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

Atlantic Monthly, Volume 2, Issue 11, September, 1858 by Various

Part 3 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download Atlantic Monthly, Volume 2, Issue 11, September, 1858 pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

affairs; and although he had not yet admitted me to the knowledge of
his past, he evinced but little shyness in speaking of the present. At
our interviews in his tent I seldom met his wife; indeed, I suspected
him of contriving to keep her out of the way; for I was always told
she had just stepped out;--or if by chance I found her there, she was
never again vulgarly loquacious, but on some pretext or other at once
took herself away. On the other hand, the child was rarely
absent,--from which I argued that I was in favor; nor was his pretty
prattle, even his boldest communicativeness, harshly checked, save
when, as I guessed, he was approaching too near some forbidden theme.
Then a quick flash from his father's eye instantaneously imposed
silence upon him: as if that eye were an evil one, and there were a
malison in its glance, the whole demeanor of the child underwent at
once a magical change; the foreboding look took possession of his
beautiful eyes, the anxious lines appeared around his mouth, his lips
and chin became tremulous, his head drooped, he let fall my hand which
he was fond of holding as he talked, and quietly, penitently slunk
away; and though he might presently be recalled by his father's
kindliest tones, his brightness would not be restored that time.

This mysterious, severe understanding between the father and the child
affected me painfully; I was at a loss to surmise its nature, whence
it proceeded, or how it could be; for Ferdy evinced in his every word,
look, movement, an undivided fondness for his father. And in his
tender-proud allusions to the boy, at times let fall to me,--in the
anxious watchfulness with which he followed him with his eye, when an
interval of peace and comparative happiness had set childhood's spirit
free, and lent a degree of graceful gayety to all his motions,--I saw
the brimming measure of the father's love. Could it be but his
morbidly repellant pride, his jealous guarding of the domestic
privacies, his vigilant pacing up and down forever before the
close-drawn curtain of the heart?--was there no Bluebeard's chamber
there? No! Pride was all the matter,--pride was the Spartan fox that
tore the vitals of Pintal, while he but bit his lips, and bowed, and

Among the pictures in Pintal's tent was one which had in an especial
manner attracted my attention. It was a cabinet portrait, nearly
full-length, of a venerable gentleman, of grave but benevolent aspect,
and an air of imposing dignity. Care had evidently been taken to
render faithfully the somewhat remarkable vigor of his frame; his
iron-gray hair was cropped quite short, and he wore a heavy grizzled
moustache, but no other beard; the lines of his mouth were not severe,
and his eye was soft and gentle. But what made the portrait
particularly noticeable was the broad red ribbon of a noble order
crossing the breast, and a Maltese cross suspended from the neck by a
short chain of massive and curiously wrought links. I had many times
been on the point of asking the name of this singularly handsome and
distinguished-looking personage; but an instinctive feeling of
delicacy always deterred me.

One day I found little Ferdy alone, and singing merrily some pretty
Spanish song. I told him I was rejoiced to find him in such good
spirits, and asked him if he had not been having a jolly romp with the
American carpenter's son, who lived in the Chinese house close by. My
question seemed to afflict him with puzzled surprise;--he half smiled,
as if not quite sure but I might be jesting.

"Oh, no, indeed! I have never played with him; I do not know him; I
never play with any boys here. Oh, no, indeed!"

"But why not, Ferdy? What! a whole month in this tiresome tent, and
not make the acquaintance of your nearest neighbor,--such a sturdy,
hearty chunk of a fellow as that is?--I have no doubt he's
good-natured, too, for he's fat and funny, tough and independent.
Besides, he's a carpenter's son, you know; so there's a chance to
borrow a saw to make the dog-house with. Who knows but his father will
take a fancy to you,--I'm sure he is very likely to,--and make you a
church dog-house, steeple and all complete and painted, and much finer
than Charley Saunders's martin-box?"

"Oh, I should like to, so much! And perhaps he has a Newfoundlander
with a bushy tail and a brass collar,--that would be nicer than a
kangaroo. But--but"--looking comically bothered,--"I never knew a
carpenter's son in my life. I am sure my father would not give me
permission,--I am sure he would be very angry, if I asked him. Are
they not very disagreeable, that sort of boys? Don't they swear, and
tear their clothes, and fight, and sing vulgar songs, and tell lies,
and sit down in the middle of the street?"

Merciful Heaven! thought I,--here's a crying shame! here's an
interesting case for professors of moral hygiene! An apt, intelligent
little man, with an empty mind, and a by-no-means overloaded stomach,
I'll engage,--with a pride-paralyzed father, and a beer-bewitched
slattern of a mother,--with his living to get, in San Francisco, too,
and the world to make friends with,--who has never enjoyed the
peculiar advantages to be derived from the society of little dirty
boys, never been admitted to the felicity of popular songs, nor
exercised his pluck in a rough-and-tumble, nor ventilated himself in
wholesome "giddy, giddy, gout,"--to whom dirt-pies are a fable!

"Ferdy," said I, "I'll talk with your father myself. But tell me, now,
what makes you so happy to-day."

"My father got a letter this morning,"--a mail had just arrived; it
brought no smile or tear for me,--no parallelogram of tragedy or
comedy in stationery,--"such a pleasant one, from my uncle Miguel, at
Florence, in Italy, you know. He is well, and quite rich, my father
says; they have restored to him his property that he thought was all
lost forever, and they have made him a chevalier again. But I am sure
my father will tell you all about it, for he said he did hope you
would come to-day; and he is so happy and so kind!"

"They have made him a chevalier again," I wondered. "Your uncle Miguel
is your father's brother, then, Ferdy. And did you ever see him?"

Before he could reply, Pintal entered, stepping smartly, his color
heightened with happiness, his eyes full of an extraordinary elation.

"Ah! my dear Doctor, I am rejoiced to find you here; I have been
wishing for you. See! your picture is finished. Tell me if you like

"Indeed, a work of beauty, Pintal."

"To me, too, it never looked so well before; but I see things with
glad eyes to-day. I have much to tell you. Ferdy, your mother is
dining at the restaurant; go join her. And when you have finished your
dinner, ask her to take you to walk. Say that I am engaged. Would you
not like to walk, my boy, and see how fast the new streets spring up?
When you return, you can tell me of all you saw."

The boy turned up his lovely face to be kissed, and for a moment hung
fondly on his father's neck. The poor painter's lips quivered, and his
eyes winked quickly. Then the lad took his cap, and without another
word went forth.

"I am happy to-day, Doctor,--Heaven save the mark! My happiness is so
much more than my share, that I shall insist, will ye, nill ye, on
your sharing it with me. I have a heart to open to somebody, and you
are the very man. So, sit you down, and bear with my egotism, for I
have a little tale to tell you, of who I am and how I came here. The
story is not so commonplace but that your kindness will find, here and
there, an interesting passage in it.

"I have seen that that picture,"--indicating the one I have last
described,--"attracted your attention, and that you were prevented
from questioning me about it only by delicacy. That is my father's
likeness. He was of English birth, the younger son of a rich Liverpool
merchant. An impulsive, romantic, adventurous boy, seized early with a
passion for seeing the world, his unimaginative, worldly-wise father,
practical and severe, kept him within narrow, fretting bounds, and
imposed harsh restraints upon him. When he was but sixteen years old,
he ran away from home, shipped before the mast, and, after several
long voyages, was discharged, at his own request, at Carthagena, where
he entered a shipping-house as clerk, and, having excellent mercantile
talents, was rapidly promoted.

"Meantime, through a sister, the only remaining child, except a
half-witted brother, he heard at long intervals from home. His father
remained strangely inexorable, fiercely forbade his return, and became
violent at the slightest mention of his name by his sister, or some
old and attached servant; he died without bequeathing his forgiveness,
or, of course, a single shilling. But the young man thrived with his
employers, whose business growing rapidly more and more prosperous,
and becoming widely extended, they transferred him to a branch house
at Malaga. Here he formed the acquaintance of the Don Francisco de
Zea-Bermudez, whose rising fortunes made his own.

"Zea-Bermudez was at that time engaged in large commercial operations.
Although, under the diligent and ambitious teaching of his famous
relative, the profound, sagacious, patriotic, bold, and gloriously
abused Jovellanos, he had become accomplished in politics, law, and
diplomacy, he seemed to be devoting himself for the present to large
speculations and the sudden acquisition of wealth, and to let the
state of the nation, the Cortes, and its schemes, alone.

"Only a young, beautiful, and accomplished sister shared his splendid
establishment in Malaga; and for her my father formed an engrossing
attachment, reciprocated in the fullest, almost simultaneously with
his friendship for her brother. Zea favored the suit of the
high-spirited and clever young Englishman, whose intelligence,
independence, and perseverance, to say nothing of his good looks and
his engaging manners, had quite won his heart. By policy, too, no less
than by pleasure, the match recommended itself to him;--my father
would make a famous junior-partner. So they were married under the
name of Pintal, bestowed upon his favorite English clerk by the
adventurous first patron at Carthagena, who had found the boy provided
with only a 'purser's name,' as sailors term it.

"I will not be so disrespectful to the memory of my distinguished
uncle, nor so rude toward your intelligence, my friend, as to presume
that you are not familiar with the main points of his history,--the
great strides he took, almost from that time, in a most influential
diplomatic career: the embassy to St. Petersburg, and the
Romanzoff-Bermudez treaty of amity and alliance in 1812, by which
Alexander acknowledged the legality of the ordinary and extraordinary
Cortes of Cadiz; the embassy to the Porte in 1821; his recall in 1823,
and extraordinary mission to the Court of St. James; his appointment
to lead the Ministry in 1824; my father's high place in the Treasury;
their joint efforts from this commanding position to counteract the
violence of the Apostolical party, to meet the large requisitions of
France, to cover the deficit of three hundred millions of reals, and
to restore the public credit; the insults of the Absolutists, and
their machinations to thwart his liberal and sagacious measures; his
efforts to resign, opposed by the King; the suppression of a
formidable Carlist conspiracy in 1825; the execution of Bessieres, and
the 'ham-stringing' of Absolutist leaders; his dismissal from the
Ministry in October, 1825, Ferdinand yielding to the Apostolic storm;
the embassy to Dresden; his appointment as Minister at London.

"And here my story begins, for I was his Secretary of Legation then;
while my brother Miguel, younger than I, was _attache_ at Paris, where
he had succeeded me, on my promotion,--a promotion that procured for
me congratulations for which I could with difficulty affect a decent
show of gratitude, for I knew too well what it meant. It was not the
enlightened, liberal Minister I had to deal with, but the hard, proud
uncle, full of expediencies, and calculating schemes for family
advancement, and the exaltation of a lately obscure name.

"In Paris I had been admitted first to the flattering friendship, and
then to the inmost heart of--of a most lovely young lady, as noble by
her character as by her lineage,"--and he glanced at the open

"The Lady Angelica," I quietly said.

"Sir!" he exclaimed, quickly changing color, and assuming his most
frigid expression and manner. But as quickly, and before I could
speak, his sad smile and friendly tone returned, and he said,--

"Ah! I see,--Ferdy has been babbling of his visions and his dreams.
Yes, the Lady Angelica. 'Very charming,' my uncle granted, 'but very
poor; less of the angel and more of the heiress was desirable,' he
said,--'less heaven and more land. A decayed family was only a little
worse than an obscure one,--a poor knight not a whit more respectable
than a rich merchant. I must relinquish my little romance,--I had not
time for it; I had occupation enough for the scant leisure my family
duties'--and he laid stress on the words--'left me in the duties of my
post. He would endeavor to find arguments for the lady and employment
for me.'

"It was in vain for me to remonstrate,--I was too familiar with my
uncle's temper to waste my time and breath so. I would be silent, I
resolved, and pursue my honorable and gallant course without regard to
his scandalous schemes. I wrote to the 'Lady Angelica,'--since Ferdy's
name for her is so well chosen,--telling her all, giving her solemn
assurances of my unchangeable purpose toward her, and scorn of my
uncle's mercenary ambition. She replied very quietly: 'She, also, was
not without pride; she would come and see for herself';--and she came
at once.

"The family arrived in London in the evening. Within two hours I was
sent--after the fashion of an old-time courier, 'Ride! ride!
ride!--for your life! for your life! for your life!'--to Turin with
despatches, and sealed instructions for my own conduct, not to be
opened till I arrived; then I found my orders were, to remain at Turin
until it should be my uncle's pleasure to recall me.

