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Narrative And Miscellaneous Papers by Thomas De Quincey

Part 4 out of 8

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But, after all, each case had circumstances of romantic misery peculiar
to itself--circumstances without precedent, and (wherever human nature
is ennobled by Christianity) it may be confidently hoped--never to be

The first point to be reached, before any hope of repose could be
encouraged, was the river Jaik. This was not above three hundred miles
from the main point of departure on the Wolga; and if the march thither
was to be a forced one, and a severe one, it was alleged on the other
hand that the suffering would be the more brief and transient; one
summary exertion, not to be repeated, and all was achieved. Forced the
march was, and severe beyond example: there the forewarning proved
correct; but the promised rest proved a mere phantom of the wilderness
--a visionary rainbow, which fled before their hope-sick eyes, across
these interminable solitudes, for seven months of hardship and
calamity, without a pause. These sufferings, by their very nature, and
the circumstances under which they arose, were (like the scenery of the
_Steppes_) somewhat monotonous in their coloring and external
features: what variety, however, there was, will be most naturally
exhibited by tracing historically the successive stages of the general
misery, exactly as it unfolded itself under the double agency of
weakness still increasing from within, and hostile pressure from
without. Viewed in this manner, under the real order of development, it
is remarkable that these sufferings of the Tartars, though under the
moulding hands of accident, arrange themselves almost with a scenical
propriety. They seem combined, as with the skill of an artist; the
intensity of the misery advancing regularly with the advances of the
march, and the stages of the calamity corresponding to the stages of
the route; so that, upon raising the curtain which veils the great
catastrophe, we behold one vast climax of anguish, towering upwards by
regular gradations, as if constructed artificially for picturesque
effect:--a result which might not have been surprising, had it been
reasonable to anticipate the same rate of speed, and even an
accelerated rate, as prevailing through the later stages of the
expedition. But it seemed, on the contrary, most reasonable to
calculate upon a continual decrement in the rate of motion according to
the increasing distance from the head-quarters of the pursuing enemy.
This calculation, however, was defeated by the extraordinary
circumstance, that the Russian armies did not begin to close in very
fiercely upon the Kalmucks until after they had accomplished a distance
of full two thousand miles; one thousand miles further on the assaults
became even more tumultuous and murderous; and already the great
shadows of the Chinese Wall were dimly descried, when the frenzy and
_acharnement_ of the pursuers, and the bloody desperation of the
miserable fugitives had reached its uttermost extremity. Let us briefly
rehearse the main stages of the misery, and trace the ascending steps
of the tragedy, according to the great divisions of the route marked
out by the central rivers of Asia.

The first stage, we have already said, was from the Wolga to the Jaik;
the distance about three hundred miles; the time allowed seven days.
For the first week, therefore, the rate of marching averaged about
forty-three English miles a day. The weather was cold, but bracing;
and, at a more moderate pace, this part of the journey might have been
accomplished without much distress by a people as hardy as the
Kalmucks: as it was, the cattle suffered greatly from overdriving: milk
began to fail even for the children: the sheep perished by wholesale:
and the children themselves were saved only by the innumerable camels.

The Cossacks, who dwelt upon the banks of the Jaik, were the first
among the subjects of Russia to come into collision with the Kalmucks.
Great was their surprise at the suddenness of the irruption, and great
also their consternation: for, according to their settled custom, by
far the greater part of their number was absent during the winter
months at the fisheries upon the Caspian. Some who were liable to
surprise at the most exposed points, fled in crowds to the fortress of
Koulagina, which was immediately invested, and summoned by Oubacha. He
had, however, in his train only a few light pieces of artillery; and
the Russian commandant at Koulagina, being aware of the hurried
circumstances in which the Khan was placed, and that he stood upon the
very edge, as it were, of a renewed flight, felt encouraged by these
considerations to a more obstinate resistance than might else have been
advisable, with an enemy so little disposed to observe the usages of
civilized warfare. The period of his anxiety was not long: on the fifth
day of the siege, he descried from the walls a succession of Tartar
couriers, mounted upon fleet Bactrian camels, crossing the vast plains
around the fortress at a furious pace, and riding into the Kalmuck
encampment at various points. Great agitation appeared immediately to
follow; orders were soon after despatched in all directions: and it
became speedily known that upon a distant flank of the Kalmuck movement
a bloody and exterminating battle had been fought the day before, in
which one entire tribe of the Khan's dependents, numbering not less
than nine thousand fighting men, had perished to the last man. This was
the _ouloss_, or clan, called _Feka-Zechorr_, between whom and
the Cossacks there was a feud of ancient standing. In selecting,
therefore, the points of attack, on occasion of the present hasty
inroad, the Cossack chiefs were naturally eager so to direct their
efforts as to combine with the service of the Empress some
gratification to their own party hatreds; more especially as the
present was likely to be their final opportunity for revenge if the
Kalmuck evasion should prosper. Having, therefore, concentrated as
large a body of Cossack cavalry as circumstances allowed, they attacked
the hostile _ouloss_ with a precipitation which denied to it all
means for communicating with Oubacha; for the necessity of commanding
an ample range of pasturage, to meet the necessities of their vast
flocks and herds, had separated this _ouloss_ from the Khan's
head-quarters by an interval of eighty miles: and thus it was, and not
from oversight, that it came to be thrown entirely upon its own
resources. These had proved insufficient; retreat, from the exhausted
state of their horses and camels, no less than from the prodigious
encumbrances of their live stock, was absolutely out of the question:
quarter was disdained on the one side, and would not have been granted
on the other; and thus it had happened that the setting sun of that one
day (the 13th from the first opening of the revolt) threw his parting
rays upon the final agonies of an ancient _ouloss_, stretched upon
a bloody field, who on that day's dawning had held and styled
themselves an independent nation.

Universal consternation was diffused through the wide borders of the
Khan's encampment by this disastrous intelligence; not so much on
account of the numbers slain, or the total extinction of a powerful
ally, as because the position of the Cossack force was likely to put to
hazard the future advances of the Kalmucks, or at least to retard, and
hold them in check, until the heavier columns of the Russian army
should arrive upon their flanks. The siege of Koulagina was instantly
raised; and that signal, so fatal to the happiness of the women and
their children, once again resounded through the tents--the signal for
flight, and this time for a flight more rapid than ever. About one
hundred and fifty miles ahead of their present position, there arose a
tract of hilly country, forming a sort of margin to the vast, sea-like
expanse of champaign savannas, steppes, and occasionally of sandy
deserts, which stretched away on each side of this margin both
eastwards and westwards. Pretty nearly in the centre of this hilly
range, lay a narrow defile, through which passed the nearest and the
most practicable route to the river Torgai (the further bank of which
river offered the next great station of security for a general halt.)
It was the more essential to gain this pass before the Cossacks,
inasmuch as not only would the delay in forcing the pass give time to
the Russian pursuing columns for combining their attacks and for
bringing up their artillery, but also because (even if all enemies in
pursuit were thrown out of the question) it was held by those best
acquainted with the difficult and obscure geography of these pathless
steppes--that the loss of this one narrow strait amongst the hills
would have the effect of throwing them (as their only alternative in a
case where so wide a sweep of pasturage was required) upon a circuit of
at least five hundred miles extra; besides that, after all, this
circuitous route would carry them to the Torgai at a point ill fitted
for the passage of their heavy baggage. The defile in the hills,
therefore, it was resolved to gain; and yet, unless they moved upon it
with the velocity of light cavalry, there was little chance but it
would be found pre-occupied by the Cossacks. They, it is true, had
suffered greatly in the recent sanguinary action with their enemies;
but the excitement of victory, and the intense sympathy with their
unexampled triumph, had again swelled their ranks--and would probably
act with the force of a vortex to draw in their simple countrymen from
the Caspian. The question, therefore, of pre-occupation was reduced to
a race. The Cossacks were marching upon an oblique line not above fifty
miles longer than that which led to the same point from the Kalmuck
head-quarters before Koulagina: and therefore without the most furious
haste on the part of the Kalmucks, there was not a chance for them,
burdened and 'trashed' [Footnote: _'Trashed'_--This is an expressive
word used by Beaumont and Fletcher in their Bonduca, etc., to describe
the case of a person retarded and embarrassed in flight, or in pursuit,
by some encumbrance, whether thing or person, too valuable to be left
behind.] as they were, to anticipate so agile a light cavalry as the
Cossacks in seizing this important pass.

Dreadful were the feelings of the poor women on hearing this exposition
of the case. For they easily understood that too capital an interest
(the _summa rerum_) was now at stake to allow of any regard to
minor interests, or what would be considered such in their present
circumstances. The dreadful week already passed,--their inauguration in
misery,--was yet fresh in their remembrance. The scars of suffering
were impressed not only upon their memories, but upon their very
persons and the persons of their children. And they knew that where no
speed had much chance of meeting the cravings of the chieftains, no
test would be accepted, short of absolute exhaustion, that as much had
been accomplished as could be accomplished. Weseloff, the Russian
captive, has recorded the silent wretchedness with which the women and
elder boys assisted in drawing the tent-ropes. On the 5th of January
all had been animation, and the joyousness of indefinite expectation:
now, on the contrary, a brief but bitter experience had taught them to
take an amended calculation of what it was that lay before them.

One whole day and far into the succeeding night had the renewed flight
continued: the sufferings had been greater than before: for the cold
had been more intense: and many perished out of the living creatures
through every class, except only the camels--whose powers of endurance
seemed equally adapted to cold and heat. The second morning, however,
brought an alleviation to the distress. Snow had begun to fall: and
though not deep at present, it was easily foreseen that it soon would
be so; and that, as a halt would in that case become unavoidable, no
plan could be better than that of staying where they were: especially
as the same cause would check the advance of the Cossacks. Here then
was the last interval of comfort which gleamed upon the unhappy nation
during their whole migration. For ten days the snow continued to fall
with little intermission. At the end of that time keen bright frosty
weather succeeded: the drifting had ceased: in three days the smooth
expanse became firm enough to support the treading of the camels, and
the flight was recommenced. But during the halt much domestic comfort
had been enjoyed: and for the last time universal plenty. The cows and
oxen had perished in such vast numbers on the previous marches, that an
order was now issued to turn what remained to account by slaughtering
the whole, and salting whatever part should be found to exceed the
immediate consumption. This measure led to a scene of general
banqueting and even of festivity amongst all who were not incapacitated
for joyous emotions by distress of mind, by grief for the unhappy
experience of the few last days, and by anxiety for the too gloomy
future. Seventy thousand persons of all ages had already perished;
exclusively of the many thousand allies who had been cut down by the
Cossack sabre. And the losses in reversion were likely to be many more.
For rumors began now to arrive from all quarters, by the mounted
couriers whom the Khan had despatched to the rear and to each flank as
well as in advance, that large masses of the Imperial troops were
converging from all parts of Central Asia to the fords of the river
Torgai as the most convenient point for intercepting the flying tribes:
and it was already well known that a powerful division was close in
their rear, and was retarded only by the numerous artillery which had
been judged necessary to support their operations. New motives were
thus daily arising for quickening the motions of the wretched Kalmucks,
and for exhausting those who were previously but too much exhausted.

It was not until the 2d day of February that the Khan's advanced guard
came in sight of Ouchim, the defile among the hills of Moulgaldchares,
in which they anticipated so bloody an opposition from the Cossacks. A
pretty large body of these light cavalry had, in fact, pre-occupied the
pass by some hours; but the Khan having too great advantages, namely, a
strong body of infantry, who had been conveyed by sections of five on
about two hundred camels, and some pieces of light artillery which he
had not yet been forced to abandon, soon began to make a serious
impression upon this unsupported detachment; and they would probably at
any rate have retired; but at the very moment when they were making
some dispositions in that view, Zebek-Dorchi appeared upon their rear
with a body of trained riflemen, who had distinguished themselves in
the war with Turkey. These men had contrived to crawl unobserved over
the cliffs which skirted the ravine, availing themselves of the dry
beds of the summer torrents, and other inequalities of the ground, to
conceal their movement. Disorder and trepidation ensued instantly in
the Cossack files; the Khan, who had been waiting with the _elite_
of his heavy cavalry, charged furiously upon them; total overthrow
followed to the Cossacks, and a slaughter such as in some measure
avenged the recent bloody extermination of their allies, the ancient
_ouloss_ of Feka-Zechorr. The slight horses of the Cossacks were
unable to support the weight of heavy Polish dragoons and a body of
trained _cameleers_ (that is, cuirassiers mounted on camels);
hardy they were, but not strong, nor a match for their antagonists in
weight; and their extraordinary efforts through the last few days to
gain their present position, had greatly diminished their powers for
effecting an escape. Very few, in fact, _did_ escape; and the
bloody day of Ouchim became as memorable amongst the Cossacks as that
which, about twenty days before, had signalized the complete
annihilation of the Faka-Zechorr. [Footnote: There was another _ouloss_
equally strong with that of _Feka-Zechorr_, viz., that of Erketunn,
under the government of Assarcho and Machi, whom some obligations of
treaty or other hidden motives drew into the general conspiracy of
revolt. But fortunately the two chieftains found means to assure the
Governor of Astrachan, on the first outbreak of the insurrection, that
their real wishes were for maintaining the old connection with Russia.
The Cossacks, therefore, to whom the pursuit was intrusted, had
instructions to act cautiously and according to circumstances on coming
up with them. The result was, through the prudent management of
Assarcho, that the clan, without compromising their pride or
independence, made such moderate submissions as satisfied the Cossacks;
and eventually both chiefs and people received from the Czarina the
rewards and honors of exemplary fidelity.]

