Part 3 out of 5
not read or translated the last verse, you have recovered your natural
amiability, ruffled perhaps by this odious subject, and are prepared
to believe us when we tell you that these opposite opinions cannot be
wholly reconciled, and to follow us patiently while we attempt to show
that a certain gentleman, introduced to your maternal ancestor at a very
remote period of the world's history, is not so black as he is sometimes
painted. Let us keep good-natured, at least, in this discussion; for we
propose to settle it without taking off the gloves, as we intimated in
the opening paragraph. Your patience will be much needed for the sad
army of facts and figures which is to follow. Therefore it is but just
that you should speak now, after these long sentences.
Your George will never smoke? Excuse me. _When_ he will smoke depends
upon the precocity of his individual generation; and that increases in
a direct ratio with time itself, in this country. Thus, to state the
matter in an approximate inverse arithmetical progression, and dating
the birth of "young America" about the year 1825,--previously to which
reigned the dark ages of oldfogydom, so called,--we find as follows:
--From 1825 to 1835, young gentlemen learned to smoke when from 25 to 20
years of age; from 1835 to 1845, young _gents_, ditto, ditto, from 20 to
15 years; 1845 to 1855, from 15 to 10; 1855 to 1865, 10 to 5; 1865 to
1875, 5 to 0; and, if we continue, 1875 to 1885, zero to minus: but
really the question is becoming too nebulous. _Corollary_. In about ten
years, the youth of the United States will smoke contemporaneously with
the infant Burmese, who, we are credibly informed, begin the habit
_aet_. 3, or as soon as they have cut enough teeth to hold a cigar.
Therefore, we will say, Madam, at some indefinite period of his
childhood or youth,--for we would not be so impolite as to infer your
age by asking that of your son,--the _susdit_ George will come home
late from play some afternoon, languid, pale, and disinclined for tea.
He will indignantly repel the accusation of feeling ill, and there will
lurk about his person an indescribable odor of stale cinnamon, which
you will be at a loss to account for, but which his elder brother will
recognize as the natural result of smoking "cinnamon cigars," wherewith
certain wicked tobacconists of this city tempt curious youth. If you
follow him to his chamber, you will probably discover more damning
evidence of his guilt.
We will draw the curtain over the scene of the Spartan mother--we hope
you belong to that nearly extinct class--which is to follow. Let us
suppose all differences settled, the habit ostensibly given up, and your
darling, grown more honest or more artful,--the result is the same to
your blissful ignorance,--studiously pursuing his way until he enters
college. Some fine day you drive over to the neighboring university,
and, entering his room unannounced, you find him coloring his first
(factitious) meerschaum!--also a sad deficiency in his wardrobe of
half-worn clothes. _C'est une pipe qui coute cher a culotter_, the
college meerschaum,--and in more ways than one, according to the
"Autocrat":--"I do not advise you, young man, to consecrate the flower
of your life to painting the bowl of a pipe," _et seq_. More bold,
the Sophomore will smoke openly at home; and by the end of the third
vacation, it is one of those unyielding _faits accomplis_ against which
reformers, household or peripatetic, beat their heads in vain.
Perhaps your husband smokes? If so, at what period of the twenty-four
hours have you invariably found Mr. ---- most lenient to your little
pecuniary peccadilloes? Is he not always most good-natured when his
cigar is about one-third consumed, the ash evenly burnt and adherent,
and not fallen into his shirt-bosom? Depend upon it, tobacco is a great
soother of domestic differences.
Let us, then, look an existing, firmly rooted evil--if you will call it
so--in the face, and see if it is quite so bad as it is represented. It
is too wide-spread to be sneered away,--for we might almost say that
smokers were the rule, and non-smokers the exception, among all
civilized men, Charles Kingsley supports us here:--"'Man a cooking
animal,' my dear Doctor Johnson? Pooh! man is a _smoking_ animal.
There is his _ergon_, his 'differential energy,' as the Aristotelians
say,--his true distinction from the orangoutang. Ponder it well."
_Query_.--What did the old Roman do without a cigar? How idle through
the day? How survive his interminable _post-coenal_ potations?--The
thought is not our own. It occurs somewhere in De Quincey, we believe.
It is one of those self-evident propositions you wonder had not occurred
to you before.--What an accessory of luxury the pipe would have been
to him who passed the livelong day under the mosaic arches of the
_Thermoe_! The _strigiles_ would have vanished before the meerschaum,
had that magic clay then been known. How completely would the _hookah_
and the _narghileh_ have harmonized with the _crater, cyathi_, and
tripods of the _triclinium_ in that portraiture of the "Decadence of
Rome" which hangs in the Luxembourg Gallery! Poor fellows! they managed
to exist without them.
Though pipes are found carved on very old sculptures in China, and the
habit of smoking was long since extensively followed there, according
to Pallas, and although certain species of the tobacco-plant, as the
_Nicotiana rustica_, would appear to be indigenous to the country, yet
we have the best reason to conclude that America, if not the exclusive
home of the herb, was the birthplace of its use by man. The first great
explorer of the West found the sensuous natives of Hispaniola rolling up
and smoking tobacco-leaves with the same persistent indolence that
we recognize in the Cuban of the present day. Rough Cortes saw with
surprise the luxurious Aztec composing himself for the _siesta_ in the
middle of the day as invariably as his fellow Dons in Castile. But he
was amazed that the barbarians had discovered in tobacco a sedative
to promote their reveries and compose them to sleep, of which the
_hidalgos_ were as yet ignorant, but which they were soon to appropriate
with avidity, and to use with equal zest. Humboldt says that it had been
cultivated by the people of Orinoco from time immemorial, and was smoked
all over America at the time of the Spanish Conquest,--also that it was
first discovered by Europeans in Yucatan, in 1520, and was there called
_Petum_. Tobacco, according to the same authority, was taken from the
word _tabac_, the name of an instrument used in the preparation of the
Though Columbus and his immediate followers doubtless brought home
specimens of tobacco among the other spoils of the New World, Jean
Nicot, ambassador to Portugal from Francis II., first sent the seeds
to France, where they were cultivated and used about the year 1560. In
honor of its sponsor, Botany has named the plant _Nicotiana tabacum_,
and Chemistry distinguished as _Nicotin_ its active alkaloid. Sir
Francis Drake first brought tobacco to England about 1586. It owed
the greater part of its early popularity, however, to the praise and
practice of Raleigh: his high standing and character would have sufficed
to introduce still more novel customs. The weed once inhaled, the habit
once acquired, its seductions would not allow it to be easily laid
aside; and we accordingly find that royal satire, public odium, and
ruinous cost were alike inadequate to restrain its rapidly increasing
consumption. Somewhere about the year 1600 or 1601 tobacco was carried
to the East, and introduced among the Turks and Persians,--it is not
known by whom: the devotion of modern Mussulmans might reasonably
ascribe it to Allah himself. It seems almost incredible that the
Oriental type of life and character could have existed without tobacco.
The pipe seems as inseparable as the Koran from the follower of Mahomet.
Barely three centuries ago, then, the first seeds of the _Nicotiana
tabacum_ germinated in European soil: now, who shall count the harvests?
Less than three centuries ago, Raleigh attracted a crowd by sitting
smoking at his door: now, the humblest bog-trotter of Ireland must
be poor indeed who cannot own or borrow a pipe. A little more than a
century and a half ago, the import into Great Britain was only one
hundred and twenty thousand pounds, and part of that was reexported:
now, the imports reach thirty million pounds, and furnish to government
a revenue of twenty millions of dollars,--being an annual tax of three
shillings four pence on every soul in the United Kingdom. Nor is the
case of England an exceptional one. The tobacco-zone girdles the globe.
From the equator, through fifty degrees of latitude, it grows and is
consumed on every continent. On every sea it is carried and used by the
mariners of every nation. Its incense rises in every clime, as from one
vast altar dedicated to its worship,--before which ancient holocausts,
the smoke of burnt-offerings in the old Jewish rites, the censers of the
Church, and the joss-sticks of the East, must "pale their ineffectual
fires." All classes, all ages, in all climates, and in some countries
both sexes, use tobacco to dispel heat, to resist cold, to soothe
to reverie, or to arouse the brain, according to their national
habitations, peculiarities, or habits.
This is not the language of hyperbole. With a partial exception in favor
of the hop, tobacco is the _sole recognized narcotic_ of civilization.
Opium and hemp, if indulged in, are concealed, by the Western nations:
public opinion, public morality, are at war with them. Not so with
tobacco, which the majority of civilized men use, and the minority
rather deprecate than denounce. We shall avail ourselves of some
statistics and computations, which we find ready-calculated, at various
sources, to support these assertions. The following are the amounts of
tobacco consumed _per head_ in various countries:--
"In Great Britain, 17 ounces per head; in France, 18 1/2
ounces,--three-eighths of this quantity being used in the form of snuff;
in Denmark, 70 ounces (4 1/2 lbs.) per head; and in Belgium, 73 1/2
ounces per head;--in New South Wales, where there are no duties, by
official returns, 14 pounds per head." We doubt if these quantities
much exceed the European average, particularly of Germany and Turkey in
Europe. "In some of the States of North America the proportion is much
larger, while among Eastern nations, where there are no duties, it is
believed to be greater still."
The average for the whole human race of one thousand millions has been
reasonably set at seventy ounces per head; which gives a total produce
and consumption of tobacco of two millions of tons, or 4,480,000,000 of
pounds! "At eight hundred pounds an acre, this would require five and
a half million acres of rich land to be kept constantly under
"The whole amount of wheat consumed by the inhabitants of Great Britain
weighs only four and one-third million tons." The reader can draw his
The United States are among the largest producers of tobacco, furnishing
one-twentieth of the estimated production of the whole world. According
to the last census, we raised in 1850 about two hundred million pounds.
All the States, with five exceptions,--and two of these are Utah and
Minnesota,--shared, in various degrees, in the growth of this great
staple. Confining our attention to those which raised a million of
pounds and upwards, we find Connecticut and Indiana cited at one million
each; Ohio and North Carolina, at ten to twelve millions; Missouri,
Tennessee, and Maryland, from seventeen to twenty-one millions; Kentucky
and Virginia, about fifty-six million pounds.
Of this gross two hundred million pounds, we export one hundred and
twenty-two millions, leaving about seventy-eight millions for home
Not satisfied with the quality of this modest amount, we import also,
from Cuba, Turkey, Germany, etc., about four million pounds, in Havana
and Manila cigars and Turkish and German manufactured smoking-tobacco.
Thus we increase the total of our consumption to eighty-two million
pounds, which gives about three pounds eight ounces to every inhabitant
of the United States, against seventeen ounces in England, and eighteen
ounces in France. From 1840 to 1850, the consumption in the United
States, per head, increased from two pounds and half an ounce to three
pounds eight ounces. Here, we buy our tobacco at a fair profit to the
producer. In most of the countries of Europe it is either subject to
a high tax, or made a government monopoly, both as regards its
cultivation, and its manufacture and sale. France consumes about
forty-one million pounds, and the imperial exchequer is thereby enriched
eighty-six million francs _per annum_. Not only is the poor man thus
obliged to pay an excessive price, but the tobacco furnished him is of
a much inferior quality to ours. "_Petit-caporal_" smoking-tobacco, the
delight of the middling classes of Paris, hardly suits an American's
taste. In Italy more than one _pubblicano_ has enriched himself and
bought nobility by farming the public revenues from tobacco and salt. In
Austria the cigars are detestable, though Hungary grows good tobacco,
and its Turkish border furnishes some of the meerschaum clay. German
smoking-tobaccoes are favorites with students here, but owe their
excellence to their mode of manufacture.
Tobacco, according to some authorities, holds the next place to salt,
as the article most universally and largely used by man,--we mean,
of course, apart from cereals and meats. It is unquestionably the
widest-used narcotic. Opium takes the second rank, and hemp the third;
but the opium--and hashish-eaters usually add the free smoking of
tobacco to their other indulgences.
