Part 3 out of 5
him it was cotton instead of silk."
I promised extra caution on the second point, and had just closed the
lower door--Aaron was already holding the gate open for me--when the
softly purplish bands of hair came again into the wind.
"One thing more, Anna: _do_ see what he takes for a sermon. The text is
in the fifth chapter of First Thessalonians. He will certainly pick up a
Fast-day or a Thanksgiving sermon, if you don't put the right one into
"Hasn't he two sermons on the same chapter?" I asked.
"Yes, half a dozen. You'll know the one for to-day; I wrote it for him
the day he had the headache; the text is"--and there was a little moment
of thought; then she said--"'Who died for us, that, whether we wake or
sleep, we should live together with him.' Aaron's waiting; don't keep
him; good bye!" and she was closed in.
I felt faint and weary, now that there was no more to be done. The
village-people were awake. Village-sounds were abroad in the Sunday
atmosphere, vibrant with holiness. The farmers stopped in their care for
their animals, and spent a moment in innocent wonder of the reason why
their pastor should be abroad thus early.
Chloe's turban welcomed us first, then Chloe's self. Breakfast, that
morning, had a rare charm about it for me. I felt that I had a right to
it; in some wise it was a breakfast earned. Aaron looked melancholy; his
coffee was not charmful, I knew; the chemical changes that sugar and
milk wrought were not the same as when Sophie presided over the
laboratory of the breakfast-tray. I am not an absorbent, and so I
reflected Aaron's discomfort. He was disposed to question me for a
reason for Miss Axtell's aberration. I was not empowered to give one,
and was fully determined to impart no information until such time as I
could with honor tell all. Aaron desisted after a while, and changed
interrogation for information.
"We're to have a new sexton," he said.
"Why, Aaron?" I asked,--and, in my surprise, put sugar, destined for my
coffee, into a glass of water.
"Because Abraham Axtell has resigned."
"This very morning."
"He will be sexton until you find another, will he not?"
"For one week only," he said.
I remembered that my pocket held the church-key. I could not send it to
him without exciting question. Aaron would surely ask how I came by it,
if I trusted him to restore it. So, sleepy, weary, I sat down at the
window from which Sophie and her sister Anna had watched the strange man
digging in the frosty earth,--sat down to my last watching, waiting to
see Mr. Axtell come up to ring the first bell.
I found I was an hour too early; so I went and talked to Chloe a little,
scattered crumbs for the first-come birds and corn for the chickens, and
looked down the deep, deep well, with its curb lichened over, into the
dark pupil of water, whose iris is never disturbed, unless by the bucket
that hung in such gibbety repose on the lofty extreme of the great
sweep, that creaked dismally, uttering a pitiful cry of complaint. If it
hadn't been Sunday, I would have coaxed Aaron to pour some oil on its
turbulence; but since Sunday it was, I was to be content to let it
screech on. It was not a "sheep fallen into a pit," only a disturbed
well-sweep. Do well-sweeps feel, I wonder? Why not? Mr. Axtell asked how
I knew that the dead cannot hear.
Aaron came out in search of me. He had been assiduously trying to make a
ministerial disposition of his cravat, until it was creased and wrinkled
"I did not know that you put on the paraphernalia of pastorhood so
early," I said, "or I would have come in."
"I shall be very thankful, if you'll give me a respectable appearance,"
he said, which I faithfully tried to do.
I gave him the sermon and the proper handkerchief, then left him to his
hour of seclusion before service, when even Sophie never went nigh.
Half-past nine of the clock came. It was the time for the ringing of the
first bell. No sexton appeared. I looked far down the street, having
walked to the corner of the church for the purpose. Perhaps Mr. Axtell
was searching for the key. What if I should ring the bell? I had wished
to, still earlier in the morning. No one would see me go in.
The third time I entered within the church. The bell-rope swayed to and
fro with a mimic oscillation; a sort of admonitory premonition of what
it must shortly do ran up its fibres. I had left the entrance into the
place devoted to worship open. I closed it now. There was nothing very
alarming in standing there. The floor was oaken and old; the walls were
gray, and seamed with crevices; there were steps, at either extreme,
leading into galleries,--one for the choir, two for happy children
excluded by numbers from the straight family-pews, right under Aaron's
gray eyes, that saw everything, except the few items that Sophie must
watch for him, such as neckties, handkerchiefs, and sermons.
There was a smooth place on the rope. The roughness had been worn away
by contact of human hands. Abraham Axtell's hands--the same that covered
his face before the young girl's picture, that digged the grave, and so
gently soothed his sister that very morning--had worn it smooth. It was
out of my reach, too high up for me to attain unto; and so I held it
tightly lower down. The ungrateful rope was very prickly; it hurt me,
but I held fast, and slowly, surely drew it down. Too slowly; there was
not sound enough to frighten a bird out of the belfry, had one been
there to listen; but Aaron, on his knees within his study, praying for
the gift of healing, that he might restore sick souls, would hear. Once
more I drew the rope, with a tiny persistence that was childish,
amusing. A baby-tone came to me from the bell, accustomed to other
things. I had gained courage from the two attempts; it grew rapidly; and
soon, out into the people's homes, the sounding strokes were ringing,
clear, sonorous, and true. I had never noticed how long a time the
"first bell" rang. It was the last Sunday morning's service of the
sexton. He might be expected to linger a little in the net-work of
memory; and thus, anxious to do my duty well, I rang on.
The neighbor's boy opened the door and put his head inside; and then he
opened his eyes wondrously wide at me, and, frightened, ran away. I left
my bell to tone itself to silence, with little sighing notes, like a
child sobbing itself into sleep, and called after him. The rough boy
came to me. I asked "if he would do me a favor." He said, "of course he
"I wish you to build the church-fires; and don't tell any one that you
saw me ringing the bell."
"If you tell me not to, I sha'n't," was his laconic reply.
I went home, my latest duty done. I saw, far down the willow-arched
street, Mr. Axtell coming.
With closed blinds, and room of silence, I ought to have found rest; but
I did not. I heard Aaron go out. I trusted that he had got the proper
sermon. I heard the second bell ring. It was so near, how could I help
it? I heard the congregation singing. Triumphant joy was the impression
that the song brought to my darkened room. I thought of the letter that
was in my pocket. It did not please me to feel that it was out of my
keeping. I took it thence, and held it in my hands. It had no envelope.
It was written upon soft, white paper, and was addressed to some one: to
whom I would not see. Not if my happiness depended upon it, would I
sacrifice the trust reposed in me. Holding the letter thus, a face came
to memory. It was the third face of the three that had been painted in
anthracite. I could not tell where I had known it in life. It did not
seem as if it belonged to mortal time. I got up, opened the blinds for a
moment, and looked in the glass. I saw myself,--and yet,--yes, there was
a similitude to that I saw in memory; and then that strange, sad seeming
of soul-sense, that says, "Such as you are, you have been _somewhere_
for ages," overwhelmed and sent shakings of solemn ague to me.
"I'm getting ill," I thought; "I'll have no more of this."
I looked at a bottle of chloroform standing conveniently near, took it
up, and drew out the stopper. Lifting it to the light, I looked at it.
Quiet and calm and peaceful it reposed, unconscious of ill done or to be
done by itself. It was so innocent that I could not let it sin by
hurting me. I gazed again at my reflection in the glass, and a sudden
intuition taught me a startling truth.
It may have been, nay, must have been, the innocence born of the lucent
chloroform, reflected in my own face; but I was certain that the mirror
and the Axtell house contained two pictures that were the one like the
other. I smiled at the fancy. The illusion, if illusion it was, fled.
The picture on the wall never smiled from out the canvas. I took dark
winding-cloths and bound them about my head, covering the hair and
forehead, all the while watching the effect produced in the mirror. The
result was somewhat striking, it is true, but not of the agreeable
style. I unbound my frontlet, taking off the black phylactery, whose
memorable sentence, written in white letters, had been visible to myself
alone. A contrast suggested itself to me. I would try white; and so I
materialized the suggestion, and stood looking the least bit in the
world like a nun, bound about with my white vestments, and had obtained
only one very unsatisfactory glimpse of the effect produced upon the
sensitive heart of quicksilver, when I found that that subtile heart
responded to influences other than mine. What I discovered was another
face, not in the most remote degree like mine,--as different as it could
possibly be,--a face belonging to the carboniferous strata of the human
ages. Had it been imitating me? Its race are eminent for imitative
genius. A queer sort of a nun it was, wearing neither black nor white,
but high tropical hues. Repose of being did not belong to this face. It
darted around, and looked into my eyes.
"Goodness o' mercy Miss Anna, what ails thee's little head? is it quite
turned with being up o' nights? Lie down, little honey! let old Chloe
bathe it for thee." And Chloe hummed around the room like a bee; she
folded up the petals of light that I had unbudded when I wanted to see
what manner of face I had. Strange fancy it is that the extra fairy
gives to mortals, this breaking up of roses and dolls and joys, to find
what is in them!
I was pleased to have Chloe come in, to take charge of me. I had gone a
little way beyond my own proper realm, and it was grateful to feel my
centrifugal tendencies overcome by this sable centripetency of force,
that took off my strange habitings,--only the paraphernalia of headache
to her. Pillowing the head supposed to be tormented with pain, Chloe
went about to remedy the evil by drowning it in lavender-water. I let
her think what she pleased, and bravely lifted up the mount of my head,
like Ararat of old unto the great deluge; but she would not let me talk
as I pleased. Chloe was half a century old, with a warm, affectionate,
red heart under her black seeming; and it pulsated around me now, as I
lay there, under her care, in absolute quiet, hushed to content by her
humming ways and words.
The second hymn of the church-service was sending its voice of worship
up unto the Lord of all the earth, and Chloe and I, two of the children
of that Lord, upon His earth, were awed by it. "The neighbor's boy must
have left a window open," I thought. The fruitage of song blossomed on,
the petalled notes withered and fell, and Chloe garnered in her harvest
from the field, with a quaintly expressed regret that she "wasn't in the
meadows of the land of Canaan, where taller songs were growing."
"Never mind, Chloe," I said; "the hymns of earth are very sweet; you can
wait a little longer, can't you?"
"Don't you talk, child; you'll make your head ache again. Yes, old Chloe
is willing to wait; there's honey and sugar left on the ground for her
to find, only she's old now, she can't _stoop to pick it up_ as well as
she could once."
"What do you mean, Chloe?"
"Didn't I tell ye you mustn't talk, Miss Anna? Don't be trying to
trouble yourself with old Chloe's meanings: they haven't any
understanding in them for other people to find out."
"Why not, Chloe?"
"Thee's talking again, Miss Anna. It's the Lord's thoughts that are
given to black Chloe, and she hasn't anything to dress them up in but
her own, poor, old, ragged words, that a'n't fit to use any way; so
Chloe'll wait until she gets something better to make 'em 'pear to
belong to the Lord that owns 'em"; and Chloe still soothingly bathed my
head, which I think was aching all the while, only I should not have
found it out, if she had not told me it.
"I want to ask you a question, Chloe."
"Well, just one, honey!"
"Am I much like--do I look as my mother used to?"
"Blessed child! no, no more 'n I do; only ye've both got white faces
from the good Lord, and He didn't please to give Chloe anything better
than a black one."
"What did she look like?"
"Thee's not to talk one word more. Chloe must go and look after Master
Aaron's dinner; he doesn't like husks to feed on. Mistress Percival was
like an angel, when the Lord took her from the earth. I'm afraid old
Chloe wouldn't know her now, she's been so long with Seraphim and
Cherubim in the Great City with the light of the Celestial Sun shining
in her face. I'm afraid Chloe wouldn't dare to speak to her, if she was
to meet her in the shining street of the New Jerusalem."
"She would know you, though, Chloe."
"There isn't any night there, Miss Anna; she couldn't see me; I'm black
and wicked"; and Chloe dropped something upon my hand. It was a tear
from her great eyes.
"Your soul will be white, Chloe. Christ will make it so."
"Well, well, honey, don't you trouble yourself 'bout my soul. The Lord
made it, and I guess He'll take care of it, when it gets free from the
earth"; and Chloe went down to look after a fragment of the very earth
she was anxious to escape from.
I heard this child of "Afric's golden sands" singing a song to soothe
her soul among the dinner-deeds that she was enacting. Then I thought me
of the earth lying in the hollow of God's hand, and in some way I wished
that I might get in-between the earth and the Holding Hand, and a wisp
of the sweet hymn, "Nearer to Thee, my God," floated out from my heart's
voice, almost with music in it. And the wishing words melted into an air
of prayer. I felt the mighty Hand around me. I put myself fearlessly
into the loving depths thereof, engraved with lines of life, and slept
securely there. Did the divine fingers draw me a little more closely,
and press the lines engraven on the Hand into my soul, and leave an
impression of dreams there? I felt myself going swiftly on and up
through a skyey gradient, and the soft, balmy air, displaced by my
passing through, fell back into its own place with pearly music. I
wanted to open my eyes and see where I was going; but I could not. I was
passive in action, active in thought only. Then, the music growing
fainter and fainter as the atmosphere became more celestially rarefied,
I felt the supporting Hand going away from me. One after another the
fingers loosened their hold, and yet I did not feel that I was falling.
It was gone, and I floated on. With its absence came the wish for
action. My eyes were unloosed, and I looked up. Far above me I saw the
Hand that had brought me up hither. It had gone on before, and was
waiting my coming. I made an effort to reach it.
A voice came; and clouds, rosy, ambient, such as angels hang around the
pavilion of the sun, were unfolding their glory-woven webs and weaving
me in. "It is good to be here," I whispered to my spirit's inmost sense
of hearing; and the voice that I heard spake these words unto me:--
"You have been brought up hither to learn your mission upon the earth to
which you go."
Old, prophetic, syllabic sounds, lisped in the place whence I had come,
were given unto me, and I answered,--
"Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth!"
Then a rushing wind of sound filled my ears, and I saw the flashing of a
wing of angel in among the cumulosity of clouds, and it made an opening
into an ethereous region beyond. An oval, azurous picture was before me,
set in this rolling, surging frame of ambient gold and silver glory.
"It is not for me to see in there," I thought; and I shut my eyes.
The voice that I had heard before spake once more:--
"Learn what thy God would have thee to do. Look up!"
Obeying the mighty behest, I beheld, and an ovaline picture, painted in
the artistry of heaven, let down from the crystalline walls, that I
might not see, and held fast by a cord of gold, safe in an angel's
keeping, God had sent for me to look upon.
It was not such as masters of earth toil to paint. It was a living group
that I saw.
Four figures stood there.
The first one was the face that I had just asked Chloe the semblance of.
Loving past expression's power. The love emitted from those eyes brought
tears into mine, and I heard one of them go dropping down, down into the
cloudy deep below, as one day I had heard one falling elsewhere, on a
Two hands were wafted out towards me, and the lips were just parted, as
if waiting for coming words. I looked and listened, a little blinded by
the glory and my tears.
"Go forth, dear child, to the work thy God appoints for thee to do!"
I looked up a little higher, just over the face of my mother, and, in
holiest benediction, the Hand that had brought me up hither was laid
upon her head. One stood beside her, leaning upon her shoulder. I
recognized the face of the mysterious young girl.
"Will you do something for me on the earth, whence I have been called?"
The mighty voice that rang amid the clouds bade me "Answer." And
tremulously, as if my poor earth-words had no place in the exceeding
brightness, I gave an "I will."
"Comfort you the one afflicted. Tell him to look no longer into my
grave. Let him not wander beside the marble foam that surges up from the
Sea of Death, for that the Lord hath prepared another way for his
footsteps. Lead him a little while on the earth, and then"----
I know not what more she would have spoken, for the Hand closed her
lips. I sought my mother's face. It was gone. Another came forward. I
felt involuntarily for the cold Hand that one night wandered under the
sod in search of the face that now I saw in this picture let down from
"I have a message for you," were the words I heard. "Tell her that I
know what she would tell me: I have been made to know it here, where all
things are clear: tell her that my forgiveness is as large as the heaven
to which I have been permitted to enter in. Give her of the love that I
did not when I might have done it."
The Hand was offered to her. Pleadingly, she looked up at it. For a
moment my eyelids were heavy. When the weight was lifted, only one
figure remained upon the celestial canvas. I could not see the
countenance thereof: hands were clasped tightly over it.
"One more message the Lord permits for earth," said a touching,
trembling, praying voice. "Say unto one sinning, that I have prayed unto
the Christ that died for him,--that his mother is always praying for her
son. Find out his sin, and solace his soul with the knowledge of my
The angel-wing that had cleaved the sky to let this picture in lifted
her upon its pinions, and bore her through the azure, and I saw the
great Hand open, as of one casting out many seeds upon the earth. Again
an angel-wing swept its way among the clouds, and folds of opaline glow
pavilioned the entrance into cerulean heights, and a solemn voice
uttered these words out of the great All-Where around me:--
"I am the Lord thy God. I will show thee the way wherein I would have
thee to walk. Rest thy soul in my love, and it shall satisfy thee."
With heart and soul and voice, my all of being cried out.--
"Only let Thy hand hold me!"
I awoke with one of those awful heart-exciting starts that come in
sleep, such as a new planet might give when first projected into its
orbit, before centrifugal and centripetal forces have time to exert
their influences. I wonder what it is. Can it be a misstep, in the
darkness, into the abyss between the land of waking and the land where
there are nor years nor months nor days, where the soul abides in
Lethe,--save when some wing troubles the waters for a little while?
I was wearied, with the weariness of one having come from long
journeying. I closed my eyes again, and tried to sleep. Chloe looked in
"Have you had a nice sleep, Miss Anna?" she asked, as I moved at her
"I fear not, Chloe," I said; "my head doesn't behave nicely since I
awoke. Bring me the bottle of chloroform: it's just there, upon the
Chloe went hurrying, bustling out of the room, and brought me the
chloroform from some other part of the house.
"Where did you bring this from?" I asked; "do you use chloroform?"
"I've a horror of all pisons," said Chloe; "I didn't like to leave this
near you; pisons is very bad for young people."
Smiling at Chloe's prudent fears for me, I inhaled a little of the
friend, dangerous, and to be trusted only a little way, like the most of
friends, and gave it back to Chloe. The honest woman restored it to her
pocket in the presence of my two eyes. I had had enough of it, and I let
her carry it away,--a victory she enjoyed, I knew, and it cost me
nothing, save a smile at her idle fears for me. I did not know then that
Chloe had, in her semi-century of life, found a reason for her dread of
poisons, among which she evidently promoted chloroform to a high power
in the field of active service.
I arose with a _new_ feeling in my existence. I felt that I had been led
into a strange avenue of life, constellated with the Southern Cross,
which I had never yet seen. It was daylight now. I must await the coming
of the hours when God maketh the darkness to curtain round the earth,
that He may come down and walk in "the groves and grounds that His own
feet have hallowed," that He may look near at what the children of men
will to do. I must await this hour, when heaven will be thick with
legions of starry eyes, that look down through the empyrean at their God
walking among men.
Is it wonderful that they tremble so, when He who saith, "Vengeance is
mine, I will repay," seeth so much to awaken the eye that "never
slumbereth nor sleepeth" to retribution? If angels tremble so, safe in
heavenly heights, how ought poor sinful man to fear for himself, lest
that vengeance overtake him, ere he have time to cry, "Have mercy!"
I took up the Holy Bible, and opened it, as I often had done before,
with the belief at work within my heart, that whatsoever words my eyes
first fell upon would be prophetic to me. I opened and read, "I must
work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh,
when no man can work."
And I, kneeling, prayed, "Show me, my God, what Thou wilt have me to do,
or to be! Work Thou within me! Let the one little atom of Thyself that
Thou hast given into my keeping be so holily guarded, so sacredly kept,
that, at the fast, it may come back a fibre of Thine own Self, and be
received into the Great Existence that liveth forever and ever!"
I arose and walked forth into this newness of life, enveloped with a
halo of the Divine effluence, in which I hoped forever to dwell,--or if
forever had any meaning to me, it was in an existent now.
I passed through Aaron's study, and an awe of reverence led me to pause
before the table where he had worked for so many days, worked to make
God's salvation seem harmonious with man's free-will; and, in loving all
suffering human kind, newness of love for Aaron and for his cool-browed
wife came to me: not that I had not loved them long, but there come
neap-tides into the oceans of emotion, and work solemnly, awfully, until
great frothings from the storm lie all a-tremble on the coasts of the
land whither our course tends in the daily, hourly round of life.
I'm very glad Aaron didn't come in just then. It is good to be with God
alone, in deep emotions. It never was meant by the Good Spirit for man
to behold what is in his brother-man. I think we'd all fly--as far apart
as the Universe would give us leave. Just let the effervescence of one
life o'erlip the cup and fall into another, and the draught would be a
drink of electricity. Who would care to taste it? Not Aaron, I'm sure.
And so I shook out this crispy lace of emotion that was rather choking
in my throat, and went down to where Chloe watched the elements whence
all this chemistry had been evolved.
"I thought ye'd be coming after somewhat to eat," Chloe said; "but I
knew, if I asked you, you'd sure say,' No, honey'"; and she went about
to "do me good," in her own way.
I heard the afternoon's latest hymn sung in the church whilst I waited.
I saw the great congregation come out, and, with divided ways, go each
homeward. Sophie had not returned. I wanted to hear from Miss Axtell.
Last of all walked Aaron. With bent head and slow musingness of step, he
came to his home. I met him at the entrance.
"Are you tired with preaching, Aaron?" I asked.
He looked up, at my unusual accost; and I think there must have been
somewhat unwonted about me, he looked at me so long.
"No," he said, "I've had a pleasant field to-day: there are violets,
even in my pathways, Anna."
"Sophie's a pansy," I said.
"Sophie's a Sharon rose," spake Aaron.
He looked inquiringly at me, and added,--
"And you, Anna?"
"An aloe, Aaron."
He smiled the least in the world, and said,--
"Had I been asked, instead of being the asker, I should have made
answer, 'She's a Japan rose.'"
"Oh, Aaron, no fragrance! that's not complimentary."
"Crush the leaves of heliotrope in the cup, Anna."
I did not understand what he meant, then; perhaps I do not now: some
figure of speech from the Orient, I fancy, with a glow of meaning about
it visible only to poetic vision. I lost my way, blinded in seeking to
penetrate the mystery, and was brought back to Redleaf by two welcome
events: the cup Chloe brought, and the letter Aaron gave, with a
beseeching of pardon for having forgotten to give it in the morning.
I read my letter, interluding it with little commas of sipping at the
cup. It was from my father, very brief, but somewhat stirring. Here it
lies before me now.
"I want you at home. I am well; but that is no reason why I should
not need your greenness on my walls. Come home, dear child, on the
morrow. Do not fail me. You never have; 't would be cruel now, when
spring is coming, the very time of hope. Waitingly,
"What puts you in such a turmoil, Anna?" Aaron asked. "What has happened
I thought he had been duly attending to the state of his own inward
hopes and fears, instead of mine. Slightly disconcerted by his gray
eyes, the very same that disturb turbulent boys in church-time, I turned
away from them, went to the door, and leaning against the side thereof,
looking the while up at the sky, I answered,--
"I'm going home on the morrow, Aaron."
