Part 4 out of 5
calm, whereas all the calmness had been on his side, and she had been
led into speaking in a manner which a discreet and well-bred young
lady would have shrunk from in horror. Mabyn sat still and sobbed,
partly in anger and partly in disappointment: she dared not even go
to tell her sister.
But Mr. Roscorla, as he went over the bridge again and went up to
Basset Cottage, had lost all his assumed coolness of judgment and
demeanor. He felt he had been tricked by Wenna and insulted by Mabyn,
while his rival had established a hold which it would be in vain for
him to seek to remove. He was in a passion of rage. He would not go
near Wenna again. He would at once set off for London, and enjoy
himself there while his holiday lasted: he would not write a word to
her; then, when the time arrived, he would set sail for Jamaica,
leaving her to her own conscience. He was suffering a good deal from
anger, envy and jealousy, but he was consoled by the thought that she
was suffering more. And he reflected, with some comfort to himself,
that she would scarcely so far demean herself as to marry Harry
Trelyon so long as she knew in her heart what he, Roscorla, would
think of her for so doing.
THE OLD, HALF-FORGOTTEN JOKE.
"Has he gone?" Wenna asked of her sister the next day.
"Yes, he has," Mabyn answered with a proud and revengeful face. "It
was quite true what Mrs. Cornish told me: I've no doubt she had her
instructions. He has just driven away to Launceston on his way to
"Without a word?"
"Would you like to have had another string of arguments?" Mabyn said
impatiently. "Oh, Wenna, you don't know what mischief all this is
doing. You are awake all night, you cry half the day: what is to be
the end of it? You will work yourself into a fever."
"Yes, there must be an end of it," Wenna said with decision--"not for
myself alone, but for others. That is all the reparation I can make
now. No girl in all this country has ever acted so badly as I have
done: just look at the misery I have caused; but now--"
"There is one who is miserable because he loves you," Mabyn said.
"Do you think that Mr. Roscorla has no feelings? You are so unjust to
him! Well, it does not matter now: all this must come to an end.
Mabyn, I should like to see Mr. Trelyon, if just for one minute."
"What will you say to him, Wenna?" her sister said with a sudden fear.
"Something that it is necessary to say to him, and the sooner it is
over the better."
Mabyn rather dreaded the result of this interview; and yet, she
reflected to herself, here was an opportunity for Harry Trelyon to try
to win some promise from her sister. Better, in any case, that they
should meet than that Wenna should simply drive him away into
banishment without a word of explanation.
The meeting was easily arranged. On the next morning, long before
Wenna's daily round of duties had commenced, the two sisters left the
inn, and went over the bridge and out to the bold promontory of black
rock at the mouth of the harbor. There was nobody about. This October
morning was more like a summer day: the air was mild and still, the
blue sky without a cloud; the shining sea plashed around the rocks
with the soft murmuring noise of a July calm. It was on these rocks
long ago that Wenna Rosewarne had pledged herself to become the wife
of Mr. Roscorla; and at that time life had seemed to her, if not
brilliant and beautiful, at least grateful and peaceful. Now all the
peace had gone out of it.
"Oh, my darling!" Trelyon said when she advanced alone toward him--for
Mabyn had withdrawn--"it is so good of you to come! Wenna, what has
He had seized both her hands in his, but she took them away again. For
one brief second her eyes had met his, and there was a sort of wistful
and despairing kindliness in them: then she stood before him, with her
face turned away from him, and her voice low and tremulous. "I did
wish to see you--for once, for the last time," she said. "If you had
gone away, you would have carried with you cruel thoughts of me. I
wish to ask your forgiveness--"
"Yes, for all that you may have suffered, and for all that may trouble
you in the future--not in the long future, but for the little time you
will remember what has taken place here. Mr. Trelyon, I--I did not
know. Indeed, it is all a mystery to me now, and a great misery." Her
lips began to quiver, but she controlled herself. "And surely it will
only be for a short time, if you think of it at all. You are
young--you have all the world before you. When you go away among other
people, and see all the different things that interest a young man,
you will soon forget whatever has happened here."
"And you say that to me," he said, "and you said the other night that
you loved me! It is nothing, then, for people who love each other to
go away and be consoled, and never see each other again?"
Again the lips quivered: he had no idea of the terrible effort that
was needed to keep this girl calm. "I did say that," she said.
"And it was true?" he broke in.
"It was true then--it is true now: that is all the misery of it," she
exclaimed, with tears starting to her eyes.
"And you talk of our being separated for ever!" he cried. "No, not if
I can help it. Mabyn has told me of all your scruples: they are not
worth looking at. I tell you you are no more bound to that man than
Mabyn is, and that isn't much. If he is such a mean hound as to insist
on your marrying him, then I will appeal to your father and mother,
and they must prevent him. Or I will go to him myself and settle the
matter in a shorter way."
"You cannot now," she said: "he has gone away. And what good would
that have done? I would never marry any man unless I could do so with
a clear and happy conscience; and if you--if you and Mabyn--see
nothing in my treatment of _him_ that is wrong, then that is very
strange; but I cannot acquit myself. No: I hope no woman will ever
treat you as I have treated him. Look at his position--an elderly man,
with few friends--he has not all the best of his life before him as
you have, or the good spirits of youth; and after he had gone away to
Jamaica, taking my promise with him--Oh, I am ashamed of myself when I
think on all that has happened!"
"Then you've no right to be," said he hotly. "It was the most natural
thing in the world--and he ought to have known it--that a young girl
who has been argued into engaging herself to an old man should
consider her being in love with another man as something of rather
more importance--of a good deal more importance, I should say. And his
suffering? He suffers no more than this lump of rock does. That is not
his way of thinking--to be bothered about anything. He may be angry,
yes--and vexed for the moment, as is natural--but if you think he is
going about the world with a load of agony on him, then you're quite
mistaken. And if he were, what good could you do by making yourself
miserable as well? Wenna, do be reasonable, now."
Had not another, on this very spot, prayed her to be reasonable? She
had yielded then. Mr. Roscorla's arguments were incontrovertible, and
she had shrinkingly accepted the inevitable conclusion. Now, young
Trelyon's representations and pleadings were far less cogent, but how
strongly her heart went with him!
"No," she said, as if she were shaking off the influence of the
tempter, "I must not listen to you. Yet you don't seem to think that
it costs me anything to ask you to bid me good-bye once and for all.
It should be less to you than to me. A girl thinks of these things
more than a man--she has little else to think of; he goes out into the
world and forgets. And you--you will go away, and you will become such
a man as all who know you will love to speak of and be proud of; and
some day you will come back; and if you like to come down to the inn,
then there will be one or two there glad to see you. Mr. Trelyon,
don't ask me to tell you why this should be so. I know it to be
right: my heart tells me. Now I will say good-bye to you."
"And when I come back to the inn, will you be there?" said he,
becoming rather pale. "No: you will be married to a man whom you will
"Indeed, no," she said, with her face flushing and her eyes cast down.
"How can that be after what has taken place? He could not ask me. All
that I begged of him before he went away was this--that he would not
ask me to marry him; and if only he would do that I promised never to
see you again--after bidding you good-bye, as I do now."
"And is that the arrangement?" said he rather roughly. "Are we to play
at dog in the manger? He is not to marry you himself, but he will not
let any other man marry you?"
"Surely he has some right to consideration," she said.
"Well, Wenna," said he, "if you've made up your mind, there's no more
to be said; but I think you are needlessly cruel."
"You won't say that, just as we are parting," she said in a low voice.
"Do you think it is nothing to me?"
He looked at her for a moment with a great sadness and compunction in
his eyes; then, moved by an uncontrollable impulse, he caught her in
his arms and kissed her on the lips. "Now," said he, with his face
white as death, "tell me that you will never marry any other man as
long as you live."
"Yes, I will say that," she said to him in a low voice and with a face
as white as his own.
"Swear it, then."
"I have said that I will never marry any other man than you," she
said, "and that is enough--for me. But as for you, why must you go
away thinking of such things? You will see some day what madness it
would have been; you will come some day and thank me for having told
you so; and then--and then--if anything should be mentioned about what
I said just now, you will laugh at the old, half-forgotten joke."
Well, there was no laughing at the joke just then, for the girl burst
into tears, and in the midst of that she hastily pressed his hand and
hurried away. He watched her go round the rocks, to the cleft leading
down to the harbor. There she was rejoined by her sister, and the two
of them went slowly along the path of broken slate, with the green
hill above, the blue water below, and the fair sunshine all around
them. Many a time he recalled afterward--and always with an increasing
weight at his heart--how sombre seemed to him that bright October day
and the picturesque opening of the coast leading in to Eglosilyan. For
it was the last glimpse of Wenna Rosewarne that he was to have for
many a day, and a sadder picture was never treasured up in a man's
"Oh, Wenna, what have you said to him that you tremble so?" Mabyn
"I have bid him good-bye--that is all."
"Not for always?"
"Yes, for always."
"And he is going away again, then?"
"Yes, as a young man should. Why should he stop here to make himself
wretched over impossible fancies? He will go out into the world, and
he has splendid health and spirits, and he will forget all this."
"And you--you are anxious to forget it all too?"
"Would it not be better? What good can come of dreaming? Well, I have
plenty of work to do: that is well."
Mabyn was very much inclined to cry: all her beautiful visions of the
future happiness of her sister had been rudely dispelled--all her
schemes and machinations had gone for nothing. There only remained to
her, in the way of consolation, the fact that Wenna still wore the
sapphire ring that Harry Trelyon had sent her.
"And what will his mother think of you?" said Mabyn as a last
argument, "when she finds you have sent him away altogether--to go
into the army and go abroad, and perhaps die of yellow fever, or be
shot by the Sepoys or Caffres?"
"She would have hated me if I had married him," said Wenna simply.
"Oh, Wenna, how dare you say such a thing?" Mabyn cried. "What do you
mean by it?"
"Would a lady in her position like her only son to marry the daughter
of an innkeeper?" Wenna asked rather indifferently: indeed, her
thoughts were elsewhere.
"I tell you there's no one in the world she loves like you--I can see
it every time she comes down for you--and she believes, and I believe
too, that you have changed Mr. Trelyon's way of talking and his manner
of treating people in such a fashion as no one would have considered
possible. Do you think she hasn't eyes? He is scarcely ever
impertinent now: when he is it is always in good-nature and never in
sulkiness. Look at his kindness to Mr. Trewhella's granddaughter, and
Mr. Trewhella a clergyman too! Did he ever use to take his mother out
for a drive? No, never. And of course she knows whom it is all owing
to; and if you would marry Mr. Trelyon, Wenna, I believe she would
worship you and think nothing good enough for you."
"Mabyn, I am going to ask something of you."
"Oh yes, I know what it is," her sister said. "I am not to speak any
more about your marriage with Mr. Trelyon. But I won't give you any
such promise, Wenna. I don't consider that that old man has any hold
Wenna said nothing, for at this moment they entered the house. Mabyn
went up with her sister to her room: then she stood undecided for a
moment; finally she said, "Wenna. if I've vexed you, I'm very sorry. I
won't speak of Mr. Trelyon if you don't wish it. But indeed, indeed,
you don't know how many people are anxious that you should be happy;
and you can't expect your own sister not to be as anxious as any one
"Mabyn, you're a good girl," Wenna said, kissing her. "But I am rather
tired to-day: I think I shall lie down for a little while."