From these great columns of consumption we may logically deduce two
prime points for our argument.
1st. That an article so widely used must possess some peculiar quality
producing _a desirable effect_.
2d. That an article so widely used cannot produce _any marked
For it must meet some instinctive craving of the human being,--as bread
and salt meet his absolute needs,--to be so widely sought after and
consumed. Fashion does not rule this habit, but it is equally grateful
to the savage and the sage. And it cannot be so ruinous to body and mind
as some reformers assert; otherwise, in the natural progress of causes
and effects, whole nations must have already been extinguished under
its use. Many mighty nations have used it for centuries, and show no
aggregated deterioration from its employment. Individual exceptions
exist in every community. They arise either from idiosyncrasy or from
excess, and they have no weight in the argument.
Now, what are these qualities and these effects? We can best answer the
first part of the question by a quotation.
"In ministering fully to his natural wants and cravings, man passes
through three successive stages.
"First, the necessities of his material nature are provided for. Beef
and bread represent the means by which, in every country, this end is
attained. And among the numerous forms of animal and vegetable food a
wonderful similarity of chemical composition prevails.
"Second, he seeks to assuage the cares of his mind, and to banish
uneasy reflections. Fermented liquors are the agents by which this is
effected." [They are variously produced by every people, and the active
principle is in all the same, namely, Alcohol.]
"Third, he desires to multiply his enjoyments, intellectual and animal,
and for the time to exalt them. This he attains by the aid of narcotics.
And of these narcotics, again, it is remarkable that almost every
country or tribe has its own, either aboriginal or imported; so that
the universal instinct of the race has led, somehow or other, to the
universal supply of this want or craving also."
These narcotics are Opium, Hemp, the Betel, Coca, Thorn-Apple, Siberian
Fungus, Hops, Lettuce, Tobacco. The active principles vary in each, thus
differing from foods and stimulants. Our business is now to inquire into
the chemical constituents of tobacco.
The leaves of this plant owe their properties to certain invariable
active principles, which chemistry has enabled us to separate from those
ingredients which are either inert or common to it and other forms of
vegetation. They are two in number,--a volatile alkali, and a volatile
oil, called _nicotin_ and _nicotianin_, respectively. A third powerful
constituent is developed by combustion, which is named the _empyreumatic
Starch, gum, albumen, resin, lignin, extractive, and organic acids exist
in tobacco, as they do, in varying proportions, in other plants. But
the herb under consideration contains a relatively larger proportion of
inorganic salts, as those of lime, potassa, and ammonia,--and especially
of highly nitrogenized substances; which explains why tobacco is
so exhausting a crop to the soil, and why ashes are among its best
The organic base, _nicotin_, (or _nicotia_, as some chemists prefer to
call it,) exists in tobacco combined with an acid in excess, and in this
state is not volatile. As obtained by distillation with caustic soda,
and afterwards treated with sulphuric acid, etc., it is a colorless
fluid, volatilizable, inflammable, of little smell when cold, but of an
exceedingly acrid, burning taste, and alkaline. Nicotia contains a much
larger proportion of nitrogen than most of the other organic alkalies.
In its action on the animal system it is one of the most virulent
poisons known. It exists in varying, though small proportion, in all
species of tobacco. Those called mild, and most esteemed, seem to
contain the least. Thus, according to Orfila, Havana tobacco yields two
per cent of the alkaloid, and Virginia nearly seven per cent. In the
rankest varieties it rarely exceeds eight parts to the hundred. The
same toxicologist says that it has the remarkable property of resisting
decomposition in the decaying tissues of the body, and he detected it in
the bodies of animals destroyed by it, several months after their death.
In this particular it resembles arsenic.
_Nicotianin_, or the volatile oil, is probably the odorous principle of
tobacco. According to some, it does not exist in the fresh leaves, but
is generated in the drying process. When obtained by distillation, a
pound of leaves will yield only two grains; it is therefore in a much
smaller proportion than the alkaloid, forming only one half of one per
cent. It is a fatty substance, having the odor of tobacco-smoke, and
a bitter taste. Applied to the nose, it occasions sneezing, and taken
internally, giddiness and nausea. It is therefore one of the active
constituents of tobacco, though to a much less degree than nicotin
itself. For while Hermstadt swallowed a grain of nicotianin with
impunity, the vapor of pure nicotin is so irritating that it is
difficult to breathe in a room in which a single drop has been
When distilled in a retort, at a temperature above that of boiling
water, or burned, as we burn it in a pipe, tobacco affords its third
poison, the _empyreumatic oil_. This is acrid, of a dark brown
color, and having a smell as of an old pipe, in the pores of which,
particularly of meerschaum clay, it may be found. It is also narcotic
and very poisonous, one drop killing reptiles, as if by an electric
shock: in this mode of action it is like prussic acid. But this
empyreumatic oil consists of two substances; for, if it be washed with
acetic acid, it loses its poisonous quality. It contains, therefore, a
harmless oil, and a poisonous alkaline substance, which the acetic acid
combines with and removes. It has been shown to contain the alkaloid
nicotia, and this is probably its only active component.
Assuming, therefore, that nicotianin, from its feebler action and small
amount, is not a very efficient principle in producing the narcotic
effects of tobacco, and that the empyreumatic oil consists only of fatty
matters holding the alkali in solution, we are forced to believe that
the only constituent worthy of much attention, as the very soul and
essence of the plant, is the organic base, nicotin, or nicotia.
It is probable that the tobacco-chewer, by putting fifty grains of the
"Solace," "Honey-Dew," or "Cavendish" into his mouth for the purpose
of mastication, introduces at the same time from one to four grains of
nicotin with it, according to the quality of the tobacco he uses. It
is _not_ probable that anything like this amount is absorbed into the
system. Nature protects itself by salivation. It is possible, that, in
smoking one hundred grains of tobacco, there _may_ be drawn into
the mouth two grains or more of the same poison; "for, as nicotin
volatilizes at a temperature below that of burning tobacco, it is
constantly present in the smoke." It is not probable that here, again,
so much is absorbed.
But we will return to this question of the relative effects of chewing,
cigar- and pipe-smoking, and snuff-taking, presently. For we suppose
that the anxious mother, if she has followed us so far, is by this time
in considerable alarm at this wholesale poisoning.
Poisons are to be judged by their effects; for this is the only means we
have of knowing them to be such. And if a poison is in common use, we
must embrace all the results of such use in a perfect generalization
before we can decide impartially. We do not hesitate to eat peaches,
though we know they owe much of their peculiar flavor to prussic acid.
It is but fair to apply an equally large generalization to tobacco.
Chemistry can concentrate the sapid and odorous elements of the peach
and the bitter almond into a transparent fluid, of which the smell
shall be vertiginous and the taste death. But chemistry is often
misunderstood, in two ways: in the one case, by the incredulity of total
ignorance; in the other, by the overcredulity of imperfect knowledge.
That poor woman who murdered her husband by arsenic not long since
was an instance of the first. She laughed to scorn the idea that the
chemists could discover anything in the ejected contents of the stomach
of her victim, which she voluntarily left in their way. She could not
conceive that the scattered crystals of the fatal powder might be
gathered into a metallic mirror, the first glance at which would reflect
They who gape, horror-struck, at the endless revelations of chemistry,
without giving reason time to act, err in the second manner. Led away by
the brilliant hues and wonderful transformations of the laboratory,
they forget the size of the world outside, in which these changes are
enacted, and the quiet way in which Nature works. The breath of chlorine
is deadly, but we daily eat it in safety, wrapped in its poison-proof
envelope of sodium, as common salt. Carbonic acid is among the gases
most hostile to man, but he drinks it in soda-water or Champagne with
impunity. So we cannot explain how a poison will act, if introduced
into the body in the diluted form in which Nature offers it, and there
subjected to the complicated chemico-vital processes which constitute
In the alembic of the chemist we may learn analysis, and from it infer,
but not imitate, save in a few instances, the synthesis of Nature.
Changes in the arrangement of atoms, without one particle altered that
we can discover, may make all the difference between starch and sugar.
By an obscure change, which we call fermentation, these may become
alcohol, the great stimulant of the world. By subtracting one atom of
water from its elements we change this to ether, the new-found _lethe_
of pain. As from the inexhaustible bottle of the magician, the chemist
can furnish us from the same two elements air or aquafortis. We may be
pardoned these familiar examples to prove that we must not judge of
things by their palpable qualities, when concentrated or in the gross.
That fiery demon, nitric acid, is hid, harmless in its imperceptible
subdivision, in the dew on every flower.
From all this we conclude that the evil effects of tobacco are to be
determined by their proved _physiological_ effects; and also that we
must aid our decision by a survey of its general asserted effects. In
treating of these effects, we shall speak, first, of what is known;
second, of what its opponents assert; and, third, of what we claim as
the results of its use.
What is absolutely known is very little. We see occasional instances of
declining health; we learn that the sufferers smoke or chew, and we are
very apt to ascribe all their maladies to tobacco. So far as we are
aware, the most notorious organic lesion which has been supposed due to
this practice is a peculiar form of cancer of the lip, where the pipe,
and particularly the clay pipe, has pressed upon the part. But more
ample statistics have disproved this theory.
We have as yet become acquainted with no satisfactory series of
experiments upon tobacco analogous to those which have been made of some
articles of food.
The opponents of tobacco, upon whom we consider the burden of proof to
rest, in the absence of any marked ill effects palpable in so large a
consumption of the herb, are thus reduced to generalities.
Tobacco is said to produce derangement of the digestion, and of the
regular, steady action of the nervous system. These effects must be in a
measure connected; but one distinct effect of tobacco is claimed, upon
the secretions of the mouth, with which it comes into direct contact.
It is said to cause a waste and a deterioration of the saliva. Let us
examine this first.
The waste of saliva in young smokers and in immoderate chewers we admit.
The amount secreted by a healthy man has been variously estimated at
from one and a half to three pounds _per diem_. And it certainly seems
as if the whole of this was to be found upon the vile floors of
cars, hotels, and steamboats. The quantity secreted varies much with
circumstances; but experiments prove the _quality_ to be not affected by
To show how the deterioration of this fluid may affect digestion, we
must inquire into its normal physiological constitution and uses. Its
uses are of two kinds: to moisten the food, and to convert starch into
sugar. The larger glands fulfil the former; the smaller, mostly, the
latter office. Almost any substance held in the mouth provokes the flow
of saliva by mechanical irritation. Mental causes influence it; for the
thought of food will "make the mouth water," as well as its presence
within the lips. No one who has tried to eat unmoistened food, when
thirsty, will dispute its uses as a solvent. Tobacco seems to be a
direct stimulant to the salivary apparatus. Habit blunts this effect
only to a limited extent. The old smoker has usually some increase of
this secretion, although he does not expectorate. But if he does not
waste this product, he swallows it, it is said, in a state unfit to
promote digestion. The saliva owes its peculiarity to one of its
components, called _ptyalin_. And this element possesses the remarkable
power of converting starch into sugar, which is the first step in its
digestion. Though many azotized substances in a state of decomposition
exert a similar agency, yet it is possessed by _ptyalin_ in a much
greater degree. The gastric juice has probably no action on farinaceous
substances. And it has been proved by experiments, that food moistened
with water digests more slowly than when mixed with the saliva.
More than this, the conversion of starch into sugar has been shown to
be positively retarded in the stomach by the acidity of the gastric
secretions. Only after the azotized food has been somewhat disintegrated
by the action of the gastric juice, and the fluids again rendered
alkaline by the presence of saliva, swallowed in small quantities for
a considerable time after eating, does the saccharifying process go on
with normal rapidity and vigor.
Now starch is the great element, in all farinaceous articles, which
is adapted to supply us with calorifacient food. "In its original
condition, either raw or when broken up by boiling, it does not appear
that starch is capable of being absorbed by the alimentary canal. By its
conversion into sugar it can alone become a useful aliment." This is
effected almost instantaneously by the saliva in the mouth, and at a
slower rate in the stomach.
