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Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 8, No. 46, August, 1861 by Various

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It is curious and it is instructive to remark how heartily men, as they
grow towards middle age, despise themselves as they were a few years
since. It is a bitter thing for a man to confess that he is a fool; but
it costs little effort to declare that he was a fool, a good while ago.
Indeed, a tacit compliment to his present self is involved in the latter
confession: it suggests the reflection, what progress he has made, and
how vastly he has improved, since then. When a man informs us that he
was a very silly fellow in the year 1851, it is assumed that he is not a
very silly fellow in the year 1861. It is as when the merchant with ten
thousand a year, sitting at his sumptuous table, and sipping his '41
claret, tells you how, when he came as a raw lad from the country, he
used often to have to go without his dinner. He knows that the plate,
the wine, the massively elegant apartment, the silent servants, so
alert, yet so impassive, will appear to join in chorus with the obvious
suggestion, "You see he has not to go without his dinner now!" Did you
ever, when twenty years old, look back at the diary you kept when
you were sixteen,--or when twenty-five, at the diary you kept when
twenty,--or at thirty, at the diary you kept when twenty-five? Was not
your feeling a singular mixture of humiliation and self-complacency?
What extravagant, silly stuff it seemed that you had thus written five
years before! What Veal! and, oh, what a calf he must have been who
wrote it! It is a difficult question, to which the answer cannot be
elicited, Who is the greatest fool in this world? But every candid and
sensible man of middle age knows thoroughly well the answer to the
question, Who was the greatest fool that he himself ever knew? And after
all, it is your diary, especially if you were wont to introduce into it
poetical remarks and moral reflections, that will mainly help you to
the humiliating conclusion. Other things, some of which I have already
named, will point in the same direction. Look at the prize essays you
wrote when you were a boy at school; look even at your earlier prize
essays written at college (though of these last I have something to say
hereafter); look at the letters you wrote home when away at school or
even at college, especially if you were a clever boy, trying to write
in a graphic and witty fashion; and if you have reached sense at last,
(which some, it may be remarked, never do,) I think you will blush even
through the unblushing front of manhood, and think what a terrific,
unutterable, conceited, intolerable blockhead you were. It is not till
people attain somewhat mature years that they can rightly understand
the wonderful forbearance their parents must have shown in listening
patiently to the frightful nonsense they talked and wrote. I have
already spoken of sermons. If you go early into the Church, say at
twenty-three or twenty-four, and write sermons regularly and diligently,
you know what landmarks they will be of your mental progress. The first
runnings of the stream are turbid, but it clears itself into sense and
taste month by month and year by year. You wrote many sermons in your
first year or two; you preached them with entire confidence in them,
and they did really keep up the attention of the congregation in a
remarkable way. You accumulate in a box a store of that valuable
literature and theology, and when by-and-by you go to another parish,
you have a comfortable feeling that you have a capital stock to go on
with. You think that any Monday morning, when you have the prospect of
a very busy week, or when you feel very weary, you may resolve that you
shall write no sermon that week, but just go and draw forth one from the
box. I have already said what you will probably find, even if you draw
forth a discourse which cost much labor. You cannot use it as it stands.
Possibly it may be structural and essential Veal: the whole framework of
thought may be immature. Possibly it may be Veal only in style; and by
cutting out a turgid sentence here and there, and, above all, by cutting
out all the passages which you thought particularly eloquent, the
discourse may do yet. But even then you cannot give it with much
confidence. Your mind can yield something better than that now. I
imagine how a fine old orange-tree, that bears oranges with the thinnest
possible skin and with no pips, juicy and rich, might feel that it has
outgrown the fruit of its first years, when the skin was half an inch
thick, the pips innumerable, and the eatable portion small and poor. It
is with a feeling such as _that_ that you read over your early
sermon. Still, mingling with the sense of shame, there is a certain
satisfaction. You have not been standing still; you have been getting
on. And we always like to think _that_.

What is it that makes intellectual Veal? What are the things about a
composition which stamp it as such? Well, it is a certain character in
thought and style hard to define, but strongly felt by such as discern
its presence at all. It is strongly felt by professors reading the
compositions of their students, especially the compositions of the
cleverest students. It is strongly felt by educated folk of middle age,
in listening to the sermons of young pulpit orators, especially of
such as think for themselves, of such as aim at a high standard of
excellence, of such as have in them the makings of striking and eloquent
preachers. Dull and stupid fellows never deviate into the extravagance
and absurdity which I specially understand by Veal. They plod along in
a humdrum manner; there is no poetry in their soul,--none of those
ambitious stirrings which lead the man who has in him the true spark of
genius to try for grand things and incur severe and ignominious tumbles.
A heavy dray-horse, walking along the road, may possibly advance at a
very lagging pace, or may even stand still; but whatever he may do, he
is not likely to jump violently over the hedge, or to gallop off at
twenty-five miles an hour. It must be a thoroughbred who will go wrong
in that grand fashion. And there are intellectual absurdities and
extravagances which hold out hopeful promise of noble doings yet: the
eagle, which will breast the hurricane yet, may meet various awkward
tumbles before he learns the fashion in which to use those iron wings.
But the substantial goose, which probably escapes those tumbles in
trying to fly, will never do anything very magnificent in the way of
flying. The man who in his early days writes in a very inflated and
bombastic style will gradually sober down into good sense and accurate
taste, still retaining something of liveliness and eloquence. But expect
little of the man who as a boy was always sensible, and never bombastic.
He will grow awfully dry. He is sure to fall into the unpardonable sin
of tiresomeness. The rule has exceptions; but the earliest productions
of a man of real genius are almost always crude, flippant, and
affectedly smart, or else turgid and extravagant in a high degree.
Witness Mr. Disraeli; witness Sir E.B. Lytton; witness even Macaulay.
The man who as mere boy writes something very sound and sensible will
probably never become more than a dull, sensible, commonplace man.
Many people can say, as they bethink themselves of their old college
companions, that those who wrote with good sense and good taste at
twenty have mostly settled down into the dullest and baldest of prosers;
while such as dealt in bombastic flourishes and absurd ambitiousness of
style have learned, as time went on, to prune their early luxuriances,
while still retaining something of raciness, interest, and ornament.

I have been speaking very generally of the characteristics of Veal in
composition. It is difficult to give any accurate description of it that
shall go into minuter details. Of course it is easy to think of little
external marks of the beast,--that is, the calf. It is Veal in style,
when people, writing prose, think it a fine thing to write _o'er_
instead of _over_, _ne'er_ instead of _never_, _poesie_ instead of
_poetry_, and _methinks_ under any circumstances whatsoever. References
to the heart are generally of the nature of Veal; also allusions to the
mysterious throbbings and yearnings of our nature. The word _grand_ has
of late come to excite a strong suspicion of Veal; and when I read the
other day in a certain poem something about a _great grand man_, I
concluded that the writer of that poem was meanwhile a great grand calf.
The only case in which the words may properly be used together is in
speaking of your great-grandfather. To talk about _mine_ affections,
meaning _my_ affections, is Veal; and _mine bonnie love_ was decided
Veal, though it was written by Charlotte Bronte. _Wife mine_ is Veal,
though it stands in "The Caxtons." I should rather like to see the man
who in actual life is accustomed to address his spouse in that fashion.
To say _Not, oh, never_ shall we do so and so is outrageous Veal.
_Sylvan grove_ or _sylvan vale_ in ordinary conversation is Veal. The
word _glorious_ should be used with caution; when applied to trees,
mountains, or the like, there is a strong suspicion of Veal about it.
But one feels that in saying these things we are not getting at the
essence of Veal. Veal in thought is essential Veal, and it is very hard
to define. Beyond extravagant language, beyond absurd fine things, it
lies in a certain lack of reality and sobriety of sense and view,--in a
certain indefinable jejuneness in the mental fare provided, which makes
mature men feel that somehow it does not satisfy their cravings. You
know what I mean better than I can express it. You have seen and heard
a young preacher, with a rosy face and an unlined brow, preaching about
the cares and trials of life. Well, you just feel at once he knows
nothing about them. You feel that all this is at second-hand. He is
saying all this because he supposes it is the right thing to say. Give
me the pilot to direct me who has sailed through the difficult channel
many a time himself. Give me the friend to sympathize with me in sorrow
who has felt the like. There is a hollowness, a certain want, in the
talk about much tribulation of the very cleverest man who has never felt
any great sorrow at all. The great force and value of all teaching lie
in the amount of personal experience which is embodied in it. You feel
the difference between the production of a wonderfully clever boy and of
a mature man, when you read the first canto of "Childe Harold," and then
read "Philip van Artevelde." I do not say but that the boy's production
may have a liveliness and interest beyond the man's. Veal is in certain
respects superior to Beef, though Beef is best on the whole. I have
heard Vealy preachers whose sermons kept up breathless attention. From
the first word to the last of a sermon which was unquestionable Veal, I
have witnessed an entire congregation listen with that audible hush you
know. It was very different, indeed, from the state of matters when a
humdrum old gentleman was preaching, every word spoken by whom was the
maturest sense, expressed in words to which the most fastidious taste
could have taken no exception; but then the whole thing was sleepy: it
was a terrible effort to attend. In the case of the Veal there was no
effort at all. I defy you to help attending. But then you sat in pain.
Every second sentence there was some outrageous offence against good
taste; every third statement was absurd, or overdrawn, or almost
profane. You felt occasional thrills of pure disgust and horror, and you
were in terror what might come next. One thing which tended to carry all
this off was the manifest confidence and earnestness of the speaker.
_He_ did not think it Veal that he was saying. And though great
consternation was depicted on the faces of some of the better-educated
people in church, you could see that a very considerable part of the
congregation did not think it Veal either. There can be no doubt, my
middle-aged friend, if you could but give your early sermons now with
the confidence and fire of the time when you wrote them, they would make
a deep impression on many people yet. But it is simply impossible for
you to give them; and if you should force yourself some rainy Sunday to
preach one of them, you would give it with such a sense of its errors,
and with such an absence of corresponding feeling, that it would fall
very flat and dead. Your views are maturing; your taste is growing
fastidious; the strong things you once said you could not bring yourself
to say now. If you _could_ preach those old sermons, there is no doubt
they would go down with the mass of uncultivated folk,--go down better
than your mature and reasonable ones. We have all known such cases as
that of a young preacher who, at twenty-five, in his days of Veal, drew
great crowds to the church at which he preached, and who at thirty-five,
being a good deal tamed and sobered, and in the judgment of competent
judges vastly improved, attracted no more than a respectable
congregation. A very great and eloquent preacher lately lamented to me
the uselessness of his store of early discourses. If he could but get
rid of his present standard of what is right and good in thought and
language, and preach them with the enchaining fire with which he
preached them once! For many hearers remain immature, though the
preacher has matured. Young people are growing up, and there are people
whose taste never ripens beyond the enjoyment of Veal. There is a period
in the mental development of those who will be ablest and maturest, at
which Vealy thought and language are accepted as the best. Veal will be
highly appreciated by sympathetic calves; and the greatest men, with
rare exceptions, are calves in youth, while many human beings are calves
forever. And here I may remark, as something which has afforded me
consolation on various occasions within the last year, that it seems
unquestionable that sermons which are utterly revolting to people of
taste and sense have done much good to large masses of those people in
whom common sense is most imperfectly developed, and in whom taste is
not developed at all; and accordingly, wherever one is convinced of the
sincerity of the individuals, however foolish and uneducated, who go
about pouring forth those violent, exaggerated, and all but blasphemous
discourses of which I have read accounts in the newspapers, one would
humbly hope that a Power which works by many means would bring about
good even through an instrumentality which it is hard to contemplate
without some measure of horror. The impression produced by most things
in this world is relative to the minds on which the impression is
produced. A coarse ballad, deficient in rhyme and rhythm, and only half
decent, will keep up the attention of a rustic group to whom you might
read from "In Memoriam" in vain. A waistcoat of glaring scarlet will be
esteemed by a country bumpkin a garment every way preferable to one of
aspect more subdued. A nigger melody will charm many a one who would
yawn at Beethoven. You must have rough means to move rough people.
The outrageous revival-orator may do good to people to whom Bishop
Wilberforce or Dr. Caird might preach to no purpose; and if real good be
done, by whatever means, all right-minded people should rejoice to hear
of it.

