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Literary and Social Essays by George William Curtis

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swagger of a supernumerary, but could not understand why people
applauded such an ordinary bumpkin as Garrick, who did not differ a
whit from all the country boobies he had ever seen. It is insisted
that the actor must persuade the spectator that he is what he seems to
be, and this is gravely put as the first and final proof of good

This is, however, both a false view of art and a false interpretation
and observation of experience. Shakespeare, through the mouth of
Hamlet, tells the players to "hold the mirror up to nature"--that is,
to represent nature. For what is the dramatic art, like all other
arts, but a representation? If it aims to deceive the eye--if it tries
to juggle the senses of the spectator--it is as trivial as if a
painter should put real gold upon his canvas instead of representing
gold by means of paint; or as if a sculptor should tinge the cheeks of
his statue to make it more like a human face. We have seen tin pans so
well represented in painting that the result was atrocious. For, if
the object intended is really a tin pan, and not the pleasure produced
by a conscious representation of one, then why not insert the
veritable pan in the picture at once? If art is only a more or less
successful imitation of natural objects, with a view to cheat the
senses, it is an amusing game, but it is not a noble pursuit.

It is an equally false observation of experience; because, if the
spectator were really deceived, if the actor became, in the mind of
the audience, truly identical with the character he represents, then,
when that character was odious, the audience would revolt. If we
cannot quietly sit and see one dog tear another, without interfering,
could we gravely look on and only put our handkerchiefs to our eyes,
when Othello puts the pillow to the mouth of Desdemona? If we really
supposed him to be a murderous man, how instantly we should leap upon
the stage and rescue "the gentle lady". The truth is, to state it
boldly, we know the roaring lion to be only Snug, the joiner.

All works of art must produce pleasure. Even the sternest and most
repulsive subjects must be touched by art into a pensive beauty, or
they fail to reach the height of great works. Goethe has shown this in
the _Laocoon_, and every man feels it in constant experience. One of
the grand themes of modern painting is the great tragedy of history,
the Crucifixion. Materially it is repulsive, as the spectacle of a man
in excruciating bodily torture; spiritually it is overwhelming, as the
symbolized suffering of God for sin. If, now, the pictures which treat
this subject were indeed only imitations of the scene, so that the
spectator listened for the groans of agony and looked to see the blood
drop from the brow crowned with thorns, how hideous and insupportable
the sight would be! The mind is conscious as it contemplates the
picture that it is a representation, and not a fact. The mere force of
actuality is, therefore, destroyed, and thought busies itself with the
moral significance of the scene. In the same way, in the tragedy of
"Othello", conscious that there is not the actual physical suffering
which there seems to be, the mind contemplates the real meaning which
underlies that appearance, and curses jealousy and the unmanly passions.

Even in a very low walk of art the same principle is manifested. A man
might not care to adorn his parlor with the carcass of an ox or a hog,
nor invite to his table boors muzzy with beer. But the most elegant of
nations prizes the pictures of Teniers at extraordinary prices, and
hangs its galleries with works minutely representing the shambles.
Here, again, the explanation is this: that the mind, rejecting any
idea of actuality in the picture, is charmed with the delicacy of
detail, with lovely color, with tone, with tenderness, and all these
are qualities inseparable from the picture, and do not belong by any
necessity to the actual carcasses of animals. In the shambles, the
sense of disgust and repulsion overcomes any pleasure in light and
color. In the parlor, if the spectator were persuaded by the picture
to hold his nose, the thing would be as unlovely as it is in nature.
Imitation pleases only so far as it is known to be imitation. If
deception by imitation were the object of art, then the material of
the sculptor should be wax, and not marble. Every visitor mistakes
the sitting figure of Cobbett, in Madame Tussaud's collection of
wax-works, for a real man, and will very likely, as we did, speak to
it. But who would accost the Moses of Michael Angelo, or believe the
sitting Medici in his chapel to have speech?

There is something unhandsomely derogatory to art in this common view.
It is forgotten that art is not subsidiary nor auxiliary to nature,
but it is a distinct ministry, and has a world of its own. They are
not in opposition, nor do they clash. The cardinal fact of imitation
in works of art is evident enough. The exquisite charm of art lies in
the perfection of the imitation, coexisting with the consciousness of
an absolute difference, so that the effect produced is not at all that
which the object itself produces, but is an intellectual pleasure
arising from the perception of the mingling of rational intention with
the representation of the natural object. We can illustrate this by
supposing a child bringing in a fresh rose, and a painter his picture
of a rose. The pleasure derived from the picture is surely something
better than wonder at the skill with which the form and color of the
flower are imitated. Since imitation can never attain to the dignity
and worth of the original, and since we live in the midst of nature,
it would be folly to claim for its more or less successful copy the
position and form of a great mental and moral influence.

Of course we are not unmindful of the inevitable assertion that if
certain forms are to be used for the expression of certain truths, the
first condition is that those forms shall be accurately rendered.
Hence arises the great stress laid by the modern schools upon a
rigorous imitation of nature, and hence what is called the
pre-Raphaelite spirit, with its marvellous detail. But mere imitation
does not come any nearer to great art by being perfect. If it is not
informed by a great intention, sculpture is only wax-work and painting
a juggle.

It is by her instinctive recognition of these fundamental principles
that Rachel shows herself to be an artist. She is fully persuaded of
the value of the modern spirit, and she belongs to the time by nothing
more than by her instinctive and hearty adaptation of the principles
of art which are illustrated in all other departments. There is
nothing in Millais's or Hunt's paintings more purely pre-Raphaelite
than Rachel's acting in the last scenes of "Adrienne Lecouvreur". It
is the perfection of detail. It was studied, gasp by gasp, and groan
by groan, in the hospital wards of Paris, where men were dying in
agony. It is terrible, but it is true. We have seen a crowded theatre
hanging in a suspense almost suffocating over that fearful scene. Men
grew pale, women fainted, a spell of silence and awe held us
enchanted. But it was all pure art. The actor was superior to the
scene. It was the passion with which she threw herself into the
representation, with a distinct conception of the whole, and a
thorough knowledge of the means necessary to produce its effect, that
secured the success. There was a sublimity of self-control in the
spectacle, for, if she had allowed herself to be overwhelmed by the
excitement, the play must have paused; real feeling would have invaded
that which was represented, and we should, by a rude shock, have been
staring in wonder at the weeping woman Rachel, instead of thrilling
with the woes of the dying, despairing Adrienne. She seems to be what
we know she is not.

Rachel's earlier triumphs were in the plays of Racine. Certainly
nothing could show the essential worth of the old Greek dramatic
material more than the fact that it could be rendered into French
rhyme without losing all its dignity. If a man should know Homer only
through Pope's translations, he could hardly understand the real
greatness and peculiar charm of Homer. And as most of us know him in
no other way, we all understand that the eminence of Homer is conceded
upon the force of tradition and the feeling of those who have read him
in the original. So, to the reader of Racine, it is his knowledge of
the outline of the grand old Greek stories that prevents their loss of
charm and loftiness when they masquerade in French rhyme. They have
lost their sublimity, so far as treatment can effect it, while they
retain their general form of interest. But it is the splendid triumph
of Rachel that she restores the original Greek grandeur to the drama.
We no longer wonder at Racine's idea of Phedre, but we are confronted
with Phedre herself. From the moment she appears, through every change
and movement of the scene until the catastrophe, a sense of fate, the
grim, remorseless, and inexorable destiny that presides over Greek
story, is stamped upon every look and nod and movement of Rachel. It
is stated that, since the enthusiasm produced in Paris by Ristori,
Rachel's Italian rival, the sculptor Schlesinger has declared that his
statue of Rachel which he had called Tragedy was only Melodrama after
all. If the report be true, it does not prove that Rachel, but
Schlesinger, is not a great artist.

It is this simplicity and grandeur that make the excellence of Rachel
in the characters of Racine. They cease to be French and become Greek.
As a victim of fate, she moves, from the first scene to the last, as
by a resistless impulse. Her voice has a low concentrated tone. Her
movement is not vehement, but intense. If she smiles, it is a wan
gleam of sadness, not of joy, as if the eyes that lighten for a moment
saw all the time the finger of fate pointing over her shoulder. The
thin form, graceful with intellectual dignity, not rounded with the
ripeness of young womanhood, the statuesque simplicity and severity of
the drapery, the pale cheek, the sad lips, the small eyes--these are
accessory to the whole impression, the melancholy ornaments of the
tragic scene. Her fine instinct avoids the romantic and melodramatic
touches which, however seductive to an actor who aims at effect, would
destroy at once that breadth and unity which characterize her best
impersonations. Wherever the idea of fate inspires the tragedy, or can
properly be introduced as the motive, there Rachel is unsurpassed and
unapproachable. Her stillness, her solemnity, her intensity; the want
of mouthing, of ranting, of all extravagance; the slight movement of
the arms, and the subtle inflections of the voice which are more
expressive than gestures, haunt the memory and float through the mind
afterwards as the figure of Francesca di Rimini, in the exquisite
picture of Ary Scheffer, sweeps, full of woe, which every line
suggests, across the vision of Dante and his guide.

There was, naturally, the greatest curiosity and a good deal of
scepticism about Rachel's power in the modern drama, the melodrama of
Victor Hugo, and the social drama of Scribe. But her appearance in the
"Angelo" of Victor Hugo and in "Adrienne Lecouvreur" of Scribe
satisfied the curiosity and routed the scepticism. It was pleasant
after the vast and imposing forms, the tearless tragedy of Greek
story, to see the mastery of this genius in the conditions of a life
and spirit with which we were more familiar and sympathetic. It was
clear that the same passionate intensity which, united with the most
exquisite perceptions, enabled her so perfectly to restore the Greek
spirit to the Greek form, would as adequately represent the voluptuous
southern life. If in the old drama she was sculpture, so in the modern
she was painting, not only with the flowing outline, but with all the
purple, palpitating hues of passion.

This is best manifested in the "Angelo", of which the scene is laid in
old Padua and is, therefore, full of the mysterious spirit of
mediaeval Italian, and especially Venetian life. Miss Cushman has
played in an English version of this drama, called the "Actress of
Padua". But it is hardly grandiose enough in its proportions to be
very well adapted to the talent of Miss Cushman. It was remarkable how
perfectly the genius which had, the evening before, adequately
represented Phedre, could impersonate the ablest finesse of Italian
subtilty. The old Italian romances were made real in a moment. The dim
chambers, the dusky passages, the sliding doors, the vivid contrast of
gayety and gloom, the dance in the palace and the duel in the garden,
the smile on the lip and the stab at the heart, the capricious
feeling, the impetuous action, the picturesque costume of life and
society--all the substance and the form of our ideas of characteristic
Italian life, are comprised in Rachel's Thisbe and Angelo.

There is one scene in that play not to be forgotten. The curtain rises
and shows a vast, dim chamber in the castle, with a heavily-curtained
bed, and massive carved furniture, and a deep bay-window. It is night;
a candle burns upon the table, feebly flickering in the gloom of the
great chamber. Angelo, whom Thisbe loves, and who pretends to love
her, is sitting uneasily in the chamber with his mistress, whose name
we have forgotten, but whom he really loves. Thisbe is suspicious of
his want of faith, and burns with jealousy, but has had no proof.

A gust of wind, the rustle of the tapestry, the creak of a bough in
the garden, the note of a night bird, any slightest sound makes the
lovers start and quiver, as if they stood upon the verge of an
imminent peril. Suddenly they both start at a low noise, apparently in
the wall. Angelo rises and looks about, his mistress shivers and
shrinks, but they discover nothing. The night deepens around them. The
sense of calamity and catastrophe rises in the spectator's mind. They
start again. This time they hear a louder noise, and glance helplessly
around and feebly try to scoff away their terror. The sound dies away,
and they converse in appalled and fragmentary whispers. But again a
low, cautious, sliding noise arrests them. Angelo springs up, runs for
his hat and cloak, blows out the candle upon the table, and escapes
from the room, while his mistress totters to the bed and throws
herself upon it, feigning sleep. The stage is left unoccupied, while
the just-extinguished candle still smokes upon the table, and the
sidelights and footlights, being lowered, wrap the vast chamber in
deeper gloom.

