Part 1 out of 2
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INTERNATIONAL WEEKLY MISCELLANY
Of Literature, Art, and Science.
* * * * *
Vol. I. NEW YORK, JULY 22, 1850. No. 4.
* * * * *
LITERARY COTERIES IN PARIS IN THE LAST CENTURY.
The revolutions of society are almost as sure if not as regular as
those of the planets. The inventions of a generation weary after
a while, but they are very likely to be revived if they have once
ministered successfully to pleasure or ambition. The famous coteries
in which learning was inter-blended with fashion in the golden age
of French intelligence, are being revived under the new Republic,
and women are again quietly playing with institutions and liberties,
perhaps as dangerously as when Mesdames de Tencin, Pompadour,
Geoffrin, Deffant, Popliniere and L'Espinasse assembled the destinies
nightly in their drawing rooms.
The tendency to such associations is displayed also in most of our
own cities. The Town and Country Club of Boston, the Wistar Parties
in Philadelphia, the Literary Club in Charleston, the recent
_converzaziones_ at the houses of President Charles King of Columbia
College, and others, and the well-known Saturday Evenings at Miss
Lynch's, where literature and art and general speculation have for
some seasons had a common center, all illustrate the disposition of an
active and cultivated society, not engrossed by special or spasmodic
excitements, to cluster by rules of feeling and capacity: and clusters
of passion and mind are rarely for a long period inert. When they
become common they are apt to assume the direction of private custom
and public opinion and affairs.
In view of these things, we are sure that the readers of the
_International_ will be interested in the following translation of
Professor Schlosser's brilliant survey of those _bureaux d'esprit_
which so much distinguished society and influenced its history
in Europe, from the beginning to the middle of the last century.
Schlosser is a Privy Councillor and Professor of History in the
University of Heidelberg. He is chiefly known in continental Europe
by his great work, the History of the Eighteenth Century, and of
the Nineteenth till the overthrow of the French Empire, a work which
derives its value not merely from the profound and minute acquaintance
of the author with the subject, from the new views which are presented
and the hitherto unexamined sources from which much has been derived,
but from his well-known independence of character--from the general
conclusions which he draws from the comparative views of the
resources, conduct, manners, institutions and literature of the great
European nations, during a period unparalleled in the history of
the world for the development of the physical and mental powers of
mankind, for the greatness of the events which occurred, for the
progress of knowledge, for the cultivation of the arts and sciences,
for all that contributes to the greatness and prosperity of nations.
* * * * *
If we venture to bring the Parisian evening, dinner and supper parties
into connection with the general history of Europe, and the ladies
also at whose houses these parties took place, we can neither be
blamed for scrupulous severity, nor for paradoxical frivolity. It
belongs to the character of the eighteenth century, that the historian
who wishes to bring the true springs of conduct and sources of action
to light, must condescend even so far. It must also be borne in mind,
when the clever women and societies of Paris are spoken of, that
the demands of the age and progressive improvement and culture were
altogether unattended to at the court of Louis XV., as well before as
after the death of Cardinal Fleury, and that all which was neglected
at Versailles was cultivated in Paris. The court and the city had been
hitherto united in their wants and in their judgment; the court ruled
education, fashion and the general tone, as it ruled the state; now,
however, they completely separated. Afterward the voice of the city
was raised in opposition, and the voice of this opposition became the
organ of the age and of the country; but it was felt and recognized
in Versailles only when it was too late. How easy it would have
been then, as Marmontel had shown very clearly in his memoirs, to
fetter Voltaire, who was offensive to the people, and how important
this would have been for the state, will appear in the following
paragraphs, in which we shall show that even the Parisian theatre,
whose boards were regarded as a model by all Europe, freed itself
from the influence of the court, became dependent on the tone-giving
circles of Paris, and assumed a decidedly democratic direction.
As early as the time of Louis XIV., the court had separated itself
from the learned men of the age; and at the end of the seventeenth
century the houses and societies could be historically pointed out,
in which judgments were pronounced upon questions of literature in
the same manner as the pit became the tribunal to which plays and
play-actors must appeal; we shall not, however, go back so far, but
keep the later times always in our view. In those associations in
which the Abbe de Chaulieu and other friends of Vendome and Conti led
the conversation, literature was brought wholly under the dominion of
audacious pretension and immorality, in the time of the Regency and
during the minority of Louis XV. In reference to the leaders there
needs no proof. What could a Philip of Orleans or his Dubois take
under his protection, except what corresponded with his ideas and mode
The time of the minority of Louis XV. and that of the administration
of Cardinal Fleury was for several reasons highly favorable to the
formation of private societies, which entertained themselves with
wit and satire, and carried on a quiet but continual contest with the
persons and systems which were protected by the government and the
clergy. Fleury regarded everything as sinful which had the appearance
of worldly knowledge, or partook of the character of jests, novels,
or plays; Louis, as he grew up, showed himself quite indifferent to
everything which had no connection with religious ceremonies, hunting,
or handsome women. Fleury spoke and wrote in that ecclesiastical
phraseology which was laughed at in the world: he favored the clergy,
school learning, the tone of the times of Louis XIV.; but the spirit
of the age demanded something different from this. All that was
regarded with disfavor by Fleury assembled around those celebrated
men, who held their reunions in Paris, and this court soon became more
important to the vain than the royal one itself, and it was proved by
experience that reputation and glory might be gained without the
aid or protection of the court at Versailles. This no one could have
previously believed, but the public soon learnt to do homage to the
tone-giving scholars, to the ladies and gentlemen who fostered them,
as it had formerly paid its homage to the ministers of the court.
This gave to the ladies, who collected around them the celebrated men
of the time (for reputation was much more the question than merit,)
and who protected and entertained them, a degree of weight in the
political and literary world, which made them as important in
the eighteenth century as Richelieu and Colbert had been in the
The queen, on her part, might have been able to exercise a beneficial
influence, however little power she had in other respects, when
compared with the mistresses of the king; but the daughter of
Stanislaus Leckzinski was a gentle, admirable woman, although somewhat
narrow-minded, and wholly given up to irrational devotional exercises
and bigotry. Like her father, she was altogether in the hands of the
Jesuits, blindly and unconditionally their servant; such an attachment
to a religious order, and such blind devotedness as hers would be
quite incredible, if we did not possess her own and her father's
autograph letters, as proofs of the fact. We shall present our readers
with some extracts from these letters, which are preserved in the
archives of the French empire, when we come to speak of the abolition
of the order of Jesuits.
As to the enlightened mistresses who had much more power and influence
than the queen, Pompadour seemed, as we learn from Marmontel, desirous
of participating in the literature of the age and of doing something
for its promotion, when she saw how important writers and the
influence of the press had become; but partly because both she and
the king were altogether destitute of any sense for the beautiful
in literature or art, and partly because the better portion of the
learned men at the time neither could nor would be pleased with what
a Bernis, Dueclos and Marmontel were disposed to be, who undoubtedly
received some marks of favor from her. Voltaire is therefore quite
right when he lays upon the court the blame of allowing the influence
which literature then exercised upon the people, to be withdrawn
altogether from king and his ministers, and to be transferred to the
hands of the Parisian ladies and farmers-general, &c. Voltaire, in his
well-known verses, admits, with great openness and simplicity, that
he attached much importance to the applause of a court, although it
neither possessed judgment nor feeling for the merits of a writer,
nor for poetical beauties; and he complains at the same time that this
court had neither duly estimated his tragedies nor his epic poems. It
is characteristic both of the court and of Voltaire that he eagerly
pressed himself forward for admission to its favor, and sought to
attract attention by a work which be himself called a piece of trash,
and that the court extended its approbation and applause to this
miserable and altogether inappropriate piece, ('La Princesse de
Navarre,') which he composed on the occasion of the Dauphin's
marriage with the Infanta of Spain, whilst it entirely neglected his
The Paris societies had got full possession of the field of
literature, and erected their tribunals before the middle of the
century, whilst at Versailles nothing was spoken or thought of except
amusements and hunting, Jesuits and processions, and the grossest
sensuality prevailed. The members of the Parisian societies were not a
whit more moral or decent in their behavior than those about the court
at Versailles, but they carried on open war against hypocrisy, and all
that was praised and approved of by the court.
We shall now proceed to mention three or four of the most
distinguished of those societies, which have obtained an historical
importance, not merely for the French literature and mental and moral
culture of the eighteenth century, but for Europe in general, without
however restraining ourselves precisely within the limits of the half
century. The minute accounts which Grimm has given, for the most part
affect only the later periods; we turn our attention therefore the
rather to what the weak, vain, talkative Marmontel has related to us
on the subject in his 'Autobiography,' because Rousseau was by far
too one-sided in his notices, and drew public attention to the most
demoralized and degraded members of the circle only.
The first lady who must be mentioned, is Madame de Tencin. She
belonged to the period within which we must confine ourselves, and she
gained for herself such a name, not only in Paris, but in all Europe,
that she was almost regarded as the creator of that new literature
which stood in direct and bold opposition to the prevailing taste,
inasmuch as she received at her house, entertained and cherished,
those who were really its originators and supporters. This lady could
not boast of the morality of her early years, nor of her respect even
for common propriety. She is not only notorious for having exposed,
when a child, the celebrated D'Alembert, who was her natural son, and
for regarding with indifference his being brought up by the wife of a
common glazier as her own son; but stories still worse than even these
are told of her. She enriched herself, as many others did, in the time
of Law's scheme, by no very creditable means; and fell under such a
serious suspicion of having been privy to the death of one of those
who had carried on an intrigue with her, that she was imprisoned
and involved in a criminal prosecution, from which she escaped, not
through her own innocence, but by means of the powerful influence of
her distinguished relations and friends.
All this did not prevent Pope Benedict XIV., who, as Cardinal
Lambertini, had been often at her house, as a member of the society of
men of talents who met there, from carrying on a continual intercourse
with her by letter; he also sent her his picture as a testimony of
kind remembrance. This lady succeeded in procuring for her brother the
dignity of a cardinal, and through him had great weight with Fleury,
with the court, and with the city in general; she is also known as
an authoress. As we are not writing a history of literature properly
speaking, we pass by her novels in silence, with this remark only,
that people are accustomed to place the 'Comte de Comminges,' written
by Madame de Tencin, on the same footing with the 'Princess de Cleve,'
by Madame de Lafayette.
