Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Memorials and Other Papers by Thomas de Quincey

Part 8 out of 9

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.1 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

These counsels fell too much into the Landgrave's own way of thinking
to meet with any demurs from him. It was agreed, therefore, that as
many Swedish troops as could at this important moment be spared should
be introduced into the halls and saloons of the castle, on the eventful
evening, disguised as masquers. These were about four hundred; and
other arrangements were made, equally mysterious, and some of them
known only to the Landgrave.

At seven o'clock, as on the former occasion, the company began to
assemble. The same rooms were thrown open; but, as the party was now
far more numerous, and was made more comprehensive in point of rank, in
order to include all who were involved in the conspiracy which had been
some time maturing in Klosterheim, fresh suites of rooms were judged
necessary, on the pretext of giving fuller effect to the princely
hospitalities of the Landgrave. And, on this occasion, according to an
old privilege conceded in the case of coronations or galas of
magnificence, by the lady abbess of St. Agnes, the partition walls were
removed between the great hall of the _schloss_ and the refectory
of that immense convent; so that the two vast establishments, which on
one side were contiguous to each other, were thus laid into one.

The company had now continued to pour in for two hours. The palace and
the refectory of the convent were now overflowing with lights and
splendid masques; the avenues and corridors rang with music; and,
though every heart was throbbing with fear and suspense, no outward
expression was wanting of joy and festal pleasure. For the present, all
was calm around the slumbering volcano.

Suddenly, the Count St. Aldenheim, who was standing with arms folded,
and surveying the brilliant scene, felt some one touch his hand, in the
way concerted amongst the conspirators as a private signal of
recognition. He turned, and recognized his friend the Baron Adelort,
who saluted him with three emphatic words--"We are betrayed!"--Then,
after a pause, "Follow me."

St. Aldenheim made his way through the glittering crowds, and pressed
after his conductor into one of the most private corridors.

"Fear not," said the other, "that we shall be watched. Vigilance is no
longer necessary to our crafty enemy. He has already triumphed. Every
avenue of escape is barred and secured against us; every outlet of the
palace is occupied by the Landgrave's troops. Not a man of us will
return alive."

"Heaven forbid we should prove ourselves such gulls! You are but
jesting, my friend."

"Would to God I were! my information is but too certain. Something I
have overheard by accident; something has been told me; and something I
have seen. Come you, also, count, and see what I will show you: then
judge for yourself."

So saying, he led St. Aldenheim by a little circuit of passages to a
doorway, through which they passed into a hall of vast proportions; to
judge by the catafalques, and mural monuments, scattered at intervals
along the vast expanse of its walls, this seemed to be the ante-chapel
of St. Agnes. In fact it was so; a few faint lights glimmered through
the gloomy extent of this immense chamber, placed (according to the
Catholic rite) at the shrine of the saint. Feeble as it was, however,
the light was powerful enough to display in the centre a pile of
scaffolding covered with black drapery. Standing at the foot, they
could trace the outlines of a stage at the summit, fenced in with a
railing, a block, and the other apparatus for the solemnity of a public
execution, whilst the saw-dust below their feet ascertained the spot in
which the heads were to fall.

"Shall we ascend and rehearse our parts?" asked the count: "for
methinks everything is prepared, except the headsman and the
spectators. A plague on the inhospitable knave!"

"Yes, St. Aldenheim, all is prepared--even to the sufferers. On that
list you stand foremost. Believe me, I speak with knowledge; no matter
where gained. It is certain."

"Well, _necessitas non habet legem_; and he that dies on Tuesday
will never catch cold on Wednesday. But, still, that comfort is
something of the coldest. Think you that none better could be had?"

"As how?"

"Revenge, _par exemple_; a little revenge. Might one not screw the
neck of this base prince, who abuses the confidence of cavaliers so
perfidiously? To die I care not; but to be caught in a trap, and die
like a rat lured by a bait of toasted cheese--Faugh! my countly blood
rebels against it!"

"Something might surely be done, if we could muster in any strength.
That is, we might die sword in hand; but--"

"Enough! I ask no more. Now let us go. We will separately pace the
rooms, draw together as many of our party as we can single out, and
then proclaim ourselves. Let each answer for one victim. I'll take his
highness for my share."

With this purpose, and thus forewarned of the dreadful fate at hand,
they left the gloomy ante-chapel, traversed the long suite of
entertaining rooms, and collected as many as could easily be detached
from the dances without too much pointing out their own motions to the
attention of all present. The Count St. Aldenheim was seen rapidly
explaining to them the circumstances of their dreadful situation;
whilst hands uplifted, or suddenly applied to the hilt of the sword,
with other gestures of sudden emotion, expressed the different
impressions of rage or fear, which, under each variety of character,
impressed the several hearers. Some of them, however, were too
unguarded in their motions; and the energy of their gesticulations had
now begun to attract the attention of the company.

The Landgrave himself had his eye upon them. But at this moment his
attention was drawn off by an uproar of confusion in an ante-chamber,
which argued some tragical importance in the cause that could prompt so
sudden a disregard for the restraints of time and place.


His highness issued from the room in consternation, followed by many of
the company. In the very centre of the ante-room, booted and spurred,
bearing all the marks of extreme haste, panic, and confusion, stood a
Swedish officer, dealing forth hasty fragments of some heart-shaking
intelligence. "All is lost!" said he; "not a regiment has escaped!"
"And the place?" exclaimed a press of inquirers. "Nordlingen." "And
which way has the Swedish army retreated?" demanded a masque behind

"Retreat!" retorted the officer, "I tell you there is no retreat. All
have perished. The army is no more. Horse, foot, artillery--all is
wrecked, crushed, annihilated. Whatever yet lives is in the power of
the imperialists."

At this moment the Landgrave came up, and in every way strove to check
these too liberal communications. He frowned; the officer saw him not.
He laid his hand on the officer's arm, but all in vain. He spoke, but
the officer knew not, or forgot his rank. Panic and immeasurable sorrow
had crushed his heart; he cared not for restraints; decorum and
ceremony were become idle words. The Swedish army had perished. The
greatest disaster of the whole 'Thirty Years' War had fallen upon his
countrymen. His own eyes had witnessed the tragedy, and he had no power
to check or restrain that which made his heart overflow.

The Landgrave retired. But in half an hour the banquet was announced;
and his highness had so much command over his own feelings that he took
his seat at the table. He seemed tranquil in the midst of general
agitation; for the company were distracted by various passions. Some
exulted in the great victory of the imperialists, and the approaching
liberation of Klosterheim. Some, who were in the secret, anticipated
with horror the coming tragedy of vengeance upon his enemies which the
Landgrave had prepared for this night. Some were filled with suspense
and awe on the probable fulfilment in some way or other, doubtful as to
the mode, but tragic (it was not doubted) for the result, of The
Masque's mysterious denunciation.

* * * * *

Under such circumstances of universal agitation and suspense,--for on
one side or other it seemed inevitable that this night must produce a
tragical catastrophe,--it was not extraordinary that silence and
embarrassment should at one moment take possession of the company, and
at another that kind of forced and intermitting gayety which still more
forcibly proclaimed the trepidation which really mastered the spirits
of the assemblage. The banquet was magnificent; but it moved heavily
and in sadness. The music, which broke the silence at intervals, was
animating and triumphant; but it had no power to disperse the gloom
which hung over the evening, and which was gathering strength
conspicuously as the hours advanced to midnight.

As the clock struck eleven, the orchestra had suddenly become silent;
and, as no buzz of conversation succeeded, the anxiety of expectation
became more painfully irritating. The whole vast assemblage was hushed,
gazing at the doors, at each other, or watching, stealthily, the
Landgrave's countenance. Suddenly a sound was heard in an ante-room; a
page entered with a step hurried and discomposed, advanced to the
Landgrave's seat, and, bending downwards, whispered some news or
message to that prince, of which not a syllable could be caught by the
company. Whatever were its import, it could not be collected, from any
very marked change on the features of him to whom it was addressed,
that he participated in the emotions of the messenger, which were
obviously those of grief or panic--perhaps of both united. Some even
fancied that a transient expression of malignant exultation crossed the
Landgrave's countenance at this moment. But, if that were so, it was
banished as suddenly; and, in the next instant, the prince arose with a
leisurely motion; and, with a very successful affectation (if such it
were) of extreme tranquillity, he moved forwards to one of the ante-
rooms, in which, as it now appeared, some person was awaiting his

Who, and on what errand? These were the questions which now racked the
curiosity of those among the company who had least concern in the final
event, and more painfully interested others, whose fate was consciously
dependent upon the accidents which the next hour might happen to bring
up. Silence still continuing to prevail, and, if possible, deeper
silence than before, it was inevitable that all the company, those even
whose honorable temper would least have brooked any settled purpose of
surprising the Landgrave's secrets, should, in some measure, become a
party to what was now passing in the ante-room.

The voice of the Landgrave was heard at times, briefly and somewhat
sternly in reply, but apparently in the tone of one who is thrown upon
the necessity of self-defence. On the other side, the speaker was
earnest, solemn, and (as it seemed) upon an office of menace or
upbraiding. For a time, however, the tones were low and subdued; but,
as the passion of the scene advanced, less restraint was observed on
both sides; and at length many believed that in the stranger's voice
they recognized that of the lady abbess; and it was some corroboration
of this conjecture, that the name of Paulina began now frequently to be
caught, and in connection with ominous words, indicating some dreadful
fate supposed to have befallen her.

A few moments dispersed all doubts. The tones of bitter and angry
reproach rose louder than before; they were, without doubt, those of
the abbess. She charged the blood of Paulina upon the Landgrave's head;
denounced the instant vengeance of the emperor for so great an
atrocity; and, if that could be evaded, bade him expect certain
retribution from Heaven for so wanton and useless an effusion of
innocent blood.

The Landgrave replied in a lower key; and his words were few and rapid.
That they were words of fierce recrimination, was easily collected from
the tone; and in the next minute the parties separated with little
ceremony (as was sufficiently evident) on either side, and with mutual
wrath. The Landgrave reentered the banqueting-room; his features
discomposed and inflated with passion; but such was his self-command,
and so habitual his dissimulation, that, by the time he reached his
seat, all traces of agitation had disappeared; his countenance had
resumed its usual expression of stern serenity, and his manners their
usual air of perfect self-possession.

* * * * *

The clock of St. Agnes struck twelve. At that sound the Landgrave rose.
"Friends and illustrious strangers!" said he, "I have caused one seat
to be left empty for that blood-stained Masque, who summoned me to
answer on this night for a crime which he could not name, at a bar
which no man knows. His summons you heard. Its fulfilment is yet to
come. But I suppose few of us are weak enough to expect--"

"That The Masque of Klosterheim will ever break his engagements," said
a deep voice, suddenly interrupting the Landgrave. All eyes were
directed to the sound; and, behold! there stood The Masque, and seated
himself quietly in the chair which had been left vacant for his

"It is well!" said the Landgrave; but the air of vexation and panic
with which he sank back into his seat belied his words. Rising again,
after a pause, with some agitation, he said, "Audacious criminal! since
last we met, I have learned to know you, and to appreciate your
purposes. It is now fit they should be known to Klosterheim. A scene of
justice awaits you at present, which will teach this city to understand
the delusions which could build any part of her hopes upon yourself.
Citizens and friends, not I, but these dark criminals and interlopers
whom you will presently see revealed in their true colors, are
answerable for that interruption to the course of our peaceful
festivities, which will presently be brought before you. Not I, but
they are responsible."

So saying, the Landgrave arose, and the whole of the immense audience,
who now resumed their masques, and prepared to follow whither his
highness should lead. With the haste of one who fears he may be
anticipated in his purpose, and the fury of some bird of prey,
apprehending that his struggling victim may be yet torn from his
talons, the prince hurried onwards to the ante-chapel. Innumerable
torches now illuminated its darkness; in other respects it remained as
St. Aldenheim had left it.