Obviously, then, if the use of tobacco interferes with the normal action
of the saliva, and if the digestion of starch ends in the stomach, here
is the strong point in the argument of the opponents of tobacco. We
should wonder at the discrepancy between physiology and facts, theory
and the evidence of our senses and daily experience among the world
of smokers, and be ready to renounce either science or "the weed."
Fortunately for our peace of mind and for our respect for physiology,
the first point of the proposition is not satisfactorily proved, and the
second is untrue. We are not certain that nicotin ruins ptyalin; we are
certain that the functions of other organs are vicarious of those of the
We say that it is not satisfactorily proved that tobacco impairs the
sugar-making function of the saliva. At least, we have never seen the
proof from recorded experiments. Such may exist, but we have met only
with loose assertions to this effect, of a similar nature to
those hygienic _dicta_ which we find bandied about in the
would-be-physiological popular journals, which are so plentiful in
this country, and which may be styled the "yellow-cover" literature of
We acknowledge this to be the weak point in our armor, and are open to
further light. Yet more, for the sake of hypothesis, we will assume it
proved. What follows? Are we to get no more sugar while we smoke? By no
means. Hard by the stomach lies the _pancreas_, an organ so similar in
structure to the salivary glands, that even so minute an observer as
Koelliker does not think it requisite to give it a separate description.
Its secretion, which is poured into the second stomach, contains a
ferment analogous to that of the saliva, and amounts probably to about
seven ounces a day. The food, on leaving the stomach, is next subjected
to its influence, together with that of the bile. It helps digest fatty
matters by its emulsive powers; it has been more recently supposed to
form a sort of _peptone_ with nitrogenized articles also; but, what is
more to our purpose, it turns starch into sugar even more quickly than
the saliva itself. And even if the reformers were to beat us from this
stronghold, by proving that tobacco impaired the saccharifying power of
this organ also, we should still find the mixed fluids supplied by the
smaller, but very numerous glands of the intestines, sufficient to
accomplish the requisite modification of starch, though more slowly and
to a less degree.
We come now to the second count in the indictment,--that tobacco
injuriously affects the nervous system, and through it the digestion.
The accusation is here more vague and indefinite, and the answer also
is less susceptible of proof. Both sides must avail themselves of
circumstantial, rather than direct evidence.
That digestion is in direct dependence upon the nervous system, and that
even transitory or emotional states of the latter affect the former,
there can be no doubt. It is so familiar a fact, that instances need
hardly be cited to prove it. Hence we are told, that tobacco, by
deranging the one, disorders the other,--that nervousness, or morbid
irritability of the nerves, palpitations and tremulousness, are soon
followed by emaciation and dyspepsia, or more or less inability to
We conceive Prout, an eminent authority, to be near the truth, when he
says of tobacco, "The strong and healthy suffer comparatively little,
while the weak and predisposed to disease fall victims to its poisonous
operation." The hod-carrier traversing the walls of lofty buildings, and
the sailor swinging on the yard-arm, are not subject to nervousness,
though they smoke and chew; nor are they prone to dyspepsia, unless from
excesses of another kind.
It has not been shown that tobacco either hastens or delays the
metamorphosis of tissue,--that it drains the system by waste, or clogs
it by retarding the natural excretions. We must turn, then, to its
direct influence upon the nervous system to convince ourselves of its
ill effects, if such exist.
Nor has it been proved that the nervous influence is affected in such
a way as directly to impair the innervation of the organic functions,
which derive their chief impulse to action from the scattered ganglia of
the sympathetic system. Opium, the most powerful narcotic, benumbs the
brain into sleep; produces a corresponding reaction, on awakening;
shuts up the secretions, except that of the skin, and thus deranges the
alimentary functions. The decriers of tobacco will, we conceive, be
unable to show that it produces such effects.
The reformers are reduced, then, to the vague generality, that smoking
and chewing "affect the nerves."
Students, men of sedentary, professional habits, persons of a very
nervous temperament, or those subject to much excitement in business
and politics, sometimes show debility and languor, or agitation and
nervousness, while they smoke and chew. Are there no other causes at
work, sufficient in themselves to produce these effects? Are want of
exercise, want of air, want of rest, and want of inherited vigor to be
eliminated from the estimate, while tobacco is made the scape-goat of
all their troubles?
Climate, and the various influences affecting any race which has
migrated after a stationary residence of generations to a new country
extending under different parallels of latitude, have been reasonably
accused of rendering us a nervous people. It is not so reasonable to
charge one habit with being the sole cause of this, although we should
be more prudent in not following it to excess. The larger consumption
of tobacco here is due both to the cheapness of the product and to
the wealth of the consumer. But it does not follow that we are more
subjected to its narcotic influences because we use the best varieties
of the weed. On the contrary, the poor and rank tobaccoes, grown under a
northern sky, are the richest in nicotin.
But it will be better to continue the argument about its effects upon
the nervous system in connection with the assertions of the reformers.
The following is a list, by no means complete, of these asserted ill
effects from its use.
Tobacco is said to cause softening of the brain,--dimness of
vision,--("the Germans smoke; the Germans are a _spectacled_ nation!"
_post hoc, ergo propter hoc?_ the laborious intellectual habits of this
people, and their trying "text," are considered of no account,)--cancer
of the stomach,--disease of the liver,--dyspepsia,--enfeebled
nutrition, and consequent emaciation,--dryness of the mouth,--"the
clergyman's sore-throat" and loss of voice,--irritability of the nervous
system,--tremulousness,--palpitation and paralysis,--and, among the
moral ills, loss of energy, idleness, drunkenness. A fearful catalogue,
which would dedicate the _tabatiere_ to Pandora, were it true.
Hygienic reformers are usually unequalled in imaginary horrors, except
by the charlatans who vend panaceas.
We have no reasons for believing that tobacco causes softening of the
brain equal in plausibility to those which ascribe it to prolonged and
excessive mental effort. The statistics of disease prove cancers of
other organs to be twice as frequent, among females, as cancer of the
stomach is among males; and an eminent etiologist places narcotics
among the least proved causes of this disease. A hot climate, abuse
of alcohol, a sedentary life, and sluggish digestion happen, rather
curiously, to be very frequent concomitants, if not causes, of disease
of the liver. Dyspepsia haunts both sexes, and, we venture to assert,
though we cannot bring figures to prove it, is as frequent among those
who do not use tobacco as among those who do. We are ready to concede
that excessive chewing and smoking, particularly if accompanied by large
expectoration, may impair nutrition and cause emaciation: that the mass
of mankind eat and digest and live, as well as use "the weed," is proof
that its moderate employment is not ordinarily followed by this result.
Dryness of the mouth follows expectoration as a matter of course; but
the salivation excited in an old smoker by tobacco is very moderate, and
not succeeded by thirst, unless the smoke be inhaled too rapidly and at
too high a temperature.
We come next to a very tender point with reformers, the laryngeal cough
and failing voice of the reverend clergy. The later generations of
ministers of this vicinity, as a body, have abandoned tobacco, and yet
the evil has not diminished. An eminent divine of our acquaintance,
who does not smoke daily, always finds a cigar relieve a trifling
bronchitis, to which he is occasionally subject The curious will find in
the "Medical Journal" of this city, for 1839, that quite as much can be
said on one side as on the other of this subject.
The minor, rarely the graver affections of the nervous system, do follow
the use of tobacco in excess. We admit this willingly; but we deny these
effects to its moderate use by persons of ordinary health and of no
peculiar idiosyncrasy. Numerous cases of paralysis among tobacco-takers
in France were traced to the lead in which the preparation was
We pass next to what we claim as the effects of _moderate_
tobacco-using, and will take first the evidence of the toxicologists.
Both Pereira and Christison agree that "no well-ascertained ill effects
have been shown to result from the habitual practice of smoking." Beck,
a modern authority, says, "Common observation settles the question, that
the moderate and daily use of tobacco _does not_ prove injurious. This
is a general rule": and he adds, that exceptions necessarily exist, etc.
The repugnance and nausea which greet the smoker, in his first attempts
to use tobacco, are not a stronger argument against it than the fact
that the system so soon becomes habituated to these effects is a proof
of its essential innocuousness.
Certainly the love of tobacco is not an instinctive appetite, like that
for nitrogen and carbon in the form of food. Man was not born with a
cigar in his mouth, and it is not certain that the _Nicotiana tabacum_
flourished in the Garden of Eden. But history proves the existence of
an instinct among all races--call it depraved, if you will, the fact
remains--leading them to employ narcotics. And narcotics all nations
have sought and found. We venture to affirm that tobacco is harmless as
any. The betel and the hop can alone compare with it in this respect;
and the hop is not a narcotic which satisfies alone; others are used
with it. Opium and Indian hemp are not to be mentioned in comparison;
while coca, in excess, is much more hurtful.
Tobacco may more properly be called a sedative than a narcotic. Opium,
the type of the latter class, is in its primary action excitant, but
secondarily narcotic. The opium-eaters are familiar with this, and
learn by experience to regulate the dose so as to prolong the first and
shorten the second effects, as much as possible.
Tobacco, on the other hand, is primarily sedative and relaxing. A high
authority says of its physiological action:--
"First, That its greater and first effect is to assuage and allay and
soothe the system in general.
"Second, That its lesser and second, or after effect, is to excite and
invigorate, and at the same time give steadiness and fixity to the
powers of thought."
Either of these effects will predominate, we conceive, according to
the intellectual state and capacity of the individual, as well as in
accordance with the amount used.
The dreamy Oriental is sunk into deeper reverie under the influence of
tobacco, and his happiness while smoking seems to consist in thinking of
nothing. The studious German, on the contrary, "thinks and dreams,
and dreams and thinks, alternately; but while his body is soothed and
stilled, his mind is ever awake."
This latter description resembles, to compare small things with great,
the effects of opium, as detailed by De Quincey.
"In habitual smokers," says Pereira, "the practice, when moderately
indulged, produces that remarkably soothing and tranquillizing effect on
the mind which has caused it to be so much admired and adopted by all
classes of society."
The pleasure derived from tobacco is very hard to define, since it is
negative rather than positive, and to be estimated more by what it
prevents than by what it produces. It relieves the little vexations and
cares of life, soothes the harassed mind, and promotes quiet reflection.
This it does most of all when used sparingly and after labor. But
if incessantly consumed, it keeps up a constant, but mild cerebral
exhilaration. The mind acts more promptly and more continuously under
its use. We think any tobacco-consumer will bear us out in this
definition of its varying effects.
After a full meal, if it does not help, it at least hides digestion.
"It settles one's dinner," as the saying is, and gives that feeling of
quiet, luxurious _bien-aise_ which would probably exist naturally in
a state of primeval health. It promotes, with most persons, the
peristaltic movements of the alimentary passages by its relaxing
Smoking is eminently social, and favors domestic habits. And in this
way, we contend, it prevents drinking, rather than leads to it. Many
still associate the cigar with the bar-room. This notion should have
become obsolete ere this, for it has an extremely limited foundation in
fact. Bachelors and would-be-manly boys are not the only consumers of
tobacco, though they are the best patrons of the bar. The poor man's
pipe retains him by his own fireside, as well as softens his domestic
Excess in tobacco, like excess in any other material good meant for
moderate use, is followed by evil effects, more or less quickly,
according to the constitution and temperament of the abuser. The
lymphatic and obese can smoke more than the sanguine and nervous, with
impunity. How much constitutes excess varies with each individual.
Manufacturers of tobacco do not appear to suffer. Christison states, as
the result of the researches of MM. Parent-Duchatelet and D'Arcet among
four thousand workmen in the tobacco-manufactories of France, that they
found no evidence of its being unwholesome. Moderate tobacco-users
attain longevity equal to that of any other class in the community.
