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Title: Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 451 - Volume 18, New Series, August 21, 1852
Author: Various
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 451 - Volume 18, New Series, August 21, 1852" ***

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                     CHAMBERS' EDINBURGH JOURNAL


  No. 451. NEW SERIES.   SATURDAY, AUGUST 21, 1852.   PRICE 1-1/2_d._


A contest of a very remarkable kind is now going on, one which is
pregnant with important results in respect to commerce, to naval
architecture, to geographical discovery, to colonisation, to the
spread of intelligence, to the improvement of industrial art, and to
the balance of political power among nations. The nature of this
contest cannot be better made intelligible than by giving the words of
a challenge recently put forth: 'The American Navigation Company
challenge the ship-builders of Great Britain to a ship-race, with
cargo on board, from a port in England to a port in China and back.
One ship to be entered by each party, and to be named within a week of
the start. The ships to be modelled, commanded, and officered entirely
by citizens of the United States and Great Britain respectively; to be
entitled to rank "A 1" either at the American offices or at Lloyd's.
The stakes to be L.10,000, and satisfactorily secured by both parties;
to be paid without regard to accidents, or to any exceptions; the
whole amount forfeited by either party not appearing. Judges to be
mutually chosen. Reasonable time to be given after notice of
acceptance, to build the ships, if required, and also for discharging
and loading cargo in China. The challenged party may name the size of
the ships--not under 800 nor over 1200 American register tons; the
weight and measurement which may be carried each way; and the
allowance for short weight or oversize.'

There is a boldness, a straightforwardness, an honesty in this
challenge, which cannot be mistaken. It is difficult to be interpreted
in any other sense than that the challengers _mean_ what they say.
Brother Jonathan has fairly thrown down the gauntlet to the
Britishers, and it behoves the latter to take it up in a becoming
spirit. Our ship-builders, especially on the Dee, the Clyde, the Wear,
the Mersey, and the Thames, ought to feel that much is now expected
from them; for if once the Yankees obtain a reputation--a European
reputation it will then be--for outstripping British ships on the
broad seas, our ship-owners will assuredly feel the effects in a
commercial sense.

This question of the speed of ships is a very curious one. Empirical
rules, rather than scientific principles, have hitherto determined the
forms which shall be given to ships. Smith adopts a certain form
because Brown's ship sailed well, whereas Jones's differently shaped
vessel was a bad sailer; although Smith, Brown, and Jones collectively
may be little able to shew _why_ one of the vessels should sail better
than the other.

If opportunity should occur to the reader to visit a large
ship-building establishment, such as those on any one of the five
rivers named above, he will see something like the following routine
of operation going on:--

There is, first, the 'ship's draughtsman,' whose duties are somewhat
analogous to those of the architect of a house, or the engineer of a
railway, or the scientific cutter at a fashionable tailor's: he has to
shape the materials out of which the structure is to be built up, or
at least he has to shew others how it is to be done. When the
ship-builder has received an order, we will say, to construct a ship,
and has ascertained for what route, and for what purpose, and of what
size it is to be, he and his ship's draughtsman 'lay their heads
together' to devise such an arrangement of timbers as will meet the
requirements of the case. Here it is that a _science_ of ship-building
would be valuable; the practical rules followed are deductions not so
much from general principles as from accumulated facts which are
waiting to be systematised; and until this process has been carried
further, ship-building will be an _art_, but not a _science_. Well,
then; the draughtsman, gathering up all the crumbs of knowledge
obtainable from various quarters, puts his wisdom upon paper in the
form of drawings and diagrams, to represent not only the dimensions of
the vessel, but the sizes and shapes of the principal timbers which
are to form it, on the scale, perhaps, of a quarter of an inch to a
foot. Then this very responsible personage goes to his 'mould-loft,'
on the wide-spreading floor of which he chalks such a labyrinth of
lines as bewilder one even to look at. These lines represent the
actual sizes and shapes of the different parts of the ship, with
curvatures and taperings of singularly varied character. One floor of
one room thus contains full-sized contours of all the timbers for the

So far, then, the draughtsman. Next, under his supervision, thin
planks of deal are cut to the contours of all these chalk-lines; and
these thin pieces, called _moulds_, are intended to guide the sawyers
in cutting the timbers for the ship. A large East Indiaman requires
more than a hundred mould-pieces, chalked and marked in every

Another skilful personage, called the 'converter,' then makes a tour
of the timber-yard, and looks about for all the odd, crooked, crabbed
trunks of oak and elm which he can find; well knowing that if the
natural curvature of a tree accords somewhat with the required
curvature of a ship's timber, the timber will be stronger than if cut
from a straight trunk. He has the mould-pieces for a guide, and
searches until he has ferreted out all the timbers wanted. Then he
sets the sawyers to work, who, with the mould-pieces always at hand,
shape the large trunks to the required form. And here it may be noted
as a remarkable fact, that although we live in such a steam-engine and
machine-working age, very few engines or machines afford aid in sawing
ships' timbers. The truth seems to be, that the curvatures are so
numerous and varied, that machine-sawing would scarcely be applicable.
Yet attempts are from time to time made to construct such machines. Mr
Cochran has invented one; and it is said that at the Earl of Rosse's
first soirée as president of the Royal Society, a model of this
timber-cutting machine was exhibited; that Prince Albert cut a
miniature timber with it; and that he thus began an apprenticeship to
the national art of ship-building.

Leaving the supposed visitor to a ship-yard to trace the timbers
through all their stages of progress, we will proceed with that which
is more directly the object of the present paper--namely, the relation
of _speed_ to _build_. Some sixteen or eighteen years ago, the British
Association rightly conceived that its Mechanical Section would be
worthily occupied in an inquiry concerning the forms of ships, and the
effect of form on the speed and steadiness. The inquiry was intrusted
to Mr Scott Russell and Mr (afterwards Sir John) Robison; and
admirably has it been carried out. Mr Scott Russell, especially, has
sought to establish something like a _science_ of form in
ship-building--precisely the thing which would supply a proper basis
for the artificers.

It is interesting to see how, year after year, this committee of two
persons narrated the result of their unbought and unpaid labours to
the Association. In 1838 and 1839, they shewed how a solid moving in
the water produced a particular kind of wave; how, at a certain
velocity, the solid might ride on the _top_ of the wave, without
sinking into the hollow; how, if the external form of a vessel bore a
certain resemblance to a section of this wave, the ship would
encounter less resistance in the water than any other form; and thus
originated the _wave principle_--so much talked of in connection with
ship-building. A ship built on that principle in that year (1839) was
believed to be the fastest ship in Britain. In 1840, the committee
stated that they had 'consulted the most eminent ship-builders as to
the points upon which they most wanted information, and requested them
to point out what were the forms of vessel which they would wish to
have tried. More than 100 models of vessels of various sizes, from 30
inches to 25 feet in length, were constructed,' and an immense mass of
experiments were made on them. In 1841, they described how they had
experimented on vessels of every size, from models of 30 inches in
length to vessels of 1300 tons. In the next following year, the
committee presented a report of no fewer than 20,000 experiments on
models and ships, some of which afforded remarkable confirmation of
the efficiency of the wave principle in ship-building. Thus the
committee went on, year after year, detailing to the Association the
results of their experiments, and pointing out how the ship-builders
were by degrees giving practical value to these results.

Now, a country in which a scientific society will spend a thousand
pounds on such an inquiry, and in which scientific men will give up
days and weeks of their time to it without fee or reward, _ought_ not
to be beaten on the broad seas by any competitor. It affords an
instructive confirmation of the results arrived at by the committee,
that when some of our swiftest yachts and clippers came to be
carefully examined, it was found that the wave principle had been to a
great extent adopted in their form, in cases even where the vessels
were built before the labours of the committee had commenced. The
_art_ had in this case preceded the _science_. And let it not be
considered that any absurdity is involved here: farmers manured their
fields long before chemists were able to explain the real nature of
manuring; and so in other arts, ingenious practical men often discover
useful processes before the men of science can give the rationale of
those processes.

It may be all very well to assert, that 'Britannia rules the waves,'
and that 'Britons never will be slaves,' and so forth; only let us
prove the assertions to be _true_, or not assert at all. We must
appeal to the 'Shipping Intelligence' which comes to hand from every
side, and determine, from actual facts, whether any one country really
outsails another.

Among the facts which thus present themselves to notice, is one
relating to _clippers_. Who first gave the name of clipper to a ship,
or what the name means, we do not know; but a clipper is understood to
be a vessel so shaped as to sail faster than other vessels of equal
tonnage. It is said that these swift sailers originated in the wants
of the salmon shippers, and others at our eastern ports. A bulky,
slow-moving ship may suffice for the conveyance to London of the
minerals and manufactures of Northumberland and Durham; but salmon and
other perishable articles become seriously deteriorated by a long
voyage; and hence it is profitable in such case to sacrifice bulk to
speed. Leith, Dundee, and especially Aberdeen, are distinguished for
the speed of their vessels above those of the Tyne and the Wear; and
the above facts probably explain the cause of the difference. The
Aberdeen clipper is narrow, very keen and penetrating in front,
gracefully tapering at the stern, and altogether calculated to 'go
ahead' through the water in rapid style. As compared with one of the
ordinary old-fashioned English coasting brigs of equal tonnage, an
Aberdeen clipper will attain nearly double the speed. One of these
fine vessels, the _Chrysolite_, in a recent voyage from China,
traversed 320 nautical miles (nearly 370 English statute miles) in
twenty-four hours: this was a great performance. But it must not be
forgotten, that the United States claim to have attained a high
ship-speed before England had thought much on the matter; the
Baltimore clippers have long been known on the other side of the
Atlantic as dashing, rapid, little vessels, mostly either single or

It is to the opening of the China trade the present wonderful rivalry
may in great part be attributed. So long as European vessels were
cooped up stagnantly in Canton river, and allowed to trade only under
circumstances of great restriction and annoyance, little was effected
except by the tea-drinking denizens of Great Britain; but when, by the
treaty of Nankin in 1842, Sir Henry Pottinger obtained the opening of
the four ports of Amoy, Foo-tchow-foo, Ning-po, and Shang-hae, and
stipulated that foreign vessels should be allowed to share with those
of England the liberty of trading at those ports, there was a great
impetus given to ship-builders and ship-owners: those who had goods to
sell, thus found a new market for them; and those who could perform
the voyage most quickly, would have a quicker return for their
capital. This, following at an interval of seven or eight years the
changes made in the India trade by the East India Company's charter of
1834, brought the Americans and the French and others into the Indian
seas in great numbers. Then came the wonders of 1847, in the discovery
of Californian gold; and those of 1851, in the similar discoveries in

Now, these four dates--1834, 1842, 1847, 1851--may be considered as
four starting-points, each marked by a renewed conquest of man over
the waves, and a strengthened but not hostile rivalry on the seas
between nation and nation. So many inducements are now afforded to
merchants to transact their dealings rapidly, that the ship-builders
are beset on all sides with demands for more speed--more speed; and it
is significant to observe that, in almost every recent newspaper
account of a ship-launch, we are told how many knots an hour she is
expected to attain when fitted. Every ship seems to beat every other
ship, in the glowing language employed; but after making a little
allowance for local vanity, there is a substratum of correctness which
shews strongly how we are advancing in rate of speed.

It will really now become useful to collect and preserve records of
speed at sea, in connection with particular ships of particular build,
as a guide to future construction. Mr Henry Wise published a volume
about 1840, containing an analysis of one hundred voyages, made by
ships belonging to the East India Company, extracted from the ships'
logs preserved by the Company. It appears that an average gave 112
days as the duration of a voyage from London to Bombay. Now, within
the last few months we have seen that the _Chrysolite_, a small
clipper, built at Aberdeen for a Liverpool firm, has made the run from
England to China in 104 days; and the _Stornoway_, built at the same
place for a London firm, has accomplished the distance in 103 days.
Let the reader open his map, and compare the relative distances of
Bombay and China from England, and he will then see what a wonderful
increase of speed is implied in the above numbers. Three American
clippers were sighted during the out and home voyages of the two
vessels, and, if newspaper reports tell truly, were distanced by them.