"I had not been in Turin a month when a letter came from------the Lady
Angelica. 'It was her wish that all intercourse between us, by
interview or correspondence, should cease at once and forever. She
assumed this position of her own free will, and she was resolute to
maintain it. She trusted that I would not inquire obtrusively into her
motives,--she had no fear that I would doubt that they were worthy of
her. Her respect for me was unabated,--her faith in me perfect. I had
her blessing and her anxious prayers. I must go on my way in brave
silence and patience, nor ever for one moment be so weak as to fool
myself into a hope that she would change her purpose.'

"What should I do? I had no one to advise with; my mother, whose faith
in her brother's wisdom was sure, was in Madrid, and my father had
been dead some years. At first my heart was full of bitter curses, and
my uncle had not at his heels a heartier hater than I. Then came the
merely romantic thought, that this might be but a test she would put
me to,--that he might be innocent and ignorant of my misfortune. With
the thought I flung my heart into writing, and madly plied her with
one long, passionate letter after another. I got no answers; but by
his spies my uncle was apprised of all I did.

"About this time,--it was in 1832,--Zea-Bermudez was recalled to
Madrid in a grave crisis, and appointed to the administration of
foreign affairs. Ferdinand VII. was apparently approaching the end of
his reign and his life. The Apostolical party, exulting in their
strength, and confiding in those well-laid plans which, with mice and
men, 'gang aft agley,' imprudently showed their hand, and suffered
their favorite project to transpire; which was, to set aside the
ordinance by which the King had made null the Salic law, in favor of
his infant daughter, and to support the pretensions of the King's
brother, Carlos, to the throne.

"By this stupid flourish the Apostolical party threw themselves bound
at the feet of Zea. All of their persuasion who filled high places
under government were without ceremony removed, and their seats filled
by Liberals. Many of them did not escape without more crippling blows.
As for me, I looked on with indifference, or at most some philosophic
sneers. What had I to fear or care? In my uncle's estimation, my
politics had been always healthy, no doubt; and although he had on
more than one occasion hinted, with sarcastic wit, that such a
lady's-man must, of his devoir, be a 'gallant champion of the Salic
law,' and dropped something rude and ill-natured about my English
blood,--still, that was only in his dyspeptic moods; his temper was
sure to improve, I fancied, with his political and material digestion.

"But I deceived myself. When, in the name of the infant Queen,
Isabella Segunda, and in honor of the reestablishment of order and
public safety, the pleasant duty devolved upon Zea-Bermudez of
awarding approbation and encouragement to all the officers, from an
ambassador to the youngest _attache_ of foreign legations, and
presenting them with tokens of the nation's happiness in the shape of
stars, and seals with heraldic devices, and curious chains of historic
significance, not even a paltry ribbon fell to my share, but only a
few curt lines of advice, 'to look well to my opinions, and be
modest,--obediently to discharge the duties prescribed to me, and
remember that presumption was a fault most intolerable in a young
gentleman so favored by chance as to be honored with the confidence of

"That exhausted the little patience I had left. Savagely I tore the
note into contemptible fragments, tossed into my travelling-boxes as
much of my wardrobe as happened to be at hand, consigned to a sealed
case my diplomatic instructions and all other documents pertaining to
my office, placed them in the hands of a confidential friend, Mr.
Ballard, the British Agent, and secretly took passage for England,
where, without losing an hour, I made the best of my way to the abode
of an ambitious cockney wine-merchant, to whose daughter I had not
been disagreeable in other days, and within a fortnight married her.
You have seen the lady, Sir," he said, eyeing me searchingly as he
spoke, with a sardonic smile,--the only ugly expression I ever saw him

"Certain title-deeds and certificates of stock, part of my father's
legacy, which, as if foreseeing the present emergency, I had brought
away with me, were easily converted into cash. I had then twenty
thousand sterling pounds, to which my father-in-law generously added
ten thousand more, by way of portion with his daughter.

"And now to what should I betake myself? I had small time to cast
about me, and was easy to please; any tolerably promising enterprise,
so the field of it were remote, would serve my purpose. The papers
were full of Australian speculations, the wonderful prosperity of the
several colonies there, the great fortunes suddenly made in wool.
Good! I would go to Australia, and be a gentle shepherd on an imposing
scale. But first I sought out my father's old friends, my Lords
Palmerston and Brougham, and the Bishop of Dublin, and besought the
aid of their wisdom. With but slight prudential hesitation they with
one accord approved my project. Observe: a first-rate Minister,
especially if he be a very busy one, always likes the plan that
pleases his young friend best,--that is, if it be not an affair of
State, and all the risks lie with his young friend. They would have
spoken of Turin and Zea-Bermudez; but I had been bred a diplomat and
knew how to stick to my point, which, this time, was wool. In another
fortnight I had sailed for Sydney with my shekels and my wife. But
first, and for the first time, I caused the announcement of my
marriage to appear in the principal papers of London, Paris, St.
Petersburg, and Madrid.

"Arrived in Australia, I at once made myself the proprietor of a
considerable farm, and stocked it abundantly with sheep. Speculation
had not yet burst itself, like the frog in the fable; and large
successes, as in water-lot and steamboat operations here, to-day, were
the rule. On the third anniversary of my landing at Sydney, I was
worth three hundred thousand pounds, and my commercial name was among
the best in the colony. Six months after that, the rot, the infernal
rot, had turned my thriving populous pastures into shambles for
carrion-mutton, and I had not sixpence of my own in the wide world. A
few of the more generous of my creditors left me a hundred pounds with
which to make my miserable way to some South American port on the

"So I chose Valparaiso, to paint miniatures, and teach English,
French, Italian, and German in. But earthquakes shook my poor house,
and the storm-fiend shook my soul with fear;--for skies in lightning
and thunder are to me as the panorama and hurly-burly of the Day of
Wrath, in all the stupid rushing to and fro and dazed stumbling of
Martin's great picture. I shall surely die by lightning; I have not
had that live shadow of a sky-reaching fear hanging over me, with its
black wings and awful mutterings, so long for nothing; in every flash
my eyes are scathed by the full blaze of hell. If I had been deaf and
blind, I might have lived in Valparaiso. As it was, I must go
somewhere where I need not sit all day and night stopping my ears and
with my face covered, fearing that the rocks would fall upon me too

"So, with my wife and the child,--we have had no other, thank God!--I
got round Cape Horn--Heaven knows how! I dare not think of that
time--to the United States. We were making for Boston; but the ship,
strained by long stress of heavy weather, sprung a leak, and we put in
at Baltimore. I was pleased with the place; it is picturesque, and has
a kindly look; and as all places were alike to me then, save by the
choice of a whim, I let go my weary anchor there.

"But the Baltimoreans only admired my pictures,--they did not buy
them; they only wondered at my polyglot accomplishment, and were
content with ringing silly-kind changes on an Encyclopaedic compliment
about the Admirable Crichton, and other well-educated personages, to
be found alphabetically embalmed in Conversations-Lexicons,--they did
not inquire into my system of teaching, or have quarterly knowledge of
my charges. So I fled from Baltimore, pretty speeches, and starvation,
to San Francisco, plain talk, and pure gold. And now--see here,
Sir!--I carry these always about with me, lest the pretty pickings of
this Tom Tiddler's ground should make my experience forget."

He drew from his pocket an "illuminated" card, bearing a likeness of
Queen Victoria, and a creased and soiled bit of yellow paper. The one
was, by royal favor, a complimentary pass to a reserved place in
Westminster Abbey, on the occasion of the coronation of her Britannic
Majesty, "For the Senor Camillo Alvarez y Pintal, Chevalier of the
Noble Order of the Cid, Secretary to His Catholic Majesty's Legation
near the Court of St. James,"--the other, a Sydney pawnbroker's ticket
for books pledged by "Mr. Camilla Allverris i Pintal." He held these
contrasted certificates of Fortune,--her mocking visiting-cards, when
she called on him in palace and in cabin,--one in each hand for a
moment; and bitterly smiling, and shaking his head, turned from one to
the other. Then suddenly he let them fall to the ground, and, burying
his face in his hands, was roughly shaken through all his frame by a
great gust of agony.

I laid my hand tenderly on his shoulder: "But, Pintal," I said,--"the
Lady Angelica,--tell me why she chose that course."

In a moment the man was fiercely aroused. "Ah, true! I had forgotten
that delectable passage in my story. Why, man, Bermudez went to her,
told her that my aspirations and my prospects were so and so,--faring,
brilliant,--that she, only she, stood in the way, an impassable
stumbling-block to my glorious advancement,--told her, (devil!) that,
with all my fine passion for her, he was aware that I was not without
embarrassment on this score,--appealed to her disinterested love, to
her pride,--don't you see?--to her pride."

"And were is she now, Pintal?"

No anger now, no flush of excitement;--the man, all softened as by an
angel's touch, arose, and, with clasped hands and eyes unturned
devoutly, smiled through big tears, and without a word answered me.

I, too, was silent. "Whittier had not yet written,--

"Of all sad words of tongue or pen
The saddest are these: 'It might have been!'

"Ah, well! for us all some sweet hope lies
Deeply buried from human eyes;

"And, in the hereafter, angels may
Roll the stone from its grave away!"

Then Pintal paced briskly to and fro a few turns across the narrow
floor of his tent, and presently stopping, said,--his first
cheerfulness, with its unwonted smile, returning,--

"But I must tell you why I should be happy today. I have a letter from
my brother Miguel, who is Secretary to the Legation at the Porte. He
has leave of absence, and is happy with his dearest friends in
Florence. He shared my disgrace until lately, but bore it patiently;
and now is reinstated in his office and his honors, a large portion of
his property restored, which had been temporarily confiscated, while
he was under suspicion as a Carlist. He is authorized to offer me
pardon, and all these pretty things, if I will return and take a new
oath of allegiance."

"And you will accept, Pintal?"

"Why, in God's name, what do you take me for?--Pardon! I forgot
myself, Sir. Your question is a natural one. But no, I shall surely
not accept. Zea-Bermudez is dead, but there is a part of me which can
never die; and I am happy today because I feel that I am not so poor
as I thought I was."

Ferdy entered, alone. He went straight to his father and whispered
something in his ear,--about the mother, I suspected, for both
blushed, and Pintal said, with a vexed look,--"Ah, very well! never
mind that, my boy."

Then Ferdy threw off his cap and cloak, and, seating himself on a pile
of books at his father's feet, quietly rested his head upon his knee.
I observed that his face was vividly flushed, and his eyes looked
weary. I felt his pulse,--it indicated high fever; and to our anxious
questions he answered, that his head ached terribly, and he was "every
minute hot or cold." I persuaded him to go to bed at once, and left
anxious instructions for his treatment, for I saw that he was going to
be seriously ill.

In three days little Ferdy was with the Lady Angelica in heaven. He
died in my arms, of scarlet fever. In the delirium of his last moments
he saw _her_, and he departed with strange words on his lips: "I am
coming, Lady, I am coming!--my father will be ready presently!"

Some strangers from the neighborhood helped me to bury him; we laid
him near the grave of the First Lady; but very soon his pretty bones
were scattered, and there's a busy street there now.

Pintal, when I told him that the boy was dead, only bowed and smiled.
He did not go to the grave, he never again named the child, nor by the
least word or look confessed the change. But when, a little later, a
fire swept down Dupont Street and laid the poor tent in ashes,
spoiling the desolate house whose beautiful _lar_ had flitted,--when
his wife went moaning maudlinly among the yet warm ashes, and groping,
in mean misery, with a stick, for some charred nothing she would cheat
the Spoiler of, there was a dangerous quality in Pintal's look, as,
with folded arms and vacant eyes, he seemed to stare upon, yet not to
see, the shocking scene. Presently the woman, poking with the stick,
found something under the ashes. With her naked hands she greedily
dug it out;--it was a tin shaving-case. Another moment, and Pintal had
snatched it from her grasp, torn it open, and had a naked razor in his
hand. I wrested it from him, as he fairly foamed, and dragged him from
the place.