* * * * *

And this leads to an important practical question, on which men at
different periods of life will never agree. _When_ shall thought be
regarded as mature? Is there a standard by which we may ascertain beyond
question whether a composition be Veal or Beef? I sigh for fixity and
assurance in matters aesthetical. It is vexatious that what I think very
good my friend Smith thinks very bad. It is vexatious that what strikes
me as supreme and unapproachable excellence strikes another person, at
least as competent to form an opinion, as poor. And I am angry with
myself when I feel that I honestly regard as inflated commonplace and
mystical jargon what a man as old and (let us say) nearly as wise
as myself thinks the utterance of a prophet. You know how, when
you contemplate the purchase of a horse, you lead him up to the
measuring-bar, and there ascertain the precise number of hands and
inches which he stands. How have I longed for the means of subjecting
the mental stature of human beings to an analogous process of
measurement! Oh for some recognized and unerring gauge of mental
calibre! It would be a grand thing, if somewhere in a very conspicuous
position--say on the site of the National Gallery at Charing
Cross--there were a pillar erected, graduated by some new Fahrenheit,
on which we could measure the height of a man's mind. How delightful it
would be to drag up some pompous pretender who passes off at once upon
himself and others as a profound and able man, and make him measure his
height upon that pillar, and understand beyond all cavil what a pigmy
he is! And how pleasant, too, it would be to bring up some man of
unacknowledged genius, and make the world see the reach of _his_
intellectual stature! The mass of educated people, even, are so
incapable of forming any estimate of a man's ability, that it would be
a blessing, if men could be sent out into the world with the stamp upon
them, telling what are their weight and value, plain for every one to
see. But of course there are many ways in which a book, sermon, or essay
may be bad without being Vealy. It may be dull, stupid, illogical,
and the like, and yet have nothing of boyishness about it. It may be
insufferably bad, yet quite mature. Beef may be bad, and yet undoubtedly
Beef. And the question now is, not so much whether there be a standard
of what is in a literary sense good or bad, as whether there be a
standard of what is Veal and what is Beef. And there is a great
difficulty here. Is a thing to be regarded as mature, when it suits your
present taste, when it is approved by your present deliberate judgment?
For your taste is always changing: your standard is not the same for
three successive years of your early youth. The Veal you now despise you
thought Beef when you wrote it. And so, too, with the productions of
other men. You cannot read now without amazement the books which used
to enchant you as a child. I remember when I used to read Hervey's
"Meditations" with great delight. That was when I was about five years
old. A year or two later I greatly affected Macpherson's translation of
Ossian. It is not so very long since I felt the liveliest interest in
Tupper's "Proverbial Philosophy." Let me confess that I retain a kindly
feeling towards it yet; and that I am glad to see that some hundreds
of thousands of readers appear to be still in the stage out of which I
passed some years since. Yes, as you grow older, your taste changes: it
becomes more fastidious; and especially you come to have always less
toleration for sentimental feeling and for flights of fancy. And besides
this gradual and constant progression, which holds on uniformly year
after year, there are changes in mood and taste sometimes from day to
day and from hour to hour. The man who did a very silly thing thought
it was a wise thing when he did it. He sees the matter differently in a
little while. On the evening after the Battle of Waterloo, the Duke of
Wellington wrote a certain letter. History does not record its matter or
style. But history does record, that some years afterwards the Duke paid
a hundred guineas to get it back again,--and that, on getting it, he
instantly burned it, exclaiming, that, when he wrote it, he must have
been the greatest idiot on the face of the earth. Doubtless, if we had
seen that letter, we should have heartily coincided in the sentiment of
the hero. He _was_ an idiot when he wrote it, but he did not think that
he was one. I think, however, that there is a standard of sense and
folly, and that there is a point at which Veal is Veal no more. But I do
not believe that thought can justly be called mature only when it has
become such as to suit the taste of some desperately dry old gentleman,
with as much feeling as a log of wood, and as much imagination as an
oyster. I know how intolerant some dull old fogies are of youthful
fire and fancy. I shall not be convinced that any discourse is puerile
because it is pronounced such by the venerable Dr. Dryasdust. I remember
that the venerable man has written many pages, possibly abundant in
sound sense, but which no mortal could read, and to which no mortal
could listen. I remember, that, though that not very amiable individual
has outlived such wits as he once had, he has not outlived the
unbecoming emotions of envy and jealousy; and he retains a strong
tendency to evil-speaking and slandering. You told me, unamiable
individual, how disgusted you were at hearing a friend of mine, who is
one of the best preachers in Britain, preach one of his finest sermons.
Perhaps you really were disgusted: there is such a thing as casting
pearls before swine, who will not appreciate them highly. But you went
on to give an account of what the great preacher said; and though I
know you are extremely stupid, you are not quite so stupid as to have
actually fancied that the great preacher said what you reported that he
said: you were well aware that you were grossly misrepresenting him. And
when I find malice and insincerity in one respect, I am ready to suspect
them in another: and I venture to doubt whether you were disgusted.
Possibly you were only ferocious at finding yourself so unspeakably
excelled. But even if you had been really disgusted, and even if you
were a clever man, and even if you were above the suspicion of jealousy,
I should not think that my friend's noble discourse was puerile because
you thought it so. It is not when the warm feelings of earlier days are
dried up into a cold, time-worn cynicism, that I think a man has become
the best judge of the products of the human brain and heart. It is
a noble thing when a man grows old retaining something of youthful
freshness and fervor. It is a fine thing to ripen without shrivelling,--
to reach the calmness of age, yet keep the warm heart and ready sympathy
of youth. Show me such a man as _that_, and I shall be content to bow to
_his_ decision whether a thing be Veal or not. But as such men are not
found very frequently, I should suggest it as an approximation to a
safe criterion, that a thing may be regarded as mature when it is
deliberately and dispassionately approved by an educated man of good
ability and above thirty years of age. No doubt a man of fifty may
hold that fifty is the age of sound taste and sense; and a youth of
twenty-three may maintain that he is as good a judge of human doings
now as he will ever be. I do not claim to have proposed an infallible
standard. I give you my present belief, being well aware that it is very
likely to alter.

It is not desirable that one's taste should become too fastidious, or
that natural feeling should be refined away. And a cynical young man is
bad, but a cynical old one is a great deal worse. The cynical young
man is probably shamming; he is a humbug, not a cynic. But the old man
probably _is_ a cynic, as heartless as he seems. And without thinking
of cynicism, real or affected, let us remember, that, though the taste
ought to be refined, and daily refining, it ought not to be refined
beyond being practically serviceable. Let things be good, but not too
good to be workable. It is expedient that a cart for conveying coals
should be of neat and decent appearance. Let the shafts be symmetrical,
the boards well-planed, the whole strong, yet not clumsy; and over the
whole let the painter's skill induce a hue rosy as beauty's cheek, or
dark-blue as her eye. All _that_ is well; and while the cart will carry
its coals satisfactorily, it will stand a good deal of rough usage, and
it will please the eye of the rustic who sits in it on an empty sack and
whistles as it moves along. But it would be highly inexpedient to make
that cart of walnut of the finest grain and marking, and to have it
French-polished. It would be too fine to be of use; and its possessor
would fear to scratch it, and would preserve it as a show, seeking some
plainer vehicle to carry his coals. In like manner, do not refine too
much either the products of the mind, or the sensibilities of the taste
which is to appreciate them. I know an amiable professor very different
from Dr. Dryasdust. He was a country clergyman,--a very interesting
plain preacher. But when he got his chair, he had to preach a good deal
in the college chapel; and by way of accommodating his discourses to an
academic audience, he rewrote them carefully, rubbed off all the salient
points, cooled down whatever warmth was in them to frigid accuracy,
toned down everything striking. The result was that his sermons became
eminently classical and elegant; only they became impossible to attend
to, and impossible to remember; and when you heard the good man preach,
you sighed for the rough and striking heartiness of former days. And
we have all heard of such a thing as taste refined to that painful
sensitiveness, that it became a source of torment,--that is, unfitted
for common enjoyments and even for common duties. There was once a great
man, let us say at Melipotamus, who never went to church. A clergyman
once, in speaking to a friend of the great man, lamented that the great
man set so bad an example before his humbler neighbors. "How _can_ that
man go to church?" was the reply; "his taste, and his entire critical
faculty, are sharpened, to that degree, that, in listening to any
ordinary preacher, he feels outraged and shocked at every fourth
sentence he hears, by its inelegance or its want of logic; and the
entire sermon torments him by its unsymmetrical structure, its want of
perspective in the presentment of details, and its general literary
badness." I quite believe that there was a moderate proportion of truth
in the excuse thus urged; and you will probably judge that it would have
been better, had the great man's mind not been brought to so painful a

The mention of dried-up old gentlemen reminds one of a question which
has sometimes perplexed me. Is it Vealy to feel or to show keen emotion?
Is it a precious result and indication of the maturity of the human mind
to look as if you felt nothing at all? I have often looked with wonder,
and with a moderate amount of veneration, at a few old gentlemen whom I
know well, who are leading members of a certain legislative and judicial
council held in great respect in a country of which no more need be
said. I have beheld these old gentlemen sitting apparently quite
unmoved, when discussions were going on in which I knew they felt a very
deep interest, and when the tide of debate was setting strongly against
their peculiar views. There they sat, impassive as a Red Indian at the
stake. I think of a certain man who, while a smart speech on the other
side is being made, retains a countenance expressing actually nothing;
he looks as if he heard nothing, felt nothing, cared for nothing. But
when the other man sits down, he rises to reply. He speaks slowly at
first, but every weighty word goes home and tells: he gathers warmth and
rapidity as he goes on, and in a little you become aware that for a few
hundred pounds a year you may sometimes get a man who would have made
an Attorney-General or a Lord-Chancellor; you discern, that, under
the appearance of almost stolidity, there was the sharpest attention
watching every word of the argument of the other speaker, and ready to
come down on every weak point in it; and the other speaker is (in a
logical sense) pounded to jelly by a succession of straight-handed hits.
Yes, it is a wonderful thing to find a combination of coolness and
earnestness. But I am inclined to believe that the reason why some old
gentlemen look as if they did not care is that in fact they don't care.
And there is no particular merit in looking cool while a question is
being discussed, if you really do not mind a rush which way it may be
decided. A keen, unvarying, engrossing regard for one's self is a great
safeguard against over-excitement in regard to all the questions of the
day, political, social, and religious.

* * * * *

It is a curious, but certain fact, that clever young men, at that period
of their life when their own likings tend towards Veal, know quite
well the difference between Veal and Beef, and are quite able, when
necessary, to produce the latter. The tendency to boyishness of thought
and style may be repressed, when you know you are writing for the
perusal of readers with whom _that_ will not go down. A student of
twenty, who has in him great talent, no matter how undue a supremacy his
imagination may meanwhile have, if he be set to producing an essay in
Metaphysics to be read by professors of philosophy, will produce a
composition singularly free from any trace of immaturity. For such a
clever youth, though he may have a strong bent towards Veal, has in him
an instinctive perception that it _is_ Veal, and a keen sense of what
will and will not do for the particular readers he has to please. Go,
you essayist who carried off a host of university honors, and read over
now the prize essays you wrote at twenty-one or twenty-two. I think
the thing that will mainly strike you will be, how very mature these
compositions are,--how ingenious, how judicious, how free from
extravagance, how quietly and accurately and even felicitously
expressed. _They_ are not Veal. And yet you know that several years
after you wrote them you were still writing a great deal which was Veal
beyond all question. But then a clever youth can produce material to any
given standard; and you wrote the essays not to suit your own taste, but
to suit what you intuitively knew was the taste of the grave and even
smoke-dried professors who were to read them and sit in judgment on

And though it is very fit and right that the academic standard should be
an understood one, and quite different from the popular standard, still
it is not enough that a young man should be able to write to a standard
against which he in his heart rebels and protests. It is yet more
important that you should get him to approve and adopt a standard which
is accurate, if not severe. It is quite extraordinary what bombastic
and immature sermons are preached in their first years in the Church by
young clergymen who wrote many academic compositions in a style the
most classical. It seems to be essential that a man of feeling and
imagination should be allowed fairly to run himself out. The course
apparently is, that the tree should send out its rank shoots, and then
that you should prune them, rather than that by some repressive means
you should prevent the rank shoots coming forth at all. The way to get a
high-spirited horse to be content to stay peaceably in its stall is to
allow it to have a tearing gallop, and thus get out its superfluous
nervous excitement and vital spirit. Let the boiler blow off its steam.
All repression is dangerous. And some injudicious folk, instead of
encouraging the highly-charged mind and heart to relieve themselves
by blowing off in excited verse and extravagant bombast, would (so to
speak) sit on the safety-valve. Let the bursting spring flow! It will
run turbid at first; but it will clear itself day by day. Let a young
man write a vast deal: the more he writes, the sooner will the Veal be
done with. But if a man write very little, the bombast is not blown off;
and it may remain till advanced years. It seems as if a certain quantity
of fustian must be blown off before you reach the good material. I have
heard a mercantile man of fifty read a paper he had written on a social
subject. He had written very little save business letters all his life.
And I assure you that his paper was bombastic to a degree that you would
have said was barely tolerable in a youth of twenty. I have seldom
listened to Veal so outrageous. You see he had not worked through it in
his youth; and so here it was now. I have witnessed the like phenomenon
in a man who went into the Church at five-and-forty. I heard him preach
one of his earliest sermons, and I have hardly ever heard such boyish
rhodomontade. The imaginations of some men last out in liveliness longer
than those of others; and the taste of some men never becomes perfect;
and it is no doubt owing to these things that you find some men
producing Veal so much later in life than others. You will find men who
are very turgid and magniloquent at five-and-thirty, at forty, at fifty.
But I attribute the phenomenon in no small measure to the fact that such
men had not the opportunity of blowing off their steam in youth. Give
a man at four-and-twenty two sermons to write a week, and he will
very soon work through his Veal. It is probably because ladies write
comparatively so little, that you find them writing at fifty poetry and
prose of the most awfully romantic and sentimental strain.

