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Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 1, No. 4, February, 1858 by Various

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And said, "O mists, make room for me!"

It hailed the ships, and cried, "Sail on,
Ye mariners! the night is gone!"

And hurried landward far away,
Crying, "Awake! it is the day!"

It said unto the forest, "Shout!
Hang all your leafy banners out!"

It touched the wood-bird's folded wing,
And said, "O bird, awake and sing!"

And o'er the farms, "O chanticleer,
Your clarion blow! the day is near!"

It whispered to the fields of corn,
"Bow down, and hail the coming morn!"

It shouted through the belfry-tower,
"Awake, O bell! proclaim the hour!"

It crossed the churchyard with a sigh,
And said, "Not yet! in quiet lie!"


Gossiping Mr. Pepys little imagined, when he wrote in his Diary,
September 25th, 1660, "I did send for a cup of tee, (a China drink,)
of which I never had drank before," that he had mentioned a beverage
destined to exert a world-wide influence on civilization, and in due
time gladden every heart in his country, from that of the Sovereign Lady
Victoria, down to humble Mrs. Miff with her "mortified bonnet." Reader,
if you wish some little information on the subjects of tea-growing,
gathering, curing, and shipping, you must come with us to China, in
spite of the war. We know how to elude the blockade, how to beard
Viceroy Yeh; and in one of the great _hongs_ on the Canton River we will
give you a short lecture on the virtues of Souchong and flowery Pekoe.

The native name of the article is _Cha_, although it has borne two or
three names among the Chinese,--in the fourth century being called
_Ming_. To botanists it is known as _Thea_, having many affinities with
the Camellia. It has long been a doubtful point whether or not two
species exist, producing the green and black teas. True, there are the
green-tea country and the black-tea region, hundreds of miles apart;
but the latest investigation goes to prove that there is really but one
plant. Mr. Robert Fortune, whose recent and interesting work, "The Tea
Countries of China and India," is familiar to many of our readers, has
not only had peculiar facilities for gaining a knowledge of tea as
grown in the Central Flowery Kingdom, but is, moreover, one of the most
scientific of English botanists. He maintains the "unity theory" of the
plant, and we are content to agree with him,--the differences in the
leaves being owing to climate, situation, soil, and other accidental
influences. The shrub is generally from three to six feet high, having
numerous branches and a very dense foliage. Its wood is hard and tough,
giving off a disagreeable smell when cut. The leaves are smooth,
shining, of a dark green color, and with notched edges; those of the
_Thea Bohea_, the black tea, being curled and oblong,--while those of
the _Thea viridis_, the green tea, are broader in proportion to their
length, but not so thick, and curled at the apex. The plant flowers
early in the spring, remaining in bloom about a month; and its seeds
ripen in December and January. According to Chinese authority, tea is
grown in nearly every province of the empire; but the greater part of
it is produced in four or five provinces, affording all that is shipped
from Canton. Very large quantities, however, are consumed by the
countries adjoining the western frontier, and Russia draws an immense
supply by caravans, all of which is the product of the northwest
provinces. The Bohea Hills, in Lat. 27 deg. 47' North, and Long. 119 deg. East,
distant about nine hundred miles from Canton, produce the finest kinds
of black tea; while the green teas are chiefly raised in another
province, several hundred miles farther north. The soil of many
plantations examined by Mr. Fortune is very thin and poor, in some
places little more than sand, such soil as would grow pines and scrub
oaks. The shrubs are generally planted on the slopes of hills, the
plants in many places not interfering with the cultivation of wheat and
other grain. They are always raised from seeds, which in the first place
are sown very thickly together, as many of them never shoot; and when
the young plants have attained the proper size they are transplanted
into the beds prepared for them, although in some cases the seeds are
sown in the proper situations without removal. Care is taken that the
plants be not overshadowed by large trees, and many superstitious
notions prevail as to the noxious influence of certain vegetables in the
vicinity. Although the shrub is very hardy, not being injured even by
snow, yet the weather has great influence on the quality of the leaves,
and many directions are given by Chinese authors with regard to the
proper care to be observed in the culture of the plant. Leaves are first
gathered from it when it is three years old, but it does not attain
its greatest size for six or seven,--thriving, according to care and
situation, from ten to twenty years.

The famous Bohea Hills are said to derive their name from two brothers,
Woo and E, the sons of a prince in ancient times, who refused to succeed
him, and came to reside among these mountains, where to this day the
people burn incense to their memory. Another legend states that the
people of this district were first taught the use of tea as a beverage
by a venerable man who suddenly appeared among them, holding a sprig in
his hand, from which he proposed that they should make a decoction
and drink it. On their doing so and approving the drink, he instantly

There is very great choice in the teas; connoisseurs being much more
particular in their taste than even the most fastidious wine-drinkers.
Purchasers inquire the position of the gardens from which the samples
were taken; teas from the summit of a hill, from the middle, and from
the base bearing different values. Some of the individual shrubs are
greatly prized; one being called the "egg-plant," growing in a deep
gully between two hills, and nourished by water which trickles from the
precipice. Another is appropriated exclusively to the imperial use, and
an officer is appointed every year to superintend the gathering and
curing. The produce of such plants is never sent to Canton, being
reserved entirely for the emperor and the grandees of the court, and
commanding enormous prices; the most valuable being said to be worth
one hundred and fifty dollars a pound, and the cheapest not less than
twenty-five dollars. There is said to be a very fine kind called "monkey
tea," from the fact that it grows upon heights inaccessible to man, and
that monkeys are therefore trained to pick it. For the truth of this
story I cannot vouch, and of course ask no one to believe it.

The picking of the leaf is frequently performed by a different class of
laborers from those who cultivate it; but the customs vary in different
places. There are four pickings in the course of the year,--the last
one, however, being considered a mere gleaning. The first is made as
early as the 15th of April, and sometimes sooner, when the delicate buds
appear and the foliage is just opening, being covered with a whitish
down. From this picking the finest kinds of tea are made, although the
quantify is small. The next gathering is technically called "second
spring," and takes place in the early part of June, when the branches
are well covered, producing the greatest quantity of leaves. The third
gathering, or "third spring," follows in about one month, when the
branches are again searched, the most common kinds of tea being the
result. The fourth gleaning is styled the "autumn dew"; but this is not
universally observed, as the leaves are now old and of very inferior
quality. These poorest sorts are sometimes clipped off with shears; but
the general mode of gathering is by hand, the leaves being laid lightly
on bamboo trays.

The curing of the leaf is of the utmost importance,--some kinds of tea
depending almost entirely for their value on the mode of preparation.
When the leaves are brought to the curing-houses, they are thinly spread
upon bamboo trays, and placed in the wind to dry until they become
somewhat soft; then, while lying on the trays, they are gently rubbed
and rolled many times. From the labor attending this process the tea is
called _kung foocha_, or "worked tea"; hence the English name of Congou.
When the leaves have been sufficiently worked they are ready for the
firing, an operation requiring the exercise of the greatest care. The
iron pan used in the process is made red hot, and the workman sprinkles
a handful of leaves upon it and waits until each leaf pops with a slight
noise, when he at once sweeps all out of the pan, lest they should be
burned, and then fires another handful. The leaves are then put into dry
baskets over a pan of coals. Care is taken, by laying ashes over the
fire, that no smoke shall ascend among the leaves, which are slowly
stirred with the hand until perfectly dry. The tea is then poured
into chests, and, when transported, placed in boxes enclosing leaden
canisters, and papered to keep out the dampness. In curing the finest
kinds of tea, such as Powchong, Pekoe, etc., not more than ten to twenty
leaves are fired in the pan at one time, and only a few pounds rolled
at once in the trays. As soon as cured, these fine teas are packed in
papers, two or three pounds in each, and stamped with the name of the
plantation and the date of curing.

Beside the hongs in Canton, which I shall presently speak of, there are
large buildings, styled "pack-houses," containing all the apparatus for
curing. Into these establishments foreigners are not readily admitted.
Two or three rows of furnaces are built in a large, airy apartment,
having a number of hemispherical iron pans inserted into the brick-work,
two pans being heated by one fire. Into these pans the rolled leaves are
thrown and stirred with the arm until too hot for the flesh to bear,
when they are swept out and laid on a table covered with matting, where
they are again rolled. The firing and rolling are sometimes repeated
three or four times, according to the state of the leaves. The rolling
is attended with some pain, as an acrid juice exudes from the leaves,
which acts upon the hands; and the whole operation of tea-curing and
packing is somewhat unpleasant, from the fine dust arising, and entering
the nose and mouth,--to prevent which, the workmen often cover the lower
part of the face with a cloth. The leaves are frequently tested, during
the process of curing, by pouring boiling water upon them; and their
strength and quality are judged of by the number of infusions that can
be made from the same leaves, as many as fifteen drawings being obtained
from the richest kinds.

Many persons have imagined that the peculiar effects of green tea upon
the nerves after drinking it, as well as its color, are owing to its
having been fired in copper pans, which is not the case, as no copper
instruments are used in its manufacture; but these effects are probably
due to the partial curing of the leaf, and its consequent retention of
many of the peculiar properties of the growing plant. The bloom upon the
cheaper kinds of green tea is produced by gypsum or Prussian blue;
and perhaps the effects alluded to are in some degree caused by these
minerals. Such teas are prepared entirely for exportation, the Chinese
themselves never drinking them.

Each foreign house employs an inspector or taster, whose business it is
to examine samples of all the teas submitted to the firm for purchase.
When a taster has a lot of teas to examine, several samples, selected
from various chests, being placed before him, he first of all takes up
a large handful and smells it repeatedly, then chews some of it, and
records his opinion in a huge folio, wherein are chronicled the merits
of every lot examined by him; and lastly, he puts small portions of the
various kinds into a great many little cups into which boiling water is
poured, and when the tea is drawn he takes a sip of the infusion. With
all due deference to his art, sometimes, when the taster does not know
exactly what to say of a sample, the book will bear witness that the
parcel has "a decided tea flavor." But the accuracy of good tasters is
really wonderful; they will classify and fix the true value of a chop
of teas beyond dispute, and the East India Company's tasters were
occasionally of eminent service in detecting frauds. A first-rate
tea-taster may make a fortune in a few years; but, from constantly
inhaling minute particles of the herb, the health is frequently ruined.

The teas which come to Canton are brought chiefly by water. Only
occasional land stages are used in transportation, the principal one
being the pass which crosses the Ineiling Mountain, in the north of
the Canton or Quang-tong Province, cut through at the beginning of the
eighth century. As every article of merchandise which goes through the
pass, either from the south or the north, is carried across on the
backs of men, several hundred thousand porters are here employed.
Many tortuous paths are cut over the mountain, and through them are
continually passing these poor creatures, condemned by poverty to
terrible fatigue, the work being so laborious that the generality of
them live but a short time. At certain intervals are little bamboo
sheds, where travellers rest on their journey, smoking a pipe and
drinking tea for refreshment; while at the summit of the pass is an
immense portal, or kind of triumphal arch, erected on the boundary line
of the two Provinces of Quang-tong and Kiang-si. The teas, securely
packed in chests wrapped in matting, are placed in the boats which ply
upon the rivers flowing from the tea countries into the Poyang Lake,
and after successive changes are at length brought to the foot of the
Ineiling Mountain, carried over it on the backs of men, and reshipped
on the south side of the pass. The boats in which the tea is brought to
Canton convey from five hundred to eight hundred chests each, and are
called chopboats by foreigners, from each lot of teas being called a
_chop_. They serve admirably for inland navigation, drawing but little
water, and are so rounded as to make it almost impossible to overset
one. A ledge is built upon each side of the boat for the trackers, who,
when the wind fails, collect in the bow, and, sticking long bamboo poles
into the bed of the stream, walk along the ledge to the stern, thus
propelling the barge, and repeating the operation as often as they
have traversed the length of the planks. A number of excise posts and
custom-houses are established along the route from the tea regions
to Canton, for the purpose of levying duties on the teas, none being
allowed to be sent to that city by coastwise voyages.