The Swedish masques had many of them withdrawn from the gala on hearing
the dreadful day of Nordlingen. But enough remained, when strengthened
by the body-guard of the Landgrave, to make up a corps of nearly five
hundred men. Under the command of Colonel von Aremberg, part of them
now enclosed the scaffold, and part prepared to seize the persons who
were pointed out to them as conspirators. Amongst these stood foremost
The Masque.

Shaking off those who attempted to lay hands upon him, he strode
disdainfully within the ring; and then, turning to the Landgrave, he

"Prince, for once be generous; accept me as a ransom for the rest."

The Landgrave smiled sarcastically. "That were an unequal bargain,
methinks, to take a part in exchange for the whole."

"The whole? And where is, then, your assurance of the whole?"

"Who should now make it doubtful? There is the block; the headsman is
at hand. What hand can deliver from this extremity even you, Sir

"That which has many times delivered me from a greater. It seems,
prince, that you forget the last days in the history of Klosterheim. He
that rules by night in Klosterheim may well expect a greater favor than
this when he descends to sue for it."

The Landgrave smiled contemptuously. "But, again I ask you, sir, will
you on any terms grant immunity to these young men?"

"You sue as vainly for others as you would do for yourself."

"Then all grace is hopeless?" The Landgrave vouchsafed no answer, but
made signals to Von Aremberg.

"Gentlemen, cavaliers, citizens of Klosterheim, you that are not
involved in the Landgrave's suspicions," said The Masque, appealingly,
"will you not join me in the intercession I offer for these young
friends, who are else to perish unjudged, by blank edict of martial

The citizens of Klosterheim interceded with ineffectual supplication.
"Gentlemen, you waste your breath; they die without reprieve," replied
the Landgrave.

"Will your highness spare none?"

"Not one," he exclaimed, angrily,--"not the youngest amongst them."

"Nor grant a day's respite to him who may appear, on examination, the
least criminal of the whole?"

"A day's respite? No, nor half an hour's. Headsman, be ready. Soldiers,
lay the heads of the prisoners ready for the axe."

"Detested prince, now look to your own!"

With a succession of passions flying over his face,--rage, disdain,
suspicion,--the Landgrave looked round upon The Masque as he uttered
these words, and, with pallid, ghastly consternation, beheld him raise
to his lips a hunting-horn which depended from his neck. He blew a
blast, which was immediately answered from within. Silence as of the
grave ensued. All eyes were turned in the direction of the answer.
Expectation was at its summit; and in less than a minute solemnly
uprose the curtain, which divided the chapel from the ante-chapel,
revealing a scene that smote many hearts with awe, and the consciences
of some with as much horror as if it had really been that final
tribunal which numbers believed The Masque to have denounced.


The great chapel of St. Agnes, the immemorial hall of coronation for
the Landgraves of X----, was capable of containing with ease from seven
to eight thousand spectators. Nearly that number was now collected in
the galleries, which, on the recurrence of that great occasion, or of a
royal marriage, were usually assigned to the spectators. These were all
equipped in burnished arms, the very _lite_ of the imperial army.
Resistance was hopeless; in a single moment the Landgrave saw himself
dispossessed of all his hopes by an overwhelming force; the advanced
guard, in fact, of the victorious imperialists, now fresh from

On the marble area of the chapel, level with their own position, were
arranged "a brilliant staff of officers; and, a little in advance of
them, so as almost to reach the ante-chapel, stood the imperial legate
or ambassador. This nobleman advanced to the crowd of Klosterheimers,
and spoke thus:

"Citizens of Klosterheim, I bring you from the emperor your true and
lawful Landgrave, Maximilian, son of your last beloved prince."

Both chapels resounded with acclamations; and the troops presented

"Show us our prince! let us pay him our homage!" echoed from every

"This is mere treason!" exclaimed the usurper. "The emperor invites
treason against his own throne, who undermines that of other princes.
The late Landgrave had no son; so much is known to you all."

"None that was known to his murderer," replied The Masque, "else had he
met no better fate than his unhappy father."

"Murderer! And what art thou, blood-polluted Masque, with hands yet
reeking from the blood of all who refused to join the conspiracy
against your lawful prince?"

"Citizens of Klosterheim," said the legate, "first let the emperor's
friend be assoiled from all injurious thoughts. Those whom ye believe
to have been removed by murder are here to speak for themselves."

Upon this the whole line of those who had mysteriously disappeared from
Klosterheim presented themselves to the welcome of their astonished

"These," said the legate, "quitted Klosterheim, even by the same secret
passages which enabled us to enter it, and for the self-same purpose,--
to prepare the path for the restoration of the true heir, Maximilian
the Fourth, whom in this noble prince you behold, and whom may God long

Saying this, to the wonder of the whole assembly, he led forward The
Masque, whom nobody had yet suspected for more than an agent of the
true heir.

The Landgrave, meantime, thus suddenly denounced as a tyrant, usurper,
murderer, had stood aloof, and had given but a slight attention to the
latter words of the legate. A race of passions had traversed his
countenance, chasing each other in flying succession. But by a
prodigious effort he recalled himself to the scene before him; and,
striding up to the crowd, of which the legate was the central figure,
he raised his arm with a gesture of indignation, and protested
vehemently that the assassination of Maximilian's father had been
iniquitously charged upon himself.--"And yet," said he, "upon that one
gratuitous assumption have been built all the other foul suspicions
directed against my person."

"Pardon me, sir," replied the legate, "the evidences were such as
satisfied the emperor and his council; and he showed it by the
vigilance with which he watched over the Prince Maximilian, and the
anxiety with which he kept him from approaching your highness, until
his pretensions could be established by arms. But, if more direct
evidence were wanting, since yesterday we have had it in the dying
confession of the very agent employed to strike the fatal blow. That
man died last night, penitent and contrite, having fully unburdened his
conscience, at Waldenhausen. With evidence so overwhelming, the emperor
exacts no further sacrifice from your highness than that of retirement
from public life, to any one of your own castles in your patrimonial
principality of Oberhornstein.--But, now for a more pleasing duty.
Citizens of Klosterheim, welcome your young Landgrave in the emperor's
name: and to-morrow you shall welcome also your future Landgravine, the
lovely Countess Paulina, cousin to the emperor, my master, and cousin
also to your noble young Landgrave."

"No!" exclaimed the malignant usurper, "her you shall never see alive;
for that, be well assured, I have taken care."

"Vile, unworthy prince!" replied Maximilian, his eyes kindling with
passion, "know that your intentions, so worthy of a fiend, towards that
most innocent of ladies, have been confounded and brought to nothing by
your own gentle daughter, worthy of a far nobler father."

"If you speak of my directions for administering the torture,--a matter
in which I presume that I exercised no unusual privilege amongst German
sovereigns,--you are right. But it was not that of which I spoke."

"Of what else, then?--The Lady Paulina has escaped."

"True, to Falkenberg. But, doubtless, young Landgrave, you have heard
of such a thing as the intercepting of a fugitive prisoner; in such a
case, you know the punishment which martial law awards. The governor at
Falkenberg had his orders." These last significant words he uttered in
a tone of peculiar meaning. His eye sparkled with bright gleams of
malice and of savage vengeance, rioting in its completion.

"O, heart--heart!" exclaimed Maximilian, "can this be possible?"

The imperial legate and all present crowded around him to suggest such
consolation as they could. Some offered to ride off express to
Falkenberg; some argued that the Lady Paulina had been seen within the
last hour. But the hellish exulter in ruined happiness destroyed that
hope as soon as it dawned.

"Children!" said he, "foolish children! cherish not such chimeras. Me
you have destroyed, Landgrave, and the prospects of my house. Now
perish yourself.--Look there: is that the form of one who lives and

All present turned to the scaffold, in which direction he pointed, and
now first remarked, covered with a black pall, and brought hither
doubtless to aggravate the pangs of death to Maximilian, what seemed
but too certainly a female corpse. The stature, the fine swell of the
bust, the rich outline of the form, all pointed to the same conclusion;
and, in this recumbent attitude, it seemed but too clearly to present
the magnificent proportions of Paulina.

There was a dead silence. Who could endure to break it? Who make the
effort which was forever to fix the fate of Maximilian?

He himself could not. At last the deposed usurper, craving for the
consummation of his vengeance, himself strode forward; with one savage
grasp he tore away the pall, and below it lay the innocent features,
sleeping in her last tranquil slumber, of his own gentle-minded

* * * * *

No heart was found savage enough to exult; the sorrow even of such a
father was sacred. Death, and through his own orders, had struck the
only being whom he had ever loved; and the petrific mace of the fell
destroyer seemed to have smitten his own heart, and withered its hopes

Everybody comprehended the mistake in a moment. Paulina had lingered at
Waldenhausen under the protection of an imperial corps, which she had
met in her flight. The tyrant, who had heard of her escape, but
apprehended no necessity for such a step on the part of his daughter,
had issued sudden orders to the officer commanding the military post at
Falkenberg, to seize and shoot the female prisoner escaping from
confinement, without allowing any explanations whatsoever, on her
arrival at Falkenberg. This precaution he had adopted in part to
intercept any denunciation of the emperor's vengeance which Paulina
might address to the officer. As a rude soldier, accustomed to obey the
letter of his orders, this commandant had executed his commission; and
the gentle Adeline, who had naturally hastened to the protection of her
father's chateau, surrendered her breath meekly and with resignation to
what she believed a simple act of military violence; and this she did
before she could know a syllable of her father's guilt or his fall, and
without any the least reason for supposing him connected with the
occasion of her early death.

At this moment Paulina made her appearance unexpectedly, to reassure
the young Landgrave by her presence, and to weep over her young friend,
whom she had lost almost before she had come to know her. The scaffold,
the corpse, and the other images of sorrow, were then withdrawn; seven
thousand imperial troops presented arms to the youthful Landgrave and
the future Landgravine, the brilliant favorites of the emperor; the
immense area of St. Agnes resounded with the congratulations of
Klosterheim; and as the magnificent cortege moved off to the interior
of the _schloss_, the swell of the coronation anthem rising in
peals upon the ear from the choir of St. Agnes, and from the military
bands of the imperial troops, awoke the promise of happier days, and of
more equitable government, to the long-harassed inhabitants of

* * * * *

The Klosterheimers knew enough already, personally or by questions
easily answered in every quarter, to supply any links which were
wanting in the rapid explanations of the legate. Nevertheless, that
nothing might remain liable to misapprehension or cavil, a short
manifesto was this night circulated by the new government, from which
the following facts are abstracted:

The last rightful Landgrave, whilst yet a young man, had been
assassinated in the forest when hunting. A year or two before this
catastrophe he had contracted what, from the circumstances, was
presumed, at the time, to be a _morganatic_ or left-handed
marriage, with a lady of high birth, nearly connected with the imperial
house. The effect of such a marriage went to incapacitate the children
who might be born under it, male or female, from succeeding. On that
account, as well as because current report had represented her as
childless, the widow lady escaped all attempts from the assassin.
Meantime this lady, who was no other than Sister Madeline, had been
thus indebted for her safety to two rumors, which were in fact equally
false. She soon found means of convincing the emperor, who had been the
bosom friend of her princely husband, that her marriage was a perfect
one, and conferred the fullest rights of succession upon her infant son
Maximilian, whom at the earliest age, and with the utmost secrecy, she
had committed to the care of his imperial majesty. This powerful
guardian had in every way watched over the interests of the young
prince. But the Thirty Years' War had thrown all Germany into
distractions, which for a time thwarted the emperor, and favored the
views of the usurper. Latterly, also, another question had arisen on
the city and dependences of Klosterheim, as distinct from the
Landgraviate. These, it was now affirmed, were a female appanage, and
could only pass back to the Landgraves of X---- through a marriage with
the female inheretrix. To reconcile all claims, therefore, on finding
this bar in the way, the emperor had resolved to promote a marriage for
Maximilian with Paulina, who stood equally related to the imperial
house and to that of her lover. In this view he had despatched Paulina
to Klosterheim, with proper documents to support the claims of both
parties. Of these documents she had been robbed at Waldenhausen; and
the very letter which was designed to introduce Maximilian as "the
child and sole representative of the late murdered Landgrave," falling
in this surreptitious way into the usurper's hand, had naturally
misdirected his attacks to the person of Paulina.

For the rest, as regarded the mysterious movements of The Masque, these
were easily explained. Fear, and the exaggerations of fear, had done
one half the work to his hands, by preparing people to fall easy dupes
to the plans laid, and by increasing the romantic wonders of his
achievements. Coperation, also, on the part of the very students and
others, who stood forward as the night-watch for detecting him, had
served The Masque no less powerfully. The appearances of deadly
struggles had been arranged artificially to countenance the plot and to
aid the terror. Finally, the secret passages which communicated between
the forest and the chapel of St. Agnes (passages of which many were
actually applied to that very use in the Thirty Years' War) had been
unreservedly placed at their disposal by the lady abbess, an early
friend of the unhappy Landgravine, who sympathized deeply with that
lady's unmerited sufferings.

One other explanation followed, communicated in a letter from
Maximilian to the legate; this related to the murder of the old
seneschal,--a matter in which the young prince took some blame to
himself, as having unintentionally drawn upon that excellent servant
his unhappy fate. "The seneschal," said the writer, "was the faithful
friend of my family, and knew the whole course of its misfortunes. He
continued his abode at the _schloss_, to serve my interest; and in
some measure I may fear that I drew upon him his fate. Traversing late
one evening a suite of rooms, which his assistance and my own
mysterious disguise laid open to my passage at all hours, I came
suddenly upon the prince's retirement. He pursued me, but with
hesitation. Some check I gave to his motions by halting before a
portrait of my unhappy father, and emphatically pointing his attention
to it. Conscience, I well knew, would supply a commentary to my act. I
produced the impression which I had anticipated, but not so strongly as
to stop his pursuit. My course necessarily drew him into the
seneschal's room. The old man was sleeping; and this accident threw
into the prince's hands a paper, which, I have reason to think, shed
some considerable light upon my own pretensions, and, in fact, first
made my enemy acquainted with my existence and my claims. Meantime, the
seneschal had secured the prince's vengeance upon himself. He was now
known as a faithful agent in my service. That fact signed his death-
warrant. There is a window in a gallery which commands the interior of
the seneschal's room. On the evening of the last _fte_,
waiting there for an opportunity of speaking securely with this
faithful servant, I heard a deep groan, and then another, and another;
I raised myself, and, with an ejaculation of horror, looked down upon
the murderer, then surveying his victim with hellish triumph. My loud
exclamation drew the murderer's eye upwards: under the pangs of an
agitated conscience, I have reason to think that he took me for my
unhappy father, who perished at my age, and is said to have resembled
me closely. Who that murderer was, I need not say more directly. He
fled with the terror of one who flies from an apparition. Taking a
lesson from this incident, on that same night, by the very same sudden
revelation of what passed, no doubt, for my father's countenance, aided
by my mysterious character, and the proof I had announced to him
immediately before my acquaintance with the secret of the seneschal's
murder, in this and no other way it was that I produced that powerful
impression upon the prince which terminated the festivities of that
evening, and which all Klosterheim witnessed. If not, it is for the
prince to explain in what other way I did or could affect him so

This explanation of the else unaccountable horror manifested by the ex-
Landgrave on the sudden exposure of The Masque's features, received a
remarkable confirmation from the confession of the miserable assassin
at Waldenhausen. This man's illness had been first brought on by the
sudden shock of a situation pretty nearly the same, acting on a
conscience more disturbed, and a more superstitious mind. In the very
act of attempting to assassinate or rob Maximilian, he had been
suddenly dragged by that prince into a dazzling light; and this
settling full upon features which too vividly recalled to the
murderer's recollection the last unhappy Landgrave, at the very same
period of blooming manhood, and in his own favorite hunting palace, not
far from which the murder had been perpetrated, naturally enough had
for a time unsettled the guilty man's understanding, and, terminating
in a nervous fever, had at length produced his penitential death.

A death, happily of the same character, soon overtook the deposed
Landgrave. He was laid by the side of his daughter, whose memory, as
much even as his own penitence, availed to gather round his final
resting-place the forgiving thoughts even of those who had suffered
most from his crimes. Klosterheim in the next age flourished greatly,
being one of those cities which benefited by the peace of Westphalia.
Many changes took place in consequence, greatly affecting the
architectural character of the town and its picturesque antiquities;
but, amidst all revolutions of this nature, the secret passages still
survive, and to this day are shown occasionally to strangers of rank
and consideration, by which, more than by any other of the advantages
at his disposal, The Masque of Klosterheim was enabled to replace
himself in his patrimonial rights, and at the same time to liberate
from a growing oppression his own compatriots and subjects.


The most ancient [Footnote: That is, amongst stories not wearing a
_mythologic_ character, such as those of Prometheus, Hercules, &c.
The era of Troy and its siege is doubtless by some centuries older than
its usual chronologic date of nine centuries before Christ. And
considering the mature age of Eteocles and Polynices, the two sons of
dipus, at the period of the "_Seven against Thebes_," which seven
were contemporary with the _fathers_ of the heroes engaged in the
Trojan war, it becomes necessary to add sixty or seventy years to the
Trojan date, in order to obtain that of dipus and the Sphinx. Out of
the Hebrew Scriptures, there is nothing purely historic so old as
this.] story in the Pagan records, older by two generations than the
story of Troy, is that of dipus and his mysterious fate, which wrapt
in ruin both himself and all his kindred. No story whatever continued
so long to impress the Greek sensibilities with religious awe, or was
felt by the great tragic poets to be so supremely fitted for scenical
representation. In one of its stages, this story is clothed with the
majesty of darkness; in another stage, it is radiant with burning
lights of female love, the most faithful and heroic, offering a
beautiful relief to the preternatural malice dividing the two sons of
dipus. This malice was so intense, that when the corpses of both
brothers were burned together on the same funeral pyre (as by one
tradition they were), the flames from each parted asunder, and refused
to mingle. This female love was so intense, that it survived the death
of its object, cared not for human praise or blame, and laughed at the
grave which waited in the rear for itself, yawning visibly for
immediate retribution. There are four separate movements through which
this impassioned tale devolves; all are of commanding interest; and all
wear a character of portentous solemnity, which fits them for
harmonizing with the dusky shadows of that deep antiquity into which
they ascend.

One only feature there is in the story, and this belongs to its second
stage (which is also its sublimest stage), where a pure taste is likely
to pause, and to revolt as from something not perfectly reconciled with
the general depth of the coloring. This lies in the Sphinx's riddle,
which, as hitherto explained, seems to us deplorably below the grandeur
of the occasion. Three thousand years, at the least, have passed away
since that riddle was propounded; and it seems odd enough that the
proper solution should not present itself till November of 1849. That
is true; it seems odd, but still it is possible, that we, in _anno
domini_ 1849, may see further through a mile-stone than dipus, the
king, in the year B. c. twelve or thirteen hundred. The long interval
between the enigma and its answer may remind the reader of an old story
in Joe Miller, where a traveller, apparently an inquisitive person, in
passing-through a toll-bar, said to the keeper, "How do you like your
eggs dressed?" Without waiting for the answer, he rode off; but twenty-
five years later, riding through the same bar, kept by the same man,
the traveller looked steadfastly at him, and received the monosyllabic
answer, "_Poached_." A long parenthesis is twenty-five years; and
we, gazing back over a far wider gulf of time, shall endeavor to look
hard at the Sphinx, and to convince that mysterious young lady,--if our
voice can reach her,--that she was too easily satisfied with the answer
given; that the true answer is yet to come; and that, in fact, dipus
shouted before he was out of the wood.

But, first of all, let us rehearse the circumstances of this old
Grecian story. For in a popular journal it is always a duty to assume
that perhaps three readers out of four may have had no opportunity, by
the course of their education, for making themselves acquainted with
classical legends. And in this present case, besides the
indispensableness of the story to the proper comprehension of our own
improved answer to the Sphinx, the story has a separate and independent
value of its own; for it illustrates a profound but obscure idea of
Pagan ages, which is connected with the elementary glimpses of man into
the abysses of his higher relations, and lurks mysteriously amongst
what Milton so finely calls "the dark foundations" of our human nature.
This notion it is hard to express in modern phrase, for we have no idea
exactly corresponding to it; but in Latin it was called _piacularity_.
The reader must understand upon our authority, _nostro periculo_, and
in defiance of all the false translations spread through books, that
the ancients (meaning the Greeks and Romans before the time of
Christianity) had no idea, not by the faintest vestige, of what in the
scriptural system is called _sin_. The Latin word _peccatum_, the Greek
word _amartia_, are translated continually by the word _sin_; but
neither one word nor the other has any such meaning in writers
belonging to the pure classical period. When baptized into new meaning
by the adoption of Christianity, these words, in common with many
others, transmigrated into new and philosophic functions. But
originally they tended towards no such acceptations, nor _could_ have
done so; seeing that the ancients had no avenue opened to them through
which the profound idea of _sin_ would have been even dimly
intelligible. Plato, four hundred years before Christ, or Cicero, more
than three hundred years later, was fully equal to the idea of _guilt_
through all its gamut; but no more equal to the idea of _sin_, than a
sagacious hound to the idea of gravitation, or of central forces. It is
the tremendous postulate upon which this idea reposes that constitutes
the initial moment of that revelation which is common to Judaism and to
Christianity. We have no intention of wandering into any discussion
upon this question. It will suffice for the service of the occasion if
we say that guilt, in all its modifications, implies only a defect or a
wound in the individual. Sin, on the other hand, the most mysterious,
and the most sorrowful of all ideas, implies a taint not in the
individual but in the race--_that_ is the distinction; or a taint
in the individual, not through any local disease of his own, but
through a scrofula equally diffused through the infinite family of man.
We are not speaking controversially, either as teachers of theology or
of philosophy; and we are careless of the particular construction by
which the reader interprets to himself this profound idea. What we
affirm is, that this idea was utterly and exquisitely inappreciable by
Pagan Greece and Rome; that various translations from Pindar,
[Footnote: And when we are speaking of this subject, it may be proper
to mention (as the very extreme anachronism which the case admits of)
that Mr. Archdeacon W. has absolutely introduced the idea of sin into
the "Iliad;" and, in a regular octavo volume, has represented it as the
key to the whole movement of the fable. It was once made a reproach to
Southey that his Don Roderick spoke, in his penitential moods, a
language too much resembling that of Methodism; yet, after all, that
prince was a Christian, and a Christian amongst Mussulmans. But what
are we to think of Achilles and Patroclus, when described as being (or
_not_ being) "under convictions of sin"?] from Aristophanes, and
from the Greek tragedians, embodying at intervals this word _sin_,
are more extravagant than would be the word _category_ introduced
into the harangue of an Indian sachem amongst the Cherokees; and
finally that the very nearest approach to the abysmal idea which we
Christians attach to the word sin--(an approach, but to that which
never can be touched--a writing as of palmistry upon each man's hand,
but a writing which "no man can read")--lies in the Pagan idea of
_piacularity_; which is an idea thus far like hereditary sin, that
it expresses an evil to which the party affected has not consciously
concurred; which is thus far _not_ like hereditary sin, that it
expresses an evil personal to the individual, and not extending itself
to the race.

This was the evil exemplified in dipus. He was loaded with an
insupportable burthen of pariah participation in pollution and misery,
to which his will had never consented. He seemed to have committed the
most atrocious crimes; he was a murderer, he was a parricide, he was
doubly incestuous, and yet how? In the case where he might be thought a
murderer, he had stood upon his self-defence, not benefiting by any
superior resources, but, on the contrary, fighting as one man against
three, and under the provocation of insufferable insolence. Had he been
a parricide? What matter, as regarded the moral guilt, if his father
(and by the fault of that father) were utterly unknown to him?
Incestuous had he been? but how, if the very oracles of fate, as
expounded by events and by mysterious creatures such as the Sphinx, had
stranded him, like a ship left by the tide, upon this dark unknown
shore of a criminality unsuspected by himself? All these treasons
against the sanctities of nature had dipus committed; and yet was this
dipus a thoroughly good man, no more dreaming of the horrors in which
he was entangled, than the eye at noonday in midsummer is conscious of
the stars that lie far behind the daylight. Let us review rapidly the
incidents of his life.

Laius, King of Thebes, the descendant of Labdacus, and representing the
illustrious house of the Labdacidae, about the time when his wife,
Jocasta, promised to present him with a child, had learned from various
prophetic voices that this unborn child was destined to be his
murderer. It is singular that in all such cases, which are many, spread
through classical literature, the parties menaced by fate believe the
menace; else why do they seek to evade it? and yet believe it not; else
why do they fancy themselves able to evade it? This fatal child, who
was the dipus of tragedy, being at length born, Laius committed the
infant to a slave, with orders to expose it on Mount Cithron. This was
done; the infant was suspended, by thongs running through the fleshy
parts of his feet, to the branches of a tree, and he was supposed to
have perished by wild beasts. But a shepherd, who found him in this
perishing state, pitied his helplessness, and carried him to his master
and mistress, King and Queen of Corinth, who adopted and educated him
as their own child. That he was _not_ their own child, and that in
fact he was a foundling of unknown parentage, dipus was not slow of
finding from the insults of his schoolfellows; and at length, with the
determination of learning his origin and his fate, being now a full-
grown young man, he strode off from Corinth to Delphi. The oracle at
Delphi, being as usual in collusion with his evil destiny, sent him off
to seek his parents at Thebes. On his journey thither, he met, in a
narrow part of the road, a chariot proceeding in the counter direction
from Thebes to Delphi. The charioteer, relying upon the grandeur of his
master, insolently ordered the young stranger to clear the road; upon
which, under the impulse of his youthful blood, dipus slew him on the
spot. The haughty grandee who occupied the chariot rose up in fury to
avenge this outrage, fought with the young stranger, and was himself
killed. One attendant upon the chariot remained; but he, warned by the
fate of his master and his fellow-servant, withdrew quietly into the
forest that skirted the road, revealing no word of what had happened,
but reserved, by the dark destiny of dipus, to that evil day on which
_his_ evidence, concurring with other circumstantial exposures,
should convict the young Corinthian emigrant of parricide. For the
present, dipus viewed himself as no criminal, but much rather as an
injured man, who had simply used his natural powers of self-defence
against an insolent aggressor. This aggressor, as the reader will
suppose, was Laius. The throne therefore was empty, on the arrival of
dipus in Thebes; the king's death was known, but not the mode of it;
and that dipus was the murderer could not reasonably be suspected
either by the people of Thebes, or by dipus himself. The whole affair
would have had no interest for the young stranger; but, through the
accident of a public calamity then desolating the land, a mysterious
monster, called the Sphinx, half woman and half lion, was at that time
on the coast of Boeotia, and levying a daily tribute of human lives
from the Boeotian territory. This tribute, it was understood, would
continue to be levied from the territories attached to Thebes, until a
riddle proposed by the monster should have been satisfactorily solved.
By way of encouragement to all who might feel prompted to undertake so
dangerous an adventure, the authorities of Thebes offered the throne
and the hand of the widowed Jocasta as the prize of success; and
dipus, either on public or on selfish motives, entered the lists as a

The riddle proposed by the Sphinx ran in these terms: "What creature is
that which moves on four feet in the morning, on two feet at noonday,
and on three towards the going down of the sun?" dipus, after some
consideration, answered that the creature was MAN, who creeps on the
ground with hands and feet when an infant, walks upright in the vigor
of manhood, and leans upon a staff in old age. Immediately the dreadful
Sphinx confessed the truth of his solution by throwing herself headlong
from a point of rock into the sea; her power being overthrown as soon
as her secret had been detected. Thus was the Sphinx destroyed; and,
according to the promise of the proclamation, for this great service to
the state dipus was immediately recompensed. He was saluted King of
Thebes, and married to the royal widow Jocasta. In this way it
happened, but without suspicion either in himself or others, pointing
to the truth, that dipus had slain his father, had ascended his
father's throne, and had married his own mother.

Through a course of years all these dreadful events lay hushed in
darkness; but at length a pestilence arose, and an embassy was
despatched to Delphi, in order to ascertain the cause of the heavenly
wrath, and the proper means of propitiating that wrath. The embassy
returned to Thebes armed with a knowledge of the fatal secrets
connected with dipus, but under some restraints of prudence in making
a publication of what so dreadfully affected the most powerful
personage in the state. Perhaps, in the whole history of human art as
applied to the evolution of a poetic fable, there is nothing more
exquisite than the management of this crisis by Sophocles. A natural
discovery, first of all, connects dipus with the death of Laius. That
discovery comes upon him with some surprise, but with no shock of fear
or remorse. That he had killed a man of rank in a sudden quarrel, he
had always known; that this man was now discovered to be Laius, added
nothing to the reasons for regret. The affair remained as it was. It
was simply a case of personal strife on the high road, and one which
had really grown out of aristocratic violence in the adverse party.
dipus had asserted his own rights and dignity only as all brave men
would have done in an age that knew nothing of civic police.

It was true that this first discovery--the identification of himself as
the slayer of Laius--drew after it two others, namely, that it was the
throne of his victim on which he had seated himself, and that it was
_his_ widow whom he had married. But these were no offences; and,
on the contrary, they were distinctions won at great risk to himself,
and by a great service to the country. Suddenly, however, the
reappearance and disclosures of the shepherd who had saved his life
during infancy in one moment threw a dazzling but funereal light upon
the previous discoveries that else had seemed so trivial. In an instant
everything was read in another sense. The death of Laius, the marriage
with his widow, the appropriation of his throne, all towered into
colossal crimes, illimitable, and opening no avenues to atonement.
dipus, in the agonies of his horror, inflicts blindness upon himself;
Jocasta commits suicide; the two sons fall into fiery feuds for the
assertion of their separate claims on the throne, but previously unite
for the expulsion of dipus, as one who had become a curse to Thebes.
And thus the poor, heart-shattered king would have been turned out upon
the public roads, aged, blind, and a helpless vagrant, but for the
sublime piety of his two daughters, but especially of Antigone, the
elder. They share with their unhappy father the hardships and perils of
the road, and do not leave him until the moment of his mysterious
summons to some ineffable death in the woods of Colonus. The expulsion
of Polynices, the younger son, from Thebes; his return with a
confederate band of princes for the recovery of his rights; the death
of the two brothers in single combat; the public prohibition of funeral
rights to Polynices, as one who had levied war against his native land;
and the final reappearance of Antigone, who defies the law, and secures
a grave to her brother at the certain price of a grave to herself--
these are the sequels and arrears of the family overthrow accomplished
through the dark destiny of dipus.

And now, having reviewed the incidents of the story, in what respect is
it that we object to the solution of the Sphinx's riddle? We do not
object to it as _a_ solution of the riddle, and the only one
possible at the moment; but what we contend is, that it is not
_the_ solution. All great prophecies, all great mysteries, are
likely to involve double, triple, or even quadruple interpretations--
each rising in dignity, each cryptically involving another. Even
amongst natural agencies, precisely as they rise in grandeur, they
multiply their final purposes. Rivers and seas, for instance, are
useful, not merely as means of separating nations from each other, but
also as means of uniting them; not merely as baths and for all purposes
of washing and cleansing, but also as reservoirs of fish, as high-roads
for the conveyance of commodities, as permanent sources of agricultural
fertility, &c. In like manner, a mystery of any sort, having a public
reference, may be presumed to couch within it a secondary and a
profounder interpretation. The reader may think that the Sphinx ought
to have understood her own riddle best; and that, if _she_ were
satisfied with the answer of dipus, it must be impertinent in us at
this time of day to censure it. To censure, indeed, is more than we
propose. The solution of dipus was a true one; and it was all that he
_could_ have given in that early period of his life. But, perhaps,
at the moment of his death amongst the gloomy thickets of Attica, he
might have been able to suggest another and a better. If not, then we
have the satisfaction of thinking ourselves somewhat less dense than
dipus; for, in our opinion, the full and _final_ answer to the
Sphinx's riddle lay in the word DIPUS. dipus himself it was that
fulfilled the conditions of the enigma. He it was, in the most pathetic
sense, that went upon four feet when an infant; for the general
condition of helplessness attached to all mankind in the period of
infancy, and which is expressed symbolically by this image of creeping,
applied to dipus in a far more significant manner, as one abandoned by
all his natural protectors, thrown upon the chances of a wilderness,
and upon the mercies of a slave. The allusion to this general
helplessness had, besides, a special propriety in the case of dipus,
who drew his very name (_Swollen-foot_) from the injury done to
his infant feet. He, again, it was that, in a more emphatic sense than
usual, asserted that majestic self-sufficientness and independence of
all alien aid, which is typified by the act of walking upright at
noonday upon his own natural basis. Throwing off all the power and
splendor borrowed from his royal protectors at Corinth, trusting
exclusively to his native powers as a man, he had fought his way
through insult to the presence of the dreadful Sphinx; her he had
confounded and vanquished; he had leaped into a throne,--the throne of
him who had insulted him,--without other resources than such as he drew
from himself, and he had, in the same way, obtained a royal bride. With
good right, therefore, he was foreshadowed in the riddle as one who
walked upright by his own masculine vigor, and relied upon no gifts but
those of nature. Lastly, by a sad but a pitying image, dipus is
described as supporting himself at nightfall on three feet; for dipus
it was that by his cruel sons would have been rejected from Thebes,
with no auxiliary means of motion or support beyond his own languishing
powers: blind and broken-hearted, he must have wandered into snares and
ruin; his own feet must have been supplanted immediately: but then came
to his aid another foot, the holy Antigone. She it was that guided and
cheered him, when all the world had forsaken him; she it was that
already, in the vision of the cruel Sphinx, had been prefigured dimly
as the staff upon which dipus should lean, as the _third_ foot
that should support his steps when the deep shadows of his sunset were
gathering and settling about his grave.

In this way we obtain a solution of the Sphinx's riddle more
commensurate and symmetrical with the other features of the story,
which are all clothed with the grandeur of mystery. The Sphinx herself
is a mystery. Whence came her monstrous nature, that so often renewed
its remembrance amongst men of distant lands, in Egyptian or Ethiopian
marble? Whence came her wrath against Thebes? This wrath, how durst it
tower so high as to measure itself against the enmity of a nation? This
wrath, how came it to sink so low as to collapse at the echo of a word
from a friendless stranger? Mysterious again is the blind collusion of
this unhappy stranger with the dark decrees of fate. The very
misfortunes of his infancy had given into his hands one chance more for
escape: these misfortunes had transferred him to Corinth, and staying
_there_ he was safe. But the headstrong haughtiness of youthful
blood causes him to recoil unknowingly upon the one sole spot of all
the earth where the coefficients for ratifying his destruction are
waiting and lying in ambush. Heaven and earth are silent for a
generation; one might fancy that they are _treacherously_ silent,
in order that dipus may have time for building up to the clouds the
pyramid of his mysterious offences. His four children, incestuously
born, sons that are his brothers, daughters that are his sisters, have
grown up to be men and women, before the first mutterings are becoming
audible of that great tide slowly coming up from the sea, which is to
sweep away himself and the foundations of his house. Heaven and earth
must now bear joint witness against him. Heaven speaks first: the
pestilence that walketh in darkness is made the earliest minister of
the discovery,--the pestilence it is, scourging the seven-gated Thebes,
as very soon the Sphinx will scourge her, that is appointed to usher
in, like some great ceremonial herald, that sad drama of Nemesis,--that
vast procession of revelation and retribution which the earth, and the
graves of the earth, must finish. Mysterious also is the pomp of ruin
with which this revelation of the past descends upon that ancient house
of Thebes. Like a shell from modern artillery, it leaves no time for
prayer or evasion, but shatters by the same explosion all that stand
within its circle of fury. Every member of that devoted household, as
if they had been sitting--not around a sacred domestic hearth, but
around the crater of some surging volcano--all alike, father and
mother, sons and daughters, are wrapt at once in fiery whirlwinds of
ruin. And, amidst this general agony of destroying wrath, one central
mystery, as a darkness within a darkness, withdraws itself into a
secrecy unapproachable by eyesight, or by filial love, or by guesses of
the brain--and _that_ is the death of dipus. _Did_ he die? Even
_that_ is more than we can say. How dreadful does the sound fall
upon the heart of some poor, horror-stricken criminal, pirate or
murderer, that has offended by a mere human offence, when, at
nightfall, tempted by the sweet spectacle of a peaceful hearth, he
creeps stealthily into some village inn, and hopes for one night's
respite from his terror, but suddenly feels the touch, and hears the
voice, of the stern officer, saying, "Sir, you are wanted." Yet that
summons is but too intelligible; it shocks, but it bewilders not; and
the utmost of its malice is bounded by the scaffold. "Deep," says the
unhappy man, "is the downward path of anguish which I am called to
tread; but it has been trodden by others." For dipus there was no such
comfort. What language of man or trumpet of angel could decipher the
woe of that unfathomable call, when, from the depth of ancient woods, a
voice that drew like gravitation, that sucked in like a vortex, far off
yet near, in some distant world yet close at hand, cried, "Hark,
dipus! King dipus! come hither! thou art wanted!" _Wanted!_ for
what? Was it for death? was it for judgment? was it for some wilderness
of pariah eternities? No man ever knew. Chasms opened in the earth;
dark gigantic arms stretched out to receive the king; clouds and vapor
settled over the penal abyss; and of him only, though the neighborhood
of his disappearance was known, no trace or visible record survived--
neither bones, nor grave, nor dust, nor epitaph.

Did the Sphinx follow with her cruel eye this fatal tissue of calamity
to its shadowy crisis at Colonus? As the billows closed over her head,
did she perhaps attempt to sting with her dying words? Did she say, "I,
the daughter of mystery, am _called_; I am _wanted_. But, amidst the
uproar of the sea, and the clangor of sea-birds, high over all I hear
another though a distant summons. I can hear that thou, dipus, the son
of mystery, art _called_ from afar: thou also wilt be _wanted_." Did
the wicked Sphinx labor in vain, amidst her parting convulsions, to
breathe this freezing whisper into the heart of him that had overthrown

Who can say? Both of these enemies were pariah mysteries, and may have
faced each other again with blazing malice in some pariah world. But
all things in this dreadful story ought to be harmonized. Already in
itself it is an ennobling and an idealizing of the riddle, that it is
made a double riddle; that it contains an exoteric sense obvious to all
the world, but also an esoteric sense--now suggested conjecturally
after thousands of years--_possibly_ unknown to the Sphinx, and
_certainly_ unknown to dipus; that this second riddle is hid
within the first; that the one riddle is the secret commentary upon the
other; and that the earliest is the hieroglyphic of the last. Thus far
as regards the riddle itself; and, as regards dipus in particular, it
exalts the mystery around him, that in reading this riddle, and in
tracing the vicissitudes from infancy to old age, attached to the
general destiny of his race, unconsciously he was tracing the dreadful
vicissitudes attached specially and separately to his own.




I have resolved to fling my analysis of Mr. Ricardo's system into the
form of Dialogues. A few words will suffice to determine the principles
of criticism which can fairly be applied to such a form of composition
on such a subject. It cannot reasonably be expected that dialogues on
Political Economy should pretend to the appropriate beauty of dialogues
_as_ dialogues, by throwing any dramatic interest into the parts
sustained by the different speakers, or any characteristic distinctions
into their style. Elegance of this sort, if my time had allowed of it,
or I had been otherwise capable of producing it, would have been here
misplaced. Not that I would say even of Political Economy, in the words
commonly applied to such subjects, that "_Ornari res ipsa negat,
contenta doceri:_" for all things have their peculiar beauty and
sources of ornament--determined by their ultimate ends, and by the
process of the mind in pursuing them. Here, as in the processes of
nature and in mathematical demonstrations, the appropriate elegance is
derived from the simplicity of the means employed, as expressed in the
"Lex Parcimoni" ("Frustra fit per plura, quod fieri fas erat per
pauciora"), and other maxims of that sort. This simplicity, however,
must be looked for in the order and relation of the thoughts, and in
the steps through which they are trained to lead into each other,
rather than in any anxious conciseness as to words; which, on the
contrary, I have rather sought to avoid in the earlier Dialogues, in
order that I might keep those distinctions longer before the reader
from which all the rest were to be derived. For he who has fully
mastered the doctrine of Value is already a good political economist.
Now, if any man should object, that in the following dialogues I have
uniformly given the victory to myself, he will make a pleasant logical
blunder: for the true logic of the case is this: Not that it is myself
to whom I give the victory; but that he to whom I give the victory (let
me call him by what name I will) is of necessity myself; since I cannot
be supposed to have put triumphant arguments into any speaker's mouth,
unless they had previously convinced my own understanding. Finally, let
me entreat the reader not to be impatient under the disproportionate
length (as he may fancy it) of the opening discussions on Value: even
for its own sake, the subject is a matter of curious speculation; but
in relation to Political Economy it is all in all; for most of the
errors (and, what is much worse than errors, most of the perplexities)
prevailing in this science take their rise from this source. Mr.
Ricardo is the first writer who has thrown light on the subject; and
even he, in the last edition of his book, still found it a "difficult"
one (see the Advertisement to the Third Edition). What a Ricardo has
found difficult, cannot be adequately discussed in few words; but, if
the reader will once thoroughly master this part of the science, all
the rest will cost him hardly any effort at all.

* * * * *



_Phdrus_. This, Philebus, is my friend X. Y. Z., whom I have long
wished to introduce to you; he has some business which calls him into
this quarter of the town for the next fortnight; and during that time
he has promised to dine with me; and we are to discuss together the
modern doctrines of Political Economy; most of which, he tells me, are
due to Mr. Ricardo. Or rather, I should say, that I am to become his
pupil; for I pretend to no regular knowledge of Political Economy,
having picked up what little I possess in a desultory way amongst the
writers of the old school; and, out of that little, X. obligingly tells
me that three fourths are rotten. I am glad, therefore, that you are in
town at this time, and can come and help me to contradict him. Meantime
X. has some right to play the tutor amongst us; for he has been a
regular student of the science: another of his merits is, that he is a
Templar as well as ourselves, and a good deal senior to either of us.

_Philebus_. And for which of his merits is it that you would have
me contradict him?

_Phd_. O, no matter for his merits, which doubtless are past all
computation, but generally as a point of hospitality. For I am of the
same opinion as M----, a very able friend of mine in Liverpool, who
looks upon it as criminal to concede anything a man says in the process
of a disputation: the nefarious habit of assenting (as he justly says)
being the pest of conversation, by causing it to stagnate. On this
account he often calls aside the talking men of the party before
dinner, and conjures them with a pathetic earnestness not to agree with
him in anything he may advance during the evening; and at his own
table, when it has happened that strangers were present who indulged
too much in the habit of politely assenting to anything which seemed to
demand no particular opposition, I have seen him suddenly pause with
the air of the worst-used man in the world, and exclaim, "Good heavens!
is there to be no end to this? Am I _never_ to be contradicted? I
suppose matters will soon come to that pass that my nearest relations
will be perfidiously agreeing with me; the very wife of my bosom will
refuse to contradict me; and I shall not have a friend left on whom I
can depend for the consolations of opposition."

_Phil_. Well, Phdrus, if X. Y. Z. is so much devoted as you
represent to the doctrines of Mr. Ricardo, I shall perhaps find myself
obliged to indulge your wishes in this point more than my own taste in
conversation would lead me to desire.

_X_. And what, may I ask, is the particular ground of your
opposition to Mr. Ricardo?

_Phd_. I suppose that, like the man who gave his vote against
Aristides, because it wearied him to hear any man surnamed _the
just_, Philebus is annoyed by finding that so many people look up to
Mr. Ricardo as an oracle.

_Phil_. No: for the very opposite reason; it is because I hear him
generally complained of as obscure, and as ambitiously paradoxical; two
faults which I cannot tolerate: and the extracts from his writings
which I have seen satisfy me that this judgment is a reasonable one.

_Phd_. In addition to which, Philebus, I now recollect something
which perhaps weighs with you still more, though you have chosen to
suppress it; and _that_ is, that you are a disciple of Mr. Malthus,
every part of whose writings, since the year 1816 (I am assured), have
had one origin--jealousy of Mr. Ricardo, "quem si non aliqua nocuisset,
mortuus esset."

_X_. No, no, Phdrus; we must not go so far as _that_; though
undoubtedly it is true that Mr. Malthus has often conducted his
opposition in a most vexatious and disingenuous manner.

_Phil_. How so? In what instance? In what instance?

_X_. In this, for one. Mr. Malthus, in his "Political Economy"
(1820), repeatedly charged Mr. Ricardo with having confounded the two
notions of "cost" and "value:" I smile, by the way, when I repeat such
a charge, as if it were the office of a Ricardo to confound, or of a
Malthus to distinguish: but

"Non usque adeo permiscuit imis
Longus summa dies, ut non--si voce Metelli
Serventur leges--malint a Csare tolli."

[Footnote: For the sake of the unclassical reader, I add a prose
translation:--Not to such an extent has the lapse of time confounded
things highest with things lowest, as that--if the laws can be saved
only by the voice of a Metellus--they would not rather choose to be
abolished by a Csar.]

_Phil_. "Imis!" Why, I hope, if Mr. Ricardo may do for the Csar
of the case, Mr. Malthus is not therefore to be thought the Metellus.
"Imis," indeed!

_X_. As to _this_, he is: his general merits of good sense and
ingenuity we all acknowledge; but for the office of a distinguisher, or
any other which demands logic in the first place, it is impossible to
conceive any person below him. To go on, however, with my instance:--
this objection of Mr. Malthus' about "cost" and "value" was founded
purely on a very great blunder of his own--so great, that (as I shall
show in its proper place) even Mr. Ricardo did not see the whole extent
of his misconception: thus much, however, was plain, that the meaning
of Mr. Malthus was, that the new doctrine of value allowed for wages,
but did _not_ allow for profits; and thus, according to the
Malthusian terminology, expressed the cost but not the value of a
thing. What was Mr. Ricardo's answer? In the third edition of his book
(p. 46), he told Mr. Malthus that, if the word "cost" were understood
in any sense which _excluded_ profits, then he did not assert the
thing attributed to him; on the other hand, if it were understood in a
sense which _included_ profits, then of course he did assert it;
but, then, in that sense Mr. Malthus himself did not deny it. This
plain answer was published in 1821. Will it be believed that two years
after (namely, in the spring of 1823), Mr. Malthus published a
pamphlet, in which he repeats the same objection over and over again,
without a hint that it had ever met with a conclusive explanation which
it was impossible to misunderstand? Neither must it be alleged that Mr.
Malthus might not have seen this third edition; for it is the very
edition which he constantly quotes in that pamphlet.

_Phd_. What say you to this, my dear Philebus? You seem to be in

_X_. But an instance of far greater disingenuousness is this: Mr.
Ricardo, after laying down the general law of value, goes on to state
three cases in which that law will be modified; and the extraordinary
sagacity with which he has detected and stated these modifications, and
the startling consequences to which they lead, have combined to make
this one of the most remarkable chapters in his books. Now, it is a
fact, gentlemen, that these very restrictions of his own law--so openly
stated as restrictions by Mr. Ricardo--are brought forward by Mr.
Malthus as so many objections of his own to upset that law. The logic,
as usual, is worthy of notice; for it is as if, in a question about the
force of any projectile, a man should urge the resistance of the air,
not as a limitation of that force, but as a capital objection to it.
What I here insist on, however, is its extreme disingenuousness. But
this is a subject which it is unpleasant to pursue; and the course of
our subject will of itself bring us but too often across the blunders
and misstatements of Mr. Malthus. To recur, therefore, to what you
objected about Mr. Ricardo--that he was said to be paradoxical and
obscure--I presume that you use the word "paradoxical" in the common
and improper sense, as denoting what has a specious air of truth and
subtlety, but is in fact false; whereas I need not tell _you_ that
a paradox is the very opposite of this--meaning in effect what has a
specious air of falsehood, though possibly very true; for a paradox,
you know, is simply that which contradicts the popular opinion--which
in too many cases is the false opinion; and in none more inevitably
than in cases as remote from the popular understanding as all questions
of severe science. However, use the word in what sense you please, Mr.
Ricardo is no ways interested in the charge. Are my doctrines true, are
they demonstrable? is the question for him; if not, let them be
overthrown; if _that_ is beyond any man's power, what matters it
to him that the slumbering intellect of the multitude regards them as
strange? As to obscurity, in general it is of two kinds--one arising
out of the writer's own perplexity of thought; which is a vicious
obscurity; and in this sense the opponents of Mr. Ricardo are the
obscurest of all economists. Another kind--

_Phd_. Ay, now let us hear what is a virtuous obscurity.

_X_. I do not say, Phdrus, that in any case it can be meritorious
to be obscure; but I say that in many cases it is very natural to be
so, and pardonable in profound thinkers, and in some cases inevitable.
For the other kind of obscurity which I was going to notice is that
which I would denominate elliptical obscurity; arising, I mean, out of
the frequent ellipsis or suppression of some of the links in a long
chain of thought; these are often involuntarily suppressed by profound
thinkers, from the disgust which they naturally feel at overlaying a
subject with superfluous explanations. So far from seeing too dimly, as
in the case of perplexed obscurity, their defect is the very reverse;
they see too clearly; and fancy that others see as clearly as
themselves. Such, without any tincture of confusion, was the obscurity
of Kant (though in him there was also a singular defect of the art of
communicating knowledge, as he was himself aware); such was the
obscurity of Leibnitz (who otherwise was remarkable for his felicity in
explaining himself); such, if any, is the obscurity of Ricardo; though,
for my own part, I must acknowledge that I could never find any; to me
he seems a model of perspicuity. But I believe that the very ground of
his perspicuity to me is the ground of his apparent obscurity to some
others, and _that_ is--his inexorable consistency in the use of
words; and this is one of the cases which I alluded to in speaking of
an "inevitable obscurity;" for, wherever men have been accustomed to
use a word in two senses, and have yet supposed themselves to use it
but in one, a writer, who corrects this lax usage, and forces them to
maintain the unity of the meaning, will always appear obscure; because
he will oblige them to deny or to affirm consequences from which they
were hitherto accustomed to escape under a constant though unconscious
equivocation between the two senses. Thus, for example, Mr. Ricardo
sternly insists on the _true_ sense of the word Value, and (what
is still more unusual to most men) insists on using it but in
_one_ sense; and hence arise consequences which naturally appear
at once obscure and paradoxical to M. Say, to Mr. Malthus, to the
author of an Essay on Value; [Footnote: I forget the exact title; but
it was printed for Hunter, St. Paul's Church-yard.] and to all other
lax thinkers, who easily bend their understandings to the infirmity of
the popular usage. Hence, it is not surprising to find Mr. Malthus
complaining ("Polit. Econ.," p. 214) of "the _unusual_ application
of common terms" as having made Mr. Ricardo's work "difficult to be
understood by many people;" though, in fact, there is nothing at all
unusual in his application of any term whatever, but only in the
steadiness with which he keeps to the same application of it.

_Phil_. These distinctions of yours on the subject of obscurity I
am disposed to think reasonable; and, unless the contrary should appear
in the course of our conversations, I will concede them to be
applicable to the case of Mr. Ricardo; his obscurity may be venial, or
it may be inevitable, or even none at all (if you will have it so). But
I cannot allow of the cases of Kant and Leibnitz as at all relevant to
that before us. For, the obscurity complained of in metaphysics, etc.,
is inherent in the very _objects_ contemplated, and is independent
of the particular mind contemplating, and exists in defiance of the
utmost talents for diffusing light; whereas the objects about which
Political Economy is concerned are acknowledged by all persons to be
clear and simple enough, so that any obscurity which hangs over them,
must arise from imperfections in the art of arranging and conveying
ideas on the part of him who undertakes to teach it.

_X_. This I admit: any obscurity which clouds Political Economy,
unless where it arises from want of sufficient facts, must be
subjective; whereas the main obscurity which besets metaphysics is
objective; and such an obscurity is in the fullest sense inevitable.
But this I did not overlook; for an objective obscurity it is in the
power of any writer to aggravate by his own perplexities; and I alleged
the cases of Kant and Leibnitz no further than as they were said to
have done so; contending that, if Mr. Ricardo were at all liable to the
same charge, he was entitled to the same apology; namely, that he is
never obscure from any confusion of thought, but, on the contrary, from
too keen a perception of the truth, which may have seduced him at times
into too elliptic a development of his opinions, and made him impatient
of the tardy and continuous steps which are best adapted to the
purposes of the teacher. For the fact is, that the _laborers of the
Mine_ (as I am accustomed to call them), or those who dig up the
metal of truth, are seldom fitted to be also _laborers of the
Mint_--that is, to work up the metal for current use. Besides which,
it must not be forgotten that Mr. Ricardo did not propose to deliver an
entire system of Political Economy, but only an investigation of such
doctrines as had happened to be imperfectly or erroneously stated. On
this account, much of his work is polemic; and presumes, therefore, in
the reader an acquaintance with the writers whom he is opposing.
Indeed, in every chapter there is an under reference, not to this or
that author only, but to the whole current of modern opinions on the
subject, which demands a learned reader who is already master of what
is generally received for truth in Political Economy.

_Phil_. Upon this statement it appears at any rate that Mr.
Ricardo's must be a most improper book as an elementary one. But, after
all, you will admit that even amongst Mr. Ricardo's friends there is a
prevailing opinion that he is too subtle (or, as it is usually
expressed, too theoretic) a writer to be safely relied on for the
practical uses of legislation.

_X_. Yes. And, indeed, we are all so deeply indebted to English
wisdom on matters where theories really _are_ dangerous, that we
ought not to wonder or to complain if the jealousy of all which goes
under that name be sometimes extended to cases in which it is idle to
suppose any opposition possible between the _true_ theory and the
practice. However, on the whole question which has been moved in regard
to Mr. Ricardo's obscurity or tendency to paradox or to over refinement
and false subtlety, I am satisfied if I have won you to any provisional
suspension of your prejudices; and will now press it no further--
willingly leaving the matter to be settled by the result of our

_Phd_. Do so, X.; and especially because my watch informs me that
dinner--an event too awfully practical to allow of any violation from
mere sublunary disputes--will be announced in six minutes; within which
space of time I will trouble you to produce the utmost possible amount
of truth with the least possible proportion of obscurity, whether
"subjective" or "objective," that may be convenient.

_X_. As the time which you allow us is so short, I think that I
cannot better employ it than in reading a short paper which I have
drawn up on the most general distribution of Mr. Ricardo's book;
because this may serve to guide us in the course of our future

Mr. Ricardo's Principles of Political Economy consisted in the second
edition of thirty-one chapters, to which, in the third edition, was
added another, making thirty-two. These thirty-two chapters fall into
the following classification:--Fourteen are on the subject of Taxation,
namely, the eighth to the eighteenth, [Footnote: The eleventh is on
Tithes; and the eighteenth on Poor Rates; but these of course belong to
the subject of Taxation properly defined. The present Lord Chancellor
(late Earl of Eldon) said on some cause which came before him about a
year ago, that Tithes were unjustly called a Tax; meaning only that
Tithes were not any arbitrary imposition of the government, but claimed
by as good a tenure as any other sort of property. In this doctrine no
doubt the Chancellor was perfectly right; and only wrong in supposing
that any denial of that doctrine is implied by the Political Economists
in calling Tithes a Tax; which, on the true definition of a Tax (as I
shall show hereafter), they certainly are.] inclusively, the twenty-
second, twenty-third, and twenty-ninth; and these may be entirely
omitted by the student, and ought at any rate to be omitted on his
first examination of the work. For, though Mr. Ricardo has really been
not the chief so much as the sole author of any important truths on the
subject of Taxation, and though his fourteen chapters on that head are
so many inestimable corollaries from his general doctrines, and could
never have been obtained without them, yet these general doctrines have
no sort of reciprocal dependency upon what concerns Taxation.
Consequently, it will greatly lighten the burden to a student if these
fourteen chapters are sequestered from the rest of the work, and
reserved for a separate and after investigation, which may furnish a
commentary on the first. The chapters on Taxation deducted, there
remain, therefore, seventeen in the second edition, or eighteen in the
third. These contain the general principles, but also something more--
which may furnish matter for a second subtraction. For, in most
speculations of this nature it usually happens that, over and above the
direct positive communication of new truths, a writer finds it
expedient (or, perhaps, necessary in some cases, in order to clear the
ground for himself) to address part of his efforts to the task of
meeting the existing errors; hence arises a division of his work into
the doctrinal or _affirmative_ part, and the polemic [Footnote:
_Polemic_.--There is an occasional tendency in the use and practice
of the English language capriciously to limit the use of certain words.
Thus, for instance, the word _condign_ is used only in connection with
the word _punishment_; the word _implicit_ is used only (unless by
scholars, like Milton) in connection with _faith_, or _confidence_. So
also _putative_ is restricted most absurdly to the one sole word,
_father_, in a question of doubtful affiliation. These and other words,
if unlocked from their absurd imprisonment, would become extensively
useful. We should say, for instance, "condign honors," "condign rewards,"
"condign treatment" (treatment appropriate to the merits)--thus at once
realizing two rational purposes: namely, giving a useful function to a
word, which at present has none; and also providing an intelligible
expression for an idea which otherwise is left without means of
uttering itself, except through a ponderous circumlocution. Precisely
in the same circumstances of idle and absurd sequestration stands the
term _polemic_. At present, according to the popular usage, this
word has some fantastic inalienable connection with controversial
theology. There cannot be a more childish chimera. No doubt there is a
polemic side or aspect of theology; but so there is of _all_
knowledge; so there is of _every_ science. The radical and
characteristic idea concerned in this term _polemic_ is found in
our own parliamentary distinction of _the good speaker_, as
contrasted with _the good debater_. The good speaker is he who
unfolds the whole of a question in its affirmative aspects, who
presents these aspects in their just proportions, and according to
their orderly and symmetrical deductions from each other. But _the
good debater_ is he who faces the negative aspects of the question,
who meets sudden objections, has an answer for any momentary summons of
doubt or difficulty, dissipates seeming inconsistencies, and reconciles
the geometrical smoothness of _a priori_ abstractions with the
coarse angularities of practical experience. The great work of Ricardo
is of necessity, and almost in every page, polemic; whilst very often
the particular objections or difficulties to which it replies are not
indicated at all--being spread through entire systems, and assumed as
_precognita_ that are familiar to the learned student.] or
_negative_ part. In Mr. Ricardo's writings, all parts (as I have
already observed) have a latent polemic reference; but some, however,
are more directly and formally polemic than the rest; and these may be
the more readily detached from the main body of the work, because (like
the chapters on Taxation) they are all corollaries from the general
laws, and in no case introductory to them. Divided on this principle,
the eighteen chapters fall into the following arrangement:

Chap. Affirmative Chapters.
4. on Value;

2. on Rent;

5. on Wages;
6. on Profits;
7. on Foreign Trade;
19. on Sudden Changes in Trade;
21. on Accumulation;
25. on Colonial Trade;
27. on Currency and Banks;
31. on Machinery.

Chap. Negative (or Polemic) Chapters.
20. on Value and Riches: against Adam Smith, Lord Lauderdale,
M. Say;
24. Rent of Land: against Adam Smith;
26. Gross and Net Revenue: against Adam Smith;
28. Relations of Gold, Corn, and Labor, under certain
circumstances: against A. Smith;
32. Rent: against Mr. Malthus.

Deducting the polemic chapters, there remain thirteen affirmative or
doctrinal chapters; of which one (the twenty-seventh), on Currency,
&c., ought always to be insulated from all other parts of Political
Economy. And thus, out of the whole thirty-two chapters, twelve only
are important to the student on his first examination; and to these I
propose to limit our discussions.

_Phd_. Be it so, and now let us adjourn to more solemn duties.

* * * * *



_Phd_. To cut the matter short, X. Y. Z., and to begin as near as
possible to the end--is there any one principle in Political Economy
from which all the rest can be deduced? A principle, I mean, which all
others presuppose; but which itself presupposes none.

_X_. There is, Phdrus; such a principle exists in the doctrine of
Value--truly explained. The question from which all Political Economy
will be found to move--the question to which all its difficulties will
be found reducible--is this: _What is the ground of exchangeable
value_? My hat, for example, bears the same value as your umbrella;
double the value of my shoes; four times the value of my gloves; one
twentieth of the value of this watch. Of these several relations of
value, what is the sufficient cause? If they were capricious, no such
science as that of Political Economy could exist; not being capricious,
they must have an assignable cause; this cause--what is it?

_Phd_. Ay, what is it?

_X_. It is this, Phdrus; and the entire merit of the discovery
belongs to Mr. Ricardo. It is this; and listen with your whole
understanding: _the ground of the value of all things lies in the
quantity_ (but mark well that word "quantity") _of labor which
produces them_. Here is that great principle which is the corner-
stone of all tenable Political Economy; which granted or denied, all
Political Economy stands or falls. Grant me this one principle, with a
few square feet of the sea-shore to draw my diagrams upon, and I will
undertake to deduce every other truth in the science.

_Phd_. Take it and welcome. It would be impossible for most
people to raise a cabbage out of the sea-shore, though the sand were
manured by principles the noblest. You, therefore, my dear friend, that
promise to raise from it, not a cabbage, but a system of Political
Economy, are doubly entitled to your _modicum_ of sand, and to
your principle beside; which last is, I dare say, a very worthy and
respectable principle, and not at all the worse for being as old as my

_X_. Pardon me, Phdrus; the principle is no older than the first
edition of Mr. Ricardo's book; and when you make me this concession so
readily under the notion that you are conceding nothing more than has
long been established, I fear that you will seek to retract it, as soon
as you are aware of its real import and consequences.

_Phd_. In most cases, X., I should hesitate to contradict you
peremptorily upon a subject which you have studied so much more closely
than myself; but here I cannot hesitate; for I happen to remember the
very words of Adam Smith, which are--

_X_. Substantially the same, you will say, as those which I have
employed in expressing the great principle of Mr. Ricardo: this is your
meaning, Phdrus; and excuse me for interrupting you; I am anxious to
lose no time; and therefore let me remind you, as soon as possible,
that "the words" of Adam Smith cannot prove any agreement with Mr.
Ricardo, if it appears that those words are used as equivalent and
convertible at pleasure with certain other words not only
irreconcilable with Mr. Ricardo's principle, but expressing the very
doctrine which Mr. Ricardo does, and must in consistency, set himself
to oppose. Mr. Ricardo's doctrine is, that A and B are to each other in
value as the _quantity_ of labor is which produces A to the
quantity which produces B; or, to express it in the very shortest
formula by substituting the term _base_, as synonymous with the
term _producing labor, All things are to each other in value as their
bases are in quantity_. This is the Ricardian law: you allege that
it was already the law of Adam Smith; and in some sense you are right;
for such a law is certain to be found in the "Wealth of Nations." But,
if it is _ex_plicitly affirmed in that work, it is also _im_plicitly
denied: formally asserted, it is virtually withdrawn. For Adam Smith
everywhere uses, as an equivalent formula, that A and B are to each
other in value as the _value_ of the labor which produces A to the
_value_ of the labor which produces B.

_Phd_. And the formula for Mr. Ricardo's law is, if I understand
you, that A and B are to each other in value not as the _value_,
but as the _quantity_ of the labor which produces A to the
_quantity_ which produces B.

_X_. It is.

_Phd_. And is it possible that any such mighty magic can lurk in
the simple substitution of _quantity_ for _value_? Surely, X., you are
hair-splitting a little in this instance, and mean to amuse yourself
with my simplicity, by playing off some logical legerdemain upon me
from the "seraphic" or "angelic" doctors.

_X_. The earnestness and good faith of my whole logic and reasoning
will soon become a pledge for me that I am incapable of what you
call hair-splitting; and in this particular instance I might appeal
to Philebus, who will tell you that Mr. Malthus has grounded his entire
opposition to Mr. Ricardo on the very distinction which you are now
treating as arial. But the fact is, you do not yet perceive to what
extent this distinction goes; you suppose me to be contending for some
minute and subtle shades of difference; so far from _that_, I mean
to affirm that the one law is the direct, formal, and diametrical
negation of the other: I assert in the most peremptory manner that he
who says, "The value of A is to the value of B as the _quantity_
of labor producing A is to the _quantity_ of labor producing B,"
does of necessity deny by implication that the relations of value
between A and B are governed by the _value_ of the labor which
severally produces them.

_Phil_. X. is perfectly right in his distinction. You know, Phdrus, or
you soon will know, that I differ from X. altogether on the choice
between the two laws: he contends that the value of all things is
determined by the _quantity_ of the producing labor; I, on the other
hand, contend that the value of all things is determined by the _value_
of the producing labor. Thus far you will find us irreconcilable in our
difference; but this very difference implies that we are agreed on the
distinction which X. is now urging. In fact, so far are the two
formulae from presenting merely two different expressions of the same
law, that the very best way of expressing negatively Mr. Ricardo's law
(namely, A is to B in value as the _quantities_ of the producing labor)
would be to say, A is _not_ to B in value as the _values_ of the
producing labor.

_Phd_. Well, gentlemen, I suppose you must be right; I am sure
you are by the logic of kings, and "according to the flesh;" for you
are two to one. Yet, to my poor glimmering understanding, which is all
I have to guide me in such cases, I must acknowledge that the whole
question seems to be a mere dispute about words.

_X_. For once, Phdrus, I am not sorry to hear you using a phrase
which in general is hateful to my ears. "A mere dispute about words" is
a phrase which we hear daily; and why? Is it a case of such daily
occurrence to hear men disputing about mere verbal differences? So far
from it, I can truly say that I never happened to witness such a
dispute in my whole life, either in books or in conversation; and
indeed, considering the small number of absolute synonymes which any
language contains, it is scarcely possible that a dispute on words
should arise which would not also be a dispute about ideas (that is,
about realities). Why, then, is the phrase in every man's mouth, when
the actual occurrence must be so very uncommon? The reason is this,
Phdrus: such a plea is a "sophisma pigri intellectus," which seeks to
escape from the effort of mind necessary for the comprehending and
solving of any difficulty under the colorable pretext that it is a
question about shadows, and not about substances, and one therefore
which it is creditable to a man's good sense to decline; a pleasant
sophism this, which at the same time flatters a man's indolence and his
vanity. For once, however, I repeat that I am not sorry to hear such a
phrase in your mouth, Phdrus: I have heard it from you before; and I
will frankly tell you that you ought to be ashamed of such a plea,
which is becoming to a slothful intellect, but very unbecoming to
yours. On this account, it gives me pleasure that you have at length
urged it in a case where you will be obliged to abandon it. If that
should happen, remember what I have said; and resolve never more to
shrink effeminately from the toil of an intellectual discussion under
any pretence that it is a verbal dispute. In the present case, I shall
drive you out of that conceit in less time than it cost you to bring it
forward. For now, Phdrus, answer me to one or two little questions
which I will put. You fancy that between the expressions "_quantity_ of
producing labor" and "_value_ of producing labor" there is none but a
verbal difference. It follows, therefore, that the same effect ought to
take place whether the value of the producing labor be altered or its

_Phd_. It does.

_X_. For instance, the production of a hat such as mine has
hitherto cost (we will suppose) four days' labor, at three shillings a
day: now, without any change whatsoever in the _quantity_ of labor
required for its production, let this labor suddenly increase in value
by twenty-five per cent. In this case, four days' labor will produce a
hat as heretofore; but the value of the producing labor being now
raised from three shillings a day to three shillings and nine pence,
the value of the total labor necessary for the production of a hat will
now be raised from twelve shillings to fifteen shillings. Thus far, you
can have nothing to object?

_Phd_. Nothing at all, X. But what next?

_X_. Next, let us suppose a case in which the labor of producing
hats shall increase, not in value (as in the preceding case), but in
quantity. Labor is still at its old value of three shillings a day;
but, from increased difficulty in any part of the process, five days'
labor are now spent on the production of a hat instead of four. In this
second case, Phdrus, how much will be paid to the laborer?

_Phd_. Precisely as much as in the first case: that is, fifteen

_X_. True: the laborer on hats receives fifteen shillings in the
second case as well as in the first; but in the first case for four
days' labor, in the second for five: consequently, in the second case,
wages (or the value of labor) have not risen at all, whereas in the
first case wages have risen by twenty-five per cent.

_Phd_. Doubtless: but what is your inference?

_X_. My inference is as follows: according to yourself and Adam
Smith, and all those who overlook the momentous difference between the
quantity and the value of labor, fancying that these are mere varieties
of expression for the same thing, the price of hats ought, in the two
cases stated, to be equally raised, namely, three shillings in each
case. If, then, it be utterly untrue that the price of hats would be
equally raised in the two cases, it will follow that an alteration in
the value of the producing labor, and an alteration in its quantity,
must terminate in a very different result; and, consequently, the one
alteration cannot be the same as the other, as you insisted.

_Phd_. Doubtless.

_X_. Now, then, let me tell you, Phdrus, that the price of hats
would _not_ be equally raised in the two cases: in the second
case, the price of a hat will rise by three shillings, in the first
case it will not rise at all.

_Phd_. How so, X.? How so? Your own statement supposes that the
laborer receives fifteen shillings for four days, instead of twelve
shillings; that is, three shillings more. Now, if the price does not
rise to meet this rise of labor, I demand to know whence the laborer is
to obtain this additional three shillings. If the buyers of hats do not
pay him in the price of hats, I presume that the buyers of shoes will
not pay him. The poor devil must be paid by somebody.

_X_. You are facetious, my friend. The man must be paid, as you
say; but not by the buyers of hats any more than by the buyers of
shoes: for the price of hats cannot possibly rise in such a case, as I
have said before. And, that I may demonstrate this, let us assume that
when the labor spent on a hat cost twelve shillings, the rate of
profits was fifty per cent.; it is of no consequence what rate be fixed
on: assuming this rate, therefore, the price of a hat would, at that
time, be eighteen shillings. Now, when the _quantity_ of labor
rose from four to five days, this fifth day would add three shillings
to the amount of wages; and the price of a hat would rise in
consequence from eighteen shillings to a guinea. On the other hand,
when the _value_ of labor rose from twelve shillings to fifteen
shillings, the price of a hat would not rise by one farthing, but would
still continue at eighteen shillings.

