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Title: Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 422 - Volume 17, New Series, January 31, 1852
Author: Various
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 422 - Volume 17, New Series, January 31, 1852" ***

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                     CHAMBERS' EDINBURGH JOURNAL


  No. 422.  NEW SERIES.  SATURDAY, JANUARY 31, 1852.  PRICE 1-1/2 _d._


'On Saturday, then, at two--humble hours, humble fare; but plenty, and
good of its kind; with a talk over old fellows and old times.'

Such was the pith of an invitation to dinner, to accept which I
started on a pleasant summer Saturday on the top of a Kentish-town
omnibus. My host was Happy Jack. Everybody called him 'Happy Jack:' he
called himself 'Happy Jack.' He believed he was an intensely 'Happy'
Jack. Yet his friends shook their heads, and the grandest shook theirs
the longest, as they added the ominous addendum of 'Poor Devil' to
'Happy Jack.'

'Seen that unhappy wretch, Happy Jack, lately?'

'Seen him! of course, yesterday: he came to borrow a half-sovereign,
as two of his children had the measles. He was in the highest spirits,
for the pawnbroker lent him more on his watch than he had expected,
and so Jack considered the extra shilling or two pure gain. I don't
know how the wretch lives, but he seems happier than ever.'

On another occasion, the dialogue would be quite different.

'Who do you think I saw last night in the first tier at the
Opera?--who but Happy Jack, and Mrs Happy Jack, and the two eldest
Happy Jack girls! Jack himself resplendent in diamond studs, and
tremendously laced shirt-front; and as for the women--actually queens
of Sheba. A really respectable carriage, too, at the door; for I
followed them out in amazement: and off they went like so many lords
and ladies. Oh, the sun has been shining somehow on the Happy Jacks!'

In due time I stood before the Terrace honoured by the residence of
the Happy Jacks--one of those white, stuccoed rows of houses, with
bright green doors and bright brass-plates thereon, which suburban
builders so greatly affect. As I entered the square patch of
front-garden, I perceived straw lying about, as though there had been
recent packing; and looking at the drawing-room window, I missed the
muslin curtain and the canary's brass cage swathed all over in gauze.
The door opened before I knocked, and Happy Jack was the opener. He
was clad in an old shooting-coat and slippers, had a long clay-pipe in
his mouth, and was in a state of intense general _déshabille_. Looking
beyond him, I saw that the house was in _déshabille_ as well as the
master. There were stairs certainly, but where was the stair-carpet?
Happy Jack, however, was clearly as happy as usual. He had a round,
red face; and, I will add, a red nose. But the usual sprightly smile
stirred the red round face, the usual big guffaw came leaping from the
largely opening mouth, the usual gleam of mingled sharpness and
_bonhomie_ shone from the large blue eyes. Happy Jack closed the door,
and, taking my arm, walked me backwards and forwards on the gravel.

'My boy,' he said, 'we've had a little domestic affair inside; but you
being, like myself, a man of the world, we were not of course going to
give up our dinner for that. The fact is,' said Jack, attempting to
assume a heroic and sentimental tone and attitude, 'that, for the
present at least, my household gods are shattered!'

'You mean that'----

'As I said, my household gods are shattered, even in the shrine!'

It was obvious that the twang of this fine phrase gave Jack uncommon
pleasure. He repeated it again and again under his breath, flourishing
his pipe, so as, allegorically and metaphorically, to set forth the
extent of his desolation.

'In other words,' I went on, 'there has been an--an execution'----

'And the brokers have not left a stick. But what of that? These, are
accidents which will occur in the best'----

'And Mrs'----

'Oh! She, you know, is apt to be a little downhearted at times; and
empty rooms somehow act on her idiosyncrasy. A good woman, but weak.
So she's gone for the present to her sisters; and as for the girls,
why, Emily is with her mother, and Jane is at the Joneses. Very decent
people the Joneses. I put Jones up to a thing which would have made
his fortune the week before last; but he wouldn't have it. Jones is
slow, and--well---- And Clara is with the Hopkinses: I believe so, at
least; and Maria is---- Confound me if I know where Maria is; but I
suppose she's somewhere. Her mother managed it all: I didn't
interfere. And so now, as you know the best and the worst, let's come
to dinner.'

An empty house is a dismal thing--almost as dismal as a dead body. The
echo, as you walk, is dismal; the blank, stripped walls, shewing the
places where the pictures and the mirrors have been, are dismal; the
bits of straw and the odds and ends of cord are dismal; the coldness,
the stillness, the blankness, are dismal. It is no longer a
habitation, but a shell.

In the dining-room stood a small deal-table, covered with a scanty
cloth, like an enlarged towel; and a baked joint, with the potatoes
under it, smoked before us. The foaming pewter-can stood beside it,
with a couple of plates, and knives and steel forks. Two Windsor
chairs, of evident public-house mould, completed the festive
preparations and the furniture of the room. The whole thing looked
very dreary; and as I gazed, I felt my appetite fade under the sense
of desolation. Not so Happy Jack. 'Come, sit down, sit down. I don't
admire baked meat as a rule, but you know, as somebody says--

    "When spits and jacks are gone and spent,
    Then ovens are most excellent,"
    And also most con-ven-i-ent.

The people at the Chequers managed it all. Excellent people they are.
I owe them some money, which I shall have great pleasure in paying as
soon as possible. No man can pay it sooner.'

The dinner, however, went off with the greatest success. Happy Jack
was happier than ever, and consequently irresistible. Every two or
three minutes he lugged in something about his household gods and the
desolation of his hearth, evidently enjoying the sentiment highly.
Then he talked of his plans of taking a new and more expensive house,
in a fashionable locality, and furnishing it on a far handsomer scale
than the old one. In fact, he seemed rather obliged to the brokers
than otherwise for taking the quondam furniture off his hands. It was
quite behind the present taste--much of it positively ugly. He had
been ashamed to see his wife sitting in that atrocious old easy-chair,
but he hoped that he had taken a step which would change all for the
better. Warming with his dinner and the liquor, Happy Jack got more
and more eloquent and sentimental. He declaimed upon the virtues of
Mrs J., and the beauties of the girls. He proposed all their healths
_seriatim_. He regretted the little incident which had prevented their
appearance at the festive board; but though absent in person, he was
sure that they were present in spirit; and with this impression, he
would beg permission to favour them with a song--a song of the social
affections--a song of hearth and home--a song which had cheered, and
warmed, and softened many a kindly and honest heart: and with this
Happy Jack sang--and exceedingly well too, but with a sort of
dreadfully ludicrous sentiment--the highly appropriate ditty of _My
Ain Fireside_.

Happy Jack was of no particular profession: he was a bit of a
_littérateur_, a bit of a journalist, a bit of a man of business, a
bit of an agent, a bit of a projector, a bit of a City man, and a bit
of a West-end man. His business, he said, was of a general nature. He
was usually to be heard of in connection with apocryphal companies and
misty speculations. He was always great as an agitator. As soon as a
League was formed, Happy Jack flew to its head-quarters as a vulture
to a battle-field. Was it a league for the promotion of
vegetarianism?--or a league for the lowering of the price of meat?--a
league for reforming the national costume?--or a league for repealing
the laws still existing upon the Statute-book against witches?--Happy
Jack was ever in the thickest of the fray, lecturing, expounding,
arguing, getting up extempore meetings of the frequenters of
public-houses, of which he sent reports to the morning papers,
announcing the 'numerous, highly respectable, and influential' nature
of the assembly, and modestly hinting, that Mr Happy Jack, 'who was
received with enthusiastic applause, moved, in a long and
argumentative address, a series of resolutions pledging the meeting
to,' &c. Jack, in fact, fully believed that he had done rather more
for free-trade than Cobden. Not, he said, that he was jealous of the
Manchester champion; circumstances had made the latter better
known--that he admitted; still he could not but know--and knowing,
feel--in his own heart of hearts, his own merits, and his own

The railway mania was, as may be judged, a grand time for Happy Jack.
The number of lines of which he was a provisional director, the number
of schemes which came out--and often at good premiums too--under his
auspices; the number of railway journals which he founded, and the
number of academies which he established for the instruction of
youthful engineers--are they not written in the annals of the period?
Jack himself started as an engineer without any previous educational
ceremony whatever. His manner of laying out a 'direct line' was happy
and expeditious. He took a map and a ruler, and drew upon the one, by
the help of the other, a straight stroke in red ink--which looked
professional--from terminus to terminus. Afterwards, he stated
distinctly in writing, so that there could be no mistake about the
matter, that there were no engineering difficulties--that the landed
proprietors along the line were quite enthusiastic in their promotion
of the scheme--and that the probable profits, as deduced from
carefully drawn-up traffic-tables, would be about 35 per cent. At this
time, Happy Jack was quite a minor Hudson. He lived in an atmosphere
of shares, scrip, and prospectuses. Money poured in from every
quarter. A scrap of paper with an application for shares was worth the
bright tissue of the Bank--and Jack lost no time in changing the one
for the other. Amid the mass of railway newspapers, he started _The
Railway Sleeper Awakened_, _The Railway Whistle_, _The Railway
Turntable_, and _The Railway Timetable_; and it was in the first
number of the last famous organ--it lived for three weeks--in which
appeared a letter signed 'A Constant Reader.' After the bursting of
the bubble, Happy Jack appeared to have burst too; for his whereabouts
for a long time was unknown, and there were no traditions of his being
seen. Then he began to be heard of from distant and constantly varying
quarters of the town. Now you had a note from Shepherd's Bush, and
next day from Bermondsey. On Tuesday, Jack dated Little King Street,
Clapham Road; on Thursday, the communication reached you from Little
Queen Street, Victoria Villas, Hackney; and next week perhaps you were
favoured with a note from some of the minor little Inns of Court,
where the writer would be found getting up a company on the fourth
floor in a grimy room, furnished with a high deal-desk, two
three-legged stools, and illimitable foolscap, pens, and ink.

Where Mrs Happy Jack and the young-lady Happy Jacks went to at these
times, the boldest speculator has failed to discover: they vanished,
as it were, into thin air, and were seen no more till the sunshine
came, when they returned with the swallows. The lady herself was a
meek, mild creature, skilful in the art of living on nothing, and
making up dresses without material. She adored her husband, and
believed him the greatest man in the world. On the occurrence of such
little household incidents as an execution, or Jack making a rapid act
of cabmanship from his own hearth to the cheerful residence of Mr Levi
in Cursitor Street, the poor little woman, after having indulged
herself in the small luxury of a 'good cry,' would go to work to pack
up shirts and socks manfully, and with great foresight, would always
bring Jack's daily food in a basket, seeing that Mr Levi's bills are
constructed upon a scale of uncommon dimensions; after which, she
would eat the dinner with him in the coffee-room, drink to better
days, play cribbage, and at last get very nearly as joyous in that
greasy, grimy, sorrow-laden room, with bars on the outside of the
windows, as if it were the happy home she possessed a few weeks ago,
and which she always hoped to possess again. As for the girls, they
were trained by too good a master and mistress not to become apt
scholars. They knew what a bill of sale was from their tenderest
years; the broker's was no unfamiliar face; and they quite understood
how to treat a man in possession. Their management of duns was
consummate. Happy Jack used to listen to the comedy of excuses and
coaxings; and when the importunate had departed, grumblingly and
unpaid, he used solemnly to kiss his daughters on the forehead, and
invoke all sorts of blessings upon his preservers, his good angels,
his little girls, who were so clever, and so faithful, and so true.