* * * * *

We have been thinking, my friend, as you have doubtless observed, almost
exclusively of intellectual and aesthetical immaturity, and of its
products in composition, spoken or written. But combining with that
immaturity, and going very much to affect the character of that Veal,
there is moral immaturity, resulting in views, feelings, and conduct
which may be described as Moral Veal. But, indeed, it is very difficult
to distinguish between the different kinds of immaturity, and to say
exactly what in the moods and doings of youth proceeds from each. It is
safest to rest in the general proposition, that, even as the calf yields
Veal, so does the immature human mind yield immature productions. It
is a stage which you outgrow, and therefore a stage of comparative
immaturity, in which you read a vast deal of poetry, and repeat much
poetry to yourself when alone, working yourself up thereby to an
enthusiastic excitement. And very like a calf you look, when some one
suddenly enters the room in which you are wildly gesticulating or
moodily laughing, and thinking yourself poetical, and, indeed, sublime.
The person probably takes you for a fool; and the best, you can say for
yourself is that you are not so great a fool as you seem to be. Vealy is
the period of life in which you filled a great volume with the verses
you loved, and in which you stored your memory, by frequent reading,
with many thousands of lines. All that you outgrow. Fancy a man of fifty
having his commonplace book of poetry! And it will be instructive to
turn over the ancient volume, and to see how year by year the verses
copied grew fewer, and finally ceased entirely. I do not say that all
growth is progress: sometimes it is like that of the muscle, which once
advanced into manly vigor and usefulness, but is now ossifying into
rigidity. It is well to have fancy and feeling under command: it is not
well to have feeling and fancy dead. That season of life is Vealy in
which you are charmed by the melody of verse, quite apart from its
meaning. And there is a season in which that is so. And it is curious
to remark what verses they are that have charmed many men; for they are
often verses in which no one else could have discerned that singular
fascination. You may remember how Robert Burns has recorded that in
youth he was enchanted by the melody of two lines of Addison's,--

"For though in dreadful whirls we hung,
High on the broken wave."

Sir Walter Scott felt the like fascination in youth (and he tells us it
was not entirely gone even in age) in Mickle's stanza,--

"The dews of summer night did fall;
The moon, sweet regent of the sky,
Silvered the walls of Cumnor Hall,
And many an oak that grew thereby."

Not a remarkable verse, I think. However, it at least presents a
pleasant picture. But I remember well the enchantment which, when
twelve years old, I felt in a verse by Mrs. Hemans, which I can now see
presents an excessively disagreeable picture. I saw it not then; and
when I used to repeat that verse, I know it was without the slightest
perception of its meaning. You know the beautiful poem called the
"Battle of Morgarten." At least I remember it as beautiful; and I am not
going to spoil my recollection by reading it now. Here is the verse:--

"Oh! the sun in heaven fierce havoc viewed,
When the Austrian turned to fly:
And the brave, in the trampling multitude,
Had a fearful death to die!"

As I write that verse, (at which the critical reader will smile,) I am
aware that Veal has its hold of me yet. I see nothing of the miserable
scene the poet describes; but I hear the waves murmuring on a distant
beach, and I see the hills across the sea, the first sea I ever beheld;
I see the school to which I went daily; I see the class-room, and the
place where I used to sit; I see the faces and hear the voices of my old
companions, some dead, one sleeping in the middle of the great Atlantic,
many scattered over distant parts of the world, almost all far away.
Yes, I feel that I have not quite cast off the witchery of the "Battle
of Morgarten." Early associations can give to verse a charm and a hold
upon one's heart which no literary excellence, however high, ever could.
Look at the first hymns you learned to repeat, and which you used to say
at your mother's knee; look at the psalms and hymns you remember hearing
sung at church when you were a child: you know how impossible it is for
you to estimate these upon their literary merits. They may be almost
doggerel; but not Mr. Tennyson can touch you like them! The most
effective eloquence is that which is mainly done by the mind to which
it is addressed: it is _that_ which touches chords which of themselves
yield matchless music; it is _that_ which wakens up trains of old
remembrance, and which wafts around you the fragrance of the hawthorn
that blossomed and withered many long years since. An English stranger
would not think much of the hymns we sing in our Scotch churches: he
could not know what many of them are to us. There is a magic about
the words. I can discern, indeed, that some of them are mawkish in
sentiment, faulty in rhyme, and, on the whole, what you would call
extremely unfitted to be sung in public worship, if you were judging of
them as new things: but a crowd of associations which are beautiful and
touching gathers round the lines which have no great beauty or pathos in

You were in an extremely Vealy condition, when, having attained the age
of fourteen, you sent some verses to the county newspaper, and with
simple-hearted elation read them in the corner devoted to what was
termed "Original Poetry." It is a pity you did not preserve the
newspapers in which you first saw yourself in print, and experienced the
peculiar sensation which accompanies that sight. No doubt your
verses expressed the gloomiest views of life, and told of the bitter
disappointments you had met in your long intercourse with mankind, and
especially with womankind. And though you were in a flutter of anxiety
and excitement to see whether or not your verses would be printed, your
verses probably declared that you had used up life and seen through
it,--that your heart was no longer to be stirred by aught on earth,--and
that, in short, you cared nothing for anything. You could see nothing
fine then in being good, cheerful, and happy; but you thought it a grand
thing to be a gloomy man, of a very dark complexion, with blood on your
conscience, upwards of six feet high, and accustomed to wander from land
to land, like Childe Harold. You were extremely Vealy when you used to
fancy that you were sure to be a very great man, and to think how proud
your relations would some day be of you, and how you would come back and
excite a great commotion at the place where you used to be a school-boy.
And it is because the world has still left some impressionable spot in
your hearts, my readers, that you still have so many fond associations
with "the school-boy spot we ne'er forget, though we are there
forgot." They were Vealy days, though pleasant to remember, my old
school-companions, in which you used to go to the dancing-school, (it
was in a gloomy theatre, seldom entered by actors,) in which you fell
in love with several young ladies about eleven years old, and (being
permitted occasionally to select your own partners) made frantic rushes
to obtain the hand of one of the beauties of that small society. Those
were the days in which you thought, that, when you grew up, it would
be a very fine thing to be a pirate, bandit, or corsair, rather than a
clergyman, barrister, or the like; even a cheerful outlaw like Robin
Hood did not come up to your views; you would rather have been a man
like Captain Kyd, stained with various crimes of extreme atrocity, which
would entirely preclude the possibility of returning to respectable
society, and given to moody laughter in solitary moments. Oh, what truly
asinine developments the human being must go through, before arriving at
the stage of common sense! You were very Vealy, too, when you used
to think it a fine thing to astonish people by expressing awful
sentiments,--such as that you thought Mahometans better than Christians,
that you would like to be dissected after death, that you did not care
what you got for dinner, that you liked learning your lessons better
than going out to play, that you would rather read Euclid than
"Ivanhoe," and the like. It may be remarked, that this peculiar
Vealiness is not confined to youth; I have seen it appearing very
strongly in men with gray hair. Another manifestation of Vealiness,
which appears both in age and youth, is the entertaining a strong belief
that kings, noblemen, and baronets are always in a condition of ecstatic
happiness. I have known people pretty far advanced in life, who not only
believed that monarchs must be perfectly happy, but that all who were
permitted to continue in their presence would catch a considerable
degree of the mysterious bliss which was their portion. I have heard a
sane man, rather acute and clever in many things, seriously say, "If a
man cannot be happy in the presence of his Sovereign, where can he be

And yet, absurd and foolish as is Moral Vealiness, there is something
fine about it. Many of the old and dear associations most cherished in
human hearts are of the nature of Veal. It is sad to think that most
of the romance of life is unquestionably so. All spooniness, all the
preposterous idolization of some one who is just like anybody else,
all love, (in the narrow sense in which the word is understood by
novel-readers,) you feel, when you look back, are Veal. The young lad
and the young girl, whom at a picnic party you have discerned stealing
off under frivolous pretexts from the main body of guests, and sitting
on the grass by the river-side, enraptured in the prosecution of a
conversation which is intellectually of the emptiest, and fancying that
they two make all the world, and investing that spot with remembrances
which will continue till they are gray, are (it must in sober sadness be
admitted) of the nature of calves. For it is beyond doubt that they are
at a stage which they will outgrow, and on which they may possibly look
back with something of shame. All these things, beautiful as they are,
are no more than Veal. Yet they are fitting and excellent in their time.
No, let us not call them Veal; they are rather like Lamb, which is
excellent, though immature. No doubt, youth is immaturity; and as you
outgrow it, you are growing better and wiser: still youth is a fine
thing; and most people would be young again, if they could. How cheerful
and light-hearted is immaturity! How cheerful and lively are the little
children even of silent and gloomy men! It is sad, and it is unnatural,
when they are not so. I remember yet, when I was at school, with what
interest and wonder I used to look at two or three boys, about twelve or
thirteen years old, who were always dull, sullen, and unhappy-looking.
In those days, as a general rule, you are never sorrowful without
knowing the reason why. You are never conscious of the dull atmosphere,
of the gloomy spirits, of after-time. The youthful machine, bodily and
mental, plays smoothly; the young being is cheery. Even a kitten is very
different from a grave old cat, and a young colt from a horse sobered by
the cares and toils of years. And you picture fine things to yourself in
your youthful dreams. I remember a beautiful dwelling I used often to
see, as if from the brow of a great hill. I see the rich valley below,
with magnificent woods and glades, and a broad river reflecting the
sunset; and in the midst of the valley, the vast Saracenic pile, with
gilded minarets blazing in the golden light. I have since then seen many
splendid habitations, but none in the least equal to that. I cannot even
yet discard the idea that somewhere in this world there stands that
noble palace, and that some day I shall find it out. You remember also
the intense delight with which you read the books that charmed you then:
how you carried off the poem or the tale to some solitary place,--how
you sat up far into the night to read it,--how heartily you believed
in all the story, and sympathized with the people it told of. I wish I
could feel now the veneration for the man who has written a book which I
used once to feel. Oh that one could read the old volumes with the
old feeling! Perhaps you have some of them yet, and you remember the
peculiar expression of the type in which they were printed: the pages
look at you with the face of an old friend. If you were then of an
observant nature, you will understand how much of the effect of any
composition upon the human mind depends upon the printing, upon the
placing of the points, even upon the position of the sentences on the
page. A grand, high-flown, and sentimental climax ought always to
conclude at the bottom of a page. It will look ridiculous, if it ends
four or five lines down from the top of the next page. Somehow there is
a feeling as of the difference between the night before and the next
morning. It is as though the crushed ball-dress and the dishevelled
locks of the close of the evening reappeared, the same, before
breakfast. Let us have homely sense at the top of the page, pathos
at the foot of it. What a force in the bad type of the shabby little
"Childe Harold" you used to read so often! You turn it over in a grand
illustrated edition, and it seems like another poem. Let it here be
said, that occasionally you look with something like indignation on the
volume which enchained you in your boyish days. For now you have burst
the chain. And you have somewhat of the feeling of the prisoner towards
the jailer who held him in unjust bondage. What right had that bombastic
rubbish to touch and thrill you as it used to do? Well, remember that
it suits successive generations at their enthusiastic stage. There are
poets whose great admirers are for the most part under twenty years
old; but probably almost every clever young person regards them at some
period in his life as among the noblest of mortals. And it is no ignoble
ambition to win the ardent appreciation of even immature tastes and
hearts. Its brief endurance is compensated by its intensity. You sit by
the fireside and read your leisurely "Times," and you feel a tranquil
enjoyment. You like it better than the "Sorrows of Werter," but you do
not like it a twentieth part as much as you once liked the "Sorrows
of Werter." You would be interested in meeting the man who wrote that
brilliant and slashing leader; but you would not regard him with
speechless awe, as something more than human. Yet, remembering all the
weaknesses out of which men grow, and on which they look back with a
smile or sigh, who does not feel that there is a charm which will not
depart about early youth? Longfellow knew that he would reach the hearts
of most men, when he wrote such a verse as this:--

"The green trees whispered low and mild;
It was a sound of joy!
They were my playmates when a child,
And rocked me in their arms so wild;
Still they looked at me and smiled,
As if I were a boy!"