And now of the various kinds of black and green teas.--But, Reader, I
hear you cry, "Halt! halt! pray do not bore us with a dry catalogue of
the 'Padre Souchongs' and 'Twankays'; we know them already."--Then speak
for me, immortal Pindar Cockloft! crusty bachelor that thou art! who
hast told that tea and scandal are inseparable, and hast so wittily
described a gathering around the urn as

"A convention of tattling, a tea-party hight,
Which, like meeting of witches, is brewed up
at night,
Where each matron arrives fraught with tales
of surprise,
With knowing suspicion and doubtful surmise;
Like the broomstick-whirled hags that appear
in Macbeth,
Each bearing some relic of venom or death,
To stir up the toil and to double the trouble,
That fire may burn, and that cauldron may
The wives of our cits of inferior degree
Will soak up repute in a little Bohea;
The potion is vulgar, and vulgar the slang
With which on their neighbors' defects they
But the scandal improves,--a refinement in
As our matrons are richer and rise to Souchong.
With Hyson, a beverage that's still more refined,
Our ladies of fashion enliven their mind,
And by nods, innuendoes, and hints, and what
Reputations and tea send together to pot;
While madam in cambrics and laces arrayed,
With her plate and her liveries in splendid
Will drink in Imperial a friend at a sup,
Or in Gunpowder blow them by dozens all

There, now, Reader, you have the best classification extant of teas; and
I will not detain you with any long descriptions of other kinds, seldom
heard of by Americans, such as the "Sparrow's Tongue," the "Black
Dragon," the "Dragon's Whiskers," the "Dragon's Pellet," the "Flowery
Fragrance," and the "Careful Firing."

Perhaps a notice of the great hongs will prove more interesting to you.
They stretch for miles along the Canton River, and in the busy season
are crammed with hundreds of thousands of chests, filled with the
fragrant herb. The hongs front upon the river, in order that cargo-boats
may approach them; but they have also another entrance at the end which
opens from the suburbs. Imagine a building twelve hundred feet long by
twenty to forty broad, and in some portions fifty feet high, built of
brick, of one story, here and there open to the sky, with the floor
as level as that of a ropewalk, and of such extent, that, to a person
standing at one end, forms at the other end appear dwarfed, and men seem
engaged in noiseless occupations: you have here the picture of a Chinese
hong. In these warehouses the tea is assorted, repacked, and then put
on board the chop-boats and sent down the river to the ships at their
anchorage off Whampoa. Here are enormous scales for weighing the chests;
here, where the light falls in from the roof, are tables placed for
superintendents, who carefully watch the workmen; farther off, are
foreigners inspecting a newly arrived chop; at the extreme end is the
little apartment where the tea merchant receives people upon business;
and through the high door beyond, we see the crowded river, and
chopboats waiting for cargoes. At the river end of the building a second
story is added, often fitted up with immense suites of beautiful rooms,
elegantly furnished, and abounding with rare and costly articles of
_virtu_. Here is a door leading higher still, out upon the roof, which
is flat. Below us is the river with its myriads of boats, visible as far
as the eye can reach, no less than eighty-four thousand belonging to
Canton alone. On our right is the public square, where of late stood the
foreign factories, now destroyed by the mob, while the flags of France,
England, and America have disappeared. On our left is another vista of
river life, the pagoda near Whampoa, and the forts of Dutch and French
Folly. In our rear is the immense city of Canton, and opposite to us,
across the river, lies the verdant island of Honan, with its villages,
its canals, and its great Buddhist temple. On descending, we find that a
servant has placed for us on a superb table in one of the pretty rooms
cups of delicious tea,--it being the custom in all the hongs to offer
the beverage to strangers at all times. A cup of the aromatic Oulong
will serve to steady our nerves for the completion of the tea-lecture.

The visitor will soon form some idea of the magnitude of the tea trade,
by going from one hong to another, and finding all of them filled with
chests, while armies of coolies are bringing in chops, sorting cargoes,
loading chop-boats, making leaden canisters, packing, and labelling
the packages. A heavy gate, with brilliant, figures painted on it, and
adorned with enormous lanterns, swings yawning open, and admits the
stranger. Just inside of the gate, at a little table, sits a man who
keeps count of the coolies, as they enter with chests of tea, and sees
that they do not carry any out except for good reasons. Looking down the
length of the hong, a busy scene presents itself. It is crammed with
big square chests just from the tea regions, and piled up to the roof.
Presently a string of coolies, stretching out like a flock of wild
geese, come past, and set down chests enough on the floor to cover half
an acre. These half-naked fellows are nimble workmen, and will unload a
boat full of tea in an incredibly short time. Very valuable as an animal
is the cooly: he is a Jack-at-all-trades; works at the scull of a boat,
or in a tea pack-house; bears a mandarin's sedan-chair, or sweeps out a
chamber. His ideas are as limited as his means, and nearly as much so
as his clothing; but he works all day without grumbling at his lot, is
cheerful, and seems to enjoy life, although he lives on a few cents a
day. He sleeps soundly at night, though his accommodations are such as
an American beggar would scorn. Any person visiting a hong will see on
the sides of the building, at a considerable elevation from the ground,
a number of shelves with divisions arranged like berths in a steamboat,
intended for beds, but consisting of rough boards with square
wooden blocks for pillows. Each one is enclosed with a coarse blue
mosquito-netting; and mounting to the apartments by a ladder, here the
coolies sleep the year round.

The teas are not generally brought to the hongs until sold. Before sale
they are stored in warehouses, chiefly on Honan Island, opposite the
city; but after disposal the large-sized chests are carried into the
hongs, where they are sorted and repacked into smaller boxes, according
to the wants of the purchaser. You will see different parts of the
floor covered with packages large and small, into which the coolies are
shaking teas. Each box contains a leaden canister, into some of which
the teas are loosely poured, while in others the herb is wrapped in
papers of half a pound weight, each stamped with Chinese characters. The
canister is then closed by a lid, and afterward securely fastened down
by the top of the chest. These canisters are made near at hand. Look
around, and a few rods off you will see three or four expert hands
turning the large sheets of the prepared metal into shape. Knowing the
required size, the operators have a cubic block placed on the metal
sheet, which, bending like paper, is folded over the block, assuming its
shape, and the edges of the canister are instantly soldered by a second
hand; a third, with the aid of another wooden form, prepares the lids;
and thus a knot of half a dozen workmen, keeping steadily at their
tasks, will make a large number of canisters in a day. Besides the
laborers who cultivate and those who cure the tea, and the porters
and boatmen who transport it, thousands are employed in different
occupations connected with the trade. Carpenters make the chests,
plumbers the leaden canisters, while painters adorn the boxes containing
the finer kinds of teas with brilliant flowers or grotesque scenes.

About the season of the arrival of the tea in Canton, the Chinese
dealers come to the foreign factories with "musters," or samples in nice
little tin canisters, with the names of the owners written on paper
pasted down the sides, and you can select such as you like. The
principal business is of course held with the tea merchants themselves,
not those who come from the North, but the Cantonese, while the minor
business of all the hongs is in a great measure conducted through the
"pursers," or foremen, who act between the Chinese and the foreigners,
bringing in the accounts to the shipping-houses, and receiving the
orders for cargoes. Give one of these men an order for tea and go to the
hong shortly afterward, you will find numbers of workmen employed for
you;--some bringing in the small boxes; others filling them, or, when
filled, fastened, papered, and covered with matting, securing them
firmly with ratans; others, finally, labelling them on the outer
covering,--the labels being printed with the name of the vessel, of the
tea merchant, of the tea, and of the Canton forwarding-house, also with
the initials of the purchaser, and the number of the lot. These labels
are printed rapidly, being cut by one set of hands to the proper size
for the use of the others who stamp them. All the types are carved in
blocks of wood, and the whole farmed into a frame; then, in a little
space just large enough for work,--for the printer has no immense
establishment with signs on the outside of "Book and Job Printing,"--a
Chinaman will sit down, snatch up a paper in one hand, and stamp it
instantly with the wooden block letters, moistened with the coloring
mixture used in printing.

When the teas are fairly ready to be conveyed to the ships, heavy
cargo-boats are moored at the foot of the hong, their crews prepare
for the chop, and the coolies within the hong stand ready to carry the
chests. Every box is properly weighed, papered, and bound with split
ratan, the bill of the purchase has gone duly authenticated to the
foreign factory, and the teas bid farewell to their native soil. The
word is given, and each cooly, placing his two chests in the ropes
swinging from his shoulder-bar, lifts them from the ground, and with a
brisk walk conveys them on board the chop-boat, where they are carefully
stowed away. As they are carried out of the hong, a fellow stands ready,
and, as if about to stab the packages, thrusts at each one two sharp
sticks with red ends, leaving them jammed between the ratan and the
tea-box. One of these sticks is taken out when the chest leaves the
chop-boat, and the other when it reaches the deck of the vessel; and
as soon as one hundred chests are passed into the ship, the sticks
are counted and thus serve as tallies. Should the two bundles not
correspond, a chest is missing somewhere, and woe betide the blunderer!

In the busy season the chop-boats are seen pushing down the river with
every favorable tide. As for pushing against the tide, no Chinaman ever
thinks of such a thing, unless absolutely compelled, the value of time
being quite unknown in China. Coolly anchoring as soon as the tide is
adverse, the crew fall to playing cards until it is time to get under
way again. Nearly every chop-boat contains a whole family, father,
mother, and children,--sometimes an old grandparent, also, being
included in the domestic circle,--and all assist in working. At the
stern of the boat the wife has a little cooking-apparatus, and prepares
the cheap rice for the squad of eager gormandizers, who bolt it in huge
quantities without fear of indigestion. The family sit down to their
repast on the deck; the men keep an eye to windward and a hand on the
tiller; the mother knots the cord that goes around the baby's waist
into an iron ring, and, feeling secure against the bantling's falling
overboard, chats sociably, occasionally enforcing a mild reproof to a
vagabond son by a tap on the head with her chopstick. There is but one
dish, rice, of a very ordinary sort and of a pink color, but all seem to
thrive upon it. The meal over, the men smoke their pipes, and the wife
washes her cooking utensils with water drawn from the muddy river, and
then, strapping her infant to her back, overhauls the scanty wardrobe
and mends the ragged garments.

It is interesting to mark how accurately the chop-boat is brought
alongside of the ship for which it is destined. No matter how strong the
wind blows or the tide runs, the sails are trimmed as occasion requires,
and the big scull does its offices without ever the least mistake. The
boat running under the quarter scrapes along the edge, the ropes are
thrown, caught, and belayed, and the crew prepare for passing the cargo
into the vessel's hold. The stevedores who load the ships are very
active men. They have also good heads, and, measuring the length,
breadth, and height of the hold, calculate pretty accurately how many
chests the ship will carry, and the number of small boxes to be squeezed
into narrow places. When the hold is full the hatch is fastened down and
caulked, as exposure to the salt air injures the teas. The finest kinds
are so delicate, indeed, that they cannot be exported by sea; for,
however tightly sealed, they would deteriorate during the voyage. The
very superior flavor noticed by travellers in the tea used at St.
Petersburg is doubtless to be attributed in an important measure to its
overland transportation, and its consequent escape from dampness; the
large quantities consumed in Russia being, as before observed, all
carried from the northwest of China to Kiakhta, whence it is distributed
over the empire.