And in many respects they were good girls. The style in which they
turned frocks, put a new appearance upon hoods, and cloaks, and
bonnets, and came forth in what seemed the very lustre of novelty--the
whole got up by a skilful mutual adaptation of garments and parts of
garments--was wonderful to all lady beholders. In cookery, they beat
the famous _chef_ who sent up five courses and a dessert, made out of
a greasy pair of jack-boots and the grass from the ramparts of the
besieged town. Their wonderful little made-dishes were mere scraps and
fragments, which in any other house would have been flung away, but
which were so artistically and scientifically handled by the young
ladies, and so tossed up, and titivated, and eked out with gravies,
and sauces, and strange devices of nondescript pasty, that Happy Jack,
feasting upon these wonderful creations of ingenuity, used to vow that
he never dined so well as when there was nothing in the house for
dinner. To their wandering, predatory life the whole family were
perfectly accustomed. A sudden turn out of quarters they cared no more
for than hardened old dragoons. They never lost pluck. One speculation
down, another came on. Sometimes the little household was united. A
bit of luck in the City or the West had been achieved, and Happy Jack
issued cards for 'At Homes,' and behaved, and looked, and spoke like
an alderman, or the member of a house of fifty years' standing. When
strangers saw his white waistcoat, and blue coat with brass buttons,
and heard him talk of a glut of gold, and money being a mere drug,
they speculated as to whether he was the governor or the vice-governor
of the Bank of England, or only the man who signs the five-pound
notes. That day six weeks, Jack had probably 'come through the court;'
a process which he always used somehow to achieve with flying colours,
behaving in such a plausible and fascinating way to the commissioner,
that that functionary regularly made a speech, in which he
congratulated Happy Jack on his candour, and evident desire to deal
fairly with his creditors, and told him he left that court without the
shadow of a stain upon his character. In the Bench, in dreary suburban
lodgings, or in the comfortable houses which they sometimes occupied,
the Happy Jacks were always the Happy Jacks. Their constitution
triumphed over everything. If anything could ruffle their serenity, it
was the refusal of a tradesman to give credit. But _uno avulso non
deficit alter_, as Jack was accustomed, on such occasions, classically
to say to his wife--presently deviating into the corresponding
vernacular of--'Well, my dear, if one cock fights shy, try another.'

A list of Jack's speculations would be instructive. He once took a
theatre without a penny to carry it on; and having announced _Hamlet_
without anybody to play, boldly studied and performed the part
himself, to the unextinguishable delight of the audience. Soon after
this, he formed a company for supplying the metropolis with Punches of
a better class, and enacting a more moral drama than the old
legitimate one--making Punch, in fact, a virtuous and domestic
character; and he drew the attention of government to the moral
benefits likely to be derived to society from this dramatic reform.
Soon after, he departed for Spain in the gallant Legion; but not
finding the speculation profitable, turned newspaper correspondent,
and was thrice in imminent danger of being shot as a spy. Flung back
somehow to England, he suddenly turned up as a lecturer on chemistry,
and then established a dancing institution and Terpsichorean Athenæum.
Of late, Jack has found a good friend in animal magnetism, and his
_séances_ have been reasonably successful. When performing in the
country districts, Jack varied the entertainments by a lecture on the
properties of guano, which he threw in for nothing, and which was
highly appreciated by the agricultural interest. Jack's books were
principally works of travel. His _Journey to the Fountains of the
Niger_ is generally esteemed highly amusing, if not instructive: it
was knocked off at Highbury; and his _Wanderings in the Mountains of
the Moon_, written in Little Chelsea, has been favourably reviewed by
many well-informed and discriminating organs of literary intelligence,
as the work of a man evidently well acquainted with the regions he
professes to describe.

Where the Happy Jacks are at this moment no one can tell. They have
become invisible since the last clean out. A deprecatory legend has
indeed been in circulation, which professed that Jack was dead, and
that this was the manner in which, on his deathbed, he provided for
his family:--

'Mrs Happy Jack,' said the departing man, 'I'm not afraid of you. You
have got on some way or other for nearly forty years, and I don't see
why you shouldn't get on some way or other for forty more. Therefore,
so far as you are concerned, my mind is easy. But, then, you
girls--you poor little inexperienced poppets, who know nothing of the
world. There's Jane; but then she's pretty--really beautiful. Why, her
face is a fortune: she will of course captivate a rich man; and what
more can a father wish? As for Emily--I fear Emily, my dear,
you're rather plain than otherwise; but what, I would ask, is
beauty?--fleeting, transitory, skin-deep. The happiest marriages are
those of mutual affection--not one-sided admiration: so, on the whole,
I should say that my mind is easier about Emily than Jane. As for
Maria, she's so clever, she can't but get on. As a musician, an
artist, an authoress, what bright careers are open for her! While as
for you, stupid little Clara, who never could be taught anything--I
very much doubt whether the dunces of this world are not the very
happiest people in it--Yes, Clara; leave to others the vain and empty
distinctions of literary renown, which is but a bubble, and be happy
in the homely path of obscure but virtuous duty!'

Happy Jack ceased. There was a pause. 'And now,' he said, 'having
provided for my family, I will go to sleep, with a clear conscience
and a tranquil mind.'

I said that I always distrusted this legend. I am happy to say, that
even as I write I have proof positive that it is purely a fiction. I
have just had a card put into my hand requesting my presence at a
private exhibition of the celebrated Bloomer Family, while an
accompanying private note from Jack himself informs me that the
'celebrated and charming Bloomer group--universally allowed to be the
most perfect and interesting representatives of the new _régime_ in
costume'--are no other than the Happy Jacks _redivivi_--Mrs J. and the
girls donning the transatlantic attire, and Happy Jack himself
delivering a lecture upon the vagaries of fashion and the
inconsistencies of dress, in a new garment invented by himself, and
combining the Roman toga with the Highland kilt.


Robinson Crusoe is the parent of a line of fictions, all more or less
entertaining; but those of our own day, as might be expected, share
largely in the practical spirit of the time, making amusement in some
degree the mere menstruum of information. Following the Swiss Family
Robinson, we have here an English Family Robinson, which might as well
be called an American Family Robinson; and although ostensibly meant
for the holiday recreation of youth, it proves to be a production
equally well suited for children of six feet and upwards. The author
is personally familiar with the scenes he describes, and is thus able
to give them a verisimilitude which in other circumstances can be
attained only by the rarest genius; and notwithstanding the
associations, of his last book, the _Scalp-hunters_, there is only one
bloody conflict in the present one fought by animals of the genus

The local habitation of the lost family is a nook in the Great
American Desert--a nook in a desert twenty-five times the size of
England! But this wilderness of about a million square miles is not
all sand or all barren earth: it contains numerous other features of
interest besides mountains and oases; it includes the country of New
Mexico, with its towns and cities; the country round the Great Salt
and Utah Lakes, where the germ of a Mormon nation is expanding on all
sides; and it is traversed in its whole breadth by the Rocky
Mountains. An English family, after being ruined in St Louis, and
reduced to their last hundred pounds, are persuaded by a Scottish
miner to accompany him across this desert to New Mexico. 'They are a
wonderful people,' says the story-teller, 'these same Scotch. They are
but a small nation, yet their influence is felt everywhere upon the
globe. Go where you will, you will find them in positions of trust and
importance--always prospering, yet, in the midst of prosperity, still
remembering, with strong feelings of attachment, the land of their
birth. They manage the marts of London, the commerce of India, the
fur-trade of America, and the mines of Mexico. Over all the American
wilderness you will meet them, side by side with the backwoods-pioneer
himself, and even pushing him from his own ground. From the Gulf of
Mexico to the Arctic Sea, they have impressed with their Gaelic names
rock, river, and mountain; and many an Indian tribe owns a Scotchman
for its chief.'

The adventurers join a caravan, which is attacked by Indians, and the
family of the destined Robinson find themselves alone in the
wilderness, 800 miles from the American frontier on the east, 1000
miles from any civilised settlement on either the north or south, and
200 miles from the farthest advanced lines of New Mexico in the
desert. They are, in short, lost; but in due time they are found again
by other explorers. These strangers are standing on the edge of a
cliff several hundred feet sheer down. 'Away below--far below where we
were--lay a lovely valley, smiling in all the luxuriance of bright
vegetation. It was of nearly an oval shape, bounded upon all sides by
a frowning precipice, that rose around it like a wall. Its length
could not have been less than ten miles, and its greatest breadth
about half of its length. We were at its upper end, and of course
viewed it lengthwise. Along the face of the precipice there were trees
hanging out horizontally, and some of them even growing with their
tops downward. These trees were cedars and pines; and we could
perceive also the knotted limbs of huge cacti protruding from the
crevices of the rocks. We could see the wild mezcal, or maguey-plant,
growing against the cliff--its scarlet leaves contrasting finely with
the dark foliage of the cedars and cacti. Some of these plants stood
out on the very brow of the overhanging precipice, and their long
curving blades gave a singular character to the landscape. Along the
face of the dark cliffs all was rough, and gloomy, and picturesque.
How different was the scene below! Here everything looked soft, and
smiling, and beautiful. There were broad stretches of woodland, where
the thick foliage of the trees met and clustered together, so that it
looked like the surface of the earth itself; but we knew it was only
the green leaves, for here and there were spots of brighter green,
that we saw were glades covered with grassy turf. The leaves of the
trees were of different colours, for it was now late in the autumn.
Some were yellow, and some of a deep claret colour: some were
bright-red, and some of a beautiful maroon; and there were green, and
brighter green, and others of a silvery-whitish hue. All these colours
were mingled together, and blended into each other, like the flowers
upon a rich carpet. Near the centre of the valley was a large shining
object, which we knew to be water. It was evidently a lake of crystal
purity, and smooth as a mirror. The sun was now up to meridian height,
and his yellow beams falling upon its surface caused it to gleam like
a sheet of gold. We could not trace the outlines of the water, for the
trees partially hid it from our view, but we saw that the smoke that
had at first attracted us rose up somewhere from the western shore of
the lake.' In this strange oasis they found what appeared to be a snug
farm-house, with stables and outhouses, garden and fields, horses and
cattle. Here they were hospitably entertained by the proprietor, his
wife, and two sons, and served by a faithful negro; and of course it
is the history of the settlers, and their struggles, expedients, and
contrivances which form the staple of the work.

In this history we have the process of building a log-house, and the
usual modes of assembling round the squatter such of the comforts of
life as may be obtained in the desert; but our family Robinson appears
to have been the most ingenious as well as the most fortunate of
adventurers, for there are very few, even of the luxuries of civilised
society, which are beyond his reach. The natural history of the book,
however, is its main feature; and the adventures of the lost family
with the unreasoning denizens of the desert remind us not unfrequently
of the pictures of Audubon. This is among the earliest:--'There were
high cliffs fronting us, and along the face of these five large
reddish objects were moving, so fast that I at first thought they were
birds upon the wing. After watching them a moment, however, I saw that
they were quadrupeds; but so nimbly did they go, leaping from ledge to
ledge, that it was impossible to see their limbs. They appeared to be
animals of the deer species, somewhat larger than sheep or goats; but
we could see that, in place of antlers, each of them had a pair of
huge curving horns. As they leaped downward, from one platform of the
cliffs to another, we fancied that they whirled about in the air, as
though they were "turning somersaults," and seemed at times to come
down heads foremost! There was a spur of the cliff that sloped down to
within less than a hundred yards of the place where we sat. It ended
in an abrupt precipice, of some sixty or seventy feet in height above
the plain. The animals, on reaching the level of this spur, ran along
it until they had arrived at its end. Seeing the precipice, they
suddenly stopped, as if to reconnoitre it; and we had now a full view
of them, as they stood outlined against the sky, with their graceful
limbs and great curved horns, almost as large as their bodies. We
thought, of course, they could get no farther for the precipice, and I
was calculating whether my rifle, which I had laid hold of, would
reach them at that distance. All at once, to our astonishment, the
foremost sprang out from the cliff, and whirling through the air, lit
upon his head on the hard plain below! We could see that he came down
upon his horns, and rebounding up again to the height of several feet,
he turned a second somersault, and then dropped upon his legs, and
stood still! Nothing daunted, the rest followed, one after the other,
in quick succession, like so many street-tumblers; and, like them,
after the feat had been performed, the animals stood for a moment, as
if waiting for applause!' These were the _argali_, or wild sheep,
popularly termed bighorns, and resembling an immense yellow goat or
deer furnished with a pair of ram's horns.