Mabyn uttered a sharp cry, for her sister had fallen back on a chair,
white and insensible. She hastily bathed her forehead with cold water,
she chafed her hands, she got hold of some smelling-salts. It was
only a faint, after all, and Wenna, having come to, said she would lie
down on the sofa for a few minutes. Mabyn said nothing to her mother
about all this, for it would have driven Mrs. Rosewarne wild with
anxiety, but she herself was rather disquieted with Wenna's
appearance, and she said to herself, with great bitterness of heart,
"If my sister falls ill, I know who has done that."
Mr. Roscorla, having had few friends throughout his life, had
developed a most methodical habit of communing with himself on all
possible subjects, but more particularly, of course, upon his own
affairs. He used up his idle hours in defining his position with
regard to the people and things around him, and he was never afraid to
convince himself of the exact truth. He never tried to cheat himself
into the belief that he was more unselfish than might appear: if other
people thought so, good and well. He, at least, was not a hypocrite to
Now, he had not been gone above a couple of hours or so from
Eglosilyan when he discovered that he was not weighted with terrible
woes: on the contrary, he experienced a feeling of austere
satisfaction that he was leaving a good deal of trouble behind him. He
had been badly used, he had been righteously angry. It was right that
they who had thus used him badly should be punished. As for him, if
his grief did not trouble him much, that was a happy peculiarity of
his temperament which did not lessen their offence against him.
Most certainly he was not weighted with woe. He had a pleasant drive
in the morning over to Launceston; he smoked a cigarette or two in the
train; when he arrived at Plymouth he ordered a very nice luncheon at
the nearest hotel, and treated himself to a bottle of the best
Burgundy the waiter could recommend him. After that he got into a
smoking-carriage in the London express, he lit a large cigar, he
wrapped a thick rug round his legs, and settled himself down in peace
for the long journey. Now was an excellent time to find out exactly
how his affairs stood.
He was indeed very comfortable. Leaving Eglosilyan had not troubled
him. There was something in the knowledge that he was at last free
from all those exciting scenes which a quiet, middle-aged man, not
believing in romance, found trying to his nervous system. This brief
holiday in Eglosilyan had been anything but a pleasant one: was he
not, on the whole, glad to get away?
Then he recollected that the long-expected meeting with his betrothed
had not been so full of delight as he had anticipated. Was there not
just a trace of disappointment in the first shock of feeling at their
meeting? She was certainly not a handsome woman--such a one as he
might have preferred to introduce to his friends about Kensington in
the event of his going back to live in London.
Then he thought of old General Weekes. He felt a little ashamed of
himself for not having had the courage to tell the general and his
wife that he meant to marry one of the young ladies who had interested
them. Would it not be awkward, too, to have to introduce Wenna
Rosewarne to them in her new capacity?
That speculation carried him on to the question of his marriage. There
could be no doubt that his betrothed had become a little too fond of
the handsomest young man in the neighborhood. Perhaps that was
natural, but at all events she was now very much ashamed of what had
happened, and he might trust her to avoid Harry Trelyon in the future.
That having been secured, would not her thoughts naturally drift back
to the man to whom she had plighted a troth which was still formally
binding on her? Time was on his side. She would forget that young man:
she would be anxious, as soon as these temporary disturbances of her
affections were over, to atone for the past by her conduct in the
future. Girls had very strong notions about duty.
Well, he drove to his club, and finding one of the bed-rooms free, he
engaged it for a week, the longest time possible. He washed, dressed
and went down to dinner. To his great delight, the first man he saw
was old Sir Percy himself, who was writing out a very elaborate
_menu_, considering that he was ordering dinner for himself only. He
and Mr. Roscorla agreed to dine together.
Now, for some years back Mr. Roscorla in visiting his club had found
himself in a very isolated and uncomfortable position. Long ago he had
belonged to the younger set--to those reckless young fellows who were
not afraid to eat a hasty dinner, and then rush off to take a mother
and a couple of daughters to the theatre, returning at midnight to
some anchovy toast and a glass of Burgundy, followed by a couple of
hours of brandy-and-soda, cigars and billiards. But he had drifted
away from that set; indeed, they had disappeared, and he knew none of
their successors. On the other hand, he had never got into the ways of
the old-fogy set. Those stout old gentlemen who carefully drank
nothing but claret and seltzer, who took a quarter of an hour to write
out their dinner-bill, who spent the evening in playing whist, kept
very much to themselves. It was into this set that the old general now
introduced him. Mr. Roscorla had quite the air of a bashful young man
when he made one of a party of those ancients, who dined at the same
table each evening. He was almost ashamed to order a pint of champagne
for himself--it savored so much of youth. He was silent in the
presence of his seniors, and indeed they were garrulous enough to
cover his silence. Their talk was mostly of politics--not the politics
of the country, but the politics of office--of undersecretaries and
candidates for place. They seemed to look on the government of the
country as a sort of mechanical clock, which from time to time sent
out a few small figures, and from time to time took them in again; and
they showed an astonishing acquaintance with the internal and
intricate mechanism which produced these changes. Perhaps it was
because they were so busy in watching for changes on the face of the
clock that they seemed to forget the swinging onward of the great
world outside and the solemn march of the stars.
Most of those old gentlemen had lived their life--had done their share
of heavy dining and reckless drinking many years ago--and thus it was
they had come to drink seltzer and claret. But it appeared that it was
their custom after dinner to have the table-cover removed and some
port wine placed on the mahogany. Mr. Roscorla, who had felt as yet no
ugly sensations about his finger-joints, regarded this ceremony with
equanimity, but it was made the subject of some ominous joking on the
part of his companions. Then joking led to joking. There were no more
politics. Some very funny stories were told. Occasionally one or two
names were introduced, as of persons well known in London society,
though not of it; and Mr. Roscorla was surprised that he had never
heard these names before: you see how one becomes ignorant of the
world if one buries one's self down in Cornwall. Mr. Roscorla began to
take quite an interest in these celebrated people, in the price of
their ponies, and the diamonds they were understood to have worn at a
certain very singular ball. He was pleased to hear, too, of the manner
in which the aristocracy of England were resuming their ancient
patronage of the arts, for he was given to understand that a young
earl or baron could scarcely be considered a man of fashion unless he
owned a theatre.
On their way up to the card-room Mr. Roscorla and one of his venerable
companions went into the hall to get their cigar-cases from their
top-coat pockets. This elderly gentleman had been the governor of an
island in the Pacific: he had now been resident for many years in
England. He was on the directorate of one or two well-known commercial
companies; he had spoken at several meetings on the danger of
dissociating religion from education in the training of the young; in
short, he was a tower of respectability. On the present occasion he
had to pull out a muffler to get at his cigar-case, and with the
muffler came a small parcel tied up in tissue-paper.
"Neat, aren't they?" said he with a senile grin, showing Mr. Roscorla
the tips of a pair of pink satin slippers.
"Yes," said Mr. Roscorla: "I suppose they're for your daughter."
They went up to the card-room.
"I expect you'll teach us a lesson, Roscorla," said the old general.
"Gad! some of you West Indian fellows know the difference between a
ten and an ace."
"Last time I played cards," Roscorla said modestly, "I was lucky
enough to win forty-eight pounds,"
"Whew! We can't afford that sort of thing on this side of the
water--not if you happen to serve Her Majesty, any way. Come, let's
cut for partners."
There was but little talking, of course, during the card-playing: at
the end of it Mr. Roscorla found he had only lost half a sovereign.
Then everybody adjourned to a snug little smoking-room, to which only
members were admitted. This, to the neophyte, was the pleasantest part
of the evening. He seemed to hear of everything that was going on in
London, and a good deal more besides. He was behind the scenes of all
the commercial, social and political performances which were causing
the vulgar crowd to gape. He discovered the true history of the
hostility shown by So-and-so to the premier; he was told the little
scandal which caused Her Majesty to refuse to knight a certain
gentleman who had claims on the government; he heard what the duke
really did offer to the gamekeeper whose eye he had shot out, and the
language used by the keeper on the occasion; and he received such
information about the financial affairs of many a company as made him
wonder whether the final collapse of the commercial world were at
hand. He forgot that he had heard quite similar stories twenty years
before. Then they had been told by ingenuous youths full of the
importance of the information they had just acquired: now they were
told by garrulous old gentlemen, with a cynical laugh which was more
amusing than the hot-headed asseveration of the juniors. It was, on
the whole, a delightful evening, this first evening of his return to
club-life; and then it was so convenient to go up stairs to bed
instead of having to walk from the inn of Eglosilyan to Basset
Just before leaving, the old general took Roscorla aside, and said to
him, "Monstrous amusing fellows, eh?"
"Just a word. Don't you let old Lewis lug you into any of his
companies: you understand?"
"There's not much fear of that," Mr. Roscorla said with a laugh. "I
haven't a brass farthing to invest."
"All you West Indians say that: however, so much the better. And
there's old Stratford, too: he's got some infernal India rubber
patent. Gad, sir! he knows no more about those commercial fellows than
the man in the moon; and they'll ruin him--mark my words, they'll ruin
Roscorla was quite pleased to be advised. It made him feel young and
ingenuous. After all, the disparity in years between him and his late
companions was most obvious.
"And when are you coming to dine with us, eh?" the general said,
lighting a last cigar and getting his hat. "To-morrow night?--quiet
family party, you know: her ladyship'll be awfully glad to see you. Is
it a bargain? All right--seven: we're early folks. I say, you needn't
mention I dined here to-night: to tell you the truth, I'm supposed to
be looking after a company too, and precious busy about it. Mum's the
word, d'ye see?"
Really this plunge into a new sort of life was quite delightful. When
he went down to breakfast next morning, he was charmed with the order
and cleanliness of everything around him; the sunlight was shining in
at the large windows; there was a bright fire, in front of which he
stood and read the paper until his cutlets came. There was no croaking
of an old Cornish housekeeper over her bills--no necessity for seeing
if the grocer had been correct in his addition. Then there was a
slight difference between the cooking here and that which prevailed in
In a comfortable frame of mind he leisurely walked down to Canon
street and announced himself to his partners. He sat for an hour or so
in a snug little parlor, talking over their joint venture and
describing all that had been done. There was indeed every ground for
hope, and he was pleased to hear them say that they were specially
obliged to him for having gone out to verify the reports that had been
sent home, and for his personal supervision while there. They hoped he
would draw on the joint association for a certain sum which should
represent the value of that supervision.
Now, if Mr. Roscorla had really been possessed at this moment of the
wealth to which he looked forward, he would not have taken so much
interest in it. He would have said to himself, "What is the life I am
to lead, now that I have this money? Having luncheon at the club,
walking in the Park in the afternoon, dining with a friend in the
evening, and playing whist or billiards, with the comfortless return
to my bachelor's chambers at night? Is that all that my money can give
But he had not the money. He looked forward to it, and it seemed to
him that it contained all the possibilities of happiness. Then he
would be free. No more stationary dragging out of existence in that
Cornish cottage. He would move about, he would enjoy life. He was
still younger than those jovial old fellows, who seemed to be happy
enough. When he thought of Wenna Rosewarne it was with the notion that
marriage very considerably hampers a man's freedom of action.