At this moment a small secret door in the wall at the bottom of the
stage slips aside, and Thisbe, still wearing her ball-dress, and with
a head-dress of gold sequins flashing in her black hair, is discovered
crouching in the aperture, holding an antique lamp in one hand, a
little raised, and with the other softly putting aside the door,
while, bending forward with a cat-like stillness, she glares around
the chamber with eager eyes, that flash upon everything at once. The
picture is perfect. The light falls from the raised lamp upon this
jewelled figure crouching in the darkness at the bottom of the stage.
Judith was not more terrible; Lucrezia Borgia not more superb. But,
magnificent as it is, it is a moment of such intense interest that
applause is suspended. The house is breathless, for it is but the
tiger's crouch that precedes the spring. The next instant she is upon
the floor of the chamber, and, still bending slightly forward to
express the eager concentration of her mind, she glances at the bed
and the figure upon it with a scornful sneer, that indicates how
clearly she sees the pretence of sleep, and how evidently somebody has
been there, or something has happened which justifies all her
suspicion, and then, with panther-like celerity, she darts about the
chamber to find some trace of the false lover--a hat, a glove, a
plume, a cloak--to make assurance doubly sure. But there is nothing
upon the floor, nothing upon the table, nothing in the bay-window,
nothing upon the sofa, nor in the huge carved chairs; there is nothing
that proves the treachery she suspects. But her restless eye leads her
springing foot from one corner of the chamber to the other. Speed
increases with the lessening chance of proof; the eye flashes more and
more fiercely; the breast heaves; the hand clinches; the cheek burns,
until, suddenly, in the very moment of despair, having as yet spoken
no word, she comes to the table, sees the candle, which still smokes,
and drawing herself up with fearful calmness, her cheeks grow pallid,
the lips livid, the hands relax, the eye deadens as with a blow, and,
with the despairing conviction that she is betrayed, her heart-break
sighs itself out in a cold whisper, "_Elle fume encore_".

In this she is as purely dramatic as in other plays she is classical.
But neither in the one nor the other is there a look, or a gesture, or
a word, which is not harmonious with the spirit of the style and the
character of the person represented.

This is pure passion as the other is implacable fate. There is
something so tearfully human in it that you are touched as by a
picture of the Magdalen. Every representation of Rachel is preserved
in your memory with the first sights of the great statues and the
famous pictures.

In the French translation of Schiller's "Mary Stuart", a character
which may be supposed especially to interest Americans and English,
Rachel is not less excellent. The sad grace, the tender resignation,
the poetic enthusiasm, the petulant caprice, the wilful, lovely
womanliness of the lovely queen, are made tragically real by her
representation. Perhaps it is not the Mary of Mignet nor of history.
But Mary Queen of Scots is one of the characters which the imagination
has chosen to take from history and decorate with immortal grace. It
cares less for what the woman Mary was, than to have a figure standing
upon the fact of history, but radiant with the beauty of poetry. It
has invested her with a loveliness that is perhaps unreal, with a
tenderness and sweetness that were possibly foreign to her character,
and with a general fascination and good intention which a contemporary
might not have discovered.

It has made her the ideal of unfortunate womanhood. For it seemed that
a fate so tragic deserved a fame so fair. Perhaps the weakness which
Mary had, and which Lady Jane Grey had not, have been the very reasons
why the unfortunate, unhappy Queen Mary is dearer to our human
sympathies than the unfortunate Lady Jane. Perhaps because it was a
woman who pursued her, the instinct of men has sought to restore, by
the canonization of Mary, the womanly ideal injured by Elizabeth.

But, whatever be the reason, there is no question that we judge Mary
Queen of Scots more by the imagination than by historical rigor; and
it is Mary, as the mind insists upon having her, that Rachel
represents. She conspires with the imagination to complete the ideal
of Mary. It is a story told in sad music to which we listen; it is a
mournful panorama, unfolding itself scene by scene, upon which we
gaze. Lost in soft melancholy, the figures of the drama move before us
as in a tragic dream. But after seeing Rachel's Mary we can see no
other. If we meet her in history or romance, it is always that figure,
those pensive eyes, forecasting a fearful doom, that voice whose music
is cast in a hopeless minor. It is thus that dramatic genius creates,
and poetry disputes with history.

Jules Janin says that Rachel is best in those parts of this play where
the anger of the Queen is more prominent than the grief of the woman.

This is true to a certain extent. It was not difficult to see that the
fierceness was more natural than the tenderness to the woman Rachel,
and that, therefore, those parts had a reality which the tenderness
had not. But the performance was symmetrical, and, so far as the mere
acting was concerned, the woman was as well rendered as the Queen. The
want of the spectacle was this, and it is, we fully grant, the defect
of all her similar personations: you felt that it was only intellect
feigning heart, though with perfect success. The tenderness and
caprice of the woman, and the pride and dignity of the Queen, are all
there. She would not be the consummate artist she is if she could not
give them. But even through your tears you see that it is art. It is,
indeed, concealed by its own perfection, but it is not lost in the
loveliness of the character it suggests, as might be the case with a
greatly inferior artist. You are half sure, as you own the excellence,
that much of the tender effect arises from your feeling that Rachel,
as she represents a woman so different from herself, regards her role
with sad longing and vague regret. When we say that she is the ideal
Mary, we mean strictly the artistic ideal.

The late Charlotte Bronte, in her novel of _Villette_, has described
Rachel with a splendor of rhetoric that is very unusual with the
author of _Jane Eyre_. But in the style of the description it is very
easy to see the influence of the thing described. It has a picturesque
stateliness, a grave grace and musical pomp, which all belong to the
genius of Rachel. Even the soft gloom of her eyes is in it; a gloom
and a fire which no one could more subtly feel than Miss Bronte. Her
description is the best that we have seen of what is, in its nature,
after all indescribable.

As the fame of an actor or singer is necessarily traditional, and
rapidly perishes, it is not easy to compare one with another when they
are not contemporaries, for you find yourself only comparing vague
impressions and reports. Of Roscius and Betterton we must accept the
names and allow the fame. We can see Reynolds's pictures, we can hear
Handel's music, we can read Goldsmith's and Johnson's books; but of
Garrick what can we have but a name, and somebody's account of what he
thought of Garrick? The touch of Shakespeare we can feel as well as
did our ancestors, and our great-grandchildren's great-grandchildren
will feel it as fully as we. But the voice of Malibran lingers in only
a few happy memories, and we know Mrs. Siddons better by Sir Joshua's
portrait than by her own glories.

It is, therefore, impossible to decide what relative rank among
actresses Rachel occupies. Mrs. Jameson, in her _Common-Place Book of
Thoughts, Memories, and Fancies_, says some sharp things of her, and
Mrs. Jameson is a critic of too delicate a mind not to be heeded. The
general view she takes of Rachel is, that she is not a great artist in
the true sense of the word. She is a finished actress, but not an
artist fine enough to conceal her art. The last scene of "Adrienne
Lecouvreur" seems to Mrs. Jameson a mistake and a failure--so beyond
the limits of art, a mere imitation of a repulsive physical fact; and
finally she pronounces that Rachel has talent but not genius; while it
is the "entire absence of the high poetic element which distinguishes
Rachel as an actress, and places her at such an immeasurable distance
from Mrs. Siddons, that it shocks me to hear their names together".

It may be fairly questioned, whether a woman so refined and cultivated
as Mrs. Jameson may not have judged Rachel rather by her wants as a
woman than by her excellence as an artist. That the terrible last
scene of "Adrienne" is a harrowing imitation of nature we have
conceded. The play is, in truth, a mere melodrama. It is a vaudeville
of costume, with a frightful catastrophe appended. But as an artist
she seems to us perfectly to render the part. She does not make it
more than it is, but she makes it just what it is--a proud, injured,
and betrayed actress. Whether the accuracy of her imitation is not
justified by the intention, which alone can redeem imitation, will
remain a question to each spectator. Mrs. Jameson also insists that
Rachel's power is extraneous, and excites only the senses and the
intellect, and that she has become a hard mannerist.

In our remarks upon this celebrated actress we have viewed her simply
as an artist, and not as a woman. She appeals to the public only in
that way. Perhaps the sinister stories that are told of her private
career only serve to confirm and deepen the feeling of the intensity
of her nature, she so skilfully represents the most fearful passions,
not from the perception of genius alone, but from the knowledge of
actual experience. Certainly no woman's character has been more freely
discussed, and no public performer of any kind ever sought so little
to propitiate her audience. She has seemed to scorn the world she
fascinated; and like a superb snake, with glittering eyes and cold
crest, to gloat over the terror which held her captives thrall. Hence
it is not surprising to one who has seen her a great deal, and has
felt the peculiarity of her power, to find in Lehmann's portrait of
her--which is, perhaps, the most characteristic of all that have been
taken--a subtle resemblance to a serpent, which is at once fascinating
and startling. Mrs. Jameson mentions that when she first saw her in
Hermione, she was reminded of a Lamia, or serpent nature in woman's
form. As you look at Lehmann's portrait this feeling is irresistible.
The head bends slightly forward, with a darting, eager movement, yet
with a fine, lithe grace. The keen, bright eyes glance a little
askance, with a want of free confidence. There are a slim smoothness,
a silent alertness, in the general impression--a nervous, susceptible
intentness, united with undeniable beauty, that recall the deadly
nightshade among flowers and Keats's "Lamia" among poems. The portrait
would fully interpret the poem, She looked the lovely Lamia upon the
verge of flight, at the instant when she felt the calm, inexorable eye
of criticism and detection. In a moment, while you gaze, that form
will be prone, those bright, cold eyes malignant, that wily grace will
undulate into motion and glide away. You feel that there is no human
depravity that Rachel could not adequately represent. Perhaps you
doubt if she could be Desdemona or Imogen.

Rachel is great, but there is something greater. It is not an entirely
satisfactory display of human power, even in its own way. Her triumph
is that of an actress. It is only an intellectual success. For however
subtly dramatic genius may seize and represent the forms of human
emotion, yet the representation is most perfect--not, indeed, as art,
but as a satisfaction of the heart--when the personal character of the
artist interests those emotions to himself, and thus sympathetically
affects the audience. Rachel's Mary is a perfect portrait of Mary; but
it is only a picture, after all, that expresses the difference in
feeling between the impression of her personation and that which will
be derived from another woman. The fiercer and darker passions of
human nature are depicted by her with terrible force-power. They throb
with reality; but in the soft, superior shades you still feel that it
is emotion, intellectually discerned.

Such facts easily explain the present defection of Paris from Rachel.
Ristori has come up from Italy, and with one woman's smile, "full of
the warm South", she has lured Paris to her feet. There is no more
sudden and entire desertion of a favorite recorded in all the annals
of popular caprice. The feuilletonists, who are a power in Paris, have
gone over in a body to the beautiful Italian. They describe her
triumphs precisely as they described Rachel's. The old ecstasies are
burnished up for the new occasion. In a country like ours, where there
is no theatre, and where the dramatic differences only creep into an
advertisement, such an excitement as Paris feels, from such a cause
and at such a time, is simply incredible. It is, possibly, as real and
dignified an excitement as that which New York experienced upon the
decease of the late lamented William Poole.

There are various explanations of this fall of Rachel, without
resorting to the theory of superior genius in Ristori. Undoubtedly
Paris loves novelty, and has been impatient of the disdainful sway of
Rachel. Her reputed avarice and want of courtesy and generosity, her
total failure to charm as a woman while she fascinated as an artist,
have, naturally enough, after many years, fatigued the patience and
disappointed the humane sympathies of a public whose mere curiosity
had been long satisfied. Rachel seemed only more Parisian than Paris.

But when over the Alps came Ristori, lovely as a woman and eminent as
an artist, then there was a new person who could make Paris weep at
her greatness upon the stage, and her goodness away from it; who, in
the plenitude of her first success, could shame the reported avarice
of her fallen rival by offers of the sincerest generosity. When
Ristori came, who seemed to have a virtue for every vice of Rachel,
Paris, with one accord, hurried with hymns and incense to the new
divinity. We regard it as a homage to the woman no less than a tribute
to the artist. We regard it as saying to Rachel that if, being humane
and lovely, she chose, from pride, to rule by scornful superiority,
she has greatly erred; or if, being really unlovely, she has held this
crown only by her genius, she has yet to see human nature justify
itself by preferring a humane to an inhuman power. The most splendid
illustration of this kind of homage was the career of Jenny Lind in
America. It was rather the fashion among the _dilettanti_ to
undervalue her excellence as an artist. A popular superficial
criticism was fond of limiting her dramatic power to inferior roles.
She was denied passion and great artistic skill; she was accused of
tricks. But, even had these things been true, what a career it was! It
was unprecedented, and can never be repeated. Yet it was, at bottom,
the success of a saint rather than that of a singer. Had she been a
worse or better artist the homage would have been the same. If the
public--and it is a happy fact--can love the woman even more than it
admires the artist, her triumph is assured.

We look upon the enthusiasm for Ristori by no means as an unmingled
tribute to superior genius. We make no question of her actual womanly
charms. Even if appearance of generosity, of simplicity, and sweetness
were only deep Italian wile, and assumed, upon profound observation
and consideration of human nature and the circumstances of Rachel's
position in Paris, merely for the purpose of exciting applause, that
applause would still be genuine, and would prove the loyalty of the
public mind to what is truly lovely. It was our good-fortune to see
Ristori in Italy, where, for the last ten years, she has been
accounted the first Italian actress. She has there been seen by all
the travelling world of Europe and America. It is not possible that so
great a talent, as the Parisians consider it, could have been so long
overlooked. We well remember Ristori as a charming, natural, simple
actress; but of the surpassing power which Paris has discovered
probably very few of us retain any recollection.


