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Atlantic Monthly Volume 6, No. 34, August, 1860 by Various

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Whither went the nine old Muses, daughters of Jupiter and the Goddess
of Memory, after their seats on Helicon, Parnassus, and Olympus were
barbarized? Not far away. They hovered like witches around the seething
caldron of early Christian Europe, in which, "with bubble, bubble, toil
and trouble," a new civilization was forming, mindful of the brilliant
lineage of their worshippers, from Homer to Boethius, looking upon the
vexed and beclouded Nature, and expecting the time when Humanity should
gird itself anew with the beauty of ideas and institutions. They were
sorrowful, but not in despair; for they knew that the children of men
were strong with recuperative power.

The ear of Fancy, not long since, heard the hoofs of winged Pegasus
striking the clouds. The long-idle Muses, it seemed, had become again
interested in human efforts, and were paying a flying visit to the
haunts of modern genius from the Hellespont to the Mississippi.
They lingered in sunny Provence, and in the dark forest-land of the
Minnesingers. In the great capitals, as Rome, Berlin, Paris, London,--in
smaller capitals, as Florence, Weimar, and Boston,--in many a village
which had a charm for them, as Stratford-on-Avon, Ferney, and Concord
in Massachusetts,--in the homes of wonderful suffering, as Ferrara and
Haworth.--on many enchanted waters, as the Guadalquivir, the Rhine,
the Tweed, the Hudson, Windermere, and Leman,--in many a monastic nook
whence had issued a chronicle or history, in many a wild birthplace of a
poem or romance, around many an old castle and stately ruin, in many a
decayed seat of revelry and joyous repartee,--through the long list
of the nurseries of genius and the laboratories of art, they wandered
pensive and strangely affected. At length they rested from their journey
to hold a council on modern literature. The long results of Christian
time were unrolled before them as in a chart. They beheld the dawn of a
new historic day, marked by songs of fantastic tenderness, and unwieldy,
long, and jointless romances and poems, like the monsters which played
in the unfinished universe before the creation of man. The Muses smiled
with a look more of complaisance than approval, as they reviewed the
army of Troubadours and Minnesingers and the crowd of romancers who
followed in their train. They decided that the joyous array of early
mediaeval literature was full of promise, though something of its tone
and temper was past the comprehension of pagan goddesses. The legends of
saints and pictures of martyrdoms were especially mysterious to them,
and they regarded them raptly, not smilingly, and bowed their heads.
Anon their eyes rested on an Italian city, where uprose, as if in
interstellar space, an erect figure, with a piercing eye, pleasant as
Plato's voice. His countenance was fixed upon the empyrean, and a more
than Minerva-like form hovered above him, interpreting the Christian
universe; and as he wrote what she dictated, the verses of his poem were
musical even to the Muses. Dante, Beatrice, and the "Divine Comedy,"
with a Gothic church as a make-weight, were balanced in Muses' minds in
comparison with the "Iliad" and the age of Pericles; and again they put
on the rapt look of mystery, but a smile also, and their admiration
and applause were more and more. To England they soon turned, and
contemplated the round, many-colored globe of Shakspeare's works. As
playful swallows sometimes dart round and round a lithe and wondering
wingless animal, so they, admiringly and timidly, attracted, yet
hesitating, delighting in his alertness, but not quite understanding it,
flitted like a troubled and beautiful flock around the great magician of
modern civilization. Their glance became lighter and less intent, as if
they were nearer to knowledge, the pain of perplexity disappeared like a
shadow from their countenances, their plaudits were more unreserved, and
it seemed likely that the high desert of Shakspeare would win for our
new literature a favorable recognition from the aristocratic goddesses
of antiquity. Knowing that Jove had made perfection unattainable by
mortals, they yet found in the chart before them epics, dramas, lyrics,
histories, and philosophies that were no unworthy companions to the
creations of classical genius, and they were jubilant in the triumphs
of a period in which they had been rather ignorantly and ironically
worshipped. Their sitting was long, and their review thorough, yet they
found but one department of modern literature which was regarded with a
distrust that grew to an aversion. The romances, the tales, the stories,
the novels were contemned more and more, from the first of them to the
last. Nothing like them had been known among the glories of Hellenic
literary art, and no Muse now stood forth to be their defender and
patron. Calliope declared that they were not epical, Euterpe and Erato
that they were not lyrical, Melpomene and Thalia that they were neither
tragical nor comical, Clio that they were not historical, Urania that
they were not sublime in conception, Polymnia that they had no stately
or simple charm in execution, and Terpsichore, who had joined with
Melpomene in admiring the opera, found nothing in the novel which she
could own and bless. Fleeting passages, remote and slight fragments,
were pleasing to them all, like the oases of a Sahara, or the sites of
high civilization on the earth; but the whole world of novels seemed to
them a chaos undisciplined by art and unformed to beauty. The gates of
the halls where the classics live in immortal youth were beginning to
close against the voluminous prose romances that have sprung from modern
thought, when the deliberations of the Muses were suddenly interrupted.
They had disturbed the divine elements of modern society. Forth from all
the recesses of the air came troops of Gothic elves, trolls, fairies,
sprites, and all the other romantic beings which had inspired the modern
mind to novel-writing,--marching or gambolling, pride in their port,
defiance in their eye, mischief in their purpose,--and began so vigorous
an attack upon their classic visitors and critics, that the latter were
glad to betake themselves to the mighty-winged Pegasus, who rapidly bore
them in retreat to the present home of the _Dii Majores_, that point of
the empyrean directly above Olympus.

And well, indeed, might the Muses wonder at the rise of the novel and
its vast developments, for the classic literature presents no similar
works. One of Plato's dialogues or Aesop's fables is as near an approach
to a prose romance as antiquity in its golden eras can offer. The few
productions of the kind which appeared during the decline of literature
in the early Christian centuries, as the "Golden Ass" of Apuleius and
the "AEthiopica" of Heliodorus, were freaks of Nature, an odd growth
rather than a distinct species, and are also to be contrasted rather
than compared with the later novel. Such as they are, moreover, they
were produced under Christian as much as classic influences. The
aesthetic Hellenes admitted into their literature nothing so composite,
so likely to be crude, as the romance. Their styles of art were all
pure, their taste delighted in simplicity and unity, and they strictly
forbade a medley, alike in architecture, sculpture, and letters. The
history of their development opens with an epic yet unsurpassed, and
their literary creations have been adopted to be the humanities of
Christian universities. A writer has recently proposed to account for
their success in the arts from the circumstance that the features of
Nature around them were small,--that their hornet-shaped peninsula was
cut by mountains and inlets of the sea into minute portions, which the
mind could easily compass, the foot measure, and the hand improve,--that
therefore every hillock and fountain, every forest and by-way was
peopled with mythological characters and made significant with
traditions, and the cities were adorned with architectural and
sculptured masterpieces. Greece thus, like England in our own time,
presented the character of a highly wrought piece of ground,--England
being the more completely developed for material uses, and Greece being
the more heavily freighted with legends of ideal meaning. Small-featured
and large-minded Greece is thus set in contrast with Asia, where the
mind and body were equally palsied in the effort to overcome immense
plains and interminable mountain-chains. But whatever the reason,
whether geographical or ethnological, it is certain that the people of
Greece were endowed with a transcendent genius for art, which embraced
all departments of life as by an instinct. Every divinity was made a
plain figure to the mind, every mystery was symbolized in some positive
beautiful myth, and every conception of whatever object became
statuesque and clear. This artistic character was possible to them from
the comparatively limited range of pagan imagination; their thought
rarely dwelt in those regions where reason loves to ask the aid
of mysticism, and all remote ideas, like all remote nations, were
indiscriminately regarded by them as barbarous. But guarded by the
bounds of their civilization, as by the circumfluent ocean-stream of
their olden tradition, they were prompted in all their movements by the
spirit of beauty, and philosophers have accounted them the very people
whose ideas were adequately and harmoniously represented in sensible
forms,--unlike the nations of the Orient, where mind is overawed by
preponderating matter, and unlike the nations of Christendom, where the
current spiritual meanings reach far into the shadowy realm of mystery
and transcend the power of material expression.

Thus art was the main category of the Greeks, the absolute form which
embraced all their finite forms. It moulded their literature, as it did
their sculpture, architecture, and the action of their gymnasts and
orators. They therefore delighted only in the highest orders and purest
specimens of literature, refused to retain in remembrance any of the
unsuccessful attempts at poetry which may be supposed to have preceded
Homer, and gave their homage only to masterpieces in the dignified
styles of the epic, the drama, the lyric, the history, or the
philosophical discussion. Equal to the highest creations, they refused
to tolerate anything lower; and they knew not the novel, because their
poetical notions were never left in a nebulous, prosaic state, but were
always developed into poetry.

Another reason, doubtless, was the wonderful activity of the Greek mind,
finding its amusement and relaxation in the forum, theatre, gymnasium,
or even the barber's shop, in constant mutual contact, in learning
wisdom and news by word of mouth. The long stories which they may
have told to each other, as an outlet for their natural vitality, as
extemporaneous exercises of curiosity and wit and fancy, did not creep
into their literature, which included only more mature and elaborate

The modern novel was born of Christianity and feudalism. It is the child
of contemplation,--of that sort of luxurious intellectual mood which has
always distinguished the Oriental character, and was first Europeanized
in the twilight of the mediaeval period. The fallen Roman Empire was
broken into countless fragments, which became feudal baronies. The heads
of the newly organized society were lordly occupants of castles, who in
time of peace had little to do. They were isolated from their neighbors
by acres, forests, and a stately etiquette, if not actual hostility.
There was no open-air theatre in the vicinity, no forum alive with
gossip and harangues, no public games, not even a loquacious barber's
shop. During the intervals between public or private wars,--when the
Turks were unmolested, the crescent and the dragon left in harmless
composure, and no Christians were in mortal turmoil with each other,--it
is little wonder that restless knights went forth from their loneliness
errant in quest of adventures. What was there to occupy life in those
barricaded stone-towers?

It was then that the domestic passion, love, rose into dignity. Homage
to woman assumed the potency of an idea, chivalry arose, and its truth,
honor, and obeisance were the first social responses from mankind to
Christianity. The castle was the emblem and central figure of the time:
it was the seat of power, the arena of manners, the nursery of love, and
the goal of gallantry; and around it hovered the shadows of religion,
loyalty, heroism. Domestic events, the private castellar life, were thus
exalted; but they could hardly suffice to engross and satisfy the spirit
of a warrior and crusader. A new diversion and excitement were demanded,
and soon, in response to the call, minstrels began to roam from castle
to castle, from court to court, telling long stories of heroism and
singing light songs of love. A spark from the Saracenic schools and
poets of Spain may have flitted into Provence to kindle the elements
of modern literature into its first development, the songs of the
Troubadours. Almost contemporary were the lays of the Minnesingers in
Germany and the romances of the Trouveres in Northern France. Beneath
the brooding spirit of a new civilization signs of life had at length
appeared, and Europe became vocal in every part with fantastic poems,
lyrical in the South, epical in the North. They were wildly exuberant
products, because severe art was unknown, but simple, _naive_, and gay,
and suited to the taste of a time when the classics were regarded as
superstitiously as the heavens. Love and heroism, which somehow are the
leading themes of literature in all ages, now assumed the chivalric type
in the light hands of the earliest modern poets.

Yet these songs and metrical romances were most inadequate
representatives of the undeveloped principles which lay at the root of
Christian civilization. Even Hellenic genius might here have been at
fault, for it was a far harder task to give harmonious and complete
expression to the tendencies of a new religion and the germs of new
systems, than to frame into beauty the pagan clear-cut conceptions. The
Christian mind awoke under a fascination, and, for a time, could
only ejaculate its meanings in fragments, or hint them in vast
disproportions, could only sing snatches of new tunes. Its first signs
were gasps, rather than clear-toned notes, after the long perturbations
and preparations of history. The North and the South, the East and the
West had been mingled together; the heated and heaving mass had been
tempered by the leaven of Christianity:--and had all this been done
only to produce an octo-syllabic metre in praise of fantastic and semi-
barbaric sentiments and exploits? Had there been such commotions of the
universe only for a song? Surely these first creations of art, these
first attempts at literature, these first carvings of a rude spiritual
intensity, were only such as the Greeks may have forgotten any quantity
of before Homer came, their first glory and their oldest reminiscence.

One reason, perhaps, why mediaeval literature assumed so light and
unartistic a form was, that by necessity it could not be full-orbed.
Religion could not enter into it as a plastic element, but was fixed, a
veiled, external figure, radiating indeed color and fragrance, but
not making one of the struggling, independent vitals of the heart.
Literature could play about this figure, but could not grasp it, and
take it in among the materials to be fashioned. The Church, through
its clergy, held jealous command of divine knowledge, beneath divine
guidance, and left no developments of it possible to the lay mind, which
culminated in minstrels and romancers. The Greeks, on the contrary,
whose religion was an apotheosis of the earth, framed upwards and only
by fiction of fancy handed downwards, derived all their theology from
the poets. Prophecy and taste were combined in Homer,--Isaiah and the
king's jester in Pindar. The care of the highest, not less than the
lowest departments of thought, fell upon the creative author, and
a happy suggestion became a new article in the Hellenic creed. His
composition thus bore the burden and was hallowed by the sanctity
of piety, the key to every human perfect thing. But the Provencal
celebrators of love and chivalry had no such dignity in their task. The
solemnities of thought and life were cared for and hedged about by the
Church as its own peculiar treasure, and to them there remained only the
lighter office of amusing. The age was eminently religious, but the poet
could not aid in erecting and adorning its temples. Every fair work of
art must have a central idea; but the proper principle of unity for
all grand artistic efforts not being within the reach of authors, it
followed that their productions were not symmetrical, did not have an
even outline nor cosmical meaning, did not consist of balanced parts,
were poorly framed and articulated, and were charming only by their
flavor, and not by their form. The cultured intellect will not seriously
work short of a final principle; and if a materialized religion, an
ecclesiastical structure, be firmly planted on the earth by the same
hand that established the universe and tapestried it with morning and
evening, and if its gates and archways, its altar, columns, and courts
be given in trust to chosen stewards as a divine priesthood, then the
highest problem of being is not a human problem, and the mind of the
laity has nothing more important to do than to play with the flowers of
gallant love and heroism. Such was the feeling, perhaps the unconscious
reasoning, of the founders of modern literature, as they began their
labors in the alcoves of that church architecture which covered
Christendom, embracing and symbolically expressing all its ideas
and institutes. Therefore some vice of imperfection, a character of
frivolity, or an artificially serious treatment of lightsome subjects
marked all the literature of the time, which resembled that grotesque
and unaccountable mathematical figure that has its centre outside of

Modern literature thus had its origin in romantic metrical pieces,
which, in the next stage, were transformed into prose novels. Two
circumstances contributed to this change,--a change which could not have
been anticipated; for the Trouvere _fabliaux_ and _romans_ promised only
epics, and the Troubadour _chansons_ and _tensons_ promised only lyrics
and dramas. But the mind was now obliged to traverse the unbeaten paths
of the Christian universe; it was overwhelmed by the extent of its
range, the richness and delicacy of its materials; it could with
difficulty poise itself amid the indefinite heights and depths which
encompassed it, and with greater difficulty could wield the magician's
rod which should sway the driving elements into artistic reconstruction.
This mental inadequacy alone would not have created the novel, but would
only have made lyrics and epics rare, the works of superior minds. The
second and cooperating circumstance was the prevalence of the Christian
and feudal habit of contemplation, which made constant literature a
necessity. Nothing less than eternal new romances could save the lords,
the ladies, and the dependents from _ennui_. But to supply these in a
style of proper and antique dignity was beyond the power of the poets.
In the wild forests of the mind they could rarely capture a mature idea,
and they were as yet unpractised artists. Yet contemplative leisure
called eagerly for constant titbits of romance to tickle the palate and
furnish a diversion, while the genius of Christian poetry was yet in
infantile weakness. The dilemma lasted but a moment, and was solved by
an heroic effort of the poets to do, not what they would, but what they
could. Yielding to practical necessities, they renounced the traditions
of the classical past, which now seemed to belong to another hemisphere,
abandoned the attempt to realize pure forms, postponed high art; melody
gave way to prose, the romance degenerated into the novel, and prose
fiction, which erst had flitted only between the tongue and ear,
entered, a straggling and reeling constellation, into the firmament of
literature. Hence the novel is the child of human impotency and despair.
The race thereby, with merriment and jubilee, confessed its inability
to fulfil at once its Christian destiny as completely as the Greeks
had fulfilled their pagan possibilities. Purity of art was left to
the future, to Providence, or to great geniuses, but the novel became

Thus the modern novel had its genesis not merely in a contemplative
mood, but in contemplation which was forced by the impetuous temper of
the times to fail of ever reaching the dignity of thoughtfulness. It
was the immature product of an immature mental state; and richly as
sometimes it was endowed by every human faculty, by imagination, wit,
taste, or even profound thought, it yet never reached the goal of
thought, never solved a problem, and, in its highest examples, professed
only to reveal, but not to guide, the reigning manners and customs.
Rarely did its materials pass through the fiery furnace whence art
issues; it was a work of unfaithful intellect, prompted by ideas which
never culminated and were never realized; and it did not rise much above
the "stuffs" of life, as distinguished from the organic creations of the
mind. A many-limbed and shambling creature, which was not made a
spirit by the power of an idea, it fluttered amid all the culture of a
people,--amid the ideas and modes of the state, the church, the family,
the world of society,--like a bungler among paint-pots; but the paints
still remained paints on the canvas, instead of being blended and
transfigured into a thing of beauty. It was the organ of society, but
not of the essential truths which vitalize society, and its incidents
did not rise much above the significance of accidents.

What the novel was in knightly days, that it has continued to be. There
is a mysterious practical potency in precedent. All ideas and institutes
seem to grow in the direction of their first steps, as if from germs.
Thus, the doctrines of the Church fathers are still peculiarly
authoritative in theology, and the immemorial traditions of the common
law are still binding in civil life. Man seems to be an experimental
far more than a freely rational animal; for a fact in the past exerts
a greater influence in determining future action than any new idea. A
revolution must strike deep to eradicate the presumption in favor of
ages. Learned men are now trying to read the hieroglyphics of the East,
the records of an unknown history. Perhaps the result of their labors
will temper the next period in the course of the world more than all our
thinkers. Destiny seems to travel in the harness of precedents.

Thus, in obedience to the law of precedent, the mild gambols, the
_naive_ superficiality, the child-like irresponsibility for thinking,
which were the characteristics of the first European novels, have
generally distinguished the unnumbered and unclassified broods of them
which have abounded in subsequent literature. Designed chiefly to amuse,
to divert for a moment rather than to present an admirable work of art,
to interest rather than to instruct and elevate, the modern romance has
in general excused itself from thorough elaboration. Instead of being
a chastened and symmetrical product of the whole organic mind, it has
mainly been inspired by the imagination, which has been called the fool
in the family of the faculties, and wrought out by the assistance of
memory, which mechanically links the mad suggestions of its partner
with temporal events. It is in literature something like what a feast
presided over by the king's jester and steward would have been in
mediaeval social life. Let any novel be finished, let all the resources
of the mind be conscientiously expended on it, let it become a thorough
intellectual creation, and, instead of remaining a novel, it would
assume the dignity of an epic, lyric, drama, philosophy, or history. Its
nebulae would be resolved into stars.

Has, then, the mild and favorite blossom, the _fabula romanensis_, which
was so abundant in the Middle Ages, which has grown so luxuriantly
and given so general delight in modern times,--has it no place in
the natural history of literature? Shall it be mentioned only as an
uncompleted something else,--as an abortive effort of thought,--as
a crude _melange_ of elements that have not been purified and fused
together in the focus of the mind? And were the Muses right in refusing
to admit it into their sacred realm of art?

An affirmative answer can hardly be true; for an absurdity appears in
the reduction that it would cause in the quantity of our veritable
literature, and in the condemnation that it would pass on the tastes of
many most intelligent writers and readers. Yet a comparison of the novel
with the classical and pure forms of literature will show its unlikeness
to them in design, dignity, and essential quality.

It was a favorite thesis of Fielding, often repeated by his successors,
that the novel is a sort of comic epopee. Yet the romantic and the epic
styles have nothing in common, except that both are narrative. The epic,
the rare and lofty cypress of literature, is the story of a nation and a
civilization; the novel, of a neighborhood and a generation. A thousand
years culminate in the former; it sums up the burden and purpose of
a long historical period; and its characters are prominent types in
universal history and in highest thought. But the novel is the child
of a day; it is the organ of manners and phases, not of principles and
passions; it does not see the phenomena of earth in heavenly or logical
relations, does not transform life into art, and is a panorama, but not
a picture. So long as man and heroism and strife endure, shall Achilles,
Godfrey, Satan, and Mephistopheles be types; for they are artistic
expressions of essential and historical realities. But though the beck
of curiosity lead us through the labyrinthine plot of a novel, long as
Gibbon's way through the Dark Ages, yet, when we have finished it, the
bubble collapses, the little heavens which had been framed about us roll
away, and most rarely does a character remain poetically significant in
the mind.

A contrast of any page of an epic with one of a romance will show
their essential unlikeness. Note, for instance, the beginning of the
"Gerusalemme Liberata." The first stanza presents "the illustrious
captain who warred for Heaven and saved the sepulchre of Christ,--the
many deeds which he wrought by arms and by wisdom,--his great toil, and
his glorious achievement. Hell opposed him, the mingled populations
of Asia and Africa leagued against him,--but all in vain, for Heaven
smiled, and guided the wandering bands beneath his sacred ensigns." Such
are the splendid elements of the poem, outlining in a stanza the finest
type, objects, and scenery of mediaeval heroism. The second stanza
invokes the Muse,--"Not thou whose brow was wreathed with the unenduring
bays of Helicon, but thou who in angelic choirs hast a golden crown set
with immortal stars,--do thou breathe celestial ardor into the poet's
heart!" Then follows an allusion to a profound matter of temper and
experience. He prays that "the Muse will pardon, if sometimes he adorn
his page with other charms than her own; for thus, perhaps, he may
win the world to his higher meanings, shrouding severe truths in soft
verses. As the rim of the bitter cup is sweetened which is extended to
the sick child, so may he, by beauties not quite Christian, attract
mankind to read his whole poem to their health." Such is the stately
soaring of the epical Muse, the Muse of ideal history. Scholars find
Greece completely prefigured in Homer, and the time may come when Dante
and Tasso shall be the leading authorities for the history of the Middle
Ages, and Milton for that of the ages of Protestantism.

In such comparison novels are insignificant and imbecile. Though, like
"Contarini Fleming," they may begin with a magnificent paragraph, and
fine passages be scattered through the volumes, they are yet rarely
stories of ideas as well as persons, rarely succeed in involving events
of more than temporary interest, and rarely, perhaps, should be called
great mental products.

Not less strikingly does the difference between the epic and the novel
appear in their different uses. The one is the inspiration of great
historical action, the other of listless repose. The statesman, in the
moment of debate, and in the dignity of conscious power, finds sympathy
and encouragement in a passage of his favorite epic. Its grand types
are ever in fellowship with high thoughts. The novel is for the lighter
moment after the deed is done, when he is no longer brunting Fate, but
reclining idly, and reflecting humorously or malignly on this life. The
epic is closely and strongly framed, like the gladiator about to strike
a blow: the novel is relaxed and at careless ease, like the club-man
after lighting his pipe. The latter does not bear the burden of severe
responsibility, but is a thing of holidays and reactions. Still, as of
old, it answers to the contemplative castellar cry,--"Hail, romancer!
come and divert me,--make me merry! I wish to be occupied, but not
employed,--to muse passively, not actively. Therefore, hail! tell me
a story,--sing me a song! If I were now in the van of an army and
civilization, higher thoughts would engross me. But I am unstrung, and
wish to be fanned, not helmeted."

