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The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 1, Issue 2, December, 1857 by Various

Part 3 out of 5

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akin? We assuredly think so. For the blood of this aristocracy
refuses to mix with that of churls and bastards, and flows pure and
uncontaminated from century to century, descending in all its richness
and vigor from Piromis to Piromis. The ancient philosopher knew this
secret well enough when he said a Parthian and a Libyan might be
related, although they had no common parental blood; and that a man is
not necessarily my brother because he is born of the same womb.

We find that Carlyle in his student-life manifested many of those
strong moral characteristics which are the attributes of all his
heroes. An indomitable courage and persistency meet us everywhere in
his pages,--persistency, and also careful painstaking, and patience in
sifting facts and gathering results. He disciplined himself to this
end in early youth, and never allowed any study or work to conquer
him. Speaking to us once in private upon the necessity of persevering
effort in order to any kind of success in life, he said, "When I was a
student, I resolved to make myself master of Newton's 'Principia,' and
although I had not at that time knowledge enough of mathematics to
make the task other than a Hercules-labor to me, yet I read and
wrought unceasingly, through all obstructions and difficulties, until
I had accomplished it; and no Tamerlane conqueror ever felt half so
happy as I did when the terrible book lay subdued and vanquished
before me." This trifling anecdote is a key to Carlyle's character. To
achieve his object, he exhausts all the means within his command;
never shuffles through his work, but does it faithfully and sincerely,
with a man's heart and hand. This outward sincerity in the conduct of
his executive faculty has its counterpart in the inmost recesses of
his nature. We feel that this man and falsehood are impossible
companions, and our faith in his integrity is perfect and absolute.
Herein lies his power; and here also lies the power of all men who
have ever moved the world. For it is in the nature of truth to
conserve itself, whilst falsehood is centrifugal, and flies off into
inanity and nothingness. It is by the cardinal virtue of sincerity
alone--the truthfulness of deed to thought, of effect to cause--that
man and nature are sustained. God is truth; and he who is most
faithful to truth is not only likest to God, but is made a
participator in the divine nature. For without truth there is neither
power, vitality, nor permanence.

Carlyle was fortunate that he was comparatively poor, and never
tempted, therefore, as a student, to dissipate his fine talents in the
gay pursuits of university life. Not that there would have been any
likelihood of his running into the excesses of ordinary students, but
we are pleased and thankful to reflect that he suffered no kind of
loss or harm in those days of his novitiate. It is one of the many
consolations of poverty that it protects young men from snares and
vices to which the rich are exposed; and our poor student in his
garret was preserved faithful to his vocation, and laid up day by day
those stores of knowledge, experience, and heavenly wisdom which he
has since turned to so good account. It would be deeply interesting,
if we could learn the exact position of Carlyle's mind at this time,
with respect to those profound problems of human nature and destiny
which have occupied the greatest men in all ages, ceaselessly and
pertinaciously urging their dark and solemn questions, and refusing to
depart until their riddles were in some sort solved. That Carlyle was
haunted by these questions, and by the pitiless Sphinx herself who
guards the portals of life and death,--that he had to meet her face to
face, staring at him with her stony, passionless eyes,--that he had to
grapple and struggle with her for victory,--there are proofs abundant
in his writings. The details of the struggle, however, are not given
us; it is the result only that we know. But it is evident that the
progress of his mind from the bog-region of orthodoxy to the high
realms of thought and faith was a slow proceeding,--not rolled onward
as with the chariot-wheels of a fierce and sudden revolution, but
gradually developed in a long series of births, growths, and deaths.
The theological phraseology sticks to him, indeed, even to the present
time, although he puts it to new uses; and it acquires in his hands a
power and significance which it possessed only when, of old, it was
representative of the divine.

Carlyle was matured in solitude. Emerson found him, in the year 1833,
on the occasion of his first visit to England, living at
Craigenputtock, a farm in Nithsdale, far away from all civilization,
and "no one to talk to but the minister of the parish." He, good man,
could make but little of his solitary friend, and must many a time
have been startled out of his canonicals by the strange, alien
speeches which he heard. It is a pity that this minister had not had
some of the Boswell faculty in him, that he might have reported what
we should all be so glad to hear. Over that period of his life,
however, the curtain falls at present, to be lifted only, if ever, by
Carlyle himself. Through the want of companionship, he fell back
naturally upon books and his own thoughts. Here he wrote some of his
finest critical essays for the reviews, and that "rag of a book," as
he calls it, the "Life of Schiller." The essays show a catholic, but
conservative spirit, and are full of deep thought. They exhibit also
a profoundly philosophical mind, and a power of analysis which is
almost unique in letters. They are pervaded likewise by an earnestness
and solemnity which are perfectly Hebraic; and each performance is
presented in a style decorated with all the costly jewels of
imagination and fancy,--a style of far purer and more genuine English
than any of his subsequent writings, which are often marred, indeed,
by gross exaggerations, and still grosser violations of good taste and
the chastities of language. What made these writings, however, so
notable at the time, and so memorable since, was that sincerity and
deep religious feeling of the writer which we have already alluded
to. Here were new elements introduced into the current literature,
destined to revivify it, and to propagate themselves, as by seminal
vitality, in myriad minds and forms. These utterances were both
prophetic and creative, and took all sincere minds captive. Dry and
arid in comparison as Egyptian deserts, lay all around him the
writings of his contemporaries. No living waters flowed through them;
all was sand, and parch, and darkness. The contrast was immense: a
living soul and a dead corpse! Since the era of the Commonwealth,--the
holy, learned, intellectual, and earnest age of Taylor, Barrow,
Milton, Fuller,--no such pen of fire had wrought its miracles amongst
us. Writers spoke from the intellect, believed in the intellect, and
divorced it from the soul and the moral nature. Science, history,
ethics, religion, whenever treated of in literary form, were
mechanized, and shone not with any spiritual illumination. There was
abundance of lawyer-like ability,--but of genius, and its accompanying
divine afflatus, little. Carlyle is full of genius; and this is
evidenced not only by the fine aroma of his language, but by the
depths of his insight, his wondrous historical pictures,--living
cartoons of persons, events, and epochs, which he paints often in
single sentences,--and the rich mosaic of truths with which every page
of his writings is inlaid.

That German literature, with which at this time Carlyle had been more
or less acquainted for ten years, had done much to foster and develop
his genius there can be no doubt; although the book which first
created a storm in his mind, and awoke him to the consciousness of his
own abundant faculty, was the "Confessions" of Rousseau,--a fact which
is well worthy of record and remembrance. He speaks subsequently of
poor Jean Jacques with much sympathy and sorrow; not as the greatest
man of his time and country, but as the sincerest,--a smitten,
struggling spirit,--

"An infant crying in the night,
An infant crying for the light,
And with no language but a cry."

From Rousseau, and his strange thoughts, and wild, ardent eloquence,
the transition to German literature was easy. Some one had told
Carlyle that he would find in this literature what he had so long
sought after,--truth and rest,--and he gladly learned the language,
and addressed himself to the study of its masters; with what success
all the world knows, for he has grafted their thoughts upon his own,
and whoever now speaks is more or less consciously impregnated by his
influence. Who the man was that sent Carlyle to them does not appear,
and so far as he is concerned it is of little moment to inquire; but
the fact constitutes the grand epoch in Carlyle's life, and his true
history dates from that period.

It was natural that he should be deeply moved on his introduction to
German literature. He went to it with an open and receptive nature,
and with an earnestness of purpose which could not fail to be
productive. Jean Paul, the beautiful!--the good man, and the wise
teacher, with poetic stuff in him sufficient to have floated an argosy
of modern writers,--this great, imaginative Jean Paul was for a long
time Carlyle's idol, whom he reverently and affectionately studied. He
has written a fine paper about him in his "Miscellanies," and we trace
his influence not only in Carlyle's thought and sentiment, but in the
very form of their utterance. He was, indeed, warped by him, at one
period, clear out of his orbit, and wrote as he inspired. The
dazzling sunbursts of Richter's imagination, however,--its gigantic
procession of imagery, moving along in sublime and magnificent marches
from earth to heaven, from heaven to earth,--the array, symbolism, and
embodiment of his manifold ideas, ceased in the end to enslave, though
they still captivated Carlyle's mind; and he turns from him to the
thinkers who deal with God's geometry, and penetrate into the abysses
of being,--to primordial Kant, and his behemoth brother, Fichte. Nor
does Hegel, or Schelling, or Schlegel, or Novalis escape his pursuit,
but he hunts them all down, and takes what is needful to him, out of
them, as his trophy. Schiller is his king of singers, although he does
not much admire his "Philosophical Letters," or his "Aesthetic
Letters." But his grandest modern man is the calm and plastic Goethe,
and the homage he renders him is worthy of a better and a holier
idol. Goethe's "Autobiography," in so far as it relates to his early
days, is a bad book; and Wordsworth might well say of the "Wilhelm
Meister," that "it was full of all manner of fornication, like the
crossing of flies in the air." Goethe, however, is not to be judged by
any fragmentary estimate of him, but as an intellectual whole; for he
represented the intellect, and grasped with his selfish and cosmical
mind all the provinces of thought, learning, art, science, and
government, for purely intellectual purposes. This entrance into, and
breaking up of, the minds of these distinguished persons was, however,
a fine discipline for Carlyle, who is fully aware of its value; and
whilst holding communion with these great men, who by their genius and
insight seemed to apprehend the essential truth of things at a glance,
it is not wonderful that he should have been so merciless in his
denunciations of the mere logic-ability of English writers, as he
shows himself in the essays of that period. Logic, useful as it is, as
a help to reasoning, is but the dead body of thought, as Novalis
designates it, and has no place in the inspired regions where the
prophets and the bards reside.

Carlyle's fame, however, had not reached its culminating point when
Emerson visited him. The English are a slow, unimpressionable people,
not given to hasty judgments, nor too much nor too sudden praise;
requiring first to take the true altitude of a man, to measure him by
severe tests; often grudging him his proper and natural advantages and
talents, buffeting and abusing him in a merciless and sometimes an
unreasoning and unreasonable manner, allowing him now and then,
however, a sunbeam for his consolation, until at last they come to a
settled understanding of him, and he is generously praised and abused
into the sanctuary of their worthies. This was not the case, however,
at present, with Carlyle; for although he had the highest recognitions
from some of those who constitute the flower and chivalry of England,
he was far better known and more widely read in America than in his
own country. Emerson, then a young man, with a great destiny before
him, was attracted by his writings, and carried a letter of
introduction to him at Craigenputtock. "He was tall and gaunt, with a
cliff-like brow; self-possessed, and holding his extraordinary powers
of conversation in easy command; clinging to his northern accent with
evident relish; full of lively anecdote, and with a streaming humor
which floated everything he looked upon." He is the same man, in his
best moods, in the year 1857, as he was in 1833. His person, except
that he stoops slightly, is tall, and very little changed. He is
thinner, and the once ruddy hues of his cheek are dying away like
faint streaks of light in the twilight sky of a summer evening. But he
is strong and hearty on the whole; although the excitement of
continuous writing keeps him in a perpetual fever, deranges his liver,
and makes him at times acrid and savage as a sick giant. Hence his
increased pugnacity of late,--his fierceness, and angry hammering of
all things sacred and profane. It is but physical and temporary,
however, all this, and does not affect his healthy and serene
moments. For no man lives who possesses greater kindness and
affection, or more good, noble, and humane qualities. All who know him
love him, although they may have much to pardon in him; not in a
social or moral sense, however, but in an intellectual one. His talk
is as rich as ever,--perhaps richer; for his mind has increased its
stores, and the old fire of geniality still burns in his great and
loving heart. Perhaps his conversation is better than his printed
discourse. We have never heard anything like it. It is all alive, as
if each word had a soul in it.

How characteristic is all that Emerson tells us of him in his "English
Traits"!--a book, by the way, concerning which no adequate word has
yet been spoken; the best book ever written upon England, and which no
brave young Englishman can read, and ever after commit either a mean
or a bad action. We are therefore doubly thankful to Emerson, both for
what he says of England, and for what he relates of Carlyle, whose
independent speech upon all subjects is one of his chief charms. He
reads "Blackwood," for example, and has enjoyed many a racy, vigorous
article in its pages; but it does not satisfy him, and he calls it
"Sand Magazine." "Fraser's" is a little better, but not good enough to
be worthy of a higher nomenclature than "Mud Magazine." Excessive
praise of any one's talents drives him into admiration of the parts of
his own learned pig, now wallowing in the stye. The best thing he knew
about America was that there a man could have meat for his labor. He
did not read Plato, and he disparaged Socrates. Mirabeau was a hero;
Gibbon the splendid bridge from the old world to the new. It is
interesting also to hear that "Tristram Shandy" was one of the first
books he read after "Robinson Crusoe," and that Robertson's "America"
was an early favorite. Rousseau's "Confessions" had discovered to him
that he was not a dunce. Speaking of English pauperism, he said that
government should direct poor men what to do. "Poor Irish folks come
wandering over these moors. My dame makes it a rule to give to every
son of Adam bread to eat, and supplies his wants to the next
house. But here are thousands of acres which might give them all meat,
and nobody to bid those poor Irish go to the moor and till it. They
burned the stacks, and so found a way to force the rich people to
attend to them." Here is the germ of his book on "Chartism." Emerson
and he talk of the immortality of the soul, seated on the hill-tops
near Old Criffel, and looking down "into Wordsworth's country."
Carlyle had the natural disinclination of every nimble spirit to
bruise itself against walls, and did not like to place himself where
no step can be taken; but he was honest and true, and cognizant of the
subtile links that bind ages together, and saw how every event affects
all the future. "Christ died on the tree; that built Dunscore Kirk
yonder; that brought you and me together. Time has only a relative

Such is Emerson's account of his first visit to our author, whose eyes
were already turned towards London as the heart of the world, whither
he subsequently went, and where he now abides.

From Craigenputtock, with its savage rocks and moorlands, its
sheepwalk solitudes, its isolation and distance from all the
advantages of civil and intellectual life, to London and the living
solitude of its unnumberable inhabitants, its activities, polity, and
world-wide ramifications of commerce, learning, science, literature,
and art, was a change of great magnitude, whose true proportions it
took time to estimate. Carlyle, however, was not afraid of the huge
mechanism of London life, but took to it bravely and kindly, and was
soon at home amidst the everlasting whirl and clamor, the roar and
thunder of its revolutions. For although a scholar, and bred in
seclusion, he was also a genuine man of the world, and well acquainted
with its rough ways and Plutonic wisdom. This knowledge, combined with
his strong "common sense,"--as poor Dr. Beattie calls it, fighting for
its supremacy with canine ferocity,--gave Carlyle high vantage-ground
in his writings. He could meet the world with its own weapons, and
was cunning enough at that fence, as the world was very shortly
sensible. He was saved, therefore, from the contumely which vulgar
minds are always ready to bestow upon saints and mystics who sit aloof
from them, high enthroned amidst the truths and solemnities of
God. The secluded and ascetic life of most scholars, highly favorable
as it undoubtedly is to contemplation and internal development, has
likewise its disadvantages, and puts them, as being undisciplined in
the ways of life, at great odds, when they come to the actual and
practical battle. A man should be armed at all points, and not subject
himself, like good George Fox, Jacob Behmen, and other holy men, to
the taunts of the mob, on account of any awkward gait, mannerism, or
ignorance of men and affairs. Paul had none of these absurdities about
him; but was an accomplished person, as well as a divine speaker. His
doctrine of being all things to all men, that he might win souls to
Christ, is, like good manners and politeness, a part of that mundane
philosophy which obtains in every society, both as theory and
performance; not, however, in its literal meaning, which would involve
all sorts of hypocrisy and lies as its accessories, but in the sense
of ability to meet all kinds of men on their own grounds and with
their own enginery of warfare.

Strength, whether of mind or body, is sure to command respect, even
though it be used against ourselves; for we Anglo-Saxons are all
pugilists. A man, therefore, who accredits his metal by the work he
accomplishes, will be readily enough heard when he comes to speak and
labor upon higher platforms. This was the case with Carlyle; and when
he published that new Book of Job, that weird and marvellous Pilgrim's
Progress of a modern cultivated soul, the "Sartor Resartus," in
"Fraser's Magazine," strange, wild, and incomprehensible as it was to
most men, they did not put it contemptuously aside, but pondered it,
laughed at it, trembled over it and its dread apocalyptical visions
and revelations, respecting its earnestness and eloquence, although
not comprehending what manner of writing it essentially was. Carlyle
enjoyed the perplexity of his readers and reviewers, neither of whom,
with the exception of men like Sterling, and a writer in one of the
Quarterlies, seemed to know what they were talking about when they
spoke of it. The criticisms upon it were exceedingly comical in many
instances, and the author put the most notable of these together, and
always alluded to them with roars of laughter. The book has never yet
received justice at the hands of any literary tribunal. It requires,
indeed, a large amount of culture to appreciate it, either as a work
of art, or as a living flame-painting of spiritual struggle and
revelation. In his previous writings he had insisted upon the
sacredness and infinite value of the human soul,--upon the wonder and
mystery of life, and its dread surroundings,--upon the divine
significance of the universe, with its star pomp, and overhanging
immensities,--and upon the primal necessity for each man to stand with
awe and reverence in this august and solemn presence, if he would hope
to receive any glimpses of its meaning, or live a true and divine life
in the world; and in the "Sartor" he has embodied and illustrated this
in the person and actions of his hero. He saw that religion had become
secular; that it was reduced to a mere Sunday holiday and Vanity Fair,
taking no vital hold of the lives of men, and radiating, therefore,
none of its blessed and beautiful influences about their feet and
ways; that human life itself, with all its adornments of beauty and
poetry, was in danger of paralysis and death; that love and faith,
truth, duty, and holiness, were fast losing their divine attributes in
the common estimation, and were hurrying downwards with tears and a
sad threnody into gloom and darkness. Carlyle saw all this, and knew
that it was the reaction of that intellectual idolatry which brought
the eighteenth century to a close; knew also that there was only one
remedy which could restore men to life and health,--namely, the
quickening once again of their spiritual nature. He felt, also, that
it was his mission to attempt this miracle; and hence the prophetic
fire and vehemence of his words. No man, and especially no earnest
man, can read him without feeling himself arrested as by the grip of a
giant,--without trembling before his stern questions, inculcations,
and admonitions. There is a God, O Man! and not a blind chance, as
governor of this world. Thy soul has infinite relations with this
God, which thou canst never realize in thy being, or manifest in thy
practical life, save by a devout reverence for him, and his
miraculous, awful universe. This reverence, this deep, abiding
religious feeling, is the only link which binds us to the
Infinite. That severed, broken, or destroyed, and man is an alien and
an orphan; lost to him forever is the key to all spiritual mystery, to
the hieroglyph of the soul, to the symbolism of nature, of time, and
of eternity. Such, as we understand it, is Carlyle's teaching. But
this is not all. Man is to be man in that high sense we have spoken
his robes of immortality around him, as if God had done with him for
all practical purposes, and he with God,--but for action,--action in a
world which is to prove his power, his beneficence, his usefulness.
That spiritual fashioning by the Great Fashioner of all things is so
ordained that we ourselves may become fashioners, workers, makers. For
it is given to no man to be an idle cumberer of the ground, but to
dig, and sow, and plant, and reap the fruits of his labor for the
garner. This is man's first duty, and the diviner he is the more
divinely will he execute it.

That such a gospel as this could find utterance in the pages of the
"Edinburgh Review" is curious enough; and it is scarcely less
surprising that the "Sartor Resartus" should make its first appearance
in the somewhat narrow and conservative pages of Fraser. Carlyle has
clearly written his own struggles in this book,--his struggles and his
conquests. From the "Everlasting No,"--that dreadful realm of
enchantment, where all the forms of nature are frozen forever in dumb
imprisonment and despair,--the great vaulted firmament no longer
serene and holy and loving as God's curtain for his children's
slumbers, but flaming in starry portents, and dropping down over the
earth like a funeral pall; through this region of life-semblance and
death-reality the lonely and aching pilgrim wanders,--questioning
without reply,--wailing, broken, self-consuming,--looking with eager
eyes for the waters of immortality, and finding nothing but pools of
salt and Marahs of bitterness. Herein is no Calvary, no
Cross-symbolism, by whose miraculous power he is relieved of his
infinite burden of sorrow, starting onward with hope and joy in his
heart; nor does he ever find his Calvary until the deeps of his
spiritual nature are broken up and flooded with celestial light, as he
knocks reverently at the portals of heaven for communion with his
Father who is in heaven. Then bursts upon him a new significance from
all things; he sees that the great world is but a fable of divine
truth, hiding its secrets from all but the initiated and the worthy,
and that faith, and trust, and worship are the cipher, which unlocks
them all. He thus arrives at the plains of heaven in the region of the
"Everlasting Yes." His own soul lies naked and resolved before
him,--its unspeakable greatness, its meaning, faculty, and
destiny. Work, and dutiful obedience to the laws of work, are the
outlets of his power; and herein he finds peace and rest to his soul.

That Carlyle is not only an earnest, but a profoundly religious man,
these attempted elucidations of his teachings will abundantly
show. His religion, however, is very far remote from what is called
religion in this day. He has no patience with second-hand
beliefs,--with articles of faith ready-made for the having.
Whatsoever is accepted by men because it is the tradition of their
fathers, and not a deep conviction arrived at by legitimate search, is
to him of no avail; and all merely historical and intellectual faith,
standing outside the man, and not absorbed in the life as a vital,
moving, and spiritual power, he places also amongst the chaff for
burning. This world is a serious world, and human life and business
are also serious matters,--not to be trifled with, nor cheated by
shams and hypocrisies, but to be dealt with in all truth, soberness,
and sincerity. No one can thus deal with it who is not himself
possessed of these qualities, and the result of a life is the test of
what virtue there is in it. False men leave no mark. It is truth
alone which does the masonry of the world,--which founds empires, and
builds cities, and establishes laws, commerce, and civilization. And
in private life the same law abides, indestructible as God. Carlyle's
teaching tends altogether in this direction; and whilst he belongs to
no church and no creed, he is tolerant of all, and of everything that
is heartily and unfeignedly believed in by his fellows. He is no
Catholic; and yet for years he read little else than the forty volumes
of the "Acta Sanctorum," and found, he says, all Christian history
there, and much of profane history. Neither is he a Mahometan; but he
nevertheless makes a hero of Mahomet, whom he loves for his Ishmaelite
fierceness, bravery, and religious sincerity,--and because he taught
deism, or the belief in one God, instead of the old polytheism, or the
belief in many gods,--and gave half the East his very good book,
called the Koran, for his followers to live and die by.

Whether this large catholicism, this worship of heroes, is the best of
what now remains of religion on earth is certainly questionable
enough; and if we regard it in no other light than merely as an
idolatry of persons, there is an easy answer ready for it. But
considering that religion is now so far dead that it consists in
little else than formalities, and that its divine truth is no longer
such to half the great world, which lies, indeed, in dire atrophy and
wickedness,--and if we further consider and agree that the awakened
human soul is the divinest thing on earth, and partakes of the divine
nature itself, and that its manifestations are also divine in
whomsoever it is embodied, we can see some apology for its adoption;
inasmuch as it is the divine likeness to which reverence and homage
are rendered, and not the person merely, but only so far as he is the
medium of its showing. Christianity, however, will assuredly survive,
although doubtless in a new form, preserving all the integrity of its
message,--and be once more faith and life to men, when the present
old, established, decaying cultus shall be venerated only as history.