We must not expect that the vast and unprecedented emigration to
California and Australia now going on, will be designedly and
materially connected with high speed, because most of the emigrants go
in roomy ships, at fares as low as are attainable; but goods-traffic,
and the higher class of passenger-traffic, are every month coming more
and more within the domain of high speed. Let us take two instances
which 1852 has afforded, one furnished by England, and one by
America--one connected with the Australian trade, and one with the
Chinese. The Aberdeen clipper-built barque, _Phoenician_, arrived at
Plymouth on February 3, having left Sydney on November 12, and
performed the voyage in 83 days! Her previous voyages had varied from
88 to 103 days. The other instance is that of the American clipper,
_Witch of the Wave_, a fine vessel of 1400 tons burden, which left
Canton on 5th January, and arrived in the Downs on 4th April, a period
of 90 days. Her greatest speed is said to have been 338 nautical
miles--equivalent to about 389 English miles--in 24 hours.

Thus it is, we find, that in one voyage we beat the Americans--in
another, they outstrip us; and there seems at present no reason why
either country should fail in making still further advances. The
Liverpool and New York packet-trade affords another example of the
same principle which we have been considering; gradually these truly
noble vessels are acquiring an increased rate of speed. Not only does
the general desire for high speed impel their owners to this, but
there is a more direct incentive in the increased rivalry of
steam-vessels. The American 'liners,' as the sailing-packets on this
route are usually called, have had in past years an average of about
36 days outward passage, and 24 days homeward; but they are now
shooting ahead unmistakably. The _Racer_, built at New York in 1851,
and placed upon the Liverpool station, is a magnificent clipper of
1700 tons register; it made its first voyage from New York to
Liverpool in 14 days--a quickness not only exceeding that of its
predecessors, but leaving nearly all of them many days in arrear. Even
this, however, was shortly afterwards excelled; for another new
clipper, the _Washington_, accomplished the distance in a little over
13-1/2 days.

The pleasure-vessels which are so numerous in the south of England,
belonging to the several yacht-clubs, are sharing in the modern
speed-producing improvements observable in other vessels. Every one
has heard of the yacht _America_, which arrived at Cowes from the
United States in July 1851, and of the challenge which her owners
threw out against English yacht-owners. Every one knows that the
_America_ beat the yachts which were fitted against her. This victory
has led to an immense activity on the part of yacht-builders in
England; they are studying all the peculiarities in the build and the
trim of the yachts belonging to the different ports and different
countries; and we are justified by every analogy in expecting, that
good results will spring out of wits thus sharpened.

Although we have not deemed it necessary in the present paper to touch
on the national struggle between steam-ships, we must not forget that
one of the most promising and valuable features in steam navigation
arose as an appendage to sailing. The _auxiliary screw_ will deserve
the blessings of our colonists, for reasons which may be soon told.
When it was yet uncertain what result would mark the contest _Screw_
v. _Paddle_, it was suggested that the screw-propeller might probably
be used as an auxiliary power, for occasional use during calms and
contrary winds; the vessel to be a sailing-vessel under ordinary
circumstances; but to have a marine engine and a screw for exigencies
at times when the ship would be brought to a stand-still or even
driven backwards. About seven years ago, an American packet-ship, the
_Massachusetts_, a complete sailing-vessel in other respects, was
provided with a screw and a steam-engine powerful enough to keep the
ship moving when winds and tides were adverse; the screw was capable
of being lifted out of the water when not in use. In her first voyage
from Liverpool to America, this ship gained from five to thirteen days
as compared with five other ships which sailed either on the same or
the following day. This experiment was deemed so far successful, that
the Admiralty ordered, in 1846, an auxiliary screw to be fitted to the
_Amphion_ frigate, then building at Woolwich. Another example was the
_Sarah Sands_, an iron ship of 1300 tons; she had engines of 180
horse-power, much below that requisite for an ordinary steamer of the
same size. She could carry three classes of passengers, coal for the
whole voyage, and 900 tons of merchandise. She made four voyages in
1847, two out and two home; and in 1848 she made five: her average
time was about nineteen days out, and seventeen days home, and she
usually passed about six liners on the voyage.

The speed here mentioned is not quite equal to that of the truly
remarkable clippers noticed above, but it far exceeded that of any
liner at work in 1848. The example was followed in other vessels; and
then men began to cherish the vision of a propeller screwing its way
through the broad ocean to our distant colonies. From this humble
beginning as an auxiliary, the screw has obtained a place of more and
more dignity, until at length we see the mails for the Cape and for
Australia intrusted confidently to its safe-keeping.

The icy regions of the north are braved by the auxiliary screw. The
little _Isabel_, fitted out almost entirely at the expense of Lady
Franklin to aid in the search for her gallant husband, is a brigantine
of 180 tons, with an auxiliary screw to ship and unship. The
_Intrepid_ and the _Pioneer_, the two screw-steamers which form part
of Sir Edward Belcher's arctic expedition--lately started from
England--are to work with or without their auxiliary appendage as
circumstances may determine.

The present article, however, will shew that sailing is not less alive
and busy than steaming; and that the yachts and clippers of both
nations are probably destined to a continuous series of improvements.
When these improvements--whether by aid of scientific societies and
laborious experiments, or by the watchful eye and the shrewd
intelligence of ship-builders, or by both combined--have advanced
steadily to a point perhaps far beyond that which we have yet
attained, then, if at all, may we trouble ourselves about the
question--'Who shall rule the waves?'


Number Nineteen in our street is a gloomy house, with a blistered door
and a cavernous step; with a hungry area and a desolate frontage. The
windows are like prison-slips, only a trifle darker, and a good deal
dirtier; and the kitchen-offices might stand proxies for the Black
Hole of Calcutta, barring the company and the warmth. For as to
company, black beetles, mice, and red ants, are all that are ever seen
of animated nature there, and the thermometer rarely stands above
freezing-point. Number Nineteen is a lodging-house, kept by a poor old
maid, whose only friend is her cat, and whose only heirs will be the
parish. With the outward world, excepting such as slowly filter
through the rusty opening of the blistered door, Miss Rebecca Spong
has long ceased to have dealings. She hangs a certain piece of
cardboard, with 'Lodgings to Let,' printed in school-girl print,
unconscious of straight lines, across it; and this act of public
notification, coupled with anxious peepings over the blinds of the
parlour front, is all the intercourse which she and the world of men
hold together. Every now and then, indeed, a mangy cab may be seen
driving up to her worn-out step; and dingy individuals, of the kind
who travel about with small square boxes, covered with marbled paper,
and secured with knotted cords of different sizes, may be witnessed
taking possession of Nineteen, in a melancholy and mysterious way. But
even these visitations, unsatisfactory as most lodging-house keepers
would consider them, are few and far between; for somehow the people
who come and go never seem to have any friends or relations whereby
Miss Spong may improve her 'connection.' You never see the postman
stop at that desolate door; you never hear a visitor's knock on that
rusty lion's head; no unnecessary traffic of social life ever takes
place behind those dusty blinds; it might be the home of a select
party of Trappists, or the favourite hiding-place of coiners, for all
the sunshine of external humanity that is suffered to enter those
interior recesses. If a murder had been committed in every room, from
the attics to the cellar, a heavier spell of solitude and desolation
could not rest on its floors.

One dreary afternoon in November, a cab stopped at Number Nineteen. It
was a railway cab, less worn and ghastly than those vehicles in
general, but not bringing much evidence of gaiety or wealth for all
that. Its inmates were a widow and a boy of about fifteen; and all the
possessions they had with them were contained in one trunk of very
moderate dimensions, a cage with a canary bird twittering inside, some
pots of flowers, and a little white rabbit, one of the comical
'lop-eared' kind. There was something very touching in these evidences
of the fresh country life which they had left for the dull atmosphere
and steaming fogs of the metropolis. They told a sad tale of old
associations broken, and old loves forsworn; of days of comfort and
prosperity exchanged for the dreariness of poverty; and freedom, love,
and happiness, all snapped asunder for the leaden chain of suffering
to be forged instead. One could not help thinking of all those two
hapless people must have gone through before they could have summoned
courage to leave their own dear village, where they had lived so many
years in that local honourableness of the clergyman's family; throwing
themselves out of the society which knew and loved them, that they
might enter a harsh world, where they must make their own position,
and earn their own living, unaided by sympathy, honour, or affection.
They looked as if they themselves thought something of this too, when
they took possession of the desolate second floor; and the widow sat
down near her son, and taking his hand in hers, gave vent to a flood
of tears, which ended by unmanning the boy as well. And then they shut
up the window carefully, and nothing more was seen of them that night.

Mrs Lawson, the widow, was a mild, lady-like person, whose face bore
the marks of recent affliction, and whose whole appearance and manners
were those of a loving, gentle, unenergetic, and helpless woman, whom
sorrow could well crush beyond all power of resistance. The boy was a
tall, thin youth, with a hectic flush and a hollow cough, eyes bright
and restless, and as manifestly nervous as his mother was the reverse
in temperament--anxious and restless, and continually taxing his
strength beyond its power, making himself seriously ill in his
endeavours to save his beloved mother some small trouble. They seemed
to be very tenderly attached one to the other, and to supply to each
all that was wanting in each: the mother's gentleness soothing down
her boy's excitability, and the boy's nervousness rousing the mother
to exertion. They were interesting people--so lonely, apparently so
unfit to 'rough it' in the world; the mother so gentle in temper, and
the son so frail in constitution--two people who ought to have been
protected from all ill and all cares, yet who had such a bitter cup to
empty, such a harsh fate to fulfil.

They were very poor. The mother used to go out with a small basket on
her arm, which could hold but scanty supplies for two full-grown
people. Yet this was the only store they had; for no baker, no
butcher, no milkman, grocer, or poulterer, ever stopped at the area
gate of Miss Rebecca Spong; no purveyor of higher grade than a
cat's-meat-man was ever seen to hand provisions into the depths of
Number Nineteen's darkness. The old maid herself was poor; and she,
too, used to do her marketing on the basket principle; carrying home,
generally at night, odd scraps from the open stalls in Tottenham
Court-Road, which she had picked up as bargains; and dividing equally
between herself and her fagged servant-of-all-work the wretched meal
which would not have been too ample for one. She therefore could not
help her lodgers, and they all scrambled on over the desolate places
of poverty as they best might. In general, tea, sugar, bread, a little
rice, a little coffee as a change, a scrap of butter which no cow that
ever yielded milk would have acknowledged--these were the usual items
of Mrs Lawson's marketing, on which she and her young son were to be
nourished. And on such poor fare as this was that pale boy expected to
become a hearty man? The mother could not, did not expect it. Else why
were the tears in her eyes so often as she returned? and why did she
hang over her son, and caress him fondly, as if in deprecation, when
she brought him his wretched meal, seeming to lament, to blame
herself, too, that she had not been able to provide him anything
better? Poor things! poor things!

Mrs Lawson seemed at last to get some employment. She had been seeking
for it long--to judge by her frequent absences from home, and the
weary look of disappointment she wore when she returned. But at last
the opening was found, and she set to work in earnest. She used to go
out early in the morning, and not return until late in the evening,
and then she looked pale and tired, as one whose energies had been
overtasked all the day; but she had found no gold-mine. The scanty
meals were even scantier than before, and her shabby mourning was
getting shabbier and duller. She was evidently hard-worked for very
little pay; and their condition was not improved, only sustained by
her exertions. Things seemed to be very bad with them altogether, and
with little hope of amendment; for poor Mrs Lawson had been 'brought
up as a lady,' and so was doubly incapable--by education as well as
by temperament--of gaining her own living. She was now employed as
daily governess in the family of a city tradesman--people, who though
they were kindly-natured enough, had as much as they could do in
keeping their own fortunes afloat without giving any substantial aid
to others, and who had therefore engaged her at the lowest possible
salary, such as was barely sufficient to keep her and her son from
absolute want.

The boy had long been very busy. He used to sit by the window all the
day, earnestly employed with paper and scissors; and I wondered what
fascinating occupation he had found to chain him for so many hours by
those chinks and draughts; for he was usually enveloped in shawls, and
blankets were hung about his chair, and every tender precaution taken
that he should not increase his sickness by exposure even to the
ordinary changes in the temperature of a dwelling-room. But now, in
spite of his terrible cough, in spite of his hurried breathing, he
used to sit for hours on hours by the dusky window, cutting and
cutting at that eternal paper, as if his very life depended on his
task. But he used to gather up the cuttings carefully, and hide all
out of sight before his mother came home--sometimes nearly caught
before quite prepared, when he used to shew as much trepidation as if
committing a crime.

This went on for some time, and at last he went out. It was
fortunately a fine day--a clear, cold, January day; but he had no
sooner breathed the brisk frosty air than a terrible fit of coughing
seemed to threaten his frail existence. He did not turn back though;
and I watched him slowly pass down the street, holding on by the
rails, and every now and then stopping to take breath. I saw a
policeman speak to him in a grave, compassionating way, as if--seeing
that he was so young and feeble, and so much a stranger that he was
asking his way to Oxford Street, while going in a totally contrary
direction--he was advising him to go home, and to let some one else do
his business--his father perhaps; but the boy only smiled, and shook
his head in a hopeful way; and so he went from my sight, though not
from my thoughts.

This continued daily, sometimes Herbert bringing home a small quantity
of money, sometimes only disappointment; and these were terrible
trials! At last, the mother was made acquainted with her son's new
mode of life, by the treasured 5s. which the poor boy thrust into her
hand one evening, with a strange shy pride that brought all the blood
into his face, while he kissed her with impetuosity to smother her
reproaches. She asked him how he had got so much money--so much! and
then he told her how, self-taught, he had learned to cut out
figures--dogs and landscapes--in coloured paper, which he had taken to
the bazaars and stationers' shops, and there disposed of--for a mere
trifle truly. 'For this kind of thing is not fashionable, mother,
though I think the Queen likes them,' he said; 'and of course, if not
fashionable, I could not get very much for them.' So he contented
himself, and consoled her, for the small payment of sixpence or a
shilling, which perhaps was all he could earn by three or four days'

The mother gently blamed him for his imprudence in exposing himself as
he had done to the wet and cold--and, alas! these had told sadly on
his weakened frame; but Herbert was so happy to-night, that she could
not damp his pleasure, even for maternal love; so she reserved the
lecture which _must_ be given until to-morrow. And then his out-door
expeditions were peremptorily forbidden; and Miss Spong was called up
to strengthen the prohibition--which she did effectually by offering,
in her little, quick, nervous way, to take Herbert's cuttings to the
shops herself, and thus to spare him the necessity of doing so. Poor
Mrs Lawson went up to the little woman, and kissed her cheek like a
sister, as she spoke; while Miss Spong, so utterly unused as she had
been for years to the smallest demonstration of affection, looked at
first bewildered and aghast, and finally sank down on the chair in a
childish fit of crying. I cannot say how much the sight of that poor
little old maid's tears affected me! They seemed to speak of such long
years of heart-loneliness--such loving impulses strangled by the chill
hand of solitude--such weary familiarity with that deadness of life
wherein no sympathy is bestowed, no love awakened--that I felt as one
witnessing a dead man recalled to life, after all that made life
pleasant had fled. What a sorrowful house that Number Nineteen was!
From the desolate servant-of-all-work at her first place from the
Foundling, to the half-starved German in the attics, every inmate of
the house seemed to have nothing but the bitter bread of affliction to
eat--nothing but the salt waters of despair to drink.

And now began another epoch in the Lawson history, which shed a sad
but most beautiful light over the fading day of that young life.

A girl of about fourteen--she might have been a year or so
younger--was once sent from one of the stationer's shops to conclude
some bargain with the sick paper-cutter. I saw her slender figure
bound up the desolate steps with the light tread of youth, as if she
had been a divine being entering the home of human sorrow. She was one
of those saintly children who are sometimes seen blooming like white
roses, unstained by time or by contact. Her hair hung down her neck in
long, loose curls, among which the sunlight seemed to have fairly lost
itself, they were so golden bright; her eyes were large, and of that
deep, dark gray which is so much more beautiful, because so much more
intellectual, than any other colour eyes can take; her lips were fresh
and youthful; and her figure had all that girlish grace of fourteen
which combines the unconscious innocence of the child with the
exquisite modesty of the maiden. She soon became the daily visitor of
the Lawsons--pupil to Herbert.

The paper-cutting was not wholly laid aside though; in the early
morning, and in the evening, and often late into the night, the thin,
wan fingers were busy about their task; but the middle of the day was
snatched like an hour of sleep in the midst of pain--garnered up like
a fountain of sweet waters in the wilderness; for then it was that
little Jessie came for her Latin lesson, which she used to learn so
well, and take such pleasure in, and be doubly diligent about, because
poor Herbert Lawson was ill, and vexation would do him harm. Does it
seem strange that a stationer's daughter should be so lovely, and
should learn Latin? And there those two children used to sit for three
dear hours of the day; she, leaning over her book, her sweet young
face bent on her task with a look of earnest intellectuality in it,
that made her like some sainted maid of olden time; and he watching
her every movement, and listening to every syllable, with a rapt
interest such as only very early youth can feel. How happy he used to
look! How his face would lighten up, as if an angel's wing had swept
over it, when the two gentle taps at the door heralded young Jessie!
How his boyish reverence, mixed with boyish care, gave his wasted
features an expression almost unearthly, as he hung over her so
protectingly, so tenderly, so adoringly! It was so different from a
man's love! There was something so exquisitely pure and spiritual in
it--something so reverential and so chivalrous--it would have been
almost a sin to have had that love grow out into a man's strong
passion! The flowers she brought him--and seldom did a day pass
without a fresh supply of violets, and, when the weather was warmer,
of primroses and cowslips, from her gentle hand--all these were
cherished more than gold would have been cherished; the books she lent
him were never from his side; if she touched one of the paltry
ornaments on the chimney-piece, that ornament was transferred to his
own private table; and the chair she used was always kept apart, and
sacred to her return.

It was very beautiful to watch all these manifestations: for I did
watch them, first from my own window, then in the house, in the midst
of the lonely family, comforting when I could not aid, and sharing in
the griefs I could not lessen. Under the new influence, the boy gained
such loveliness and spiritualism, that his face had an angelic
character, which, though it made young Jessie feel a strange kind of
loving awe for the sick boy, betokened to me, and to his mother, that
his end was not far off.

He was now too weak to sit up, excepting for a small part of the day;
and I feared that he would soon become too weak to teach, even in his
gentle way, and with such a gentle pupil. But the Latin exercises
still held their place; the books lying on the sofa instead of on the
table, and Jessie sitting by him on a stool, where he could overlook
her as she read: this was all the change; unless, indeed, that Jessie
read aloud more than formerly, and not always out of a Latin book.
Sometimes it was poetry, and sometimes it was the Bible that she read
to him; and then he used to stop her, and pour forth such eloquent,
such rapturous remarks on what he heard, that Jessie used to sit and
watch him like a young angel holding converse with a spirit. She was
beginning to love him very deeply in her innocent, girlish,
unconscious way; and I used to see her bounding step grow sad and
heavy as, day by day, her brother-like tutor seemed to be sinking from
earth so fast.

Thus passed the winter, poor Mrs Lawson toiling painfully at her task,
and Herbert falling into death in his; but with such happiness in his
heart as made his sufferings divine delights, and his weakness, the
holy strength of heaven.

He could do but little at his paper-cutting now, but still he
persevered; and his toil was well repaid, too, when he gave his mother
the scanty payment which he received at the end of the week, and felt
that he had done his best--that he had helped her forward--that he was
no longer an idler supported by her sorrow--but that he had braced the
burden of labour on to his own shoulders also, weak as they were, and
had taken his place, though dying, among the manful workers of the
world. Jessie brought a small weekly contribution also, neatly sealed
up in fair white paper; and of these crumpled scraps Herbert used to
cut angels and cherubs' heads, which he would sit and look at for
hours together; and then he would pray as if in a trance--so earnest
and heartfelt was it--while tears of love, not grief, would stream
down his face, as his lips moved in blessings on that young maiden

It came at last. He had fought against it long and bravely; but death
is a hard adversary, and cannot be withstood, even by the strongest.
It came, stealing over him like an evening cloud over a star--leaving
him still beautiful, while blotting out his light--softening and
purifying, while slowly obliterating his place. Day by day, his
weakness increased; day by day, his pale hands grew paler, and his
hollow cheek more wan. But the love in his boy's heart hung about his
sick-bed as flowers that have an eternal fragrance from their birth.

Jessie was ever a daily visitor, though no longer now a scholar; and
her presence had all the effect of religion on the boy--he was so
calm, and still, and holy, while she was there. When she was gone, he
was sometimes restless, though never peevish; but he would get
nervous, and unable to fix his mind on anything, his sick head turning
incessantly to the window, as if vainly watching for a shadowy hope,
and his thin fingers plucking ceaselessly at his bed-clothes, in
restless, weary, unsoothed sorrow. While she sat by him, her voice
sounding like low music in his ears, and her hands wandering about him
in a thousand offices of gentle comforting, he was like a child
sinking softly to sleep--a soul striving upward to its home, beckoned
on by the hands of the holier sister before it.

And thus he died--in the bright spring-time of the year, in the bright
spring-time of his life. Love had been the cradle-song of his infancy,
love was the requiem of his youth. His was no romantic fable, no
heroic epic; adventures, passions, fame, made up none of its
incidents; it was simply the history of a boy's manful struggling
against fate--of the quiet heroism of endurance, compensated by inward
satisfaction, if not by actual happiness.

True, his career was in the low-lying paths of humanity; but it was
none the less beautiful and pure, for it is not deeds, it is their
spirit, which makes men noble, or leaves them stained. Had Herbert
Lawson been a warrior, statesman, hero, philosopher, he would have
shewn no other nature than that which gladdened the heart of his
widowed mother, and proved a life's instruction to Jessie Hamilton, in
his small deeds of love and untaught words of faith in the solitude of
that lodging-house. Brave, pure, noble then, his sphere only would
have been enlarged, and with his sphere the weight and power of his
character; but the spirit would have been the same, and in the dying
child it was as beautiful as it would have been in the renowned

We have given this simple story--simple in all its bearings--as an
instance of how much real heroism is daily enacted, how much true
morality daily cherished, under the most unfavourable conditions. A
widow and her young son cast on the world without sufficient means of
living--a brave boy battling against poverty and sickness combined,
and doing his small endeavour with manful constancy--a dying youth,
whose whole soul is penetrated with love, as with a divine song: all
these are elements of true human interest, and these are circumstances
to be found in every street of a crowded city. And to such as these is
the divine mission of brotherly charity required; for though poverty
may not be relieved by reason of our inability, suffering may always
be lightened by our sympathy. It takes but a word of love, a glance of
pity, a gentle kiss of affection--it takes but an hour of our day, a
prayer at night, and we may walk through the sick world and the
sorrowful as angels dropping balm and comfort on the wounded. The cup
of such human love as this poured freely out will prove in truth
'twice blessed,' returning back to our own hearts the peace we have
shed on others. Alas! alas! how thick the harvest and how few the


Having occasion to spend a few days of the beautiful July of the
present year in the lower part of Nithsdale, I felt tempted to bestow
a forenoon upon an effort to discover and examine a particular spot in
the district connected with the history of the poet Burns, but
respecting which a doubt has till lately existed. The subject was the
more excitingly placed before me, by my seeing every morning, from my
bedroom windows, the smiling farmstead of Ellisland, which the poet
built, and where he spent more than four years of his life. Daily
beholding his simple home, and the fields he had tilled, I felt a
revived interest in his sad history and everything associated with it.

All the readers of Burns are of course acquainted with his extravagant
Bacchanalian lyric, beginning--

    O Willie brewed a peck o' maut,
      And Rab and Allan cam to prie;
    Three blither hearts that lee-lang night
      Ye wadna find in Christendie.

It was well known that the affair described was a real one--that the
Willie who gave the entertainment was Mr William Nicol, a master in
the High School of Edinburgh--Rab, the poet himself--and Allan, a
certain Mr Masterton, likewise of the Edinburgh High School: three
merry-hearted men, of remarkable talents and many other good
properties, but who, unfortunately, were all of them too liable to the
seductions of the 'barley-bree.' That such was the scene, and such the
actors, we had learned from Burns himself, who thus annotated the song
in a musical collection: 'This air is Masterton's; the song mine. The
occasion of it was this: Mr William Nicol, of the High School,
Edinburgh, during the autumn vacation being at Moffat, honest
Allan--who was at that time on a visit to Dalswinton--and I went to
pay Nicol a visit. We had such a joyous meeting, that Mr Masterton and
I agreed, each in our own way, that we should celebrate the business.'
That is to say, Burns undertook to compose a song descriptive of the
merry encounter, while Mr Masterton, who was an amateur musician,
should compose an appropriate air. So far there seems to be little
obscurity about the matter. The locality pointed out is the well-known
spa village of Moffat, situated among the hills of Annandale, about
twenty miles from Ellisland. Nicol had had a lodging there, in which
to enjoy his few weeks of autumn vacation; Burns and Masterton--the
one from Ellisland, the other from Dalswinton--had journeyed thither
in company; and there, probably in some small cottage room, had the
strength of the peck o' maut been tried. Most likely, as Moffat is so
far on the way from Dalswinton to Edinburgh, Mr Masterton would part
with his two friends next day, and proceed on his way to the city,
while Burns returned to his farm, lone-meditating on the song in which
he was to make the frolic immortal.

With so explicit a statement from the poet, we never should have had
occasion to feel any doubt about the circumstances referred to in
'Willie brewed a peck o' maut,' had not Dr Currie, the editor of the
posthumous collection of Burns's works, inserted therein a note,
stating that the merry-meeting 'took place at Laggan, a farm purchased
by Mr Nicol in Nithsdale, on the recommendation of Burns.' Currie,
proceeding upon the undoubted fact of Nicol having purchased such a
farm, seems to have imagined that the meeting was what is called in
Scotland a _house-heating_, or entertainment given to celebrate the
entering upon a new domestic establishment, Laggan itself being of
course the scene. To add to the perplexity thus created, Dr Currie's
assumptions were taken up by a subsequent editor, who ought to have
known better--the late Allan Cunningham. He gives the whole affair
with daring circumstantiality. The song, he says, 'was composed to
commemorate the _house-heating_--as entering upon possession of a new
house is called in Scotland. William Nicol made the brewst strong and
nappy; and Allan Masterton, then on a visit at Dalswinton, crossed the
Nith, and, with the poet and his celebrated punch-bowl, reached Laggan
"a wee before the sun gaed down." The sun, however, rose on their
carousal, if the tradition of the land may be trusted.' Thus, as
Laggan is on the right bank of the Nith, while Dalswinton is on the
left, we have Masterton crossing the river to join Burns at Ellisland,
which is the converse of the procedure necessary on the supposition of
Moffat being the locality. A place called Laggan, about two miles from
Ellisland, being further assumed as the seat of Nicol, we have the
poet marching along to it bearing his punch-bowl as an essential of
the frolic!--a particular which this biographer would have probably
suppressed, if he had known that the real Laggan of William Nicol is
eight or nine miles from Ellisland, in a part of the country naturally
so difficult of access, that a visitor might be glad to get there
himself without any such nice burden as a punch-bowl to carry.

In a more recent edition of the poet's life and writings--where at
length an effort is made to illustrate both, by documentary and other
exact evidence[1]--the affair is set in such a light as to throw a
ludicrous commentary on such testimony as the 'tradition of the land.'
It appears, from a letter of Burns in which two verses of the song are
transcribed, that it was written before 16th October 1789; while it
equally appears that Mr Nicol did not purchase Laggan till March 1790:
_ergo_, the maut was not brewed at Laggan; Masterton did not cross the
Nith; and the punch-bowl is a myth, which most likely originated in
editorial fancy.

Laggan is, nevertheless, a remarkable place, for Burns and Nicol must
have been there together in some fashion, if not a Bacchanalian one,
since it was upon the recommendation of the former that the latter
became its proprietor. There are, however, two Laggans--one in
Dunscore parish, about two miles from Ellisland; the other in
Glencairn parish, a comparatively remote situation; and the latter was
the Laggan of Nicol. Mr M----, of A----, who now lives near Ellisland,
remembers, while living in his father's house, Laggan of Dunscore--the
place erroneously assumed by Cunningham--that Burns and Nicol came
there rather late one evening, and induced his father to accompany
them to the town of Minniehive, whence he did not return home till
next day at three o'clock. Laggan of Glencairn being on the way to
Minniehive, and near it, and there being no other imaginable reason
for Nicol going to such an out-of-the-way place, it seems a very
reasonable supposition, that the pair of friends were on their way to
see the property which Nicol thought of purchasing; and that Burns,
knowing Mr M---- to be well skilled in land, had thought of asking his
advice on its value. The junior Mr M---- adds a reminiscence, too
characteristic, we fear, to be much doubted, that Burns and Nicol on
that occasion were for a whole week engaged in merry-making.

We had, therefore, a half-melancholy interest in seeing Laggan--a
name, we felt, associated with reckless gaieties, but then they were
the gaieties of genius, and well had they been moralised in the
punishments which they drew down--for, as Currie remarks in 1799,
these 'three merry boys' were already all of them under the turf. Our
kind host, the successor of Masterton's, took us in his carriage
across the Nith, through a scene of natural luxuriance and beauty not
to be surpassed, and under a sun of as intense brilliancy as ever
shone in these climes. Passing into a high side-valley, we soon left
the glowing plains of Nithsdale behind. We passed under the farmstead
of Laggan of Dunscore, and thought of Burns and Nicol coming there to
seduce the worthy farmer away to partake of their festivities at
Minniehive. By and by we came to Dunscore kirk, which Burns used to
attend with his family while resident at Ellisland--a gloomy-looking
man, the people thought him, all the time that he, with his generous,
benevolent nature, was in reality groaning over the stern Calvinistic
theology of the preacher. It is a tract of country which has but
recently been reclaimed from a marshy and moorish state, and which
still shews only partial traces of decoration and high culture. In a
gloomy recess among the hills, we caught a glimpse of the situation of
the old castle of Lagg, a fortalice surrounded by bogs, the ancient
residence of the persecutor Grierson of Lagg, and fit scene to be
connected with the history of a man who could coolly stand to see
innocent women drowned at a stake in the sea for conscience' sake. The
name of the place is pure Norwegian, expressing simply _water_, such
being, no doubt, the predominating feature of the scenery in its
original state--while Laggan merely gives the article _en_ (the) in
addition. Soon after passing Dunscore, we entered the valley of the
Cairn, which, with its chalet-like farmhouses far up the slopes on
both sides, reminded us much of Switzerland. Here, a few miles onward,
we saw Maxwellton House, surrounded by those slopes so warmly spoken
of in Scottish song--

    Maxwellton braes are bonnie,
      Where early fa's the dew;
    Where I and Annie Laurie,
      Made up the promise true, &c.

Of this estate, the Laggan of William Nicol was originally a part,
being sold in 1790 by Sir Robert Laurie of Maxwellton, a gentleman
whom Burns has celebrated in his famous poem of 'The Whistle.' Even in
this splendid summer-day, the whole vale has a rude and triste
appearance, somewhat at issue with the declaration of the old song
just quoted, and not likely, one would have thought, to attract the
regard of such men as William Nicol and Robert Burns.

We had inquired, as we came along, as to the place of which we were in
quest; and finding nobody with a very clear or ready conception of it
or its whereabouts, began to feel as if it were of a half-fabulous
character. At length, however, at a place called Crossford, we were
told we should have to leave our carriage and the road, and ascend the
side of the valley to the northward, where, about a mile and a half
onward, we should find a small farm called Laggan Park. This we hoped
to find to be the true place. To walk a mile and a half up hill on a
roasting July day was not a task to be encountered on light grounds;
however, we had resolved to make out our point if possible. Behold a
couple of wayfarers, then, pursuing their way along the skirts of
turnip-fields, through slight coppices, and along various clayey
braes, with this unseen place of Laggan Park still keeping wonderfully
ahead, long after it ought to have been reached. We wondered how the
Ayrshire bard would have looked carrying a punch-bowl along our
present path, after a journey of eight miles similarly loaded; and
whether he would have thought any amount of the 'barley bree' during
'the lee-lang night' a fair recompense for his toils. At length, we
arrived at the spot, but in a state of deliquescence and exhaustion
not to be described. It is a small farm-establishment, nestling in a
bosom of the hills, with some shelter and good exposure, making up for
elevation of position, so that its few fields of growing grain, of
potatoes, and meadow grass, have a tolerably good appearance. Some
patches of ancient coppice at the base of the barish hills behind,
give it even a smiling aspect. The farmer, seeing us approach, left
his people in the field, and came to greet us. We entered a neat clean
room, and met a kind reception from 'the Mistress,' who was as trigly
dressed as if she had been expecting company. It soon became clear,
from our conversation with the good couple, that our toils were
crowned with success. This really had been Nicol's property; it still
belonged to a member of his family. That line of gray heights seen
from the door was what Burns alluded to when he facetiously dubbed his
friend 'Illustrious lord of Laggan's many hills.' This cottage had
been the retreat of the High School master in his hours of rustic
vacation. There was a difficulty, which we discussed over a glass of
most welcome spirits and water furnished by the farmer: Did this neat
room form a part of the dwelling of Nicol? It appeared not. It was a
modern addition. The original house, to which it adjoined upon a
different level of flooring, was the merest hut, of one room, with a
line of box-beds dividing the sitting-place from a small space, which,
being rudely causewayed like a cow-house, had probably been employed
in keeping animals of some kind. Such was the humble _tuguriolum_ of
Willie Nicol of the 'peck o' maut'--an interesting memorial of the
simplicity of country life in Scotland at the close of the eighteenth
century. We did not venture to indulge in any dreamings as to festive
meetings between Burns and Nicol in this humble shed; for we felt that
here there was no certain ground to go upon. Enough that we could be
assured of Burns and Nicol having been together here; two most
singular examples of the peasant class of their country, and one of
them an unapproached master of his country's lyre, whose strains have
floated to the ends of the earth, and promise to last through many

The elements of the place, and the ideas connected with it were, after
all, too simple to detain us long. We only waited to snatch a slight
pencil sketch of the house and its adjuncts; and then, having taken
leave of the farmer and his wife, we retraced our steps to the road.
Somewhat unexpectedly, and not at all in keeping with the idea of
either Maxwellton braes or Laggan's many hills, we discovered in our
walk that the rough terrace-like ground over which we had passed
before coming in sight of Nicol's estate, was a _moraine_, or mass of
_débris_, produced and left there by a glacier. Its surface, thickly
covered with loose blocks of rock different from that of the district,
first fixed our attention; then looking into some openings which had
been made in the earth for building materials, we readily observed
that the internal constitution of the mass was precisely like that of
the moraines of the existing glaciers of the Alps, and of the similar
masses of drift scattered over Sweden--a confused mixture of angular,
slightly-worn blocks of all sizes, bedded in clayey gravel of a brown
colour. Such objects are rare in Scotland; but here is undoubtedly
one, though we cannot pretend to tell from what quarter it has come.
The thing most nearly resembling it in general appearance, which we
have ever seen, is an undoubted ancient moraine at a place called
Mosshuus, in the Valley of the Laug, in Norway.

One reflection arises at the conclusion of this trivial investigation,
and it is this--If so much doubt and obscurity have already settled on
circumstances which took place scarcely beyond the recollection of
living people, can we wonder at that which invests the events of a
more remote epoch? If editors in our enlightened time have contrived
so soon to give the history of Burns a mythical character, what safety
have we in trusting to such ancient narrations as those of Plutarch or
Thucydides? On the other hand, where even such a biography as that of
Burns is placed by sound and carefully-examined evidence upon an
irrefragable basis, a service is rendered to the public beyond the
merits of any immediate question that may be under discussion, in the
encouragement which it gives to historical inquirers of all grades, to
rest satisfied with nothing on vague assertion, but to sift everything
to the bottom.


[1] Life and Works of Robert Burns, edited by Robert Chambers. 4 vols.
Edinburgh: W. & R. Chambers.


  _Plantagenet._ The truth appears _so_ naked on my side,
                 That any purblind eye may find it out.
     _Somerset._ And on my side it is so well apparelled,
                 So clear, so shining, and so evident,
                 That it will glimmer through a blind man's eye.

                                        _First Part of Henry VI._

Having made up our mind upon a question, probably by a delightfully
curt process, how pleasant and natural it is to laugh sublimely at all
dissentients! Poor creatures, those nonconformists are almost to be
pardoned, so much does their impenetrable dulness amuse us! How they
_can_ have scrambled to a conclusion opposite to ours, is a problem so
absurd that it tickles us amazingly.

Yet the formation of opinions is vastly dependent upon circumstances.
Whang-shing is born in the Celestial Empire; and the chances are that
the fellow will go the length of pinning his faith to Confucius.
Yonder squalid urchin, turning out of Saffron Hill or some other
sweet-scented purlieus, has been cradled on the ragged lap of
professional mendicancy; and there is a strong probability that he
will come to a misunderstanding with the police one of these fine
days. The mild-eyed priest who just passed you, was born and educated
within the states of the church; and somehow or other he firmly
believes in the Romanism you so hotly repudiate. The sallow-faced
gentleman crossing the road, and exhibiting so wobegone an aspect, has
always had a bad liver; and you will never persuade him to look on the
bright side of life. While this bustling, vivacious personage, who
approaches us with such a springy step, and rapid merry glance, has
never known a day's illness--is indebted to hearsay for his belief in
nerves--and is ready to challenge Europe to beat him at a hearty
guffaw--_he_ is perplexed by the shadow of a long face, marvels with
all his might at a heavy eye, and cannot unriddle the philosophy of a
bent brow. When shall we learn that the result of looking depends on
the state of the eye--that the vision is modified by the position of
the seer--that he who stands on one side, sees one side only? Says

    We safely may affirm that human life
    Is either fair or tempting, a soft scene,
    Grateful to sight, refreshing to the soul,
    Or a forbidden tract of cheerless view,
    _Even as the same is looked at, or approached_.

And the pastor of the _Excursion_, who is the spokesman, illustrates
his doctrine by shewing that the church-yard among the mountains, in
which he and his companions are standing, if approached from the
sullen north, when 'in changeful April, fields are white with
new-fallen snow,' and ere the sun has gained his noontide height, will
appear an 'unillumined, blank, and dreary plain, with more than wintry
cheerlessness and gloom saddening the heart;' whereas, if it be
regarded from the quarter whence the lord of light dispenses his
beams, '_then_ will a vernal prospect greet your eye'--

    All fresh and beautiful, and green and bright,
    Hopeful and cheerful--vanished is the pall
    That overspread and chilled the sacred turf,
    Vanished or hidden; and the whole domain,
    To some, too lightly minded, might appear
    A meadow carpet for the dancing hours.

The same principle of mental optics is of universal application. We
cannot ignore it without fatal results when studying history, science,
art, human nature, or any conceivable object of inquiry. Thus, in
forming our opinion of the actions of others, there is no more
mischievous absurdity, it has been remarked, than to judge them from
the outside as they look to us, instead of from the inside as they
look to the actors; nothing more irrational than to criticise deeds as
though the doers of them had the same hopes, fears, desires, and
restraints with ourselves. 'We cannot understand another's character
except by abandoning our own identity, and realising to ourselves his
frame of mind, his want of knowledge, his hardships, temptations, and
discouragements.' If we turn to history, we are reminded of Thomas
Moore's lines--

    By Tory Hume's seductive page beguiled,
    We fancy Charles was just, and Stratford mild;
    And Fox himself, with party pencil draws
    Monmouth a hero 'for the good old cause!'
    Then, rights are wrongs, and victories are defeats,
    As French or English pride the tale repeats.

Thus, too, Macaulay remarks, that for many years every Whig historian
was anxious to prove that the old English government was all but
republican--every Tory, to prove it all but despotic. 'With such
feelings, both parties looked into the chronology of the middle ages.
Both readily found what they sought, and obstinately refused to see
anything but what they sought.' Accordingly, to see only one-half of
the evidence, you would conclude that the Plantagenets were as
absolute as the sultans of Turkey; to see only the other half, you
would conclude that they had as little real power as the Doges of
Venice: and both conclusions would be equally remote from the truth.

Carlyle justly affirms, that if that man is a benefactor to the world
who causes two ears of corn to grow where only one grew before, much
more is he a benefactor who causes two truths to grow up together in
harmony and mutual confirmation, where before only one stood solitary,
and, on that side at least, intolerant and hostile. Every genius rides
a winged horse; but all are apt to ride too fast. Plotinus, says
Emerson, 'believes only in philosophers; Fénélon, in saints; Pindar
and Byron, in poets. Read the haughty language in which Plato and the
Platonists speak of all men who are not devoted to their own shining
abstractions.' If genius is liable to such one-sidedness, the greater
the need of educational correctives to common-place minds. Hence the
overpursuit of any one subject may be hurtful, unless duly balanced by
countervailing forces. As the author of _Friends in Council_ says, a
human being, like a tree, if it is to attain to perfect symmetry, must
have light and air given to it from all quarters. This may be done
without making men superficial--without sanctioning the dissipation of
mere desultory reading. One or two great branches of science may be
systematically prosecuted, and others used in a more supplementary and
illustrative form. 'A number of one-sided men,' observes the same
writer, 'may make a great nation, though I much incline to doubt that;
but such a nation will not contain a number of great men.' With the
advance of intelligence, advances a catholicism of literature, of
taste, of humanity at large. Uncultured intellect, 'cabined, cribbed,
confined,' is ill at ease among the riches of variety in literary
lore; it is satisfied with the little, because, as Menzel says, it
knows not the great; it is content with one-sidedness, because it sees
not the other sides. If critical _esprit de corps_ has its advantages,
it has its penalties also; potent within its self-imposed bounds, it
is impotent outside of them. Longfellow reminds his brethren of the
lyre, that whatever is best in the great poets of all countries, is
not what is national in them, but what is universal: their roots are
in their native soil, but their branches wave in the unpatriotic air,
that speaks the same language to all men, and their leaves shine with
the illimitable light that pervades all lands. 'Let us throw all the
windows open; let us admit the light and air on all sides; that we may
look towards the four corners of the heavens, and not always in the
same direction.'

Monomania is sometimes simply the exaggerated regard to one side of
many-sided truth. It is not absolute, but only relative delusion. It
is in its degree true; but by affecting to be the whole truth, it
becomes untrue. Philosophic reflection shews, that if a man fasten his
attention on a single aspect of truth, and apply himself to that alone
for a long time, 'the truth becomes distorted, and not itself, but
falsehood;' and may be compared to the air, which is our natural
element, and the breath of our nostrils; 'but if a stream of the same
be directed on the body for a time, it causes cold, fever, and even
death.' 'How wearisome,' exclaims Emerson, 'the grammarian, the
phrenologist, the political or religious fanatic, or, indeed, any
possessed mortal, whose balance is lost by the exaggeration of a
single topic! It is _incipient insanity_.' The bore of society is
constituted by his one-sidedness. His ear is deficient in the sense of
harmony, and he deafens and disgusts you by harping on one string. The
retired nabob holds you by the button, to hear his wearisome diatribes
on Indian economics; the half-pay officer is too fluent on his
worn-out recollections of the Peninsular War, and becomes savage if
you broach a new theme, or move to adjourn the debate; the university
pedant distracts you with his theories on philology and
scansion--with his amended translation of a hexameter in Persius, and
his new reading of a line in Theocritus; the bagman is all for 'the
shop;' the policeman is redolent of the 'lock-up house 'and 'your
wertchup;' the tailor is profoundly knowing on the 'sweating system;
'the son of Crispin vows and protests there's 'nothing like leather.'
All these _minus_ signs have a tendency to cancel each other: and thus
the equation of life is worked out. Society has been said to have at
all times the same want--namely, of one sane man, with adequate powers
of expression to hold up each object of monomania in its right
relations. 'The ambitious and mercenary bring their last new
Mumbo-Jumbo--whether tariff, railway, mesmerism, or California--and by
detaching the object from its relations, easily succeed in making it
seen in a glare, and a multitude go mad about it; and they are not to
be reproved or cured by the opposite multitude, who are kept from this
particular insanity by an equal frenzy on another crotchet. But let
one man have the comprehensive eye that can replace this isolated
prodigy in its right neighbourhood and bearings, and the illusion
vanishes--the returning reason of the community thanks the reason of
the monitor.' There is perhaps nothing which more urgently calls for
such a controlling and overseeing mind, to curb eccentric excesses,
and to restore equilibrium of action, than philanthropy itself. In the
enthusiasm of its impulses, it thinks it can afford to sneer at
political economy, and that it is right to wander at its own sweet
will, benevolently defying the remonstrances of all who have a method
to propound, a science to explain, a system to uphold. Though the
heart be large, yet the mind--as Nathaniel Hawthorne somewhere
observes--is often of such moderate dimensions, as to be exclusively
filled up with one idea; and thus, when a good man has long devoted
himself to a particular kind of beneficence, to one species of reform,
he is apt to become narrowed into the limits of the path wherein he
treads, and to fancy that there is no other good to be done on earth
but that selfsame good to which he has put his hand, and in the very
mode that best suits his own conceptions. 'All else is worthless; his
scheme must be wrought out by the united strength of the whole world's
stock of love, or the world is no longer worthy of a position in the
universe. Moreover, powerful truth, being the rich grape-juice
expressed from the vineyard of the ages, has an intoxicating quality
when imbibed by any but a powerful intellect, and often, as it were,
impels the quaffer to quarrel in his cups.' Even a saint with one idea
may be a plague to his neighbourhood; and, by being canonised, may
retard, not further, the progress of his church.

Let us own, however, that one-idea'd people are often amusing as well
as mischievous--or rather, when not mischievous. The rapt devotion
they pay to their _idola specûs_ oscillates between the sublime and
the ridiculous. We have all seen such people, and alternately admired
and laughed at them. We have all witnessed or read pleasant
illustrations of their doings. With one such illustration we conclude
this discursive fragment. It is related by the witty author of _A
Defence of Ignorance_, who introduces it in the course of an imaginary
dialogue on one-sided university training, in which one of the
speakers (at dessert) says to his companion: 'If you reach after that
pear, without considering what stands against your elbows, you may
empty a decanter over me. He who desires thoroughly to know one
subject, should be possessed of so much intellectual geography as will
enable him to see its true position in the universe of thought.' The
allusion to upsetting a decanter reminds the other interlocutor of a
story, which he proceeds to tell. A gentleman who carved a goose was
inexpert; and thinking only of the stubborn joints that would not be
unhinged, he totally forgot the gravy. Presently, the goose slipped
off the dish, and escaped into his neighbour's lap. Now, to have
thrown a hot goose on a lady's lap would disconcert most people, but
the gentleman in question was _not_ disconcerted. Turning round, with
a bland smile, he said: 'I'll trouble you for that goose.' Here we
have a sublime example of a man with one idea. This gentleman's idea
was the goose; and in the absorbing interest attached to his
undertaking, that he was to carve the goose, not altogether knowing
how, he had shut out extraneous objects. Suddenly the goose was gone,
but his eye followed it, his mind was wrapt up in his struggle with
it; what did he know of that lady? 'I'll trouble you for that goose,'
expressed the perfect abstraction of a mind bent on developing its one


The popular fame of Mr Kirby rests upon the _Introduction to
Entomology_, a work (partly written by him) full of interesting facts
respecting the economy of the insect world. Amongst the scientific,
his reputation depends on a variety of elaborate papers which he wrote
for learned societies on subjects connected with natural history. For
sixty years previous to the conclusion of his long life in 1850, he
had devoted the leisure of a parsonage to that delightful study, and
being a diligent and accurate observer, and an elegant and
entertaining writer, he had attained the highest rank amongst the
British naturalists of his day. It appears, from a memoir just
published,[2] that Mr Kirby was born in 1759, and settled in 1782 in
the cure of Barham, near Ipswich, where he was ultimately rector, and
which he only left for his last long-home sixty-eight years
thereafter. In an age of sluggish theology, he was an earnest minister
and zealous controversialist, all the time that he was cultivating a
taste for natural objects. This is equally unexpected and creditable.
And yet it does not appear that his personal conduct was characterised
by anything like rigour, for, as an example, we find, from the journal
of an entomological excursion in 1797, that it was commenced on a
Sunday afternoon, and involved one other Sunday of constant
travelling. A reference of the dates to an almanac enables us to
establish this fact, so unlike the spirit of a zealous man in our

Of the sister sciences of nature, botany first attracted Mr Kirby's
regards. 'This he pursued in no hasty or superficial manner, but with
the greatest perseverance and research. It was not enough for him to
know a plant by sight, and to ascertain its proper name, but he
compared the minutest parts of inflorescence and fructification; he
sought for the most trifling differences in those nearly allied, and
studied with a keen but generous criticism the various theories of
writers on the science, from the earliest age to the time of the
immortal Linnè. Of every plant he met with, even to the daisy and
primrose, the whole physiological structure was thoroughly
investigated; he discovered, or rather observed, what it was which
enabled some plants to endure great changes of temperature, while
others perished--the formation which enabled some to live in water,
while others flourished in the most dry and arid sands; he carefully
marked the causes which combined to clothe even rocks with verdure, in
consequence of the wonderful structure of the plants inhabiting them,
enabling them to live as it were by the suction of their numerous
mouths, rather than by nourishment transmitted by a root in contact
with that which would refuse to yield the ordinary food of plants. And
as he thus marked all these peculiar adaptations of plants to their
respective situations, his mind was by a constant train of thought
directed from the beauty and wondrous mechanism of the creature, to
contemplate the supreme and ineffable glory of the Creator.'

With a mind so predisposed and so fitted for the study of entomology,
a casual occurrence of a trivial nature was sufficient to awaken and
give it direction. 'Observing accidentally, one morning, a very
beautiful golden bug creeping on the sill of my window, I took it up
to examine it, and finding that its wings were of a more yellow hue
than was common to my observation of these insects before, I was
anxious carefully to examine any other of its peculiarities; and
finding that it had twenty-two beautiful clear black spots upon its
back, my captured animal was imprisoned in a bottle of gin, for the
purpose, as I supposed, of killing him. On the following morning,
anxious to pursue my observation, I took it again from the gin, and
laid it on the window-sill to dry, thinking it dead; but the warmth of
the sun very soon revived it: and hence commenced my further pursuit
of this branch of natural history.'

A Dr Gwyn of Ipswich was his preceptor in this study. 'Though now in
his seventy-fifth year, so much was the good old doctor interested in
the pursuit of his friend, that he would frequently walk over to
Barham, a distance of five miles, to see what had been the success of
recent perambulations. The parsonage-house was then approached by a
narrow wicket, with posts higher than the gate, and often, while
working in his garden, or sitting in his parlour, Mr Kirby would look
up and see, to his great delight, the shovel hat of his facetious
friend adorning one post, and the cumbrous wig and appertaining
pig-tail ornamenting the other. And soon the kind old man would walk
in with his bald head, as he used to say, cool and ready for the
investigation. These visits were always hailed with pleasure, the
delights of which were still fresh in the memory of Mr Kirby, and
would call forth expressions of affectionate gratitude, even when
nearly half a century had elapsed, after his friend and Mæcenas, as he
loved to call him, had gone to his rest.'

There seems no room to doubt, that his studies tended not merely to
the happiness of Mr Kirby's life, but to its duration. It is at the
same time abundantly evident, that much hard work was undergone. He
carried on a most laborious correspondence with other naturalists,
often extending a letter to the dimensions of a pamphlet: this
altogether over and above his practical researches and his published
writings. He took good-humoured views of most things, and was not
easily put out of temper. A slight dash of absence of mind increased
that quaintness of character so often found in zealous students. On an
entomological excursion with two friends, Mr Marsham and Mr Macleay,
it happened on their arriving at an old-fashioned wayside inn, that
'there was only one large room for them, with three beds in it. The
arrangement having been made for the night, according to the custom of
the time, three nightcaps were laid upon the dressing-table. Mr Kirby
retired before his companions, and was soon sound asleep. Perceiving
no caps ready for them, his friends inquired for what they considered
the due appurtenances of the pillow: they were assured by the hostess
that three nightcaps were laid upon the table, but they stoutly
averred they had not seen them; the landlady no less stoutly
maintaining her side of the question. What actually passed in her own
mind did not transpire, but she appealed to the first gentleman as
being the only one who could throw light upon the subject; when, lo
and behold! as soon as his head appeared, in answer to the hasty
summons, the three nightcaps appeared at the same time upon it, one
being dragged over the other, much to the amusement not only of those
present, but also of those who long after heard the tale.'

Another example of the pleasantries that sometimes enliven the path of
the naturalist. It is related by Mr Spence, and refers to the time
when that gentleman was engaged with Mr Kirby in preparing the work
which has for ever combined their names. 'Mr (now Sir William J.)
Hooker was at that time staying at Barham, and being desirous to have
pointed out to him, and to gather with his own hands, a rare species
of _Marchantia?_ from its habitat, first discovered by Mr Kirby, near
Nayland, some miles distant, it was agreed we three should walk
thither, entomologising by the way, and after dinner proceed to the
hedge-bank where it grew. Entering the head inn-yard on foot, with
dusty shoes, and without other baggage than our insect-nets in our
hands, we met with but a cool reception, which, however, visibly
warmed as soon as we had desired to be shewn into the best
dining-room, and had ordered a good dinner and wine. We intended to
walk back in the evening, but as the bank where the _Marchantia?_ grew
was a mile or two out of the direct road, and it came on rain, we
ordered out a postchaise, merely saying we wanted to drive a short way
on a road which Mr Kirby indicated to the postilion.

'When we arrived at the gate of the field where the bank was, the rain
had become very heavy; so, calling to the postilion to stop and open
the door, we scampered out of the chaise, all laughing, and hastily
telling him to wait there, without other explanation we climbed over
the gate, and not to be long in the rain, set off running as fast as
we could along the field-side of the hedge, to the bank we were
looking for. We saw amazement in the face of our postilion at what
possible motive could have made three guests of his master clamber
pell-mell over a gate into a field that led nowhere, in the midst of a
heavy shower of rain, and then run away as if pursued; and it was the
expression in his countenance which caused our mirth, which was
increased to peals of merriment when we saw that, instead of waiting
for us at the gate, as we had directed, he mounted his horses with all
speed, and pushed on in a gallop along the road on the other side of
the hedge, evidently to circumvent our nefarious plan (as he
conceived) of bilking his master both of our dinners and the
chaise-hire. When the cessation of our uncontrollable mirth had
allowed us to gather specimens of our plant, perceiving through the
hedge whereabouts we stopped, he also halted to watch our motions, and
when he saw us run back, he obeyed our orders to return to the
gate--where we got into the chaise, still in a roar of laughter at the
whole affair, and at his awkward attempt to explain away his not
having waited for us there, as we had directed, and evident high
satisfaction at bringing back in triumph to our inn the three cheats
whose intended plans he had so cleverly frustrated, as he no doubt
told his master; to whom, being too much amused with the adventure, we
did not make any explanation, but left it to form one of the
traditions of the inn.'

When a man excels in anything, it must always be of some consequence
to know what were his habits, and what external means he employed, in
connection with his particular gift. Mr Spence says: 'There were two
circumstances in Mr Kirby's study of insects, by which I was always
forcibly struck on my visits to him at Barham. The first was the
little parade of apparatus with which his extensive and valuable
acquisitions were made. If going to any distance, he would put into
his pocket a forceps-net and small water-net, with which to catch
bees, flies, and aquatic insects; but, in general, I do not remember
to have seen him use a net of any other description. His numerous
captures of rare and new Coleoptera were mostly made by carefully
searching for them in their haunts, from which--if trees, shrubs, or
long grass, &c.--he would beat them with his walking-stick into a
newspaper; and, collected in this way, he would bring home in a few
small phials in his waistcoat pockets, and in a moderate-sized
collecting-box, after an afternoon's excursion, a booty often much
richer than his companions had secured with their more elaborate
apparatus. The second circumstance in Mr Kirby's study of insects, to
which I allude, was the deliberate and careful way in which he
investigated the nomenclature of his species. Every author likely to
have described them was consulted, their descriptions duly estimated;
and it was only after thus coming to the decision that the insect
before him had not been previously described, that he placed it in his
cabinet under a new name. It was owing to this cautious mode of
proceeding--which young entomologists would do well to follow--that he
fell into so few errors, and rendered such solid service to the
science; and a not less careful consideration was always exercised by
him in the forming of new genera, and in his published descriptions of
new species, as his admirable papers in the _Linnæan Transactions_
amply testify.'

Considering how well Mr Kirby performed his professional duties, how
much he did to advance his favourite science, and how greatly he
contributed to the happiness of society within the sphere of his
personal influence, his may truly be said to have been a _well-spent
life_. On this account, Mr Freeman's memoir may be recommended to the
notice of many who are not as yet conscious of the charms of


[2] _Life of the Rev. William Kirby, M.A._ By John Freeman. 8vo, pp.
506. London: Longman & Co. 1852.


The phrase, 'Catching a Tartar,' points to a peculiarity in Tartar
life, which, however correct historically, is not in keeping with the
actual current state of the Mongol character. It implies something
impetuous, stern, unyielding, relentless, and cruel; whereas the
modern life of the children of the desert exhibits much that is
simple, confiding, generous, and even chivalric. It is nothing to our
discredit that we should have been so long in discovering these
features in the great nomadic class of the day, because European
barbarians are absolutely prohibited from visiting the desert places
which are the scenes of their wanderings; and but for the enterprise
of two Roman Catholic missionaries from France, we should probably
have remained in ignorance for a much longer period. These gentlemen,
however, have thrown a light on this subject, which is too remarkable
to be passed over without notice. Messrs Gabet and Huc composed their
work in 1846, but it has only recently been published in this
country,[3] and its perusal cannot fail to modify many of our
preconceived notions regarding Tartar life.

It will, for example, be admitted that, according to the hitherto
popular acceptation of the character, Tartars were not exactly the
sort of persons on whom practical jokes might be perpetrated with
impunity. Read, however, the following anecdote:--While our two
travellers were one day in their tents, two Tartar horsemen dashed up
to the entrance, and threw themselves on the ground. 'Men of prayer,'
said they with voices full of emotion, 'we come to ask you to draw our
horoscope. We have this day had two horses stolen from us. We cannot
find the robbers, and we come to you men of learning, to tell us where
we shall find our property.'

'Brothers,' answered the missionaries, 'we are not lamas of Buddha,
and do not believe in horoscopes. For a man to say that he can
discover stolen goods by such means, is falsehood and deception.'

The horsemen entreated, but the priests were inflexible, and the
disappointed Tartars mounted their steeds, and galloped off. It so
happened that Samdadchiemba, the guide of the missionaries--a
Christianised Oriental, but withal a very merry fellow--was present
during this interview, but he sat drinking his tea without uttering a
word. All on a sudden he knitted his brows, rose, and came to the
door. The horsemen were at some distance; but the _dchiahour_, by an
exertion of his strong lungs, induced them to turn round in their
saddles. He motioned to them, and they, thinking that the horoscope
was to be given, galloped once more to the tent. 'My Mongol brothers,'
said Samdadchiemba, 'in future be more careful: watch your herds well,
and you won't be robbed. Retain these words of mine in your memory:
they are worth all the horoscopes in the world.'

Samdad--the reader will perhaps thank us for the abbreviation--gravely
returned to the tent; and the Tartars did not dismount and whip him,
as two horsemen of any other nation under the sun would have done, but
quietly resumed their journey. It appeared that Samdad had once acted
as diviner on a similar occasion. The missing valuable was a bull, and
the sage having called for eleven stones, counted, arranged and
rearranged them with great gravity, and then appeared to meditate. 'If
you would find your bull, go seek him in the north,' said the
magician; and without querulously inquiring, like Shakspeare's
Richard, what Taurus did in that region, the Mongols pursued a
northern course, and by mere chance actually discovered the animal.
Samdad was entertained for a week, and took his departure laden with
butter and tea. He hinted his regret that 'his attachment to Mother
Church' prevented him from playing the soothsayer to the two horsemen.

A peculiarity in Tartar manners, regarding stolen horses when
abstracted near caravans, is likely to prove of more service than
casting horoscopes. Some time after the occurrence mentioned, the
missionaries lost a horse and mule. 'We each mounted a camel, and made
a circuit in search of the animals. Our search being futile, we
resolved to proceed to the Mongol encampment, and inform them that our
loss had taken place near their habitation. _By a law among the
Tartars_, when animals are lost from a caravan, the persons occupying
the nearest encampment are bound either to find them or replace
them.... This it is which has contributed to render the Mongols so
skilful in tracking. A mere glance at the slight traces left by an
animal on the grass, suffices to inform the Mongol pursuer how long it
is since it passed, and whether or not it bore a rider; and the track
once found, they follow it throughout all its meanderings, however

'We had no sooner explained our loss to the Mongol chief, than he said
to us cheerfully: "Sirs Lamas, do not permit sorrow to invade your
hearts. Your animals cannot be lost; in these plains there are neither
robbers nor associates of robbers. I will send in quest of your
horses. If we do not find them, you may select what others you please
in their place from our herd. We would have you leave this place as
happy as you came to it."' Eight horses darted off in pursuit; the
missionaries were invited to take tea in the interim, and in two hours
the strayed cattle were recovered. We should like to know in what
other country travellers would be so treated?

Regal personages in these regions observe the characteristic simple
manners of the country. Our pilgrims were pursuing their solitary way,
when the tramping of many horses and the sound of many voices
disturbed the silence of the desert. A large caravan belonging to the
queen of Mourguevan overtook them, and a mandarin addressed them.

'Sirs, where is your country?'

'We come from the west.'

'Through what districts have your beneficial shadows passed?'

'We have come from Tolon Noor.'

'Has peace accompanied your progress?'

'Hitherto we have journeyed in all tranquillity. And you--are you at
peace, and what is your country?'

'We are Khalkhas of the kingdom of Mourguevan.'

After some other Oriental queries and answers, her majesty comes up.
The cavalcade halted, and the camels formed into a semicircle, the
centre being occupied by a close four-wheeled carriage. Two mandarins,
'decorated with the blue button,' opened the door, and handed out the
queen, who was attired in a long silk robe.

'Sirs Lamas,' said she, raising her hands, 'is this place auspicious
for an encampment?'

'Royal pilgrim of Mourguevan,' said we, 'you may light your fires here
in all security. For ourselves, we must proceed on our way, for the
sun was already high when we folded our tent.'

The Tartars are divided into two grand classes--lamas and laymen. The
former act as priests, lawyers, physicians, painters, decorators, &c.,
and in fact monopolise every learned and liberal art and profession.
Of course, they are held in high repute; and our travellers having,
like Joseph Wolff, adopted sacerdotal costume, they were everywhere
received with the honours and respect awarded to the indigenous
clergy. It will duly appear, from subsequent illustrations, that mere
ecclesiasticism did not secure the hospitality and kindness which they
experienced at all hands; but even after making allowance for the
national devotion to the cloth, the attentions shewed by the Mongols
are often marked by a delicate sense of the hospitable. On one
occasion, M. Huc and his companions encountered an unusual storm of
rain and wind. After travelling several weary miles, Samdad contrived
to erect the tent in a place that, for the locality, was tolerable,
but no more. 'My spiritual fathers,' observed the guide, 'I told you
we should not die to-day of thirst, but I am not at all sure that we
don't run some risk of dying of hunger.' In point of fact, there
seemed no possibility of making a fire. There was not a tree, not a
shrub, not a root to be seen. As to argols, the rain had long since
reduced that combustible of the desert to a liquid pulp. The pilgrims
were about to partake of the primitive fare of meal steeped in cold
water--a cheerless beverage to three men drenched to the skin--when at
the critical juncture up came two Tartars.

'Sirs Lamas, this day the heavens have fallen. You doubtless have been
unable to make a fire.'

'Alas! how should we make a fire? we have no argols.'

'Men are all brothers, and belong to each other; but laymen should
honour and serve the holy ones: therefore it is that we have come to
make a fire for you.'

The fire soon blazed and crackled, and a hot repast speedily rejoiced
the jaded frames of the two priests and the imp Samdad.

The domiciliary hospitalities of the Tartars are frank and artless,
forming a marked contrast to the formal reception of strangers among
the Chinese. 'On entering, you give the word of peace, _amor_ or
_mendon_, to the company generally. You then seat yourself on the
right of the head of the family, whom you find squatting on the floor
opposite the entrance. Next, everybody takes from a purse, suspended
at his girdle, a little snuff-bottle, and mutual pinches accompany
such phrases as these: "Is the pasturage with you rich and abundant?"
"Are your herds in fine condition?" "Did you travel in peace?" "Does
tranquillity prevail?" The mistress then silently holds out her hand
to the visitor. He as silently takes from his breast-pocket a small
wooden bowl, the indispensable _vade mecum_ of all Tartars, and
presents it to the hostess, who fills it with tea and milk, and
returns it.' In higher families, a table is spread with butter,
oatmeal, millet, cheese, all in small boxes of polished wood; and
these luxuries are all mixed in the everlasting tea. Amongst the
uppermost aristocratic classes, fermented milk is proffered; but
Europeans would perhaps regard this liquor as more honoured by being
set aside than indulged in.

We now proceed to exhibit some traits of Tartar character, as
developed in their intercourse with their Asiatic brethren. As usual,
a horseman overtakes or meets the travellers; and after the customary
salutations, the missionaries inquired why he and his brethren did not
cultivate corn, instead of allowing every field to run to grass.

'We Mongols,' replied this stranger, 'are formed for living in tents,
and pasturing cattle. So long as we kept to that in the kingdom of
Gechekten, we were rich and happy. Now, ever since the Mongols have
set themselves to cultivating the land, and building houses, they have
become poor. The _Kitats_ (Chinese) have taken possession of the
country: flocks, herds, lands, houses--all have passed into their
hands. There remain to us only a few prairies, on which still live
under their tents such of the Mongols as have not been forced by utter
destitution to emigrate to other lands.'

'But if the Chinese are so baneful to you, why did you allow them to
penetrate into your country?'

'We took pity on these wicked Kitats, who came to us weeping, to
solicit our charity. We allowed them, through pure compassion, to
cultivate a few patches of land. The Mongols insensibly followed their
example, and abandoned the nomadic life. They drank the wine of the
Kitats, and smoked their tobacco on credit; they bought their
manufactures on credit, at double the real value. When the day of
payment came, there was no money ready, and the Mongols had to yield
to the violence of their creditors houses, lands, flocks, everything.'

'But could you not seek justice from the tribunals?'

'Justice from the tribunals! That is out of the question. The Kitats
are skilful to talk and to lie. It is impossible for a Mongol to gain
a suit against a Kitat. Sirs Lamas, the kingdom of Gechekten is

After-experience amply corroborated the truth of these statements.
'The commercial intercourse between the Tartars and the Chinese is
revoltingly iniquitous on the part of the latter. So soon as the
Mongols arrive in a trading town, they are snapped up by some Chinese,
who carry them off, as it were, by main force to their houses, give
them tea for themselves, and forage for their horses, and cajole them
in every conceivable way. The Mongols take all they hear to be
perfectly genuine, and congratulate themselves--conscious, as they
are, of their inaptitude for business--upon their good-fortune in thus
meeting with brothers _Ahaton_, as they say, in whom they can place
full confidence, and who will undertake to manage their whole business
for them. A good dinner, provided in the back-shop, completes the
illusion--and when once the Chinese has established his hold, he
employs all the resources of a skilful and utterly unprincipled
knavery. He keeps his victim in his house, eating, drinking, and
smoking one day after another, until his subordinates have sold all
the poor man's cattle, or whatever else he has to sell, and bought for
him in return the commodities he requires, at prices double and treble
the market value. But so plausible is the Chinese, and so simple is
the Tartar, that the latter invariably departs with the most entire
confidence in the immense philanthropy of the former, and with a
promise to return, when he has other goods to sell, to the
establishment where he has been treated so fraternally.'

The missionaries were themselves mistaken for Tartars when they
visited the 'Blue Town,' and every kind of imposition was attempted to
be practised on them. The hotel scouts assailed them at their first
entry, and almost compelled them, by physical force, to become their
guests; shopkeepers cozened on all hands; and even bankers
condescended to cheat. Messrs Gabet and Huc wished to exchange silver
for Chinese coin current. The Tartars can weigh, but cannot calculate,
and accordingly the bank-teller of Blue Town, after gravely consulting
his _souan-pan_ (exchange-table), announced the value to be about a
thousand _sapeks_ less than it should have been. The missionaries
remonstrated, and a colleague was called in to check the sum, but he,
with due gravity, declared that the first was right. A bystander
interfered, and declared in favour of the strangers. 'Sirs Lamas,'
said the banker, 'your mathematics are better than mine.' 'Oh, not at
all,' replied we, with a profound bow; 'your souan-pan is excellent;
but who ever heard of a calculator always exempt from error?' These
phrases were, it seems, rigorously required under the circumstances by
Chinese politeness. Whenever any person in China is compromised by any
awkward incident, those present always carefully refrain from any
observation which may make him blush, or, as the Chinese call it, take
away his face. A further proof of Chinese cupidity was afforded by the
admission of a gentleman, whom we may take the liberty of denominating
an Oriental bagman. This worthy arrived at an inn after our travellers
had secured all the accommodation.

'Peace and happiness unto you, Sirs Lamas; do you need the whole of
your room, or can you accommodate me?'

'Why not? We are all brothers, and should serve each other.'

'Words of excellence! You are Tartars, I am Chinese; yet comprehending
the claims of hospitality, you act upon the truth that all men are

'Whither are you bound? Are you going to buy up salt or catsup for
some Chinese company?'

'No; I represent a great commercial house at Peking, and I am
collecting some debts from the Tartars.... You, like myself, are
Tartar-eaters--you eat them by prayers, I by commerce. And why not?
The Mongols are poor simpletons, and we may as well get their money as
anybody else.... Oh, we devour them; we pick them clean! Whatever they
see, when they come into our towns, they want; and when we know who
they are, and where we can find them, we let them have goods upon
credit of course at a considerable advance upon the price, and upon
interest at 30 and 40 per cent., which is quite right and necessary.
In China, the emperor's laws do not allow this; it is only done with
the Tartars. Well, they don't pay the money, and the interest goes on
until there is a good sum owing, worth the coming for. When we come
for it, we take all the cattle and sheep and horses we can get hold of
for the interest, and leave the capital debt and future interest to be
paid next time, and so it goes on from one generation to another. Oh,
a Tartar debt is a gold-mine!'

The yearly settlement of accounts amongst the Chinese furnishes
another curious chapter in their commercial life. Bills are made up to
the last few days of the year, 'and every Chinese being at once debtor
and creditor, every Chinese is hunting his debtors and hunted by his
creditors. He who returns from his neighbour's house, which he has
been throwing into utter confusion by his clamorous demands for what
the neighbour owes him, finds his own house turned inside out by an
uproarious creditor; and so the thing goes round. The whole town is a
scene of vociferation, disputation, and fighting. On the last day of
the year, disorder attains its height; people rush in all directions
with anything they can scratch together to raise money upon at the
broker's or pawnbroker's--the shops of which tradesmen are absolutely
besieged throughout the day with profferers of clothes, bedding,
furniture, cooking utensils, and movables of every description. Those
who have already cleared their houses in this way, and yet have not
satisfied the demands upon them, post off to their relations and
friends, to borrow something or other, which they vow shall be
returned immediately, but which immediately takes its way to the
_tang-pon_ or pawnbroker's. This species of anarchy continues till
midnight, then calm resumes its sway. No one, after the twelfth hour
has struck, can claim a debt, or even make the slightest allusion to
it. You now only hear the words of peace and good-will; everybody
fraternises with everybody. Those who were just before on the point of
twisting their neighbour's neck, now twine their friendly arms about

Tartar warriors and Tartar robbers are also peculiar of their kind.
The warrior presents a curious combination of the national simplicity
with the spirit of the ancient Gascon. Two of those military gentlemen
gave a singular account of the war with the _Rebels of the South_, as
the English are designated. They belonged to the Eight Banners, or
army of reserve--and stated, that when at war the grand-master (the
emperor of China) first sent the Kitats against the enemy; next the
banners of the Solon country are set in motion; and if they fail, then
'we (the Tchakars) take the field, and the mere sound of our march
suffices to reduce the rebels to subjection!' In the English war, the
first two classes availed not, and then came the turn of the sacred
order. 'The Kitats told us everywhere that we were marching upon
certain and unavailing death. "What can you do against sea-monsters?
They live in the water like fish: when you least expect them, they
appear on the surface, and hurl the fire-bombs at you; while the
instant your bow is bent to shoot them, down they dive like frogs."'
The third class was not to be intimidated; the lamas had opened the
_Book of Celestial Secrets_, and predicted victory; and on they
marched, till met with the intelligence that the rebels, hearing of
the approach of this invincible legion, had sued for and obtained

The robbers of this extraordinary territory are also entitled to claim
credit for their share of eccentricity. 'They are extremely polite;
they do not rudely clap a pistol to your ear, and bawl at you: "Your
money or your life!" No; they mildly advance with a courteous
salutation: "Venerable elder brother, I am on foot; pray lend me your
horse. I've got no money; be good enough to lend me your purse. It's
quite cold to-day; oblige me with the loan of your coat." If the
venerable elder brother charitably complies, the matter ends with:
"Thanks, brother!" but otherwise, the request is forthwith emphasised
with the arguments of a cudgel; and if these do not convince, recourse
is had to the sabre.'

As a matter of course, Chinese thieves belong in contrast to the
species of which the 'Artful Dodger' may be regarded as the type. The
_modus operandi_ of Eastern appropriators is this: 'Two of them,
associated together for the purpose, hawk about various articles of
merchandise--boots, skin-coats, bricks of tea, and what not. They
offer these for sale to travellers. While one of them engages the
attention of the destined victim by displaying his goods and
bargaining, the other ferrets about, and pockets whatever he can lay
his hands on. These rascals have inconceivable skill in counting your
sapeks for you, in such a way as to finger fifty or one hundred of
them without your having the slightest notion as to what is going on.
One day, two of these little thieves came to offer for our purchase a
pair of leathern boots. Excellent boots, said they--boots such as we
would not find in any shop in the whole town; boots that would keep
out the rain for days; and as to cheapness, perfectly unexampled. If
we missed this opportunity, we should never have such another. Only
just before they had been offered 1200 sapeks for them! As we did not
want boots, we replied that we could not have them at any price.
Thereupon the acting merchant assumed a lofty tone of generosity. We
were foreigners, we should have them for 1000 sapeks, 900, 800, 700.
"Well," said we, "we certainly don't want any boots just now; yet
doubtless, as you say, these are very cheap, and it will be worth
while to buy them as a reserve." The bargain was accordingly
concluded; we took our purse and counted out 700 sapeks to the
merchant, who counted them over himself, under our very eyes,
pronounced the amount correct, and once more laid the coin before us.
He then called out to his companion, who was poking about in the
court-yard: "Here, I have sold these capital boots for 700 sapeks."
"Nonsense," cried the other; "700 sapeks! I wont hear of such a
thing!" "Very well," said we; "come, take your boots, and be off with
you!" He was off, and so quickly, that we thought it expedient to
count our sapeks once more: there were 150 of them gone; and that was
not all. While one of these rascals had been pocketing our money under
our very nose, the other had bagged two great iron pins that we had
driven into the court-yard for the purpose of our camels. Therefore,
we took a resolution, better late than never, to admit in future no
merchant whatever into our room.'

We cannot sufficiently regret, that two travellers who have furnished
us with such interesting accounts of territories comparatively so
little unexplored, should, after a brief sojourn, have been compelled
to quit the scene of their labours. After eighteen months' travel,
Messrs Huc and Gabet arrived at the Thibetian town of Lha-Ssa, where,
under the protection of the local authorities, they remained
unmolested for several weeks; but their presence excited the jealousy
of Ki-Chan, the deputy of the emperor of China, and at his instigation
the nomekhan of Lha-Ssa ordered them to quit. They ultimately settled
at Macao in 1846, and there compiled the narrative from which we have
been quoting.


[3] _Travels in Tartary, Thibet, and China, during the years
1844-5-6._ By M. Huc. Translated by W. Hazlitt. London. (National
Illustrated Library.)


Among the variety of curious insects which are common to tropical
climates, the groogroo worms of the West Indies may be considered
particularly interesting. From the peculiar manner in which they are
produced, and from the circumstance of their constituting a choice
article of food for man, they become entitled to some attention.

The groogroo worm--so called because it is found in a species of palm
vulgarly called the groogroo--is the larva of a large-sized beetle,
the _Prionus_, which is peculiar to the warm latitudes of America.
With the exception of a slight similarity about the region of the
head, the worm bears no resemblance to the parent beetle. When
full-grown, it is about 3-1/2 inches in length, having the body large
and turgid, and increasing in circumference from the head towards the
opposite extremity. The head is of a corneous, opaque substance. It
has neither eyes nor the rudiments of the antennæ which distinguish
the beetle tribe. It is, however, provided with the mandibles and
other oral apparatus of the mandibulate group of insects, and it is
only in this feature that any connection with the beetle can be
traced. The trunk is precisely that of a worm; it consists of many
closely-knitted segments, which are possessed of an extraordinary
contractile power. It bears no mark which would indicate a future
metamorphosis into a beetle. There is no sign of a future division
into thorax and abdomen. There are no rudiments of wings or feet, as
the under surface of the body presents exactly the same appearances as
the upper. At the posterior extremity of the worm, however, there is a
small horny termination, something like the hinder part of a leech.
The organs are exceedingly simple, the digestive being the most
developed. Albumen is the substance which composes its body, and its
blood is of a greenish tint. With a motion similar to that of the
earthworm, it perforates with extraordinary rapidity into the
substance of the tree in which it is found.

When the moon is at her full, the gatherer of worms enters a
neighbouring wood, and selects a young _palmiste_ tree. This is a tree
of the palm order, exceedingly stately and graceful, growing sometimes
to the extraordinary height of eighty feet. From the roots upwards, it
has not a single branch or shrubby excrescence, but grows beautifully
smooth and straight, tapering towards the top. At its top, an
abundance of the richest and most beautiful leaves spread out in
graceful symmetry, and bend down on all sides, forming a figure like
an umbrella; while the young leaf, still firm and compact in its
foliar envelope, is seen standing erect in the centre of this foliage,
like a lightning-conductor.

When a promising palmiste is found, the gatherer makes an incision
into it with a cutlass or a hatchet. This incision is generally in the
figure of a half-moon, with the base of the semicircle downwards, and
the wound increasing in depth in that direction, so as to expose
effectually the flesh of the tree. When this is done, the gatherer
marks the locality, and leaves the tree, which he does not revisit for
a considerable time. When the moon is in her wane, he returns and
examines his palmiste. If the young leaf, together with the others,
begins to shew a yellow tinge at its extremity, and if, on application
of his ear to the trunk, a hollow, rumbling noise is heard within, he
concludes that the worms have attacked the vital parts, and the tree
is immediately cut down; but if these symptoms are absent, the tree is
left standing until they appear. The gatherer, however, must now visit
the tree frequently, because the transition of the insects is so
rapid, that almost immediately after the appearance of the yellow
tinge the whole would disappear. When the tree is felled, a square
portion of the bark is cut out longitudinally from the original
incision upwards, and its fibrous texture laid open. Myriads of worms
are then seen voraciously devouring their way through the substance.
In capturing them some degree of dexterity is necessary, both to
protect one's self from the mandibles of the insects, which inflict a
painful bite, and also to save time, by preventing them from burrowing
out of sight. When the worms are taken, they are placed into a close
vessel, where they continue to retain their activity and vigour.

The number that can be procured from a single tree, depends altogether
upon the season in which it is wounded. If the moon is at her full,
they are generally numerous and good--many thousands being found in an
ordinary young tree of 25 feet in height. If a few succeed in eluding
the gatherer, they do so only to become a prey of as voracious
animals, for the wild hogs, or _quencos_, of the forest relish much
the soft substance of the palmiste when in a state of decomposition.
It never happens, therefore, that much time passes before they
discover any palmiste-tree that has been felled; and as soon as night
sets in, they flock in numbers to the spot and devour the whole
substance. A gathering of worms, therefore, brings a hunt of quencos;
and the gatherer, when his first business is over, chooses a
convenient tree, where he places himself in ambush. Seated on a cross
branch, he awaits the coming of the animals.

It is difficult to form an idea of the peculiar excitement of this
midnight sport in the thick woods of a tropical country. The usual
stillness of the night, and the solitude of the wilderness--the
croaking of the night-birds, the movement of every leaf, animated as
it is by the myriads of nocturnal insects that fill the
atmosphere--the brilliant and fleeting fire-flies traversing the
gloom--the strange animals wandering in their nightly prowlings--the
approach of the grunting hogs, and the incidents of the hunt: all
these things, combined with the idea of isolation when a man finds
himself alone in the wilds of a scarcely pervious forest, create an
inexpressible feeling of mingled fear, pleasure, and anxiety.

Before the worms are cooked, they are, each in its turn, carefully
pricked with an orange-thorn, and thrown into a vessel containing a
sauce of lime-juice and salt. This is for the purpose of cleansing
them from the viscid fluids they may have imbibed from the palmiste.
Notwithstanding this discipline, the worms retain their vitality till
they are deprived of it by the culinary process. The simpler mode of
dressing them is to spit a number together on a piece of stick or a
long orange-thorn, and roast them before the fire in their own fat.
The general mode, however, is by frying them with or without a sauce,
and when dressed in this manner, they form a most savoury dish.

Groogroo worms are considered great delicacies in some parts of the
West Indies, chiefly in those whose inhabitants are of French or
Spanish origin. The good old planter at his table presents you with a
dish of worms, with as much pride as an epicure in England introduces
you to cod-sounds, eels, or high venison. Nor does it appear that
there is any peculiarity in the taste of those who relish the insects;
because it very frequently happens, that the stranger, who manifested
on his arrival the greatest disgust at the idea of eating worms,
becomes immediately converted into an extravagant lover of them.

It may appear strange, that in the tropics, especially, where nature
provides so abundantly for the wants of man, such creatures should be
resorted to as articles of consumption; but while we on this side of
the Atlantic are shocked at the idea of eating worms, the West Indian
consumer in his turn expresses surprise that human beings can use
things which resemble snakes so much as eels, and pronounces it to be
the height of uncleanness to eat frogs, as some of the continentals
do. Indeed, the groogroo worm is by no means more repulsive in
appearance than any of the other unprepossessing creatures which are
so highly prized. It would be a difficult matter to decide on the
merits of the many extraordinary things which the taste of man, in its
morbid cravings, has discovered and converted into luxurious use; and
the philosopher finds himself at last driven to take shelter from his
own unanswerable inquiries behind the concluding power of that most
true, but somewhat musty proverb: 'De gustibus non est disputandum.'


Mr Patrick Miller of Dalswinton, who first experimented in the
application of steam to navigation, never received any mark of
gratitude from his country; his family, though long in comparatively
reduced circumstances, remain to this day equally without requital on
that account. Henry Bell, who, taking his ideas from Mr Miller's
experimental boat, first set a steam-vessel afloat in this country,
spent his latter years in poverty, from which he was rescued only a
short time before his death by a small pension from the Clyde
Trustees. Mr Thomas Gray, whose Observations on Railways, published
about thirty years ago, may be said to have given origin and impulse
to our present railway system, by which three hundred millions have
been expended, died in poverty, to which he had been reduced by his
exertions in the cause; his widow and children are at this day in that
state, without any public acknowledgment of his services to the
country; and his son has lately applied to nearly every railway
company in the kingdom for a situation, but in vain. Beyond a pension
of L.50 a year to the widow of Mr James Taylor, who prompted Mr Miller
to try his experiments, we are not aware of a single penny having been
expended by the country in requiting the services, or compensating the
losses, of individuals in respect of steam communications of any kind.


    So heavenly beautiful it lay,
      It was less like a human corse
      Than that fair shape in which perforce
    A dead hope clothes itself alway.

    The dream shewed very plain: the bed
      Where that known unknown face reposed--
      A woman's face with eyelids closed,
    A something precious that was dead:

    A something, lost on this side life,
      By which the mourner came and stood,
      And laid down, ne'er to be renewed,
    All glittering robes of earthly strife;--

    Shred off, like votive locks of hair,
      Youth's ornaments of joy and strength,
      And cast them in their golden length
    The silence of that bier to share.

    No tears fell--but a gaze, fixed, long,
      That memory might print the face
      On the heart's ever-vacant space
    With a sun-finger, sharp and strong.

    Then kisses, dropping without sound;
      And solemn arms wound round the dead;
      And lifting from the natural bed
    Into the coffin's strange _new_ bound;

    Yet still no parting--no belief
      In death; no more than we believe
      In some dread falsehood that would weave
    The world in one black shroud of grief.

    And still, unanswered kisses; still,
      Warm clingings to the image cold,
      With an impossible faith's close fold,
    Creative, through its fierce '_I will_.'

    Hush, hush! the marble eyelids move;
      The kissed lips quiver into breath;
      Avaunt, thou ghastly-seeming Death!
    Avaunt! We are conquerors--I and Love!

    Corse of dead hope, awake, arise!
      A living hope, that only slept
      Until the tears thus overwept
    Had washed the blindness from our eyes.

    Come back into the upper day!
      Dash off those cerements! Patient shroud,
      We'll wrap thee as a garment proud
    Round the bright shape we thought was clay.

    Clasp, arms! Cling, soul! Eyes, drink anew,
      Like pilgrims at a living spring!
      Faith, that out-loved this perishing,
    May see this resurrection too.

       *       *       *       *       *

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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