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The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. by Washington Irving

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tenderness of the mother burst forth, as if any harm could come
to him who was far beyond the reach of worldly suffering.

I could see no more--my heart swelled into my throat--my eyes
filled with tears; I felt as if I were acting a barbarous part in
standing by and gazing idly on this scene of maternal anguish. I
wandered to another part of the churchyard, where I remained
until the funeral train had dispersed.

When I saw the mother slowly and painfully quitting the grave,
leaving behind her the remains of all that was dear to her on
earth, and returning to silence and destitution, my heart ached
for her. What, thought I, are the distresses of the rich? They
have friends to soothe--pleasures to beguile--a world to divert
and dissipate their griefs. What are the sorrows of the young?
Their growing minds soon close above the wound--their elastic
spirits soon rise beneath the pressure--their green and ductile
affections soon twine round new objects. But the sorrows of the
poor, who have no outward appliances to soothe--the sorrows of
the aged, with whom life at best is but a wintry day, and who can
look for no after-growth of joy--the sorrows of a widow, aged,
solitary, destitute, mourning over an only son, the last solace
of her years,--these are indeed sorrows which make us feel the
impotency of consolation.

It was some time before I left the churchyard. On my way
homeward, I met with the woman who had acted as comforter: she
was just returning from accompanying the mother to her lonely
habitation, and I drew from her some particulars connected with
the affecting scene I had witnessed.

The parents of the deceased had resided in the village from
childhood. They had inhabited one of the neatest cottages, and by
various rural occupations, and the assistance of a small garden,
had supported themselves creditably and comfortably, and led a
happy and a blameless life. They had one son, who had grown up to
be the staff and pride of their age. "Oh, sir!" said the good
woman, "he was such a comely lad, so sweet-tempered, so kind to
every one around him, so dutiful to his parents! It did one's
heart good to see him of a Sunday, drest out in his best, so
tall, so straight, so cheery, supporting his old mother to
church; for she was always fonder of leaning on George's arm than
on her good man's; and, poor soul, she might well be proud of
him, for a finer lad there was not in the country round."

Unfortunately, the son was tempted, during a year of scarcity and
agricultural hardship, to enter into the service of one of the
small craft that plied on a neighboring river. He had not been
long in this employ, when he was entrapped by a press-gang, and
carried off to sea. His parents received tidings of his seizure,
but beyond that they could learn nothing. It was the loss of
their main prop. The father, who was already infirm, grew
heartless and melancholy and sunk into his grave. The widow, left
lonely in her age and feebleness, could no longer support
herself, and came upon the parish. Still there was a kind feeling
towards her throughout the village, and a certain respect as
being one of the oldest inhabitants. As no one applied for the
cottage in which she had passed so many happy days, she was
permitted to remain in it, where she lived solitary and almost
helpless. The few wants of nature were chiefly supplied from the
scanty productions of her little garden, which the neighbors
would now and then cultivate for her. It was but a few days
before the time at which these circumstances were told me, that
she was gathering some vegetables for her repast, when she heard
the cottage-door which faced the garden, suddenly opened. A
stranger came out, and seemed to be looking eagerly and wildly
around. He was dressed in seamen's clothes, was emaciated and
ghastly pale, and bore the air of one broken by sickness and
hardships. He saw her and hastened towards her, but his steps
were faint and faltering; he sank on his knees before her and
sobbed like a child. The poor woman gazed upon him with a vacant
and wandering eye. "Oh, my dear, dear mother! don't you know your
son? your poor boy, George?" It was, indeed, the wreck of her
once noble lad; who shattered by wounds, by sickness and foreign
imprisonment, had, at length, dragged his wasted limbs homeward,
to repose among the scenes of his childhood.

I will not attempt to detail the particulars of such a meeting,
where sorrow and joy were so completely blended: still, he was
alive! he was come home! he might yet live to comfort and cherish
her old age! Nature, however, was exhausted in him; and if any
thing had been wanting to finish the work of fate, the desolation
of his native cottage would have been sufficient. He stretched
himself on the pallet on which his widowed mother had passed many
a sleepless night, and he never rose from it again.

The villagers, when they heard that George Somers had returned,
crowded to see him, offering every comfort and assistance that
their humble means afforded. He was too weak, however, to
talk--he could only look his thanks. His mother was his constant
attendant; and he seemed unwilling to be helped by any other

There is something in sickness that breaks down the pride of
manhood, that softens the heart, and brings it back to the
feelings of infancy. Who that has languished, even in advanced
life, in sickness and despondency, who that has pined on a weary
bed in the neglect and loneliness of a foreign land, but has
thought on the mother "that looked on his childhood," that
smoothed his pillow, and administered to his helplessness? Oh,
there is an enduring tenderness in the love of a mother to a son,
that transcends all other affections of the heart. It is neither
to be chilled by selfishness, nor daunted by danger, nor weakened
by worthlessness, nor stifled by ingratitude. She will sacrifice
every comfort to his convenience; she will surrender every
pleasure to his enjoyment; she will glory in his fame and exult
in his prosperity; and, if misfortune overtake him, he will be
the dearer to her from misfortune; and if disgrace settle upon
his name, she will still love and cherish him in spite of his
disgrace; and if all the world beside cast him off, she will be
all the world to him.

Poor George Somers had known what it was to be in sickness, and
none to soothe--lonely and in prison, and none to visit him. He
could not endure his mother from his sight; if she moved away,
his eye would follow her. She would sit for hours by his bed
watching him as he slept. Sometimes he would start from a
feverish dream, and look anxiously up until he saw her bending
over him; when he would take her hand, lay it on his bosom, and
fall asleep with the tranquillity of a child. In this way he

My first impulse on hearing this humble tale of affliction was to
visit the cottage of the mourner, and administer pecuniary
assistance, and, if possible, comfort. I found, however, on
inquiry, that the good feelings of the villagers had prompted
them to do everything that the case admitted; and as the poor
know best how to console each other's sorrows, I did not venture
to intrude.

The next Sunday I was at the village church, when, to my
surprise, I saw the poor old woman tottering down the aisle to
her accustomed seat on the steps of the altar.

She had made an effort to put on something like mourning for her
son; and nothing could be more touching than this struggle
between pious affection and utter poverty--a black ribbon or so,
a faded black handkerchief, and one or two more such humble
attempts to express by outward signs that grief which passes
show. When I looked round upon the storied monuments, the stately
hatchments, the cold marble pomp with which grandeur mourned
magnificently over departed pride, and turned to this poor widow,
bowed down by age and sorrow at the altar of her God, and
offering up the prayers and praises of a pious though a broken
heart, I felt that this living monument of real grief was worth
them all.

I related her story to some of the wealthy members of the
congregation, and they were moved by it. They exerted themselves
to render her situation more comfortable, and to lighten her
afflictions. It was, however, but smoothing a few steps to the
grave. In the course of a Sunday or two after, she was missed
from her usual seat at church, and before I left the neighborhood
I heard, with a feeling of satisfaction, that she had quietly
breathed her last, and had gone to rejoin those she loved, in
that world where sorrow is never known and friends are never


* Part of a sketch omitted in the preceding editions.

IN a preceding paper I have spoken of an English Sunday in the
country and its tranquillizing effect upon the landscape; but
where is its sacred influence more strikingly apparent than in
the very heart of that great Babel, London? On this sacred day
the gigantic monster is charmed into repose. The intolerable din
and struggle of the week are at an end. The shops are shut. The
fires of forges and manufactories are extinguished, and the sun,
no longer obscured by murky clouds of smoke, pours down a sober
yellow radiance into the quiet streets. The few pedestrians we
meet, instead of hurrying forward with anxious countenances, move
leisurely along; their brows are smoothed from the wrinkles of
business and care; they have put on their Sunday looks and Sunday
manners with their Sunday clothes, and are cleansed in mind as
well as in person.

And now the melodious clangor of bells from church towers summons
their several flocks to the fold. Forth issues from his mansion
the family of the decent tradesman, the small children in the
advance; then the citizen and his comely spouse, followed by the
grown-up daughters, with small morocco-bound prayer-books laid in
the folds of their pocket-handkerchiefs. The housemaid looks
after them from the window, admiring the finery of the family,
and receiving, perhaps, a nod and smile from her young
mistresses, at whose toilet she has assisted.

Now rumbles along the carriage of some magnate of the city,
peradventure an alderman or a sheriff, and now the patter of many
feet announces it procession of charity scholars in uniforms of
antique cut, and each with a prayer-book under his arm.

The ringing of bells is at an end; the rumbling of the carriage
has ceased; the pattering of feet is heard no more; the flocks
are folded in ancient churches, cramped up in by-lanes and
corners of the crowded city, where the vigilant beadle keeps
watch, like the shepherd's dog, round the threshold of the
sanctuary. For a time everything is hushed, but soon is heard the
deep, pervading sound of the organ, rolling and vibrating through
the empty lanes and courts, and the sweet chanting of the choir
making them resound with melody and praise. Never have I been
more sensible of the sanctifying effect of church music than when
I have heard it thus poured forth, like a river of joy, through
the inmost recesses of this great metropolis, elevating it, as it
were, from all the sordid pollutions of the week, and bearing the
poor world-worn soul on a tide of triumphant harmony to heaven.

The morning service is at an end. The streets are again alive
with the congregations returning to their homes, but soon again
relapse into silence. Now comes on the Sunday dinner, which, to
the city tradesman, is a meal of some importance. There is more
leisure for social enjoyment at the board. Members of the family
can now gather together, who are separated by the laborious
occupations of the week. A school-boy may be permitted on that
day to come to the paternal home; an old friend of the family
takes his accustomed Sunday seat at the board, tells over his
well-known stories, and rejoices young and old with his
well-known jokes.

On Sunday afternoon the city pours forth its lesions to breathe
the fresh air and enjoy the sunshine of the parks and rural
environs. Satirists may say what they please about the rural
enjoyments of a London citizen on Sunday, but to me there is
something delightful in beholding the poor prisoner of the
crowded and dusty city enabled thus to come forth once a week and
throw himself upon the green bosom of nature. He is like a child
restored to the mother's breast; and they who first spread out
these noble parks and magnificent pleasure-grounds which surround
this huge metropolis have done at least as much for its health
and morality as if they had expended the amount of cost in
hospitals, prisons, and penitentiaries.



"A tavern is the rendezvous, the exchange, the staple of good
fellows. I have heard my great-grandfather tell, how his
great-great-grandfather should say, that it was an old proverb
when his great-grandfather was a child, that `it was a good wind
that blew a man to the wine.'"

IT is a pious custom in some Catholic countries to honor the
memory of saints by votive lights burnt before their pictures.
The popularity of a saint, therefore, may be known by the number
of these offerings. One, perhaps, is left to moulder in the
darkness of his little chapel; another may have a solitary lamp
to throw its blinking rays athwart his effigy; while the whole
blaze of adoration is lavished at the shrine of some beatified
father of renown. The wealthy devotee brings his huge luminary of
wax, the eager zealot, his seven-branched candlestick; and even
the mendicant pilgrim is by no means satisfied that sufficient
light is thrown upon the deceased unless he hangs up his little
lamp of smoking oil. The consequence is, that in the eagerness to
enlighten, they are often apt to obscure; and I have occasionally
seen an unlucky saint almost smoked out of countenance by the
officiousness of his followers.