Such, readers as are young men will understand what has already been
said as to the bitter indignation with which the writer, some years ago,
listened to self-conceited elderly persons who put aside the arguments
and the doings of younger men with the remark that these younger men
were _boys_. There are few terms of reproach which I have heard uttered
with looks of such deadly ferocity. And there are not many which excite
feelings of greater wrath in the souls of clever young men. I remember
how in those days I determined to write an essay which should scorch up
and finally destroy all these carping and malicious critics. It was to
be called "A Chapter on Boys." After an introduction of a sarcastic and
magnificent character, setting out views substantially the same as those
contained in the speech of Lord Chatham in reply to Walpole, which boys
are taught to recite at school, that essay was to go on to show that
a great part of English literature was written by very young men.
Unfortunately, on proceeding to investigate the matter carefully, it
appeared that the best part of English literature, even in the range of
poetry, was in fact written by men of even more than middle age. So the
essay was never finished, though a good deal of it was sketched out.
Yesterday I took out the old manuscript; and after reading a bit of it,
it appeared so remarkably Vealy, that I put it with indignation into the
fire. Still I observed various facts of interest as to great things done
by young men, and some by young men who never lived to be old. Beaumont
the dramatist died at twenty-nine. Christopher Marlowe wrote "Faustus"
at twenty-five, and died at thirty. Sir Philip Sidney wrote his
"Arcadia" at twenty-six. Otway wrote "The Orphan" at twenty-eight,
and "Venice Preserved" at thirty. Thomson wrote the "Seasons" at
twenty-seven. Bishop Berkeley had devised his Ideal System at
twenty-nine; and Clarke at the same age published his great work on "The
Being and Attributes of God." Then there is Pitt, of course. But these
cases are exceptional; and besides, men at twenty-eight and thirty are
not in any way to be regarded as boys. What I wanted was proof of the
great things that had been done by young fellows about two-and-twenty;
and such proof was not to be found. A man is simply a boy grown up to
his best; and of course what is done by men must be better than what is
done by boys. Unless in very peculiar cases, a man at thirty will be
every way superior to what he was at twenty; and at forty to what he was
at thirty. Not, indeed, physically,--let _that_ be granted; not always
morally; but surely intellectually and aesthetically.

* * * * *

Yes, my readers, we have all been Calves. A great part of all our doings
has been, what the writer, in figurative language, has described as
Veal. We have not said, written, or done very much on which we can now
look back with entire approval; and we have said, written, and done a
very great deal on which we cannot look back but with burning shame
and confusion. Very many things, which, when we did them, we thought
remarkably good, and much better than the doings of ordinary men, we now
discern, on calmly looking back, to have been extremely bad. That time,
you know, my friend, when you talked in a very fluent and animated
manner after dinner at a certain house, and thought you were making a
great impression on the assembled guests, most of them entire strangers,
you are now fully aware that you were only making a fool of yourself.
And let this hint of one public manifestation of Vealiness suffice to
suggest to each of us scores of similar cases. But though we feel, in
our secret souls, what Calves we have been, and though it is well for us
that we should feel it deeply, and thus learn humility and caution, we
do not like to be reminded of it by anybody else. Some people have a
wonderful memory for the Vealy sayings and doings of their friends.
They may be very bad hands at remembering anything else; but they never
forget the silly speeches and actions on which one would like to shut
down the leaf. You may find people a great part of whose conversation
consists of repeating and exaggerating their neighbors' Veal; and though
that Veal may be immature enough and silly enough, it will go hard but
your friend Mr. Snarling will represent it as a good deal worse than the
fact. You will find men, who while at college were students of large
ambition, but slender abilities, revenging themselves in this fashion
upon the clever men who beat them. It is easy, very easy, to remember
foolish things that were said and done even by the senior wrangler or
the man who took a double first-class; and candid folk will think
that such foolish things were not fair samples of the men,--and will
remember, too, that the men have grown out of these, have grown mature
and wise, and for many a year past would not have said or done such
things. But if you were to judge from the conversation of Mr. Limejuice,
(who wrote many prize essays, but, through the malice and stupidity of
the judges, never got any prizes,) you would conclude that every word
uttered by his successful rivals was one that stamped them as essential
fools, and calves which would never grow into oxen. I do not think it
is a pleasing or magnanimous feature in any man's character, that he is
ever eager to rake up these early follies. I would not be ready to throw
in the teeth of a pretty butterfly that it was an ugly caterpillar once,
unless I understood that the butterfly liked to remember the fact. I
would not suggest to this fair sheet of paper on which I am writing,
that not long ago it was dusty rags and afterwards dirty pulp. You
cannot be an ox without previously having been a calf; you acquire taste
and sense gradually, and in acquiring them you pass through stages
in which you have very little of either. It is a poor burden for the
memory, to collect and shovel into it the silly sayings and doings in
youth of people who have become great and eminent. I read with much
disgust a biography of Mr. Disraeli which recorded, no doubt accurately,
all the sore points in that statesman's history. I remember with great
approval what Lord John Manners said in Parliament in reply to Mr.
Bright, who had quoted a well-known and very silly passage from Lord
John's early poetry. "I would rather," said Lord John, "have been the
man who in his youth wrote those silly verses than the man who in mature
years would rake them up." And with even greater indignation I regard
the individual who, when a man is doing creditably and Christianly
the work of life, is ever ready to relate and aggravate the moral
delinquencies of his school-boy and student days, long since repented of
and corrected. "Remember not," said a man who knew human nature well,
"the sins of my youth." But there are men whose nature has a peculiar
affinity for anything petty, mean, and bad. They fly upon it as a
vulture on carrion. Their memory is of that cast, that you have only
to make inquiry of them concerning any of their friends, to hear of
something not at all to the friends' advantage. There are individuals,
after listening to whom you think it would be a refreshing novelty,
almost startling from its strangeness, to hear them say a word in favor
of any human being whatsoever.

It is not a thing peculiar to immaturity; yet it may be remarked, that,
though it is an unpleasant thing to look back and see that you have said
or done something very foolish, it is a still more unpleasant thing to
be well aware at the time that you are saying or doing something very
foolish. If a man be a fool at all, it is much to be desired that he
should be a very great fool; for then he will not know when he is making
a fool of himself. But it is painful not to have sense enough to know
what you should do in order to be right, but to have sense enough to
know that you are doing wrong. To know that you are talking like an ass,
yet to feel that you cannot help it,--that you must say something, and
can think of nothing better to say,--this is a suffering that comes with
advanced civilization. This is a phenomenon frequently to be seen
at public dinners in country towns, also at the entertainment which
succeeds a wedding. Men at other times rational seem to be stricken into
idiocy when they rise to their feet on such occasions; and the painful
fact is, that it is conscious idiocy. The man's words are asinine, and
he knows they are asinine. His wits have entirely abandoned him: he is
an idiot for the time. Have you sat next a man unused to speaking at a
public dinner? have you seen him nervously rise and utter an incoherent,
ungrammatical, and unintelligible sentence or two, and then sit down
with a ghastly smile? Have you heard him say to his friend on the other
side, in bitterness, "I have made a fool of myself"? And have you seen
him sit moodily through the remainder of the feast, evidently ruminating
on what he said, seeing now what he ought to have said, and trying to
persuade himself that what he said was not so bad after all? Would you
do a kindness to that miserable man? You have just heard his friend
on the other side cordially agreeing with what he had said as to the
badness of the appearance made by him. Enter into conversation with
him; talk of his speech; congratulate him upon it; tell him you were
extremely struck by the freshness and naturalness of what he said,--that
there is something delightful in hearing an unhackneyed speaker,--that
to speak with entire fluency looks professional,--it is like a barrister
or a clergyman. Thus you may lighten the mortification of a disappointed
man; and what you say will receive considerable credence. It is
wonderful how readily people believe anything they would like to be

* * * * *

I was walking this afternoon along a certain street, coming home from
visiting certain sick persons, and wondering how I should conclude this
essay, when, standing on the pavement on one side of the street, I saw a
little boy four years old crying in great distress. Various individuals,
who appeared to be Priests and Levites, looked, as they passed, at the
child's distress, and passed on without doing anything to relieve it. I
spoke to the little man, who was in great fear at being spoken to, but
told me he had come away from his home and lost himself, and could not
find his way back. I told him I would take him home, if he could tell me
where he lived; but he was frightened into utter helplessness, and could
only tell that his name was Tom, and that he lived at the top of a
stair. It was a poor neighborhood, in which many people live at the
top of stairs, and the description was vague. I spoke to two humble
decent-looking women who were passing, thinking they might gain the
little thing's confidence better than I; but the poor little man's great
wish was just to get away from us,--though, when he got two yards off,
he could but stand and cry. You may be sure he was not left in his
trouble, but that he was put safely into his father's hands. And as I
was coming home, I thought that here was an illustration of something I
have been thinking of all this afternoon. I thought I saw in the poor
little child's desire to get away from those who wanted to help him,
though not knowing where to go when left to himself, something analogous
to what the immature human being is always disposed to. The whole
teaching of our life is leading us away from our early delusions and
follies, from all those things about us which have been spoken of under
the similitude which need not be again repeated. Yet we push away the
hand that would conduct us to soberer and better things, though, when
left alone, we can but stand and vaguely gaze about us; and we speak
hardly of the growing experience which makes us wiser, and which ought
to make us happier too. Let us not forget that the teaching which takes
something of the gloss from life is an instrument in the kindest Hand of
all; and let us be humbly content, if that kindest Hand shall lead us,
even by rough means, to calm and enduring wisdom,--wisdom by no means
inconsistent with youthful freshness of feeling, and not necessarily
fatal even to youthful gayety of mood,--and at last to that Happy Place
where worn men regain the little child's heart, and old and young are
blest together.


I do not propose to enter upon a discussion of the question that now
agitates the entire population of Brandon township, Vermont,--namely,
whether Douglas was born in the Pomeroy or the Hyatt mansion. It is
enough for our purpose to record the fact that he _was_ born, and
apparently _well_ born,--as, from the statement of Ann De Forrest, his
nurse, he first appeared a stalwart babe of fourteen pounds weight.

He lived a life of sensations; and that he commenced early is clearly
shown by the fact that he was a subject of newspaper comment when but
two months old. At that age he had the misfortune to lose his father,
who, holding the baby boy in his arms, fell back in his chair and died,
while Stephen, dropping from his embrace, was caught from the fire,
and thus from early death, by a neighbor, John Conant, who opportunely
entered the room at the moment. And here let me say, that for
generations back the ancestors of Douglas were sturdy men, of physical
strength and mental ability. His grandfather was noted for his strong
practical common sense, which, rightly applied, with industry, made him
in middle life the possessor of wealth, and the finest farm on Otter
Creek. This, however, in later years was gradually taken from him, by
means which had better, perhaps, remain unmentioned. The father of
Stephen was a physician of more than ordinary talent and of much
culture. He had attained but to early manhood, when a sudden attack of
heart-disease removed him from life, and compelled his widow, with her
infant boy, to face the world alone.

A bachelor brother of the Widow Douglas took her and the baby to his
farm, where, for several years, the one mourned the loss of her husband,
while the other grew in strength and muscle. The earlier developments of
the boy were characteristic, and typical of those in later life. He was
very quick, magnetic in his temperament, and full to the brim with wit
and humor. Beyond his uncle's farm ran the far-famed Otter Creek, whose
waters, in my boyhood, were forbidden me, as inevitably leading the
incautious bather to "a life of misery and a premature death." There it
was, however, that Stephen earned his earliest triumphs. It is a long
pull across the Otter Pond, and the schoolmaster's last charge was
always, "Keep this side of the rock in the middle,--don't try to cross";
but reckless then of life as since in politics, self-confident and
daring as always, Douglas, of all the boys, alone dared disobey the
charge, and succeeded in reaching safely the opposite shore.

His companions, sons of farmers well to do in the world, were preparing
to enter college; and Douglas, the best scholar in his class, the finest
mathematician in the township, and who without instruction had mastered
the Latin Grammar and "Viri Romae," applied to his uncle for permission
to join them. The uncle, however, never noted for much liberality either
of brain or pocket, having taken to himself a wife and gotten to himself
a boy, was unable to see the necessity of giving the orphan a college
education, and pitilessly bound him to a worthy deacon of the church,
as an apprentice to the highly respectable, but rarely famous, trade of
cabinet-making. In this Douglas did well. It has been stated elsewhere
that "he was not fond of his trade," and that "his spirit pined for
loftier employment." Possibly. But for all that he succeeded in it, and
these lines are being written on a mahogany table made by him while an
apprentice at Brandon. It is a strong, substantial, two-leaved table,
with curiously carved legs terminating in bear's-feet, the claws of
which display an intimate acquaintance on the part of the maker with the
physiological formation of those appendages, and a more than ordinary
amount of dexterity in the handling of tools. It was while in this
occupation that he gained the _sobriquet_ of the "Tough 'Un." He was
nearly seventeen years of age, and, though not handsome, was very
intelligent and bright in his appearance, so that he was able to compete
successfully for the smiles and favors of a young country lass who
reigned the belle of the village. This did not suit the "mittened" ones,
and they determined to draw young Douglas into a controversy which
should result in a fight,--he, of course, to be the defeated party. The
night chosen for the onslaught was the "singing-school night," and the
time the homeward walk of Stephen from the house of the fair object of
contention. The crowd met him at the corner store. From jests to jibes,
from taunts to blows, was then, as ever, an easy path; and in reply to
some unchivalric remark concerning his lady-love, Douglas struck the
slanderer with all his might. Immediately a ring was formed, and kept,
until Douglas rose the victor, and without further ceremony pitched
into one of the lookers-on, and stopped not until he, too, was soundly
thrashed, when, with flashing eye and clenched fist, he said,--"Now,
boys, if that's not enough, come on, and I'll take you all together!"
At this juncture, the good old Deacon, who had been trying cider in
the cellar of the store, came along, and, taking Stephen by the arm,
said,--"Well, Steve, you _are_ a tough 'un! What! whipped two, and want
more? Come home, my boy, come home!" He was allowed ever after to go and
come with his bright-eyed beauty, unmolested, and for years was known
there and in the neighboring townships as the "Tough 'Un." Here, too, he
gained the reputation of being a good fellow, a whole-souled friend, and
a jolly companion. He _would_ read, and his favorite works were those
telling of the triumphs of Napoleon, the conquests of Alexander, and the
wars of Caesar.

He was still desirous of a collegiate education, and it is undoubtedly
true that constant application to his books, when he should have been
resting from the labors of the day, brought upon him an illness, the
severity of which compelled him to abandon his employment and return
to his uncle's house. There he obtained permission to take a course
of classical studies at the academy, a permission of which he availed
himself with enthusiasm. He was then a fine, well-built youth, foremost
in plays, active in all country excursions, and ever popular with his
elders. Indeed, this last trait followed him through life; and when
those of his own age were at sword's-point with him, he was sure of
finding friends and favor amongst such as were older and wiser than
himself. His mother, about this time, married a lawyer of wealth and
position, residing in the interior of New York, who, appreciating the
talent of the boy, aided him in his laudable endeavors to obtain an
education, and sent him to the academy at Canandaigua in that State.
There Douglas was soon among the first. He was the most popular speaker
of them all, pleasing old and young, and causing the hall of the academy
to be filled with an interested audience whenever it was known that he
was to be the orator of the night. His love of humor and his keen sense
of the ludicrous aided him not a little in the quick repartee, for which
he was then, as since, noted. He was far from idle during the three
years of his life at Canandaigua; for, besides applying himself with
untiring energy and zeal to the pursuit of a classical course at the
academy, he devoted much of his time to reading in the law office of the
Messrs. Hubbell. His examiners for the bar stated that they had never
before met a student who in so short a time made such proficiency; and
while they took pleasure in complimenting him, they also extended to him
the privileges which are accorded by rule only to those who have pursued
a complete collegiate course. This was especially gratifying and
stimulating to Douglas, who remarked to a fellow-student that for the
wealth of a continent he would not have had his "mother die without
hearing that intelligence of her son's progress."

At the age of twenty, Douglas commenced, with the fairest prospects, the
practice of law in the beautiful village of Cleveland, Ohio. Hardly had
the paint on his "shingle" become dry, when a sudden attack of bilious
fever prostrated him, and confined him to his room for months. He was
thoroughly restless; he pined for action; and when his physician said
to him, "Sir, if you allow yourself to fret in this manner, you will
certainly frustrate my efforts, and die," he replied, "Not now, Doctor;
there's work ahead for me." Upon his recovery, he found himself in
a situation such as would crush the spirit of ninety-nine men in a
hundred. He was weak, with but a few dollars, with no friends, in a
region of country that did not promise him health, and with no knowledge
of other localities. He paid his debts and left the place. He wandered,
literally, from town to town, until his means were gone and his strength
well-nigh exhausted, when, on a bright Wednesday morning in the month of
November, 1833, he reached the village of Winchester, Illinois.

In his head were his brains, in his pocket his cash resources, namely,
thirty-seven and a half cents, and in a checkered blue handkerchief his
school-books and his wardrobe. He knew no one there, he had no plan of
action, and, foot-sore, with heavy heart, he leaned against a post in
the public square, and for the first time in his life gave way to gloomy
forebodings. He had, however, entered the town where his fortunes were
to mend, his life to receive new vigor, and his successful career to

While standing thus, he noticed at the farther end of the square a crowd
of people, and walked towards them. On a platform stood a red-faced,
burly auctioneer, with a straw hat and a loud voice, who was arguing
with some one in the crowd of expectant buyers the impossibility of
proceeding with the sale without a clerk to aid him. He was in the heat
of the discussion, when his eye fell upon the intelligent face and
fragile form of young Douglas, to whom he beckoned,--when the following
dialogue ensued.

_Auctioneer_. I say, boy, you look like you're smart; can you figure?

_Douglas_. I can, Sir.

_Auctioneer_. Will a couple of dollars a day hire you, till we finish
this sale?

_Douglas_. And board?

At which reply the crowd laughed, and the auctioneer, who thought he had
found a treasure, said,--

"Yes, and board; tumble up and go to work."

Whereupon, Douglas, whose legs were weak, whose stomach was empty, and
whose head fairly ached with nervous excitement, mounted the platform,
began his work as deputy-auctioneer, and laid the foundations of
a popularity in that section which increased with his years and
strengthened with his success. The sale for which he was hired continued
three days, and attracted the residents of the place and the farmers
from the neighboring towns, all of whom were favorably impressed by the
bright look, the quick, earnest manner, the frequent humorous remarks,
and the unvarying courtesy of the young clerk. In the evenings, when
gathered about the huge iron stove in the bar-room of the hotel, and the
doings, good or bad, of "Old Hickory" were the theme of discussion, one
and all sat quiet, listening with admiration, if not with conviction,
to the conversation of the youthful politician, who at that time was a
great admirer of General Jackson.

With the same tact and adaptability to circumstances which were
characteristic of him through life, Douglas determined to make use of
these people; and so dexterously did he manage, that, before he had been
with them a week, he had produced upon their minds the impression that
he was of all men the best suited to teach their district school the
ensuing winter. He dined with the minister, rode out with the doctor,
and took tea with the old ladies. He talked politics with the farmers,
recounted adventures to the young men, and, if my informant is
trustworthy, was in no way shy of the young ladies. The zeal with
which he sang on Sunday, and the marked attention which he paid to the
sermonizings of the dominic, advanced him so far in the affections of
the honest people of that rural town, that, had he asked their wealth,
their prayers, or their votes, he would have had no difficulty in
obtaining them.

There are no reasons for believing, that, as a schoolmaster, he was
particularly well qualified. He did very well however, and satisfied
the entire township, so that, had he been content with that that very
honorable, but somewhat inconspicuous life, he might doubtless have
remained there until this day. Up to this period he had been a strict
temperance man. No intoxicating drink had as yet passed his lips; and an
early experiment with a pipe had so sickened him, that he had resolved
never again to attempt it. It would have been well for him, had he
adhered to that resolve; but, like many other politicians, he thought it
necessary, in the days of his early public life, to mix with the crowd,
to join the bar-room circle, to tell his story and sing his song, to
smoke, and generally to conform to all those demands of pot-house
oracles which have perhaps elevated the few, but without doubt destroyed
the many. His aim then was popularity. He did his best as a teacher,
giving his spare time to the law. Before the Justices' Court he argued
frequently, and commonly with success. There he gained reputation, and
having been elected member of the legislature, he determined to devote
his life thenceforth to what seemed to him kindred pursuits, politics
and law.

In the latter his successes were frequent. At first he was employed,
naturally, in minor cases; but it was soon discovered that no one at the
bar was his equal in the dexterous management of a knotty point, the
successful defence of a desperate villain, or the game of bluff with
judge, jury, or opposing counsel. His cases were such as developed his
cunning, his ingenuity, and tact, rather than tested his learning or
research; and it is doubtful if he would, in the practice of law alone,
have achieved more than a local distinction, and that not in all
respects a desirable one. In the wording of the State Statutes he was
well read, and he often availed himself of his remarkable memory to
the entire discomfiture of an opponent, whose technical error, quickly
detected by the watchful ear of Douglas, would be turned against him
with great effect. So constant was his success in the defence of
criminal cases, that it was deemed well, by the powers that were, to
elevate him to the position of prosecuting attorney for the first
district of the State. This was done in 1835, when he was but twenty-two
years of age. At that time he was of singularly prepossessing appearance
and popular manners. The _people_ were fond and proud of him; and when
he made his acknowledgments to them for the above-mentioned token of
their confidence, he so excited them by his oratory, that they took him
from the platform, raised him upon their shoulders, and bore him in
triumph about the town, while hundreds followed, shouting, "Hurra for
little Doug!" "Three cheers for the Little Giant!" "We'll put you
through!" and "You'll be President yet!"

The judges of the Supreme Court thought that a great mistake had been
made; and one of them, who in later years was one of Mr. Douglas's
warmest friends, did not hesitate to say that the election was wrong.
"What business", asked he, "has this boy with such an office? He is no
lawyer, and has no books." Indeed, he met with no little opposition from
his brethren at the bar, but none that in any way impeded his progress
in the affections of the people, or disheartened him in his efforts
after loftier place. Judge Morton relates, that at no time was Douglas
found unprepared. "His indictments were always properly drawn, his
evidence complete, and his arguments logical." Before a jury he was
in his element. There he could indulge in story-telling, in special
pleading, and in all the intricate devices which beguile sober men of
their senses, and prove black white or good evil. From judge to jury,
from the highest practitioner to the lowest pettifogger, there soon came
to be but one impression. He was acknowledged to be the champion of the
Illinois bar.

