Part 2 out of 5
the knowledge of feminine nature that dictated that speech? Sally set her
lips. From that hour George Tucker was a doomed man; but she said nothing
more audible than "Goodnight." Long looked at her, as she lit the tallow
dip by the fire, and chuckled when he heard her shut the milk-room door in
the safe distance. He was satisfied.
The next afternoon, Sally was weeding onions in the garden;--heroines did,
in those days;--the currant-bushes had but just leafed out; so George
Tucker, going by, saw her; and she, who had seen him coming before she
began to weed, accidentally of course, looked up and gave him a very bright
smile. That was the first spider-thread, and the fly stepped into it with
such a thrill!
Of course he stopped, and said,--
"What a pleasant day!"--the saving phrase of life. Then Sally said
something he couldn't hear, and he leaped the low fence without being
asked, rather than request her to raise her voice; he was so considerate!
Next he remembered, just as he turned to go away, that there were some
white violets down in the meadow, that Sally always liked. Couldn't she
spend time to walk down there across lots and get some? Sally thought the
onions could not be left. Truth to tell, her heart was in her mouth. She
had been playing with edge-tools; but just then she smelt a whiff of smoke
from Long Snapps's pipe, and the resolve of last night came back; her face
relented, and George, seeing it, used his utmost persuasiveness; so the
result was, that Sally washed her hands at the well, and away they went, in
the most serene silence, over fences, grass-lots, and ditches, through bits
of woodland, and fields of winter-green, till they reached the edge of the
great meadow, and sat down on a log to rest. It was rather a good place for
that purpose. An old pine had fallen at the feet of a majestic cluster of
its brethren, so close that the broad column of one made a natural back to
part of the seat. The ground was warm, dry sand, strown with the fine dead
leaves of past seasons, brown and aromatic. A light south wind woke the
voices of every bough above, and the melancholy susurrus rose and fell
in delicate cadences; while beyond the green meadow, Westbury River, a
good-sized brook, babbled and danced as if there were no pine-tree laments
in the world.
I believe the air, and the odor, and the crying wind drove the violets
quite out of both the two heads that drooped silently over that pine
log. If Sally had been nervous or poetical, she would have been glad to
recollect them; but no such morbidness invaded her healthy soul. She sat
quite still till George said, in a suppressed and rather broken tone,--
"I was sorry to vex you last night, Sally! I could not be sorry for any
"You did grieve me very much, Mister George," said Sally, affecting a
little distance in her address, but sufficiently tender in manner.
"Well, I suppose you don't see it the way I do," returned George; "and I am
very sorry, for I had rather please you than any body else."
This was especially tender, and he possessed himself of Sally's little red
hand, unaware or careless that it smelt of onions; but it was withdrawn
"I think yon take a strange way of showing your liking!" sniffed the
George sat astounded. Another tiny spider-thread stopped the fly; a subtle
ray of blue sped sideways out of Sally's eye, that meant,--"I don't object
to be liked."
"I wish with all my heart I knew any good way to please you," he fervently
"_I_ should think any way to please people was a good way," retorted Sally,
saying more with her eyes than with her voice,--so much more, that in fact
this fly was fast. A little puff of wind blew off Sally's bonnet; she
looked shy, flushed, lovely. George stood up on his feet, and took his hat
"Sally!" said he, in the deepest notes of his full, manly voice, "I love
you very much indeed; will you be my wife?"
Sally was confounded. I rejoice to say she was quite confounded; but she
was made of revolutionary stuff, and what just now interfered with her
plans and schemes was the sudden discovery how very much indeed she loved
George Tucker; a fact she had not left enough margin for in her plot.
But, as I said, she was made of good metal, and she answered very low,--
"I do like you, George; but I never will marry a Britisher and a Tory."
A spasm of real anguish distorted the handsome face, bent forward to
"Do you mean that, Sally? Can't you love me because we don't think alike?"
Sally choked a little; her tones fell to a whisper. George had to sit down
close to her to hear.
"I didn't say I didn't love you, George!"--A blissful pause of a second;
then in a clear, cold voice,--"But my mind's set. I can't marry a Britisher
and a Tory, if I died sayin' so."
"And I cannot turn traitor and rebel, Sally. I can _not_. I love you better
than any thing in the world; but I can't do a wicked thing; no, not even
He was pale as death. Sally's secret heart felt proud of him, and never had
she been so near repenting of her work in the good cause before; but she
"Very well!" replied she, coolly, "if you prefer the king to me, it's not
my fault; when your side beats, you can take your revenge!"
The thorough injustice of this speech roused her lover's generous
"If you can think that way of me, Sally, it is better for us both to have
me go! Good night!" And away strode the loyal fellow, never looking back
to see his sweetheart have a good cry on the pine-log, and then an equally
comfortable fit of laughter; for she knew very well how restless Mister
George would be, all alone by himself, and how much it meant that they both
loved each other, and both knew it.
Sally's heart was stout. A sort of Yankee Evangeline, she would not have
gone after Gabriel; she would have staid at home and waited for him to the
end of time; doing chores and mending meanwhile, but unmarried, in the
fixed intention of being her lover's sixth wife possibly, but his wife at
So she went home and got supper, strained and skimmed milk, set a sponge
for bread, and slept all night like a dormouse, George Tucker never went to
"Hooraw!" roared Long Snapps, trundling in to dinner, the next day;
"they're wakin' up down to Bostin! Good many on 'em's quit the town.
Them 'are Britishers is a-gettin' up sech a breeze; an' they doo say the
reg'lars is comin' out full sail, to cair' off all the amminition in these
parts, fear o' mutiny 'mongst the milishy!"
"Come along!" shouted Zekle, "let 'em come! like to see 'em takin' our
powder an' shot 'thout askin'! Guess they'll hear thunder, ef they stick
their heads inter a hornet's nest."
"Dredful suz!" exclaimed Aunt Poll, pulling turnips out of the pot with
reckless haste, and so scalding her brown fingers emphatically; "be they
a-comin' here? will they fetch along the batterin' rams?"
"Thunder _an'_ dry trees," ejaculated Zekle, "what does the woman--";
but at that instant Long made for the door, and flung it open, thereby
"Goin' to Concord, George?" shouted he to George Tucker, who in a one-horse
wagon and his Sunday-best clothes was driving slowly past.
"No! goin' to Lexington, after corn. Can I do anything for you?"
"Well, no, I 'xpect not. When be you a-comin' back?"
"I don't know."
"Well, go long! good-luck to ye; keep to wind'ard o' squalls, George."
Long nodded, and George drove on. That day the whole village of Westbury
was in an uproar. News had come from Boston that the British were about
to send out forces to possess themselves of all the military stores in
the country, and forestall rebellion by rendering it helpless. From every
corner of every farm and village, young men and old mustered; from every
barn, horses of all sizes and descriptions were driven out and saddled;
rusty muskets, balls of all shapes and of any available metal that would
melt and run, disabled broadswords, horse-pistols, blunderbusses, whatever
wore any resemblance to a weapon, or could be rendered serviceable to that
end,--all were hunted out, cleaned, mended, and laid ready;--an array that
might have made a properly drilled and equipped army smile in contempt,
but whose deficiencies were more than supplied by iron sinews, true blood,
resolve and desperate courage.
Sally and Aunt Poll partook the gale of patriotism. They scoured the "ole
queen's arm" to brilliancy; they ran bullets by the hour; baked bread and
brewed Spring beer, with no more definite purpose than a general conviction
that men must and would eat, as the men of their house certainly did, in
the intervals of repairing harness, filling powder-horns and shot-belts,
trotting over to the tavern after news, and coming back to retail it,
till Aunt Poll began to imagine she heard the distant strokes of a
battering-ram, and rushing out in terror to assure herself, discovered it
to be only Sam Pequot, an old Indian, who, with the apathy of his race, was
threshing in the barn.
Aunt Poll took down Josephus to refresh her memory, and actually drew a
laugh from Sally's grave lips by confiding to her this extreme horror of
the case; a laugh she forgave, since Sally reassured her by recommending to
her notice the fact that Jerusalem had stone walls that were more difficult
to climb than stone fences. As for Sally, she thought of George, all day of
George, all night; and while the next day deepened toward noon, was still
thinking of him, when in rushed Long Snapps, tarpaulin in hand, full of
news and horror.
"I swan! we've got it now!" said he. "Them darned Britishers sot out fur
Concord last night, to board our decks an' plunder the magazine; the
boys heerd on't, and they was ready over to Lexin'ton, waitin' round the
meetin'us; they stood to't, an' that old powder monkey Pitcairn sung out to
throw down their arms, darned rebels; an' cause they didn't muster to his
whistle, he let fly at 'em like split; an' there's some killed an' more
wounded; pretty much all on 'em our folks, though they did giv the reg'lars
one round o' ball afore they run."
"Hooray!" shouted Zekle; "that's the talk; guess they'll sing smaller next
"They'll do more'n that, Zekle," responded Long; "this a'n't but the
beginnin' o' sorrers, as Parson Marsh sez, sez he; there'll be a hull gulf
stream o' blood, afore them darned reg'lars knows the color on't well
enough to lay their course."
Sally glided past Long, and plucked him by the sleeve, unseen by the rest.
He followed her into the shed. She was ghastly pale. "Long," said she,
hurriedly, "did you hear who? was anybody shot?"
"Bless ye, gal! a hull school on 'em was shot; there wasn't many went to
the bottom, though; han't heerd no names."
"But George?" gasped Sally; "he went to Lexington yesterday."
"Well, I am took aback!" growled Long. "I swear I never thought on't. I'll
"Come back and tell me?" whispered Sally.
"Lord-a-massy, yes, child! jest as soon's I know myself trewly! but I
shan't know nothin' more till sundown, I expect. Desire Trowbridge is
a-ridin' post; he'll come through 'bout that time with news."
Long did not come back for several hours, some time after sundown, when he
found Sally in the shed, waiting for him. She saw the news in his face.
"Dead?" said she, clutching at the old sailor's hand.
"No! no! he a'n't slipt his moorins' yet, but he is badly stove about the
figger-head; he's got a ball through his head somewhere, an' another in his
leg; and he a'n't within hail; don't hear no speakin'-trumpets; fact is,
Sally, he's in for the dockyard a good spell, ef he a'n't broke up hull and
"Who shot him?" whispered Sally.
"That's the best on't, gal; he's took an' tacked beautiful; he went into
port at Lexin'ton yesterday, and heerin' there all sides o' the story,
an' how them critters sot up for to thieve away our stores, he got kinder
riled at the hull crew, like a common-sense feller, an' when Pitcairn come
along, George finally struck his colors, run up a new un to the mast-head,
borrered a musket, an' jined the milishy, an' got shot by them cussed
reg'lars fur his pains; an ef he doos die, I'll hev a figger cut on a stun
myself, to tell folks he was a rebel and an honest man arter all."
"Where is he?" asked Sally in another whisper.
"He's to the tavern there in Lexin'ton. There a'n't nobody along with him,
cause his father's gone to Bostin to see 'bout not gettin' scomfishkated,
or arter a protection, or sumthin."
"And his mother is dead," said Sally, slowly. "Long! I must go to Lexington
to-night, on the pillion, and you must go with me. Father's got too much
rheumatiz to ask it of him."
"Well!" said Long, after a protracted stare at Sally,--"wimmin is the
oddest craft that ever sailed. I swan, when I sight 'em I don't know a
main-top-sail from a flyin' jib! Goin' to take care o' George, be ye?"
"Yes," said Sally, meekly.
Long rolled the inseparable quid in his cheek, and slyly drawled out,
"W-ell, if ye must, ye must! I a'n't a-goin' ter stand in the way of yer
Sally was too far away to hear, or she might have smiled.
Uncle Zeke and Aunt Poll were to be told and coaxed into assent;--no very
hard task; for George Tucker was a favorite of 'Zekiel's, and now he had
turned rebel, the only grudge he had ever owed him was removed; he was only
too glad to help him in any way. Aunt Poll's sole trouble was lest Sally
should take cold. The proprieties, those gods of modern social worship, as
well as their progenitors, the improprieties, were unknown to these simple
souls; they did things because they were right and wrong. They were not
nice according to Swift's definition, nor proper in the mode of the best
society, but they were good and pure; are the disciples and lecturers of
the 'proper' equally so?
Sally's simple preparations were quickly made. By nine o'clock she was safe
on the pillion behind Long Snapps, folded in Aunt Poll's red joseph, and
provided with saddle-bags full of comforts and necessaries. The night was
dark, but Sally did not feel any fear; not Tam O'Shanter's experience could
have shaken the honest little creature's courage, when George filled the
perspective before her. The way was lonely; the hard road echoed under
the old cart-horse's hoofs; many a black and desolate tract of forest lay
across their twenty miles' ride; more than once the tremulous shriek of a
screech-owl smote ominously on Sally's wakeful sense, and quavered away
like a dying groan; more than once a mournful whippoorwill cried out in
pain and expostulation, and in the young leaves a shivering wind foreboded
evil;--but they rode on. Presently Sally's drooping head rose erect; she
listened; she laid her hand on the bridle. "Stop, Long!" said she. "I hear
horses' feet, and shouts."
"Look here!" said Long, after a moment's listening, "there's breakers
ahead, Sally; let's heave to in these 'ere piny bushes side o' the track;
it's pitch dark, mebbe they'll go by."
He reined the horse from the road, and forced him into a group of young
hemlocks, which hid them entirely from passers by. Just as he was well
ensconced, a company of British cavalry rode up, broken and disorderly
enough, cursing and swearing at the Yankees, and telling to unseen ears
a bloody story of Concord and its men. Sally trembled, but it was with
indignation, not fear, and as soon as the last hoof-beat died away, she
urged Long forward; they regained the road, and made their way at once to
George in Lexington.
Is it well to paint, even in failing words, such emotions as Sally fought
with and conquered in that hour? Whoever has stood by the bed of a
speechless, hopeless, unconscious human being, in whom their own soul lived
and suffered, will know these pangs without my interpretation. Whoever
knows them not need not so anticipate. If Sally had been less a woman, I
might have had more to say; but she was only a woman, and loved George, so
she went on in undisturbed self-control, and untiring exertion, to nurse
The doctor said he could not live; Long said he was booked for Davy Jones;
the minister prayed for "our dying brother";--but Sally said he should
live, and he did. After weeks of patient care he knew her; after more weeks
he spoke,--words few, but precious; and when accumulating months brought
to the battlefields of America redder stains than even patriotic blood had
splashed upon their leaves,--when one nation began to hope, and another to
fear, both hope and fear had shaken hands with Sally and said good-bye. She
was married to George Tucker, and, with the prospect of a crippled husband
for life, was perfectly happy; too happy not to laugh, when, the day after
their wedding, sitting on the door-sill of the old Westbury homestead, with
George and Long Snapps, George said, "Would you ever have come to take care
of me, Sally, if I'd 'a' been shot on the side of the reg'lars?"
Sally looked at him, and then looked away.
"I 'xpect she'd 'a' done her dooty," said Long Snapps dryly; and Sally
THE MANCHESTER EXHIBITION.
In a number of the "Illustrated News," not long since, there was what
professed to be a view of Manchester. It represented a thousand tall
factory-chimneys rising out of a gray mist, and surmounted by a heavy,
drifting cloud of smoke. And in truth a view not very different from this
was presented to any one who, standing at the entrance of the Palace of the
Exhibition of Art Treasures, turned and looked back before going within.
Two miles off lies the body of the great workshop-city, already stretching
its begrimed arms in the direction of the Exhibition. The vast flat expanse
of brick walls, diversified by countless chimney and occasional steeples,
now and then interrupted by the insertion of a low shed or an enormous
warehouse, offers no single object upon which the eye or the imagination
can rest with pleasure. Such a view was never to be seen in the world
before this century; a city built merely by trade, built for the home of
labor, of machines, and of engines, and for the dwelling-place (one cannot
call it the home) of crowds of human beings, whose value is, for the
most part, estimated according to the development of their machine-like
qualities. Beauty is not consulted here. In those places in or near the
city, where Nature, reluctant to be driven utterly away, still tries to
keep a foothold, she is parched and scorched by the feverish breath of
forges and furnaces. Standing here, one may see the cloud of smoke, which
waves in the wind like a pall over the city, slowly moving and settling
down upon the land. One may almost hear the roar of the continual fires,
the throb of the engines, the heavy beat of the trip-hammers, and the
rattle of the spindles, by which the work of the world is done; and their
noises, blended by the distance into one monotonous sound, seem like the
voice of the restless, hard-working, unsettled spirit of gain. Manchester
is built and is worked for profit, not for pleasure; beauty is driven away
from her as a thing at variance with practical life; and even the sky above
her and the fields around her yield only at rare moments and for short
seasons those precious and gracious shows of beauty which are the free and
blessed gift of love to all the world. Smoke, steam, coal-dust, blackened
walls, and bare fields lie outside the Exhibition; and now let us go
The world could show no sharper and more affecting contrast. Outside, all
suggests the competitions and struggles of trade, the crowded street, the
bustle of the exchange, the cold and dry elements of purely unimaginative
life. Inside, all suggests the quietness and composure of solitary and
delightful labor, the silence of the studio, the resort to nature, and the
frequenting of the springs of poetry. From the present, one is suddenly
transferred to the past; from the near, to the remote. In place of the
blank, black factory wall, there is the low wall of some Italian Campo
Santo, its painted sides more precious than marbles or gold could have made
them; in place of the dull and heavy stone of the Exchange, the glowing
mosaics of some southern cathedral; in place of the factory bell and
the rush into the steaming and dirty workroom, the bell of a convent on
Fiesole, and the slow walk through its cool cloisters; in place of the dead
files of uniform ugly houses, Venetian palaces, with the water at their
base, reflecting the colors which Giorgione and Titian, housepainters at
Venice, left upon their stones; in place of the racket of the street, the
quiet greenness of an English lane, or the inaccessible ice and glory of
a far-off mountain summit; in place of the burnt waste of fields covered
with ashes and coal-dust, the burning stretch of the desert with the Sphinx
looking out over it century after century; in place of the shower coming
down through the dirty air to wash the dirty roofs, a storm breaking over
the sea-shore rocks, or beating down on the broken wreck; instead of the
drabbled calico of the factory girl and her face old before its time,
the satins of Vandyck's beauties, and the fair looks of Sir Peter Lely's
heroines; instead of Manchester mayors and masters of factories, Tintoret's
noble Venetian counsellors and doges, and Titian's Shakspearian men. It was
a bold thought thus to bring pictures and statues into one great collection
at Old Trafford, and to set off the art of the world against the
manufactures of Manchester.
The Exhibition building was admirably designed for its purpose. Its plan
is simple, and not unpleasing, although the proportions, which its object
required, were such as to prevent any attempt at grand architectural
effect. The general arrangement of the interior is easily understood, even
without the aid of a ground-plan. The chief entrance leads into a nave,
which has on each side an aisle of less height, separated from it by a
wall. The wall is broken by two openings, through which is the passage from
nave to aisle, or aisle to nave. The nave and aisles end in a transept,
and behind the transept are two small saloons, and a large hall or aisle
crossing the building transversely and forming its western end. A gallery
runs round the transept, and another crosses the nave at its eastern end.
This is the general arrangement. The walls of the nave or central hall are
occupied by the gallery of British portraits, and between the iron columns
that support the roof are set pieces of sculpture, and the cases containing
the precious collection of Ornamental Art, (works of the minor arts, as
they might be called,) which has been brought together from private and
public sources, and is quite unrivalled in its completeness. The southern
aisle contains the main collection of pictures by ancient, foreign masters;
while the opposite aisle is filled with the works of the British school.
The transept, being chiefly given up to arrangements for an orchestra,
contains below little but a collection of busts, but its galleries are
occupied with the collection of miniatures, a most admirable and extensive
historical series of engravings, a large number of photographs, and a very
precious collection of original drawings by the old masters. The saloon
at the north end of the transept is filled with East Indian and Chinese
tapestries, furniture, and works of ornamental design; while the opposite
saloon continues the collection of paintings of ancient masters, being
chiefly occupied with works from the gallery of the Marquis of Hertford,
which he sent to the Exhibition on condition that they should be kept
together. The hall that crosses the building at the western end is filled
with a collection of water-color drawings.--Such, in brief, is an outline
of the distribution of the treasures contained in this great palace of Art.
The first impression, on entering the nave, is that of the vast space
filled with light and rich with color. The attention is not attracted to
particular details. Separate objects are dwarfed in the long vista. The eye
rests on nothing that is not precious, and is at first contented to wander
rapidly from one object to another, without attempting to delay on any
thing. Passing down the middle between the ordered files of statues, (all
modern works, and few of them worthy of remark,) we enter from the transept
the south nave, where the works of the foreign schools of painting are
arranged for the most part in chronological order. This nave, like the
opposite, is divided into three saloons and two vestibules. We are now in
the first saloon. On the one side are the works of the earlier Italian
masters, and on the other those of the masters of the earlier German and
Flemish schools. And it is here that one observes the chief deficiency of
the collection. The pictures which are here have been brought from the
private galleries in which England is so rich. Many a famous country-house,
full of historic and poetic associations, gains additional interest from
its gallery of pictures or of marbles. Blenheim, Wilton House, Warwick
Castle, have their old walls hung with pictures by Titian, Vandyck, and
Holbein. Who does not remember, as one of his most delightful recollections
of England,--delightful as all his recollections of that dear old
Mother-land are, if he has really seen her,--who does not thus remember the
drive from the little country town to the old family place, up the long
avenue under its ancestral trees, the ferny brook crossed by the stone
bridge with its carved balustrade, the deer feeding on the green slope
of the open park or lying under some secular oak, the heavy white clouds
casting their slow shadows on the broad lawn, the dark spreading cedars
of Lebanon standing on the edge of the bright flower-garden,--the old
house itself, with its quaint gables and oriels, the broad flight of
steps leading to the wide door,--the cheerful reception from the prim,
but good-natured housekeeper,--her pride in the great hall, and in the
pleasant, home-like rooms, in Vandyck's portrait of the beautiful countess,
and in Holbein's of the fifth earl,--the satisfaction with which she would
point to the pictures and the marbles brought two centuries ago from
Italy, now stopping before this to tell you that "it is considered a very
improportionable Virgin by Parmigianino," and calling you to observe this
old statue "of a couching Silenius wrapped in the skin of a Pantheon,"--and
then, when the Rubens, and the Claude, and all the other pictures have been
seen, her letting you pass, as a great favor, through the library with its
well-filled oaken shelves, the gilding worn off the backs of many of its
books by the love of successive generations;--who does not remember such
scenes as these, and recall the glorious pictures from Florence, or from
Venice, or from Antwerp, that enrich many an English country home?
It was, indeed, from such homes that the Manchester collection was, in
great measure, brought together; and this being the case, it is not to be
wondered at that it was difficult to form an historic sequence of pictures
by which the course and progress of Art should be properly illustrated,
or that many of the old pictures that hang on the walls of the Exhibition
bear the names of greater masters than they deserve to be honored with. Nor
is it strange that the earlier schools of Art should be but very scantily
represented. The earlier painters did not do much work that would answer
for the decoration of homes; their work was of a public, and, for the most
part, a consecrated nature. The pictures of later centuries are more easily
appreciated by those who have not made a thoughtful study of Art, and they
have consequently been more loudly praised and more generally sought for.
The later works have attractive qualities in which the earlier are often
deficient, and it is not until very recently that the real beauty and
value of these first pictures of the revival have been felt with any due
appreciation. The masters of the fourteenth, and of the greater part of
the fifteenth century, did not, as we have said, paint pictures simply as
objects of beauty or for mere purposes of adornment, nor were those methods
of painting then in use which have brought pictures into private homes and
within private means. And so it happens that the schools of this period are
not represented at Manchester in any fair proportion to the schools of the
The two most important centuries of Art are not to be studied here. Of
the six pictures, for instance, that profess to be by Giotto, the great
head and master of Italian Art, there are but two from which even a faint
impression of his style can be gained. There is nothing here which would
enable one who had not seen his works in Italy to conceive a true idea
of their character and merits. Giotto stands at the threshold of the
fourteenth century, breaking open the door, so long barred up, that was to
let men into the glories of the unseen world. The friend of Dante, he, as
painter, stands side by side with the poet. In the midst of the tumults,
the confusion, and violence of those bloody times, his soul rose above
the discord of the world, his hand snapped the fetters of authority and
tradition, and revealed by line and color the exalted visions of his
imagination. Painting, with him, took its inspiration from religious faith,
and spent itself in religious service. Whether at Padua, in the little
withdrawn Arena chapel, or on the bare mountains at Assisi, in the great
church of St. Francis, or at Naples, in the king's chapel, his frescos,
though dimmed by the dust of five hundred years, blackened by the smoke
of incense, abused by restorers, still show a power of imagination, a
spirituality and tenderness of feeling, a simplicity and directness of
treatment, which give them place among the most sacred and precious works
that Art has yet produced. That quiet, solitary chapel of the Arena at
Padua is one of the places most worthy of reverence in Italy; for in the
pictures from the lives of the Virgin and the Saviour, that are painted
upon its walls, there is the expression of such religious fervor, such
faith and love, as Art has rarely or never reached in later times.
Nor is there at Manchester any picture by Duccio da Siena, the great, and,
one may almost say, the worthy contemporary of Giotto, from which his power
and feeling are to be well estimated. Like Giotto he struggled to free
himself from the swathing-clothes in which the traditions of Byzantine Art
had bound up the limbs and the imaginations of artists, and he succeeded
in at last breaking loose. But the long restraint had impaired the power
of all who were subjected to it; and as in the works of Giotto, so in the
rarer works of Duccio, one often finds an effort after truth of expression,
which is almost pathetic in its character, from its revealing the
inefficiency of the hand to carry out the thought, and the resolute will
striving half in vain to overcome the impediments of bad teaching and
imperfect knowledge of the materials and limits of painting. It is this
groping effort after truth which results often in the _naive_ rendering
of details, and the quaintness of composition, which are so common in
the works of these early masters; but the deep feeling of the artists
penetrates through all, and thus even their awkward and imperfect drawing
frequently produces a stronger effect, and seems a better rendering of
nature, than the cold, unfeeling, academic accuracy of Bologna, or all the
finished science of the eclectic schools.
In passing down through the century one finds lamentable omissions at
Manchester. Fifty pictures, of which half at least have been restored,
(that is to say, in part or wholly spoiled,) and half originally the work
of inferior masters, do not represent the art of a century which was full
of the glow of reawakening life, and which, as the spring covers the
earth with flowers, covered Italy with cathedrals, campaniles, churches,
baptisteries, and camposantos, and decorated their walls with sculpture and
painting. Art was gaining gradually a knowledge of her own powers. Orgagna,
the Michel Angelo of his time, (one of his pictures is at Manchester,) was
opening a wider field for her progress; and ten years after his death Fra
Angelico was born. He was a boy of fifteen years old when in 1402 Masaccio
was born at Florence, and the brightness of the fifteenth century had
There is one, among the four pictures ascribed to Fra Angelico in this
collection, from which something of the heavenly purity, the sweetness,
and the tenderness of this great and gentle master may be learned. It is a
picture of the Last Judgment. Unfortunately, it has been much injured by
time and by neglect; its brilliant colors have sunk and become dim,--those
pure, clear colors which give to Fra Angelico's panel pictures the
brilliancy of a missal illumination, and which reflect the purity and the
clearness of his tranquil life and his reverential soul. It is no fanciful
theory which connects the uses of color with moral qualities, and which
from the coloring of a picture will deduce something of the moral character
of its painter. Thus it is not only from the exquisite delicacy of form,
the spirituality of expression, and the sweet, reverent fancy in attitude,
of the angels from which Fra Angelico derived his name, but also from the
brightness of their golden wings, from the deep glow of their crimson, or
scarlet, or azure robes, and from the clear shining of the stars on their
foreheads, that one learns that he deserved that name as characteristic of
his temper and his life. Something of the influence of the cloister shows
itself in most of his larger works; but if his vision was narrowed within
convent walls, it did but pierce the more clearly into the regions of
tranquillity and loveliness that lay above them.
With the end of the fifteenth century religion almost disappears from Art.
John Bellini, dying ninety years old in 1516, was the last and one of the
greatest of the long line of artists who had loved Art as the means granted
them of serving God upon earth. The manly vigor of his conceptions, the
tender and holy purity of his imagination, the delicate strength of his
fancy, are not to be discovered in the few pictures that bear his name at
Manchester. His pictures are to be fairly seen only at Venice, where, in
out-of-the-way churches, over tawdry altars, his colors gleam undimmed
by time, and the faces of his Virgins look down with a still celestial
sweetness. But there is one picture here, by a Venetian contemporary
of John Bellini, before which we shall do well to pause. It is a St.
Catharine, by Cima da Conegliano. It is the picture of a noble woman, full
of fortitude, serenity, and faith. The richness of the color of her dress,
her calm dignity, the composure of her attitude, recall to mind and make
her the worthy companion of the beautiful St. Barbara of the church of
Santa Maria Formosa. It is well to look at her, for we are coming to those
days when such saints as these were no longer painted; but in their places
whole tribes of figures with faces twisted into every trick of sentimental
devotion, imbecile piety, and pretended fervor.
But before this time, somewhere about the middle of the fifteenth century,
the fashion of painting pictures upon panel for private purposes, though as
yet religious subjects were principally chosen for treatment, had already
begun; and we find the masters of the early part of the sixteenth century
represented with tolerable fulness at Manchester. English collectors have
long had a passion for Raphael, and England is almost as rich in his works
in oils as Italy herself. Italy, however, keeps his frescos; and may she
long keep them! There are more than thirty works ascribed to Raphael
hanging on the walls of the Exhibition. Many of them are of doubtful
genuineness; many of them have been restored.
It is impossible to trace in these pictures the progress of Raphael's
manner, and to mark the development of his style; but even in these one may
see something of the change from the simplicity and feeling of his early
works, produced under the influence of religious sentiment, and the still
clinging stiffness of traditional restraints, to the freedom and coldness
of his later works, painted under the influence of success at a dissolute
court, of flattery, of jealousy, and of indifference to the motives of
The Venetian masters of the sixteenth century fill a large portion of the
sides of one of the great saloons of this aisle, covering it with a glow of
deepest color. The opposite side is hung with many pictures by Rubens; and
the contrast between the works of the mighty colorists of Venice and the
famous colorist of Antwerp is not without curious interest and instruction.
The Venice wall has the color of Venetian sunsets, the gold and crimson
of its clouds, the solemn blue of the Cadore hills, the deep green of the
lagoons, the brown and purple of the seaweeds, and the shadows of the city
of decaying palaces. Here are such harmonies as Nature strikes in her great
symphony of color. But on the other wall are the colors of the courts in
which Rubens passed so many of his days,--the dyes of tapestry, the sheen
of jewels and velvet, the glaring crimson and yellow of royal displays;
while the harmonies that he strikes out with his rapid and powerful hand
are like those of the music of some great military band.
There are noble pictures here by Giorgione, and Titian, and Tintoret, and
Paul Veronese, and Bonifazio. Look at this Musical Party by Giorgione, this
landscape by Titian, this portrait of the vile Duke of Alva by the same
great master, the greatest master of all in portraiture. It is the Duke
himself, not merely in his outward presence, but such as the insight of
one as profoundly versed in human as in external nature beheld him. The
portrait is a biography of the man, and one may read in the narrow, hard,
and wily face the history of his cruel life. The same qualities of inward
vision are displayed by Tintoret in his more hasty portraits, and one
learns as much of Venetian men and of their lives from the pencil of Titian
and of Tintoret as from the pens of contemporary chroniclers. The picture
by Bonifazio of a Virgin and Child surrounded by saints is a splendid
example of this almost unsurpassed colorist; while several of the pictures
by Paul Veronese are among the most precious things in all the Exhibition,
as clear and uninjured specimens of admirable Venetian work.
The Bolognese school is represented at Manchester out of all proportion to
its worth, in comparison with the earlier and greater schools of Italy. It
is essentially the school of decline, and, after the time of Francia, very
few pictures proceeded from it dignified by noble thought, or exhibiting
either purity or power of imagination. Its very method condemned it
to inferiority. But debased as it is, it has been during the last two
centuries the object of perhaps more real and affected admiration than any
other of the schools of Italian art. Fortunately, we have entered upon a
better period of criticism, and a change is fast coming over the public
taste. But it is a curious fact, that the most popular picture in the whole
gallery of ancient masters, the picture before which larger crowds assemble
and linger than before any other, is one from this school,--the three
Maries weeping over the body of the Saviour, by Annibale Caracci. A portion
of the interest which it excites undoubtedly arises from the report that
Louis Napoleon has offered the sum of L20,000 for it to its possessor, the
Earl of Carlisle; but its intrinsic qualities are such as to explain much
of its attraction for uneducated eyes. The attitudes of the figures are
violent and theatrical, the colors are strong, the surface is smooth, the
subject is easily recognized and of general interest. But whatever value
be set upon these points, it is an example of many of the worst defects of
the school. The expressions of the figures are exaggerated and unnatural,
the color, though strong, is cold and inharmonious, the drawing feeble and
incorrect, the sentiment inconceivably material. It is a true exponent of
the low ebb of artistic power and of religious feeling at the period at
which it was painted.
But we are delaying too long in these halls of the old painters. We have
scarcely looked at a tithe of the eleven hundred pictures that hang around,
and we must pass by with only a glance the long lines of German, Flemish,
and Dutch works, and the rows of pictures by the great Spanish masters. We
can but see how much there is for pleasure and for study, and wish in vain
to pause before Rembrandt, and Cuyp, and Ruysdael, and Vandyck, before
Murillo and Velasquez.
We come out into the nave, and, forgetting for a time pictures as works of
art, let us look at them as representations of men, as we pass along before
the portraits of British worthies, with which the two sides of this great
hall are hung. It is a gallery of which every one of British blood may be
proud; for no other country could show such a long line of the portraits
of her famous men, and feel at the same time that so many of her greatest
were not to be found in the collection. The gallery begins with a portrait
of King Henry IV.; it ends with that of Mr. Prescott. After nearly four
hundred English worthies, at last one American,--and only one; for in the
whole collection there is but one other portrait of an American,--West, the
painter,--and he was English by adoption, though not by birth. We could
spare his fame without great loss, but it would not do for us to give
up that of our popular historian. In the next great assemblage of the
portraits of the worthies of the English race and speech, perhaps those
born on this side of the Atlantic may appear in larger numbers and in even
rank of honor.
The first portrait on the catalogue is that of King Henry IV.; but he has
displaced here, as in life, his predecessor on the throne. Henry VI. and
Richard III. follow in near succession; but it is not till Henry VIII.'s
time that we really enter upon the field of English portraiture. We begin
with the king himself. Here is Holbein's famous picture of him; a picture
that represents a man so gross, so sensual, so disgusting in appearance,
that one recognizes its truth, and wonders that the court-painter did not
lose his head for such a libellous sincerity.
Wolsey is near his master; his face is that of a man "exceeding wise,
fair-spoken, and persuading"; he has a large, full brow, narrow and shrewd
eyes, a delicate nose, and somewhat heavy and sensual cheeks. A little
later the portraits become more numerous. Of Queen Elizabeth there are
seven here, and in them may be traced the great changes of her face,--from
that of the plain, awkward, not altogether unpleasing, red-haired girl, to
that of the hard, bitter, disappointed old woman. Some of her courtiers
surround her;--Leicester, with a treacherous uncertainty of expression;
and Burleigh, riding on a mule, and holding flowers in his hand,--an
odd representation of the great Lord Treasurer. And here, too, is Henry
Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton, finding a deserved place among the
chief men of his time,--for he was Shakspeare's friend, and to him the
"Rape of Lucrece" was dedicated, with the words, "What I have done is
yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have devoted yours."
Here is Holbein's portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh, with the face of a true
knight. Sidney is not here, but "Sidney's sister, Pembroke's mother," has
an honored place,--and though her portrait is not of so "fair" a woman as
one might desire to have seen her, it has the look of a woman "wise and
good." And here are Shakspeare and Ben Jonson themselves;--the Chandos
portrait of Shakspeare, with which all the world is familiar, more
interesting from its own fame than from its being either an authentic or a
satisfactory likeness of the poet; and Ben Jonson close by, with his strong
features and manly face. And Fletcher, and Shirley, and Dick Burbadge, who
first acted Hamlet, and whose picture explains why the queen should say,
"He's fat and scant of breath,"--and others of the same great band of
contemporaries. Their heads belong for the most part to one broad type;
their common characteristics are strongly marked. There were never finer
heads than these;--the broad, uplifted, solidly based skulls; the strong
and vigorous marking of the features, giving evidence, both in shape and in
expression, of the union of pure intellect and pure imagination. Compare
with them the heads of the wits and statesmen of Charles II.'s time. See
the difference;--the high, wide arch of the skull is lowered or narrowed;
the broad brow cramped; the features finer cut, but losing in force what
they gain in fineness. Look, for instance, at this Vandyck of Sir John
Suckling,--only the next generation after the great men; but his portrait
is that of an idler, his head that of a man without great thoughts or great
interests. The age of imagination had passed; the age of fancy was setting
in. Here and there in the later days one finds a man who might belong to
the earlier time;--for instance, this likeness of Sir Henry Wotton, also by
Vandyck, gives us a broad and noble head; but one sees the time to which
he belonged in his somewhat affected meditative attitude, and in the word
_Philosophemur_, which is inscribed upon the canvas. The finest type of
head which England has had since the time of Elizabeth was that developed
among the Roundheads. _Round_ heads they were, and noble heads too. They
are well represented here. Look at this portrait of Cromwell;--it has
the same character and expression with that still nobler likeness of
him which he sent to the Duke of Tuscany, and which hangs now in one
of the back halls of the Pitti Gallery, a stern, silent monitor to the
dull Florentines. Frederick Tennyson said of it, that it was the best
battle-piece he ever saw;--"In its red ruggedness it looks as if it had
been sketched in by the gleam of Dunbar's cannon flashes." Hampden,
Eliot, and Pym, with wide individual differences, all belong to the same
class;--the lines of their faces, which in Hampden and in Eliot have
settled into a cast of resolute melancholy, and in Pym betray the sternness
of his nature, tell in all of the hard discipline of their lives, and the
upright patriotism of their hearts. Compare the faces of these patriots
with those of the leaders of the French Revolutions. The Cavaliers, with
a type of head less fine, were for the most part handsomer men than the
Roundheads. Here is Lovelace, the poet, for instance; Aubrey says of him,
"He was an extraordinary handsome man," and this likeness bears out the
assertion. His face has a look of enthusiasm and of gallantry, appropriate
to the man who could write, "Stone walls do not a prison make." With the
portraits of Brooke, and Fairfax, and Falkland, and Astley, and others of
the time, the comparison between Roundhead and Cavalier might be carried
still farther,--but we must pass on.
The portrait of Hobbes of Malmesbury, as an old man, hangs near that of Sir
Thomas Browne. It is a curious contrast between the imaginative and the
unimaginative philosopher,--between the student of innumerable books, and
the cynic who declared that "he should know as little as other men, if he
had read as many books."
There is a whole bevy here of the famous beauties of Charles II.'s
court,--full of the affected airs and languishing graces which Sir Peter
Lely knew well how to paint, and rarely showing any thing in their
portraits of the sprightliness which some of them at least possessed in
life. The only one of Sir Peter's full-length beauties, who calls up any
associations but such as belong to Grammont's Memoirs, is Margaret Lucas,
the Duchess of Newcastle. Who does not know her through Charles Lamb, and
love her for Charles Lamb's sake? She looks out of place here, between
Charles II. and the Duchess of Cleveland; and it was not in a fancy dress
of most fantastic style that she wrote her memoir of her husband,--in which
she tells of what My Lord would eat at dinner, as well as collects the wise
things which dropped from My Lord's lips.
The worthy Secretary Pepys appears here, in "an excellent conceited
picture," of which he himself has told the story in his Diary:--
"1666, March 17. To Hales's, and paid him L14 for the picture, and L1 5s.
for the frame. This day I began to sit, and he will make me, I think, a
very fine picture. He promises it shall be as good as my wife's; and I sit
to have it full of shadows, and do almost break my neck looking over my
shoulder, to make the posture for him to work by."
"March 30. To Hales's, and there sat till almost quite dark upon working my
gowne, which I hired to be drawn in; an Indian gowne."
"April 11. To Hales's, where there was nothing found to be done more to my
picture, but the musique, which now pleases me mightily, it being painted
true." [Footnote: Mr. Peter Cunningham has quoted these passages in his
excellent catalogue of the gallery.]
And here is Kneller's familiar portrait of John Evelyn, the other diarist
of the times. And Lely's portrait of Rochester, the _roue_, represented in
the characteristic act of crowning his monkey with laurel,--laurel to
which he sometimes aspired himself. And Kneller's portrait of Lord William
Russell, with a face that answers better to the character of the man, as it
appeared before he was brought face to face with death, and forced to exert
and to display the manlier qualities of his nature.
The men of letters of the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th
century appear here in great force. With the faces of most of them the
world is familiar. Here are six of the Kit-Kat Club portraits that
were painted for Jacob Tonson. First in order Tonson himself, the very
personification of the nourishing publisher and patron of authors, with
the pleasant air of the happy discoverer of genius, and the maker of its
fortune as well as of his own. He holds a folio copy of "Paradise Lost"; it
is Tonson patting Milton on the back. Dryden, Vanbrugh, Congreve, Steele,
Addison, and Lord Chancellor Somers are the other five of these celebrated
portraits. What a congress of wits! But we have besides, Atterbury, and
Pope, and Lady Mary Wortley Montague, and Prior, and Tickell, and Swift.
Pope's face, as given in Kneller's portrait, (which recalls the poet's
stolen complimentary verse to the painter,) has a sad and weary look, and
is marked by that pallor, and that peculiar hollowness of eye and cheek,
which often accompany bodily deformity. Swift's face betrays but little
of the bitterness of his soul; but it was painted in his best days,
before the cloud of darkness had begun to settle down upon him. It is the
portrait of him as he was in London, among his set,--not as he was in the
half-banishment of his Irish life.
The end of the century brings us to other familiar portraits, and at length
to portraits painted by great native artists. Gainsborough and Reynolds
appear in full rivalry. Here are Gainsborough's Johnson, the well-known
profile portrait, and Sir Joshua's Boswell; Gainsborough's Garrick, a most
delightful portrait of Garrick's pleasantest expression, and Sir Joshua's
Gibbon, which looks as ugly and as conceited as the little man himself.
One of Reynolds's most pleasing portraits is his likeness of himself in
spectacles. It has suffered from the fading of colors and the cracking of
the paint, as so many of Sir Joshua's best pictures have done; but it still
presents him amiable, cultivated, and unpretending, the accomplished artist
and the kindly friend, and affords the best possible illustration of the
character which Goldsmith drew of him in his "Retaliation."
We pass rapidly before the portraits of the present century. Every one
knows by heart the faces of Scott and Byron, Southey and Coleridge. But
there is one little portrait, hung at the end of the gallery, in front of
which we pause. It has no remarkable merit as a work of art, but it is the
portrait of Keats, painted in Rome by his friend Severn. The young poet is
resting his head on his hand, as if it were heavy and tired. His face has a
look of illness; his eyes are large, and the spaces around them are hollow.
His wide and well-formed brow, and all the features, betray a temperament
delicate, passionate, and sensitive to excess. This portrait was painted,
according to tradition, in the little summer-house studio, at the corner
of the Via Strozzi. The windows look out over the garden with its cypress
walks, its old pine trees, its rows of cabbages and artichokes, its
weather-stained statues and bits of ancient marbles. Beyond are the walls
of Rome, and beyond these the Campagna stretches away in level lines of
beauty to the blue billow of the Alban hills. On this view the eyes of the
dying poet rested, while his heart gave no prophecy to him of coming fame.
Would it have cheered him, during those last disheartened days, to have
foreseen that so soon England would rank him among her honored children,
and place his portrait in the gallery of the most worthy of her dead; while
a line of his writing, "A thing of beauty is a joy forever," should be
emblazoned in glowing letters at the end of the great hall of her first
great Palace of Art?
We come now to the northern aisle, the aisle which contains the works of
the British school of painters. It is the most complete of the sections of
this great collection of pictures, and the lessons which are to be learned
from it of the present condition and prospects of Art are of the highest
interest. Here are six hundred pictures, the English record of about a
hundred years of painting. Never before has there been such a collection
of the works of English painters, and never before has there been an
opportunity of studying so fully and satisfactorily the course and progress
of the English school.
The beginning of this school hardly dates before the first quarter of the
last century. Public taste was then at its lowest level. The fall of Art
in Italy, in the preceding century, had carried down with it both the
appreciation and the feeling for what was truly good. A factitious taste
had taken the place of honest and simple likings. The worst things were
often preferred, the worst pictures bought. Artists, as a class, had given
up the study of Nature as the foundation of Art; and in the place of
Nature, they had put other men's pictures. They had substituted a system
of conventional rules and traditional methods, for the infinite variety
and the unceasing study of truth. They preferred falsehood, they liked
imitation, and their patrons soon came to consider the feeble results of
falsehood and imitation as better than honest work and strong originality.
Of course, here and there was a man whose native love of truth or spirit
of opposition would give him strength to break loose from the fetters of
artistic convention and prevailing taste, and to exhibit the truth in his
pictures. Such a man was the first great artist of the English school,
Hogarth; the greatest humorist of a century rich in humorists, with a
knowledge of human nature that reminds one sometimes of Fielding's in its
clearness and variety, sometimes of Goldsmith's in its tender pleasantry.
But Hogarth had to struggle all his life against the taste of his time,
which was unable to appreciate his merit. He was too natural for an
artificial age. Among the pictures exhibited here is one from his famous
series of the Harlot's Progress. It is too well known by the engravings to
need description; but when the eight masterly pictures which compose this
series were sold at auction during Hogarth's life, they brought the sum of
fourteen guineas each! The March of the Guards to Finchley, so admirable in
composition, so full of incident and character, so rich in humor, could not
be sold by the artist, and he disposed of it in a lottery, in which many
tickets were left on his hands. And while this was the fate of works which
still stand unsurpassed in their peculiar field, the amateurs were paying
enormous prices for worthless pictures of second-rate Italian masters, and
talking about their "Correggios and Raphaels and stuff."
From Hogarth to Sir Joshua Reynolds is a wide step. Sir Joshua is well
represented here by some thirty pictures; and Gainsborough is at his side
with perhaps half as many. If Sir Joshua had not been a man of genius,
he would have been ruined by his academic principles. He laid down rules
which he constantly violated. He praised the Bolognese masters, and advised
all students of Art in Italy to study at Bologna; but he did not confine
himself to the study of other men's works, but sometimes gave himself, with
honest sincerity and affection, to the study of Nature; and thus it is that
it becomes hard to draw the line of praise between some of his pictures and
some of those by Gainsborough, and to say which are the best. Gainsborough
was no academician; he did not believe in conventionalities. When Sir
Joshua laid down as a rule that blue was bad as a prevailing color in
pictures, Gainsborough painted his famous Blue Boy, and made one of the
most charming portraits and pleasantest pictures that had ever been painted
in England. Look at Sir Joshua's delightful, winning Nelly O'Brien,--what
a happy picture of a girl!--and then look at Gainsborough's Mrs. Graham,
with her exquisite, perhaps even too exquisite, beauty; and see, not which
of the artists was the best, for that it is hard to see, but how great
both were as students and renderers of human nature. One of the best of
Reynolds's portraits is that of Foote, the actor. He is leaning over a
chair, and his laughing face is looking out from the canvas, as if he
were watching the effect of one of his own most brilliant and easy jokes.
But Sir Joshua does not compare with Gainsborough in landscape; there the
lover of Nature had the advantage over the lover of Poussin and Claude.
The famous picture of Puck, which Lord Fitzwilliam lately bought at Mr.
Rogers's sale for the extravagant sum of nine hundred and eighty guineas,
is here for all eyes to see how far the imagination of the President of the
Royal Academy differed from that of Shakspeare.
But the principles which Sir Joshua laid down, though they did not ruin
his own works, did much to ruin those of the next generation of painters.
There was still the struggle between the painters by rule and according to
convention, and the painters of truth as found in Nature. But the painters
of Nature were in a minority so small as to be powerless against the
prevailing current. English Art seemed to be running down; cold formalisms,
classicalities, extravagances, affectations, imitations, "high art,"
occupied the field almost to the exclusion of better things. West, Fuseli,
Northcote, Barry, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Haydon, Maclise, and Sir Charles
Eastlake form a famous line of painters who have been admired, but whose
works have little value except as warnings, and as showing into what errors
a false method and want of recognition of the foundation and the end of Art
may lead men not destitute of ability.
But while these men had their day, the school of the lovers of Nature as
seen in the external world was making irregular progress. The overwhelming
pressure of conventional traditions is shown most forcibly, however, by
the fact that the great leader of this school of the students of landscape
nature, the man to whom was given the power to see and to represent Nature
in all the changing glories and beauties of her ceaselessly varying
moods, the man who knew the value of truth and set his desires upon it
accordingly,--that this man should have been for years of his life kept
down to the imitation of and competition with the works of painters of
previous centuries who were supposed to have painted landscapes. But it was
Pegasus running a race with cart-horses. He had reached the goal which they
had never aspired after. There are nineteen pictures of Turner's here at
Manchester; some of them among his noblest works. Here is his Cologne at
Sunset; look at it, for the picture will fade before your eyes, and you
will stand looking at the golden glow of evening over the church towers,
and the gleaming river of the ancient city.
With the growth of Turner's power, and the commencement of a better period
of public taste and feeling, as marked not only in Art, but in letters, the
study of Nature became more manifest in the English school. In different
directions, and with different degrees of success, many artists, but
generally with more or less faltering, broke away from the old system.
Wilkie, Etty, Constable, Collins, and others, often painted simple and
sincere pictures, pictures that showed careful study and real love of
Nature. All these artists may be seen to advantage here. But in looking
at the mass of the collection, one sees that the true principles of Art
have not even as yet been generally recognized by the majority of English
artists. The last hall of the gallery, which is devoted to the works of
living artists, gives especial proof of this fact. But at the same time,
it gives proof of the rise of a spirit among a small body of the younger
painters, whose influence promises to be of strong and beneficial effect.
The artists among whom this spirit exists are the Pre-Raphaelites.
Great misconception exists with regard to the works and to the principles
of Art of this school. The name by which it is known has in part occasioned
this misconception. It was not happily chosen; for these Pre-Raphaelites,
instead of being three centuries behind their times, are fully up with the
day in which they live. Pre-Raphaelitism was not intended to mean, as it
might seem to imply, the going back to worn-out and obsolete methods of
painting, the resort to past modes of representation; it does not mean the
adoption of the artistic forms, traditions, or rules of the old painters;
it does not mean the seeking of inspiration from the works of any other
men; but, in theory at least, it means the pursuit of Art in that spirit
which the painters before Raphael possessed, the spirit which united Art
with Religion; it means the pursuit of Art with the humility of learners,
with the faith of apostles. It does not mean the reproduction of the
quaintnesses, and awkwardnesses, and limitations of the early artists, more
than it means the adoption of the errors of their creed as exhibited in
their paintings; but it means that as those artists broke loose from the
bondage of Byzantine captivity, and found in Nature the source of all true
inspiration, the exhaustless fountain from which their imaginations might
draw perpetual refreshment,--so these artists who took this name would free
themselves from whatever they could discern to be false in the teaching
and practice of Art in our times, and give themselves to the study of that
beauty and that truth which are to be found in God's world to-day, whether
in external nature or in human hearts, actions, and lives. Truth was to be
their device; Nature was to be their mistress. And in the ardor of youth,
they set forth for the conquest of new and untravelled lands.
It is greatly to be regretted that there should be but an inconsiderable
number of pictures in this last hall of the English gallery by
Pre-Raphaelite artists. A little private exhibition of seventy-two pictures
and drawings, by some twenty artists of this school, which was held in a
small house in London, during the month of June, gave a far better view of
what had been already accomplished by them, of the practical working out of
their principles of Art, and of their present tendencies. Three men stand
as the prominent leaders of the movement,--Rosetti, Hunt, and Millais.
There is not a single picture by Rosetti at Manchester; but two (if we
remember rightly) by Millais; and although there are several by Hunt, there
are none of his latest works, nor the most powerful and beautiful of his
comparatively early ones, the well-known Light of the World. Rosetti has
never, we believe, exhibited in public. But whether he paint Dante led in a
vision by Love to see Beatrice lying dead,--or the Angel leading King and
Shepherd to adore the new-born Saviour, while the angelic choir in white
robes stand around the manger in the night, singing their song of Peace and
Good-will,--or Queen Guinever and Sir Lancelot meeting in the autumn day
at King Arthur's tomb,--or Mary of Magdala flying from the house of revels,
and clasping the alabaster box of ointment to her bosom,--or Ophelia
redelivering to Hamlet his gifts of remembrance, while he strips the leaves
from a rosetree as he breaks her heart,--or the young farmer, who, having
driven his cart to London, and crossed one of the bridges over the black
river, finds in the cold, wet morning his old love, long lost, now fallen
at the side of the street, fainting against the dead brick wall of a
graveyard; whether he paint these or other scenes, in all are to be found
such sense of the higher truths of Nature and such faithful rendering of
them, such force of expression, and such beauty of conception, as place
them as works of imagination among the first that this age has produced.
With equal fidelity to Nature, with a more definite moral purpose, perhaps
with a more consistent steadiness of work, but with less delicate sense
of beauty, and with imagination of a very different order, Hunt stands
with Rosetti in the front ranks of Pre-Raphaelitism. The earnestness and
directness of moral expression in most of his pictures is such as has for
a long time been rare in Art. Art is with him a means of enforcing the
recognition of truths often avoided or carefully concealed. Their powerful
dramatic character compels the attention of the careless to his pictures.
He paints Claudio and Isabella in the prison scene, and it is not merely
a vivid rendering of the scene in its external features, but also a true
rendering of the character of Claudio and Isabella, of the weakness of the
coward, of the strength that dwells with the pure. His Awakened Conscience
is a scene from the interior of London life; a denunciation of the vice
of which the world is so careless; a sad, stern picture of the bitterness
of sin. Millais is less in earnest, and his pictures, with many great
technical merits, with portions of very exquisite painting, have rarely
possessed any great worth as works of imagination. One of the tenderest
of them all is the Huguenots, the girl and her lover parting, which is
now becoming generally known through the engraving that has recently been
published. The Autumn Leaves, which is exhibited at Manchester, is one of
his least satisfactory pictures.
But all these men are young, and what they have already accomplished is
but as the promise of greater things to come. It is impossible, however,
to look forward for these greater things, without a feeling of doubt and
uncertainty as to their being produced. The times in which we are living
are not fitted to develope and confirm the qualities on which the best
results of Art depend. Ours is neither an age of composure nor of faith. It
urges speedy results; it desires effective, rather than simple, truthful
work. But the Pre-Raphaelites are exposed to especial dangers; just now to
the dangers that come from success. And these are of two kinds; first, the
undermining of that humility which is the secret of mastery; and secondly,
the tendency to the development of peculiarities and mannerisms, to the
exaggeration of special features that have attracted attention in their
work, and which have a factitious value set upon them by the public, as
they are taken to be the signs and passwords of initiation into the new
school. But, lying deeper than these, there is a danger to Pre-Raphaelitism
from the tendency to insist on too literal an application of its own
principles. The best principles will not include all cases. The workings
and ways of Nature are infinite, and the principles of Art are finite
deductions from these infinite examples. As yet these deductions have been
but imperfectly made. The most exact and truthful representation of Nature
may be the rule of the artist, but it is not an easy thing to attain to an
understanding of the truth of Nature. The actual is not always the real.
Literal truth is not always exact truth; and the seeming truth, which is
what Art must often represent, is very different from the absolute truth.
And here there has been much stumbling in Pre-Raphaelitism, and there is
likelihood of fall; likelihood of the actual being mistaken for the real,
the show for the essence. It is, indeed, apparently, a tendency toward this
error which has deprived most of the best pictures of the Pre-Raphaelites
of the quality of _breadth_, a quality which Nature usually preserves in
herself, which in painting takes the place of harmony in music, and which
only the greatest painters have acquired.
But if Pre-Raphaelitism be true, not to the letter, but to the spirit
of its principles,--if its artists remain unspoiled by flattery and
success,--if they avoid mannerisms, conceits, and the affectations of
originality,--if they can keep religious faith undimmed by the "world's
slow stain"; then we may expect from the school such works of painting as
have not been seen in past times,--works which shall be the forerunners of
a new period of Art, and shall show what undreamed conquests yet lie open
before it,--works which shall take us into regions of yet undiscovered
beauty, and reveal to us more and more of the exhaustless love of God.
THE ROMMANY GIRL.
The sun goes down, and with him takes
The coarseness of my poor attire;
The fair moon mounts, and aye the flame
Of gypsy beauty blazes higher.
Pale northern girls! you scorn our race;
You captives of your air-tight halls,
Wear out in-doors your sickly days,
But leave us the horizon walls.
And if I take you, dames, to task,
And say it frankly without guile,
Then you are gypsies in a mask,
And I the lady all the while.
If, on the heath, under the moon,
I court and play with paler blood,
Me false to mine dare whisper none,--
One sallow horseman knows me good.
Go, keep your cheek's rose from the rain,
For teeth and hair with shopmen deal;
My swarthy tint is in the grain,
The rocks and forest know it real.
The wild air bloweth in our lungs,
The keen stars twinkle in our eyes,
The birds gave us our wily tongues,
The panther in our dances flies.
You doubt we read the stars on high,
Nathless we read your fortunes true;
The stars may hide in the upper sky,
But without glass we fathom you.
THE CHARTIST'S COMPLAINT.
Day! hast thou two faces,
Making one place two places?
One, by humble farmer seen,
Chill and wet, unlighted, mean,
Useful only, triste and damp,
Serving for a laborer's lamp?
Have the same mists another side,
To be the appanage of pride,
Gracing the rich man's wood and lake,
His park where amber mornings break,
And treacherously bright to show
His planted isle where roses glow?
O Day! and is your mightiness
A sycophant to smug success?
Will the sweet sky and ocean broad
Be fine accomplices to fraud?
O Sun! I curse thy cruel ray!
Back, back to chaos, harlot Day!
Daughters of Time, the hypocritic Days,
Muffled and dumb, like barefoot dervishes,
And marching single in an endless file,
Bring diadems and fagots in their hands.
To each they offer gifts, after his will,--
Bread, kingdoms, stars, or sky that holds them all.
I, in my pleached garden, watched the pomp,
Forgot my morning wishes, hastily
Took a few herbs and apples, and the Day
Turned and departed silent. I, too late,
Under her solemn fillet saw the scorn.
If the red slayer think he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
I keep, and pass, and turn again.
Far or forgot to me is near,
Shadow and sunlight are the same,
The vanished gods to me appear,
And one to me are shame and fame.
They reckon ill who leave me out;
When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt,
And I the hymn the Brahmin sings.
The strong gods pine for my abode,
And pine in vain the sacred Seven;
But thou, meek lover of the good!
Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.
THE AUTOCRAT OF THE BREAKFAST-TABLE.
EVERY MAN HIS OWN BOSWELL.
I was just going to say, when I was interrupted, that one of the many ways
of classifying minds is under the heads of arithmetical and algebraical
intellects. All economical and practical wisdom is an extension or
variation of the following arithmetical formula: 2 + 2 = 4. Every
philosophical proposition has the more general character of the expression
_a + b = c_. We are mere operatives, empirics, and egotists, until we learn
to think in letters instead of figures.
They all stared. There is a divinity student lately come among us to whom
I commonly address remarks like the above, allowing him to take a certain
share in the conversation, so far as assent or pertinent questions are
involved. He abused his liberty on this occasion by presuming to say that
Leibnitz had the same observation.--No, sir, I replied, he has not. But he
said a mighty good thing about mathematics, that sounds something like it,
and you found it, _not in the original_, but quoted by Dr. Thomas Reid. I
will tell the company what he did say, one of these days.
--If I belong to a Society of Mutual Admiration?--I blush to say that
I do not at this present moment. I once did, however. It was the first
association to which I ever heard the term applied; a body of scientific
young men in a great foreign city who admired their teacher, and to some
extent each other. Many of them deserved it; they have become famous
since. It amuses me to hear the talk of one of those beings described by
"Letters four do form his name"--
about a social development which belongs to the very noblest stage of
civilization. All generous companies of artists, authors, philanthropists,
men of science, are, or ought to be, Societies of Mutual Admiration. A man
of genius, or any kind of superiority, is not debarred from admiring the
same quality in another, nor the other from returning his admiration. They
may even associate together and continue to think highly of each other. And
so of a dozen such men, if any one place is fortunate enough to hold so
many. The being referred to above assumes several false premises. First,
that men of talent necessarily hate each other. Secondly, that intimate
knowledge or habitual association destroys our admiration of persons
whom we esteemed highly at a distance. Thirdly, that a circle of clever
fellows, who meet together to dine and have a good time, have signed a
constitutional compact to glorify themselves and put down him and the
fraction of the human race not belonging to their number. Fourthly, that it
is an outrage that he is not asked to join them.
Here the company laughed a good deal, and the old gentleman who sits
opposite said, "That's it! that's it!"
I continued, for I was in the talking vein. As to clever people's hating
each other, I think a _little_ extra talent does sometimes make people
jealous. They become irritated by perpetual attempts and failures, and it
hurts their tempers and dispositions. Unpretending mediocrity is good, and
genius is glorious; but a weak flavor of genius in an essentially common
person is detestable. It spoils the grand neutrality of a commonplace
character, as the rinsings of an unwashed wineglass spoil a draught of
fair water. No wonder the poor fellow we spoke of, who always belongs to
this class of slightly flavored mediocrities, is puzzled and vexed by the
strange sight of a dozen men of capacity working and playing together in
harmony. He and his fellows are always fighting. With them familiarity
naturally breeds contempt. If they ever praise each other's bad drawings,
or broken-winded novels, or spavined verses, nobody ever supposed it
was from admiration; it was simply a contract between themselves and a
publisher or dealer.
If the Mutuals have really nothing among them worth admiring, that alters
the question. But if they are men with noble powers and qualities, let
me tell you, that, next to youthful love and family affections, there is
no human sentiment better than that which unites the Societies of Mutual
Admiration. And what would literature or art be without such associations?
Who can tell what we owe to the Mutual Admiration Society of which
Shakspeare, and Ben Jonson, and Beaumont and Fletcher were members? Or
to that of which Addison and Steele formed the centre, and which gave us
the Spectator? Or to that where Johnson, and Goldsmith, and Burke, and
Reynolds, and Beauclerk, and Boswell, most admiring among all admirers,
met together? Was there any great harm in the fact that the Irvings and
Paulding wrote in company? or any unpardonable cabal in the literary union
of Verplanck and Bryant and Sands, and as many more as they chose to
associate with them?
The poor creature does not know what he is talking about, when he abuses
this noblest of institutions. Let him inspect its mysteries through the
knot-hole he has secured, but not use that orifice as a medium for his
popgun. Such a society is the crown of a literary metropolis; if a town has
not material for it, and spirit and good feeling enough to organize it, it
is a mere caravansary, fit for a man of genius to lodge in, but not to live
in. Foolish people hate and dread and envy such an association of men of
varied powers and influence, because it is lofty, serene, impregnable, and,
by the necessity of the case, exclusive. Wise ones are prouder of the title
M.S.M.A. than of all their other honors put together.
All generous minds have a horror of what are commonly called "facts." They
are the brute beasts of the intellectual domain. Who does not know fellows
that always have an ill-conditioned fact or two that they lead after them
into decent company like so many bull-dogs, ready to let them slip at every
ingenious suggestion, or convenient generalization, or pleasant fancy? I
allow no "facts" at this table. What! Because bread is good and wholesome
and necessary and nourishing, shall you thrust a crumb into my windpipe
while I am talking? Do not these muscles of mine represent a Hundred loaves
of bread? and is not my thought the abstract of tea thousand of these
crumbs of truth with which you would choke off my speech?
[The above remark must be conditioned and qualified for the vulgar mind.
The reader will of course understand the precise amount of seasoning which
must be added to it before he adopts it as one of the axioms of his life.
The speaker disclaims all responsibility for its abuse in incompetent
This business of conversation is a very serious matter. There are men
that it weakens one to talk with an hour more than a day's fasting would
do. Mark this that I am going to say, for it is as good as a working
professional man's advice, and costs you nothing: It is better to lose a
pint of blood from your veins than to have a nerve tapped. Nobody measures
your nervous force as it runs away, nor bandages your brain and marrow
after the operation.
There are men of _esprit_ who are excessively exhausting to some people.
They are the talkers that have what may be called _jerky_ minds. Their
thoughts do not run in the natural order of sequence. They say bright
things on all possible subjects, but their zigzags rack you to death. After
a jolting half-hour with one of these jerky companions, talking with a dull
friend affords great relief. It is like taking the cat in your lap after
holding a squirrel.
What a comfort a dull but kindly person is, to be sure, at times! A
ground-glass shade over a gas-lamp does not bring more solace to our
dazzled eyes than such a one to our minds.
"Do not dull people bore you?" said one of the lady-boarders,--the same
that sent me her autograph-book last week with a request for a few original
stanzas, not remembering that "The Pactolian" pays me five dollars a line
for every thing I write in its columns.
"Madam," said I, (she and the century were in their teens together,) "all
men are bores, except when we want them. There never was but one man that I
would trust with my latch-key."
"Who might that favored person be?"
The men of genius that I fancy most have erectile heads like the
cobra-di-capello. You remember what they tell of William Pinkney, the great
pleader; how in his eloquent paroxysms the veins of his neck would swell
and his face flush and his eyes glitter, until he seemed on the verge of
apoplexy. The hydraulic arrangements for supplying the brain with blood
are only second in importance to its own organization. The bulbous-headed
fellows that steam well when they are at work are the men that draw big
audiences and give us marrowy books and pictures. It is a good sign to have
one's feet grow cold when he is writing. A great writer and speaker once
told me that he often wrote with his feet in hot water; but for this, _all_
his blood would have run into his head, as the mercury sometimes withdraws
into the ball of a thermometer.
--You don't suppose that my remarks made at this table are like so many
postage-stamps, do you,--each to be only once uttered? If you do, you are
mistaken. He must be a poor creature that does not often repeat himself.
Imagine the author of the excellent piece of advice, "Know thyself,"
never alluding to that sentiment again during the course of a protracted
existence! Why, the truths a man carries about with him are his tools; and
do you think a carpenter is bound to use the same plane but once to smooth
a knotty board with, or to hang up his hammer after it has driven its first
nail? I shall never repeat a conversation, but an idea often. I shall
use the same types when I like, but not commonly the same stereotypes. A
thought is often original, though you have uttered it a hundred times.
It has come to you over a new route, by a new and express train of
Sometimes, but rarely, one may be caught making the same speech twice over,
and yet be held blameless. Thus, a certain lecturer, after performing in
an inland city, where dwells a _Litteratrice_ of note, was invited to meet
her and others over the social teacup. She pleasantly referred to his many
wanderings in his new occupation. "Yes," he replied, "I am like the Huma,
the bird that never lights, being always in the ears, as he is always on
the wing,"--Years elapsed. The lecturer visited the same place once more
for the same purpose. Another social cup after the lecture, and a second
meeting with the distinguished lady. "You are constantly going from place
to place," she said.--"Yes," he answered, "I am like the Huma,"--and
finished the sentence as before.
What horrors, when it flashed over him that he had made this fine speech,
word for word, twice over! Yet it was not true, as the lady might perhaps
have fairly inferred, that he had embellished his conversation with the
Huma daily during that whole interval of years. On the contrary, he had
never once thought of the odious fowl until the recurrence of precisely
the same circumstances brought up precisely the same idea. He ought to
have been proud of the accuracy of his mental adjustments. Given certain
factors, and a sound brain should always evolve the same fixed product with
the certainty of Babbage's calculating machine.
--What a satire, by the way, is that machine on the mere mathematician! A
Frankenstein-monster, a thing without brains and without heart, too stupid
to make a blunder; that turns out formulae like a corn-sheller, and never
grows any wiser or better, though it grind a thousand bushels of them!
I have an immense respect for a man of talents _plus_ "the mathematics."
But the calculating power alone should seem to be the least human of
qualities, and to have the smallest amount of reason in it; since a machine
can be made to do the work of three or four calculators, and better than
any one of them. Sometimes I have been troubled that I had not a deeper
intuitive apprehension of the relations of numbers. But the triumph of the
ciphering hand-organ has consoled me. I always fancy I can hear the wheels
clicking in a calculator's brain. The power of dealing with numbers is a
kind of "detached lever" arrangement, which may be put into a mighty poor
watch. I suppose it is about as common as the power of moving the ears
voluntarily, which is a moderately rare endowment.
--Little localized powers, and little narrow streaks of specialized
knowledge, are things men are very apt to be conceited about. Nature is
very wise; but for this encouraging principle how many small talents and
little accomplishments would be neglected! Talk about conceit as much as
you like, it is to human character what salt is to the ocean; it keeps it
sweet, and renders it endurable. Say rather it is like the natural unguent
of the sea-fowl's plumage, which enables him to shed the rain that falls on
him and the wave in which he dips. When one has had _all_ his conceit taken
out of him, when he has lost _all_ his illusions, his feathers will soon
soak through, and he will fly no more.
So you admire conceited people, do you? said the young lady who has come to
the city to be finished off for--the duties of life.
I am afraid you do not study logic at your school, my dear. It does not
follow that I wish to be pickled in brine because I like a saltwater plunge
at Nahant. I say that conceit is just as natural a thing to human minds as
a centre is to a circle. But little-minded people's thoughts move in such
small circles that five minutes' conversation gives you an arc long enough
to determine their whole curve. An arc in the movement of a large intellect
does not sensibly differ from a straight line. Even if it have the third
vowel as its centre, it does not soon betray it. The highest thought, that
is, is the most seemingly impersonal; it does not obviously imply any
Audacious self-esteem, with good ground for it, is always imposing. What
resplendent beauty that must have been which could have authorized Phryne
to "peel" in the way she did! What fine speeches are those two: "_Non omnis
moriar_" and "I have taken all knowledge to be my province"! Even in common
people, conceit has the virtue of making them cheerful; the man who thinks
his wife, his baby, his house, his horse, his dog, and himself severally
unequalled, is almost sure to be a good-humored person, though liable to be
tedious at times.
--What are the great faults of conversation? Want of ideas, want of words,
want of manners, are the principal ones, I suppose you think. I don't
doubt it, but I will tell you what I have found spoil more good talks than
anything else;--long arguments on special points between people who differ
on the fundamental principles upon which these points depend. No men can
have satisfactory relations with each other until they have agreed on
certain _ultimata_ of belief not to be disturbed in ordinary conversation,
and unless they have sense enough to trace the secondary questions
depending upon these ultimate beliefs to their source. In short, just as a
written constitution is essential to the best social order, so a code of
finalities is a necessary condition of profitable talk between two persons.
Talking is like playing on the harp; there is as much in laying the hand on
the strings to stop their vibrations as in twanging them to bring out their
--Do you mean to say the pun-question is not clearly settled in your minds?
Let me lay down the law upon the subject. Life and language are alike
sacred. Homicide and _verbicide_--that is, violent treatment of a word
with fatal results to its legitimate meaning, which is its life--are alike
forbidden. Manslaughter, which is the meaning of the one, is the same as
man's laughter, which is the end of the other. A pun is _prima facie_ an
insult to the person you are talking with. It implies utter indifference
to or sublime contempt for his remarks, no matter how serious. I speak of
total depravity, and one says all that is written on the subject is deep
raving. I have committed my self-respect by talking with such a person. I
should like to commit him, but cannot, because he is a nuisance. Or I speak
of geological convulsions, and he asks me what was the cosine of Noah's
ark; also, whether the Deluge was not a deal huger than any modern
A pun does not commonly justify a blow in return. But if a blow were given
for such cause, and death ensued, the jury would be judges both of the
facts and of the pun, and might, if the latter were of an aggravated
character, return a verdict of justifiable homicide. Thus, in a case lately
decided before Miller, J., Doe presented Roe a subscription paper, and
urged the claims of suffering humanity. Roe replied by asking, When charity
was like a top? It was in evidence that Doe preserved a dignified silence.
Roe then said, "When it begins to hum." Doe then--and not till then--struck
Roe, and his head happening to strike a bound volume of the Monthly Rag-bag
and Stolen Miscellany, intense mortification ensued, with a fatal result.
The chief laid down his notions of the law to his brother justices, who
unanimously replied, "Jest so." The chief rejoined, that no man should jest
so without being punished for it, and charged for the prisoner, who was
acquitted, and the pun ordered to be burned by the sheriff. The bound
volume was forfeited as a deodand, but not claimed.
People that make puns are like wanton boys that put coppers on the railroad
tracks. They amuse themselves and other children, but their little trick
may upset a freight train of conversation for the sake of a battered
I will thank you, B.F., to bring down two books, of which I will mark the
places on this slip of paper. (While he is gone, I may say that this boy,
our landlady's youngest, is called BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, after the celebrated
philosopher of that name. A highly merited compliment.)
I wished to refer to two eminent authorities. Now be so good as to listen.
The great moralist says: "To trifle with the vocabulary which is the
vehicle of social intercourse is to tamper with the currency of human
intelligence. He who would violate the sanctities of his mother tongue
would invade the recesses of the paternal till without remorse, and repeat
the banquet of Saturn without an indigestion."
And, once more, listen to the historian. "The Puritans hated puns. The
Bishops were notoriously addicted to them. The Lords Temporal carried them
to the verge of license. Majesty itself must have its Royal quibble. 'Ye be
burly, my Lord of Burleigh,' said Queen Elizabeth, 'but ye shall make less
stir in our realm than my Lord of Leicester.' The gravest wisdom and the
highest breeding lent their sanction to the practice. Lord Bacon playfully
declared himself a descendant of 'Og, the King of Bashan. Sir Philip
Sidney, with his last breath, reproached the soldier who brought him water,
for wasting a casque full upon a dying man. A courtier, who saw Othello
performed at the Globe Theatre, remarked, that the blackamoor was a brute,
and not a man. 'Thou hast reason,' replied a great Lord, 'according to
Plato his saying; for this be a two-legged animal _with_ feathers.' The
fatal habit became universal. The language was corrupted. The infection
spread to the national conscience. Political double-dealings naturally grew
out of verbal double meanings. The teeth of the new dragon were sown by the
Cadmus who introduced the alphabet of equivocation. What was levity in
the time of the Tudors grew to regicide and revolution in the age of the
Who was that boarder that just whispered something about the
Macaulay-flowers of literature?--There was a dead silence.--I said calmly,
I shall henceforth consider any interruption by a pun as a hint to change
my boarding-house. Do not plead my example. If _I_ have used any such, it
has been only as a Spartan father would show up a drunken helot. We have
done with them.
--If a logical mind ever found out anything with its logic?--I should say
that its most frequent work was to build a _pons asinorum_ over chasms that
shrewd people can bestride without such a structure. You can hire logic, in
the shape of a lawyer, to prove anything that you want to prove. You can
buy treatises to show that Napoleon never lived, and that no battle of
Bunker-hill was ever fought. The great minds are those with a wide span,
that couple truths related to, but far removed from, each other. Logicians
carry the surveyor's chain over the track of which these are the true
explorers. I value a man mainly for his primary relations with truth, as I
understand truth,--not for any secondary artifice in handling his ideas.
Some of the sharpest men in argument are notoriously unsound in judgment.
I should not trust the counsel of a smart debater, any more than that of a
good chess-player. Either may of course advise wisely, but not necessarily
because he wrangles or plays well.
The old gentleman who sits opposite got his hand up, as a pointer lifts
his forefoot, at the expression, "his relations with truth as I understand
truth," and when I had done, sniffed audibly, and said I talked like a
transcendentalist. For his part, common sense was good enough for him.
Precisely so, my dear sir, I replied; common sense, _as you understand it_.
We all have to assume a standard of judgment in our own minds, either of
things or persons. A man who is willing to take another's opinion has to
exercise his judgment in the choice of whom to follow, which is often as
nice a matter as to judge of things for one's self. On the whole, I had
rather judge men's minds by comparing their thoughts with my own, than
judge of thoughts by knowing who utter them. I must do one or the other. It
does not follow, of course, that I may not recognize another man's thoughts
as broader and deeper than my own; but that does not necessarily change my
opinion, otherwise this would be at the mercy of every superior mind that
held a different one. How many of our most cherished beliefs are like those
drinking-glasses of the ancient pattern, that serve us well so long as we
keep them in our hand, but spill all if we attempt to set them down! I have
sometimes compared conversation to the Italian game of _mora_, in which one
player lifts his hand with so many fingers extended, and the other matches
or misses the number, as the case may be with his own. I show my thought,
another his; if they agree, well; if they differ, we find the largest
common factor, if we can, but at any rate avoid disputing about remainders
and fractions, which is to real talk what tuning an instrument is to
playing on it.
--What if, instead of talking this morning, I should read you a copy of
verses, with critical remarks by the author? Any of the company can retire
When Eve had led her lord away,
And Cain had killed his brother,
The stars and flowers, the poets say,
Agreed with one another
To cheat the cunning tempter's art,
And teach the race its duty,
By keeping on its wicked heart
Their eyes of light and beauty.
A million sleepless lids, they say,
Will be at least a warning;
And so the flowers would watch by day,
The stars from eve to morning.
On hill and prairie, field and lawn,
Their dewy eyes upturning,
The flowers still watch from reddening dawn
Till western skies are burning.
Alas! each hour of daylight tells
A tale of shame so crushing,
That some turn white as sea-bleached shells,
And some are always blushing.
But when the patient stars look down
On all their light discovers,
The traitor's smile, the murderer's frown,
The lips of lying lovers,
They try to shut their saddening eyes,
And in the vain endeavour
We see them twinkling in the skies,
And so they wink forever.
What do _you_ think of these verses, my friends? Is that piece an
impromptu? said my landlady's daughter. (Aet. 19+. Tender-eyed blonde. Long
ringlets. Cameo pin. Gold pencil-case on a chain. Locket. Bracelet. Album.
Autograph book. Accordeon. Reads Byron, Tupper, and Sylvanus Cobb, junior,
while her mother makes the puddings. Says, "Yes?" when you tell her
anything.)--_Oui et non, ma petite_,--Yes and no, my child. Five of the
seven verses were written off-hand; the other two took a week,--that is,
were hanging round the desk in a ragged, forlorn, unrhymed condition as
long as that. All poets will tell you just such stories. _C'est le DERNIER
pas qui coute_. Don't you know how hard it is for some people to get out of
a room after their visit is really over? They want to be off, and you want
to have them off, but they don't know how to manage it. One would think
they had been built in your parlour or study, and were waiting to be
launched. I have contrived a sort of ceremonial inclined plane for such
visitors, which being lubricated with certain smooth phrases, I back them
down, metaphorically speaking, stern-foremost, into their "native element,"
the great ocean of out-doors. Well, now, there are poems as hard to get rid
of as these rural visitors. They come in glibly, use up all the serviceable
rhymes, _day_, _ray_, _beauty_, _duty_, _skies_, _eyes_, _other_,
_brother_, _mountain_, _fountain_, and the like; and so they go on until
you think it is time for the wind-up, and the wind-up won't come on any
terms. So they lie about until you get sick of the sight of them, and end
by thrusting some cold scrap of a final couplet upon them, and turning them
out of doors. I suspect a good many "impromptus" could tell just such a
story as the above.--Here turning to our landlady, I used an illustration
which pleased the company much at the time, and has since been highly
commended. "Madam," I said, "you can pour three gills and three quarters
of honey from that pint jug, if it is full, in less than one minute; but,
Madam, you could not empty that last quarter of a gill, though you were
turned into a marble Hebe, and held the vessel upside down for a thousand
One gets tired to death of the old, old rhymes, such as you see in that
copy of verses,--which I don't mean to abuse, or to praise either. I always
feel as if I were a cobbler, putting new top-leathers to an old pair of
boot-soles and bodies, when I am fitting sentiments to these venerable
* * * * youth
* * * * morning
* * * * truth
* * * * warning
Nine tenths of the "Juvenile Poems" written spring out of the above musical
and suggestive coincidences.
"Yes?" said our landlady's daughter.
I did not address the following remark to her, and I trust, from her
limited range of reading, she will never see it; I said it softly to my
When a young female wears a flat circular side-curl, gummed on each
temple,--when she walks with a male, not arm in arm, but his arm against
the back of hers,--and when she says "Yes?" with the note of interrogation,
you are generally safe in asking her what wages she gets, and who the
"feller" was you saw her with.
"What were you whispering?" said the daughter of the house, moistening her
lips, as she spoke, in a very engaging manner.
"I was only giving some hints on the fine arts."
--It is curious to see how the same wants and tastes find the same
implements and modes of expression in all times and places. The young
ladies of Otaheite, as you may see in Cook's Voyages, had a sort of
crinoline arrangement fully equal in radius to the largest spread of our
own lady-baskets. When I fling a Bay-State shawl over my shoulders, I am
only taking a lesson from the climate that the Indian had learned before
me. A _blanket_-shawl we call it, and not a plaid; and we wear it like the
aborigines, and not like the Highlanders.
--We are the Romans of the modern world,--the great assimilating people.
Conflicts and conquests are of course necessary accidents with us, as with
our prototypes. And so we come to their style of weapon. Our army sword
is the short, stiff, pointed _gladius_ of the Romans; and the American
bowie-knife is the same tool, modified to meet the daily wants of civil
society. I announce at this table an axiom not to be found in Montesquieu
or the journals of Congress:--
The race that shortens its weapons lengthens its boundaries.
_Corollary_. It was the Polish _lance_ that left Poland at last with
nothing of her own to bound.
"Dropped from her nerveless grasp the _shattered spear_!"
What business had Sarmatia to be fighting for liberty with a fifteen-foot
pole between her and the breasts of her enemies? If she had but clutched
the old Roman and young American weapon, and come to close quarters, there
might have been a chance for her; but it would have spoiled the best
passage in "The Pleasures of Hope."
--Self-made men?--Well, yes. Of course every body likes and respects
self-made men. It is a great deal better to be made in that way than not to
be made at all. Are any of you younger people old enough to remember that
Irishman's house on the marsh at Cambridgeport, which house he built from
drain to chimney-top with his own hands? It took him a good many years to
build it, and one could see that it was a little out of plumb, and a little
wavy in outline, and a little queer and uncertain in general aspect. A
regular hand could certainly have built a better house; but it was a very
good house for a "self-made" carpenter's house, and people praised it, and
said how remarkably well the Irishman had succeeded. They never thought of
praising the fine blocks of houses a little farther on.
Your self-made man, whittled into shape with his own jack-knife, deserves
more credit, if that is all, than the regular engine-turned article, shaped
by the most approved pattern, and French-polished by society and travel.
But as to saying that one is every way the equal of the other, that is
another matter. The right of strict social discrimination of all things and
persons, according to their merits, native or acquired, is one of the most
precious republican privileges. I take the liberty to exercise it, when I
say, that, _other things being equal_, in most relations of life I prefer a
man of family.
What do I mean by a man of family?--O, I'll give you a general idea of what
I mean. Let us give him a first-rate fit out; it costs us nothing.
Four or five generations of gentlemen and gentlewomen; among them a member
of his Majesty's Council for the Province, a Governor or so, one or two
Doctors of Divinity, a member of Congress, not later than the time of
top-boots with tassels.
Family portraits. The member of the Council, by Smibert. The great
merchant-uncle, by Copley, full length, sitting in his arm-chair, in a
velvet cap and flowered robe, with a globe by him, to show the range of his
commercial transactions, and letters with large red seals lying round, one
directed conspicuously to The Honourable etc. etc. Great-grandmother, by
the same artist; brown satin, lace very fine, hands superlative; grand old
lady, stiffish, but imposing. Her mother, artist unknown; flat, angular,
hanging sleeves; parrot on fist A pair of Stuarts, viz., 1. A superb
full-blown, mediaeval gentleman, with a fiery dash of Tory blood in his
veins, tempered down with that of a fine old rebel grandmother, and warmed
up with the best of old India Madeira; his face is one flame of ruddy
sunshine; his ruffled shirt rushes out of his bosom with an impetuous
generosity, as if it would drag his heart after it; and his smile is good
for twenty thousand dollars to the Hospital, besides ample bequests to
all relatives and dependants. 2. Lady of the same; remarkable cap; high
waist, as in time of Empire; bust _a la Josephine_; wisps of curls,
like celery-tips, at sides of forehead; complexion clear and warm, like
rose-cordial. As for the miniatures by Malbone, we don't count them in the
Books, too, with the names of old college-students in them,--family
names:--you will find them at the head of their respective classes in
the days when students took rank on the catalogue from their parents'
condition. Elzevirs, with the Latinized appellations of youthful
progenitors, and _Hic liber est meus_ on the title-page. A set of Hogarth's
original plates. Pope, original edition, 15 volumes, London, 1717. Barrow
on the lower shelves, in folio. Tillotson on the upper, in a little dark
platoon of octodecimos.
Some family silver; a string of wedding and funeral rings; the arms of the
family curiously blazoned; the same in worsted, by a maiden aunt.
If the man of family has an old place to keep these things in, furnished
with claw-foot chairs and black mahogany tables, and tall bevel-edged
mirrors, and stately upright cabinets, his outfit is complete.
No, my friends, I go (always, other things being equal) for the man that
inherits family traditions and the cumulative humanities of at least four
or five generations. Above all things, as a child, he should have tumbled
about in a library. All men are afraid of books, that have not handled them
from infancy. Do you suppose our dear Professor over there ever read _Poll
Synopsis_, or consulted _Castelli Lexicon_, while he was growing up to
their stature? Not he; but virtue passed through the hem of their parchment
and leather garments whenever he touched them, as the precious drugs
sweated through the bat's handle in the Arabian story. I tell you he is at
home wherever he smells the invigorating fragrance of Russia leather. No
self-made man feels so. One may, it is true, have all the antecedents I
have spoken of, and yet be a boor or a shabby fellow. One may have none of
them, and yet be fit for councils and courts. Then let them change places.
Our social arrangement has this great beauty, that its strata shift up and
down as they change specific gravity, without being clogged by layers of
prescription. But I still insist on my democratic liberty of choice, and I
go for the man with the gallery of family portraits against the one with
the twenty-five-cent daguerreotype, unless I find out that the last is the
better of the two.
--I should have felt more nervous about the late comet, if I had thought
the world was ripe. But it is very green yet, if I am not mistaken; and
besides, there is a great deal of coal to use up, which I cannot bring
myself to think was made for nothing. If certain things, which seem to me
essential to a millennium, had come to pass, I should have been frightened;
but they haven't. Perhaps you would like to hear my
When legislators keep the law,
When banks dispense with bolts and locks,
When berries, whortle--rasp--and straw--
Grow bigger _downwards_ through the box,--
When he that selleth house or land
Shows leak in roof or flaw in right,--
When haberdashers choose the stand
Whose window hath the broadest light,--
When preachers tell us all they think,
And party leaders all they mean,--
When what we pay for, that we drink,
From real grape and coffee-bean,--
When lawyers take what they would give,
And doctors give what they would take,--
When city fathers eat to live,
Save when they fast for conscience' sake,--
When one that hath a horse on sale
Shall bring his merit to the proof,
Without a lie for every nail
That holds the iron on the hoof,--
When in the usual place for rips
Our gloves are stitched with special care,
And guarded well the whalebone tips
Where first umbrellas need repair,--
When Cuba's weeds have quite forgot
The power of suction to resist,
And claret-bottles harbor not
Such dimples as would hold your fist,--
When publishers no longer steal,
And pay for what they stole before,--
When the first locomotive's wheel
Rolls through the Hoosac tunnel's bore;--
_Till_ then let Gumming blaze away,
And Miller's saints blow up the globe;
But when you see that blessed day,
_Then_ order your ascension robe!
The company seemed to like the verses, and I promised them to read others
occasionally, if they had a mind to hear them. Of course they would not
expect it every morning. Neither must the reader suppose that all these
things I have reported were said at any one breakfast-time. I have not
taken the trouble to date them, as Raspail, _pere_, used to date every
proof he sent to the printer; but they were scattered over several
breakfasts; and I have said a good many more things since, which I shall
very possibly print some time or other, if I am urged to do it by judicious
Some years ago, in company with an agreeable party, I spent a long summer
day in exploring the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. We traversed, through
spacious galleries affording a solid masonry foundation for the town and
county overhead, the six or eight black miles from the mouth of the cavern
to the innermost recess which tourists visit,--a niche or grotto made of
one seamless stalactite, and called, I believe, Serena's Bower. I lost the
light of one day. I saw high domes, and bottomless pits; heard the voice of
unseen waterfalls; paddled three quarters of a mile in the deep Echo River,
whose waters are peopled with the blind fish; crossed the streams "Lethe"
and "Styx"; plied with music and guns the echoes in these alarming
galleries; saw every form of stalagmite and stalactite in the sculptured
and fretted chambers,--the icicle, the orange-flower, the acanthus, the
grapes, and the snowball. We shot Bengal lights into the vaults and groins
of the sparry cathedrals, and examined all the masterpieces which the four
combined engineers, water, limestone, gravitation, and time, could make in
The sights and scenery of the cave had the same dignity that belongs to all
natural objects, and which shames the fine things to which we foppishly
compare them. I remarked, especially, the mimetic habit, with which Nature,
on new instruments, hums her old tunes, making night to mimic day, and
chemistry to ape vegetation. But I then took notice, and still chiefly
remember, that the best thing which the cave had to offer was an illusion.
On arriving at what is called the "Star-Chamber," our lamps were taken from
us by the guide, and extinguished or put aside, and, on looking upwards, I
saw or seemed to see the night heaven thick with stars glimmering more or
less brightly over our heads, and even what seemed a comet flaming among
them. All the party were touched with astonishment and pleasure. Our
musical friends sung with much feeling a pretty song, "The stars are in
the quiet sky," &c., and I sat down on the rocky door to enjoy the serene
picture. Some crystal specks in the black ceiling high overhead, reflecting
the light of a half-hid lamp, yielded this magnificent effect.
I own, I did not like the cave so well for eking out its sublimities with
this theatrical trick. But I have had many experiences like it, before and
since; and we must be content to be pleased without too curiously analyzing
the occasions. Our conversation with Nature is not just what it seems. The
cloud-rack, the sunrise and sunset glories, rainbows, and northern lights
are not quite so spheral as our childhood thought them; and the part our
organization plays in them is too large. The senses interfere everywhere,
and mix their own structure with all they report of. Once, we fancied the
earth a plane, and stationary. In admiring the sunset, we do not yet deduct
the rounding, coordinating, pictorial powers of the eye.
The same interference from our organization creates the most of our
pleasure and pain. Our first mistake is the belief that the circumstance
gives the joy which we give to the circumstance. Life is an ecstasy. Life
is sweet as nitrous oxide; and the fisherman dripping all day over a cold
pond, the switchman at the railway intersection, the farmer in the field,
the Irishman in the ditch, the fop in the street, the hunter in the woods,
the barrister with the jury, the belle at the ball, all ascribe a certain
pleasure to their employment, which they themselves give it. Health and
appetite impart, the sweetness to sugar, bread, and meat. We fancy that
our civilization has got on far, but we still come back to our primers.
Thackeray's "Vanity Fair" is pathetic in its name, and in his use of the
name. It is an admission from a man of the world in the London of 1850,
that poor old Puritan Bunyan was right in his perception of the London of
1650. And yet now, in Thackeray, is the added wisdom or skepticism, that
though this be really so, he must yet live in tolerance of and practically
in homage and obedience to these illusions.
The world rolls, the din of life is never hushed. In London, in Paris, in
Boston, in San Francisco, the carnival, the masquerade is at its height.
Nobody drops his domino. The unities, the fictions of the piece it would be
an impertinence to break. The chapter of fascinations is very long. Great
is paint; nay, God is the painter; and we rightly accuse the critic who
destroys too many illusions. Society does not love its unmaskers. It was
wittily, if somewhat bitterly, said by D'Alembert, "_Un etat de vapeur
etait un etat tres facheux, parcequ'il nous faisait voir les choses
comme elles sont._" I find men victims of illusion in all parts of life.
Children, youths, adults, and old men, all are led by one bawble or
another. Yoganidra, the goddess of illusion, Proteus, or Momus, or Gylfi's
Mocking,--for the Power has many names,--is stronger than the Titans,
stronger than Apollo. The toys, to be sure, are various, and are graduated
in refinement to the quality of the dupe. The intellectual man requires a
fine bait; the sots are easily amused. But everybody is drugged with his
own dream, and the pageant marches at all hours, with music and banner and
Amid the joyous troop who give in to the charivari, comes now and then
a sad-eyed boy, whose eyes lack the requisite refractions to clothe the
show in due glory, and who is afflicted with a tendency to trace home the
glittering miscellany of fruits and flowers to one root. Science is a
search after identity, and the scientific whim is lurking in all corners.
At the State Fair, a friend of mine complained that all the varieties of
fancy pears in our orchards seem to have been selected by somebody who had
a whim for a particular kind of pear, and only cultivated such as had that
perfume; they were all alike. And I remember the quarrel of another youth
with the confectioners, that, when he racked his wit to choose the best
comfits in the shops, in all the endless varieties of sweetmeat he could
only find three flavors, or two. What then? Pears and cakes are good for
something; and because you, unluckily, have an eye or nose too keen, why
need you spoil the comfort which the rest of us find in them? I knew a
humorist, who, in a good deal of rattle, had a grain or two of sense.
He shocked the company by maintaining that the attributes of God were
two,--power and risibility; and that it was the duty of every pious man
to keep up the comedy. And I have known gentlemen of great stake in the
community, but whose sympathies were cold,--presidents of colleges,
and governors, and senators,--who held themselves bound to sign every
temperance pledge, and act with Bible societies, and missions, and
peacemakers, and cry _Hist-a-boy!_ to every good dog. We must not carry
comity too far, but we all have kind impulses in this direction. When the
boys come into my yard for leave to gather horsechestnuts, I own I enter