A few days after that, I took leave of them on board a merchant ship
bound for England, and with a heavy-hearted prayer sped them on their
way. On the voyage, as Pintal stood once, trembling in a storm, near
the mainmast, a flash of lightning transfixed him.--That was well! He
had been distinguished by his sorrows, and was worthy of that special

* * * * *

That picture,--it was the first and last he painted in California. I
kept it long, rejoicing in the admiration it excited, and only grieved
that the poor comfort of the praises I daily heard lavished upon it
could never reach him.

Once, when I was ill in Sacramento, my San Francisco house was burned,
but not before its contents had been removed. In the hopeless
scattering of furniture and trunks, this picture disappeared,--no one
knew whither. I sought it everywhere, and advertised for it, but in
vain. About a year afterward, I sailed for Honolulu. I had letters of
introduction to some young American merchants there, one of whom
hospitably made me his guest for several weeks. On the second day of
my stay with him, he was showing me over his house, where, hanging
against the wall in a spare room, I found,--not the Pintal picture,
but a Chinese copy of it, faithful in its every detail. There were the
several alterations I had suggested, and there the rich, warm colors
that Pintal's taste had chosen. Of course, it was a copy. No doubt, my
picture had been stolen at the fire, or found its way by mistake among
the "traps" of other people. Then it had been sold at auction,--some
Chinaman had bought it,--it had been shipped to Canton or Hong
Kong,--some one of the thousand "artists" of China Street or the
Victoria Road had copied it for the American market. A ship-load of
Chinese goods--Canton crape shawls, camphor-boxes, carved toys,
curiosities, and pictures--had been sold in Honolulu,--and here it

* * * * *


Oh, the houses are all alike, you know,--
All the houses alike, in a row!
You'll see a hat-stand in the hall,
Against the painted and polished wall;
And the threaded sunbeams softly fall
On the long stairs, winding up, away
Up to the garret, lone and gray:
And you can hear, if you wait awhile,
Odd little noises to make you smile;
And minutes will be as long as a mile;--
Just as they would in the house below,
Were you in the entry waiting to go.

Oh, the houses are all alike, you know,--
All the houses alike, in a row!
And the world swings sadly to and fro,--
Mayhap the shining, but sure the woe!
For in the sunlight the shadows grow
Over the new name on the door,
Over the face unseen before.
Yet who shall number, by any art,
The chasms that keep so wide apart
The dancing step and the weary heart?
Oh, who shall guess that the polished wall
Is a headstone over his neighbor's hall?

Yet the houses are just alike, you know,--
All the houses alike, in a row!
And solemn sounds are heard at night,
And solemn forms shut out the light,
And hideous thoughts the soul affright:
Death and despair, in solemn state,
In the silent, vaulted chambers wait;
And up the stairs as your children go,
Spectres follow them, to and fro,--
Only a wall between them, oh!
And the darkest demons, grinning, see
The fairest angels that dwell with thee!

For the houses are all alike, you know,--
All the houses alike, in a row!
My chariot waited, gold and gay:
"I'll ride," I said, "to the woods to-day,--
Out to the blithesome woods away,--
Where the old trees, swaying thoughtfully,
Watch the breeze and the shadow's glee."
I smiled but once, with my joy elate,
For a chariot stood at my neighbor's gate,--
A grim old chariot, dark as fate.
"Oh, where are you taking my neighbor?" I cried.
And the gray old driver thus replied:--

"Where the houses are all alike, you know,--
Narrow houses, all in a row!
Unto a populous city," he saith:
"The road lies steep through the Vale of Death
Oh, it makes the old steeds gasp for breath!
There'll be a new name over the door,
In a place where _he's_ never been before,--
Where the neighbors never visit, they say,--
Where the streets are echoless, night and day,
And the children forget their childish play.
And if you should live next door, I doubt
If you'd ever hear what they were about
Who lived in the next house in the row,--
Though the houses are all alike, you know!"




Dorset was still Lord Chamberlain when the death of Shadwell placed
the laurel again at his disposal. Had he listened to Dryden, William
Congreve would have received it. Of all the throng of young gentlemen
who gathered about the chair of the old poet at Wills's, Congreve was
his prime favorite. That his advice was not heeded was long a matter
of pensive regret:--

"Oh that your brows my laurel had sustained!
Well had I been deposed, if you had reigned!
The father had descended for the son;
For only you are lineal to the throne.
Thus, when the state one Edward did depose,
A greater Edward in his room arose."[1]

The choice fell upon Nahum Tate:--

"But now not I, but poetry is cursed;
For Tom the Second reigns like Tom the First."

What particular quality recommended Tate we are not wholly able to
explain. Dryden alleges "charity" as the single impulse of the
appointment,--not the merit or aptitude of the candidate. But
throughout life Dorset continued to countenance Nahum, serving as
standing dedicatee of his works, and the prompter of several of them.
We have remarked the want of judgment which Lord Dorset exhibited in
his anxious patronage of the scholars and scribblers of his time,--a
trait which stood the Blackmores, Bradys, and Tates in good stead.

But there was still another reason why Tate was preferred to Congreve.
Dorset was too practised a courtier not to study the tastes of his
master to good purpose. A liking for the stage, or a lively sense of
poetic excellence, was not among the preferences of King William. The
Laureate was sub-purveyor of amusement for the court; but there was no
longer a court to amuse, and the King himself never once in his reign
entered a theatre. The piety of Queen Mary rendered her a rare
attendant at the play-house. Plays were therefore no longer wanted. A
playwright could not amuse. Congreve was a dramatist who had never
exhibited even passable talent for other forms of poetical
composition. But Tate's limited gifts, displayed to Dorset's
satisfaction in various encomiastic verses addressed to himself, were
fully equal to the exigencies of the office under the new order of
things; he was by profession a eulogist, not a dramatist. He was a
Tory; and the King was out of humor with the Whigs. He was
pretentiously moral and exemplary of life and pen, and so suited the
Queen. The duties of the office were conformed, as far as practicable,
to the royal tastes. Their scene was transferred from the play-house
to the church. On the anniversaries of the birthdays of the two
sovereigns, and upon New Year's day, the Laureate was expected to have
ready congratulatory odes befitting the occasion, set to music by the
royal organist, and sung after service in the Chapel Royal of St.
James. Similar duties were required when great victories were to be
celebrated, or national calamities to be deplored. In short, from
writing dramas to amuse a merry monarch and his courtiers, an office
not without dignity, the Laureate sunk into a hired writer of
adulatory odes; a change in which originated that prevalent contempt
for the laurel which descended from the era of Tate to that of

And yet the odes were in no sense more thoroughly Pindaric than in the
circumstance of their flatteries being bought and paid for at a stated
market value. The triumphal lyrics of Pindar himself were very far
from being those spontaneous and enthusiastic tributes to the prowess
of his heroes, which the vulgar receive them for. Hear the painful
truth, as revealed by the Scholiast.[2] Pytheas of AEgina had
conquered in rough-and-tumble fight all antagonists in the Pancratium.
Casting about for the best means of perpetuating his fame, he found
the alternative to lie between a statuette to be erected in the temple
of the hero-god, or one of the odes of the learned Theban. Choosing
the latter, he proceeded to the poet's shop, cheapened the article,
and would have secured it without hesitation, had not the extortionate
bard demanded the sum of three drachmas,[3] nearly equal to half a
dollar, for the poem, and refused to bate a fraction. The disappointed
bargainer left, and was for some days decided in favor of the brazen
image, which could be had at half the price. But reflecting that what
Pindar would give for his money was a draft upon universal fame and
immortality, while the statue might presently be lost, or melted down,
or its identity destroyed, his final determination was in favor of the
ode,--a conclusion which time has justified. Nor was the Bard of the
Victors ashamed of his mercenary Muse. In the Second Isthmian Ode, we
find an elaborate justification of his practice of praising for
pay,--a practice, he admits, unknown to primitive poets, but rendered
inevitable, in his time, by the poverty of the craft, and the
degeneracy of the many, with whom, in the language of the Spartan
sage, "money made the man." With this Pindaric precedent, therefore,
for selling Pindaric verses, it is no wonder, if the children of the
Muse, in an age still more degenerate than that of their great
original, found ample excuse for dealing out their wares at the best
market. When such as Dryden and Pope lavished in preface and
dedication their encomiums upon wealth and power, and waited eagerly
for the golden guineas the bait might bring them, we have no right to
complain of the Tates and Eusdens for prostituting their neglected
Muses for a splendid sum certain _per annum_. Surely, if royalty, thus
periodically and mercenarily eulogized, were content, the poet might
well be so. And quite as certainly, the Laureate stipend never
extracted from poet panegyric more fulsome, ill-placed, and degrading,
than that which Laureate Dryden volunteered over the pall of Charles

Tate had been known as a hanger-on at the court of Charles, and as a
feeble versifier and pamphleteer of the Tory school, before an
alliance with Dryden gave him a certain degree of importance. The
first part of "Absalom and Achitophel," in 1681, convulsed the town
and angered the city. Men talked for a time of nothing else. Tate, who
was in the secret of its authorship, talked of it to Dryden, and urged
an extension of the poem. Were there not enough of Shaftesbury's brisk
boys running at large who deserved to be gibbeted? Were there not
enough Hebrew names in the two books of Samuel to name each as
appropriately as those already nomenclatured? But Dryden was
indisposed to undertake a continuation which must fall short of what
had been executed in the exact proportion that the characters left for
it were of minor consequence. He recommended the task to Tate. Tate,
flattered and nothing loath, accordingly sent to the press the second
part of "Absalom and Achitophel," embodying a contribution from Dryden
of two hundred lines, which are as plainly distinguishable from the
rest as a patch of cloth of gold upon cloth of frieze. The credit of
this first alliance proved so grateful to Nahum, that he never after
ventured upon literary enterprise without the aid of a similar
coalition. His genius was inherently parasitic. In conjunction with
Tory and Jesuit, he coalesced in the celebration of Castlemaine's
gaudy reception at Rome.

In conjunction with Nicholas Brady, he prepared that version of the
Psalms still appended to the English Book of Common Prayer. In
conjunction with Dryden and others, he translated Juvenal. In
conjunction with Lord Dorset, he edited a praiseworthy edition of the
poems of Sir John Davies, which might otherwise have been lost or
forgotten. In conjunction with Garth, he translated the
"Metamorphoses" of Ovid. And in conjunction with Dr. Blow, he prepared
those Pindaric flights which set King William asleep, and made
Godolphin ashamed that the deeds of Marlborough should be so
unworthily sung.

So long as he continued to enjoy the patronage of his liberal
Maecenas, Tate, with his aid, and these labors, and the income of his
office, contrived to maintain the state of a gentleman. But Dorset
died in 1706; the Laureate's dull heroics found no vent; and ere the
death of Queen Anne,--an event which he bewailed in the least
contemptible of his odes,--his revenues were contracted to the
official stipend. The accession of the house of Hanover, in 1714, was
the downfall of Toryism; and Tate was a Tory. His ruin was complete.
The Elector spared not the house of Pindar. The Laureate was stripped
of the wreath; his only income confiscated; and after struggling
feebly with fate in the form of implacable creditors, he took refuge
in the Old Mint, the resort of thieves and debtors, where in 1715 he
died,--it is said, of starvation. Alas, that the common lot of Grub
Street should have precedent in the person of laurelled royalty

The coronation of Laureate Rowe was simultaneous with that of George
I. His immediate claim to the honor dated back to the year 1702, when
his play of "Tamerlane" had caught the popular fancy, and proved of
vast service to the ministry at a critical moment in stimulating the
national antipathy to France. The effect was certainly not due to
artistic nicety or refinement. King William, as _Tamerlane_, was
invested with all virtues conceivable of a Tartar conqueror, united
with the graces of a primitive saint; while King Louis, as _Bajazet_,
fell little short of the perfections of Satan. These coarse daubs,
executed in the broadest style of the sign-post school of Art, so
gratified the mob, that for half a century their exhibition was called
for on the night of November the fifth. Rowe, moreover, belonged to
the straitest sect of Whiggery,--was so bigoted, indeed, as to decline
the acquaintance of a Tory, and in play and prologue missed no chance
of testifying devotion to liberal opinions.[5] His investiture with
the laurel was only another proof that at moments of revolution
extremists first rise to the surface. A man of affluent fortune, and
the recipient of redundant favors from the new ministry, Rowe enjoyed
the sunshine of life, while the dethroned Nahum starved in the Mint,
as the dethroned James starved at Rome. Had the dramatic tribute still
been exacted, there is little doubt that the author of the "Fair
Penitent," and of "Jane Shore," would have lent splendid lustre to his
office. His odes, however,--such, at least, as have been thought
worthy of preservation among his works,--are a prodigious improvement
upon the tenuity of his predecessor, and immeasurably superior in
poetical fire and elegance to those of any successor antecedent to