Carlyle clings to the Christian formulary and the old Christian life
in spite of himself. He is almost fanatical in his attachment to the
mediaeval times,--to the ancient worship, its ceremonial, music, and
architecture, its monastic government, its saints and martyrs. And the
reason, as he shows in the "Past and Present," is, that all this array
of devotion, this pomp and ceremony, this music and painting, this
gorgeous and sublime architecture, this fasting and praying, were
_real_,--faithful manifestations of a religion which to that
people was truly genuine and holy. They who built the cathedrals of
Europe, adorned them with carvings, pictures, and those stately
windows with their storied illuminations which at this day are often
miracles of beauty and of art, were not frivolous modern
conventicle-builders, but poets as grand as Milton, and sculptors
whose genius might front that of Michel Angelo. It was no dead belief
in a dead religion which designed and executed these matchless
temples. Man and Religion were both alive in those days; and the
worship of God was so profound a prostration of the inmost spirit
before his majesty and glory, that the souls of the artists seem to
have been inspired, and to have received their archetypes in heavenly
visions. Such temples it is neither in the devotion nor the faculty of
the modern Western world to conceive or construct. Carlyle knows all
this, and he falls back in loving admiration upon those old times and
their worthies, despising the filigree materials of which the men of
to-day are for the most part composed. He revels in that picture of
monastic life, also, which is preserved in the record of Jocelyn de
Brakelonde. He sees all men at work there, each at his proper
vocation;--and he praises them, because they fear God and do their
duty. He finds them the same men, although with better and devouter
hearts, as we are at this day. Time makes no difference in this
verdant human nature, which shows ever the same in Catholic
monasteries as in Puritan meeting-houses. We have a wise preachment,
however, from that Past, to the Present, in Carlyle's book, which is
one of his best efforts, and contains isolated passages which for
wisdom and beauty, and chastity of utterance, he has never exceeded.

We have no space to speak here of all his books with anything like
critical integrity. The greatest amongst them, however, is, perhaps,
his "French Revolution, a History,"--which is no history, but a vivid
painting of characters and events as they moved along in tumultuous
procession. No one can appreciate this book who is not acquainted
with the history in its details beforehand. Emerson once related to us
a striking anecdote connected with this work, which gives us another
glimpse of Carlyle's character. He had just completed, after infinite
labor, one of the three volumes of his History, which he left exposed
on his study table when he went to bed. Next morning he sought in vain
for the manuscript, and had wellnigh concluded with Robert Hall, who
was once in a similar dilemma, that the Devil had run away with it,
when the servant-girl, on being questioned, confessed that she had
burnt it to kindle the fire. Carlyle neither stamped nor raved, but
sat down without a word and rewrote it.

In summing up the present results of Carlyle's labor, foolish men of
the world and small critics have not failed to ask what it all amounts
to,--what the great Demiurgus is aiming at in his weary battle of
life; and the question is significant enough,--one more proof of that
Egyptian darkness of vision which he is here to dispel. "He pulls down
the old," say they; "but what does he give us in place of it? Why does
he not strike out a system of his own? And after all, there is nothing
new in him." Such is the idle talk of the day, and such are the men
who either guide the people, or seek to guide them. Poor ignorant
souls! who do not know the beginning of the knowledge which Carlyle
teaches, nor its infinite importance to life and all its
concerns:--this, namely, as we have said before, that the soul should
first of all be wakened to the consciousness of its own miraculous
being, that it may be penetrated by the miracles of the universe, and
rise by aspiration and faith to the knowledge and worship of God, in
whom are all things; that this attitude of the soul, and its
accompanying wisdom, will beget the strength, purity, virtue, and
truth which can alone restore order and beauty upon the earth; that
all "systems," and mechanical, outward means and appliances to the
end, will but increase the Babel of confusion, as things unfitted to
it, and altogether extraneous and hopeless. "Systems!" It is living,
truthful men we want; these will make their own systems; and let those
who doubt the truth humbly watch and wait until it is manifest to
them, or go on their own arid and sorrowful ways in what peace they
can find there.

The catholic spirit of Carlyle's works cannot be better illustrated
than by the fact that he has received letters from all sorts and
conditions of men, Methodists and Shakers, Churchmen and Romanists,
Deists and Infidels, all claiming his fellowship, and thinking they
find their peculiarities of thought in him. This is owing partly,
perhaps, to the fact that in his earlier writings he masked his
sentiments both in Hebraic and Christian phraseology; and partly to
the lack of vision in his admirers, who could not distinguish a new
thought in an old garment. His "Cromwell" deceived not a few in this
respect; and we were once asked in earnest, by a man who should have
been better informed, if Carlyle was a Puritan. Whatever he may be
called, or believed to be, one thing is certain concerning him: that
he is a true and valiant man,--all out a man!--and that literature and
the world are deeply indebted to him. His mission, like that of Jeremy
Collier in a still baser age, was to purge our literature of its
falsehood, to recreate it, and to make men once more believe in the
divine, and live in it. So earnest a man has not appeared since the
days of Luther, nor any one whose thoughts are so suggestive,
germinal, and propagative. All our later writers are tinged with his
thought, and he has to answer for such men as Kingsley, Newman,
Froude, and others who will not answer for him, nor acknowledge him.

In private life Carlyle is amiable, and often high and beautiful in
his demeanor. He talks much, and, as we have said, well; impatient,
at times, of interruption, and at other times readily listening to
those who have anything to say. But he hates babblers, and cant, and
sham, and has no mercy for them, but sweeps them away in the whirlwind
and terror of his wrath. He receives distinguished men, in the
evening, at his house in Chelsea; but he rarely visits. He used
occasionally to grace the saloons of Lady Blessington, in the palmy
days of her life, when she attracted around her all noble and
beautiful persons, who were distinguished by their attainments in
literature, science, or art; but he rarely leaves his home now for
such a purpose. He is at present engaged in his "Life of Frederick the
Great," whom he will hardly make a hero of, and with whom, we learn,
he is already very heartily disgusted. The first volume will shortly

And now we must close this imperfect paper,--reserving for a future
occasion some personal reminiscences of him, which may prove both
interesting and illustrative.



I fear I have not what is called "a taste for flowers." To be sure, my
cottage home is half buried in tall shrubs, some of which are
flowering, and some are not. A giant woodbine has wrapped the whole
front in its rich green mantle; and the porch is roofed and the
windows curtained with luxuriant honeysuckles and climbing
wild-roses. But, though I have tried for it many times, I never yet
had a successful bed of flowers. My next neighbor, Mrs. Smith, is "a
lady of great taste"; and when she leads me proudly through her trim
alleys edged with box, and displays her hyacinths and tulips, her
heliotropes, cactuses, and gladioluses, her choice roses, "so
extremely double," and all the rare plants which adorn her parterre, I
conclude it must be that I have no taste at all. I beg her to save me
seeds and bulbs, get fresh directions for laying down, and
inoculating, grafting, and potting, and go home with my head full of
improvements. But the next summer comes round with no change, except
that the old denizens of the soil (like my maids and my children) have
grown more wild and audacious than ever, and I find no place for beds
of flowers. I must e'en give it up; I have no taste for flowers, in
the common sense of the words. In fact, they awaken in me no
sentiment, no associations, as they stand, marshalled for show, "in
beds and curious knots"; and I do not like the care of them.

Yet let me find these daughters of the early year in their native
haunts, scattered about on hillside and in woody dingle, half hidden
by green leaves, starting up like fairies in secluded nooks, nestling
at the root of some old tree, or leaning over to peep into some glassy
bit of water, and no heart thrills quicker than mine at the
sight. There they seem to me to enjoy a sweet wild life of their own;
nodding and smiling in the sunshine or verdant gloom, caring not to
see or to be seen. Some of the loveliest of my early recollections are
of rambles after flowers. There was a certain "little pink and yellow
flower" (so described to me by one of my young cousins) after which I
searched a whole summer with unabated eagerness. I was fairly haunted
by its ideal image. Henry von Ofterdingen never sought with intenser
desire for his wondrous blue flower, nor more vainly; for I never
found it. One day, this same cousin and myself, while wandering in
the woods, found ourselves on the summit of a little rocky precipice,
and at its foot, lo! in full bloom, a splendid variety of the orchis,
(a flower I had never seen before,) looking to my astonished eyes like
an enchanted princess in a fairy tale. With a scream of joy we both
sprang for the prize. Harriet seized it first, but alter gazing at it
a moment with a quiet smile, presented it to me. "Kings may be blest,
but I was glorious!" I never felt so rich before or since.

But there was one flower,--and I must confess that I made acquaintance
with it in a garden, but at an age when I thought all things grew out
of the blessed earth of their own sweet will,--which, as it is the
first I remember to have loved, has maintained the right of priority
in my affections to this day. Nay, many an object of deep, absorbing
interest, more than one glowing friendship, has meantime passed away,
leaving no memorial but sad and bitter thoughts; while this wee flower
still lives and makes glad a little green nook in my heart. It was a
Button-Rose of the smallest species, the outspread blossom scarce
exceeding in size a shilling-piece. It stood in my grandfather's
garden,--that garden which, at my first sight of it, (I was then about
five years old,) seemed to me boundless in extent, and beautiful
beyond aught that I had seen or thought before. It was a large,
old-fashioned kitchen-garden, adorned and enriched, however, as then
the custom was, with flowers and fruit-trees. Several fine old
pear-trees and a few of the choicest varieties of plum and cherry were
scattered over it; currants and gooseberries lined the fences; the
main alley, running through its whole extent, was thickly bordered by
lilacs, syringas, and roses, with many showy flowers intermixed, and
terminated in a very pleasant grape-arbor. Behind this rose a steep
green hill covered with an apple-orchard, through which a little
thread of a footpath wound up to another arbor which stood on the
summit relieved against the sky. It was but little after sunrise, the
first morning of my visit, when I timidly opened the garden gate and
stood in full view of these glories. All was dewy, glittering,
fragrant, musical as a morn in Eden. For a while I stood still, in a
kind of enchantment. Venturing, at length, a few steps forward,
gazing eagerly from side to side, I was suddenly arrested by the most
marvellously beautiful object my eyes had ever seen,--no other than
the little Button-Rose of our story! So small, so perfect! It filled
my infant sense with its loveliness. It grew in a very pretty china
vase, as if more precious than the other flowers. Several blossoms
were fully expanded, and many tiny buds were showing their crimson
tips. As I stood lost in rapture over this little miracle of beauty, a
humming-bird, the smallest of its fairy tribe, darted into sight, and
hung for an instant, its ruby crest and green and golden plumage
flashing in the sun, over my new-found treasure. Were it not that the
emotions of a few such moments are stamped indelibly on the memory, we
should have no conception in maturer life of the intenseness of
childish enjoyment. Oh for one drop of that fresh morning dew, that
pure nectar of life, in which I then bathed with an unconscious bliss!
Methinks I would give many days of sober, thoughtful, _rational_
enjoyment for one hour of the eager rapture which thrilled my being as
I stood in that enchanted garden, gazing upon my little rose, and that
gay creature of the elements, that winged blossom, that living
fragment of a rainbow, that glanced and quivered and murmured over it.

But, dear as the Button-Rose is to my memory, I should hardly think of
obtruding it on the notice of others, were it not for a little tale of
human interest connected with it. While I yet stood motionless in the
ecstasy of my first wonder, a young man and woman entered the garden,
chatting and laughing in a very lively manner. The lady was my Aunt
Caroline, then in the fresh bloom of seventeen; the young man I had
never seen before. Seeing me standing alone in the walk, my aunt
called me; but as I shrunk away shy and blushing at sight of the
stranger, she came forward and took hold of my hand.