One of the most remarkable and interesting facts in the history of
commerce is the comparatively recent origin of the tea trade. The leaves
of the tea-plant were extensively used by the people of China and Japan
centuries before it was known to Western nations. This is the more
singular from the fact that the silks of China found their way to the
West at a very early period,--as early, at least, as the first century
of the Christian era,--while the use of tea in Europe dates back
only about two hundred years. The earliest notices of its use in the
countries where it is indigenous are found in the writings of the
Moorish historians and travellers, about the end of the eighth century,
at which time the Mahometans were freely allowed to visit China, and
travel through the empire as they pleased. Soliman, an Arabian merchant,
who visited China about A.D. 850, describes it under the name of _Sah_,
as being the favorite beverage of the people; and Ibn Batuta, A.D. 1323,
speaks of it as used for correcting the bad properties of water, and as
a medicine. Mandelslo, a German, who travelled in India, 1638-40, in
describing the customs of the European merchants at Surat, speaks of tea
as of something unfamiliar. The reasons he gives for drinking both it
and coffee are charmingly incongruous, as is generally the case when men
undertake to find some solemn excuse for doing what they like. "At our
ordinary meetings every day we took only _The_, which is commonly used
all over the Indies, not only among those of the Country, but among the
_Dutch_ and _English_, who take it as a Drug that cleanses the stomach
and digests the superfluous humours, by a temperate heat particular
thereto. The Persians, instead of _The_, drink their _Kahwa_, which
cools and abates the natural heat which _The_ preserves."[A] Of its
first introduction into Europe little is known. In 1517, King Emanuel of
Portugal sent a fleet of eight ships to China, and an embassy to Peking;
but it was not until after the formation of the Dutch East India
Company, in 1602, that the use of tea became known on the Continent, and
even then, although the Hollanders paid much attention to it, it made
its way slowly for many years. The first notice of it in England is
found in Pepys's "Diary," under date of September 25th, 1660,--as before
quoted. In 1664, the East India Company presented to the king, among
other "raretyes," 2 lb. 2 oz. of "thea"; and in 1667, they desire their
agent at Bantam to send "100 lb. waight of the best tey that he can
gett."[B] From this insignificant beginning the importation has grown
from year to year, until ninety million pounds went to Great Britain in
1856, forty million coming to the United States the same year.

[Footnote A: Mandelslo's _Voyages and Travels into the East Indies_, p.
18, ed. 1662.]

[Footnote B: Grant's _History of the East India Company_. London, 1813,
p. 76.]

The "Edinburgh Review," in an article on this subject, says: "The
progress of this famous plant has been somewhat like the progress of
_Truth_;--suspected at first, though very palatable to those who had the
courage to taste it; resisted as it encroached; abused as its popularity
seemed to spread; and establishing its triumph at last in cheering
the whole land, from the palace to the cottage, only by the slow and
resistless efforts of time and its own virtues."

Many substitutes for tea are in vogue among the Chinese, but in general
only the very lowest of the population are debarred the use of the
genuine article. Being the universal drink, it is found at all times in
every house. Few are so poor that a simmering tea-pot does not stand
ever filled for the visitor. It is invariably offered to strangers;
and any omission to do so is considered, and is usually intended, as a
slight. It appears to be preferred by the people to any other beverage,
even in the hottest weather; and while Americans in the heats of July
would gladly resort to ice-water or lemonade, the Chinaman will quench
his thirst with large draughts of boiling tea.

The Muse of China has not disdained to warble harmonious numbers in
praise of her favorite beverage. There is a celebrated ballad on
tea-picking, in thirty stanzas, sung by a young woman who goes from home
early in the day to work, and lightens her labors with song. I give a
few of the verses, distinctly informing the reader, at the same time,
that for the real sparkle and beauty of the poem he must consult the
Chinese original.

"By earliest dawn I at my toilet only half-dress my hair
And seizing my basket, pass the door, while yet the mist is thick.
The little maids and graver dames, hand in hand winding along,
Ask me, 'Which steep of Semglo do you climb to-day?'

"In social couples, each to aid her fellow, we seize the tea twigs,
And in low words urge one another, 'Don't delay!'
Lest on the topmost bough the bud has now grown old,
And lest with the morrow come the drizzling silky rain.

"My curls and hair are all awry, my face is quite begrimed;
In whose house lives the girl so ugly as your slave?
'Tis only because that every day the tea I'm forced to pick;
The soaking rains and driving winds have spoiled my former charms.

"Each picking is with toilsome labor, but yet I shun it not;
My maiden curls are all askew, my pearly fingers all benumbed;
But I only wish our tea to be of a superfine kind,--
To have it equal his 'Sparrow's Tongue' and their 'Dragon's Pellet.'

"For a whole month where can I catch a single leisure day?
For at the earliest dawn I go to pick, and not till dusk return;
Till the deep midnight I'm still before the firing-pan.
Will not labor like this my pearly complexion deface?

"But if my face is lank, my mind is firmly fixed
So to fire my golden buds they shall excel all beside.
But how know I who'll put them into the gemmy cup?
Who at leisure will with her taper fingers give them to the maid to

Will any one say, after this, that there is no poetry connected with

The theme, in truth, is replete with poetical associations, and of a
kind that we look in vain for in connection with any other potable.
Unlike the Anacreontic in praise of the grape,--song suggestive chiefly
of bacchanal revels and loose jollity,--the verse which extols "the cup
that cheers, but not inebriates," brings to mind home comforts and a
happy household. And not only have some of the "canonized bards" of
England celebrated its honors,--like Pope, in the "Rape of the Lock,"
when describing Hampton Court,--

"There, thou great Anna, whom three realms obey,
Dost sometimes counsel take, and sometimes _tea_,"--

but, if it be true that

"Many are poets who have never penned
Their inspiration,"

how many an unknown bard have we among us, who, at the close of a hard
day's work, tramps cheerily home, whistling,--

"Molly, put the kettle on,
We'll all have tea,"--

and thinking of a well-spread board, a simmering urn, a sweet wife, and
rosy-cheeked children, waiting his coming. Grave father of a family!
Your heart has grown cold and hard, if you have ceased to enjoy such
scenes. Young husband! cannot you remember the first time you hoped with
good reason, when, as you took leave after an afternoon call, a pair of
witching eyes looked into yours, and a sweet voice sounded sweeter, as
it timidly asked, "Won't you stay--_and take a cup of tea_?"


Our vales are sweet with fern and rose,
Our hills are maple-crowned;
But not from them our fathers chose
The village burying-ground.

The dreariest spot in all the land
To Death they set apart;
With scanty grace from Nature's hand,
And none from that of Art.

A winding wall of mossy stone,
Frost-flung and broken, lines
A lonesome acre thinly grown
With grass and wandering vines.

Without the wall a birch-tree shows
Its drooped and tasselled head;
Within, a stag-horned sumach grows,
Fern-leafed with spikes of red.

There, sheep that graze the neighboring plain
Like white ghosts come and go,
The farm-horse drags his fetlock chain,
The cow-bell tinkles slow.

Low moans the river from its bed,
The distant pines reply;
Like mourners shrinking from the dead,
They stand apart and sigh.

Unshaded smites the summer sun,
Unchecked the winter blast;
The school-girl learns the place to shun,
With glances backward cast.

For thus our fathers testified--
That he might read who ran--
The emptiness of human pride,
The nothingness of man.

They dared not plant the grave with flowers,
Nor dress the funeral sod,
Where, with a love as deep as ours,
They left their dead with God.

The hard and thorny path they kept,
From beauty turned aside;

Nor missed they over those who slept
The grace to life denied.

Yet still the wilding flowers would blow,
The golden leaves would fall,
The seasons come, the seasons go.
And God be good to all.

Above the graves the blackberry hung
In bloom and green its wreath,
And harebells swung as if they rung
The chimes of peace beneath.

The beauty Nature loves to share,
The gifts she hath for all,
The common light, the common air,
O'ercrept the graveyard's wall.

It knew the glow of eventide,
The sunrise and the noon,
And glorified and sanctified
It slept beneath the moon.

With flowers or snow-flakes for its sod,
Around the seasons ran,
And evermore the love of God
Rebuked the fear of man.

We dwell with fears on either hand,
Within a daily strife,
And spectral problems waiting stand
Before the gates of life.

The doubts we vainly seek to solve,
The truths we know, are one;
The known and nameless stars revolve
Around the Central Sun.

And if we reap as we have sown,
And take the dole we deal,
The law of pain is love alone,
The wounding is to heal.

Unharmed from change to change we glide,
We fall as in our dreams;
The far-off terror, at our side,
A smiling angel seems.

Secure on God's all-tender heart
Alike rest great and small;
Why fear to lose our little part,
When He is pledged for all?

O fearful heart and troubled brain!
Take hope and strength from this,--
That Nature never hints in vain,
Nor prophesies amiss.

Her wild birds sing the same sweet stave,
Her lights and airs are given,
Alike, to playground and the grave,--
And over both is Heaven.

* * * * *



[I am so well pleased with my boarding-house that I intend to remain
there, perhaps for years. Of course I shall have a great many
conversations to report, and they will necessarily be of different tone
and on different subjects. The talks are like the breakfasts,--sometimes
dipped toast, and sometimes dry. You must take them as they come. How
can I do what all these letters ask me to? No. 1. wants serious and
earnest thought. No. 2. (letter smells of bad cigars) must have more
jokes; wants me to tell a "good storey" that he has copied out for me.
(I suppose two letters before the word "good" refer to some Doctor of
Divinity who told the story.) No. 3. (in female hand)--more poetry. No.
4. wants something that would be of use to a practical man.
(_Prahctical mahn_ he probably pronounces it.) No. 5. (gilt-edged,
sweet-scented)--"more sentiment,"--"heart's outpourings."----

My dear friends, one and all, I can do nothing but report such remarks
as I happen to have made at our breakfast-table. Their character will
depend on many accidents,--a good deal on the particular persons in
the company to whom they were addressed. It so happens that those
which follow were mainly intended for the divinity-student and the
school-mistress; though others, whom I need not mention, saw fit to
interfere, with more or less propriety, in the conversation. This is one
of my privileges as a talker; and of course, if I was not talking for
our whole company, I don't expect all the readers of this periodical to
be interested in my notes of what was said. Still, I think there may be
a few that will rather like this vein,--possibly prefer it to a livelier
one,--serious young men, and young women generally, in life's roseate
parenthesis from ---- years of age to ---- inclusive.

Another privilege of talking is to misquote.--Of course it wasn't
Proserpina that actually cut the yellow hair,--but _Iris_. It was the
former lady's regular business, but Dido had used herself ungenteelly,
and Madame d'Enfer stood firm on the point of etiquette. So the
bathycolpian Here--Juno, in Latin--sent down Iris instead. But I was
mightily pleased to see that one of the gentlemen that do the heavy
articles for this magazine misquoted Campbell's line without any excuse.
"Waft us _home_ the _message_" of course it ought to be. Will he be duly
grateful for the correction?]

----The more we study the body and the mind, the more we find both to be
governed, not _by_, but _according to_ laws, such as we observe in the
larger universe.--You think you know all about _walking_,--don't you,
now? Well, how do you suppose your lower limbs are held to
your body? They are sucked up by two cupping vessels,
("cotyloid"--cup-like-cavities,) and held there as long as you live, and
longer. At any rate, you think you move them backward and forward at
such a rate as your will determines, don't you? On the contrary, they
swing just as any other pendulums swing, at a fixed rate, determined by
their length. You can alter this by muscular power, as you can take hold
of the pendulum of a clock and make it move faster or slower; but your
ordinary gait is timed by the same mechanism as the movements of the
solar system.

[My friend, the Professor, told me all this, referring me to certain
German physiologists by the name of Weber for proof of the facts, which,
however, he said he had often verified. I appropriated it to my own use;
what can one do better than this, when one has a friend that tells him
anything worth remembering?

The Professor seems to think that man and the general powers of the
universe are in partnership. Some one was saying that it had cost nearly
half a million to move the Leviathan only so far as they had got it
already.--Why,--said the Professor,--they might have hired an EARTHQUAKE
for less money!]

Just as we find a mathematical rule at the bottom of many of the bodily
movements, just so thought may be supposed to have its regular cycles.
Such or such a thought comes round periodically, in its turn. Accidental
suggestions, however, so far interfere with the regular cycles, that we
may find them practically beyond our power of recognition. Take all this
for what it is worth, but at any rate you will agree that there are
certain particular thoughts that do not come up once a day, nor once a
week, but that a year would hardly go round without your having them
pass through your mind. Here is one that comes up at intervals in this
way. Some one speaks of it, and there is an instant and eager smile of
assent in the listener or listeners. Yes, indeed; they have often been
struck by it.

_All at once a conviction flashes through us that we have been in the
same precise circumstances as at the present instant, once or many times

O, dear, yes!--said one of the company,--everybody has had that feeling.

The landlady didn't know anything about such notions; it was an idee in
folks' heads, she expected.

The schoolmistress said, in a hesitating sort of way, that she knew the
feeling well, and didn't like to experience it; it made her think she
was a ghost, sometimes.

The young fellow whom they call John said he knew all about it; he had
just lighted a cheroot the other day, when a tremendous conviction all
at once came over him that he had done just that same thing ever so many
times before. I looked severely at him, and his countenance immediately
fell--_on the side toward me;_ I cannot answer for the other, for he can
wink and laugh with either half of his face without the other half's
knowing it.

----I have noticed--I went on to say--the following circumstances
connected with these sudden impressions. First, that the condition which
seems to be the duplicate of a former one is often very trivial,--one
that might have presented itself a hundred times. Secondly, that the
impression is very evanescent, and that it is rarely, if ever, recalled
by any voluntary effort, at least after any time has elapsed. Thirdly,
that there is a disinclination to record the circumstances, and a sense
of incapacity to reproduce the state of mind in words. Fourthly, I have
often felt that the duplicate condition had not only occurred once
before, but that it was familiar, and, as it seemed, habitual. Lastly, I
have had the same convictions in my dreams.

How do I account for it?--Why, there are several ways that I can
mention, and you may take your choice. The first is that which the
young lady hinted at;--that these flashes are sudden recollections of a
previous existence. I don't believe that; for I remember a poor student
I used to know told me he had such a conviction one day when he was
blacking his boots, and I can't think he had ever lived in another world
where they use Day and Martin.

Some think that Dr. Wigan's doctrine of the brain's being a double
organ, its hemispheres working together like the two eyes, accounts
for it. One of the hemispheres hangs fire, they suppose, and the small
interval between the perceptions of the nimble and the sluggish half
seems an indefinitely long period, and therefore the second perception
appears to be the copy of another, ever so old. But even allowing
the centre of perception to be double, I can see no good reason for
supposing this indefinite lengthening of the time, nor any analogy
that bears it out. It seems to me most likely that the coincidence of
circumstances is very partial, but that we take this partial resemblance
for identity, as we occasionally do resemblances of persons. A momentary
posture of circumstances is so far like some preceding one that
we accept it as exactly the same, just as we accost a stranger
occasionally, mistaking him for a friend. The apparent similarity may be
owing, perhaps, quite as much to the mental state at the time as to the
outward circumstances.

----Here is another of these curiously recurring remarks. I have said it
and heard it many times, and occasionally met with something like it in
books,--somewhere in Bulwer's novels, I think, and in one of the works
of Mr. Olmsted, I know.

_Memory, imagination, old sentiments and associations, are more readily
reached through the sense of SMELL than by almost any other channel._

Of course the particular odors which act upon each person's
susceptibilities differ.--O, yes! I will tell you some of mine.
The smell of _phosphorus_ is one of them. During a year or two of
adolescence I used to be dabbling in chemistry a good deal, and as about
that time I had my little aspirations and passions like another, some
of these things got mixed up with each other: orange-colored fumes
of nitrous acid, and visions as bright and transient; reddening
litmus-paper, and blushing cheeks;--_eheu!_

"Soles occidere et redire possunt,"

but there is no reagent that will redden the faded roses of eighteen
hundred and----spare them! But, as I was saying, phosphorus fires this
train of associations in an instant; its luminous vapors with their
penetrating odor throw me into a trance; it comes to me in a double
sense "trailing clouds of glory." Only the confounded Vienna matches,
_ohne phosphor-geruch_, have worn my sensibilities a little.

Then there is the _marigold_. When I was of smallest dimensions, and
wont to ride impacted between the knees of fond parental pair, we would
sometimes cross the bridge to the next village-town and stop opposite a
low, brown, "gambrel-roofed" cottage. Out of it would come one Sally,
sister of its swarthy tenant, swarthy herself, shady-lipped, sad-voiced,
and, bending over her flower-bed, would gather a "posy," as she called
it, for the little boy. Sally lies in the churchyard with a slab of blue
slate at her head, lichen-crusted, and leaning a little within the last
few years. Cottage, garden-beds, posies, grenadier-like rows of seedling
onions,--stateliest of vegetables,--all are gone, but the breath of a
marigold brings them all back to me.

Perhaps the herb _everlasting_, the fragrant _immortelle_ of our autumn
fields, has the most suggestive odor to me of all those that set me
dreaming. I can hardly describe the strange thoughts and emotions that
come to me as I inhale the aroma of its pale, dry, rustling flowers. A
something it has of sepulchral spicery, as if it had been brought from
the core of some great pyramid, where it had lain on the breast of
a mummied Pharaoh. Something, too, of immortality in the sad, faint
sweetness lingering so long in its lifeless petals. Yet this does not
tell why it fills my eyes with tears and carries me in blissful thought
to the banks of asphodel that border the River of Life.

----I should not have talked so much about these personal
susceptibilities, if I had not a remark to make about them that I
believe is a new one. It is this. There may be a physical reason for
the strange connection between the sense of smell and the mind. The
olfactory nerve--so my friend, the Professor, tells me--is the only
one directly connected with the hemispheres of the brain, the parts in
which, as we have every reason to believe, the intellectual processes
are performed. To speak more truly, the olfactory "nerve" is not a nerve
at all, he says, but a part of the brain, in intimate connection with
its anterior lobes. Whether this anatomical arrangement is at the bottom
of the facts I have mentioned, I will not decide, but it is curious
enough to be worth remembering. Contrast the sense of taste, as a source
of suggestive impressions, with that of smell. Now the Professor assures
me that you will find the nerve of taste has no immediate connection
with the brain proper, but only with the prolongation of the spinal

[The old gentleman opposite did not pay much attention, I think, to this
hypothesis of mine. But while I was speaking about the sense of smell
he nestled about in his seat, and presently succeeded in getting out a
large red bandanna handkerchief. Then he lurched a little to the other
side, and after much tribulation at last extricated an ample round
snuff-box. I looked as he opened it and felt for the wonted pugil.
Moist rappee, and a Tonka-bean lying therein. I made the manual sign
understood of all mankind that use the precious dust, and presently my
brain, too, responded to the long unused stimulus.----O boys,--that
were,--actual papas and possible grandpapas,--some of you with crowns
like billiard-balls,--some in locks of sable silvered, and some
of silver sabled,--do you remember, as you doze over this, those
after-dinners at the Trois Freres, when the Scotch-plaided snuff-box
went round, and the dry Lundy-Foot tickled its way along into our happy
sensoria? Then it was that the Chambertin or the Clot Vougeot came in,
slumbering in its straw cradle. And one among you,--do you remember how
he would have a bit of ice always in his Burgundy, and sit tinkling it
against the sides of the bubble-like glass, saying that he was hearing
the cow-bells as he used to hear them, when the deep-breathing kine
came home at twilight from the huckleberry pasture, in the old home a
thousand leagues towards the sunset?]

Ah, me! what strains and strophes of unwritten verse pulsate through my
soul when I open a certain closet in the ancient house where I was born!
On its shelves used to lie bundles of sweet-marjoram and pennyroyal and
lavender and mint and catnip; there apples were stored until their seeds
should grow black, which happy period there were sharp little milk-teeth
always ready to anticipate; there peaches lay in the dark, thinking of
the sunshine they had lost, until, like the hearts of saints that dream
of heaven in their sorrow, they grew fragrant as the breath of angels.
The odorous echo of a score of dead summers lingers yet in those dim

----Do I remember Byron's line about "striking the electric chain"?--To
be sure I do. I sometimes think the less the hint that stirs the
automatic machinery of association, the more easily this moves us. What
can be more trivial than that old story of opening the folio Shakspeare
that used to lie in some ancient English hall and finding the flakes of
Christmas pastry between its leaves, shut up in them perhaps a hundred
years ago? And, lo! as one looks on those poor relics of a bygone
generation, the universe changes in the twinkling of an eye; old George
the Second is back again, and the elder Pitt is coming into power, and
General Wolfe is a fine, promising young man, and over the Channel they
are pulling the Sieur Damiens to pieces with wild horses, and across the
Atlantic the Indians are tomahawking Hirams and Jonathans and Jonases at
Fort William Henry; all the dead people that have been in the dust so
long--even to the stout-armed cook that made the pastry--are alive
again; the planet unwinds a hundred of its luminous coils, and the
precession of the equinoxes is retraced on the dial of heaven! And all
this for a bit of pie-crust!

----I will thank you for that pie,--said the provoking young fellow whom
I have named repeatedly. He looked at it for a moment, and put his hands
to his eyes as if moved.--I was thinking,--he said, indistinctly----

----How? What is't?--said our landlady.

----I was thinking--said he--who was king of England when this old pie
was baked,--and it made me feel bad to think how long he must have been

[Our landlady is a decent body, poor, and a widow, of course; _cela va
sans dire_. She told me her story once; it was as if a grain of corn
that had been ground and bolted had tried to individualize itself by a
special narrative. There was the wooing and the wedding,--the start in
life,--the disappointment,--the children she had buried,--the struggle
against fate,--the dismantling of life, first of its small luxuries, and
then of its comforts,--the broken spirits,--the altered character of the
one on whom she leaned,--and at last the death that came and drew the
black curtain between her and all her earthly hopes.

I never laughed at my landlady after she had told me her story, but I
often cried,--not those pattering tears that run off the eaves upon our
neighbors' grounds, the _stillicidium_ of self-conscious sentiment, but
those which steal noiselessly through their conduits until they reach
the cisterns lying round about the heart; those tears that we weep
inwardly with unchanging features;--such I did shed for her often when
the imps of the boarding-house Inferno tugged at her soul with their
red-hot pincers.]

Young man,--I said,--the pasty you speak lightly of is not old, but
courtesy to those who labor to serve us, especially if they are of the
weaker sex, is very old, and yet well worth retaining. The pasty looks
to me as if it were tender, but I know that the hearts of women are so.
May I recommend to you the following caution, as a guide, whenever you
are dealing with a woman, or an artist, or a poet;--if you are handling
an editor or politician, it is superfluous advice. I take it from the
back of one of those little French toys which contain paste-board
figures moved by a small running stream of fine sand; Benjamin Franklin
will translate it for you: "_Quoiqu'elle soit tres solidement montee, il
faut ne pas BRUTALISER la machine_."--I will thank you for the pie, if
you please.

[I took more of it than was good for me,--as much as 85 deg., I should
think,--and had an indigestion in consequence. While I was suffering
from it, I wrote some sadly desponding poems, and a theological essay
which took a very melancholy view of creation. When I got better I
labelled them all "Pie-crust," and laid them by as scarecrows and solemn
warnings. I have a number of books on my shelves that I should like
to label with some such title; but, as they have great names on their
title-pages,--Doctors of Divinity, some of them,--it wouldn't do.]

