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Title: Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 428 - Volume 17, New Series, March 13, 1852
Author: Various
Language: English
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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. 428 - Volume 17, New Series, March 13, 1852" ***

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NO. 428. NEW SERIES.   SATURDAY, MARCH 13, 1852.   PRICE 1½ _d._


In one of Webster's magnificent speeches, he remarks that so vast are
the possessions of England, that her morning drum-beat, following the
sun and keeping company with the hours, circles the earth daily with one
continuous and unbroken strain of its martial airs. There is another
musical sound, within the British islands themselves, which does not as
yet quite traverse the whole horary circle, but bids fair to do so in
the course of time, and to this we would direct the attention of the
American secretary, as a fitting subject for a new peroration. We allude
to the Dinner-bell. At noon, in the rural districts of England, this
charming sound is heard tinkling melodiously from farm or village
factory; at one, in the more crowded haunts of industry, the strain is
taken up ere it dies; and by the time it reaches Scotland, a full hungry
peal swells forth at two. At three till past four there is a continuous
ring from house to house of the small country gentry; and at five this
becomes more distinct and sonorous in the towns, increasing in
importance till six. From that time till seven and half-past, it waxes
more and more fashionable in the tone, till at eight it stops abruptly:
not like an air brought to a conclusion, but like one broken off
accidentally, to be by and by resumed.

The dinner hours of the labouring-class are no doubt regulated according
to business, and perhaps receive some modification from national
character. An Englishman, for instance, is said to work best after his
meal, and accordingly his dinner makes its appearance sometimes as early
as noon, but never later than one; while a Scotchman, who is fit for
anything when half-starved, is very properly kept without solid food
till two o'clock. As for the smaller gentry, who scorn to dine at
workmen's hours, and yet do not pretend to the abnegation of the great,
they may follow their own fancy without doing any harm to others; but
the case is different as regards the hours assigned to _dinner-parties_,
for these affect the health and comfort of the whole body of the gentry

We are no enemy to dinner-parties; on the contrary, we think we have not
enough of them, and we never shall have enough, till some change takes
place in their constitution. We are a small gentleman ourselves, who
dine at the modest hour of four, and what is the use to us of a six or
seven o'clock invitation? We accept it, of course, being socially
disposed, and being, moreover, philosopher enough to see that such
meetings are good for men in society: but so far as the meal itself
goes, it is to us either useless or disagreeable. If we have dined
already, we do not want another dinner; and if we have not dined, our
appetite is lost from sheer want. It is vain to say, Let us all dine
habitually at six--seven--eight o'clock. Few of us will--few of us
can--none of us ought. Nature demands a solid meal at a much earlier
hour; and true refinement suggests that the object of the evening
reunion should not be the satisfaction of the day's hunger. Only half of
this fact is seen by the classes who give the law to fashion, and that
half consists of the grosser and coarser necessity. They have already,
more especially at their country seats, taken to the tiffin of the East,
and at a reasonable hour make a regular dinner of hot meats, and all the
usual accessories, under the name of lunch. So complete is this meal,
that the ladies, led away no doubt by association, meet some hours
afterwards in mysterious conclave, to drink what our ancestors called 'a
dish of tea;' and having thus diluted the juices of their stomachs for
the reception of another supply of heavy food, they descend to dinner!

The evening dinner is, therefore, a mere show-dinner, or something
worse. But it is still more objectionable on the score of taste than on
the score of health. We find no fault with the elegances of the table,
in plate, crystal, china, and so forth; but an English dinner is not an
elegant meal. The guests are supposed, by a _polite_ fiction, to have
the hunger of the whole day to satisfy, and provision is made
accordingly. Varieties of soup, fish, flesh, fowl, game, rich-made
dishes, load the board spread for a group of well-dressed men and women,
known to have already dined, and who would affect to shudder at so heavy
a meal, if it was termed supper. There is a grossness in this
arrangement which is strangely at variance with the real advancement of
the age in refinement; but it has likewise a paralysing effect both upon
the freedom and delicacy of social intercourse. These show-dinners are
too costly to be numerous. Even a comparatively wealthy man is compelled
to look closely to the number of his entertainments. He scrutinises the
claims of his acquaintance; he keeps a debtor and creditor account of
dinners with them; and if now and then he invites a guest for the sake
of his social qualities, he sets him down in the bill of cost. This does
away with all the finer social feelings which it should be the province
of such meetings to foster and gratify, and adds a tone of moral
vulgarity to the material vulgarity of the repast.

Is it impossible to bring about a reform in this important matter?
Difficult, not impossible. Dinner-giving is not an integral part of the
monarchy, and it might therefore be touched--if not too rudely--without
a political revolution. The grand obstacle would be the unsettled
claims. A has given B a show-dinner, and it is the duty of B to return
it. Invitation for invitation is the law of the game. How, then, stands
the account? Would it be necessary to institute a dinner-insolvency
court, where all defaulters might take the benefit of the act? We think
not. No creditor in his senses would refuse a handsome composition; and
if it could be shewn--as it might in the present case--that the
composition was in real, though not ostensible value, equivalent to the
debt, hesitation would vanish. Before proceeding to shew this, we shall
present what may be called the common-sense statement of the whole

Mankind in their natural state dine at noon, or at least in the middle
of the working-day. It is the middle meal of the day--the central of
three. In our artificial system of society, it has been postponed to a
late hour of the afternoon, so as either to become the second of two
meals, or, where lunch is taken, the third of three. The change is not
consistent with hygienic principle; for, if lunch be not taken, the
interval between breakfast and dinner is too great, and in that case
hunger tempts to make the meal too heavy for the exhausted powers of the
stomach: if, on the contrary, lunch be taken, dinner becomes an
absurdity, as in that case a meal so elaborate and heavy is not
required, and cannot healthfully be partaken of at so late an hour.
Nevertheless, in a plan of life which devotes the eight or nine hours
after breakfast either to business or to out-door amusements, it is
needless to think of reviving the old meridian dinner for any but ladies
and other stay-at-home people; nor even for them, seeing that they must
be mainly determined in their arrangements by those leading members of
the family who have to spend that part of the day away from home.

There is a need for some reform which would at once accommodate the
busy, and save the multitude from the disadvantages of heavy
six-and-seven-o'clock dinners. This might be effected by arranging for
only a supper at six or seven o'clock--that is, some lighter meal than
dinner--leaving every one to take such a lunch in the middle of the day
as he could find an opportunity of eating. Let this supper be the meal
of family reunions--the meal of society. Composed of a few light
tasteful dishes, accompanied by other indulgences, according to taste or
inclination, and followed by coffee, it would be a cheerful and not
necessarily unhealthful affair. As a meal to which to invite friends,
being cheaper, it would allow of more society being indulged in than is
compatible with the monstrous presentments of meat and drink which
constitute the modern company dinner. It would be practically a revival
of those nice supper-parties which our grandfathers indulged in after
the hours of business, and of the pleasantness of which we have such
glowing accounts.

That this is really the common-sense view of the question, can hardly be
doubted. By bringing the cost within reasonable limits, the plan
proposed relieves the entertainment from moral vulgarity; and by
avoiding all suggestion of a meeting for the gratification of mere
physical hunger, it relieves it from material vulgarity. We have laughed
too heartily at the dinner of the ancients in 'Peregrine Pickle,' to
wish to lead back the age to a classic model; and yet on all subjects
connected with taste, there are some things to be learned from that
people whose formative genius is still the wonder of the world. The meal
of society among the Greeks consisted of only two courses, or, to speak
more strictly, of one course and a dessert; and the first or solid
course was in all probability made up of small portions of each kind of
food. The more vulgar Romans added in all cases a third, but
occasionally a fourth, fifth, sixth, even a seventh course; and at the
fall of the empire, barbarian taste uniting with the _blasé_ luxury of
Rome, heaped viand upon viand, and course upon course, till the satire
of a later poet became mere common-place:--

    'Is this a dinner, this a genial room?
    No; 'tis a temple, and a hecatomb!'

This extravagance has gradually given way in the course of civilisation.
We have no more meals consisting of a score of courses; no more gilded
pigs, fish, and poultry; no more soups, each of three or four different
colours: but as yet we are only in the midst of the transition, and have
not got back even to the comparative refinement of the Greeks. At the
end of their first course, the more earthly part of the entertainment
was already over. Then the guests washed their hands; then they were
presented with perfumes and garlands of flowers; and then they drank
wine, accompanied with the singing of the pæan and the sound of flutes.
Such adjuncts, with us, would for the most part be out of place and
time; but some of them might be taken metaphorically, and others
entirely changed--such as the libation to the gods--to suit a new
religious feeling, and a new form of manners. The modern _coena_ might
thus be made to surpass that of the ancients in refinement and elegance;
and it would include, as a matter of course, some of the
amusements--varying from a song to a philosophical discussion--which
gave the charm to their symposia.

As for the symposium, we shall have nothing to do with that vexed
subject, further than just to hint--for we should be loath to exclude
from the benefit of our proposed reform a certain numerous and
respectable class of the community--that in ancient times it had no
necessary connection with the dinner at all. A little wine-and-water was
drunk during the dessert--never during the first course--and then the
meal was over. The symposium was literally a drinking-party, given, for
the sake of convenience, after the dinner-party; but so far from forming
a part of the latter, the guests were sometimes different. It was, in
fact, in this respect, like the evening company we occasionally find
assembled in the drawing-room on getting up from our show-dinners.

But such references to the customs of bygone ages are introduced merely
to shew, that among the most accomplished people of history, the social
meal was looked upon as a field for the display of taste, not of that
barbarian magnificence which consists in quantity and cost. The coena of
the moderns should far excel that of the Greeks in elegance, refinement,
and simplicity. We have all history for our teacher; we have a finer
system of morals; we have a purer and holier religion; and a
corresponding influence should be felt in our social manners. When the
object of the feast is no longer the satisfaction of mere physical
hunger, it should be something intended to minister to the appetites of
the mind. When the dinner is no longer the chief thing, some trouble
will doubtless be taken with the assortment of the company.
Simultaneously with the business of eating and drinking, we shall have
anecdote, jest, song, music, smiles, and laughter, to make us forget
the business or troubles of the day; and in the morning, instead of
arranging our debtor and creditor account of invitations, we shall throw
in the evening's gratification to strike the balance, and then make
haste to begin a new score.


Some few years ago, there resided in Long Acre an eccentric old Jew,
named Jacob Benjamin: he kept a seed shop, in which he likewise carried
on--not a common thing, we believe, in London--the sale of meal, and had
risen from the lowest dregs of poverty, by industry and self-denial,
till he grew to be an affluent tradesman. He was, indeed, a rich man;
for as he had neither wife nor child to spend his money, nor kith nor
kin to borrow it of him, he had a great deal more than he knew what to
do with. Lavish it on himself he could not, for his early habits stuck
to him, and his wants were few. He was always clean and decent in his
dress, but he had no taste for elegance or splendour in any form, nor
had even the pleasures of the table any charms for him; so that, though
he was no miser, his money kept on accumulating, whilst it occurred to
him now and then to wonder what he should do with it hereafter. One
would think he need not have wondered long, when there were so many
people suffering from the want of what he abounded in; but Mr Benjamin,
honest man, had his crotchets like other folks. In the first place, he
had less sympathy with poverty than might have been expected,
considering how poor he had once been himself; but he had a theory, just
in the main, though by no means without its exceptions--that the
indigent have generally themselves to thank for their privations.
Judging from his own experience, he believed that there was bread for
everybody that would take the trouble of earning it; and as he had had
little difficulty in resisting temptation himself, and was not
philosopher enough to allow for the varieties of human character, he had
small compassion for those who injured their prospects by yielding to
it. Then he had found, on more than one occasion, that even to the
apparently well-doing, assistance was not always serviceable. Endeavour
was relaxed, and gratuities, once received, were looked for again.
Doubtless, part of this evil result was to be sought in Mr Benjamin's
own defective mode of proceeding; but I repeat, he was no philosopher,
and in matters of this sort he did not see much farther than his nose,
which was, however, a very long one.