_Phd_. Again I ask, then, who is to pay the three shillings?

_X_. The three shillings will be paid out of profits.

_Phd_. What, without reimbursement?

_X_. Assuredly, without a farthing of reimbursement: it is Mr.
Ricardo's doctrine that no variation in either profits or wages can
ever affect the price; if wages rise or fall, the only consequence is,
that profits must fall or rise by the same sum; so again, if profits
rise or fall, wages must fall or rise accordingly.

_Phd_. You mean, then, to assert that, when the value of the
labor rises (as in the first of your two cases) by three shillings,
this rise must be paid out of the six shillings which had previously
gone to profits.

_X_. I do; and your reason for questioning this opinion is, I am
sure, because you think that no capitalist would consent to have his
profits thus diminished, but would liberate himself from this increased
expense by charging it upon the price. Now, if I prove that he cannot
liberate himself in this way, and that it is a matter of perfect
indifference to him whether the price rises or not, because in either
case he must lose the three shillings, I suppose that I shall have
removed the sole ground you have for opposing me.

_Phd_. You are right: prove this, X., "et eris mihi magnus

_X_. Tell me, then, Phdrus, when the value of labor rises--in
other words, when wages rise--what is it that causes them to rise?

_Phd_. Ay, what is it that causes them, as you say? I should be
glad to hear your opinion on that subject.

_X_. My opinion is, that there are only two [Footnote: There is
another case in which wages have a constant tendency to rise--namely,
when the population increases more slowly than the demand for labor.
But this case it is not necessary to introduce into the dialogue:
first, because it is gradual and insensible in its operation; secondly,
because, if it were otherwise, it would not disturb any part of the
argument.] great cases in which wages rise, or seem to rise:

1. When money sinks in value; for then, of course, the laborer must
have more wages nominally, in order to have the same virtually. But
this is obviously nothing more than an apparent rise.

2. When those commodities rise upon which wages are spent. A rise in
port wine, in jewels, or in horses, will not affect wages, because
these commodities are not consumed by the laborer; but a rise in
manufactured goods of certain kinds, upon which perhaps two fifths of
his wages are spent, will tend to raise wages: and a rise in certain
kinds of food, upon which perhaps the other three fifths are spent,
will raise them still more. Now, the first case being only an apparent
rise, this is the only case in which wages can be said really to rise.

_Phd_. You are wrong, X.; I can tell you of a third case which
occurs to me whilst you are speaking. Suppose that there were a great
deficiency of laborers in any trade,--as in the hatter's trade, for
instance,--that would be a reason why wages should rise in the hatter's

_X_. Doubtless, until the deficiency were supplied, which it soon
would be by the stimulus of higher wages. But this is a case of market
value, when the supply happens to be not on a level with the demand:
now, throughout the present conversation I wish studiously to keep
clear of any reference to market value, and to consider exclusively
that mode of exchangeable value which is usually called natural value--
that is, where value is wholly uninfluenced by any redundancy or
deficiency of the quantity. Waiving this third case, therefore, as not
belonging to the present discussion, there remains only the second; and
I am entitled to say that no cause can really and permanently raise
wages but a rise in the price of those articles on which wages are
spent. In the instance above stated, where the hatter's wages rose from
three shillings to three shillings and nine pence a day, some commodity
must previously have risen on which the hatter spent his wages. Let
this be corn, and let corn constitute one half of the hatter's
expenditure; on which supposition, as his wages rose by twenty-five per
cent., it follows that corn must have risen by fifty per cent. Now,
tell me, Phdrus, will this rise in the value of corn affect the
hatter's wages only, or will it affect wages in general?

_Phd_. Wages in general, of course: there can be no reason why
hatters should eat more corn than any other men.

_X_. Wages in general, therefore, will rise by twenty-five per
cent. Now, when the wages of the hatter rose in that proportion, you
contended that this rise must be charged upon the price of hats; and
the price of a hat having been previously eighteen shillings, you
insisted that it must now be twenty-one shillings; in which case a rise
in wages of twenty-five per cent, would have raised the price of hats
about sixteen and one half per cent. And, if this were possible, two
great doctrines of Mr. Ricardo would have been overthrown at one blow:
1st, that which maintains that no article can increase in price except
from a previous increase in the quantity of labor necessary to its
production: for here is no increase in the _quantity_ of the
labor, but simply in its value; 2d, that no rise in the value of labor
can ever settle upon price; but that all increase of wages will be paid
out of profits, and all increase of profits out of wages. I shall now,
however, extort a sufficient defence of Mr. Ricardo from your own
concessions. For you acknowledge that the same cause which raises the
wages of the hatter will raise wages universally, and in the same
ratio--that is, by twenty-five per cent. And, if such a rise in wages
could raise the price of hats by sixteen and one half per cent., it
must raise all other commodities whatsoever by sixteen and one half per
cent. Now, tell me, Phdrus, when all commodities without exception are
raised by sixteen arid one half per cent., in what proportion will the
power of money be diminished under every possible application of it?

_Phd_. Manifestly by sixteen and one half per cent.

_X_. If so, Phdrus, you must now acknowledge that it is a matter
of perfect indifference to the hatter whether the price of hats rise or
not, since he cannot under any circumstances escape the payment of the
three shillings. If the price should _not_ rise (as assuredly it
will not), he pays the three shillings directly; if the price were to
rise by three shillings, this implies of necessity that prices rise
universally (for it would answer no purpose of your argument to
suppose that hatters escaped an evil which affected all other trades).
Now, if prices rise universally, the hatter undoubtedly escapes the
direct payment of the three shillings, but he pays it indirectly;
inasmuch as one hundred and sixteen pounds and ten shillings is now
become necessary to give him the same command of labor and commodities
which was previously given by one hundred pounds. Have you any answer
to these deductions?

_Phd_. I must confess I have none.

_X_. If so, and no answer is possible, then I have here given you
a demonstration of Mr. Ricardo's great law: That no product of labor
whatsoever can be affected in value by any variations in the
_value_ of the producing labor. But, if not by variations in its
value, then of necessity by variations in its quantity, for no other
variations are possible.

_Phd_. But at first sight, you know, variations in the
_value_ of labor appear to affect the value of its product: yet
you have shown that the effect of such variations is defeated, and
rendered nugatory in the end. Now, is it not possible that some such
mode of argument may be applied to the case of variations in the
_quantity_ of labor?

_X_. By no means: the reason why all variations in the _value_
of labor are incapable of transferring themselves to the value
of its product is this: that these variations extend to all kinds
of labor, and therefore to all commodities alike. Now, that which
raises or depresses all things equally leaves their relations to each
other undisturbed. In order to disturb the relations of value between
A, B, and C, I must raise one at the same time that I do _not_
raise another; depress one, and _not_ depress another; raise or
depress them unequally. This is necessarily done by any variations in
the _quantity_ of labor. For example, when more or less labor
became requisite for the production of hats, that variation could not
fail to affect the value of hats, for the variation was confined
exclusively to hats, and arose out of some circumstance peculiar to
hats; and no more labor was on that account requisite for the
production of gloves, or wine, or carriages. Consequently, these and
all other articles remaining unaffected, whilst hats required twenty-
five per cent more labor, the previous relation between hats and all
other commodities was disturbed; that is, a _real_ effect was
produced on the value of hats. Whereas, when hats, without requiring a
greater quantity of labor, were simply produced by labor at a higher
value, this change could not possibly disturb the relation between hats
and any other commodities, because they were all equally affected by
it. If, by some application of any mechanic or chemical discovery to
the process of making candles, the labor of that process were
diminished by one third, the value of candles would fall; for the
relation of candles to all other articles, in which no such abridgment
of labor had been effected, would be immediately altered: two days'
labor would now produce the same quantity of candles as three days'
labor before the discovery. But if, on the other hand, the wages of
three days had simply fallen in value to the wages of two days,--that
is, if the laborer received only six shillings for three days, instead
of nine shillings,--this could not affect the value of candles; for the
fall of wages, extending to all other things whatsoever, would leave
the relations between them all undisturbed; everything else which had
required nine shillings' worth of labor would now require six
shillings' worth; and a pound of candles would exchange for the same
quantity of everything as before. Hence, it appears that no cause can
possibly affect the value of anything--that is, its exchangeable
relation to other things--but an increase or diminution in the quantity
of labor required for its production: and the prices of all things
whatsoever represent the quantity of labor by which they are severally
produced; and the value of A is to the value of B universally as the
quantity of labor which produces A to the quantity of labor which
produces B.

* * * * *

Here, then, is the great law of value as first explained by Mr.
Ricardo. Adam Smith uniformly takes it for granted that an alteration
in the quantity of labor, and an alteration in wages (that is, the
value of labor), are the same thing, and will produce the same effects;
and, hence, he never distinguishes the two cases, but everywhere uses
the two expressions as synonymous. If A, which had hitherto required
sixteen shillings' worth of labor for its production, should to-morrow
require only twelve shillings' worth, Adam Smith would have treated it
as a matter of no importance whether this change had arisen from some
discovery in the art of manufacturing A, which reduced the quantity of
labor required from four days to three, or simply from some fall in
wages which reduced the value of a day's labor from four shillings to
three shillings. Yet, in the former case, A would fall considerably in
price as soon as the discovery ceased to be monopolized; whereas, in
the latter case, we have seen that A could not possibly vary in price
by one farthing.

_Phd_. In what way do you suppose that Adam Smith came to make so
great an oversight, as I now confess it to be?

_X_. Mr. Malthus represents Adam Smith as not having sufficiently
explained himself on the subject. "He does not make it quite clear,"
says Mr. Malthus, "whether he adopts for his principle of value the
quantity of the producing labor or its value." But this is a most
erroneous representation. There is not a chapter in the "Wealth of
Nations" in which it is not made redundantly clear that Adam Smith
adopts both laws as mere varieties of expression for one and the same
law. This being so, how could he possibly make an election between two
things which he constantly confounded and regarded as identical? The
truth is, Adam Smith's attention was never directed to the question: he
suspected no distinction; no man of his day, or before his day, had
ever suspected it; none of the French or Italian writers on Political
Economy had ever suspected it; indeed, none of them have suspected it
to this hour. One single writer before Mr. Ricardo has insisted on the
_quantity_ of labor as the true ground of value; and, what is very
singular, at a period when Political Economy was in the rudest state,
namely, in the early part of Charles II's reign. This writer was Sir
William Petty, a man who would have greatly advanced the science if he
had been properly seconded by his age. In a remarkable passage, too
long for quotation, he has expressed the law of value with a Ricardian
accuracy: but it is scarcely possible that even he was aware of his own
accuracy; for, though he has asserted that the reason why any two
articles exchange for each other (as so much corn of Europe, suppose,
for so much silver of Peru) is because the same quantity of labor has
been employed on their production; and, though he has certainly not
vitiated the purity of this principle by the usual heteronomy (if you
will allow me a learned word),--that is, by the introduction of the
other and opposite law derived from the _value_ of this labor,--
yet, it is probable that in thus abstaining he was guided by mere
accident, and not by any conscious purpose of contradistinguishing the
one law from the other; because, had _that_ been his purpose, he
would hardly have contented himself with forbearing to affirm, but
would formally have denied the false law. For it can never be
sufficiently impressed upon the student's mind, that it brings him not
one step nearer to the truth to say that the value of A is determined
by the quantity of labor which produces it, unless by that proposition
he means that it is _not_ determined by the _value_ of the
labor which produces it.

To return to Adam Smith: not only has he "made it quite clear" that he
confounded the two laws, and had never been summoned to examine whether
they led to different results, but I go further, and will affirm that
if he had been summoned to such an examination, he could not have
pursued it with any success until the discovery of the true law of
Profits. For, in the case of the hats, as before argued, he would have

Book of the day: