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Title: My Unknown Chum
Author: Fairbanks, Charles Bullard
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "My Unknown Chum" ***

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                                   MY
                              UNKNOWN CHUM
                              "AGUECHEEK"



                            WITH A FOREWORD
                            BY HENRY GARRITY



                                NEW YORK
                        THE DEVIN-ADAIR COMPANY
                                  1930


              _THE ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FIFTH THOUSAND_


                          Copyright, 1912, by
                       _The Devin-Adair Company_

              _All rights reserved by The Devin-Adair Co._

                         _Printed in U. S. A._



CONTENTS


  · FOREWORD
  · SKETCHES OF FOREIGN TRAVEL
    · A PASSAGE ACROSS THE ATLANTIC
    · LONDON
    · ANTWERP AND BRUSSELS
    · GENOA AND FLORENCE
    · ANCIENT ROME
    · MODERN ROME
    · ROME TO MARSEILLES
    · MARSEILLES, LYONS, AND AIX IN SAVOY
    · AIX TO PARIS
    · PARIS
    · PARIS—THE LOUVRE AND ART
    · NAPOLEON THE THIRD
    · THE PHILOSOPHY OF FOREIGN TRAVEL
    · PARIS TO BOULOGNE
    · LONDON
  · ESSAYS
    · STREET LIFE
    · HARD UP IN PARIS
    · THE OLD CORNER
    · SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF THEATRE ALLEY
    · THE OLD CATHEDRAL
    · THE PHILOSOPHY OF SUFFERING
    · BOYHOOD AND BOYS
    · JOSEPHINE—GIRLHOOD AND GIRLS
    · SHAKESPEARE AND HIS COMMENTATORS
    · MEMORIALS OF MRS. GRUNDY
    · THE PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE
    · BEHIND THE SCENES
    · THE PHILOSOPHY OF CANT



FOREWORD


    _Life is too short for reading inferior books._

      _Bryce._


In 1878 a letter of introduction to Mr. S—— of Detroit was instrumental
in securing for me the close friendship of a man some twenty years my
senior—a man of unusual poise of mind and of such superb character that
I have ever looked upon him as a perfect type of Newman’s ideal
gentleman.

My new friend was fond of all that is best in art and literature. His
pet possession, however, was an old book long out of print—"Aguecheek."
He spoke to me of its classic charm and of the recurring pleasure he
found in reading and rereading the delightful pages of its unknown
author, who saw in travel, in art, in literature, in life and humanity,
much that other travellers and other writers and scholars had failed to
observe—seeing all with a purity of vision, a clearness of intellect,
and recording it with a grace and ease of phrase that suggest that he
himself had perhaps been taught by the Angelic Doctor referred to in the
closing lines of his last essay.

A proffered loan of the book was eagerly accepted. Though still in my
teens, I soon became a convert to all that my cultured friend had said
in its praise.

With the aid of a Murray Street dealer in old books, I was fortunate
enough to get a copy for myself. I read it again and again. Obliged to
travel much, I was rarely without its companionship; for I knew that if
other reading-matter proved uninteresting, I could always find some new
conversational charm in the views and words of the World-Conversant
Author.

Fearing that I weighed the merits of the work with a mental scale
wanting in balance, I asked others what they thought of it. Much to my
surprise, they had never even heard of it. In fact, in these thirty-four
years I have found but three persons who knew the book at all. Recently
at The Players I asked Mr. Evert Jansen Wendell if he knew "Aguecheek."
"Why," said he, "it was in my hands only yesterday. It is in my
library—my dramatic library." The late John E. Grote Higgens, President
of the St. George Society, knew its interesting pages well; and it is, I
am assured, a "prized unit" in the library of His Eminence Cardinal
Farley.

I lent my copy to young and old, to men and women of various professions
and to friends in the world of commerce. The opinion of all might be
summed up in the appreciation of a well-known Monsignor—himself an
observant traveller and an ardent lover of "real" literature. Returning
the book, he said, "I have read it with the greatest of pleasure, and
have turned to it often. I could read it a hundred times. It is a great
book. Its fine humor, its depth, its simplicity and high ideals, commend
it to all, especially the highly educated—the scholar."

Charles B. Fairbanks is the reputed author, but the records show that he
died in 1859, when but thirty-two years old—an age that the text
repeatedly discredits. Whether written by Mr. Fairbanks or not, the
modest author hid his identity in an obscure pen-name that he might thus
be free to make his book "his heart in other men’s hands."

Some necessary changes have been made in the text. In offering the book
to the public and in reluctantly changing the title, I am but following
the insistent advice of friends—critics and scholars—whose judgment is
superior to my own. No one seemed to know the meaning of "Aguecheek"
(taken, no doubt, from a character in "Twelfth Night"), and few could
even spell or pronounce the word; moreover, there is not the remotest
connection between title and text. The old book has been the best of
comrades, "the joy of my youth, the consolation of my riper years." If
the new name lacks dignity as well as euphony, the reader will, I am
sure, understand and appreciate the spirit of affection that inspired
"My Unknown Chum."

    _Henry Garrity._



SKETCHES OF FOREIGN TRAVEL.



A PASSAGE ACROSS THE ATLANTIC


"To an American visiting Europe for the first time," saith Geoffrey
Crayon, "the long voyage which he has to make is an excellent
preparative." To the greater proportion of those who revisit the old
world, the voyage is only an interval of ennui and impatience. Not such
is it to the writer of this sentence. For him the sea has charms which
age cannot wither, nor head winds abate. For him the voyage is a retreat
from the cares of business, a rest from the pursuit of wealth, and a
prolonged reminiscence of his youthful days, when he first trod the same
restless pathway, and the glories of England and the Continent rose up
resplendent before him, very much as the gorgeous city in the clouds
looms up before the young gentleman in one of the late lamented Mr.
Cole’s pictures. For it is a satisfaction to him to remember that such
things were,—even though the performances of life have not by any means
equalled the promises of the programme of youth,—though age and the
cares of an increasing family have stifled poetry, and the genius of
Romance has long since taken his hat.

The recollections of youthful Mediterranean voyages are a mine of wealth
to an old man. They have transformed ancient history into a majestic
reality for him, and the pages of his dog’s-eared Lemprière become
instinct with life as he recalls those halcyon days when he reclined on
deck beneath an awning, and gazed on Crete and Lesbos, and the mountains
that look on Marathon. Neither age nor misfortune can ever rob him of
the joy he feels when he looks back to the cloudless afternoon when he
passed from the stormy Atlantic to that blue inland sea,—when he saw
where Africa has so long striven to shake hands with Europe,—and
thrilled at the thought that the sea then glowing with the hues of
sunset was once ploughed by the invincible galleys of the Cæsars, and
dashed its angry surges over the shipwrecked Apostle of the Gentiles.

It is rather a pleasant thing to report one’s self on board a fine
packet ship on a bright morning in May—the old portmanteau packed again,
and thoughts turned seaward. There is a kind of inspiration in the song
of the sailors at the windlass, (that is, as many of them as are able to
maintain a perpendicular position at that early period of the voyage;)
the very clanking of the anchor chains seems to speak of speedy
liberation, and the ship sways about as if yearning for the freedom of
the open sea. At last the anchor is up, and the ship swings around, and
soon is gliding down the channel; and slowly the new gasometer, and
Bunker Hill Monument, and the old gasometer (with the dome) on Beacon
Hill, begin to diminish in size. (I might introduce a fine misquotation
here about growing "small by degrees, and beautifully less," but that I
don’t like novelties in a correspondence like this.) The embankments of
Fort Warren seem brighter and more verdurous than ever, and the
dew-drops glitter in the sunbeams, as dear Nellie’s tears did, when she
said good-by, that very morning. Then, as we get into the bay, the
tocsin calls to lunch—and the appetite for lobsters, sardines, ale, and
olives makes us all forget how much we fear lest business of immediate
importance may prevent an early return to the festive mahogany. And
shortly after, the pilot takes his leave, and with him the small knot of
friends, who have gone as far as friendship, circumstances, and the tide
will allow. And so the voyage commences—the captain takes command—and
all feel that the jib-boom points towards Motherland, and begin to
calculate the distance, and anticipate the time when the ship shall be
boarded by a blue-coated beef-eater, who will take her safely "round
’Oly’ead, and dock ’er." The day wears away, and the sunset finds the
passengers well acquainted, and a healthy family feeling growing up
among them. The next morning we greet the sea and skies, but not our
mother earth. The breeze is light—the weather is fine—so that the
breakfast is discussed before a full bench. Every body feels well, but
sleepy, and the day is spent in conversation and enjoyment of the
novelty of life at sea. The gentle heaving of the ocean is rather
agreeable than otherwise, and the young ladies promenade the deck, and
flatter themselves that they have (if I might use such an expression)
their sea legs on. But the next day the gentle heaving has become a
heavy swell,—locomotion is attended with great difficulties,—the process
of dressing is a severe practical joke,—and the timorous approach to the
breakfast table and precipitous retreat from it, are very interesting
studies to a disinterested spectator. The dining-saloon is thinly
populated when the bell rings—the gentlemen preferring to lounge about
on deck—they have slight headaches—not seasick—of course not—the
gentleman who had taken eight sherry cobblers was not intoxicated at
all—it was a glass of lemonade, that he took afterwards, that disagreed
with him and made his footing rather unsteady. But Neptune is
inexorable, and exacts his tribute, and the payers show their receipts
in pale faces and dull eyes, whether they acknowledge it or no; and many
a poor victim curses the pernicious hour that ever saw him shipped, and
comes to the Irishman’s conclusion that the pleasantest part of going
away from home is the getting back again.

But a few days suffice to set all minds and stomachs at rest, and we
settle down into the ordinary routine of life at sea. The days glide by
rapidly, as Shakspeare says, "with books, and work, and healthful play,"
and as we take a retrospective view of the passage, it seems to be a
maze of books, backgammon, bad jokes, cigars, _crochet_, cribbage, and
conversation. Contentment obtains absolute sway, which even ten days of
head winds and calms cannot shake off. Perhaps this is owing in a great
measure to the good temper and gentlemanly bearing of the captain, who
never yielded to the temptation, before which so many intrepid mariners
have fallen, to speak in disrespectful and condemnatory terms of the
weather. How varied must be the qualities which make a good commander of
a packet ship; what a model of patience he must be—patience not only
with the winds, but also with variable elements of humanity which
surround him. He must have a good word for every body and a smiling
face, although he knows that the ship will not head her course by four
points of the compass on either tack; and must put aside with a jest the
unconscious professional gentleman whose hat intervenes between his
sextant and the horizon. In short, he must possess in an eminent degree
what Virgil calls the _suaviter in_ what’s-his-name with the _fortiter
in_ what-d’ye-call-it. I am much disposed to think that had Job been a
sea captain with a protracted head wind, the land of Uz would not have
attained celebrity as the abode of the most patient of men.

An eminent Boston divine, not long since deceased, who was noted alike
for his Johnsonian style and his very un-Johnsonian meekness of manner,
once said to a sea captain, "I have, sir, in the course of my
professional career, encountered many gentlemen of your calling; but I
really must say that I have never been powerfully impressed in a moral
way by them, for their conversation abounded in expressions savouring
more of strength than of righteousness; indeed, but few of them seemed
capable of enunciating the simplest sentence without prefacing it with a
profane allusion to the possible ultimate fate of their visual organs,
which I will not shock your fastidiousness by repeating." The profanity
of seafaring men has always been remarked; it has been a staple article
for the lamentations of the moralist and the jests of the immoralist;
but I must say that I am not greatly surprised at its prevalence, for
when I have seen a thunder squall strike a ship at sea, and every effort
was making to save the rent canvas, it has seemed to me as if those
whose dealings were with the elements actually needed a stronger
vocabulary than is required for less sublime transactions. To speak in
ordinary terms on such occasions would be as absurd as the Cockney’s
application of the epithets "clever" and "neat" to Niagara. I am not
attempting to palliate every-day profanity, for I was brought up in the
abhorrence of it, having been taken at an early age from the care of the
lady "who ran to catch me when I fell, and kissed the place to make it
well," and placed in the country under the superintendence of a maiden
aunt, who was very moral indeed, and who instilled her principles into
my young heart with wonderful eloquence and power. "Andrew," she used to
say to me, "you mustn’t laugh in meetin’; I’ve no doubt that the man who
was hung last week (for this was in those unenlightened days when the
punishment of crime was deemed a duty, and not a sin) began his wicked
course by laughing in meetin’; and just think, if you were to commit a
murder—for those who murder will steal—and those who steal will swear
and lie—and those who swear and lie will drink rum—and then if they
don’t stop in their sinful ways, they get so bad that they will smoke
cigars and break the Sabbath; and you know what becomes of 'em then."

The ordinary routine of life at sea, which is so irksome to most people,
has a wonderful charm for me. There is something about a well-manned
ship that commands my deepest enthusiasm. Each day is filled with a
quiet and satisfactory kind of enjoyment. From that early hour of the
morning when the captain turns out to see what is the prospect of the
day, and to drink a mug of boiling coffee as strong as aquafortis, and
as black as the newly-opened fluid Day & Martin, from No. 97, High
Holborn, to that quiet time in the evening when that responsible
functionary goes below and turns in, with a sententious instruction to
the officer of the watch to "wake him at twelve, if there’s any change
in the weather," there is no moment that hangs heavy on my hands. I love
the regular striking of the bells, reminding me every half hour how
rapidly time and I are getting on. The regularity with which every thing
goes on, from the early washing of the decks to the sweeping of the same
at four bells in the evening, makes me think of those ancient
monasteries in the south of Europe, where the unvarying round of duties
creates a paradise which those who are subject to the unexpected
fluctuations of common life might be pardoned for coveting. If the rude
voices that swell the boisterous chorus which hoists the tugging
studding-sail up by three-feet pulls, only imperfectly remind one of the
sounds he hears when the full choir of the monastery makes the grim
arches of the chapel vibrate with the solemn tones of the Gregorian
chant, certainly the unbroken calmness of the morning watch may well be
allowed to symbolize the rapt meditation and unspoken devotion which
finds its home within the "studious cloister’s pale"; and I may be
pardoned for comparing the close attention of the captain and his mates
in getting the sun’s altitude and working out the ship’s position to the
"examination of conscience" among the devout dwellers in the convent,
and the working out of the spiritual reckoning which shows them how much
they have varied from the course laid down on the divine chart, and how
far they are from the wished-for port of perfection.

I have a profound respect for the sea as a moral teacher. No man can be
tossed about upon it without feeling his impotence and insignificance,
and having his heart opened to the companions of his danger as it has
never been opened before. The sea brings out the real character of every
man; and those who journey over its "deep invisible paths" find
themselves intrusting their most sacred confidences to the keeping of
comparative strangers. The conventionalities of society cannot thrive in
a salt atmosphere; and you shall be delighted to see how frank and
agreeable the "world’s people" can be when they are caught where the
laws of fashion are silent, and what a wholesome neglect of personal
appearances prevails among them when that sternest of democrats,
Neptune, has placed them where they feel that it would be folly to try
to produce an impression. The gentleman of the prize ring, whom Dickens
introduces looking with admiration at the stately Mr. Dombey, gave it as
his opinion that there was a way within the resources of science of
"doubling-up" that incarnation of dignity; but, for the accomplishment
of such an end, one good, pitching, head-sea would be far more effectual
than all the resources of the "manly art." The most unbending assumption
could not survive that dreadful sinking of the stomach, that convulsive
clutch at the nearest object for support, and the faint, gurgling cry of
"_stew’rd_" which announces that the victim has found his natural level.

A thorough novitiate of seasickness is as indispensable, in my opinion,
to the formation of true manly character, as the measles to a
well-regulated childhood. Mentally as well as corporeally, seasickness
is a wonderful renovator. We are such victims of habit, so prone to run
in a groove, (most of us in a groove that may well be called a "vicious
circle,") that we need to be thoroughly shaken up, and made to take a
new view of the _rationale_ of our way of life. I do not believe that
any man ever celebrated his recovery from that marine malady by eating
the pickles and biscuit which always taste so good on such an occasion,
without having acquired a new set of ideas, and being made generally
wiser and better by his severe experience. I meet many unamiable persons
"whene’er I take my walks abroad," who only need two days of seasickness
to convert them into positive ornaments to society.

But, pardon me; all this has little to do with the voyage to Liverpool.
The days follow each other rapidly, and it begins to seem as if the
voyage would stretch out to the crack of doom, for the head wind stands
by us with the constancy of a sheriff, and when that lacks power to
retard us we have a calm. But the weather is beautiful, and all the time
is spent in the open air. Nut brown maids work worsted and crochet on
the cooler side of the deck, and gentlemen in rusty suits, with
untrimmed beards, wearing the "shadowy livery of the burning sun," talk
of the prospects of a fair wind or read innumerous novels. The evenings
are spent in gazing at a cloudless sky, and promenading in the
moonshine. Music lends its aid and banishes impatience; my young
co-voyagers seem not to have forgotten "Sweet Home," and the "Old Folks
at Home" would be very much gratified to know how green their memory is
kept.

At length we all begin to grow tired of fair weather. The cloudless sky,
the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, and the bright blue sea, with its
lazily spouting whales and its lively porpoises playing around our
bows,—grow positively distasteful to us; and we begin to think that any
change would be an agreeable one. We do not have to wait many days
before we are awaked very early in the morning, by the throwing down of
heavy cordage on deck, and the shouts of the sailors, and are soon aware
that we are subject to an unusual motion—as if the ship were being
propelled by a strong force over a corduroy road constructed on an
enormous scale. Garments, which yesterday were content to hang in an
orderly manner against the partitions of one’s state-room, now
obstinately persist in hanging at all sorts of peculiar and disgraceful
angles. Hat boxes, trunks, and the other movables of the voyager
manifest great hilarity at the change in the weather, and dance about
the floor in a manner that must satisfy the most fastidious beholder.
Every timber in the ship groans as if in pain. The omnipresent steward
rushes about, closing up sky-lights and dead lights, and "chocking" his
rattling crockery and glassware. On deck the change from the even keel
and the clear sunlight of the day before is still more wonderful. The
colour of the sky reminds you of the leaden lining of a tea-chest; that
of the sea, of the dingy green paper which covers the same. The sails,
which so many days of sunshine have bleached to a dazzling whiteness,
are now all furled, except those which are necessary to keep some little
headway on the ship. The captain has adorned his manly frame with a suit
of India rubber, which certainly could not have been selected for its
gracefulness, and has overshadowed his honest face with a sou’wester of
stupendous proportions. With the exception of occasional visits to the
sinking barometer, he spends his weary day on the wet deck, and tries to
read the future in the blackening waves and stormy sky. The wheel, which
heretofore has required but one man, now taxes the strength of two of
the stoutest of our crew;—so hard is it to keep our bashful ship heading
up to that rude sea, and to "ease her when she pitches." The breakfast
suffers sadly from neglect, for every one is engrossed with the care of
the weather. At noon there is a lull for half an hour or so, and, in
spite of the threats of the remorseless barometer, some of our company
try to look for an amelioration in the meteorological line. But their
hopes are crushed when they find that the wind has shifted one or two
points, and has set in to blow more violently than before. The sea, too,
begins to behave in a most capricious and disagreeable style. When the
ship has, with a great deal of straining and cracking, ridden safely
over two mighty ridges of water, and seems to be easily settling down
into a black valley between two foam-capped hills, there comes a sudden
shock, as if she had met the Palisades of the Hudson in her path—a
crackling, grating sound, like that of a huge nutmeg-grater operating on
a coral reef, a crash like the combined force of all the battering-rams
of Titus Flavius Vespasianus on one of the gates of Jerusalem,—and a
hundred tons of angry water roll aft against the cabin doors, in a
manner not at all agreeable to weak nerves. For a moment the ship seems
to stand perfectly still, as if deliberating whether to go on or turn
back; then, realizing that the ship that deliberates in such a time is
lost, she rises gracefully over a huge pile of water which was
threatening to submerge her.

The afternoon wears away slowly with the passengers. They say but little
to one another, but look about them from the security of the wheel-house
as if they were oppressed with a sense of the inestimable value of
strong cordage. As twilight approaches, and all hands are just engaged
in taking supper, after having "mended the reefs," the ship meets a
staggering sea, which seems to start every timber in her firm-set frame,
and our main-top-gallant-mast breaks off like a stick of candy. Such
things generally happen just at night, the sailors say, when the
difficulties of clearing away the broken rigging are increased by the
darkness. Straightway the captain’s big, manly voice is heard above the
war-whoop of the gale, ringing out as Signor Badiali’s was wont to in
the third act of Ernani. The wind seems to pin the men to the ratlines
as they clamber up; but all the difficulties are overcome at length; the
broken mast is lowered down, and snugly stowed away; and before nine
o’clock all is quiet, except the howling wind, which seems to have
determined to make a night of it. And such a night! It is one of those
times that make one want one’s mother. There is little sleeping done
except among the "watch below" in the forecastle, who snore away their
four hours as if they appreciated the reasoning of Mr. Dibdin when he
extols the safety of the open sea as compared with the town with its
falling chimneys and flying tiles, and commiserates the condition of the
unhappy shore-folks in such a tempestuous time. The thumping of the sea
against our wooden walls, the swash of water on deck as the ship rolls
and pitches as you would think it impossible for any thing addicted to
the cold water movement to roll or pitch, and over all the wild,
changeless, shrieking of the gale, will not suffer sleep to visit those
who are not inured to such things. Tired of bracing up with knee, and
hand, and heel, to keep in their berths, they lie and wonder how many
such blows as that our good ship could endure, and think that if June
gets up such gales on the North Atlantic, they have no wish to try the
quality of those of January.

Morning comes at last, and every heart is cheered by the captain’s
announcement, as he passes through the cabin, that the barometer is
rising, and the weather has begun to improve. Some of the more hopeful
and energetic of our company turn out and repair to the deck. The leaden
clouds are broken up, and the sun trying to struggle through them; but
to the inexperienced the gale appears to be as severe as it was
yesterday. All the discomfort and danger of the time are forgotten,
however, in the fearful magnificence of the spectacle that surrounds us.
As far as the eye can reach it seems like a confused field of battle,
where snowy plumes and white flowing manes show where the shock of war
is felt most severely. To watch the gathering of one of those mighty
seas that so often work destruction with the noblest ships,—to see it
gradually piling up until it seems to be impelled by a fury almost
intelligent,—to be dazzled by its emerald flash when it erects its
stormy head the highest, and breaks into a field of boiling foam, as if
enraged at being unable to reach us;—these are things which are worth
all the anxiety and peril that they cost.

The captain’s prognostications prove correct. Our appetites at dinner
bear witness to them; and before sunset we find our ship (curtailed of
its fair proportion, it is true, by the loss of its
main-top-gallant-mast) is under full sail once more. The next day we
have a few hours’ calm, and when a light breeze does spring up, it comes
from the old easterly quarter. It begins to seem as if we were fated to
sail forever, and never get any where. But patience wears out even a
head wind, and at last the long-looked-for change takes place. The wind
slowly hauls to the south, and many are the looks taken at the compass
to see how nearly the ship can come up to her course. Then our
impatience is somewhat allayed by speaking a ship which has been out
twelve days longer than our own—for, if it be true, as Rochefoucauld
says, that "there is something not unpleasing to us in the misfortunes
of our best friends,"—how keen must be the satisfaction of finding a
stranger-companion in adversity. The wind, though steady, is not very
strong, and many fears are expressed lest it should die away and give
Eurus another three weeks’ chance. But our forebodings are not realized,
and a sunshiny day comes when we are all called up from dinner to see a
long cloud-like affair, (very like a whale,) which, we are told, is the
Old Head of Kinsale. Straightway all begin to talk of getting on shore
the next day; but when that comes, we find that we are drawing towards
Holyhead very rapidly, as our favourable wind has increased to a gale—so
that when we have got round Holyhead, and have taken our pilot, (that
burly visitor whose coming every one welcomes, and whose departure every
one would speed,) the aforesaid pilot heaves the ship to, and, having a
bed made up on the cabin floor, composes himself to sleep. The next
morning finds the gale abated, and early in the forenoon we are running
up to the mouth of the river. The smoke (that first premonitory symptom
of an English town) hangs over Liverpool, and forms a strong contrast
with the bright green fields and verdant hedges which deck the banks of
the Mersey. The ship, after an immense amount of vocal power has been
expended in that forcible diction which may be termed the marine
vernacular, is got into dock, and in the afternoon a passage of
thirty-three days is concluded by our stepping once more upon the
"inviolate island of the sage and free," and following our luggage up
the pier, with a swing in our gait which any stage sailor would have
viewed with envy. The examination at the Custom House is conducted with
a politeness and despatch worthy of imitation among the officials of our
Uncle Samuel. The party of passengers disperses itself about in various
hotels, without any circumstance to hinder their progress except falling
in with an exhibition of Punch and Judy, which makes the company
prolific in quotations from the sayings of Messrs. Codlin and Short, and
at last the family which never had its harmonious unity disturbed by any
thing, is broken up forever.

Liverpool wears its old thriving commercial look—perhaps it is a few
shades darker with smoke. The posters are on a more magnificent scale,
both as regards size and colour, than ever before, and tell not only of
the night’s amusements, but promise the acquisition of wealth outrunning
the dreams of avarice in lands beyond the farthest Thule. Melbourne and
Port Philip vie in the most gorgeous colours with San Francisco; and the
United States seem to have spread wide their capacious arms to welcome
the down-trodden Irishman. Liverpool seems to be the gate to all the
rest of the world. I almost fear to walk about lest I should find myself
starting off, in a moment of temporary insanity, for Greenland’s icy
mountains, or India’s coral strand.



LONDON


Dull must he be of soul who could make the journey from Liverpool to the
metropolis in the month of June, and not be lifted above himself by the
surpassing loveliness of dear mother Nature. Even if he were chained to
a ledger and cash book—if he never had a thought or wish beyond the
broker’s board, and his entire reading were the prices current—he must
forget them all, and feel for the time what a miserable sham his life
is—or he does not deserve the gift of sight. It is Thackeray, I think,
who speaks somewhere of the "charming friendly English landscape that
seems to shake hands with you as you pass along"—and any body who has
seen it in June will say that this is hardly a figurative expression. I
used to think that it was my enthusiastic love for the land of the great
Alfred which made it seem so beautiful to me when I was younger; but I
find that it wears too well to be a mere fancy of my own brain. People
may complain of the humid climate of England, and curse the umbrella
which must accompany them whenever they walk out; but when the sun does
shine, it shines upon a scene of beautiful fertility unequalled
elsewhere in the world, and which the moist climate produces and
preserves. And then, too, it seems doubly grateful to the eyes of one
just come from sea. The bright freshness of the whole landscape, the
varied tints of green, the trim hedges, the luxuriant foliage which
springs from the very trunks of the trees, and the high state of
cultivation which makes the whole country look as if it had been swept
and dusted that morning,—all these things strike an American, for he
cannot help contrasting them with the parched fields of his own land in
summer, surrounded by their rough fences and hastily piled-up stone
walls. The solidity of the houses and cottages, which look as if they
were built, not for an age, but for all time, makes him think of the
country houses of America, which seem to have grown up in a night, like
our friend Aladdin’s, and whose frailty is so apparent that you cannot
sneeze in one of them without apprehending a serious calamity. Then the
embankments of the railways present not only a pleasant sight to the eye
of the traveller, but a pretty little hay crop to the corporation; and
at every station, and bridge, and crossing, wherever there is a switch
to be tended, you see the neat cottages of the keepers, and the gardens
thereof—the railway companies having learned that the expenditure of a
few hundred pounds in this way saves an expenditure of many thousands in
surgeons’ bills and damages, and is far more satisfactory to all
concerned.

What a charming sight is a cow—what a look of contentment she
has—ambitious of nothing beyond the field of daily duty, and never
looking happier than when she comes at night to yield a plenteousness of
that fluid without which custards were an impossibility! Wordsworth says
that "heaven lies about us in our infancy"—surely he must mean that
portion of the heavens called by astronomers the Milky Way. It is
pleasant to see a cow by the side of a railway—provided she is fenced
from danger—to see her lift her head slowly as the train goes whizzing
by, and gaze with those mild, tranquil eyes upon the noisy,
smoke-puffing monster,—just as the saintly hermits of olden times might
have looked from their serene heights of contemplation upon the dusty,
bustling world. The taste of the English farmers for fine cattle is
attested by a glance at any of their pastures. On every side you see the
representatives of Alderney’s bovine aristocracy; and scores of cattle
crop the juicy grass, rivalling in their snowy whiteness any that ever
reclined upon Clitumno’s "mild declivity of hill," or admired their
graceful horns in its clear waters. Until I saw them, I never
comprehended what farmers meant when they spoke of "neat cattle."

What an eloquent preacher is an old church-tower! Moss-crowned and
ivy-robed, it lifts its head, unshaken by the tempests of centuries, as
it did in the days when King John granted the Great Charter or the holy
Edward ruled the realm, and tells of the ages when England was one in
faith, and not a poor-house existed throughout the land. Like a faithful
sentinel, it stands guard over the humbler edifices around it, and warns
their inhabitants alike of their dangers and their duties by the music
of its bells. Erect in silent dignity, it receives the first beams of
the morning, and when twilight has begun to shroud every thing in its
neighbourhood, the flash of sunset lingers on its gray summit. It looks
down with sublime indifference upon the changing scene below, as if it
would reproach the actors there with their forgetfulness of the
transitoriness of human pursuits, and remind them, by its
unchangeableness, of the eternal years.

At last we draw near London. A gentleman, whose age I would not attempt
to guess,—for he was very carefully made up, and boasted a deportment
which would have excited the envy of Mr. Turveydrop, senior,—so far
forgot his dignity as to lean forward and inform me that the place we
were passing was "’Arrow on the ’Ill," which made me forget for the
moment both his appearance and his uncalled-for "exasperation of the
haitches." Not long after, I found myself issuing from the magnificent
terminus of the North Western Railway, in Euston Square, in a cab marked
V. R. 10,276. The cab and omnibus drivers of London are a distinct race
of beings. Who can write their natural history? Who is competent to such
a task? The researches of a Pritchard, a Pickering, a Smyth, would seem
to cover the whole subject of the history of the human species from the
anthropophagi and bosjesmen to the drinkers of train oil in the polar
regions; but the cabmen are not included. They would require a master
mind. The subject would demand the patient investigation of a Humboldt,
the eloquence of a Macaulay, and the humour of a Dickens—and even then
would fall short, I fear, of giving an adequate idea of them. Your
London cab driver has no idea of distance; as, for instance, I ask one
the simple question,—

"How far is it to the Angel in Islington?"

"Wot, sir?"

I repeat my interrogatory.

"Oh, the Hangel, sir! Four shillings."

"No, no. I mean what distance."

"Well, say three, then, sir."

"But I mean—what distance? How many miles?"

"O, come, sir, jump in—don’t be ’ard on a fellow—I 'aven’t ’ad a fare
to-day. Call it ’arf a crown, sir."

Leigh Hunt says somewhere that if there were such a thing as
metamorphosis, Dr. Johnson would desire to be transformed into an
omnibus, that he might go rolling along the streets whose very pavements
were the objects of his ardent affection. And he was about right. What
better place is there in this world to study human nature than an
omnibus? All classes meet there; in the same coach you may see them
all—from the poor workwoman to the genteelly dressed lady, who looks as
if she disapproved of such conveyances, but must ride nevertheless—from
the young sprig, who is constantly anxious lest some profane foot should
dim the polish of his boots, to the urbane old gentleman, who regrets
his corpulence, and would take less room if he could. And then the top
of the omnibus, which usually carries four or more passengers, what a
place is that to see the tide of life which flows unceasingly through
the streets of London! I know of nothing which can furnish more food for
thought than a ride on an omnibus from Brompton to the Bank on a fine
day. It is a pageant, in which all the wealth, pomp, power, and
prosperity of this world pass before you; and for a moral to the
whirling scene, you must go to the nearest churchyard.

London is ever the same. The omnibuses follow each other as rapidly as
ever up and down the Strand, the white-gloved, respectable-looking
policemen walk about as deliberately, and the tail of the lion over the
gate of Northumberland House sticks out as straight as ever. The only
great change visible here is in the newspapers. The tone of society is
so different from what it was formerly, in all that concerns France,
that the editors must experience considerable trouble in accustoming
themselves to the new state of things. Once, France and Louis Napoleon
furnished Punch with his chief materials for satire and amusement, and
if any of the larger and more dignified journals wished to let off a
little ill humour, or to say any thing particularly bitter, they only
had to dip their pens in _Gaul_; but times are changed, and now nothing
can be said too strong in favour of "our chivalric allies, the French."
The memory of St. Helena seems to have given place to what they call
here the _entente cordiale_, which those who are acquainted with the
French language assure me means an agreement by which one party
contracts to "play second fiddle" to another, through fear that if he
does not he will not be permitted to play at all.

To the man who thoroughly appreciates the Essays of Elia, and Boswell’s
Life of Johnson, London can never grow tiresome. He can never turn a
corner without finding "something new, something to please, and
something to instruct." Its very pavements are classical. And there is
nothing to abate, nor detract from, such a man’s enthusiasm. The
traveller who visits the Roman Forum, or the Palace of the Cæsars,
experiences a sad check when he finds his progress impeded by unpoetical
obstacles. But in London, all is harmonious; he sees on every side, not
only that which tells of present life and prosperity, but the perennial
glories of England’s former days. Would he study history, he goes to the
Tower, "rich with the spoils of time"; or to Whitehall, where mad
fanaticism consummated its treasonable work with the murder of a
sovereign; or to the towering minster, to gaze upon the chair in which
the monarchs of a thousand years have sat; or to view the monuments, and
read the epitaphs, of that host of

    "Bards, heroes, sages, side by side,
    Who darkened nations when they died."

Is he a lover of English literature? Here are scenes eloquent of that
goodly company of wits and worthies, whose glowing pages have been the
delight of his youth and the consolation of his riper years; here are
the streets in which they walked, the taverns in which they feasted, the
churches where they prayed, the tombs where they repose.

And London wears well. To revisit it when age has sobered down the
enthusiasm of youth, is not like seeing a theatre by daylight; but you
think almost that you have under-estimated your privileges. How well I
remember the night when I first arrived in the metropolis! It was after
ten o’clock, and I was much fatigued; but before I booked myself in my
hotel, or looked at my room, I rushed out into the Strand, "with
breathless speed, like a soul in chase." I pushed along, now turning to
look at Temple Bar, now pausing to take breath as I went up Ludgate
Hill. I saw St. Paul’s and its dome before me, and I was satisfied. No,
I was not satisfied; for when I returned up Fleet Street, I looked out
dear old Bolt Court, and entered its Johnsonian precincts with an awe
and veneration which a devout Mussulman, taking the early train for
Mecca, would gladly imitate. And then I posted down Inner Temple Lane,
and looked at the house in which Charles Lamb and his companions held
their "Wednesday nights"; and, going still farther, I saw the river—I
stood on the bank of the Thames, and I was satisfied. I looked, and all
the associations of English history and literature which are connected
with it filled my mind—but just as I was getting into a fine frenzy
about it, a watchman hove in sight, and the old clock chimed out eleven.
So I started on, and soon reached my hotel. I was accosted on my way
thither by a young and gayly dressed lady, whom I did not remember ever
to have seen before, but who expressed her satisfaction at meeting me,
in the most cordial terms. I told her that I thought that it must be a
mistake, and she responded with a laugh which very much shocked an
elderly gentleman who was passing, who looked as if he might have been
got up for the part of the uncle of the unhappy G. Barnwell. I have
since learned that such mistakes and personal misapprehensions very
frequently occur in London in the evening.

Speaking of Temple Bar, it gratifies me to see that this venerable
gateway still stands, "unshaken, unseduced, unterrified," by any of the
recent attempts to effect its removal. The old battered and splashed
doors are perhaps more unsightly than before; but the statues look down
with the same benignity upon the crowd of cabs and omnibuses, and the
never-ending tide of humanity which flows beneath them, as they did upon
the Rake’s Progress, so many years ago. The sacrilegious commissioners
of streets long to get at it with their crows and picks, but the shade
of Dr. Johnson watches over the barrier of his earthly home. It is not
an ornamental affair, to be sure, and it would be difficult for Mr.
Choate, even, to defend it against the charge of being an obstruction;
but its associations with the literature and history of the last two or
three centuries ought to entitle its dingy arches to a certain degree of
reverence, even in our progressive and irreverent age. The world would
be a loser by the demolition of this ancient landmark, and London, if it
should lose this, though it might still be the metropolis of the British
empire, would cease to be the London of Johnson and Goldsmith, of
Addison and Pope, of Swift and Hogarth.

Perhaps some may think, from what I have said in the commencement of
this letter, that my enthusiasm has blinded me to those great moral and
social evils which are apparent in English civilization; but it is not
so. I love England rather for what she has been than for what she is; I
love the England of Alfred and St. Edward; and when I contrast the
present state with what it might have been under a succession of such
rulers, I cannot but grieve. Truly the court of St. James under Victoria
is not what it was under Charles II., nor even under Mr. Thackeray’s
favourite hero, "the great George IV.,"—but are not St. James and St.
Giles farther apart than ever before? Is not Lazarus looked upon as a
nuisance, which legislation ought, for decency’s sake, to put out of the
way? What does England do for the poor? Nothing; absolutely nothing, if
you except a system of workhouses, compared with which prisons are
delightful residences, and which seems to have been intended more for
the punishment of poverty than as a work of charity. No; on the
contrary, she discountenances works of charity; when a few earnest men
among the clergy of her divided church make an effort in that direction,
there is an outcry, and they must be put down; and their bishops, whose
annual incomes are larger than the whole treasury of Alfred, admonish
them to beware how they thus imitate the superstitions of the middle
ages. No; your Englishman of the present day has something better to do
than to look after the beggar at his doorstep; he is too respectable a
man for that; he pays his "poor rates," and the police must order the
thing of shreds and patches to "move on"; his progress must not be
impeded, for his presence is required at a meeting of the friends of
Poland, or of Italy, or of a society for the abolition of American
slavery, and he has no time to waste on such common, every-day matters
as the improvement of the miserable wretches who work his coal mines, or
of those quarters of the town where vice parades its deformity with
exulting pride, and the air is heavy with pestilence. There is
proportionably more beggary in London at this hour than in any
continental city. And such beggary! Not the comfortable, jolly-looking
beggars you may see in Rome or Naples, who know that charity is enjoined
upon the people as a religious duty, but the thin, pallid, high-cheeked
supplicants, whose look is a petition which tells a more effective story
than words can frame of destitution and starvation.

But there is another phase of this part of London life, sadder by far
than that of mere poverty. It is an evil which no attempt is made to
prevent, and so great an evil that its very mention is forbidden by the
spirit of this age of "superficial morality and skin-deep propriety." I
pity the man who can walk through Regent Street or the Strand in the
evening, unsaddened by what he shall see on every side. How ridiculous
do our boasts of this Christian nineteenth century seem there! Here is
this mighty Anglo-Saxon race, which can build steam engines, and
telegraphs, and clipper ships, which tunnels mountains, and exerts an
almost incredible mastery over the forces of nature,—and yet, when
Magdalene looks up to it for a merciful hand to lift her from
degradation and sin, she finds it either deaf or powerless. There is a
work yet to be done in London which would stagger a philanthropist, if
he were gifted with thrice the heroism, and patience, and
self-forgetfulness of a St. Vincent of Paul.

I cannot resist the inclination to give in this connection a passage
from the personal experience of a friend in London, which, had I read it
in any book or newspaper, I should have hesitated to believe. One
evening, as he was passing along Pall Mall, he was addressed by a young
woman, who, when she saw that he was going to pass on and take no notice
of her, ran before him, and said in a tone of the most pathetic
earnestness,—

"Well, if you’ll not go with me, for God’s sake, sir, give me a trifle
to buy bread!"

Thus appealed to, and somewhat shaken by the voice and manner, he
stopped under a gaslight, and looked at the speaker. Vice had not
impressed its distinctive seal so strongly upon her as upon most of the
unfortunate creatures one meets in London’s streets; indeed, there was a
shade of melancholy on her face which harmonized well with her voice and
manner. So my friend resolved to have a few words more with her, and
buttoning up his coat, to protect his watch and purse, he told her that
he feared she wanted money to buy gin rather than bread. She assured him
that it was not so, but that she wished to buy food for her little
child, a girl of two or three years. Then he asked how she could lead
such a life, if she had a child growing up, upon whom her example would
have such an influence; and she said that she would gladly take up with
an honest occupation, if she could find one,—indeed, she did try to earn
enough for the daily wants of herself and child with her needle, but it
was impossible,—and her only choice was between starvation and the
street. At that time she said that she was learning the trade of a
dressmaker, and she hoped that before long she should be able to keep
herself above absolute necessity. Encouraged by a kind word from my
friend, she went on in a simple, womanly manner, and told him of her
whole career. It was the old story of plighted troth, betrayed
affection, and flight from her village home, to escape the shame and
reproach she would there be visited with. She arrived in London without
money, without friends, without employment,—without any thing save that
natural womanly self-respect which had received such a severe
blow:—necessity stared her in the face, and she sank before it. My
friend was impressed by the recital of her misfortunes, and thinking
that she must be sincere, he took a sovereign from his purse and gave it
to her. She looked from the gift to the giver, and thanked him again and
again. He continued his walk, but had not gone more than three or four
rods, when she came running after him, and reiterated her expressions of
thankfulness with a trembling voice. He then walked on, and crossed over
to the front of the Church of St. Martin, (that glorious soldier who
with his sword divided his cloak with the beggar,) when she came after
him yet again, and seizing hold of his hand, she looked up at him with
streaming eyes, and said, holding the sovereign in her hand,—

"God bless you, sir, again and again for your kindness to me! Pray
pardon me, sir, for troubling you so much—but—but—perhaps you meant to
give me a shilling, sir,—perhaps you don’t know that you gave me a
sovereign."

How many models of propriety and respectability in every rank of
life,—how many persons who have the technical language of religion
constantly on their lips,—how many of those who, nurtured amid the
influences of a good home, have never really known what temptation
is,—how many such persons are there who might learn a startling lesson
from this fallen woman, whom they seem to consider themselves
religiously bound to despise and neglect! I have a great dread of these
severely virtuous people, who are so superior to all human frailty that
they cannot afford a kind word to those who have not the good fortune to
be impeccable. But we all of us, I fear, need to be reminded of Burns’s
lines—

    "What’s done we partly may compute,
    But know not what’s resisted."

If we thought of this, keeping our own weaknesses in view, which of us
would not shrink from judging uncharitably, or casting the first stone
at an erring fellow-creature? Which of us would dare to condemn the poor
girl who preserved so much of the spirit of honesty in her degradation,
and to commend the negative virtues which make up so many of what the
world calls good lives?



ANTWERP AND BRUSSELS


It is a very pleasant thing to get one’s passport _viséd_ (even though a
pretty good fee is demanded for it,) and to make preparations for
leaving London, at almost any time; but it is particularly so when the
weather has been doing its worst for a fortnight, and the atmosphere is
so "thick and slab" that to compare it to pea-soup would be doing that
excellent compound a great injustice. It is very pleasant to think of
getting out from under that blanket of smoke and fog, and escaping to a
land where the sun shines occasionally, and where the manners of the
people make a perpetual sunshine which renders you independent of the
weather. If there ever was a day to which that expressive old Saxon
epithet _nasty_ might be justly applied, it was the one on which I left
the greasy pavements of London, and (after a contest with a cabman,
which ended, as such things generally do, in a compromise) found myself
on board one of the fast-sailing packets of the General Steam Navigation
Company, at St. Catharine’s Wharf, just below the esplanade of the
Tower. The beautiful banks of the river below the city, the fine pile of
buildings, and the rich foliage of the park at Greenwich, seemed to have
laid aside their charms, and shrouded themselves in mourning for the
death of sunshine. The steamer was larger than most of those which ply
in the Channel; but the crowded cabins and diminutive state-rooms made
me think with envy of the passengers from New York to Fall River that
afternoon. And there was a want of attention to those details which
would have improved the appearance of the boat greatly—which made me
wish that her commander might have served his apprenticeship on Long
Island Sound or on the Hudson.

The company was composed of about the usual admixture of English and
foreign beauty and manliness; and the English, French, Dutch, and German
languages were confounded in such a manner as to bring to mind the
doings of the committee on the construction of public works recorded in
Genesis. Among the crowd of young Cockneys in jockeyish-looking caps,
with travelling pouches strapped to their sides, there was a rather tall
gentleman in a clerical suit, with his throat covered with the usual
white bandages. His highly respectable look, and the eminently
"evangelical" expression of the corners of his mouth, made me feel quite
sure that I had found a character. He had three little boys with him;
and as far as appearance went, he might have been Dickens’s model for
Dr. Blimber, (the principal of that celebrated academy where they had
mental green peas and intellectual asparagus all the year round,) for he
had the eye of a pedagogue "to threaten and command," and his fixed look
was the one which my old schoolmaster’s face wore when he turned up his
wristbands, and, taking his ruler, said, "I am very sorry, Andrew; but
you know that it is for your good." His conversation savoured so
strongly of the dictionary, that, even if I had been blind, I should
have said that the speaker had spent years in correcting the
compositions of ingenuous youth. I shall not forget his look of wonder
when he asked one of the engineers what was the matter with a dog that
was yelping about the deck, and received for a reply that he tumbled off
the quarter deck, and was _strained in the garret_. However, I enjoyed
two or three hours’ conversation with him very much—if it could be
called conversation when he did all the talking.

Towards evening, when we found ourselves in the open sea, the
south-westerly swell rolled up finely from the Goodwin Sands, and
produced a scene to remind a disinterested spectator of Punch’s touching
pictorial representation of the commencement of the continental tour of
Messrs. Brown, Jones, and Robinson. I soon perceived that a conspicuous
collection of white bowls, which adorned the main saloon, was not a mere
matter of ornament. The amount of medicine for the prevention or cure of
seasickness, which was taken by my fellow-voyagers from flat bottles
covered with wicker-work, would have astonished the most ardent upholder
of the old allopathic practice. But all the pitching and rolling of the
steamer, and the varied occupations of the passengers, did not interfere
with my repose. I slept as soundly in my narrow accommodations as if I
had been within hearing of the rattling of the omnibuses of my native
city.

The next morning I was out in good season; and though I do not consider
myself either "remote," "unfriended," "melancholy," or "slow," I found
myself upon the "lazy Scheldt," with Antwerp’s heaven-kissing spire
climbing up the hazy perspective. The banks of the Scheldt are not very
picturesque; indeed, a person of the strongest poetical susceptibilities
might approach Flanders without the slightest apprehension of an attack
of his weakness. I could not help congratulating myself, though, on
having been spared to see the country which was immortalized by the
profanity of a great military force.

We Americans usually consider ourselves up to the times, and are prone
to sneer at Russia for being eleven days behind the age; but we do not
yet "beat the Dutch" in progress, for they are half an hour in advance,
as I found, very soon after landing, that all the church clocks, with a
great deal of formality and precision, struck nine, when the hands only
pointed to half past eight; and I noted a similar phenomenon while I was
taking breakfast an hour after. Antwerp is a beautiful old city, and its
quiet streets are very pleasant, after the tumult and roar of London;
but—there is one drawback—it is too scrupulously clean. I almost feared
to walk about, lest I should unknowingly do some damage; and every
door-handle and bell-pull had a most unhospitable polish, which seemed
to say with the placards in the Crystal Palace, "Please not to handle."
Cleanliness is a great virtue; but when it is carried to such an extent
that you cannot find your books and papers which you left carefully
arranged yesterday on your table,—when it gets to be a monomania with
man or woman,—it becomes a bore. How strangely the first two or three
hours in a Dutch town strike a stranger!—the odd, high-gabled houses,
the queer head-dresses, (graceful because of their very ungracefulness,)
the wooden shoes, and the language, which sounds like English spoken by
a toothless person. But one very soon gets accustomed to it. It is like
being in an Oriental city, where the great variety of costumes and
languages, and the different manners of the people, make up an
_ensemble_ which a stranger thinks will be a lasting novelty; but on his
second day he finds himself taking about as much notice of a Persian
caravan as he would of a Canton Street or Sixth Avenue omnibus.

I might here indulge in a little harmless enthusiasm about this grand
old cathedral of Antwerp. I might talk about the "long-drawn aisle and
fretted vault," and give an elaborate description of it,—its enormous
dimensions and artistic glories,—if I did not know that any reader who
desires such things can find them set down with greater exactness than
becomes me, in any of the guide books for Belgium. I spent the greater
proportion of my waking hours in Antwerp under the solemn arches of that
majestic old church. I wonder, shall we ever see any thing in America to
remind us even faintly of the glories of Antwerp, Cologne, Rouen,
Amiens, York, or Milan? I fear not. The ages that built those glorious
piles thought less of fat dividends than this boastful nineteenth
century of ours, and their religion was not the mere
one-day-out-of-seven affair that the improved Christianity of to-day is.
The architects who conceived and executed those marvels of sublimity
never troubled themselves with our popular query, "Will it pay?" any
more than Dante interrupted the inspiration of his _Paradiso_, or
Beethoven the linked harmony of his matchless symphonies, with their
solicitude about the amount of their copyright. No; their work inspired
them, and while it reflected their genius, it imparted to them something
of its own divine dignity. Their art became religion, and its laborious
processes acts of the most fervent devotion. But we have reformed all
that, and now inspiration has to give way to considerations of the
greatest number of "sittings," that can possibly be provided, and if the
expenses of the sacred enterprise can be lessened by contriving
accommodation for shops or storage in the basement, who does not
rejoice? There are too many churches nowadays built upon the foundation
of the _profits_, leaving the apostles entirely out of the question.

But while I lament our want of those wonderful constructions whose very
stones seem to have grown consciously into forms of beauty, I must
record my satisfaction at the improvement in architectural taste which
is visible in most of our cities at home. If we must have banks, and
railway stations, and shops, it is some compensation to have them made
pleasant to our sight. Buildings are the books that every body
unconsciously reads; and if they are a libel on the laws of
architecture, they will surely vitiate in time the taste of those who
become familiarized to their deformity. Dr. Johnson said, that "if a
man’s hands were dirty, his thoughts would be dirty"; and it may be
declared, with much more reason, that those who are obliged to look, day
after day, at ungraceful, mean, and unsubstantial objects, lose, by
degrees, their sense of the beautiful and the harmonious, and set forth,
in the poverty of their minds, the meanness of their surroundings.

On one account I have again and again blessed the star that guided me to
Antwerp,—that is, for the pleasure afforded me by its treasures of art.
I have, in times past, fed fat my appetite for the beautiful in the
galleries of Italy, and therefore counted but little on the contents of
the museum and churches of this ancient city. Do not be frightened,
beloved reader; I am not going to launch out into the muddy stream of
artistic criticism. I despise most of that which passes current under
that dignified name, as heartily as you do. Even the laurels of Mr.
Ruskin cannot rob me of a moment’s repose. I cannot if I would, nor
would I if I could, talk learnedly about pictures. So I can safely
promise not to bore you with any "breadth of colouring," and to keep
very "shady" about _chiaro ’scuro_. I only wish to say that he who has
never been in Antwerp does not know who Rubens was. He may know that an
industrious painter of that name once lived, and painted (as I used to
think, judging from most of his works that I had seen elsewhere) a
variety of fat, flaxen-haired women; but of Rubens, the great master,
the painter of the Crucifixion, and the Descent from the Cross, he is as
ignorant as a fourth-form boy in the public schools of Patagonia. It is
worth a month of seasick voyaging to see the works of Rubens and Vandyck
which Antwerp possesses; and the only regret connected with my visit
there has been, that I could not give more days to the study of them
than I could hours.

It is but fifteen miles from Antwerp to Mechlin, or Malines, (as the
people here, in the depths of their ignorance, insist upon calling it,)
and as a representative of a nation whose sole criterion is success, and
whose list of the cardinal virtues is headed by Prosperity, I felt that
it would be a grievous sin of omission for me not to stop and visit that
thriving old town. It did not require much time to walk through its
nice, quiet streets, and look at the pictures and wood carvings in its
venerable churches. The white-capped and bright-eyed lace-makers sat in
windows and doorways, their busy fingers forming fabrics, the sight of
which would kindle the fire of covetousness in any female heart. Three
hours in Mechlin sufficed to make me about as well acquainted with it as
if I had daily waked up its echoes with the creaking of my shoes, until
their thick soles were worn out past all hope of tapping. Selecting one
of the numerous railways that branch out from Mechlin, like the reins
from the hand of a popular circus rider in his favourite
"six-horse-act," the "Courier of St. Petersburg," I took a ticket for
Brussels, and soon found myself spinning along over these fertile
plains, whose joyous verdure I had not sufficient time to appreciate
before I found myself in the capital of Belgium.

And what a charming place this city of lace and carpets is! Clean as a
parlour, not a speck nor a stain to be seen any where, with less of
Dutch stiffness and more of French ease, so that you do not feel so much
like an intruder as in most other strange cities. Brussels is a kind of
vestibule to Paris; its streets, its shops, its public edifices are all
reflections in miniature of those of the French metropolis. It has long
seemed to me so natural a preparation for the meridian splendours of
Paris, that to go thither in any other way than through Brussels, is as
if you should enter a saloon by a back window, rather than through the
legitimate front door. In one respect I prefer Brussels to Paris; it is
smaller, and your mind takes it all in at once. In the French capital,
its very vastness bewilders you. You are in the condition of the
gentleman whose wife was so fat that when he wished to embrace her, he
was obliged to make two actions of the feat, and use a bit of chalk to
insure the proper distribution of his caress. But in Brussels every
thing is so harmoniously and compactly combined, that you can enjoy it
all at once. How does one’s mind treasure up his rambles through these
fair streets and gay arcades, his leisurely walks on these spacious
boulevards, or under the dense shade of this lovely park, his musings in
this fine old church of Ste. Gudule, whose gorgeous windows symbolize
the heavenly bow, and whose air of devotion is eloquent of the undying
hope which abides within its consecrated precincts! How one looks back
years after leaving Brussels, and conjures up, in his memory, its public
monuments, from that exceedingly diminutive and peculiar statue near the
Hôtel de Ville, which has pursued its useful and ornamental career for
so many centuries, to the heroic equestrian figure of Godfrey of
Bouillon, in the Place Royale! How vividly does one remember the old
Gothic hall, which has remained unchanged during the many years that
have passed since the Emperor Charles V. there laid down the burden of
his power, and exchanged the throne for the cloister.

One of the most delightful recollections of my term of residence in
Brussels, is of a bright summer day, when I made an excursion to the
field of Waterloo. Some Englishmen have established a line of coaches
for the purpose—real old fashioned coaches, with a driver and a guard,
which latter functionary performed Yankee Doodle most admirably on his
melodious horn as we rattled out of town. The roadside views cannot have
changed much since the night when the pavement shook beneath the heavy
artillery and thundering tramp of Wellington’s army. The forest of
Soignies (or, to use its poetical name, Arden) looked as it might have
looked before it was immortalized by a Tacitus and a Shakspeare; and its
fresh foliage was "dewy with Nature’s tear-drops," over our two coach
loads of pleasure-seekers, just as Byron describes it to have been over
the "unreturning brave," who passed beneath it forty years ago. Our
party was shown over the memorable field by an old English sergeant who
was in the battle; a fine bluff old fellow, and a gentleman withal, who,
though his head was white, had all the enthusiasm of a young soldier. It
was the most interesting trip of the kind that I ever made, far
surpassing my expectations, for the ground remains literally _in statu
quo ante bellum_. No commissioners of highways have interfered with its
historical boundaries. It remains, for the most part, under cultivation,
as it was before it became famous, and the grain grows, perhaps, more
luxuriantly for the chivalric blood once shed there. There they are,
unchanged, those localities which seem to so many mere inventions of the
historian, Mont St. Jean, the farm of La Haye Sainte, the château of
Hougoumont, the orchard with its low brick wall, over which the chosen
troops of France and England fought hand to hand, and the spot where the
last great charge was made, and the spell which held Europe in awe of
the name of Napoleon, and made that name his country’s watchword, and
the synonyme of victory, was broken forever. Perhaps I err in saying
forever, for France is certainly not unmindful of that name even now.
That showery afternoon, when the great conqueror saw his veterans,
against whom scores of battle fields, and all the terrors of a Russian
campaign, proved powerless, cut to pieces and dispersed by a superior
force, to which the news of coming reënforcements gave new strength and
courage,—that very afternoon a boy, without a thought of battles or
their consequences, was playing in the quiet grounds of the château of
Malmaison. If Napoleon could have looked forward forty years, if he
could have foreseen the romantic career of that child, and followed him
through thirty years of exile, imprisonment, and discouragement, until
he saw him reëstablish the empire which was then overthrown, and place
France on a higher pinnacle of power than she ever knew before, how
comparatively insignificant would have seemed to him the consequences of
that last desperate charge! If he could have seen that it was reserved
to his nephew, the grandchild of his divorced but faithful Josephine, to
avenge Waterloo by an alliance more fatal to England’s prestige than any
invasion could be, and that the armies which had that day borne such
bloody witness to their unconquerable daring, would forty years later be
united to resist the encroachments of the power which first checked him
in his career of victory, he would have had something to think of during
that gloomy night besides the sad events that had wrought such a fearful
change in his condition.

I returned to Brussels in the afternoon, meditating on the scenes I had
visited, and repeating the five stanzas of Childe Harold in which Byron
has commemorated the battle of Waterloo. In the evening I read, with new
pleasure, Thackeray’s graphic Waterloo chapter in Vanity Fair, and
dreamed all night of falling empires and "garments rolled in blood." And
now I turn my face towards Italy.



GENOA AND FLORENCE


It is a happy day in every one’s life when he commences his journey into
Italy. That glorious land, "rich with the spoils of time" above all
others, endeared to every heart possessing any sense of the beautiful in
poetry and art, or of the heroic in history, rises up before him as it
was wont to do in the days of his youth, when Childe Harold’s glowing
numbers gave a tone of enthusiasm to his every thought, and filled him
with longings, for the realization of which he hardly dared to hope. For
the time, the commonest actions of the traveller seem to catch something
of the indescribable charm of the land to which he is journeying. The
ticketing of luggage and the securing of a berth on board a
steamer—occupations which are not ordinarily considered particularly
agreeable—become invested with an attractiveness that makes him wonder
how he could ever have found them irksome. If he approaches Italy by
land from France or Switzerland, with what curiosity does he study the
varied features of the Piedmontese landscape! He recognizes the fertile
fields which he read about in Tacitus years ago, and endeavours to find
in the strange dialect which he hears spoken in the brief stops of the
diligence to change horses, something to remind him even faintly of the
melodious tongue with whose accents Grisi and Bosio had long since made
him familiar. Meanwhile his imagination is not idle, and his mind is
filled with historical pictures drawn from the classical pages which he
once found any thing but entertaining. Though he may be fresh from the
cloudless atmosphere of fair Provence, he fancies that the sky is bluer
and the air more pure than he ever saw before.