For, following Nicholas Rowe, there were dark ages of Laureate
dulness,--a period redeemed by nothing, unless by the ridicule and
controversy to which the wearers of the leaf gave occasion. Rowe died
in the last days of 1718. The contest for the vacant place is presumed
to have been unusually active. John Sheffield, Duke of Buckinghamshire,
imitating Suckling's "Session of the Poets," brings all the
versifiers of the time into the canvas, and after humorously
dispatching one after another, not sparing himself, closes,--

"At last, in rushed Eusden, and cried, 'Who shall have it,
But I, the true Laureate, to whom the King gave it?'
Apollo begged pardon, and granted his claim,
But vowed, though, till then, he ne'er heard of his name."[6]

This Laurence Eusden was a scribbling parson, whose model in Art was
Sir Richard Blackmore, and whose morality was of the Puritanical
stripe. He had assisted Garth in his Ovid, assuming, doubtless upon
high moral grounds, the rendering of the impurest fables. He had
written odes to great people upon occasions more or less great,
therein exhibiting some ingenuity in varying the ordinary staple of
adulation. He had addressed an epithalamium to the Duke of Newcastle
upon his marriage with the Lady Henrietta Godolphin,--a tribute so
gratifying to his Grace, then Lord Chamberlain, as to secure the poet
the place of Rowe. Ensden's was doubtless the least honorable name as
yet associated with the laurel. His contemporaries allude to him with
uniform disdain. Cooke, the translator of Hesiod, tells us,--

"Eusden, a laurelled bard, by fortune raised,
By very few was read, by fewer praised,"

Pope, as cavalierly, in the "Dunciad":--

"She saw old Prynne in restless Daniel shine,
And Eusden eke out Blackmore's endless line."

Jacobs, in his "Lives of the Poets," speaks of him as a multifarious
writer of unreadable trash,--and names but few of his productions. The
truth was, Eusden, secluding himself at his rectory among the fens of
Lincolnshire, took no part in society, declined all association with
the polite circles of the metropolis, thus inviting attacks, from
which his talents were not respectable enough to screen him. That the
loftiest revelations of poetry were not required of the Laureate of
George I., who understood little or no English, there can be no
question. George II. was equally insensible to the Muses; and had the
annual lyrics been a mosaic of the merest gibberish, they would have
satisfied his earlier tastes as thoroughly as the odes of Collins or
Gray. A court, at which Pope and Swift, Young and Thomson were
strangers, had precisely that share of Augustan splendor which enabled
such as Eusden to shine lustrously.[7]

And so Eusden shone and wrote, and in the fulness of time--September,
1730--died and was buried; and his laurel others desired.[8] The
leading claimants were Richard Savage and Colley Cibber. The touching
story of Savage had won the heart of the Queen, and she had extracted
from the King the promise of the Laureateship for its hero. But in the
Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, Savage had an irreconcilable opponent.
The apprehension of exciting powerful enmities, if he elevated the
"Bastard" and his wrongs to so conspicuous a place, had, no doubt, an
influence with the shrewd statesman. Possibly, too, so keen and
practical a mind could not but entertain thorough contempt for the
man, who, with brains, thews, and sinews of his own, a fair education,
and as many golden opportunities of advancement as a reasonable being
could desire, should waste his days in profitless mendicancy at the
doors of great people, in whining endeavors to excite the sympathies
of the indifferent, in poem and petition, in beastly drunkenness, or,
if sober, in maudlin lamentations at the bitterness of his fortune. A
Falconbridge would have better suited the ministerial taste. At all
events, when his Majesty came to request the appointment of the
Queen's _protege_, he found that the patent had already been made out
in the name of Cibber: and Cibber had to be Laureate. The disappointed
one raved, got drunk, sober again, and finally wrote an ode to her
Majesty, announcing himself as her "Volunteer Laureate," who should
repeat his congratulations upon each recurrence of her birthday. The
Queen, in pity, sent him fifty pounds, with a promise of an equal
amount for each of his annual verses. And although Cibber protested,
and ridiculed the new title, as no more sensible than "Volunteer Duke,
Marquis, or Prime Minister," still Savage adhered to it and the
pension tenaciously, sharing the Queen's favor with Stephen Duck, the
marvellous "Thresher,"[9] whose effusions were still more to her
taste. That the yearly fifty pounds were expended in inexcusable riot,
almost as soon as received, was a matter of course. Upon the demise of
Queen Caroline, in 1738, Savage experienced another proof of Walpole's
dislike. The pensions found upon her Majesty's private list were all
continued out of the exchequer, one excepted. The pension of Savage
was the exception. Right feelingly, therefore, might he mourn his
royal mistress, and vituperate the insensible minister; and that he
did both with some degree of animation, the few who still read his
poems will freely admit.

Colley Cibber had recommended himself to promotion by consistent
partisanship, and by two plays of fair merit and exceeding popularity.
"The Careless Husband" even Pope had praised; "The Nonjuror," an
adaptation of Moliere's "Tartuffe," was one of the most successful
comedies of the period. The King had been delighted with it,--a
circumstance doubtless considered by Sir Robert in selecting a rival
for Savage. Cibber had likewise been the manager, time out of mind, of
Drury-Lane Theatre; and if now and then he had failed to recognize the
exact direction of popular taste,--as in the instance of the "Beggar's
Opera," which he rejected, and which, being accepted by Manager Rich
of Covent Garden, made Rich gay and Gay rich,--he was generally a
sound stage-tactician and judicious caterer. His career, however, had
not been so profitable that an additional hundred pounds should be a
thing of indifference; in fact, the sum seemed to be just what was
needed to enable him to forsake active duty on the stage,--for the
patent was no sooner signed than the veteran retired upon his laurels.

The annals of the Laureateship, during Cibber's reign, are without
incident.[10] The duties remained unchanged, and were performed, there
is no reason to doubt, to the contentment of the King and court.[11]
But the Laureate himself was peculiarly the object of sarcastic
satire. The standing causes were of course in operation: the envy of
rival poetasters, the dislike of political opponents, the enmities
originating in professional disputes and jealousies. Cibber's manners
had not been studied in the school of Chesterfield, although that
school was then open and flourishing. He was rude, presumptuous,
dogmatic. To superiors in rank he was grudgingly respectful; to equals
and inferiors, insupportably insolent. But when to these aggravating
traits he added the vanity of printing an autobiography, exposing a
thousand assailable points in his life and character, the temptation
was irresistible, and the whole population of Grub Street enlisted in
a crusade against him.[12] Fortunately, beneath the crust of insolence
and vanity, there was a substratum of genuine power in the Laureate's
make, which rendered him not only a match for these, but for even a
greater than these, the author of the "Dunciad." Pope's antipathy for
the truculent actor dated some distance back.

Back to the 'Devil,' the last echoes roll,
And 'Coll!' each butcher roars at Hockley-hole.

The latter accounts for it by telling, that at the first
representation of Gay's "Three Hours after Marriage," in 1717, where
one of the scenes was violently hissed, some angry words passed
between the irritated manager and Pope, who was behind the scenes, and
was erroneously supposed to have aided in the authorship. The odds of
a scolding match must have been all in favor of the blustering Cibber,
rather than of the nervous and timid Pope; but then the latter had a
faculty of hate, which his antagonist had not, and he exercised it
vigorously. The allusions to Cibber in his later poems are frequent.
Thus, in the "Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot":--

"And has not Colley still his Lord and whore?
His butchers Henley? his freemasons Moore?"

And again:--

"So humble he has knocked at Tibbald's door,
Has drunk with Colley, nay, has rhymed for Moore."

And in the "Imitation of Horace," addressed to Lord Fortescue:--

"Better be Cibber, I maintain it still,
Than ridicule all taste, blaspheme, quadrille."

"The Dunciad," as originally published in 1728, had Lewis Theobald for
its hero. There was neither sense nor justice in the selection. Pope
hated Theobald for presuming to edit the plays of Shakspeare with
greatly more ability and acuteness than himself had brought to the
task. His dislike had no better foundation. Neither the works, the
character, nor the associations of the man authorized his elevation to
the throne of dulness. The disproportion between the subject and the
satire instantly impresses the reader. After the first explosion of
his malice, it impressed Pope; and anxious to redeem his error, he
sought diligently for some plan of dethroning Tibbald, and raising
another to the vacant seat. Cibber, in the mean time, was elevated to
the laurel, and that by statesmen whom it was the fate of Pope to
detest in secret, and yet not dare to attack in print. The Fourth Book
of the "Dunciad" appeared in 1742, and its attacks were mainly
levelled at the Laureate. The Laureate replied in a pamphlet,
deprecating the poet's injustice, and declaring his unconsciousness of
any provocation for these reiterated assaults. At the same time he
announced his determination to carry on the war in prose as long as
the satirist should wage it in verse,--pamphlet for poem, world
without end. Hostilities were now fairly established. Pope issued a
fresh edition of his satire complete. The change he had long coveted
he now made. The name of Cibber was substituted throughout for that of
Theobald, the portraiture remaining the same. Johnson properly
ridicules the absurdity of leaving the heavy traits of Theobald on the
canvas, and simply affixing the name of his mercurial contemporary
beneath; and, indeed, there is much reason to doubt whether the mean
jealousy which inspired the first "Dunciad," or the blundering rage
which disfigured the second, is in the worse taste. Cibber kept his
engagement, replying in pamphlet. The immediate victory was
unquestionably his. Morbidly sensitive to ridicule, Pope suffered
acutely. Richardson, who found him once with the Cibberine leaves in
his hand, declared his persuasion, from the spectacle of rage,
vexation, and mortification he witnessed, that the poets death
resulted from the strokes of the Laureate. If so, we must concede him
to have been the victor who laid his adversary at his feet on the
field. Posterity, however, which listens only to the satirist, has
judged differently and unjustly.[13] Theobald, though of no original
talent, was certainly, in his generation, the most successful
illustrator of Shakspeare, and the first, though Rowe and Pope had
preceded him in the effort, who had brought a sound verbal criticism
to bear on the text. It is to his credit, that many of the most
ingenious emendations suggested in Mr. Collier's famous folio were
anticipated by this "king of the dunces"; and it must be owned, that
his edition is as far superior to Warburton's and Hanmer's, which were
not long after brought out with a deafening flourish of trumpets, as
the editions of Steevens and Malone are to his. Yet, prompted by the
"Dunciad," it is the fashion of literature to regard Theobald with
compassion, as a block-head and empiric. Cibber escapes but little
better, and yet he was a man of respectable talent, and played no
second-rate part in the literary history of the time.

As Laureate Cibber drew near the end of earthly things, a desire,
common to poetical as well as political potentates, possessed him,--a
desire to nominate a successor. In his case, indeed, the idea may have
been borrowed from "MacFlecknoe" or the "Dunciad." The Earl of
Chesterfield, during his administration in Ireland, had discovered a
rival to Ben Jonson in the person of a poetical bricklayer, one Henry
Jones, whom his Lordship carried with him to London, as a specimen of
the indigenous tribes of Erin. It was easier for this Jones to rhyme
in heroics than to handle a trowel or construct a chimney. He rhymed,
therefore, for the amusement and in honor of the polite circle of
which Stanhope was the centre; the fashionable world subscribed
magnificently for his volume of "Poems upon Several Occasions";[14]
his tragedy, "The Earl of Essex," in the composition of which his
patron is said to have shared, was universally applauded. Its
introduction to the stage was the work of Cibber; and Cibber, assisted
by Chesterfield, labored zealously to secure the author a reversion of
the laurel upon his own lamented demise.

The effort was unsuccessful. Cibber's death occurred in December,
1757. The administration of the elder Pitt, which had been restored
six months before, was insensible to the merits of the prodigious
bricklayer. The wreath was tendered to Thomas Gray. It would, no
doubt, have proved a grateful relief to royalty, obliged for
twenty-seven years to listen twice yearly, if not oftener, to the
monotonous felicitations of Colley, to hear in his stead the author of
the "Bard," of the "Progress of Poetry," of the "Ode at Eton College."
But the relief was denied it. Gray, ambitious only of the historical
chair at Cambridge, declined the laurel. In the mean time, the claims
of William Whitehead were earnestly advocated with the Lord
Chamberlain, by Lord and Lady Jersey, and by the Earl Harcourt. A
large vote in the House of Commons might be affected by a refusal.
Pitt, who cared nothing for the laurel, but much for the votes, gave
his assent, and Whitehead was appointed. Whitehead was the son of a
baker, and, as an eleemosynary scholar at Winchester School, had won a
poetical prize offered to the students by Alexander Pope. Obtaining a
free scholarship at Cambridge, he became in due time a fellow of Clare
Hall, and subsequently tutor to the sons of Lord Jersey and Lord
Harcourt, with whom he made the tour of the Continent. Two of his
tragedies, "The Roman Father," and "Creuesa," met with more success
than they deserved. A volume of poems, not without merit, was given to
the press in 1756, and met with unusual favor through the exertions of
his two noble friends. That he was not a personal applicant for the
laurel, nor conscious of the movement in his behalf, he takes occasion
in one of his poems to state:--

"Howe'er unworthily I wear the crown,
unasked it came, and from a hand unknown."[15]

From the warm championship of his friends, and the commendations of
Mason, the friend of Gray, we infer that Whitehead was not destitute
of fine social qualities. His verse, which is of the only type current
a century ago, is elegantly smooth, and wearisomely tame,--nowhere
rising into striking or original beauties. Among his merits as a poet
modesty was not. His "Charge to the Poets," published in 1762, drew
upon him the wrath and ridicule of his fellow-verse-wrights, and
perhaps deservedly. Assuming, with amusing vanity, what, if ever true,
was only so a century before or a half-century after, that the laurel
was the emblem of supremacy in the realm of letters, and that it had
been granted him as a token of his matchless merit,--

"Since my king and patron have thought fit
To place me on the throne of modern wit,--"

he proceeds to read the subject throng a saucy lecture on their vices
and follies,--

"As bishops to their clergy give their charge."

A good-natured dogmatism is the tone of the whole; but presumption and
dogmatism find no charity among the _genus irritabile_, and Whitehead
received no quarter. Small wits and great levelled their strokes at a
hide which self-conceit had happily rendered proof. The sturdiest
assailant was Charles Churchill. He never spares him,--

"Who in the Laureate chair--
By grace, not merit, planted there--
In awkward pomp is seen to sit,
And by his patent proves his wit;
For favors of the great, we know,
Can wit as well as rank bestow;
And they who, without one pretension,
Can get for fools a place or pension,
Must able be supposed, of course,
If reason is allowed due force,
To give such qualities and grace
As may equip them for the place.

"But he who measures as he goes
A mongrel kind of tinkling prose,
And is too frugal to dispense
At once both poetry and sense,--
Who, from amidst his slumbering guards,
Deals out a charge to subject bards,
Where couplets after couplets creep,
Propitious to the reign of sleep," etc.

Again, in the "Prophecy of Famine,"--

"A form, by silken smile, and tone
Dull and unvaried, for the Laureate known,
Folly's chief friend, Decorum's eldest son,
In every party found, and yet of none,
This airy substance, this substantial shade."

And elsewhere he begs for

"Some such draught...
As makes a Whitehead's ode go down,
Or slakes the feverette of Brown."

But satire disturbed not the calm equanimity of the pensioner and

"The laurel worn
By poets in old time, but destined now
In grief to wither on a Whitehead's brow,"

continued to fade there, until a whole generation of poets had passed
away. It was not until the middle of April, 1785, that Death made way
for a successor.

The suddenness of Whitehead's decease came near leaving a royal
birthday unsung,--an omission scarcely pardonable with one of George
the Third's methodical habits. An impromptu appointment had to be
made. It was made before the Laureate was buried. Thomas Warton, the
Professor of Poetry at Oxford, received the patent on the 30th of
April, and his ode, married to fitting music, was duly forthcoming on
the 24th of May. The selection of Warton was faultless. His lyrical
verse was the best of a vicious school; his sonnets, according to that
exquisite sonneteer, Sir Egerton Brydges, were the finest in the
language; his "History of English Poetry," of which three volumes had
appeared, displayed an intimate acquaintance with the early English
writers. Nor should we pass unnoticed his criticisms and annotations
upon Milton and Spenser, manifesting as they did the acutest
sensitiveness to the finest beauties of poetry. If the laurel implied
the premiership of living poets, Warton certainly deserved it. He was
a head and shoulders taller than his actual contemporaries.[16] He
stood in the gap between the old school and the new, between the dead
and the coming. Goldsmith and Johnson were no more; Cowper did not
print his "Task" until the autumn of 1785; Burns made his _debut_
about the same moment; Rogers published his "Ode to Superstition" the
next year; the famous "Fourteen Sonnets" of Bowles came two years
later; while Wordsworth and Landor made their first appearance in
1793. Fortunate thus in time, Warton was equally fortunate in
polities. He was an Oxford Tory, a firm believer in divine right and
passive obedience, and a warm supporter of the new ministers. To the
King, it may be added, no nomination could have given greater
satisfaction. The official odes of Warton evince all the elegant
traits which characterize his other writings. Their refined taste and
exquisite modulation are admirable; while the matter is far less
sycophantic than was to be expected from so devout a monarchist. The
tender of the laurel certainly gratified him:--

"Yet still one joy remains, that not obscure
Nor useless all my vacant days have flowed,
From youth's gay dawn to manhood's prime mature,
Nor with the Muse's laurel unbestowed."[17]

And, like Southey, he was not indisposed to enhance the dignity of the
wreath by classing Chaucer and Spenser, as we have seen, among its
wearers. The genuine claims of Warton to respect probably saved him
from the customary attacks. Bating a few bungling thrusts amid the
doggerel of "Peter Pindar," he escaped scathless,--gaining, on the
other hand, a far more than ordinary proportion of poetical panegyric.

"Affection and applause alike he shared;
All loved the man, all venerate the bard:
E'en Prejudice his fate afflicted hears,
And lettered Envy sheds reluctant tears.
Such worth the laurel could alone repay,
Profaned by Cibber, and contemned by Gray;
Yet hence its Breath shall new distinction claim,
And, though it gave not, take from Warton fame."[18]

The last of Warton's odes was written in his last illness, and
performed three days after his death. Appositely enough, it was an
invocation to Health, meriting more than ordinary praise for eloquent
fervor. Warton died May 21st, 1790. The laurel was vacant for a month,
when Henry James Pye was gazetted. There was hardly a hungry placeman
in London who had not as just pretensions to the honor. What poetical
gifts he had displayed had been in school or college exercises. His
real claims consisted in having spent a fortune in electioneering for
ministers; and these claims being pressed with unusual urgency at the
moment of Warton's death, he was offered the Laureateship as
satisfaction in part.[19] He eagerly accepted it, and received the
balance two years later in the shape of a commission as Police
Magistrate of Middlesex. Thereafter, like Henry Fielding, or Gilbert
A'Beckett, he divided his days between penal law and polite
literature. His version of the "Poetics" of Aristotle, with
illustrations drawn liberally from recent authors, was perhaps
begotten of a natural wish to satisfy the public that qualifications
for the laurel were not wholly wanting. A barren devotion to the drama
was always his foible. It was freely indulged. With few exceptions,
his plays were affairs of partnership with Samuel James Arnold, a
writer of ephemeral popularity, whose tale of "The Haunted Island" was
wildly admired by readers of the intensely romantic school, but whose
tragedies, melodramas, comedies, farces, operas, are now forgotten. In
addition to these auxiliary labors, which ripened yearly, Pye tried
his hand at an epic,--the subject, King Alfred,--the plot and
treatment not greatly differing from those which Blackmore brought to
the same enterprise. The poem passed at once from the bookshop to the
trunk-maker,--not, however, before an American publisher was found
daring enough to reprint it. There are also to be mentioned
translations from Pindar, Horace, and other classics, for Sharpe's
edition of the British Poets, a collection to which he lent editorial
aid. "Poet Pye"[20] was fortunate in escaping contemporary wit and
satire. Gifford alluded to him, but Gilford's Toryism was security
that no Tory Court-Poet would be roughly handled. Byron passed him in
silence. The Smiths treated him as respectfully as they treated
anybody. Moore's wit at the expense of the Regent and his courtiers
had only found vent in the "Two-Penny Post-Bag" when Pye was gathered
to his predecessors.

That calamity occurred in August, 1813. With it ended the era of
birthday songs and New-Year's verses. The King was mad; his nativity
was therefore hardly a rational topic of rejoicing. The Prince Regent
had no taste for the solemn inanity of stipulated ode, the performance
of which only served to render insufferably tedious the services of
the two occasions in the year when imperative custom demanded his
attendance at the Chapel. Consultation was had with John Wilson
Croker, Secretary of the Admiralty. Croker's sharp common-sense at
once suggested the abolition of the Laureate duties, but the retention
of the office as a sinecure. Walter Scott, to whom the place was
offered, as the most popular of living poets, seconded the counsel of
Croker, but declined the appointment, as beneath the dignity of the
intended founder of a long line of border knights. He recommended
Southey. He had already recommended Southey to the "Quarterly," and
through the "Quarterly" to Croker, then and still its most brilliant
contributor; and this second instance of disinterested kindness was
equally efficacious. Southey was appointed. The tierce of Canary
ceased to be a perquisite of the office, the Laureate disclaiming it;
and instead of annual odes upon set occasions, such effusions as the
poet might choose to offer at the suggestion of passing events were to
be accepted as the sum of official duty. These were to be said or
read, not sung,--a change that completed the radical revolution of the

However important the salary of a hundred pounds may have been to
Southey, it is very sure that the laurel seemed to infuse all its
noxious and poisonous juices into his literary character. His vanity,
like Whitehead's, led him to regard his chaplet as the reward of
unrivalled merit. His study-chair was glorified, and became a throne.
His supremacy in poetry was as indubitable as the king's supremacy in
matters ecclesiastical. He felt himself constrained to eliminate
utterly from his conscience whatever traces of early republicanism,
pantisocracy, and heresy still disfigured it; and to conform
unreservedly to the exactest requirements of high Toryism in politics
and high Churchism in religion. He was in the pay and formed a part of
the government; could he do else than toil mightily in his department
for the service of a master who had so sagaciously anticipated the
verdict of posterity, as to declare him, who was the least popular,
the greatest of living poets? He found it a duty to assume a rigid
censorship over as many of his Majesty's lieges as were addicted to
verse,--to enact the functions of minister of literary police,--to
reprehend the levity of Moore, the impiety of Byron, the democracy of
Leigh Hunt, the unhappy lapse of Hazlitt, the drunkenness of Lamb.
Assumptions so open to ridicule, and so disparaging to far abler men,
told as disadvantageously upon his fame as upon his character. He
became the butt of contemporary satire. Horace Smith, Moore, Shelley,
Byron, lampooned him savagely. The latter made him the hero of his
wicked "Vision of Judgment," and to him dedicated his "Don Juan." The
dedication was suppressed; but no chance offered in the body of that
profligate rhapsody to assail Bob Southey, that was not vigorously
employed. The self-content of the Laureate armed him, however, against
every thrust. Contempt he interpreted as envy of his sublime

"Grin, Envy, through thy ragged mask of scorn!
In honor it was given; with honor it is worn."

Of course such matchless self-complacency defied assault.

Southey's congratulatory odes appeared as often as public occasion
seemed to demand them. There were in rapid succession the "Ode to the
Regent," the "Carmen Triumphale," the "Pilgrimage to Waterloo," the
"Vision of Judgment," the "Carmen Nuptiale," the "Ode on the Death of
the Princess Charlotte." The "Quarterly" exalted them, one and all;
the "Edinburgh" poured upon them volleys of keen but ineffectual
ridicule. At last the Laureate desisted. The odes no longer appeared;
and during the long and dark closing years of his life, the only
production of the Laureate pen was the yearly signature to a receipt
for one hundred pounds sterling, official salary.

Robert Southey died in March, 1843. Sir Robert Peel, who had obliged
Wordsworth the year before, by transferring the post in the excise,
which he had so long held, to the poet's son, and substituting a
pension for its salary, testified further his respect for the Bard of
Rydal by tendering him the laurel. It was not to be refused. Had the
office been hampered with any demands upon the occupant for popular
lyric, in celebration of notable events, Wordsworth was certainly the
last man to place in it. His frigid nature was incapable of that
prompt enthusiasm, without which, poetry, especially poetry responsive
to some strong emotion momentarily agitating the popular heart, is
lifeless and worthless. Fortunately, there were no such exactions. The
office had risen from its once low estate to be a dignified sinecure.
As such, Wordsworth filled it; and, dying, left it without one
poetical evidence of having worn the wreath.

To him, in May, 1850, succeeded, who, as the most acceptable poet of
the day, could alone rightly succeed, Alfred Tennyson, the actual
Poet-Laureate. Not without opposition. There were those who endeavored
to extinguish the office, and hang up the laurel forever,--and to that
end brought pregnant argument to bear upon government. "The Times" was
more than usually decided in favor of the policy of extinguishment.
Give the salary, it was urged, as a pension to some deserving writer
of verse, whose necessities are exacting; but abolish a title degraded
by association with names and uses so unworthy, as to confer shame,
not honor, on the wearer. The laurel is presumed to be granted to the
ablest living English poet. What vocation have the Tite Barnacles,
red-tapists, vote-mongers, of Downing Street to discriminate and
determine this supreme poetical excellence, in regard to which the
nicest critics, or the most refined and appreciative reading public
may reasonably differ among themselves as widely as the stars? On the
other hand, it was argued, that the laurel had, from its last two
wearers, recovered its lost dignity. They had lent it honor, which it
could not fail to confer upon any survivor, however great his name.
If, then, the old odium had disappeared, why not retain the place for
the sake of the ancient worthies whom tradition had handed down as at
one time or another connected with it? There was rarely difficulty in
selecting from among contemporary poets one of preeminent talent,
whose elevation to the laurel would offend none of his fellows. There
was certainly no difficulty in the present case. There was palpable
evidence that Tennyson was by all admission the hierophant of his
order; and it would be time enough to dispense with the title when a
future occasion should be at a loss to decide among contending
candidates. The latter reasoning prevailed. Tennyson accepted the
laurel, and with it a self-imposed obligation to make occasional
acknowledgments for the gift.

The first opportunity presented itself in the issue of a fresh edition
of his poems, in 1851. To these he prefixed some noble verses,
dedicating the volumes to the Queen, and referring with as much
delicacy as modesty to his place and his predecessor:--

"Victoria,--since your royal grace
To one of less desert allows
This laurel, greener from the brows
Of him that uttered nothing base."--

The next occasion was of a different order. The hero of Waterloo ended
his long life in 1852, and a nation was in mourning. Then, if ever,
poets, whether laurelled or leafless, were called to give eloquent
utterance to the popular grief; and Tennyson, of all the poets, was
looked to for its highest expression. The Threnode of the Laureate was
duly forthcoming. The public was, as it had no right to be,
disappointed. Tennyson's Muse was ever a wild and wilful creature,
defiant of rules, and daringly insubordinate to arbitrary forms. It
could not, with the witling in the play, cap verses with any man. The
moment its tasks were dictated and the form prescribed, that moment
there was ground to expect the self-willed jade to play a jade's
trick, and leave us with no decent results of inspiration. For odes
and sonnets, and other such Procrustean moulds into which poetic
thought is at times cast, Tennyson had neither gift nor liking. When,
therefore, with the Duke's death, came a sudden demand upon his Muse,
and that in shape so solemn as to forbid, as the poet conceived, any
fanciful license of invention, the Pindaric form seemed inevitable;
and that form rendered a fair exhibition of the poet's peculiar genius
out of the question. Strapped up in prescription, and impelled to move
by official impulse, his Pegasus was as awkward as a cart-horse. And
yet men did him the justice to say that his failure out-topped the
success of others.

Far better--indeed, with the animating thrill of the war-trumpet--was
"The Charge of the Light Brigade," and simply because the topic
admitted of whatever novelty of treatment the bias of the bard might
devise. This is the Laureate's most successful attempt at strictly
popular composition. It proves him to possess the stuff of a Tyrtaeus
or a Koerner,--something vastly more stirring and stimulating than the
usual staple of

"The dry-tongued laurel's pattering talk."[21]

Howbeit, late may he have call for another war-song!

With the name of Tennyson we reach the term of our Laureate calendar.
Long ages and much perilously dry research must he traverse who shall
enlarge these outlines to the worthier proportions of history. Yet
will the labor not be wholly barren. It will bring him in contact with
all the famous of letters and poetry; he will fight over again
numberless quarrels of authors; he will soar in boundless Pindaric
flights, or sink, sooth to say, in unfathomed deeps of bathos. With
one moral he will be profoundly impressed: Of all the more splendid
results of genius which adorn our language and literature,--for the
literature of the English language is ours,--not one owes its
existence to the laurel; not one can be directly or indirectly traced
to royal encouragement, or the stimulus of salary or stipend. The
laurel, though ever green, and throwing out blossoms now and then of
notable promise, has borne no fruit. We might strike from the language
all that is ascribable solely to the honor and emolument of this
office, without inflicting a serious loss upon letters. The masques of
Jonson would be regretted; a few lines of Tennyson would be missed.
For the rest, we might readily console ourselves. It may certainly be
urged, that the laurel was designed rather as a reward than as a
provocative of merit; but the allegation has become true only within
the last half-century. Antecedently to Southey, it was the
consideration for which return in poetry was demanded,--in the first
instance, a return in dramatic poetry, and then in the formal lyric.
It was put forth as the stimulus to works good in their several kinds,
and it may be justly complained of for never having provoked any good
works. To represent it as a reward commensurate with the merits of
Wordsworth and Tennyson, or even of Southey, is to rate three
first-class names in modern poetry on a level with the names of those
third-rate "poetillos" who, during the eighteenth century, obtained
the same reward for two intolerable effusions yearly. Upon the whole,
therefore, we incline to the opinion that the laurel can no longer
confer honor or profit upon literature. Sack is palatable, and a
hundred pounds are eminently useful; but the arbitrary judgments of
queens and courtiers upon poetical issues are neither useful nor
palatable. The world may, in fact, contrive to content itself, should
King Alfred prove the last of the Laureates.

[Footnote 1: Schol. Vet. ad _Nem. Od._ 5.]

[Footnote 2: Commentators agree, we believe, that there was an error
as to the sum. But we tell the story as we find it.]

[Footnote 3: DRYDEN, _Epistle to Wm. Congreve_, 1693.]

[Footnote 4: The _Threnodia Augustalis_, 1685, where the eulogy is
equitably distributed between the dead Charles and the living James.]

[Footnote 5: Dr. Johnson tells the story of Rowe having applied to
Lord Oxford for promotion, and being asked whether he understood
Spanish. Elated with the prospect of an embassy to Madrid, Rowe
hurried home, shut himself up, and for months devoted himself to the
study of a language the possession of which was to make his fortune.
At length, he reappeared at the Minister's _levee_ and announced
himself a Spanish scholar. "Then," said Lord Oxford, shaking his hand
cordially, "let me congratulate you on your ability to enjoy _Don
Quixote_, in the original." Johnson seems to throw doubt on the story,
because Rowe would not even speak to a Tory, and certainly would not
apply to a Tory minister for advancement. But Oxford was once a Whig,
and was in office as such; and it was probably at that period the
incident occurred.]

[Footnote 6: Battle of the Poets, 1725.]

[Footnote 7:

"Harmonious Cibber entertains
The court with annual birthday strains,
Whence Gay was banished in disgrace,
Where Pope will never show his face,
Where Young must torture his invention
To flatter knaves, or lose his pension."

SWIFT, _Poetry, a Rhapsody,_ 1733.]

[Footnote 8:

"Know, Eusden thirsts no more for sack or praise;
He sleeps among the dull of ancient days;
Where wretched Withers, Ward, and Gildon rest,
And high-born Howard, more majestic sire,
With fool of quality completes the choir.
Thou, Cibber! thou his laurel shalt support;
Folly, my son, has still a friend at court."

_Dunciad_, Bk. I.

Warburton, by-the-by, exculpates Eusden from any worse fault, as a
writer, than being too prolix and too prolific.--See Note to
_Dunciad_, Bk. II. 291.]

[Footnote 9: Duck stands at the head of the prodigious school in
English literature. All the poetical bricklayers, weavers, cobblers,
farmer's boys, shepherds, and basket-makers, who have since astonished
their day and generation, hail him as their general father.]

[Footnote 10: The antiquary may be pleased to know that the "Devil"
tavern in Fleet Street, the old haunt of the dramatists, was the place
where the choir of the Chapel Royal gathered to rehearse the Laureate
odes. Hence Pope, at the close of _Dunciad I._,

"Then swells the Chapel-Royal throat;
'God save King Gibber!' mounts in every note.
Familiar White's 'God save King Colley!' cries;
'God save King Colley!' Drury-Lane replies;"]

[Footnote 11:

"On his own works with laurel crowned,
Neatly and elegantly bound,--
For this is one of many rules
With writing Lords and laureate fools,
And which forever must succeed
With other Lords who cannot read,
However destitute of wit,
To make their works for bookcase fit,--
Acknowledged master of those seats,
Cibber his birthday odes repeats."

CHURCHILL, _The Ghost_.]

[Footnote 12: Swift charges Colley with having wronged Grub Street, by
appropriating to himself all the money Britain designed for its

"Your portion, taking Britain round,
Was just one annual hundred pound;
Now not so much as in remainder,
Since Cibber brought in an attainder,
Forever fixed by right divine,
A monarch's right, on Grub-Street line."

_Poetry, a Rhapsody_, 1733.]

[Footnote 13: Whatever momentary benefit may result from satire, it is
clear that its influence in the long run is injurious to literature.
The satirist, like a malignant Archimago, creates a false medium,
through which posterity is obliged to look at his contemporaries,--a
medium which so refracts and distorts their images, that it is almost
out of the question to see them correctly. There is no rule, as is
astronomy, by which this refraction may be allowed for and corrected.]

[Footnote 14: London, 1749, 8vo.]

[Footnote 15: Charge to the Poets, 1762.]

[Footnote 16: If the reader cares to hear the best that can be said of
Thomas Warton, let him read the Life of Milton, prefixed by Sir
Egerton Brydges to his edition of the poet. If he has any curiosity to
hear the other side, let him read all that Ritson ever wrote, and Dr.
Charles Symnions, in the Life of Milton, prefixed to the standard
edition of the Prose Works, 1806. Symnions denies to Warton the
possession of taste, learning, or sense. Certainly, to an American,
the character of Joseph Warton, the brother of Thomas, is far more
amiable. Joseph was as liberal as his brother was bigoted. While
Thomas omits no chance of condemning Milton's republicanism, in his
notes to the Minor Poems, Joseph is always disposed to sympathize with
the poet. The same generous temper characterizes his commentary upon

[Footnote 17: _Sonnet upon the River Lodon_.]

[Footnote 18: Dr. Huddersford's _Salmagundi_.]

[Footnote 19: One of the earlier poems of Alexander Wilson, the
ornithologist, was entitled, _The Laurel Disputed_, and was published
in 1791. We have not met with it; but we apprehend, from title and
date, that it is a _jeu d'esprit_, founded upon the recent
appointment. The poetry of Wilson was characterized by much original

[Footnote 20:

"Come to our _fete_, and show again
That pea-green coat, thou pink of men!
Which charmed all eyes, that last surveyed it;
When Brummel's self inquired, 'Who made it?'
When Cits came wondering from the East,
And thought thee Poet Pye at least."
_Two-Penny Post-Bag_, 1812.]

[Footnote 21: TENNYSON, _Maud_.]


The inconstant April mornings drop showers or sunbeams over the
glistening lake, while far beneath its surface a murky mass disengages
itself from the muddy bottom, and rises slowly through the waves. The
tasselled alder-branches droop above it; the last year's blackbird's
nest swings over it in the grapevine; the newly-opened Hepaticas and
Epigaeas on the neighboring bank peer down modestly to look for it;
the water-skater (Gerris) pauses on the surface near it, casting on
the shallow bottom the odd shadow of his feet, like three pairs of
boxing-gloves; the Notonecta, or water-boatman, rows round and round
it, sometimes on his breast, sometimes on his back; queer caddis-worms
trail their self-made homesteads of leaves or twigs beside it; the
Dytiscus, dorbug of the water, blunders clumsily against it; the
tadpole wriggles his stupid way to it, and rests upon it, meditating
of future frogdom; the passing wild-duck dives and nibbles at it; the
mink and musk-rat brush it with their soft fur; the spotted turtle
slides over it; the slow larvae of gauzy dragon-flies cling sleepily
to its sides and await their change: all these fair or uncouth
creatures feel, through the dim waves, the blessed longing of spring;
and yet not one of them dreams that within that murky mass there lies
a treasure too white and beautiful to be yet intrusted to the waves,
and that for many a day that bud must yearn toward the surface,
before, aspiring above it, as mortals to heaven, it meets the sunshine
with the answering beauty of the Water-Lily.

Days and weeks have passed away; the wild-duck has flown onward, to
dive for his luncheon in some remoter lake; the tadpoles have made
themselves legs, with which they have vanished; the caddis-worms have
sealed themselves up in their cylinders, and emerged again as winged
insects; the dragon-flies have crawled up the water-reeds, and,
clinging with heads upward, (not downward, as strangely described in a
late "North British Review,") have undergone the change which
symbolizes immortality; the world is transformed from spring to
summer; the lily-buds are opened into glossy leaf and radiant flower,
and we have come for the harvest.

We lodged, last night, in the old English phrase, "at the sign of the
Oak and Star." Wishing, not, indeed, like the ancient magicians, to
gather magic berry and bud before sunrise, but at least to see these
treasures of the lake in their morning hour, we camped last night on a
little island, which one tall tree almost covers with its branches,
while a dense undergrowth of young chestnuts and birches fills all the
intervening space, touching the water all around the circular,
shelving shore. Yesterday was hot, but the night was cool, and we
kindled a gypsy fire of twigs, less for warmth than for society. The
first gleam made the dark lonely islet into a cheering home, turned
the protecting tree to a starlit roof, and the chestnut-sprays to
illuminated walls. Lying beneath their shelter, every fresh flickering
of the fire kindled the leaves into brightness and banished into dark
interstices the lake and sky; then the fire died into embers, the
leaves faded into solid darkness in their turn, and water and heavens
showed light and close and near, until fresh twigs caught fire and the
blaze came up again. Rising to look forth, at intervals, during the
night,--for it is the worst feature of a night out-doors, that
sleeping seems such a waste of time,--we watched the hilly and wooded
shores of the lake sink into gloom and glimmer into dawn again, amid
the low plash of waters and the noises of the night.

Precisely at half-past three, a song-sparrow above our heads gave one
liquid trill, so inexpressibly sudden and delicious, that it seemed to
set to music every atom of freshness and fragrance that Nature held;
then the spell was broken, and the whole shore and lake were vocal
with song. Joining in this jubilee of morning, we were early in
motion; bathing and breakfast, though they seemed indisputably in
accordance with the instincts of the Universe, yet did not detain us
long, and we were promptly on our way to Lily Pond. Will the reader
join us?

It is one of those summer days when a veil of mist gradually burns
away before the intense sunshine, and the sultry morning only plays at
coolness, and that with its earliest visitors alone. But we are before
the sunlight, though not before the sunrise, and can watch the pretty
game of alternating mist and shine. Stray gleams of glory lend their
trailing magnificence to the tops of chestnut-trees, floating vapors
raise the outlines of the hills and make mystery of the wooded
islands, and, as we glide through the placid water, we can sing, with
the Chorus in the "Ion" of Euripides, "O immense and brilliant air,
resound with our cries of joy!"

Almost every town has its Lily Pond, dear to boys and maidens, and
partially equalizing, by its annual delights, the presence or absence
of other geographical advantages. Ours is accessible from the larger
lake only by taking the skiff over a narrow embankment, which protects
our fairyland by its presence, and eight distant factories by its dam.
Once beyond it, we are in a realm of dark Lethean water, utterly
unlike the sunny depths of the main lake. Hither the water-lilies have
retreated, to a domain of their own. Darker than these dark waves,
there stand in their bosom hundreds of submerged trees, and dismasted
roots still upright, spreading their vast, uncouth limbs like enormous
spiders beneath the surface. They are remnants of border wars with the
axe, vegetable Witheringtons, still fighting on their stumps, but
gradually sinking into the soft ooze, and ready, perhaps, when a score
of centuries has piled two more strata of similar remains in mud above
them, to furnish foundations for a newer New Orleans; that city having
been lately discovered to be thus supported.

The present decline in business is clear revenue to the water-lilies,
and these waters are higher than usual because the idle factories do
not draw them off. But we may notice, in observing the shores, that
peculiar charm of water, that, whether its quantity be greater or
less, its grace is the same; it makes its own boundary in lake or
river, and where its edge is, there seems the natural and permanent
margin. And the same natural fitness, without reference to mere
quantity, extends to its children. Before us lie islands and
continents of lilies, acres of charms, whole, vast, unbroken surfaces
of stainless whiteness. And yet, as we approach them, every islanded
cup that floats in lonely dignity, apart from the multitude, appears
as perfect in itself, couched in white expanded perfection, its
reflection taking a faint glory of pink that is scarcely perceptible
in the flower. As we glide gently among them, the air grows fragrant,
and a stray breeze flaps the leaves, as if to welcome us. Each
floating flower becomes suddenly a ship at anchor, or rather seems
beating up against the summer wind, in a regatta of blossoms.

Early as it is, the greater part of the flowers are already expanded.
Indeed, that experience of Thoreau's, of watching them open in the
first sunbeams, rank by rank, is not easily obtained, unless perhaps
in a narrow stream, where the beautiful slumberers are more regularly
marshalled. In our lake, at least, they open irregularly, though
rapidly. But, this morning, many linger as buds, while others peer up,
in half-expanded beauty, beneath the lifted leaves, frolicsome as
Pucks or baby-nymphs. As you raise the leaf, in such cases, it is
impossible not to imagine that a pair of tiny hands have upheld it, or
else that the pretty head will dip down again, and disappear. Others,
again, have expanded all but the inmost pair of white petals, and
these spring apart at the first touch of the finger on the stem. Some
spread vast vases of fragrance, six or seven inches in diameter, while
others are small and delicate, with petals like fine lace-work.
Smaller still, we sometimes pass a flotilla of infant leaves, an inch
in diameter. All these grow from the deep, dark water,--and the
blacker it is, the fairer their whiteness shows. But your eye follows
the stem often vainly into those sombre depths, and vainly seeks to
behold Sabrina fair, sitting with her twisted braids of lilies,
beneath the glassy, cool, but not translucent wave. Do not start,
when, in such an effort, only your own dreamy face looks back upon
you, beyond the gunwale of the reflected boat, and you find that you
float double, self and shadow.

Let us rest our paddles, and look round us, while the idle motion
sways our light skiff onward, now half-embayed among the lily-pads,
now lazily gliding over intervening gulfs. There is a great deal going
on in these waters and their fringing woods and meadows. All the
summer long, the pond is bordered with successive walls of flowers. In
early spring emerge the yellow catkins of the swamp-willow, first;
then the long tassels of the graceful alders expand and droop, till
they weep their yellow dust upon the water; then come the
birch-blossoms, more tardily; then the downy leaves and white clusters
of the medlar or shadbush (_Amelanchier Canadensis_ of Gray); these
dropping, the roseate chalices of the mountain-laurel open; as they
fade into melancholy brown, the sweet Azalea uncloses; and before its
last honeyed blossom has trailed down, dying, from the stem, the more
fragrant Clethra starts out above, the button-bush thrusts forth its
merry face amid wild roses, and the Clematis waves its sprays of
beauty. Mingled with these grow, lower, the spiraeas, white and pink,
yellow touch-me-not, fresh white arrowhead, bright blue vervain and
skullcap, dull snakehead, gay monkey-flower, coarse eupatoriums,
milk-weeds, golden-rods, asters, thistles, and a host beside. Beneath,
the brilliant scarlet cardinal-flower begins to palisade the moist
shores; and after its superb reflection has passed away from the
waters, the grotesque witch-hazel flares out its narrow yellow petals
amidst the October leaves, and so ends the floral year. There is not a
week during all these months, when one cannot stand in the boat and
wreathe garlands of blossoms from the shores.

These all crowd around the brink, and watch, day and night, the
opening and closing of the water-lilies. Meanwhile, upon the waters,
our queen keeps her chosen court, nor can one of these mere
land-loving blossoms touch the hem of her garment. In truth, she bears
no sister near her throne. There is but this one species among us,
_Nymphaea odorata_. The beautiful little rose-colored _Nymphaea
sanguinea_, which once adorned the Botanic Garden at Cambridge, was
merely an occasional variety of costume. She has, indeed, an English
half-sister, _Nymphaea alba_, less beautiful, less fragrant, but
keeping more fashionable hours,--not opening (according to Linnaeus)
till seven, nor closing till four. Her humble cousin, the yellow
Nuphar, keeps commonly aloof, as becomes a poor relation, though
created from the selfsame mud,--a fact which Hawthorne has beautifully
moralized. The prouder Nelumbium, a second-cousin, lineal descendant
of the sacred bean of Pythagoras, keeps aloof, through pride, not
humility, and dwells, like a sturdy democrat, in the Far West.

But, undisturbed, the water-lily keeps her fragrant court, with
few attendants. The tall pickerel-weed (Pontederia) is her
gentleman-usher, gorgeous in blue and gold through July, somewhat
rusty in August. The water-shield (Hydropeltis) is chief
maid-of-honor; she is a highborn lady, not without royal blood indeed,
but with rather a bend sinister; not precisely beautiful, but very
fastidious; encased over her whole person with a gelatinous covering,
literally a starched duenna. Sometimes she is suspected of conspiring
to drive her mistress from the throne; for we have observed certain
slow watercourses where the leaves of the water-lily have been almost
wholly replaced by the similar, but smaller, leaves of the
water-shield. More rarely seen is the slender Utricularia, a dainty
maiden, whose light feet scarce touch the water,--with the still more
delicate floating white Water-Ranunculus, and the shy Villarsia, whose
submerged flowers merely peep one day above the surface and then close
again forever. Then there are many humbler attendants, Potamogetons or
pond-weeds. And here float little emissaries from the dominions of
land; for the fallen florets of the Viburnum drift among the
lily-pads, with mast-like stamens erect, sprinkling the water with a
strange beauty, and cheating us with the promise of a new aquatic

These are the still life of this sequestered nook; but it is in fact a
crowded thoroughfare. No tropic jungle more swarms with busy existence
than these midsummer waters and their bushy banks. The warm and
humming air is filled with insect sounds, ranging from the murmur of
invisible gnats and midges, to the impetuous whirring of the great
Libellulae, large almost as swallows, and hawking high in air for
their food. Swift butterflies glance by, moths flutter, flies buzz,
grasshoppers and katydids pipe their shrill notes, sharp as the edges
of the sunbeams. Busy bees go humming past, straight as arrows,
express-freight-trains from one blossoming copse to another. Showy
wasps of many species fume uselessly about, in gallant uniforms,
wasting an immense deal of unnecessary anger on the sultry universe.
Graceful, stingless Sphexes and Ichneumon-flies emulate their bustle,
without their weapons. Delicate lady-birds come and go to the
milkweeds, spotted almost as regularly as if Nature had decided to
number the species, like policemen or hack-drivers, from one to
twenty. Elegant little Lepturae fly with them, so gay and airy, they
hardly seem like beetles. Phryganeae, (_nes_ caddisworms,) laceflies,
and long-tailed Ephemerae flutter more heavily by. On the large
alder-flowers clings the superb _Desmocerus palliatus_, beautiful as a
tropical insect, with his steel-blue armor and his golden cloak
(_pallium_) above his shoulders, grandest knight on this Field of the
Cloth of Gold. The countless fireflies which spangled the evening mist
now only crawl sleepily, daylight creatures, with the lustre buried in
their milky bodies. More wholly children of night, the soft, luxurious
Sphinxes (or hawk-moths) come not here; fine ladies of the insect
world, their home is among gardens and green-houses, late and languid
by day, but all night long upon the wing, dancing in the air with
unwearied muscles till long past midnight, and supping on honey at
last. They come not here; but the nobler butterflies soar above us,
stoop a moment to the water, and then with a few lazy wavings of their
sumptuous wings float far over the oak-trees to the woods they love.

All these hover near the water-lily; but its special parasites are an
elegant beetle (_Donacia metallica_) which keeps house permanently in
the flower, and a few smaller ones which tenant the surface of the
leaves,--larva, pupa, and perfect insect, forty feeding like one, and
each leading its whole earthly career on this floating island of
perishable verdure. The "beautiful blue damsel-flies" alight also in
multitudes among them, so fearless that they perch with equal
readiness on our boat or paddle, and so various that two adjacent
ponds will sometimes be haunted by two distinct sets of species. In
the water, among the leaves, little shining whirlwigs wheel round and
round, fifty joining in the dance, till, at the slightest alarm, they
whirl away to some safer ballroom, and renew the merriment. On every
floating log, as we approach it, there is a convention of turtles,
sitting in calm debate, like mailed barons, till, as we approach, they
plump into the water, and paddle away for some subaqueous Runnymede.
Beneath, the shy and stately pickerel vanishes at a glance, shoals of
minnows glide, black and bearded pouts frisk aimlessly, soft
water-lizards hang poised without motion, and slender pickerel-frogs
cease occasionally their submerged croaking, and, darting to the
surface with swift vertical strokes, gulp a mouthful of fresh air, and
down again to renew the moist soliloquy.

Time would fail us to tell of the feathered life around us,--the
blackbirds that build securely in these thickets, the stray swallows
that dip their wings in the quiet waters, and the kingfishers that
still bring, as the ancients fabled, halcyon days. Yonder stands,
against the shore, a bittern, motionless in that wreath of mist which
makes his long-legged person almost as dim as his far-off booming by
night. There poises a hawk, before sweeping down to some chosen bough
in the dense forest; and there fly a pair of blue-jays, screaming,
from tree to tree. As for wild quadrupeds, the race is almost passed
away. Far to the North, indeed, the great moose still browses on the
lily-pads, and the shy beaver nibbles them; but here the few lingering
four-footed creatures only haunt, but do not graze upon these floating
pastures. Eyes more favored than ours may yet chance to spy an otter
in this still place; there by the shore are the small footprints of a
mink; that dark thing disappearing in the waters, yonder, a soft mass
of drowned fur, is a "musquash." Later in the season, a mound of earth
will be his winter dwelling-place; and those myriad muscle-shells at
the water's edge are the remnant of his banquets,--once banquets for
the Indians, too.

But we must return to our lilies. There is no sense of wealth like
floating in this archipelago of white and green. The emotions of
avarice become almost demoralizing. Every flower bears a fragrant
California in its bosom, and you feel impoverished at the thought of
leaving one behind. But after the first half-hour of eager grasping,
one becomes fastidious, rather scorns those on which the wasps and
flies have alighted, and seeks only the stainless. But handle them
tenderly, as if you loved them. Do not grasp at the open flower as if
it were a peony or a hollyhock, for then it will come off, stalkless,
in your hand, and you will cast it blighted upon the water; but coil
your thumb and second finger affectionately around it, press the
extended forefinger firmly to the stem below, and with one steady pull
you will secure a long and delicate stalk, fit to twine around the
graceful head of your beloved, as the Hindoo goddess of beauty
encircled with a Lotus the brow of Rama.

Consider the lilies. All over our rural watercourses, at midsummer,
float these cups of snow. They are Nature's symbols of coolness. They
suggest to us the white garments of their Oriental worshippers. They
come with the white roses and prepare the way for the white lilies of
the garden. The white doe of Rylstone and Andrew Marvell's fawn might
fitly bathe amid their beauties. Yonder steep bank slopes down to the
lake-side, one solid mass of pale pink laurel, but, once upon the
water, a purer tint prevails. The pink fades into a lingering flush,
and the white creature floats peerless, set in green without and gold
within. That bright circle of stamens is the very ring with which
Doges once wedded the Adriatic, Venice has lost it, but it dropped
into the water-lily's bosom, and there it rests forever. So perfect in
form, so redundant in beauty, so delicate, so spotless, so
fragrant,--what presumptuous lover ever dared, in his most enamored
hour, to liken his mistress to a water-lily? No human Blanche or
Lilian was ever so fair as that.

The water-lily comes of an ancient and sacred family of white-robed
priests. They assisted at the most momentous religious ceremonies,
from the beginning of recorded time. The Egyptian Lotus was a sacred
plant; it was dedicated to Harpocrates and to the god Nofr
Atmoo,--Nofr meaning _good_, whence the name of our yellow lily,
Nuphar. But the true Egyptian flower was _Nymphaea Lotus_, though
_Nymphaea caerulea_, Moore's "blue water-lilies," can be traced on the
sculptures also. It was cultivated in tanks in the gardens; it was the
chief material for festal wreaths; a single bud hung over the forehead
of many a queenly dame; and the sculptures represent the weary flowers
as dropping from the heated hands of belles, in the later hours of the
feast. Rock softly on the waters, fair lilies! your Eastern kindred
have rocked on the stormier bosom of Cleopatra. The Egyptian Lotus
was, moreover, the emblem of the sacred Nile,--as the Hindoo species,
of the sacred Ganges; and both the one and the other was held the
symbol of the creation of the world from the waters. The sacred bull
Apis was wreathed with its garlands; there were niches for water, to
place it among tombs; it was carved in the capitals of columns; it was
represented on plates and vases; the sculptures show it in many sacred
uses, even as a burnt-offering; Isis holds it; and the god Nilus still
binds a wreath of water-lilies around the throne of Memnon.

From Egypt the Lotus was carried to Assyria, and Layard found it among
fir-cones and honeysuckles on the later sculptures of Nineveh. The
Greeks dedicated it to the nymphs, whence the name _Nymphaea_. Nor did
the Romans disregard it, though the Lotus to which Ovid's nymph Lotis
was changed, _servato nomine_, was a tree, and not a flower. Still
different a thing was the enchanted stem of the Lotus-eaters of
Herodotus, which prosaic botanists have reduced to the _Zizyphus
Lotus_ found by Mungo Park, translating also the yellow Lotus-dust
into a mere "farina, tasting like sweet gingerbread."

But in the Lotus of Hindostan we find our flower again, and the
Oriental sacred books are cool with water-lilies. Open the Vishnu
Purana at any page, and it is a _Sortes Lilianae_. The orb of the
earth is Lotus-shaped, and is upborne by the tusks of Vesava, as if he
had been sporting in a lake where the leaves and blossoms float.
Brahma, first incarnation of Vishnu, creator of the world, was born
from a Lotus; so was Sri or Lakshmu, the Hindoo Venus, goddess of
beauty and prosperity, protectress of womanhood, whose worship guards
the house from all danger. "Seated on a full-blown Lotus, and holding
a Lotus in her hand, the goddess Sri, radiant with beauty, rose from
the waves." The Lotus is the chief ornament of the subterranean Eden,
Patala, and the holy mountain Meru is thought to be shaped like its
seed-vessel, larger at summit than at base. When the heavenly Urvasi
fled from her earthly spouse, Puruvavas, he found her sporting with
four nymphs of heaven, in a lake beautified with the Lotus. When the
virtuous Prahlada was burned at the stake, he cried to his cruel
father, "The fire burneth me not, and all around I behold the face of
the sky, cool and fragrant with beds of Lotus-flowers!" Above all, the
graceful history of the transformations of Krishna is everywhere hung
with these fresh chaplets. Every successive maiden whom the deity
wooes is Lotus-eyed, Lotus-mouthed, or Lotus-cheeked, and the youthful
hero wears always a Lotus-wreath. Also "the clear sky was bright with
the autumnal moon, and the air fragrant with the perfume of the wild
water-lily, in whose buds the clustering bees were murmuring their

Elsewhere we find fuller details. "In the primordial state of the
world, the rudimental universe, submerged in water, reposed on the
bosom of the Eternal. Brahma, the architect of the world, poised on a
Lotus-leaf, floated upon the waters, and all that he was able to
discern with his eight eyes was water and darkness. Amid scenes so
ungenial and dismal, the god sank into a profound reverie, when he
thus soliloquized: 'Who am I? Whence am I?' In this state of
abstraction Brahma continued during the period of a century and a half
of the gods, without apparent benefit or a solution of his inquiries,
a circumstance which caused him great uneasiness of mind." It is a
comfort, however, to know, that subsequently a voice came to him, on
which he rose, "seated himself upon the Lotus in an attitude of
contemplation, and reflected upon the Eternal, who soon appeared to
him in the form of a man with a thousand heads": a questionable
exchange for his Lotus-solitude.

This is Brahminism; but the other great form of Oriental religion has
carried the same fair symbol with it. One of the Bibles of the
Buddhists is named "The White Lotus of the Good Laer." A pious
Nepaulese bowed in reverence before a vase of lilies which perfumed
the study of Sir William Jones. At sunset in Thibet, the French
missionaries tell us, every inhabitant of every village prostrates
himself in the public square, and the holy invocation, "Oh, the gem in
the Lotus!" goes murmuring over hill and valley, like the sound of
many bees. It is no unmeaning phrase, but an utterance of ardent
desire to be absorbed into that Brahma whose emblem is the sacred
flower. The mystic formula or "mani" is imprinted on the pavement of
the streets, it floats on flags from the temples, and the wealthy
Buddhists maintain sculptor-missionaries, Old Mortalities of the
water-lily, who, wandering to distant lands, carve the blessed words
upon cliff and stone.

Having got thus far into Orientalism, we can hardly expect to get out
again without some slight entanglement in philology. Lily-pads. Whence
_pads_? No other leaf is identified with that singular monosyllable.
Has our floating Lotus-leaf any connection with padding, or with a
footpad? with the ambling pad of an abbot, or a paddle, or a paddock,
or a padlock? with many-domed Padua proud, or with St. Patrick? Is the
name derived from the Anglo-Saxon _paad_ or _petthian_, or the Greek
[Greek: pateo]? All the etymologists are silent; Tooke and Richardson
ignore the problem; and of the innumerable pamphlets in the Worcester
and Webster Controversy, loading the tables of school-committee-men,
not one ventures to grapple with the lily-pad.

But was there ever a philological trouble for which the Sanscrit could
not afford at least a conjectural cure? A dictionary of that extremely
venerable tongue is an ostrich's stomach, which can crack the hardest
etymological nut. The Sanscrit name for the Lotus is simply _Padma_.
The learned Brahmins call the Egyptian deities Padma Devi, or
Lotus-Gods; the second of the eighteen Hindoo Puranas is styled the
Padma Purana, because it treats of the "epoch when the world was a
golden Lotus"; and the sacred incantation which goes murmuring through
Thibet is "Om mani padme houm." It would be singular, if upon these
delicate floating leaves a fragment of our earliest vernacular has
been borne down to us, so that here the schoolboy is more learned than
the _savans_.

This lets us down easily to the more familiar uses of this plant
divine. By the Nile, in early days, the water-lily was good not merely
for devotion, but for diet. "From the seeds of the Lotus," said Pliny,
"the Egyptians make bread." The Hindoos still eat the seeds, roasted
in sand; also the stalks and roots. In South America, from the seeds
of the Victoria (_Nymphaea Victoria_, now _Victoria Regia_) a farina
is made, preferred to that of the finest wheat,--Bonpland even
suggesting to our reluctant imagination Victoria-pies. But the
European species are used, so far as we know, only in dyeing, and as
food (if the truth be told) of swine. Our own water-lily is rather
more powerful in its uses; the root contains tannin and gallic acid,
and a decoction of it "gives a black precipitate, with sulphate of
iron." It graciously consents to become an astringent, and a styptic,
and a poultice, and, banished from all other temples, still lingers in
those of AEsculapius.

The botanist also finds his special satisfactions in our flower. It
has some strange peculiarities of structure. So loose is the internal
distribution of its tissues, that it was for some time held doubtful
to which of the two great vegetable divisions, exogenous or
endogenous, it belonged. Its petals, moreover, furnish the best
example of the gradual transition of petals into stamens,

Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest