Part 3 out of 5
But it is at the theatre, as you may well believe, that poets live and
die most like the blithesome grasshoppers. The poor players, marvellous
compounds of tin, feathers, and tiffany, fret but a brief hour; but the
playwright, less considered alive, is sooner defunct. I have not
Dodsley's Plays by me, but, if my memory does not deceive me, not one
of them keeps the stage; nor did dear Charles Lamb make many in love
with that huge heap in the British Museum. Alas! all these good people,
now grown so rusty, fusty, and forgotten, might have rolled under their
tongues, as a sweet morsel, those lines which civil Abraham Cowley sent
to Leviathan Hobbes:--
"To things immortal Time can do no wrong;
And that which never is to die forever must be young."
Alas! they had great first nights and glorious third nights,--lords and
ladies smiled and the groundlings were affable,--they lived in a
paradise of compliment and cash,--and then were no better off than the
garreteer who took his damnation comfortably early upon the first
night, and ran back to his den to whimper with mortification and to
tremble with cold. There is worthy Mr. Shakspeare, of whom an amiable
writer kindly said, in 1723,--"There is certainly a great deal of
entertainment in his comical Humors, and a pleasing and
well-distinguished variety in those characters which he thought fit to
meddle with. His images are indeed everywhere so lively, that the thing
he would represent stands full before you, and you possess every part
of it. His sentiments are great and natural, and his expression just,
and raised in proportion to the subject and occasion." You may laugh at
this as much as you please, Don Bob; but I think it quite as sensible
as many of the criticisms of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.,--as that one of
his, for instance, upon "Measure for Measure," which I never read
without a feeling of personal injury. I should like to know if it is
writing criticism to write,--"Of this play, the light or comic part is
very natural and pleasing; but the grave scenes, if a few passages be
excepted, have more labor than elegance." Now, if old Boltcourt had
written instead, as he might have done, if the fit had been on
him,--"Of this play, the heavy or tragic part is very natural and
pleasing; but the comic scenes, if a few passages be excepted, have
more labor than elegance,"--his remark would have been quite as
sonorous, and just a little nearer the truth. For my own part, I think
there is nothing finer in all Shakspeare than the interview between
Angelo and Isabella, in the Second Act, or that exquisite outburst of
the latter, afterward, "Not with fond shekels of the tested gold,"
which is a line the sugar of which you can sensibly taste as you read
it. Incledon used to wish that his old music-master could come down
from heaven to Norwich, and could take the coach up to London to hear
that d--d Jew sing,--referring thus civilly to the respectable John
Braham. I have sometimes wished that Shakspeare could make a similar
descent, and face his critics. Ah! how much he could tell us over a
single bottle of _Rosa Solis_ at some new "Mermaid" extemporized for
the occasion! What wild work would he make with the commentators long
before we had exhausted the ordinate cups! and how, after we had come
to the inordinate, would he be with difficulty prevented from marching
at once to break the windows of his latest glossator! If anything could
make one sick of "the next age," it would be the shabby treatment which
the Avonian has received. I do not wonder that the illustrious authors
of "Salmagundi" said,--"We bequeathe our first volume to future
generations,--and much good may it do them! Heaven grant they may be
able to read it!" Seeing that contemporary fame is the most
profitable,--that you can eat it, and drink it, and wear it upon your
back,--I own that it is the kind for which I have the most absolute
partiality. It is surely better to be spoken well of by your neighbors,
who do know you, than by those who do not know you, and who, if they
commend, may do so by sheer accident.
You never heard of Mr. Horden, of Charles Knipe, of Thomas Lupon, of
Edward Revet? Great men all, in their day! So there was Mr. John
Smith,--_clarum et venerabile nomen_!--who in 1677 wrote a comedy
called "Cytherea; or, the Enamoring Girdle." So there was Mr. Swinney,
who wrote one play called "The Quacks." So there was Mr. John Tutchin,
1685, who wrote "The Unfortunate Shepherd." So there is Mr. William
Smith, Mr. H. Smith, author of "The Princess of Parma," and Mr. Edmund
Smith, 1710, author of "Phedra and Hippolytus," who is buried in
Wiltshire, under a Latin inscription as long as my arm. There is Thomas
Yalden, D.D., 1690, who helped Dryden and Congreve in the translation
of Ovid, who wrote a Hymn to Morning, commencing vigorously thus:--
"Parent of Day! whose beauteous beams of light
Sprang from the darksome womb of night!"--
and who was a great friend of Addison, which is the best I know of him.
He might have been, like Sir Philip Sidney, "scholar, soldier, lover,
saint,"--for Doctors of Divinity have been all four,--but I declare
that I have told you all I have learned about him.
It is grievous to me, dear Bobus, a man of notorious gallantry, to find
that the ladies, after consenting to smirch their rosy fingers with
Erebean ink, are among the first who are discarded. If you will go into
the College Library, Mr. Sibley will show you a charming copy of the
works of Mrs. Behn, with a roguish, rakish, tempting little portrait of
the writer prefixed. Poor Mrs. Behn was a notability as well as a
notoriety in her day; and when I have great leisure for the work, I
mean to write her life and do her justice. The task would have been
worthy of De Foe; but, with a little help from you, I hope to do it
passably. Poor Aphra! poet, dramatist, intriguant strumpet! Worthy of
no better fate, take my benison of light laughter and of tears! Then
there is Mrs. Elizabeth Singer, who was living in 1723, who selected as
the subject of her work nothing less than the Creation, and who was a
woman of great religion. Her poem commences patronizingly thus:--
"Hail! mighty Maker of the Universe!
_My_ song shall still _thy_ glorious deeds rehearse.
_Thy_ praise, whatever subject others choose,
Shall be the lofty theme of _my_ aspiring Muse."
Elizabeth was a Somersetshire woman, a clothier's daughter; and if she
had thrown away her lyre and gone back to the distaff, I do not think
Parnassus would have broken its heart. Then there is our fair friend,
Mrs. Molesworth. Her father was a Right Honorable Irish peer of the
same name, who had some acquaintance, if not a friendlier connection,
with John Locke. Her Muse was rather high-skirted, as you may believe,
when you read this epitaph:--
"O'er this marble drop a tear!
Here lies fair Rosalinde;
All mankind was pleased with her,
And she with all mankind."
Let me introduce you to one more lady. This is Mrs. Wiseman, dear Don!
She was of "poor, but honest" parentage; and if she did wash the dishes
of Mr. Recorder Wright of Oxford, she did better than my Lady Hamilton
or my Lady Blessington of later times. Mrs. Wiseman read novels and
plays, and, of course, during the intervals of domestic drudgery, began
to write a drama, which she finished after she went to London. It was
of high-sounding title, for it was called, "Antiochus the Great; or,
the Fatal Relapse." Who relapsed so fatally--whether Antiochus with his
confidant, or his wife with her confidante, or Ptolemy Pater with his
confidant, or Epiphanes with his confidant--is more than I can tell.
Indeed, I am not sure that I know which Antiochus was honored by Mrs.
Wiseman's Muse. Whether it was Antiochus Soter, or Antiochus Theos, or
Antiochus the Great, or Antiochus the Epiphanous or Illustrious, or
Antiochus Eupator, or Antiochus Eutheus, or Antiochus Sidetes, or
Antiochus Grypus, or Antiochus Cyzenicus, or Antiochus Pius,--the
greatest rogue of the whole dynasty,--or Antiochus Asiaticus, who "used
up" the family entirely in Syria--is more than I can tell. Indeed,
Antiochus was such a favorite name with kings, that, without seeing the
play,--and I have not seen it,--I cannot inform you which Antiochus we
are talking about. Possibly it was the Antiochus who went into a fever
for the love of Stratonice; and if so, please to notice that this was
the wicked Antiochus Soter, the son of Selencus, and the scapegrace who
married his mother-in-law, by the advice of the family-doctor, while
his fond father stood tearfully by and gave away the bride. After such
a scandalous piece of business, I shall have nothing more to do with
the family, but shall gladly return to our talented friend, Mrs.
Wiseman. She brought out her work at the Theatre Royal in 1706, "with
applause"; and the play, I am glad to inform you, brought in money, so
that an enterprising young vintner, by the name of Holt, besought her
hand, and won it. With the profits of "Antiochus" they established a
tavern in Westminster, and the charming Wiseman with her own hand drew
pots of half-and-half, or mixed punch for the company. I should very
much like to see two-thirds of our many poet-_esses_ doing the same
But enough, probably too much, of this skimble-skamble! If you will
look into a copy of Dr. Johnson's Dictionary, (Worcester's edition,)
you will find the names of nearly a thousand English authors cited in
alphabetical order as authorities. Of these it is safe to say that not
more than one hundred are remembered by the general reader. Such is
Fame! Such is the jade who leads us up hill and down, through jungles
and morasses, into deep waters and into swamps, through thick weather
and thin, under blue skies and brown ones, in heat and in cold, hungry
and thirsty and ragged, and heart-sore and foot-sore, now hopeful and
now hopeless, now striding and now stumbling, now exultant and now
despairing, now singing, now sighing, and now swearing, up to her
dilapidated old temple. And when we get there, we find Dr. Beattie, in
a Scotch wig, washing the face of young Edwin! A man of your pounds
would be a fool to undertake the journey; but if you will be such a
fool, you must go without the company of
Your terrestrial friend,
* * * * *
"THE NEW LIFE" OF DANTE.
"At that season," says Boccaccio, in his Life of Dante, "when the
sweetness of heaven reclothes the earth with its adornments, and makes
it all smiling with flowers among the green leaves, it was the custom
in our city for the men and for the ladies to celebrate festivals in
their own streets in separate companies. Wherefore it happened, that,
among the rest, Folco Portinari, a man held in much honor in those
times among the citizens, had collected his neighbors at a feast in his
own house on the first of May. Among them was the before-named
Alighieri,--and, as little boys are wont to follow their fathers,
especially to festive places, Dante, whose ninth year was not yet
finished, accompanied him. It happened, that here, with others of his
age, of whom, both boys and girls, there were many at the house of the
entertainer, he gave himself to merry-making, after a childish fashion.
Among the crowd of children was a little daughter of Folco, whose name
was Bice,--though this was derived from her original name, which was
Beatrice. She was, perhaps, eight years old, a pretty little thing in a
childish way, very gentle and pleasing in her actions, and much more
sedate and modest in her manners and words than her youthful age
required. Beside this, she had very delicate features, admirably
proportioned, and full, in addition to their beauty, of such openness
and charm, that she was looked upon by many as a little angel. She
then, such as I depict her, or rather, far more beautiful, appeared at
this feast before the eyes of our Dante, not, I believe, for the first
time, but first with power to enamor him. And although still a child,
he received her image into his heart with such affection, that, from
that day forward, never, as long as he lived, did it leave him."
It was partly from tradition, partly from the record which Dante
himself had left of it, that Boccaccio drew his account of this scene.
In the _Vita Nuova_, "The New Life," Dante has written the first part
of the history of that love which began at this festival, and which,
growing with his growth, became, not many years after, the controlling
passion of his life. Nothing is better or more commonly known about
Dante than his love for Beatrice; but the course of that love, its
relation to his external and public life, its moulding effect upon his
character, have not been clearly traced. The love which lasted from his
boyhood to his death, keeping his heart fresh, spite of the scorchings
of disappointment, with springs of perpetual solace,--the love which,
purified and spiritualized by the bitterness of separation and trial,
led him through the hard paths of Philosophy and up the steep ascents
of Faith, bringing him out of Hell and through Purgatory to the glories
of Paradise and the fulfilment of Hope,--such a love is not only a
spiritual experience, but it is also a discipline of character whose
results are exhibited in the continually renewed struggles of life.
The earthly story of this love, of its beginning, its irregular course,
its hopes and doubts, its exaltations and despairs, its sudden
interruption and transformation by death, is the story which the "Vita
Nuova" tells. The narrative is quaint, embroidered with conceits,
deficient in artistic completeness, but it has the _naivete_ and
simplicity of youth, the charm of sincerity, the freedom of personal
confidence; and so long as there are lovers in the world, so long as
lovers are poets, so long will this first and tenderest love-story of
modern literature be read with appreciation and responsive sympathy.
But "The New Life" has an interest of another sort, and a claim, not
yet sufficiently acknowledged, upon all who would read the "Divina
Commedia" with fit appreciation, in that it contains the first hint of
the great poem itself, and furnishes for it a special, interior,
imaginative introduction, without the knowledge of which it is not
thoroughly to be understood. The character of Beatrice, as she appears
in the "Divina Commedia," the relation in which the poet stands to her,
the motive of the dedication of the poem to her honor and memory, and
many minor allusions, are all explained or illustrated by the aid of
the "Vita Nuova." Dante's works and life are interwoven as are those of
no other of the poets who have written for all time. No other has so
written his autobiography. With Dante, external impressions and
internal experiences--sights, actions, thoughts, emotions,
sufferings--were all fused into poetry as they passed into his soul.
Practical life and imaginative life were with him one and indissoluble.
Not only was the life of imagination as real to him as the life of
fact, but the life of fact was clothed upon by that of imagination; so
that, on the one hand, daily events and common circumstances became a
part of his spiritual experience in a far more intimate sense than is
the case with other men, while, on the other, his fancies and his
visions assumed the absoluteness and the literal existence of positive
external facts. The remotest flights of his imagination never carry him
where his sight becomes dim. His journey through the spiritual world
was no less real to him than his journeys between Florence and Rome, or
his wanderings between Verona and Ravenna. So absolute was his
imagination, that it often so far controls his reader as to make it
difficult not to believe that the poet beheld with his mortal eyes the
invisible scenes which he describes. Boccaccio relates, that, after
that part of the "Commedia" which treats of Hell had become famous it
happened one day in Verona, that Dante "passed before a door where
several women were sitting, and one of them, in a low voice, yet not so
but that she was well heard by him and his companion, said to another
woman: 'See that man who goes through Hell and comes back when he
pleases, and brings news of those who are down there!' And then one of
them replied simply: 'Indeed, what you say must be true; for do you not
see how his beard is crisped and his face brown with the heat and smoke
From this close relation between his life and his works, the "Vita
Nuova" has a peculiar interest, as the earliest of Dante's writings,
and the most autobiographic of them in its form and intention. In it we
are brought into intimate personal relations with the poet. He trusts
himself to us with full and free confidence; but there is no derogation
from becoming manliness in his confessions. He draws the picture of a
portion of his youth, and lays bare its tenderest emotions; but he does
so with no morbid self-consciousness, and no affectation. Part of this
simplicity is due, undoubtedly, to the character of the times, part to
his own youthfulness, part to downright faith in his own genius. It was
the fashion for poets to tell of their loves; in following the fashion,
he not only gave expression to real feeling, but claimed his rank among
the poets, and set a new style, from which love-poetry was to take a
This first essay of his poetic powers exhibits the foundation upon
which his later life was built. The figure of Beatrice, which appears
veiled under the allegory, and indistinct in the bright cloud of the
mysticism of the "Divina Commedia," takes her place in life and on the
earth through the "Vita Nuova," as definitely as Dante himself. She is
no allegorized piece of humanity, no impersonation of attributes, but
an actual woman,--beautiful, modest, gentle, with companions only less
beautiful than herself,--the most delightful figure in the midst of the
picturesque life of Florence. She is seen smiling and weeping, walking
with stately maidenly decorum in the street, praying at the church,
merry at festivals, mourning at funerals; and her smiles and tears, her
gentleness, her reserve, all the sweet qualities of her life, and the
peace of her death, are told of with such tenderness and refinement,
such pathetic melancholy, such delicate purity, and such passionate
vehemence, that she remains and will always remain the loveliest and
most womanly woman of the Middle Ages,--at once absolutely real and
It was in the year 1292, about two years after the death of Beatrice,
and when he himself was about twenty-seven years old, that Dante
collected into this _libretto d' amore_ the poems that he had written
during Beatrice's life, adding to them others relating to her written
after her death, and accompanying all with a narrative and commentary
in prose. The meaning of the name which he gave to the book, "La Vita
Nuova," has been the cause of elaborate discussion among the Italian
commentators. Literally "The New Life," it has been questioned whether
this phrase meant simply early life, or life made new by the first
experience and lasting influence of love. The latter interpretation
seems the most appropriate to Dante's turn of mind and to his condition
of feeling at the time when the little book appeared. To him it was the
record of that life which the presence of Beatrice had made new.
But whatever be the true significance of the title, this "New Life" is
full not only of the youthfulness of its author, but of the fresh and
youthful spirit of the time. Italy, after going through a long period
of childhood, was now becoming conscious of the powers of maturity.
Society, (to borrow a fine figure from Lamennais,) like a river, which,
long lost in marshes, had at length regained its channel, after
stagnating for centuries, was now again rapidly advancing. Throughout
Italy there was a morning freshness, and the thrill and exhilaration of
conscious activity. Her imagination was roused by the revival of
ancient and now new learning, by the stories of travellers, by the
gains of commerce, by the excitements of religion and the alarms of
superstition. She was boastful, jealous, quarrelsome, lavish,
magnificent, full of fickleness,--exhibiting on all sides the
exuberance, the magnanimity, the folly of youth. After the long winter
of the Dark Ages, spring had come, and the earth was renewing its
beauty. And above all other cities in these days Florence was full of
the pride of life. Civil brawls had not yet reduced her to become an
easy prey for foreign conquerors. She was famous for wealth, and her
spirit had risen with prosperity. Many years before, one of the
Provencal troubadours, writing to his friend in verse, had
said,--"Friend Gaucelm, if you go to Tuscany, seek a shelter in the
noble city of the Florentines, which is named Florence. There all true
valor is found; there joy and song and love are perfect and adorned."
And if this were true in the earlier years of the thirteenth century,
it was still truer of its close; for much of early simplicity and
purity of manners had disappeared before the increasing luxury (_le
morbidezze d' Egitto_, as Boccaccio terms it) and the gathered wealth
of the city,--so that gayety and song more than ever abounded. "It is
to be noted," says Giovanni Villani, writing of this time, "it is to be
noted that Florence and her citizens were never in a happier
condition." The chroniclers tell of constant festivals and
celebrations. "In the year 1283, in the month of June, at the feast of
St. John, the city of Florence being in a happy and good state of
repose,--a tranquil and peaceable state, excellent for merchants and
artificers,--there was formed a company of a thousand men or more, all
clothed in white dresses, with a leader called the Lord of Love, who
devoted themselves to games and sports and dancing, going through the
city with trumpets and other instruments of joy and gladness, and
feasting often together. And this court lasted for two months, and was
the most noble and famous that ever was in Florence or in all Tuscany,
and many gentlemen came to it, and many rhymers, and all were
welcomed and honorably cared for." Every year, the summer was opened
with May and June festivals. Florence was rejoicing in abundance and
beauty. Nor was it only in passing gayeties that the cheerful and
liberal temper of the people was displayed.
The many great works of Art which were begun and carried on to
completion at this time show with what large spirit the whole city was
inspired, and under what strong influences of public feeling the early
life of Dante was led. Civil liberty and strength were producing their
legitimate results. Little republic as she was, Florence was great
enough for great undertakings. Never was there such a noble activity
within the narrow compass of her walls as from about 1265, when Dante
was born, to the end of the century. In these thirty-five years, the
stout walls and the tall tower of the Bargello were built, the grand
foundations of the Palazzo Vecchio and of the unrivalled Duomo were
laid, and both in one year; the Baptistery--_Il mio bel San
Giovanni_--was adorned with a new covering of marble; the churches of
Sta Maria Novella, of Or San Michele, (changed from its original
object,) and Sta Croce,--the finest churches even now in
Florence,--were all begun and carried far on to completion. Each new
work was at once the fruit and the seed of glorious energy. The small
city, of less than one hundred thousand inhabitants, the little
republic, not so large as Rhode Island or Delaware, was setting an
example which later and bigger and richer republics have not
followed. It might well, indeed, be called a "new life" for
Florence, as well as for Dante. When it was determined to supply the
place of the old church of Santa Reparata with a new cathedral, a
decree was passed in words of memorable spirit: "Whereas it is the
highest interest of a people of illustrious origin so to proceed in its
affairs that men may perceive from its external works that its doings
are at once wise and magnanimous, it is therefore ordered, that
Arnolfo, architect of our commune, prepare the model or design for the
rebuilding of Santa Reparata, with such supreme and lavish magnificence
that neither the industry nor the capacity of man shall be able to
devise anything more grand or more beautiful; inasmuch as the most
judicious in this city have pronounced the opinion, in public and
private conferences, that no work of the commune should be undertaken,
unless the design be to make it correspondent with a heart which is of
the greatest nature, because composed of the spirit of many citizens
united together in one single will." The records of few other cities
contain a decree so magnificent as this.
It would be strange, indeed, if the youthful book of one so sensitive
to external influences as Dante did not give evidence of sympathy with
such pervading emotion. And so apparent is this,--that one may say that
only at such a period, when strength of sentiment was finding vent in
all manner of free expression, was such a book possible. Confidence,
frankness, directness in the rendering of personal feeling are rare,
except in conditions of society when the emotional spirit is stronger
than the critical. The secret of the active power of the arts at this
time was the conscious or unconscious resort of those who practised
them to the springs of Nature, from which the streams of all true Art
proceed. Dante was the first of the moderns to seek Poetry at the same
fountain, and to free her from the chains of conventionality which had
long bound her. In this he shows his close relation to his times. It is
his fidelity to Nature which has made him a leader for all successive
generations. The "Vita Nuova" was the beginning of a new school of
poetry and of prose as completely as Giotto's O was the beginning of a
new school of painting.
The Italian poets, before Dante, may be broadly divided into two
classes. The first was that of the troubadours, writing in the
Provencal language, hardly to be distinguished from their
contemporaries of the South of France, giving expression in their
verses to the ideas of love, gallantry, and valor which formed the base
of the complex and artificial system of chivalry, repeating constantly
the same fancies and thoughts in similar formulas of words, without
scope or truth of imagination, with rare exhibitions of individual
feeling, with little regard for Nature. Ingenuity is more
characteristic of their poetry than force, subtilty more obvious in it
than beauty. The second and later class were poets who wrote in the
Italian tongue, but still under the influence of the poetic code which
had governed the compositions of their Provencal predecessors. Their
poetry is, for the most part, a faded copy of an unsubstantial
original,--an echo of sounds originally faint. Truth and poetry were
effectually divided. In the latter half of the thirteenth century,
however, a few poets appeared whose verses give evidence of some native
life, and are enlivened by a freer play of fancy and a greater
truthfulness of feeling. Guido Guinicelli, who died in 1276, when Dante
was eleven years old, and, a little later, Guido Cavalcanti, and some
few others, trusting more than had been done before to their own
inspiration, show themselves as the forerunners of a better day. But
as, in painting, Margheritone and Cimabue, standing between the old and
the new styles, exhibit rather a vague striving than a fulfilled
attainment, so is it with these poets. There is little that is
distinguishingly individual in them. Love is still treated mostly as an
abstraction, and one poet might adopt the others' love-verses with few
changes of words for any manifest difference in them of personal
Not so with Dante. The "Vita Nuova," although retaining many ideas,
forms, and expressions derived from earlier poets, is his, and could be
the work of no other. Nor was he unaware of this difference between
himself and those that had gone before him, or ignorant of its nature.
In describing himself to Buonagiunta da Lucca in Purgatory, he says, "I
am one who, when Love breathes, mark, and according as he dictates
within, I report"; to which the poet of Lucca replies, "O brother, now
I see the knot which kept the Notary and Guittone and me back from that
sweet new style which now I hear. I see well how your pens have
followed close on the dictator, which truly was not the case with
ours." As Love was the common theme of the verses from which
Buonagiunta drew his contrast, the difference between them lay plainly
in sincerity of feeling and truth of expression. The following close
upon the dictates of his heart was the distinguishing merit of Dante's
love-poetry over all that had preceded it and most of what has followed
it. There are, however, some among his earlier poems in which the
"sweet new style" is scarcely heard,--and others, of a later period, in
which the accustomed metaphysical and fanciful subtilties of the elder
poets are drawn out to an unwonted fineness. These were concessions to
a ruling mode,--concessions the more readily made, owing to their being
in complete harmony with the strong subtilizing and allegorizing
tendencies of Dante's own mind. Still, so far as he adopts the modes of
his predecessors in this first book of his, Dante surpasses them all in
their own way. He leaves them far behind him, and goes forward to open
new paths which he is to tread alone.
But there is yet another tendency of the times, to which Dante, in his
later works, has given the fullest and most characteristic expression,
and which exhibits itself curiously in the "Vita Nuova." Corresponding
with the new ardor for the arts, and in sympathy with it, was a newly
awakened and generally diffused ardor for learning, especially for the
various branches of philosophy. Science was leaving the cloister, in
which she had sat in dumb solitude, and coming out into the world. But
the limits and divisions of knowledge were not firmly marked. The
relations of learning to life were not clearly understood. The science
of mathematics was not yet so advanced as to bind philosophy to
exactness. The intellects of men were quickened by a new sense of
freedom, and stimulated by ardor of imagination. New worlds of
undiscovered knowledge loomed vaguely along the horizon. Philosophy
invaded the sphere of poetry, while, on the other hand, poetry gave its
form to much of the prevailing philosophy. To be a proper poet was not
only to be a writer of verses, but to be a master of learning.
Boccaccio describes Guido Cavalcanti as "one of the best logicians in
the world, and as a most excellent natural philosopher," but says
nothing of his poetry. Dante, more than any other man of his time,
resumed in himself the general zeal for knowledge. His genius had two
distinct, and yet often intermingling parts,--the poetic and the
scientific. No learning came amiss to him. He was born a scholar, as he
was born a poet,--and had he written not a single poem, he would still
be famous as the most profound student of his times. Far as he
surpassed his contemporaries in poetry, he was no less their superior
in the depth and the extent of his knowledge. And this double nature of
his genius is plainly shown in many parts of "The New Life." A youthful
incapacity to mark clearly the line between the work of the student and
the work of the poet is manifest in it. The display of his acquisitions
is curiously mingled with the narrative of his emotions. This is not to
be charged against him as pedantry. His love of learning partook of the
nature of passion; his judgment was not yet able, if indeed it ever
became able, to establish the division between the abstractions of the
intellect and the affections of the heart. And above all, his early
claim of honor as a poet was to be justified by his possession of the
fruits of study.
But there was also in Dante a quality of mind which led him to unite
the results of knowledge with poetry in a manner almost peculiar to
himself. He was essentially a mystic. The dark and hidden side of
things was not less present to his imagination than the visible and
plain. The range of human capacity in the comprehension of the
spiritual world was not then marked by as numerous boundary-stones of
failure as now limit the way. Impossibilities were sought for with the
same confident hope as realities. The alchemists and the astrologers
believed in the attainment of results as tangible and real as those
which travellers brought back from the marvellous and still unachieved
East. The mystical properties of numbers, the influence of the stars,
the powers of cordials and elixirs, the virtues of precious stones,
were received as established facts, and opened long vistas of discovery
before the student's eyes. Curiosity and speculative inquiry were
stimulated by wonder and fed by all the suggestions of heated fancies.
Dante, partaking to the full in the eager spirit of the times, sharing
all the ardor of the pursuit of knowledge, and with a spiritual insight
which led him into regions of mystery where no others ventured,
naturally connected the knowledge which opened the way for him with the
poetic imagination which cast light upon it. To him science was but
another name for poetry.
Much learning has been expended in the attempt to show that even the
doctrine of Love, which is displayed in "The New Life," is derived,
more or less directly, from the philosophy of Plato. It has been
supposed that this little autobiographic story, full of the most
intimate personal revelations, and glowing with a sincere passion, was
written on a preconceived basis of theory. A certain Platonic form of
expression, often covering ideas very far removed from those of Plato,
was common to the earlier, colder, and less truthful poets. Some
strains of such Platonism, derived from the poems of his predecessors,
are perhaps to be found in this first book of Dante's. But there is
nothing to show that he had deliberately adopted the teachings of the
ancient philosopher. It may well, indeed, be doubted if at the time of
its composition he had read any of Plato's works. Such Platonism as
exists in "The New Life" was of that unconscious kind which is shared
by every youth of thoughtful nature and sensitive temperament, who
makes of his beloved a type and image of divine beauty, and who by the
loveliness of the creature is led up to the perfection of the Creator.
The essential qualities of the "Vita Nuova," those which afford direct
illustration of Dante's character, as distinguished from those which
may be called youthful, or merely literary, or biographical, correspond
in striking measure with those of the "Divina Commedia." The earthly
Beatrice is exalted to the heavenly in the later poem; but the same
perfect purity and intensity of feeling with which she is reverently
regarded in the "Divina Commedia" is visible in scarcely less degree in
the earlier work. The imagination which makes the unseen seen, and the
unreal real, belongs alike to the one and to the other. The "Vita
Nuova" is chiefly occupied with a series of visions; the "Divina
Commedia" is one long vision. The sympathy with the spirit and impulses
of the time, which in the first reveals the youthful impressibility of
the poet, in the last discloses itself in maturer forms, in more
personal expressions. In the "Vita Nuova" it is a sympathy mastering
the natural spirit; in the "Divina Commedia" the sympathy is controlled
by the force of established character. The change is that from him who
follows to him who commands. It is the privilege of men of genius, not
only to give more than others to the world, but also to receive more
from it. Sympathy, in its full comprehensiveness, is the proof of the
strongest individuality. By as much as Dante or Shakspeare learnt of
and entered into the hearts of men, by so much was his own nature
strengthened and made peculiarly his own. The "Vita Nuova" shows the
first stages of that genius, the first proofs of that wide sympathy,
which at length resulted in the "Divine Comedy." It is like the first
blade of spring grass, rich with the promise of the golden harvest.
[Footnote 1: _Vita di Dante_. Milan, 1823, pp. 29, 30.]
[Footnote 2: _Vita di Dante_, p. 69.]
[Footnote 3: For _vita nova_ in the sense of _early life_, see
_Purgatory_, xxx. 115, with the comments of Landino and Benvenuto da
Imola; and for _eta novella_ in a similar sense, see Canzone xviii. st.
6. Fraticelli, who supports this interpretation, gives these with other
examples, but none more to the point. Mr. Joseph Carrow, who had a
translation into English of the _Vita Nuova_, printed at Florence in
1840, entitles his book "The Early Life of Dante Allighieri." But as
giving probability to the meaning to which we incline, see Canzone x.
"Lo giorno che costei nel mondo venne,
Secondo che si trova
Nel libro della mente che vien meno,
La mia persona parvola sostenne
Una passion nova."
That day when she unto the world attained,
As is found written true
Within the book of my now sinking soul,
Then by my childish nature was sustained
A passion new.
In referring to Dante's Minor Poems, we shall refer to them as they
stand in the first volume of Fraticelli's edition of the _Opere Minore
al Dante_, Firenze, 1834. There is great need of a careful, critical
edition of the _Canzoniere_ of Dante, in which poems falsely ascribed
to him should no longer hold place among the genuine. But their is
little hope for this from Italy; for the race of Italian commentators
on Dante is, as a whole, more frivolous, more impertinent, and duller,
than that of English commentators on Shakespeare.]
[Footnote 4: The word in the original (Villani, Book vii. C. 89) is
_Giocolari_, the Italian form of the French _jongleur_,--the
appellation of those whose profession was to sing or recite the verses
of the troubadours or the romances of chivalry.]
[Footnote 5: See Boccaccio, _Decamerone_, Giorn. vi, Nov. 9, for an
entertaining picture of Florentine festivities.]
[Footnote 6: The feeling which moved Florence thus to build herself
into beauty was one shared by the other Italian republican cities at
this time. Venice, Verona, Pisa, Siena, Orvieto, were building or
adding to churches and palaces such as have never since been
[Footnote 7: Cicognara, _Storia della Scultura_, II. 147.]
[Footnote 8: Guido Guinicelli will always be less known by his own
versus than by Dante's calling him
Of me and all those better others
Who sweet chivalric lovelays formed."
_Purg._ xxvi. 97-99.
And Guido Cavalcanti, "he who took from this other Guido the praise of
speech," (_Purg._ xi. 97,) is more famous as Dante's friend than as a
[Footnote 9: _Purgatory_, xxiv. 53-60.]
[Footnote 10: _Decamerone_, Giorn. vi. Nov. 9. _Logician_ is here to be
understood in an extended sense, as the student of letters, or _arts_,
as they were then called, in general.]
* * * * *
The night is made for cooling shade,
For silence, and for sleep;
And when I was a child, I laid
My hands upon my breast, and prayed,
And sank to slumbers deep:
Childlike as then, I lie to-night,
And watch my lonely cabin light.
Each movement of the swaying lamp
Shows how the vessel reels:
As o'er her deck the billows tramp,
And all her timbers strain and cramp
With every shock she feels,
It starts and shudders, while it burns,
And in its hinged socket turns.
Now swinging slow, and slanting low,
It almost level lies;
And yet I know, while to and fro
I watch the seeming pendule go
With restless fall and rise,
The steady shaft is still upright,
Poising its little globe of light.
O hand of God! O lamp of peace!
O promise of my soul!--
Though weak, and tossed, and ill at ease,
Amid the roar of smiting seas,
The ship's convulsive roll,
I own, with love and tender awe,
Yon perfect type of faith and law!
A heavenly trust my spirit calms,
My soul is filled with light:
The ocean sings his solemn psalms,
The wild winds chant: I cross my palms,
Happy as if, to-night,
Under the cottage-roof, again
I heard the soothing summer-rain.
* * * * *
BULLS AND BEARS.
WHICH TREATS OF THE MODESTY OF CANDIDATES FOR OFFICE.
Mr. Sandford sat in his private room. Through the windows in front were
seen the same bald and grizzly heads that had for so many years given
respectability to the Vortex Company. The contemplation of the cheerful
office and the thought of its increasing prosperity seemed to give him
great satisfaction; for he rubbed his white and well-kept hands,
settled his staid cravat, smoothed his gravely decorous coat, and
looked the picture of placid content. He meditated, gently twirling his
watch-seal the while.
"Windham will be here presently, for my note admitted only of an answer
in person. A very useful person to have a call from is Windham; these
old gentlemen will put up their gold spectacles when he comes, and
won't think any the less of me for having such a visitor. I noticed
that Monroe was much impressed the other day. Then Bullion and Stearine
will drop in, I think,--both solid men, useful acquaintances. If
Plotman has only done what he promised, the thing will come round
right. I shall not seek office,--oh, no! I could not compromise my
position. But if the people thrust it upon me, I cannot refuse.
Citizenship has its duties as well as its privileges, and every man
must take his share of public responsibility. By-the-by, that's a
well-turned phrase; 'twill bear repeating. I'll make a note of it."
True enough, Mr. Windham called, and, after the trivial business-affair
was settled, he introduced the subject he was expected to speak on.
"We want men of character and business habits in public station, my
young friend, and I was rejoiced to-day to hear that it was proposed to
make you a Senator. We have had plenty of politicians,--men who trade
in honors and offices."
"I am sensible of the honor you mention," modestly replied Sandford,
"and should value highly the compliment of a nomination, particularly
coming from men like yourself, who have only the public welfare at
heart. But if I were to accept, I don't know how I could discharge my
duties. And besides, I am utterly without experience in political life,
and should very poorly fulfil the expectations that would be formed of
"Don't be too modest, Mr. Sandford. If you have not experience in
politics, all the better; for the ways to office have been foul enough
latterly. And as to business, we must arrange that. Your duties here
you could easily discharge, and we will get some other young man to
take your place in the charitable boards;--though we shall be
fortunate, if we find any one to make a worthy successor."
After a few words, the stately Mr. Windham bowed himself out, leaving
Sandford rubbing his hands with increased, but still gentle hilarity.
Mr. Bullion soon dropped in. He was a stout man, with a round, bald
head, short, sturdy legs, and a deep voice,--a weighty voice on
'Change, though, as its owner well knew,--the more, perhaps, because it
dealt chiefly in monosyllables.
"How are you, Sandford? Fine day. Anything doing? Money more in demand,
they say. Hope all is right; though it looks like a squall."
Mr. Sandford merely bowed, with an occasional "Ah!" or "Indeed!"'
"How about politics?" Bullion continued. "Talk of sending you to the
Senate. Couldn't do better,--I mean the city couldn't; _you'd_ be a
d---d fool to go. Somebody has to, though. You as well as any. Can I
"You rather surprise me. I had not thought of the honor."
Bullion turned his eye upon him,--a cool, gray eye, overhung by an
eyebrow that seemed under perfect muscular control; for the gray wisp
of hair grew pointed like a paint-brush, and had a queer motion of
"Oh, shy, I see! Just as well. Too forward is bad. We'll fix it. Good
And Bullion, sticking his hands in his pockets, went away with a
half-audible whistle, to look after his debtors, and draw in his
resources before the anticipated "squall" should come. Mr. Sandford had
lost the opportunity of making his carefully studied speech; but, as
Bullion had said, it was just as well.
Mr. Stearine came next,--a tall, thin man, with a large, bony frame,
and a bilious temperament. A smile played perpetually around his
loose mouth,--not a smile of frank good-humor, but of uneasy
self-consciousness. He smiled because it was necessary to do something;
and he had not the idea of what repose meant.
"You are going to the Senate, I hear," said the visitor.
"Oh, yes,--I've heard it from several. Mr. Windham approves it, and I
just heard Bullion speak of it. A solid man is Bullion; a man of few
words, but all his words tell; they drop like shot."
"Mr. Windham was good enough to speak of it to me to-day; but I haven't
made up my mind. In fact, it will be time enough when the nomination is
offered to me. By-the-way, Mr. Stearine, you were speaking the other
day of a little discount. If you want a thousand or two, I think I can
get it for you. Street rates are rather high, you know; but I will do
the best I can."
Mr. Stearine smiled again, as he had done every minute before, and
expressed his gratification.
"Let me have good paper on short time; it's not my money, and I must
consult the lender's views, you know. About one and a half per cent, a
month, I think; he may want one and three quarters, or two per
Mr. Stearine hoped his friend would obtain as favorable terms as he
"You'll have no trouble in meeting the larger note due, Bullion, on
which I am indorser?" said Sandford.
"None at all, I think," was the reply.
"Two birds with one stone," thought Sandford, after his friend's
departure. "A good investment, and the influence of a good man to boot.
Now to see Fletcher and learn how affairs are coming on. We'll make
that ten thousand fifteen before fall is over, if I am not mistaken."
WHEREIN THE INVESTMENT IS DISCUSSED.
It was the evening of a long day in summer. Mrs. Monroe had rolled up
her sewing and was waiting for her son. Tea was ready in the pleasant
east room, and the air of the house seemed to invite tranquillity and
repose. It was in a quiet street, away from the rattle of carriages,
and comparatively free from the multitudinous noises of a city. The
carts of milkmen and marketmen were the only vehicles that frequented
it. The narrow yard in the rear, with its fringe of grass, and the
proximity to the pavement in front, were the only things that would
have prevented one from thinking himself a dweller in the country. As
the clock struck six, Walter Monroe's step was heard at the
door;--other men might be delayed; he never. No seductions of billiards
or pleasant company ever kept him from the society of his mother. He
had varied sources of amusement, and many friends, attracted by his
genial temper and tried worth; but he never forgot that his mother
denied herself all intercourse with society, and was indifferent to
every pleasure out of the sphere of home. Nor did he meet her as a
matter of course; mindful of his mother's absorbing love, and heartily
returning it, he seemed always, upon entering the room, to have come
home as from a long absence. He kissed her fondly, asked concerning her
health and spirits, and how she had passed the day.
"The day is always long till you come, Walter. Tea is ready now, my
son. When you are rested, we will sit down."
"Ah, mother, you are cheerful to-day. I have brought you, besides the
papers, a new book, which we will commence presently."
"A thoughtful boy you are; but you haven't told me all, Walter. I see
something behind those eyes of yours."
"What telltales they must be! Well, I have a pretty present for you,--a
sweet picture I bought the other day, and which will come home
to-morrow, I fancy."
"Is that all? I shall be glad to see the picture, because you like it.
But you have something else on your mind."
"I see I never keep anything from you, mother. You seem to know my
"Well, what is it?"
"I have been thinking, mother, that our little property was hardly so
productive as it ought to be,--earning barely six per cent., while I
know that many of my friends are getting eight, and even ten."
"I am afraid that the extra interest is only to pay for the risk of
"True, that is often the case; but I think we can make all safe."
"Well, what do you propose doing?"
"I have left it with Mr. Sandford, an acquaintance of mine, to invest
for me. He is secretary of an insurance company, and knows all the ways
of the money-lending world."
"It's a great risk, Walter, to trust our all."
"Not our all, mother. I have a salary, and, whatever may happen, we can
always depend on that. Besides, Mr. Sandford is a man of integrity and
credit. He has the unlimited confidence of the company, and I rely upon
him as I would upon myself."
"How has he invested it? Have you got the securities?"
"Not yet, mother. I have left the money on his note for the present;
and when he has found a good chance to loan it, he will give me the
mortgages or stocks, as the case may be. But come, mother, let us sit
down to tea. All is safe, I am sure; and to-morrow I will make you
satisfied with my prudent management."
When the simple meal was over, they sat in the twilight before the gas
was lighted. The moments passed rapidly in their free and loving
converse. Then the table was drawn out and the new book was opened.
Mrs. Monroe suddenly recollected something.
"Walter, my dear, a letter was left here to-day by the postman. As it
was directed to the street and number, it did not go to your box. Here
it is. I have read it; and rather sad news it brings. Cousin Augustus
is failing, so his daughter writes, and it is doubtful whether he ever
recovers. Poor child! I am sorry for her."
Walter took the letter and hastily read it.
"A modest, feeling, sensible little girl, I am sure. I have never seen
her, you know; but this letter is simple, touching, and womanly."
"A dear, good girl, I am sure. How lonely she must be!"
"Mother, I believe I'll go and see them. In time of trouble we should
forget ceremony. Cousin Augustus has never invited me, but I'll go and
see him. Won't you go, too?"
"Dear boy, I couldn't! The cars? Oh, never!"
Walter smiled. "You don't get over your prejudices. The cars are
perfectly safe, and more comfortable than coaches."
"I can't go; it's no use to coax me."
"I have but one thing to trouble me, mother,--and that is, that I can
never get you away from this spot."
"I'm very happy, Walter, and it's a very pleasant spot; why should I
wish to go?"
"How long since you have been down Washington Street?"
"Ten years, I think."
"And you have never seen the new theatre, nor the Music Hall?"
"Nor any of the new warehouses?"
"I don't want to see them."
"And you wouldn't go to church, if it were move than a stone's throw
"I am afraid not."
"How long since you were in a carriage?"
Her eyes filled with tears, but she made no reply.
"Forgive me, mother! I remember the time,--five years! and it seems
like yesterday when father"--
There was a silence which, for a time, neither cared to break.
"Well," said Walter, at length, "I shall have to go alone. To-morrow
morning I will arrange my business,--not forgetting our
securities,--and start in the afternoon train."
"Your father often spoke of Cousin Augustus and his lovely wife; I
wonder if the daughter has her mother's beauty?"
"I can't tell. I hope so. But don't look so inquiringly. I don't love a
woman in the world,--except you, mother. I shan't fall in love, even if
she is an angel."
"If Cousin Augustus should be worse,--should die, what will become of
the poor motherless child?"
"There are no nearer relatives than we, mother,--and we must give her a
home, if she will come."
"Certainly, Walter, we must not be hard-hearted."
Mrs. Monroe was charitable, kind, and motherly towards the distressed;
she felt the force of her son's generous sentiments. If it were her
Cousin Augustus himself who was to be sheltered, or his son, if he had
one,--or if the daughter were unattractive, a hoyden even, she would
cheerfully make any sacrifice in favor of hospitality. But she could
not repress a secret fear lest the beauty and innocence of the orphan
should appeal too strongly to Walter's heart. She knew the natural
destiny of agreeable young men; she acknowledged to herself that Walter
would sometime marry; but she put the time far off as an evil day, and
kept the subject under ban. None of her neighbors who had pretty
daughters were encouraged to visit her on intimate terms. She almost
frowned upon every winsome face that crossed her threshold when Walter
was at home. So absorbing was this feeling, that she was not aware of
its existence, but watched her son by a sort of instinct. Her conduct
was not the result of cool calculation, and, if it could have been
properly set before her generous, kindly heart, she would have been
shocked at her own fond selfishness.
So she sat and speculated, balancing between fear and hope. If Walter
built air-castles, was he to blame? At twenty-four, with a heart
untouched, with fresh susceptibilities, and a little romance withal, is
it to be wondered that his fancy drew such pleasing pictures of his
We will leave them to their quiet evening's enjoyment and follow
Greenleaf to the house of Mr. Sandford.
THE MUSICAL SOIREE.
A small, but judiciously-selected company had assembled; all were
people of musical tastes, and most of them capable of sharing in the
performances. There were but few ladies; perhaps it did not suit the
mistress of the house to have the attentions of the gentlemen divided
among too many. Miss Sandford was undeniably queen of the evening; her
superb face and figure, and irreproachable toilet, never showed to
better advantage. And her easy manners, and ready, silvery words, would
have given a dangerous charm to a much plainer woman. She had a smile,
a welcome, and a compliment for each,--not seemingly studied, but
gracefully expressed, and sufficient to put the guests in the best
humor. Mrs. Sandford, less demonstrative in manner than her
sister-in-law, and less brilliant in conversation and personal
attractions, was yet a most winning, lovable woman,--a companion for a
summer ramble, or a quiet _tete-a-tete_, rather than a belle for a
drawing-room. Mr. Sandford was calmly conscious, full of subdued
spirits, cheerful and ready with all sorts of pleasant phrases. It is
not often that one sees such a manly, robust figure, such a handsome,
ingenuous face, and such an air of agreeable repose. Easelmann was
present, retiring as usual, but with an acute eye that lost nothing
while it seemed to be observing nothing. Greenleaf was decidedly the
lion. It was not merely his graceful person and regular features that
drew admiring glances upon him; the charm lay rather in an atmosphere
of intellect that surrounded him. His conversation, though by no means
faultless, was marked by an energy of phrase joined to an almost
womanly delicacy and taste. His was the "hand of steel," but clothed
with the "glove of velvet." Easelmann followed him with a look half
stealthy, half comical, as he saw the unusual vivacity of the reigning
beauty when in his immediate society. Her voice took instinctively a
softer and more musical tone; she showered her glances upon him,
dazzling and prismatic as the rays from her diamonds; she seemed
determined to captivate him without the tedious process of a siege.
And, in truth, he must have been an unimpressible man that could steel
himself against the influence of a woman who satisfied every critical
sense, who piqued all his pride, who stimulated all that was most manly
in his nature, and without apparent effort filled his bosom with an
The music commenced under Marcia's direction. There were piano solos
that were _not_ tedious,--full of melody and feeling, and with few of
the pyrotechnical displays which are too common in modern
virtuoso-playing; vocal duets and quartets from the Italian operas, and
from _Orfeo_ and other German masterpieces; and solos, if not equal to
the efforts of professional singers, highly creditable to amateurs, to
say the least. The auditors were enthusiastic in praise. Even Charles,
who came in late, declared the music "Vewy good, upon my
Greenleaf was listening to Marcia, with a pleased smile on his face,
when Mr. Sandford approached and interrupted them.
"You are proficient in more than one art, I see. You paint as well as
though you knew nothing of music, and yet you sing like a man who has
made it an exclusive study."
Greenleaf simply bowed.
"How do you come on with the picture?" Mr. Sandford continued.
"Very well, I believe."
"My dear Sir, make haste and finish it."
"I thought you were not in a hurry."
"Not in the least, my friend; but when you get that finished, you can
paint others, which I can probably dispose of for you."
"You are very kind."
"I speak as a business man," said Sandford, in a lower tone, at which
Marcia withdrew. "The arts fare badly in time of a money panic, and all
the pictures you can sell now will be clear gain."
"Are there signs of a panic?"
"Decidedly; the rates of interest are advancing daily, and no one knows
where it will end. Unless there is some relief in the market by Western
remittances, the distress will be wide-spread and severe."
"I am obliged to you for the hint. I have two or three pictures nearly
"I will look at them in a day or two, and try to find you purchasers."
Greenleaf expressed his thanks, warmly, and then walked towards Mrs.
Sandford, who was sitting alone at that moment.
"There is no knowing what Marcia may do," thought Sandford; "I have
never seen her when she appeared so much in earnest,--infatuated like a
candle-fly. I hope she won't be fool enough to marry a man without
money. These artists are poor sheep; they have to be taken care of like
so many children. At all events, it won't cost much to keep him at work
for the present. Meanwhile she may change her mind."
Greenleaf was soon engaged in conversation with Mrs. Sandford. She had
too much delicacy to flatter him upon his singing, but naturally turned
the current towards his art. Without depreciating his efforts or the
example of deservedly eminent American painters, she spoke with more
emphasis of the acknowledged masters; and as she dwelt with unaffected
enthusiasm upon the delight she had received from their immortal works,
his old desire to visit Europe came upon him with redoubled force.
There was a calm strength in her thoughts and manner that moved him
strangely. He saw in a new light his thoughtless devotion to pleasure,
and especially the foolish fascination into which he had been led by a
woman whom he could not marry and ought not to love. Mrs. Sandford did
not exhort, nor even advise; least of all did she allude to her
sister-in-law. Hers was only the influence of truth,--of broad ideas of
life and its noblest ends, presented with simplicity and a womanly tact
above all art. It seemed to Greenleaf the voice of an angel that he
heard, so promptly did his conscience respond. He listened with
heightening color and tense nerves; the delirious languor of amatory
music, and the delirium he had felt while under the spell of Marcia's
beauty, passed away. It seemed to him that he was lifted into a higher
plane, whence he saw before him the straight path of duty, leading away
from the tempting gardens of pleasure,--where he recognized immutable
principles, and became conscious that his true affinities were not with
those who came in contact only with his sensuous nature. He had never
understood himself until now.
A long meditation, the reader thinks; but, in reality, it was only an
electric current, awakening a series of related thoughts; as a flash of
lightning at night illumines at once a crowd of objects in a landscape,
which the mind perceives, but cannot follow in detail.
When, at length, Greenleaf looked up, he was astonished to find the
room silent, and himself with his companion in the focus of all eyes.
Marcia looked on with a curiosity in which there was perhaps a shade of
apprehension. Easelmann relieved the momentary embarrassment by walking
towards his friend, with a meaning glance, and taking a seat near Mrs.
"I can't allow this," said Easelmann. "You have had your share of Mrs.
Sandford's time. It is my turn. Besides, you will forget it all when
you cross the room."
"Trust me, I shall _never_ forget," said Greenleaf, with a marked
emphasis, and a grateful look towards the lovely widow.
"What's this? What's this?" said Easelmann, rapidly. "Insatiate
trifler, could not one suffice?"
"Oh, we understand each other, perfectly," said Mrs. Sandford, in a
"You do, eh? I should have interrupted you sooner. It might have saved
my peace of mind, and perhaps relieved some other anxieties I have
witnessed. But go, now!" Greenleaf turned away with a smile.
Marcia at once proposed a duet to conclude the entertainment,
--Rossini's _Mira bianca luna_,--a piece for which she had
reserved her force, and in which she could display the best
qualities of her voice and style. Greenleaf had a high and pure tenor
voice; he exerted himself to support her, and with some success; the
duet was a fitting close to a delightful and informal concert. But he
was thoroughly sobered; the effects he produced were from cool
deliberation, rather than the outbursts of an enthusiastic temper.
Earlier in the evening the tones and the glances of his companion would
have sent fiery thrills along his nerves and lifted him above all
In the buzz of voices that followed, Marcia commenced a lively colloquy
with Greenleaf, as though she desired to leave him under the
impressions with which the evening commenced. The amusements of summer
were discussed, the merits of watering-places and other fashionable
resorts, when Greenleaf accidentally mentioned that he and Easelmann
were going presently to Nahant.
"Delightful!" she exclaimed, "to enjoy the ocean and coast-scenery
after the rush of company has left! While the fashionable season lasts,
there is nothing but dress and gossip. You are wise to avoid it."
"I think so," he replied. "Neither my tastes nor my pursuits incline me
to mingle in what is termed fashionable society. It makes too large
demands upon one's time, to say nothing of the expense or the
unsatisfactory nature of its pleasures."
"I agree with you. So you are going to sketch. Would not you and Mr.
Easelmann like some company? You will not pore over your canvas _all_
"We should be delighted; _I_ should, certainly. And if you will look at
my friend's face just now, as he is talking to your beautiful
sister-in-law, you will see that he would not object."
"Do you think Lydia is _beautiful_?"
The tone was quiet, but the glance questioning.
"Not classically beautiful,--but one of the most lovely, engaging women
I ever met."
"Yes,--she is charming, truly. I don't think her strikingly handsome,
though; but tastes rarely agree, you know. I only asked to ascertain
"I understand," thought Greenleaf; but he made no further reply.
"Don't be surprised, if you see us before your stay is over,--that is,
if Lydia and I can induce Charles to go down with us. Henry is too
busy, I suppose."
Charles passed just then; he was endeavoring to form a cotillon,
declaring that talk was slow, and, now that the music was over, a dance
would be the thing.
"Charles, you will go to Nahant for a week,--won't you?"
"In a day or two."
"Too cold, Sister Marcia; too late, altogether."
"But you were unwilling to go early in the season."
"Too early is as bad as too late; it is chilly there till the company
comes. No billiards, no hops, no pwetty girls, no sailing, no wides on
the beach, no pwomenades on the moonlight side of the piazza. No, my
deah, Nahant is stupid till the curwent sets that way."
"Southern visitors warm the coast like the Gulf Stream, I suppose,"
"Pwecisely so,"--then, after the idea had reached his brain, adding,
"Vewy good, Mr. Gweenleaf! Vewy good!"
The soiree ended as all seasons of pleasure must, and without the dance
on which Charles had set his heart. The friends walked home together.
Greenleaf was rather silent, but Easelmann at last made him talk.
"What do you think of the beauty, now?" the elder asked.
"Still brilliant, bewitching, dangerous."
"You are not afraid of her?"
"Upon my soul, I believe I am."
"What has frightened you? What faults or defects have you seen?"
"Two. One is, she uses perfumes too freely. Stop that laugh of yours!
It's a trifling thing, but it is an indication. I don't like it."
"Fastidious man, what next? Has she more hairs on one eyebrow than the
other? Or did you see a freckle of the size of a fly's foot?"
"The second is in her manner, which, in spite of its ease and apparent
artlessness, has too much method in it. Her suavity is no more studied
than her raptures. She is frosted all over,--frosted like a cake, I
mean, and not with ice. And, to follow the image, I have no idea what
sort of a compound the tasteful confectionery covers."
"Well, if that is all, I think she has come out from under your
scrutiny pretty well. I should like to see the woman in whom you would
not find as many faults."
"If a man does not notice trifles, he will never learn much of
character. With women especially, one should be as observing as a Huron
on the trail of an enemy."
"Ferocious hunter, who supposed there were so many wiles in your simple
"Odd enough, there seemed to be a succession of warnings this evening.
I was dazzled at first, I own,--almost hopelessly smitten. But Sandford
gave me a jolt by bringing in business; he thinks there is to be a
smash, and advises me to make hay while the sun shines. Then I talked
with Mrs. Sandford."
"Now we come to the interesting part--to me!"
"But I shan't gratify you, you mouser! It is enough to say, that in a
few simple words, uttered, I am sure, without forethought, she placed
my frivolity before me, and then showed me what I might and ought to
be. I was like a grasshopper before, drunk with dew, and then sobered
by a plunge into a clear, cool spring. Besides, I have thought more
about your advice in regard to the lady, you dissembling old rascal!
For you know that in such matters you never mean what you say; and when
you counsel me to fall in love with a coquette, you only wish me to be
warned in time and make good my escape. If it were light enough, I
should see that grizzly moustache of yours curl like a cat's, this
minute. You can grin, you amiable Mephistopheles, but I know you! No,
my dear Easelmann, I am cured. I shall take hold of my pencils with new
energy. I will save money and go abroad, and----I had nearly forgotten
her! I will take a new look at my darling's sweet face in my pocket,
and, like Ulysses, I'll put wax into my ears when I meet the singing
"I hope your rustic _fiancee_ is not clairvoyant?"
"I hope not."
"If she is, she will cry her little eyes out to-night."
"Don't speak of it, I beg of you."
"You are getting lugubrious; we shall have to change the subject. Love
affects people in as many different ways as wine. Some are
exalted,--their feet spurn the earth, their heads are in the clouds;
some pugnacious, walking about with a chip on the shoulder; others are
stupidly happy,--their faces wearing a sickly smile that becomes
painful to look at; others again, like you, melancholy as a wailing
tenor in the last act of 'Lucia.' Like learning, a little draught of
love is dangerous; drink largely and be sober. The charmer will not
cast so powerful a spell upon you the next time, and you will come away
There was just the least shade of sarcasm in the tone, and Greenleaf,
as usual, was a little puzzled. For Easelmann was a study,--always
agreeable, never untruthful, but fond of launching an idea like a
boomerang, to sweep away, apparently, but to return upon some
unexpected curve. His real meaning could not always be gathered from
any isolated sentence; and to strangers he was a living riddle. But
Greenleaf had passed the excitable period, and had lapsed into a state
of moody repentance and grim resolution.
"You need not tempt me," he said, "even if that were your object, which
I doubt, you sly fox! And if you mean only to pique my pride in order
to cure my inconstancy to my betrothed, I assure you it is quite
unnecessary. I shall have too much self-respect to place myself in the
way of temptation again."
"Now you are growing disagreeable; the virtuous resolutions of a
diner-out, on the headachy morning after, are never pleasant to hear.
There is so much implied! One does not like to follow the idea backward
to its naughty source. The penitent should keep his sermons and
soda-water to himself."
"Well, here we are at home. We have walked a mile, and yet it seems but
a furlong. If I were not so disagreeable as you say, we would take
another turn about the Common."
"Sleep will do you more good, my friend; and I think I'll go home. I
haven't smoked since dinner. Good night!"
Greenleaf went to his room, but not at once to sleep; his nerves were
still too tremulous. With the picture of Alice before him, he sat for
hours in a dreamy reverie; and when at last he went to bed, he placed
the miniature under his pillow.
A YOUNG FINANCIER AT HOME.
John Fletcher lived in a small, but neat house at the South End.
Slender and youthful as he looked, he was not a bachelor, but had a
pretty, fragile-looking wife, to whom he was married when only nineteen
years of age. Such a union could have been brought about only by what
the world calls an indiscretion, or from an unreflecting, hasty
impulse. Girl as Mrs. Fletcher seemed to be, she was not without
prudence as a housekeeper; and as far as she could command her
inconstant temper, she made home attractive to her husband. But neither
of them had the weight of character to act as a counterpoise to the
vacillation of the other. It was not a sun and a planet, the one
wheeling about the other, nor yet were they double stars, revolving
about a centre common to both; their movements were like nothing so
much as the freaks of a couple of pith-balls electrically excited, at
one time drawn furiously together, and then capriciously repelling each
other. Their loves, caresses, spats, quarrels, poutings, and
reconciliations were as uncertain as the vagaries of the weather, as
little guided by sense or reason as the passions of early childhood. On
one subject they agreed at all times, and that was to pet and spoil
most thoroughly their infant daughter, a puny, weak-voiced,
slender-limbed, curly-haired child, with the least possible chance of
living to the age of womanhood.
Fletcher was confidential clerk to the great banking-house of Foggarty,
Danforth, and Dot. The senior partner rarely took any active part in
business, but left it to the management of Danforth and Dot. Danforth
had the active brain to plan, Dot the careful, cool faculty to execute.
Fletcher had a good salary,--so large that he could always reserve a
small margin for "outside operations," by which in one way or another
he generally contrived to lose.
The god he worshipped was Chance; by which I do not refer at all to any
theory of the creation of matter, but to the course and order of human
affairs. His drawers were full of old lottery-schemes; he did not long
buy tickets, because he was too shrewd; but he made endless
calculations upon the probability of drawing prizes,--provided the
tickets were really all sold, and the wheel fairly managed. A dice-box
was always at hand upon the mantel. He had portraits of celebrated
racers, both quadruped and biped, and he could tell the fastest time
ever made by either. His manipulation of cards was, as his friends
averred, one of the fine arts; and in all the games he had wrought out
problems of chances, and knew the probability of every contingency. A
stock-list was always tacked above his secretary, and another
constantly in his pocket. And this evening he had brought home a
revolving disk, having figures of various values engraved around its
edge, carefully poised, with a hair-spring pointer, like a hand on a
"What have you got, John?" asked his wife.
"Only a toy, a plaything, deary. See it spin!" and he gave the disk a
"But what is it _for_?"
"Oh, nothing in particular. I thought we could amuse ourselves in
turning it for the largest throws."
"Is that all? It is a heavy thing, and must have cost a good lot of
"Not much. Now see! You know I have tried to show you how chance rules
the world; and if you once get the chances in your favor, all is right.
Now suppose we take this wheel, and on the number 2,000 we paste
'Michigan Central,' 'Western' over 1,000, 'Vermont and Massachusetts'
over 500, 'Cary Improvement' over 400, and so on. Now, after a certain
number of revolutions, by keeping account, we get the chance of each
stock to come up."
"I don't understand."
"I don't suppose you do; you don't give your mind to it, as I do."
"But you know you had the same notion once about cards, and pasted the
names of the stocks on the court cards; and then you shuffled and cut
and dealt and turned up, night after night."
"Little doxy! small piece of property! you'd best attend to that baby,
and other matters that you know something about."
The "little doxy" felt strongly inclined to cry, but she kept back the
sobs and said, "You know, John, how sullen and almost hateful you were
before, when you were bewitched after those mean stocks. I don't think
you should meddle with such things; they are too big for you. Let the
rich fools gamble, if they want to; if _they_ lose, they can afford it,
and nobody cares but to laugh at them. Oh, John, you promised me you
wouldn't gamble any more."
"Well, I don't gamble. I haven't been to a faro bank for a year. I stay
away just to please you, although I know all the chances, and could
break the bank as easy as falling off a log."
"You don't gamble, you say, but you are uneasy till you put all your
money at risk on those paper things. I don't see the difference."
"You _needn't_ see the difference; nobody asked you to see the
difference. Gamble, indeed! there isn't a man on the street that
doesn't keep an eye on the paper things, as you call them."
"You see what I told you. You are cross. You like anything better (_a
sob_) than your poor (_another_) neglected wife."
The sobs now thickened into a cry, and, with streaming eyes, she picked
up the puny child and declared she was going to bed. To this proposal
the moody man emphatically assented. But as Mrs. Fletcher passed near
her husband, the child reached out its slender arms and caught hold of
him by his cravat, screaming, "Papa! papa! I stay, papa!"
"Let go!" roughly exclaimed the amiable father. But she held the
tighter, and shouted, "Papa! my papa!"
What sudden freak overcame his anger probably not even Fletcher himself
could tell. But, turning towards his wife, who was supporting the
child, whose little fingers still held him fast, his face cleared
instantly, and, with a sudden movement, he drew the surprised and
delighted woman down upon his knee, and loaded her with every form of
childish endearment. Her tears and sorrows vanished together, like the
"Little duck," said he, "if I were alone, I shouldn't care for any more
money. I know I can always take care of myself. But for your sake I
want to be independent,--rich, if you please. I want to be free. I want
to meet that wily, smooth, plausible, damned, respectable villain face
to face, and with as much money as he."
His eyes danced with a furious light and motion, and the fringy
moustache trembled over his thin and sensitive mouth. But in a moment
he repented the outbreak; for his wife's face blanched then, and the
tears leaped from her eyes.
"Oh, John," she exclaimed, "what is this awful secret? I know that
something is killing you. You mutter in sleep; you are sullen at times;
and then you break out in this dreadful way."
Fletcher meditated. "I can't tell her; 'twould kill her, and not do any
good either. No, one good streak of luck will set me up where I can
defy him. I'll grin and bear it."
"What is it, John? Tell your poor little wife!"
"Oh, nothing, my dear. I do some business for Sandford, who is apt to
be domineering,--that's all. To-day he provoked me, and when I am mad
it does me good to swear; it's as natural as lightning out of a black
"It may do _you_ good to swear, John; but it makes the cold chills run
over me. Why do you have anything to do with anybody that treats you
so? You are _so_ changed from what you were! Oh, John, something is
wrong, I know. Your face looks sharp and inquiring. You are thin and
uneasy. There's a wrinkle in your cheek, that used to be as smooth as a
She patted his face softly, as it rested on her shoulder; but he made
no reply save by an absent, half-audible whistle.
"You don't answer me, John, dear!"
"I've nothing especial to say, doxy,--only that I will wind up with
Sandford as soon as we finish the business in hand."
"The business in hand? Has he anything to do with Foggarty, Danforth,
Fletcher was not skilful under cross-examination. So he simply
answered, "No," and then stopping her mouth with kisses, promised to
explain the matter another day.
"Well, John, I am tired; I think I'll take baby and go to bed. Don't
sit up and get blue over your troubles!"
As she left the room, Fletcher drew a long breath. What an accent of
despair was borne on that sigh! His busy brain was active in laying
plans which his vacillating will could never execute without help.
Often before, he had determined to confront Sandford and defy him; but
as often he had quailed before that self-possessed and imperious man.
What hope was there, then, for this timid, crouching man, as long as
the hand of his haughty master was outstretched in command? None!
The stringency of the money-market began to frighten even Mr. Sandford
who had been predicting a panic. There had been but few failures, and
those were generally of houses that ought to fail, being insolvent from
losses or mismanagement. Mr. Sandford studied over his sheet of bills
payable and receivable almost hourly. The amount intrusted to him by
Monroe had been loaned out; for which he was now very sorry, as the
rate of interest had nearly doubled since he made the last agreement.
This, however, was but a small item in his accounts; other transactions
of greater magnitude occupied his attention. As he looked over the
array of promisors and indorsers, he said to himself, "I am safe. If
these men fail, it will be because the universal bottom has dropped out
and chaos come again. If anybody is shaky, it is Stearine. He believes,
though, that Bullion will help him through, and extend that note.
Perhaps he will. Perhaps, again, he will have enough to do to keep on
his own legs. He fancies himself strong because he owns the most of the
Neversink Mills. But he doesn't know what I know, that Kerbstone, the
treasurer of the Mills, is in the street every day, looking like a
gambler when his last dollar is on the table. A few more turns of the
screw and down goes Kerbstone. Who knows that the Mills won't tumble,
too, and Bullion after them? _He_ may go hang; but we must look after
Stearine, and prop him, unnecessary. That twenty thousand is more than
we can afford to lose just now. Lucky, there he comes!"
Mr. Stearine entered, not with his usual smile, but with an expression
like that of a man trying to be jolly with the toothache. A short, but
dexterous cross-examination showed to Sandford, that, if the
twenty-thousand-dollar note could be extended over to better times,
Stearine was safe. But the note was soon due, and Bullion might be
unable or unwilling to renew; in which case, the Vortex would have to
meet it. That was a contingency to be provided against; for Mr.
Sandford did not intend that the public should know that the credit of
the Company had been used for private purposes by its officers. He
therefore called in Mr. Fayerweather, the President, and the affair was
talked over and settled between them.
"One thing more," said Sandford. "Suppose any one _should_ get wind of
this, and grow suspicious;--Bullion himself might be foolish enough to
let the cat out of the bag;--we might find the shares of the Vortex in
the market, and the bears running them down to an uncomfortable
"True enough. We must stop that."
"The only way is to keep a sharp lookout, and if any of the stock is
offered, to buy it up. Half a dozen of us can take all that will be
likely to come into market."
"How many shares do you own, Sandford?" asked Mr. Fayerweather, with a
quizzical look. "Is this a nice little scheme of yours to run them off
at par? It's a shrewd dodge."
"You do me wrong," said Sandford, with a look of wounded innocence. "I
merely want to sustain the credit of the Company."
"Oh, no doubt!" said the President.
"Well, we will agree, then, not to let the shares fall below ninety,
say. It would be suspicious, I think, to hold them higher than that,
when money is two and a half per cent. a month."
"Very well. You will see to this? Be careful what men you speak to."
Mr. Sandford, being left alone, bethought him of Monroe. He did not
wish to give him a statement of affairs; he had put him off once, and
must find some way to satisfy him. How was it to be done? The financier
meditated. "I have it," said he; "I'll send him a quarter's interest in
advance. That's as much as I can spare in these times, when interest
grows like those miraculous pumpkin-vines out West." He drew a check
for two hundred dollars, and dispatched it to Monroe by letter.
So Mr. Sandford had all things snug. The Vortex was going on under
close-reefed topsails. If the notes he held were paid as they matured,
he would have money for new operations; if not, he had arranged that
the debtors should be piloted over the bar and anchored in safely till
the storm should blow over. Everything was secured, as far as human
foresight could anticipate.
Mr. Sandford had now but little use for Fletcher's services, except to
look after his debtors,--to know who was "shinning" in the street, or
"kite-flying" with accommodation-paper. Still he did not admit the
agent into his confidence. But this active and scheming mind was not
long without employment. Mr. Bullion had seen him in frequent
communication with Sandford, and thereby formed a high opinion of his
shrewdness and tact; for he knew that Sandford was very wary in
selecting his associates. He sought Fletcher.
"Young man," said Bullion, pointing his wisp of an eyebrow at him, "do
you want a job? Few words and keep mum. Yes or no?"
"Yes," said Fletcher, decidedly.
"I like your pluck," said Bullion.
"It doesn't take much pluck to follow Mr. Bullion's lead."
"None of your nonsense. How do you know anything about me, or what I am
going to do? I may fail to-morrow,--God forbid!--but when the wind
comes, it's the tall trees that are knocked over."
Fletcher thought the comparison rather ludicrous for a man standing on
such remarkably short pegs, but he said nothing.
"I mean to sell a few shares of stock, and I want you to do the
business. I am not to be known in it."
Fletcher bowed, and asked what the stocks were.
"No matter; any you can sell to advantage. I haven't a share, but I
needn't tell you _that_ doesn't make any difference."
"Let me understand you clearly," said Fletcher.
"Sell under. For instance, take a stock that sells to-day at
ninety-four; offer to deliver it five days hence at ninety. To-morrow
offer it a peg lower, and so on, till the market is easier. When the
first contract is up, we shall get the stock at eighty-eight, or less,
perhaps,--deliver to the buyers, and pocket the difference."
"But it may not fall."
"It's bound to fall. People that hold stock _must_ sell to pay their
notes. Every day brings a fresh lot of shares to the hammer."
"But the bulls may corner you; they will try mightily to keep prices
"But they can't corner, I tell you; there are too many of them in
distress. Besides, we'll spread; we won't put all our eggs into one
basket. If I stuck to 'bearing' one stock, the holders might get all
the shares and break me by keeping them so that I couldn't comply with
my contracts. I shan't do it. I'll pitch into the 'fancies' mainly;
they are held by speculators, who must be short, and they'll come down
with a run."
"How deep shall I go in?"
"Fifty thousand, to begin with. However, there won't be many transfers
actually made; the bulls will merely pay the differences."
"Or else waddle out of the street lame ducks."
Bullion rubbed his hands, while his eyes shone with a colder glitter.
"Well, you are a bear, truly," said Fletcher, with unfeigned
admiration,--"a real Ursa Major."
"To be sure, I'm a bear. What's the use in being a bull in times like
these, to be skinned and sold for your hide and tallow?"
"The market is falling, and no mistake."
"Yes, and will fall lower. Stocks haven't been down since '37 so low as
you will see them a month from now."
Fletcher bowed----and waited. Bullion pointed the eyebrow again.
"You don't want to begin on an uncertainty. I see. Sharp. Proper
enough. I'll give you ten per cent. of the profits,--you to pay the
commissions. Each day's work to be set down, and at the end of each
week I'll give you a note for your share. That do? I thought it would.
I offer a liberal figure, for I think you know something, youngster.
Use your judgment, now. Consult me, of course; but mum's the word. If
any stock is pushed in, lay hold, and don't be afraid. The holders must
sell, and they must sacrifice. We'll skin 'em, by G--," said Bullion,
with an excitement that was rare in a cool, hard head like his. Then
thinking he had been too outspoken, he resumed his former concise
"All fair, you know. Bargain is a bargain. They must sell; we won't
buy, without we buy cheap; their loss, to be sure, but our gain. All
trade on the same plan. Seller gets the most he can; buyer pays only
what he must."
"That's it," said Fletcher. "Every man for himself in this world."
"Well, good morning, young man. Sharp's the word. Call at my office
this afternoon." And, with a queer sweep of the pointed eyebrow, he
What visions of opulence rose before Fletcher's fancy! He would now lay
the foundations of his fortune, and, perhaps, accomplish it. He would
become a power in State Street; and, best of all, he would escape from
his slavery to Sandford, and perhaps even patronize the haughty man he
had so long served. How to begin? He could not attend the sales at the
Brokers' Board in person, as he was not a member. Should he confide in
Danforth? No,--for, with his relations to the house, his own share in
the profits would be whittled down. He determined to employ Tonsor, an
old acquaintance, who would be glad to buy and sell for the regular
commissions. The preliminaries were speedily concluded, and a list of
stocks made out on which to operate. The excitement was almost too
great for Fletcher to bear. As he counted the piles of bank-bills on
his employers' counter, or stacked up heaps of coin, in his ordinary
business, he fancied himself another Ali Baba, in a cave to which he
had found the Open Sesame, and he could hardly contain himself till the
time should come when he should take possession of his unimaginable
wealth. He had built air-castles before, but never one so magnificent,
so real. He could have hugged Bullion, bear as he was.--We leave
Fletcher and his principal on the high road to success.
THE SIREN COMES TO THE SEA-SHORE.
Greenleaf worked assiduously upon his landscapes, and, notwithstanding
the pressure in the money-market, was fortunate enough to dispose of
them to gentlemen whose incomes were not affected by the vicissitudes
of business. For this he was principally indebted to Sandford, who took
pains to bring his works to the notice of connoisseurs. But, with all
his success, the object of his ambition was as far off as at first.
Imperceptibly he had acquired expensive habits. He was not prodigal,
not extravagant; but, having a keen sense of the beautiful, he
gradually became more fastidious in dress, and in all those nameless
elegancies which seem of right to belong to the accomplished man, as to
the gentleman in easy circumstances. This desire for ease and luxury
did not conflict with simplicity; he seemed born for all the enjoyment
which the most cultivated society could bestow. He had the power to
spend the income of a fortune worthily; unhappily, he did not have it
to spend. He had written constantly to his betrothed, and when he told
her of the prices he had received for his pictures, he was at a loss
how to make her comprehend the new relations into which he had
grown,--to explain that he was practically as poor as when he first
came to the city. How could he assure her of his desire to end the
engagement in marriage, if he spoke of postponement now that he had an
income beyond his first expectations? Imperceptibly to himself, his
letters became more like intellectual conversations, or essays,
rather,--pleasant enough in themselves, but far different from the
simple and fervent epistles he wrote while the memory of Alice was
fresher. _She_ felt this, although she had not reasoned upon it, and
her sensitive womanly heart was full of vague forebodings.
Would he confess to himself, that, as he looked at her cherished
picture, another face, with a more brilliant air and a more dazzling
beauty, came between him and the silent image before him? Dared he to
think, that, in his frequent visits to Miss Sandford, the ties which
bound him to his betrothed were daily weakening?--that he found a charm
in the very caprices and waywardness of the new love, which the
unvarying constancy and placid affection of the old had never created?
The one put her heart unreservedly into his keeping; she knew nothing
of concealment, and he read her as he would an unsophisticated child;
there was not a nook or cranny in her heart, he thought, that he had
not explored. The other was full of surprises; she had as many phases
as an April day; and from mere curiosity, if from no other motive,
Greenleaf was piqued to follow on to understand her real character. The
apprehensions he felt at first wore away; he became accustomed to her
measured sentences and her apparently artificial manner. What seemed
affectation now became a natural expression. The secret influence she
exerted increased, and, at length, possessed him wholly while in her
company. It drew him as the moon draws the tides, silently,
unconsciously, but with a power he could not resist. It was only when
he was away from her that he could reason himself into a belief in his
Greenleaf and Easelmann were at Nahant at the close of the season. A
few straggling visitors only remained; the fashionable world had
returned to the city. The friends wandered over the rocky peninsula,
walked the long beach that leads to the main land, sketched the sea
from the shore, and the shore from the sea, and watched and transferred
the changing phases of Nature in sunshine and in storm. They were
fortunate enough to see one magnificent tempest, by which the ocean was
lashed into fury, breaking in thunder over the rugged coast-line, and
dashing spray sheer over the huge back of Egg Rock.
Miss Sandford's threat was carried into execution; the family came to
the hotel, and, for a week, Greenleaf and his friend were most devoted
in their attentions. Marcia was charmed with their sketches, and, with
a tact as delicate as it is rare, gave them time for their cherished
pursuits, and planned excursions only for their unemployed hours. They
collected colored mosses, star-fish, and other marine curiosities; they
sailed, fished, scampered over the rocks, drove over the beach at
twilight, sang, danced, and bowled. And when weary of active amusement,
they reclined on the grass and listened to the melancholy rote of the
sea,--the steady pulsations of its mighty heart.
Easelmann, with his usual raillery, congratulated his friend on his
prospects, and declared that the pupil was surpassing the teacher in
the beau's arts.
"Finely, Greenleaf! You are just coming to the interesting part of the
process. You are a little flushed, however,--not quite cool enough. A
wily adversary she is; if you allow your feelings to run away with you,
it's all up. She will hold the reins as coolly as you held your
trotting pony yesterday. Keep the bits out of your mouth, my boy."
"Don't trouble yourself. I shall keep cool. I am not going to make a
fool of myself by proposing."
"Oh, you aren't? We shall see. But she'll refuse you, and then you'll
come to your senses."
"I'm deusedly afraid she would accept me."
"The vanity of mankind! Don't tell me that women are vain. Every man
thinks himself irresistible,--that he has only to call, to have the
women come round him like colts around a farmer with a measure of corn.
Shake the kernels in your dish, and cry, 'Kerjock!' Perhaps she _will_
"I suppose you think, with Hosea Bigelow, that
"''Ta'n't a knowin' kind o' cattle
That is ketched with mouldy corn.'"
"I needn't tell you that Marcia Sandford is knowing,--too knowing to
let an enthusiastic lover relapse into a humdrum husband. You amuse her
now: for she likes to enjoy poetry and sentiment, dances, rides, and
rambles, in company with a man of fresh susceptibilities;--a good
phrase that, 'fresh susceptibilities.'--The instant you become serious
and ask her to marry you, the dream is over; she will hate you."
"Well, what is to become of a lady like this,--a creature you think too
bright, if not too good, for human nature's daily food?"
"An easy prophecy. The destiny of a pretty woman is to catch lovers."
"'The cat doth play, and after slay,'" said Greenleaf, laughing.
"Play while you can, my dear boy; if she _is_ a cat, you'll get the
final _coup_ soon enough. To finish the fortune-telling,--she will
continue her present delightful pursuits as long as youth and beauty
last; and the beauty will last a long time after the youth has gone.
She _may_ pick up some young man of fortune and marry him; but it is
not likely; the rich always marry the rich. Just this side of the
_blase_ period, while still in the fulness of her charms, she will open
her battery of smiles upon some wealthy old widower and compel him to
place her at the head of his establishment. Then, with a secure
position and increased facilities, she will draw new throngs of
admirers, as long as she has power to fascinate, or until there are no
more fools left."
"A pleasing picture of domestic felicity for the husband!"
"Precisely what he deserves. When an old fool marries a young flirt, he
deserves to wear whatever honors she may bestow upon him."
"Do you remember how you artfully persuaded me into this intimacy? And
now you are making game of me for following your own suggestions."
"Me? I never suggest; I never persuade."
"You did, you crafty old fox! You advised me to fall in love with her."
"Did I? Well, I think now you have gone far enough. A sip from the cup
of enchantment is quite sufficient; you needn't swallow the whole of
"But people can't always control themselves. Can you trust yourself to
stop this side of insensibility, when you take ether? or be sure you
won't get drunk, if you commence the evening with a party of dissipated
"That will do, my friend. I know there are people who are fond of
confessing their weakness; don't you do it. Where is the supremacy of
mind and will, and all that nonsense, if a man can't amuse himself with
a clever woman's artifices without tumbling into the snare he is
"We'll see how you succeed with the charming widow,--whether the wise
man, when his own _jecur_ is pierced with the arrow, may not show it,
as well as other people. And by-the-by, you will have an excellent
opportunity for your experiment. Marcia and I are going to take a sail
this afternoon, and you can entertain Mrs. Sandford while we are gone."
Easelmann softly whistled.
[To be continued.]
* * * * *
THE PROFESSOR AT THE BREAKFAST-TABLE.
WHAT HE SAID, WHAT HE HEARD, AND WHAT HE SAW.
I intended to have signalized my first appearance by a certain large
statement, which I flatter myself is the nearest approach to a
universal formula of life yet promulgated at this breakfast-table. It
would have had a grand effect. For this purpose I fixed my eyes on a
certain divinity-student, with the intention of exchanging a few
phrases, and then forcing my picture-card, namely, _The great end of
being_.--I will thank you for the sugar,--I said.--Man is a dependent
It is a small favor to ask,--said the divinity-student,--and passed the
sugar to me.
--Life is a great bundle of little things,--I said.
The divinity-student smiled, as if that was the concluding epigram of
the sugar question.
You smile,--I said.--Perhaps life seems to you a little bundle of great
The divinity-student started a laugh, but suddenly reined it back with
a pull, as one throws a horse on his haunches.--Life is a great bundle
of great things,--he said.
(_Now, then_!) The great end of being, after all, is----
Hold on!--said my neighbor, a young fellow whose name seems to be John,
and nothing else,--for that is what they all call him,--hold on! the
Sculpin is go'n' to say somethin'.
Now the Sculpin (_Cottus Virginianus_) is a little water-beast which
pretends to consider itself a fish, and, under that pretext, hangs
about the piles upon which West-Boston Bridge is built, swallowing the
bait and hook intended for flounders. On being drawn from the water, it
exposes an immense head, a diminutive bony carcass, and a surface so
full of spines, ridges, ruffles, and frills, that the naturalists have
not been able to count them without quarrelling about the number, and
that the colored youth, whose sport they spoil, do not like to touch
them, and especially to tread on them, unless they happen to have shoes
on, to cover the thick white soles of their broad black feet.
When, therefore, I heard the young fellow's exclamation, I looked round
the table with curiosity to see what it meant. At the further end of it
I saw a head, and a small portion of a little deformed body, mounted on
a high chair, which brought the occupant up to a fair level enough for
him to get at his food. His whole appearance was so grotesque, I felt
for a minute as if there was a showman behind him who would pull him
down presently and put up Judy, or the hangman, or the Devil, or some
other wooden personage of the famous spectacle. I contrived to lose the
first part of his sentence, but what I heard began so:--
----by the Frog-Pond, when there were frogs in it, and the folks used
to come down from the tents on 'Lection and Independence days with
their pails to get water to make egg-pop with. Born in Boston; went to
school in Boston as long as the boys would let me.--The little man
groaned, turned, as if to look round, and went on.--Ran away from
school one day to see Phillips hung for killing Denegri with a
loggerhead. That was in flip days, when there were always two or three
loggerheads in the fire. I'm a Boston boy, I tell you,--born at North
End, and mean to be buried on Copps' Hill, with the good old
underground people,--the Worthylakes, and the rest of 'em. Yes,
Sir,--up on the old hill, where they buried Captain Daniel Malcolm in a
stone grave, ten feet deep, to keep him safe from the red-coats, in
those old times when the world was frozen up tight and there wasn't but
one spot open, and that was right over Faneuil Hall,--and black enough
it looked, I tell you! There's where my bones shall lie, Sir, and
rattle away when the big guns go off at the Navy Yard opposite! You
can't make me ashamed of the old place! Full of crooked little
streets;--I was born and used to run round in one of 'em----
----I should think so,--said that young man whom I hear them call
"John,"--softly, not meaning to be heard, nor to be cruel, but thinking
in a half-whisper, evidently.--I should think so; and got kinked up,
turnin' so many corners.--The little man did not hear what was said,
but went on,--
----full of crooked little streets; but I tell you Boston has opened,
and kept open, more turnpikes that lead straight to free thought and
free speech and free deeds than any other city of live men or dead
men,--I don't care how broad their streets are, nor how high their
----How high is Bosting meet'n'-house?--said a person with black
whiskers and imperial, a velvet waistcoat, a guard-chain rather _too_
massive, and a diamond pin so _very_ large that the most trusting
nature might confess an inward _suggestion_,--of course, nothing
amounting to a suspicion. For this is a gentleman from a great city,
and sits next to the landlady's daughter, who evidently believes in
him, and is the object of his especial attention.
How high?--said the little man.--As high as the first step of the
stairs that lead to the New Jerusalem. Isn't that high enough?