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Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 7, No. 43, May, 1861 by Various

Part 4 out of 5

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apprehension of things that never come. I remember well how a dear
friend, whom I (and many more) lately lost, told me many times of his
fears as to what he would do in a certain contingency which both he
and I thought was quite sure to come sooner or later. I know that the
anticipation of it caused him some of the most anxious hours of a very
anxious, though useful and honored life. How vain his fears proved! He
was taken from this world before what he had dreaded had cast its most
distant shadow. Well, let me try to discard the notion which has been
sometimes worrying me of late, that perhaps I have written nearly as
many essays as any one will care to read. Don't let any of us give way
to fears which may prove to have been entirely groundless.

And then, if we are really spared to see those trials we sometimes
think of, and which it is right that we should sometimes think of, the
strength for them will come at the time. They will not look nearly so
black, and we shall be enabled to bear them bravely. There is in human
nature a marvellous power of accommodation to circumstances. We can
gradually make up our mind to almost anything. If this were a sermon
instead of an essay, I should explain my theory of how this comes to
be. I see in all this something beyond the mere natural instinct of
acquiescence in what is inevitable; something beyond the benevolent law
in the human mind, that it shall adapt itself to whatever circumstances
it may be placed in; something beyond the doing of the gentle comforter
Time. Yes, it is wonderful what people can go through, wonderful what
people can get reconciled to. I dare say my friend Smith, when his hair
began to fall off, made frantic efforts to keep it on. I have no doubt
he anxiously tried all the vile concoctions which quackery advertises in
the newspapers, for the advantage of those who wish for luxuriant locks.
I dare say for a while it really weighed upon his mind, and disturbed
his quiet, that he was getting bald. But now he has quite reconciled
himself to his lot; and with a head smooth and sheeny as the egg of
the ostrich, Smith goes on through life, and feels no pang at the
remembrance of the ambrosial curls of his youth. Most young people,
I dare say, think it will be a dreadful thing to grow old: a girl of
eighteen thinks it must be an awful sensation to be thirty. Believe me,
not at all. You are brought to it bit by bit; and when you reach the
spot, you rather like the view. And it is so with graver things. We grow
able to do and to bear that which it is needful that we should do and
bear. As is the day, so the strength proves to be. And you have heard
people tell you truly, that they have been enabled to bear what they
never thought they could have come through with their reason or their
life. I have no fear for the Christian man, so he keeps to the path of
duty. Straining up the steep hill, his heart will grow stout in just
proportion to its steepness. Yes, and if the call to martyrdom came, I
should not despair of finding men who would show themselves equal to it,
even in this commonplace age, and among people who wear Highland cloaks
and knickerbockers. The martyr's strength would come with the martyr's
day. It is because there is no call for it now, that people look so
little like it.

It is very difficult, in this world, to strongly enforce a truth,
without seeming to push it into an extreme. You are very apt, in
avoiding one error, to run into the opposite error; forgetting that
truth and right lie generally between two extremes. And in agreeing with
Sydney Smith, as to the wisdom and the duty of "taking short views," let
us take care of appearing to approve the doings of those foolish and
unprincipled people who will keep no outlook into the future time at
all. A bee, you know, cannot see more than a single inch before it; and
there are many men, and perhaps more women, who appear, as regards their
domestic concerns, to be very much of bees: not bees in the respect of
being busy; but bees in the respect of being blind. You see this in all
ranks of life. You see it in the artisan, earning good wages, yet with
every prospect of being weeks out of work next summer or winter, who yet
will not be persuaded to lay by a little in preparation for a rainy day.
You see it in the country gentleman, who, having five thousand a year;
spends ten thousand a year; resolutely shutting his eyes to the certain
and not very remote consequences. You see it in the man who walks into a
shop and buys a lot of things which he has not the money to pay for,
in the vague hope that something will turn up. It is a comparatively
thoughtful and anxious class of men who systematically overcloud the
present by anticipations of the future. The more usual thing is to
sacrifice the future to the present; to grasp at what in the way of
present gratification or gain can be got, with very little thought of
the consequences. You see silly women, the wives of men whose families
are mainly dependent on their lives, constantly urging on their husbands
to extravagances which eat up the little provision which might have been
made for themselves and their children when he is gone who earned their
bread. There is no sadder sight, I think, than that which is not a very
uncommon sight, the careworn, anxious husband, laboring beyond his
strength, often sorrowfully calculating how he may make the ends to
meet, denying himself in every way; and the extravagant idiot of a wife,
bedizened with jewelry and arrayed in velvet and lace, who tosses away
his hard earnings in reckless extravagance; in entertainments which
he cannot afford, given to people who do not care a rush for him; in
preposterous dress; in absurd furniture; in needless men-servants; in
green-grocers above measure; in resolute aping of the way of living of
people with twice or three times the means. It is sad to see all the
forethought, prudence, and moderation of the wedded pair confined to one
of them. You would say that it will not be any solid consolation to the
widow, when the husband is fairly worried into his grave at last,--when
his daughters have to go out as governesses, and she has to let
lodgings,--to reflect that while he lived they never failed to have
Champagne at his dinner-parties; and that they had three men to wait at
table on such occasions, while Mr. Smith, next door, had never more than
one and a maidservant. If such idiotic women would but look forward, and
consider how all this must end! If the professional man spends all he
earns, what remains when the supply is cut off; when the toiling head
and hand can toil no more? Ah, a little of the economy and management
which must perforce be practised after _that_ might have tended
powerfully to put off the evil day. Sometimes the husband is merely the
careworn drudge who provides what the wife squanders. Have you not known
such a thing as that a man should be laboring under an Indian sun, and
cutting down every personal expense to the last shilling, that he might
send a liberal allowance to his wife in England; while she meanwhile
was recklessly spending twice what was thus sent her; running up
overwhelming accounts, dashing about to public balls, paying for a
bouquet what cost the poor fellow far away much thought to save,
giving costly entertainments at home, filling her house with idle and
empty-headed scapegraces, carrying on scandalous flirtations; till
it becomes a happy thing, if the certain ruin she is bringing on her
husband's head is cut short by the needful interference of Sir Cresswell
Cresswell? There are cases in which tarring and feathering would soothe
the moral sense of the right-minded onlooker. And even where things are
not so bad as in the case of which we have been thinking, it remains
the social curse of this age, that people with a few hundreds a year
determinedly act in various respects as if they had as many thousands.
The dinner given by a man with eight hundred a year, in certain regions
of the earth which I could easily point out, is, as regards food, wine,
and attendance, precisely the same as the dinner given by another man
who has five thousand a year. When will this end? When will people
see its silliness? In truth, you do not really, as things are in this
country, make many people better off by adding a little or a good deal
to their yearly income. For in all probability they were living up to
the very extremity of their means before they got the addition; and in
all probability the first thing they do, on getting the addition, is so
far to increase their establishment and their expense that it is just
as hard a struggle as ever to make the ends meet. It would not be a
pleasant arrangement, that a man who was to be carried across the
straits from England to France should be fixed on a board so weighted
that his mouth and nostrils should be at the level of the water, thus
that he should be struggling for life, and barely escaping drowning
all the way. Yet hosts of people, whom no one proposes to put under
restraint, do as regards their income and expenditure a precisely
analogous thing. They deliberately weight themselves to that degree that
their heads are barely above water, and that any unforeseen emergency
dips their heads under. They rent a house a good deal dearer than they
can justly afford; and they have servants more and more expensive than
they ought; and by many such things they make sure that their progress
through life shall be a drowning struggle: while, if they would
rationally resolve and manfully confess that they cannot afford to have
things as richer folk have them, and arrange their way of living in
accordance with what they can afford, they would enjoy the feeling of
ease and comfort; they would not be ever on the wretched stretch on
which they are now, nor keeping up the hollow appearance of what is
not the fact. But there are folk who make it a point of honor never to
admit, that, in doing or not doing anything, they are actuated for an
instant by so despicable a consideration as the question whether or not
they can afford it. And who shall reckon up the brains which this social
calamity has driven into disease, or the early paralytic shocks which it
has brought on?

When you were very young, and looked forward to Future Years, did
you ever feel a painful fear that you might outgrow your early home
affections, and your associations with your native scenes? Did you ever
think to yourself,--Will the day come when I shall have been years away
from that river's side, and yet not care? I think we have all known the
feeling. O plain church, to which I used to go when I was a child, and
where I used to think the singing so very splendid! O little room, where
I used to sleep! and you, tall tree, on whose topmost branch I cut the
initials which perhaps the reader knows! did I not even then wonder to
myself if the time and would ever come when I should be far away from
you,--far away, as now, for many years, and not likely to go back,--and
yet feel entirely indifferent to the matter? and did not I even then
feel a strange pain in the fear that very likely it might? These
things come across the mind of a little boy with a curious grief and
bewilderment. Ah, there is something strange in the inner life of a
thoughtful child of eight years old! I would rather see a faithful
record of his thoughts, feelings, fancies, and sorrows, for a single
week, than know all the political events that have happened during that
space in Spain, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Russia, and Turkey. Even amid
the great grief at leaving home for school in your early days, did you
not feel a greater grief to think that the day might come when you would
not care at all; when your home ties and affections would be outgrown;
when you would be quite content to live on, month after month, far from
parents, sisters, brothers, and feel hardly a perceptible blank when you
remembered that they were far away? But it is of the essence of such
fears, that, when the thing comes that you were afraid of, it has ceased
to be fearful; still it is with a little pang that you sometimes call to
remembrance how much you feared it once. It is a daily regret, though
not a very acute one, (more's the pity,) to be thrown much, in middle
life, into the society of an old friend whom as a boy you had regarded
as very wise, and to be compelled to observe that he is a tremendous
fool. You struggle with the conviction; you think it wrong to give in to
it; but you cannot help it. But it would have been a sharper pang to the
child's heart, to have impressed upon the child the fact, that "Good Mr.
Goose is a fool, and some day you will understand that he is." In those
days one admits no imperfection in the people and the things one likes.
You like a person; and _he is good. That_ seems the whole case. You do
not go into exceptions and reservations. I remember how indignant I
felt, as a boy, at reading some depreciatory criticism of the "Waverley
Novels." The criticism was to the effect that the plots generally
dragged at first, and were huddled up at the end. But to me the novels
were enchaining, enthralling; and to hint a defect in them stunned one.
In the boy's feeling, if a thing be good, why, there cannot be anything
bad about it. But in the man's mature judgment, even in the people he
likes best, and in the things he appreciates most highly, there are many
flaws and imperfections. It does not vex us much now to find that this
is so; but it would have greatly vexed us many years since to have
been told that it would be so. I can well imagine, that, if you told a
thoughtful and affectionate child, how well he would some day get on,
far from his parents and his home, his wish would be that any evil might
befall him rather than that! We shrink with terror from the prospect of
things which we can take easily enough when they come. I dare say Lord
Chancellor Thurlow was moderately sincere when he exclaimed in the House
of Peers, "When I forget my king, may my God forget me!" And you will
understand what Leigh Hunt meant, when, in his pleasant poem of "The
Palfrey," he tells us of a daughter who had lost a very bad and
heartless father by death, that,

"The daughter wept, and wept the more,
To think her tears would soon be o'er."

Even in middle age, one sad thought which comes in the prospect of
Future Years is of the change which they are sure to work upon many of
our present views and feelings. And the change, in many cases, will be
to the worse. One thing is certain,--that your temper will grow worse,
if it do not grow better. Years will sour it, if they do not mellow it.
Another certain thing is, that, if you do not grow wiser, you will be
growing more foolish. It is very true that there is no fool so foolish
as an old fool. Let us hope, my friend, that, whatever be our honest
worldly work, it may never lose its interest. We must always speak
humbly about the changes which coming time will work upon us, upon even
our firmest resolutions and most rooted principles; or I should say for
myself that I cannot even imagine myself the same being, with bent less
resolute and heart less warm to that best of all employments which is
the occupation of my life. But there are few things which, as we grow
older, impress us more deeply than the transitoriness of thoughts and
feelings in human hearts.

Nor am I thinking of contemptible people only, when I say so. I am not
thinking of the fellow who is pulled up in court in an action for breach
of promise of marriage, and who in one letter makes vows of unalterable
affection, and in another letter, written a few weeks or months later,
tries to wriggle out of his engagement. Nor am I thinking of the weak,
though well-meaning lady, who devotes herself in succession to a great
variety of uneducated and unqualified religious instructors; who tells
you one week how she has joined the flock of Mr. A., the converted
prize-fighter, and how she regards him as by far the most improving
preacher she ever heard; and who tells you the next week that she has
seen through the prize-fighter, that he has gone and married a wealthy
Roman Catholic, and that now she has resolved to wait on the ministry of
Mr. B., an enthusiastic individual who makes shoes during the week and
gives sermons on Sundays, and in whose addresses she finds exactly what
suits her. I speak of the better feelings and purposes of wiser, if not
better folk. Let me think here of pious emotions and holy resolutions,
of the best and purest frames of heart and mind. Oh, if we could all
always remain at our best! And after all, permanence is the great test.
In the matter of Christian faith and feeling, in the matter of all our
worthier principles and purposes, that which lasts longest is best.
This, indeed, is true of most things. The worth of anything depends much
upon its durability,--upon the wear that is in it. A thing that is
merely a fine flash and over only disappoint. The highest authority has
recognized this. You remember Who said to his friends, before leaving
them, that He would have them bring forth fruit, and much fruit. But
not even _that_ was enough. The fairest profession for a time, the most
earnest labor for a time, the most ardent affection for a time, would
not suffice. And so the Redeemer's words were,--"I have chosen you, and
ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that _your
fruit should remain."_ Well, let us trust, that, in the most solemn of
all respects, only progress shall be brought to us by all the changes of
Future Years.

But it is quite vain to think that feelings, as distinguished from
principles, shall not lose much of their vividness, freshness, and
depth, as time goes on. You cannot now by any effort revive the
exultation you felt at some unexpected great success, nor the
heart-sinking of some terrible loss or trial. You know how women, after
the death of a child, determine that every day, as long as they live,
they will visit the little grave. And they do so for a time,
sometimes for a long time; but they gradually leave off. You know how
burying-places are very trimly and carefully kept at first, and how
flowers are hung upon the stone; but these things gradually cease. You
know how many husbands and wives, after their partner's death, determine
to give the remainder of life to the memory of the departed, and would
regard with sincere horror the suggestion that it was possible they
should ever marry again; but after a while they do. And you will even
find men, beyond middle age, who made a tremendous work at their first
wife's death, and wore very conspicuous mourning, who in a very few
months may be seen dangling after some new fancy, and who in the
prospect of their second marriage evince an exhilaration that approaches
to crackiness. It is usual to speak of such things in a ludicrous
manner; but I confess the matter seems to me anything but one to laugh
at. I think that the rapid dying out of warm feelings, the rapid
change of fixed resolutions, is one of the most sorrowful subjects of
reflection which it is possible to suggest. Ah, my friends, after we
die, it would not be expedient, even if it were possible, to come back.
Many of us would not like to find how very little they miss us. But
still, it is the manifest intention of the Creator that strong feelings
should be transitory. The sorrowful thing is when they pass and leave
absolutely no trace behind them. There should always he some corner kept
in the heart for a feeling which once possessed it all. Let us look at
the case temperately. Let us face and admit the facts. The healthy body
and mind can get over a great deal; but there are some things which it
is not to the credit of our nature should ever be entirely got over.
Here are sober truth, and sound philosophy, and sincere feeling
together, in the words of Philip van Artevelde:--

"Well, well, she's gone,
And I have tamed my sorrow. Pain and grief
Are transitory things, no less than joy;
And though they leave us not the men we were,
Yet they do leave us. You behold me here,
A man bereaved, with something of a blight
Upon the early blossoms of his life,
And its first verdure,--having not the less
A living root, and drawing from the earth
Its vital juices, from the air its powers:
And surely as man's heart and strength are whole,
His appetites regerminate, his heart
Reopens, and his objects and desires
Spring up renewed."

But though Artevelde speaks truly and well, you remember how Mr.
Taylor, in that noble play, works out to our view the sad sight of the
deterioration of character, the growing coarseness and harshness,
the lessening tenderness and kindliness, which are apt to come with
advancing years. Great trials, we know, passing over us, may influence
us either for the worse or the better; and unless our nature is a very
obdurate and poor one, though they may leave us, they will not leave us
the men we were. Once, at a public meeting, I heard a man in eminent
station make a speech. I had never seen him before; but I remembered an
inscription which I had read, in a certain churchyard far away, upon the
stone that marked the resting-place of his young wife, who had died many
years before. I thought of its simple words of manly and hearty sorrow.
I knew that the eminence he had reached had not come till she who would
have been proudest of it was beyond knowing it or caring for it. And I
cannot say with what interest and satisfaction I thought I could trace,
in the features which were sad without the infusion of a grain of
sentimentalism, in the subdued and quiet tone of the man's whole aspect
and manner and address, the manifest proof that he had not shut down the
leaf upon that old page of his history, that he had never quite got over
that great grief of earlier years. One felt better and more hopeful for
the sight. I suppose many people, after meeting some overwhelming loss
or trial, have fancied that they would soon die; but that is almost
invariably a delusion. Various dogs have died of a broken heart, but
very few human beings. The Inferior creature has pined away at his
master's loss: as for _us_, it is not that one would doubt the depth
and sincerity of sorrow, but that there is more endurance in our
constitution, and that God has appointed that grief shall rather mould
and influence than kill. It is a much sadder sight than an early death,
to see human beings live on after heavy trial, and sink into something
very unlike their early selves and very inferior to their early selves.
I can well believe that many a human being, if he could have a glimpse
in innocent youth of what he will be twenty or thirty years after, would
pray in anguish to be taken before coming to _that!_ Mansie Wauch's
glimpse of destitution was bad enough; but a million times worse is a
glimpse of hardened and unabashed sin and shame. And it would be no
comfort--it would be an aggravation in that view--to think that by the
time you have reached that miserable point, you will have grown pretty
well reconciled to it. _That_ is the worst of all. To be wicked and
depraved, and to feel it, and to be wretched under it, is bad enough;
but it is a great deal worse to have fallen into that depth of moral
degradation and to feel that really you don't care. The instinct of
accommodation is not always a blessing. It is happy for us, that, though
in youth we hoped to live in a castle or a palace, we can make up our
mind to live in a little parsonage or a quiet street in a country town.
It is happy for us, that, though in youth we hoped to be very great and
famous, we are so entirely reconciled to being little and unknown. But
it is not happy for the poor girl who walks the Haymarket at night that
she feels her degradation so little. It is not happy that she has come
to feel towards her miserable life so differently now from what she
would have felt towards it, had it been set before her while she was the
blooming, thoughtless creature in the little cottage in the country. It
is only by fits and starts that the poor drunken wretch, living in a
garret upon a little pittance allowed him by his relations, who was once
a man of character and hope, feels what a sad pitch he has come to. If
you could get him to feel it constantly, there would be some hope of his
reclamation even yet.

It seems to me a very comforting thought, in looking on to Future Years,
if you are able to think that you are in a profession or a calling from
which you will never retire. For the prospect of a total change in your
mode of life, and the entire cessation of the occupation which for many
years employed the greater part of your waking thoughts, and all this
amid the failing powers and flagging hopes of declining years, is both a
sad and a perplexing prospect to a thoughtful person. For such a person
cannot regard this great change simply in the light of a rest from toil
and worry; he will know quite well what a blankness and listlessness and
loss of interest in life will come of feeling all at once that you have
nothing at all to do. And so it is a great blessing, if your vocation be
one which is a dignified and befitting one for an old man to be engaged
in, one that beseems his gravity--and his long experience, one that
beseems even his slow movements and his white hairs. It is a pleasant
thing to see an old man a judge; his years become the judgment-seat. But
then the old man can hold such an office only while he retains strength
of body and mind efficiently to perform its duties; and he must do all
his work for himself: and accordingly a day must come when the venerable
Chancellor resigns the Great Seal; when the aged Justice or Baron must
give up his place; and when these honored Judges, though still retaining
considerable vigor, but vigor less than enough for their hard work, are
compelled to feel that their occupation is gone. And accordingly I
hold that what is the best of all professions, for many reasons, is
especially so for this, that you need never retire from it. In the
Church you need not do all your duty yourself. You may get assistance to
supplement your own lessening strength. The energetic young curate or
curates may do that part of the parish work which exceeds the power of
the aging incumbent, while the entire parochial machinery has still the
advantage of being directed by his wisdom and experience, and while the
old man is still permitted to do what he can with such strength as is
spared to him, and to feel that he is useful in the noblest cause yet.
And even to extremest age and frailty,--to age and frailty which would
long since have incapacitated the judge for the bench,--the parish
clergyman may take some share in the much-loved duty in which he has
labored so long. He may still, though briefly, and only now and then,
address his flock from the pulpit, in words which his very feebleness
will make far more touchingly effective than the most vigorous eloquence
and the richest and fullest tones of his young coadjutors. There never
will be, within the sacred walls, a silence and reverence more
profound than when the withered kindly face looks as of old upon the
congregation, to whose fathers its owner first ministered, and which has
grown up mainly under his instruction,--and when the voice that falls
familiarly on so many ears tells again, quietly and earnestly, the old
story which we all need so much to hear. And he may still look in at the
parish school, and watch the growth of a generation that is to do the
work of life when he is in his grave; and kindly smooth the children's
heads; and tell them how One, once a little child, and never more
than a young man, brought salvation alike to young and old.
He may still sit by the bedside of the sick and dying, and
speak to such with the sympathy and the solemnity of one who does
not forget that the last great realities are drawing near to both. But
there are vocations which are all very well for young or middle-aged
people, but which do not quite suit the old. Such is that of the
barrister. Wrangling and hair-splitting, browbeating and bewildering
witnesses, making coarse jokes to excite the laughter of common
jury-men, and addressing such with clap-trap bellowings, are not the
work for gray-headed men. If such remain at the bar, rather let them
have the more refined work of the Equity Courts, where you
address judges, and not juries; and where you spare clap-trap and
misrepresentation, if for no better reason, because you know that these
will not stand you in the slightest stead. The work which best befits
the aged, the work for which no mortal can ever become too venerable and
dignified or too weak and frail, is the work of Christian usefulness and
philanthropy. And it is a beautiful sight to see, as I trust we all have
seen, _that_ work persevered in with the closing energies of life. It
is a noble test of the soundness of the principle that prompted to its
first undertaking. It is a hopeful and cheering sight to younger men,
looking out with something of fear to the temptations and trials of the
years before them. Oh! if the gray-haired clergyman, with less now,
indeed, of physical strength and mere physical warmth, yet preaches,
with the added weight and solemnity of his long experience, the same
blessed doctrines now, after forty years, that he preached in his
early prime; if the philanthropist of half a century since is the
philanthropist still,--still kind, hopeful, and unwearied, though with
the snows of age upon his head, and the hand that never told its fellow
of what it did now trembling as it does the deed of mercy; then I think
that even the most doubtful will believe that the principle and the
religion of such men were a glorious reality! The sternest of all
touchstones of the genuineness of our better feelings is the fashion in
which they stand the wear of years.

But my shortening space warns me to stop; and I must cease, for the
present, from these thoughts of Future Years,--cease, I mean, from
writing about that mysterious tract before us: who can cease from
thinking of it? You remember how the writer of that little poem which
has been quoted asks Time to touch gently him and his. Of course he
spoke as a poet, stating the case fancifully,--but not forgetting, that,
when we come to sober sense, we must prefer our requests to an Ear more
ready to hear us and a Hand more ready to help. It is not to Time that I
shall apply to lead me through life into immortality! And I cannot think
of years to come without going back to a greater poet, whom we need not
esteem the less because his inspiration was loftier than that of the
Muses, who has summed up so grandly in one comprehensive sentence all
the possibilities which could befall _him_ in the days and ages before
him. "Thou shall guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to
glory!" Let us humbly trust that in that sketch, round and complete, of
all that can ever come to us, my readers and I may be able to read the
history of our Future Years!


She has gone,--she has left us in passion and pride,--
Our stormy-browed sister, so long at our side!
She has torn her own star from our firmament's glow,
And turned on her brother the face of a foe!

O Caroline, Caroline, child of the sun,
We can never forget that our hearts have been one,--
Our foreheads both sprinkled in Liberty's name,
From the fountain of blood with the finger of flame!

You were always too ready to fire at a touch;
But we said, "She is hasty,--she does not mean much."
We have scowled, when you uttered some turbulent threat;
But Friendship still whispered, "Forgive and forget!"

Has our love all died out? Have its altars grown cold?
Has the curse come at last which the fathers foretold?
Then Nature must teach us the strength of the chain
That her petulant children would sever in vain.

They may fight till the buzzards are gorged with their spoil,
Till the harvest grows black as it rots in the soil,
Till the wolves and the catamounts troop from their caves,
And the shark tracks the pirate, the lord of the waves:

In vain is the strife! When its fury is past,
Their fortunes must flow in one channel at last,
As the torrents that rush from the mountains of snow
Roll mingled in peace through the valleys below.

Our Union is river, lake, ocean, and sky:
Man breaks not the medal, when God cuts the die!
Though darkened with sulphur, though cloven with steel,
The blue arch will brighten, the waters will heal!

O Caroline, Caroline, child of the sun,
There are battles with Fate that can never be won!
The star-flowering banner must never be furled,
For its blossoms of light are the hope of the world!

Go, then, our rash sister! afar and aloof,--
Run wild in the sunshine away from our roof;
But when your heart aches and your feet have grown sore,
Remember the pathway that leads to our door!


Ninety years ago, one of the pleasantest houses near London, for the
society that gathered within it, was Mr., or rather, Mrs. Thrale's,
at Streatham Park. To be a guest there was to meet the best people in
England, and to hear such good talk that much of it has not lost its
flavor even yet. Strawberry Hill, Holland House, or any other famous
house of that day, has left but faint memories of itself, compared with
those of Streatham. Boswell, the most sagacious of men in the hunt after
good company, had the good wit and good fortune to get entrance here.
One day, in 1769, Dr. Johnson delivered him "a very polite card" from
Mr. and Mrs. Thrale, inviting him to Streatham. "On the 6th of October,
I complied," he says, "with their obliging invitation, and found, at
an elegant villa six miles from town, every circumstance that can make
society pleasing." Upon the walls of the library hung portraits of the
master and mistress of the house, and of their most familiar friends and
guests, all by Sir Joshua. Madame d'Arblay, in her most entertaining
"Diary," gives a list of them,--and a list is all that is needed of such
famous names. "Mrs. Thrale and her eldest daughter were in one piece,
over the fireplace, at full length. The rest of the pictures were all
three-quarters. Mr. Thrale was over the door leading to his study.
The general collection then began by Lord Sandys and Lord Westcote,
(Lyttelton,) two early noble friends of Mr. Thrale. Then followed Dr.
Johnson, Mr. Burke, Dr. Goldsmith, Mr. Murphy, Mr. Garrick, Mr. Baretti,
Sir Robert Chambers, and Sir Joshua Reynolds himself,--all painted in
the highest style of this great master, who much delighted in this his
Streatham Gallery. There was place left but for one more frame when the
acquaintance with Dr. Burney began at Streatham."

A household which had such men for its intimates must have had a more
than common charm in itself, and at Streatham this charm lay chiefly in
the character of its mistress. It was Mrs. Thrale who had the rare power
"to call together the most select company when it pleased her." In 1770
she was thirty years old. A small and not beautiful woman, but with
a variety of expression that more than compensated for the want of
handsome features, with a frank, animated manner, and that highest tact
which sets guests at ease, there was something specially attractive in
her first address. But beyond this she was the pleasantest converser of
all the ladies of the day. In that art in which one "has all mankind for
competitors," there was no one equal to her in her way. Gifted with the
readiest of well-stored memories, with a lively wit and sprightly fancy,
with a strong desire to please and an ambition to shine, she never
failed to win admiration, while her sweetness of temper and delicate
consideration for others gained for her a general regard. For many years
she was the friend who did most to make Johnson's life happy. He was a
constant inmate at Streatham. "I long thought you," wrote he, "the first
of womankind." It was her "kindness which soothed twenty years of a life
radically wretched." "To see and hear you," he wrote, "is always to hear
wit and to see virtue." She belonged, in truth, to the most serviceable
class of women,--by no means to the highest order of her sex. She was
not a woman of deep heart, or of noble or tender feeling; but she had
kindly and ready sympathies, and such a disposition to please as gave
her the capacity of pleasing. Her very faults added to her success. She
was vain and ambitious; but her vanity led her to seek the praises of
others, and her ambition taught her how to gain them. She was selfish;
but she pleased herself not at the expense of others, but by paying them
attentions which returned to her in personal gratifications. She was
made for such a position as that which she held at Streatham. The
highest eulogy of her is given in an incidental way by Boswell. He
reports Johnson as saying one day, "'How few of his friends' houses
would a man choose to be at when he is sick!' He mentioned one or two. I
recollect only Thrale's."

All the world of readers know the main incidents of Mrs. Thrale's life.
Her own books, Boswell, Madame d'Arblay, have made us almost as familiar
with her as with Dr. Johnson himself. Not yet have people got tired of
wondering at her marriage with Piozzi, or of amusing themselves with
the gossip of the old lady who remained a wit at eighty years old, and,
having outlived her great contemporaries, was happy in not outliving
her own faculties. Few characters not more remarkable have been more
discussed than hers. Macaulay, with characteristic unfairness, gave
a view of her conduct which Mr. Hayward, in his recently published
entertaining volumes,[A] shows to have been in great part the invention
of the great essayist's lively and unprincipled imagination. In the
autobiographical memorials of Mrs. Piozzi, now for the first time
printed, there is much that throws light on her life, and her relations
with her contemporaries. They do not so much raise one's respect for
her, as present her to us as a very natural and generally likable sort
of woman, even in those acts of her life which have been the most

[Footnote A: _Autobiography, Letters, and Literary Remains of Mrs.
Piozzi (Thrale)_. Edited, with Notes and an Introductory Account of her
Life and Writings, by A. Hayward, Esq., Q.C. In Two Volumes. London,
1861. Reprinted by Ticknor & Fields.]

If she had but died while she was mistress of Streatham, we should have
only delightful recollections of her. She would have been one of the
most agreeable famous women on record. But the last forty years of her
life were not as charming as the first. Her weaknesses gained mastery
over her, her vanity led her into follies, and she who had once been the
favorite correspondent of Dr. Johnson now appears as the correspondent
of such inferior persona that no association is connected with their
names. Mrs. Thrale and Mrs. Piozzi are two different persons. One
belongs to Streatham, the other to Bath; one is "always young and always
pretty," the other a rouged old woman. But it is unfair to push the
contrast too far. Mrs. Piozzi at seventy or eighty was as sprightly,
as good-natured, as Mrs. Thrale at thirty or forty. She never lost her
vivacity, never her desire to please. But it is a sadly different thing
to please Dr. Johnson, Burke, or Sir Joshua, and to please

Those real genuine no-mistake Tom Thumbs,
The little people fed on great men's crumbs.

One of the most marked and least satisfactory expressions of Mrs.
Piozzi's character during her later years was a fancy that she took to
Conway, a young and handsome actor, who appeared in Bath, where she was
then living, in the year 1819. From the time of her first acquaintance
with him, till her death, in 1821, she treated him with the most
flattering regard,--with an affection, indeed, that might be called
motherly, had there not been in it an element of excitement which was
neither maternal nor dignified. Conway was a gentleman in feeling, and
seems to have had not only a grateful sense of the old lady's partiality
for him, but a sincere interest also in hearing from her of the days and
the friends of her youth. So she wrote letters to him, gave him books
filled with annotations, (it was a favorite habit of hers to write notes
on the margins of books,) wrote for him the story of her life, and drew
on the resources of her marvellous memory for his amusement. The old
woman's kindness was one of the few bright things in poor Conway's
unhappy life. His temperament was morbidly sensitive; and when, in 1821,
while acting in London, Theodore Hook attacked him in the most cruel
and offensive manner in the columns of the "John Bull," he threw up his
engagement, determined to act no more in London, and for a time left the
stage. A year or two afterwards he came to this country, and met with a
very considerable success. But he fancied himself underrated, and, after
performing in Philadelphia in the winter of 1826, he took passage for
Charleston, and on the voyage threw himself overboard and was lost. His
effects were afterwards sold by auction in New York. Among them were
many interesting relics and memorials of Mrs. Piozzi. Mr. Hayward
mentions "a copy of the folio edition of Young's 'Night Thoughts,' in
which he had made a note of its having been presented to him by his
'dearly attached friend, the celebrated Mrs. Piozzi.'" But there were
other books of far greater interest and value than this. There was, as
we have been informed, a copy of Malone's Shakspeare, with numerous
notes in the handwriting of Dr. Johnson,--and a copy of "Prayers and
Meditations by Samuel Johnson," with several additional manuscript
prayers, and Mrs. Piozzi's name upon one of the fly-leaves. But more
curious still was a copy of Mrs. Piozzi's "Journey through France,
Italy, and Germany," both volumes of which are full of marginal notes,
while, inserted at the beginning and the end, are many pages of Mrs.
Piozzi's beautifully written manuscript, containing a narrative and
anecdotes of portions of her life. These volumes now lie before us,[B]
and their unpublished contents are as lively, as entertaining, and as
rich in autobiographic illustration, as any of the material of which Mr.
Hayward's recent book is composed.

[Footnote B: This unique copy of the _Journey through France_, etc., is
in the possession of Mr. Duncan C. Pell, of Newport, R.I. It is to his
liberality that we are indebted for the privilege of laying before
the readers of the Atlantic the following portions of Mrs. Piozzi's

On the first fly-leaf is the following inscription:--

"These Books do not in any wise belong to me; they are the property of
William Augustus Conway, Esq., who left them to my care, for purpose of
putting notes, when he quitted Bath, May 14, 1819.

"Hester Lynch Piozzi writes this for fear lest her death happening
before his return, these books might be confounded among the others in
her study."

On the next page the narrative begins, and with a truly astonishing
spirit for the writing of a woman in her eightieth year. Her old
vivacity is still natural to her; there is nothing forced in the
pleasantry of this introduction.

"A Lady once--'t was many years ago--asked me to lend her a book out
of my library at Streatham Park. 'A book of entertainment,' said J, 'of
course.' 'That I don't know or rightly comprehend;' was her odd answer;
'I wish for an _Abridgment_.' 'An Abridgment of what?' '_That_,' she
replied, 'you must tell _me_, my Dear; for I am no reader, like you and
Dr. Johnson; I only remember that the last book I read was very pretty,
and my husband called it an Abridgment.'.... And if I give some account
of myself here in these few little sheets prefixed to my 'Journey thro'
Italy,' you must kindly accept

"The Abridgment."

The first pages of the manuscript are occupied by Mrs. Piozzi with an
account of her family and of her own early life. They contain in brief
the same narrative that she gave in her "Autobiographical Memoirs,"
printed by Mr. Hayward, in his first volume. Here is a story, however,
which we do not remember to have seen before.

"My heart was free, my head full of Authors, Actors, Literature in every
shape; and I had a dear, dear friend, an old Dr. Collier, who said he
was sixty-six years old, I remember, the day I was sixteen, and whose
instructions I prized beyond all the gayeties of early life: nor have I
ever passed a day since we parted in which I have not recollected with
gratitude the boundless obligations that I owe him. He was intimate with
the famous James Harris of Salisbury, Lord Malmesbury's father, of whom
you have heard how Charles Townshend said, when he took his seat in the
House of Commons,--'Who is this man?'--to his next neighbour;
'I never saw him before.' 'Who? Why, Harris the author, that wrote one
book about Grammar [so he did] and one about Virtue.' 'What does he come
here for?' replies Spanish Charles; 'he will find neither Grammar nor
Virtue _here_.' Well, my dear old Dr. Collier had much of both, and
delighted to shake the superflux of his full mind over mine, ready to
receive instruction conveyed with so much tender assiduity."

In both her autobiographies, the printed as well as the manuscript, Mrs.
Piozzi speaks in very cold and disparaging terms of her first husband,
Mr. Thrale. Her marriage with him had not been a love-match; but we
suspect that the long course of years had been unfavorable to his memory
in her recollection, and that the blame with which his friends visited
her second marriage, which was in all respects an affair of the heart,
produced in her a certain bitterness of feeling toward Mr. Thrale, as if
he had been the author of these reproaches. It is impossible to believe
that he was as indifferent to her as she represents, and that her
marriage with him was not moderately happy. Had it been otherwise,
however well appearances might have been kept up, Dr. Johnson could
hardly have been deceived concerning the truth, and would hardly have
ventured to write to her in his letter of consolation upon Mr. Thrale's
death in 1781,--

"He that has given you happiness in marriage, to a degree of which,
without personal knowledge, I should have thought the description
fabulous, can give you another mode of happiness as a mother."

One of her most decided intellectual characteristics was her
versatility, or, to give it a harder name, what Johnson called her
"instability of attention." Dulness was, in her code, the unpardonable
sin. Variety was the charm of life, and of books. She never dwelt long
on one idea. Her letters and her books are pieces of mosaic-work, the
bits of material being put together without any regular pattern, but
often with a pretty effect. Here is an illustration of her style.

"In a few years (our Letters tell the date) Johnson was introduced; and
now I must laugh at a ridiculous _Retrospection_. When I was a very
young wench, scarce twelve years old I trust, my notice was strongly
attracted by a Mountebank in some town we were passing through. 'What a
fine fellow!' said I; 'dear Papa, do ask him to dinner with us at our
inn!--or, at least, Merry Andrew, because he could tell us such _clever
stories of his master_.' My Father laughed sans intermission an hour by
the dial, as Jacques once at Motley.--Yet did dear Mr. Conway's fancy
for H.L.P.'s conversation grow up, at first, out of something not unlike
this, when, his high-polished mind and fervid imagination taking fire
from the tall Beacon bearing Dr. Johnson's fame above the clouds, he
thought some information might perhaps be gained by talk with the old
female who so long _carried coals to it_. She has told all, or nearly
all, she knew,--

'And like poor Andrew must advance,
Mean mimic of her master's dance;--
But similes, like songs in love,
Describing much, too little prove.'

"So now, leaving Prior's pretty verses, and leaving Dr. Johnson too, who
was himself severely censured for his rough criticism on a writer who
had pleased all in our Augustan age of Literature, poor H.L.P. turns
egotist at eighty, and tells her own adventures."

But the octogenarian egotist has something to tell about beside herself.
Here is a passage of interest to the student of Shakspearian localities,
and bearing on a matter in dispute from the days of Malone and Chalmers.

"For a long time, then,--or I thought it such,--my fate was bound up
with the old Globe Theatre, upon the Bankside, Southwark; the alley it
had occupied having been purchased and thrown down by Mr. Thrale to
make an opening before the windows of our dwelling-house. When it lay
desolate in a black heap of rubbish, my Mother, one day, in joke,
called it the Ruins of Palmyra; and after they had laid it down in a
grass-plot, Palmyra was the name it went by, I suppose, among the clerks
and servants of the brew-house; for when the Quaker Barclay bought the
whole, I read that name with wonder in the Writings."--"But there
were really curious remains of the old Globe Playhouse, which, though
hexagonal in form without, was round within, as circles contain more
space than other shapes, and Bees make their cells in hexagons only
because that figure best admits of junction. Before I quitted the
premises, however, I learned that Tarleton, the actor of those times,
was not buried at St. Saviour's, Southwark, as he wished, near Massinger
and Cower, but at Shoreditch Church. _He_ was the first of the
profession whose fame was high enough to have his portrait solicited for
to be set up as a Sign; and none but he and Garrick, I believe, ever
obtained that honour. Mr. Dance's picture of our friend David lives in a
copy now in Oxford St.,--the character, King Richard."

Somewhat more than three years after her first husband's death, Mrs.
Thrale, in spite of the opposition of her friends, the repugnance of
her daughters, and the sneers of society, married Piozzi. He was a poor
Italian gentleman, whose only fortune was in his voice and his musical
talent. He had been for some time an admired public singer in London and
Paris. There was nothing against him but the opinion of society. Mrs.
Thrale set this opinion at defiance: a rash thing for a woman to do, and
hardly an excusable one in her case; for she was aware that she would
thus alienate her daughters, and offend her best friends. But she was in
love with him; and though for a time she tried to struggle against her
passion, it finally prevailed over her prudence, her pride, and such
affections as she had for others. Her health suffered during
the struggle, the termination of which she thus narrates in her
"Abridgment." The account differs in some slight particulars from that
in her "Autobiographical Memoirs"; but a comparison between the two
serves rather to confirm than to impugn her general accuracy.

"I hoped," she says, "in defiance of probability, to live my sorrows
out, and marry the man of my choice. Health, however, began to give
way, as my Letters to Dr. Johnson testify; and when my kind physician,
Dobson, from Liverpool, found it in actual and positive danger,--'Now,'
said he, 'I have respected your delicacy long enough; tell me at once
who he is that holds _such_ a life in his power: for write to him I must
and will; it is my sacred duty.' 'Dear Sir,' said I, 'the difficulty
is to keep him at a distance. Speak to these cruel girls, if you will
speak.' 'One of whose lives your assiduous tenderness,' cried he,
'saved, with my little help, only a month ago!'--and ran up-stairs to
the ladies. 'We know,' was their reply, 'that she is fretting after a
fellow; but where he is--you may ask her--we know not.' 'He is at Milan,
with his friend the Marquis of Aracieli,' said I,--'from whom I had a
letter last week, requesting Piozzi's recall from banishment, as he
gallantly terms it, little conscious of what I suffer.' So we wrote; and
he returned on the eleventh day after receiving the letter. Meanwhile
my health mended, and I waited on the lasses to their own house at
Brighthelmstone, leaving Miss Nicholson, a favorite friend of theirs,
and all their intolerably insolent servants, with them. Piozzi's return
accelerated the recovery of your poor friend, and we married in both
Churches,--at St. James', Bath, on St. James' Day, 1784,--thirty-five
years ago now that I write this Abridgment. When we came to examine
Papers, however, our attorney, Greenland, discovered a _suppression_
of fifteen hundred pounds, which helped pay our debts, discharge the
mortgage, etc., as Piozzi, like Portia, permitted me not to sleep by his
side with an unquiet soul. He settled everything with his own money,
depended on God and my good constitution for our living long and happily
together,--and so we did, twenty-five years,--said change of scenery
would complete the cure, and carried me off in triumph, as he called
it, to shew his friends in Italy the foreign wife he had so long been
sighing for. 'Ah, Madam!' said the Marquis, when he first saluted me,
'we used to blame dear Piozzi;--now we envy him!'"

Of Mrs. Piozzi's journey on the Continent we shall speak in another
article. After a residence abroad of two years and a half, she and her
husband returned to London in March, 1787. Mrs. Piozzi had come home
determined to resume, if it were possible, her old place in society, and
to assert herself against the attacks of wits and newspapers, and the
coldness of old friends. She had been hardly and unfairly dealt with
by the public, in regard to her marriage. The appearance, during
her absence, of her volume of "Anecdotes of Dr. Johnson" had given
unfriendly critics an opportunity to pass harsh judgment upon her
literary merits, and had excited the jealousy of rival biographers
of the dead lion. Boswell, Hawkins, Baretti, Chalmers, Peter Pindar,
Gifford, Horace Walpole, all had their fling at her. Never was an
innocent woman in private life more unfeelingly abused, or her name
dragged before the public more wantonly, in squibs and satires, jests
and innuendoes. The women who transgress social conventionalities are
often treated as if they had violated the rules of morals. But she was
not to be put down in this way. Her temperament enabled her to escape
much of the pain which a more sensitive person would have suffered. She
hardened herself against the malice of her satirists; and in doing so,
her character underwent an essential change. She was truly happy with
Piozzi, and she preserved, by strength of will, an inexhaustible fund of
good spirits.

On first reaching London, "we drove," she writes in the Conway MSS., "to
the Royal Hotel in Pall Mall, and, arriving early, I proposed going to
the Play. There was a small front box, in those days, which held only
two; it made the division, or connexion, with the side boxes, and,
being unoccupied, we sat in it, and saw Mrs. Siddons act Imogen, I well
remember, and Mrs. Jordan, Priscilla Tomboy. Mr. Piozzi was amused, and
the next day was spent in looking at houses, counting the cards left
by old acquaintances, etc. The lady-daughters came, behaved with cold
civility, and asked what I thought of their decision concerning Cecilia,
then at school--No reply was made, or a gentle one; but she was the
first cause of contention among us. The lawyers gave her into my care,
and we took her home to our new habitation in Hanover Square, which we
opened with Music, cards, etc., on, I think, the 22 March. Miss Thrales
refused their company; so we managed as well as we could. Our affairs
were in good order, and money ready for spending. The World, as it is
called, appeared good-humored, and we were soon followed, respected, and
admired. The summer months sent us about visiting and pleasuring, ...
and after another gay London season, Streatham Park, unoccupied by
tenants, called us as if _really home_. Mr. Piozzi, with more generosity
than prudence, spent two thousand pounds on repairing and furnishing it
in 1790;--and we had danced all night, I recollect, when the news came
of Louis Seize's escape from, and recapture by, his rebel subjects."

Poor old woman, who could thus write of her own daughters!--poor old
woman, who had not heart enough either to keep the love of her children
or to grieve for its loss! Cecilia was her fourth and youngest child,
and her story, as her mother tells it, may as well be finished here.
After speaking in her manuscript of a claim on some Oxfordshire
property, disputed by her daughters, she says, in words hard and cold
as steel,--"We threw it up, therefore, and contented ourselves with the
plague Cecilia gave us, who, by dint of intriguing lovers, teazed my
soul out before she was fifteen,--when she fortunately ran away,
jumping out of the window at Streatham Park, with Mr. Mostyn of
Segraid,--a young man to whom Sir Thomas Mostyn's title will go, if he
does not marry, but whose property, being much encumbered, made him no
match for Cecy and her forty thousand pounds; and we were censured
for not taking better care, and suffering her to wed a _Welsh_
gentleman,--object of ineffable contempt to the daughters of Mr. Thrale,
with whom she always held correspondence while living with us, who
indulged her in every expense and every folly,--although allowed only
one hundred and forty pounds per ann. on her account."

After two or three years spent in London, the Piozzis resided for some
time at Streatham,--how changed in mistress and in guests from the
Streatham of which Mrs. Thrale had been the presiding genius! But after
a while they removed to Wales, where, on an old family estate belonging
to Mrs. Piozzi, they built a house, and christened the place with the
queer Welsh-Italian compound name of Brynbella. "Mr. Piozzi built the
house for me, he said; my own old chateau, Bachygraig by name, tho' very
curious, was wholly uninhabitable; and we called the Italian villa he
set up as mine in the Vale of Cluid, North Wales, Brynbella, or the
beautiful brow, making the name half Welsh and half Italian, as we
were." Here they lived, with occasional visits to other places, during
the remainder of Piozzi's life. "Our head quarters were in Wales, where
dear Piozzi repaired my church, built a new vault for my old ancestors,
chose the place in it where he and I are to repose together..... He
lived some twenty-five years with me, however, but so punished with
Gout that we found Bath the best wintering-place for many, many
seasons.--Mrs. Siddons' last appearance there he witnessed, when she
played Calista to Dimond's Lothario, in which he looked _so_ like
Garrick it shocked us _all three_, I believe; for Garrick adored Mr.
Piozzi, and Siddons hated the little great man to her heart. Poor
Dimond! he was a well-bred, pleasing, worthy creature, and did the
honours of his own house and table with peculiar grace indeed. No
likeness in private life or manner,--none at all; no wit, no fun, no
frolic humour had Mr. Dimond:--no grace, no dignity, no real unaffected
elegance of mien or behaviour had his predecessor, David,--whose
partiality to my fastidious husband was for that reason never returned.
Merriment, difficult for _him_ to comprehend, made no amends for the
want of that which no one understood better;--so he hated all the wits
but Murphy."

And now that we are on anecdotes of the Theatre, here is another good
story, which belongs to a somewhat earlier time, but of which Mrs.
Piozzi does not mention the exact date. "The Richmond Theatre at that
time attracted all literary people's attention, while a Coterie of
Gentlemen and Noblemen and Ladies entertained themselves with getting up
Plays, and acting them at the Duke of Richmond's house, Whitehall. Lee's
'Theodosius' was the favorite. Lord Henry Fitzgerald played Varanus very
well,--for a Dilettante; and Lord Derby did his part surprisingly. But
there was a song to be sung to Athenais, while she, resolving to take
poison, sits in a musing attitude. Jane Holman--then Hamilton--_would_
sing an air of Sacchini, and the manager _would not_ hear Italian words.
The ballad appointed by the author was disapproved by all, and I pleased
everybody by my fortunate fancy of adapting some English verses to the
notes of Sacchini's song; and Jane Hamilton sung them enchantingly:--

'Vain's the breath of Adulation,
Vain the tears of tenderest Passion,
Whilst a strong Imagination
Holds the wandering Mind away;
Art in vain attempts to borrow
Notes to soothe a rooted sorrow;
Fixed to die, and die to-morrow,
What can touch her soul to-day?'

"The lines were printed, but I lost them. 'What a wild Tragedy is this!'
said I to Hannah More, who was one of the audience. 'Wild enough,' was
her reply; 'but there's good Poetry in it, and good Passion, _and they
will always do_.'

"Hannah More never goes now to a Theatre. How long is H.L. Piozzi likely
to be seen there? How long will Mr. Conway keep the stage?"

In the year 1798, the family of Mr. Piozzi having suffered greatly from
the French invasion of Lombardy, he sent for the son of his youngest
brother, a "little boy just turned of five years old." "We have got him
here," wrote Mrs. Piozzi in a letter from Bath, dated January, 1799,
published by Mr. Hayward, "and his uncle will take him to school next
week." "As he was by a lucky chance baptized, in compliment to me, John
Salusbury, [Salusbury was her family name,] he will be known in England
by no other, and it will be forgotten he is a foreigner." "My poor
little boy from Lombardy said, as I walked with him across our market,
'These are sheeps' heads, are they not, aunt? I saw a hasket of men's
heads at Brescia.'" Little John, though he went to school, was often at
home. After writing of the troubles with her own daughters, Mrs. Piozzi
says in the manuscript before us,--"Had we vexations enough? We had
certainly many pleasures. The house in Wales was beautiful, and the Boy
was beautiful too. Mr. Piozzi said I had spoiled my own children and was
spoiling his. My reply was, that I loved spoiling people, and hated any
one I could not spoil. Am I not now trying to spoil dear Mr. Conway?"

Piozzi was not far from wrong in his judgment of her treatment of this
boy, if we may trust to her complaints of his coldness and indifference
to her. In 1814, at the time of his marriage, five years after Piozzi's
death, she gave to him her Welsh estate; and it may have been a greater
satisfaction to her than any gratification of the affections could have
afforded, to see him, before she died, high sheriff of his county, and
knighted as Sir John Salusbury Piozzi Salusbury.

There was little gayety in the life at Brynbella, or at Bath,--and the
society that Mrs. Piozzi now saw was made up chiefly of new and for the
most part uninteresting acquaintances. The old Streatham set, with a few
exceptions, were dead, and of the few that remained none retained their
former relations with its mistress. But she suffered little from the
change, was contented to win and accept the flattery of inferior people,
and, instead of spending her faculties in soothing the "radically
wretched life" of Johnson, used them, perhaps not less happily, in
lightening the sufferings of Piozzi during his last years. She tells a
touching story of him in these days.

"Piozzi's fine hand upon the organ and pianoforte deserted him. Gout,
such as I never knew, fastened on his fingers, distorting them into
every dreadful shape. ... A little girl, shewn to him as a musical
wonder of five years old, said,' Pray, Sir, why are your fingers wrapped
up in black silk so?' 'My Dear,' replied he, 'they are in mourning for
my Voice.' 'Oh, me!' cries the child, _'is she dead_?' He sung an easy
song, and the Baby exclaimed, 'Ah, Sir! you are very naughty,--you tell
fibs!' Poor Dears! and both gone now!!"

There were no morbid sensibilities in Mrs. Piozzi's composition. She can
tell all her sorrows without ever a tear. A mark of exclamation looks
better than a blot. And yet she had suffered; but it had been with such
suffering as makes the soul hard rather than tender. The pages with
which she ends this narrative of her life are curiously characteristic.

"When life was gradually, but perceptibly, closing round him [Piozzi] at
Bath, in 1808, I asked him if he would wish to converse with a Romish
priest,--we had full opportunity there. 'By no means,' said he. 'Call
Mr. Leman of the Crescent.' We did so,--poor Bessy ran and fetched him.
Mr. Piozzi received the blessed Sacrament at his hands; but recovered
sufficiently to go home and die in his own house. I sent for Salusbury,
but he came three hours too late,--his master, Mr. Shephard, with him.
In another year he went to Oxford, where he spent me above seven hundred
pounds per annum, and kept me in continual terror lest the bad habits of
the place should ruin him, body, soul, and purse. His old school-fellow,
Smythe Owen,--then. Pemberton,--accompanied him, and to that gentleman's
sister he of course gave his heart. The Lady and her friends took
advantage of my fondness, and insisted on my giving up the Welsh
estate. I did so, hoping to live at last with my own children, at
Streatham Park;--there, however, I found no solace of the sort. So,
after entangling my purse with new repairing and furnishing that place,
retirement to Bath with my broken heart and fortune was all I could wish
or expect. Thither I hasted, heard how the possessors of Brynbella,
lived and thrived, but

'Who set the twigs will he remember
Who is in haste to sell the timber?'

"Well, no matter! One day before I left it there was talk how Love had
always Interest annexed to it. 'Nay, then,' said I, 'what is my love
for Salusbury?' 'Oh!' replied Shephard, 'there is Interest there. Mrs.
Piozzi cannot, could not, I am sure, exist without some one upon whom to
energize her affections; his Uncle is gone, and she is much obliged
to young Salusbury for being ready at her hand to pet and spoil;
her children will not suffer her to love them, and'--with a coarse
laugh--'what will she do when this fellow throws her off, as he soon
will?' Shephard was right enough. I sunk into a stupor, worse far
than all the torments I had endured: but when Canadian Indians take a
prisoner, dear Mr. Conway knows what agonies they put them to; the
man bears all without complaining,--smokes, dances, triumphs in his

'For the son of Alcnoomak shall never complain.'

"When a little remission comes, however, then comes the torpor too;--he
cannot then be waked by pain or moderate pleasure: and such was my
case, when your talents roused, your offered friendship opened my heart
to enjoyment Oh! never say hereafter that the obligations are on your
side. Without you, dulness, darkness, stagnation of every faculty would
have enveloped and extinguished all the powers of hapless


The picture that Mrs. Piozzi paints of herself in these last words is a
sad one. She herself was unconscious, however, of its real sadness. In
its unintentional revelations it shows us the feebleness without the
dignity of old age, vivacity without freshness of intellect, the
pretence without the reality of sentiment. "Hapless H.L.P."--to have
lived to eighty years, and to close the record of so long a life with
such words!

A little more than a year after this "Abridgment" was written, in May,
1821, Mrs. Piozzi died. Her children, from whom she had lived separated,
were around her death-bed.[C]

[Footnote C: It is but four years ago that the Viscountess Keith, Mrs.
Piozzi's eldest daughter, died. She was ninety-five years old. Her long
life connected our generation with that of Johnson and Burke. She was
the last survivor of the Streatham "set,"--for, as "Queeney," she had
held a not unimportant place in it. She was at Johnson's death-bed. At
their last interview he said,--"My dear child, we part forever in this
world; let us part as Christian friends should; let us pray together."

It was in 1808 that Miss Thrale married Lord Keith, a distinguished
naval officer.

In _The Gentleman's Magazine_, for May, 1657, is an interesting notice
of Lady Keith. "During many years," it is there said, "Viscountess Keith
held a distinguished position in the highest circles of the fashionable
world in London; but during the latter portion of her life.... her time
was almost entirely devoted to works of charity and to the performance
of religious duties. No one ever did more for the good of others, and
few ever did so much in so unostentatious a manner."]

In judging her, it is to be borne in mind that the earlier and the later
portions of her life are widely different from each other. As we have
before said, Mrs. Thrale and Mrs. Piozzi are two distinct persons. Mrs.
Thrale, whom the world smiled upon, whom the wits liked and society
courted, who had the best men in England for her friends, is a woman who
will always be pleasant in memory. Her unaffected grace, her kindliness,
her good-humor, her talents, make her perpetually charming. She was
helped by her surroundings to be good, pleasant, and clever; and she
will always keep her place as one of the most attractive figures in the
circle which was formed by Johnson, and Burke, and Reynolds, and Fanny
Burney, and others scarcely less conspicuous. But Mrs. Piozzi, whom the
world frowned upon, whom the wits jeered at, and society neglected,
whose friends nobody now knows, will be best remembered and best liked
as having once been Mrs. Thrale. There is no great charge against her;
she was more sinned against than sinning; she was only weak and foolish,
only degenerated from her first excellence. And even in her old age some
traits of her youthful charms remain, and, seeing these, we regard
her with a tender compassion, and remember of her only the bright
helpfulness and freshness of her younger days, when Johnson "loved her,
esteemed her, reverenced her, and thought her the first of womankind."

* * * * *


A century ago, the interior of Africa was a sealed book to the civilized
world. Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians, had been noticed in Holy Writ;
the Nile with Thebes and Memphis on its banks, and a ship-canal to
the Red Sea with triremes on its surface, had not escaped the eye of
Herodotus: but the countries which gave birth to Queen and River were
alike unknown. The sunny fountains, the golden sands, the palmy plains
of Africa were to be traced in the verses of the poet; but he dealt
neither in latitude nor longitude. The maps presented a _terra
incognita_, or sterile mountains, where modern travellers have found
rivers, lakes, and alluvial basins,--or exhibited barren wastes, where
recent discoveries find rich meadows annually flowed, studded with
walled towns and cities, enlivened by herds of cattle, or cultivated in
plantations of maize and cotton.

Although the northern coast of Africa had once been the granary of
Carthage and Rome, cultivation had receded, and the corn-ship of
antiquity had given place to the felucca of the corsair, preying upon
the commerce of Europe. A few caravans, laden with a little ivory and
gold-dust or a few packages of drugs and spices, crept across the
Desert, and the slave-trade principally, if not alone, drew to Africa
the attention of civilized nations. Egypt, Tripoli and Tunis, Turkey and
the Spanish Provinces, the West India Isles and the Southern States,
knew it as the mart where human beings were bought and sold; and
Christians were reconciled to the traffic by the hope that it might
contribute to the moral, if not physical, welfare of the captive, by his
removal to a more civilized region.

During the last three centuries, millions of Africans have perished
either on their way to slavery or in exhausting toil under a tropical
sun; and the flag of England has been the most prominent in this
demoralizing traffic. But it is due to England to say, that, since she
withdrew from it, she has aimed to atone for the past by a noble
and persevering devotion to the improvement of Africa. By repeated
expeditions, by missions, treaties, colonies, and incentives to
commerce, she has spread her light over the interior, and is now
recognized both by the tribes of the Desert and by civilized nations as
the great protector of Africa, and both geography and commerce owe to
her most of their advances on the African continent.

So little was known of Africa, that, when Mungo Park made his report, in
1798, of the discovery of the Niger, and described large cities on its
banks, and vessels of fifty tons burden navigating its waters, the world
was incredulous; and his subsequent fate threw a cloud over the subject
which was not entirely dispelled until his course was traced and his
statements verified by modern travellers.

The route of Dr. Park was from the west coast, near Sierra Leone, to the
upper branches of the Niger. On his second expedition he took with him
a detachment of British soldiers, and a number of civilians, fresh from
England, none of whom survived him. It appears from his journal that his
men followed the foot-paths of the natives, slept in the open air, were
exposed to the dews at night, and were overtaken by the rainy season
before they embarked upon the Niger. Unacclimated, with no proper means
of conveyance, no suitable clothing, and no precautions against
the fever of the country, they nearly all became victims to their
indiscretions. Park, however, at length launched his schooner on the
Niger, passed the city of Timbuctoo, and, with two or three Englishmen,
followed the river more than a thousand miles to Boussa. Reaching the
rapids at this point in a low stage of the water, he was so indiscreet
as to fire on the natives, and was drowned in his attempt to escape from
them; but his fate remained in uncertainty for eighteen years.

The long struggle with Napoleon, the fearful loss of life which attended
the journey of Park, and the doubts as to his fate, checked for many
years the exploration of Africa. In 1821, a third attempt to explore
the Niger was made by a Major Laing, who failed in his efforts to reach
Timbuctoo, and fell a victim to Mahometan intolerance.

In 1822, a new effort was made by England to reach the interior, and
Messrs. Denham and Clapperton joined the caravan from Tripoli, and
crossed the Desert to the Soudan. They explored the country to the ninth
degree of north latitude, found large Negro and Mahometan states in the
interior, and visited Saccatoo, Kano, Murfeia, Tangalra, and other large
towns, some of which contained twenty or thirty thousand people.

In their journal we find a vivid sketch of a Negro army marching from
Bornou to the South, with horsemen in coats-of-mail, as in the days of
chivalry, and armed, as in those days, with lances and bows and arrows.
A glowing description is given of the ravages that attended their march.
When they entered an enemy's country, desolation marked their path,
houses and corn-fields were destroyed, all the full-grown males were put
to death, and the women and children reduced to servitude.

It was obvious that an incessant struggle was in progress between the
Mahometan and Negro states, and that the Mahometan faith and Arab blood
were slowly gaining an ascendency over the Negro even down to the
equator. The conquering tribes, by intermarriage with the females,
were gradually changing the race, and introducing greater energy and
intelligence; and the mixed races have exhibited great proficiency in
various branches of manufacture. The invaders took with them large herds
of cattle, and pursued a pastoral life, leaving the culture of the land
principally to the Negro.

In 1825 Clapperton made his second expedition to the interior,
accompanied by Richard Lander. In this journey the adventurous
travellers landed at Badagry, and crossed through Yarriba to the Niger.
On their way they spent several days at Katunga, the capital of Yarriba,
a city so extensive that one of its streets is described as five miles
in length. The town of Koofo, with twenty thousand inhabitants, as also
large cotton-plantations, are mentioned by these travellers; and some
idea of the territory they explored may be formed from the following
extract from their narrative:--

"The further we penetrate into the country, the more dense we find the
population to be, and civilization becomes at every step more strikingly
apparent. Large towns, at a distance of only a few miles from each
other, we were informed, lay on all sides of us, the inhabitants of
which pay the greatest respect to the laws, and live under a regular
form of government."

It is to this fertile, populous, and peaceful region of the interior
that the most successful efforts of the English missionaries have been
of late directed.

In this expedition, Captain Clapperton died of the fever of the country.
His faithful servant, Lander, after publishing his journal, returned to
Africa, in 1830, with his brother, landed at Badagry, and again crossed
the country to the Niger.

At Boussa, they obtained the first authentic information of the death of
Park, and recovered his gun, robe, and other relics. Here, embarking in
canoes, they ascended the river through its rapids to Yaouri, and
thence traced it to the sea in the Bight of Benin. On their way, they
discovered the Benue, which joins the Niger two hundred and seventy
miles from the ocean, with a volume of water and a width nearly equal to
its own. They encountered a large number of canoes, nearly fifty feet
in length, armed in some cases with a brass six-pounder at the bow, and
each manned by sixty or seventy men actively engaged in the slave-trade.
Forty of these canoes were found together at Eboe, near the mouth of the

During the interval between the two expeditions of Lander to trace the
course of this mysterious river, France was exploring its upper waters.

In 1827, Rene Caillie, a Frenchman, adopting the disguise of a
Mahometan, left the western coast at Kakundy, a few miles north of
Sierra Leone, and crossed the intervening highlands to the affluents of
the Niger, which he struck within two hundred and fifty miles of the

He first came to the Tankesso, a rapid stream flowing into the Niger
just below its cascades, and noticed here a mountain of pale pink quartz
in regular strata of eighteen inches in thickness, a few miles below
which the river flows in a wide and tranquil stream through extensive
plains, which it fertilizes by its inundations. One hundred miles below,
at Boure, were rich gold mines within twenty miles of the Niger. In the
dry season, he found its waters very cold and waist-deep.

Caillie travelled by narrow paths impervious to horses or carriages, and
with a party of natives bearing merchandise on their heads. His route
was through a country gradually ascending and occasionally mountainous,
but fertile in the utmost degree, and watered by numerous streams and
rivulets which kept the verdure constantly fresh, with delightful plains
that required only the labor of the husbandman to produce everything
necessary for human life.

Proceeding westward, he reached the main Niger, which he found, at
the close of the dry season, and before it had received its principal
tributaries, nine feet deep and nine hundred feet in width, with a
velocity of two and a half miles an hour.

To this point, where the river becomes navigable for steamers, a common
road or railway of three hundred miles in length might be easily
constructed from Sierra Leone; and it is a little surprising that Great
Britain, with her solicitude to reach the interior, should not have been
tempted by the fertility, gold mines, and navigable waters in the rear
of Sierra Leone, so well pictured by Caillie, to open at least a common
highway to the Niger, an enterprise which might be effected for fifty
thousand pounds. Although this may be so easily accomplished, the
principal route to the interior of Africa is still the caravan track
from Tripoli through the Desert, requiring three months by a hazardous
and most fatiguing journey of fifteen hundred miles. The first movement
for a road to the interior has been recently made in Yarriba, by T.J.
Bowen, the American Baptist missionary, who pronounces it to be the
prerequisite to civilization and Christianity.

Caillie readied the Niger in May, just as the rainy reason commenced,
but, finding no facilities for descending the stream, he proceeded to
the southwest, crossed many of its affluents, traversed a rich country,
and, having exposed himself to the fever and met with many detentions,
finally embarked in the succeeding March at Djenne, in a vessel of
seventy tons burden, for Timbuctoo. He describes this vessel as one
hundred feet in length, fourteen feet broad, and drawing seven feet
of water. It was laden with rice, millet, and cotton, and manned by
twenty-one men, who propelled the frail bark by poles and paddles. With
a flotilla of sixty of these vessels he descended the Niger several
hundred miles to Timbuctoo. He speaks of the river as varying from half
to three-fourths of a mile in width, annually overflowing its banks and
irrigating a large basin generally destitute of trees. After paying toll
to the Tasaareks, a Moorish tribe, on the way, and losing one of the
flotilla, he landed safely at Timbuctoo, and probably was the first
European who visited that remote city, although Adams, an American
sailor wrecked on the coast, claims to have been carried there before as
a captive.

From the narratives of Park, Clapperton, Lander, and Caillie, confirmed
by Bairkie and Barth, the latter of whom explored the banks of the Niger
from Timbuctoo to Boussa, it has been ascertained to be a noble stream,
navigable for nearly twenty-five hundred miles, with an average width
of more than half a mile, and an average depth of three fathoms,
--comparing favorably with our own Mississippi. There appears to be but
one portion of the stream difficult for navigation, and that is the
portion from Yaouri to Lagaba, a distance of eighty miles. In this space
are several reefs and ledges, mostly bare at low water, and the river is
narrowed in width by mountains on either side; but in the wet season it
overflows its banks at this point, and is then navigated by the larger
class of canoes. There can be little doubt that it is susceptible of
navigation above and below by the largest class of river steamers, and
that the rapids themselves may in the higher stages of water be ascended
by the American high-pressure steamers which navigate our Western
rivers, drawing, as they do in low stages of the Ohio and Missouri, but
sixteen to eighteen inches.

As soon as it was ascertained that the Niger reached the ocean in the
Bight of Benin, and that its upper waters had been navigated by Caillie
and Park, a private association, aided by the British government, fitted
out a brig and several steamers, with a large party of scientific men,
who, in 1833, entered the Niger from the sea.

Great Britain, though enterprising and persevering, is slow in adapting
means to ends, and made a series of mistakes in her successive
expeditions, which might have been avoided, if she would have
condescended to profit by the experience of her children on this side of
the Atlantic.

The expedition of 1833 was deficient in many things. The power and speed
of the steamers were insufficient, their draught of water too great, and
they were so long delayed in their outfit and in their sea-voyage that
they found the river falling, and were detained by shoals and sand-bars.
The accommodations were unsuitable; and the men, exposed to a bad
atmosphere among the mangroves at the mouth of the river, and confined
in the holds of the vessels, were attacked by fever, and but ten of them
survived. The expedition, however, succeeded in reaching Rabba, on the
Niger, five hundred miles from the sea, ascended the Benue, eighty miles
above the confluence, and charts were made and soundings taken for the
distance explored.

In 1842 the British government made a new effort to explore the Niger,
and built for that purpose three iron steamers, the Wilberforce, Albert,
and Soudan, vessels of one hundred to one hundred and thirty-nine feet
in length. The error committed in the first expedition, of too great
draught, was avoided; but the steamers had so little power and keel that
their voyage to the Niger was both tedious and hazardous, and their
speed was found insufficient to make more than three knots per hour
against the current of the river. Arriving on the coast late in the
season, they were unable to ascend above the points already explored,
and the officers and men, suffering from the tedious navigation, close
cabins, and effluvia from the falling river, lost one-fourth of their
number by fever, while the African Kroomen, accustomed to the climate
and sleeping on the open deck, enjoyed perfect health. It was the
intention of government to establish a model farm and mission at the
confluence of the Niger and Benue; but the officers, discouraged by
sickness, abandoned their original purpose, and the expedition proved
another failure, involving a loss of at least sixty thousand pounds.

After the lapse of twelve years, it was ascertained that private
steamers and sailing vessels were resorting to the Niger, and that an
active trade was springing up in palm-oil, the trees producing which
fringe the banks of the river for some hundreds of miles from the sea;
and in 1853, a Liverpool merchant, McGregor Laird, who had accompanied
the former expedition, fitted out, with the aid of government, the
Pleiad steamer for a voyage up the Niger.

One would imagine that by this time the British government would have
corrected their former errors; and a part were corrected. The speed of
this steamer surpassed that of her predecessors, and her draught did not
exceed five feet. She was well provided with officers, and a crew of
native Kroomen from the coast; and she was supplied with ample stores
of quinine. But, singular as it may appear, this steamer, destined, to
ascend the great rivers up which the former expedition found a strong
breeze flowing daily, was not furnished with a _sail_; and although the
banks of the Niger were lined with forest-trees, and the supply of coal
was sufficient for a few days only, not a single _axe_ or _saw_ was
provided for cutting wood, and the Kroomen hired from the coast were
compelled to trim off with shingle-hatchets nearly all the fuel used
in ascending the river,--and in descending, the steamer was obliged to
drift down with the current. Moreover, she was but one hundred feet
in length, with an engine and boiler occupying thirty feet of her
bold,--thus leaving but thirty-five feet at each end for officers, men,
and stores. Neither state-room, cabin, nor awning was provided on deck
to shelter the crew from an African sun.

With all these deficiencies, however, they achieved a partial triumph.
Entering the river in July, they ascended the southern branch, now
known as the Benue, for a distance of seven hundred miles from the sea,
reaching Adamawa, a Mahometan state of the Soudan. On the fifteenth of
August they encountered the rise of waters, and found the Benue nearly a
mile in width and from one to three fathoms in depth. They observed it
overflowing its banks for miles and irrigatin extensive and fertile
plains to the depth of several feet, and saw reason to believe that this
river, which flows westerly from the interior, may be navigated at least
one thousand miles from the sea. As Dr. Barth visited it at a city
several hundred miles above the point reached by the Pleiad, and found
it flowing with a wide and deep current, it may be regarded as the
gateway into the interior of Africa.

One of our light Western steamers, manned by our Western boatmen and
axemen, with its three decks, lofty staterooms, superior speed,
and light draught, would have been most admirably fitted for this

But the expedition, with all its deficiencies, achieved a further
triumph. Dr. Bairkie, by using quinine freely, and by removing the beds
of the officers from the stifling cabins to the deck, escaped the loss
of a single man, although four months on the river,--thus demonstrating
that the white man can reach the interior of Africa in safety, a problem
quite as important to be solved as the course and capacity of the Niger
and its branches.

Thus have been opened to navigation the waters of the Mysterious River.

When the Landers first floated down the stream in their canoe, thirty
years since, they found vast forests and little cultivation, and the
natives seemed to have no commerce except in slaves and yams for their
support. But an officer who accompanied the several steam expeditions
was astonished in his last visit to see the change which a few years
had produced. New and populous towns had sprung up, extensive groves
of palm-trees and gardens lined the banks, and vessels laden with oil,
yams, ground-nuts, and ivory indicated the progress of legitimate

The narrative of Dr. Bairkie, a distinguished German scholar, who has
written an account of the voyage of the Pleiad, will be found both
interesting and instructive; and we may some day expect another volume,
for he has returned to the scene of his adventures.

Another German in the service of Great Britain has given us a vivid
picture of Central Africa north of the equator. Dr. Henry Barth has
recently published, in four octavo volumes, a narrative of his travels
in Africa for five years preceding 1857. During this period, he
accompanied the Sheik of Bornou, one of the chief Negro states of
Africa, on his march as far south as the Benue, explored the borders of
Lake Tsadda, crossed the Niger at Sai, and visited the far-famed city
of Timbuctoo. Here he incurred some danger from the fanaticism of
the Moslems; but his command of Arabic, his tact and adroitness in
distinguishing the Protestant worship of the Deity from the homage
paid by Roman Catholics to images of the Virgin and Saints, and in
illustrating the points in which his Protestant faith agreed with the
Koran, extricated him from his embarrassment.

Dr. Barth found various Negro cities with a population ranging from
fifteen to twenty thousand, and observed large fields of rice, cotton,
tobacco, and millet. On his way to Timbuctoo, he saw a field of this
last-named grain in which the stalks stood twenty-four feet high. Our
Patent Office should secure some of the seed which he has doubtless
conveyed to Europe. The following prices, which he names, give us an
idea of the cheapness of products in Central Africa:--An ox two dollars,
a sheep fifty cents, tobacco one to two cents per pound.

From the sketch we have given of the Niger and its branches, and of the
countries bordering upon them, it would appear to be the proper policy
of Great Britain and other commercial nations to open a way from Sierra
Leone to the Niger, and to establish a colony near the confluence of
this river with the Benue. From this point, which is easily accessible
from the sea and the ports of the British colonies on the western coast
of Africa, light steamers may probably ascend to Sego and Djenne,
encountering no difficulties except at the rapids near Boussa, and may
penetrate into the heart of the Soudan. In this region are mines of
lead, copper, gold, and iron, a rich soil, adapted to cotton, rice,
indigo, sugar, coffee, and vegetable butter, with very cheap labor. With
steamers controlling the rivers, a check could here be given to the
slave-trade, and to the conflicts between the Moors and Negroes, and
Christianity have a fair prospect of diffusion. Such a colony is
strongly recommended by Lieutenant Allen, who accompanied the
expeditions of 1833 and 1842; and there can be no doubt that it would
attract the caravans from the remote interior, and put an end to the
perilous and tedious expeditions across the Desert.


_Benvenuto Rambaldi da Imola Illustrato nella Vita e nelle Opere, e di
lui Comento Latino sulla Divina Commedia di Dante Allghieri voltalo in
Italiano dall' Avvocato_ GIOVANNI TAMBURINI. Imola. 1855-56. 3 vol.
in 8vo. [The Commentary of Benvenuto Rambaldi of Imola on the _Divina
Commedia_, translated from Latin into Italian, by Giovanni Tamburini.]

Almost five centuries have passed since Benvenuto of Imola, one of
the most distinguished men of letters of his time, was called by the
University of Bologna to read a course of lectures upon the "Divina
Commedia" before the students at that famous seat of learning. From
that time till the present, a great part of his "Comment" has lain in
manuscript, sharing the fate of the other earliest commentaries on the
poem of Dante, not one of which, save that of Boccaccio, was given to
the press till within a few years. This neglect is the more strange,
since it was from the writers of the fourteenth century, almost
contemporary as they were with Dante, that the most important
illustrations both of the letter and of the sense of the "Divina
Commedia" were naturally to be looked for. When they wrote, the lapse of
time had not greatly obscured the memory of the events which the poet
had recorded, or to which he had referred. The studies with which he had
been familiar, the external sources from which he had drawn inspiration,
had undergone no essential change in direction or in nature. The same
traditions and beliefs possessed the intellects of men. Similar social
and political influences moulded their characters. The distance that
separated Dante from his first commentators was mainly due to the
surpassing nature of his genius, which, in some sort, made him, and
still makes him, a stranger to all men, and very little to changes like
those which have slowly come about in the passage of centuries, and
which divide his modern readers from the poet.

It was the intention of Benvenuto, as he tells us, "to elucidate what
was dark in the poem being veiled under figures, and to explain what
was involved in its multiplex meanings." But his Comment is more
illustrative than analytic, more literal than imaginative, and its chief
value lies in the abundance of current legends which it contains, and
in the number of stories related in it, which exhibit the manners or
illustrate the history of the times. So great, indeed, is the value
of this portion of his work, that Muratori, to whom a large debt of
gratitude is due from all students of Italian history, published in
1738, in the first volume of his "Antiquitates Italicae Medii Aevi," a
selection of such passages, amounting altogether to about one half of
the whole Comment. However satisfactory this incomplete publication
might be to the mere historical investigator, the students of the
"Divina Commedia" could not but regret that the complete work had not
been printed,--and they accordingly welcomed with satisfaction the
announcement, a few years since, of the volumes whose title stands at
the head of this article, which professed to contain a translation of
the whole Comment. It seemed a pity, indeed, that it should have been
thought worth while to translate a book addressing itself to a very
limited number of readers, most of whom were quite as likely to
understand the original Latin as the modern Italian, while also a
special value attached to the style and form in which it was first
written. But no one could have suspected what "translation" meant in the
estimation of the Signor Tamburini, whose name appears on the title-page
as that of the translator.

_Traduttore--traditore_, "Translator--traitor," says the proverb; and of
all traitors shielded under the less offensive name, Signor Tamburini
is beyond comparison the worst we have ever had the misfortune to
encounter. A place is reserved for him in that lowest depth in which,
according to Dante's system, traitors are punished.

It appears from his preface that Signor Tamburini is not without
distinction in the city of Imola. He has been President of the Literary
Academy named that of "The Industrious." To have been President of all
Academy in the Roman States implies that the person bearing this honor
was either an ecclesiastic or a favorite of ecclesiastics. Hitherto,
no one could hold such an office without having his election to it
confirmed by a central board of ecclesiastical inspectors (_la Sacra
Congregazione degli Studj_) at Rome. The reason for noticing this fact
in connection with Signor Tamburini will soon become apparent.

In his preface, Signor Tamburini declares that in the first division of
the poem he has kept his translation close to the original, while in
the two later divisions he had been _meno legato_, "less exact," in his
rendering. This acknowledgment, however unsatisfactory to the reader,
presented at least an appearance of fairness. But, from a comparison of
Signor Tamburini's work with the portions of the original preserved by
Muratori, we have satisfied ourselves that his honesty is on a level
with his capacity as a translator, and what his capacity is we propose
to enable our readers to judge for themselves. For our own part, we have
been unable to distinguish any important difference in the methods of
translation followed in the three parts of the Comment.

So far as we are aware, this book has not met with its dues in Europe.
The well-known Dantophilist, Professor Blanc of Halle, speaks of it in a
note to a recent essay (_Versuch einer blos philogischen Erklaerung der
Goettlichen Komoedie_, von Dr. L.G. Blanc, Halle, 1860, p. 5) as "a
miserably unsatisfactory translation," but does not give the grounds of
his assertion. We intend to show that a grosser literary imposition has
seldom been attempted than in these volumes. It is an outrage on the
memory of Dante not less than on that of Benvenuto. The book is worse
than worthless to students; for it is not only full of mistakes of
carelessness, stupidity, and ignorance, but also of wilful perversions
of the meaning of the original by additions, alterations, and omissions.
The three large volumes contain few pages which do not afford examples
of mutilation or misrepresentation of Benvenuto's words. We will begin
our exhibition of the qualities of the Procrustean mistranslator with
an instance of his almost incredible carelessness, which is, however,
excusable in comparison with his more wilful faults. Opening the first
volume at page 397, we find the following sentence,--which we put side
by side with the original as given by Muratori. The passage relates to
the 33d and succeeding verses of Canto XVI.


Qui Dante fa menzione di Guido Guerra, e meravigliano molti della
modestia dell' autore, che da costui e dalla di lui moglie tragga
l'origine sua, mentre poteva derivarla care di gratitudine affettuosa a
quella,--Gualdrada,--stipito suo,--dandole nome e tramandandola quasi
all' eternita, mentre per se stessa sarebbe forse rimasta sconosciuta.


Et primo incepit a digniori, scilicet a Guidone Guerra; et circa istius
descriptionem lectori est aliqualiter immorandum, quia multi mirantur,
immo truffantur ignoranter, quod Dantes, qui poterat describere istum
praeclarum virum a claris progenitoribus et ejus claris gestis,
describit eum ab una femina, avita sua, Domna Gualdrada. Sed certe
Auctor fecit talem descriptionem tam laudabiliter quam prudenter, ut
heic implicite tangeret originem famosae stirpis istius, et ut daret
meritam famam et laudem huic mulieri dignissimae.

A literal translation will afford the most telling comment on the nature
of the Italian version.


Here Dante makes mention of Guido Guerras, and many marvel at the
modesty of the Author, in deriving his own origin from him and from his
wife, when he might have derived it from a more noble source. But I find
in such modesty the greater merit, in that he did not wish to fail in
affectionate gratitude toward her,--Gualdrada,--his ancestress,--giving
her name and handing her down as it were to eternity, while she by
herself would perhaps have remained unknown.


In the first place he began with the worthiest, namely, Guido Guerra;
and in regard to the description of this man it is to be dwelt upon a
little by the reader, because scoff at Dante, because, when he might
have described this very distinguished man by his distinguished
ancestors and his distinguished deeds, he does describe him by a woman,
his grandmother, the Lady Gualdrada. But certainly the author did this
not less praiseworthily than wisely, that he might here, by implication,
touch upon the origin of that famous family, and might give a merited
fame and praise to this most worthy woman.

It will be noticed that Signor Tamburini makes Dante derive _his own_
origin from Gualdrada,--a mistake from which the least attention to the
original text, or the slightest acquaintance with the biography of the
poet, would have saved him.

Another amusing instance of stupidity occurs in the comment on the 135th
verse of Canto XXVIII., where, speaking of the young king, son of Henry
II. of England, Benvenuto says, "Note here that this youth was like
another Titus the son of Vespasian, who, according to Suetonius, was
called the love and delight of the human race." This simple sentence is
rendered in the following astounding manner: "John [the young king] was,
according to Suetonius, another Titus Vespasian, the love and joy of the
human race"!

Again, in giving the account of Guido da Montefeltro, (_Inferno_, Canto
XXVII.,) Benvenuto says on the lines,

--e poi fui Cordeliero,
Credendomi si cinto fare ammenda,

"And then I became a Cordelier, believing thus girt to make
amends,"--"That is, hoping under such a dress of misery and poverty
to make amends for my sins; but others did not believe in him [in his
repentance]. Wherefore Dominus Malatesta, having learned from one of
his household that Dominus Guido had become a Minorite Friar, took
precautions that he should not be made the guardian of Rimini." This
last sentence is rendered by our translator,--"One of the household
of Malatesta related to me (!) that Ser Guido adopted the dress of a
Minorite Friar, and sought by every means not to be appointed guardian
of Rimini." A little farther on the old commentator says,--"He died and
was buried in Ancona, and I have heard many things about him which may
afford a sufficient hope of his salvation"; but he is made to say by
Signor Tamburini,--"After his death and burial in Ancona many works of
power were ascribed to him, and I have a sweet hope that he is saved."

We pass over many instances of similar misunderstanding of Benvenuto's
easily intelligible though inelegant Latin, to a blunder which would be
extraordinary in any other book, by which our translator has ruined a
most characteristic story in the comment on the 112th verse of Canto
XIV. of the "Purgatory." We must give here the two texts.


Et heic nota, ut videas, si magna nobilitas vigebat paulo ante in
Bretenorio, quod tempore istius Guidonis, quando aliquis vir nobilis
et honorabilis applicabat ad terram, magna contentio erat inter multos
nobiles de Bretenorio, in cujus domum ille talis forensis deberet
declinare. Propter quod concorditer convenerunt inter se, quod columna
lapidea figeretur in medio plateae cum multis annulis ferreis, et omnis
superveniens esset hospes illius ad cujus annulum alligaret equum.


And here take notice, that you may see if great nobility flourished a
little before this time in Brettinoro, that, in the days of this Guido,
when any noble and honorable man came to the place, there was a great
rivalry among the many nobles of Brettinoro, as to which of them should
receive the stranger in his house. Wherefore they harmoniously agreed
that a column of stone should be set up in the middle of the square,
furnished with many iron rings, and any one who arrived should be the
guest of him to whose ring he might tie his horse.


Al tempo di Guido in Brettinoro anche i nobili aravano le terre; ma
insorsero discordie fra essi, e sparve la innocenza di vita, e con essa
la liberalita. I brettinoresi determinarono di alzare in piazza una
colonna con intorno tanti anelli di ferro, quanto le nobili famiglie di
quel castello, e chi fosse arrivato ed avesse legato il cavallo ad uno
de' predetti anelli, doveva esser ospite della famiglia, che indicava l'
anello cui il cavallo era attaccato.


In the time of Guido in Brettinoro even the nobles ploughed the land;
but discords arose among them, and innocence of life disappeared, and
with it liberality. The people of Brettinoro determined to erect in the
pub lic square a column with as many iron rings upon it as there were
noble families in that stronghold, and he who should arrive and tie his
horse to one of those rings was to be the guest of the family pointed
out by the ring to which the horse was attached.

Surely, Signor Tamburini has fixed the dunce's cap on his own head so
that it can never he taken off. The commonest Latin phrases, which the
dullest schoolboy could not mistranslate, he misunderstands, turning
the pleasant sense of the worthy commentator into the most
self-contradictory nonsense.

"Ad confirmandum propositum," says Benvenuto, "oceurrit mihi res
jocosa,"[A]--"In confirmation of this statement, a laughable matter
occurs to me"; and he goes on to relate a story about the famous
astrologer Pietro di Abano. But our translator is not content without
making him stultify himself, and renders the words we have quoted, "A
maggiore conferma referiro un fatto a me accaduto"; that is, he makes
Benvenuto say, "I will report an incident that happened to me," and then
go on to tell the story of Pietro di Abano, which had no more to do with
him than with Signor Tamburini himself.

[Footnote A: Comment on Purg. xvi. 80.]

We might fill page after page with examples such as these of the
distortions and corruptions of Benvenuto's meaning which we have noted
on the margin of this so-called translation. But we have given more than
enough to prove the charge of incompetence against the President of
the "Academy of the Industrious," and we pass on to exhibit him now no
longer as simply an ignoramus, but as a mean and treacherous rogue.

Among the excellent qualities of Benvenuto there are few more marked
than his freedom in speaking his opinion of rulers and ecclesiastics,
and in holding up their vices to reproach, while at the same time he
shows a due spirit of respect for proper civil and ecclesiastical
authority. In this he imitates the temper of the poet upon whose work he
comments,--and in so doing he has left many most valuable records of
the character and manners especially of the clergy of those days--He
loved a good story, and he did not hesitate to tell it even when it went
hard against the priests. He knew and he would not hide the corruptions
of the Church, and he was not the man to spare the vices which were
sapping the foundations not so much of the Church as of religion itself.
But his translator is of a different order of men, one of the devout
votaries of falsehood and concealment; and he has done his best to
remove some of the most characteristic touches of Benvenuto's work,
regarding them as unfavorable to the Church, which even now in the
nineteenth century cannot well bear to have exposed the sins committed
by its rulers and its clergy in the thirteenth or fourteenth. Signor
Tamburini has sought the favor of ecclesiastics, and gained the contempt
of such honest men as have the ill-luck to meet with his book. Wherever
Benvenuto uses a phrase or tells an anecdote which can be regarded as
bearing in any way against the Church, we may be sure to find it either
omitted or softened down in this Papalistic version. We give a few

In the comment on Canto III. of the "Inferno," Benvenuto says, speaking
of Dante's great enemy, Boniface VIII.,--"Auctor ssepissime dicit
de ipso Bonifacio magna mala, qui de rei veritate fuit magnanimus
peccator": "Our author very often speaks exceedingly ill of Boniface,
who was in very truth a grand sinner." This sentence is omitted in the

Again, on the well-known verse, (_Inferno,_ xix. 53,) "Se' tu gia costi
ritto, Bonifazio?" Benvenuto commenting says,--"Auctor quando ista
scripsit, viderat pravam vitam Bonifacii, ct ejus mortem rabidam.
Ideo bene judicavit eum damnatum.... Heic dictus Nicolaus improperat
Bonifacio duo mala. Primo, quia Sponsam Christ! fraudulenter assumpsit
de manu simplicis Pastoris. Secundo, quia etiam earn more meretricis
tractavit, simoniacc vendcndo eam, et tyrannice tractando": "The author,
when he wrote these things, had witnessed the evil life of Boniface, and
his raving death. Therefore he well judged him to be damned.... And
here the aforementioned Pope Nicholas charges two crimes upon Boniface:
first, that he had taken the Bride of Christ by deceit from the hand of
a simple-minded Pastor; second, that he had treated her as a harlot,
simoniacally selling her, and tyrannically dealing with her."

These two sentences are omitted by the translator; and the long further
account which Benvenuto gives of the election and rule of Boniface is
throughout modified by him in favor of this "_magnanimus peccator_." And
so also the vigorous narrative of the old commentator concerning Pope
Nicholas III. is deprived of its most telling points: "Nam fuit primus
in cujus curia palam committeretur Simonia per suos attinentes.
Quapropter multum ditavit eos possessionibus, pecuniis et castellis,
super onmes Romanos": "For he was the first at whose court Simony was
openly committed in favor of his adherents. Whereby he greatly enriched
them with possessions, money, and strongholds, above all the Romans."
"Sed quod Clerici capiunt raro dimittunt": "What the clergy have once
laid hands on, they rarely give up." Nothing of this is found in
the Italian,--and history fails of her dues at the hands of this
tender-conscienced modernizer of Benvenuto. The comment on the whole
canto is in this matter utterly vitiated.

In the comment on Canto XXIX. of the "Inferno," which is full of
historic and biographic material of great interest, but throughout
defaced by the license of the translator, occurs a passage in regard
to the Romagna, which is curious not only as exhibiting the former
condition of that beautiful and long-suffering portion of Italy, but
also as applying to its recent state and its modern grievances.


Judicio meo mihi videtur quod quatuor deduxerunt eam nobilem provinciam
ad tantam desolationem. Primum est avaritia Pastorum Ecclesiae, qui nunc
vendunt unam terram, nunc aliam; et nunc unus favet uni Tyranno, nunc
alius alteri, secundum quod saepe mutantur officiales. Secundum est
pravitas Tyrannorum suorum, qui semper inter se se lacerant et rodunt,
et subditos excoriant. Tertium est fertilitas locorum ipsius provinciae,
cujus pinguedo allicit barbaros et externos in praedam. Quartum est
invidia, quae viget in cordibus ipsorum incolarum.


Per me ritengo, che quattro fossero le cagioni per cui la Romagna
si ridusse a tanta desolazione: l' abuso per avarizia di alcuni
ecclesiastici, che alienarono or una, or un' altra terra, e si misero
d' accordo coi tiranni,--i tiranni stessi che sempre erano discordi fra
loro a danno de' sudditi,--la fertilita de' terreni, che troppo alletta
gli strani, ed i barbari,--l' invidia, che regna fra gli stessi roma

"In my judgment," says Benvenuto, who speaks with the authority of long
experience and personal observation, "it seems to me that four things
have brought that noble province to so great desolation. The first of
which is, the avarice of the Pastors of the Church, who now sell one
tract of its land, and now another; while one favors one Tyrant, and
another another, so that the men in authority are often changed. The
second is, the wickedness of the Tyrants themselves, who are always
tearing and biting each other, and fleecing their subjects. The third
is, the fertility of the province itself, which by its very richness
allures barbarians and foreigners to prey upon it. The fourth is, that
spirit of jealousy which flourishes in the hearts of the inhabitants
themselves." It will be noticed that the translator changes the phrase,
"the avarice of the Pastors of the Church," into "the avarice of some
ecclesiastics," while throughout the passage, as indeed throughout every
page of the work, the vigor of Benvenuto's style and the point of
his animated sentences are quite lost in the flatness of a dull and
inaccurate paraphrase.

A passage in which the spirit of the poet has fully roused his manly
commentator is the noble burst of indignant reproach with which
he inveighs against and mourns over Italy in Canto VI. of the

Ahi serva Italia, di dolore ostello,
Nave senza nocchiero in gran tempesta,
Non donna di provincie, ma bordello.

"Nota metaphoram pulcram: sicut enim in lupanari venditur caro humana
pretio sine pudore, ita meretrix magna, idest Curia Romana, et Curia
Imperialis, vendunt libertatem Italicam.... Ad Italiam concurrunt omnes
barbarae nationes cum aviditate ad ipsam conculcandam.... Et heic,
Lector, me excusabis, qui antequam ulterius procedam, cogor facere
invectivam contra Dantem. O utinam, Poeta mirifice, rivivisceres modo!
Ubi pax, ubi tranquillitas in Italia?... Nunc autem dicere possim de
tola Italia quod Vergilius tuus de una Urbe dixit:

----'Crudelis ubique
Lucutus, ubique pavor, et plurima mortis imago.'

.... Quanto ergo excusabilius, si fas esset, possem exclamare ad
Omnipotentem quam tu, qui in tempora felicia incidisti, quibus nos omnes
nunc viventes in misera Italia possumus invidere? Ipse ergo, qui potest,
mittat amodo Veltrum, quem tu vidisti in Somno, si tamen umquam venturus

"Note the beauty of the metaphor: for, as in a brothel the human body is
sold for a price without shame, so the great harlot, the Court of Rome,
and the Imperial Court, sell the liberty of Italy.... All the barbarous
nations rush eagerly upon Italy to trample upon her.... And here,
Reader, thou shalt excuse me, if, before going farther, I am forced to
utter a complaint against Dante. Would that, O marvellous poet, thou
wert now living again! Where is peace, where is tranquillity in
Italy?... But I may say now of all Italy what thy Virgil said of a
single city,--'Cruel mourning everywhere, everywhere alarm, and the
multiplied image of death.' ...With how much more reason, then, were it
but right, might I call upon the Omnipotent, than thou who fellest upon
happy times, which we all now living in wretched Italy may envy! Let
Him, then, who can, speedily send the Hound that thou sawest in thy
dream, if indeed he is ever to come!"

It would be surprising, but for what we have already seen of the manner
in which Signor Tamburini performs his work, to find that he has here
omitted all reference to the Church, omitted also the address to Dante,
and thus changed the character of the whole passage.

Again, in the comment on Canto XX. of the "Purgatory," where Benvenuto
gives account of the outrage committed, at the instigation of Philippe
le Bel, by Sciarra Colonna, upon Pope Boniface VIII., at Anagni, the
translator omits the most characteristic portions of the original.

* * * * *


Sed intense dolore superante animum ejus, conversus in rabiem furoris,
coepit se rodere totum. Et sic verificata est prophetia simplicissimi
Coelestini, qui praedixerat sibi: Intrasti ut Vulpes, Regnabis ut Leo,
Morieris ut Canis.


L'angoscia per altro la vinse sul di lui animo, perche fu preso da tal
dolore, che si mordeva e lacerava le membra, e cosi termino sua vita. In
tal modo nel corso della vita di Bonifazio fu verificata la profezia di

* * * * *

"But his intense mortification overcoming the mind of the Pope, he fell
into a rage of madness, and began to bite himself all over his body.
And thus the prophecy of the simple-minded Celestine came true, who had
predicted to him. Thou hast entered [into the Papacy] like a Fox, thou
wilt reign like a Lion, thou wilt die like a Dog."

It wilt be observed that the prophecy is referred to by the translator,
but that its stinging words are judiciously left out.

The mass of omissions such as these is enormous. We go forward to the
comment on Canto XII. of the "Paradiso," which exhibits a multitude of
mutilations and alterations. For instance, in the comment on the lines
in which Dante speaks of St. Dominick as attacking heresies most eagerly
where they were most firmly established, (_dove le resistenze eran piu
grosse_,) our translator represents Benvenuto as saying, "That is, most
eagerly in that place, namely, the district of Toulouse, where the
Albigenses had become strong in their heresy and in power." But
Benvenuto says nothing of the sort; his words are, "Idest, ubi erant
majores Haeretici, vel ratione scientiae, vel potentiae. Non enim fecit
sicut quidam moderni Inquisitores, qui non sunt audaces nec solertes,
nisi contra quosdam divites denariis, pauperes amicis, qui non possunt
facere magnam resistentiam, et extorquent ab eis pecunias, quibus postea
emunt Episcopatum."

"That is, where were the greatest Heretics, either through their
knowledge or their power. For he did not do like some modern
Inquisitors, who are bold and skilful only against such as are rich in
money, but poor in friends, and who cannot make a great resistance, and
from these they squeeze out their money with which they afterwards buy
an Episcopate."

Such is the way in which what is most illustrative of general history,
or of the personal character of the author himself, is constantly
destroyed by the processes of Signor Tamburini. From the very next page
a passage of real value, as a contemporary judgment upon the orders of
St. Dominick and St. Francis, has utterly disappeared under his hands.
"And here take notice, that our most far-sighted author, from what he
saw of these orders, conjectured what they would become. For, in very
truth, these two illustrious orders of Preachers and Minorites, formerly
the two brightest lights of the world, now have indeed undergone an
eclipse, and are in their decline, and are divided by quarrels and
domestic discords. And consequently it seems as if they were not to last
much longer. Therefore it was well answered by a monk of St. Benedict,
when he was reproached by a Franciscan friar for his wanton life,--When
Francis shall be as old as Benedict, then you may talk to me."

But there is a still more remarkable instance of Signor Tamburini's
tenderness to the Church, and of the manner in which he cheats his
readers as to the spirit and meaning of the original, in the comment on
the passage in Canto XXI. of the "Paradise," where St. Peter Damiano
rebukes the luxury and pomp of the modern prelates, and mentions, among
their other displays of vanity, the size of their cloaks, "which cover
even their steeds, so that two beasts go under one skin." "Namely," says
the honest old commentator, "the beast of burden, and the beast who is
borne, who in truth is the more beastly of the two. And, indeed, were
the author now alive, he might change his words, and say, So that three

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