If a man were married, could he have a choice of thirty dishes for
luncheon? Could he have the first edition of the evening papers
brought him almost damp from the press? Then how pleasant it was to be
able to smoke a cigar and to write one or two letters at the same time
in a large and well-ventilated room! Mr. Roscorla did not fail to draw
on his partners for the sum they had mentioned: he was not short of
money, but he might as well gather the first few drops of the coming
He did not go up to walk in the Park, for he knew there would be
almost nobody there at that time of the year; but he walked up to Bond
street and bought a pair of dress-boots, after which he returned to
the club and played billiards with one of his companions of the
previous evening until it was time to dress for dinner.
The party at the general's was a sufficiently small one, for you
cannot ask any one to dinner at a few hours' notice, except it be a
merry and marriageable widow who has been told that she will meet an
elderly and marriageable bachelor. This complaisant lady was present;
and Mr. Roscorla found himself on his entrance being introduced to a
good-looking, buxom dame, who had a healthy, merry, roseate face, very
black eyes and hair, and a somewhat gorgeous dress. She was a trifle
demure at first, but her amiable shyness soon wore off, and she was
most kind to Mr. Roscorla. He, of course, had to take in Lady Weekes;
but Mrs. Seton-Willoughby sat opposite him, and, while keeping the
whole table amused with an account of her adventures in Galway,
appeared to address the narrative principally to the stranger.
"Oh, my dear Lady Weekes," she said, "I was so glad to get back to
Brighton! I thought I should have forgotten my own language, and taken
to war-paint and feathers, if I had remained much longer. And Brighton
is so delightful just now--just comfortably filled, without the
November crush having set in. Now, couldn't you persuade the general
to take you down for a few days? I am going down on Friday, and you
know how dreadful it is for a poor lone woman to be in a hotel,
especially with a maid who spends all her time in flirting with the
first-floor waiters. Now, won't you, dear? I assure you the ---- Hotel
is most charming--such freedom, and the pleasant parties they make up
in the drawing-room! I believe they have a ball two or three nights a
week just now."
"I should have thought you would have found the ---- rather quieter,"
said Mr. Roscorla, naming a good, old-fashioned house.
"Rather quieter?" said the widow, raising her eyebrows. "Yes, a good
deal quieter? About as quiet as a dissenting chapel. No, no: if one
means to have a little pleasure, why go to such a place as that? Now,
will you come and prove the truth of what I have told you?"
Mr. Roscorla looked alarmed, and even the solemn Lady Weekes had to
conceal a smile.
"Of course I mean you to persuade our friends here to come too," the
widow explained. "What a delightful frolic it would be--for a few
days, you know--to break away from London! Now, my dear, what do you
She turned to her hostess. That small and sombre person referred her
to the general. The general, on being appealed to, said he thought it
would be a capital joke; and would Mr. Roscorla go with them? Mr.
Roscorla, not seeing why he should not have a little frolic of this
sort, just like any one else, said he would. So they agreed to meet at
Victoria Station on the following Friday.
"Struck, eh?" said the old general when the two gentlemen were alone
after dinner. "Has she wounded you, eh? Gad, sir! that woman has eight
thousand pounds a year in the India Four per Cents. Would you believe
it? Would you believe that any man could have been such a fool as to
put such a fortune into India Four per Cents.?--with mortgages going
a-begging at six, and the marine insurance companies paying thirteen!
Well, my boy, what do you think of her? She was most uncommonly
attentive to you, that I'll swear: don't deny it--now, don't deny it.
Bless my soul! you marrying men are so sly there is no getting at you.
Well, what was I saying? Yes, yes--will she do? Eight thousand a year,
as I'm a living sinner!"
Mr. Roscorla was intensely flattered to have it even supposed that the
refusal of such a fortune was within his power.
"Well," said he, modestly and yet critically, "she's not quite my
style. I'm rather afraid of three-deckers. But she seems a very
good-natured sort of woman."
"Good-natured! Is that all you say? I can tell you, in my time men
were nothing so particular when there were eight thousand a year going
"Well, well," said Mr. Roscorla with a smile, "it is a very good joke.
When she marries, she'll marry a younger man than I am."
"Don't you be mistaken--don't you be mistaken!" the old general cried.
"You've made an impression--I'll swear you have; and I told her
ladyship you would."
"And what did Lady Weekes say?"
"Gad, sir! she said it would be a deuced good thing for both of you."
"She is very kind," said Mr. Roscorla, pleased at the notion of having
such a prize within reach, and yet not pleased that Lady Weekes should
have fancied this the sort of woman he would care to marry.
They went to Brighton, and a very pleasant time of it they had at the
big noisy hotel. The weather was delightful. Mrs. Seton-Willoughby was
excessively fond of riding: forenoon and afternoon they had their
excursions, with the pleasant little dinner of the evening to follow.
Was not this a charmed land into which the former hermit of Basset
Cottage was straying? Of course, he never dreamed for a moment of
marrying this widow: that was out of the question. She was just a
little too demonstrative--very clever and amusing for half an hour or
so, but too gigantic a blessing to be taken through life. It was the
mere possibility of marrying her, however, which attracted Mr.
Roscorla. He honestly believed, judging by her kindness to him, that
if he seriously tried he could get her to marry him--in other words,
that he might become possessed of eight thousand pounds a year. This
money, so to speak, was within his reach; and it was only now that he
was beginning to see that money could purchase many pleasures even for
the middle-aged. He made a great mistake in imagining, down in
Cornwall, that he had lived his life, and that he had but to look
forward to mild enjoyments, a peaceful wandering onward to the grave,
and the continual study of economy in domestic affairs. He was only
now beginning to live.
"And when are you coming back?" said the widow to him one evening when
they were all talking of his leaving England.
"That I don't know," he said.
"Of course," she said, "you don't mean to remain in the West Indies. I
suppose lots of people have to go there for some object or other, but
they always come back when it is attained."
"They come back to attain some other object here," said Mr. Roscorla.
"Then we'll soon find you that," the general burst in. "No man lives
out of England who can help it. Don't you find in this country enough
to satisfy you?"
"Indeed I do," Mr. Roscorla said, "especially within the last few
days. I have enjoyed myself enormously. I shall always have a friendly
recollection of Brighton."
"Are you going down to Cornwall before you leave?" Sir Percy asked.
"No," said he slowly.
"That isn't quite so cheerful as Brighton, eh?"
He kept his word. He did not go back to Cornwall before leaving
England, nor did he send a single line or message to any one there. It
was with something of a proud indifference that he set sail, and also
with some notion that he was being amply revenged. For the rest, he
hated "scenes," and he had encountered quite enough of these during
his brief visit to Eglosilyan.
AN OLD LADY'S APOLOGY.
When Wenna heard that Mr. Roscorla had left England without even
bidding her good-bye by letter, she accepted the rebuke with
submission, and kept her own counsel. She went about her daily duties
with an unceasing industry: Mrs. Trelyon was astonished to see how she
seemed to find time for everything. The winter was coming on, and the
sewing club was in full activity, but even apart from the affairs of
that enterprise, Wenna Rosewarne seemed to be everywhere throughout
the village, to know everything, to be doing everything that prudent
help and friendly counsel could do. Mrs. Trelyon grew to love the girl
in her vague, wondering, simple fashion.
So the days and the weeks and the months went by, and the course of
life ran smoothly and quietly in the remote Cornish village.
Apparently there was nothing to indicate the presence of bitter
regrets, of crushed hopes, of patient despair; only Mabyn used to
watch her sister at times, and she fancied that Wenna's face was
The Christmas festivities came on, and Mrs. Trelyon was pleased to
lend her protegee a helping hand in decorating the church. One evening
she said, "My dear Miss Wenna, I am going to ask you an impertinent
question. Could your family spare you on Christmas evening? Harry is
coming down from London: I am sure he would be so pleased to see you."
"Oh, thank you, Mrs. Trelyon," Wenna said, with just a little
nervousness. "You are very kind, but indeed I must be at home on
"Perhaps some other evening while he is here you will be able to come
up," said Mrs. Trelyon in her gentle way. "You know you ought to come
and see how your pupil is getting on. He writes me such nice letters
now; and I fancy he is working very hard at his studies, though he
says nothing about it."
"I am very glad to hear that," Wenna said in a low voice.
Trelyon did come to the Hall for a few days, but he kept away from the
village, and was seen by no one of the Rosewarnes. But on the
Christmas morning, Mabyn Rosewarne, being early about, was told that
Mrs. Trelyon's groom wished to see her, and, going down, she found the
man, with a basket before him.
"Please, miss, Mr. Trelyon's compliments, and would you take the
flowers out of the cotton-wool and give them to Miss Rosewarne?"
"Oh, won't I?" said Mabyn, opening the basket at once, and carefully
getting out a bouquet of camellias, snowdrops and sweet violets. "Just
you wait a minute, Jakes, for I've got a Christmas-box for you."
Mabyn went up stairs as rapidly as was consistent with the safety of
the flowers, and burst into her sister's room: "Oh, Wenna, look at
this! Do you know who sent them? Did you ever see anything so lovely?"
For a second the girl seemed almost frightened; then her eyes grew
troubled and moist, and she turned her head away. Mabyn put them
gently down and left the room without a word.
The Christmas and the New Year passed without any message from Mr.
Roscorla; and Mabyn, though she rebelled against the bondage in which
her sister was placed, was glad that she was not disturbed by angry
letters. About the middle of January, however, a brief note arrived
"I cannot let such a time go by," Mr. Roscorla wrote, "whatever may be
our relations, without sending you a friendly word. I do hope the new
year will bring you health and happiness, and that we shall in time
forget the angry manner in which we parted and all the circumstances
leading to it."
She wrote as brief a note in reply, at the end of which she hoped he
would forgive her for any pain he had suffered through her. Mabyn was
rejoiced to find that the correspondence--whether it was or was not
meant on his part to be an offer of reconciliation--stopped there.
And again the slow days went by until the world began to stir with the
new spring-time--the saddest time of the year to those who live much
in the past. Wenna was out and about a great deal, being continually
busy, but she no longer took those long walks by herself in which she
used to chat to the butterflies and the young lambs and the sea-gulls.
The fresh western breezes no longer caused her spirits to flow over
in careless gayety: she saw the new flowers springing out of the
earth, but it was of another spring-time she was thinking.
One day, later on in the year, Mrs. Trelyon sent down the wagonette
for her, with the request that she would come up to the Hall for a few
minutes. Wenna obeyed the summons, imagining that some business
connected with the sewing club claimed her attention. When she arrived
she found Mrs. Trelyon unable to express the gladness and gratitude
that filled her heart; for before her were certain London newspapers,
and, behold! Harry Trelyon's name was recorded there in certain lists
as having scored a sufficient number of marks in the examination to
entitle him to a first commission. It was no concern of hers that his
name was pretty far down in the list--enough that he had succeeded
somehow. And who was the worker of this miracle?--who but the shy,
sad-eyed girl standing beside her, whose face wore now a happier
expression than it had worn for many a day.
"And this is what he says," the proud mother continued, showing Wenna
a letter: '"It isn't much to boast of, for indeed you'll see by the
numbers that it was rather a narrow squeak: anyhow, I pulled through.