His career upon the bench, to which he was soon after elevated, was
brilliant, because energetic, and successful, because he never permitted
contingencies to thwart a predetermination, and because that coolness
and grit which enabled him to whip a second sneering boy while he was
yet a youth had become a settled trait of his character. It was during
the sitting of his court, that the notorious Joe Smith was to be tried
for some offence against the people of the State. Mob-law had taken
matters somewhat under its charge in the West; and the populace, fearing
that Smith, in this particular instance, might manage to slip from the
hands of justice, determined to take him from the court-house and hang
him. They even went so far as to erect a gallows in the yard, and,
having entered the court-room, demanded from the sheriff the person of
the prisoner. Judge Douglas was in his seat; the room was filled with
the infuriated mob and its sympathizers; Smith sat pale and trembling
in his box; while the sheriff, after vainly attempting to quell the
disturbance, fell powerless and half-fainting on the steps. "Sheriff,"
shouted the judge, "clear the court!" It was easier said than done. Five
hundred determined men are not to be thwarted by a coward, and such the
sheriff proved. It was a trying moment. The life of Smith _per se_ was
not worth saving, but the dignity of the court must be upheld, and
Douglas saw at a glance that he had but a moment in which to do it. "Mr.
Harris," said he, addressing a huge and sinewy Kentuckian, "I appoint
you sheriff of this court. Select your deputies. Clear this court-house.
Do it, and do it now." He had chosen the right man. Right and left fell
the foremost of the mob; some were pitched from the windows, others
jumped thence of their own accord; and soon the entire crowd, convinced
of the judge's determination to maintain order, rushed pell-mell from
the court-room, while Smith, who had unperceived made his way up to the
feet of the judge, laid his head upon his knee and wept like a child.
"Never," said Douglas, "was I so determined to effect a result as then.
Had Smith been taken from my protection, it would have been only when
I lay dead upon the floor." The fact that he had no right to appoint
a sheriff was not one of the "points of consideration." "How shall I
execute my will?" was probably the only question that suggested itself
to his mind at the time, and the logic of the answer in no way troubled
him. The dignity of the bench was always upheld by Judge Douglas during
the sitting of the court; but he was no stickler for form or ceremony

A friend tells an amusing anecdote illustrative of his daring and
somewhat foolhardy spirit, even in mature life. Mr. Douglas, then
a judge of the Supreme Court of Illinois, was one of a number of
passengers who, on the crack steamboat "Andrew Jackson," were going down
the Mississippi. The steamer was detained several hours at Natchez,
where she was supplied with wood and water, and during the delay a huge,
hard-fisted boatman, somewhat the worse for a poor article of strychnine
whiskey, made himself very conspicuous and exceedingly obnoxious by the
continual iteration of his intense desire to fight some one. He
was fearful that he would "ruin," if his pugilistic wants were not
immediately attended to, and in manner more earnest than agreeable
invited one and all to "come ashore and have the conceit taken out" of
them. From the descriptive catalogue he gave of his own merits, the
passengers gathered that he was "a roarer," "a regular bruiser," "half
alligator, half steamboat, half snapping-turtle, with a leetle dash of
chain-lightning thrown in," and were evidently afraid of him; when the
Judge, who had been quietly smoking on the deck, stepped out upon the
quay, and, approaching the bully, said, with a peculiarly dry manner,--

"Who might you be, my big chicken, eh?"

"I'm a high-pressure steamer," roared the astonished boatman.

"And I'm a snag," replied Douglas, as he pitched into him; and before
the fellow had time to reflect, he lay sprawling in the mud.

A loud shout, mingled with derisive laughter, burst from the spectators,
all of whom knew the Judge; and while the discomfited braggart limped
sorely off, the passengers carried Douglas to the bar, where, for hours
after, a general series of jollifications ensued, and he who a few days
before had sat the embodiment of judicial dignity on the supreme bench
now vied with a motley crowd of steamboat-passengers in song and story.
As a judge he was as he should be; but he was a judge only while
literally on the bench.

The decisions of Judge Douglas were recognized always as able and
impartial; but his habit of "log-rolling," or, as the extreme Westerners
call it, "honey-fugling" for votes and support, had so grown upon him,
that his sincere friends feared lest he would sink too low, and in the
end defeat himself. He had ascertained, however, that success was in the
gift of the multitude, and to them he ever remained faithful.

Had Mr. Douglas been born four months sooner than he was, he would have
been a Senator of the United States in 1842, when his age would have
been thirty years; but owing to the fact that he would not be thirty
until April of the following year, his friends found it would be
unadvisable to elect him. In November, 1843, however, he was elected to
the House, after passing through one of the most exciting canvasses
ever known in the West. Everywhere he met the people on the stump. That
seemed to be his appropriate forum, and the only position in which he
could indulge in his peculiarly popular style of oratory. His greatest
achievement during that Congress was his speech in defence of General
Jackson,--a speech begun when the seats and halls were comparatively
empty, but concluded in the presence of an overwhelming audience. After
the adjournment of Congress, delegations from many of the States were
sent to a monster Jackson Convention held at Nashville, and Mr. Douglas
was a member of the Illinois Committee. By invitation, he stopped at the
Hermitage. Hundreds of others were calling to pay their respects to
the old hero, and to congratulate him upon his triumph, when Douglas
entered. He was short and plain, and attracted little attention, till
presented by Governor Clay of Alabama. On the announcement of his name,
the General raised his still brilliant eyes, and gazed for a moment on
the countenance of the Judge, still retaining his hand.

"Are you the Mr. Douglas of Illinois who delivered a speech last session
on the subject of the fine imposed on me for declaring martial law at
New Orleans?" he asked.

"I have delivered a speech in the House on that subject," replied

"Then stop," said the General; "sit down here beside me; I desire to
return you my thanks for that speech."

And then, in the presence of that distinguished company, the aged
soldier expressed his gratitude for the words so kindly and justly
spoken, and assured him of his great obligations. At the conclusion
of the interview, Douglas, who was unable to utter a word, grasped
convulsively the aged veteran's hand and left the hall.

At his death. General Jackson left all his papers to Mr. Blair, the
editor of the Washington "Globe," and among them was a printed copy of
the speech, with this indorsement, written and signed by himself:--"This
speech constitutes my defence: I lay it aside as an inheritance for my

In the famous Compromise struggle of 1850, Judge Douglas developed great
strength of will and wonderful executive ability. With Henry Clay he was
on the most friendly terms, and that statesman once said of him, that he
knew of "no man so entirely an embodiment of American ideas and American
institutions as Mr. Douglas." It is well known that to Senator Douglas
belongs the credit of initiating the great "Compromise Bill," and that,
though reported by Mr. Clay as from the Select Committee of the Senate,
it was in reality the California and Territorial Bills drawn up by Mr.
Douglas, united. It was at his own suggestion that this was done; and
when Mr. Clay objected, on the ground that it would be unfair for the
Committee to claim the credit which belonged exclusively to another, he
rebuked him, and asked by what right he (Mr. Clay) jeoparded the peace
and harmony of the nation, in order that this or that man might receive
the credit due for the origin of a bill. Mr. Clay was so struck by the
manner and observation, of Mr. Douglas, that he grasped his hand and
said,--"You are the most generous man living! I _will_ unite the bills,
and report them; but justice shall nevertheless be done to you as the
real author of the measures." It has been.

Some time after this, he had occasion, to visit Chicago, and his friends
were desirous that he should address the people in defence of the
principle involved in the Kansas-Nebraska Bill. On Saturday night he
appeared before his audience in the open square in front of North Market
Hall. His opponents had been more active than his friends. Ten thousand
roughs, determined to make trouble, had assembled there; and when the
speaker appeared, they saluted him with groans, cat-calls, ironical
cheers, and noises of all kinds. That sort of thing in no way annoyed
him. He was used to it. On similar occasions he had by wit and
good-humor succeeded in gaining a respectful and generally an
enthusiastic hearing, and he expected to do so now. He was mistaken. For
four hours the contest raged between them. He entreated, he threatened,
he laughed at them, told stories, bellowed with the entire volume of his
sonorous voice, but without success. They defied and insulted him, until
the clock in a neighboring church-tower tolled forth the midnight hour.
"Gentlemen," said Douglas, taking out his watch, and advancing to the
front of the stand, "it is Sunday morning. I have to bid you farewell. I
am going to church, and you--can go to ----." Whereupon, he retired, and
the crowd followed, hooting, jeering, and screaming, until they left him
at the door of his hotel.

No man living possessed warmer friends than Mr. Douglas. I saw tears
of sorrow fall from the eyes of hard-featured Western men, when at the
Charleston Convention it became evident that he could not receive the
Presidential nomination. Hard words were spoken and hard blows were
given in his cause there, and subsequently at Baltimore; and it is
doubtful if ever caucusing or struggles for success insured more bitter
or lasting hatreds than were engendered during the prolonged contests at
those places. The result of that strife, the subsequent canvassing of
the country in search of friends and votes, and the ultimate defeat,
worked wonderful changes in him, morally and physically. All that in
years past he had looked for, all he had struggled for, seemed put
forever beyond his reach; and he was from that hour a different man.
Fortunately for him, gloriously for his reputation, the people of the
South saw fit to rebel; and Douglas, espousing the side of the right,
has died a patriot. There had always been a feeling of friendship
existing between Mr. Lincoln and Judge Douglas; and the manner in which
the latter acted just prior to the Inauguration, and the gallant part he
sustained at that time, as well as afterwards, served to increase their
mutual regard and esteem. It was my good-fortune to stand by Mr. Douglas
during the reading of the Inaugural of President Lincoln. Rumors had
been current that there would be trouble at that time, and much anxiety
was felt by the authorities and the friends of Mr. Lincoln as to the
result. "I shall be there," said Douglas, "and if any man attacks
Lincoln, he attacks me, too." As Mr. Lincoln proceeded with his address,
Judge Douglas repeatedly remarked, "Good!" "That's fair!" "No backing
out there!" "That's a good point!" etc.,--indicating his approval of
its tone, as subsequently he congratulated the reader and indorsed the

At the Inauguration Ball, all were waiting the arrival of the
Presidential party. Much feeling had been created in the city by the
announcement that Washington people did not intend to patronize the
affair, and it was feared that it might fall through. Presently the band
struck up "Hail Columbia," and President Lincoln with his escort entered
the room, followed by Mrs. Lincoln, who was supported by Judge Douglas.
A more significant demonstration of friendship and of personal interest
could not possibly be suggested; and Mr. Douglas, that night, by his
genial manner, his cordial sympathy with the _personnel_ of the new
Administration, and the effectual snubbing which he thereby gave to the
pretentious movers in Washington society, won for himself many friends,
and the gratitude of all the Republicans present.

About two months since, while in the telegraph office at Washington,
I saw Mr. Douglas. Accosting him, I asked what course he thought the
President should pursue towards the sympathizers with the South who
remained in that city. "Well," replied he, "if I were President, I'd
convert or hang them _all_ within forty-eight hours. However, don't be
in a hurry. I've known Mr. Lincoln a longer time than you have, or than
the country has; he'll come out right, and we will all stand by him."

The President was, in return, a warm friend of Mr. Douglas. I had
occasion to inquire of him if he had, as was reported in the newspapers,
tendered to Judge Douglas the position of Brigadier-General. "No, Sir,"
said Mr. Lincoln, "I have not done so; nor had I thought of doing so
until to-night, when I saw it suggested in the paper. I have no reason
to believe Mr. Douglas would accept it. He has not asked it, nor
have his friends. But I must say, that, if it is well to appoint
brigadier-generals from the civil list, I can imagine few men better
qualified for such a position than Judge Douglas. For myself, I know I
have not much military knowledge, and I think Douglas has. It was he who
first told me I should have trouble at Baltimore, and, pointing on the
map, showed me the route by Perryville, Havre de Grace, and Annapolis,
as the one over which our troops must come. He impressed on my mind the
necessity of absolutely securing Fortress Monroe and Old Point Comfort,
and, in fact, I think he knows all about it." The President continued
at some length to refer to the aid, counsel, and encouragement he had
received from Judge Douglas, intimating that the relations subsisting
between them were of the most amicable and pleasant nature.

It was evidently the purpose of Mr. Douglas, during the present crisis,
to impress upon the country the fact, that at the outset he had declared
himself a Union man, faithful to the Constitution and the upholding of
its powers.

Mr. Douglas has left many friends and many opponents, but few enemies.
Careless of money, he died poor. Generous to recklessness, he permitted
his estate to become incumbered and taken from him. Early in life he
aimed at personal popularity, and obtained it. In later years he desired
legal honors, and they were his. Successful in all he undertook, he
raised his ambition to the highest post among his fellows, and its
possession became the sole object of his life. For its attainment
he gave everything, yielded everything, did everything, and became
everything, without success. In all things he was extreme. His loves
and hates were strong. His habits, however they may be estimated, were
apparent to all. His life--was it a failure?

His death I will but mention. It has plunged a loving family into
sorrow, and taken from a party its leader. Thousands of sentences
gratifying to his friends are written about his greatness, and the
sacredness of his memory; and no word will be uttered here to offend
them. He shall himself close this paper, and I will be the medium of
conveying in his behalf a message to his fellow-countrymen,--a message
which he spoke into the ear of his watchful wife, for the future
guidance of his orphan children:--

"Reviving slightly, he turned easily in his bed, and with his eyes
partially closed, and his hand resting in that of Mrs. Douglas, he said,
in slow and measured cadence,--




Once more on yonder laurelled height
The summer flowers have budded;
Once more with summer's golden light
The vales of home are flooded;
And once more, by the grace of Him
Of every good the Giver,
We sing upon its wooded rim
The praises of our river:

Its pines above, its waves below,
The west wind down it blowing,
As fair as when the young Brissot
Beheld it seaward flowing,--
And bore its memory o'er the deep
To soothe a martyr's sadness,
And fresco, in his troubled sleep,
His prison-walls with gladness.

We know the world is rich with streams
Renowned in song and story,
Whose music murmurs through our dreams
Of human love and glory:
We know that Arno's banks are fair,
And Rhine has castled shadows,
And, poet-tuned, the Doon and Ayr
Go singing down their meadows.

But while, unpictured and unsung
By painter or by poet,
Our river waits the tuneful tongue
And cunning hand to show it,--
We only know the fond skies lean
Above it, warm with blessing,
And the sweet soul of our Undine
Awakes to our caressing.

No fickle Sun-God holds the flocks
That graze its shores in keeping;
No icy kiss of Dian mocks
The youth beside it sleeping:
Our Christian river loveth most
The beautiful and human;
The heathen streams of Naiads boast,
But ours of man and woman.

The miner in his cabin hears
The ripple we are hearing;
It whispers soft to homesick ears
Around the settler's clearing:
In Sacramento's vales of corn,
Or Santee's bloom of cotton,
Our river by its valley-born
Was never yet forgotten.

The drum rolls loud,--the bugle fills
The summer air with clangor;
The war-storm shakes the solid hills
Beneath its tread of anger:
Young eyes that last year smiled in ours
Now point the rifle's barrel,
And hands then stained with fruits and flowers
Bear redder stains of quarrel.

But blue skies smile, and flowers bloom on,
And rivers still keep flowing,--
The dear God still his rain and sun
On good and ill bestowing.
His pine-trees whisper, "Trust and wait!"
His flowers are prophesying
That all we dread of change or fate
His love is underlying.

And thou, O Mountain-born!--no more
We ask the Wise Allotter
Than for the firmness of thy shore,
The calmness of thy water,
The cheerful lights that overlay
Thy rugged slopes with beauty,
To match our spirits to our day
And make a joy of duty.




On the evening when Agnes and her grandmother returned from the Convent,
as they were standing after supper looking over the garden parapet into
the gorge, their attention was caught by a man in an ecclesiastical
habit, slowly climbing the rocky pathway towards them.

"Isn't that brother Antonio?" said Dame Elsie, leaning forward to
observe more narrowly. "Yes, to be sure it is!"

"Oh, how glad I am!" exclaimed Agnes, springing up with vivacity, and
looking eagerly down the path by which the stranger was approaching.

A few moments more of clambering, and the stranger met the two women at
the gate with a gesture of benediction.

He was apparently a little past the middle point of life, and entering
on its shady afternoon. He was tall and well proportioned, and his
features had the spare delicacy of the Italian outline. The round brow,
fully developed in all the perceptive and aesthetic regions,--the keen
eye, shadowed by long, dark lashes,--the thin, flexible lips,--the
sunken cheek, where, on the slightest emotion, there fluttered a
brilliant flush of color,--all were signs telling of the enthusiast in
whom the nervous and spiritual predominated over the animal.

At times, his eye had a dilating brightness, as if from the flickering
of some inward fire which was slowly consuming the mortal part, and its
expression was brilliant even to the verge of insanity.

His dress was the simple, coarse, white stuff-gown of the Dominican
friars, over which he wore a darker travelling-garment of coarse cloth,
with a hood, from whose deep shadows his bright mysterious eyes looked
like jewels from a cavern. At his side dangled a great rosary and cross
of black wood, and under his arm he carried a portfolio secured with a
leathern strap, which seemed stuffed to bursting with papers.

Father Antonio, whom we have thus introduced to the reader, was an
itinerant preaching monk from the Convent of San Marco in Florence, on a
pastoral and artistic tour through Italy.

Convents in the Middle Ages were the retreats of multitudes of natures
who did not wish to live in a state of perpetual warfare and offence,
and all the elegant arts flourished under their protecting shadows.
Ornamental gardening, pharmacy, drawing, painting, carving in wood,
illumination, and calligraphy were not unfrequent occupations of the
holy fathers, and the convent has given to the illustrious roll of
Italian Art some of its most brilliant names. No institution in modern
Europe had a more established reputation in all these respects than the
Convent of San Marco in Florence. In its best days, it was as near an
approach to an ideal community, associated to unite religion, beauty,
and utility, as ever has existed on earth. It was a retreat from the
commonplace prose of life into an atmosphere at once devotional and
poetic; and prayers and sacred hymns consecrated the elegant labors of
the chisel and the pencil, no less than the more homely ones of the
still and the crucible. San Marco, far from being that kind of sluggish
lagoon often imagined in conventual life, was rather a sheltered hotbed
of ideas,--fervid with intellectual and moral energy, and before the
age in every radical movement. At this period, Savonarola, the poet and
prophet of the Italian religious world of his day, was superior of this
convent, pouring through all the members of the order the fire of his
own impassioned nature, and seeking to lead them back to the fervors of
more primitive and evangelical ages, and in the reaction of a worldly
and corrupt Church was beginning to feel the power of that current which
at last drowned his eloquent voice in the cold waters of martyrdom.
Savonarola was an Italian Luther,--differing from the great Northern
Reformer as the more ethereally strung and nervous Italian differs from
the bluff and burly German; and like Luther he became in his time the
centre of every living thing in society about him. He inspired the
pencils of artists, guided the counsels of statesmen, and, a poet
himself, was an inspiration to poets. Everywhere in Italy the monks of
his order were travelling, restoring the shrines, preaching against
the voluptuous and unworthy pictures with which sensual artists
had desecrated the churches, and calling the people back by their
exhortations to the purity of primitive Christianity.

Father Antonio was a younger brother of Elsie, and had early become a
member of the San Marco, enthusiastic not less in religion than in Art.
His intercourse with his sister had few points of sympathy, Elsie being
as decided a utilitarian as any old Yankee female born in the granite
hills of New Hampshire, and pursuing with a hard and sharp energy her
narrow plan of life for Agnes. She regarded her brother as a very
properly religious person, considering his calling, but was a little
bored with his exuberant devotion, and absolutely indifferent to his
artistic enthusiasm. Agnes, on the contrary, had from a child attached
herself to her uncle with all the energy of a sympathetic nature, and
his yearly visits had been looked forward to on her part with intense
expectation. To him she could say a thousand things which she
instinctively concealed from her grandmother; and Elsie was well pleased
with the confidence, because it relieved her a little from the vigilant
guardianship that she otherwise held over the girl. When Father Antonio
was near, she had leisure now and then for a little private gossip of
her own, without the constant care of supervising Agnes.

"Dear uncle, how glad I am to see you once more!" was the eager
salutation with which the young girl received the monk, as he gained the
little garden. "And you have brought your pictures;--oh, I know you have
so many pretty things to show me!"

"Well, well, child," said Elsie, "don't begin upon that now. A little
talk of bread and cheese will be more in point. Come in, brother, and
wash your feet, and let me beat the dust out of your cloak, and give you
something to stay Nature; for you must be fasting."

"Thank you, sister," said the monk; "and as for you, pretty one, never
mind what she says. Uncle Antonio will show his little Agnes everything
by-and-by.--A good little thing it is, sister."

"Yes, yes,--good enough,--and too good," said Elsie, bustling
about;--"roses can't help having thorns, I suppose."

"Only our ever-blessed Rose of Sharon, the dear mystical Rose of
Paradise, can boast of having no thorns," said the monk, bowing and
crossing himself devoutly.

Agnes clasped her hands on her bosom and bowed also, while Elsie stopped
with her knife in the middle of a loaf of black bread, and crossed
herself with somewhat of impatience,--like a worldly-minded person of
our day, who is interrupted in the midst of an observation by a grace.

After the rites of hospitality had been duly observed, the old dame
seated herself contentedly in her door with her distaff, resigned Agnes
to the safe guardianship of her uncle, and had a feeling of security
in seeing them sitting together on the parapet of the garden, with
the portfolio spread out between them,--the warm twilight glow of the
evening sky lighting up their figures as they bent in ardent interest
over its contents. The portfolio showed a fluttering collection of
sketches,--fruits, flowers, animals, insects, faces, figures, shrines,
buildings, trees,--all, in short, that might strike the mind of a man
to whose eye nothing on the face of the earth is without beauty and

"Oh, how beautiful!" said the girl, taking up one sketch, in which a
bunch of rosy cyclamen was painted riding out of a bed of moss.

"Ah, that indeed, my dear!" said the artist, "Would you had seen the
place where I painted it! I stopped there to recite my prayers one
morning; 't was by the side of a beautiful cascade, and all the ground
was covered with these lovely cyclamens, and the air was musky with
their fragrance.--Ah, the bright rose-colored leaves! I can get no color
like them, unless some angel would bring me some from those sunset
clouds yonder."

"And oh, dear uncle, what lovely primroses!" pursued Agnes, taking up
another paper.

"Yes, child; but you should have seen them when I was coming down the
south side of the Apennines;--these were everywhere so pale and sweet,
they seemed like the humility of our Most Blessed Mother in her lowly
mortal state. I am minded to make a border of primroses to the leaf in
the Breviary where is the 'Hail, Mary!'--for it seems as if that flower
doth ever say, 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord!'"

"And what will you do with the cyclamen, uncle? does not that mean

"Yes, daughter," replied the monk, readily entering into that symbolical
strain which permeated all the heart and mind of the religious of his
day,--"I _can_ see a meaning in it. For you see that the cyclamen
puts forth its leaves in early spring deeply engraven with mystical
characters, and loves cool shadows, and moist, dark places, but comes
at length to wear a royal crown of crimson; and it seems to me like the
saints who dwell in convents and other prayerful places, and have the
word of God graven in their hearts in youth, till these blossom into
fervent love, and they are crowned with royal graces."

"Ah!" sighed Agnes, "how beautiful and how blessed to be among such!"

"Thou sayest well, dear child. Blessed are the flowers of God that grow
in cool solitudes, and have never been profaned by the hot sun and dust
of this world!"

"I should like to be such a one," said Agnes. "I often think, when I
visit the sisters at the Convent, that I long to be one of them."

"A pretty story!" said Dame Elsie, who had heard the last words,--"go
into a convent and leave your poor grandmother all alone, when she has
toiled night and day for so many years to get a dowry for you and find
you a worthy husband!"

"I don't want any husband in this world, grandmamma," said Agnes.

"What talk is this? Not want a good husband to take care of you when
your poor old grandmother is gone? Who will provide for you?"

"He who took care of the blessed Saint Agnes, grandmamma."

"Saint Agnes, to be sure! That was a great many years ago, and times
have altered since then;--in these days girls must have husbands. Isn't
it so, brother Antonio?"

"But if the darling hath a vocation?" said the artist, mildly.

"Vocation! I'll see to that! She sha'n't have a vocation! Suppose I'm
going to delve, and toil, and spin, and wear myself to the bone, and
have her slip through my fingers at last with a vocation? No, indeed!"