Such are the anecdotes which the reader will find thickly scattered
throughout this volume; but perhaps the most interesting are a series
of conflicts witnessed by the father and one of the sons, and in the
course of which they are themselves exposed to some danger. They had
gone out to gather from the live oaks a kind of moss, which they
found to be quite equal to curled hair for stuffing mattresses; and
while perched upon one of the trees, the drama opened by the violent
scolding of a pair of orioles, or Baltimore birds--so called from
their colour, a mixture of black and orange, being the same as that in
the coat-of-arms of Lord Baltimore. The cause of the disturbance
appeared to be a nondescript animal close to the edge of the thicket,
with a variety of little legs, tails, heads, ears, and eyes stuck over
its body. 'All at once the numerous heads seemed to separate from the
main body, becoming little bodies of themselves, with long tails upon
them, and looking just like a squad of white rats! The large body to
which they had all been attached we now saw was an old female opossum,
and evidently the mother of the whole troop. She was about the size of
a cat, and covered with woolly hair of a light gray colour.... The
little 'possums were exact pictures of their mother--all having the
same sharp snouts and long naked tails. We counted no less than
thirteen of them, playing and tumbling about among the leaves.' The
old 'possum looked wistfully up at the nest of the orioles, hanging
like a distended stocking from the topmost twigs of the tree. After a
little consideration she uttered a sharp note, which brought the
little ones about her in a twinkling. 'Several of them ran into the
pouch which she had caused to open for them; two of them took a turn
of their little tails around the root of hers, and climbed up on her
rump, almost burying themselves in her long wool; while two or three
others fastened themselves about her neck and shoulders. It was a most
singular sight to see the little creatures holding on with "tails,
teeth, and toe-nails," while some peeped comically out of the great
breast-pocket.' Burdened in this way, she climbed the tree, and then
taking hold of the young 'possums, one by one, with her mouth, she
made them twist their tails round a branch, and hang with their heads
downwards. 'Five or six of the "kittens" were still upon the ground.
For these she returned, and taking them up as before, again climbed
the tree. She disposed of the second load precisely as she had done
the others, until the thirteen little possums hung head downwards
along the branch like a string of candles!'

The mother now climbed higher up; but the nest, with its tempting
eggs, hung beyond her reach; and although she suspended herself by the
tail--at last almost by its very tip--and swung like a pendulum,
clutching as she swung, it was all in vain. At length, with a bitter
snarl, she gave up the adventure as hopeless, detached the young ones
from their hold, flung them testily to the ground, and descending,
took them all into her pouch and upon her back, and trudged away.
'Frank and I now deemed it proper to interfere, and cut off the
retreat of the old 'possum: so, dropping from our perch, we soon
overtook and captured the whole family. The old one, on first seeing
us approach, rolled herself into a round clump, so that neither her
head nor legs could be seen, and in this attitude feigned to be quite
dead. Several of the youngsters who were _outside_, immediately
detached themselves, and imitated the example of their mother--so that
the family now presented the appearance of a large ball of whitish
wool, with several smaller "clews" lying around it!' The family
Crusoes, however, were not to be cheated: they took the whole
prisoners, intending to carry them home; and making the mother fast to
one of the saplings, returned to their tree.

Soon the persecuted orioles began to scream and scold as before. Their
enemy this time was a huge moccason, one of the most venomous of
serpents. 'It was one of the largest of its species; and its great
flat head, protruding sockets, and sparkling eyes, added to the
hideousness of its appearance. Every now and then, as it advanced, it
threw out its forked tongue, which, moist with poisonous saliva,
flashed under the sunbeam like jets of fire. It was crawling directly
for the tree on which hung the nest.' The birds seemed to think he
meant to climb to their nest, and descended in rage and terror to the
lower branches. 'The snake, seeing them approach almost within range
of his hideous maw, gathered himself into a coil, and prepared to
strike. His eyes scintillated like sparks of fire, and seemed to
fascinate the birds; for instead of retiring, they each moment drew
nearer and nearer, now alighting on the ground, then flapping back to
the branches, and anon darting to the ground again--as though they
were under some spell from those fiery eyes, and were unable to take
themselves away. Their motions appeared to grow less energetic, their
chirping became almost inaudible, and their wings seemed hardly to
expand as they flew, or rather fluttered, around the head of the
serpent. One of them at length dropped down upon the ground within
reach of the snake, and stood with open bill, as if exhausted, and
unable to move farther. We were expecting to see the snake suddenly
launch forth upon his feathered victim; when all at once his coils
flew out, his body was thrown at full length, and he commenced
retreating from the tree!' The object that caused this diversion was
soon visible. 'It was an animal about the size of a wolf, and of a
dark-gray or blackish colour. Its body was compact, round-shaped, and
covered, not with hair, but with shaggy bristles, that along the ridge
of its back were nearly six inches in length, and gave it the
appearance of having a mane. It had very short ears, no tail whatever,
or only a knob; and we could see that its feet were hoofed, not clawed
as in beasts of prey. But whether beast of prey or not, its long
mouth, with two white tusks protruding over the jaws, gave it a very
formidable appearance. Its head and nose resembled those of the hog
more than any other animal; and in fact it was nothing else than the
peccary--the wild hog of Mexico.'

The moccason did not wait to parley with his enemy, but skulked away
through the long grass, every now and then raising his head to glare
behind him. But the peccary tracked him by the smell, and on coming up
to him, uttered a shrill grunt. 'The snake, finding that he was
overtaken, threw himself into a coil, and prepared to give battle;
while his antagonist, now looking more like a great porcupine than a
pig, drew back, as if to take the advantage of a run; and then halted.
Both for a moment eyed each other--the peccary evidently calculating
its distance--while the great snake seemed cowed and quivering with
affright. Its appearance was entirely different from the bright
semblance it had exhibited but a moment before when engaged with the
birds. Its eyes were less fiery, and its whole body seemed more ashy
and wrinkled. We had not many moments to observe it, for the peccary
was now seen to rush forward, spring high into the air, and pounce
down with all her feet held together upon the coils of the serpent!
She immediately bounded back again; and, quick as thought, once more
rose above her victim. The snake was now uncoiled, and writhing over
the ground. Another rush from the peccary, another spring, and the
sharp hoofs of the animal came down upon the neck of the serpent,
crushing it upon the hard turf. The body of the reptile, distended to
its full length, quivered for a moment, and then lay motionless along
the grass. The victor uttered another sharp cry, that seemed intended
as a call to her young ones, who, emerging from the weeds where they
had concealed themselves, ran nimbly forward to the spot.'

While the father and son are watching the peccary peeling the serpent
as adroitly as a fishmonger would skin an eel, another actor enters
upon the scene. This was the dreaded cougar, an animal of the size of
a calf, and with the head and general appearance of a cat. Creeping
stealthily round his victim, who is busy feasting on the quarry, he
at length attains the proper vantage-ground, and gathering himself up
like a cat, springs with a terrific scream upon the back of the
peccary, burying his claws in her neck, and clasping her all over in
his fatal embrace. 'The frightened animal uttered a shrill cry, and
struggled to free itself. Both rolled over the ground--the peccary all
the while gnashing its jaws, and continuing to send forth its strange
sharp cries, until the woods echoed again. Even the young ones ran
around, mixing in the combat--now flung sprawling upon the earth, now
springing up again, snapping their little jaws, and imitating the cry
of their mother. The cougar alone fought in silence. Since the first
wild scream not a sound had escaped him; but from that moment his
claws never relaxed their hold, and we could see that with his teeth
he was silently tearing the throat of his victim.'

The Robinsons of the desert were now in an awkward predicament; for
although they had been safe from the peccary, the cougar could climb a
tree like a squirrel. A noise, however, disturbs him from his meal,
and swinging the dead animal on his back, he begins to skulk away. But
he is interrupted before he can reach cover; and as the new-comers
prove to be twenty or thirty peccaries, summoned to the field by the
dying screams of their comrade, he has more to do than to think of his
dinner. To fling down his burden, to leap upon the foremost of his
enemies, is but the work of an instant; but the avengers crowd round
him with their gnashing jaws and piercing cries, and the brute darts
up the tree like a flash of red fire, and crouches not twenty feet
above the heads of the horrified spectators! The father, however,
after some agonising moments of deliberation, brings him down with his
rifle; and the cougar, falling among the eager crowd below, is torn to
pieces in a moment. But this does not get rid of the peccaries, who
set up their fiendish screams anew as they discover two other victims
in the tree. The father fires again and again, dropping his peccary
each time, till five lie dead upon the ground; but the rage of the
rest only becomes more and more furious--and the marksman is at his
last bullet. Here we shall leave him; and such of our readers as may
be interested in his fate--who form, we suspect, a very handsome
percentage on the whole--may make inquiries for themselves at his
Desert Home.

       *       *       *       *       *


[1] Or the Adventures of a Lost Family in the Wilderness. By Captain
Mayne Reid. London: Bogue. 1852.


The clock of the church of Besançon had struck nine, when a woman
about fifty years of age, wrapped in a cotton shawl and carrying a
small basket on her arm, knocked at the door of a house in the Rue St
Vincent, which, however, at the period we refer to, bore the name of
Rue de la Liberté. The door opened. 'It is you, Dame Margaret,' said
the porter, with a very cross look. 'It is high time for you. All my
lodgers have come home long since; you are always the last, and'----

'That is not my fault, I assure you, my dear M. Thiebaut,' said, the
old woman in a deprecatory tone. 'My day's work is only just finished,
and when work is to be done'----

'That's all very fine,' he muttered. 'It might do well enough if I
could even reckon on a Christmas-box at the end of the year; but as it
is, I may count myself well off, if I do but get paid for taking up
their letters.'

The old woman did not hear the last words, for with quick and firm
step she had been making her way up the six flights of stairs, steep
enough to make her head reel had she been ascending them for the first
time. 'Nine o'clock!--nine o'clock! How uneasy she must be!' and as
she spoke, she opened with her latch-key the door of a wretched
garret, in which dimly burned a rushlight, whose flickering flame
scarcely seemed to render visible the scanty furniture the room

'Is that you, my good Margaret?' said a feeble and broken voice from
the farther end of the little apartment.

'Yes, my dear lady; yes, it is I; and very sorry I am to have made you
uneasy. But Madame Lebriton, my worthy employer, is so active herself,
that she always finds the workwoman's day too short--though it is good
twelve hours--and just as I was going to fold up my work, she brought
me a job in a great hurry. I could not refuse her; but this time, I
must own, I got well paid for being obliging, for after I had done,
she said in her most good-natured way: "Here, you shall take home with
you some of this nice pie, and this bottle of good wine, and have a
comfortable supper with your sister." So she always calls you,
madame,' added Margaret, while complacently glancing at the basket,
the contents of which she now laid out upon the table. 'As I believe
it is safest for you, I do not undeceive her, though it is easily
known she cannot have looked very close at us, or she might have seen
that I could only be the servant of so noble-looking a lady'----

The feeble voice interrupted her: 'My servant!--you my servant! when,
instead of rewarding your services, I allow you to toil for my
support, and to lavish upon me the most tender, the most devoted
affection! My poor Margaret! you who have undertaken for me at your
age, and with your infirmities, daily and arduous toil, are you not
indeed a sister of whom I may well be proud? Your nobility has a
higher origin than mine. Reduced by political changes, which have left
me homeless and penniless, I owe everything to you; and so tenderly do
you minister to me, that even in this garret I could still almost
fancy myself the noble Abbess of Vatteville!'

As she spoke, the aged lady raised herself in her old arm-chair, and
throwing back a black veil, disclosed features still beautiful, and a
forehead still free from every wrinkle, and eyes now sparkling with
something of their former brilliancy. She extended her hand to
Margaret, who affectionately kissed it; and then, apprehensive that
further excitement could not but be injurious to her mistress, the
faithful creature endeavoured to divert her thoughts into another
channel, by inviting her to partake of the little feast provided by
the kindness of her employer. Margaret being in the habit of taking
her meals in the house where she worked, the noble Lady Marie Anne
Adelaide de Vatteville was thus usually left alone and unattended, to
eat the scanty fare prescribed by the extreme narrowness of her
resources; so that she now felt quite cheered by the novel comfort,
not merely of the better-spread table, but of the company of her
faithful servant; and it was in an almost mirthful tone she said, when
the repast was ended: 'Margaret, I have a secret to confide to you. I
will not--I ought not to keep it any longer to myself.'

'A secret, my dear mistress! a secret from me!' exclaimed the faithful
creature in a slightly reproachful tone.

'Yes, dear Margaret, a secret from you; but to be so no longer. No
more henceforth of the toils you have undergone for me; they must be
given up: I cannot do without you. At my age, to be left alone is
intolerable. When you are not near me, I get so lonely, and sometimes
feel quite afraid, I cannot tell of what, but I suppose it is natural
to the old to fear; and often--will you believe it?--I catch myself
weeping like a very child. Ah! when age comes on us, we lose all
strength, all fortitude. But you will not leave me any more? Promise
me, dear Margaret.'

'But in that case what is to become of us?' said Margaret.

'This is the very thing I have to tell. And now listen to me. Take
this key, and in the right-hand drawer of the press you will find the
green casket, where, among my letters and family papers, you will see
a small case, which bring to me.'

Margaret, not a little surprised, did as she was desired. The abbess
gazed on the case for some moments in silence, and Margaret thought
she saw a tear glisten in her eye as she pressed the box to her lips,
and kissed it tenderly and reverentially.

'I have sworn,' she said, 'never to part with it; yet what can I do?
It must be so: it is the will of God.' And with a trembling hand, as
if about to commit sacrilege, she opened the case, and drew from it a
ruby of great brilliancy and beauty. 'You see this jewel?' she said.
'Margaret, it is the glory of my ancient house; it is the last gem in
my coronet, and more precious in my eyes than anything in the world.
My grand-uncle, the noblest of men, the Archbishop of Besançon,
brought it from the East; and when, in guerdon for some-family
service, Louis XIV. founded the Abbey of Vatteville, and made my
grand-aunt the first abbess of the order, he himself adorned her cross
with it. You now know the value of the jewel to me; and though I
cannot tell its marketable value, still, notwithstanding the pressure
of the times, I cannot but think it must bring sufficient to secure
us, for some time at least, from want. "Were I to consider myself
alone, I would starve sooner than touch the sacred deposit; but to
allow you, Margaret, to suffer, and to suffer for me--to take
advantage any longer of your disinterested affection and devoted
fidelity--would be base selfishness. God has at last taught me that I
was but sacrificing you to my pride, and I must hasten to make
atonement. I will endeavour to raise money on this jewel. You know old
M. Simon? Notwithstanding his mean appearance and humble mode of
living, I am persuaded he is a rich man; and though parsimonious in
the extreme, he is good-natured and obliging whenever he can be so
without any risk of loss to himself.'

The next day, in pursuance of her project, the abbess, accompanied by
Margaret, repaired to the house of M. Simon. 'I know, sir,' she said,
'from your kindness to some friends of mine, that you feel an interest
in the class to which I belong, and that you are incapable of
betraying a confidence reposed in you. I am the Abbess of Vatteville.
Driven forth from the plundered and ruined abbey, I am living in the
town under an assumed name. I have been stripped of everything; and
but for the self-sacrificing attachment of a faithful servant, I must
have died of want. However, I have still one resource, and only one. I
know not if I am right in availing myself of it, but at my age the
power to struggle fails. Besides, do not suffer alone; and this
consideration decides me. Will you, then, have the goodness to give me
a loan on this jewel?'

'I believe, madame, you have mistaken me for a pawnbroker. I am not in
the habit of advancing money in this way. I am myself very poor, and
money is now everywhere scarce. I should be very glad to be able to
oblige you, but just at present it is quite out of the question.'

For a moment the poor abbess felt all hope extinct; but with a last
effort to move his compassion, she said: 'Oh, sir, remember that
secrecy is of such importance to me, I dare not apply to any one else.
The privacy, the obscurity in which I live, alone has prevented me
from paying with my blood the penalty attached to a noble name and

'But how am I to ascertain the value of the jewel? I am no jeweller;
and I fear, in my ignorance, to wrong either you or myself.'

'I implore you, sir, not to refuse me. I have no alternative But to
starve; for I am too old to work, and beg I cannot. Keep the jewel as
a pledge, and give me some relief.'

Old Simon, though covetous, was not devoid of feeling. He was touched
by the tears of the venerable lady; and besides, the more he looked at
the jewel, the more persuaded he became of its being really valuable.
After a few moments' consideration, he said: 'All the money I am worth
at this moment is 1500 francs; and though I have my suspicions that I
am making a foolish bargain, I had rather run any risk than leave you
in such distress. The next time I have business in Paris, I can
ascertain the value of the jewel, and if I have given you too little,
I will make it up to you.' And with, a glad and grateful heart the
abbess took home the 1500 francs, thankful at having obtained the
means of subsistence for at least a year.

Some months later, old Simon went up to Paris, and hastening to one of
the principal jewellers, shewed the ruby, and begged to know its
value. The jeweller took the stone carelessly; but after a few
moments' examination of it, he cast a rapid glance at the threadbare
coat and mean appearance of the possessor, and then abruptly
exclaimed: 'This jewel does not belong to you, and you must not leave
the house till you account for its being in your possession. Close the
doors,' he said to his foreman, 'and send for the police.' In vain did
Simon protest his innocence; in vain did he offer every proof of it.
The lapidary would listen to nothing; but at every look he gave the
gem, he darted at him a fresh glance of angry contempt. 'You must be a
fool as well as a knave,' he said. 'Do you know, scoundrel, that this
is the Vatteville--the prince of rubies; the most splendid, the rarest
of gems. It might be deemed a mere creation of imagination, were it
not enrolled and accurately described in the archives of our art. See
here, in the _Guide des Lapidaires_, a print of it. Mark its antique
fashioning, and that dark spot!--yes, it is indeed the precious ruby
so long thought lost. Rest assured, fellow, you shall not quit the
house until you satisfy me how you have contrived to get possession of

'I should at once have told you, but from unwillingness to endanger
the life of a poor woman who has confided in me. I got the jewel from
the Abbess de Vatteville herself, and it is her last and only
resource.' And now M. Simon proved, by unquestionable documents, that
notwithstanding his more than humble appearance, he was a man of
wealth and respectability, and received the apologies which were
tendered, together with assurances that Madame Vatteville's secret was
safe with one who, he begged to say,'knew how to respect misfortune,
whenever and however presented to his notice.'

'But what is the jewel worth?' asked M. Simon.

'Millions, sir! and neither I nor any one else in the trade here could
purchase it, unless as a joint concern, and in case of a coronation or
a marriage in one of the royal houses of Europe, for such an occasion
alone could make it not a risk to buy it. But meanwhile I will, if you
wish, mention it to some of the trade.'

'I am in no hurry,' said Simon, almost bewildered by the possession of
such a treasure. 'I may as well wait for some such occasion, and in
the meantime can make any necessary advances to the abbess. Perhaps I
may call on you again.'

The first day of the year 1795 had just dawned, and there was a thick
and chilling fog. The abbess and her faithful servant felt this day
more than usually depressed, for fifteen months had now elapsed since
the 1500 francs had been received for the ruby, and there now remained
provision only for a few days longer. 'I have got no answer from M.
Simon,' said the abbess; and in giving utterance to her own thought,
she was replying to what was at that moment passing through Margaret's
mind. 'I fear he has not been able to get more for the ruby than he
thinks fair interest for the money he advanced to me.'

'It is most likely,' said Margaret; and both relapsed into their
former desponding silence.

'What a dreary New-Year's Day!' resumed Madame de Vatteville, in a
melancholy tone.

'Oh, why can I not help you, dear mistress?' exclaimed Margaret,
suddenly starting from her reverie. 'Cheerfully would I lay down my
life for you!'

'And why can I not return in any way your devoted attachment, my poor

At this instant, two loud and hurried knocks at the door startled them
both from their seats, and it was with a trembling hand Margaret
opened it to admit the old porter, and a servant with a letter in his

'Thank you, thank you, M. Thiebaut: this letter is for my mistress.'
But the inquisitive old man either did not or would not understand
Margaret's hint to him to retire, and Madame de Vatteville was obliged
to tell him to leave the room.

'Not a penny to bless herself with, though she has come to a better
apartment!' muttered he, enraged at the disappointment to his
curiosity--'and yet as proud as an aristocrat!'

The abbess approached the casement, broke the seal with trembling
hand, and read as follows:--

     'I have at length been able to treat with a merchant for the
     article in question, and have, after much difficulty,
     obtained a sum of 25,000 francs--far beyond anything I could
     have hoped. But the sum is to be paid in instalments, at
     long intervals. It may therefore be more convenient for you,
     under your peculiar circumstances, to accept the offer I now
     make of a pension of 1500 francs, to revert after your
     decease to the servant whom you mentioned as so devotedly
     attached to you. If you are willing to accept this offer,
     the bearer will hand you the necessary documents, by which
     you are to make over to me all further claim upon the
     property placed in my hands; and on your affixing your
     signature, he will pay you the first year in advance.


'What a worthy, excellent man!' joyfully exclaimed the abbess; for, in
the noble integrity of her heart, she had no suspicion that he could
take advantage of her circumstances.

However Simon settled the matter with his conscience, the abbess,
trained in the school of adversity to be content with being preserved
from absolute want, passed the remainder of her life quietly and
happily with her good Margaret, both every day invoking blessings on
the head of him whom they regarded as a generous benefactor. Madame de
Vatteville lived to the age of one hundred, and her faithful Margaret
survived only a few months the mistress to whom she had given such
affecting proofs of attachment.

But Simon's detestable fraud proved of no use to him. After keeping
his treasure for several years, he thought the Emperor's coronation
presented a favourable opportunity for disposing of it. Unfortunately
for him, his grasping avarice one morning suggested a thought which
his ignorance prevented his rejecting: 'Since this ruby--old-fashioned
and stained as it is--can be worth so much, what would be its value if
freed from all defect, and in modern setting?' And he soon found a
lapidary, who, for a sum of 3000 francs, modernised it, and effaced
the spot, and with it the impress, the stamp of its antiquity--all
that gave it value, beauty, worth! This wanting, no jeweller could
recognise it: it was no longer worth a thousand crowns.

It was thus that the most splendid ruby in Europe lost its value and
its fame; and its name is now only to be found in _The Lapidaries'
Guide_, as that which had once been the most costly of gems. It seemed
as if it could not survive the last of the illustrious house to which
it owed its introduction into Europe, and its name.


    'There is delight in singing, though none hear
    Beside the singer: and there is delight
    In praising, though the praiser sit alone,
    And see the praised far off him, far above.'
                                        --W.S. LANDOR.

It has been said, with more of truth than flattery, that literature of
any kind which requires the reader himself to think, in order to
enjoy, can never be popular. The writings of Mr Henry Taylor are to be
classed in this category. The reader of his dramas must study in order
to relish them; and their audience, therefore, must be of the fit,
though few kind. Goethe somewhere remarks, that it is not what we take
from a book so much as what we bring to it that actually profits us.
But this is hard doctrine, caviare to the multitude. And so long as
popular indolence and popular distaste for habits of reflection shall
continue the order of the day, so long will it be difficult for
writers of Mr Taylor's type to popularise their meditations; to see
themselves quoted in every provincial newspaper and twelfth-rate
magazine; to be gloriously pirated by eager hordes at Brussels and New
York; or to create a furor in 'the Row' on the day of publication, and
turn bibliopolic premises into 'overflowing houses.' The public asks
for glaring effects, palpable hits, double-dyed colours, treble X
inspirations, concentrated essence of sentiments, and emotions up to
French-romance pitch. With such a public, what has our author in
common? While _they_ make literary demands after their own heart, and
expect every candidate for their _not_ evergreen laurels to conform to
their rules, Mr Taylor calmly unfolds his theory, that it is from
'deep self-possession, an intense repose' that all genuine emanations
of poetic genius proceed, and expresses his doubt whether any high
endeavour of poetic art ever has been or ever will be promoted by the
stimulation of popular applause.[2] He denies that youth is the poet's
prime. He contends that what constitutes a great poet is a rare and
peculiar balance of all the faculties--the balance of reason with
imagination, passion with self-possession, abundance with reserve, and
inventive conception with executive ability. He insists that no man is
worthy of the name of a poet who would not rather be read a hundred
times by one reader than once by a hundred. He affirms that poetry,
unless written simply to please and pamper, and not to elevate or
instruct, will do little indeed towards procuring its writer a
subsistence, and that it will probably not even yield him such a
return as would suffice to support a labouring man for one month out
of the twelve.[3] Tenets like these are not for the million. The
propounder they regard as talking at them, not to them. His principles
and practice, his canons of taste, and his literary achievements, are
far above out of their sight--his merit they are content to take on
trust, by the hearing of the ear, a mystery of faith alone.

Perhaps men shrewder than good Sir Roger de Coverley might aver that
much is to be said on both sides--that there may be something of
fallacy on the part of poet as well as people in this controversy. It
is possible to set the standard too high as well as too low--to plant
it on an elevation so distant that its symbol can no longer be
deciphered, as well as to fix it so low that its folds draggle in mire
and dust. If genius systematically appeal only to the initiated few,
it must learn to do without the homage of the outer multitude. For
its slender income of fame, it has mainly itself to thank. These
remarks apply with primary force to that class of contemporary poets
who delight in the mystic and enigmatical, and whose ideas are so apt
to vanish, like Homer's heroes, in a cloud--among whom Robert Browning
and Philip J. Bailey are conspicuous names; and in a secondary degree
to that other class, lucid indeed in thought, and classically definite
in expression, but otherwise too scholastic and abstract for popular
sympathies--among whom we may cite Walter Savage Landor and Henry
Taylor. Coleridge[4] tells us that, to enjoy poetry, we must combine a
more than ordinary sympathy with the objects, emotions, or incidents
contemplated by the poet, consequent on rare sensibility, with a more
than ordinary activity of the mind in respect of the fancy and
imagination. This more than ordinary mental activity is especially
demanded from the readers--say rather the students--of _Philip van
Artevelde_ and its kindred dramas. Those who are thus equipped will
commonly be found to agree in admiring the writings of this author;
among them he is unquestionably 'popular,' if it be any test of
popularity to send forth a second edition three months after the
first. Scholarship can appreciate, pure intellect can find nutriment
in, his reflective and carefully-wrought pages. His heroes and
heroines, cold and unimpassioned to the man of society, are classic
and genial to the man of thought. A Quarterly Reviewer observes, that
the blended dignity of thought, and a sedate moral habit, invests his
poetry with a stateliness in which the drama is generally deficient,
and makes his writings illustrate, in some degree, a new form of the
art. In all that he writes he stands revealed the true English
gentleman, 'that grand old name,' as Tennyson calls it,

    Defamed by every charlatan,
    And soiled with all ignoble use.'

_Isaac Comnenus_--in which a recent critic discovers much of that
Byronian vein upon which Mr Taylor is severe in his own
criticisms--being little remarkable in itself, as well as the least
remarkable of his dramatic performances, need not detain us. The
career of _Philip van Artevelde_ belongs to an era when, as Sir James
Stephen remarks, the whole of Europe, under the influence of some
strange sympathy, was agitated by the simultaneous discontents of all
her great civic populations--when the insurgent spirit, commencing in
the Italian republics, had spread from the south to the north of the
Alps, everywhere marking its advance by tumult, spoil, and bloodshed.
'Wat Tyler and his bands had menaced London; and the communes of
Flanders, under the command of Philip van Artevelde, had broken out
into open war with the counts, their seigneurs, and with their
suzerain lord, the Duke of Burgundy. On the issue of that attempt the
fate of the royal and baronial power seemed to hang in France, not
less than in Flanders.'[5] The drama composed by Mr Taylor to
represent the fortunes of the 'Chief Captain of the White Hoods and of
Ghent,' consists of two plays and an interlude--_The Lay of
Elena_--and being, as he says in his preface, equal in length to about
six such plays as are adapted to the stage, was not, of course,
intended to solicit the most sweet voices of pit and gallery,
although it has since been subjected to that ordeal at the instance of
Mr Macready. Historic truth is said to be preserved in it, as far as
the material events are concerned--with the usual exception of such
occasional dilatations and compressions of time as are required in
dramatic composition. And notwithstanding the limited imagination and
the too artificial passion which characterise it, _Philip van
Artevelde_ is in very many respects a noble work, as it certainly is
its author's chef-d'oeuvre. It has been pronounced by no mean
authority the superior of every dramatic composition of modern times,
including the _Sardanapalus_ of Lord Byron, the _Remorse_ of
Coleridge, and the _Cenci_ of Shelley. The portraiture of Philip is
one of those elaborate and highly-finished studies which repay as well
as require minute investigation. He is at once profoundly meditative
and surpassingly active. His energy of brain is only rivalled by his
readiness of hand. In him the active mood and the passive--the
practical and the ideal--the objective and the subjective--are not as
parallel lines that never meet, but are sections of one line,
describing the circle of his all-embracing mind. His youth has been,
that of a dreamy recluse, the scorn of men of the world. 'Oh, fear him
not, my lord,' says one of them to the Earl of Flanders:

                       --'His father's name
    Is all that from his father[6] he derives.
    He is a man of singular address
    In catching river fish. His life hath been
    Till now, more like a peasant's or a monk's,
    Than like the issue of so great a man.'

Similarly the earl himself describes him as 'a man that as much
knowledge has of war as I of brewing mead--a bookish nursling of the
monks--a meacock.' But when the last scene of all has closed his
strange eventful history, the testimony of a nobler, wiser foe,[7]
ascribes to him great gifts of courage, discretion, wit, an equal
temper, an ample soul, rock-bound and fortified against assaults of
transitory passion, but founded on a surging subterranean fire that
stirs him to lofty enterprise--a man prompt, capable, and calm,
wanting nothing in soldiership except good-fortune. Ever tempted to
reverie, he yet refuses, even for one little hour, to yield up the
weal of Flanders to idle thought or vacant retrospect. Having once put
his hand to the plough of action, with clear foresight, not blindfold
bravery, his language is--'Though I indulge no more the dream of
living, as I hoped I might have lived, a life of temperate and
thoughtful joy, yet I repine not, and from this time forth will cast
no look behind.' The first part of the drama leaves him an exultant
victor, an honourable prosperous, and happy man. The second
part--which alike in interest and treatment is very inferior to the
first--finds him falling, and leaves him 'fallen, fallen, fallen, from
his high estate.' His sun, no longer trailing clouds of glory, sets in
a wintry and misty gloom. And yet in the act of dying he emits flashes
of the ancient brightness, and we feel that so dies a hero. The other
_dramatis personæ_ pale their ineffectual fires before his central

After a silence of nearly ten years--characteristic of Mr Taylor's
deliberative and disciplined mind--he produced (1842) _Edwin the
Fair_, of whose story the little that was known, he observes, was
romantic enough to have impressed itself on the popular memory--the
tale of _Edwy and Elgiva_ having been current in the nursery long
before it came to be studied as a historical question. In illustrating
this tale he borrows from the bordering reigns 'incidents which were
characteristic of the times,' though some are of opinion, that his
deviation from historical truth has rather impaired than aided the
poetical effect of the drama. With artistic skill, and often with
sustained energy, he develops the career of the 'All-Fair' prince, and
his relation to the monkish struggle of the tenth century; the hostile
intrigues and stormy violence of Dunstan; the loyal tenacity and Saxon
frank-heartedness of Earl Leolf and his allies; the celebrated
coronation-scene, and 'most admired disorder' of the banquet; the
discovery and denunciation of Edwin's secret nuptials; his
imprisonment in the Tower of London; the confusion and dispersion of
his adherents; the ecclesiastical finesse and conjuror-tricks of
Dunstan; the king's rescue and temporary success; the murder of
Elgiva, and Edwin's own death in the essay to avenge her. It is around
Dunstan, the representative of spiritual despotism, that the interest
centres. The character of this 'Saint,' like that of Hildebrand and à
Becket, has been made one of the problems of history. Mr Taylor's
reading of the part is masterly, and we think correct. His Dunstan is
not wholly sane; he believes himself inspired to read the alphabet of
Heaven's stars, and to behold visions beyond the bounds of human
foresight; one of the few to whom, 'and not in mercy, is it given to
read the mixed celestial cypher: not in mercy, save as a penance
merciful in issue.' His mischievous influence over the popular mind is
sealed by the partial and latent degree of his insanity, for 'madness
that doth least declare itself endangers most, and ever most infects
the unsound many.' His great natural powers are tainted by the one
black spot; his youth has been devoted to books, to the study of
chemistry and mechanics; his manhood to observing 'the ways of men and
policies of state' in the court of Edred; 'and were he not pushed
sometimes past the confines of his reason, he would o'ertop the
world.' Next to him in interest comes Earl Leolf, from whose lips
proceed some of the finest poetry in the play, especially that
exquisite soliloquy[8] on the sea-shore at Hastings. Athulf, the
brother of Elgiva, is another happy portrait--a man bright and jocund
as the morn, who can and will detect the springs of fruitfulness and
joy in earth's waste places, and whose bluff dislike of Dunstan is
aptly illustrated in the scene where he brings the king's commands,
and is kept waiting by the monks during Dunstan's matutinal

  _'Athulf._ But, sirs, it is in haste--in haste extreme--
  Matters of state, and hot with haste.

  _Second Monk_.                My lord,
  We will so say, but truly at this present
  He is about to scourge himself.

  _Athulf_.                     I'll wait.
  For a king's ransom would I not cut short
  So good a work! I pray you, for how long?

  _Second Monk_. For twice the _De Profundis_, sung in slow time.

  _Athulf_. Please him to make it ten times, I will wait.
  And could I be of use, this knotted trifle,
  This dog-whip here has oft been worse employed.'

In his recent play, _The Virgin Widow_ (1850), Mr Taylor declines from
the promise of his earlier efforts. The preface suggests great things;
but they are not forthcoming. There is much careful finish, much
sententious rhetoric, much elegant description; but there is little of
racy humour (the play is a 'romantic comedy'), little of poetical
freshness, little of lively flesh and blood portraiture, and more of
melodramatic expedience than dramatic construction. Neither comedy nor
melodrama is our author's _forte_.

In 1836 Mr Taylor published _The Statesman_, a book which contained
the 'views and maxims respecting the transaction of public business,'
which had been suggested to its author by twelve years' experience of
official life. He has since then allowed that it was wanting in that
general interest which might possibly have been felt in the results of
a more extensive and varied conversancy with public life.[9] In 1848
he produced _Notes from Life_, professedly a kind of supplemental
volume to the former, embodying the conclusions of an attentive
observation of life at large. The first essay investigates in detail
the right measure and manner to be adopted in getting, saving,
spending, giving, taking, lending, borrowing, and bequeathing 'money;'
and a weighty, valuable essay it is, with no lack of golden grains and
eke of diamond-dust in its composition. The thoughts are not given in
the bullion lump, but are well refined, and having passed through the
engraver's hands, they shine with the true polish, ring with the true
sound. In terse, pregnant, and somewhat oracular diction, we are here
instructed how to avoid the evils contingent upon bold commercial
enterprise--how to guard against excesses of the accumulative
instinct--how to exercise a thoroughly conscientious mode of
regulating expenditure, eschewing prodigality, that vice of a weak
nature, as avarice is of a strong one--how to be generous in giving;
'for the essence of generosity is in self-sacrifice, waste, on the
contrary, comes always by self-indulgence'--how to withstand
solicitations for loans, when the loans are to accommodate weak men in
sacrificing the future to the present. The essay on _Humility and
Independence_ is equally good, and pleasantly demonstrates the
proposition, that Humility is the true mother of Independence; and
that Pride, which is so often supposed to stand to her in that
relation, is in reality the step-mother by whom is wrought the very
destruction and ruin of Independence. False humilities are ordered
into court, and summarily convicted by this single-eyed judge, whose
cross-examination of these 'sham respectabilities' elicits many a
suggestive practical truth. There is more of philosophy and prudence
than of romance in the excursus on _Choice in Marriage_; but the
philosophy is shrewd and instructive, uttering many a homely hint of
value in its way: as where we are reminded that if marrying _for_
money is to be justified only in the case of those unhappy persons who
are fit for nothing better, it does not follow that marrying _without_
money is to be justified in others; and again, that the negotiations
and transactions connected with marriage-settlements are eminently
useful, as searching character and testing affection, before an
irrevocable step be taken; and again, that when two very young persons
are joined together in matrimony, it is as if one sweet-pea should be
put as a prop to another. The essay on _Wisdom_ is elevated and
thoughtful, like most of the essayist's papers, but somewhat too heavy
for miscellaneous readers. With his wonted clearness he distinguishes
Wisdom from understanding, talents, capacity, ability, sagacity,
sense, &c. and defines it as that exercise of the reason into which
the heart enters--a structure of the understanding rising out of the
moral and spiritual nature. Then follows a section on _Children_,
which explodes not a few educational fallacies, and propounds certain
articles of faith and practice wholesome for these times, though it
will probably wear a prim and quakerish aspect to the admirers of Jean
Paul's famous tractate[10] on the same theme. The concluding paper in
this series, entitled _The Life Poetic_, is the liveliest, if not the
most valuable of the six: it has, however, been charged, with
considerable show of justice, with a tendency to strip genius of all
that is individual and spontaneous, or to accredit it only 'when it
moves abroad sedately, clad in the uniform of a peculiar college.' Mr
Taylor's 'solicitous and premeditated formalism' of poetical doctrine
is, it must be confessed, a little too strait-laced. The true poet is
born, not made. Still, in their place, our author's dogmas have their
use, and might, if duly marked and inwardly digested, annually deter
many aspirants who are _not_ poets from proving so incontestably to
the careless public that negative fact.

_Notes from Books_ followed within a few months, but met with a less
cordial reception. Of the four essays comprised in this volume, three
are reprinted contributions to the _Quarterly Review_, being
criticisms on the poetry of Wordsworth and Aubrey de Vere; and
worthily do they illustrate--those on Wordsworth at least--Mr Taylor's
composite faculty of depth and delicacy in poetical exposition. Of
Wordsworth's many and gifted commentators--among them Wilson,
Coleridge, Hazlitt, De Quincey, Lamb, Moir, Sterling--few have shewn a
happier insight into the idiosyncrasy, or done more justice to the
beauties of the patriarch of the Lakes. With Wordsworth for a subject,
and the _Quarterly Review_ for a 'door of utterance,' Mr Taylor is
quite in his element. The fourth essay, on the _Ways of the Rich and
Great_, is enriched with wise saws and modern instances. Its
_matériel_ is composed of ripe observation and reflective good sense;
but the manner is objected to as marred by conceits of style--a sin
not very safely to be committed by so stern a censor of it in others.
His authoritative air in laying down the law is also occasionally
unpleasing to some readers; and great as his tact in essay-writing is,
he wants that easy grace and pervading _bonhomie_ which imparts such a
charm to the works of one with whom he has been erroneously
identified--the anonymous author of _Friends in Council_. But, after
all, he is one of those writers to whom our current literature is
really indebted, and whose sage, sententious, and well-hammered
thoughts may be profitably, as well as safely, commended to every
thinking soul among us.

       *       *       *       *       *


[2] _Notes from Life._

[3] Ibid.

[4] _Literary Remains._

[5] _Lectures on the History of France._

[6] Namely, Jacques van Artevelde, 'the noblest and the wisest man
that ever ruled in Ghent,' and whom the factious citizens slew at his
own door.

[7] Duke of Burgundy, in the last scene of Part II.

[8] Beginning:--

    'Rocks that beheld my boyhood! Perilous shelf
    That nursed my infant courage! Once again
    I, stand before you--not as in other days
    In your gray faces smiling; but like you
    The worse for weather.'...

How sweet the lines:--

    The sun shall soon
    Dip westerly; but oh! how little like
    Are life's two twilights! Would the last were first,
    And the first last! that so we might he soothed
    Upon the thoroughfares of busy life
    Beneath the noon-day sun, with hope of joy
    Fresh as the morn,' &c.
                                        --_Act II. scene ii._

[9] Preface to _Notes from Life._

[10] _Levana_, of which an able translation was published by Messrs
Longman in 1848.


The opening in September last of the grand railway which unites
Massachusetts with British North America is one of the most noticeable
events of our times. Before this, the commercial path of transit from
Europe lay from the Atlantic up the St Lawrence, the navigation of
which--at all times difficult and dangerous--is closed by ice during
five months of the year, and thus all intercourse through the States,
except by sleighs, stopped. Now, goods may be brought direct to Boston
and shipped to Europe, or unshipped at Boston for the Canadas without
interruption. But in a moral and social point of view, the subject is
still more important. Rivalry and bad feeling vanish before
intercourse, and the locomotive mows down prejudices faster than corn
falls before the Yankee reaping-machine.

When I heard that there was to be a _procession_, the word vulgarised
the whole affair. It conjured up before my mind's eye our doings of
the sort in England, with the Lord Mayor's Show at the head of them;
and I concluded that the Yankee attempt would be still more trashy.
Let us see how it turned out. I send you a newspaper for the details;
but _here_ you must be a spectator, with the whole picture dashing,
mass by mass, upon your sensorium.

As the first requisite for enjoyment, it was a glorious day even for
this climate. Nothing shews off a pageant like fine weather. I left
home shortly after daybreak, and went to the Common, as it is
called--a Park about as large as St James's, handsomely laid out, with
long alleys, some parallel, others crossing at various angles, and all
shaded by fine trees. The scene presented by this Park reminded me of
Camacho's wedding in _Don Quixote_, on a large scale. There stood the
tent for the banquet, constructed to dine 3000 persons, and decorated
with the flags of America and England streaming from the top, with the
flags of other nations below. Close by, were large tents for the
preparation of viands, surrounded with all the paraphernalia of a
feast. In various places, booths had been erected by the city, for the
gratuitous supply of all comers with pure iced water, and these were
thronged throughout the day, especially with children. The pedestrian
portion of the procession assembled in the Park, while the vehicles
crowded all the adjacent streets. And now might be observed the
various societies, with their bands of music; volunteer companies
marching here and there, getting into step, arranging their order and
practising their tunes. I was chatting with a raw Vermonter, who was
as much a stranger as myself. 'In the name of creation,' he suddenly
exclaimed, 'what tarnal screeching is that yonder?' 'That,' I said,
'is the bagpipes, the national music of Scotland.' 'That?' said he:
'it would clear a State of racoons in no time!' But the Scots had
determined to shine, and they advanced: a tall Highlander first, in
full costume, and blowing the pipes at his loudest; after him ten
others, in full Highland costume, with a banner--the Scottish Friends;
and about 200 with silk sashes, and walking three abreast. The
Catholic Irishmen followed, with a banner displaying a portrait of the
Pope and other Catholic emblems; and directly after came the
Protestant Irishmen, with their banners and music. Why will they not
associate thus in their own land? A very interesting portion of the
assembling was a party of about a thousand fine-looking, hardy men,
all remarkably clean, dressed in labourers' costume--blue blouses and
white trousers--headed by a band of music playing Irish popular tunes,
with a large banner of the stars and stripes, and the word 'Liberty,'
with the inscription--'The Irish Labourers. Under this we find
Protection for our Labour.'

The Park is an irregular square. On the north side, on the highest
point of the city, stands the State-House, where the legislature
meets. Near that is the house which was formerly inhabited by the
governor, at the time the British flag waved where there now fly,
glancing in the sun, the stars and stripes. As the president was
expected at the State-House, and the procession was to start from
thence, that was the point of attraction, where the spectators formed
into a vast, dense, and steady mass. We English are in the habit of
seeing the paraphernalia of courts, and are slow to disconnect the
ideas of pomp and state from the persons of those who hold power and
distinction; but the chief of this great nation, together with the
secretary of state, had arrived in town by railway in an ordinary
carriage, without the least parade, and the corporation had hired for
the occasion an open carriage-and-four--such an equipage as would have
passed quite unnoticed in an English provincial town. Let me here
observe, that by an ordinary carriage I mean a carriage open to all;
for in America there are no locomotive distinctions of 1st, 2d, and 3d
classes. I never saw expectation more on tiptoe. A rattle round the
corner was heard; then the noise of the wheels ceased, and then the
president--a tall, gentlemanly-looking, elderly man--was ascending the
steps of the State-House; and as soon as his gray locks were seen by
the immense multitude, such a shout arose as only Anglo-Saxon lungs
can raise and prolong. The president turned round on the landing of
the steps, took off his hat, bowed, and entered the hall. I have seen
many ceremonies, regal and imperial, which passed off very much like a
scene at a theatre; but I felt the sublime simplicity of this. There
is no road to distinction here but talent; and as the fine old man
stood on the steps bowing, with Mr Webster, Secretary of State, by his
side, they looked the very embodiment of intellect, and the manly,
overpowering shout of the crowd the recognition of it. The
multitudinous voices died away in the distance with a peculiar effect.
No firing of guns. While on this part of the subject, I may mention my
strong impression, that in no place is the government so much
respected as in America. The public press may ridicule and joke upon
certain acts of individuals; but whatever side is taken, there is
nothing that can bring the laws, or those who administer them, into
disrespect. This produces order to an extent unknown elsewhere. No one
seems to question the law or the commands of its officers excepting
Europeans, who bring their turbulent habits with them.

Leaving this imposing scene, I turned to the route of the procession,
which had been advertised to pass through certain streets. In some
degree to account for the masses of human beings that filled them, the
three railways had kept pouring people in for three days, and the
trains, immediately on arrival, turned back to fetch the thousands
they had left waiting at the stations. It was said that there never
was such a gathering in one place since the independence of the
States. The arrangements of the pageant were made by the committee of
the city; but the audience, or public, arranged themselves, and never
was there anything better done. Along the whole line of streets, about
three miles in length, the goods had been removed from the
shop-windows, and their places filled with ladies. Every window that
commanded a view was appropriated to females and children, who were
likewise in many cases on the tops of the houses. Men occupied the
pavement to the kerbstone. The roadway was kept by deputy-marshals,
who rode up and down, in black dress suits, cocked, open hats, and
white sashes; and in this vast assemblage their every request was
immediately attended to. At the end of every street, carriages of all
descriptions were placed, filled with people. As an instance of the
courtesy of the spectators, my wife had handed our Little Red
Ridinghood to some gentleman on the top of an omnibus, who very kindly
held her up to see the show, and took charge of her while Mrs W----
found her way to the window where her place had been kept. If anything
could mark the kindly disposition and good order of the crowd, it was
the fact, that although I should think all the children in the city
were there, not one was hurt, but everybody exerted himself to
accommodate this interesting portion of the community. Across the
streets, and at all available points, the stars and stripes waved
proudly in the air, and altogether the scene was most beautiful and
imposing. I walked the whole length of the route before the procession
moved, and the _coup d'oeil_ was perfect. The military portion looked
remarkably well; but when the open carriage appeared in which rode
Lord Elgin and his friends, the representative of Great Britain was
greeted with such shouts and by such waving of handkerchiefs from the
windows by crowds of elegantly dressed females, as I am sure his
lordship can never forget. On his part, Lord Elgin continued bowing in
acknowledgment, almost without intermission, for two hours and twenty
minutes--the time occupied in passing.

Nearly equal to this was the enthusiasm elicited by the appearance of
an open carriage, drawn by four grays, and containing only two men,
wellnigh ninety years of age, then the sole survivors, in the State of
Massachusetts, of those who fought in the War of Independence. It is
the custom to shew honour to the survivors of that event on all public
occasions. On the 4th of July last, the last public gathering, there
were four in the carriage: two are gone. Before the carriage, was
carried the banner of Washington, used in the struggle. When these old
men raised their withered hands to remove their hats, in reply to the
welcome of the crowd, they appeared like spirits of the past. In all
probability, they will not appear in public again; but the fruits of
their courage will live for ever. The appropriateness and beauty of
the arrangement of details were remarkable in the representation of
the particular trades. The most imposing objects were the two new
locomotives, shining brilliantly in their might of brass and steel,
and richly painted; and as they loomed in sight, turning the bends of
the streets, they were truly magnificent and appropriate objects. Each
was raised upon a car, so that, on the whole, it was thirty feet high;
it was drawn by eighteen iron-gray horses, all in line, decorated with
blue ribbons, and handsomely caparisoned; each horse being led by a
workman, in clean, new, working costume. The next was a procession on
foot. Eight negroes, in Eastern costume, walked as guards round a
platform, carried palanquin-fashion by four negroes, with 5000 ounces
of manufactured silver-plate, built up in a pyramid, and forming a
splendid object, fully equal in workmanship to anything of the kind I
have seen. A very interesting part of the pageant was the children of
the different schools, in four-wheeled cars, covered with drapery, and
decorated with flowers and plants; and it was really pleasing to see
the happy little creatures enjoying such a holiday as they would never
forget. It is impossible to give a third of the details of this unique
procession; but I cannot omit to notice the last feature--the
labourers on their truck-horses. These were the carmen of the town.
Their clean, healthy, happy faces, with their glossy horses, decorated
with ribbons, made me regard them as the best and proudest cavalry a
nation could have. These are all men who, a very short time since,
landed from the Old World--fugitives from misery and starvation.

I had a ticket offered me for the banquet, but I preferred being
outside among the people. I have had enough of dinner-speeches in my
time, although this occasion was one of peculiar interest. The Park
continued to be crowded to excess; and as the company arrived, they
were greeted by the people and the bands of music stationed here and
there. But what sound is that? They are drinking toasts within; and
one is now given which stirs the vast multitude like an electrical
shock. I cannot hear at first, the roar is so deafening: but presently
I am able to analyse the sounds that have caused the commotion; and I
confess it is with a beating heart, and a sort of choking sensation in
the throat, I hear every lip repeat--'The Queen of England!' and every
band in the Park take up from the music in the tent our own national
strain, till the whole atmosphere vibrates with _God save the Queen!_
The effect was magical, and I felt gratified beyond measure--not alone
at the compliment to our country, but as evidence that the
Anglo-Saxons are still one great community, and that the proceedings
of that day would rivet between the two countries the bond of common
blood. The day closed as happily as it had begun, and the streets were
crowded up to a late hour. I was in all the thickest of the press, and
I know that there was not a single accident, nor did I see or hear of
any instance of drunkenness or disorder. All was harmony and

I would mention, as a strong proof of the growing interest felt for
the old country here, in New England especially, that almost every
family is desirous of being known to be connected with it. They have
all English names; and a numerous society have employed a gentleman of
skill in such matters for the last ten years in England in tracing out
the English branches of the different families, in the State, so as to
have the genealogy complete. This has become a passion; and I have
found every person I met who could trace his descent from the
mother-country proud of it. I fell in, the other day, with a highly
intelligent American, who told me with quite a feeling of pride, that
his grandfather and grandmother were English, and his wife's father a


_January 1852._

Notwithstanding our busy and acquisitive propensities, we of the
metropolis have found time to wish one another a happy new-year, and
to send friendly greetings to our country cousins also. We don't like
to take the step from one year into another without a _coup d'amitié_.
Besides all which, we are in the habit of considering ourselves at the
present season more than ever entitled to partake of the recreations
offered us, whether theatrical, musical, pictorial, saltatorial,
philosophical, or scientific. And so, while simple-minded people are
looking into the new almanacs to test the accuracy of the predictions,
I must try to fill a page or two with such matters of talk as will
bear reproduction in print.

First of all, among the discussions and communications at the
Astronomical Society, it is stated that the term 'meteoric astronomy'
is one which we shall shortly be able to use with almost absolute
certainty, as M. Petit of Toulouse has succeeded in determining the
orbits of meteors relatively to the sun as well as to the earth. His
conclusions are considered valuable, especially with respect to the
meteor of August 19, 1847, which, it appears, came 'from the regions
of space beyond our system;' having, as is estimated, occupied more
than 373,000 years in passing from its point of departure to its fall
in the North Sea, near the shores of Belgium! This is another addition
to our knowledge of meteoric phenomena which affords promise of
further results. Certain members of the same society are still at work
on what has been a tedious task--the restoration of the standard yard,
rendered necessary, as you will remember, by the destruction of the
original in the Parliament-House conflagration, more than ten years
ago. The work proceeds slowly but surely, as the extremest pains are
taken to insure accuracy, the measurements, bisections, and
graduations being read off with a microscope. When finished, it will
be centuplicated or more, if necessary, and, as is said, a copy
deposited in every corporate town in the kingdom. This restoration of
the standard is not so easy a task as would be commonly supposed, for
apart from the determination of the yard with mathematical accuracy,
alternations of heat and cold have to be taken into account; for, as
is well known, a strip of metal which measures thirty-six inches long
in a temperature of 70 degrees, will not measure the same in 50
degrees. Connected with this subject, it was stated at one of the
meetings of the society, that the ancient Saxon yard was nearly
identical with the modern French _mètre_; whence a suggestion of 'the
possibility of the Saxon yard being actually derived from a former
measure of the earth, made at a period beyond the range of history,
the results of which have been preserved during many centuries of
barbarism.' Be this as it may, we are now given to understand that the
Egyptian Pyramids, whether originally erected for purposes of
sepulture or not, are, at the same time, definite portions of a degree
of the earth's surface in the meridian of Egypt; and it has been
proposed, as these mighty structures are far more durable even now
than anything which we could build in England, that when our standard
shall be re-established, the length shall be cut on the side of one of
the pyramids, together with such explanatory particulars as may he
necessary, so as to preserve the record for all coming time. Modern
science thus availing itself of the labours of the past, would be a
remarkable incident in the history of philosophy.

The appearance of extraordinary spots on the sun has attracted a more
than ordinary degree of attention to that luminary, and to Mr J.
Nasmyth's 'views respecting the source of light,' which, though
published a few months since, are now again talked about. Mr Nasmyth,
after several years' observation, comes to the conclusion, 'that
whatever be the source of light, its production appears to result from
an action induced on the _exterior surface_ of the solar sphere;' and
he believes it reasonable to 'consider the true source of the latent
element of light to reside, _not in the solar orb_, but in space
itself; and that the grand function and duty of the sun is to act as
an agent for the bringing forth into vivid existence its due portion
of the illuminating or luciferous element; which element he supposes
to be diffused throughout the boundless regions of space, and which in
that case must be perfectly exhaustless. Further, assuming this
luciferous element to be not equally diffused through space, we find a
reason why in some ages of the earth's history the heat should have
been greater than at others, why stars have been seen to vary in
brightness, and why there was that puzzle to geologists--a glacial
period. During that period, according to Mr Nasmyth, with whose words
I finish this part of my communication, 'an arctic climate spread from
the poles towards the equator, and left the record of such a condition
in glacial handwriting on the mountain walls of our elder mountain
ravines, of which there is such abundant and unquestionable evidence.'

Our Microscopical Society have made a discovery in an all but
invisible subject: they now state the _Volvox globator_ to be a
vegetable, and not, as has long been supposed, an animal, as its
cells, presumed to be ova, are produced in the same way as in certain
kinds of _algæ_. In the discussion excited by this announcement, it
came out that several other minute forms, classed by Ehrenberg among
living animalcules, are in reality vegetable; which, if true, shews
that a good deal of microscopical work will have to be done over
again. The Syro-Egyptian Society, too, have heard something relating
to the same subject--a paper on Ehrenberg's examination by the
microscope of the anciently deposited alluvium of the Nile, from which
it appears that 'microscopic animals' in countless numbers were the
cause of the remarkable fertility of the soil, and not vegetable or
unctuous matters. Talking of deposits reminds me of a little fact
which I must not forget to mention--the finding of a fossil reptile in
the 'Old Red' of your county of Moray is, barring the alarm, as much a
cause of astonishment to our geologists, as was the mark of the foot
on the sand to Robinson Crusoe.

Now for a few gatherings from the continent. M. Chalambel has laid
before the Académie at Paris a 'Note on a Modification to be
introduced in the Preparation of Butter, which improves its Quality
and prolongs its Preservation.' 'If butter,' he observes, 'contained
only the fat parts of milk, it would undergo only very slow
alterations when in contact with the air; but it retains a certain
quantity of _caseum_, found in the cream, which caseum, by its
fermentation, produces butyric-acid, and to which is owing the
disagreeable flavour of rancid butter. The usual washing of butter
rids it but very imperfectly of this cause of alteration, for the
water does not wet the butter, and cannot dissolve the caseum, which
has become insoluble under the influence of the acids that develop
themselves in the cream. A more complete separation would be obtained
if these acids were saturated; the caseum would again be soluble, and
consequently the quantity retained in the butter would be almost
entirely carried away by the washing-water.'

The remedy proposed is: 'When the cream is in the churn, pour in--a
little at a time, and keep stirring--enough of lime-wash to destroy
the acidity entirely. The cream is then to be churned until the butter
separates; but before it forms into lumps, the buttermilk is to be
poured off, and replaced by cold water, in which the churning is to be
continued until the butter is complete, when it is to be taken from
the churn and treated as usual. I have,' says M. Chalambel, 'by
following this method, obtained butter always better, and which kept
longer, than when made in the ordinary way. The buttermilk, deprived
of its sharp taste, was drunk with pleasure by men and animals, and
had lost its laxative properties.' By means of lime-wash or
lime-water, he has restored butter so 'far gone' that it could only
have been recovered by melting; but any alkaline lixivium will answer
the same purpose.

I have more than once kept you informed of the inquiry concerning the
effects of iodine on the human system, which has so long engaged the
attention of several eminent chemists on the continent; and now have
to report something further by M. Fourcault, whose communication
thereupon to the Académie is entitled, 'On the Absence of Iodine in
Water and Alimentary Substances, considered as Cause of Goître and
Crétinism, and on the Means of Preventing the Development of these
Affections.' He has investigated the subject profoundly and
analytically, and concludes that 'the absence or insufficiency of
iodine in water and in alimentary substances, is to be considered as
the primitive cause, special or _sui generis_, of goître and
Crétinism;' that the existence of the diseases does not depend on the
presence more or less of sulphate of lime or magnesia in the animal
economy; that 'iodine acts in goître as iron in chlorosis--by
restoring to the system one of its essential principles;' and that
'the most powerful secondary or auxiliary causes are: a coarse and
uniform vegetable regimen; living at the bottom of deep, enclosed
valleys; in low and damp houses, into which air and light penetrate
with difficulty; the alliance of infected families among themselves;
and the want of such employment as would yield a comfortable
subsistence and proper development of the physical forces.' In
commenting on these statements, Baron Thénard observed that M.
Chatain, in the course of his able researches on iodine, had analysed
the waters of those Alpine valleys most subject to goître, and found
that mineral almost entirely wanting. And it has been proved that
sea-salt, containing a minute quantity of ioduret of potassium, acted
as a preservative from goître on all the inhabitants of a district who
made use of it. The air, too, has been examined as well as the water,
and, so far as yet ascertained, the proportion of iodine in the
atmosphere is variable, and much greater in amount in some regions
than in others. The activity prevailing in this particular branch of
inquiry is the more encouraging, as the maladies which it aims at
removing are of so peculiarly distressing a nature; and the
investigation is one likely to lead also to valuable incidental

Next, M. Abeille, chief physician to the hospital at Ajaccio, has an
interesting communication--On the employment of electricity to
counteract the accidents arising from too long inhalation of ether or
chloroform. He found that patients submitted to galvano-puncture could
not be rendered insensible by the effects of ether--the galvanism
invariably restored sensation--and taking this accidentally-discovered
fact as the basis of further research, he set to work and made a
series of experiments on living animals, and arrived at results which
in a brief summary are: that electricity, made to operate by means of
needles implanted in several parts of the body, especially in the
direction of the cerebro-spinal axis, reawakes sensibility, and
immediately puts the relaxed muscles into play. 'It constitutes,' he
adds, 'according to my experiments, the most prompt and efficacious
means--I may say the only efficacious--to restore to life any person
whose inhalation of chloroform has been prolonged beyond the time
prescribed by prudence. It is the first means to which recourse ought
to be had; and trials made in other ways appeared to me to lead to
nothing but loss of time, which in many cases would be fatal.'

M.H. Deschamps says, that there is a 'certain sign of death,' which,
if attended to, will entirely prevent risk of that much-dreaded
accident--premature interment. It is a certain green tinge which
always makes its appearance on the abdomen, even before the cadaverous
smell, and is a positive evidence that decomposition has begun. There
are some people to whom the knowledge of this fact will be a
satisfaction; but if, as is popularly supposed, bodies are not
unfrequently buried alive, how is it that we never hear of a revival
in a dissecting-room? Then, on another point of physiology, M. Payerne
states, with regard to the distress experienced by many persons in the
ascent of a high mountain, 'that the lassitude and breathlessness felt
in elevated places appear to proceed, not from an insufficiency of
oxygen, but rather from the rupture of the equilibrium between the
tension of the fluids contained in our organs and that of the ambient
air, whatever be the way in which the rupture is produced.' And, to
close these physiological matters, M. Chuart begs the Académie to
include among their premiums for rendering arts or trades less
insalubrious, one for 'different inventions designed to diminish the
frequency of accidents which take place in coal-mines from explosions
of gas.' How much such inventions are needed, recent events in our own
coal districts but too painfully demonstrate.

Our Meteorological Society may perhaps take a hint from M. Liais's
suggestion as to the 'possibility of applying photography to determine
the height of clouds, and to the observation of shooting-stars;' and
M.F. Cailliaud, director of the museum at Nantes, says something not
uninteresting to naturalists--namely, that the statements commonly
made, that all molluscous animals perforate stone by means of an acid,
is not the fact with regard to _Pholades_ and _Tarets_. He observes,
that although a workman would be amazed on hearing a proposition to
pierce calcareous stone with the shell of a _Pholas_, yet he himself
has done it, and holds the success to be a proof that the animal can
do the same. The idea of the acid might be accepted, while it was
proved that the creatures were to be found only in limestone; but now
that he has sent to the Académie specimens of gneiss and mica schist,
containing pholades, on which the acid has no effect, he conceives
that they must have entered by boring. They have also been found in
porphyry--a fact of which Brongniart said, many years ago, that nature
had concealed the explanation, and we must wait for a solution.
Whether M. Cailliaud's solution be the true one or not, is a point
that will soon be verified or disproved by geologists and naturalists,
who are never better pleased than when an inquiry, which may lead to
new views of nature, opens before them.

That the age of great books is not past, is proved by an arrival from
America--the United States' government having presented to several
public and private institutions in this country, a large, handsome
quarto, which contains, to quote the whole title, _Historical and
Statistical Information respecting the History, Condition, and
Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States, collected and
prepared under the Direction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, per Act
of Congress_. The preparation and arrangement of this work having been
intrusted to Mr Schoolcraft is a sufficient guarantee for its value.
It throws much light on the Indian tribes of North America, and
rectifies many erroneous ideas and impressions concerning them and
their origin. Perhaps you will allow me to give you, in a few words,
the author's views on this part of the subject. He considers the
ancient monuments, found in parts of the United States and in Mexico,
to have originated within five hundred years of the dispersion from
Babel; that the Indians are the Almogic branch of the Eber-ites; and
that the ancient monuments do not denote so high a degree of
civilisation as is generally supposed. It is only since the discovery
of America by Europeans that anything like certainty attaches to the
history of the natives. The Mohicans 'preserve the memory of the
appearance and voyage of Hudson, up the river bearing his name, in
1609;' and among other tribes similar traditions are retained. In the
wrong-headedness and persistence of idea, the Indians entirely
resemble the Oriental branches of the great Semitic family; and the
evidence shews that originally they crossed over from Asia at
Behring's Strait, a voyage still performed in canoes to the present
day. One of the titles of Montezuma was Lord of the Seven Caves; and
the caves in which tradition says the traverse took place, are taken
to be the caves or subterranean abodes still used by the Aleutian
islanders. This was current among the Aztecs in 1519, and the voyage
of the United States' Exploring Expedition has furnished a
philological proof of connection, in the peculiar termination of nouns
in _tl_, which is common to the inhabitants of Nootka Sound, as it was
to the Aztecs. The more the Indians are studied, the more does
everything about them appear to be Eastern--their language, religion,
calendar, architecture, &c. Their worship of fire in the open air,
avoiding the use of temples, is precisely that of Zoroaster, as is
also their leading doctrine of two spirits--good and evil--ruling the
world; and the allegory of the _egg of Ormuzd_ has been found in an
earthwork on the top of a hill in Adams's County, Ohio. 'It represents
the coil of a serpent, 700 feet long, but it is thought would reach,
if deprived of its curves, 1000 feet. The jaws of the serpent are
represented as widely distended, as if in the act of swallowing. In
the interstice is an oval or egg-shaped mound.' This repetition of a
symbol is considered as further proof of Eastern derivation.

Do not suppose, however, that this is a sample of the whole volume,
for ample details and information are given on all matters connected
with the Indians--their arts, habits, pursuits, pictorial literature
(so to speak), sports, and agriculture. Some idea of their
capabilities in husbandry may be gathered from the fact, that in
Michigan, ancient 'garden-beds' have been discovered, extending for
150 miles along the banks of rivers. Students will find a mine of
information in this book, which, though but the first of a series,
contains nearly 600 pages--a rare feast for ethnologists.

The Royal Irish Academy in Dublin have published a report of their
proceedings, which comprise reports on rain-falls, meteors, ancient
urns, and other Irish antiquities, besides Roman and Carthaginian; on
hygrometry, chiefly with regard to the pressure of the dew-point; and
on artificial islands. Of the latter, it appears that several exist in
different parts of Ireland; but the one to which attention is
particularly directed is near Strokestown, Roscommon. The lake
Clonfinlough having been drained by the Board of Works, the structure
of the islet, which had long occupied its centre, was laid bare. It
proved to be about 130 feet in diameter, constructed on oak piles,
forming a sort of 'triple stockade,' with stems laid flat towards the
centre for a floor, over which earth, clay, and marl were heaped, with
two flat irregular stone-floors covering the whole at different depths
below the surface. Two canoes were also found, each hollowed out of a
single tree, and a great collection of miscellaneous ornaments and
domestic utensils--all of which being illustrative of different
periods of Irish history, will receive due attention at the hands of
Irish antiquaries. Visitors to the Society's Museum will be gratified
to know that Mr Petrie is preparing a catalogue of that valuable and
interesting assemblage of rarities. He is to begin with the Stone
Period, and come down to the Bronze and Iron, according to their
respective dates, with dissertations prefixed. This is following the
good example set by your Scottish Society of Antiquaries.

It is a fact honourable to the society that they do not confine their
honours exclusively to contributors to their own 'Transactions.' At
their late anniversary, they gave their gold medal to the Rev. J.H.
Jellett, for his labours in treating the noblest mathematical subjects
in a way to make them intelligible to students. As the president said
in his address: 'Descending from the more desirable position of an
inventor to the humbler but more useful one of enabling others to
place themselves on a level with himself, by compiling for their use
an excellent elementary treatise, he has conferred on his species a
benefit of the highest order,' in a work which otherwise was 'as
little likely to be given to the world as it was desirable that it
should be so.'

It is time to close; but I must first clear off a few miscellaneous
items. The Admiralty Report concerning the Arctic expeditions is
canvassed pretty freely, and with significant hints that justice has
not been rendered in its conclusions. We can only hope that really
efficient commanders will be sent out with the expedition that is to
be despatched in April or May next; if not, it will be abortive, as
the others have been, and we shall never know what has become of
Franklin. It appears that the news of Collinson's ships being on their
return is unfounded. It was communicated from the United States, and
has been contradicted; and for all we know to the contrary, Collinson
and his coadjutor Maclure may come home next summer by way of Baffin's
Bay. There are now 226 telegraph stations connected with the central
establishment in Lothbury, behind the Bank of England. Of these, 70
are principal stations, at which the attendance is day and night; and
in the whole, a distance of 2500 miles is embraced, with 800 more over
which the wires are now being stretched. The charges for transmission
of messages have been lowered with a beneficial result, the business
of the telegraph having greatly increased. There must be a still
further reduction before the 'thought-flasher' becomes as generally
available here as it is in America. It is now in real earnest going to
Ireland. A ship has been despatched to fetch Cleopatra's so-called
'needle:' the Panopticon at length has found a local habitation, and
is assuming a tangible form in the shape of bricks and mortar: ocean
steamers are more than ever talked about; and every month a new one,
better than all before, is launched: gold, too, is a favourite topic;
and Australian and Californian mining-shares are plentiful in the
market; so also are those of Irish Waste-Land Improvement Companies,
who, in addition to the reclamation, propose to grow beet-root, flax,
and chicory. At last we have got one or two penny news-rooms--not so
good, however, as yours in Edinburgh; and a project is mooted to
establish reading and waiting rooms combined, in different parts of
the capital. There is talk, too, of central railway termini, of new
bridges, new streets, and of converting Kennington Common into a
park--how soon to be realised remains to be seen.


From forty to sixty, a man who has properly regulated himself, may be
considered as in the prime of life. His matured strength of
constitution renders him almost impervious to the attacks of disease,
and experience has given his judgment the soundness of almost
infallibility. His mind is resolute, firm, and equal; all his
functions are in the highest order; he assumes the mastery over
business; builds up a competence on the foundation he has formed in
early manhood, and passes through a period of life attended by many
gratifications. Having gone a year or two past sixty, he arrives at a
critical period in the road of existence; the river of death flows
before him, and he remains at a stand-still. But athwart this river
is a viaduct, called 'The turn of Life,' which, if crossed in safety,
leads to the valley, 'Old Age.' The bridge is constructed of fragile
materials, and it depends upon how it is trodden whether it bend or
break. Gout, apoplexy, and other bad characters are also in the
vicinity to waylay the traveller, and thrust him from the pass; but
let him gird up his loins, and provide himself with a fitting staff,
and he may trudge on in safety with perfect composure. To quit a
metaphor, the 'Turn of Life' is a turn either into a prolonged walk or
into the grave. The system and power having reached their utmost
expansion, now begin either to close like flowers at sunset, or break
down at once. One injudicious stimulant--a single fatal excitement,
may force it beyond its strength--whilst a careful supply of props,
and the withdrawal of all that tends to force a plant, will sustain it
in beauty and in vigour until night has entirely set.--_The Science of
Life, by a Physician_.


An Indian sword-player declared at a great public festival, that he
could cleave, vertically, a small lime laid on a man's palm without
injury to the member; and the general (Sir Charles Napier) extended
his right hand for the trial. The sword-player, awed by his rank, was
reluctant, and cut the fruit horizontally. Being urged to fulfil his
boast, he examined the palm, said it was not one to be experimented on
with safety, and refused to proceed. The general then extended his
left hand, which was admitted to be suitable in form; yet the Indian
still declined the trial; and when pressed, twice waved his thin,
keen-edged blade, as if to strike, and twice withheld the blow,
declaring he was uncertain of success. Finally, he was forced to make
trial, and the lime fell open, cleanly divided: the edge of the sword
had just marked its passage over the skin without drawing a drop of
blood!--_Sir Charles Napier's Administration in Scinde_.


In the manufacture of embroidery fine threads of silver gilt are used.
To produce these, a bar of silver, weighing 180 ounces, is gilt with
an ounce of gold; this bar is then wire-drawn until it is reduced to a
thread so fine that 3400 feet of it weigh less than an ounce. It is
then flattened by being submitted to a severe pressure between
rollers, in which process its length is increased to 4000 feet. Each
foot of the flattened wire weighs, therefore, the 4000th part of an
ounce. But as in the processes of wire-drawing and rolling the
proportion of the two metals is maintained, the gold which covers the
surface of the fine thread thus produced consists only of the 180th
part of its whole weight. Therefore the gold which covers one foot is
only the 720,000th part of an ounce, and consequently the gold which
covers an inch will be the 8,640,000th part of an ounce. If this inch
be again divided into 100 equal parts, each part will be distinctly
visible without the aid of a microscope, and yet the gold which covers
such visible part will be only the 864,000,000th part of an ounce. But
we need not stop even here. This portion of the wire may be viewed
through a microscope which magnifies 500 times; and by these means,
therefore, its 500th part will become visible.--_Lardner's Handbook_.


In the interior of Bulgaria and Upper Moesia, the low price of
provision and cattle of every description is almost fabulous compared
with the prices of Western Europe. A fat sheep or lamb usually costs
from 1s. 6d. to 2s.; an ox, 40s.; cows, 30s.; and a horse, in the best
possible travelling condition, from L.4 to L.5 sterling; wool, hides,
tallow, wax, and honey, are equally low. In the towns and hans by the
road-side everything is sold by weight: you can get a pound of meat
for a halfpenny, a pound of bread for the same, and wine, which is
also sold by weight, costs about the same money. In Servia, pigs
everywhere form the staple commodity of the country. I have seen some
that, would weigh from 150 lbs. to 200 lbs. or more offered for sale
at 300 Turkish piastres the dozen; in the neighbourhood of the Danube
they fetch a little more. The expense of keeping these animals in a
country abounding with forests being so trifling, and the prospect of
gain to the proprietor so certain, we cannot wonder that no landowner
is without them, and that they constitute the richest class in the
principality. In fact, pig-jobbers are here men of the highest rank:
the prince, his ministers, civil and military governors, are all
engaged in this lucrative traffic.--_Spencer's Travels._


    Cold--oh, deathly cold--and silent, lie the white hills 'neath
        the sky,
    Like a soul whom fate has covered with thy snows, Adversity!
    Not a sough of wind comes moaning; the same outline, high and
    As in pleasant days of summer, rises in the murky air.

    Very quiet--very silent--whether shines the mocking sun
    Through the wintry blue, or lowering drift the feathery
        snow-clouds dun:
    Always quiet, always silent, be it night or be it day,
    With that pale shroud coldly lying where the heather-blossoms lay.

    Can they be the very mountains that we looked at, you and I?
    One long wavy line of purple painted on the sunset sky;
    With the new moon's edge just touching that dark rim, like
        dancer's foot,
    Or young Dian's, on the hill-side for Endymion waiting mute.

    O how golden was that even!--O how balm the summer air!
    How the bridegroom sky bent loving o'er its earth so virgin fair!
    How the earth looked up to heaven like a bride with joy oppressed,
    In her thankfulness half-weeping that she was thus overblest!

    Ghostly mountains! 'Silence--silence!' now is aye your soundless
    Lifted in an awful patience o'er the world's uproarious noise;
    O'er its jarrings and its greetings--o'er its loving and its
    Silence! Bare thy brows all dumbly to the snows of heaven,

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completed in Four Volumes.

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Printed and Published by W. and R. CHAMBERS, High Street, Edinburgh.
Also sold by W.S. ORR, Amen Corner, London; D.N. CHAMBERS, 55 West
Nile Street, Glasgow; and J. M'GLASHAN, 50 Upper Sackville Street,
Dublin.--Advertisements for Monthly Parts are requested to be sent to
MAXWELL & Co., 31 Nicholas Lane, Lombard Street, London, to whom all
applications respecting their insertion must be made.

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