Mr. Thackeray's visit at least demonstrates that if we are unwilling
to pay English authors for their books, we are ready to reward them
handsomely for the opportunity of seeing and hearing them. If Mr.
Dickens, instead of dining at other people's expense, and making
speeches at his own, when he came to see us, had devoted an evening or
two in the week to lecturing, his purse would have been fuller, his
feelings sweeter, and his fame fairer. It was a Quixotic crusade, that
of the Copyright, and the excellent Don has never forgiven the
windmill that broke his spear.

Undoubtedly, when it was ascertained that Mr. Thackeray was coming,
the public feeling on this side of the sea was very much divided as to
his probable reception. "He'll come and humbug us, eat our dinners,
pocket our money, and go home and abuse us, like that unmitigated snob
Dickens," said Jonathan, chafing with the remembrance of that grand
ball at the Park Theatre and the Boz tableaux, and the universal
wining and dining, to which the distinguished Dickens was subject
while he was our guest.

"Let him have his say," said others, "and we will have our look. We
will pay a dollar to hear him, if we can see him at the same time; and
as for the abuse, why, it takes even more than two such cubs of the
roaring British Lion to frighten the American Eagle. Let him come, and
give him fair play."

He did come, and had fair play, and returned to England with a
comfortable pot of gold holding $12.000, and with the hope and promise
of seeing us again in September, to discourse of something not less
entertaining than the witty men and sparkling times of Anne. We think
there was no disappointment with his lectures. Those who knew his
books found the author in the lecturer. Those who did not know his
books were charmed in the lecturer by what is charming in the
author--the unaffected humanity, the tenderness, the sweetness, the
genial play of fancy, and the sad touch of truth, with that glancing
stroke of satire which, lightning-like, illumines while it withers.
The lectures were even more delightful than the books, because the
tone of the voice and the appearance of the man, the general personal
magnetism, explained and alleviated so much that would otherwise have
seemed doubtful or unfair. For those who had long felt in the writings
of Thackeray a reality quite inexpressible, there was a secret delight
in finding it justified in his speaking; for he speaks as he writes
-simply, directly, without flourish, without any cant of oratory,
commending what he says by its intrinsic sense, and the sympathetic
and humane way in which it was spoken. Thackeray is the kind of "stump
orator" that would have pleased Carlyle. He never thrusts himself
between you and his thought. If his conception of the time and his
estimate of the men differ from your own, yon have at least no doubt
what his view is, nor how sincere and necessary it is to him. Mr.
Thackeray considers Swift a misanthrope; he loves Goldsmith and Steele
and Harry Fielding; he has no love for Sterne, great admiration for
Pope, and alleviated admiration for Addison. How could it be otherwise?
How could Thackeray not think Swift a misanthrope and Sterne a factitious
sentimentalist? He is a man of instincts, not of thoughts: he sees and
feels. He would be Shakespeare's call-boy, rather than dine with the
Dean of St. Patrick's. He would take a pot of ale with Goldsmith, rather
than a glass of burgundy with the "Reverend Mr. Sterne", and that simply
because he is Thackeray. He would have done it as Fielding would have
done it, because he values one genuine emotion above the most dazzling
thought; because he is, in fine, a Bohemian, "a minion of the moon", a
great, sweet, generous heart.

We say this with more unction now that we have personal proof of it in
his public and private intercourse while he was here.

The popular Thackeray-theory, before his arrival, was of a severe
satirist, who concealed scalpels in his sleeves and carried probes in
his waistcoat pockets; a wearer of masks; a scoffer and sneerer, and
general infidel of all high aims and noble character. Certainly we are
justified in saying that his presence among us quite corrected this
idea. We welcomed a friendly, genial man; not at all convinced that
speech is heaven's first law, but willing to be silent when there is
nothing to say; who decidedly refused to be lionized--not by sulking,
but by stepping off the pedestal and challenging the common sympathies
of all he met; a man who, in view of the thirty-odd editions of Martin
Farquhar Tupper, was willing to confess that every author should
"think small-beer of himself". Indeed, he has this rare quality, that
his personal impression deepens, in kind, that of his writings. The
quiet and comprehensive grasp of the fact, and the intellectual
impossibility of holding fast anything but the fact, is as manifest in
the essayist upon the wits as in the author of _Henry Esmond_ and
_Vanity Fair_. Shall we say that this is the sum of his power, and the
secret of his satire? It is not what might be, nor what we or other
persons of well-regulated minds might wish, but it is the actual state
of things that he sees and describes. How, then, can he help what we
call satire, if he accept Mrs. Rawdon Crawley's invitation and
describe her party? There was no more satire in it, so far as he is
concerned, than in painting lilies white. A full-length portrait of
the fair Lady Beatrix, too, must needs show a gay and vivid figure,
superbly glittering across the vista of those stately days. Then,
should Dab and Tab, the eminent critics, step up and demand that her
eyes be a pale blue, and her stomacher higher around the neck? Do Dab
and Tab expect to gather pears from peach-trees? Or, because their
theory of dendrology convinces them that an ideal fruit-tree would
supply any fruit desired upon application, do they denounce the
non-pear-bearing peach-tree in the columns of their valuable journal?
This is the drift of the fault found with Thackeray. He is not
Fenelon, he is not Dickens, he is not Scott; he is not poetical, he is
not ideal, he is not humane; he is not Tit, he is not Tat, complain
the eminent Dabs and Tabs. Of course he is not, because he is
Thackeray--a man who describes what he sees, motives as well as
appearances--a man who believes that character is better than
talent--that there is a worldly weakness superior to worldly
wisdom--that Dick Steele may haunt the ale-house and be carried home
muzzy, and yet be a more commendable character than the reverend Dean
of St. Patrick's, who has genius enough to illuminate a century, but
not sympathy enough to sweeten a drop of beer. And he represents this
in a way that makes us see it as he does, and without exaggeration;
for surely nothing could be more simple than his story of the life of
"honest Dick Steele". If he allotted to that gentleman a consideration
disproportioned to the space he occupies in literary history, it only
showed the more strikingly how deeply the writer-lecturer's sympathy
was touched by Steele's honest humanity.

An article in our April number complained that the tendency of his
view of Anne's times was to a social laxity, which might be very
exhilarating but was very dangerous; that the lecturer's warm
commendation of fermented drinks, taken at a very early hour of the
morning in tavern-rooms and club houses, was as deleterious to the
moral health of enthusiastic young readers disposed to the literary
life as the beverage itself to their physical health.

But this is not a charge to be brought against Thackeray. It is a
quarrel with history and with the nature of literary life. Artists and
authors have always been the good fellows of the world. That mental
organization which predisposes a man to the pursuit of literature and
art is made up of talent combined with ardent social sympathy,
geniality, and passion, and leads him to taste every cup and try every
experience. There is certainly no essential necessity that this class
should be a dissipated and disreputable class, but by their very
susceptibility to enjoyment they will always be the pleasure lovers
and seekers. And here is the social compensation to the literary man
for the surrender of those chances of fortune which men of other
pursuits enjoy. If he makes less money, he makes more juice out of
what he does make. If he cannot drink Burgundy he can quaff the
nut-brown ale; while the most brilliant wit, the most salient fancy,
the sweetest sympathy, the most genial culture, shall sparkle at his
board more radiantly than a silver service, and give him the spirit of
the tropics and the Rhine, whose fruits are on other tables. The
golden light that transfigures talent and illuminates the world, and
which we call genius, is erratic and erotic; and while in Milton it is
austere, and in Wordsworth cool, and in Southey methodical, in
Shakespeare it is fervent, with all the results of fervor; in Raphael
lovely, with all the excesses of love; in Dante moody, with all the
whims of caprice. The old quarrel of Lombard Street with Grub Street
is as profound as that of Osiris and Typho--it is the difference of
sympathy. The Marquis of Westminster will take good care that no
superfluous shilling escapes. Oliver Goldsmith will still spend his
last shilling upon a brave and unnecessary banquet to his friends.

Whether this be a final fact of human organization or not, it is
certainly a fact of history. Every man instinctively believes that
Shakespeare stole deer, just as he disbelieves that Lord-mayor
Whittington ever told a lie; and the secret of that instinct is the
consciousness of the difference in organization. "Knave, I have the
power to hang ye," says somebody in one of Beaumont and Fletcher's
plays. "And I do be hanged and scorn ye," is the airy answer. "I had a
pleasant hour the other evening," said a friend to us, "over my cigar
and a book." "What book was that?" "A treatise conclusively proving
the awful consequences of smoking." De Quincey came up to London and
declared war upon opium; but during a little amnesty, in which he
lapsed into his old elysium, he wrote his best book depicting its

Our readers will not imagine that we are advocating the claims of
drunkenness nor defending social excess. We are only recognizing a
fact and stating an obvious tendency. The most brilliant illustrations
of every virtue are to be found in the literary guild, as well as the
saddest beacons of warning; yet it will often occur that the last in
talent and the first in excess of a picked company will be a man around
whom sympathy most kindly lingers. We love Goldsmith more at the head
of an ill-advised feast than Johnson and his friends leaving it,
thoughtful and generous as their conduct was. The heart despises

In the single-hearted regard we know that pity has a larger share. Yet
it is not so much that pity is commiseration for misfortune and
deficiency, as that which is recognition of a necessary worldly
ignorance. The literary class is the most innocent of all. The
contempt of practical men for the poets is based upon a consciousness
that they are not bad enough for a bad world. To a practical man
nothing is so absurd as the lack of worldly shrewdness. The very
complaint of the literary life that it does not amass wealth and live
in palaces is the scorn of the practical man, for he cannot understand
that intellectual opacity which prevents the literary man from seeing
the necessity of the different pecuniary condition. It is clear enough
to the publisher who lays up fifty thousand a year why the author ends
the year in debt. But the author is amazed that he who deals in ideas
can only dine upon occasional chops, while the man who merely binds
and sells ideas sits down to perpetual sirloin. If they should change
places, fortune would change with them. The publisher turned author
would still lay up his thousands; the publishing author would still
directly lose thousands. It is simply because it is a matter of
prudence, economy, and knowledge of the world. Thomas Hood made his
ten thousand dollars a year, but if he lived at the rate of fifteen
thousand he would hardly die rich. Mr. Jerdan, a gentleman who, in his
_Autobiography_, advises energetic youth to betake themselves to the
highway rather than to literature, was, we understand, in the receipt
of an easy income, and was a welcome guest in pleasant houses; but
living in a careless, shiftless, extravagant way, he was presently
poor, and, instead of giving his memoirs the motto, _peccavi_,
and inditing a warning, he dashes off a truculent defiance. Practical
publishers and practical men of all sorts invest their earnings in
Michigan Central or Cincinnati and Dayton instead, in steady works and
devoted days, and reap a pleasant harvest of dividends. Our friends
the authors invest in prime Havanas, Rhenish, in oyster suppers, love
and leisure, and divide a heavy percentage of headache, dyspepsia, and

This is as true a view, from another point, as the one we have already
taken. If the literary life has the pleasures of freedom, it has also
its pains. It may be willing to resign the queen's drawing-room, with
the illustrious galaxy of stars and garters, for the chamber with a
party nobler than the nobility. The author's success is of a wholly
different kind from that of the publisher, and he is thoughtless who
demands both. Mr. Roe, who sells sugar, naturally complains that Mr.
Doe, who sells molasses, makes money more rapidly. But Mr. Tennyson,
who writes poems, can hardly make the same complaint of Mr. Moxon, who
publishes them, as was very fairly shown in a number of the
_Westminster Review_, when noticing Mr. Jordan's book.