The society in the house of Madame de Tencin consisted of well-known
men of learning, and some younger men of distinguished name and
family; she united, in later years, a certain amiability with her
care for the entertainment and recreation of those whom she had once
received into her house. This society, after the death of De Tencin,
assembled in the house of Geoffrin. It appears, however, that Madame
de Tencin, as well as the whole fashionable world to which she
belonged, could never altogether disavow their contempt for science,
if indeed it be true, that she was accustomed to call her society
by the indecent by-name of her menagerie. Fontenelle, Montesquieu,
Mairan, Helvetius who was then quite young and present rather as a
hearer than a speaker, Marivaux and Astruc, formed the nucleus of this
clever society and led the conversation. Marmontel, who was not well
suited to this society, in which more real knowledge and a deeper
train of thought was called for than he possessed, informs us what
the tone of this society was, and speaks of their hunting after lively
conceits and brilliant flashes of wit, in a somewhat contemptuous
manner. Marmontel, however, himself admits, that he was only once in
the society, and that in order to read his 'Aristomenes,' and that
greater simplicity and good humor prevailed there than in the house of
Madame Geoffrin, in which he was properly at home.
Madame de Tencin's influence upon the new literature of the opposition
party, or rather upon the spirit of the age, may be best judged of
from the fact, that she largely contributed to the first preparation
and favorable reception of Montesquieu's "Spirit of Laws." It is
certain, at least, that she bought a large number of copies and
distributed them amongst her friends. Madame Geoffrin went further;
the society which had previously met at Madame de Tencin's, no sooner
held their reunions in her house, than she drew together the whole
literary and the fashionable world, foreign ministers, noblemen and
princes who were on their travels, etc. Marmontel also says, that the
aged Madame de Tencin had guessed quite correctly the intentions of
Madame Geoffrin, when she said, that she merely came to her house so
often in order to see what part of her inventory she could afterward
Madame Geoffrin became celebrated all over Europe, merely by devoting
a portion of her income and of her time to the reception of clever
society. She had neither the knowledge, the mind, nor the humility of
Madame de Tencin, which the latter at least affected toward the close
of her life; she was cold, egotistical, calculating, and brought
into her circle nothing more than order, tact and female delicacy.
Geoffrin also assumed the tone of high life, which always treats men
of learning, poets and artists, as if they were mantua-makers or
hair-dressers; and which must ever value social tact and the tone
which is only to be acquired in good society, higher than all studies
and arts upon which any one possessed of these properties is in a
condition to pass judgment without having spent any time in their
investigation. Marmontel is therefore honest enough to admit that he
and his friends, as well as Madame Geoffrin herself, were accustomed
to make a full parade when foreign princes, ministers, and celebrated
men or women dined at the house. On such occasions especially, Madame
Geoffrin displayed all the charms of her mind, and called to us, "now
let us be agreeable."
Geoffrin's house was the first school of _bon ton_ in Europe:
Stanislaus Poniatowsky, even after he became King of Poland, addressed
her by the tender name of mother, invited her to Warsaw, and received
her as a personage of high distinction. All the German courts
which followed the fashion, paid correspondents in order to be made
acquainted with the trifles which occupied that circle. Catherine II.
had no sooner mounted the throne than she began to pay a commissioner
at this literary court, and even Maria Theresa distinguished Madame
Geoffrin in a remarkable manner, on her return from Poland. Besides,
we are made acquainted by Marmontel, who ranked his hostess among the
gods of this earth, with the anxiety and cautiousness of this lady of
the world, who afterward broke altogether with the chiefs of the new
literature, and most humbly did homage to the old faith, because she
had never wholly forsaken her old prejudices.
The able writers of the time were used by Geoffrin only as means to
promote her objects, to gain a reputation for splendor, and to glorify
France. The King of Prussia sought her society, in order to refresh
and cheer his mind when he was worn out with the cares and toils of
Madame Geoffrin opened her house regularly on Mondays for artists,
and on Wednesdays for men of learning; but as she neither understood
the arts nor sciences, she took part in the conversation only so far
as she could do so without exposing her weak side. She understood
admirably how to attract the great men to her house, to whose houses
she herself very seldom went; and as long as the appearance of
fashionable infidelity and of scoffing, which was then the mode in the
higher circles, was necessary to this object, she carefully concealed
her real religious opinions.
The weak Marmontel, who, according to his own description, was
only fitted for superficial conversation and writing, boasts of the
prudence, foresight and skill of his protectress, and shows how she
understood the way to gain the confidence of others without ever
yielding her own. This distinguished art made the house of Madame
Geoffrin invaluable to the great world, and to those learned men
who wished to shine in this kind of society, and to cultivate and
avail themselves of it, for such people must learn above all things
neither to say too much nor too little. This society, indeed, was not
calculated for any length of time for a Rousseau or a Diderot. Even
the great admirers of Geoffrin admit that _savoir vivre_ was her
highest knowledge, she had very few ideas with respect to anything
besides; but in the knowledge of all that pertained to the manners and
usage of good society, in the knowledge of men, and particularly of
women, she was deeply learned, and was able to give some very useful
It would lead us too far into the history of the following period, to
enumerate and characterize the members of these regular societies.
It may suffice to mention, that in addition to all the guests who
frequented Madame de Tencin's, all the friends of Voltaire's school,
and at first also Rousseau, made a part of the society at the house of
Madame Geoffrin. We have already remarked that no prince, minister, or
distinguished man of all Europe came to Paris who did not visit Madame
Geoffrin, and think it an honor to be invited to her house, because he
there found united all that was exclusively called talent in Europe.
Kaunitz also, who was then only a courtier in Versailles, came
to Madame Geoffrin's parties. He was a man who combined in a most
surprising manner true philosophy and a deep knowledge of political
economy, with the outward appearance of a fop and a trifler. Among the
other distinguished men who lived in Paris, Marmontel names with high
praise the Abbe Galliani, Caraccioli, who was afterward Neapolitan
ambassador, and the Swedish ambassador, Count Creutz.
Marmontel was so much delighted with this society, even at a very
advanced age, that he gives us also accounts of their evening parties:
"As I was in the habit of dining with the learned and with the artists
at Madame Geoffrin's, so was I also of supping with her in her more
limited and select circle. At these _petits soupers_ there was no
carousing or luxuries,--a fowl, spinach and pancakes constituted the
usual fare. The society was not numerous: there met together only five
or six of her particular friends, or even persons of the highest rank,
who were suited to each other, and therefore enjoyed themselves." It
appears distinctly from the passage already quoted from Marmontel,
how the high nobility on these occasions treated the learned, and
how the learned demeaned themselves toward the nobility. It appears,
therefore, that Rousseau was not in error when he alleged that
emptiness and wantonness only were cherished in these societies, and
that the literature which was then current was only a slow poison.
Madame du Deffant appeared on the stage of the great world
contemporaneously with Geoffrin, and attained so high a degree of
celebrity, that the Emperor Joseph paid her a visit in her advanced
period of life, and thus afforded her the opportunity of paying him
that celebrated compliment which is found related in every history
of France. With respect to Deffant, however, we must not listen to
Marmontel; she stood above his rhymes, his love tales, his sentimental
wanton stories, and besides, he knew her only when she had become
old. What we Germans name feminine and good morals formed no part of
the distinction of Deffant, but talents only. Like Tencin, she was
ill-reputed in her youth on account of her amours, and reckoned the
Regent among her fortunate wooers; at a later period she turned her
attention to literature.
Deffant brought together at her house all those persons whom Voltaire
visited when he was in Paris; among these the President Henault,
and, at a later period of which we now speak, D'Alembert attracted
to this circle distinguished foreigners and Frenchmen, who made
any pretensions to culture and education. Deffant assumed quite a
different tone among the learned from that of Geoffrin. She set up
for a judge in questions of philosophy and taste, and carried on a
constant correspondence with Voltaire. Among celebrated foreigners,
the Englishman Horace Walpole played the same character in this house
which the Swede Creutz had assumed in that of Geoffrin. Deffant and
her Walpole became celebrated throughout Europe by their printed
correspondence, which, on account of its smoothness and emptiness,
like all books written for the great world, found very numerous
Deffant, moreover, like Geoffrin. was faithless to her friends; she
wished indeed to enjoy the most perfect freedom in their society, but
she was unwilling that they should publish abroad this freedom. And
she strongly disapproved of the vehemence with which her friends
assailed the existing order of things.
When she afterward lost a considerable part of her property, and
became blind, she occupied a small dwelling in an ecclesiastical
foundation in Paris, but continued to receive philosophers, poets
and artists in her house; and in order to give a little more life to
the conversation, she invited a young lady whose circumstances were
straitened to be her companion. This was Mademoiselle l'Espinasse.
L'Espinasse was not beautiful, but she was young, amiable, lively, and
more susceptible than we in Germany are accustomed either to allow or
to pardon. Deffant, on the other hand, was witty and intelligent, but
old, bitter, and withal egotistically insensible. The boldest scoffers
assembled around L'Espinasse, and there was afterward formed around
her a circle of her own. Deffant turned day into night, and night into
day. She and the Duchess of Luxembourg, who was inseparable from her,
received learned distinguished personages and foreigners, from six
o'clock in the evening during the greater part of the night.
The importance in which such ladies and such societies were held, not
merely in France but in all Europe, may be judged of from the fact,
that the breach between Deffant and her young companion was treated
in some measure as a public European event. The French minister and
foreign ambassadors took part in it, and the whole literary world felt
its effect. After this breach there were two tone-giving tribunals for
the guidance of public opinion in matters of literature and taste,
and their decisions were circulated by letter over all Europe. Horace
Walpole, Henault, Montesquieu. Voltaire, whose correspondence with
Deffant has been published in the present century, remained true to
her cause. D'Alembert, whose correspondence with Deffant, as well as
that of the Duchess of Maine, have also been published in our century,
went over to L'Espinasse. This academician, whose name and influence
was next in importance to that of Voltaire, formed the nucleus of a
new society in the house of L'Espinasse, and was grievously tormented
by his _inamorata_, who pursued one plan of conquest after another
when she saw one scheme of marriage after another fail of success. It
appears from the whole of the transactions and consequences connected
with this breach, however surprising it may be, that this formation
of a new circle in Paris for evening entertainment may be with truth
compared to the institution of a new academy for the promotion of
European culture and refinement. The Duchess of Luxembourg, who
continued to be a firm friend of Deffant, took upon herself to provide
suitable apartments for the society, whilst the minister of the day
(the Duc de Choiseul) prevailed upon the king to grant a pension of no
inconsiderable amount to L'Espinasse.
This new circle was the point of union for all the philosophical
reformers. Here D'Alembert and Diderot led the conversation; and the
renowned head of the political economists, Tuergot, who was afterward
minister of state, was a member of this bolder circle of men who
became celebrated and ill-renowned under the name of Encyclopaedists.
We shall enter upon a fuller consideration of the tone and taste which
reigned in this assembly, as well as in the society which met in
the house of Holbach, and of the history of the Encyclopaedia, in the
following period, and shall only now mention at the conclusion of the
present, and that very slightly, some of the other clever societies
of Parisians who were all in their day celebrated in Europe. It is
scarcely possible for us to judge of the charm which these societies
possessed in the great world. This may be best learned from their
own writings and conversation, a specimen of which may be found
in Marmontel's 'Memoirs,' and formed the subject of a conversation
between him and the Duke of Brunswick (who fell at Jena in 1806) and
The society of _beaux esprits_ which met at the house of Madame de
Popliniere, in the time of Madame de Tencin, was only short-lived,
like the good fortune of the lady herself. In her house there
assembled members of the great world who were addicted to carousing
and debauchery, and learned men who sought to obtain their favor
and approbation. The same sort of society was afterward kept up in
the house of Holbach. A smaller society, which frequented the house
of the farmer-general Pelletier, consisted of unmarried people,
who were known as persons who indulged in malicious and licentious
conversation. Colle, the younger Crebillon and Bernard, who,
notwithstanding his helplessness, was called _le gentil_, played the
chief characters in this reunion, and the Gascon nature of Marmontel,
which was always forward and intrusive, helped him into this society
also. Baron Holbach, who was a native of the Palatinate, and the
able Helvetius who was wanton merely from vanity, brought together
expressly and intentionally at a later period, around their
well-spread table, all those who declared open war against religion
and morality. We must, however, return to these men in the following
Holbach for a whole quarter of a century had regular dinner-parties
on Sundays, which are celebrated in the history of atheism. All those
were invited, who were too bold and too out-spoken for Geoffrin; and
even D'Alembert also at a later period withdrew from their society.
Grimm, whose copious correspondence has also been published in the
nineteenth century, gives minutes and notices of all the memorable
sayings and doings that served to entertain and occupy the
polite world in Europe. Grimm also entertained and feasted these
distinguished gentlemen. He was not at that time consul for Gotha, or
employed and paid by that court or the Empress Catherine to collect
Parisian anecdotes, neither had he then been made a baron, but was
merely civil secretary of Count von Friese. Both J.J. Rousseau and
Buffon belonged at first to these societies; but the former, in great
alarm, broke off all intercourse with the people who then played the
first parts in Paris, and the other quietly retired.
Mon Henri quatre et ma Zaire,
Et mon Americaine Alzire,
Ne m'ont valu jamais un seul regard du roi;
J'eus beaucoup d'ennemis avec tres-peu de gloire.
Les honneurs et les biens pleuvent enfin sur moi
Pour une farce de la foire.--_La Princesse de Navarro_.]
* * * * *
THE ATHENAEUM UPON HAWTHORNE.
The London _Athenaeum_, of the 15th June, has the following remarks
upon the last work of NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE:
"This is a most powerful and painful story. Mr. Hawthorne must be well
known to our readers as a favorite of the _Athenaeum_. We rate him
as among the most original and peculiar writers of American fiction.
There in his works a mixture of Puritan reserve and wild imagination,
of passion and description, of the allegorical and the real, which
some will fail to understand, and which others will positively
reject,--but which, to ourselves, is fascinating, and which entitles
him to be placed on a level with Brockden Brown and the author of 'Rip
Van Winkle.' 'The Scarlet Letter' will increase his reputation with
all who do not shrink from the invention of the tale; but this, as
we have said, is more than ordinarily painful. When we have announced
that the three characters are a guilty wife, openly punished for her
guilt,--her tempter, whom she refuses to unmask, and who during the
entire story carries a fair front and an unblemished name among his
congregation,--and her husband, who, returning from a long absence at
the moment of her sentence, sits himself down betwixt the two in the
midst of a small and severe community to work out his slow vengeance
on both under the pretext of magnanimous forgiveness,--when we have
explained that 'The Scarlet Letter' is the badge of Hester Prynne's
shame, we ought to add that we recollect no tale dealing with crime
so sad and revenge so subtly diabolical, that is at the same time so
clear of fever and of prurient excitement. The misery of the woman
is as present in every page as the heading which in the title of
the romance symbolizes her punishment. Her terrors concerning her
strange elvish child present retribution in a form which is new and
natural:--her slow and painful purification through repentance is
crowned by no perfect happiness, such as awaits the decline of those
who have no dark and bitter past to remember. Then, the gradual
corrosion of heart of Dimmesdale, the faithless priest, under the
insidious care of the husband, (whose relationship to Hester is
a secret known only to themselves,) is appalling; and his final
confession and expiation are merely a relief, not a reconciliation.
We are by no means satisfied that passions and tragedies like these
are the legitimate subjects for fiction: we are satisfied that
novels such as 'Adam Blair,' and plays such as 'The Stranger,' maybe
justly charged with attracting more persons than they warn by their
excitement. But if Sin and Sorrow in their most fearful forms are to
be presented in any work of art, they have rarely been treated with
a loftier severity, purity, and sympathy than in Mr. Hawthorne's
'Scarlet Letter.' The touch of the fantastic befitting a period of
society in which ignorant and excitable human creatures conceived each
other and themselves to be under the direct 'rule and governance' of
the Wicked One, is most skillfully administered. The supernatural here
never becomes grossly palpable:--the thrill is all the deeper for its
action being indefinite, and its source vague and distant."
[Footnote 2: The Scarlet Letter: a Romance. By Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Boston: Ticknor & Co.]
* * * * *
The Emperor Nicholas has just published an ordonnance, which regulates
the pensions to which Russian and foreign actors at the imperial
theaters at St. Petersburgh shall be entitled. This ordonnance divides
the actors (national as well as foreign) into four classes. The first
class obtains, after twenty years' service, pensions averaging from
300 to 1140 silver rubles. The others, after fifteen years' service,
will receive pensions from 285 to 750 silver rubles.
* * * * *
CHEMICALLY AND PHYSIOLOGICALLY CONSIDERED.--Each hair is a tube,
containing an oil, of a color similar to its own. Hair contains
at least ten distinct substances: sulphate of lime and magnesia,
chlorides of sodium and potassium, phosphate of lime, peroxide of
iron, silica, lactate of ammonia, oxide of manganese and margaim.
Of these, _sulphur_ is the most prominent, and it is upon this that
certain metallic salts operate in changing the color of hair. Thus
when the salts of lead or of mercury are applied, they enter into
combination with the sulphur, and a black sulphuret of the metal is
formed. A common formula for a paste to dye the hair, is a mixture of
litharge, slacked lime, and bicarbonate of potash. Different shades
may be given by altering the proportions of these articles. Black
hair contains iron and manganese and no magnesia; while fair hair is
destitute of the two first substances, but possesses magnesia.
No one ever possessed all the requisites of masculine or feminine
beauty without a profusion of hair. This is one of the crowning
perfections of the human form, upon which poets of all ages have dwelt
with the most untiring satisfaction. However perfect a woman may be
in other respects; however beautiful her eyes, her mouth, teeth, lips,
nose or cheeks; however brilliant her expression, in conversation or
excitement, she is positively disagreeable without this ornament of
nature. The question is sometimes asked, "What will cure love?" We
answer, scissors. Let the object be shorn of hair, and you may take
the word of a physiologist, that the tender passion will lose its
distinctiveness; it may subside into respect: it is more likely to
change into a less agreeable emotion.
In man, the hair is an excellent index of character. As the beard
distinguishes man from woman, so its full and luxuriant growth often
indicates strength and nobleness, intellectual and physical; while
a meager beard suggests an uncertain character--part masculine, part
feminine. Was there ever a truly great man, or one with a generous
disposition, with a thin beard and a weazen face? On the other
hand, show me a man with "royal locks," and I will trust his natural
impulses in almost every vicissitude. When we see a genuine man, upon
whom Nature has declined to set this seal of her approval, we cannot
help an involuntary emotion of admiration for the virtuous and
persevering energy with which he must have overcome his destiny.
Pertinent hereto: we have read with unusual satisfaction the arguments
for Beards in Dr. Marcy's _Theory and Practice of Medicine_ and the
pleasant essays in the same behalf which John Waters has printed in
the _Knickerbocker_. Our conservatism yields before these reformers,
who would bring custom to the proprieties of nature.
* * * * *
WHAT'S IN A NAME?--A good deal, sometimes. Thus, the truth of the
adage of "give a dog a bad name," &c., has lately been exemplified in
a singular manner. Eugene Sue, you may remember, causes some of the
most terrible events in the _Mysteres de Paris_ to occur in the Allee
des Venves, a fine avenue in the Champs Elysees. This has had the
effect of giving the unfortunate Allee--though as quiet, modest,
well-behaved, moral street as need be--a detestable reputation; people
have shunned it as if it were a cavern of cutthroats--those condemned
to live in it have felt themselves _quasi_-infamous--its rents have
fallen, its shops stood empty, its business has dwindled away.
The owners of its houses, and its few remaining inhabitants and
shopkeepers, have for months past been pestering the municipality of
Paris to devise means of restoring its fallen prosperity, and removing
the monstrous stigma attached to it. At last, moved by compassion, the
municipality has given permission to have the name changed to "Avenue
de Montaigne." The ex-Allee, says the writer who informs us of the
circumstance, is in great jubilation, and is crying with enthusiasm
"_Je suis sauvee!_"
* * * * *
"NAMES HIGH INSCRIBED."--It is stated that the names of nearly every
distinguished man in every department of literature and science, from
the remotest antiquity down to the present time, are inscribed in
letters of gold on the outside of the new _Bibliotheque de Sainte
Genevieve_, which is now rapidly approaching completion. The list is
naturally one of tremendous length, and covers not less than three
whole sides of the vast building. It is impossible not to admire the
spirit in which it has been devised, and the impartiality with which
it has been executed. Altogether, it does the highest credit to the
Parisians, and especially to their municipal authorities. The names
are arranged in chronological order, but without date, and without
regard to the nationality of, or to the peculiar distinction achieved
by the individual; thus the two last names are those of Berzelius, the
Swedish _savant_, and Chateaubriand; and a little above them figures
Walter Scott, Byron, and other English immortals. Living celebrities
are of course excluded.
* * * * *
MR. HARTLEY, a benevolent English gentleman, directed in his will that
L200 should be set apart as a prize for the best essay on Emigration,
and appointed the American Minister trustee of the fund. The Vice
Chancellor has decided that the bequest is void, for the reason that
such an essay would encourage people to emigrate to the United States,
and so to throw off their allegiance to the Queen! Another decision
equally wise was made at the same time in regard to a prize for a
treatise on Natural Theology. The learned Vice Chancellor regarded it
as calculated to "subvert the Church."
* * * * *
* * * * *
ROBERT EGLESFELD GRIFFITH, M.D., died in Philadelphia, on the 27th
ult., in the fifty-third year of his age. Dr. Griffith possessed fine
talents; in addition to a thorough knowledge of his profession, he was
familiar with most of the branches of natural science, while in botany
and conchology he stood second to few in this country; and his social
and moral qualities were of the highest order. He filled in succession
the chairs of Materia Medica and Pharmacy in the Philadelphia College
of Pharmacy; of Materia Medica, Therapeutics, Hygiene, and Medical
Jurisprudence in the University of Virginia. Whilst laboring in the
latter station his health failed him, and he was induced to seek a
winters residence in the West Indies in hopes of its restoration. It
became evident, however, that his health was permanently broken, and
for the last four years he has resided in his native city, Though
suffering much, his energy and industry never flagged: and he
has given the results of his labors in his Medical Botany and his
Universal Formulary, two works which will secure him a permanent
reputation. He also enriched by his annotations a number of works
republished in this country, among which we may mention Christison's
Dispensatory, Taylor's Medical Jurisprudence, Ryan's Medical
Jurisprudence, Ballard and Garrod's Materia Medica.
* * * * *
F. MANSELL REYNOLDS, the eldest son of the late F. Reynolds, the
dramatic author, died recently at Fontainebleau. He was long intimate
with and favorably known to literary circles in England, counting such
men as Wordsworth, Coleridge, Bernal, Lockhart, Hook, and many others,
among his personal friends. As the editor of "Heath's Keepsake,"
when it started, he proved himself a person of taste and ability. He
was also the author of "Miserrimus," which excited a considerable
sensation when published, and of one or two other works of fiction,
which, together with his contributions to several serials, displayed
much variety of talent.
* * * * *
JOHN ROBY, author of "Traditions of Lancashire," and other works,
which have been as popular as any of their class, is mentioned as one
of the persons lost in the "Orion" steamer. Mr. Roby was long a banker
in Rochdale, and partner of Mr. Fielden, and though an excellent man
of business, his mind was deeply interested in literary pursuits and
in cultivating the friendly intercourse of literary men.
* * * * *
Prof. CANSTATT, of the University of Erlangen, died on the 10th of
March, after a long and painful illness. Dr. C. was one of the most
distinguished physicians of our times, and had won for himself a
lasting reputation by his work on the diseases of old age.
* * * * *
* * * * *
The following graphic picture of domestic happiness in humble
life, was written by Townsend Haines, Esq., late Secretary of the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and now Register of the Treasury, at
Washington. Mr. Haines is an eloquent and accomplished lawyer, with
fine capacities for literature, to which it may be regretted that he
has recently given so little attention.
I once knew a plowman, Bob Fletcher his name,
Who was old and was ugly, and so was his dame;
Yet they lived quite contented, and free from all strife,
Bob Fletcher the plowman, and Judy his wife.
As the morn streaked the east, and the night fled away
They would rise up for labor, refreshed for the day,
And the song of the lark, as it rose on the gale,
Found Bob at the plow, and his wife at the pail.
A neat little cottage in front of a grove,
Where in youth they first gave their young hearts up to love,
Was the solace of age, and to them doubly dear,
As it called up the past, with a smile or a tear.
Each tree had its thought, and the vow could impart,
That mingled in youth, the warm wish of the heart:
The thorn was still there, and the blossoms it bore,
And the song from its top seemed the same as before.
When the curtain of night over nature was spread,
And Bob had returned from the plow to his shed,
Like the dove on her nest, he reposed from all care,
If his wife and his youngsters contented were there.
I have passed by his door when the evening was gray,
And the hill and the landscape were fading away,
And have heard from the cottage, with grateful surprise,
The voice of thanksgiving, like incense arise.
And I thought on the proud, who look down with scorn,
On the neat little cottage, the grove and the thorn,
And felt that the riches and tinsels of life,
Were dross, to contentment, with Bob and his wife.
* * * * *
[FROM DICKENS'S HOUSEHOLD WORDS.]
A lamb strayed for the first time into the woods, and excited much
discussion among the other animals. In a mixed company, one day, when
he became the subject of a friendly gossip, the goat praised him.
"Pooh!" said the lion, "this is too absurd. The beast is a pretty
beast enough, but did you hear him roar? I heard him roar, and, by the
manes of my fathers, when he roars he does nothing but cry ba-a-a!"
And the lion bleated his best in mockery, but bleated far from well.
"Nay," said the deer, "I do not think so badly of his voice. I liked
him well enough until I saw him leap. He kicks with his hind legs in
running and, with all his skipping, gets over very little ground."
"It is a bad beast altogether," said the tiger. "He cannot roar,
he cannot run, he can do nothing--and what wonder? I killed a man
yesterday, and, in politeness to the new comer, offered him a bit;
upon which he had the impudence to look disgusted, and say, 'No, sir,
I eat nothing but grass.'"
So the beasts criticized the lamb, each in his own way; and yet it was
a good lamb, nevertheless.
* * * * *
AUTHORS AND BOOKS.
* * * * *
E.P. WHIPPLE was the Fourth of July orator of the city of Boston. The
_Morning Post_ says, "his ability is so agile, elegant, and hilarious,
that his readers generally do not discern the profundity and
comprehensiveness of his nature or the progressive power of thought
manifested in his writings. We await impatiently the publication
of his late oration. It will be an apt opportunity, by the way, to
compare Mr. E. Everett with him, each having just spoken on a similar
national occasion. His level, 'fairspoken, immaculate regularity' will
contrast widely with the bold, vital vigor and originality of Mr. W.
No man of constitutional timidity, feeble will, and shallow thought
can ever have a real right to the title of orator. Men of minds
cultivated overmuch, and elaborately trained, are apt to lack central
spiritual vitality, as some fruits grown to great size by art of
the gardener fail of their native flavor, become insipid, and even
_hollow_ at the center."
* * * * *
THE "HISTORY OF RELIGION," by the celebrated John Evelyn, author of
"Sylva," &c., now first published from the original MS. in the Library
at Wotton, with notes by the Rev. R.M. Evanson, is among the books
announced by Colburn, for the first of July. The journals, in
anticipation, express some curiosity upon the subject, whether it
be pedantic, orthodox, and trimming, like the author, or whether it
contain any of the Chubb and Toland spirit. Two new and important
works, ethically related to this, have just been issued; the one
in France, called _Qu'est-ce que la Religion, d'apres la Nouvelle
Philosophie Allemande_, wherein Feuerbach's daring evolutions of
Hegel's principles are translated for the benefit of those who cannot
read German; the other, called _The Progress of Intellect_, showing
the various developments of religious ideas through history.
* * * * *
LEIGH HUNT, it is apprehended, will be appointed laureate. The
_Athenaeum_ objects, and we think very properly urges, that if the
office is to be continued, it should be given to the finest living
poet of her Majesty's own sex, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This
appropriation of the laurel would in a manner recompense two poets
by a single act.
* * * * *
Mr. ROBERT LEMON, of the State Paper Office, to whom we are indebted
for the discovery of the MS. of Milton's Treatise on Christian
Doctrine, is to be editor of an extensive publication of Calendars of
the Domestic Papers in possession of the Government, from the reign
of Edward the Sixth to the close of the reign of Elizabeth. The
_Athenaeum_ suggests that it will be of great advantage to the literary
world for its important documents illustrative of facts and manners.
* * * * *
Dr. GUTZLAFF, who is preaching at Berlin and Potsdam on behalf of
the Chinese mission, lately introduced into the closing prayer of the
service, at the garrison church at the latter place, besides the name
of the King and the royal family, a supplication for _his_ Emperor
of China, and the ministers and people of that nation. Dr. Gutzlaff
expresses a confident hope that the Emperor of Japan will become
converted to Christianity.
* * * * *
MEETINGS have been held at the house of Mr. Justice Coleridge, in
London, at which a committee has been formed, with the Bishop of
London at its head, to initiate a subscription to do honor to the
memory of the poet Wordsworth, by placing a whole length effigy of
him in Westminster Abbey, and, if the funds suffice, by erecting a
monument to his memory near Grassmere.
* * * * *
Mr. E.G. SQUIER, our _Charge d'Affaires_ to Central America, is now in
New York, and will soon publish an essay upon the antiquities of that
country, similar in design, probably, to his important volume on the
remains of ancient works in the valley of the Mississippi, printed for
the Smithsonian Institute.
* * * * *
FRANCIS BOWEN, the editor of the _North American Review_, has been
appointed Professor of History and Political Economy in Harvard
College, and it is understood that the Latin Professorship, made
vacant by the resignation of Dr. Beck, will be tendered to Mr. George
M. Lane, now in Europe.
* * * * *
THE FRENCH ACADEMY has decreed to M. Emile Augier, the author of
_Gabrielle_, the prize of seven thousand francs, for the best dramatic
work inculcating principles of rectitude and morality.
* * * * *
CHARLES LUCIEN BONAPARTE (Prince of Canino) is now at Berlin, where he
occupies himself exclusively with scientific pursuits, and the society
of learned men.
* * * * *
THE UNIVERSITY OF DURHAM has conferred the honorary degree of M.A. on
Robert Stephenson, and on Mr. Henry Taylor, the author of "Philip Van
* * * * *
JOHN G. SAXE has been elected by the Mercantile Library Association of
Montreal, to deliver the poem at the opening of their winter course of
* * * * *
THE SULTAN of Turkey has granted to the Princess Belgioiso, for
herself and the Italian emigrants, some extensive tracts of land on
the gulf of Nicomedia.
* * * * *
THE NEW OPERA, on which M. Strakosch is now engaged, is to be called
_La Regina di Napoli_. The plot is taken from the history of the
unfortunate Queen Joana of Sicily, and abounds in scenes of dramatic
* * * * *
[FROM THE DUBLIN UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE FOR JULY.]
THE OLD MAN'S BEQUEST;
A STORY OF GOLD.
Through the ornamented grounds of a handsome country residence, at
a little distance from a large town in Ireland, a man of about fifty
years of age was walking with a bent head, and the impress of sorrow
on his face.
"Och, yer honor, give me one sixpence, or one penny, for God's sake,"
cried a voice from the other side of a fancy paling which separated
the grounds in that quarter from a thoroughfare. "For heaven's sake,
Mr. Lawson, help me as ye helped me before. I know you've the heart
and the hand to do it."
The person addressed as Mr. Lawson looked up and saw a woman whom he
knew to be in most destitute circumstances, burdened with a large and
sickly family, whom she had struggled to support until her own health
"I have no money--not one farthing," answered John Lawson.
"No money!" reiterated the woman, in surprise: "isn't it all yours,
then?--isn't this garden yours, and that house, and all the grand
things that are in it yours?--ay, and grand things they are--them
pictures, and them bright shinin' things in that drawing-room of
yours; and sure you deserve them well, and may God preserve them long
to you, for riches hasn't hardened your heart, though there's many a
one, and heaven knows the gold turns their feelin's to iron."
"It all belongs to my son, Henry Lawson, and Mrs. Lawson, and their
children--it is all theirs," he sighed heavily, and deep emotion was
visible in every lineament of his thin and wrinkled face.
The poor woman raised her blood-shot eyes to his face, as if she
was puzzled by his words. She saw that he was suffering, and with
intuitive delicacy she desisted from pressing her wants, though her
need was great.
"Well, well, yer honor, many's the good penny ye have given me and the
childer, and maybe the next time I see you you'll have more change."
She was turning sadly away, when John Lawson requested her to remain,
and he made inquiries into the state of her family; the report
he heard seemed to touch him even to the forgetfulness of his own
sorrows; he bade her stop for a few moments and he would give her some
He walked rapidly toward the house and proceeded to the drawing-room.
It was a large and airy apartment, and furnished with evident
profusion; the sunlight of the bright summer-day, admitted partially
through the amply-draperied windows, lit up a variety of sparkling
gilding in picture-frames, and vases, and mirrors, and cornices; but
John Lawson looked round on the gay scene with a kind of shudder; he
had neither gold, silver, nor even copper in his pocket, or in his
He advanced to a lady who reclined on a rose-colored sofa, with a
fashionable novel in her hand, and after some slight hesitation he
addressed her, and stating the name and wants of the poor woman who
had begged for aid, he requested some money.
As he said the words "some money," his lips quivered, and a tremor
ran through his whole frame, for his thoughts were vividly picturing
a recently departed period, when he was under no necessity of asking
money from any individual.
"Bless me, my dear Mr. Lawson!" cried the lady, starting up from her
recumbent position, "did I not give you a whole handful of shillings
only the day before yesterday; and if you wasted it all on poor
people since, what am I to do? Why, indeed, we contribute so much to
charitable subscriptions, both Mr. Lawson and I, you might be content
to give a little less to common beggars."
Mrs. Lawson spoke with a smile on her lips, and with a soft caressing
voice, but a hard and selfish nature shone palpably from her blue
eyes. She was a young woman, and had the repute of beauty, which
a clear pink-and-white complexion, and tolerable features, with
luxuriant light hair, generally gains from a portion of the world. She
was dressed for the reception of morning visitors whom she expected,
and she was enveloped in expensive satin and blond, and jewelry in
John Lawson seemed to feel every word she had uttered in the depths
of his soul, but he made a strong effort to restrain the passion which
was rising to his lips.
"Augusta, my daughter, you are the wife of my only and most beloved
child--I wish to love you--I wish to live in peace with you, and
all--give me some money to relieve the wants of the unfortunate woman
to whom I have promised relief, and who is waiting without. I ask not
for myself, but for the poor and suffering--give me a trifle of money,
"Indeed, Mr. Lawson, a bank would not support your demands for the
poor people; that woman for whom you are begging has been relieved
twenty times by us. I have no money just now."
She threw herself back on the sofa, and resumed her novel; but anger,
darting from her eyes, contrasted with the trained smile which still
remained on her lips.
A dark shade of passion and scorn came over John Lawson's face, but
he strove to suppress it, and his voice was calm when he spoke.
"Some time before my son married you, I gave up all my business to
him--I came to live here amongst trees and flowers--I gave up all
the lucrative business I had carried on to my son, partly because my
health was failing, and I longed to live with nature, away from the
scenes of traffic; but more especially because I loved my son with
no common love, and I trusted to him as to a second self. I was not
disappointed--we had one purse and one heart before he married you;
he never questioned me concerning what I spent in charity--he never
asked to limit in any way my expenditure--he loved you, and I made
no conditions concerning what amount of income I was to receive, but
still I left him in entire possession of my business when he married
you. I trusted to your fair, young face, that you would not controvert
my wishes--that you would join me in my schemes of charity."
"And have I not?" interrupted Mrs. Lawson, in a sharp voice, though
the habitual smile still graced her lips; "do I not subscribe to, I
don't know how many, charitable institutions? Charity, indeed--there's
enough spent in charity by myself and my husband. But I wish to stop
extravagance--it is only extravagance to spend so much on charity as
you would do if you could; therefore, you shall not have any money
Mrs. Lawson was one of those women who can cheerfully expend a most
lavish sum on a ball, a dress, or any other method by which rank and
luxury dissipate their abundance, but who are very economical, and
talk much of extravagance when money is demanded for purposes not
connected with display or style.
"Augusta Lawson, listen to me"--his voice quivering with passion--"my
own wants are very few; in food, in clothes, in all points my
expenditure is trifling. I am not extravagant in my demands for the
poor, either. All I have expended in charity during the few years
since you came here, is but an insignificant amount as contrasted with
the income which I freely gave up to my son and you; therefore, some
money for the poor woman who is waiting, I shall now have; give me
some shillings, for God's sake, and let me go." He advanced closer to
her, and held out his hand.
"Nonsense!" cried Mrs. Lawson; "I am mistress, here--I am determined
to stop extravagance. You give too much to common beggars; I am
determined to stop it--do not ask me any further."
A kind of convulsion passed over John Lawson's thin face; but he
pressed his hand closely on his breast, and was silent for some
"I was once rich, I believe. Yes--it is not a dream," he said, in a
slow, self-communing voice. "Gold and silver, once ye were plenty with
me; my hands--my pockets were filled--guineas, crowns, shillings--now
I have not one penny to give to that starving, dying woman, whose face
of misery might soften the very stones she looks on--not one penny."
"Augusta," he said, turning suddenly toward her, after a second pause
of silence, "give me only one shilling, and I shall not think of the
bitter words you have just said."
"No; not one shilling," answered Mrs. Lawson, turning over a leaf of
"One sixpence, then--one small, poor sixpence. You do not know how
even a sixpence can gladden the black heart of poverty when starvation
is come. One sixpence, I say--let me have it quickly."
"Not one farthing I shall give you. I do beg you will trouble me no
Mrs. Lawson turned her back partially to him, and fixed all her
attention on the novel.
"Woman! I have cringed and begged; I would not so beg for myself,
from you--no: I would lie down and die of want before I would, on my
own account, request of you--of your hard heart--one bit of bread.
All the finery that surrounds you is mine--it was purchased with my
money, though now you call it yours; and, usurping the authority of
both master and mistress here, you--in what you please to call your
economical management--dole out shillings to me when the humor seizes
you, or refuse me, as now, when it pleases you. But, woman, listen
to me. I shall never request you for one farthing of money again. No
necessity of others shall make me do it. You shall never again refuse
me, for I shall never give you the opportunity."
He turned hastily from the room, with a face on which the deep emotion
of an aroused spirit was depicted strongly.
In the lobby he met his son, Henry Lawson. The young man paused,
something struck by the excited appearance of his father.
"Henry," said the father, abruptly, "I want some money; there is a
poor woman whom I wish to relieve--will you give me some money for
"Willingly, my dear father; but have you asked Augusta? You know
I have given her the management of the money-matters of the
establishment, she is so very clever and economical."
"She has neither charity, nor pity, nor kindness; she saves from
me--she saves from the starving poor--she saves, that she may waste
large sums on parties and dresses. I shall never more ask her for
money--give me a few shillings. My God! the father begs of the son for
what was his own--for what he toiled all his youth--for what he gave
up out of trusting love to that son. Henry, my son, I am sick of
asking and begging--ay, sick--sick; but give me some shillings now."
"You asked Augusta, then," said Henry, drawing out his purse, and
glancing with some apprehension to the drawing-room door.
"Henry," cried Mrs. Lawson, appearing at that instant with a face
inflamed with anger--"Henry, _I_ would not give your father any money
to-day, because he is so very extravagant in giving it all away."
Henry was in the act of opening his purse; he glanced apprehensively
to Mrs. Lawson; his face had a mild and passive expression, which was
a true index of his yielding and easily-governed nature. His features
were small, delicate, and almost effeminately handsome; and in every
lineament a want of decision and force of character was visible.
"Henry, give me some shillings, I say--I am your father--I have a just
"Yes, yes, surely" said Henry, making a movement to open his purse.
"Henry, I do not wish you to give him money to waste in charity, as he
Mrs. Lawson gave her husband an emphatic, but, at the same time,
cunningly caressing and smiling look.
"Henry, I am your father--give me the money I want."
"Augusta, my love, you know it was all his," said Henry, going close
to her, and speaking in a kind of whisper.
"My dearest Henry, were it for any other purpose but for throwing
away, I would not refuse. I am your father's best friend, and your
best friend, in wishing to restrain all extravagance."
"My dear father, she wishes to be economical, you know."
He dangled the purse, undecidedly, in his fingers.
"Will you give me the money at once, and let me go?" cried John
Lawson, elevating his voice.
"My dear Augusta, it is better--"
"Henry, do not, I beg of you."
"Henry, my son, will you let me have the money?"
Mrs. Lawson articulated but the one word; there was enough of energy
and determination in it to make her husband close the purse he had
"I ask you only this once more--give me the few shillings?"
John Lawson bent forward in an eager manner; a feverish red kindled
on his sallow cheeks; his eyes were wildly dilated, and his lips
compressed. There was a pause of some moments.
"You will not give it me?" he said, in a voice deep-toned and
singularly calm, as contrasted with his convulsed face.
Henry dangled the purse again in his hand, and looked uneasily and
irresolutely toward his wife.
"No, he will not give it--you will get no money to squander on poor
people this day," Mrs. Lawson said, in a very sharp and decided voice.
John Lawson did not say another word; he turned away and slowly
descended the stairs, and walked out of the house.
He did not return that evening. He had been seen on the road leading
to the house of a relative who was in rather poor circumstances. Henry
felt rather annoyed at his fathers absence; he had no depth in his
affection, but he had been accustomed to see him and hear his voice
every day, and therefore he missed him, but consoled himself with
the thought that they would soon meet again, as it never entered his
imagination that his father had quitted the house for a lengthened
period. Mrs. Lawson felicitated herself on the event, and hoped that
the old man would remain for some time with his relative.
The following day a letter was handed to Henry; it was from his
father, and was as follows:
"TO MY SON HENRY--I have at last come to the resolution of quitting
your house, which I can no longer call mine, in even the least degree.
For weeks--for months--ever since you married--ever since your wife
took upon herself what she calls the management of your house and
purse, I have felt bound down under the weight of an oppressive
bondage. I could not go and take a pound or a shilling from our common
stock, as I used to do before you married, when you and I lived in one
mind, and when I believed that the very spirit of your departed, your
angel mother, dwelt in you, as you had, and have still, her very face
and form. No, no, we had no common stock when you married. She put me
on an allowance--ay, an allowance. You lived, and saw me receiving
an allowance; you whom I loved with an idolatry which God has now
punished; you to whom I freely gave up my business--my money-making
business. I gave it you--I gave all to you--I would have given my
very life and soul to you, because I thought that with your mother's
own face you had her noble and generous nature. You were kind before
you married; but that marriage has proved your weakness and want of
natural affection. Yes, you stood at my side yesterday; you looked
on my face--I, the father who loved you beyond all bounds of fatherly
love--you stood and heard me beg for a few shillings; you heard me
supplicate earnestly and humbly, and you would not give because your
wife was not willing. Henry, I could force you to give me a share of
the profits of your business; but keep it--keep it all. You would not
voluntarily give me some shillings, and I shall not demand what right
and justice would give me. Keep all, every farthing.
"It was for charity I asked the few shillings; you know it. You
know from whom I imbibed whatever I possess of the blessed spirit of
charity. I was as hard and unpitying as even your wife before your
mother taught me to feel and relieve the demands of poverty. Yes, and
she taught you; you cannot forget it. She taught you to give food to
the starving, in your earliest days. She strove to impress your infant
mind with the very soul of charity; and yesterday she looked down from
the heaven of the holy departed, and saw you refusing me, your father,
a few shillings to bestow on charity.
"Henry, I can live with you and your wife no more. I should grow
avaricious in my old age, were I to remain with you. I should long
for money to call my own. Those doled out shillings which I received
wakened within me feelings of a dark nature--covetousness, and envy,
and discontent--which must have shadowed the happiness of your mother
in heaven to look down upon. I must go and seek out an independent
living for myself, even yet, though I am fifty-two. Though my energies
for struggling with the world died, I thought, when your mother died,
and, leaving my active business to you, I retired to live in the
country, I must go forth again, as if I were young, to seek for
the means of existence, for I feel I was not made to be a beggar--a
creature hanging on the bounty of others; no, no, the merciful God
will give me strength yet to provide for myself, though I am old, and
broken down in mind and body. Farewell; you who were once my beloved
son, may God soften and amend your heart."
When Henry perused this letter, he would immediately have gone in
search of his father, in order to induce him to return home; but Mrs.
Lawson was at his side, and succeeded in persuading him to allow his
father to act as he pleased, and remain away as long as he wished.
* * * * *
Ten years rolled over our world, sinking millions beneath the black
waves of adverse fortune and fate, and raising the small number who,
of the innumerable aspirants for earthly good, usually succeed. Henry
Lawson was one of those whom time had lowered in fortune. His business
speculations had, for a lengthened period, been rather unsuccessful,
while Mrs. Lawson's expensive habits increased every day. At length
affairs came to such a crisis, that retrenchment or failure was
inevitable. Henry had enough of wisdom and spirit to insist on the
first alternative, and Mrs. Lawson was compelled by the pressure
of circumstances to yield in a certain degree; the country-house,
therefore, was let, Mrs. Lawson assigning as a reason, that she had
lost all relish for the country after the death of her dear children,
both of whom had died, leaving the parents childless.
It was the morning of a close sultry day in July, and Mrs. Lawson was
seated in her drawing-room. She was dressed carefully and expensively
as of old, but she had been dunned and threatened at least
half-a-dozen times for the price of the satin dress she wore. Her
face was thin and pale, and there was a look of much care on her
countenance; her eyes were restless and sunken, and discontent
spoke in their glances as she looked on the chairs, sofas, and
window-draperies, which had once been bright-colored, but were now
much faded. She had just come to the resolution of having new covers
and hangings, though their mercer's and upholsterer's bills were
long unsettled, when a visitor was shown into the room. It was Mrs.
Thompson, the wife of a very prosperous and wealthy shopkeeper.
Mrs. Lawson's thin lips wreathed themselves into bright smiles of
welcome, whilst the foul demon took possession of her soul. Mrs.
Thompson's dress was of the most costly French satin, whilst hers was
merely British manufacture. They had been old school companions and
rivals in their girlish days. During the first years of the married
life of each, Mrs. Lawson had outshone Mrs. Thompson in every respect;
but now the eclipsed star beamed brightly and scornfully beside the
clouds which had rolled over her rival. Mrs. Thompson was, in face
and figure, in dress and speech, the very impersonation of vulgar and
"My goodness, it's so hot!" she said, loosening the fastening of
her bonnet, the delicate French blond and white satin and plume,
of which that fabric was composed, contrasting rather painfully at
the same time with her flushed mahogany-colored complexion, and
ungracefully-formed features. "Bless me, I'm so glad we'll get off to
our country-house to-morrow. It's so very delightful, Mrs. Lawson, to
have a country residence to go to. Goodness me, what a close room,
and such a hot, dusty street. It does just look so queer to me after
To this Mrs. Lawson made a response as composed as she could; she
would have retorted bitterly and violently, but her husband had a
connection with the Thompson establishment, and for strong reasons she
considered it prudent to refrain from quarreling with Mrs. Thompson.
She therefore spoke but very little, and Mrs. Thompson was left at
full liberty to give a lengthened detail of Mr. Thompson's great
wealth and her own great profusion. She began first with herself, and
furnished an exact detail of all the fine things she had purchased
in the last month, down to the latest box of pins. Next, her babies
occupied her for half an hour--the quantity of chicken they
consumed, and the number of frocks they soiled per diem were minutely
chronicled. Then her house came under consideration: she depicted
the bright glory of the new _ponceau_ furniture, as contrasted with
shocking old faded things--and she glanced significantly toward Mrs.
Lawson's sofas and chairs. Next she made a discursive detour to the
culinary department, and gave a statement of the number of stones of
lump sugar she was getting boiled in preserves, and of the days of the
week in which they had puddings, and the days they had pies at dinner.
"But, Mrs. Lawson dear, have you seen old Mr. Lawson since he came
home?" she said, when she was rising to depart: "but I suppose you
haven't, for they say he won't have anything to do with his relations
now--he won't come near you I have heard. They say he has brought such
a lot of money with him from South America."
At this intelligence every feature of Mrs. Lawson's face brightened
with powerful interest. She inquired where Mr. Lawson stopped, and
was informed that he had arrived at the best hotel in town about three
days previously, and that every one talked of the large fortune he had
made abroad, as he seemed to make no secret of the fact.
A burning eagerness to obtain possession of that money entered Mrs.
Lawson's soul, and she thought every second of time drawn out to the
painful duration of a long hour, while Mrs. Thompson slowly moved her
ample skirts of satin across the drawing-room, and took her departure.
Mrs. Lawson dispatched a messenger immediately for her husband.
Henry Lawson came in, and listened with surprise to the intelligence
of his father's return. He was taking up his hat to proceed to
the hotel in quest of him, when a carriage drove to the door.
Mrs. Lawson's heart palpitated with eagerness--if it should be her
husband's father in his own carriage--how delightful!--that horrible
Mrs. Thompson had not a carriage of her own yet, though she was always
talking of it. They, Mrs. Lawson and her husband, had just been about
setting up a carriage when business failed with them. She ran
briskly down the stairs--for long years she had not flown with such
alertness--rapid visions of gold, of splendor, and triumph seemed to
bear her along, as if she had not been a being of earth.
She was not disappointed, for there, at the open door, stood John
Lawson. He was enveloped in a cloak of fur, the costliness of which
told Mrs. Lawson that it was the purchase of wealth; a servant in
plain livery supported him, for he seemed a complete invalid.
Mrs. Lawson threw her arms around his neck, and embraced him with a
warmth and eagerness which brought a cold and bitter smile over the
white, thin lips of John Lawson. He replied briefly to the welcomings
he had received. He threw aside his cloak, and exhibited the figure
of an exceedingly emaciated and feeble old man, who had all the
appearance of ninety years, though he was little more than sixty; his
face was worn and fleshless to a painful degree; his hair was of the
whitest shade of great age, but his eyes had grown much more serene in
their expression than in his earlier days, notwithstanding a cast of
suffering which his whole countenance exhibited. He was plainly, but
most carefully and respectably dressed; a diamond ring of great value
was on one of his fingers; the luster of the diamonds caught Mrs.
Lawson's glance on her first inspection of his person, and her heart
danced with rapture--Mrs. Thompson had no such ring, with all her
boasting of all her finery.
"I have come to see my child before I die," said the old man, gazing
on his son with earnest eyes; "you broke the ties of nature between
us on your part, when, ten years ago, you refused your father a few
shillings from your abundance, but--"
He was interrupted by Mrs. Lawson, who uttered many voluble
protestations of her deep grief at her having, even though for the
sake of economy, refused the money her dear father had solicited
before he left them. She vowed that she had neither ate, nor slept,
nor even dressed herself for weeks after his departure; and that,
sleeping or waking, she was perpetually wishing she had given him the
money, even though she had known that he was going to throw it into
the fire, or lose it in any way. Her poor, dear father--oh, she wept
so after she heard that he had left the country. To be sure, Henry
could tell how, for two or three nights, her pillow was soaked with
A cold, bitter smile again flitted across the old man's lips; he made
no response to her words, but in the one look which his hollow eyes
cast on her, he seemed to read the falsehood of her assertions.
"I was going to add," he said, "that though you forgot you were my
son, and refused to act as my son, when you withheld the paltry sum
for which I begged, yet I could not refrain from coming once more to
look on my child's face--to look on the face of my departed wife in
yours--for I know that a very brief period must finish my life now.
I should not have come here, I feel--I know it is the weakness of my
nature--I should have died amongst strangers, for the strangers
of other countries, the people of a different hue and a different
language, I have found kind and pitiful, compared with those of my
"Oh, don't say so--don't say so--you are our own beloved father; ah,
my heart clings to every feature of your poor, dear old face: there
are the eyes and all that I used to talk to Henry so much about. Don't
talk of strangers--I shall nurse you and attend to you night and day."
She made a movement, as if she would throw her arms around his neck
again, but the old man drew back.
"Woman! your hypocritical words show me that your pitiless heart is
still unchanged--that it has grown even worse. You forced me out to
the world in my old age, when I should have had no thoughts except
of God and the world to come; you forced me to think of money-making,
when my hair was gray and my blood cold with years. Yes, I had to
draw my thoughts from the future existence, and to waste them on the
miserable toils of traffic, in order to make money: for it was better
to do this than to drag out my life a pensioner on your bounty,
receiving shillings and pence, which you gave me as if it had been
your own heart's blood, though I only asked my own. Woman! the black
slavery of my dependence on you was frightful; but now I can look
you thanklessly in the face, for I have the means of living without
you. I spent sick and sleepless days and nights, but I gained an
independence; the merciful God blessed the efforts of the old man, who
strove to gain his livelihood--yes, I am independent of you both. I
came to see my son before I die--that is all I want."
Mrs. Lawson attempted a further justification of herself, but the
words died on her lips. The stern looks of the old man silenced her.
After remaining for a short time, he rose to take his departure; but,
at the earnest solicitations of his son, he consented to remain for
a few days, only on condition that he should pay for his board and
lodging. To this Mrs. Lawson made a feint of resistance, but agreed in
the end, as the terms offered by the old man were very advantageous.
"I shall soon have a lodging for which no mortal is called on to
pay--the great mother-earth," said the old man, "and I am glad, glad
to escape from this money-governed world. Do not smile so blandly on
me, both of you, and attend me with such false tenderness. There, take
it away," he said, as Mrs. Lawson was placing her most comfortable
footstool under his feet; "there was no attendance, no care, not a
civil action or kind look for me when I was poor John Lawson, the
silly, most silly old man, who had given up all to his son and his
son's wife, for the love of them, and expected, like a fool as he was,
to live with them on terms of perfect equality, and to have the family
purse open to him for any trifling sums he wished to take. Go, go
for God's sake; try and look bitterly on me now, as you did when you
forced me out of your house. I detest your obsequious attentions--I
was as worthy of them ten years ago, before I dragged down my old age
to the debasing efforts of money-making. You know I am rich; you would
worship my money in me now. Not a smiling look, not a soft word you
bestow on me, but is for my riches, not for me. Ay, you think you have
my wealth in your grasp already; you know I cannot live long. Thank
God that my life is almost ended, and I hope my death will be a
benefit to you, in softening your hard hearts."
Mrs. Lawson drew some hope from his last words, and she turned away
her head to hide the joy which shone on her face.
In a few days the old man became seriously ill, and was altogether
confined to his room. As death evidently approached, his mind became
serene and calm, and he received the attentions which Mrs. Lawson and
his son lavished on him with a silent composure, which led them to
hope that he had completely forgotten their previous conduct to him.
The night on which he died, he turned to his son, and said a few
words, a very few words, regarding worldly matters. He exhorted
Henry to live in a somewhat less expensive style, and to cultivate a
spirit of contentment without riches; then he blessed God that he was
entering on a world in which he could hear no more of money or earthly
possession. He remained in a calm sleep during the greater part of the
night, they thought, but in the morning they found him dead.
The funeral was over, and the time was come in which the old man's
will was to be opened. Mrs. Lawson had waited for that moment--she
would have forcibly dragged time onward to that moment--she had
execrated the long hours of night since the old man's death--she had
still more anathemized the slowly passing days, when gazing furtively
through a corner of the blinded window, she saw fine equipages and
finely-dressed ladies passing, and she planned how she would shine
when the old man's wealth would be her own. She drew glorious mental
pictures of how she would burst from behind the shadowing cloud of
poverty, and dazzle all her acquaintances. Her dress, her carriage,
her style of living would be unique in her rank of life for taste and
costliness. She would show them she had got money--money at last--more
money than they all.
Now at last she sat and saw the will being opened; she felt that it
was a mere formality, for the old man had none but them to whom he
could leave his money; she never once doubted but all would be theirs;
she had reasoned and fancied herself into the firm conviction. Her
only fear was, that the amount might not be so large as she calculated
She saw the packet opened. Her eyes dilated, her lips became parched,
her heart and brain burned with a fierce eagerness--money! money at
last! uttered the griping spirit within her.
The will, after beginning in the usual formal style, was as follows:
"I bequeath to my son Henry's wife, Augusta Lawson, a high and noble
gift"--Mrs. Lawson almost sprung from her seat with eagerness--"the
greatest of all legacies, I bequeath to Augusta Lawson--Charity!
Augusta Lawson refused me a few shillings which I wished to bestow
on a starving woman; but now I leave her joint executrix, with my son
Henry, in the distribution of all my money and all my effects, without
any reservation, in charity, to be applied to such charitable purposes
as in this, my last will and testament, I have directed."
Then followed a statement of his effects and money, down to the most
minute particular. The money amounted to a very considerable sum; his
personal effects he directed to be sold, with the exception of his
very valuable diamond ring, which he bequeathed to the orphan daughter
of the poor relation in whose house he had taken refuge, and remained
for a short time, previous to his going abroad. All the proceeds \
of his other effects, together with the whole amount of his money,
he bequeathed for different charitable purposes, and gave minute
directions as to the manner in which various sums were to be expended.
The largest amount he directed to be distributed in yearly donations
amongst the most indigent old men and women within a circuit of ten
miles of his native place. Those who were residing with their sons
and their sons' wives, were to receive by far the largest relief. He
appointed as trustees two of the most respectable merchants of the
town, to whom he gave authority to see the provisions of his will
carried out, in case his son and Mrs. Lawson should decline the duties
of executorship which he had bequeathed to them. The trustees were to
exercise a surveillance over Mr. and Mrs. Lawson, to see that the will
should in every particular be strictly carried into effect. The will
was dated and duly signed in the town in South America where the old
man had for some years resided. A codicil, containing the bequest of
the ring, with some further particulars regarding the charities, had
been added a few days previous to the old man's death.
Mrs. Lawson was carried fainting from the room before the reading of
the will was concluded. She was seized with violent fever, and her
life was despaired of. She recovered, however, and from the verge of
the eternal existence on which she had been, she returned to life with
a less worldly and ostentatious nature, and a soul more alive to the
impulses of kindness and charity.
* * * * *
HORACE VERNET, the painter, is in St. Petersburgh, and is soon
expected in Vienna, where he will study the uniform, scenery, &c.,
in order to paint various scenes in the Hungarian war.
* * * * *
HARRO HARRING has escaped from Norway into England, whence he has
issued a document, describing the circumstances of his departure, and
protesting against the arbitrary and unjust conduct of the Norwegian
Government. In this paper, which is drawn up with indignant eloquence,
Harring appeals to the Norwegian Storthing of 1851, confident that
he shall receive ample justice at the hands of the Representatives of
* * * * *
Miss H.M. WEBBER, an American, has issued a pamphlet in Brussels
advocating the assumption of the male attire by her sex till they are
* * * * *
GARRIBALDI, the Italian general, is on his way to New York. He has
written his "experiences," which will soon make their appearance in
America, where, as in Europe, they will be eagerly read, as few men
can throw so much light upon the recent important events in Italy.
* * * * *
Mrs. CHILD is passing the summer near Boston, and is still occupied
with a book upon the History of the Religious Element in Society,
which has several years engaged her attention. A new edition of her
novel of _The Rebels_ has just been published, and the degree to which
it has been known is illustrated in the critical announcements of it.
The Albany _State Register_, like other journals, seems to think it a
fresh book, and observes of the writer:--"The author of Hobornok has
always been a favorite with the public, though it is a long while
since we have had the pleasure of welcoming anything from his pen.
The present work, however, bears the impress of the talents which have
always marked his writings!"
* * * * *
[FROM THE LEADER.]
Once in my childish days I heard
A woman's voice that slowly read,
How 'twixt two shadowy mountains sped
Four colored steeds, four chariots whirr'd.
I watched until she laid the book
On the white casement-ledge again;
My heart beat high with joyful pain
On that strange oracle to look.
Day after day I would ascend
The staircase in that large old house,
And still and timorous as a mouse
I sat and made the book my friend.
I saw the birth of seas and skies,
The first sweet woman, first brave man;
I saw how morning light began,
How faded--over Paradise.
I stood with the first Arab boy;
I saw the mother and the child,
Of Oriental vision wild,
Laugh by the well for utter joy.
I saw the youth go forth at morn,
A traveler to the Syrian land,
And in the lonely evening stand
An exile weary and forlorn.
I saw him by the roadside lay
His sunken head upon a stone,
And while he slumbered, still and lone,
A dream fell on him, fair as day.
I saw a golden ladder reach
From earth to heaven among the stars,
And up and down its gleaming bars
Trod stately angels, without speech.
What wonders did I not behold!
Dark gorgeous women, turbaned men,
White tents, like ships, in plain and glen,
Slaves, palm trees, camels, pearls, and gold.
Ah! many an hour I sat and read,
And God seemed with me all day long;
Joy murmured a sweet undersong,
I talkt with angels, with them fed.
It was an old deserted room;
There was a skylight strait above,
And the blue sky lookt thro' like love,
Softening and coloring mortal gloom.
No playmate had I, knew no game,
Yet sometimes left my book to run
And blow bright bubbles in the sun--
In after life we do the same.
That time is gone; you think me weak
That I regret that perisht time,
That I recall my golden prime
With beating heart and blushing cheek.
That Book so prized, you tell me, friend,
Is full of false and deadly tales:
You say, "a palsied world bewails
Its influence; but it soon shall end."
Thank God for that: I live for truth,
Glad to resign each rainbow sham;
But, still remembering what I am,
I praise my sweet and saintly youth
It was so genial and sincere,
My joy and wonder were so strong,
So rare and delicate a song
Young Life was singing in mine ear.
I therefore still in fancy climb
Up to that old and faded room,
Where feelings like fresh roses bloom
Over the grave of that fair time.
* * * * *
LORD BROUGHAM has recently been engaged in the investigation of a
peculiar phenomenon which he calls the "diflection of light." The
experiment itself consists in causing a ray of light to fall upon
the sharp edge of a knife or on the point of a needle; the ray is
thus "diflected" by the edge or point, and becomes prismatic. Lord
Brougham, in addition to other curious phenomena, has discovered that
the ray, when once diflected, cannot be again diflected in the same
direction, but may be diflected in an opposite direction.
* * * * *
[FROM THE SPECTATOR, OF JUNE 15.]
LIFE OF THE AUTHOR OF 'TREMAINE.'
The literary success of the author of _Tremaine_ was owing to the
worldly experience and means of observation which his official
position gave him; but the sole interest which he possesses in
the eyes of the world arises from his success as an author. As an
office-holder, he was not a mere red-tapist, but one of those able,
hard-working, experienced administrative men, who really carry on
the business of government, and, except in the case of rare ability
and courage in a "chief," are masters of the Ministers, though want
of interest, ambition, or "gift of the gab," retains them in a
subordinate post. As an author, Mr. Ward's temporary success was
greater than his permanent prospects. His subjects were generally
large enough, he was a man of extensive reading, and his tastes took
in a wide range; but he was essentially bounded by the present. His
earlier works, which procured him the patronage of Pitt, and with it a
seat in Parliament and office, were on the Law of Nations: and though
their most attractive part related to a temporary subject, the rights
of belligerents and neutrals, there was enough in that branch of the
subject to secure duration; but who reads them now? how few, indeed,
know of their existence? He cannot be said to have originated the
serio-didactic novel, for Hannah More and others had long cultivated
that field; but he brought to it, what they could not bring, a
well-bred scholarship, a wide knowledge of public and private life,
seen in affairs as well as society, with less of a narrow sectarian
spirit: yet it may be doubted whether _Tremaine_ some thirty years
hence will be more read than _Coelebs in Search of a Wife_. If
Mr. Ward did not found the school of fashionable novelists, he was
certainly among the founders; and he infused into the best of his
works, _De Vere_, a real knowledge of Parliamentary life, a newer and
truer view of statesmen and nobles, though a little _en beau_, and a
great variety of actual characters. The circumstance of Wentworth's
supposed resemblance to Canning, and the accident of publication at
a time when the official conspiracy of the novel seemed acting in
Parliament, gave _De Vere_ a success with the world at large, which
its length and longwindedness might have marred. Mr. Ward's essays
(generally in the form of stories) were not so successful with the
public as his fictions. We think he was by nature designed for an
essayist--naturally given to discuss and expound; but nature had
denied him that penetrating originality of perception, that vigor of
thought, and (as a consequence) that terseness of style, which are
necessary to render the essay attractive and to preserve it. As
Robert Plumer Ward was essentially confined to the present, so he was
dependent on it; he was nothing if not in the mode, and in his later
works he rather fell behind the fashion.
His life as presented in these volumes was not very remarkable or
eventful. His father was a merchant at Gibraltar, and also held the
post of chief clerk of the civil department of the Ordnance in that
garrison: his mother was a Spanish Jewess. Robert Ward was born in
London, in 1765, on a visit of the family to England; and, after an
education at private schools, was sent to Oxford, in 1783. He left the
University in 1787, in debt; and soon after became a student of the
Inner Temple. An affection of the knee-joint sent him to Bareges: he
was speedily cured; but was so attracted by the pleasures of French
society, that he remained in France till the Revolution; from which he
had a narrow escape.
"It happened, unfortunately for him, that another 'Ward,' of
about the same age and personal appearance, had incurred the
suspicion of the Republican party, at a moment when suspicion
lost all its doubts, and death followed close upon the heels
of certainty. To use his own words, 'I was arrested for having
the same name and the same colored coat and waistcoat as
another Ward, guilty of treason; was ordered without trial to
Paris, to be guillotined; and only escaped by their catching
the real traitor: I was, however, banished the republic,
merely for my name's sake.'"
On his return to England he was called to the bar, in June 1790; and
but for a singular circumstance might have passed through life as a
literary barrister, with middling success in law and letters.
"He was, early in 1794, leaving his chambers in the Temple
for the purpose of paying a visit in the Northern outskirts
of London. Upon crossing Fleet Street he had to traverse Bell
Yard; and as he passed a watchmaker's shop his attention was
attracted by a placard in the window, of a very revolutionary
character, convening a meeting of a certain society, that
evening, at the watchmaker's. Many a man would have passed it
unnoticed, or contented himself with a feeling of regret or
indignation at the prevalence during that period of similar
views: not so was it with young Ward; he was fresh from
all the horrors which the success of such principles in a
neighboring country had entailed; he at once determined to
enter the watchmaker's shop and provoke a discussion with
him. For two hours did the young student contest with the
Republican the justice of his sentiments; for two hours did he
labor to impress upon him, not only by argument but by his own
experience, the horrors to which success must lead; but at
the end of that time he was obliged to leave him, apparently
unmoved, or at all events unconvinced. He paid his distant
visit, and late in the evening returned homeward through the
same alley. Desparing of success, he paid no second visit
to the disputant of the morning, though he did remark with
pleasure that the revolutionary placard had been withdrawn.
Hardly, however, had he passed the shop twenty yards, when
he heard some one running after and calling to him. He looked
back and beheld the Republican watchmaker. The manner of the
man was changed from the dogged imperturbability with which he
had listened to Mr. Ward's arguments in the morning to a frank
and eager confidence. 'I have called you in,' said he, 'to say
I have done nothing but think over your words: I feel their
truth; I shudder at the precipice on which I stood, at the
evil I was about to do; and am now as anxious to communicate
and prevent as I was before to conceal all our schemes.' He
then communicated to him the existence of a most fearful
plot against the Government, which, with his newly-awakened
feelings, he longed to frustrate by immediately informing the
authorities, if he who had convinced would also accompany and
"They went to the Chief Magistrate, Sir Richard Ford; who
attached so much importance to the communication, that the
three were at once ushered into the presence of Pitt and his
colleagues, assembled with Macdonald and Scott, the Attorney
and Solicitor-General. The singular history was duly narrated
in detail; the arguments carried on by the young Mentor, the
misgivings of the Republican, and then the details of the
impending danger. The countenance of Pitt was turned with
interest on the young lawyer, who seemed not only to share
that horror of revolutionary movements with which he was
himself so strongly imbued, but who had so gallantly acted
upon it. 'What was your motive, young gentleman,' he inquired,
'for thus entering the shop?' 'I, Sir,' answered young Ward,
'am not long returned from France, and have there seen in
practice what sounds so fine in theory.'"
Though, according to report, Pitt was not the man to overlook rising
talent or lose sight of a useful adherent, eight years elapsed before
much came of this singular introduction; during which the young
barrister published two books or pamphlets on the Laws of Nations,
married a sister of Lady Mulgrave, and was slowly working his way
at the bar. In 1802, Pitt, in a stiff enough letter, offered Mr.
Ward a seat for Cockermouth, one of the Lowther boroughs; and when
he returned to power, his protege became Under-Secretary of State
for the Foreign Department, (his brother-in-law, Lord Mulgrave,
being Principal Secretary,) _after_ he had published a pamphlet
in justification of Pitt's highhanded seizure of the Spanish
treasure-ships. Of course he went out on the accession of All the
Talents after Pitt's death; and came in again on their expulsion,
as a Lord of the Admiralty, still under Lord Mulgrave. In 1812, he
was moved to the Ordnance, as "Clerk." In 1823, he quitted office,
withdrew from Parliament, and began novel-writing as an amusement, at
fifty-eight. He died in 1846, in his eighty-second year; having lived
long enough to see his son, the present Lord High Commissioner of the
Ionian Islands, Secretary to the Admiralty under a Whig Ministry. He
was thrice married, and each time advantageously. His first wife, as
we have seen, was a sister-in-law of Lord Mulgrave; the second, whom
he wedded at the age of sixty-three, was the widow of Mr. Plumer
of Gilston Park, which became his through the marriage; his third
alliance, when he was nearly seventy, gave him the advantage of a
jointure of 1,000l. per annum allowance as guardian, and a couple of
mansions. His writings would lead to the notion that Robert Ward was
everything tender and amiable; and so he might be as long as he was
pleased; but he would seem to have had a quiet implacability, that was
offended on slight grounds, and obdurate in displeasure. He quarreled
with his son on account of his politics: he received some slight from
an official friend and repulsed all attempts at explanation, till a
letter written when Ward was seventy-two and his correspondent turned
of seventy produced a reconciliation rather dry on his part. It would
have been satisfactory to know that some relenting, some interest
beyond a "suspicion" of the writer, had been shown on the receipt
of the following manly letter, written after the publication of
_De Vere_. After alluding to the internal traits by which he had
identified the author, the anonymous correspondent continues:
"It surprises me, I confess, that the feeling, judgment, and
sagacity, which sufficed to produce the work that I have been
commending, should have suffered the golden opinions of me,
which you entertained, to be filched and adulterated by mere
traducers, whose reports the hearer's own experience could
have almost refuted, and whose testimony was so obviously
liable to be warped by prejudice.
"We live in a strange world. Before my feelings and
dispositions had changed from wavering and transient to
permanent and fixed,--before the desultory ramblings, which
almost became our age, had terminated in a path, and that,
I trust, a right and honorable one, and from which, with
moderate allowance for human inferiority, I have not deviated
since,--before my principles had attained their vigor, and
generated those correct habits which it was their province
to produce,--in short, while, like most young men, I might
be said to have as yet 'no character at all,' I obtained your
friendship. How I lost it, I have already told you. When,
remains to tell you. I lost it when any fruits which my youth
may have promised had appeared; lost it all at once, under
circumstances scarcely more annoying to my feelings than
revolting to my sense of what was right and just.
"I am not seeking to penetrate what is to me, indeed, no
secret; neither do I form the unavailing wish that our expired
intercourse should revive. C'en est fait. A knot which has
been loosened or untied may be formed again, but this knot has
been cut. Accordingly, I neither address you by your name nor
subscribe my own. My hand-writing, though not disguised, is,
like yourself, much changed; and, though this were not the
case, you could not, after the lapse of so much time, have
"My regard you continue to possess, though I am not certain
of your title to retain it. But you have, by means of your
estrangement, sustained a loss. In ceasing to entertain a
feeling of esteem and cordiality toward me, you have lost that
which is a source of soothing gratification to the mind in
which it is cherished, and which, I flatter myself, I as well
deserved to have retained with regard to me as any other of
your early friends, be that other who he may. Again: though
you have not lost a friend, (for my sentiments toward you
continue friendly,) you have elected to lose the usual and
not unpalatable fruits of friendship in my case: and this at
a time of life (for we are much of the same age) when old
friends can the less be spared, because new friendships are
"When our earliest meetings and the commencements of a
bygone friendship are called up before me by the letter which,
I scarcely know why, I am writing, I feel myself softened
as well as depressed by the recollection; and, as I write
farewell, it gives me pain to think that I might add to it
the words--probably forever. God bless you."
There is nothing in Robert Ward's life or literary eminence to require
or even justify so large a space as his nephew has bestowed upon it.
Strictly speaking, indeed, the biography occupies but a small portion
of these bulky volumes, which are chiefly filled with remains or
correspondence; and much of that little is not distinguished for
matter or character. The correspondence is indifferent. The latter
portion of it is mainly devoted to literary criticism, or compliments,
having for subject the author's works or those of his praisers; and is
weak and flimsy to a degree. The earlier portion principally relates
to politics, especially to the intrigues carried on by Canning and
Malmesbury during the Addington Ministry to procure Pitt's premature
return to office. To this Lord Mulgrave was judiciously opposed; and
although there is nothing very new or particular in the account, and
the letters are rather flat, it gives the Mulgrave version of the
business. The most valuable part of the book, and which was, indeed,
well worthy of separate publication, is a diary that Mr. Ward kept
through a considerable portion of his official life, beginning in
June 1809, and continuing with a short interruption till the death
of Perceval, when it ceased till 1819; after which it was maintained
to a later period than Mr. Phipps thinks it proper to publish it.
This diary consists of gossip, anecdote, on dits, and confidential
communications made to Mr. Ward on various occasions and at critical