To public charities he sometimes subscribed liberally; but his hand was
frequently withheld by a doubt regarding the judicious expenditure of
the funds, and this doubt was especially fortified after chancing to see
one day, as he was passing the Crown and Anchor Tavern, a concourse of
gentlemen turn out, with very flushed faces, who had been dining
together for the benefit of some savages in the Southern Pacific Ocean,
accused of devouring human flesh--a practice so abhorrent to Mr
Benjamin, that he had subscribed for their conversion. But failing to
perceive the connection betwixt the dinner and that desirable
consummation, his name appeared henceforth less frequently in printed
lists, and he felt more uncertain than before as to what branch of
unknown posterity he should bequeath his fortune.

In the meantime, he kept on the even tenor of his way, standing behind
his counter, and serving his customers, assisted by a young woman called
Leah Leet, who acted as his shopwoman, and in whom, on the whole, he
felt more interest than in anybody else in the world, insomuch that it
even sometimes glanced across his mind, whether he should not make her
the heiress of all his wealth. He never, however, gave her the least
reason to expect such a thing, being himself incapable of conceiving,
that if he entertained the notion, he ought to prepare her by education
for the good-fortune that awaited her. But he neither perceived this
necessity, nor, if he had, would he have liked to lose the services of a
person he had been so long accustomed to.

At length, one day a new idea struck him. He had been reading the story
of his namesake, Benjamin, in the Old Testament, and the question
occurred to him, how many amongst his purchasers of the poorer
class--and all who came to his shop personally were of that class--would
bring back a piece of money they might find amongst their meal, and he
thought he should like to try a few of them that were his regular
customers. The experiment would amuse his mind, and the money he might
lose by it he did not care for. So he began with shillings, slipping one
in amongst the flour before he handed it to the purchaser. But the
shillings never came back--perhaps people did not think so small a sum
worth returning; so he went on to half-crowns and crowns, and now and
then, in very particular cases, he even ventured a guinea; but it was
always with the same luck, and the longer he tried, the more he
distrusted there being any honesty in the world, and the more disposed
he felt to leave all his money to Leah Leet, who had lived with him so
long, and to his belief, had never wronged him of a penny.

       *       *       *       *       *

'What's this you have put into the gruel, Mary?' said a pale,
sickly-looking man one evening, taking something out of his mouth, which
he held towards the feeble gleams emitted by a farthing rush-light
standing on the mantel-piece.

'What is it, father?' inquired a young girl, approaching him. 'Isn't the
gruel good?'

'It's good enough,' replied the man; 'but here's something in it: it's a
shilling, I believe.'

'It's a guinea, I declare!' exclaimed the girl, as she took the coin
from him and examined it nearer the light.

'A guinea!' repeated the man; 'well, that's the first bit of luck I've
had these seven years or more. It never could have come when we wanted
it worse. Shew it us here, Mary.'

'But it's not ours, father,' said Mary. 'I paid away the last shilling
we had for the meal, and here's the change.'

'God has sent it us, girl! He saw our distress, and he sent it us in His
mercy!' said the man, grasping the piece of gold with his thin, bony

'It must be Mr Benjamin's,' returned she. 'He must have dropped it into
the meal-tub that stands by the counter.'

'How do you know that?' inquired the man with an impatient tone and a
half-angry glance. 'How can you tell how it came into the gruel? Perhaps
it was lying at the bottom of the basin, or at the bottom of the
sauce-pan. Most likely it was.'

'O no, father,' said Mary: 'it is long since we had a guinea.'

'A guinea that we knew of; but I've had plenty in my time, and how do
you know this is not one we had overlooked?'

'We've wanted a guinea too much to overlook one,' answered she. 'But
never mind, father; eat your gruel, and don't think of it: your cheeks
are getting quite red with talking so, and you won't be able to sleep
when you go to bed.'

'I don't expect to sleep,' said the man peevishly; 'I never do sleep.'

'I think you will, after that nice gruel!' said Mary, throwing her arms
round his neck, and tenderly kissing his cheek.

'And a guinea in it to give it a relish too!' returned the father, with
a faint smile and an expression of archness, betokening an inner nature
very different from the exterior which sorrow and poverty had incrusted
on it.

His daughter then proposed that he should go to bed; and having assisted
him to undress, and arranged her little household matters, she retired
behind a tattered, drab-coloured curtain which shaded her own mattress,
and laid herself down to rest.

The apartment in which this little scene occurred, was on the attic
storey of a mean house, situated in one of the narrow courts or alleys
betwixt the Strand and Drury Lane. The furniture it contained was of the
poorest description; the cracked window-panes were coated with dust; and
the scanty fire in the grate, although the evening was cold enough to
make a large one desirable--all combined to testify to the poverty of
the inhabitants. It was a sorry retreat for declining years and
sickness, and a sad and cheerless home for the fresh cheek and glad
hopes of youth; and all the worse, that neither father nor daughter was
'to the manner born;' for poor John Glegg had, as he said, had plenty of
guineas in his time; at least, what should have been plenty, had they
been wisely husbanded. But John, to describe the thing as he saw it
himself, had always 'had luck against him.' It did not signify what he
undertook, his undertakings invariably turned out ill.

He was born in Scotland, and had passed a great portion of his life
there; but, unfortunately for him, he had no Scotch blood in his veins,
or he might have been blessed with some small modicum of the caution for
which that nation is said to be distinguished. His father had been a
cooper, and when quite a young man, John had succeeded to a
well-established business in Aberdeen. His principal commerce consisted
in furnishing the retail-dealers with casks, wherein to pack their dried
fish; but partly from good-nature, and partly from indolence, he allowed
them to run such long accounts, that they were apt to overlook the debt
altogether in their calculations, and to take refuge in bankruptcy when
the demand was pressed and the supply of goods withheld--his negligence
thus proving, in its results, as injurious to them as to himself. Five
hundred pounds embarked in a scheme projected by a too sanguine friend,
for establishing a local newspaper, which 'died ere it was born;' and a
fire, occurring at a time that John had omitted to renew his insurance,
had seriously damaged his resources, when some matter of business having
taken him to the Isle of Man, he was agreeably surprised to find that
his branch of trade, which had of late years been alarmingly declining
in Aberdeen, was there in the most flourishing condition. Delighted with
the prospect this state of affairs opened, and eager to quit the spot
where misfortune had so unrelentingly pursued him, John, having first
secured a house at Ramsay, returned to fetch his wife, children, and
merchandise, to this new home. Having freighted a small vessel for their
conveyance, he expected to be deposited at his own door; but he had
unhappily forgotten to ascertain the character of the captain, who,
under pretence that, if he entered the harbour, he should probably be
wind-bound for several weeks, persuaded them to go ashore in a small
boat, promising to lie to till they had landed their goods; but the boat
had no sooner returned to the ship, than, spreading his sails to the
wind, he was soon out of sight, leaving John and his family on the
beach, with--to recur to his own phraseology--'nothing but what they
stood up in.'

Having with some difficulty found shelter for the night, they proceeded
on the following morning in a boat to Ramsay; but here it was found
that, owing to some informality, the people who had possession of the
house refused to give it up, and the wanderers were obliged to take
refuge in an inn. The next thing was to pursue, and recover the lost
goods; but some weeks elapsed before an opportunity of doing so could be
found; and at length, when John did reach Liverpool, the captain had
left it, carrying away with him a considerable share of the property.
With the remainder, John, after many expenses and delays, returned to
the island, and resumed his business. But he soon discovered to his
cost, that the calculations he had made were quite fallacious, owing to
his having neglected to inquire whether the late prosperous season had
been a normal or an exceptional one. Unfortunately, it was the latter;
and several very unfavourable ones that succeeded, reduced the family to
great distress, and finally to utter ruin.

Relinquishing his shop and his goods to his creditors, John Glegg,
heart-sick and weary, sought a refuge in London--a proceeding to which
he was urged by no prudential motives, but rather by the desire to fly
as far as possible from the scenes of his vexations and disappointments,
and because he had heard that the metropolis was a place in which a man
might conceal his poverty, and suffer and starve at his ease, untroubled
by impertinent curiosity or officious benevolence; and, above all,
believing it to be the spot where he was least likely to fall in with
any of his former acquaintance.

But here a new calamity awaited him, worse than all the rest. A fever
broke out in the closely-populated neighbourhood in which they had fixed
their abode, and first two of his three children took it, and died; and
then himself and his wife--rendered meet subjects for infection by
anxiety of mind and poor living--were attacked with the disease. He
recovered; at least he survived, though with an enfeebled constitution,
but he lost his wife, a wise and patient woman, who had been his
comforter and sustainer through all his misfortunes--misfortunes which,
after vainly endeavouring to avert, she supported with heroic and
uncomplaining fortitude; but dying, she left him a precious legacy in
Mary, who, with a fine nature, and the benefit of her mother's precept
and example, had been to him ever since a treasure of filial duty and

A faint light dawned through the dirty window on the morning succeeding
the little event with which we opened our story, when Mary rose softly
from her humble couch, and stepping lightly to where her father's
clothes lay on a chair, at the foot of his bed, she put her hand into
his waistcoat-pocket, and, extracting therefrom the guinea which had
been found in the gruel the preceding evening, she transferred it to her
own. She then dressed herself, and having ascertained that her father
still slept, she quietly left the room. The hour was yet so early, and
the streets so deserted, that Mary almost trembled to find herself in
them alone; but she was anxious to do what she considered her duty
without the pain of contention. John Glegg was naturally an honest and
well-intentioned man, but the weakness that had blasted his life adhered
to him still. They were doubtless in terrible need of the guinea, and
since it was not by any means certain that the real owner would be
found, he saw no great harm in appropriating it; but Mary wasted no
casuistry on the matter. That the money was not legitimately theirs, and
that they had no right to retain it, was all she saw; and so seeing, she
acted unhesitatingly on her convictions.

She had bought the meal at Mr Benjamin's, because her father complained
of the quality of that she procured in the smaller shops, and on this
occasion he had served her himself. From the earliness of the hour,
however, though the shop was open, he was not in it when she arrived on
her errand of restitution; but addressing Leah Leet, who was dusting the
counter, she mentioned the circumstance, and tendered the guinea; which
the other took and dropped into the till, without acknowledgment or
remark. Now Mary had not restored the money with any view to praise or
reward: the thought of either had not occurred to her; but she was,
nevertheless, pained by the dry, cold, thankless manner with which the
restitution was accepted, and she felt that a little civility would not
have been out of place on such an occasion.

She was thinking of this on her way back, when she observed Mr Benjamin
on the opposite side of the street. The fact was, that he did not sleep
at the shop, but in one of the suburbs of the metropolis, and he was now
proceeding from his residence to Long Acre. When he caught her eye, he
was standing still on the pavement, and looking, as it appeared, at her,
so she dropped him a courtesy, and walked forwards; while the old man
said to himself: "That's the girl that got the guinea in her meal
yesterday. I wonder if she has been to return it!"

It was Mary's pure, innocent, but dejected countenance, that had induced
him to make her the subject of one of his most costly experiments. He
thought if there was such a thing as honesty in the world, that it would
find a fit refuge in that young bosom; and the early hour, and the
direction in which she was coming, led him to hope that he might sing
_Eureka_ at last. When he entered the shop, Leah stood behind the
counter, as usual, looking very staid and demure; but all she said
was,'Good-morning;' and when he inquired if anybody had been there, she
quietly answered: 'No; nobody.'

Mr Benjamin was confirmed in his axiom; but he consoled himself with the
idea, that as the girl was doubtless very poor, the guinea might be of
some use to her. In the meantime, Mary was boiling the gruel for her
father's breakfast, the only food she could afford him, till she got a
few shillings that were owing to her for needle-work.

'Well, father, dear, how are you this morning?'

'I scarce know, Mary. I've been dreaming; and it was so like reality,
that I can hardly believe yet it was a dream;' and his eyes wandered
over the room, as if looking for something.