"Going home?" he repeated, as if the words had borne an uncertain
import. "Pray tell me, what has occurred?"
"It pleases my father to have me there. He gives no reason."
"What will Sophie say? She's hardly seen you since you came, you've been
so usefully employed. I hope you have not hurt yourself. I wish you were
going back with brighter color in your cheeks."
"There is something in Nature besides mere coloring," I said, and looked
for the answer.
It was better than I thought to get.
"What?" he asked.
"Two things, Aaron,--conception and form."
Aaron mused awhile.
"What gave you the idea?" he asked, his musing over.
"Sermons in granite," I answered; and I looked at the sunshine, the
afternoon radiance that fell soothingly into the winter-wearied grass
lying in the graveyard, waiting like souls for the warmth of love to
"Sandstone and limestone you mean, Anna."
"Oh, no,--granite. I mean the Axtells."
"I'm glad you've found anything comprehensible enough to call a sermon
in them," he answered. "Ill, dying, and in affliction, they are
impenetrable to me." And Aaron turned away and went in.
MY DEAR EDITOR,--
You can hardly have expected to hear from me again, (unless by
invitation to the field of honor,) after those cruel and terrible
notes upon my harmless article in the July Number. How could you find
it in your heart (a soft one, as I have hitherto supposed) to treat
an old friend and liege contributor in that unheard-of way? Not that
I should care a fig for any amount of vituperation, if you had only
let my article come before the public as I wrote it, instead of
suppressing precisely the passages--with which I had taken most
pains, and which I flattered myself were most cleverly done. The
interview with the President, for example: it would have been a
treasure to the future historian; and I hold you responsible to
posterity for thrusting it into the fire. However, I cannot lose so
good an opportunity of showing the world the placability and
sweetness that adorn my character, and therefore send you another
article, in which, I trust, you will find nothing to strike
out,--unless, peradventure, you think that I may disturb the
tranquillity of nations by my plan of annexing Great Britain, or my
attempted adumbration of a fat English dowager!
A PEACEABLE MAN.
In the course of several visits and stays of considerable length we
acquired a homelike feeling towards Leamington, and came back thither
again and again, chiefly because we had been there before. Wandering and
wayside people, such as we had long since become, retain a few of the
instincts that belong to a more settled way of life, and often prefer
familiar and commonplace objects (for the very reason that they are so)
to the dreary strangeness of scenes that might be thought much better
worth the seeing. There is a small nest of a place in Leamington--at No.
16, Lansdowne Circus--upon which, to this day, my reminiscences are apt
to settle as one of the coziest nooks in England, or in the world; not
that it had any special charm of its own, but only that we stayed long
enough to know it well, and even to grow a little tired of it. In my
opinion, the very tediousness of home and friends makes a part of what
we love them for; if it be not mixed in sufficiently with the other
elements of life, there may be mad enjoyment, but no happiness.
The modest abode to which I have alluded forms one of a circular range
of pretty, moderate-sized, two-story houses, all built on nearly the
same plan, and each provided with its little grass-plot, its flowers,
its tufts of box trimmed into globes and other fantastic shapes, and its
verdant hedges shutting the house in from the common drive and dividing
it from its equally cozy neighbors. Coming out of the door, and taking a
turn round the circle of sister-dwellings, it is difficult to find your
way back by any distinguishing individuality of your own habitation. In
the centre of the Circus is a space fenced in with iron railing, a small
play-place and sylvan retreat for the children of the precinct,
permeated by brief paths through the fresh English grass, and shadowed
by various shrubbery; amid which, if you like, you may fancy yourself in
a deep seclusion, though probably the mark of eye-shot from the windows
of all the surrounding houses. But, in truth, with regard to the rest of
the town and the world at large, an abode here is a genuine seclusion;
for the ordinary stream of life does not run through this little, quiet
pool, and few or none of the inhabitants seem to be troubled with any
business or outside activities. I used to set them down as half-pay
officers, dowagers of narrow income, elderly maiden ladies, and other
people of respectability, but small account, such as hang on the world's
skirts rather than actually belong to it. The quiet of the place was
seldom disturbed, except by the grocer and butcher, who came to receive
orders, or the cabs, hackney-coaches, and Bath-chairs, in which the
ladies took an infrequent airing, or the livery-steed which the retired
captain sometimes bestrode for a morning ride, or by the red-coated
postman who went his rounds twice a day to deliver letters, and again in
the evening, ringing a hand-bell, to take letters for the mail. In
merely mentioning these slight interruptions of its sluggish stillness,
I seem to myself to disturb too much the atmosphere of quiet that
brooded over the spot; whereas its impression upon me was, that the
world had never found the way hither, or had forgotten it, and that the
fortunate inhabitants were the only ones who possessed the spell-word of
admittance. Nothing could have suited me better, at the time; for I had
been holding a position of public servitude, which imposed upon me
(among a great many lighter duties) the ponderous necessity of being
universally civil and sociable.
Nevertheless, if a man were seeking the bustle of society, he might find
it more readily in Leamington than in most other English towns. It is a
permanent watering-place, a sort of institution to which I do not know
any close parallel in American life: for such places as Saratoga bloom
only for the summer season, and offer a thousand dissimilitudes even
then; while Leamington seems to be always in flower, and serves as a
home to the homeless all the year round. Its original nucleus, the
plausible excuse for the town's coming into prosperous existence, lies
in the fiction of a chalybeate well, which, indeed, is so far a reality
that out of its magical depths have gushed streets, groves, gardens,
mansions, shops, and churches, and spread themselves along the banks of
the little river Leam. This miracle accomplished, the beneficent
fountain has retired beneath a pump-room, and appears to have given up
all pretensions to the remedial virtues formerly attributed to it. I
know not whether its waters are ever tasted nowadays; but not the less
does Leamington--in pleasant Warwickshire, at the very midmost point of
England, in a good hunting neighborhood, and surrounded by country-seats
and castles--continue to be a resort of transient visitors, and the more
permanent abode of a class of genteel, unoccupied, well-to-do, but not
very wealthy people, such as are hardly known among ourselves. Persons
who have no country-houses, and whose fortunes are inadequate to a
London expenditure, find here, I suppose, a sort of town and country
life in one.
In its present aspect, the town is of no great age. In contrast with the
antiquity of many places in its neighborhood, it has a bright, new face,
and seems almost to smile even amid the sombreness of an English autumn.
Nevertheless, it is hundreds upon hundreds of years old, if we reckon up
that sleepy lapse of time during which it existed as a small village of
thatched houses, clustered round a priory; and it would still have been
precisely such a rural village, but for a certain Doctor Jephson, who
lived within the memory of man, and who found out the magic well, and
foresaw what fairy wealth might be made to flow from it. A public garden
has been laid out along the margin of the Leam, and called the Jephson
Garden, in honor of him who created the prosperity of his native spot. A
little way within the garden-gate there is a circular temple of Grecian
architecture, beneath the dome of which stands a marble statue of the
good Doctor, very well executed, and representing him with a face of
fussy activity and benevolence: just the kind of man, if luck favored
him, to build up the fortunes of those about him, or, quite as probably,
to blight his whole neighborhood by some disastrous speculation.
The Jephson Garden is very beautiful, like most other English
pleasure-grounds; for, aided by their moist climate and not too fervid
sun, the landscape-gardeners excel in converting flat or tame surfaces
into attractive scenery, chiefly through the skilful arrangement of
trees and shrubbery. An Englishman aims at this effect even in the
little patches under the windows of a suburban villa, and achieves it on
a larger scale in a tract of many acres. The Garden is shadowed with
trees of a fine growth, standing alone, or in dusky groves and dense
entanglements, pervaded by woodland paths; and emerging from these
pleasant glooms, we come upon a breadth of sunshine, where the green
sward--so vividly green that it has a kind of lustre in it--is spotted
with beds of gemlike flowers. Rustic chairs and benches are scattered
about, some of them ponderously fashioned out of the stumps of
obtruncated trees, and others more artfully made with intertwining
branches, or perhaps an imitation of such frail handiwork in iron. In a
central part of the Garden is an archery-ground, where laughing maidens
practise at the butts, generally missing their ostensible mark, but, by
the mere grace of their action, sending an unseen shaft into some young
man's heart. There is space, moreover, within these precincts, for an
artificial lake, with a little green island in the midst of it; both
lake and island being the haunt of swans, whose aspect and movement in
the water are most beautiful and stately,--most infirm, disjointed, and
decrepit, when, unadvisedly, they see fit to emerge, and try to walk
upon dry land. In the latter case, they look like a breed of uncommonly
ill-contrived geese; and I record the matter here for the sake of the
moral,--that we should never pass judgment on the merits of any person
or thing, unless we behold it in the sphere and circumstances to which
it is specially adapted. In still another part of the Garden there is a
labyrinthine maze, formed of an intricacy of hedge-bordered walks,
involving himself in which, a man might wander for hours inextricably
within a circuit of only a few yards,--a sad emblem, it seemed to me, of
the mental and moral perplexities in which we sometimes go astray, petty
in scope, yet large enough to entangle a lifetime, and bewilder us with
a weary movement, but no genuine progress.
The Leam, after drowsing across the principal street of the town beneath
a handsome bridge, skirts along the margin of the Garden without any
perceptible flow. Heretofore I had fancied the Concord the laziest river
in the world, but now assign that amiable distinction to the little
English stream. Its water is by no means transparent, but has a
greenish, goose-puddly hue, which, however, accords well with the other
coloring and characteristics of the scene, and is disagreeable neither
to sight nor smell. Certainly, this river is a perfect feature of that
gentle picturesqueness in which England is so rich, sleeping, as it
does, beneath a margin of willows that droop into its bosom, and other
trees, of deeper verdure than our own country can boast, inclining
lovingly over it. On the Garden-side it is bordered by a shadowy,
secluded grove, with winding paths among its boskiness, affording many a
peep at the river's imperceptible lapse and tranquil gleam; and on the
opposite shore stands the priory-church, with its church-yard full of
shrubbery and tombstones.
The business-portion of the town clusters about the banks of the Leam,
and is naturally densest around the well to which the modern settlement
owes its existence. Here are the commercial inns, the post-office, the
furniture-dealers, the ironmongers, and all the heavy and homely
establishments that connect themselves even with the airiest modes of
human life; while upward from the river, by a long and gentle ascent,
rises the principal street, which is very bright and cheerful in its
physiognomy, and adorned with shop-fronts almost as splendid as those of
London, though on a diminutive scale. There are likewise side-streets
and cross-streets, many of which are bordered with the beautiful
Warwickshire elm, a most unusual kind of adornment for an English town;
and spacious avenues, wide enough to afford room for stately groves,
with foot-paths running beneath the lofty shade, and rooks cawing and
chattering so high In the tree-tops that their voices get musical before
reaching the earth. The houses are mostly built in blocks and ranges, in
which every separate tenement is a repetition of its fellow, though the
architecture of the different ranges is sufficiently various. Some of
them are almost palatial in size and sumptuousness of arrangement. Then,
on the outskirts of the town, there are detached villas, inclosed within
that separate domain of high stone fence and embowered shrubbery which
an Englishman so loves to build and plant around his abode, presenting
to the public only an iron gate, with a gravelled carriage-drive winding
away towards the half-hidden mansion. Whether in street or suburb,
Leamington may fairly be called beautiful, and, at some points,
magnificent; but by-and-by you become doubtfully suspicious of a
somewhat unreal finery: it is pretentious, though not glaringly so; it
has been built, with malice aforethought, as a place of gentility and
enjoyment. Moreover, splendid as the houses look, and comfortable as
they often are, there is a nameless something about them, betokening
that they have not grown out of human hearts, but are the creations of a
skilfully applied human intellect: no man has reared any one of them,
whether stately or humble, to be his life-long residence, wherein to
bring up his children, who are to inherit it as a home. They are nicely
contrived lodging-houses, one and all,--the best as well as the
shabbiest of them,--and therefore inevitably lack some nameless property
that a home should have. This was the case with our own little snuggery
in Lansdowne Circus, as with all the rest: it had not grown out of
anybody's individual need, but was built to let or sell, and was
therefore like a ready-made garment,--a tolerable fit, but only
All these blocks, ranges, and detached villas are adorned with the
finest and most aristocratic names that I have found anywhere in
England, except, perhaps, in Bath, which is the great metropolis of that
second-class gentility with which watering-places are chiefly populated.