We will cite only the following brief statistics from an old physician
of a neighboring town. In looking over the list of the oldest men, dead
or alive, within his circle of acquaintance, he finds a total of 67 men,
from 73 to 93 years of age. Their average age is 78 and a fraction. Of
these 67, 54 were smokers or chewers; 9 only, non-consumers of tobacco;
and 4 were doubtful, or not ascertained. About nine-elevenths smoked or
chewed. The compiler quaintly adds, "How much longer these men might
have lived without tobacco, it is impossible to determine."
The tobacco-leaf is consumed by man usually in three ways: by smoking,
snuffing, or chewing. The first is the most common; the last is the most
Tobacco is smoked in the East Indies, China, and Siam; in Turkey and
Persia; over Europe generally; and in North and South America. Cigars
are preferred in the East and West Indies, Spain, England, and America.
China, Turkey, Persia, and Germany worship the pipe. In Europe the pipe
is patronized on account of its cheapness. Turks and Persians use the
mildest forms of pipe-smoking, choosing pipes with long, flexible stems,
and having the smoke cooled and purified by passing through water. The
Germans prefer the porous meerschaum,--the Canadians, the common clay.
Women smoke habitually in China, the East and West Indies, and to a less
extent in South America, Spain, and France.
We have no fears that any reasoning of ours would induce the other
sex to use tobacco. The ladies set too just a value on the precious
commodity of their charms for that. There is little danger that they
would do anything which might render them disagreeable. The practice of
snuff-taking is about the only form they patronize, and that to a slight
France is the home of snuff. A large proportion of all the tobacco
consumed there is used in this form. The practice prevails to a large
extent also in Iceland and Scotland. The Icelander uses a small horn,
like a powder-horn, to hold his snuff. Inserting the smaller end into
the nostril, he elevates the other, and thus conveys the pungent powder
directly to the part. The more delicate Highlander carries the snuff to
his nose on a little shovel. This can be surpassed only by the habit
of "dipping," peculiar to some women of the United States, and whose
details will not bear description.
Chewing prevails _par excellence_ in our own country, and among the
sailors of most nations,--to some extent also in Switzerland, Iceland,
and among the Northern races. It is the safest and most convenient form
By smoking, each of the three active ingredients of tobacco is rendered
capable of absorption. The empyreumatic oil is produced by combustion.
The pipe retains this and a portion of the nicotin in its pores. The
cigar, alone, conveys all the essential elements into the system.
Liebig once asserted that cigar-smoking was prejudicial from the
amount of gaseous carbon inhaled. We cannot believe this. The heat of
cigar-smoke may have some influence on the teeth; and, on the whole, the
long pipe, with a porous bowl, is probably the best way of using tobacco
in a state of ignition.
By repeated fermentations in preparing snuff, much of the nicotin is
evaporated and lost. Yet snuff-takers impair the sense of smell, and
ruin the voice, by clogging up the passages with the finer particles of
the powder. The functions of the labyrinthine caverns of the nose and
forehead, and of the delicate osseous laminae which constitute the
sounding-boards of vocalization, are thus destroyed.
Chewing is the most constant, as it is the nastiest habit. The old
chewer, safe in the blunted irritability of the salivary glands, can
continue his practice all night, if he be so infatuated, without
inconvenience. In masticating tobacco, nicotin and nicotianin are rolled
about in the mouth with the quid, but are not probably so quickly
absorbed as when in the gaseous state. Yet chewers are the greatest
spitters, and have a characteristic drooping of the angle of the lower
lip, which points to loss of power in the _leavator_ muscles.
Latakia, Shiraz, Manila, Cuba, Virginia, and Maryland produce the most
valuable tobaccoes. Though peculiar soils and dressings may impart
a greater aroma and richness to the plant, by the variations in the
quantity of nicotianin, as compared with the other organic elements, yet
we are inclined to think that the diminished proportion of nicotin in
the best varieties in the cause of their superior flavor to the rank
Northern tobaccoes, and that it is mainly because they are milder that
they are most esteemed. So, too, the cigar improves with age, because
a certain amount of nicotin evaporates and escapes. Taste in cigars
varies, however, from the Austrian government article, a very rank
"long-nine," with a straw running through the centre to improve its
suction, to the Cuban _cigarrito_, whose ethereal proportions three
whiffs will exhaust.
The manufacture of smoking-tobaccoes is as much and art in Germany as
getting up a fancy brand of cigars is here; and the medical philosopher
of that country will gravely debate whether "Kanaster" or "Varinas" be
best suited for certain forms of convalescence; tobacco being almost
as indispensable as gruel, in returning health. We think the
light pipe-smoker will find a combination of German and Turkish
smoking-tobaccoes a happy thought. The old smoker may secure the best
union of delicacy and strength in the Virginia "natural leaf."
Among the eight or ten species of the tobacco-plant now recognized by
botanists, the _Nicotiana tabacum_ and the _Nicotiana rustica_ hold the
chief place. Numerous varieties of each of these, however, are named and
We condense from De Bow's "Industrial Resources of the South and West" a
brief account of tobacco-culture in this country. "The tobacco is best
sown from the 10th to the 20th of March, and a rich loam is the most
favorable soil. The plants are dressed with a mixture of ashes, plaster,
soot, salt, sulphur, soil, and manure." After they are transplanted,
we are told that "the soil best adapted to the growth of tobacco is a
light, friable one, or what is commonly called a sandy loam; not too
flat, but rolling, undulating land." Long processes of hand-weeding must
be gone through, and equal parts of plaster and ashes are put on each
plant. "Worms are the worst enemy," and can be effectually destroyed
only by hand. "When the plant begins to yellow, it is time to put it
away; and it is cut off close to the ground." After wilting a little on
the ground, it is dried on sticks, by one of the three processes called
"pegging, spearing, and splitting." "When dry, the leaves are stripped
off and tied in bundles of one fifth or sixth of a pound each. It is
sorted into three or four qualities, as Yellow, Bright, Dull, etc."
Next it is "bulked," or put into bundles, and these again dried, and
afterwards "conditioned," and packed in hogsheads weighing from six
hundred to a thousand pounds each.
It would be too long to detail the processes of cigar- and snuff-making,
the latter of which is quite complicated.
We were happy to learn from the fearful work of Hassall on "Food and
its Adulterations," that tobacco was one of the articles least tampered
with; and particularly that there was no opium in cheroots, but nothing
more harmful than hay and paper. He ascribes this immunity mainly to
the vigilance of the excisemen. But we have recently seen a work on
the adulteration of tobacco, whose microscopic plates brought back our
former misgivings. Molasses is a very common agent used to give color
and render it toothsome. Various vegetable leaves, as the rhubarb,
beech, walnut, and mullein, as well as the less delectable bran, yellow
ochre, and hellebore, in snuff, are also sometimes used to defraud.
Saltpetre is often sprinkled on, in making cigars, to improve their
The Indians mixed tobacco in their pipes with fragrant herbs. Cascarilla
bark is a favorite with some smokers; it is a simple aromatic and
tonic, but, when smoked, is said sometimes to occasion vertigo and
We have before observed that tobacco is a very exhausting crop to the
soil. The worn-out tobacco-plantations of the South are sufficient
practical proof of this, while it is also readily explained by
chemistry. The leaves of tobacco are among the richest in incombustible
ash, yielding, when burned, from 19 to 28 _per cent_. of inorganic
substance. This forms the abundant ashes of tobacco-pipes and of cigars.
All this has been derived from the soil where it was raised, and it is
of a nature very necessary to vegetation, and not very abundant in the
most fertile lands. "Every ton of dried tobacco-leaves carries off from
four to five hundred-weight of this mineral matter,--as much as is
contained in fourteen tons of the grain of wheat." It follows
that scientific agriculture can alone restore this waste to the
There is one other aspect of this great subject, which is almost
peculiar to New England, the home of reform. Certain Puritanical
pessimists have argued that the use of tobacco is immoral. There are
few, except our own sober people, who would admit this question at
all. We would treat this prejudice with the respect due to all sincere
reforms. And we have attempted to show, that, since all races have used
and will use narcotics, we had better yield a little, lest more be
taken, and concede them tobacco, which is more harmless than many that
are largely consumed. We have proved to our own satisfaction, and we
hope to theirs, that tobacco _in moderation_ neither affects the health
nor shortens life; that it does not create an appetite for stimulants,
but rather supplies their place; and that it favors sociality and
domestic habits more than the reverse.
If the formation of any habit be objected to, we reply, that this is
a natural tendency of man, that things become less prejudicial by
repetition, and that a high hygienic authority advises us "to be regular
even in our vices."
As we began in a light, we close in a more sober vein, apologists for
tobacco, rather than strongly advocating either side. On one point we
are sure that we shall agree with the ladies, and that is in a sincere
denunciation of the habit of smoking at a tender age. And although, in
accordance with the tendency of the times, the school-boy whom we caught
attached to a "long-nine" would consistently reply, _"Civis Americanus
sum_!" we shall persist in claiming the censorship of age over those on
whose chins the callow down of adolescence is yet ungrown.
* * * * *
SHAKSPEARE DONE INTO FRENCH.
In the first place, it really was an immense success, and Shylock, or
Sheeloque, as they dubbed him, was called before the curtain seven
times, and in most appropriate humility nearly laid his nose on his
insteps as he bowed, and quite showed his spine.
It certainly was like Shakspeare in this, that it had five acts; but
when I have made that concession, and admitted that Sheeloque was
_Le Juif de Venise_, I think I have named all the cardinal points of
similarity in the "Merchant of Venice" and "Le Juif" of that same
unwholesome place. To be sure, there is a suspicion of _le devin
Williams_, as they will call him, continually cropping out; but a
conscientious man would not swear to one line of it, and I do not
think Shakspeare would be justified in suing the French author for
compensation under the National Copyright-Act. I speak of Shakspeare as
existing, because it is my belief he does, in a manner so to speak.
I have intimated that "Le Juif" has five acts; but I have not yet
committed myself to the assertion that he was in seven _tableaux_, and
possessed a prologue.
It is now my pleasing duty to force you through the five acts, and the
one prologue, and the seven _tableaux_,--every one of them.
This prologue is divided as to the theatre into two parts: to left,
Sheeloque's domestic interior,--to right, a practicable canal. In the
very first line out crops Shylock's love of good bargains; and I
give the reader my word, the little Frenchmen saw that this was
characteristic, and applauded vehemently. _"Bon_," said I,--"if they
applaud the first line, what will they do with the last act?"
It need not be said that Shylock dabbles in those bills which Venetian
swells of the fifteenth century, in common with those of a later age
and more western land, will manipulate, in spite of all the political
economy from Confucius down to Mr. Mill; and in this particular instance
and prologue the names of the improvidents are Leone and Ubaldo, neither
of which, if my memory serve me, is Shakspearian. These gentlemen
considerably shake my traditional respect for sixteenth-century
Venetian _Aristos_, for they insult that Jew till I wonder where a count
and a duke have learnt such language: but they serve a purpose; they
trot Shylock out, so to speak, and give our author an opportunity
of doing his best with A 1. Shylock's great speech. Here is the
"But yesterday--no later past than yesterday--thou didst bid thy
mistress call at me from her balcony; thy servants by thy will did cast
mud on me, and thy hounds sped snapping after me,'"--whereby we may infer
they went hunting in Venice, in the fifteenth century. It must have been
rather dangerous running. Nor could the Venetian nobles of that good old
time have been very proper; for Leone and Ubaldo justify themselves by
saying they were drunk.
It is after this pretty excuse that Shylock has a soliloquy as long as
his beard,--and I hear really loud opposition to this didacticism in the
pit; but, however, this slow work soon meets compensation in violent
action. Shylock won't renew, and the nobles get indignant; so they
propose to pay Shylock with more kicks than halfpence. Here the action
begins; for Shylock protests he will bite a bit out of them; and though
one of these long-sleeved swells warns him that all threats by Jews
against Christians are an imprisonment manner, Shylock rashly prepares
for a defence. Away fly the lords after Shylock, over go the chairs,
down goes the table, and I suppose Shylock _does_ hit "one of them"; for
the two lords go off quite triumphantly, with the intimation that he
will be in prison in one hour from that.
Then the Jew calls for--Sarah; and this same comes in on tiptoe, for
fear of waking the baby. This Shylock _fils_ Sarah proceeds to describe
as equally beautiful with Abel and Moses, which seems to give Shylock
_pere_ great comfort,--though I am bound to admit the lowly whispered
doubt on the part of a pit-neighbor of mine as to Sarah's capability of
judging in the matter.
Shylock is preparing for prison, it seems, and one little necessity is a
prayer for said son. Sarah comes in with a response, Shylock leaves
off praying "immediate," to tell Sarah she is no vulgar servant, which
assurance is received in the tearful manner. And here it comes a
little faint whiff of the real play. In leaving home, Shylock's French
plagiarizes the Jew's speech to Jessica, even down to the doubt the Jew
has about leaving his house at all.
There has been no necessity for stating that Sara supposes herself the
widow of a libel on his sex, a man unspeakable; and the moment I hear he
is, or was, a man of crime unspeakable, I know he will turn up. Shylock
having gone away,--I do not know where,--up comes a gondola to the
front-door, and, of course, in walks Sarah's husband. "Good evening,
Ma'am," says he. "God of Israel!" says she. And then such an explanation
as this infamous husband gives! He puts in, that he is a pirate; that
his captain, whom he describes as a _Venus en corsaire_, has lost a
son, and wants another; hence speaker, name Arnheim, wants that little
Israelite who is so much like Abel and Moses at one and the same moment:
though how Arnheim should know of that little creation, or how he should
know him to be also like the lost infantile pirate as well as Abel and
Moses, does not sufficiently appear,--as, indeed, my neighbor, who is
suggestive of a Greek Chorus in a blue blouse, discovers in half a dozen
Of course, when the supposed widow hears this, her cries ought to wake
up all hearing Venice, but not one Venetian comes to her aid; and though
she uses her two hands enough for twenty, she has not got her way when
"Sarah," says that energetic woman's husband, "Sarah, don't be a fool!"
Then I know the baby is coming: there never yet was a French prologue
without a baby,--it seems a French unity; sometimes there are two
babies, who always get mixed up. But to our business.
Out comes the baby, (they never scream,) and--alas that for effect he
should thus commit himself!--Arnheim rips Sarah up, and down she goes as
dead as the Queen of Sheba.
Then comes a really fine scene. Shylock enters, learns all; in come
soldiers for Shylock, and, of course, accuse him of the murder;
whereupon Shylock shows on the blade a cross. "Doth a Jew wear a knife
with a cross on it?" says he. "Go to!--'tis a Christian murder."
To this the soldier-head has nothing to say; so he hurries Shylock off
to prison, and down comes the curtain.
"Hum!" says the Greek Chorus,--"it might be worse."
It is clear there must be lady characters, or I am quite sure the Greek
Chorus would find fault wofully,--and the only one we have had, Sarah,
to wit, can't decently appear again, except in the spiritual form. Well,
there is the original Portia,--alas for that clever, virtuous, and
noble lady!--how is she fallen in the French!--she is noble-looking and
clever,--but the third quality, oh, dear me! This disreputable is named
Imperia, and the real Bassanio becomes one Honorius, who is, as he
should be, the bosom friend of one Andronic, which is Antonio, I would
have you know. I have thought over it two minutes, and have come to the
conclusion that the less I say about Imperia the better, and I know the
Anglo-Saxon would not agree with Imperia,--but, as the Frenchman does,
I offer you one, or part of one of Imperia's songs, as bought by me for
two disgraceful _sous_.
"Deja l'aube rayonne et luit,
Passe et fuit...
A ton arret je dois me rendre.
Sort jaloux! (_bis._)
Il faut descendre
Sans reveiller son vieil epoux!..."
Well,--what do you think of it? Now I will not mention her again,--I
will refer to her, when I shall have vexatious occasion, as "that
woman." And, indeed, "that woman" and Honorius set us up in
comprehension of matters progressing. It seems that quite twenty years
have passed since Sarah's soul slid through a knife-gash; that Honorius
and Andronic, who have come from Smyrna, (why?) are almost brothers;
that Honorius is good in this fact only, that he knows he is really bad;
and that Andronic is the richest and most moral man in Venice,--though
why, under those circumstances, he should be friendly with such a rip as
Honorius, Honorius does not inform us.
I shall pass over the next scenes, and come to that in which all the
creditors of all the lords are brought on to the stage in a state which
calls for the interference of the Doge: they are all drunk,--except
Shylock. This scene really is a startler. Shylock, now dashed with
gray, and nearly double, comes up to "that woman" and calls her sister;
whereupon she demanding that explanation which I and the Greek Chorus
simultaneously want, Shylock states that _he_ is Usury and _she_ Luxury,
"and they have one father."
"Queer old man!!!" says "that woman."
Here follow dice, in which the Jew is requested to join, all of which
naturally brings about a discussion on the rate of usage, which that
dog Andronic is bringing down, and a further statement that _that_
imprisonment lasted two years. Then comes a _coup d'theatre_: Shylock
reminds everybody that a just Doge reigns now, (nor can I help pointing
out the Frenchman's ingenuity here: in the _play_, the Doge must be
just, or where would the pound of flesh be?--while, if the Doge of the
_prologue_ were just, Shylock would not have been committed for two
years,--ergo, kill No. 1. Doge, install No. 2.)--Shylock reminds
everybody that a just Doge reigns. Shylock has it all his own way, and
Honorius is arrested before the very eyes of "that woman." Then comes
the necessary _Deus ex machina_ in the shape of Andronic, who pays
everybody everything, saves his friend, and play proceeds. Andronic
reproaches Jew touching his greed, whereon the Jew offers this not
profound remark,--"I am--what I am,"--and goes on counting his money.
Oh, if you only knew the secret!
This cash payment winds up the act.
Decidedly, the beginning of Act Second proves Andronic is no fool, for
he advises Honorius to flee that creature,--and what better advice in
those matters is there than that of retreating? Decidedly, too,
the virtuous Doge is worth having,--really a Middle-Age electric
telegraph,--for he gives all about him such a dose of news as in this
day would sell every penny-paper printed: and such bad news!--Venice
down everywhere, and a loan wanted. Here comes a fine scene for
Andronic, (for, after all, the lords have "hitched out" of the proposed
loan, whereby I take it they are not such fools as people take them to
be,)--Andronic declares, that, if he were rich enough, the Doge should
not ask for money, but ships are but frail and his have gone to pieces.
Here, you see, comes another faint whiff of the real original play.
Then, clearly, the Doge can only apply to the Jews. Enter Shylock _a
propos_. The next scene is so awful to the Greek Chorus, who may be of a
business turn, that I am charitable enough not to reproduce it here;
but the percentage the Jew wants for the loan seems to be quite a
multiplication-table of tangible securities, and I only wonder the Doge
does not order him into the Adriatic. Amongst other demands, the Jew
procures all the Dogic jewels,--and then he wants all the jewels of the
Doge's daughter; indeed, Shylock becomes a most unreasonable party.
No sooner does he speak of the daughter, Ginevra by name, than in she
comes, jewel-casket in hand,--which leads the cynical Greek Chorus to
suppose that Mademoiselle is either _clairvoyante_ or prefers going
about with a box. The way in which that best of her sex offers up the
jewels on the patriotic shrine is really worthy of the applause bestowed
on the act; but when that pig of a Jew is not satisfied, when he insists
upon the diamond necklace Ginevra wears, as another preliminary to the
loan, people in the theatre quite shake with indignation.
Now the jewel has been the pattern young lady's mother's; and here comes
an opening for that appeal to the filial love of Frenchmen which is
never touched in vain. It is really a great and noble trait in the
French character, that filial love, not too questionable to be
demonstrative,--'tis a sure dramatist's French card, that appeal to the
love of mothers and fathers by their children.
Having procured the weight of this chain, which has caused Shylock the
loss of many friends in the house who have been inclined to like him
consequent upon the loss of that Abel-Moses-photograph,--Shylock departs
with this information, that he will bring the money to-morrow: which
assertion proves Shylock to be a strong man, if a hundred thousand marks
are as heavy as I take them to be.
Upon what little things do dramas, in common with lives, turn!
That necklace is the brilliant groundwork of the rest of the plot.
Why--why--why--WHY didn't Shakspeare think of the necklace?
And as I always must tell love-affairs as soon as I hear of them,--for,
as a rule, I live in country towns,--I may at once state that Ginevra
loved Andronic, and latter loved former, and they would not tell each
other, and the Doge knew nothing about it.
Yes, decidedly, the necklace is the first character in "Le Juif de
Venise." You see, Ginevra loved the necklace, and Andronic loved
Ginevra; so he is forced to procure that charming necklace for her,
_coute qui coute_, and so he goes to Shylock for it. And here you will
see its value: Shylock will sell it only for a large sum. Andronic,
seeing his losses, hasn't the money,--but will have;--glorious opening
for the clause about the pound of flesh! Signed, sealed, and delivered.
How superior is Andronic to Antonio, the old ----! This latter pawns his
breast for a friend only: the great Andronic risks the flesh about _his_
heart for sacred love. Io Venus!
Yet, nevertheless, notwithstanding, it is the opinion of the Greek
Chorus that Andronic is a _joli_ fool,--which choral remark I hear
with pain, as reflecting upon unhesitating love, and especially as the
remarker has been eminently touched at the abduction.
As for the Fourth Act,--it is very tender and terrible.
I need not say that the tenderness arises through the necklace,--and
indeed, for that matter, so also does the terror. Touching the first, of
course it is the discovery by Ginevra of the return of those maternal
diamonds,--which are handed to her by a _femme-de-chambre_, who has
had them from Andronic's _valet-de-chambre_, who is in love with the
_femme-de-chambre_, who reciprocates, etc., etc., etc.
But touching the terrible,--"that woman" hears of the necklace, and
sends Honorius for it to Shylock. Bad job!--gone! Well, then, Honorius
falls out with his old friend Andronic because latter will not yield up
the necklace. Honorius demands to know who has it. Andronic will not
name Ginevra's name before "that woman" and all the lofty lords, and
then there's a grand scene.
In the first place, it seems that in Shylock's Venetian time, the
Venetian lords, when obliging Venice with a riot, called upon Venetians
to put out their lights, and this the lords now do, (we are on the
piazza,) and out go all the lights as though turned off at one main.
Then there is such a scrimmage! Honorius lunges at Andronic; this latter
disarms former; then latter comes to his senses, flies over to his old
friend, and all the Venetian brawlers are put to flight.
Then Honorius says,--and pray, pray, mark what Honorius says, or you
will _never_ comprehend Act V.,--then Honorius says, taking Andronic's
previous advice about flying, "I will go away, _and fight the Adriatic
pirates_." Now, pray, don't forget that. I quite distress myself in
praying you not to forget that,--to wit,--"_Honorius goes away to fight
the Adriatic pirates._"
Oh, if you only knew the big secret!
This, of course, is the knifing act.
Seated is Shylock before an hour-glass, and trying to count the grains
of sand as they glide through.
Oh, if you only knew the big secret!
You remember that in that original play Antonio's ships are lost merely.
Bah! we manage better in this matter: the ships come home, but they are
empty,--emptied by the pirates; though why those Adriaticians did not
confiscate the ships is even beyond the Greek Chorus, who says, "They
were very polite."
At last all the sand is at rest.
Crack,--as punctual as a postman comes Andronic; and as the Venetians
are revolting against the flesh business, about which they seem to know
every particular, Andronic brings a guard of the just Doge's soldiers
to keep the populace quiet while the business goes on;--all of which
behavior on the merchant's part my friend the Chorus pronounces to be
stupid and suicidal.
Then comes such a scene!--Andronic calling for Ginevra, and the Jew
calling for his own.
Then thus the Jew:--
"Feeble strength of my old body, be centred in this eye and this arm!
Thou, my son, receive this sacrifice, and tremble with joy in thy
Oh, if you only knew the big secret!
And I _do_ hope you have not forgotten that Honorius went away to fight
the Adriatic pirates.
For, if you have forgotten that fact, you will not comprehend Honorius's
rushing in at this moment from the Adriatic pirates.
Yes,--but why did he go amongst them?
The big secret, in fact. If Honorius had not gone, why, I suppose
Shylock would have had his pound of man.
As it is, Honorius and his paper--which latter has also come from the
pirates--do the business.
Why, the whole thing turns on the paper. How lucky it was Honorius went
amongst the pirates!
Honorius has vanquished the chief of the pirates,--who was named
Arnheim,--and that disreputable widower, just before his last breath,
gave Honorius the said paper,--though why, it is not clear. And--and
this paper shows that ANDRONIC IS THAT SON STOLEN AWAY FROM SARAH,
DECEASED, AND SHYLOCK,--THAT SON, NOT ONLY THE IMAGE OF ABEL, BUT OF
Then, very naturally, (in a play,) in come all the characters, and
follows, I am constrained to say, a very well-conceived scene,--'tis
another appeal to filial love. The Jew would own his son, but he
remembers that it would injure the son, and so he keeps silent. I
declare, there is something eminently beautiful in the idea of making
the Jew yield his wealth up to Andronic, and saying he will wander from
Venice,--his staff his only wealth. And when, as he stoops to kiss his
son's hand, Ginevra (who of course has come on with the rest) makes a
gesture as though she feared treachery, the few words put into the Jew's
mouth are full of pathos and poetry.
And so down comes the curtain,--the piece meeting with the full approval
of Chorus, who applauded till I thought he would snap his hands off at
"A very moral play," said a stout gentleman behind me,--who had done
little else all night but break into the fiercest of apples and
pears,--"a very moral play,"--meaning thereby, probably, that it was
very moral that a Jew's child should remain a Christian.
Now there were some good points in that play; but, oh, thou M. Ferdinand
Dugue, thou,--why didst thou challenge comparison with a man who wrote
for all theatres for all times?
* * * * *
THE POET'S SINGING.
In heat and in cold, in sunshine and rain,
Bewailing its loss and boasting its gain,
Blessing its pleasure and cursing its pain,
The hurrying world goes up and down:
Every avenue and street
Of city and town
Are veins that throb with the restless beat
Of the eager multitude's trampling feet.
Men wrangle together to get and hold
A sceptre of power or a crock of gold;
Blaspheming God's name with the breath He gave,
And plotting revenge on the brink of the grave!
And Fashion's followers, flitting after,
O'ertake and pass the funeral train,
Thoughtlessly scattering jests and laughter,
Like sharp, quick showers of hail and rain,
To beat on the hearts that are bleeding with pain!
And many who stare at the close-shut hearse
Envy the dead within,--or, worse,
Turn away with a keener zest
To grapple and revel and sin with the rest!
While far apart in a bower of green,
A warbling bird on the topmost bough
Merrily pipes to the Poet below,
Asking an answer as gay, I trow!
But he hears the surging waves without,--
The heartless jeer, and the wild, wild shout:
The ceaseless clamor, the cruel strife
Make the Poet weary of life;
And tears of pity and tears of pain
Ebb and flow in every strain,
As he soothes his heart with singing.
The tide of humanity rolleth on;
And 'mid faces miserly, haggard, and wan,
Between the hypocrite's and the knave's,
The hapless idiot's and the slave's,
Sweet children smile in their nurses' arms,
And clap their hands in innocent glee;
While, unrebuked by the heavenly charms
That beam in the eyes of infancy,
Oaths still blacken the lips of men,
And startle the ears of womanhood!
On either hand
The churches stand,
Forgotten by those who yesterday
Went thronging thither to praise and pray,
And take of the Holy Body and Blood!
Their week-day creed is the law of Might;
Self is their idol, and Gain their right:
Though, now and then,
God sees some faithful disciples still
Breasting the current to do His will.
The little bird on the topmost bough
Merrily pipes to the Poet below,
Asking an answer as gay, I trow!
But he hears the surging waves without,--
The atheist's scoff and the infidel's doubt,
The Pharisee's cant and the sweet saint's prayer,
And the piercing cry for rest from care;
And tears of pity and tears of pain
Ebb and flow in every strain,
As he praises God with singing.
A JOURNEY IN SICILY.
In the latter part of April, 1856, four travellers, one of whom was the
present writer, left the Vittoria Hotel at Naples, and at two, P.M.,
embarked on board the Calabrese steamer, pledged to leave for Palermo
precisely at that hour. As, however, our faith in the company's
protestations was by no means so implicit as had been our obedience to
their orders, it was with no feeling of surprise that we discovered by
many infallible signs that the hour of departure was yet far off. True,
the funnel sent up its thick cloud; the steward in dirty shirt-sleeves
stood firm in the gangway, energetically demanding from the
baggage-laden traveller the company's voucher for the fare, without
which he may vainly hope to leave the gangway ladder; the decks were
crowded in every part with lumber, live and dead. But all these symptoms
had to be increased many fold in their intensity before we could hope to
get under way; and a single glance at the listless countenances of the
bare-legged, bare-armed, red-capped crowd who adhered like polypi to
the rough foundation-stones of the mole sufficed to show that the
performance they had come to witness would not soon commence. Our berths
once visited, we cast about for some quiet position wherein to while
away the intervening time. The top of the deck-house offered as pleasant
a prospect as could be hoped for, and thither we mounted.
The whole available portion of the deck, poop included, was in
possession of a crowd of youngsters, many mere boys, from the Abruzzi,
destined to exchange their rags and emptiness for the gay uniform and
good rations of King Ferdinand's soldiery. In point of physical comfort,
their gain must be immense; and very bad must be that government
which, despite of these advantages, has forced upon the soldier's mind
discontent and disaffection. No doubt, the spectacle of the Swiss
regiments doubly paid, and (on Sundays at least) trebly intoxicated,
has something to do with this ill feeling. The raggedness of this troop
could be paralleled only by that of the immortal regiment with whom
their leader declined to march through Coventry, and was probably even
more quaint and fantastic in its character. Chief in singularity were
their hats, if hat be the proper designation of the volcanic-looking
gray cone which adhered to the head by some inscrutable dynamic law, and
seemed rather fitted for carrying out the stratagem of shoeing a troop
of horse with felt than for protecting a human skull. A triple row
of scalloped black velvet not unfrequently bore testimony to the
indomitable love of the nation for ornament; and the same decoration
might be found on their garments, whose complicated patchwork reminded
us of the humble original from which has sprung our brilliant Harlequin.
Shortly our attention was solicited by a pantomimic Roscius, some ten or
twelve years old, who, having climbed over the taffrail and cleared a
stage of some four feet square, dramatized all practicable scenes, and
many apparently impracticable, for he made nothing of presenting two or
three personages in rapid interchange. Words were needless, and would
have been useless, as the unloading of railway bars by a brawny
Northumbrian and his crew drowned all articulate sounds.
Notwithstanding these varied amusements, we were not sorry to see
arrive, first, a gray general, obviously the Triton of our minnows, and
close behind him the health and police officers of the government, to
whose paternal solicitude for our mental and bodily health was to be
ascribed our long delay in port. These beneficent influences, incarnated
in the form of two portly gentlemen in velvet waistcoats,--an Italian
wears a velvet waistcoat, if he can get one, far into the hot
months,--began their work of summoning by name each individual from the
private to the general, then the passengers, then the crew, and finally,
much to our relief, reembarked in the boat, and left us free to pursue
We soon left behind the ominous cone of Vesuvius, reported by the best
judges to be at present in so unsound a state that nothing can prevent
its early fall; sunset left us near the grand precipices of Anacapri,
and morning found us with Ustica on our beam, and the semicircle of
mountains which enchase the gem of Palermo gradually unfolding their
beauties. By ten, A.M., we were in harbor and pulling shorewards to
subject ourselves to the scrutiny of custom-house and police. Our
passports duly conned over, the functionary, with a sour glance at our
valanced faces, inquired if we had letters for any one in the island.
Never before had such a question been asked me, nor ever before could I
have given other than an humble negative. But the kindness of a friend
had luckily provided me with a formidable shield, and a reply, given
with well-assumed ease, that I had letters from the English Ambassador
for the Viceroy, smoothed the grim feature, and released us from the
dread tribunal. The custom-house gave no trouble, and we reembarked to
cross about half a mile of water which separated us from the city gate.
Here, however, we were destined to experience the influence of the sunny
clime: our two stout boatmen persisted in setting their sail, under the
utterly false pretence that there was some wind blowing, and fully half
an hour elapsed ere we set foot ashore.
This gave me ample time to recall the different aspect of Palermo when
first I saw it, in 1849. I had accompanied the noble squadron, English
and French, which carried to the Sicilian government the _ultimatum_
of the King of Naples. The scenes of that troubled time passed vividly
before me: the mutual salutes of the Admirals; the honors paid by
each separately to the flag of Sicily, that flag which we had come to
strike,--for such we all knew must be the effect of our withdrawal. I
recollected the manly courtesy with which the Sicilians received us,
their earnest assurances that they did not confound our involuntary
errand with our personal feelings; and how, when a wild Greek
mountaineer from the Piano de' Greci, unable to comprehend the
intricacies of politics, and stupidly imagining that those who were
not for him were against him, had insulted one of our officers, the
bystanders had interposed so honorably and so swiftly that even the hot
blood of our fiery Cymrian had neither time nor excuse to rise to the
boiling-point. I recalled the scene in the Parliament House, when the
replies to the King's message, which had been sent by each chief town,
were read by the Speaker: the grave indignation of some,--the somewhat
bombastic protestations of others,--the question put of submission or
war,--the shout of "_Guerra! guerra!_" ringing too loud, methought, to
be good metal; the "_Suoni la tromba_" at that night's theatre,--the
digging at the fortifications,--women carrying huge stones,--men more
willing to shout for them than to do their own share,--Capuchin friars
digging with the best,--finally, the wild dance of men, women, cowled
and bearded monks, all together, brandishing their spades and shovels in
cadence to the military band. With this came to me the mild smile and
doubtful shake of the head of the good Admiral Baudin, and his prophetic
remark,--"I have seen much fighting in various parts of the world; and
if these men mean to fight, I cannot comprehend them."
While this mental diorama was unrolling, even Sicilian laziness had time
to reach the shore; and passing by a rough mass of rocks, where our
second cutter had once run too close for comfort, and the Friedland's
launch had upset and lost two men, we at length landed close to the city
gate. A custom-house officer pounced on us for a fee, notwithstanding
our examination on first landing, and ("_uno avulso, non deficit aureus
alter_,") at the city gate, not thirty yards distant, a third repeated
the demand, equivalent to "Your money or your keys." A capital breakfast
at the Trinacria hotel was the fitting conclusion to these oft-recorded
troubles, and the gratifying news that the Viceroy had just left the
island for Naples obviated the necessity of a formal visit, and left us
free to enjoy the notabilities of Palermo.
The plan of this beautiful city is very simple, being a tolerably
accurate square, surrounded by walls, of which the northern face skirts
the sea, and the southern faces the head of the lovely valley in which
the city stands,--the Golden Shell. Two perfectly straight streets,
intersecting in a small, but highly ornamented _piazza_, traverse
the city. The Toledo, or Via Cassaro,--for it bears both these
designations,--runs from the sea to the Monreale gate, close to which is
the Royal Palace, and the Cathedral square opens from this street. The
Via Macqueda contains few buildings of interest except the University.
Between the wall and the sea runs the magnificent Marina, a more
beautiful promenade than even the Villa Reale of Naples, having on the
right the low but picturesque headland of Bagaria, while on the left
rise the all but perpendicular rocks of Monte Pellegrino, once the
impregnable mountain-throne of Hamilcar Barcas, and later the spot where
in a rude cavern, now sheeted with marble and jasper, "from all the
youth of Sicily, Saint Rosalie retired to God." The handicraftsmen of
Palermo still occupy almost exclusively the streets named after their
trades,--an indication of immobility rarely to be met with nowadays,
though Rome displays it in a minor degree.
We first visited the University Museum. Numerous pictures, far beyond
the ordinary degree of badness, occupy the upper rooms, where the only
object of interest is a very fine and well-preserved bronze of Hercules
and the Pompeian Fawn, half life-size. But far beyond all else in
artistic importance are the _metopes_ from Selinuntium, which, though
much damaged, show marks of high excellence. They are of clearly
different dates, though all very archaic. The oldest represent Perseus
cutting off the Gorgon's head, and Hercules killing two thieves. Perseus
has the calm, sleepy look of a Hindoo god,--while Gorgon's head, with
goggle eyes and protruding tongue, resembles a Mexican idol. Hercules
and the thieves have more of an Egyptian character. The material of
these bas-reliefs is coarse limestone; and in the _metopes_ on the
opposite wall, which are clearly of later date, recourse has been had to
a curious method of obtaining delicacy in the female forms: the faces,
hands, and feet, which alone are visible from among the drapery, are
formed of fine marble. An Actaeon torn by his dogs is much corroded by
sea air, but displays great nobleness of attitude. The vigor in the left
arm, which has throttled one of the dogs, can hardly be surpassed. A
portion of the _cella_, of one of the temples has been removed hither,
and its brilliant polychromy is sufficient to decide the argument as to
the existence of the practice, if, indeed, that point be yet in doubt.
But it seems that the non-colorists have relinquished the parallel of
architecture, which, be it observed, they formerly defended obstinately,
and have now intrenched themselves in the citadel of sculpture,
intending to hold it against all evidence. The only other object of much
interest was a Pompeian fresco, representing two actors, whose attitudes
and masks are so strikingly adapted to express the first scene of the
"Heautontimorumenos," between Menalcas and Chremes, that it seems
scarcely doubtful that this is actually the subject of the painting.
Near the upper end of the Toledo the Cathedral is situated, not very
favorably for effect, as only the eastern side is sufficiently free from
buildings. It is a noble pile: Northern power and piety expressed by
the agency of Southern and Arabic workmen, and somewhat affected by the
nationality of the artificer.
The stones are fretted and carved more elaborately than those of any
French or English cathedral, but entirely in arabesques and diapering of
low relief, so that the spectator misses with regret the solemn rows of
saints and patriarchs that enrich the portals of our Gothic minsters.
These, however, are reflections of a subsequent date, and did not
interfere to mar the pleasure with which we sat in front of the southern
door, beneath the two lofty arches, which, springing from the entrance
tower, span the street high above our heads. For some time we sat,
unwilling to change and it might be impair our sensations by passing
inwards. Our reluctance was but too well founded: the whole interior has
been modernized in detestable Renaissance style, and in place of highest
honor, above the central doorway, sits in tight-buttoned uniform a
fitting idol for so ugly a shrine, the double-chinned effigy of the
reigning monarch. We turned for comfort to a chapel on the right, where
in four sarcophagi of porphyry are deposited the remains of the Northern
sovereigns. The bones of Roger repose in a plain oblong chest with a
steep ridged roof, and the other three coffins, though somewhat more
elaborate, are yet simple and massive, as befits their destined use. The
inscription, on that of Constantia is touching, as it tells that she
was "the last of the great race of Northmen,"--the good old bad Latin
"Northmannorum" giving the proper title, which we have injudiciously
softened into Norman.
In a small _piazza_ near the intersection of the main streets is a
Dominican church, whose black and white inlaid marbles are amazing in
their elaborateness, astounding in their preposterously bad taste. They
transcend description, and can be faintly imagined only by such as
know a huge marble nightmare of waves and clouds in the south aisle
of Westminster Abbey. This church contains one good painting of a
triumphant experiment conducted by some Dominican friars in the presence
of sundry Ulemas and Muftis: a Koran and Bible have been thrown into a
blazing fire, and the result is as satisfactory as that of Hercules's
death-grapple with the Nemean lion. To be sure, lions and Turks are
not painters. The Martorana church is rich in gold-grounded mosaics,
resembling Saint Mark's at Venice. One represents the coronation of
Roger Guiscard by the Saviour: very curious, as showing at how early a
date the invaders laid claim to the Right Divine. The inscription is
also noteworthy: _Rogerius Rex_, in the Latin tongue, but the Greek
characters, thus: [Greek: ROGERIOS RAEX].[a] The Renaissance has invaded
this church too, and flowery inlaid marbles with gilded scroll balconies
(it is a nuns' church) mingle with the bold discs and oblong panels of
porphyry and green serpentine. In the nave of the small church sat in
comfortable arm-chairs two monks, one black, one white, leaning their
ears to gilded grates and receiving the confessions of the sisterhood.
The paschal candlestick stood in front of the high altar,--Ascension-Day
not being past; but here, as in other Sicilian churches, it assumes the
form of a seven-branched tree, generally of bronze bedecked with gold.
These same nuns' balconies are not confined to the interior of churches,
but form a distinct and picturesque feature in the long line of the
Toledo. Projecting in a bold curve whose undersurface is gaily painted
in arabesque, their thick bars and narrow openings nevertheless leave a
gloomy impression on the mind, while they add to the Oriental character
of the city. A somewhat unsuccessful effort to identify the church whose
bell gave signal for the Sicilian Vespers closed our day's labor. The
spot is clearly defined and easily recognizable, and a small church, now
shut up, occupies the site. So far, so good; but the cloister which is
distinctly mentioned cannot now be found, nor is it easy to perceive
where it could have stood. Perhaps some change in the neighboring harbor
may have swept it away.
[Footnote a: The _e_ in _Rex_ is here rendered by the Greek eta,--a
proof that the pronunciation of that letter was similar to that of our
long _a_, and not like our double _ee_; although the modern Greeks
support the latter pronunciation.]
_23d April_. To those who take interest in the efforts of that age when
Christianity, devoid at once of artistic knowledge and of mechanical,
strove from among the material and moral wreck of Paganism to create for
herself a school of Art which should, despite of all short-comings, be
the exponent of those high feelings which inspired her mind, the Royal
Chapel of Palermo offers a delightful object of study. Less massive than
the gloomily grand basilicas of Rome and Ravenna, surpassed in single
features by other churches, as, for instance, the Cathedral of Salerno,
it contains, nevertheless, such perfect specimens of Christian Art in
its various phases, that this one small building seems a hand-book in
itself. The floor and walls are covered with excellently preserved and
highly polished Alexandrine mosaic, flowing in varied convolutions of
green and gold and red round the broad crimson and gray shields, whose
circular forms recall the mighty monolith columns of porphyry and
granite which yielded such noble spoils. The honey-combed pendentines of
the ceiling must be due to Arab workmen; their like may yet be found in
Cairo or the Alhambra; while below the narrow windows, and extending
downwards to the marble panelling, runs a grand series of gold-grounded
mosaics, their subjects taken from the Old and New Testaments. But
far older than even these are the colossal grim circles of saints and
apostles who cling to the roof of the choir, and yield in size only to
the awful figures of the Saviour, the Virgin, and Saint Paul, enthroned
in the _apsides_ of the nave and aisles. The _ambones_, though not
so large as those of Salerno, are very gorgeous; and the paschal
candlestick, here at all events in its usual shape, is of deeply-carved
marble, and displays an incongruous assemblage of youths, maidens,
beasts, birds, and bishops, hanging each from other like a curtain of
Service, which had been going on in the choir when we arrived, had now
ceased; but from the crypt below arose a chant so harsh, vibratory,
and void of solemnity, that we were irresistibly reminded of the
subterranean chorus of demons in "Robert le Diable." Two of us ventured
below and discovered the chapter, all robed in purple, sitting round a
pall with a presumable coffin underneath. Little of reverence did they
show,--it is true, the death was not recent, the service being merely
commemorative, as we afterwards learned,--and as the procession shortly
afterwards emerged and proceeded down the chapel, the unwashed,
unshaven, and sensual countenances of some of highest rank among them
gave small reason to believe that they could feel much reverence on any
The Palace itself is as tedious as any other palace: the Pompeian room
follows the Louis Quinze, and is in turn followed by the Chinese, till,
for our comfort, we emerged into one large square hall, whose stiff
mosaics of archers killing stags, peacocks feeding at the foot of
willow-pattern trees, date from the time of Roger. Another wearisome
series of rooms succeeded, which we were bound to traverse in search of
a bronze ram of old Greek workmanship, brought from Syracuse. The work
is very good and well-preserved; in fact, no part is injured, save the
tail and a hind leg, whose loss the _custode_ ascribed to the villains
of the late revolution. He even charged them with the destruction of
another similar statue melted into bullets, if we may believe his
incredible tale. A pavilion over the Monreale gate commands a view right
down the Toledo to the sea.
The drive to Monreale is a continued ascent along the skirts of a
limestone rock, whose precipices are thickly planted at every foothold
with olive, Indian fig, and aloe. The valley, as it spread below our
gaze, appeared one huge carpet of heavy-fruited orange-trees, save where
at times a rent in the web left visible the bluish blades of wheat, or
the intense green of a flax-plantation.
Monreale is a mere country-town, containing no object of interest, save
the Cathedral. This is a noble basilica, grandly proportioned, the nave
and aisles of which are separated by monolith pillars, mostly of gray
granite, and some few of cipollino and other marbles, the spoils, no
doubt, of the ancient Panormus. Above the cornice the walls are entirely
sheeted with golden mosaics, representing, as usual, Scripture history.
The series which begins, like the speech of the Intendant in "Les
Plaideurs," "_Avant la creation du monde_" complies with the wish of
(the judge?) by going on to the Deluge, in a train of singularly meagre
figures, most haggard of whom is Cain, here represented (as in the Campo
Santo of Pisa) receiving his death accidentally from the hand of Lamech.
In the passage of the beasts to the Ark, Noah coaxes the lion on board,
and in the next compartment the patriarch shoves the king of beasts down
the plank in a most ludicrous fashion. The mosaics of the New Testament
are less archaic, though still very old, too old to be infected by the
tricks of later Romanism,--such, for instance, as introducing the Virgin
among the receivers of the mysterious gift of tongues. Saint Paul, both
here and at the Royal Chapel, appears under the earlier type adopted
whether by fancy or tradition to represent that saint,--that is, a
short, strong figure, with the head large, and almost devoid of hair,
except at the sides, and one dark lock in the centre of the massive
forehead. Over the western door-way is a mosaic of the Virgin with the
following leonine and loyal distich beneath it:--
"Sponsa suae prolis, O Stella puerpera Solis,
Pro cunctis ora, sed plus pro rege labora!"
There is an ample square cloister, with twenty-seven pairs of columns on
each side, once richly decorated in mosaics like those of San Giovanni
Laterano and San Paolo at Rome, but even more dilapidated than either
of these latter. Indeed, so entirely non-existent is the mosaic, the
twisted and channelled columns showing nothing but places "where the
pasty is not," that the more probable solution may be that want of funds
or of devotion has left the work unfinished. On the capital of one
column may be seen the figure of William the Good, who founded the
Cathedral in 1170. He bears in his arms a model of the building, which
here appears with circular-headed windows instead of the lanceolated
Gothic now existing.
In, perhaps, the very loveliest of the many lovely sites around Palermo
stands the small Moorish building of La Ziza. Moorish it may be called;
for the main feature of the edifice, a hall with a fountain trickling
along a channel in the pavements, is clearly due to the Saracens. These,
however, had availed themselves of Roman columns to support their
fretted ceilings, once gorgeous in color, but now desecrated with
whitewash. The Norman invaders have added their never-failing gold
mosaic,--while the Spaniard, after painting sundry scenes from Ovid's
"Metamorphoses" in a dreadfully barocco style, calls upon the world,
in those magniloquent phrases which somehow belong as of right to your
mighty Don, to admire the exquisite commingling of modern art with
antique beauty, to which his _fiat_ has given birth.
Somewhat of Spain, perhaps, might also be traced in an incident,
promisingly romantic, but coming to a most lame and impotent conclusion,
which occurred this afternoon to one of our party. While busily
sketching, in the Martorana church, the previously mentioned mosaic of
Roger's coronation, a hand protruded from the gilded lattice above,
and a small scroll was dropped, not precisely at the feet, but in the
neighborhood of the amazed artist. Sharp eyes, however, must be at work;
for, ere he could appropriate this mysterious waif on Love's manor, a
side-door opened, and an attendant in the very unpoetical garb of a
carpenter bore off the prize. It maybe presumed that the next confessor
who occupied an arm-chair in the church would have somewhat of novelty
to enliven what some priests have stated to be the most wearisome of the
work, namely, the hearing of confessions in a nunnery.
This evening was passed in the house of the British Consul, who, in
amusing recognition of our nationalities, comprising, as they did,
both branches of the Anglo-Saxon race, treated us to Lemann's
captain's-biscuit and Boston crackers. Notwithstanding the interesting
conversation of our host, who had not allowed a residence of many years
in a mind-rusting city to impair his love of literature, a love dating
from the time when Praed edited the "Etonian," and Metius Tarpa
contributed to the "College Magazine," we were obliged to leave early.
Our arrangements for a very early start next morning were completed, and
a thirty miles' ride lay before us.
To save further allusion to them, it may be as well to describe these
arrangements, which were made for us by Signor Ragusa, landlord of the
Trinacria hotel. A guide, Giuseppe Agnello by name, took upon himself
the whole responsibility of our board, lodging, and travelling, at a
fixed rate of forty-two (?) _carlini_ a head,--which sum, including his
_buonamano_ and return voyage from Syracuse or Messina, amounted to
about twenty francs each _per diem_. For this sum he furnished us with
good mules, a hearty breakfast at daybreak, cold meat and hard eggs at
noon, and a plentiful dinner or supper, call it which you choose, on
arriving at our night's quarters. Agnello himself was cook, and proved
a very tolerable one. This is essential; for Spanish custom prevails
in the inns, whose host considers his duty accomplished when he has
provided ample stabling for the mules and dubious bedding for his biped
[To be continued.]
* * * * *
THE PROFESSOR'S STORY.
If Master Bernard felt a natural gratitude to his young pupil for saving
him from an imminent peril, he was in a state of infinite perplexity
to know why he should have needed such aid. He, an active, muscular,
courageous, adventurous young fellow, with a stick in his hand, ready to
hold down the Old Serpent himself, if he had come in his way, to stand
still, staring into those two eyes, until they came up close to him,
and the strange, terrible sound seemed to freeze him stiff where he
stood,--what was the meaning of it? Again, what was the influence this
girl had exerted, under which the venomous creature had collapsed in
such a sudden way? Whether he had been awake or dreaming he did not feel
quite sure. He knew he had gone up The Mountain, at any rate; he knew he
had come down The Mountain with the girl walking just before him;--there
was no forgetting her figure, as she walked on in silence, her braided
locks falling a little, for want of the lost hair-pin, perhaps, and
looking like a wreathing coil of--Shame on such fancies!--to wrong that
supreme crowning gift of abounding Nature, a rush of shining black hair,
that, shaken loose, would cloud her all round, like Godiva, from brow to
instep! He was sure he had sat down before the fissure or cave. He was
sure that he was led softly away from the place, and that it was Elsie
who had led him. There was the hair-pin to show that so far it was not a
dream. But between these recollections came a strange confusion; and the
more the master thought, the more he was perplexed to know whether she
had waked him, sleeping, as he sat on the stone, from some frightful
dream, such as may come in a very brief slumber, or whether she had
bewitched him into a trance with those strange eyes of hers, or whether
it was all true, and he must solve its problem as he best might.
There was another recollection connected with this mountain adventure.
As they approached the mansion-house, they met a young man, whom Mr.
Bernard remembered having seen once at least before, and whom he had
heard of as a cousin of the young girl. As Cousin Richard Venner, the
person in question, passed them, he took the measure, so to speak, of
Mr. Bernard, with a look so piercing, so exhausting, so practised, so
profoundly suspicious, that the young master felt in an instant that he
had an enemy in this handsome youth,--an enemy, too, who was like to be
subtle and dangerous.
Mr. Bernard had made up his mind, that, come what might, enemy or no
enemy, live or die, he would solve the mystery of Elsie Venner, sooner
or later. He was not a man to be frightened out of his resolution by a
scowl, or a stiletto, or any unknown means of mischief, of which a whole
armory was hinted at in that passing look Dick Venner had given him.
Indeed, like most adventurous young persons, he found a kind of charm
in feeling that there might be some dangers in the way of his
investigations. Some rumors which had reached him about the supposed
suitor of Elsie Venner, who was thought to be a desperate kind of
fellow, and whom some believed to be an unscrupulous adventurer, added
a curious, romantic kind of interest to the course of physiological and
psychological inquiries he was about instituting.
The afternoon on The Mountain was still uppermost in his mind. Of course
he knew the common stories about fascination. He had once been himself
an eyewitness of the charming of a small bird by one of our common
harmless serpents. Whether a human being could be reached by this
subtile agency, he had been skeptical, notwithstanding the mysterious
relation generally felt to exist between man and this creature, "cursed
above all cattle and above every beast of the field,"--a relation which
some interpret as the fruit of the curse, and others hold to be so
instinctive that this animal has been for that reason adopted as the
natural symbol of evil. There was another solution, however, supplied
him by his professional reading. The curious work of Mr. Braid of
Manchester had made him familiar with the phenomena of a state allied to
that produced by animal magnetism, and called by that writer by the name
of _hypnotism_. He found, by referring to his note-book, the statement
was, that, by fixing the eyes on a _bright object_ so placed as _to
produce a strain_ upon the eyes and eyelids, and to maintain _a steady
fixed stare_, there comes on in a few seconds a very singular condition,
characterized by _muscular rigidity_ and _inability to move_, with a
strange _exaltation of most of the senses_, and _generally_ a closure of
the eyelids,--this condition being followed by _torpor_.
Now this statement of Mr. Braid's, well known to the scientific world,
and the truth of which had been confirmed by Mr. Bernard in certain
experiments he had instituted, as it has been by many other
experimenters, went far to explain the strange impressions, of which,
waking or dreaming, he had certainly been the subject. His nervous
system had been in a high state of exaltation at the time. He remembered
how the little noises that made rings of sound in the silence of the
woods, like pebbles dropped in still waters, had reached his inner
consciousness. He remembered that singular sensation in the roots of the
hair, when he came on the traces of the girl's presence, reminding him
of a line in a certain poem which he had read lately with a new and
peculiar interest. He even recalled a curious evidence of exalted
sensibility and irritability, in the twitching of the minute muscles of
the internal ear at every unexpected sound, producing an odd little
snap in the middle of the head, that proved to him he was getting very
The next thing was to find out whether it were possible that the
venomous creature's eyes should have served the purpose of Mr. Braid's
"bright object" held very close to the person experimented on, or
whether they had any special power which could be made the subject of
For this purpose Mr. Bernard considered it necessary to get a live
_crotalus_ or two into his possession, if this were possible. On
inquiry, he found that there was a certain family living far up the
mountain-side, not a mile from the ledge, the members of which were said
to have taken these creatures occasionally, and not to be in any danger,
or at least in any fear, of being injured by them. He applied to these
people, and offered a reward sufficient to set them at work to capture
some of these animals, if such a thing were possible.
A few days after this, a dark, gypsy-looking woman presented herself at
his door. She held up her apron as if it contained something precious in
the bag she made with it.
"Y'wanted some rattlers," said the woman. "Here they be."
She opened her apron and showed a coil of rattlesnakes lying very
peaceably in its fold. They lifted their heads up, as if they wanted to
see what was going on, but showed no sign of anger.
"Are you crazy?" said Mr. Bernard. "You're dead in an hour, if one of
those creatures strikes you!"
He drew back a little, as he spoke; it might be simple disgust; it might
be fear; it might be what we call antipathy, which is different from
either, and which will sometimes show itself in paleness, and even
faintness, produced by objects perfectly harmless and not in themselves
offensive to any sense.
"Lord bless you," said the woman, "rattlers never touches our folks. I'd
jest 'z lieves handle them creaturs as so many striped snakes."
So saying, she put their heads down with her hand, and packed them
together in her apron as if they had been bits of cart-rope.
Mr. Bernard had never heard of the power, or, at least, the belief in
the possession of a power by certain persons, which enables them to
handle these frightful reptiles with perfect impunity. The fact,
however, is well known to others, and more especially to a very
distinguished Professor in one of the leading institutions of the great
city of the land, whose experiences in the neighborhood of Graylock, as
he will doubtless inform the curious, were very much like those of the
Mr. Bernard had a wired cage ready for his formidable captives, and
studied their habits and expression with a strange sort of interest.
What did the Creator mean to signify, when he made such shapes of
horror, and, as if he had doubly cursed this envenomed wretch, had set
a mark upon him and sent him forth, the Cain of the brotherhood of
serpents? It was a very curious fact that the first train of thoughts
Mr. Bernard's small menagerie suggested to him was the grave, though
somewhat worn, subject of the origin of evil. There is now to be seen in
a tall glass jar, in the Museum of Comparative Anatomy at Cantabridge
in the territory of the Massachusetts, a huge _crotalus_, of a species
which grows to more frightful dimensions than our own, under the hotter
skies of South America. Look at it, ye who would know what is the
tolerance, the freedom from prejudice, which can suffer such an
incarnation of all that is devilish to lie unharmed in the cradle of
Nature! Learn, too, that there are many things in this world which we
are warned to shun, and are even suffered to slay, if need be, but which
we must not hate, unless we would hate what God loves and cares for.
Whatever fascination the creature might exercise in his native haunts,
Mr. Bernard found himself not in the least nervous or affected in any
way while looking at his caged reptiles. When their cage was shaken,
they would lift their heads and spring their rattles; but the sound was
by no means so formidable to listen to as when it reverberated among
the chasms of the echoing rocks. The expression of the creatures was
watchful, still, grave, passionless, fate-like, suggesting a cold
malignity that seemed to be waiting for its opportunity. Their awful,
deep-cut mouths were sternly closed over the long hollow fangs that
rested their roots against the swollen poison-bag, where the venom had
been boarding up ever since the last stroke had emptied it. They never
winked, for ophidians have no movable eyelids, but kept up that awful
fixed stare which made the two _unwinking_ gladiators the survivors of
twenty pairs matched by one of the Roman Emperors, as Pliny tells us, in
his "Natural History." But their eyes did not flash, as he had expected
to see them. They were of a pale-golden or straw color, horrible to look
into, with their stony calmness, their pitiless indifference, hardly
enlivened by the almost imperceptible vertical slit of the pupil,
through which Death seemed to be looking out like the archer behind the
long narrow loop-hole in a blank turret-wall. Possibly their pupils
might open wide enough in the dark hole of the rock to let the glare
of the back part of the eye show, as we often see it in cats and other
animals. On the whole, the caged reptiles, horrid as they were, were yet
very different from his recollections of what he had seen or dreamed
he saw at the cavern. These looked dangerous enough, but yet quiet. A
treacherous stillness, however,--as the unfortunate New York physician
found, when he put his foot out to wake up the torpid creature, and
instantly the fang flashed through his boot, carrying the poison into