"This is our little Katy, Cousin Harry," said she, leading me towards

"Our little Katy's most obedient!" replied he, taking off his
broad-brimmed straw hat, and making a flourishing bow nearly to the

"Don't be afraid of him, Katy dear; he's nobody," said my aunt,

At these encouraging words I glanced up at the merry pair, and thought
them almost as pretty as the rose and hummingbird. My Aunt Caroline's
beauty was of a somewhat peculiar character,--if beauty that can be
called which was rather spirit, brilliancy, geniality of expression,
than symmetrical mould of features. The large, full eye was of the
deepest violet hue; the finely arched forehead, a little too boldly
cast for feminine beauty, was shaded by masses of rich chestnut hair;
the mouth,--but who could describe that mouth? Even in repose, some
arch thought seemed ever at play among its changeful curves; and when
she spoke or laughed, its wonderful mobility and sweetness of
expression threw a perfect witchery over her face. She was quite
short, and, if the truth must be told, a little too stout in figure;
but this was in a great measure redeemed by a beautifully moulded
neck, on which her head turned with the quickness and grace of a wild
pigeon. Every motion was rapid and decided, and her whole aspect
beamed with genius, gayety, and a cordial friendliness, which took the
heart at first sight. And then, her voice, her laugh!--not so low as
Shakspeare commends in woman, but clear, musical, true-hearted, making
one glad like the song of the lark at sunrise.

Cousin Harry was a very tall, very pale, very black-haired and
black-eyed young gentleman, with a high, open brow, and a very
fascinating smile.

The remainder of the garden scene was to me but little more than dumb
show. Perhaps it was more vividly remembered for that very reason. I
recollect being busy filling a little basket with strawberries, while
I watched with a pleased, childish curiosity the two young people, as
they passed many times up and down the gravelled walk between the rows
of flowers. I was not far from the Button-Rose, and I had nearly
filled my basket, when my aunt came to the spot and stooped over the
little plant. Her face was towards me, and I saw several large tears
fall from her eyes upon the leaves. She broke off the most beautiful
blossom, and tying it up with some sprigs of mignonette, presented it
to Cousin Harry. They then left the garden.

The next day I heard it said that Cousin Harry was gone away. The
little rose was brought into the house and installed in the bow-window
of my aunt's room, where it was watched and tended by us both with the
greatest care.

Some time after this, the news came that Cousin Harry was married. The
next morning I missed my little favorite from the window. My aunt was
reading when I waked.

"Oh, Aunty!" I cried, "where is our little rose?"

"It was too much trouble, Katy," said she, quietly; "I have put it
into the garden."

"But isn't it going to stand in our window any more?"

"No, dear, I am tired of it."

"Oh, do bring it back! I will take the whole care of it," said I,
beginning to cry.

"Katy," said my aunt, taking me into her lap, and looking steadily,
but kindly, into my face, "listen to me. I do not wish to have that
rose in my room any more; and if you love me, you will never mention
it again."

Something in her manner prevented my uttering a word more in behalf of
the poor little exile. As soon as I was dressed, I ran down into the
garden to visit it. It looked very lonely, I thought; I could hardly
bear to leave it. The day following, it disappeared from the garden,
and old Nanny, the housemaid, told me that my aunt had given it
away. I never saw it again.

Thus ended my personal acquaintance with the little Button-Rose. But
that first strong impression on my fancy was indelible. The flower
still lived in my memory, surrounded by associations which gave it a
mystic charm. By degrees I ceased to miss it from the window; but that
strange garden scene grew more and more vivid, and became a cabinet
picture in one of the little inner chambers of memory, where I often
pondered it with a delicious sense of mystery. The rose and
humming-bird seemed to me the chief actors in the magic pantomime, and
they were some way connected with my dear Aunt Linny and the
black-eyed young man; but what it all meant was the great puzzle of my
busy little brain. It has sometimes been a matter of curious
speculation to me, what share that diminutive flower had in the
development of my mind and character. With it, so it seems to me,
began the first dawn of a conscious inner life. I can still recollect
with wonderful distinctness what I have thought and felt since that
date, while all the preceding years are vague and shadowy as an
ill-remembered dream. From them I can only conjure up, as it were, my
outward form,--a happy animal existence, with which scarce a feeling
of self is connected; but from the time when I bore a part in this
little fragment of a romance the current of identity flows on
unbroken. From that light waking touch, perchance, the whole
subsequent development took form and tone.--But, gentle reader, your
pardon! This is nothing to my story.


Ten years had slipped away, and I was now in my sixteenth year. Of
course, my little cabinet picture had been joined by many others. It
was now but one in an extensive gallery; and the modest little gem,
dimmed with dust, and hidden by larger pieces, had not been thought of
for many a day.

External circumstances had remained much the same with us; only one
great change, the death of my dear grandmother, having occurred in the
family. My aunt presided over her father's household, and the
admirable order and good taste which pervaded every department bore
witness how well she understood combining the elements of a home.

Aunt Linny, now twenty-seven years of age, had lost nothing of her
former attractiveness. The brilliant, impulsive girl had but ripened
into the still more lovely woman. Her cheek was not faded nor her eye
dimmed. There was the same frankness, the same heart in her glance,
her smile, the warm pressure of her hand, but tempered by experience,
reflection, and self-control. One felt that she could be loved and
trusted with the whole heart and judgment. Her personal attractions,
and yet more the charm of her sensible, genial, and racy conversation,
brought to our house many pleasant visitors, and made her the
sparkling centre of every circle into which she could be drawn. But it
was rarely that she could be beguiled from home; for, since her
mother's death, she had devoted herself heart and soul to her widowed

The relation between myself and my aunt was somewhat peculiar. Neither
of us having associates of our own age in the family, I had become her
companion, and even friend, to a degree which would have been
impossible in other circumstances. She had scarcely outgrown the
freshness and simplicity of childhood when I first came to live with
her, and my mind and feelings had expanded rapidly under the constant
stimulus of a nature so full of rich life; so that at the date I now
speak of, we lived together more as sisters than as aunt and niece. An
inexpressible charm rests on those days, when we read, wrote, rambled
together, shared the same room, and had every pleasure, every trouble
in common. All show of authority over me had gradually melted away;
but her influence with me was still unbounded, for I loved her with
the passionate earnestness of a first, full-hearted friendship.--But
to proceed with my story.

One sweet afternoon in early summer, we two were sitting alone. The
windows towards the garden were open, and the breath of lilacs and
roses stole in. I had been reading to her some verses of my own,
celebrating the praise of first love as an imperishable sentiment. My
fancy had just been crazed with the poetry of L.E.L., who was then
shining as the "bright particular star" in the literary heavens.

"The lines are very pretty," said my aunt, "but I trust it's only
poetizing, Kate; I should be sorry indeed to have you join the school
of romantic misses who think first love such a killing matter."

"But, Aunty," I cried, "what a horribly prosy, matter-of-fact affair
life would be in any other view! I believe poetry itself would become

"So, then, if a woman is disappointed in first love, she is bound to
die for the benefit of poetry!"

"But just think, Aunt Linny--if Ophelia, instead of going mad so
prettily, and dying in a way to break everybody's heart, had soberly
set herself to consider that there were as fine fish yet in the sea as
ever were caught, and that it was best, therefore, to cheer up and
wait for better times! Frightful!"

"Never trouble your little head, Kate, with fear that there will not
be Ophelias enough, as long as the world stands. But I wouldn't be
one, if I were you, unless I could bespeak a Shakspeare to do me into
poetry. That would be an inducement, I allow. How would you fancy
being a Sukey Fay, Kate?"

"Oh, the poor old wretch, with her rags and dirt and gin-bottle! Has
she a story?"

"Just as romantic a one as Ophelia, only she lacks a poet. But, in
sober truth, Katy, why is there not as true poetry in battling with
feeling as in yielding to it? To me there seems something far more
lofty and beautiful in bearing to live, under certain circumstances,
than in daring to die."

"If you only spoke experimentally, dear Aunty! Oh that Plato, or John
Milton, or Sir Philip Sydney would reappear, and lay all his genius
and glory at your feet! I wonder if you'd be of the same mind then!"

"And then, of course, this sublime suitor must die, or desert me, to
show how I would behave under the trial.--Katy," continued my aunt,
after a little pause, with a smile and slight blush, "I have half a
mind to tell you a little romance of my early days, when I was just
your age. It may be useful to you at this point of your life."

"Is it possible?" cried I,--"a romance of your early days! Quick, let
me hear!"

"I shouldn't have called it a romance, Katy; for as a story, it is
just nothing. It has no interest except as marking the beginning of
my education,--the education, I mean, of real life."

"But let me hear; there's some spice of poetry in it, I know."

"Well, then, it's like many another story of early fancy. In my
childhood I had a playmate. Our fathers' houses stood but a few rods
apart, and the families lived in habits of the closest intimacy. From
my earliest remembrance, the brave little boy, four years older than
I, was my sworn friend and protector; and as we increased in years, an
affection warm and frank as that of brother and sister grew up between
us. A love of nature and of poetry, and a certain earnestness and
enthusiasm of character, which separated us both from other children,
drew us closely together. At fifteen he left us to fit for college at
a distant school, and thenceforward he was at home only for brief
visits, till he was graduated with distinguished honor at the age of
twenty-one. During those six years of separation our relation to each
other had suffered no change. We had corresponded with tolerable
regularity, and I had felt a sister's pride in his talents and
literary honors. When, therefore, he returned home to recruit his
health, which had been seriously impaired by study and confinement, I
welcomed him with great joy, and with all the frankness of former

"Again we read, chatted, and rambled together. I found him unchanged
in character, but improved, cultivated, to a degree which delighted,
almost awed me. When he read our favorite authors with his rich,
musical voice, and descanted on their beauties with discriminating
taste and fervent poetic feeling, a new light fell on the
page. Through his eyes I learned to behold in nature a richness, a
grace, a harmony, a meaning, only vaguely felt before. It was as if I
had just received the key to a mysterious cipher, unlocking deep and
beautiful truths in earth and sea and sky, by which they were invested
with a life and splendor till now unseen. But it was his noble
sentiments, his generous human sympathies, his ardent aspirations
after honorable distinction to be won by toil and self-denial, which
woke my heart as by an electric touch. My own unshaped, half-conscious
aims and aspirations, stirred with life, took wing and soared with his
into the pure upper air. Ah! it was a bright, beautiful dream, Kate,
the life of those few months. I never once thought of love, nor of the
possibility of separation. All flowed so naturally from our life-long
intimacy, that I had not the slightest suspicion of the change which
had come over me. But the hour of waking was at hand. We had looked
forward to the settled summer weather for a marked improvement in his
health. But June had come and he still seemed very delicate. His
physician prescribed travelling and change of climate; and though his
high spirits had deceived me as to his real danger, I urged him to
go. He left us to visit an elder brother residing in one of the Middle
States. Ten years this very month!" added Aunt Linny, with an absent

"Ten years ago this very month," I exclaimed, "did my distinguished
self arrive at this venerable mansion. What a singular conjunction of
events! No doubt our horoscopes would reveal some strange entanglement
of destinies at this point. Perchance I, even I, was 'the star malign'
whose rising disturbed the harmonious movement of the spheres!"

"No doubt of it; the birth of a mouse once caused an earthquake, you

"But could I have seen him? Did I arrive before he had left?"

"Oh, yes, very likely; but of course you can have no recollection of
him, such a chit as you were then."

"What was his name?" I cried, eagerly. A long-silent chord of memory
began to give forth a vague, uncertain murmur.

"Oh, no matter, Kate. I would a little rather you shouldn't know. It
doesn't affect the moral of the story, which was all I had in view in
relating it."

"A plague take the moral, Aunty! The romance is what I want; and
what's that without 'the magic of a name'?"

"Excuse me."

"Tell me his Christian name, then,--just for a peg to hang my ideas
on; that is, if it's meat for romance. If it is Isaac or Jonathan, you
needn't mention it."

"Well, then, you tease,--I called him Cousin Harry."

"Cousin Harry!" I screamed, starting forward, and staring at her with
eyes wide open.

"Yes; but what ails you, child? You glare upon me like a maniac."

"Hush! hush! don't speak!" said I.

As I sunk back, in a sort of dream, into the rocking-chair in which I
had been idling, the garden caught my eye through the open window. The
gate overarched with honeysuckle, the long alley with its fragrant
flowering border, the grape arbor, the steep green hill behind, lay
before me in the still, rich beauty of June. In a twinkling, memory
had swept the dust from my little cabinet picture, and let in upon it
a sudden light. The ten intervening years vanished like a dream, and
that long-forgotten garden scene started up, vivid as in the hour when
it actually passed before my eyes. The clue to that mystery which had
so spellbound my childish fancy was at length found. I sat for a time
in silence, lost in a delicious, confused reverie.

"The Button-Rose was a gift from him, then?" were my first words.

"What, Kate?" said Aunt Linny, now opening her large blue eyes with a
strange look.

"Did you give away the flower-pot too? That was so pretty! Whom did
you give it to?"

"Incredible!" she exclaimed, coloring, and with the strongest
expression of surprise. "Truly, little pitchers have not been

"But the wonderful humming-bird, Aunty! What had that to do with it?"

"Kate," said my aunt, "you talk like one in sleep. Wake up, and let me
know what all this means."

"I see it all now!" I rattled on, more to myself than her. "First
young love,--parting gift,--Cousin Harry proves fickle,--Aunt Linny
banishes the Button-Rose from her window,--takes to books, and
educating naughty nieces, and doing good to everybody,--'bearing to
live,' as more heroic than 'daring to die,'--in ten years gets so that
she can speak of it with composure, as a lesson to romantic
girls. So?"

"Even so, Katy!" she replied, quietly; "and to that early
disappointment I owe more than to anything that ever befell me."

She said this with a smile; but her voice trembled a little, and I
perceived that a soft dew had gathered over her eyes. By an
irresistible impulse I rose, and stealing softly behind her, clasped
my arms round her neck, and kissing her forehead whispered, "Forgive
me, sweet Aunty!"

"Not a bit of harm, Katy," she replied, drawing me down for a warm
kiss. "But what a gypsy you must be," she added, in her usually
lively tone, "to have trudged along so many years with this precious
little bundle, and said never a word to anybody!"

"I've not thought of it myself, these ever so many years," said I,
"and it seems like witchwork that it should all have come to me at
this moment."

I then related to her my childish reminiscences and speculations,
which amused her not a little. Her hearty, mirthful zest showed that
the theme was not a disquieting one. I now begged her to proceed with
her story.

"But stay a moment," said I; "let me fetch our garden bonnets, that we
may enjoy it in the very scene of the romance."

"Ah, Kate, you are bent on making a heroine of me!" was the reply, as
she took her seat in the grape arbor; "but there are really no
materials. I shall finish in fifteen minutes by my watch, and you'll
drop me as an Ophelia, I venture to say. Cousin Harry had left us, as
I told you, to visit his brother. For some months his letters were
very frequent, and as the time approached for his return they grew
increasingly cheerful, and--Katy, I cannot but excuse myself in part,
when I recall the magic charm of those letters. But no matter; all of
a sudden they ceased, and for several weeks not a word was heard from
him by his own family. At length, when my anxiety had become wellnigh
intolerable, there came a brief letter to his father, announcing his
marriage with the sister of his brother's wife, and his decision to
enter into business with his brother."

"Did you know anything of the young lady?"

"He had once or twice mentioned her in his letters as a beautiful,
amiable creature, whose education had been shamefully neglected. Her
kindness to him in his illness and loneliness, added to her natural
charms, won his heart, no doubt Many a wise man has been caught in
that snare."

"But what base conduct towards you!"

"Not at all, my dear! My dream had suffused his words with its own
coloring,--that was all. As soon as reason could make her voice heard,
I acquitted him of all blame. His feelings towards me had been those
of a brother,--no more."

"But why, then, did he cease to write? why not share his new
happiness with so dear a friend?"

"That was not unnatural, after what he had said of the young lady's
deficiencies. Probably the awkwardness of the thing led him to defer
writing from time to time, till he had become so absorbed in his
domestic relations and his business, that he had ceased to think of
it. Life's early dewdrops often exhale in that way, Kate!"

"Then life is a hateful stupidity!"

"Yes; if it could be morning all day, and childhood could outlast our
whole lives, it would be very charming. But life has jewels that don't
exhale, Kate, but sparkle brightest in the hottest sun. These lie
deep in the earth, and to dig them out requires more than a child's
strength of heart and arm. One must be well inured to toil and weather
before he can win these treasures; but when once he wears these in his
bosom he doesn't sigh for dewdrops."

"Well, let me hear how you were inured."

"The news of this marriage revealed to me, as by a flash of lightning,
my whole inner world of feeling. When I knew that he was forever lost,
I first knew what he had become to me. The pangs of disappointment, of
self-humiliation,--I hardly know which were the stronger,--were like
poisoned arrows in my heart. It was my first trouble, and I had to
bear it in silence and alone. Not for worlds would I have had it
guessed that I had cherished an unreturned affection, and it would
have killed me to hear him blamed. Towards him I had, in my most
secret heart, no emotion of resentment or reproach. A feeling of
dreary loss, of a long, weary life from which all the flowers had
vanished, a sort of tender self-pity, filled my heart. It is not worth
while to detail the whole process by which I gradually forced myself
out of this miserable state. One thing helped me much. As soon as the
first bitterness of my heart was passed, I saw clearly that the
indulgence of such a sentiment towards one who was now the husband of
another could not be innocent. It must not be merely concealed; it
must be torn up, root and branch. With this steadily before my mind
as the central point of my efforts, I worked my way step by
step. First came the removal of the numerous little mementos of those
happy days in dreamland, the sight of which softened my heart into
weakness and vain regret. Next I threw aside my favorite works of
imagination and feeling, and for two years read scarcely a book which
did not severely task my mind. I devoted myself more to my mother, and
interested myself in the poor and sick. Last, not least, I resolved on
taking the whole charge of your education, Katy; and of my various
specifics, I think I would recommend the training of such an elf as
the 'sovereignest remedy' for first love. The luxuriant growth of your
character interested, stimulated, kept me perpetually on the alert. I
soon began to work _con amore_ at this task; my spirits caught at
times the contagious gayety of yours; my poor heart was refreshed by
your warm childish love. In short, I began to live again. But, ah!
dear Kate, it was a long, stern conflict. Many, many months, yes,
years, passed by, ere those troubled waters became clear and
still. But I held firmly on my way, and the full reward came at
last. By degrees I had created within and around me a new world of
interest and activity, in which this little whirlpool of morbid
feeling became an insignificant point. I was conscious of the birth of
new energies, of a bolder and steadier sweep of thought, of fuller
sympathies, of that settled quiet and harmony of soul which are to be
gained only in the school of self-discipline. That dream of my youth
now lies like a soft cloud far off in the horizon, beautiful with the
morning tints of memory, but casting no shadow."

She paused; then added, in a lively tone: "Well, Kate, the fifteen
minutes are not out, and yet my story is done. Think you now it would
really have been better to go a-swinging on a willow-tree over a pond,
and so have made a good poetical end?"

"Oh, I am so glad you were not such a goose as to make a swan of
yourself, like poor Ophelia!" said I, throwing my arms around her, and
giving her half a dozen kisses. "But tell me truly, was I indeed such
a blessing to you, 'the very cherubim that did preserve thee'? To
think of the repentance I have wasted over my childish naughtiness,
when it was all inspired by your good angel! I shall take heed to this

"Do so, Kate, and your good angel will doubtless inspire in me a
suitable response."

"But tell me now, Aunt Linny, who the living man was. Was he a real

"I may as well tell you, Kate, or you will get it from your
'familiar.' You have heard of our rich cousin in Cuba, Henry

"Oh, yes; I have heard grandfather speak of him. So, then, he was
Cousin Harry! I should like one chance at his hair, for all his
goodness. Did you ever meet again?"

"Never. His father's family soon removed to a distant place, so that
there was no necessity for visiting the old home. But I have always
heard him spoken of as an upright merchant and a cultivated and
generous man. He has resided several years in Cuba. A year or two
since, he went to Europe for his wife's health, and there she
died. Rumor now reports him as about to become the husband of an
Englishwoman of high connections. I should be very glad to see him
once more.--But come now, Kate, let's have a decennial celebration of
our two anniversaries. Lay the tea-table in the grape arbor, and then
invite grandpapa to a feast of strawberries and cream."

I hastily ornamented our rural banquet-hall with long branches of
roses and honeysuckles in full bloom, stuck into the leafy roof. As we
sat chatting and laughing over our simple treat, a humming-bird darted
several times in and out. "A messenger!" whispered I to Aunt
Linny. "Depend upon it, Cousin Harry didn't marry the English lady."


The next morning I slept late. Fancy had all night been busy,
combining her old and new materials into many a wild shape. After my
aunt had risen at her usual early hour, I fell into one of those balmy
morning-naps which make up for a whole night's unrest. I dreamed
still, but the visions floated by with that sweet changeful play which
soothes rather than fatigues the brain. The principal objects were
always the same; but the combination shifted every instant, as by the
turn of a kaleidoscope. At length they arranged themselves in a
lovely miniature scene in a convex mirror. There bloomed the little
Button-Rose in the centre, and above it the humming-bird glanced and
murmured, and now and then darted his slender bill deep into the bosom
of the flowers. With hands clasped above this central object, as if
exchanging vows upon an altar, stood the young human pair. Of a
sudden, old Cornelius Agrippa was in the room, robed In a black
scholar's-gown, over which his snowy heard descended nearly to his
knees. Stretching forth a long white wand, he touched the picture, and
immediately a wedding procession began to move out of the magic
crystal, the figures, as they emerged, assuming the size of
life. First tripped a numerous train of white-robed little maidens,
scattering flowers; then came a priest in surplice and bands, holding
before him a great open service-book; after him, the bridal pair,
attended by their friends. But by an odd trick of fancy, the
bridegroom, who looked very stately and happy, appeared with the china
flower-pot containing the Button-Rose balanced on the end of his nose!
Awaked by my own laughter at this comical sight, I opened my eyes and
found Aunt Linny sitting on the bedside and laughing with me.

"I should have waked you before, Katy," said she, "if you had not
seemed to be enjoying yourself so much. Come, unfold your dream. I
presume it will save me the trouble of telling you the contents of
this wonderful epistle which I hold in my hand."

"It's from Cousin Harry! Huzza!" cried I, springing up to snatch it.

But she held it out of my reach. "Softly! good Mistress
Fortuneteller," said she. "Read me the letter without seeing it, and
then I shall know that you can tell the interpretation thereof."

"Of course it's from Cousin Harry. That's what the humming-bird came
to say last night. As for the contents,--he's not married,--his heart
turns to the sister-friend of his youth,--he yearns to look into her
lustrous orbs once more,--she alone, he finds, is the completion of
his _'Ich'_. He hastens across the dark blue sea; soon will she
behold him at her feet."

"Alas, poor gypsy, thou hast lost thy silver penny this time. The
letter is indeed from Cousin Harry, and that of itself is one of
life's wonders. But it is addressed with all propriety to his
'venerable uncle.' He arrived from Europe a month since, and being now
on a tour for health and pleasure, proposes to make a hasty call on
his relatives and visit the old homestead. He brings his bride with
him. Now, Kate, be stirring; they will be here to-night, and we must
look our prettiest."

"The hateful, prosy man! I'll not do anything to make his visit
agreeable," said I, pettishly.

"Why, Kate, what are you conjuring up in your foolish little noddle?"

"Oh, I supposed an _eclaircissement_ would come round somehow,
and we should finish the romance in style."

"Why, Kate, do you really wish to get rid of me?"

"No, indeed! I wouldn't have you accept his old withered heart for the
world. But I wanted you to have the triumph of rejecting it. 'Indeed,
my dear cousin,'--thus you should have said,--'I shall always be
interested in you as a kinsman, but I can never love you.'"

"Kate is crazed!" she exclaimed, in a voice of despair. "Why, dear
child, there is not a shadow of foundation for this nonsense. I am
heartily glad at the thought of seeing my cousin once more, and all
the gladder that he brings a wife with him. Will you read the letter?"

I read it twice, and then asked,--"Where does he mention his wife?"

"Why, there,--don't you see? 'I shall bring with me a young lady,
whom, though a stranger and a foreigner, I trust you will be pleased
to welcome.' Isn't that plain?"

The inference seemed sufficiently natural; but the slight uncertainty
was the basis of many entertaining dreams through the day. I resolved
to hold fast my faith in romance till the last moment. Towards
evening, when the parlors and guest-chambers had received the last
touches, when the silver had been polished, the sponge-cake and tarts
baked, and our own toilette made,--when, in short, nothing remained to
be done, my excitement and impatience rose to the highest pitch. I
ran repeatedly down the avenue, and finally mounted with a
pocket-telescope to the top of the house for a more extensive survey.

"See you aught, Sister Annie?" called my aunt from below.

"Nothing yet, good Fatima!--spin out thy prayers a little
longer. Stay! a cloud of dust, a horseman!--no doubt an outrider
hastening on to announce his approach. Ah! he passes, the stupid
clown! Another! Nay, that was only a Derby wagon; the stars forbid
that our deliverer should come in a Derby! But now, hush! there's a
_bona fide_ barouche, two black horses, black driver and
all. Almost at the turn! O gentle Ethiopian, tarry! this is the
castle! Go, then, false man! Fatima, thy last hope is past! No, they
stop! the gentleman looks out! he waves his hand this way! Aunt
Linny, 'tis he! the carriage is coming up the avenue!" So saying, I
threw down the telescope and flew to her room.

"You are right, Kate, it must be he," said she, glancing through the
window, and then following me quietly down stairs.

The carriage stopped, and we all went down the steps to receive our
long absent relative. A tall, pale gentleman in black sprang out and
came hurriedly towards us. He looked much older than I had expected;
but the next instant the flash of his black eye, and the eloquent
smile which lighted up his pensive countenance as with a sunbeam,
brought back the Cousin Harry of ten years ago. He returned my
grandfather's truly paternal greeting with the most affectionate
cordiality; but with scarce a reply to my aunt's frank welcome, gave
her his arm, and made a movement towards the house.

"But, cousin," said she, smiling, "what gem have you there, hidden in
the carriage, too precious to be seen? We have a place in our hearts
for the fair stranger, I assure you."

"Ah, poor thing! I had quite forgotten her," said he, coloring and
laughing, as he turned towards the carriage.

Aunt Linny and I exchanged mirthful glances at this treatment of a
bride; but the next instant he had lifted out and led towards us a
small female personage, who, when her green veil was thrown aside,
proved to be a lovely girl of some seven or eight years.

"Permit me," said he, smiling, "to present Miss Caroline Morrison,
'sole daughter of my house and heart.'"

"But the stranger, the foreign lady?" inquired Aunt Linny, as she
kissed and welcomed the child.

'Why, this is she,--this young Cuban! Whom else did you look for?"
was the reply, in a tone of surprise, and, as it seemed to me, of
slight vexation.

"We expected a lady with a few more years on her head," interposed
grandpapa; "but the little pet is just as welcome. There, Katy, this
curly-pate will answer as well as a wax doll for you."

The dear old gentleman could never realize that I was grown up to be a
woman. Of course, I was now introduced in due form, and we went
together up the steps.

"How pleasant, how familiar all things look!" said our visitor,
pausing and gazing round him. "Why, uncle, you must have had your
house, and yourself, and everything about you insured against old
age. Nothing has changed except to improve. I see the very picture I
carried with me ten years ago."

The tears stood in my grandfather's eyes. "You have forgotten one
great change, dear nephew," said he; "against that we could find no

"How could I forget?" was the answer, in a low tone, full of feeling,
his own eyes filling with moisture. "My dear aunt! I shed many tears
with and for you, when I heard of her death." He looked extremely
amiable at this moment; I knew that I should love him.

My aunt smiled through her tears, and said, very sweetly, "The thought
of her should cheer, and not cloud our meeting. Her presence never
brought me sorrow, nor does her remembrance. Come, dear," she added,
cheerfully, taking the child's hand, "come in and rest your poor
little tired self. Kate, find the white kitten for her. A prettier one
you never saw in France or Cuba, Miss Carrie,--that's what papa calls
you, I suppose?"

"It used to be my name," said the little smiler; "but papa always
calls me Linny now, because he thinks it sweeter."

* * * * *

"What say you to the humming-bird now?" I whispered to my aunt, as we
were a moment alone in the tea-room.

"Kate, I wish you were fifty miles off at this moment! It was no good
angel that deluded me into telling you that foolish tale last
evening. Indeed, Kate," added she, earnestly, "you will seriously
compromise me, if you are not more careful. Promise me that you will
not make one more allusion of this kind, even to me, while they

"But I may give you just a look, now and then?"

"Do you wish me to repent having trusted you, Kate?"

"I promise, aunty,--by my faith in first love!"

"Nonsense! Go, call them to tea."


Our kinsman had been easily persuaded to remain with us a week, and a
charming week it had been to all of us. He had visited all the West
India Islands, and the most interesting portions of England and the
Continent. My grandfather, who, as the commander of his own
merchant-ship, had formerly visited many foreign countries, was
delighted to refresh his recollections of distant scenes, and to live
over again his adventures by sea and land. The conversation of our
guest with his uncle was richly instructive and entertaining; for he
had a lively appreciation of national and individual character, and
could illustrate them by a world of amusing anecdote. The old
veteran's early fondness for his nephew revived in full force, and his
enjoyment was alloyed only by the dread of a new separation. "What
shall I do when you are gone, Harry!" was his frequent exclamation;
and then he would sigh and shake big head, and wish he had one son

But the richest treat for my aunt and me was reserved till the late
evening, when the dear patriarch had retired to rest. Those warm,
balmy nights on the piazza, with the moonlight quivering through the
vines, and turning the terraced lawn with fantastic mixture of light
and shadow into a fairy scene, while the cultivated traveller
discoursed of all things beautiful in nature and art, were full of
witchery. Mont Blanc at sunrise, the wild scenery of the Simplon, the
exhumed streets of Pompeii, the Colosseum by moonlight, those wondrous
galleries of painting and sculpture of which I had read as I had read
of the palace of Aladdin and the gardens of the genii,--the living man
before me had seen all these! I looked upon him as an ambassador from
the world of poetry. But even this interested me less than the tone of
high and manly sentiment by which his conversation was pervaded, the
feeling reminiscences of endeared friendships formed in those far-off
lands, the brief glimpses of deep sorrows bravely borne; and I watched
with a sweet, sly pleasure my aunt's quiet surrender to the old spell.

"It makes me very happy, Kate," said she one day, "to have found my
cousin and friend again. I am glad to feel that friendships springing
from the pure and good feelings of the heart are not so transient as I
have sometimes been tempted to think them. They may be buried for
years under a drift of new interests; but give them air, and they will
live again."

"What is that remark of Byron about young ladies' friendship? Take
care, take care!" said I, shaking my head, gravely; "receive the
warning of a calm observer!"

"Oh, no, Kate! this visit is but a little green oasis in the
desert. In a day or two we shall separate, probably forever; but both,
I doubt not, will be happier through life for this brief reunion. His
plan is to make his future residence in France."

At the end of the week our kinsman left us for a fortnight's visit to
the metropolis. Intending to give us a call on his return south, he
willingly complied with our desire to leave his little girl with
us. As we were sitting together in my aunt's room after his departure,
the child brought her a small packet which her father had intrusted to
her. "I believe," said the little smiler, "he said it was a story for
you to read. Won't you please to read it to me?" She took it with a
look of surprise and curiosity, and immediately opened it and began to
read. But her color soon began to vary, her hand trembled, and
presently laying down the sheets in her lap, shy sat lost in thought.

"It seems a moving story!" I remarked, dryly.

"Kate, this is the strangest affair!--But I can't tell you now; I must
read it first alone."

She left the room, and I heard the key turn in the lock as she entered
another chamber. In about an hour she came out very composedly, and
said nothing more on the subject.

After our little guest was asleep at night, I could restrain myself no
longer. "You are treating me shabbily, aunty," said I. "See if I am
ever a good girl again to please you!"

"You shall know it all, Katy; I only wished to think it over first by
myself. There, take the letter; but make no note or comment till I
mention it again."

* * * * *

The letter of Cousin Harry seemed to me rather matter-of-fact, I must
confess, till near the end, where he spoke of a little nosegay which
he enclosed, and which would speak to her of dear old times.

"But where is the nosegay, aunty?"

With a beautiful flush, as if the sunset of that vanished day were
reddening the sky of memory, she drew a small packet from her bosom,
and in it I found a withered rose-bud tied up with a shrivelled sprig
of mignonette.

I am afraid that my Aunt Linny's answer was a great deal more proper
than I should have wished; and yet, with all its emphatic expressions
of duty towards her father and the impossibility of leaving him, there
must have been something between the lines which I could not read. I
have since discovered that all such epistles have their real meaning
concealed in some kind of more rarefied sympathetic ink, which betrays
itself only under the burning hands of a lover.

"So, then," said Aunt Linny, as she was sealing this letter, "you see,
Katy, that your romance has come to an untimely end."

I turned round her averted face with both my hands, and looked in her
eyes till she blushed and laughed in spite of herself.

"My knowledge of symptoms is not large," said I, "but I have a
conviction that his health will now endure a northern climate."

"Let's talk no more of this!" said she, putting me aside with a gentle
gravity, which checked my nonsense. But as I was unable to detect in
her, on this or the following day, the slightest depression of
spirits, I shrewdly guessed that our anticipations of the result were
not very dissimilar.

The next return post brought, not the expected letter, but our hero
himself. I was really amazed at the change in his appearance. Erect,
elastic, his face radiant with expression, he looked years younger
than at his first arrival. I caught Aunt Linny's eloquent glance of
surprise and pleasure as they met. For a moment the bridal pair of my
dream stood living before me; then vanished even more suddenly than
that fancy show of the old magician. When we again met, two or three
hours after, my aunt's serene smile and dewy eyes told me that all was

* * * * *

In a month the wedding took place, and the "happy pair" started off on
a few weeks' excursion. As I was helping my aunt exchange her bridal
for her travelling attire, I whispered, "What say you to my doctrine
of first love, aunty?"

"That it finds its best refutation in my experience. No, believe me,
dearest Katy, the true jewel of life is a spirit that can rule itself,
that can subject even the strongest, dearest impulses to reason and
duty. Without it, indeed," she added, with a soft earnestness,
"affection towards the worthiest object becomes an unworthy
sentiment--And besides, Kate,"--here her eye gleamed with girlish
mirth--"you see, if I had made love my all, I should have missed it
all. Not even Cousin Harry's constancy would have been proof against a
withered, whining, sentimental old maid."

"Well, you will allow that it's a great paradox, aunty! If you believe
in my doctrine, it turns out a mere delusion; if you don't believe in
it, 'tis sure to come true."

"Take care, then, and disbelieve in it with all your might!" said she,
laughing, and kissing me, as we left her room,--my room alone
henceforth. A shadow seemed to fill it, as she passed the threshold.


Among our summer birds, the vast majority are but transient visitors,
born and bred far to the northward, and returning thither every
year. The North, then, is their proper domicile, their legal "place of
residence," which they have never renounced, but only temporarily
desert, for special reasons. Their sojourn with us, or farther south,
is merely an exile by stress of climate, like the flitting of the
Southern planters from the rice-fields to the mountains in summer, or
the pleasure tour or watering-place visit customary with the citizens
of Boston and New York.

The lower orders, such as the humming-bird with his insect-like
stomach and sucking-tube, and so on up through the warblers and
flycatchers, more strictly bound by the necessities of their life,
closely follow the sun,--while the upper-ten-thousand, the robins,
cedar-birds, sparrows, etc., like man, omnivorous in their diet and
their attendant _chevaliers d'industrie_, the rapacious birds,
allow themselves greater latitude, and go and come occasionally at all
seasons, though in general tending to the south in winter and north in
summer. But precedence before all is due to permanent residents, with
whom our intercourse is not of this transitory and fair-weather
sort. Such are the crow, the blue jay, the chickadee, the partridge,
and the quail, who may be called regular inhabitants, though perhaps
all of them wander occasionally from one district to another. Besides
these, perhaps some of the hawks and owls remain here throughout the
year. But the species I have named are the only ones that occur to me
as equally numerous at all seasons in the immediate vicinity of
Boston, and never out of town, whether you take the census in May or
in January.

In spite of our uninterrupted acquaintance with them, however, there
are still many of the nearest questions concerning these birds for
which I find no sufficient answers. Even to the first question--How do
they get their living?--there are only vague replies in the books.

There is the crow, for example. I have seen crows in the neighborhood
of Boston every week of the year, and in not very different
numbers. My friend the ornithologist said to me last winter, "You will
see that they will be off as soon as the ground is well covered with
snow." But on the contrary, when the snow came, and after it had lain
deep on the fields for many days, I saw more than before,--probably
because they found it easier to get food in the neighborhood of the
houses and cultivated grounds.

A crow must require certainly half a pound of animal food, or its
equivalent, daily, in order to keep from starving. Yet they not only
do not starve that I hear of, but seem to keep in as good case in
winter as in summer, though what they find to eat is not immediately
apparent. The vague traditional suggestion of "carrion," as of dead
horses and the like, does not help us much. Some scraps doubtless may
be left lying about, but any reliable stores of this kind are hardly
to be looked for in this neighborhood. A few scattered kernels of
corn, perhaps on a pinch a few berries, he may pick up; though I
suspect the crow is somewhat human in his tastes, and, besides animal
food, affects only the cereals. The frogs are deep in the mud. Now
and then a squirrel or a mouse may be had; but they are mostly dozing
in their holes. As for larger game, rabbits and the like, the crow is
hardly nimble enough for them, nor are his claws well adapted for
seizing; anything of this kind he will scarcely get, except as the
leavings of the weasel or skunk. These he will not refuse; for though
he is of a different species from the carrion crow of Europe, with
whom he was formerly confounded, yet he is of similar, though perhaps
less extreme, tastes as to his food. But when the ground is freshly
covered with snow, all supplies of this sort would seem to be cut off,
for the time at least. Yet who ever found a starved crow, or even saw
one driven by hunger from any of his accustomed caution? He is ever
the same alert, vivacious, harsh-tongued wanderer over the white
fields as over the summer meadows.

A partial solution of the mystery is to be found in the habit which
the bird has in common with most of the crow kind, of depositing any
surplus food in a place of safety for future use. A tame crow that I
saw last year was constantly employed in this way. As soon as his
hunger was satisfied, if a piece of meat was given to him, he flew off
to some remote spot, and there covered it up with twigs and leaves. I
was told that the woods were full of these caches of his. Bits of
bread and the like he was too well-fed to care much about, but he
would generally go through the form of covering them, at your very
feet, with a little rubbish, not taking the trouble to hide them.
Meanwhile his hunting went on as if he still had his living to get,
and he would watch for field-mice, or come flying in from the woods
with a squirrel swinging from his claws, either for variety's sake, or
because he had really forgotten the stores he had laid up. Scattered
magazines of this kind, established in times of accidental plenty, may
render life during our winters possible to the crow.

But why should he give himself so much trouble to subsist here, when a
few hours' work with those broad wings would bear him to a land of
tropical abundance? The crow, it seems, is not a mere eating and
drinking machine, drawn hither and thither by the balance of supply
and demand, but has his motives of another sort. Is it, perhaps, some
local attachment, so that a crow hatched in Brookline, for example,
would be more loath than another to quit that neighborhood,--a sort of
crow patriotism, akin to that which keeps the Greenlanders slowly
starving of cold and hunger on that awful coast of theirs.

It is not probable, however, that the crow allows himself to suffer
much from these causes; he is far too knowing for that, and shows his
position at the head of the bird kind by an almost total emancipation
from scruples and prejudices, and by the facility with which he adapts
himself to special cases. Instinct works by formulas, which, as it
were, make up the animal, so that the ant and the bee are atoms of
incarnate constructiveness and acquisitiveness, and nothing else. And
as intelligence, when its action is too narrowly concentrated, whether
upon pin-making or money-making, tends to degenerate into mere
instinct,--so instinct, when it begins to compare, and to except, and
to vary its action according to circumstances, shows itself in the act
of passing into intelligence. This marks the superiority of the crow
over birds it often resembles in its actions. Most birds are
wary. The crow is wary, and something more. Other shy birds, for
instance ducks, avoid every strange object. The crow considers whether
there be anything dangerous in the strangeness. An ordinary scarecrow
will not keep our crow from anything worth a little risk. He fathoms
the scarecrow, compares its behavior, under various circumstances,
with that of the usual wearer of its garments, and decides to take the
risk. To protect his corn, the farmer takes advantage of this very
discursiveness, and stretches round the field a simple line, nothing
in itself, but hinting at some undeveloped mischief which the bird
cannot penetrate.

Again, the crow is sometimes looked upon as a mere marauder; but this
description also is much too narrow for him. He is anxious only for
his dinner, and swallows seed-corn and noxious grubs with perfect
impartiality. He is not a mere pirate, living by plunder alone, but
rather like the old Phoenician sea-farer, indifferently honest or
robber as occasion serves,--and robber not from fierceness of
disposition, but merely from utter unscrupulousness as to means.

This is shown in his docility. A hawk or an eagle is never tamed, but
a crow is more easily and completely tamable than the gentlest
singing-bird. The one I have just spoken of, though hardly six months
from the nest, would allow himself to be handled by his owner, and
would suffer even a stranger to touch him. When I first came near the
house, he greeted me with a suppressed caw, and flew along some
hundred yards just over my head, looking down, first with one eye and
then with the other, to get a complete view of the stranger. Next
morning I became aware, when but half awake, of a sort of mewing sound
in the neighborhood, and at last looking around, I saw through the
window, which opened to the floor, my new acquaintance perched on the
porch roof, which was at the same level, turning his head from side to
side, and eyeing me through the glass with divers queer contortions
and gesticulations, reminding me of some odd, old, dried-up French
dancing-master, and with a varied succession of croakings, now high,
now low, evidently bent upon attracting my attention. When he had
succeeded, he flew off with loud, joyous caws to the top of the house,
where I heard him rolling nuts or acorns from the ridge, and flying to
catch them before they fell off.

Their independence of seasons is shown also in their habit of
associating in about equal numbers throughout the year. In the spring
the flocks are more noticeable, hovering about some grove of pines,
flying straight up in the air and swooping down again with an
uninterrupted cawing,--seemingly a sort of crow ball, with a view to
match-making. Afterwards they become more silent, and apparently more
solitary, but still fly out to their feeding-grounds morning and
evening; and if you sit down in the woods near one of their nests, the
uneasy choking chuckle, ending at last in the outright cawing of the
disturbed owner, will generally be answered from every point, and crow
after crow come edging up from tree to tree to see what is the matter.

Though all of the crow tribe are notorious for their harsh voices, yet
if the power of mimicry be considered as a mark of superiority, the
crow has claims to high rank in this department also. The closest
imitators of the human voice are birds of this family: for instance,
the Mino bird. Our crow also is a vocal mimic, and that not in the
matter-of-course way of the mocking-bird, but, as it were, more
individual and spontaneous. He is not merely an imitator of the human
voice, like the parrots, (and a better one as regards tone,) nor of
other birds, like the thrushes, but combines both. The tame crow
already mentioned very readily undertook extempore imitations of
words, and with considerable success. I once heard a crow imitate the
warbling of a small bird, in a tone so entirely at variance with his
ordinary voice, that, though assured by one who had heard him before,
that it was a crow and nothing else, it was only on the clearest proof
that I could satisfy myself of the fact. It seemed to be quite an
original and individual performance.

The blue jay is a near relative of the crow, and, like him,
omnivorous, harsh-voiced, predaceous, a robber of birds' nests; so
that if you hear the robins during their nesting-time making an
unusual clamor about the house, the chances are you will get a glimpse
of this brilliant marauder, sneaking away with a troop of them in
pursuit. His usual voice is a harsh scream, but he has some low
flute-like notes not without melody. The presence of a hawk, or more
particularly an owl in the woods, is often made known by the screaming
of the jays, who flock together about him with ever-increasing noise,
like a troop of jackals about a lion, pressing in upon him closer and
closer in a paroxysm of excitement, while the owl, thus taken at
disadvantage, sidles along his bough seeking concealment, and at
length softly flaps off to some more undisturbed retreat.

The blue jay is a shy bird, but he is enough of a crow to take a risk
where anything is to be had for it, and in winter will come close to
the house for food. In his choice of a nesting-place he seems at first
sight to show less than his usual caution; for, though the nest is a
very conspicuous one, it is generally made in a pine sapling not far
from the ground, and often on a path or other opening in the
woods. But perhaps, in the somewhat remote situations where he builds,
the danger is less from below than from birds of prey sailing
overhead. I once found a blue jay's nest on a path in the woods
somewhat frequented by me, but not often trodden by any one else, and
passed it twice on different days, and saw the bird sitting, but took
some pains not to alarm her. The next time, and the next, she was not
there; and on examination I found the nest empty, though with no marks
of having been robbed. There was not time for the eggs to have
hatched, and it was plain, that, finding herself observed, she had
carried them off.

As a general thing, the severity of our winters does not seem much to
affect the birds that stay with us. I have found chickadees and some
of the smaller sparrows apparently frozen to death, but the
extravasation of blood usual in such cases leaves us in doubt whether
some accident may not have first disabled the bird; and if dead birds
are more often found in winter than in summer, it may be only that the
body keeps longer, and, from the absence of grass and leaves, and the
white covering of the ground, is more readily seen. At all events,
such specimens are not usually emaciated, and sometimes they are in
remarkably good case, which, considering the rapid circulation and the
corresponding waste of the body, shows that the cold had not affected
their activity and their power of obtaining food.

The truth is, that birds are remarkably well guarded against cold by
their quick circulation, their dense covering of down and feathers,
and the ease with which they can protect their extremities. The
chickadee is never so lively as in clear, cold weather;--not that he
is absolutely insensible to cold; for on those days, rare in this
neighborhood, when the mercury falls to fifteen degrees or more below
zero, the chickadee shows by his behavior that he, too, feels it to be
an exceptional state of things. Of such a morning I have seen a small
flock of them collected on the sunny side of a thick hemlock, rather
silent and quiet, with ruffled plumage, like balls of gray fur,
waiting, with an occasional chirp, for the sun's rays to begin to warm
them up, and meanwhile not depressed, but only a little sobered in
their deportment, and ready, if the cold continued, to get used to
that too.

The matter of food-supply during the winter for the smaller birds is
more easily understood than in the case of the crow. The seeds of
grasses and the taller summer flowers, and of the birches, alders, and
maples, furnish supplies that are not interfered with by cold or snow;
also the buds of various trees and shrubs,--for the buds do not first
come into existence in the spring, as our city friends suppose, but
are to be found all winter. Nor is insect-life suspended at this
season to the extent that a careless observer might suppose. A sunny,
sheltered nook, at any time during the winter, will show you a variety
of two-winged flies, and several species of spiders, often in
considerable abundance, and as brisk as ever. And the numbers of eggs,
and larvae, and of the lurking tenants of crevices in tree-bark and
dead wood, may be guessed by the incessant and assuredly not aimless
activity of the chickadees and gold-crests and their associates.

This winter activity of the birds ought to be taken into account by
those who accuse them of mischief-doing in summer. In winter, at
least, no mischief can be done; there is no fruit to steal; and even
sap-sucking, if such a practice at any time be not altogether
fabulous, certainly cannot be carried on now. Nothing can be destroyed
now except the farmer's enemies, or at best neutrals. Yet the birds
keep at work all the time.

The only bird that occurs to me as a proved sufferer from famine in
the winter is the quail. This is the most limited in its range of all
our birds. Not only does it not migrate, (or only exceptionally,) but
it does not even wander much,--the same covey keeping all the year,
and even year after year, to the same feeding-ground. Nor does it ever
seek its food upon trees, like the partridge, but solely upon the

The quail is our nearest representative of the common barn-yard
fowl. This it resembles in many respects, and among others, in its
habit of going a-foot, except when the covey crosses from one feeding
or roosting ground to another, or when the cock-bird mounts upon a
rail-fence or stone-wall to sound his call in the spring. This
persistence exposes the quail to hardship when the ground is covered
with snow, and the fruit of the skunk-cabbage and all the berries and
grain are inaccessible. He takes refuge at such times in the
smilax-thickets, whose dense, matted covering leaves an open
feeding-ground below. But a snowy winter always tells upon their
numbers in any neighborhood. Whole coveys are said to have been found
dead, frozen stiff, under the bush where they had huddled together for
warmth; and even before this extremity, their hardships lay them open
to their enemies, and the fox and the weasel, and the farmer's boy
with his box-trap, destroy them by wholesale. The deep snows of 1856
and 1857 have nearly exterminated them hereabouts; and I was told at
Vergennes, in Vermont, that there were quails there many years ago,
but that they had now entirely disappeared.

The appearance and disappearance of species within our experience
teach us that Nature's lists are not filled once for all, but that the
changes which geology shows in past ages continue into the
present. Sometimes we can trace the immediate cause, or rather
occasion, as in the case of the quail's congeners, the pinnated
grouse, and the wild turkey, both of them inhabitants of all parts of
the State in the early times. The pinnated grouse has been seen near
Boston within the present century, but is now exterminated, I believe,
except in Martha's Vineyard. The wild turkey was to be found not long
since in Berkshire, but probably it has become extinct there
too. Sometimes, for no reason that we can see, certain species forsake
their old abodes, as the purple martin, which within the last
quarter-century has receded some twenty miles from the seaboard,--or
appear where they were before unknown, as the cliff swallow, which was
first seen in the neighborhood of the Rocky Mountains, but within
about the same space of time has become as common hereabouts as any of
the genus. In examples so conspicuous the movement is obvious enough;
but in the case of rarer species, for instance, the olive-sided
flycatcher, who can tell whether, when first observed, it was new to
naturalists merely, or to this part of the country, or to the earth
generally? The distinction sometimes made in such cases between
accidental influences and the regular course of nature is a
superficial one. The regular course of nature is in itself a series of
accidental influences; that is, the particular occasion is subservient
to a general law with which it does not seem at first sight to have
any connection. A severe winter may be sufficient to kill the quails,
just as the ancient morass was sufficient to drown the mastodon. But
the question is, why these causes began to operate just at these
times. We may as well stop with the evident fact, that the unresting
circulation is forever going on in the universe.

But if the quail, who is here very near his northern limits, has a
hard time of it in the winter, and is threatened with such "removal"
as we treat the Indians to, his relative, the partridge, our other
gallinaceous or hen-like bird, is of a tougher fibre, as you see when
you come upon his star-like tracks across the path, eight or nine
inches apart, and struck sharp and deep in the snow, or closer
together among the bushes, where he stretched up for barberries or
buds, and ending on either side with a series of fine parallel cuts,
where the sharp-pointed quills struck the snow as he rose,--a picture
of vigor and success. He knows how to take care of himself, and to
find both food and shelter in the evergreens, when the snow lies fresh
upon the ground. There, in some sunny glade among the pines, he will
ensconce himself in the thickest branches, and whir off as you come
near, sailing down the opening with his body balancing from side to

The partridge is altogether a wilder and more solitary bird than the
quail, and does not frequent cultivated fields, nor make his nest in
the orchard, as the quail does, but prefers the shelf of some rocky
ledge under the shadow of the pines in remote woods. He is one of the
few birds found in the forest; for it is a mistake to suppose that
birds abound in the forest, or avoid the neighborhood of man. On the
contrary, you may pass days and weeks in our northern woods without
seeing more than half a dozen species, of which the partridge is
pretty sure to be one. All birds increase in numbers about
settlements,--even the crow, though he is a forest bird too. Hence,
no doubt, has arisen the notion that the crow (supposed to be of the
same species with the European) made his appearance in this country
first on the Atlantic coast, and gradually spread westward, passing
through the State of New York about the time of the Revolution. I was
told some years since by a resident of Chicago, that the quails had
increased eight-fold in that vicinity since he came there. The fact
is, that the bird population, like the human, in the absence of
counteracting causes, will continue to expand in precise ratio to the
supply of food. The partridge goes farther north than the quail, and
is found throughout the United States. With us he affects high and
rocky ground, but northward he keeps at a lower level. At the White
Mountains, the regions of this species and of the Canada grouse or
spruce partridge are as well defined in height as those of the maples
and the "black growth." Still farther north I have observed that our
partridge frequents the lowest marshy ground, thus equalizing his
climate in every latitude.

There are few of our land-birds that flock together in summer, and few
that are solitary in winter,--none that I recollect, except birds of
prey. And not only do birds of the same kind associate, but certain
species are almost always found together. Thus, the chickadee, the
golden-crested wren, the white-breasted nuthatch, and, less
constantly, the brown creeper and the downy woodpecker, form a little
winter clique, of which you do not often see one of the members
without one or more of the others. No sound in nature more cheery and
refreshing than the alternating calls of a little troop of this kind
echoing through the glades of the woods on a still, sunny day in
winter: the vivacious chatter of the chickadee, the slender, contented
pipe of the gold-crest, and the emphatic, business-like _hank_ of the
nuthatch, as they drift leisurely along from tree to tree. The winter
seems to be the season of holiday enjoyment to the chickadee, and he
is never so evidently and conspicuously contented as in very cold
weather. In summer he withdraws to the thickets, and becomes less
noisy and active. His plumage becomes dull, and his brisk note changes
to a fine, delicate _pee-peh-wy_, or oftenest a mere whisper. They are
so much less noticeable at this season that one might suppose they had
followed their gold-crest companions to the North, as some of them
doubtless do, but their nests are not uncommon with us. Fearless as
the chickadee is in winter,--so fearless, that, if you stand still, he
will alight upon your head or shoulder,--in summer he becomes cautious
about his nest, and will desert it, if much watched. They build here,
generally, in a partly decayed white-birch or apple-tree, excavating a
hole eighteen inches or two feet deep,--the chips being carefully
carried off a short distance, so as not to betray the workman,--and
lining the bottom of it with a felting of soft materials, generally
rabbits' fur, of which I have taken from one hole as much as could be
conveniently grasped with the hand.

Besides the species that we regularly count upon in winter, there are
more or less irregular visitors at this season, some of them summer
birds also,--as the purple finch, cedar-bird, gold-finch, robin, the
flicker, or pigeon woodpecker, and the yellow-bellied and hairy
woodpeckers. Others, again, linger on from the autumn, and sometimes
through the winter,--as the snow-bird, song-sparrow, tree-sparrow.
Still others are seen only in winter,--as the brown and shore larks,
the crossbills, redpolls, snow-buntings, pine grosbeak, and some of
the hawks and owls; and of these some are merely accidental,--as the
pine grosbeak, which in 1836 appeared here in great numbers in
October, and remained until May. This beautiful and gentle bird (a
sweet songster too) is doubtless a permanent resident within the
United States, for I have seen them at the White Mountains in
August. What impels them to these occasional wanderings it is
difficult to guess; it is obviously not mere stress of weather; for in
1836, as I have remarked, they came early in autumn and continued
resident until late in the spring; and their food, being mainly the
buds of resinous trees, must have been as easy to get elsewhere as
here. Their coming, like the crow's staying, is a mystery to us.

I have spoken only of the land-birds; but the position of our city, so
embraced by the sea, affords unusual opportunities for observing the
sea-birds also. All winter long, from the most crowded thoroughfares
of the city, any one, who has leisure enough to raise his eyes over
the level of the roofs to the tranquil air above, may see the gulls
passing to and fro between the harbor and the flats at the mouth of
Charles River. The gulls, and particularly that cosmopolite, the
herring gull, are met with in this neighborhood throughout the year,
though in summer most of them go farther north to breed. On a still,
sunny day in winter, you may see them high in the air over the river,
calmly soaring in wide circles, a hundred perhaps at a time, or
pluming themselves leisurely on the edge of a hole in the ice. When
the wind is violent from the west, they come in over the city from the
bay outside, strong-winged and undaunted, breasting the gale, now
high, now low, but always working to windward, until they reach the
shelter of the inland waters.

In the spring they come in greater numbers, and other species arrive:
the great saddle-back, from the similarity of coloring almost to be
mistaken for the white-headed eagle, as he sits among the broken ice
at the edge of the channel; and the beautiful little Bonaparte's gull.

The ducks, too, still resort to our rivermouth, in spite of the
railroads and the tall chimneys by which their old feeding-grounds are
surrounded. As long as the channel is open, you may see the
golden-eyes, or "whistlers," in extended lines, visible only as a row
of bright specks, as their white breasts rise and fall on the waves;
and farther than you can see them, you may hear the whistle of their
wings as they rise. Spring and fall the "black ducks" still come to
find the brackish waters which they like, and to fill their crops with
the seeds of the eel-grass and the mixed food of the flats. In the
late twilight you may sometimes catch sight of a flock speeding in,
silent and swift, over the Mill-dam, or hear their sonorous quacking
from their feeding-ground.

At least, these things were,--and not long since,--though I cannot
answer for a year or two back. The birds long retain the tradition of
the old places, and strive to keep their hold upon them; but we are
building them out year by year. The memory is still fresh of flocks of
teal by the "Green Stores" on the Neck; but the teal and the "Stores"
are gone, and perhaps the last black duck has quacked on the river,
and the last whistler taken his final flight. Some of us, who are not
yet old men, have killed "brown-backs" and "yellow-legs" on the
marshes that lie along to the west and south of the city, now cut up
by the railroads; and you may yet see from the cars an occasional
long-booted individual, whose hopes still live on the tales of the
past, stalking through the sedge with "superfluous gun," or patiently
watching his troop of one-legged wooden decoys.

The sea keeps its own climate, and keeps its highways open, after all
on the land is shut up by frost. The sea-birds, accordingly, seem to
lead an existence more independent of latitude and of seasons. In
midwinter, when the seashore watering-places are forsaken by men, you
may find Nahant or Nantasket Beach more thronged with bipeds of this
sort than by the featherless kind in summer. The Long Beach of Nahant
at that season is lined sometimes by an almost continuous flock of
sea-ducks, and a constant passing and repassing are kept up between
Lynn Bay and the surf outside.

Early of a winter's morning at Nantasket I once saw a flock of geese,
many hundreds in number, coming in from the Bay to cross the land in
their line of migration. They advanced with a vast, irregular front
extending far along the horizon, their multitudinous _honking_
softened into music by the distance. As they neared the beach the
clamor increased and the line broke up in apparent confusion, circling
round and round for some minutes in what seemed aimless
uncertainty. Gradually the cloud of birds resolved itself into a
number of open triangles, each of which with its deeper-voiced leader

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