Lansdowne Crescent, Lansdowne Circus, Lansdowne Terrace, Regent Street,
Warwick Street, Clarendon Street, the Upper and Lower Parade: such are a
few of the designations. Parade, indeed, is a well-chosen name for the
principal street, along which the population of the idle town draws
itself out for daily review and display. I only wish that my descriptive
powers would enable me to throw off a picture of the scene at a sunny
noontide, individualizing each character with a touch: the great people
alighting from their carriages at the principal shop-doors; the elderly
ladies and infirm Indian officers drawn along in Bath-chairs; the
comely, rather than pretty, English girls, with their deep, healthy
bloom, which an American taste is apt to deem fitter for a milkmaid than
for a lady; the moustached gentlemen with frogged surtouts and a
military air; the nursemaids and chubby children, but no chubbier than
our own, and scampering on slenderer legs; the sturdy figure of John
Bull in all varieties and of all ages, but ever with the stamp of
authenticity somewhere about him.
To say the truth, I have been holding the pen over my paper, purposing
to write a descriptive paragraph or two about the throng on the
principal Parade of Leamington, so arranging it as to present a sketch
of the British out-of-door aspect on a morning walk of gentility; but I
find no personages quite sufficiently distinct and individual in my
memory to supply the materials of such a panorama. Oddly enough, the
only figure that comes fairly forth to my mind's eye is that of a
dowager, one of hundreds whom I used to marvel at, all over England, but
who have scarcely a representative among our own ladies of autumnal
life, so thin, careworn, and frail, as age usually makes the latter. I
have heard a good deal of the tenacity with which English ladies retain
their personal beauty to a late period of life; but (not to suggest that
an American eye needs use and cultivation before it can quite appreciate
the charm of English beauty at any age) it strikes me that an English
lady of fifty is apt to become a creature less refined and delicate, so
far as her physique goes, than anything that we Western people class
under the name of woman. She has an awful ponderosity of frame, not
pulpy, like the looser development of our few fat women, but massive
with solid beef and streaky tallow; so that (though struggling manfully
against the idea) you inevitably think of her as made up of steaks and
sirloins. When she walks, her advance is elephantine. When she sits
down, it is on a great round space of her Maker's footstool, where she
looks as if nothing could ever move her. She imposes awe and respect by
the muchness of her personality, to such a degree that you probably
credit her with far greater moral and intellectual force than she can
fairly claim. Her visage is usually grim and stern, not always
positively forbidding, yet calmly terrible, not merely by its breadth
and weight of feature, but because it seems to express so much
well-founded self-reliance, such acquaintance with the world, its toils,
troubles, and dangers, and such sturdy capacity for trampling down a
foe. Without anything positively salient, or actively offensive, or,
indeed, unjustly formidable to her neighbors, she has the effect of a
seventy-four gun-ship in time of peace; for, while you assure yourself
that there is no real danger, you cannot help thinking how tremendous
would be her onset, if pugnaciously inclined, and how futile the effort
to inflict any counter-injury. She certainly looks tenfold--nay, a
hundredfold--better able to take care of herself than our slender-framed
and haggard womankind; but I have not found reason to suppose that the
English dowager of fifty has actually greater courage, fortitude, and
strength of character than our women of similar age, or even a tougher
physical endurance than they. Morally, she is strong, I suspect, only in
society, and in the common routine of social affairs, and would be found
powerless and timid in any exceptional strait that might call for energy
outside of the conventionalities amid which she has grown up.
You can meet this figure in the street, and live, and even smile at the
recollection. But conceive of her in a ball-room, with the bare, brawny
arms that she invariably displays there, and all the other corresponding
development, such as is beautiful in the maiden blossom, but a spectacle
to howl at in such an overblown cabbage-rose as this.
Yet, somewhere in this enormous bulk there must be hidden the modest,
slender, violet-nature of a girl, whom an alien mass of earthliness has
unkindly overgrown; for an English maiden in her teens, though very
seldom so pretty as our own damsels, possesses, to say the truth, a
certain charm of half-blossom, and delicately folded leaves, and tender
womanhood shielded by maidenly reserves, with which, somehow or other,
our American girls often fail to adorn themselves during an appreciable
moment. It is a pity that the English violet should grow into such an
outrageously developed peony as I have attempted to describe. I wonder
whether a middle-aged husband ought to be considered as legally married
to all the accretions that have overgrown the slenderness of his bride,
since he led her to the altar, and which make her so much more than he
ever bargained for! Is it not a sounder view of the case, that the
matrimonial bond cannot be held to include the three-fourths of the wife
that had no existence when the ceremony was performed? And as a matter
of conscience and good morals, ought not an English married pair to
insist upon the celebration of a Silver Wedding at the end of
twenty-five years, in order to legalize and mutually appropriate that
corporeal growth of which both parties have individually come into
possession since they were pronounced one flesh?
The chief enjoyment of my several visits to Leamington lay in rural
walks about the neighborhood, and in jaunts to places of note and
interest, which are particularly abundant in that region. The high-roads
are made pleasant to the traveller by a border of trees, and often
afford him the hospitality of a wayside-bench beneath a comfortable
shade. But a fresher delight is to be found in the foot-paths, which go
wandering away from stile to stile, along hedges, and across broad
fields, and through wooded parks, leading you to little hamlets of
thatched cottages, ancient, solitary farm-houses, picturesque old mills,
streamlets, pools, and all those quiet, secret, unexpected, yet
strangely familiar features of English scenery that Tennyson shows us in
his idyls and eclogues. These by-paths admit the wayfarer into the very
heart of rural life, and yet do not burden him with a sense of
intrusiveness. He has a right to go whithersoever they lead him; for,
with all their shaded privacy, they are as much the property of the
public as the dusty high-road itself, and even by an older tenure. Their
antiquity probably exceeds that of the Roman ways; the footsteps of the
aboriginal Britons first wore away the grass, and the natural flow of
intercourse between village and village has kept the track bare ever
since. An American fanner would plough across any such path, and
obliterate it with his hills of potatoes and Indian corn; but here it is
protected by law, and still more by the sacredness that inevitably
springs up, in this soil, along the well-defined footprints of
centuries. Old associations are sure to be fragrant herbs in English
nostrils: we pull them up as weeds.
I remember such a path, the access to which is from Lovers' Grove, a
range of tall old oaks and elms on a high hill-top, whence there is a
view of Warwick Castle, and a wide extent of landscape, beautiful,
though bedimmed with English mist. This particular foot-path, however,
is not a remarkably good specimen of its kind, since it leads into no
hollows and seclusions, and soon terminates in a high-road. It connects
Leamington by a short cut with the small neighboring village of
Lillington, a place which impresses an American observer with its many
points of contrast to the rural aspects of his own country. The village
consists chiefly of one row of contiguous dwellings, separated only by
party-walls, but ill-matched among themselves, being of different
heights, and apparently of various ages, though all are of an antiquity
which we should call venerable. Some of the windows are leaden-framed
lattices, opening on hinges. These houses are mostly built of gray
stone; but others, in the same range, are of brick, and one or two are
in a very old fashion,--Elizabethan, or still older,--having a ponderous
framework of oak, painted black, and filled in with plastered stone or
bricks. Judging by the patches of repair, the oak seems to be the more
durable part of the structure. Some of the roofs are covered with
earthen tiles; others (more decayed and poverty-stricken) with thatch,
out of which sprouts a luxurious vegetation of grass, house-leeks, and
yellow flowers. What especially strikes an American is the lack of that
insulated space, the intervening gardens, grass-plots, orchards,
broad-spreading shade-trees, which occur between our own village-houses.
These English dwellings have no such separate surroundings; they all
grow together, like the cells of a honey-comb.
Beyond the first row of houses, and hidden from it by a turn of the
road, there was another row (or block, as we should call it) of small,
old cottages, stuck one against another, with their thatched roofs
forming a single contiguity. These, I presume, were the habitations of
the poorest order of rustic laborers; and the narrow precincts of each
cottage, as well as the close neighborhood of the whole, gave the
impression of a stifled, unhealthy atmosphere among the occupants. It
seemed impossible that there should be a cleanly reserve, a proper
self-respect among individuals, or a wholesome unfamiliarity between
families, where human life was crowded and massed into such intimate
communities as these. Nevertheless, not to look beyond the outside, I
never saw a prettier rural scene than was presented by this range of
contiguous huts; for in front of the whole row was a luxuriant and
well-trimmed hawthorn hedge, and belonging to each cottage was a little
square of garden-ground, separated from its neighbors by a line of the
same verdant fence. The gardens were chock-full, not of esculent
vegetables, but of flowers, familiar ones, but very bright-colored, and
shrubs of box, some of which were trimmed into artistic shapes; and I
remember, before one door, a representation of Warwick Castle, made of
oyster-shells. The cottagers evidently loved the little nests in which
they dwelt, and did their best to make them beautiful, and succeeded
more than tolerably well,--so kindly did Nature help their humble
efforts with its verdure, flowers, moss, lichens, and the green things
that grew out of the thatch. Through some of the open door-ways we saw
plump children rolling about on the stone floors, and their mothers, by
no means very pretty, but as happy-looking as mothers generally are; and
while we gazed at these domestic matters, an old woman rushed wildly out
of one of the gates, upholding a shovel, on which she clanged and
clattered with a key. At first we fancied that she intended an onslaught
against ourselves, but soon discovered that a more dangerous enemy was
abroad; for the old lady's bees had swarmed, and the air was full of
them, whizzing by our heads like bullets.
Not far from these two rows of houses and cottages, a green lane,
overshadowed with trees, turned aside from the main road, and tended
towards a square, gray tower, the battlements of which were just high
enough to be visible above the foliage. Wending our way thitherward, we
found the very picture and ideal of a country-church and church-yard.
The tower seemed to be of Norman architecture, low, massive, and crowned
with battlements. The body of the church was of very modest dimensions,
and the eaves so low that I could touch them with my walking-stick. We
looked into the windows, and beheld the dim and quiet interior, a narrow
space, but venerable with the consecration of many centuries, and
keeping its sanctity as entire and inviolate as that of a vast
cathedral. The nave was divided from the side aisles of the church by
pointed arches resting on very sturdy pillars: it was good to see how
solemnly they held themselves to their age-long task of supporting that
lowly roof. There was a small organ, suited in size to the vaulted
hollow, which it weekly filled with religious sound. On the opposite
wall of the church, between two windows, was a mural tablet of white
marble, with an inscription in black letters,--the only such memorial
that I could discern, although many dead people doubtless lay beneath
the floor, and had paved it with their ancient tombstones, as is
customary in old English churches. There were no modern painted windows,
flaring with raw colors, nor other gorgeous adornments, such as the
present taste for medieval restoration often patches upon the decorous
simplicity of the gray village-church. It is probably the
worshipping-place of no more distinguished a congregation than the
farmers and peasantry who inhabit the houses and cottages which I have
just described. Had the lord of the manor been one of the parishioners,
there would have been an eminent pew near the chancel, walled high
about, curtained, and softly cushioned, warmed by a fireplace of its
own, and distinguished by hereditary tablets and escutcheons on the
inclosed stone pillar.
A well-trodden path led across the church-yard, and the gate being on
the latch, we entered, and walked round among the graves and monuments.
The latter were chiefly head-stones, none of which were very old, so far
as was discoverable by the dates; some, indeed, in so ancient a
cemetery, were disagreeably new, with inscriptions glittering like
sunshine, in gold letters. The ground must have been dug over and over
again, innumerable times, until the soil is made up of what was once
human clay, out of which have sprung successive crops of gravestones,
that flourish their allotted time, and disappear, like the weeds and
flowers in their briefer period. The English climate is very unfavorable
to the endurance of memorials in the open air. Twenty years of it
suffice to give as much antiquity of aspect, whether to tombstone or
edifice, as a hundred years of our own drier atmosphere,--so soon do the
drizzly rains and constant moisture corrode the surface of marble or
freestone. Sculptured edges lose their sharpness in a year or two;
yellow lichens overspread a beloved name, and obliterate it while it is
yet fresh upon some survivor's heart. Time gnaws an English gravestone
with wonderful appetite; and when the inscription is quite illegible,
the sexton takes the useless slab away, and perhaps makes a hearthstone
of it, and digs up the unripe bones which it ineffectually tried to
memorialize, and gives the bed to another sleeper. In the Charter-Street
burial-ground at Salem, and in the old graveyard on the hill at Ipswich,
I have seen more ancient gravestones, with legible inscriptions on them,
than in any English church-yard.
And yet this same ungenial climate, hostile as it generally is to the
long remembrance of departed people, has sometimes a lovely way of
dealing with the records on certain monuments that lie horizontally in
the open air. The rain falls into the deep incisions of the letters, and
has scarcely time to be dried away before another shower sprinkles the
flat stone again, and replenishes those little reservoirs. The unseen,
mysterious seeds of mosses find their way into the lettered furrows, and
are made to germinate by the continual moisture and watery sunshine of
the English sky; and by-and-by, in a year, or two years, or many years,
behold the complete inscription--HERE LIETH THE BODY, and all the rest
of the tender falsehood--beautifully embossed in raised letters of
living green, a bas-relief of velvet moss on the marble slab! It becomes
more legible, under the skyey influences, after the world has forgotten
the deceased, than when it was fresh from the stone-cutter's hands. It
outlives the grief of friends. I first saw an example of this in
Bebbington church-yard, in Cheshire, and thought that Nature must needs
have had a special tenderness for the person (no noted man, however, in
the world's history) so long ago laid beneath that stone, since she took
such wonderful pains to "keep his memory green." Perhaps the proverbial
phrase just quoted may have had its origin in the natural phenomenon
While we rested ourselves on a horizontal monument, which was elevated
just high enough to be a convenient seat, I observed that one of the
gravestones lay very close to the church,--so close that the droppings
of the eaves would fall upon it. It seemed as if the inmate of that
grave had desired to creep under the church-wall. On closer inspection,
we found an almost illegible epitaph on the stone, and with difficulty
made out this forlorn verse:--
And poorly died,
And no one cried."
It would be hard to compress the story of a cold and luckless life,
death, and burial into fewer words, or more impressive ones; at least,
we found them impressive, perhaps because we had to re-create the
inscription by scraping away the lichens from the faintly traced
letters. The grave was on the shady and damp side of the church, endwise
towards it, the head-stone being within about three feet of the
foundation-wall; so that, unless the poor man was a dwarf, he must have
been doubled up to fit him into his final resting-place. No wonder that
his epitaph murmured against so poor a burial as this! His name, as well
as I could make it out, was Treeo,--John Treeo, I think,--and he died in
1810, at the age of seventy-four. The gravestone is so overgrown with
grass and weeds, so covered with unsightly lichens, and crumbly with
time and foul weather, that it is questionable whether anybody will ever
be at the trouble of deciphering it again. But there is a quaint and sad
kind of enjoyment in defeating (to such slight degree as my pen may do
it) the probabilities of oblivion for poor John Treeo, and asking a
little sympathy for him, half a century after his death, and making him
better and more widely known, at least, than any other slumberer in
Lillington church-yard: he having been, as appearances go, the outcast
of them all.
You find similar old churches and villages in all the neighboring
country, at the distance of every two or three miles; and I describe
them, not as being rare, but because they are so common and
characteristic. The village of Whitnash, within twenty minutes' walk of
Leamington, looks as secluded, as rural, and as little disturbed by the
fashions of to-day, as if Doctor Jephson had never developed all those
Parades and Crescents out of his magic well. I used to wonder whether
the inhabitants had ever yet heard of railways, or, at their slow rate
of progress, had even reached the epoch of stage-coaches. As you
approach the village, while it is yet unseen, you observe a tall,
overshadowing canopy of elm-tree tops, beneath which you almost hesitate
to follow the public road, on account of the remoteness that seems to
exist between the precincts of this old-world community and the thronged
modern street out of which you have so recently emerged. Venturing
onward, however, you soon find yourself in the heart of Whitnash, and
see an irregular ring of ancient rustic dwellings surrounding the
village-green, on one side of which stands the church, with its square
Norman tower and battlements, while close adjoining is the vicarage,
made picturesque by peaks and gables. At first glimpse, none of the
houses appear to be less than two or three centuries old, and they are
of the ancient, wooden-framed fashion, with thatched roofs, which give
them the air of birds' nests, thereby assimilating them closely to the
simplicity of Nature.
The church-tower is mossy and much gnawed by time; it has narrow
loop-holes up and down its front and sides, and an arched window over
the low portal, set with small panes of glass, cracked, dim, and
irregular, through which a bygone age is peeping out into the daylight.
Some of those old, grotesque faces, called gargoyles, are seen on the
projections of the architecture. The church-yard is very small, and is
encompassed by a gray stone fence that looks as ancient as the church
itself. In front of the tower, on the village-green, is a yew-tree of
incalculable age, with a vast circumference of trunk, but a very scanty
head of foliage; though its boughs still keep some of the vitality which
perhaps was in its early prime when the Saxon invaders founded Whitnash.
A thousand years is no extraordinary antiquity in the lifetime of a yew.
We were pleasantly startled, however, by discovering an exuberance of
more youthful life than we had thought possible in so old a tree; for
the faces of two children laughed at us out of an opening in the trunk,
which had become hollow with long decay. On one side of the yew stood a
framework of worm-eaten timber, the use and meaning of which puzzled me
exceedingly, till I made it out to be the village-stocks: a public
institution that, in its day, had doubtless hampered many a pair of
shank-bones, now crumbling in the adjacent church-yard. It is not to be
supposed, however, that this old-fashioned mode of punishment is still
in vogue among the good people of Whitnash. The vicar of the parish has
antiquarian propensities, and had probably dragged the stocks out of
some dusty hiding-place, and set them up on their former site as a
I disquiet myself in vain with the effort to hit upon some
characteristic feature, or assemblage of features, that shall convey to
the reader the influence of hoar antiquity lingering into the present
daylight, as I so often felt it in these old English scenes. It is only
an American who can feel it; and even he begins to find himself growing
insensible to its effect, after a long residence in England. But while
you are still new in the old country, it thrills you with strange
emotion to think that this little church of Whitnash, humble as it
seems, stood for ages under the Catholic faith, and has not materially
changed since Wickcliffe's days, and that it looked as gray as now in
Bloody Mary's time, and that Cromwell's troopers broke off the stone
noses of those same gargoyles that are now grinning in your face. So,
too, with the immemorial yew-tree: you see its great roots grasping hold
of the earth like gigantic claws, clinging so sturdily that no effort of
time can wrench them away; and there being life in the old tree, you
feel all the more as if a contemporary witness were telling you of the
things that have been. It has lived among men, and been a familiar
object to them, and seen them brought to be christened and married and
buried in the neighboring church and church-yard, through so many
centuries, that it knows all about our race, so far as fifty generations
of the Whitnash people can supply such knowledge. And, after all, what a
weary life it must have been for the old tree! Tedious beyond
imagination! Such, I think, is the final impression on the mind of an
American visitor, when his delight at finding something permanent begins
to yield to his Western love of change, and he becomes sensible of the
heavy air of a spot where the forefathers and foremothers have grown up
together, intermarried, and died, through a long succession of lives,
without any intermixture of new elements, till family features and
character are all run in the same inevitable mould. Life is there
fossilized in its greenest leaf. The man who died yesterday or ever so
long ago walks the village-street to-day, and chooses the same wife that
he married a hundred years since, and must be buried again to-morrow
under the same kindred dust that has already covered him half a score of
times. The stone threshold of his cottage is worn away with his
hob-nailed footsteps, scuffling over it from the reign of the first
Plantagenet to that of Victoria. Better than this is the lot of our
restless countrymen, whose modern instinct bids them tend always towards
"fresh woods and pastures new." Rather than such monotony of sluggish
ages, loitering on a village-green, toiling in hereditary fields,
listening to the parson's drone lengthened through centuries in the gray
Norman church, let us welcome whatever change may come,--change of
place, social customs, political institutions, modes of
worship,--trusting, that, if all present things shall vanish, they will
but make room for better systems, and for a higher type of man to clothe
his life in them, and to fling them off in turn.
Nevertheless, while an American willingly accepts growth and change as
the law of his own national and private existence, he has a singular
tenderness for the stone-incrusted institutions of the mother-country.
The reason may be (though I should prefer a more generous explanation)
that he recognizes the tendency of these hardened forms to stiffen her
joints and fetter her ankles, in the race and rivalry of improvement. I
hated to see so much as a twig of ivy wrenched away from an old wall in
England. Yet change is at work, even in such a village as Whitnash. At a
subsequent visit, looking more critically at the irregular circle of
dwellings that surround the yew-tree and confront the church, I
perceived that some of the houses must have been built within no long
time, although the thatch, the quaint gables, and the old oaken
framework of the others diffused an air of antiquity over the whole
assemblage. The church itself was undergoing repair and restoration,
which is but another name for change. Masons were making patchwork on
the front of the tower, and were sawing a slab of stone and piling up
bricks to strengthen the side-wall, or enlarge the ancient edifice by an
additional aisle. Moreover, they had dug an immense pit in the
church-yard, long and broad, and fifteen feet deep, two-thirds of which
profundity were discolored by human decay and mixed up with crumbly
bones. What this excavation was intended for I could nowise imagine,
unless it were the very pit in which Longfellow bids the "Dead Past bury
its Dead," and Whitnash, of all places in the world, were going to avail
itself of our poet's suggestion. If so, it must needs be confessed that
many picturesque and delightful things would be thrown into the hole,
and covered out of sight forever.
The article which I am writing has taken its own course, and occupied
itself almost wholly with country churches; whereas I had purposed to
attempt a description of some of the many old towns--Warwick, Coventry,
Kenilworth, Stratford-on-Avon--which lie within an easy scope of
Leamington. And still another church presents itself to my remembrance.
It is that of Hatton, on which I stumbled in the course of a forenoon's
ramble, and paused a little while to look at it for the sake of old
Doctor Parr, who was once its vicar. Hatton, so far as I could discover,
has no public-house, no shop, no contiguity of roofs, (as in most
English villages, however small,) but is merely an ancient neighborhood
of farm-houses, spacious, and standing wide apart, each within its own
precincts, and offering a most comfortable aspect of orchards,
harvest-fields, barns, stacks, and all manner of rural plenty. It seemed
to be a community of old settlers, among whom everything had been going
on prosperously since an epoch beyond the memory of man; and they kept a
certain privacy among themselves, and dwelt on a cross-road at the
entrance of which was a barred gate, hospitably open, but still
impressing me with a sense of scarcely warrantable intrusion. After all,
in some shady nook of those gentle Warwickshire slopes there may have
been a denser and more populous settlement, styled Hatton, which I never
Emerging from the by-road, and entering upon one that crossed it at
right angles and led to Warwick, I espied the church of Doctor Parr.
Like the others which I have described, it had a low stone tower,
square, and battlemented at its summit: for all these little churches
seem to have been built on the same model, and nearly at the same
measurement, and have even a greater family-likeness than the
cathedrals. As I approached, the bell of the tower (a remarkably
deep-toned bell, considering how small it was) flung its voice abroad,
and told me that it was noon. The church stands among its graves, a
little removed from the wayside, quite apart from any collection of
houses, and with no signs of a vicarage; it is a good deal shadowed by
trees, and not wholly destitute of ivy. The body of the edifice,
unfortunately, (and it is an outrage which the English churchwardens are
fond of perpetrating,) has been newly covered with a yellowish plaster
or wash, so as quite to destroy the aspect of antiquity, except upon the
tower, which wears the dark gray hue of many centuries. The
chancel-window is painted with a representation of Christ upon the
Cross, and all the other windows are full of painted or stained glass,
but none of it ancient, nor (if it be fair to judge from without of what
ought to be seen within) possessing any of the tender glory that should
be the inheritance of this branch of Art, revived from mediaeval times.
I stepped over the graves, and peeped in at two or three of the windows,
and saw the snug interior of the church glimmering through the
many-colored panes, like a show of commonplace objects under the
fantastic influence of a dream: for the floor was covered with modern
pews, very like what we may see in a New-England meeting-house, though,
I think, a little more favorable than those would be to the quiet
slumbers of the Hatton farmers and their families. Those who slept under
Doctor Parr's preaching now prolong their nap, I suppose, in the
church-yard round about, and can scarcely have drawn much spiritual
benefit from any truths that he contrived to tell them in their
lifetime. It struck me as a rare example (even where examples are
numerous) of a man utterly misplaced, that this enormous scholar, great
in the classic tongues, and inevitably converting his own simplest
vernacular into a learned language, should have been set up in this
homely pulpit, and ordained to preach salvation to a rustic audience, to
whom it is difficult to imagine how he could ever have spoken one
Almost always, in visiting such scenes as I have been attempting to
describe, I had a singular sense of having been there before. The
ivy-grown English churches (even that of Bebbington, the first that I
beheld) were quite as familiar to me, when fresh from home, as the old
wooden meeting-house in Salem, which used, on wintry Sabbaths, to be the
frozen purgatory of my childhood. This was a bewildering, yet very
delightful emotion, fluttering about me like a faint summer-wind, and
filling my imagination with a thousand half-remembrances, which looked
as vivid as sunshine, at a side-glance, but faded quite away whenever I
attempted to grasp and define them. Of course, the explanation of the
mystery was, that history, poetry, and fiction, books of travel, and the
talk of tourists, had given me pretty accurate preconceptions of the
common objects of English scenery, and these, being long ago vivified by
a youthful fancy, had insensibly taken their places among the images of
things actually seen. Yet the illusion was often so powerful, that I
almost doubted whether such airy remembrances might not be a sort of
innate idea, the print of a recollection in some ancestral mind,
transmitted, with fainter and fainter impress through several descents,
to my own. I felt, indeed, like the stalwart progenitor in person,
returning to the hereditary haunts after more than two hundred years,
and finding the church, the hall, the farm-house, the cottage, hardly
changed during his long absence,--the same shady by-paths and
hedge-lanes, the same veiled sky, and green lustre of the lawns and
fields,--while his own affinities for these things, a little obscured by
disuse, were reviving at every step.
An American is not very apt to love the English people, as a whole, on
whatever length of acquaintance. I fancy that they would value our
regard, and even reciprocate it in their ungracious way, if we could
give it to them in spite of all rebuffs; but they are beset by a curious
and inevitable infelicity, which compels them, as it were, to keep up
what they seem to consider a wholesome bitterness of feeling between
themselves and all other nationalities, especially that of America. They
will never confess it; nevertheless, it is as essential a tonic to them
as their bitter ale. Therefore--and possibly, too, from a similar
narrowness in his own character--an American seldom feels quite as if he
were at home among the English people. If he do so, he has ceased to be
an American. But it requires no long residence to make him love their
island, and appreciate it as thoroughly as they themselves do. For my
part, I used to wish that we could annex it, transferring their thirty
millions of inhabitants to some convenient wilderness in the great West,
and putting half or a quarter as many of ourselves into their places.
The change would be beneficial to both parties. We, in our dry
atmosphere, are getting too nervous, haggard, dyspeptic, extenuated,
unsubstantial, theoretic, and need to be made grosser. John Bull, on the
other hand, has grown bulbous, long-bodied, short-legged, heavy-witted,
material, and, in a word, too intensely English. In a few more centuries
he will be the earthliest creature that ever the earth saw. Heretofore
Providence has obviated such a result by timely intermixtures of alien
races with the old English stock; so that each successive conquest of
England has proved a victory, by the revivification and improvement of
its native manhood. Cannot America and England hit upon some scheme to
secure even greater advantages to both nations?
SANITARY CONDITION OF THE ARMY.
The power and efficiency of an army consist in the amount of the power
and efficiency of its elements, in the health, strength, and energy of
its members. No army can be strong, however numerous its soldiers, if
they are weak; nor is it completely strong, unless every member is in
full vigor. The weakness of any part, however small, diminishes, to that
extent, the force of the whole; and the increase of power in any part
adds so much to the total strength.
In order, then, to have a strong and effective army, it is necessary not
only to have a sufficient number of men, but that each one of these
should have in himself the greatest amount of force, the fullest health
and energy the human body can present.
This is usually regarded in the original creation of an army. The
soldiers are picked men. None but those of perfect form, complete in all
their organization and functions, and free from every defect or disease,
are intended to be admitted. The general community, in civil life,
includes not only the strong and healthy, but also the defective, the
weak, and the sick, the blind, the halt, the consumptive, the rheumatic,
the immature in childhood, and the exhausted and decrepit in age.
In the enlistment of recruits, the candidates for the army are rigidly
examined, and none are admitted except such as appear to be mentally and
physically sound and perfect. Hence, many who offer their services to
the Government are rejected, and sometimes the proportion accepted is
In Great Britain and Ireland, during the twenty years from 1832 to 1851
inclusive, 305,897 applied for admission into the British army. Of
these, 97,457, or 32 per cent., were rejected, and only 208,440, or 68
per cent., were accepted.
In France, during thirteen years, 1831 to 1843 inclusive, 2,280,540 were
offered for examination as candidates for the army. Of these, 182,664,
being too short, though perhaps otherwise in possession of all the
requisites of health, were not examined, leaving 2,097,876, who were
considered as candidates for examination. Of these, 680,560, or 32.5 per
cent, were rejected on account of physical unfitness, and only
1,417,316, or 67.5 per cent., were allowed to join the army.
The men who ordinarily offer for the American army, in time of peace,
are of still inferior grade, as to health and strength. In the year
1852, at the several recruiting-stations, 16,114 presented themselves
for enlistment, and 10,945, or 67.9 per cent., were rejected, for
reasons not connected with health:--
3,162 too young,
732 too old,
1,806 too short,
2,434 could not speak English,
32 extremely ignorant,
106 of bad morals,
51 had been in armies from which
--------- they had deserted,
All of these may have been in good health.
Of the remainder, 5,169, who were subjects of further inquiry, 2,443
were rejected for reasons connected with their physical or mental
630 unsound in physical constitution,
16 unsound in mind,
314 had diseased eyes,
55 had diseased ears,
314 had hernia,
1,071 had varicose veins,
Only 2,726 were accepted, being 52.7 per cent, of those who were
examined, and less than 17 per cent., or about one-sixth, of all who
offered themselves as candidates for the army, in that year.
In time of peace, the character of the men who desire to become soldiers
differs with the degree of public prosperity. When business is good,
most men obtain employment in the more desirable and profitable
avocations of civil life. Then a larger proportion of those who are
willing to enter the army are unfitted, by their habits or their health,
for the occupations of peace, and go to the rendezvous only as a last
resort, to obtain their bread. But when business falters, a larger and a
better class are thrown out of work, and are glad to enter the service
of the country by bearing arms. The year 1852 was one of prosperity, and
affords, therefore, no indication of the class and character of men who
are willing to enlist in the average years. The Government Reports state
that in some other years 6,383 were accepted and 3,617 rejected out of
10,000 that offered to enlist. But in time of war, when the country is
endangered, and men have a higher motive for entering its service than
mere employment and wages, those of a better class both as to character
and health flock to the army; and in the present war, the army is
composed, in great degree, of men of the highest personal character and
social position, who leave the most desirable and lucrative employments
to serve their country as soldiers.
As, then, the army excludes, or intends to exclude, from its ranks all
the defective, weak, and sick, it begins with a much higher average of
health and vigor, a greater power of action, of endurance, and of
resisting the causes of disease, than the mass of men of the same ages
in civil life. It is composed of men in the fulness of strength and
efficiency. This is the vital machinery with which Governments propose
to do their martial work; and the amount of vital force which belongs to
these living machines, severally and collectively, is the capital with
which they intend to accomplish their purposes. Every wise Government
begins the business of war with a good capital of life, a large quantity
of vital force in its army. So far they do well; but more is necessary.
This complete and fitting preparation alone is not sufficient to carry
on the martial process through weeks and months of labor and privation.
Not only must the living machinery of bone and flesh be well selected,
but its force must be sustained, it must be kept in the most effective
condition and in the best and most available working order. For this
there are two established conditions, that admit of no variation nor
neglect: first, a sufficient supply of suitable nutriment, and faithful
regard to all the laws of health; and, second, the due appropriation of
the vital force that is thus from day to day created.
A due supply of appropriate food and of pure air, sufficient protection
and cleansing of the surface, moderate labor and refreshing rest, are
the necessary conditions of health, and cannot be disregarded, in the
least degree, without a loss of force. The privation of even a single
meal, or the use of food that is hard of digestion or innutritious, and
the loss of any of the needful sleep, are followed by a corresponding
loss of effective power, as surely as the slackened fire in the furnace
is followed by lessened steam and power in the engine.
Whosoever, then, wishes to sustain his own forces or those of his
laborers with the least cost, and use them with the greatest effect,
must take Nature on her own terms. It is vain to try to evade or alter
her conditions. The Kingdom of Heaven is not divided against itself. It
makes no compromises, not even for the necessities of nations. It will
not consent that any one, even the least, of its laws shall be set
aside, to advance any other, however important. Each single law stands
by itself, and exacts complete obedience to its own requirements: it
gives its own rewards and inflicts its own punishments. The stomach will
not digest tough and hard or old salted meats, or heavy bread, without
demanding and receiving a great and perhaps an almost exhausting
proportion of the nervous energies. The nutritive organs will not create
vigorous muscles and effective limbs, unless the blood is constantly and
appropriately recruited. The lungs will not decarbonize and purify the
blood with foul air, that has been breathed over and over and lost its
oxygen. However noble or holy the purpose for which human power is to be
used, it will not be created, except according to the established
conditions. The strength of the warrior in battle cannot be sustained,
except in the appointed way, even though the fate of all humanity depend
on his exertions.
Nature keeps an exact account with all her children, and gives power in
proportion to their fulfilment of her conditions. She measures out and
sustains vital force according to the kind and fitness of the raw
material provided for her. When we deal liberally with her, she deals
liberally with us. For everything we give to her she makes a just
return. The stomach, the nutrient arteries, the lungs, have no love, no
patriotism, no pity; but they are perfectly honest. The healthy
digestive organs will extract and pay over to the blood-vessels just so
much of the nutritive elements as the food we eat contains in an
extractible form, and no more; and for this purpose they will demand and
take just so much of the nervous energy as may be needed. The nutrient
arteries will convert into living flesh just so much of the nutritive
elements as the digestive organs give them, and no more. The lungs will
send out from the body as many of the atoms of exhausted and dead flesh
as the oxygen we give them will convert into carbonic acid and water,
and this is all they can do. In these matters, the vital organs are as
honest and as faithful as the boiler, that gives forth steam in the
exact ratio of the heat which the burning fuel evolves and the fitness
of the water that is supplied to it; and neither can be persuaded to do
otherwise. The living machine of bone and flesh and the dead machine of
iron prepare their forces according to the means they have, not
according to the ulterior purpose to which those forces are to be
applied. They do this alike for all. They do it as well for the sinner
as for the saint,--as well for the traitorous Secessionist striving to
destroy his country as for the patriot endeavoring to sustain it.
In neither case is it a matter of will, but of necessity. The amount of
power to be generated in both living and dead machines is simply a
question of quality and quantity of provision for the purpose. So much
food, air, protection given produce so much strength. A proposition to
reduce the amount of either of these necessarily involves the
proposition to reduce the available force. Whoever determines to eat or
give his men less or poorer food, or impure air, practically determines
to do less work. In all this management of the human body, we are sure
to get what we pay for, and we are equally sure not to get what we do
not pay for.
All Governments have tried, and are now, in various degrees, trying, the
experiment of privation in their armies. The soldier cannot carry with
him the usual means and comforts of home. He must give these up the
moment he enters the martial ranks, and reduce his apparatus of living
to the smallest possible quantity. He must generally limit himself to a
portable house, kitchen, cooking-apparatus, and wardrobe, and to an
entire privation of furniture, and sometimes submit to a complete
destitution of everything except the provision he may carry in his
haversack and the blanket he can carry on his back. When stationary, he
commonly sleeps in barracks; but he spends most of his time in the field
and sleeps in tents. Occasionally he is compelled to sleep in the open
air, without any covering but his blanket, and to cook in an
extemporized kitchen, which he may make of a few stones piled together
or of a hole in the earth, with only a kettle, that he carries on his
back, for cooking-apparatus. In all cases and conditions, whether in
fort or in field, in barrack, tent, or open air, he is limited to the
smallest artificial habitation, the least amount of furniture and
conveniences, the cheapest and most compact food, and the rudest
cookery. He is, therefore, never so well protected against the elements,
nor, when sleeping under cover, so well supplied with air for
respiration, as he is at home. Moreover, when lodging abroad, he cannot
take his choice of places; he is liable, from the necessities of war, to
encamp in wet and malarious spots, and to be exposed to chills and
miasms of unhealthy districts. He is necessarily exposed to weather of
every kind,--to cold, to rains, to storms; and when wet, he has not the
means of warming himself, nor of drying or changing his clothing. His
life, though under martial discipline, is irregular. At times, he has to
undergo severe and protracted labors, forced marches, and the violent
and long-continued struggles of combat; at other times, he has not
exercise sufficient for health. His food is irregularly served. He is
sometimes short of provisions, and compelled to pass whole days in
abstinence or on shore allowance. Occasionally he cannot obtain even
water to drink, through hours of thirsty toil. No Government nor
managers of war have ever yet been able to make exact and unfailing
provision for the wants and necessities of their armies, as men usually
do for themselves and their families at home.
SUPPOSED DANGERS TO THE SOLDIER.
From the earliest recorded periods of the world, men have gone forth to
war, for the purpose of destroying or overcoming their enemies, and with
the chance of being themselves destroyed or overthrown. Public
authorities have generally taken account of the number of their own men
who have been wounded and killed in battle, and of the casualties in the
opposing armies. Gunpowder and steel, and the manifold weapons,
instruments, and means of destruction in the hands of the enemy are
commonly considered as the principal, if not the only sources of danger
to the soldier, and ground of anxiety to his friends; and the nation
reckons its losses in war by the number of those who were wounded and
killed in battle. But the suffering and waste of life, apart from the
combat, the sickness, the depreciation of vital force, the withering of
constitutional energy, and the mortality in camp and fortress, in
barrack, tent, and hospital, have not usually been the subjects of such
careful observation, nor the grounds of fear to the soldier and of
anxiety to those who are interested in his safety. Consequently, until
within the present century, comparatively little attention has been
given to the dangers that hang over the army out of the battle-field,
and but little provision has been made, by the combatants or their
rulers, to obviate or relieve them. No Government in former times, and
few in later years, have taken and published complete accounts of the
diseases of their armies, and of the deaths that followed in
consequence. Some such records have been made and printed, but these are
mostly fragmentary and partial, and on the authority of individuals,
officers, surgeons, scholars, and philanthropists.
It must not be forgotten that the army is originally composed of picked
men, while the general community includes not only the imperfect,
diseased, and weak that belong to itself, but also those who are
rejected from the army. If, then, the conditions, circumstances, and
habits of both were equally favorable, there would be less sickness and
a lower rate of mortality among the soldiers than among men of the same
ages at home. But if in the army there should be found more sickness and
death than in the community at home, or even an equal amount, it is
manifestly chargeable to the presence of more deteriorating and
destructive influences in the military than in civil life.
SICKNESS AND MORTALITY IN CIVIL LIFE.
The amount of sickness among the people at home is not generally
recognized, still less is it carefully measured and recorded. But the
experience and calculations of the Friendly Societies of Great Britain,
and of other associations for Health-Assurance there and elsewhere,
afford sufficient data for determining the proportion of time lost in
sickness by men of various ages. These Friendly Societies are composed
mainly of men of the working-classes, from which most of the soldiers of
the British army are drawn.
According to the calculations and tables of Mr. Ansel, in his work on
"Friendly Societies," the men of the army-ages, from 20 to 40, in the
working-classes, lose, on an average, five days and six-tenths of a day
by sickness in each year, which will make one and a half per cent, of
the males of this age and class constantly sick. Mr. Neison's
calculations and tables, in his "Contributions to Vital Statistics,"
make this average somewhat over seven days' yearly sickness, and one and
ninety-two hundredths of one per cent, constantly sick. These were the
bases of the rates adopted by the Health-Assurance companies in New
England, and their experience shows that the amount of sickness in these
Northern States is about the same as, if not somewhat greater than, that
in Great Britain, among any definite number of men.
The rate of mortality is more easily ascertained, and is generally
calculated and determined in civilized nations. This rate, among all
classes of males, between 20 and 40 years old, in England and Wales, is
.92 per cent.: that is, 92 will die out of 10,000 men of these ages, on
an average, in each year; but in the healthiest districts the rate is
only 77 in 10,000. The mortality among the males of Massachusetts, of
the same ages, according to Mr. Elliott's calculations, is 1.11 per
cent, or 111 in 10,000. This maybe safely assumed as the rate of
mortality in all New England. That of the Southern States is somewhat
These rates of sickness and death--one and a half or one and ninety-two
hundredths per cent, constantly sick, and seventy-seven to one hundred
and eleven dying, in each year, among ten thousand living--may be
considered as the proportion of males, of the army-ages, that should be
constantly taken away from active labor and business by illness, and
that should be annually lost by death. Whether at home, amidst the
usually favorable circumstances and the average comforts, or in the
army, under privation and exposure, men of these ages may be presumed to
be necessarily subject to this amount, at least, of loss of vital force
and life. And these rates may be adopted as the standard of comparison
of the sanitary influences of civil and military life.
SICKNESS AND MORTALITY OF THE ARMY IN PEACE.
Soldiers are subject to different influences and exposures, and their
waste and loss of life differ, in peace and war. In peace they are
mostly stationary, at posts, forts, and in cantonments. They generally
live in barracks, with fixed habits and sufficient means of subsistence.
They have their regular supplies of food and clothing and labor, and are
protected from the elements, heat, cold, and storms. They are seldom or
never subjected to privation or excessive fatigue. But in war they are
in the field, and sleep in tents which are generally too full and often
densely crowded. Sometimes they sleep in huts, and occasionally in the
open air. They are liable to exposures, hardships, and privations, to
uncertain supplies of food and bad cookery.
The report of the commission appointed by the British Government to
inquire into the sanitary condition, of the army shows a remarkable and
unexpected degree of mortality among the troops stationed at home under
the most favorable circumstances, as well as among those abroad. The
Foot-Guards are the very _elite_ of the whole army; they are the most
perfect of the faultless in form and in health. They are the pets of the
Government and the people. They are stationed at London and Windsor, and
lodged in magnificent barracks, apparently ample for their
accommodation. They are clothed and fed with extraordinary care, and are
supposed to have every means of health. And yet their record shows a sad
difference between their rate of mortality and that of men of the same
ages in civil life. A similar excess of mortality was found to exist
among all the home-army, which includes many thousand soldiers,
stationed in various towns and places throughout the kingdom.
The following table exhibits the annual mortality in these classes.
DEATHS IN 10,000.
Age Civilians Foot-Guards Home-Army
20 to 25 84 216 170
25 to 30 92 211 183
30 to 35 102 195 184
35 to 40 116 224 193
Through the fifteen years from 1839 to 1853 inclusive, the annual
mortality of all the army, excepting the artillery, engineers, and West
India and colonial corps, was 330 among 10,000 living; while that among
the same number of males of the army-ages, in all England and Wales, was
92, and in the healthiest districts only 77.
There is no official account at hand of the general mortality in the
Russian army on the peace-establishment; yet, according to Boudin, in
one portion, consisting of 192,834 men, 144,352 had been sick, and
7,541, or 38 per 1,000, died in one year.
The Prussian army, with an average of 150,582 men, lost by death, during
the ten years 1829 to 1838, 1,975 in each year, which is at the rate of
13 per 1,000 living.
The mortality of the Piedmontese army, from 1834 to 1843 inclusive, was
158 in 10,000, while that of the males at home was 92 in the same number
From 1775 to 1791, seventeen years, the mortality among the cavalry was
181, and among the infantry 349, out of 10,000 living; but in the ten
years from 1834 to 1843 these rates were only 108 and 215.
Colored troops are employed by the British Government in all their
colonies and possessions in tropical climates. The mortality of these
soldiers is known, and also that of the colored male civilians in the
East Indies and in the West-India Islands and South-American Provinces.
In four of these, the rate of mortality is higher among the male slaves
than among the colored soldiers; but in all the others, this rate is
higher in the army. In all the West-Indian and South-American
possessions of Great Britain, the average rate of deaths is 25 per cent,
greater among the black troops than among the black males of all ages on
the plantations and in the towns. The soldiers are of the healthier
ages, 20 to 40, but the civilians include both the young and the old: if
these could be excluded, and the comparison made between soldiers and
laborers of the same ages, the difference in favor of civil pursuits
would appear much greater.
Throughout the world, where the armies of Great Britain are stationed or
serve, the death-rate is greater among the troops than among civilians
of the same races and ages, except among the colored troops in Tobago,
Montserrat, Antigua, and Granada in America, and among the Sepoys in the
In the army of the United States, during the period from 1840 to 1854,
not including the two years of the Mexican War, there was an average of
9,278 men, or an aggregate of 120,622 years of service, equal to so many
men serving one year. Among these and during this period, there were
342,107 cases of sickness reported by the surgeons, and 3,416 deaths
from disease, showing a rate of mortality of 2.83 per cent., or two and
a half times as great as that among the males of Massachusetts of the
army-ages, and three times as great as that in England and Wales. The
attacks of sickness average almost three for each man in each year. This
is manifestly more than that which falls upon men of these ages at
SICKNESS AND MORTALITY OF THE ARMY IN WAR.
Thus far the sickness and mortality of the army in time of peace only
has been considered. The experience of war tells a more painful story of
the dangers of the men engaged in it. Sir John Pringle states, that, in
the British armies that were sent to the Low Countries and Germany, in
the years 1743 to 1747, a great amount of sickness and mortality
prevailed. He says, that, besides those who were suffering from wounds,
"at some periods more than one-fifth of the army were in the hospitals."
"One regiment had over one-half of its men sick." "In July and August,
1743, one-half of the army had the dysentery." "In 1747, four
battalions," of 715 men each, "at South Beveland and Walcheren, both in
field and in quarters, were so very sickly, that, at the height of the
epidemic, some of these corps had but one hundred men fit for duty;
six-sevenths of their numbers were sick." "At the end of the
campaign the Royal Battalion had but four men who had not been ill." And
"when these corps went into winter-quarters, their sick, in proportion
to their men fit for duty, were nearly as four to one." In 1748,
dysentery prevailed. "In one regiment of 500 men, 150 were sick at the
end of five weeks; 200 were sick after two months; and at the end of the
campaign, they had in all but thirty who had never been ill." "In
Johnson's regiment sometimes one-half were sick; and in the Scotch
Fusileers 300 were ill at one time."
The British army in Egypt, in 1801, had from 103 to 261 and an average
of 182 sick in each thousand; and the French army had an average of 125
in 1,000, or one-eighth of the whole, on the sick-list.
In July, 1809, the British Government sent another army, of 39,219 men,
to the Netherlands. They were stationed at Walcheren, which was the
principal seat of the sickness and suffering of their predecessors,
sixty or seventy years before. Fever and dysentery attacked this second
army as they had the first, and with a similar virulence and
destructiveness. In two months after landing,
Sept. 13, 7,626 were on the sick-list.
" 19, 8,123 " "
" 21, 8,684 " "
" 23, 9,046 " "
In ninety-seven days 12,867 were sent home sick; and on the 22d of
October there were only 4,000 effective men left fit for duty out of
this army of about 40,000 healthy men, who had left England within less
than four months. On the 1st of February of the next year, there were
11,513 on the sick-list, and 15,570 had been lost or disabled. Between
January 1st and June of the same year, (1810,) 36,500 were admitted to
the hospitals, and 8,000, or more than 20 per cent., died, which is
equal to an annual rate of 48 per cent, mortality.
The British army in Spain and Portugal suffered greatly through the
Peninsular War, from 1808 to 1814. During the whole of that period,
there was a constant average of 209 per 1,000 on the sick-list, and the
proportion was sometimes swelled to 330 per 1,000. Through the forty-one
months ending May 25th, 1814, with an average of 61,511 men, there was
an average of 13,815 in the hospitals, which is 22.5 per cent.; of these
only one-fifteenth, or 1.5 per cent. of the whole army, were laid up on
account of injuries in battle, and 21 per cent. were disabled by
diseases. From these causes 24,930 died, which is an annual average of
7,296, or a rate of 11.8 per cent, mortality.
No better authority can be adduced, for the condition of men engaged in
the actual service of war, than Lord Wellington. On the 14th of
November, 1809, he wrote from his army in Spain to Lord Liverpool, then
at the head of the British Government,--"In all times and places the
sick-list of the army amounts to ten per cent of all." He seemed to
consider this the lowest attainable rate of sickness, and he hoped to be
able to reduce that of his own army to it: this is more than five times
as great as the rate of sickness among male civilians of the army-ages.
The sickness in Lord Wellington's army, at the moment of writing this
despatch, was fifteen per cent., or seven and a half times as great as
that at home.
In the same Peninsular War, there was of the sick in the French army a
constant average of 136 per 1,000 in Spain, and 146 per 1,000 in
Portugal. Mr. Edmonds says, that, just before the Battle of Talavera,
the French army consisted of 275,000 men, of whom 61,000, or 22.2 per
cent., were sick. Lord Wellington wrote, Sept. 19, 1809, that the
French army of 225,000 men had 30,000 to 40,000 sick, which is 13.3 to
17.7 per cent. The French army in Portugal had at one time 64 per 1,000,
and at another 235 per 1,000, and an average of 146 per 1,000, in the
hospitals through the war.
The British army that fought the Battle of Waterloo, in 1815, had an
average of 60,992 men, through the campaign of four months, June to
September; of these, there was an average of 7,909, or 12.9 per cent.,
in the hospitals.
The British legion that went to Spain in 1836 consisted of 7,000 men. Of
these, 5,000, or 71 per cent., were admitted into the hospitals in three
and a half months, and 1,223 died in six months. This is equal to an
annual rate of almost two and a half, 2.44, attacks for each man, and of
34.9 per cent. mortality.
"Of 115,000 Russians who invaded Turkey in 1828 and 1829, only 10,000 or
15,000 ever repassed the Pruth. The rest died there of intermittent
fevers, dysenteries, and plague." "From May, 1828, to February, 1829,
210,108 patients were admitted into the general and regimental
hospitals." "In October, 1828, 20,000 entered the general hospitals."
"The sickness was very fatal." "More than a quarter of the
fever-patients died." "5,509 entered the hospitals, and of these, 3,959
died in August, 1829, and only 614 ultimately recovered." "At Brailow
the plague attacked 1,200 and destroyed 774." "Dysentery was equally
fatal." "In the march across the Balkan, 1,000 men died of diarrhoea,
fever, and scurvy." "In Bulgaria, during July, 37,000 men were taken
sick." "At Adrianople a vast barrack was taken for a hospital, and in
three days 1,616 patients were admitted. On the first of September there
were 3,666, and on the 15th, 4,646 patients in the house. This was
one-quarter of all the disposable force at that station." "In October,
1,300 died of dysentery; and at the end of the month there were 4,700 in
the hospitals." "In the whole army the loss to the Russians in the year
1829 was at least 60,000 men."
In 1854, twenty-five years after this fatal experience of the Russian
army in Bulgaria, the British Government sent an army to the same
province, where the men were exposed to the same diseases and suffered a
similar depreciation of vital force in sickness and death. For two years
and more they struggled with these destructive influences in their own
camps, in Bulgaria and the Crimea, with the usual result of such
exposures in waste of life. From April 10, 1854, to June 30, 1856,
82,901 British soldiers were sent to the Black Sea and its coasts; and
through these twenty-six and two-thirds months the British army had an
average of 34,559 men engaged in that "War in the East" with Russia.
From these there were furnished to the general and regimental, the
stationary and movable hospitals 218,952 cases: 24,084, or 11 per cent,
of these patients were wounded or injured in battle, and 194,868, or 89
per cent, suffered from the diseases of the camp. This is equal to an
annual average of two and a half attacks of sickness for each man. The
published reports give an analysis of only 162,123 of these cases of
disease. Of these, 110,673, or 68 per cent., were of the zymotic
class,--fevers, dysenteries, scurvy, etc., which are generally supposed
to be due to exposure and privation, and other causes which are subject
to human control. During the two years ending with March, 1856, 16,224
died of diseases, of which 14,476 were of the zymotic or preventable
class, 2,755 were killed in battle, and 2,019 died of wounds and
injuries received in battle. The annual rate of mortality, from all
diseases, was 23 per cent; from zymotic diseases, 21 per cent.; from
battle, 6.9 per cent. The rate of sickness and mortality varied
exceedingly in different months. In April, May, and June, 1854, the
deaths were at the annual rate of 8.7 per 1,000; in July, 159 per 1,000;
in August and September, 310 per 1,000; in December, this rate again
rose and reached 679 per 1,000; and in January, 1855, owing to the great
exposures, hardships, and privations in the siege, and the very
imperfect means of sustenance and protection, the mortality increased to
the enormous rate of 1,142 per 1,000, so that, if it had continued
unabated, it would have destroyed the whole army in ten and a half
AMERICAN ARMY, 1812 TO 1814.
We need not go abroad to find proofs of the waste of life in military
camps. Our own army, in the war with Great Britain in 1812-14, suffered,
as the European armies have done, by sickness and death, far beyond men
in civil occupations. There are no comprehensive reports, published by
the Government, of the sanitary condition and history of the army on the
Northern frontier during that war. But the partial and fragmentary
statements of Dr. Mann, in his "Medical Sketches," and the occasional
and apparently incidental allusions to the diseases and deaths by the
commanding officers, in their letters and despatches to the Secretary of
War, show that sickness was sometimes fearfully prevalent and fatal
among our soldiers. Dr. Mann says: "One regiment on the frontier, at one
time, counted 900 strong, but was reduced, by a total want of a good
police, to less than 200 fit for duty." "At one period more than 340
were in the hospitals, and, in addition to this, a large number were
reported sick in camp." "The aggregate of the army at Fort George
and its dependencies was about 5,000. From an estimate of the number
sick in the general and regimental hospitals, it was my persuasion that
but little more than half of the army was capable of duty, at one
period, during the summer months" of 1813. "During the month of
August more than one-third of the soldiers were on the sick-reports."
Dr. Mann quotes Dr. Lovell, another army-surgeon, who says,
in the autumn of 1813: "A morning report, now before me, gives 75
sick, out of a corps of 160. The several regiments of the army, in their
reports, exhibit a proportional number unfit for duty." Dr. Mann
states that "the troops at Burlington, Vt., in the winter of 1812-13,
did not number over 1,600, and the deaths did not exceed 200, from the
last of November to the last of February." But Dr. Gallup says: "The
whole number of deaths is said to be not less than 700 to 800 in four
months," and "the number of soldiers stationed at this encampment
[Burlington] was about 2,500 to 2,800." According to Dr. Mann's
statement, the mortality was at the annual rate of 50 per cent.; and
according to that of Dr. Gallup, it was at the rate of 75 to 96 per
cent. This is nearly equal to the severest mortality in the Crimea.
General William H. Harrison, writing to the Secretary of War from the
borders of Lake Erie, Aug. 29, 1813, says: "You can form some estimate
of the deadly effects of the immense body of stagnant water with which
the vicinity of the lake abounds, from the state of the troops at
Sandusky. Upwards of 90 are this morning reported sick, out of about
220." This is a rate of over 40 per cent. "Those at Fort Meigs are not
General Wilkinson wrote from Fort George, Sept. 16, 1813: "We count, on
paper, 4,600, and could show 3,400 combatants"; that is, 25 per cent,
and more are sick. "The enemy, from the best information we have, have
about 3,000 on paper, of whom 1,400," or 46.6 per cent., "are sick."
There was a similar waste of life among our troops in the Mexican War.
There is no published record of the number of the sick, nor of their
diseases. But the letters of General Scott and General Taylor to the
Secretary of War show that the loss of effective force in our army was
at times very great by sickness in that war.
General Scott wrote:--
"_Puebla_, July 25, 1847.
"May 30, the number of sick here was 1,017, of effectives 5,820."
"Since the arrival of General Pillow, we have effectives (rank and
file) 8,061, sick 2,215, beside 87 officers under the latter
"_Mexico_, Dec. 5,1847.
"The force at Chapultepec fit for duty is only about 6,000, rank and
file; the number of sick, exclusive of officers, being 2,041."
According to these statements, the proportions of the sick were 17.4 to
27.4 and 24.7 per cent of all in these corps at the times specified.
General Taylor wrote:--
"_Camp near Monterey_, July 27,1847.
"Great sickness and mortality have prevailed among the volunteer
troops in front of Saltillo."
August 10th, he said, that "nearly 23 per cent, of the force present was
disabled by disease."
The official reports show only the number that died, but make no
distinction as to causes of death, except to separate the deaths from
wounds received in battle from those from other causes.
During that war, 100,454 men were sent to Mexico from the United States.
They were enlisted for various periods, but served, on an average,
thirteen months and one day each, making a total of 109,104 years of
military service rendered by our soldiers in that war. The total loss of
these men was 1,549 killed in battle or died of wounds, 10,986 died from