The road was now open to the river Igritch, and as yet even far beyond
it to the Torgau; but how long this state of things would continue, was
every day more doubtful. Certain intelligence was now received that a
large Russian army, well appointed in every arm, was advancing upon the
Torgau, under the command of General Traubenberg. This officer was to
be joined on his route by ten thousand Bashkirs, and pretty nearly the
same amount of Kirghises--both hereditary enemies of the Kalmucks--both
exasperated to a point of madness by the bloody trophies which Oubacha
and Momotbacha had, in late years, won from such of their compatriots
as served under the Sultan. The Czarina's yoke these wild nations bore
with submissive patience, but not the hands by which it had been
imposed; and, accordingly, catching with eagerness at the present
occasion offered to their vengeance, they sent an assurance to the
Czarina of their perfect obedience to her commands, and at the same
time a message significantly declaring in what spirit they meant to
execute them, viz., 'That they would not trouble her Majesty with

Here then arose, as before with the Cossacks, a race for the Kalmucks
with the regular armies of Russia, and concurrently with nations as
fierce and semi-humanized as themselves, besides that they were stung
into threefold activity by the furies of mortified pride and military
abasement, under the eyes of the Turkish Sultan. The forces, and more
especially the artillery, of Russia, were far too overwhelming to
permit the thought of a regular opposition in pitched battles, even
with a less dilapidated state of their resources than they could
reasonably expect at the period of their arrival on the Torgau. In
their speed lay their only hope--in strength of foot, as before, and
not in strength of arm. Onward, therefore, the Kalmucks pressed,
marking the lines of their wide-extending march over the sad solitudes
of the steppes by a never-ending chain of corpses. The old and the
young, the sick man on his couch, the mother with her baby--all were
left behind. Sights such as these, with the many rueful aggravations
incident to the helpless condition of infancy--of disease and of female
weakness abandoned to the wolves amidst a howling wilderness, continued
to track their course through a space of full two thousand miles; for
so much at the least, it was likely to prove, including the circuits to
which they were often compelled by rivers or hostile tribes, from the
point of starting on the Wolga until they could reach their destined
halting-ground on the east bank of the Torgau. For the first seven
weeks of this march their sufferings had been embittered by the
excessive severity of the cold; and every night--so long as wood was to
be had for fires, either from the lading of the camels, or from the
desperate sacrifice of their baggage-wagons, or (as occasionally
happened) from the forests which skirted the banks of the many rivers
which crossed their path--no spectacle was more frequent than that of a
circle, composed of men, women, and children, gathered by hundreds
round a central fire, all dead and stiff at the return of morning
light. Myriads were left behind from pure exhaustion of whom none had a
chance, under the combined evils which beset them, of surviving through
the next twenty-four hours. Frost, however, and snow at length ceased
to persecute; the vast extent of the march at length brought them into
more genial latitudes, and the unusual duration of the march was
gradually bringing them into the more genial seasons of the year: Two
thousand miles had at least been traversed; February, March, April were
gone; the balmy month of May had opened; vernal sights and sounds came
from every side to comfort the heart-weary travellers; and at last, in
the latter end of May, they crossed the Torgau, and took up a position
where they hoped to find liberty to repose themselves for many weeks in
comfort as well as in security, and to draw such supplies from the
fertile neighborhood as might restore their shattered forces to a
condition for executing, with less of wreck and ruin, the large
remainder of the journey.

Yes; it was true that two thousand miles of wandering had been
completed, but in a period of nearly five months, and with the terrific
sacrifice of at least two hundred and fifty thousand souls, to say
nothing of herds and flocks past all reckoning. These had all perished:
ox, cow, horse, mule, ass, sheep, or goat, not one survived--only the
camels. These arid and adust creatures, looking like the mummies of
some antediluvian animals, without the affections or sensibilities of
flesh and blood--these only still erected their speaking eyes to the
eastern heavens, and had to all appearance come out from this long
tempest of trial unscathed and unharmed. The Khan, knowing how much he
was individually answerable for the misery which had been sustained,
must have wept tears even more bitter than those of Xerxes when he
threw his eyes over the myriads whom he had assembled: for the tears of
Xerxes were unmingled with compunction. Whatever amends were in his
power he resolved to make by sacrifices to the general good of all
personal regards; and accordingly, even at this point of their advance,
he once more deliberately brought under review the whole question of
the revolt. The question was formally debated before the Council,
whether, even at this point, they should untread their steps, and,
throwing themselves upon the Czarina's mercy, return to their old
allegiance? In that case, Oubacha professed himself willing to become
the scapegoat for the general transgression. This, he argued, was no
fantastic scheme, but even easy of accomplishment; for the unlimited
and sacred power of the Khan, so well known to the Empress, made it
absolutely iniquitous to attribute any separate responsibility to the
people--upon the Khan rested the guilt, upon the Khan would descend
the Imperial vengeance. This proposal was applauded for its generosity,
but was energetically opposed by Zebek-Dorchi. Were they to lose the
whole journey of two thousand miles? Was their misery to perish without
fruit; true it was that they had yet reached only the half-way house;
but, in that respect, the motives were evenly balanced for retreat or
for advance. Either way they would have pretty nearly the same distance
to traverse, but with this difference--that, forwards, their rout lay
through lands comparatively fertile--backwards, through a blasted
wilderness, rich only in memorials of their sorrow, and hideous to
Kalmuck eyes by the trophies of their calamity. Besides, though the
Empress might accept an excuse for the past, would she the less forbear
to suspect for the future? The Czarina's _pardon_ they might obtain,
but could they ever hope to recover her _confidence_? Doubtless there
would now be a standing presumption against them, an immortal ground of
jealousy; and a jealous government would be but another name for a
harsh one. Finally, whatever motives there ever had been for the revolt
surely remained unimpaired by anything that had occurred. In reality
the revolt was, after all, no revolt, but (strictly speaking) a return
to their old allegiance, since, not above one hundred and fifty years
ago (viz., in the year 1616,) their ancestors had revolted from the
Emperor of China. They had now tried both governments; and for them
China was the land of promise, and Russia the house of bondage.

Spite, however, of all that Zebek could say or do, the yearning of the
people was strongly in behalf of the Khan's proposal; the pardon of
their prince, they persuaded themselves, would be readily conceded by
the Empress; and there is little doubt that they would at this time
have thrown themselves gladly upon the Imperial mercy; when suddenly
all was defeated by the arrival of two envoys from Traubenberg. This
general had reached the fortress of Orsk, after a very painful march,
on the 12th of April; thence he set forwards towards Oriembourg, which
he reached upon the 1st of June, having been joined on his route at
various times through the month of May by the Kirghises and a corps of
ten thousand Bashkirs. From Oriembourg he sent forward his official
offer to the Khan, which were harsh and peremptory, holding out no
specific stipulations as to pardon or impunity, and exacting
unconditional submission as the preliminary price of any cessation from
military operations. The personal character of Traubenberg, which was
anything but energetic, and the condition of his army, disorganized in
a great measure by the length and severity of the march, made it
probable that, with a little time for negotiation, a more conciliatory
tone would have been assumed. But, unhappily for all parties, sinister
events occurred in the meantime, such as effectually put an end to
every hope of the kind.

The two envoys sent forward by Traubenberg had reported to this officer
that a distance of only ten days' march lay between his own head-
quarters and those of the Khan. Upon this fact transpiring, the
Kirghises, by their prince Nourali, and the Bashkirs, entreated the
Russian general to advance without delay. Once having placed his cannon
in position, so as to command the Kalmuck camp, the fate of the rebel
Khan and his people would be in his own hands; and they would
themselves form his advanced guard. Traubenberg, however, _why_
has not been certainly explained, refused to march, grounding his
refusal upon the condition of his army, and their absolute need of
refreshment. Long and fierce was the altercation; but at length, seeing
no chance of prevailing, and dreading above all other events the escape
of their detested enemy, the ferocious Bashkirs went off in a body by
forced marches. In six days they reached the Torgau, crossed by
swimming their horses, and fell upon the Kalmucks, who were dispersed
for many a league in search of food or provender for their camels. The
first day's action was one vast succession of independent skirmishes,
diffused over a field of thirty to forty miles in extent; one party
often breaking up into three or four, and again (according to the
accidents of ground) three or four blending into one; flight and
pursuit, rescue and total overthrow, going on simultaneously, under all
varieties of form, in all quarters of the plain. The Bashkirs had found
themselves obliged, by the scattered state of the Kalmucks, to split up
into innumerable sections; and thus, for some hours, it had been
impossible for the most practised eye to collect the general tendency
of the day's fortune. Both the Khan and Zebek-Dorchi were at one moment
made prisoners, and more than once in imminent danger of being cut
down; but at length Zebek succeeded in rallying a strong column of
infantry, which, with the support of the camel-corps on each flank,
compelled the Bashkirs to retreat. Clouds, however, of these wild
cavalry continued to arrive through the next two days and nights,
followed or accompanied by the Kirghises. These being viewed as the
advanced parties of Traubenberg's army, the Kalmuck chieftains saw no
hope of safety but in flight; and in this way it happened that a
retreat, which had so recently been brought to a pause, was resumed at
the very moment when the unhappy fugitives were anticipating a deep
repose without further molestation, the whole summer through.

It seemed as though every variety of wretchedness were predestined to
the Kalmucks; and as if their sufferings were incomplete unless they
were rounded and matured by all that the most dreadful agencies of
summer's heat could superadd to those of frost and winter. To this
sequel of their story we shall immediately revert, after first noticing
a little romantic episode which occurred at this point between Oubacha
and his unprincipled cousin Zebek-Dorchi.

There was at the time of the Kalmuck flight from the Wolga, a Russian
gentleman of some rank at the court of the Khan, whom, for political
reasons, it was thought necessary to carry along with them as a
captive. For some weeks his confinement had been very strict, and in
one or two instances cruel. But, as the increasing distance was
continually diminishing the chances of escape, and perhaps, also, as
the misery of the guards gradually withdrew their attention from all
minor interests to their own personal sufferings, the vigilance of the
custody grew more and more relaxed; until at length, upon a petition to
the Khan, Mr. Weseloff was formally restored to liberty; and it was
understood that he might use his liberty in whatever way he chose, even
for returning to Russia, if that should be his wish. Accordingly, he
was making active preparations for his journey to St. Petersburg, when
it occurred to Zebek-Dorchi that, not improbably, in some of the
battles which were then anticipated with Traubenberg, it might happen
to them to lose some prisoner of rank, in which case the Russian
Weseloff would be a pledge in their hands for negotiating an exchange.
Upon this plea, to his own severe affliction, the Russian was detained
until the further pleasure of the Khan. The Khan's name, indeed, was
used through the whole affair, but, as it seemed, with so little
concurrence on his part, that, when Weseloff in a private audience
humbly remonstrated upon the injustice done him, and the cruelty of
thus sporting with his feelings by setting him at liberty, and, as it
were, tempting him into dreams of home and restored happiness only for
the purpose of blighting them, the good-natured prince disclaimed all
participation in the affair, and went so far in proving his sincerity
as even to give him permission to effect his escape; and, as a ready
means of commencing it without raising suspicion, the Khan mentioned to
Mr. Weseloff that he had just then received a message from the Hetman
of the Bashkirs, soliciting a private interview on the banks of the
Torgau at a spot pointed out; that interview was arranged for the
coming night; and Mr. Weseloff might go in the Khan's _suite_,
which on either side was not to exceed three persons. Weseloff was a
prudent man, acquainted with the world, and he read treachery in the
very outline of this scheme, as stated by the Khan--treachery against
the Khan's person. He mused a little, and then communicated so much of
his suspicions to the Khan as might put him on his guard; but, upon
further consideration, he begged leave to decline the honor of
accompanying the Khan. The fact was, that three Kalmucks, who had
strong motives for returning to their countrymen on the west bank of
the Wolga, guessing the intentions of Weseloff, had offered to join him
in his escape. These men the Khan would probably find himself obliged
to countenance in their project; so that it became a point of honor
with Weseloff to conceal their intentions, and therefore to accomplish
the evasion from the camp, (of which the first steps only would be
hazardous,) without risking the notice of the Khan.

The district in which they were now encamped abounded, through many
hundred miles, with wild horses of a docile and beautiful breed. Each
of the four fugitives had caught from seven to ten of these spirited
creatures in the course of the last few days; this raised no suspicion;
for the rest of the Kalmucks had been making the same sort of provision
against the coming toils of their remaining route to China. These
horses were secured by halters, and hidden about dusk in the thickets
which lined the margin of the river. To these thickets, about ten at
night, the four fugitives repaired; they took a circuitous path, which
drew them as little as possible within danger of challenge from any of
the outposts or of the patrols which had been established on the
quarters where the Bashkirs lay; and in three quarters of an hour they
reached the rendezvous. The moon had now risen, the horses were
unfastened, and they were in the act of mounting, when the deep silence
of the woods was disturbed by a violent uproar, and the clashing of
arms. Weseloff fancied that he heard the voice of the Khan shouting for
assistance. He remembered the communication made by that prince in the
morning; and requesting his companions to support him, he rode off in
the direction of the sound. A very short distance brought him to an
open glade in the wood, where he beheld four men contending with a
party of at least nine or ten. Two of the four were dismounted at the
very instant of Weseloff's arrival; one of these he recognized almost
certainly as the Khan, who was fighting hand to hand, but at great
disadvantage, with two of the adverse horsemen. Seeing that no time was
to be lost, Weseloff fired, and brought down one of the two. His
companions discharged their carbines at the same moment, and then all
rushed simultaneously into the little open area. The thundering sound
of about thirty horses, all rushing at once into a narrow space, gave
the impression that a whole troop of cavalry was coming down upon the
assailants; who, accordingly, wheeled about and fled with one impulse.
Weseloff advanced to the dismounted cavalier, who, as he expected,
proved to be the Khan. The man whom Weseloff had shot was lying dead;
and both were shocked, though Weseloff at least was not surprised, on
stooping down and scrutinizing his features, to recognize a well known
confidential servant of Zebek-Dorchi. Nothing was said by either party.
The Khan rode off, escorted by Weseloff and his companions, and for
some time a dead silence prevailed. The situation of Weseloff was
delicate and critical; to leave the Khan at this point was probably to
cancel their recent services; for he might be again crossed on his
path, and again attacked by the very party from whom he had just been
delivered. Yet, on the other hand, to return to the camp was to
endanger the chances of accomplishing the escape. The Khan also was
apparently revolving all this in his mind, for at length he broke
silence, and said--'I comprehend your situation; and, under other
circumstances, I might feel it my duty to detain your companions. But
it would ill become me to do so after the important service you have
just rendered me. Let us turn a little to the left. There, where you
see the watchfire, is an outpost. Attend me so far. I am then safe. You
may turn and pursue your enterprise; for the circumstances under which
you will appear, as my escort, are sufficient to shield you from all
suspicion for the present. I regret having no better means at my
disposal for testifying my gratitude. But tell me, before we part, was
it accident only which led you to my rescue? Or had you acquired any
knowledge of the plot by which I was decoyed into this snare?' Weseloff
answered very candidly that mere accident had brought him to the spot
at which he heard the uproar, but that _having_ heard it, and
connecting it with the Khan's communication of the morning, he had then
designedly gone after the sound in a way which he certainly should not
have done at so critical a moment, unless in the expectation of finding
the Khan assaulted by assassins. A few minutes after they reached the
outpost at which it became safe to leave the Tartar chieftain; and
immediately the four fugitives commenced a flight which is perhaps
without a parallel in the annals of travelling. Each of them led six or
seven horses besides the one he rode; and by shifting from one to the
other (like the ancient _Desultors_ of the Roman circus,) so as
never to burden the same horse for more than half an hour at a time,
they continued to advance at the rate of two hundred miles in the
twenty-four hours for three days consecutively. After that time,
considering themselves beyond pursuit, they proceeded less rapidly;
though still with a velocity which staggered the belief of Weseloff's
friends in after years. He was, however, a man of high principle, and
always adhered firmly to the details of his printed report. One of the
circumstances there stated is, that they continued to pursue the route
by which the Kalmucks had fled, never for an instant finding any
difficulty in tracing it by the skeletons and other memorials of their
calamities. In particular, he mentions vast heaps of money as part of
the valuable property which it had been necessary to sacrifice. These
heaps were found lying still untouched in the deserts. From these,
Weseloff and his companions took as much as they could conveniently
carry; and this it was, with the price of their beautiful horses, which
they afterwards sold at one of the Russian military settlements for
about £15 a-piece, which eventually enabled them to pursue their
journey in Russia. This journey, as regarded Weseloff in particular,
was closed by a tragical catastrophe. He was at that time young, and
the only child of a doating mother. Her affliction under the violent
abduction of her son had been excessive, and probably had undermined
her constitution. Still she had supported it. Weseloff, giving way to
the natural impulses of his filial affection, had imprudently posted
through Russia, to his mother's house without warning of his approach.
He rushed precipitately into her presense; and she, who had stood the
shocks of sorrow, was found unequal to the shock of joy too sudden and
too acute. She died upon the spot.

We now revert to the final scenes of the Kalmuck flight. These it would
be useless to pursue circumstantially through the whole two thousand
miles of suffering which remained; for the character of that suffering
was even more monotonous than on the former half of the flight, but
also more severe. Its main elements were excessive heat, with the
accompaniments of famine and thirst, but aggravated at every step by
the murderous attacks of their cruel enemies, the Bashkirs and the

These people, 'more fell than anguish, hunger, or the sea,' stuck to
the unhappy Kalmucks like a swarm of enraged hornets. And very often
whilst _they_ were attacking them in the rear, their advanced
parties and flanks were attacked with almost equal fury by the people
of the country which they were traversing; and with good reason, since
the law of self-preservation had now obliged the fugitive Tartars to
plunder provisions, and to forage wherever they passed. In this respect
their condition was a constant oscillation of wretchedness; for,
sometimes, pressed by grinding famine, they took a circuit of perhaps a
hundred miles, in order to strike into a land rich in the comforts of
life; but in such a land they were sure to find a crowded population,
of which every arm was raised in unrelenting hostility, with all the
advantages of local knowledge, and with constant preoccupation of all
the defensible positions, mountain passes, or bridges. Sometimes,
again, wearied out with this mode of suffering, they took a circuit of
perhaps a hundred miles, in order to strike into a land with few or no
inhabitants. But in such a land they were sure to meet absolute
starvation. Then, again, whether with or without this plague of
starvation, whether with or without this plague of hostility in front,
whatever might he the 'fierce varieties' of their misery in this
respect, no rest ever came to their unhappy rear; _post equitem sedet
atra cura_; it was a torment like the undying worm of conscience.
And, upon the whole, it presented a spectacle altogether unprecedented
in the history of mankind. Private and personal malignity is not
unfrequently immortal; but rare indeed is it to find the same
pertinacity of malice in a nation. And what embittered the interest
was, that the malice was reciprocal. Thus far the parties met upon
equal terms; but that equality only sharpened the sense of their dire
inequality as to other circumstances. The Bashkirs were ready to fight
'from morn to dewy eve.' The Kalmucks, on the contrary, were always
obliged to run; was it _from_ their enemies, as creatures whom
they feared? No; but _towards_ their friends--towards that final
haven of China--as what was hourly implored by their wives, and the
tears of their children. But though they fled unwillingly, too often
they fled in vain--being unwillingly recalled. There lay the torment.
Every day the Bashkirs fell upon them; every day the same unprofitable
battle was renewed; as a matter of course, the Kalmucks recalled part
of their advanced guard to fight them; every day the battle raged for
hours, and uniformly with the same result. For, no sooner did the
Bashkirs find themselves too heavily pressed, and that the Kalmuck
march had been retarded by some hours, than they retired into the
boundless deserts where all pursuit was hopeless. But if the Kalmucks
resolved to press forward, regardless of their enemies, in that case
their attacks became so fierce and overwhelming, that the general
safety seemed likely to be brought into question; nor could any
effectual remedy be applied to the case, even for each separate day,
except by a most embarrassing halt, and by countermarches, that, to men
in their circumstances, were almost worse than death. It will not be
surprising, that the irritation of such a systematic persecution,
superadded to a previous and hereditary hatred, and accompanied by the
stinging consciousness of utter impotence as regarded all effectual
vengeance, should gradually have inflamed the Kalmuck animosity into
the wildest expression of downright madness and frenzy. Indeed, long
before the frontiers of China were approached, the hostility of both
sides had assumed the appearance much more of a warfare amongst wild
beasts than amongst creatures acknowledging the restraints of reason or
the claims of a common nature. The spectacle became too atrocious; it
was that of a host of lunatics pursued by a host of fiends.

On a fine morning in early autumn of the year 1771, Kien Long, the
Emperor of China, was pursuing his amusements in a wild frontier
district lying on the outside of the Great Wall. For many hundred
square leagues the country was desolate of inhabitants, but rich in
woods of ancient growth, and overrun with game of every description. In
a central spot of this solitary region, the Emperor had built a
gorgeous hunting-lodge, to which he resorted annually for recreation
and relief from the cares of government. Led onwards in pursuit of
game, he had rambled to a distance of two hundred miles or more from
this lodge, followed at a little distance by a sufficient military
escort, and every night pitching his tent in a different situation,
until at length he had arrived on the very margin of the vast central
deserts of Asia. [Footnote: All the circumstances are learned from a
long state paper upon the subject of this Kalmuck migration, drawn up
in the Chinese language by the Emperor himself. Parts of this paper
have been translated by the Jesuit missionaries. The Emperor states the
whole motives of his conduct and the chief incidents at great length.]
Here he was standing, by accident, at an opening of his pavilion,
enjoying the morning sunshine, when suddenly to the westward there
arose a vast cloudy vapor, which by degrees expanded, mounted, and
seemed to be slowly diffusing itself over the whole face of the
heavens. By-and-by this vast sheet of mist began to thicken towards the
horizon, and to roll forward in billowy volumes. The Emperor's suite
assembled from all quarters. The silver trumpets were sounded in the
rear, and from all the glades and forest avenues began to trot forward
towards the pavilion the yagers, half cavalry, half huntsmen, who
composed the Imperial escort. Conjecture was on the stretch to divine
the cause of this phenomenon, and the interest continually increased,
in proportion as simple curiosity gradually deepened into the anxiety
of uncertain danger. At first it had been imagined that some vast
troops of deer, or other wild animals of the chase, had been disturbed
in their forest haunts by the Emperor's movements, or possibly by wild
beasts prowling for prey, and might be fetching a compass by way of re-
entering the forest grounds at some remoter points secure from
molestation. But this conjecture was dissipated by the slow increase of
the cloud, and the steadiness of its motion. In the course of two hours
the vast phenomenon had advanced to a point which was judged to be
within five miles of the spectators, though all calculations of
distance were difficult, and often fallacious, when applied to the
endless expanses of the Tartar deserts. Through the next hour, during
which the gentle morning breeze had a little freshened, the dusty vapor
had developed itself far and wide into the appearance of huge aerial
draperies, hanging in mighty volumes from the sky to the earth; and at
particular points, where the eddies of the breeze acted upon the
pendulous skirts of these aerial curtains rents were perceived,
sometimes taking the form of regular arches, portals, and windows,
through which began dimly to gleam the heads of camels 'indorsed'
[Footnote: _Camels 'indorsed;'_--'And elephants indorsed with
towers.' MILTON in _Paradise Regained_.] with human beings--and at
intervals the moving of men and horses, in tumultuous array--and then,
through other openings or vistas, at far distant points, the flashing
of polished arms. But sometimes, as the wind slackened or died away,
all those openings, of whatever form, in the cloudy pall, would slowly
close, and for a time the whole pageant was shut up from view; although
the growing din, the clamors, the shrieks and groans, ascending from
infuriated myriads, reported, in a language not to be misunderstood,
what was going on behind the cloudy screen.

It was in fact the Kalmuck host, now in the last extremities of their
exhaustion, and very fast approaching to that final stage of privation
and intense misery, beyond which few or none could have lived, but
also, happily for themselves, fast approaching (in a literal sense)
that final stage of their long pilgrimage, at which they would meet
hospitality on a scale of royal magnificence, and full protection from
their enemies. These enemies, however, as yet still were hanging on
their rear as fiercely as ever, though this day was destined to be the
last of their hideous persecution. The Khan had, in fact, sent forward
couriers with all the requisite statements and petitions, addressed to
the Emperor of China. These had been duly received, and preparations
made in consequence to welcome the Kalmucks with the most paternal
benevolence. But as these couriers had been despatched from the Torgau
at the moment of arrival thither, and before the advance of Traubenberg
had made it necessary for the Khan to order a hasty renewal of the
flight, the Emperor had not looked for their arrival on their frontier
until full three months after the present time. The Khan had indeed
expressly notified his intention to pass the summer heats on the banks
of the Torgau, and to recommence his retreat about the beginning of
September. The subsequent change of plan being unknown to Kien Long,
left him for some time in doubt as to the true interpretation to be put
upon this mighty apparition in the desert; but at length the savage
clamors of hostile fury, and the clangor of weapons, unveiled to the
Emperor the true nature of those unexpected calamities which had so
prematurely precipitated the Kalmuck measure.

Apprehending the real state of affairs, the Emperor instantly perceived
that the first act of his fatherly care for these erring children (as
he esteemed them) now returning to their ancient obedience, must be--
to deliver them from their pursuers. And this was less difficult than
might have been supposed. Not many miles in the rear was a body of well
appointed cavalry, with a strong detachment of artillery, who always
attended the Emperor's motions. These were hastily summoned. Meantime
it occurred to the train of courtiers that some danger might arise to
the Emperor's person from the proximity of a lawless enemy; and
accordingly he was induced to retire a little to the rear. It soon
appeared, however, to those who watched the vapory shroud in the
desert, that its motion was not such as would argue the direction of
the march to be exactly upon the pavilion, but rather in a diagonal
line, making an angle of full forty-five degrees with that line in
which the Imperial _cortège_ had been standing, and therefore with
a distance continually increasing. Those who knew the country judged
that the Kalmucks were making for a large fresh-water lake about seven
or eight miles distant; they were right; and to that point the Imperial
cavalry was ordered up; and it was precisely in that spot, and about
three hours after and at noon-day on the 8th of September, that the
great Exodus of the Kalmuck Tartars was brought to a final close, and
with a scene of such memorable and hellish fury, as formed an
appropriate winding-up to an expedition in all its parts and details so
awfully disastrous. The Emperor was not personally present, or at least
he saw whatever he _did_ see from too great a distance to
discriminate its individual features; but he records in his written
memorial the report made to him of this scene by some of his own

The lake of Tengis, near the frightful desert of Kobi, lay in a hollow
amongst hills of a moderate height, ranging generally from two to three
thousand feet high. About eleven o'clock in the forenoon, the Chinese
cavalry reached the summit of a road which led through a cradle-like
dip in the mountains right down upon the margin of the lake. From this
pass, elevated about two thousand feet above the level of the water,
they continued to descend, by a very winding and difficult road, for an
hour and a half; and during the whole of this descent they were
compelled to be inactive spectators of the fiendish spectacle below.
The Kalmucks, reduced by this time from about six hundred thousand
souls to two hundred thousand, and after enduring for two months and a
half the miseries we have previously described--outrageous heat,
famine, and the destroying scimitar of the Kirghises and the Bashkirs,
had for the last ten days been traversing a hideous desert, where no
vestiges were seen of vegetation, and no drop of water could be found.
Camels and men were already so overladen, that it was a mere
impossibility that they should carry a tolerable sufficiency for the
passage of this frightful wilderness. On the eighth day the wretched
daily allowance, which had been continually diminishing, failed
entirely; and thus for two days of insupportable fatigue, the horrors
of thirst had been carried to the fiercest extremity. Upon this last
morning, at the sight of the hills and the forest scenery, which
announced to those who acted as guides the neighborhood of the lake of
Tengis, all the people rushed along with maddening eagerness to the
anticipated solace. The day grew hotter and hotter, the people more and
more exhausted, and gradually, in the general rush forwards to the
lake, all discipline and command were lost--all attempts to preserve a
rear-guard were neglected--the wild Bashkirs rode in amongst the
encumbered people, and slaughtered them by wholesale, and almost
without resistance. Screams and tumultuous shouts proclaimed the
progress of the massacre; but none heeded--none halted; all alike,
pauper or noble, continued to rush on with maniacal haste to the
waters--all with faces blackened by the heat preying upon the liver,
and with tongue drooping from the mouth. The cruel Bashkir was affected
by the same misery, and manifested the same symptoms of his misery as
the wretched Kalmuck; the murderer was oftentimes in the same frantic
misery as his murdered victim--many indeed (an ordinary effect of
thirst) in both nations had become lunatic--and in this state, whilst
mere multitude and condensation of bodies alone opposed any check to
the destroying scimitar and the trampling hoof, the lake was reached;
and to that the whole vast body of enemies rushed, and together
continued to rush, forgetful of all things at that moment but of one
almighty instinct. This absorption of the thoughts in one maddening
appetite lasted for a single minute; but in the next arose the final
scene of parting vengeance. Far and wide the waters of the solitary
lake were instantly dyed red with blood and gore; here rode a party of
savage Bashkirs, hewing off heads as fast as the swathes fall before
the mower's scythe; there stood unarmed Kalmucks in a death-grapple
with their detested foes, both up to the middle in water, and
oftentimes both sinking together below the surface, from weakness, or
from struggles, and perishing in each other's arms. Did the Bashkirs at
any point collect into a cluster for the sake of giving impetus to the
assault? Thither were the camels driven in fiercely by those who rode
them, generally women or boys; and even these quiet creatures were
forced into a share in this carnival of murder, by trampling down as
many as they could strike prostrate with the lash of their fore-legs.
Every moment the water grew more polluted: and yet every moment fresh
myriads came up to the lake and rushed in, not able to resist their
frantic thirst, and swallowing large draughts of water, visibly
contaminated with the blood of their slaughtered compatriots.
Wheresoever the lake was shallow enough to allow of men raising their
heads above the water, there for scores of acres were to be seen all
forms of ghastly fear, of agonizing struggle, of spasm, of convulsion,
of mortal conflict, death, and the fear of death--revenge, and the
lunacy of revenge--hatred, and the frenzy of hatred--until the neutral
spectators, of whom there were not a few, now descending the eastern
side of the lake, at length averted their eyes in horror. This horror,
which seemed incapable of further addition, was, however, increased by
an unexpected incident. The Bashkirs, beginning to perceive here and
there the approach of the Chinese cavalry, felt it prudent--wheresoever
they were sufficiently at leisure from the passions of the murderous
scene--to gather into bodies. This was noticed by the governor of a
small Chinese fort, built upon an eminence above the lake; and
immediately he threw in a broadside, which spread havoc amongst the
Bashkir tribe. As often as the Bashkirs collected into 'globes' and
'turms' as their only means of meeting the long line of descending
Chinese cavalry--so often did the Chinese governor of the fort pour in
his exterminating broadside; until at length the lake at the lower end,
became one vast seething cauldron of human bloodshed and carnage. The
Chinese cavalry had reached the foot of the hills: the Bashkirs,
attentive to their movements, had formed; skirmishes had been fought:
and, with a quick sense that the contest was henceforwards rapidly
becoming hopeless, the Bashkirs and Kirghises began to retire. The
pursuit was not as vigorous as the Kalmuck hatred would have desired.
But, at the same time, the very gloomiest hatred could not but find, in
their own dreadful experience of the Asiatic deserts, and in the
certainty that these wretched Bashkirs had to repeat that same
experience a second time, for thousands of miles, as the price exacted
by a retributary Providence for their vindictive cruelty--not the very
gloomiest of the Kalmucks, or the least reflecting, but found in all
this a retaliatory chastisement more complete and absolute than any
which their swords and lances could have obtained, or human vengeance
could have devised.

Here ends the tale of the Kalmuck wanderings in the Desert; for any
subsequent marches which awaited them, were neither long nor painful.
Every possible alleviation and refreshment for their exhausted bodies
had been already provided by Kien Long with the most princely
munificence; and lands of great fertility were immediately assigned to
them in ample extent along the river Ily, not very far from the point
at which they had first emerged from the wilderness of Kobi. But the
beneficent attention of the Chinese Emperor may be best stated in his
own words, as translated into French by one of the Jesuit
missionaries:--"La nation des Torgotes (_savoir les Kalmuques_) arriva
à Ily, toute _delabree_, n'ayant ni de quoi vivre, ni de quoi se vêtir.
Je l'avais prévu; et j'avais ordonné de faire en tout genre les
provisions nécessaires pour pouvoir les secourir promptement; c'est ce
qui a été exécuté. On a fait la division des terres; et on a assigné à
chaque famille une portion suffisante pour pouvoir servir à son
entretien, soit en la cultivant, soit en y nourissant des bestiaux. On
a donne a chaque particulier des étoffes pour l'habiller, des grains
pour se nourrir pendant l'espace d'une année, des ustensiles pour le
ménage et d'autres choses nécessaires: et outre cela plusieurs onces
d'argent, pour se pourvoir de ce qu'on aurait pu oublier. On a désigné
des lieux particuliers, fertiles en pâturages; et on leur a donné des
boeufs, moutons, &c. pour qu'ils pussent dans la suite travailler par
euxmêmes a leur entretien et à leur bienêtre."

These are the words of the Emperor himself, speaking in his own person
of his own paternal cares; but another Chinese, treating the same
subject, records the munificence of this prince in terms which proclaim
still more forcibly the disinterested generosity which prompted, and
the delicate considerateness which conducted this extensive bounty. He
has been speaking of the Kalmucks, and he goes on thus:--"Lorsqu'ils
arrivèrent sur nos frontières (au nombre de plusieurs centaines de
mille), quoique la fatigue extrême, la faim, la soif, et toutes les
autres incommodités inséparables d'une très-longue et très pénible
route en eussent fait périr presque autant, ils étaient réduits a la
dernière misère: ils manquaient de tout. Il" (viz. l'Empereur, Kien
Long) "leur fit préparer des logemens conformes a leur manière de
vivre; il leur fit distribuer des aliments et des habits; il leur fit
donner des boeufs, des moutons, et des ustensiles, pour les mettre en
état de former des troupeaux et de cultiver la terre, _et tout cela à
ses propres frais_, qui se sont montés à des sommes immenses, sans
compter l'argent qu'il a donné à chaque chef-de-famille, pour pourvoir
à la subsistance de sa femme et de ses enfans."

Thus, after their memorable year of misery, the Kalmucks were replaced
in territorial possessions, and in comfort equal perhaps, or even
superior, to that which they had enjoyed in Russia, and with superior
political advantages. But, if equal or superior, their condition was no
longer the same; if not in degree, their social prosperity had altered
in quality; for instead of being a purely pastoral and vagrant people,
they were now in circumstances which obliged them to become essentially
dependent upon agriculture; and thus far raised in social rank, that by
the natural course of their habits and the necessities of life they
were effectually reclaimed from roving, and from the savage customs
connected with so unsettled a life. They gained also in political
privileges, chiefly through the immunity from military service which
their new relations enabled them to obtain. These were circumstances of
advantage and gain. But one great disadvantage there was, amply to
overbalance all other possible gain; the chances were lost or were
removed to an incalculable distance for their conversion to
Christianity, without which in these times there is no absolute advance
possible on the path of true civilization.

One word remains to be said upon the _personal_ interests
concerned in this great drama. The catastrophe in this respect was
remarkable and complete. Oubacha, with all his goodness and incapacity
of suspecting, had, since the mysterious affair on the banks of the
Torgau, felt his mind alienated from his cousin; he revolted from the
man that would have murdered him; and he had displayed his caution so
visibly as to provoke a reaction in the bearing of Zebek-Dorchi, and a
displeasure which all his dissimulation could not hide. This had
produced a feud, which, by keeping them aloof, had probably saved the
life of Oubacha; for the friendship of Zebek-Dorchi was more fatal than
his open enmity. After the settlement on the Ily this feud continued to
advance, until it came under the notice of the Emperor, on occasion of
a visit which all the Tartar chieftains made to his Majesty at his
hunting-lodge in 1772. The Emperor informed himself accurately of all
the particulars connected with the transaction--of all the rights and
claims put forward--and of the way in which they would severally affect
the interests of the Kalmuck people. The consequence was, that he
adopted the cause of Oubacha, and repressed the pretensions of Zebek-
Dorchi, who, on his part, so deeply resented this discountenance to his
ambitious projects, that in conjunction with other chiefs he had the
presumption even to weave nets of treason against the Emperor himself.
Plots were laid--were detected--were baffled--counterplots were
constructed upon the same basis, and with the benefit of the
opportunities thus offered.

Finally, Zebek-Dorchi was invited to the imperial lodge, together with
all his accomplices; and under the skilful management of the Chinese
nobles in the Emperor's establishment, the murderous artifices of these
Tartar chieftains were made to recoil upon themselves; and the whole of
them perished by assassination at a great imperial banquet. For the
Chinese morality is exactly of that kind which approves in everything
the _lex talionis:_--

----'lex nec justior ulla est (as _they_ think)
Quam necis artifices arte perire sua.'

So perished Zebek-Dorchi, the author and originator of the great Tartar
_Exodus_. Oubacha, meantime, and his people, were gradually
recovering from the effects of their misery, and repairing their
losses. Peace and prosperity, under the gentle rule of a fatherly lord
paramount, re-dawned upon the tribes; their household _lares_,
after so harsh a translation to distant climates, found again a happy
reinstatement in what had in fact been their primitive abodes; they
found themselves settled in quiet sylvan scenes, rich in all the
luxuries of life, and endowed with the perfect loveliness of Arcadian
beauty. But from the hills of this favored land and even from the level
grounds as they approach its western border, they still look out upon
that fearful wilderness which once beheld a nation in agony--the utter
extirpation of nearly half a million from amongst its numbers, and, for
the remainder, a storm of misery so fierce, that in the end (as
happened also at Athens during the Peloponnesian war from a different
form of misery) very many lost their memory; all records of their past
life were wiped out as with a sponge--utterly erased and cancelled; and
many others lost their reason; some in a gentle form of pensive
melancholy, some in a more restless form of feverish delirium and
nervous agitation, and others in the fixed forms of tempestuous mania,
raving frenzy, or moping idiocy. Two great commemorative monuments
arose in after years to mark the depth and permanence of the awe--the
sacred and reverential grief with which all persons looked back upon
the dread calamities attached to the year of the Tiger--all who had
either personally shared in those calamities, and had themselves drunk
from that cup of sorrow, or who had effectually been made witnesses to
their results, and associated with their relief; two great monuments,
we say; first of all, one in the religious solemnity, enjoined by the
Dalai Lama, called in the Tartar language a _Romanang_, that is, a
national commemoration, with music the most rich and solemn, of all the
souls who departed to the rest of Paradise from the afflictions of the
Desert: this took place about six years after the arrival in China.
Secondly, another more durable and more commensurate to the scale of
the calamity and to the grandeur of this national Exodus, in the mighty
columns of granite and brass, erected by the Emperor Kien Long, near
the banks of the Ily: these columns stand upon the very margin of the
_steppes_; and they bear a short but emphatic inscription
[Footnote: This inscription has been slightly altered in one or two
phrases, and particularly in adapting to the Christian era the
Emperor's expressions for the year of the original Exodus from China
and the retrogressive Exodus from Russia. With respect to the
designation adopted for the Russian Emperor, either it is built upon
some confusion between him and the Byzantine Caesars, as though the
former, being of the same religion with the latter (and occupying in
part the same longitudes, though in different latitudes) might be
considered as his modern successor; or else it refers simply to the
Greek form of Christianity professed by the Russian Emperor and
Church.] to the following effect:--

By the Will of God
Here, upon the Brink of these Deserts,
Which from this Point begin and stretch away
Pathless, treeless, waterless,
For thousands of miles--and along the margins of many mighty Nations,
Rested from their labors and from great afflictions
Under the shadow of the Chinese Wall,
And by the favor of KIEN LONG, God's Lieutenant upon Earth,
The ancient Children of the Wilderness--the Torgote Tartars
Flying before the wrath of the Grecian Czar,
Wandering Sheep who had strayed away from the Celestial Empire in the
year 1616,
But are now mercifully gathered again, after infinite sorrow,
Into the fold of their forgiving Shepherd.
Hallowed be the spot for ever,
Hallowed be the day--September 8, 1771!



[Footnote: Thoughts on Some Important Points relating to the System of
the World. By J. P. Nichol, LL.D., Professor of Astronomy in the
University of Glasgow. William Tait, Edinburgh. 1846.]

Some years ago, some person or other, [in fact I believe it was
myself,] published a paper from the German of Kant, on a very
interesting question, viz., the age of our own little Earth. Those who
have never seen that paper, a class of unfortunate people whom I
suspect to form _rather_ the majority in our present perverse
generation, will be likely to misconceive its object. Kant's purpose
was, not to ascertain how many years the Earth had lived: a million of
years, more or less, made very little difference to _him_. What he
wished to settle was no such barren conundrum. For, had there even been
any means of coercing the Earth into an honest answer, on such a
delicate point, which the Sicilian canon, Recupero, fancied that there
was; [Footnote: _Recupero_. See Brydone's Travels, some sixty or
seventy years ago. The canon, being a beneficed clergyman in the Papal
church, was naturally an infidel. He wished exceedingly to refute
Moses: and he fancied that he really had done so by means of some
collusive assistance from the layers of lava on Mount Etna. But there
survives, at this day, very little to remind us of the canon, except an
unpleasant guffaw that rises, at times, in solitary valleys of Etna.]
but which, in my own opinion, there neither is, nor ought to be,--
(since a man deserves to be cudgelled who could put such improper
questions to a _lady_ planet,)--still what would it amount to?
What good would it do us to have a certificate of our dear little
mother's birth and baptism? Other people--people in Jupiter, or the
Uranians--may amuse themselves with her pretended foibles or
infirmities: it is quite safe to do so at _their_ distance; and,
in a female planet like Venus, it might be natural, (though, strictly
speaking, not quite correct,) to scatter abroad malicious insinuations,
as though our excellent little mamma had begun to wear false hair, or
had lost some of her front teeth. But all this, we men of sense know to
be gammon. Our mother Tellus, beyond all doubt, is a lovely little
thing. I am satisfied that she is very much admired throughout the
Solar System: and, in clear seasons, when she is seen to advantage,
with her bonny wee pet of a Moon tripping round her like a lamb, I
should be thankful to any gentleman who will mention where he has
happened to observe--either he or his telescope--will he only have the
goodness to say, in what part of the heavens he has discovered a more
elegant turn-out. I wish to make no personal reflections. I name no
names. Only this I say, that, though some people have the gift of
seeing things that other people never could see, and though some other
people, or other some people are born with a silver spoon in their
mouths, so that, generally, their geese count for swans, yet, after
all, swans or geese, it would be a pleasure to me, and really a
curiosity, to see the planet that could fancy herself entitled to
sneeze at our Earth. And then, if she (viz., our Earth,) keeps but one
Moon, even _that_ (you know) is an advantage as regards some
people that keep none. There are people, pretty well known to you and
me, that can't make it convenient to keep even one Moon. And so I come
to my moral; which is this, that, to all appearance, it is mere
justice; but, supposing it were not, still it is _our_ duty, (as
children of the Earth,) right or wrong, to stand up for our bonny young
mamma, if she _is_ young; or for our dear old mother, if she
_is_ old; whether young or old, to take her part against all
comers; and to argue through thick and thin, which (sober or not) I
always attempt to do, that she is the most respectable member of the
Copernican System.

Meantime, what Kant understood by being old, is something that still
remains to be explained. If one stumbled, in the steppes of Tartary, on
the grave of a Megalonyx, and, after long study, had deciphered from
some pre-Adamite heiro-pothooks, the following epitaph:--'_Hic
jacet_ a Megalonyx, or _Hic jacet_ a Mammoth, (as the case
might be,) who departed this life, to the grief of his numerous
acquaintance in the seventeen thousandth year of his age,'--of course,
one would be sorry for him; because it must be disagreeable at
_any_ age to be torn away from life, and from all one's little
megalonychal comforts; that's not pleasant, you know, even if one
_is_ seventeen thousand years old. But it would make all the
difference possible in your grief, whether the record indicated a
premature death, that he had been cut off, in fact, whilst just
stepping into life, or had kicked the bucket when full of honors, and
been followed to the grave by a train of weeping grandchildren. He had
died 'in his teens,' that's past denying. But still we must know to
what stage of life in a man, had corresponded seventeen thousand years
in a Mammoth. Now exactly this was what Kant desired to know about our
planet. Let her have lived any number of years that you suggest, (shall
we say if you please, that she is in her billionth year?) still that
tells us nothing about the _period_ of life, the _stage_, which she may
be supposed to have reached. Is she a child, in fact, or is she an
adult? And, _if_ an adult, and that you gave a ball to the Solar
System, is she that kind of person, that you would introduce to a
waltzing partner, some fiery young gentlemen like Mars, or would
you rather suggest to her the sort of partnership which takes place at
a whist-table? On this, as on so many other questions, Kant was
perfectly sensible that people, of the finest understandings, may and
do take the most opposite views. Some think that our planet is in that
stage of her life, which corresponds to the playful period of twelve or
thirteen in a spirited girl. Such a girl, were it not that she is
checked by a sweet natural sense of feminine grace, you might call a
romp; but not a hoyden, observe; no horse-play; oh, no, nothing of that
sort. And these people fancy that earthquakes, volcanoes, and all such
little _escapades_ will be over, they will, in lawyer's phrase,
'cease and determine,' as soon as our Earth reaches the age of maidenly
bashfulness. Poor thing! It's quite natural, you know, in a healthy
growing girl. A little overflow of vivacity, a _pirouette_ more or
less, what harm should _that_ do to any of us? Nobody takes more
delight than I in the fawn-like sportiveness of an innocent girl, at
this period of life: even a shade of _espièglerie_ does not annoy
me. But still my own impressions incline me rather to represent the
Earth as a fine noble young woman, full of the pride which is so
becoming to her sex, and well able to take her own part, in case that,
at any solitary point of the heavens, she should come across one of
those vulgar fussy Comets, disposed to be rude and take improper
liberties. These Comets, by the way, are public nuisances, very much
like the mounted messengers of butchers in great cities, who are always
at full gallop, and moving upon such an infinity of angles to human
shinbones, that the final purpose of such boys (one of whom lately had
the audacity nearly to ride down the Duke of Wellington) seems to be--
not the translation of mutton, which would certainly find its way into
human mouths even if riding boys were not,--but the improved geometry
of transcendental curves. They ought to be numbered, ought these boys,
and to wear badges--X 10, &c. And exactly the same evil, asking
therefore by implication for exactly the same remedy, affects the
Comets. A respectable planet is known everywhere, and responsible for
any mischief that he does. But if a cry should arise, 'Stop that
wretch, who was rude to the Earth: who is he?' twenty voices will
answer, perhaps, 'It's Encke's Comet; he is always doing mischief;'
well, what can you say? it _may_ be Encke's, it may be some other
man's Comet; there are so many abroad and on so many roads, that you
might as well ask upon a night of fog, such fog as may be opened with
an oyster knife, whose cab that was (whose, viz., out of 27,000 in
London) that floored you into the kennel.

These are constructive ideas upon the Earth's stage of evolution, which
Kant was aware of, and which will always find toleration, even where
they do not find patronage. But others there are, a class whom I
perfectly abominate, that place our Earth in the category of decaying
women, nay of decayed women, going, going, and all but gone. 'Hair like
arctic snows, failure of vital heat, palsy that shakes the head as in
the porcelain toys on our mantel-pieces, asthma that shakes the whole
fabric--these they absolutely fancy themselves to _see_. They
absolutely _hear_ the tellurian lungs wheezing, panting, crying,
'Bellows to mend!' periodically as the Earth approaches her aphelion.

But suddenly at this point a demur arises upon the total question.
Kant's very problem explodes, bursts, as poison in Venetian wine-glass
of old shivered the glass into fragments. For is there, after all, any
stationary meaning in the question? Perhaps in reality the Earth is
both young and old. Young? If she is not young at present, perhaps she
_will_ be so in future. Old? if she is not old at this moment,
perhaps she _has_ been old, and has a fair chance of becoming so
again. In fact, she is a Phoenix that is known to have secret processes
for rebuilding herself out of her own ashes. Little doubt there is but
she has seen many a birthday, many a funeral night, and many a morning
of resurrection. Where now the mightiest of oceans rolls in pacific
beauty, once were anchored continents and boundless forests. Where the
south pole now shuts her frozen gates inhospitably against the
intrusions of flesh, once were probably accumulated the ribs of
empires; man's imperial forehead, woman's roseate lips, gleamed upon
ten thousand hills; and there were innumerable contributions to
antarctic journals almost as good (but not quite) as our own. Even
within our domestic limits, even where little England, in her south-
eastern quarter now devolves so quietly to the sea her sweet pastoral
rivulets, once came roaring down, in pomp of waters, a regal Ganges
[Footnote: _'Ganges:'_--Dr. Nichol calls it by this name for the
purpose of expressing its grandeur; and certainly in breadth, in
diffusion at all times, but especially in the rainy season, the Ganges
is the cock of the walk in our British orient. Else, as regards the
body of water discharged, the absolute payments made into the sea's
exchequer, and the majesty of column riding downwards from the
Himalaya, I believe that, since Sir Alexander Burnes's measurements,
the Indus ranks foremost by a long chalk.], that drained some
hyperbolical continent, some Quinbus Flestrin of Asiatic proportions,
long since gone to the dogs. All things pass away. Generations wax old
as does a garment: but eternally God says:--'Come again, ye children of
men.' Wildernesses of fruit, and worlds of flowers, are annually
gathered in solitary South America to ancestral graves: yet still the
Pomona of Earth, yet still the Flora of Earth, does not become
superannuated, but blossoms in everlasting youth. Not otherwise by
secular periods, known to us geologically as facts, though obscure as
durations, _Tellus_ herself, the planet, as a whole, is for ever
working by golden balances of change and compensation, of ruin and
restoration. She recasts her glorious habitations in decomposing them;
she lies down for death, which perhaps a thousand times she has
suffered; she rises for a new birth, which perhaps for the thousandth
time has glorified her disc. Hers is the wedding garment, hers is the
shroud, that eternally is being woven in the loom. And God imposes upon
her the awful necessity of working for ever at her own grave, yet of
listening for ever to his far-off trumpet of _palingenesis_.

If this account of the matter be just, and were it not treasonable to
insinuate the possibility of an error against so great a swell as
Immanuel Kant, one would be inclined to fancy that Mr. Kant had really
been dozing a little on this occasion; or, agreeably to his own
illustration elsewhere, that he had realized the pleasant picture of
one learned doctor trying to milk a he-goat, whilst another doctor,
equally learned, holds the milk-pail below. [Footnote: Kant applied
this illustration to the case where one worshipful scholar proposes
some impossible problem, (as the squaring of the circle, or the
perpetual motion,) which another worshipful scholar sits down to solve.
The reference was of course to Virgil's line,--'Atque idem jungat
vulpes, et _mulgeat hircos_.'] And there is apparently this two-
edged embarrassment pressing upon the case--that, if our dear excellent
mother the Earth could be persuaded to tell us her exact age in Julian
years, still _that_ would leave us all as much in the dark as
ever: since, if the answer were, 'Why, children, at my next birth-day I
shall count a matter of some million centuries,' we should still be at
a loss to _value_ her age: would it mean that she was a mere
chicken, or that she was 'getting up in years?' On the other hand, if
(declining to state any odious circumstantialities,) she were to
reply,--'No matter, children, for my precise years, which are
disagreeable remembrances; I confess generally to being a lady of a
certain age,'--here, in the inverse order, given the _valuation_
of the age, we should yet be at a loss for the _absolute_ years
numerically: would a 'certain age,' mean that 'mamma' was a million, be
the same more or less, or perhaps not much above seventy thousand?

Every way, you see, reader, there are difficulties. But two things used
to strike me, as unaccountably overlooked by Kant; who, to say the
truth, was profound--yet at no time very agile--in the character of his
understanding. First, what age now might we take our brother and sister
planets to be? For _that_ determination as to a point in
_their_ constitution, will do something to illustrate our own. We
are as good as they, I hope, any day: perhaps in a growl, one might
modestly insinuate--_better_. It's not at all likely that there
can be any great disproportion of age amongst children of the same
household: and therefore, since Kant always countenanced the idea that
Jupiter had not quite finished the upholstery of his extensive
premises, as a comfortable residence for a man, Jupiter having, in
fact, a fine family of mammoths, but no family at all of 'humans,' (as
brother Jonathan calls them,) Kant was bound, _ex analogo_, to
hold that any little precedency in the trade of living, on the part of
our own mother Earth, could not count for much in the long run. At
Newmarket, or Doncaster, the start is seldom mathematically true:
trifling advantages will survive all human trials after abstract
equity; and the logic of this case argues, that any few thousands of
years by which Tellus may have got ahead of Jupiter, such as the having
finished her Roman Empire, finished her Crusades, and finished her
French Revolution, virtually amounts to little or nothing; indicates no
higher proportion to the total scale upon which she has to run, than
the few tickings of a watch by which one horse at the start for the
Leger is in advance of another. When checked in our chronology by each
other, it transpires that, in effect, we are but executing the nice
manoeuvre of a start; and that the small matter of six thousand years,
by which we may have advanced our own position beyond some of our
planetary rivals, is but the outstretched neck of an uneasy horse at
Doncaster. This is _one_ of the data overlooked by Kant; and the
less excusably overlooked, because it was his own peculiar doctrine,--
that uncle Jupiter ought to be considered a greenhorn. Jupiter may be a
younger brother of our mamma; but, if he is a brother at all, he cannot
be so very wide of our own chronology; and therefore the first
_datum_ overlooked by Kant was--the analogy of our whole planetary
system. A second datum, as it always occurred to myself, might
reasonably enough be derived from the intellectual vigor of us men. If
our mother could, with any show of reason, be considered an old decayed
lady, snoring stentorously in her arm-chair, there would naturally be
some _aroma_ of phthisis, or apoplexy, beginning to form about
_us_, that are her children. But _is_ there? If ever Dr. Johnson
said a true word, it was when he replied to the Scottish judge
Burnett, so well known to the world as Lord Monboddo. The judge, a
learned man, but obstinate as a mule in certain prejudices, had said
plaintively, querulously, piteously,--'Ah, Doctor, we are poor
creatures, we men of the eighteenth century, by comparison with our
forefathers!' 'Oh, no, my Lord,' said Johnson, 'we are quite as strong
as our ancestors, and a great deal wiser.' Yes; our kick is, at least,
as dangerous, and our logic does three times as much execution. This
would be a complex topic to treat effectively; and I wish merely to
indicate the opening which it offers for a most decisive order of
arguments in such a controversy. If the Earth were on her last legs, we
her children could not be very strong or healthy. Whereas, if there
were less pedantry amongst us, less malice, less falsehood, and less
darkness of prejudice, easy it would be to show, that in almost every
mode of intellectual power, we are more than a match for the most
conceited of elder generations, and that in some modes we have energies
or arts absolutely and exclusively our own. Amongst a thousand
indications of strength and budding youth, I will mention two:--Is it
likely, is it plausible, that our Earth should just begin to find out
effective methods of traversing land and sea, when she had a summons to
leave both? Is it not, on the contrary, a clear presumption that the
great career of earthly nations is but on the point of opening, that
life is but just beginning to kindle, when the great obstacles to
effectual locomotion, and therefore to extensive human intercourse, are
first of all beginning to give way? Secondly, I ask peremptorily,--Does
it stand with good sense, is it reasonable that Earth is waning,
science drooping, man looking downward, precisely in that epoch when,
first of all, man's eye is arming itself for looking effectively into
the mighty depths of space? A new era for the human intellect, upon a
path that lies amongst its most aspiring, is promised, is inaugurated,
by Lord Rosse's almost awful telescope.

What is it then that Lord Rosse has accomplished? If a man were aiming
at dazzling by effects of rhetoric, he might reply: He has accomplished
that which once the condition of the telescope not only refused its
permission to hope for, but expressly bade man to despair of. What is
it that Lord Rosse has revealed? Answer: he has revealed more by far
than he found. The theatre to which he has introduced us, is
_immeasurably_ beyond the old one which he found. To say that he
found, in the visible universe, a little wooden theatre of Thespis, a
_tréteau_ or shed of vagrants, and that he presented us, at a
price of toil and of _anxiety_ that cannot be measured, with a
Roman colosseum,--_that_ is to say nothing. It is to undertake the
measurement of the tropics with the pocket-tape of an upholsterer.
Columbus, when he introduced the Old World to the New, after all that
can be said in his praise, did in fact only introduce the majority to
the minority; but Lord Rosse has introduced the minority to the
majority. There are two worlds, one called Ante-Rosse, and the other
Post-Rosse; and, if it should come to voting, the latter would
shockingly outvote the other. Augustus Cæsar made it his boast when
dying, that he had found the city of Rome built of brick, and that he
left it built of marble: _lateritiam invenit, marmoream reliquit_.
Lord Rosse may say, even if to-day he should die, 'I found God's
universe represented for human convenience, even after all the sublime
discoveries of Herschel, upon a globe or spherical chart having a
radius of one hundred and fifty feet; and I left it sketched upon a
similar chart, keeping exactly the same scale of proportions, but now
elongating its radius into one thousand feet.' The reader of course
understands that this expression, founded on absolute calculations of
Dr. Nichol, is simply meant to exhibit the _relative_ dimensions
of the _mundus Ante-Rosseanus_ and the _mundus Post-Rosseanus;_
for as to the _absolute_ dimensions, when stated in miles, leagues
or any units familiar to the human experience, they are too stunning
and confounding. If, again, they are stated in larger units, as for
instance diameters of the earth's orbit, the unit itself that
should facilitate the grasping of the result, and which really
_is_ more manageable numerically, becomes itself elusive of the
mental grasp: it comes in as an interpreter; and (as in some other
cases) the interpreter is hardest to be understood of the two. If,
finally, TIME be assumed as the exponent of the dreadful magnitudes,
time combining itself with motion, as in the flight of cannon-balls or
the flight of swallows, the sublimity becomes greater; but horror
seizes upon the reflecting intellect, and incredulity upon the
irreflective. Even a railroad generation, that _should_ have faith
in the miracles of velocity, lifts up its hands with an '_Incredulus
odi_!' we know that Dr. Nichol speaks the truth; but he _seems_
to speak falsehood. And the ignorant by-stander prays that the doctor
may have grace given him and time for repentance; whilst his more
liberal companion reproves his want of charity, observing that
travellers into far countries have always had a license for lying, as a
sort of tax or fine levied for remunerating their own risks; and that
great astronomers, as necessarily far travellers into space, are
entitled to a double per centage of the same Munchausen privilege.

Great is the mystery of Space, greater is the mystery of Time; either
mystery grows upon man, as man himself grows; and either seems to be a
function of the godlike which is in man. In reality the depths and the
heights which are in man, the depths by which he searches, the heights
by which he aspires, are but projected and made objective externally in
the three dimensions of space which are outside of him. He trembles at
the abyss into which his bodily eyes look down, or look up; not knowing
that abyss to be, not always consciously suspecting it to be, but by an
instinct written in his prophetic heart feeling it to be, boding it to
be, fearing it to be, and sometimes hoping it to be, the mirror to a
mightier abyss that will one day be expanded in himself. Even as to the
sense of space, which is the lesser mystery than time, I know not
whether the reader has remarked that it is one which swells upon man
with the expansion of his mind, and that it is probably peculiar to the
mind of man. An infant of a year old, or oftentimes even older, takes
no notice of a sound, however loud, which is a quarter of a mile
removed, or even in a distant chamber. And brutes, even of the most
enlarged capacities, seem not to have any commerce with distance:
distance is probably not revealed to them except by a _presence_,
viz., by some shadow of their own animality, which, if perceived at
all, is perceived as a thing _present_ to their organs. An animal
desire, or a deep animal hostility, may render sensible a distance
which else would not be sensible; but not render it sensible _as_
a distance. Hence perhaps is explained, and not out of any self-
oblivion from higher enthusiasm, a fact that often has occurred, of
deer, or hares, or foxes, and the pack of hounds in pursuit, chaser and
chased, all going headlong over a precipice together. Depth or height
does not readily manifest itself to _them_; so that any _strong_ motive
is sufficient to overpower the sense of it. Man only has a natural
function for expanding on an illimitable sensorium, the illimitable
growths of space. Man, coming to the precipice, reads his danger; the
brute perishes: man is saved; and the horse is saved by his rider.

But, if this sounds in the ear of some a doubtful refinement, the doubt
applies only to the lowest degrees of space. For the highest, it is
certain that brutes have no perception. To man is as much reserved the
prerogative of perceiving space in its higher extensions, as of
geometrically constructing the relations of space. And the brute is no
more capable of apprehending abysses through his eye, than he can build
upwards or can analyze downwards the ærial synthesis of Geometry. Such,
therefore, as is space for the grandeur of man's perceptions, such as
is space for the benefit of man's towering mathematic speculations,
such is the nature of our debt to Lord Rosse--as being the philosopher
who has most pushed back the frontiers of our conquests upon this
_exclusive_ inheritance of man. We have all heard of a king that,
sitting on the sea-shore, bade the waves, as they began to lave his
feet, upon their allegiance to retire. _That_ was said not vainly
or presumptuously, but in reproof of sycophantic courtiers. Now,
however, we see in good earnest another man, wielding another kind of
sceptre, and sitting upon the shores of infinity, that says to the ice
which had frozen up our progress,--'Melt thou before my breath!' that
says to the rebellious _nebulæ_,--'Submit, and burst into blazing
worlds!' that says to the gates of darkness,--'Roll back, ye barriers,
and no longer hide from us the infinities of God!'

'Come, and I will show you what is beautiful.'

From the days of infancy still lingers in my ears this opening of a
prose hymn by a lady, then very celebrated, viz., the late Mrs.
Barbauld. The hymn began by enticing some solitary infant into some
silent garden, I believe, or some forest lawn; and the opening words
were, 'Come, and I will show you what is beautiful!' Well, and what
beside? There is nothing beside; oh, disappointed and therefore enraged
reader; positively this is the sum-total of what I can recall from the
wreck of years; and certainly it is not much. Even of Sappho, though
time has made mere ducks and drakes of her lyrics, we have rather more
spared to us than this. And yet this trifle, simple as you think it,
this shred of a fragment, if the reader will believe me, still echoes
with luxurious sweetness in my ears, from some unaccountable hide-and-
seek of fugitive childish memories; just as a marine shell, if applied
steadily to the ear, awakens (according to the fine image of Landor
[Footnote: 'Of Landor,' viz., in his 'Gebir;' but also of Wordsworth in
'The Excursion.' And I must tell the reader, that a contest raged at
one time as to the _original property_ in this image, not much
less keen than that between Neptune and Minerva, for the chancellorship
of Athens.]) the great vision of the sea; places the listener

'In the sun's palace-porch,
And murmurs as the ocean murmurs there.'

Now, on some moonless night, in some fitting condition of the
atmosphere, if Lord Rosse would permit the reader and myself to walk
into the front drawing-room of his telescope, then, in Mrs. Barbauld's
words, slightly varied, I might say to him,--Come, and I will show you
what is sublime! In fact, what I am going to lay before him, from Dr.
Nichol's work, is, or at least _would_ be, (when translated into
Hebrew grandeur by the mighty telescope,) a step above even that object
which some four-and-twenty years ago in the British Museum struck me as
simply the sublimest sight which in this sight-seeing world I had seen.
It was the Memnon's head, then recently brought from Egypt. I looked at
it, as the reader must suppose, in order to understand the depth which
I have here ascribed to the impression, not as a human but as a
symbolic head; and what it symbolized to me were: 1. The peace which
passeth all understanding. 2. The eternity which baffles and confounds
all faculty of computation; the eternity which _had_ been, the
eternity which _was_ to be. 3. The diffusive love, not such as
rises and falls upon waves of life and mortality, not such as sinks and
swells by undulations of time, but a procession--an emanation from some
mystery of endless dawn. You durst not call it a smile that radiated
from the lips; the radiation was too awful to clothe itself in
adumbrations or memorials of flesh.

In _that mode_ of sublimity, perhaps, I still adhere to my first
opinion, that nothing so great was ever beheld. The atmosphere for
_this_, for the Memnon, was the breathlessness which belongs to a
saintly trance; the holy thing seemed to live by silence. But there
_is_ a picture, the pendant of the Memnon, there _is_ a dreadful
cartoon, from the gallery which has begun to open upon Lord Rosse's
telescope, where the appropriate atmosphere for investing it
must be drawn from another silence, from the frost and from the
eternities of death. It is the famous _nebula_ in the constellation
of Orion; famous for the unexampled defiance with which it resisted
all approaches from the most potent of former telescopes; famous
for its frightful magnitude and for the frightful depth to which
it is sunk in the abysses of the heavenly wilderness; famous just now
for the submission with which it has begun to render up its secrets to
the all-conquering telescope; and famous in all time coming for the
horror of the regal phantasma which it has perfected to eyes of flesh.
Had Milton's 'incestuous mother,' with her fleshless son, and with the
warrior angel, his father, that led the rebellions of heaven, been
suddenly unmasked by Lord Rosse's instrument, in these dreadful
distances before which, simply as expressions of resistance, the mind
of man shudders and recoils, there would have been nothing more
appalling in the exposure; in fact, it would have been essentially the
same exposure: the same expression of power in the detestable phantom,
the same rebellion in the attitude, the same pomp of malice in the
features to a universe seasoned for its assaults.

The reader must look to Dr. Nichol's book, at page 51, for the picture
of this abominable apparition. But then, in order to see what _I_
see, the obedient reader must do what I tell him to do. Let him
therefore view the wretch upside down. If he neglects that simple
direction, of course I don't answer for anything that follows: without
any fault of mine, my description will be unintelligible. This
inversion being made, the following is the dreadful creature that will
then reveal itself.

_Description of the Nebula in Orion, as forced to show out by Lord
Rosse._--You see a head thrown back, and raising its face, (or eyes,
if eyes it had,) in the very anguish of hatred, to some unknown
heavens. What _should_ be its skull wears what _might_ be an
Assyrian tiara, only ending behind in a floating train. This head rests
upon a beautifully developed neck and throat. All power being given to
the awful enemy, he is beautiful where he pleases, in order to point
and envenom his ghostly ugliness. The mouth, in that stage of the
apocalypse which Sir John Herschel was able to arrest in his eighteen-
inch mirror, is amply developed. Brutalities unspeakable sit upon the
upper lip, which is confluent with a snout; for separate nostrils there
are none. Were it not for this one defect of nostrils; and, even in
spite of this defect, (since, in so mysterious a mixture of the angelic
and the brutal, we may suppose the sense of odor to work by some
compensatory organ,) one is reminded by the phantom's attitude of a
passage, ever memorable, in Milton: that passage, I mean, where Death
first becomes aware, soon after the original trespass, of his own
future empire over man. The 'meagre shadow' even smiles (for the first
time and the last) on apprehending his own abominable bliss, by
apprehending from afar the savor 'of mortal change on earth.'

----'Such a scent,' (he says,) 'I draw
Of carnage, prey innumerable.'

As illustrating the attitude of the phantom in Orion, let the reader
allow me to quote the tremendous passage:--

'So saying, with delight he snuff'd the smell
Of mortal change on earth. As when a flock
Of ravenous fowl, though many a league remote,
Against the day of battle, to a field,
Where armies lie encamp'd, come flying, lured
With scent of living carcasses design'd
For death, the following day, in bloody fight;
So scented the grim feature, [Footnote: 'So scented the grim
feature,' [_feature_ is the old word for _form or outline that
is shadowy_; and also for form (shadowy or not) which abstracts from
the _matter_.] By the way, I have never seen it noticed, that
Milton was indebted for the hint of this immortal passage to a superb
line-and-a-half, in Lucan's Pharsalia.] and upturn'd
His nostril wide into the murky air,
Sagacious of his quarry from so far.'

But the lower lip, which is drawn inwards with the curve of a conch
shell,--oh what a convolute of cruelty and revenge is _there_!
Cruelty!--to whom? Revenge!--for what? Ask not, whisper not. Look
upwards to other mysteries. In the very region of his temples, driving
itself downwards into his cruel brain, and breaking the continuity of
his diadem, is a horrid chasm, a ravine, a shaft, that many centuries
would not traverse; and it is serrated on its posterior wall with a
harrow that perhaps is partly hidden. From the anterior wall of this
chasm rise, in vertical directions, two processes; one perpendicular,
and rigid as a horn, the other streaming forward before some portentous
breath. What these could be, seemed doubtful; but now, when further
examinations by Sir John Herschel, at the Cape of Good Hope, have
filled up the scattered outline with a rich umbrageous growth, one is
inclined to regard them as the plumes of a sultan. Dressed he is,
therefore, as well as armed. And finally comes Lord Rosse, that
glorifies him with the jewellery [Footnote: _The jewellery of
Stars_. And one thing is very remarkable, viz., that not only the
stars justify this name of jewellery, as usual, by the life of their
splendor, but also, in this case, by their arrangement. No jeweller
could have set, or disposed with more art, the magnificent quadrille of
stars which is placed immediately below the upright plume. There is
also another, a truncated quadrille, wanting only the left hand star
(or you might call it a bisected lozenge) placed on the diadem, but
obliquely placed as regards the curve of that diadem. Two or three
other arrangements are striking, though not equally so, both from their
regularity and from their repeating each other, as the forms in a
kaleidoscope.] of stars: he is now a vision 'to dream of, not to tell:'
he is ready for the worship of those that are tormented in sleep: and
the stages of his solemn uncovering by astronomy, first by Sir W.
Herschel, secondly, by his son, and finally by Lord Rosse, is like the
reversing of some heavenly doom, like the raising of the seals that had
been sealed by the angel, in the Revelations. But the reader naturally
asks, How does all this concern Lord Rosse's telescope on the one side,
or general astronomy on the other? This _nebula_, he will say,
seems a bad kind of fellow by your account; and of course it will not
break my heart to hear, that he has had the conceit taken out of him.
But in what way can _that_ affect the pretensions of this new
instrument; or, if it did, how can the character of the instrument
affect the general condition of a science? Besides, is not the science
a growth from very ancient times? With great respect for the Earl of
Rosse, is it conceivable that he, or any man, by one hour's working the
tackle of his new instrument, can have carried any stunning
revolutionary effect into the heart of a section so ancient in our
mathematical physics? But the reader is to consider, that the ruins
made by Lord Rosse, are in _sidereal_ astronomy, which is almost
wholly a growth of modern times; and the particular part of it
demolished by the new telescope, is almost exclusively the creation of
the two Herschels, father and son. Laplace, it is true, adopted their
views; and he transferred them to the particular service of our own
planetary system. But he gave to them no new sanction, except what
arises from showing that they would account for the appearances, as
they present themselves to our experience at this day. That was a
_negative_ confirmation; by which I mean, that, had their views
failed in the hands of Laplace, then they were proved to be false; but,
_not_ failing, they were not therefore proved to be true. It was
like proving a gun; if the charge is insufficient, or if, in trying the
strength of cast iron, timber, ropes, &c., the strain is not up to the
rigor of the demand, you go away with perhaps a favorable impression as
to the promises of the article; it has stood a moderate trial; it has
stood all the trial that offered, which is always something; but you
are still obliged to feel that, when the ultimate test is applied,
smash may go the whole concern. Lord Rosse applied an ultimate test;
and smash went the whole concern. Really I must have laughed, though
all the world had been angry, when the shrieks and yells of expiring
systems began to reverberate all the way from the belt of Orion; and
positively at the very first broadside delivered from this huge four-
decker of a telescope.

But what was it then that went to wreck? That is a thing more easy to
ask than to answer. At least, for my own part, I complain that some
vagueness hangs over all the accounts of the nebular hypothesis.
However, in this place a brief sketch will suffice.

Herschel the elder, having greatly improved the telescope, began to
observe with special attention a class of remarkable phenomena in the
starry world hitherto unstudied, viz.: milky spots in various stages of
diffusion. The nature of these appearances soon cleared itself up thus
far, that generally they were found to be starry worlds, separated from
ours by inconceivable distances, and in that way concealing at first
their real nature. The whitish gleam was the mask conferred by the
enormity of their remotion. This being so, it might have been supposed
that, as was the faintness of these cloudy spots or _nebulæ_, such
was the distance. But _that_ did not follow: for in the treasury
of nature it turned out that there were other resources for modifying
the powers of distance, for muffling and unmuffling the voice of stars.
Suppose a world at the distance _x_, which distance is so great as
to make the manifestation of that world weak, milky, nebular. Now let
the secret power that wields these awful orbs, push this world back to
a double distance! _that_ should naturally make it paler and more
dilute than ever: and yet by _compression_, by deeper centralization,
this effect shall be defeated; by forcing into far closer neighborhood
the stars which compose this world, again it shall gleam out brighter
when at 2_x_ than when at _x_. At this point of compression, let the
great moulding power a second time push it back; and a second time it
will grow faint. But once more let this world be tortured into closer
compression, again let the screw be put upon it, and once again it
shall shake off the oppression of distance as the dew-drops are shaken
from a lion's mane. And thus in fact the mysterious architect plays at
hide-and-seek with his worlds. 'I will hide it,' he says, 'and it shall
be found again by man; I will withdraw it into distances that shall
seem fabulous, and again it shall apparel itself in glorious light; a
third time I will plunge it into aboriginal darkness, and upon the
vision of man a third time it shall rise with a new epiphany.'

But, says the objector, there is no such world; there is no world that
has thus been driven back, and depressed from one deep to a lower deep.
Granted: but the same effect, an illustration of the same law, is
produced equally, whether you take four worlds, all of the same
magnitude, and plunge them _simultaneously_ into four different
abysses, sinking by graduated distances one below another, or take one
world and plunge it to the same distances _successively_. So in
Geology, when men talk of substances in different stages, or of
transitional states, they do not mean that they have watched the same
individual _stratum_ or _phenomenon_, exhibiting states removed
from each other by depths of many thousand years; how could they?
but they have seen one stage in the case A, another stage in the
case B. They take, for instance, three objects, the same (to use the
technical language of logic) generically, though numerically different,
under separate circumstances, or in different stages of advance. They
are one object for logic, they are three for human convenience. So
again it might seem impossible to give the history of a rose tree from
infancy to age: how could the same rose tree, at the same time, be
young and old? Yet by taking the different developments of its flowers,
even as they hang on the same tree, from the earliest bud to the full-
blown rose, you may in effect pursue this vegetable growth through all
its stages: you have before you the bony blushing little rose-bud, and
the respectable 'mediæval' full-blown rose.

This point settled, let it now be remarked, that Herschel's resources
enabled him to unmask many of these _nebulæ_: stars they were, and
stars he forced them to own themselves. Why should any decent world
wear an _alias_? There was nothing, you know, to be ashamed of in
being an honest cluster of stars. Indeed, they seemed to be sensible of
this themselves, and they now yielded to the force of Herschel's
arguments so far as to show themselves in the new character of
_nebulæ_ spangled with stars; these are the _stellar nebulæ_;
quite as much as you could expect in so short a time: Rome was not
built in a day: and one must have some respect to stellar feelings. It
was noticed, however, that where a bright haze, and not a weak milk-
and-water haze, had revealed itself to the telescope, this, arising
from a case of _compression_, (as previously explained,) required
very little increase of telescopic power to force him into a fuller
confession. He made a clean breast of it. But at length came a dreadful
anomaly. A 'nebula' in the constellation _Andromeda_ turned
restive: another in _Orion_, I grieve to say it, still more so. I
confine myself to the latter. A very low power sufficed to bring him to
a slight confession, which in fact amounted to nothing; the very
highest would not persuade him to show a star. 'Just one,' said some
coaxing person; 'we'll be satisfied with only one.' But no: he would
_not_. He was hardened, 'he wouldn't _split_.' And Herschel
was thus led, after waiting as long as flesh and blood _could_
wait, to infer two classes of _nebulæ_; one that were stars; and
another that were _not_ stars, nor ever were meant to be stars.
Yet _that_ was premature: he found at last, that, though not raised
to the peerage of stars, finally they would be so: they were the
matter of stars; and by gradual condensation would become suns, whose
atmosphere, by a similar process of condensing, would become planets,
capable of brilliant literati and philosophers, in several volumes
octavo. So stood the case for a long time; it was settled to the
satisfaction of Europe that there were two classes of _nebulæ_,
one that _were_ worlds, one that were _not_, but only the pabulum
of future worlds. Silence arose. A voice was heard, 'Let there
be Lord Rosse!' and immediately his telescope walked into Orion;
destroyed the supposed matter of stars; but, in return, created
immeasurable worlds.

As a hint for apprehending the delicacy and difficulty of the process
in sidereal astronomy, let the inexperienced reader figure to himself
these separate cases of perplexity: 1st, A perplexity where the dilemma
arises from the collision between magnitude and distance:--is the size
less, or the distance greater? 2dly, Where the dilemma arises between
motions, a motion in ourselves doubtfully confounded with a motion in
some external body; or, 3dly, Where it arises between possible
positions of an object: is it a real proximity that we see between two
stars, or simply an apparent proximity from lying in the same visual
line, though in far other depths of space? As regards the first
dilemma, we may suppose two laws, A and B, absolutely in contradiction,
laid down at starting: A, that all fixed stars are precisely at the
same _distance_; in this case every difference in the apparent
magnitude will indicate a corresponding difference in the real
magnitude, and will measure that difference. B, that all the fixed
stars are precisely of the same _magnitude_; in which case, every
variety in the size will indicate a corresponding difference in the
distance, and will measure that difference. Nor could we imagine any
exception to these inferences from A or from B, whichever of the two
were assumed, unless through optical laws that might not equally affect
objects under different circumstances; I mean, for instance, that might
suffer a disturbance as applied under hypoth. B, to different depths in
space, or under hypoth. A, to different arrangements of structure in
the star. But thirdly, it is certain, that neither A nor B is the
abiding law: and next it becomes an object by science and by
instruments to distinguish more readily and more certainly between the
cases where the distance has degraded the size, and the cases where the
size being _really_ less, has caused an exaggeration of the
distance: or again, where the size being really less, yet co-operating
with a distance really greater, may degrade the estimate, (though
travelling in a right direction,) below the truth; or again where the
size being really less, yet counteracted by a distance also less, may
equally disturb the truth of human measurements, and so on.

A second large order of equivocating appearances will arise,--not as to
magnitude, but as to motion. If it could be a safe assumption, that the
system to which our planet is attached were absolutely fixed and
motionless, except as regards its own _internal_ relations of
movement, then every change outside of us, every motion that the
registers of astronomy had established, would be objective and not
subjective. It would be safe to pronounce at once that it was a motion
in the object contemplated, _not_ in the subject contemplating.
Or, reversely, if it were safe to assume as a universal law, that no
motion was possible in the starry heavens, then every change of
relations in space, between ourselves and them, would indicate and
would measure a progress, or regress, on the part of our solar system,
in certain known directions. But now, because it is not safe to rest in
either assumption, the range of possibilities for which science has to
provide, is enlarged; the immediate difficulties are multiplied; but
with the result (as in the former case) of reversionally expanding the
powers, and consequently the facilities, lodged both in the science and
in the arts ministerial to the science. Thus, in the constellation
_Cygnus_, there is a star gradually changing its relation to our
system, whose distance from ourselves (as Dr. Nichol tells us) is
ascertained to be about six hundred and seventy thousand times our own
distance from the sun: that is, neglecting minute accuracy, about six
hundred and seventy thousand stages of one hundred million miles each.
This point being known, it falls within the _arts_ of astronomy to
translate this apparent angular motion into miles; and presuming this
change of relation to be not in the star, but really in ourselves, we
may deduce the velocity of our course, we may enter into our _log_
daily the rate at which our whole solar system is running. Bessel, it
seems, the eminent astronomer who died lately, computed this velocity
to be such (viz., three times that of our own earth in its proper
orbit) as would carry us to the star in forty-one thousand years. But,
in the mean time, the astronomer is to hold in reserve some small share
of his attention, some trifle of a side-glance, now and then, to the
possibility of an error, after all, in the main assumption: he must
watch the indications, if any such should arise, that not ourselves,
but the star in _Cygnus_, is the real party concerned, in drifting
at this shocking rate, with no prospect of coming to an anchorage.
[Footnote: It is worth adding at this point, whilst the reader
remembers without effort the numbers, viz., forty-one thousand
years, for the time, (the space being our own distance from the sun
repeated six hundred and seventy thousand times,) what would be the
time required for reaching, in the _body_, that distance to which
Lord Rosse's six feet mirror has so recently extended our
_vision_. The time would be, as Dr. Nichol computes, about two
hundred and fifty millions of years, supposing that our rate of
travelling was about three times that of our earth in its orbit. Now,
as the velocity is assumed to be the same in both cases, the ratio
between the distance (already so tremendous) of Bessel's 61
_Cygni_, and that of Lord Rosse's farthest frontier, is as forty-
one thousand to two hundred and fifty millions. This is a simple rule-
of-three problem for a child. And the answer to it will, perhaps,
convey the simplest expression of the superhuman power lodged in the
new telescope:--as is the ratio of forty-one thousand to two hundred
and fifty million, so is the ratio of our own distance from the sun
multiplied by six hundred and seventy thousand, to the outermost limit
of Lord Rosse's sidereal vision.]

Another class, and a frequent one, of equivocal phenomena, phenomena
that are reconcilable indifferently with either of two assumptions,
though less plausibly reconciled with the one than with the other,
concerns the position of stars that seem connected with each other by
systematic relations, and which yet _may_ lie in very different
depths of space, being brought into seeming connection only by the
human eye. There have been, and there are, cases where two stars
dissemble an interconnection which they really _have_, and other
cases where they simulate an interconnection which they have not. All
these cases of simulation and dissimulation torment the astronomer by
multiplying his perplexities, and deepening the difficulty of escaping
them. He cannot get at the truth: in many cases, magnitude and distance
are in collusion with each other to deceive him: motion subjective is
in collusion with motion objective; duplex systems are in collusion
with fraudulent stars, having no real partnership whatever, but
mimicking such a partnership by means of the limitations or errors
affecting the human eye, where it can apply no other sense to aid or to
correct itself. So that the business of astronomy, in these days, is no
sinecure, as the reader perceives. And by another evidence, it is
continually becoming less of a sinecure. Formerly, one or two men,--
Tycho, suppose, or, in a later age, Cassini and Horrox, and Bradley,
had observatories: one man, suppose, observed the stars for all
Christendom; and the rest of Europe observed _him_. But now, up
and down Europe, from the deep blue of Italian skies to the cold frosty
atmospheres of St. Petersburg and Glasgow, the stars are conscious of
being watched everywhere; and if all astronomers do not publish their
observations, all use them in their speculations. New and brilliantly
appointed observatories are rising in every latitude, or risen; and
none, by the way, of these new-born observatories, is more interesting
from the circumstances of its position, or more _picturesque_ to a
higher organ than the eye--viz., to the human heart--than the New
Observatory raised by the university of Glasgow.[Footnote: It has been
reported, ever since the autumn of 1845, and the report is now,
(August, 1846,) gathering strength, that some railway potentate, having
taken a fancy for the ancient college of Glasgow, as a bauble to hang
about his wife's neck, (no accounting for tastes,) has offered, (or
_will_ offer,) such a price, that the good old academic lady in
this her moss-grown antiquity, seriously thinks of taking him at his
word, packing up her traps, and being off. When a spirit of galavanting
comes across an aged lady, it is always difficult to know where it will
stop: so, in fact, you know, she may choose to steam for Texas. But the
present impression is, that she will settle down by the side of what
you may call her married or settled daughter--the Observatory; which
one would be glad to have confirmed, as indicating that no purpose of
pleasure-seeking had been working in elderly minds, but the instinct of
religious rest and aspiration. The Observatory would thus remind one of
those early Christian anchorites, and self-exiled visionaries, that
being led by almost a necessity of nature to take up their residence in
deserts, sometimes drew after themselves the whole of their own

The New Observatory of Glasgow is now, I believe, finished; and the
only fact connected with its history that was painful, as embodying and
recording that Vandal alienation from science, literature, and all
their interests, which has ever marked our too haughty and Caliph-Omar-
like British government, lay in the circumstance that the glasses of
the apparatus, the whole mounting of the establishment, in so far as it
was a scientific establishment, and even the workmen for putting up the
machinery, were imported from Bavaria. We, that once bade the world
stand aside when the question arose about glasses, or the graduation of
instruments, were now literally obliged to stand cap in hand, bowing to
Mr. Somebody, successor of Frauenhofer or Frauendevil, in Munich! Who
caused _that_, we should all be glad to know, if not the wicked
Treasury, that killed the hen that laid the golden eggs by taxing her
until her spine broke? It is to be hoped that, at this moment, and
specifically for this offence, some scores of Exchequer men,
chancellors and other rubbish, are in purgatory, and perhaps working,
with shirt-sleeves tucked up, in purgatorial glass-houses, with very
small allowances of beer, to defray the cost of perspiration. But why
trouble a festal remembrance with commemorations of crimes or
criminals? What makes the Glasgow Observatory so peculiarly
interesting, is its position, connected with and overlooking so vast a
city, having more than three hundred thousand inhabitants, (in spite of
an American sceptic,) nearly all children of toil; and a city, too,
which, from the necessities of its circumstances, draws so deeply upon
that fountain of misery and guilt which some ordinance, as ancient as
'our father Jacob,' with his patriarchal well for Samaria, has
bequeathed to manufacturing towns,--to Ninevehs, to Babylons, to Tyres.
How tarnished with eternal canopies of smoke, and of sorrow; how dark
with agitations of many orders, is the mighty town below! How serene,
how quiet, how lifted above the confusion and the roar, how liberated
from the strifes of earth, is the solemn Observatory that crowns the
grounds above! And duly, at night, just when the toil of over-wrought
Glasgow is mercifully relaxing, then comes the summons to the laboring
astronomer. _He_ speaks not of the night, but of the day and the
flaunting day-light, as the hours 'in which no man can work.' And the
least reflecting of men must be impressed by the idea, that at wide
intervals, but intervals scattered over Europe, whilst 'all that mighty
heart' is, by sleep, resting from its labors, secret eyes are lifted up
to heaven in astronomical watch-towers; eyes that keep watch and ward
over spaces that make us dizzy to remember, eyes that register the
promises of comets, and disentangle the labyrinths of worlds.

Another feature of interest, connected with the Glasgow Observatory, is
personal, and founded on the intellectual characteristics of the
present professor, Dr. Nichol; in the deep meditative style of his mind
seeking for rest, yet placed in conflict for ever with the tumultuous
necessity in _him_ for travelling along the line of revolutionary
thought, and following it loyally, wearied or not, to its natural home.

In a sonnet of Milton, one of three connected with his own blindness,
he distinguishes between two classes of servants that minister to the
purposes of God. '_His_ state,' says he, meaning God's state, the
arrangement of his regular service, 'is kingly;' that is to say, it
resembles the mode of service established in the courts of kings; and,
in this, it resembles that service, that there are two classes of
ministers attending on his pleasure. For, as in the trains of kings are
some that run without resting, night or day, to carry the royal
messages, and also others--great lords in waiting--that move not from
the royal gates; so of the divine retinues, some are for action only,
some for contemplation. 'Thousands' there are that

----'at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest.'

Others, on the contrary, motionless as statues, that share not in the
agitations of their times, that tremble not in sympathy with the storms
around them, but that listen--that watch--that wait--for secret
indications to be fulfilled, or secret signs to be deciphered. And, of
this latter class, he adds-that they, not less than the others, are
accepted by God; or, as it is so exquisitely expressed in the closing

'_They_ also serve, that only stand and wait.'

Something analogous to this one may see in the distributions of
literature and science. Many popularize and diffuse: some reap and
gather on their own account. Many translate, into languages fit for the
multitude, messages which they receive from human voices: some listen,
like Kubla Khan, far down in caverns or hanging over subterranean
rivers, for secret whispers that mingle and confuse themselves with the
general uproar of torrents, but which can be detected and kept apart by
the obstinate prophetic ear, which spells into words and ominous
sentences the distracted syllables of ærial voices. Dr. Nichol is one
of those who pass to and fro between these classes; and has the rare
function of keeping open their vital communications. As a popularizing
astronomer, he has done more for the benefit of his great science than
all the rest of Europe combined: and now, when he notices, without
murmur, the fact that his office of popular teacher is almost taken out
of his hands, (so many are they who have trained of late for the duty,)
that change has, in fact, been accomplished through knowledge, through
explanations, through suggestions, dispersed and prompted by himself.

For my own part, as one belonging to the laity, and not to the
_clerus_, in the science of astronomy, I could scarcely have
presumed to report minutely, or to sit in the character of dissector
upon the separate details of Dr. Nichol's works, either this, or those
which have preceded it, had there even been room left disposable for
such a task. But in this view it is sufficient to have made the general
acknowledgment which already _has_ been made, that Dr. Nichol's
works, and his oral lectures upon astronomy, are to be considered as
the _fundus_ of the knowledge on that science now working in this
generation. More important it is, and more in reconciliation with the
tenor of my own ordinary studies, to notice the philosophic spirit in
which Dr. Nichol's works are framed; the breadth of his views, the
eternal tendency of his steps in advance, or (if advance on that
quarter, or at that point, happens to be absolutely walled out for the
present,) the vigor of the _reconnoissances_ by which he examines
the hostile intrenchments. Another feature challenges notice. In
reading astronomical works, there arises (from old experience of what
is usually most faulty) a wish either for the naked severities of
science, with a total abstinence from all display of enthusiasm; or
else, if the cravings of human sensibility are to be met and gratified,
that it shall be by an enthusiasm unaffected and grand as its subject.
Of that kind is the enthusiasm of Dr. Nichol. The grandeurs of
astronomy are such to him who has a capacity for being grandly moved.
They are none at all to him who has not. To the mean they become
meannesses. Space, for example, has no grandeur to him who has no space
in the theatre of his own brain. I know writers who report the marvels
of velocity, &c., in such a way that they become insults to yourself.
It is obvious that in _their_ way of insisting on our earth's
speed in her annual orbit, they do not seek to exalt _her_, but to
mortify _you_. And, besides, these fellows are answerable for
provoking people into fibs:--for I remember one day, that reading a
statement of this nature, about how many things the Earth had done that
we could never hope to do, and about the number of cannon balls,
harnessed as a _tandem_, which the Earth would fly past, without
leaving time to say, _How are you off for soap?_ in vexation of
heart I could not help exclaiming--'That's nothing: I've done a great
deal more myself;' though, when one turns it in one's mind, you know
there must be some inaccuracy _there_. How different is Dr.
Nichol's enthusiasm from this hypocritical and vulgar wonderment! It
shows itself not merely in reflecting the grandeurs of his theme, and
by the sure test of detecting and allying itself with all the indirect
grandeurs that arrange themselves from any distance, upon or about that
centre, but by the manifest promptness with which Dr. Nichol's
enthusiasm awakens itself upon _every_ road that leads to things
elevating for man; or to things promising for knowledge; or to things
which, like dubious theories or imperfect attempts at systematizing,
though neutral as regards knowledge, minister to what is greater than
knowledge, viz., to intellectual _power_, to the augmented power
of handling your materials, though with no more materials than before.
In his geological and cosmological inquiries, in his casual
speculations, the same quality of intellect betrays itself; the
intellect that labors in sympathy with the laboring _nisus_ of
these gladiatorial times; that works (and sees the necessity of
working) the apparatus of many sciences towards a composite result; the
intellect that retires in one direction only to make head in another;
and that already is prefiguring the route beyond the barriers, whilst
yet the gates are locked.

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