Part 4 out of 5
good enough for them. Wisdom dwells not with such. It is true that
there is a brilliancy in a glass picture, with a flood of light pouring
through it, which no paper one, with the light necessarily falling _on_
it, can approach. But this brilliancy fatigues the eye much more than
the quiet reflected light of the paper stereograph. Twenty-five glass
slides, well inspected in a strong light, are _good_ for one headache,
if a person is disposed to that trouble.
Again, a good paper photograph is infinitely better than a bad glass
one. We have a glass stereograph of Bethlehem, which looks as if the
ground were covered with snow,--and paper ones of Jerusalem colored and
uncolored, much superior to it both in effect and detail. The Oriental
pictures, we think, are apt to have this white, patchy look; possibly we
do not get the best in this country.
A good view on glass or paper is, as a rule, best uncolored. But some
of the American views of Niagara on glass are greatly improved by being
colored; the water being rendered vastly more suggestive of the reality
by the deep green tinge. _Per contra_, we have seen some American views
so carelessly colored that they were all the worse for having been
meddled with. The views of the Hathaway Cottage, before referred to, are
not only admirable in themselves, but some of them are admirably colored
also. Few glass stereographs compare with them as real representatives
In choosing stereoscopic pictures, beware of investing largely in
_groups_. The owner soon gets tired to death of them. Two or three
of the most striking among them are worth having, but mostly they
detestable,--vulgar repetitions of vulgar models, shamming grace,
gentility, and emotion, by the aid of costumes, attitudes, expressions,
and accessories worthy only of a Thespian society of candle-snuffers. In
buying brides under veils, and such figures, look at the lady's _hands_.
You will very probably find the young countess is a maid-of-all-work.
The presence of a human figure adds greatly to the interest of all
architectural views, by giving us a standard of size, and should often
decide our choice out of a variety of such pictures. No view pleases the
eye which has glaring patches in it,--a perfectly white-looking river,
for instance,--or trees and shrubs in full leaf, but looking as if they
were covered with snow,--or glaring roads, or frosted-looking stones and
pebbles. As for composition in landscape, each person must consult his
own taste. All have agreed in admiring many of the Irish views, as those
about the Lakes of Killarney, for instance, which are beautiful alike in
general effect and in nicety of detail. The glass views on the Rhine,
and of the Pyrenees in Spain, are of consummate beauty. As a specimen of
the most perfect, in its truth and union of harmony and contrast, the
view of the Circus of Gavarni, with the female figure on horseback in
the front ground, is not surpassed by any we remember to have seen.
* * * * *
What is to come of the stereoscope and the photograph we are almost
afraid to guess, lest we should seem extravagant. But, premising that we
are to give a _colored_ stereoscopic mental view of their prospects,
we will venture on a few glimpses at a conceivable, if not a possible
_Form is henceforth divorced from matter._ In fact, matter as a visible
object is of no great use any longer, except as the mould on which form
is shaped. Give us a few negatives of a thing worth seeing, taken from
different points of view, and that is all we want of it. Pull it down or
burn it up, if you please. We must, perhaps, sacrifice some luxury in
the loss of color; but form and light, and shade are the great things,
and even color can be added, and perhaps by and by may be got direct
There is only one Coliseum or Pantheon; but how many millions of
potential negatives have they shed,--representatives of billions of
pictures,--since they were erected! Matter in large masses must always
be fixed and dear; form is cheap and transportable. We have got the
fruit of creation now, and need not trouble ourselves with the core.
Every conceivable object of Nature and Art will soon scale off its
surface for us. Men will hunt all curious, beautiful, grand objects, as
they hunt the cattle in South America, for their _skins_, and leave the
carcasses as of little worth.
The consequence of this will soon be such an enormous collection
of forms that they will have to be classified and arranged in vast
libraries, as books are now. The time will come when a man who wishes
to see any object, natural or artificial, will go to the Imperial,
National, or City Stereographic Library and call for its skin or form,
as he would for a book at any common library. We do now distinctly
propose the creation of a comprehensive and systematic stereographic
library, where all men can find the special forms they particularly
desire to see as artists, or as scholars, or as mechanics, or in any
other capacity. Already a workman has been travelling about the country
with stereographic views of furniture, showing his employer's patterns
in this way, and taking orders for them. This is a mere hint of what is
coming before long.
Again, we must have special stereographic collections, just as we have
professional and other special libraries. And as a means of facilitating
the formation of public and private stereographic collections, there
must be arranged a comprehensive system of exchanges, so that there may
grow up something like a universal currency of these bank-notes, or
promises to pay in solid substance, which the sun has engraved for the
great Bank of Nature.
To render comparison of similar objects, or of any that we may wish to
see side by side, easy, there should be a stereographic _metre_ or
fixed standard of focal length for the camera lens, to furnish by its
multiples or fractions, if necessary, the scale of distances, and the
standard of power in the stereoscope-lens. In this way the eye can
make the most rapid and exact comparisons. If the "great elm" and the
Cowthorpe oak, if the State-House and St. Peter's, were taken on the
same scale, and looked at with the same magnifying power, we should
compare them without the possibility of being misled by those
partialities which might tend to make us overrate the indigenous
vegetable and the dome of our native Michel Angelo.
The next European war will send us stereographs of battles. It is
asserted that a bursting shell can be photographed. The time is perhaps
at hand when a flash of light, as sudden and brief as that of the
lightning which shows a whirling wheel standing stock still, shall
preserve the very instant of the shock of contact of the mighty armies
that are even now gathering. The lightning from heaven does actually
photograph natural objects on the bodies of those it has just
blasted,--so we are told by many witnesses. The lightning of clashing
sabres and bayonets may be forced to stereotype itself in a stillness
as complete as that of the tumbling tide of Niagara as we see it
We should be led on too far, if we developed our belief as to the
transformations to be wrought by this greatest of human triumphs over
earthly conditions, the divorce of form and substance. Let our readers
fill out a blank check on the future as they like,--we give our
indorsement to their imaginations beforehand. We are looking into
stereoscopes as pretty toys, and wondering over the photograph as a
charming novelty; but before another generation has passed away, it will
be recognized that a new epoch in the history of human progress dates
from the time when He who
----never but in uncreated light
Dwelt from eternity--
took a pencil of fire from the hand of the "angel standing in the sun,"
and placed it in the hands of a mortal.
THE MINISTER'S WOOING.
At the period of which we are speaking, no name in the New Republic was
associated with ideas of more brilliant promise, and invested with a
greater _prestige_ of popularity and success, than that of Colonel Aaron
Sprung of a line distinguished for intellectual ability, the grandson of
a man whose genius has swayed New England from that day to this, the son
of parents eminent in their day for influential and popular talents, he
united in himself the quickest perceptions and keenest delicacy of
fibre with the most diamond hardness and unflinching steadiness of
purpose;--apt, subtle, adroit, dazzling, no man in his time ever began
life with fairer chances of success and fame.
His name, as it fell on the ear of our heroine, carried with it the
suggestion of all this; and when, with his peculiarly engaging smile, he
offered his arm, she felt a little of the flutter natural to a modest
young person unexpectedly honored with the notice of one of the great
ones of the earth, whom it is seldom the lot of humble individuals to
know, except by distant report.
But, although Mary was a blushing and sensitive person, she was not
what is commonly called a diffident girl;--her nerves had that healthy,
steady poise which gave her presence of mind in the most unwonted
The first few sentences addressed to her by her new companion were in a
tone and style altogether different from any in which she had ever been
approached,--different from the dashing frankness of her sailor lover,
and from the rustic gallantry of her other admirers.
That indescribable mixture of ease and deference, guided by refined
tact, which shows the practised, high-bred man of the world, made
its impression on her immediately, as the breeze on the chords of a
wind-harp. She felt herself pleasantly swayed and breathed upon;--it was
as if an atmosphere were around her in which she felt a perfect ease and
freedom, an assurance that her lightest word might launch forth safely,
as a tiny boat, on the smooth, glassy mirror of her listener's pleased
"I came to Newport only on a visit of business," he said, after a few
moments of introductory conversation. "I was not prepared for its many
"Newport has a great deal of beautiful scenery," said Mary.
"I have heard that it was celebrated for the beauty of its scenery, and
of its ladies," he answered; "but," he added, with a quick flash of his
dark eye, "I never realized the fact before."
The glance of the eye pointed and limited the compliment, and, at the
same time, there was a wary shrewdness in it;--he was measuring how deep
his shaft had sunk, as he always instinctively measured the person he
Mary had been told of her beauty since her childhood, notwithstanding
her mother had essayed all that transparent, respectable hoaxing by
which discreet mothers endeavor to blind their daughters to the real
facts of such cases; but, in her own calm, balanced mind, she had
accepted what she was so often told, as a quiet verity; and therefore
she neither fluttered nor blushed on this occasion, but regarded her
auditor with a pleased attention, as one who was saying obliging things.
"Cool!" he thought to himself,--"hum!--a little rustic belle, I
suppose,--well aware of her own value;--rather piquant, on my word!"
"Shall we walk in the garden?" he said,--"the evening is so beautiful."
They passed out of the door and began promenading the long walk. At the
bottom of the alley he stopped, and, turning, looked up the vista of box
ending in the brilliantly-lighted rooms, where gentlemen, with powdered
heads, lace ruffles, and glittering knee-buckles, were handing ladies in
stiff brocades, whose towering heads were shaded by ostrich-feathers and
sparkling with gems.
"Quite court-like, on my word!" he said. "Tell me, do you often have
such brilliant entertainments as this?"
"I suppose they do," said Mary. "I never was at one before, but I
sometimes hear of them."
"And _you_ do not attend?" said the gentleman, with an accent which made
the inquiry a marked compliment.
"No, I do not," said Mary; "these people generally do not visit us."
"What a pity," he said, "that their parties should want such an
ornament! But," he added, "this night must make them aware of their
oversight;--if you are not always in society after this, it will surely
not be for want of solicitation."
"You are very kind to think so," replied Mary; "but even if it were
to be so, I should not see my way clear to be often in such scenes as
Her companion looked at her with a glance a little doubtful and amused,
and said, "And pray, why not? if the inquiry be not too presumptuous."
"Because," said Mary, "I should be afraid they would take too much time
and thought, and lead me to forget the great object of life."
The simple gravity with which this was said, as if quite assured of the
sympathy of her auditor, appeared to give him a secret amusement. His
bright, dark eyes danced, as if he suppressed some quick repartee; but,
drooping his long lashes deferentially, he said, in gentle tones, "I
should like to know what so beautiful a young lady considers the great
object of life."
Mary answered reverentially, in those words then familiar from infancy
to every Puritan child, "To glorify God, and enjoy Him forever."
"_Really?_" he said, looking straight into her eyes with that
penetrating glance with which he was accustomed to take the gauge of
every one with whom he conversed.
"Is it _not_?" said Mary, looking back, calm and firm, into the
sparkling, restless depths of his eyes.
At that moment, two souls, going with the whole force of their being in
opposite directions, looked out of their windows at each other with a
fixed and earnest recognition.
Burr was practised in every art of gallantry,--he had made womankind
a study,--he never saw a beautiful face and form without a sort of
restless desire to experiment upon it and try his power over the
interior inhabitant; but, just at this moment, something streamed into
his soul from those blue, earnest eyes, which brought back to his mind
what pious people had so often told him of his mother, the beautiful
and early-sainted Esther Burr. He was one of those persons who
systematically managed and played upon himself and others, as a skilful
musician, on an instrument. Yet one secret of his fascination was the
_naivete_ with which, at certain moments, he would abandon himself to
some little impulse of a nature originally sensitive and tender. Had the
strain of feeling which now awoke in him come over him elsewhere, he
would have shut down some spring in his mind, and excluded it in a
moment; but, talking with a beautiful creature whom he wished to please,
he gave way at once to the emotion:--real tears stood in his fine eyes,
and he raised Mary's hand to his lips, and kissed it, saying--
"Thank you, my beautiful child, for so good a thought. It is truly a
noble sentiment, though practicable only to those gifted with angelic
"Oh, I trust not," said Mary, earnestly touched and wrought upon, more
than she herself knew, by the beautiful eyes, the modulated voice, the
charm of manner, which seemed to enfold her like an Italian summer.
Burr sighed,--a real sigh of his better nature, but passed out with all
the more freedom that he felt it would interest his fair companion, who,
for the time being, was the one woman of the world to him.
"Pure and artless souls like yours," he said, "cannot measure the
temptations of those who are called to the real battle of life in a
world like this. How many nobler aspirations fall withered in the fierce
heat and struggle of the conflict!"
He was saying then what he really felt, often bitterly felt,--but
_using_ this real feeling advisedly, and with skilful tact, for the
purpose of the hour.
What was this purpose? To win the regard, the esteem, the tenderness of
a religious, exalted nature shrined in a beautiful form,--to gain and
hold ascendency. It was a life-long habit,--one of those forms of
refined self-indulgence which he pursued, thoughtless and reckless of
consequences. He had found now the key-note of the character; it was a
beautiful instrument, and he was well pleased to play on it.
"I think, Sir," said Mary, modestly, "that you forget the great
provision made for our weakness."
"How?" he said.
"They that _wait on the Lord_ shall renew their strength," she replied,
He looked at her, as she spoke these words, with a pleased, artistic
perception of the contrast between her worldly attire and the simple,
religious earnestness of her words.
"She is entrancing!" he thought to himself,--"so altogether fresh and
"My sweet saint," he said, "such as you are the appointed guardians of
us coarser beings. The prayers of souls given up to worldliness and
ambition effect little. You must intercede for us. I am very orthodox,
you see," he added, with that subtle smile which sometimes irradiated
his features. "I am fully aware of all that your reverend doctor tells
you of the worthlessness of unregenerate doings; and so, when I see
angels walking below, I try to secure 'a friend at court.'"
He saw that Mary looked embarrassed and pained at this banter, and
therefore added, with a delicate shading of earnestness,--
"In truth, my fair young friend, I hope you _will_ sometimes pray for
me. I am sure, if I have any chance of good, it will come in such a
"Indeed I will," said Mary, fervently,--her little heart full, tears
in her eyes, her breath coming quick,--and she added, with a deepening
color, "I am sure, Mr. Burr, that there should be a covenant blessing
for you, if for any one, for you are the son of a holy ancestry."
"_Eh, bien, mon ami, qu'est ce que tu fais ici_?" said a gay voice
behind a clump of box; and immediately there started out, like a French
picture from its frame, a dark-eyed figure, dressed like a Marquise of
Louis XIV.'s time, with powdered hair, sparkling with diamonds.
"_Rien que m'amuser_," he replied, with ready presence of mind, in the
same tone, and then added,--"Permit me, Madame, to present to you a
charming specimen of our genuine New England flowers. Miss Scudder,
I have the honor to present you to the acquaintance of Madame de
"I am very happy," said the lady, with that sweet, lisping accentuation
of English which well became her lovely mouth. "Miss Scudder, I hope, is
Mary replied in the affirmative,--her eyes resting the while with
pleased admiration on the graceful, animated face and diamond-bright
eyes which seemed looking her through.
"_Monsieur la trouve bien seduisante apparemment_" said the stranger,
in a low, rapid voice, to the gentleman, in a manner which showed a
mingling of pique and admiration.
"_Petite jalouse! rassure-toi_," he replied, with a look and manner into
which, with that mobile force which was peculiar to him, he threw the
most tender and passionate devotion. "_Ne suis-je pas a toi tout a
fait_?"--and as he spoke, he offered her his other arm. "Allow me to be
an unworthy link between the beauty of France and America."
The lady swept a proud curtsy backward, bridled her beautiful neck, and
signed for them to pass her. "I am waiting here for a friend," she said.
"Whatever is your will is mine," replied Burr, bowing with proud
humility, and passing on with Mary to the supper-room.
Here the company were fast assembling, in that high tide of good-humor
which generally sets in at this crisis of the evening.
The scene, in truth, was a specimen of a range of society which in those
times could have been assembled nowhere else but in Newport. There stood
Dr. H. in the tranquil majesty of his lordly form, and by his side, the
alert, compact figure of his contemporary and theological opponent, Dr.
Stiles, who, animated by the social spirit of the hour, was dispensing
courtesies to right and left with the debonair grace of the trained
gentleman of the old school. Near by, and engaging from time to time in
conversation with them, stood a Jewish Rabbin, whose olive complexion,
keen eye, and flowing beard gave a picturesque and foreign grace to the
scene. Colonel Burr, one of the most brilliant and distinguished men of
the New Republic, and Colonel de Frontignac, who had won for himself
laurels in the corps of La Fayette, during the recent revolutionary
struggle, with his brilliant, accomplished wife, were all unexpected and
distinguished additions to the circle.
Burr gently cleared the way for his fair companion, and, purposely
placing her where the full light of the wax chandeliers set off her
beauty to the best advantage, devoted himself to her with a subserviency
as deferential as if she had been a goddess.
For all that, he was not unobservant, when, a few moments after, Madame
de Frontignac was led in, on the arm of a Senator, with whom she was
presently in full flirtation.
He observed, with a quiet, furtive smile, that, while she rattled and
fanned herself, and listened with apparent attention to the flatteries
addressed to her, she darted every now and then a glance keen as a steel
blade towards him and his companion. He was perfectly adroit in playing
off one woman against another, and it struck him with a pleasant sense
of oddity, how perfectly unconscious his sweet and saintly neighbor was
of the position in which she was supposed to stand by her rival; and
poor Mary, all this while, in her simplicity, really thought that she
had seen traces of what she would have called the "strivings of the
spirit" in his soul. Alas! that a phrase weighed down with such
mysterious truth and meaning should ever come to fall on the ear as mere
With Mary it was a living form,--as were all her words; for in nothing
was the Puritan education more marked than in the earnest _reality_ and
truthfulness which it gave to language; and even now, as she stands by
his side, her large blue eye is occasionally fixed in dreamy reverie as
she thinks what a triumph of Divine grace it would be, if these inward
movings of her companion's mind _should_ lead him, as all the pious of
New England hoped, to follow in the footsteps of President Edwards, and
forms wishes that she could see him some time when she could talk to him
She was too humble and too modest fully to accept the delicious flattery
which he had breathed, in implying that her hand had had power to unseal
the fountains of good in his soul; but still it thrilled through all the
sensitive strings of her nature a tremulous flutter of suggestion.
She had read instances of striking and wonderful conversions from words
dropped by children and women,--and suppose some such thing should
happen to her! and that this so charming and distinguished and powerful
being should be called into the fold of Christ's Church by her means!
No! it was too much to be hoped,--but the very possibility was
When, after supper, Mrs. Scudder and the Doctor made their adieus,
Burr's devotion was still unabated. With an enchanting mixture
of reverence and fatherly protection, he waited on her to the
last,--shawled her with delicate care, and handed her into the small,
one-horse wagon,--as if it had been the coach of a duchess.
"I have pleasant recollections connected with this kind of
establishment," he said, as, after looking carefully at the harness,
he passed the reins into Mrs. Scudder's hands. "It reminds me of
school-days and old times. I hope your horse is quite safe, Madam."
"Oh, yes," said Mrs. Scudder, "I perfectly understand him."
"Pardon the suggestion," he replied;--"what is there that a New England
matron does _not_ understand? Doctor, I must call by-and-by and have
a little talk with you,--my theology, you know, needs a little
"We should all be happy to see you, Colonel Burr," said Mrs. Scudder;
"we live in a very plain way, it is true,"--
"But can always find place for a friend,--that, I trust, is what you
meant to say," he replied, bowing, with his own peculiar grace, as the
carriage drove off.
"Really, a most charming person is this Colonel Burr," said Mrs.
"He seems a very frank, ingenuous young person," said the Doctor; "one
cannot but mourn that the son of such gracious parents should be left to
wander into infidelity."
"Oh, he is not an infidel," said Mary; "he is far from it, though I
think his mind is a little darkened on some points."
"Ah," said the Doctor, "have you had any special religious conversation
"A little," said Mary, blushing; "and it seems to me that his mind is
perplexed somewhat in regard to the doings of the unregenerate,--I fear
that it has rather proved a stumbling-block in his way; but he showed so
much feeling!--I could really see the tears in his eyes!"
"His mother was a most godly woman, Mary," said the Doctor. "She was
called from her youth, and her beautiful person became a temple for the
indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Aaron Burr is a child of many prayers,
and therefore there is hope that he may yet be effectually called. He
studied awhile with Bellamy," he added, musingly, "and I have often
doubted whether Bellamy took just the right course with him."
"I hope he _will_ call and talk with you," said Mary, earnestly; "what
a blessing to the world, if such talents as his could become wholly
"Not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble are called," said the
Doctor; "yet if it would please the Lord to employ my instrumentality
and prayers, how much should I rejoice! I was struck," he added,
"to-night, when I saw those Jews present, with the thought that it was,
as it were, a type of that last ingathering, when both Jew and Gentile
shall sit down lovingly together to the gospel feast. It is only by
passing over and forgetting these present years, when so few are called
and the gospel makes such slow progress, and looking unto that
glorious time, that I find comfort. If the Lord but use me as a dumb
stepping-stone to that heavenly Jerusalem, I shall be content."
Thus they talked while the wagon jogged soberly homeward, and the
frogs and the turtles and the distant ripple of the sea made a drowsy,
mingling concert in the summer-evening air.
Meanwhile Colonel Burr had returned to the lighted rooms, and it was not
long before his quick eye espied Madame de Frontignac standing pensively
in a window-recess, half hid by the curtain. He stole softly up behind
her and whispered something in her ear.
In a moment she turned on him a face glowing--with anger, and drew back
haughtily; but Burr remarked the glitter of tears, not quite dried even
by the angry flush of her eyes.
"In what have I had the misfortune to offend?" he said, crossing his
arms upon his breast. "I stand at the bar, and plead, Not guilty."
He spoke in French, and she replied In the same smooth accents,--
"It was not for her to dispute Monsieur's right to amuse himself."
Burr drew nearer, and spoke in those persuasive, pleading tones which he
had ever at command, and in that language whose very structure in its
delicate _tutoiment_ gives such opportunity for gliding on through shade
after shade of intimacy and tenderness, till gradually the haughty fire
of the eyes was quenched in tears, and, in the sudden revulsion of a
strong, impulsive nature, she said what she called words of friendship,
but which carried with them all the warmth of that sacred fire which is
given to woman to light and warm the temple of home, and which sears and
scars when kindled for any other shrine.
And yet this woman was the wife of his friend and associate!
Colonel de Frontignac was a grave and dignified man of forty-five.
Virginie de Frontignac had been given him to wife when but eighteen,--a
beautiful, generous, impulsive, wilful girl. She had accepted him
gladly, for very substantial reasons. First, that she might come out of
the convent where she was kept for the very purpose of educating her in
ignorance of the world she was to live in. Second, that she might wear
velvet, lace, cashmere, and jewels. Third, that she might be a Madame,
free to go and come, ride, walk, and talk, without surveillance.
Fourth,--and consequent upon this,--that she might go into company and
have admirers and adorers.
She supposed, of course, that she loved her husband;--whom else should
she love? He was the only man, except her father and brothers, that she
had ever known; and in the fortnight that preceded their marriage did he
not send her the most splendid _bons-bons_ every day, with bouquets of
every pattern that ever taxed the brain of a Parisian _artiste_?--was
not the _corbeille de mariage_ a wonder and an envy to all her
acquaintance?--and after marriage had she not found him always a steady,
indulgent friend, easy to be coaxed as any grave papa?
On his part, Monsieur de Frontignac cherished his young wife as a
beautiful, though somewhat absurd little pet, and amused himself with
her frolics and gambols, as the gravest person often will with those of
It was not until she knew Aaron Burr that poor Virginie de Frontignac
came to that great awakening of her being which teaches woman what
she is, and transforms her from a careless child to a deep-hearted,
thinking, suffering human being.
For the first time, in his society she became aware of the charm of a
polished and cultivated mind, able with exquisite tact to adapt itself
to hers, to draw forth her inquiries, to excite her tastes, to stimulate
her observation. A new world awoke around her,--the world of literature
and taste, of art and of sentiment; she felt, somehow, as if she had
gained the growth of years in a few months. She felt within herself the
stirring of dim aspiration, the uprising of a new power of self-devotion
and self-sacrifice, a trance of hero-worship, a cloud of high ideal
images,--the lighting up, in short, of all that God has laid, ready to
be enkindled, in a woman's nature, when the time comes to sanctify her
as the pure priestess of a domestic temple. But, alas! it was kindled
by one who did it only for an experiment, because he felt an artistic
pleasure in the beautiful light and heat, and cared not, though it
burned a soul away.
Burr was one of those men willing to play with any charming woman the
game of those navigators who give to simple natives glass beads and
feathers in return for gold and diamonds,--to accept from a woman her
heart's blood in return for such odds and ends and clippings as he can
afford her from the serious ambition of life.
Look in with us one moment, now that the party is over, and the busy
hum of voices and blaze of lights has died down to midnight silence and
darkness; we make you clairvoyant, and you may look through the walls of
this stately old mansion, still known as that where Rochambeau held his
head-quarters, into this room, where two wax candles are burning on a
toilette table, before an old-fashioned mirror. The slumberous folds
of the curtains are drawn with stately gloom around a high bed, where
Colonel de Frontignac has been for many hours quietly asleep; but
opposite, resting with one elbow on the toilette table, her long black
hair hanging down over her night-dress, and the brush lying listlessly
in her hand, sits Virginie, looking fixedly into the dreamy depths of
Scarcely twenty yet, all unwarned of the world of power and passion that
lay slumbering in her girl's heart, led in the meshes of custom and
society to utter vows and take responsibilities of whose nature she was
no more apprised than is a slumbering babe, and now at last fully awake,
feeling the whole power of that mysterious and awful force which we call
love, yet shuddering to call it by its name, but by its light beginning
to understand all she is capable of, and all that marriage should have
been to her! She struggles feebly and confusedly with her fate, still
clinging to the name of duty, and baptizing as friendship this strange
new feeling which makes her tremble through all her being. How can she
dream of danger in such a feeling, when it seems to her the awakening
of all that is highest and noblest within her? She remembers when she
thought of nothing beyond an opera-ticket or a new dress; and now she
feels that there might be to her a friend for whose sake she would try
to be noble and great and good,--for whom all self-denial, all high
endeavor, all difficult virtue would become possible,--who would be to
her life, inspiration, order, beauty.
She sees him as woman always sees the man she loves,--noble, great, and
good;--for when did a loving woman ever believe a man otherwise?--too
noble, too great, too high, too good, she thinks, for her,--poor,
trivial, ignorant coquette,--poor, childish, trifling Virginie! Has he
not commanded armies? she thinks,--is he not eloquent in the senate?
and yet, what interest he has taken in her, a poor, unformed, ignorant
creature!--she never tried to improve herself till since she knew him.
And he is so considerate, too,--so respectful, so thoughtful and kind,
so manly and honorable, and has such a tender friendship for her, such
a brotherly and fatherly solicitude! and yet, if she is haughty or
imperious or severe, how humbled and grieved he looks! How strange that
she could have power over such a man!
It is one of the saddest truths of this sad mystery of life, that woman
is, often, never so much an angel as just the moment before she falls
into an unsounded depth of perdition. And what shall we say of the man
who leads her on as an experiment,--who amuses himself with taking
woman after woman up these dazzling, delusive heights, knowing, as he
certainly must, where they lead?
We have been told, in extenuation of the course of Aaron Burr, that he
was not a man of gross passions or of coarse indulgence, but, in the
most consummate and refined sense, _a man of gallantry_. This, then, is
the descriptive name which polite society has invented for the man who
does this thing!
Of old, it was thought that one who administered poison in the
sacramental bread and wine had touched the very height of impious
sacrilege; but this crime is white, by the side of his who poisons
God's eternal sacrament of love and destroys a woman's soul through her
noblest and purest affections.
We have given you the after-view of most of the actors of our little
scene to-night, and therefore it is but fair that you should have a peep
over the Colonel's shoulder, as he sums up the evening in a letter to a
"MY DEAR ----
"As to the business, it gets on rather slowly. L---- and S---- are away,
and the coalition cannot be formed without them; they set out a week ago
from Philadelphia, and are yet on the road.
"Meanwhile, we have some providential alleviations,--as, for example,
a wedding-party to-night, at the Wilcoxes', which was really quite an
affair. I saw the prettiest little Puritan there that I have set eyes on
for many a day. I really couldn't help getting up a flirtation with her,
although it was much like flirting with a small copy of the 'Assembly's
Catechism,'--of which last I had enough years ago, Heaven knows.
"But, really, such a _naive_, earnest little saint, who has such real
deadly belief, and opens such pitying blue eyes on one, is quite a
stimulating novelty. I got myself well scolded by the fair Madame, (as
angels scold,) and had to plead like a lawyer to make my peace;--after
all, that woman really enchains me. Don't shake your head wisely,--'
What's going to be the end of it?' I'm sure I don't know; we'll see,
when the time comes.
"Meanwhile, push the business ahead with all your might. I shall not be
idle. D---- must canvass the Senate thoroughly. I wish I could be in two
places at once,--I would do it myself. _Au revoir_.
"And now, Mary," said Mrs. Scudder, at five o'clock the next morning,
"to-day, you know, is the Doctor's fast; so we won't get any regular
dinner, and it will be a good time to do up all our little odd jobs.
Miss Prissy promised to come in for two or three hours this morning, to
alter the waist of that black silk; and I shouldn't be surprised if we
should get it all done and ready to wear by Sunday."
We will remark, by way of explanation to a part of this conversation,
that our Doctor, who was a specimen of life in earnest, made a practice,
through the greater part of his pulpit course, of spending every
Saturday as a day of fasting and retirement, in preparation for the
duties of the Sabbath.
Accordingly, the early breakfast things were no sooner disposed of than
Miss Prissy's quick footsteps might have been heard pattering in the
"Well, Miss Scudder, how do you do this morning? and how do you do,
Mary? Well, if you a'n't the beaters! up just as early as ever, and
everything cleared away! I was telling Miss Wilcox there didn't ever
seem to be anything done in Miss Scudder's kitchen, and I did verily
believe you made your beds before you got up in the morning.
"Well, well, wasn't that a party last night?" she said, as she sat down
with the black silk and prepared her ripping-knife.--"I must rip this
myself, Miss Scudder; for there's a great deal in ripping silk so as not
to let anybody know where it has been sewed.--You didn't know that I was
at the party, did you? Well, I was. You see, I thought I'd just step
round there, to see about that money to get the Doctor's shirt with, and
there I found Miss Wilcox with so many things on her mind, and says she,
'Miss Prissy, you don't know how much it would help me if I had somebody
like you just to look after things a little here.' And says I, 'Miss
Wilcox, you just go right to your room and dress, and don't you give
yourself one minute's thought about anything, and you see if I don't
have everything just right.' And so, there I was, in for it; and I just
staid through, and it was well I did,--for Dinah, she wouldn't have put
near enough egg into the coffee, if it hadn't been for me; why, I just
went and beat up four eggs with my own hands and stirred 'em into the
"Well,--but, really, wasn't I behind the door, and didn't I peep into
the supper-room? I saw who was a-waitin' on Miss Mary. Well, they do say
he's the handsomest, most fascinating man. Why, they say all the ladies
in Philadelphia are in a perfect quarrel about him; and I heard he said
he hadn't seen such a beauty he didn't remember when."
"We all know that beauty is of small consequence," said Mrs. Scudder. "I
hope Mary has been brought up to feel that."
"Oh, of course," said Miss Prissy, "it's just like a fading flower; all
is to be good and useful,--and that's what she is. I told 'em that her
beauty was the least part of her; though I must say, that dress did fit
like a biscuit,--if 'twas my own fitting.
"But, Miss Scudder, what do you think I heard 'em saying about the good
"I'm sure I don't know," said Mrs. Scudder; "I only know they couldn't
say anything bad."
"Well, not bad exactly," said Miss Prissy,--"but they say he's getting
such strange notions in his head. Why, I heard some of 'em say, he's
going to come out and preach against the slave-trade; and I'm sure I
don't know what Newport folks will do, if that's wicked. There a'n't
hardly any money here that's made any other way; and I hope the Doctor
a'n't a-going to do anything of that sort."
"I believe he is," said Mrs. Scudder; "he thinks it's a great sin, that
ought to be rebuked;--and I think so too," she added, bracing herself
resolutely; "that was Mr. Scudder's opinion when I first married him,
and it's mine."
"Oh,--ah,--yes,--well,--if it's a sin, of course," said Miss Prissy;
"but then--dear me!--it don't seem as if it could be. Why, just think
how many great houses are living on it;--why, there's General Wilcox
himself, and he's a very nice man; and then there's Major Seaforth; why,
I could count you off a dozen,--all our very first people. Why, Doctor
Stiles doesn't think so, and I'm sure he's a good Christian. Doctor
Stiles thinks it's a dispensation for giving the light of the gospel
to the Africans. Why, now I'm sure, when I was a-workin' at Deacon
Stebbins', I stopped over Sunday once 'cause Miss Stebbins she was
weakly,--'twas when she was getting up, after Samuel was born,--no, on
the whole, I believe it was Nehemiah,--but, any way, I remember I staid
there, and I remember, as plain as if 'twas yesterday, just after
breakfast, how a man went driving by in a chaise, and the Deacon he went
out and stopped him ('cause you know he was justice of the peace) for
travelling on the Lord's day, and who should it be but Tom Seaforth?--he
told the Deacon his father had got a ship-load of negroes just come
in,--and the Deacon he just let him go; 'cause I remember he said that
was a plain work of necessity and mercy.[A] Well, now who would 'a'
thought it? I believe the Doctor is better than most folks, but then the
best people may be mistaken, you know."