----My friend, the Professor, whom I have mentioned to you once or
twice, told me yesterday that somebody had been abusing him in some of
the journals of his calling. I told him that I didn't doubt he deserved
it; that I hoped he did deserve a little abuse occasionally, and would
for a number of years to come; that nobody could do anything to make
his neighbors wiser or better without being liable to abuse for it;
especially that people hated to have their little mistakes made fun of,
and perhaps he had been doing something of the kind.--The Professor
smiled.--Now, said I, hear what I am going to say. It will not take many
years to bring you to the period of life when men, at least the majority
of writing and talking men, do nothing but praise. Men, like peaches and
pears, grow sweet a little while before they begin to decay--I don't
know what it is,--whether a spontaneous change, mental or bodily, or
whether it is thorough experience of the thanklessness of critical
honesty,--but it is a fact, that most writers, except sour and
unsuccessful ones, tired of finding fault at about the time when they
are beginning to grow old. As a general thing, I would not give a great
deal for the fair words of a critic, if he is himself an author, over
fifty years of age. At thirty we are all trying to cut our names in big
letters upon the walls of this tenement of life; twenty years later we
have carved it, or shut up our jack-knives. Then we are ready to help
others, and care less to hinder any, because nobody's elbows are in our
way. So I am glad you have a little life left; you will be saccharine
enough in a few years.

----Some of the softening effects of advancing age have struck me very
much in what I have heard or seen here and elsewhere. I just now spoke
of the sweetening process that authors undergo. Do you know that in the
gradual passage from maturity to helplessness the harshest characters
sometimes have a period in which they are gentle and placid as young
children? I have heard it said, but I cannot be sponsor for its truth,
that the famous chieftain, Lochiel, was rocked in a cradle like a baby,
in his old age. An old man, whose studies had been of the severest
scholastic kind, used to love to hear little nursery-stories read over
and over to him. One who saw the Duke of Wellington in his last years
describes him as very gentle in his aspect and demeanor. I remember
a person of singularly stern and lofty bearing who became remarkably
gracious and easy in all his ways in the later period of his life.

And that leads me to say that men often remind me of pears in their way
of coming to maturity. Some are ripe at twenty, like human Jargonelles,
and must be made the most of, for their day is soon over. Some come
into their perfect condition late, like the autumn kinds, and they last
better than the summer fruit. And some, that, like the Winter-Nelis,
have been hard and uninviting until all the rest have had their season,
get their glow and perfume long after the frost and snow have done
their worst with the orchards. Beware of rash criticisms; the rough and
astringent fruit you condemn may be an autumn or a winter pear, and that
which you picked up beneath the same bough in August may have been only
its worm-eaten windfalls. Milton was a Saint-Germain with a graft of the
roseate Early-Catherine. Rich, juicy, lively, fragrant, russet-skinned
old Chaucer was an Easter-Beurre; the buds of a new summer were swelling
when he ripened.

----There is no power I envy so much--said the divinity-student--as that
of seeing analogies and making comparisons. I don't understand how it is
that some minds are continually coupling thoughts or objects that seem
not in the least related to each other, until all at once they are put
in a certain light, and you wonder that you did not always see that they
were as like as a pair of twins. It appears to me a sort of miraculous

[He is rather a nice young man, and I think has an appreciation of the
higher mental qualities remarkable for one of his years and training.
I try his head occasionally as housewives try eggs,--give it an
intellectual shake and hold it up to the light, so to speak, to see
if it has life in it, actual or potential, or only contains lifeless

You call it _miraculous_,--I replied,--tossing the expression with my
facial eminence, a little smartly, I fear.--Two men are walking by the
poly-phloesboean ocean, one of them having a small tin cup with which he
can scoop up a gill of sea-water when he will, and the other nothing but
his hands, which will hardly hold water at all,--and you call the tin
cup a miraculous possession!

It is the ocean that is the miracle, my infant apostle! Nothing is
clearer than that all things are in all things, and that just according
to the intensity and extension of our mental being we shall see the many
in the one and the one in the many. Did Sir Isaac think what he was
saying when he made _his_ speech about the ocean,--the child and the
pebbles, you know? Did he mean to speak slightingly of a pebble? Of
a spherical solid which stood sentinel over its compartment of space
before the stone that became the pyramids had grown solid, and has
watched it until now! A body which knows all the currents of force that
traverse the globe; which holds by invisible threads to the ring of
Saturn and the belt of Orion! A body from the contemplation of which an
archangel could infer the entire inorganic universe as the simplest of
corollaries! A throne of the all-pervading Deity, who has guided its
every atom since the rosary of heaven was strung with beaded stars!

So,--to return to _our_ walk by the ocean,--if all that poetry has
dreamed, all that insanity has raved, all that maddening narcotics have
driven through the brains of men, or smothered passion nursed in
the fancies of women,--if the dreams of colleges and convents and
boarding-schools,--if every human feeling that sighs, or smiles, or
curses, or shrieks, or groans, should bring all their innumerable
images, such as come with every hurried heart-beat,--the epic that held
them all, though its letters filled the zodiac, would be but a cupful
from the infinite ocean of similitudes and analogies that rolls through
the universe.

[The divinity-student honored himself by the way in which he received
this. He did not swallow it at once, neither did he reject it; but he
took it as a pickerel takes the bait, and carried it off with him to his
hole (in the fourth story) to deal with at his leisure.]

--Here is another remark made for his especial benefit.--There is a
natural tendency in many persons to run their adjectives together
in _triads_, as I have heard them called,--thus: He was honorable,
courteous, and brave; she was graceful, pleasing, and virtuous. Dr.
Johnson is famous for this; I think it was Bulwer who said you could
separate a paper in the "Rambler" into three distinct essays. Many
of our writers show the same tendency,--my friend, the Professor,
especially. Some think it is in humble imitation of Johnson,--some that
it is for the sake of the stately sound only. I don't think they get
to the bottom of it. It is, I suspect, an instinctive and involuntary
effort of the mind to present a thought or image with the _three
dimensions_ that belong to every solid,--an unconscious handling of an
idea as if it had length, breadth, and thickness. It is a great deal
easier to say this than to prove it, and a great deal easier to dispute
it than to disprove it. But mind this: the more we observe and study,
the wider we find the range of the automatic and instinctive principles
in body, mind, and morals, and the narrower the limits of the
self-determining conscious movement.

----I have often seen piano-forte players and singers make such strange
motions over their instruments or song-books that I wanted to laugh at
them. "Where did our friends pick up all these fine ecstatic airs?" I
would say to myself. Then I would remember My Lady in "Marriage a la
Mode," and amuse myself with thinking how affectation was the same thing
in Hogarth's time and in our own. But one day I bought me a Canary-bird
and hung him up in a cage at my window. By-and-by he found himself at
home, and began to pipe his little tunes; and there he was, sure enough,
swimming and waving about, with all the droopings and liftings and
languishing side-turnings of the head that I had laughed at. And now I
should like to ask, WHO taught him all this?--and me, through him, that
the foolish head was not the one swinging itself from side to side and
bowing and nodding over the music, but that other which was passing its
shallow and self-satisfied judgment on a creature made of finer clay
than the frame which carried that same head upon its shoulders?

----Do you want an image of the human will, or the self-determining
principle, as compared with its prearranged and impassable restrictions?
A drop of water, imprisoned in a crystal; you may see such a one in any
mineralogical collection. One little fluid particle in the crystalline
prism of the solid universe!

----Weaken moral obligations?--No, not weaken, but define them. When I
preach that sermon I spoke of the other day, I shall have to lay down
some principles not fully recognized in some of your text-books.

I should have to begin with one most formidable preliminary. You saw an
article the other day in one of the journals, perhaps, in which some old
Doctor or other said quietly that patients were very apt to be fools and
cowards. But a great many of the clergyman's patients are not only fools
and cowards, but also liars.

[Immense sensation at the table.--Sudden retirement of the angular
female in oxydated bombazine. Movement of adhesion--as they say in the
Chamber of Deputies--on the part of the young fellow they call John.
Falling of the old-gentleman-opposite's lower jaw--(gravitation is
beginning to get the better of him). Our landlady to Benjamin Franklin,
briskly,--Go to school right off, there's a good boy! Schoolmistress
curious,--takes a quick glance at divinity-student. Divinity-student
slightly flushed; draws his shoulders back a little, as if a big
falsehood--or truth--had hit him in the forehead. Myself calm.]

----I should not make such a speech as that, you know, without having
pretty substantial indorsers to fall back upon, in case my credit should
be disputed. Will you run up stairs, Benjamin Franklin, (for B.F. had
_not_ gone right off, of course,) and bring down a small volume from the
left upper corner of the right-hand shelves?

[Look at the precious little black, ribbed-backed, clean-typed,
vellum-papered 32mo. "DESIDERII ERASMI COLLOQUIA. Amstelodami. Typis
Ludovici Elzevirii. 1650." Various names written on title-page. Most
conspicuous this: Gul. Cookeson: E. Coll. Oum. Anim. 1725. Oxon.

----O William Cookeson, of All-Souls College, Oxford,--then writing as I
now write,--now in the dust, where I shall lie,--is this line all that
remains to thee of earthly remembrance? Thy name is at least once more
spoken by living men;--is it a pleasure to thee? Thou shalt share with
me my little draught of immortality,--its week, its month, its year,
whatever it may be,--and then we will go together into the solemn
archives of Oblivion's Uncatalogued Library! ]

----If you think I have used rather strong language, I shall have
to read something to you out of the book of this keen and witty
scholar,--the great Erasmus,--who "laid the egg of the Reformation which
Luther hatched." Oh, you never read his _Naufragium_, or "Shipwreck,"
did you? Of course not; for, if you had, I don't think you would have
given me credit--or discredit--for entire originality in that speech
of mine. That men are cowards in the contemplation of futurity he
illustrates by the extraordinary antics of many on board the sinking
vessel; that they are fools, by their praying to the sea, and making
promises to bits of wood from the true cross, and all manner of similar
nonsense; that they are fools, cowards, and liars all at once, by this
story: I will put it into rough English for you,--"I couldn't help
laughing to hear one fellow bawling out, so that he might be sure to be
heard, a promise to Saint Christopher of Paris--the monstrous statue in
the great church there--that he would give him a wax taper as big as
himself. 'Mind what you promise!' said an acquaintance that stood near
him, poking him with his elbow; 'you couldn't pay for it, if you sold
all your things at auction.' 'Hold your tongue, you donkey!' said
the fellow,--but softly, so that Saint Christopher should not hear
him,--'do you think I'm in earnest? If I once get my foot on dry ground,
catch me giving him so much as a tallow candle!'"

Now, therefore, remembering that those who have been loudest in their
talk about the great subject of which we were speaking have not
necessarily been wise, brave, and true men, but, on the contrary, have
very often been wanting in one or two or all of the qualities these
words imply, I should expect to find a good many doctrines current in
the schools which I should be obliged to call foolish, cowardly, and

----So you would abuse other people's beliefs, Sir, and yet not tell us
your own creed!--said the divinity-student, coloring up with a spirit
for which I liked him all the better.

----I have a creed,--I replied;--none better, and none shorter. It is
told in two words,--the two first of the Paternoster. And when I say
these words I mean them. And when I compared the human will to a drop
in a crystal, and said I meant to _define_ moral obligations, and not
weaken them, this was what I intended to express: that the fluent,
self-determining power of human beings is a very strictly limited agency
in the universe. The chief planes of its enclosing solid are, of course,
organization, education, condition. Organization may reduce the power
of the will to nothing, as in some idiots; and from this zero the scale
mounts upwards by slight gradations. Education is only second to nature.
Imagine all the infants born this year in Boston and Timbuctoo to change
places! Condition does less, but "Give me neither poverty nor riches"
was the prayer of Agur, and with good reason. If there is any
improvement in modern theology, it is in getting out of the region
of pure abstractions and taking these every-day working forces into
account. The great theological question now heaving and throbbing in the
minds of Christian men is this:--

No, I wont talk about these things now. My remarks might be repeated,
and it would give my friends pain to see with what personal incivilities
I should be visited. Besides, what business has a mere boarder to be
talking about such things at a breakfast-table? Let him make puns. To
be sure, he was brought up among the Christian fathers, and learned his
alphabet out of a quarto "Concilium Tridentinum." He has also heard many
thousand theological lectures by men of various denominations; and it
is not at all to the credit of these teachers, if he is not fit by this
time to express an opinion on theological matters.

I know well enough that there are some of you who had a great deal
rather see me stand on my head than use it for any purpose of thought.
Does not my friend, the Professor, receive at least two letters a week,
requesting him to ..... .. ..... .. .. ...,--on the strength of some
youthful antic of his, which, no doubt, authorizes the intelligent
constituency of autograph-hunters to address him as a harlequin?

----Well, I can't be savage with you for wanting to laugh, and I like to
make you laugh, well enough, when I can. But then observe this: if the
sense of the ridiculous is one side of an impressible nature, it is very
well; but if that is all there is in a man, he had better have been an
ape at once, and so have stood at the head of his profession. Laughter
and tears are meant to turn the wheels of the same machinery of
sensibility; one is wind-power, and the other water-power; that is all.
I have often heard the Professor talk about hysterics as being Nature's
cleverest illustration of the reciprocal convertibility of the two
states of which these acts are the manifestations; but you may see it
every day in children; and if you want to choke with stifled tears at
sight of the transition, as it shows itself in older years, go and see
Mr. Blake play _Jesse Rural_.

It is a very dangerous thing for a literary man to indulge his love for
the ridiculous. People laugh _with_ him just long as he amuses them; but
if he attempts to be serious, they must still have their laugh, and so
they laugh _at_ him. There is in addition, however, a deeper reason for
this than would at first appear. Do you know that you feel a little
superior to every man who makes you laugh, whether by making faces or
verses? Are you aware that you have a pleasant sense of patronizing him,
when you condescend so far as to let him turn somersets, literal or
literary, for your royal delight? Now if a man can only be allowed to
stand on a dais, or raised platform, and look down on his neighbor
who is exerting his talent for him, oh, it is all right!--first-rate
performance!--and all the rest of the fine phrases. But if all at once
the performer asks the gentleman to come upon the floor, and, stepping
upon the platform, begins to talk down at him,--ah, that wasn't in the

I have never forgotten what happened when Sydney Smith--who, as
everybody knows, was an exceedingly sensible man, and a gentleman, every
inch of him--ventured to preach a sermon on the Duties of Royalty. The
"Quarterly," "so savage and tartarly," came down upon him in the most
contemptuous style, as "a joker of jokes," a "diner-out of the first
water," in one of his own phrases; sneering at him, insulting him, as
nothing but a toady of a court, sneaking behind the anonymous, would
ever have been mean enough to do to a man of his position and genius, or
to any decent person even. If I were giving advice to a young fellow of
talent, with two or three facets to his mind, I would tell him by all
means to keep his wit in the background until after he had made a
reputation by his more solid qualities. And so to an actor: _Hamlet_
first, and _Bob Logic_ afterwards, if you like; but don't think, as they
say poor Liston used to, that people will be ready to allow that you can
do anything great with _Macbeth's_ dagger after flourishing about with
_Paul Pry's_ umbrella. Do you know, too, that the majority of men look
upon all who challenge their attention,--for a while, at least,--as
beggars, and nuisances? They always try to get off as cheaply as they
can; and the cheapest of all things they can give a literary man--pardon
the forlorn pleasantry!--is the _funny_-bone. That is all very well so
far as it goes, but satisfies no man, and makes a good many angry, as I
told you on a former occasion.

----Oh, indeed, no! I am not ashamed to make you laugh, occasionally. I
think I could read you something I have my desk that would probably make
you smile. Perhaps I will read it one of these days, if you are patient
with me when I am sentimental and reflective; not just now. The
ludicrous has its place in the universe; it is not a human invention,
but one of the Divine idea; illustrated in the practical jokes of
kittens and monkeys long before Aristophanes or Shakspeare. How curious
it is that we always consider solemnity and the absence of all gay
surprises and encounter of wits as essential to the idea of the future
life of those whom we thus deprive of half their faculties and then
call _blessed!_ There are not a few who, even in this life, seem to be
preparing themselves for that smileless eternity to which they look
forward, by banishing all gayety from their hearts and all joyousness
from their countenances. I meet one such in the street not unfrequently,
a person of intelligence and education, but who gives me (and all that
he passes) such a rayless and chilling look of recognition,--something
as if he were one of Heaven's assessors, come down to "doom" every
acquaintance he met,--that I have sometimes begun to sneeze on the spot,
and gone home with a violent cold, dating from that instant. I don't
doubt he would cut his kitten's tail off, if he caught her playing with
it. Please tell me, who taught her to play with it?

No, no!--give me a chance to talk to you, my fellow-boarders, and you
need not be afraid that I shall have any scruples about entertaining
you, if I can do it, as well as giving you some of my serious thoughts,
and perhaps my sadder fancies. I know nothing in English or any other
literature more admirable than that sentiment of Sir Thomas Browne:

----I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand,
as in what direction we are moving. To reach the port of heaven, we must
sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it,--but we must
sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor. There is one very sad thing in
old friendships, to every mind that is really moving onward. It is this:
that one cannot help using his early friends as the seaman uses the log,
to mark his progress. Every now and then we throw an old schoolmate over
the stern with a string of thought tied to him, and look--I am afraid
with a kind of luxurious and sanctimonious compassion--to see the rate
at which the string reels off, while he lies there bobbing up and down,
poor fellow! and we are dashing along with the white foam and bright
sparkle at our bows;--the ruffled bosom of prosperity and progress, with
a sprig of diamonds stuck in it! But this is only the sentimental side
of the matter; for grow we must, if we outgrow all that we love.

Don't misunderstand that metaphor of heaving the log, I beg you. It is
merely a smart way of saying that we cannot avoid measuring our rate of
movement by those with whom we have long been in the habit of comparing
ourselves; and when they once become stationary, we can get our
reckoning from them with painful accuracy. We see just what we were
when they were our peers, and can strike the balance between that and
whatever we may feel ourselves to be now. No doubt we may sometimes be
mistaken. If we change our last simile to that very old and familiar one
of a fleet leaving the harbor and sailing in company for some distant
region, we can get what we want out of it. There is one of our
companions;--her streamers were torn into rags before she had got into
the open sea, then by and by her sails blew out of the ropes one after
another, the waves swept her deck, and as night came on we left her a
seeming wreck, as we flew under our pyramid of canvas. But lo! at
dawn she is still in sight,--it may be in advance of us. Some deep
ocean-current has been moving her on, strong, but silent,--yes, stronger
than these noisy winds that puff our sails until they are swollen as the
cheeks of jubilant cherubim. And when at last the black steam-tug with
the skeleton arms, that comes out of the mist sooner or later and takes
us all in tow, grapples her and goes off panting and groaning with her,
it is to that harbor where all wrecks are refitted, and where, alas! we,
towering in our pride, may never come.

So you will not think I mean to speak lightly of old friendships,
because we cannot help instituting comparisons between our present and
former selves by the aid of those who were what we were, but are not
what we are. Nothing strikes one more, in the race of life, than to see
how many give out in the first half of the course. "Commencement day"
always reminds me of the start for the "Derby," when the beautiful
high-bred three-year olds of the season are brought up for trial. That
day is the start, and life is the race. Here we are at Cambridge, and a
class is just "graduating." Poor Harry! he was to have been there too,
but he has paid forfeit; step out here into the grass back of the
church; ah! there it is:--


But this is the start, and here they are,--coats bright as silk, and
manes as smooth as _eau lustrale_ can make them. Some of the best of the
colts are pranced round, a few minutes each, to show their paces. What
is that old gentleman crying about? and the old lady by him, and the
three girls, all covering their eyes for? Oh, that is _their_ colt that
has just been trotted up on the stage. Do they really think those little
thin legs can do anything in such a slashing sweepstakes as is coming
off in these next forty years? Oh, this terrible gift of second-sight
that comes to some of us when we begin to look through the silvered
rings of the _arcus senilis_!

_Ten years gone_. First turn in the race. A few broken down; two or
three bolted. Several show in advance of the ruck. _Cassock_, a black
colt, seems to be ahead of the rest; those black colts commonly get the
start, I have noticed, of the others, in the first quarter. _Meteor_ has
pulled up.

_Twenty years_. Second corner turned. _Cassock_ has dropped from the
front, and _Judex_, an iron-gray, has the lead. But look! how they have
thinned out! Down flat,--five,--six,--how many? They lie still enough!
they will not get up again in this race, be very sure! And the rest
of them, what a "tailing off"! Anybody can see who is going to

_Thirty years_. Third corner turned. _Dices_, bright sorrel, ridden by
the fellow in a yellow jacket, begins to make play fast; is getting
to be the favorite with many. But who is that other one that has been
lengthening his stride from the first, and now shows close up to the
front? Don't you remember the quiet brown colt _Asteroid_, with the star
in his forehead? That is he; he is one of the sort that lasts; look out
for him! The black "colt," as we used to call him, is in the background,
taking it easy in a gentle trot. There is one they used to call _the
Filly_, on account of a certain feminine air he had; well up, you see;
the Filly is not to be despised, my boy!

_Forty years_. More dropping off,--but places much as before.

_Fifty years_. Race over. All that are on the course are coming in at a
walk; no more running. Who is ahead? Ahead? What! and the winning-post a
slab of white or gray stone standing out from that turf where there is
no more jockeying or straining for victory! Well, the world marks their
places in its betting-book; but be sure that these matter very little,
if they have run as well as they knew how!

----Did I not say to you a little while ago that the universe swam in an
ocean of similitudes and analogies? I will not quote Cowley, or Burns,
or Wordsworth, just now, to show you what thoughts were suggested to
them by the simplest natural objects, such as a flower or a leaf; but I
will read you a few lines, if you do not object, suggested by looking at
a section of one of those chambered shells to which is given the name
of Pearly Nautilus. We need not trouble ourselves about the distinction
between this and the Paper Nautilus, the _Argonauta_ of the ancients.
The name applied to both shows that each has long been compared to
a ship, as you may see more fully in Webster's Dictionary, or the
"Encyclopedia," to which he refers. If you will look into Roget's
Bridgewater Treatise, you will find a figure of one of these shells,
and a section of it. The last will show you the series of enlarging
compartments successively dwelt in by the animal that inhabits the
shell, which is built in a widening spiral. Can you find no lesson in


This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
Sails the unshadowed main,--
The venturous bark that flings
On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
In gulfs enchanted, where the siren sings,
And coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.

Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl;
Wrecked is the ship of pearl!
And every chambered cell,
Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell,
As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell,
Before thee lies revealed,--
Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!

Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year's dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.

Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
Child of the wandering sea,
Cast from her lap, forlorn!
From thy dead lips a clearer note is born
Than ever Triton blew from wreathed horn!
While on mine ear it rings,
Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:--

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea!

* * * * *


Beranger is certainly the most popular poet there has ever been in
France; there was convincing proof of it at the time of and after
his death. He had not printed anything since 1833, the epoch when he
published the last collection of his poems; when he died, then, on the
16th of July, 1857, he had been silent twenty-four years. He had, it
is true, appeared for a moment in the National Assembly, after the
Revolution of February, 1848; but it was only to withdraw again almost
immediately and to resign his seat. In spite of this long silence and
this retirement, in which he seemed a little forgotten, no sooner did
the news of his last illness spread and it was known that his life was
in danger, than the interest, or we should rather say the anxiety, of
the public was awakened. In the ranks of the people, in the most humble
classes of society, everybody began inquiring about him and asking day
by day for news; his house was besieged by visitors; and as the danger
increased, the crowd gathered, restless, as if listening for his
last sigh. The government, in charging itself with his obsequies and
declaring that his funeral should be celebrated at the cost of the
State, may have been taking a wise precaution to prevent all pretext for
disturbance; but it responded also to a public and popular sentiment. At
sight of the honors paid to this simple poet, with as much distinction
as if he had been a Marshal of France,--at sight of that extraordinary
military pomp, (and in France military pomp is the great sign of
respectability, and has its place whenever it is desired to bestow
special honor,) no one among the laboring population was surprised, and
it seemed to all that Beranger received only what was his due.

And since that time there has been in the French journals nothing but
a succession of hymns to the memory of Beranger, hymns scarcely
interrupted by now and then some cooler and soberer judgments. People
have vied with each other in making known his good deeds done in secret,
his gifts,--we will not call them alms,--for when he gave, he did not
wish that it should have the character of alms, but of a generous,
brotherly help. Numbers of his private letters have been printed; and
one of his disciples has published recollections of his conversations,
under the title of _Memoires de Beranger_. The same disciple, once a
simple artisan, a shoemaker, we believe, M. Savinien Lapointe, has
also composed _Le petit Evangile de la Jeunesse de Beranger_. M. de
Lamartine, in one of the numbers of his _Cours familier de Litterature_,
has devoted two hundred pages to an account of Beranger and a commentary
on him, and has recalled curious conversations which he had with him in
the most critical political circumstances of the Revolution of 1848. In
short, there has been a rivalry in developing and amplifying the
memory of the national songster, treating him as Socrates was once
treated,--bringing up all his apophthegms, reproducing the dialogues in
which he figured,--going even farther,--carrying him to the very borders
of legend, and evidently preparing to canonize in him one of the Saints
in the calendar of the future.

What is there solid in all this? How much is legitimate, and how much
excessive? Beranger himself seems to have wished to reduce things to
their right proportions, having left behind him ready for publication
two volumes: one being a collection of his last poems and songs; the
other an extended notice, detailing the decisive circumstances of his
poetic and political life, and entitled "My Biography."

The collection of his last songs, let us say it frankly, has not
answered expectation. In reading them, we feel that the poet has grown
old, that he is weary. He complains continually that he has no longer
any voice,--that the tree is dead,--that even the echo of the woods
answers only in prose,--that the source of song is dried up; and says,

"If Time still make the clock run on,
He makes it strike no longer."

And unhappily he is right. We find here and there pretty designs, short
felicitous passages, smiling bits of nature; but obscurity, stiffness of
expression, and the dragging in of Fancy by the hair continually mar the
reading and take away all its charm. Even the pieces most highly lauded
in advance, and which celebrate some of the most inspiring moments in
the life of Napoleon,--such as his Baptism, his Horoscope cast by a
Gypsy, and others,--have neither sparkle nor splendor. The prophet is
not intoxicated, and wants enthusiasm. On the theme of Napoleon, Victor
Hugo has done incomparably better; and as to the songs, properly so
called, of this last collection, there are at this moment in France
numerous song-writers (Pierre Dupont and Nadaud, for instance) who have
the ease, the spirit, and the brilliancy of youth, and who would be
able easily to triumph over this forced and difficult elevation of the
Remains of Beranger, if one chose to institute a comparison. We may well
say that youth is youth; to write verses, and especially songs, when one
is old, is to wish still to dance, still to mount a curvetting horse;
one gains no honor by the experiment. Anacreon, we know, succeeded; but
in French, with rhyme and refrain, (that double butterfly-chase,) it
seems to be more difficult.

But in prose, in the Autobiography, the entire Beranger, the Beranger of
the best period, the man of wit, freshness, and sense, is found again;
and it is pleasant to follow him in the story of his life, till now
imperfectly known. He was born at Paris, on the 19th of August, 1780;
and he glories in being a Parisian by birth, saying, that "Paris had not
to wait for the great Revolution of 1789 to be the city of liberty
and equality, the city where misfortune receives, perhaps, the most
sympathy." He came into the world in the house of a tailor, his good
old grandfather, in the Rue Montorgueil,--one of the noisiest of the
Parisian streets, famous for its _restaurants_ and the number of oysters
consumed in them. "Seeing me born," he says, "in one of the dirtiest and
noisiest streets, who would have thought that I should love the woods,
fields, flowers, and birds so much?" It is true that Beranger loved
them,--but he loved them always, as his poems show, like a Parisian and
child of the Rue Montorgueil. A pretty enclosure, as many flowers and
hedges as there are in the Closerie des Lilas, a little garden,
a courtyard surrounded by apple-trees, a path winding beside
wheat-fields,--these were enough for him. His Muse, we feel, has never
journeyed, never soared, never beheld its first horizon in the Alps, the
ocean, or the illimitable prairie. Lamartine, born in the country, amid
all the wealth of the old rural and patriarchal life, had a right to
oppose him, to put his own first instincts as poet in contrast with his,
and to say to him, "I was born among shepherds; but you, you were born
among citizens, among proletaries." Beranger loved the country as people
love it on a Sunday at Paris, in walks just without the suburbs. How
different from Burns, that other poet of the people, with whom he has
sometimes been compared! But, on the other hand, Beranger loved
the dweller in the city, the mechanic, the _ouvrier_, industrious,
intellectual, full of enthusiasm and also of imprudence, passionate,
with the heart of a soldier, and with free, adventurous ideas. He loved
him even in his faults, aided him in his poverty, consoled him with his
songs. Before all things he loved the street, and the street returned
his love.

His father was a careless, dissipated man, who had tried many
employments, and who strove to rise from the ranks of the people without
having the means. His mother was a pretty woman, a dress-maker, and
thorough _grisette_, whom his father married for her beauty, and who
left her husband six months after their marriage and never gave a
thought to her child. The little Beranger, born with difficulty and only
with the aid of instruments, put out to nurse in the neighborhood of
Auxerre, and forgotten for three years, was the object of no motherly
cares. He may be said never to have had a mother. His Muse always showed
traces of this privation of a mother's smile. The sentiment of home, of
family, is not merely absent from his poems,--it is sometimes shocked by

Returning to his grandparents in Paris, and afterwards sent to a school
in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, where, on the 14th of July, 1789, he saw
the Bastille taken, he pursued his primary studies very irregularly. He
never learned Latin, a circumstance which always prejudiced him. Later
in life, he sometimes blushed at not knowing it, and yet mentioned the
fact so often as almost to make one believe he was proud of it. The
truth is, that this want of classical training must have been felt
more painfully by Beranger than it would have been by almost any other
person; for Beranger was a studied poet, full of combinations, of
allusion and artifice, even in his pleasantry,--a delicate poet,
moreover, of the school of Boileau and Horace.

The _pension_ in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, even, was too much for the
narrow means of his father. He was taken away and sent to Peronne, in
Picardy, to an aunt who kept an inn in one of the suburbs, at the sign
of the Royal Sword. It was while he was with this excellent person, who
had a mind superior to her condition, that he began to form himself
by the reading of good French authors. His intelligence was not less
aroused by the spectacle of the events which were passing under his
eyes. The Terror, the invasion by the armies of the Coalition, the roar
of cannon, which could be heard at this frontier town, inspired him
with a patriotism which was always predominant in him, and which at all
decisive crises revived so strongly as even to silence and eclipse for
the moment other cherished sentiments which were only less dear.

"This love of country," said he, emphatically, "was the great, I should
say the only, passion of my life." It was this love which was his best
inspiration as poet,--love of country, and with it of equality. Out of
devotion to these great objects of his worship, he will even consent
that the statue of Liberty be sometimes veiled, when there is a
necessity for it. That France should be great and glorious, that she
should not cease to be democratic, and to advance toward a democracy
more and more equitable and favorable to all,--such were the aspirations
and the programme of Beranger. He goes so far as to say that in his
childhood he had an aversion, almost a hatred, for Voltaire, on account
of the insult to patriotism in his famous poem of _La Pucelle_; and that
afterwards, even while acknowledging all his admirable qualities and the
services he rendered to the cause of humanity, he could acquire only a
very faint taste for his writing. This is a striking singularity,
if Beranger does not exaggerate it a little; it is almost an
ingratitude,--for Voltaire is one of his nearest and most direct

There is, indeed, a third passion which disputes with those for country
and equality the heart of Beranger, and which he shares fully with
Voltaire,--the hatred, namely, we will not say of Christianity, but
of religious hypocrisy, of Jesuitic Tartufery. What Voltaire did in
innumerable pamphlets, _facetioe_, and philosophic diatribes, Beranger
did in songs. He gave a refrain, and with it popular currency to the
anti-clerical attacks and mockeries of Voltaire; he set them to his
violin and made them sing with the horsehair of his bow. Beranger was in
this respect only the minstrel of Voltaire.

Bold songs against hypocrites, the Reverend Fathers and the Tartufes, so
much in favor under the Restoration, and some which carry the attack yet
higher, and which sparkle with the very spirit of buffoonery, like _Le
Batard du Pape_; beautiful patriotic songs, like _Le vieux Drapeau_;
and beautiful songs of humanity and equality, like _Le vieux
Vagabond_;--these are the three chief branches which unite and
intertwine to make the poetic crown of Beranger in his best days,
and they had their root in passions which with him were profound and
living,--hatred of superstition, love of country, love of humanity and

His aunt at Peronne was superstitious, and during thunder-storms had
recourse to all kinds of expedients, such as signs of the cross,
holy-water, and the like. One day the lightning struck near the house
and knocked down young Beranger, who was standing on the door-step. He
was insensible for some time, and they thought him killed. His first
words, on recovering consciousness, were, "Well, what good did your
holy-water do?"

At Peronne he finished his very irregular course of study at a kind of
primary school founded by a philanthropic citizen. During the Directory,
attempts were made all over France to get up free institutions for the
young, on plans more or less reasonable or absurd, by men who had fed
upon Rousseau's _Emile_ and invented variations upon his system. On
leaving school, Beranger was placed with a printer in the city, where
he became a journeyman printer and compositor, which has occasioned
his being often compared to Franklin,--a comparison of which he is
not unworthy, in his love for the progress of the human race, and the
piquant and ingenious turn he knew how to give to good sense. From this
first employment as printer Beranger acquired and retained great nicety
in language and grammar. He insisted on it, in his counsels to the
young, more than seems natural in a poet of the people. He even
exaggerated its importance somewhat, and might seem a purist.

Beranger's father reappeared suddenly during the Directory and reclaimed
his son, whom he carried to Paris. The father had formed connections in
Brittany with the royalists. He had become steward of the household
of the Countess of Bourmont, mother of the famous Bourmont who was
afterwards Marshal of France and Minister of War. Bourmont himself, then
young, was living in Paris, in order the better to conspire for the
restoration of the Bourbons. The elder Beranger was neck-deep in these
intrigues, and was even prosecuted after the discovery of one of the
numerous conspiracies of the day, but acquitted for want of proof. He
was the banker and money-broker of the party,--a wretched banker enough!
The narrative of the son enables us to see what a miserable business
the father was engaged in. This near view of political intriguers, of
royalists driven to all manner of expedients and standing at bay, of
adventurers who did not shrink from the use of any means, not even the
infernal-machine, did not dispose the young man already imbued with
republican sentiments to change them, and this initiation into the
secrets of the party was not likely to inspire him with much respect for
the future Restoration. He had too early seen men and things behind the
scenes. His father, in consequence of his swindling transactions, made a
bankruptcy, which reduced the son to poverty and filled him with grief
and shame.

He was now twenty years old; he had courage and hope, and he already
wrote verses on all sorts of subjects,--serious, religious, epic, and
tragic. One day, when he was in especial distress, he made up a little
packet of his best verses and sent them to Lucien Bonaparte, with a
letter, in which he set forth his unhappy situation. Lucien loved
literature, and piqued himself on being author and poet. He was pleased
with the attempts of the young man, and made him a present of the salary
of a thousand or twelve hundred francs to which he was entitled as
member of the Institute. It was Beranger's first step out of the poverty
in which he had been plunged for several years, and he was indebted for
the benefit to a Bonaparte, and to the most republican Bonaparte of the
family. He was always especially grateful for it to Lucien, and somewhat
to the Bonapartes in general.

Receiving a small appointment in the bureau of the University through
the intervention of the Academician Arnault, a friend of Lucien
Bonaparte, Beranger lived gayly during the last six years of the Empire.
He managed to escape the conscription, and never shouldered a musket. He
reserved himself to sing of military glory at a later day, but had no
desire to share in it as soldier. He was elected into a singing club
called _The Cellar_, all of whose members were songwriters and good
fellows, presided over by Desaugiers, the lord of misrule and of jolly
minstrels. Beranger, after his admission to the _Caveau_, at first
contended with Desaugiers in his own style, but already a ground of
seriousness and thought showed through his gayety. He wrote at this
time his celebrated song of the _Roi d'Yvetot_, in which, while he
caricatured the little play-king, the king in the cotton nightcap, he
seemed to be slyly satirizing the great conquering Emperor himself.

The Empire fell, and Beranger hesitated for some time to take part
against the Bourbons. It was not till after the battle of Waterloo and
the return of Louis XVIII. under convoy of the allied armies, that he
began to feel the passion of patriotism blaze up anew within him and
dictate stinging songs which soon became darts of steel. Meanwhile he
wrote pretty songs, in which a slight sentiment of melancholy mingled
with and heightened the intoxication of wine and pleasure. _La bonne
Vieille_ is his _chef-d'oeuvre_ in this style. He arranged the design of
these little pieces carefully, sketching his subjects beforehand, and
herein belongs to the French school, that old classic school which left
nothing to chance. He composed his couplets slowly, even those
which seem the most easy. Commonly the song came to him through the
refrain;--he caught the butterfly by the wings;--when he had seized the
refrain, he finished at intervals, and put in the nicer shadings at
leisure. He wrote hardly ten songs a year at the time of his greatest
fecundity. It has since been remarked that they smell of the lamp here
and there; but at first no one had eyes except for the rose, the vine,
and the laurel.

The Bourbons, brought back for the second time in 1815, committed all
manner of blunders: they insulted the remains of the old _grande armee_;
they shot Marshal Ney and many others; a horrible royalist reaction
ensanguined the South of France. The Jesuit party insinuated itself at
Court, and assumed to govern as in the high times of the confessors of
Louis XIV. It was hoped to conquer the spirit of the Revolution, and to
drive modern France back to the days before 1789; hence thousands of
hateful things impossible to be realized, and thousands of ridiculous
ones. Towards 1820 the liberal opposition organized itself in the
Chambers and in the press. The Muse of Beranger came to its assistance
under the mask of gay raillery. He was the angry bee that stung flying,
and whose stings are not harmless; nay, he would fain have made them
mortal to the enemy. He hated even Louis XVIII., a king who was esteemed
tolerably wise, and more intelligent than his party. "I stick my pins,"
said Beranger, "into the calves of Louis XVIII." One must have seen
the fat king in small-clothes, his legs as big as posts and round as
pin-cushions, to appreciate all the point of the epigram.

Beranger had been very intimate since 1815 with the Deputy Manuel, a man
of sense and courage, but very hostile to the Bourbons, and who, for
words spoken from the Tribune, was expelled from the Chamber of Deputies
and declared incapable of reelection. Though intimate with many
influential members of the opposition, such as Laffitte the banker, and
General Sebastiani, it was only with Manuel that Beranger perfectly
agreed. It is by his side, in the same tomb, that he now reposes in Pere
la Chaise, and after the death of Manuel he always slept on the mattress
upon which his friend had breathed his last. Manuel and Beranger
were ultra-inimical to the Restoration. They believed that it was
irreconcilable with the modern spirit of France, with the common sense
of the new form of society, and they accordingly did their best to goad
and irritate it, never giving it any quarter. At certain times, other
opposition deputies, such as General Foy, would have advised a more
prudent course, which would not have rendered the Bourbons impossible
by attacking them so fiercely as to push them to extremes. However
this might have been, poetry always more at home in excess than in
moderation. Beranger was all the more a poet at this period, that he was
more impassioned. The Bourbons and the Jesuits, his two most violent
antipathies, served him well, and made him write his best and most
spirited songs. Hence his great success. The people, who never perceive
nice shades of opinion, but love and hate absolutely, at once adopted
Beranger as the singer of its loves and hatreds, the avenger of the old
army, of national glory and freedom, and the inaugurator or prophet of
the future. The spirit prisoned in these little couplets, these tiny
bodies, is of amazing force, and has, one might almost say, a devilish
audacity. In larger compositions, breath would doubtless have failed the
poet,--the greater space would have been an injury to him. Even in songs
he has a constrained air sometimes, but this constraint gave him more
force. He produces the impression of superiority to his class.

Beranger had given up his little post at the University before declaring
open war against the government. He was before long indicted, and in
1822 condemned to several months' imprisonment, for having scandalized
the throne and the altar. His popularity became at once boundless; he
was sensible of it, and enjoyed it. "They are going to indict your
songs," said some one to him. "So much the better!" he replied,--"that
will gilt-edge them." He thought so well of this _gilding_, that in
1828, during the ministry of M. Martignac, a very moderate man and of a
conciliatory semi-liberalism, he found means to get indicted again and
to undergo a new condemnation, by attacks which some even of his friends
then thought untimely. Once again Beranger was impassioned; he declared
his enemies incurable and incorrigible; and soon came the ordinances of
July, 1830, and the Revolution in their train, to prove him right.

In 1830, at the moment when the Revolution took place, the popularity
of Beranger was at its height. His opinion was much deferred to in the
course taken during and after "the three great days." The intimate
friend of most of the chiefs of the opposition who were now in power,
of great influence with the young, and trusted by the people, it was
essential that he should not oppose the plan of making the Duke of
Orleans King. Beranger, in his Biography, speaks modestly of his part
in these movements. In his conversations he attributed a great deal to
himself. He loved to describe himself in the midst of the people who
surrounded the Hotel of M. Laffitte, going and coming, listening to
each, consulted by all, and continually sent for by Laffitte, who was
confined to his armchair by a swollen foot. Seeing the hesitation
prolonged, he whispered in Laffitte's ear that it was time to decide,
for, if they did not take the Duke of Orleans for King pretty soon, the
Revolution was in danger of turning out an _emeute_. He gave this advice
simply as a patriot, for he was not of the Orleans party. When he came
out, his younger friends, the republicans, reproached him; but he
replied, "It is not a king I want, but only a plank to get over the
stream." He set the first example of disrespect for the plank he thought
so useful; indeed, the comparison itself is rather a contemptuous one.

He afterwards behaved, however, with great sense and wisdom. He declined
all offices and honors, considering his part as political songster at an
end. In 1833 he published a collection in which were remarked some songs
of a higher order, less partisan, and in which he foreshadowed a broader
and more peaceful democracy. After this he was silent, and as he was
continually visited and consulted, he resolved upon leaving Paris for
some years, in order to escape this annoyance. He went first to the
neighborhood of Tours, and then to Fontainebleau; but the free,
conversational life of Paris was too dear to him, and he returned to
live in seclusion, though always much visited by his troops of friends,
and much sought after. In leaving Paris during the first years of Louis
Philippe's reign, and _closing_, as he called it, _his consulting
office_, his chief aim was to escape the questions, solicitations, and
confidences of opposite parties, in all of which he continued to have
many friends who would gladly have brought him over to their way of
thinking. He did not wish to be any longer what he had been so
much,--a consulting politician; but he did not cease to be a practical
philosopher with a crowd of disciples, and a consulting democrat.
Chateaubriand, Lamennais, Lamartine,--the chiefs of parties at first
totally opposed to his own,--came to seek his friendship, and loved to
repose and refresh themselves in his conversation. He enjoyed, a
little mischievously, seeing one of them (Chateaubriand) lay aside his
royalism, another (Lamennais) abjure his Catholicism, and the third
(Lamartine) forget his former aristocracy, in visiting him. He looked
upon this, and justly, as a homage paid to the manners and spirit of the
age, of which he was the humble but inflexible representative.

When the Revolution of 1848 burst unexpectedly, he was not charmed
with it,--nay, it made him even a little sad. Less a republican than
a patriot, he saw immense danger for France, as he knew her, in the
establishment of the pure republican form. He was of opinion that it was
necessary to wear out the monarchy little by little,--that with time and
patience it would fall of itself; but he had to do with an impatient
people, and he lamented it. "We had a ladder to go down by," said he,
"and here we are jumping out of the window!" It was the same sentiment
of patriotism, mingled with a certain almost mystical enthusiasm for
the great personality of Napoleon, nourished and augmented with growing
years, which made him accept the events of 1851-2 and the new Empire.

The religion of Beranger, which was so anti-Catholic, and which seems
even to have dispensed with Christianity, reduced itself to a vague
Deism, which in principle had too much the air of a pleasantry. His
_Dieu des bonnes gens_, which he opposed to the God of the congregation
and the preachers, could not be taken seriously by any one.
Nevertheless, the poet, as he grew older, grew more and more attached
to this symbol of a Deity, indulgent before all else, but very real and
living, and in whom the poor and the suffering could put their trust.
What passed in the days preceding his death has been much discussed, and
many stories are told about it. He received, in fact, some visits from
the curate of the parish of Saint Elizabeth, in which he lived. This
curate had formerly officiated at Passy,--a little village near Paris,
where Beranger had resided,--and was already acquainted with the poet.
The conversations at these visits, according to the testimony of those
best informed, amounted to very little; and the last time the curate
came, just as he was going out, Beranger, already dying, said to
him, "Your profession gives you the right to bless me; I also bless
you;--pray for me, and for all the unfortunate!" The priest and the
old man exchanged blessings,--the benedictions of two honest men, and
nothing more.

Beranger had one rare quality, and it was fundamental with
him,--obligingness, readiness to perform kind offices, humanity carried
to the extent of Charity. He loved to busy himself for others. To some
one who said that time lay heavy on his hands, he answered, "Then you
have never occupied yourself about other people?" "Take more thought
of others than of yourself" was his maxim. And he did so occupy
himself,--not out of curiosity, but to aid, to succor with advice and
with deeds. His time belonged to everybody,--to the humblest, the
poorest, the first stranger who addressed him and told him his sorrows.
Out of a very small income (at most, four or five thousand francs a
year) he found means to give much. He loved, above all, to assist poor
artisans, men of the people, who appealed to him; and he did it always
without wounding the fibre of manhood in them. He loved everything that
wore a blouse. He had, even stronger than the love of liberty, the love
of equality, the great passion of the French.

He spent the last years of his life with an old friend of his youth by
the name of Madame Judith. This worthy person died a few months before
him, and he accompanied her remains to the church. He was seventy-seven
years old when he died.

Estimating and comparing chiefly literary and poetic merits, some
persons in France have been astonished that the obsequies of Beranger
should have been so magnificently celebrated, while, but a few months
before, the coffin of another poet, M. Alfred de Musset, had been
followed by a mere handful of mourners; yet M. de Musset was capable of
tones and flights which in inspiration and ardor surpassed the habitual

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