'What is it, father? Do you want your breakfast? It will be ready in
five minutes.'

'I've been dreaming of a roast fowl and a glass of Scotch ale. Mary, I
thought you came in with the fowl, and a bottle in your hand, and said:
"See, father, this is what I've bought with the guinea we found in the

'But I couldn't do that, father, you know. It wouldn't have been honest
to spend other people's money.'

'Nonsense!' answered John. 'Whose money is it, I should like to know?
What belongs to no one, we may as well claim as anybody else.'

'But it must belong to somebody; and, as I knew it was not ours, I've
carried it back to Mr Benjamin.'

'You have?' said Glegg, sitting up in bed.

'Yes, I have, father. Don't be angry. I'm sure you won't when you think
better of it.'

But John _was_ very angry indeed. He was dreadfully disappointed at
losing the delicacies that his sick appetite hungered for, and which, he
fancied, would do more to restore him than all the _doctors' stuff_ in
London; and, so far, he was perhaps right. He bitterly reproached Mary
for want of sympathy with his sufferings, and was peevish and cross all
day. At night, however, his better nature regained the ascendant; and
when he saw the poor girl wipe the tears from her eyes, as her nimble
needle flew through the seams of a shirt she was making for a cheap
warehouse in the Strand, his heart relented, and, holding out his hand,
he drew her fondly towards him.

'You're right, Mary,' he said, 'and I'm wrong; but I'm not myself with
this long illness, and I often think if I had good food I should get
well, and be able to do something for myself. It falls hard upon you, my
girl; and often when I see you slaving to support my useless life, I
wish I was dead and out of the way; and then you could do very well for
yourself, and I think that pretty face of yours would get you a husband
perhaps.' And Mary flung her arms about his neck, and told him how
willing she was to work for him, and how forlorn she should be without
him, and desired she might never hear any more of such wicked wishes.
Still, she had an ardent desire to give him the fowl and the ale he had
longed for, for his next Sunday's dinner; but, alas! she could not
compass it. But on that very Sunday, the one that succeeded these little
events, Leah Leet appeared with a smart new bonnet and gown, at a
tea-party given by Mr Benjamin to three or four of his intimate friends.
He was in the habit of giving such small inexpensive entertainments, and
he made it a point to invite Leah; partly because she made the tea for
him, and partly because he wished to keep her out of other society, lest
she should get married and leave him--a thing he much deprecated on all
accounts. She was accustomed to his business, he was accustomed to her,
and, above all, she was so honest!

But there are various kinds of honesty. Mary Glegg's was of the pure
sort; it was such as nature and her mother had instilled into her: it
was the honesty of high principle. But Leah was honest, because she had
been taught that honesty is the best policy; and as she had her living
to earn, it was extremely necessary that she should be guided by the
axiom, or she might come to poverty and want bread, like others she saw,
who lost good situations from failing in this particular.

Now, after all, this is but a sandy foundation for honesty; because a
person who is not actuated by a higher motive, will naturally have no
objection to a little peculation in a safe way--that is, when they think
there is no possible chance of being found out. In short, such honesty
is but a counterfeit, and, like all counterfeits, it will not stand the
wear and tear of the genuine article. Such, however, was Leah's, who had
been bred up by worldly-wise teachers, who neither taught nor knew any
better. Entirely ignorant of Mr Benjamin's eccentric method of seeking,
what two thousand years ago Diogenes thought it worth while to look for
with a lantern, she considered that the guinea brought back by Mary was
a waif, which might be appropriated without the smallest danger of being
called to account for it. It had probably, she thought, been dropped
into the meal-tub by some careless customer, who would not know how he
had lost it; and, even if it were her master's, he must also be quite
ignorant of the accident that had placed it where it was found. The girl
was a stranger in the shop; she had never been there till the day
before, and might never be there again; and, if she were, it was not
likely she would speak to Mr Benjamin. So there could be no risk, as far
as she could see; and the money came just apropos to purchase some new
attire that the change of season rendered desirable.

Many of us now alive can remember the beginning of what is called the
sanitary movement, previous to which era, as nothing was said about the
wretched dwellings of the poor, nobody thought of them, nor were the ill
consequences of their dirty, crowded rooms, and bad ventilation at all
appreciated. At length the idea struck somebody, who wrote a pamphlet
about it, which the public did not read; but as the author sent it to
the newspaper editors, they borrowed the hint, and took up the subject,
the importance of which, by slow degrees, penetrated the London mind.
Now, amongst the sources of wealth possessed by Mr Benjamin were a great
many houses, which, by having money at his command, he had bought cheap
from those who could not afford to wait; and many of these were situated
in squalid neighbourhoods, and were inhabited by miserably poor people;
but as these people did not fall under his eye, he had never thought of
them--he had only thought of their rents, which he received with more
or less regularity through the hands of his agent. The sums due,
however, were often deficient, for sometimes the tenants were unable to
pay them, because they were so sick they could not work; and sometimes
they died, leaving nothing behind them to seize for their debts. Mr
Benjamin had looked upon this evil as irremediable; but when he heard of
the sanitary movement, it occurred to him, that if he did something
towards rendering his property more eligible and wholesome, he might let
his rooms to a better class of tenants, and that greater certainty of
payment, together with a little higher rent, would remunerate him for
the expense of the cleaning and repairs. The idea being agreeable both
to his love of gain and his benevolence, he summoned his builder, and
proposed that he should accompany him over these tenements, in order
that they might agree as to what should be done, and calculate the
outlay; and the house inhabited by Glegg and his daughter happening to
be one of them, the old gentleman, in the natural course of events,
found himself paying an unexpected visit to the unconscious subject of
his last experiment; for the last it was, and so it was likely to
remain, though three months had elapsed since he made it; but its ill
success had discouraged him. There was something about Mary that so
evidently distinguished her from his usual customers; she looked so
innocent, so modest, and withal so pretty, that he thought if he failed
with her, he was not likely to succeed with anybody else.

'Who lives in the attics?' he inquired of Mr Harker, the builder, as
they were ascending the stairs.

'There's a widow and her daughter and son-in-law, with three children,
in the back-room,' answered Mr Harker. 'I believe the women go out
charring, and the man's a bricklayer. In the front, there's a man called
Glegg and his daughter. I fancy they're people that have been better off
at some time of their lives. He has been a tradesman--a cooper, he tells
me; but things went badly with him; and since he came here, his wife
died of the fever, and he's been so weakly ever since he had it, that he
can earn nothing. His daughter lives by her needle.'

Mary was out; she had gone to take home some work, in hopes of getting
immediate payment for it. A couple of shillings would purchase them coal
and food, and they were much in need of both. John was sitting by the
scanty fire, with his daughter's shawl over his shoulders, looking wan,
wasted, and desponding.

'Mr Benjamin, the landlord, Mr Glegg,' said Harker.

John knew they owed a little rent, and was afraid they had come to
demand it. 'I'm sorry my daughter's out, gentlemen,' he said. 'Will you
be pleased to take a chair.'

'Mr Benjamin is going round his property,' said Harker. 'He is proposing
to make a few repairs, and do a little painting and whitewashing, to
make the rooms more airy and comfortable.'

'That will be a good thing, sir,' answered Glegg--'a very good thing;
for I believe it is the closeness of the place that makes us country
folks ill when we come to London. I'm sure I've never had a day's health
since I've lived here.'

'You've been very unlucky, indeed, Mr Glegg,' said Harker. 'But you
know, if we lay out money, we shall look for a return. We must raise
your rent.'

'Ah, sir, I suppose so,' answered John with a sigh; 'and how we're to
pay it, I don't know. If I could only get well, I shouldn't mind; for
I'd rather break stones on the road, or sweep a crossing, than see my
poor girl slaving from morning to night for such a pittance.'

'If we were to throw down this partition, and open another window here,'
said Harker to Mr Benjamin, 'it would make a comfortable apartment of
it. There would be room, then, for a bed in the recess.'

Mr Benjamin, however, was at that moment engaged in the contemplation of
an ill-painted portrait of a girl, that was attached by a pin over the
chimney-piece. It was without a frame, for the respectable gilt one that
had formerly encircled it, had been taken off, and sold to buy bread.
Nothing could be coarser than the execution of the thing, but as is not
unfrequently the case with such productions, the likeness was striking;
and Mr Benjamin, being now in the habit of seeing Mary, who bought all
the meal they used at his shop, recognised it at once.

'That's your daughter, is it?' he said.

'Yes, sir; she's often at your place for meal; and if it wasn't too
great a liberty, I would ask you, sir, if you thought you could help her
to some sort of employment that's better than sewing; for it's a hard
life, sir, in this close place for a young creature that was brought up
in the free country air: not that Mary minds work, but the worst is,
there's so little to be got by the needle, and it's such close

Mr Benjamin's mind, during this address of poor Glegg's, was running on
his guinea. He felt a distrust of her honesty--or rather of the honesty
of both father and daughter; and yet being far from a hard-hearted
person, their evident distress and the man's sickness disposed him to
make allowance for them. 'They couldn't know that the money belonged to
me,' thought he; adding aloud: 'Have you no friends here in London?'

'No, sir, none. I was unfortunate in business in the country, and came
here hoping for better luck; but sickness overtook us, and we've never
been able to do any good. But, Mary, my daughter, doesn't want for
education, sir; and a more honest girl never lived!'

'Honest, is she?' said Mr Benjamin, looking Glegg in the face.

'I'll answer for her, sir,' answered John, who thought the old gentleman
was going to assist her to a situation. 'You'll excuse me mentioning it,
sir; but perhaps it isn't everybody, distressed as we were, that would
have carried back that money she found in the meal: but Mary _would_ do
it, even when I said that perhaps it wasn't yours, and that nobody might
know whose it was; which was very wrong of me, no doubt; but one's mind
gets weakened by illness and want, and I couldn't help thinking of the
food it would buy us; but Mary wouldn't hear of it. I'm sure you might
trust Mary with untold gold, sir; and it would be a real charity to help
her to a situation, if you knew of such a thing.'

Little deemed Leah that morning, as she handed Mary her quart of meal
and the change for her hard-earned shilling, that she had spoiled her
own fortunes, and that she would, ere night, be called upon to abdicate
her stool behind the counter in favour of that humble customer; and yet
so it was. Mr Benjamin could not forgive her dereliction from honesty;
and the more he had trusted her, the greater was the shock to his
confidence. Moreover, his short-sighted views of human nature, and his
incapacity for comprehending its infinite shades and varieties, caused
him to extend his ill opinion farther than the delinquent merited. In
spite of her protestations, he could not believe that this was her first
misdemeanour; but concluded that, like many other people in the world,
she had only been reputed honest because she had not been found out.
Leah soon found herself in the very dilemma she had deprecated, and the
apprehension of which had kept her so long practically honest--without a
situation, and with a damaged character.

As Mary understood book-keeping, the duties of her new office were soon
learned, and the only evil attending it was, that she could not take
care of her father. But determined not to lose her, Mr Benjamin found
means to reconcile the difficulty by giving them a room behind the shop,
where they lived very comfortably, till Glegg, recovering some portion
of health, was able to work a little at his trade.

In process of time, however, as infirmity began to disable Mr Benjamin
for the daily walk from his residence to his shop, he left the whole
management of the business to the father and daughter, receiving every
shilling of the profits, except the moderate salaries he gave them,
which were sufficient to furnish them with all the necessaries of life,
though nothing beyond. But when the old gentleman died, and his will was
opened, it was found that he had left everything he possessed to Mary
Glegg; except one guinea, which, without alleging any reason, he
bequeathed to Leah Leet.


The pounds, shillings, and pence which served for the simple reckonings
of our fathers, have entailed upon us a highly complicated system of
accounts since we have become a great commercial people. Steam-engines,
locomotives, and electric telegraphs have multiplied our transactions a
hundredfold, but no adequate labour-saving machinery has been introduced
into the counting-house, where the value of these transactions has to be
recorded and adjusted. The simple and scientific method of computation
by what is called the decimal system, is used at this moment, we are
told, by more than half the human race. Not only has it been by law
established in most of the countries of Europe, but throughout the great
empires of China and Russia; it is penetrating the Ottoman Empire; it
has obtained a footing in Persia and Egypt; and it is universal in the
United States of America, whence it has made its way into several other
transatlantic states. Among ourselves, the thing is approved and admired
in the abstract, but we dread the trouble it would give us to fall into
a method to which we are unaccustomed; and we apprehend, on very
insufficient grounds, that much confusion would arise during the
transition. Moreover, it is to be feared that out of a spirit of
prejudice or contradiction, many would not, even under the penalties of
law, adopt the change. At this moment, as is well known, certain classes
of people persist in selling corn and other articles by old local
measures, although at the risk of prosecution. Thus, in Scotland, we
still hear of firlots, bolls, and mutchkins, notwithstanding that these
antiquated measures were abolished upwards of twenty years ago. In
short, it would appear that the change of popular denominations in
weights, measures, and moneys, is one of the things which the law, in
ordinary circumstances, has great difficulty in reaching.

This difficulty, however, ought not to be deemed insuperable. The boon
given to society by the decimal system is worth struggling for. On this
account, it appears highly desirable that the people at large should be
made thoroughly acquainted with its principles, and be able to weigh the
advantages against the difficulties of such a change. Some years ago,
the subject was pretty fully discussed in several literary and
commercial periodicals; and recently, Mr Taylor's little work[1] has
presented it in a more permanent form. Our own pages appear particularly
suitable for giving wide circulation to a familiar and popular
exposition of the subject.

The ancients used certain letters to represent numbers, and we still
employ the Roman numeral characters as the most elegant way of
expressing a date in typography or sculpture; but every one must see
what a tedious business the calculation of large sums would be according
to this cumbrous system of notation: nor is it easy to say whereabouts
our commercial status, to say nothing of science, would have been
to-day, had it never been superseded. The Romans themselves, in
computing large numbers, always had recourse to the abacus--a
counting-frame with balls on parallel wires, somewhat similar to that
now used in infant-schools.

It was a great step gained, and a most important preparation for
clearing away the darkness of the middle ages by the light of science,
when between the eighth and thirteenth centuries the use of the
characters 1, 2, 3, &c. was generally established in Europe, having been
received from Eastern nations, long accustomed to scientific
computations. The great advantage of these numbers is, that they proceed
on the decimal system--that is, they denote different values according
to their relative places, each character signifying ten times more
accordingly as it occupies a place higher. Thus 8, in the first place to
the right, is simply 8; but in the next to the left, it is 80; in the
third, 800; and in the fourth, 8000. Yet we do not require to grasp
these large numbers in our thought, but deal with each figure as a
simple unit, and subject it to every arithmetical process without even
adverting to its real value. To some, it may seem superfluous to explain
a matter so familiar; but we have met with many who know pretty well how
to use our system of notation mechanically, yet do not know, or rather
have not thought of the beautifully simple principle on which it
proceeds--that of decimal ascension.

Now, we want to see the same principle applied to the gradations of our
money, weights, and measures. Instead of our complicated denominations
of money--namely, pounds, each containing twenty shillings, these each
divisible into twelve pence, and these again into four farthings--we
want a scale in which _ten_ of each denomination would amount to _one_
of that immediately above it, as in our notation. And instead of our
complicated system of weights and measures, we want one similarly
graduated system--each measure and weight rising ten times above the
former. All calculations of prices would then be made by simple
multiplication. What a gala-day for school-boys when the pence and
shilling table would be abolished by act of parliament, and there would
no longer be the table of avoirdupois-weight to learn, nor troy-weight,
nor apothecaries', nor long-measure, nor square-measure, nor
cloth-measure, nor liquid-measure, nor dry-measure, but one decimal
scale of weights and measures would suffice for every commodity, and
there would only be their names to get by heart in order! Every one sees
that there would be an astonishing simplification in this system of
reckoning by tens--that the study of arithmetic would be immensely
facilitated, and the business of the counting-house divested of puzzling
calculations. Let us see whereabouts we are in the way towards its

About ten years ago, a parliamentary commission on the subject of
weights and measures, advised the adoption of a decimal scale, but
recommended as a preliminary step, the decimation of the Coinage.
Regarding it as important, however, that great deference should be paid
to existing circumstances, and that the present relative notions of
value, so deeply rooted in the public mind, should be disturbed as
little as possible, they pointed out the facilities existing in our
present coinage for a re-arrangement on the decimal plan. They said that
the pound might be preserved precisely on the present footing, and thus
would be maintained in name the price of everything above twenty
shillings in value. They remarked that the farthing, which is the 960th
part of L.1, might be set down as the 1000th, which would be a variation
of 4 per cent. only--somewhat less than that to which copper is liable
from fluctuation of price. We have thus the units at the one end of the
scale, and the thousands at the other; it remains only to interpose the
tens and hundreds between them, by introducing a florin as the tenth of
a pound, and a cent--equal to 2-1/2d. nearly--as the tenth of the
florin. Adopting these views, the following would be the new and simple
scale of money-reckoning:--ten millets, 1 cent; ten cents, 1 florin; ten
florins, L.1.

Nothing was done, however, in following up these recommendations, till
the subject was brought before the House of Commons by Dr John Bowring,
in 1847. The consequence of his appeal was, that a coin denominated a
florin, and representing the tenth of a pound, was struck, and put in
circulation. It was, however, considered 'an unfortunate specimen of
Royal Mint art,' and the issue was discontinued, though a few specimens
still linger unforbidden among us. The matter is thus at a stand-still,
and may probably not be agitated again till the people generally are
more impressed with its importance, and disposed to urge it on the

The first thing wanted is obviously an abundant issue of acceptable
florins. No matter though the coin be recognised by the ignorant as a
two-shilling piece, rather than as the tenth of a pound; it is a decimal
coin with which they may become familiar without disturbing their old
ideas and modes of reckoning. The single step that would then remain to
be taken is the decisive one--the introduction of the coin equivalent to
one-tenth of a florin, accompanied by the withdrawal of the
representatives of duodecimal division, and a legislative enactment that
all accounts kept in public offices, or rendered in private
transactions, should be in the decimal denominations.

The only difficulty which has appalled the advocates of the decimal
system, is with respect to the cent-piece. It is said to be too small
for a silver coin, too large for a copper, and mixed metals find no
favour at the Mint. But if it is to be a denomination in accounts, it
must have a representative coin, and a silver cent could be very little
smaller than our present 3d.-piece. 'The great mass of the people,' says
Mr Norton (a correspondent of the _Athenæum_ on this subject), 'will not
adopt an abstraction; you must give them something which they can see,
handle, and call by name, if you wish them to take notice of it in their
reckonings.' Mr Taylor, and some other writers, have proposed to evade
this difficulty by passing over the cents altogether, and counting only
by pounds, florins, and millets. The French, say they, have in theory a
decimally graduated scale, yet they always reckon by francs, and cents,
which are 100ths of francs; the intervening decime being ignored in
practice. So, likewise, the Americans have the dollar, the dime (its
tenth part), the cent (its hundredth), and the mill (its thousandth).
'It is now nearly thirty years,' says Mr John Quincy Adams, in his
report to Congress in 1821, 'since our new moneys of account have been
established. The dollar and the cent have become familiarised to the
tongue, but the dime and the mill are so utterly unknown, that now, when
the recent coinage of dimes is alluded to, it is always necessary to
inform the reader that they are ten-cent pieces. Ask a tradesman in any
of our cities what is a dime or a mill, and the chances are four in five
that he will not understand your question.' This, however, we cannot
help considering one of the greatest inconveniences of transatlantic and
continental reckonings. We are accustomed to talk of amounts in as small
numbers as possible; and one of the great advantages we see in decimal
gradations is, that we should never have a number above 9, except in
pounds. There is something not only troublesome but indefinite, in the
idea of ten and twenty in comparison with one and two; and a French
account in francs bewilders us when it amounts to thousands and
millions. Probably the half and quarter francs of France, and the half
and quarter dollars of America, have been the means of exploding the
decimals next below them; and on this ground we differ from those who
plead for the continuance of our present shillings and sixpences, as
half and quarter florins. The shilling is a coin so inseparably
connected with 12 and 20, that no decimal system will obtain while it
exists. It is useless to say, that it would be retained only as a
circulation coin, and not as a denomination in accounts; for so long as
we have it at all, we will certainly reckon from it and by it. For
purposes of common barter, there ought to be a two-cent piece, a
four-cent, and perhaps a seven-cent; and thus we shall be compelled to
_think decimally_. 'If it is worth while to alter at all,' says Mr
Taylor, 'ought we not to go the whole required length, and aim without
timidity at the possession of a scale complete at once within itself,
and so escape an indefinite prolongation of the purgatory of transition?
In a change like the one under consideration, the work of pulling down
an old system is far more difficult than that of building up another,
and every prop must be removed before it will fall.'

With respect to the copper coins, there seems to be no hurry about
disturbing them. It appears that the Dutch stiver and the French sou
have maintained their place in spite of legislation. So, probably, would
the English penny, and properly enough as a 4-millet piece. We fear our
poor people would feel it to be an attempt to mystify them, were the
government to withdraw this familiar coin and substitute a 5-millet
piece, as some have recommended, for the sake of establishing a binary
division of the cent. It would, doubtless, be considered desirable, as
an ulterior measure, to have a more exact copper coinage, marked as one
millet, two millets, and four millets; but when we have, without
scruple, passed as the twelfth part of a shilling the Irish penny, which
is really only the thirteenth part, we may, in the meantime, use our
present copper money, which will differ only a twenty-fifth from the new
value attached to it--a discrepancy of no consequence, except to the
holders of large quantities, from whom the Mint would be bound to
receive it back at the value it bore when issued. These coppers,
however, ought not to be used beyond the value of the cent, for then
would arise the confusion of dealing with the 100 millets in the florin,
or what would popularly be termed an odd half-penny in every shilling.
For the same reason, the adjustment of prices, in order to be equitable,
should be calculated downwards from the pound and florin, not upwards
from the penny. Thus, if a labourer's wages have been 1s. 3d. a day, his
employer must not say that 15 pence are 60 farthings--that is, 6 cents;
but 1s. 3d. is five-eighths of a florin, which amount to about 6 cents 2

Such is the plan which has been officially laid down for a decimal
coinage, and such the steps needful to carry it out. The only scheme we
have seen which materially differs from it is that of Mr H. Norton. He
selects for the highest denomination the half-sovereign, and proposes to
call it a ducat. The shilling, as now in use, would then be the second
denomination; the third, he proposes, should be a cent, equal to about
1-1/5th of a penny, and which, he says, would be fairly represented by
our large unmilled pennies, if newly christened; the fourth denomination
to be a 'rap,' the tenth of the cent, and somewhat less than half a
farthing. The great advantage adduced in favour of this scale is, that
it would be much more likely than the other to secure general adoption.
The removal of the pound, he says, affects chiefly the higher and
educated classes; it leaves the shilling, which is the staple and
standard for the masses, and also the penny, with slight alteration,
accompanied by the utter removal of the old one. It is also said, that a
half-farthing piece would be a great boon to the poor, especially in
Ireland. The circumstances alleged in recommendation of this scale, are
just what appear to us to be its defects. The continuance of the poor
man's penny would not appear a boon if he found there were to be only
ten of them for a shilling; especially as many small articles, which
were a penny before, would probably be a penny still, the dealers not
finding it convenient to adjust the fraction. We well remember the
dissatisfaction of the poorer classes in Ireland at the equalisation of
the currency in 1825. Hitherto, the native silver coins had been 5d. and
10d. pieces, a British shilling had been a thirteen-penny, and a
half-crown, 2s. 8-1/2d. This half-crown was the usual breakfast-money of
gentlemen's servants--that is, their weekly allowance for purchasing
everything except dinner. When the servant now went to the huckster's,
and got, as heretofore, 6d. worth of bread, 9d. worth of tea, 4d. worth
of sugar, and 5d. worth of butter, there was only 6d. of change to buy
another loaf in the middle of the week, instead of 8-1/2d., which was
wont to afford, we will not say what, over and above. It is for a
similar reason that we say, if there remain anything which can be either
identified or confounded with a penny, it should be lowered rather than
raised in value. Small prices are not easily adjusted, and the
temptation in the other case lies on the side of the dealer not to alter
them. It is more certain, for instance, that a baker will take care to
divide 2s. worth of bread into twenty-five penny-loaves, when a penny
comes to be the twenty-fifth of a florin, than that he will divide 1s.
worth into ten only, if a penny become the tenth of a shilling. And it
would be less hardship for the poor housekeeper to find her penny-loaf
1-25th smaller, if she could discern the reduction, than to get only ten
for her shilling, even if they were a fifth larger. Besides, we should
feel it to be a poverty-stricken thought, that our internal commerce
should be reduced to barter in half-farthings' worths, and that our
merchants and bankers should have no denomination above the value of
10s. for the enormous sums which figure in their books.

The subject of names is worth a remark or two. The commissioners
recommended 'florins,' as affording facilities to foreigners for
understanding our monetary system; and in this respect it has
advantages. 'Cent' and 'millet' are easily enunciated, and they convey
to the educated classes, whether at home or abroad, the relative value
of the coins. We cannot say, however, but we would prefer a more
familiar nomenclature than florins, cents, and millets. Mr Norton's
suggestion, that the names should not only be capable of easy and rapid
utterance, but that they should be of the same Teutonic origin as our
shilling and penny, is worthy of serious consideration. Dr Bowring, who
advocated a strictly decimal scale, suggested the names, 'queens' and
'victorias' for the two middle denominations, leaving pounds and
farthings as they were. Now, if it be deemed proper to change the name
of the unfortunate florin when it makes its reappearance, 'queen' would
be a very pretty substitute; but 'victoria' would soon be mangled down
to its first syllable. If this style of nomenclature be preferred,
'prince' would be a more suitable name for the little cent-piece. Mr De
Morgan is for 'pounds, royals, groats, and farthings.'

But 'royal' is not capable of rapid enunciation, and 'groat' is
decidedly objectionable for designating ten farthings, as it is still
sacred to fourpence in the English mind. Whatever the names, the full
enunciation of them at first would appear stiff and solemn; but
abbreviated modes of expression would soon be established. 'Four-two'
would be understood as L.4, 2 (florins), while 'four and two' would
convey four florins, two cents. When three denominations were used, it
would be 'four-three-two,' there being little danger of a
misunderstanding as to whether the 'four' were pounds or florins. So, in
writing, it would only be necessary to write after any sum the name of
the lowest denomination, as 48, 3, 7c., which would be known as L.48, 3
florins, 7 cents; or, to add ciphers for all lower denominations, as
48300, which, whether pointed or not, would convey L.48, 3, 0, 0.

In a future paper, we will resume the subject of decimals, viewing it
with reference to weights and measures; when its advantages will more
fully appear, by the facility it affords for the calculation of prices.


[1] The Decimal System; as applied to the Coinage and Weights and
Measures of Great Britain. Groombridge and Sons: 1851.


Nations have curious and almost unaccountable peculiarities. One
interlards conversation with shrugs, and another with expectoration; and
a third, by way of indicating satisfaction, rubs its hands. The Scotch
have a peculiarity of their own. When they quit a room, they do not shut
the door, but merely draw it gently after them, so as to leave it
unlatched. Some individuals may not be strictly attached to this
practice; but on the whole the Scotch may, for the sake of distinction,
be said to be an anti-door-shutting nation. Now, why such should be the
case, becomes an interesting philosophical problem.

Much consideration have we spent in pondering on this national oddity,
and are free to admit that the conclusions arrived at are not so
satisfactory as could be wished. Nevertheless, in default of any better
explanation of the phenomenon, what we have to say may possibly carry a
degree of weight.

The reason why the Scotch do not shut the door is, as we imagine, highly
characteristic. It is not that they are ignorant of the important fact,
that doors are made for shutting. They are fully aware that latches are
not mere ornamental attributes of doors--things stuck on not to be used.
And it cannot be imputed to them, that they leave doors open for the
sake of ventilation. In short, if strangers were to guess for a hundred
years, they would fail to hit upon the real, true, and particular reason
why the Scotch do not shut the door. One would naturally think, that as
the act of shutting the door is the prerogative of the person who quits
an apartment, it would not by so mindful a people be neglected. And
neither it is. There is no neglect in the matter. The Scotch take a
profound view of the subject. They institute a rigorous comparison
between shutting and not shutting. True, they are not taught to do so,
any more than Frenchmen are taught to make gestures. It is in them. They
are born with a natural proneness to consider, as if it were a question
of algebraic quantities, whether the satisfaction they might impart by
shutting the door would not be more than counterbalanced by the
dissatisfaction that might accrue from distinctly and unmistakably
shutting it. Still, it seems strange how any displeasure could be
incurred by the performance of what all the rest of mankind believe to
be a mark of good-breeding. Strange, indeed! But it surely will be
observed, that much depends on making a principle of a thing. And with
respect to good-breeding, what if it can be placed in a double point of
sight? It may be the etiquette in some countries to shut the door; but
that proves nothing. In Europe, men uncover their heads on entering the
presence of the great; in the East, they uncover the feet. Fashions are
local. When the Scotch do not shut the door, they act conscientiously,
according to ancient national usage. We may be certain that they have
deliberately, arithmetically, and cautiously, weighed the question of
shutting in its various and delicate bearings; and arrived at the clear
conviction that, all things considered, it would be better not to shut!

Of course, the Scotch having, by innate logic, attained to a principle,
they adhere to it as a thing which neither argument nor raillery can
upset. They have very properly resolved not to be reasoned, nor laughed,
nor cudgelled out of their opinion. The door ought not to be shut! That
is a truth as effectually demonstrated as any truth in mathematics; and
such being the case, they will die rather than yield the point. Let it
be understood, therefore, that in these observations we aim not in the
slightest degree at proselytising our northern friends. They are a
nation of anti-door-shutters, and that, on principle, they will remain
to the end of the chapter.

It may, at the same time, be mentioned, that this acute people have no
special objection to seeing a door shut, provided anybody else does it.
Their principles apply only to shutting by their own hand. What might be
very wrong in them, while quitting an apartment, would be proper enough
for him who remains. He may rise and shut the door, if he feels
inclined. It is his affair. Strictly speaking, he should appreciate the
delicacy of feeling which has gracefully left the performance of this
simple act to his own discretion. Yes, it is in this fine instance of
steady principle that we see a discrimination of politeness exquisitely
ingenious and beautiful. The English have the reputation of being a
blunt, downright people; and their practice of shutting the door after
them makes it certain they are so. When they draw to the door, turn the
handle, and hear the latch click, they as good as say: 'There, the door
is shut; the thing is done. I leave no doubt on the subject; I care not
what you think of me; I have done my duty.' This is England all
over--great, uncalculating, independent-minded England! The Scotch
almost pity this daring recklessness of character. They are astonished
at its boldness. It is action resting on no proper grounds. How
differently they proceed! Treating it as belonging to the science of
numbers, the following becomes the method of stating the question:--

Given that there is a door which may or may not be shut on quitting an
apartment, let it be shewn by the rules of arithmetic whether it would
be preferable to shut the said door or leave it open. Write down, first,
the arguments for not shutting, according to their supposed value; then
do the same for the arguments _per contra_; lastly, sum up both, and
strike the balance. Thus--


  Because the door is apt to slam,
  which would be exceedingly
  unpleasant, and might suggest the idea
  that you went out in a passion--valued as . . . 4

  If it did not slam, it might still make
  a creaking noise--valued as . . . . . . . . . . 2

  Supposing it to make no noise at all,
  the impression is conveyed that you are
  going away never to return, whereas you
  have no such intention, . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

  Chances of your causing a noise to disturb
  the company on opening the door when you
  return, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

  Probable loss of character by conveying
  the notion, that you are peremptory and
  abrupt in manners,  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

  Giving the parties remaining the option
  of shutting, or not, as suits their fancy,  . . 2

  That by leaving the door open, you do not
  commit yourself to a determinate act, . . . . . 2


  That a cold wind may not blow into the room;
  but this not probable, for it will be easy
  for those remaining in the apartment to rise
  and shut the door themselves, . . . . . . . . . 1

  That by a faint possibility you may give
  offence by leaving the door open, . . . . . . . 1

  That you may prevent persons outside overhearing
  what is said; this of small account, for people
  should not speak about things they do not wish
  to be repeated, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

Deducting 3 from 16, 13 remain. Result--balance of 13-19ths in favour of
not shutting the door. Nothing, therefore, could be more clearly
demonstrated than that the Scotch are strongly justified in leaving the
door open when they quit an apartment. Doubts, indeed, may be
entertained as to the values arbitrarily put on the respective items in
the account: but to venture into this remote part of the inquiry would
be to plunge us into the depths of metaphysics. Even supposing we were
to make the matter as clear as the sun at noonday, there would still be
sceptics. On shewing the above arithmetical calculation, for example, to
an English lady, who has for a number of years studied Scotch character
and manners, she, with a degree of bluntness that was exceedingly
startling, gave it as her unqualified opinion, that the whole thing was
a piece of nonsense; and that the only reason, as far as she could
observe, why the Scotch do not shut the door, is that they have never
been taught that it is consistent with good-manners to do so. The
audacity of some people is really wonderful!


There is something extremely pleasant in the general regularity with
which the picture of Egypt unfolds itself on either hand like a double
panorama as you descend the Nile. When moving in the opposite direction,
against the perpetual current, you are sometimes compelled to creep
slowly on, tugged by a tight-strained rope at the rate of seven or eight
miles a day; whilst anon a wind rises unexpectedly, and carries you with
bewildering speed through forty or fifty miles of scenery. But the masts
being taken down, and the sails folded for the rest of the voyage, and
the oars put out, you begin to calculate with tolerable certainty on the
rate of progress; for though violent contrary winds do frequently blow
during part of a day, it is almost always possible to make up for lost
time in the hours that neighbour on sunset before and after.
Well-seasoned Nile-travellers confirm our experience; and as we had
rowed and floated within a calculated time from Assouan to Ombos, and
from Ombos to Silsilis, so did we proceed to Edfou, and to the stations
beyond, with few exceptions of obstinately adverse weather.

True, some portions of the view are missed during the hours of
night-travelling; but these have most probably been seen during the
ascent. Besides, though the scenery of the Nile is certainly not
monotonous enough to weary the eye, yet there is a general sameness in
its details, a want of those bold, original features which in other
countries stamp the character of particular localities. Two parallel
lines of mountains ever within sight of each other, now advancing
towards the river through a sea of verdure in promontories, always
nearly with the same level outline, now receding in semicircular sweeps;
a narrow flat plain, loaded with crops and palm-groves, and intersected
by canals and dikes, sometimes equally divided by a tortuous stream of
vast breadth, but sometimes thrown, as it were, all to one side, east or
west; occasionally a long line of precipices descending sheer into the
very water; once only a regular defile with rocks on either hand;
islands in the river, sandbanks, broad, winding reaches--such, in a few
words, is a description of Egypt. It is the variety of colour produced
by that mighty painter, the sun, that gives all the beauty to the
landscape; and of this it is almost impossible to convey an idea. The
chaste loveliness of the dawn, the majestic splendour of noon, and the
marvellous glories of the sunset-hour--the thousand hues that glow and
tremble, and melt and mingle around through all the scenes of this great
drama of light--words have not yet been invented to describe.

And then the night! Who can sit down and recall and count over the
impressions which fly like a troop of fairies over the thrilling senses
at that mystic hour, when the skirts of retiring day have ceased to
flutter above the western hills, and the moon casts down her pale,
melancholy glances on the silent scene, and the stars--our guardian
angels, according to some--seem to stoop nearer and nearer to the earth
as slumber deepens, as if to press golden kisses upon the eyelids of
those whom they watch and love! In all countries these hours are
beautiful; but in Egypt--let those who doubt come and witness all that
we beheld, and which is indescribable, on the evening that we left the
neighbourhood of Silsilis on our way to Edfou--on that calm, placid
river, over which brooded a silence interrupted only by the alternate
songs of the crews of the two boats as they leisurely pulled with the

It was late in the afternoon of next day when we reached the
landing-place; but we immediately set out to see the ruin, if ruin it
can be called, for it is almost in perfect preservation. After
traversing a broad extent of ground covered with rank grass and prickly
plants, we came to the customary palm-grove, and then entered what
romancers would probably call the 'good city' of Edfou. It is a
considerable collection of huts, principally constructed of mud,
clustering amidst mounds of rubbish at the base of the temple. The lofty
propylæa, above a hundred feet high, I believe, were of course seen from
afar off, both during our walk and in ascending and descending the
river. As is the case in nearly all other Egyptian buildings, the effect
at a distance is anything but picturesque. From want of objects of
comparison, the impression of great size is not produced; and nothing
can be meaner in outline than two towers like truncated pyramids,
pierced with small, square windows at irregular intervals. On a nearer
approach, however, the surface-ornament begins to appear; and the
central doorway, overhung by a rich and painted cornice, presents itself
in its really grand proportions, but crushed, as it were, by the vast
size of the twin towers, which now seem magnified into mountains. At
Edfou the effect of this surprise is partly injured by the
circumstances: first, the accumulation of huts through which you
approach; and second, that of mounds of dirt which have risen nearly to
the height of the doorway. However, when you come to the summit of these
mounds, almost on a level with the lintel, and look down between the
enormous jambs into a kind of valley formed by the great court, with its
wonderful portico and belt of columns, it is difficult to conceive a
more imposing scene.

The walls on all sides were covered with gigantic figures, quite
wonderful to behold in their serene ugliness; but awakening no more
human sympathy than the singular figures we saw on the Chinese-patterned
plate stuck over the doorway in Nubia. The exaggeration that is usually
indulged in with reference to Egyptian art is such, that if we were to
attempt to describe these sculptured ornaments according to our own
impressions, we should run the risk of being accused of caricature. We
do not mean on this temple only, but on all the temples of Egypt. Now
and then a face of beautiful expression, though still with heavy
features, is met with; but in general both countenance and figure are
flat, out of proportion, and stiff in drawing, whilst the highest effort
of colouring consists of one uniform layer, without tints or gradation.
Perhaps amidst the many thousand subjects found in tombs and temples
between Philoe and Cairo, one or two may be treated with nearly as much
skill as was exhibited by the Italian painters before the time of
Cimabue--except that scarcely an attempt even is made at grouping or
composition. Nor must it be supposed that the Egyptian school was in
course of development. They seem to have arrived at the highest
excellence of which their intellect was capable. Their outlines, though
in general excessively mean, are very firmly drawn; and they represent
details with a laborious ingenuity worthy of the Chinese. Some
enthusiastic antiquarians describe with great animation the scenes of
public and domestic life which occur in such profusion; and, book in
hand, we have admired and wondered at--not the genius of the artists,
but that of their historians. How, in fact, do the Egyptians really
proceed? They want to represent a hunt, for example: so they sketch a
man with his legs extended like compasses, armed with a huge bow, from
which he is in the act of discharging a monstrous arrow. Then close by
they draw, without any attempt at perspective, a square enclosure, in
which they set down higgledy-piggledy a variety of animals, some of them
sufficiently like nature to allow their species to be guessed at. In one
corner, perhaps, is a sprig of something intended for a tree, and
intimating that all this is supposed to take place in a wood. This
hieroglyphical or algebraical method of 'taking off' the occurrences of
human life is applied with almost unvarying uniformity. Such was high
art among the Egyptians; whom it is now the fashion to cry up at the
expense of those impertinent Grecians, who presumed to arrive at
excellence, almost at perfection, in so many departments.

However, the vast size of the figures on the front of the propylæa of
Edfou does certainly, in spite of their awkwardness, produce an imposing
effect, especially at the time we first beheld them, when the gray
twilight had descended upon the earth, and night was already thickening
beneath the heavy portico. We walked, or rather slid, down into the
great court. It was surrounded with massive columns loaded with
ornament, and looked grave in the extreme, in spite of the heaps of
rubbish that encumbered it, and enabled us to ascend to the summit of
the colonnade at one corner. The architecture of the Egyptians was
certainly sublime. Their style anticipated and surpassed the Gothic in
majesty, though certainly not in beauty. Their massive walls, Cyclopean
columns, dim porticos, gloomy chambers, produce even now all the
terrific impressions they could have desired. Perhaps the crumbling
ruins which encumber the roof, the wretched remains of Christian
buildings once erected on this temple as on a rock for security, rather
heighten than diminish its effect. We walked round a vast wall still in
perfect preservation, which encircles the windowless parallelogram
formed by the temple, and reaches about half its height, leaving a
narrow court like a moat all round; and we felt that these religious
edifices had been fortresses likewise, and that temporal as well as
spiritual terrors had of yore surrounded them. When shall we be able to
wring forth the secret of that ancient time? When will its history cease
to be a myth, its kings become real personages, its civilisation
something better than a romance? As yet, nothing has been discovered
except a string of disjointed facts, which scholars arrange each after
his own fashion, and which no more resemble any other known series of
human actions than the accidental combination of the kaleidoscope does
this living and breathing world. We want a key, and a key has not been
found. So men go stumbling on through the inextricable labyrinth, and
exhaust more ingenuity in vain speculations than would suffice to bring
a variety of modern sciences to perfection.

It was perfectly safe to indulge in these thoughts, because even if any
mighty antiquary had been at hand, he would have been obliged to confess
that although some truth may have been brought to light, it is
impossible to put one's finger upon it. For almost all men who have
studied Egyptian antiquities differ entirely in their conclusions--all
arrange dynasties in a different manner, and find more mistakes than
discoveries in their predecessors. Well, thought we, let us leave them
to their researches: if they do not find the pot of gold, they may
cultivate the ground. For our part, we will hasten on to where yon pale
gleam of yellow light is pouring between the propylæa and the body of
the temple over the court-yard upon an enormous mountain of rubbish. It
was the moon that had risen--not to enlighten the scene, but to render
it more dim and mysterious, more full of strange shadows and illusions.
On such occasions it is difficult even for the least imaginative to
check a thought of what that pale, thoughtful-looking orb, which has
watched the changing aspects of this scene for so many thousand years,
could tell if it had a tongue! We gazed inquiringly at it; but as it
rose higher and higher, and poured down more light on all objects
around, it seemed to smile at our inquisitiveness, and to bid us turn
less eager glances towards the dust and rubbish of old times, where
perchance we may find a precious stone, perchance a bit of broken
glass--but bend our eyes more steadfastly to the future, the centuries
unborn, the inevitable, though not yet created infinite.

Edfou is situated at a little distance inland on the western bank of the
Nile. As usual, the land in the neighbourhood of the river is high in
comparison with that which is beyond--that is to say, there is a
continual descending slope to the edge of the desert, where at this time
of year there is, as it were, a succession of large ponds,
water-channels, and marshes. It is impossible to reach the desert except
by a long, elevated, tortuous dike, which begins near the town and
terminates near the foot of a spur of the Libyan chain, some three or
four miles distant. By the aid of the telescope we could distinguish in
the niches of the rock a variety of dark spots resembling the entrances
of grottos; and, hearing that others had made the same observation,
though without undertaking the fatigue of a visit, we determined to set
out next morning, and combine a little sporting with antiquity-hunting.

Though the sun was not very high, it was sufficiently warm when we
started, and we had good reason for anticipating a broiling ride. At
this point there is not an atom of shade, not the semblance of a tree
between the river and the stony desert. All the palm-groves cluster
round the town of Edfou and the villages north and south. We were soon
upon the dusty dike, which, as we proceeded, seemed to lift us higher
and higher above the level plain, half bright-green, half sheeted with
water, that lay in death-like repose, and reflected the sun's rays like
a burnished mirror. It soon appeared that our anticipations of good
sport were not to be disappointed: on all sides, as far as the eye could
reach, as well as near at hand in the pools at the base of the _gisr_ or
dike, appeared innumerable birds, principally aquatic. Large flocks of
paddy-birds, often called the white ibis, speckled the green of the
fields; enormous pelicans stood hanging their enormous beaks, as if in
drowsy contemplation, over distant pools; storks and herons, single, or
arranged, as it were, in military array, accompanied them; and
prodigious masses of white birds glittered in the sun on the verge of
the marshy plain. Then the water was alive with cormorants, geese,
ducks, divers, teal, coot, that swam about in amazing numbers, or,
startled at the slightest noise, flew generally at a cautious distance
overhead. Birds of prey were of course likewise numerous--hawks, kites,
vultures; and whole flights of large, black crows went by now and then,
cawing vociferously. We could see also prodigious numbers of the
_ghatta_ or red-legged partridge flying northward or settling on the
edge of the desert. It seemed as though a grand parliament of the
feathered creation were about to be held.

When we reached the desert we found a small Coptic convent standing
amidst the ruins of a much larger one near the head of the _gisr_. We
visited it in the course of the morning, and were civilly received and
conducted over the establishment. However, there was nothing particular
to see. The grottos we found to be of no interest whatever, being only a
few feet deep, and containing neither sculptures nor inscriptions. At
the base of the rocks were some oblong mouths of wells, but they were
nearly filled with sand, so that, in an antiquarian point of view, we
had reason to be disappointed. We passed some time on the plain, covered
with _halfeh_, a kind of coarse grass, to the north of the convent;
succeeded in getting some partridges to add to our water-fowl; and
returned in the afternoon with a donkey-load of game to the boat.

On the opposite side of the river there is some good ground for
hare-shooting. We had been there before with success, and determined on
a second visit. The scenery presented a curious contrast to that on the
west bank--no dikes, no ponds, no marshy fields. The country extends
from the bank in a high level plain, principally overgrown with
halfeh-grass, to the desert. Formerly there was scarcely any
cultivation; all was abandoned to unprofitable thickets, that grew wild
down to the river's margin. Now a good deal of _dhourra_ is grown; and
in January we saw the bright green blades of wheat coming up amongst the
stubble. The castor-oil plant has been introduced, but as yet the
unprofitable silk-tree and the wild bushes are far more common.

The change that has taken place is attributed to the fact, that a
Frenchman, in the service of the pacha, has discovered coal-mines in the
vicinity; and this is farther confirmed by the name bestowed on the
mountains--Gebel et Fahm (Mountains of Coal.) But none of the valuable
mineral has as yet made its appearance, and sceptics pretend that none
ever will. We saw four or five large black heaps at a distance, and
thought they might be the produce of the neighbourhood; but on drawing
nigh they turned out to be charcoal manufactured in the desert, and
brought down for sale by the Bedouins. There is a village of Ababde
beneath the desert hills on the extreme verge of the plain; and the new
cultivation seems entirely due to its inhabitants.

It was late in the evening when we this time came to the hare-ground;
but we expected to take advantage of puss, as we had done once before,
by moonlight. As we beat about among the bushes, myriads of drowsy
sparrows, that had settled to rest on the boughs, rushed up with a
tremendous noise, but sank down again almost instantaneously, to be once
more disturbed. We started a few hares, but they glided away like
shadows in the twilight, and we got no shots. Next morning we again
tried our fortune; but it would appear as if the wary things had held a
council of war, and decamped with bag and baggage. We found the sparrows
lively and twittering, as though their night's rest had not been
disturbed; hundreds of doves cooed securely on the boughs; and half a
dozen mighty storks flew off from the midst of a dew-bespangled copse.
But though we turned out the crews of two boats in default of dogs, not
a hare shewed its ears; and we gave up the search disappointed. It is
remarked by old travellers on the Nile, that these animals constantly
shift their quarters; not, indeed, in the course of a night, as we
perhaps gratuitously supposed, but from season to season.


It was my second summer in New York: a residence of two years in that
busy and enterprising city had enabled me to form juster views
concerning the social policy of its inhabitants than those which had
presented themselves to me on first landing; two years, if properly made
use of, will serve to correct many fallacies, and to throw light on
places and people. There is nothing like seeing with your own eyes, if
you want really to know what the two latter are--whether they come up to
your standard of comparison or otherwise. In several respects, chiefly
material, I liked America better than England; the abundance and
cheapness of provisions, for instance, and the ease with which fruits
and other luxuries--to say nothing of books and newspapers--were
procurable by the working-classes, presented, at that time at least, a
striking contrast to the state of things in the 'old country.' I liked,
too, at first, the sort of free-and-easy intercourse of the working-men
with those, conventionally speaking, above them. Jack considered himself
as good as his master, though not without occasional mortifications at
not finding the sentiment reciprocated. The feeling, however, imparted a
show of independence, rather captivating to one who was not a little
imbued with 'old-country' radicalism. On the other hand, I had been
astonished, not to say disconcerted, at finding--which I did more and
more every day--how much mechanics are looked down upon in the United
States. You have only to wear jacket and apron, and write yourself
artisan, to be excluded from 'good' society as rigidly as if born under
the caste-laws of India. Where there appears to be an equal chance for
all to rise, those who have risen draw the line of demarcation with much
greater severity than strangers are willing to believe.

Another point on which my notions were corrected was, that it was not so
_very_ easy to find work in New York as is commonly reported; and that,
though wages were 20 per cent. higher than I had been accustomed to, the
high price of clothing, lodging, &c. made it, notwithstanding, necessary
for a man to be exceedingly careful of his expenditure, if he wished
really to save money. There was no royal road to wealth on that side the
Atlantic any more than on this.

Yet, among the facts which I liked, there was a set-off for this: it was
the absence of those stupid trade-regulations which in England, and on
the continent of Europe, hamper so annoyingly the movement of commerce,
and complicate so vexatiously the relations between employers and
employed. Few of these relics of feudal-age policy exist in the United
States: a master takes as many apprentices as he pleases, perfectly
regardless of anything his journeymen may think or say to the contrary.
He believes, and not without reason, that while he pays them fair wages
for their labour, they have no right to interfere with his mode of
conducting his business. It was a relief to get clear of the
traditionary customs and usages of European workshops, and to feel that
the way was clearer for rising out of the ranks. But there was one
exception, in a large foundry and engine-factory into which I sometimes
went to see an acquaintance: there the 'old-country' customs, as to
drinking when new hands were taken on, prescribing coercive limitations,
and so forth, were in full vigour. My shopmates were greatly amused one
day by my account of what I had seen and heard in the factory and our
foreman exclaimed in language that would have done credit to Sam Slick:
'Well! if them machinists aint the pigheadedest fellers I ever heerd
tell of!--they must be Johnny Bulls!'

Such were some of my experiences of American life, and I was working on
in my usual plodding way, when I found that there was still something to
be learned. The journeymen cabinet-makers throughout the city took it
into their heads that too great a share of the profits of trade went
into the masters' pockets, and they determined, by demanding higher
wages, to secure if possible an increased proportion for themselves. The
masters being informed of the fact, maintained the contrary, and
thereupon issue was joined. An 'old-price book' and a 'new-price book'
came immediately to be talked about, with a fervour scarcely exceeded by
that of the O.P. hostilities, well remembered by old playgoers in
London; and among the men, a few ambitious spirits assumed the direction
of affairs, and drew around them many willing helpers. Preliminary
meetings were held to organise an opposition to the masters, and to take
measures for the proper setting-forth and enforcement of the claims of
the men, and the grounds on which the advance of wages was demanded.
Deputations were appointed to wait on the employers, or 'bosses,' and
shew reason why they should 'give in;' but the bosses would not give in,
and declared themselves to be the best-judges of their own business;
that wages were as high as sale-prices would allow, and that a rise was
out of the question. On hearing this, the men threatened a strike, to
take place by a certain day, if their demands were not complied with.

From ten to twelve hands were employed in the shop where I worked--a
rather heterogeneous assemblage. The foreman and one or two others were
Americans, and the rest were Germans, French, and Irish--I being the
only Englishman. Notwithstanding the diversity of nation, there was but
little in sentiment, for with the exception of the apprentice, who was
not a free agent, and myself, they all determined to 'turn out,' and
many a taunt had I to bear for refusing to join them. Our boss was a man
well to do in the world. Having of course heard of the threatened
strike, he said: 'Well, you can do just as you like. There's no boss in
the city pays better prices than I do, and they wont go up a cent the
higher for all your striking.'

For my part, I was quite taken by surprise by the strike; it was the
last thing I should have expected to see in America. But there it was,
sure enough; and now that the boss had so unequivocally declared his
sentiments, the shop became the more demonstrative in the expression of
theirs. They were not going to be slaves for anybody; it was a free
country; they had a right to higher wages, and higher wages they would
have. The Britisher wasn't half a man; he was a sneak, who ought to have
stayed in his own tyrannical country; and much more to the same effect.
Consequently, on the day fixed, they just shewed themselves at the shop
for a few minutes after breakfast, and then went off in a body to a
great 'mass meeting,' called for the first day of the strike; and all
the while emigrants from Europe were pouring into the city at the rate
of ten or twelve hundred every week.

A first measure was to ascertain the numbers who had struck, how many
were recusants, and in what shops they were working, with a view to
devise means for procuring a total cessation of work in all the shops of
the city. Advertisements of the proceedings speedily appeared in the
daily papers, chiefly in those which, being sold at a cent apiece,
circulated most largely among the working population. The masters were
warned, that holding out on their part would be of little avail; and as
for the 'misguided men' who persisted in working, they were invited to
join the ranks of the insurgents, with promises of work at twelve
dollars a week, or the option of being stigmatised as unworthy members
of society. Compared with the 'turn-outs,' the number of those who
persisted in their labour was very small. As for myself, it seemed at
first uncommonly dull to hear only the noise of my own tools, or of the
apprentice's, echoing through the workshop. But the weather was fine; my
'job,' a 'secretary bookcase,' was one that I liked; and I kept on
without a single misgiving as to the propriety of my determination.

After a few days spent in debates and discussions, and adjustment of
differences between the old and new list of prices, deputations were
sent round to all shops where the men had not joined the strike, and,
among others, they visited me. For some reason--perhaps to avoid vexing
the boss--they would not come up stairs, and requested me to meet them
at the basement door. On going down, I saw some five or six
well-dressed, intelligent-looking men--not a rare sight among the
mechanics of New York--and then, they standing under the 'stoop,' and I
leaning against a pile of maple-joists, one of them opened the business
with a little dissertation on political and social economy, and the
inherent right of men to band themselves together for the common good;
after which, he inquired my reasons for continuing to work in opposition
to the _will of the majority_. Those who have lived in America, and
those only, will be able fully to comprehend the significance of these
four words in italics. My answer was, that 'I had come to America to
better myself, and could not afford to lose time.'

'But you need not lose time. There's a steam-boat fitting up down below
at the dock; we can get you work on board of her at twelve dollars a

'I don't know anything of steam-boat work; and if I did, it would not
suit me to give up a steady place for one that must necessarily be

'You mean to say, then, that you will keep on working where you are?'

'I do.'

'You must be a fool to work for eight or nine dollars a week, when, by
standing out, you could get twelve.'

'Not so sure of that; it is but a few who can make two dollars a day,
and I am not one of them. Nine dollars is about a fair rate for what I
can do.'

'That's no reason why you shouldn't try to better yourself by standing
out. The bosses must give in, if all hands will only strike; and if it
weren't for you European slaves and convicts, we'd soon carry our

The term convict is a taunt frequently applied to Englishmen by
working-people in the United States, and its introduction into the
argument did not at all surprise me.

'I have little inclination,' I answered, 'to throw myself out of work
just to enable you, and a dozen or two more, to get your twelve dollars
a week. My first duty is, to take care of myself and my family. Our boss
is a good fellow in the main, and I don't want to leave him; and,
besides, there's another reason why I won't strike.'

'And what's that?'

'Because it won't succeed. You might as well try to stop the stream of
the Hudson, as to keep up wages, while fifty or a hundred cabinet-makers
are coming in every week from Germany, ready to work for twelve dollars
a month.'

'That shews how much you know about it. In our great and free country,
there's work for all Europe; so it's no use saying wages can't be kept

'Whether or not,' I retorted, 'that's my opinion, and I shall stick to
it till I find a better.'

On this, the opposite party delivered himself of a lengthy harangue, in
which arguments were quoted from Adam Smith, De Tocqueville, and others,
with considerable fluency; all intended, apparently, to convict me of
flagrant error, and prognosticate 'consequences.' I had not at that time
read the works of these writers, and had only very youthful experience
to oppose to such a weight of authority; and being, besides, one of
those unfortunate individuals who cannot think of the right thing to say
until twenty-four hours after the occasion has passed, I remained
silent. My opponents mistook silence for assent, and left me, expressing
a hope that they should see me at their committee-room next day.

The passage, at the entrance of which this scene had taken place, was
separated from a turner's shop adjoining by a thin wooden partition, and
the turner, who was a New Yorker, stopped his lathe to listen to our
parley. When he heard me turn to go up stairs, he shouted: 'Hillo!
Johnny Bull, they were rather too many for you. You must get up a little
sooner in the mornin', if you want to circumvent Yankees! Look out for
squalls, old fellow!'

'Words is only wind,' I replied, quoting one-half of a 'down-east'
adage, as I ran up the stairs; he, however, before I got out of hearing,
added the second half: 'but blows hurts.'

Three or four days passed away; trade was remarkably brisk, and a few of
the bosses gave in--a fact announced with great exultation by the
turn-outs, who now felt confident of victory, and urged their demands
more strenuously than ever. But compliance was no part of the bosses'
intentions, for no sooner were the arrears of unfinished work cleared
off, than the hands found themselves again at liberty. This proceeding
naturally irritated the struggle somewhat; and subscriptions for the
support of those who, habituated to live from hand to mouth, had saved
nothing, were called for with renewed importunity. The strike was
beginning to feel the pressure of the laws of nature.

Now and then, one of my shopmates would drop in, and intimate that it
would be dangerous for me to persist in having my own way; but I felt no
whit inclined to yield, for, although I had seen the houses of
intermarried blacks and whites devastated, and a bonfire made in the
street with their furniture, I had but little apprehension of personal
violence, and the boss protested that he would 'see me righted,' should
any mischief befall. So it went on for a few days longer, when a second
deputation waited upon me, and, less ceremonious than the first, they
rushed noisily, and without notice, up the stairs, and crowded into my
bench-room. There were about twenty of them; their spokesman looked
clean and respectable, but the others were a dirty, out-at-elbows,
tobacco-chewing crew, only to be described by that expressive American
epithet, 'loafers;' and they eyed me with very sinister looks, while the
leader began an appeal to my _ésprit de corps_. It is scarcely necessary
to repeat the argument that followed. Having nothing new to offer, I
merely said, that I considered myself at full liberty to work for
whatever amount of wages to me seemed satisfactory; that I would no more
submit to any interference with that liberty, than to any tyranny over
my conscience; and that all I claimed at their hands, was to be let
alone. Cries of 'Hustle him out!' frequently interrupted me; and perhaps
a proof that 'blows hurts' might have followed, but just as I finished,
my boss came in, and commanded the party to leave his premises, with an
assurance that he would not suffer me to be molested. The leader, who
seemed as much ashamed of his followers as Falstaff was of his ragged
regiment, immediately beat a retreat, and his troop with him; one or
two, as they went out, declaring that they would 'hammer' me whenever
they caught me in the street. I, however, went and came as usual, and
for some reason--perhaps the boss's declaration in my favour--met with
no annoyance.

What was the upshot? As emigrant cabinet-makers arrived, they were at
once engaged, and set to work; and at the end of six weeks, the strike
came to an end. The turn-outs not only failed in carrying their point,
but found themselves in a worse position than when they began, for
numbers of them were no longer 'wanted,' and had to migrate to the
country, or accept a lower rate of wages than before, besides the loss
of the best part of the busy season. In our own shop, one American and
two of the Germans were altogether dismissed, greatly to their
mortification; and in this unexpected reverse, they began to perceive
how they had been duped. I, on the other hand, having finished the first
bookcase, was well advanced in a second; and had, besides, the
satisfaction of knowing that the overplus of my six weeks' earnings was
safely added to the 'nest-egg,' and of hearing my shopmates applaud my
resolution, and wish that they had done likewise. Many were the
conversations touching masters and men that grew out of the event, and,
if permitted, I may perhaps take an opportunity of making our
conclusions public.

One day, some two years after the strike, while walking down Washington
Street, I met the leader of the second deputation aforementioned. 'I
guess I have seen you before,' he said, laying a hand upon my shoulder.
'Didn't you work at C----'s? Ah! you were the toughest customer we had;
but if we had all done as you did, it would have been better for us.'


We have not taken any part in the controversy now raging between the
Allopathists and Homoeopathists; but we think it our duty to point out a
signal benefit which appears to have resulted from it. Allopathy means
simply 'another suffering,' and Homoeopathy 'the same suffering;' from
which the ingenious may conclude, that our regular doctors pretend to
cure diseases by inducing other diseases, and the new school by inducing
symptoms identical with those of the existing disease. But there is
another difference between the schools. The one gives the medicine
boldly by the grain, the other cautiously by the millionth part of a
grain. Both sometimes fail; both sometimes cure. Which is right?

We cannot pretend to answer the question; but in practice we hold with
the regular doctors. We do this because we are used to it. We may be
said to have been born with their silver spoon in our mouths; and we
should be terrified if the ghost of a grain went in instead. We have
done our duty from our youth up by pills, boluses, and draughts: we can
lay our hand, with a clear conscience, on our stomach, and avouch that
fact. We have ever held our doctor in too much reverence to disobey him;
and we revere him more and more every day, since we find him grappling
closer and closer with the Homoeopathists, and meeting them manfully on
their own ground. 'We will not,' says he, 'give in to the absurdity of
attempting to counteract a disease by a medicine that produces the same
disease; but something good may be learned from your infinitesimal
system. To that system you owe the fact that you are now at large: if
you had given doses like ours of such medicines, you would have been in
the hands of the turnkey or the mad-doctor long ago. Your cures have
been effected by your giving so little as not to interrupt nature in any
appreciable manner. But we will improve upon your placebos. If an
infinitesimal dose is good, no dose at all is better--and, except in
special cases, _that_ shall henceforward be our system!'

Our readers may think this a jest; but it is actually the point at
which, on the part of the Allopathists, the controversy has arrived. A
very intelligent and intelligible paper by Dr C. Radclyffe Hall, of
Torquay, has appeared in the _Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal_,
in which the subject is treated in a pleasant and profitable way. He is
aware of the difficulty there will be in introducing the new system--of
the surprised stare with which the patient will regard the doctor 'doing
nothing;' and as confidence is an important part of the cure, the rule
cannot be made absolute. 'But as often as it can be adopted it should.
By degrees, the doctrine will work its way, that medical attendants are
required to survey, superintend, and direct disease, to watch lest harm
accrue unnoticed, to employ active remedies when required, or not to
interfere at all, as seems to their own judgment best. Every case of
successful treatment without medicines will assist to indoctrinate the
public with this view. By learning how much nature can do without
medicines, people will be able to perceive more correctly how much
medicines, when they are necessary, can assist nature.'

The following is given as an example of a case of non-interference. 'A
child, above the age of infancy, is chilly, looks dull around its eyes,
has headache, pain in the back, quick pulse, and no appetite. It is not
known that the digestive organs have been overtaxed. The case may
prove--anything. A local inflammation not yet made manifest by local
pain; the commencement of continued, or remittent, or exanthematous
fever; in a word, there is scarcely any ailment of children of which
this may not be the commencement. _If_, on careful examination, no local
disease can be made out, we have no correct indication for special
treatment. Give nature fair play. Put the child into a warm bed in a
warm room, keep it quiet, stop the supplies of food, but not of water,
and wait. When reaction takes place, if there be anything serious, it
shews itself, and we then know what to attend to. Very frequently, the
case is one of mere ephemeral febrile disorder, from exposure to cold;
and in two or three days, the child is perfectly well again, without
having taken either medicines or globules. But have we done nothing?
When the heart was striving to restore the balance of the circulation,
by adopting the recumbent posture, we gave it less work to do. The
equable warmth of bed was soothing to the nervous system, and solicited
the afflux of blood to the surface. By abstinence, we avoided
ministering to congestion of the viscera, and introducing food which, as
it could not be properly digested, would decompose and irritate the
stomach and bowels.' Here the do-nothing doctor actually assisted
nature; he took care that she should not be thwarted in her operations,
and he stood by watching the case, like an attorney at the examination
of a prisoner, who does nothing, but whose presence is essential to his
client. If the usual counteracting remedies had been administered, a
disease would have been induced, for which a process of convalescence
would have had to be gone through. If the globules had been given
simultaneously with the hygienic treatment described, Homoeopathy
instead of nature would have had the credit of the cure.

'In all chronic blood-diseases,' says Dr Hall, 'medicines are useful,
but hygienic treatment'--the word is explained by the treatment of the
above case--'must rank the first. In all acute blood-diseases, when mild
and occurring in a previously healthy constitution, as they must run
through a special course, and last for a certain time, cases will
frequently do very well without any medicines. More frequently, a little
medicine occasionally to meet a temporary requirement is serviceable;
but in every case of this kind, however severe, the difficult point of
medical judgment is, rather, when to do nothing, than what to do.
Hygienic treatment is invariably necessary. Acting on the principle of
the accoucheur, that nature is to be carefully watched, but that so long
as she proceeds well, she is to be let alone, we shall meet with few
cases of illness in which we cannot find opportunities to judiciously
dispense with medicines.' Another difficulty in adopting this system
may be found in the doctor's fear, that if he dispenses with medicines,
the patient may dispense with him; but we are of Dr Hall's opinion, that
this is quite illusory. The only difference it will make will be, that
patients will learn to trust more to the judgment of their medical
attendant, and less to the efficacy of his medicines.

Hydropathy proceeds on the hygienic treatment, although doubtless in a
somewhat rough manner. Air, exercise, rubbing, cold water, simple
food--such are its substitutes both for medicines and globules; and we
think the regular doctors might with great advantage take a leaf out of
its book, as well as out of the book of homoeopathy. With this reform,
we would suggest--although with some timidity, for doctors are sensitive
on the point--that a re-examination, on broad scientific principles,
even of common diseases, would do some good. Doctors are too fond of
systems of treatment, which are not made to fit the patient, but which
the patient is expected to fit. Diseases run their course, and so do
remedies; but it might be well to inquire what relation there is between
the course of the one, and that of the other. The unvarying treatment of
a disease looks odd to a thinking bystander. The same medicines are
administered in case after case; the dose follows the symptom with the
certainty of fate. The patient dies--the patient recovers. What then?
The doctor has done his best--everything has been according to rule!

The following are the rules laid down for practitioners on the new

'1. Never prescribe medicines when hygiene will do as well and can be

'2. Never permit the patient, or those around him, to expect more from
medicines than medicines can perform.

'3. Never prescribe medicines, except avowedly as mere palliatives, when
the period is gone by for them to be of ultimate service.

'4. Never conceal the _general_ intention of the treatment; that is,
whether it be adopted with a view to cure, or only to mitigate the
disease, or merely to alleviate a symptom or symptoms.

'5. Never prescribe medicines more powerful than are necessary; or
continue a powerful medicine longer, or repeat it oftener, than the
disease actually requires.

'6. Never attribute to the medicine-giving part of the management of a
successful case more than its due share of credit.'

We have called this a new system, but a new system is nothing without a
name; and we therefore beg leave to suggest one, made up, like the
others, of a Greek compound. First, we have Allopathy, another
suffering; then Homoeopathy, the same suffering; then Hydropathy,
water-suffering; and now let us have Anapathy, no suffering at all.


The buzzing and humming noises produced by winged insects are not, as
might be supposed, vocal sounds. They result from sonorous undulations
imparted to the air by the flapping of their wings. This may be rendered
evident by observing, that the noise always ceases when the insect
alights on any object. The sirene has been ingeniously applied for the
purpose of ascertaining the rate at which the wings of such creatures
flap. The instrument being brought into unison with the sound produced
by the insect, indicates, as in the case of any other musical sound, the
rate of vibration. In this way it has been ascertained that the wings of
a gnat flap at the rate of 15,000 times per second. The pitch of the
note produced by this insect in the act of flying is, therefore, more
than two octaves above the highest note of a seven-octave
pianoforte.--_Lardner's Handbook_.



    Vain is the blood of rare and spotless herds,
    Pastured in meads where blue Clitumnus shines;
    Vain are sweet gums from lands that Indus girds,
    Or diamonds sought in deep Brazilian mines;
    Vain are Iberian fruits, and perfumed flowers,
    Rich as a Grecian sunset's purest dyes,
    If deemed, when worship claims thy holiest hours,
    For HIM IN HEAVEN fit gift or sacrifice.

    The flocks that roam on thrice ten thousand hills,
    Each living thing that moves on shore and sea,
    The gems and gold which gleam in caves and rills,
    Saba's low shrub, and Lebanon's proud tree,
    The fragrant tribes that spring on cliff and field,
    That flush the stream, or fringe the smooth lake's brim,
    Breathe, burn, and bloom, at His high will revealed,
    And own with joy their Light and Lord in Him.

    Our gains are His, and, laid before the Cross,
    These must of our oblations form a part,
    But oh! the choicest ores and gems are dross,
    If brought without that pearl of price--THE HEART.
    The poorest serf who fears a tyrant's nod,
    Whose inmost soul hard bondage racks and wrings--
    That toil-worn slave may send unseen to God
    An offering far beyond the wealth of kings.

    Come thou with breast from pride and passion freed,
    Hands which no stain of guilt has ever soiled,
    Feet swift and strong for every gentle deed,
    Faith, hope, and truth, by sordid crowds unspoiled;
    Come with a spirit full of generous love
    For all beyond, and all below the skies:--
    Make ready thou, for Him who reigns above,
    The Christian's gift--A LIVING SACRIFICE.


An individual, signing himself 'A Protestant Dissenter,' has written to
us, to remonstrate against one of the heroines of the tale in No. 424,
with the above title, having been consigned by the author to the
seclusion of a convent. As the same correspondent protests against the
'Visit to an English Monastery' in No. 413, as something calculated to
introduce the wedge of Popery among our readers--the said article having
given much offence to our Catholic readers, and terrified all our
Protestant readers, but one, into thanking God for their own
faith--perhaps it may be thought unnecessary for us to notice such a
communication. But this is only one of the reproaches we receive almost
daily, from all sides of the religious question. Our correspondents are
not satisfied with the well-known fact, that while retaining our own
opinions, we wilfully interfere with the opinions of no other man. Each
secretly thinks we ought to side with _him_, and would have us sacrifice
to this duty the usefulness of a journal which circulates freely among
all denominations of religion, and inculcates the practical part of
Christianity wherever it goes. We are tired of such correspondence--and
there is the truth. Let it be understood once for all, that ours is no
more a religious than it is a political mission. The supposed party
tendency of expressions that occur here and there in our papers is the
result of mere chance; it may be detected as often on one side as on
another; and in no publication but our own does it rouse the acrimony of
partisans. We give information connected with monasteries, churches, and
conventicles, with equal impartiality; and if this is found otherwise
than useful or amusing, it is the fault of those who convert facts into

       *       *       *       *       *

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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