[Footnote A: A fact.]
"The Doctor has made up his mind that it's his duty," said Mrs. Scudder.
"I'm afraid it will make him very unpopular; but I, for one, shall stand
"Oh, certainly, Miss Scudder, you are doing just right exactly. Well,
there's one comfort, he'll have a great crowd to hear him preach;
'cause, as I was going round through the entries last night, I heard 'em
talking about it,--and Colonel Burr said he should be there, and so did
the General, and so did Mr. What's-his-name there, that Senator from
Philadelphia. I tell you, you'll have a full house."
It was to be confessed that Mrs. Scudder's heart rather sunk than
otherwise at this announcement; and those who have felt what it is to
stand almost alone in the right, in the face of all the first families
of their acquaintance, may perhaps find some compassion for her,--since,
after all, truth is invisible, but "first families" are very evident.
First families are often very agreeable, undeniably respectable,
fearfully virtuous, and it takes great faith to resist an evil principle
which incarnates itself in the suavities of their breeding and
amiability; and therefore it was that Mrs. Scudder felt her heart heavy
within her, and could with a very good grace have joined in the Doctor's
As for the Doctor, he sat the while tranquil in his study, with his
great Bible and his Concordance open before him, culling, with that
patient assiduity for which he was remarkable, all the terrible texts
which that very unceremonious and old-fashioned book rains down so
unsparingly on the sin of oppressing the weak.
First families, whether in Newport or elsewhere, were as invisible to
him as they were to Moses during the forty days that he spent with God
on the mount; he was merely thinking of his message,--thinking only how
he should shape it, so as not to leave one word of it unsaid,--not even
imagining in the least what the result of it was to be. He was but a
voice, but an instrument,--the passive instrument through which an
almighty will was to reveal itself; and the sublime fatalism of his
faith made him as dead to all human considerations as if he had been a
portion of the immutable laws of Nature herself.
So, the next morning, although all his friends trembled for him when he
rose in the pulpit, he never thought of trembling for himself; he had
come in the covered way of silence from the secret place of the Most
High, and felt himself still abiding under the shadow of the Almighty.
It was alike to him, whether the house was full or empty,--whoever were
decreed to hear the message would be there; whether they would hear or
forbear was already settled in the counsels of a mightier will than
his,--he had the simple duty of utterance.
The ruinous old meeting-house was never so radiant with station and
gentility as on that morning. A June sun shone brightly; the sea
sparkled with a thousand little eyes; the birds sang all along the
way; and all the notables turned out to hear the Doctor. Mrs. Scudder
received into her pew, with dignified politeness, Colonel Burr and
Colonel and Madame de Frontignac. General Wilcox and his portly dame,
Major Seaforth, and we know not what of Vernons and De Wolfs, and other
grand old names, were represented there; stiff silks rustled, Chinese
fans fluttered, and the last court fashions stood revealed in bonnets.
Everybody was looking fresh and amiable,--a charming and respectable set
of sinners, come to hear what the Doctor would find to tell them about
Mrs. Scudder was calculating consequences; and, shutting her eyes on the
too evident world about her, prayed that the Lord would overrule all for
good. The Doctor prayed that he might have grace to speak the truth,
and the whole truth. We have yet on record, in his published works, the
great argument of that day, through which he moved with that calm appeal
to the reason which made his results always so weighty.
"If these things be true," he said, after a condensed statement of the
facts of the case, "then the following terrible consequences, which may
well make all shudder and tremble who realize them, force themselves
upon us, namely: that all who have had any hand in this iniquitous
business, whether directly or indirectly, or have used their influence
to promote it, or have consented to it, or even connived at it, or have
not opposed it by all proper exertions of which they are capable,--all
these are, in a greater or less degree, chargeable with the injuries and
miseries which millions have suffered and are suffering, and are guilty
of the blood of millions who have lost their lives by this traffic in
the human species. Not only the merchants who have been engaged in this
trade, and the captains who have been tempted by the love of money to
engage in this cruel work, and the slave-holders of every description,
are guilty of shedding rivers of blood, but all the legislatures who
have authorized, encouraged, or even neglected to suppress it to the
utmost of their power, and all the individuals in private stations who
have in any way aided in this business, consented to it, or have not
opposed it to the utmost of their ability, have a share in this guilt.
"This trade in the human species has been the first wheel of commerce in
Newport, on which every other movement in business has chiefly depended;
this town has been built up, and flourished in times past, at the
expense of the blood, the liberty, and the happiness of the poor
Africans; and the inhabitants have lived on this, and by it have gotten
most of their wealth and riches. If a bitter woe is pronounced on him
'that buildeth his house by unrighteousness and his chambers by wrong,'
Jer. xxii. 13,--to him 'that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth
a city by iniquity,' Hab. ii. 12,--to 'the bloody city,' Ezek. xxiv.
6,--what a heavy, dreadful woe hangs over the heads of all those
whose hands are defiled by the blood of the Africans, especially the
inhabitants of this State and this town, who have had a distinguished
share in this unrighteous and bloody commerce!"
He went over the recent history of the country, expatiated on the
national declaration so lately made, that all men are born equally free
and independent and have natural and inalienable rights to liberty, and
asked with what face a nation declaring such things could continue to
hold thousands of their fellowmen in abject slavery. He pointed out
signs of national disaster which foreboded the wrath of Heaven,--the
increase of public and private debts, the Spirit of murmuring and
jealousy of rulers among the people, divisions and contentions and
bitter party alienations, the jealous irritation of England constantly
endeavoring to hamper our trade, the Indians making war on the
frontiers, the Algerines taking captive our ships and making slaves
of our citizens,--all evident tokens of the displeasure and impending
judgment of an offended Justice.
The sermon rolled over the heads of the gay audience, deep and dark as a
thunder-cloud, which in a few moments changes a summer sky into heaviest
gloom. Gradually an expression of intense interest and deep concern
spread over the listeners; it was the magnetism of a strong mind, which
held them for a time under the shadow of his own awful sense of God's
It is said that a little child once described his appearance in the
pulpit by saying, "I saw God there, and I was afraid."
Something of the same effect was produced on his audience now; and it
was not till after sermon, prayer, and benediction were all over, that
the respectables of Newport began gradually to unstiffen themselves
from the spell, and to look into each other's eyes for comfort, and to
reassure themselves that after all they were the first families, and
going on the way the world had always gone, and that the Doctor, of
course, was a radical and a fanatic.
When the audience streamed out, crowding the broad aisle, Mary descended
from the singers, and stood with her psalm-book in hand, waiting at the
door to be joined by her mother and the Doctor. She overheard many
hard words from people who, an evening or two before, had smiled so
graciously upon them. It was therefore with no little determination of
manner that she advanced and took the Doctor's arm, as if anxious to
associate herself with his well-earned unpopularity,--and just at
this moment she caught the eye and smile of Colonel Burr, as he bowed
gracefully, yet not without a suggestion of something sarcastic in his
[To be continued.]
THE PROFESSOR AT THE BREAKFAST-TABLE.
WHAT HE SAID, WHAT HE HEARD, AND WHAT HE SAW.
You don't look so dreadful poor in the face as you did a while back.
Bloated some, I expect.
This was the cheerful and encouraging remark with which the Poor
Relation greeted the divinity-student one morning.
Of course every good man considers it a great sacrifice on his part to
continue living in this transitory, unsatisfactory, and particularly
unpleasant world. This is so much a matter of course, that I was
surprised to see the divinity-student change color. He took a look at a
small and uncertain-minded glass which hung slanting forward over the
chapped sideboard. The image it returned to him had the color of a very
young pea somewhat over-boiled. The scenery of a long tragic drama
flashed through his mind as the lightning-express-train _whishes_ by a
station: the gradual dismantling process of disease; friends looking on,
sympathetic, but secretly chuckling over their own stomachs of iron and
lungs of caoutchouc; nurses attentive, but calculating their crop, and
thinking how soon it will be ripe, so that they can go to your neighbor,
who is good for a year or so longer; doctors assiduous, but giving
themselves a mental shake, as they go out of your door, that throws
off your particular grief as a duck sheds a rain-drop from his oily
feathers; undertakers solemn, but happy; then the great subsoil
cultivator, who plants, but never looks for fruit in his garden; then
the stone-cutter, who finds the lie that has been waiting for you on a
slab ever since the birds or beasts made their tracks on the new red
sandstone; then the grass and the dandelions and the buttercups,--Earth
saying to the mortal body, with her sweet symbolism, "You have scarred
my bosom, but you are forgiven"; then a glimpse of the soul as a
floating consciousness without very definite form or place, but dimly
conceived of as an upright column of vapor or mist several times larger
than life-size, so far as it could be said to have any size at all,
wandering about and living a thin and half-awake life for want of good
old-fashioned solid _matter_ to come down upon with foot and fist,--in
fact, having neither foot nor fist, nor conveniences for taking the
And yet the divinity-student was a good Christian, and those heathen
images which remind one of the childlike fancies of the dying Adrian
were only the efforts of his imagination to give shape to the formless
and position to the placeless. Neither did his thoughts spread
themselves out and link themselves as I have displayed them. They came
confusedly into his mind like a heap of broken mosaics,--sometimes a
part of the picture complete in itself, sometimes connected fragments,
and sometimes only single severed stones.
They did not diffuse a light of celestial joy over his countenance. On
the contrary, the Poor Relation's remark turned him pale, as I have
said; and when the terrible wrinkled and jaundiced looking-glass turned
him green in addition, and he saw himself in it, it seemed to him as
if it were all settled, and his book of life were to be shut not yet
half-read, and go back to the dust of the under-ground archives. He
coughed a mild short cough, as if to point the direction in which his
downward path was tending. It was an honest little cough enough, so far
as appearances went. But coughs are ungrateful things. You find one out
in the cold, take it up and nurse it and make everything of it, dress it
up warm, give it all sorts of balsams and other food it likes, and carry
it round in your bosom as if it were a miniature lapdog. And by-and-by
its little bark grows sharp and savage, and--confound the thing!--you
find it is a wolf's whelp that you have got there, and he is gnawing in
the breast where he has been nestling so long.--The Poor Relation said
that somebody's surrup was good for folks that were gettin' into a
bad way. The landlady had heard of desperate cases cured by
Whiskey's the fellah,--said the young man John.--Make it into punch,
cold at dinner-time 'n' hot at bed-time. I'll come up 'n' show you how
to mix it. Haven't any of you seen the wonderful fat man exhibitin' down
in Hanover Street?
Master Benjamin Franklin rushed into the dialogue with a breezy
exclamation, that he had seen a great picter outside of the place where
the fat man was exhibitin'. Tried to get in at half-price, but the man
at the door looked at his teeth and said he was more'n ten year old.
It isn't two years,--said the young man John,--since that fat fellah
was exhibitin' here as the Livin' Skeleton. Whiskey--that's what did
it,--real Burbon's the stuff. Hot water, sugar, 'n' jest a little
shavin' of lemon-skin in it,--_skin_, mind you, none o' your juice; take
it off thin,--shape of one of them flat curls the factory-girls wear on
the sides of their foreheads.
But I am a teetotaller,--said the divinity-student, in a subdued
tone;--not noticing the enormous length of the bow-string the young
fellow had just drawn.
He took up his hat and went out.
I think you have worried that young man more than you meant,--I said.--I
don't believe he will jump off of one of the bridges, for he has too
much principle; but I mean to follow him and see where he goes, for he
looks as if his mind were made up to something.
I followed him at a reasonable distance. He walked doggedly along,
looking neither to the right nor the left, turned into State Street, and
made for a well-known Life-Insurance Office. Luckily, the doctor was
there and overhauled him on the spot There was nothing the matter with
him, he said, and he could have his life insured as a sound one. He came
out in good spirits, and told me this soon after.
This led me to make some remarks the next morning on the manners of
well-bred and ill-bred people.
I began,--The whole essence of true gentle-breeding (one does not
like to say gentility) lies in the wish and the art to be agreeable.
Good-breeding is _surface-Christianity_. Every look, movement, tone,
expression, subject of discourse, that may give pain to another is
habitually excluded from conversational intercourse. This is the reason
why rich people are apt to be so much more agreeable than others.
--I thought you were a great champion of equality,--said the discreet
and severe lady who had accompanied our young friend, the Latin Tutor's
I go politically for _e_quality,--I said,--and socially for _the_
Who are the "quality,"--said the Model, etc.,--in a community like ours?
I confess I find this question a little difficult to answer,--I
said.--Nothing is better known than the distinction of social ranks
which exists in every community, and nothing is harder to define. The
great gentlemen and ladies of a place are its real lords and masters and
mistresses; they are the _quality_, whether in a monarchy or a republic;
mayors and governors and generals and senators and ex-presidents are
nothing to them. How well we know this, and how seldom it finds a
distinct expression! Now I tell you truly, I believe in man as man, and
I disbelieve in all distinctions except such as follow the natural lines
of cleavage in a society which has crystallized according to its own
true laws. But the essence of equality is to be able to say the truth;
and there is nothing more curious than these truths relating to the
stratification of society.
Of all the facts in this world that do not take hold of immortality,
there is not one so intensely real, permanent, and engrossing as this of
social position,--as you see by the circumstance that the core of all
the great social orders the world has seen has been, and is still, for
the most part, a privileged class of gentlemen and ladies arranged in a
regular scale of precedence among themselves, but superior as a body to
Nothing but an ideal Christian equality, which we have been getting
farther away from since the days of the Primitive Church, can
prevent this subdivision of society into classes from taking place
everywhere,--in the great centres of our republic as much as in
old European monarchies. Only there position is more absolutely
hereditary,--here it is more completely elective.
--Where is the election held? and what are the qualifications? and who
are the electors?--said the Model.
Nobody ever sees when the vote is taken; there never is a formal vote.
The women settle it mostly; and they know wonderfully well what is
presentable, and what can't stand the blaze of the chandeliers and the
critical eye and ear of people trained to know a staring shade in a
ribbon, a false light in a jewel, an ill-bred tone, an angular movement,
everything that betrays a coarse fibre and cheap training. As a general
thing, you do not get elegance short of two or three removes from the
soil, out of which our best blood doubtless comes,--quite as good, no
doubt, as if it came from those old prize-fighters with iron pots on
their heads, to whom some great people are so fond of tracing their
descent through a line of small artisans and petty shopkeepers whose
veins have held base fluid enough to fill the Cloaca Maxima!
Does not money go everywhere?--said the Model.
Almost. And with good reason. For though there are numerous exceptions,
rich people are, as I said, commonly altogether the most agreeable
companions. The influence of a fine house, graceful furniture, good
libraries, well-ordered tables, trim servants, and, above all, a
position so secure that one becomes unconscious of it, gives a harmony
and refinement to the character and manners which we feel, even if
we cannot explain their charm. Yet we can get at the reason of it by
thinking a little.
All these appliances are to shield the sensibility from disagreeable
contacts, and to soothe it by varied natural and artificial influences.
In this way the mind, the taste, the feelings, grow delicate, just as
the hands grow white and soft when saved from toil and incased in soft
gloves. The whole nature becomes subdued into suavity. I confess I like
the quality-ladies better than the common kind even of literary ones.
They haven't read the last book, perhaps, but they attend better to you
when you are talking to them. If they are never learned, they make up
for it in tact and elegance. Besides, I think, on the whole, there is
less self-assertion in diamonds than in dogmas. I don't know where
you will find a sweeter portrait of humility than in Esther, the poor
play-girl of King Ahasuerus; yet Esther put on her royal apparel when
she went before her lord. I have no doubt she was a more gracious and
agreeable person than Deborah, who judged the people and wrote the story
of Sisera. The wisest woman you talk with is ignorant of something that
you know, but an elegant woman never forgets her elegance.
Dowdyism is clearly an expression of imperfect vitality. The highest
fashion is intensely alive,--not alive necessarily to the truest and
best things, but with its blood tingling, as it were, in all its
extremities and to the farthest point of its surface, so that the
feather in its bonnet is as fresh as the crest of a fighting-cock, and
the rosette on its slipper as clean-cut and _pimpant_ (pronounce it
English fashion,--it is a good word) as a dahlia. As a general rule,
that society where flattery is acted is much more agreeable than that
where it is spoken. Don't you see why? Attention and deference don't
require you to make fine speeches expressing your sense of unworthiness
(lies) and returning all the compliments paid you. This is one reason.
--A woman of sense ought to be above flattering any man,--said the
[_My reflection._ Oh! oh! no wonder you didn't get married. Served you
right.] _My remark._ Surely, Madam,--if you mean by flattery telling
people boldly to their faces that they are this or that, which they are
not. But a woman who does not carry a halo of good feeling and desire
to make everybody contented about with her wherever she goes,--an
atmosphere of grace, mercy, and peace, of at least six feet radius,
which wraps every human being upon whom she voluntarily bestows her
presence, and so flatters him with the comfortable thought that she
is rather glad he is alive than otherwise, isn't worth the trouble of
talking to, _as a woman_; she may do well enough to hold discussions
--I don't think the Model exactly liked this. She said,--a little
spitefully, I thought,--that a sensible man might stand a little praise,
but would of course soon get sick of it, if he were in the habit of
Oh, yes,--I replied,--just as men get sick of tobacco. It is notorious
how apt they are to get tired of that vegetable.
--That's so!--said the young fellow John.--I've got tired of my cigars
and burnt 'em all up.
I am heartily glad to hear it,--said the Model.--I wish they were all
disposed of in the same way.
So do I,--said the young fellow John.
Can't you get your friends to unite with you in committing those odious
instruments of debauchery to the flames in which you have consumed your
I wish I could,--said the young fellow John.
It would be a noble sacrifice,--said the Model,--and every American
woman would be grateful to you. Let us burn them all in a heap out in
That a'n't my way,--said the young fellow John;--I burn 'em one 't'
time,--little end in my mouth and big end outside.
--I watched for the effect of this sudden change of programme, when it
should reach the calm stillness of the Model's interior apprehension,
as a boy watches for the splash of a stone which he has dropped into a
well. But before it had fairly reached the water, poor Iris, who had
followed the conversation with a certain interest until it turned this
sharp corner, (for she seems rather to fancy the young fellow John,)
laughed out such a clear, loud laugh, that it started us all off, as the
locust-cry of some full-throated soprano drags a multitudinous chorus
after it. It was plain that some dam or other had broken in the soul of
this young girl, and she was squaring up old scores of laughter, out of
which she had been cheated, with a grand flood of merriment that
swept all before it. So we had a great laugh all round, in which the
Model--who, if she had as many virtues as there are spokes to a wheel,
all compacted with a personality as round and complete as its tire, yet
wanted that one little addition of grace, which seems so small, and
is as important as the linchpin in trundling over the rough ways of
life--had not the tact to join. She seemed to be "stuffy" about it, as
the young fellow John said. In fact, I was afraid the joke would have
cost us both our new lady-boarders. It had no effect, however, except,
perhaps, to hasten the departure of the elder of the two, who could, on
the whole, be spared.
--I had meant to make this note of our conversation a text for a few
axioms on the matter of breeding. But it so happened, that, exactly at
this point of my record, a very distinguished philosopher, whom several
of our boarders and myself go to hear, and whom no doubt many of my
readers follow habitually, treated this matter of _manners_. Up to this
point, if I have been so fortunate as to coincide with him in opinion,
and so unfortunate as to try to express what he has more felicitously
said, nobody is to blame; for what has been given thus far was all
written before the lecture was delivered. But what shall I do now? He
told us it was childish to lay down rules for deportment,--but he could
not help laying down a few.
Thus,--_Nothing so vulgar as to be in a hurry._--True, but hard of
application. People with short legs step quickly, because legs are
pendulums, and swing more times in a minute the shorter they are.
Generally a natural rhythm runs through the whole organization: quick
pulse, fast breathing, hasty speech, rapid trains of thought, excitable
temper. _Stillness_ of person and steadiness of features are signal
marks of good-breeding. Vulgar persons can't sit still, or, at least,
they must work their limbs--or features.
_Talking of one's own ails and grievances._--Bad enough, but not so bad
as insulting the person you talk with by remarking on his ill-looks, or
appearing to notice any of his personal peculiarities.
_Apologizing._--A very desperate habit,--one that is rarely cured.
Apology is only egotism wrong side out. Nine times out of ten, the first
thing a man's companion knows of his shortcoming is from his apology. It
is mighty presumptuous on your part to suppose your small failures of so
much consequence that you must make a talk about them.
Good dressing, quiet ways, low tones of voice, lips that can wait, and
eyes that do not wander,--shyness of personalities, except in certain
intimate communions,--to be _light in hand_ in conversation, to have
ideas, but to be able to make talk, if necessary, without them,--to
belong to the company you are in, and not to yourself,--to have nothing
in your dress or furniture so fine that you cannot afford to spoil it
and get another like it, yet to preserve the harmonies throughout your
person and dwelling: I should say that this was a fair capital of
manners to begin with.
Under bad manners, as under graver faults, lies very commonly an
overestimate of our special individuality, as distinguished from our
generic humanity. It is just here that the very highest society asserts
its superior breeding. Among truly elegant people of the highest _ton_,
you will find more real equality in social intercourse than in a country
village. As nuns drop their birth-names and become Sister Margaret and
Sister Mary, so high-bred people drop their personal distinctions
and become brothers and sisters of conversational charity. Nor are
fashionable people without their heroism. I believe there are men that
have shown as much self-devotion in carrying a lone wall-flower down to
the supper-table as ever saint or martyr in the act that has canonized
his name. There are Florence Nightingales of the ballroom, whom nothing
can hold back from their errands of mercy. They find out the red-handed,
gloveless undergraduate of bucolic antecedents, as he squirms in his
corner, and distil their soft words upon him like dew upon the green
herb. They reach even the poor relation, whose dreary apparition saddens
the perfumed atmosphere of the sumptuous drawing-room. I have known one
of these angels ask, _of her own accord_, that a desolate middle-aged
man, whom nobody seemed to know, should be presented to her by the
hostess. He wore no shirt-collar,--he had on black gloves,--and was
flourishing a red bandanna handkerchief! Match me this, ye proud
children of poverty, who boast of your paltry sacrifices for each other!
Virtue in humble life! What is that to the glorious self-renunciation
of a martyr in pearls and diamonds? As I saw this noble woman bending
gracefully before the social mendicant,--the white billows of her beauty
heaving under the foam of the traitorous laces that half revealed
them,--I should have wept with sympathetic emotion, but that tears,
except as a private demonstration, are an ill-disguised expression of
self-consciousness and vanity, which is inadmissible in good society.
I have sometimes thought, with a pang, of the position in which
political chance or contrivance might hereafter place some one of
our fellow-citizens. It has happened hitherto, so far as my limited
knowledge goes, that the President of the United States has always been
what might be called in general terms a gentleman. But what if at some
future time the choice of the people should fall upon one on whom that
lofty title could not, by any stretch of charity, be bestowed? This may
happen,--how soon the future only knows. Think of this miserable man
of coming political possibilities,--an unpresentable boor, sucked into
office by one of those eddies in the flow of popular sentiment which
carry straws and chips into the public harbor, while the prostrate
trunks of the monarchs of the forest hurry down on the senseless stream
to the gulf of political oblivion! Think of him, I say, and of the
concentrated gaze of good society through its thousand eyes, all
confluent, as it were, in one great burning-glass of ice that shrivels
its wretched object in fiery torture, itself cold as the glacier of an
unsunned cavern! No,--there will be angels of good-breeding then as now,
to shield the victim of free institutions from himself and from his
torturers. I can fancy a lovely woman playfully withdrawing the knife
which he would abuse by making it an instrument for the conveyance
of food,--or, failing in this kind artifice, sacrificing herself by
imitating his use of that implement; how much harder than to plunge it
into her bosom, like Lucretia! I can see her studying his provincial
dialect until she becomes the Champollion of New England or Western or
Southern barbarisms. She has learned that _haeow_ means _what_; that
_thinkin'_ is the same thing as _thinking_; or she has found out the
meaning of that extraordinary monosyllable, which no single-tongued
phonographer can make legible, prevailing on the banks of the Hudson and
at its embouchure, and elsewhere,--what they say when they think they
say _first_, (_fe-eest,--fe_ as in the French _le_),--or that _cheer_
means _chair_,--or that _urritation_ means _irritation_,--and so of
other enormities. Nothing surprises her. The highest breeding, you know,
comes round to the Indian standard,--to take everything coolly,--_nil
admirari_,--if you happen to be learned and like the Roman phrase for
the same thing.
If you like the company of people that stare at you from head to foot to
see if there is a hole in your coat, or if you have not grown a little
older, or if your eyes are not yellow with jaundice, or if your
complexion is not a little faded, and so on, and then convey the fact
to you, in the style in which the Poor Relation addressed the
divinity-student,--go with them as much as you like. I hate the sight
of the wretches. Don't for mercy's sake think I hate _them_; the
distinction is one my friend or I drew long ago. No matter where you
find such people; they are clowns. The rich woman who looks and talks in
this way is not half so much a lady as her Irish servant, whose pretty
"saving your presence," when she has to say something which offends
her natural sense of good manners, has a hint in it of the breeding of
courts, and the blood of old Milesian kings, which very likely runs in
her veins,--thinned by two hundred years of potato, which, being an
underground fruit, tends to drag down the generations that are made
of it to the earth from which it came, and, filling their veins with
starch, turn them into a kind of human vegetable.
I say, if you like such people, go with them. But I am going to make a
practical application of the example at the beginning of this particular
record, which some young people who are going to choose professional
advisers by-and-by may remember and thank me for. If you are making
choice of a physician, be sure you get one, if possible, with a cheerful
and serene countenance. A physician is not--at least, ought not to
be--an executioner; and a sentence of death on his face is as bad as a
warrant for execution signed by the Governor. As a general rule, no man
has a right to tell another by word or look that he is going to die. It
may be necessary in some extreme cases; but as a rule, it is the last
extreme of impertinence which one human being can offer to another. "You
have killed me," said a patient once to a physician who had rashly told
him he was incurable. He ought to have lived six months, but he was dead
in six weeks. If we will only let Nature and the God of Nature alone,
persons will commonly learn their condition as early as they ought to
know it, and not be cheated out of their natural birthright of hope of
recovery, which is intended to accompany sick people as long as life is
comfortable, and is graciously replaced by the hope of heaven, or at
least of rest, when life has become a burden which the bearer is ready
to let fall.
Underbred people tease their sick and dying friends to death. The chance
of a gentleman or lady with a given mortal ailment to live a certain
time is as good again as that of the common sort of coarse people. As
you go down the social scale, you reach a point at length where the
common talk in sick rooms is of churchyards and sepulchres, and a kind
of perpetual vivisection is forever carried on, upon the person of the
And so, in choosing your clergyman, other things being equal, prefer the
one of a wholesome and cheerful habit of mind and body. If you can get
along with people who carry a certificate in their faces that their
goodness is so great as to make them very miserable, your children
cannot. And whatever offends one of these little ones cannot be right in
the eyes of Him who loved them so well.
After all, as _you_ are a gentleman or a lady, you will probably select
gentlemen for your bodily and spiritual advisers, and then all will be
This repetition of the above words,--_gentleman and lady_,--which could
not be conveniently avoided, reminds me how much use is made of them by
those who ought to know what they mean. Thus, at a marriage ceremony,
once, of two very excellent persons who had been at service, instead
of, Do you take this man, etc.? and, Do you take this woman? how do you
think the officiating clergyman put the questions? It was, Do you, MISS
So and So, take this GENTLEMAN? and, Do you, MR. This or That, take
this LADY?! What would any English duchess, ay, or the Queen of England
herself, have thought, if the Archbishop of Canterbury had called her
and her bridegroom anything but plain woman and man at such a time?
I don't doubt the Poor Relation thought it was all very fine, if she
happened to have been in the church; but if the worthy man who uttered
these monstrous words--monstrous in such a connection--had known the
ludicrous surprise, the convulsion of inward disgust and contempt, that
seized upon many of the persons who were present,--had guessed what a
sudden flash of light it threw on the Dutch gilding, the pinchbeck,
the shabby, perking pretension belonging to certain social layers,--so
inherent in their whole mode of being, that the holiest offices of
religion cannot exclude its impertinences,--the good man would have
given his marriage-fee twice over to recall that superb and full-blown
vulgarism. Any persons whom it could please have no better notion of
what the words referred to signify than of the meaning of _apsides_ and
MAN! Sir! WOMAN! Sir! Gentility is a fine thing, not to be undervalued,
as I have been trying to explain; but humanity comes before that.
"When Adam delved and Eve span,
Where was then the gentleman?"
The beauty of that plainness of speech and manners which comes from the
finest training is not to be understood by those whose _habitat_ is
below a certain level. Just as the exquisite sea-anemones and all the
graceful ocean-flowers die out at some fathoms below the surface, the
elegances and suavities of life die out one by one as we sink through
the social scale. Fortunately, the virtues are more tenacious of life,
and last pretty well until we get down to the mud of absolute pauperism,
where they do not flourish greatly.
--I had almost forgotten about our boarders. As the Model of all the
Virtues is about to leave us, I find myself wondering what is the reason
we are not all very sorry. Surely we all like good persons. She is a
good person. Therefore we like her.--Only we don't.
This brief syllogism, and its briefer negative, involving the principle
which some English conveyancer borrowed from a French wit and embodied
in the lines by which _Dr. Fell_ is made unamiably immortal,--this
syllogism, I say, is one that most persons have had occasion to
construct and demolish, respecting somebody or other, as I have done for
the Model. "Pious and painefull." Why has that excellent old phrase gone
out of use? Simply because these good _painefull_ or painstaking persons
proved to be such nuisances in the long run, that the word "painefull"
came, before people thought of it, to mean _paingiving_ instead of
--So, the old fellah's off to-morrah,--said the young man John.
Old fellow?--said I,--whom do you mean?
Why, the chap that came with our little beauty,--the old boy in
--Now that means something,--said I to myself.--These rough young
rascals very often hit the nail on the head, if they do strike with
their eyes shut. A real woman does a great many things without knowing
why she does them; but these pattern machines mix up their intellects
with everything they do, just like men. They can't help it, no doubt;
but we can't help getting sick of them, either. Intellect is to a
woman's nature what her watch-spring skirt is to her dress; it ought
to underlie her silks and embroideries, but not to show itself too
staringly on the outside.--You don't know, perhaps, but I will tell
you;--the brain is the palest of all the internal organs, and the heart
the reddest. Whatever comes from the brain carries the hue of the place
it came from, and whatever comes from the heart carries the heat and
color of its birthplace.
The young man John did not hear my _soliloque_, of course, but sent
up one more bubble from our sinking conversation, in the form of a
statement, that she was at liberty to go to a personage who receives no
visits, as is commonly supposed, from virtuous people.
Why, I ask again, (of my reader,) should a person who never did anybody
any wrong, but, on the contrary, is an estimable and intelligent, nay,
a particularly enlightened and exemplary member of society, fail to
inspire interest, love, and devotion? Because of the _reversed current_
in the flow of thought and emotion. The red heart sends all its
instincts up to the white brain to be analyzed, chilled, blanched, and
so become pure reason, which is just exactly what we do not want of
woman as woman. The current should run the other way. The nice, calm,
cold thought, which in women shapes itself so rapidly that they hardly
know it as thought, should always travel to the lips _via_ the heart. It
does so in those women whom all love and admire. It travels the wrong
way in the Model. That is the reason why the Little Gentleman said, "I
hate her, I hate her." That is the reason why the young man John called
her the "old fellah," and banished her to the company of the great
Unpresentable. That is the reason why I, the Professor, am picking her
to pieces with scalpel and forceps. That is the reason why the young
girl whom she has befriended repays her kindness with gratitude and
respect, rather than with the devotion and passionate fondness which lie
sleeping beneath the calmness of her amber eyes. I can see her, as she
sits between this estimable and most correct of personages and the
misshapen, crotchety, often violent and explosive little man on the
other side of her, leaning and swaying towards him as she speaks, and
looking into his sad eyes as if she found some fountain in them at which
her soul could quiet its thirst.
Women like the Model are a natural product of a chilly climate and high
culture. It is not
"The frolic wind that breathes the spring,
Zephyr with Aurora playing,"
when the two meet
----"on beds of violets blue,
And fresh-blown roses washed in dew,"
that claim such women as their offspring. It is rather the east wind, as
it blows out of the fogs of Newfoundland, and clasps a clear-eyed wintry
noon on the chill bridal couch of a New England ice-quarry.--Don't throw
up your cap now, and hurrah as if this were giving up everything, and
turning against the best growth of our latitudes,--the daughters of the
soil. The brain-women never interest us like the heart-women; white
roses please less than red. But our Northern seasons have a narrow green
streak of spring, as well as a broad white zone of winter,--they have
a glowing band of summer and a golden stripe of autumn in their
many-colored wardrobe; and women are born to us that wear all these hues
of earth and heaven in their souls. Our ice-eyed brain-women are really
admirable, if we only ask of them just what they can give, and no more.
Only compare them, talking or writing, with one of those babbling,
chattering dolls, of warmer latitudes, who do not know enough even to
keep out of print, and who are interesting to us only as specimens of
_arrest of development_ for our psychological cabinets.
Good-bye, Model of all the Virtues! We can spare you now. A little clear
perfection, undiluted with human weakness, goes a great way. Go! be
useful, be honorable and honored, be just, be charitable, talk pure
reason, and help to disenchant the world by the light of an achromatic
understanding. Good-bye! Where is my Beranger? I must read "Fretillon."
Fair play for all. But don't claim incompatible qualities for anybody.
Justice is a very rare virtue in our community. Everything that public
sentiment cares about is put into a Papin's digester, and boiled under
high pressure till all is turned into one homogeneous pulp, and the very
bones give up their jelly. What are all the strongest epithets of our
dictionary to us now? The critics and politicians, and especially
the philanthropists, have chewed them, till they are mere wads of
syllable-fibre, without a suggestion of their old pungency and power.
Justice! A good man respects the rights even of brute matter and
arbitrary symbols. If he writes the same word twice in succession, by
accident, he always erases the one that stands _second_; has not the
first-comer the prior right? This act of abstract justice, which I trust
many of my readers, like myself, have often performed, is a curious
anti-illustration, by the way, of the absolute wickedness of human
dispositions. Why doesn't a man always strike out the _first_ of the two
words, to gratify his diabolical love of _in_justice?
So, I say, we owe a genuine, substantial tribute of respect to these
filtered intellects which have left their womanhood on the strainer.
They are so clear that it is a pleasure at times to look at the world of
thought through them. But the rose and purple tints of richer natures
they cannot give us, and it is not just to them to ask it.
Fashionable society gets at these rich natures very often in a way one
would hardly at first think of. It loves vitality above all things,
sometimes disguised by affected languor, always well kept under by the
laws of good-breeding,--but still it loves abundant life, opulent and
showy organizations,--the spherical rather than the plane trigonometry
of female architecture,--plenty of red blood, flashing eyes, tropical
voices, and forms that bear the splendors of dress without growing pale
beneath their lustre. Among these you will find the most delicious women
you will ever meet,--women whom dress and flattery and the round of city
gayeties cannot spoil,--talking with whom, you forget their diamonds
and laces,--and around whom all the nice details of elegance, which
the cold-blooded beauty next them is scanning so nicely, blend in one
harmonious whole, too perfect to be disturbed by the petulant sparkle of
a jewel, or the yellow glare of a bangle, or the gay toss of a feather.
There are many things that I, personally, love better than fashion or
wealth. Not to speak of those highest objects of our love and loyalty,
I think I love ease and independence better than the golden slavery of
perpetual _matinees_ and _soirees_, or the pleasures of accumulation.
But fashion and wealth are two very solemn realities, which the
frivolous class of moralists have talked a great deal of silly stuff
about. Fashion is only the attempt to realize Art in living forms and
social intercourse. What business has a man who knows nothing about the
beautiful, and cannot pronounce the word _view_, to talk about fashion
to a set of people who, if one of the quality left a card at their
doors, would contrive to keep it on the very top of their heap of the
names of their two-story acquaintances, till it was as yellow as the
Wealth, too,--what an endless repetition of the same foolish
trivialities about it! Take the single fact of its alleged uncertain
tenure and transitory character. In old times, when men were all the
time fighting and robbing each other,--in those tropical countries where
the Sabeans and the Chaldeans stole all a man's cattle and camels, and
there were frightful tornadoes and rains of fire from heaven, it was
true enough that riches took wings to themselves not unfrequently in a
very unexpected way. But, with common prudence in investments, it is not
so now. In fact, there is nothing earthly that lasts so well, on the
whole, as money. A man's learning dies with him; even his virtues fade
out of remembrance; but the dividends on the stocks he bequeathes to his
children live and keep his memory green.
I do not think there is much courage or originality in giving utterance
to truths that everybody knows, but which get overlaid by conventional
trumpery. The only distinction which it is necessary to point out to
feeble-minded folk is this: that, in asserting the breadth and depth of
that significance which gives to fashion and fortune their tremendous
power, we do not indorse the extravagances which often disgrace the one,
nor the meanness which often degrades the other.
A remark which seems to contradict a universally current opinion is not
generally to be taken "neat," but watered with the ideas of common-sense
and commonplace people. So, if any of my young friends should be tempted
to waste their substance on white kids and "all-rounds," or to insist
on becoming millionnaires at once, by anything I have said, I will give
them references to some of the class referred to, well known to the
public as literary diluents, who will weaken any truth so that there is
not an old woman in the land who cannot take it with perfect impunity.
I am afraid some of the blessed saints in diamonds will think I mean to
flatter them. I hope not;--if I do, set it down as a weakness. But there
is so much foolish talk about wealth and fashion, (which, of course,
draw a good many heartless and essentially vulgar people into the glare
of their candelabra, but which have a real respectability and meaning,
if we will only look at them stereoscopically, with both eyes instead of
one,) that I thought it a duty to speak a few words for them. Why can't
somebody give us a list of things that everybody thinks and nobody says,
and another list of things that everybody says and nobody thinks?
Lest my parish should suppose we have forgotten graver matters in these
lesser topics, I beg them to drop these trifles and read the following
lesson for the day.
THE TWO STREAMS.
Behold the rocky wall
That down its sloping sides
Pours the swift rain-drops, blending, as they fall,
In rushing river-tides!
Yon stream, whose sources run
Turned by a pebble's edge,
Is Athabasca, rolling toward the sun
Through the cleft mountain-ledge.
The slender rill had strayed,
But for the slanting stone,
To evening's ocean, with the tangled braid
Of foam-flecked Oregon.
So from the heights of Will
Life's parting stream descends,
And, as a moment turns its slender rill,
Each widening torrent bends,--
From the same cradle's side,
From the same mother's knee,--
One to long darkness and the frozen tide,
One to the Peaceful Sea!
* * * * *
REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.
_Sixty Years' Gleanings from Life's Harvest._ A Genuine Autobiography.
By JOHN BROWN, Proprietor of the University Billiard-Rooms, Cambridge.
New York: Appleton & Company. 1859.
We are all familiar with that John Brown whom the minstrel has
immortalized as being the possessor of a diminutive youth of the
aboriginal American race, who, in the course of the ditty, is multiplied
from "one little Injun" into "ten little Injuns," and who, in a
succeeding stanza, by an ingenious amphisbaenic process, is again
reduced to the singular number. As far as we are aware, the author of
this "genuine autobiography" claims no relationship with the famous
owner of tender redskins. The multiplicity of adventures of which he
has been the hero demands for him, however, the same notice that a
multiplicity of "Injuns" has insured to his illustrious namesake.
We have always had a pet theory, that a plain and minute narrative
of any ordinary man's life, stated with simplicity and without any
reference to dramatic effect or the elegances of composition, would
possess an immediate interest for the public. We cannot know too much
about men. No man's life is so uneventful as to be incapable of amusing
and instructing. The same event is never the same to more than one
person; no two see it from the same point of view. And as we want to
know more of men than of incidents, every one's record of trifles
is useful. A book written by a Cornish miner, whose life passes in
subterranean monotony, sparing none of the petty and ever-recurring
details that make up his routined existence, would, if set down in the
baldest language, be a valuable contribution to literature. But we
rarely, if ever, find a man sufficiently free from vanity and the demon
of composition to tell us plainly what has happened to him. The moment
the working-man gets a pen into his hand, he is, as it were, possessed.
He is no longer himself. He has not the courage to come out naked
and show himself in all his grime and strength. The instant that he
conceives the idea of putting himself on paper he borrows somebody
else's clothes, and, instead of a free, manly figure, we have a wretched
scarecrow in a coat too small or too large for him,--generally the
latter. For it is a curious fact, that the more uneducated a man
is,--in which condition his ordinary language must of necessity be
proportionately idiomatic,--the greater pains he takes, when he has
formed the resolution of composing, to be splendid and expansive in his
style. He racks his brains until he rummages out imperfect memories of
the turgid paragraphs of cheap newspapers and novels which he has
some time or other read, and forthwith struts off with all the finest
feathers in the dictionary rustling about him.
Mr. John Brown, the hero of the Autobiography before us, is no exception
to this unhappy rule. The son of a butcher, he became in boyhood a
sheep-driver, was then apprenticed to a shoemaker, got into trouble and
a prison, enlisted as a soldier, deserted, turned strolling player,
shipped on board a man-of-war, tried again to desert, was flogged at the
gratings, beheld Napoleon on board the Bellerophon, was discharged from
the navy, consorted with thieves and prize-fighters, appeared on the
London stage with success, married and starved, became the pet of the
Cambridge students, whom he assisted in amateur theatricals, started a
stage-coach line to London and failed, set up a billiard-room, got into
innumerable street-fights and always came off conqueror, was elected
town-councillor of Cambridge and made a fortune, which it is to be hoped
he is now enjoying.
Here was material for a book. From the glimpses of his _personnel_ which
we occasionally catch through all Mr. Brown's splendid writing, we
should say that he was a man of a strong, hearty nature, full of
indomitable energy, and possessed with a truly Saxon predilection for
the use of his fists. The number of physical contests in which he was
chief actor renders his volume almost epical in character. Invulnerable
as Achilles and quarrelsome as Hector, he strides over the bodies of
innumerable foes. If some of his friends, the Seniors, at Cambridge,
would only put his adventures into Greek verse, he might descend to
posterity in sounding hexameters with the sons of Telamon and Thetis.
The plain narrative portions of Mr. Brown's volume possess much real
interest. His adventures with the strolling players, the insight he
gives us into the life of a journeyman shoemaker, and his reminiscences
of his friends, the Jew old-clothes-men, the pick-pockets, and the
prize-fighters, are so many steaks cut warm from the living world, and
are good, substantial food for thought. But he seldom forgets himself
long, and is natural only by fits and starts. After he has been striding
along for a short time with a free, manly gait, he suddenly bethinks
himself that he is writing a book. The malign influences of Cambridge
University begin to work upon him. The loose stride is contracted; the
swing of the vigorous shoulders is restrained, and, instead of an honest
fellow tramping sturdily after his own fashion through the paths of
literature, we are treated to an imitation of Dr. Johnson, done by an
illiterate butcher's son. We are afraid that the Cantabs have been at
the bottom of John Brown's fine writing. How valuable, for instance, are
the following philosophical reflections upon Napoleon, which John Brown
makes when he beholds the dethroned Emperor standing sadly upon the poop
of the Bellerophon!
"Here, then," remarks John, "had ended his dream of universal conquest;
here he lay prostrate at the foot of the altar," (we are informed a few
lines before this that he had taken his stand on the poop,) "on which he
sacrificed, not hecatombs, but pyramids, of human victims." (Beautiful
antithesis!) "As his ambition was boundless, posterity will not weep at
his fall. But that he insinuated himself into the hearts of a generous
people is too true; they worshipped him as a demi-god, until," etc.
Farther on, we learn the startling intelligence, that "for a time his
adopted country was enriched by the spoils and plunder of other lands."
(Did Alison know this?) "He formed the bulk of the population into an
organized banditti, and led them forth in martial pomp to do the unholy
work of bloodshed and robbery.... All the independent states of Europe
leagued together to put down this infamous system of national plunder."
(Russia among the rest of the independent states, we suppose.)... "Had
he been desirous of establishing just principles on earth, and crushing
despotism, the sympathies of the entire human race would have been
enlisted on his side." Certainly, John. Two and two make four, and
things that are equal to the same are equal to each other.
After having in a street-fight pommelled an unhappy Cambridge student
into jelly, and reduced him to a state which he picturesquely describes
as resembling that of "a dog in a coal-box," he picks him up and
philosophically informs him that "all the different styles of fence were
invented and established for man's protection, not for his destruction.
Besides," he adds, with much profundity, "the laws thereto appertaining
are based on certain strict principles of honor, which you have
unquestionably violated in this case. Now, take my advice, never again
engage in fight without having some just cause of quarrel. Thus, at
least, you will always come off with credit, if not with victory." And
having delivered himself of this stupendous moral lesson, Dr. Samuel
Johnson Mendoza John Brown puts on his hat (he surely ought to have
had a full-bottomed wig under it) and walks off, leaving his opponent
doubtless more like a dog in a coal-box than ever. He sees Dr.
Abernethy, and rises into this inspired strain: "To me, who have ever
held genius and talent in veneration, as being
"'Olympus-high above all earthly things,'
"the sight of this plain, unostentatious man afforded more pleasurable
feelings than could all the gilded pomp beneath the sun." One can fancy,
if John had communicated this reflection to the Doctor, what would have
been the reply of that suave practitioner. He goes to low dance-houses,
and the interesting result of his reflections on what he beheld there
is, "that vice, however gilded over, is still a hideous monster; in
which conviction, I resigned myself to that power that 'must delight in
virtue.'" When he speaks of his billiard-pupils, he loftily denominates
them "hundreds of the best gentlemen-players scattered over the earth's
surface," from which we draw the pleasing inference that none of John
Brown's scholars are addicted to subterranean billiards.
In spite of these rags of old college-gowns, in which John so funnily
arrays himself on occasions, his book is worth reading. If it has not
the muscular, unaffected morality of his namesake's unsurpassable
"School-Days at Rugby," it is at least the production of an honest,
hearty Englishman, and teaches an excellent lesson on the value of pluck
_Colton's Illustrated Cabinet Atlas and Descriptive Geography._ Maps by
G.W. COLTON. Text by R.S. FISHER. New YORK: J.H. Colton & Co. 4to. pp.
This work meets an acknowledged want; it combines in one convenient
volume most of the desirable features of the larger atlases, being full
enough in detail for all ordinary purposes, without being cumbersome and
costly. It is prefaced by a clear and well-digested statement of the
laws of Physical Geography, "based," as the publishers say, "upon the
excellent treatise on the same subject found in the Atlas of Milner and
Petermann, recently published in London." The maps are one hundred and
sixteen in number, admirably engraved, and, what especially enhances
their value, they are draughted on easily-convertible scales,--one inch
always representing ten, twenty-five, fifty, one hundred, or other
number of miles readily comparable. They include the results of the
latest explorations of travellers, and the newest settlements made by
the English and Americans.
The descriptions are full and accurate, and the statistics of
population, trade, public and private institutions, etc., are convenient
for reference. This department is illustrated by over six hundred
This Atlas may, therefore, fairly claim rank as a Cyclopaedia of
Geography, and for the household and school it is one of the most useful
publications of our time. The attention now everywhere excited by
proposed or impending changes in the boundary-lines of European States,
by the inroads of Western civilization in the East, by the settlement of
the Pacific Islands, and by the growth of empire on the western coast of
our own country, renders the publication of a compendious work like this
_Poems._ By OWEN MEREDITH. The Wanderer and Clytemnestra. Boston:
Ticknor & Fields. 18mo.
The author of these poems is Robert Bulwer Lytton, the son of the
eminent novelist. Though still very young, he has reached the honor of
being arrayed in Ticknor and Fields's "blue and gold," the paradisiacal
condition of contemporary poets; and his works occupy, in words, though
not in matter, as much space as Tennyson's. The volume includes all the
poems which Lytton has published up to the present time. The general
characteristics of his Muse are fluency, fancy, melody, and sensibility.
The diligent reader will detect, throughout the volume, the traces of
the author's sympathy with other poets, especially Tennyson, and,
amid all the opulence of expression and intensity of feeling, will be
sensible of the lack of decided original genius and character. There is
evidence of intellect and imagination, but they are at present tossed
somewhat wildly about in a tumult of sensations and passions, and have
not yet mastered their instruments. But the poems, as they are the
product of a young man, so they possess all the attractions which allure
young readers. It would not be surprising, if they obtained a popularity
equal to those of Alexander Smith; for they give even more musical
utterance to the loves, hopes, exultations, regrets, and despairs of
youth, and indicate the same hot blood. They are also characterized by
similar vagueness of thought and vividness of fancy, in those passages
where sensibility turns theorist and philosophizes on its gratified or
battled sensations,--while they generally evince wider culture, larger
superficial experience of life, a more controlling sense of the
beautiful, and an equal facility of self-abandonment to the passion of
Leaving out those poems which are repetitions or imitations, a thin
volume might be made containing some striking examples of original
perception and original experience. Among these the charming little
piece entitled "Madame La Marquise" would hold a prominent place. After
making, however, all deductions from the pretensions of the volume, it
may be said, that the father, at the same age, did not indicate so much
talent as the son.
_Symbols of the Capital; or Civilization in New York._ By A.D. MAYO.
This is a clear and forcibly written exposition of the tendencies of
American society, as surveyed from the point of view of an earnest,
practical, and dispassionate reformer. The essays on Town and Country
Life, those on Education, Art, and Religion, the Forces of Free Labor,
and the Gold Dollar, exhibit equal independence of thought and extent
of information. In the essay on the Position of Woman in America, a
difficult theme is discussed with candor and sagacity. We have rarely
seen a volume to which the conscientious adversaries of the reforms of
the day could go for a more lucid statement of the opinions they oppose;
and it is admirably calculated to effect the purpose he author had in
view, namely, "to aid the young men and women of our land in their
attempt to realize a character that shall justify our professions of
republicanism, and to establish a civilization which, in becoming
national, shall illustrate every principle of a pure Christianity."
_The Avenger, a Narrative; and other Papers._ By THOMAS DE QUINCEY,
Author of "Confessions of an Opium-Eater," etc. Boston: Ticknor &
This is the twenty-first volume of De Quincey's miscellaneous writings,
collected by the indefatigable American editor, Mr. James T. Fields.
It contains "The Avenger," a powerful story of wrong and revenge;
"Additions to the Confessions of an Opium-Eater"; "Supplementary Note
on the Essenes," in which the theory of the original paper is supported
against objections by some new arguments; a long paper on "China,"
published in 1857, and full of information in regard to that empire; and
"Traditions of the Rabbins," one of the most exquisite papers in the
list of the author's writings.
_The Life of George Herbert. _By GEORGE L. DUYCKINCK. New York: 1858.
We have too long neglected to do our share in bringing this delightful
little book to the notice of the lovers of holy George Herbert,
among whom we may safely reckon a large number of the readers of the
"Atlantic." It is based on the life by Izaak Walton, but contains much
new matter, either out of Walton's reach or beyond the range of his
sympathy. Notices are given of Nicholas Ferrar and other friends
of Herbert. There is a very agreeable sketch of Bemerton and its
neighborhood, as it now is, and the neat illustrations are of the kind
that really illustrate. The Brothers Duyckinck are well known for their
unpretentious and valuable labors in the cause of good letters and
American literary history, and this is precisely such a book as we
should expect from the taste, scholarship, and purity of mind which
distinguish both of them. It is much the best account of Herbert with
which we are acquainted.
_Lectures on Metaphysics._ By SIR WILLIAM HAMILTON, BART., Professor of
Logic and Metaphysics in the University of Edinburgh. Edited by the
Rev. Henry Longueville Mansel, B.D., Oxford, and John Veitch, M.A.,
Edinburgh. Boston: Gould & Lincoln. 8vo.
Few persons, with any pretensions to a knowledge of the metaphysicians
of the century, are unacquainted with Sir William Hamilton. His articles
in the "Edinburgh Review" on Cousin and Dr. Brown, and his Dissertations
on Reid, are the most important contributions to philosophy made in
Great Britain for many years. The present volume contains his Course
of Lectures, forty-six in number, which he delivered as Professor
of Metaphysics; and being intended for young students, they are, as
compared with his other works, more comprehensible without being less
comprehensive. The most conclusive proof of the excellence of these
Lectures is to be found in their influence on the successive classes of
students before whom they were pronounced. The universal testimony of
the young men who were fortunate enough to listen to Hamilton has been,
that his teaching not only inspired them with an enthusiasm for the
science, and gave them clear ideas and accurate information, but
directly aided them in the discipline of their minds. Some of his
students became, later in life, champions of his system; others became
its opponents; but opponents as well as champions warmly professed their
obligations to their instructor, and dated their interest in philosophy
from the period when they were brought by these Lectures within the
contagious sphere of his powerful intellect. So numerous were these
testimonials, that they gradually roused public curiosity to see
and read what was so effective as spoken. That curiosity has now an
opportunity of being gratified, and we do not doubt that these Lectures
will have a greater popularity than usually attends philosophical
publications. The American publishers deserve thanks for the cheap,
compact, and elegant form of their reprint.
We have no space to present here an exposition of Hamilton's system, or
to discuss any of its leading principles. We can merely allude to some
characteristics of his mode of thinking and writing which make his
Lectures of especial value to those who propose to begin the study of
metaphysics, or whose knowledge of the science is superficial. Hamilton
has the immense advantage of being a scholar in that large sense which
implies the exercise, not merely of attention and memory, but of every
faculty of the mind, in the acquisition and arrangement of knowledge.
His erudition is great, but it is also critical and interpretative. He
knows intimately every philosophical writer from the dawn of speculation
to the last German thinker, including the somewhat neglected Schoolmen
of the Middle Ages; and in this volume, every important question that
arises is historically as well as analytically treated, and the names
are given of the thinkers on both sides. In the course of one or two
sentences, he often places the reader in a position to view a principle,
not only in itself, but in relation to the controversies which have
raged round it for two thousand years. Hamilton's erudition is
also displayed in the quotations with which his pages are
sprinkled,--fragrant sentences, which came originally from the
imagination or character of the writers he quotes, and which relieve his
own abstract propositions and reasonings with concrete beauty or truth.
Most of these quotations will be novel even to advanced students.
Hamilton is also admirable in statement. Confusion, vacillation,
obscurity, uncertainty, are as foreign to his style as to his mind. He
is almost rigid in his precision. Every word has its meaning, and
every idea its stern, sure, decisive statement. His masterly powers
of analysis, of reasoning, of generalization, are always adequately
exhibited by a corresponding mastery of expression. The study of such a
volume as the present is itself an education in statement and logic; and
that it will be studied by thousands, in the colleges and out of the
colleges of the country, we cannot but hope.
_Allibone's Dictionary of Authors._ Philadelphia: Childs & Peterson,
1858. Vol. I. pp. 1005.
Leigh Hunt, in one of his Essays, speaks of the wishful thrill with
which, in looking over an index, he wondered if ever his name would
appear under the letter H in the reversed order (Hunt, Leigh) peculiar
to that useful and too much neglected field of literary achievement. In
Mr. Allibone's Dictionary he would see his wish more than satisfied; for
if he turn up "Hunt, Leigh," he will find a reference to "Hunt, James