Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 5, No. 31, May, 1860 by Various

Part 4 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 5, No. 31, May, 1860 pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

"Take care o' them custard-cups! There they go!"

Poor Mrs. Sprowle was fighting the party over in her dream; and as the
visionary custard-cups crashed down through one lobe of her brain into
another, she gave a start as if an inch of lightning from a quart
Leyden jar had jumped into one of her knuckles with its sudden and
lively _poonk_!

"Sally!" said the Colonel,--"wake up, wake up! What 'r' y' dreamin'

Mrs. Sprowle raised herself, by a sort of spasm, _sur son seant_, as
they say in France,--up on end, as we have it in New England. She
looked first to the left, then to the right, then straight before her,
apparently without seeing anything, and at last slowly settled down,
with her two eyes, blank of any particular meaning, directed upon the

"What time is't?" she said.

"Ten o'clock. What 'y' been dreamin' abaout? Y' giv a jump like a
hoppergrass. Wake up, wake up! Th' party's over, and y' been asleep all
the mornin'. The party's over, I tell ye! Wake up!"

"Over!" said Mrs. Sprowle, who began to define her position at
last,--"over! I should think 'twas time 'twas over! It's lasted a
hundud year. I've been workin' for that party longer 'n Methuselah's
lifetime, sence I been asleep. The pies wouldn' bake, and the blo'monge
wouldn' set, and the ice-cream wouldn' freeze, and all the folks kep'
comin' 'n' comin' 'n' comin',--everybody I ever knew in all my
life,--some of 'em's been dead this twenty year 'n' more,--'n' nothin'
for 'em to eat nor drink. The fire wouldn' burn to cook anything, all
we could do. We blowed with the belluses, 'n' we stuffed in paper 'n'
pitch-pine kindlin's, but nothin' could make that fire burn; 'n' all
the time the folks kep' comin', as if they'd never stop,--'n' nothin'
for 'em but empty dishes, 'n' all the borrowed chaney slippin' round on
the waiters 'n' chippin' 'n' crackin'. I wouldn' go through what I been
through t'-night for all th' money in th' Bank,--I do believe it's
harder t' have a party than t'"----

Mrs. Sprowle stated the case strongly.

The Colonel said he didn't know how that might be. She was a better
judge than he was. It was bother enough, anyhow, and he was glad that
it was over. After this, the worthy pair commenced preparations for
rejoining the waking world, and in due time proceeded down-stairs.

Everybody was late that morning, and nothing had got put to rights. The
house looked as if a small army had been quartered in it over night.
The tables were of course in huge disorder, after the protracted
assault they had undergone. There had been a great battle evidently,
and it had gone against the provisions. Some points had been stormed,
and all their defences annihilated, but here and there were centres of
resistance which had held out against all attacks,--large rounds of
beef, and solid loaves of cake, against which the inexperienced had
wasted their energies in the enthusiasm of youth or uninformed
maturity, while the longer-headed guests were making discoveries of
"shell-oysters" and "patridges" and similar delicacies.

The breakfast was naturally of a somewhat fragmentary character. A
chicken that had lost his legs in the service of the preceding campaign
was once more put on duty. A great ham stuck with cloves, as Saint
Sebastian was with arrows, was again offered for martyrdom. It would
have been a pleasant sight for a medical man of a speculative turn to
have seen the prospect before the Colonel's family of the next week's
breakfasts, dinners, and suppers. The trail that one of these great
rural parties leaves after it is one of its most formidable
considerations. Every door-handle in the house is suggestive of
sweetmeats for the next week, at least. The most unnatural articles of
diet displace the frugal but nutritious food of unconvulsed periods of
existence. If there is a walking infant about the house, it will
certainly have a more or less fatal fit from overmuch of some
indigestible delicacy. Before the week is out, everybody will be tired
to death of sugary forms of nourishment and long to see the last of the
remnants of the festival.

The family had not yet arrived at this condition. On the contrary, the
first inspection of the tables suggested the prospect of days of
unstinted luxury; and the younger portion of the household, especially,
were in a state of great excitement as the account of stock was taken
with reference to future internal investments, Some curious facts came
to light during these researches.

"Where's all the oranges gone to?" said Mrs. Sprowle. "I expected
there'd be ever so many of 'em left. I didn't see many of the folks
eatin' oranges. Where's the skins of 'em? There ought to be six dozen
orange-skins round on the plates, and there a'n't one dozen. And all
the small cakes, too, and all the sugar things that was stuck on the
big cakes.--Has anybody counted the spoons? Some of 'em got swallered,
perhaps. I hope they was plated ones, if they did!"

The failure of the morning's orange-crop and the deficit in other
expected residual delicacies were not very difficult to account for. In
many of the two-story Rockland families, and in those favored
households of the neighboring villages whose members had been invited
to the great party, there was a very general excitement among the
younger people on the morning after the great event. "Did y' bring home
somethin' from the party? What is it? What is it? Is it frut-cake? Is
it nuts and oranges and apples? Give me some! Give _me_ some!" Such a
concert of treble voices uttering accents like these had not been heard
since the great Temperance Festival with the celebrated "colation" in
the open air under the trees of the Parnassian Grove,--as the place was
christened by the young ladies of the Institute. The cry of the
children was not in vain. From the pockets of demure fathers, from the
bags of sharp-eyed spinsters, from the folded handkerchiefs of
light-fingered sisters, from the tall hats of sly-winking brothers,
there was a resurrection of the missing oranges and cakes and
sugar-things in many a rejoicing family-circle, enough to astonish the
most hardened "caterer" that ever contracted to feed a thousand people
under canvas.

The tender recollection of those dear little ones whom extreme youth or
other pressing considerations detain from scenes of festivity--a trait
of affection by no means uncommon among our thoughtful people
--dignifies those social meetings where it is manifested, and
sheds a ray of sunshine on our common nature. It is "an oasis in the
desert,"--to use the striking expression of the last year's
"Valedictorian" of the Apollinean Institute. In the midst of so much
that is purely selfish, it is delightful to meet such disinterested
care for others. When a large family of children are expecting a
parent's return from an entertainment, it will often require great
exertions on his part to provide himself so as to meet their reasonable
expectations. A few rules are worth remembering by all who attend
anniversary dinners in Faneuil Hall or elsewhere. Thus: Lobsters' claws
are always acceptable to children of all ages. Oranges and apples are
to be taken _one at a time_, until the coat-pockets begin to become
inconveniently heavy. Cakes are injured by sitting upon them; it is,
therefore, well to carry a stout tin box of a size to hold as many
pieces as there are children in the domestic circle. A very pleasant
amusement, at the close of one of these banquets, is grabbing for the
flowers with which the table is embellished. These will please the
ladies at home very greatly, and, if the children are at the same time
abundantly supplied with fruits, nuts, cakes, and any little ornamental
articles of confectionery which are of a nature to be unostentatiously
removed, the kind-hearted parent will make a whole household happy,
without any additional expense beyond the outlay for his ticket.

There were fragmentary delicacies enough left, of one kind and another,
at any rate, to make all the Colonel's family uncomfortable for the
next week. It bid fair to take as long to get rid of the remains of the
great party as it had taken to make ready for it.

In the mean time Mr. Bernard had been dreaming, as young men dream, of
gliding shapes with bright eyes and burning cheeks, strangely blended
with red planets and hissing meteors, and, shining over all, the white,
unwandering star of the North, girt with its tethered constellations.

After breakfast he walked into the parlor, where he found Miss Darley.
She was alone, and, holding a school-book in her hand, was at work with
one of the morning's lessons. She hardly noticed him as he entered,
being very busy with her book,--and he paused a moment before speaking,
and looked at her with a kind of reverence. It would not have been
strictly true to call her beautiful. For years,--since her earliest
womanhood,--those slender hands had taken the bread which repaid the
toil of heart and brain from the coarse palms that offered it in the
world's rude market. It was not for herself alone that she had bartered
away the life of her youth, that she had breathed the hot air of
school-rooms, that she had forced her intelligence to posture before
her will, as the exigencies of her place required,--waking to mental
labor,--sleeping to dream of problems,--rolling up the stone of
education for an endless twelvemonth's term, to find it at the bottom
of the hill again when another year called her to its renewed
duties,--schooling her temper in unending inward and outward conflicts,
until neither dulness nor obstinacy nor ingratitude nor insolence could
reach her serene self-possession. Not for herself alone. Poorly as her
prodigal labors were repaid in proportion to the waste of life they
cost, her value was too well established to leave her without what,
under other circumstances, would have been a more than sufficient
compensation. But there were others who looked to her in their need,
and so the modest fountain which might have been filled to its brim was
continually drained through silent-flowing, hidden sluices.

Out of such a life, inherited from a race which had lived in conditions
not unlike her own, _beauty_, in the common sense of the term, could
hardly find leisure to develop and shape itself. For it must be
remembered, that symmetry and elegance of features and figure, like
perfectly formed crystals in the mineral world, are reached only by
insuring a certain necessary repose to individuals and to generations.
Human beauty is an agricultural product in the country, growing up in
men and women as in corn and cattle, where the soil is good. It is a
luxury almost monopolized by the rich in cities, bred under glass like
their forced pine-apples and peaches. Both in city and country, the
evolution of the physical harmonics which make music to our eyes
requires a combination of favorable circumstances, of which
alternations of unburdened tranquillity with intervals of varied
excitement of mind and body are among the most important. Where
sufficient excitement is wanting, as often happens in the country, the
features, however rich in red and white, get heavy, and the movements
sluggish; where excitement is furnished in excess, as is frequently
the case in cities, the contours and colors are impoverished, and the
nerves begin to make their existence known to the consciousness, as the
face very soon informs us.

Helen Darley could not, in the nature of things, have possessed the
kind of beauty which pleases the common taste. Her eye was calm,
sad-looking, her features very still, except when her pleasant smile
changed them for a moment, all her outlines were delicate, her voice
was very gentle, but somewhat subdued by years of thoughtful labor, and
on her smooth forehead one little hinted line whispered already that
Care was beginning to mark the trace which Time sooner or later would
make a furrow. She could not be a beauty; if she had been, it would
have been much harder for many persons to be interested in her. For,
although in the abstract we all love beauty, and although, if we were
sent naked souls into some ultramundane warehouse of soul-less bodies
and told to select one to our liking, we should each choose a handsome
one, and never think of the consequences,--it is quite certain that
beauty carries an atmosphere of repulsion as well as of attraction with
it, alike in both sexes. We may be well assured that there are many
persons who no more think of specializing their love of the other sex
upon one endowed with signal beauty, than they think of wanting great
diamonds or thousand-dollar horses. No man or woman can appropriate
beauty without paying for it,--in endowments, in fortune, in position,
in self-surrender, or other valuable stock; and there are a great many
who are too poor, too ordinary, too humble, too busy, too proud, to pay
any of these prices for it. So the unbeautiful get many more lovers
than the beauties; only, as there are more of them, their lovers are
spread thinner and do not make so much show.

The young master stood looking at Helen Darley with a kind of tender
admiration. She was such a picture of the martyr by the slow social
combustive process, that it almost seemed to him he could see a pale
lambent aureole round her head.

"I did not see you at the great party last evening," he said,

She looked up and answered, "No. I have not much taste for such large
companies. Besides, I do not feel as if my time belonged to me after it
has been paid for. There is always something to do, some lesson or
exercise,--and it so happened, I was very busy last night with the new
problems in geometry. I hope you had a good time."

"Very. Two or three of our girls were there. Rosa Milburn. What a
beauty she is! I wonder what she feeds on! Wine and musk and chloroform
and coals of fire, I believe; I didn't think there was such color and
flavor in a woman outside the tropics."

Miss Darley smiled rather faintly; the imagery was not just to her
taste: _femineity_ often finds it very hard to accept the fact of


She stopped short; but her question had asked itself.

"Elsie there? She was, for an hour or so. She looked frightfully
handsome. I meant to have spoken to her, but she slipped away before I
knew it."

"I thought she meant to go to the party," said Miss Darley. "Did she
look at you?"

"She did. Why?"

"And you did not speak to her?"

"No. I should have spoken to her, but she was gone when I looked for
her. A strange creature! Isn't there an odd sort of fascination about
her? You have not explained all the mystery about the girl. What does
she come to this school for? She seems to do pretty much as she likes
about studying."

Miss Darley answered in very low tones. "It was a fancy of hers to
come, and they let her have her way. I don't know what there is about
her, except that she seems to take my life out of me when she looks at
me. I don't like to ask other people about our girls. She says very
little to anybody, and studies, or makes believe study, almost what she
likes. I don't know what she is," (Miss Darley laid her hand,
trembling, on the young master's sleeve,) "but I can tell when she is
in the room without seeing or hearing her. Oh, Mr. Langdon, I am weak
and nervous, and no doubt foolish,--but--if there were women now, as
in the days of our Saviour, possessed of devils, I should think there
was something not human looking out of Elsie Venner's eyes!"

The poor girl's breast rose and fell tumultuously as she spoke, and her
voice labored, as if some obstruction were rising in her throat.

A scene might possibly have come of it, but the door opened. Mr. Silas
Peckham. Miss Darley got away as soon as she well could.

"Why did not Miss Darley go to the party last evening?" said Mr.

"Well, the fact is," answered Mr. Silas Peckham, "Miss Darley, she's
pootty much took up with the school. She's an industris young
woman,--yis, she _is_ industris,--but perhaps she a'n't quite so spry a
worker as some. Maybe, considerin' she's paid for her time, she isn't
fur out o' the way in occoopyin' herself evenin's,--that is, if so be
she a'n't smart enough to finish up all her work in the daytime.
Edoocation is the great business of the Institoot. Amoosements are
objec's of a secondary natur', accordin' to my v'oo." [The unspellable
pronunciation of this word is the touchstone of New England

Mr. Bernard drew a deep breath, his thin nostrils dilating, as if the
air did not rush in fast enough to cool his blood, while Silas Peckham
was speaking. The Head of the Apollinean Institute delivered himself of
these judicious sentiments in that peculiar acid, penetrating tone,
wadded with a nasal twang, which not rarely becomes hereditary after
three or four generations raised upon east winds, salt fish, and large,
white-bellied, pickled cucumbers. He spoke deliberately, as if weighing
his words well, so that, during his few remarks, Mr. Bernard had time
for a mental accompaniment with variations, accented by certain bodily
changes, which escaped Mr. Peckham's observation. First there was a
feeling of disgust and shame at hearing Helen Darley spoken of like a
dumb working animal. That sent the blood up into his cheeks. Then the
slur upon her probable want of force--_her_ incapacity, who made the
character of the school and left this man to pocket its profits--sent a
thrill of the old Wentworth fire through him, so that his muscles
hardened, his hands closed, and he took the measure of Mr. Silas
Peckham, to see if his head would strike the wall in case he went over
backwards all of a sudden. This would not do, of course, and so the
thrill passed off and the muscles softened again. Then came that state
of tenderness in the heart, overlying wrath in the stomach, in which
the eyes grow moist like a woman's, and there is also a great
boiling-up of objectionable terms out of the deep-water vocabulary, so
that Prudence and Propriety and all the other pious Ps have to jump
upon the lid of speech to keep them from boiling _over_ into fierce
articulation. All this was internal, chiefly, and of course not
recognized by Mr. Silas Peckham. The idea, that any full-grown,
sensible man should have any other notion than that of getting the most
work for the least money out of his assistants, had never suggested
itself to him.

Mr. Bernard had gone through this paroxysm, and cooled down, in the
period while Mr. Peckham was uttering these words in his thin, shallow
whine, twanging up into the frontal sinuses. What was the use of losing
his temper and throwing away his place, and so, among the consequences
which would necessarily follow, leaving the poor lady-teacher without a
friend to stand by her ready to lay his hand on the grand-inquisitor
before the windlass of his rack had taken one turn too many?

"No doubt, Mr. Peckham," he said, in a grave, calm voice, "there is a
great deal of work to be done in the school; but perhaps we can
distribute the duties a little more evenly after a time. I shall look
over the girls' themes myself, after this week. Perhaps there will be
some other parts of her labor that I can take on myself. We can arrange
a new programme of studies and recitations."

"We can do that," said Mr. Silas Peckham. "But I don't propose
mater'lly alterin' Miss Darley's dooties. I don't think she works to
hurt herself. Some of the Trustees have proposed interdoosin' new
branches of study, and I expect you will be pootty much occoopied with
the dooties that belong to your place. On the Sabbath you will be able
to attend divine service three times, which is expected of our
teachers. I shall continoo myself to give Sabbath Scriptur'-readin's to
the young ladies. That is a solemn dooty I can't make up my mind to
commit to other people. My teachers enjoy the Lord's day as a day of
rest. In it they do no manner of work,--except in cases of necessity or
mercy, such as fillin' out diplomas, or when we git crowded jest at the
end of a term, or when there is an extry number of poopils, or other
Providential call to dispense with the ordinance."

Mr. Bernard had a fine glow in his cheeks by this time,--doubtless
kindled by the thought of the kind consideration Mr. Peckham showed for
his subordinates in allowing them the between-meeting-time on Sundays
except for some special reason. But the morning was wearing away; so he
went to the school-room, taking leave very properly of his respected
principal, who soon took his hat and departed.

Mr. Peckham visited certain "stores" or shops, where he made inquiries
after various articles in the provision-line, and effected a purchase
or two. Two or three barrels of potatoes, which had sprouted in a
promising way, he secured at a bargain. A side of feminine beef was
also obtained at a low figure. He was entirely satisfied with a couple
of barrels of flour, which, being invoiced "slightly damaged", were to
be had at a reasonable price.

After this, Silas Peckham felt in good spirits. He had done a pretty
stroke of business. It came into his head whether he might not follow
it up with a still more brilliant speculation. So he turned his steps
in the direction of Colonel Sprowle's.

It was now eleven o'clock, and the battlefield of last evening was as
we left it. Mr. Peckham's visit was unexpected, perhaps not very well
timed, but the Colonel received him civilly.

"Beautifully lighted,--these rooms last night!" said Mr. Peckham.

The Colonel nodded.

"How much do you pay for your winter-strained?"

The Colonel told him the price.

"Very hahnsome supper,--very hahnsome! Nothin' ever seen like it in
Rockland. Must have been a great heap of things left over."

The compliment was not ungrateful, and the Colonel acknowledged it by
smiling and saying, "I should think the' was a trifle! Come and look."

When Silas Peckham saw how many delicacies had survived the evening's
conflict, his commercial spirit rose at once to the point of a

"Colonel Sprowle," said he, "there's meat and cakes and pies and
pickles enough on that table to spread a hahnsome colation. If you'd
like to trade reasonable, I think perhaps I should be willin' to take
'em off your hands. There's been a talk about our havin' a celebration
in the Parnassian Grove, and I think I could work in what your folks
don't want and make myself whole by chargin' a small sum for tickets.
Broken meats, of course, a'n't of the same valoo as fresh provisions;
so I think you might be willin' to trade reasonable."

Mr. Peckham paused and rested on his proposal. It would not, perhaps,
have been very extraordinary, if Colonel Sprowle had entertained the
proposition. There is no telling beforehand how such things will strike
people. It didn't happen to strike the Colonel favorably. He had a
little red-blooded manhood in him.

"Sell you them things to make a colation out of?" the Colonel replied.
"Walk up to that table, Mr. Peckham, and help yourself! Fill your
pockets, Mr. Peckham! Fetch a basket, and our hired folks shall fill it
full for ye! Send a cart, if y' like, 'n' carry off them leavin's to
make a celebration for your pupils with! Only let me tell ye this:--as
sure's my name's Hezekiah Spraowle, you'll be known through the taown
'n' through the caounty, from that day forrard, as the Principal of the
Broken-Victuals Institoot!"

Even provincial human-nature sometimes has a touch of sublimity about
it. Mr. Silas Peckham had gone a little deeper than he meant, and come
upon the "hard pan," as the well-diggers call it, of the Colonel's
character, before he thought of it. A militia-colonel standing on his
sentiments is not to be despised. That was shown pretty well in New
England two or three generations ago. There were a good many plain
officers that talked about their "rigiment" and their "caounty" who
knew very well how to say "Make ready!" "Take aim!" "Fire!"--in the
face of a line of grenadiers with bullets in their guns and bayonets on
them. And though a rustic uniform is not always unexceptionable in its
cut and trimmings, yet there was many an ill-made coat in those old
times that was good enough to be shown to the enemy's front rank, too
often to be left on the field with a round hole in its left lapel that
matched another going right through the brave heart of the plain
country captain or major or colonel who was buried in it under the
crimson turf.

Mr. Silas Peckham said little or nothing. His sensibilities were not
acute, but he perceived that he had made a miscalculation. He hoped
that there was no offence,--thought it might have been mutooally
agreeable, conclooded he would give up the idee of a colation, and
backed himself out as if unwilling to expose the less guarded aspect of
his person to the risk of accelerating impulses.

The Colonel shut the door,--cast his eye on the toe of his right boot,
as if it had had a strong temptation,--looked at his watch, then round
the room, and, going to a cupboard, swallowed a glass of deep-red
brandy and water to compose his feelings.



(_With a Digression on "Hired Help"_)

"Abel! Slip Cassia into the new sulky, and fetch her round."

Abel was Dr. Kittredge's hired man. He was born in New Hampshire, a
queer sort of a State, with fat streaks of soil and population where
they breed giants in mind and body, and lean streaks which export
imperfectly nourished young men with promising but neglected appetites,
who may be found in great numbers in all the large towns, or could be
until of late years, when they have been half driven out of their
favorite basement-stories by foreigners, and half coaxed away from them
by California. New Hampshire is in more than one sense the Switzerland
of New England. The "Granite State" being naturally enough deficient in
pudding-stone, its children are apt to wander southward in search of
that deposit,--in the unpetrified condition.

Abel Stebbins was a good specimen of that extraordinary hybrid or mule
between democracy and chrysocracy, a native-born New-England
serving-man. The Old World has nothing at all like him. He is at once
an emperor and a subordinate. In one hand he holds one five-millionth
part (be the same more or less) of the power that sways the destinies
of the Great Republic. His other hand is in your boot, which he is
about to polish. It is impossible to turn a fellow-citizen whose vote
may make his master--say, rather, employer--Governor or President, or
who may be one or both himself, into a flunky. That article must be
imported ready-made from other centres of civilization. When a
New-Englander has lost his self-respect as a citizen and as a man, he
is demoralized, and cannot be trusted with the money to pay for a

It may be supposed, therefore, that this fractional emperor, this
continent-shaper, finds his position awkward when he goes into service,
and that his employer is apt to find it still more embarrassing. It is
always under protest that the hired man does his duty. Every act of
service is subject to the drawback, "I am as good as you are." This is
so common, at least, as almost to be the rule, and partly accounts for
the rapid disappearance of the indigenous "domestic" from the basements
above mentioned. Paleontologists will by-and-by be examining the floors
of our kitchens for tracks of the extinct native species of
serving-man. The female of the same race is fast dying out; indeed, the
time is not far distant when all the varieties of young _woman_ will
have vanished from New England, as the dodo has perished in the
Mauritius. The young _lady_ is all that we shall have left, and the mop
and duster of the last Almira or Loizy will be stared at by generations
of Bridgets and Noras as that famous head and foot of the lost bird are
stared at in the Ashmolean Museum.

Abel Stebbins, the Doctor's man, took the true American view of his
difficult position. He sold his time to the Doctor, and, having sold
it, he took care to fulfil his half of the bargain. The Doctor, on his
part, treated him, not like a gentleman, because one does not order a
gentleman to bring up his horse or run his errands, but he treated him
like a man. Every order was given in courteous terms. His reasonable
privileges were respected as much as if they had been guarantied under
hand and seal. The Doctor lent him books from his own library, and gave
him all friendly counsel, as if he were a son or a younger brother.

Abel had Revolutionary blood in his veins, and though he saw fit to
"hire out," he could never stand the word "servant," or consider
himself the inferior one of the two high contracting parties. When he
came to live with the Doctor, he made up his mind he would dismiss the
old gentleman, if he did not behave according to his notions of
propriety. But he soon found that the Doctor was one of the right sort,
and so determined to keep him. The Doctor soon found, on his side, that
he had a trustworthy, intelligent fellow, who would be invaluable to
him, if he only let him have his own way of doing what was to be done.

The Doctor's hired man had not the manners of a French valet. He was
grave and taciturn for the most part, he never bowed and rarely smiled,
but was always at work in the daytime and always reading in the
evening. He was hostler, and did all the housework that a man could
properly do, would go to the door or "tend table," bought the
provisions for the family,--in short, did almost everything for them
but get their clothing. There was no office in a perfectly appointed
household, from that of steward down to that of stable-boy, which he
did not cheerfully assume. His round of work not consuming all his
energies, he must needs cultivate the Doctor's garden, which he kept in
one perpetual bloom, from the blowing of the first crocus to the fading
of the last dahlia.

This garden was Abel's poem. Its half-dozen beds were so many cantos.
Nature crowded them for him with imagery such as no Laureate could copy
in the cold mosaic of language. The rhythm of alternating dawn and
sunset, the strophe and antistrophe still perceptible through all the
sudden shifts of our dithyrambic seasons and echoed in corresponding
floral harmonies, made melody in the soul of Abel, the plain serving-
man. It softened his whole otherwise rigid aspect. He worshipped God
according to the strict way of his fathers; but a florist's Puritanism
is always colored by the petals of his flowers,--and Nature never shows
him a black corolla.

Perhaps he may have little or nothing to do in this narrative; but as
there must be some who confound the New-England _hired man_,
native-born, with the _servant_ of foreign birth, and as there is the
difference of two continents and two civilizations between them, it did
not seem fair to let Abel bring round the Doctor's mare and sulky
without touching his features in half-shadow into our background.

The Doctor's mare, Cassia, was so called by her master from her
cinnamon color, cassia being one of the professional names for that
spice or drug. She was of the shade we call sorrel, or, as an
Englishman would perhaps say, chestnut,--a genuine "Morgan" mare, with
a low forehand, as is common in this breed, but with strong quarters
and flat hocks, well ribbed up, with a good eye and a pair of lively
ears,--a first-rate doctor's beast,--would stand until her harness
dropped off her back at the door of a tedious case, and trot over hill
and dale thirty miles in three hours, if there was a child in the next
county with a bean in its windpipe and the Doctor gave her a hint of
the fact. Cassia was not large, but she had a good deal of action, and
was the Doctor's show-horse. There were two other animals in his
stable: Quassia or Quashy, the black horse, and Caustic, the old bay,
with whom he jogged round the village.

"A long ride to-day?" said Abel, as he brought up the equipage.

"Just out of the village,--that's all.--There's a kink in her
mane,--pull it out, will you?"

"Goin' to visit some of the great folks," Abel said to himself. "Wonder
who it is."--Then to the Doctor,--"Anybody get sick at Sprowles's? They
say Deacon Soper had a fit, after eatin' some o' their frozen

The Doctor smiled. He guessed the Deacon would do well enough. He was
only going to ride over to the Dudley mansion-house.



If that primitive physician, CHIRON, M.D., appears as a Centaur, as we
look at him through the lapse of thirty centuries, the modern
country-doctor, if he could be seen about thirty miles off, could not
be distinguished from a wheel-animalcule. He _inhabits_ a
wheel-carriage. He thinks of stationary dwellings as Long Tom Coffin
did of land in general; a house may be well enough for incidental
purposes, but for a "stiddy" residence give him a "kerridge." If he is
classified in the Linnaean scale, he must be set down thus: Genus
_Homo_; Species _Rotifer infusorius_,--the wheel-animal of infusions.

The Dudley mansion was not a mile from the Doctor's; but it never
occurred to him to think of walking to see any of his patients'
families, if he had any professional object in his visit. Whenever the
narrow sulky turned in at a gate, the rustic who was digging potatoes,
or hoeing corn, or swishing through the grass with his scythe in
wave-like crescents, or stepping short behind a loaded wheel-barrow,
or trudging lazily by the side of the swinging, loose-throated,
short-legged oxen, rocking along the road as if they had just been
landed after a three-months' voyage,--the toiling native, whatever he
was doing, stopped and looked up at the house the doctor was visiting.

"Somebody sick over there t' Haynes's. Guess th' old man's ailin'
ag'in. Winder's haaef-way open in the chamber,--shouldn't wonder 'f he
was dead and laid aout. Docterin' a'n't no use, when y' see the winders
open like that. Wahl, money a'n't much to speak of to th' old man naow!
He don't want but _tew cents_,--and old Widah Peake, she knows what he
wants them for!"

Or again,--

"Measles raound pootty thick. Briggs's folks's' buried two children
with 'em laaest week. Th' old Doctor, he'd h' ker'd 'em threugh. Struck
in 'n' p'dooeed mot'f cation,--so they say."

This is only meant as a sample of the kind of way they used to think or
talk, when the narrow sulky turned in at the gate of some house where
there was a visit to be made.

Oh, that narrow sulky! What hopes, what fears, what comfort, what
anguish, what despair, in the roll of its coming or its parting wheels!
In the spring, when the old people get the coughs which give them a few
shakes and their lives drop in pieces like the ashes of a burned thread
which have kept the threadlike shape until they were stirred,--in the
hot summer noons, when the strong man comes in from the fields, like
the son of the Shunamite, crying, "My head, my head,"--in the dying
autumn days, when youth and maiden lie fever-stricken in many a
household, still-faced, dull-eyed, dark-flushed, dry-lipped,
low-muttering in their daylight dreams, their fingers moving singly
like those of slumbering harpers,--in the dead winter, when the white
plague of the North has caged its wasted victims, shuddering as they
think of the frozen soil which must be quarried like rock to receive
them, if their perpetual convalescence should happen to be interfered
with by any untoward accident,--at every season, the narrow sulky
rolled round freighted with unmeasured burdens of joy and woe.

The Doctor drove along the southern foot of The Mountain. The "Dudley
mansion" was near the eastern edge of this declivity, where it rose
steepest, with baldest cliffs and densest patches of over-hanging wood.
It seemed almost too steep to climb, but a practised eye could see from
a distance the zigzag lines of the sheep-paths which scaled it like
miniature Alpine roads. A few hundred feet up The Mountain's side was a
dark, deep dell, unwooded, save for a few spindling, crazy--looking
hackmatacks or native larches, with pallid green tufts sticking out
fantastically all over them. It shelved so deeply, that, while the
hemlock-tassels were swinging on the trees around its border, all would
be still at its springy bottom, save that perhaps a single fern would
wave slowly backward and forward like a sabre, with a twist as of a
feathered oar,--and this, when not a breath could be felt, and every
other stem and blade were motionless. There was an old story of one
having perished here in the winter of '86, and his body having been
found in the spring,--whence its common name of "Dead-Man's Hollow."
Higher up there were huge cliffs with chasms, and, it was thought,
concealed caves, where in old times they said that Tories lay
hid,--some hinted not without occasional aid and comfort from the
Dudleys then living in the mansion-house. Still higher and farther west
lay the accursed ledge,--shunned by all, unless it were now and then a
daring youth, or a wandering naturalist who ventured to its edge in the
hope of securing some infantile _Crotalus durissus_, who had not yet
cut his poison-teeth.

Long, long ago, in old Colonial times, the Honorable Thomas Dudley,
Esquire, a man of note and name and great resources, allied by descent
to the family of "Tom Dudley," as the early Governor is sometimes
irreverently called by our most venerable, but still youthful
antiquary,--and to the other public Dudleys, of course,--of all of whom
he made small account, as being himself an English gentleman, with
little taste for the splendors of provincial office,--early in the last
century, Thomas Dudley had built this mansion. For several generations
it had been dwelt in by descendants of the same name, but soon after
the Revolution it passed by marriage into the hands of the Venners, by
whom it had ever since been held and tenanted.

As the Doctor turned an angle in the road, all at once the stately old
house rose before him. It was a skilfully managed effect, as it well
might be, for it was no vulgar English architect who had planned the
mansion and arranged its position and approach. The old house rose
before the Doctor crowning a terraced garden, flanked at the left by a
double avenue of tall elms. The flower-beds were edged with box, which
diffused around it that dreamy balsamic odor, full of ante-natal
reminiscences of a lost Paradise, dimly fragrant as might be the
bdellium of ancient Havilah, the land compassed by the river Pison that
went out of Eden. The garden was somewhat neglected, but not in
disgrace,--and in the time of tulips and hyacinths, of roses, of
"snowballs," of honeysuckles, of lilacs, of syringas, it was rich with

From the front-windows of the mansion the eye reached a far blue
mountain-summit,--no rounded heap, such as often shuts in a
village-landscape, but a sharp peak, clean-angled as Ascutney from the
Dartmouth green. A wide gap through miles of woods had opened this
distant view, and showed more, perhaps, than all the labors of the
architect and the landscape-gardener the large style of the early

The great stone chimney of the mansion-house was the centre from which
all the artificial features of the scene appeared to flow. The roofs,
the gables, the dormer-windows, the porches, the clustered offices in
the rear, all seemed to crowd about the great chimney. To this central
pillar the paths all converged. The single poplar behind the
house,--Nature is jealous of proud chimneys, and always loves to put a
poplar near one, so that it may fling a leaf or two down its black
throat every autumn,--the one tall poplar behind the house seemed to
nod and whisper to the grave square column, the elms to sway their
branches towards it. And when the blue smoke rose from its summit, it
seemed to be wafted away to join the azure haze which hung around the
peak in the far distance, so that both should bathe in a common

Behind the house were clumps of lilacs with a century's growth upon
them, and looking more like trees than like shrubs. Shaded by a group
of these was the ancient well, of huge circuit, and with a low arch
opening out of its wall about ten feet below the surface,--whether the
door of a crypt for the concealment of treasure, or of a subterranean
passage, or merely of a vault for keeping provisions cool in hot
weather, opinions differed.

On looking at the house, it was plain that it was built with Old-World
notions of strength and durability, and, so far as might be, with
Old-World materials. The hinges of the doors stretched out like arms,
instead of like hands, as we make them. The bolts were massive enough
for a donjon-keep. The small window-panes were actually inclosed in the
wood of the sashes, instead of being stuck to them with putty, as in
our modern windows. The broad staircase was of easy ascent, and was
guarded by quaintly turned and twisted balusters. The ceilings of the
two rooms of state were moulded with medallion-portraits and rustic
figures, such as may have been seen by many readers in the famous old
Philipse house,--Washington's headquarters,--in the town of Yonkers.
The fireplaces, worthy of the wide-throated central chimney, were
bordered by pictured tiles, some of them with Scripture stories, some
with Watteau-like figures,--tall damsels in slim waists and with spread
enough of skirt for a modern ballroom, with bowing, reclining, or
musical swains of what everybody calls the "conventional" sort,--that
is, the swain adapted to genteel society rather than to a literal
sheep-compelling existence.

The house was furnished, soon after it was completed, with many heavy
articles made in London from a rare wood just then come into fashion,
not so rare now, and commonly known as mahogany. Time had turned it
very dark, and the stately bedsteads and tall cabinets and claw-footed
chairs and tables were in keeping with the sober dignity of the ancient
mansion. The old "hangings" were yet preserved in the chambers, faded,
but still showing their rich patterns,--properly entitled to their
name, for they were literally hung upon flat wooden frames like
trellis-work, which again were secured to the naked partitions.
There were portraits of different date on the walls of the various
apartments, old painted coats-of-arms, bevel-edged mirrors, and in one
sleeping-room a glass case of wax-work flowers and spangly symbols,
with a legend signifying that E.M. (supposed to be Elizabeth Mascarene)
wished not to be "forgot"

"When I am dead and lay'd in dust
And all my bones are"----

Poor E.M.! Poor everybody that sighs for earthly remembrance in a
planet with a core of fire and a crust of fossils!

Such was the Dudley mansion-house,--for it kept its ancient name in
spite of the change in the line of descent. Its spacious apartments
looked dreary and desolate; for here Dudley Venner and his daughter
dwelt by themselves, with such servants only as their quiet mode of
life required. He almost lived in his library, the western room on the
ground-floor. Its window looked upon a small plat of green, in the
midst of which was a single grave marked by a plain marble slab. Except
this room, and the chamber where he slept, and the servants' wing, the
rest of the house was all Elsie's. She was always a restless, wandering
child from her early years, and would have her little bed moved from
one chamber to another,--flitting round as the fancy took her.
Sometimes she would drag a mat and a pillow into one of the great empty
rooms, and, wrapping herself in a shawl, coil up and go to sleep in a
corner. Nothing frightened her; the "haunted" chamber, with the torn
hangings that flapped like wings when there was air stirring, was one
of her favorite retreats.

She had been a very hard creature to manage. Her father could
influence, but not govern her. Old Sophy, born of a slave mother in the
house, could do more with her than anybody, knowing her by long
instinctive study. The other servants were afraid of her. Her father
had sent for governesses, but none of them ever stayed long. She made
them nervous; one of them had a strange fit of sickness; not one of
them ever came back to the house to see her. A young Spanish woman who
taught her dancing succeeded best with her, for she had a passion for
that exercise, and had mastered some of the most difficult dances.

Long before this period, she had manifested some most extraordinary
singularities of taste or instinct. The extreme sensitiveness of her
father on this point prevented any allusion to them; but there were
stories floating round, some of them even getting into the
papers,--without her name, of course,--which were of a kind to excite
intense curiosity, if not more anxious feelings. This thing was
certain, that at the age of twelve she was missed one night, and was
found sleeping in the open air under a tree, like a wild creature. Very
often she would wander off by day, always without a companion, bringing
home with her a nest, a flower, or even a more questionable trophy of
her ramble, such as showed that there was no place where she was afraid
to venture. Once in a while she had stayed out over night, in which
case the alarm was spread, and men went in search of her, but never
successfully,--so that some said she hid herself in trees, and others
that she had found one of the old Tory caves.

Some, of course, said she was a crazy girl, and ought to be sent to an
Asylum. But old Dr. Kittredge had shaken his head, and told them to
bear with her, and let her have her way as much as they could, but
watch her, as far as possible, without making her suspicious of them.
He visited her now and then, under the pretext of seeing her father on
business, or of only making a friendly call.

* * * * *

The Doctor fastened his horse outside the gate, and walked up the
garden-alley. He stopped suddenly with a start. A strange sound had
jarred upon his ear. It was a sharp prolonged rattle, continuous, but
rising and falling as if in rhythmical cadence. He moved softly towards
the open window from which the sound seemed to proceed.

Elsie was alone in the room, dancing one of those wild Moorish
fandangos, such as a _matador_ hot from the _Plaza de Toros_ of Seville
or Madrid might love to lie and gaze at. She was a figure to look upon
in silence. The dancing frenzy must have seized upon her while she was
dressing; for she was in her bodice, bare-armed, her hair floating
unbound far below the waist of her barred or banded skirt. She had
caught up her castanets, and rattled them as she danced with a kind of
passionate fierceness, her lithe body undulating with flexuous grace,
her diamond eyes glittering, her round arms wreathing and unwinding,
alive and vibrant to the tips of the slender fingers. Some passion
seemed to exhaust itself in this dancing paroxysm; for all at once she
reeled from the middle of the floor, and flung herself, as it were in a
careless coil, upon a great tiger's-skin which was spread out in one corner
of the apartment.

The old Doctor stood motionless, looking at her as she lay panting on
the tawny, black-lined robe of the dead monster, which stretched out
beneath her, its rude flattened outline recalling the Terror of the
Jungle as he crouched for his fatal spring. In a few moments her head
drooped upon her arm, and her glittering eyes closed,--she was
sleeping. He stood looking at her still, steadily, thoughtfully,
tenderly. Presently he lifted his hand to his forehead, as if recalling
some fading remembrance of other years.

"Poor Catalina!"

This was all he said. He shook his head,--implying that his visit would
be in vain to-day,--returned to his sulky, and rode away, as if in a

* * * * *


The romance of "The Marble Faun" will be widely welcomed, not only for
its intrinsic merits, but because it is a sign that its writer, after a
silence of seven or eight years, has determined to resume his place in
the ranks of authorship. In his preface he tells us, that in each of
his previous publications he had unconsciously one person in his eye,
whom he styles his "gentle reader." He meant it "for that one congenial
friend, more comprehensive of his purposes, more appreciative of his.
success, more indulgent of his short-comings, and, in all respects,
closer and kinder than a brother,--that all-sympathizing critic, in
short, whom an author never actually meets, but to whom he implicitly
makes his appeal, whenever he is conscious of having done his best." He
believes that this reader did once exist for him, and duly received the
scrolls he flung "upon whatever wind was blowing, in the faith that
they would find him out." "But," he questions, "is he extant now? In
these many years since he last heard from me, may he not have deemed
his earthly task accomplished, and have withdrawn to the paradise of
gentle readers, wherever it may be, to the enjoyments of which his
kindly charity on my behalf must surely have entitled him?" As we feel
assured that Hawthorne's reputation has been steadily growing with the
lapse of time, he has no cause to fear that the longevity of his gentle
reader will not equal his own. As long as he writes, there will be
readers enough to admire and appreciate.

The publication of this new romance seems to offer us a fitting
occasion to attempt some description of the peculiarities of the genius
of which it is the latest offspring, and to hazard some judgments on
its predecessors. It is more than twenty-five years since Hawthorne
began that remarkable series of stories and essays which are now
collected in the volumes of "Twice-Told Tales," "The Snow Image and
other Tales," and "Mosses from an Old Manse." From the first he was
recognized by such readers as he chanced to find as a man of genius,
yet for a long time he enjoyed, in his own words, the distinction of
being "the obscurest man of letters in America." His readers were
"gentle" rather than enthusiastic; their fine delight in his creations
was a private perception of subtile excellences of thought and style,
too refined and self-satisfying to be contagious; and the public was
untouched, whilst the "gentle" reader was full of placid enjoyment.
Indeed, we fear that this kind of reader is something of an
Epicurean,--receives a new genius as a private blessing, sent by a
benign Providence to quicken a new life in his somewhat jaded sense of
intellectual pleasure; and after having received a fresh sensation, he
is apt to be serenely indifferent whether the creator of it starve
bodily or pine mentally from the lack of a cordial human shout of

There would appear, on a slight view of the matter, no reason for the
little notice which Hawthorne's early productions received. The
subjects were mostly drawn from the traditions and written records of
New England, and gave the "beautiful strangeness" of imagination to
objects, incidents, and characters which were familiar facts in the
popular mind. The style, while it had a purity, sweetness, and grace
which satisfied the most fastidious and exacting taste, had, at the
same time, more than the simplicity and clearness of an ordinary
school-book. But though the subjects and the style were thus popular,
there was something in the shaping and informing spirit which failed to
awaken interest, or awakened interest without exciting delight.
Misanthropy, when it has its source in passion,--when it is fierce,
bitter, fiery, and scornful,--when it vigorously echoes the aggressive
discontent of the world, and furiously tramples on the institutions and
the men luckily rather than rightfully in the ascendant,--this is
always popular; but a misanthropy which springs from insight,--a
misanthropy which is lounging, languid, sad, and depressing,--a
misanthropy which remorselessly looks through cursing misanthropes and
chirping men of the world with the same sure, detecting glance of
reason,--a misanthropy which has no fanaticism, and which casts the
same ominous doubt on subjectively morbid as on subjectively moral
action,--a misanthropy which has no respect for impulses, but has a
terrible perception of spiritual laws,--this is a misanthropy which can
expect no wide recognition; and it would be vain to deny that traces of
this kind of misanthropy are to be found in Hawthorne's earlier, and
are not altogether absent from his later works. He had spiritual
insight, but it did not penetrate to the sources of spiritual joy; and
his deepest glimpses of truth were calculated rather to sadden than to
inspire. A blandly cynical distrust of human nature was the result of
his most piercing glances into the human soul. He had humor, and
sometimes humor of a delicious kind; but this sunshine of the soul was
but sunshine breaking through or lighting up a sombre and ominous
cloud. There was also observable in his earlier stories a lack of vigor,
as if the power of his nature had been impaired by the very
process--which gave depth and excursiveness to his mental vision.
Throughout, the impression is conveyed of a shy recluse, alternately
bashful in disposition and bold in thought, gifted with original and
various capacities, but capacities which seemed to have developed
themselves in the shade, without sufficient energy of will or desire to
force them, except fitfully, into the sunlight. Shakspeare calls
moonlight the sunlight _sick_; and it is in some such moonlight of the
mind that the genius of Hawthorne found its first expression. A mild
melancholy, sometimes deepening into gloom, sometimes brightened into a
"humorous sadness," characterized his early creations. Like his own
Hepzibah Pyncheon, he appeared "to be walking in a dream"; or rather,
the life and reality assumed by his emotions "made all outward
occurrences unsubstantial, like the teasing phantasms of an unconscious
slumber." Though dealing largely in description, and with the most
accurate perceptions of outward objects, he still, to use again his own
words, gives the impression of a man "chiefly accustomed to look
inward, and to whom external matters are of little value or import,
unless they bear relation to something within his own mind." But that
"something within his own mind" was often an unpleasant something,
perhaps a ghastly occult perception of deformity and sin in what
appeared outwardly fair and good; so that the reader felt a secret
dissatisfaction with the disposition which directed the genius, even in
the homage he awarded to the genius itself. As psychological portraits
of morbid natures, his delineations of character might have given a
purely intellectual satisfaction; but there was audible, to the
delicate ear, a faint and muffled growl of personal discontent, which
showed they were not mere exercises of penetrating imaginative
analysis, but had in them the morbid vitality of a despondent mood.

Yet, after admitting these peculiarities, nobody who is now drawn to
the "Twice-Told Tales," from his interest in the later romances of
Hawthorne, can fail to wonder a little at the limited number of readers
they attracted on their original publication. For many of these stories
are at once a representation of early New-England life and a criticism
on it. They have much of the deepest truth of history in them. "The
Legends of the Province House," "The Gray Champion," "The Gentle Boy,"
"The Minister's Black Veil," "Endicott and the Red Cross," not to
mention others, contain important matter which cannot be found in
Bancroft or Grahame. They exhibit the inward struggles of New-England
men and women with some of the darkest problems of existence, and have
more vital import to thoughtful minds than the records of Indian or
Revolutionary warfare. In the "Prophetic Pictures," "Fancy's Show-Box,"
"The Great Carbuncle," "The Haunted Mind," and "Edward Fane's
Rose-Bud," there are flashes of moral insight, which light up, for the
moment, the darkest recesses of the individual mind; and few sermons
reach to the depth of thought and sentiment from which these seemingly
airy sketches draw their sombre life. It is common, for instance, for
religious moralists to insist on the great spiritual truth, that wicked
thoughts and impulses, which circumstances prevent from passing into
wicked acts, are still deeds in the sight of God; but the living truth
subsides into a dead truism, as enforced by commonplace preachers. In
"Fancy's Show-Box," Hawthorne seizes the prolific idea; and the
respectable merchant and respected church-member, in the still hour of
his own meditation, convicts himself of being a liar, cheat, thief,
seducer, and murderer, as he casts his glance over the mental events
which form his spiritual biography. Interspersed with serious histories
and moralities like these, are others which embody the sweet and
playful, though still thoughtful and slightly saturnine action of
Hawthorne's mind,--like "The Seven Vagabonds," "Snow-Flakes," "The
Lily's Quest," "Mr. Higgenbotham's Catastrophe," "Little Annie's
Ramble," "Sights from a Steeple," "Sunday at Home," and "A Rill from
the Town-Pump."

The "Mosses from an Old Manse" are intellectually and artistically an
advance from the "Twice-Told Tales." The twenty-three stories and
essays which make up the volumes are almost perfect of their kind. Each
is complete in itself, and many might be expanded into long romances by
the simple method of developing the possibilities of their shadowy
types of character into appropriate incidents. In description,
narration, allegory, humor, reason, fancy, subtilty, inventiveness,
they exceed the best productions of Addison; but they want Addison's
sensuous contentment and sweet and kindly spirit. Though the author
denies that he has exhibited his own individual attributes in these
"Mosses," though he professes not to be "one of those supremely
hospitable people who serve up their own hearts delicately fried, with
brain-sauce, as a titbit for their beloved public,"--yet it is none the
less apparent that he has diffused through each tale and sketch the
life of the mental mood to which it owed its existence, and that one
individuality pervades and colors the whole collection. The defect of
the serious stories is, that character is introduced, not as thinking,
but as the illustration of thought. The persons are ghostly, with a sad
lack of flesh and blood. They are phantasmal symbols of a reflective
and imaginative analysis of human passions and aspirations. The
dialogue, especially, is bookish, as though the personages knew their
speech was to be printed, and were careful of the collocation and
rhythm of their words. The author throughout is evidently more
interested in his large, wide, deep, indolently serene, and lazily sure
and critical view of the conflict of ideas and passions, than he is
with the individuals who embody them. He shows moral insight without
moral earnestness. He cannot contract his mind to the patient
delineation of a moral individual, but attempts to use individuals in
order to express the last results of patient moral perception. Young
Goodman Brown and Roger Malvin are not persons; they are the mere,
loose, personal expression of subtile thinking. "The Celestial
Railroad," "The Procession of Life," "Earth's Holocaust," "The Bosom
Serpent," indicate thought of a character equally deep, delicate, and
comprehensive, but the characters are ghosts of men rather than
substantial individualities. In the "Mosses from an Old Manse," we are
really studying the phenomena of human nature, while, for the time, we
beguile ourselves into the belief that we are following the fortunes of
individual natures.

Up to this time the writings of Hawthorne conveyed the impression of a
genius in which insight so dominated over impulse, that it was rather
mentally and morally curious than mentally and morally impassioned. The
quality evidently wanting to its full expression was intensity. In the
romance of "The Scarlet Letter" he first made his genius efficient by
penetrating it with passion. This book forced itself into attention by
its inherent power; and the author's name, previously known only to a
limited circle of readers, suddenly became a familiar word in the
mouths of the great reading public of America and England. It may be
said, that it "captivated" nobody, but took everybody captive. Its
power could neither be denied nor resisted. There were growls of
disapprobation from novel-readers, that Hester Prynne and the Rev. Mr.
Dimmesdale were subjected to cruel punishments unknown to the
jurisprudence of fiction,--that the author was an inquisitor who put
his victims on the rack,--and that neither amusement nor delight
resulted from seeing the contortions and hearing the groans of these
martyrs of sin; but the fact was no less plain that Hawthorne had for
once compelled the most superficial lovers of romance to submit
themselves to the magic of his genius. The readers of Dickens voted
him, with three times three, to the presidency of their republic of
letters; the readers of Hawthorne were caught by a _coup d'etat_, and
fretfully submitted to a despot whom they could not depose.

The success of "The Scarlet Letter" is an example of the advantage
which an author gains by the simple concentration of his powers on one
absorbing subject. In the "Twice-Told Tales" and the "Mosses from an
Old Manse" Hawthorne had exhibited a wider range of sight and insight
than in "The Scarlet Letter." Indeed, in the little sketch of "Endicott
and the Red Cross," written twenty years before, he had included in a
few sentences the whole matter which he afterwards treated in his
famous story. In describing the various inhabitants of an early
New-England town, as far as they were representative, he touches
incidentally on a "young woman, with no mean share of beauty, whose
doom it was to wear the letter A on the breast of her gown, in the eyes
of all the world and her own children. And even her own children knew
what that initial signified. Sporting with her infamy, the lost and
desperate creature had embroidered the fatal token in scarlet cloth,
with golden thread and the nicest art of needle-work; so that the
capital A might have been thought to mean Admirable, or anything,
rather than Adulteress." Here is the germ of the whole pathos and
terror of "The Scarlet Letter"; but it is hardly noted in the throng of
symbols, equally pertinent, in the few pages of the little sketch from
which we have quoted.

Two characteristics of Hawthorne's genius stand plainly out, in the
conduct and characterization of the romance of "The Scarlet Letter,"
which were less obviously prominent in his previous works. The first
relates to his subordination of external incidents to inward events.
Mr. James's "solitary horseman" does more in one chapter than
Hawthorne's hero in twenty chapters; but then James deals with the arms
of men, while Hawthorne deals with their souls. Hawthorne relies almost
entirely for the interest of his story on what is felt and done within
the minds of his characters. Even his most picturesque descriptions and
narratives are only one-tenth matter to nine-tenths spirit. The results
that follow from one external act of folly or crime are to him enough
for an Iliad of woes. It might be supposed that his whole theory of
Romantic Art was based on these tremendous lines of Wordsworth:--

"Action is momentary,--
The motion of a muscle, this way or that:
Suffering is long, obscure, and infinite."

The second characteristic of his genius is connected with the first.
With his insight of individual souls he combines a far deeper insight
of the spiritual laws which govern the strangest aberrations of
individual souls. But it seems to us that his mental eye, keen-sighted
and far-sighted as it is, overlooks the merciful modifications of the
austere code whose pitiless action it so clearly discerns. In his long
and patient brooding over the spiritual phenomena of Puritan life, it
is apparent, to the least critical observer, that he has imbibed a deep
personal antipathy to the Puritanic ideal of character; but it is no
less apparent that his intellect and imagination have been strangely
fascinated by the Puritanic idea of justice. His brain has been subtly
infected by the Puritanic perception of Law, without being warmed by
the Puritanic faith in Grace. Individually, he would much prefer to
have been one of his own "Seven Vagabonds" rather than one of the
austerest preachers of the primitive church of New England; but the
austerest preacher of the primitive church of New England would have
been more tender and considerate to a real Mr. Dimmesdale and a real
Hester Prynne than this modern romancer has been to their typical
representatives in the world of imagination. Throughout "The Scarlet
Letter" we seem to be following the guidance of an author who is
personally good-natured, but intellectually and morally relentless.

"The House of the Seven Gables," Hawthorne's next work, while it has
less concentration of passion and tension of mind than "The Scarlet
Letter," includes a wider range of observation, reflection, and
character; and the morality, dreadful as fate, which hung like a black
cloud over the personages of the previous story, is exhibited in more
relief. Although the book has no imaginative creation equal to little
Pearl, it still contains numerous examples of characterization at once
delicate and deep. Clifford, especially, is a study in psychology, as
well as a marvellously subtile delineation of enfeebled manhood. The
general idea of the story is this,--"that the wrong-doing of one
generation lives into the successive ones, and, divesting itself of
every temporary advantage, becomes a pure and uncontrollable mischief";
and the mode in which this idea is carried out shows great force,
fertility, and refinement of mind. A weird fancy, sporting with the
facts detected by a keen observation, gives to every gable of the Seven
Gables, every room in the House, every burdock growing rankly before
the door, a symbolic significance. The queer mansion is
haunted,--haunted with thoughts which every moment are liable to take
ghostly shape. All the Pyncheons who have resided in it appear to have
infected the very timbers and walls with the spiritual essence of their
lives, and each seems ready to pass from a memory into a presence. The
stern theory of the author regarding the hereditary transmission of
family qualities, and the visiting of the sins of the fathers on the
heads of their children, almost wins our reluctant assent through the
pertinacity with which the generations of the Pyncheon race are made
not merely to live in the blood and brain of their descendants, but to
cling to their old abiding-place on earth, so that to inhabit the house
is to breathe the Pyncheon soul and assimilate the Pyncheon
individuality. The whole representation, masterly as it is, considered
as an effort of intellectual and imaginative power, would still be
morally bleak, were it not for the sunshine and warmth radiated from
the character of Phoebe. In this delightful creation Hawthorne for once
gives himself up to homely human nature, and has succeeded in
delineating a New-England girl, cheerful, blooming, practical,
affectionate, efficient, full of innocence and happiness, with all the
"handiness" and native sagacity of her class, and so true and close to
Nature that the process by which she is slightly idealized is
completely hidden.

In this romance there is also more humor than in any of his other
works. It peeps out, even in the most serious passages, in a kind of
demure rebellion against the fanaticism of his remorseless
intelligence. In the description of the Pyncheon poultry, which we
think unexcelled by anything in Dickens for quaintly fanciful humor,
the author seems to indulge in a sort of parody on his own doctrine of
the hereditary transmission of family qualities. At any rate, that
strutting chanticleer, with his two meagre wives and one wizened
chicken, is a sly side fleer at the tragic aspect of the law of
descent. Miss Hepzibah Pyncheon, her shop, and her customers, are so
delightful, that the reader would willingly spare a good deal of
Clifford and Judge Pyncheon and Holgrave, for more details of them and
Phoebe. Uncle Venner, also, the old wood-sawyer, who boasts "that he
has seen a good deal of the world, not only in people's kitchens and
back-yards, but at the street-corners, and on the wharves, and in other
places where his business" called him, and who, on the strength of this
comprehensive experience, feels qualified to give the final decision in
every case which tasks the resources of human wisdom, is a very much
more humane and interesting gentleman than the Judge. Indeed, one
cannot but regret that Hawthorne should be so economical of his
undoubted stores of humor,--and that, in the two romances he has since
written, humor, in the form of character, does not appear at all.

Before proceeding to the consideration of "The Blithedale Romance," it
is necessary to say a few words on the seeming separation of
Hawthorne's genius from his will. He has none of that ability which
enabled Scott and enables Dickens to force their powers into action,
and to make what was begun in drudgery soon assume the character of
inspiration. Hawthorne cannot thus use his genius; his genius always
uses him. This is so true, that he often succeeds better in what calls
forth his personal antipathies than in what calls forth his personal
sympathies. His life of General Pierce, for instance, is altogether
destitute of life; yet in writing it he must have exerted himself to
the utmost, as his object was to urge the claims of an old and dear
friend to the Presidency of the Republic. The style, of course, is
excellent, as it is impossible for Hawthorne to write bad English, but
the genius of the man has deserted him. General Pierce, whom he loves,
he draws so feebly, that one doubts, while reading the biography, if
such a man exists; Hollingsworth, whom he hates, is so vividly
characterized, that the doubt is, while we read the romance, whether
such a man can possibly be fictitious.

Midway between such a work as the "Life of General Pierce" and "The
Scarlet Letter" may be placed "The Wonder-Book" and "Tanglewood Tales."
In these Hawthorne's genius distinctly appears, and appears in its most
lovable, though not in its deepest form. These delicious stories,
founded on the mythology of Greece, were written for children, but they
delight men and women as well. Hawthorne never pleases grown people so
much as when he writes with an eye to the enjoyment of little people.

Now "The Blithedale Romance" is far from being so pleasing a
performance as "Tanglewood Tales," yet it very much better illustrates
the operation, indicates the quality, and expresses the power, of the
author's genius. His great books appear not so much created by him as
through him. They have the character of revelations,--he, the
instrument, being often troubled with the burden they impose on his
mind. His profoundest glances into individual souls are like the
marvels of clairvoyance. It would seem, that, in the production of such
a work as "The Blithedale Romance," his mind had hit accidentally, as
it were, on an idea or fact mysteriously related to some morbid
sentiment in the inmost core of his nature, and connecting itself with
numerous scattered observations of human life, lying unrelated in his
imagination. In a sort of meditative dream, his intellect drifts in the
direction to which the subject points, broods patiently over it, looks
at it, looks into it, and at last looks through it to the law by which
it is governed. Gradually, individual beings, definite in spiritual
quality, but shadowy in substantial form, group themselves around this
central conception, and by degrees assume an outward body and
expression corresponding to their internal nature. On the depth and
intensity of the mental mood, the force of the fascination it exerts
over him, and the length of time it holds him captive, depend the
solidity and substance of the individual characterizations. In this way
Miles Coverdale, Hollingsworth, Westervelt, Zenobia, and Priscilla
become real persons to the mind which has called them into being. He
knows every secret and watches every motion of their souls, yet is, in
a measure, independent of them, and pretends to no authority by which
he can alter the destiny which consigns them to misery or happiness.
They drift to their doom by the same law by which they drifted across
the path of his vision. Individually, he abhors Hollingsworth, and
would like to annihilate Westervelt, yet he allows the superb Zenobia
to be their victim; and if his readers object that the effect of the
whole representation is painful, he would doubtless agree with them,
but profess his incapacity honestly to alter a sentence. He professes
to tell the story as it was revealed to him; and the license in which a
romancer might indulge is denied to a biographer of spirits. Show him a
fallacy in his logic of passion and character, point out a false or
defective step in his analysis, and he will gladly alter the whole to
your satisfaction; but four human souls, such as he has described,
being given, their mutual attractions and repulsions will end, he feels
assured, in just such a catastrophe as he has stated.