What we have said is strictly related to Mr. Thackeray's lectures,
which discuss literature. All the men he commemorated were
illustrations and exponents of the career of letters. They all, in
various ways, showed the various phenomena of the temperament. And
when in treating of them the critic came to Steele, he found one who
was one of the most striking illustrations of one of the most
universal aspects of literary life--the simple-hearted, unsuspicious,
gay gallant and genial gentleman; ready with his sword or his pen,
with a smile or a tear, the fair representative of the social tendency
of his life. It seems to us that the Thackeray theory--the conclusion
that he is a man who loves to depict madness, and has no sensibilities
to the finer qualities of character--crumbled quite away before that
lecture upon Steele. We know that it was not considered the best; we
know that many of the delighted audience were not sufficiently
familiar with literary history fully to understand the position of the
man in the lecturer's review; but, as a key to Thackeray, it was,
perhaps, the most valuable of all. We know in literature of no more
gentle treatment; we have not often encountered in men of the most
rigorous and acknowledged virtue such humane tenderness; we have not
often heard from the most clerical lips words of such genuine
Christianity. Steele's was a character which makes weakness amiable:
it was a weakness, if you will, but it was certainly amiability, and
it was a combination more attractive than many full-panoplied
excellences. It was not presented as a model. Captain Steele in the
tap-room was not painted as the ideal of virtuous manhood; but it
certainly was intimated that many admirable things were consonant with
a free use of beer. It was frankly stated that if, in that character,
virtue abounded, cakes and ale did much more abound. Captain Richard
Steele might have behaved much better than he did, but we should then
have never heard of him. A few fine essays do not float a man into
immortality, but the generous character, the heart sweet in all
excesses and under all chances, is a spectacle too beautiful and too
rare to be easily forgotten. A man is better than many books. Even a
man who is not immaculate may have more virtuous influence than the
discreetest saint. Let us remember how fondly the old painters
lingered round the story of Magdalen, and thank Thackeray for his
full-length Steele.

We conceive this to be the chief result of Thackeray's visit, that he
convinced us of his intellectual integrity; he showed us how
impossible it is for him to see the world and describe it other than
he does. He does not profess cynicism, nor satirize society with
malice; there is no man more humble, none more simple; his interests
are human and concrete, not abstract. We have already said that he
looks through and through at the fact. It is easy enough, and at some
future time it will be done, to deduce the peculiarity of his writings
from the character of his mind. There is no man who masks so little as
he in assuming the author. His books are his observations reduced to
writing. It seems to us as singular to demand that Dante should be
like Shakespeare as to quarrel with Thackeray's want of what is called
ideal portraiture. Even if you thought, from reading his _Vanity
Fair_, that he had no conception of noble women, certainly after the
lecture upon Swift, after all the lectures, in which every allusion to
women was so manly and delicate and sympathetic, you thought so no
longer. It is clear that his sympathy is attracted to women--to that
which is essentially womanly, feminine. Qualities common to both sexes
do not necessarily charm him because he finds them in women. A certain
degree of goodness must always be assumed. It is only the rare
flowering that inspires special praise. You call Amelia's fondness for
George Osborne foolish, fond idolatry. Thackeray smiles, as if all
love were not idolatry of the fondest foolishness. What was
Hero's--what was Francesco di Rimini's--what was Juliet's? They might
have been more brilliant women than Amelia, and their idols of a
larger mould than George, but the love was the same old foolish, fond
idolatry. The passion of love and a profound and sensible knowledge,
regard based upon prodigious knowledge of character and appreciation
of talent, are different things. What is the historic and poetic
splendor of love but the very fact, which constantly appears in
Thackeray's stories, namely, that it is a glory which dazzles and
blinds. Men rarely love the women they ought to love, according to the
ideal standards. It is this that makes the plot and mystery of life.
Is it not the perpetual surprise of all Jane's friends that she should
love Timothy instead of Thomas? and is not the courtly and
accomplished Thomas sure to surrender to some accidental Lucy without
position, wealth, style, worth, culture--without anything but heart?
This is the fact, and it reappears in Thackeray, and it gives his
books that air of reality which they possess beyond all modern story.

And it is this single perception of the fact which, simple as it is,
is the rarest intellectual quality that made his lectures so
interesting. The sun rose again upon the vanished century, and lighted
those historic streets. The wits of Queen Anne ruled the hour, and we
were bidden to their feast. Much reading of history and memoirs had
not so sent the blood into those old English cheeks, and so moved
those limbs in proper measure, as these swift glances through the eyes
of genius. It was because, true to himself, Thackeray gave us his
impression of those wits as men rather than authors. For he loves
character more than thought. He is a man of the world, and not a
scholar. He interprets the author by the man. When you are made
intimate with young Swift, Sir William Temple's saturnine secretary,
you more intelligently appreciate the Dean of St. Patrick's. When the
surplice of Mr. Sterne is raised a little, more is seen than the
reverend gentleman intends. Hogarth, the bluff Londoner, necessarily
depicts a bluff, coarse, obvious morality. The hearty Fielding, the
cool Addison, the genial Goldsmith, these are the figures that remain
in memory, and their works are valuable as they indicate the man.

Mr. Thackeray's success was very great. He did not visit the West, nor
Canada. He went home without seeing Niagara Falls. But wherever he did
go he found a generous and social welcome, and a respectful and
sympathetic hearing. He came to fulfil no mission, but he certainly
knit more closely our sympathy with Englishmen. Heralded by various
romantic memoirs, he smiled at them, stoutly asserted that he had been
always able to command a good dinner, and to pay for it; nor did he
seek to disguise that he hoped his American tour would help him to
command and pay for more. He promised not to write a book about us, but
we hope he will, for we can ill spare the criticism of such an observer.
At least, we may be sure that the material gathered here will be worked
up in some way. He found that we were not savages nor bores. He found
that there were a hundred here for every score in England who knew
well and loved the men of whom he spoke. He found that the same red
blood colors all the lips that speak the language he so nobly praised.
He found friends instead of critics. He found those who, loving the
author, loved the man more. He found a quiet welcome from those who
are waiting to welcome him again and as sincerely.


Wearied of the world and saddened by the ruin of his fortunes, the
Italian Count Maddalo turned from the street, which rang with tales of
disaster and swarmed with melancholy faces, into his palace. Perplexed
and anxious, he passed through the stately rooms in which hung the
portraits of generations of ancestors. The day was hot; his blood was
feverish, but the pictures seemed to him cool and remote in a holy
calm. He looked at them earnestly; he remembered the long history of
which his fathers were parts, he recalled their valor and their
patience, and asked himself whether, after all, their manhood was not
their patent of nobility; and stretching out his hands towards them,
exclaimed: "Let me feel that I am indeed your son by sharing that
manhood which made you noble."

We Americans laugh at ancestors; and if the best of them came back
again, we should be as likely to laugh at his wig as listen to his
wisdom. And in our evanescent houses and uneasy life we would no more
have ancient ranges of family pictures than Arabs in their tents. Yet
we are constantly building and visiting the greatest portrait gallery
of all in the histories we write and read; and the hour is never lost
which we give to it. It may teach a maid humility to know that her
mother was fairer. It may make a youth more modest to know that his
grandsire was braver. For if the pictures of history show us that
deformity is as old as grace, and that virtue was always martyred,
they also show that crime, however prosperous for a time, is at last
disastrous, and that there can be no permanent peace without justice
and freedom.

Those pictures teach us also that character is inherited like name and
treasure, and that all of us may have famous or infamous ancestors
perhaps without knowing it. The melancholy poet, eating his own heart
out in a city garret, is the child of Tasso. Grinding Ralph Nickleby,
the usurer, is Shylock's grandson. The unjust judge, who declares that
some men have no rights which others are bound to respect, is a later
Jeffries on his bloody assizes, or dooming Algernon Sidney to the block
once more for loving liberty; while he whose dull heart among the new
duties of another time is never quickened with public spirit, and who
as a citizen aims only at his own selfish advantage, is a later Benedict
Arnold whom every generous heart despises.

From this lineage of character arises this great convenience--that as
it is bad manners to criticise our neighbors by name, we may hit them
many a sly rap over the shoulders of their ancestors who wore turbans,
or helmets, or bagwigs, and lived long ago in other countries. The
Church especially finds great comfort in this resource, and the backs
of the whole Hebrew race must be sore with the scorings they get for
the sins of Christian congregations. The timid Peter, the foolish
Virgins, the wicked Herod, are pilloried every Sunday in the pulpit,
to the great satisfaction of the Peters, Virgins, and Herods dozing in
the pews. But when some ardent preacher, heading out of his metaphors,
and jumping from Judea and the first century into the United States
and the nineteenth, disturbs Peter's enjoyment of his ancestor's
castigation by saying vehemently to his face with all the lightning of
the law in his eye, and its thunders in his voice, "Thou art the man!"
Peter recoils with decorous horror, begs his pastor to remember that
he and Herod are sheep who were to be led by still waters; warns him
not to bring politics into the pulpit, to talk not of living people,
but of old pictures. So the poor shepherd is driven back to his
pictures, and cudgels Peter once more from behind a metaphor.

But the fairest use of these old pictures is to make us feel our
common humanity, and to discover that what seems to us a hopelessly
romantic ideal of character is a familiar fact of every day. Heroism
is always the same, however the fashion of a hero's clothes may alter.
Every hero in history is as near to a man as his neighbor, and if we
should tell the simple truth of some of our neighbors, it would sound
like poetry. Sir Philip Sidney wore doublet and hose, and died in
Flanders three hundred years ago. His name is the synonym of manly
honor, of generous scholarship, of the finest nobility, of the
spiritual light that most irradiates human nature. Look at his portrait
closely; it is no stranger that you see; it is no far-off Englishman.
It is your friend, your son, your brother, your lover. Whoever knew
Wendell Phillips knew Philip Sidney. It is the same spirit in a thousand
forms; a perpetual presence, a constant benediction: Look at his
portrait and

"The night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day
Shall fold their tents like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away."

The gray walls, the red and peaked roof of the old house of Penshurst,
stand in the pleasant English valley of the Medway, in soft and
showery Kent. Kent is all garden, and there, in November, 1554, Philip
Sidney was born. His father, Sir Henry Sidney, was a wise and honest
man. Bred at court, his sturdy honor was never corrupted. King Edward
died in his arms, and Queen Mary confirmed all his honors and offices
three weeks before the birth of his oldest son, whom, in gratitude, he
named Philip, for the queen's new Spanish husband. Philip's mother was
Mary Dudley, daughter of the Duke of Northumberland, sister of the
famous Earl of Leicester, sister also of Lord Guildford Dudley and
sister-in-law of Lady Jane Grey. The little Philip was born into a sad
household. Within fifteen months his grandfather and uncle had been
beheaded for treason; and his sorrowing mother, a truly noble and tender
woman, had been the victim of small-pox, and hid her grieving heart and
poor scarred face in the silence and seclusion of Penshurst. On the
south side of the house was the old garden or plaisance, sloping down
to the Medway, where, in those English summers of three hundred years
ago, when the cruel fires of Mary were busily burning at Smithfield,
the lovely boy Philip, fair-featured, with a high forehead and ruddy
brown hair, almost red--the same color as that of his nephew Algernon--
walked with his shy mother, picking daisies and chasing butterflies,
and calling to her in a soft, musical voice; while within the house
the grave father, when he was not away in Wales, of which he was lord-
president, mused upon great events that were stirring in Europe--the
abdication of Charles V., the fall of Calais, and the accession of
Queen Elizabeth to the throne of England. The lordly banqueting-hall,
in which the politics of three centuries ago were discussed at Penshurst,
is still standing. You may still sit upon the wooden benches where
Burleigh, Spenser, Ben Jonson, James I., and his son Prince Charles
have sat, and where, a little later, the victim of Prince Charles's
cruel son, Algernon Sidney, dreamed of noble manhood and went forth a
noble man; while in those shady avenues of beech and oak outside,
smooth Edmund Waller bowed and smirked, and sighed compliments to his
Sacharissa, as he called Dorothy Sidney, Algernon's sister.

At the age of eleven Master Sidney was put to school at Shrewsbury, on
the borders of Wales, of which country his father was lord-president.
His fond friend, Fulke Greville, who was here at school with him, and
afterwards wrote his life, says that even the masters found something
in him to observe and learn. Study probably cost him little effort and
few tears. We may be sure he stood at the head of his class, and was a
grave, good boy--not good as calves and blanc-mange are, but like wine
and oak saplings. "My little Philip," as his mother tenderly calls
him, was no Miss Nancy. When he was older he wrote to his brother
Robert, then upon his travels, that "if there were any good wars he
should go to them". So, at Shrewsbury he doubtless went to all the
good wars among his school-mates, while during the short intervals of
peace he mastered his humanities, and at last, when not yet fifteen
years old, he was entered at Christ Church, Oxford.

Great good-fortune is the most searching test of character. If a man
have fine friends, fine family, fine talents, and fine prospects, they
are very likely to be the sirens in whose sweet singing he forgets
everything but the pleasure of listening to it. If most of us had come
of famous ancestry--if our father were a vice-regal governor--if the
sovereign's favorite were our uncle, who intended us for his heir--if
a marriage were proposed with the beautiful daughter of the
prime-minister, and we were ourselves young, handsome, and
accomplished--and all this were three hundred years ago, before the
rights of men and the dignity of labor had been much discussed, we
should probably have come up to Oxford, of which our famous uncle was
chancellor, in a state of what would be called at Oxford to-day
extreme bumptiousness. But Philip Sidney was too true a gentleman not
to be a simple-hearted man; and although he was even then one of the
most accomplished as well as fortunate youths in England, he writes to
Lord Burleigh to confess with "heavy grief" that in scholarship he can
neither satisfy Burleigh's expectation nor his own desire.

In the month of May, 1572, Philip Sidney left Oxford, and after
staying a short time with his parents, following the fashion of young
gentlemen of rank, he crossed over into France in the train of the
Earl of Lincoln, who was Queen Elizabeth's extraordinary ambassador
upon the subject of her marriage with the brother of Charles IX. of
France. The young king immediately made Sidney a gentleman of the
bedchamber, and Henry of Navarre found him a fit companion for a
future king. The Paris that Sidney saw had then twice as many
inhabitants as Boston has to-day. Montaigne called it the most
beautiful city in the world, and it had a delusive air of peace. But
the witch Catherine de' Medici sat in the smooth-tongued court like a
spider in its web, spinning and spinning the meshes in which the hope
of liberty was to be entangled. The gay city filled and glittered with
the wedding guests of Henry and the king's sister Margaret--among
others, the hero of St. Quentin,

Admiral Coligny. Gayer and gayer grew the city--smoother and smoother
the court--faster and faster spun the black Italian spider--until on
the 23d of August, the Eve of St. Bartholomew, the bloodiest deed in
all the red annals of that metropolis was done, and the young Sidney
looked shuddering from Walsingham House upon the streets reeking with
the blood of his fellow Huguenots.

That night made Philip Sidney a man. He heard the applause of the
Romish party ring through Europe--he heard the commendation of Philip
of Spain--he knew that the most eloquent orator of the Church,
Muretus, had congratulated the pope upon this signal victory of the
truth. He knew that medals were stamped in commemoration of the brutal
massacre, and he remembered that the same spirit that had struck at
the gray head of Coligny had also murdered Egmont and Home in the
Netherlands; had calmly gazed in the person of Philip upon De Sezo
perishing in the fire, and by the hand of Philip had denounced death
against all who wrote, sold, or read Protestant books; and he knew
that the same spirit, in the most thriving and intelligent country of
Europe, the Netherlands, was blotting out prosperity in blood, and had
driven at least a hundred thousand exiles into England.

Pondering these things, Sidney left Paris, and at Frankfort met Hubert
Languet. Languet was not only a Protestant, but, at heart, a
Republican. He was the friend of Melanethon and of William of Orange,
in whose service he died. One of the most accomplished scholars and
shrewdest statesmen in Europe, honored and trusted by all the
Protestant leaders, this wise man of fifty-four was so enamoured of
the English youth of eighteen that they became life-long friends with
the ardor of lovers, and Languet left his employment, as Fulke
Greville says, "to become a nurse of knowledge to this hopeful young

As they travelled by easy stages across Germany, where the campaign of
Protestantism had begun, they knew that the decisive battle was yet to
be fought. Europe was silent. The tumult of Charles V.'s reign was
over, and that great monarch marched and countermarched no more from
the Baltic to the Mediterranean. Charles had been victorious so long
as he fought kings with words of steel. But the monk Martin Luther
drew the sword of the spirit, and the conqueror quailed. Luther
challenged the Church of Rome at its own door. The Vatican rained
anathemas. It might as well have tried to blow out the stars; and all
the fires of the furious popes who followed Leo were not sharp enough
to consume the colossal heresy of free thought. But king and emperor
and pope fed the fire. The reign of terror blasted the Netherlands,
and when it had succeeded there, when Italy, Austria, and Holland
surrounded the states of Germany, Philip knew it would be the smothering
coil of the serpent around the cradle of religious liberty. But the
young Hercules of free thought throttled the serpent, and leaped forth
to win his victorious and immortal race.

We can see it now, but Sidney could not know it. To him the future was
as inscrutable as our own to the eyes of thirty years ago. Yet he and
Languet must have discussed the time with curious earnestness as they
passed through Germany until they reached Vienna. There Sidney devoted
himself to knightly games, to tennis, to music, and especially to
horsemanship, which he studied with Pagliono, who, in praise of the
horse, became such a poet that in the _Defence of Poesy_ Sidney says
that if he had not been a piece of a logician before he came to him,
Pagliono would have persuaded him to wish himself a horse.

At Vienna Philip parted with Languet, and arrived in Venice in the
year 1573. The great modern days of Italy were passed. The golden age
of the Medici was gone. Lorenzo the Magnificent had died nearly a
century before, in the same year that Columbus had discovered America.
His son, Pope Leo X., had eaten his last ortolan, had flown his last
falcon, had listened to his last comedy, and hummed his last tune, in
the frescoed corridors of the Vatican. Upon its shining walls the
fatal finger of Martin Luther, stretching out of Germany, had written
"Mene, Mene." Beneath the terrible spell the walls were cracking and
the earth was shaking, but the splendid pope, in his scarlet cloud of
cardinals, saw only the wild beauty of Raphael's Madonnas and the
pleasant pages of the recovered literature of pagan Greece. When
Sidney stepped for the first time into his gondola at Venice, the
famous Italian cathedrals and stately palaces were already built, and
the great architects were gone. Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarch, who had
created Italian literature, lived about as long before Sidney as we
live after him. Cimabue and Giotto had begun; Raphael and Michel
Angelo had perfected that art in which they have had no rivals--and
they were gone. Andrea Doria steered the galleys of Genoa no more, and
since the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope and the West Indies, the
spices of the Indian sea were brought by Portuguese ships into the
Baltic instead of the Adriatic. The glory of the Lombards, who were
the first merchants of Europe, had passed away to the descendants of
their old correspondents of Bruges and Ghent, until, with its five
hundred ships daily coming and going, and on market days eight and
nine hundred; with its two thousand heavy wagons creaking every week
through the gates from France and Germany and Lorraine, Antwerp
reigned in the place of Venice, and the long twilight that has never
been broken was settling upon the Italy that Sidney saw.

But the soft splendor of its decline was worthy its prime. The
universities of Bologna and Padua, of Salerno and Pisa, had fallen
from the days when at Bologna alone there were twenty thousand
students; but they were still thronged with pupils, and taught by
renowned professors. When the young Sidney came to Venice, Titian was
just tottering into the grave, nearly a hundred years old, but still
holding the pencil which Charles V. had picked up and handed to him in
his studio. Galileo was a youth of twenty, studying mathematics at
Pisa. The melancholy Tasso was completing his _Jerusalem Delivered_
under the cypress trees of the Villa d'Este. Palestrina was composing
the masses which reformed church music, and the Christian charity of
Charles Borromeo was making him a saint before he was canonized. Clad
in the silk and velvet of Genoa, the young Englishman went to study
geometry at Padua, where twenty years later Galileo would have been
his teacher, and Sidney writes to Languet that he was perplexed
whether to sit to Paul Veronese or to Tintoretto for his portrait.

But he had a shrewd eye for the follies of travellers, and speaks of
their tendency to come home "full of disguisements not only of apparel
but of our countenances, as though the credit of a traveller stood all
upon his outside". He then adds a curious prophecy, which Shakespeare
made haste to fulfil to the very letter. Sidney says, writing in 1578,
"I think, ere it be long, like the mountebanks in Italy, we travellers
shall be made sport of in comedies." Twenty years afterwards,
Shakespeare makes Rosalind say in "As You Like It", "Farewell,
Monsieur Traveller. Look you; lisp, and wear strange suits. Disable
all the benefits of your own country. Be out of love with your
nativity, and almost chide God for making you that countenance you
are, or I will scarce think you have swam in a gondola."

But in all the gayeties and graces of his travel, Philip Sidney was
not content to be merely an elegant lounger. He never forgot for a
moment that all his gifts and accomplishments were only weapons to be
kept burnished for his country's service. He was a boy of twenty, but
his boy's warmth was tempered by the man's wisdom. "You are not over
cheerful by nature," Languet writes to him; and when Sidney sat to
Paul Veronese, and sent his friend the portrait, Languet replies: "The
painter has represented you sad and thoughtful."

He had reason to be so. He had seen the Massacre of St. Bartholomew,
as many a young Sidney among ourselves saw the horrors of Kansas
thirty years ago. He did not believe that a little timely patting on
the back was statesmanship. If Spain were crushing the Netherlands,
and hung upon the southern horizon of Europe a black and threatening
cloud, he did not believe that the danger would be averted by gagging
those who said the storm was coming. He did not hold the thermometer
responsible for the weather. "I cannot think," he wrote in May, 1574,
"there is any man possessed of common understanding who does not see
to what these rough storms are driving by which all Christendom has
been agitated now these many years." He did not suppose, as so many of
us in our ignoble days, that while men were the same, the tragical
differences which had been washed out with blood in all other ages
could be drowned in milk and water in his own.

In 1575 Sidney returned to England. Every author who writes of this
period breaks out into the most glowing praises of him. Indeed, he is
the choice darling of English history. The only discordant note in the
chorus of praise came long afterwards in the voice of the pedantic
dandy Horace Walpole, who called Goldsmith "an inspired idiot". This
is not surprising, for the earnestness and heroic simplicity of Sidney
were as incomprehensible to the affected trifler of Strawberry Hill as
the fresh enthusiasm of his nephew Arthur to Major Pendennis. The Earl
of Leicester, who seemed to love his nephew more than anything except
his own ambition, presented his brilliant young relative to the queen,
who made him her cup-bearer. Sidney was now twenty-one years old--the
finest gentleman, and one of the most accomplished scholars in
England. His learning was mainly in the classics and in languages; yet
he confesses that he could never learn German, which was then hardly
worth learning, and in his correspondence with Languet is very
distrustful of the Latin, in which language they wrote. But in urging
him to grapple with the German, Languet says to him, and it is a
striking proof of the exquisite finish of Sidney's accomplishment,
"I have watched you closely when speaking my own language (he was
a Burgundian), but I hardly ever detected you pronouncing a single
syllable wrongly."

In Sidney's time the classics had few rivals. After reading Dante,
Petrarch, Ariosto, Boccaccio, with Sanazzaro's _Arcadia_, in Italian;
Rabelais, Froissart, and Comines, in French; Chaucer, Gower, and the
_Mirror for Magistrates_ in English, what remained for an ardent young
student to devour? When Sidney came home, Montaigne--whom he probably
saw at the French court--was just writing his _Essays_ at his chateau
in the Gironde. The Portuguese Camoens had only just published his
great poem, to which his own country would not listen, and of which no
other had heard. The Italian Tasso's _Jerusalem_ was still in
manuscript, and the Spanish Ponce de Leon was little known to Europe.
All was yet to come. In Spain, Cervantes, Lope de Vega, and Calderon;
in France, Corneille and Racine and Moliere, Fenelon and Bossuet,
Rousseau and Voltaire; in Germany, everything except the Niebelungen
and Hans Sachs's rhymes. When Philip Sidney kissed Elizabeth's hand as
her cup-bearer, William Shakespeare, a boy of eleven, was grinding out
his trousers on the restless seats of the free grammar-school at
Stratford; young Francis Bacon, a youth of sixteen, was studying in
France; a poor scholar at Cambridge, Edmund Spenser was just finishing
his studies, and the younger brother of an old Devonshire family,
Walter Raleigh, had just returned from campaigning in France; indeed,
all the literature of modern times was subsequent to Philip Sidney.
The young man shone at court, fascinating men and women, courtiers,
scholars, and divines; and in a few months was made special ambassador
to condole with the Austrian emperor upon the death of his father.
Upon this embassy he departed in great state. His mission, was
supposed to be purely complimentary; but he was really the beautiful
eye with which England and Elizabeth, becoming the head of the
Protestant movement, watched the disposition of the Protestant
princes. On his way home, Sidney passed into the Low Countries to see
William of Orange. He came, resplendent with chivalric magnificence,
accompanied by the flower of English nobility, and met the grave
William, who had been the richest citizen in the Netherlands, clad in
an old serge cloak, and surrounded by plain Dutch burghers. But it was
a meeting of men of one mind and heart in the great cause, and neither
was disturbed by the tailoring of the other. The interview was the
beginning of a faithful friendship, and among all the compliments
Sidney received, none is so lofty and touching as that of William, the
greatest man in Europe, who called him in their correspondence,
"Philip, my master."

In 1577 Sidney was home again. He had a right to expect conspicuous
advancement, but he got nothing. This was the more disagreeable,
because living at Elizabeth's court was an expensive luxury for a poor
gentleman's son who had magnificent tastes. His father, Lord Henry
Sidney, was lord-deputy of Ireland, but he was also an honest man,
and, like most honest men in high public office, he was not rich. He
wrote to Philip, begging him to remember whose son, not whose nephew,
he was; for Philip's companions, the golden youth of the court, blazed
in silks and velvets and jewels, until the government had to impose
laws, as the subjects had brought luxury from Venice, and Elizabeth,
who died the happy owner of three thousand dresses, issued a solemn
proclamation against extravagance in dress.

At such a time, the brilliant nephew of Uncle Leicester would have
been a quickly ruined man if he had not been Philip Sidney. He bowed
and flirted at court, but he chafed under inaction. A marriage was
planned for him with Penelope Devereux, sister of the famous Earl of
Essex, one of the thousand fair and unfortunate women who flit across
the page of history leaving only a name, and that written in tears.
But Philip's father grew cool in the negotiation, and Philip himself
was perfectly passive. Yet when a few years afterwards the lady vas
married to Lord Rich, who abused her, Sidney loved her, and wrote the
sonnets to Stella, which are his best poetry, and which Charles Lamb
so affectionately praised.

But while he loitered at court, beating all the courtiers with their
own weapons in wit, in riding, in games, at tournament, the tales of
American discovery shed a wondrous glamour upon the new continent.
Nothing was too beautiful for belief, and the fiery feet of youth
burned the English soil with eagerness to tread the unutterable Tropics.
Francis Drake sailed from Plymouth to follow Magellan around the world,
and he went in a manner consonant with the popular fancy of the
countless riches that rewarded such adventures. His cooking-vessels
were of silver; his table-plate of exquisite workmanship. The queen
knighted him, gave him a sword, and said, "Whoever striketh at you,
Drake, striketh at us." A band of musicians accompanied the fleet,
and the English sailor went to circumnavigate the globe with the same
nonchalant magnificence with which in other days the gorgeous
Alcibiades, with flutes and soft recorders blowing under silken sails,
came idling home from victory.

Philip Sidney, his heart alive to all romance, and longing to be his
companion, saw him sail away. But he turned and saw the black Italian
spider, whose sting he had seen on Bartholomew's Eve in Paris, still
weaving her stealthy web, and seeking to entangle Elizabeth into a
match with the Duke of Anjou. The queen was forty-six, and Mounseer,
as the English called him, twenty-three; and while she was coaxing
herself to say the most fatal yes that ever woman said--when Burleigh,
Leicester, Walsingham, all the safe, sound, conservative old gentlemen
and counsellors were just ceasing to dissuade her--Philip Sidney, a
youth of twenty-five, who knew that he had a country as well as a
queen, that the hope of that country lay in the triumph of
Protestantism, and that to marry Mounseer was to abandon that hope,
and for the time betray mankind--Philip Sidney, a youth who did not
believe that he could write gravely of sober things because he had
written gayly of ladies' eyebrows, knowing as the true-hearted
gentleman always knows that to-day it may be a man's turn to sit at a
desk in an office, or bend over a book in college, or fashion a
horseshoe at the forge, or toss flowers to some beauty at her window,
and to-morrow to stand firm against a cruel church or a despotic
court, a brutal snob or an ignorant public opinion--this youth, this
immortal gentleman, wrote the letter which dissuaded her from the
marriage, and which was as noble a triumph for Protestantism and human
liberty as the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

I cannot follow this lovely life in detail, nor linger, as I would,
upon his literary retirement.

The very name of Sidney's _Arcadia_ is aromatic in the imagination,
and its traditional place in our literature is unquestioned. In our
day it is very little read, nor is it a very interesting story. But
under its quaint and courtly conceit its tone is so pure and lofty,
its courtesy and appreciation of women so hearty and honorable; it has
so fine a moral atmosphere, such noble thoughts, such stately and
beautiful descriptions, that to read it is like conversing with a
hero. So there is no better reading than the _Defence of Poesy_, that
noble hymn of loyalty to intellectual beauty. Hallam well calls Sidney
"the first good prose writer" in our language, and scarcely had he
finished in his _Defence_ an exquisite criticism of English poetry to
that time than the full choir of Elizabethan poets burst into

"the songs that fill
The spacious times of great Elizabeth
With sounds that echo still."

In 1582 Philip Sidney married the daughter of Walsingham, but in his
retirement, whether steadfastly watching the great struggle upon the
Continent or listening to the alluring music of far-off seas, he knew
that the choice days of his life were passing, and if a career were
not opened for him by the queen, he must make one for himself. William
of Orange had been murdered; Elizabeth promptly succeeded him as the
active head of the Protestant world; Philip of Spain was the great
enemy. Strike him at home, said Sidney; strike him at sea, but strike
him everywhere; and he arranged with Drake a descent upon Spanish
America. He hurried privately to Plymouth to embark, but at the last
moment a peer of the realm arrived from the queen forbidding his
departure. The loyal gentleman bowed and obeyed.

But two months after his fleet sailed, on the 7th of November, 1585
(about the time that William Shakespeare first came to London),
Elizabeth appointed Sidney governor of Flushing, in the Netherlands.
He went thither gladly on the 18th, with three thousand men, to strike
for the cause in which he believed. He had already told the queen that
the spirit of the Netherlands was the spirit of God, and was invincible.
His uncle, the Earl of Leicester, followed him as commander-in-chief.
The earl was handsome at tournaments, but not fit for battle-fields,
and Sidney was annoyed by his uncle's conduct; but he writes to his
father-in-law, Walsingham, in a strain full of the music of a noble
soul, and fitly precluding his end: "I think a wise and constant man
ought never to grieve while he doth play, as a man may say, his own
part truly."

For that he was always ready. In the misty dawn of the 22d of
September, 1586, a force of three thousand Spaniards stole silently
along to the relief of Zutphen, on the river Isel. Sidney, at the head
of five hundred cavalry, rode forward to meet them. In the obscurity
the battle was sharp and confused. Seeing his friend Lord Willoughby
in special danger, Sidney spurred to the rescue. His horse was shot
under him and fell. Springing upon another, he dashed forward again
and succored his friend, but at the instant a shot struck him below
the knee, glancing upward. His furious horse became unmanageable, and
Sir Philip was obliged to leave the field. But as he passed slowly
along to the rear of the soldiers, he felt faint with bleeding, and
called for water. A cup was brought to him, but as he was lifting it
to his month he saw a dying soldier staring at it with burning eyes.
Philip Sidney paused before tasting it, leaned from the saddle, and
handed it to the soldier, saying to him in the same soft, musical
voice with which the boy called to his mother in the sunny garden at
Penshurst, "Friend, thy necessity is yet greater than mine."

He was borne on to Araheim, and lived in suffering for twenty-six
days. He conversed pleasantly and called for music, and said at last
to his brother, whom he had loved as brothers seldom love: "Love my
memory; cherish my friends. Their faith to me may assure you they are
honest. But, above all, govern your will and affections by the will
and word of your Creator, in me beholding the end of this world with
all her vanities." "And so," says old Stowe, with fond particularity,
"he died, the 17th day of October, between two and three of the clock
in the afternoon."

"The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Await alike the inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave."

This is the story of Philip Sidney. A letter, a book, a battle. How
little to justify his unique fame! How invisible his performance among
the illustrious events of his prodigious age! Yet is not the instinct
of the human heart true; and in the stately society of his time, if
Bacon were the philosopher, Shakespeare the poet, Burleigh the
counsellor, Raleigh the soldier, Drake the sailor, Hooker the
theologian, Essex the courtier, and Gresham the merchant, was not
Philip Sidney as distinctively the gentleman? Heroes stood beside him
in clusters, poets in constellations; all the illustrious men of the
age achieved more tangible results than he, yet none of them has
carved his name upon history more permanently and with a more diamond
point; for he had that happy harmony of mind and temper, of enthusiasm
and good sense, of accomplishment and capacity, which is described by
that most exquisite and most abused word, gentleman. His guitar hung
by a ribbon at his side, but his sword hung upon leather beneath it.
His knee bent gallantly to the queen, but it knelt reverently also to
his Maker. And it was the crown of the gentleman that he was neither
ashamed of the guitar nor of the sword; neither of the loyalty nor the
prayer. For a gentleman is not an idler, a trifler, a dandy; he is not
a scholar only, a soldier, a mechanic, a merchant; he is the flower of
men, in whom the accomplishment of the scholar, the bravery of the
soldier, the skill of the mechanic, the sagacity of the merchant, all
have their part and appreciation. A sense of duty is his main-spring,
and like a watch crusted with precious stones, his function is not to
look prettily, but to tell the time of day. Philip Sidney was not a
gentleman because his grandfather was the Duke of Northumberland and
his father lord-deputy of Ireland, but because he was himself
generous, simple, truthful, noble, refined. He was born with a gold
spoon in his mouth, but the gold is only the test. In the mouths of
the base it becomes brass and iron. George IV., called with bitter
irony the first gentleman in Europe, was born with the gold spoon, but
his acrid humors turned it to the basest metal, betraying his mean
soul. George Stephenson was born with the pewter spoon in his mouth,
but the true temper of his soul turned it into pure gold. The test of
a gentleman is his use, not his uselessness; whether that use be
direct or indirect, whether it be actual service or only inspiring and
aiding action. "To what purpose should our thoughts be directed to
various kinds of knowledge," wrote Philip Sidney in 1578, "unless room
be afforded for putting it into practice so that public advantage may
be the result?" And Algernon Sidney said, nearly a century later: "I
have ever had it in my mind that when God cast me into such a
condition as that I cannot save my life but by doing an indecent
thing, he shows me the time has come wherein I should resign it." And
when that time came he did resign it; for every gentleman
instinctively serves justice and liberty. He feels himself personally
disgraced by an insult to humanity, for he, too, is only a man; and
however stately his house may be and murmurous with music, however
glowing with pictures and graceful with statues and reverend with
books--however his horses may out-trot other horses, and his yachts
outsail all yachts--the gentleman is king and master of these and not
their servant; he wears them for ornament, like the ring upon his
finger or the flower in his button-hole, and if they go the gentleman
remains. He knows that all their worth came from human genius and
human training; and loving man more than the works of man, he
instinctively shuns whatever in the shape of man is degraded,
outraged, and forsaken. He does not make the poverty of others the
reason for robbing them; he does not make the oppression of others the
reason for oppressing them, for his gentility is his religion; and
therefore with simple truth and tender audacity the old English
dramatist Dekkar calls Him who gave the name to our religion, and who
destroyed the plea that might makes right, "the first true gentleman,
that ever breathed".

But not only is Philip Sidney's story the poem of a gentleman, it is
that of a young man. It was the age of young men. No man was thought
flippant, whatever his years, who could say a good thing well, or do a
brave thing successfully, or give the right advice at the right
moment. The great men of the day were all young. At sixteen Bacon had
already sketched his _Philosophy_. At seventeen Walter Raleigh had
gone to find some good wars. At seventeen Edmund Spenser had first
published. Before he was twenty, Alexander Farnese, Prince of Parma,
and the greatest general of Sidney's time, had revealed his masterly
genius. At twenty-one Don John of Austria had been commander-in-chief
against the Moors. The Prince of Conde and Henry of Navarre were
leaders while they were yet boys. At twenty Francis Drake sailed, a
captain, with John Hawkins; and at twenty-one the Washington of
European history, to whom an American has for the first time paid just
homage with an enthusiasm and eloquence of Sidney describing his
friend--at twenty-one William of Orange commanded an army of Charles V.

When England wanted leaders in those tremendous days that shaped her
destiny, it did just what America did in those recent perilous hours
that determined hers--she sent young men with faith in their hearts
and fire in their veins--not old men with feathers in their hats; and
everywhere it is the young men who have made history. At thirty-two
Alexander wept for another world to conquer. On his thirty-seventh
birthday Raphael lay dead beneath his last picture. At thirty-six
Mozart had sung his swan-song. At twenty-five Hannibal was
commander-in-chief of the Carthaginian armies. At thirty-three Turenne
was marshal of France. At twenty-seven Bonaparte was triumphant in
Italy. At forty-five Wellington had conquered Bonaparte, and at
forty-eight retired from active military service. At forty-three
Washington was chief of the Continental army. On his forty-fifth
birthday Sherman was piercing the heart of the American Rebellion; and
before he was forty-three Grant had "fought it out on this line" to
perfect victory. Young men! Of course they were young men. Youth is
the main-spring of the world. The experience of age is wise in action
only when it is electrified by the enthusiasm of youth. Show me a land
in which the young men are cold and sceptical and prematurely wise;
which in polite indifference is called political wisdom, contempt for
ideas common-sense, and honesty in politics Sunday-school
statesmanship--show me a land in which the young men are more anxious
about doing well than about doing right--and I will show you a country
in which public corruption and ruin overtakes private infidelity and
cowardice, and in which, if there were originally a hope for mankind,
a faith in principle, and a conquering enthusiasm, that faith, hope,
and enthusiasm are expiring like the deserted camp-fires of a retiring
army. "Woe to a man when his heart grows old! Woe to a nation when its
young men shuffle in the gouty shoes and limp on the untimely crutches
of age, instead of leaping along the course of life with the jubilant
spring of their years and the sturdy play of their own muscles!" Sir
Philip Sidney's was the age of young men: and wherever there are
self-reliance, universal human sympathy, and confidence in God, there
is the age of youth and national triumph; just as whenever Joan of Arc
leads the army, or Molly Stark dares to be a widow, or Rosa Bonheur
paints, or Hattie Hosmer carves, or Jenny Lind sings, or Mrs. Patten
steers the wrecked ship to port, or Florence Nightingale walks the
midnight hospital--these are the age and the sphere of woman. Queen
Elizabeth's was the age of young men; but so it is always when there
are young men who can make an age.

And ours is such an age. We live in a country which has been saved by
its young men. Before us opens a future which is to be secured by the
young men. I have not held up Sir Philip Sidney as a reproach, but
only for his brothers to admire--only that we may scatter the glamour
of the past and of history, and understand that we do not live in the
lees of time and the world's decrepitude. There is no country so fair
that ours is not fairer; there is no age so heroic that ours is not as
noble; there is no youth in history so romantic and beloved that in a
thousand American homes you may not find his peer to-day. It is the
Sidneys we have known who interpret this Philip of three hundred years
ago. Dear, noble gentleman! he does not move alone in our imaginations,
for our own memories supply his splendid society. We too have seen, how
often and how often, the bitter fight of the misty morning on the Isel
--the ringing charge, the fatal fall. A thousand times we saw the same
true Sidney heart that, dying, gave the cup of cold water to a
fellow-soldier. And we, for whom the Sidneys died, let us thank God for
showing us in our own experience, as in history, that the noblest traits
of human character are still spanned by the rainbow of perfect beauty;
and that human love and faith and fidelity, like day and night, like
seed-time and harvest, shall never, never fail.


In the school readers of half a century ago there were two poems which
every boy and girl read and declaimed and remembered. How much of that
old literature has disappeared! How much that stirred the hearts and
touched the fancies of those boys and girls, their children have never
heard of! Willis's "Saturday Afternoon" and "Burial of Arnold" have
floated away, almost out of sight, with Pierpont's "Bunker Hill" and
Sprague's Fourth-of-July oration. The relentless winds of oblivion
incessantly blow. Scraps of verse and rhetoric once so familiar are
caught up, wafted noiselessly away, and lodged in neglected books and
in the dark corners of fading memories, gradually vanish from familiar
knowledge. But the two little poems of which we speak have survived.
One of them was Bryant's "March", and the other was Longfellow's
"April", and the names of the two poets singing of spring were thus
associated in the spring-time of our poetry, as the fathers of which
they will be always honored.

Both poems originally appeared in the _United States Literary
Gazette_, and were included in the modest volume of selections from
that journal which was published in Boston in 1826. The chief names in
this little book are those of Bryant, Longfellow, Percival, Mellen,
Dawes, and Jones. Percival has already become a name only; Dawes, and
Greenville Mellen, who, like Longfellow, was a son of Maine, are
hardly known to this generation, and Jones does not even appear in
Duyckinck's Cyclopaedia. But in turning over the pages it is evident
that Time has dealt justly with the youthful bards, and that the
laurel rests upon the heads of the singers whose earliest strains
fitly preluded the music of their prime. Longfellow was nineteen years
old when the book was published. He had graduated at Bowdoin College
the year before, and the verses had been written and printed in the
_Gazette_ while he was still a student.

The glimpses of the boy that we catch through the recollections of his
old professor, Packard, and of his college mates, are of the same
character as at every period of his life. They reveal a modest,
refined, manly youth, devoted to study, of great personal charm and
gentle manners. It is the boy that the older man suggested. To look
back upon him is to trace the broad and clear and beautiful river far
up the green meadows to the limpid rill.

His poetic taste and faculty were already apparent, and it is related
that a version of an ode of Horace which he wrote in his Sophomore
year so impressed one of the members of the examining board that when
afterwards a chair of modern languages was established in the college,
he proposed as its incumbent the young Sophomore whose fluent verse he
remembered. The impression made by the young Longfellow is doubtlessly
accurately described by one of his famous classmates, Hawthorne, for
the class of '25 is a proud tradition of Bowdoin. In "P.'s
Correspondence", one of the _Mosses from an Old Manse_, a quaint fancy
of a letter from "my unfortunate friend P.", whose wits were a little
disordered, there are grotesque hints of the fate of famous persons.
P. talks with Burns at eighty-seven; Byron, grown old and fat, wears a
wig and spectacles; Shelley is reconciled to the Church of England;
Coleridge finishes "Christabel"; Keats writes a religious epic on the
millennium; and George Canning is a peer. On our side of the sea, Dr.
Channing had just published a volume of verses; Whittier had been
lynched ten years before in South Carolina; and, continues P., "I
remember, too, a lad just from college, Longfellow by name, who
scattered some delicate verses to the winds, and went to Germany, and
perished, I think, of intense application, at the University of
Goettingen." Longfellow, in turn, recalled his classmate Hawthorne--a
shy, dark-haired youth flitting across the college grounds in a coat
with bright buttons.

Among these delicate verses was the poem to "An April Day". As the
work of a very young man it is singularly restrained and finished. It
has the characteristic elegance and flowing melody of his later verse,
and its half-pensive tone is not excessive nor immature. It is not,
however, for this that it is most interesting, but because, with
Bryant's "March", it is the fresh and simple note of a truly American
strain. Perhaps the curious reader, enlightened by the observation of
subsequent years, may find in the "March" a more vigorous love of
nature, and in the "April" a tenderer tone of tranquil sentiment. But
neither of the poems is the echo of a foreign music, nor an exercise
of remembered reading. They both deal with the sights and sounds and
suggestions of the American, landscape in the early spring. In
Longfellow's "April" there are none of the bishops' caps and foreign
ornament of illustration to which Margaret Fuller afterwards objected
in his verse. But these early associated poems, both of the younger
and of the older singer, show an original movement of American
literary genius, and, like the months which they celebrate, they
foretold a summer.

That summer bad been long awaited. In 1809, Buckminster said in his
Phi Beta Kappa oration at Harvard College: "Oar poets and historians,
our critics and orators, the men of whom posterity are to stand in
awe, and by whom they are to be instructed, are yet to appear among
us." Happily, however, the orator thought that he beheld the promise
of their coming, although he does not say where. But even as he spoke
they were at hand. Irving's _Knickerbocker_ was published in 1809, and
Bryant's "Thanatopsis" was written in 1812. The _North American
Review_, an enterprise of literary men in Boston and Cambridge, was
begun in 1815, and Bryant and Longfellow were both contributors. But
it was in the year 1821, the year in which Longfellow entered college,
that the beginning of a distinctive American literature became most
evident. There were signs of an independent intellectual movement both
in the choice of subjects and in the character of treatment. This was
the year of the publication of Bryant's first slim volume, and of
Cooper's _Spy_, and of Dana's _Idle Man_. Irving's _Sketch Book_ was
already finished, Miss Sedgwick's _Hope Leslie_ and Percival's first
volume had been issued, and Halleck's and Drake's "Croakers" were
already popular. In these works, as in all others of that time, there
was indeed no evidence of great creative genius.

The poet and historian whom Buckminster foresaw, and who were to
strike posterity with awe, had not yet appeared, but in the same year
the voice of the orator whom he anticipated was heard upon Plymouth
Rock in cadences massive and sonorous as the voice of the sea. In the
year 1821 there was the plain evidence of an awakening original
literary activity.

Longfellow was the youngest of the group in which he first appeared.
His work was graceful, tender, pensive, gentle, melodious, the strain
of a troubadour. When he went to Europe in 1826 to fit himself more
fully for his professorship, he had but "scattered some delicate
verses to the winds". When he returned, and published in 1833 his
translations of "Coplas de Manrique" and other Spanish poems, he had
apparently done no more. There was plainly shown an exquisite literary
artist, a very Benvenuto of grace and skill. But he would hardly have
been selected as the poet who was to take the strongest hold of the
hearts of his countrymen, the singer whose sweet and hallowing spell
was to be so deep and universal that at last it would be said in
another country that to it also his death was a national loss.

The qualities of these early verses, however, were never lost. The
genius of the poet steadily and beautifully developed, flowering
according to its nature. The most urbane and sympathetic of men, never
aggressive, nor vehement, nor self-asserting, he was yet thoroughly
independent, and the individuality of his genius held its tranquil way
as surely as the river Charles, whose placid beauty he so often sang,
wound through the meadows calm and free. When Longfellow came to
Cambridge, the impulse of Transcendentalism in New England was deeply
affecting scholarship and literature. It was represented by the most
original of American thinkers and the typical American scholar,
Emerson, and its elevating, purifying, and emancipating influences are
memorable in our moral and intellectual history. Longfellow lived in
the very heart of the movement. Its leaders were his cherished
friends. He too was a scholar and a devoted student of German
literature, who had drunk deeply also of the romance of German life.
Indeed, his first important works stimulated the taste for German
studies and the enjoyment of its literature more than any other
impulse in this country. But he remained without the charmed
Transcendental circle, serene and friendly and attentive. There are
those whose career was wholly moulded by the intellectual revival of
that time. But Longfellow was untouched by it, except as his
sympathies were attracted by the vigor and purity of its influence.
His tastes, his interests, his activities, his career, would have been
the same had that great light never shone. If he had been the ductile,
echoing, imitative nature that the more ardent disciples of the faith
supposed him to be, he would have been absorbed and swept away by the
flood. But he was as untouched by it as Charles Lamb by the wars of

It was in the first flush of the Transcendental epoch that Longfellow's
first important works appeared. In 1839, his proseromance of _Hyperion_
was published, following the sketches of travelcalled _Outre-Mer_. He
was living in Cambridge, in the famous house in which he died, and in
which _Hyperion_ and all of his familiar books were written. Under the
form of a slight love tale, _Hyperion_ is the diary of a poet's
wandering in a storied and picturesque land, the hearty, home-like
genius of whose life and literature is peculiarly akin to his own. The
book bubbles and sings with snatches of the songs of the country; it
reproduces the tone and feeling of the landscape, the grandeur of
Switzerland, the rich romance of the Rhine; it decorates itself with
a quaint scholarship, and is so steeped in the spirit of the country,
so glowing with the palpitating tenderness of passion, that it is still
eagerly bought at the chief points which it commemorates, and is
cherished by young hearts as no prose romance was ever cherished before.

_Hyperion_, indeed, is a poet's and lover's romance. It is full of
deep feeling, of that intense and delighted appreciation of nature in
her grander forms, and of scenes consecrated by poetic tradition,
which belongs to a singularly fine, sensitive, and receptive nature,
when exalted by pure and lofty affection; and it has the fulness and
swing of youth, saddened by experience indeed, yet rising with renewed
hope, like a field of springing grain in May bowed by the west wind,
and touched with the shadow of a cloud, but presently lifting itself
again to heaven. A clear sweet humor and blitheness of heart blend in
this romance. What is called its artificial tone is not insincerity;
it is the play of an artist conscious of his skill and revelling in
it, even while his hand and his heart are deeply in earnest. _Werther_
is a romance, Disraeli's _Wondrous Tale of Alroy_ is a romance, but
they belong to the realm of Beverley and Julia in Sheridan's _Rivals_.
In _Hyperion_, with all its elaborate picturesqueness, its spicy
literary atmosphere, and imaginative outline, there is a breezy
freshness and simplicity and healthiness of feeling which leaves it
still unique.

In the same year with _Hyperion_ came the _Voices of the Night_, a
volume of poems which contained the "Coplas de Manrique" and the
translations, with a selection from the verses of the _Literary
Gazette_, which the author playfully reclaims in a note from their
vagabond and precarious existence in the corners of newspapers
--gathering his children from wanderings in lanes and alleys, and
introducing them decorously to the world. A few later poems were added,
and these, with the _Hyperion_, showed a new and distinctive
literary talent. In both of these volumes there is the purity of spirit,
the elegance of form, the romantic tone, the airy grace, which were
already associated with Longfellow's name. But there are other
qualities. The boy of nineteen, the poet of Bowdoin, has become a
scholar and a traveller. The teeming hours, the ample opportunities
of youth, have not been neglected or squandered, but, like a
golden-banded bee, humming as he sails, the young poet has drained all
the flowers of literature of their nectar, and has built for himself a
hive of sweetness. More than this, he had proved in his own experience
the truth of Irving's tender remark, that an early sorrow is often the
truest benediction for the poet.

Through all the romantic grace and elegance of the _Voices of the
Night_ and _Hyperion_, however, there is a moral earnestness which is
even more remarkable in the poems than in the romance. No volume of
poems ever published in the country was so popular. Severe critics
indeed, while acknowledging its melody and charm, thought it too
morally didactic, the work of a student too fondly enamoured of
foreign literatures. But while they conceded taste and facility, two
of the poems at least--the "Psalm of Life" and the "Footsteps of
Angels"--penetrated the common heart at once, and have held it ever
since. A young Scotchman saw them reprinted in some paper or magazine,
and, meeting a literary lady in London, repeated them to her, and then
to a literary assembly at her house; and the presence of a new poet
was at once acknowledged. If the "Midnight Mass for the Dying Year" in
its form and phrase and conception recalled a land of cathedrals and a
historic religious ritual, and had but a vague and remote charm for
the woodman in the pine forests of Maine and the farmer on the
Illinois prairie, yet the "Psalm of Life" was the very heart-beat of
the American conscience, and the "Footsteps of Angels" was a hymn of
the fond yearning of every loving heart.

During the period of more than forty years from the publication of the
_Voices of the Night_ to his death, the fame of Longfellow constantly
increased. It was not because his genius, like that of another
scholarly poet, Gray, seldom blossomed in song, so that his renown
rested upon a few gem-like verses. He was not intimidated by his own
fame. During those forty years he wrote and published constantly.
Other great fames arose around him. New poets began to sing. Popular
historians took their places. But still with Bryant the name of
Longfellow was always associated at the head of American singers, and
far beyond that of any other American author was his name known
through all the reading world. The volume of _Voices of the Night_ was
followed by similar collections, then by _The Spanish Student_,
_Evangeline_, _The Golden Legend_, _Hiawatha_, _The Courtship of Miles
Standish_, _The Tales of a Wayside Inn_, _The New England Tragedies_,
_The Masque of Pandora_, _The Hanging of the Crane_, the _Morituri
Salutarnus_, the _Keramos_. But all of these, like stately birds

"Sailing with supreme dominion
Through the upper realms of air,"

were attended by shorter poems, sonnets, "birds of passage", as the
poet called his swallow flights of song. In all these larger poems,
while the characteristics of the earlier volumes were more amply
developed and illustrated, and the subtle beauty of the skill became
even more exquisite, the essential qualities of the work remain
unchanged, and the charm of a poet and his significance in the
literature and development of his country were never more readily

Child of New England, and trained by her best influences; of a
temperament singularly sweet and serene, and with the sturdy rectitude
of his race; refined and softened by wide contact with other lands and
many men; born in prosperity, accomplished in all literatures, and
himself a literary artist of consummate elegance, he was the fine
flower of the Puritan stock under its changed modern conditions. Out
of strength had come forth sweetness. The grim iconoclast, "humming a
surly hymn", had issued in the Christian gentleman. Captain Miles
Standish had risen into Sir Philip Sidney. The austere morality that
relentlessly ruled the elder New England reappeared in the genius of
this singer in the most gracious and captivating form. The grave
nature of Bryant in his early secluded life among the solitary hills
of Western Massachusetts had been tinged by them with their own
sobriety. There was something of the sombre forest, of the gray rocky
face of stern New England in his granitic verse. But what delicate
wild-flowers nodded in the clefts! What scent of the pine-tree, what
music of gurgling water, filled the cool air! What bird high poised
upon its solitary way through heaven-taught faith to him who pursued
his way alone!

But while the same moral tone in the poetry both of Bryant and of
Longfellow shows them to be children of the same soil and tradition,
and shows also that they saw plainly, what poets of the greatest
genius have often not seen at all, that in the morality of human life
lies its true beauty, the different aspect of Puritan development
which they displayed was due to difference of temperament and
circumstance. The foundations of our distinctive literature were
largely laid in New England, and they rest upon morality. Literary New
England had never a trace of literary Bohemia. The most illustrious
group, and the earliest, of American authors and scholars and literary
men, the Boston and Cambridge group of the last generation--Channing,
the two Danas, Sparks, Everett, Bancroft, Ticknor, Prescott, Norton,
Ripley, Palfrey, Emerson, Parker, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Holmes,
Whittier, Agassiz, Lowell, Motley--have been all sober and
industrious citizens of whom Judge Sewall would have approved. Their
lives as well as their works have ennobled literature. They have
illustrated the moral sanity of genius.

Longfellow shares this trait with them all. It is the moral purity of
his verse which at once charms the heart, and in his first most famous
poem, the "Psalm of Life", it is the direct inculcation of a moral
purpose. Those who insist that literary art, like all other art,
should not concern itself positively with morality, must reflect that
the heart of this age has been touched as truly by Longfellow, however
differently, as that of any time by its master-poet. This, indeed, is
his peculiar distinction. Among the great poetic names of the century
in English literature, Burns, in a general way, is the poet of love;
Wordsworth, of lofty contemplation of nature; Byron, of passion;
Shelley, of aspiration; Keats, of romance; Scott, of heroic legend;
and not less, and quite as distinctively, Longfellow, of the domestic
affections. He is the poet of the household, of the fireside, of the
universal home feeling. The infinite tenderness and patience, the
pathos, and the beauty of daily life, of familiar emotion, and the
common scene, these are the significance of that verse whose beautiful
and simple melody, softly murmuring for more than forty years, made
the singer the most widely beloved of living men.

Longfellow's genius was not a great creative force. It burst into no
tempests of mighty passion. It did not wrestle with the haughtily
veiled problems of fate and free-will absolute. It had no dramatic
movement and variety, no eccentricity and grotesqueness and
unexpectedness. It was not Lear, nor Faust, nor Manfred, nor Romeo. A
carnation is not a passion-flower. Indeed, no poet of so universal and
sincere a popularity ever sang so little of love as a passion. None of
his smaller poems are love poems; and _Evangeline_ is a tale, not of
fiery romance, but of affection "that hopes and endures and is patient",
of the unwasting "beauty and strength of woman's devotion", of the
constantly tried and tested virtue that makes up the happiness of daily
life. No one has described so well as Longfellow himself the character
and influence of his own poetry:

"Come read to me some poem,
Some simple and heart-felt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.

"Hot from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of Time.

* * * * *

"Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer."

This was the office of Longfellow in literature, and how perfectly it
was fulfilled! It was not a wilful purpose, but he carefully guarded
the fountain of his song from contamination or diversion, and this was
its natural overflow. During the long period of his literary activity
there were many "schools" and styles and fashions of poetry. The
influence first of Byron, then of Keats, is manifest in the poetry of
the last generation, and in later days a voluptuous vagueness and
barbaric splendor, as of the lower empire in literature, have corroded
the vigor of much modern verse. But no perfumed blandishment of
doubtful goddesses won Longfellow from his sweet and domestic Muse.
The clear thought, the true feeling, the pure aspiration, is expressed
with limpid simplicity:

"Strong without rage; without o'erflowing, full."

The most delightful picture in Goldsmith's life is that of the youth
wandering through rural Europe, stopping at the little villages in the
peaceful summer sunset, and sweetly playing melodies upon his flute
for the lads and lasses to dance upon the green. Who that reads "The
Traveller" and "The Deserted Village" does not hear in their pensive
music the far-away fluting of that kind-hearted wanderer, and see the
lovely idyl of that simple life? So sings this poet to the young men
and maidens in the soft summer air. They follow his measures with
fascinated hearts, for they hear in them their own hearts singing;
they catch the music of their dearest hope, of their best endeavor;
they hear the voices of the peaceful joy that hallows faithful
affection, of the benediction that belongs to self-sacrifice and
devotion. And now that the singer is gone, and his voice is silent,
those hushed hearts recall the words of Father Felicien, Evangeline's

"Forty years of my life have I labored among you, and
taught you
Not in word alone, but in deed, to love one another."

It is this fidelity of his genius to itself, the universal feeling to
which he gives expression, and the perfection of his literary
workmanship, which is sure to give Longfellow a permanent place in
literature. His poems are apples of gold in pictures of silver. There
is nothing in them excessive, nothing overwrought, nothing strained
into turgidity, obscurity, and nonsense. There is sometimes, indeed, a
fine stateliness, as in the "Arsenal at Springfield", and even a
resounding splendor of diction, as in "Sandalphon". But when the
melody is most delicate it is simple. The poet throws nothing into the
mist to make it large. How purely melodious his verse can be without
losing the thought or its most transparent expression is seen in "The
Evening Star" and "Snow-Flakes".

The literary decoration of his style, the aroma and color and richness,
so to speak, which it derives from his ample accomplishment in
literature, are incomparable. His verse is embroidered with allusions
and names and illustrations wrought with a taste so true and a skill
so rare that the robe, though it be cloth of gold, is as finely flexible
as linen, and still beautifully reveals, not conceals, the living form.

This scholarly allusion and literary tone were at one time criticised
as showing that Longfellow's genius was really an exotic grown under
glass, or a smooth-throated mocking-bird warbling a foreign melody. A
recent admirable paper in the _Evening Post_ intimates that the kindly
poet took the suggestion in good part, and modified his strain. But
there was never any interruption or change in the continuity of his
work. _Evangeline_ and _Hiawatha_ and _The Courtship of Miles
Standish_ blossom as naturally out of his evident and characteristic
taste and tendency as _The Golden Legend_ or the _Masque of Pandora_.
In the _Tales of a Wayside Inn_ the "Ride of Paul Revere" is as
natural a play of his power as "King Robert of Sicily". The various
aspect and character of nature upon the American continent is nowhere
so fully, beautifully, and accurately portrayed as in _Evangeline_.
The scenery of the poem is the vast American landscape, boundless
prairie and wooded hill, brimming river and green valley, sparkling
savanna and broad bayou, city and village, camp and wigwam, peopled
with the children of many races, and all the blended panorama seen in
the magic light of imagination. So, too, the poetic character of the
Indian legend is preserved with conscientious care and fit monotony of
rippling music in _Hiawatha_. But this is an accident and an incident.
It is not the theme which determines the poet. All Scotland, indeed,
sings and glows in the verse of Burns, but very little of England is
seen or heard in that of Byron.

In no other conspicuous figure in literary history are the man and the
poet more indissolubly blended than in Longfellow. The poet was the
man, and the man the poet. What he was to the stranger reading in
distant lands, by

"The long wash of Australasian seas,"

that he was to the most intimate of his friends. His life and
character were perfectly reflected in his books. There is no purity or
grace or feeling or spotless charm in his verse which did not belong
to the man. There was never an explanation to be offered for him; no
allowance was necessary for the eccentricity or grotesqueness or
wilfulness or humor of genius. Simple, modest, frank, manly, he was
the good citizen, the self-respecting gentleman, the symmetrical man.

He lived in an interesting historic house in a venerable university
town, itself the suburb of a great city; the highway running by his
gate and dividing the smooth grass and modest green terraces about the
house from the fields and meadows that sloped gently to the placid
Charles, and the low range of distant hills that made the horizon.
Through the little gate passed an endless procession of pilgrims of
every degree and from every country to pay homage to their American
friend. Every morning came the letters of those who could not come
in person, and with infinite urbanity and sympathy and patience the
master of the house received them all, and his gracious hospitality
but deepened the admiration and affection of the guests. His nearer
friends sometimes remonstrated at his sweet courtesy to such annoying
"devastators of the day". But to an urgent complaint of his endless
favor to a flagrant offender, Longfellow only answered, good-humoredly,
"If I did not speak kindly to him, there is not a man in the world who
would." On the day that he was taken ill, six days only before his death,
three schoolboys came out from Boston on their Saturday holiday to ask
his autograph. The benign lover of children welcomed them heartily,
showed them a hundred interesting objects in his house, then wrote his
name for them, and for the last time.

Few men had known deeper sorrow. But no man ever mounted upon his
sorrow more surely to higher things. Blessed and beloved, the singer
is gone, but his song remains, and its pure and imperishable melody is
the song of the lark in the morning of our literature:

"Type of the wise who soar but never roam,
True to the kindred points of heaven and home."


In 1817 Bryant's "Thanatopsis" was published in the _North American
Review_. Richard Henry Dana, the elder, who was then one of the
editors, said that it could not be an American poem, for there was no
American who could have written it. But it does not seem to have
produced a remarkable impression upon the public mind. The planet rose
silently and unobserved. Ten years afterwards, in 1827, Dana's own
"Buccaneer" was published, and Christopher North, in _Blackwood_,
saluted it as "by far the most original and powerful of American
poetical compositions". But it produced in this country no general
effect which is remembered. Nine years later, in 1836, Holmes's
"Metrical Essay" was delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society at
Harvard College, and was as distinct an event in literary circles as
Edward Everett's oration before the same society in 1824, or Ralph
Waldo Emerson's in 1837, or Horace Bushnell's in 1848, or Wendell
Phillips's in 1881. Holmes was then twenty-seven years old, and had
just returned from his professional studies in Europe, where, as in
his college days at Cambridge, where he was born, he had toyed with
many Muses, yet still, with native Yankee prudence, held fast the hand

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