"Indeed, dear grandmother, don't be angry!" said Agnes. "I will do just
as you say,--only I don't want a husband."

"Well, well, my little heart,--one thing at a time; you sha'n't have him
till you say yes willingly," said Elsie, in a mollified tone.

Agnes turned again to the portfolio and busied herself with it, her eyes
dilating as she ran over the sketches.

"Ah! what pretty, pretty bird is this?" she asked.

"Knowest thou not that bird, with his little red beak?" said the artist.
"When our dear Lord hung bleeding, and no man pitied him, this bird,
filled with tender love, tried to draw out the nails with his poor
little beak,--so much better were the birds than we hard-hearted
sinners!--hence he hath honor in many pictures. See here,--I shall put
him into the office of the Sacred Heart, in a little nest curiously
built in a running vine of passion-flower. See here, daughter,--I have
a great commission to execute a Breviary for our house, and our holy
Father was pleased to say that the spirit of the blessed Angelico had in
some little humble measure descended on me, and now I am busy day and
night; for not a twig rustles, not a bird flies, nor a flower blossoms,
but I begin to see therein some hint of holy adornment to my blessed

"Oh, Uncle Antonio, how happy you must be!" said Agnes,--her large eyes
filling with tears.

"Happy!--child, am I not?" said the monk, looking up and crossing
himself. "Holy Mother, am I not? Do I not walk the earth in a dream of
bliss, and see the footsteps of my Most Blessed Lord and his dear Mother
on every rock and hill? I see the flowers rise up in clouds to adore
them. What am I, unworthy sinner, that such grace is granted me? Often
I fall on my face before the humblest flower where my dear Lord hath
written his name, and confess I am unworthy the honor of copying his
sweet handiwork."

The artist spoke these words with his hands clasped and his fervid eyes
upraised, like a man in an ecstasy; nor can our more prosaic English
give an idea of the fluent naturalness and grace with which such images
melt into that lovely tongue which seems made to be the natural language
of poetry and enthusiasm.

Agnes looked up to him with humble awe, as to some celestial being; but
there was a sympathetic glow in her face, and she put her hands on her
bosom, as her manner often was when much moved, and, drawing a deep
sigh, said,--

"Would that such gifts were mine!"

"They are thine, sweet one," said the monk. "In Christ's dear kingdom is
no mine or thine, but all that each hath is the property of the others.
I never rejoice so much in my art as when I think of the communion of
saints, and that all that our Blessed Lord will work through me is the
property of the humblest soul in his kingdom. When I see one flower
rarer than another, or a bird singing on a twig, I take note of the
same, and say, 'This lovely work of God shall be for some shrine, or the
border of a missal, or the foreground of an altar-piece, and thus shall
his saints be comforted.'"

"But," said Agnes, fervently, "how little can a poor young maiden do!
Ah, I do so long to offer myself up in some way to the dear Lord, who
gave himself for us, and for his Most Blessed Church!"

As Agnes spoke these words, her cheek, usually so clear and pale, became
suffused with a tremulous color, and her dark eyes had a deep, divine
expression;--a moment after, the color slowly faded, her head drooped,
and her long, dark lashes fell on her cheek, while her hands were folded
on her bosom. The eye of the monk was watching her with an enkindled

"Is she not the very presentment of our Blessed Lady in the
Annunciation?" said he to himself. "Surely, this grace is upon her for
this special purpose. My prayers are answered.

"Daughter," he began, in a gentle tone, "a glorious work has been done
of late in Florence under the preaching of our blessed Superior. Could
you believe it, daughter, in these times of backsliding and rebuke there
have been found painters base enough to paint the pictures of vile,
abandoned women in the character of our Blessed Lady; yea, and princes
have been found wicked enough to buy them and put them up in churches,
so that the people have had the Mother of all Purity presented to them
in the guise of a vile harlot. Is it not dreadful?"

"How horrible!" said Agnes.

"Ah, but you should have seen the great procession through Florence,
when all the little children were inspired by the heavenly preaching of
our dear Master. These dear little ones, carrying the blessed cross and
singing the hymns our Master had written for them, went from house to
house and church to church, demanding that everything that was vile and
base should be delivered up to the flames,--and the people, beholding,
thought that the angels had indeed come down, and brought forth all
their loose pictures and vile books, such as Boccaccio's romances and
other defilements, and the children made a splendid bonfire of them in
the Grand Piazza, and so thousands of vile things were consumed and
scattered. And then our blessed Master exhorted the artists to give
pencils to Christ and his Mother, and seek for her image among pious and
holy women living a veiled and secluded life, like that our Lady lived
before the blessed Annunciation. 'Think you,' he said, 'that the blessed
Angelico obtained the grace to set forth our Lady in such heavenly wise
by gazing about the streets on mincing women tricked out in all the
world's bravery?--or did he not find her image in holy solitudes, among
modest and prayerful saints?'"

"Ah," said Agnes, drawing in her breath with an expression of awe, "what
mortal would dare to sit for the image of our Lady!"

"Dear child, there be women whom the Lord crowns with beauty when they
know it not, and our dear Mother sheds so much of her spirit into their
hearts that it shines out in their faces; and among such must the
painter look. Dear little child, be not ignorant that our Lord hath shed
this great grace on thee. I have received a light that thou art to be
the model for the 'Hail, Mary!' in my Breviary."

"Oh, no, no, no! it cannot be!" said Agnes, covering her face with her

"My daughter, thou art very beautiful, and this beauty was given thee
not for thyself, but to be laid like a sweet flower on the altar of thy
Lord. Think how blessed, if, through thee, the faithful be reminded of
the modesty and humility of Mary, so that their prayers become more
fervent,--would it not be a great grace?"

"Dear uncle,"--said Agnes, "I am Christ's child. If it be as you
say,--which I did not know,--give me some days to pray and prepare my
soul, that I may offer myself in all humility."

During this conversation Elsie had left the garden and gone a little way
down the gorge, to have a few moments of gossip with an old crony. The
light of the evening sky had gradually faded away, and the full moon was
pouring a shower of silver upon the orange-trees. As Agnes sat on the
parapet, with the moonlight streaming down on her young, spiritual face,
now tremulous with deep suppressed emotion, the painter thought he had
never seen any human creature that looked nearer to his conception of a
celestial being.

They both sat awhile in that kind of quietude which often falls between
two who have stirred some deep fountain of emotion. All was so still
around them, that the drip and trickle of the little stream which fell
from the garden wall into the dark abyss of the gorge could well be
heard as it pattered from one rocky point to another, with a slender,
lulling sound.

Suddenly the reveries of the two were disturbed by the shadow of a
figure which passed into the moonlight and seemed to rise from the side
of the gorge. A man enveloped in a dark cloak with a peaked hood stepped
across the moss-grown garden parapet, stood a moment irresolute, then
the cloak dropped suddenly from him, and the Cavalier stood in the
moonlight before Agnes. He bore in his hand a tall stalk of white lily,
with open blossoms and buds and tender fluted green leaves, such as one
sees in a thousand pictures of the Annunciation. The moonlight fell full
upon his face, revealing his haughty yet beautiful features, agitated
by some profound emotion. The monk and the girl were both too much
surprised for a moment to utter a sound; and when, after an instant, the
monk made a half-movement as if to address him, the cavalier raised his
right hand with a sudden authoritative gesture which silenced him. Then
turning toward Agnes, he kneeled, and kissing the hem of her robe, and
laying the lily in her lap, "Holiest and dearest," he said, "oh, forget
not to pray for me!" He rose again in a moment, and, throwing his
cloak around him, sprang over the garden wall, and was heard rapidly
descending into the shadows of the gorge.

All this passed so quickly that it seemed to both the spectators like a
dream. The splendid man, with his jewelled weapons, his haughty bearing,
and air of easy command, bowing with such solemn humility before the
peasant girl, reminded the monk of the barbaric princes in the wonderful
legends he had read, who had been drawn by some heavenly inspiration to
come and render themselves up to the teachings of holy virgins, chosen
of the Lord, in divine solitudes. In the poetical world in which he
lived all such marvels were possible. There were a thousand precedents
for them in that devout dream-land, "The Lives of the Saints."

"My daughter," he said, after looking vainly down the dark shadows upon
the path of the stranger, "have you ever seen this man before?"

"Yes, uncle; yesterday evening I saw him for the first time, when
sitting at my stand at the gate of the city. It was at the Ave Maria; he
came up there and asked my prayers, and gave me a diamond ring for the
shrine of Saint Agnes, which I carried to the Convent to-day."

"Behold, my dear daughter, the confirmation of what I have just said to
thee! It is evident that our Lady hath endowed thee with the great grace
of a beauty which draws the soul upward towards the angels, instead of
downward to sensual things, like the beauty of worldly women. What saith
the blessed poet Dante of the beauty of the holy Beatrice?--that it said
to every man who looked on her, '_Aspire!_'[A] Great is the grace, and
thou must give special praise therefor."

[Footnote A: I cannot forbear quoting Mr. Norton's beautiful translation
of this sonnet in the _Atlantic Monthly_ for February, 1859:--

"So gentle and so modest doth appear
My lady when she giveth her salute,
That every tongue becometh trembling mute,
Nor do the eyes to look upon her dare,
And though she hears her praises, she doth, go
Benignly clothed with humility,
And like a thing come down she seems to be
From heaven to earth, a miracle to show.
So pleaseth she whoever cometh nigh her,
She gives the heart a sweetness through the eyes
Which none can understand who doth not prove.
And from her lip there seems indeed to move
A spirit sweet and in Love's very guise,
Which goeth saying to the soul, '_Aspire!_'"]

"I would," said Agnes, thoughtfully, "that I knew who this stranger is,
and what is his great trouble and need,--his eyes are so full of sorrow.
Giulietta said he was the King's brother, and was called the Lord
Adrian. What sorrow can he have, or what need for the prayers of a poor
maid like me?"

"Perhaps the Lord hath pierced him with a longing after the celestial
beauty and heavenly purity of paradise, and wounded him with a divine
sorrow, as happened to Saint Francis and to the blessed Saint Dominic,"
said the monk. "Beauty is the Lord's arrow, wherewith he pierceth to the
inmost soul, with a divine longing and languishment which find rest only
in him. Hence thou seest the wounds of love in saints are always painted
by us with holy flames ascending from them. Have good courage, sweet
child, and pray with fervor for this youth; for there be no prayers
sweeter before the throne of God than those of spotless maidens. The
Scripture saith, 'My beloved feedeth among the lilies.'"

At this moment the sharp, decided tramp of Elsie was heard reentering
the garden.

"Come, Agnes," she said, "It is time for you to begin your prayers, or,
the saints know, I shall not get you to bed till midnight. I suppose
prayers are a good thing," she added, seating herself wearily; "but if
one must have so many of them, one must get about them early. There's
reason in all things."

Agnes, who had been sitting abstractedly on the parapet, with her head
drooped over the lily-spray, now seemed to collect herself. She rose up
in a grave and thoughtful manner, and, going forward to the shrine of
the Madonna, removed the flowers of the morning, and holding the vase
under the spout of the fountain, all feathered with waving maiden-hair,
filled it with fresh water, the drops falling from it in a thousand
little silver rings in the moonlight.

"I have a thought," said the monk to himself, drawing from his girdle
a pencil and hastily sketching by the moonlight. What he drew was a
fragile maiden form, sitting with clasped hands on a mossy ruin, gazing
on a spray of white lilies which lay before her. He called it, The
Blessed Virgin pondering the Lily of the Annunciation.

"Hast thou ever reflected," he said to Agnes, "what that lily might be
like which the angel Gabriel brought to our Lady?--for, trust me, it was
no mortal flower, but grew by the river of life. I have often meditated
thereon, that it was like unto living silver with a light in itself,
like the moon,--even as our Lord's garments in the Transfiguration,
which glistened like the snow. I have cast about in myself by what
device a painter might represent so marvellous a flower."

"Now, brother Antonio," said Elsie, "if you begin to talk to the child
about such matters, our Lady alone knows when we shall get to bed. I am
sure I'm as good a Christian as anybody; but, as I said, there's reason
in all things, and one cannot always be wondering and inquiring into
heavenly matters,--as to every feather in Saint Michael's wings, and as

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