Eight years have passed since "The Blithedale Romance" was written, and
during nearly the whole of this period Hawthorne has resided abroad.
"The Marble Faun," which must, on the whole, be considered the greatest
of his works, proves that his genius has widened and deepened in this
interval, without any alteration or modification of its characteristic
merits and characteristic defects. The most obvious excellence of the
work is the vivid truthfulness of its descriptions of Italian life,
manners, and scenery; and, considered merely as a record of a tour in
Italy, it is of great interest and attractiveness. The opinions on Art,
and the special criticisms on the masterpieces of architecture,
sculpture, and painting, also possess a value of their own. The story
might have been told, and the characters fully represented, in
one-third of the space devoted to them, yet description and narration
are so artfully combined that each assists to give interest to the
other. Hawthorne is one of those true observers who concentrate in
observation every power of their minds. He has accurate sight and
piercing insight. When he modifies either the form or the spirit of the
objects he describes, he does it either by viewing them through the
medium of an imagined mind or by obeying associations which they
themselves suggest. We might quote from the descriptive portions of the
work a hundred pages, at least, which would demonstrate how closely
accurate observation is connected with the highest powers of the
intellect and imagination.

The style of the book is perfect of its kind, and, if Hawthorne had
written nothing else, would entitle him to rank among the great masters
of English composition. Walter Savage Landor is reported to have said
of an author whom he knew in his youth, "My friend wrote excellent
English, a language now obsolete." Had "The Marble Faun" appeared
before he uttered this sarcasm, the wit of the remark would have been
pointless. Hawthorne not only writes English, but the sweetest,
simplest, and clearest English that ever has been made the vehicle of
equal depth, variety, and subtilty of thought and emotion. His mind is
reflected in his style as a face is reflected in a mirror; and the
latter does not give back its image with less appearance of effort than
the former. His excellence consists not so much in using common words
as in making common words express uncommon things. Swift, Addison,
Goldsmith, not to mention others, wrote with as much simplicity; but
the style of neither embodies an individuality so complex, passions so
strange and intense, sentiments so fantastic and preternatural,
thoughts so profound and delicate, and imaginations so remote from the
recognized limits of the ideal, as find an orderly outlet in the pure
English of Hawthorne. He has hardly a word to which Mrs. Trimmer would
primly object, hardly a sentence which would call forth the frosty
anathema of Blair, Hurd, Kames, or Whately, and yet he contrives to
embody in his simple style qualities which would almost excuse the
verbal extravagances of Carlyle.

In regard to the characterization and plot of "The Marble Faun," there
is room for widely varying opinions. Hilda, Miriam, and Donatello will
be generally received as superior in power and depth to any of
Hawthorne's previous creations of character; Donatello, especially,
must be considered one of the most original and exquisite conceptions
in the whole range of romance; but the story in which they appear will
seem to many an unsolved puzzle, and even the tolerant and
interpretative "gentle reader" will be troubled with the unsatisfactory
conclusion. It is justifiable for a romancer to sting the curiosity of
his readers with a mystery, only on the implied obligation to explain
it at last; but this story begins in mystery only to end in mist. The
suggestive faculty is tormented rather than genially excited, and in
the end is left a prey to doubts. The central idea of the story, the
necessity of sin to convert such a creature as Donatello into a moral
being, is also not happily illustrated in the leading event. When
Donatello kills the wretch who malignantly dogs the steps of Miriam,
all readers think that Donatello committed no sin at all; and the
reason is, that Hawthorne has deprived the persecutor of Miriam of all
human attributes, made him an allegorical representation of one of the
most fiendish forms of unmixed evil, so that we welcome his destruction
with something of the same feeling with which, in following the
allegory of Spenser or Bunyan, we rejoice in the hero's victory over
the Blatant Beast or Giant Despair. Conceding, however, that
Donatello's act was murder, and not "justifiable homicide," we are
still not sure that the author's conception of his nature and of the
change caused in his nature by that act, are carried out with a
felicity corresponding to the original conception.

In the first volume, and in the early part of the second, the author's
hold on his design is comparatively firm, but it somewhat relaxes as he
proceeds, and in the end it seems almost to escape from his grasp. Few
can be satisfied with the concluding chapters, for the reason that
nothing is really concluded. We are willing to follow the ingenious
processes of Calhoun's deductive logic, because we are sure, that,
however severely they task the faculty of attention, they will lead to
some positive result; but Hawthorne's logic of events leaves us in the
end bewildered in a labyrinth of guesses. The book is, on the whole,
such a great book, that its defects are felt with all the more force.

In this rapid glance at some of the peculiarities of Hawthorne's
genius, we have not, of course, been able to do full justice to the
special merits of the works we have passed in review; but we trust that
we have said nothing which would convey the impression that we do not
place them among the most remarkable romances produced in an age in
which romance-writing has called forth some of the highest powers of
the human mind. In intellect and imagination, in the faculty of
discerning spirits and detecting laws, we doubt if any living novelist
is his equal; but his genius, in its creative action, has been
heretofore attracted to the dark rather than the bright side of the
interior life of humanity, and the geniality which evidently is in him
has rarely found adequate expression. In the many works which he may
still be expected to write, it is to be hoped that his mind will lose
some of its sadness of tone without losing any of its subtilty and
depth; but, in any event, it would be unjust to deny that he has
already done enough to insure him a commanding position in American
literature as long as American literature has an existence.

* * * * *


_Le Prime Quattro Edizioni della Divina Commedia Letteralmente
Ristampate per Cura di_ G.G. WARREN LORD VERNON. Londra: Presso Tommaso
e Guglielmo Boone. MDCCCLVIII. 4to. pp. xxvi., 748.

The zeal with which the study of Dante has been followed by students in
every country of Europe, during the last forty years, is one of the
most illustrative facts of the moral as well as of the intellectual
character of the period. The interest which has attracted men of the
most different tempers and persuasions to this study is not due alone
to the poetic or historic value of his works, however high we may place
them in these respects, but also and especially to the circumstance
that they present a complete and distinct view of the internal life and
spiritual disposition of an age in which the questions which still
chiefly concern men were for the first time positively stated, and
which exhibited in its achievements and its efforts some of the highest
qualities of human nature in a condition of vigor such as they have
never since shown. Dante himself combined a power of imagination beyond
that of any other poet with an intensity and directness of individual
character not less extraordinary. The tendency of modern civilization
is to diminish rather than to strengthen the originality and
independence of individuals. Autocracy and democracy seem to have a
like effect in reducing men to a uniform level of thought and effort.
And thus during a time when these two principles have been brought into
sharp conflict, it is not surprising that the most thoughtful students
should turn to the works of a man who by actual experience, or by force
of imagination, comprehended all the conditions of his own age, and
exhibited in his life and in his writings an individualism of the
noblest sort. The conservative and the reformer, the king and the
radical, the priest and the heretic, the man of affairs and the man of
letters, have taken their seats, side by side, on the scholars'
benches, before the same teacher, and, after listening to his large
discourse, have discussed among themselves the questions in religion,
in philosophy, in morals, politics, or history, which his words
suggested or explained.

The success which has attended these studies has been in some degree
proportioned to the zeal with which they have been pursued. Dante is
now better understood and more intelligently commented than ever
before. Much remains to be done as regards the clearing up of some
difficult points and the explanation of some dark passages,--and the
obscurity in which Dante intentionally involved some portions of his
writings is such as to leave little hope that their absolute meaning
will ever be satisfactorily established. The history of the study of
the poet, of the comments on his meaning or his text, of the formation
of the commonly received text, and of the translations of the "Divina
Commedia," affords much curious and entertaining matter to the lover of
purely literary and bibliographic narrative, and incidentally
illustrates the general character of each century since his death. As
regards the settlement of the text, no single publication has ever
appeared of equal value to that of the magnificent volume the title of
which stands at the head of this notice. Lord Vernon has been known for
many years as the most munificent fosterer of Dantesque publications.
One after another, precious and costly books upon Dante have appeared,
edited and printed at his expense, showing both a taste and a
liberality as honorable as unusual.

The first four editions of the "Divina Commedia," of which this volume
is a reprint, are all of excessive rarity. Although each is a document
of the highest importance in determining the text, few of the editors
of the poem have had the means of consulting more than one or two of
them. The volumes are to be found united only in the Library of the
British Museum, and it is but a few years that even that great
collection has included them all. They were printed originally between
1470 and 1480 at Foligno, Jesi, Mantua, and Naples; and their chief
value arises from the fact that they present the various readings of
three, if not four, early and selected manuscripts. The doubt whether
four manuscripts are represented by them is occasioned by the
similarity between the editions of Foligno and Naples, which are of
such a sort (for instance, correspondence in the most unlikely and odd
misprints) as to prove that one must have served as the basis of the
other. But at the same time there are such differences between them as
indicate a separate revision of each, and possibly the consultation by
their editors of different codices.

Unfortunately, there is no edition of the "Divina Commedia" which can
claim any special authority,--none which has even in a small degree
such authority as belongs to the first folio of Shakspeare's plays. The
text, as now received, rests upon a comparison of manuscripts and early
printed editions; and as affording to scholars the means of an
independent critical judgment upon it, a knowledge of the readings of
these earliest editions is indispensable. But reprints of old books are
proverbially open to error. The reprint of the first folio Shakspeare
is so full of mistakes as to be of comparatively little use. The
character of the Italian language is such that inaccuracies are both
easier and more dangerous than in English. Unless the reprint of the
first four editions were literally correct, it would be of little
value. To secure this correctness, so far as was possible, Lord Vernon
engaged Mr. Panizzi, the chief librarian of the British Museum, to edit
the volume. A more competent editor never lived. Mr. Panizzi is
distinguished not more for his thorough and appreciative acquaintance
with the poetic literature of his country than for the extent and
accuracy of his bibliographical knowledge and the refinement of his
bibliographic skill. There can be no doubt that the reprint is as exact
as the most rigid critic could desire. It is a monument of patience and
of unpretending labor, as well as of typographic beauty,--the work of
the editor having been well seconded by that well-known disciple of
Aldus, Mr. Charles Whittingham.

Nor is it only in essential variations that these four texts are
important, but also in the illustration which their different spelling
and their varying grammatical forms afford in regard to the language
used by Dante. At the time when these editions appeared, the
orthography of the Italian tongue was not yet established, and its
grammatical inflections not in all cases definitely settled. Printing
had not yet been long enough in use to fix a permanent form upon words.
Moreover, the misprints themselves, which in these early editions are
very numerous, often give hints as to the changes which they may have
induced, or as to the misplacing of letters most likely to occur, and
consequently most likely to lead to unobserved errors of the text.

The style of the printing in these first editions, and the aid it may
give, or the difficulty it may occasion, are hardly to be understood
without an extract. We open at _Paradiso_, xv. 70. Cacciaguida has just
spoken to his descendant, and then follows, according to the Foligno,
the following passage:--

Io mi uolfi abeatrice et quella udio
pria chio parlaffi et arofemi un cenno
che fece crefcer lali aluoler mio

Poi cominciai con leefftto elfenno
come laprima equalita napparfe
dun pefo per ciafchun di noi fi fenno

Pero chel fole che nallumo et arfe
colcaldo et conlaluce et fi iguali
che tutte fimiglianze fono fcarfe.

This looks different enough from the common text, that, for example, of
the Florentine edition of 1844.

I' mi volsi a Beatrice, e quella udio
Pria ch' io parlassi, ed arrisemi un cenno
Che fece crescer l' ale al voler mio.

Poi cominciai cosi: L' affetto e il senno,
Come la prima egualita v' apparse,
D' un peso per ciascun di voi si fenno;

Perocche al Sol, che v' allumo ed arse
Col caldo e con la luce, en si iguali,
Che tutte simiglianze sono scarse.

"I turned to Beatrice, and she heard before I spoke, and smiled on me a
sign which added wings to my desire. Then I began thus: Love and
wisdom, as soon as the primal Equality has appeared to you, become of
one weight in each one of you; since in that Sun, which illuminates and
warms you with heat and light, they are so equal, that every comparison
falls short."

The three other ancient texts are each quite as different from the
modern one as that which we have given, nor is the passage one that
affords example of unusual variations. It would have been easy to
select many others varying much more than this, but our object is to
show the general character of these first editions. The second line of
the quotation offers a various reading which is supported by the
_arrossemi_ of the Jesi edition, and the _arossemi_ of that of Naples,
as well as by the text of the comment of Benvenuto da Imola, and some
other early authorities. But even were the weight of evidence in its
favor far greater than it is, it could never be received in place of
the thoroughly Dantesque and exquisite expression, _arrisemi un cenno_,
which is found in the Mantua edition. The _napparse_ and the _noi_ of
the fifth and sixth lines and the _nallumo_ of the seventh are plainly
mistakes of the scribe, puzzled by the somewhat obscure meaning of the
passage. Not one of the four editions before us gives us the right
pronouns, but they are found in the Bartolinian codex, (as well as many
others,) and they are established in the rare Aldine edition of 1502,
the chief source of the modern text. In the eighth line, where we now
read _en si iguali_, the four give us _et_ or _e si iguali_, a reading
from which it is difficult to extract a meaning, unless, with the
Bartolinian, we omit the _che_ in the preceding line, and suppose the
_pero chel_ to stand, not for _perocche al_, but for _perocche
il_,--or, retaining the _che_, read the first words _perocch' e il
Sol_, and take the clause as a parenthesis. The meaning, according to
the first supposition, would be, "Love and wisdom are of one measure in
you, (since the Sun [_sc._ the primal Equality] warmed and enlightened
you,) and so equal that," etc. According to the second supposition, we
should translate, "Since it [the primal Equality] is the sun which,"
etc. Benvenuto da Imola gives still a third reading, making the _e si
iguali_ into _ee si iguale_, or, in modern orthography, _e si iguale_;
but, as this spoils the rhyme, it may be left out of account. There
seems to us to be some ground for believing the second reading
suggested above,

Perocch' e il Sol che v' allumo ed arse
Con caldo e con la luce, e si iguali.

to be the true one, not only from its correspondence with most of the
early copies, but from the rarity of the use of _en_ by Dante. There is
but one other passage in the poem where it is found (_Purgatory_, xvi.

Such is an example, taken at random, of the doubts suggested and the
illustration afforded by these editions in the study of the text. Of
course such minute criticism is of interest only to those few who
reckon Dante's words at their true worth. The common reader may be
content with the text as he finds it in common editions, But Dante,
more than any other author, stimulates his student to research as to
his exact words; for no other author has been so choice in his
selection of them. He is not only the greatest modern master of
condensation in style, but he has the deepest insight into the value
and force of separate words, the most delicate sense of appropriateness
in position, and in the highest degree the poetic faculty of selecting
the word most fitting for the thought and most characteristic in
expression. It rarely happens that the place of a word of any
importance is a matter of indifference in his verse, no regard being
had to the rhythm; and every one sufficiently familiar with the
language in which he wrote to be conscious of its indefinable powers
will feel, though he may be unable to point out specifically, a marked
distinction in the quality and combinations of the words in the
different parts of the poem. The description of the entrance to Hell,
in the third canto of the _Inferno_ is, for instance, hardly more
different from the description of the Terrestrial Paradise,
(_Purgatory_, xxviii.,) in scenery and imagery, than it is in the vague
but absolute qualities of language, in its rhythmical and verbal

But, leaving these subtilties, let us look at some of the disputed
passages of the poem, upon which the texts before us may give their

In the episode of Francesca da Rimini, Mr. Barlow has recently
attempted to give currency to a various reading long known, but never
accepted, in the line (_Inferno_, v. 102) in which Francesca expresses
her horror at the manner of her death. She says, _il modo ancor m'
offende_, "the manner still offends me." But for _il modo_ Mr. Barlow
would substitute _il mondo_, "the world still offends me,"--that is, as
we suppose, by holding a false opinion of her conduct. Mr. Barlow's
suggestions are always to be received with respect, but we cannot but
think him wrong in proposing this change. The spirits in Hell are not
supposed to be aware of what is passing upon earth; they are
self-convicted, (_Purgatory_, xxvi. 85, 86,) and Francesca being doomed
to eternal woe, the world could not do her wrong by taxing her with
sin; while, further, the shudder at the method of her death, lasting
even in torment, seems to us a far more imaginative conception than the
one proposed in its stead. Our four texts read _elmodo_.

In the famous simile (_Inferno_, iii. 112-114) in which Dante compares
the spirits falling from the bank of Acheron to the dead leaves
fluttering from a bough in autumn, giving, as Mr. Ruskin says, "the
most perfect image possible of their utter lightness, feebleness,
passiveness, and scattering agony of despair," our common texts have

infin che il ramo
Rende alla terra tutte le sue spoglie,

"Until the branch gives to the earth all its spoils"; but the texts of
Jesi and Mantua, as well as those of the Bartolinian and the Aldus, and
many other early authorities, here put the word _Vede_ in place of
_Rende_, giving a variation which for its poetic worth well deserves to
be marked, if not to be introduced into the received text. "Until the
branch sees all its spoils upon the earth" is a personification quite
in Dante's manner. A confirmation of the value of this reading is given
by the fact that Tasso preferred it to the more common one, and in his
treatise on the "Art of Poetry" praises it as full of energy.

The value of this work of Lord Vernon's to the students of Dante, in
enabling them to secure accuracy in their statements in regard to the
early texts, has been illustrated to us by finding that Blanc, in his
useful and excellent "Vocabolario Dantesco," has not unfrequently
fallen into error through his inability to consult those first
editions. For example, in the line, (_Inferno_, xviii. 43,) _Percio a
figuralo i piedi affissi_, as it is commonly given, or, _Percio a
firgurarlo gli occhi affissi_, as it appears in some editions, Blanc,
who prefers the latter reading, states that _gli occhi_ is found in
_"toutes les anciennes editions."_ But the truth is, that those of
Foligno and Naples read _ipedi_, that of Jesi has _in piedi_, and that
of Mantua _i pie_. The Aldine of 1502 is the earliest edition we have
seen which has _gli occhi_.

In the episode of Ugolino, (_Inferno,_ xxxiii.,) the verse which has
given rise to more comment, perhaps than any other is that (the 26th)
in which the Count says, according to the usual reading, that the
narrow window in his tower had shown him many moons before he dreamed
his evil dream: _Piu lune gia, quand' i' feci il mal sonno,_ "Many
moons already, when I had my ill slumber." But another reading, found
in a majority of the early MSS. and editions, including those of Jesi
and Mantua gives the variation, _piu lume;_ while the editions of
Foligno and Naples give _lieve_, which, affording no intelligible
meaning, must be regarded as a mere misprint. In spite of the weight
of early authority for _lume_, the reading _lune_ is perhaps to be
preferred, as giving in a word a brief expressive statement of a weary
length of imprisonment,--while _lume_ would only serve to fix the
moment of the dream as having been between the first dawn and the full
day. It is rare that the difference between an _n_ and an _m_ is of
such marked effect.

In the sixth canto of _Purgatory_, verse 58, Virgil says, "Behold there
a soul which _a posta_ looks toward us." Such at least is the common
reading, and the words _a posta_ are explained as meaning _fixedly._
But this signification is somewhat forced, _a posta_, or _apposta_,
being more properly used with the meaning of _on purpose_ or
_deliberately_,--and the first four editions supply a reading without
this difficulty, and one which adds a new and significant feature to
the description. They unite in the omission of the letter _a_. The
passage then bears the meaning,--"But behold there a soul which,
_fixed_, or _placed_, alone and all apart, looks toward us." This
reading, beside being supported by the weight of ancient authority,
finds confirmation, in the context, in the terms in which Sordello's
aspect is described: "How lofty and disdainful didst thou stand! how
slow and decorous in the moving of thy eyes!"

A curious example of the mistakes of the old copies is afforded in the
charming description of the Terrestrial Paradise in the twenty-eighth
canto of the _Purgatory_. Dante says, that the leaves on the trees,
trembling in the soft air, were not so disturbed that the little birds
in their tops ceased from any of their arts,--

che gli augelletti per le cime
Lasciasser d' operare ogni lor arte.

The lines are so plain that a mistake is difficult in them; but, of our
four editions, the Jesi is the only one which gives them correctly.
Foligno and Naples read _angeleti_ for _augelletti_, while Mantua gives
us the astonishing word _intelletti_. Again, in line 98 of the same
canto, all four read, _exaltation dell' acqua_, for the simple and
correct _esalazion dell' acqua_. And in line 131, for _Eunoe si
chiama_, Jesi supplies the curious word _curioce si chiama_.

These examples of error are not of great importance in themselves, and
are easily corrected, but they serve to illustrate the great frequency
of error in all the early texts of the "Divina Commedia," and the
probability that many errors not so readily discovered may still exist
in the text, making difficulties where none originally existed. They
are of value, furthermore, in the wider range of critical studies, as
illustrating in a striking way the liability to error which existed in
all books so long as they were preserved only by the work of scribes.
Here is a poem which was transmitted in manuscript for only about one
hundred and fifty years, the first four printed editions of which show
differences in almost every line. It is no exaggeration to say that the
variations between the editions of Foligno, Jesi, and Mantua, in
orthography, inflection, and other grammatical and dialectic forms, not
to speak of the less frequent, though still numerous differences in the
words themselves, greatly exceed, throughout the poem, the number of
lines of which it is composed. Yet by a comparison of them one with
another a consistent and generally satisfactory text has been formed.
The bearing of this upon the views to be taken of the condition of the
text of more ancient works, as, for instance, that of the Gospels, is

The work before us is so full of matter interesting to the student of
Dante, that we are tempted to go on with further illustrations of it,
though well aware that there are few who have zeal or patience enough
to continue the examination with us. But the number of those in America
who are beginning to read the "Divina Commedia," as something more than
a mere exercise in the Italian language, is increasing, and some of
them, at least, will take pleasure with us in this inquiry concerning
the words, that is, the thoughts of Dante. Why should the minute, but
not fruitless criticism of texts be reserved for the ancient classic
writers? The great poet of the Middle Ages deserves this work at our
hands far more than any of the Latin poets, not excluding even his own
master and guide.

The eleventh canto of the _Paradiso_ is chiefly occupied with the noble
narrative of the life of St. Francis. Reading it as we do, at such a
distance from the time of the events which it records, and with
feelings that have never been warmed into fervor by the facts or the
legends concerning the Saint, it is hard for us to appreciate at its
full worth the beauty of this canto, and its effect upon those who had
seen and conversed with the first Franciscans. Not a century had yet
passed since the death of St. Francis, and the order which he had
founded kept his memory alive in every part of the Catholic world. A
story which may be true or false, and it matters little which, tells us
that Dante himself in his early manhood had proposed to enter its
ranks. There is no doubt that its vows of poverty and chastity, its
arduous but invigorating rule during its early days, appealed with
strong force to his temperament and his imagination, as promising a
withdrawal from those worldly temptations of which he was conscious,
from that pressure of private and public affairs of which he was
impatient. The contrast between the effects which the life of St.
Francis and that of St. Dominic had upon the poet's mind is shown by
the contrast in tone in which in successive cantos he tells of these
two great pillars of the Church.

In lines 71 and 72, speaking of Poverty, the bride of the Saint, he

Si che dove Maria rimase giuso,
Ella con Cristo salse in sulia croce:

"So that whilst Mary remained below, she mounted the cross with
Christ," Such is the common reading. Now in all four of the editions
which are in Lord Vernon's reprint, in Benvenuto da Imola, in the
Bartolinian codex, in the precious codex of Cortona, and in many other
early manuscripts and editions, the word _pianse_ is found in the place
of _salse_; "She lamented upon the cross with Christ." The antithesis,
though less direct, is not less striking, and the phrase seems to us to
become simpler, more natural, and more touching. Yet this reading has
found little favor with recent editors, and one of them goes so far as
to say, "che non solo impoverisce, ma adultera l' idea."

Passing over other variations, some of them of importance, in this
eleventh canto, we find the last verses standing in most modern

E vedra il coreggier che argomenta
U' ben s' impingua, se non si vaneggia.

And the meaning is explained as being,--"And he who is girt with a
leathern cord (_i.e._ the Dominican) will see what is meant by 'Where
well they fatten, if they do not stray.'" But to this there are several
objections. No other example of _coreggier_ thus used is, we believe,
to be found. Moreover, the introduction of a Dominican to learn this
lesson is forced, for it was Dante himself who had had a doubt as to
the meaning of these words, and it was for his instruction that the
discourse in which they were explained was held. We prefer, therefore,
the reading which is found in the editions of Jesi, Foligno, and
Naples, (in part in that of Mantua,) and which is given by many other
ancient texts: _Vedrai_ or _E vedrai il correger che argomenta:_ "Thou
wilt see the reproof which 'Where well they fatten, if they do not
stray,' conveys." This reading has been adopted by Mr. Cayley in his
remarkable translation.

One more instance of the value of Lord Vernon's work, and we have done.
The 106th, 107th, and 108th verses of the twenty-sixth canto of the
_Paradiso_ are among the most difficult of the poem, and have given
rise to great variety of comment. In the edition of Florence of 1830,
in those of Foscolo, and of Costa, and many others, they stand,--

Perch' io la veggio nel verace speglio
Che fa di se pareglie l' altre cose
E nulla face lui di se pareglio.

And they are explained by Bianchi as meaning, "Because I see it in that
true mirror (i. e. God) which makes other things like to themselves,
(that is, represents them as they are,) while nothing can represent Him
like to Himself." Those who love the quarrels of commentators should
look at the notes in the Variorum editions of Padua or Florence to see
with what amusing asperity they have treated each other's solutions of
the passage. Italian words of abuse have a sonorous quality which gives
grandeur to a skirmish of critics. One is declared by his opponent to
have _ingarbugliato_ the clearest meaning; another _guasta il
sentimento_ and _sproposita in grammatica_; a third brings _falso_ and
_assurdo_ to the charge, and, not satisfied with their force, adds
_blasfemo_; a fourth declares that the third has contrived _capovolgere
la consegitenza_; and so on;--from all which the reader, trying to find
shelter from the pelting of hard words, discovers that the meaning is
not clear even to the most confident of the critics. But, standing
apart from the battle, and looking only at the text, and not at the
bewildered comment, we find in the editions of Foligno, Jesi, and
Naples, and in many other ancient texts, a reading which seems to us
somewhat easier than the one commonly adopted. We copy the lines after
the Foligno:--

Per chio laueggio neluerace speglio
che fa dise pareglio alaltre cose
et nulla face lui dise pareglio.

And we would translate them, "Because I see it in that true mirror who
in Himself affords a likeness to [or of] all other things, while
nothing gives back to Him a likeness of Himself." Here _pareglio_
corresponds with the Provencal _parelh_ and the later French
_pareil_,--and the Provencal phrase _rendre le parelha_ affords an
example of similar application to that of the word in Dante.

With us in America, criticism is not rated as it deserves; it is little
followed as a study, and the love for the great masters and poets of
other times and other tongues than our own fails to stimulate the ardor
of students to the thorough examination of their thoughts and words. No
doubt, criticism, as it has too often been pursued, is of small worth,
displaying itself in useless inquiries, and lavishing time and labor
upon insoluble and uninteresting questions. But such is not its true
end. Verbal criticism, rightly viewed, has a dignity which belongs to
few other studies; for it deals with words as the symbols of
thoughts,--with words, which are the most spiritual of the instruments
of human power, the most marvellous of human possessions. It makes
thought accurate, and perception fine. It adds truth to the creations
of imagination by teaching the modes by which they may be best
expressed, and it thus leads to fuller and more appreciative
understanding and enjoyment of the noblest works of the past. There
can, indeed, be no thorough culture without it.

To restore the balance of our lives, in these days of haste, novelty,
and restlessness, there is a need of a larger infusion into them of
pursuits which have no end of immediate publicity or instant return of
tangible profit,--of pursuits which, while separating us from the
intrusive world around us, should introduce us into the freer,
tranquiller, and more spacious world of noble and everlasting thought.
The greener and lonelier precincts of our minds are now trampled upon
by the hurrying feet of daily events and transient interests. If we
would keep that spiritual region unpolluted, we need to acquaint
ourselves with some other literature than that of newspapers and
magazines, and to entertain as familiars the men long dead, yet living
in their works. As Americans, our birthrights in the past are
imperfect; we are born into the present alone. But he who lives only in
present things lives but half a life, and death comes to him as an
impertinent interruption: by living also in the past we learn to value
the present at its worth, to hold ourselves ready for its end. With
Dante, taking him as a guide and companion in our privater moods, we
may, even in the natural body, pass through the world of spirit.

It will be a good indication of the improvement in the intellectual
disposition of our people, when the study of Dante becomes more
general. Meanwhile, on the part of his few students in America, we
would offer our thanks to Lord Vernon and to Mr. Panizzi for the aid
which the liberality of the one and the skill and learning of the other
have given to us, and for the honor they have done to the memory of our
common Author and Leader.

_Notes of Travel and Study in Italy_. By CHARLES ELIOT NORTON. Boston:
Ticknor & Fields. 1860. pp. x., 320.

There is, perhaps, no country with which we are so intimate as with
Italy,--none of which we are always so willing to hear more. Poets and
prosers have alike compared her to a beautiful woman; and while one
finds nothing but loveliness in her, another shudders at her fatal
fascination. She is the very Witch-Venus of the Middle Ages. Roger
Ascham says, "I was once in _Italy_ myself, but I thank God my abode
there was but nine days; and yet I saw in that little time, in one
city, more liberty to sin than ever I heard tell of in our noble city
of London in nine years." He quotes triumphantly the proverb,--_Inglese
italianato, diavolo incarnato_. A century later, the entertaining
"Richard Lassels, Gent., who Travelled through Italy Five times as
Tutor to several of the _English_ Nobility and Gentry," and who is open
to new engagements in that kind, declares, that, "For the Country
itself, it seemed to me to be _Nature's Darling_, and the _Eldest
Sister_ of all other Countries; carrying away from them all the
greatest blessings and favours, and receiving such gracious looks from
the _Sun_ and _Heaven_, that, if there be any fault in _Italy_, it is,
that her Mother _Nature_ hath cockered her too much, even to make her
become Wanton." Plainly, our Tannhaeuser is but too ready to go back to
the Venus-berg!

A new book on Italy seems a dangerous experiment. Has not all been told
and told and told again? Is it not one chief charm of the land, that it
is changeless without being Chinese? Did not Abbot Samson, in 1159,
_Scotti habitum induens_, (which must have shown his massive calves to
great advantage.) probably see much the same popular characteristics
that Hawthorne saw seven hundred years later? Shall a man try to be
entertaining after Montaigne, aesthetic after Winckelmann, wise after
Goethe, or trenchant after Forsyth? Can he hope to bring back anything
so useful as the _fork_, which honest Tom Coryate made prize of two
centuries and a half ago, and put into the greasy fingers of Northern
barbarians? Is not the "Descrittione" of Leandro Alberti still a
competent itinerary? And can one hope to pick up a fresh Latin
quotation, when Addison and Eustace have been before him with their

If there be anything which a person of even moderate accomplishments
may be presumed to know, it is Italy. The only open question left seems
to be, whether Shakespeare were the only man that could write his name
who had never been there. We have read our share of Italian travels,
both in prose and verse, but, as the nicely discriminating Dutchman
found that "too moch brahndee was too moch, but too moch lager-beer was
jost hright," so we are inclined to say that too much Italy is just
what we want. After Des Brosses, we are ready for Henri Beyle, and
Ampere, and Hillard, and About, and Gallenga, and Julia Kavanagh;
"Corinne" only makes us hungry for George Sand. That no one can tell us
anything new is as undeniable as the compensating fact that no one can
tell us anything too old.

There are two kinds of travellers,--those who tell us what they went to
see, and those who tell us what they saw. The latter class are the only
ones whose journals are worth the sifting; and the value of their eyes
depends on the amount of individual character they took with them, and
of the previous culture that had sharpened and tutored the faculty of
observation. In our conscious age the frankness and naivete of the
elder voyagers is impossible, and we are weary of those humorous
confidences on the subject of fleas with which we are favored by some
modern travellers, whose motto should be (slightly altered) from
Horace,--_Flea-bit, et toto cantabitur orbe._ A naturalist
self-sacrificing enough may have this experience more cheaply at home.

The book before us is the record of a second residence in Italy, of
about two years. This in itself is an advantage; since a renewed
experience, after an interval of absence and distraction, enables us to
distinguish what had merely interested us by its strangeness from what
is permanently worthy of study and remembrance. In a second visit we
know at least what we do _not_ wish to see, and our first impressions
have so defined themselves that they afford us a safer standard of
comparison. To most travellers Italy is a land of pure vacation, a
lotus-eating region, "in which it seemeth always afternoon." But Mr.
Norton, whose book shows bow well his time had been employed at home,
could not but spend it to good purpose abroad. The word "study" has a
right to its place on his title-page, and his volume is worthy of a
student. He shows himself to be one who, like Wordsworth, "does not
much or oft delight in personal talk"; there is no gossip between the
covers of his book, no impertinent self-obtrusion. Familiar with what
has been written about Italy by others, he has known how to avoid the
trite highways, and by going back to what was old has found topics that
are really fresh and delightful. The Italy of the ancient Romans is a
foreign country to us, and must always continue so; but the Italy of
the Middle Ages is nearer, not so much in time, as because there is no
impassable rift of religious faith, and consequently of ideas and
motives, between us and it. Far enough away in the centuries to be
picturesque, it is near enough in the sympathy of belief and thought to
be thoroughly intelligible. The chapter on the Brotherhood of the
Misericordia at Florence is remarkably interesting, and the coincidence
which Mr. Norton points out in a note between the circumstances which
led to its foundation and those in which a somewhat similar society
originated in California so lately as 1859 is not only curious, but
pleasant, as showing that there is a natural piety proper to man in all
ages alike. In his account of the building of the Cathedral of Orvieto,
and his notices of Rome as it was when Dante and Petrarch saw it, Mr.
Norton has struck a rich vein, which we hope he will find time to work
more thoroughly hereafter. By the essential fairness of his mind, his
patience in investigation, and his sympathy with what is noble in
character and morally influential in events, he seems to us peculiarly
fitted for that middle ground occupied by the historical essayist, to
whom literature is something cooerdinate with politics, and who finds a
great book more eventful than a small battle.

But if, as a scholar and lover of Art, Mr. Norton naturally turns to
the past, he does not fail to tell us whatever he finds worth knowing
in the present. His tone of mind and habitual subjects of thought may
be inferred from the character of the topics that interest him. The
glimpses he gives us of the actual condition of the people of Italy, as
indicated by their practical conception of the religious dogmas of
their Church, by the quality of the cheap literature that is popular
among them, of the tracts provided for their spiritual aliment by
ecclesiastical authority, and of the caricatures produced in 1848-9,
(as in his notice of "Don Pirlone,") are of special value, and show that
he knows where to look for signs of what lies beneath the surface. His
appreciation of the beautiful in Art has not been cultivated at the
expense of his interest in the moral, political, and physical
well-being of man. His touching sketch of the life of Letterato, the
founder of Ragged Schools, shows that moral loveliness attracts his
sympathy as much when embodied in a life of obscure usefulness as when
it gleams in the saints and angels of Fra Angelico. A conscientious
Protestant, he exposes the corruptions of the Established Church in
Italy, not as an anti-Romanist, but because he sees that they are
practically operative in the social and political degradation of the
people. What good there is never escapes his attention, and we learn
from him much that is new and interesting concerning public charities
and private efforts for the elevation of the lower orders. The miles of
statuary in the Vatican do not weary him so much that he cannot at
night make the round of evening schools for the poor.

We have not read a pleasanter or more instructive book of Italian
travel than this. Mr. Norton's range of interest is so wide that we are
refreshed with continual variety of topic; and his style is pure,
clear, and chaste, without any sacrifice of warmth or richness. It is
always especially agreeable to us to encounter an American who is a
scholar in the true sense of the word, in which sense it is never
dissociated from gentleman. When, as in the present instance,
scholarship is united with a deep and active interest in whatever
concerns the practical well-being of men, we have one of the best
results of our modern civilization. We are no lovers of dilettantism,

Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest