Part 1 out of 5
THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
VOL. VIII.--JULY, 1861.--NO. XLV.
Weave no more silks, ye Lyons looms,
To deck our girls for gay delights!
The crimson flower of battle blooms,
And solemn marches fill the nights.
Weave but the flag whose bars to-day
Drooped heavy o'er our early dead,
And homely garments, coarse and gray,
For orphans that must earn their bread!
Keep back your tunes, ye viols sweet,
That pour delight from other lands!
Rouse there the dancer's restless feet,--
The trumpet leads our warrior bands.
And ye that wage the war of words
With mystic fame and subtle power,
Go, chatter to the idle birds,
Or teach the lesson of the hour!
Ye Sibyl Arts, in one stern knot
Be all your offices combined!
Stand close, while Courage draws the lot,
The destiny of humankind!
And if that destiny could fail,
The sun should darken in the sky,
The eternal bloom of Nature pale,
And God, and Truth, and Freedom die!
AGNES OF SORRENTO.
THE DAY AT THE CONVENT.
The Mother Theresa sat in a sort of withdrawing-room, the roof of which
rose in arches, starred with blue and gold like that of the cloister,
and the sides were frescoed with scenes from the life of the Virgin.
Over every door, and in convenient places between the paintings, tests
of Holy Writ were illuminated in blue and scarlet and gold, with a
richness and fancifulness of outline, as if every sacred letter had
blossomed into a mystical flower. The Abbess herself, with two of her
nuns, was busily embroidering a new altar-cloth, with a lavish profusion
of adornment; and, from time to time, their voices rose in the musical
tones of an ancient Latin hymn. The words were full of that quaint
and mystical pietism with which the fashion of the times clothed the
expression of devotional feeling:--
"Jesu, corona virginum,
Quem mater illa concepit,
Quae sola virgo parturit,
Haec vota clemens accipe.
"Qui pascis inter lilia
Septus choreis virginum,
Sponsus decoris gloria
Sponsisque reddens praemia.
"Quocunque pergis, virgines
Sequuntur atque laudibus
Post te canentes cursitant
Hymnosque dulces personant[A]."
"Jesus, crown of virgin spirits,
Whom a virgin mother bore,
Graciously accept our praises
While thy footsteps we adore.
"Thee among the lilies feeding
Choirs of virgins walk beside,
Bridegroom crowned with glorious beauty
Giving beauty to thy bride.
"Where thou goest still they follow
Singing, singing as they move,
All those souls forever virgin
Wedded only to thy love."]
This little canticle was, in truth, very different from the hymns
to Venus which used to resound in the temple which the convent had
displaced. The voices which sang were of a deep, plaintive contralto,
much resembling the richness of a tenor, and us they moved in modulated
waves of chanting sound the effect was soothing and dreamy. Agnes
stopped at the door to listen.
"Stop, dear Jocunda," she said to the old woman, who was about to push
her way abruptly into the room, "wait till it is over."
Jocunda, who was quite matter-of-fact in her ideas of religion, made a
little movement of impatience, but was recalled to herself by observing
the devout absorption with which Agnes, with clasped hands and downcast
head, was mentally joining in the hymn with a solemn brightness in her
"If she hasn't got a vocation, nobody ever had one," said Jocunda,
mentally. "Deary me, I wish I had more of one myself!"
When the strain died away, and was succeeded by a conversation on the
respective merits of two kinds of gold embroidering-thread, Agnes and
Jocunda entered the apartment. Agnes went forward and kissed the hand of
the Mother reverentially.
Sister Theresa we have before described as tall, pale, and sad-eyed,--a
moonlight style of person, wanting in all those elements of warm color
and physical solidity which give the impression of a real vital human
existence. The strongest affection she had ever known had been that
which had been excited by the childish beauty and graces of Agnes, and
she folded her in her arms and kissed her forehead with a warmth that
had in it the semblance of maternity.
"Grandmamma has given me a day to spend with you, dear mother," said
"Welcome, dear little child!" said Mother Theresa. "Your spiritual home
always stands open to you."
"I have something to speak to you of in particular, my mother," said
Agnes, blushing deeply.
"Indeed!" said the Mother Theresa, a slight movement of curiosity
arising in her mind as she signed to the two nuns to leave the
"My mother," said Agnes, "yesterday evening, as grandmamma and I were
sitting at the gate, selling oranges, a young cavalier came up and
bought oranges of me, and he kissed my forehead and asked me to pray for
him, and gave me this ring for the shrine of Saint Agnes."
"Kissed your forehead!" said Jocunda, "here's a pretty go! it isn't like
you, Agnes, to let him."
"He did it before I knew," said Agnes. "Grandmamma reproved him, and
then he seemed to repent, and gave this ring for the shrine of Saint
"And a pretty one it is, too," said Jocunda. "We haven't a prettier in
all our treasury. Not even the great emerald the Queen gave is better in
its way than this."
"And he asked you to pray for him?" said Mother Theresa.
"Yes, mother dear; he looked right into my eyes and made me look into
his, and made me promise;--and I knew that holy virgins never refused
their prayers to any one that asked, and so I followed their example."
"I'll warrant me he was only mocking at you for a poor little fool,"
said Jocunda; "the gallants of our day don't believe much in prayers."
"Perhaps so, Jocunda," said Agnes, gravely; "but if that be the case, he
needs prayers all the more."
"Yes," said Mother Theresa. "Remember the story of the blessed Saint
Dorothea,--how a wicked young nobleman mocked at her, when she was going
to execution, and said, 'Dorothea, Dorothea, I will believe, when you
shall send me down some of the fruits and flowers of Paradise'; and she,
full of faith, said, 'To-day I will send them'; and, wonderful to tell,
that very day, at evening, an angel came to the young man with a basket
of citrons and roses, and said, 'Dorothea sends thee these, wherefore
believe.' See what grace a pure maiden can bring to a thoughtless young
man,--for this young man was converted and became a champion of the
"That was in the old times," said Jocunda, skeptically. "I don't believe
setting the lamb to pray for the wolf will do much in our day. Prithee,
child, what manner of man was this gallant?"
"He was beautiful as an angel," said Agnes, "only it was not a good
beauty. He looked proud and sad, both,--like one who is not at ease in
his heart. Indeed, I feel very sorry for him; his eyes made a kind of
trouble in my mind, that reminds me to pray for him often."
"And I will join my prayers to yours, dear daughter," said the Mother
Theresa; "I long to have you with us, that we may pray together every
day;--say, do you think your grandmamma will spare you to us wholly
"Grandmamma will not hear of it yet," said Agnes; "and she loves me so,
it would break her heart, if I should leave her, and she could not be
happy here;--but, mother, you have told me we could carry an altar
always in our hearts, and adore in secret. When it is God's will I
should come to you, He will incline her heart."
"Between you and me, little one," said Jocunda, "I think there will soon
be a third person who will have something to say in the case."
"Whom do you mean?" said Agnes.
"A husband," said Jocunda; "I suppose your grandmother has one picked
out for you. You are neither humpbacked nor cross-eyed, that you
shouldn't have one as well as other girls."
"I don't want one, Jocunda; and I have promised to Saint Agnes to come
here, if she will only get grandmother to consent."
"Bless you, my daughter!" said Mother Theresa; "only persevere and the
way will be opened."
"Well, well," said Jocunda, "we'll see. Come, little one, if you
wouldn't have your flowers wilt, we must go back and look after them."
Reverently kissing the hand of the Abbess, Agnes withdrew with her old
friend, and crossed again to the garden to attend to her flowers.
"Well now, childie," said Jocunda, "you can sit here and weave your
garlands, while I go and look after the conserves of raisins and citrons
that Sister Cattarina is making. She is stupid at anything but her
prayers, is Cattarina. Our Lady be gracious to me! I think I got my
vocation from Saint Martha, and if it wasn't for me, I don't know what
would become of things in the Convent. Why, since I came here, our
conserves, done up in fig-leaf packages, have had quite a run at Court,
and our gracious Queen herself was good enough to send an order for a
hundred of them last week. I could have laughed to see how puzzled the
Mother Theresa looked;--much she knows about conserves! I suppose she
thinks Gabriel brings them straight down from Paradise, done up in
leaves of the tree of life. Old Jocunda knows what goes to their making
up; she's good for something, if she is old and twisted; many a scrubby
old olive bears fat berries," said the old portress, chuckling.
"Oh, dear Jocunda," said Agnes, "why must you go this minute? I want to
talk with you about so many things!"
"Bless the sweet child! it does want its old Jocunda, does it?" said the
old woman, in the tone with which one caresses a baby. "Well, well, it
should, then! Just wait a minute, till I go and see that our holy Saint
Cattarina hasn't fallen a-praying over the conserving-pan. I'll be back
in a moment."
So saying, she hobbled off briskly, and Agnes, sitting down on the
fragment sculptured with dancing nymphs, began abstractedly pulling her
flowers towards her, shaking from them the dew of the fountain.
Unconsciously to herself, as she sat there, her head drooped into the
attitude of the marble nymph, and her sweet features assumed the same
expression of plaintive and dreamy thoughtfulness; her heavy dark lashes
lay on her pure waxen cheeks like the dark fringe of some tropical
flower. Her form, in its drooping outlines, scarcely yet showed the full
development of womanhood, which after-years might unfold into the ripe
fulness of her countrywomen. Her whole attitude and manner were those of
an exquisitively sensitive and highly organized being, just struggling
into the life of some mysterious new inner birth,--into the sense of
powers of feeling and being hitherto unknown even to herself.
"Ah," she softly sighed to herself, "how little I am! how little I can
do! Could I convert one soul! Ah, holy Dorothea, send down the roses of
heaven into his soul, that he also may believe!"
"Well, my little beauty, you have not finished even one garland," said
the voice of old Jocunda, bustling up behind her. "Praise to Saint
Martha, the conserves are doing well, and so I catch a minute for my
So saying, she sat down with her spindle and flax by Agnes, for an
"Dear Jocunda, I have heard you tell stories about spirits that haunt
lonesome places. Did you ever hear about any in the gorge?"
"Why, bless the child, yes,--spirits are always pacing up and down in
lonely places. Father Anselmo told me that; and he had seen a priest
once that had seen that in the Holy Scriptures themselves,--so it must
"Well, did you ever hear of their making the most beautiful music?"
"Haven't I?" said Jocunda,--"to be sure I have,--singing enough to draw
the very heart out of your body,--it's an old trick they have. Why, I
want to know if you never heard about the King of Amalfi's son coming
home from fighting for the Holy Sepulchre? Why, there's rocks not far
out from this very town where the Sirens live; and if the King's son
hadn't had a holy bishop on board, who slept every night with a piece of
the true cross under his pillow, the green ladies would have sung him
straight into perdition. They are very fair-spoken at first, and sing so
that a man gets perfectly drunk with their music, and longs to fly to
them; but they suck him down at last under water, and strangle him, and
that's the end of him."
"You never told me about this before, Jocunda."
"Haven't I, child? Well, I will now. You see, this good bishop, he
dreamed three times that they would sail past those rocks, and he was
told to give all the sailors holy wax from an altar-candle to stop their
ears, so that they shouldn't hear the music. Well, the King's son said
he wanted to hear the music, so he wouldn't have his ears stopped; but
he told 'em to tie him to the mast, so that he could hear it, but not to
mind a word he said, if he begged 'em ever so hard to untie him.
"Well, you see they did it; and the old bishop, he had his ears sealed
up tight, and so did all the men; but the young man stood tied to the
mast, and when they sailed past he was like a demented creature. He
called out that it was his lady who was singing, and he wanted to go to
her,--and his mother, who they all knew was a blessed saint in paradise
years before; and he commanded them to untie him, and pulled and
strained on his cords to get free; but they only tied him the tighter,
and so they got him past,--for, thanks to the holy wax, the sailors
never heard a word, and so they kept their senses. So they all got safe
home; but the young prince was so sick and pining that he had to be
exorcised and prayed for seven times seven days before they could get
the music out of his head."
"Why," said Agnes, "do those Sirens sing there yet?"
"Well, that was a hundred years ago. They say the old bishop, he prayed
'em down; for he went out a little after on purpose, and gave 'em a
precious lot of holy water; most likely he got 'em pretty well under,
though my husband's brother says he's heard 'em singing in a small way,
like frogs in spring-time; but he gave 'em a pretty wide berth. You see,
these spirits are what's left of old heathen times, when, Lord bless us!
the earth was just as full of 'em as a bit of old cheese is of mites.
Now a Christian body, if they take reasonable care, can walk quit of
'em; and if they have any haunts in lonesome and doleful places, if one
puts up a cross or a shrine, they know they have to go."
"I am thinking," said Agnes, "it would be a blessed work to put up some
shrines to Saint Agnes and our good Lord in the gorge, and I'll promise
to keep the lamps burning and the flowers in order."
"Bless the child!" said Jocunda, "that is a pious and Christian
"I have an uncle in Florence who is a father in the holy convent of San
Marco, who paints and works in stone,--not for money, but for the glory
of God; and when he comes this way I will speak to him about it," said
Agnes. "About this time in the spring he always visits us."
"That's mighty well thought of," said Jocunda. "And now, tell me, little
lamb, have you any idea who this grand cavalier may be that gave you the
"No," said Agnes, pausing a moment over the garland of flowers she was
weaving,--"only Giulietta told me that he was brother to the King.
Giulietta said everybody knew him."
"I'm not so sure of that," said Jocunda. "Giulietta always thinks she
knows more than she does."
"Whatever he may be, his worldly state is nothing to me," said Agnes. "I
know him only in my prayers."
"Ay, ay," muttered the old woman to herself, looking obliquely out of
the corner of her eye at the girl, who was busily sorting her flowers;
"perhaps he will be seeking some other acquaintance."
"You haven't seen him since?" said Jocunda.
"Seen him? Why, dear Jocunda, it was only last evening"--
"True enough. Well, child, don't think too much of him. Men are dreadful
creatures,--in these times especially; they snap up a pretty girl as a
fox does a chicken, and no questions asked."
"I don't think he looked wicked, Jocunda; he had a proud, sorrowful
look. I don't know what could make a rich, handsome young man sorrowful;
but I feel in my heart that he is not happy. Mother Theresa says that
those who can do nothing but pray may convert princes without knowing
"May be it is so," said Jocunda, in the same tone in which thrifty
professors of religion often assent to the same sort of truths in our
days. "I've seen a good deal of that sort of cattle in my day; and one
would think, by their actions, that praying souls must be scarce where
they came from."
Agnes abstractedly stooped and began plucking handfuls of lycopodium,
which was growing green and feathery on one side of the marble frieze on
which she was sitting; in so doing, a fragment of white marble, which
had been overgrown in the luxuriant green, appeared to view. It was
that frequent object in the Italian soil,--a portion of an old Roman
tombstone. Agnes bent over, intent on the mystic "_Dis Manibus_" in old
"Lord bless the child! I've seen thousands of them," said Jocunda; "it's
some old heathen's grave, that's been in hell these hundred years."
"In hell?" said Agnes, with a distressful accent.
"Of course," said Jocunda. "Where should they be? Serves 'em right, too;
they were a vile old set."
"Oh, Jocunda, it's dreadful to think of, that they should have been in
hell all this time."
"And no nearer the end than when they began," said Jocunda.
Agnes gave a shivering sigh, and, looking up into the golden sky that
was pouring such floods of splendor through the orange-trees and
jasmines, thought, How could it be that the world could possibly be
going on so sweet and fair over such an abyss?
"Oh, Jocunda!" she said, "it does seem _too_ dreadful to believe! How
could they help being heathen,--being born so,--and never hearing of the
"Sure enough," said Jocunda, spinning away energetically, "but that's no
business of mine; my business is to save _my_ soul, and that's what I
came here for. The dear saints know I found it dull enough at first, for
I'd been used to jaunting round with my old man and the boys; but what
with marketing and preserving, and one thing and another, I get on
better now, praise to Saint Agnes!"
The large, dark eyes of Agnes were fixed abstractedly on the old woman
as she spoke, slowly dilating, with a sad, mysterious expression, which
sometimes came over them.
"Ah! how can the saints themselves be happy?" she said. "One might be
willing to wear sackcloth and sleep on the ground, one might suffer ever
so many years and years, if only one might save some of them."
"Well, it does seem hard," said Jocunda; "but what's the use of thinking
of it? Old Father Anselmo told us in one of his sermons that the Lord
wills that his saints should come to rejoice in the punishment of all
heathens and heretics; and he told us about a great saint once, who took
it into his head to be distressed because one of the old heathen whose
books he was fond of reading had gone to hell,--and he fasted and
prayed, and wouldn't take no for an answer, till he got him out."
"He did, then?" said Agnes, clasping her hands in an ecstasy.
"Yes; but the good Lord told him never to try it again,--and He struck
him dumb, as a kind of hint, you know. Why, Father Anselmo said that
even getting souls out of purgatory was no easy matter. He told us of
one holy nun who spent nine years fasting and praying for the soul of
her prince, who was killed in a duel, and then she saw in a vision
that he was only raised the least little bit out of the fire,--and she
offered up her life as a sacrifice to the Lord to deliver him, but,
after all, when she died he wasn't quite delivered. Such things made me
think that a poor old sinner like me would never get out at all, if I
didn't set about it in earnest,--though it a'n't all nuns that save
their souls either. I remember in Pisa I saw a great picture of the
Judgment-Day in the Campo Santo, and there were lots of abbesses, and
nuns, and monks, and bishops too, that the devils were clearing off into
"Oh, Jocunda, how dreadful that fire must be!"
"Yes," said Jocunda. "Father Anselmo said hell-fire wasn't like any kind
of fire we have here,--made to warm us and cook our food,--but a kind
made especially to torment body and soul, and not made for anything
else. I remember a story he told us about that. You see, there was an
old duchess that lived in a grand old castle,--and a proud, wicked old
thing enough; and her son brought home a handsome young bride to the
castle, and the old duchess was jealous of her,--'cause, you see, she
hated to give up her place in the house, and the old family-jewels, and
all the splendid things,--and so one time, when the poor young thing was
all dressed up in a set of the old family-lace, what does the old hag do
but set fire to it!"
"How horrible!" said Agnes.
"Yes; and when the young thing ran screaming in her agony, the old hag
stopped her and tore off a pearl rosary that she was wearing, for fear
it should be spoiled by the fire."
"Holy Mother! can such things be possible?" said Agnes.
"Well, you see, she got her pay for it. That rosary was of famous old
pearls that had been in the family a hundred years; but from that moment
the good Lord struck it with a curse, and filled it white-hot with
hell-fire, so that, if anybody held it a few minutes in their hand, it
would burn to the bone. The old sinner made believe that she was in
great affliction for the death of her daughter-in-law, and that it was
all an accident, and the poor young man went raving mad,--but that awful
rosary the old hag couldn't get rid of. She couldn't give it away,--she
couldn't sell it,--but back it would come every night, and lie right
over her heart, all white-hot with the fire that burned in it. She gave
it to a convent, and she sold it to a merchant, but back it came; and
she locked it up in the heaviest chests, and she buried it down in the
lowest vaults, but it always came back in the night, till she was worn
to a skeleton; and at last the old thing died without confession or
sacrament, and went where she belonged. She was found lying dead in her
bed one morning, and the rosary was gone; but when they came to lay her
out, they found the marks of it burned to the bone into her breast.
Father Anselmo used to tell us this, to show us a little what hell-fire
"Oh, please, Jocunda, don't let us talk about it any more," said Agnes.
Old Jocunda, with her tough, vigorous organization and unceremonious
habits of expression, could not conceive the exquisite pain with which
this whole conversation had vibrated on the sensitive being at her right
hand,--that what merely awoke her hard-corded nerves to a dull vibration
of not unpleasant excitement was shivering and tearing the tenderer
chords of poor little Psyche beside her.
Ages before, beneath those very skies that smiled so sweetly over
her,--amid the bloom of lemon and citron, and the perfume of jasmine and
rose, the gentlest of old Italian souls had dreamed and wondered what
might be the unknown future of the dead, and, learning his lesson from
the glorious skies and gorgeous shores which witnessed how magnificent a
Being had given existence to man, had recorded his hopes of man's future
in the words--_Aut beatus, aut nihil_; but, singular to tell, the
religion which brought with it all human tenderness and pities,--the
hospital for the sick, the refuge for the orphan, the enfranchisement
of the slave,--this religion brought also the news of the eternal,
hopeless, living torture of the great majority of mankind, past and
present. Tender spirits, like those of Dante, carried this awful mystery
as a secret and unexplained anguish; saints wrestled with God and
wept over it; but still the awful fact remained, spite of Church and
sacrament, that the gospel was in effect, to the majority of the human
race, not the glad tidings of salvation, but the sentence of immitigable
The present traveller in Italy sees with disgust the dim and faded
frescoes in which this doom is portrayed in all its varied refinements
of torture; and the vivid Italian mind ran riot in these lurid fields,
and every monk who wanted to move his audience was in his small way a
Dante. The poet and the artist give only the highest form of the ideas
of their day, and he who cannot read the "Inferno" with firm nerves may
ask what the same representations were likely to have been in the grasp
of coarse and common minds.
The first teachers of Christianity in Italy read the Gospels by the
light of those fiendish fires which consumed their fellows. Daily made
familiar with the scorching, the searing, the racking, the devilish
ingenuities of torture, they transferred them to the future hell of the
torturers. The sentiment within us which asserts eternal justice and
retribution was stimulated to a kind of madness by that first baptism of
fire and blood, and expanded the simple and grave warnings of the gospel
into a lurid poetry of physical torture. Hence, while Christianity
brought multiplied forms of mercy into the world, it failed for many
centuries to humanize the savage forms of justice; and rack and wheel,
fire and fagot were the modes by which human justice aspired to a
faint imitation of what divine justice was supposed to extend through
But it is remarkable always to observe the power of individual minds
to draw out of the popular religious ideas of their country only those
elements which suit themselves, and to drop others from their thought.
As a bee can extract pure honey from the blossoms of some plants whose
leaves are poisonous, so some souls can nourish themselves only with the
holier and more ethereal parts of popular belief.
Agnes had hitherto dwelt only on the cheering and the joyous features of
her faith; her mind loved to muse on the legends of saints and angels
and the glories of paradise, which, with a secret buoyancy, she hoped to
be the lot of every one she saw. The mind of the Mother Theresa was of
the same elevated cast, and the terrors on which Jocunda dwelt with such
homely force of language seldom made a part of her instructions.
Agnes tried to dismiss these gloomy images from her mind, and, after
arranging her garlands, went to decorate the shrine and altar,--a
cheerful labor of love, in which she delighted.
To the mind of the really spiritual Christian of those ages the air of
this lower world was not as it is to us, in spite of our nominal faith
in the Bible, a blank, empty space from which all spiritual sympathy
and life have fled, but, like the atmosphere with which Raphael has
surrounded the Sistine Madonna, it was full of sympathizing faces, a
great "cloud of witnesses." The holy dead were not gone from earth;
the Church visible and invisible were in close, loving, and constant
sympathy,--still loving, praying, and watching together, though with a
It was at first with no idolatrous intention that the prayers of the
holy dead were invoked in acts of worship. Their prayers were asked
simply because they were felt to be as really present with their former
friends and as truly sympathetic as if no veil of silence had fallen
between. In time this simple belief had its intemperate and idolatrous
exaggerations,--the Italian soil always seeming to have a fiery
and volcanic forcing power, by which religious ideas overblossomed
themselves, and grew wild and ragged with too much enthusiasm; and, as
so often happens with friends on earth, these too much loved and revered
invisible friends became eclipsing screens instead of transmitting
mediums of God's light to the soul.
Yet we can see in the hymns of Savonarola, who perfectly represented the
attitude of the highest Christian of those times, how perfect might
be the love and veneration for departed saints without lapsing into
idolatry, and with what an atmosphere of warmth and glory the true
belief of the unity of the Church, visible and invisible, could inspire
an elevated soul amid the discouragements of an unbelieving and
Our little Agnes, therefore, when she had spread all her garlands out,
seemed really to feel as if the girlish figure that smiled in sacred
white from the altar-piece was a dear friend who smiled upon her, and
was watching to lead her up the path to heaven.
Pleasantly passed the hours of that day to the girl, and when at evening
old Elsie called for her, she wondered that the day had gone so fast.
Old Elsie returned with no inconsiderable triumph from her stand. The
cavalier had been several times during the day past her stall, and once,
stopping in a careless way to buy fruit, commented on the absence of
her young charge. This gave Elsie the highest possible idea of her own
sagacity and shrewdness, and of the promptitude with which she had taken
her measures, so that she was in as good spirits as people commonly are
who think they have performed some stroke of generalship.
As the old woman and young girl emerged from the dark-vaulted passage
that led them down through the rocks on which the convent stood to the
sea at its base, the light of a most glorious sunset burst upon them, in
all those strange and magical mysteries of light which any one who has
walked that beach of Sorrento at evening will never forget.
Agnes ran along the shore, and amused herself with picking up little
morsels of red and black coral, and those fragments of mosaic pavements,
blue, red, and green, which the sea is never tired of casting up from
the thousands of ancient temples and palaces which have gone to wreck
all around these shores.
As she was busy doing this, she suddenly heard the voice of Giulietta
"So ho, Agnes! where have you been all day?"
"At the Convent," said Agnes, raising herself from her work, and smiling
at Giulietta, in her frank, open way.
"Oh, then you really did take the ring to Saint Agnes?"
"To be sure I did," said Agnes.
"Simple child!" said Giulietta, laughing; "that wasn't what he meant you
to do with it. He meant it for you,--only your grandmother was by. You
never will have any lovers, if she keeps you so tight."
"I can do without," said Agnes.
"I could tell you something about this one," said Giulietta.
"You did tell me something yesterday," said Agnes.
"But I could tell you some more. I know he wants to see you again."
"What for?" said Agnes.
"Simpleton, he's in love with you. You never had a lover;--it's time you
"I don't want one, Giulietta. I hope I never shall see him again."
"Oh, nonsense, Agnes! Why, what a girl you are! Why, before I was as old
as you I had half-a-dozen lovers."
"Agnes," said the sharp voice of Elsie, coming up from behind, "don't
run on ahead of me again;--and you, Mistress Baggage, let my child
"Who's touching your child?" said Giulietta, scornfully. "Can't a body
say a civil word to her?"
"I know what you would be after," said Elsie,--"filling her head with
talk of all the wild, loose gallants; but she is for no such market, I
promise you! Come, Agnes."
So saying, old Elsie drew Agnes rapidly along with her, leaving
Giulietta rolling her great black eyes after them with an air of
"The old kite!" she said; "I declare he shall get speech of the little
dove, if only to spite her. Let her try her best, and see if we don't
get round her before she knows it. Pietro says his master is certainly
wild after her, and I have promised to help him."
Meanwhile, just as old Elsie and Agnes were turning into the
orange-orchard which led into the Gorge of Sorrento, they met the
cavalier of the evening before.
He stopped, and, removing his cap, saluted them with as much deference
as if they had been princesses. Old Elsie frowned, and Agnes blushed
deeply;--both hurried forward. Looking back, the old woman saw that he
was walking slowly behind them, evidently watching them closely, yet not
in a way sufficiently obtrusive to warrant an open rebuff.
Nothing can be more striking, in common Italian life, than the contrast
between out-doors and in-doors. Without, all is fragrant and radiant;
within, mouldy, dark, and damp. Except in the well-kept palaces of the
great, houses in Italy are more like dens than habitations, and a sight
of them is a sufficient reason to the mind of any inquirer, why their
vivacious and handsome inhabitants spend their life principally in the
open air. Nothing could be more perfectly paradisiacal than this evening
at Sorrento. The sun had sunk, but left the air full of diffused
radiance, which trembled and vibrated over the thousand many-colored
waves of the sea. The moon was riding in a broad zone of purple, low
in the horizon, her silver forehead somewhat flushed in the general
rosiness that seemed to penetrate and suffuse every object. The
fishermen, who were drawing in their nets, gayly singing, seemed to
be floating on a violet-and-gold-colored flooring that broke into a
thousand gems at every dash of the oar or motion of the boat. The old
stone statue of Saint Antonio looked down in the rosy air, itself tinged
and brightened by the magical colors which floated round it. And the
girls and men of Sorrento gathered in gossiping knots on the old Roman
bridge that spanned the gorge, looked idly down into its dusky shadows,
talking the while, and playing the time-honored game of flirtation which
has gone on in all climes and languages since man and woman began.
Conspicuous among them all was Giulietta, her blue-black hair recently
braided and polished to a glossy radiance, and all her costume arranged
to show her comely proportions to the best advantage,--her great pearl
ear-rings shaking as she tossed her head, and showing the flash of
the emerald in the middle of them. An Italian peasant-woman may trust
Providence for her gown, but ear-rings she attends to herself,--for what
is life without them? The great pearl ear-rings of the Sorrento women
are accumulated, pearl by pearl, as the price of years of labor.
Giulietta, however, had come into the world, so to speak, with a gold
spoon in her mouth,--since her grandmother, a thriving, stirring,
energetic body, had got together a pair of ear-rings of unmatched size,
which had descended as heirlooms to her, leaving her nothing to do but
display them, which she did with the freest good-will. At present she
was busily occupied in coquetting with a tall and jauntily-dressed
fellow, wearing a plumed hat and a red sash, who seemed to be mesmerized
by the power of her charms, his large dark eyes following every
movement, as she now talked with him gayly and freely, and now pretended
errands to this and that and the other person on the bridge, stationing
herself here and there, that she might have the pleasure of seeing
"Giulietta," at last said the young man, earnestly, when he found her
accidentally standing alone by the parapet, "I must be going to-morrow."
"Well, what is that to me?" said Giulietta, looking wickedly from under
"Cruel girl! you know"----
"Nonsense, Pietro! I don't know anything about you"; but as Giulietta
said this, her great, soft, dark eyes looked out furtively, and said
just the contrary.
"You will go with me?"
"Did I ever hear anything like it? One can't be civil to a fellow but he
asks her to go to the world's end. Pray, how far is it to your dreadful
"Only two days' journey, Giulietta."
"Yes, my life; and you shall ride."
"Thank you, Sir,--I wasn't thinking of walking. But seriously, Pietro, I
am afraid it's no place for an honest girl to be in."
"There are lots of honest women there,--all our men have wives; and our
captain has put his eye on one, too, or I'm mistaken."
"What! little Agnes?" said Giulietta. "He will be bright that gets her.
That old dragon of a grandmother is as tight to her as her skin."
"Our captain is used to helping himself," said Pietro. "We might carry
them both off some night, and no one the wiser; but he seems to want to
win the girl to come to him of her own accord. At any rate, we are to
be sent back to the mountains while he lingers a day or two more round
"I declare, Pietro, I think you all little better than Turks or
heathens, to talk in that way about carrying off women; and what if one
should be sick and die among you? What is to become of one's soul, I
"Pshaw! don't we have priests? Why, Giulietta, we are all very pious,
and never think of going out without saying our prayers. The Madonna is
a kind Mother, and will wink very hard on the sins of such good sons as
we are. There isn't a place in all Italy where she is kept better in
candles, and in rings and bracelets, and everything a woman could want.
We never come home without bringing her something; and then we have lots
left to dress all our women like princesses; and they have nothing to do
from morning till night but play the lady. Come now?"
At the moment this conversation was going on in the balmy, seductive
evening air at the bridge, another was transpiring in the Albergo della
Torre, one of those dark, musty dens of which we have been speaking.
In a damp, dirty chamber, whose brick floor seemed to have been
unsuspicious of even the existence of brooms for centuries, was sitting
the cavalier whom we have so often named in connection with Agnes. His
easy, high-bred air, his graceful, flexible form and handsome face
formed a singular contrast to the dark and mouldy apartment, at whose
single unglazed window he was sitting. The sight of this splendid man
gave an impression of strangeness, in the general bareness, much as if
some marvellous jewel had been unaccountably found lying on that dusty
He sat deep in thought, with his elbow resting on a rickety table, his
large, piercing, dark eyes seeming intently to study the pavement.
The door opened, and a gray-headed old man entered, who approached him
"Well, Paolo?" said the cavalier, suddenly starting.
"My Lord, the men are all going back to-night."
"Let them go, then," said the cavalier, with an impatient movement. "I
can follow in a day or two."
"Ah, my Lord, if I might make so bold, why should you expose your person
by staying longer? You may be recognized and"----
"No danger," said the other, hastily.
"My Lord, you must forgive me, but I promised my dear lady, your mother,
on her death-bed"----
"To be a constant plague to me," said the cavalier, with a vexed smile
and an impatient movement; "but speak on, Paolo,--for when you once get
anything on your mind, one may as well hear it first as last."
"Well, then, my Lord, this girl,--I have made inquiries, and every one
reports her most modest and pious,--the only grandchild of a poor old
woman. Is it worthy of a great lord of an ancient house to bring her to
"Who thinks of bringing her to shame? 'Lord of an ancient house'!"
added the cavalier, laughing bitterly,--"a landless beggar, cast out of
everything,--titles, estates, all! Am I, then, fallen so low that my
wooing would disgrace a peasant-girl?"
"My Lord, you cannot mean to woo a peasant-girl in any other way than
one that would disgrace her,--one of the House of Sarelli, that goes
back to the days of the old Roman Empire!"
"And what of the 'House of Sarelli that goes back to the days of the old
Roman Empire'? It is lying like weeds' roots uppermost in the burning
sun. What is left to me but the mountains and my sword? No, I tell
you, Paolo, Agostino Sarelli, cavalier of fortune, is not thinking of
bringing disgrace on a pious and modest maiden, unless it would disgrace
her to be his wife."
"Now may the saints above help us! Why, my Lord, our house in days past
has been allied to royal blood. I could tell you how Joachim VI."--
"Come, come, my good Paolo, spare me one of your chapters of genealogy.
The fact is, my old boy, the world is all topsy-turvy, and the bottom is
the top, and it isn't much matter what comes next. Here are shoals
of noble families uprooted and lying round like those aloes that the
gardener used to throw over the wall in spring-time; and there is that
great boar of a Caesar Borgia turned in to batten and riot over our
"Oh, my Lord," said the old serving-man, with a distressful movement,
"we have fallen on evil times, to be sure, and they say his Holiness has
excommunicated us. Anselmo heard that in Naples yesterday."
"Excommunicated!" said the young man,--every feature of his fine face,
and every nerve of his graceful form seeming to quiver with the effort
to express supreme contempt. "Excommunicated! I should _hope_ so! One
would hope through Our Lady's grace to act so that Alexander, and his
adulterous, incestuous, filthy, false-swearing, perjured, murderous
crew, _would_ excommunicate us! In these times, one's only hope of
paradise lies in being excommunicated."
"Oh, my dear master," said the old man, falling on his knees, "what is
to become of us? That I should live to hear you talk like an infidel and
"Why, hear you, poor old fool! Did you never hear in Dante of the Popes
that are burning in hell? Wasn't Dante a Christian, I beg to know?"
"Oh, my Lord, my Lord! a religion got out of poetry, books, and romances
won't do to die by. We have no business with the affairs of the Head of
the Church,--it's the Lord's appointment. We have only to shut our eyes
and obey. It may all do well enough to talk so when you are young and
fresh; but when sickness and death come, then we _must_ have religion,--
and if we have gone out of the only true Roman Catholic Apostolic
Church, what becomes of our souls? Ah, I misdoubted about your taking so
much to poetry, though my poor mistress was so proud of it; but these
poets are all heretics, my Lord,--that's my firm belief. But, my Lord,
if you do go to hell, I'm going there with you; I'm sure I never could
show my face among the saints, and you not there."
"Well, come, then, my poor Paolo," said the cavalier, stretching out his
hand to his serving-man, "don't take it to heart so. Many a better man
than I has been excommunicated and cursed from toe to crown, and been
never a whit the worse for it. There's Jerome Savonarola there in
Florence--a most holy man, they say, who has had revelations straight
from heaven--has been excommunicated; but he preaches and gives the
sacraments all the same, and nobody minds it."
"Well, it's all a maze to me," said the old serving-man, shaking his
white head. "I can't see into it, I don't dare to open my eyes for fear
I should get to be a heretic; it seems to me that everything is getting
mixed up together. But one must hold on to one's religion; because,
after we have lost everything in this world, it would be too bad to burn
in hell forever at the end of that."
"Why, Paolo, I am a good Christian. I believe, with all my heart, in the
Christian religion, like the fellow in Boccaccio,--because I think it
must be from God, or else the Popes and Cardinals would have had it out
of the world long ago. Nothing but the Lord Himself could have kept it
"There you are, my dear master, with your romances! Well, well, well! I
don't know how it'll end. I say my prayers, and try not to inquire into
what's too high for me. But now, dear master, will you stay lingering
after this girl till some of our enemies hear where you are and pounce
down upon us? Besides, the troop are never so well affected when you are
away; there are quarrels and divisions."
"Well, well," said the cavalier, with an impatient movement,--"one day
longer. I must get a chance to speak with her once more. I _must_ see
* * * * *
SUN-PAINTING AND SUN-SCULPTURE;
WITH A STEREOSCOPIC TRIP ACROSS THE ATLANTIC.
There is one old fable which Lord Bacon, in his "Wisdom of the
Ancients," has not interpreted. This is the flaying of Marsyas by
Apollo. Everybody remembers the accepted version of it, namely,--that
the young shepherd found Minerva's flute, and was rash enough to enter
into a musical contest with the God of Music. He was vanquished, of
course,--and the story is, that the victor fastened him to a tree and
flayed him alive.
But the God of Song was also the God of Light, and a moment's reflection
reveals the true significance of this seemingly barbarous story. Apollo
was pleased with his young rival, fixed him in position against an iron
rest, (the _tree_ of the fable,) and took a _photograph_, a sun-picture,
of him. This thin film or _skin_ of light and shade was absurdly
interpreted as being the _cutis_, or untanned leather integument of the
young shepherd. The human discovery of the art of photography enables us
to rectify the error and restore that important article of clothing to
the youth, as well as to vindicate the character of Apollo. There is
one spot less upon the sun since the theft from heaven of Prometheus
Daguerre and his fellow-adventurers has enabled us to understand the
We are now flaying our friends and submitting to be flayed ourselves,
every few years or months or days, by the aid of the trenchant sunbeam
which performed the process for Marsyas. All the world has to submit to
it,--kings and queens with the rest. The monuments of Art and the face
of Nature herself are treated in the same way. We lift an impalpable
scale from the surface of the Pyramids. We slip off from the dome of St.
Peter's that other imponderable dome which fitted it so closely that it
betrays every scratch on the original. We skim off a thin, dry cuticle
from the rapids of Niagara, and lay it on our unmoistened paper without
breaking a bubble or losing a speck of foam. We steal a landscape from
its lawful owners, and defy the charge of dishonesty. We skin the flints
by the wayside, and nobody accuses us of meanness.
These miracles are being worked all around us so easily and so cheaply
that most people have ceased to think of them as marvels. There is a
photographer established in every considerable village,--nay, one may
not unfrequently see a photographic _ambulance_ standing at the wayside
upon some vacant lot where it can squat unchallenged in the midst of
burdock and plantain and apple-Peru, or making a long halt in the middle
of a common by special permission of the "Selectmen."
We must not forget the inestimable preciousness of the new Promethean
gifts because they have become familiar. Think first of the privilege we
all possess now of preserving the lineaments and looks of those dear to
"Blest be the art which can immortalize,"
said Cowper. But remember how few painted portraits really give their
subjects. Recollect those wandering Thugs of Art whose murderous doings
with the brush used frequently to involve whole families; who passed
from one country tavern to another, eating and painting their
way,--feeding a week upon the landlord, another week upon the landlady,
and two or three days apiece upon the children; as the walls of those
hospitable edifices too frequently testify even to the present day. Then
see what faithful memorials of those whom we love and would remember are
put into our hands by the new art, with the most trifling expenditure of
time and money.
This new art is old enough already to have given us the portraits of
infants who are now growing into adolescence. By-and-by it will show
every aspect of life in the same individual, from the earliest week to
the last year of senility. We are beginning to see what it will reveal.
Children grow into beauty and out of it. The first line in the forehead,
the first streak in the hair are chronicled without malice, but without
extenuation. The footprints of thought, of passion, of purpose are all
treasured in these fossilized shadows. Family-traits show themselves in
early infancy, die out, and reappear. Flitting moods which have escaped
one pencil of sunbeams are caught by another. Each new picture gives us
a new aspect of our friend; we find he had not one face, but many.
It is hardly too much to say, that those whom we love no longer leave us
in dying, as they did of old. They remain with us just as they appeared
in life; they look down upon us from our walls; they lie upon our
tables; they rest upon our bosoms; nay, if we will, we may wear their
portraits, like signet-rings, upon our fingers. Our own eyes lose the
images pictured on them. Parents sometimes forget the faces of their own
children in a separation of a year or two. But the unfading artificial
retina which has looked upon them retains their impress, and a fresh
sunbeam lays this on the living nerve as if it were radiated from the
breathing shape. How these shadows last, and how their originals fade
What is true of the faces of our friends is still more true of the
places we have seen and loved. No picture produces an impression on the
imagination to compare with a photographic transcript of the home of our
childhood, or any scene with which we have been long familiar. The very
point which the artist omits, in his effort to produce general effect,
may be exactly the one that individualizes the place most strongly to
our memory. There, for instance, is a photographic view of our own
birthplace, and with it of a part of our good old neighbor's dwelling.
An artist would hardly have noticed a slender, dry, leafless stalk which
traces a faint line, as you may see, along the front of our neighbor's
house next the corner. That would be nothing to him,--but to us it marks
the stem of the _honeysuckle-vine_, which we remember, with its pink
and white heavy-scented blossoms, as long as we remember the stars in
To this charm of fidelity in the minutest details the stereoscope adds
its astonishing illusion of solidity, and thus completes the effect
which so entrances the imagination. Perhaps there is also some
half-magnetic effect in the fixing of the eyes on the twin
pictures,--something like Mr. Braid's _hypnotism_, of which many of our
readers have doubtless heard. At least the shutting out of surrounding
objects, and the concentration of the whole attention, which is a
consequence of this, produce a dream-like exaltation of the faculties, a
kind of clairvoyance, in which we seem to leave the body behind us
and sail away into one strange scene after another, like disembodied
"Ah, yes," some unimaginative reader may say; "but there is no color and
no motion in these pictures you think so life-like; and at best they are
but petty miniatures of the objects we see in Nature."
But color is, after all, a very secondary quality as compared with form.
We like a good crayon portrait better for the most part in black and
white than in tints of pink and blue and brown. Mr. Gibson has never
succeeded in making the world like his flesh-colored statues. The color
of a landscape varies perpetually, with the season, with the hour of the
day, with the weather, and as seen by sunlight or moonlight; yet our
home stirs us with its old associations, seen in any and every light.
As to motion, though of course it is not present in stereoscopic
pictures, except in those toy-contrivances which have been lately
introduced, yet it is wonderful to see how nearly the effect of motion
is produced by the slight difference of light on the water or on the
leaves of trees as seen by the two eyes in the double-picture.
And lastly with respect to size, the illusion is on the part of those
who suppose that the eye, unaided, ever sees anything but miniatures
of objects. Here is a new experiment to convince those who have not
reflected on the subject that the stereoscope shows us objects of their
We had a stereoscopic view taken by Mr. Soule out of our parlor-window,
overlooking the town of Cambridge, with the river and the bridge in the
foreground. Now, placing this view in the stereoscope, and looking with
the left eye at the right stereographic picture, while the right eye
looked at the natural landscape, through the window where the view was
taken, it was not difficult so to adjust the photographic and real views
that one overlapped the other, and then it was shown that the two almost
exactly coincided in all their dimensions.
Another point in which the stereograph differs from every other
delineation is in the character of its evidence. A simple photographic
picture may be tampered with. A lady's portrait has been known to come
out of the finishing-artist's room ten years younger than when it left
the camera. But try to mend a stereograph and you will soon find the
difference. Your marks and patches float above the picture and never
identify themselves with it. We had occasion to put a little cross on
the pavement of a double photograph of Canterbury Cathedral,--copying
another stereoscopic picture where it was thus marked. By careful
management the two crosses were made perfectly to coincide in the field
of vision, but the image seemed suspended above the pavement, and did
not absolutely designate any one stone, as it would have done, if it
had been a part of the original picture. The impossibility of the
stereograph's perjuring itself is a curious illustration of the law of
evidence. "At the mouth of _two witnesses_, or of three, shall he that
is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one he shall not
be put to death." No woman may be declared youthful on the strength of a
single photograph; but if the stereoscopic twins say she is young, let
her be so acknowledged in the high court of chancery of the God of Love.
Some two or three years since, we called the attention of the readers
of this magazine to the subject of the stereoscope and the stereograph.
Some of our expressions may have seemed extravagant, as if heated by the
interest which a curious novelty might not unnaturally excite. We have
not lost any of the enthusiasm and delight which that article must have
betrayed. After looking over perhaps a hundred thousand stereographs
and making a collection of about a thousand, we should feel the same
excitement on receiving a new lot to look over and select from as
in those early days of our experience. To make sure that this early
interest has not cooled, let us put on record one or two convictions of
the present moment.
First, as to the wonderful nature of the invention. If a strange planet
should happen to come within hail, and one of its philosophers were to
ask us, as it passed, to hand him the most remarkable material product
of human skill, we should offer him, without a moment's hesitation, a
stereoscope containing an _instantaneous_ double-view of some great
thoroughfare,--one of Mr. Anthony's views of Broadway, (No. 203,) for
Secondly, of all artificial contrivances for the gratification of human
taste, we seriously question whether any offers so much, on the whole,
to the enjoyment of the civilized races as the self-picturing of Art
and Nature,--with three exceptions: namely, dress, the most universal,
architecture, the most imposing, and music, the most exciting, of
factitious sources of pleasure.
No matter whether this be an extravagance or an over-statement; none
can dispute that we have a new and wonderful source of pleasure in
the sun-picture, and especially in the solid sun-_sculptures_ of the
stereograph. Yet there is a strange indifference to it, even up to the
present moment, among many persons of cultivation and taste. They do not
seem to have waked up to the significance of the miracle which the Lord
of Light is working for them. The cream of the visible creation has been
skimmed off; and the sights which men risk their lives and spend their
money and endure sea-sickness to behold,--the views of Nature and Art
which make exiles of entire families for the sake of a look at them,
and render "bronchitis" and dyspepsia, followed by leave of absence,
endurable dispensations to so many worthy shepherds,--these sights,
gathered from Alps, temples, palaces, pyramids, are offered you for
a trifle, to carry home with you, that you may look at them at your
leisure, by your fireside, with perpetual fair weather, when you are in
the mood, without catching cold, without following a _valet-de-place_,
in any order of succession,--from a glacier to Vesuvius, from Niagara
to Memphis,--as long as you like, and breaking off as suddenly as you
like;--and you, native of this incomparably dull planet, have hardly
troubled yourself to look at this divine gift, which, if an angel had
brought it from some sphere nearer to the central throne, would have
been thought worthy of the celestial messenger to whom it was intrusted!
It seemed to us that it might possibly awaken an interest in some of our
readers, if we should carry them with us through a brief stereographic
trip,--describing, not from places, but from the photographic pictures
of them which we have in our own collection. Again, those who have
collections may like to compare their own opinions of particular
pictures mentioned with those here expressed, and those who are buying
stereographs may be glad of some guidance in choosing.
But the reader must remember that this trip gives him only a glimpse of
a few scenes selected out of our gallery of a thousand. To visit them
all, as tourists visit the realities, and report what we saw, with the
usual explanations and historical illustrations, would make a formidable
book of travels.
Before we set out, we must know something of the sights of our own
country. At least we must see Niagara. The great fall shows infinitely
best on glass. Thomson's "Point View, 28," would be a perfect picture of
the Falls in summer, if a lady in the foreground had not moved her shawl
while the pictures were taking, or in the interval between taking the
two. His winter view, "Terrapin Tower, 37," is perfection itself. Both
he and Evans have taken fine views of the rapids, _instantaneous_,
catching the spray as it leaped and the clouds overhead. Of Blondin on
his rope there are numerous views; standing on one foot, on his head,
carrying a man on his back, and one frightful picture, where he hangs by
one leg, head downward, over the abyss. The best we have seen is Evans's
No. 5, a front view, where every muscle stands out in perfect relief,
and the symmetry of the most unimpressible of mortals is finely shown.
It literally makes the head swim to fix the eyes on some of these
pictures. It is a relief to get away from such fearful sights and look
up at the Old Man of the Mountain. There stands the face, without any
humanizing help from the hand of an artist. Mr. Bierstadt has given it
to us very well. Rather an imbecile old gentleman, one would say,
with his mouth open; a face such as one may see hanging about
railway-stations, and, what is curious, a New-England style of
countenance. Let us flit again, and just take a look at the level sheets
of water and broken falls of Trenton,--at the oblong, almost squared
arch of the Natural Bridge,--at the ruins of the Pemberton Mills, still
smoking,--and so come to Mr. Barnum's "Historical Series." Clark's
Island, with the great rock by which the Pilgrims "rested, according to
the commandment," on the first Sunday, or Sabbath, as they loved to call
it, which they passed in the harbor of Plymouth, is the most interesting
of them all to us. But here are many scenes of historical interest
connected with the great names and events of our past. The Washington
Elm, at Cambridge, (through the branches of which we saw the first
sunset we ever looked upon, from this planet, at least,) is here in all
its magnificent drapery of hanging foliage. Mr. Soule has given another
beautiful view of it, when stripped of its leaves, equally remarkable
for the delicacy of its pendent, hair-like spray.
We should keep the reader half an hour looking through this series,
if we did not tear ourselves abruptly away from it. We are bound for
Europe, and are to leave _via_ New York immediately.
Here we are in the main street of the great city. This is Mr. Anthony's
miraculous instantaneous view in Broadway, (No. 203,) before referred
to. It is the Oriental story of the petrified city made real to our
eyes. The character of it is, perhaps, best shown by the use we make of
it in our lectures, to illustrate the physiology of walking. Every foot
is caught in its movement with such suddenness that it shows as clearly
as if quite still. We are surprised to see, in one figure, how long the
stride is,--in another, how much the knee is bent,--in a third, how
curiously the heel strikes the ground before the rest of the foot,--in
all, how singularly the body is accommodated to the action of walking.
The facts which the brothers Weber, laborious German experimenters and
observers, had carefully worked out on the bony frame, are illustrated
by the various individuals comprising this moving throng. But what a
wonder it is, this snatch at the central life of a mighty city as it
rushed by in all its multitudinous complexity of movement! Hundreds of
objects in this picture could be identified in a court of law by their
owners. There stands Car No. 33 of the Astor House and Twenty-Seventh
Street Fourth Avenue line. The old woman would miss an apple from that
pile which you see glistening on her stand. The young man whose back is
to us could swear to the pattern of his shawl. The gentleman between two
others will no doubt remember that he had a headache the next morning,
after this walk he is taking. Notice the caution with which the man
driving the dapple-gray horse in a cart loaded with barrels holds his
reins,--wide apart, one in each hand. See the shop-boys with their
bundles, the young fellow with a lighted cigar in his hand, as you see
by the way he keeps it off from his body, the _gamin_ stooping to
pick up something in the midst of the moving omnibuses, the stout
philosophical carman sitting on his cart-tail, Newman Noggs by the
lamp-post at the corner. Nay, look into Car No. 33 and you may see the
passengers;--is that a young woman's face turned toward you looking
out of the window? See how the faithful sun-print advertises the rival
establishment of "Meade Brothers, Ambrotypes and Photographs." What a
fearfully suggestive picture! It is a leaf torn from the book of God's
recording angel. What if the sky is one great concave mirror, which
reflects the picture of all our doings, and photographs every act on
which it looks upon dead and living surfaces, so that to celestial eyes
the stones on which we tread are written with our deeds, and the leaves
of the forest are but undeveloped negatives where our summers stand
self-recorded for transfer into the imperishable record? And what a
metaphysical puzzle have we here in this simple-looking paradox! Is
motion but a succession of rests? All is still in this picture of
universal movement. Take ten thousand instantaneous photographs of the
great thoroughfare in a day; every one of them will be as still as the
_tableau_ in the "Enchanted Beauty." Yet the hurried day's life of
Broadway will have been made up of just such stillnesses. Motion is as
rigid as marble, if you only take a wink's worth of it at a time.
We are all ready to embark now. Here is the harbor; and there lies the
Great Eastern at anchor,--the biggest island that ever got adrift.
Stay one moment,--they will ask us about secession and the revolted
States,--it may be as well to take a look at Charleston, for an instant,
before we go.
These three stereographs were sent us by a lady now residing in
Charleston. The Battery, the famous promenade of the Charlestonians,
since armed with twenty-four-pounders facing Fort Sumter; the interior
of Fort Moultrie, with the guns spiked by Major Anderson; and a more
extensive view of the same interior, with the flag of the seven stars,
(corresponding to the seven deadly sins,)--the free end of it tied to
a gun-carriage, as if to prevent the winds of the angry heaven from
rending it to tatters. In the distance, to the right, Fort Sumter,
looking remote and inaccessible,--the terrible rattle which our foolish
little spoiled sister Caroline has insisted on getting into her
rash hand. How ghostly, yet how real, it looms up out of the dim
atmosphere,--the guns looking over the wall and out through the
embrasures,--meant for a foreign foe,--this very day (April 13th) turned
in self-defence against the children of those who once fought for
liberty at Fort Moultrie! It is a sad thought that there are truths
which can be got out of life only by the _destructive analysis_ of war.
Statesmen deal in _proximate principles_,--unstable compounds; but war
reduces facts to their simple elements in its red-hot crucible, with its
black flux of carbon and sulphur and nitre. Let us turn our back on this
miserable, even though inevitable, fraternal strife, and, closing our
eyes for an instant, open them in London.
Here we are at the foot of Charing Cross. You remember, of course, how
this fine equestrian statue of Charles I. was condemned to be sold and
broken up by the Parliament, but was buried and saved by the brazier who
purchased it, and so reappeared after the Restoration. To the left, the
familiar words "Morley's Hotel" designate an edifice about half windows,
where the plebeian traveller may sit and contemplate Northumberland
House opposite, and the straight-tailed lion of the Percys surmounting
the lofty battlement which crowns its broad _facade_. We could describe
and criticize the statue as well as if we stood under it, but other
travellers have done that. Where are all the people that ought to be
seen here? Hardly more than three or four figures are to be made out;
the rest were moving, and left no images in this slow, old-fashioned
picture,--how unlike the miraculous "instantaneous" Broadway of Mr.
Anthony we were looking at a little while ago! But there, on one side,
an omnibus has stopped long enough to be caught by the sunbeams. There
is a mark on it. Try it with a magnifier.
Here are the towers of Westminster Abbey. A dead failure, as we well
remember them,--miserable modern excrescences, which shame the noble
edifice. We will hasten on, and perhaps by-and-by come back and enter
How natural Temple Bar looks, with the loaded coach and the cab going
through the central arch, and the blur of the hurrying throng darkening
the small lateral ones! A fine old structure,--always reminds a
Bostonian of the old arch over which the mysterious _Boston Library_ was
said still to linger out its existence late into the present century.
But where are the spikes on which the rebels' heads used to grin until
their jaws fell off? They must have been ranged along that ledge which
forms the chord of the arch surmounting the triple-gated structure. To
the left a woman is spreading an awning before a shop;--a man would do
it for her here. Ghost of a boy with bundle,--seen with right eye only.
Other ghosts of passers or loiterers,--one of a pretty woman, as we
fancy at least, by the way she turns her face to us. To the right,
fragments of signs, as follow:
What can this be but 229, _Patent Combs and Brushes_, PROUT? At any
rate, we were looking after Front's good old establishment, (229,
Strand,) which we remembered was close to Temple Bar, when we discovered
these fragments, the rest being cut off by the limits of the picture.
London Bridge! Less imposing than Waterloo Bridge, but a massive pile of
masonry, which looks as if its rounded piers would defy the Thames as
long as those of the Bridge of Sant' Angelo have stemmed the Tiber.
Figures indistinct or invisible, as usual, in the foreground, but
farther on a mingled procession of coaches, cabs, carts, and people.
See the groups in the recesses over the piers. The parapet is
breast-high;--a woman can climb over it, and drop or leap into the dark
stream lying in deep shadow under the arches. Women take this leap
often. The angels hear them like the splash of drops of blood out of the
heart of our humanity. In the distance, wharves, storehouses, stately
edifices, steeples, and rising proudly above them, "like a tall bully,"
Here we are, close to the Monument. Tall, square base, with reliefs,
fluted columns, queer top;--looks like an inverted wineglass with a
shaving-brush standing up on it: representative of flame, probably.
Below this the square _cage_ in which people who have climbed the stairs
are standing; seems to be ten or twelve feet high, and is barred or
wired over. Women used to jump off from the Monument as well as from
London Bridge, before they made the cage safe in this way.
"Holloa!" said a man standing in the square one day, to his
companion,--"there's the flag coming down from the Monument!"
"It's no flag," said the other, "it's a woman!"
Sure enough, and so it was.
Nobody can mistake the four pepper-boxes, with the four weathercocks on
them, surmounting the corners of a great square castle, a little way
from the river's edge. That is the Tower of London. We see it behind the
masts of sailing-vessels and the chimneys of steamers, gray and misty in
the distance. Let us come nearer to it. Four square towers, crowned by
four Oriental-looking domes, not unlike the lower half of an inverted
balloon: these towers at the angles of a square building with buttressed
and battlemented walls, with two ranges of round-arched windows on the
side towards us. But connected with this building are other towers,
round, square, octagon, walls with embrasures, moats, loop-holes,
turrets, parapets,--looking as if the beef-eaters really meant to hold
out, if a new army of Boulogne should cross over some fine morning. We
can't stop to go in and see the lions this morning, for we have come in
sight of a great dome, and we cannot take our eyes away from it.
That is St. Paul's, the Boston State-House of London. There is a
resemblance in effect, but there is a difference in dimensions,--to the
disadvantage of the native edifice, as the reader may see in the plate
prefixed to Dr. Bigelow's "Technology." The dome itself looks light
and airy compared to St. Peter's or the Duomo of Florence, not only
absolutely, but comparatively. The colonnade on which it rests divides
the honors with it. It does not brood over the city, as those two others
over their subject towns. Michel Angelo's forehead repeats itself in the
dome of St. Peter's. Sir Christopher had doubtless a less ample frontal
development; indeed, the towers he added to Westminster Abbey would
almost lead us to doubt if he had not a vacancy somewhere in his brain.
But the dome of the London "State-House" is very graceful,--so light
that it looks as if Its lineage had been crossed by a spire. Wait until
we have gilded the dome of our Boston St. Paul's before drawing any
We have seen the outside of London. What do we care for the Crescent,
and the Horseguards, and Nelson's Monument, and the statue of Achilles,
and the new Houses of Parliament? The Abbey, the Tower, the Bridge,
Temple Bar, the Monument, St. Paul's: these make up the great features
of the London we dream about. Let us go into the Abbey for a few
moments. The "dim religious light" is pretty good, after all. We can
read every letter on that mural tablet to the memory of "the most
illustrious and most benevolent John Paul Howard, Earl of Stafford,"
"a Lover of his Country, A _Relation to Relations_" (what a eulogy and
satire in that expression!) and in many ways virtuous and honorable, as
"The Countess Dowager, in Testimony of her great Affection and Respect
to her Lord's Memory," has commemorated on his monument. We can see all
the folds of the Duchess of Suffolk's dress, and the meshes of the net
that confines her hair, as she lies in marble effigy on her sculptured
sarcophagus. It looks old to our eyes,--for she was the mother of Lady
Jane Grey, and died three hundred years ago,--but see those two little
stone heads lying on their stone pillow, just beyond the marble Duchess.
They are children of Edward III.,--the Black Prince's baby-brothers.
They died five hundred years ago,--but what are centuries in Westminster
Abbey? Under this pillared canopy, her head raised on two stone
cushions, her fair, still features bordered with the spreading cap
we know so well in her portraits, lies Mary of Scotland. These fresh
monuments, protected from the wear of the elements, seem to make twenty
generations our contemporaries. Look at this husband warding off the
dart which the grim, draped skeleton is aiming at the breast of his
fainting wife. Most famous, perhaps, of all the statues in the Abbey is
this of Joseph Gascoigne Nightingale and his Lady, by Roubilliac. You
need not cross the ocean to see it. It is here, literally to every
dimple in the back of the falling hand, and every crinkle of the
vermiculated stone-work. What a curious pleasure it is to puzzle out the
inscriptions on the monuments in the background!--for the beauty of your
photograph is, that you may work out minute derails with the microscope,
just as you can with the telescope in a distant landscape in Nature.
There is a lady, for instance, leaning upon an urn,--suggestive, a
little, of Morgiana and the forty thieves. Above is a medallion of one
wearing a full periwig. Now for a half-inch lens to make out the specks
that seem to be letters. "Erected to the Memory of William Pulteney,
Earl of Bath, by his Brother"--That will do,--the inscription operates
as a cold bath to enthusiasm. But here is our own personal namesake,
the once famous Rear Admiral of the White, whose biography we can find
nowhere except in the "Gentleman's Magazine," where he divides the glory
of the capture of Quebec with General Wolfe. A handsome young man with
hyacinthine locks, his arms bare and one hand resting on a cannon. We
remember thinking our namesake's statue one of the most graceful in the
Abbey, and have always fallen back on the memory of that and of Dryden's
Achates of the "Annus Mirabilis," as trophies of the family.
Enough of these marbles; there is no end to them; the walls and floor of
the great, many-arched, thousand-pillared, sky-lifted cavern are crusted
all over with them, like stalactites and stalagmites. The vast temple is
alive with the images of the dead. Kings and queens, nobles, statesmen,
soldiers, admirals, the great men whose deeds we all know, the great
writers whose words are in all our memories, the brave and the beautiful
whose fame has shrunk into their epitaphs, are all around us. What is
the cry for alms that meets us at the door of the church to the mute
petition of these marble beggars, who ask to warm their cold memories
for a moment in our living hearts? Look up at the mighty arches
overhead, borne up on tall clustered columns,--as if that avenue of
Royal Palms we remember in the West India Islands (photograph) had been
spirited over seas and turned into stone. Make your obeisance to the
august shape of Sir Isaac Newton, reclining like a weary swain in the
niche at the side of the gorgeous screen. Pass through Henry VII.'s
Chapel, a temple cut like a cameo. Look at the shining oaken stalls of
the knights. See the banners overhead. There is no such speaking record
of the lapse of time as these banners,--there is one of them beginning
to drop to pieces; the long day of a century has decay for its
We have had a glimpse of London,--let us make an excursion to
Here you see the Shakspeare House as it was,--wedged in between, and
joined to, the "Swan and Maidenhead" Tavern and a mean and dilapidated
brick building, not much worse than itself, however. The first
improvement (as you see in No. 2) was to pull down this brick building.
The next (as you see in No. 3)--was to take away the sign and the
bay-window of the "Swan and Maidenhead" and raise two gables out of its
roof, so as to restore something like its ancient aspect. Then a rustic
fence was put up and the outside arrangements were completed. The
cracked and faded sign projects as we remember it of old. In No. 1 you
may read "THE IMMORTAL SHAKES_peare ... Born in This House_" about as
well as if you had been at the trouble and expense of going there.
But here is the back of the house. Did little Will use to look out at
this window with the bull's-eye panes? Did he use to drink from this old
pump, or the well in which it stands? Did his shoulders rub against this
angle of the old house, built with rounded bricks? It a strange picture,
and sets us dreaming. Let us go in and up-stairs. In this room he was
born. They say so, and we will believe it. Rough walls, rudely boarded
floor, wide window with small panes, small bust of him between two
cactuses in bloom on window-seat. An old table covered with prints and
stereographs, a framed picture, and under it a notice "Copies of this
Portrait" ... the rest, in fine print, can only be conjectured.
Here is the Church of the Holy Trinity, in which he lies buried. The
trees are bare that surround it; see the rooks' nests in their tops.
The Avon is hard by, dammed just here, with flood-gates, like a canal.
Change the season, if you like,--here are the trees in leaf, and in
their shadow the tombs and graves of the mute, inglorious citizens of
Ah, how natural this interior, with its great stained window, its mural
monuments, and its slab in the pavement with the awful inscription! That
we cannot see here, but there is the tablet with the bust we know so
well. But this, after all, is Christ's temple, not Shakspeare's. Here
are the worshippers' seats,--mark how the polished wood glistens,--there
is the altar, and there the open prayer-book,--you can almost read the
service from it. Of the many striking things that Henry Ward Beecher
has said, nothing, perhaps, is more impressive than his account of his
partaking of the communion at that altar in the church where Shakspeare
rests. A memory more divine than his overshadowed the place, and he
thought of Shakspeare, "as he thought of ten thousand things, without
the least disturbance of his devotion," though he was kneeling directly
over the poet's dust.
If you will stroll over to Shottery now with me, we can see the Ann
Hathaway cottage from four different points, which will leave nothing
outside of it to be seen. Better to look at than to live in. A fearful
old place, full of small vertebrates that squeak and smaller articulates
that bite, if its outward promise can be trusted. A thick thatch covers
it like a coarse-haired hide. It is patched together with bricks and
timber, and partly crusted with scaling plaster. One window has the
diamond panes framed in lead, such as we remember seeing of old in one
or two ancient dwellings in the town of Cambridge, hard by. In this view
a young man is sitting, pensive, on the steps which Master William, too
ardent lover, used to climb with hot haste and descend with lingering
delay. Young men die, but youth lives. Life goes on in the cottage just
as it used to three hundred years ago. On the rail before the door sits
the puss of the household, of the fiftieth generation, perhaps, from
that "harmless, necessary cat" which purred round the poet's legs as he
sat talking love with Ann Hathaway. At the foot of the steps is a huge
basin, and over the rail hangs--a dishcloth, drying. In these homely
accidents of the very instant, that cut across our romantic ideals with
the sharp edge of reality, lies one of the ineffable charms of the
sun-picture. It is a little thing that gives life to a scene or a face;
portraits are never absolutely alive, because they do not _wink_.
Come, we are full of Shakspeare; let us go up among the hills and see
where another poet lived and lies. Here is Rydal Mount, the home of
Wordsworth. Two-storied, ivy-clad, hedge-girdled, dropped into a crease
among the hills that look down dimly from above, as if they were hunting
after it as ancient dames hunt after a dropped thimble. In these walks
he used to go "booing about," as his rustic neighbor had it,--reciting
his own verses. Here is his grave in Grasmere. A plain slab, with
nothing but his name. Next him lies Dora, his daughter, beneath a taller
stone bordered with a tracery of ivy, and bearing in relief a lamb and
a cross. Her husband lies next in the range. The three graves have just
been shorn of their tall grass,--in this other view you may see them
half-hidden by it. A few flowering stems have escaped the scythe in the
first picture, and nestle close against the poet's headstone. Hard by
sleeps poor Hartley Coleridge, with a slab of freestone graven with a
cross and a crown of thorns, and the legend, "By thy Cross and Passion,
Good Lord, deliver us."[A] All around are the graves of those whose
names the world has not known. This view, (302,) from above Rydal Mount,
is so Claude-like, especially in its trees, that one wants the solemn
testimony of the double-picture to believe it an actual transcript of
Nature. Of the other English landscapes we have seen, one of the most
pleasing on the whole is that marked 43,--Sweden Bridge, near Ambleside.
But do not fail to notice St. Mary's Church (101) in the same
mountain-village. It grows out of the ground like a crystal, with
spur-like gables budding out all the way up its spire, as if they were
ready to flower into pinnacles, like such as have sprung up all over the
marble multiflora of Milan.
[Footnote A: Miss Martineau, who went to his funeral, and may be
supposed to describe after a visit to the churchyard, gives the
inscription incorrectly. See Atlantic Monthly for May, 1861, p. 552.
Tourists cannot be trusted; stereographs can.]
And as we have been looking at a steeple, let us flit away for a moment
and pay our reverence at the foot of the tallest spire in England,--that
of Salisbury Cathedral. Here we see it from below, looking up,--one of
the most striking pictures ever taken. Look well at it; Chichester has
just fallen, and this is a good deal like it,--some have thought raised
by the same builder. It has bent somewhat (as you may see in these other
views) from the perpendicular; and though it has been strengthened with
clamps and framework, it must crash some day or other, for there has
been a great giant tugging at it day and night for five hundred years,
and it will at last shut up into itself or topple over with a sound and
thrill that will make the dead knights and bishops shake on their stone
couches, and be remembered all their days by year-old children. This is
the first cathedral we ever saw, and none ever so impressed us since.
Vast, simple, awful in dimensions and height, just beginning to grow
tall at the point where our proudest steeples taper out, it fills the
whole soul, pervades the vast landscape over which it reigns, and, like
Niagara and the Alps, abolishes that five- or six-foot personality in
the beholder which is fostered by keeping company with the little life
of the day in its little dwellings. In the Alps your voice is as the
piping of a cricket. Under the sheet of Niagara the beating of your
heart seems to trivial a movement to take reckoning of. In the
buttressed hollow of one of these palaeozoic cathedrals you are ashamed
of your ribs, and blush for the exiguous pillars of bone on which your
breathing structure reposes. Before we leave Salisbury, let us look for
a moment into its cloisters. A green court-yard, with a covered gallery
on its level, opening upon it through a series of Gothic arches. You may
learn more, young American, of the difference between your civilization
and that of the Old World by one look at this than from an average
lyceum-lecture an hour long. Seventy years of life means a great deal to
you; how little, comparatively, to the dweller in these cloisters! You
will have seen a city grow up about you, perhaps; your whole world will
have been changed half a dozen times over. What change for him? The
cloisters are just as when he entered them,--just as they were a hundred
years ago,--just as they will be a hundred years hence.
These old cathedrals are beyond all comparison what are best worth
seeing, of a man's handiwork, in Europe. How great the delight to be
able to bring them, bodily, as it were, to our own firesides! A hundred
thousand pilgrims a year used to visit Canterbury. Now Canterbury visits
us. See that small white mark on the pavement. That marks the place
where the slice of Thomas a Becket's skull fell when Reginald Fitz Urse
struck it off with a "Ha!" that seems to echo yet through the vaulted
arches. And see the broad stains, worn by the pilgrims' knees as they
climbed to the martyr's shrine. For four hundred years this stream of
worshippers was wearing itself into these stones. But there was the
place where they knelt before the altar called "Beckets's Crown."
No! the story that those deep hollows in the marble were made by the
pilgrims' knees is too much to believe,--but there are the hollows, and
that is the story.
And now, if you would see a perfect gem of the art of photography, and
at the same time an unquestioned monument of antiquity which no person
can behold without interest, look upon this,--the monument of the Black
Prince. There is hardly a better piece of work to be found. His marble
effigy lies within a railing, with a sounding board. Above this, on a
beam stretched between two pillars, hang the arms he wore at the Battle
of Poitiers,--the tabard, the shield, the helmet, the gauntlets, and
the sheath that held his sword, which weapon it is said that Cromwell
carried off. The outside casing of the shield has broken away, as you
observe, but the lions or lizards, or whatever they were meant for, and
the flower-de-laces or plumes may still be seen. The metallic scales, if
such they were, have partially fallen from the tabard, or frock, and the
leather shows bare in parts of it.
Here, hard by, is the sarcophagus of Henry IV. and his queen, also
inclosed with a railing like the other. It was opened about thirty years
ago, in presence of the dean of the cathedral. There was a doubt, so
it was said, as to the monarch's body having been really buried there.
Curiosity had nothing to do with it, it is to be presumed. Every
over-ground sarcophagus is opened sooner or later, as a matter of
course. It was hard work to get it open; it had to be sawed. They found
a quantity of hay,--fresh herbage, perhaps, when it was laid upon the
royal body four hundred years ago,--and a cross of twigs. A silken mask
was on the face. They raised it and saw his red beard, his features
well preserved, a gap in the front-teeth, which there was probably no
court-dentist to supply,--the same the citizens looked on four centuries
"In London streets that coronation-day,
When Bolingbroke rode on roan Barbary";
then they covered it up to take another nap of a few centuries,
until another dean has an historical doubt,--at last, perhaps, to be
transported by some future Australian Barnum to the Sidney Museum and
exhibited as the mummy of one of English Pharaohs. Look, too, at the
"Warriors' Chapel," in the same cathedral. It is a very beautiful
stereograph, and may be studied for a long time, for it is full of the
most curious monuments.
Before leaving these English churches and monuments, let us enter, if
but for a moment, the famous Beauchamp Chapel at Warwick. The finest
of the views (323, 324) recalls that of the Black Prince's tomb, as a
triumph of photography. Thus, while the whole effect of the picture is
brilliant and harmonious, we shall find, on taking a lens, that we can
count every individual bead in the chaplet of the monk who is one of the
more conspicuous reliefs on the sarcophagus. The figure of this monk
itself is about half an inch in height, and its face may be completely
hidden by the head of a pin. The whole chapel is a marvel of workmanship
and beauty. The monument of Richard Beauchamp in the centre, with the
frame of brass over the recumbent figure, intended to support the
drapery thrown upon it to protect the statue,--with the mailed shape of
the warrior, his feet in long-pointed shoes resting against the muzzled
bear and the griffin, his hands raised, but not joined,--this monument,
with the tomb of Dudley, Earl of Leicester,--Elizabeth's Leicester,
--and that of the other Dudley, Earl of Warwick,--all enchased in these
sculptured walls and illuminated through that pictured window, where we
can dimly see the outlines of saints and holy maidens,--form a group of
monumental jewels such as only Henry VII.'s Chapel can equal. For these
two pictures (323 and 324) let the poor student pawn his outside-coat,
if he cannot have them otherwise.
Of abbeys and castles there is no end, ago No. 4, Tintern Abbey, is the
finest, on the whole, we have ever seen. No. 2 is also very perfect and
interesting. In both, the masses of ivy that clothe the ruins are given
with wonderful truth and effect. Some of these views have the advantage
of being very well colored. Warwick Castle (81) is one of the best and
most the interesting of the series of castles; Caernarvon is another
still more striking.
We may as well break off here as anywhere, so far as England is
concerned. England is one great burial-ground to an American. As islands
are built up out of the shields of insects, so her soil is made the land
of Burns, and see what one man can do to idealize and glorify the common
life about him! Here is a poor "ten-footer", as we should call it, the
cottage William "Burness" built with his own hands, where he carried his
young bride Agnes, and where the boy Robert, his first-born, was given
to the light and air which he made brighter and freer for mankind. Sit
still and do not speak,--but see that your eyes do not grow dim as these
pictures pass before them: The old hawthorn under which Burns sat with
Highland Mary,--a venerable duenna-like tree, with thin arms and sharp
elbows, and scanty _chevelure_ of leaves; the Auld Brig o' Doon (No.
4),--a daring arch that leaps the sweet stream at a bound, more than
half clad in a mantle of ivy, which has crept with its larva-like
feet beyond the key-stone; the Twa Brigs of Ayr, with the beautiful
reflections in the stream that shines under their eyebrow-arches; and
poor little Alloway Kirk, with its fallen roof and high gables. Lift
your hand to your eyes and draw a long breath,--for what words would
come so near to us as these pictured, nay, real, memories of the dead
poet who made a nation of a province, and the hearts of mankind its
And so we pass to many-towered and turreted and pinnacled Abbotsford,
and to large-windowed Melrose, and to peaceful Dryburgh, where, under a
plain bevelled slab, lies the great Romancer whom Scotland holds only
second in her affections to her great poet. Here in the foreground of
the Melrose Abbey view (436) is a gravestone which looks as if it might
be deciphered with a lens. Let us draw out this inscription from the
black archives of oblivion. Here it is:
In Memory of
Francis Cornel, late
Labourer in Greenwell,
Who died 11th July, 1827,
aged 89 years. Also
Margaret Betty, his
Spouse, who died 2'd Dec'r,
1831, aged 89 years.
This is one charm, as we have said over and over, of the truth-telling
photograph. We who write in great magazines of course float off from the
wreck of our century, on our life-preserving articles, to immortality.
What a delight it is to snatch at the unknown head that shows for an
instant through the wave, and drag it out to personal recognition and
a share in our own sempiternal buoyancy! Go and be photographed on the
edge of Niagara, O unknown aspirant for human remembrance! Do not throw
yourself, O traveller, into Etna, like Empedocles, but be taken by the
camera standing on the edge of the crater! Who is that lady in the
carriage at the door of Burns's cottage? Who is that gentleman in the
shiny hat on the sidewalk in front of the Shakspeare house? Who are
those two fair youths lying dead on a heap of dead at the trench's side
in the cemetery of Melegnano, in that ghastly glass stereograph in our
friend Dr. Bigelow's collection? Some Austrian mother has perhaps seen
her boy's features in one of those still faces. All these seemingly
accidental figures are not like the shapes put in by artists to fill the
blanks in their landscapes, but real breathing persons, or forms that
have but lately been breathing, not found there by chance, but brought
there with a purpose, fulfilling some real human errand, or at least, as
in the last-mentioned picture, waiting to be buried.
Before quitting the British Islands, it would be pleasant to wander
through the beautiful Vale of Avoca in Ireland, and to look on those
many exquisite landscapes and old ruins and crosses which have been so
admirably rendered in the stereograph. There is the Giant's Causeway,
too,--not in our own collection, but which our friend Mr. Waterston
has transplanted with all its basaltic columns to his Museum of Art in
Chester Square. Those we cannot stop to look at now, nor these many
objects of historical or poetical interest which lie before us on our
own table. Such are the pictures of Croyland Abbey, where they kept that
jolly drinking-horn of "Witlaf, King of the Saxons", which Longfellow
has made famous; Bedd-Gelert, the grave of the faithful hound
immortalized by--nay, who has immortalized--William Spencer; the stone
that marks the spot where William Rufus fell by Tyrrel's shaft; the
Lion's Head in Dove Dale, fit to be compared with our own Old Man of the
Mountain; the "Bowder Stone," or the great boulder of Borrowdale; and
many others over which we love to dream at idle moments.
When we began these notes of travel, we meant to take our
fellow-voyagers over the continent of Europe, and perhaps to all the
quarters of the globe. We should make a book, instead of an article, if
we attempted it. Let us, instead of this, devote the remaining space to
an enumeration of a few of the most interesting pictures we have met
with, many of which may be easily obtained by those who will take the
trouble we have taken to find them.
Views of Paris are everywhere to be had, good and cheap. The finest
illuminated or transparent paper view we have ever seen is one of the
Imperial Throne. There is another illuminated view, the Palace of the
Senate, remarkable for the beauty with which it gives the frescoes on
the cupola. We have a most interesting stereograph of the Amphitheatre
of Nismes, with a _bull-fight_ going on in its arena at the time when
the picture was taken. The contrast of the vast Roman structure, with
its massive arched masonry, and the scattered assembly, which seems
almost lost in the spaces once filled by the crowd of spectators who
thronged to the gladiatorial shows, is one of the most striking we have
ever seen. At Quimperle is a house so like the curious old building
lately removed from Dock Square in Boston, that it is commonly taken for
it at the first view. The Roman tombs at Arles and the quaint streets at
Troyes are the only other French pictures we shall speak of, apart from
the cathedrals to be mentioned.
Of the views in Switzerland, it may be said that the Glaciers are
perfect, in the glass pictures, at least. Waterfalls are commonly poor:
the water glares and looks like cotton-wool. Staubbach, with the Vale
of Lauterbrunnen, is an exquisite exception. Here are a few signal
specimens of Art. No. 4018, Seelisberg,--unsurpassed by any glass
stereograph we have ever seen, in all the qualities that make a
faultless picture. No. 4119, Mont Blanc from Sta. Rosa,--the finest
view of the mountain for general effect we have met with. No. 4100,
Suspension-Bridge of Fribourg,--very fine, but makes one giddy to look
at it. Three different views of Goldau, where the villages lie buried
under these vast masses of rock, recall the terrible catastrophe of
1806, as if it had happened but yesterday.
Almost everything from Italy is interesting. The ruins of Rome, the
statues of the Vatican, the great churches, all pass before us but in
a flash, as we are expressed by them on our ideal locomotive. Observe:
next to snow and ice, stone is best rendered in the stereograph. Statues
are given absolutely well, except where there is much foreshortening to
be done, as in this of the Torso, where you see the thigh is unnaturally
lengthened. See the mark on the Dying Gladiator's nose. That is where
Michel Angelo mended it. There is Hawthorne's Marble Faun, (the one
called of Praxiteles,) the Laocooen, the Apollo Belvedere, the Young
Athlete with the Strigil, the Forum, the Cloaca Maxima, the Palace of
the Caesars, the bronze Marcus Aurelius,--those wonders all the world
flocks to see,--the God of Light has multiplied them all for you, and
you have only to give a paltry fee to his servant to own in fee-simple
the best sights that earth has to show.
But look in at Pisa one moment, not for the Leaning Tower and the other
familiar objects, but for the interior of the Campo Santo, with its
holy earth, its innumerable monuments, and the fading frescoes on its
walls,--see! there are the Three Kings of Andrea Orgagna. And there hang
the broken chains that once, centuries ago, crossed the Arno,--standing
off from the wall, so that it seems as if they might clank, if you
jarred the stereoscope. Tread with us the streets of Pompeii for a
moment: there are the ruts made by the chariots of eighteen hundred
years ago,--it is the same thing as stooping down and looking at the
pavement itself. And here is the amphitheatre out of which the Pompeians
trooped when the ashes began to fall round them from Vesuvius. Behold
the famous gates of the Baptistery at Florence,--but do not overlook the
exquisite iron gates of the railing outside; think of them as you enter
our own Common in Boston from West Street, through those portals which
are fit for the gates of--not paradise. Look at this sugar-temple,--no,
it is of marble, and is the monument of one of the Scalas at Verona.
What a place for ghosts that vast _palazzo_ behind it! Shall we stand in
Venice on the Bridge of Sighs, and then take this stereoscopic gondola
and go through it from St. Mark's to the Arsenal? Not now. We will only
look at the Cathedral,--all the pictures under the arches show in our
glass stereograph,--at the Bronze Horses, the Campanile, the Rialto,
and that glorious old statue of Bartholomew Colleoni,--the very image of
what a partisan leader should be, the broad-shouldered, slender-waisted,
stern-featured old soldier who used to leap into his saddle in full
armor, and whose men would never follow another leader when he died.
Well, but there have been soldiers in Italy since his day. Here are
the encampments of Napoleon's army in the recent campaign. This is the
battle-field of Magenta with its trampled grass and splintered trees,
and the fragments of soldiers' accoutrements lying about.
And here (leaving our own collection for our friend's before-mentioned)
here is the great trench in the cemetery of Melegnano, and the heap of
dead lying unburied at its edge. Look away, young maiden and tender
child, for this is what war leaves after it. Flung together, like sacks
of grain, some terribly mutilated, some without mark of injury, all
or almost all with a still, calm look on their faces. The two youths,
before referred to, lie in the foreground, so simple-looking, so like
boys who had been overworked and were lying down to sleep, that one can
hardly see the picture for the tears these two fair striplings bring
into the eyes.
The Pope must bless us before we leave Italy. See, there he stands on
the balcony of St. Peter's, and a vast crowd before him with uncovered
heads as he stretches his arms and pronounces his benediction.
Before entering Spain we must look at the Circus of Gavarni, a
natural amphitheatre in the Pyrenees. It is the most picturesque of
stereographs, and one of the best. As for the Alhambra, we can show that
in every aspect; and if you do not vote the lions in the court of the
same a set of mechanical h----gs and nursery bugaboos, we have no skill
in entomology. But the Giralda, at Seville, is really a grand tower,
worth looking at. The Seville Boston-folks consider it the linchpin,
at least, of this rolling universe. And what a fountain this is in the
Infanta's garden! what shameful beasts, swine and others, lying about on
their stomachs! the whole surmounted by an unclad gentleman squeezing
another into the convulsions of a galvanized frog! Queer tastes they
have in the Old World. At the Fountain of the Ogre in Berne, the giant,
or large-mouthed private person, upon the top of the column, is eating a
little infant as one eats a radish, and has plenty more,--a whole bunch
of such,--in his hand, or about him.
A voyage down the Rhine shows us nothing better than St. Goar, (No.
2257,) every house on each bank clean and clear as a crystal. The
Heidelberg views are admirable;--you see a slight streak in the
background of this one: we remember seeing just such a streak from the
castle itself, and being told that it was the Rhine, just visible, afar
off. The man with the geese in the goose-market at Nuremberg gives
stone, iron, and bronze, each in perfection.
So we come to quaint Holland, where we see windmills, _ponts-levis_,
canals, galiots, houses with gable-ends to the streets and little
mirrors outside the windows, slanted so as to show the frows inside what
is going on.
We must give up the cathedrals, after all: Santa Maria del Fiore, with
Brunelleschi's dome, which Michel Angelo wouldn't copy and couldn't
beat; Milan, aflame with statues, like a thousand-tapered candelabrum;
Tours, with its embroidered portal, so like the lace of an archbishop's
robe; even Notre Dame of Paris, with its new spire; Rouen, Amiens,
Chartres,--we must give them all up.
Here we are at Athens, looking at the buttressed Acropolis and the
ruined temples,--the Doric Parthenon, the Ionic Erechtheum, the
Corinthian temple of Jupiter, and the beautiful Caryatides. But see
those steps cut in the natural rock. Up those steps walked the Apostle
Paul, and from that summit, Mars Hill, the Areopagus, he began his noble
address, "Ye men of Athens!"
The Great Pyramid and the Sphinx! Herodotus saw them a little fresher,
but of unknown antiquity,--far more unknown to him than to us. The
Colossi of the Plain! Mighty monuments of an ancient and proud
civilization standing alone in a desert now.
My name is Osymandyas, King of Kings;
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!
But nothing equals these vast serene faces of the Pharaohs on the
great rock-temple of Abou Simbel (Ipsambul) (No. 1, F. 307). It Is the
sublimest of stereographs, as the temple of Kardasay, this loveliest of
views on glass, is the most poetical. But here is the crocodile lying in
wait for us on the sandy bank of the Nile, and we must leave Egypt for
Damascus makes but a poor show, with its squalid houses, and glaring
clayed roofs. We always wanted to invest in real estate there in Abraham
Street or Noah Place, or some of its well-established thoroughfares, but
are discouraged since we have had these views of the old town. Baalbec
does better. See the great stones built into the wall there,--the
biggest 64 x 13 x 13! What do you think of that?--a single stone bigger
than both your parlors thrown into one, and this one of three almost
alike, built into a wall as if just because they happened to be lying
round, handy! So, then, we pass on to Bethlehem, looking like a fortress
more than a town, all stone and very little window,--to Nazareth, with
its brick oven-like houses, its tall minaret, its cypresses, and the
black-mouthed, open tombs, with masses of cactus growing at their
edge,--to Jerusalem,--to the Jordan, every drop of whose waters seems
to carry a baptismal blessing,--to the Dead Sea,--and to the Cedars of
Lebanon. Almost everything may have changed in these hallowed places,
except the face of the stream and the lake, and the outlines of hill and
valley. But as we look across the city to the Mount of Olives, we know
that these lines which run in graceful curves along the horizon are the
same that He looked upon as he turned his eyes sadly over Jerusalem. We
know that these long declivities, beyond Nazareth, were pictured in the
eyes of Mary's growing boy just as they are now in ours sitting here by
our own firesides.
This is no _toy_, which thus carries us into the very presence of all
that is most inspiring to the soul in the scenes which the world's
heroes and martyrs, and more than heroes, more than martyrs, have
hallowed and solemnized by looking upon. It is no toy: it is a divine
gift, placed in our hands nominally by science, really by that
inspiration which is revealing the Almighty through the lips of the
humble students of Nature. Look through it once more before laying it
down, but not at any earthly sight. In these views, taken through the
telescopes of De la Rue of London and of Mr. Rutherford of New York, and
that of the Cambridge Observatory by Mr. Whipple of Boston, we see
the "spotty globe" of the moon with all its mountains and chasms, its
mysterious craters and groove-like valleys. This magnificent stereograph
by Mr. Whipple was taken, the first picture February 7th, the second
April 6th. In this way the change of position gives the solid effect of
the ordinary stereoscopic views, and the sphere rounds itself out so
perfectly to the eye that it seems as if we could grasp it like an
If the reader is interested, or like to become interested, in the
subject of sun-sculpture and stereoscopes, he may like to know what the
last two years have taught us as to the particular instruments best
worth owning. We will give a few words to the subject. Of simple
instruments, for looking at one slide at a time, Smith and Beck's is the
most perfect we have seen, but the most expensive. For looking at paper
slides, which are light, an instrument which may be held in the hand
is very convenient. We have had one constructed which is better, as
we think, than any in the shops. Mr. Joseph L. Bates, 129, Washington
Street, has one of them, if any person is curious to see it. In buying
the instruments which hold many slides, we should prefer two that hold
fifty to one that holds a hundred. Becker's small instrument, containing
fifty paper slides, back to back, is the one we like best for these
slides, but the top should be arranged so as to come off,--the first
change we made in our own after procuring it.
We are allowed to mention the remarkable instrument contrived by our
friend Dr. H.J. Bigelow, for holding fifty glass slides. The spectator
looks in: all is darkness. He turns a crank: the gray dawn of morning
steals over some beautiful scene or the _facade_ of a stately temple.
Still, as he turns, the morning brightens through various tints of rose
and purple, until it reaches the golden richness of high noon. Still
turning, all at once night shuts down upon the picture as at a tropical
sunset, suddenly, without blur or gradual dimness,--the sun of the
picture going down,
"Not as in Northern climes obscurely bright,
But one unclouded blaze of living light."
We have not thanked the many friendly dealers in these pictures, who
have sent us heaps and hundreds of stereographs to look over and select
from, only because they are too many to thank. Nor do we place any price
on this advertisement of their most interesting branch of business. But
there are a few stereographs we wish some of them would send us,
with the bill for the same: such as Antwerp and Strasbourg
Cathedrals,--Bologna, with its brick towers,--the Lions of Mycenae, if
they are to be had,--the Walls of Fiesole,--the Golden Candlestick in
the Arch of Titus,--and others which we can mention, if consulted;
some of which we have hunted for a long time in vain. But we write
principally to wake up an interest in a new and inexhaustible source of
pleasure, and only regret that the many pages we have filled can do no
more than hint the infinite resources which the new art has laid open to
THE LONDON WORKING-MEN'S COLLEGE.
In what is now as near the centre of the Map of London as any house
can properly be said to be is an old-fashioned dwelling-house on