My old tutor is rather a speculative fellow, and he offered to bet me
fifty pounds his coaching would carry me through, which I took; so I
shall have to pay him that besides his fees. I must say he has earned
both: I don't think a more ignorant person than myself ever went to a
man to get crammed. I send you two newspapers: you might drop one at
the inn for Miss Rosewarne any time you are passing, or if you could
see her and tell her, perhaps that would be better.'"
Wenna was about as pleased and proud as Mrs. Trelyon was. "I knew he
could do it if he tried," she said quietly.
"And then," the mother went on to say, "when he has once joined there
will be no money wanting to help him to his promotion; and when he
comes back to settle down here, he will have some recognized rank and
profession, such as a man ought to have. Not that he will remain in
the army, for of course I should not like to part with him, and he
might be sent to Africa or Canada or the West Indies. _You_ know," she
added with a smile, "that it is not pleasant to have any one you care
for in the West Indies."
When Wenna got home again she told Mabyn. Strange to say, Mabyn did
not clap her hands for joy, as might have been expected.
"Wenna," said she, "what made him go into the army? Was it to show you
that he could pass an examination? or was it because he means to leave
"I do not know," said Wenna, looking down. "I hope he does not mean to
leave England." That was all she said.
Harry Trelyon was, however, about to leave England, though not because
he had been gazetted to a colonial regiment. He came down to inform
his mother that on the fifteenth of the month he would sail for
Jamaica; and then and there, for the first time, he told her the whole
story of his love for Wenna Rosewarne, of his determination to free
her somehow from the bonds that bound her, and, failing that, of the
revenge he meant to take. Mrs. Trelyon was amazed, angry and
beseeching in turns. At one moment she protested that it was madness
of her son to think of marrying Wenna Rosewarne; at another, she would
admit all that he said in praise of her, and would only implore him
not to leave England; or again she would hint that she would almost
herself go down to Wenna and beg her to marry him if only he gave up
this wild intention of his. He had never seen his mother so agitated,
but he reasoned gently with her, and remained firm to his purpose. Was
there half as much danger in taking a fortnight's trip in a
mail-steamer as in going from Southampton to Malta in a yacht, which
he had twice done with her consent?
"Why, if I had been ordered to join a regiment in China, you might
have some reason to complain," he said. "And I shall be as anxious as
you, mother, to get back again, for I mean to get up my drill
thoroughly as soon as I am attached. I have plenty of work before me."
"You're not looking well, Harry," said the mother.
"Of course not," said he cheerfully. "You don't catch one of those
geese at Strasburg looking specially lively when they tie it by the
leg and cram it; and that's what I've been going through of late. But
what better cure can there be than a sea-voyage?"
And so it came about that on a pleasant evening in October Mr.
Roscorla received a visit. He saw the young man come riding up the
acacia path, and he instantaneously guessed his mission. His own
resolve was taken as quickly.
"Bless my soul! is it you, Trelyon?" he cried with apparent delight.
"You mayn't believe it, but I am really glad to see you. I have been
going to write to you for many a day back. I'll send somebody for your
horse: come into the house."
The young man, having fastened up the bridle, followed his host. There
was a calm and business-like rather than a holiday look on his face.
"And what were you going to write to me about?" he asked.
"Oh, you know," said Roscorla good-naturedly. "You see, a man takes
very different views of life when he knocks about a bit. For my part,
I am more interested in my business now than in anything else of a
more tender character; and I may say that I hope to pay you back a
part of the money you lent me as soon as our accounts for this year
are made up. Well, about that other point: I don't see how I could
well return to England, to live permanently there, for a year or two
at the soonest; and--and, in fact, I have often wondered, now, whether
it wouldn't be better if I asked Miss Rosewarne to consider herself
finally free from that--from that engagement."
"Yes, I think it would be a great deal better," said Trelyon coldly.
"And perhaps you would kindly put your resolve into writing. I shall
take it back to Miss Rosewarne. Will you kindly do so now?"
"Why," said Roscorla rather sharply, "you don't take my proposal in a
very friendly way. I imagine I am doing you a good turn too. It is not
every man would do so in my position; for, after all, she treated me
very badly. However, we needn't go into that. I will write her a
letter, if you like--now, indeed, if you like; and won't you stop a
day or two here before going back to Kingston?"
Mr. Trelyon intimated that he would like to have the letter at once,
and that he would consider the invitation afterward. Roscorla, with a
good-humored shrug, sat down and wrote it, and then handed it to
Trelyon, open. As he did so he noticed that the young man was coolly
abstracting the cartridge from a small breech-loading pistol he held
in his hand. He put the cartridge in his waistcoat pocket and the
pistol in his coat pocket.
"Did you think we were savages out here, that you came armed?" said
Roscorla, rather pale, but smiling.
"I didn't know," said Trelyon.
* * * * *
One morning there was a marriage in Eglosilyan, up there at the small
church on the bleak downs overlooking the wide sea. The spring-time
had come round again; there was a May-like mildness in the air; the
skies overhead were as blue as the great plain of the sea; and all the
beautiful green world was throbbing with the upspringing life of the
flowers. It was just like any other wedding, but for one little
incident. When the bride came out into the bewildering glare of the
sun, she vaguely knew that the path through the churchyard was lined
on both sides with children. Now, she was rather well known to the
children about, and they had come in a great number; and when she
passed down between them it appeared that the little folks had brought
vast heaps of primroses and violets in their aprons and in tiny
baskets, and they strewed her path with these flowers of the new
spring. Well, she burst into tears at this, and hastily leaving her
husband's arm for a moment, she caught up one of the least of the
children--a small, golden-haired girl of four--and kissed her. Then
she turned to her husband again, and was glad that he led her down to
the gale, for her eyes were so blinded with tears that she could not
see her way.
Nor did anything very remarkable occur at the wedding-breakfast. But
there was a garrulous old lady there with bright pink cheeks and
silvery hair; and she did not cease to prattle to the clergyman who
had officiated in the church, and who was seated next her. "Indeed,
Mr. Trewhella," she said confidentially, "I always said this is what
would come of it. Never any one of those Trelyons set his heart on a
girl but he got her; and what was the use of friends or relatives
fighting against it? Nay, I don't think there's any cause of
complaint--not I! She's a modest, nice, ladylike girl: she is indeed,
although she isn't so handsome as her sister. Dear, dear me! look at
that girl now! Won't she be a prize for some man? I declare I haven't
seen so handsome a girl for many a day. And, as I tell you, Mr.
Trewhella, it's no use trying to prevent it: if one of the Trelyons
falls in love with a girl, the girl's done for: she may as well give
"If I may say so," observed the old clergyman, with a sly gallantry,
"you do not give the gentlemen of your family credit for the most
remarkable feature of their marriage connections. They seem to have
had always a very good idea of making an excellent choice."
The old lady was vastly pleased. "Ah, well," she said, with a shrewd
smile, "there were two or three who thought George Trelyon--that was
this young man's grandfather, you know--lucky enough, if one might
judge by the noise they made. Dear, dear! what a to-do there was when
we ran away! Why, don't you know, Mr. Trewhella, that I ran away from
a ball with him, and drove to Gretna Green with my ball-dress on, as
I'm a living woman? Such a ride it was!--why, when we got up to
But that story has been told before.
I lie in my red canoe
On the water still and deep,
And o'er me darkens the blue,
And beneath the billows sleep,
Till, between the stars o'erhead
And those in the lake's embrace,
I seem to float like the dead
In the noiselessness of space.
Betwixt two worlds I drift,
A bodiless soul again--
Between the still thoughts of God
And those which belong to men;
And out of the height above,
And out of the deep below,
A thought that is like a ghost
Seems to gather and gain and grow,
That now and for evermore
This silence of death shall hold,
While the nations fade and die
And the countless years are rolled.
But I turn the light canoe,
And, darting across the night,
Am glad of the paddles' noise
And the camp-fire's honest light.
* * * * *
MILL'S ESSAYS ON RELIGION.
An interest attaches to Mr. Mill's posthumous _Essays on Religion_
which is quite independent of their intrinsic value or importance. The
position of their author at the head of an active school of thinkers
gives them to a certain extent a representative character, while, in
connection with the curious account of his mental training presented
in his autobiography, they merit perhaps still closer attention as a
subject of psychological study. It is not, however, in this latter
light that we can undertake to examine them here. Our object is merely
to point out some of the fallacies and contradictions which might
escape the notice of a cursory reader, and which show with how
uncertain a step a philosopher who piqued himself on the clearness and
severity of his logic moves on ground where a stronger light than that
of reason was needed to irradiate his path.
The first essay is devoted to an examination of the ways of Nature as
unmodified by the voluntary agency of man. These the author finds
worthy of all abhorrence; and Nature in its purely physical aspect he
considers to be full of blemishes, which are patent to the eye of
modern science, and which "all but monkish quietists think it a
religious duty to amend." A competent master-workman with good
materials would not have turned out a world so "bunglingly" made, with
great patches of poisonous morass and arid desert unfit for human
habitation, with coal and other requisites for man's comfort stored
away out of sight, with the rivers all unbridged, and mountains and
other impediments thrown in the way of free locomotion. So far, then,
from its being man's duty to imitate Nature, as some have thought it
was, it is incumbent upon him to oppose her with all his powers,
because of her gross injustice in the realm of morals, and to remedy
her physical defects as far as lies in his power. On this view of
Nature our fathers were wiser in their generation than we when they
trimmed their trees into grotesque shapes and laid out their
landscapes in geometric lines; when in medicine they substituted the
lancet and unlimited mercury for the _vis medicatrix naturae_; when in
philosophy they dictated to Nature from their internal consciousness,
before Bacon introduced the heresy of induction; when in politics they
had a profound faith in statutes and none at all in statistics; when
in education they conscientiously rammed down the ologies at the point
of the ferule, in blissful ignorance of psychology. If Mr. Mill finds
it necessary to rail at Nature because she did not put coal on the top
of the ground and build bridges and dig wells for man's convenience,
why not call her a jade at once because she does not grow ready-made
clothing of the latest mode in sizes to suit, because the trees do not
bear hot rolls and coffee, and because Mr. Mill's philosophy is not an
intuition of the mind? He is less restrained in speaking of the moral
enormities of Nature. Altogether the most striking passage in the
book is his indictment of the Author of Nature, which is truly Satanic
in its audacity and hardly to be paralleled in literature for its
impiety; for it is impious even from Mr. Mill's standpoint, since he
admits that the weight of evidence tends to prove that Nature's Author
is both wise and good. We transcribe only some of his expressions:
"Nearly all things which men are hanged or imprisoned for doing to one
another are Nature's _every-day performances_;" she "has a hundred
hideous deaths" reserved for her victims, "such as the ingenious
cruelty of a Nabis or a Domitian never surpassed," which "she uses
with _the most supercilious disregard both of mercy and justice_;"
"she inflicts torture in _apparent wantonness_;" "everything which
_the worst men_ commit against life and property is perpetrated on a
larger scale by natural agents;" "Nature has noyades more fatal than
those of Carrier: her plague and cholera far surpass the poison-cups
of the Borgias." Such are a few of the impassioned and presumptuous
expressions which Mr. Mill allows himself to use in speaking of the
great mystery of human suffering, which others touch with reverence,
and do not dare to reprobate, since they cannot understand. His words
are as false as they are bold. Fierce and terrible as Nature is in
some of her aspects, it is not true that her _prevailing_ attitude is,
as here indicated, one of bitter hostility to the race she nourishes
on her bosom. If she were the monster here described, mankind would
long ago have perished under her persistent cruelties, and Mr. Mill's
profane cry would never have gone up to Heaven. Men will always regard
the world subjectively, and adjudge it happy or the reverse according
to their temperament or passing humor; but, if it be conceded--as it
is by Mr. Mill through his whole argument--that man is a moral
creature, with a true power of self-determination within certain
limits, and with sufficient intelligence to discern the laws of
Nature, and that therefore all the pain that man brings upon himself
by voluntary violation of discovered law is to be deducted from the
sum-total of human suffering to arrive at the amount that is
attributable to Nature, most men, if they are honest, will on
reflection admit that Nature brings to the great body of the human
family immeasurably more comfort, if not pleasure, than she does pain.
Take the senses, which are the sources of physical pleasure. How
seldom, comparatively, the eye is pained, while it rests with habitual
gratification upon the sky and landscape, and on the human form divine
when unmarred by vice! How rarely the taste is offended or the
appetite starved, while every meal, be it ever so simple, yields
enjoyment to the palate! The ear is regaled with the perpetual music
of wind and ocean and feathered minstrelsy, of childhood's voice and
the sweet converse of friends. So, too, Nature is a great laboratory
of delicate odors: the salt breath of the sea is like wine to the
sense; the summer air is freighted with delights, and every tree and
flower exhales fragrance: only where danger lurks does Nature assault
the nostrils with kindly warning. If it be objected that vast numbers
of the race live in cities where every sense is continually offended,
it is to be remembered that "man made the town," and is to be held
responsible for the unhappiness there resulting from his violations of
natural law. But even in cities Nature is more kind to man than he is
to himself, and dulls his faculties against the deformities and
discords of his own creating. From the sense of feeling it is probable
we receive more pain than pleasure, but by no means so much more as to
overbalance the great preponderance of delights coming through the
other avenues: a great part of such pain is cautionary, and much can
be avoided by voluntary action; and the stimulus thus given by the
wise severity of Nature begets that activity of the moral life from
which results the highest form of happiness. When we attempt to
estimate our mental and moral sufferings, it is impossible even to
approximate the proportion of them that are due to our voluntary
infringement of law; but, adding together all that spring from natural
sources and all that men bring upon themselves, the suffering is
still outweighed by the pleasure among the great mass of men.
But, however unfavorable a view we take of the condition of humanity,
it is gross exaggeration to say, "_There is no evidence whatever_ in
Nature for Divine justice, whatever standard of justice our ethical
opinions may lead us to recognize: ... there is _no shadow of justice_
in the general arrangements of Nature." Though many of Nature's
dealings with man appear to be unjust, by far the larger proportion of
them are graduated according to what seems, even to us, a standard of
strict equity. As Matthew Arnold puts it, there is a power in Nature
"which makes for righteousness." And every generation verifies the
words of the Preacher: "The righteous shall be recompensed _in the
earth_--much more the wicked and the sinner;" "as righteousness
_tendeth to life_, so he that pursueth evil _pursueth it to his own
death_." It was the reverent saying of that noblest of pagans, Marcus
Aurelius, that "if a man should have a feeling and a deeper insight
with respect to the things which are produced in the universe, there
is hardly anything that comes in the course of Nature which will not
seem to him to be in a manner disposed _so as to give pleasure_." When
that "deeper insight" comes, and the eyes of man's spiritual
understanding are opened, all appearance of injustice in Nature will
If men were indeed as wretched as Mr. Mill describes them to be, and
had no fear of judgment and immortality--which Mr. Mill informs us are
probably but figments of the brain--why should they continue to endure
"the calamity of so long life"?
'Twere best at once to sink to peace,
Like birds the charming serpent draws--
To drop head-foremost in the jaws
Of vacant darkness, and to cease.
So men would begin to reason if this dark gospel of despair were ever
to gain currency; but, fortunately, it is only the morbid dream of a
closet philosopher, who fancied the world was upside down because he
could not unriddle it with his logical Rule of Three.
This representation of Nature is not only at variance with facts, but
inconsistent with Mr. Mill's own conclusions, as he reasons from
natural phenomena that the Creator is both wise and beneficent, but
that He is in some way hindered from fully accomplishing His kind
purposes. But if "_there is no evidence whatever for Divine justice_,
and _no shadow of justice_ in the general arrangements of Nature," the
reasonable inference is that its author is a being of infinite
malignity who is in some mysterious manner, for the present, prevented
from wreaking the full measure of his wrath upon mankind. From this
horrible thought Mr. Mill recoils, and, giving logic to the winds, he
God is love indeed,
And love Creation's final law,
Though Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravin, shrieks against his creed.
In the second essay Mr. Mill undertakes to prove the uselessness and
harmfulness of supernatural religion both to society and individuals,
and the sufficiency of human authority, of education and public
opinion to accomplish all the beneficial results usually accredited to
faith in a Divine Being. "Religion," he says, "by its intrinsic force,
... without the sanction superadded by public opinion, ... has never,
save in exceptional characters or in peculiar moods of mind, exercised
a very potent influence after the time had gone by in which Divine
agency was supposed habitually to employ temporal rewards and
punishments." Whatever application this statement may have to other
religions claiming a divine origin, it is entirely false of
Christianity. In its origin, _it_ certainly held out no temporal
bribes of any character. Its Founder expressly said to His disciples,
"In this world ye shall have tribulation." "Behold," He says, "I send
you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves"; "ye shall be hated of all
men for My sake"; "if any man will come after Me, let him deny
himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." His own life was one of
unparalleled contumely, and He told them they must not expect to fare
better than their Master. Nor did they. The majority of the apostles
met cruel deaths after lives of suffering. Paul, describing his
experience, speaks of his beatings and his perils among his countrymen
and the heathen, of his hunger and thirst and his cold and nakedness.
And his was only an extreme example of the common lot of the early
generations of Christians. Yet in the face of the hostility of the
whole Roman and Jewish world, manifested in the most cruel
persecutions, Christianity rapidly grew, gaining its most signal
triumphs, laying hold of the consciences and transforming the lives of
men. It was only when it came under the patronage of the civil
government, and the public opinion of the world was thrown in its
favor, and its peculiar doctrines became diluted with worldly policy,
that it began to lose its reforming influence--a fact which Mr. Mill
himself alludes to in his essay _On Liberty_. This experience has been
frequently repeated since the days of Constantine; so that history
fairly proves that Christianity does its peculiar work more
effectually _when it is dissociated from all human sanctions_, and
left to act solely by its intrinsic force. This is true not only of
the Church at large, but of individuals. Paul, Luther, a Kempis drew
their inspiration from the simple words of Christ, and owed next to
nothing to the opinions of the world about them. It has always been
direct contact with the life and precepts of the Founder of
Christianity that has fired the hearts and braced the spiritual
energies of the noblest Christians, who have been the reformers of
their times, braving the enmity of the world to instill a purer and a
The illustrations, suggested first by Bentham, which Mr. Mill cites to
prove the worthlessness of the religious sanction--viz., the almost
universal breach of oaths where not enforced by law, and the
prevalence of male unchastity and the practice of dueling among
Christian communities--have no pertinency whatever to his argument,
since they only prove the predominance of religious infidelity and
indifference in countries nominally Christian, which no one denies;
while the exceptions to this rule, which occur almost wholly among
Christians, prove the very view he controverts. It is Christian
opinion making itself felt through legislation that is gradually
circumscribing the area of these vices.
Again, says Mr. Mill. "Because when men were still savage they would
not have received either moral or scientific truths unless they had
supposed them supernaturally imparted, does it follow they would now
give up moral truths any more than scientific because they believed
them to have no other origin than wise and noble human hearts?"
Overlooking the adroit introduction here of scientific truths as
having originally been on the same footing with moral truths--for
which we do not think there is any sufficient historic evidence--it is
competent to reply that the great mass of mankind are still in the
earlier stages of intellectual and moral development, even in the most
advanced countries; so that on grounds of utility it is important to
prolong, if possible, the supernatural sanctions of religion.
Although, as Mr. Mill believes, a moral truth once in the possession
of humanity may never be lost, it may yet have its influence suspended
through many generations, as in the Dark Ages, and thus the advance of
civilization be indefinitely retarded; and therefore the office of
religion in keeping morality operative among men is not to be
discarded. It is doubtless impossible to estimate with entire
correctness the relative value of the different forces that advance or
retard civilization, but we believe the weight of historic evidence
goes to prove that religious skepticism was the actual cause, as it
has always been the inevitable precursor, of national decay. Coleridge
in _The Friend_ quotes the historian Polybius as attributing the
strength of the Roman republic to the general reverence of the
invisible powers, _and the consequent horror in which the breaking of
an oath was held._ This he thought the _causa causarum_ of Roman
grandeur; and he attributed the ruin of the Greek states to the
frequency of perjury resulting from the atheism taught by the
Sophists. Goethe says somewhere that "all epochs in which faith has
prevailed have been the most heart-stirring and fruitful both as
regard contemporaries and posterity; whereas all epochs in which
unbelief obtains its miserable triumphs, even when they boast of some
apparent brilliancy, are not less surely doomed to speedy oblivion."
This assertion is notably true of the histories of Judea, Greece,
Rome, and Spain. And, _a priori_, it might be argued that the only
possible ground for that cordial unanimity of society upon fundamental
questions which is essential to a stable and highly developed
civilization is a common faith in some central rightful authority
competent to demand and enforce equal obedience from all classes; in
other words, faith in God. A band of savages might be held in a lax
social union by the common fear of some brawny chief, but in civilized
communities it is the real _divinity_ that doth hedge about the king
or other civil head that gives cohesion to the social mass. As a
political force, therefore, religion cannot be dispensed with.
Religion is not only useless, Mr. Mill proceeds, but "there is a very
real evil consequent on ascribing a supernatural origin to the
received maxims of morality. That origin consecrates the whole of
them, and protects them from being discussed and criticised." Such an
objection hardly comes with good grace from Mr. Mill, who spends his
strength to prove that a divine sanction has no efficacy when not
backed by human authority. Nor has such an objection, if it were true,
any application to the case till it is absolutely proved that _all_
religions are of human origin, or else that more harm results from
believing human systems divine than from believing one divine system
to be of human growth. Neither of these alternatives does he attempt
to establish, and he explicitly admits it is impossible to prove the
former. But the objection is not true. Human criticism has never been
backward to attack all systems of morality, despite the popular faith
in their divine origin. Christianity especially has had its historic
and intellectual and moral foundations attacked by able critics in
every century since its introduction on earth. But in the face of
every form of opposition it has made a steady progress, and
strengthened its hold upon the human heart and conscience as the world
has advanced in culture. It is to-day professed by a larger number of
disciples and with a more intelligent faith than at any other period
of its history. It is the dominant religion in those countries which
are in the van of human progress, whose political institutions are the
freest in the world, and whose inhabitants are the happiest and most
virtuous. And despite its insoluble mysteries it has always received
the assent of the highest intelligence to its divine origin. "My
faith," said De Quincey, "is that though a great man may, by a rare
possibility, be an infidel, an intellect of the highest order must
build on Christianity." And Bacon's testimony is to the same effect.
"It is only," he says, "when superficially tested that philosophy
leads away from God: deeper draughts of a thorough and real philosophy
bring us back to Him." And poor Tyndall, standing afar off in the
outer regions of pure intellect, hard by the
That tumbles in the godless deep,
has recently been heard to murmur that in his loftiest moments the
promise and potency of matter give no response to the deepest cry of
the soul. And along the centuries stand the princes of thought, Paul,
Augustine, Bacon, Luther, Milton, Pascal, Kepler, Newton, Coleridge,
Faraday, Herschel, testifying to the impregnability of the
intellectual foundation of the Christian faith.
If Mr. Mill's arguments to prove the worthlessness of Christianity are
open to many objections, the reasons he offers for accepting his
substitute, the Religion of Humanity, are utterly baseless and
delusive. For faith in God he would have us adopt an ideal conception
of what human life can be made in the future, and sacrifice all our
present enjoyment to secure a realization of that conception ages
hence. This, says he, is a better religion than any belief respecting
the unseen powers. "If individual life is short, the life of the human
species is not." How does he know this? The dark demon of Nature he
has so vividly described may sweep away the puny race to-morrow by
some fell cataclysm; and it would be a blessing if she did in his
view. "If such an object," he continues, "appears small to a mind
accustomed to dream of infinite and eternal beatitudes, it will expand
into far other dimensions when these _baseless fancies_ shall have
receded into the past." But if we must feed our moral natures on
"baseless fancies," most men will prefer the Christian dogmas of
immortality, the infinite capacity of development of the human soul,
the brotherhood of the race and its vital union with its Creator, and
its perfectibility of human institutions and social conditions in this
life under the leavening influence of Christian principle, although
Mr. Mill may stigmatize them as grandiose and enervating dreams, to
his beggarly improved substitute, which appeals neither to our common
sense nor to our moral intuitions. Taking his own criterion, utility,
as the test of truth, his religion of humanity fails to establish
itself, for it postpones the happiness of each existing generation to
the fancied good of future generations which may never be born, and
this _ad infinitum_. On this part of his subject Mr. Mill is simply
fatuous, as when he speaks of our being sustained in this faith by the
approbation of the dead whom we venerate. But if Socrates and Howard
and Washington and Christ and Antoninus and Mrs. Mill are turned to
clay, as he says they probably are, it is nonsense to assert that he
is strengthened in the path of duty by a feeling that they would
sympathize with him if alive. It is the unconfessed hope of their
immortality that quickens him, if he is affected at all. Mr. Mill's
idolatry of his wife, like Buckle's love for his mother, was an
argument for the immortality of the soul which he does not seem to
have been able entirely to reject.
Mr. Mill never tires of calling Christianity a selfish religion, and
glorifies his substitute as free from this defect. But Mr. Fitzjames
Stephen, in his work entitled _Liberty, Equality, Fraternity_, has
clearly pointed out that Mr. Mill has only succeeded in duping himself
on this point. A man _cannot_ free himself from self-consideration.
Christianity indeed appeals to the innate desire of happiness, but
condemns the overweening and blind self-regard which cannot see that
the highest happiness of self flows from a just respect to the
selfhood of others and from the cultivation of the spiritual nature.
Love your neighbor _as_ yourself is the Christian precept; and it has
the advantage of being practicable, which Mr. Mill's has not.
Mr. Mill considerately says he will forbear to urge the moral
difficulties and perversions of the Christian revelation, "the
recognition, for example, of the object of highest worship in a being
who could make a hell." "Is it possible," he asks, "to adore such a
one without a frightful distortion of the standard of right and
wrong?" "Any other of the outrages to the most ordinary justice and
humanity involved in the common Christian conception of the moral
character of God sinks into insignificance beside this dreadful
idealization of wickedness. Most of them, too, are happily not so
unequivocally deducible from the very words of Christ." Yet this very
Personage, who, Mr. Mill says, implicitly believed and taught this
awful doctrine, presents, he confesses, the highest type of pure
morality the world has ever seen. Arguing from this phenomenon, the
more hideous the creed and the more torpid or sophisticated the
intellect, the higher the morality is likely to be.
In the last essay, _On Theism_, Mr. Mill examines the evidences in
Nature for the existence of God and for the immortality of the soul.
The argument from design he thinks establishes the probability of the
existence of an intelligent Creator of _limited power_; for "who," he
asks, "would have recourse to means if to attain his end his mere word
were sufficient?" It may be replied to this that it is as open to an
omnipotent being to accomplish his will through a long chain of
causes as by a fiat acting immediately. The recourse to intermediate
means does not of necessity prove a limitation of power. If the means
actually chosen are defective or bad, it may imply limitation of
wisdom or moral obliquity just as much as defect of power, and any
choice between these alternatives is entirely arbitrary from a logical
Monotheism, Mr. Mill asserts, is a natural product, requiring a
considerable amount of intellectual culture, but always appearing at a
certain stage of natural development. How, then, did it originate
among the Hebrews before they had emerged from barbarism, and fail to
appear among their highly civilized contemporaries, the Egyptians and
Assyrians? Christlieb is more correct than Mr. Mill, we think, when he
says that neither in ancient nor in modern times has it been possible
to find a nation which by its own unaided powers of thought has
arrived at a definite belief in one personal living God. And the
latest researches of ethnologists, as they may be found admirably
compiled by Mr. Tyler (himself an advocate of the development
hypothesis) in his _Primitive Culture_, substantiate this assertion.
Mr. Mill, in dealing with Kant's dictum, that the intuition of duty
implies a God of necessity, is foolish enough to say "that this
feeling of obligation rather _excludes_ than compels the belief in a
divine legislator;" which is a very discreditable piece of sophistry.
In closing this short review of these interesting essays we may be
permitted to quote a few of Mr. Mill's admissions, which, taken
together, almost amount to a confession of faith in the Christian
system, and which leave upon the mind the impression that this painful
groping of an earnest inquirer after the truth, and the closer
approximation he continually made to Christian dogma, would have
resulted, had he lived longer, in his adoption of that faith as
offering the hypothesis that best explains the perplexing phenomena of
the moral world.
"Experience," he says, "has abated the ardent hopes once entertained
of the regeneration of the human race by merely negative doctrine, by
the destruction of superstition." Here is a declaration of the need of
a system of positive truth.
Again, of the Christian revelation he says: "The sender of the alleged
message is not a sheer invention: there are grounds independent of the
message itself for belief in His reality.... It is moreover much to
the purpose to take notice that the very imperfection of the evidences
which natural theology can produce of the divine attributes removes
some of the chief stumbling-blocks to the belief of revelation." Here
is the _raison d'etre_ of revelation.
This revelation, it should be borne in mind, in its method and
character bears a striking similarity to the natural world, from whose
Author it professes to come, as was long ago pointed out by Bishop
Butler, and recently with great cogency by Mr. Henry Rogers in his
most forcible work on the _Superhuman Origin of the Bible_.
Again: "A revelation cannot be proved unless by external
evidence--that is, by the evidence of supernatural facts." Here is an
assertion of the necessity of miracles.
Again: "Science contains nothing repugnant to the supposition that
every event which takes place results from a specific volition of the
presiding Power, provided this Power adheres in its particular
volitions to general laws laid down by itself;" which is the biblical
representation of the divine mode of action.
Again: "All the probabilities in case of a future life are that such
as we have been made, or have made ourselves before the change, such
we shall enter into the life hereafter;" which is the exact
declaration of Scripture.
Mr. Mill further helps the Christian cause by pointing out two flaws
in Hume's argument against miracles--viz., that the evidence of
experience to which its appeal is made is only negative evidence;
which is not conclusive, since facts of which there had been no
previous experience are often discovered and proved by positive
experience to be true; and secondly, the argument assumes that the
testimony of experience against miracles is undeviating and
indubitable, whereas the very thing asserted on the other side is that
there have been miracles, and that the testimony is not wholly on the
No Christian can read the following tribute to the character of Christ
without sadness that the joy of a larger faith was rejected by its
author: "Whatever else may be taken away from us by rational
criticism, Christ is still left--a unique figure, not more unlike all
his precursors than all his followers, even those who had the direct
benefit of his teaching. About the life and sayings of Jesus there is
a stamp of personal originality, combined with profundity of insight,
... which must place the Prophet of Nazareth, even in the estimation
of those who have no belief in his inspiration, in the very first rank
of the men of sublime genius of whom our species can boast. When this
pre-eminent genius is combined with the qualities of probably the
greatest moral reformer and martyr to that mission who ever existed
upon earth, religion cannot be said to have made a bad choice in
pitching upon this man as the ideal representative and guide of
humanity; nor even now would it be easy even for an unbeliever to find
a better translation of the rule of virtue from the abstract into the
concrete than to endeavor so to live that Christ would approve our
life.... When to this we add that to the conception of the rational
critic it remains a possibility that Christ actually was what he
supposed himself to be, ... we may well conclude that the influences
of religion on the character which will remain after rational
criticism has done its utmost against the evidences of religion are
well worth preserving, and what they lack in direct strength as
compared with those of a firmer belief is more than compensated by the
greater truth and rectitude of the morality they sanction." The
confession of these last few lines refutes the whole of Mr. Mill's
elaborate argument on the worthlessness and immorality of that
religion which from his grave he lifts his sad and hollow voice to
OUR MONTHLY GOSSIP.
WOMAN'S RIGHTS IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY.
Not only we, the latest seed of Time--
... not only we that prate
Of rights and wrongs, have loved the _women_ well.
Nearly a century and a half ago an English lady, out of patience with
the intolerable assumptions of the other sex, raised her voice in
behalf of her own. In 1793 there was published in London a pamphlet
entitled "_Woman not Inferior to Man, or a Short and Modest
Vindication of the Natural Right of the Fair Sex to a Perfect Equality
of Power, Dignity and Esteem with the Men_. By Sophia, a Person of
Quality." The title-page has a quotation from Rowe's _Fair Penitent_:
How hard is the condition of our sex!
--Through every state of life the slave of man!
* * * * *
Wherefore are we
Born with souls, but to assert ourselves,
Shake off this wild obedience they exact,
And claim an equal empire o'er the world?
From such a title and such an epigraph one might expect the most
incendiary sentiments in the pages which follow, and that Sophia had
nothing less in view than to overthrow the usurper; but this she
disclaims: she has no intention, she avers, "to stir up any of my own
sex to revolt against the _men_, or to invert the present order of
things with regard to _government_ and _authority_" Her sole object
appears to be to bring men to a proper sense of their deficiencies and
the emptiness of their pretensions. But she is a person of admirable
dignity and discretion: it is not until the conclusion, when she has
not left them a leg to stand upon, that she magnanimously waives all
the advantages to accrue from their humiliation, and merely bids them
in future to know their true place. The composition is in every way
worthy of these elevated sentiments. Sophia need not have announced
herself a person of quality: there is evidence of it on every leaf of
her book. One recognizes the accomplished gentlewoman of a hundred
years ago, with her solid reading, her strong common sense, her sober
religious convictions, her household science. No doubt she loved fine
lace and old china; there are recondite internal proofs that she was
pretty; and on closing the book a far-off rustle of her brocade
reaches us as she makes her spreading curtsey. But we will let her
speak for herself a little. Her first position is certainly a strong
one: "If this haughty sex would have us believe they have a natural
right of superiority over us, why don't they prove their charter from
Nature by making use of reason to subdue themselves?... Were we to see
_men_ everywhere and at all times masters of themselves, and their
animal appetites in perfect subordination to their rational faculties,
we should have some color to think that Nature designed them as
masters to us." The doctrine of female inferiority she considers "a
vulgar though ancient error," observing that until very recent ages
the sun was believed to revolve round the earth, and the notion of the
antipodes was "a heresy in philosophy"--that to assert the equality of
the sexes now was no greater paradox than to advocate either of those
theories but a short time ago. "But," she continues, "who shall the
matter be tried by?" and here we suspect she has reached the root of
the difficulty. Both men and women, she admits, are too much
interested to be impartial judges; therefore she appeals to "rectified
reason" as umpire. She considers in order the various claims to
predominance which men have put forward, and confutes them one by one.
"Man concludes that all other creatures were made for him because he
was not created until all were in readiness for him:" even granting
that to be unanswerable, she says it only proves that men were made
for women, and not _vice versa_: "they are our natural drudges.... Men
are magnified because they succeed in taming a tiger, an elephant or
such like animals;" therefore what rank must belong to woman, "who
spends years in training that _fiercer animal_, MAN?" She instances a
journeyman tailor she once saw belabor his wife with a neck of mutton,
"to make her know, as he said, her _sovereign lord and master_. And
this is perhaps as strong an argument as their sex is able to produce,
though conveyed, in a greasy light.... To stoop to regard for the
strutting things is not enough; to humor them more than we could
children with any tolerable decency is too little; they must be
served, forsooth!" It is grievous injustice to Sophia, but one almost
fancies one hears Madame George Sand. She allows that to please man
ought to be part of the sex's business if it were likely to succeed;
"but such is the fanatical composition of their natures that the more
pains is taken in endeavoring to please them, the less generally is
the labor successful; ... and surely _women_ were created by Heaven
for some better end than to labor in vain their whole life long." The
supercilious commendations of men are gall and wormwood to her: "Some,
more condescending, are gracious enough to confess that many _women_
have wit and conduct; but yet they are of opinion that even such of us
as are the most remarkable for either or both still betray something
which speaks the imbecility of our sex." She makes an excellent plea
forgiving women a thorough education, complaining that it is denied
them, and then they are charged with being superficial: "True
knowledge and solid learning cannot but make woman as well as man more
humble; ... and it must be owned that if a little superficial
knowledge has rendered some of our sex vain, it equally renders some
of theirs insupportable." With all the sex's frivolity, she adds,
women have not been found to spend their lives on mere _entia
rationis_ splitting hairs and weighing motes like the Schoolmen. She
concludes that men deprive women of education lest they should oust
them "from those public offices which they fill so miserably." She
handles her logic admirably, and exposes her adversaries for begging
the question and reasoning in a circle. Of course she enforces her
assertions by citing the women who have distinguished themselves in
every position of responsibility, military, political and
intellectual, and only refrains from multiplying instances because of
their number. Not to quote those alone who have filled chairs of
medicine with honor, she ingeniously remarks that the remedies classed
as "an old woman's recipe" are those oftenest prescribed, to the glory
of her sex, who by patience, humanity and observation have invented
without the help of Galen and Hippocrates an infinity of reliefs for
the sick which their adherents can neither improve nor disapprove. She
makes her final point on the question of moral superiority. It is
sometimes stated "that some _women_ have been more flagitious than any
_men_, but that in nowise redounds to the dishonor of our sex in
general. _The corruption of the best is ever the worst_: should we
grant this, ... it must be owned their number would at least balance
the account. I believe no one will deny but that at least upon the
most moderate computation there are a thousand _bad men_ to one _bad
woman_." She winds up by an appeal to her own sex in the very spirit
of Miss F.P. Cobbe, the sum of which is to adjure women, for their own
sakes, not to be silly.
How many contemporaries of George Selwyn had their eyes opened by this
clear statement of their demerits there are no means of ascertaining.
But Sophia raised up at least one furious antagonist, who replied by a
pamphlet called "MAN _Superior to_ WOMAN, _or a Vindication of Man's
Natural Right of Sovereign Authority over the Woman, containing a
Plain Confutation of the Fallacious Arguments of_ SOPHIA. By a
GENTLEMAN." The first thing to be noted is, that whereas Sophia said
her say in about fifty pages, the masculine reply covers seventy-eight
in smaller print. He opens by a "Dedication to the Ladies," beginning,
"Lovely creatures"--an exordium which any woman of spirit would
resent, the perfidy and disrepect of his intentions being obvious in
those words alone; and he continues in the tone of flippancy which was
to be expected. His arguments are weak in the extreme, and his satire
is pointless. The only hit is his scheme for a female university, with
Mrs. Manly and Mrs. Afra Behn in the chair of literature. His summary
of woman's character and occupations was given earlier, with more
brevity and wit, and no less truth, by Pope. To Sophia's historical
illustrations he opposes female types named Tremula, Bellnina,
Novilia, etc. But in truth the production is so excessively scurrilous
that one needs to remember that those were the times of Congreve and
Fielding to believe that the author could have the right to style
himself "A GENTLEMAN." We shudder with pity for poor Sophia, who had
such a mass of filth flung at her. But that decorous personage is not
disconcerted: she does not lose her head or her temper, but opens her
mouth with a freedom of speech which was the prerogative of an honest
woman in those days, and rejoins with a second pamphlet: "_Woman's
Superior Excellence over Man_" Her first thrust is to regret, in
behalf of the other sex, that neither Achilles nor Hector appears as
their champion, but Thersites. Either her adversary was silenced, or
the publishers considered that what he said was not worthy of
preservation, for no further words of his appear, so that in any case
she had the best of it. Her first pamphlet had a second edition in the
following year. Its memory was still alive in this century, for it was
quoted with respect by the _Retrospective Review_ for 1824 in a
learned article on the "Privileges of Woman," which deserves the
attention of those interested in the subject.
THE TOMB OF LORENZO DE' MEDICI.
I wish to chronicle in the pages of _Lippincott's Magazine_ the record
of a scene that took place this spring in the Medicean chapel attached
to the church of San Lorenzo in Florence. It was in itself a
remarkable and memorable scene enough, but it was yet more important
as regards certain interesting points of history on which it throws a
very curious light, if it does not, as many persons will be inclined
to think, settle them definitively.
The little square marble chapel itself, which no visitor to Florence
will have forgotten, is admired as an architectural gem of Michael
Angelo, and is yet more celebrated as the shrine of some of his finest
works, especially the sitting statue of Lorenzo and the recumbent
statues of _Twilight_ and _Dawn_ on the tomb of Lorenzo. These two
grand figures, it will be remembered, repose on the arched canopy over
the tomb in such a position that, if not retained in their places by
some means adapted for that purpose, they would slide off the rounded
arch by their own weight. Now, it had been lately observed that the
statue of _Twilight_ was moving, and it was very reasonably judged to
be necessary that this should be looked to. The statue was therefore
carefully raised, and it was discovered that when the tomb of Lorenzo
had been opened to place in it the body of the murdered Alexander, his
(putative) son, the metal stanchion or peg by means of which Michael
Angelo had secured his statue in its place had been replaced by a
wooden one. This, in the course of the centuries which have since
elapsed had become decayed, and the statue might have fallen any day.
This being the case, it was thought well to raise the other statue,
that of the _Dawn_ also. But that was found to be as secure in its
place as the great artist had left it. But these superincumbent
statues having been thus lifted from off the sepulchre, it was
suggested that the opportunity should be taken to examine the contents
of the tomb.
There were several reasons which rendered such an examination
historically interesting and curious. A certain degree of doubt has
been cast--mainly by Grimm--on the question whether the tomb be in
fact that of Lorenzo, the father of Catherine de' Medici, the
celebrated queen of France--whether it be not rather that of Giuliano,
his uncle. For my part, I had always thought that there was little or
no foundation for the doubt. The main features of the story of
Alexander will probably be in the memory of the reader. The Florentine
republic and liberty were destroyed in 1527 by the united forces of
the traitor pope, the Medicean Clement VII., and Charles V., with the
understanding that this Alexander should marry Margaret, the emperor's
illegitimate daughter, and that Florence should become a dukedom to
dower the young couple withal. Who and what this Alexander was has
always been one of the puzzles of history. He was, tradition says,
very swarthy, and was generally believed to be the son of a Moorish
slave-mother. He was certainly illegitimate; and the question, Who was
his father? was always a doubtful one, though he has generally been
called the son of Lorenzo. I have elsewhere given at length reasons
for believing rather that whispered bit of scandal of the time which
declared the pope, Clement VII., to be his father. When Florence fell
he became duke, and reigned over the unhappy city for seven years, in
such sort that the murder of him in 1537 by his kinsman Lorenzino,
traitorously and cowardly done as the deed was, was deemed the act of
a patriot. The story of such a deed, done at midnight in a private
chamber, and never made the subject of legal investigation, of course
reaches subsequent generations enveloped in more or less of
uncertainty. Now, it was likely enough that the careful examination of
the remains in the tomb in question might throw light on sundry points
of Alexander's story.
In the first place, the identity of the tomb is now fixed beyond the
possibility of a doubt. It was known that the body of the murdered
Alexander was placed in the tomb of his putative father, Lorenzo. If,
therefore, the body of Alexander should be found in this sepulchre,
the tomb is proved to have been that of Lorenzo. When the lid of the
sarcophagus was raised, there accordingly were the two bodies
visible--one dressed in white, the other in black. It has been
assumed--and I think the assumption is abundantly justified, as will
presently be seen--that the skeleton in black is that of Lorenzo, and
the skeleton in white that of Alexander. The relative position of the
bodies was very singular. The heads were at opposite ends of the
sarcophagus, and the bodies were placed, not side by side, but each
between the legs of the other. One of the bodies, that of Lorenzo,
seemed when the lid of the sarcophagus was raised to be headless, but
on examination the skull was found under the breast of the black tunic
that covered the body. There can be little doubt that it became
detached when the body was moved for the purpose of placing that of
Alexander in the tomb. The white garment that clad the skeleton of
Alexander was an embroidered shirt ornamented with lace: the legs were
covered with white leggings. The skull of this skeleton had all the
teeth perfect when the sarcophagus was opened; but should the
curiosity of any future generation tempt the men of that day to peer
into this receptacle of the dust of tyrants, the skull of the murdered
Alexander will be found to be toothless. And all sorts of suppositions
and theories may be based on this singular fact, and credited, until
some antiquary of the period discovers in an ancient magazine
published at the period of a former examination of the sepulchre this
record, in which I am obliged to declare--with a blush for the decency
of the Florentines--that the teeth were all stolen by persons who were
permitted to be present at the opening of the tomb. A certain special
historical interest is attached to those teeth of the murdered man.
The story goes that when Lorenzino stabbed him as he slept on a bed in
Lorenzino's own house, to which he had been inveigled in the hope of
meeting there a certain lady, the wife of a Ginori of the time,
Alexander started up, and, seizing the thumb of the murderer between
his teeth, held him so firmly that he could not have escaped had not a
bravo whom he had hired to aid him come to his assistance. These,
then, were the teeth that held so well in the death-grip of their
owner! Some Florentine historically-minded virtuoso (!) appreciated
the significance of the fact, and stole them from the head some three
centuries and a half after that last bite of theirs. There were
several gaps in the range of teeth still remaining in the skull of
Alexander, which has appeared strange to some who remember that he
was only twenty-seven when he died. But I think that any medical man,
taking into consideration; the manner of his death, would find nothing
strange in the circumstance, but on the contrary a confirmation of the
truth of the facts which the chroniclers of the time have preserved
Perhaps, however, the most curious and interesting fact which the
opening of this tomb has ascertained is that testified to by the hair
still remaining on the skull which was that of Alexander. It is a
black curly hair of a coarse quality, such as a man of mixed black
blood may be supposed to have had. It is recorded that one of the
wounds given by the bravo Scoronconcolo, whom Lorenzino had hired to
assist him in the murder, and who ran up to complete the job when his
master was disabled by being fast held by the teeth of Alexander, was
a stab in the face. And of the truth of this tradition also the skull
of the murdered man still affords evidence; for on the left-hand side
of the face, a little below the socket of the eye, there is a mark in
the bone beneath the cheek which must have been made by the point of
the sword or dagger that inflicted the wound, and which shows that the
bravo Scoronconcolo's thrust must have been a shrewd one.
It will readily be supposed that the scene at the opening of the
sepulchre must have been a very impressive one. There, in that solemn
chapel of white and black marble which the genius of Michael Angelo
prepared for the repose of his sovereigns and patrons, with his
lifelike and immortal presentations of the forms of the dead who have
filled all story with their names, looking down on the deed with sad
and solemn faces, who would not, while thus forcing the prison-house
of the tomb to render up its terrible and long-concealed secrets, have
been deeply sensible of a feeling of awe and reverence? Even putting
aside all such sentiments as the contemplation of such a _memento
mori_ is usually found to inspire in most men, the purely scientific
historical inquirer must have felt the importance of the occasion, and
the great desirability of making the most in an historical point of
view of so rare an opportunity. I am sorry to be obliged to record
that the Florentines, so far as could be judged from their conduct and
bearing, felt nothing of all this. No one who knows them as well as I
do would have expected reverence from them under any possible or
imaginable circumstances; but one might have expected such due care
and decency of proceeding as would have sufficed to render the
examination of the remains as historically instructive as possible,
and to preserve the record for a future generation. But this was very
far from being the case. A learned professor of anatomy indeed
attended at the opening of the tomb, but instead of touching the
remains himself, or utilizing his science by handling them as they
ought to have been handled, he called a workman, and by him the bodies
were torn out from their resting-place in fragments. The clothes were
of course torn to pieces in the operation; the lace from the shirt of
Alexander was permitted to be stolen; and the same fate, as has been
stated, overtook his teeth. No sort of preparation had been made for
any possible examination of the remains to any good purpose. They were
laid out anyhow, as the phrase is, on a little marble bench in the
chapel. Those who remember the place will not need to be told how
perfect a sham any pretence of examination must have been under such
circumstances. When this pretence had been gone through, the bones
were cast back again into the marble sarcophagus by the workman,
"like"--as one eye-witness of the scene describes it--"the bones of
dogs." And when the same person looked into the sarcophagus after this
tossing back had been effected, he saw a mere confused heap of the
scattered bones of two skeletons undistinguishably mixed together. "I
cannot help," writes the same eye-witness, "expressing my sense of the
barbaric acts which I witnessed. Historic skeletons--the father of
Catherine de' Medici, the son-in-law of Charles V.; Florentine
nobles--one a duke of Florence, the other of Urbino--both bad enough
fellows, no doubt, but could any Communists have acted worse? Besides,
Communist mobs assert principles, and do these things in hot blood.
But this most monstrous outrage was committed coolly by pure stupidity
and the carelessness which cannot be moved by any consideration to
take any trouble that can by any possibility be avoided. Had they
turned up a quantity of the bones of animals to examine them, they
could not have done worse." It is fair to add that _some_ of the
organs of the Florentine press stigmatized the proceedings upon this
occasion as they deserved to be stigmatized.
The qualifications needed by the novelist and by the dramatist are at
once alike and unlike. Differing in manner rather than in matter, they
are rarely found united in one man. Scott, from whose novels many
stirring plays have been taken, was incapable of writing one himself;
Thackeray, even after he was the well-known author of _Vanity Fair_,
could not find a manager willing to produce his comedy; and
Thackeray's great master, Fielding, comparatively failed as a
dramatist, though Joseph Surface is Blifil and Charles Surface is Tom
Jones, and from the same work Colman derived his comedy of the
_Jealous Wife_, which holds the stage to this day. By dint of hard
work a man might make himself a novelist, but the dramatist, like the
poet, must be born. He who possesses the power of writing successfully
for the stage will surely show it in his first work. This theory
accounts for the signal success of the _Cantab_, a slight farce played
in 1861 at the London Strand Theatre. The material was weak and
worn-out, but the fun was not forced: it flowed naturally from the
situations. There was a freshness and a firmness about the little
piece which showed the hand of a young author capable of better
things. Three years later, Mr. Sothern, desiring a part diametrically
the opposite of Lord Dundreary, produced _David Garrick_, and in 1865
_Society_ made its first appearance on the stage of the Prince of
Wales's Theatre. Then T. W. Robertson stepped to the front rank of
living English dramatists.
The author had found his audience and his actors. The Prince of
Wales's Theatre was directed by a burlesque actress, and devoted to
light comedy and extravaganza: after that it gave up burlesque, merely
heightening the effect of the comedy and prolonging the programme by a
quiet farce. The company was small and strong, the theatre was well
managed, and plays were handsomely mounted. After the success of
_Society_ until Robertson's death its main reliance was upon his pen.
In 1866 _Ours_ was first produced, followed in 1867 by _Caste_. The
pieces of other authors, although carefully played and well mounted,
were uniform failures. Mr. Edmund Yates's _Tame Cats_, and Mr. Dion
Boucicault's _How She Loves Him!_ were each withdrawn after a run of a
very few nights, whereas _School Play_, an _M.P._ succeeded each other
with undisputed success. At the Haymarket Theatre _David Garrick_ was
followed by _Home_ and _Birth_.
The day was won, and the successful author could afford to rest on his
laurels. But he was ambitious and a hard worker; so he continued to
write and adapt. To counterbalance the good-fortune of _David Garrick_
and _Home_ at the Haymarket, and the series of six at the Prince of
Wales's Theatre, there was a list of failures--_Birth, Progress,
Dreams_ and _War_. But his comedies were far more successful than his
heavier plays: his belief in his power to construct good acting dramas
must have been sadly shaken by the total failure of _For Love_, the
_Shadow-Tree Shaft_ and the _Nightingale_. There can be no better
proof of their want of success than the fact that at a time when
American managers were eager for his comedies, not one of his dramas
was ever produced in the United States. But in spite of the
comparative failure of his later works, his death was felt to be the
loss of a dramatic author of some performance and of greater promise,
We have a way of nicknaming a new writer after one of his most
celebrated predecessors whom we imagine him to resemble, and then we
find fault with him for not having all the qualities of an author whom
he probably has no desire to imitate. False friends of T.W. Robertson
called him the "modern Sheridan." Few writers are more dissimilar.
Robertson in his dialogue and construction imitated the modern French
dramatists; Sheridan, the old English, Congreve, Farquhar and
Wycherley. Robertson especially delighted in love-scenes--there are
generally two at least in each of his comedies: I cannot remember one
in any of Sheridan's. The dialogue of the author of the _School for
Scandal_ is artificial and glittering--that of the author of _School_
is generally more natural, and always less brilliant. They have,
however, one point in common: they both practiced Moliere's maxim, _Je
prends mon bien ou je le trouve_. They both unhesitatingly
plagiarized. Robertson in particular easily assimilated foreign
matter. He turned _Le Degel_ and _Les Ganaches_ of M. Sardou into _A
Rapid Thaw_ and _Progress_. _David Garrick_ was taken from _Dr.
Robin_, a French play, itself imitated from the German. _Home_ closely
follows _L'Aventuriere_ of M. Emile Augier. Madame de Girardin's _La
Joie fait peur_, previously translated by Mr. G.H. Lewes as _Sunshine
through the Clouds_, gave Robertson the situation of the last act of
_War_: Mr. Dion Boucicault has since deftly adapted the same
delightful little piece under the name of _Kerry, or Night and
Morning_. The Cinderella-like plot of _School_ is taken from the
_Aschenbroedel_ of Roderick Benedix: the school examination was
suggested by a French vaudeville, _En classe, mesdemoiselles!_ The
part of Beau Farintosh is a weak revival of Garrick's Lord Chalkstone
and Colman and Garrick's Lord Ogleby; and the strong situation in the
fourth act is imitated from _Les Beaux Messieurs de Bois-Dore_ of
But Robertson is decidedly strongest when he walks without crutches.
His own original plays, _Society, Caste, Ours_, are by far his best. A
foreign support made him limp. Of all his adaptations, _home_ alone
is really good: most of the others failed. Although that cosmopolitan
mosaic _School_ has been the most successful of his pieces in
London--it has passed its five hundredth night--it is by no means the
best. Success is not necessarily a test of real merit. Evidently,
_School_ has the elements of popularity, although it is a very weak
piece, although it is full of foreign matter, and although it violates
that most necessary rule of dramatic art, declaring no play should
contain an effect, a line, a scene or an act which does not bear on
the end in view by developing either the characters or the action. The
entire second act, containing the farcical examination-scene, is
useless. Robertson again sinned in this way in the _Nightingale_:
although it had no effect on the plot, although it was entirely
unnecessary, he introduced a pretty tableau representing the heroine,
a lovely prima-donna, singing under the silver moonbeams in a boat
rocked to and fro by the waves.
I have before spoken of Robertson's fondness for love-scenes. There
are almost as many of them in one of his comedies as in one of Mr.
Anthony Trollope's novels. And they are generally very good. What can
be more delicious than the "spooning" in _Home_, if it is not the
billing and cooing in _Ours_? But what can be more commonplace or more
objectionable than the frequent remarks about love and Cupid scattered
through his plays? Tom Stylus says in _Society_, "Love is an awful
swindler--always drawing upon Hope, who never honors his drafts--a
sort of whining beggar, continually moved on by the maternal police.
But 'tis a weakness to which the wisest of us are subject--a kind of
manly measles which this flesh is heir to, particularly when the flesh
is heir to nothing else. Even I have felt the divine damnation--I mean
emanation. But the lady united herself to another, which was a very
good thing for me, and anything but a misfortune for her." This is
altogether false: no man could ever say such things seriously--at
least no man of sense would, and Tom Stylus is a man of sense. See,
too, this bit of dialogue in _Play_:
"AMANDA. You are a good girl, and will be rewarded some day with a
good man's love for this.
"ROSIE. I don't want it. I don't want anything to do with love. Love's
a nasty, naughty, wicked boy, and the sooner he's put in
convict-clothes and refused a ticket-of-leave, the better."
That is false too: the affected smartness of the wit does not suit the
situation; or, rather, as a writer in the _Athenaeum_ has said of a
similar speech, "it suits any occasion."