It is a great advantage to enter Italy from the sea. In this way you
perceive more clearly the national characteristics, and enter at once
into the Italian way of life. You avoid in this way that gradual change
from one pure nationality to another, which is eminently unsatisfactory.
You do not weary yourself with the mixed population and customs of those
border towns which bear about the same relation to Italy that Boulogne,
with its multitude of English residents, bears to France. It was my good
fortune when I first visited Italy, years ago, to make the voyage from
America direct to the proud city of Genoa. Fifty-five weary days passed
away before the end of the voyage was reached. Twenty-six of those days
were spent in battling with a terrible north-easter, before whose might
many a better craft than the one I was in went down into the insatiable
depths. My Italian anticipations kept me up through all the
cheerlessness of that time. The stormy sky, the wet, the cold, and all
the discomfort could not keep from my mind’s eye the vineyards, palaces,
churches, and majestic ruins which made up the Italy I had looked
forward to from childhood. My first sight of that romantic land did
somewhat shock, I must acknowledge, my preconceived notions. I was
called on deck early one December morning to see the land which is
associated in most minds with perpetual sunshine. Facing a biting,
northerly blast, I saw the maritime range of the Alps covered with snow
and looking as relentless as arctic icebergs. My disappointment was
forgotten, however, two mornings after, when Genoa, wearing "the beauty
of the morning," lay before our weather-beaten bark. It was something to
remember to my dying day—that approach to the city of palaces.
Surrounded by its amphitheatre of hills crested on every side with heavy
fortifications, its palaces, and towers, and domes, and terraced gardens
rising apparently from the very edge of that tideless sea, there sat
Genoa, surpassing in its splendour the wildest imaginings of my youth. I
shall never forget the thrill that ran through every fibre of my frame,
when the sun rose above those embattled ridges, and poured his flood of
saffron glory over the whole wonderful scene, and the bells from a
hundred churches and convents rang out as cheerily as if the sunbeams
made them musical, like the statue in the ancient fable, and there was
no further need of bell ropes. The astonishment of Aladdin when he
rubbed the lamp and saw the effects of that operation could not have
equalled mine, when I saw Genoa put on the light and life of day like a
garment. It was like a scene in a theatrical pageant, or one of the
brilliant changes in a great firework, so instantaneous was the
transition from the subdued light and calmness of early morning to the
activity and golden light of day. All the discomfort of the eight
preceding weeks was forgotten in the exultation of that moment. I had
found the Italy of my young dreams, and my happiness was complete.

This time, however, I entered Italy from the north. I pass by clean,
prosperous-looking Milan, with its elegant churches, and its
white-coated Austrian soldiers standing guard in every public place. I
have not a word of lament to utter at seeing a stranger force sustaining
social order there. It is better that it should be sustained by a
despotism far more cruel than that of Austria, than to become the prey
of that sanguinary anarchy which is dignified in Europe with the name of
republicanism. The most absolute of all absolute monarchies is to be
preferred to the best government that could possibly be built upon such
a foundation as Mazzini’s stiletto. Far better is the severest military
despotism than the irresponsible tyranny of those who deny the first
principles of government and common morality, and who seem to consider
assassination the chief of virtues and the most heroic of actions. I
pass by that magnificent cathedral, with its thousands of pinnacles and
shining statues piercing the clear atmosphere like the peaks of a
stupendous iceberg, and its subterranean chapel, glittering with
precious metals and jewels, where, in a crystal shrine, repose the
relics of the great St. Charles, and the lamps of gold and silver burn
unceasingly, and symbolize the shining virtues of the self-forgetful
successor of St. Ambrose, and the glowing gratitude of the faithful
Milanese for his devotion to the welfare of their forefathers.

I lingered among the attractions of Genoa for a few days. I enjoy not
only those magnificent palaces with their spacious quadrangles, broad
staircases, and sculptured façades, but those narrow, winding streets of
which three quarters of the city are composed—so narrow indeed that a
carriage never is seen in them, and a donkey, pannier-laden, after the
manner of Ali Baba’s faithful animal, compels you to keep very close to
the buildings. Genoa is the very reverse of Philadelphia. Its streets
are as narrow and crooked as those of Philadelphia are broad and
straight. The Quaker City was always a wearisome place to me. Its
rectangular avenues—so wide that they afford no protection from the
wintry blast nor shelter from the canicular sunshine, and as
interminable as a tale in a weekly newspaper—tire me out. They make me
long for something more social and natural than their straight lines.
Man is a gregarious animal. It is his nature to snuggify himself. But
the Quaker affects a contempt for snugness, and includes Hogarth’s line
of beauty among the worldly vanities which his religion obliges him to
shun. Every time I think of Philadelphia my disrespect for the science
of geometry is increased, and I find myself more and more inclined to
believe the most unkind things that Lord Macaulay can say about Mr.
Penn, its founder. Cherishing such sentiments as these, is it wonderful
that I find Genoa a pleasant city? I enjoy its gay port, its thronged
market place, its sumptuous churches, with gilded vaults and panels, and
checkered exteriors, its well-dressed people, from the bluff coachman,
who laughed at my attempts to understand the Genoese dialect, to the
devout feminines in their graceful white veils, which give the whole
city a peculiarly festive and nuptial appearance: but it must be
acknowledged, that the up-and-down-stairsy feature of the town is not
grateful to my gouty feet.

I must not weary you, dear reader, with any attempts to describe the
delightful four days’ journey from Genoa to Florence, in a _vettura_.
The Cornice road, with its steep cliffs or trim villas on one side, and
the clear blue Mediterranean on the other,—those pleasant old towns,
pervaded with an air of respectable antiquity, Chiavari, Sestri,
Sarzana, Spezzia, with its beautiful gulf, whose waters looked so pure
and calm that it was difficult to think that they could ever have
swallowed poor Percy Shelley, and robbed English literature of one of
its brightest ornaments,—Pietra Santa, Carrara, with its queer old
church, its quarries, its doorsteps and window-sills of milk-white
marble, and its throng of artists,—the little marble city of Massa
Ducale, nestling among the mountains,—the vast groves of olives, whose
ash-coloured leaves made noontide seem like twilight,—all these things
would require a great expenditure of time and rhetoric, and therefore I
will not even allude to them.

Neither will I tire you with any reference to my brief sojourn in Pisa.
I will not tell how delightful it was to perambulate the clean streets
of that peaceful city,—how I enjoyed the view from the bridges, the
ancient towers and domes, and the lofty palaces, whose fair fronts are
mirrored in the soft-flowing Arno. I will not attempt to describe the
enchantment produced by that noble architectural group,—the Cathedral,
the Baptistery, the Campanile, and the Campo Santo,—nor the joy I felt
on making a closer acquaintance with that graceful tower, whose
inexplicable dereliction from the perfect uprightness which is
inculcated as a primary duty in all similar structures, was made
familiar to me at an early age, through the medium of a remarkable
wood-cut in my school Geography. I will not tell how I fatigued my sense
with the forms of beauty with which that glorious church is filled,—how
refreshing its holy quiet and subdued light were to my travel-worn
spirit,—nor how the majestic cloisters of the Campo Santo, with their
delicate traceries, antique frescoes, and constantly varying light and
shade, elevated and purified my heart of the sordid spirit of this mean,
practical age, until I felt that to live amid such scenes, and to be
buried at last in the earth of Palestine, under the shade of those
solemn arches, was the only worthy object of human ambition.

I entered Florence late in the afternoon, under cover of a fog that
would have done credit to London in the depths of its November
nebulosity. It was rather an unbecoming dress for the style of beauty of
the Tuscan capital,—that mantle of chill vapour,—but it was worn but a
few hours, and the sun rose the next morning in all his legitimate
splendour, and darted his rays through as clear and frosty an atmosphere
as ever fell to the lot of even that favoured country. I have once or
twice heard the epithet "beautiful" applied to this city; indeed, I will
not be sure that I have not met with it in some book or other. It is, in
fact, the only word that can be used with any propriety concerning this
charming place. It is not vast like Rome, nor is the soul of its
beholder saddened by the sight of mighty ruins, or burdened with the
weight of thousands of years of heroic history. It does not possess the
broad Bay of Naples, nor is it watched over by a stupendous volcano,
smoking leisurely for want of some better occupation. But it lies in the
valley of the Arno, one of the most harmonious and impressive works of
art that the world has ever seen, surrounded by natural beauties that
realize the most ecstatic dreams of poesy.

_Firenze la bella!_ Who can look at her from any of the terraced hills
that enclose her from the rude world, and deny her that title? That
fertile plain which stretches from her very walls to the edge of the
horizon—those picturesque hills, dotted with lovely villas—those
orchards and vineyards, in their glory of gold and purple—that river,
stealing noiselessly to the sea—and far away the hoary peaks of the
Apennines, changing their hue with every hour of sunlight, and
displaying their most gorgeous robes, in honour of the departing day,—I
pity the man who can look upon them without a momentary feeling of
inspiration. The view from Fiesole is consolation enough for a life of
disappointment, and ought to make all future earthly trials seem as
nothing to him who is permitted to enjoy it.

And then, those domes and towers, so eloquent of the genius of Giotto
and Brunelleschi and of the public spirit and earnest devotion of ages
which modern ignorance stigmatizes as "dark,"—who can behold them
without a thrill? The battlemented tower of the Palazzo Vecchio—which
seems as if it had been hewn out of solid rock, rather than built up by
the patient labour of the mason—looks down upon the peaceful city with a
composure that seems almost intelligent, and makes you wonder whether it
appeared the same when the signiory of Florence held their councils
under its massive walls, and in those dark days when the tyrannous
factions of Guelph and Ghibelline celebrated their bloody carnival. The
graceful Campanile of the cathedral, with its coloured marbles, seems
too much like a mantel ornament to be exposed to the changes of the
weather. Amid the other domes and towers of the city rises the vast dome
of the cathedral, the forerunner of that of St. Peter’s, and almost its
equal. It appears to be conscious of its superiority to the neighbouring
architectural monuments, and merits Hallam’s description—"an emblem of
the Catholic hierarchy under its supreme head; like Rome itself,
imposing, unbroken, unchangeable, radiating in equal expansion to every
part of the earth, and directing its convergent curves to heaven."

There is no city in the world so full of memories of the middle ages as
Florence. Its very palaces, with their heavily barred basement windows,
look as if they were built to stand a siege. Their sombre walls are in
strong contrast with the bloom and sunshine which we naturally associate
with the valley of the Arno. Their magnificent proportions and the
massiveness of their construction oppress you with recollections of the
warlike days in which they were erected. You wonder, as you stand in
their courtyards, or perambulate the streets darkened by their
overhanging cornices, what has become of all the cavaliers; and if a
gentleman in "complete steel" should lift his visor to accost you, it
would not startle you so much as to hear two English tourists with the
inevitable red guide-books under their arms, conversing about the "Grand
Juke." Wherever one may turn his steps in Florence, he meets with some
object of beauty or historical interest; yet among all these charms and
wonders there is one building upon which my eyes and mind are never
tired of feeding. The Palazzo Riccardi, the cradle of the great Medici
family, is not less impressive in its architecture than in its historic
associations. Its black walls have a greater charm for me than the
variegated marbles of the Duomo. It was built by the great Cosmo de’
Medici, and was the home of that family of merchant princes in the most
glorious period of its history, when a grateful people delighted to
render to its members that homage which is equally honourable to "him
that gives and him that takes." The genius of Michel Angelo and
Donatello is impressed upon it. It was within those lofty halls that
Cosmo and his grandson, Lorenzo the Magnificent, welcomed pontiffs and
princes, and the illustrious but untitled nobility of literature and
art, which was the boast of their age. The ancient glories of the
majestic pile are kept in mind by an inscription which greets him who
enters it with an exhortation to "reverence with gratitude the ancient
mansion of the Medici, in which not merely so many illustrious men, but
Wisdom herself abode—a house which was the nurse of revived learning."

I wonder whether any one ever was tired of strolling about these old
streets and squares. At my time of life, walking is not particularly
agreeable, even if it be not interfered with by either of those foes to
active exercise and grace of movement—rheumatism or gout; but I must
acknowledge that I have found such pleasure in rambling through the
familiar streets of this delightful city, that I have taken no note of
bodily fatigue, and have forgotten the crutch or cane which is my
inseparable companion. It is all the same to me whether I walk about the
streets, or loiter in the Boboli Gardens, or listen to the delicious
music of the full military band that plays daily for an hour before
sunset under the shade of the Cascine. They all afford me a kind of
vague pleasure—very much that sort of satisfaction which springs from
hearing a cat purr, or from watching the fitful blaze of a wood fire. I
have no fondness for jewelry, and the great Kohinoor diamond and all the
crown jewels of Russia could not invest respectable uselessness or
aristocratic vice with any beauty for me, nor add any charm to a bright,
intelligent face, such as lights up many a home in this selfish world;
yet I have spent hours in looking at the stalls on the Jeweller’s
Bridge, and enjoying the covetous looks bestowed by so many passers-by
upon their glittering contents.

There are some excellent bookstalls here, and I have renewed the joys of
past years and the memory of Paternoster Row, Fleet Street, Holborn, the
Strand, and of the quays of Paris, in the inspection of their stock. I
have a strong affection for bookstalls, and had much rather buy a book
at one than in a shop. In the first place it would be cheaper; in the
second place it would be a little worn, and I should become the
possessor, not only of the volume, but of its associations with other
lovers of books who turned over its leaves, reading here and there,
envying the future purchaser. For books, so long as they are well used,
increase in value as they grow in age. Sir William Jones’s assertion,
that "the best monument that can be erected to a man of literary talents
is a good edition of his works," is not to be denied; but who would
think of reading, for the enjoyment of the thing, a modern edition of
Sir Thomas Browne, or Izaak Walton? Who would wish to read Hamlet in a
volume redolent of printers’ ink and binders’ glue? Who would read a
clean new copy of Robinson Crusoe when he might have one that had seen
service in a circulating library, or had been well thumbed by several
generations of adventure-loving boys? A book is to me like a hat or
coat—a very uncomfortable thing until the newness has been worn off.

It is in the churches of Florence that my enthusiasm reaches its
meridian. This solemn cathedral, with its richly dight windows,—whose
warm hues must have been stolen from the palette of Titian or
Tintoretto,—makes me forget all earthly hopes and sorrows; and the
majestic Santa Maria Novella and San Lorenzo, with their peaceful
cloisters and treasures of literature and art, appeal strongly to my
religious sensibilities, while they completely satisfy my taste. And
then Santa Croce, solemn, not merely as a place of worship, but as the
repository of the dust of many of those illustrious men whose genius
illumined the world during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries! I
have enjoyed Santa Croce particularly, because I have seen more of the
religious life of the Florentine people there. For more than a week I
have been there every evening, just after sunset, when the only light
that illuminated those ancient arches came from the high altar, which
appeared like a vision of heaven in the midst of the thickest darkness
of earth. The nave and aisles of that vast edifice were thronged: men,
women, and children were kneeling upon that pavement which contains the
records of so much goodness and greatness. I have heard great choirs; I
have been thrilled by the wondrous power of voices that seemed too much
like those of angels for poor humanity to listen to; but I have never
before been so overwhelmed as by the hearty music of that vast
multitude.

The galleries of art need another volume and an abler pen than mine.
Free to the people as the sunlight and the shade of the public gardens,
they make an American blush to think of the niggardly spirit that
prevails in the country which he would fain persuade himself is the most
favoured of all earthly abodes. The Academy, the Pitti, the Uffizi, make
you think that life is too short, and that art is indeed long. You wish
that you had more months to devote to them than you have days. Great as
is the pleasure that I have found in them, I have found myself lingering
more fondly in the cloisters and corridors of San Marco than amid the
wonderful works that deck the walls of the palaces. The pencil of Beato
Angelico has consecrated that dead plastering, and given to it a divine
life. The rapt devotion and holy tranquillity of those faces reflect the
glory of the eternal world. I ask no more convincing proof of the
immortality of the soul, than the fact that those forms of beauty and
holiness were conceived and executed by a mortal.

It is enough to excite the indignation of any reflective Englishman or
American to visit Florence, and compare—or perhaps I ought rather to say
contrast—the facts which force themselves upon his attention, with the
prejudices implanted in his mind by early education. Surely, he has a
right to be astonished, and may be excused if he indulges in a little
honest anger, when he looks for the first time at the masterpieces of
art which had their origin in those ages which he has been taught to
consider a period of ignorance and barbarism. He certainly obtains a new
idea of the "barbarism" of the middle ages, when he visits the
benevolent institutions which they have bequeathed to our times, and
when he sees the admirable working of the _Compagnia della
Misericordia_, which unites all classes of society, from the grand duke
to his humblest subject, in the bonds of religion and philanthropy. He
may be pardoned, too, if he comes to the conclusion that the liberal
arts were not entirely neglected in the age that produced a Dante and a
Petrarch, a Cimabue and a Giotto,—not to mention a host of other names,
which may not shine so brightly as these, but are alike superior to
temporal accidents,—and he cannot be considered unreasonable if he
refuses to believe that the ages which witnessed the establishment of
universities like those of Paris, Oxford, Cambridge, Prague, Bologna,
Salamanca, Vienna, Ferrara, Ingolstadt, Louvain, Leipsic, &c., were
quite so deeply sunk in darkness, or were held in an intellectual
bondage so utterly hopeless, as the eulogists of the nineteenth century
would persuade him. The monuments of learning, art, and benevolence,
with which Florence is filled, will convince any thinking man that those
who speak of the times I have alluded to as the "dark ages," mean
thereby the ages concerning which they are in the dark; and admirably
exemplify in their own shallow self-sufficiency the ignorance they would
impute to the ages when learning and all good arts were the handmaids of
religion.



ANCIENT ROME


The moment in which one takes his first look at Rome is an epoch in his
life. Even if his education should have been a most illiberal one, and
he himself should be as strenuous an opponent of pontifical prerogatives
as John of Leyden or Dr. Dowling, he is sure to be, for the time, imbued
in some measure with the feelings of a pilgrim. The sight of that city
which has exercised such a mighty influence on the world, almost from
its very foundation, fills his mind with "troublings of strange joy."
His vague notions of ancient history assume a more distinct form. The
twelve Cæsars pass before his mind’s eye like the spectral kings before
the Scotch usurper. The classics which he used to neglect so shamefully
at school, the historical lessons which he thought so dull, have been
endowed with life and interest by that one glance of his astonished eye.
But if he loved the classics in his youth,—if the wanderings of Æneas
and the woes of Dido charmed instead of tiring him,—if "Livy’s pictured
page," the polished periods of Sallust and Tacitus, and the mighty
eloquence of Cicero, were to him a mine of delight rather than a
task,—how does his eye glisten with renewed youth, and his heart swell
as his old boyish enthusiasm is once more kindled within it! He feels
that he has reached the goal to which his heart and mind were turned
during his purest and most unselfish years; and if he were as unswayed
by human respect as he was then, he would kneel down with the
travel-worn pilgrims by the wayside to give utterance to his gratitude,
and to greet the queen city of the world: _Salve, magna parens!_

I shall not easily forget the cloudless afternoon when I first took that
long, wearisome ride from Civita Vecchia to Rome. There was no railway
in those days, as there is now, and the diligence was of so rude and
uncomfortable a make that I half suspected it to be the one upon the top
of which Hannibal is said to have crossed the Alps, (_summâ
diligentiâ_.) I shared the _coupé_ with two other sufferers, and was,
like them, so fatigued that it seemed as if a celestial vision would be
powerless to make me forgetful of my aching joints, when (after a
laborious pull up a hill which might be included among the "everlasting
hills" spoken of in holy writ) our long-booted postilion turned his
expressive face towards us, and banished all our weariness by
exclaiming, as he pointed into the blue distance with his short
whip-handle, "_Ecco! Roma! San Pietro!_"

A single glance of the eye served to overcome all our fatigue. There lay
the world’s capital, crowned by the mighty dome of the Vatican basilica,
and we were every moment drawing nearer to it. It was evening before we
found ourselves staring at those dark walls which have withstood so many
sieges, and heard the welcome demand for passports, which informed us
that we had reached the gate of the city.

I was really in Rome,—I was in that city hallowed by so many classical,
historical, and sacred associations,—and it all seemed to me like a
confused dream. Twice, before the diligence had gone a hundred yards
inside the gate, I had pinched myself to ascertain whether I was really
awake; and even after I passed through the lofty colonnade of St.
Peter’s, and had gazed at the front of the church and the vast square
which art has made familiar to every one, and had seen the fountains
with the moonbeams flashing in their silvery spray, I feared lest
something should interrupt my dream, and I should wake to find myself in
my snug bedroom at home, wondering at the weakness which allowed me to
be seduced into the eating of a bit of cheese the evening before. It was
not so, however; no disorganizing cheese had interfered with my
digestion; it was no dream; and I was really in Rome. I slept soundly
when I reached my hotel, for I felt sure that no hostile Brennus lay in
wait to disturb the city’s peace, and the grateful hardness of my bed
convinced me that all the geese of the capital had not been killed, if
the enemy should effect an entrance.

There are few people who love Rome at first sight. The ruins, that bear
witness to her grandeur in the days of her worldly supremacy, oppress
you at first with an inexpressible sadness. The absence of any thing
like the business enterprise and energy of this commercial age makes
English and American people long at first for a little of the bustle and
roar of Broadway and the Strand. The small paving stones, which make the
feet of those who are unaccustomed to them ache severely, the brick and
stone floors of the houses, and the lack of the little comforts of
modern civilization, render Rome a wearisome place, until one has caught
its spirit. Little does he think who for the first time gazes on those
gray, mouldering walls, on which "dull time feeds like slow fire upon a
hoary brand," or walks those streets in which the past and present are
so strangely commingled,—little does he realize how dear those scenes
will one day be to him. He cannot foresee the regret with which he will
leave those things that seem too common and familiar to deserve
attention, nor the glowing enthusiasm which their mention will inspire
in after years; and he would smile incredulously if any one were to
predict to him that his heart, in after times, will swell with homesick
longings as he recalls the memory of that ancient city, and that he will
one day salute it from afar as his second home.

I make no claims to antiquarian knowledge; for I do not love antiquity
for itself alone. It is only by force of association that antiquity has
any charms for me. The pyramids of Egypt would awaken my respect, not so
much by their age or size, as by the remembrance of the momentous scenes
which have been enacted in their useless and ungraceful presence. Show
me a scroll so ancient that human science can obtain no key to the
mysteries locked up in the strange figures inscribed upon it, and you
would move me but little. But place before me one of those manuscripts
(filled with scholastic lore, instinct with classic eloquence, or
luminous with the word of eternal life) which have come down to us from
those nurseries of learning and piety, the monasteries of the middle
ages, and you fill me with the intensest enthusiasm. There is food for
the imagination hidden under those worm-eaten covers and brazen clasps.
I see in those fair pages something more than the results of the patient
toil which perpetuated those precious truths. From those carefully
penned lines, and brilliant initial letters, the pale, thoughtful face
of the transcriber looks upon me—his contempt of worldly ambition and
sacrifice of human consolations are reflected there—and from the quiet
of his austere cell, he seems to dart from his serene eyes a glance of
patient reproach at the worldlier and more modern age which reaps the
fruit of his labour, and repays him by slandering his character. Show me
a building whose stupendous masonry seems the work of Titan hands, but
whose history is lost in the twilight of the ages, so that no record
remains of a time when it was any thing but an antique enigma, and its
massive columns and Cyclopean proportions will not touch me so nearly as
the stone in Florence where Dante used to stand and gaze upon that dome
which Michel Angelo said he would not imitate, and could not excel.

Feeling thus about antiquities, I need not say that those of Rome, so
crowned with the most thrilling historical and personal associations,
are not wanting in charms for me. Yet I do not claim to be an
antiquarian. It is all one to me whether the column of Phocas be forty
feet high or sixty,—whether a ruin on the Palatine that fascinates me by
its richness and grandeur, was once a Temple of Minerva or of Jupiter
Stator; or whether its foundations are of travertine or tufa. I abhor
details. My enjoyment of a landscape would be at an end if I were called
upon to count the mild-eyed cattle that contribute so much to its
picturesqueness; and I have no wish to disturb my appreciation of the
spirit of a place consecrated by ages of heroic history, by entertaining
any of the learned conjectures of professional antiquarians. It is
enough for me to know that I am standing on the spot where Romulus built
his straw-thatched palace, and his irreverent brother leaped over the
walls of the future mistress of the nations. Standing in the midst of
the relics of the grandeur of imperial Rome, the whole of her wonderful
history is constantly acting over again in my mind. The stern simplicity
of those who laid the foundations of her greatness, the patriotic daring
of those who extended her power, the wisdom of those who terminated
civil strife by compelling the divided citizens to unite against a
foreign foe, are all present to me. In that august place where Cicero
pleaded, gazing upon that mount where captive kings did homage to the
masters of the world, your mere antiquarian, with his pestilent theories
and measurements, seems to me little better than a profaner. When I see
such a one scratching about the base of some majestic column in the
Forum (although I cannot but be grateful to those whose researches have
developed the greatness of the imperial city,) I do long to interrupt
him, and remind him that his "tread is on an empire’s dust." I wish to
recall him from the petty details in which he delights, and have him
enjoy with me the grandeur and dignity of the whole scene.

The triumphal arches,—the monuments of the cultivation of those remote
ages, no less than of the power of the state which erected them,—the
memorials of the luxury that paved the way to the decline of that
power—all these things impress me with the thought of the long years
that intervened between that splendour and the times when the seat of
universal empire was inhabited only by shepherds and their flocks. It
wearies me to think of the long centuries of human effort that were
required to bring Rome to its culminating point of glory; and it affords
me a melancholy kind of amusement to contrast the spirit of those who
laid the deep and strong foundations of that prosperity and power, with
that of some modern sages, to whom a hundred years are a respectable
antiquity, and who seem to think that commercial enterprise and the will
of a fickle populace form as secure a basis for a state as private
virtue, and the principle of obedience to law. I know a country, yet in
the first century of its national existence, full of hope and ambition,
and possessing advantages such as never before fell to the lot of a
young empire, but lacking in those powers which made Rome what she was.
If that country, "the newest born of nations, the latest hope of
mankind," which has so rapidly risen to a power surpassing in extent
that of ancient Rome, and bears within itself the elements of the decay
that ruined the old empire,—wealth, vice, corruption,—if she could
overcome the vain notion that hers is an exceptional case, and that she
is not subject to that great law of nature which makes personal virtue
the corner-stone of national stability and the lack of that its bane,
and could look calmly upon the remains of old Rome’s grandeur, she might
learn a great lesson. Contemplating the patient formation of that
far-reaching dominion until it found its perfect consummation in the age
of Augustus, (_Tantæ molis erat Romanam condere gentem_,) she would see
that true national greatness is not "the hasty product of a day"; that
demagogues and adventurers, who have made politics their trade, are not
the architects of that greatness; and that the parchment on which the
constitution and laws of a country are written, might as well be used
for drum-heads when reverence and obedience have departed from the
hearts of its people.

A gifted representative of a name which is classical in the history of
the drama, some years ago gave to the world a journal of her residence
in Rome. She called her volume "A Year of Consolation"—a title as true
as it is poetical. Indeed I know of nothing more soothing to the spirit
than a walk through these ancient streets, or an hour of meditation amid
these remains of fallen majesty. To stand in the arena of the Coliseum
in the noonday glare, or when those ponderous arches cast their
lengthened shadows on the spot where the first Roman Christians were
sacrificed to make a holiday for a brutalized populace,—to muse in the
Pantheon, that changeless temple of a living, and monument of a dead,
worship, and reflect on the many generations that have passed beneath
its majestic portico from the days of Agrippa to our own,—to listen to
the birds that sing amid the shrubbery which decks the stupendous arches
of the Baths of Caracalla,—to be overwhelmed by the stillness of the
Campagna while the eye is filled with that rolling verdure which seems
in the hazy distance like the waves of the unquiet sea—what are all
these things but consolations in the truest sense of the word? What is
the bitterest grief that ever pierced a human heart through a long life
of sorrows, compared to the dumb woe of that mighty desolation? What are
our brief sufferings, when they are brought into the august presence of
a mourner who has seen her hopes one by one taken from her, through
centuries of war and rapine, neglect and silent decay?

Among all of Rome’s monuments of antiquity, there are few that impress
me so strangely as those old Egyptian obelisks, the trophies of the
victorious emperors, which the pontiffs have made to contribute so
greatly to the adornment of their capital. It is almost impossible to
turn a corner of one of the principal streets of the city without seeing
one of these peculiar shafts that give a fine finish to the perspective.
If their cold granite forms could speak, what a strange history they
would reveal! They were witnesses of the achievements of a power which
reached its noonday splendour centuries before the shepherd Faustulus
took the foundling brothers into his cottage on the banks of the Tiber.
The civilization of which they are the relics had declined before the
Roman kings inaugurated that which afterwards reclaimed all Europe from
the barbarians. Yet there they stand as grim and silent as if they had
but yesterday been rescued from the captivity of the native quarry, and
had never seen a nobler form than those of the dusty artisans who
wrought them—as dull and unimpressible as some of the stupid tourists
whom I see daily gazing upon these glorious monuments, and seeing only
so much brick and stone.



MODERN ROME


Acknowledging as I do the charms which the Rome of antiquity possesses
for me, it must still be confessed that the Rome of the present time
enchants me with attractions scarcely less potent. Religion has
consecrated many of the spots which history had made venerable, and thus
added a new lustre to their associations. I turn from the broken columns
and gray mouldering walls of old Rome to those fanes, "so ancient, yet
so new," in which the piety of centuries has found its enduring
expression. Beneath their sounding arches, by the mild light of the
lamps that burn unceasingly around their shrines, who would vex his
brain with antiquarian lore? We may notice that the pavement is worn
away by the multitudes which have been drawn thither by curiosity or
devotion; but we feel that Heaven’s chronology is not an affair of
months and years, and that Peter and Paul, Gregory and Leo, are not mere
personages in a drama upon the first acts of which the curtain long
since descended. Who thinks of antiquity while he inhabits that world of
art which Rome encloses within her walls? Those are not the triumphs of
a past age alone; they are the triumphs of to-day. The Apollo’s bearing
is not less manly, its step not less elastic, than it was in that remote
age when its unknown sculptor threw aside his chisel and gazed upon his
finished work. To-day’s sunshine is not more clear and golden than that
which glows in the landscapes of Claude Lorraine, though he who thus
made the sunbeams his servants has been sleeping for nearly two
centuries in the dusty vaults of _Trinita de’ Monti_. Were Raphael’s
deathless faces more real while he was living than they are now? Were
Guido’s and Domenichino’s triumphs more worthy of admiration while the
paint was wet upon them? or were the achievements of that giant of art,
Michel Angelo, ever more wonderful than now? No; these great works take
no note of time, and confer upon the city which contains them something
of their own immortality.

I have heard people regret that so many of our artists should expatriate
themselves, and spend their lives in Rome or Florence. To me, however,
nothing seems more natural; and if I were a painter, or a sculptor, I
feel certain that I should share the common weakness of the profession
for a place of residence in harmony with my art. What sympathy can a
true artist feel with a state of society in which he is regarded by nine
people out of ten as a useless member, because he does not directly aid
in the production of a given quantity of grain or of cloth? Every stroke
of his brush, every movement of his hands in moulding the obedient clay,
is a protest against the low, mean, materialistic views of life which
prevail among us; and it is too much to ask of any man that he shall
spend his days in trying to live peaceably in an enemy’s camp. When figs
and dates become common articles of food in Lapland, and the bleak sides
of the hills of New Hampshire are adorned with the graceful palm tree
and the luxuriant foliage of the tropics, you may expect art to flourish
in a community whose god is commerce, and whose chief religious duty is
money-getting.

Truly the life of an artist in Rome is about as near the perfection of
earthly happiness as is commonly vouchsafed to mortal man. The tone of
society, and all the surroundings of the artist, are so congenial that
no poverty nor privation can seriously interfere with them. The streets,
with their architectural marvels, the trim gardens and picturesque
cloisters of the old religious establishments, the magnificent villas of
the neighbourhood of the city, and the vast, mysterious Campagna, with
its gigantic aqueducts and its purple atmosphere, and those glorious
galleries which at the same time gratify the taste of the artist and
feed his ambition,—these are things which are as free to him as the
blessed sunlight or the water that sparkles in the countless fountains
of the Holy City. I do not wonder that artists who have lived any
considerable time in Rome are discontented with the feverish
restlessness of our American way of life, and that, after "stifling the
mighty hunger of the heart" through two or three wearisome years in our
western world, they turn to Rome as to a fond mother, upon whose breast
they may find that peace which they had elsewhere sought in vain.

The churches of Rome impress me in a way which I have never heard
described by any other person. I do not speak of St. Peter’s, (that
"noblest temple that human skill ever raised to the honour of the
Creator,") nor do I refer to those other magnificent basilicas in which
the Christian glories of eighteen centuries sit enthroned. These have a
dignity and majesty peculiarly their own, and the most thoughtless
cannot tread their ancient pavement without being for the time subdued
into awe and veneration. But the parish churches of Rome, the churches
of the various religious orders and congregations, and those numerous
little temples which are so thickly scattered through the city, attract
me in manner especially fascinating. There is an air of cosiness and
at-home-ativeness about them which cannot be found in the grander fanes.
Some of them seem by their architectural finish to have been built in
some fine street or square, and to have wandered off in search of quiet
to their present secluded positions. It is beneath their arches that the
Roman people may be seen. Before those altars you may see men, women,
and children kneeling, their lips scarcely moving with the petitions
which are heard only in another world. No intruding tourists,
eye-glassed and Murrayed, interfere with their devotions, and the
silence of the sacred place is unbroken, save by the rattling of a
rosary, or at stated times by the swell of voices from the choir chapel.
These are the places where the real power of the Catholic religion makes
itself felt more unmistakably than in the grandest cathedrals, where
every form and sound is eloquent of worship. I remember with pleasure
that once in London, as I was passing through that miserable quarter
which lies between Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, I was
attracted by the appearance of a number of people who were entering a
narrow doorway. One or two stylish carriages, with crests upon their
panels, and drivers in livery, stood before the dingy building which
seemed to wear a mysterious air of semi-cleanliness in the midst of the
general squalour. I followed the strange collection of the
representatives of opulence and the extremest poverty through a long
passage-way, and found myself in a large room which was tastefully
fitted up for a Catholic chapel. The simplicity of the place, joined
with its strictly ecclesiastical look, the excellent music, the crowded
and devout congregation, and the almost breathless attention which was
paid to the simple and persuasive eloquence of the preacher, who was
formerly one of the chief ornaments of the established church, whose
highest honours he had cast aside that he might minister more
effectually to the poor and despised,—all these things astonished and
delighted me. To see that church preserving, even in its hiddenness and
poverty, its regard for the comeliness of God’s worship, and adorning
that humble chapel in a manner which showed that the spirit which
erected the shrines of Westminster, Salisbury and York, had not died
out, carried me back in spirit to the catacombs of Rome, where the early
Christians left the abiding evidences of their zeal for the beauty of
the house of God. I was at that time fresh from the continent, and my
mind was occupied with the remembrance of the gorgeous churches of
Italy. Yet, despite my recollection of those "forests of porphyry and
marble," those altars of _lapis lazuli_, those tabernacles glittering
with gold, and silver, and precious stones, and those mosaics and
frescoes whose beauty and variety almost fatigue the sense of the
beholder,—I must say that it gave me a new sense of the dignity and
grandeur of the ancient Church, to see her in the midst of the poverty
and obscurity to which she is now condemned in the land which once
professed her faith, and was once thickly planted with those
institutions of learning and charity which are the proudest monuments of
her progress. A large ship, under full sail, running off before a
pleasant breeze, is a beautiful sight; but it is by no means so grandly
impressive as that of the same ship, under close canvas, gallantly
riding out the merciless gale that carried destruction to every
unseaworthy craft which came within its reach.

I am not one of those who lament over the millions which have been
expended upon the churches of Rome. I am _not_ inclined to follow the
sordid principle of that apostle who is generally held up rather as a
warning than an example, and say that it had been better if the sums
which have been devoted to architectural ornament had been withheld and
given to the poor. Religion has no need, it is true, of these visible
splendours, any more than of set forms and modes of speech. For it is
the heart that believes, and loves, and prays. But we, poor mortals, so
enslaved by our senses, so susceptible to external appearances, need
every thing that can inspire in us a respect for something higher than
ourselves, or remind us of the glories of the invisible, eternal world.
And can we doubt that He who praised the action of that pious woman who
poured the precious ointment upon His sacred head, looks with
complacency upon the sacrifices which are made for the adornment of the
temples devoted to His worship? Is it a right principle that people who
are clad in expensive garments, who are not content unless they are
surrounded by carved or enamelled furniture, and whose feet tread daily
on costly tapestries, should find fault with the generous piety which
has made the churches of Italy what they are, and should talk so
impressively about the beauty of spiritual worship? I have no patience
with these advocates for simplicity in every thing that does not relate
to themselves and their own comforts.

    "Shall we serve Heaven with less respect
    Than we do minister to our gross selves?"

I care not how simple our private houses may be, but I advocate
liberality and splendour in our public buildings of all kinds, for the
sake of preserving a due respect for the institutions they enshrine. I
remember, in reading one of the old classical writers,—Sallust, I
think,—in my young days, being greatly impressed by his declaration that
private luxury is a sure forerunner of a nation’s downfall, and that it
is a fatal sign for the dwellings of the citizens to be spacious and
magnificent, while the public edifices are mean and unworthy. Purely
intellectual as we may think ourselves, we are, nevertheless, somewhat
deferential to the external proprieties of life, and I very much doubt
whether the most reverential of us could long maintain his respect for
the Supreme Court if its sessions were held in a tap-room, or for
religion, if its ministers prayed and preached in pea-jackets and
top-boots.

Displeasing as is the presence of most of the English-speaking tourists
one meets in Rome, there are two places where they delight to
congregate, which yet have charms for me that not even Cockney vulgarity
or Yankee irreverence can destroy. The church of the convent of _Trinità
de’ Monti_ wins me, in spite of the throng that fills its nave at the
hour of evening every Sunday and festival day. Some years since, when I
first visited Rome, the music which was heard there was of the highest
order of merit. At present the nuns of the Sacred Heart have no such
great artistes in their community as they had then, but the music of
their choir is still one of those things which he who has once heard can
never forget. It is the only church in Rome in which I have heard female
voices; and, though I much prefer the great male choirs of the
basilicas, there is a soothing simplicity in the music at _Trinità de’
Monti_ which goes home to almost every heart. I have seen giddy and
unthinking girls, who laughed at the ceremonial they did not understand,
subdued to reverence by those strains, and supercilious Englishmen
reduced to the humiliating necessity of wiping their eyes. Indeed, the
whole scene is so harmoniously impressive that its enchantment cannot be
resisted. The solemn church, lighted only by the twilight rays, and the
tapers upon the high altar,—the veiled forms of the pious sisterhood and
their young pupils in the grated sanctuary,—the clouding of the fragrant
incense,—the tinkling of that silvery bell and of the chains of the
swinging censer,—those ancient and dignified rites,—and over all, those
clear, angelic voices praying and praising, in litany and hymn—all
combine to make up a worship, one moment of which would seem enough to
wipe away the memory of a lifetime of folly, and disappointment, and
sorrow.

The Sistine Chapel is another place to which I am bound by an almost
supernatural fascination. My imperfect eyesight will not permit me to
enjoy fully the frescoes that adorn its lofty walls; but I feel that I
am in the presence of the great master and some of his mightiest
conceptions. I do not know whether the chapel is most impressive in its
empty state, or when thronged for some great religious function. In the
former condition, its fine proportions and its simplicity satisfy me so
completely, that I hardly wish for the pomp and splendour which belong
to it on great occasions. I know of nothing more grand than the sight of
that simple throne of the Sovereign Pontiff, when it is occupied by that
benignant old man, to whom more than two hundred millions of people look
with veneration as to a father and a teacher,—and surrounded by those
illustrious prelates and princes who compose a senate of moral and
intellectual worth, such as all the world beside cannot parallel. Those
venerable figures—those gray hairs—those massive foreheads, and those
resplendent robes of office, seem to be a part of some great historical
picture, rather than a reality before my eyes. There is nothing more
severe in actual experience, or more satisfactory in the recollection,
than Holy Week in the Sistine Chapel. The crowd, the fatigue, and the
presence of so many sight-seers, who have come with the same feeling
that they would attend an opera or a play, are not calculated to
increase one’s bodily comfort, or to awaken the sentiments proper to so
sacred a season as that which is then commemorated. But after these have
passed away, there remains the recollection, which time does not
diminish, but makes more precious, of that darkening chapel and the
bowed-down heads of the Pope and cardinals, of the music, "yearning like
a god in pain," of the melodious woe of the _Miserere_, the plaintive
majesty of the Lamentations and the Reproaches, and the shrill
dissonance of the shouts of the populace in the gospel narrative of the
crucifixion. These are things which would outweigh a year of fatigue and
pain. I know of no greater or more sincere tribute to the perfections of
the Sistine choir, and the genius of Allegri and Palestrina, than the
patience with which so many people submit to be packed, like herring in
a box, into that small chapel. But old and gouty as I am, I would gladly
undergo all the discomforts of that time to hear those sounds once more.

I hear some people complain of the beggars, and wonder why Rome, with
her splendid system of charities for the relief of every form of
suffering, permits mendicancy. For myself, I am not inclined to complain
either of the beggars or of the merciful government, which refuses to
look upon them as offenders against its laws. On the contrary, it
appears to me rather creditable than otherwise to Rome, that she is so
far behind the age, as not to class poverty with crime among social
evils. I have a sincere respect for this feature of the Catholic Church;
this regard for the poor as her most precious inheritance, and this
unwillingness that her children should think that, because she has
organized a vast system of benevolence, they are absolved of the duty of
private charity. In this wisdom, which thus provides for the exercise of
kindly feelings in alms-giving, may be found one of the most attractive
characteristics of the Roman Church. This, no less than the austere
religious orders which she has founded, shows in what sense she receives
the beatitude, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." And the same kind
spirit of equality may be seen in her churches and cathedrals, where
rich and poor kneel upon the same pavement, before their common God and
Saviour, and in her cloisters, and universities, and schools, where
social distinctions cannot enter.

When I walk through the cloisters of these venerable institutions of
learning, or gaze upon the ancient city from _Monte Mario_, or the
Janiculum, it seems to me that never until now did I appreciate the
world’s indebtedness to Rome. Dislike it as we may, we cannot disguise
the fact, that to her every Christian nation owes, in a great measure,
its civilization, its literature, and its religion. The endless empire
which Virgil’s muse foretold, is still hers; and, as one of her ancient
Christian poets said, those lands which were not conquered by her
victorious arms are held in willing obedience by her religion. When I
think how all our modern civilization, our art, letters, and
jurisprudence, sprang originally from Rome, it appears to me that a
narrow religious prejudice has prevented our forming a due estimate of
her services to humanity. To some, the glories of the ancient empire,
the memory of the days when her sovereignty extended from Britain to the
Ganges, and her capital counted its inhabitants by millions, seem to
render all her later history insignificant and dull; but to my mind the
moral dignity and power of Christian Rome is as superior to her old
military omnipotence as it is possible for the human intellect to
conceive. The ancient emperors, with all their power, could not carry
the Roman name much beyond the limits of Europe; the rulers who have
succeeded them have made the majestic language of Rome familiar to two
hemispheres, and have built up, by spiritual arms, the mightiest empire
that the world has ever seen. For me, Rome’s most enduring glories are
the memories of the times when her great missionary orders civilized and
evangelized the countries which her arms had won, when her martyrs sowed
the seed of Christianity with their blood, and her confessors illumined
the world with their virtues; when her pontiffs, single-handed, turned
back barbarian invasions, or mitigated the severities of the feudal age,
or protected the people by laying their ban upon the tyrants who
oppressed them, or defended the sanctity of marriage, and the rights of
helpless women against divorce-seeking monarchs and conquerors. These
things are the true fulfilment of the glowing prophecy of Rome’s
greatness, which Virgil puts into the mouth of Anchises, when Æneas
visits the Elysian Fields, and hears from his old father that the
mission of the government he is about to found is to rule the world by
moral power, to make peace between opposing nations, to spare the
subject, and to subdue the proud:

    "Tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento;
    Hæ tibi erunt artes, pacisque imponere morem,
    Parcere subjectis, et debellare superbos."



ROME TO MARSEILLES


The weather was fearfully hot the day of my departure from Rome. The sun
was staring down, without winking, upon that wonderful old city, as if
he loved the sight. The yellow current of old Father Tiber seemed
yellower than ever in the glare. Except from sheer necessity, no person
moved abroad; for the atmosphere, which early in the morning had seemed
like airs from heaven, before noon had become most uncomfortably like a
blast from the opposite direction. The Piazza di Spagna was like Tadmor
in the wilderness. Not a single English tourist, with his well-read
Murray under his arm, was to be seen there; not a carriage driver broke
the stillness of the place with his polyglot solicitations to ride. The
great staircase of _Trinità de’ Monti_ seemed an impossibility; to have
climbed up its weary ascent under that broiling sun would have been poor
entertainment for man or beast. The squares of the city were like
furnaces, and made one mentally curse architecture, and bless the
narrow, shady streets. The soldiers on guard at the gates and in the
public places looked as if they couldn’t help it. Now and then a
Capuchin monk, in his heavy, brown habit, girded with the knotted cord,
toiled along on some errand of benevolence, and made one marvel at his
endurance. Occasionally a cardinal rolled by in scarlet state, looking
as if he gladly would have exchanged the bondage of his dignity and
power for a single day of virtuous liberty in linen pantaloons.

Traffic seemed to have departed this life; there were no buyers, and the
shopkeepers slumbered at their counters. The _cafés_ were shrouded in
their long, striped awnings, and seemed to invite company by their
well-wet pavement. A few old Romans found energy enough to call for an
occasional ice or lemonade, and talked in the intervals about
_Pammerstone_, and his agent, Mazzini. How the sun blazed down into the
Coliseum! Not a breath of air stirred the foliage that clothes that
mighty ruin. Even the birds were mute. To have crossed that broad arena
would have perilled life as surely as in those old days when the first
Roman Christians there confessed their faith. On such a day, one’s
parting visits must necessarily be brief; so I left the amphitheatre,
and walked along the dusty _Via Sacra_, pausing a moment to ponder on
the scene of Cicero’s triumphs, and of so many centuries of thrilling
history, and coming to the conclusion that, if it were such a day as
that when Virginius in that place slew his dear little daughter, the
blow was merciful indeed. The market-place in front of the Pantheon,
usually so thronged and lively, was almost deserted. The fresh, bright
vegetables had either all been sold, or had refused to grow in such a
heat. But the Pantheon itself was unchanged. There it stood, in all its
severe grandeur, majestic as in the days of the Cæsars, the embodiment
of heathenism, the exponent of the worship of the old, inexorable
gods,—of justice without mercy, and power without love. Its interior
seemed cool and refreshing, for no heat can penetrate that stupendous
pile of masonry,—and I gathered new strength from my short visit. It was
a fine thought in the old Romans to adapt the temples of heathenism to
the uses of Christianity. The contrasts suggested to our minds by this
practice are very striking. When we see that the images of the old
revengeful and impure divinities have given place to those of the humble
and self-denying heroes of Christianity, that the Saviour of the world
stretches out His arms upon the cross, in the place from which the
haughty Jupiter once hurled his thunderbolts, we are borne at once to a
conclusion more irresistible than any that the mere force of language
could produce. One of our own poets felt this in Rome, and expressed
this same idea in graceful verse:—

    "The goddess of the woods and fields,
      The healthful huntress undefiled,
    Now with her fabled brother yields
      To sinless Mary and her Child."

But I must hurry on towards St. Peter’s. There are three places in Rome
which every one visits as soon as possible after he arrives, and as
short a time as may be before his departure—the Coliseum, the Pantheon,
and St. Peter’s. The narrow streets between the Pantheon and the Bridge
of St. Angelo were endurable, because they were shady. It was necessary
to be careful, however, and not trip over any of the numerous Roman legs
whose proprietors were stretched out upon the pavement in various
picturesque postures, sleeping away the long hours of that scorching
day. At last the bridge is reached Bernini’s frightful statues, which
deform its balustrades, seem to be writhing under the influence of the
sun. I am quite confident that St. Veronica’s napkin was curling with
the heat. The bronze archangel stood as usual upon the summit of the
Castle of St. Angelo. I stopped a few moments, thinking that he might
see the expediency of sheathing his sword and retreating, before he
should be compelled, in the _confusion_ of such a blaze as that, to
_run_ away; but it was useless. I moved on towards St. Peter’s, and he
still kept guard there as brazen-faced as ever. The great square in
front of the basilica seemed to have scooped up its fill of heat, and
every body knows that it is capable of containing a great deal. The few
persons whom devotion or love of art had tempted out in such a day,
approached it under the shade of its beautiful colonnades. I was obliged
to content myself with the music of one of those superb fountains only,
for the workmen were making a new basin for the other. St. Peter’s never
seemed to me so wonderful, never filled me up so completely, as it did
then. The contrast of the heat I had been in with that atmosphere of
unchangeable coolness, the quiet of the vast area, the fewness of people
moving about, all conspired to impress me with a new sense of the
majesty and holiness of the place. The quiet, unflickering blaze of the
numerous lamps that burn unceasingly around the tomb of the Prince of
the Apostles seemed a beacon of immortality. To one who could at that
hour recall the bustle and turmoil of the Boulevards of Paris, or of the
Strand, or of Broadway, the vast basilica itself seemed to be an island
of peace in the tempestuous ocean of the world. I am not so blind a
lover of Gothic architecture that I can find no beauty nor religious
feeling in the Italian churches. I prefer, it is true, the "long-drawn
aisle and fretted vault," and the "storied windows richly dight"; but I
cannot for that reason sneer at the gracefully turned arches, the mosaic
walls and domes rich in frescoes and precious marbles, that delight
one’s eyes in Italy. Both styles are good in their proper places. The
Gothic and Norman, with their high-pitched roofs, are the natural growth
of the snowy north, and to attempt to transplant them to a land where
heat is to be guarded against, were as absurd as to expect the pine and
fir to take the place of the fig tree and the palm. Talk as eloquently
as we may about being superior to external impressions, I defy any man
to breathe the quiet atmosphere of any of these old continental churches
for a few moments, without feeling that he has gathered new strength
therefrom to tread the thorns of life. Lamartine has spoken eloquently
on this theme: "Ye columns who veil the sacred asylums where my eyes
dare not penetrate, at the foot of your immovable trunks I come to sigh!
Cast over me your deep shades, render the darkness more obscure, and the
silence more profound! Forests of porphyry and marble! the air which the
soul breathes under your arches is full of mystery and of peace! Let
love and anxious cares seek shade and solitude under the green shelter
of groves, to soothe their secret wounds. O darkness of the sanctuary!
the eye of religion prefers thee to the wood which the breeze disturbs!
Nothing changes thy foliage; thy still shade is the image of motionless
eternity!"

There was not time to linger long. The pressure of worldly engagements
was felt even at the shrine of the apostles. I walked about, and tried
to recall the many splendid religious pageants I had there witnessed,
and wondered sorrowfully whether I should ever again listen to that
matchless choir, or have my heart stirred to its depths by the silver
trumpets that reëcho under that sonorous vault in the most solemn moment
of religion’s holiest rite. Once more out in the clear hot atmosphere
which seemed hotter than before. The Supreme Pontiff was absent from his
capital, and the Vatican was comparatively empty. The Swiss guards, in
their fantastic but picturesque uniform, were loitering about the foot
of the grand staircase, and sighing for a breath of the cool air of
their Alpine home. I took a last long gaze at that grand old pile of
buildings,—the home of all that is most wonderful in art, the abode of
that power which overthrew the old Roman empire, inaugurated the
civilization of Europe, and planted Christianity in every quarter of the
globe,—and then turned my unwilling feet homewards. In my course I
passed the foot of the Janiculum Hill: it was too hot, however, to think
of climbing up to the convent of Sant’ Onofrio—though I would gladly
have paid a final visit to that lovely spot where the munificence of
Pius IX. has just completed a superb sepulchre for the repose of Tasso.
So I crossed the Tiber in one of those little ferry boats which are
attached to a cable stretched over the river, and thus are swung across
by the movement of the current,—a labour-saving arrangement preëminently
Roman in its character,—and soon found myself in my lodgings However
warm the weather may be in Rome, one can keep tolerably comfortable so
long as he does not move about,—thanks to the thick walls and heavy
wooden window shutters of the houses,—so I found my room a cool asylum
after my morning of laborious pleasure.

At last, the good byes having all been said, behold me, with my old
portmanteau, (covered with its many-coloured coat of baggage labels,
those trophies of many a hard campaign of travel,) at the office of the
diligence for Civita Vecchia. The luggage and the passengers having been
successfully stowed away, the lumbering vehicle rolled down the narrow
streets, and we were soon outside the gate that opens upon the old
Aurelian Way. Here the passports were examined, the postilions cracked
their whips, and I felt indeed that I was "banished from Rome." It is a
sad thing to leave Rome. I have seen people who have made but a brief
stay there shed more tears on going away than they ever did on a
departure from home; but for one who has lived there long enough to feel
like a Roman citizen—to feel that the broken columns of the Forum have
become a part of his being—to feel as familiar with St. Peter’s and the
Vatican as with the King’s Chapel and the Tremont House—it is doubly
hard to go away. The old city, so "rich with the spoils of time," seems
invested with a personality that appeals most powerfully to every man,
and would fain hold him back from returning to the world. The lover of
art there finds its choicest treasures ever open to him; the artist
there finds an abundance of employment for his chisel or his brush; the
man of business there finds an asylum from the vexing cares of a
commercial career; the student of antiquity or of history can there take
his fill amid the "wrecks of a world whose ashes still are warm," and
listen to the centuries receding into the unalterable past with their
burdens of glory or of crime; the lover of practical benevolence will
there be delighted by the inspection of establishments for the relief of
every possible form of want and suffering; the enthusiast for education
finds there two universities and hundreds of public schools of every
grade, and all as free as the bright water that sparkles in Rome’s
countless fountains; the devout can there rekindle their devotion at the
shrines of apostles and martyrs, and breathe the holy air of cloisters
in which saints have lived and died, or join their voices with those
that resound in old churches, whose pavements are furrowed by the knees
of pious generations; the admirer of pomp, and power, and historic
associations can there witness the more than regal magnificence of a
power, compared to which the houses of Bourbon or of Hapsburg are but of
yesterday; the lover of republican simplicity can there find subject for
admiration in the facility of access to the highest authorities, and in
the perfection of his favourite elective system by which the supreme
power is perpetuated. There is, in short, no class of men to whom Rome
does not attach itself. People may complain during their first week that
it is dull, or melancholy, or dirty; but you generally find them sorry
enough to go away, and looking back to their residence there as the
happiest period of their existence. Somebody has said,—and I wish that I
could recall the exact words, they are so true,—that when we leave
Paris, or Naples, or Florence, we feel a natural sorrow, as if we were
parting from a cherished friend; but on our departure from Rome we feel
a pang like that of separation from a woman whom we love!

At last Rome disappeared from sight in the dusk of evening, and the
discomforts of the journey began to make themselves obtrusive. The night
air in Italy is not considered healthy, and we therefore had the windows
of the diligence closed. Like Charles Lamb after the oyster pie, we were
"all full inside," and a pretty time we had of it. As to respiration,
you might as well have expected the performance of that function from a
mackerel occupying the centre of a well-packed barrel of his finny
comrades, as of any person inside that diligence. Of course there was a
baby in the company, and of course the baby cried. I could not blame it,
for even a fat old gentleman who sat opposite to me would have cried if
he had not known how to swear. But it is useless to recall the anguish
of that night: suffice it to say that for several hours the only air we
got was an occasional vocal performance from the above-mentioned infant.
At midnight we reached Palo, on the sea coast, where I heard "the wild
water lapping on the crag," and felt more keenly than before that I had
indeed left Rome behind me. The remainder of the journey being along the
coast, we had the window open, though it was not much better on that
account, as we were choking with dust. It was small comfort to see the
cuttings and fillings-in for the railway which is destined soon to
destroy those beastly diligences, and place Rome within two or three
hours of its seaport.

At five o’clock in the morning, after ten toilsome hours, I found
myself, tired, dusty, and hungry, in Civita Vecchia, a city which has
probably been the cause of more profanity than any other part of the
world, including Flanders. I was determined not to be fleeced by any of
the hotel keepers; so I staggered about the streets until I found a
barber’s shop open. Having repaired the damage of the preceding night, I
hove to in a neighbouring _café_ long enough to take in a little ballast
in the way of breakfast. Afterwards I fell in with an Englishman, of
considerable literary reputation, whom I had several times met in Rome.
He was one of those men who seem to possess all sorts of sense except
common sense. He was full of details, and could tell exactly the height
of the dome of St. Peter’s, or of the great pyramid,—could explain the
process of the manufacture of the Minié rifle or the boring of an
artesian well, and could calculate an eclipse with Bond or Secchi,—but
he could not pack a carpet-bag to save his life. That he should have
been able to travel so far from home alone is a fine commentary on the
honesty and good nature of the people of the continent. I could not help
thinking what a time he would have were he to attempt to travel in
America. He would think he had discovered a new nomadic tribe in the
cabmen of New York. He had come down to Civita Vecchia in a most
promiscuous style, and when I discovered him he was trying to bring
about a union between some six or eight irreconcilable pieces of
luggage. I aided him successfully in the work, and his look of
perplexity and despair gave way to one of gratitude and admiration for
his deliverer. Delighted at this escape from the realities of his
situation, he launched out into a profound dissertation on the
philosophy of language and the formation of provincial dialects, and it
was some time before I could bring him down to the common and practical
business of securing his passage in the steamer for Marseilles. Ten
o’clock, however, found us on board one of the steamers of the
_Messageries Imperiales_, and we were very shortly after under way. We
were so unfortunate as to run aground on a little spit of land in
getting out of port, as we ran a little too near an English steamer that
was lying there. But a Russian frigate sent off a cable to us, and thus
established an alliance between their flag and the French, which drew
the latter out of the difficulty in which it had got by too close a
proximity to its English neighbour.

It was a beautiful, cloudless day, and reminded me of many halcyon days
I had spent on that blue Mediterranean in other times. It reminded me of
some of my childhood’s days in the country in New England,—days
described by Emerson where he says that we "bask in the shining hours of
Florida and Cuba,"—when "the day, immeasurably long, sleeps over the
broad hills and warm, wide fields,"—when "the cattle, as they lie on the
ground, seem to have great and tranquil thoughts." It was on such a day
that I used to delight to pore over my Shakspeare, undisturbed by any
sound save the hum of the insect world, or the impatient switch of the
tail, or movement of the feet, of a horse who had sought the same shade
I was enjoying. To a man who has been rudely used by fortune, or who has
drunk deep of sorrow or disappointment, I can conceive of nothing more
grateful or consoling than a summer cruise in the Mediterranean. "The
sick heart often needs a warm climate as much as the sick body."

My English friend, immediately on leaving port, took some five or six
prescriptions for the prevention of seasickness, and then went to bed,
so that I had some opportunity to look about among our ship’s company.
There were two men, apparently companions, though they hardly spoke to
each other, who amused me very much One was a person of about four feet
and a half in height, who walked about on deck with that manner which so
many diminutive persons have, of wishing to be thought as tall as Mr.
George Barrett. He boasted a deportment that would have made the elder
Turveydrop envious, while it was evident that under that serene and
dignified exterior lay hidden all the warm-heartedness and geniality of
that eminent philanthropist who was obliged to play a concerto on the
violin to calm his grief at seeing the conflagration of his native city.
The other looked as if "he had not loved the world, nor the world him";
he was a thin, bilious-looking person, and seemed like a whole serious
family rolled into one individuality. I felt a great deal of curiosity
to know whether he was reduced to that pitiable condition by piety or
indigestion. I felt sure that he was meditating suicide as he gazed upon
the sea, and I stood by him for some time to prevent his accomplishing
any such purpose, until I became convinced that to let him take the
jump, if he pleased, would be far the more philanthropic course of
action. There was a French bishop, and a colonel of the French staff at
Rome, among the passengers, and by their genial urbanity they fairly
divided between them the affections of the whole company. Either of them
would have made a fog in the English Channel seem like the sunshine of
the Gulf of Egina. I picked up a pleasant companion in an Englishman who
had travelled much and read more, and spent the greater part of the day
with him. When he found that I was an American, he at once asked me if I
had ever been to Niagara, and had ever seen Longfellow and Emerson. I am
astonished to find so many cultivated English people who know little or
nothing about Tennyson; I am inclined to think he has ten readers in
America to one in England, while the English can repeat Longfellow by
pages.

After thirty hours of pleasant sailing along by Corsica and Elba, and
along the coast of France, until it seemed as if our cruise (like that
of the widow of whom we have all read) would never have an end, we came
to anchor in the midst of a vast fleet of steamers in the new port of
Marseilles. The bustle of commercial activity seemed any thing but
pleasant after the classical repose of Rome; but the landlady of the
hotel was most gracious, and when I opened the window of my room looking
out on the Place Royale, one of those peripatetic dispensers of melody,
whose life (like the late M. Mantalini’s after he was reduced in
circumstances) must be "one demnition horrid grind," executed "Sweet
Home" in a manner that went entirely home to the heart of at least one
of his accidental audience.



MARSEILLES, LYONS, AND AIX IN SAVOY


If the people of Marseilles do not love the Emperor of the French, they
ought to be ashamed of themselves. He has so completely changed the
aspect of that city by his improvements, that the man who knows it as it
existed in the reign of Louis Philippe, would be lost if he were to
revisit it now. The completion of the railway from Paris to Marseilles
is an inestimable advantage to the latter city, while the new port, in
magnitude and style of execution, is worthy of comparison with the
splendid docks of London and Liverpool. The flags of every civilized
nation may be seen there; and the variety of costumes and languages,
which bewilder one’s eyes and ears, assure him that he is in the
commercial metropolis of the Mediterranean. The frequency of steam
communication between Marseilles and the various ports of Spain, Italy,
Africa, and the Levant, draws to it a large proportion of the travellers
in those directions. I believe that Marseilles is only celebrated for
having been colonized by the Phocæans, or some such people, for having
several times been devastated by the plague, and for having been very
perfectly described by Dickens in his Little Dorrit. The day on which I
arrived there was very like the one described by Dickens; so if any one
would like further particulars, he had better overhaul his Little
Dorrit, and, "when found, make note of it."

The day after my arrival I saw a grand religious procession in the
streets of the city. The landlady of my hotel had told me of it, but my
expectations were not raised very high, for I thought that after the
grandeur of Rome, all other things in that way would be comparatively
tame. But I was mistaken; the procession fairly rivalled those of Rome.
There were the same gorgeous vestments, the same picturesque groupings
of black robes and snowy surplices, of mitres and crosiers and shaven
crowns, of scarlet and purple and cloth of gold, the same swinging
censers and clouds of fragrant incense, the same swelling flood of
almost supernatural music. The municipal authorities of the city, with
the staff of the garrison, joined in the procession, and the military
display was such as can hardly be seen out of France. I have often been
struck with the facility with which the Catholic religion adapts itself
to the character of every nation. I have had some opportunity of
observation; I have seen the Catholic Church on three out of the four
continents, and have every where noticed the same phenomenon.
Mahometanism could never be transplanted to the snowy regions of Russia
or Norway; it needs the soft, enervating atmosphere of Asia to keep it
alive; the veranda, the bubbling fountain, the noontide repose, are all
parts of it. Puritanism is the natural growth of a country where the sun
seldom shines, and which is shut out by a barrier of water and fog from
kindly intercourse with its neighbours. It could never thrive in the
bright south. The merry vine-dressers of Italy could never draw down
their faces to the proper length, and would be very unwilling to
exchange their blithesome _canzonetti_ for Sternhold and Hopkins’s
version. But the Catholic Church, while it unites its professors in the
belief of the same inflexible creed, leaves them entirely free in all
mere externals and national peculiarities. When I see the light-hearted
Frenchman, the fiery Italian, the serious Spaniard, the cunning Greek,
the dignified Armenian, the energetic Russian, the hard-headed Dutchman,
the philosophical German, the formal and "respectable" Englishman, the
thrifty Scotchman, the careless and warm-hearted Irishman, and the
calculating, go-ahead American, all bound together by the profession of
the same faith, and yet retaining their national characteristics,—I can
compare it to nothing but to a similar phenomenon that we may notice in
the prism, which, while it is a pure and perfect crystal, is found on
examination to contain, in their perfection, all the various colours of
the rainbow.

The terminus of the Lyons and Mediterranean Railway is one of the best
things of its kind in the world. I wish that some of our American
railway directors could take a few lessons from the French. The
attention paid to securing the comfort and safety of the passengers and
the regularity of the trains would quite bewilder him. Instead of
finding the station a long, unfinished kind of shed, with two small,
beastly waiting rooms at one side, and a stand for a vender of apples,
root beer, and newspapers, he would see a fine stone structure, several
hundred feet in length, with a roof of iron and glass. He would enter a
hall which would remind him of the Doric hall of the State House in
Boston, only that it is several times larger, and is paved with marble.
He would choose out of the three ticket offices of the three classes,
where he would ride, and he would be served with a promptness and
politeness that would remind him of Mr. Child in the palmy days of the
old Tremont Theatre, while he would notice that an officer stood by each
ticket office to see that every purchaser got his ticket and the proper
change, and to give all necessary information. Having booked his
luggage, he would be ushered into one of the three waiting rooms, all of
them furnished in a style of neatness and elegance that would greatly
astonish him. He might employ the interval in the study of geography,
assisted by a map painted on one side of the room, giving the entire
south of France and Piedmont, with the railways, &c., and executed in
such a style that the names of the towns are legible at a distance of
fifteen or twenty feet. Two or three minutes before the hour fixed for
the starting of the train, the door would be opened, and he would take
his seat in the train with the other passengers. The whole affair would
go on so systematically, with such an absence of noise and excitement,
that he would doubt whether he had been in a railway station at all,
until he found himself spinning along at a rapid rate, through long
tunnels, and past the beautiful panorama of Provençal landscape.

The sun was as bright as it always is in fair Provence, the sky as blue.
The white dusty roads wound around over the green landscape, like great
serpents seeking to hide their folds amid those hills. The almond, the
lemon, and the fig attracted the attention of the traveller from the
north, before all other trees,—not to forget however, the pale foliage
of that tree which used to furnish wreaths for Minerva’s brow, but now
supplies us with oil for our salads. Arles, with its old amphitheatre (a
broken shadow of the Coliseum) looming up above it, lay stifled with
dust and broiling in the sun, as we hurried on towards Avignon. It does
not take much time to see that old city, which, from being so long the
abode of the exiled popes, seems to have caught and retained something
of the quiet dignity and repose of Rome itself. That gloomy old palace
of the popes, with its lofty turrets, seems to brood over the town, and
weigh it down as with sorrow for its departed greatness. Centuries have
passed, America has been discovered, the whole face of Europe has
changed, since a pontiff occupied those halls; and yet there it stands,
a monument commemorating a mere episode in the history of the see of St.
Peter.

Arriving at Lyons, I found another palatial station, on even a grander
scale than that of Marseilles. The architect has worked the coats of
arms of the different cities of France into the stone work of the
exterior in a very effective manner. Lyons bears witness, no less than
Marseilles, to the genius of the wonderful man who now governs France.
It is a popular notion in England and America, that the enterprise of
Napoleon III. has been confined to the improvement of Paris. If persons
who labour under this error would extend their journeyings a little
beyond the ordinary track of a summer excursion, they would find that
there is scarcely a town in the empire that has not felt the influence
of his skill as a statesman and political economist. The _Rue Imperiale_
of Lyons is a monument of which any sovereign might be justly proud. The
activity of Lyons, the new buildings rising on every side, and its look
of prosperity, would lead one to suppose that it was some place that had
just been settled, instead of a city with twenty centuries of history.
The Sunday, I was glad to see, was well observed; perhaps not exactly in
the style which Aminadab Sleek would commend, but in a very rational,
Christian, un-Jewish manner. The shops were, for the most part, closed,
the churches were crowded with people, and in the afternoon and evening
the entire population was abroad enjoying itself—and a cleaner,
better-behaved, happier-looking set of people I never saw. The excessive
heat still continues. It is now more than two months since I opened my
umbrella; the prospects of the harvest are good, but they are praying
hard in the churches for a little rain. During my stay at Lyons, I lived
almost entirely on fresh figs, and plums and ices. How full the _cafés_
were those sultry evenings! How busy must the freezers have been in the
cellars below! I read through all the newspapers I could lay my hands
on, and then amused myself with watching the gay, chattering throng
around me. How my mind flew across the ocean that evening to a quiet
back parlour at the South End! I could see the venerable Baron receiving
a guest on such a night as that, and making the weather seem cool by
contrast with the warmth of his hospitality. I could see him offering to
his perspiring visitor a release from the slavery of broadcloth, in the
loan of a nankeen jacket, and then busying himself in the preparation of
a compound of old Cochituate, (I had almost said old Jamaica,) of ice,
of sugar, yea, of lemons, and commending the grateful chalice to the
parched lips of his guest. Such an evening in the Baron’s back parlour
is the very ecstasy of hospitality. It is many months since that old
nankeen jacket folded me in its all-embracing arms, but the very thought
of it awakes a thrill of pleasure in my heart. When I last saw it,
"decay’s effacing fingers" had meddled with the buttons thereof, and it
was growing a trifle consumptive in the vicinity of the elbows; but I
hope that it is good for many a year of usefulness yet, before the
epitaph writer shall commence the recital of its merits with those
melancholy words, _Hic jacet!_ Pardon me, dear reader, for this
digression from the recital of my wanderings; but this jacket, the
remembrance of which is so dear to me, is not the trifle it may seem to
you. It is, I believe, the only institution in the world of the same age
and importance, which has not been apostrophized in verse by that gifted
bard, Mr. Martin Farquhar Tupper. If this be not celebrity, what is it?

In one of the narrow streets of Lyons I found a barber named Melnotte.
He was a man somewhat advanced in life, and I feel sure that he
addressed a good-looking woman in a snowy white cap, who looked in from
a back room while I was having my hair cut, as Pauline. Be that as it
may, when he had finished his work, and I walked up to the mirror to
inspect it, he addressed to me the language of Bulwer’s hero, "Do you
like the picture?" or words to that effect. I cannot help mistrusting
that Sir Edward may have misled us concerning the ultimate history of
the Lady of Lyons and her husband. But the heat was too intolerable for
human endurance; so I packed up, and leaving that fair city, with its
numerous graceful bridges, and busy looms whose fabrics brighten the
eyes of the beauties of Europe and America, and lighten the purses of
their chivalry,—leaving Our Lady of Fourvières looking down with
outstretched hands from the dome of her lofty shrine, and watching over
her faithful Lyonnese,—I turned my face towards the Alpine regions.

The Alps have always been to me what Australia was to the late Mr.
Micawber—"the bright dream of my youth, and the fallacious aspiration of
my riper years." I remember when I was young, long before the days of
railways and steamers, in the times when a man who had travelled in
Europe was invested with a sort of awful dignity—I remember hearing a
travelled uncle of mine tell about the Alps, and I resolved, with all
the enthusiasm of boyhood, thenceforward to "save up" all my Fourth of
July and Artillery Election money, until I should be able to go and see
one. When the Rev. James Sheridan Knowles (he was a wicked playactor in
those days) produced his drama of William Tell, how it fed the flame of
my ambition! How I longed to stand with the hero once again among his
native hills! How I loved the glaciers! How I doted on the avalanches!
But age has cooled the longings of my heart for mountain excursions, and
robbed my legs of all their climbing powers, so that if it depends upon
my own bodily exertions, the Vale of Chamouni will be entirely
unavailable for me, and every mount will be to me a blank. The scenery
along the line of railway from Ambérieu to Culoz on the Rhone is very
grand. The ride reminded me of the ride over the Atlantic and St.
Lawrence road through the White Mountains, only it is finer. The
boldness of the cliffs and precipices was something to make one’s heart
beat quick, and cause him to wonder how the peasants could work so
industriously, and the cattle feed so constantly, without stopping to
look up at the magnificence that hemmed them in.

At Culoz I went on board one of those peculiar steamers of the
Rhone—about one hundred and fifty feet in length by ten or twelve in
width. Our way lay through a narrow and circuitous branch of the river
for several miles. The windings of the river were such that men were
obliged to turn the boat about by means of cables, which they made fast
to posts fixed in the banks on either side for that purpose. The scenery
along the banks was like a dream of Paradise. To say that the country
was smiling with flowers and verdure does not express it—it was bursting
into a broad grin of fertility. Such vineyards! Not like the grape vine
in your back yard, dear reader, nailed up against a brick wall, but
large, luxuriant vines, seeming at a loss what to do with themselves,
and festooned from tree to tree, just as you see them in the scenery of
Fra Diavolo. And then there were groups of people in costumes of
picturesque negligence, and women in large straw hats, and dresses of
brilliant colours, just like the chorus of an opera. The deep, rich hue
of the foliage particularly attracted my notice. It was as different
from the foliage of New England as Winship’s Gardens are from an invoice
of palm-leaf hats. Beyond the immediate vicinity of the river rose up
beautiful hills and cliffs like the Palisades of the Hudson. Let those
who will, prefer the wild grandeur of our American mountain scenery;
there is a great charm for me in the union of nature and art. The
careful cultivation of the fields seems to set off and render more grand
and austere the gray, jagged cliffs that overlook them. As the elder
Pliny most justly remarks, (lib. iv. cap. xi. 24,) "It requires the
lemon as well as the sugar to make the punch."

After about an hour’s sail upon the river, we came out upon the
beautiful Lake of Bourget. It was stirred by a gentle breeze, but it
seemed as if its bright blue surface had never reflected a cloud. All
around its borders the trees and vines seemed bending down to drink of
its pure waters. Far off in the distance rose up the mighty peaks of the
Alps—their snow-white tops contrasting with the verdure of their sides.
They seemed to be watching with pleasure over the glad scenes beneath
them, like old men whose gray hairs have been powerless to disturb the
youthful freshness and geniality of their hearts.

At St. Innocent I landed, and underwent the custom house formalities
attendant upon entrance into a new territory. The officials were very
expeditious, and equally polite. I at first supposed that the letters V.
E., which each of them bore conspicuously on his cap, meant "_very
empty_,"—but it afterwards occurred to me that they were the initials of
his majesty, the King of Sardinia. A few minutes’ ride over the "Victor
Emmanuel Railway" brought me to the beautiful village of Aix. It is
situated, as my friend the Lyonnese barber would say, in "a deep vale
shut out by Alpine hills from the rude world." It possesses about 2500
inhabitants; but that number is considerably augmented at present, for
the mineral springs of Aix are very celebrated, and this is the height
of "the season." There is a great deal of what is called "society" here,
and during the morning the baths are crowded. It is as dull as all
watering places necessarily are, and twice as hot. I think that the
French manage these things better than we do in America. There is less
humbug, less display of jewelry and dress, and a vast deal more of
common sense and solid comfort than with us. The _cafés_ are like
similar establishments in all such places—an abundance of ices and
ordinary coffee, and a plentiful lack of newspapers. I have found a
companion, however, who more than makes good the latter deficiency. He
is an Englishman of some seventy years, who is here bathing for his
gout. His light hair and fresh complexion disguise his age so completely
that most people, when they see us together, judge me, from my gray
locks, to be the elder. He is one of the most entertaining persons I
have ever met—he knows the classics by heart,—is familiar with English,
French, Italian, German, and Spanish literature,—speaks nine
languages,—and has travelled all over the world. He is as familiar with
the Steppes of Tartary as with Wapping Old Stairs,—has imbibed sherbet
in Damascus and sherry cobblers in New York, and seen a lion hunt in
South Africa. But his heart is the heart of a boy—"age cannot wither nor
custom stale" its infinite geniality. He cannot pass by a beggar without
making an investment for eternity, and all the babies look over the
shoulders of their nurses to smile at him as he walks the streets. I
mention him here for the sake of recording one of his opinions, which
struck me by its truth and originality. We were sitting in a _café_ last
evening, and, after a long conversation, I asked him what he should give
as the result of all his reading and observation of men and things, and
all his experience, if he were to sum it up in one sentence. "Sir," said
he, removing his meerschaum from his mouth, and turning towards me as if
to give additional force to his reply, "it may all be comprised in this:
the world is composed of two classes of men—natural fools and d—d fools;
the first class are those who have never made any pretensions, or have
reached a just appreciation of the nothingness of all human acquirements
and hopes; the second are those whose belief in their own infallibility
has never been disturbed; and this class includes a vast number of every
rank, from the profound German philosopher, who thinks that he has
fathomed infinity, down to that young fop twirling his moustache at the
opposite table, and flattering himself that he is making a great
impression."

Savoy, as every body knows, was once a part of France, and it still
retains all of its original characteristics. I have not heard ten words
of Italian since I arrived here, and, judging from what I do hear and
from the tone of the newspapers, it would like to become a part of
France again. The Savoyards are a religious, steady-going people, and
they have little love either for the weak and dissolute monarch who
governs them, or for the powerful, infidel prime minister who governs
their monarch. The high-pitched roofs of the houses here are suggestive
of the snows of winter; but the heat reminds me of the coast of Africa
during a sirocco. How true is Sydney Smith’s remark, "Man only lives to
shiver or perspire"! The thermometer ranges any where from 80° to 90°.
Can this be the legitimate temperature of these mountainous regions? I
am "ill at these numbers," and nothing would be so invigorating to my
infirm and shaky frame as a sniff of the salt breezes of Long Branch or
Nantasket.



AIX TO PARIS


There is no need of telling how disgusted I became with Aix-les-Bains
and all that in it is, after a short residence there. How I hated those
straw-hatted people who beset the baths from the earliest flush of the
aurora! How I detested those fellows who were constantly pestering me
with offers (highly advantageous, without doubt) of donkeys whereon to
ride, when they knew that I didn’t want one! How I abominated the sight
of a man (who seemed to haunt me) in a high velvet-collared coat and a
bell-crowned hat just overtopping an oily-looking head of hair and bushy
whiskers—who looked, for all the world, as if he were made up for Sir
Harcourt Courtly! How maliciously he held on to the newspapers in the
_café_! How constantly he sat there and devoured all the news out of
them through the medium of a double tortoise-shell eye-glass, which
always seemed to be just falling off his nose! How I abhorred the sight
of those waiters, who looked as if the season were a short one, and time
(as B. Franklin said) was money! How stifling was the atmosphere of that
"seven-by-nine" room for which I had to pay so dearly! How hot, how
dusty, how dull it was, I need not weary you by telling; suffice it to
say, that I never packed my trunk more willingly than when I left that
village. I am very glad to have been there, however, for the
satisfaction I felt at leaving the place is worth almost any effort to
obtain. The joy of departure made even the exorbitant bills seem
reasonable; and when I thought of the stupidity and discomfort I was
escaping from, I felt as if, come what might, my future could only be
one of sunshine and content. Aix-les-Bains is one of the pleasantest
places to leave that I have ever seen. I can never forget the
measureless happiness of seeing my luggage ticketed for Paris, and then
taking my seat with the consciousness that I was leaving Aix (not
_aches_, alas!) behind me.

The Lake of Bourget was as beautiful and smiling as before—only it did
seem as if the sun might have held in a little. He scorched and
blistered the passengers on that steamboat in the most absurd manner. He
seemed never to have heard of Horace, and was consequently entirely
ignorant of the propriety of maintaining a _modus_ in his _rebuses_. The
scenery along the banks of the Rhone had not changed in the least, but
was as romantic and theatrical as ever. At Culoz I was glad to get on
shore, for like Hamlet, I had been "too much i’ the sun"; so I left the
"blue rushing of the arrowy Rhone," (which the late Lord Byron, with his
usual disregard of truth, talks about, and which is as muddy as a
Medford brick-yard,) and took refuge in the hospitality of a custom
house. Here I fell into a meditation upon custom house officers. I
wonder whether the custom house officers of France are in their leisure
hours given to any of the vanities which delight their American
brethren. There was one lean, thoughtful-looking man among those at
Culoz who attracted my attention. I tried ineffectually to make out his
bent from his physiognomy. I could not imagine him occupying his leisure
by putting any twice-told tales on paper—or cultivating Shanghai
poultry—or riding on to the tented field amid the roar of artillery at
the head of a brigade of militia,—and I was obliged, in the hurry of the
examination of luggage, to give him up.

I had several times, during the journey from Aix, noticed a tall,
eagle-eyed man, in a suit of gray, and wearing a moustache of the same
colour, and while we were waiting for the train at Culoz, I observed
that he attracted a great deal of attention: his bearing was so
commanding, that I had set him down as being connected with the military
interest, before I noticed that he did not bear arms, for the left
sleeve of his coat hung empty and useless by his side; so I ventured to
inquire concerning him, and learned that I was a fellow-traveller of
Marshal Baraguay d’Hilliers. I must do him the justice to say that he
did not look like a man who would leave his arms on the field.

We were soon whirling, and puffing, and whistling along through the tame
but pleasing landscape of France. Those carefully-tilled fields, those
vineyards almost overflowing with the raw material of conviviality,
those interminable rows of tall trees which seem to give no shade, those
farm-houses, whose walls we should in America consider strong enough for
fortifications, those contented-looking cattle, those towns that seem to
consist of a single street and an old gray tower, with a dark-coloured
conical top, like a candle extinguisher,—all had a good, familiar look
to me; and the numerous fields of Indian corn almost made me think that
I was on my way to Worcester or Fitchburg. I stopped for a while at
Macon, (a town which I respect for its contributions to the good cheer
of the world,) and hugely enjoyed a walk through its clean, quiet
streets. While I was waiting at the station, the express train from
Paris came along; and many of the passengers left their places (like Mr.
Squeers) to stretch their legs. Among them was a man whose acquisitive
eye, black satin waistcoat, fashionable hat, (such as no man but an
American would think of travelling in,) and coat with the waist around
his hips, and six or eight inches of skirt, immediately fixed my
attention. Before I thought, he had asked me if I could speak English. I
set him at his ease by answering that I took lessons in it once when I
was young, and he immediately launched out as follows: "Well, this is
the cussedest language I ever did hear. I don’t see how in _the_ devil
these blasted fools can have lived so long right alongside of England
without trying to learn the English language." The whistle of the engine
cut short the declaration of his sentiments, and he was whizzing on
towards Lyons a moment after. Whoever that man may have been, he owes it
to himself and his country to write a book. His work would be as worthy
of consideration as the writings of two thirds of our English and
American travellers, who think they are qualified to write about the
government and social condition of a country because they have travelled
through it. Fancy a Frenchman, entirely ignorant of the English tongue,
landing at Boston, and stopping at the Tremont House or Parker’s; he
visits the State House, the Athenæum, Bunker Hill, the wharves, &c. Then
on Sunday he wishes to know something about the religion of these
strange people; so he goes across the street to the King’s Chapel, and
finds that it is closed; so he walks down the street in the burning sun
to Brattle Street, where he hears a comfortable, drony kind of sermon,
which seems to have as composing an effect upon the fifty or a hundred
persons who are present as upon himself. In the afternoon he finds his
way to Trinity Church, (somebody having charitably told him that that is
the most genteel place,) and there he hears "our admirable liturgy"
sonorously read out to twenty or thirty people, all of whom are so
engrossed in their devotions that the responses are entirely neglected.
Having had enough of what the Irishman called the English lethargy, he
returns to his lodgings, and writes in his note-book that the Americans
seldom go to church, and when they do, go there to sleep in comfortable
pews. Then he makes a little tour of a fortnight to New Haven,
Providence, Springfield, &c., and returns to France to write a book of
travels in New England. And what are all his observations worth? I’ll
tell you. They are worth just as much, and give exactly as faithful a
representation of the state of society in New England, as four fifths of
the books written by English and American travellers in France, Spain,
and Italy, do of the condition of those countries.

I have encountered many interesting studies of humanity here on the
continent in my day. I have met many people who have come abroad with a
vague conviction that travel improves one, and who do not see that to
visit Europe without some preparation is like going a-fishing without
line or bait. They appear to think that some great benefit is to be
obtained by passing over a certain space of land and water, and being
imposed upon to an unlimited extent by a horde of _commissionnaires_,
_ciceroni_, couriers, and others, who find in their ignorance and lack
of common sense a source of wealth. I met, the other day, a gentleman
from one of the Western States, who said that he was "putting up" at
Meurice’s Hotel, but didn’t think much of it; if it had not been for
some English people whom he fell in with on the way from Calais, he
should have gone to the Hôtel de Ville, which he supposed, from the
pictures he had seen, must be a "fust class house"! I have within a few
hours seen an American, who could not ask the simplest question in
French, but thinks that he shall stop three or four weeks, and learn the
language! I have repeatedly met people who told me that they had come
out to Europe "jest to see the place." But it is not alone such
ignoramuses as these who merit the pity or contempt of the judicious and
sensible. Their folly injures no one but themselves. The same cannot be
said, however, of the authors of the numerous duodecimos of foreign
travel which burden the booksellers’ counters. They have supposed that
they can sketch a nation’s character by looking at its towns from the
windows of an express train. They presume to write about the social life
of France or Italy, while they are ignorant of any language but their
own, and do not know a single French or Italian family. Victims of a
bitter prejudice against those countries and their institutions, they
are prepared beforehand to be shocked and disgusted at all they see.
Like Sterne’s Smelfungus, they "set out with the spleen and jaundice,
and every object they pass by is discoloured or distorted." Kenelm Digby
wisely remarks that one of the great advantages of journeying beyond
sea, to a man of sense and feeling, is the spectacle of general
travellers: "it will prevent his being ever again imposed upon by these
birds of passage, when they record their adventures and experience on
returning to the north."

Dijon is a fine old city. Every body knows that it used to be the
capital of Burgundy, but to the general reader it is more particularly
interesting as being the place to which Mrs. Dombey and Mr. Carker fled
after the elopement. There is a fine cathedral and public library, and
the whole place has an eminently Burgundian flavour which makes one
regret that he got tired so soon when he tried to read Froissart’s
Chronicles. There is a church there which was desecrated during the old
revolution, and is now used as a market-house. It bears an inscription
which presents a satirical commentary on its recent history: "_Domine,
dilexi decorem domus tuæ!_" The Dijon gingerbread (which the people, in
their ignorance and lack of our common school advantages, call _pain
d’épice_) would really merit a diploma from that academy of
connoisseurs, the Massachusetts House of Representatives. But Dombey and
Dijon are all forgotten in our first glimpse of the "gay capital of
bewildering France." There lay Paris, sparkling under the noonday sun.
The sight of its domes and monuments awoke all my fellow-travellers:
shabby caps and handkerchiefs were exchanged for hats and bonnets, which
gave their wearers an air of respectability perfectly uncalled for. We
were soon inside the fortifications, which have been so outgrown by the
city that one hardly notices them; and, after the usual luggage
examination, I found myself in an omnibus, and once more on the
Boulevards.

And what a good, comfortable home-feeling it was! There were the old,
familiar streets, the well-known advertisements, painted conspicuously,
in blue, and green, and gold, on what would else have been a blank,
unsightly wall, and inviting me to purchase cloths and cashmeres; there
were the same ceaseless tides of life ebbing and flowing through those
vast thoroughfares, the same glossy beavers, the same snowy caps and
aprons, the same blouses, the same polite, _s’il vous-plaît, pardon,
m’sieur_, take-it-easy air, that Paris, as seen from an omnibus window,
always presents. We rolled through the Rue St. Antoine, and it was hard
to realize that it had ever been the theatre of so much appalling
history. I tried to imagine the barricades, the street ploughed up by
artillery, and that heroic martyr, Archbishop Affre, falling there, and
praying that his blood might be the last shed in that fratricidal
strife; but it was useless; the lively present made the past seem but
the mere invention of the historian. All traces of the frightful scenes
of 1848 have been effaced, and the facilities for barricades have been
disposed of in a way that must make red republicanism very disrespectful
to the memory of MacAdam. As we passed a church in that bloody locality,
a wedding party came out; the bridegroom looked as if he had taken
chloroform to enable him to get through his difficulties, and the effect
of it had not entirely passed off. The bride (for women, you know, have
greater power of endurance than men) seemed to take it more easily, and,
beaming in the midst of a sort of wilderness of lace, and gauze, and
muslin, like a lighthouse in a fog, she tripped briskly into the
carriage, with a bouquet in her hand, and happiness in her heart. Before
the bridal party got fairly out of sight, a funeral came along. The
white pall showed that it was a child who slept upon the bier; for the
Catholic church does not mourn over those who are removed from the
temptations of life before they have known them. The vehicles all gave
way to let the little procession pass, the hum seemed to cease for a
moment, every head was uncovered, even the porter held his burden on his
shoulder with one hand that he might pay his respects to that sovereign
to whom even republicans are obliged to bow, and the many-coloured hats
of the omnibus drivers were doffed. I had often before noticed those
striking contrasts that one sees in a capital like Paris; but to meet
such a one at my very entrance impressed me deeply. Such is Paris. You
think it the liveliest place in the world, (and so it is;) but suddenly
you come upon something that makes you thoughtful, if it does not sadden
you. Life and death elbow and jostle each other along these gay streets,
until it seems as if they were rivals striving to drive each other out.
I entered a church a day or two since. There was a funeral at the high
altar. The black vestments and hangings, the lighted tapers, the solemn
chant of the _De profundis_ were eloquent of death and what must follow
it. I was startled by hearing a child’s cry, and looking round into the
chapel which served as a baptistery, there stood two young mothers who
had just received their infants from that purifying laver which made
them members of the great Christian family. I never before had that
beautiful thought of Chateaubriand’s so forced upon me—"Religion has
rocked us in the cradle of life, and her maternal hand shall close our
eyes, while her holiest melodies soothe us to rest in the cradle of
death."

There are, without doubt, many persons, who can say that in their
pilgrimage of life they have truly "found their warmest welcome at an
inn." My experience outstrips that, for I have received one of my most
cordial greetings in a _café_. The establishment in question is so
eminently American, that I should feel as if I had neglected a sacred
duty, if I did not describe it, for the benefit of future sojourners in
the French capital, who are hereby requested to overhaul their
memorandum books and make a note of it. It does not boast the
magnificence and luxury of the _Café de Paris_, Véry’s, the _Trois
Frères Provençaux_, nor of Taylor’s; nor does it thrust itself forward
into the publicity of the gay Boulevards, or of the thronged arcades of
the _Palais Royal_. It does not appeal to those who love the noise and
dust of fashion’s highway; for them it has no welcome. But to those who
love "the cool, sequestered path of life," it offers a degree of quiet
comfort, to which the "slaves of passion, avarice, and pride," who view
themselves in the mirrors of the _Maison Dorée_, are strangers. You turn
from the _Boulevard des Italiens_ into the _Rue de la Michodière_, which
you perambulate until you come to number six, where you will stop and
take an observation. Perhaps wonder will predominate over admiration.
The front of the establishment does not exceed twelve feet in width, and
the sign over the door shows that it is a _Crêmerie_. The fact is also
adumbrated symbolically by a large brass can, which is set over the
portal. In one of the windows may be observed a neatly-executed placard,
to this effect:—

    _Aux Américains_
        Spécialité.

      Pumpkin Pie.

"Enter—its vastness overwhelms thee not!" On the contrary, having passed
through the little front shop, you stand in a room ten or twelve feet
square—just the size of Washington Irving’s "empire," in the Red Horse
Inn, at Stratford. This little room is furnished with two round tables,
a sideboard, and several chairs, and is decorated with numerous crayon
sketches of the knights of the aforesaid round tables. You make the
acquaintance of the excellent Madame Busque, and order your dinner,
which is served promptly and with a motherly care, which will at first
remind you of the time when your bib was carefully tied on, and you were
lifted to a seat on the family Bible, which had been placed on a chair,
to bring the juvenile mouth into proper relations with the table.

Nothing can surpass the home feeling that took possession of me when I
found myself once more in Madame Busque’s little back room at No. 6,
_Rue de la Michodière_. How cordial was that estimable lady’s welcome!
She made herself as busy as a cat with one chicken, and prepared for me
a "tired nature’s sweet restorer" in the shape of one of her famous
omelets. The old den had not changed in the least. Madame Busque used to
threaten occasionally to paint it, and otherwise improve and embellish
it; but we always told her that if she did any thing of that kind, or
tried to render it less dingy, or snug, or unpretending, we would never
eat another of her pumpkin pies. Not all the mirrors and magnificence of
the resorts of fashion can equal the quiet cosiness of Madame Busque’s
back room. You meet all kinds of company there. The blouse is at home
there, as well as its ambitious cousin, the broadcloth coat. Law and
medicine, literature and art, pleasure and honest toil, meet there upon
equal terms. Our own aristocratic Washington never dreamed of such a
democracy as his calm portrait looks down upon in that room. Then we
have such a delightful neighbourhood there. I feel as if the charcoal
woman of the next door but one below was some relation to me—at least an
aunt; she always has a pleasant word and a smile for the frequenters of
No. 6; and then it is so disinterested on her part, for we can none of
us need any of her charcoal. I hope that no person who reads this will
be misled by it, and go to Madame Busque’s _crêmerie_ expecting to find
there the variety which the restaurants boast, for he will be
disappointed. But he will find every thing there of the best
description. My taste in food (as in most other matters) is a very
catholic one: I can eat beef with the English, garlic and onions with
the French, sauerkraut with the Germans, macaroni with the Italians,
pilaf with the Turks, baked beans with the Yankees, hominy with the
southerners, and oysters with any body. But as I feel age getting the
better of me day by day, I think I grow to be more and more of a
pre-Raphaelite in these things. So I crave nothing more luxurious than a
good steak or chop, with the appropriate vegetables; and these are to be
had in their perfection at Madame Busque’s. My benison upon her!

The canicular weather I suffered from in the south followed me even
here. I found every body talking about the extraordinary _chaleur_.
Shade of John Rogers! how the sun has glared down upon Paris, day after
day, without winking, until air-tight stoves are refrigerators compared
to it, and even old-fashioned preaching is outdone! How the asphalte
sidewalks of the Boulevards have melted under his rays, and perfumed the
air with any thing but a Sabæan odour! The fragrance of the linden trees
was entirely overpowered. The thought of the helmets of the cavalry was
utterly intolerable. Tortoni’s and the _cafés_ were crowded. Great was
the clamour for ices. Greater still was the rush to the cool shades of
the public gardens, or the environs of Bougival and Marly. At last, the
welcome rain came hissing down upon these heated roofs; and _malheur_ to
the man who ventures out during these days without his umbrella. It has
been a rain of terror. It almost spoilt the great national _fête_ of the
15th; but the people made the best of it, and, between the free
theatrical performances at sixteen theatres, the superb illuminations,
and the fireworks, seemed to have a very merry time. I went in the
morning to that fine lofty old church, (whose Lady Chapel is a splendid
monument of Couture’s artistic genius,) St. Eustache, where I heard a
new mass, by one M. L’Hôte. It was well executed, and the orchestral
parts were particularly effective. After the mass, the annual _Te Deum_
for the Emperor was sung. The effect of the latter was very grand;
indeed, when it was finished, I was just thinking that it was impossible
for music to surpass it, when the full orchestra and two organs united
in a burst of harmony that almost lifted me off my feet. I recognized
the old Gregorian anthem that is sung every Sunday in all the churches,
and when it had been played through, the trumpets took up the air of the
chant, above the rest of the accompaniment, and the clear, alto voice of
one of those scarlet-capped choir-boys rang out the words, _Domine,
salvum fac imperatorem nostrum, Napoleonem_, in a way that seemed to
make those old arches vibrate, and wonderfully quickened the circulation
in the veins of every listener. It was like the gradual mounting and
heaving up of a high sea in a storm on the Atlantic, which, when it has
reached a pitch you thought impossible, curls majestically over, and,
breaking into a creamy foam, loses itself in a transitory vision of
emerald brilliancy, that for the moment realizes the most gorgeous and
improbable fables of Eastern luxury. It made even me, notwithstanding my
prejudices in favour of republicanism, forget the spread eagle, and my
free (and easy) native land, and for several hours I found myself
singing that solemn anthem over in a most impressive manner. _Vive
l’Empereur!_



PARIS


This is a wonderful city. It seems to me, as I ride up and down the gay
Boulevards on the roof of an omnibus, or gaze into the brilliant
shop-windows of the Palais Royal, or watch the happy children in the
garden of the Tuileries, or stand upon the bridges and take in as much
as I can at once of gardens, palaces, and church towers—it seems to me
like a great theatre, filled with gay company, to whom the same grand
spectacle is always being shown, and whose faces always reflect
something of that brilliancy which lights up the gorgeous, never-ending,
last scene of the drama. I know that the play has its underplot of
vicious poverty and crime, but they shrink from the glare of the
footlights and the radiance of the red fire that lights up the scene.
Taken in the abstract—taken as it appears from the outside—Paris is the
most perfect whole the world can show. It was a witty remark of a
well-known citizen of Boston, touching the materialistic views of many
of his friends, that "when good Boston people die, they go to Paris." I
know many whose highest idea of heaven would find its embodiment in the
sunshine of the Place de la Concorde or the gas light of the Rue de
Rivoli. Paris captivates you at once. In this it differs from Rome. You
do not grow to love it; you feel its charms before you have recovered
from the fatigue of your journey—before you have even reached your
hotel, as you ride along and recognize the buildings and monuments which
books and pictures have made familiar. In Rome all is different. Michel
Angelo’s mighty dome, to be sure, does impress you, as you come to the
city; but when you enter, the narrow streets are such a contrast to the
broad, free campagna you have just left, that you feel oppressed and
cramped as you ride through them. You find one of the old temples kept
in repair and serving as a custom house; this is a damper at the outset,
and you sigh for something to revive the ancient customs of the world’s
capital. You walk into the Forum the next day, musing upon the line of
the twelve Cæsars, and your progress is arrested, and your sense of the
dramatic unities of your position deeply wounded, by an unamusing and
prosaic clothes-line. You keep on and try to recall Cicero, and
Catiline, and Jugurtha, and Servius Tullius, and Brutus, and
Virginius,—but it is useless, for you find a cow feeding there as
quietly as if she were on the hills of Berkshire. The whole city seems
sad and mouldy, and out of date, and you think you will "do the sights"
as rapidly as possible, and then be off. But before many days you find
that all is changed. The moss that clothes those broken walls becomes as
venerable in your sight as the gray hairs upon your mother’s brow; the
ivy that enwreathes those old towers and columns seems to have wound
itself around your heart and bound it forever to that spot.
Clothes-lines, dirt, and all the inconveniences inseparable from the
older civilization of Rome, fade away. The Forum, the Palace of the
Cæsars, the Appian Way, all become instinct with a new—or rather with
their old life; and you feel that you are in the Rome of Livy and
Sallust,—you have found the Rome of which you dreamed in boyhood, and
you are happy. With Paris, as I have said, you are not obliged to serve
such an apprenticeship. You have read of Paris in history, in novels, in
guide-books, in the lucubrations of the whole tribe of
correspondents—you recognize it at once on seeing it, and accept it for
all that it pretends to be. And you are not deceived. And this, I
apprehend, is the reason why we never feel that deep, clinging affection
for Paris that we do for that "goddess of all the nations, to whom
nothing is equal and nothing second"—that city which (as one of her
prophet-poets said) shall ever be "the capital of the world, for
whatever her arms have not conquered shall be hers by religion." You
feel that Paris is the capital of Europe, and you bow before it as you
would before a sovereign whose word was law.

I wonder whether every body judges of all new things by the criterion of
childhood, as I find myself constantly doing. Whatever it may be, I
apply to it the test of my youthful recollections of something similar,
and it almost always suffers by the process. Those beautiful
architectural wonders that pierce the sky at Strasburg and Antwerp will
bear no comparison, in point of height, with the steeple of the Old
South as it exists in the memory of my childhood. I have never seen a
picture gallery in Europe which awakened any thing like my old feelings
on visiting one of the first Athenæum exhibitions many years ago. Those
wonderful productions of Horace Vernet, in which one may read the
warlike history of France, are nothing compared to my recollections of
Trumbull’s "Sortie of Gibraltar," as seen through an antediluvian tin
trumpet which considerably interfered with my vision, but which I
thought it was necessary to use. I have visited libraries which
antedated by centuries the discovery of America,—I have rambled over
castles which seemed to reëcho with the clank of armour and the clarion
calls of the old days of chivalry,—I have walked through the long
corridors and halls of the Vatican with cardinals and kings,—I have
mused in church-crypts and cloisters, in whose silent shade the dead of
a thousand years reposed,—but I have never yet been impressed with any
thing like the awe which the old Athenæum in Pearl Street used to
inspire into my boyish heart. Pearl Street in those days was as innocent
of traffic and its turmoil as the quiet roads around Jamaica Pond are
now. A pasture, in which the Hon. Jonathan Phillips kept a cow, extended
through to Oliver Street, and handsome old-fashioned private houses with
gardens around them occupied the place of the present rows of granite
warehouses. The Athenæum, surrounded by horse-chestnut trees, stood
there in aristocratic dignity and repose, which it seemed almost
sacrilegious to disturb with the noise of our childish sports. There
were a few old gentlemen who used to frequent its reading-room, whose
white hair, (and some of them even wore knee breeches and queues and
powder,) always stilled our boyish clamour as we played on the
grass-plots in the yard. To some of these old men our heads were often
uncovered,—for children were politer in those days than now,—and to our
young imagination it seemed as if they were sages, who carried about
with them an atmosphere of learning and the fragrance of academic
groves. They seemed as much a part of the mysterious old establishment
as the books in the library, the dusty busts in the entries, or the old
librarian himself. Sometimes I used to venture into those still
passages, and steal a look into that reading-room whose quiet was never
broken, save by the wealthy creak of some old citizen’s boots, or by the
long breathing of some venerable frequenter of the place, enjoying his
afternoon nap. In later years I came to know the Athenæum more
familiarly; the old gentlemen lost the character of sages and became
estimable individuals of quiet tastes, who were fatiguing the
Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance Company by their long-continued
perusal of the Daily Advertiser and the Gentleman’s Magazine; but my old
impression of the awful mystery of the building remains to this day. I
mourned over the removal to the present fine position, and I seek in
vain amid the stucco-work and white paint of the new edifice for the
charm which enthralled me in the old home of the institution. Some
people, carried away by the utilitarian spirit of the age, may think
that it is a great improvement; but to me it seems nothing but an
unwarrantable innovation on the established order of things, and a
change for the worse. Where is the quiet of the old place? Younger and
less reverential men have risen up in the places of the old, and have
destroyed all that rendered the old library respectable. The good old
times when Dr. Bass, the librarian, sat on one side of the fireplace,
and the late John Bromfield (with his silk handkerchief spread over his
knees) on the other, and read undisturbed for hours, have passed away. A
hundred persons use the library now for one who did then; and I am left
to feed upon the memory of better times, when learning was a quiet,
comfortable, select sort of thing, and mutter secret maledictions on the
revolutionary spirits who have made it otherwise.

But pardon me, dear reader,—all this has little to do with Paris, except
by way of illustration of my remark that the youthful standard of
intellectual weights and measures is the only infallible one we ever
know. But Paris is something by itself: it overrides all standards of
greatness or beauty, and all preconceived notions of itself, and
addresses itself with confidence to every taste. Ladies love Paris as a
vast warehouse of jewelry and all the rich stuffs that hide the
crinoline from eyes profane. Physicians revel in its hospitals, and talk
of "splendid operations," such as make the unscientific change colour.

Paris is a world in itself. Here may the Yankee find his pumpkin-pie and
sherry-cobblers, the Englishman his _rosbif_, the German his sauerkraut,
the Italian his macaroni. Here may the lover of dramatic art choose his
performance among thirty theatres, and he who, with Mr. Swiveller, loves
"the mazy," will find at the Jardin Mabille a bower shaded for him. Here
the bookworm can mouse about, in more than twenty large public
libraries, and spend weeks in the delightful exploration of countless
book-stalls. Here the student of art can read the history of France on
the walls of Versailles, or, revelling in the opulence of the Louvre,
forget his studies, his technicalities, his criticisms, in contemplation
of the majestic loveliness of Murillo’s "sinless Mother of the sinless
Child." Here may "fireside philanthropists, great at the pen," compare
their magnificent theories with the works of delicate ladies who have
left the wealth they possessed and the society they adorned, for the
humble garb of the Sister of Charity and a laborious ministry to the
poor, the diseased, and the infirm, and meditate in the cool quadrangles
of hospitals and benevolent institutions, founded by saints, and
preserved in their integrity by the piety of their disciples. Here may
the man who wishes to look beyond this brilliant world, find churches
ever open, inviting to prayer and meditation, where he may be carried
beyond himself by the choicest strains of Haydn and the solemn grandeur
of the Gregorian Chant,—or may be thrilled by the eloquent periods of
Ravignan or Lacordaire, until the unseen eternal fills his whole soul,
and the visible temporal glories of the gay capital seem to him the
transient vanities they really are.

How few people really know Paris! To most minds it presents itself only
as a place of general pleasure-seeking and dissipation. I have seen many
men whose only recollections of Paris were such as will give them no
pleasure in old age, who flattered themselves that they knew Paris. They
thought that the whole city was given up to the folly that captivated
them, and so they represent Paris as one vast reckless masquerade. I
have seen others who, walking through the thronged _cafés_ and
restaurants, have felt themselves justified in declaring that the French
had no domestic life, and were as ignorant of family joys as their
language is destitute of a single Word to express our good old Saxon
word "home"; not knowing that there are in Paris thousands of families
as closely knit together as any that dwell in the smoky cities of Old
England, or amid the bustle and activity of our new world. Good people
may turn up their eyes, and talk and write as many jeremiads as they
will about the vanity and wickedness of Paris; but the truth is, that
this great Babel has even for them its cheering side, if they would but
keep their eyes open to discover it. Let them visit the churches on the
vigils of great feasts, and every Saturday, and see the crowds that
throng the confessionals: let them rise an hour or two earlier than
usual, and go into any of the churches, and they will find more
worshippers there on any common weekday morning than half of the
churches in New England collect on Sundays. Let them visit that
magnificent temple, the Madeleine, and see the freedom from social
distinctions which prevails there: the soldier, the civilian, the rich
and the poor, the high-bred lady, the servant in livery, and the negress
with her bright yellow and red kerchief wound around her head, are there
met, on an equality that free America knows not of.

The observance of the Sunday is a sign of the times which ought not to
be overlooked. Only a few years ago, and suspension of business on
Sunday was so uncommon that notice was given by a sign to that effect on
the front of the few shops whose proprietors indulged in that strange
caprice. The signs (like certain similar ones on apothecary shops in
Boston, to the effect that prescriptions are the only business attended
to on the first day of the week) used to seem to me like a bait to catch
the custom of the godly. But the signs have passed away before this
movement, inaugurated by the Emperor, who forbade labour on the public
works on Sunday, and preached up by the late Archbishop of Paris and the
parish clergy. There are few shops in Paris that do not close on Sunday
now—at least in the afternoon. And this is done by the free will of the
trades-people: it is not the result of a legislative enactment. The law
here leaves all people free in regard to their religious duties. The
shops of the Jews, of course, are open on Sunday, for they are obliged
to close on Saturday, and of course ought not to be expected to observe
two days. Of course, too, the public galleries, and gardens, and places
of amusement are all open; God forbid that the hard-faring children of
toil should be cheated out of any innocent recreation on the only free
day they have by any attempts to judaize the Christian Sunday into a
sabbath. It is a great mistake to suppose that people can be made better
by diminishing the sources of innocent pleasure. No; if the Sunday be
made a hard, uninteresting day, when smiling is a grave impropriety, and
a hearty laugh a mortal sin, children will begin by disliking the day,
and end by despising the religion that made it gloomy. But provide the
people with music in the public parks on Sunday afternoon and
evening,—make the day a cheerful, happy time to those who are ingulfed
in the carking cares of life all the rest of the week,—make it a day
which children shall look forward to with longing, and you will find
that the people are better, and happier, and thriftier for the change.
You will find that the mechanic or labourer, instead of lounging away
his Sunday in a grog-shop, (for the business goes on even though the
front door may be barred and the shutters closed,) will be ambitious to
take his wife and children to hear the music, and will after a time
become as well behaved as the common run of people. It is better to use
the merest worldly motives to keep men in the path of decency, than to
let them slide away to perdition because they refuse to listen to the
more dignified teachings of religion.

I have been much impressed by a visit to a large, but
unpretentious-looking house in the Rue du Bac—the "mother-house" of that
admirable organization, the Sisters of Charity. It was not much of a
visit, to be sure—for not even my gray hairs and respectable appearance
could gain for me an admission beyond the strangers’ parlour, the
courtyard, and the cool, quiet chapel. But that was enough to increase
my respect and admiration for those devoted women. The community there
consists of _six hundred_ Sisters of Charity, whose whole time is
occupied in taking care of the sick, and needy, and neglected in the
hospitals and asylums, and in every quarter of the city. You see them at
every turn, going quietly about their work of benevolence, and
presenting a fine contrast to some of our noisy theorists at home. I may
be in error, but it strikes me that that community is doing more in its
present mode of action to advance the true dignity and "rights" of the
sex, than if it were to resolve itself into a convention, after the
American fashion. I was somewhat anxious to inquire whether any of the
sisters of the community had ever taken to lecturing or preaching in
public; but the modest and unassuming manner of all those whom I saw,
rendered such a question unnecessary. I fear that oratory is sadly
neglected among them; with this exception, and perhaps the absence of a
certain strong-mindedness in their characters, I think that they will
compare very favourably with any of our distinguished female
philanthropists. They wear the same gray habit and odd-shaped white
bonnet that the Sisters of Charity wear in Boston. While we praise the
self-forgetful heroism of Florence Nightingale as it deserves, let us
not forget that France sent out her Florence Nightingales to the Crimea
by fifties and hundreds—young and delicate women, hiding their
personality under the common dress of a religious order, casting aside
the names that would recall their rank in the world, unencouraged in
their beneficence by any newspaper paragraphs, and unrewarded save by
the sweet consciousness of duty done. The Emperor Alexander, struck by
the part played in the Crimean campaign by the Sisters of Charity, has
recently asked the superior of the order to detail five hundred of the
sisters, for duty in the hospitals of Russia. It is understood that the
request will be complied with so far as the number of the community will
permit.

If I were asked to sum up in one sentence the practical result of my
observations of men and manners here on the continent, I should say that
it was this: We have a great deal to learn in America concerning the
philosophy of life. I do not mean that philosophy which teaches us that
"it is not all of life to live," but the philosophy of making
ninety-three cents furnish the same amount of comfort in America that
five francs do in Paris. The spirit of centralization is stronger here
than in any American city: (it is too true, as Heine said, that to speak
of the departments of France having a political opinion as distinguished
from Paris, "is to talk of a man’s legs thinking;") and there is no
reason why people of moderate means should not be able to live as
respectably, comfortably, and economically in our cities as here, if
they will only use a little common sense. The model-lodging-house
enterprise was a most praiseworthy one, but it seems to have been
confined only to the wants of the most necessitous class in the
community. There is, however, a large class of salesmen, and
book-keepers, and mechanics, on salaries of six hundred to twelve or
fourteen hundred dollars, whose position is no less deserving of
commiseration. When the prices of beefsteak and potatoes went up so
amazingly a few years ago, there were few salaries that experienced a
similar augmentation. The position of the men on small salaries
therefore became peculiar, not to say unpleasant, as rents rose in the
same proportion as every thing else. Any person, familiar with the rents
of brick houses for small families in most of the Atlantic cities, will
see how difficult it is for such people as these to live within their
means. Now, the remedy for this evil is a simple one, but it requires
some public-spirited men to initiate it. Suppose that a few large,
handsome houses, on the European plan, (that is, having a suite of
rooms, comprising a parlour, dining-room, two or three bedrooms, and a
kitchen, on each floor,) were built in any of our great
thoroughfares,—the ground floors might be used for shops,—for there is
no reason why respectable people should any more object to living over
shops there, than on the Boulevards. Such houses, it is easy to see,
would be good paying property to their owners, as soon as people got
into that way of living; and when salaried men saw that they could get
the equivalent, in comfort and available room, to an ordinary five
hundred dollar house for half that rent, in a central situation, depend
upon it, they would not be long in learning how to live in that style.
The advantages of this plan of domestic life are numerous and striking.
Housekeeping would be disarmed of half its difficulties; the little
kitchen would furnish the coffee and eggs in the morning and the tea and
toast at night—the dinner might be ordered from a neighbouring
restaurant for any hour—for such establishments would increase with the
increase of apartments. The dangers of burglary would be diminished, for
the housekeeper would have only the door leading to the staircase to
lock up at night. The washing would be done out of the house, and the
steam of boiling suds, and all anxiety about clothes-lines, and sooty
chimneys, and windy weather would thereby be avoided. Thousands of
people would be liberated from the caprice and petty tyranny of the
railroad directors, whose action has so often filled our newspapers with
resolutions and protests, and, so far as Boston is concerned, its
peninsula might be made the home of a population of three hundred
thousand instead of a hundred and eighty thousand persons. The most
rigidly careless person can hardly fail to become a successful
housekeeper, when the matter is made so easy as it is by the European
plan. The plan, too, not only simplifies the mysteries of domestic
economy, but it snuggifies one’s establishment wonderfully, and gives it
a home feeling, such as what are called genteel houses nowadays wot not
of. The change has got to come—and the sooner it does, the better it
will be for our cities, and many of their people, who have been driven
into remote and unpleasant suburbs by high rents, or who are held back
from marriage by the expenses of housekeeping conducted on the present
method.



PARIS—THE LOUVRE AND ART


It is an inestimable advantage to an idle man to have such a place as
the Louvre ever open to him. The book-stalls and print-shops of the
quays, those never-failing sources of pleasure and of extravagance in a
small way, cannot be visited with any satisfaction under the meridian
sun; the shop windows, a perpetual industrial exhibition, grow tiresome
at times; the streets are too crowded, the gardens too empty; the
reading rooms are close; the newspapers are stupid; and what remains?
Why, the Louvre opens its hospitable doors, and, blessing the memory of
Francis I., the tired wanderer enters, and drinks in the refreshing
coolness of those quiet and spacious halls. If he is an antiquarian, he
plunges deep into the arcana of ancient Egypt, and emulates the great
Champollion; if he is a student of history, he muses on the sceptre of
Charlemagne, or the old gray coat and coronation robes of the first
Napoleon; if he is devoted to art, he travels through that wilderness of
paintings and statuary, and thinks and talks about _chiaro ’scuro_,
"breadth of colour," or "bits of foreshortening." But if he be a man of
simple tastes, who detests technicalities, and enjoys all such things in
a quiet, general sort of way, without knowing exactly what it is that
pleases him,—he goes through room after room, now stopping for an
instant before a set of antique china, now speculating on the figure he
should cut in one of those old suits of armour, and finally settling
down in a chair before some landscape by Cuyp or Claude, in which the
artist seems to have imprisoned the sunbeams and the warm, fragrant
atmosphere of early June; or else he seats himself on that comfortable
sofa before Murillo’s masterpiece, and contemplates the supernal beauty
and holy exaltation of the face of her whom Dante calls the "Virgin
Mother, daughter of her Son." He is surrounded by artists, engaged in a
work that seems to verify the old maxim, _Laborare est orare_,—each one
striving to reproduce on his canvas the effects of the angel-guided
pencil of Murillo.

I find it useless for me to attempt to visit the Louvre systematically,
as most people do. I have frequently tried to do it, but it has ended by
my walking through one or two rooms, and then taking up my position
before Murillo’s Conception, and holding it until the hour came for
closing the gallery. When I was young, I used to think what a glorious
thing it would have been to have felt the thrill of joy that filled the
heart of the discoverer of America, or the satisfaction of Shakspeare
when he had finished Hamlet or Macbeth, or of Beethoven when he had
completed his seventh symphony; but all that covetousness of the
impossible is blotted out by my envy of the great Spanish painter. What
must have been the deep transport of his heart, when he gazed upon the
heavenly vision his own genius had created! He must have felt

        "——like some watcher of the skies,
      When a new planet sails into his ken,
    Or like stout Cortez, when, with eagle eyes,
      He stared at the Pacific.——"

In spite of all my natural New England prejudice, I cannot help admiring
and loving that old Catholic devotion to the Blessed Virgin. Its
humanizing effects can be seen in the history of the middle ages, and
they are felt amid all the bustle and roar of this irreverent nineteenth
century. Woman cannot again be thought the soulless being heathen
philosophy considered her; she cannot again become a slave, for she is
recognized as the sister of her who was chosen to make reparation for
the misdeeds of Mother Eve. I am strongly tempted to transcribe here
some lines written in pencil on the fly-leaf of an old catalogue of the
museum of the Louvre, and found on the sofa before Murillo’s picture.
The writer seems to have had in mind the beautiful conclusion of the
life of Agricola by Tacitus, where the great historian says that he
would not forbid the making of likenesses in marble or bronze, but would
only remind us that such images, like the forms of their originals, are
frail and unenduring, while the beauty of the mind is eternal, and can
be perpetuated in the manners of succeeding generations better than by
ignoble materials and the art of the sculptor. The lines appear to be a
paraphrase of this idea.

    O blest Murillo! what a task was thine,
      That Mother to portray whose beauty mild
    Combined earth’s comeliness with grace divine,—
      To whom our God and Saviour as a child
      Was subject—upon whom so oft He smiled!
    Yet not less happy also in my part,—
      For I, though in a world by sin defiled,
    Though lacking genius and unskilled in art,
    May paint that blessed likeness in a contrite heart.

Art is the surest and safest civilizer. Popular education may be so
perverted as only to minister to new forms of corruption, but art
purifies itself; it has no Voltaires, and Rousseaus, and Eugene
Sues,—for painting and sculpture, like poetry, refuse to be made the
handmaids of vice or unbelief. Open your galleries of art to the people,
and you confer on them a greater benefit than mere book education; you
give them a refinement to which they would otherwise be strangers. The
boor, turned loose into civilized society, soon catches something of its
tone of politeness; and those who are accustomed to the contemplation of
forms of ideal beauty will not easily be won by the grossness and
deformity of vice. A fine picture daily looked at becomes by degrees a
part of our own souls, and exerts an influence over us of which we are
little aware. Some English writer—Hazlitt, I think—has said, that if a
man were thinking of committing some wicked or disgraceful action, and
were to stop short and look for a moment at some fine picture with which
he had been familiar, he would inevitably be turned thereby from his
purpose. It is to be hoped that the time is not far distant when each of
our great American cities shall possess its gallery of art, which (on
certain days of the week, at least) shall be as free to all well-behaved
persons as the public parks themselves. We may not boast the artistic
wealth of Rome, Florence, Paris, Dresden, or any of the old capitals of
Europe; but the sooner we make a beginning, the better it will be for
our galleries and our mob. We need some more effectual humanizer than
our educational system. Reading, writing, and ciphering are great
things, but they are powerless to overcome the rudeness and irreverence
of our people. Our populace seems to lack entirely the sense of the
beautiful or the sublime. As Charles Lamb said, "They have, alas! no
passion for antiquities—for the tomb of king or prelate, sage or poet.
If they had, they would no longer be the rabble." It is too true that
the attempts which have been made to open private gardens to the
enjoyment of the public have resulted in the most shameful abuses of
privilege, and that flowers are stolen from the graves in our
cemeteries; but there is no reason for giving our people up as past
praying for, on the score of politeness and common decency. They must be
educated up to it: some abuses may occur at first, but a few salutary
lessons on the necessity of submission to authority will rectify it all,
and our people will, in the course of time, become as well-behaved as
the people of France or Italy.

I am no antiquarian. I do not love the antique for antiquity’s sake. It
must appeal to me through the medium of history, or not at all. Etruscan
relics have no other charm for me than their beauty of form. I care but
little for Egyptian sarcophagi or their devices and hieroglyphics, and I
would not go half a mile to see a wilderness of mummies. Whenever I feel
a longing for any thing in the Egyptian or heathen line, I can resort to
Mount Auburn, with its gateway—and this thought satisfies me; so that I
pass by all such things without feeling that I am a loser. With such
feelings, there are many of the halls of the Louvre which I only walk
through with an admiring glance at their elegance of arrangement. A few
days since, in wandering about there, I found a room which I had never
seen before, and which touched me more nearly than any thing there,
except the paintings. It has been opened recently. I had been looking
through the relics of royalty with a considerable degree of
pleasure,—meditating on the armour of Henry the Great, the breviary of
St. Louis, and the worn satin shoe which once covered the little foot of
Marie Antoinette,—and was about to leave, when I noticed that a door was
open which in past years I had seen closed. I pushed in, and found
myself in a vast and magnificent apartment, on the gorgeously frescoed
ceiling of which was emblazoned the name—which is a tower of strength to
every Frenchman—_Napoleon_. Around the room, in elegant glass cases,
were disposed the relics of the saint whom Mr. Abbott’s bull of
canonization has placed in red letters in the calendar of Young America.
Leaving aside all joking upon the attempts to prove that much-slandered
monarch a saint, there was his history, written as Sartor Resartus would
have written it, in his clothes. There was a crayon sketch of him at the
age of sixteen; there was a mathematical book which he had studied, the
case of mathematical instruments he had used; there was the coat in
which he rode up and down the lines of Marengo, inspiring every heart
with heroism, and every arm with vigour; the sword and coat he wore as
First Consul; the glittering robes which decked him when he sat in the
chair of Clovis and Charlemagne, the idol of his nation, and the terror
of all the world besides; the stirrups in which he stood at Waterloo,
and saw his brave legions cut up and dispersed; and, though last, not
least, there was the old gray coat and hat in which he walked about at
St. Helena, and the very handkerchief which in his dying hour wiped the
chill dew of eternity from his brow. There were many things
besides—there were his table and chair; his camp bed on which he rested
during those long campaigns; his gloves, his razor strap, his comb, the
clothes of his little son, the "King of Rome," and the bow he played
with; the saddles and other presents which he received during his
expedition to the East, and his various court dresses—but the old gray
coat was the most attractive of all. It was a consolation to notice that
it had lost a button, for it showed that though its wearer was an
anointed emperor, he was not exempt from the vicissitudes of common
humanity. I sat down and observed the people who visited the room, and I
noticed that they all lingered around the old coat. It made no
difference whether they spoke English, French, German, or any other
tongue; there was something which appealed to them all; there was a
common ground, where the student and the enthusiastic lover of high art
could join in harmonious feeling, even with the practical man, who would
not have cared a three-cent piece if Praxiteles and Canova had never
sculptured, or Raphael and Murillo had never seen a brush. It required
but a slight effort to fill the room up of the absent hero, and to
"stuff out his vacant garments with his form," and perhaps this very
thing tended to make the entire exhibition a sad one. It was the most
melancholy commentary on human glory that can be imagined. It ought to
be placed in the vestibule of a church, or in some more public place,
and it would purge a community of ambition. What a sermon might
Lacordaire preach on the temporal and the eternal, with the sword and
the coronation robes of Napoleon I. before him!

The interest which I have seen manifested by so many people in the
relics of Napoleon I. has afforded me considerable amusement. I have
lately seen so much ridicule cast upon the relics of the saints
preserved in many of the churches of Italy, by people of the same class
as those who lingered so reverentially before the glass cases of the
Napoleon room in the Louvre, that I cannot help thinking how rare a
virtue consistency is.

Perhaps it may be owing to some weakness in my mental organization, but
I cannot acknowledge the propriety of honouring the burial-places of
successful generals, and, at the same time, think the shrines of the
saints worthy of nothing but ridicule and desecration. I found myself, a
few years ago, looking with grave interest at an old coat of General
Jackson’s, which is preserved in the Patent Office at Washington; and I
cannot wonder at the reverence which some people pay to the garments of
a martyr in the cause of religion. I cannot understand how it may be
right and proper to celebrate the birthdays of worldly heroes, and "rank
idolatry" to commemorate the self-denying heroes of Christianity. I
cannot join in the setting-up of statues of generals and statesmen, and
condemn a similar homage to the saints by any allusions to the enormity
of making a "graven image." In fine, if it is right to adorn and
reverence the tomb of the Father of his Country, (and what American
heart does not acknowledge its propriety?) it certainly cannot be wrong
to beautify and venerate the tomb of the chief apostle, and the shrines
of saints and martyrs who achieved for themselves and their fellow-men
an independence from a tyranny infinitely worse than that from which
Washington liberated America.

I have recently been visiting the three great monuments of the reign of
Napoleon III.—the completed Louvre, the Bois de Boulogne, and the Halles
Centrales. As to the first, those who remember those narrow, nasty
streets, which within six years were the approaches to the Louvre and
the Palais Royal, and those rickety old buildings reminding one too
strongly of cheese in an advanced stage of mouldiness, that used to
intrude their unsightly forms into the very middle of the Place du
Carrousel,—those who recollect the junk shops that seemed more fitting
to the neighbourhood of the docks than to the entrance to a palace and a
gallery of art,—feel in a manner lost, when they walk about the
courtyards of the noble edifice which has taken the place of so much
deformity. If the new wings of the Louvre had been built in one range
instead of quadrangles, they would extend more than half a mile! Half a
mile of palace, and a palace, too, which in building has occupied one
hundred and fifty sculptors for the past five years! Those who have not
visited Paris within five years will recollect the Bois de Boulogne only
as a vast neglected tract of woodland, which seemed a great waste of the
raw material in a place where firewood is so expensive as it is here. It
is now laid out in beautiful avenues and walks, the extent of which is
said to be nearly two hundred miles. You are refreshed by the sound of
waterfalls and the coolness of grottos, the rocks for the formation of
which were brought from Fontainebleau, more than forty miles distant
from Paris. You walk on, and find yourself on the shores of a lake, a
mile or two in length, with two or three lovely islands in it, and in
whose bright blue waters thousands of trout are sporting. That wild
waste, the old Bois de Boulogne, which few persons but duellists ever
visited, has passed away, and in its place you find the most magnificent
park in the world. It is indeed a perfect triumph of landscape
gardening. It is nature itself, not in miniature, but on such a scale as
to deceive you entirely, and fill you with the same feeling of
admiration that is awakened by any striking natural beauty. The old
French notions of landscape gardening seem to have been entirely cast
aside. The carriage roads and paths go winding about so that the view is
constantly changing, and the trees are allowed to grow as they please,
without being tortured into fantastic shapes by the pruning knife. The
banks of the lake have been made irregular, now steep, now sloping
gently to the water’s edge, and in some places huge jagged rocks have
been most naturally worked in, while ivy has been planted around them,
and in their crevices those weeds and shrubs which commonly grow in such
places. You would about as readily take Jamaica Pond to be artificial as
this lovely sheet of water and its surroundings. The Avenue de
l’Impératrice is the road from the Arc de Triomphe to the Bois de
Boulogne. It is half or three quarters of a mile in length, and is
destined to be one of the most striking features of Paris. It is laid
out with spacious grass plots, with carriage ways and ways for
equestrians and foot passengers, with regular double rows of trees on
either side. Many elegant château-like private residences already adorn
it, and others are rapidly rising. An idea of its majestic appearance
may be had from the fact that its entire width from house to house is
about four hundred feet. The large space around the Arc de Triomphe is
already laid out in a square, to be called the Place de l’Europe, and
the work has already been commenced of reducing the buildings around it
to symmetry. The Halles Centrales, the great central market-house of
Paris, has just been opened to the public. It is built mainly of iron
and glass. As nearly as I could judge of its size, I should think it
would leave but little spare room if it were placed in Union Park, New
York. It is about a hundred feet in height, and so well ventilated that
it is hard to realize when there that one is under cover. A wide street
for vehicles runs through its whole length, crossed by others at equal
intervals. I have called these three public improvements the great
monuments of the reign of Napoleon III.; not that I would limit his good
works to these, but because these may be taken as conspicuous
illustrations of his care, no less for the amusements than for the
bodily wants of his people, and of his zeal for the promotion of art and
the adornment of his capital. But these noble characteristics of the
Emperor deserve something more than a mere passing notice, and may well
form the subject of my next letter.



NAPOLEON THE THIRD¹


There is a period in the life of almost every man which may justly be
termed the romantic period. I do not mean the time when a youth, whose
heart is as yet unwarped by the selfishness of the world, and his brow
unclouded by its trials and its sorrows, thinks that the performance of
his life will fully come up to the glowing programme he then composes
for it; neither do I refer to the period when, in hungry expectation, we
clutched eagerly at the booksellers’ announcements of the last
productions of the eloquent Bulwer, or of the inexhaustible James. But I
refer to the time when childhood forgets its new buttons in reading how
poor Ali Baba relieved his wants at the expense of the wicked thieves;
how Whittington heard Bow Bells ring out the prophecy of his greatness;
how fierce Blue Beard punished his wife’s curiosity; and how good King
Alfred merited reproof by his forgetfulness of the herdsman’s supper.
This is the true period of romance in the lives of all of us; for then
all the romance that we read is clothed with the dignity of history, and
all our history is invested with the charm of romance. This happy period
does not lose its attractions, even when we outgrow the credulity of
childhood; for the romance of history captivates us when we no longer
are subject to the sway of the novelist; and we leave Mr. Thackeray’s
last uncut, until we can finish a newspaper chapter in the history of
these momentous times.

   ¹ The author must plead guilty to a little hesitation (induced by the
     present aspect of European affairs) about incorporating this paper
     on the French Emperor, written some three years since, in his work.
     He feels, however, that, whatever may be the issue of the present
     contest in Europe, the services of Napoleon III. to France and to
     civilization are a part of history; and he has no wish to disguise
     his satisfaction at having been one of the first Americans who
     confronted the vulgar prejudices of his countrymen against that
     remarkable man, and publicly recognized the wonderful talents which
     have placed France at the head of all civilized nations.

We know how eagerly we pursue the vicissitudes of fortune which have
marked the career of so many of the world’s heroes; and this will teach
us how future generations will read the history of the present century.
Surely the whole range of romance presents no parallel to the simple
history of the wonderful man who now governs France. It is easy to see
that his varied fortunes will one day perform a conspicuous part in that
juvenile classical literature of which I have spoken; and perhaps it may
not be unprofitable, dear reader, for us to endeavour to raise ourselves
above the excitement of partisanship and the influences of old
prejudices, and look upon his career as may the writers of the
twenty-fifth century.

It is a popular error in America to regard Louis Napoleon as a singular
combination of knavery and half-wittedness. Even Mr. Emerson, in his
_English Traits_, so far forgets the kindliness of his nature as to call
him a "successful thief." The English journalists once delighted to
ridicule him as the "nephew of his uncle," and the shadow of a great
name, and Punch used to represent him as a pygmy standing upon the brim
of his uncle’s hat, and wondering how he could ever fill it; but he has
lived down ridicule, and they have long since learned that there is such
a thing as the possibility of a mistake in judgment, even among
journalists and politicians. It is time that we Americans got over a
notion which has long since been exploded on this side of the Atlantic.
I know that I am flying in the face of those who believe in the plenary
inspiration of the New York Tribune, when I claim for the Emperor any
thing like patriotism or capacity as a statesman. I know that the
Greeleian, "philanthropic" code exacts that we should _not_ "give the
prisoner the benefit of the doubt," and that when any one whom we
dislike does any good, we should attribute it to nothing but a selfish
or ambitious motive. I know that this new-fangled love of all mankind
requires us to hate those who differ from us politically, and never to
lose an opportunity to blacken their characters and diminish their
reputation; and therefore I make all due allowances for the refusal of
the Tribune, and journals of the same amiable family, to see the truth.
In April, 1856, I was waiting for a train in a way station on the
Worcester Railroad. A sun-burned, hard-working man was reading the news
of the proclamation of peace at Paris from a penny paper, and he
commented upon it to two or three others who were present, as follows:
"Well, I don’t know how ’tis, but it seems to _me_ that we’ve been most
almightily mistaken about this ’ere _Lewis_ Napoleon. We used to think
he was a shaller kind o’ feller any how, but it really looks now,
judging from the _position_ of France in _European_ affairs, as if he
was turning out to be altogether the _biggest dog in that tanyard_!" The
old fellow’s conclusion was a true one, though his rhetoric would not
have been commended at Cambridge; and it is to prevent this conclusion
forcing itself upon the public sense, that the sympathizers with
socialism have been labouring ever since. We are told that it is our
duty as Americans and republicans to wish for the overthrow of Napoleon
and his empire, and the establishment of the _république démocratique et
sociale_. Now, having received my political principles from another
source than the Tribune, I may be pardoned for having a prejudice in
favour of allowing the people of France to govern France; and, as they
elected Louis Napoleon President in 1848 by more than five millions of
votes, and in 1851 chose him dictator (in their fear of the very party
which the Tribune wishes to see in power) by more than _seven_ millions
of votes, and finally, in 1852, made him their Emperor by a vote of more
than seven millions against a little more than three hundred thousand,
we may suppose France to have expressed a pretty decided opinion on this
matter. The French empire rests upon the very principle that forms the
basis of true republicanism—universal suffrage. Louis Napoleon restored
that principle after it had been suppressed or restricted, and proved
himself a truer republican than his opponents. For nine years, Napoleon
has been sustained by the people of France with a unanimity such as the
United States never knew, except in the election of Washington as first
President, and his majority has increased every time that he has
appealed to the people. It is idle to say that there are parties here
that are opposed to him; it would be a remarkable phenomenon if there
were not. But there is a more united support here for the Emperor than
there is in our own country for the constitution of the United States,
and any right-minded man would regret a revolutionary movement in one
country as much as in the other.

If there was ever a position calculated to test the capabilities of its
occupant, it was that in which Louis Napoleon found himself when he
obeyed the voice of the French people, and accepted the presidency of
the French republic. Surrounded by men holding all kinds of political
opinions, from the agrarian Proudhon to the impracticable Louis Blanc,
and men of no political opinions whatever,—he found himself obliged to
use all the power reposed in him by the constitution, to keep the
government from falling asunder. History bears witness to the fact that
republican governments deteriorate more rapidly than those which are
based upon a less changeable foundation than the popular will. But there
was little danger of the French republic deteriorating, for it was about
as weak and unprincipled as it could be in its very inception. There
were a few men of high and patriotic character in the Assembly, but (as
is generally the case) their voices were drowned amid the clamourings of
a crowd of radical journalists and ambitious _littérateurs_, whose only
bond of union was a fierce hatred of law and religion, and a desire for
the spoils of office. These were the men with whom Napoleon had to deal.
They had favoured his election to the presidency, for, in their
misapprehension of his character, they thought him the mere shadow of a
name, and expected under his government to have all things their own
way. But they were not long in discovering their mistake.

His conduct soon showed that he was the proper man for the crisis. That
unflinching republican, General Cavaignac, had before pointed out the
dangers to all European governments, and to civilization itself, that
would spring from the continuance of the sanguinary and sacrilegious
Roman Republic; and Napoleon, accepting his suggestions, took immediate
measures to put an end to the atrocities which marked the sway of
Mazzini and his assassins in the Roman States.² The success which
attended these measures is now a part of history. There is a kind of
historical justice in this part of Napoleon’s career which must force
itself upon every reflecting mind. From the day when St. Remy told his
royal convert, Clovis, to "burn what he had adored, and adore what he
had burned," the monarch of France had always been considered the
"eldest son of the Church." The Roman Pontiff was indebted to Pepin and
Charlemagne for those possessions which rendered him independent of the
secular power. In the hour of need it was always to the Kings of France
that he looked for aid; and whether he sought aid against the oppressors
of the Holy See or the infidel possessors of the Holy Sepulchre, he
seldom appealed to them in vain. It was meet, therefore, that Napoleon
should inaugurate his power by thus reviving the ancient traditionary
spirit of the French monarchy; for he could not better prove his
worthiness to sit on the throne which had been occupied by so many
generous and heroic spirits, than by fighting the battles of the Church
they loved so well.

   ² Lest I should be thought guilty of speaking rashly with regard to
     the anarchy which Napoleon destroyed in 1849 at Rome, I take the
     liberty to transcribe a few extracts from the constitution of the
     Society of "Young Italy," which will give some idea of the
     principles upon which the Roman Republic rested. I translate from
     the edition published at Naples, by Benedetto Cantalupo.

     "_Article I._ The Society is established for the entire destruction
     of all the governments of the peninsula, and for the forming of
     Italy into a single state, under a republican government.

     "_Art. II._ In consequence of the evils attendant upon absolute
     government, and the still greater evils of constitutional monarchy,
     we ought to join all our efforts to establish a single and
     indivisible republic.

     "_Art. XXX._ Those members who shall disobey the commands of the
     Society, or who shall reveal its mysteries, shall be poniarded
     without remission.

     "_Art. XXXI._ The secret tribunal shall pronounce sentence in such
     cases as the preceding, and shall designate one or more of the
     brethren to carry it into instant execution.

     "_Art. XXXII._ The brother who shall refuse to execute a sentence
     thus pronounced shall be considered as a perjurer, and as such
     shall be immediately put to death.

     "_Art. XXXIII._ If the victim condemned to punishment should
     succeed in escaping, he shall be pursued unremittingly into
     anyplace whatever, and shall be struck as by an invisible hand,
     even if he shall have taken refuge on the bosom of his mother, or
     in the tabernacle of Christ.

     "_Art. XXXIV._ Each secret tribunal shall be competent not only to
     condemn the guilty to death, but also to put to death all persons
     so sentenced."

The foreign and domestic policy which the Prince-President pursued
excited at the same time the anger of the ultra republican faction, and
the hopes of the religious and conservative portion of society. Order
was restored, and an impetus was given to commercial enterprise and to
the arts of peace such as France had not known since the outbreak of
1848. Still the discordant elements of which the Assembly was composed,
were a just cause of alarm to all friends of good order, and all
parties, conservative and radical, regarded the existing state of
affairs as a temporary one. Napoleon saw that the only obstacle in the
path of the nation to peace and prosperity was the Assembly—the radicals
of the Assembly that the Prince-President was the only obstacle to their
plans of disorganization and anarchy; and they also saw that, if the
question were allowed to go to the people at the expiration of
Napoleon’s term of office, he would surely be reëlected, and that his
policy would be triumphantly confirmed. So, as the time drew near for
the new election, the struggle between the President and the
Assembly—between order and anarchy—grew more and more severe. Plots were
formed against Napoleon, and were just ripening for execution, when, on
the second of December, 1851, he terminated the suspense of the nation
by seizing and throwing into prison all the chief conspirators against
the public peace, and then appealed to the people to sustain him in his
efforts to preserve his country from the state of anarchy towards which
it seemed to be hastening. The people answered promptly and with good
will to the call, and Napoleon gained an almost bloodless victory.

But we are told that by the _coup d’état_, "Napoleon violated his oath
to sustain the constitution of the republic—that he is a perjurer, and
all his success cannot diminish his crime." So might one of the old
loyalists have said about our own Washington. "He was a British
subject—by accepting a commission under Braddock, he formally
acknowledged his allegiance to the crown—by drawing his sword in the
revolution, he violated not only his fidelity as a subject, but his
honour as a soldier." And what would any American reply to this? He
would say that Washington never bound himself to violate his conscience,
and that conscientiously he felt bound to defend the old English
principles of free government even against the encroachments of his own
rightful sovereign. And so, with equal reason, it may be said of Louis
Napoleon, when the term of his presidency was approaching, and the
radical members of the Assembly were forming conspiracies to dispose of
him so as to prevent his reëlection, he was bound in conscience, as the
chief ruler of his country, to prevent the anarchy that must result from
such a movement. And how could he do this save by dissolving the
Assembly and appealing to the people as he did? The constitution was
nullified by the plots of the Assembly, and France in 1851 was really
without a government, until the _coup d’état_ inaugurated the present
reign of public prosperity and peace. The _coup d’état_ was not only
justifiable—it was praiseworthy. When the prejudices and party spirit of
the present time shall have passed away, the historian will grow
eloquent in speaking of that fearless and far-sighted statesman, who,
when his country was threatened with a repetition of the civil strife
which had too often shaken her to her centre, threw himself boldly upon
the patriotism of the people with those noble words, "The Assembly,
instead of being what it ought to be, the support of public order, has
become a nest of conspiracies. It compromises the peace of France. I
have dissolved it; and I call upon the whole people to judge between it
and myself."—The _coup d’état_ excited the anger only of the socialists
and of those partisans of the houses of Bourbon and Orléans who loved
those families more than they loved their country’s welfare; for they
saw, by the revival of business, that confidence in the stability of the
government was established, and that Napoleon had obtained a place in
the affections of the French people from which he could not easily be
dislodged.

From this dictatorship, which the dangers of the time had rendered
necessary, it was an easy transition to the empire, and Louis Napoleon
found his succession to the throne of his uncle confirmed by almost the
unanimous vote of the French people. It was a tribute to the man, and to
his public policy, such as no ruler in modern times has ever received,
and for unanimity is unparalleled in the history of popular elections.
His marriage followed quickly upon the proclamation of the empire; and
in this, as in all his acts, we can discern his manly and independent
spirit. He sought not to ally himself with any of the royal families of
Europe, for he felt himself to be so sure of his position, that he could
without risk consult his affections rather than policy or ambition.

The skilful diplomacy which led to the alliance with England, the
campaign in the Crimea, and the repulse of Russia, are too fresh in
every body’s recollection to bear any repetition. So far as they concern
Napoleon III., the world is a witness to his matchless coolness and
determination. What could be grander than the heroic inflexibility he
displayed in the face of the accumulated disasters of that campaign, and
the murmurs of his allies! Misfortune only seemed to nerve him to more
vigorous effort. During that terrible winter of 1854-5, he appeared more
like a fixed, unvarying law of nature than a man,—so immovable was he in
his opposition to those who, pressed by the unlooked-for difficulties of
the time, counselled a change of policy. The successful termination of
the siege of Sebastopol, however, proved the justice of his
calculations, and, while conquering monarchs in other times have been
content to see the negotiations for peace made in some provincial town,
or in a city of some neutral state, the proud satisfaction was conceded
to him by Russia of having the peace conferences held in his own
capital.

But while commemorating the success of his efforts to raise his country
to a commanding position among the nations, we must not forget the great
enterprises of internal improvement which he has set on foot within his
empire. Who can recall what Paris was under Louis Philippe, or the time
of the republic, and compare it with the Paris of to-day, without
admiring the genius of Napoleon III.? Who does not recognize a wonderful
capacity for the administration of government in the Emperor, when he
sees that nearly all of these great improvements (unlike those of Louis
XIV., which impoverished the nation) will gradually but surely pay for
themselves by increasing the amount of taxable property? Indeed, the
improvements in the city of Paris alone are on so vast a scale as to be
incomprehensible to any one unacquainted with that capital. If Napoleon
were to-day to fall a victim to that organization of republican
assassins which is known to exist in France, as well as in the other
states of Europe, he would leave, in the Louvre, in the Bois de
Boulogne, in the new Boulevards, and the extension of the Rue de Rivoli,
together with the countless other public works which now adorn Paris,
testimonials to the splendour of his brief reign, such as no monarch
ever left before: of him, as of Sir Christopher Wren, it might be truly
said, "_Si quæris monumentum, circumspice_."

But we must not think that Napoleon has confined his exertions to the
improvement of Paris alone. Not a single province of his empire has been
neglected by him, and there is scarcely a town that has not felt the
influence of his policy. The foreign commerce of France has been
wonderfully increased by him, and his favourite project for a ship canal
through the Isthmus of Suez is now numbered among the probabilities of
the age. When it is considered what a narrow strip of land separates the
Red Sea from the Mediterranean, and what an immense advantage such a
canal would be to all the countries bordering on the latter, it is not
wonderful that Napoleon should find so many friends among the sovereigns
of Europe. He has not built the magnificent new port of Marseilles
merely for the accommodation of the Mediterranean coasting trade of his
empire. His far-seeing eye looks upon those massive quays covered with
merchandise from every quarter of the Orient, brought, not around the
stormy Cape, nor by the toilsome caravan over the parching desert, but
by the swift steamers of the _Messageries Impériales_ from every port of
India, through the waters which, centuries ago, rolled back and opened a
path of safety to the chosen people of God.

If the old proverb be true, that a man is known by the company he keeps,
it is equally true, on the other hand, that a statesman may be rightly
known by examining the character of his opponents. And who are the
opponents of Napoleon III.? With the exception of a few partisans of the
Bourbons, (whose opposition to the Napoleon dynasty is an hereditary
complaint,) they are radical demagogues, who delight to mislead the
fickle multitude with the words, "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity," on
their lips, but the designs of anarchy and bloodshed in their hearts.
Their ranks are swelled by a number of visionary "philanthropists," and
a large number of newspaper scribblers deprived of their occupation by
Napoleon’s salutary laws against abuse of the liberty of the press, and
lacking ambition to earn an honest livelihood. Among them may be found a
few literary men of high reputation, who have espoused some
impracticable theory of government, and would blindly throw away their
well-earned fame, and shed the last drop of their ink in forcing it upon
an unwilling nation.

Slander, like Death, loves a shining mark. The fact cannot be doubted,
if we look at the lives of the greatest and best men the world has ever
seen. In truth, a large part of the heroism of the noblest patriots, and
the purest philanthropists, has been created by the necessity they have
been under to bear up against the obloquy with which enmity or envy has
assailed them. The Emperor Napoleon is, beyond a doubt, the best abused
man in Christendom. There probably never existed a man whose every act
and every motive have been more studiously misrepresented and
systematically lied about than his. It cannot be wondered at, either;
for he exercises too much power in the state councils of Europe, and
fills too large a space in the public eye, not to be assailed by those
whose evil prophecies have been falsified by his brilliant reign, and
whose lawless schemes have been frustrated by his unexampled prudence
and firmness.

And what right has he to complain? If St. Gregory VII. were obliged to
submit for centuries to being represented as an ambitious self-seeker
and unscrupulous politician, instead of a wise and far-seeing pontiff, a
vanquisher of tyrants, and a self-denying saint; if St. Thomas of
Canterbury be held up, in hundreds of volumes, as a monster of
ingratitude towards a beneficent sovereign, and a haughty and
overbearing supporter of prelatical tyranny, instead of a martyr, in
defence of religious liberty against the encroachments of the civil
authority; if Cardinal Wolsey be held up to public scorn as a proud and
selfish prince of the Church, a glutton, and a wine-bibber, instead of a
skilful administrator of government, a liberal patron of learning, and
all good arts, and the sole restrainer of the evil passions of the most
shameless tyrant who ever sat upon the English throne; if Cardinal
Richelieu be handed down from generation to generation, painted in the
blackest colours, as a scheming politician, in whose heart, wile and
cruelty were mixed up in equal parts, instead of a sagacious and
inflexible statesman, and a patriot who made every thing (even his
religion) bend to his devotion to the glory of his beloved France; if
these great men have been thus misrepresented in that history which De
Maistre aptly calls "a conspiracy against truth," I do not think that
Napoleon III. can reasonably complain of finding himself denounced as a
tyrant, a perjurer, and a victim of all the bad passions that vex the
human heart, instead of a liberator of his country from that many-headed
monstrosity, miscalled the _République Française_, an unswerving
supporter of the cause of law and religion, and the architect of the
present glory and prosperity of France. It must be a great consolation
to the Emperor, under the slanders which have been heaped upon him, to
reflect that their authors and the enemies who hate him worst, are, for
the most part, infidels and assassins, and enemies of social order.
Whatever errors a man may commit, he cannot be far from the course of
right so long as he is hated and feared by people of that desperate
stamp. The ancient adage tells us that "a cat may look at a king"; and
it is, perhaps, a merciful provision of the law of compensation that the
base reptiles which fatten on the offal of slander are permitted to
trail their slime over a name which is the synonyme of the power and
glory of France.

When the prejudices of the present day shall have died out, the
historian will relate how devoted Napoleon III. was to every thing that
concerned his country’s welfare. He will tell of his ceaseless care for
the most common wants of his people, and of his vigilance in enforcing
laws against those who wronged the poor by their dishonest dealings in
the necessaries of life. He will relate how promptly he turned his back
upon nobles and ambassadors to visit some of his people who had been
overwhelmed by a terrible calamity, and will describe the kind, fatherly
manner in which he went among them, carrying succour and consolation to
all. He will not compare the Emperor to his great warrior-uncle; he will
_contrast_ the two. He will show how the uncle made all Europe fear and
hate him, and how the nephew converted his enemies into allies; how the
uncle manured the soil of Europe with the bones of his soldiers, and the
nephew, having given splendid proofs of his ability to make war, won for
himself the title of "the Pacificator of Europe"; how the uncle, through
his hot-headed ambition, finally made France the prey of a hostile
alliance, and the nephew brought the representatives of all the European
powers around him in his capital to make peace under his supervision.

The man who, after thirty years of exile and six years of close
imprisonment, can take a country in the chaotic condition in which
France found itself after the revolution of 1848, and reorganize its
government, place its financial affairs on a better footing than they
have been before within the memory of man, double its commerce, and
raise it to the highest place among the states of Europe, cannot be an
ordinary man. In 1852, the Emperor said, "France, in crowning me, crowns
herself;" and he has proved the literal truth of his words. He has given
France peace, prosperity, and a stable government. He has imitated
Napoleon I. in every one of his great and praiseworthy actions in his
civil capacity, while he has not made a single one of his mistakes. And
if "he that ruleth his own spirit is greater than he that taketh a
city," this remarkable man, whose self-control is undisturbed by his
most unparalleled success, is destined to be known in history as
Napoleon the Great.

The character of Napoleon III. is marked by a unity and a consistency
such as invariably have distinguished the greatest men. We can see this
consistency in his fidelity to the cause of law and order, whether it be
manifested in his services as a special constable against the Chartists
of England, or as the chief magistrate of his nation against the
Chartists of France. And to this conspicuous virtue of steadfastness he
adds a wonderful universality of acquirements and natural genius. We see
him contracting favourable loans and averting impending dangers in the
monetary affairs of France, and it would seem as if his early life had
been spent amid the clamours of the Bourse; we see him concentrating
troops in his capital against the threats of the revolutionists, or
designing campaigns against the greatest military powers of Europe; we
see him maintaining a perfect composure in the midst of deadly missiles
which were expected to terminate his reign and dynasty, and it would
seem as if the camp had always been his home, and the dangers of the
battle-field his familiar associations; we see him buying up grain to
prevent speculators from oppressing his people during a season of
scarcity, or imprisoning bakers for a deficiency in the weight of their
loaves, or regulating the sales of meats and vegetables,—and it would
seem as if he always had been a prudent housekeeper and a profound
student of domestic economy; we see him laying out parks, projecting new
streets and public buildings, and we question whether he has paid most
attention to architecture, engineering, or landscape-gardening; we see
him visiting his subjects when they have been overwhelmed by a great
calamity, and he would seem to have been a disciple of St. Thomas of
Villanueva, or of St. Vincent of Paul; we see him taking the lead amid
the chief statesmen and diplomatists of the world, we read his powerful
state papers and speeches, and we wonder where he acquired his
experience; we see him, in short, under all circumstances, and it
appears that there is nothing that concerns his country’s welfare or
glory too difficult for him to grapple with, nor any thing affecting the
happiness of his poorest subject trivial enough for him to overlook. By
his advocacy of the cause of the Church, he has won a place in history
by the side of Constantine and Charlemagne; by his internal policy and
care for the needs of his subjects, his name deserves to be inscribed
with those of St. Louis and Alfred. The language which Bulwer has put
into the mouth of Cardinal Richelieu might be used by Napoleon III., and
would from him be only the language of historical truth:—

      "I found France rent asunder,
    Sloth in the mart and schism within the temple,
    Brawls festering to rebellion, and weak laws
    Rotting away with rust— * * * *
    _I have re-created France_, and from the ashes
    Civilization on her luminous wings
    Soars phoenix-like to Jove!"



THE PHILOSOPHY OF FOREIGN TRAVEL


Foreign travel is one of the most useful branches of our education, but,
like a great many other useful branches, it appears to be "gone through
with" by many persons merely as a matter of course. It is astonishing
how few people out of the great number constantly making the tour of
Europe really carry home any thing to show for it except photographs and
laces. Foreign travel ought to rub the corners off a man’s character,
and give him a polish such as "home-keeping youth" can never acquire;
yet how many we see who seem to have increased their natural rudeness
and inconsiderateness by a continental trip! Foreign travel ought to
soften prejudices, religious or political, and liberalize a man’s mind;
but how many there are who seem to have travelled for the purpose of
getting up their rancour against all that is opposed to their notions,
making themselves illustrations of Tom Hood’s remark, that "some minds
resemble copper wire or brass, and get the narrower by going farther."
Foreign travel, while it shows a man more clearly the faults of his own
country, ought to make him love his country more dearly than before; yet
how often does it have the effect of making a man undervalue his home
and his old friends! There must be some general reason why foreign
travel produces its legitimate fruits in so few instances; and I have,
during several European tours, endeavoured to ascertain it. I am
inclined to think that it is a general lack of preparation for travel,
and a mistaken notion that "sight-seeing" is the chief end of
travelling. The expenses of the passage across the Atlantic are
diminishing every year, and when the motive power in electricity is
discovered and applied, the expense of the trip will be a mere trifle;
and in view of these considerations, I feel that, though I might find a
more entertaining subject for a letter, I cannot find a more instructive
one than the philosophy of European travel.

Concerning the expense of foreign travel, there are many erroneous
notions afloat. There are hundreds of persons in America—artists, and
students, and persons of small means—who are held back from what is to
them a land of promise, by the mistaken idea that it is expensive to
travel in Europe. They know that Bayard Taylor made a tour on an
incredibly small sum, and they think that they have not his tact in
management, nor his self-denial in regard to the common wants of life;
but if they will put aside a few of their false American prejudices,
they will find that they can travel in Europe almost as cheaply as they
can live at home. In America, we have an aristocracy of the pocket,
which is far more tyrannical, and much less respectable, than any
aristocracy of blood on this side of the water; for every man feels an
instinctive respect for another who can trace his lineage back to some
brave soldier whose deeds have shone in his country’s history for
centuries; but it requires a peculiarly constituted mind to bow down to
a man whose chief claim to respect is founded in the fact of his having
made a large fortune in the pork or dry goods line. Jinkins is a rich
man; he lives in style, and fares sumptuously every day. Jones is one of
Jinkins’s neighbours; he is not so rich as Jinkins, but he feels a
natural ambition to keep up with him in his establishment, and he does
so; the rivalry becomes contagious, and the consequence is, that a score
of well-meaning people find, to their dismay, at the end of the year,
that they have been living beyond their means. Now, if people wish to
travel reasonably in Europe, the first thing that they must do is to get
rid of the Jones and Jinkins standard of respectability. I have seen
many people who were content to live at home in a very moderate sort of
way, who, when they came to travel, seemed to require all the style and
luxury of a foreign prince. Such people may go all over Europe, and see
very little of it except the merest outside crust. They might just as
well live in a fashionable hotel in America, and visit Mr. Sattler’s
cosmoramas. They resemble those unfortunate persons who have studied the
classics from Anthon’s text-books—they have got a general notion, but of
the mental discipline of the study they are entirely ignorant. But let
me go into particulars concerning the expenses of travelling. I know
that a person can go by a sailing vessel from Boston to Genoa, spend a
week or more in Genoa and on the road to Florence, pass two or three
weeks in that delightful city, and two months in Rome, then come to
Paris, and stay here two or three weeks, then go to London for a month
or more, and home by way of Liverpool in a steamer, for less than four
hundred dollars; for I did it myself several years ago. During this
trip, I lived and travelled respectably all the time—that is, what is
called respectably in Europe. I went in the second class cars, and in
the forward cabins of the steamers. Jones and Jinkins went in the first
class cars and in the after cabins, and paid a good deal more money for
the same pleasure that cost me so little. I know, too, that a person can
sail from Boston to Liverpool, make a summer trip of two months and a
half to Paris, _via_ London and the cities of Belgium, and back to
Boston _via_ London and Liverpool, for a trifle over two hundred and
fifty dollars. A good room in London can be got for two dollars and a
half a week, in Paris for eight dollars a month, in Rome and Florence
for four dollars a month, and in the cities of Germany for very
considerably less. And a good dinner costs about thirty cents in London,
thirty-five in Paris, fifteen to twenty-five in Florence or Rome, and
even less in Germany. Breakfast, which is made very little of on the
continent, generally damages one’s exchequer to the extent of five to
ten cents. It will be seen from this scale of prices that one can live
very cheaply if he will; and, as the inhabitants of a country may be
supposed to know the requirements of its climate better than strangers,
common sense would dictate the adoption of their style of living.

I need not say that some knowledge of the French language is absolutely
indispensable to one who would travel with any satisfaction in Europe.
This is the most important general preparation that can be made for
going abroad. Next after it, I should place a review of the history of
the countries about to be visited. The outlines of the history of the
different countries of Europe, published by the English _Society for the
Diffusion of Useful Knowledge_, are admirably adapted to this purpose.
This gives a reality to the scenes you are about to visit that they
would not otherwise possess; it peoples the very roadside for you with
heroes. And not only does it impart a reality to your travels, but
history itself becomes a reality to you, instead of being a mere barren
record of events, hard to be remembered. At this time, when the neglect
of classical studies is apparent in almost every book, newspaper, and
magazine, I am afraid that I shall be thought somewhat old-fashioned and
out of date, if I say that some acquaintance with the Latin classics is
necessary before a man can really enjoy Italy. Yet it is so; and it will
be a great satisfaction to any man to find that Horace and Virgil, and
Cicero and Livy, are something more than the hard tasks of childhood.
Should a man’s classical studies, however, be weak, the deficiency can
be made up in some measure by the judicious use of translations, and by
Eustace’s Classical Tour. Murray’s admirable hand-books of course will
supply a vast amount of information; but it will not do to trust to
reading them upon the spot. Some preparation must be made
beforehand,—some capital is necessary to start in business. "If you
would bring home the wealth of the Indies, you must carry out the wealth
of the Indies." It would be well, too, for a person about to visit
Europe to prepare himself for a quieter life than he has been leading at
home. I mean, to tone himself down so as to be able to enjoy the freedom
from excitement which awaits him here. It is now more than a year since
I left America, and likewise more than a year since I have seen any
disorderly conduct, or a quarrel, or even have heard high words between
two parties in the street, or have known of an alarm of fire. In the
course of the year, too, I have not seen half a dozen intoxicated
persons. When we reflect what a fruitful source of excitement all these
things are in America, it will be easy to see that a man may have,
comparatively, a very quiet life where they are not to be found. It will
not do any harm, either, to prepare one’s self by assuming a little more
consideration for the feelings of others than is generally seen among
us, and by learning to address servants with a little less of the
imperious manner which is so common in America. Strange as it may seem,
there is much less distinction of classes on the continent, than in
republican America. You are astonished to find the broadcloth coat and
the blouse interchanging the civilities of a "light" in the streets, and
the easy, familiar way of servants towards their masters is a source of
great surprise. You seldom see a Frenchman or an Italian receive any
thing from a servant without thanking him for it. Yet there appears to
be a perfectly good understanding between all parties as to their
relative position, and with all their familiarity, I have never seen a
servant presume upon the good nature of his employer, as they often do
with us. We receive our social habits in a great measure from England,
and therefore we have got that hard old English way of treating
servants, as if our object was to make them feel that they are
inferiors. So the sooner a man who is going to travel on the continent,
can get that notion out of his head, and replace it with the continental
one, which seems to be, that a servant, so long as he is faithful in the
discharge of his duties, is quite as respectable a member of society as
his employer, the better it will be for him, and the pleasanter will be
his sojourn in Europe.

One of the first mistakes Americans generally make in leaving for Europe
is, to take too much luggage. Presupposing a sufficiency of
under-clothing, all that any person really needs is a good, substantial
travelling suit, and a suit of black, including a black dress coat,
which is indispensable for all occasions of ceremony. The Sistine Chapel
is closed to frock coats, and so is the Opera—and as for evening
parties, a man might as well go in a roundabout as in any thing but a
dress coat. Clothing is at least one third cheaper in Europe than it is
with us, and any deficiency can be supplied with ease, without carrying
a large wardrobe around with one, and paying the charges for extra
luggage exacted by the continental railways.

Let us now suppose a person to have got fairly off, having read up his
classics and his history, and got his luggage into a single good-sized
valise,—let us suppose him to have got over the few days of seasickness,
which made him wish that Europe had been submerged by the broad ocean
(as Mr. Choate would say) or ever he had left his native land,—and to
have passed those few pleasant days, which every one remembers in his
Atlantic passage, when the ship was literally getting along "by degrees"
on her course,—and to have arrived safely in some European port. The
custom house officers commence the examination of the luggage, looking
especially for tobacco; and if our friend is a wise man, he will not
attempt to bribe the officers, as in nine cases out of ten he will
increase his difficulties by so doing, and cause his effects to be
examined with double care; but he will open his trunk, and, if he have
any cigars, will show them to the examiner, and if he have not, he will
undoubtedly be told to close it again, and will soon be on his way to
his hotel. I suppose him to have selected a hotel before arriving in
port—which would be done by carefully avoiding those houses which make a
great show, or are highly commended in Murray’s guide-books. He will
find a neat, quiet European hotel a delightful place, after the gilding
and red velvet of the great caravanseries of his native country. If he
is going to stop more than a single night, he will ask the price of the
room to which he is shown, and if it seems too expensive, will look
until he finds one that suits him. When he has selected a room, and his
valise has been brought up, he will probably observe that the servant
(if it is evening) has lighted both of the candles on the mantel-piece.
He will immediately blow one of them out and hand it to the waiter, with
a look that will show him that he is dealing with an experienced
traveller, who knows that he has to pay for candles as he burns them.
When he leaves the hotel, he will make it a principle always to carry
the unconsumed candle or candles with him, for use as occasion may
require; for it is the custom of the country, and will secure him
against the little impositions which are always considered fair play
upon outsiders. It is possible that he will find, when he goes to wash
his hands, that there is no soap in the wash stand, and will thank me
for having reminded him to carry a cake with him rolled up in a bit of
oiled silk. When he wishes to take lodgings in any city, he will be
particular to avoid that part of the town where English people mostly do
inhabit, and will be very shy of houses where apartments to let are
advertised on a placard in phrases which the originator probably
intended for English. He will look thoroughly before he decides, and so
will save himself a great deal of dissatisfaction which he might feel on
finding afterwards that others had done much better than he. Besides,
"room-hunting" is not the least profitable, nor least amusing part of a
traveller’s experience. He will, when settled in his rooms, attend in
person to the purchase of his candles and his fuel, and to the delivery
of the same in his apartments; for by so doing he will save money, and
will see more of the common people of the place.

Of course he will see all the "sights" that every stranger is under a
sort of moral obligation to see, however much it may fatigue him; but he
must not stop there. He must not think, as so many appear to, that, when
he has seen the palaces, and picture galleries, and gardens, and public
monuments of a country, he knows that country. He must try to see and
know as much as he can of the people of the country, for they (Louis
Quatorze to the contrary, notwithstanding) are the state. Let him
cultivate the habit of early rising, and frequent market places and old
parish churches in the twilight of the morning, and he will learn more
of the people in one month than a year of reading or ordinary
sight-seeing could teach him. Let him choose back alleys, instead of
crowded and fashionable thoroughfares for his walks; when he falls in
with a wandering musician and juggler, exhibiting in public, let him
stop, not to see the exhibition, but the spectators; when he goes to the
theatre, let him not shut himself up in the privacy of a box, but go
into the pit, where all he will see and hear around him will be full as
amusing as the performance itself; and when he uses an omnibus, let him
always choose a seat by the driver, in preference to one inside. I have
learnt more of the religious character of the poorer class in Paris, by
a visit to a little out-of-the-way church at sunrise, than could be
acquired by hours of conversation with the people themselves. And I have
learned equally as much of the brutality and degradation of the same
class in England, by going into a gin-shop late at night, calling for a
glass of ale, and drinking it slowly, while I was inspecting the
company. There is many a man who travels through Europe, communicating
only with hotel keepers, couriers, and ciceroni, and learning less of
the people than he could by walking into a market-place alone, and
buying a sixpence worth of fruit. Yet such men presume to write books,
and treat not merely of the governments of these countries, but of the
social condition of the people! I once met a man in Italy, who could not
order his breakfast correctly in Italian, who knew only one Italian, and
he was the waiter who served him in a restaurant; and yet this man was a
correspondent of a respectable paper in Boston, and had the effrontery
to write column after column upon Italian social life, and to speak of
political affairs as if he were Cardinal Antonelli’s sole confidant.
There are such people here in Paris now, who send over to America,
weekly, batches of falsehood about the household of the Tuileries, which
the intelligent public of America accepts as being true; for it seems to
be a part of some people’s republicanism to believe nothing but evil of
a ruler who wears a crown. I need not say in this connection, that the
traveller who wishes to enjoy Europe must put away the habit (if he be
so unfortunate as to have it) of looking upon every thing through the
green spectacles of republicanism, and regarding that form of government
as the only one calculated to benefit mankind. He must remember that the
government of his own country is a mere experiment, compared with the
old monarchies of Europe, and he must try to judge impartially between
them. He must judge each system by its results, and if on comparison he
finds that there is really less slavery in his own country than in
Europe; that the government is administered more impartially; that the
judiciary is purer; that there is less of mob law and violence, and less
of political bargaining and trickery, and that life and property are
more secure in his own country than they are here,—why, he will return
to America a better republican than before, from the very fact of having
done justice to the governments of Europe.

As I have before said, it is better for a traveller to endeavour to live
as nearly as possible in the manner of the inhabitants of the country in
which he is sojourning. I do not mean that he should feel bound to make
as general a use of garlic as some of the people of Europe do, for in
some places I verily believe that a custard or a blanc mange would be
thought imperfect if they were not seasoned with that savory vegetable;
but, _ceteris_ being _paribus_, if the general manner of living were
followed, the traveller would find it conducive to health and to
economy. The habits of life among every people are not founded on a mere
caprice; and experience proves that under the warm sun of Italy, a light
vegetable diet is healthier and more really invigorating than all the
roast beef of Old England would be.

In Europe, no man is ever ashamed of economy. Few Englishmen even shrink
from acknowledging that they cannot afford to do this or that, and on
the continent profuseness in the use of money is considered the sure
mark of a _parvenu_. Every man is free to do as he pleases; he can
travel in the first, second, or third class on the railways, and not
excite the surprise of any body; and whatever class he may be in, he
will be treated with equal respect by all. It is well to bear this in
mind, for, taken in connection with the principle of paying for one’s
room and meals separately according to what one has, it puts it within
one’s power to travel all over Europe for a ridiculously small sum. You
can live in Paris, by going over into the Latin quarter, on thirty cents
a day, and be treated by every body, except your own countrymen, with as
much consideration as if you abode among the mirrors and gilding of the
Hôtel de Louvre. Not that I would advise any one to go over there for
the sake of saving money, and live on salads and meats in which it is
difficult to have confidence, when he can afford to do better. I only
wish to encourage those who are kept from visiting Europe by the idea
that it requires a great outlay of money. You can live in Europe for
just what you choose to spend, and in a style of independence to which
America is a total stranger. Every body does not know here what every
body else has for dinner. You may live on the same floor with a man for
months and years, and not know any more of him than can be learned from
a semi-occasional meeting on the staircase, and an interchange of hat
civilities. This seems so common to a Frenchman, that it would be
considered by him hardly worth notice; but to any one who knows what a
sharp look-out neighbours keep over each other in America, it is a most
pleasing phenomenon. It is indeed a delightful thing to live among
people who have formed a habit of minding their own business, and at the
same time have a spirit of consideration for the rights and feelings of
their neighbours.

If, in the above hints concerning the way to travel pleasantly and
cheaply in Europe, I have succeeded in removing any of the bugbear
obstacles which hold back so many from the great advantages they might
here enjoy, I shall feel that I have not tasked my poor eyes and brain
for nothing. We are a long way behind Europe in many things, and it is
only by frequent communication that we can make up our deficiencies. It
cannot be done by boasting, nor by claiming for America all the
enterprise and enlightenment of the nineteenth century. Neither can it
be done by setting up the United States as superior to every historical
precedent, and an exception to every rule. Most men (as the old French
writer says) are mortal; and we Americans shall find that our country,
with all its prosperity and unequalled progress, is subject to the same
vicissitudes as the countries we now think we can afford to despise; and
that our history is

      "——but the same rehearsal of the past—
    First Freedom, and then Glory; when that fails,
    Wealth, vice, corruption,—barbarism at last."

No, we cannot safely scorn the lesson which Europe teaches us; for if we
do, we shall have to learn it at the expense of much adversity and
wounding of our pride. Every American who comes abroad, if he knows how
to travel, ought to carry home with him a new idea of the amenities of
life, and of moderation in the pursuit and the use of wealth, such as
will make itself felt in the course of time, and make the fast living
and recklessness of authority and tendency to bankruptcy of the present
day, give way to a spirit of moderation and obedience to law such as
always produces private prosperity and public stability.



PARIS TO BOULOGNE


It was a delicious morning when I packed my trunk to leave Paris. Indeed
it was so bright and cloudless that it seemed wrong to go away and leave
so fine a combination of perfections. It was more than the "bridal of
the earth and sky"; it was the bridal of all the created beings around
one and their works with the sky. The deep blue of the heavens, the
glittering sunbeams, the clean streets, the fair house fronts, the gay
shop windows, the white caps, and shining morning faces of the _bonnes_
and market women, the busy, prosperous look of the passers by, were all
blended together in one harmonious whole, more touching and poetical
than any scene of mere natural beauty that the dewy morn, "with breath
all incense and with cheek all bloom," ever looked upon. "Earth hath not
any thing to show more fair." Others may delight in communing with
solitary nature, and may rave in rhyme about the glories of woods,
lakes, mountains, and Ausonian skies; but what is all that compared to
the awakening of a great city to the life of day? What are the floods of
golden light that every morning bathe the mountain tops, and are poured
down into the valleys and fields below, compared to the playing of the
sunbeams in the smoke from ten thousand chimneys, and the din of toil
displacing the silence of night? I have seen the sunsets of the
Archipelago—I have seen Lesbos and Egina clad in those robes of purple
and gold, which till then I had thought were a mere figment of the
painter’s brain—I have enjoyed that "hush of world’s expectation as day
died"—I have often drunk in the glory of a cloudless sunrise on the
Atlantic, and even now my heart leaps up at the remembrance of it; but
after all, commend me to the deeper and more sympathetic feelings
inspired by the dingy walls and ungraceful chimney-pots of a metropolis.
Thousands of human hearts are there, throbbing with hope, or joy, or
sorrow,—weighed down perchance by guilt; and humanity with all its
imperfections is a noble thing. A single human heart, though erring, is
a grander creation than the Alps or the Andes, for it shall outlive
them. It is moved by aspirations that outrun the universe, and possesses
a destiny that shall outlive the stars. It is the better side of human
nature that we see in the early morning in large cities. Vice flourishes
best under the glare of gas-lights, and does not salute the rising sun.
The bloated form, the sunken eye, the painted cheek, shrink from that
which would make their deformity more hideous, and hide themselves in
places which their presence makes almost pestilential. Honest, healthful
labour meets us at every step, and imparts to us something of its own
hopefulness and activity. We miss the dew-drops glittering like jewels
in the grass, but the loss is more than made up to us by the bright eyes
of happy children, helping their parents in their work, or sporting
together on their way to school.

There was a time when I thought it very poetical to roam the broad
fields in that still hour when the golden light seems to clasp every
object that it meets, as if it loved it; but of late years a comfortable
sidewalk has been more suggestive of poetry and less productive of wet
feet. Give me a level pavement before all your groves and fields. The
only _rus_ that wears well in the long run is _Russ in urbe_. Nine
tenths of all the fine things in our literature concerning the charms of
country life, have been written, not beneath the shade of overarching
boughs, but within the crowded city’s smoke-stained walls. Depend upon
it, Shakespeare could never have written about the moonlight sleeping on
the bank any where but in the city; had the realities of country life
been present to him, he would have rejected any such metaphor, for he
loved the moonlight too dearly to subject it to the rheumatic attack
that would inevitably have followed such a nap as that. It is with
country life very much as it is with life at sea. Mr. Choate, who pours
out his noblest eloquence on the glories and romance of the sea, seldom
sees the outside of his state-room while he is out of sight of land, and
all his glowing periods are forgotten in the realities of his position.
So, too, the man who wishes to destroy the poetry and romance of country
life, has only to walk about in the wet grass or the scorching heat, or
to be obliged to pick the pebbles out of his shoes, or a caterpillar off
his neck, or to be mocked at by unruly cattle, or pestered by any of the
myriads of insect and reptiles which abound in every well-regulated
country.

The excellent Madame Busque (_la dame aux pumpkin pies_) had prepared
for me a viaticum in the shape of a small loaf of as good gingerbread as
was ever made west of Cape Cod—a motherly attention quite in keeping
with her ordinary way of taking care of her customers. All who frequent
the _crêmerie_ are her _enfans_, and if she does not show them every
little maternal attention, and tie a bib upon every one’s neck, it is
only that we may know better how to behave when we are beyond the reach
of her kindly hand. Fortified with the gingerbread, I found myself
whirling out of the terminus of the Northern Railway, and Paris, with
its far-stretching fortifications, its domes and towers, and its
windmill-crowned Montmartre, was soon out of sight.

The train was very full, and the weather very warm. Two of my
car-companions afforded me a good deal of amusement. They were a fat
German and his wife. He was one of the jolliest old gentlemen I ever had
the good fortune to travel with. His silvery hair was cropped close to
his head, and he rode along with his cuffs turned up and his waistcoat
open. He seemed to feel that he was occupying a good deal of room; but
he was the only one there who felt it. No one of us would have had his
circumference reduced an inch, but we should all of us have delighted to
put a thin man who was there out by the roadside. His wife—a bright-eyed
little woman, whose hair was just getting a little silvery—had a small
box-cage in which she carried a large, intelligent-looking parrot.
Before we had gone very far, the bird began to carry on an animated
conversation with its mistress, but finally disgusted her and surprised
us all by swearing in French and German at the whole company, with all
the vehemence of a regiment of troopers. The lady tried hard to stop
him, but it was useless. The old gentleman (like a great many good
people who would not swear themselves, but rather like to hear a good
round oath occasionally) seemed to enjoy it intensely, and laughed till
the tears rolled down his cheeks. At noon the worthy pair made solemn
preparations for a dinner. A basket, a carpet-bag, and sundry paper
parcels were brought out. The lady spread a large checked handkerchief
over their laps for a table cloth, and then produced a staff of life
about two feet in length, and cut off a good thick slice for each of
them. Cheese was added to it, and also a species of sausage about a foot
in length, and three inches in diameter. From these they made a
comfortable meal—not eating by stealth, as we Americans should have
done—but diving in heartily, and chatting together all the while as
cosily as if they had been at home. A bottle of wine was then brought
out from the magic carpet-bag, and a glass, also a nice dessert of
peaches and grapes. There was a charming at-home-ativeness about the
whole proceeding that contrasted strongly with our American way of doing
such things, and all the other passengers apparently took no notice of
it.

We arrived at Boulogne in the midst of a storm as severe as the morning
had been serene. So fair and foul a day I have not seen. An omnibus
whisked me to a hotel in what my venerable grandmother used to call a
_jiffy_, and I was at once independent of the weather’s caprices. A
comfortable dinner at the _table d’hôte_ repaired the damages of the
journey, and I spent the evening with some good friends, whose company
was made the more delightful by the months that had separated us. The
storm raged without, and we chatted within. The old hotel creaked and
sighed as the blast assailed it, and I dreamed all night of close-reefed
topsails.

    "’Tis a wild night out of doors;
    The wind is mad upon the moors.
    And comes into the rocking town,
    Stabbing all things up and down:
    And then there is a weeping rain
    Huddling ’gainst the window pane;
    And good men bless themselves in bed;
    The mother brings her infant’s head
    Closer with a joy like tears,
    And thinks of angels in her prayers,
    Then sleeps with his small hand in hers."

Having in former years merely passed through Boulogne, I had never known
before what a pleasant old city it is. Its clean streets and well-built
houses, and the air of respectable antiquity which pervades it, make a
very pleasant impression upon the mind. As you stand on the quay, and
look across at the white cliffs on the other side of the Channel, which
are distinctly visible on a clear day, the differences in the character
of the two nations so slightly separated from one another, strike you
more forcibly than ever. The very fish taken on the French side of the
channel are different from any that you see in England; and as to the
fishwomen, whose sunburnt legs, bare to the knee, are the astonishment
of all new-comers,—go over all Europe, and you will find nothing like
them. That superb cathedral, the shrine of our Lady of Boulogne, upon
which the storm of the first French revolution beat with such fury, is
now beginning to wear a look of completion. Its dome, one of the
loftiest and most graceful in the world, is a striking and beautiful
feature in the view of the city. For more than twelve centuries this has
been a famous shrine. Kings and princes have visited it, not with the
pomp and circumstance of royalty, but in the humble garb of the pilgrim.
Henry VIII. made a pilgrimage hither in his unenlightened days, before
the pious Cranmer had taught him how wicked it was to honour the Mother
whom his Saviour honoured, and how godly and just it was to divorce and
put to death the mothers of his children. Here it was that the heroic
crusader, Godfrey, kindled the flame of that devotion which nerved his
arm against the foes of Christianity, and added a new lustre to his
knightly fame. It is a fashion of the present day to sneer at the age of
chivalry and the crusades, and some of our best writers have been
enticed into the following of it. While we have so many subjects
deserving the treatment of the satirist, at our very doors,—while we
have the fashionable world to draw upon,—while we can look around on
political parsons, professional philanthropists and patriots,
politicians who talk of principle, and followers who are weak enough to
believe in them—it would really seem as if we might allow the crusaders
and troubadours to rest. Supposing, for the sake of argument,
Christianity to be a true religion,—supposing it to be a fact that
eighteen hundred years ago the plains of Palestine were trodden by the
blessed feet that were "nailed for our advantage on the bitter
cross"—the redemption of the land which had been the scene of the sacred
history, from the sacrilegious hands of the Saracens, was certainly an
enterprise creditable to St. Louis, and Richard the lion-hearted, and
Godfrey, and the other gentlemen who sacrificed so much in it. It was
certainly as respectable an undertaking as any of the crusades of modern
times,—as that of the Spaniards in America, the English in India, or the
United States in Mexico,—with this exception, that it was not so
profitable. I am afraid that some of our modern satirists are lacking in
the spirit of their profession, and allow themselves to be made the
mouthpieces of that worldly wisdom which it is their office to rebuke. I
can see nothing to sneer at in the crusader exiling himself from his
native land, and forfeiting his life in the defence of the Holy
Sepulchre; indeed, I am inclined to respect a man who makes such a
sacrifice to a conscientious conviction: it is a noble conquest of the
visible temporal by the unseen eternal. I can well understand how such
efforts for the protection of a mere empty tomb would seem worthy of
laughter and ridicule to those who can find no food for satire in the
_auri sacra fames_ which has been the motive of modern foreign
expeditions. It would be well for the world could we bring back
something of that age of chivalry which Edmund Burke regretted so
eloquently. We need it sorely; for we are every day sliding farther down
from its high standard of honour and of unselfish devotion to principle.

There is a little fishing village about a mile and a half from Boulogne,
on the sea coast towards Calais, which is celebrated in history as
having been the scene of the landing of Prince Louis Napoleon and his
companions in their unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the government of
Louis Philippe. Napoleon III. has not distinguished the spot by any
memorial; but he has erected a colossal statue of Napoleon I. on the
spot where that insatiable conqueror, with his mighty army around him,
looked longingly at the coast of England. There is something of a
contrast between the day thus commemorated and that on which the "nephew
of his uncle" received Queen Victoria at Boulogne, when she visited
France. It must have been a great satisfaction to Louis Napoleon, after
his life of exile, and particularly after the studied neglect which he
experienced from the English nobility, to have welcomed the British
Queen to his realm with that kiss which is the token of equality among
sovereigns. Waterloo must have been blotted out when he saw the Queen—in
whose realm he had served the cause of good order in the rank of special
constable—bending down at his knee to confer upon him the order of the
garter.

In spite of its geographical situation, Boulogne can hardly be
considered a French town. The police department and the custom house are
in the hands of the French, to be sure; but in the course of a walk
through its streets, you hear much more of the English than of the
French language. You meet those brown shooting jackets, and checked
trousers, and thick shoes and gaiters that are at home every where in
the "inviolate island of the sage and free." You cannot turn a corner
without coming upon some of those beefy and beery countenances which
symbolize so perfectly the genius of British civilization, and hearing
the letter H exasperated to a wonderful degree. Every where you see
bevies of young ladies wearing those peculiar brown straw hats, edged
with black lace, with a brown feather put in horizontally on one side of
the crown, a style of head dress to which the French and Italians have
given the name of "_Ingleesh spoken here_." There is a large class among
the English population of Boulogne upon which the disinterested
spectator will look with interest and with pity. I mean those
unfortunate persons who have been obliged by "force of circumstances"
and the importunity of creditors to exile themselves for a time from
their native land. You see them on every side; and all ranks in society
are represented among them, from the distinguished-looking man, with the
tortoise-shell spectacles, who ran through his wife’s property at the
club, to the pale, unhappy-looking fellow in the loose thread gloves and
sleepless coat. You can distinguish them at a glance from their
fellow-countrymen who have gone over for purposes of recreation, the
poor devils walk about with such an evident wish to appear to be doing
something or going somewhere. The condition of the prisoners, or rather
the "collegians," in the old Marshalsea prison, must have been an
enviable one, compared to these unfortunates, condemned to gaze at the
cliffs of Old England from a distance, and wait vainly for something to
turn up.

The arrival and departure of the English steamers is the only source of
excitement that the quiet city of Boulogne possesses. I was astonished
to find, after being there a day or two, what an interest I took in
those occurrences. I found myself on the quay with the rest of the
foreign population of the town, an hour before the departure of the
boat, to make sure, like every body else there, that not a traveller for
England should escape my notice. Besides the pleasure of inspecting the
motley crowd of spectators, I was gratified one day to see the big,
manly form and good-natured ugly face of Thackeray, following a leathern
portmanteau on its path from the omnibus to the boat. The great satirist
took an observation of the crowd through his spectacles as if he were
making a mental note, to be overhauled in due season, and then hurried
on board, as if he longed to get back to London among his books. He had
been spending the warm season at the baths of Hombourg. But the great
excitement of the day is the arrival of the afternoon boat from
Folkestone. It is better as an amusement than many plays that I have
seen, and it has this advantage, (an indispensable one to a large part
of the English population of Boulogne,) that it costs nothing. During
the days when I was there, the equinoctial gale was in full blow, and,
of course, there was a greater rush than usual to the quay. It was
necessary to go very early to secure a good place. From the steamer to
the passport office, a distance of two or three hundred feet, ropes were
stretched to keep back the spectators, forming an avenue some thirty
feet wide. Through this the wretched victims of the "chop sea" of the
Channel were obliged to pass, and listen to the remarks or laughter
which their pitiable condition excited among the crowd of their
disinterested countrymen. Any person who has ever been seasick can
imagine what it would be to go on shore from a boat that has just been
pitching and rolling about in the most absurd manner, and try to walk
like a Christian, with the eyes of several hundred amusement-seeking
people fixed upon him. Sympathy is entirely out of the question. The
pallid countenance and uncertain step, as if the walker were waiting for
the pavement to rise to meet his foot, excite nothing but mirth in the
spectators. The whole scene, including the lookers-on, was one of the
funniest things I ever saw. The observations of the crowd, too, were
well calculated to heighten the effect. "Ease her when she pitches,"
cried out a youngster at my side, as an old lady, who was supported by a
gentleman and a maid servant, seemed to be trying to accommodate herself
to the motion of the street, and testify her love for _terra firma_ by
lying down. "Hard a’ starboard," shouted another, as a gentleman, with a
felt hat close reefed to his head with a white handkerchief, sidled
along up the leeward side of the passage way. "That ’ere must ’a been a
sewere case of sickness," said a little old man, in an advanced state of
seediness, as a tall man, looking defiance at the crowd, walked ashore
with a carpet-bag in his hand, and an expression on his face very like
that of Mr. Warren, in the farce, when he says, "Shall I slay him at
once, or shall I wait till the cool of the evening?" "Don’t go yet,
Mary," said a young gentleman in a jacket and precocious hat, to his
sister, who seemed to fear that it was about to begin to rain
again,—"don’t go yet; the best of all is to come; there’s a fat lady on
board who has been _so_ sick—we must wait to see her!" And so they went
on, carrying out in the most exemplary manner that golden rule which,
applied to the period of seasickness, enjoins upon us that we shall do
unto others just as others would do to us.

It is no joke to most people to cross the Channel at any time, but to
cross it on the tail-end of the equinoctial storm is far from being a
humorous matter. I had crossed from almost all the ports between Havre
and Rotterdam in former years; so I resolved to try a new route in spite
of the weather, and booked myself for a passage in the boat from
Boulogne to London, direct. The steamer was called the Seine; and when
we had once got into the open sea, a large part of the passengers seemed
to think that they were _insane_ to have come in her. She was a very
good sea-boat, but I could not help contrasting her with our Sound and
Hudson River steamers at home. If the "General Steam Navigation Company"
were to import a steamer from America like the Metropolis or the Isaac
Newton, there would be a revolution in the travelling world of England.
The people here would no longer put up with steamers without an awning
or any shelter from sun or rain. After they had enjoyed the
accommodations of one of our great floating hotels, they would not think
of shutting themselves up in the miserable cabins which people pay so
dearly for here. But to proceed: when we got fairly out upon the _nasty_
deep, I ventured to gratify my curiosity, as a connoisseur in
seasickness, by a visit to the cabin. If I were in the habit of writing
for the newspapers, I suppose I should say that the scene "baffled
description." It certainly was one that I shall not soon forget. The
most rabid republican would have been satisfied with the equality that
prevailed there. The squalls that assailed us on deck were nothing
compared to the demonstrations of a whole regiment of infantry below,
who were illustrating, in a manner worthy of Retsch, one of the first
lines in Shakespeare’s Seven Ages. Ladies of all ages were keeled up on
every side in various postures of picturesque negligence, and with a
forgetfulness of the conventionalities of society quite charming to look
upon. The floor, where it was unoccupied by prostrate humanity, was
nearly covered with hatboxes, and bonnets, and bowls, and anonymous
articles of crockery ware, which were performing a lively quadrille,
being assisted therein by the motion of the ship. But a little of such
sights, and sounds, and smells as these goes a great way with me, and I
was glad to return to the wet deck. They had managed to rig a tarpaulin
between the paddle-boxes, and there I took refuge until the rain ceased.
It was comparatively pleasant weather when we sailed past Walmer Castle,
where that old hero died on whom all the world has conferred the title
of "The Duke"; and of course there was no rough sea as soon as we got
into the Downs. Black-eyed Susan might have gone on board of any of the
fleet of vessels that were lying there without discolouring her ribbons
by a single dash of spray. Ramsgate and Margate (the Newport and Cape
May of England) looked full of company as we sailed by them, and crowds
of bathers were battling with the surf. The heavy black yards of the
ships of war loomed up at Sheerness in the distance, and suggested
thoughts of Nelson, and Dibdin, and Ben Bowlin. Now and then we passed
by some splendid American clipper ship towing up or down the river, and
I felt proud of my nationality as I contrasted her graceful lines and
majestic proportions with the tub-like models of British origin that
every where met my eye. The dock-yards of Woolwich seemed like a vast
ant-hill for numbers and busy life. Greenwich, with its fine
architecture and fresh foliage in the distance, was most grateful to my
eyes; and it was pleasing to reflect, as I passed the observatory, that
I could begin to reckon my longitude to the westward, for it made me
feel nearer home.



LONDON


No man can really appreciate the grandeur of London until he has
approached it from the sea. The sail up the river from Gravesend to
London Bridge is a succession of wonders, each one more overwhelming
than that which preceded it. There is no display of fortifications; but
here and there you see some storm-tossed old hulk, which, having
finished its active career, has been safely anchored in that repose
which powder magazines always enjoy. As the river grows narrower, the
number of ships, steamers, coal barges, wherries, and boats of every
description, seems to increase; and as you sail on, the grand panorama
of the world-wide commerce of this great metropolis unfolds before you,
and you are lost, not so much in admiration as in astonishment.
Woolwich, Greenwich, Rotherhithe, Bermondsey, Blackwall, Millwall,
Wapping, &c., follow rapidly in the vision, like the phantom kings
before the eyes of the unfortunate Scotch usurper, until one is temped
to inquire with him, whether the "line will stretch out to the crack of
doom." The buildings grow thicker and more unsightly as you advance; the
black sides of the enormous warehouses seem to be bulging out over the
edge of the wharves on which they stand; far off, beyond the reach of
the tides, you see the forests of masts that indicate the site of the
docks. The bright green water of the Channel has been exchanged for the
filthy, drain-like current of the Thames. Hundreds of monstrous chimneys
belch forth the smoke that constitutes the legitimate atmosphere of
London. Every thing seems to be dressed in the deepest mourning for the
cruel fate of nature, and you look at the distant hills and bright
lawns, over in the direction of Sydenham, with very much of the feeling
that Dives must have had, when he gazed on the happiness of Lazarus from
his place of torment. Every thing presents a most striking contrast to
the clean, fair cities of the continent. Paris, with its cream-coloured
palaces adorning the banks of the Seine, seems more beautiful than ever
as you recall it while surrounded by such sights, and sounds, and
smells, as offend your senses here. The winding Arno, and the towers,
and domes, and bridges, of Florence and Pisa, seem to belong to a
celestial vision rather than to an earthly reality, as you contrast them
with the monuments of England’s commercial greatness. At last, you come
in sight of London Bridge, with its never-ceasing current of vehicles
and human beings crossing it; and your amazement is crowned by realizing
that, notwithstanding the wonders you have seen, you have just reached
the edge of the city, and that you can ride for miles and miles through
a closely-built labyrinth of bricks and mortar, hidden under the veil of
smoke before you.

And what a change it is—from Paris to London! To a Frenchman it must be
productive of a suicidal feeling. The scene has shifted from the sunny
Boulevards to the blackened bricks and mortar, which neither great
Neptune’s ocean, nor Lord Palmerston’s anti-smoke enactment can wash
clean. In the place of the smiling, good-humoured Frenchman, you have
the serious, stately Englishman. One misses the wining courtesy of which
a Frenchman’s hat is the instrument, and the ready _pardon_ or _merci_
is heard no more. The beggary, the drunkenness, and the depravity, so
apparent on every side, appall one. Paris _may_ be the most immoral city
in the world; but there, vice must be sought for in its own haunts. Here
in London, it prowls up and down in the streets, seeking for its
victims. Put all the other European capitals together, and I do not
believe that you could meet with so much to pain and disgust you as you
would in one hour in the streets of London. And yet, with all this
staring people in the face here, how do they go to work to remedy it?
They pass laws enforcing the suspension of business on Sundays, and when
they succeed in keeping all the shutters closed, by fear of the law,
they fold their arms, and say, "See what a godly nation is this!" If
this is not "making clean the outside of the cup and platter," what is
it? For my part, I much prefer that perfect religious liberty which
allows each man to keep Sunday as he pleases; and the recent improvement
in the observance of the day in France is all the more gratifying,
because it does not spring from any compulsory motive. Let the Jews keep
the _Sabbath_ as they are commanded to in the Old Testament; but
_Sunday_ is the Christian’s day, and Sunday is a day of festivity and
rejoicing, and not of fasting and penitential sadness.

Despite the smoke, and the lack of continental courtesy which is felt on
arriving from France, despite the din and hurry, I cannot help loving
London. The very names of the streets have been mad classical by writers
whose works are a part of our own intellectual being. The illustrious
and venerable names of Barclay and Perkins, of Truman, Hanbury, and
Buxton, that meet our eyes at every corner, are the synonymes of English
hospitality and cheer. It is a pleasure, too, to hear one’s native
language spoken on all sides, after so many months of French twang. The
hissing and sputtering English seems under such circumstances to be more
musical than the most elegant phrases of the Tuscan in the mouth of a
dignified Roman. Even the omnibus conductors’ talk about the "Habbey,"
the "Benk," ’Igh ’Olborn, &c., does not offend the ear, so delightful
does it seem to be able to say beefsteak instead of _biftek_. The odour
of brown stout that prevails every where is as fragrant as the first
sniff of the land breeze after a long voyage. Temple Bar is eloquent of
the genius of Hogarth, whose deathless drawings first made its ugly form
familiar to your youthful eyes in other lands. The very stones of Fleet
Street prate of Dr. Johnson and Goldsmith. You walk into Bolt Court, and
if you feel as I do the associations of the place, you eat a chop in the
tavern that stands where stood the house of Dr. Johnson. Then you cross
over the way to Inner Temple Lane, and mourn over the march of
improvement when you see that its sacrilegious hand is sweeping away a
row of four brick houses, which, dilapidated and unsightly as they may
appear, are dear to every lover of English literature. In No. 1,
formerly dwelt Dr. Johnson; in No. 4, Charles Lamb. You walk into the
Temple Church, and muse over the effigies of the knights who repose
there in marble or bronze, or go into the quiet Temple Gardens, and
meditate on the wars of the red and white roses that were plucked there
centuries ago, before the iron fences were built. It would be as
difficult to pluck any roses there now as the most zealous member of the
Peace Society could wish. You climb up Ludgate Hill, getting finely
spattered by the cabs and omnibuses, and find yourself at St. Paul’s.
You smile when you think that that black pile of architecture, with its
twopenny fee of admission, was intended to rival St. Peter’s, and your
smile becomes audible when you enter it, and see that while the images
of the Saviour and the Saints may not be "had and retained," the statues
of admirals and generals are considered perfectly in place there. You
walk out with the conviction that consistency is a jewel, and tread a
pavement that is classical to every lover of books. Paternoster Row
receives you, and you slowly saunter through it. Nobody walks rapidly
through Paternoster Row. Situated midway between the bustle and turmoil
of Ludgate Hill and Cheapside, it is a kind of resting-place for
pedestrians. They breathe the more quiet air of bookland there, and the
windows are a temptation which few loiterers can withstand.

The old church of St. Mary le Bow reminds you that you are at the very
centre of Cockneydom, as you walk on towards the Bank and the Exchange.
Crossing the street at the risk of your life through a maze of snorting
horses and rattling wheels, you get into Cornhill. Here the faces that
you see are a proof that the anxious, money-getting look is not confined
to the worshippers of the almighty dollar. You push on until you reach
Eastcheap. How great is your disappointment! The very name has called up
all your recollections of the wild young prince and his fat friend—but
nothing that you see there serves to heighten your Shakespearean
enthusiasm. Coal-heavers and draymen make the air vocal with their oaths
and slang, which once resounded with the laughter of Jack Falstaff and
his jolly companions. No Mistress Quickly stands in the doorway of any
of the numerous taverns. The whole scene is a great falling-off from
what you had imagined of Eastcheap. The sanded floors, the snowy window
curtains, the bright pewter pots, have given way to dirt and general
frowsiness. You read on a card in a window that within you can obtain "a
go of brandy for sixpence, and a go of gin for fourpence," and that
settles all your Falstaffian associations. You stop to look at an old
brick house which is being pulled down, for you think that perhaps its
heavy timbered ceilings, and low windows, and Guy Fawkesy entries date
back to Shakespeare’s times; but you are too much incommoded by the dust
from its crumbling walls to stop long, and you leave the place carrying
with you the only reminder of Falstaff you have seen there—you leave
with _lime in your sack_!

I know of nothing better calculated to take down a man’s self-esteem
than a walk through the streets of London. To a man who has always lived
in a small town, where every second person he meets is an acquaintance,
a walk from Hyde Park corner to London Bridge must be a crusher. If that
does not convince him that he is really of very little importance in the
world, he is past cure. The whirl of vehicles, the throngs upon the
sidewalks, seem to overwhelm and blot out our own individuality. Xerxes
cried when he gazed upon his assembled forces, and reflected that out of
all that vast multitude not one person would be alive in a hundred
years. Xerxes ought to have ridden through Oxford Street or the Strand
on the top of an omnibus. Spitalfields and Bandanna (two places
concerning the geography of which I am rather in the dark) could not
have furnished him with handkerchiefs to dry his eyes.

I was never so struck with the lack of architectural beauty in London as
I have been during this visit. There are, it is true, a few fine
buildings—Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s, Somerset House, &c.; but they
are all as black as my hat, with this soot in which all London is
clothed; so there is really very little beauty about them. The new
Houses of Parliament are a fine pile of buildings, certainly, and the
lately finished towers are a pleasing feature in the view from the
bridges; but they are altogether too gingerbready to wear well. They
lack boldness of light and shade; and this lack is making itself more
apparent every day as the smoke of the city is enveloping them in its
everlasting shade. Buckingham Palace looks like a second rate American
hotel, and as to St. James, the barracks at West Point are far more
palatial than that. It is not architecture, however, that we look for in
London. It has a charm in spite of all its deformities,—in spite of its
climate, which is such an encouragement to the umbrella makers—in spite
of its smoky atmosphere, through which the sun looks like a great copper
ball—in spite of the mud, which the water-carts insure when the dark
skies fail in the discharge of their daily dues to the metropolis.
London, with all thy fogs, I love thee still! It is this great
agglomeration of towns which we call London—this great human family of
more than two millions and a half of beings that awakens our sympathy.
It is the fact that through England we Americans trace our relationship
to the ages that are past. It is the fact that we are here surrounded by
the honoured tombs of heroes and wise men, whose very names have become,
as it were, a part of our own being. These are the things that bind us
to London, and which make the aureola of light that hangs over it at
night time seem a crown of glory.

But we must not forget that there is a dark side to the picture. There
is a serious drawback to all our enthusiasm. Poverty and vice beset us
at every step. Beggary more abject than all the world besides can show
appeals to us at every crossing. The pale hollow cheek and sunken eye
tell such a story of want as no language can express. The mother,
standing in a doorway with her two hungry-looking children, and
imploring the passers-by to purchase some of the netting work her hands
have executed, is a sight that touches your heart. But walk into some of
those lanes and alleys which abound almost under the shadow of the
Houses of Parliament and the royal residence,—slums "whose atmosphere is
typhus, and whose ventilation is cholera,"—and the sentiment of pity is
lost in one of fear. There you see on every side that despair and
recklessness which spring from want and neglect. Walk through Regent
Street, and the Haymarket, and the Strand in the evening, and you shall
be astonished at the gay dresses and painted cheeks that surround you.
The rummy atmosphere reëchoes with profanity from female lips. From time
to time you are obliged to shake off the vice and crinoline that seek to
be companions of your walk.

There is a distinguished prize-fighter here—one Benjamin Caunt. He keeps
a gin shop in St. Martin’s Lane, and rejoices in a profitable business
and the title of the "Champion of England." He transacted a little
business in the prize-fighting line over on the Surrey side of the river
a few days ago, and is to sustain the honour of England against another
antagonist to-morrow. During the entire week his gin shop has been
surrounded by admiring crowds, anxious to catch a glimpse of the hero.
And such crowds! It would be wronging the lowest of the race of
quadrupeds to call those people beastly and brutal wretches. Most
Americans think that the Bowery and Five Points can rival almost any
thing in the world for displays of all that is disgusting in society;
but London leaves us far behind. I stopped several times to note the
character of Mr. Caunt’s constituents. There were men there with flashy
cravats around necks that reminded me of Mr. Buckminster’s Devon
cattle—their hair cropped close for obvious reasons—moving about among
the crowd, filling the air with damns and brandy fumes. There were
others in a more advanced stage of "fancy" existence—men with all the
humanity blotted out of them, not a spark of intellect left in their
beery countenances. There were women drabbled with dirt, soggy with
liquor, with eyes artificially black. There were children pale and
stunted from the use of gin, or bloated with beer, assuming the swagger
of the blackguards around them, and looking as old and depraved as any
of them. It seemed as if hell were empty and all the devils were there.
The police—those guardians of the public weal, who are so efficient when
a poor woman is trying to earn her bread by selling a few apples—so
prompt to make the well-intentioned "move on"—did not appear to
interfere. They evidently considered the street to be blockaded for a
just cause, and looked as if, in aiding people to get a look at the
Champion of England, they were sustaining the honour of England herself.

And this is the same England that assumes to teach other nations the
science of benevolence. This is the same England that laments over the
tyranny of continental governments, and boasts of how many millions of
Bibles it has sent to people who could not read them if they would, and
would not if they could. This is the same England that turns up the
whites of its eyes at American slavery, and wishes to teach the King of
Naples how to govern. Why, you can spend months in going about the worst
quarters of the continental cities, and not see so much of vice and
poverty as you can in the great thoroughfares of London in a single day.
There is vice enough in every large city, as we all know; but in most of
them it has to be sought for by its votaries—in London it goes about
seeking whom it may devour. The press of England may try to advance the
interests of a prime minister anxious to get possession of Sicily by
slandering Ferdinand of Naples; but every body knows, who has visited
that fair kingdom, that there are few monarchs more public spirited and
popular with all classes of their subjects than he. Every body knows
that there is no class in that community corresponding to the
prize-fighting class in London—that the horrors of the mining districts
are unknown there, and that an English workhouse would make even an
Englishman blush when compared with those magnificent institutions that
relieve the poor of Italy. I had rather be sold at auction in Alabama
any day than to take my chance as a denizen of the slums of London, or
as a worker in the coal mines. I have no patience with this telescopic
philanthropy of the English, while there are abuses all around them so
much greater than those that disgrace any other civilized country. What
can be more disgusting than this pharisaical cant—this thanking God that
they are not as others are—extortioners and slaveholders—when you look
at the real condition of things? Englishmen always boast that their
country has escaped the revolutionary storm which has so many times
swept over Europe during this century, and would try to persuade people
that there is little or no discontent here. The fact is, the lower
classes in this country have been so ground down by the money power and
the force of the government, and are so ignorant and vicious, that they
cannot be organized into a revolutionary force. Walk through
Whitechapel, and observe the people there—contrast them with the
_blouses_ in the Faubourg St. Antoine—and you will acknowledge the truth
of this. The people in the manufacturing districts in France are,
indeed, far from being models of morality or of intellectual culture;
but they have retained enough of the powers of humanity to make them
very dangerous, when collected under the leadership of demagogues of the
school of Ledru Rollin. But the farming districts of France have
remained comparatively free from the infection of socialism and
infidelity. The late Henry Colman, in his agricultural tour, found
villages where almost the entire population went to mass every morning,
before commencing the labour of the day. But the degradation of the
labouring classes of England is not confined to the manufacturing towns;
the peasantry is in a most demoralized condition: the Chartist leaders
found nearly as great a proportion of adherents among the farm labourers
as among the distressed operatives of Birmingham and Sheffield; and
Mormonism counts its victims among both of those neglected classes by
thousands. It is, perhaps, all very well for ambitious orators to make
the House of Commons or Exeter Hall resound with their denunciations of
French usurpations, Austrian tyranny, Neapolitan dungeons, Russian
serfdom, and American slavery; but thinking men, when they note these
enthusiastic demonstrations of philanthropy, cannot help thinking of
England’s workhouses, the brutalized workers in her coal mines and
factories, and her oppressive and cruel rule in Ireland and in India;
and it strikes them as strange that a country, whose eyesight is
obstructed by a beam of such extraordinary magnitude, should be so
exceedingly solicitous about the motes that dance in the vision of its
neighbours.



ESSAYS.



STREET LIFE


Thomas Carlyle introduces his philosophical friend, Herr Teufelsdröckh,
to his readers, seated in his watch-tower, which overlooks the city in
which he dwells; and from which he can look down into that bee-hive of
human kind, and see every thing "from the palace esplanade where music
plays, while His Serene Highness is pleased to eat his victuals, down to
the low lane where in her doorsill the aged widow, knitting for a thin
livelihood, sits to feel the afternoon sun." He draws an animated
picture of that busy panorama which is ever unrolling before
Teufelsdröckh’s eyes, and moralizes upon the scene in the spirit of a
true poet who has struck upon a theme worthy of his lyre. And, most
assuredly, Thomas is right. The daisies and buttercups are all very well
in their way; but, as raw material for poetry, what are they to the
deep-furrowed pavement and the blackened chimney-pots of a city! In
spite of all our pantheistic rhapsodies, man is the noblest of natural
productions, and the worthiest subject for the highest and holiest of
poetic raptures. My old friend, the late Mr. Wordsworth, delighted to
anathematize the railway companies, and raved finely about Nature never
betraying the heart that loves her; he said that

      "——the sounding cataract
    Haunted him like a passion: the tall rock,
    The mountain and the deep and gloomy wood,
    Their colours and their forms, were then to him
    An appetite;—"

and confessed that to him

      "——the meanest flower that blows could give
    Thoughts that too often lie too deep for tears."

Yet notwithstanding all this, he was constrained to acknowledge when he
stood upon Westminster Bridge, and saw the vast, dingy metropolis of
Britain wearing like a garment the beauty of the morning, that

    "Earth has not anything to show more fair,—
    Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
    A sight so touching in its majesty."

When I was a young man, it was my delight to brush with early steps the
dew away, and meet the sun upon the upland lawn. There was a romantic
feeling about it that I liked, and I did not object to wet feet. But I
have long since put away that depraved taste, although the recent
application of India rubber to shoeing purposes has obviated the
inconvenience of its gratification. Now, I am contented if I can find a
level pavement and a clean crossing, and will gladly give up the woods
and verdant fields to less prosaic and more youthful people. Your gout
is a sad interferer with early poetical prejudices—but in my own case it
has shown me that all such things, like most of our youthful notions,
are mere fallacies. It has convinced me that the poetical abounds rather
in the smoky, narrow streets of cities, than in the green lanes, the
breezy hills, and the broad fields of the country. Like the toad, ugly
and venomous, that fell disease is not without its jewel. It has
reconciled me to life in town, and has shown me all its advantages and
beauties.

If it be true that "the proper study of mankind is man," then are the
crowded streets of the city more improving and elevating to us (if
rightly meditated upon) than the academic groves. If you desire
society,—in a city you may find it to your taste, however fastidious you
may be. If you are a lover of solitude, where can you be more solitary
than in the very whirl of a multitude of people intent upon their own
pursuits, and all unknown to you! That honey-tongued doctor, St.
Bernard, said that he was never less alone than when alone—a sentiment
which, in its reversed form, might be uttered by any denizen of a
metropolis. I always loved solitude: the old monastic inscription was
always a favourite motto of mine:—

    "O beata solitudo!
    O sola beatitudo!"

But I have never found any solitude like the streets of a large city. I
have walked in the cool, quiet cloister of _Santa Maria degli Angeli_,
built amid the ruins of the baths of Diocletian, and—though my footfall
was the only sound save the rustling of the foliage, and the song of the
birds, and the bubbling of a fountain which seemed tired with its
centuries of service, and which seemed to make the stillness and repose
of that spacious quadrangle more profound—I could not feel so perfectly
alone there as I have often felt in the thronged Boulevards or the busy
Strand. Place a mere worldling in those holy precincts, and he would
summon mentally around him the companions of his past pleasures, and his
worldliness would be increased by his thus being driven to his only
resources for overcoming the ungrateful quiet of the place. Introduce a
religious man to those consecrated shades, and his devotion would be
quickened; he would soon forget the world which he had not loved and
which had not loved him, and his face would soon be as unwrinkled, his
eye as serene, as those of the monks who dwell there. But place either
of them in the most crowded thoroughfare of the city, and the worldling
would be made for a time as meditative as the other. When I was a child,
I delighted to watch the busy inhabitants of an ant-hill, pursuing their
various enterprises with an intentness almost human; and I should be
tempted to continue my observations of them, were it not that the
streets of my native city offer me a similar, but a more interesting
study. Xerxes, we are told, shed tears when he saw his army drawn up
before him, and reflected that not one of all that mighty host would be
alive a century after. Who could ride from Paddington to London Bridge,
through the current of human life that flows ceaselessly through the
streets of that great city, without sharing somewhat in the feelings of
that tender-hearted monarch?

What are all the sermons that ever were preached from a pulpit, compared
to those which may be found in the stones of a city? When we visit
Pompeii and Herculaneum, we are thrilled to notice the ruts made by the
wheels of chariots centuries ago. The original pavement of the Appian
Way, now for some distance visible, carries us back more than almost any
of the other antiquities of Rome, to the time when it was trodden by
captive kings, and re-echoed with the triumphal march of returning
conquerors. I pity him in whom these things awaken no new train of
thought. The works of man have outlived their builders by centuries, and
still remain a solemn testimony to the power and the nothingness which
originated them. Nineveh, Thebes, Troy, Carthage, Tyre, Athens, Rome,
London, Paris, have won the crown in their turn, and have passed or will
pass away. The dilapidated sculptures of the former have been taken to
adorn the museums of the latter, and crowds have gazed and are gazing on
them with curious eyes, unmindful of their great lesson of the
transitoriness of the glory of the world. These are, indeed, "sermons in
stones"; but, like most other sermons, we look rather at their style of
finish, than at the deep meaning with which they are so pregnant.

But I did not take up my pen to write about dead cities; I have somewhat
to say about the life that now renders the streets of our own towns so
pleasant, and makes us so forgetful of their inevitable fate. I am not
going to claim for the street life of our new world the charms which
abound in the ancient cities of Europe. We are too much troubled about
many things, and too utilitarian to give thought to those lesser graces
which delight us abroad, and which we hardly remember until we come home
and miss them. Our street architecture, improved though it may have been
within a few years, is yet far behind the grace and massive symmetry of
European towns. Our builders and real estate owners need to be reminded
that it costs no more to build in good taste than in bad; that brick
work can be made as architectural as stone; and that architecture is a
great public instructor, whose works are constantly open to the public
eye, and from which we are learning lessons, good or bad, whether we
will or not. I think it is Goethe who calls architecture frozen music. I
am glad to see these tall piles rearing their ornamented fronts on every
side of us, even though they are intended for purposes of trade; for
every one of them is a reproach to the untasteful structures around it,
and an example which future builders must copy, if they do not surpass.
The quaint beauty which charms us in Rouen, and in the old towns of
Belgium,—the high pitched gables leaning over, as if yearning to get
across the narrow street,—these all belong to another age, and we may
not possess them; but the architecture which, in its simplicity or its
magnificence, speaks its adaptedness to our climate and our social
wants, is within our reach, and is capable of making our cities equal to
any in the world.

I have a great liking for streets. In the freshness of morning, the
glare of noonday, and the coolness of evening, they have an equal charm
for me. I like that market-carty period of the day, before Labour has
taken up his shovel and his hoe, before the sun has tipped the chimneys
with gold, and reinspired the dolorous symphony of human toil, just as
his earliest beams were wont to draw supernal melodies from old Memnon’s
statue. There is a holy quiet in that hour, which, could we preserve it
in our minds, would keep us clear from many a wrong and meanness, into
which the bustle and the heat of passion betray us, and would sanctify
our day. In that time, the city seems wrapped in a silent ecstasy of
adoration. The incense of its worship curls up from innumerous chimneys,
and hangs over it like the fragrant cloud which hovers over the altars
where saints have prayed, and religion’s most august rites have been
celebrated for centuries. In the continental cities, large numbers of
people may be seen at that early hour repairing to the churches. They
are drawn together by no spasmodic, spiritual stimulation; they do not
assemble to hear their fellow-sinners tell with nasal twang how bad they
were once, and how good they are now, nor to implore the curse of Heaven
upon those who differ from them in their belief or disbelief. They kneel
beneath those consecrated arches, joining in a worship in which scarce
an audible word is uttered, and drawing from it new strength to tread
the thorns of life. In our own cities, too, people—generally of the
poorer classes—may be seen wending their way in the early morning to
churches and chapels, humbler than the marble and mosaic sanctuaries of
Europe, but one with them in that faith and worship which radiates from
the majestic Lateran basilica, (_omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater
et caput_,) and encircles the world with its anthems and supplications.

A little later in the morning, and the silence is broken by the
clattering carts of the dispensers of that fluid without which custards
would be impossible. The washing of doorsteps and sidewalks, too, begins
to interfere with your perambulations, and to dim the lustre which No.
97, High Holborn, has imparted to your shoes. Bridget leans upon her wet
broom, and talks with Anne, who leaves her water-pail for a little
conference, in which the affairs of the two neighbouring families of
Smith and Jenkins receive, you may be sure, due attention. Men smoking
short and odorous pipes, and carrying small, mysterious-looking tin
pails, begin to awaken the echoes with their brogans, and to prove him a
slanderer who should say they have no music in their soles. Newspaper
carriers, bearing the damp chronicles of the world’s latest history
bestrapped to their sides, hurry along, dispensing their favours into
areas and doorways, seasoning my friend Thompson’s breakfast with the
reports of the councils of kings, or with the readable inventions of
"our own correspondent," and delighting the gentle Mrs. Thompson with a
full list of deaths and marriages, or another fatal railway accident.
Then the omnibuses begin to rattle and jolt along the streets, carrying
such masculine loads that they deserve for the time to be called mail
coaches. Later, an odour as of broiled mackerel salutes the sense;
school children, with their shining morning faces, begin to obstruct
your way, and the penny postman, with his burden of joy and sorrow,
hastens along and rings peremptorily at door after door. Then the
streets assume by degrees a new character. Toil is engaged in its
workshops and in by-places, and staid respectability, in its broadcloth
and its glossy beaver, wends its deliberate way to its office or its
counting-house, unhindered by aught that can disturb its equanimity,
unless, perchance, it meets with a gang of street-sweepers in the full
exercise of their dusty avocation.

Who can adequately describe that most inalienable of woman’s rights—that
favourite employment of the sex—which is generally termed _shopping_?
Who can describe the curiosity which overhauls a wilderness of dress
patterns, and the uncomplaining patience of the shopman who endeavours
to suit the lady so hard to be suited,—his well-disguised disappointment
when she does not purchase, and her husband’s exasperation when she
does? Not I, most certainly, for I detest shops, have little respect for
fashions, lament the necessity of buying clothes, and wish most heartily
that we could return to the primeval fig-leaves.

I love the by-streets of a city—the streets whose echoes are never
disturbed by the heavy-laden wagons which bespeak the greatness of our
manufacturing interests. Formerly the houses in such streets wore an air
of sobriety and respectability, and the good housewifery which reigned
within was symbolized by the bright polish of the brass door-plate, or
bell-pull, or knocker. Now they are grown more pretentious, and the
brass has given place to an outward and visible sign of silver. But the
streets retain their old characteristics, and are strangers to any sound
more inharmonious than the shouts of sportive children, or the tones of
a hand-organ. I do not profess to be a musical critic, but I have been
gifted by nature with a tolerable idea of time and tune; yet I am not
ashamed to say that I do not despise hand-organs. They have given me
"Sweet Home" in the cities of Italy, Yankee Doodle in the Faubourg St.
Germain; and the best melodies of Europe’s composers are daily ground
out under my windows. I have no patience with these canting people who
talk about productive labour, and who see in the organ-grinder who limps
around, looking up expectantly for the remunerating copper, only a
vagabond whom it is expedient for the police to counsel to "move on."
These peripatetic dispensers of harmony are full as useful members of
society as the majority of our legislators, and have a far more
practical talent for organization. Douglas Jerrold once said that he
never saw an Italian image merchant, with his Graces, and Venuses, and
Apollos at sixpence a head, that he did not spiritually touch his hat to
him: "It is he who has carried refinement into the poor man’s house; it
is he who has accustomed the eyes of the multitude to the harmonious
forms of beauty." Let me apply these kindly expressions of the dead
dramatist and wit to the organ-grinders. They have carried music into
lanes and slums, which, without them, would never have known any thing
more melodious than a watchman’s rattle, and have made the poorest of
our people familiar with harmonies that might "create a soul under the
ribs of death." Occasionally their music may be instrumental in
producing a feeling of impatience, so that I wish that their "Mary Ann"
were married off, and that Norma would "hear," and make an end of it;
but my better feelings triumph in the end, and I would not interfere
with the poor man’s and the children’s concert to hear a strain from St.
Cecilia’s viol. Let the grinders be encouraged! May the evil days
foretold in ancient prophecy never come among us, when the grinders
shall cease because they are few!

It is at evening that the poetic element is found most abundant in the
streets of cities. There is to me something of the sublime in the long
lines of glittering shop-windows that skirt Regent Street and the
Boulevards. Dr. Johnson exhorted the people who attended the sale of his
friend Thrale’s brewery, to remember that it was not the mere collection
of boilers, and tubs, and vats which they saw around them, for which
they were about to bargain, but "the potentiality of growing rich beyond
the dreams of avarice"; and, in a similar spirit, I see in the shop
windows not merely the silks and laces, and the other countless luxuries
and wonders which delight the eye of taste and form the source of wealth
to multitudes, but a vast exposition of the results of that industry,
which, next to religion and obedience to law, is the surest foundation
of national greatness, and which shows us, behind the frowning
Providence that laid on man the curse of labour, the smiling face of
divine beneficence. There, in one great collection, may be seen the
fruits of the toil of millions. To produce that gorgeous display,
artists have cudgelled their weary brains; operatives have suffered;
ship-masters have strained their eyes over their charts and daily
observations, and borne patiently with the provoking vagaries of the
"lee main brace"; sailors have climbed the icy rigging and furled the
tattered topsails with hands cracked and bleeding; for that, long trains
of camels freighted with the rich products of the golden East, "from
silken Samarcand to cedared Lebanon," have toiled with their
white-turbaned drivers across the parching desert; thousands of busy
hands have plied the swift shuttle in the looms of Brussels, and
Tournai, and Lyons; and thousands in deep and almost unfathomable mines
have suffered a living death. Manchester and Birmingham have been
content to wear their suit of mourning that those windows may be radiant
and gay. The tears, and sweat, and blood of myriads have been poured out
behind those shining panes transmuted into shapes that fill the beholder
with wonder and delight. "In our admiration of the plumage we forget the
dying bird." Nevertheless, above the roar and bustle of those whirling
thoroughfares, above the endless groan and "infinite fierce chorus" of
manhood ground down, and starving in bondage more cruel because it does
not bear the name of slavery, I hear the carol of virtuous and
well-rewarded labour, and the cheerful song of the white-capped
lace-makers of Belgium and the vine-dressers of Italy reminds me that
powerful wrong does not have every thing its own way even in this world.

I did intend to have gone farther in my evening walk; but time and space
alike forbid it. I wished to leave the loud roaring avenues for those
more quiet streets, where every sight and sound speak of domestic
comfort, or humble fidelity, or patient effort; where the brilliancy of
splendid mansions is but imperfectly veiled by rich and heavy draperies;
where high up gleams the lamp of the patient student, happy in his
present obscurity because he dreams of coming fame; and where the tan on
the pavement and the mitigated light from the windows are eloquent of
suffering and the sleepless affection that ministers to its unspoken
wants. But I must stop. If, however, I have shown one of my readers, who
regrets that he is obliged to dwell in a city, that there is much that
is beautiful in paved streets and smoke-stained walls, and that, if we
only open our eyes to see them, even though the fresh fields and waving
woods may be miles away, the beauties of nature daily fold us in their
bosom,—I shall feel that I have not tasked my tired brain and gouty
right hand entirely in vain.



HARD UP IN PARIS


Money, whatever those who affect misanthropy or a sublime superiority to
all temporal things may say to the contrary, is a very desirable thing.
We all enjoy the visit of the great Alexander to the contented
inhabitant of the imperishable tub, who was alike independent of the
good will and displeasure of that mighty monarch; we sympathize with all
the bitter things that Timon says when he is reduced from wealth to
beggary; and we are never tired of lamenting, with Virgil, that the
human heart should be such an abject prey to this accursed hunger for
gold. I am not sure that Horace would not be dearer to us, if he had
lived in a "three-pair-back" in some obscure street, and his deathless
odes had been inspired by fear of a shrewish landlady or an inexorable
sheriff, instead of being an honoured guest at the imperial court, and a
recipient of the splendid patronage of a Mæcenas and an Augustus.
Poetical justice seems to require a setting of the most cheerless
poverty for the full development of the lustre of genius. At least, we
think so, at times;—though, under it all, admire as we may the
successful struggles of the want-stricken bard,—we do not envy him his
penury. We should shrink from his gifts and his fame, if they were
offered to us with his sufferings. For underneath our abstract
magnanimity lurks the conviction that money is by no means a bad thing,
after all. Our enthusiasm is awakened by contemplating the
self-forgetful career of Francis of Assisi, who chose Poverty for his
bride, and whose name is in benediction among men, even six centuries
after he entered into possession of that kingdom which was promised to
the poor in spirit; and, if we should chance to see a more modern bearer
of that Christian name, who worshipped the wealth which the ancient
saint despised; who trampled down honest poverty in his unswerving march
towards opulence; who looked unmoved upon the tears of the widow and the
orphan; who exercised his sordid apostolate even to the last gasp of his
miserable life; and whose name (unblessed by the poor, and unhonoured by
canonization) became, in the brief period that it outlived him, a byword
and a synonyme of avarice,—we should not fail to visit his memory with a
cordial malediction. But, in spite of all our veneration for Francis,
the apostle of holy poverty, and of loathing for his namesake, the
apostle of unholy wealth, we cannot help wishing that we had a little
more of that which the Saint cast away, and the miser took in exchange
for his soul.

A little more—that is the phrase—and there is no human being, rich or
poor, who does not think that "a little more" is all that is needed to
fill up the measure of his earthly happiness. It is for this that the
gambler risks his winnings, and the merchant perils the gains of many
toilsome years. For this, some men labour until they lose the faculty of
enjoying the fruit of their exertions; and this is the _ignis fatuus_
that goes dancing on before others, leading them at last into that bog
of bankruptcy from which they never wholly extricate themselves. Enough
is a word unknown in the lexicon of those who have once tasted the joy
of having money at interest, and there are very few men who practically
appreciate the wisdom of the ancient dramatist who tells us that

    "He is most rich who stops at competence,—
    Not labours on till the worn heart grows sere,—
    Who, wealth attained, upon some loftier aim
    Fixes his gaze, and never turns it backward."

"Give me neither poverty nor riches," has been my prayer through life,
as it was that of the ancient sage; and it has always been my opinion
that a man who owns even a single acre of land within a convenient
distance of State Street or of the Astor House, is just as well off as
if he were rich. My petition has been answered: but it must be confessed
that when I mouse in the book shops, or turn over the rich portfolios of
the print dealers, I feel that I am poor indeed. I do not envy him who
can adorn the walls of his dwelling with the masterpieces of ancient or
modern art on their original canvas; but I do crave those faithful
reproductions which we owe to the engraver’s skill, and which come so
near my grasp as to aggravate my covetousness, and make me speak most
disrespectfully of my unelastic purse.

Few people have spent any considerable time abroad without being for a
season in straitened circumstances. A mistake may have been made in
reckoning up one’s cash, or a bill may be longer than was expected, or
one’s banker may temporarily suspend payment; and suddenly he who never
knew a moment’s anxiety about his pecuniary affairs finds himself
wondering how he can pay for his lodgings, and where his next day’s
beefsteak is coming from. It was my good fortune once to undergo such a
trial in Paris. I say good fortune—for, unpleasant as it was at the
time, it was one of the most precious experiences of my life. I do not
think that a true, manly character can be formed without placing the
subject in the position of a ship’s helm, when she is in danger of
getting aback; to speak less technically, he must (once in his life, at
least) be _hard up_.

I was younger in those days than I am now, and was living for a time in
the gay capital of France. My lodgings were in one of those quiet
streets that lead to the _Place Ventadour_, in which the Italian Opera
House stands. My room was about twelve feet square, was handsomely
furnished, and decorated with a large mirror, and a polished oaken floor
that rivalled the mirror in brilliancy. Its window commanded an
unobstructed view of a court-yard about the size of the room itself;
but, as I was pretty high up (on the second floor coming down) my light
was good, and I could not complain. As I write, it seems as if I could
hear the old _concierge_ blacking boots and shoes away down at the
bottom of that well of a court-yard, enlivening his toil with an
occasional snatch from some old song, and now and then calling out to
his young wife within the house, with a clear voice, "Marie!"—the accent
of the final syllable being prolonged in a preternatural manner. And
then out of the same depths came a melodious response from Marie’s
blithesome voice, that made me stop shaving to enjoy it—a voice that
seemed in perfect harmony with the cool breath and bright sky of that
sunny spring morning. Marie was a representative woman of her class. I
do not believe that she could have been placed in any honest position,
however high, that she would not have adorned. Her simplicity and good
nature conciliated the good will of every one who addressed her, and I
have known her quiet, lady-like dignity to inspire even some loud and
boastful Americans, who called on me, with a momentary sentiment of
respect. They appeared almost like gentlemen for two or three minutes
after speaking with her. Upon my honour, sir, it was worth considerably
more than I paid for my room to have the privilege of living under the
same roof with such a cheery sunbeam—to see her seated daily at the
window of the _conciergerie_ with a snow-white cap on her head and a
pleasant smile on her face; to interrupt her sewing, with an inquiry
whether any letters had come for me, and be charmed with her alacrity in
handing me the expected note, and the key of _numero dix-huit_. Her
nightly _Bon soir, M’sieur_, was like a benediction from a guardian
angel; her vivacious _Bon jour_ was an augury of an untroubled day; it
would have made the darkest, foggiest November afternoon seem as bright,
and fresh, and exhilarating as a morning in June. These are trifles, I
know, but it is of trifles such as these that the true happiness of life
is made up. Great joys, like great griefs, do not possess the soul so
completely as we think, as Wellington victorious, or Napoleon defeated,
at Waterloo, would have discovered, if, in that great hour, they had
been visited with a twinge of neuralgia in the head, or a gnawing
dyspepsia.

The influenza, or _grippe_, as the French call it, is not a pleasant
thing under any circumstances; but I think of a four days’ attack,
during which Marie attended to my wants, as a period of unmixed
pleasure. She seemed to hover about my sick bed, she moved so gently,
and her voice (to use the words of my former cherished friend, S. T.
Coleridge,) was like

        "——a hidden brook
      In the leafy month of June,
    That to the sleeping woods all night
      Singeth a quiet tune."

"Was it that Monsieur would be able to drink a little tea, or would it
please him to taste some cool lemonade?" _Hélas!_ Monsieur was too
_malade_ for that; but the kind attentions of that estimable little
woman were more refreshing than a Baltic Sea of the beverage that cheers
but does not inebriate, or all the aid that the lemon groves of Italy
could afford. Marie’s politeness was the genuine article, and came right
from her pure, kind heart. It was as far removed from that despicable
obsequiousness which passes current with so many for politeness, as
old-fashioned Christian charity is from modern philanthropy.

But—pardon my garrulity—I am forgetting my story. In a moment of kindly
forgetfulness I lent a considerable portion of my available funds to a
friend who was short, and who was obliged to return to America, _via_
England. I was in weekly expectation of a draft from home that would
place me once more upon my financial legs. One, two, three weeks passed
away, and the letters from America were distributed every Tuesday
morning, but there was none for me. It gave me a kind of faint sensation
when the clerk at the banker’s gave me the disappointing answer, and I
went into the reading-room of the establishment to read the new American
papers, and to speculate upon the cause of the unremitting neglect of my
friends at home. I shall never forget my feelings when, in the third
week of my impecuniosity, I found my exchequer reduced to the small sum
of eight francs. I saw the truth of Shakespeare’s words describing the
"consumption of the purse" as an incurable disease. I had many
acquaintances and a few friends in Paris, but I determined not to borrow
if it could possibly be avoided. Five days would elapse before another
American mail arrived, and I resolved that my remaining eight francs
should carry me through to the eventful Tuesday, which I felt sure would
bring the longed-for succor. I found a little dingy shop, in a narrow
street behind the Church of St. Roch, where I could get a breakfast,
consisting of a bowl of very good coffee and piece of bread (I asked for
the end of the loaf) for six sous. My dinners I managed to bring down to
the sum of twelve sous, by choosing obscure localities for the obtaining
of that repast, and confining myself to those simple and nutritious
viands which possessed the merit attributed to the veal pie by Samuel
Weller, being "werry fillin’ at the price." Sometimes I went to bed
early, to avoid the inconveniences of a light dinner. One day I dined
with a friend at his lodgings, but I did not enjoy his hospitality; I
felt guilty, as if I had sacrificed friendship to save my dwindling
purse. The coarsest bread and the most suspicious beef of the Latin
Quarter would have been more delicious to me under such circumstances
than the best ragout of the Boulevards or the Palais Royal.

Of course, this state of things weighed heavily upon my spirits. I heard
Marie tell her husband that Monsieur l’Anglais was _bien triste_. I
avoided the friends with whom I had been used to meet, and (remembering
what a sublime thing it is to suffer and be strong) sternly resolved not
to borrow till I found myself completely gravelled. It grieved me to be
obliged to pass the old blind man who played the flageolet on the _Pont
des Arts_ without dropping a copper into his tin box; but the severest
blow was the being compelled to put off my obliging washerwoman and her
reasonable bill. The time passed away quickly, however. The _Louvre_,
with its treasures of art, was a blessed asylum for me. It cost me
nothing, and I was there free from the importunities of distress which I
could not relieve. In the halls of the great public library—now the
_Bibliothèque Impériale_—I found myself at home. Among the studious
throng that occupied its vast reading rooms, I was as independent as if
my name had been Rothschild, or the treasures of the Bank of France had
been at my command. The master spirits with whom I there communed do not
ask what their votaries carry in their pockets. There is no
property-test for admission to the privileges of their companionship. I
felt the equality which prevails in the republic of letters. I knew that
my left hand neighbour was not, in that quiet place, superior to me on
account of his glossy coat and golden-headed cane, and that I was no
better than the reader at my right hand because he wore a blouse. I
jingled my two or three remaining francs in my pocket, and thought how
useless money was, when the lack of it was no bar to entrance into the
hallowed presence of

    "Those dead but sceptred sovereigns who still rule
    Our spirits from their urns."

I shall not soon forget the intense satisfaction with which I read in
the regulations of the library a strict prohibition against offering any
fees or gratuities whatever to its blue-coated officials.

At last the expected Tuesday morning came. My funds had received an
unlooked-for diminution by receiving a letter from my friend whose wants
had led me into difficulty. He was just embarking at Liverpool—hoped
that my remittance had arrived in due season—promised to send me a draft
as soon as he reached New York—envied my happiness at remaining in
Paris—and left me to pay the postage on his valediction. It would be
difficult for any disinterested person to conceive how dear the
thoughtless writer of that letter was to me in that unfortunate hour.
Then, too, I was obliged to lay out six of those cherished copper coins
for a ride in an omnibus, as I was caught in a shower over in the
vicinity of St. Sulpice, and could not afford to take the risk of a
rheumatic attack by getting wet. I well remember the cool, business-like
air with which that relentless _conducteur_ pocketed those specimens of
the French currency that were so precious in my sight. Yet, in spite of
these serious and unexpected drains upon my finances, I had four sous
left after paying for my breakfast on that memorable morning. I felt
uncommonly cheerful at the prospect of being relieved from my troubles,
and stopped several minutes after finishing my coffee, and conversed
with the tidy shopwoman with a fluency that astonished both of us. I
really regretted for the moment that I was so soon to be placed in
funds, and should no longer enjoy her kindly services. I chuckled
audibly to myself as I pursued my way to the banker’s, to think what an
immense joke it would be for some skilful Charley Bates or Artful Dodger
to try to pick my pocket just then. An ancient heathen expecting an
answer from the oracle of Delphos, a modern candidate for office
awaiting the count of the vote, never felt more oppressed with the
importance of the result than I did when I entered the banking-house. My
delight at having a letter from America put into my hands could only be
equalled by my dismay when I opened it, and found, instead of the draft,
a request from a casual acquaintance who had heard that I might possibly
return home through England, and who, if I did, would be under great
obligations if I would take the trouble to procure and carry home for
him an English magpie and a genuine King Charles spaniel!

I did not stop to read the papers that morning. As I was leaving the
establishment, I met its chief partner, to whom I could not help
expressing my disappointment. He was one of your hard-faced,
high-cheek-boned Yankees, with a great deal of speculation in his eyes.
I should as soon have thought of attempting the cultivation of figs and
dates at Franconia as of trying to get a small loan from _him_. So I
pushed on into those busy streets whose liveliness seemed to mock my
pitiable condition. I had come to it at last. I had got to borrow. A
physician, who now stands high among the faculty in Boston, was then
residing in Paris, and, as I had been on familiar terms with him, I
determined to have recourse to him. He occupied two rooms in the fifth
story of a house in the Rue St. Honoré. His apartments were more
remarkable for their snugness than for the extent of accommodation they
afforded. A snuff-taking friend once offered to present the doctor with
one of his silk handkerchiefs to carpet that parlour with. But the
doctor’s heart was not to be measured by the size of his rooms, and I
knew that he would be a friend in need. The _concierge_ told me that the
doctor had not gone out, and, in obedience to the instructions of that
functionary, I mounted the long staircase and _frapped_ at the door of
that estimable disciple of Galen. It was not my usual thrice-repeated
stroke upon the door; it was a timid and uncertain knock—the knock of a
borrower. The doctor said that he had been rather short himself for a
week or two, but that he should undoubtedly find a letter in the General
Post that morning that would place him in a condition to give me a lift.
This was said in a manner that put me entirely at my ease, and made me
feel that by accepting his loan I should be conferring an inestimable
favour upon him. As we walked towards the Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau, I
amused him with the story of the preceding week’s adventures. He laughed
heartily, and after a few minutes I joined with him, though I must say
that the events, as they occurred, did not particularly impress me as
subjects for very hilarious mirth. The doctor inquired at the _poste
restante_ in vain. His friends had been as remiss as mine, and we had
both got to wait another week. The doctor was not an habitually profane
man, but as we came through the court-yard of the post office, he
expressed his anxiety as to what the devil we should do. He examined his
purse, and found that his available assets amounted to a trifle more
than nineteen francs. He looked as troubled as he had before looked gay.
I generously offered him my four remaining coppers, and told him that I
would stand by him as long as he had a centime in his pocket. Such an
exhibition of magnanimity could not be made in vain. We stopped in front
of the church of Our Lady of Victories, and took the heroic resolve to
club our funds and go through the week of expectation together. And we
did it. I wish that space would allow of my describing the achievements
of that week. Medical books were cast aside for the study of domestic
economy. I do not believe that a similar sum of money ever went so far
before, even in Paris. We found a place in a narrow street, near the
Odeon, where fried potatoes were sold very cheap; we bought our bread by
the loaf, as it was cheaper—the loaves being so long that the doctor
said that he understood, when he first saw them, why bread was called
the staff of life. We resorted to all sorts of expedients to make a
franc buy as much as possible of the necessaries of life. We frequented
with great assiduity all places of public amusement where there was no
fee for admission. The public galleries, the libraries, the puppet shows
in the Champs Elysées, were often honoured with our presence. We made a
joke of our necessities, and carried it through to the end. The next
Tuesday morning found us, after breakfasting, on our way to the post
office, with a franc left in our united treasury. I had begun to give up
all hopes of our ever getting a letter from home, and insisted upon the
doctor’s trying his luck first. He was successful, but the severest part
of the joke came when he found that his letter (contrary to all
precedent) was not postpaid. The polite official at the window must have
thirty-two sous for it, and we had but twenty. Our laughter showed him
the whole state of the case, and we left him greatly amused at our
promises to return soon, and get the desirable prize. My application at
the banker’s was successful, too, and before noon we were both prepared
to laugh a siege to scorn. I paid the rosy-cheeked washerwoman, bought
Marie a neat crucifix to hang up in the place of a very rude one in her
_conciergerie_, out of sheer good humour; and that evening the doctor
and I laughed over the recollections of the week and a good dinner in a
quiet restaurant in the Palais Royal.



THE OLD CORNER


The human heart loves corners. The very word "corner" is suggestive of
snugness and cosy comfort, and he who has no liking for them is
something more or less than mortal. I have seen people whose ideas of
comfort were singularly crude and imperfect; who thought that it
consisted in keeping a habitation painfully clean, and in having every
book or paper that might give token of the place being the dwelling of a
human being, carefully out of sight. We have great cause for
thankfulness that such people are not common, (for a little wholesome
negligence is by no means an unpleasant thing,) so that we can say that
mankind generally likes to snuggify itself, and is therefore fond of a
corner. This natural fondness is manifested by the child with his
playthings and infantile sports, in one of which, at least, the
attractions of corners for the feline race are brought strongly before
his inquisitive mind. And how is this liking strengthened and built up
as the child increases in secular knowledge, and learns in the course of
his poetical and historical researches all about the personal history of
Master John Horner, whose sedentary habits and manducation of festive
pastry are famous wherever the language of Shakespeare and Milton is
spoken!

This love of nooks and corners is especially observable in those who are
obliged to live in style and splendour. Many a noble English family has
been glad to escape from the bondage of its rank, and has found more
real comfort in the confinement of a Parisian _entresol_ than amid the
gloomy grandeur of its London home. Those who are condemned to dwell in
palaces bear witness to this natural love of snugness, by choosing some
quiet sunny corner in their marble halls, and making it as comfortable
as if it were a cosy cottage. Napoleon and Eugenie delight to escape
from the magnificence of the Tuileries to that quiet and homelike refuge
for people who are burdened with imperial dignity, amid the thick
foliage and green alleys of St. Cloud. Even in that mighty maze, the
Vatican, the rooms inhabited by the Sovereign Pontiff are remarkably
comfortable and unpalatial, and prove the advantages of smallness and
simplicity over gilding and grandeur, for the ordinary purposes of life.
An American gentleman once called on the great and good Cardinal
Cheverus, and while talking with him of his old friends in America, said
that the contrast between the Cardinal’s position in the episcopal
palace of Bordeaux and in his former humble residence when he was Bishop
of Boston, was a very striking one. The humble and pious prelate smiled,
and taking his visitor by the arm, led him from the stately hall in
which they were conversing, into a narrow room furnished in a style of
austere simplicity: "The palace," said he, "which you have seen and
admired is the residence of the Cardinal Archbishop of Bordeaux; but
this little chamber is where John Cheverus _lives_."

Literary men and statesmen have always coveted the repose of a corner
where they might be undisturbed by the wranglings of the world.
Twickenham, and Lausanne, and Ferney, and Rydal Mount have become as
shrines to which the lover of books would fain make pilgrimages. Have we
not a Sunnyside and an Idlewild even in this new land of ours! Cicero,
in spite of his high opinion of Marcus Tullius, and his thirst for
popular applause, often grew tired of urban life, and was glad to
forsake the _Senatus populusque Romanus_ for the quiet of his snug villa
in a corner of the hill country overlooking Frascati. And did not our
own Tully love to fling aside the burden of his power, and find his
Tusculum on the old South Shore? In the Senate Chamber or the Department
of State you might see the Defender of the Constitution, but it was at
Marshfield that Webster really lived. Horace loved good company and the
entertainment of his wealthy patrons and friends, but he loved snugness
and quiet even more. In one of his odes he apostrophizes his friend
Septimius, and describes to him the delight he takes in the repose of
his Tiburtine retreat from the bustle of the metropolis, saying that of
all places in the world that corner is the most smiling and grateful to
him:—

    Ille terrarum mihi præter omnes
    Angulus ridet.

If we look into our hearts, I think we shall most of us find that we
have a clinging attachment to some favourite corner, as well as Mr.
Horatius Flaccus. There is at least one corner in the city of Boston,
which has many pleasant associations for the lover of literature.
Allusion was made a few days since, in an evening paper, to the
well-known fact that the old building at the corner of Washington and
School Streets was built in 1713, and is therefore older by seventeen
years than the Old South Church. That little paragraph reminded me of
some passages in the history of that ancient edifice related to me by an
ancestor of mine, for whom the place had an almost romantic charm.

The old building (my grandfather used to tell me) was originally a
dwelling-house. It had the high wainscots, the broad staircases, the
carved cornices, and all the other blessed old peculiarities of the age
in which it was built, which we irreverently have improved away. One
hundred years ago the old corner was considered rather an aristocratic
place of residence. It was slightly suburban in its position, for the
town of Boston had an affection for Copp’s Hill, and the inhabitants
clustered about that sacred eminence as if the southern parts of their
territory were a quicksand. Trees were not uncommon in the vicinity of
the foot of School Street in those days, and no innovating Hathorne had
disturbed the quiet of the place with countless omnibuses. The old
corner was then occupied by an English gentleman named Barmesyde, who
gave good dinners, and was on intimate terms with the colonial governor.
My venerated relative, to whom I have already alluded, enjoyed his
friendship, and in his latter days delighted to talk of him, and tell
his story to those who had heard it so often, that Hugh Greville
Barmesyde, Esquire, seemed like a companion of their own young days.

Old Barmesyde sprang from an ancient Somersetshire family, from which he
inherited a considerable property, and a remarkable energy of character.
He increased his wealth during a residence of many years in Antigua, at
the close of which he relinquished his business, and returned to England
to marry a beautiful English lady to whom he had engaged himself in the
West Indies. He arrived in England the day after the funeral of his
betrothed, who had fallen a victim to intermittent fever. Many of his
relations had died in his absence, and he found himself like a stranger
in the very place where he had hoped to taste again the joys of home.
The death of the lady he loved so dearly, and the changes in his circle
of friends, were so depressing to him, that he resolved to return to the
West Indies. He thought it would be easier for him to continue in the
associations he had formed there than to recover from the shock his
visit to England had given him. So he took passage in a brig from
Bristol to Antigua, and said farewell forever, as he supposed, to his
native land. Before half the voyage was accomplished, the vessel was
disabled: as Mr. Choate would express it, a north-west gale inflicted
upon her a serious, an immedicable injury; and she floated a wreck upon
the foamy and uneven surface of the Atlantic. She was fallen in with by
another British vessel, bound for Boston, which took off her company,
and with the renewal of the storm she foundered before the eyes of those
who had so lately risked their lives upon her seaworthiness. When Mr.
Barmesyde arrived in Boston, he found an old friend in the governor of
the Province of Massachusetts Bay. Governor Pownall had but lately
received his appointment from the Crown, and being a comparative
stranger in Boston, he was as glad to see Mr. Barmesyde as the latter
was to see him. It was several months before an opportunity to reach the
West Indies offered itself, and when one did occur, Mr. Barmesyde only
used it to communicate with his agent at Antigua. He had given up all
ideas of returning thither, and had settled down, with his negro servant
Cato, to housekeeping at the corner of School Street, within a few doors
of his gubernatorial friend.

Governor Pownall’s term of office was not a long one, but even when he
was removed, Mr. Barmesyde stuck faithfully to the old corner. He had
found many warm friends here, and could no longer consider himself alone
in the world. He was a man of good natural powers, and of thorough
education. He was one of those who seem never to lose any thing that
they have once acquired. In person he was tall and comely, and my
grandfather said that he somewhat resembled General Washington as he
appeared twenty-five years later, excepting that Mr. Barmesyde’s
countenance was more jolly and port-winy. From all I can learn, his
face, surmounted by that carefully-powdered head of hair, must have
resembled a red brick house after a heavy fall of snow. If Hugh
Barmesyde had a fault, I am afraid it was a fondness for good living. He
attended to his marketing in person, assisted by his faithful Cato, who
was as good a judge in such matters as his master, and who used to
vindicate the excellence of his master’s fare by eating until he was
black in the face. For years there were few vessels arrived from England
without bringing choice wines to moisten the alimentary canal of Mr.
Barmesyde. The Windward Isles contributed bountifully to keep alight the
festive flame that blazed in his cheery countenance, and to make his
flip and punch the very best that the province could produce. Every
Sunday morning Mr. Barmesyde’s best buckles sparkled in the sunbeams as
he walked up School Street to the King’s Chapel. Not that he was an
eminently religious man, but he regarded religion as an institution that
deserved encouragement for the sake of maintaining a proper balance in
society. The quiet order and dignity of public worship pleased him, the
liturgy gratified his taste, and so Sunday after Sunday his big manly
voice headed the responses, and told that its possessor had done many
things that he ought not to have done, and had left undone a great many
that he ought to have done.

Mr. Barmesyde was not a mere feeder on good things, however; he had a
cultivated taste for literature, and his invoices of wine were
frequently accompanied by parcels of new books. The old gentleman took a
great delight in the English literature of that day. Fielding and
Smollett were writing then, and no one took a keener pleasure in their
novels than he. He imported, as he used to boast, the first copy of Dr.
Johnson’s Dictionary that ever came to America, and was never tired of
reading that stately and pathetic preface, or of searching for the
touches of satire and individual prejudice that abound in that
entertaining work. His well-worn copy of the Spectator, in eight
duodecimo volumes, presented by him to my grandfather, now graces one of
my book shelves. His books were always at the service of his friends,
who availed themselves of the old gentleman’s kindness to such an extent
that his collection might have been called a circulating library. But it
was not merely for the frequent "feast of reason and flow of soul" that
his friends were indebted to him. He was the very incarnation of
hospitality. I am afraid that my excellent grandparent had an uncommon
admiration for this trait in the old fellow’s character, for a frequent
burning twinge in one of the toes of my right foot, and occasionally in
the knuckles of my left hand, reminds me of his fondness for keeping his
legs under Mr. Barmesyde’s festive mahogany. A few years ago, when a new
floor was laid in the cellar at the old corner, a large number of empty
bottles was discovered, whose appearance bore witness to the previous
good character of the place as a cellar. Some labels were also found
bearing dates like 1697, 1708, 1721, &c. To this day the occupants of
the premises take pleasure in showing the dark wine stains on the old
stairs leading to the cellar.

But Mr. Barmesyde’s happiness, like the _gioia de profani_, which we
have all heard the chorus in the last scene of Lucrezia Borgia
discordantly allude to, was but transient. The dispute which had been
brewing for years between the colonies and the mother country, began to
grow unpleasantly warm. Mr. B. was a stanch loyalist. He allowed that
injustice had been done to the colonies, but still he could not throw
off his allegiance to his most religious and gracious king, George III.,
Defender of the Faith. He was ready to do and to suffer as much for his
principles as the most ardent of the revolutionists. And he was not
alone in his loyalty. There were many old-fashioned conservative people
in this revolutionary and ismatic city in those days as well as now. The
publication in this city of a translation of De Maistre’s great defence
of the monarchical principle of government, (the Essay on the Generative
Principle of Political Constitutions,) and of the late Mr. Oliver’s
"Puritan Commonwealth," proves that the surrender of Cornwallis and the
formation of the Federal Constitution did not destroy the confidence of
a good many persons in the truth of the principles on which the
loyalists took their stand. The unfortunate occurrence in State Street,
March 5, 1770, gave Mr. B. great pain. He regretted the bloodshed, but
he regretted more deeply to see many persons so blinded by their hatred
of the king’s most excellent majesty, as to defend and praise the action
of a lawless mob just punished for their riotous conduct. The throwing
overboard of the tea excited his indignation. He stigmatized it (and not
without some reason on his side) as a wanton and cowardly act,—a
destruction of the property of parties against whom the town of Boston
had no cause of complaint,—a deed which proved how little real regard
for justice and honour there might be among those who were the loudest
in their shrieks for freedom. Of course he could not give utterance to
these sentiments without exciting the ire of many people; and feeling
that he could no longer safely remain in this country, he concluded to
return to England. In the spring of 1774, Hugh Greville Barmesyde gave
his last dinner to a few of the faithful at the old corner, and sailed
the next day with a sorrowing heart and his trusty Cato for the land of
his birth. He spent the remainder of his days in London, where he died
in 1795. He was interred in the vault belonging to his family, in the
north transept of the Parish Church of Shepton Mallet, in Somersetshire,
where there is still a handsome tablet commemorating his many virtues
and the inconsolable grief of the nephews and nieces whom his decease
enriched.

Some of the less orderly "liberty boys" bore witness to the imperfect
sympathy that existed between them and the late occupant of the old
corner, by breaking sundry panes of glass in the parlour windows the
night after his departure. The old house, during the revolutionary
struggle, followed the common prosaic course of ordinary occupancy.
There was "marrying and giving in marriage" under that steep and ancient
roof in those days, and troops of clamorous children used to play upon
the broad stone steps, and tarnish the brasses that Cato was wont to
keep so clean and bright. In the latter part of the last century the old
house underwent a painful transformation. An enterprising apothecary
perverted it to the uses of trade, and decorated its new windows with
the legitimate jars of various coloured fluids. It is now nearly half a
century since it became a bookstore. Far be it from me to offer any
disturbance to the modesty of my excellent friends, Messrs. Ticknor and
Fields, by enlarging upon the old corner in its present estate. It were
useless to write about any thing so familiar. They are young men yet,
and must pardon me if I have used the prerogative of age and spoken too
freely about their old establishment and its reminiscences. I love the
old corner, and should not hesitate to apply to it the words of Horace
which I have quoted above. I love its freedom from pretence and
ostentation. New books seem more grateful to me there than elsewhere;
for the dinginess of Paternoster Row harmonizes better with literature
than the plate glass and gairish glitter of Piccadilly or Regent Street.

The large looking-glass which stands near the Washington Street entrance
to the old corner used to adorn the dining-room where Mr. Barmesyde gave
so many feasts. It is the only relic of that worthy gentleman now
remaining under that roof. If that glass could only publish its
reflexions during the past century, what an entertaining work on the
curiosities of literature and of life it might make! It is no ordinary
place that may boast of having been the familiar resort of people like
Judge Story, Mr. Otis, Channing, Kirkland, Webster, Choate, Everett,
Charles Kemble and the elder Vandenhoff with their gifted daughters,
Ellen Tree, the Woods, Finn, Dickens, Thackeray, James, Bancroft,
Prescott, Emerson, Brownson, Dana, Halleck, Bryant, Hawthorne,
Longfellow, Holmes, Lowell, Willis, Bayard Taylor, Whipple, Parkman,
Hilliard, Sumner, Parsons, Sprague, and so many others whose names will
live in literature and history. It is a very pleasant thing to see
literary men at their ease, as they always are around those old
counters. It is a relief to find that they can throw off at times the
dignity and restraint of authorship. It is pleasant to see the lecturer
and the divine put away their tiresome earnestness and severe morality,
and come down to the jest of the day. It refreshes one to know that Mr.
Emerson is not always orphic, and that the severely scholastic Everett
can forget his elegant and harmonious sentences, and descend to common
prose. For we can no more bear to think of an orator living unceasingly
in oratory than we could of Signorina Zanfretta being obliged to remain
constantly poised on the _corde tendue_.

The bust of Sir Walter Scott has filled the space above the mirror I
have spoken of, for many years. It is a fine work of Chantrey’s, and a
good likeness of that head of Sir Walter’s, so many _stories_ high that
one can never wonder where all his novels came from. Except this
specimen of the plastic art, and one of Professor Agassiz, there is
little that is ornamental in the ancient haunt. The green curtain that
decorates the western corner of the establishment is a comparatively
modern institution. It was found necessary to fence off that portion of
the shop for strict business purposes. The profane converse of the world
cannot penetrate those folds. Into that _sanctissimum sanctissimorum_ no
joke, however good, may enter. What a strange dispensation of Providence
is it, that a man should have been for years enjoying the good society
that abounds at that corner, and yet should seem to have so little
liking for a quiet jest as the estimable person who conceals his
seriousness behind that green curtain!

But every thing must yield to the law of nature, and the old corner must
share the common lot. Some inauspicious night, the fire-alarm will sound
for District III.; hoarse voices will echo at the foot of School Street,
calling earnestly on No. 3 to "hold on," and No. 9 to "play away"; where
erst good liquor was wont to abound water will more abound, and when the
day dawns Mr. Barmesyde’s old house will be an unsightly ruin,—there
will be mourning and desolation among the lovers of literature, and
wailing in the insurance offices in State Street. When the blackened
ruins are cleared away, boys will pick up scraps of scorched
manuscripts, and sell them piecemeal as parts of the original copy of
Hiawatha, or Evangeline, or the Scarlet Letter. In the fulness of time,
a tall, handsome stone or iron building will rise on that revered site,
and we lovers of the past shall try to invest it with something of the
unpretending dignity and genial associations of the present venerable
pile, which will then be cherished among our most precious memories.



SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF THEATRE ALLEY


We are all associationists. There is no man who does not believe in
association in some degree. For myself, I am firm in the faith. Let me
not be misunderstood, however; I do not mean that principle of
association which the late Mr. Fourier advocated in France, and Mr.
Brisbane in America. I do not believe in the utopian schemes which have
been ground out of the brains of philosophers who mistake vagueness and
impracticability for sublimity, and which they have misnamed
association. The principle of association to which I pay homage is one
which finds a home in every human heart. It is that principle of our
nature which, when the bereaved Queen Constance was mourning for her
absent child, "stuffed out his vacant garments with his form." It is
that principle which makes a man love the scenes of his boyhood, and
which brings tears to the eyes of the traveller in a foreign land, when
he hears a familiar strain from a hand organ, however harsh and out of
tune. Even the brute creation seems to share in it; the cat is sure to
be found in her favourite place at the fireside, while the tea kettle
makes music on the hob; the dog, too, (let Hercules himself do what he
may,) will not only have his day, but will have his chosen corner for
repose, and will stick to it, however tempting you may make other places
by a superabundance of door mats and other canine furniture. And the
tired cart horse, when his day’s labour is over, and he finds himself
once more in the familiar stall, with his provender before him—do you
not suppose that the associations of equine comfort by which he is
surrounded are dearer to him than any hopes of the luxury and splendour
of Her Britannic Majesty’s stables at Windsor could be? Ask him if he
would leave his present peck of oats for the chances of royal service,
and a red-waistcoated, white-top-booted groom to wait upon him, and I
will warrant you that he will answer _nay_!

There is no nation nor people that is free from this bondage of
association. We treasure General Jackson’s garments with respectful care
in a glass case in the Patent Office at Washington; in the Louvre, you
shall find preserved the crown of Charlemagne and the old gray coat of
the first Napoleon; and at Westminster Abbey, (if you have the money to
pay your admission fee,) you may see the plain old oaken chair in which
the crowned monarchs of a thousand years have sat. Go to Rome, and stand
"at the base of Pompey’s statua," and association shall carry you back
in imagination to the time when the mighty Julius fell. Stand upon the
grassy mounds of Tusculum, and you will find yourself glowing with
enthusiasm for Cicero, and wonder how you could have grown so sleepy
over _Quousque tandem_, &c., in your schoolboy days. Climb up the
Trasteverine steep to where the convent of San Onofrio suns itself in
the bright blue air of Rome, and while the monks are singing the divine
office where the bones of Tasso repose, you may fill your mind with
memories of the bard of the crusades, in the chamber where his weary
soul found the release it craved. Go to that fair capital which seems to
have hidden itself among the fertile hills of Tuscany; walk through its
pleasant old streets, and you shall find yourself the slave of many
pleasing associations. The very place where Dante was wont to stand and
gaze at that wondrous dome which Michel Angelo said he was unwilling to
copy and unable to excel, is marked by an inscription in the pavement.
Every street has its associations that appeal to your love of the
beautiful or the heroic. Walk out into the lively streets of that city
which stands at the head of the world’s civilization, and you are
overwhelmed with historic associations. You seem to hear the clatter of
armed heels in some of those queer old alleys, and the vision of Godfrey
or St. Louis, armed for the holy war, would not astonish you. The dim
and stately halls of the palaces are eloquent of power, and you almost
expect to see the thin, pale, thoughtful face of the great Richelieu at
every corner. Over whole districts, rebellion, and anarchy, and
infidelity, once wrote the history of their sway in blood, and even now,
the names of the streets, as you read them, seem to fill you with
terrible mementoes.

But to us, Americans, connected as we are with England in our
civilization and our literature, how full of thrilling associations is
London! From Whitehall, where Puritanism damned itself by the murder of
a king, to Eastcheap, where Mistress Quickly served Sir John with his
sherris-sack; from St. Saviour’s Church, where Massinger and Fletcher
lie in one grave, to Milton’s tomb in St. Giles’s, Cripplegate, there is
hardly a street, or court, or lane, or alley, which does not appeal by
some association to the student of English history or literature. He
perambulates the Temple Gardens with Chaucer; he hears the partisans of
the houses of York and Lancaster, as they profane the silence of that
scholastic spot; he walks Fleet Street, and disputes in Bolt Court with
Dr. Johnson; he smokes in the coffee-houses of Covent Garden with Dryden
and Pope, and the wits of their day; he makes morning calls in Leicester
Square and its neighbourhood, on Sir Philip Sidney, Hogarth, Reynolds,
and Newton; he buys gloves and stockings at Defoe’s shop in Cornhill;
and makes excursions with Dicky Steele out to Kensington, to see Mr.
Addison. Drury Lane, despite its gin, and vice, and squalour, has its
associations. The old theatre is filled with them. They show you, in the
smoky green-room, the chairs which once were occupied by Siddons and
Kemble; the seat of Byron by the fireside in the days of his
trusteeship; the mirrors in which so many dramatic worthies viewed
themselves, before they were called to achieve their greatest triumphs.

Every where you find men acknowledging in their actions their allegiance
to this great natural law. Our own city, too, has its associations. Who
can pass by that venerable building in Union Street, which, like a deaf
and dumb beggar, wears a tablet of its age upon its unsightly front,
without recalling some of the events that have taken place, some of the
scenes which that venerable edifice has looked down upon, since its
solid timbers were jointed in the year of salvation 1685? Who can enter
Faneuil Hall without a quickening of his pulse? Who can walk by the old
Hancock House, and not look up at it as if he expected to see old John
(the best writer on the subject of American independence) standing at
the door in his shad-bellied coat, knee-breeches, and powdered wig? Who
can look at the Old South Church without thinking of the part it played
in the revolution, and of the time when it was obliged to yield its
unwilling horsepitality to the British cavalry? Boston is by no means
deficient in associations. Go to Brattle Street, to Copp’s Hill, to
Mount Washington, to Deer Island,—though it must be acknowledged, the
only association connected with the last-named place is the Provident
Association.

If there be a fault in the Yankee character, I fear it is a lack of
sufficient respect for the memory of the past. Nature will have her way
with us, however we may try to resist her and trample old recollections
under foot. We worship prosperity too much; and the wide, straight
streets of western cities, with the telegraph posts standing like
sentinels on the edge of the sidewalks, and a general odour of
pork-packing and new houses pervading the atmosphere, seem to our
acquisitive sense more beautiful than the sculptured arch, the
moss-grown tower, the quaint gable, and all the summer fragrance of the
gardens of the Tuileries or the _Unterdenlinden_. I am afraid that we
almost deserve to be classed with those who (as Mr. Thackeray says)
"have no reverence except for prosperity, and no eye for any thing but
success."

Many are kindled into enthusiasm by meditating upon the future of this
our country,—"the newest born of nations, the latest hope of
mankind,"—but for myself I love better to dwell on the sure and
unalterable past, than to speculate upon the glories of the coming
years. While I was young, I liked, when at sea, to stand on the
top-gallant forecastle, and see the proud ship cut her way through the
waves that playfully covered me with spray; but of late years my
pleasure has been to lean over the taffrail and muse upon the subsiding
foam of the vessel’s wake. The recollection even of storms and dangers
is to me more grateful than the most joyful anticipation of a fair wind
and the expected port. With these feelings, I cannot help being moved
when I see so many who try to deaden their natural sensibility to old
associations. When the old Province House passed into the hands of the
estimable Mr. Ordway, I congratulated him on his success, but I mourned
over the dark fate of that ancient mansion. I respected it even in its
fallen state as an inn,—for it retained much of its old dignity, and the
ghosts of Andros and his predecessors seemed to brush by you in its high
wainscoted passages and on its broad staircases; but it did seem the
very ecstasy of sacrilege to transform it into a concert-room. I
rejoiced, however, a few years since, when the birthplace of B.
Franklin, in Milk Street, was distinguished by an inscription to that
effect in letters of enduring stone. That was a concession to the
historic associations of that locality which the most sanguine could
hardly have expected from the satinetters of Milk Street.

But I am forgetting my subject, and using up my time and ink in the
prolegomena. My philosophy of association received a severe blow last
week. It was a pleasant day, and I hobbled out on my gouty timbers for a
walk. I wandered into Franklin Place, but it was not the Franklin Place
of my youth. The rude hand of public improvement had not been kept even
from that row of houses which, when I was a boy, was thought an ornament
to our city, and was dignified with the name of the Tontine Buildings.
Franklin Place looked as if two or three of its front teeth had been
knocked out. I walked on, and my sorrow and dismay were increased to
find that the last vestige of Theatre Alley had disappeared. It was bad
enough when the old theatre and the residence of the Catholic bishops of
Boston were swept away: I still clung to the old alley, and hoped that
it would not pass away in my time—that before the old locality should be
improved into what the profane vulgar call sightliness and
respectability, I should (to use the common expressions of one of our
greatest orators, who, in almost every speech and oration that he has
made for some years past, has given a sort of obituary notice of himself
before closing) have been "resting in peace beneath the green sods of
Mount Auburn," or should have "gone down to the silent tomb."

Do not laugh, beloved reader, at the tenderness of my affection for that
old place. There is a great deal of romance of a quiet and genial kind
about Theatre Alley. As I first remember it, commerce had not encroached
upon its precincts; no tall warehouses shut out the light from its
narrow footway, and its planks were unencumbered by any intrusive bales
or boxes. Old Dearborn’s scale factory was the only thing to remind one
of traffic in that neighbourhood, which struck a balance with fate by
becoming more scaley than before, when Dearborn and his factory passed
away. The stage door of the theatre was in the alley, and the walk from
thence, through Devonshire Street, to the Exchange Coffee House, which
was the great hotel of Boston at that time, was once well known to many
whose names are now part of the history of the drama. How often was I
repaid for walking through the alley by the satisfaction of meeting
George Frederick Cooke, the elder Kean, Finn, Macready, Booth, Cooper,
Incledon, old Mathews, or the tall, dignified Conway—or some of that
goodly company that made Old Drury classical to the play-goers of forty
years ago.

The two posts which used to adorn and obstruct the entrance to the alley
from Franklin Street, when they were first placed there, were an
occasion of indignation to a portion of the public, and of anxiety and
vexation to Mr. Powell, the old manager. That estimable gentleman had
often been a witness to the terror of the children and of those of the
weaker sex (I hope that I shall be forgiven by the "Rev. Antoinette
Brown" for using such an adjective) who sometimes met a stray horse or
cow in the alley; so he placed two wooden posts just beyond the theatre,
to shut out the dreaded bovine intruders. But the devout Hibernians who
used to worship at the church in Franklin Street could not brook the
placing of any such obstacles in their way to the performance of their
religious duties; and they used to cut the posts down as often as Mr.
Powell set them up, until he took refuge in the resources of science,
and covered and bound them with the iron bands which imprisoned them up
to a very recent period.

Old Mr. Stoughton, the Spanish consul, used to occupy the first house in
Franklin Street above the alley, behind which his garden ran back for
some distance. How little that worthy gentleman thought that his tulip
beds and rose bushes would one day give place to a dry goods shop! Señor
Stoughton was one of the urbanest men that ever touched a hat. If he met
you in the morning, the memory of his bland and gracious salutation
never departed from you during the day, and seemed to render your sleep
sweeter at night. He always treated you as if you were a prince in
disguise, and he were the only person in the secret of your incognito.
He enjoyed the intimate friendship of that great and good man, Dr.
Cheverus, the first Bishop of Boston, who was afterwards transferred to
the archiepiscopal see of Bordeaux, and decorated with the dignity of a
Prince of the Church. He, too, often walked through the old alley. The
children always welcomed his approach. They respected Don Stoughton;
Bishop Cheverus they loved. His very look was a benediction, and the
mere glance of his eye was a _Sursum corda_. That calm, wise, benignant
face always had a smile for the little ones who loved the neighbourhood
of that humble Cathedral, and the pockets of that benevolent prelate
never knew a dearth of sugar plums. Years after that happy time, a
worthy Protestant minister of this vicinity—who was blessed with few or
none of those prejudices against "Romanism" which are nowadays
considered a necessary part of a minister’s education—visited Cardinal
Cheverus in his palace at Bordeaux, and found him keenly alive to every
thing that concerned his old associations and friends in Boston. He
declared, with tears in his eyes, and with that air of sincerity that
marked every word he spoke, that he would gladly lay down the burden of
the honour and power that then weighed upon him, to return to the care
of his little New England flock. Now, Cardinal Cheverus was a man of
taste and of kind feelings, and I will warrant you that when he thought
of Boston, Theatre Alley was included among his associations, and
enjoyed a share in his affectionate regrets.

Mrs. Grace Dunlap’s little shop was an institution which many considered
to be coexistent with the alley itself. It was just one of those places
that seem in perfect harmony with Theatre Alley as it was twenty-five
years ago. It was one of those shops that always seem to shun the
madding crowd’s ignoble strife, and seek a refuge in some cool
sequestered way. The snuff and tobacco which Mrs. Dunlap used to
dispense were of the best quality, and she numbered many distinguished
persons among her customers. The author of the History of Ferdinand and
Isabella was often seen there replenishing his box, and exchanging kind
courtesies with the fair-spoken dealer in that fragrant article which is
productive of so many bad voices and so much real politeness in European
society. Mrs. Dunlap herself was a study for an artist. Her pleasant
face, her fair complexion, her quiet manner, her white cap, with its gay
ribbons, rivalling her eyes in brightness, were all in perfect keeping
with the scrupulous neatness and air of repose that always reigned in
her shop. Her parlour was as comfortable a place as you would wish to
see on a summer or a winter day. It had a cheerful English look that I
always loved. The plants in the windows, the bird cage, the white
curtains, the plain furniture, that looked as if you might use it
without spoiling it, the shining andirons, and the blazing wood fire,
are all treasured in my memory of Theatre Alley as it used to be. Mrs.
Dunlap’s customers and friends (and who could help being her friend?)
were always welcome in her parlour, and there were few who did not enjoy
her simple hospitality more than that pretentious kind which sought to
lure them with the pomp and vanity of mirrors and gilding. Her punch was
a work of art. But I will refrain from pursuing this subject further. It
is no pleasure to me to harrow up the feelings of my readers by dwelling
upon the joys of their _præteritos annos_.

When Mrs. Dunlap moved out of the alley, its glory began to decline.
From that day its _prestige_ seemed to have gone. Even before that time
an attempt had been made to rob it of its honoured name. Signs were put
up at each end of it bearing the inscription, "Odeon Avenue"; but the
attempt was vain, whether it proceeded from motives of godliness or of
respectability; nobody ever called it any thing but Theatre Alley. At
about that time nearly all the buildings left in it were devoted to the
philanthropic object of the quenching of human thirst. We read that St.
Paul took courage when he saw _three_ taverns. Who can estimate the
height of daring to which the Apostle of the Gentiles might have risen
had it been vouchsafed to him to walk through Theatre Alley. One of the
most frequented resorts there rejoiced in the name of "The Rainbow"—an
auspicious title, certainly, and one which would attract those who were
averse to the cold water principle. Some of the places were below the
level of the alley, and verified, in a striking manner, the truth of
Virgil’s words, _Facilis descensus taverni_. Among certain low persons,
not appreciative of its poetic associations, the alley at that time was
nicknamed "Rum Row"; and he was considered a hero who could make all the
ports in the passage through, and carry his topsails when he reached
Franklin Street. Various efforts were made at that period to bring the
alley into disrepute. Among others, a sign was put up announcing that it
was _dangerous passing_ through there; I fear that Father Mathew would
have thought a declaration that it was dangerous _stopping_, to have
been nearer the truth. But the daily deputations from the Old Colony and
Worcester Railways could not be kept back by any signs, and the alley
echoed to their multitudinous tramp every morning. Mr. Choate, too, was
faithful to the alley through good and evil report, and while there was
a plank left, it was daily pressed by his India rubbers. To such a lover
of nature as he, what shall take the place of a morning walk through
Theatre Alley!

But _venit summa dies et ineluctabile tempus_, and the old alley has
been swept away. During the past century how many thousands have passed
through it! how many anxious minds, engrossed with schemes of commercial
enterprises, how many hearts weary with defeat, how many kind, and
generous, and great, and good men, who have passed away from earthly
existence, like the alley through which they walked! But while I mourn
over the loss, I would not restore it if I could. When so many of its
old associations had been blotted out; when low dram-drinking dens had
taken the place of the ancient, quiet dispensatories of good cheer; when
grim and gloomy warehouses, with their unsocial, distrustful iron
shutters, had made the warm sunlight a stranger to it,—it was time for
it to go. It was better that it should cease to exist, than continue in
its humiliation, a reproach to the neighbourhood, and a libel upon its
ancient and honourable fame.



THE OLD CATHEDRAL


In many people who have been abroad, the mere mention of the old city of
Rouen is enough to kindle an enthusiasm. If you would know why this
is,—why those who are familiar with the cathedrals of Cologne, Milan,
Florence, and the basilicas of Rome, have yet so deep a feeling about
the old capital of Normandy,—the true answer is, that Rouen, with its
Gothic glories and the thrilling history of the middle ages written on
its every stone, was the first ancient city that they saw, and made the
deepest impression on their minds. They had left the stiff and
unsympathetic respectability of Boston, the tiresome cleanliness of
Philadelphia, or the ineffable filth of New York behind them; or
perchance they had been emancipated from some dreary western town, whose
wide, straight, unpaved streets seemed to have no beginning and to end
nowhere; whose atmosphere was pervaded with an odour of fresh paint and
new shingles, and whose inhabitants would regard fifty years as a highly
respectable antiquity,—and had come steaming across the unquiet Atlantic
to Havre, eager to see an old city. A short railway ride carried them to
one in which they could not turn a corner without seeing something to
remind them of what they had seen in pictures or read in books about the
middle ages. The richly-carved window frames, the grotesque faces, the
fanciful devices, the profusion of ornament, the shrines and statues of
the saints at the corners of the streets, and all the other picturesque
peculiarities of that queer old city, filled them with wonder and
delight. Those fantastic gables that seemed to be leaning over to look
at them, inspired them with a respect which all the architectural
wonders and artistic trophies of the continent are powerless to disturb.

It was not my fortune thus to make acquaintance with Rouen. I had
several times tasted the pleasure of a continental sojourn. The streets
of several of the great European capitals were as familiar to me as
those of my native city. Yet Rouen captivated me with a charm peculiarly
its own. I shall not easily forget the delicious summer day in which I
left Paris for a short visit to Rouen. That four hours’ ride over the
Western Railway of France was full of solid enjoyment for every sense.
The high cultivation of that fertile and unfenced country—the farmers at
work in the sunny broad-stretched fields—the hay-makers piling up their
fragrant loads—the château-like farm houses, looking as stately as if
they had strayed out of the city, and, getting lost, had thought it
beneath their dignity to inquire the way back—and those old compactly
built towns, in each of which the houses seem to have nestled together
around a moss-grown church tower, like children at the knees of a fond
mother,—made up a scene which harmonized admirably with my feelings and
with the day, "so calm, so cool, so bright, the bridal of the earth and
sky." My fellow-passengers shared in the general joy which the
blithesomeness of nature inspired. We all chatted merrily together, and
a German, who looked about as lively as Scott’s Commentaries bound in
dark sheep-skin, tried to make a joke. So irresistible was the contagion
of cheerfulness, that an Englishman, who sat opposite me, so far forgot
his native dignity, as to volunteer the remark that it was a "nice day."

At last we began to consult our watches and time tables, and, after a
shrill whistle and a ride through a long tunnel, I found myself, with a
punctuality by which you might set your Frodsham, in the station at
Rouen. I obeyed the instructions of the conductor to _Messieurs les
voyageurs pour Rouen_ to _descendez_, and was, in a very few minutes,
walking leisurely through narrow and winding streets, which I used to
think existed only in the imaginations of novelists and scene-painters.
I say walking, but the fact is, I did not know what means of locomotion
I employed in my progress through the town. My eyes and mind were too
busy to take cognizance of any inferior matters. My astonishment and
delight at all that met my sight was not so great as my astonishment and
delight to find myself astonished and delighted. I had seen so many old
cities that I had no thought of getting enthusiastic about Rouen, until
I found myself suddenly in a state of mental exaltation. I had visited
Rouen as many people visit churches and galleries of art in
Italy—because I had an opportunity, and feared that in after years I
might be asked if I had ever been there. But, if a dislike to
acknowledge my ignorance led me to Rouen, it was a very different
sentiment that took possession of me as soon as I caught the spirit of
the place. The genius of the past seemed to inhabit every street and
alley of that strange city. I half expected, whenever I heard the hoofs
of horses, to find myself encompassed by mailed knights; and if Joan of
Arc, with her sweet maidenly face beaming with the inspiration of
religious patriotism, had galloped by, it would not have surprised me so
much as it did to realize that I—a Yankee, clad in a gray travelling
suit, with an umbrella in my hand, and drafts to a limited amount on
Baring Brothers in my pocket—was moving about in the midst of such
scenes, and was not arrested and hustled out of the way as a profane
intruder.

Wandering through the mouldy streets without any definite idea whither
they led, and so charmed by all I saw, that I did not care, I suddenly
turned a corner and suddenly found myself in a market-place well filled
with figures, which would have graced a similar scene in any
opera-house, and facing that stupendous cathedral which is one of the
glories of France. I do not know how to talk learnedly about
architecture; so I can spare you, dear reader, any criticism on the
details of that great church. I have no doubt that it is full of faults,
but my unskilful eyes rested only on its beauties. I would not have had
it one stroke of the chisel less ornate, nor one shade less dingy. I
could not, indeed, help thinking what it must have been centuries ago,
when it was in all the glory of its fresh beauty; but still I rejoiced
that it was reserved for me to behold it in the perfected loveliness and
richer glory of its decay. Never until then did I fully appreciate the
truth of Mr. Ruskin’s declaration, that the greatest glory of a building
is not in its sculptures or in its gold, but in its age,—nor did I ever
before perfectly comprehend his eloquent words touching that mysterious
sympathy which we feel in "walls that have long been washed by the
passing waves of humanity."

After lingering for a while before the sacred edifice, I entered, and
stood within its northern aisle. Arches above arches, supported by a
forest of massive columns, seemed to be climbing up as if they aspired
to reach the throne of Him whose worship was daily celebrated there. The
sun was obscured by a passing cloud as I entered, and that made the
ancient arches seem doubly solemn. The stillness that reigned there was
rendered more profound by the occasional twitter of a swallow from some
"jutty frieze," or "coigne of vantage," high up above my head. I walked
half way up the aisle, and stopped on hearing voices at a distance. As I
stood listening, the sun uncovered his radiant face, and poured his
golden glory through the great western windows of the church, bathing
the whole interior with a prismatic brilliancy which made me wonder at
my presumption in being there. At the same moment a clear tenor voice
rang out from the choir as if the sunbeams had called it into being,
giving a wonderful expression to the words of the Psalmist, _Dominus
illuminatio mea et salus mea; quem timebo_. Then came a full burst of
music as the choir took up the old Gregorian Chant—the universal
language of prayer and praise. As the mute groves of the Academy reëcho
still the wisdom of the sages, so did that ancient church people my mind
with forms and scenes of an age long passed away. "I was all ear," and
those solemn strains seemed to be endowed with the accumulated melody of
the _Misereres_ and _Glorias_ of a thousand years.

I have an especial affection for an old church, and I pity with all my
heart the man whom the silent eloquence of that vast cathedral does not
move. The very birds that build their nests in its mouldering towers
have more soul than he. Its every stone is a sermon on the
transitoriness of human enterprise and the vanity of worldly hopes.
Beneath its pavement lie buried hopes and ambitions which have left no
memorial but in the unread pages of forgotten historians. Richard, the
lion-hearted, who made two continents ring with the fame of his valour,
and yearned for new conquests, was obliged at last to content himself
with the dusty dignity and obscurity of a vault beneath those lofty
arches which stand unmoved amid the contentions of rival dynasties and
the insane violence of republican anarchy.

But it was not merely to write of the glories of Rouen and its churches,
that I took up my neglected pen. The old cathedral of which I have now a
few kind words to say, does not, like that of Rouen, date back sixteen
centuries to its foundation; neither is it one of those marvels of
architecture in which the conscious stone seems to have grown naturally
into forms of enduring beauty. No great synods or councils have been
held within its walls; nor have its humble aisles resounded daily with
the divine office chanted by a chapter of learned and pious canons.
Indeed it bears little in its external appearance that would raise a
suspicion of its being a cathedral at all. Yet its plain interior, its
simple altars, and its unpretentious episcopal throne, bear witness to
the abiding-place of that power which is radiated from the shrine of the
Prince of the Apostles—as unmistakably as if it were encrusted with
mosaics, and the genius of generations of great masters had been taxed
in its adornment.

The Cathedral of Boston is the last relic of Franklin Street as I
delight to remember it. One by one, the theatre, the residence of the
Catholic bishops, and the old mansions that bore such a Berkeley
Square-y look of respectability have passed away; and the old church
alone remains. Tall warehouses look down upon it, as if it were an
intruder there, and the triumphal car of traffic makes its old walls
tremble and disturbs the devotion of its worshippers. An irreverent
punster ventured a few months since to suggest that, out of regard to
its new associations, it ought to be rededicated under the invocation of
St. Casimir, and to be enlarged by the addition of a chapel built in
honor of St. Pantaleone.

      Quid non mortalia pectora cogis,
    Joci sacra fames!

But it is well that it should follow the buildings with which it held
companionship through so many quiet years. The charm of the old street
has been destroyed, and the sooner the last monument of its former state
is removed the better it will be. The land on which it stands formerly
belonged to the Boston Theatre corporation. It was transferred to its
present proprietorship in the last week of the last century, and the
first Catholic church in New England was erected upon it. That church
(enlarged considerably by the late Bishop Fenwick) is the one which
still stands, and towards which I feel a veneration similar in kind to
that inspired by the cathedrals of the old world. Even now I remember
with pleasure how I used to enjoy an occasional visit to that strange
place in my boyhood. "Logic made easy" and "Geometry for Infant Schools"
were things unknown in my young days. I was weaned from the Primer and
Spelling-book with the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments, and the works of
Defoe, Goldsmith, Addison, and Shakespeare. Therefore the romantic
instinct was not entirely crushed out of my youthful heart, and it would
be difficult, dear reader, for you to conceive how much I found to feed
it on, within those plain brick walls.

The lamp which used to burn constantly before the altar, until an
anxiety for "improvement" removed it out of sight behind the pulpit,
filled me with an indescribable awe. I was ignorant of its meaning, and
for years was unaware that my childish reverence for its mild flicker
was a blind homage to one of the profoundest mysteries of the Catholic
faith. I remember to this day the satisfaction I took in the lighting of
those tall candles, and what a halo of mysterious dignity surrounded
even the surpliced boys grouped around that altar. That strange
ceremonial surpassed my comprehension. The Latin, as I heard it sung
there, was pronounced so differently from what I had been taught at
school, that it was all Greek to me. Yet, when I saw the devotion of
that congregation, and the pious zeal of the devoted clergymen who built
that church, I could not call their worship "mummery," nor join in the
irreverent laughter of my comrades at those ancient rites. There was
something about them that seemed to fill up my ideal of worship—a
soothing and consoling influence which I found nowhere else.

I never entertained the vulgar notion of a Catholic priest. Of course my
education led me to regard the dogmas of the Roman Church with any thing
but a friendly eye; but my ideas of the clergy of that Church were not
influenced by popular prejudice. I was always willing to believe that
Vincent de Paul, and Charles Borromeo, and Fénelon were what they were,
_in consequence_ of their religion, rather than _in spite_ of it, as
some people, who make pretensions to liberality, would fain persuade us.
When I recall the self-denying lives of the two founders of the Catholic
Church in Boston,—Matignon and Cheverus,—I wonder that the influence of
their virtues has not extended even to the present day, to soften
prejudice and do away with _irreligious_ animosity. They were regarded
with distrust, if not with hatred, when they first came among us to take
charge of that humble flock; but their devotedness, joined with great
acquirements and rare personal worth, overcame even the force of the
great Protestant tradition of enmity towards their office. Protestant
admiration kept pace with Catholic love and veneration in their regard,
and when they built the church which is now so near the term of its
existence, there were few wealthy Protestants in Boston who did not
esteem it a privilege to aid them with liberal contributions. The first
subscription paper for its erection was headed by the illustrious and
venerable name of John Adams, the successor of Washington in the
presidency of the United States.

The memory of the first Bishop of Boston, Dr. Cheverus, is (for most
Bostonians of my age) the most precious association connected with the
Cathedral. He was endeared to the people of this city by ten years of
unselfish exertion in the duties of a missionary priest, before he was
elevated to the dignity of the episcopate. His unwillingness to receive
the proffered mitre was as characteristic of his modest and humble
spirit, as the meekness with which he bore his faculties when the burden
of that responsibility was forced upon him. His "episcopal palace," as
he used facetiously to term his small and scantily-furnished dwelling,
which was contiguous to the rear of the church, was the resort of all
classes of the community. His simplicity of manner and ingenuous
affability won all hearts. The needy and opulent, the learned and
illiterate, the prosperous merchant and the Indians in the unknown wilds
of Maine, found in him a father and a friend. Children used to run after
him as he walked down Franklin Place, delighted to receive a smile and a
kind word from one whose personal presence was like a benediction.

His face was the index of a pure heart and a great mind. It was
impossible to look at him without recalling that fine stanza of the old
poet.—

    "A sweete attractive kind of grace,
    A full assurance given by lookes,
    Continuall comfort in a face,
    The lineaments of Gospel bookes;—
    I trow that countenance cannot lie
    Whose thoughts are legible in the eye."

One of the ancient Hebrew prophets, in describing the glories of the
millennial period, tells us that upon the bells of the horses shall be
the words, _Holiness unto the Lord_—a prophecy which always reminded me
of Cheverus; for that divine inscription seemed to have been written all
over his benign countenance as with the luminous pen of the rapt
evangelist in Patmos.

But Bishop Cheverus was not merely a good man—he was a great man. He did
not court the society of the learned, for his line of duty lay among the
poor; but, even in that humble sphere, his talents shone out brightly,
and won the respect even of those who had the least sympathy with the
Church to which his every energy was devoted. Boston valued him highly;
but few of her citizens thought, as they saw him bound on some errand of
mercy through her streets, that France envied them the possession of
such a prelate, that the peerage of the old monarchy was thought to need
his virtuous presence, and that the scarlet dignity of a Prince of the
Church was in reserve for that meek and self-sacrificing servant of the
poor. Had he been gifted with prophetic vision, his humility would have
had much to suffer, and his life would have been made unhappy, by the
thought of coming power and honour. He had given the best part of his
life to Boston, and here he wished to die. He had buried his friend and
fellow-labourer, Dr. Matignon, in the Church of St. Augustine at South
Boston, and when he placed the mural tablet over the tomb of that
venerable priest, he left a space for his own name, and expressed the
hope that, as they had lived together harmoniously for so many years,
they might not in death be separated. It was a strange sight to see more
than two hundred Protestants remonstrating against the translation of a
Catholic bishop from their city, and speaking of him in such terms as
these: "We hold him to be a blessing and a treasure in our social
community, which we cannot part with, and which, without injustice to
any man, we may affirm, if withdrawn from us, can never be replaced."
And when he distributed all that he possessed among his clergy, his
personal friends and the poor, and left Boston as poor as he had entered
it, with the single trunk that contained his clothes when he arrived,
twenty-seven years before,—public admiration outran the power of
language. Doctrinal differences were forgotten. Three hundred carriages
and other vehicles escorted him several miles on the road to New York,
where he was to embark.

Of his life as Bishop of Montauban, Archbishop of Bordeaux, a Peer of
France, and a Cardinal, there is not space for me to speak. Suffice it
to say, that amid all the dignities to which he was successively
promoted, he lived as simply and unostentatiously as when he dwelt in
Franklin Street; and that in time of pestilence and public distress he
showed the same unbounded charity which caused his departure from Boston
to be considered a public calamity. To the last day of his life he
maintained his interest in his American home, and would gladly have
relinquished all his dignities to return and minister at the altar of
the church he here erected. Throughout France he was honoured and
beloved, even as he had been in the metropolis of New England, and a
nation sorrowed at his death. Full as his life was of good works, it was
not in his eloquence, nor his learning, nor in the pious and charitable
enterprises which he originated, that the glory of Cardinal Cheverus
consisted; it was in the simplicity of his character and the daily
beauty of his life:—

    "His thoughts were as a pyramid up-piled,
    On whose far top an angel stood and smiled,
    Yet in his heart he was a little child."

The gentle and benevolent spirit of that illustrious prelate has never
departed from the church he built. When Channing died, and was buried
from the church which his eloquence had made famous, the successor of
Cheverus caused the bell of the neighbouring Cathedral to be tolled,
that it might not seem as if the Catholics had forgotten the friendly
relations which had existed between the great Unitarian preacher and
their first bishop. And when the good Bishop Fenwick was borne from the
old Cathedral, with all the pomp of pontifical obsequies, his courtesy
and regard for Dr. Channing’s memory was not forgotten, and the bell
which was so lately removed from the tower, where it had swung for half
a century, joined with that of the Cathedral in giving expression to the
general sorrow, and proved that no dogmatic differences had disturbed
the kindly spirit which Channing inculcated and had exemplified in his
blameless life.

Of the later history of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross I may not speak.
My youthful respect for it has in no degree diminished, and I shall
always consider it a substantial refutation of the old apothegm,
"Familiarity breeds contempt." There are, I doubt not, those who regard
that old edifice with deeper feelings than mine. Who can estimate the
affection and veneration in which it is held by those who may there have
found an asylum from harassing doubts, who have received from that font
the joy of a renovated heart, and from that altar the divine gift which
is at the same time a consolation for past sorrows and a renewal of
strength to tread the rough path of life!

I am told that it will not probably be long before the glittering cross
which the pure-hearted Cheverus placed upon the old church will be
removed, and the demolition of his only monument in Boston will be
effected. Permit me to conclude these reminiscences with the expression
of the hope that the new Cathedral of Boston will be an edifice worthy
of this wealthy city, and that it may contain some fitting memorial of
the remarkable man who exercised his beneficent apostolate among us
during more than a quarter of a century. The virtues which merited the
gratitude of the poor and the highest honours which pontiffs and kings
can bestow, ought not to go uncommemorated in the city which witnessed
their development, and never hesitated to give expression to its love
and veneration for their possessor. But whatever the new Cathedral may
be,—however glorious the skill of the architect, the sculptor, and the
painter may render it,—there are those in whose affections it will never
be able to replace the little unpretending church which Cheverus built,
and which the remembrance of his saintly life has embalmed in all their
hearts.



THE PHILOSOPHY OF SUFFERING


      I am old,
    And my infirmities have chained me here
    To suffer and to vex my weary soul
    With the vain hope of cure. * * *
    Yet my captivity is not so joyless
    As you would think, my masters. Here I sit
    And look upon this eager, anxious world,—
    Not with the eyes of sour misanthropy,
    Nor envious of its pleasures,—but content,—
    Yea, blessedly content, ’mid all my pains,
    That I no more may mingle with its brawlings.


Human suffering is an old and favourite theme. From the time when the
woes of Job assumed an epic grandeur of form, and the adventures and
pains of Philoctetes inspired the tragic muse of Sophocles, down to the
publication of the last number of the _London Lancet_, there would seem
to have been no subject so attractive as the sufferings of poor
humanity. Literature is filled with their recital, and, if books were
gifted with a vocal power, every library would resound with wailings.
Ask your neighbour Jenkins, who overtakes you on your way to your
office, how he is, and it is ten chances to one that he will entertain
you with an account of his influenza or his rheumatism. It is a subject,
too, which age cannot wither nor custom stale. It knows none of the
changes which will at times dwarf or keep out of sight all other themes.
The weather, which forms the raw material of so much conversation, is
nothing compared to it. There is nothing which men find so much pleasure
in talking about as their own ailments. The late Mr. Webster, of
Marshfield, was once stopping for a single day in a western city, where
he had never been before, and where there was a natural curiosity among
many of the inhabitants to see the Defender of the Constitution. He
therefore set apart two hours before the time of his departure for the
reception of such persons as might seek the honour of a shake of his
hand. The reception took place in one of the parlours of a hotel, the
crowd filing in at one door, being introduced by the mayor, and making
their exit by another. In the course of the proceedings, a little man,
with a lustrous beaver in one hand and a gold-headed cane in the other,
and whose personal apparel appeared to have been got up (as old Pelby
would have said) without the slightest regard to expense, and on a scale
of unparalleled splendour, walked forward, and was presented by the
mayor as "Mr. Smith, one of our most eminent steamboat builders and
leading citizens." Mr. Webster’s large, thoughtful, serene eyes seemed
to be completely filled by the result of the combined efforts of the
linen-draper, the tailor, and the jeweller, that confronted him, and his
deep voice made answer—"Mr. Smith, I am happy to see you. I hope you are
well, sir." "Thank you, thir," said the leading citizen, "I am not very
well. I wath tho unfortunate ath to take cold yethterday by thitting in
a draught. Very unpleathant, Mr. Webthter, to have a cold! But Mrs.
Smith thays that the thinks that if I put my feet in thome warm water
to-night, and take thome-thing warm to drink on going to bed, that I may
get over it. I thertainly hope tho, for it really givth me the headache,
and I can’t thmell at all." Mr. Webster expressed a warm interest in Mr.
Smith’s case, and a hope that Mrs. Smith’s simple medical treatment
would result beneficially, and then turned with undisturbed gravity to
the next citizen, who, with some six hundred others, was anxiously
waiting his turn. We are all like Mr. Smith. We laugh, it is true, at
his affectations, but we are as likely to force our petty ailments upon
a mind burdened with the welfare of a nation; and we never tire of
hearing ourselves talk about our varying symptoms. Politeness may hold
us back from importuning our friends with the diagnosis of our case, but
our self-centred hearts are all alike, and a cold in the head will
awaken more feelings in its victim than the recital of all the horrors
of the hospital of Scutari. Nothing can equal the heroic fortitude with
which we bear the sufferings of our fellows, or the saintliness of our
pious resignation and acquiescence in the wisdom of the divine decrees
when our friends are bending under their afflictive stroke.

I wish to say a few words about suffering. Do not be afraid, beloved
reader, that I am going to carry you into rooms from which the light is
excluded, and which are strangers to any sound above a whisper, or the
casual movement of some of the phials on the mantel-piece. I am going to
speak of suffering in its strict sense of pain,—bodily pain,—and
sickness is not necessarily accompanied with pain. I cannot regard your
sick man as a real sufferer. His fever rages, and he tosses from side to
side as if he were suffering punishment with Dives; but from the
incoherent phrases which escape from his parched lips, you learn that
his other self is rapt in the blissfulness that enfolds Lazarus. He
prattles childishly of other lands and scenes—he thinks himself
surrounded by friends whose faces once were grateful to his sight, but
who long since fell before the power with which he is struggling—or he
fancies himself metamorphosed into a favourite character in some
pleasant book which he has lately read. After a time he wakes forth from
his delirium, but he cannot even then be called a sufferer. On the
contrary, his situation, even while he is so entirely dependent upon
those around him, is really the most independent one in the world. His
lightest wish is cared for as if his life were the price of its
non-accomplishment. All his friends and kinsmen, and neighbours whom he
hardly knows by sight, vie with each other in trying to keep pace with
his returning appetite. He is the absolute monarch of all he surveys.
There is no one to dispute his reign. The crown of convalescence is the
only one which does not make the head that wears it uneasy. He has
nothing to do but to satisfy his longings for niceties, to listen to
kind words from dear friends, to sleep when he feels like it, and to get
better. I am afraid that we are all so selfish and so enslaved by our
appetites, that the period of convalescence is the pleasantest part of
life to most of us.

Therefore I shut out common sickness, fevers, and the like, from any
share in my observations on suffering. If you ask me what I should be
willing to consider real bodily pain,—since I am unwilling to allow that
ordinary sick men participate in it,—I should say that you can find it
in a good, old-fashioned attack of rheumatism or gout. I think it was
Horace Walpole who said that these two complaints were very much alike,
the difference between them being this: that rheumatism was like putting
your hand or foot into a vice, and screwing it up as tight as you
possibly can, and gout was the same thing, only you give the screw one
more turn. It is no flattery to speak of the victim to either of these
disorders as a sufferer. The rheumatic gout is a complaint which
possesses all the advantages and peculiarities which its compound title
denotes. It unites in itself all the potentiality of gout and all the
ubiquity of rheumatism. Its characteristics have been impressed upon me
in a manner that sets at defiance that weakness of memory which
generally accompanies old age. Sharp experience, increasing in sharpness
as my years pile up, makes that complaint a specialty among my
acquirements. These stinging, burning, cutting pains deserve the
superlative case, if any thing does. Language (that habitual bankrupt)
is reduced to a most abject state when called upon to describe rheumatic
gout. The disease does not seem to feel satisfied with poisoning your
blood by its aciduousness, it makes your flesh tingle and burn, and,
like the late Duke of Wellington, does not rest until it has conquered
the bony part. The very bone seems to be crumbling wherever the demon of
gout pinches. There are moments in the life of every gouty man when it
seems as if nothing would be so refreshing as to indulge for a while in
the use of that energetic diction, savouring more of strength than of
righteousness, which is common among cavalry troops and gentlemen of the
seafaring profession, but which, in society, is considered to be a
little in advance of the prejudices of the age. No higher encomium could
be passed upon a gouty man than to say that, with all his torments, he
never swore, and was seldom petulant. But there are very few whose
merits deserve this canonization.

But gout, with all its pains, has yet its redeeming characteristics.
That great law of compensation which reduces the inequalities of our
lot, and makes Brown, Jones, and Robinson come out about even in the
long run, is not inoperative here. The gout is painful, but its
respectability is unquestionable. It is the disease of a gentleman. It
is a certificate of good birth more satisfactory than any which the
Heralds’ College or the Genealogical Association can furnish. It is but
right, too, that the man who can date back his family history to
Plymouth or Jamestown in this country, and to Runnymede on the other
side of the Atlantic, should pay something for such a privilege. A man
may never have indulged in "the sweet poison of the Tuscan grape"
himself, but can he reasonably complain of an incontrovertible testimony
to the fact that his ancestors lived well! _Chacun à son goût_: for
myself, I should much prefer my honoured family name, with all its
associations with the brave knight who made it famous, accompanied by
the only possession which I have received by hereditary right, to the
most unequivocal state of health burdened with such a name as Jinkins.

Mentally and spiritually, the gout is far from being a useless
institution. It ripens a man’s judgment, and prunes away the radical
tendencies of his nature. It will convert the wildest of revolutionists
into the stiffest of conservatives. It teaches a man to look at things
as they really are, and not as enthusiasm would have them represented.
No gouty man would ever look to the New York Tribune as the exponent of
his religious or political creed. His complaint has a positive
character, and it makes him earnest to find something positive in
religion and politics. The negativeness of radicalism tires him. He
deprecates every thing like change. He thinks that religion, and
society, and government were established for some better end than to
afford a perpetual employment to the destructive powers of visionary
reformers and professional philanthropists. He longs to find constancy
and stability in something besides his inexorable disorder.

There is another disorder which people generally seem to consider a very
trifling affair, but which any one who knows it will allow to be
productive of the most unmistakable pain. I refer to neuralgia. Who
pities a neuralgic person? Any healthy man, when asked about it, will
answer in his ignorance that it is "only a headache." But ask the school
teacher, whose throbbing head seems to be beating time to the ceaseless
muttering and whispering of her scholars as they bend over their
tasks—ask the student, whose thoughts, like undisciplined soldiers, will
not fall into the ranks, and whose head seems to be occupied by a steam
engine of enormous power, running at the highest rate of pressure, with
the driver sitting on the safety-valve—ask them whether neuralgia is
"only a headache"! Who can tell the cause of the prevalence of this
scourge? whether it proceeds from our houses overheated with intolerable
furnaces and anthracite coal, or from our treacherous and unconstant
climate so forcibly described by Choate: "Cold to-day; hot to-morrow;
mercury at eighty degrees in the morning, with wind at south-west; and
in three hours more a sea turn, with wind at east, a thick fog from the
very bottom of the ocean, and a fall of forty degrees of Fahrenheit."
The uncertainty which seems to attend all human science, and the science
of medicine in particular, envelops this mysterious disease, and
thousands of us are left to suffer and wonder what the matter is.

But all of these pains, gouty, neuralgic, and otherwise, have yet their
sweet uses, and like the vile reptile Shakespeare tells us of, are
adorned with a precious jewel. The old Roman emperors in the hour of
triumph used to have a slave stand behind them to whisper in their ear,
from time to time, the unwelcome but salutary truth that they were but
mortal men. Even now, on the occasion of the enthronement of a Pope, a
lighted candle is applied to a bunch of flax fixed upon a staff, and as
the smoke dissipates itself into thin air before the newly-crowned
Pontiff, surrounded as he is by all the emblems of religion and all the
insignia and pomp of worldly power, the same great truth of the
perishableness of all mortal things is impressed upon his mind by the
chanting of the simple but eloquent phrase, _Sic transit gloria mundi_.
But we neuralgic and gouty wretches need no whispering slave nor smoking
flax to remind us of our frailty and the transientness of our happiness
and glory. We carry with us a monitor who checks our swelling pride, and
teaches us effectually the brevity of human joys. We are very apt, in
our impatience and short-sightedness, to think that if we had the
management of the world and the dispensation of pleasure and suffering,
every thing could be conducted in a much more satisfactory manner. If it
were so, we should undoubtedly carry things on in the style of a French
restaurant, so that we could have _pain à discretion_. But on the whole,
I am inclined to think that we had better leave these matters to the
management of that infinite Power which gives us day by day our daily
pain, and from which we receive in the long run about what is meet for
us. I hope that I shall not be thought ill-bred or profane in using such
expressions as these. At my time of life it is too late to begin to
murmur. A few twinges more or less are nothing when the hair grows gray
and the eye is dimmed with the mists of age. The man who knows nothing
of the novitiate of patience—who has passed through life without the
chastening discipline of bodily pain—has missed one of the best parts of
existence. To suffer is one of the noblest prerogatives of human nature.
Without suffering, life would be robbed of half its zest, and the
thought of death would drive us to despair.

When I was a young man, and gave little thought to the gout and the
other ills that vex me at present, I saw a wonderful exhibition of
patience, which I now daily recall to mind, and wish I could imitate. I
was sojourning in Florence, that lovely city, whose every association is
one of calm and satisfactory pleasure undisturbed by any thing like
bodily suffering. I enjoyed the friendship of a young American amateur
artist of unquestioned talent, but whose artistic efforts were
interfered with by the frequent attacks of a serious and excruciating
disorder. It was considerable time after I made his acquaintance before
I knew that he was an invalid. I noticed his lameness, but whenever we
met he wore a smiling face, and had a cheerful word for every body. One
evening I called in at his quiet lodgings near the Lung’ Arno, and found
a party of some six or eight Americans talking over their recollections
of home. He was entertaining them with the explanation of an imaginary
panorama of New England, and a musical friend threw in illustrative
passages from the piano in the intervals. The parlour resounded with our
laughter at his irresistible fun; but in the midst of it all, he asked
us to excuse him for a moment, and went into his bedroom. After a little
while, another engagement calling me away, I went into his chamber to
speak with him before leaving. I found him lying upon his bed, writhing
like Laocoön, while great drops stood upon his brow and agony was
depicted on his patient face. He resisted all my attempts to do any
thing for him; the attack had lasted all day, but was at some times
severer than at others; he should feel better soon, and would go back to
his friends; I had better not stop with him, as it might attract their
attention in the parlour, &c. So I took my leave. The next morning I met
one of his friends, who told me that he returned to his company a few
minutes after my departure, and entertained them for an hour or more
with an exhibition of his powers of wit and humour, which eclipsed all
his previous efforts. Poor S. C.! His weary but uncomplaining spirit
laid down that crippled body, which never gave aught but pain to its
possessor, three or four years ago, and passed, let us hope, into a
happier state of existence, which flesh and blood, with their countless
maladies and dolours, may not inherit.

The traveller in the south of Europe frequently encounters, in his
perambulations through the streets and squares of cities, a group of
people gathered around a monk, who is discoursing to them of those
sublime truths which men are prone to lose sight of in their walks
abroad. The style of the sermon is not, it is true, what we should look
for from Newman, or Ravignan, or Ventura, but it has in it those
fundamental principles of true eloquence, simplicity and earnestness;
and the coarse brown habit, the knotted cord, and the pale, serene,
devout face of the preacher, harmonize wondrously with the self-denying
doctrine he teaches, and give a double force to all his words. His
instructions frequently concern the simple moral duties of life and the
exercise of the cardinal virtues, which he enforces by illustrations
drawn from the lives of canonized saints, who won their heavenly crown
and their earthly fame of blessedness by the practice of those virtues.
Allow me to close my sermon on suffering in the manner of the preaching
friars, though I may not draw my illustrations from the ancient
martyrologies; for I apprehend that it will be more in keeping with the
serious character of this essay to take them from another source. We
have all laughed at Dickens’s characters of Mark Tapley and Mr. Toots.
The former was celebrated for "keeping jolly under disadvantageous
circumstances," and seemed to mourn over those dispensations of good
fortune which detracted from his credit in being jolly. The latter was
never known to indulge in any complaint, but met every mishap and
disappointment with a manly resignation and the simple remark, "It’s of
no consequence." Even when he was completely ingulfed in misfortunes,
when Pelion seemed to have been heaped upon Ossa, and both upon him, he
did not give way to despair. He only gave utterance more fervently to
his favourite maxim, "It’s of no consequence. Nothing is of any
consequence whatever!" Now, laugh at it as we may, this is a great
truth. It is the foundation of all true philosophy—of all practical
religion. A few years more, and what will it avail us to have bargained
successfully, to have lived in splendour, to have left in history a name
that shall be the synonyme of power! A few years, and what shall we care
for all our present sufferings and the light afflictions which are but
for a moment! May we not say with Solomon, that "All is vanity," and
with poor Toots, that "Nothing is of any consequence whatever"? Now, if
there are any people who are likely to arrive at this satisfactory
conclusion, and who need the consolation imparted by the reception and
full appreciation of the deep truth it contains, it is the gouty, and
rheumatic, and neuralgic wretches whom I have had in mind while writing
this paper. Let me, in conclusion, as one who has had some experience,
and is not merely theorizing, exhort all such persons to meditate upon
the lives of the two great patterns of patience whom I have brought
forward as examples; and to bear in mind that it is only through the
resignation of Toots, that they can attain to the jollity of Tapley.
Likewise let me counsel those who may be passing through life unharmed
by serious misfortune and untrammelled by bodily pain, never to lose
sight of that striking admonition of old Sir Thomas Browne’s, "Measure
not thyself by thy morning shadow, but by the extent of thy grave; and
reckon thyself above the earth, by the line thou must be contented with
under it."



BOYHOOD AND BOYS


Human nature is a very telescopic "institution." It delights to dwell on
whatever is most distant. Lord Rosse’s famous instrument dwindles down
to a mere opera glass if you compare it with the mental vision of a
restless boy, looking forward to the time when he shall don a tail-coat
and a beaver hat. How his young heart swells with pride as he
anticipates the day when he shall be his own master, as the phrase
is—when he shall be able to stay out after nine o’clock in the evening,
and to go home without being subjected to the ignominy of being escorted
by a chambermaid! If he be of a particularly sanguine temperament, his
wild imagination is rapt in the contemplation of the possibility of one
day having his name in the newspapers as secretary of some public
meeting, or as having made a vigorous speech at a political caucus where
liberty of speech runs out into slander, and sedition is mistaken for
patriotism,—or perhaps even of being one day a Common Councilman, or a
member of the Great and General Court. A popular poet of the present day
has expressed the same idea in a less prosaic manner:—

    "Not rainbow pinions coloured like yon cloud,
    The sun’s broad banner o’er his western tent,
    Can match the bright imaginings of a child
    Upon the glories of his coming years:"—

and another bard avers that human blessings are always governing the
future, and never the present tense,—or something to that effect. The
truth of this nobody will deny who has passed from the boxes of
childhood upon the stage of manhood which so charmed his youthful fancy,
and finds that the heroes who dazzled him once by their splendid
achievements are mere ordinary mortals like himself, whom the blindness
or caprice of their fellows has allowed to be dressed in a little brief
authority; that the cloud-capped towers and gorgeous palaces he used to
gaze on from afar, prove, on a closer inspection, to be mere deceptions
of paint and canvas, and that he has only to look behind them to see the
rough bricks and mortar of every-day life.

The voyager who sails from the dark waters of the restless Atlantic into
the deep blue Mediterranean, notices at sunset a rich purple haze which
rises apparently from the surface of that fair inland sea, and drapes
the hills and vales along the beautiful shore with a glory that fills
the heart of the beholder with unutterable gladness. The distant,
snow-covered peaks of old Granada, clad in the same bright robe, seem by
their regal presence to impose silence on those whom their majestic
beauty has blessed with a momentary poetic inspiration which defies all
power of tongue or pen. It touches nothing which it does not adorn, and
the commonest objects are transmuted by its magic into fairy shapes
which abide ever after in the memory. Under its softening influence, the
dingy sail of a fisherman’s boat becomes almost as beautiful an object
to the sight as the ruins of the temple which crowns the height of Cape
Colonna. But when you approach nearer to that which had seemed so
charming in its twilight robes, your poetic sense is somewhat interfered
with. You find the fishing boat as unattractive as any that anchor on
the Banks from which we obtain such frequent discounts of nasty weather,
and the shore, though it may still be very beautiful, lacks the supernal
glory imparted to it by distance. It is very much after this fashion
with manhood, when we compare its reality with our childish
expectations. We find that we have been deceived by a mere atmospheric
phenomenon. But the destruction of the charm which age had for our eyes
as children, is compensated for by the creation of a new glory which
lights up our young days, as we look back upon them with the regret of
manhood, and realize that their joys can never be lived over again.

Pardon me, gentle reader, for all this prosing. I have been reading that
pleasant, hearty book, "Tom Brown’s School Days at Rugby," during the
past week, and it has set me a-thinking about my own boyhood; for,
strange as it may seem, there was a time when this troublesome foot was
more familiar with the football and the skate than with gout and
flannel,—and Tom Brown’s genial reminiscences have revived the memory of
that time most wonderfully. There was considerable fun in Boston in my
childhood, even though most of the faces which one met in Marlboro’
Street and Cornhill were such as might have appropriately surrounded
Cromwell at Naseby or Marston Moor. There were many people, even then,
who did not regard religion as an affair of spasmodic emotions, and
long, bilious-looking faces, and psalm-singing, and neck-ties. They
thought that, so long as they were honest in their dealings, and did not
swear to false invoices at the customhouse, and did as they would be
done by, and lived virtuously, that He to whom they had been taught by
parental lips to pray, would overlook the smaller offences—such as an
occasional laugh or a pleasant jest—into which weak nature would now and
then betray them. I cannot help thinking that they were about right,
though I fear that I shall be set down as little better than one of the
wicked by Stiggins, Chadband, Sleek & Co.

Yes, there was a good deal of fun among the boys in those old days. Boys
will be boys, however serious the family may be; and if you take away
their marbles, some other "vanity" will be sure to take their place.
What jolly times we used to have Artillery Election! How good the
egg-pop used to taste, in spite of the dust of Park Street, which
mingled itself liberally with the nutmeg! How we used to save up our
money for those festive days! How hard the arithmetic lessons seemed,
particularly in the days immediately preceding vacation! How dreary were
those long winters; and yet how short and pleasant they seemed to us!
for we loved the runners, and skates, and jingling bells, and, as
Pescatore, the Neapolitan poet, sings, "though bleak our lot, our hearts
were warm."

Newspapers were not a common luxury in those times, and I suppose that I
took as little notice of passing events as most children; yet I well
remember the effect produced upon my mind one dark, threatening
afternoon, near the close of the last century, by the announcement of
the death of General Washington. I had been accustomed to hear him
talked about as the Father of his Country; I had studied the lineaments
of his calm countenance, as they were set forth for the edification of
my patriotism on some coarse handkerchiefs presented to me by a
public-spirited aunt, until I began to look upon him as almost a
supernatural being. If I had been told that the Old South had been
removed to Dorchester Heights, or that the solar system was irreparably
disarranged, I should not have been more completely taken aback than I
was by that melancholy intelligence. I need not say that afterwards,
when I grew up and found that Washington was not only a mortal like the
rest of us, but that he sometimes spelt incorrectly enough to have
suited Noah Webster, (the inventor of the American language,) my
supernatural view of that estimable general and patriot was very
materially modified. I remember, too, how much I used to hear said about
an extraordinary man who had risen up in France, and who seemed to be
bending all Europe to his will. I never shall forget my astonishment on
finding that Marengo was not a man, but a place. The discovery shamed me
somewhat, and afterwards I always read whatever newspapers came in my
way. When some slow tub of a packet had come across the ocean, battling
with the nor’-westers, and was announced to have made a "quick passage
of forty-eight days," how eagerly I followed the rapid fortunes of the
first Napoleon! His successes, as they intoxicated him, dazzled and
bewildered my boyish imagination. I understood the matter imperfectly,
but I loved Napoleon, and delighted to repeat to myself those stirring
names, Austerlitz, Jena, Wagram, &c. How I hated Russia after the
disastrous campaign of 1812! (By the way, the exhibition of the
Conflagration of Moscow, which used to have its intermittent terms of
exhibition here some years since, always brought back all my youthful
feelings about the old Napoleon; the march of the artillery across the
bridge, in the foreground of the scene, the rattling of the gun
carriages,—that most warlike of all warlike sounds,—the burning city,
the destruction of the Kremlin, all united in my mind to form a
sentiment of admiration and sympathy for the baffled conqueror. If that
admirable show were to be revived once more, I should be tempted to take
a season ticket to it, for I have no doubt that it would thrill me just
as it did before my head could boast of a single gray hair.) Nor was my
admiration for Napoleon’s old marshals much below that which I
entertained for the mighty genius who knew so well how to avail himself
of their surpassing bravery and skill. I felt as if the unconquerable
Murat, Lannes, Macdonald, Davoust, were my dearest and most intimate
friends. The impetuous Ney, "the bravest of the brave," as his soldiers
called him; and the inflexible Masséna, "the favourite child of
victory," figured in all my dreams, heading gallant charges, and
withstanding deadly assaults, and occupied the best part of my waking
thoughts. I do not doubt that there is many a schoolboy nowadays who has
dwelt with equal delight on the achievements of Scott and Taylor, of
Canrobert, Bosquet and Pélissier, of Fenwick Williams and Havelock, and
poor old Raglan, (that brave man upon whom the Circumlocution Office
tried to fasten the blame of its own inefficiency, and who died
broken-hearted, a melancholy illustration of the truth of Shakespeare’s
lines,—

    "The painful warrior, famouséd for fight,
    After a thousand victories once foiled,
    Is from the book of honour razéd quite,
    And all the rest forgot for which he toiled,")

and who cherishes them as I did the heroes of half a century ago.

But, as I was saying, Tom Brown’s happy reminiscences of Rugby have
awakened once more all my boyish feelings; for New England has its
Rugby, and many of the readers of the old Rugby boy’s pleasant pages
will grow enthusiastic with the recollection of their schoolboy days at
Exeter,—their snowballings, their manly sports, their mighty contests
with the boys of the town,—and, though they may not claim the genius of
the former head-master of Rugby for the guardian of their youthful
sports and studies, will apply all of the old boy’s praises of Dr.
Arnold to the wise, judicious, and lovable Dr. Abbot.

I always cherished an unbounded esteem for boys. The boy—the genuine
human boy—may, I think, safely be set down as the noblest work of God.
Pope claims that proud distinction for the honest man, but at the
present time, the nearest we can come to such a mythological personage
as an honest man, (even though we add Argand burners, expensive Carcels,
Davy safeties, and the Drummond light to the officially recognized
lantern of Diogenes,) is a real human boy, without a thought beyond his
next holiday, with his heart overflowing with happiness, and his pockets
chock full of marbles. Young girls cannot help betraying something of
the in-dwelling vanity so natural to the sex; you can discern a
self-consciousness in their every action which you shall look for in
vain in the boy. Bless your heart!—you may dress a real boy up with
superhuman care, and try to impress on his young mind that he is the
pride of his parents, and one of the most remarkable beings that ever
visited this mundane sphere, and he will listen to you with becoming
reverence and docility; but his pure and honest nature will give the lie
to all your flattery as soon as your back is turned, and in ten minutes
you will find him kicking out the toes of his new boots, or rumpling his
clean collar by "playing horse," or using the top of his new cap for a
drinking vessel, and mixing in with the Smiths, and Browns, and
Jinkinses, on terms of the most unquestioned equality. The author of Tom
Brown says that "boys follow one another in herds like sheep, for good
or evil; they hate thinking, and have rarely any settled principles."
This is undoubtedly true; but still there is a generous instinct in boys
which is far more trustworthy than those sliding, and unreliable, and
deceptive ideas which we call settled principles. The boy’s thinking
powers may be fallible, but his instinct is, in the main, sure. There is
no aristocracy of feeling among boys. Linsey-woolsey and broadcloth find
equal favour in their eyes. What they seek is just as likely to be found
under coarse raiment as under purple and fine linen. If their companion
is a real good feller, even though he be a son of a rich merchant or
banker, he is esteemed as highly as if his father were an editor of a
newspaper.

The nature of the boy is full of the very essence of generosity. The
boys who hide away their gingerbread, and eat it by themselves,—who lay
up their Fourth of July five-cent pieces, for deposit in that excellent
savings institution in School Street, instead of spending them for the
legitimate India crackers of the "Sabbath Day of Freedom,"—are
exceptions which only put the general rule beyond the pale of
controversy. The real boy carries his apple in one of his pockets until
it is comfortably warm, and he has found some companion to whom he may
offer a festive bite; for he feels, with Goethe, that

    "It were the greatest misery known
    To be in paradise alone;"

and if, occasionally, when he sees his friend gratifying his palate with
a fair round specimen of the same delicious fruit, he asks for a return
of his kindness, with a beckoning gesture, and a free and easy—"I say,
you know me, Bill!"—he is moved thereto by no mere selfish liking for
apples, but by a natural sense of friendship, and of the excellence of
the apostolic principle of community of goods. This spirit of generosity
may be seen in the friendships of boys, which are more entire and
unselfish than those by which men seek to mitigate the irksomeness of
life. There are more Oresteses and Pyladeses, more Damons and Pythiases,
at twelve years of age than at any later period of life. The devotedness
of boyish friendship is peculiar from the fact that it is generally
reciprocal. In this it is superior to what we call love, which, if we
may believe the French satirist, in most instances consists of one party
who loves, and another who allows himself or herself to be loved. This
phenomenon has not escaped the notice of that great observer of human
nature, Thackeray.

"What generous boy," he asks, "in his time has not worshipped somebody?
Before the female enslaver makes her appearance, every lad has a friend
of friends, a crony of cronies, to whom he writes immense letters in
vacation; whom he cherishes in his heart of hearts; whose sister he
proposes to marry in after life; whose purse he shares; for whom he will
take a thrashing if need be; who is his hero."

The generosity, and all the priceless charms of boyhood, rarely outlive
its careless years of happiness. They are generally severely shaken, if
not wholly destroyed, when the youth enters upon that crepuscular period
of manhood in which his jacket is lengthened into a sack, and he begins
to take his share in the conceit, and ambition, and selfishness of
full-grown humanity. It is sad to think that a human boy, like the
morning star, full of life and joy, may be stricken down by death, and
all his hilarity stifled in the grave; but to my mind it is even more
melancholy to think that he may live to grow up, and be hard, and
worldly, and ungenerous as any of the rest of us. For this latter fate
is accompanied by no consolations such as naturally assuage our sorrow
when an innocent child is snatched from among his playthings,—when
"death has set the seal of eternity upon his brow, and the beautiful
hath been made permanent" I have seen few men who would be willing to
live over again their years of manhood, however prosperous and
comparatively free from trouble they may have been; but fewer still are
those whom I have met, in whose memory the records of boyhood are not
written as with a sunbeam. No, talk as we may about the happiness of
manhood, the satisfaction of success in life, of gratified ambition, of
the possession of the Mary or Lizzie of one’s choice,—what is it all
compared to the unadulterate joy of that time when we built our card
houses, and made our dirt pies, or drove our hoops, unvexed by the
thoughts that Jinkins’s house was larger than ours, or by any anxiety
concerning the possibility of obtaining our next day’s mutton-chop and
potatoes? Except the momentary pain occasioned by the exercise of a
magisterial rattan upon our persons, or an occasional stern reproof from
a hair-brush or the thin sole of a maternal shoe, that halcyon period is
imperturbed, and may safely be called the happiest part of life.

My venerated friend, Baron Nabem, who has been through all these
"experiences," and therefore ought to know, insists upon it that no man
really knows any thing until he is forty years old. For when he is
eighteen or twenty years of age, he esteems himself to be a sort of
combination of the seven wise men of Greece in one person, with
Humboldt, Mezzofanti, and Macaulay thrown in to make out the weight; at
twenty-five, his confidence in his own infallibility begins to grow
somewhat shaky; at thirty, he begins to wish that he might really know a
tenth part as much as he thought he did ten years before; at
thirty-five, he thinks that if he were added up, there would be very
little to carry; and at forty the great truth bursts upon him in all its
effulgence that he is an ass. There are some who reach this desirable
state of self-knowledge before they attain the age specified by the
Baron; other some there are who never reach it at all,—as we all see
numerous instances around us,—but these are mere exceptions
strengthening rather than invalidating the common rule. It is a
humiliating acknowledgment, but if we consider the uncertainty of all
earthly things, if we try the depth of the sea of human science, and
find how easy it is to touch bottom any where therein, if we convince
ourselves of the impenetrability of the veil which bounds our mental
vision,—I think that we shall be obliged to allow that the recognition
of our own nothingness and asininity is the sum and perfection of human
knowledge. Now, Solomon tells us that he who increases knowledge
increases sorrow; and it naturally follows that when a man has reached
the knowledge which generally comes with his fortieth year, he is less
happy than he was when he wrapped himself in the measureless content of
his twentieth year’s self-deception. And it follows, too, most
incontrovertibly, that he is happier when unpossessed by that
exaggerated self-esteem which rendered the discovery of his fortieth
year necessary to him; and when is that time, if not during the
careless, happy years of boyhood?

The period of boyhood has been shortened very considerably within a few
years; and real boys are becoming scarce. They are no sooner emancipated
from the bright buttons which unite the two principal articles of
puerile apparel, than they begin to pant for virile habiliments. Their
choler is roused if they are denied a stand-up dickey. They sport canes.
They delight to display themselves at lectures and concerts. Their young
lips are not innocent of damns and short-sixes; and they imitate the
vulgarity and conceit of the young men of the present day so
successfully that you find it hard to believe that they are mere
children. Since this period of dearth in the boy market set in, of
course the genuine, marketable article has become more precious to me. I
remember seeing an old physician in Paris, who was as true a boy as any
beloved twelve-year-old that ever snapped a marble or stuck his
forefinger into a preserve jar on an upper shelf in a china closet. A
charming old fellow he was, too. He used to stop to see the boys play in
the gardens of the Tuileries, and I knew him once to spend a whole
afternoon in the avenue of the Champs Elysées looking at the puppet
shows and other sights with the rest of the youngsters. He told me
afterwards that that was one of the happiest days of his life; for he
had felt as if he were back again in the pleasant time before he knew
any thing of that most uncertain of all uncertain things—the science of
medicine; and he doubted whether any boy there had enjoyed the cheap
amusement more than himself. I envied him, for I knew that he who
retained so much of the happy spirit of boyhood could not have outlived
all of its generosity and simplicity. "Once a man and twice a child,"
says the old proverb; and I cannot help thinking that if at the last we
could only recall something of the sincerity, and innocence, and
unselfishness of our early life, second childhood would indeed be a
blessed thing.



JOSEPHINE—GIRLHOOD AND GIRLS


A bright-eyed, fair, young maiden, whose satchel I should insist upon
carrying to school for her every morning if I were half a century
younger, came to me a day or two after the publication of my last essay,
and, placing her white, taper fingers in my rough, Esau-like hand, said,
"I liked your piece about the boys very much; and now I hope that you’ll
write something about girls." "My dear Nellie," replied I, "if I should
do that I should lose all my female acquaintances. I have a weakness for
telling the truth, and there are some subjects concerning which it is
very dangerous to speak out ’the whole truth and nothing but the
truth.’" The gentle damsel smiled, and looked

    "Modest as justice, and did seem a palace
    For the crown’d truth to dwell in,"

as she still urged me on, and refused to see any danger in my giving out
the plainest truth about girlhood. _She_ had no fear, though all the
truth were told; and I suppose that if we had some of Nellie’s purity
and gentleness remaining in our sere and selfish hearts, we should be
much better and happier men and women, and should dread the truth as
little as she does. But I must not begin my truth-telling by seeming to
praise too highly, though it must be confessed, even at my time of life,
if I were to describe the charming young person I have referred to, with
the merciless fidelity of a daguerreotype and an absence of hyperbole
worthy of the late Dr. Bowditch’s work on Navigation, I should seem to
the unfortunate "general reader" who does not know Nell, to be indulging
in the grossest flattery, and panting poesy would toil after me in vain.
So I will put aside all temptations of that kind, and come down to the
plain prose of my subject.

There is, in fact, very little that can be said about girlhood. Those
calm years that come between the commencement of the bondage of the
pantalettes and emancipation from the tasks of school, present few
salient points upon which the essayist (observe he never so closely) may
turn a neat paragraph. They offer little that is startling or attractive
either to writer or reader,—

    "As times of quiet and unbroken peace,
    Though for a nation times of blessedness,
    Give back faint echoes from the historian’s page."

The rough sports of boyhood, the out-door life which boys always take to
so naturally, and all their habits of activity, give a strength of light
and shade to their early years which is not to be found in girlhood. It
is not enough to say that there is no difference in kind, but simply one
in degree,—that the years of boyhood are calm and happy, and that those
of girlhood are so likewise,—that the former resemble the garish
sunshine, and the latter the mitigated splendour of the moon; for the
characters of boys seem to be struck in a sharper die than those of
girls, which gives them an absoluteness quite distinct from the feminine
grace we naturally look for in the latter. The free-hearted boy,
plunging into all sorts of fun without a thought of his next day’s
arithmetic lesson, and with a charming disregard of the expense of
jackets and trousers, and the gentle girl, who clings to her mother’s
side, like an attendant angel, and contents herself with teaching long
lessons to docile paper pupils in a quiet corner by the fireside, are
representatives of two distinct classes in the order of nature, and
(untheologically, of course, I might add) of grace. There is not a
greater difference between a hockey and a crochet needle than there is
between them.

I have, as a general thing, a greater liking for boys than for girls;
for the vanity so common to all mankind is not developed in them at so
early an age as in the latter. Still I must acknowledge that I have seen
some splendid exceptions, the mere recollection of which almost tempts
me to draw my pen through that last sentence. Can I ever forget—I can
never forget—one into whose years of girlhood the beauty and grace of a
long, pure life seemed to have been compressed? It was many years ago,
and I was younger than I am now—so pardon me if I should seem to catch a
little enthusiasm of spirit from the remembrance of those days. Like the
ancient Queen of Carthage, _Agnosco veteris vestigia flammæ_. I was
living in London at that time, or rather at Hampstead, which had not
then become a mere suburb of the great metropolis, but was a quiet town,
whose bright doorplates, and well-scoured doorsteps, and clean window
curtains contrasted finely with the dingy brick walls of its houses, and
impressed the visitor with the general prosperity and quiet
respectability of its inhabitants. In my daily walks to and from the
city, I frequently met a gentleman whose gray hairs and simple dignity
of manners always attracted me towards him, and exacted from me an
involuntary tribute of respectful recognition. One day he overtook me in
a shower, and gave me the benefit of his umbrella and his friendship—for
an intimacy which ended only with his death commenced between us from
that hour. He was a gentleman of good family and education, who had seen
thirty years of responsible service in the employ of the Honourable East
India Company, had attained a competency, and had forsworn Leadenhall
Street for a pension and a quiet retreat on the heights of Hampstead.
His wife was a lady of cultivated tastes, whose sober wishes never
learned to stray from the path of simple domestic duty, and the presence
of the books in which she found her daily pleasures.

    "Type of the wise, who soar, but never roam;
    True to the kindred points of Heaven and Home."

Their only child, "one fair daughter, and no more," was a gentle and
merry-hearted creature, who, in the short and murky days of November,
filled that cottage with a more than June-like sunshine. Her parents
always had a deep sympathy with that unfortunate Empress of France whose
dismission from the throne was the commencement of the downward career
of the first Napoleon, and bore witness to it by giving her name to
their only child. They lived only three or four doors from my lodgings,
and there were few days passed after the episode of the umbrella in
which I did not find a welcome in their quiet home. Their daughter was
their only idol, and I soon found myself a convert to their innocent
system of paganism. We all three agreed that Josey was the incarnation
of all known perfections, and the lapse of forty years has not sufficed
to weaken that conviction in my mind. She had risen just above the
horizon of girlhood, and the natural beauty of her character made the
beholder content to forget even the promise of her riper years. I do not
think she was what the world calls handsome. I sometimes distrust my
judgment in the matter of female beauty; indeed, some of my candid
friends have told me that I had no judgment in such things. Well, as I
was saying, Josey was not remarkable for personal beauty—in fact, I
think I remember some persons of her own sex who thought her "very
plain"—"positively homely"—and wondered what there was attractive about
her. There are circumstances under which I should not have hesitated to
attribute such remarks to motives of envy and jealousy; but as they came
from girls whose attractions of every kind were far below those of the
gentle creature whom they delighted to criticise, how can I account for
them? Josey’s complexion was dark—her forehead, like those of the best
models of female comeliness among the ancients, low. Her teeth were
pearly and uniform, and her clear, dark eyes seemed to reflect the
happiness and hope which were the companions of her youth. Her beauty
was not of that kind which consists in mere regularity of features; it
was far superior to that. You could discern under those traits, none of
which were conspicuous, a combination of mental and social qualities
which were far above the fleeting charms that delight so many, and which
age, instead of destroying, would increase and perfect. She was quiet
and gentle, without being dull or moody; light-hearted and cheery,
without being frivolous; and witty, without being pert or conceited. Her
unaffected goodness of heart found many an opportunity of exercise. I
often heard of her among the poor, and among those who needed words of
consolation even more than the necessaries of life. It was her delight
to intercede with the magistrate who had inflicted a punishment on some
disorderly brother of one of her poor clients, and to obtain his pardon
by promising to watch over him and insure his future good behaviour; and
there were very few, among the most reckless, who were not restrained by
the thought that their offences would give pain to the kind-hearted girl
who had so willingly become their protector.

During the months that I lived at Hampstead my intercourse with that
excellent family was as familiar as if I had been one of their own
kindred. A little attack of rheumatism, which confined me to my lodging
for a fortnight or three weeks, proved the constancy of their
friendship. The old gentleman came daily to see me—told me all the news
from the city, and read to me; the mother sent me some of her favourite
books; and Josey came to get assistance in her Latin and French, and
brought me sundry little pots of grape jelly and other preserves, which
tasted all the sweeter for being the work of her fair hands. It was a
sad parting when I was called away to America—sad for me; for I told
them that I hoped that my absence from England would be but temporary,
when I felt inwardly that it might extend to several years.

Two or three months after my arrival at home, I received a letter from
the old gentleman, written in his deliberate, round, clerk-like style,
informing me of his wife’s death. A note was enclosed from Josey, in
which she described with her pencil the spot where her mother was buried
in the old churchyard, and told me of her progress in her studies. More
than a year passed by without my hearing from them at all, two or three
of my letters to them having miscarried. Nearly seven years elapsed
before I visited England again. Two years before that, I had read the
decease of the old gentleman, in a stray London newspaper. I had written
to Josey, sympathizing with her in her desolation, but had received no
answer. So, the day after my arrival in London, I determined to make a
search for the beloved Josey. I went to Hampstead, and my heart beat
quicker as I approached the cottage where I had spent so many happy
hours. My throat felt a little choky, as I recognized the neat bit of
hedge before the door, the graceful vine which overhung it, and the
familiar arrangement of the flower pots in the frames outside the
windows; but my hopes received a momentary check when I found a strange
name on the plate above the knocker. I knocked, and inquired concerning
the former occupants of the house. After a severe effort to overcome the
Bœotian stupidity of the housemaid, she ushered me into the little
breakfast room, and said she would "call her missus." Almost before I
had time to look about me, Josey entered the room. The little girl whose
Latin exercises I had corrected, and who had always lived in my memory
as she appeared in those days, suddenly came before me

    "A perfect woman, nobly planned,
    To warn, to comfort, and command;
    And yet a spirit still and bright
    With something of an angel light."

Yet she was hardly changed at all. She had lost none of those charming
qualities which had made the thought of her precious to me during long
years of absence. She had gained the maturity and dignity of womanhood
without losing any of the simplicity and light-heartedness of girlhood.
She was married. Her husband was a literary man of considerable
reputation. Though only in middle age, he was a great sufferer with the
gout. He was, generally speaking, a patient man; but I found, after I
became intimate with him, that his pains sometimes made him express
himself with a force of diction somewhat in advance of the religious
prejudices of his gentle Josey, who tended him and ministered to his
wants like an angel, as she was. But excuse me for wandering so far from
my theme. To make a long story short, Josey went to Italy with her
husband, who had been ordered thither by his physicians, and I never saw
her afterwards. She deposited her husband’s remains in the cemetery
where those of Shelley and Keats repose, and found for two or three
years a consolation for her bereaved spirit in residence in that city
which more than all others proclaims to our unwilling hearts the vanity
and transitoriness of this world’s hopes, and the glory of the unseen
eternal. Years after, I met one of her husband’s friends in Paris, who
told me that some four years after his death, she had entered a convent
of a religious order devoted to the reclaiming of the degraded of her
sex, in Brussels. There she had found a fitting occupation for the
natural benevolence of her heart, and the peace which the world could
not give. She had concealed the glory of her good works under her vow of
obedience—her personality was hidden under the common habit of her
Order—the very name which was so dear to me had been exchanged for
another on the day that saw her covered with the white veil of the
novice. I was about returning to England from the continent when I heard
this, and I resolved to take Belgium’s fair capital in my route. I found
the convent readily enough, and waited in its uncarpeted but
scrupulously clean parlour some time for the Lady Superior. She was a
lady of dignified mien, with the clear complexion, the serene brow, and
the dovelike eyes so common among nuns, and her face lighted up, as she
spoke, with a gentle smile, which seemed almost like a presage of
immortality. I explained my errand, and she told me that the good
English sister had been dead more than a year. The intelligence pained
me, and it gave me a feeling of self-reproach to notice that the nun,
who had been with her in her last hour, spoke of her as if she had
merely passed into another part of the convent we were in. The Superior,
perceiving my emotion, conducted me through the garden of the convent to
a shady corner of the grounds, where there were several graves. She
stopped before a mound, over which a rose bush bent affectionately, as
if its white blossoms craved something of the purity which was enshrined
beneath it. At its head was a simple wooden cross, on which was
inscribed the name of "Sister Helen Agnes," the date of her death, and
the common supplication that she might rest in peace; and that was the
only memorial of Josey that remained to me.

I have not forgotten, dear reader, that I am writing about girls; but
having brought forward one who always seemed to me to be about as near
perfection as it is vouchsafed to poor humanity to approach, I could not
help following her to the end, and showing how she went from a beautiful
girlhood to a still more beautiful womanhood, and a death which all of
us might envy; and how lovely and harmonious was her whole career. For I
feel that the consideration of the contrast which most of the young
female readers of these pages will discover between themselves and
Josey, will do them some good.

I do not know of a more quietly funny sight than a group of
school-girls, all talking as fast as their tongues can wag, (forty-woman
power,) and clinging inextricably together like a parcel of macaroni, _à
la Napolitaine_. Their independence is quite refreshing. Lady
Blessington in her diamonds never descended the grand staircase at
Covent Garden Opera House with half the consciousness of making a
sensation, that you may notice in these school-girls whenever you take
your walks abroad. It is delightful to see them step off so proudly, and
look you in the face so coolly, thinking all the time of just nothing at
all. Their boldness is the boldness of innocence; for perfect modesty
does not even know how to blush. How vain they grow as they advance in
their teens! How careful they are that the crinoline "sticks out"
properly before they venture on the road to school! If Mother Goose (of
blessed memory) could take a look into this world now, she would wish to
revise her ancient rhyme to her patrons,—

    "Come with a whoop—come with a call," &c.,—

for she would find that it is now their custom to come with a _hoop_
when they come for a call.

When unhappy Romeo stands in old Capulet’s garden, under the pale beams
of the "envious moon," and watches the unconscious Juliet upon the
balcony, he utters, in the course of his incoherent soliloquial
apostrophe, these remarkable words concerning that interesting young
person:—

    "She speaks, yet she says nothing."

I have seen many young ladies of Juliet’s time of life in my day of whom
the same thing might be said. They indeed speak, yet say nothing. Yet
take them on such a subject as the trimming of a new bonnet for Easter
Sunday, or any of those entertaining topics more or less connected with
the adornment of their persons, and how voluble they are! To the
stronger sex, which of course cares nothing about dress, being entirely
free from vanity, the terms used in their never-ending colloquies on
such themes are mere unmeaning words; but I must do the gentler side of
humanity the justice to say that they are not all vanity, as their
fathers and husbands find to their dismay, when the quarterly bills come
in, that gimp, and flounces, and trimming generally, have a real,
tangible existence.

How sentimental they are! In my young days albums were all the rage
among young ladies; but now they seem to be somewhat out of date, and
young ministers have taken their place. What pains will they not take to
get a bow from the Rev. Mr. Simkins! They swarm around him after
service, like flies around the bung of a molasses cask. Raphael never
had such a face as his; Massillon never preached as he does. What a
wilderness of worsted work are they not willing to travel over for his
sake! How do they exhaust their inventive faculties in the search after
new patterns for lamp mats, watch cases, pen wipers, and slippers to
encase the feet at which they delight to sit! But when Simkins marries
old Thompson’s youngest daughter and a snug property, he finds a sad
abatement in his popularity. The Rev. Mr. Jenkins, a young preacher with
a face every whit as milk-and-watery as his own, succeeds to the throne
he occupied, and reigns in his stead among the volatile devotees; and
Simkins then sees that his popularity was no more an evidence of the
favour his preaching of the gospel found among those thoughtless young
people than was the popularity of the good-looking light comedian, after
whom the girls ran as madly as they did after his own white neckerchief
and nicely-brushed black frock coat.

Exaggeration is one of the great faults of girlhood. Whatever meets
their eyes is either "splendid" or "horrid." They delight to exaggerate
their likes and dislikes. Self-restraint seems to be a term not
contained in their lexicon. They take a momentary fancy to a young man,
and flatter him with their smiles until some new face takes his place in
their fleeting memory. In this way many young hearts are frittered away
in successive flirtations before their possessors have reached
womanhood. But it would be wrong to confine action from mere blind
impulse and exaggeration to young girls alone. I think it is St. Paul
who gives us some good counsel about "speaking the truth in love." I
fear that very few victims of the tender passion, from Pyramus and
Thisbe down to Petrarch and Laura, and from the latter couple down to
Mr. Smith with Miss Brown hanging on his arm,—who have not sadly needed
the advice of the Apostle of the Gentiles. I have seen very few people
in my day who really speak the truth in love. Therefore I will not blame
girls for a fault which is common to all mankind.

Impulse is commonly supposed to be inconsistent with cunning; but in
most girls I think the two things are singularly combined. I am told
that there is an academy in this city, frequented by many young women,
known as the School of Design. The fact is a gratifying one to me; for
my observation of girlish nature had led me to suppose that there were
very few indeed of the young ladies of these days who required any
tuition in the arts of design. I hail the fact as a good omen for the
sex. Action from impulse carries its young victims to the extremes of
good and evil. Queen Dido is a fair type of the majority of her sex.
Defeated in their hopes, they are willing to make a funeral pile of all
that remains to them. But there is a spirit of generosity in them which
does not find a place in the hearts of men. It was the part of Eve to
bring death into this world, and all our woe, by her inquisitiveness and
credulity; but it was reserved for Adam to inaugurate the meanness of
mankind by laying all the blame to his silly little wife. The accusation
ought to have blistered Adam’s cowardly tongue.

But I am making a long preachment, and yet I have said very little. I
must leave my young friends, however, to draw their own lessons from the
portrait I have given of one whose perfections would far outweigh the
silliness and vanity of a generation of girls. Let them take the gentle
Josey as the model of their youth, and they will not wish to sculpture
their later career after any less perfect shape. There will then be
fewer heartless flirts, fewer vain exhibitors of the works of the
milliner and dressmaker parading the streets, and more true women
presiding over the homes of America. The imitation of her virtues will
be found a better preservative of beauty than any _eau lustrale_; for it
will create a beauty which "time’s effacing fingers" are powerless to
destroy, and give to those who practise it a serene and lovely old age,
whose recollection of the past, instead of awakening any self-reproach,
shall be a source of perpetual benediction.



SHAKESPEARE AND HIS COMMENTATORS


It was a favourite wish of the beneficent Caligula that all mankind had
but one neck, that he might finish them off at a single chop. It would
ill comport with my known modesty, were I to lay claim to any thing like
the all-embracing humanity of the old Roman philanthropist; but I must
acknowledge that I have frequently felt inclined to apply his pious
aspiration to the commentators on Shakespeare. Impatience is not my
prevailing weakness; but these pestilent annotators have often been
instrumental in convincing me that I am no stoic. I have frequently
regretted the days of my youth, when no envious commentary obscured the
brilliancy of that genius which has consecrated the language through
which it finds utterance, and made it venerable to the scholars of all
lands and ages. My love of Shakespeare, like the gout which has been
stinging my right foot all the morning, is hereditary. My revered
grandmother was very fond of solid English literature. She had not had,
it is true, the advantages which the young people of the present day
rejoice in; she had not studied in any of those seminaries which polish
off an education in a most Arabian-Nightsy style of expedition, and send
a young lady home in the middle of her teens, accomplished in innumerous
ologies, and knowing little or nothing that is really useful, or that
will attract her to intellectual pursuits or pleasure in after life. She
had acquired what is infinitely better than the superficial omniscience
which is so much cultivated in these days. The more active duties of
life pleased her not; and Shakespeare was the never-failing resource of
her leisure hours. Mr. Addison’s Spectator was for her a "treasure of
contentment, a mine of delight, and, with regard to style, the best book
in the world." I shall never forget that happy day (anterior even to the
jacket era of my life) when she took me upon her knee, and read to me
the speeches of Marullus, and Mark Antony, and Brutus. In that hour I
became as sincere a devotee as ever bent down before the shrine of
Shakespeare’s genius. Nor has that innocent fanaticism abated any of its
ardour under the weight laid upon me by increasing years. The theatre
has lost many of its old charms for me. The friendships of youth—the
only enduring intimacies, for our palms grow callous in the promiscuous
intercourse of the world, and cannot easily receive new impressions—have
either been terminated by that inexorable power whose chilling touch is
merciless alike to love and enmity, or have been interfered with by the
varying pursuits of life. But Shakespeare still maintains his wonted
sway, and my loyalty to him has not been disturbed by any of the
revolutionary movements which have made such changes in most other
things. Martin Farquhar Tupper has written, but I am so old-fashioned in
my prejudices that I find myself constantly turning to my Shakespeare,
in preference even to that gifted and proverbially philosophic bard.

But I am wandering. From the day I have mentioned, Robinson Crusoe was
obliged to abdicate, and England’s "monarch bard" (as Mr. Sprague calls
Anne Hathaway’s husband) reigned in his stead. I first devoured the
Julius Cæsar. I say "devoured," for no other word will express the eager
earnestness with which I read. The last time I read that play through,
it was "within a bowshot where the Cæsars dwelt," and but a few minutes’
walk from the palace which now holds great Pompey’s statua, at whose
foot the mighty Julius fell. Increase of appetite grew rapidly by what
it fed on, and I was not long in learning as much about the black-clad
prince, the homeless king, the exacting usurer, the fat knight and his
jolly companions, the remorseful Thane, and generous, jealous Moor, as I
knew about Brutus and the other red republican assassins of imperial
Rome. My love of Shakespeare was greatly edified by a friendship which I
formed in my earliest foreign journeyings. It was before the days of
railways,—which, convenient as they are, have robbed travelling of half
its zest, by rendering it so common. I had been making a little tour
through the north of France. I had admired the white caps and pious
simplicity of the peasants of Normandy, and had drunk in that exaltation
of soul which the lofty nave of the majestic Cathedral of Amiens always
imparts, and was about returning to Paris, when a rheumatic attack
arrested my progress and prolonged my stay in the pleasant city of
Douai. I there met accidentally with an English monk of that grand old
Benedictine order, whose history for more than twelve centuries has been
the history of civilization, and literature, and religion. He was
descended from one of those old families which refused to modify their
creed at the demand of a divorce-seeking king. He was a man of clear
intellect and fascinating simplicity of character. He seemed to carry
sunshine with him wherever he went. He occupied a professional chair in
the English College attached to the Benedictine Monastery at Douai, and
when his class hours were ended, he daily came to visit me. His sensible
and sprightly conversation did more towards untying the rheumatic knots
in my poor shoulder, than all the pills and lotions for which _M. le
Médecin_ charged me so roundly. When I visited him in his cell, I found
that a well-worn copy of Shakespeare was the only companion of his
Breviary, his Aquinas and St. Bernard on his study table. He loved
Shakespeare for himself alone. He never used him as a lay figure on
which he might display the drapery of a pedant. He hated commentators as
heartily as a man so sincerely religious can hate any thing except sin,
and was as earnest in his predilection for Shakespeare, "without note or
comment," as his dissenting fellow-countrymen would have wished him to
be for a similar edition of the only other inspired book in the world.
He had his theories, however, concerning Shakespeare’s characters, and
we often talked them over together; but I must do him the justice to say
that he never published any of them. I always regarded this fact as a
splendid evidence of the entireness of his self-abnegation, and of his
extraordinary advancement in the path of religious perfection. Many have
taken the three monastic vows by which he was bound, and have lived up
to them with conscientious fidelity; but few scholars have studied
Shakespeare as he did, and yet resisted the temptation to tell the world
all about it in a book.

Mousing the other day in the library of a venerable citizen of Boston,
who is no less skilled in the gospel (let us hope) than in the law, I
stumbled over a seedy-looking folio containing _A Treatise of Original
Sinne_, by one Anthony Burgesse, who flourished in England something
more than two centuries ago. One of the discoloured fly-leaves of this
entertaining tome informed me, in a hand-writing which resembled a
dilapidated rail-fence looked at from the window of an express train,
that _Jacobus Keith me possedit, An. Dom. 1655_; and also bore this
inscription, so pertinent to my present theme: "Expositors are wise when
they are not otherwise." I feel that it is safe to leave my readers to
make the application of this apothegm to the Shakespearean annotators of
their acquaintance, so few of whom are wise, so many otherwise. I think
it was the late Mr. Hazlitt who said (and if it was not, it ought to
have been) that if you desire to know to what sublimity human genius is
capable of ascending, you must read Shakespeare; but that if you seek to
ascertain to what a depth of imbecility the intellect of man may be
brought down, you must read his commentators.

Notwithstanding the low estimate which I am inclined to place upon the
labour of the majority of the commentators on Shakespeare, still I have
often felt a strong temptation to enroll myself among them. Not all
their stupidity in explaining things which are clear to the meanest
capacity, not all their pedantry in elucidating matters which are simply
inexplicable, not all their inordinate voluminousness, could quench my
ambition to fasten my roll of waste paper to the bob (already so
unwieldy) of the Shakespearean kite. Others have soared into fame by
such means; why should not I? We ought not to study Shakespeare so many
years for nothing, and I feel that a sacred duty would be neglected if
the result of my researches were withheld from my suffering
fellow-students. But let me be more merciful than other commentators;
let me confine my remarks to a single play. From that one you may learn
the tenor of my theories concerning the others; and if you wish for
another specimen, I shall consider that I have achieved an unheard-of
triumph in this department of literature.

The tragedy of _Hamlet_ has always been regarded as one of the most
creditable of Shakespeare’s performances. It needs no new commendation
from me. Dramatic composition has made great progress within the two
hundred and sixty years that have elapsed since Hamlet was written, yet
few better things are produced nowadays. We may as well acknowledge the
humiliating fact that Hamlet, with all its age, is every whit as good as
if it had been written since Lady Day, and were announced on the
playbills of to-morrow night, with one of Mr. Boucicault’s most eloquent
and elaborate prefaces. The character of Hamlet has been much discussed,
but, with all due respect for the genius of those who have fatigued
their reader with their treatment of the subject, I would humbly suggest
that they are all wrong. Hamlet resembles a picture which has been
scoured, and retouched, and varnished, and restored, until you can
hardly see any thing of the original. Critics and commentators have
bedaubed the original character so thoroughly, and those credulous
people who rejoice that Chatham’s language is their mother tongue, have
heard so much of their estimate of Hamlet’s character, that they receive
them on faith, flattering themselves all the while that they are paying
homage to the Hamlet of Shakespeare. High-flown philosophy exerts its
powers upon the theme, and Goethe gives it as his opinion that the
dramatist wished to portray the effects of a great action, imposed as a
duty upon a mind too feeble for its accomplishment, and compares it to
an oak planted in a china vase, proper to receive only the most delicate
flowers, and which flies to pieces as soon as the roots begin to strike
out.

Now let us drop all this metaphysical and poetical cant, and go back to
the play itself. Shakespeare will prove his own best expositor, if we
read him with docile minds, having previously instructed ourselves
concerning the history of the time of which he wrote. There is a
tradition common in the north of Ireland that Hamlet’s father was a
native of that country, named Howndale, and that he followed the trade
of a tailor; that he was captured by the Danes, in one of their
expeditions against that fair island, and carried to Jutland; that he
married and set up in business again in that cold region, but that he
afterwards forsook the sartorial for the regal line, by usurping the
throne of Denmark. The tradition represents him to have been a man of
violent character, a hard drinker, and altogether a most unprincipled
and unamiable person, though an excellent tailor. Now, if we take the
old chronicle of Saxo Grammaticus, (_Historia Danorum_,) from which
Shakespeare drew the plot for his tragedy, we shall find there little
that does not harmonize with this tradition. Saxo Grammaticus tells us
that Hamlet was the son of Horwendal, who was a famous pirate of
Jutland, whom the king, Huric, feared so much, that, to propitiate him,
he was obliged to appoint him governor of Jutland, and afterwards to
give him his daughter Gertrude in marriage. Thus he obtained the throne.
The old Irish name, Howndale, might easily have been corrupted into
Horwendal by the jaw-breaking Northmen, and for the rest, the Danish
chronicle and the Irish tradition are perfectly consistent. That there
was frequent communication at that early period between Denmark and
Ireland, I surely need not take the trouble to prove. All the early
chronicles of both of those countries bear witness to it. It was to the
land evangelized by St. Patrick that Denmark was indebted for the
blessings of education and the Christian faith. But the visits of the
Danes were not dictated by any holy zeal for the salvation or mental
advancement of their benefactors, if we may believe all the stories of
their piratical expeditions. An Irish monk of the great monastery of
Banchor, who wrote very good Latin for the age in which he lived,
alludes to this period in his country’s history in a poem, one line of
which is sometimes quoted, even now:—

      _Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes._
    "Time was, O Danes, we feared your gifts."

The great Danish poet, Œhlenschlæger, makes frequent allusions in the
course of his epic, _The Gods of the North_, to the relations that once
existed between Denmark and Ireland, and to the fact that his native
land received from Ireland the custom of imbibing spirituous liquors in
large quantities.

Hamlet’s Irish parentage would naturally be concealed as much as
possible by him, as it might prejudice his claims to the throne of
Denmark; therefore we can hardly expect to find the ancient legend
confirmed in the play, except in a casual manner. The free, outspoken,
Irish nature would make itself known occasionally. Thus we find that
when Horatio tells him that "there’s no offence," he rebukes him with

    "Yes, _by St. Patrick_, but there is, Horatio!"

There certainly needs no ghost come from the grave to tell us that no
true-born Scandinavian would have sworn in an unguarded moment by the
Apostle of Ireland. Again, when Hamlet thinks of killing his uncle, the
wrongful king, he apostrophizes himself by the name which he probably
bore when he assisted his father (whose death he wishes to avenge) in
his shop in Jutland:—

    "Now, might I do it, Pat, now he is praying."

Then, too, he speaks to Horatio of the "funeral baked meats" coldly
furnishing forth the marriage table at his mother’s second espousal. The
custom of baking meats is as well known to be of Irish origin, as that
of roasting them is to be peculiar to the northern nations of
continental Europe.

The frequent allusions in the course of the play to drinking customs not
only prove that Hamlet descended from that nation whose hospitality is
its greatest fault, but that he and his family were far from being the
refined and philosophic people some of the commentators would have us
believe. Thus he promises his old companion,—

    "We’ll teach you to drink deep ere you depart,"—

which the most prejudiced person will freely allow to be truly a
_Corkonian_ phrase. This frailty of the family may be seen throughout
the play. In the last scene, it is especially apparent. All the royal
family of Denmark seem to have joined an intemperance society. The queen
even, in spite of her husband’s remonstrances, joins in the carousal.
Hamlet, too, while he is dying, starts up on hearing Horatio say,
"Here’s yet some liquor left," and insists upon the cup being given to
him. I know that it may be urged, on the other hand, that in the scene
preceding the first appearance of the ghost before Hamlet, he indulges
in some remarks which would prove him to have entertained sentiments
becoming his compatriot, the noble Father Mathew. Speaking of the custom
of draining down such frequent draughts of Rhenish, he pronounces it to
his mind

      "a custom
    More honoured in the breach than the observance."

It must be remembered that the occasion on which this speech was uttered
was a solemn one. Under such supernatural circumstances old Silenus or
the King of Prussia himself might be pardoned for growing somewhat
homiletic on the subject of temperance. The conclusion of this speech
has given the commentators a fine chance to exercise their ingenuity.

      "The dram of bale
    Doth all the noble substance often doubt
    To his own scandal."

They have called it the "dram of base," the "dram of eale," &c., and
then have been as much in the dark as before. Some have thought that
Shakespeare intended to have written it "the dram of Bale," as a sly hit
at Dr. John Bale, the first Protestant Bishop of Ossory in Ireland, who
was an unscrupulous dram-drinker as well as dramatist, for he wrote a
play called "Kynge Johan," which was reprinted under the editorial care
of my friend, Mr. J. O. Halliwell, by the Camden Society, in 1838. But
this attempt to make it reflect upon the Ossory prelate is entirely
uncalled for. A little research would have showed that _bale_ was a
liquor somewhat resembling our whiskey of the true R. G. brand, the
consumption of which in the dram-shops of his country the Prince Hamlet
so earnestly deplored. The great Danish philosopher, V. Scheerer
Homboegger, in his autobiography, speaks of it, and says that like all
the Danes he prefers it to either wine or ale, or water even: _Der er
vand, her er vun og oel,—men allested BAELE drikker saaledes de
Dansker._ (Autobiog. II. xiii. Ed. Copenhag.)

As to the proofs that Hamlet’s family was closely connected with the
tailoring interest, they are so thickly scattered through the entire
tragedy, and are so apparent even to the casual reader, that, even if I
had room, it would only be necessary to mention a few of the principal
ones. In the very first scene in which he is introduced, Hamlet talks in
an experienced manner about his "inky cloak," "suits of solemn black,"
"forms" and "modes," and tries to defend himself from the suspicion
which he feels is attached to him by many of the courtiers, by saying
plainly, "I know not _seams_." This first speech of Hamlet’s is a key to
the wanton insincerity of his character. His mother has begged him to
change his clothes,—to "cast his nighted colour off,"—and he answers her
requests with, "I shall _in all my best_ obey you, madam;" yet it is
notorious that he heeds not this promise, but wears black to the end of
his career.

He repeatedly uses the expressions which a tailor would naturally
employ. His figures of speech frequently smell of the shop. As, for
instance, he says to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, "The appurtenance of
welcome is fashion and ceremony. Let me comply with you in this garb;"
in the scene preceding the play he declares that, though the devil
himself wear black, he’ll "have a suit of sables." In the interview with
his mother, who may be supposed not to have forgotten the early history
of the family, he uses such figures with still greater freedom:—

    "That monster _custom_ who all sense doth eat
    Of _habit’s_ devil, is angel yet in this;
    That to the use of actions fair and good
    He likewise gives a _frock_ or _livery_,
    That aptly is put on."

In his instruction to the players he speaks of tearing "a passion to
_tatters_, to very _rags_" and says of certain actors that when he saw
them it seemed to him as if "some of nature’s _journeymen_ had made men
and not made them well." In the fourth act, he calls Rosencrantz a
_sponge_.

What better evidence of the skill of Hamlet and his father in their
common trade can we have than that afforded by the fair Ophelia, who
speaks of the Prince as "the glass of fashion and the mould of form"? In
the chamber scene with his mother, Hamlet is taken entirely off his
guard by the sudden appearance of his father’s ghost, whom he
apostrophizes, not in the set phrases which he used when Horatio and
Marcellus were by, but as "_a king of shreds and patches_". Old Polonius
does not wish his daughter to marry a tailor, but is too polite to tell
her all of his objections to Lord Hamlet’s suit; so he cloaks his
reasons under these figures of speech, instead of telling her, out of
whole cloth, that Hamlet is a tailor, and the match will never do:—

    "Do not believe his vows, for they are brokers,
    Not of that dye which there in vestments show,
    But implorators of unholy suits," &c.

Some late editions of the Bard make the second line of this passage
read,—

    "Not of that die which their investments show,"——

which is as evident a corruption of the text as any of those detected by
the indefatigable Mr. Payne Collier.

If any further proof is needed of a matter which must be clear to every
reasoning mind, it may be found in that solemn scene in which the
Prince, oppressed by the burden of a life embittered and defeated in its
highest aims, meditates suicide. Now, if there is a time when all
affectation of worldly rank would be likely to be forgotten and
swallowed up in the contemplation of the terrible deed which occupies
the mind, it is such a time as this. And here we find Shakespeare as
true as Nature herself. The soldier, weary of life, uses the sword his
enemies once feared, to end his troubles. Hamlet’s mind overleaps the
interval of his princely life, and the weapon which is most naturally
suggested by his youthful career is "_a bare bodkin_."

Had I not already written more than I intended on this subject, I might
go on with many other evidences of the truth of my view of this
remarkable character. I did wish also to show that Hamlet was a most
disreputable character, and by no means entitled to the sympathy or
admiration of men. Suffice it to say that he was, even to his last hour,
fonder of drink than became a prince (except perhaps a Prince
Regent)—that he treated Ophelia improperly—that he often spoke of his
step-father in profane terms—that he indulged in the use of profane
language even in his soliloquies, as for example,—

      "The spirit I have seen
    May be a devil; and the devil hath power
    To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps
    Out of my weakness, and my melancholy,
    (As he is very potent with such spirits)
    Abuses me too,—damme!"

His familiarity with the players likewise is an incontrovertible proof
of his depravity; for the theatrical people of Denmark in his age were
not what the players of our day are. They were too often people of loose
and reckless lives, careless of moral and social obligations, and whose
company would by no means be acceptable to a truly philosophic prince.

If this pre-Raphaelite sketch of Hamlet’s character should seem
unsatisfactory, it can be filled out by a perusal of the play itself, if
the reader will only cast aside the trammels which the commentators have
placed in his way. It may be a new view to most of my readers; but I am
convinced that the theory, of which I have given an outline, is fully as
tenable as many of the countless conjectural essays to which that
matchless drama has given rise. If it be untrue, why, then we must
conclude that all similar theories, though they may be sustained by as
many passages as I have adduced in support of my Hibernico-sartorial
hypothesis, are equally devoid of a foundation of common sense. If my
theory stands, I have the satisfaction of having connected my name
(which would else be soon forgotten) with one of Shakespeare’s
masterpieces; and that is all that any commentator has ever done. And if
my theory proves false, it consoles me to think that the splendour of
the genius which I so highly reverence is in no wise obscured thereby;
for the stability and grandeur of the temple cannot be impaired by the
obliteration of the ambitious scribblings and chalk-marks with which
some aspiring worshippers may have defaced its portico.



MEMORIALS OF MRS. GRUNDY


Of all the studies to which I was ever impelled in my youth, either by
fear of the birch or by the hope of the laurel or the bays, mythology
was perhaps the most charming. It was refreshing, after trying in vain
to conjugate a verb, and being at last obliged to decline it—after
adding up a column of figures several times, and getting many different
results, and none of them the right one—and after making a vain attempt
to comprehend the only algebraic knowledge that ever was forced into my
unmathematical brain, viz., that _x_ equals an unknown quantity,—it was,
I say, refreshing to turn over the leaves of my Classical Dictionary,
and revel among the gods and heroes whose wondrous careers were embalmed
in its well-thumbed pages. Lemprière was the great magician who summoned
up before my delighted eyes the denizens of a sphere where existence was
unvexed by any pestilent arithmetics, and where the slavery of the inky
desk was unknown. It always seemed to me as if the knowledge that I
gained out of those enchanted chronicles not only improved my mind, but
made my body more robust; for I joined in the chase, fought desperate
battles, as the gods willed it, and breathed all the while the pure,
invigorating air of old Olympus. The consecrated groves were the
dwelling-place of my mind, and I became for a time a sharer in the joys
of beings in whom I believed with all the ardour and simplicity of
childhood. I enjoyed my mythological readings all the more because they
did not generally find favour with my school companions, most of whom
vindicated their nationality by professing their affection for the Rule
of Three. One of them, I remember, was especially severe on the
uselessness of the studies in which I took pleasure. He, _parcus deorum
cultor, et infrequens_, could get no satisfaction out of the books in
which I revelled; if _he_ had got to study or read, he could not afford
to waste his brains over the foolish superstitions of three thousand
years ago. He did not care how much romance and poetic beauty there
might be in the ancient mythology: what did it all come to in the end?
It didn’t pay. It was a humbug. Our paths in life separated when we
graduated from jackets and peg-tops. He remained faithful to his boyish
instincts, and pursued the practical as if it were a reality. After a
few years his face lost all its youthful look; an intense spirit of
acquisitiveness gleamed in his calculating eye, and an interest table
seemed to be written in the lines of his care-worn countenance. We
seldom had any conversation in our after years, for he always seemed to
be under some restraint, as if he feared that I wished to borrow a
little money of him, and he did not wish to refuse for the sake of the
old time when we sat at the same desk, although he knew that my note was
good for nothing. His devotion to his deity, the practical, did not go
unrewarded. He became like the only mythological personage whom he would
have envied, had he known any thing of the science he despised. His
touch seemed to transmute every thing into gold. His speculations during
the war of 1812 were all successful. Eastern lands harmed him not. The
financial panic of 1837 only put money in his purse. He rolled up a
large fortune, and was happy. He looked anxious, but of course he was
happy. What man ever devoted his life to the working out of the dreams
of his youth in the acquisition of riches, and succeeded beyond his
anticipations, without being very happy? But, if his gains were
something practical and real, his losses were doubly so. Each one of
them was as a dagger stuck into that sere heart. His only son gave him
much trouble by his wild life, and, what touched him still more, wasted
the money he had laboured to pile up, at the gaming tables of Baden. I
saw him walking down Tremont Street the other day, looking care-worn and
miserable, and I longed to ask him what he thought of the real and
practical after trying them. He would certainly have been willing to
acknowledge that there is more reality in the romance and poetry of
mythology than in the thousands which he invested in the Bay State
Mills. His practical life has brought him vanity and vexation of spirit,
while the old Lemprière, which he used to treat so contemptuously,
flourishes in immortal youth, unhurt amid the wreck of fortunes and the
depreciation of stocks.

But I am not writing an essay on mythology. I wish to treat of one who
is sometimes considered a myth, but who is a living and breathing
personality like all of us. This wide-spread scepticism is one of the
most fatal signs of the times. Because the late Mrs. Sairey Gamp
supposed herself justified in cultivating a little domestic mythology in
the shade of the famous Mrs. Harris, are we to take all the personages
who have illustrated history as myths and unrealities? Shade of
Herodotus, forbid it! There are some unbelieving and irreverent enough
to doubt whether there is really such a person as Mrs. Partington; other
some there are so hardened in their incredulity as to question the
existence of the individual who smote Mr. William Patterson, and even of
the immortal recipient of the blow himself. Therefore we ought not to
think it strange that the lady whose name adorns the title of this
article should not have escaped the profane spirit of the age.

Unfortunately for us, Mrs. Grundy is no myth, but a terrible reality.
She is a widow. The late Mr. Grundy bore it with heroic patience as long
as he could, and then, by a divine dispensation in which he gladly
acquiesced, was relieved of the burden of life. If he be not happy now,
the great doctrine of compensation is nought but a delusion and a sham.
If endless happiness could only be attained through such a purgatory as
poor Grundy’s life, few of us, I fear, would yearn to be counted among
the elect. Martyrs, and confessors, and saints of every degree have won
their crowns of beatitude with comparative ease; if they had been
subjected to a twenty years’ novitiate with Mrs. Grundy and her tireless
tongue, they would have found how much more terrible that was than the
laborious life or cruel death by which they passed from earth, and fewer
bulls of canonization would have received the Seal of the Fisherman. I
have heard from those who were acquainted with that estimable and
uncomplaining man that he married for love. His wife was a person of
considerable attractions, of an inquiring turn of mind, and of uncommon
energy of character. In her care of his household there was nothing of
which he might with reason complain. She kept a sharp look-out over all
those matters in which the prudent housewife delights to show her skill;
her table was worthy to receive regal legs beneath its shining mahogany
and spotless cloth, and I have even heard that her husband never had
occasion to curse mentally over the lack of a shirt-button. Yet was
Giles Grundy, Esquire, one of the most miserable of men. Of what avail
was it to him that his wife could preserve quinces, if she could not
preserve her own peace of mind? What did it matter how well she cured
hams, if she always failed so miserably in curing her tongue? What
profit was it that her accounts with her butcher and grocer were always
correctly kept, if her accounts of all her neighbours constantly overran
and kept her and her spouse in a perpetual state of moral bankruptcy?
What difference did it make how well she took care of her own family, if
they were to be kept in an unending turmoil by her solicitude concerning
that of every body else?

If you had visited Mrs. Grundy, and remarked the brightness of the
door-knocker, the stair-rods, the andirons, and every other part of her
premises that was susceptible of polish, and the scrupulous cleanliness
that held absolute sway around her, you would have sworn that she was
gifted with the hundred arms of Briareus: if you had listened for
fifteen minutes to her observations of men and things, you would have
had a conviction amounting to absolute certainty that she possessed the
eyes of Argus. Nobody ever doubted that she was a most religious person.
She attended to all her religious duties with most edifying exactness.
She was always in her seat at church, and could tell you, to a bonnet
ribbon, the dress of every person who honoured the sacred edifice with
his or her presence. If you would know who of the congregation were so
lacking in fervour of spirit as to neglect to bow in the creed, or to
commit the impropriety of nodding during the sermon, Mrs. Grundy could
give you all the information you could wish. She carried out the divine
precept to the letter: she watched as well as prayed. But her religion
did not waste itself in mere devotional ecstasy; it took the most
attractive form of religion—that of active benevolence. And her pious
philanthropy was not of that exclusively telescopic character that looks
out for the interests of the Cannibal Islands and the king thereof, and
cannot understand that there is any spiritual destitution nearer home.
She subscribed, it is true, to support the missionaries with their wives
and numerous children, who were devoted to the godly work of converting
the Chinese and the Juggernauts; but she did something also in the way
of food and flannel for the victims of want in her own neighbourhood.
She established a sewing circle in the parish where she lived, and never
appeared happier than when busily engaged with her female companions in
their weekly task and talk. I am afraid that there was other sowing done
in that circle besides plain sewing. The seeds of domestic unhappiness
and strife were carried from thence into all parts of the parish.
Reputations as well as garments took their turn among those benevolent
ladies, and were cut out, and fitted, and basted, and sewed up, and
overcast. The sewing circle was Mrs. Grundy’s confessional. Do not
misapprehend me—I would not asperse her character by accusing her of
what are known at the present day as "Romanizing tendencies"; for she
lived long before the "scarlet fever" invaded the University of Oxford
and carried off its victims by hundreds; and nobody ever suspected her
of any desire to tell her own offences in the ear of any human being.
No, she detested the Roman confessional in a becoming manner; but she
upheld, by word and example, that most scriptural institution, the
sewing circle—the Protestant confessional, where each one confesses, not
her own sins, but the sins of her neighbours. Mrs. Grundy’s success with
her favourite institution encouraged others to emulate her example; and
now sewing circles are common wherever the mother tongue of that
benevolent lady is spoken. It must in justice be acknowledged that there
are few institutions of human invention which have departed from the
spirit of their original founder so little as the sewing circle.

Yet, in spite of all her virtues as a housekeeper, a philanthropist, and
a Christian, Mrs. Grundy had her enemies. Some people were uncharitable
enough to say that she was the cause of more trouble than all the rest
of the female population of the town. They accused her of setting
herself up as a censor, and giving judgments founded upon hearsay
testimony rather than sound legal evidence. They even said that she made
her visits among the poor a cloak for the gratification of her
inquisitiveness; and, if it is ever pardonable to judge of the motives
of a fellow-being, I think that, in consideration of their exasperation,
they must be excused for making so unkind a charge, it seemed to be so
well founded. Far be it from me to say that Mrs. Grundy ever wilfully
misrepresented. She would have shrunk instinctively from a falsehood.
But she delighted to draw inferences; and no fact or rumour ever came to
her without being classified properly in her mental history of her
neighbours, and being made to shed its full influence upon her next
conversation. It is astonishing how much one pair of eyes and ears will
do in the collection of information when a person is devoted to it in
earnest. In her younger days, Mrs. Grundy had taken pleasure in watching
her neighbours and keeping up a running commentary on their movements;
as she advanced in life, it became her business. Her efforts in that way
were rather in the style of an amateur up to the time of her marriage;
afterwards she adopted a professional air. She placed herself at her
favourite window, ornamenting its seat with her spools, and though she
stitched away with commendable industry, nothing escaped her that came
within range of her keen powers of observation.

If Mr. Brown called on Mrs. White over the way, Mrs. Grundy set it down
as a remarkable occurrence: if he repeated his visit a week later, she
would not declare it positively scandalous, but it was evident that her
nicer sense of propriety was deeply wounded: if he passed by the door
without calling, it was clear that there had been a falling out—that
Mrs. White had seen the error of her ways, or that her husband had, and
had given Brown a warning. If a stranger was seen exercising Jones’s
bell-pull on two consecutive days, this indefatigable woman allowed not
her eyes to sleep nor her eyelids to slumber until she had satisfied
herself concerning his name and purpose. If Mr. Thompson waited upon
pretty Miss Jenkins home in a shower, and treated her kindly and
politely, (and who could do otherwise with a young angel in blue and
drab, who might charm a Kaffir or a Sepoy into urbanity?) Mrs. Grundy
straightway instituted inquiries among all the neighbours as to whether
it was true that they were engaged. After this fashion did Mrs. Grundy
live. Her words have been known to blast a reputation which under the
sunshine of prosperity and the storms of misfortune had sustained itself
with equal grace and honour. It was useless to bring up proofs of a life
of integrity against her sentence or her knowing smile. There was no
appeal from her decision. Not that she was uncharitable,—only it did
seem as if she were rather more willing to believe evil of her
neighbours than good; and she appeared slow to trust in the repentance
of any one who had ever fallen into sin, especially if the person were
of her own sex. I am not complaining of this peculiarity; we must be
circumspect and strict, and mercy is a quality too rare and divine to be
wasted on every trivial occasion. But I cannot help thinking that, if
the penitent found it as hard to gain the absolving smile of that Power
to which alone we are answerable for our misdeeds as to reinstate
himself in the good graces of Mrs. Grundy, how few of us could have any
hope of the beatific vision!

Mrs. Grundy had great influence; she was respected and feared. People
found that she would give her opinion _ex cathedra_, and that, however
unfounded that opinion might be, there were those who would reëcho it
until common repetition gave it the force of truth; so they tried to
conciliate her by graduating their actions according to what they
supposed would be her judgment. When this was seen, she began to be
envied by some who had once hated her, and her idiosyncrasies were made
the study of many of her sex who longed to share her empire over the
thoughts and actions of their fellow-creatures. Thus, by a sort of
multiplex metempsychosis, were Mrs. Grundy’s virtues perpetuated, and
she was endowed with a species of omnipresence. In this country Mrs.
Grundy is a power. She is the absolute sovereign of America. Her reign
there is none to dispute. Our national motto ought to be, instead of _E
pluribus unum_, "What will Mrs. Grundy say?" There is no class in our
community over which she does not exercise more or less power. Our
politicians, when they cease to regard their influence as a commodity to
be sold to the highest bidder, act, not from any fixed principles, but
with a single eye to the good will of Mrs. Grundy. If a man is buying a
house, it is ten chances to one that Mrs. Grundy’s opinion concerning
gentility of situation will carry the day against cosiness and real
comfort. If your wife or daughter goes to buy a dress, Mrs. Grundy’s
taste will be consulted in preference to the durability of the fabric or
the condition of your purse. Mrs. Grundy dictates to us how we shall
furnish our houses, and prescribes to us our whole rule of life. Under
her stern sway, multitudes are living beyond their means, and trying to
avert the bankruptcy and unhappiness that inevitably await them. It is
not merely in the management of temporal affairs that Mrs. Grundy makes
her power felt. Her vigilance checks many a generous impulse, stands
between the resolution to do justice and its execution, and is a
fruitful source of hypocrisy. She presides over the pulpit; the power of
wardens and vestrymen is swallowed up by her; and the minister who can
dress up his weekly dish of moral commonplaces so as not to offend her
discriminating taste deserves to retain his place, and merits the
unanimous admiration of the whole sewing circle. She is to be found in
courts of law, animating the opposing parties, and enjoying the contest;
actions of slander are an agreeable recreation to her; petitions for
divorce give her unmixed joy. Like the fury, Alecto, so finely described
by Virgil, Mrs. Grundy can arm brothers to deadly strife against each
other, and stir up the happiest homes with infernal hatred; to her
belong a thousand woful arts—_Sibi nomina mille, mille nocendi artes_.
Mrs. Grundy’s philanthropy confines itself to no particular class; it is
universal. Nothing that relates to human kind is alien to her. There is
nothing earthly so high that she does not aspire to control it, nor any
thing too contemptible for her not to wish to know all about it.

Mrs. Grundy is omnipresent. Go where you will, you cannot escape from
her presence. She stands guard unceasingly over your front door and back
windows. Her watchful eye follows you whene’er you take your walks
abroad. Your name is never mentioned that she is not by, and seriously
inclined to hear aught that may increase her baleful stock of knowledge.
It is all the same to her whether you have lived uprightly or viciously;
beneath her Gorgon glance all human actions are petrified alike. And if
she does not succeed in sowing discord around your hearthstone, and in
driving you to despair and self-murder, as she did poor Henry Herbert
the other day, it will be because you are not cursed with his fiery
sensitiveness, and not because she lacks the will to do it.

There is but one way in which the Grundian yoke can be thrown off. We
must treat her as the English wit treated an insignificant person who
had insulted him; we must "let her alone severely." We pay a certain
kind of allegiance to her if we take notice of her for the purpose of
running counter to her notions. We must ignore her altogether. It is
true, this requires a great deal of moral courage, particularly in a
country where every body knows every body else’s business; but it is an
easier task to acquire that courage than to submit patiently to Mrs.
Grundy’s dictation and interference. Who shall estimate the happiness of
that millennial period when we shall cease to ask ourselves before our
every action, "What will Mrs. Grundy say?" and shall begin in earnest to
live up to the golden rule that counsels us to mind our own business?
When that day comes, what a world this will be! How will superficial
morality and skin-deep propriety, envy and uncharitableness, be
diminished! How will contentment, and mutual good will, and domestic
peace be augmented! Think on these things, O beloved reader; mind your
own business, and the day is not far distant when, for you at least, the
iron sceptre of Dame Grundy shall be powerless, and the spell broken
that held you in so humiliating a thraldom.



THE PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE


Life is what we make it. The same scenes wear a very different
appearance to an ingenuous youth "in the bright morning of his virtues,
in the full spring blossom of his hopes," and to the disappointed wretch
who gazes on them "with the eyes of sour misanthropy." The horse that
was turned by his benevolent owner into a carpenter’s shop, with a pair
of green spectacles prefixed to his nose, and mistook the dry pine
shavings for his legitimate fodder, was very much in the condition of a
youth looking upon life and yielding to the natural enthusiasm of his
unwarped spirit. Like the noble brute, however, the young man is
undeceived as soon as he tries to sustain himself with the vanities
which look so tempting and nutritious. He may, like a Wolsey, a Charles
V., or a Napoleon, attain to the heights of power before the delusive
glasses drop off; but even though the moment be delayed until he lies
gasping in the clutch of that monarch to whom the most absolute of
sovereigns and the most radical of republicans alike must yield
allegiance, it is sure to come, and show him the ashes that lay hid
beneath the fair, ripe-looking rind of the fruit he climbed so high to
obtain. Life passes before us like a vast panorama, day by day and year
by year unrolling and disclosing new scenes to charm us into
self-forgetfulness. At one time, we breathe the bracing air of the
mountains; at another, our eyes are gladdened by the sight of sunshiny
meadows, or of fertile and far-reaching prairies; and then the towered
city, with its grove of masts and its busy wharves, makes all mere
natural beauty seem insignificant in comparison with the enterprise and
ambition of man; until, at last, the canvas is rolled away, the music
ceases, the lights are put out, and we are left to realize that all in
which we delighted was but an illusion and a "fleeting show."

Nevertheless, in spite of the vanities that surround us,—in spite of the
sublime world-sickness of Solomon and the Preacher, and the fierce
satire of Juvenal, (who was as anxious to ascertain the precise weight
of Hannibal as if that illustrious _dux_ had been a
prize-fighter,)—there is considerable reality in life. The existence of
so much sham and make-believe implies the existence of the real and
true. Sir Thomas Browne tells us that "in seventy or eighty years a man
may have a deep gust of the world"; and it were indeed melancholy if any
one with hair as gray as mine should look despairingly over the field of
human existence and effort, and cry, "All is barren."

Life, as I have before said, is whatever we choose to make it. Its true
philosophy is that divine art which enables us to transmute its every
moment into the pure gold of heroic and changeless immortality. Without
that philosophy, it is impossible for the world not to seem at times as
it did to the desponding Danish prince, "a sterile promontory," and a
"foul and pestilent congregation of vapours." Without it, life is like
an elaborate piece of embroidery, looked at from the wrong side; we
cannot but acknowledge the brilliancy of some of its threads, and the
delicate texture of the work, but its lack of system, and of any
appearance of utility, fatigues the mind that hungers after perfection,
and tempts it to doubt the divine wisdom and goodness from which it
originated. With it, however, we gaze with admiration and awe upon the
front of the same marvellous work. Our sense is no longer puzzled by any
straggling threads, or loose ends; the exquisite colours, the contrast
of light and shade, and the perfect symmetry and harmony of the design,
fill the heart of the beholder with wonder and delight, and draw him
nearer to the source of those ineffable perfections which are but
imperfectly symbolized in the marvels of the visible universe.

The philosophy which can do all this is _sincerity_. "I think sincerity
is better than grace," says Mr. T. Carlyle; and the Scotch savage is
right. All the amenities of life that spring from any other source than
a true heart, are but gratuitous hypocrisy. The kind-hearted knight whom
I have already quoted showed how highly he esteemed this virtue when he
said, "Swim smoothly in the stream of nature, _and live but one man_."
This double existence, that most of us support,—that is, what we really
are, and what we wish to be considered,—is the source of many of our
faults, and most of our vexation and wretchedness. He is the truly happy
man who forgets that "appearances must be kept up," and remembers only
that "each of us is as great as he appears in the sight of his Creator,
and no greater." A great French philosopher has truly said, "How many
controversies would be terminated, if the disputants were obliged to
speak out exactly what they thought!" And surely he might have gone
farther in the same line of thought; for how much heartburning, domestic
unhappiness, dishonesty, and shameful poverty might be prevented, if my
neighbour Jinkins and his wife were content to pass in the world for
what they are, instead of assuming a princely style of living that only
makes their want of true refinement more apparent, and if Johnson and
his wife could be induced not to imitate the vulgar follies of the
Jinkinses! Believe me, incredulous reader, there is more wisdom in old
Sir Thomas’s exhortation to "live but one man" than appears at first
sight.

But to leave this great primary virtue, which policy teaches most men to
practise, though they love it not,—there are two or three principles of
action which I have found very useful in my career, and which form a
part of my philosophy of life. The first is, never to anticipate
troubles. Many years ago, I was travelling in a part of our common
country not very thickly settled, and, coming to a place where two roads
met, I applied, in my doubt as to which one I ought to take, to an old
fellow (with a pair of shoulders like those of Hercules, and a face on
which half a century of sunshine, and storm, and toddies had made an
indelible record) who was repairing a rickety fence by the wayside. He
scanned me with a look that seemed to take in not only my personal
appearance, but the genealogy of my brave ancestor, who might have
fallen in a duel if he had not learned how "to distinguish between the
man and the act," and then directed me to turn to the left, as that road
saved some three or four miles of the distance to the farm-house to
which I was journeying. As it was spring-time, I manifested some anxiety
to know whether the freshets, which had been having quite a run of
business in some parts of the country, had done any damage to a bridge
which I knew I must cross if I took the shorter road. He sneered at my
forethought, and said he supposed that the bridge was all right, and
that I had better "go ahead, and see." I was acting upon his advice,
when a shout from his hoarse, nasal voice caused me to look back. "I
say, young man," he bawled out to me, "never cross a bridge till you
come to it!" There was wisdom in the old man’s rough-spoken
sentence—"solid chunks of wisdom," as Captain Ed’ard Cuttle would fain
express it—and it sank deep into my memory. There are very few of us who
have not a strong propensity to diminish our present strength by
entertaining fears of future weakness. If we could content ourselves to
"act in the living present,"—if we could keep these telescopic evils out
of sight, and use all our energies in grappling with the difficulties
that actually beset our path,—how much more we should achieve, and how
greatly would our sum of happiness be increased!

Another most salutary principle in my philosophy is, never to allow
myself to be frightened until I have examined and fairly established the
necessity of such a humiliation. I adopted this principle in my
childhood, being led to it in the following manner: I was visiting my
grandfather, who lived in a fine old mansion-house in the country, with
high wainscotings, capacious fireplaces, heavy beams in the ceilings,
and wide-arching elms overshadowing the snug porch where two or three
generations had made love. Sixty years and more have elapsed since that
happy time, yet it seems fresher in my memory than the events of only
quarter of a century back. My grandfather was a lover of books, and
possessed a good deal of general information. He thought it as advisable
to keep up with the history of his own times as to be skilled in that of
empires long since passed away. It is not to be wondered at that he
should have treasured every newspaper—especially every foreign
journal—that he could lay his hands upon. It was under his auspices that
I first read the dreadful story of the Reign of Terror, and acquired my
anti-revolutionary principles.

I shall never forget the bright autumnal afternoon when the mail coach
from Boston brought a package of books and papers to my grandfather. It
was the last friendly favour, in fact the last communication, that he
ever received from his old Tory friend, Mr. Barmesyde, whom I mentioned
with respect in a former essay; for that genial old gentleman died in
London not long after. The parcel had made a quick transit for those
days, Mr. Barmesyde’s letter being dated only forty-six days before it
was opened by my grandsire, and we enjoyed the strong fragrance of its
uncut contents together. The old gentleman seized upon a copy of Burke’s
splendid Essay on the French Revolution, which the package contained,
and left me to revel in the newspapers, which were full of the dreadful
details of that bloody Saturnalia. I got leave from my grandfather (who
was so deep in Burke that he answered me at random) to sit up an hour
later than usual. Terrible as all the things of which I read seemed to
my young mind, there was a fascination about the details of that
sanguinary orgie that completely enchanted me. My imagination was full
of horrible shapes when I was obliged to leave the warm, cheerful
parlour, and Robespierre, Danton, and Marat were the infernal
chamberlains that attended me as I went up the broad, creaking staircase
unwillingly to bed. A fresh north-west breeze was blowing outside, and
the sere woodbines and honeysuckles that filled the house with
fragrance, and gave it such a rural look in summer, startled me with
their struggles to escape from bondage. Had it been spring, my young
imagination was so excited that I should have feared that they might
imitate the insurgents of whom I had been reading and begin to shoot! In
the night my troubled slumbers were disturbed by a noise that seemed to
me louder than the discharge of a heavy cannon. I sat up in the high,
old-fashioned bed, and glared around the room, which was somewhat
lighted by the beams of the setting moon. There was no mistake about my
personal identity—I was neither royalist nor jacobin; there was no doubt
that I was in the best "spare chamber" of my grandfather’s house, and
not in the Bastile, and that the dark-looking thing in the corner was a
solid mahogany chest of drawers, and not a guillotine; but all these
things only served to increase my terror when I noticed a dark form
standing near the foot of the bed and staring at me with pale, fiery
eyes. I rubbed my own eyes hard, and pinched myself severely, to make
sure that I was awake. The room was as still as the great chamber in the
pyramid of Cheops. I could hear the old clock tick at the foot of the
stairs as plainly as if I had been shut up in its capacious case. In the
midst of my perturbation it made every fibre of my frame tremble by
striking _one_ with a solemn clangour that I thought must have waked
every sleeper in the house. The stillness that followed was deeper and
more terrifying than before. I heard distinctly the breathing of the
monster at the foot of the bed. I tried to whistle at the immovable
shape, but I had lost the power to pucker. At last, I formed a desperate
resolution. I knew that, if the being whose big, fierce eyes filled me
with terror were a genuine supernatural fiend, it was all over with me,
and I might as well give up at once. But, if perchance a human form were
hid beneath that dreadful disguise, there was some room for hope of
ultimate escape. To settle this point, therefore, became necessary to my
peace of mind, and I determined that it should be done. Bending up "each
corporal agent to the terrible feat," I slid quietly out of bed. The
monster was as motionless as before, but I noticed that his head was
covered with a white cloth, which made his head seem ghastlier than
ever. Setting my teeth firmly together, and clinching my little fists to
persuade myself that I was not afraid, I made the last, decisive effort.
I walked across the room, and stood face to face with that formidable
shape. My grandfather’s best coat hung there against the wall, its
velvet collar protected from the dust by a white cloth, and the two gilt
buttons on its back glittering in the moonlight. This was the tremendous
presence that had appalled me. The weakness in the knees, the chattering
of my teeth, and the profuse perspiration which followed my recognition
of that harmless garment, bore witness to the severity of my fright.
Before I crawled back into the warm bed, I resolved never in future to
yield to fear, until I had ascertained that there was no escape from it;
and I have had many occasions since to act upon that principle.

Speaking of fear, a friend of mine has a favourite maxim, "Always do
what you are afraid to do;" to which (in a limited sense, so far as it
relates to bodily fear) I subscribed even in my boyhood. I was returning
one evening to my grandfather’s house, during one of my vacation visits,
and yielded to the base sentiment of timidity so far as to choose the
long way thither by the open road, rather than to take the short cut,
through the graveyard and a little piece of woodland, which was the
ordinary path in the daytime. I pursued my way, thinking of what I had
done, until I got within sight of the old mansion and its guardian elms,
when shame for my own cowardice compelled me to retrace my steps a
quarter of a mile or more, and take the pathway I had so foolishly
dreaded. The victory then achieved has lasted to this hour. Dead people
and their habitations have not affrighted me since; indeed, some grave
men whom I have met have excited my mirth rather than my fears.

But overcome our fears and our propensity to borrow trouble, as we
may,—in spite of all our philosophy, life is a severe task. I have heard
of a worthy Connecticut parson of the old school, who enlarged upon the
goodness of that Providence which dealt out time to a man, divided into
minutes, and hours, and days, and months, and years, instead of giving
it to him, as it were, in a lump, or in so large a quantity that he
could not conveniently use it! Laugh as much as you please, gentle
reader, at the seeming absurdity of the venerable divine, but do not
neglect the great truth which inspired his thought. Do not forget what a
great mercy it is that we are obliged to live but one day at a time. Do
not overlook the loving kindness which softens the memory of past
sorrows, and conceals from us those which are to come. I have no respect
for that newest heresy of our age, which pretends to read the secrets of
the unseen world, nor any sympathy with those morbid minds that yearn to
tear away the veil which infinite wisdom and mercy hangs between us and
the future. With all our boasted learning we know little enough; but
that little is far too much for our happiness. How many of our trials
and afflictions could we have borne, if we had been able to foresee
their full extent and to anticipate their combined poignancy? Truly we
might say with Shakespeare,—

      "O, if this were seen,
    The happiest youth—viewing his progress through,
    What perils past, what crosses to ensue—
    Would shut the book, and sit him down and die."

He only is the true philosopher who uses life as the usurer does his
gold, and employs each shining hour so as to insure an ever-increasing
rate of interest. He does not bury his gift, nor waste it in frivolity.
Like the old Doge of Venice, he grows old but does not wear out:
_Senescit, non segnescit_. And he truly lives twice, as an old classical
poet expresses it, inasmuch as he renews his enjoyment of the past in
the recollection of his good actions and of pleasures "such as leave no
sting behind."



BEHIND THE SCENES


There is no pleasure so satisfactory as that which an old man feels in
recalling the happiness of his youthful days. All the woes, and
anxieties, and heart-burnings that disturbed him then have passed away,
and left only sunshine in his memory. And this retrospective enjoyment
increases with every repeated recital, until the scenes of his past
history assume a magnificence of proportion that bewilders the narrator
himself, and sets the principles of optics entirely at defiance. It is
with old men looking back on their younger days very much as it is with
people who have travelled in Italy. How do the latter glow with
enthusiasm at the mere mention of the "land of the melting lyre and
conquering spear"! How do their eyes glisten as they tell of the time
when they mused among the broken columns of the Forum, or breathed the
air of ancient consecration under the majestic vaults of the old
basilicas, or walked along the shores of the world’s most beautiful bay,
and watched the black form of Vesuvius striving in vain to tarnish with
its foul breath the blue canopy above it! They have forgotten their
squabbles with the _vetturini_, the draughtless chimneys in their
lodgings, and the dirty staircase that conducted to them; the fleas,
with all the other disagreeable accompaniments of Italian life, have
fled into oblivion; and Italy lives in their memories only as a land of
gorgeous sunsets, and of a history that dwarfs all other human annals.
And so it is with an old man looking back upon his youth: he forgets how
he cried over his arithmetic lessons; how unfilial his feelings were
when his governor refused him permission to set up a theatre in the
cellar; how sheepishly he slunk through all the back alleys on the day
when he first mounted a tail-coat and a hat; how unhappy he was when he
saw his heart’s idol, Mary Smith, walking home from school with his
implacable foe, Brown; how his head used to ache after those _noctes
cœnæque deûm_ with his club at the old Exchange Coffee House; and what a
void was created in his heart when his crony of cronies was ordered off
by a commission from the war department. There is no room in his crowded
memory for such things as these. Sitting by his fireside, as I do now,
he recalls his youth only as a season of bats and balls, and marbles, of
sleds, and skates, and bright buttons, and clean ruffled collars, of
Christmas cornucopias of hosiery, and no end of Artillery Elections and
Fourths of July, with coppers enough to secure the potentiality of
obtaining egg-pop to an alarming extent.

How he fires up if you mention the theatre to him! He will allow that
Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Warren are most excellent in their way; but bless
your simple heart, what is the stage now compared to what it was in the
first part of this century? And he is about right. It is useless for us,
who remember the old Federal Street playhouse, and the triumphs of Cooke
and the great Kean, to try to go to the theatre now. Our new theatre is
more stately and splendid than Old Drury was, but our players do not
reach my youthful standard. I miss those old familiar faces and voices
that delighted me in times long past, and the stage has lost most of its
charms. I can find my best theatrical entertainment here at home. I call
up from among the shadows that the flickering firelight casts upon the
wall, the tall, knightly figure of Duff, the brisk, busy, scolding Mrs.
Barnes, the sedate and judicious Dickson, the grotesque Finn, the
stately and elegant Mrs. Powell, looking like the personification of
tragedy, and bluff old Kilner, fat and pleasant to the sight, and with
that hearty laugh that made all who heard it love him.

What is the excitement occasioned by the Ellsler or Miss Lind compared
to that which attended the advent of the elder Kean? What crowds used to
beset the box office in the ten-footer next to the theatre, from the
earliest dawn until the opening! I often think, when I meet some of our
gravest and grayest citizens in their daily walks, what a figure they
cut now compared with the days when they were fighting their way into
the box office of the old theatre! Talk of enthusiasm! What are all our
political campaigns and public commemorations compared with that evening
during the last war with Great Britain, when Commodore Bainbridge came
into Boston Bay after his victory over the Java! That admirable actor,
the late Mr. Cooper, was playing Macbeth, and interrupted his
performance to announce the victory.

But, pardon me, I did not sit down here to lose myself in the
reminiscences of half a century ago. Let me try to govern this truant
pen, and keep it more closely to my chosen theme. Do you remember,
beloved reader, your second visit to the theatre? If you do, cherish it;
let it not depart from you, for in the days that are in store for you,
when age and infirmity shall stand guard over you, and you are obliged
to find all your pleasures by your fireside, the memory of your second
play will be very precious to you. You will find, on looking back to it
through a vista of sixty years or more, that all the pleasure you then
enjoyed was placed on the credit side of your account, and has been
increasing by a sort of moral compound interest during the long years
that you have devoted to delights less innocent, perhaps, and certainly
less satisfactory, or to the pursuit of objects far more fleeting and
unreal than those which then fascinated your youthful mind. I say your
"second play," for the first dramatic performance that the child
witnesses is too astonishing to afford him its full measure of
gratification. It is only after he has told his playmates all about it,
and imitated the wonderful hero who rescued the beautiful lady in white
satin, and dreamed of the splendour of the last great scene, when all
the persons of the drama stood in a semicircle, and the king, with a
crown of solid gold upon his head, addressed to the magnanimous hero the
thrilling words,—

    "It is enough: the princess is thine own!"—

and all the characters struck impressive attitudes, and the curtain
descended upon a tableau lighted up by coloured fires of ineffable
brilliancy,—it is only after all these things have sunk deep into the
young mind, and he has resolved to write a play himself, and never to
rest satisfied until he can bring down the house with the best of the
actors he has seen, that he fully appreciates the entertainment which
has been vouchsafed to him.

What a charm invests the place where we made our first acquaintance with
the drama! It becomes an enchanted spot for us, and I doubt if the
greatest possible familiarity in after life can ever breed contempt for
it in our hearts. For my own part, I regarded the destruction of the old
theatre in Federal Street, and the erection of warehouses on its
hallowed site, as a positive sacrilege. And I cannot pass that spot,
even at this late day, without mentally recurring to the joys I once
tasted there. Perhaps some who read this may cherish similar sentiments
about the old Tremont Theatre, a place for which I had as great a
fondness as one can have for a theatre in which he did not see his first
play. The very mention of it calls up its beautiful interior in my
mind’s eye,—its graceful proscenium, its chandeliers around the front of
the boxes, its comfortable pit, where I enjoyed so much good acting, and
all the host of worthies who graced that spacious stage. Mr. Gilbert was
not so fat in those days as he is now, nor Mr. Barry so gray. What a
picturesque hero was old Brough in the time when the Woods were in their
golden prime, and the appearance of the Count Rodolpho on the distant
bridge was the signal for a tempest of applause! Who can forget how Mr.
Ostinelli’s bald head used to shine, as he presided over that excellent
orchestra, or how funny old Gear’s serious face looked, as he peered at
the house through those heavy, silver-bowed spectacles? Perhaps for some
of my younger readers the stage of the Museum possesses similar charms,
and they will find themselves, years hence, looking back to the happy
times when Mr. Angier received their glittering quarters, and they
hastened up stairs, to forget the wanderings of Æneas and the
perplexities of arithmetic in the inimitable fun of that prince-regent
among comedians, Mr. William Warren.

But wherever we may have commenced our dramatic experience, and whatever
that experience may have been, we have all, I am sure, felt the
influence of that mysterious charm which hangs over the stage. We have
all felt that keen curiosity to penetrate to the source of so much
enjoyment. Who has not had a desire to enter that mysterious door which
conducts the "sons of harmony" from the orchestra to the unknown depths
below the stage? It looks dark and forbidding, but we feel instinctively
that it is not so, when we see our venerated uncle Tom Comer carrying
his honest and sunshiny face through it so often. That green curtain,
which is the only veil between us and a world of heroes and
demigods,—how enviously do we look at its dusty folds! With what
curiosity do we inspect the shoes of varied make and colour that figure
in the little space between it and the stage! How do we long to follow
the hero who has strutted his hour upon the stage into the invisible
recesses of P. S. and O. P., and to know what takes the place of the
full audience and the glittering row of footlights in his eyes when he
makes his exit at the "upper entrance, left," or through the "door in
flat" which always moves so noiselessly on its hinges! I think that the
performance of the "Forty Thieves" awakened this curiosity in my mind
more than almost any other play. I longed to inspect more closely those
noble steeds that came with such a jerky gait over the distant
mountains, and to know what produced the fearful noise that attended the
opening of the robbers’ cave. I believed in the untold wealth that was
said to be heaped up in those subterranean depths, but still I wished to
look at the "cavern goblet," and see how it compared with those that
adorned the cases of my excellent friends, Messrs. Davis and Brown. I
can never forget the thrill that shot through me when Morgiana lifted
the cover of the oil jar, and the terrible question, "Is it time?"
issued from it, nor my admiration for the fearlessness of that
self-possessed maiden when she answered with those eloquent and
memorable words, "Not yet, but presently." I believed that the compound
which Morgiana administered so freely to the concealed banditti was just
as certain death to every mother’s son of them as M. Fousel’s _Pabulum
Vitæ_ is renewed life to the consumptives of the present day; and, years
after I had supposed my recollections of the "Forty Thieves" to have
become very misty and shapeless, I found myself startled in an oriental
city by coming upon several oil jars of the orthodox model, and I
astonished the malignant and turbaned Turk who owned them, and amused
the companion of my walks about Smyrna, by lifting the lid of one of
them, and quoting the words of Morgiana. My superstitions concerning
that pleasant old melodrama of course passed away when I became familiar
with the theatre by daylight, and was accustomed to exchange the
compliments of the morning with the estimable gentleman who played
Hassarac; but the illusion of its first performance has never been
entirely blotted from my mind.

Some years ago it was my privilege to visit a place which is classical
to every lover of the drama and its literature. Drury Lane Theatre, now
that its ancient rival, Covent Garden, has passed away, and been
replaced by a house exclusively devoted to the lyric muse, is the only
theatre of London which is associated in every mind with that host of
geniuses who have illustrated dramatic art from the times of Garrick to
our own. That gifted and versatile actor, Mr. Davenport, who stands as
high in the favour of the English as of the American public, conducted
me through that immense establishment. We entered the door, which I had
often looked at with curiosity as I passed through the long colonnade of
the theatre, encountering several of those clean-shaven personages in
clothes that would be much refreshed if they were allowed to take a nap,
and, after traversing two or three dark corridors, found ourselves upon
the stage. The scene of so many triumphs as have there been achieved is
not without its attractions, even though it may look differently _en
déshabille_ from what it does in the glitter of gaslight. The stage
which has been trod by the Kembles, the Keans, Siddons, Macready, Young,
Palmer Dowton, Elliston, Munden, Liston, and Farren, is by no means an
ordinary combination of planks. We know, for Campbell has told us, that

    "——by the mighty actor brought,
      Illusion’s perfect triumphs come;
    Verse ceases to be airy thought,
      And sculpture to be dumb."

Yet what a shadowy, intangible thing the reputation of a great actor
would seem to be! We simply know of him that in certain characters his
genius held the crowded theatre in willing thraldom, and made the hearts
of hundreds of spectators throb like that of one man. Those who felt his
wondrous power have passed away like himself; and all that remains of
him who once filled so large a space in the public eye is an ill-written
biography or a few hastily penned sentences in an encyclopædia.

I was too full of wonder at the extent of that vast stage, however, to
think much of its ancient associations. Those lumbering stacks of
scenery that filled a large building at the rear of the stage, and ran
over into every available corner, told the story of the scenic efforts
of Old Drury during nearly half a century. How many dramas, produced
"without the slightest regard to expense," and "on a scale of
unparalleled splendour," must have contributed to the building up of
those mighty piles! The labyrinthine passages, the rough brick walls,
darkened by time and the un-Penelope-like spiders of Drury Lane, were in
striking contrast to the stage of that theatre as it appears from the
auditorium. The green-room had been placed in mourning for the "goodlie
companie" that once filled it, by the all-pervading, omnipresent smoke
of London. Up stairs the sight was still more wonderful. The space above
the stage was crowded full of draperies, and borders, and dusty ropes,
and wheels, and pulleys. Davenport enjoyed my amazement, and led me
through a darksome, foot-wide passage above the stage, through that
wilderness of cordage to the machinists’ gallery. Take all the
rope-walks that you have ever visited, dear reader, and add to them the
running gear of several first-class ships, and you may obtain something
of an idea of the sight that then met my view. I have often heard an
impatient audience hiss at some trifling delay in the shifting of a
scene. If they could see the complicated machinery which must be set in
motion to produce the effects they desire, their impatience would be
changed to wonder at the skill and care which are so constantly exerted
and make so few mistakes. A glance into two or three of the
dressing-rooms, and a hasty visit to the dark maze of machinery beneath
the stage for working the trapdoors, completed my survey of Old Drury,
and I left its ancient walls with an increased respect for them, and a
feeling of self-gratulation that I was neither an actor nor a manager.

Not long after the above visit, I availed myself of an opportunity to
make a similar inspection of the _Théâtre Français_, in the Palais Royal
at Paris. The old establishment is not so extensive as that of Drury
Lane, but its main features are the same. There was an air of government
patronage about it which was apparent in its every department. The stage
entrance was through a long and well-lighted corridor that might have
led to a banking-house. Its green-room was a luxurious saloon, with a
floor of tessellated walnut and oak, waxed and polished so highly that
you could see your figure in it, and could with difficulty avoid
becoming a lay figure upon it. Its frescoed ceiling and gilded cornices,
its immense mirrors, and its walls covered with the portraits of several
generations of players, whose genius has made the very name of that
theatre venerable throughout the civilized world, were very different
from most of the green-rooms that I had seen. In the ancient colleges in
Italy the walls of the classrooms are hung with portraits of the
distinguished scholars, illustrious prelates, and sometimes of the
canonized saints, who once studied under their time-honoured roofs. In
the same spirit, the green-room of the _Théâtre Français_ is adorned
with busts and pictures; and the chairs that once were occupied by a
Talma, a Mars, and a Rachel are held in honour in the place where their
genius received its full development. The dressing-rooms of the
brilliant company which sustains the high reputation of that house are
in perfect keeping with its green-room. Each of the leading actors and
actresses has a double room, furnished in a style of comfortable
elegance. In the wardrobe and property rooms, the imperial patronage is
visible in the richness of the stage furniture and the profusion of
dresses made of the costliest silks and velvets. The stage, however, is
very much like that of any other theatre. There were the same obscure
passages, the same stupendous collection of intricate machinery, and the
same mysterious odour, as of gas and musty scenery, pervaded the whole.
I was permitted to view all its arcana, from the wheels that revolve in
dusty silence eighty or ninety feet above the stage to the ponderous
balance weights that dwell in the darkness of the second and third
stories below it; and enjoyed it so keenly that I regretted to be told
that I had seen all, and to find myself once more in the dazzling
sunshine of the Rue de Richelieu.

We are accustomed to speak of the theatre as a repository of shams and
unrealities, and to contrast it with the actualities of every-day life.
I hope that you will excuse me, gentle reader, for venturing to deny the
justice of all such figures of speech. They are as false as that common
use of the expressions "sunrise" and "sunset," when we know that the sun
does not really rise or set at all. No, it is the theatre that is the
reality, and the life we see on every side the sham. The theatre is all
that it pretends to be—a scenic illusion; and if we compare it to the
world around us, with its loving couples, my-dearing each other before
folks, and exchanging angry words over the solitary tea-tray,—its
politicians, seeking nominations and votes, and then reluctantly giving
up their private interests and comforts for the "public good," (as the
spoils of office are facetiously termed,)—its so-called ministers of the
gospel, who speak of an offer of increased salary as "an opportunity to
labour in a wider sphere of usefulness,"—and its funerals, where there
is such an imposing show of black crape and bombazine, but where the
genuine mourning commences only after the reading of the will of the
deceased,—I am sure that we shall be justified in concluding that the
fictitious affair which we try to dignify with the title of "real life"
is a far less respectable illusion than the mimic scene that captivates
us in the hours of relaxation.



THE PHILOSOPHY OF CANT


Be not dismayed, kind reader,—I have no intention of impressing you for
a tiresome cruise in the high and dangerous latitudes of German
metaphysics; nor do I wish to set myself up as a critic of pure reason.
In spite of Noah Webster and his inquisitorial publishers, I still
cherish a partiality for correct orthography; and I would not be
understood as referring in the caption of this article to the celebrated
founder of the transcendental school of philosophy. I cannot but respect
Emmanuel Kant as a remarkable intellectual man; and I hope to be
pardoned for saying that his surname might properly be anglicized, by
spelling it with a C instead of a K. Neither did I allude to the useful
art of saying "No" opportunely, which an excellent friend of mine (whose
numerous virtues are neutralized by his propensity to fabricate puns in
season and out of season) insists upon denominating the "philosophy of
can’t." That faculty which is, in more senses than one, a negative
virtue, is unhappily a much harder thing to find than the vice of which
I have a few words to say.

I do not mean cant in the worse sense of the word, as exemplified in the
characters of Pecksniff, Stiggins, Chadband, and Aminadab Sleek, nor
even in those of that large school of worshippers of propriety and
bond-servants of popular opinion, who reverse the crowning glory of the
character of Porcius Cato, and prefer to seem, rather than to be, good.
The cant I allude to is the technical phraseology of the various
virtues, which some people appear to think is the same thing as virtue
itself. They do not remember that a greasy bank-note is valueless save
as the representative of a given quantity of bullion, and that pious and
virtuous language is of no account except its full value be found in the
pure gold of virtue stored away in the treasure-chambers of the heart.
For such cant as this I have less respect than for downright hypocrisy;
for there is something positive about the character of your genuine
villain, which certainly does not repel me so strongly as the
milk-and-watery characteristics of that numerous class of every-day
people who (not being good enough to serve as examples, nor bad enough
to be held up as warnings) are of no use whatever in their day and
generation. What possible solace can he who deals in the set phrases of
consolation administer to the afflicted spirit in that hour, when (even
among the closest friends) "speech is silver, but silence is golden"?

There is scarcely a subject upon which men converse, in which this
species of cant does not play its part; but there are some matters in
which it makes itself so conspicuous that I cannot resist the temptation
to pay particular attention to them. And, as the subject is rather an
extensive one, I will parley no longer in its vestibule, but pull off my
overcoat, and make myself at home in its front parlour. I wish to make a
few observations on cant as it manifests itself in regard to morality,
philanthropy, religion, liberty, and progress. My notions will excite
the sneers of some of my younger readers, I doubt not, and perchance of
some older ones; but, while I claim the privilege of age in speaking out
my mind, I shall try to avoid the testiness which senility too often
manifests towards those who do not respect its opinions. Convinced that
mine are true, I can afford to emulate "Messire de Mauprat" in his
patience, and wait to see my fellow-men pass their fortieth birthday,
and, leaving their folly and enthusiasm behind them, come round to my
position.

The cant of Morality is so common that it is mistaken by many excellent
people for morality itself. To leave unnoticed the people who consider
it very iniquitous to go to the theatre, but perfectly allowable to
laugh at Mr. Warren on the stage of the Museum; who enjoy backgammon,
but shrink from whist with holy horror; and who hold up their hands and
cry out against the innocent Sunday recreations of continental Europe,
yet think themselves justified in reading their Sunday newspapers and
the popular magazines, or talking of the style of the new bonnets which
made their first appearance at the morning service,—to say nothing about
the moralists of this school, I am afraid that the prevailing notions on
matters of greater import than mere amusement are not such as would
stand a very severe moral test. When I see so much circumspection with
regard to external propriety, joined with such an evident want of
principle, it seems to me as if the Ten Commandments of the Old Law had
been superseded by an eleventh: _Thou shalt not be found out_. When I
see people of education in a city like Boston, dignifying lust under the
title of a spiritual affinity, and characterizing divorce as obedience
to the highest natural law,—and still more, when I see how little
surprise the enunciation of such doctrines occasions,—I no longer wonder
at infidelity, for I am myself tempted to ask whether there is any such
thing as abstract right or abstract wrong, and to question whether
morality may not be an antiquated institution, which humanity is now
sufficiently advanced to dispense with. It is a blessed thing that we
have not the power to read one another’s hearts. To pass by the
unhappiness it would cause us, what changes it would occasion in our
moral classifications! How many men, clad in picturesque and variegated
costumes, are labouring in the public workshops of Charlestown, or Sing
Sing, or Pentonville, who, if the heart were seen, would be found
worthier by far than some of those ornaments of society who are always
at the head of their pews, and whose names are found alike on false
invoices and subscription lists for evangelizing some undiscovered
continent! What a different balance would be struck between so-called
respectability in its costly silks and its comparative immunity from
actual temptation, and needy wantonness displaying its rouge and
Attleborough jewelry all the more boldly because it feels that the ban
of society is upon it!

And this brings me to the cant of Philanthropy. That excellent word has
been so shamefully abused of late years, by being applied to the
empirical schemes of adventurers and social disorganizers, that you
cannot now say a much worse thing of a man than that he is a
"philanthropist." That term ought to designate one of the noblest
representatives of the unselfish side of human nature; but to my mind,
it describes a sallow, long-haired, whining fellow, who has taken up
with the profession of loving all men in general, that he may better
enjoy the satisfaction of hating all men in particular, and may the more
effectually prey upon his immediate neighbours; a monomaniac, yet with
sufficient "method in his madness" to make it pay a handsome profit; a
knave whose telescopic vision magnifies the spiritual destitution of
Tching-tou, and can see nothing wanting to complete our Christian
civilization but a willingness to contribute to the "great and good
work," and whose commissions for disbursing the funds are frightfully
disproportionate to the amount collected and the work done. But there is
a great deal of the cant of philanthropy passing current even among
those who have no respect for the professional philanthropist. With all
possible regard for the spirit of the age, I do not believe that modern
philanthropy can ever be made to take the place of old-fashioned
Christian charity. Far be it from me to underrate the benevolent efforts
which are made in this community; but I cannot help seeing that while
thousands are spent in alms, we lack that blessed spirit of charity
which imparted such a charm to the benevolent institutions of the middle
ages. They seemed to labour among the poor on the principle which Sir
Thomas Browne laid down for his charities—"I give no alms to satisfy the
hunger of my brother, but to fulfil and accomplish the will and command
of my God; I draw not my purse for his sake that demands it, but His
that enjoined it." We irreverent moderns have tried to improve upon
this, and the result is seen in legal enactments against mendicancy, in
palatial prisons for criminals, and in poorhouses where the needy are
obliged to associate with the vicious and depraved. The "dark ages" (as
the times which witnessed the foundation of the greatest universities,
hospitals, and asylums the world ever saw, are sometimes called) were
not dark enough for that.

Do what we may to remedy this defect in our solicitude for the suffering
classes, the legal view of the matter will still predominate. We may
imitate the kindliness of the ancient times, but we cannot disguise the
fact that pauperism is regarded not only as a great social evil, but as
an offence against our laws. While this is so, we shall labour in vain
to catch the tone of the days when poverty was ennobled by the virtues
of the apostolic Francis of Assisi and the heroic souls that
relinquished wealth and power to share his humble lot. The voice of our
philanthropy may be the voice of Jacob, but the hand will be the hand of
Esau. That true gentleman and kind-hearted knight whom I have already
quoted, had no patience with this contempt for poverty which was just
growing into sight in his time, but is now so common; and he
administered to it a rebuke which has lost none of its force by the
lapse of more than two hundred years: "Statists that labour to contrive
a commonwealth without poverty, take away the object of charity, not
understanding only the commonwealth of a Christian, but forgetting the
prophecy of Christ."

In making any allusion to religious cant, I am sensible that I tread on
very dangerous ground. Still, in an essay on such a subject as the
present, revivalism ought not to go unnoticed. God forbid that a man at
my time of life should pen a light word against any thing that may draw
men from their worldliness to a more intimate union with their Creator.
But the revival extravagances which last year made the profane laugh and
the devout grieve, merit the deprecation of every person who does not
wish to see religion itself brought into contempt. I do not believe in
the application of the high-pressure system to the spiritual life. Some
persons seem to regard a religious excitement as an evidence of a
healthy spiritual state. As well might they consider a fever induced by
previous irregularity to be a proof of returning bodily health. As the
physician of the body would endeavour to restore the patient to his
normal state, so too the true physician of the soul would labour to
banish the religious fever from the mind of his patient, and to plant
therein the sure principles of spiritual health—a clearly-defined
dogmatic belief, and a deep conviction of the sinfulness of sin. We all
need to be from time to time reminded that true religion is not a mere
effervescence, not a vain blaze, but a reality which reflects something
of the unchangeable glory of its divine Author. It is not a volcano,
treasuring within its bosom a fierce, destructive element, sullenly
smouldering and smoking for years, and making intermittent exhibitions
of a power as terrible as it is sublime. No; it is rather a majestic and
deep-flowing river, taking its rise amid lofty mountains whose snowy
crags and peaks are pure from the defilement of our lower world, fed
from heaven, bearing in its broad current beauty, and fertility, and
refreshment, to regions which would else be sterile and joyless, and
emptying at last into a shoreless and untroubled sea, whose bright
surface mirrors eternally the splendour of the skies.

That the cant of Liberty should be popular with the American tongue is
not, perhaps, to be wondered at. A young nation,—which has achieved its
own independence in a contest with one of the most powerful governments
in the world,—which has grown in territory, population, and wealth
beyond all historical precedent,—and which has a new country for its
field of action, so that its progress is unimpeded by the relics of
ancient civilization or the ruins of dead empires,—could not reasonably
be expected to resist all temptations to self-glorification. The
American eagle is no mere barnyard fowl—content with a secure roost and
what may be picked up within sight of the same. He is the most
insatiable of birds. His fierce eye and bending beak look covetous, and
his whole aspect is one of angry anxiety lest his prey should be
snatched from him, or his dominion should be called in question. In this
regard he differs greatly from his French relative, who squats with such
a conscious air of superiority on the tops of the regimental
standard-poles of the imperial army, and surveys the forest of bayonets
in which he makes his nest as if he felt that his power was undisputed.
And we Americans are not less uneasy and wild than the bird we have
chosen for our national emblem, and appear to think that the essential
part of liberty consists in keeping up an endless talk about it. Our
cant of freedom needs to be reminded of Tom Hood’s observation
concerning religious cant:—

    "’Tis not so plain as the old hill of Howth,
      A man has got his bellyful of meat,
    Because he talks with victuals in his mouth!"

With all our howling about liberty, we Americans are abject slaves to a
theory of government which we feel bound to defend under all
circumstances, and to propagate even in countries which are entirely
unfitted for it. This constitutional theory is a fine thing to talk
about; few topics afford so wide a range to the imaginative powers of a
young orator. It is not therefore to be wondered at, that the subject
should be so often forced upon us, and that so many startling contrasts
should be drawn between our governmental experiment and the
thousand-years-old monarchies of Europe. These comparisons (which some
people who make republicanism such an article of faith, that they must
find it hard to repeat the clause of the Lord’s prayer, "Thy _kingdom_
come,"—are so fond of drawing) remind me of the question that was
discussed in the Milesian debating society—"Which was the greatest man,
St. Patrick or the Fourth of July?" and the conclusions drawn from them
are very like the result of that momentous debate, which was decided in
the affirmative.

For my own part, I have got past the age when eloquence and poetry are
of much account in matters of such vital importance as government. When
I buy a pair of overshoes, my first object is to get something that is
water-proof. So, too, in the matter of government, I only wish to know
whether the purposes for which government is instituted—the protection
of the life, property, and personal liberty of its subjects—are
answered; and, if they are, I am ready to swear allegiance to it, not
caring a splinter of a ballot-box whether it be founded on hereditary
succession or a roll of parchment, or whether its executive authority be
vested in a president, a king, or an emperor. That is the best
government which is best administered; it makes little difference what
you call it, or on what theory it is built. I love my country dearly,
and yield to no one in my loyalty to her government and laws; but
(pardon me for being so matter-of-fact, and seemingly unpatriotic) I
would willingly part with some of this boasted liberty of ours, to
secure a little more wisdom in making laws, and a good deal more
strength in executing them. I count the privilege of talking politics
and of choosing between the various political adventurers who aspire to
be my rulers, as a very insignificant affair compared with a sense of
security against popular violence and the dishonesty of dealers in the
necessaries of life. And I cannot help thinking, that for the
inhabitants of a country where there is little reverence for authority
or willing obedience to law, where the better class of the citizens
refuse to take any part in politics, and where the legislative power is
enthroned, not in the Senate, nor in the House of Representatives, but
in the Lobby,—for the inhabitants of such a country to boast of their
liberty aloud, is the most absurd of all the cants in this canting
world.

Little as I respect the cant of liberty, I care even less for the cant
of Progress. I never had much patience with this worship of the natural
sciences, which is rapidly getting to be almost the only religion among
certain cultivated people in this quarter. I remember in my boyhood
startling by my scientific apathy a precocious companion who used to
bother his brains about the solar system, and one useless ology and
another, in the precious hours which ought to have been devoted to
Robinson Crusoe and the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments. He had been
labouring hard to explain to me the law of gravitation, and concluded
with the bold statement that, were it not for that law, an apple, with
which he had been illustrating his theory, instead of falling to the
earth, might roll off the unprotected side of this sublunary sphere into
the abyss of space,—or something to that effect. He could not conceal
his contempt for my want of scientific ardour, when I asked him whether
he should really care if it did roll off, so long as there was a plenty
left! I did wrong to joke him, for he was a good fellow, in spite of his
weakness. It is many years since he figured himself out of this
unsatisfactory world, into a state of existence where vision is clearer
even than mathematical demonstration, and where _x_ does not "equal the
unknown quantity."

Pardon this digression: in complaining of the vaunted progress of this
rapid age, I am making little progress myself. It appears to me that the
people who laud this age so highly either do not know what true progress
is, or suffer themselves to mistake the means for the end. Your cotton
mills, and steam engines, and clipper ships, and electric telegraphs, do
not constitute progress; they are means by which it may be attained. If
gunpowder, immediately after its invention, had been devoted to the
indiscriminate destruction of mankind, could such an invention have
justly been termed progress? If the press were used only to perpetuate
the blasphemies and indecencies of Mazzini and Eugene Sue, who would
esteem Gutenberg and Fust as benefactors, or promoters of true progress?
And if the increased facilities for travel, and the other inventions on
which this age prides itself, only tend to make men’s minds narrower by
absorbing them in material interests, and their souls more mean by
giving them the idol of prosperity to worship, then is this nineteenth
century a century of progress indeed, but in the wrong direction. And if
our mode of education only augments the ratio of crime among the lower
class, and makes superficial pretenders of the higher orders of society,
it is not a matter which will justify our setting ourselves quite so
high above past ages and the rest of the world.

I cannot see what need nor what excuse there is for all this bragging. A
great many strong men lived before Agamemnon,—and after him. We indeed
do some things that would astonish our forefathers; but how are we
superior to them on that account? We enslave the lightnings of heaven to
be our messengers, and compel the sun to take our portraits; but if our
electric wires are prostituted to the chicanery of trade or politics,
and the faces which the sun portrays are expressive of nothing nobler
than mercantile shrewdness and the price of cotton, the less we boast of
our achievements, the better. Thucydides never had his works puffed in a
newspaper, Virgil and Horace never poetized or lectured for a lyceum;
Charlemagne never saw a locomotive, nor did St. Thomas Aquinas ever use
a friction match. Yet this unexampled age possesses, I apprehend, few
historians who would not shrink from being compared with the famous
Greek annalist, few poets worthy to wear the crowns of the friends of
the great Augustus, few rulers more sagacious and firm than the first
Emperor of the West, and few scholars who would not consider it a
privilege to be taught by the Angelic Doctor.

True progress is something superior to your puffing engines and clicking
telegraphs, and independent of them. It is the advancement of humanity
in the knowledge of its frailty and dependence; the elevation of the
mind above its own limited acquirements, to the infinite source of
knowledge; the cleansing of the heart of its selfishness and
uncleanness; in fact, it is any thing whatever that tends to assimilate
man more closely to the divine Exemplar of perfect manhood.



                               *THE END.*





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