It has sometimes been claimed that the romantic style is essentially
lyrical. But though the idea from which many novels start was perhaps
the proper germ for one or more lyrics, it never attains in romance
a pure and unincumbered development. We may illustrate the different
intellectual creations founded on a common conception by imagining how
one of Wordsworth's lyrical fancies might have been developed in three
volumes of romance instead of three stanzas of poetry.

"She dwelt among the untrodden ways,
Beside the springs of Dove,
A maid whom there were none to praise,
And very few to love."

The first line, romantically treated, would include description,
soliloquy, and narrative, to show that in solitude the maiden had
habits, duties, something to think about and be interested in. The
accidental approach of some cosmopolitan visitor would give occasion to
illustrate dramatically the contrast between life in retirement and in
society. Some novelists also would inflict, either by direct lecture
or by conversation of the actors, very admirable reflections on the
comparative advantages of the two conditions. The second line would
perhaps suggest only geographical lore and descriptions of scenery,
though historical episodes might be added. The third line would
involve a minute description of dress, complexion, stature, and wild
gracefulness. In a psychological investigation it would come out what
strange and simple notions she entertained of the great world, and what
charming qualities of unsophisticated character belonged to her as she
merrily or pensively went through her accustomed tasks. The fourth line,
in which love is the text, would swell into mammoth proportions. New
characters would be especially necessary in this culminating part of the
story; and though they should be "very few," they would long occupy the
novelist with their diverse excellencies or villanies, their rivalries
and strategies. It is probable that the complete development of the
stanza _a la romance_ would give a circumstantial history of the maiden
from her birth, with glimpses more or less clear of all the remarkable
people who dwelt near or occasionally visited the springs of Dove. Thus
the same conception would become a stanza or a volume, according as its
treatment were lyrical or romantic.

It need hardly be shown that the novel is not a drama, not a history,
nor fable, nor any sort of philosophical treatise. It may have
sentences, paragraphs, or perhaps chapters, in every style and of the
highest excellence, as a shapeless architectural pile may rejoice in
some exquisite features or ornaments; but combined passages, though they
were the collected charms of literature, do not make a work of art. The
styles are mixed,--a certain sign, according to Lessing, of corruption
of taste. Novels present the anomaly of being fiction, but not
poetry,--of being fruits of imagination, but of imagination improvising
its creations from local and temporal things, instead of speaking from
a sublime stand-point and linking series of facts with processions of
ideas. Sources of history, guides of philosophical retrospection, they
may come some time to be; yet one cannot check a feeling of pity for
the future historian who, in searching the "Pickwick Papers"
for antiquities, finds himself bothered and confused by all the
undisciplined witches of Mr. Dickens's imagination.

If the novel be thus excluded from all the classical orders of
literature, a trembling question is suggested, whether it may not be
nevertheless a legitimate work of art. Though it be a _melange_ of
styles, a story told, in literature what the story-teller is in
society, yet why should it not have the honor among readers which
the story-teller in all ages has had among listeners? Though by
its escutcheon it assume a place among the amusing rather than the
instructive class of books, why should not its nobility be recognized?

The answer is found in the essential nature of art, in the almost
eternal distinction between life and thought, between actual and ideal
realities. Unity amid diversity is the type of intellectual beauty and
the law of the universe; to comprehend it is the goal of science, and
to reproduce it in human works is the aim of art. Yet how hard it is to
find the central and essential idea in a world of apparent accidents and
delusions! to chase the real and divine thing as it plays among cheats
and semblances! Hence the difficulty of thorough thought, of faithful
intellectual performance, of artistic creation. To the thoughtless man
life is merely the rough and monotonous exterior of the cameo-stone; but
the artist sees through its strata, discerns its layers of many colors,
and from its surface to its vital centre works them all together into
varied beauty. To live is common; but art belongs only to the finest
minds and the best moments. Life is a burden of present multitudinous
phenomena; but art has the simple unity of perfect science, and is
a goal and aspiration. Life comes by birth, art by thought, and the
travail that produces art is ofttimes the severer. The fashions of life
are bubbles on the surface, and pass away with the season; but the
creations of art belong to the depths of the spiritual world, where they
shine like stars and systems in the physical universe.

Story-telling is the most charming of occupations, and, whatever its
relation to literary art, it is one of the graces of the art of life.
Old as the race, it has always been in fashion on the earth, the delight
of every clime from the Orient to the Occident, and of every age from
childhood to second childhood. We live in such a concatenation of
things,--our hopes, fears, loves, hates, struggles, sympathies, defeats,
and triumphs make such a medley, with a sort of divine fascination about
it,--that we are always interested to hear how anybody has borne himself
through whatever varieties of fortune. At the basis of every other
character which can be assumed by man lie the conceiver and the teller
of stories; story-telling is the _prima facie_ quality of an intelligent
and sociable being leading a life full of events in a universe full
of phenomena. The child believes the wonders of romance by a right
instinct; narratives of love and peril and achievement come home to the
spirit of the youth; and the mystical, wonder-expecting eye of childhood
returns to old age. The humor, wit, piety, and pathos of every age
abound in the written stories of its people and children.

Yet between the vocal story and the story in literature there is an
immense difference, like that between talking and writing, between life
and art. The qualities which in the story-teller make even frivolity
weighty and dulness significant--the play of the eye, the lips, the
countenance, the voice, the whole sympathetic expression of the
person--are wanting to the novel; it has passed from the realm of life
to that of art; it loses the charm which personal relations give even
to trifles; it must have the charm which the mind can lend only to its
cherished offspring.

Considered as a thing of literature, no other sort of book admits of
such variety of topics, style, and treatment as the novel. As diverse
in talent and quality as the story-teller himself,--now harlequin, now
gossip, now threnodist,--with weird ghostliness, moping melancholy,
uncouth laughter, or gentle serious smile,--now relating the story, with
childlike interest in it, now with a good heart and now with a bad heart
ridiculing mankind, now allegorical with rich meanings, now freighting
the little story-cricket that creeps along from page to page with
immense loads of science, history, politics, ethics, religion,
criticism, and prophecy,--always regarded with kindness, always welcomed
in idleness, always presenting in a simple way some spectacle of
merriment or grief, as changeful as the seasons or the fashions,--with
all its odd characteristics, the novel is remarkably popular, and not
lightly to be esteemed as an element in our social and mental culture.

There is probably no other class of books, with literary pretensions,
that contain so little thinking, in proportion to their quantity of
matter, as novels. They can scarcely be called organic productions, for
they may be written and published in sections, like one of the lowest
classes of animals, which have no organization, but live equally well in
parts, and run off in opposite directions when cut in halves. Thoughts
and books, like living creatures, have their grades, and it is only
those which stand lowest in respect of intellectuality that admit of
fractional existence. A finished work of the mind is so delicately
adjusted and closely related, part to part, that a fracture would be
fatal. Conceive of Phidias sending off from his studio at Athens his
statue of Jupiter Olympius in monthly numbers,--despatching now the
feet, now the legs, now the trunk, in successive pieces, now the
shoulders, and at last crowning the whole with a head!

The composition of novels must be reckoned, in design at least, one of
the fine arts, but in fact they belong rather to periodical than to
immortal literature. They do not submit to severity of treatment, abide
by no critical laws, but are the gypsies and Bohemians of literature,
bringing all the savagery of wild genius into the _salons_ of taste.
Though tolerated, admired, and found to be interesting, they do not
belong to the system of things, play no substantial part in the serious
business of life, but, as the world moves on, give place to their
successors, not having developed any principle, presented any picture,
or stated any fact, in a way to suggest ideas more than social
phenomena. They are not permanent, therefore, because finally only
ideas, and not facts, are generally remembered; the past is known to us
more, and exclusively as it becomes remote, by the conceptions of poets
and philosophic historians, the myriads of events which occupied a
generation being forgotten, and all the pith and meaning of them being
transmitted in a stanza or a chapter. Poetry never grows old, and
whatsoever masterpieces of thought always win the admiration of the
enlightened; but many a novel that has been the lion of a season passes
at once away, never more to be heard of here. With few exceptions, the
splendid popularity that greets the best novels fades away in time
slowly or rapidly. A half-century is a fatal trial for the majority; few
are revived, and almost none are read, after a century; will anybody
but the most curious antiquary be interested in them after one or
two thousand years? Without delaying to give the full rationale of
exceptions which vex this like every other general remark, it may
be added briefly that fairy stories are in their nature fantastic
mythological poems, most proper to the heroic age of childhood, that
historical romances may be in essence and dignity fantastic histories or
epics, and that, from whatever point of view, Cervantes remains hardly
less admirable than Ariosto, or the "Bride of Lammermoor" than the "Lay
of the Last Minstrel."

In the mental as in the physical world, art, diamonds and gems come by
long elaboration. A thoughtless man may write perennially, while the
result of silent meditation and a long tortured soul may be expressed
in a minute. The work of the former is akin to conversation, one of the
fugitive pleasures of a day; that of the latter will, perchance, be a
star in the firmament of the mind. Eugene Sue and Beranger both wished
to communicate their reflections on society. The former dissipated his
energies in the _salons_, was wise and amusing over wine, exchanged
learning and jests, studied the drawing-room as if it were the
macrocosm, returned to his chamber, put on kid gloves, and from the odds
and ends of his dishevelled wits wrote at a gallop, without ever looking
back, his "Mysteres de Paris." The latter lived in an attic year after
year, contemplated with cheerful anxiety the volatile world of France
and the perplexed life of man, and elaborated word by word, with
innumerable revisions, his short songs, which are gems of poetry,
charming at once the ear and the heart. Novels are perhaps too easily
written to be of lasting value. An unpremeditated word, in which the
thoughts of years are exploded, may be one of the most admirable of
intellectual phenomena, but an unpremeditated volume can only be a
demonstration of human weakness.

The argument thus far has been in favor of the Muses. Hellenic taste and
the principles of high art ratify the condemnation passed on the novel
by the aesthetic goddesses. A wider view, however, will annul the
sentence, giving in its stead a warning and a lesson. If the prose
romance be not Hellenic, it is nevertheless humane, and has been in
honor almost universally throughout the Orient and the Occident. Its
absence from the classical literature was a marvel and exception, a
phenomenon of the clearest-minded and most active of races, who thought,
but did not contemplate,--whose ideal world consisted only of simple,
but stately legends of bright-limbed gods and heroes. A felicitous
production of high art, also, is among the rarest of exceptions, and
will be till the Millennium. Myriads of comparative failures follow in
the suite of a masterpiece. We have, therefore, judged the novel by an
impracticable standard, by a comparison with the highest aims rather
than the usual attainments of other branches of literary art. Human
weakness makes poetry, philosophy, and history imperfect in execution,
though they aspire to absolute beauty and truth; human weakness
suggested the novel, which is imperfect in design, written as an
amusement and relief, in despair of sounding the universe. A novel is in
its nature and as a matter of necessity an artistic failure; it
pretends to nothing higher; but under the slack laws which govern its
composition, multitudes of fine and suggestive characters, incidents,
and sayings may be smuggled into it, contrary to all the usages and
rules of civilized literature. Hence the secret of its popularity,
that it is the organ of average as distinguished from highest thought.
Science and art are the goals of destiny, but rarely is there a
thinker or writer who has an eye single to them. It is an heroic,
self-sacrificing, and small platoon which in every age brunts Fate, and,
fighting on the shadowy frontier, makes conquests from the realm of
darkness. Their ideas are passed back from hand to hand, and become
known in fragments and potent as tendencies among the mass of the race,
who live in the circle of the attained and travel in the routine of
ages. The novelist is one of the number who half comprehend them, and
borrows them from all quarters to introduce into the rich _melange_ of
his work. To solve a social problem, to reproduce an historical age or
character, or to develop the truth and poetry latent in any event, is
difficult, and not many will either lead or follow a severe attempt;
but the novelist will merrily chronicle his story and link with it in a
thousand ways some salient reminiscences of life and thought.

What, then, is the highest excellence that the novel can attain? It is
the carnival of literary art. It deals sympathetically and humorously,
not philosophically and strictly, with the panorama and the principles
of life. A transcript, but not a transfiguration of Nature, it assumes a
thousand forms, surpassing all other books in the immense latitude left
to the writer, in the wild variety of things which it may touch, but
need not grasp. Its elements are the forests, the cities, and the seven
ages of man,--characters and fortunes how diversified! All species
of thinkers and actors, of ideas and passions, all the labyrinthine
complications and scenery of existence, may be illustrated in persons or
introduced by-the-by; into whatever colors make up the phantasmagoria
of collective humanity the novelist may dip his brush, in painting
his moving picture. Yet problems need not be fully appreciated, nor
characters or actions profoundly understood. It must be an engrossing
story, but the theme and treatment are as lawless as the conversation of
an evening party. The mind plays through all the realm of its knowledge
and experience, and sheds sparks from all the torches of thought, as
scenes and topics succeed each other. The pure forms of literature may
be reminiscences present to the imagination, the germs of new truths and
social arrangements may occupy the reason; but the novelist is neither
practical, nor philosophical, nor artistic; he is simply in a dream; and
pictures of the world and fragments of old ideas pass before him, as the
sacred meanings of religion flitted about the populace in a grotesque
mediaeval festival of the Church. Conceive the stars dropped from their
place in the apparent heavens, and playing at shuttlecock with each
other and with boys, and having a heyday of careless joyousness here
below, instead of remaining in sublime dignity to guide and inspire men
who look up to them by night! Even such are the epic, the lyric, the
drama, the history, and the philosophy, as collected together in the
revelries of the novel. To state the degree of excellence possible to
a style as perverse as it is entertaining, to measure the wisdom of
essential folly, is difficult; and yet it may be said that the strength
of the novel is in its lawlessness, which leaves the author of genius
free to introduce his creations just as they occur to him, and the
author of talent free to range through all books and all time and
reproduce brilliant sayings and odd characters,--which, with no other
connecting thread than a story, freaks like a spirit through every
shade of feeling and region of thought, from the domestic hearth to the
ultimate bounds of speculative inquiry,--and which, by its daring
and careless combinations of incongruous elements, exhibits a free
embodiment in prose of the peculiar genius of the romantic.

And some philosophers have styled romance the special glory of
Christianity. It is certainly the characteristic of critical as
distinguished from organic periods,--of the mind acting mystically in
a savage and unknown universe, rather than of the mind that has reduced
the heavens and earth to its arts and sciences. The novel, therefore,
as the wildest organ of romance, is most appropriate to a time of great
intellectual agitation, when intellectual men are but half-conscious of
the tendencies that are setting about them, and consequently cease to
propose to themselves final goals, do not attempt scrupulous art, but
play jubilantly with current facts. Hence, perhaps, its popularity since
the first conflicts of the Protestant Reformation, and especially since
the great French Revolution, when amid new inventions and new ideas
mankind has contemplatively looked for the coming events, the new
historical eras, which were casting their shadows before.

When, some time, Christian art shall become classical, and Christian
ideas be developed by superior men as fairly as the Hellenic conceptions
were, the novel may either assume to itself some peculiar excellency, or
may cease to hold the comparative rank in literature which it enjoys at
present. Then the numberless prose romances which occupy the present
generation of readers will, perhaps, be collected in some immense
_corpus_, like the Byzantine historians, will be reckoned among the
curiosities of literature, and will at least have the merit of making
the study of antiquities easy and interesting. There is an old

Of all those arts in which the wise excel,
Nature's chief masterpiece is writing well.

At a time when extemporaneous composition and thoughtless reading are
much in fashion, it will not be amiss to invoke profounder studies, and
slower, but more useful and permanent results. Let it be remembered that
even the Divine Mind first called into being the chaos of creation, and
then in seven days reviewed and elaborated it into a beautiful order.

* * * * *






Let me now once more shift the scene. In the summer of 1684, the
peaceful little port of St. Mary's was visited by a phenomenon of rare
occurrence in those days. A ship of war of the smaller class, with the
Cross of St. George sparkling on her broad flag, came gliding to an
anchorage abreast the town. The fort of St. Inigoes gave the customary
salute, which I have reason to believe was not returned. Not long after
this, a bluff, swaggering, vulgar captain came on shore. He made no
visit of respect or business to any member of the Council. He gave no
report of his character or the purpose of his visit, but strolled to the
tavern,--I suppose to that kept by Mr. Cordea, who, in addition to his
calling of keeper of the ordinary, was the most approved shoemaker of
the city,--and here regaled himself with a potation of strong waters.
It is likely that he then repaired to Mr. Blakiston's, the King's
Collector,--a bitter and relentless enemy of the Lord Proprietary,--and
there may have met Kenelm Chiseldine, John Coode, Colonel Jowles, and
others noted for their hatred of the Calvert family, and in such company
as this indulged himself in deriding Lord Baltimore and his government,
During his stay in the port, his men came on shore, and, imitating their
captain's unamiable temper, roamed in squads about the town and its
neighborhood, conducting themselves in a noisy, hectoring manner towards
the inhabitants, disturbing the repose of the quiet burghers, and
shocking their ears with ribald abuse of the authorities. These
roystering sailors--I mention it as a point of historical interest--had
even the audacity to break into Alderman Garret Van Swearingen's garden,
and to pluck up and carry away his cabbages and other vegetables,
and--according to the testimony of Mr. Cordea, whose indignation was the
more intense from his veneration for the Alderman, and from the fact
that he made his Worship's shoes--they would have killed one of his
Worship's sheep, if his (Cordea's) man had not prevented them; and
after this, as if on purpose more keenly to lacerate his feelings, they
brought these cabbages to Cordea's house, and there boiled them before
his eyes,--he being sick and not able to drive them away.

After a few days spent in this manner, the swaggering captain--whose
name, it was soon bruited about, was Thomas Allen, of his Majesty's
Navy--went on board of his ketch,--or brig, as we should call it,--the
Quaker, weighed anchor, and set sail towards the Potomac, and thence
stood down the Bay upon the coast of Virginia. Every now and then, after
his departure, there came reports to the Council of insults offered by
Captain Allen to the skippers of sundry Bay craft and other peaceful
traders on the Chesapeake; these insults consisting generally in
wantonly compelling them to heave to and submit to his search, in
vexatiously detaining them, overhauling their papers, and offending
them with coarse vituperation of themselves, as well as of the Lord
Proprietary and his Council.

About a month later the Quaker was observed to enter the Patuxent River,
and cast anchor just inside of the entrance, near the Calvert County
shore, and opposite Christopher Rousby's house at Drum Point. This
was--says my chronicle--on Thursday, the 30th of October, in this year
1684. As yet Captain Allen had not condescended to make any report of
his arrival in the Province to any officer of the Proprietary.

On Sunday morning, the 2d of November, the city was thrown into a
state of violent ebullition--like a little red-hot tea-kettle--by the
circulation of a rumor that got wind about the hour the burghers were
preparing to go to church. It was brought from Patuxent late in the
previous night, and was now whispered from one neighbor to another, and
soon came to boil with an extraordinary volume of steam. Stripping it
of the exaggeration natural to such an excitement, the rumor was
substantially this: That Colonel Talbot, hearing of the arrival of
Captain Allen in the Patuxent on Thursday, and getting no message or
report from him, set off on Friday morning, in an angry state of mind,
and rode over to Patuxent, determined to give the unmannerly captain a
lesson upon his duty. That as soon as he reached Mattapony House,
he took his boat and went on board the ketch. That there he found
Christopher Rousby, the King's Collector, cronying with Captain Allen,
and upholding him in his disrespect to the government. That Colonel
Talbot was very sharp upon Rousby, not liking him for old grudges, and
more moved against him now; and that he spoke his mind both to Captain
Allen and Christopher Rousby, and so got into a high quarrel with them.
That when he had said all he desired to say to them, he made a move to
leave the ketch in his boat, intending to return to Mattapony House; but
they who were in the cabin prevented him, and would not let him go. That
thereupon the quarrel broke out afresh, and became more bitter; and it
being now in the night, and all in a great heat of passion, the parties
having already come from words to blows, Talbot drew his skean, or
dagger, and stabbed Rousby to the heart. That nothing was known on
shore of the affray till Saturday evening, when the body was brought to
Rousby's house; after which it became known to the neighborhood; and one
of the men of Major Sewall's plantation, which adjoined Rousby's, having
thus heard of it, set out and rode that night over to St. Mary's with
the news, which he gave to the Major before midnight. It was added, that
Colonel Talbot was now detained on board of the ketch, as a prisoner, by
Captain Allen.

This was the amount of the dreadful story over which the gossips of St.
Mary's were shaking their wise heads and discoursing on "crowner's quest
law" that Sunday morning.

As soon as Major Sewall received these unhappy midnight tidings, he went
instantly to his colleague, Colonel Darnall, and communicated them to
him; and they, being warm friends of Talbot's, were very anxious to get
him out of the custody of this Captain Allen. They therefore, on Sunday
morning, issued a writ directed to Roger Brooke, the sheriff of Calvert
County, commanding him to arrest the prisoner and bring him before
the Council. Their next move was to ride over--the same morning--to
Patuxent, taking with them Mr. Robert Carvil, and John Llewellin, their
secretary. Upon reaching the river, all four went on board the ketch
to learn the particulars of the quarrel. These particulars are not
preserved in the record; and we have nothing better than our conjectures
as to what they disclosed. We know nothing specific of the cause or
character of the quarrel. The visitors found Talbot loaded with irons,
and Captain Allen in a brutal state of exasperation, swearing that he
would not surrender his prisoner to the authorities of the Province, but
would carry him to Virginia and deliver him to the government there, to
be dealt with as Lord Effingham should direct. He was grossly insulting
to the two members of the Council who had come on this inquiry; and
after they had left his vessel, in the pinnace, to return to the shore,
he affected to believe that they had some concealed force lying in wait
to seize the pinnace and its crew, and so ordered them back on board,
but after a short detention thought better of it, and suffered them
again to depart.

The contumacy of the captain, and the declaration of his purpose to
carry away Talbot out of the jurisdiction of the Province within which
the crime was committed, and to deliver him to the Governor of Virginia,
was a grave assault upon the dignity of the government and a gross
contempt of the public authorities, which required the notice of the
Council. A meeting of this body was therefore held on the Patuxent,
at Rich Neck, on the morning of the 4th of November. I find that five
members were present on that occasion. Besides Colonel Darnall and Major
Sewall, there were Counsellor Tailler and Colonels Digges and Burgess.
Here the matter was debated and ended in a feeble resolve,--that, if
this Captain Allen should persist in his contumacy and take Talbot to
Virginia, the Council should immediately demand of Lord Effingham
his redelivery into this Province. Alas, they could only scold! This
resolution was all they could oppose to the bullying captain and the
guns of the troublesome little Quaker.

Allen, after hectoring awhile in this fashion, and raising the wrath of
the Colonels of the Council until they were red in the cheeks, defiantly
took his departure, carrying with him his prisoner, in spite of the
vehement indignation of the liegemen of the Province.

We may imagine the valorous anger of our little metropolis at this
act or crime of lese-majesty. I can see the group of angry burghers,
collected on the porch of Cordea's tavern, in a fume as they listen to
Master John Llewellin's account of what had taken place,--Llewellin
himself as peppery as his namesake when he made Ancient Pistol eat
his leek; and I fancy I can hear Alderman Van Swearingen's choleric
explosion against Lord Effingham, supposing his Lordship should presume
to slight the order of the Council in respect to Talbot's return.

But these fervors were too violent to last. Christopher Rousby was duly
deposited under the greensward upon the margin of Harper's Creek, where
I found him safe, if not sound, more than a hundred and fifty years
afterwards. The metropolis gradually ceased to boil, and slowly fell
to its usual temperature of repose, and no more disturbed itself with
thoughts of the terrible captain. Talbot, upon being transferred to the
dominion of Virginia, was confined in the jail of Gloucester County, in
the old town of Gloucester, on the northern bank of York River.

The Council now opened their correspondence with Lord Effingham,
demanding the surrender of their late colleague. On their part, it was
marked by a deferential respect, which, it is evident, they did not
feel, and which seems to denote a timid conviction of the favor of
Virginia and the disgrace of Maryland in the personal feelings of the
King. It is manifest they were afraid of giving offence to the lordly
governor of the neighboring Province. On the part of Lord Effingham, the
correspondence is cavalier, arrogant, and peremptory.

The Council write deploringly to his Lordship. They "pray"--as they
phrase it--"in humble, civil, and obliging terms, to have the prisoner
safely returned to this government." They add,--"Your Excellency's great
wisdom, prudence, and integrity, as well as neighborly affection and
kindness for this Province, manifested and expressed, will, we doubt
not, spare us the labor of straining for arguments to move your
Excellency's consideration to this our so just and reasonable demand."
Poor Colonel Darnall, Poor Colonel Digges, and the rest of you Colonels
and Majors,--to write such whining hypocrisy as this! George Talbot
would not have written to Lord Effingham in such phrase, if one of you
had been unlawfully transported to his prison and Talbot were your

The nobleman to whom this servile language was addressed was a hateful
despot, who stands marked in the history of Virginia for his oppressive
administration, his arrogance, and his faithlessness.

To give this beseeching letter more significance and the flattery it
contained more point, it was committed to the charge of two gentlemen
who were commissioned to deliver it in person to his Lordship. These
were Mr. Clement Hill and Mr. Anthony Underwood.

Effingham's answer was cool, short, and admonitory. The essence of it
is in these words:--"We do not think it warrantable to comply with your
desires, but shall detain Talbot prisoner until his Majesty's particular
commands be known therein." A postscript is added of this import:--"I
recommend to your consideration, that you take care, as far as in you
lies, that, in the matter of the Customs, his Majesty receive no further
detriment by this unfortunate accident."

One almost rejoices to read such an answer to the fulsome language which
drew it out. This correspondence runs through several such epistles. The
Council complain of the rudeness and coarse behavior of Captain Allen,
and particularly of his traducing Lord Baltimore's government and
attempting to excite the people against it. Lord Effingham professes to
disbelieve such charges against "an officer who has so long served his
King with fidelity, and who could not but know what was due to his

Occasionally this same faithful officer, Captain Allen himself,
reappears upon the stage. We catch him at a gentleman's house in
Virginia, boasting over his cups--for he seems to have paid habitual
tribute to a bowl of punch--that he will break up the government of
Maryland, and annex this poor little Province of ours to Virginia: a
fact worth notice just now, as it makes it clear that annexation is not
the new idea of the Nineteenth Century, but lived in very muddy brains
a long time ago. I now quit this correspondence to look after a bit of
romance in a secret adventure.



We must return to the Manor of New Connaught upon the Elk River.

There we shall find a sorrowful household. The Lord of the Manor is in
captivity; his people are dejected with a presentiment that they are to
see him no more; his wife is lamenting with her children, and counting
the weary days of his imprisonment.

"His hounds they all run masterless,
His hawks they flee from tree to tree."

Everything in the hospitable woodland home is changed. November,
December, January had passed by since Talbot was lodged in the
Gloucester prison, and still no hope dawned upon the afflicted lady. The
forest around her bowled with the rush of the winter wind, but neither
the wilderness nor the winter was so desolate as her own heart. The fate
of her husband was in the hands of his enemies. She trembled at the
thought of his being forced to a trial for his life in Virginia, where
he would be deprived of that friendly sympathy so necessary even to the
vindication of innocence, and where he ran the risk of being condemned
without defence, upon the testimony of exasperated opponents.

But she was a strong-hearted and resolute woman, and would not despair.
She had many friends around her,--friends devoted to her husband and
herself. Amongst these was Phelim Murray, a cornet of cavalry under the
command of Talbot,--a brave, reckless, true-hearted comrade, who had
often shared the hospitality, the adventurous service, and the sports of
his commander.

To Murray I attribute the planning of the enterprise I am now about
to relate. He had determined to rescue his chief from his prison in
Virginia. His scheme required the cooeperation of Mrs. Talbot and one of
her youngest children,--the pet boy, perhaps, of the family, some two
or three years old,--I imagine, the special favorite of the father. The
adventure was a bold one, involving many hardships and perils. Towards
the end of January, the lady, accompanied by her boy with his nurse, and
attended by two Irish men-servants, repaired to St. Mary's, where she
was doubtless received as a guest in the mansion of the Proprietary, now
the residence of young Benedict Leonard and those of the family who had
not accompanied Lord Baltimore to England.

Whilst Mrs. Talbot tarried here, the Cornet was busy in his
preparations. He had brought the Colonel's shallop from Elk River to the
Patuxent, and was here concerting a plan to put the little vessel under
the command of some ostensible owner who might appear in the character
of its master to any over-curious or inopportune questioner. He had
found a man exactly to his hand in a certain Roger Skreene, whose name
might almost be thought to be adopted for the occasion and to express
the part he had to act. He was what we may call the sloop's husband, but
was bound to do whatever Murray commanded, to ask no questions, and
to be profoundly ignorant of the real objects of the expedition.
This pliant auxiliary had, like many thrifty--or more probably
thriftless--persons of that time, a double occupation. He was amphibious
in his habits, and lived equally on land and water. At home he was a
tailor, and abroad a seaman, frequently plying his craft as a skipper
on the Bay, and sufficiently known in the latter vocation to render his
present employment a matter to excite no suspicious remark. It will
be perceived in the course of his present adventure that he was quite
innocent of any avowed complicity in the design which he was assisting.

Murray had a stout companion with him, a good friend to Talbot, probably
one of the familiar frequenters of the Manor House of New Connaught,--a
bold fellow, with a hand and a heart both ready for any perilous
service. He may have been a comrade of the Cornet's in his troop. His
name was Hugh Riley,--a name that has been traditionally connected with
dare-devil exploits ever since the days of Dermot McMorrogh. There have
been, I believe, but few hard fights in the world, to which Irishmen
have had anything to say, without a Hugh Riley somewhere in the thickest
part of them.

The preparations being now complete, Murray anchored his shallop near a
convenient landing,--perhaps within the Mattapony Creek.

In the dead of winter, about the 30th of January, 1685, Mrs. Talbot,
with her servants, her child, and nurse, set forth from the Proprietary
residence in St. Mary's, to journey over to the Patuxent,--a cold, bleak
ride of fifteen miles. The party were all on horseback: the young boy,
perhaps, wrapped in thick coverings, nestling in the arms of one of the
men: Mrs. Talbot braving the sharp wind in hood and cloak, and warmed
by her own warm heart, which beat with a courageous pulse against the
fierce blasts that swept and roared across her path. Such a cavalcade,
of course, could not depart from St. Mary's without observation at any
season; but at this time of the year so unusual a sight drew every
inhabitant to the windows, and set in motion a current of gossip that
bore away all other topics from every fireside. The gentlemen of the
Council, too, doubtless had frequent conference with the unhappy wife of
their colleague, during her sojourn in the Government House, and perhaps
secretly counselled with her on her adventure. Whatever outward or
seeming pretext may have been adopted for this movement, we can hardly
suppose that many friends of the Proprietary were ignorant of its
object. We have, indeed, evidence that the enemies of the Proprietary
charged the Council with a direct connivance in the scheme of Talbot's
escape, and made it a subject of complaint against Lord Baltimore that
he afterwards approved of it.

Upon her arrival at the Patuxent, Mrs. Talbot went immediately on board
of the sloop, with her attendants. There she found the friendly cornet
and his comrade, Hugh Riley, on the alert to distinguish their loyalty
in her cause. The amphibious Master Skreene was now at the head of a
picked crew,--the whole party consisting of five stout men, with the
lady, her child, and nurse. All the men but Skreene were sons of the
Emerald Isle,--of a race whose historical boast is the faithfulness of
their devotion to a friend in need and their chivalrous courtesy to
woman, but still more their generous and gallant championship of woman
in distress. On this occasion this national sentiment was enhanced when
it was called into exercise in behalf of the sorrowful lady of the chief
of their border settlements.

They set sail from the Patuxent on Saturday, the 31st of January. On
Wednesday, the fifth day afterwards, they landed on the southern bank of
the Rappahannock, at the house of Mr. Ralph Wormeley, near the mouth of
the river. This long voyage of five days over so short a distance would
seem to indicate that they departed from the common track of navigation
to avoid notice.

The next morning Mr. Wormeley furnished them horses and a servant, and
Mrs. Talbot, with the nurse and child, under the conduct of Cornet
Murray, set out for Gloucester,--a distance of some twenty miles. The
day following,--that is, on Friday,--the servant returned with the
horses, having left the party behind. Saturday passed and part of
Sunday, when, in the evening, Mrs. Talbot and the Cornet reappeared at
Mr. Wormeley's. The child and nurse had been left behind; and this was
accounted for by Mrs. Talbot's saying she had left the child with his
father, to remain with him until she should return to Virginia. I infer
that the child was introduced into this adventure to give some seeming
to the visit which might lull suspicion and procure easier access to the
prisoner; and the leaving of him in Gloucester proves that Mrs. Talbot
had friends, and probably confederates there, to whose care he was

As soon as the party had left the shallop, upon their first arrival at
Mr. Wormeley's, the wily Master Skreene discovered that he had business
at a landing farther up the river; and thither he straightway took his
vessel,--Wormeley's being altogether too suspicious a place for him to
frequent. And now, when Mrs. Talbot had returned to Wormeley's, Roger's
business above, of course, was finished, and he dropped down again
opposite the house on Monday evening; and the next morning took the
Cornet and the lady on board. Having done this, he drew out into the
river. This brings us to Tuesday, the 10th of February.

As soon as Mrs. Talbot was once more embarked in the shallop, Murray and
Riley (I give Master Skreene's own account of the facts, as I find it in
his testimony subsequently taken before the Council) made a pretext to
go on shore, taking one of the men with them. They were going to look
for a cousin of this man,--so they told Skreene,--and besides that,
intended to go to a tavern to buy a bottle of rum: all of which Skreene
gives the Council to understand he verily believed to be the real object
of their visit.

The truth was, that, as soon as Murray and Riley and their companion had
reached the shore, they mounted on horseback and galloped away in the
direction of Gloucester prison. From the moment they disappeared on this
gallop until their return, we have no account of what they did. Roger
Skreene's testimony before the Council is virtuously silent on this

After this party was gone, Mrs. Talbot herself took command, and, with a
view to more privacy, ordered Roger to anchor near the opposite shore of
the river, taking advantage of the concealment afforded by a small inlet
on the northern side. Skreene says he did this at her request, because
she expressed a wish to taste some of the oysters from that side of the
river, which he, with his usual facility, believed to be the only reason
for getting into this unobserved harbor; and, merely to gratify this
wish, he did as she desired.

The day went by slowly to the lady on the water. Cold February, a little
sloop, and the bleak roadstead at the mouth of the Rappahannock brought
but few comforts to the anxious wife, who sat muffled upon that unstable
deck, watching the opposite shore, whilst the ceaseless plash of the
waves breaking upon her ear numbered the minutes that marked the weary
hours, and the hours that marked the still more weary day. She watched
for the party who had galloped into the sombre pine-forest that
sheltered the road leading to Gloucester, and for the arrival of that
cousin of whom Murray spoke to Master Skreene.

But if the time dragged heavily with her, it flew with the Cornet and
his companions. We cannot tell when the twenty miles to Gloucester were
thrown behind them, but we know that the whole forty miles of going and
coming were accomplished by sunrise the next morning. For the deposition
tells us that Roger Skreene had become very impatient at the absence of
his passengers,--at least, so he swears to the Council; and he began to
think, just after the sun was up, that, as they had not returned, they
must have got into a revel at the tavern, and forgotten themselves;
which careless demeanor of theirs made him think of recrossing the river
and of going ashore to beat them up; when, lo! all of a sudden, he spied
a boat coming round the point within which he lay. And here arises a
pleasant little dramatic scene, of some interest to our story.

Mrs. Talbot had been up at the dawn, and watched upon the deck,
straining her sight, until she could see no more for tears; and at
length, unable to endure her emotion longer, had withdrawn to the cabin.
Presently Skreene came hurrying down to tell her that the boat was
coming,--and, what surprised him, there were _four_ persons in it. "Who
is this fourth man?" he asked her,--with his habitual simplicity, "and
how are we to get him back to the shore again?"--a very natural question
for Roger to ask, after all that had passed in his presence! Mrs. Talbot
sprang to her feet,--her eyes sparkling, as she exclaimed, with a cheery
voice, "Oh, his cousin has come!"--and immediately ran upon the deck
to await the approaching party. There were pleasant smiling faces all
around, as the four men came over the sloop's side; and although the
testimony is silent as to the fact, there might have been some little
kissing on the occasion. The new-comer was in a rough dress, and had the
exterior of a servant; and our skipper says in his testimony, that "Mrs.
Talbot spoke to him in the Irish language": very volubly, I have no
doubt, and that much was said that was never translated. When they
came to a pause in this conversation, she told Skreene, by way of
interpretation, "he need not be uneasy about the stranger's going on
shore, nor delay any longer, as this person had made up his mind to go
with them to Maryland."

So the boat was made fast, the anchor was weighed, the sails were set,
and the little sloop bent to the breeze and kissed the wave, as she
rounded the headland and stood up the Bay, with Colonel George Talbot
encircling with his arm his faithful wife, and with the gallant Cornet
Murray sitting at his side.

They had now an additional reason for caution against search. So Murray
ordered the skipper to shape his course over to the eastern shore, and
to keep in between the islands and the main. This is a broad circuit
outside of their course; but Roger is promised a reward by Mrs. Talbot,
to compensate him for his loss of time; and the skipper is very willing.
They had fetched a compass, as the Scripture phrase is, to the shore of
Dorset County, and steered inside of Hooper's Island, into the month of
Hungary River. Here it was part of the scheme to dismiss the faithful
Roger from further service. With this view they landed on the island and
went to Mr. Hooper's house, where they procured a supply of provisions,
and immediately afterwards reembarked,--having clean forgotten Roger,
until they were once more under full sail up the Bay, and too far
advanced to turn back!

The deserted skipper bore his disappointment like a Christian; and being
asked, on Hungary River, by a friend who met him there, and who gave his
testimony before the Council, "What brought him there?" he replied, "He
had been left on the island by Madam Talbot." And to another, "Where
Madam Talbot was?" he answered, "She had gone up the Bay to her own
house." Then, to a third question, "How he expected his pay?" he said,
"He was to have it of Colonel Darnall and Major Sewall; and that Madam
Talbot had promised him a hogshead of tobacco extra, for putting ashore
at Hooper's Island." The last question was, "What news of Talbot?" and
Roger's answer, "He had not been within twenty miles of him; neither did
he know anything about the Colonel" !! But, on further discourse, he let
fall, that "he knew the Colonel never would come to a trial,"--"that
_he_ knew this; but neither man, woman, nor child should know it, but
those who knew it already."

So Colonel George Talbot is out of the hands of the proud Lord
Effingham, and up the Bay with his wife and friends; and is buffeting
the wintry head-winds in a long voyage to the Elk River, which, in due
time, he reaches in safety.



Let us now turn back to see what is doing at St. Mary's.

On the 17th of February comes to the Council a letter from Lord
Effingham. It has the superscription, "These, with the greatest care and
speed." It is dated on the 11th of February from Poropotanck, an Indian
point on the York River above Gloucester, and memorable as being in the
neighborhood of the spot where, some sixty years before these events,
Pocahontas saved the life of that mirror of chivalry, Captain John

The letter brings information "that last night [the 10th of February]
Colonel Talbot escaped out of prison,"--a subsequent letter says, "by
the corruption of his guard,"--and it is full of admonition, which has
very much the tone of command, urging all strenuous efforts to recapture
him, and particularly recommending a proclamation of "hue and cry."

And now, for a month, there is a great parade in Maryland of
proclamation, and hue and cry, and orders to sheriffs and county
colonels to keep a sharp look-out everywhere for Talbot. But no person
in the Province seems to be anxious to catch him, except Mr. Nehemiah
Blakiston, the Collector, and a few others, who seem to have been
ministering to Lord Effingham's spleen against the Council for not
capturing him. His Lordship writes several letters of complaint at the
delay and ill success of this pursuit, and some of them in no measured
terms of courtesy. "I admire," he says in one of these, "at any slow
proceedings in service wherein his Majesty is so concerned, and hope you
will take off all occasions of future trouble, both unto me and you,
of this nature, by manifesting yourselves zealous for his Majesty's
service." They answer, that all imaginable care for the apprehending
of Talbot has been taken by issuing proclamations, etc.,--but all have
proved ineffectual, because Talbot upon all occasions flies and
takes refuge "in the remotest parts of the woods and deserts of this

At this point we get some traces of Talbot. There is a deposition of
Robert Kemble of Cecil County, and some other papers, that give us a few
particulars by which I am enabled to construct my narrative.

Colonel Talbot got to his own house about the middle of
February,--nearly at the same time at which the news of his escape
reached St. Mary's. He there lay warily watching the coming hue and cry
for his apprehension. He collected his friends, armed them, and set them
at watch and ward, at all his outposts. He had a disguise provided, in
which he occasionally ventured abroad. Kemble met him, on the 19th of
February, at George Oldfield's, on Elk River; and although the Colonel
was disguised in a flaxen wig, and in other ways, Kemble says he knew
him by hearing him cough in the night, in a room adjoining that in which
Kemble slept. Whilst this witness was at Oldfield's, "Talbot's shallop,"
he says, "was busking and turning before Oldfield's landing for several
hours." The roads leading towards Talbot's house were all guarded by his
friends, and he had a report made to him of every vessel that arrived in
the river. By way of more permanent concealment, until the storm should
blow over, he had made preparations to build himself a cabin, somewhere
in the woods out of the range of the thoroughfares of the district. When
driven by a pressing emergency which required more than ordinary care
to prevent his apprehension, he betook himself to the cave on the
Susquehanna, where, most probably, with a friend or two,--Cornet Murray
I hope was one of them,--he lay perdu for a few days at a time, and
then ventured back to speak a word of comfort and encouragement to the
faithful wife who kept guard at home.

In this disturbed and anxious alternation of concealment and flight
Talbot passed the winter, until about the 25th of April, when, probably
upon advice of friends, he voluntarily surrendered himself to the
Council at St. Mary's, and was committed for trial in the provincial
Court. The fact of the surrender was communicated to Lord Effingham by
the Council, with a request that he would send the witnesses to Maryland
to appear at his trial. Hereupon arose another correspondence with his
Lordship, which is worthy of a moment's notice. Lord Effingham has lost
nothing of his arrogance. He says, on the 12th of May, 1685, "I am so
far from answering your desires, that I do hereby demand Colonel Talbot
as my prisoner, in the King of England's name, and that you do forthwith
convey him into Virginia. And to this my demand I expect your ready
performance and compliance, upon your allegiance to his Majesty."

I am happy to read the answer to this insolent letter, in which it will
be seen that the spirit of Maryland was waked up on the occasion to its
proper voice.--It is necessary to say, by way of explanation to one
point in this answer, that the Governor of Virginia had received the
news of the accession and proclamation of James the Second, and had not
communicated it to the Council in Maryland. The Council give an answer
at their leisure, having waited till the 1st of June, when they write
to his Lordship, protesting against Virginia's exercising any
superintendence over Maryland, and peremptorily refusing to deliver
Talbot. They tell him "that we are desirous and conclude to await his
Majesty's resolution, [in regard to the prisoner,] which we question not
will be agreeable to his Lordship's Charter, and, consequently, contrary
to your expectations. In the mean time we cannot but resent in some
measure, for we are willing to let you see that we observe, the small
notice you seem to take of this Government, (contrary to that amicable
correspondence so often promised, and expected by us,) in not holding us
worthy to be advised of his Majesty's being proclaimed, without which,
certainly, we have not been enabled to do our duty in that particular.
Such advice would have been gratefully received by your Excellency's
humble servants." Thanks, Colonels Darnall and Digges and you other
Colonels and Majors, for this plain outspeaking of the old Maryland
heart against the arrogance of the "Right Honorable Lord Howard, Baron
of Effingham, Captain General and Chief Governor of his Majesty's Colony
of Virginia," as he styles himself! I am glad to see this change of
tone, since that first letter of obsequious submission.

Perhaps this change of tone may have had some connection with the recent
change on the throne, in which the accession of a Catholic monarch may
have given new courage to Maryland, and abated somewhat the confidence
of Virginia. If so, it was but a transitory hope, born to a sad

The documents afford but little more information.

Lord Baltimore, being in London, appears to have interceded with the
King for some favor to Talbot, and writes to the Council on the third
of July, "that it formerly was and still is the King's pleasure, that
Talbot shall be brought over, in the Quaker Ketch, to England, to
receive his trial there; and that, in order thereto, his Majesty had
sent his commands to the Governor of Virginia to deliver him to
Captain Allen, commander of said ketch, who is to bring him over." The
Proprietary therefore directs his Council to send the prisoner to the
Governor of Virginia, "to the end that his Majesty's pleasure may be

This letter was received on the 7th of October, 1685, and Talbot was
accordingly sent, under the charge of Gilbert Clarke and a proper guard,
to Lord Effingham, who gives Clarke a regular business receipt, as if
he had brought him a hogshead of tobacco, and appends to it a short
apologetic explanation of his previous rudeness, which we may receive as
another proof of his distrust of the favor of the new monarch. "I had
not been so urgent," he says, "had I not had advices from England, last
April, of the measures that were taken there concerning him."

After this my chronicle is silent. We have no further tidings of Talbot.
The only hint for a conjecture is the marginal note of "The Landholder's
Assistant," got from Chalmers: "He was, I believe," says the note,
"tried and convicted, and finally pardoned by James the Second." This is
probably enough. For I suppose him to have been of the same family with
that Earl of Tyrconnel equally distinguished for his influence with
James the Second as for his infamous life and character, who held at
this period unbounded sway at the English Court. I hope, for the honor
of our hero, that he preserved no family-likeness to that false-hearted,
brutal, and violent favorite, who is made immortal in Macaulay's pages
as Lying Dick Talbot. Through his intercession his kinsman may have been
pardoned, or even never brought to trial.



This is the end of my story. But, like all stories, it requires that
some satisfaction should be given to the reader in regard to the
dramatic proprieties. We have our several heroes to dispose of. Phelim
Murray and Hugh Riley, who had both been arrested by the Council to
satisfy public opinion as to their complicity in the plot for the
escape, were both honorably discharged,--I suppose being found entirely
innocent! Roger Skreene swore himself black and blue, as the phrase is,
that he had not the least suspicion of the business in which he was
engaged; and so he was acquitted! I am also glad to be able to say that
our gallant Cornet Murray, in the winding-up of this business, was
promoted by the Council to a captaincy of cavalry, and put in command of
Christiana Fort and its neighborhood, to keep that formidable Quaker,
William Penn, at a respectful distance. It would gratify me still more,
if I could find warrant to add, that the Cornet enjoyed himself, and
married the lady of his choice, with whom he has, unknown to us, been
violently in love during these adventures, and that they lived happily
together for many years. I hope this was so,--although the chronicle
does not allow one to affirm it,--it being but a proper conclusion to
such a romance as I have plucked out of our history.

And so I have traced the tradition of the Cave to the end. What I have
been able to certify furnishes the means of a shrewd estimate of the
average amount of truth which popular traditions generally contain.
There is always a fact at the bottom, lying under a superstructure of
fiction,--truth enough to make the pursuit worth following. Talbot did
not live in the Cave, but fled there occasionally for concealment. He
had no hawks with him, but bred them in his own mews on the Elk River.
The birds seen in after times were some of this stock, and not the
solitary pair they were supposed to be. I dare say an expert naturalist
would find many specimens of the same breed now in that region. But let
us not be too critical on the tradition, which has led us into a quest
through which I have been able to supply what I hope will be found to be
a pleasant insight into that little world of action and passion,--with
its people, its pursuits, and its gossips,--that, more than one hundred
and seventy years ago, inhabited the beautiful banks of St. Mary's
River, and wove the web of our early Maryland history.


I have another link in the chain of Talbot's history, furnished me by a
friend in Virginia. It comes since I have completed my narrative, and
very accurately confirms the conjecture of Chalmers, quoted in the note
of "The Landholder's Assistant." "As for Colonel Talbot, he was conveyed
for trial to Virginia, from whence he made his escape, and, after being
retaken, and, _I believe_, tried and convicted, was finally pardoned by
King James II." This is an extract from the note. It is now ascertained
that Talbot was not taken to England for trial, as Lord Baltimore, in
his letter of the 6th of July, 1685, affirmed it was the King's pleasure
he should be; but that he was tried and convicted in Virginia on the 22d
of April, 1686, and, on the 26th of the same month, reprieved by order
of the King; after which we may presume he received a full pardon, and
perhaps was taken to England in obedience to the royal command, to await
it there. The conviction and reprieve are recorded in a folio of the
State Records of Virginia at Richmond, on a mutilated and scarcely
legible sheet,--a copy of which I present to my reader with all its
obliterations and broken syllables and sad gashes in the text, for his
own deciphering. The MS. is in keeping with the whole story, and may be
looked upon as its appropriate emblem. The story has been brought to
light by chance, and has been rendered intelligible by close study and
interpretation of fragmentary and widely separated facts, capable of
being read only by one conversant with the text of human affairs, and
who has the patience to grope through the trackless intervals of time,
and the skill to supply the lost words and syllables of history by
careful collation with those which are spared. How faithfully this
accidentally found MS. typifies such a labor, the reader may judge from
the literal copy of it I now offer to his perusal.

[Transcriber's note: Gaps in the text below are signified with an

By his Excellency

Whereas his most Sacred Majesty has been Graciously pleased
by his Royall Com'ands to Direct and Com'and Me ffrancis
Lord Howard of Effingham his Maj'ties Lieut and Gov'r. Gen'll.
of Virginia that if George Talbott Esq'r. upon his Tryall should
be found Guilty of Killing M'r Christopher Rowsby, that Execution
should be suspended untill his Majesties pleasure should
be further signified unto Me; And forasmuch as the sd George
Talbott was Indicted upon the Statute of Stabbing and hath
Received a full and Legall Tryall in open Court on y'e Twentieth
and One and Twentieth dayes of this Instant Aprill, before his
Majesties Justices of Oyer and Terminer, and found Guilty of y'e
aforesaid fact and condemned for the Same, I, therefore, *ffrancis
Lord Howard, Baron of *ffingham, his Majesties Lieu't and Gov'r.
Gen'll. Of Virginia, by Virtue of *aj'ties Royall Com'ands
to Me given there * doe hereby Suspend *tion of the
Sentence of death * his Maj'ties Justices
* Terminer on the * till his Majesties
*erein be * nor any
* fail as yo* uttmost
* and for y'r soe doing this sh*

Given under my and * Seale

the 26th dayof Apri*


To his Majesties Justices
of Oyer and Terminer.

Recordatur E Chillon Gen'l Car*


Talbott's Repreif
from L'd Howard
1686 for Killing Ch'r. Rousby
Examined Sept. 24th
26th Aprill 1686
Sentence of
ag'* Col Ta
Aprill 26* 1*86


In Sana, oh, in Sana, God, the Lord,
Was very kind and merciful to me!
Forth from the Desert in my rags I came,
Weary and sore of foot. I saw the spires
And swelling bubbles of the golden domes
Rise through the trees of Sana, and my heart
Grew great within me with the strength of God;
And I cried out, "Now shall I right myself,--
I, Adeb the Despised,--for God is just!"
There he who wronged my father dwelt in peace,--
My warlike father, who, when gray hairs crept
Around his forehead, as on Lebanon
The whitening snows of winter, was betrayed
To the sly Imam, and his tented wealth
Swept from him, 'twixt the roosting of the cock
And his first crowing,--in a single night:
And I, poor Adeb, sole of all my race,
Smeared with my father's and my kinsmen's blood,
Fled through the Desert, till one day a tribe
Of hungry Bedouins found me in the sand,
Half mad with famine, and they took me up,
And made a slave of me,--of me, a prince!
All was fulfilled at last. I fled from them,
In rags and sorrow. Nothing but my heart,
Like a strong swimmer, bore me up against
The howling sea of my adversity.
At length o'er Sana, in the act to swoop,
I stood like a young eagle on a crag.
The traveller passed me with suspicious fear:
I asked for nothing; I was not a thief.
The lean dogs snuffed around me: my lank bones,
Fed on the berries and the crusted pools,
Were a scant morsel. Once, a brown-skinned girl
Called me a little from the common path,
And gave me figs and barley in a bag.
I paid her with a kiss, with nothing more,
And she looked glad; for I was beautiful,
And virgin as a fountain, and as cold.
I stretched her bounty, pecking, like a bird,
Her figs and barley, till my strength returned.
So when rich Sana lay beneath my eyes,
My foot was as the leopard's, and my hand
As heavy as the lion's brandished paw;
And underneath my burnished skin the veins
And stretching muscles played, at every step,
In wondrous motion. I was very strong.
I looked upon my body, as a bird
That bills his feathers ere he takes to flight,--
I, watching over Sana. Then I prayed;
And on a soft stone, wetted in the brook,
Ground my long knife; and then I prayed again.
God heard my voice, preparing all for me,
As, softly stepping down the hills,
I saw the Imam's summer-palace all ablaze
In the last flash of sunset. Every fount
Was spouting fire, and all the orange-trees
Bore blazing coals, and from the marble walls
And gilded spires and columns, strangely wrought,
Glared the red light, until my eyes were pained
With the fierce splendor. Till the night grew thick,
I lay within the bushes, next the door,
Still as a serpent, as invisible.
The guard hung round the portal. Man by man
They dropped away, save one lone sentinel,
And on his eyes God's finger lightly fell;
He slept half standing. Like a summer wind
That threads the grove, yet never turns a leaf,
I stole from shadow unto shadow forth;
Crossed all the marble court-yard, swung the door,
Like a soft gust, a little way ajar,--
My body's narrow width, no more,--and stood
Beneath the cresset in the painted hall.
I marvelled at the riches of my foe;
I marvelled at God's ways with wicked men.
Then I reached forth, and took God's waiting hand:
And so He led me over mossy floors,
Flowered with the silken summer of Shirar,
Straight to the Imam's chamber. At the door
Stretched a brawn eunuch, blacker than my eyes:
His woolly head lay like the Kaba-stone
In Mecca's mosque, as silent and as huge.
I stepped across it, with my pointed knife
Just missing a full vein along his neck,
And, pushing by the curtains, there I was,--
I, Adeb the Despised,--upon the spot
That, next to heaven, I longed for most of all.
I could have shouted for the joy in me.
Fierce pangs and flashes of bewildering light
Leaped through my brain and danced before my eyes.
So loud my heart beat that I feared its sound
Would wake the sleeper; and the bubbling blood
Choked in my throat, till, weaker than a child,
I reeled against a column, and there hung
In a blind stupor. Then I prayed again;
And, sense by sense, I was made whole once more.
I touched myself; I was the same; I knew
Myself to be lone Adeb, young and strong,
With nothing but a stride of empty air
Between me and God's justice. In a sleep,
Thick with the fumes of the accursed grape,
Sprawled the false Imam. On his shaggy breast,
Like a white lily heaving on the tide
Of some foul stream, the fairest woman slept
These roving eyes have ever looked upon.
Almost a child, her bosom barely showed
The change beyond her girlhood. All her charms
Were budding, but half opened; for I saw
Not only beauty wondrous in itself,
But possibility of more to be
In the full process of her blooming days.
I gazed upon her, and my heart grew soft,
As a parched pasture with the dew of heaven.
While thus I gazed, she smiled, and slowly raised
The long curve of her lashes; and we looked
Each upon each in wonder, not alarm,--
Not eye to eye, but soul to soul, we held
Each other for a moment. All her life
Seemed centred in the circle of her eyes.
She stirred no limb; her long-drawn, equal breath
Swelled out and ebbed away beneath her breast,
In calm unbroken. Not a sign of fear
Touched the faint color on her oval cheek,
Or pinched the arches of her tender mouth.
She took me for a vision, and she lay
With her sleep's smile unaltered, as in doubt
Whether real life had stolen into her dreams,
Or dreaming stretched into her outer life.
I was not graceless to a woman's eyes.
The girls of Damar paused to see me pass,
I walking in my rags, yet beautiful.
One maiden said, "He has a prince's air!"
I am a prince; the air was all my own.
So thought the lily on the Imam's breast;
And lightly as a summer mist, that lifts
Before the morning, so she floated up,
Without a sound or rustle of a robe,
From her coarse pillow, and before me stood
With asking eyes. The Imam never moved.
A stride and blow were all my need, and they
Were wholly in my power. I took her hand,
I held a warning finger to my lips,
And whispered in her small expectant ear,
"Adeb, the son of Akem!" She replied
In a low murmur, whose bewildering sound
Almost lulled wakeful me to sleep, and sealed
The sleeper's lids in tenfold slumber, "Prince,
Lord of the Imam's life and of my heart,
Take all thou seest,--it is thy right, I know,--
But spare the Imam for thy own soul's sake!"
Then I arrayed me in a robe of state,
Shining with gold and jewels; and I bound
In my long turban gems that might have bought
The lands 'twixt Babelmandeb and Sahan.
I girt about me, with a blazing belt,
A scimitar o'er which the sweating smiths
In far Damascus hammered for long years,
Whose hilt and scabbard shot a trembling light
From diamonds and rubies. And she smiled,
As piece by piece I put the treasures on,
To see me look so fair,--in pride she smiled.
I hung long purses at my side. I scooped,
From off a table, figs and dates and rice,
And bound them to my girdle in a sack.
Then over all I flung a snowy cloak,
And beckoned to the maiden. So she stole
Forth like my shadow, past the sleeping wolf
Who wronged my father, o'er the woolly head
Of the swart eunuch, down the painted court,
And by the sentinel who standing slept.
Strongly against the portal, through my rags,--
My old, base rags,--and through the maiden's veil,
I pressed my knife,--upon the wooden hilt
Was "Adeb, son of Akem," carved by me
In my long slavehood,--as a passing sign
To wait the Imam's waking. Shadows cast
From two high-sailing clouds upon the sand
Passed not more noiseless than we two, as one,
Glided beneath the moonlight, till I smelt
The fragrance of the stables. As I slid
The wide doors open, with a sudden bound
Uprose the startled horses; but they stood
Still as the man who in a foreign land
Hears his strange language, when my Desert call,
As low and plaintive as the nested dove's,
Fell on their listening ears. From stall to stall,
Feeling the horses with my groping hands,
I crept in darkness; and at length I came
Upon two sister mares, whose rounded sides,
Fine muzzles, and small heads, and pointed ears,
And foreheads spreading 'twixt their eyelids wide,
Long slender tails, thin manes, and coats of silk,
Told me, that, of the hundred steeds there stalled,
My hand was on the treasures. O'er and o'er
I felt their long joints, and down their legs
To the cool hoofs;--no blemish anywhere:
These I led forth and saddled. Upon one
I set the lily, gathered now for me,--
My own, henceforth, forever. So we rode
Across the grass, beside the stony path,
Until we gained the highway that is lost,
Leading from Sana, in the eastern sands:
When, with a cry that both the Desert-born
Knew without hint from whip or goading spur,
We dashed into a gallop. Far behind
In sparks and smoke the dusty highway rose;
And ever on the maiden's face I saw,
When the moon flashed upon it, the strange smile
It wore on waking. Once I kissed her mouth,
When she grew weary, and her strength returned.
All through the night we scoured between the hills:
The moon went down behind us, and the stars
Dropped after her; but long before I saw
A planet blazing straight against our eyes,
The road had softened, and the shadowy hills
Had flattened out, and I could hear the hiss
Of sand spurned backward by the flying mares.--
Glory to God! I was at home again!
The sun rose on us; far and near I saw
The level Desert; sky met sand all round.
We paused at midday by a palm-crowned well,
And ate and slumbered. Somewhat, too, was said:
The words have slipped my memory. That same eve
We rode sedately through a Hamoum camp,--
I, Adeb, prince amongst them, and my bride.
And ever since amongst them I have ridden,
A head and shoulders taller than the best;
And ever since my days have been of gold,
My nights have been of silver.--God is just!

* * * * *


[Footnote a: See Number XXIII., September, 1859.]


Life, in its central idea, is an entire and eternal solitude. Yet each
individual nature so repeats--and is itself repeated in--every other,
that there is insured the possibility both of a world-revelation in the
soul, and of a self-incarnation in the world; so that every man's life,
like Agrippa's mirror, reflects the universe, and the universe is made
the embodiment of his life,--is made to beat with a human pulse.

We do all, therefore,--Hindu, Egyptian, Greek, or Saxon,--claim kinship
both with the earth and the heavens: with the sense of sorrow we kneel
upon the earth, with the sense of hope we look into the heavens.

The two Presences of the Eleusinia,--the earthly Demeter,[b] the
embodiment of human sorrow, and the heavenly Dionysus,[c] the
incarnation of human hope,--these are the two Great Presences of the
Universe; about whom, as separate centres,--the one of measureless
wanderings, the other of triumphant rest,--we marshal, both in the
interpretations of Reason and in the constructions of our Imagination,
all that is visible or that is invisible,--whatsoever is palpable in
sense or possible in idea, in the world which is or the world to come.
Incarnations of the life within us, in its two developments of Sorrow
and Hope,--they are also the centres through which this life develops
itself in the world: it is through them that all things have their
genesis from the human heart, and through them, therefore, that all
things are unveiled to us.

[Footnote b: Demeter is [Greek Gae-mhaetaer], Mother Earth.]

[Footnote c: The same as Iacchus and the Latin Bacchus.]

But these Two Presences have their highest interest and significance as
_foci_ of the religious development of the race: and inasmuch as all
growth is ultimately a religious one, it is in this phase that their
organic connections with life are widest and most profound. As such they
appear in the Eleusinia; and in all mythology they furnish the only
possible key for the interpretation of its mystic symbolism, its
hieroglyphic records, and its ill-defined traditions.

Accordingly we find that all mythology naturally and inevitably
flows about these centres into two distinct developments, which are

1. In Nature; inasmuch as they are first made manifest through symbols
which point to the two great forces, the _active_ and the _passive_,
which are concerned in all natural processes (_sol et terra subjacens
soli_); and,

2. In the primitive belief among all nations, that men are the offspring
of the earth and the heavens,--and in the worship equally prevalent of
the sun, the personal Presence of the heavens, as Saviour Lord, and of
the earth as sorrowing Lady and Mother.

Why the earth, in this primitive symbolism and worship, was represented
as the Sorrowing One, and the sun as Saviour, is evident at a glance.
It was the bosom of the earth which was shaken with storm and rent with
earthquake. She was the Mother, and hers was the travail of all birth;
in sorrow she forever gathered to herself her Fate-conquered children;
her sorrowful countenance she veiled in thick mists, and, year after
year, shrouded herself in wintry desolation: while he was the Eternal
Father, the Revealer of all things, he drove away the darkness, and in
his presence the mist became an invisible exhalation; and, as out of
darkness and death, he called into birth the flowers and the numberless
forests,--even as he himself was every morning born anew out of
darkness,--so he called the children of the earth to a glorious rising
in his light. Everything of the earth was inert, weighing heavily upon
the sense and the heart, only waiting its transfiguration and exaltation
through his power, until it should rise into the heavens; which was the
type of his translation to himself of his grief-oppressed children.

Under these symbols our Lord and Lady have been worshipped by an
overwhelming majority of the human race. They swayed the ancient world,
from the Indians by the Ganges, and the Tartar tribes, to the Britons
and Laplanders of Northwestern Europe,--having their representatives in
every system of faith,--in the Hindu _Isi and Isana_, the Egyptian _Isis
and Osiris_, the Assyrian _Venus and Adonis_, the _Demeter and Dionysus_
of Greece, the Roman _Ceres and Bacchus_, and the _Disa and Frey_ of
Scandinavia,--in connection with most, if not all, of whom there existed
festivals corresponding, in respect of their meaning and use, with the
Grecian Eleusinia.

Moreover, the various divinities of any one mythology--for example, the
Greek--were at first only representatives of partial attributes or
incidental functions of these Two Presences. Thus, Jove was the power of
the heavens, which, of course, centred in the sun; Apollo is admitted
to have been only another name for the sun; AEsculapius represents his
healing virtues; Hercules his saving strength; and Prometheus, who gave
fire to men, as Vulcan, the god of fire, was probably connected with
Eastern fire-worship, and so in the end with the worship of the sun.
Some of the goddesses come under the same category,--such as Juno,
sister and wife of Jove, who shared with him his aerial dynasty; as also
Diana, who was only the reflection of Apollo,[d] as the moon of the sun,
carrying his power on into the night, and exercising among women the
functions which he exercised among men. The representatives of our Lady,
on the other hand, are such as the ancient Rhea,--Latona, with her dark
and starry veil,--Tethys, the world-nurse,--and the Artemis of the East,
or Syrian Mother; to say nothing of Oreads, Dryads, and Nereids, that
without number peopled the mountains, the forests, and the sea.

[Footnote d: This connection of Diana with Apollo has led some to the
hasty inference, that the sun and moon--not the sun and earth--were the
primitive centres of mythological symbolism. But it is plain that the
sun and moon, as _active _forces referable to a single centre, stood
over against the earth as _passive._]

The confusion of ancient mythology did not so much regard its subjective
elements as its external development, and even here is easily accounted
for by the mingling of tribes and nations, hitherto isolated in their
growth,--but who, as they came together, in their mutual recognition of
a common faith under different names and rites, must inevitably have
introduced disorder into the external symbolism. But even out of this
confusion we shall find the whole Pantheon organized about two
central shrines,--those of the _Mater Dolorosa_ and the _Dominus
Salvator_,--which are represented also in Christendom, though detached
from natural symbols, in the connection of Christianity with the worship
of the Virgin.

The Eleusinia, collecting together, as it did, all the prominent
elements of mythology, furnishes, in its dramatic evolution through
Demeter and Dionysus, the highest and most complete representation of
ancient faith in both of its developments. In a former paper, we have
endeavored to give this drama its deepest interpretation by pointing to
the human heart as the central source of all its movements. We shall now
ask our readers to follow us out into these movements themselves,--that,
as before we saw how the world is centred in each human soul, we may now
see how each soul develops itself in the world; for thither it is that
the ever-widening cycles of the Eleusinian epos will inevitably lead us.

And first as an epos of sorrow: though centring in the earthly Demeter,
yet its movement does not limit itself by the remembrance of _her_ nine
days' search; but, in the torch-light procession of the fifth night,
widens indefinitely and mysteriously in the darkness, until it has
inclosed all hearts within the circuit of its tumultuous flight. Thus,
by some secret sympathy with her movements, are gathered together
about the central Achtheia all the _Matres Dolorosoe,_--our Ladies of
Sorrow;--for, like her, they were all wanderers.

They were so by necessity. All unrest involves loss, and thus leads to
search. It matters not if the search be unsuccessful; though the gadfly
sting as sharply the next moment as it did the last, still so must
continue her wanderings. Therefore that Jew, whose mythic fate it is to
wait forever upon the earth, the victim of an everlasting sorrow, is
also an everlasting wanderer. All suffering necessitates movement,--and
when the suffering is intense, the movement passes over into flight.

Therefore it is that the epos of suffering requires not merely time for
its accomplishment, but also space. Ulysses, the "much-suffering," is
also the "much-wandering."

Thus our Lady in the Eleusinian procession of search represents the
restless search of all her children.

Migrations and colonizations, ancient or modern,--what were they but
flights from some phase of suffering,--name it as we may,--poverty,
oppression, or slavery? It was the same suffering Io who brought
civilization to the banks of the Nile.

Thus, from the very beginnings of history or human tradition, out of
the severities of Scythian deserts there has been an endless series of
flights,--nomadic invasions of tribes impelled by no merely barbarian
impulse, but by some deep sense of suffering, flying from their Northern
wastes to the happy gardens of the South. In no other way can you
account for these movements. If you attribute them to ferocity, what
was it that engendered and nourished _that_? Call them the results of
a Divine Providence, seeking by a fresher current of life to revive
systems of civilization which through long ages of luxury have come to
frailty,--still it was through this severity of discipline alone that
Providence accomplished its end. Besides, these nomads were fully
conscious of their bitter lot; and those who fled not in space fled at
least in their dreams,--waiting for death at last to introduce them to
inexhaustible hunting-grounds in their happy Elysium.

The very mention of Rome suggests the same continually repeated series
of antecedent tragedy and consequent wandering,--pointing backward to
the fabled siege of Troy and the flight of Aeneas,--"_profugus_"
from Asia to Italy,--and forward to the quick-coming footsteps of the
Northern _profugi_, who were eager, even this side the grave, to enter
the Valhalla of their dreams.

It is said that the Phoenician cities sent out colonies from a desire of
gain, and because they were crowded at home. It is said, too, that,
in search of gold, thousands upon thousands went to El Dorado, to
California, and Australia; but who does not know that the greater part
of these thousands left their homes for reasons which, if fully exposed,
would reveal a tragedy in view of which gold appears a glittering

The great movement of the race westward is but an extension of this
epic flight. Thus, the Pilgrim Fathers of New England,--the grandest
_profugi_ of all time,--or even the bold adventurers of Spain, would
have been moved only by intense suffering, in some form, to exchange
their homes for a wilderness.

The world is full of these wanderings, under various pretences of gain,
adventure, or curiosity, hiding the real impulse of flight. So with the
strong-flowing current in the streets of a great city; for how else
shall we interpret this intricate net-work of human feature and
movement,--this flux of life toward some troubled centre, and then its
reflux toward some uncertain and undefined circumference?

And as Nature is the mirror of human life, so at the source of those
vast movements by which she buries in oblivion her own works and the
works of man there is hidden the type of human suffering, both for the
race and the individual. And hence it is, that, over against the eternal
solitude within us, there ever waits without us a second solitude, into
which, sooner or later, we pass with restless flight,--a solitude
vast, shadowy, and unfamiliar in its outline, but inevitable in its
reality,--haunting, bewildering, overshadowing us!

* * * * *

"Who is it that shall interpret this intricate evolution of human
footsteps, in its meaning of sorrow?--who is it that shall give us
rest?" Such is the half-conscious prayer of all these fugitives,--of
our Lady and all her children. This it is which gives meaning to the
torch-light procession on the fifth night of the Festival; but to-morrow

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