness in all the leading spirits. Each
man in each of the towns composing the original elements of the Colony
was a whole "democratie" in himself, and generally a "fierce" one.
Disputed boundaries with both the other Colonies, and an especial and
continuous feud with Massachusetts,--unruly spirits, bent upon working
out all manner of impracticable theories,--the oddest and most original,
as well as the most obstinate and indomitable dreamers and enthusiasts,
furnished some daily nutriment to dissension with their neighbors or
among themselves. Men of mark, like Roger Williams, Samuel Gorton,
Governor Arnold, and William Harris, appear equally competent for
fomenting strife of a sort to threaten every essential element of civil
society, and for averting all permanent harm while putting on trial the
most revolutionary theories. On page 337, Mr. Arnold has a note most
characteristic of a large portion of his whole theme, as covering both
his men and their measures. Many of the documents, of an official
character, written by citizens, towns, or rulers in Rhode Island, were
of such a sort in language and matter, that the town of Warwick did not
think them fit for the public records, and so enjoined that the clerk
should keep them in a file by themselves. This was known as "the
Impertinent File," and, more profanely, but not less appropriately,
as "the Damned File." A certain "perditious letter," written by Roger
Williams himself, serves as the nucleus of this deposit; and we read of
another of the documents as being as "full of uncivil language as if it
had been indited in hell."
Mr. Arnold picks his way through all these dissensions, and finds a full
reward in the nobleness of the men and the principles with which he has
in the main to deal. His only abatement of praise to Roger Williams
is on account of his bitter feud with William Harris. He repels,
as slanderous, the imputations founded on alleged interpolations
restricting religious liberty in the code, and cast at Roger Williams
for undue severity to Quakers and for favoring Indian slavery.
Randolph's visit, Andros's administration, the suspension and resumption
of the Charter, bring him out into broader matters, which he treats with
frankness and skill.
The more histories we have from the pens of competent writers, even
though they go over the same ground, the more lively and interesting
will the pages be. We need not fear that like fidelity and ability in
the use of the same materials by different writers will reduce our
modern histories to a dead level of uniform narration. None but those
well-skilled in our annals are aware what scope they afford, not only
for special pleas, but also for honest diversity of judgment, in viewing
and pronouncing upon many test-points vital to the theme. Indeed, when
the historic vein shall have been exhausted, it will be found that there
is more than a score of special and contested points, in each of our
first two centuries, admirably suited for monographs. We have but to
compare a few pages in each of the two excellent works now in our hands,
to see how men of the highest ability, of rigid candor, and scrupulous
fidelity in the use of the same materials, while spreading the same
facts before their readers, may tell different tales, varying to
the whole extent of the diversity in their respective judgments and
moralizings. We can easily illustrate this assertion from the pages
before us. Though Dr. Palfrey stops more than a half-century short of
the date to which Mr. Arnold carries us, the former indicates exactly
how and where he will be at issue with the latter, even to the end of
the story common to both of them. So strong and clear is Dr. Palfrey's
avowal of fealty to the honorable and unsullied fame of the founders of
Massachusetts, that he will not be likely, on any later page, to qualify
what he has already written. It happens, too, that the points in which
any two of our historians would be most disposed to part in judgment lie
within the space and the years common to both these writers. We can but
indicate, in a very brief way, some of the more salient divergences
between them, and we must preface the specification by acknowledging
again the high integrity of both.
Dr. Palfrey writes, unmistakably, as a man proud of his Massachusetts
lineage. He honors the men whose enterprise, constancy, persistency,
and wise skill in laying foundations have, in his view, approved their
methods and justified them, even where they are most exposed to a severe
judgment. He wishes to tell their story as they would wish to have it
told. They stand by his side as he reads their records, and supply him
with a running comment as to meaning and intention. Thus he is helped to
put their own construction on their own deeds,--to set their acts in the
light of their motives, to give them credit for all the good that was in
their purposes, and to ascribe their mistakes and errors to a limitation
of their views, or to well-founded apprehensions of evil which they had
reason to dread. Under such pilotage, the passengers, at least, would
be safe, when their ship fell upon a place where two seas met. Now
Massachusetts and Rhode Island were in stiff hostility during the period
here chronicled. The founder of Rhode Island and nearly all of its
leading spirits had been "spewed out of the Bay Colony,"--and the
institutions which the Rhode Islanders set up, or rather, their seeming
purpose to do without any _institutions_, constituted a standing
grievance to the rigid disciplinarians of Massachusetts. Indeed, we have
to look to the relations of annoyance, jealousy, and open strife, which
arose between the two Colonies in the ten years following 1636, for
the real explanation of the severity visited upon the Quakers in
Massachusetts in the five years following 1656. These early Quakers,
when not the veritable persons, were the ghosts of the old troublers of
"the Lord's people in the Bay." Gorton, Randall Holden, Mrs. Dyer, and
other "exorbitant persons," who had been found "unmeet to abide in this
jurisdiction," could not be got rid of once for all.
Mr. Arnold glories in the early reproach of Rhode Island. He finds its
title to honor above every other spot on earth in the phenomena which
made it so hateful to Massachusetts. In every issue raised between it
and the Bay Colony from the very first, and in every element of its
strife, he stands stoutly forth as its champion, and casts scornful
reflections, though not in a scornful spirit. Wherever our two
historians have the same point under treatment, we discern this
antagonism between them,--never in a single case manifesting itself in
an offensive or bitter way, but tending greatly to give a brisk and
quickening vigor to their pages. Arnold claims that a perfectly
democratical government and entire religious freedom are "exclusively
Rhode Island doctrines, and to her belongs the credit of them both." He
might afford to give Massachusetts the appreciable honor of having been
the indirect means of opening those large visions to the eyes of men
who certainly were a most uncomfortable set of citizens while under
pupilage. Mr. Bancroft had previously written thus:--"Had the territory
of Rhode Island corresponded to the importance and singularity of the
principles of its early existence, the world would have been filled with
wonder at the phenomena of its history."[B] It was only because the
State was no larger that it was a safe field for the first trial of such
principles. And it has often proved, that, the larger the principle,
the more circumscribed must needs be the field within which it is first
tested. It was well that the first experiments on the capabilities of
steam were tried by the nose of a tea-kettle. Seeing that most of the
early settlers of Rhode Island had very little property, and scarce
anything of what Christendom had previously been in the habit of
regarding as religion, the territory was the most fitting place for the
trial of revolutionary principles. Mr. Arnold says, very curtly, but
very truly,--"No form of civil government then existing could tolerate
her democracy, and even Christian charity denied her faith." (p. 280.)
The wonder of the world, however, would have been more curiously engaged
in watching what legislation for religion could possibly have devised
for a community made up of all sorts of consciences. The little State
deserves the honor claimed for her. But had she any alternative course?
[Footnote B: BANCROFT'S _History of the United States._ I. 380.]
Mr. Arnold, we think, defines with more sharp and guarded accuracy
than does Dr. Palfrey the ruling aim and motive of the founders of
Massachusetts. An historian of Massachusetts, knowing beforehand through
what a course of unflinching and resolute consistency with their first
principles he is to follow her early legislators, has reason to limit
their aim and motive at the start, that he may not assume for them more
than he can make good. Especially if he intend to palliate, and, still
more, to justify, some of the severer and more oppressive elements of
their policy, he will find it wise to qualify their purpose within the
same limitations which they themselves set for it. Dr. Palfrey parts
with an advantage of which he afterwards has need to avail himself, when
he states the motive of the exiles too broadly, as a search for a place
in which to exercise liberty of conscience. He speaks of these exiles
as recognizing in "religious freedom a good of such vast worth as to be
protected by the possessor, not only for himself, but for the myriads
living and to be born, of whom he assumes to be the pioneer and the
champion." (p. 301.) This large and unqualified claim might be advanced
for the founders of Rhode Island, but it cannot be set up for the
founders of Massachusetts. Whoever asserts it for the latter commits
himself most unnecessarily to an awkward and ineffective defence of them
in a long series of restrictive and severe measures against "religious
freedom," beginning with the case of the Brownes at Salem, and including
acts of general legislation as well as of continuous ecclesiastical and
judicial proceeding. Winthrop tells us that the aim of his brotherhood
was "to enjoy the ordinances of Christ in their purity here." The
General Court repeatedly signified its desire to have a draft of laws
prepared which might be "agreeable to the word of God." Now either
of these statements of the ruling purpose of the colonists, as then
universally understood and interpreted, was inconsistent with what we
now understand by "freedom in religion," or "liberty of conscience."
What were regarded as "the pure ordinances of Christ" could not have
been set up here, nor could such laws as were then considered as
"agreeable to the word of God" have been enacted here, without impairing
individual freedom in matters of religion. Indeed, it was the very
attempt to realize these objects which occasioned every interference
with perfect liberty of conscience. The fathers of Massachusetts avowed
their purpose to be, not the opening of an asylum for all kinds of
consciences, but the establishment of a Christian commonwealth. Their
consistency can be vindicated by following out their own idea, but not
by assigning to them a larger one.
Mr. Arnold, as we have said, is more sharply guarded in his statement of
the aim of the founders of the Bay Colony in this respect; and it is
all the more remarkable that he does not give them the benefit of the
recognized limitation. He defines for them a restricted object, but he
judges them by a standard before which they never measured themselves,
and then condemns them for short-comings. He tells us distinctly that
the motives of the exiles "were certainly not those assigned them by
Charles I., 'the freedom of liberty of conscience'" (p. 10); that
"they looked for a home in the New World where they might erect an
establishment in accordance with their peculiar theological views. 'They
sought a faith's pure shrine,' based on what they held to be a purer
system of worship, and a discipline more in unison with their notions
of a church. Here they proceeded to organize a state, whose civil code
followed close on the track of the Mosaic Law, and whose ecclesiastical
polity, like that of the Jews, and of all those [Christian governments?]
then existing, was identified with the civil power. They thus secured,
what was denied them in England, the right to pursue their own form of
religion without molestation, and in this the object of their exile was
attained." (p. 11.) And again, Mr. Arnold says,--"They founded a colony
for their own faith, without any idea of tolerating others." (p. 44.) All
this is admirably said. It is precisely what the exiles would wish might
be said of them in all the histories of them; for it is what they said
of themselves, in defining their own object; it was, further, what they
felt in their hearts to be their object, more intensely than they could
give it utterance. But the object is at once seen to be limited within
the fearful license of religious freedom. The Scriptural and legislative
fetters on such liberty were too repressive not to amount to an
essential qualification of it. "The Simple Cobbler of Agawam," Ward of
Ipswich, made a clean breast for himself and his contemporaries, when he
numbered among the "foure things which my heart hath naturally detested:
Tolerations of diverse Religions, or of one Religion in segregant
shapes. He that willingly assents to this, if he examines his heart by
daylight, his conscience will tell him he is either an Atheist, or
an Heretigal, or an Hypocrite, or at best a captive to some lust.
Poly-piety is the greatest impiety in the world." With such frank
avowals on the part of those who had borne so much in the attempt to
make themselves comfortable in their exile to these hard regions, that
they might here try to work out their harder problem, it is a great deal
too severe a standard for judging their acts which is set up for them in
the fancied principle of religious liberty. We wonder that Mr. Arnold
withholds from them the benefit of his and their own clear limitation of
the principle,--a limitation so severe, as, in fact, to constitute quite
another principle. Was it at all strange, then, that they should deal
resolutely with Roger Williams, on account of "the firmness with which,
upon every occasion, he maintained the doctrine, that the civil power
has no control over the religious opinions of men."? (p. 41.) It was for
no other purpose than to engage the civil power for a pure religion that
they were dwelling in poor huts on these ocean headlands, and sustaining
their lives upon muscles gathered on the shore after the receding of the
Dr. Palfrey and Mr. Arnold hold and utter quite opposite judgments about
the treatment of Roger Williams by Massachusetts. The latter, having
stated more definitely than the former the limited aim of our colonists,
which was utterly inconsistent with toleration in religion and with
laxity in civil matters, nevertheless considers the men of Massachusetts
unjustifiable in their course toward the founder of Rhode Island. Dr.
Palfrey, on weaker grounds than those allowed by Mr. Arnold, thinks
their most stringent proceedings perfectly defensible. He regards Mr.
Williams as an intruder, whose opinions, behavior, and influence were
perilous alike to the civil and the religious peace of the colonists;
and he holds the colonists as not chargeable with any breach of the
laws of justice or of mercy in sending out of their jurisdiction, into
another patch of the same wilderness, a man all whose phenomena were of
the most uncomfortable and irritating character. We confess that our
reading and thinking identify our judgment on this matter with that
of our own historian. There can be no question but that Roger
Williams--whether he was thirty-two years old, as Mr. Arnold thinks,
or, as Dr. Palfrey judges, in his twenty-fifth year, when he landed
here--was, in what we must call his youth, seeing that he lived to an
advanced age, a heady and contentious theorizer. Our fathers could not
try more than one theory at a time; and the theory they were bent upon
testing naturally preceded, in the series of the world's progressive
experiments, the more generous, but, at the same time, more dangerous
one which he advanced; and their theory had a right to an earlier and
a full trial, as lying in the way of a safe advance towards his bolder
Utopianism. The mild Bradford and the yet milder Brewster were glad when
Plymouth was rid of him. His first manifestation of himself, on
his arrival here, requires to be invested with the halo of a later
admiration, before it can be made to consist with the heralding of
an apostle of the generous principles of toleration and charity in
religion. Winthrop had recorded for us his refusal "to join with the
congregation at Boston." This had been understood as referring to an
unwillingness on the part of Williams to enter into communion with the
church. But from a letter of his which has come to light within the
year, it seems that he had been invited, previously to the arrival
of Cotton, to become teacher of the church. And on account of what
constraint of soul-liberty did he decline the office? Because the
members of that church "would not make a public declaration of their
repentance for having communion with the churches of England, while they
lived there"! The good man lived to grow milder and more tolerant of the
whims and prejudices and convictions of his fellow-men, through a
free indulgence of his own. And, what is more remarkable, he found it
necessary to apply, in restraint of others, several of the measures
against which he had protested when brought to bear upon himself. He
came to discover that there was mischief in "such an infinite liberty of
conscience" as was claimed by his own followers. The erratic Gorton was
to him precisely what the legislators of Massachusetts had feared that
he himself would prove to be to them. He publicly declared himself in
favor of "a due and moderate restraint and punishing" of some of
the oddities of the Quakers. In less than ten years after he had so
frightened Massachusetts by questioning the validity of an English
charter to jurisdiction here, he went to England on a successful errand
to obtain just such a document for himself and his friends.
Our two historians, with all the facts before them, honestly stated too,
but diversely interpreted, stand in open antagonism of judgment about
the proceedings of Massachusetts against the Antinomians. That bitter
strife--_Dux foemina facti_--was in continuation of the issue opened by
Roger Williams, though it turned upon new elements. Here, again, Mr.
Arnold stands stoutly for the partisans of Mrs. Hutchinson, who moved
towards the new home in the Narragensett country. He sees in the strife,
mainly, a contest of a purely theological character, leading on to a
development of democratical ideas, (p. 66.) Dr. Palfrey insists that
it would be unjust to allege that the Antinomians were dealt with for
holding "distasteful opinions on dark questions of theology," and
affirms that they were put down as wild and alarming agents of an
"immediate anarchy." (pp. 489, 491.) In this matter, also, our own
judgment goes with our own historian. And the very best confirmation
that it could have is found in the fact, that the prime movers in the
most threatening stage of that dire conflict afterwards made ample
confession of their heat, their folly, and their outrages,--approving
the stern proceedings under which they had suffered. Wheelwright,
especially, in whose advocacy the cause of his sister-in-law first
assumed so threatening an aspect, most humbly avowed his sin and
One more very curious illustration of the divergence of judgment in our
two new historians may be instanced. They have both written, as became
them, quite brilliantly and vigorously, about the aborigines of the
soil. But how marvellously they differ! Dr. Palfrey discredits the
romance of Indian character and life. His mind dwells upon the squalor
and wretchedness of their existence, the shiftlessness and incapacity
of their natural development, their improvidence, their beastliness and
forlorn debasement; and he is wholly skeptical about the savage virtues
of constancy, magnanimity, and wild-wood dignity. He sighs over them
another requiem, toned in the deep sympathy of a true Christian heart;
but he does not lament in their sad method of decay the loss of any
element of manhood or of the higher ingredients of humanity. But Mr.
Arnold pitches his requiem to a different strain. He reproduces and
refines the romance which Dr. Palfrey would dispel. He exalts the Indian
character; gathers comforts and joys and pleasing fashionings around
their life; enlarges the sphere of their being, and asserts in them
capacity to fill it. The wigwam of Massasoit is elegantly described by
Mr. Arnold as "his seat at Mount Hope," (p. 23,)--and pungently, by
Dr. Palfrey, as "his sty," in whose comfortless shelter, Winslow and
Hopkins, of Plymouth, on their visit to the chief, had "a distressing
experience of the poverty and filth of Indian hospitality." (pp. 183,
184.) Arnold tells us, the Indians "were ignorant of Revelation, yet
here was Plato's great problem of the Immortality of the Soul solved
in the American wilderness, and believed by all the aborigines of the
West." (p. 78.) But Palfrey, knowing nothing of what his contemporary
was writing, had already put into print this sentence:--"The New England
savage was not the person to have discovered what the vast reach of
thought of Plato and Cicero could not attain." (p. 49.)
Here are strange variances of judgment. But how much more of interest
and activity lives in the mind, both of writers and readers, when
history is written with such divergent philosophies and comments! Nobly,
in both cases before us, have the writers done their work, and heartily
do we render our tribute to them.
My soul to-day
Is far away,
Sailing the Vesuvian Bay;
My winged boat,