In like manner has it fared with the immortal Shakespeare. Every
writer considers it his bounden duty to light up some portion of
his character or works, and to rescue some merit from oblivion.
The commentator, opulent in words, produces vast tomes of
dissertations; the common herd of editors send up mists of
obscurity from their notes at the bottom of each page; and every
casual scribbler brings his farthing rushlight of eulogy or
research to swell the cloud of incense and of smoke.

As I honor all established usages of my brethren of the quill, I
thought it but proper to contribute my mite of homage to the
memory of the illustrious bard. I was for some time, however,
sorely puzzled in what way I should discharge this duty. I found
myself anticipated in every attempt at a new reading; every
doubtful line had been explained a dozen different ways, and
perplexed beyond the reach of elucidation; and as to fine
passages, they had all been amply praised by previous admirers;
nay, so completely had the bard, of late, been overlarded with
panegyric by a great German critic that it was difficult now to
find even a fault that had not been argued into a beauty.

In this perplexity I was one morning turning over his pages when
I casually opened upon the comic scenes of Henry IV., and was, in
a moment, completely lost in the madcap revelry of the Boar's
Head Tavern. So vividly and naturally are these scenes of humor
depicted, and with such force and consistency are the characters
sustained, that they become mingled up in the mind with the facts
and personages of real life. To few readers does it occur that
these are all ideal creations of a poet's brain, and that, in
sober truth, no such knot of merry roisterers ever enlivened the
dull neighborhood of Eastcheap.

For my part, I love to give myself up to the illusions of poetry.
A hero of fiction that never existed is just as valuable to me as
a hero of history that existed a thousand years since and, if I
may be excused such an insensibility to the common ties of human
nature, I would not give up fat Jack for half the great men of
ancient chronicle. What have the heroes of yore done for me or
men like me? They have conquered countries of which I do not
enjoy an acre, or they have gained laurels of which I do not
inherit a leaf, or they have furnished examples of hair-brained
prowess, which I have neither the opportunity nor the inclination
to follow. But, old Jack Falstaff! kind Jack Falstaff! sweet Jack
Falstaff! has enlarged the boundaries of human enjoyment; he has
added vast regions of wit and good-humor, in which the poorest
man may revel, and has bequeathed a never-failing inheritance of
jolly laughter, to make mankind merrier and better to the latest

A thought suddenly struck me. "I will make a pilgrimage to
Eastcheap," said I, closing the book, "and see if the old Boar's
Head Tavern still exists. Who knows but I may light upon some
legendary traces of Dame Quickly and her guests? At any rate,
there will be a kindred pleasure in treading the halls once vocal
with their mirth to that the toper enjoys in smelling to the
empty cask, once filled with generous wine."

The resolution was no sooner formed than put in execution. I
forbear to treat of the various adventures and wonders I
encountered in my travels; of the haunted regions of Cock Lane;
of the faded glories of Little Britain and the parts adjacent;
what perils I ran in Cateaton Street and Old Jewry; of the
renowned Guildhall and its two stunted giants, the pride and
wonder of the city and the terror of all unlucky urchins; and how
I visited London Stone, and struck my staff upon it in imitation
of that arch-rebel Jack Cade.

Let it suffice to say, that I at length arrived in merry
Eastcheap, that ancient region of wit and wassail, where the very
names of the streets relished of good cheer, as Pudding Lane
bears testimony even at the present day. For Eastcheap, says old
Stow, "was always famous for its convivial doings. The cookes
cried hot ribbes of beef roasted, pies well baked, and other
victuals: there was clattering of pewter pots, harpe, pipe, and
sawtrie." Alas! how sadly is the scene changed since the roaring
days of Falstaff and old Stow! The madcap roisterer has given
place to the plodding tradesman; the clattering of pots and the
sound of "harpe and sawtrie," to the din of carts and the accurst
dinging of the dustman's bell; and no song is heard, save, haply,
the strain of some syren from Billingsgate, chanting the eulogy
of deceased mackerel.

I sought, in vain, for the ancient abode of Dame Quickly. The
only relict of it is a boar's head, carved in relief in stone,
which formerly served as the sign, but at present is built into
the parting line of two houses which stand on the site of the
renowned old tavern.

For the history of this little abode of good fellowship I was
referred to a tallow-chandler's widow opposite, who had been born
and brought up on the spot, and was looked up to as the
indisputable chronicler of the neighborhood. I found her seated
in a little back parlor, the window of which looked out upon a
yard about eight feet square laid out as a flower-garden, while a
glass door opposite afforded a distant view of the street,
through a vista of soap and tallow candles--the two views, which
comprised, in all probability, her prospects in life and the
little world in which she had lived and moved and had her being
for the better part of a century.

To be versed in the history of Eastcheap, great and little, from
London Stone even unto the Monument, was doubtless, in her
opinion, to be acquainted with the history of the universe. Yet,
with all this, she possessed the simplicity of true wisdom, and
that liberal communicative disposition which I have generally
remarked in intelligent old ladies knowing in the concerns of
their neighborhood.

Her information, however, did not extend far back into antiquity.
She could throw no light upon the history of the Boar's Head from
the time that Dame Quickly espoused the valiant Pistol until the
great fire of London when it was unfortunately burnt down. It was
soon rebuilt, and continued to flourish under the old name and
sign, until a dying landlord, struck with remorse for double
scores, bad measures, and other iniquities which are incident to
the sinful race of publicans, endeavored to make his peace with
Heaven by bequeathing the tavern to St. Michael's Church, Crooked
Lane, toward the supporting of a chaplain. For some time the
vestry meetings were regularly held there, but it was observed
that the old Boar never held up his head under church government.
He gradually declined, and finally gave his last gasp about
thirty years since. The tavern was then turned into shops; but
she informed me that a picture of it was still preserved in St.
Michael's Church, which stood just in the rear. To get a sight of
this picture was now my determination; so, having informed myself
of the abode of the sexton, I took my leave of the venerable
chronicler of Eastcheap, my visit having doubtless raised greatly
her opinion of her legendary lore and furnished an important
incident in the history of her life.

It cost me some difficulty and much curious inquiry to ferret out
the humble hanger-on to the church. I had to explore Crooked Lane
and divers little alleys and elbows and dark passages with which
this old city is perforated like an ancient cheese, or a
worm-eaten chest of drawers. At length I traced him to a corner
of a small court surrounded by lofty houses, where the
inhabitants enjoy about as much of the face of heaven as a
community of frogs at the bottom of a well.

The sexton was a meek, acquiescing little man, of a bowing, lowly
habit, yet he had a pleasant twinkling in his eye, and if
encouraged, would now and then hazard a small pleasantry, such as
a man of his low estate might venture to make in the company of
high churchwardens and other mighty men of the earth. I found him
in company with the deputy organist, seated apart, like Milton's
angels, discoursing, no doubt, on high doctrinal points, and
settling the affairs of the church over a friendly pot of ale;
for the lower classes of English seldom deliberate on any weighty
matter without the assistance of a cool tankard to clear their
understandings. I arrived at the moment when they had finished
their ale and their argument, and were about to repair to the
church to put it in order; so, having made known my wishes, I
received their gracious permission to accompany them.

The church of St. Michael's, Crooked Lane, standing a short
distance from Billingsgate, is enriched with the tombs of many
fishmongers of renown; and as every profession has its galaxy of
glory and its constellation of great men, I presume the monument
of a mighty fishmonger of the olden time is regarded with as much
reverence by succeeding generations of the craft, as poets feel
on contemplating the tomb of Virgil or soldiers the monument of a
Marlborough or Turenne.

I cannot but turn aside, while thus speaking of illustrious men,
to observe that St. Michael's, Crooked Lane, contains also the
ashes of that doughty champion, William Walworth, Knight, who so
manfully clove down the sturdy wight, Wat Tyler, in Smithfield--a
hero worthy of honorable blazon, as almost the only Lord Mayor on
record famous for deeds of arms, the sovereigns of Cockney being
generally renowned as the most pacific of all potentates.*

* The following was the ancient inscription on the monument of
this worthy, which, unhappily, was destroyed in the great

Hereunder lyth a man of Fame,
William Walworth callyd by name:
Fishmonger he was in lyfftime here,
And twise Lord Maior, as in books appere;
Who, with courage stout and manly myght,
Slew Jack Straw in Kyng Richard's sight.
For which act done, and trew entent,
The Kyng made him knyght incontinent
And gave him armes, as here you see,
To declare his fact and chivaldrie.
He left this lyff the yere of our God
Thirteen hundred fourscore and three odd.

An error in the foregoing inscription has been corrected by the
venerable Stow. "Whereas," saith he, "it hath been far spread
abroad by vulgar opinion, that the rebel smitten down so manfully
by Sir William Walworth, the then worthy Lord Maior, was named
Jack Straw, and not Wat Tyler, I thought good to reconcile this
rash-conceived doubt by such testimony as I find in ancient and
good records. The principal leaders, or captains, of the commons,
were Wat Tyler, as the first man; the second was John, or Jack,
Straw, etc., etc.--STOW'S London.

Adjoining the church, in a small cemetery, immediately under the
back window of what was once the Boar's Head, stands the
tombstone of Robert Preston, whilom drawer at the tavern. It is
now nearly a century since this trusty drawer of good liquor
closed his bustling career and was thus quietly deposited within
call of his customers. As I was clearing away the weeds from his
epitaph the little sexton drew me on one side with a mysterious
air, and informed me in a low voice that once upon a time, on a
dark wintry night, when the wind was unruly, howling, and
whistling, banging about doors and windows, and twirling
weathercocks, so that the living were frightened out of their
beds, and even the dead could not sleep quietly in their graves,
the ghost of honest Preston, which happened to be airing itself
in the churchyard, was attracted by the well-known call of
"Waiter!" from the Boar's Head, and made its sudden appearance in
the midst of a roaring club, just as the parish clerk was singing
a stave from the "mirre garland of Captain Death;" to the
discomfiture of sundry train-band captains and the conversion of
an infidel attorney, who became a zealous Christian on the spot,
and was never known to twist the truth afterwards, except in the
way of business.

I beg it may be remembered, that I do not pledge myself for the
authenticity of this anecdote, though it is well known that the
churchyards and by-corners of this old metropolis are very much
infested with perturbed spirits; and every one must have heard of
the Cock Lane ghost, and the apparition that guards the regalia
in the Tower which has frightened so many bold sentinels almost
out of their wits.

Be all this as it may, this Robert Preston seems to have been a
worthy successor to the nimbletongued Francis, who attended upon
the revels of Prince Hal; to have been equally prompt with his
"Anon, anon, sir;" and to have transcended his predecessor in
honesty; for Falstaff, the veracity of whose taste no man will
venture to impeach, flatly accuses Francis of putting lime in his
sack, whereas honest Preston's epitaph lands him for the sobriety
of his conduct, the soundness of his wine, and the fairness of
his measure.* The worthy dignitaries of the church, however, did
not appear much captivated by the sober virtues of the tapster;
the deputy organist, who had a moist look out of the eye, made
some shrewd remark on the abstemiousness of a man brought up
among full hogsheads, and the little sexton corroborated his
opinion by a significant wink and a dubious shake of the head.

* As this inscription is rife with excellent morality, I
transcribe it for the admonition of delinquent tapsters. It is no
doubt, the production of some choice spirit who once frequented
the Boar's Head.

Bacchus, to give the toping world surprise,
Produced one sober son, and here he lies.
Though rear'd among full hogsheads, he defy'd
The charms of wine, and every one beside.
O reader, if to justice thou 'rt inclined,
Keep honest Preston daily in thy mind.
He drew good wine, took care to fill his pots,
Had sundry virtues that excused his faults.
You that on Bacchus have the like dependence,
Pray copy Bob in measure and attendance.

Thus far my researches, though they threw much light on the
history of tapsters, fishmongers, and Lord Mayors, yet
disappointed me in the great object of my quest, the picture of
the Boar's Head Tavern. No such painting was to be found in the
church of St. Michael's. "Marry and amen," said I, "here endeth
my research!" So I was giving the matter up, with the air of a
baffled antiquary, when my friend the sexton, perceiving me to be
curious in everything relative to the old tavern, offered to show
me the choice vessels of the vestry, which had been handed down
from remote times when the parish meetings were held at the
Boar's Head. These were deposited in the parish club-room, which
had been transferred, on the decline of the ancient
establishment, to a tavern in the neighborhood.

A few steps brought us to the house, which stands No. 12 Miles
Lane, bearing the title of The Mason's Arms, and is kept by
Master Edward Honeyball, the "bully-rock" of the establishment.
It is one of those little taverns which abound in the heart of
the city and form the centre of gossip and intelligence of the
neighborhood. We entered the barroom, which was narrow and
darkling, for in these close lanes but few rays of reflected
light are enabled to struggle down to the inhabitants, whose
broad day is at best but a tolerable twilight. The room was
partitioned into boxes, each containing a table spread with a
clean white cloth, ready for dinner. This showed that the guests
were of the good old stamp, and divided their day equally, for it
was but just one o'clock. At the lower end of the room was a
clear coal fire, before which a breast of lamb was roasting. A
row of bright brass candlesticks and pewter mugs glistened along
the mantelpiece, and an old fashioned clock ticked in one corner.
There was something primitive in this medley of kitchen, parlor,
and hall that carried me back to earlier times, and pleased me.
The place, indeed, was humble, but everything had that look of
order and neatness which bespeaks the superintendence of a
notable English housewife. A group of amphibious-looking beings,
who might be either fishermen or sailors, were regaling
themselves in one of the boxes. As I was a visitor of rather
higher pretensions, I was ushered into a little misshapen back
room, having at least nine corners. It was lighted by a
sky-light, furnished with antiquated leathern chairs, and
ornamented with the portrait of a fat pig. It was evidently
appropriated to particular customers, and I found a shabby
gentleman in a red nose and oil-cloth hat seated in one corner
meditating on a half empty pot of porter.

The old sexton had taken the landlady aside, and with an air of
profound importance imparted to her my errand. Dame Honeyball was
a likely, plump, bustling little woman, and no bad substitute for
that paragon of hostesses, Dame Quickly. She seemed delighted
with an opportunity to oblige, and, hurrying upstairs to the
archives of her house, where the precious vessels of the parish
club were deposited, she returned, smiling and courtesying, with
them in her hands.

The first she presented me was a japanned iron tobacco-box of
gigantic size, out of which, I was told, the vestry had smoked at
their stated meetings since time immemorial, and which was never
suffered to be profaned by vulgar hands, or used on common
occasions, I received it with becoming reverence, but what was my
delight at beholding on its cover the identical painting of which
I was in quest! There was displayed the outside of the Boar's
Head Tavern, and before the door was to be seen the whole
convivial group at table, in full revel, pictured with that
wonderful fidelity and force with which the portraits of renowned
generals and commodores are illustrated on tobacco-boxes, for the
benefit of posterity. Lest, however, there should be any mistake,
the cunning limner had warily inscribed the names of Prince Hal
and Falstaff on the bottoms of their chairs.

On the inside of the cover was an inscription, nearly
obliterated, recording that this box was the gift of Sir Richard
Gore, for the use of the vestry meetings at the Boar's Head
Tavern, and that it was "repaired and beautified by his
successor, Mr. John Packard, 1767." Such is a faithful
description of this august and venerable relic, and I question
whether the learned Scriblerius contemplated his Roman shield, or
the Knights of the Round Table the long-sought San-greal, with
more exultation.

While I was meditating on it with enraptured gaze, Dame
Honeyball, who was highly gratified by the interest it excited,
put in my hands a drinking-cup or goblet which also belonged to
the vestry, and was descended from the old Boar's Head. It bore
the inscription of having been the gift of Francis Wythers,
Knight, and was held, she told me, in exceeding great value,
being considered very "antyke." This last opinion was
strengthened by the shabby gentleman with the red nose and
oilcloth hat, and whom I strongly suspected of being a lineal
descendant from the variant Bardolph. He suddenly aroused from
his meditation on the pot of porter, and casting a knowing look
at the goblet, exclaimed, "Ay, ay! the head don't ache now that
made that there article."

The great importance attached to this memento of ancient revelry
by modern churchwardens, at first puzzled me; but there is
nothing sharpens the apprehension so much as antiquarian
research; for I immediately perceived that this could be no other
than the identical "parcel-gilt goblet," on which Falstaff made
his loving but faithless vow to Dame Quickly, and which would, of
course, be treasured up with care among the regalia of her
domains, as a testimony of that solemn contract.*

* "Thou didst swear to me upon a parcel-gilt goblet, sitting in
my Dolphin chamber, at the round table, by a sea-coal fire, on
Wednesday, in Whitsun-week, when the prince broke thy head for
likening his father to a singing man at Windsor; thou didst swear
to me then, as I was washing thy wound, to marry me, and make me
my lady, thy wife. Canst thou deny it?"--Henry IV., Part 2.

Mine hostess, indeed, gave me a long history how the goblet had
been handed down from generation to generation. She also
entertained me with many particulars concerning the worthy
vestrymen who have seated themselves thus quietly on the stools
of the ancient roisterers of Eastcheap, and, like so many
commentators, utter clouds of smoke in honor of Shakespeare.
These I forbear to relate, lest my readers should not be as
curious in these matters as myself. Suffice it to say, the
neighbors, one and all, about Eastcheap, believe that Falstaff
and his merry crew actually lived and revelled there. Nay, there
are several legendary anecdotes concerning him still extant among
the oldest frequenters of the Mason's Arms, which they give as
transmitted down from their forefathers; and Mr. M'Kash, an Irish
hair-dresser, whose shop stands on the site of the old Boar's
Head, has several dry jokes of Fat Jack's, not laid down in the
books, with which he makes his customers ready to die of

I now turned to my friend the sexton to make some further
inquiries, but I found him sunk in pensive meditation. His head
had declined a little on one side; a deep sigh heaved from the
very bottom of his stomach, and, though I could not see a tear
trembling in his eye, yet a moisture was evidently stealing from
a corner of his mouth. I followed the direction of his eye
through the door which stood open, and found it fixed wistfully
on the savory breast of lamb, roasting in dripping richness
before the fire.

I now called to mind that in the eagerness of my recondite
investigation, I was keeping the poor man from his dinner. My
bowels yearned with sympathy, and putting in his hand a small
token of my gratitude and goodness, I departed with a hearty
benediction on him, Dame Honeyball, and the parish club of
Crooked Lane--not forgetting my shabby, but sententious friend,
in the oil-cloth hat and copper nose.

Thus have I given a "tedious brief" account of this interesting
research, for which, if it prove too short and unsatisfactory, I
can only plead my inexperience in this branch of literature, so
deservedly popular at the present day. I am aware that a more
skilful illustrator of the immortal bard would have swelled the
materials I have touched upon to a good merchantable bulk,
comprising the biographies of William Walworth, Jack Straw, and
Robert Preston; some notice of the eminent fishmongers of St.
Michael's; the history of Eastcheap, great and little; private
anecdotes of Dame Honeyball and her pretty daughter, whom I have
not even mentioned; to say nothing of a damsel tending the breast
of lamb (and whom, by the way, I remarked to be a comely lass
with a neat foot and ankle);--the whole enlivened by the riots of
Wat Tyler, and illuminated by the great fire of London.

All this I leave, as a rich mine, to be worked by future
commentators, nor do I despair of seeing the tobacco-box, and the
"parcel-gilt goblet " which I have thus brought to light the
subject of future engravings, and almost as fruitful of
voluminous dissertations and disputes as the shield of Achilles
or the far-famed Portland Vase.



I know that all beneath the moon decays,
And what by mortals in this world is brought,
In time's great periods shall return to nought.
I know that all the muses' heavenly rays,
With toil of sprite which are so dearly bought,
As idle sounds, of few or none are sought--
That there is nothing lighter than mere praise.

THERE are certain half-dreaming moods of mind in which we
naturally steal away from noise and glare, and seek some quiet
haunt where we may indulge our reveries and build our air castles
undisturbed. In such a mood I was loitering about the old gray
cloisters of Westminster Abbey, enjoying that luxury of wandering
thought which one is apt to dignify with the name of reflection,
when suddenly an irruption of madcap boys from Westminster
school, playing at football, broke in upon the monastic stillness
of the place, making the vaulted passages and mouldering tombs
echo with their merriment. I sought to take refuge from their
noise by penetrating still deeper into the solitudes of the pile,
and applied to one of the vergers for admission to the library.
He conducted me through a portal rich with the crumbling
sculpture of former ages, which opened upon a gloomy passage
leading to the chapter-house and the chamber in which Doomsday
Book is deposited. Just within the passage is a small door on the
left. To this the verger applied a key; it was double locked, and
opened with some difficulty, as if seldom used. We now ascended a
dark narrow staircase, and, passing through a second door,
entered the library.

I found myself in a lofty antique hall, the roof supported by
massive joists of old English oak. It was soberly lighted by a
row of Gothic windows at a considerable height from the floor,
and which apparently opened upon the roofs of the cloisters. An
ancient picture of some reverend dignitary of the Church in his
robes hung over the fireplace. Around the hall and in a small
gallery were the books, arranged in carved oaken cases. They
consisted principally of old polemical writers, and were much
more worn by time than use. In the centre of the library was a
solitary table with two or three books on it, an inkstand without
ink, and a few pens parched by long disuse. The place seemed
fitted for quiet study and profound meditation. It was buried
deep among the massive walls of the abbey and shut up from the
tumult of the world. I could only hear now and then the shouts of
the school-boys faintly swelling from the cloisters, and the
sound of a bell tolling for prayers echoing soberly along the
roofs of the abbey. By degrees the shouts of merriment grew
fainter and fainter, and at length died away; the bell ceased to
toll, and a profound silence reigned through the dusky hall.

I had taken down a little thick quarto, curiously bound in
parchment, with brass clasps, and seated myself at the table in a
venerable elbow-chair. Instead of reading, however, I was
beguiled by the solemn monastic air and lifeless quiet of the
place, into a train of musing. As I looked around upon the old
volumes in their mouldering covers, thus ranged on the shelves
and apparently never disturbed in their repose, I could not but
consider the library a kind of literary catacomb, where authors,
like mummies, are piously entombed and left to blacken and
moulder in dusty oblivion.

How much, thought I, has each of these volumes, now thrust aside
with such indifference, cost some aching head! how many weary
days! how many sleepless nights! How have their authors buried
themselves in the solitude of cells and cloisters, shut
themselves up from the face of man, and the still more blessed
face of Nature; and devoted themselves to painful research and
intense reflection! And all for what? To occupy an inch of dusty
shelf--to have the titles of their works read now and then in a
future age by some drowsy churchman or casual straggler like
myself, and in another age to be lost even to remembrance. Such
is the amount of this boasted immortality. A mere temporary
rumor, a local sound; like the tone of that bell which has tolled
among these towers, filling the ear for a moment, lingering
transiently in echo, and then passing away, like a thing that was

While I sat half-murmuring, half-meditating, these unprofitable
speculations with my head resting on my hand, I was thrumming
with the other hand upon the quarto, until I accidentally
loosened the clasps; when, to my utter astonishment, the little
book gave two or three yawns, like one awaking from a deep sleep,
then a husky hem, and at length began to talk. At first its voice
was very hoarse and broken, being much troubled by a cobweb which
some studious spider had woven across it, and having probably
contracted a cold from long exposure to the chills and damps of
the abbey. In a short time, however, it became more distinct, and
I soon found it an exceedingly fluent, conversable little tome.
Its language, to be sure, was rather quaint and obsolete, and its
pronunciation what, in the present day, would be deemed
barbarous; but I shall endeavor, as far as I am able, to render
it in modern parlance.

It began with railings about the neglect of the world, about
merit being suffered to languish in obscurity, and other such
commonplace topics of literary repining, and complained bitterly
that it had not been opened for more than two centuries--that the
dean only looked now and then into the library, sometimes took
down a volume or two, trifled with them for a few moments, and
then returned them to their shelves. "What a plague do they
mean?" said the little quarto, which I began to perceive was
somewhat choleric--"what a plague do they mean by keeping several
thousand volumes of us shut up here, and watched by a set of old
vergers, like so many beauties in a harem, merely to be looked at
now and then by the dean? Books were written to give pleasure and
to be enjoyed; and I would have a rule passed that the dean
should pay each of us a visit at least once a year; or, if he is
not equal to the task, let them once in a while turn loose the
whole school of Westminster among us, that at any rate we may now
and then have an airing."

"Softly, my worthy friend," replied I; "you are not aware how
much better you are off than most books of your generation. By
being stored away in this ancient library you are like the
treasured remains of those saints and monarchs which lie
enshrined in the adjoining chapels, while the remains of their
contemporary mortals, left to the ordinary course of Nature, have
long since returned to dust."

"Sir," said the little tome, ruffling his leaves and looking big,
"I was written for all the world, not for the bookworms of an
abbey. I was intended to circulate from hand to hand, like other
great contemporary works; but here have I been clasped up for
more than two centuries, and might have silently fallen a prey to
these worms that are playing the very vengeance with my
intestines if you had not by chance given me an opportunity of
uttering a few last words before I go to pieces."

"My good friend," rejoined I, "had you been left to the
circulation of which you speak, you would long ere this have been
no more. To judge from your physiognomy, you are now well
stricken in years: very few of your contemporaries can be at
present in existence, and those few owe their longevity to being
immured like yourself in old libraries; which, suffer me to add,
instead of likening to harems, you might more properly and
gratefully have compared to those infirmaries attached to
religious establishments for the benefit of the old and decrepit,
and where, by quiet fostering and no employment, they often
endure to an amazingly good-for-nothing old age. You talk of your
contemporaries as if in circulation. Where do we meet with their
works?. What do we hear of Robert Grosteste of Lincoln? No one
could have toiled harder than he for immortality. He is said to
have written nearly two hundred volumes. He built, as it were, a
pyramid of books to perpetuate his name: but, alas! the pyramid
has long since fallen, and only a few fragments are scattered in
various libraries, where they are scarcely disturbed even by the
antiquarian. What do we hear of Giraldus Cambrensis, the
historian, antiquary, philosopher, theologian, and poet? He
declined two bishoprics that he might shut himself up and write
for posterity; but posterity never inquires after his labors.
What of Henry of Huntingdon, who, besides a learned history of
England, wrote a treatise on the contempt of the world, which the
world has revenged by forgetting him? What is quoted of Joseph of
Exeter, styled the miracle of his age in classical composition?
Of his three great heroic poems, one is lost forever, excepting a
mere fragment; the others are known only to a few of the curious
in literature; and as to his love verses and epigrams, they have
entirely disappeared. What is in current use of John Wallis the
Franciscan, who acquired the name of the tree of life? Of William
of Malmsbury--of Simeon of Durham--of Benedict of
Peterborough--of John Hanvill of St. Albans--of----"

"Prithee, friend," cried the quarto in a testy tone, "how old do
you think me? You are talking of authors that lived long before
my time, and wrote either in Latin or French, so that they in a
manner expatriated themselves, and deserved to be forgotten;* but
I, sir, was ushered into the world from the press of the renowned
Wynkyn de Worde. I was written in my own native tongue, at a time
when the language had become fixed; and indeed I was considered a
model of pure and elegant English."

(I should observe that these remarks were couched in such
intolerably antiquated terms, that I have had infinite difficulty
in rendering them into modern phraseology.)

"I cry you mercy," said I, "for mistaking your age; but it
matters little. almost all the writers of your time have likewise
passed into forgetfulness, and De Worde's publications are mere
literary rarities among book-collectors. The purity and stability
of language, too, on which you found your claims to perpetuity,
have been the fallacious dependence of authors of every age, even
back to the times of the worthy Robert of Gloucester, who wrote
his history in rhymes of mongrel Saxon.+ Even now many talk of
Spenser's `well of pure English undefiled,' as if the language
ever sprang from a well or fountain-head, and was not rather a
mere confluence of various tongues perpetually subject to changes
and intermixtures. It is this which has made English literature
so extremely mutable, and the reputation built upon it so
fleeting. Unless thought can be committed to something more
permanent and unchangeable than such a medium, even thought must
share the fate of everything else, and fall into decay. This
should serve as a check upon the vanity and exultation of the
most popular writer. He finds the language in which he has
embarked his fame gradually altering and subject to the
dilapidations of time and the caprice of fashion. He looks back
and beholds the early authors of his country, once the favorites
of their day, supplanted by modern writers. A few short ages have
covered them with obscurity, and their merits can only be
relished by the quaint taste of the bookworm. And such, he
anticipates, will be the fate of his own work, which, however it
may be admired in its day and held up as a model of purity, will
in the course of years grow antiquated and obsolete, until it
shall become almost as unintelligible in its native land as an
Egyptian obelisk or one of those Runic inscriptions said to exist
in the deserts of Tartary. "I declare," added I, with some
emotion, "when I contemplate a modern library, filled with new
works in all the bravery of rich gilding and binding, I feel
disposed to sit down and weep, like the good Xerxes, when he
surveyed his army, pranked out in all the splendor of military
array, and reflected that in one hundred years not one of them
would be in existence."

* "In Latin and French hath many soueraine wittes had great
delyte to endite, and have many noble thinges fulfilde, but
certes there ben some that speaken their poisye in French, of
which speche the Frenchmen have as good a fantasye as w ave in
hearying of Frenchmen's Englishe."--CHAUCER'S Testament of Love.
+ Holinsh d,i his Chronicle, observes, "Afterwards, also, by
diligent vell f Geffry Chaucer and John Gowre, in the time of
Richard the Second, and after them of John Scogan and John
Lydgate, monke of Berrie, our said toong was brought to an
excellent passe, notwithstanding that it never came unto the type
of perfection until the time of Queen Elizabeth, wherein John
Jewell, Bishop of Sarum, John Fox, and sundrie learned and
excellent writers, have fully accomplished the ornature of the
same to their great praise and mortal commendation."

"Ah," said the little quarto, with a heavy sigh, "I see how it
is: these in modern scribblers have superseded all the good old
authors. I suppose nothing is read nowadays but Sir Philip
Sidney's Arcadia, Sackville's stately plays and Mirror for
Magistrates, or the fine-spun euphuisms of the `unparalleled John

"There you are again mistaken," said I; "the writers whom you
suppose in vogue, because they happened to be so when you were
last in circulation, have long since had their day. Sir Philip
Sidney's Arcadia, the immortality of which was so fondly
predicted by his admirers,* and which, in truth, was full of
noble thoughts, delicate images, and graceful turns of language,
is now scarcely ever mentioned. Sackville has strutted into
obscurity; and even Lyly, though his writings were once the
delight of a court, and apparently perpetuated by a proverb, is
now scarcely known even by name. A whole crowd of authors who
wrote and wrangled at the time, have likewise gone down with all
their writings and their controversies. Wave after wave of
succeeding literature has rolled over them, until they are buried
so deep, that it is only now and then that some industrious diver
after fragments of antiquity brings up a specimen for the
gratification of the curious.

* "Live ever sweete booke; the simple image of his gentle witt,
and the golden pillar of his noble courage; and ever notify unto
the world that thy writer was the secretary of eloquence, the
breath of the muses, the honey bee of the daintyest flowers of
witt and arte, the pith of morale and intellectual virtues, the
arme of Bellona in the field, the tongue of Suada in the chamber,
the spirits of Practise in esse, and the paragon of excellence in
print."-Harvey Pierce's Supererogation.

"For my part," I continued, "I consider this mutability of
language a wise precaution of Providence for the benefit of the
world at large, and of authors in particular. To reason from
analogy, we daily behold the varied and beautiful tribes of
vegetables springing up, flourishing, adorning the fields for a
short time, and then fading into dust, to make way for their
successors. Were not this the case, the fecundity of nature would
be a grievance instead of a blessing. The earth would groan with
rank and excessive vegetation, and its surface become a tangled
wilderness. In like manner, the works of genius and learning
decline and make way for subsequent productions. Language
gradually varies, and with it fade away the writings of authors
who have flourished their allotted time; otherwise the creative
powers of genius would overstock the world, and the mind would be
completely bewildered in the endless mazes of literature.
Formerly there were some restraints on this excessive
multiplication. Works had to be transcribed by hand, which was a
slow and laborious operation; they were written either on
parchment, which was expensive, so that one work was often erased
to make way for another; or on papyrus, which was fragile and
extremely perishable. Authorship was a limited and unprofitable
craft, pursued chiefly by monks in the leisure and solitude of
their cloisters. The accumulation of manuscripts was slow and
costly, and confined almost entirely to monasteries. To these
circumstances it may, in some measure, be owing that we have not
been inundated by the intellect of antiquity--that the fountains
of thought have not been broken up, and modern genius drowned in
the deluge. But the inventions of paper and the press have put an
end to all these restraints. They have made every one a writer,
and enabled every mind to pour itself into print, and diffuse
itself over the whole intellectual world. The consequences are
alarming. The stream of literature has swollen into a
torrent--augmented into a river-expanded into a sea. A few
centuries since five or six hundred manuscripts constituted a
great library; but what would you say to libraries, such as
actually exist, containing three or four hundred thousand
volumes; legions of authors at the same time busy; and the press
going on with fearfully increasing activity, to double and
quadruple the number? Unless some unforeseen mortality should
break out among the progeny of the Muse, now that she has become
so prolific, I tremble for posterity. I fear the mere fluctuation
of language will not be sufficient. Criticism may do much; it
increases with the increase of literature, and resembles one of
those salutary checks on population spoken of by economists. All
possible encouragement, therefore, should be given to the growth
of critics, good or bad. But I fear all will be in vain; let
criticism do what it may, writers will write, printers will
print, and the world will inevitably be overstocked with good
books. It will soon be the employment of a lifetime merely to
learn their names. Many a man of passable information at the
present day reads scarcely anything but reviews, and before long
a man of erudition will be little better than a mere walking

"My very good sir," said the little quarto, yawning most drearily
in my face, "excuse my interrupting you, but I perceive you are
rather given to prose. I would ask the fate of an author who was
making some noise just as I left the world. His reputation,
however, was considered quite temporary. The learned shook their
heads at him, for he was a poor, half-educated varlet, that knew
little of Latin, and nothing of Greek, and had been obliged to
run the country for deer-stealing. I think his name was
Shakespeare. I presume he soon sunk into oblivion."

"On the contrary," said I, "it is owing to that very man that the
literature of his period has experienced a duration beyond the
ordinary term of English literature. There rise authors now and
then who seem proof against the mutability of language because
they have rooted themselves in the unchanging principles of human
nature. They are like gigantic trees that we sometimes see on the
banks of a stream, which by their vast and deep roots,
penetrating through the mere surface and laying hold on the very
foundations of the earth, preserve the soil around them from
being swept away by the ever-flowing current, and hold up many a
neighboring plant, and perhaps worthless weed, to perpetuity.
Such is the case with Shakespeare, whom we behold defying the
encroachments of time, retaining in modern use the language and
literature of his day, and giving duration to many an indifferent
author, merely from having flourished in his vicinity. But even
he, I grieve to say, is gradually assuming the tint of age, and
his whole form is overrun by a profusion of commentators, who,
like clambering vines and creepers, almost bury the noble plant
that upholds them."

Here the little quarto began to heave his sides and chuckle,
until at length he broke out into a plethoric fit of laughter
that had wellnigh choked him by reason of his excessive
corpulency. "Mighty well!" cried he, as soon as he could recover
breath, "mighty well! and so you would persuade me that the
literature of an age is to be perpetuated by a vagabond
deer-stealer! by a man without learning! by a poet! forsooth--a
poet!" And here he wheezed forth another fit of laughter.

I confess that I felt somewhat nettled at this rudeness, which,
however, I pardoned on account of his having flourished in a less
polished age. I determined, nevertheless, not to give up my

"Yes," resumed I positively, "a poet; for of all writers he has
the best chance for immortality. Others may write from the head,
but he writes from the heart, and the heart will always
understand him. He is the faithful portrayer of Nature, whose
features are always the same and always interesting. Prose
writers are voluminous and unwieldy; their pages crowded with
commonplaces, and their thoughts expanded into tediousness. But
with the true poet every thing is terse, touching, or brilliant.
He gives the choicest thoughts in the choicest language. He
illustrates them by everything that he sees most striking in
nature and art. He enriches them by pictures of human life, such
as it is passing before him. His writings, therefore, contain the
spirit, the aroma, if I may use the phrase, of the age in which
he lives. They are caskets which inclose within a small compass
the wealth of the language--its family jewels, which are thus
transmitted in a portable form to posterity. The setting may
occasionally be antiquated, and require now and then to be
renewed, as in the case of Chaucer; but the brilliancy and
intrinsic value of the gems continue unaltered. Cast a look back
over the long reach of literary history. What vast valleys of
dulness, filled with monkish legends and academical
controversies! What bogs of theological speculations! What dreary
wastes of metaphysics! Here and there only do we behold the
heaven-illumined bards, elevated like beacons on their
widely-separated heights, to transmit the pure light of poetical
intelligence from age to age."*

I was just about to launch forth into eulogiums upon the poets of
the day when the sudden opening of the door caused me to turn my
head. It was the verger, who came to inform me that it was time
to close the library. I sought to have a parting word with the
quarto, but the worthy little tome was silent; the clasps were
closed: and it looked perfectly unconscious of all that had
passed. I have been to the library two or three times since, and
have endeavored to draw it into further conversation, but in
vain; and whether all this rambling colloquy actually took place,
or whether it was another of those old day-dreams to which I am
subject, I have never, to this moment, been able to discover.

* Thorow earth and waters deepe,
The pen by skill doth passe:
And featly nyps the worldes abuse,
And shoes us in a glasse,
The vertu and the vice
Of every wight alyve;
The honey comb that bee doth make
Is not so sweet in hyve,
As are the golden leves
That drops from poet's head!
Which doth surmount our common talke
As farre as dross doth lead.


Here's a few flowers! but about midnight more:

The herbs that have oil them cold dew o' the night
Are strewings fitt'st for graves----
You were as flowers now withered; even so
These herblets shall, which we upon you strow.

AMONG the beautiful and simple-hearted customs of rural life
which still linger in some parts of England are those of strewing
flowers before the funerals and planting them at the graves of
departed friends. These, it is said, are the remains of some of
the rites of the primitive Church; but they are of still higher
antiquity, having been observed among the Greeks and Romans, and
frequently mentioned by their writers, and were no doubt the
spontaneous tributes of unlettered affection, originating long
before art had tasked itself to modulate sorrow into song or
story it on the monument. They are now only to be met with in the
most distant and retired places of the kingdom, where fashion
and innovation have not been able to throng in and trample out
all the curious and interesting traces of the olden time.

In Glamorganshire, we are told, the bed whereon the corpse lies
is covered with flowers, a custom alluded to in one of the wild
and plaintive ditties of Ophelia:

White his shroud as the mountain snow,

Larded all with sweet flowers;
Which be-wept to the grave did go,
With true love showers.

There is also a most delicate and beautiful rite observed in some
of the remote villages of the south at the funeral of a female
who has died young and unmarried. A chaplet of white flowers is
borne before the corpse by a young girl nearest in age, size, and
resemblance, and is afterwards hung up in the church over the
accustomed seat of the deceased. These chaplets are sometimes
made of white paper, in imitation of flowers, and inside of them
is generally a pair of white gloves. They are intended as emblems
of the purity of the deceased, and the crown of glory which she
has received in heaven.

In some parts of the country, also, the dead are carried to the
grave with the singing of psalms and hymns--a kind of triumph,
"to show," says Bourne, "that they have finished their course
with joy, and are become conquerors." This, I am informed, is
observed in some of the northern counties, particularly in
Northumberland, and it has a pleasing, though melancholy effect
to hear of a still evening in some lonely country scene the
mournful melody of a funeral dirge swelling from a distance, and
to see the train slowly moving along the landscape.

Thus, thus, and thus, we compass round
Thy harmless and unhaunted ground,
And as we sing thy dirge, we will,
The daffodill
And other flowers lay upon
The altar of our love, thy stone.

There is also a solemn respect paid by the traveller to the
passing funeral in these sequestered places; for such spectacles,
occurring among the quiet abodes of Nature, sink deep into the
soul. As the mourning train approaches he pauses, uncovered, to
let it go by; he then follows silently in the rear; sometimes
quite to the grave, at other times for a few hundred yards, and,
having paid this tribute of respect to the deceased, turns and
resumes his journey.

The rich vein of melancholy which runs through the English
character, and gives it some of its most touching and ennobling
graces, is finely evidenced in these pathetic customs, and in the
solicitude shown by the common people for an honored and a
peaceful grave. The humblest peasant, whatever may be his lowly
lot while living, is anxious that some little respect may be paid
to his remains. Sir Thomas Overbury, describing the "faire and
happy milkmaid," observes, "thus lives she, and all her care is,
that she may die in the spring-time, to have store of flowers
stucke upon her winding-sheet." The poets, too, who always
breathe the feeling of a nation, continually advert to this fond
solicitude about the grave. In The Maid's Tragedy, by Beaumont
and Fletcher, there is a beautiful instance of the kind
describing the capricious melancholy of a broken-hearted girl:

When she sees a bank
Stuck full of flowers, she, with a sigh, will tell
Her servants, what a pretty place it were
To bury lovers in; and made her maids
Bluck 'em, and strew her over like a corse.

The custom of decorating graves was once universally prevalent:
osiers were carefully bent over them to keep the turf uninjured,
and about them were planted evergreens and flowers. "We adorn
their graves," says Evelyn, in his Sylva, "with flowers and
redolent plants, just emblems of the life of man, which has been
compared in Holy Scriptures to those fading beauties whose roots,
being buried in dishonor, rise, again in glory." This usage has
now become extremely rare in England; but it may still be met
with in the churchyards of retired villages, among the Welsh
mountains; and I recollect an instance of it at the small town of
Ruthven, which lies at the head of the beautiful vale of Clewyd.
I have been told also by a friend, who was present at the funeral
of a young girl in Glamorganshire, that the female attendants had
their aprons full of flowers, which, as soon as the body was
interred, they stuck about the grave.

He noticed several graves which had been decorated in the same
manner. As the flowers had been merely stuck in the ground, and
not planted, they had soon withered, and might be seen in various
states of decay; some drooping, others quite perished. They were
afterwards to be supplanted by holly, rosemary, and other
evergreens, which on some graves had grown to great luxuriance,
and overshadowed the tombstones.

There was formerly a melancholy fancifulness in the arrangement
of these rustic offerings, that had something in it truly
poetical. The rose was sometimes blended with the lily, to form a
general emblem of frail mortality. "This sweet flower," said
Evelyn, "borne on a branch set with thorns and accompanied with
the lily, are natural hieroglyphics of our fugitive, umbratile,
anxious, and transitory life, which, making so fair a show for a
time, is not yet without its thorns and crosses." The nature and
color of the flowers, and of the ribbons with which they were
tied, had often a particular reference to the qualities or story
of the deceased, or were expressive of the feelings of the
mourner. In an old poem, entitled "Corydon's Doleful Knell," a
lover specifies the decorations he intends to use:

A garland shall be framed
By art and nature's skill,
Of sundry-colored flowers,
In token of good-will.

And sundry-colored ribbons
On it I will bestow;
But chiefly blacke and yellowe
With her to grave shall go.

I'll deck her tomb with flowers
The rarest ever seen;
And with my tears as showers
I'll keep them fresh and green.

The white rose, we are told, was planted at the grave of a
virgin; her chaplet was tied with white ribbons, in token of her
spotless innocence, though sometimes black ribbons were
intermingled, to bespeak the grief of the survivors. The red rose
was occasionally used, in remembrance of such as had been
remarkable for benevolence; but roses in general were
appropriated to the graves of lovers. Evelyn tells us that the
custom was not altogether extinct in his time, near his dwelling
in the county of Surrey, "where the maidens yearly planted and
decked the graves of their defunct sweethearts with rose-bushes."
And Camden likewise remarks, in his Britannia: "Here is also a
certain custom, observed time out of mind, of planting rose-trees
upon the graves, especially by the young men and maids who have
lost their loves; so that this churchyard is now full of them."

When the deceased had been unhappy in their loves, emblems of a
more gloomy character were used, such as the yew and cypress, and
if flowers were strewn, they were of the most melancholy colors.
Thus, in poems by Thomas Stanley, Esq. (published in 1651), is
the following stanza:

Yet strew
Upon my dismall grave
Such offerings as you have,
Forsaken cypresse and yewe;
For kinder flowers can take no birth
Or growth from such unhappy earth.

In The Maid's Tragedy, a pathetic little air, is introduced,
illustrative of this mode of decorating the funerals of females
who had been disappointed in love:

Lay a garland on my hearse
Of the dismall yew,
Maidens, willow branches wear,
Say I died true.

My love was false, but I was firm,
From my hour of birth;
Upon my buried body lie
Lightly, gentle earth.

The natural effect of sorrow over the dead is to refine and
elevate the mind; and we have a proof of it in the purity of
sentiment and the unaffected elegance of thought which pervaded
the whole of these funeral observances. Thus it was an especial
precaution that none but sweet-scented evergreens and flowers
should be employed. The intention seems to have been to soften
the horrors of the tomb, to beguile the mind from brooding over
the disgraces of perishing mortality, and to associate the memory
of the deceased with the most delicate and beautiful objects in
nature. There is a dismal process going on in the grave, ere dust
can return to its kindred dust, which the imagination shrinks
from contemplating; and we seek still to think of the form we
have loved, with those refined associations which it awakened
when blooming before us in youth and beauty. "Lay her i' the
earth," says Laertes, of his virgin sister,

And from her fair and unpolluted flesh
May violets spring.

Herrick, also, in his "Dirge of Jephtha," pours forth a fragrant
flow of poetical thought and image, which in a manner embalms the
dead in the recollections of the living.

Sleep in thy peace, thy bed of spice,
And make this place all Paradise:
May sweets grow here! and smoke from hence
Fat frankincense.

Let balme and cassia send their scent
From out thy maiden monument.
* * * * *
May all shie maids at wonted hours
Come forth to strew thy tombe with flowers!
May virgins, when they come to mourn
Male incense burn
Upon thine altar! then return
And leave thee sleeping in thy urn.

I might crowd my pages with extracts from the older British
poets, who wrote when these rites were more prevalent, and
delighted frequently to allude to them; but I have already quoted
more than is necessary. I cannot, however, refrain from giving a
passage from Shakespeare, even though it should appear trite,
which illustrates the emblematical meaning often conveyed in
these floral tributes, and at the same time possesses that magic
of language and appositeness of imagery for which he stands

With fairest flowers,
Whilst summer lasts, and I live here, Fidele,
I'll sweeten thy sad grave; thou shalt not lack
The flower that's like thy face, pale primrose; nor
The azured harebell like thy veins; no, nor
The leaf of eglantine; whom not to slander,
Outsweetened not thy breath.

There is certainly something more affecting in these prompt and
spontaneous offerings of Nature than in the most costly monuments
of art; the hand strews the flower while the heart is warm, and
the tear falls on the grave as affection is binding the osier
round the sod; but pathos expires under the slow labor of the
chisel, and is chilled among the cold conceits of sculptured

It is greatly to be regretted that a custom so truly elegant and
touching has disappeared from general use, and exists only in the
most remote and insignificant villages. But it seems as if
poetical custom always shuns the walks of cultivated society. In
proportion as people grow polite they cease to be poetical. They
talk of poetry, but they have learnt to check its free impulses,
to distrust its sallying emotions, and to supply its most
affecting and picturesque usages by studied form and pompous
ceremonial. Few pageants can be more stately and frigid than an
English funeral in town. It is made up of show and gloomy parade:
mourning carriages, mourning horses, mourning plumes, and
hireling mourners, who make a mockery of grief. "There is a grave
digged," says Jeremy Taylor, "and a solemn mourning, and a great
talk in the neighborhood, and when the daies are finished, they
shall be, and they shall be remembered no more." The associate in
the gay and crowded city is soon forgotten; the hurrying
succession of new intimates and new pleasures effaces him from
our minds, and the very scenes and circles in which he moved are
incessantly fluctuating. But funerals in the country are solemnly
impressive. The stroke of death makes a wider space in the
village circle, and is an awful event in the tranquil uniformity
of rural life. The passing bell tolls its knell in every ear; it
steals with its pervading melancholy over hill and vale, and
saddens all the landscape.

The fixed and unchanging features of the country also perpetuate
the memory of the friend with whom we once enjoyed them, who was
the companion of our most retired walks, and gave animation to
every lonely scene. His idea is associated with every charm of
Nature; we hear his voice in the echo which he once delighted to
awaken; his spirit haunts the grove which he once frequented; we
think of him in the wild upland solitude or amidst the pensive
beauty of the valley. In the freshness of joyous morning we
remember his beaming smiles and bounding gayety; and when sober
evening returns with its gathering shadows and subduing quiet, we
call to mind many a twilight hour of gentle talk and sweet-souled

Each lonely place shall him restore,
For him the tear be duly shed;
Beloved till life can charm no more,
And mourn'd till pity's self be dead.

Another cause that perpetuates the memory of the deceased in the
country is that the grave is more immediately in sight of the
survivors. They pass it on their way to prayer; it meets their
eyes when their hearts are softened by the exercises of devotion;
they linger about it on the Sabbath, when the mind is disengaged
from worldly cares and most disposed to turn aside from present
pleasures and present loves and to sit down among the solemn
mementos of the past. In North Wales the peasantry kneel and pray
over the graves of their deceased friends for several Sundays
after the interment; and where the tender rite of strewing and
planting flowers is still practised, it is always renewed on
Easter, Whitsuntide, and other festivals, when the season brings
the companion of former festivity more vividly to mind. It is
also invariably performed by the nearest relatives and friends;
no menials nor hirelings are employed, and if a neighbor yields
assistance, it would be deemed an insult to offer compensation.

I have dwelt upon this beautiful rural custom, because as it is
one of the last, so is it one of the holiest, offices of love.
The grave is the ordeal of true affection. It is there that the
divine passion of the soul manifests its superiority to the
instinctive impulse of mere animal attachment. The latter must be
continually refreshed and kept alive by the presence of its
object, but the love that is seated in the soul can live on long
remembrance. The mere inclinations of sense languish and decline
with the charms which excited them, and turn with shuddering
disgust from the dismal precincts of the tomb; but it is thence
that truly spiritual affection rises, purified from every sensual
desire, and returns, like a holy flame, to illumine and sanctify
the heart of the survivor.

The sorrow for the dead is the only sorrow from which we refuse
to be divorced. Every other wound we seek to heal, every other
affliction to forget; but this wound we consider it a duty to
keep open, this affliction we cherish and brood over in solitude.
Where is the mother who would willingly forget the infant that
perished like a blossom from her arms though every recollection
is a pang? Where is the child that would willingly forget the
most tender of parents, though to remember be but to lament? Who,
even in the hour of agony, would forget the friend over whom he
mourns? Who, even when the tomb is closing upon the remains of
her he most loved, when he feels his heart, as it were, crushed
in the closing of its portal, would accept of consolation that
must be bought by forgetfulness? No, the love which survives the
tomb is one of the noblest attributes of the soul. If it has its
woes, it has likewise its delights; and when the overwhelming
burst of grief is calmed into the gentle tear of recollection,
when the sudden anguish and the convulsive agony over the present
ruins of all that we most loved is softened away into pensive
meditation on all that it was in the days of its loveliness, who
would root out such a sorrow from the heart? Though it may
sometimes throw a passing cloud over the bright hour of gayety,
or spread a deeper sadness over the hour of gloom, yet who would
exchange it even for the song of pleasure or the burst of
revelry? No, there is a voice from the tomb sweeter than song.
There is a remembrance of the dead to which we turn even from the
charms of the living. Oh, the grave! the grave! It buries every
error, covers every defect, extinguishes every resentment! From
its peaceful bosom spring none but fond regrets and tender
recollections. Who can look down upon the grave even of an enemy,
and not feel a compunctious throb that he should ever have warred
with the poor handful of earth that lies mouldering before him?

But the grave of those we loved--what a place for meditation!
There it is that we call up in long review the whole history of
virtue and gentleness, and the thousand endearments lavished upon
us almost unheeded in the daily intercourse of intimacy; there it
is that we dwell upon the tenderness, the solemn, awful
tenderness, of the parting scene. The bed of death, with all its
stifled griefs--its noiseless attendance--its mute, watchful
assiduities. The last testimonies of expiring love! The feeble,
fluttering, thrilling--oh, how thrilling!--pressure of the hand!
The faint, faltering accents, struggling in death to give one
more assurance of affection! The last fond look of the glazing
eye, turning upon us even from the threshold of existence!

Ay, go to the grave of buried love and meditate! There settle the
account with thy conscience for every past benefit
unrequited--every past endearment unregarded, of that departed
being who can never-never--never return to be soothed by thy

If thou art a child, and hast ever added a sorrow to the soul or
a furrow to the silvered brow of an affectionate parent; if thou
art a husband, and hast ever caused the fond bosom that ventured
its whole happiness in thy arms to doubt one moment of thy
kindness or thy truth; if thou art a friend, and hast ever
wronged, in thought or word or deed, the spirit that generously
confided in thee; if thou art a lover, and hast ever given one
unmerited pang to that true heart which now lies cold and still
beneath thy feet,--then be sure that every unkind look, every
ungracious word, every ungentle action will come thronging back
upon thy memory and knocking dolefully at thy soul: then be sure
that thou wilt lie down sorrowing and repentant on the grave, and
utter the unheard groan and pour the unavailing tear, more deep,
more bitter because unheard and unavailing.

Then weave thy chaplet of flowers and strew the beauties of
Nature about the grave; console thy broken spirit, if thou canst,
with these tender yet futile tributes of regret; but take warning
by the bitterness of this thy contrite affliction over the dead,
and henceforth be more faithful and affectionate in the discharge
of thy duties to the living.


In writing the preceding article it was not intended to give a
full detail of the funeral customs of the English peasantry, but
merely to furnish a few hints and quotations illustrative of
particular rites, to be appended, by way of note, to another
paper, which has been withheld. The article swelled insensibly
into its present form, and this is mentioned as an apology for so
brief and casual a notice of these usages after they have been
amply and learnedly investigated in other works.

I must observe, also, that I am well aware that this custom of
adorning graves with flowers prevails in other countries besides
England. Indeed, in some it is much more general, and is observed
even by the rich and fashionable; but it is then apt to lose its
simplicity and to degenerate into affectation. Bright, in his
travels in Lower Hungary, tells of monuments of marble and
recesses formed for retirement, with seats placed among bowers of
greenhouse plants, and that the graves generally are covered with
the gayest flowers of the season. He gives a casual picture of
filial piety which I cannot but transcribe; for I trust it is as
useful as it is delightful to illustrate the amiable virtues of
the sex. "When I was at Berlin," says he, "I followed the
celebrated Iffland to the grave. Mingled with some pomp you might
trace much real feeling. In the midst of the ceremony my
attention was attracted by a young woman who stood on a mound of
earth newly covered with turf, which she anxiously protected from
the feet of the passing crowd. It was the tomb of her parent; and
the figure of this affectionate daughter presented a monument
more striking than the most costly work of art."

I will barely add an instance of sepulchral decoration that I
once met with among the mountains of Switzerland. It was at the
village of Gersau, which stands on the borders of the Lake of
Lucerne, at the foot of Mount Rigi. It was once the capital of a
miniature republic shut up between the Alps and the lake, and
accessible on the land side only by footpaths. The whole force of
the republic did not exceed six hundred fighting men, and a few
miles of circumference, scooped out as it were from the bosom of
the mountains, comprised its territory. The village of Gersau
seemed separated from the rest of the world, and retained the
golden simplicity of a purer age. It had a small church, with a
burying-ground adjoining. At the heads of the graves were placed
crosses of wood or iron. On some were affixed miniatures, rudely
executed, but evidently attempts at likenesses of the deceased.
On the crosses were hung chaplets of flowers, some withering
others fresh, as if occasionally renewed. I paused with interest
at this scene: I felt that I was at the source of poetical
description, for these were the beautiful but unaffected
offerings of the heart which poets are fain to record. In a gayer
and more populous place I should have suspected them to have been
suggested by factitious sentiment derived from books; but the
good people of Gersau knew little of books; there was not a novel
nor a love-poem in the village, and I question whether any
peasant of the place dreamt, while he was twining a fresh chaplet
for the grave of his mistress, that he was fulfilling one of the
most fanciful rites of poetical devotion, and that he was
practically a poet.


Shall I not take mine ease in mine inn?

DURING a journey that I once made through the Netherlands, I had
arrived one evening at the Pomme d'Or, the principal inn of a
small Flemish village. It was after the hour of the table d'hote,
so that I was obliged to make a solitary supper from the relics
of its ampler board. The weather was chilly; I was seated alone
in one end of a great gloomy dining-room, and, my repast being
over, I had the prospect before me of a long dull evening,
without any visible means of enlivening it. I summoned mine host
and requested something to read; he brought me the whole literary
stock of his household, a Dutch family Bible, an almanac in the
same language, and a number of old Paris newspapers. As I sat
dozing over one of the latter, reading old news and stale
criticisms, my ear was now and then struck with bursts of
laughter which seemed to proceed from the kitchen. Every one that
has travelled on the Continent must know how favorite a resort
the kitchen of a country inn is to the middle and inferior order
of travellers, particularly in that equivocal kind of weather
when a fire becomes agreeable toward evening. I threw aside the
newspaper and explored my way to the kitchen, to take a peep at
the group that appeared to be so merry. It was composed partly of
travellers who had arrived some hours before in a diligence, and
partly of the usual attendants and hangers-on of inns. They were
seated round a great burnished stove, that might have been
mistaken for an altar at which they were worshipping. It was
covered with various kitchen vessels of resplendent brightness,
among which steamed and hissed a huge copper tea-kettle. A large
lamp threw a strong mass of light upon the group, bringing out
many odd features in strong relief. Its yellow rays partially
illumined the spacious kitchen, dying duskily away into remote
corners, except where they settled in mellow radiance on the
broad side of a flitch of bacon or were reflected back from
well-scoured utensils that gleamed from the midst of obscurity. A
strapping Flemish lass, with long golden pendants in her ears and
a necklace with a golden heart suspended to it, was the presiding
priestess of the temple.

Many of the company were furnished with pipes, and most of them
with some kind of evening potation. I found their mirth was
occasioned by anecdotes which a little swarthy Frenchman, with a
dry weazen face and large whiskers, was giving of his
love-adventures; at the end of each of which there was one of
those bursts of honest unceremonious laughter in which a man
indulges in that temple of true liberty, an inn.

As I had no better mode of getting through a tedious blustering
evening, I took my seat near the stove, and listened to a variety
of travellers' tales, some very extravagant and most ver dull.
All of them, however, have faded from my treacherous memory
except one, which I will endeavor to relate. I fear, however, it
derived its chief zest from the manner in which it was told, and
the peculiar air and appearance of the narrator. He was a
corpulent old Swiss, who had the look of a veteran traveller. He
was dressed in a tarnished green travelling-jacket, with a broad
belt round his waist, and a pair of overalls with buttons from
the hips to the ankles. He was of a full rubicund countenance,
with a double chin, aquiline nose, and a pleasant twinkling eye.
His hair was light, and curled from under an old green velvet
travelling-cap stuck on one side of his head. He was interrupted
more than once by the arrival of guests or the remarks of his
auditors, and paused now and then to replenish his pipe; at which
times he had generally a roguish leer and a sly joke for the
buxom kitchen-maid.

I wish my readers could imagine the old fellow lolling in a huge
arm-chair, one arm a-kimbo, the other holding a curiously twisted
tobacco-pipe formed of genuine ecume de mer, decorated with
silver chain and silken tassel, his head cocked on one side, and
a whimsical cut of the eye occasionally as he related the
following story.



He that supper for is dight,
He lyes full cold, I trow, this night!
Yestreen to chamber I him led,
This night Gray-steel has made his bed!

ON the summit of one of the heights of the Odenwald, a wild and
romantic tract of Upper Germany that lies not far from the
confluence of the Main and the Rhine, there stood many, many
years since the castle of the Baron Von Landshort. It is now
quite fallen to decay, and almost buried among beech trees and
dark firs; above which, however, its old watch-tower may still be
seen struggling, like the former possessor I have mentioned, to
carry a high head and look down upon the neighboring country.

The baron was a dry branch of the great family of
Katzenellenbogen,+ and inherited the relics of the property and
all the pride, of his ancestors. Though the warlike disposition
of his predecessors had much impaired the family possessions, yet
the baron still endeavored to keep up some show of former state.
The times were peaceable, and the German nobles in general had
abandoned their inconvenient old castles, perched like eagles'
nests among the mountains, and had built more convenient
residences in the valleys; still, the baron remained proudly
drawn up in his little fortress, cherishing with hereditary
inveteracy all the old family feuds, so that he was on ill terms
with some of his nearest neighbors, on account of disputes that
had happened between their great-great-grandfathers.

* The erudite reader, well versed in good-for-nothing lore, will
perceive that the above Tale must have been suggested to the old
Swiss by a little French anecdote, a circumstance said to have
taken place in Paris.

+ I.e., CAT'S ELBOW--the name of a family of those parts, and
very powerful in former times. The appellation, we are told, was
given in compliment to a peerless dame of the family, celebrated
for a fine arm.

The baron had but one child, a daughter, but Nature, when she
grants but one child, always compensates by making it a prodigy;
and so it was with the daughter of the baron. All the nurses,
gossips, and country cousins assured her father that she had not
her equal for beauty in all Germany; and who should know better
than they? She had, moreover, been brought up with great care
under the superintendence of two maiden aunts, who had spent some
years of their early life at one of the little German courts, and
were skilled in all branches of knowledge necessary to the
education of a fine lady. Under their instructions she became a
miracle of accomplishments. By the time she was eighteen she
could embroider to admiration, and had worked whole histories of
the saints in tapestry with such strength of expression in their
countenances that they looked like so many souls in purgatory.
She could read without great difficulty, and had spelled her way
through several Church legends and almost all the chivalric
wonders of the Heldenbuch. She had even made considerable
proficiency in writing; could sign her own name without missing a
letter, and so legibly that her aunts could read it without
spectacles. She excelled in making little elegant
good-for-nothing, lady-like knicknacks of all kinds, was versed
in the most abstruse dancing of the day, played a number of airs
on the harp and guitar, and knew all the tender ballads of the
Minnelieders by heart.

Her aunts, too, having been great flirts and coquettes in their
younger days, were admirably calculated to be vigilant guardians
and strict censors of the conduct of their niece; for there is no
duenna so rigidly prudent and inexorably decorous as a
superannuated coquette. She was rarely suffered out of their
sight; never went beyond the domains of the castle unless well
attended, or rather well watched; had continual lectures read to
her about strict decorum and implicit obedience; and, as to the
men--pah!--she was taught to hold them at such a distance and in
such absolute distrust that, unless properly authorized, she
would not have cast a glance upon the handsomest cavalier in the
world--no, not if he were even dying at her feet.

The good effects of this system were wonderfully apparent. The
young lady was a pattern of docility and correctness. While
others were wasting their sweetness in the glare of the world,
and liable to be plucked and thrown aside by every hand, she was
coyly blooming into fresh and lovely womanhood under the
protection of those immaculate spinsters, like a rosebud blushing
forth among guardian thorns. Her aunts looked upon her with pride
and exultation, and vaunted that, though all the other young
ladies in the world might go astray, yet thank Heaven, nothing of
the kind could happen to the heiress of Katzenellenbogen.

But, however scantily the Baron Von Landshort might be provided
with children, his household was by no means a small one; for
Providence had enriched him with abundance of poor relations.
They, one and all, possessed the affectionate disposition common
to humble relatives--were wonderfully attached to the baron, and
took every possible occasion to come in swarms and enliven the
castle. All family festivals were commemorated by these good
people at the baron's expense; and when they were filled with
good cheer they would declare that there was nothing on earth so
delightful as these family meetings, these jubilees of the heart.

The baron, though a small man, had a large soul, and it swelled
with satisfaction at the consciousness of being the greatest man
in the little world about him. He loved to tell long stories
about the stark old warriors whose portraits looked grimly down
from the walls around, and he found no listeners equal to those
who fed at his expense. He was much given to the marvellous and a
firm believer in all those supernatural tales with which every
mountain and valley in Germany abounds. The faith of his guests
exceeded even his own: they listened to every tale of wonder with
open eyes and mouth, and never failed to be astonished, even
though repeated for the hundredth time. Thus lived the Baron Von
Landshort, the oracle of his table, the absolute monarch of his
little territory, and happy, above all things, in the persuasion
that he was the wisest man of the age.

At the time of which my story treats there was a great family
gathering at the castle on an affair of the utmost importance: it
was to receive the destined bridegroom of the baron's daughter. A
negotiation had been carried on between the father and an old
nobleman of Bavaria to unite the dignity of their houses by the
marriage of their children. The preliminaries had been conducted
with proper punctilio. The young people were betrothed without
seeing each other, and the time was appointed for the marriage
ceremony. The young Count Von Altenburg had been recalled from
the army for the purpose, and was actually on his way to the
baron's to receive his bride. Missives had even been received
from him from Wurtzburg, where he was accidentally detained,
mentioning the day and hour when he might be expected to arrive.

The castle was in a tumult of preparation to give him a suitable
welcome. The fair bride had been decked out with uncommon care.
The two aunts had superintended her toilet, and quarrelled the
whole morning about every article of her dress. The young lady
had taken advantage of their contest to follow the bent of her
own taste; and fortunately it was a good one. She looked as
lovely as youthful bridegroom could desire, and the flutter of
expectation heightened the lustre of her charms.

The suffusions that mantled her face and neck, the gentle heaving
of the bosom, the eye now and then lost in reverie, all betrayed
the soft tumult that was going on in her little heart. The aunts
were continually hovering around her, for maiden aunts are apt to
take great interest in affairs of this nature. They were giving
her a world of staid counsel how to deport herself, what to say,
and in what manner to receive the expected lover.

The baron was no less busied in preparations. He had, in truth,
nothing exactly to do; but he was naturally a fuming, bustling
little man, and could not remain passive when all the world was
in a hurry. He worried from top to bottom of the castle with an
air of infinite anxiety; he continually called the servants from
their work to exhort them to be diligent; and buzzed about every
hall and chamber, as idly restless and importunate as a
blue-bottle fly on a warm summer's day.

In the mean time the fatted calf had been killed; the forests had
rung with the clamor of the huntsmen; the kitchen was crowded
with good cheer; the cellars had yielded up whole oceans of
Rhein-wein and Ferre-wein; and even the great Heidelberg tun had
been laid under contribution. Everything was ready to receive the
distinguished guest with Saus und Braus in the true spirit of
German hospitality; but the guest delayed to make his appearance.
Hour rolled after hour. The sun, that had poured his downward
rays upon the rich forest of the Odenwald, now just gleamed along
the summits of the mountains. The baron mounted the highest tower
and strained his eyes in hopes of catching a distant sight of the
count and his attendants. Once he thought he beheld them; the
sound of horns came floating from the valley, prolonged by the
mountain-echoes. A number of horsemen were seen far below slowly
advancing along the road; but when they had nearly reached the
foot of the mountain they suddenly struck off in a different
direction. The last ray of sunshine departed, the bats began to
flit by in the twilight, the road grew dimmer and dimmer to the
view, and nothing appeared stirring in it but now and then a
peasant lagging homeward from his labor.

While the old castle of Landshort was in this state of perplexity
a very interesting scene was transacting in a different part of
the Odenwald.

The young Count Von Altenburg was tranquilly pursuing his route
in that sober jog-trot way in which a man travels toward
matrimony when his friends have taken all the trouble and
uncertainty of courtship off his hands and a bride is waiting for
him as certainly as a dinner at the end of his journey. He had
encountered at Wurtzburg a youthful companion-in-arms with whom
he had seen some service on the frontiers--Herman Von
Starkenfaust, one of the stoutest hands and worthiest hearts of
German chivalry--who was now returning from the army. His
father's castle was not far distant from the old fortress of
Landshort, although an hereditary feud rendered the families
hostile and strangers to each other.

In the warm-hearted moment of recognition the young friends
related all their past adventures and fortunes, and the count
gave the whole history of his intended nuptials with a young lady
whom he had never seen, but of whose charms he had received the
most enrapturing descriptions.

As the route of the friends lay in the same direction, they
agreed to perform the rest of their journey together, and that
they might do it the more leisurely, set off from Wurtzburg at an
early hour, the count having given directions for his retinue to
follow and overtake him.

They beguiled their wayfaring with recollections of their
military scenes and adventures; but the count was apt to be a
little tedious now and then about the reputed charms of his bride
and the felicity that awaited him.

In this way they had entered among the mountains of the Odenwald,
and were traversing one of its most lonely and thickly wooded
passes. It is well known that the forests of Germany have always
been as much infested by robbers as its castles by spectres; and
at this time the former were particularly numerous, from the
hordes of disbanded soldiers wandering about the country. It will
not appear extraordinary, therefore, that the cavaliers were
attacked by a gang of these stragglers, in the midst of the
forest. They defended themselves with bravery, but were nearly
overpowered when the count's retinue arrived to their assistance.
At sight of them the robbers fled, but not until the count had
received a mortal wound. He was slowly and carefully conveyed
back to the city of Wurtzburg, and a friar summoned from a
neighboring convent who was famous for his skill in administering
to both soul and body; but half of his skill was superfluous; the
moments of the unfortunate count were numbered.

With his dying breath he entreated his friend to repair instantly
to the castle of Landshort and explain the fatal cause of his not
keeping his appointment with his bride. Though not the most
ardent of lovers, he was one of the most punctilious of men, and
appeared earnestly solicitous that his mission should be speedily
and courteously executed. "Unless this is done," said he, "I
shall not sleep quietly in my grave." He repeated these last
words with peculiar solemnity. A request at a moment so
impressive admitted no hesitation. Starkenfaust endeavored to
soothe him to calmness, promised faithfully to execute his wish,
and gave him his hand in solemn pledge. The dying man pressed it
in acknowledgment, but soon lapsed into delirium--raved about his
bride, his engagements, his plighted word--ordered his horse,
that he might ride to the castle of Landshort, and expired in the
fancied act of vaulting into the saddle.

Starkenfaust bestowed a sigh and a soldier's tear on the untimely
fate of his comrade and then pondered on the awkward mission he
had undertaken. His heart was heavy and his head perplexed; for
he was to present himself an unbidden guest among hostile people,
and to damp their festivity with tidings fatal to their hopes.
Still, there were certain whisperings of curiosity in his bosom
to see this far-famed beauty of Katzenellenbogen, so cautiously
shut up from the world; for he was a passionate admirer of the
sex, and there was a dash of eccentricity and enterprise in his
character that made him fond of all singular adventure.

Previous to his departure he made all due arrangements with the
holy fraternity of the convent for the funeral solemnities of his
friend, who was to be buried in the cathedral of Wurtzburg near
some of his illustrious relatives, and the mourning retinue of
the count took charge of his remains.

It is now high time that we should return to the ancient family
of Katzenellenbogen, who were impatient for their guest, and
still more for their dinner, and to the worthy little baron, whom
we left airing himself on the watch-tower.

Night closed in, but still no guest arrived. The baron descended
from the tower in despair. The banquet, which had been delayed
from hour to hour, could no longer be postponed. The meats were
already overdone, the cook in an agony, and the whole household
had the look of a garrison, that had been reduced by famine. The
baron was obliged reluctantly to give orders for the feast
without the presence of the guest. All were seated at table, and
just on the point of commencing, when the sound of a horn from
without the gate gave notice of the approach of a stranger.
Another long blast filled the old courts of the castle with its
echoes, and was answered by the warder from the walls. The baron
hastened to receive his future son-in-law.

The drawbridge had been let down, and the stranger was before the
gate. He was a tall gallant cavalier, mounted on a black steed.
His countenance was pale, but he had a beaming, romantic eye and
an air of stately melancholy. The baron was a little mortified
that he should have come in this simple, solitary style. His
dignity for a moment was ruffled, and he felt disposed to
consider it a want of proper respect for the important occasion
and the important family with which he was to be connected. He
pacified himself, however, with the conclusion that it must have
been youthful impatience which had induced him thus to spur on
sooner than his attendants.

"I am sorry," said the stranger, "to break in upon you thus

Here the baron interrupted him with a world of compliments and
greetings, for, to tell the truth, he prided himself upon his
courtesy and eloquence. The stranger attempted once or twice to
stem the torrent of words, but in vain, so he bowed his head and
suffered it to flow on. By the time the baron had come to a pause
they had reached the inner court of the castle, and the stranger
was again about to speak, when he was once more interrupted by
the appearance of the female part of the family, leading forth
the shrinking and blushing bride. He gazed on her for a moment as
one entranced; it seemed as if his whole soul beamed forth in the
gaze and rested upon that lovely form. One of the maiden aunts
whispered something in her ear; she made an effort to speak; her
moist blue eye was timidly raised, gave a shy glance of inquiry
on the stranger, and was cast again to the ground. The words died
away, but there was a sweet smile playing about her lips, and a
soft dimpling of the cheek that showed her glance had not been
unsatisfactory. It was impossible for a girl of the fond age of
eighteen, highly predisposed for love and matrimony, not to be
pleased with so gallant a cavalier.

The late hour at which the guest had arrived left no time for
parley. The baron was peremptory, and deferred all particular
conversation until the morning, and led the way to the untasted

It was served up in the great hall of the castle. Around the
walls hung the hard-favored portraits of the heroes of the house
of Katzenellenbogen, and the trophies which they had gained in
the field, and in the chase. Hacked corselets, splintered
jousting-spears, and tattered banners were mingled with the
spoils of sylvan warfare: the jaws of the wolf and the tusks of
the boar grinned horribly among crossbows and battle-axes, and a
huge pair of antlers branched immediately over the head of the
youthful bridegroom.

The cavalier took but little notice of the company or the
entertainment. He scarcely tasted the banquet, but seemed
absorbed in admiration of his bride. He conversed in a low tone
that could not be overheard, for the language of love is never
loud; but where is the female ear so dull that it cannot catch
the softest whisper of the lover? There was a mingled tenderness
and gravity in his manner that appeared to have a powerful effect
upon the young lady. Her color came and went as she listened with
deep attention. Now and then she made some blushing reply, and
when his eye was turned away she would steal a sidelong glance at
his romantic countenance, and heave a gentle sigh of tender
happiness. It was evident that the young couple were completely
enamored. The aunts, who were deeply versed in the mysteries of
the heart, declared that they had fallen in love with each other
at first sight.

The feast went on merrily, or at least noisily, for the guests
were all blessed with those keen appetites that attend upon light
purses and mountain air. The baron told his best and longest
stories, and never had he told them so well or with such great
effect. If there was anything marvellous, his auditors were lost
in astonishment; and if anything facetious, they were sure to
laugh exactly in the right place. The baron, it is true, like
most great men, was too dignified to utter any joke but a dull

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