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Title: Home Life of Great Authors
Author: Griswold, Hattie Tyng, 1842-1909
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Home Life of Great Authors" ***

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  A. C. McCLURG & CO.

  A.D. 1886.



The author of these sketches desires to say that they were written, not
for the special student of literary biography, who is already familiar
with the facts here given, but rather for those busy people who have
little time for reading, yet wish to know something of the private life
and personal history of their favorite authors. The sketches are not
intended to be critical, or to present anything like complete
biographies. They are devoted chiefly to the home life of the various
authors,--which, though an instructive and fascinating study, seems
commonly neglected in popular biographies.

It should be added that a few of these sketches have already appeared in
print, but they have been rewritten to adapt them to their present

H. T. G.

COLUMBUS, WIS., October, 1886.





  GOETHE                                                      9

  ROBERT BURNS                                               24

  MADAME DE STAËL                                            34

  WILLIAM WORDSWORTH                                         43

  THOMAS DE QUINCEY                                          54

  WALTER SCOTT                                               64

  CHARLES LAMB                                               75

  CHRISTOPHER NORTH                                          85

  LORD BYRON                                                 94

  SHELLEY                                                   102

  WASHINGTON IRVING                                         112

  WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT                                     122

  RALPH WALDO EMERSON                                       133

  THOMAS CARLYLE                                            142

  VICTOR HUGO                                               150

  GEORGE SAND                                               164

  THOMAS BABINGTON MACAULAY                                 177

  EDWARD BULWER LYTTON                                      188

  ALFRED TENNYSON                                           197

  NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE                                       207

  HENRY W. LONGFELLOW                                       220

  JOHN G. WHITTIER                                          238

  OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES                                     251

  JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL                                      262

  ROBERT AND ELIZABETH BROWNING                             274

  CHARLOTTE BRONTÉ                                          286

  MARGARET FULLER                                           302

  EDGAR ALLEN POE                                           312

  WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY                               322

  CHARLES DICKENS                                           335

  GEORGE ELIOT                                              351

  CHARLES KINGSLEY                                          363

  JOHN RUSKIN                                               372



Home Life of Great Authors.


In an old, many-cornered, and gloomy house at Frankfort-on-the-Main,
upon the 28th of August, 1749, was born the greatest German of his day,
Wolfgang Goethe. The back of the house, from the second story, commanded
a very pleasant prospect over an almost immeasurable extent of gardens
stretching to the walls of the city, but the house itself was gloomy,
being shut in by a high wall. Over these gardens beyond the walls and
ramparts of the city, stretched a long plain, where the young Wolfgang,
serious and thoughtful, was wont to wander and to learn his lessons. He
had the sort of superstitious dread which is usually the inheritance of
children with a poetic nature, and suffered greatly in childhood from
fear. He was obliged by his father, who was a stern and somewhat
opinionated old man, to sleep alone, as a means of overcoming this fear;
and if he tried to steal from his own bed to that of his brothers, he
was frightened back by his father, who watched for him and chased him in
some fantastic disguise. That this did not tend to quiet his nerves may
well be imagined, and it was only through time and much suffering that
he overcame his childish terrors. His mother was a gay, cheerful woman,
much younger than his father, and as she was only eighteen years old
when Wolfgang was born, always said that they were young together. She
had married with little affection for her elderly husband, and it was in
her favorite son that she found all the romance and beauty of her life.
She was a woman of strong character, and presents one of the pleasantest
pictures in German literature. With a warm, genial nature, full of
spirit and enthusiasm, she retained to the last days of her life an
ardent interest in all the things which delighted her in youth. She read
much, thought much, and observed much, for one in her sphere of life,
and many great people who came to know her through her son learned to
value her very highly for herself alone. She corresponded long with the
Duchess Amalia, and her letters were much enjoyed at the Court of
Weimar. Princes and poets delighted to honor her in later life, and her
son was enthusiastic in his devotion to her till the last. She comforted
him through his rather fanciful and fantastic childhood as much as she
could without directly interfering with the discipline of the didactic
father. Goethe and his mother were both taught by this father, who
considered her almost as much of a child as the boy himself. She was
kept busy with writing, playing the clavichord, and singing, as well as
with the study of Italian, in which the father much delighted; and the
boy had grammar, and the Latin classics, and a geography in
memory-verses. The boy soon got beyond his teacher, but without being
well-grounded in anything, and learned, as such children are apt to do,
much more from his own desultory reading than from any instruction which
was given him. In the library were the beautiful Dutch editions of the
Latin classics and many works relating to Roman antiquities and
jurisprudence. There were also the Italian poets, and many books of
travel, and many dictionaries of various languages, and encyclopædias of
science and art. Through all these the boy searched for himself, and
took what was suited to his taste, astonishing the slow father very
much by his readiness, and soon becoming famous in the neighborhood for
his acquirements. Of course he wrote poetry from the earliest age, and
of course many people predicted his future greatness. Most of all, his
mother believed in him, and watched him with adoring solicitude. His
love for art showed itself very early, and he made friends with artists,
and visited their studios frequently when a mere boy. His father had a
fondness for pictures, and had some good views of Italian scenery and
art in his own house; and it was probably from him that the boy derived
his earliest liking for such things. His passion for the theatre also
made itself known at the earliest age, and gave him his most intense
youthful pleasures.

His taste for natural science was also very strong in early childhood,
and he analyzed flowers, to see how the leaves were inserted into the
calyx, and plucked birds to see how the feathers were inserted in the
wings, when a mere infant, as it appeared to his mother. Indeed, all the
strong tastes of the man showed themselves in a decided manner in this
precocious child, and his hap-hazard training allowed his genius to
develop along its own natural lines in a healthy manner.

He even exhibited at a very youthful period his fatal facility for
falling in love, and naturally enough, with a girl older than himself,
named Gretchen. He was cured of his first passion only by finding out
that the girl regarded him as a child, which filled him with great
indignation. He says:--

     "My judgment was convinced, and I thought I must cast her away; but
     her image!--her image gave me the lie as often as it again hovered
     before me, which indeed happened often enough.

     "Nevertheless, this arrow with its barbed hooks was torn out of my
     heart; and the question then was, how the inward sanative power of
     youth could be brought to one's aid. I really put on the man; and
     the first thing instantly laid aside was the weeping and raving,
     which I now regarded as childish in the highest degree. A great
     stride for the better! For I had often, half the night through,
     given myself up to this grief with the greatest violence; so that
     at last, from my tears and sobbing, I came to such a point that I
     could scarcely swallow any longer; eating and drinking become
     painful to me; and my chest, which was so nearly concerned, seemed
     to suffer. The vexation I had constantly felt since the discovery
     made me banish every weakness.

     "It seemed to me something frightful that I had sacrificed sleep,
     repose, and health for the sake of a girl who was pleased to
     consider me a babe, and to imagine herself, with respect to me,
     something very like a nurse."

Poor Goethe! but many a man since has fallen in love with a woman older
than himself, and has afterward felt himself fortunate if he has been
treated as Goethe was. The real unfortunates are the ones who have been
for some reason encouraged in their passion, and married by these mature
women while mere boys. Taking into consideration the welfare of both
parties, there is scarcely a more unfortunate occurrence in life than
such a marriage. Soon after this first love episode Goethe went up to
Leipsic to enter the University. He was sixteen years old, well-favored
by nature, even handsome, and full of sensibility and enthusiasm. But he
appeared to the inhabitants of Leipsic like a being from another world,
on account of the grotesqueness of his costume. His father, who was of
an economical turn of mind, always bought his own cloth, and had his
servants make the clothing for the family. He usually bought good but
old-fashioned materials, and trimmings from some forgotten epoch in the
world's history. These trimmings, of the Paleozoic period or some still
remoter date, together with the unprofessional and antiquated cut of the
garments, made up such a grotesque appearance that Goethe was received
with undisguised mirth wherever he went in Leipsic, until he discovered
what was the matter with his dress. He had not been noticed at home on
this account, and he thought himself very well dressed when he first
arrived in the city; but his chagrin and mortification knew no bounds
when he discovered how he had been laughed at. It was not until he had
visited the theatre and seen a favorite actor throw the audience into
convulsions of laughter by appearing in a costume almost identical with
his own, that he begun to suspect that he was ill-dressed. He went out
and sacrificed his entire wardrobe, in the first tumult of his feelings,
remorselessly leaving no vestige of it remaining, and supplying himself
with a complete new outfit, not so ample as the old but much more
satisfactory. In this act also he will find many sympathizers. Few
things are recalled with more acute mortification than the outfit in
which people leave their early homes, if they are in the country, and
make their first visit to the city. Hundreds of men groan in spirit as
they bring up before themselves the appearance they presented upon that
momentous day. Comparatively few are able to do as Goethe did, and get
rid of the whole vile accoutrement at one stroke. The majority are
obliged, suffer as they may, to wear the obnoxious garments long after
they have discovered their true character. When Goethe had clothed
himself anew he was received with more favor at his boarding-house, and
proceeded immediately to fall in love with the landlady's daughter. The
thought of Gretchen was buried away out of sight, and the thought of
Annette filled his whole heart. This Annette was young, handsome,
sprightly, loving, and agreeable, and he saw her daily in the most
unrestrained manner.

He says of her:--

     "But since such connections, the more innocent they are, afford the
     less variety in the long run, I was seized with that wicked
     distemper which seduces us to derive amusement from the torment of
     a beloved one, and to domineer over a girl's devotedness with
     wanton and tyrannical caprice. By unfounded and absurd fits of
     jealousy I destroyed our most delightful days, both for myself and
     her. She endured it for a time with incredible patience, which I
     was cruel enough to try to its utmost. But to my shame and despair,
     I was at last forced to remark that her heart was alienated from
     me, and that I might now have good ground for the madness in which
     I had indulged without necessity and without cause. There were
     terrible scenes between us, in which I gained nothing; and I then
     first felt that I had truly loved her, and could not bear to lose
     her. My passion grew and assumed all the forms of which it is
     capable under the circumstances; nay, I at last took up the _rôle_
     which the girl had hitherto played. I sought everything possible in
     order to be agreeable to her, even to procure her pleasure by means
     of others; for I could not renounce the hope of winning her again.
     But it was too late. I had lost her really; and the frenzy with
     which I revenged my fault upon myself, by assaulting in various
     frantic ways my physical nature, in order to inflict some hurt on
     my moral nature, contributed very much to the bodily maladies under
     which I lost some of the best years of my life: indeed, I should
     perchance have been completely ruined by this loss, had not my
     poetic talent here shown itself particularly helpful with its
     healing power."

His next adventure was with the daughters of his dancing-master, both of
whom seemed inclined to draw unwarranted conclusions from the freedom of
his intercourse with them. The closing scene of this little drama must
be given in Goethe's own words:--

     "Emilia was silent, and had sat down by her sister, who became
     constantly more and more excited in her discourse, and let certain
     private matters slip out which it was not exactly proper for me to
     know. Emilia, on the other hand, who was trying to pacify her
     sister, made me a sign from behind to withdraw; but as jealousy and
     suspicion see with a thousand eyes, Lucinda seemed to have noticed
     this also. She sprang up and advanced to me, but not with
     vehemence. She stood before me and seemed to be thinking of
     something. Then she said, 'I know that I have lost you; I make no
     further pretensions to you. But neither shall you have him,
     sister.' So saying, she took a thorough hold of my head, thrusting
     both her hands into my locks and pressing my face to hers, and
     kissed me repeatedly on the mouth. 'Now,' cried she, 'fear my
     curse! Woe upon woe, for ever and ever, to her who kisses these
     lips for the first time after me! Dare to have anything more to do
     with him! I know Heaven hears me this time. And you, sir, hasten
     now, hasten away as fast as you can.' I flew down the stairs, with
     a firm determination never again to enter the house."

This conclusion, though doubtless very trying to an ardent young man who
enjoyed the adoration of women, seems to have been an eminently wise one
under the circumstances, and we believe the resolve was faithfully kept.
The dramatic Lucinda appears no more in his reminiscences.

Quite different was the next occupant of his heart. Frederika was the
daughter of a country clergyman whom Goethe was taken to visit by his
friend Weyland. The hospitality and agreeableness of the family had been
highly praised by this friend, also the beauty and charms of the
daughters. And indeed this Frederika does seem to have been a most
beautiful and charming girl. Goethe constantly compares the family to
that of the Vicar of Wakefield, and the daughters to Olivia and Sophia.
The affection which Goethe conceived for this beautiful and innocent
maiden was one of the strongest and most enduring of his life, and even
on into old age he was fond of talking of her and their youthful
romance. Why he ever left Frederika at all has never been made clear,
for it is plain that at last he truly loved,--the other passions being
mere boyish episodes, soon forgotten, while this one exerted a lasting
influence upon his life. He writes:--

     "Frederika's answer to my farewell letter rent my heart. It was the
     same hand, the same tone of thought, the same feeling, which had
     formed itself for me and by me. I now for the first time felt the
     loss which she suffered, and saw no means to supply it, or even to
     alleviate it. She was completely present to me; I always felt that
     she was wanting to me; and what was worst of all, I could not
     forgive myself for my own misfortune. Gretchen had been taken away
     from me, Annette had left me; now for the first time I was guilty.
     I had wounded the most lovely heart to its very depths; and the
     period of a gloomy repentance, with the absence of a refreshing
     love to which I had grown accustomed, was most agonizing, nay,

Even after eight years he revisits Frederika, with much of the old
feeling still alive, although he had in the mean time had at least two
new loves. One of these was the Charlotte immortalized in "Werther." She
was already engaged when he made her acquaintance, but this did not
preclude the possibility of his devoting himself assiduously to her, and
her betrothed seems to have laid no obstacles in the way. She was
married in due time, and read "Werther" after its publication, not
seeming to object to the part she is there made to play. She retained
her friendship for Goethe throughout life; and to her husband the poet
wrote many, many years after: "God bless you, dear Kustner, and tell
Lottie that I often believe I can forget her, but then I have a relapse,
and it is worse with me than ever."

Immediately following his infatuation with Lottie came the connection
with Lili, which reconciled him to Lottie's marriage. It was of Lottie
that he said, in the language of "The New Heloïse," "And sitting at the
feet of his beloved, he will break hemp; and he will wish to break hemp
to-day, to-morrow, and the day after,--nay, for his whole life." Whether
he would have been as willing to break hemp with Lili we are not told;
but he wrote a great deal of poetry addressed to her,--more perhaps than
to any of his other loves,--much of which he reproduces in the

  "Heart, my heart, oh, what hath changed thee?
    What doth weigh on thee so sore?
  What hath thus from me estranged thee,
    That I know thee now no more?
  Gone is all which once seemed dearest,
  Gone the care which once was nearest,
  Gone thy toils and tranquil bliss!
  Ah! how could'st thou come to this?

  "Does that bloom, so fresh and youthful,
    That divine and lovely form,
  That sweet look, so good and truthful,
    Bind thee with unbounded charm?
  If I swear no more to see her,
  If I man myself to flee her,
  Soon I find my efforts vain,
  Back to her I'm led again."

But even this love affair, which went as far as a betrothal, came to
nothing,--Goethe drawing back at the last through a pretended or real
fear that he could not support the lady in the style she had been
accustomed to; though it is more reasonable to believe that his usual
repugnance to marriage overcame all the fervor of his love, and made him
feel a real relief when the whole affair was over. This was just
previous to his removal to Weimar at the invitation of Carl August, and
it was there that the remainder of his life-drama was enacted.

Soon after his arrival there he made the acquaintance of the Frau Von
Stein. She was the wife of the Master of Horse at Weimar, and Goethe,
who had now passed thirty years of age, for the first time loved a
mature woman. She was the mother of seven children and was thirty-three
years old. With moral deficiencies which were securely covered up, she
was a thoroughly charming woman, and retained her charm even to old age.
She was said to have remarked when asked if she would be presented to
Goethe, "With all my heart. I have heard as much about him as I ever did
about Heaven, and I feel a deal more curiosity about him." She
completely ensnared his heart, and held it in undisputed sway for more
than ten years; which, considering his proverbial inconstancy, speaks
very highly for her charms.

The connection was well known and perfectly understood at Weimar, and
appears to have caused no scandal. The love on Goethe's part seemed to
have begun even before seeing her; as it is recorded that at Pyrmont he
first saw her portrait, and was three nights sleepless in consequence.
And when he came to see her, instead of a raw girl such as he had
hitherto fancied, he found an elegant woman of the world, whose culture
and experience had a singular fascination for him, tired as he was of
immaturity and overfondness. She sang well, played well, sketched well,
talked well, and showed her appreciation of the poet, not like a gushing
girl, but with the delicate tact of a woman of the world. Some years
after her first acquaintance with Goethe, Schiller thus writes to his
friend Körner:--

     "She is really a genuinely interesting person, and I quite
     understand what has attached Goethe to her. Beautiful she can never
     have been, but her countenance has a soft earnestness and a quite
     peculiar openness. A healthy understanding, truth, and feeling lie
     in her nature. She has more than a thousand letters from Goethe,
     and from Italy he writes her every week. They say the connection is
     perfectly pure and blameless."

Even before he went away from Weimar at all, the letters were incessant,
often trivial, and sometimes made up of homely details of eating and
drinking, but loving always. The reader who remembers Charlotte cutting
bread and butter will not be shocked at the poet eloquently begging his
true love to send him a sausage. All the years of his life in the
Gartenhaus are intimately associated with her. The whole spot speaks of
her. She was doubtless the grand passion of his life. But even this wore
itself out, and after his absence in Italy he never seemed to feel the
full ardor of his former love. He returned to Weimar still grateful to
her for the happiness she had given, still feeling for her a sincere
affection, but retaining little of the passion which for ten years she
had inspired. The feeling seemed to have died a natural death. It is not
recorded that she had ever really shared his fervor, but she greatly
resented his defection, and considered him ungrateful and disloyal to
the end.

It was about this time that he first made the acquaintance of Christine
Vulpius, who afterwards became his wife. She was the daughter of one of
those men whose drunkenness slowly but surely brings a whole family to
want. She was at this time very young. He thought her beautiful, and,
although uneducated, she had a quick wit, a lively spirit, a loving
heart, and great aptitude for domestic duties. She had no social
position, and is often spoken of as his servant. Although never really
occupying that position, her standing was not much above that plane. She
fascinated Goethe as so many young faces had done before, and it seemed
to be a thraldom of the mind as well as of the senses. There are few
poems in any language which approach the passionate gratitude of those
in which he recalls the happiness she gave him.

George Henry Lewes in his life of the poet has this passage, which will
be read with peculiar interest, considering his own relations with the
highest genius of her day, George Eliot. He says:--

     "Why did he not marry her at once? His dread of marriage has
     already been shown; and to this abstract dread must be added the
     great disparity of station,--a disparity so great that it not only
     made the liaison scandalous, but made Christine herself reject the
     offer of marriage. There are persons now living who have heard her
     declare that it was her own fault that the marriage was so long
     delayed. And certain it is that when she bore him a child, he took
     her, with her mother and sister, to live in his house, and always
     regarded the connection as marriage. But, however he may have
     regarded it, public opinion has not forgiven this defiance of its
     social laws. The world blamed him loudly; even his admirers cannot
     think of the connection without pain. But let us be just. While no
     one can refrain from deploring that Goethe, so eminently needing a
     pure domestic life, should not have found a wife whom he could
     avow, no one who knows the circumstances can refrain from
     confessing that there is also a bright light to this dark episode."

He goes on to say:--

     "The judgments of men are curious. No action in Goethe's life has
     excited more scandal than his final marriage with Christine. It is
     thought disgraceful enough for him to have taken her into his home,
     but for the great poet to actually complete such an enormity as to
     crown his connection with her by marriage was, indeed, more than
     society could tolerate. I have already expressed my opinion of this
     unfortunate connection, but I most emphatically declare my belief
     that the redeeming point in it is precisely this which caused the
     scandal. Better far had there been no connection at all; but if it
     was to be, the nearer it approached real marriage, and the further
     it was removed from a fugitive indulgence, the more moral and
     healthy it became."

He was in his fifty-eighth year when he married her. She had changed
much in the passing years. From the bright, lively, pleasure-loving
girl, she had grown into a coarse and almost repulsive woman. Her
father, as we know, had ruined himself by intemperance, her brother
also, and she herself had not escaped the fatal appetite. She was not
restrained by the checks which refined society imposes, for in Weimar
she had no society, and as the years went by she became openly and
shamelessly given over to intemperance. This tragedy in Goethe's life
would have been little suspected by those who saw how calmly he bore
himself in public. The mere mention of the fact, however, tells its own
tale of humiliation and woe. It is often asked why Goethe did not part
from her at once. In answer we might ask, Why do not all the noble and
right-principled women who wear out wretched lives as drunkards' wives
part at once from their debauched husbands? The answer would no doubt be
similar in the two cases. He was too weak to alter his position, he was
strong enough to bear it. And he did bear it to the bitter end. And when
that end came he mourned for her with sincere affection. Says Lewes:--

     "She who had for twenty-eight years loved and aided him; who,
     whatever her faults, had been to him what no other woman had been,
     could not be taken from him without his feeling her loss. His
     self-mastery was utterly shaken. He knelt by her bedside, taking
     her cold hands in his, and exclaiming, 'Thou wilt not forsake me,
     thou must not forsake me,' and sobbing aloud. He had been to her
     the most tender of devoted husbands throughout all those weary

Many accounts of her vulgarity and repulsiveness have been circulated;
but in making up our estimate of her, the fact that she held Goethe in
loyal bonds for eight and twenty years must not be passed over lightly.
Fickle as he was in youth, and admiring as he did brilliant women in his
manhood, Christine Vulpius must have had charms, and not of a light
order, to have held him thus her willing slave. No mere fat and vulgar
Frau without mind or sensibility could have done this. It is not in the
nature of things. We often see men of brilliant minds in our own day
choosing to marry women who are not intellectual or cultured,--women who
have only beauty, or style and social elegance; but they are women who
have some charm, and if the charm remains, the attraction holds
indefinitely. But sad indeed is the case of the man of mind who has
married a mere doll, and who, when youth has flown, finds he has a wife
who is not capable of being companion or friend to him. Many a man holds
himself steadfast to duty under these circumstances through a long life,
but if the woman whom his maturity would have chosen--the sweet,
companionable woman, with a mind that can sympathize with and appreciate
his own--chances to dawn upon him, too late, there is apt to be a
struggle which is long and hard.

Indeed, it is never the part of wisdom for the intellectual man or woman
to marry one who is consciously an inferior. He or she who does this
makes a high bid for an unhappy life. As regards Christine Vulpius, it
is certain that, although not an intellectual woman, she was not without
some taste for pursuits in consonance with those of Goethe. It was for
her that he wrote the "Metamorphoses of Plants," and in her company he
pursued his optical and botanical researches. Had she shown no
comprehension of these things, assuredly Goethe would never have
persisted in instructing her in them. It was for her, too, that he wrote
the "Roman Elegies," which shows that he did not esteem her a mere

Whatever may be our general estimate of Goethe's character, it will
certainly be conceded that he showed great capacity for domestic love
and domestic happiness in continuing loyal for so many years to one who
degraded herself as did Christine. He certainly cannot be counted among
the sons of genius with whom it is found difficult, almost impossible
even, to live. Rather must we rank him high among those genial and
warm-hearted men who love too much, rather than too little, and who are
easily led by the women to whom they give their devotion. Irregular and
faulty, even immoral as he was, he yet possessed the redeeming domestic
virtues in a large degree. Away beyond his seventieth year we find women
still madly loving him, and him capable of reciprocating their
affections. And well was it that this should be so, for otherwise he
would have stood alone and friendless. One by one the companions of his
youth and his manhood were taken from him, until, upon the death of Carl
August, he could truthfully exclaim, "Nothing now remains." It was well
that the end drew near.

When one can say, "Nothing now remains," it is surely time for the angel
with the brazen trumpet to proclaim, "For him let time be no more."

Lightly let the silver cord be loosed and the golden bowl broken, rather
than that the lonely life linger on, with its eyes fixed only on the
past, which has become but a dim mirage where ghostly figures are seen
walking but from which all warmth and light have fled. Happy indeed is
he who, when the allotted years have been passed, and he lingers waiting
on the stage for the signal which shall cause the curtain to fall
forever on his little life drama, has something which to him is real and
tangible to look forward to in the near future. The bitterness of a
lingering death must be in all old age without this hope.

Let us trust that after that last low cry of Goethe for "more light,"
the morning dawned upon the great intellect and great heart which had
been watching for it so long. Let us hope, also, that the world may yet
learn to see him as did Emerson, who found him "a piece of pure nature,
like an oak or an apple, large as morning or night, and virtuous as a




  "Oh, ye wha are sae guid yoursel',
    Sae pious and sae holy,
  Ye've nought to do but mark and tell
    Your neebors' fauts and folly,--
  Whase life is like a weel-gaun mill,
    Supplied wi' store o' water,
  The heapèd happer's ebbing still,
    And still the clap plays clatter,--

  "Hear me, ye venerable core,
    As counsel for poor mortals,
  That frequent pass douce Wisdom's door
    For glaikit Folly's portals!
  I, for their thoughtless, careless sakes,
    Would here propone defences,
  Their donsie tricks, their black mistakes,
    Their failings and mischances."

Alas for it! we must all say, in dwelling upon the life of poor Burns,
that he so frequently needed to appear as counsel for poor mortals--in
his own behoof; and that "their donsie tricks, their black mistakes,
their failings and mischances" should form so large a portion of the
record of that life, which under other circumstances might have been one
of the most brilliant and beautiful of all in the annals of genius. For
Burns, although born to such a lowly life, and having in his youth so
few advantages of education or general culture, might by sheer force of
genius have attained as proud a position as any man of his time, had he
but learned to rule over himself in his youth, and not given full rein
to those passions which his "veins convulsed," and which "still eternal

Could he but have governed himself--

  "When social life and glee sat down
    All joyous and unthinking,
  Till, quite transmogrify'd, they've grown
    Debauchery and drinking,"--

there would have been a far different story to have told of the life of
Robert Burns.

What ripe fruits of his genius we might have had, had he not burned out
the torch of that brilliant intellect at the early age of thirty-eight.
What poems he might have written--he who did immortal work with all his
drawbacks--had he kept his brain clear and his life sweet even for the
short span of life allotted him! How high might he have soared in the
years which he might have hoped from life, had he but moved at a slower
pace, in those reckless years, the record of which is so painful to the
great world of admiring and pitying friends, who cherish his memory so
tenderly. Yet there is in his case everything to mitigate a severe
judgment upon his youthful follies; and the great world has always
judged him leniently, knowing the story of his early life, and the
temptations which at that day must have surrounded a youth of his
temperament among the peasants of Scotland. Of the strength of those
temptations we probably can form but a slight idea.

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

And surely, there must have been much that was worthy of honor and
esteem, even of reverence, in the heart of the man, to have brought the
whole world to his feet, in spite of the faults and follies to which we
allude in passing, but upon which we have no disposition to dwell. As a
friendly hand long ago wrote, after visiting his poor, mean home and his
unhonored burial place:--

     "We listened readily enough to this paltry gossip, but found that
     it robbed the poet's memory of some of the reverence that was its
     due. Indeed, this talk over his grave had very much the same effect
     as the home-scene of his life, which we had been visiting just
     previously. Beholding his poor, mean dwelling and its surroundings,
     and picturing his outward life and earthly manifestations from
     these, one does not so much wonder that the people of that day
     should have failed to recognize all that was admirable and immortal
     in a disreputable, drunken, shabbily-clothed, and shabbily-housed
     man, consorting with associates of damaged character, and as his
     only ostensible occupation gauging the whiskey which he too often
     tasted. Siding with Burns, as we needs must, in his plea against
     the world, let us try to do the world a little justice too. It is
     far easier to know and honor a poet when his fame has taken shape
     in the spotlessness of marble, than when the actual man comes
     staggering before you, besmeared with the sordid stains of his
     daily life. For my part, I chiefly wonder that his recognition
     dawned as brightly as it did while he was still living. There must
     have been something very grand in his immediate presence, some
     strangely impressive characteristic in his natural behavior, to
     have caused him to seem like a demigod so soon."

To do even faintest justice to the memory of the poet, we must go to
Ayr, and look upon the humble cottage which was his birthplace. It
consisted of but two small rooms paved with flag-stones, and with but
one window of four small panes, while the thatched roof formed the only
ceiling. The whole place is inconceivably small for the dwelling of a
family, for there is not even an attic-room, or any other spot where
children could have been hidden away. In such a hut as this it is hard
to conceive of a family being reared in purity and delicacy, even though
the parents should have done their best by their children, and been,
like the father of Burns, prudent and well-disposed.

This housing of the poor is of immense moral significance in all cases;
and it is growing to be a recognized fact that no help which can be
rendered them is of much avail, when they are left in these little, one
or two room dwellings.

There were seven children in the Burns household, and during the
childhood of Robert the family were very poor; and he and his brother
were expected to do the work of men, at the age of thirteen. He had some
schooling before that age, and must have improved his time, for he could
read and spell well, and had some knowledge of English grammar.

Near by the cottage flows the beautiful Bonny Doon, through deep wooded
banks, and across it is an ancient ivy-covered bridge with a high arch,
making a very picturesque object in the landscape, which is one of great
loveliness. Kirk Alloway is not far away,--the smallest church that ever
filled so large a place in the imagination of the world. The
one-mullioned window in the eastern gable might have been seen by Tam
O'Shanter blazing with devilish light as he approached it along the road
from Ayr, and there is a small square one on the side next the road;
there is also an odd kind of belfry, almost the smallest ever made, with
a little bell in it,--and this is all. But no grand and storied
cathedral pile in all Europe is better known, and to no shrine of famous
minster do more pilgrims journey than to this wee kirk immortalized by
the pen of Burns.

The father of Burns has been thus described by one who knew him well:--

     "He was a tender and affectionate father; he took pleasure in
     leading his children in the path of virtue, not in driving them as
     some parents do to the performance of duties to which they are
     themselves averse. He took care to find fault but seldom; and
     therefore when he did rebuke, he was listened to with a kind of
     reverential awe. A look of disapprobation was felt; a reproof was
     severely so; and a stripe even on the skirt of the coat, gave
     heartfelt pain."

He was, indeed, a frugal, industrious, and good man, and his wife seems
to have been a woman of good report; so that the little group of
children, in spite of their poverty, were really happily situated in
life, compared with many of their neighbors. There was always a tinge of
melancholy in Robert's disposition, however, and in his earliest youth
he used to embody it in verse. The sensibility of genius was his by
birthright, and the depressions and exaltations of spirit which marked
his later life began at a very early day. He himself describes his
earliest years thus:--

     "I was by no means a favorite with anybody. I was a good deal noted
     for a retentive memory, a stubborn, sturdy something in my
     disposition, and an enthusiastic, idiot piety."

Again he says:--

     "This kind of life--the cheerless gloom of a hermit, with the
     unceasing toil of a galley-slave--brought me to my sixteenth year;
     a little before which period I first committed the sin of rhyme."

It was at this time that he first fell in love, and it may be added that
after this he was never out of that interesting state. He says:--

     "My scarcity of English denies me the power of doing her justice in
     that language; but you know the Scottish idiom,--she was a bonnie,
     sweet, sonsie lass. In short, she, altogether unwittingly to
     herself, initiated me into that delicious passion, which in spite
     of acid disappointment, gin-horse prudence, and book-worm
     philosophy, I hold to be the first of human joys, our dearest
     blessing here below! I did not know myself why I liked so much to
     loiter behind with her when returning in the evening from our
     labors; why the tones of her voice made my heartstrings thrill like
     an Æolian harp; and particularly, why my pulse beat such a furious
     rattan, when I looked and fingered over her little hand to pick out
     the cruel nettle-stings and thistles. Thus with me began love and
     poetry, which at times have been my only, and till within the last
     twelve months, have been my highest enjoyment."

To a later period than this belongs the episode of Highland Mary, of
which the

  "Banks and braes and streams around
    The castle of Montgomery"

still whisper to the lovers of Burns, as they keep a solemn tryst with
old-time recollections there.

  "How sweetly bloomed the gay green birk,
    How rich the hawthorn's blossom,
  As underneath their fragrant shade
    I clasped her to my bosom!
  The golden hours on angel wings
    Flew o'er me and my dearie;
  For dear to me as light and life
    Was my sweet Highland Mary."

It was the sweetest and tenderest romance of his life; and it is with
unbidden tears that the world still remembers that there

        "fell death's untimely frost,
    That nipt my flower sae early!
  Now green's the sod and cauld's the clay
    That wraps my Highland Mary."

After a hundred years there are still hearts that take a tender interest
in poor Mary's fate, and that feel for poor Robbie as he wrote:--

  "Oh, pale, pale now those rosy lips
    I aft hae kissed sae fondly,
  And closed for aye the sparkling glance
    That dwelt on me sae kindly!
  And mouldering now in silent dust
    That heart that lo'ed me dearly!
  But still within my bosom's core
    Shall live my Highland Mary."

In the monument to Burns, near his old home, are deposited the two
volumes of the little pocket Bible which Burns gave to Mary when they
pledged their faith to one another. It is poorly printed on coarse
paper. A verse of Scripture is written within each cover by the poet's
hand, and fastened within is a lock of Mary's golden hair. It is fitting
that some memorial of her should find a place in that splendid monument
which the Scottish people erected to his memory, after his life of
poverty and sorrow had been brought to an untimely end.

Burns in his twenty-third year took the farm at Mossgiel, where he first
became acquainted with Jane Armour. This lady was the daughter of a
respectable mason in the village of Mauchline, where she was the
reigning beauty and belle. It was almost love at first sight upon the
part of both, and a close intimacy soon sprung up between them. Burns
was very handsome at this time, gay and fascinating in manners, and a
more experienced and highly-placed woman than Jane Armour might have
been excused for loving the wild young poet. For wild he undoubtedly
was, even at this time,--so much so that her parents objected to the
friendship. He was nearly six feet high, with a robust yet agile frame,
a finely formed head, and an uncommmonly interesting countenance. His
eyes were large, dark, and full of ardor and animation. His conversation
was full of wit and humor. He was very proud, and would be under
pecuniary obligation to no one. He was also very generous with his own
money. Of the first five hundred pounds which he received for his poems,
he immediately gave two hundred to his brother Gilbert to help toward
the support of their mother; and he was always as ready to share
whatever sum he had with those he loved.

The consequences of the intimacy between the poet and Jane Armour were
soon such as could not be concealed, and the farm having been a
disastrous speculation in the hands of Burns, he was not in a situation
to marry, although extremely anxious to do so. It was therefore agreed
upon between them that he should give her a written acknowledgment of
marriage, and then sail for Jamaica, and push his fortunes there. This
arrangement, however, did not suit the lady's father, who had a very
poor opinion of Burns's general character, and he prevailed upon Jane
to destroy this document. Under these circumstances she became the
mother of twins, and great scandal followed Burns even to Edinburgh,
where he had been induced to stop instead of sailing for Jamaica. But
his poems, which he succeeded in publishing at this time, gave him a
name and some money, and he returned to Mossgiel, and getting her father
to consent, married Jane, and moved on to a farm six miles from
Dumfries. He had become a lion, and the tables of the neighboring gentry
were soon open to him, as the houses of the great had been in Edinburgh.
Those were the days of conviviality, and Burns took his part in the
hilarity of the table, soon with very direful consequences to himself
and his family. He made many resolutions of amendment; but temperance
was a very rare virtue in those days, and Burns, who could not bear it,
was expected to drink just as much as those who could bear it, and who
could afford it. His genius suffered from this irregular life, and in a
little while he was not capable of doing justice to himself in his
writings; but he continued to be good company at table, and to be
invited with the local magnates, long after he had become a confirmed
drunkard. The farm was given up, and he soon depended entirely upon his
seventy pounds a year, the pay of an exciseman. He felt his degradation
very deeply, and had fearful struggles with his temptation, but was
always overborne. The horrible sufferings of genius in such thraldom
have never been adequately represented, nor indeed can they ever be.
When the will has become so enfeebled that no real resistance can be
made, while yet pride and kind-heartedness survive, the agony of such a
man is appalling. He loves his family, he knows better than any other
all they suffer for his sake; he determines a thousand times to reform,
only to find himself powerless to do so. He strives with more than the
heroism of a martyr many times, but he is beaten. We often blame him for
his defeat, but there comes a time to such a man when defeat is
inevitable. Happy he who makes his manful struggle while there is yet
time. Poor Burns, alas, did not. He went from bad to worse, while his
wife and five small children suffered as the families of such men always
suffer. From October, 1795, to the January following, an accident
confined him to his house. A few days after he began to go out, he dined
at a tavern, and returned home about three o'clock of a very cold
morning, benumbed and intoxicated. This was followed by rheumatism. He
was never well again, though he lived until the end of June. His mind
during all this time was wrung with the most poignant agony in regard to
the family he must leave,--for he knew he should not recover. It is
heart-rending to read of his sufferings and remorse, and to know that on
the morning of her husband's funeral Mrs. Burns gave birth to another
child. It is pleasant to learn that a subscription was immediately taken
up for the destitute family, which placed them in comparative comfort.

"Fight who will," says Byron, "about words and forms, Burns's rank is in
the first class of his art;" and this has long been the deliberate
judgment of the world. No finer flower of genius than that of Robert
Burns has ever blossomed, and it will be long before the world will see
another as fair. But, as Mr. Lockhart observes, "To accumulate all that
has been said of Burns, even by men like himself, of the first order,
would fill a volume." Not even the most carping critic has ever
questioned his genius. The "Cotter's Saturday Night," and "Tam
O'Shanter," and "Highland Mary," would stand before the world to refute
such a critic; and it would be a venturesome man indeed who would care
to contend for such a proposition as that Robert Burns was not a great
poet. That he was a great wit is also as well established, and that he
might have been a great master of prose is equally unquestionable. That
he was great in his life we dare not affirm, but that his life has a
great claim upon our charity we will gladly allow. Few writers have been
better loved than he. There is a personal warmth in all that he wrote,
and we feel that we knew him in a sort of personal way, as if we had
shaken hands with him, and heard his voice; and we always have a feeling
that he is addressing us in our own person. All of the many pilgrims who
visit the places he made immortal have something of this feeling, and
the banks of Doon are as classic now as the lovely Avon. And whenever we
are tempted to look upon the darker sides of his life-picture, we may
well refrain, and repeat his words:--

  "Then gently scan your brother man,
    Still gentler, sister woman;
  Though they may gang a kennin' wrang,
    To step aside is human;
  One point must still be greatly dark,--
    The moving why they do it;
  And just as lamely can ye mark
    How far perhaps they rue it."




That must indeed have been a thrilling life--a life of startling
dramatic interest--which covered the period occupied by the career of
Madame de Staël, even had the person living the life been but an obscure
observer of passing events. For the time was big with the most
astounding things the world has known in these later centuries. But to a
person like the daughter of Necker, with intellect to comprehend the
prodigious events, and with the power oftentimes to influence them to a
greater or less extent, the wonderful drama which was then enacted upon
the stage of France must have appeared as of even overwhelming
importance. It must have dwarfed individual life, until one's own
personal affairs, if they would press upon the attention, seemed
impertinence, to be disposed of as quickly as possible, that one might
give every thought and every emotion to one's country. She saw the
commencement and the close of that great social earthquake which
overthrew the oldest dynasty in Europe; she saw the rise, the
culmination, and the setting of Napoleon's meteor-star; she witnessed
the return of the Bourbons after their long absence, and the final death
in defeat and exile of her dreaded enemy--the great soldier-Emperor--on
the rocky ocean isle. This series of events is not to be paralleled for
magnitude and meaning in any period of modern time, and Madame de Staël
was something more than a spectator during much of the great

Her father, Necker, was the Controller-General of Finances under Louis
XVI., and a man worthy of honor and long remembrance, although he was
called during those perilous times to a work he was unable to do, and
which perhaps no man could have done. The corrupt and meretricious court
had brought France, financially as well as morally, to a point where no
one man, had he been ever so great and so noble, could save her--could
even retard the period of her ruin. Necker made a noble struggle, but
was overborne by fate; and had his genius been even more commanding than
it was, he would doubtless have been thus overborne. History tells us of
many greater statesmen than he, but of few better men. Disinterested
almost to a fault, stainless in his private character as well as
unquestioned in his public integrity, truly religious in a time given
over to atheism and impiety, conscientious even to the smallest matters
in public as well as private life, and moderate when everything about
him was in extremes,--well might Madame de Staël be proud of her father,
and fond to effusion of his memory.

Her mother was a woman to be held in reverent remembrance. She was both
beautiful and accomplished, possessed of fine talents, as well as
spotless character. She had been engaged to Gibbon in her youth, and the
attachment between them was a strong one. But the marriage was prevented
by his father; and, after a long period of mournful constancy, she
married M. Necker, and took her place among the great ones of the earth.
The friendship between herself and Gibbon was afterwards very tender and
sacred, although she was a faithful and devoted wife to Necker, and
really warmly attached to him. Necker, on his part, was her worshipping
lover to the end of his life.

The daughter of such parents could scarcely fail to be remarkable in
some way. It is not from such sources that the mediocrities are
recruited. But the child was utterly unlike her parents, and never
showed much likeness to either in after life. Her genius was
unquestioned even from her precocious babyhood, and she was the wonder
and admiration of all the brilliant circle of her father's friends. Her
temperament was most vehement and impulsive, and her vivacity a wonder
even to the Parisians. She seemed to know everything by intuition, and
made light of the hardest tasks which could be given her. The streams of
her childish eloquence seemed to flow from some exhaustless fountain.
The celebrated men who were her father's guests were never weary of
expressing their astonishment at her powers of conversation.

Gibbon, the Abbé Raynal, Baron Grimm and Marmontel were among these
friends, and they undoubtedly did much to stimulate the childish
intellect, although Madame Necker, troubled at the precocity of her
darling, frowned upon all attempts to unduly excite her mind. But great
themes were constantly discussed in her presence; the frivolity of the
old _régime_ was being rapidly displaced by the intense earnestness of
the men of the new era, and the most momentous questions of life and
death, of time and eternity, were the subjects of the conversations to
which the young genius listened with such rapt attention. Doubtless it
was in listening to these profound discussions in her earliest years
that she acquired that confidence which in after years never deserted
her, but which always led her to believe that she could save both her
country and the world, if people would only let her manage things in her
own way. Charles X. used to tell the story of her calling upon him,
after the return of the Bourbons to France, and offering him a
constitution ready-made, and insisting upon his accepting it. He says:--

     "It seemed like a thing resolved--an event decided upon,--this
     proposal of inventing a constitution for us. I kept as long as I
     could upon the defensive; but Madame de Staël, carried away by her
     zeal and enthusiasm, instead of speaking of what presumably
     concerned herself, knocked me about with arguments and crushed me
     with threats and menaces; so, tired to death of entertaining,
     instead of a clever, humble woman, a roaring politician in
     petticoats, I finished the audience, leaving her as little
     satisfied as myself with the interview."

Perhaps something of this kind may have influenced Napoleon in banishing
her from the Empire.

Necker himself idolized his daughter, and was naturally very proud of
her youthful triumphs, while she in turn made him her one hero among
men. Throughout life her devotion to him continued, and she wrote of him
as one might write of a god. She frequently lamented that he had been
her father and not one of her own generation, that there might have been
a man of her time worthy of the love which she could have lavished upon
him. The fervor of this devotion, although it seems unnatural, belonged
to her intensely impulsive temperament, and in her case we must make
some allowance for the excesses of her passionate expressions of
affection. Although she talked much and in the grandest manner of love,
even when young and unmarried,--which is a very indelicate thing to do
in the eyes of the French,--she did not appear to have any youthful
romance of a serious sort. She had a great reputation as a wit and a
genius, but few admirers who could be classed as lovers. Many men were
her friends, and she was much sought after; but she was far from
beautiful, which goes a great way in matters of the heart, and many
disliked the manner in which she trampled upon the conventionalities,
while doubtless many others objected to her strong-mindedness and the
aggressiveness of her opinions.

She made a marriage _de convenance_ at the age of twenty, apparently
without much thought of love upon either side, and entered upon her new
career with all the confidence which characterized her. Baron de Staël
was a man of good character and noble birth, an _attaché_ of the Swedish
Embassy, and, as she had money enough for both, the match was regarded
favorably by her friends. Although the Baron was a handsome man and of
pleasing address, one, it seems, who might have touched a maiden's
heart, Mademoiselle Necker, it is said, never made even a pretence of
love, but took the whole affair as a matter of business. It was
necessary that she should be married,--it is only thus that French women
achieve their independence,--and this man would do as well as another;
that seemed to be all there was of this remarkable occurrence.
Remarkable in our eyes, but of the usual sort in the eyes of the French.
For domestic happiness she seemed to care little. The excitement of
Parisian society was her heaven, and into this she entered with all the
ardor of her nature. Her marriage had given her every freedom, although
it does not appear that she was much restrained before,--for a French
girl; and she dashed into the whirlpool of the gayest society in the
world with a sort of intoxication. Her vivacity and enthusiasm knew no
bounds, and she held her own little court in every assembly, at which
the envious and unnoticed looked askance. She was regarded as a
dangerously fascinating woman, although personally she was so entirely

For three years she enjoyed her triumphs to the utmost. Then came the
earthquake which dissolved the fair fabric of her dreams. The Reign of
Terror began, and Paris was in the wildest ferment. Of course, she was
in the very midst of those exciting events, and her influence was of
moment in the terrific crisis. Her position gave her influence, and she
worked with all the strength and enthusiasm of her nature to aid the
escape of her friends and to succor the endangered. All the powers of
her remarkable mind were put into active service, and she seems never to
have thought of herself. To be sure, she was as inviolable as any one
could be considered in that fearful time, but she had a rare courage and
unbounded fortitude, and would have worked as she did even at personal
hazard. She prevailed upon the ferocious Revolutionists to show mercy in
some cases where they were bound to have blood. She concealed her
friends and even strangers in her house, and she used all the powers of
her marvellous eloquence to turn the tide of revolution backward. But it
was in vain. Her father was deposed, her friends were murdered, her king
was slain, all of her society were under surveillance, she herself
everybody thought in danger, but she would not leave her beloved Paris.
Her husband was in Holland, and thought she was subjecting her children
to needless peril; but she still had hope that somehow she might be
useful to her country. The sublime confidence which she had in her own
powers did not desert her. She saw the streets flow with blood, one
might say,--for the murders of the Revolutionists were of daily
occurrence,--but it was not until all hope of being of use was gone that
she took her children to England.

Here a little colony of French exiles were already established, and she
became at once the centre of the group. She pined in the exile and
mourned with ever-increasing sorrow for her country. Her interest in the
events of the time was cruelly intense, and burned out her life. M. de
Narbonne, whose life she had saved, was one of her consolations in the
dreadful exile, as was the friendship of Talleyrand and of Benjamin

She returned to France after quiet was restored, and lived in Paris
something after the old way. Then came Napoleon, whom she hated with all
the ardor of her nature, and who returned her hate with interest. He
banished her from France, and would not permit her return during his
entire reign. "She carries a quiver full of arrows," he said, "which
would hit a man were he seated upon a rainbow." It was a purely personal
dislike on his part, and a piece of his most odious despotism to allow
his personal feelings to influence him in such a matter. There are few
things recorded of him more utterly inexcusable than this. She passed
fourteen years in exile,--the best years of her life,--and exile to her
had all the bitterness of death; she could never really live except in
Paris. We hear little of her husband during all this time, but it is
not likely that she derived much consolation from domestic life. She had
no taste for it, and found it the supreme bore. She consoled herself as
much as she could with literature, and wrote those books which,
wonderful and brilliant as they are, all who knew her personally unite
in saying, never did justice to her genius. The gloom of exile was over
them all. She suffered a great variety of petty persecutions at the
hands of Napoleon during all those years, and these added to the
inevitable miseries of her lot.

After the fall of the Napoleonic empire she returned to Paris, and there
passed the remainder of her life. It was at this time that she presented
the constitution to Charles X. She was never remarkable for her taste in
dress, and that Prince thus describes her on that occasion:--

     "She wore a red satin gown embroidered with flowers of gold and
     silk, a profusion of diamonds, rings enough to stock a pawnbroker's
     shop; and I must add that I never before saw so low cut a corsage
     display less inviting charms. Upon her head was a large turban,
     constructed on the pattern of that worn by the Cumean sybil, which
     put the finishing touch to a costume so little in harmony with the
     style of her face. I scarcely can understand how a woman of genius
     can have such a false, vulgar taste."

It can be easily comprehended how she might have bored the Prince by
pressing upon him at such length her ideas of the reconstruction of the
empire, for she often bored even those who really admired and
appreciated her by the torrents of her talk. She was not witty, but full
of rhetorical surprises, and had boundless stores of information upon
every subject. People do not like to be instructed, nor do they like to
be preached to, even by eloquent lips, and her great conversational
powers often made her dreaded rather than admired in general society.
While she was in Germany Goethe, who must be allowed the capability of
appreciating her, was wont to run away from her whenever he could, and
bore up under her eloquence with rather an ill grace when he could not
escape it. Schiller also, in whom she much delighted, was ungallant
enough to dislike her extremely. On the contrary, Talleyrand and many
other famous Frenchmen seemed never to weary of her, and have handed
down the tradition of her wonderful eloquence to a later generation. It
is probable that her excessive vivacity was more pleasing to the French
mind than to that of the English and Germans, and her lack of repose did
not weary them to the same extent. She retained her friends to the end
of her life, and they were the source of her greatest satisfaction. She
was loyal and devoted in the extreme to all whom she favored with her
friendship, and all such loved her with deep affection. Indeed, it may
be said that human nature was the only thing which much interested her.
She had no love for Nature, and would scarcely take the trouble to see
the Alps when in Switzerland, and said that if she were left to her own
feelings she would not open her window to see the bay of Naples for the
first time, but that she would travel five hundred leagues at any time
to see a great man she had not met before. She cared little for art, and
not much for literature as such, though she had a passion for ideas. Her
ideal life was a life of intellectual excitement,--constant intercourse
with minds of her own order. The improvisations of Corinne give one a
little idea what her conversation was like. Still she has been quoted as
saying that she would have exchanged all her talent for the one gift of
beauty which was denied her.

In the life of William Cullen Bryant we find the following passage
relating to Madame de Staël, occurring in one of his letters; it gives
the last glimpse that we get of the close of her career, and is
interesting also as showing his estimate of a great but faulty woman. He

     "What a life! Passionate, for she was brought up not to control her
     passions; almost always unhappy; marrying an old man whom she did
     not care for, after being twice refused by young men whom she did
     love, and to whom she offered herself, if not formally yet in a
     manner not to be misunderstood; forming, after her marriage,
     intimate relations with Benjamin Constant, to her father's great
     grief; and when he deserted her, marrying, after her husband's
     death, a half-dead Italian named Rocca; and finally wearing out her
     life by opium-eating."

This marriage with Albert Jean-Michel de Rocca took place at Geneva, and
was for a time concealed from the world, causing some scandal. But her
children and intimate friends knew of it, although much opposed to it.
Rocca was a young Italian officer, just returned from the war in Spain,
with a dangerous wound. He was of a poetic temperament and exceedingly
romantic, and fell violently in love with Madame de Staël, although she
was forty-five years old and he but twenty-three. During the years of
her first marriage she used to say that she would force her own daughter
to marry for love if that were necessary, and it is supposed that at
last she herself made a marriage of real affection. Despite the
disparity of their years, they seemed to be really happy in this
marriage, and her friends were at last reconciled to it. But her
new-found happiness was of short duration,--she being but fifty years
old at the time of her death.




Mr. Swinburne quotes the following passage from a description given by
one of the daily papers of a certain murderer who at the time was
attracting great attention in London:--

     "He has great taste for poetry, can recite long passages from
     popular poets,--Byron's denunciations of the pleasures of the world
     having for him great attraction as a _description of his own
     experiences_. Wordsworth is his favorite poet. He confesses himself
     a villain."

At this day the two latter facts will not necessarily be supposed to
have any logical connection; but there was a time when the violence of
the opponents of Wordsworth's claim to be a poet might have suggested
the most intimate relation between these two statements. For many years
he was looked upon as an "inspired idiot" by a large part of the reading
world; and his place in literature has not been definitely settled to
this day. Such extravagant claims have always been made for him by his
friends that they have called forth just as extravagant denunciations
from those who do not admire his works; and violent controversies arise
concerning his merits among first-class scholars and critics. It is
always noticeable, however, in these discussions that his panegyrists
always quote his best efforts, those sublime passages to which no one
denies transcendent merit, and that his opponents never get much beyond
"Peter Bell," and other trivialities and absurdities, which his best
friends must admit that he wrote in great numbers. That his best work
ranks next to Shakespeare, Milton, and Shelley, can scarcely be doubted
by any true lover of poetry; and he certainly has the right to be judged
by his best, rather than by his inferior work.

Wordsworth was born in 1770, in Cumberland, and received his early
education there, being noted for his excellence in classical studies and
for his thoughtful disposition. He graduated from St. John's College,
Cambridge, and immediately after began his literary labors, which were
continued through a long and most industrious life.

In 1803 he married Miss Mary Hutchinson of Penrith, and settled at
Grasmere, in Westmoreland, where he passed the remainder of his life,
and where he lies buried in the little churchyard where so many of his
family had preceded him. He helped to make the Lake district famous the
world over, and himself never wearied of its charms. He was
pre-eminently the poet of Nature, and it was from the unrivalled scenery
of this part of England that he caught much of his inspiration. Mrs.
Wordsworth, who was as fond of it as her husband, used to say in extreme
old age, that the worst of living in the Lake region was that it made
one unwilling to die when the time came. The poet's marriage was an
eminently happy one, although Miss Martineau hints that it was not first
love on his part, but that the lines, "She was a phantom of delight," so
often quoted as relating to Mrs. Wordsworth, were really meant to
indicate another person who had occupied his thoughts at an early day.
At any rate, he did address the following lines to his wife after
thirty-six years of married life, which is certainly a far higher
compliment to her:--

  "Morn into noon did pass, noon into eve,
  And the old day was welcome as the young,
  As welcome, and as beautiful,--in sooth, more beautiful,
  As being a thing more holy."

The other poems, "Let other bards of angels sing," and "Oh, dearer far
than life and light are dear," were also addressed to her.

It was through her early friendship for Wordsworth's sister that she
first came to know the poet, and she was not at that time a person whom
a poet would be supposed to fancy. She was the incarnation of good-sense
as applied to the concerns of the every-day world, and in no sense a
dreamer, or a seeker after the ideal. Her intellect, however, developed
by contact with higher minds, and her tastes after a time became more in
accordance with those of her husband. She learned to passionately admire
the outward world, in which he took such great delight, and to admire
his poetry and that of his friends. She was of a kindly, cheery,
generous nature, very unselfish in her dealings with her family, and
highly beloved by her friends. She was the finest example of thrift and
frugality to be found in her neighborhood, and is said to have exerted a
decidedly beneficial influence upon all her poorer neighbors. She did
not give them as much in charity as many others did, but she taught them
how to take care of what they had, and to save something for their days
of need. Miss Martineau, who was a neighbor, says: "The oldest residents
have long borne witness that the homes of the neighbors have assumed a
new character of order and comfort and wholesome economy, since the
poet's family lived at Rydal Mount." She took the kindest and tenderest
care of Wordsworth's sister Dorothy, who was for many years a helpless
charge upon her hands. This sister had ruined her health, and finally
dethroned her reason, by trying to accompany her brother on his long and
tiresome rambles among the lakes and up the mountains. She has been
known to walk with him forty miles in a single day. Many English women
are famous walkers, but her record is beyond them all. Such excessive
exercise is bad for a man, as was proved in the case of Dickens, who
doubtless injured himself much by such long pedestrian trips after brain
labor; but no woman can endure such a strain as this, and the adoring
sister not only failed to be a companion to her idolized brother, but
became a care and burden for many years. She lies now by her brother's
side in the crowded little churchyard, and doubtless the "sweet bells
jangled" are in tune again. A lovely group of children filled the
Wordsworth home, some of whom died in childhood; but one daughter and
two sons lived, as loving companions for their parents, until near the
end of the poet's life, when the daughter Dora preceded him a little
into the silent land. Wordsworth was utterly inconsolable for her loss;
and used to spend the long winter evenings in tears, week after week,
and month after month. Mrs. Wordsworth was much braver than he, and bore
her own burdens calmly, while trying to cheer his exaggerated gloom. He
was old and broken at this time, and never recovered from the shock of
his daughter's death. Mrs. Wordsworth survived him for several years,
being over ninety at the time of her death, and having long been deaf
and blind. But she was very cheerful and active to the last, and not
unwilling to live on, even with her darkened vision. The devotion of the
old poet to his wife was very touching, and she who had idolized him in
life was never weary of recounting his virtues when he was gone.

The character of Wordsworth is getting to be understood as we recede
from the prejudices of the time in which he lived, and begins to assume
something like a consistent whole, compared to the contradictions which
at one time seemed to be inherent in it. He says of his own childhood:--

     "I was of a stiff, moody, and violent temper; so much so that I
     remember going once into the attic of my grandfather's house at
     Penrith, upon some indignity having been put upon me, with an
     intention of destroying myself with one of the foils which I knew
     were kept there. I took the foil in my hand, but my heart failed."

De Quincey says of his boyhood:--

     "I do not conceive that Wordsworth could have been an amiable boy;
     he was austere and unsocial, I have reason to think, in his habits;
     not generous; and above all, not self-denying. Throughout his
     later life, with all the benefits of a French discipline, in the
     lesser charities of social intercourse he has always exhibited a
     marked impatience of those particular courtesies of life. . . .
     Freedom,--unlimited, careless, insolent freedom,--unoccupied
     possession of his own arms,--absolute control over his own legs and
     motions,--these have always been so essential to his comfort that
     in any case where they were likely to become questionable, he would
     have declined to make one of the party."

Wordsworth has been accused of excessive penuriousness, of overwhelming
conceit, and of being slovenly and regardless of dress. For the first
accusation there seems little warrant, other than that he was prudent
and thrifty, and knew the value of money. His most intimate friends
exonerate him from meanness of any sort, and often praise his kindness
to the poor and dependent. As regards conceit there can probably be no
denial, though doubtless the stories told of it are much exaggerated. He
is said never to have read any poetry but his own, and to have been
exceedingly ill-natured and contemptuous in his estimate of his
contemporaries. His estimate of Dickens is well known:--

     "I will candidly avow that I thought him a very talkative, vulgar
     young person,--but I dare say he may be very clever. Mind, I don't
     want to say a word against him, for I have never read a word he has

He greeted Charles Mackay thus, when the latter called upon him:--

     "I am told you write poetry. I never read a line of your poems and
     don't intend to. You must not be offended with me; the truth is, I
     never read anybody's poetry but my own."

Even James T. Fields, whose opinion of the poet was high, remarks:--

     "I thought he did not praise easily those whose names are
     indissolubly connected with his own in the history of literature.
     It was languid praise, at least; and I observed that he hesitated
     for mild terms which he could apply to names almost as great as his

Carlyle testifies on the same point:--

     "One evening, probably about this time, I got him upon the subject
     of great poets, who I thought might be admirable equally to us
     both; but was rather mistaken, as I gradually found. Pope's partial
     failure I was prepared for; less for the narrowish limits visible
     in Milton and others. I tried him with Burns, of whom he had sung
     tender recognition; but Burns also turned out to be a limited,
     inferior creature, any genius he had a theme for one's pathos
     rather; even Shakespeare himself had his blind sides, his
     limitations. Gradually it became apparent to me that of
     transcendent unlimited, there was to this critic probably but one
     specimen known,--Wordsworth."

As regards eccentricities of dress, we will give but a single testimony.
William Jordan says:--

     "On his visits to town the recluse of Rydal Mount was quite a
     different creature. To me it was demonstrated, by his conduct under
     every circumstance, that De Quincey had done him gross injustice in
     the character he loosely threw upon him in public, namely, 'that he
     was not generous or self-denying, . . . and that he was slovenly
     and regardless in dress.' I must protest that there was no warrant
     for this caricature; but on the contrary, that it bore no feature
     of resemblance to the slight degree of eccentricity discoverable in
     Cumberland, and was utterly contradicted by the life in London. In
     the mixed society of the great Babylon, Mr. Wordsworth was facile
     and courteous; dressed like a gentleman, and with his tall
     commanding figure no mean type of the superior order, well-trained
     by education, and accustomed to good manners. Shall I reveal that
     he was often sportive, and could even go the length of strong
     expressions, in the off-hand mirth of his observations and

Wordsworth had the fondness of many poets for reading his poetry to his
friends, and even of reciting it like a schoolboy. When Emerson visited
him he was already an old man, and it struck the philosopher so oddly,
as he tells us in his "English Traits," to see "the old Wordsworth,
standing apart, and reciting to me in a garden walk, like a schoolboy
declaiming, that I at first was near to laugh; but recollecting myself,
that I had come thus far to see a poet, and he was chanting poems to me,
I saw that he was right and I was wrong, and gladly gave myself up to

Another story is told of his being in a large company, and seeing for
the first time a new novel by Scott, with a motto taken from his poems;
and of his going immediately and getting the poem, and reading it entire
to the assembled company, who were waiting for the reading of the new

Literary biography is full of such anecdotes as these, going to show his
absorption in himself, and his comparative indifference to the works of
others; but they prove at most only a trifling weakness in a great man's
character; such weaknesses being so common as to cause no surprise to
those familiar with the lives of men of genius. He was a strong man,
massive in his individuality, full of profound feeling and deep
spirituality, and dominated by a powerful will. He was no mere
sentimentalist and versifier, but a student at first hand of Nature and
all her mysteries,--a man whose profound meditations had pierced to the
centre of things, and who held great thoughts in keeping for a waiting
and expectant world. His outward life was full of proofs of the wide and
deep benevolence of his nature; and it was only shallow minds who dwelt
upon some petty defects of his character. The deep wisdom gained by
contemplation comes forth whenever he talks of childhood. This subject
always possesses inspiration for him, as when he says:--

  "Our birth is but a sleep and forgetting;
  The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
      Hath had elsewhere its setting,
          And cometh from afar.
      Not in entire forgetfulness,
      And not in utter nakedness,
  But trailing clouds of glory do we come
      From God who is our home.
  Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
  Shades of the prison-house begin to close
      Upon the growing boy,
  But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,--
      He sees it in his joy.
  The youth, who daily farther from the east
  Must travel, still is Nature's priest,
      And by the vision splendid
      Is on his way attended;
  At length the man perceives it die away,
  And fade into the light of common day."

This conception of the nearness of the child to the unseen made all
children sacred in his eyes, and he always felt that he learned more
from them than he could teach them. He expresses this thought often, as

  "Oh dearest, dearest boy; my heart
  For better lore would seldom yearn,
  Could I but teach the hundredth part
    Of what from thee I learn."

And again:--

  "Dear child; dear girl; thou walkest with me here;
  If thou appear untouched by solemn thought,
  Thy nature is not therefore less divine;
  Thou liest in Abraham's bosom all the year;
  And worship'st at the Temple's inner shrine,
  God being with thee when we know it not."

His own children he loved almost to idolatry, and after the lapse of
forty years, would speak with the deepest emotion of the little ones who
had died. Indeed, he was a man of profound feeling, passionate and
intense in his loves, though outwardly calm and self-contained. He
himself says:--

     "Had I been a writer of love-poetry, it would have been natural for
     me to write it with a degree of warmth which could hardly have been
     approved by my principles, and which might have been undesirable
     for the reader."

His sister Dorothy frequently refers to the intensity of his passionate
affection for the members of his family, and of the full and free
expression he gave it. Greatly indeed have they erred who have imagined
him as by nature cold or even tranquil. "What strange workings," writes
one, "are there in his great mind! how fearfully strong are all his
feelings and affections! If his intellect had been less powerful they
would have destroyed him long ago." Indeed, no one who had ever known
him well could doubt this intensity of nature, this smothered fire. It
leaped out in bursts of anger at the report of evil doings; in long and
violent tramps over the mountains, in exaggerated grief at the death of
loved ones; and in almost unnatural intensity of devotion, to his sister
first, and his daughter Dora afterwards. It took the form of passionate
adoration of Nature in his poems, and of passionate patriotism as well,
and it gave strength and fire to the best of all his literary work.

Let us dwell for a moment more upon the married life of the poet,--that
calm and quiet and happy life which made it possible that he should be
the poet he was, unvexed by worldly cares or vanities. His late
biographer, Mr. Myers, tells us:--

     "The life which the young couple led was one of primitive
     simplicity. In some respects it was even less luxurious than that
     of the peasants about them. They drank water, and ate the simplest
     fare. Miss Wordsworth had long rendered existence possible for her
     brother, on the narrowest of means, by her unselfish energy and
     skill in household management; and plain living and high thinking
     were equally congenial to the new inmate of the frugal home.
     Wordsworth gardened; and all together, or oftenest the poet and his
     sister, wandered almost daily over the neighboring hills. Narrow
     means did not prevent them from offering a generous welcome to
     their few friends, especially Coleridge and his family, who
     repeatedly stayed for months under Wordsworth's roof. Miss
     Wordsworth's letters breathe the very spirit of hospitality in
     their naïve details of the little sacrifices gladly made for the
     sake of the presence of these honored guests. But for the most
     part the life was solitary and uneventful. Books they had few,
     neighbors none, and their dependence was almost entirely upon
     external nature."

The cottage in which they lived was very small, but they covered it with
roses and honeysuckles, and had a little garden around it. Inside, all
was the perfection of simplicity, but the soul of neatness and thrift
pervaded everything, and love glorified it all. They had a little boat
upon the lake, and rowing and walking were their pleasures.

They lived in this simple fashion that the poet might pursue his high
vocation, and not be put into the treadmill of any steady work. In after
years, through bequests from friends and a pension from Government, they
were made more prosperous, and their declining years were cheered by an
assured abundance. Rydal Mount has been described so often that it is
familiar to most readers. The house stands looking southward, on the
rocky side of Nab Scar above Rydal Lake. The garden is terraced, and was
full of flowering alleys in the poet's time. There was a tall ash-tree
in which the thrushes always sung, and a laburnum in which the osier
cage of the doves was hung. There were stone steps, in which poppies and
wild geraniums filled the interstices; and rustic seats here and there,
where they all sat all day during the pleasant weather. The poet spent
very little time in-doors. He lived constantly in the open air,
composing all his poems there, and committing them to paper afterwards.
Their friends grew more numerous in later life, and Wordsworth much
enjoyed their companionship, being himself very bright and delightful
company when in the mood for talk. Here that strange being, Thomas De
Quincey, came and lived, purposely to be near the poet. Coleridge was
always at call, genial Kit North paid loyal court to the great man from
the first, and loving and gentle Charles Lamb came at times, sadly
missing the town, and almost afraid of the mountains. Here Dr. Arnold of
Rugby came often from Fox How, his own house in the neighborhood;
hither Harriet Martineau walked over from Ambleside, with some new
theory of the universe to expound; and here poor Hartley Coleridge
passed the happiest hours of his unfortunate life. Wordsworth's kindness
and tenderness to this poor son of his great friend were well known to
his little world, and show some of the most pleasing traits of his
character. This amiable and gifted man, Hartley Coleridge, ruined
himself through the weakness of his will, finding it utterly impossible
to leave wine alone, even when he knew it was ruining his life, and so
sorely afflicting his friends. Wordsworth dealt with him like a father,
recognizing the weakness of his character, and perhaps being able to
trace it to inherited tendencies,--the elder Coleridge's devotion to
opium being well known. Poor Hartley lies with Wordsworth's own family
in the little churchyard at Grasmere, and we trust in that quiet retreat
sleeps well, at the foot of his friend and master.

Wordsworth's last years were of great solemnity and calm. He lived in
retrospection, and dwelt much upon the unseen world. The deep
spirituality of his nature was shown in all his later life. He was
absorbed, as it were, in thoughts of God, and of the ultimate destiny of
man. All worldly interests died out, and he was able to write even of
his fame:--

     "It is indeed a deep satisfaction to hope and believe that my
     poetry will be, while it lasts, a help to the cause of virtue and
     truth, especially among the young. As for myself, it seems now of
     little moment how long I may be remembered. When a man pushes off
     in his little boat into the great seas of Infinity and Eternity, it
     surely signifies little how long he is kept in sight by watchers
     from the shore."




The Florentines used to point Dante out to strangers in these words:
"There goes the man who has been in hell." With much truth could these
words have been spoken of Thomas De Quincey, at any time after he began
to suffer from his excess in opium eating, which was while he was still
a young man,--and especially would these words have been true of him,
after he began his struggles to free himself from the thraldom of that
most seductive vice. James Payn thus describes his appearance:--

     "Picture to yourself a very diminutive man, carelessly--very
     carelessly--dressed; a face lined, care-worn, and so expressionless
     that it reminded one of 'that dull, changeless brow, where cold
     Obstruction's apathy appalls the gazing mourner's heart,'--a face
     like death in life. The instant he began to speak, however, it lit
     up as though by electric light; this came from his marvellous eyes,
     brighter and more intelligent (though by fits) than I have ever
     seen in any other mortal."

Another writes:--

     "Conceive a little, pale-faced, woe-begone, and attenuated man,
     with short indescribables, no coat, check shirt, and a neck-cloth
     twisted like a wisp of straw, opening his door, and advancing
     toward you with hurried movement and half-recognizing glance,
     saluting you in low and hesitating tones, and without looking at
     you, beginning to pour into your willing ear a stream of learning
     and wisdom, as long as you are content to listen. . . . His head is
     small; how can it carry all he knows? His brow is singular in
     shape, but not particularly large or prominent; where has nature
     expressed his majestic intellect? His eyes--they sparkle not, they
     shine not, they are lustreless; there is not even the glare which
     lights up sometimes dull eyes into eloquence; and yet, even at
     first, the _tout ensemble,_ strikes you as that of no common man,
     and you say, ere he has opened his lips, 'He is either mad or

In all literary history there is scarcely a man about whose life and
character hang so peculiar an interest and fascination as about De
Quincey. He has himself given a most vivid account of his childhood, in
his "Autobiographic Sketches," and in the "Opium Eater." From these we
learn that he was born in Manchester, August 15, 1785. His father was a
very wealthy merchant of that city, who was inclined to pulmonary
consumption, and lived mostly abroad, in the West Indies and other warm
climates. Thomas had several brothers and sisters, all of whom seem to
have been rather peculiar and remarkable children. He was a very
precocious child himself, sensitive, excitable, and given to dreams and
visions,--living largely in a world of imagination, and for many years
ruled over with absolute despotism by an older brother. The loss of a
favorite sister in very early childhood seems to have been a blow from
which it took him years to recover. He writes of it thus:--

     "Inevitable sometimes it is, in solitude, that this should happen
     to minds morbidly meditative,--that when we stretch out our arms in
     darkness, vainly striving to draw back the sweet faces that have
     vanished, slowly arises a new stratagem of grief, and we say, 'Be
     it that they no more come back to us, yet what hinders but we
     should go to _them_?' Perilous is that crisis for the young. In its
     effect perfectly the same as the ignoble witchcraft of the poor
     African _Obeah_, his sublimer witchcraft of grief will, if left to
     follow its own natural course, terminate in the same catastrophe of
     death. Poetry, which neglects no phenomena that are interesting to
     the heart of man, has sometimes touched a little

       'On the sublime attractions of the grave.'

     But you think that these attractions, existing at times for the
     adult, could not exist for the child. Understand that you are
     wrong. Understand that these attractions do exist for the child;
     and perhaps as much more strongly than they _can_ exist for the
     adult by the whole difference between the concentration of a
     childish love and the inevitable distraction upon multiplied
     objects of any love that can affect any adult. . . . Could the
     Erl-king's Daughter have revealed herself to me, and promised to
     lead me where my sister was, she might have wiled me by the hand
     into the dimmest forests upon earth."

But a beatific vision rose before him, one day in church, and he saw the
beautiful sister borne away in the clouds of heaven on a bed of filmy
whiteness, surrounded by a celestial throng; and he was somewhat
comforted. After twelve years, while he was a student at Oxford, the
vision returned to him, and he writes of it:--

     "Once again, the nursery of my childhood expanded before me; my
     sister was moaning in bed; I was beginning to be restless with
     fears not intelligible to myself. Once again the nurse, but now
     dilated to colossal proportions, stood as upon some Grecian stage
     with her uplifted hand, and, like the superb Medea towering amongst
     her children in the nursery at Corinth, smote me senseless to the
     ground. Again I am in the chamber with my sister's corpse, again
     the pomps of life rise up in silence, the glory of summer, the
     Syrian sunlights, the frost of death. Dream forms itself
     mysteriously within dream; within these Oxford dreams remoulds
     itself continually the trance in my sister's chamber,--the blue
     heavens, the everlasting vault, the soaring billows, the throne
     steeped in the thought (but not the sight) of _'Who_ might sit
     thereon;' the flight, the pursuit, the irrecoverable steps of my
     return to earth. Once more the funeral procession gathers; the
     priest, in his white surplice, stands waiting with a book by the
     side of an open grave; the sacristan is waiting with his shovel;
     the coffin has sunk; the _dust to dust_ has descended. Again I was
     in the church on a heavenly Sunday morning. The golden sunlight of
     God slept amongst the heads of his apostles, his martyrs, his
     saints; the fragment from the litany, the fragment from the clouds,
     awoke again the lawny beds that went up to scale the
     heavens,--awoke again the shadowy arms that moved downward to meet
     them. Once again arose the swell of the anthem, the burst of the
     Hallelujah chorus, the storm, the trampling movement of the choral
     passion, the agitation of my own trembling sympathy, the tumult of
     the choir, the wrath of the organ. Once more I, that wallowed in
     the dust, became he that rose up to the clouds. And now all was
     bound up into unity; the first state and the last were melted into
     each other as in some sunny, glorifying haze. For high in heaven
     hovered a gleaming host of faces, veiled with wings, around the
     pillows of the dying children. And such beings sympathize equally
     with sorrow that grovels and with sorrow that soars. Such beings
     pity alike the children that are languishing in death, and the
     children that live only to languish in tears."

This extract is important as showing that when a mere child, knowing
nothing of the fatal drug, he had visions similar to those which filled
his after years. At Oxford he had begun the use of opium--but his first
vision was a repetition of one of his childish years, and it leads us to
infer that his own vivid imagination bore an important part in the
brilliant dreams which followed his taking of opium. No person of
ordinary mind could induce those gorgeous and bewildering dreams by its
use. In his case the drug acted upon a mind fitted to see visions and
dream dreams even without its use; and the result was that gorgeous and
bewildering phantasmagoria which he so eloquently describes.

The causes of his first indulging in opium may be briefly glanced at
here. At seventeen, he ran away from the school at which he had been
placed by his guardians, his father now being dead. He wished to enter
college at once, and it appears was well prepared to do so, and had made
earnest representations to his guardians upon the subject, as he was
unhappy where he was, and under a very unsuitable master. But they would
not consent, and, like one of his brothers who ran away from school and
went to sea, he borrowed a little money and stole quietly away to

The brother had left school, it appears, with good reason, being
brutally treated; but in the case of Thomas there seems to have been no
complaint of real ill-usage. It was simply one of the wilful freaks of a
precocious and fantastic boy. He wandered in Wales for a few weeks,
until his money was nearly spent, and then contrived to get to London,
where he suffered the cruellest pangs of poverty, although he was a
young gentleman of independent fortune. It is difficult for a
matter-of-fact and well-balanced mind to conceive of an experience just
like that of De Quincey. Why he should have allowed himself to starve
rather than communicate with his friends, we are not told,--it could
scarcely have been pride, for he accepted help even from strangers when
it was offered,--and why he did not seek some of the friends of his
family in the city we are not informed, but such was the fact.

He tells the story thus:--

     "And now began the later and fiercer stage of my long sufferings;
     without using a disproportionate expression, I might say of my
     agony. For I now suffered for upwards of sixteen weeks the physical
     anguish of hunger in various degrees of intensity, but as bitter,
     perhaps, as ever any human being can have suffered who has survived
     it. I would not needlessly harass my readers' feelings by a detail
     of all that I endured; for extremities such as these, under any
     circumstances of heaviest misconduct or guilt, cannot be
     contemplated, even in description, without a rueful pity that is
     painful to the natural goodness of the human heart. Let it suffice
     to say that a few fragments of bread from the breakfast table of
     one individual, and these at uncertain intervals, constituted my
     whole support. . . . I was houseless, and seldom slept under a

After a time, however, he slept in an unoccupied house, or unoccupied
save by a child of ten years,--as forlorn as himself. She slept here,
and was much tormented by the fear of ghosts. She hailed his advent with
great pleasure as a protection from supernatural visitants; and when the
weather became cold, he used to hold her in his arms that she might
gain the additional comfort of a little warmth. He says they lay upon
the floor "with a bundle of cursed law papers for a pillow, and no
covering save an old cloak." He slept only from exhaustion, and could
hear himself moaning in his sleep; but his little companion, relieved of
fear, and perhaps a little better fed than he, slept soundly and well at
all times. He learned to love the poor child as his partner in
wretchedness. He made also one other friend, a girl of the streets,
named Ann, who was kind to him, and whom he remembered with gratitude to
the end of his life. He says of her:--

     "This person was a young woman, and one of that unhappy class who
     subsist upon the wages of prostitution. . . . Yet, no! let me not
     class thee, O noble-minded Ann, with that order of women; let me
     find, if it be possible, some gentler name to designate the
     condition of her to whose bounty and compassion--ministering to my
     necessities when all the world had forsaken me--I owe it that I am
     at this time alive. . . . She was not as old as myself. . . . O
     youthful benefactress! how often in succeeding years, standing in
     solitary places and thinking of thee with grief of heart and
     perfect love,--how often have I wished that, as in ancient times
     the curse of a father was believed to have a supernatural power,
     and to pursue its object with a fatal necessity of
     self-fulfilment,--even so the benediction of a heart oppressed with
     gratitude might have a like prerogative,--might have power given it
     from above to chase, to haunt, to waylay, to overtake, to pursue
     thee into the central darkness of a London brothel, or (if it were
     possible) into the darkness of the grave, there to awaken thee with
     an authentic message of peace and forgiveness and final

The youthful wanderer was finally discovered by his friends, and placed
by his wish at Oxford, where about a year after, in 1804, he began the
occasional use of opium. He did this merely as a means of pleasure at
first, like the drinking of wine, and took it only at stated intervals
for a period of eight years. He seemed to experience no harm from its
use in this way; but a very severe neuralgic affection of the stomach
(caused, it is supposed, by his privations in London primarily)
developed itself at the end of that time, and he resorted to the
habitual use of opium as a relief from pain.

He was married in 1816 to Miss Margaret Simpson, and lived with her in a
cottage at Grasmere. Of this wife, with whom he lived for twenty-one
years, he thus writes:--

     "But watching by my pillow, or defrauding herself of sleep to bear
     me company through the heavy watches of the night, sat my Electra;
     for thou, beloved M., dear companion of my later years, thou wast
     my Electra! and neither in nobility of mind nor in long-suffering
     affection would'st permit that a Grecian sister should excel an
     English wife. For thou thoughtest not much to stoop to humble
     offices of kindness, and to servile ministrations of tenderest
     affection; to wipe away for years the unwholesome dews upon the
     forehead, or to refresh the lips when parched and baked with fever;
     nor even when thy own peaceful slumbers had by long sympathy become
     infected with the spectacle of my dread contest with phantoms and
     shadowy enemies that oftentimes bade me 'sleep no more'--not even
     then did'st thou utter a complaint or any murmur, nor withdraw thy
     angelic smiles, nor shrink from thy service of love, more than did
     Electra of old. For she too, though she was a Grecian woman, and
     the daughter of the king of men, yet wept sometimes, and hid her
     face in her robe!"

Hard indeed, no doubt, was the wife's lot through all those years; but
the world will never have more than this mere glimpse of her sorrow and
her devotion. Yet to a person gifted with imagination, it is enough. He
can reconstruct from it that long period of patient watchfulness and
unwearied devotion; he can share her hopes when her loved one makes a
battle with his enemy, her tears when he is defeated, her rapture when
he makes a seeming conquest, the bitterness of her anguish when he again
falls. For all this was gone through, not once, but three times, in the
course of De Quincey's life. It was not until he felt that death was
inevitable if he continued the use of opium (which he was then taking in
enormous quantities) that he ever resolved to give up its use. He knew
he must die if he kept on, he thought he should die if he gave it up,
but he determined to make the effort. His studies had long been
abandoned; he could not even read. For two years he had read but one
book; he shrank from study with a sense of infantine powerlessness that
gave him great anguish when he remembered what his mind had formerly
been. From misery and suffering, he might almost be described as being
in a dormant state. His wife managed all the affairs of the household,
and attended to necessary business. He did not lose his moral
sensibilities or aspirations, as so many opium eaters do, but his
intellect seemed dead. His brain had become a theatre, which presented
spectacles of more than earthly splendor, but as often painful as
pleasurable. He had no control now of the dreams which haunted him. He
learned now the awful tyranny of the human face.

     "Upon the rocking waters of the ocean, the human face began to
     appear: the sea appeared paved with innumerable faces, upturned to
     the heavens,--faces imploring, wrathful, despairing, surged upwards
     by thousands, by myriads, by generations, by centuries; my
     agitation was infinite, my mind tossed and surged with the ocean. .
     . . I was buried for a thousand years in stone coffins, with
     mummies and sphinxes, in narrow chambers at the heart of eternal
     pyramids. I was kissed with cancerous kisses by crocodiles; and
     laid confounded with all unutterable slimy things, among reeds and
     Nilotic mud. . . . The cursed crocodile became to me the object of
     more horror than almost all the rest. I was compelled to live with
     him for centuries."

The struggle was a long and hard one, and of it he says:--

     "Jeremy Taylor conjectures that it may be as painful to be born as
     to die. I think it probable; and during the whole period of my
     diminishing opium I had the torments of a man passing out of one
     mode of existence into another. . . . One memorial of my former
     condition still remains; my dreams are not yet perfectly calm; the
     dread swell and agitation of the storm have not wholly subsided.
     My dreams are still tumultuous, and like the gates of Paradise to
     our first parents when looking back from afar, it is still, in the
     tremendous line of Milton,

       'With dreadful faces thronged, and fiery arms.'"

It is sad to learn that after all his struggles he never really
succeeded in freeing himself from the spell of opium. We learn that
"after having at one time abstained wholly for sixty-one days, he was
compelled to return to its moderate use, as life was found to be
insupportable; and there is no record of any further attempt at total
abstinence." His indulgence was, however, very limited in his later
years. Weakly as he was, and with a stomach which could digest but the
smallest quantity of food, he lived in tolerable health until he was
seventy-four years old. His wife died over twenty years before he passed
away; and his daughters made a home for him during that time, and cared
for him, as his wife had done. He could never be trusted with any
practical matters whatever. He had a nervous horror of handling money,
and would give away bank-notes to get them out of his way. He was very
generous when young, and gave Coleridge three hundred pounds at one
time, insisting upon making it five hundred, which was not allowed. He
never had a friend who was not welcome to his purse. While he had no
care whatever about his dress, and would frequently enter the
drawing-room, even when company was there, with but one stocking on, or
minus some other very necessary adjunct of dress, he was very dainty and
neat about many things. The greasy, crumpled, Scotch one-pound notes
annoyed him. He did his best to smooth and cleanse them, before parting
with them, and he washed and polished shillings up to their pristine
brightness before giving them away. He used to complain of Wordsworth,
because of a lack of neatness, and describes somewhere his agony at
seeing the old poet cut the leaves of a new book with a knife taken
from the supper-table, where buttered toast had been eaten. Coleridge
was also distressed over Wordsworth's treatment of books, and says that
one would as soon trust a bear in a tulip-garden as Wordsworth in a

De Quincey was a very charming companion and a most brilliant talker. He
says of himself and Lamb, that they both had a childish love of
nonsense,--headlong nonsense. While much given to reverie, and somewhat
shy, he had a great fund of humor, drollery, and effervescent wit, which
made his society much liked by all fortunate enough to be acquainted
with him. He was a very abstemious man, and his tastes were of the
simplest. His whole manner and speech were imbued with a high-bred
courtesy, though he sometimes loved to run counter to the ordinary
conventionalities of life. He could never be depended upon for keeping
any sort of engagement, and if a friend wanted him to dinner, he must go
for him with his carriage, and take him away. His manner to his
daughters was the perfection of chivalrous respect, as well as

What he might have been had he never contracted his fatal habit of opium
eating, it is perhaps useless to conjecture; but in his youth he was
thought to be one who might do anything,--all things. What he really did
do, of permanent value, is very little compared to the expectations of
his friends.

Blameless as was his life in every other respect, the pity of this
weakness seems infinitely great, and we mourn over his lot with the same
unavailing sorrow with which we weep over the graves of other men of
great gifts, but some fatal defect of will, which allows them to be
bound and held captive all their lives in the chains of some darling
vice. Mingled with the rosemary of our remembrance for such, must be the
fennel and the rue.



  "Day set on Norham's castled steep,
  And Tweed's fair river, broad and deep,
    And Cheviot's mountains lone.
  The battled towers, the donjon keep,
  The loop-hole grates, where captives weep,
  The flanking walls that round it sweep,
    In yellow lustre shone.
  The warriors on the turrets high,
  Moving athwart the evening sky,
    Seemed forms of giant height;
  Their armor, as it caught the rays,
  Flashed back again the western blaze,
    In lines of dazzling light."

Who does not remember the ring of the opening lines of
"Marmion,"--pronounced by Horace Greeley to be the finest verse of
descriptive writing in the language? How often were they declaimed from
the school rostrums in the days, dear reader, when you and I were young!
What do school boys and girls declaim now, we wonder, equal to the
selections from Scott, which formed the greatest part of our stock in
trade? Have "Marmion," and "The Lady of the Lake," and the immortal
"Lay" been superseded by the trivialities and inanities of modern
poetasters? or do the good old lines still hold their own? Does the
orator of the class still rise and electrify the whole school, as in the
former days, by drawing his cloak around him, like the noble Douglas,
and declaring:--

  "My manors, halls, and bowers shall still
  Be open to my Sovereign's will,--
  To each one whom he lists, howe'er
  Unmeet to be the owner's peer.
  My castles are my King's alone,
  From turret to foundation-stone:
  The hand of Douglas is his own;
  And never shall in friendly grasp
  The hand of such as Marmion clasp."

And is the whole school lost in breathless admiration still as he

  "Burned Marmion's swarthy cheek like fire,
  And shook his very frame for ire,
  And--'This to me!' he said;
  'An 'twere not for thy hoary beard,
  Such hand as Marmion's had not spared
  To cleave the Douglas' head!'"

We wonder does the--

  "Minstrel come once more to view
  The eastern ridge of Benvenue."

And if he still sees--

              "the dagger-crest of Mar,
  Still sees the Moray's silver star,
  Wave o'er the cloud of Saxon war,
  That up the lake comes winding far!"

And does the blood of the youthful listener still thrill as he thinks of
the glory of that cavalcade, till he feels, as we used of old, that--

  "'Twere worth ten years of peaceful life,
  One glance at their array."

And does he still throw the old pathos into the lines,--

  "Where, where was Roderick then!
  One blast upon his bugle horn
  Were worth a thousand men."

Probably he does not. This is all doubtless very old-fashioned, and we
doubt if the modern school would quite rise to the situation, even when
Roderick makes himself known to Fitz-James, "And, stranger, I am
Roderick Dhu;" but in the days we wot of, you and I, this was the most
thrilling climax in all literature. Have the boys outgrown "Ivanhoe"
too? And do they prefer to hear Du Chaillu tell about the gorillas he
invented, or go with Jules Verne twenty thousand leagues under the sea?
We hope not, for their sakes, but wish that they may enjoy the
tournament as we did, and delight in the "clang of the armor," "the
lifting of the vizor," and everything connected with "the lists." We
trust, too, that they will walk with Sir Walter everywhere throughout
the Highlands, until every mount and loch and ruined castle has become
their own; that they will follow poor Jeanie Deans through the "Heart of
Mid-Lothian;" that they will shed true, heartfelt tears over
"Kenilworth," and love as did the older generations the "Bride of

Let us be steadfast in our love of the old books; let us never grow
weary of the world-read classics. Who cares for the books of the year?
Next twelvemonth we shall not know whether we have read them or not; but
what a fadeless possession is the memory of one of the world-books! Life
is too brief to be spent upon ephemera; let us go back from our
wanderings in the wilderness of new books, and draw nearer to the wells
of English undefiled.

To this end let us study this man "than his brethren taller and
fairer,"--this kingly Sir Walter of the ancient line.

He says that "every Scotchman has a pedigree." It is a national
prerogative, as inalienable as his pride and his poverty. Sir Walter's
pedigree was gentle, he being connected, though remotely, with ancient
families upon both sides of the house. He was lineally descended from
Auld Watt, an ancient chieftain whose name he often made ring in border
ballads. He was one of twelve children, and was not specially
distinguished through childhood; though, being lame, he got much comfort
from books. He took the usual amount of Latin, but obstinately rebelled
at the Greek, and even in his college days would have none of it. He was
distinguished there by the name of "The Greek Blockhead," and even his
excellent professor was betrayed into saying that "dunce he was and
dunce he would remain,"--"an opinion," says Scott, "which my excellent
and learned friend lived to revoke over a bottle of Burgundy after I had
achieved some literary distinction." He read everything he could lay
hands on, in English, all through his youth, and his reading seems to
have been entirely undirected. He tells about discovering "some odd
volumes of Shakspeare," and adds: "Nor can I forget the rapture with
which I sat up in my shirt reading them by the light of a fire in my
mother's apartment, until the bustle of the family rising from supper
warned me it was time to creep back to my bed, where I was supposed to
have been safely deposited since nine o'clock." He soon after became
enamoured of Ossian and Spenser, whom he thought he could have read

His first acquaintance with the Highlands he was to immortalize was made
in his fifteenth year. The same year he became apprenticed to the law in
his father's office. The Highland visits were repeated nearly every year
thereafter, and from the first afforded him the greatest delight. Of
this first visit he says: "Since that hour the recollection of that
inimitable landscape has possessed the strangest influence over my mind
and retained its place as a memorable thing, while much that was
influential on my own fortunes has fled from my recollections."

His appearance at this time was very engaging. He had outgrown his early
sallowness and had a fresh, brilliant complexion. His eyes were clear,
open, and well set, with a changeful expression; his teeth were dazzling
white, and his smile delightful. In very early youth he formed a strong
attachment for a young lady very highly connected, and of position far
above his own, and of great personal attractions. Their acquaintance
began in the Grey Friars Churchyard, where, rain beginning to fall one
Sunday as the congregation were dispersing, Scott happened to offer his
umbrella, and, the offer being accepted, he escorted her to her
residence. The acquaintance proved pleasant to both, and they met
frequently, until it became an understood thing that he should escort
her home from church. When Scott's father learned of it he deemed it his
duty to warn the young lady's father of the interest the young pair were
taking in each other, but the gentleman did not think it necessary to
interfere. This affection was nourished through several years, and Scott
had no thought but that marriage would be its final result, as the young
lady warmly reciprocated his attachment, and the parents apparently
threw no obstacles in the way. But the little romance, like so many
other youthful dreams, was destined to be rudely broken, and the lady
was married in due time, by her friends, to a gentleman of high rank and
character, who later in life acted the part of a generous patron to his
early rival. His hopes of marriage with this lady had rendered him very
industrious and devoted to business, and kept him from all youthful
follies. These things were certainly clear gains to the young man from
the connection, if we say nothing of the pleasant store of memories with
which it furnished his whole after-life. But the blow was a severe one
when the parting came, and Scott could not refer to it without emotion
even after many years. But he was still quite young--not over
twenty-five years of age--and he soon saw a lady in whom he grew much
interested. Riding, Lockhart tells us, "one day with Ferguson, they met,
some miles from Gilsland, a young lady taking the air on horseback, whom
neither of them had previously remarked, and whose appearance instantly
struck them both so much they kept her in view until they had satisfied
themselves that she also was one of the party at Gilsland. The same
evening there was a ball, at which Captain Scott appeared in
regimentals, and Ferguson also thought proper to be equipped in the
uniform of the Edinburgh Volunteers. There was no little rivalry among
the young travellers as to who should first get presented to the unknown
beauty of the morning's ride; but though both the gentlemen in scarlet
had the advantage of being her dancing-partners, young Walter succeeded
in handing the fair stranger to supper; and such was his first
introduction to Charlotte Margaret Carpenter." She was very
beautiful,--a complexion of clearest and lightest olive, eyes large,
deep-set, and dazzling, of the finest Italian brown, and a profusion of
black hair. Her manners had the well-bred reserve of an Englishwoman,
and something of the coquetry of the French from whom she was descended.
She spoke with a slight accent, and with much vivacity. Madame
Charpentier had made her escape to England during the Revolution,--her
husband having been a devoted Royalist and Government officer,--and she
had brought up her children as Protestants. No lovelier vision than that
of Margaret had ever dazzled the eyes of our young hero, and he became
her devoted cavalier at once.

He thus describes her to his mother when announcing his engagement:--

     "Without flying into raptures,--for I must assure you that my
     judgment as well as my affections are consulted upon this
     occasion,--without flying into raptures, then, I may safely assure
     you that her temper is sweet and cheerful, her understanding good,
     and, what I know will give you pleasure, her principles of religion
     very serious. Her fortune is five hundred pounds a year."

These are a few extracts from Miss Carpenter's letters:--

     "Before I conclude this famous epistle I will give you a little
     hint,--that is, not to put so many 'musts' in your letters, it is
     beginning rather too soon; and another thing is that I take the
     liberty not to mind them much, but I expect you to mind me. You
     must take care of yourself; you must think of me and believe me
     yours sincerely. . . . I am very glad that you don't give up the
     cavalry, as I love anything that is stylish. Don't forget to find a
     stand for the old carriage, as I shall like to keep it in case we
     have to go a journey; it will do very well until we can keep our
     carriage. What an idea of yours was that to mention where you wish
     to have your bones laid! If you were married I should think you had
     tired of me. A pretty compliment before marriage! If you always
     have those cheerful thoughts, how very pleasant and gay you must
     be. Adieu, my dearest friend. Take care of yourself if you love me,
     as I have no wish that you should visit that beautiful and romantic
     scene, the burial place! . . . Arrange it so that we shall see none
     of your family the night of our arrival. I shall be so tired, and
     such a fright, I should not be seen to advantage."

All of which reads as though the young ladies of 1797 were not very
different from those of our own day. After the marriage they went to
reside in Edinburgh, and enjoyed some of the gayeties of that time. They
were most particularly attracted by the theatres. Mrs. Scott had a great
fondness for the shows and pomps of the world, as she had not concealed
from him before marriage, and she never recovered from such fondness;
but she accommodated herself well to her surroundings, and the young
couple were very happy.

In 1814 "Waverley" was published, and received with wonder and delight
by the whole reading world. "Guy Mannering" followed closely upon it,
and was said to have been written in six weeks' time. It intensified the
interest already aroused, and made men wonder anew who this great new
light could be. The tragical "Bride of Lammermoor" composed at white
heat in a fortnight, added greatly to the sensation, and the whole
country was in a fever of excitement over the creations of this
enchanted pen. The secret of the authorship of the novels was kept for a
long time even from Scott's intimate friends. During the great success
of these works, Scott began the building of his house at Abbotsford, and
put into the vast and imposing structure so much money that he became
very much embarrassed in his finances, and the serious troubles of his
life began. The extravagance of his outlay upon his estate, together
with liabilities he had assumed for others, led finally to financial
ruin, to overwork, and probably to premature death. Let us make a few
extracts from his diary written when these misfortunes were fresh upon

     "What a life mine has been! Half-educated, almost wholly neglected
     or left to myself; stuffing my head with most nonsensical trash,
     and undervalued by the most of my companions for a time; getting
     forward, and held to be a bold and clever fellow, contrary to the
     opinion of all who had held me a mere dreamer; broken-hearted for
     two years, my heart handsomely pieced again,--but the crack will
     remain till my dying day. Rich and poor four or five times; once on
     the verge of ruin, yet opened a new source of wealth almost
     overflowing. Now to be broken in my pitch of pride and nearly
     winged (unless good news should come) because London chooses to be
     in an uproar, and in the tumult of bulls and bears a poor,
     inoffensive lion like myself is pushed to the wall. Nobody in the
     end can lose a penny by me, that is one comfort. I have the
     satisfaction to recollect that my prosperity has been of advantage
     to many, and to hope that some at least will forgive my transient
     wealth on account of the innocence of my intentions, and my real
     wish to do good to the poor. . . . How could I tread my hall again
     with such a diminished crest? How live a poor, indebted man, where
     I was once the wealthy, the honored? I was to have gone there
     Saturday in joy and prosperity to receive my friends. My dogs will
     wait for me in vain. It is foolish, but the thoughts of parting
     from these dumb creatures have moved me more than any of the
     painful reflections I have put down. Poor things, I must get them
     kind masters. I must end these gloomy forebodings, or I shall lose
     the tone of mind with which men should meet distress. I feel my
     dogs' feet on my knees; I hear them whining and seeking me
     everywhere. . . .

     "I feel neither dishonored nor broken down by the bad--now really
     bad--news I have received. I have walked my last on the domains I
     have planted; sat the last time in the halls I have built. But
     death would have taken them from me if misfortune had spared them.
     My poor people whom I loved so well! There is just another die to
     turn up against me in this run of ill-luck,--that is, if I should
     break my magic wand in the fall from the elephant, and lose my
     popularity with my fortune.

     "Read again and for the third time Miss Austen's story of 'Pride
     and Prejudice.' That young lady has a talent for describing the
     involvements, the feelings, and characters of ordinary life which
     is to me the most wonderful I ever met with. The Big Bow-wow strain
     I can do myself like any now going, but the exquisite touch which
     renders ordinary commonplace things interesting is denied to me."

Troubles had indeed come thick and fast upon poor Scott, and the
heaviest blow was yet to fall. In 1826 Lady Scott was taken from him,
and about the same time a number of his old friends. He felt his
desolation extremely, but kept up bravely for the most part, and worked
prodigiously for many months. There is a grandeur about the way he bore
his misfortunes which casts into shade all that was fine in his
character during his prosperous years. Most men, even of brave and noble
natures, would have been overcome by misfortunes so overwhelming as were
his, and would never have thought of extricating themselves; but he
seemed to rise to the occasion in a quite unexampled manner, and to
fight with the utmost bravery and fortitude to the last. The wound to
his affections was, however, very hard to recover from, and he broke
more rapidly after Lady Scott's death than ever before. He writes:--

     "A kind of cloud of stupidity hangs about me, as if all were unreal
     that men seem to be doing and talking about."

After the burial he writes:--

     "The whole scene floats as a sort of dream before me,--the
     beautiful day, the gray ruins covered and hidden among clouds of
     foliage, where the grave even in the lap of beauty lay lurking and
     gaping for its prey. Then the grave looks, the hasty, important
     bustle of the men with spades and mattocks, the train of carriages,
     the coffin containing the creature that was so long the dearest on
     earth to me, and whom I was to consign to the very spot which in
     pleasure parties we so frequently visited. It seems still as if it
     could not be really so. But it is so, and duty to God and to my
     children must teach me patience."

His pecuniary troubles were greeted with the liveliest sympathy from all
quarters. The Earl of Dudley but voiced the general thought when he
exclaimed, on first hearing of them: "Scott ruined! the author of
'Waverley' ruined! Good God! Let every man to whom he has given months
of delight give him a sixpence, and he will rise to-morrow morning
richer than Rothschild." When, after a time, he rallied and went on a
journey to London, the deep sympathy with which he was received, and the
kindness of all with whom he associated, cheered his heart a great deal,
and he went back to his unparalleled labors quite refreshed. But he had
set himself a task which it was impossible that any man could do, and
although he worked himself mercilessly to the end, he failed of
accomplishing it. His nervous system became completely shattered, and he
had several strokes of paralysis; but it was not until his mind also
began to fail in serious fashion that he would give over his work. He
seemed determined to die a free man, but the task was too prodigious. He
labored like a giant, but he failed.

The record of those closing days is very sad. The pity they excite is
too deep even for tears. One turns from them with a heavy burden at the
heart, which nothing can for a time relieve. The only comfort is that he
was surrounded by the kindest and tenderest friends, and that he bore
everything which came to him with unflinching fortitude and the
kindliest spirit. His last words spoken to Lockhart are characteristic
of the man: "Be a good man, my dear; be virtuous, be religious, be a
good man. Nothing else will give you any comfort when you come to lie
here." There is nothing in the record of Sir Walter's life which any
friend would wish to blot. One can but be pained to excess by the record
of his business troubles, so hopeless in their entanglements, but
through all these even, his character glows with undiminished
brightness, and we love him ever more and more. He was a man built on a
large scale, both in intellect and heart, and, although he doubtless had
his failings, there is little that is recorded of him that detracts in
any way from his innate nobility. Such a funeral as his has seldom been

     "The court-yard and all the precincts of Abbotsford were crowded
     with uncovered spectators as the procession was arranged; and as it
     advanced through Darnick and Melrose, and the adjacent villages,
     the whole population appeared at their doors in like
     manner,--almost all in black. The train of carriages extended more
     than a mile; the yeomanry followed in great numbers on horseback,
     and it was late in the day ere we reached Dryburg. Some accident,
     it was observed, had caused the hearse to halt for several minutes
     on the summit of the hill at Bemerside,--exactly where a prospect
     of remarkable richness opens, and where Sir Walter had always been
     accustomed to rein up his horse. The day was dark and lowering, and
     the wind high. The wide enclosure at the Abbey of Dryburg was
     thronged with old and young; and when the coffin was taken from the
     hearse and again laid on the shoulders of the afflicted
     serving-men, one deep sob burst from a thousand lips."

The heart of Scotland was broken at her great loss. And well might she
mourn. The sceptre which the great Wizard of the North had so long held
was broken, and no successor has yet risen to uphold the fame of Auld
Scotia. Nor will a successor arise. No hand like his will ever touch the
harp of his native land; no strains such as he evoked ever again sound
through the rocky glens and passes, and echo from the mountain-heights
of Scotland.




If there is a tender and touching story in all the annals of genius, it
is surely the life-history of Charles Lamb. Search where we will, there
is nothing to equal the pathos of this gentle and lovable life. Nowhere
else can we find a record of such deep devotion, such heroic endurance,
such uncomplaining suffering, such geniality and cheerfulness under
almost unbearable burdens. The world admires many of its men of
letters,--it loves Charles Lamb. Save Carlyle's, no voice among all his
literary brethren has ever said a bitter or an unkind word of the gentle
humorist. And when we compare the lives of the two men, how brightly
glows the page whereon is written the record of Lamb's untiring and
unselfish love, exacting nothing for himself, but giving all with lavish
prodigality, compared with the pages given to the account of the selfish
and exacting life which Carlyle lived with the woman who was his wife,
and whom he really loved, but over whom he tyrannized in so petty a
manner! Carlyle's characterization of Lamb is really the most damaging
thing to himself of the many bitter and biting sarcasms which he has
left in regard to the men and women of his day. That he did not know
Lamb--had not the slightest appreciation of the man--is evident at a
glance. And perhaps this is not to be so much wondered at, for there was
very little in common between the two; but it does seem that some hint
of the heroism of Lamb's apparently commonplace and perhaps vulgar life
might have penetrated even to the heart of the crusty Scotchman, for he
could not have been ignorant of the tragic life-story of gentle Elia.

They were very humble people, the Lambs,--poor and obscure, and
unfortunate to a degree. No pretensions to gentility had ever been in
the family, but an acceptance of their commonplace lot, with little
striving for higher things. There was something more, too, than poverty
and obscurity and vulgarity in their antecedents; a fearful curse was in
the family, the heritage of almost every generation,--the curse of
madness. What the contemplation of this frightful inheritance must have
been to a youth like Charles Lamb, gifted with the fatal sensibility of
genius, and endowed with that imagination which can conceive of a horror
before it falls, we can form some sort of conception, but probably a
very vague and inadequate one indeed.

The family were very poor, living in humble lodgings. The father was in
his dotage, the mother was a paralytic, and Charles with his pen, and
his sister Mary with her needle, worked to support the family. They both
overworked themselves fearfully, and lived in apprehension of the doom
which hung over them. They were very fondly attached to each other, and
the only pleasure they had in their cheerless youth was their
intercourse. They were both gifted, and of gentle and kind disposition,
and their affection for each other was more sympathetic and filled with
a deeper insight into each other's characters and feelings than is
common between brothers and sisters. In little intervals between their
varied labors they wrote and read to each other many things which would
have a rare value in these days had they been preserved; and this, with
wandering together through the streets in the evenings and looking at
the outside of the theatres, seems to have constituted their only
youthful pleasure. At the age of twenty-one Charles showed symptoms of
the family curse, and his sister herself almost lost her reason in
unavailing sorrow over his condition. So young, so gifted, and
threatened with such dread disaster,--his loving Mary could not have it
so. She even rebelled against Heaven in the extreme of her agony, and
called upon God to relieve them both from such ill-fated life. But all
her prayers and tears and rebellious risings up against destiny did not
avail, and Charles was placed in a mad-house, where he passed a portion
of the year 1796. In one of his lucid intervals he wrote a sonnet,
"Mary, to thee, my sister, and my friend," which is a touching and
tender tribute to her love. Long afterward he was able to write of the
experience quite cheerfully:--

     "I look back upon it at times with a gloomy kind of envy; for while
     it lasted I had many, many hours of pure happiness. Dream not,
     Coleridge, of having tasted all the grandeur and wildness of fancy
     till you have gone mad!"

But there is a painful commentary upon the bitterness of after-life to
him in the thought that he could look back upon this dreadful season as
a period when he had some happiness. The attack in his case was of brief
duration, and it never recurred, which, considering all the sorrows and
all the irregularities of his life, seems remarkable. He had not been
long in a condition to be responsible when the tragedy took place which
cast its blight upon his life. In September of the year 1796 Mary Lamb,
"worn down to a state of extreme nervous misery by attention to
needle-work all day and by watching with her mother at night, broke into
uncontrollable insanity, and seizing a knife from the table spread for
dinner, stabbed her mother to the heart. The coroner's jury brought in a
verdict of lunacy." Charles writes to Coleridge:--

     "With me the former things are passed away, and I have something
     more to do than to feel. God Almighty has us well in his keeping."

The horror of the event made so deep an impression upon his mind that he
thought he never fully recovered from it. For many, many years it hung
over him like a pall, casting a sort of despairing darkness over all
that might have been bright in life. Think of that tender and sensitive
soul in the awful solitude of the nights which followed the tragedy: the
sister he loved removed from him to an asylum; the mother sleeping in
her unhonored grave; the father, worse than dead, in almost drivelling
idiocy, to be cared for at his hands; the awful doom of the family ever
hanging over his own head,--what depths of passionate sorrow must he
have waded through in those bitter hours, what unavailing tears he must
have shed, what rebellious thoughts may there not have been in his

But he kept a cheerful front, and went about his daily toil, as he needs
must, with as little outward show of pain as possible.

Mary soon grew better, and he exerted himself to have her released from
confinement. He succeeded in doing so by entering into a solemn
agreement to make her his charge for life, and to watch over her that
she should do no harm. When she was returned to him he was almost happy
again, in spite of the shadow caused by the memory of what had happened,
as well as by the uncertainty of the future. He had but one hundred
pounds a year from his clerkship, and there was a maiden aunt as well as
the father to be cared for. But he says cheerfully:--

     "If my father, my aunt, my sister, and an old maid servant cannot
     live comfortably on one hundred and twenty or one hundred and
     thirty pounds a year, we ought to burn by slow fires; and I almost
     would, that Mary might not go to a hospital."

And he hoped to earn the twenty or thirty pounds by literature. His
father had to be amused by cribbage; and many were the weary hours that
Charles would sit playing with him, to the neglect of his
correspondence, his friends, the thousand-and-one private interests
which filled up his little leisure. Sometimes he would try to be let
off, but the old man would say, reproachfully, "If you won't play with
me, you might as well not come home at all;" and the dutiful son set to
afresh. There is a sort of heroism in this which only those people can
appreciate who really value their time. These people will give all else
cheerfully,--money, strength, the heart's deep devotion,--but they give
very grudgingly their precious moments; they feel as though they were
being robbed in every hour thus lost. Oh, the agony of impatience! oh,
the restlessness of the fever which consumes them when they feel the
moments fleeing away, and the unconscious thief perhaps deriving little
pleasure or profit from the loss! Rebellion against fate is often a
virtue under such circumstances; and we are inclined to think it would
have been so in the case of poor Elia, even though the poor old man
should have gone to his grave with a few less games of cribbage recorded
against him.

Think of the delicious essays which might have been written in those
misspent hours, in those days of youth when Elia was at his best, before
the sorrowful touches of Time had been left upon his genius; think of
the exquisite letters his friends might have received, and which would
have enriched all the coming time; think of the inimitable drolleries
which would have sent a smile over the face of the world; think of the
little pathetic touches he would have given in sketches of
characteristic humor, all with the freshness of his dawn upon them,--and
mourn, O world of letters, for your loss! But the old man,--he for whom
the light had gone out in darkness; over whose brain the cobwebs had
been woven; who had no joy in the great things of this life; who saw no
beauty or splendor in the outer world; who had no treasure in the world
of thought; who could not be stirred again by any of the absorbing
passions of life; who knew no love, no hate, no ambition, no great
impulse to do or to dare; who could not enter into the realm of books or
art or music; who had not even a friend in all the universe of God;
think of the old man who had only this one thing,--cards,--and pause a
moment before you say that gentle Elia did not well.

Finally the old man, too, went his way, and there were only Charles and
Mary left. He had long since given up the hope of there being a third in
their life-drama, although there had been one to whom his heart was
given, and whose presence had been with him always, even in his days of
madness,--sweet Alice W., as he always called her, but of whom the world
has lost all trace save this, that she was Charles Lamb's early and only
love, and that he treasured her memory until all were gone, "the old
familiar faces." Long after she was married to another, Lamb used to be
seen at evening pacing up and down in front of her house, hoping to
catch a glimpse of her through the windows. But after he had taken Mary
to be his charge it was impossible to think of marriage. He could not
ask another to share his sad vigils with the afflicted sister, nor hope
that another would look upon her with his eyes; so he buried his romance
out of sight, and never turned to that phase of a man's life again. At
twenty-two one does not easily give up the thoughts of love, or the
hopes of home with wife and children,--and Charles had his struggle, as
any strong man would have had; but he conquered himself once again, and
went bravely on. Day by day he toiled at the India House, never losing
time, never taking a vacation, ever at his post till he was fifty years
old, when he "came home forever."

During those thirty years of steady toil he went through many sad
experiences with Mary; but he must earn their daily bread, and he never
left his post. Many were the nights he spent in anxious watchings with
her,--for she had periodical returns of her insanity during all this
time,--when, sleepless and harassed to the point of exhaustion with her
dangerous vagaries, he must still rise in the morning and go to his
desk. Many were the days when he ran in hot haste the moment he was
released, to see that she was still safe; even many hand-to-hand
encounters he had with her in her dangerous hours,--but no murmur ever
escaped his lips at all this. When she became very bad he took her back
to the asylum, and she remained sometimes for weeks, sometimes for
months; but he always eagerly reclaimed her the moment she was better.
He took her with him on little journeys,--a strait-jacket always safely
packed in her portmanteau by herself,--and one time she went mad while
they were travelling in the diligence and far from home. Often he wrote
to their friends in the later days, when he had become somewhat famous
and friends had grown plenty, to apologize for not keeping engagements
or accepting invitations, "My sister is taken ill." As George W. Curtis
once wrote,--

     "In those few words how much tragedy lies hidden! What a life of
     patient heroism do they suggest!--in comparison with which the
     career of Lamb's huge contemporary, Bonaparte, shrinks into the
     meanest melodrama; while the misanthropic mouthings of Lord Byron
     become maudlin when we recall the sweet, life-long, heroic silence
     of Charles Lamb."

"What sad, large pieces it cuts out of life," Lamb writes in 1809,--"out
of _her_ life, who is getting rather old; and we may not have many years
to live together." Once again when she was in confinement he writes:--

     "It cuts out great slices of the time--the little time--we shall
     have to live together. But I won't talk of death; I will imagine us
     immortal, or forget that we are otherwise. By God's blessing, in a
     few weeks we may be taking our meal together, or sitting in the
     front row of the pit at Drury Lane, or taking our evening walk past
     the theatres, to look at the outside of them at least, if not to be
     tempted in. Then we forget that we are assailable; we are strong
     for the time as rocks,--the wind is tempered to the shorn Lambs."

Then away on in 1833 he writes to Wordsworth:--

     "Mary is ill again. Her illnesses encroach yearly. The last was
     three months, followed by two of depression most dreadful. . . . I
     look back upon her earlier attacks with longing,--nice little
     durations of six weeks or so, followed by complete
     restoration,--shocking as they were to me then."

This sister was a woman quite worthy of his devotion. Possessed of
genius somewhat akin to that of her brother, she also handled a delicate
pen, and but for her misfortune would have been well known in the world
of books. She was in complete sympathy with her brother, in heart as
well as in mind. And the record of their lives is one of the most
beautiful pictures of brotherly and sisterly affection in all

Let us turn from the dark picture, and see some of the brighter sides of
this life, sketched so far in Rembrandt-like color. Throughout all this
darkness and dread, he had joked and jested his way on, amusing his
friends in private, and entertaining the world of letters by his genial
humor. It welled up as from a hidden fountain, and that fountain never
failed but with life. So easily and spontaneously did it flow, that if
he wanted an order to see the play, for some friends, he would scribble
something like this to Ayrton:--

     "I would go to the play
  In a very economical sort of a way,
      Rather to see
      Than be seen;
  Though I'm no ill sight
      By candle-light,
  And in some kinds of weather,
  You might pit me for height
      Against Kean;
  But in a grand tragic scene
      I'm nothing.
  It would create a kind of loathing
      To see me act Hamlet;
  There'd be many a damn let
  At my presumption,
      If I should try,--
  Being a fellow of no gumption."

And so on through half a dozen verses of exquisite nonsense. And in
every little note to his many friends there was always some
characteristic touch to excite their ready smiles; as in the note to
Coleridge, who had carried off some of his books:--"There is a devilish
gap in my shelf where you have knocked out the two eye-teeth," and where
he goes on to beg him in a whimsical way to return them--because,
although he had himself borrowed them of somebody else, they had long
adorned his shelf. Truly, most people who own books at all can
sympathize with Lamb in this, though they may think he got off lightly
to have only the two eye-teeth knocked out. We have known of cases where
cuspids, bicuspids, and molars have all been extracted. These letters
are all exquisitely droll, the most of them containing a gentle oath or
two, as where he wrote "Some d----d people have come in, and I must
stop;" and then recollecting that he was writing to a "proper" person,
making a postscript which says, "when I wrote d----d I only meant
deuced." But one would as soon think of dropping out Shakspeare's
adjective, and saying (as a very prim lady we once knew did in reading
Lady Macbeth's soliloquy), "Out, spot!" as to drop out any of Lamb's
qualifying words. He was sometimes accused of being irreverent, as in
his article upon "Saying Graces," where he affirms that he is more
disposed to say grace upon twenty other occasions in the course of the
day than before his dinner, and inquires why not say them over books,
those spiritual repasts. But he was very far indeed from being
irreverent, and had much of genuine religious feeling.

His hospitality was unbounded, and the evenings at his home have become
as well known in literature as the grand evenings at Holland House.

His friends were the first literary men of the day,--Wordsworth, Leigh
Hunt, Barry Cornwall, Talfourd, Hazlitt, Southey, Coleridge,--all the
giants of that day and generation, and he was loved by them all. Not
that they did not know and deplore his faults,--or his one fault; for if
he could have conquered his fondness for wine he would have had none of
much moment left. But even this was overlooked by his friends at the
time, and has not been considered as entirely inexcusable by posterity.
That he smoked much and drank hard, even for that day, may be true; but
it can scarcely justify the bitter sneers of Carlyle, or the holding of
him up as an awful warning without putting in any plea in mitigation, as
is sometimes done by severe moralists in our own day. He abased himself
in awful shame over it many a time in life, and suffered in his own
person all the fearful retribution which such habits bring in their
train. Let this be sufficient for us, and let us but pity and pass on.
One of the most beautiful things in his later life was his fatherly
tenderness toward a friendless young girl whom he and Mary had
befriended and finally adopted,--Emma Isola, who was afterwards married
to Moxon, the publisher. He was extremely fond of her, and she
brightened his home much in the later years, although she married before
his death. It is sad to think that he should have died before his
sister. He had often prayed that this might not be. But he provided for
her tenderly, and gave her to the care of his friends.

Lamb is described as having a face of "quivering sweetness, nervous,
tremulous, and so slight of frame that he looked only fit for the most
placid fortune."

Fit or not, he had to contend with the hardest thing a man can have in
life,--he had to live a life-long witness of the sufferings of one he
dearly loved, and whom he was entirely powerless to help, the daily and
hourly pathos of whose sufferings he was fitted to appreciate keenly,
and for whom in all this wide weltering chaos of a world there was no
hope. He renounced everything else in life to try to mitigate this
dreadful lot. His kindness was unceasing, his pity was both fatherly and
motherly; it was more,--Godlike; and yet it was of small avail. He
toiled physically that she might live at ease. He exerted his mind
constantly when in her presence, that she might be cheerful. He watched
over her with the tenderness of both brother and lover; and this shall
be his justification, if he needs one: he loved much.




Hazlitt has a long paper "On Persons One would Wish to have Seen." And
surely, if he had lived at this time, he would have added genial and
lovable Kit North to the list of those thus honored. There are few of
those who belonged to his day and generation to whom we should have a
stronger wish to be presented, than to Wilson,--the student, the
Bohemian, the bookworm, the sportsman, the professor, the kindliest,
merriest, and most entertaining of genial companions,--the great hero of
the "Noctes Ambrosianæ."

Not even Lamb--the quaint and merry companion, so full of quips and puns
that laughter lingered with any company he graced with his pathetic
little body and quizzical countenance--could rival Christopher as a
fountain of merriment and eternal good-cheer. His humor was not quiet
and subtle like Lamb's, but broad, rich, bordering on farce, and of
"imagination all compact." And Lamb could by no means rival him in
splendor of description, vivacity of retort, energy of criticism, or in
riotous and uproarious mirth. De Quincey alone could match the splendor
of his diction when describing outward sights and sounds, and De Quincey
had not a tithe of his intense love of Nature, and appreciation of her
glory and magnificence. Ruskin alone equals him in this, and he scarcely
reaches the height of rhetorical eloquence to which Wilson soars so

In these same "Noctes" we have descriptions of some of those nights
when, as Carlyle would have said, "there was much good talk." And Wilson
was mainly the talker. The chief characteristic of his discourse was its
prodigality of humor and its infinite variety. His imagination too ran
riot, and his wit sparkled ever and anon with a radiance all its own.

His memory was prodigious, and in his conversation he taxed it for
anecdotes and illustrations drawn from the four quarters of the globe,
and from the most remote and unusual stores of literary hoarding. His
mind was many-sided as well as keen, and he kept all his faculties in
full play, not excepting his sympathies, which were as broad as the
world of men.

Can we wonder that those who crowded the table where he sat, lingered on
till the daylight drove them from the board? or that no man who had had
him for a boon companion could ever be satisfied with another? Can we
wonder that the students who crowded his lecture-room after he became a
professor thought every other lecturer commonplace and dull? Not that he
gave them more information than others--perhaps he did not give them as
much; but he excited and inspired them. He quickened their minds, and
wakened their dormant faculties. Some of the white heat of his own
enthusiasm he communicated to their colder natures, and they enjoyed the
unusual warmth. Those who listened to those wonderful discourses can
never be persuaded that eloquence did not die with Christopher North.
They were all addressed to the hearts of his listeners, and thrills, and
tears, and laughter that was not loud but deep, accompanied his speech
from the beginning to the very end. Let one who thus listened to him

     "We have heard him in the assembly-rooms, speaking on the genius of
     Scott, a little after the death of the Wizard, and in the tremble
     of his deep voice could read his sorrow for the personal loss, as
     well as his enthusiasm for the universal genius. We have heard him
     in his class-room, in those wild and wailing cadences, which no
     description can adequately re-echo, in those long, deep-drawn,
     slowly expiring sounds, which now resembled the moanings of a
     forsaken cataract, and now seemed to come hoarse and hollow from
     the chambers of the thunder, advocating the immortality of the
     soul, describing Cæsar weeping at the grave of Alexander,
     repeating, with an energy which might have raised the dead, Scott's
     lines on the landing of the British in Portugal, and discovering
     the secret springs of laughter, beauty, sublimity, and terror, to
     audiences whom he melted, electrified, subdued, solemnized,
     exploded into mirth, or awed into silence, at his pleasure."

His eloquence gained little from his personal appearance, about which
there was something savage, leonine, massive, but little that was
refined or attractive in the usual sense of that word. Still his face is
described by some as magnificent, and his gray, flashing eyes, as being
remarkably expressive. In his dress he was exceedingly slovenly except
upon state occasions. His professor's gown, as he stalked along the
college-terraces, flew in tattered stripes behind him, his shirts were
usually buttonless, and his hat like a reminiscence of a pre-historic
age. His yellow hair always floated over his shoulders, in confusion
worse confounded, and he wore immense unkempt whiskers hanging upon his
breast. Dickens thus describes him:--

     "At his heels followed a wiry, sharp-eyed shaggy devil of a
     terrier, dogging his steps as he went slashing up and down, now
     with one man beside him, now with another, and now quite alone, but
     always at a fast rolling pace, with his head in the air, and his
     eyes as wide open as he could get them. A bright,
     clear-complexioned, mountain-looking fellow, he looks as if he had
     just come down from the Highlands, and had never taken a pen in

His carelessness of appearances extended to his rooms, which looked like
small sections from the primeval chaos. The book-shelves were of
unpainted wood, knocked together in the rudest fashion, and the books
were many of them tattered and without backs. A case containing foreign
birds was used also as a wardrobe, and all of his rare possessions in
natural history were mixed up with a most motley collection of books and
papers,--these latter consisting of all sorts of scraps, of which no one
else could have made anything. He always seemed to be able to find them
when wanted, even in the worst confusion; but how he did it was a
mystery to his friends. "Here and there, in the interstices between
books, were stuffed what appeared to be dingy, crumpled bits of paper,
but they were in reality bank-notes, his class fees; which he never
carried in a purse, but stuffed away wherever it seemed most convenient
at the moment." He never, even in the coldest weather, had a fire in his

No account of Kit North would be complete that left out entirely the
convivialities of the table, though we should make a great mistake if we
took the humorous caricatures of the "Noctes Ambrosianæ" for accounts of
literal feats in that line. This has sometimes been done, and he is
frequently represented as a glutton and a drunkard. He was neither,
although he did perform some remarkable feats both of eating and
drinking in his day. His life of constant out-of-door exercise gave him
a keen appetite, and a perfect digestion, and he loved the hilarity of
the table as well as any man of his day. But in his later life he became
a _teetotaller_. Even in his earlier days it was often the excitement of
company which quickened all of his powers to their utmost tension, when
the effect was attributed to wine. So fond was he of all sorts and kinds
of out-of-the-way company, that he was at one time in the habit of going
at midnight to the Angel Inn, where many of the up and down London
coaches met, and there to preside at the passengers' supper, carving for
them, inquiring all about their respective journeys, and astonishing
them with his wit and pleasantry. He would also linger about with
coachmen and guards, and was present at, and took a hand in, many a
street row, unknown by those with whom he mingled.

He is said to have remained for three months in the back room of a
Highland blacksmith, strolling daily about the hills, and performing
some of his prodigious pedestrian feats, to the great surprise of the
rustics. He is also said to have followed the lady who became his wife
all over the lake country of Scotland in the disguise of a waiter,
serving her at table wherever the party happened to be, until the
suspicions of her father were aroused by seeing the same waiter at every
inn. Wilson then made himself known, declared his admiration for the
lady, and finally became her accepted suitor. After their marriage he
took her with him all over the Highlands on foot, assuring her that only
so could she become really acquainted with their beauties. No man
perhaps ever loved the Highlands as Christopher North loved them,--with
the possible exception of Walter Scott.--and we can truly envy his young
bride to be thus escorted through their deepest labyrinths, and
introduced to their most delicate and hidden beauties. Here he
introduced his beloved also to the cottages of the peasants, and made
her acquainted with the poetry of that life which has inspired some of
the finest of modern literature. He knew as well as Hogg, or Scott, or
Lockhart, that the characteristic romance of a people like the Scotch is
to be sought chiefly in the cottages of the poor, and that the finest
poetry of such a people has for the most part a like inspiration. And
these same peasants showed to their best advantage always when
Christopher was around. They loved him instinctively, although they knew
him only as a sportsman, or in some cases, perhaps, as a naturalist. But
his large heart always shone forth in his intercourse with the poor, and
he seemed conscious of no superiority to them, meeting them always on
the common ground of humanity, and sympathizing, in his hearty and
genial way, in all their joys and sorrows. They _took to him_ just as
dogs and children did.

And his descriptions of their cramped and narrow lives, enlivened by his
characteristic humor, are among the best pictures the world has
cherished of Scottish rural life. He did not spare their vices, but gave
many dramatic pictures of the darker sides of peasant life, with which
he gained a close acquaintance during those long foot-journeys which he
was so fond of making, living really what we would call the life of a
tramp, for long periods. Sometimes he camped with gypsies for weeks, and
at all times was intimate with all of the so-called lower classes.
Tinkers, cairds, poachers, were his familiar roadside acquaintances, and
he extracted great amusement from their peculiarities. Sometimes he had
to win the respect of these worthies by knocking them down in the
beginning of the acquaintance, but after that they usually stood by him
to the end. He usually figured as the champion of the weak in these
games at fisticuffs, but sometimes he managed things on his own account.

Although he loved to wander in the Highlands, he made his home among the
lakes at Elleray. This home was a rambling, mossy-roofed cottage, of
very picturesque appearance, overhung by a giant sycamore.

     "Never," he says, "in this well-wooded world, not even in the days
     of the Druids, could there have been such another tree. It would be
     easier to suppose two Shakspeares. Oh, sweetest and shadiest of
     sycamores, we love thee beyond all other trees."

And he thus discourses of the lakes amid which he lived,--and about
whose borders he wandered so continually:--

     "Each lake hath its promontories, that every step you walk, every
     stroke you row, undergo miraculous metamorphoses, accordant to the
     change that comes o'er the spirit of your dream, as your
     imagination glances again over the transfigured mountains. Each
     lake hath its bays of bliss, where might ride at her moorings, made
     of the stalks of water-lilies, the fairy bark of a spiritual life.
     Each lake hath its hanging terraces of immortal green, that along
     her shores run glimmering far down beneath the superficial
     sunshine, where the poet in his becalmed canoe, among the lustre,
     could fondly swear by all that is most beautiful on earth, and air,
     and water, that these three are one, blended as they are by the
     interfusing spirit of heavenly peace."

Lover of beauty as he was, yet he was well content with what he could
find in Scotland; he cared little for England, and nothing for the
Continent. There was enough to exhaust the seeing possibilities of a
lifetime in his own little land, with its rocks and lakes and heathery
hills. This was because he really had the poet's eye and heart. Such do
not need to traverse the whole wide world to find enough of beauty; it
is only the mediocre and the commonplace who care to gaze superficially
at the landscapes of two continents. But Wilson knew his land not only
with the eye of a poet, but also with that of a naturalist. His favorite
pastime was ornithology, and he made fine collections of specimens in
this line.

He was a great sportsman, and a story is told by his daughter, Mrs.
Gordon, of his travelling seventy miles in one day, to fish in a certain
favorite loch among the braes of Glenarchy, called Loch Toila. He was
also a good shot, and very enthusiastic in sport even to old age.
Boating was another favorite pastime; and engaged in one or another of
these out-of-door pursuits, he passed a very large portion of his whole
life. When he did write, he did it with great rapidity, composing one of
the "Noctes" at a sitting. His love for the animal creation was very
deep, and he would never submit to seeing any creature abused. He one
day saw a man cruelly beating his horse, which was overloaded with
coals, and could not move. He remonstrated with the driver, who,
exasperated at the interference, took up the whip in a threatening way,
as if with intent to strike the professor. In one instant the
well-nerved hand of Wilson, not new to these encounters, twisted the
whip from the coarse fist of the driver, and walking up to the cart, he
unfastened the _trams_ and hurled the whole weight of the coals into the
street. He then took the horse and led it away, depositing it in the
hands of the authorities, with injunctions to see that the beast was
better treated in future.

He made great pets of game-birds, the aristocracy of the species, with
their delicate heads and exquisite plumage, and kept at one time no less
than sixty-two in the back yard of his house. The noise was simply
unendurable to all but Wilson, who was never annoyed by it in the least.
He kept one lame sparrow for eleven years, caring for it with the
tenderest solicitude.

He was always well known in the houses of the poor, and he never gave up
one of his humble friends. He was tender and gentle always to these, as
to the members of his own household, where it was said the very strength
of his hand was softened, that he might caress the infant, or play with
the little ones at his feet. With all children he was a prime favorite,
and in his declining years his grandchildren were his daily playmates.
Noah's ark, trumpets, drums, pencils, puzzles, dolls, were all supposed
by them to possess interest in his eyes equal to their own.

He was thrown much upon these children for his pleasures near the close
of his life. That frame of gigantic build and of gigantic strength
became almost helpless from paralysis, and he was cared for till death
by his daughter, the mother of these favored little ones. Oh, it is sad
to think of it! Poor Christopher,--the active, the alert, the
keen-sighted, the fleet-footed, the gay and rollicking sportsman, the
famous angler, the champion boxer, too, upon occasions,--laid low, and
propped helpless upon pillows within walls, which he had always hated so
sincerely. He writes:--

     "Our spirit burns within us, but our limbs are palsied, and our
     feet must brush the heather no more. Lo, how beautifully those
     fast-travelling pointers do their work on that black mountain's
     breast; intersecting it into parallelograms and squares and
     circles, and now all a-stoop on a sudden, as if frozen to death.
     Higher up among the rocks and cliffs and stones, we see a stripling
     whose ambition it is to strike the sky with his forehead, and wet
     his hair in the misty cloud, pursuing the ptarmigan. . . . Never
     shall eld deaden our sympathies with the pastimes of our
     fellow-men, any more than with their highest raptures, their
     profoundest griefs."

It is safe to say that he kept his word, and was to the last, the same
genial, warm-hearted, impulsive, wayward man who had by these and other
engaging qualities made for himself so large a place in the heart of his
countrymen, during the long years he had wandered over her moors and
hills, seeing all her beauties, and describing them as no other had

He was almost the last of that band of strong men who cast such lustre
over the beginning of this century. Coleridge had gone before, and
Wordsworth, Byron, and Campbell, Shelley, and Canning, and Peel, and
Jeffrey, and Moore, and he lingered on in a solitude made greater by
that last stroke of calamity which deprived him of motion for a time
that was weary and heart-breaking to him, and over which the world yet
sheds its sympathizing tears. He died at the age of sixty-eight.




So many volumes have been written about the domestic life and the loves
of Lord Byron, that it would be a hopeless undertaking to attempt to say
anything new about them. But the story of Byron's life will never lose
its fascination, and to every new generation of readers the romance will
be fresh. Marvellously beautiful, wonderfully gifted, unfortunately
constituted man; wronged by his birth, wronged by his education, wronged
most of all by himself, the world will never cease to wonder and to weep
when his tragic story is told. While the language remains his words will
live. Immortal poetry for youth!--new generations will learn it by
heart, when the older generations are forgetting; and long after all
memory of his waywardness and folly has faded from the world, his
deathless songs will still sing on.

In any attempt to understand Byron, his ancestry must be much
considered. It will never do to compare him with cool-headed,
calm-blooded, matter-of-fact people. He was the peculiar product of a
peculiar race. Coming through generations of hot, turbulent blood, which
was never once mastered or tamed by its possessors, he entered the world
with a temperament and disposition which made it simply impossible that
he should lead the ordinary life of the British Philistine of his day.

As far back as they have been traced, the family were violent,
passionate, high-spirited, but unrestrained in the indulgence of their
desires by any of the cardinal principles of morality. Byron's father,
one of Byron's biographers tells us, had outraged in his previous family
life not only the principles of religion, but also the laws of society;
and when, in 1783, he married Catherine Gordon, the wealthy heiress of
Gight, Aberdeenshire, it was chiefly for the purpose of paying off his
debts with her fortune. Within two years after the marriage the heiress
of Gight was reduced to a pittance of one hundred and fifty pounds a
year. In 1790, for economy's sake, they removed from London to Aberdeen,
but soon separated.

Even after this, Captain Byron was mean-spirited enough to solicit money
from his wife, and she had not the heart to refuse him. With a small
supply thus obtained he crossed the channel, and in 1791 died in
Valenciennes, in the North of France. Of the violent temper of Byron's
mother many stories are told, and of her heartless treatment of him in
his early years; so that upon neither side can we find much upon which
we could expect to build a very noble or well-balanced character, and
the fact seems to be that the eccentricities of the Byron family were so
great as to be dangerously near the point called insanity.

A youth inheriting such blood as this, and brought up without even a
pretence of moral or religious training, could hardly be expected to
develop many of the domestic virtues. Neither could high-mindedness or
lofty principle be predicted of him. And in truth, Byron possessed
neither of these things. With this fiery Norman blood flowing in his
veins, restlessness was the habitual condition of his existence, such
restlessness as drove him to seek excitement at whatever cost,--quiet,
as he expressed it, to the quick bosom being hell. This restlessness led
him into all sorts of folly and excess, in the pursuit of new
excitements. Then he was cursed with an exaggerated sensibility, which,
while it gave him many rare delights in life, inflicted upon him also
the keenest tortures. His massive egotism was the cause, doubtless, of
many of his most marked eccentricities. He was so anxious to have the
world's gaze fixed upon him that he said and did things continually for
the mere purpose of holding its attention. In this way he frequently
made himself appear worse than he really was. Society was held willingly
in the thrall of his personality. A dull world likes to have laid bare
for its inspection the pulses of a vivid existence. Byron may have been
no worse than many other men of his day, for it was a time of general
immorality, but he never concealed even his worst vices. While hypocrisy
is a national vice in England, Byron, though essentially English in most
things, never possessed this marked characteristic of his countrymen. He
flaunted his vices in the light of day; and the world took a speedy
revenge upon him for his audacity. The little episode of his love for
Mary Chaworth occurred at so early an age that it seems scarcely
probable that it affected him as seriously as he claimed; yet he was a
very precocious child, and his account of the strength of his passion,
and its disappointment, may not be wholly an affectation. It is
difficult, too, to arrive at his real feeling toward Miss Milbank, there
was so much of contradiction both in his words and in his conduct. Miss
Milbank probably loved him but feared to marry him, having heard of the
irregularities of his life. And certainly the sort of life which Byron
had led was a very poor preparation for happiness at the fireside, and
if all other causes of unhappiness had been wanting would doubtless have
wrecked his union with Miss Milbank. But there were not wanting
numberless other sources of misery to this ill-mated couple, first among
which was the complete incompatibility of their tastes, feelings,
characters. That she was a noble, intelligent, and high-principled
woman, none have ever denied. The wonder was, not that she would not
live with such a man as Byron, but that she could ever have married him.
In charity we must decide that she was ignorant of the unspeakable
degradation of such an act. That he was a famous man of genius, the
most wonderfully gifted poet of his time, might have been a temptation,
but it was no excuse, if she entered into the contract with her eyes
open. But aside from the question of vice or virtue, there was nothing
in common between them. She felt that she had fallen from the
unalterable serenity and dignity of her existence, into chaos. Her
natural reserve and his natural frankness were the occasion of continual
clashings. Her formality and his bluntness caused constant unrest.
Accustomed to the regularity of a well-ordered English household, she
was miserable at the utter demoralization of their home,--of which the
bailiff had possession nine times during the short year they occupied
it. Formed for a calm, domestic life, she would probably have been a
most admirable wife to a man suited to her virtuous tastes, but her very
virtues irritated Byron.

Lady Caroline Lamb, who had loved him so madly, and on whom he had
expended a temporary passion, was in her ardent nature and erratic
genius much better suited to his tastes; and yet it had not taken him
long to tire of her, beautiful as she had been. And were ever such
bitter and cruel words addressed to a wronged woman, even though she had
herself been fearfully to blame in the matter, as those sent by Byron to
this poor creature, who had sent him a last touching appeal to remember
her? He wrote:--

     "Remember you! remember you! Until the waters of Lethe have flowed
     over the burning torrent of your existence, shame and remorse will
     cry in your ears, and pursue you with the delirium of fever.
     Remember you! Do not doubt it, I will remember. And your husband
     will also remember you. Neither of us can ever forget you. To him
     you have been an unfaithful wife, and to me--a devil!"

Terrible words, which apparently changed her love to hate, for she was
his relentless enemy for many years. But one day the great poet died, in
Greece, the death of a hero. His body was taken back to England for
burial, and Caroline Lamb stood at her window and saw the procession go
by. The coffin was followed by a dog, howling piteously. Caroline
uttered a heartrending cry, and sunk to the floor insensible. They
raised her and placed her in her bed, from which she never rose; she was
borne from it to her grave.

Such was the devotion which his fatal beauty and fascination won from
women, from many women, in his brief life. It is not probable that his
wife ever loved him in this way, but had she done so it seems very
unlikely that they could have lived a happy life together.

For one reason, he had no faith in women. "False as a woman or an
epitaph" expressed his deliberate opinion of the sex; and it must be
confessed that the sort of women with whom he had best acquaintance were
not calculated to give him high ideas upon the subject. This low
estimate of women would have stood in the way of domestic happiness
under any circumstances.

He was not ignorant of this, and in "Childe Harold" states the case

    "For he through sin's long labyrinth had run,
    Nor made atonement when he did amiss;
    Had sighed to many, though he loved but one,
    And that loved one, alas! could ne'er be his.
    Ah, happy she! to 'scape from him whose kiss
    Had been pollution unto aught so chaste!
    Who soon had left her charms for vulgar bliss,
    And spoiled her goodly lands to gild his waste,
  Nor calm domestic bliss had ever deigned to taste."

It has been thought by some that had Byron had the good fortune to meet
his latest love, the Countess Guiccioli, in his youth, all his stormy
life might have been changed and redeemed. However this may be, she
seems, so far as we can judge of her, to have been more likely to be a
poet's one great love than any of the others who for a time held his
wandering fancy. Beautiful as a poet's wildest dream, young, ardent,
gifted, and passionately devoted to him, what more could even his
exacting nature demand?--

     "Educated in the gloom of the convent, the notes of the organ, the
     clouds of incense, the waxen tapers burning at the feet of the
     Virgin, the litanies of the nuns,--all this had filled her mind
     with the poetry of the cloister, and with that mystic and
     indefinable love which at the first contact with the world was
     ready to change into a violent passion when it should meet with an
     object upon which to fix itself."

Married as soon as she left the convent to a man selected by her
parents, whom she had barely seen, and who was old enough to be her
father, she was at the time Byron first saw her a melancholy and unhappy
woman, much given to the reading of poetry and of the immoral novels of
that time and place.

That she should love Byron at first sight was inevitable, and that which
followed was almost as inevitable. She herself thus describes her first
acquaintance with him:--

     "His noble and exquisitely beautiful countenance, the tone of his
     voice, his manners, the thousand enchantments that surrounded him,
     rendered him so different and so superior a being to any by whom I
     was surrounded or had hitherto seen that it was impossible he
     should not have left the most profound impression upon me. From
     that evening, during the whole of my subsequent stay at Venice, we
     met every day."

Almost the only glimpses of quiet happiness which Byron ever enjoyed
came from this association. The lovers seemed to be admirably adapted to
each other, and their love knew no diminution during the short remainder
of his life. And she cherished his memory with the utmost fondness
throughout a long life, writing of him with unbounded enthusiasm, in her
own account of her acquaintance with him, many years after his death.
Byron has probably exaggerated his own unhappiness, yet there can be no
doubt that much of what he describes was very real. The nobler elements
of his character were constantly at war with the lower, and although he
did not have sufficient strength of character to lead the noble life of
which he had frequent visions, he had enough innate nobility to despise
himself for the life he did lead. Doubtless there was much of truth in
what he wrote in his journal in Switzerland:--

     "But in all, the recollections of bitterness, and more especially
     of recent and more home desolation, which must accompany one
     through life, have preyed upon me here; and neither the music of
     the shepherd, the crashing of the avalanche, or the torrent, the
     mountain, the glacier, the forest, or the cloud, have for one
     moment lightened the weight upon my heart, or enabled me to lose my
     own wretched identity in the majesty, and the power, and the glory
     around, above, and beneath me."

The close of Byron's life, in Greece, seems to have been one of peculiar
desolation. There is something really tragic in the utter loneliness of
such a death-bed. Years before, he had written concerning his death:--

  "When time or soon or late shall bring
    The dreamless sleep that lulls the dead,
  Oblivion! may thy languid wing
    Wave gently o'er my dying bed.

  "No band of friends or heirs be there
    To weep, or wish the coming blow;
  No maiden with dishevelled hair
    To feel, or feign, decorous woe.

  "But silent let me sink to earth,
    With no officious mourners near;
  I would not mar one hour of rest
    Or startle friendship with a tear."

Never was wish more literally fulfilled than this. There were none but
servants about him in his last hours:--

     "In all these attendants," says Parry, "there was an
     over-officiousness of zeal; but as they could not understand each
     other's language their zeal only added to the confusion. This
     circumstance, and the want of common necessaries, made Byron's
     apartment such a picture at distress and even anguish during the
     last two or three days of his life as never before beheld, and have
     no wish to witness again."

His remains were taken to England and interred in the family vault in
the Church of Hucknall. His poems are his imperishable monument.




The beautiful face of Shelley is one that is familiar to all students of
literary biography, and contends with that of Byron for the distinction
of being the handsomest among the men of letters of his day. Burns was
also a picture of manly beauty, whose features have long been familiar
in engravings; but Byron and Shelley look the ideal poet far more than
their sturdier Scottish brother. The face of Schiller was also one of
great charm, and Tennyson and Longfellow in their youth were also
beautiful; but the world is more familiar with the representations of
their later years, and has almost forgotten the alluring eyes and the
flowing locks of the youthful bards.

Shelley always had a girlish look, caused perhaps by a feeble
constitution, and he suffered much from poor health, which added to the
delicacy of his face. But there was a wonderful charm about his
countenance even in childhood, and his eyes seemed like wells into which
one might fall. There was rare sweetness in his smile, too. He was a
tall man and very slender, with a certain squareness of shoulder, and
great bodily litheness and activity. He had an oval face and delicate
features. His forehead was high. His fine dark-brown hair disposed
itself in beautiful curls over his brow and around the back of his neck.
The eyes were brown, and the coloring of his face as soft as that of a
girl's, in youth, though he bronzed somewhat during his life in Italy.

His countenance changed with every passing emotion; his usual look was
earnest, but when joyful he was very bright and animated in expression.
When sad there was something peculiarly touching in his face, and there
was sometimes expressed in his look a mournful weariness of everything.
But there was something noble and commanding in his aspect through all
changes, something hinting of his high and noble birth, as well as of
his genius. He had a peculiar voice, not powerful, but musical and
expressive, and fine agreeable manners when once the shyness of youth
had worn off.

That youth was a period of great unhappiness in many ways. He was
irritable and sensitive, and much given to reading and brooding, at
which the other children--or, as he called them "the little
fiends--scoffed incessantly." He had thoughts beyond his years, and
found in these his greatest happiness. He was impatient and full of
impulse, with a strong dash of egotism, like most men of genius.

That he was eccentric beyond the usual eccentricities of genius is known
to all the world. That he set out fully determined to live the ideal
life and to reform the world, is as well known; also, that he failed in
both these attempts,--partly through the limitations of his own nature,
and partly that the contract was too large, even for a man of his
undoubted genius.

Shelley was born in the County of Sussex, on the 4th of August, 1792.
His most characteristic childish amusement seems to have been the making
of chemical experiments; and his brothers and sisters were often
terrified at the experiments in electricity which he tried upon them. He
was also fond of making the children personate spirits or fiends, while
he burned some inflammable liquid.

He was full of cheerful fun, and had all the comic vein so agreeable in
a household. His benevolent impulses displayed themselves in his
earliest childhood in his wish to educate some child; and he talked
seriously of purchasing a little girl for that purpose, and actually
entered into negotiations to that effect with a tumbler who came to the
back door. His hatred of tyranny also showed itself at the earliest age,
in rebellion against the rule of the old schoolmistress who educated his

He was exceedingly precocious, and was thus sent to Eton at an age much
younger than other boys. He was perhaps a little proud of his birth and
breeding; but it was probably more from his inborn hatred of tyranny
than from the former reason, that he utterly refused to "fag" for the
older boys, and in this way got himself at once into trouble in the
school. Neither the cruel vituperation of his fellows nor menaces of
punishment upon the part of his superiors could bend his will to an
obedience which could only be yielded at the expense of self-respect. He
was soon withdrawn from Eton, and was afterwards sent to Oxford. Here
his first great enthusiasm was for chemistry; and the appearance of his
room is thus described by a fellow-student:--

     "Books, boots, papers, shoes, philosophical instruments, clothes,
     pistols, linen, crockery, ammunition, and phials innumerable, with
     money, stockings, paints, crucibles, bags, and boxes, were
     scattered on the floor and in every place; as if the young chemist,
     in order to analyze the mystery of creation, had endeavored first
     to reconstruct the primeval chaos. The tables, and especially the
     carpet, were already stained with large spots of various hues,
     which frequently proclaimed the agency of fire. An electrical
     machine, an air-pump, the galvanic trough, a solar microscope, and
     large glass jars were conspicuous amidst the mass of matter. More
     than one hole in the carpet could elucidate the ultimate phenomena
     of combustion,--especially a formidable aperture in the middle of
     the room, where the floor had also been burned by spontaneous
     combustion; and the horrible wound was speedily enlarged by
     rents,--for the philosopher as he hastily crossed the room in
     pursuit of truth, was frequently caught in it by the foot."

No student ever read more assiduously than he; and one of his chums said
to him, after he had literally read all day:--

     "If I read as long as you read, Shelley, my hair and my teeth would
     be strewed about on the floor, and my eyes would slip down into my
     waistcoat pockets."

It was only by attracting his attention by some extravagance that he
could be drawn away from his books. He seldom stopped to take a regular
meal, but would have his pockets stuffed with bread, from which he ate
from time to time, anywhere he chanced to be. When he was walking in
London he would suddenly run into a baker's shop, purchase a supply, and
breaking a loaf, offer half of it to his companion; if it was refused he
would wonder that his friend did not like bread, and could scarcely
appreciate the joke when they laughed at him for devouring two or three
pounds of dry bread in the streets.

Very early in life he began to have decided opinions upon religious
topics; and for some of his so-called atheistic tendencies, embodied in
his writings, he was expelled from Oxford at the age of seventeen,
without a word of friendly remonstrance upon the part of the
authorities, or any attempt whatever to counteract the errors which he
had imbibed from the reading of French philosophy. We can scarcely
believe it at this day, but it was true.

     "At seventeen," says Mrs. Shelley, "fragile in health and frame, of
     the purest habits in morals, full of devoted generosity and
     universal kindness, glowing with ardor to attain wisdom, resolved
     at every personal sacrifice to do right, burning with a desire for
     affection and sympathy, he was treated as a reprobate, cast forth
     as a criminal."

Even his father cast him off on account of his impious opinions, and
added his curse; and had he been in the way of procuring a _lettre de
cachet_, like Mirabeau's father, he would certainly have sent him to
Newgate and kept him there. As it was, all his friends deserted him, and
he lived in lodgings in London, in a very irregular manner, for some
time. Even his cousin Harriet Grove, with whom he had been in love in
his boyish way for a long time, gave him up, and soon after married
another. The affair was not a serious one upon the part of either; but
it cost Shelley some tears at the time. He soon consoled himself,
however, with a schoolmate of his sisters whom he sometimes met when he
went to visit them. Harriet Westbrook was empowered by his sisters to
convey to Percy such sums of money as they could gather for him; for his
father had refused to assist him, and he was in absolute want at this
time. She appeared to Shelley in the guise of a ministering angel, and
his imagination at once took fire. She was a comely, pleasing, amiable,
ordinary girl, who felt herself oppressed because obliged to go to
school, and excited Shelley's sympathy by appearing unhappy. He soon
became entangled with her and her sister, who was older, and who is
accused of furthering the intrigue out of ambition, thinking that the
son of a baronet must be a great match. He writes to a friend in May,

     "You will perhaps see me before you can answer this; perhaps not;
     Heaven knows. I shall certainly come to York, but Harriet Westbrook
     will decide whether now or in three weeks. Her father has
     persecuted her in a most horrible way by endeavoring to compel her
     to go to school. She asked my advice; resistance was the
     answer,--at the same time that I essayed to mollify Mr. W. in vain.
     And in consequence of my advice, _she_ has thrown herself upon _my_

The whole history of Shelley's courtship of Harriet--or of her courtship
of him, as many of his friends put it--will probably never be written.
It seems to have been promoted by others quite as much as by themselves.
That her father was not averse to her marriage with the eldest son of a
baronet may be taken for granted, and Shelley was the very man to be
duped by designing parties; of this there can be no doubt. He was but
nineteen years old, and she but sixteen, when they eloped,--of which
proceeding there does not seem to have been any especial need,--and
proceeded to Edinburgh, where they were married. By the time they
reached Edinburgh their money was gone, and Shelley laid the case
before his landlord, and asked him to advance money enough so that they
might be married. To this the landlord consented, and the ceremony was
performed. But the landlord, it appears, presumed somewhat upon the aid
he had rendered, and in the evening, when Shelley and his bride were
alone together, he knocked at the door and told them it was customary
there for the guests to come in, in the middle of the night, and wash
the bride with whiskey.

     "I immediately," says Shelley, "caught up my brace of pistols, and
     pointing them both at him, said to him, 'I have had enough of your
     impertinence; if you give me any more of it I will blow your brains
     out;' on which he ran or rather tumbled downstairs, and I bolted
     the doors."

Even before the honeymoon was over, Harriet's sister Eliza, the evil
genius of the pair, appeared upon the scene. The friend who was with
them at the time thus describes her advent:--

     "The house lay, as it were, under an interdict; all our accustomed
     occupations were suspended; study was forbidden; reading was
     injurious; to read aloud might terminate fatally. To go abroad was
     death; to stay at home the grave. Bysshe became nothing; I of
     course much less than nothing,--a negative quantity of a very high

That Harriet already had peculiar notions of her own was soon evident.
The same friend writes:--

     "'What do you think of suicide?' said Harriet one day. 'Did you
     ever think of destroying yourself?' It was a puzzling question, for
     indeed the thought had never entered my head. 'What do you think of
     matricide, of high treason, of rick-burning? Did you ever think of
     killing any one? of murdering your mother? or setting rick-yards on
     fire?' I replied."

But Harriet often discoursed at great length, in a calm, resolute
manner, of her purpose of killing herself some day or other. Of their
after-housekeeping in London lodgings Hogg writes:--

     "Our dinners therefore were constructive, a dumb show, a mere empty
     idle ceremony; our only resource against absolute starvation was
     tea. Penny-buns were our assured resource. The survivors of those
     days of peril and hardship are indebted for their existence to the
     humane interposition and succor of penny-buns. A shilling's worth
     of penny-buns for tea. If the purchase was intrusted to the maid,
     she got such buns as none could believe to have been made on earth,
     proving thereby incontestably that the girl had some direct
     communication with the infernal regions, where they alone could
     have been procured."

The married life was on the whole, when not a roaring farce, almost a
tragedy. Harriet's sister was, like the poor, always with them. Shelley
grew to hate her, and tried in every way to be delivered from her
presence, but in vain. Harriet would not live without her, and paid
little attention to anybody else when she was present. Two children were
born to them, but even the children Shelley was not permitted to enjoy
without the constant supervision of Eliza. He became nearly frantic from
the constant annoyance, and finally a separation came about between the
ill-mated pair. The women themselves became tired of the moping and
inefficient youth, who still remained poor and unsettled, with a father
desperately healthy and inexorable. They grew tired and went away,--the
wife, like Lady Byron, refusing to go back to such an aimless,
rhapsodizing husband. And in truth, the hardship of living with such a
man as Shelley, for a woman like Harriet, must have been very great. It
is easy to understand how a limited nature like hers should be worn out
by the exaction and impracticability of one like Shelley; for to her,
most impracticable would seem his lofty and ideal requirements. The
parting was not unfriendly, and Shelley always spoke of her with deep
kindness and pity, and she continued to write to him for some time after
he had formed his connection with Mary Godwin, of which she did not seem
to disapprove. He had found a sort of comfort in his intercourse with
Mary from his first acquaintance with her, and she was probably the
first woman he had ever known who in any way understood or appreciated
him. Some lines have been given in the "Relics," written to her at this
time, which run thus:--

  "Upon my heart thy accents sweet
  Of peace and pity fell like dew
  On flowers half-dead. . . .

  "We are not happy, sweet! our state
  Is strange and full of doubt and fear;
  More need of words that ills abate;--
  Reserve or censure come not near
  Our sacred friendship, lest there be
  No solace left for thee or me."

Shelley and Mary seem to have been very happy with each other from the
first, although they felt the keenest sorrow at his being deprived by
the Court of Chancery of the guardianship of his children, on the
alleged grounds of his atheism, and although they were inexpressibly
pained and shocked at the suicide of Harriet, which occurred about two
years after the separation.

Her death seems to have had no immediate connection with any act of
Shelley's, but he mourned over it with great bitterness to the end of
his life. He married Mary in a legal manner soon after Harriet's death,
and of course a most violent storm of detraction and denunciation burst
upon his head. He soon retired to Italy, where he first met Byron, and
he passed nearly all the rest of his life there. Poor Harriet was only
twenty-two at the time of her tragic death. Whatever may have been the
errors of her life, she had suffered much in their expiation. After her
return to her father's house it appears that she was treated with
unkindness, and fell into some irregularities of life,--how great,
remains still a disputed point. But no one charges anything against her
up to the time of her separation from Shelley, except that she was
almost as foolish and impracticable as himself.

Shelley's fancy for her was that of a mere boy, and his friend Mr.
Peacock thus describes the conflict of his feelings after meeting Mary

     "Between his old feelings towards Harriet, from whom he was not
     then separated, and his new passion for Mary, he showed in his
     looks, in his gestures, in his speech, the state of a mind
     suffering, like a little kingdom, the nature of an insurrection.
     His eyes were bloodshot, his hair and dress disordered. He
     frequently repeated the lines from Sophocles,--

  'Man's happiest lot is not to be;
      And when we tread life's thorny steep,
  Most blest are they who, earliest free,
      Descend to death's eternal sleep.'"

Godwin, it appears, tried hard to re-unite Shelley and Harriet, and
disapproved entirely of the new connection. Mary was but seventeen years
old, very beautiful, and possessed of genius; and her father, moral
considerations entirely aside, did not look upon Shelley as a suitable
husband for her. But Shelley had conceived for her the one violent,
uncontrollable passion of his life, and she was very easily brought
under his influence, in spite of the disapproval of her father. Mary had
not been brought up with conventional ideas upon the subject of marriage
(her own mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, having had very unusual opinions
upon that subject), and she fell an easy victim to Shelley's impassioned
eloquence, when he urged her to flee with him from an uncongenial home.
Shelley appeared to Mary as almost a divine being, and her worshipful
love never waned, even during her long widowhood of thirty years'
duration. For Shelley, in the whole matter, there seems to be no valid
excuse. He deliberately defied the world and the world's ways, and even
his memory must bear the fatal consequences. If we allow his genius to
excuse his acts, we are setting up a precedent which we have only to
imagine universally carried out to produce not only moral revolution but
chaos throughout the social world. He sinned like an ordinary mortal, he
suffered also in the same wise, and in the memory of man he must be held
to the same responsibility as his fellows. But his unworldliness may
well be taken into the account. He lived in a sort of dreamworld of his
own, and the thoughts and opinions and feelings of ordinary men upon
matters of life and conduct were so different from his that he could
hardly comprehend the value they had in the eyes of their possessors.
Born to rank and wealth, he desired to induce every rich man to despoil
himself of superfluity, and to create a brotherhood of property and
service, and was ready to be the first one to lay down the advantages of
his birth. Born with the most fanatical love of liberty, he looked upon
all the conventionalities of the world as tyranny, and defied all
restraints of authority from his earliest youth. He believed the
opinions he entertained to be true, and he loved truth with a martyr's
love; he was ready to sacrifice station and fortune and his dearest
affections at her shrine. With the rashness of youth he proclaimed all
the wildest of his opinions, and upheld them with uncompromising zeal.
In his acts he rushed into the face of the world in the same defiant
manner; and the world did not fail to take her revenge upon him. But
posterity will do him justice; it will see him, noble, kind, passionate,
generous, tender, brave, with an unbounded and unquestioning love for
his fellow-men, with a holy and fervid hope in their ultimate virtue and
happiness, and an intense and passionate scorn for all baseness and

Already about his grave in a foreign land there gather many pilgrims,
not only from his own country, but from beyond the sea; and as they read
the inscription there,--

  "Nothing of him that doth fade,
  But doth suffer a sea change into something rich and strange,"--

they think that the misconceptions which hung over him during life are
gradually suffering such a change, and they thank God amid their tears.




It is a little over one hundred years since Washington Irving was born;
and it is nearly thirty years since he ceased to charm the reading world
by the work of his genial and graceful pen. For fifty long and fruitful
years he was our pride and boast, and his memory will for many a long
year yet be green in the hearts of his countrymen. He was our first and
best humorist. Before his advent, what little writing had been done in
this country was mostly of the sentimental and tearful sort. And for
many years after he began to write, it was much the same. Weeping
poetesses filled whole columns with their tears, and in every local
sheet new Werthers were trying to tell of the worthlessness of life and
the beauties of dying. Young bards were inditing odes to melancholy, and
everybody was chanting in chorus, if not the words, at least the
sentiment of, "how sublime a thing it is to suffer and be strong." There
was no laughter in the land.

Could a collection of these mournful melodies have been made, and these
lorn lyrists have been induced to glance over it, it seems to us that
they must have received it with inextinguishable laughter. Each delicate
little wail when taken by itself was not so bad, but the united wail of
this band of broken-hearted singers would have produced, instead of
tears, laughter both long and deep. This doleful period lasted long
after Irving had begun to write in a different vein, and has lasted in
too large a measure even to this day; but he began the corrective
process, and has had more influence for good in that direction than any
of our other writers. At a later day Dr. Holmes began to write almost,
if not quite, "as funny as he could." Charles G. Leland, in his
"Sunshine-in-Thought" series, in the old "Knickerbocker," ridiculed the
prevailing weakness so forcibly and effectually that some stopped
groaning through sheer shame. Charles Dudley Warner sent a smile over
the set features of the nation when he wrote of his "Summer in a
Garden;" and Willis told in his "Fun Jottings" about some of the laughs
he had taken a pen to. But none of these had the magic touch of Irving,
although each in his own way was inimitable; and during these later
years, when the professional humorist has become one of our established
institutions, no writer has arisen to wear the mantle which fell from
the shoulders of Washington Irving. Bret Harte, doubtless, made us laugh
more. Irving could by no possibility ever have written the "Heathen
Chinee," or those other bits of compressed humor called Poems; but Bret
Harte is not exactly a lineal descendant of Irving. Mark Twain also can
produce a roar, a thing which Irving never did. But, though it has been
a good thing for the American people to roar with Mark Twain, we are all
desirous to see some writer arise who, with as keen an eye as his for
the humorous side of life, shall have a delicacy of touch which he
lacks, and a refinement of expression to which he is a stranger.

Washington Irving was born in the city of New York in 1783, the youngest
of eleven children born to his parents. At that time New York was a
rural city of twenty-three thousand inhabitants clustered about the
Battery. The Irvings were descendants of the old Scotch Covenanters, and
were strict Presbyterians. The home rule was one of austerity and
repression. The children were brought up on the catechism and the
Thirty-Nine Articles. As they grew older all were repelled from the
church of the father by the severity of its dogmas, and all except one
attached themselves to the Episcopal Church. Washington, we are told by
Mr. Warner, "in order to make sure of his escape and feel safe, while he
was still constrained to attend his father's church, went stealthily to
Trinity Church at an early age and received the rite of confirmation."
He was of a joyous and genial temperament, full of life and vivacity,
and not at all inclined to religious seriousness. He was born with a
passion for music, and was also a great lover of the theatre. These
things, in the eyes of his father, were serious evils, and he felt great
anxiety for the son's spiritual welfare. The gladsomeness and
sportiveness of the boy's nature were things which he could not
understand, and he feared that they were of the Evil One. There was no
room in the darkness of his religions creed for anything that was simply
bright and joyous. To save one's soul was the business of life; all
things else were secondary and of small importance. Of course, he
worried much over this handsome, dashing, susceptible, music-loving,
laughter-loving son, and doubtless shed many tears over his waywardness.
Yet there was nothing wild about the boy. The writing of plays seems to
have been his worst boyish offence. His first published writings were
audacious satires upon the theatre, the actors, and the local audiences.
They had some promise, and attracted some attention in the poverty of
those times.

At the age of twenty-one he was in such delicate health that a voyage to
Europe was looked upon as the only means of saving his life. He
accordingly embarked for Bordeaux and made an extended tour of Europe,
loitering in many places for weeks at a time, and laying up a store of
memories which gave him pleasure throughout life. In Rome he came across
Washington Allston, then unknown to fame. He was about three years older
than Irving, and just establishing himself as a painter. Irving was
completely captivated with the young Southerner, and they formed a very
romantic friendship for each other.

Irving even dreamed of remaining in Rome and turning artist himself,
that he might always be near his friend. He had a great dread of
returning to the New World and settling down to the uncongenial work of
the law, and he fancied he had some talent for art. He certainly had one
essential qualification,--a passionate love of color, and an eye for its
harmonies. This love was a great source of pleasure to him throughout
life. He always thought that he might have succeeded as a landscape
painter. However this might be, the gift of color-loving is in itself a
rich endowment to any mind. There are few purer and higher sources of
enjoyment in this life than this love of color, and it is a possession
which ought to be cultivated in every child.

But the art scheme was soon abandoned, and he went on to London, where
he began his literary work. His name of Washington attracted
considerable attention there, and he was frequently asked if he was a
relative of General Washington. A few years later, after he had written
the "Sketch Book," two women were overheard in conversation near the
bust of Washington in a large gallery. "Mother, who was Washington?"
"Why, my dear, don't you know?" was the reply, "he wrote the 'Sketch

Soon after the book was published Irving was one night in the room with
Mrs. Siddons, the Queen of Tragedy. She carried her tragic airs even
into private life, it is said, and when Irving was presented to her, he,
being young and modest, was somewhat taken aback on being greeted with
the single sentence, given in her grandest stage voice and with the most
lofty stateliness, "You have made me weep." He could find no words to
reply, and shrank away in silence. A very short time after he met with
her again, and, although he sought to avoid her, she recognized him and
repeated in tones as tragic as at first, "You have made me weep;" which
salutation had the effect of discomfiting Irving for the second time.

He returned to New York in 1806, and was much sought after in society
from that time on. It was a very convivial company, that of old New York
in the early part of the century, and Irving entered into its pleasures
with the rest of his friends. Late suppers and good wine sometimes
rendered these young men rather hilarious, and one evening, going home,
Harry Ogden, Irving's chum, fell through a grating into a vault beneath.
He told Irving next day that the solitude was rather dismal at first,
but in a little while, after the party broke up, several other guests
came along and fell in one by one, and then they all had a pleasant
night of it, "who would have thought," said Irving to Governor Kemble,
in alluding, at the age of sixty-six, to these scenes of high jollity,
"that we should ever have lived to be two such respectable old

It was during these years that he made the acquaintance and learned to
love so deeply Matilda Hoffman, a beautiful young girl, daughter of one
of his older friends. She was a most lovely person, in body and mind,
and in his eyes the paragon of womanhood. He was young, romantic, full
of sensibility, and his love for this beautiful girl filled his whole
life. He was poor and could not marry, but he had many arguments with
himself about the propriety of doing so even without an income. "I
think," he finally writes, "that these early and improvident marriages
are too apt to break down the spirit and energy of a young man, and make
him a hard-working, half-starving, repining animal all his days." And
again: "Young men in our country think it a great extravagance to set up
a horse and carriage without adequate means, but they make no account of
setting up a wife and family, which is far more expensive." But while he
was looking about on every side for some way to better his fortunes,
that he might take to his home this woman he loved so tenderly, her
health began to fail, and in a short time he was deprived by death of
her companionship. His sorrow was life-long, and it was a sorrow which
he held sacredly in his own heart. He never mentioned her name, even to
family friends, and they learned to avoid any allusion to her, he was so
overcome with emotion when merely hearing her name spoken. This was in
his early youth, and throughout a long life he held himself faithful to
her memory,--never, it is believed, wavering once in his allegiance.
Thackeray refers to this as one of the most pleasing things he knew of

It was at this time that he was writing the "History of New York." He
wrote afterward:--

     "When I became more calm and collected I applied myself by way of
     occupation to the finishing of my work. I brought it to a close as
     well as I could, and published it; but the time and circumstances
     in which it was produced rendered me always unable to look upon it
     with satisfaction."

His countenance long retained the trace of his melancholy, and he was
ever after a more subdued and quiet man. After his death a beautiful
picture and lock of hair were found among his private papers marked in
his hand-writing, "Matilda Hoffman." He also kept by him throughout
life her Bible and Prayer-Book. He lay with them under his pillow in the
first days of his anguish, and carried them with him always in all lands
to the end of his life. In a little private notebook intended only for
his own eye were found these words after his death: "She died in the
beauty of her youth, and in my memory she will ever be young and
beautiful." Truly, not an unhappy fate as the world goes,--to live thus
in the memory of such a man. What would years and cares and the
commonplace of existence have done for such a love as this, we wonder?
We shall never know. But we have all seen loves apparently as pure and
as strong, worn away by the attritions of life,--by the daily labor for
daily bread, by little incessant worries and faults and foibles upon the
part of one or both,--until there was nothing left of the early color of
romance; only a faded web of life where once was cloth of gold. How
sweet to many a faded and careworn woman would be the thought of being
always young and beautiful to the man she loved. Fortunate Matilda
Hoffman of the olden time!

In 1817 he went again to Europe, and while there definitely made up his
mind to look upon literature as his profession,--an almost unheard of
thing in America at that time. He writes to his brother:--

     "For a long while past I have lived almost entirely at home,
     sometimes not leaving the house for two or three days, and yet I
     have not had an hour pass heavily; so that if I could see my
     brothers around me prospering, and be relieved from this cloud that
     hangs over us all, I feel as if I could be contented to give up all
     the gayeties of life; I certainly think that no hope of gain,
     however flattering, would tempt me again into the cares and sordid
     concerns of traffic. . . . In protracting my stay in Europe, I
     certainly do not contemplate pleasure, for I look forward to a life
     of loneliness and of parsimonious and almost painful economy."

Some time after this he wrote to a friend:--

     "Your picture of domestic enjoyment indeed raises my envy. With all
     my wandering habits, which are the result of circumstances rather
     than of disposition, I think I was formed for an honest, domestic,
     uxorious man; and I cannot hear of my old cronies snugly nestled
     down with good wives and fine children round them, but I feel for
     the moment desolate and forlorn. Heavens! what a hap-hazard,
     schemeless life mine has been, that here I should be at this time
     of life, youth slipping away, and scribbling month after month, and
     year after year, far from home, without any means or prospect of
     entering into matrimony, which I absolutely believe indispensable
     to the happiness and even comfort of the after-part of existence."

He was thus described at this time:--

     "He was thoroughly a gentleman, not merely in external manners and
     looks, but to the innermost fibres and core of his heart;
     sweet-tempered, gentle, fastidious, sensitive, and gifted with
     warmest affections; the most delightful and invariably interesting
     companion; gay and full of humor, even in spite of occasional fits
     of melancholy, which he was, however, seldom subject to when with
     those he liked; a gift of conversation that flowed like a full
     river in sunshine,--bright, easy, and abundant."

In his fiftieth year he returned to America, far from rich, though he
had made money from his books. Although he had thought he could not
support a family of his own, he found himself with two brothers and
several nieces upon his hands for whom he must provide. He was very fond
of them all; and, being the least selfish of men, enjoyed making them
all comfortable. But to do so he had to be industrious with his pen, and
he never gave himself much rest. He bought a home at Tarrytown, upon the
Hudson, which he called Sunnyside, and where he resided till his death.
The farm had on it a small Dutch cottage, built about a century before,
and inhabited by the Van Tassels. This was enlarged, still preserving
the quaint Dutch characteristics; it acquired a tower and a whimsical
weathercock, the delight of the owner, and became one of the most snug
and picturesque residences on the river. A slip of Melrose ivy was
planted, and soon overrun the house; and there were shaded nooks and
wooded retreats, and a pretty garden.

It soon became the dearest spot on earth for him; and although it ate up
his money almost as fast as he could earn it, he never thought of
parting with it. The little cottage soon became well stocked. He

     "I have Ebenezer's five girls, and himself also whenever he can be
     spared from town, sister Catherine and her daughter, and occasional
     visits from all the family connection."

Thackeray describes him as having nine nieces on his hands, and makes a
woful face over the fact. He dispensed a charming hospitality here, and
no friend who ever visited him forgot the pleasure. He was a most genial
and cordial host, and loved much to have his friends bring the children,
of whom he was passionately fond. His nieces watched over his welfare
with most tender solicitude; and the cottage at Sunnyside, although
without a mistress, was truly a home.

It was with great reluctance that he left it after his appointment as
minister to Spain, and all the pleasure he received from that high mark
of the appreciation of his country did not compensate him for the
hardship of leaving home. During this third visit to Europe "it is easy
to see that life has grown rather sombre to Irving,--the glamour is
gone, he is subject to few illusions. The show and pageantry no longer
enchant; they only weary." He writes home: "Amidst all the splendors of
London and Paris I find my imagination refuses to take fire, and my
heart still yearns after dear little Sunnyside." Those were exciting
times in Spain, and Irving entered into all the dramatic interest of the
situation with a real enthusiasm, and wrote most interesting letters to
friends at home, describing the melodrama in which he had sometimes an
even perilous interest. Throughout his four years' stay the excitement
continued, and the duties of minister were sometimes perplexing enough.
From the midst of court life, in 1845, he wrote:--

     "I long to be back once more at dear little Sunnyside, while I have
     yet strength and good spirits to enjoy the simple pleasures of the
     country, and to rally a happy family group once more around me. I
     grudge every year of absence that rolls by. To-morrow I shall be
     sixty-two years old. The evening of life is fast drawing over me;
     still I hope to get back among my friends while there is a little
     sunshine left."

In 1846 he did return, and enjoyed thirteen years more of happy life

George W. Curtis thus delightfully sketches the man:--

     "Irving was as quaint a figure as Diedrich Knickerbocker in the
     preliminary advertisement of the 'History of New York.' Thirty
     years ago he might have been seen on an autumnal afternoon,
     tripping with an elastic step along Broadway, with low-quartered
     shoes neatly tied, and a Talma cloak,--a short garment that hung
     from his shoulders like the cape of a coat. There was a chirping,
     cheery, old-school air in his appearance, which was undeniably
     Dutch, and most harmonious with the associations of his writings.
     He seemed, indeed, to have stepped out of his own books; and the
     cordial grace and humor of his address were delightfully

Through all the honors which he received--and he was one of the most
honored men of his day--he was always modest, unassuming, and even
diffident. He was the most cheerful of men, and seemed to diffuse
sunshine wherever he went. He was essentially lovable, and could hardly
be said to have made an enemy during his life. Indeed, one of his lacks
was that of aggressiveness; it would have given a deeper force to his
character and brought out some qualities that were latent in him.

He died on the 28th of November, 1859, at the close of a lovely
Indian-summer day, and was buried on a little elevation overlooking
Sleepy Hollow. Near by winds the lovely Hudson, up and down which go the
white-winged boats bearing tourists to view the river he so loved, and
over which hangs the blue haze he has so often described, softening
everything in its gauzy folds. The feet of those he loved go in and out
at Sunnyside, and his memory is a benediction.




In a fragment of autobiography which Mr. Bryant left among his papers,
he speaks thus of his childhood:--

     "So my time passed in study, diversified with labor and recreation.
     In the long winter evenings and the stormy winter days I read with
     my brother books from my father's library,--not a large one, but
     well chosen. I remember well the delight with which we welcomed the
     translation of the Iliad by Pope when it was brought to the house.
     I had met with passages from it before, and thought them the finest
     verses ever written. My brother and myself, in emulation of ancient
     heroes, made for ourselves wooden shields, swords, and spears, and
     fashioned old hats in the shape of helmets, with plumes of tow; and
     in the barn, when nobody observed us, we fought the battles of the
     Greeks and Trojans over again.

     "I was always, from my earliest years, a delighted observer of
     external nature,--the splendors of a winter daybreak over the
     wide wastes of snow seen from our windows; the glories of the
     autumnal woods; the gloomy approaches of the thunderstorm, and its
     departure amid sunshine and rainbows; the return of spring with its
     flowers; and the first snowfall of winter. I cannot say, as some
     do, that I found my boyhood the happiest part of my life. I had
     more frequent ailments than afterward; my hopes were more feverish
     and impatient, and my disappointments were more acute; the
     restraints on my liberty of action, although meant for my good,
     were irksome, and felt as fetters that galled my spirit and gave it
     pain. After-years, if their pleasures had not the same zest, were
     passed in more contentment, and the more freedom of choice I had,
     the better, on the whole, I enjoyed life."

Among the prayers of his childhood he mentions that he often prayed that
he might be endowed with poetic genius, and write verses which should
endure. And he began at a very early age to make attempts in this
direction, which seem somewhat less crude than the mass of such
productions. He was taught Latin by the Rev. Thomas Snell, his uncle,
and Greek by the Rev. Moses Hallock, a neighboring minister, who boarded
and instructed him for a dollar a week. He continued his studies at
Williams College, although he never was graduated, being taken from
college from motives of economy.

The town of Cummington, where he was born, is a little hamlet among the
hills in Hampshire County in western Massachusetts. The country around
is mountainous, and the valleys very beautiful. The poet was always much
attached to the region, and when he had become an old man bought the old
family home and fitted it up as a summer residence, where he used to
gather together the remaining members of the family, and enjoy himself
highly in exploring the country round about as he had done in the days
of his boyhood. Many stories are told of his pedestrian feats, even
after he was seventy-five years old; and he sometimes walked ten or
twelve miles when in his eightieth year. He retained his boyish love for
plants and flowers, and was as enthusiastic as in youth over a rare
specimen or a beautiful bit of landscape. He further evinced his
interest in the old home by presenting the town with a fine library of
six thousand volumes, and building a suitable house for its
accommodation upon a beautiful site which he purchased for that purpose.

Upon leaving school Mr. Bryant pursued the study of law, and entered
upon its practice, first in Plainfield, and afterward in Great
Barrington, a pleasant village in Berkshire County, on the banks of the
Housatonic. While studying at Worthington, a distinguished friend of his
father came from Rhode Island upon a visit, bringing with him a
beautiful and accomplished daughter, to whom the young poet at once
lost his heart. The passion seems to have been reciprocated, if we can
judge by the assiduity with which the correspondence was carried on
after her return; but some unknown cause seems to have broken off the
fascinating romance, and after a year or two we hear of it no more. That
the end was painful to Mr. Bryant, we have reason to suspect from his
poems and letters; but as to how the lady felt, we have no evidence. The
verses show little promise of the work which the young poet soon
afterward did, but they are not entirely without charm:--

  "The home thy presence made so dear,
  I leave,--the parting hour is past;
  Yet thy sweet image haunts me here,
  In tears as when I saw thee last.

  "It meets me where the woods are deep,
  It comes when twilight tints depart,
  It bends above me while I sleep,
  With pensive looks that pierce my heart."

In another little poem we are informed,--

  "The gales of June were breathing by,
  The twilight's last faint rays were gleaming,
  And midway in the moonless sky
  The star of Love was brightly beaming.

  "When by the stream, the birchen boughs
  Dark o'er the level marge were playing,
  The maiden of my secret vows
  I met, alone, and idly straying.

  "And since that hour,--for then my love
  Consenting heard my passion pleaded,--
  Full well she knows the star of Love,
  And loves the stream with beeches shaded."

The poet had quite a lengthened season of darkness and despair after
this love-dream came to an end, and it must be confessed wrote a good
deal of very bad poetry, none of which he placed in collections of his
poems, but some of which have been published by his biographer. They are
rather worse than the usual run of such poems, which may indicate that
the feeling was really deeper,--too deep for expression in verse,--or
that it was not as deep and lasting as some of the first loves of poets.
As he had already written "Thanatopsis" and other fine poems, it is
rather surprising that there are so few gleams of the true poetic fire
in these amatory verses.

As is usual in such cases, he did not recover from the old love until he
had discovered a new one, and he did this in his new residence, not long
after his arrival there. The second lady of his choice was Miss Fanny
Fairchild, daughter of a well-to-do and respectable farmer on the Green
River. She was nineteen years old at the time, a "very pretty blonde,
small in person, with light-brown hair, gray eyes, a graceful shape, a
dainty foot, transparent and delicate hands, and a wonderfully frank and
sweet expression of face." She was as sensible as beautiful, and had
great charm of manner, which she retained to the end of her life. He
soon engaged himself to Miss Fairchild, and the course of their love ran
smoothly throughout a long life. To show with what deep feeling and
earnestness they entered upon their new relations, the following prayer,
dated 1820, has been printed, which was found among Mr. Bryant's private
papers after his death:--

     "May God Almighty mercifully take care of our happiness here and
     hereafter. May we ever continue constant to each other, and mindful
     of our mutual promises of attachment and truth. In due time, if it
     be the will of Providence, may we become more nearly connected with
     each other, and together may we lead a long, happy, and innocent
     life, without any diminution of affection till we die. May there
     never be any jealousy, distrust, coldness, or dissatisfaction
     between us, nor occasion for any,--nothing but kindness,
     forbearance, mutual confidence, and attention to each other's
     happiness. And that we may be less unworthy of so great a blessing,
     may we be assisted to cultivate all the benign and charitable
     affections and offices, not only toward each other, but toward our
     neighbors, the human race, and all the creatures of God. And in
     all things wherein we have done ill, may we properly repent our
     error, and may God forgive us, and dispose us to do better. When at
     last we are called to render back the life we have received, may
     our deaths be peaceful, and may God take us to his bosom. All which
     may He grant for the sake of the Messiah."

If ever a prayer was granted, it seems to have been so in this instance,
for in every detail it was fulfilled in the lives which followed. So
rarely beautiful a marriage has seldom been seen, as the one which was
entered into in this solemn and lofty manner, by this young and
high-minded couple. The days of their pilgrimage were many, but they
grew more and more beautiful until the final parting; and when the
separation at last came, in the fulness of time, the old poet mourned,
with a grief which could not be comforted, for the companion of his
youth, the delight of his mature years, and the idol of his old age.
Forty-five years they lived together, and after her death he wrote to
his brother:--

     "We have been married more than forty-five years, and all my plans,
     even to the least important, were laid with some reference to her
     judgment or her pleasure. I always knew it would be the greatest
     calamity of my life to lose her, but not till the blow fell did I
     know how heavy it would be, and what a solitude the earth would
     seem without her."

To another brother he said:--

     "Her life seemed to me to close prematurely, so useful was she, and
     so much occupied in doing good; and yet she was in her seventieth
     year. It is now more than forty-five years since we were
     married,--a long time, as the world goes, for husband and wife to
     live together. Bitter as the separation is, I give thanks that she
     has been spared to me so long, and that for nearly a half-century I
     have had the benefit of her counsel and her example."

In a brief memoir of their intercourse, prepared for the eyes of his
daughters alone, he said:--

     "I never wrote a poem that I did not repeat to her, and take her
     judgment upon it. I found its success with the public to be
     precisely in proportion to the impression it made upon her. She
     loved my verses, and judged them kindly, but did not like them all
     equally well."

One who knew her well thus describes her character:--

     "Never did poet have a truer companion, a sincerer spiritual
     helpmate, than Mr. Bryant in his wife. Refined in taste, and
     elevated in thought, she was characterized alike by goodness and
     gentleness. Modest in her ways, she lived wholly for him; his
     welfare, his happiness, his fame, were the chief objects of her
     ambition. To smooth his pathway, to cheer his spirit, to harmonize
     every discordant element of life, were purposes for the
     accomplishment of which no sacrifice on her part could be too

Another who visited them familiarly in their home wrote:--

     "In the autumn of 1863, we visited Mr. and Mrs. Bryant at West
     Point, where they occupied Mr. John Bigelow's charming cottage,
     'The Squirrels.' From there we accompanied them to Roslyn, and
     spent a week under their own roof-tree. How much we enjoyed those
     days, I need not say. Mrs. Bryant's health was very delicate, and
     she sat much in her large arm-chair by the open wood-fire which
     blazed under the old tiles of the chimney-place. Mr. Bryant sat at
     her feet when he read in the autumn twilight those exquisite lines,
     'The Life that Is.' Such was our last meeting with our dear Mrs.
     Bryant. I never saw her again, but the thought of her dwells like a
     sweet strain of music amid the varied notes of human life, and will
     be ours again when 'beyond these voices there is peace.' The union
     between Mr. and Mrs. Bryant was a poem of the tenderest rhythm. Any
     of us who remember Mr. Bryant's voice when he said 'Frances' will
     join in his hope that she kept the same beloved name in heaven. I
     remember alluding to those exquisite lines, 'The Future Life,' to
     Mrs. Bryant, and her replying, 'Oh, my dear, I am always sorry for
     any one who sees me after reading those lines, they must be so
     disappointed.' Beatrice and Laura have not received such tributes
     from their poets, for Mrs. Bryant's husband was her poet and her
     lover at seventy as at seventeen."

After Mrs. Bryant had been dead seven years, Mr. Bryant wrote the
following poem, showing how tenderly he cherished her memory:--

  The morn hath not the glory that it wore,
    Nor doth the day so beautifully die,
  Since I can call thee to my side no more,
      To gaze upon the sky.

  For thy dear hand, with each return of Spring,
    I sought in sunny nooks the flowers she gave;
  I seek them still, and sorrowfully bring
      The choicest to thy grave.

  Here, where I sit alone, is sometimes heard,
    From the great world, a whisper of my name,
  Joined, haply, to some kind commending word,
      By those whose praise is fame.

  And then, as if I thought thou still wert nigh,
    I turn me, half-forgetting thou art dead,
  To read the gentle gladness in thine eye
      That once I might have read.

  I turn, but see thee not; before my eyes
    The image of a hillside mound appears,
  Where all of thee that passed not to the skies
      Was laid with bitter tears.

  And I, whose thoughts go back to happier days
    That fled with thee, would gladly now resign
  All that the world can give of fame or praise
      For one sweet look of thine.

  Thus ever, when I read of generous deeds,
    Such words as thou didst once delight to hear,
  My heart is wrung with anguish as it bleeds
      To think thou art not near.

  And now that I can talk no more with thee
    Of ancient friends and days too fair to last,
  A bitterness blends with the memory
      Of all that happy past.

That past had, indeed, been happy and most successful from every worldly
point of view. He had published his poems, while still a young man, and
they had made him famous at once. For more than fifty years he was
honored as one of the first of the poets of America, and for a large
part of that time he was held as indisputably the first in rank. His
work received honors and commendation over the sea as well as at home,
almost from the first. It seems very curious to us now to think of his
selling the very finest of his poems for two dollars apiece; yet he did
that, and seemed satisfied with the compensation. In later life, when
two hundred dollars would have been gladly paid him for such poems, he
declined to write, saying that no man should write poetry in old age.
The greater part of his poetry was written before he went to New York
and became editor-in-chief of the "Evening Post." After that time he was
always driven by newspaper work and involved in political controversy,
and rarely wrote verses. In old age he made his translations of the
"Iliad" and the "Odyssey," which were very remarkable works for a man of
his years; but he seldom wrote an original poem, although what he did
write scarcely showed a falling off from the work of his prime.

He was very conscientious in his work as an editor, and was honored by
the entire nation for the noble and patriotic course he took at the time
of the anti-slavery excitement, and throughout the Civil war. Men will
long remember the brave and spirited utterances of his paper during that
time that so tried men's souls. He did much, during his long career as
an editor, for American literature, for American art, and for the
general culture of his countrymen. In his numerous visits to Europe he
learned much of the workings of the institutions of the Old World, and
gave his readers the benefit of his studies of the comparative merits of
Old and New World methods; and while always fair in his judgments, he
was always patriotic, and stood gallantly by his own land. He was much
honored while abroad, as well as at home, and made acquaintance with
many distinguished men in foreign lands. Mr. Bryant had been brought up
a Unitarian, and he maintained his connection with that church
throughout life. Many of his dearest friends were among the ministers of
that denomination, and he wrote many of his most beautiful hymns for
occasions connected with that church. He was always a devoutly religious
man, but grew even more so in later life. During a long sickness which
his wife had in Naples in 1858, his thoughts became more and more fixed
upon this subject; and meeting with an old friend there, the Rev. Mr.
Waterson, he opened his mind to him as perhaps he had never done to any
one before. Mr. Waterson tells us:--

     "At this time I received a note from him stating that there was a
     subject of interest upon which he would like to converse with me.
     On the following day, the weather being delightful, we walked in
     the Villa Reale, the royal park or garden, overlooking the Bay of
     Naples. Never can I forget the beautiful spirit that breathed
     through every word he uttered,--the reverent love, the confiding
     trust, the aspiring hope, the rooted faith. Every thought, every
     view, was generous and comprehensive. Anxiously watching, as he had
     been doing, in that twilight boundary between this world and
     another, over one more precious to him than life itself, the divine
     truths and promises had come home to his mind with new power. He
     said he had never united himself with the Church, which with his
     present feelings he would most gladly do. He then asked if it would
     be agreeable to me to come to his room on the morrow, and
     administer the Communion,--adding that as he had not been baptized,
     he desired that ordinance at the same time. The day following was
     the Sabbath, and a most heavenly day. In fulfilment of his wishes,
     in his own quiet room, a company of seven persons celebrated
     together the Lord's Supper. With hymns, selections from the
     Scripture, and devotional exercises, we went back in thought to the
     large upper-room where Christ first instituted the Holy Supper in
     the midst of his disciples. Previous to the breaking of bread,
     William Cullen Bryant was baptized. With snow-white head and
     flowing beard, he stood like one of the ancient prophets; and
     never, perhaps, since the days of the Apostles, has a truer
     disciple professed allegiance to the Divine Master."

A purer and nobler life than Mr. Bryant led has hardly been chronicled
in our day; and the quiet and calm of his closing years was a fitting
end to such a life. He was tenderly cared for during these years by his
daughters, to whom he was most devotedly attached. His son-in-law, Parke
Godwin, thus writes of the closing years:--

     "It was very curious to his friends to observe how he had mellowed
     with time. The irritabilities of his earlier days had been wholly
     overcome; his reluctance to mingle with men was quite gone; and old
     age, which makes so many of us exacting and crabbed, if not morose,
     imparted to him additional gentleness and sweetness. He had learned
     to live more and more in the happiness of others, and was rewarded
     for his unconscious devotion by new streams of happiness constantly
     opening in his bosom."

He even learned to take good-naturedly what had annoyed him a good deal
in an earlier time, namely, the results of his fame. He writes thus to a
friend in extreme old age:--

     "Is there a penny-post, do you think, in the world to come? Do
     people there write for autographs to those who have gained a little
     notoriety? Do women there send letters asking for money? Do boys
     persecute literary men with requests for a course of reading? Are
     there offices in that sphere which are coveted, and to obtain which
     men are pestered to write letters of recommendation? If anything of
     this kind takes place in the spirit-world it may, perhaps, be of a
     purgatorial nature, or perhaps be the fate of the incorrigible
     sinner. Here on earth this discipline never ends; and if it exists
     at all in the other world, it is of a kind which will, of course,
     never cease. On this account I am inclined to believe that the
     punishment for sin may be of endless duration; for here the
     annoyances and miseries which I have mentioned only cease with
     death, and in the other world, where there is no death, they will,
     of course, never come to an end."

To another correspondent he writes:--

     "How is it in the world to come? Will patience have had her perfect
     work in this sphere, or is the virtue to be exercised there, until
     we shall have acquired an evenness of temper which no possible
     provocation can disturb? Are the bores to be all penned in a corner
     by themselves, or are they to be let loose to educate the saints to
     the sublimest degree of patience of which our nature is capable?
     These are deep questions. I do not remember that you have given any
     special attention to the use of bores in the moral government of
     the world in your book on 'The Problem of Human Destiny.' I admit
     their utility as a class: they serve a most excellent purpose; but
     whether we are to be annoyed with them in the next world is the
     doubt. Some of them are most worthy people, and capital Christians,
     and cannot be kept out of Paradise; but will they be allowed to
     torment the elect there?"

Probably the title of the Great American could be as fittingly applied
to Bryant as to any man our nation has produced. He has been happily
called the Puritan Greek; and this epithet applies equally well to his
life and to his writings. If he was a Stoic in his earlier years, he was
as unmistakably a Christian in later life. During both periods he was
pure as ice, lofty in thought, noble in deed,--an inspiration toward the
True Life to all who watched his course. No errors of passion or of
overheated blood did he have to mourn over, even in youth; yet he was
not cold or unimpassioned, as his deep devotion throughout life to the
woman of his choice proved. He led emphatically the intellectual life,
with as little admixture of the flesh as possible; yet the warm currents
of feeling were never dried up in his nature, but bubbled up freshly to
the end. He lived largely on the heights of life, yet he was not
uncharitable to the weaknesses and follies he saw everywhere about him,
but rather looked upon them with a half-pitying tenderness; and he
dropped a tear occasionally where the integrity of his own nature
counselled a stern reproof.




"I have seen Emerson, the first man I have ever seen," wrote George
Eliot in her diary many years ago. Carlyle uses similar expressions in
his letters at least a score of times. Sentences like the following
appear very often:--

     "It remains true and will remain, what I have often told you, that
     properly there is no voice in this world which is completely human
     to me but your voice only."


     "In the whole world I hardly get to my spoken human word any other
     word of response that is authentically _human_. God help us, this
     is growing a very lonely place, this distracted dog-kennel of a

Indeed, the personality of Emerson seems to have produced a very marked
effect upon all the great men and women with whom he came in contact. We
find that he was often described as an angel in appearance in his
younger days. Here are one or two instances: Of his appearance to them
in their stony solitude at Craigenputtoch Carlyle afterwards wrote to

     "Among the figures I can recollect as visiting us in our Nithsdale
     hermitage,--all like apparitions now, bringing with them airs from
     heaven, or else blasts from the other region,--there is perhaps not
     one of a more undoubtedly supernal character than yourself,--so
     pure and still, with intents so charitable; and then vanishing,
     too, so soon into the azure inane, as an apparition should."

Mrs. Carlyle always spoke of this visit of Emerson to them there as a
visitation from an angel.

Mr. Charles Congdon thus writes in the "Reminiscences of a

     "One day there came into our pulpit the most gracious of mortals,
     with a face all benignity, who gave out the first hymn and made the
     first prayer as an angel might have read and prayed. Our choir was
     a pretty good one, but its best was coarse and discordant after
     Emerson's voice."

The ancestors of Emerson were all of clean pure blood. Behind him were
many generations of fine old New England ministers, and he was but the
natural product of his race in character,--though from what source
sprang the consummate flower of his genius it is hard to tell. He was
brought up to all good things, under the immediate eyes of a superior
mother and a gifted aunt. He was a fine scholar during his college days,
and entered the Unitarian ministry when quite young. He also married
young, but early lost his wife, and soon afterward retired from the
ministry to devote himself to literature.

In September, 1835, Emerson was married for the second time, to Miss
Lydia Jackson of Plymouth. The wedding took place in the fine old
mansion known as the Winslow house. After the marriage they went to
reside in Concord, in the house where he passed the rest of his life,
and where his family still live. This is the plain, square, wooden
house, with horse-chestnuts in the front yard and evergreens around it,
which has often been described by visitors to Concord. Near by is the
orchard planted by Emerson, and two miles away his wood-lot, which he
describes to Carlyle as his new plaything, and where he proposed to
build a tower to which to flee from intrusive visitors. Of the planting
of the orchard he thus writes:--

     "You are to know that in these days I lay out a patch of orchard
     near my house, very much to the improvement, as all the household
     affirm, of our homestead. Though I have little skill in these
     things, and must borrow that of my neighbors, yet the works of the
     garden and orchard at this season are fascinating, and will eat up
     days and weeks; and a brave scholar should shun it like gambling,
     and take refuge in cities and hotels from these pernicious
     enchantments. For the present I stay in the new orchard."

In due time came the little troop of children, to gladden the home and
to be a perpetual wonder and delight to the father. In his essay on
"Domestic Life" he thus talks of the little one:--

     "The size of the nestler is comic, and its tiny beseeching weakness
     is compensated perfectly by the happy, patronizing look of the
     mother, who is a sort of high reposing Providence toward it.
     Welcome to the parents the puny struggler, strong in his
     weakness,--his little arms more irresistible than the soldier's,
     his lips touched with persuasion which Chatham and Pericles in
     manhood had not. His unaffected lamentations when he lifts up his
     voice on high, or, more beautiful, the sobbing child, soften all
     hearts to pity and to mirthful and clamorous compassion. His
     ignorance is more charming than all knowledge, and his little sins
     more bewitching than any virtue."

Emerson was never a rich man, and his home was always so ordered as to
come within the scope of his limited income; but it was always
attractive and charming, and pervaded by an air of dignity and repose.
And that in it he could dispense hospitality in the old royal manner is
shown by the many times he invites Carlyle to come and spend a year with
him, and seriously urges him to do so. Thoreau availed himself of such
invitation, and spent months at a time in Emerson's home. One wonders if
Mrs. Emerson received such instruction as her husband gives in the essay
just mentioned, and if she profited by it:--

     "I pray you, O excellent wife, not to cumber yourself and me to get
     a rich dinner for this man or this woman who has alighted at our
     gate, nor a bed-chamber made ready at too great a cost. These
     things, if they are curious in, they can get for a dollar at any
     village. But let this stranger, if he will, in your looks, in your
     accent and behavior, read your heart and earnestness, your thought
     and will,--which he cannot buy at any price in any village or city,
     and which he may well travel fifty miles, and dine sparely and
     sleep hard, in order to behold. Certainly let the board be spread,
     and let the bed be dressed for the traveller, but let not the
     emphasis of hospitality lie in these things. Honor to the house
     where they are simple to the verge of hardship, so that there the
     intellect is awake and reads the law of the universe, the soul
     worships truth and love, honor and courtesy flow into all deeds."

If the American people had heeded such wise words as these the
old-fashioned virtue of hospitality would not have become so rare among
us. The "emphasis of hospitality" has been placed upon the material
things to such an extent that one hardly dares to invite his friend now,
unless it be to an elaborate feast; and the labor, to say nothing of the
expense, of preparing the elaborate feast is so great that more and more
we neglect to call our friends around us, and to bind their hearts to
ours by loving and tender ministrations.

Let us learn of Emerson the meaning of economy. He says:--

     "Parched corn eaten to-day that I may have roast fowl to my dinner
     Sunday is a baseness; but parched corn and a house with one
     apartment, that I may be free of all perturbations, that I may be
     serene and docile to what the mind shall speak, and quit and
     road-ready for the lowest mission of knowledge or good-will, is
     frugality for gods and heroes."

This was the sort of frugality that Thoreau practised in his hut on
Walden Pond, and it is a frugality which has made him famed throughout
the hero-worshipping world.

The charm of Emerson's home life lay largely in his manners, which were
simple, yet faultless. He greeted his friends with all the mildness and
serenity of the very god of repose, and induced in them that most
enjoyable sensation, a feeling of entire contentment with all the world.
No heat, no fret, no hurry, no great call to strenuous exertion to
appear well or make a fine impression. All was ease, calm, unstudied
attention to every little want, and talk fit for the noblest and the
best. He was an example of what he himself honored most.

     "I honor that man whose ambition it is, not to win laurels in the
     state or the army, not to be a jurist or a naturalist, not to be a
     poet or a commander, but to be a master of living well, and to
     administer the offices of master or servant, of husband, father,
     and friend."

In all these relations Emerson shone resplendently, and in the
old-fashioned relation of neighbor he was always at his best. To the
family of his old friend Alcott he was as a special providence for many
years, and beautiful indeed was the affection in which he was held by
them. When, during Emerson's absence in Europe, his house was partly
burned, his neighbors promptly rebuilt it, ready for his return. Of
these helpers Emerson wrote, in accepting their gift:--

     "Judge Hoar has up to this time withheld from me the names of my
     benefactors; but you may be sure I shall not rest till I have
     learned them, every one, to repeat to myself at night and at

Emerson's personal appearance was that of a scholar and the descendant
of scholars,--tall, slender, and with the complexion which is bred in
the alcove and not in the open air. His hair was brown, fine, and thick.
His eyes were of the deepest blue. His mode of living was very simple,
but he was constitutionally fastidious, and very much averse to vulgar
or commonplace companionship. He loved all children and simple-minded
people, and the very babies in Concord knew and loved him. "Incorrigible
spouting Yankee" he called himself; but he was rather a silent man in
reality, and did not care to talk excepting when he had somewhat to say.
He did not prate eternally of silence, as Carlyle did, while wreaking
himself upon speech in the most frantically vehement manner all his
days, but he knew when and how to be silent. The glimpses he gives of
Mrs. Emerson, in the long correspondence with Carlyle, are all of the
most pleasing nature, and his home life was apparently as perfect as
music all his life long. Of the boy Waldo, who died, he was fond of
speaking, and he evidently mourned him very deeply for a long time. Of
his other children he never boasted, but always spoke most kindly. The
most entire revelation that Emerson ever made of himself was doubtless
in the letters to Carlyle; and it must be said that nowhere else has
Carlyle appeared to so good advantage as in this correspondence with
Emerson. One loves the grim, sardonic old man better after seeing that
he could love his friend faithfully and loyally for so many years, and
after reading all the tender and touching things he puts into his
letters to him. Especially is this the case in the later days, when both
had grown to be old men, and had been saddened by their life experience.
Carlyle's letters after his wife's death are very touching. In the first
after the sad event he says:--

     "By the calamity of last April I lost my little all in this world,
     and have no soul left who can make any corner of this world into a
     _home_ for me any more. Bright, heroic, tender, true, and noble was
     that lost treasure of my heart, who faithfully accompanied me in
     all the rocky ways and climbings; I am forever poor without her.
     She was snatched from me in a moment as by a death from the gods.
     Very beautiful her death was; radiantly to those who understood it,
     had all her life been: _quid plura?_"

This which follows in the same letter, written while Carlyle was still
in the unbroken possession of his faculties, makes us not only sad but
indignant that his determination had not been allowed to be carried out;
and that the poor old man, when broken down by age, should have been
permitted to expose to view all those sacred things which, when sane and
sound, he would so carefully have covered from the prying eyes of the
world. He says:--

     "All summer last my one solacement in the form of work was writing
     and sorting of old documents and recollections; summoning out
     again into clearness old scenes that had now closed on me without
     return. Sad, and in a sense sacred; it was like a kind of
     worship,--the only devout time I had had for a great while past.
     These things I have half or wholly the intention to burn out of the
     way before I myself die; but such continues still mainly my
     employment, to me if to no other useful. To reduce matters to
     writing means that you shall know them, see them in their origins
     and sequences, in their essential lineaments, considerably better
     than you ever did before. To set about writing my own life would be
     no less than horrible to me; and shall of a certainty never be
     done. The common, impious, vulgar of this earth--what has it to do
     with my life or me? Let dignified oblivion, silence, and the vacant
     azure of eternity swallow me; for my share of it, that verily is
     the handsomest or one handsome way of settling my poor account with
     the _canaille_ of mankind, extant and to come."

How would his sad old heart have been torn could he have foreseen that
in the weakness of senility he would expose to the 'impious vulgar' all
the most sacred secrets of his home life! Oh, the pity of it! As a
slight offset to the sad revelations thus made, let us accept this
little note in Emerson's diary during one of his visits to Chelsea:--

     "C. and his wife live on beautiful terms. Their ways are very
     engaging, and in her bookcase all his books are inscribed to her as
     they came, year by year, each with some significant lines."

Emerson's regard for Mrs. Carlyle was very great, and there is not one
of the many letters but sends a kindly and a warm greeting to her over
the sea.

For the rest, this correspondence exhibits Emerson in the light of a
true and very useful friend to Carlyle,--taking infinite trouble in the
early days to introduce Carlyle's books in America, and to secure to the
author in his poverty some return for their publication here. In this he
was successful, and sent with great delight little sums of money to his
friend. The books met with a quicker recognition in America than in
England; and after Emerson had said something to Carlyle of a new
edition of "Sartor Resartus," Carlyle writes:--

     "As for Fraser, however, the idea of a new edition is frightful to
     him, or rather ludicrous, unimaginable. Of him no man has inquired
     for a 'Sartor.' In his whole wonderful world of Tory pamphleteers,
     Conservative younger brothers, Regent-street lawyers, Crockford
     gamblers, Irish Jesuits, drunken reporters, and miscellaneous
     unclean persons (whom water and much soap will not make clean), not
     a soul has expressed the smallest wish that way. He shrieks at the

There is also much writing, on both sides, of Carlyle's coming to
America. For years this was the most enchanting topic, of which they
never grew weary. In one of his saddest moods, while yet almost unknown
and very poor, Carlyle wrote:--

     "In joy, in grief, a voice says to me, 'Behold, there is one that
     loves thee; in thy loneliness, in thy darkness, see how a
     hospitable candle shines from far over seas, how a friendly heart
     watches!' It is very good and precious to me."

There is, of course, a great deal of mutual admiration of each other's
work, very genuine, ever pleasant to hear about, expressed in the
warmest language,--even in those superlatives which Emerson derided.

There are also lovely bits of home life upon both sides,--faultless
interiors over which the mind will linger with delight in times far away
from these, when the students of another age strive to make to
themselves a picture of what sort of men these the great of the
nineteenth century really were. There is nothing told in these volumes
that will detract from the fame of either, but much that will add to the
kindly impression which they have made upon their time. One cannot but
think, as the letters grow more infrequent, and are written with greater
labor, of how old age was a weariness to these great men as to
others,--how the very grasshopper became a burden, and how
inexpressibly sad was the decay of their great powers. Emerson begins to
lag first, although a few years younger than Carlyle, and Carlyle
implores him, almost piteously, to write. There is an interval of one,
two, and even three years in the correspondence toward the end; and
after Emerson's last visit to England they wrote no more. Carlyle's
gentleness and tenderness show themselves very beautifully in these last
letters to his one best friend. When he finds that it has become hard
for Emerson to write, he begs at first that he be not forsaken, but
after a little says in effect: Never mind, my friend, if it wearies you
to write, write to me no more. I will still write to you, and thus our
friendship shall not lack for a voice. When the sweet bells had become a
little jangled in Emerson's brain, when memory had left him or played
him false, and there was a weakening of all his powers,--he sat still in
his own home among his friends and kindred, his household intact, and
surrounded by the fondest care and affection; while his old friend over
the seas--the broken giant, the god of thunder, now grown silent--sat in
utter desolation in the home he had reared after infinite struggle and
endeavor, and wrapped in a solitude so utter and so black that the heart
which can look upon it without pity must be a heart of stone. Carlyle
died on the 5th of April, 1881, being eighty-five years old. Emerson
died on the 27th of April, 1882, at the age of seventy-nine. In death
they were not long divided.




Carlyle is one of the many great men who have suffered severely at the
hands of their biographers, and from the pen clan in general. When the
world knew him alone or chiefly through the lurid splendors of "The
French Revolution,"--that book which, as he himself would have expressed
it, was a truth, though a truth written in hell-fire,--or through the
uncanny labyrinths of "Sartor Resartus," or the subtle analysis of the
"Hero-Worship," or the more pleasing pages of his "Burns," or "Milton,"
or the "Characteristics," it would stand aloof in wonder, in admiration,
almost in awe. But when with his own hand--for he was primarily the
cause of all--he stripped away the privacy which he had guarded so
jealously through life, and through the "Reminiscences" and his wife's
letters, which he prepared for publication, took, as we may say, the
roof off from the house, that all the world might look in, then indeed
he fell from his lofty pedestal and became like one of us. Hero-worship
was no longer possible, but loud abuse and recrimination, or apology and
a cry for charitable construction, became the order of the day. We may
say that he had only himself to thank for it; but who can help
regretting that the man in his old age should so have destroyed the fair
fabric of his own fame? We are not so rich in heroes that we can afford
to lose even the least of the kingly band; and we have felt that we have
sustained an irreparable loss ever since the luckless day when we took
up the first of the intensely interesting but most painful books
relating to this great life.

Let us look a little at this hero's domestic life. What was its
foundation, what its outcome? That there was something wrong at the
foundation seems to be clear. And it was not so much the fact that
neither party married the first choice of the heart,--though it is true
that Jane Welsh loved with all the ardor of her nature Edward Irving
first, and that Carlyle undoubtedly would have married his first love,
the fair and amiable Margaret Gordon, the original of Blumine in "Sartor
Resartus," had not poverty prevented,--but rather was it their
unsuitability to each other. She was a lady, delicately reared, and with
a taste for society and the refinements of life; with a love for
admiration, too, and a wish to shine in her little sphere. He was a
peasant, coarsely bred, and scorning the amenities of life to which he
was unaccustomed,--scorning, too, the chivalric feeling with which
better bred men look upon women and treat their wives. He told her this,
bluntly and brutally, before marriage. They two were to be one, and he
that one. He had the peasant idea of being master, and to the end of his
days held fast to it. They were never, to his mind, equals, but he was
the chief and she the subject. This was what put her down
intellectually. In her youth she had literary tastes and ambitions, and
doubtless much ability; but after marriage we hear no more of that. Even
in the seven years at Craigenputtoch, when one would think that out of
sheer weariness and want of occupation she would have written or
studied, we hear nothing of any such attempts. Her married life seems to
have quenched all this utterly.

Then all the domestic drudgery, which to her seemed such a burden, and
appears to have afflicted her to the end of life, seemed to him to be
the natural and proper thing for a woman. He had all his life been
accustomed to see his mother and sisters at their tasks, naturally and
uncomplainingly, and he could never understand why all women should not
feel in the same way. Then he was fond of solitude, and looked upon a
visitor as an emissary of the devil; and he failed to see that a gay,
pleasure-loving, volatile, sparkling girl could not share his feelings.
So he shut her up remorselessly,--never dreaming that he was cruel. That
she was fond of admiration was nothing to him, though he was fond of it
himself in his own grim way; _he_ was the central figure of this
household, and if she was deprived of a natural enjoyment it seemed a
trifle to him. In short, their whole philosophy of life was different,
their characters unsuited to each other, and their tempers of the order
described as "difficult." It is not necessary to blame one or the other
entirely for what followed. He saw everything in one light, she in
another; what but disappointment and unrest could ensue?

Had she clung to her original determination not to marry him, would it
have been better? Doubtless, yet it is certain that she learned to love
him, even too much for her peace of mind; and it is foolish to picture
her, as some have done, as a loveless wife. Probably at marriage she was
not what is usually styled "in love" with him, but that she did love him
through life is not to be doubted. And that, spite of all his neglect
and harshness and selfishness, he truly loved her and was essentially
loyal to her is as little to be doubted. Whence then came the
unhappiness,--an unhappiness which, we think, has in some places been
greatly exaggerated? As we said before, from their different points of
view. Take, for instance, the hardships of Craigenputtoch. They seemed
nothing to him, brought up as he had been, but much to her, who from her
youth had been the petted darling of a handsome home. This terrible
place, which has been described as worse than a desert island, was a
large and recently renovated old manor-house standing in fields of its
own, only fifteen miles from where her mother lived, and twelve miles
from Dumfries. Everything had been made comfortable for them by her
mother, and in the farm-cottage near were his brother and sister, Jane
and Alexander Carlyle, who had three men and two women; and Mrs.
Carlyle herself always one servant. Much has been written of her
hardships here,--and they were very real hardships to her; but from his
point of view they did not seem so bad. She did some work, but one
cannot help thinking that with so many about her, if she habitually did
such drudgery as is represented, it was her own fault. There will come
domestic crises in all households, when the hands of the mistress must
take hold to save from chaos; but on the whole it would seem that she
was not so very great a martyr in this.

The lack of society was the real evil; and this Carlyle did not feel,
absorbed as he was in his mighty work, his brain burning with the great
thoughts to which he must give utterance. How could he appreciate the
vacuity of her life,--who had always had young and cheerful company
about her, and a mother to pity and cheer her smallest sorrow? It was
very pitiful that he could not see, but not so very strange. Many
another man would have been equally obtuse.

His sisters would not have minded it; he did not mind it, and it was not
given him to see that she minded it as much as she really did. For it is
certain that those seven years left marks upon her which she never
outgrew. They almost seem to have changed her very nature. Yet Carlyle
with his peasant nature did not see it, but wrote cheerfully upon a
time, "Jane is far heartier, now that she has got to work." A mistake,
says Froude: "Mrs. Carlyle had not strength for household work, and
doing it, she permanently broke down her health."

And again Carlyle writes, with a little more appreciation of the

     "Her life beside me, constantly writing here, is but a dull one;
     however, she seems to desire no other. . . . I tell her many times
     there is much for her to do, if she were trained for it,--her whole
     sex to deliver from the bondage of frivolity, dollhood, and
     imbecility, into the freedom of valor and womanhood."

Of the solitude which had nearly killed his wife, he after a time
wearied himself; and then he effected a change. One laughs to think of
the second moving, and wonders if it was as bad as the first, which he
thus described:--

     "In this mansion we have had a battle like that of Saint George and
     the dragon. Neither are we yet conquerors. Smoke, and wet, and
     chaos! May the good Lord keep all Christian men from moving."

If it seemed as bad as this to him, what did it seem to her, delicately
reared and hating the disagreeables of life? Still she did not complain,
but wrote to his mother about this time: "I could wish him a little less
yellow, and a little more peaceable; otherwise he is perfect." And she
soon learned, compelled to it possibly by dire necessity, to take upon
herself all of the practical and prosaic part of the management of their

It is painful, although it is also comical, to read of her domestic
battles and defeats. She put infinite wit and talent into her
descriptions of them in her letters to her friends, and the whole world
has read them with smiles and tears; but they were not light troubles to
her, as they would have been to many commonplace women. Probably upon a
majority of wives, even if they have not men of genius for husbands,
fall nearly as great a part of the domestic duties and cares as upon
Mrs. Carlyle; yet few consider this a great hardship, and the sympathies
of the world are not invoked in their behalf. It was not this so much in
Mrs. Carlyle's case as it was the moodiness and fault-finding and
general irascibility of the husband which aggravated everything, and
made little things seem great.

That her spirits were entirely gone and her whole vivacious nature
changed at the end of the Craigenputtoch period is proved by sentences
from her letters, To his mother she writes:--

     "It is my husband's worst fault with me that I will not or cannot
     speak. Often when he has talked to me for an hour without answer,
     he will beg for some sign of life on my part, and all that I can
     give him is a little kiss."

And she was a woman who loved to talk, and he the best and most
brilliant talker of his day. Surely, this is pitiful. But after they
went up to London this aspect of things was improved for her, and had it
not been that thereafter she suffered from constant ill-health she would
doubtless have been quite comfortable. But her health was bad, and in
the ignorance of the day the dosing was bad; and when we read of the
medicine which she took as she took her daily bread, we only wonder that
she lived to tell the tale. It speaks a great deal for her Scotch
constitution that she survived her remedies.

Carlyle was soon in the zenith of his fame, and the great men of the day
sat at his feet, figuratively speaking, and would literally have done so
had not his growl been so fierce that it kept them at bay. Of those who
did "beard the lion in his den, the Douglas in his hall," many were
immolated in his diary; and we see them, now that it has been published,
like so many flies with pins stuck through them, fastened to the paper.
Poor Charles Lamb stands there, bloodless, fleshless; but we think
scarcely the less of gentle Elia as we look upon him, but far less of
the cruel perpetrator of the atrocity. Leigh Hunt, too, has a pin quite
through his warm heart; and Stuart Mill, and many others. One wonders
sometimes if Froude himself escaped, or if he were there too, like a
giant bluebottle, desiccated as the rest; and was that the reason why he
did not suppress all the damaging letters and recollections, but
maliciously gave them to the world?

Mrs. Carlyle's pen could be dipped in acid also, as has been proved in
her comments upon the men and women of her time. These, to be sure, are
very brief and fragmentary, and it has been a source of much wonder
that, knowing intimately as she did many of the notable persons of her
time, she has not left behind in any single letter a valuable portrait
or even sketch of any of these great people. What priceless words of
Darwin she might have gathered up, which all the world would have
eagerly read; what characteristic anecdotes she could have told of
Tennyson,--what an insight she might have given into the man behind the
poet; what noble things she must have known of Stuart Mill; what
inimitable _facetiæ_ concerning the Hunts; what spirited stories she
could have told of Jeffrey; what a light she could have cast over dark
places in the life of Edward Irving! Why did she not do this, we wonder.
Did the dread of assassination hover over her? For Charles Buller,
Carlyle's friend, had just made his plea for the man who killed his wife
for keeping a diary: "What else could a poor fellow do with a wife who
kept a diary, but murder her?"

We cannot but regret that the sketches were not written. They would have
been immortal; for her power in this line has been unequalled by any one
who has written in these later days. As it is, she has, unconsciously to
herself, left a picture of the greatest of all the men she knew--Carlyle
himself--which can never be blotted out. The portrait is full-length,
full of Rembrandt-like light and shadow, and remorselessly faithful.
Painted not for the public eye, but sketched in a thousand little parts,
in matter-of-fact every-day letters to humble friends, with no remotest
thought that other eyes would ever see them,--it is this by which
Carlyle as a man will be known to all coming time. Not a hero, not a
monster, as some have claimed, but a faulty man, with the defects of his
qualities, described by a woman faulty like himself. A constitutional
growler, with a warm heart withal, and infinite capacities for
tenderness; selfish it may be, but inexorably just; cold to all the
outside world, but warm-hearted and generous and magnificently loyal to
his family, throughout all his distinguished career. No trace of
snobbery or false shame in him. Not liking the reformers of his own day,
but almost deifying the reformers of the past, and himself making it his
mission, from earliest youth to hoary age, to reform the world in his
own particular Carlylean way; fiercely assailing much that passed for
religion, but being always deeply and truly religious at heart. What a
vast contradictory Titan he seems in it all! If a lovely wind-flower,
fresh and fragrant as the breath of morning, was crushed in the arms of
this god of thunder, what shall we say? Shall we reject the god of
thunder, who gave us the "Heroes," and the "Cromwell," and the
"Frederick," and wish that he might have been a gentle poet singing to a
lute; or shall we thank God for him, even as he was, though we give a
tear to the wind-flower?




The times of Napoleon and the First Empire seem to be more than a
lifetime away from us; and yet it was in that day that Victor Hugo lived
as a child in the old convent of the Feuillantines so graphically
described in "Les Misérables." Here he and his two brothers lived with
their mother in the strictest seclusion, while the father, General Hugo,
a soldier of the Empire, was off with the Grand Army at some distant
point, either in garrison or in the field. The child, who was afterwards
to hold Napoleon the Little up to the execration of the world, felt his
earliest emotions of patriotism stirred by the glorious conquests of
Napoleon the Great. General Hugo was one of the most gallant soldiers of
the day, and placed in many positions of trust and of responsibility, as
well as of danger, by Napoleon. He it was who conducted the terrible
retreat from Spain just before the fall of Napoleon. His soldiers were
the only protection to the lives of twenty thousand French fugitives,
who were fleeing from Madrid wild with terror; for the pursuing
Spaniards would not have hesitated to massacre the helpless multitude,
had they found it in their power to do so. From every bush projected the
muzzle of a gun, charged with the death of an invader; every pass
concealed an ambush; every height bristled with guns in the hands of the
patriots. But General Hugo conducted the fugitives through in safety,
and proceeded to take command of the fortress at Thionville, soon to be

He defended this outpost of the Empire with great gallantry, and it was
the last citadel over which the tri-color waved. But at last General
Hugo was forced to surrender it to the Allies, and the star of Napoleon
had set forever. Madame Hugo had been a royalist always, although she
had not been allowed to influence the minds of the children in that
direction; but after the fall of the Emperor she openly proclaimed her
sympathy with the Bourbons, and was so demonstrative in her enthusiasm
that it led to a complete estrangement between herself and her husband.
Victor as a boy sided with his mother, and was royalist to the core; but
as soon as he became a man he gravitated at once to his father's side.
The years which he passed with his mother and brothers, and the priest
who was their tutor, in the old garden of the Feuillantines, were as
peaceful and happy as the years of childhood should always be. It was in
an almost deserted quarter of Paris, and the grounds were spacious,
being the remains of a park once attached to the convent. They were,
however, neglected; and everything had run wild here, until it seemed to
the city children almost like a forest. A ruined chapel was in this
wood, which always excited the imagination of the boys, who were
thoughtful and fanciful beyond their years. Beautiful horse-chestnut
trees cast their shadows round this ruin, and were the home of
innumerable birds who nested there. Upon the walls among the cankered
and unnailed espaliers were niches for Madonnas and fragments of
crucifixes; and vines hung there in ragged festoons to the ground.
Through these dismantled cloisters and spacious abbey-chambers the
imagination of the boys ran riot, and it cast a sort of poetic glamour
over their young and solitary lives.

To this secluded place came, at one period of Victor's childhood,
General Lahorie, his godfather, hiding from the authorities, who had set
a price upon his head; and here he was securely hidden by Madame Hugo
for two years, as Victor Hugo afterwards pictured Jean Valjean as being
concealed there by the old gardener. Lahorie was implicated in Moreau's
plot against Napoleon, and was being diligently sought after by the
police all the time he occupied the ruined chapel in the old
convent-garden. His camp bed was under the shelter of the altar; in a
corner were his pistols; and although the rain and snow came in through
the dilapidated windows, he bivouacked here in winter as well as summer.
The children never knew who he was; he was called simply "the General,"
and was much loved by the boys, to whom he talked much of their country
and of liberty. After a time, under the promise of pardon if he came
forward to receive it, he was betrayed into giving himself up; was
arrested at once, cast into prison, and afterward shot,--one of the most
infamous of the acts of Napoleon, noted throughout his whole career for
treachery and insatiable bloodthirstiness.

This devilish betrayal of his early friend did not fail to impress the
mind of such a boy as Victor Hugo, and to add to his natural hatred of
tyrants and their deeds. It was perhaps the most lasting and impressive
lesson that he ever learned, and the world has seen its results in his
life. Throughout all the varied years of a long and eventful career, it
was ever at the shrine of liberty that he paid his devotions, ever her
praises that he sung in his loftiest verse, ever for her that he struck
the strongest blows of which his arm was capable.

Almost solitary as were the lives of the children under Madame Hugo's
watchful eyes, the one visitor who was admitted to their companionship
was welcomed with more than the accustomed warmth of children. This was
a little girl named Adèle Foucher (about thirteen or fourteen years old
when she first visited them), who used occasionally to spend the day
with the boys in the garden. Victor soon felt for her the most tender
and chivalric regard. He has himself described it once and again, the
first time in the story of Pepita, in "Le Dernier Jour d'un Condamné,"
where "he sees her in all her charms, just fourteen years of age, with
large lustrous eyes and luxuriant hair, with rich golden-brown skin and
crimson lips; he dwells on the proud emotion which he felt as she leaned
upon his arm; he recounts how they wandered, talking softly, along the
shaded walks; he tells how he picked up for her the handkerchief she had
dropped, and was conscious of her hands trembling as they touched his
own. And he recollects how they talked about the birds, the stars, and
the golden sunset,--sometimes, too, about her school-fellows, her
dresses, and her ribbons; they blushed together over the most innocent
of thoughts." Again, in "Les Misérables," Victor Hugo reverts to the
scenes of his youth, and to his child-love.

"Marius" is but a free variation of himself; the circumstances are
changed, but the character is the same, and the garden scenes between
Marius and Cosette are but faint reproductions of passages in the
courtship of the poet and Mlle. Foucher. Victor had begun to write
poetry by this time, and some of his earlier efforts had attracted
considerable attention. His whole ambition lay in this direction. We are
told by his biographer that--

     "his greatest pleasure was to accompany his mother to M. Foucher's
     house, and there spend long evenings in unspoken admiration of the
     maiden to whom his whole heart was devoted. It was not long before
     these admiring glances were noticed by the parents, to whom the
     danger of encouraging such a passion was apparent, as both the
     young people were of an age when marriage was out of the question.
     By mutual consent the two families broke off their intimacy for a
     time. Victor Hugo found expression for his grief at the separation,
     in a poem that is full of sad and gentle dignity. . . . In spite of
     apparent resignation, the obstacles placed in the way of his
     passion only increased its intensity, and absence, instead of
     extinguishing his love, served only to increase it. His fevered
     imagination devised a thousand means by which he might catch a
     glimpse of one without whom he felt it impossible to exist.
     Numberless are the stratagems he contrived, and incredible the
     ingenuity with which they were executed; the freshness of his
     romance was itself an exquisite idyl. . . . Victor never despaired;
     but in the midst of his anticipations he was overwhelmed by a
     terrible blow."

Madame Hugo died very suddenly in the summer of 1821, and the grief of
her son was deep and lasting. He could no longer remain away from the
one being he felt could afford him comfort, and he went boldly to the
house of M. Foucher and declared his love for Mlle. Adéle, asking of her
parents her hand in marriage. Although both were so young, and they had
as yet no means of living, the parents did not deny the suit, only
stipulating that there should be no present thought of marriage. Victor
was very poor at this time, his allowance from his father having been
withdrawn, and he having no settled employment; so the lovers were
unwillingly forced to accept these terms. They were very happy at this
time, despite his privations, which were very real, and hard for one
brought up in comfort, as he had been, to endure. For a whole year he
lived on seven hundred francs, which he earned by his pen, cooking his
own meals in his humble lodgings, and finding them sometimes scanty and
unsatisfactory. He tells us he had but three shirts at this time, and
sometimes found it difficult to be as neat as he desired. It was not
long, however, before the verses of the young poet attracted the
attention of the king, who bestowed a pension upon him of one thousand
francs, from his private purse. This enabled the poet to consummate his
marriage with Mlle. Foucher, which was done in October, 1822. The
bridegroom, whose fortune consisted of eight hundred francs, presented
his bride with a wedding dress of French cashmere. The brightness of the
occasion was destroyed by a sudden attack of insanity which overtook
Victor's brother Eugene,--an attack from which he never recovered.
Victor now began in earnest his literary work, and soon published his
first novel, "Han d'Islande," which is said to bear a marked resemblance
to the works of Walter Scott. He soon followed this with his plays,
"Marion Delorme" and "Hernani," the former of which was soon prohibited
by the Government.

The first representation of "Hernani" was an event long remembered in
Paris. It was supposed that the classical school would receive the new
drama with little favor, and would perhaps drive it from the stage; so
the friends of the new movement in literature determined to organize for
its defence; and as Victor Hugo had decided against having the usual
paid _claquers_, they determined to form themselves into such a body and
carry the play through at all hazards. Fired with zeal, all the young
_litterateurs_ of the day organized in companies, each under a captain
of its own, and at an early hour in the afternoon of the day set for the
performance, appeared before the theatre. Among those selected as
captains was Théophile Gautier, then but nineteen years old. He
determined to appear in a dress worthy of the occasion, and demanded
such a costume of his tailor as that worthy man had never before
prepared for a human being,--not even a poet. The waistcoat was of
scarlet satin, and, according to Gautier's directions, it was made to
open behind. The trousers were of a pale-green tint, with a stripe of
black velvet down the seams, a black coat with broad velvet facings, and
a voluminous gray overcoat turned up with green satin. A piece of
watered ribbon did duty both for collar and neck-tie. With his long hair
streaming down his back, and in this remarkable costume, Gautier must
certainly have presented a picturesque appearance. Many other of the
"Hernani" partisans appeared in costumes quite as eccentric. The
passers-by stopped and stared at them in astonishment. Some of them wore
soft felt hats, some appeared in coats of velvet or satin, frogged,
broidered, or trimmed with fur; others were enveloped in Spanish cloaks,
and the array of caps was quite miraculous. Most of them wore prodigious
beards and long hair, at a time when every well-regulated citizen was
closely cropped and shaven. They waited more than six hours in the
street, and the moment the doors were opened rushed in and took
possession of the theatre. They had brought their lunches; and eggs,
sausages, and bottles of wine were consumed in the seats of the theatre
where the fine ladies usually sat. The evening was tumultuous in the
extreme; but whenever the classics hissed, the disciples of Romanticism
not only cheered, but rose to their feet and howled. When the groans of
the Philistines became unbearable, the enthusiasts of the pit would
drown them by shouting "To the guillotine with the sycophants." But
though the evening was a continual uproar, no doubt was entertained at
its close that the victory was with the Romanticists; and at the
conclusion of the performance the name of the author was proclaimed as
that of a victorious general, and the shouts of acclamation overwhelmed
the storm of hisses. Victor Hugo was the great star of the French
capital from that day.

Meanwhile, all was happiness in the poet's household. The wife of his
youthful dreams presided with tact and grace over his home and her dark
Spanish beauty was much admired by the crowds of youthful friends who
now began to frequent the house. This type of beauty appears almost as
constantly in Victor Hugo's books as the head of La Fornarina did in the
pictures of Raphael. He seems constantly to seek to immortalize her whom
he had chosen for his own. Madame Hugo's picture was painted for the
_Salon_ by their friend M. Louis Boulanger, and was thus described at
the time:--

     "A full, well-developed bust, white arms of perfect form; a pair of
     plump, delicate hands that a queen might envy; the hips high, and
     setting off a figure that was faultless in its contour and

She performed her duties as hostess with infinite grace, and her _salon_
was filled with celebrities like Lamartine, who would write verses in
her album, and with women like Madame de Girardin. The house was always
filled with visitors, attracted by the fascinations of the hostess as
much as by the joyousness of the poet. As Victor Hugo's fame increased,
we are told that--

     "the calm serenity of his early years of married life was somewhat
     disturbed by the cares and anxieties that glory brings; but at the
     time of his residence in the Place Royale, of which we have been
     speaking, there was great happiness in the household, with the
     young and beautiful children."

The beautiful Madame Drouet, then an actress upon the Parisian stage,
was said to have come between the poet and his wife at a later day; and
it is certain that she shared his banishment, assisting him much in his
literary labor, and finally, after the death of the poet's wife, came to
preside over his home in the last days, cherishing her love for him to
the very close of his life. She is said to have been very beautiful,
even in old age, when her hair, Alphonse Daudet tells us, was as white
as swan's-down.

It is not our purpose to deal with the public life of Victor Hugo, and
we pass over all that occurred up to the time of the exile, after the
_coup d'état_ of Louis Napoleon. The historian tells us that--

     "Victor Hugo had asked the Assembly whether, having had a Napoleon
     the Great, they were now to have a Napoleon the Little; he had
     inquired of the Royalists how it was that they entered into such
     strange fellowship with the Empire, pointing out significantly how
     the Imperialists who had murdered the Duc D'Enghien, and the
     Legitimatists who had shot Murat, were now grasping each other's
     blood-stained hands. From the tribune he had proclaimed that the
     Republic is invincible, and that in France it would prove itself
     indestructible, as being identical on the one hand with the age, on
     the other with the people. In lofty language, alike prophetic of
     the future and condemnatory of the present, he had poured out his
     indignation in the ears of the nation. The result of all this was
     that Bonaparte wrote his name at the head of the list of the

Feeling that if he remained in Paris his life would be sacrificed to no
purpose, he endeavored to get away from the city. This was no easy
matter to accomplish, and had it not been for the active and skilful
assistance of Madame Drouet, he would doubtless have been imprisoned,
with his many friends, who crowded all the jails of Paris. A price was
set upon his head; twenty-five thousand francs was offered to any one
who would either kill or arrest him, and there were many assassins
lurking about in waiting for him. Madame Drouet took him in a _fiacre_,
and secretly started out to seek for him a refuge. She thought she had
friends who would shelter him, as Madame Hugo had sheltered Lahorie
during the troublous times of the first Empire. She applied to friend
after friend in vain. She wept, she implored, she tried to bribe,--in
vain. The citizens were too much intimidated to dare shelter one of the
proscribed,--even Victor Hugo, perhaps the most honored man in the
nation. Madame Drouet, however, would not yield to despair, but pursued
her way with undaunted determination. The drive was terrible,--past
ruined barricades and pointed cannon, through bloody patrols, and among
the police so thoroughly accustomed to the hunting of men. They passed
more than one Javert in that fearful ride; and when Victor Hugo
afterwards described the sensations of a man pursued like Jean Valjean,
he did not have to draw very strongly upon his imagination. The horrible
feeling of doubt and distrust, and the cold thrills of dread at every
change of circumstance, were well known to his own soul. Madame Drouet's
perseverance was at last rewarded by finding a temporary retreat for her
charge under the roof of a distant relative of the poet, where he
remained five days, filled with the most harrowing anxiety for the
friends whom he was endangering, as well as for himself. His two sons
were already in prison, and fears for their safety were added to his
other burdens. But he escaped at last, in disguise, and fled to
Brussels, now filled with French exiles. He managed to communicate with
his wife, but his sons in their prison-cells could only conjecture as to
his fate. But they heard the roar of cannon and the rattle of musketry
outside the walls, and knew that the prison was overflowing with
victims; and they feared the worst. Madame Hugo soon joined her husband
in Brussels, and he immediately set to work to write "L'Histoire d'un
Crime," and completed it in five months. With the power of a Tacitus he
describes the scenes of the great historical drama he has taken part in,
and with the pen of a Juvenal lashes the betrayers of the Republic. The
book was not published till 1877, but it will tell the story of a
shameful epoch in French history to the remotest time. He was not
allowed to enjoy his refuge in Brussels long; almost as soon as he had
printed his "Napoleon the Little," which book he wrote after completing
the "History of a Crime," he was requested by the Belgian government to
leave the country.

He repaired to the Island of Jersey, where he was joined by his sons
upon their release, and by quite a party of friends. He took a small
house known as Marine Terrace, on the sea-shore, and there set up his
household gods once more. The house was only one story high, but it had
a balcony, a terrace, and a garden; and it overlooked the sea, which
seemed more than all to Victor Hugo. His income was now but seven
thousand francs, and he had nine persons to provide for. No more money
could be expected from France, and probably no more from literature, at
present. But his busy pen kept at its work, trusting to the future; and
the time passed not altogether unpleasantly to the little body of
exiles. Jersey is of itself delightful, and the poet found great
pleasure in its climate, its scenery, and its luxuriant vegetation. But
Napoleon did not at all enjoy the proximity of his great enemy, and soon
took measures to drive him from his retreat. Hearing of the new move
against him, Victor Hugo took occasion to defy Napoleon, and to "warn
him that whether it be from France, from Belgium, from England, or from
America, my voice shall never cease to declare that sooner or later he
will have to expiate the crime of the 2d of December. What is said is
true: there is a _personal quarrel_ between him and me; there is the old
quarrel of the judge upon the bench and the prisoner at the bar." They
were ordered to quit the Island of Jersey, and were treated to some
scenes of violence before departing, which they did with considerable
regret, having found life in that favored region comfortable, if not
inspiring. They received a warm welcome at Guernsey, whither they
retreated, and soon made a new home on that hospitable shore. A large
and convenient residence, known as Hauteville House, situated on the top
of a cliff, was rented and repaired, and served as a home for the poet
and his friends during all the remaining years of his exile, which were
destined to be many. Victor Hugo changed and beautified the house
according to his own ideas, doing much of the work with his own hands;
and the result is something eminently characteristic of the man.

On the third story is the study, a kind of belvedere, with its sides and
roof composed of glass. In this study, which overlooked the little town
of St. Sampson and its picturesque promontory, the poet did his work.
Here he finished "Les Misérables," which had been begun in the Place
Royale; here was produced the magnificent essay on Shakspeare; and here
he worked almost literally from morning until night. The house became a
refuge for exiles from many lands, and a chamber, still known as
"Garibaldi's room," was fitted up expressly for that hero, under the
expectation that he would accept the invitation of Victor Hugo to share
his home, at a time when his fortunes were at their lowest ebb. Many
literary men were here at different times, generously cared for by the
host, who called the retreat "the raft of Medusa." There were many pets
also, especially dogs, as Victor Hugo almost shared the sentiment of
Madame de Staël concerning these animals, "The more I know men, the
better I love dogs."

The wonderful success of "Les Misérables," when it was published in
1862, called the attention of the whole world to the illustrious exile
on the sea-girt isle, and after that time he was overwhelmed with
visitors from all parts of the earth, anxious to see one who had come to
be looked upon as the greatest man of his time. The success of the book
was unprecedented, the sales were enormous, and the enthusiasm of
readers and critics almost without a parallel.

Madame Hugo died in 1868, and it was always a great grief to her husband
that she could not have lived to share his return to his native land,
which took place after the downfall of Louis Napoleon in 1870. After
nineteen years of exile, he returned to his country only to find it in
the hands of the Prussians first, and of the Commune afterward. One of
his companions on that eventful journey thus describes the feelings of
the returned exile:--

     "Making good their retreat from Mézières, on their way to Paris,
     the remnant of Vinoy's corps, poor, harassed creatures, covered
     with dust and discolored with powder, pale with exertion and
     discouragement, were lying all along the road. Close behind them
     were the Uhlans. There was no alternative for them but flight, if
     they would escape the disaster that had befallen the army at Sedan.
     Defeat was written in their faces, demoralization was evident in
     their attitude, they were dejected and dirty, they were like
     pebbles driven along by a hurricane. But what of that? Anyhow, they
     were soldiers of France; their uniform proclaimed their
     nationality: they wore the blue tunic and the red trousers,--but
     what was of infinitely more consequence, they were carrying their
     colors back with them. Their defeat did not prevent them bringing
     back the tri-color safe and sound.

     "Great tears rolled from Victor Hugo's eyes. He leaned from the
     carriage-window, and with a voice thrilling in its earnestness, he
     kept shouting: 'Vive la France, vive l'armée, vive la patrie!'
     Exhausted as they were with hunger and fatigue, the bewildered
     soldiers looked up. They scarcely comprehended what he said, but he
     continued his shouting, and it was almost like an order of quick
     march to them all, when they made out that they were being assured
     that they had done their duty, and that it was by no fault of
     theirs that they had sustained defeat.

     "And so the train went on. The tears still lost themselves in
     Victor Hugo's snowy beard. He had lived in the proud illusion that
     France was invincible; he was a soldier's son, and could not
     conceive that the soldiers of his country were not pledged to

It was ten o'clock when the train reached Paris, but a great crowd which
had been gathering for hours was there to receive him. With continued
acclamations they bore him to the house of his friend Paul Meurice,
where he was to stay, and called upon him continually for a speech. He
said a few words to the crowd, at the station and at the house, but
gladly sought the seclusion of his new home, being completely overcome
with emotion. This was at the beginning of the investment of the city by
the Prussian troops, and he witnessed the whole of the siege of Paris,
and endured its privations with the people. He also witnessed the
terrible deeds of the Communists, but--sympathizing, as he always had
done, with the poor and the downtrodden--only to condemn them with the
utmost vehemence of his nature. Still, he desired their pardon when all
was over, feeling for the ignorance which had caused their misguided
zeal. About this time his son Charles died very suddenly, which was a
great blow to him, and he began to feel that all things were falling
away from him.

The death of his youngest son, François, in 1873, removed the last prop
of his age, and only two young grandchildren remained of all who had
composed his beloved family. The mother of these children, and her
second husband, however, were very much loved by the old poet, and
watched very tenderly over his declining years. The children were a
source of constant interest and pleasure to him, and have become well
known to the world through his work upon "The Art of being a
Grandfather." Of the honors which were showered upon him from every side
in his closing years, it is useless to write. All are familiar with
them, as with the magnificent demonstrations after his death. It is safe
to say that few men have been so honored while living, or held in such
sacred remembrance after death.




Upon no woman of the century has the public fixed its eye with a more
eager interest and curiosity than upon Aurore Dudevant, known to the
world as George Sand.

The utmost heights of panegyric and adulation have been scaled in
describing her and her work; also the lowest depths of denunciation and
of calumny. Her admirers describe her as being not only the greatest
genius of her time, which perhaps few will dispute, but as being the
most magnificent and adorable of women as well; while her detractors can
find no language in which to express the depths of their loathing both
for her life and some of her works. As usual, a just estimate of such a
character as this will be found between the two extremes. She was
neither a monster nor a saint, but a woman of magnificent qualities and
of defects upon a corresponding scale. As with her life, so with her
works. Some are undoubtedly pernicious to an alarming degree, while the
influence of others cannot by any stretch of imagination be called bad.
The two kinds may perhaps be divided under the head of earlier and later
works. When the tumultuous feelings and wild visions of youth were
calmed by age, a new kind of literary product came forth. And her life
in its latter years was as quiet as her books, and ran as little against
the traditions and usages of mankind.

George Sand was born in 1804, and descended from Marshal Saxe, the
natural son of the King of Poland. This Marshal Saxe was one of the
bravest but most licentious men of his time,--a time not noted for its
domestic virtues. She was brought up in the country until fifteen years
of age, in the midst of the elegancies of an aristocratic home. But her
unbounded vitality called loudly for an out-of-door life, and she lived
the life of a boy, never wearying of its rude sports, and enjoying its
sometimes dangerous excitements. At the close of her fifteenth year she
was taken to the Augustine Convent in Paris, where she remained for
three years, and where she passed through a very intense religious
experience and came near becoming a nun. It is a curious piece of
speculation to try to imagine what her life as a nun would have been,
had this design been carried out. Would the prayers and litanies, the
penances and the fasts, have tamed her wild blood? Would her nature have
still asserted itself under the cap of the sister? would she have led a
revolt against authority within the church as she did without? Are there
any such fierce, tumultuous natures as hers to-day kneeling on stony
cloister floors? Can matins and vespers, the odors of incense, and the
sacred ceremonial of the church fill up for an ardent nature all that
the service of the world supplies? We shall never know; for the real
history of a faithful daughter of the church will never be written. The
story of the three years of George Sand's convent life is very charming,
full of variety and sincerity, and matchless in point of style; but it
is a fragment.

She came out of the convent a young woman knowing absolutely nothing of
real life. The object of all who have charge of young girls in France is
to keep them in perfect ignorance of the world. The safety that lies in
knowledge is utterly forbidden to them. They are supposed to be
children, and are watched over as such until a marriage can be arranged.
And this marriage, whatever it may be, is usually accepted by the girl
as an escape from a sort of slavery. She is always told that she may
only do the things she desires to do after marriage. And it is very
unusual for any girl to object to the wishes of her friends in this
matter. The whole system of marriage in France is so utterly abominable
that no other civilized land would tolerate it; and this sacrifice of
the young and ignorant is only one of its diabolical features. Aurore
Dudevant did not seem to object more than the rest. She was married, and
lived for eight years with her husband, becoming the mother of two

She then left him and her estate of Nohant, and went up to Paris, taking
her two children with her. She sacrificed her personal fortune--which
was considerable--in doing so, and was obliged to earn her own living.
She tried various things in the artistic line before she essayed the
writing of books. At last with one grand bound she leaped before the
world in "Indiana." Of course she had written some things of small value
before this, but that wonderful book was really her introduction to the
world. And it brought the whole literary world to her feet. Thereafter
her friends were the first men of France. De Lamennais, Pierre Leroux,
Michel, Alfred de Musset, Chopin, Liszt, Delacroix, Béranger,
Sainte-Beuve, Gustave Planche, Mazzini, were her friends, her intimates,
or her lovers.

Alfred de Musset was the first who found favor with her heart, it
appears; and they were inseparably associated for about three years.
This brilliant young poet, so sceptical, so sad, so audacious, so
dissolute, was the first of this famous coterie of men to become madly
infatuated with George Sand,--but far from the last. It is asserted that
each in turn, and many more besides, were the victims of her luring
wiles. For many years the wildest stories were afloat concerning her and
her enchantments. And the fact that two or three of her most ardent
worshippers ended their lives for her sake only added to the interest
and the horror with which the world of respectability and morality
looked upon this strange woman. She had broken once for all with the
world of conventionality, and was free to follow whatever inclination
seized upon her, unrestrained by aught but conscience,--for we are far
from thinking that she ever parted permanently with that disagreeable
but useful monitor.

So she lived out her brief romance with De Musset, and, apparently
unmindful of his tragic end, entered upon a new epoch of her life with
that most remarkable modern musical genius, Chopin.

Poor Alfred de Musset has had the sympathy of all classes and conditions
of men, apparently, from that day to this. She tried to vindicate
herself in the affair by publishing a book entitled "Elle et Lui,"
"wherein she depicted the sufferings of an angelic woman, all
tenderness, love, and patience, whose fate was joined to that of a man
all egotism, selfishness, sensuousness, and eccentricity." How grandly
the woman suffered, and how wantonly the man flung happiness away, is
told with all the impassioned fervor of George Sand in her early
writings. The taste of the whole proceeding was revoltingly low, and no
more than matched by that of the rejoinder, which was made in a book
called "Lui et Elle," written by Paul de Musset after his brother's
death. In this book the picture is reversed: "a hideous woman is
portrayed, utterly selfish, dissolute, heartless; and her lover, who is
easily recognized as Musset himself, is described as having almost all
of the heroic virtues." Both books were thoroughly French,--thoroughly

Chopin at first feared Madame Sand very much, and refused to be
presented to her; but as she persisted in her desire to make the
acquaintance of so fine and delicate a genius, they at last met, and the
fate of poor Chopin was at once sealed. He was consumed from the very
first by an absorbing passion, to which no other name but morbid
infatuation could be applied. Madame Sand herself describes it in
"Lucrezia Floriani" thus:--

     "For it seemed as if this fragile being was absorbed and consumed
     by his affection. . . . Others seek happiness in their attachments;
     when they no longer find it, the attachment gently vanishes. But he
     loved for the sake of loving. No amount of suffering was sufficient
     to discourage him. He could enter upon a new phase, that of woe;
     but the phase of coldness he could never arrive at. It would have
     been indeed a phase of physical agony,--for his love was his life,
     and, delicious or bitter, he had not the power of withdrawing
     himself a single moment from its domination."

Chopin, suffering from severe sickness, was ordered to a warmer climate;
and in the fall of 1837 Madame Sand accompanied him to the Island of
Majorca, where she nursed him back to life, although his friends at the
time of his departure never thought to see him again, and although he
was dangerously ill for a long time after their arrival. This solitude,
surrounded by the blue waves of the Mediterranean, and shaded by groves
of orange, seemed fitted by its exceeding loveliness for the ardent vows
of youthful lovers, still believing in their naïve and sweet illusions,
sighing for happiness in some desert isle. In this case it was the
refuge of those who had grown weary and disenchanted with life, but who
hoped in deep devotion to each other to find some solace for their
sadness. The memory of those days, like the remembrance of an entrancing
ecstasy which Fate grants but once in a lifetime to her most favored
children, always remained dear to the heart of Chopin. When he was
restored to health they returned to Paris, where their friendship was
continued for about eight years. She then severed her connection with
him. Liszt asks in regard to this, in his life of Chopin:--

     "Has genius ever attained that utter self-abnegation, that sublime
     humility of heart which gives the power to make those strange
     sacrifices of the entire Past, of the whole Future; those
     immolations as courageous as mysterious; those mystic and utter
     holocausts of self, not temporary and changing, but monotonous and
     constant,--through whose might alone tenderness may justly claim
     the higher word devotion? Has not the force of genius its own
     exclusive and legitimate exactions, and does not the force of woman
     consist in the abdication of all exactions? Can the purple and
     burning flames of genius ever float over the immaculate azure of a
     woman's destiny?"

Liszt also tells us that--

     "Chopin spoke frequently and almost by preference of Madame Sand,
     without bitterness or recrimination. Tears always filled his eyes
     when he named her; but with a kind of bitter sweetness he gave
     himself up to the memories of past days, alas, now stripped of
     their manifold significance. . . . All attempts to fix his
     attention upon other objects were made in vain; he refused to be
     comforted, and would constantly speak of the one engrossing
     subject. . . . He was another great and illustrious victim to the
     transitory attachments occurring between persons of different
     character, who, experiencing a surprise full of delight in their
     first sudden meeting, mistake it for a durable feeling, and build
     hopes and illusions upon it which can never be realized. It is
     always the nature the most deeply moved, the most absolute in its
     hopes and attachments, for which all transplantation is impossible,
     which is destroyed and ruined in the painful awakening from the
     absorbing dream. . . . Chopin felt, and often repeated, that the
     sundering of this long friendship, the rupture of this strong tie,
     broke all the cords which bound him to life."

Her friends say, upon her part, that he was a morbid, dreary invalid,
jealous beyond endurance, and that she suffered much at his hands, and
separated from him only when she could endure his exactions no longer.
He did not long survive the sundering of their relations, and died in
Paris in 1849, very deeply deplored by all admirers of his genius.
Chopin was a wonderfully gifted and very remarkable man, exceedingly
reserved, and with little of the egotism of genius. His eyes were blue
and dreamy, his smile very sweet, his complexion very fair and delicate,
his hair light in color, soft and silky, his nose slightly aquiline. His
bearing was so distinguished, and his manners stamped with so much high
breeding, that involuntarily he was always treated _en prince_. His
gestures were many and graceful, yet he was on the whole serene in his
bearing, and generally gay in company, though subject to moods of deep
melancholy. He was passionately devoted to Poland all his life, and when
he was dying requested the Countess Potocka to sing to him the melodies
of his country. He was deeply religious in nature, a devout Catholic.

It was during the years of which we have been speaking that George Sand
produced her most famous works. "Indiana" was followed by "Valentine,"
"Lelia," and "Lettres d'un Voyageur." Others followed in quick
succession, many of them dealing with the subject of marriage in such a
manner as to raise a most violent storm about her head. People who had
never read these books described them as being of revolting indecency;
and that impression prevails in many quarters even yet. In point of
fact, she is no more open to the charge of indelicacy than any prominent
English novelist of the day. The opinions are bad enough many times, but
the style is always pure and perfect. This is the answer she herself
made to her critics:--

     "I was astounded when a few Saint Simonians, conscientious and
     sincere philanthropists, estimable and sincere seekers of truth,
     asked me what I would put in the place of husbands. I answered them
     naïvely that it was marriage; in the same way as in the place of
     priests who have so much compromised religion, I believe it is
     religion which ought to be put. . . . That _love_ which I erect and
     crown over the ruins of the infamous, is my Utopia, my dream, my
     poetry. That love is grand, noble, beautiful, voluntary, eternal;
     but that love is marriage such as Jesus made it, such as Saint Paul
     explained it. This I ask of society as an innovation, as an
     institution lost in the night of ages, which it would be opportune
     to revive, to draw from the dust of æons, and the shrine of habits,
     if it wishes to see real conjugal fidelity, real repose, and the
     real sanctity of the family, replace the species of shameful
     contract and stupid despotism bred by the infamous decrepitude of
     the world."

It must always be remembered that she wrote of French marriages, in
which there is no pretence of having love to start with; and if we
remember this, her language can scarcely be considered too strong. The
system is utterly vile, and her hatred of it an honor to her in every
sense. Had she done nothing worse than to protest against this form of
marriage few would condemn her; her condemnation comes rather from the
life she felt it consistent with her theories to live for many years.

What the world said was: "The welfare of the human family demands that a
marriage legally made shall never be questioned or undone. Marriage is
not a union depending on love, or congeniality, or any such condition.
It is just as sacred when made for money, or for ambition, or for lust
of the flesh, or for any other purpose, however ignoble or base, as when
contracted in the spirit of the purest mutual love." Against all this,
George Sand, both with pen and life, protested. She contended that it
was love alone which made marriage anything but a disgusting sin. We
have heard much of this in these latter days, even in our own country,
but it was George Sand who first struck the keynote; the doctrine is
essentially hers in all its parts. That she denounced the whole system
of marriages of convenience, is an honor to her; that she proclaimed
love as the only true foundation for marriage, is equally an honor; but
that she assailed the institution of legal marriage as a whole, and
overleaped its bounds and became a law to herself in the matter, is her
weakness and her shame. It is frequently denied that she did this. It is
said that she did not assail the institution of marriage, but only the
things that are perpetrated in its name.

     "But all the same [as another has well said], her eloquent
     expositions of ill-assorted unions, her daring appeals from the
     obligations they impose to the affections they outrage, her
     assertion of the rights of nature over the conventions of society,
     have the final effect of justifying the violation of duty on the
     precarious ground of passion and inclination.

     "Nobody who knows what the actual life of George Sand has been can
     doubt for a moment the true nature of her opinions on the subject
     of marriage. It is not a pleasant subject to touch, and we should
     shrink from it if it were not as notorious as everything else by
     which she has become famous in her time. It forms in reality as
     much a part of the philosophy she desires to impress upon the world
     as the books through which she has expanded her theory. It is
     neither more nor less than her theory of freedom and independence
     in the matter of passion (we dare not dignify it by any higher
     name) put into action,--rather vagrant action, we fear, but on that
     account all the more decisive."

Society and she were naturally at war from the beginning of her career;
and she suffered from it, though she dealt many bitter blows at it even
while she suffered. "What has it done," she says in one place,--

     "what has it done for our moral education, and what is it doing for
     our children, this society shielded with such care? Nothing. Those
     whom it calls vain complainers, and rebels, and madmen, may reply:
     Suffer us to bewail our martyrs, poets without a country that we
     are, forlorn singers well versed in the causes of their misery and
     of our own. You do not comprehend the malady which killed them;
     they themselves did not comprehend it. If one or two of us at the
     present day open our eyes to a new light, is it not by a strange
     and unaccountable good Providence? and have we not to seek our
     grain of faith in storm and darkness, combated by doubt, irony, the
     absence of all sympathy, all example, all brotherly aid, all
     protection and countenance in high places? Try yourselves to speak
     to your brethren heart to heart, conscience to conscience! Try it!
     but you cannot, busied as you are with watching and patching up in
     all directions your dykes which the flood is invading: the material
     existence of this society of yours absorbs all your cares, and
     requires more than all your efforts. Meanwhile the powers of human
     thought are growing into strength and rise on all sides around you.
     Among these threatening apparitions there are some which fade away
     and re-enter the darkness, because the hour of life has not yet
     struck, and the fiery spirit which quickened them could strive no
     longer with the horrors of the present chaos; but there are others
     that can wait, and you will find them confronting you, up and
     alive, to say, 'You have allowed the death of our brethren, and we,
     we do not mean to die.'"

But she rises after a while out of her depths of passionate contention
with a world out of joint, with the reign of stupidity and the tyranny
of convention, into serener heights; and in her later books she gives us
exquisite pictures of nature, with which she has the closest sympathy;
lovely stories of rural life and gentle tales of perfectly pure love.
Her passionate resentment against the world has worn itself out, and she
is calmer, wiser now. Her daughter, too, Solange, has grown to be a
woman and has a lover of her own, and the household thoughts and cares,
and the tenderness of a serious and unselfish cast which creep into a
mother's heart upon such occasions, shed their sweetness upon this
wayward soul, and inspire it with congenial utterances. Now she looks
back and says:--

     "My poor children, my own flesh and blood, will perhaps turn upon
     me and say: 'You are leading us wrong; you mean to ruin us as well
     as yourself. Are you not unhappy, reprobated, evil spoken of? What
     have you gained by these unequal struggles, by these much-trumpeted
     duels of yours with Custom and Belief? Let us do as others do; let
     us get what is to be got from this easy and tolerant world.' This
     is what they will say to me. Or at best, if, out of tenderness for
     me, or from their own natural disposition, they give ear to my
     words and believe me, whither should I guide them? Into what
     abysses shall we go and plunge ourselves, we three? for we shall be
     our own three upon earth, and not one soul with us. What shall I
     reply to them, if they come and say to me: 'Yes, life is unbearable
     in a world like this. Let us die together. Show us the path of
     Bernica, or the Lake of Sténio, or the glaciers of Jacques'?"

Again, in the later times, she said:--

     "Let us all try to be saints, and if we succeed we will know all
     the more how difficult a thing it is, and what indulgence is owed
     to those who are not yet saints. Then we shall acknowledge that
     there is something to be modified, either in law or opinion; for
     the aim of society should be to render perfection accessible to
     all, and man is very feeble when he struggles alone against the mad
     torrent of custom and of ideas."

A very wise, saying truly, written out of her own experience. Sad, too,
as is much of her later writing, though there is not in it the
passionate despair of her earlier work.

She lived to be seventy-two years old, and had known and experienced
many phases of life,--the tumultuous passions and the wild revolt of
youth, the cooler and more self-contained life of middle age, and the
sombre color of a rather hopeless old age. Even in age she had her
pleasures, however. She delighted in her grandchildren, in books, in
pictures, in nature, and in work. Her unwearied pen moved until the
last, and did not lose its cunning. There was much of the old strength
and power to the last. But she had ceased to desire to destroy; she
sought at last to build up.

Here are two descriptions of her as she appeared to different observers,
in youth and in later life. Heine, who saw with the eye of an artist and
wrote with the pen of a critic, described her in youth:--

     "George Sand, the greatest of French writers, is a woman of
     remarkable beauty. Like the genius revealed in her writings, her
     countenance may rather be called beautiful than fascinating. The
     face of George Sand has precisely the character of Grecian
     regularity. The cut of her features has not exactly the severity of
     antique models; her face is softened by modern sentiment, which
     veils it with sadness. Her forehead is not high, and her rich and
     luxuriant brown hair falls from either side of her head upon her
     shoulders. Her eyes are not brilliant; has their fire gone out
     under frequent tears, or only in her writings? George Sand's eyes
     are soft and tranquil. Her nose is neither aquiline, nor spiritual,
     nor pugged; it is a straight and ordinary nose. Around her mouth
     habitually plays a smile of kindness and benevolence, but not very
     bewitching: her inferior lip protrudes a little, and seems to
     reveal a fatigue of the senses. Her chin is finely formed. Her
     shoulders are magnificent; also her hands, her arms, her feet,
     which are very small. George Sand is beautiful like the Venus of

Now hear one who described her in old age:--

     "She was not at all like the woman of my imagination; she looked
     very little like the bold and vigorous thinker she is; one would
     have taken her at first sight for a gentle, serene old grandmother.
     She is short, and inclined to _embonpoint_. Her hair, which is
     still abundant, though faded by time, was simply arranged. Her
     features are not striking; her eyes have that vague, dreamy look
     which she herself refers to in her 'Histoire de Ma Vie' as one of
     her marked characteristics."

Most people in her youth found her beautiful, though some thought her
face heavy, and even coarse; but she had a matchless charm of manner
which had far more effect than any mere beauty. She seemed to enslave
men at her will. Poets, artists, statesmen, and priests, were all at her
side, or at her feet. Her manner, at least in later life, was very
retiring, and she was singularly modest and free from literary vanity.
When asked once which of her works she preferred, she answered,
apparently quite sincerely, "Mon Dieu, I detest them all."

Let us close with Matthew Arnold's tribute of respect:--

     "It is silent, that eloquent voice; it is sunk, that noble, that
     speaking head; we sum up as we best can what she said to us, and we
     bid her adieu. From many hearts, in many lands, a troop of tender
     and grateful regrets converge toward her humble churchyard in
     Berry. Let them be joined by these words of sad homage from one of
     a nation which she esteemed, and which knew her very little and
     very ill. Her guiding thought, the guiding thought which she did
     her best to make ours too, 'the sentiment of the ideal life, which
     is none other than man's normal life as we shall one day know it,'
     is in harmony with words and promises familiar to that sacred place
     where she lies."

Over her grave might well be written those words over another grave in





In the beginning of the eighteenth century the great-grandfather of the
famous Lord Macaulay, the author of the glowing and impassioned History
of England, was minister of Tiree and Coll, when his stipend was taken
from him at the instance of the Laird of Ardchattan. The slight
inconvenience of having nothing to live upon did not seem to incline the
old minister in the least degree to resign his charge and to seek a
flock who could feed their shepherd. He stayed valiantly on, doing his
duty faithfully by his humble people. But after some time had elapsed,
"his health being much impaired, and there being no church or
meeting-house, he was exposed to the violence of the weather at all
seasons; and having no manse or glebe, and no fund for communion
elements, and having no mortification for schools or other pious
purposes in either of the islands, and the air being unwholesome,"--he
was finally compelled to leave, much to his own regret and that of his
poor little flock.

The reasons enumerated certainly seem sufficient to us in these later
days for a change of parishes; and indeed some modern ministers have
been known to change upon provocations less than these. There was fine
stuff in the old Scotch ministers of that day, and it is pleasant to
hear that this one found a new charge to which he ministered for half a
century. There were many other ministers in the Macaulay family during
several generations; but Zachary Macaulay, the father of the historian,
seemed born with a taste for business, and was accordingly sent out to
Jamaica to learn mercantile affairs, when quite young. Here he saw much
of negro slavery, and became so much impressed with its horrors, and so
filled with sympathy for the black race, that he resolved to devote
himself to their interests. He accordingly resigned his position in
Jamaica and returned to Scotland, where until his death he labored in
the unpopular and misunderstood ranks of the abolitionists. A colony was
projected in Sierra Leone for freed slaves, and young Macaulay was
appointed a member of the council, and sailed for Africa to take
practical part in the work for the negro. Soon after his arrival there
he succeeded to the position of Governor, and for some time worked
heroically in that capacity. But in the very midst of the Reign of
Terror in France, a French fleet bore down upon the little colony and
almost wiped it out of existence. Zachary Macaulay stayed for a year
after the attack, heroically trying to rehabilitate the little colony,
and partially succeeded in doing so, when, his health failing, he
returned to England, where he gave almost the entire remaining years of
his life to the work of negro emancipation in one form or another.

Thomas Babington Macaulay was born the 25th of October, 1800, the day of
St. Crispin and the anniversary of Agincourt. He drew in the love of
freedom with his earliest breath, and he was reared with the utmost care
by those high moralists, his noble parents. He was a prodigy from
babyhood. From the time he was three years old he read incessantly, for
the most part lying on the rug before the fire. Many laughable stories
are told of his precocity, particularly of the fine language he used
when a mere infant. For instance, when four years old some hot coffee
was spilled on his legs, and after a little time a lady inquired of him
if he felt better now, when the phenomenon replied, "Thank you, madam,
the agony is abated." Of course so quaint and remarkable a child was
much petted and spoiled, and probably rendered somewhat conceited and
priggish. But he was docile and affectionate, and was then, as always
thereafter, the idol of his family.

After he left Cambridge he went up to London, and soon after wrote his
article on Milton for the "Edinburgh Review." Like Byron, he awoke one
morning and found himself famous. Compliments and enthusiastic letters
poured in upon him from all sides. The one compliment which he said gave
him the most pleasure was Jeffrey's word at the end of a business note:
"The more I think, the less I can conceive where you picked up that
style." And no wonder; that style was not a thing to be picked up every
day. Jeffrey did well to wonder. Macaulay at once became the fashion,
and invitations were showered upon him from every side, many of which he
accepted. The first flush of such a success as Macaulay's must have been
very sweet to a young man of his genial nature. He was thus described by

     "There came up a short, manly figure, marvellously upright, with a
     bad neckcloth, and one hand in his waistcoat pocket. Of regular
     beauty he had little to boast; but in faces where there is an
     expression of great power or of great good-humor, or both, you do
     not regret its absence."

He had a massive head, and features powerful and rugged, but peculiarly
expressive. His face was oftentimes all aglow with emotion. He dressed
badly but not cheaply; indeed, his wardrobe, Trevelyan tells us, was
always enormously overstocked. "Later in life he indulged himself in an
apparently inexhaustible succession of handsome embroidered waistcoats,
which he used to regard with much complacency."

Among the first places to which the new lion was invited was of course
the famous resort of celebrities, Holland House; and in his letters to
his two younger sisters,--to whom he was always the most devoted of
brothers,--he frequently narrates his experiences there. Let us glance
at a few of these pictures:--

     "Well, my dear, I have been to Holland House. I took a glass coach,
     and arrived, through a fine avenue of elms, at the great entrance
     about seven o'clock. The house is delightful, the very perfection
     of the old Elizabethan style,--a considerable number of very large
     and very comfortable rooms, rich with antique carving and gilding,
     but carpeted and furnished with all the skill of the best modern
     upholsterers. Lady Holland is certainly a woman of considerable
     talent and great acquirements. To me she was excessively courteous;
     yet there was a haughtiness in her courtesy which, even after all
     that I had heard of her, surprised me. The centurion did not keep
     his soldiers in better order than she keeps her guests. It is to
     one, 'Go,' and he goeth; and to another, 'Do this,' and it is done.
     'Ring the bell, Mr. Macaulay.' 'Lay down that screen, Lord Russell;
     you will spoil it.' 'Mr. Allen, take a candle and show Mr. Cradock
     the picture of Bonaparte.' Her ladyship used me as well, I believe,
     as it is her way to use anybody. . . .

     "I had a good deal of pleasant conversation with Rogers. He was
     telling me of the curiosity and interest which attached to the
     persons of Sir Walter Scott and Lord Byron. When Scott dined at a
     gentleman's house in London not long ago, all the servant-maids in
     the house asked leave to stand in the passage and see him pass. He
     was, as you may conceive, greatly flattered. About Lord Byron, whom
     he knew well, he told me some curious anecdotes. When Byron passed
     through Florence, Rogers was there. The inn had fifty windows in
     front. All were crowded with women, mostly Englishwomen, to catch a
     glimpse of their favorite poet. Among them were some at whose
     houses he had been in England oftentimes, and with whom he had
     lived on friendly terms. He would not notice them or return their
     salutations. Rogers was the only person he spoke to. The worst
     thing that I know about Lord Byron is the very unfavorable
     impression which he made on men who certainly were not inclined to
     judge him harshly, and who were not personally ill-used by him.
     Sharp and Rogers both speak of him as an unpleasant, affected,
     splenetic person. I have heard hundreds and thousands of persons
     who never knew him rant about him, but I never heard a single
     expression of fondness for him fall from the lips of any one who
     knew him well. Yet even now there are those who cannot talk a
     quarter of an hour about Charles Fox without tears--after
     twenty-five years. . . .

     "In the evening Lord John Russell came, and old Talleyrand. I had
     seen Talleyrand before. I now had the pleasure of listening to his
     conversation. He is certainly the greatest curiosity I ever fell in
     with. His head is sunk down between two high shoulders. One of his
     feet is hideously distorted. His face is pale as that of a corpse,
     and wrinkled to a frightful degree. His eyes have an odd, glassy
     stare. His hair, thickly powdered and pomatumed, hangs down his
     shoulders on each side as straight as a pound of tallow candles.
     His conversation, however, soon makes you forget his ugliness and

One more glimpse of Lady Holland:--

     "Her ladyship is all courtesy and kindness to me; but her demeanor
     to some others, particularly to poor Allen, is such as quite pains
     me to witness. He is really treated like a negro slave. 'Mr. Allen,
     go into my drawing-room and bring my reticule.' 'Mr. Allen, go and
     see what can be the matter that they do not bring up dinner.' 'Mr.
     Allen, there is not turtle-soup enough for you. You must take
     gravy-soup or none.' Yet I scarcely pity the man. He has an
     independent income, and if he can stoop to be ordered about like a
     footman I cannot so much blame her for the contempt with which she
     treats him."

Here are one or two touches of nature:--

     "Get Blackwood's new number. There is a description of me in it: 'A
     little, splay-footed, ugly dumpling of a fellow, with a mouth from
     ear to ear.' Conceive how such a charge must affect a man so
     enamoured of his own beauty as I am."

     "After the debate I walked about the streets with Bulwer till near
     three o'clock. I spoke to him about his novels with perfect
     sincerity, praising warmly and criticising freely. He took the
     praise as a greedy boy takes an apple-pie, and the criticism as a
     good, dutiful boy takes senna-tea. At all events I shall expect him
     to puff me well. I do not see why I should not have my puffers as
     well as my neighbors."

Here is a glimpse of the domestic economy of the great Holland House:--

     "The dinner was not as good as usual, and her ladyship kept up a
     continued lamentation during the whole repast. I should never have
     found out that everything was not as it should be, but for her
     criticisms. The soup was too salt; the cutlets were not exactly
     _comme il faut_; and the pudding was hardly enough boiled. I was
     amused to hear from the splendid mistress of such a house the same
     sort of apologies which ---- made when her cook forgot the joint
     and sent too small a dinner to table."

All these artless details were given to amuse his young sisters at
home,--the beings he loved best on earth, not only at this time but
throughout life. If he ever had any deeper love for another, there is no
hint given of it in his life or letters. Probably for many reasons he
never contemplated marriage. When he was young he was too poor to think
of it; when he was older he had his own family upon his hands, and cared
for them munificently to the end. He was very generous with his money
and never learned the art of saving. It would seem scarcely possible
that a man of his warm heart and ardent temperament could have gone
through life with no romance; but if he had any such experience it has
not been given to the world. He loved his sisters, and his nephews and
nieces, with the most passionate devotion, and was in turn idolized by
them. His nephew says:--

     "It must be acknowledged that where he loved, he loved more
     entirely and more exclusively than was well for himself. It was
     improvident in him to consecrate such intensity of feeling upon
     relations who, however deeply they were attached to him, could not
     always be in a position to requite him with the whole of their time
     and the whole of their heart. He suffered much for that
     improvidence, but he was too just and kind to permit others to
     suffer with him; and it is not for one who obtained by inheritance
     a share of his inestimable affection to regret a weakness such as

This refers to his grief at the marriage of his sisters, which was
really great and enduring. He had planned to have them in his home, and
not to be in theirs; and when it turned out otherwise he could not at
first be reconciled to it. His sister Nancy went out with him to India
after his appointment there, and soon fell in with young Trevelyan,--to
whom she became engaged, with her brother's approval but to his great
grief. He calls it "a tragical denouement to an absurd plot." After the
marriage they formed one household during his stay in India, and her
home was to all intents and purposes his own during life. His youngest
sister died during his stay abroad, and of her he thus writes:--

     "The last month has been the most painful I ever went through.
     Indeed, I never knew before what it was to be miserable. Early in
     January letters from England brought me news of the death of my
     sister. What she was to me no words can express. I will not say
     that she was dearer to me than anything in the world, for my sister
     who was with me was equally dear; but she was as dear to me as one
     human being can be to another. Even now, when time has begun to do
     its healing work, I cannot write about her without being altogether

His only solace was found in books. He could at any time bury himself in
these and forget all the world. Probably there never was such a reader
before. He devoured books like a gourmand. He read everything--Greek,
Latin, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese; and books of all
kinds in these languages,--history, _belles-lettres_, poetry, novels,
old chronicles. He seemed to have a passion for all. He would read a
book in an hour which it would take any one else half a day to get
through in the poorest shape. And he would know what was in it, too. He
read enormous quantities of novels always, and was very fond of poor
ones,--none too poor for him were written at that time. It is a question
whether if he had lived till this day the same thing could have been
said of him. It is not recorded whether he ever encountered any of
Anthony Trollope's works during his life.

If Macaulay had not been known as a great man of letters he would
probably have been known as a great orator. He was, indeed, one of the
best speakers of his day, and the House of Commons, that listens to so
few speakers, always gave its attention to him. It seems a great pity
that he should have given so many years of his life to Parliament, and
to official work, when his true career undoubtedly was literature pure
and simple, for which no man of his time was so splendidly equipped,
both by nature and by preparation. We ought to have had from him more
enduring historical works, and more of his masterly estimates of the
works of other men. After his retirement into private life, in 1847, he
enjoyed his freedom intensely, and much regretted that he had not
obtained it sooner. He enjoyed the pleasures of society greatly at this
time. He was the centre of a gifted circle of men--the most brilliant of
their time--all of whom were his close friends and admirers. How
brilliantly these men talked is already a matter of tradition. Macaulay
was the most wonderful conversationalist, probably, since Dr. Johnson,
not even excepting Carlyle, or Sydney Smith, or Coleridge. Very
laughable stories are told, of course, of a man who would talk three
hours without pause, and undoubtedly there were many people sadly bored
by him in his day; but to those who could appreciate the remarkable
stores of information he possessed, and the lucidity with which he could
deal them forth,--to say nothing of his rhetorical splendors,--those
discourses of his were never tedious, but full of supreme interest. To
be sure, Sydney Smith sneered at his "wonderful stores of very
accurate--misinformation," but he was one who did not like a rival near
the throne; and in Macaulay's absence he was himself the sun around
which the social universe revolved. Thackeray wrote after Macaulay's

     "Now that wonderful tongue is to speak no more, will not many a man
     grieve that he no longer can listen? To remember the talk is to
     wonder, to think not only of the treasures he had stored, but of
     the trifles which he could produce with equal readiness. What a
     vast, brilliant, wonderful store of learning he had; what strange
     lore would he not fetch at your bidding."

No report of these conversations exists, except such as is found
scattered in private diaries. In these there are records of many an
Attic night, and still more agreeable morning. Lord Carlisle's journal
contains as many of these records, perhaps, as any one's. He makes
glowing mention of Macaulay and his eloquence, after nearly every
meeting of the famous circle. The only criticism he made, and it is one
that was frequently made on Macaulay, was that it was remarkable what
quantities of trash he remembered. He could repeat pages of the very
dreariest stuff that ever was written, and was in danger of doing so on
small provocation,--an infliction it must have been hard for his friends
to have endured sometimes. Great stories are told of his remarkable
memory,--one seldom equalled by any man. He was always willing to accept
a friendly challenge to a feat of memory. One day in the board-room of
the British Museum he handed to Lord Aberdeen a sheet of foolscap
covered with writing arranged in parallel columns down each of the four
pages. This document, on which the ink was still wet, proved to be a
full list of the Senior Wranglers at Cambridge, with their dates and
colleges for the hundred years during which the names of Senior
Wranglers had been recorded in the University Calendar. On another
occasion Sir David Dundas asked:--

     "'Macaulay, do you know your Popes?' 'No,' was the answer; 'I
     always get wrong among the Innocents.' 'But you can say your
     Archbishops of Canterbury?' 'Any fool,' said Macaulay, 'could say
     his Archbishops of Canterbury backwards;' and he went off at a
     score, drawing breath only once in order to remark on some oddity."

He was easily bored in general society, and in later life rarely went
beyond his little circle of intimates. Children were the only people of
whom he never tired, and he was a royal companion to them always. He was
unrivalled in the invention of games, and never wearied of repeating
them. He had an inexhaustible repertory of small dramas for his nieces,
and sustained a great variety of parts with much skill. An old friend of
the family writes:--

     "There was one never-failing game of building up a den with
     newspapers behind the sofa, and of enacting robbers and tigers; we
     shrieking with terror, but always begging him to begin again, of
     which we never grew weary."

He writes to a friend concerning Dickens, that he did not think it
possible for fiction to affect him as the death of little Nell had done,
and adds:--

     "Have you seen the first number of 'Dombey'? There is not much in
     it, but there is one passage which made me cry as if my heart would
     break. It is the description of a little girl who has just lost her
     mother, and is unkindly treated by everybody. Images of that kind
     always overpower me even when the artist is less skilful than

In truth, his extreme sensibility was often a great annoyance to him. He
strove very hard to overcome it, but in vain; and he was moved to tears
upon a great many occasions, when he would have given much to be able to
control himself.

Let us quote a little more from Thackeray's tribute to him.

     "All sorts of successes were easy to him. As a lad he goes down
     into the arena with others, and wins all the prizes to which he has
     a mind. A place in the Senate is straightway offered to the young
     man. He takes his seat there, he speaks when so minded, without
     party anger or intrigue, but not without party faith and a sort of
     heroic enthusiasm for his cause; and speech is also a success to
     him. Still he is a poet and philosopher even more than orator. . . .
     Years ago there was a wretched outcry raised because he dated a
     letter from Windsor Castle, where he was staying. Immortal gods!
     was not this man a fit guest for any palace in the world, or a fit
     companion for any man or woman in it? The place of such a natural
     chief was among the first in the land."

Macaulay died, in 1860, a sudden and painless death, and lies buried in
Westminster Abbey, in the Poet's Corner, near the west wall of the South
Transept, at the feet of Addison.




The British aristocracy has given to literature a few names which the
world will not willingly let die. But its contribution to the world's
genius has not been great in proportion to its numbers, its exceptional
opportunities for culture, and the great prominence which has naturally
been given to its achievements. From out its ranks have come few of the
great names in English literature.

Among these the name of Lord Lytton, or Bulwer, as he is more generally
known in literature, holds a prominent place. For the period of a long
life he lived in the world's eye, and the world feels a great interest
in the character of the man as well as in his writings.

His paternal ancestors had been settled in Norfolk since the Conquest.
The name of Bulwer attests the Scandinavian origin of the Norman
soldier. The great-grandfather of Edward Bulwer married the heiress of
the Earles of Heydon Hall, which became the family residence. Our hero's
father "contracted a romantic, if illicit, attachment to a young person
of great beauty, who eloped with him from a boarding-school in which she
was a teacher, and, though too haughty a man to marry beneath him, he
had at least the justice to say that while she lived he would never
marry any one else. And when the hand of a great and noble heiress was
offered him, although a very ambitious man, he refused her upon the
ground that he was not quite satisfied with the shape of her ladyship's
nose." General Bulwer built for his mistress a villa in the neighborhood
of London, and as he was driving into the yard on his return from some
military duties which had detained him longer than usual, she ran out to
meet him. In this hurried action she received a kick from one of the
horses, and died of the injury.

After this, the General, who is described by his son as being of a very
powerful, self-willed nature, wholly uncultivated by literature, but
with that ability for action which takes lessons from life,--married the
mother of our hero, a delicate girl, with intelligent, dark-blue eyes,
with shy sensitive temper, passionately fond of poetry, and deeply under
the influences of religion. Her family was as ancient as that of the
Bulwers, the Lyttons having intermarried with many houses famous in
history. But family concord was not one of the characteristics of the
Lytton family, and Bulwer's grandfather and grandmother had lived
stormily together for a few years, and separated by mutual consent. The
essential faults are said to have been all on the side of the
grandfather. The only daughter of the uncongenial pair was not permitted
to dwell permanently with either. She was sent at the age of five to a
large school, where she lived a sad life for a long time, without any of
the tender care and affection which such a child craves, and must have,
for anything like a healthful child-life. After a while she went to live
with her father, and still later with her mother, from whose house she
was married to General Bulwer. He was not a man who could appreciate the
rarer qualities of Miss Lytton. He could have no share in her
intellectual life and no sympathy with her religious nature. But the
elegance of her manners satisfied his pride, her domestic habits gave
him promise of a peaceful home, and, greatest merit of all, her features
suited him. He liked an aquiline nose. A nose that turned up the least
bit, his son tells us, would have disgusted him with a Venus. The lady's
nose in this instance proving satisfactory, a happy marriage was
anticipated, although the bridegroom had buried his heart in the grave
of a mistress, and the bride had but partially recovered from an unhappy
attachment for a man beneath herself in rank,--in fact, a merchant's
son. But the marriage proved far from a happy one, and was closed after
a few years by the sudden death of General Bulwer. Our hero thus writes
of him:--

     "Peace to thy dust, O my father! Faults thou hadst, but those
     rather of temper than of heart,--of deficient education and the
     manlike hardness of imperious will than of ungenerous disposition
     or epicurean corruption. If thou didst fail to give happiness to
     the woman whom thou didst love, many a good man is guilty of a
     similar failure. It had been otherwise, I verily believe, hadst
     thou chosen a partner of intellectual cultivation more akin to
     thine own,--of hardier nerve and coarser fibre,--one whom thy wrath
     would less have terrified, whom thy converse would more have
     charmed; of less moral spirit and more physical courage."

Verily we are tempted to ask when we read of this marriage--as well as
of the son's own marriage and the marriages of many other members of the
English aristocracy whose domestic lives have latterly seen the light of
day--whether less of moral spirit and more of physical courage is not
the great need among women who aspire to the peerage. Strong nerves and
a martial spirit, if they could not secure peace, would at least place
the combatants upon a more equal footing, and the world would be spared
the spectacle of the mild-mannered and meek bullied by the overbearing
and violent.

As for Bulwer himself, he had the hot blood, imperious temper, and
remorseless will of the combined Bulwers and Lyttons; and, it must be
added, a vanity and egotism so boundless as to be peculiarly his own,
and an arrogance and superciliousness which throughout life were a
constant drawback, and which interfered materially with the
acknowledgment by the world of his really great powers.

At the early age of seventeen this precocious young man, who had already
been several years in society, felt his first sensations of love; and he
talked of it to the end of his days as being the one genuine passion of
his life. He tells the pretty story very feelingly, and no doubt it was
a genuine boyish romance. Hear him:--

     "Ah, God! how palpably, even in hours the least friendly to
     remembrance, there rises before me when I close my eyes that
     singularly dwarfed tree which overshadowed the little stream,
     throwing its boughs half-way to the opposite margin. I dare not
     revisit that spot, for there we were wont to meet (poor children
     that we were!), thinking not of the world we had scarce entered,
     dreaming not of fate and chance, full only of our first-born, our
     ineffable love. It was so unlike the love of grown-up people; so
     pure that not one wrong thought ever crossed it, and yet so
     passionate that never again have I felt any emotion comparable to
     the intensity of its tumultuous tenderness."

When the meetings so feelingly described became known to the lady's
father, she was sent away at once, and Bulwer never saw her again. Very
soon after, she was forced into a marriage against which her heart
protested. For three years she strove to smother the love which consumed
her; and when she sunk under the conflict, and death was about to
relieve her, she wrote to Bulwer informing him of the sufferings she had
undergone, affirming her deathless love, and begging him to visit her

His son says:--

     "The impressions left on my father by this early phantom of delight
     were indelible and colored the whole of his afterlife. He
     believed that far beyond all other influences they shaped his
     character, and they never ceased to haunt his memory. Allusions to
     it are constantly recurring in all his published works, and in none
     of them more than in the last of all. He was much affected by them,
     and not knowing to what they referred, we wondered that the
     creations of his fancy should exercise such power over him. They
     were not creations of fancy, but the memories of fifty years past."

After the abrupt end of his first romance he conceived a sort of
friendship for Lady Caroline Lamb, which came very near the verge of
love. Lady Caroline was between thirty and forty years old at this time,
it being subsequent to her intrigue with Lord Byron. She looked much
younger than her age,--thanks, perhaps, to a slight rounded figure and a
child-like mode of wearing her pale golden hair in loose curls. She had
large hazel eyes, good teeth, and a pleasant laugh. She had to a
surpassing degree the qualities that charm, and never failed to please.
Her conversation was remarkable, and she was the only woman, Byron said,
who never bored him. She was a creature of caprice, and impulse, and
whim, and had been known to send a page around to all her guests at
Brocket at three o'clock in the morning to say that she was playing the
great organ on the staircase, and requested the pleasure of their
company. And it is added that the invitation was never refused, and that
daylight would find them listening, spellbound and without a thought of
bed. Here is Bulwer's own account of the close of this little episode
with Lady Caroline. He was staying at her house, and had become very
jealous of a Mr. Russell.

     "I went downstairs. Russell sat opposite me. He wore a ring. It was
     one which Lord Byron had given Lady Caroline: one which was to be
     worn only by those she loved. I had often worn it myself. She had
     wanted me to accept it, but I would not, because it was so costly.
     And now _he_ wore it. Can you conceive my resentment, my
     wretchedness? After dinner I threw myself upon a sofa. Music was
     playing. Lady Caroline came to me. 'Are you mad?' said she. I
     looked up. The tears stood in my eyes. I could not have spoken a
     word for the world. What do you think she said aloud? 'Don't play
     this melancholy air,--it affects Mr. Bulwer so that he is actually
     weeping.' My tears, my softness, my love were over in a moment.
     When we broke up in the evening I said to her, 'Farewell forever.
     It is over. Now I see you in your true light. Instead of jealousy I
     only feel contempt. Farewell. Go and be happy.'"

This account reads very much like a page from "Pelham" or "Devereux,"
and the whole account of his affairs of the heart is written in a
similar manner.

All this had passed before he was twenty-two. At that age he first met
Rosina Wheeler, at an evening party. He was talking busily to his mother
when she suddenly exclaimed: "O Edward, what a singularly beautiful
face! Do look. Who can she be?"

An elderly gentleman was leading through the room in which they sat a
young lady of remarkable beauty, who, from the simplicity of her
costume, seemed to be unmarried. He turned his head languidly, as he
says, with a strangely troubled sensation, and beheld his fate before
him,--in other words, his future wife.

Rosina Wheeler was at this time twenty-three, and in the full blossom of
a very remarkable beauty. Her father was an Irish squire, who at the age
of seventeen had married a very beautiful girl two years younger than
himself. The natural result of this marriage was a separation, after the
birth of two children, one of them the future Lady Lytton. Domestic
infelicity seems to have been the heritage of every one connected with
the Bulwer family even in the remotest manner.

And now it appears again in the family of the woman to whom the latest
scion of the old house is to be united. Bulwer's mother opposed the
match strenuously from the first. Her pride, her prudence, her
forebodings, and her motherly susceptibilities all rose up against it.
And she never gave her consent to it, or became really reconciled to it
after it had taken place. Although very unwilling to displease his
mother in so vital a matter, Bulwer seems to have gone steadily on to
such a consummation; not borne away certainly by strong passion, but
rather influenced, it would seem, by a tender regard for the feelings of
Miss Wheeler, who had grown much attached to him. Not without many a
struggle with himself, however, did he yield. He was tenderly attached
to his mother, and it was a great grief to him to do so important a
thing without her approval; and, moreover, his income and all his
worldly prospects depended upon her. He does not seem to have been
particularly happy over his own prospects, for in one of the last
letters he wrote before marriage he says:--

     "My intended is very beautiful, very clever, very good; but, alas!
     the human heart is inscrutable. I love and am loved. My heart is
     satisfied, my judgment, too. And still I am wretched."

There have been published within a few years a great number of the
love-letters written by Bulwer to Miss Wheeler about this time. His son
publishes none of them in the late biography, and it is safe to say that
in all the range of literature there are no other letters filled with
such drivelling idiocy as these. Had they been written by some Cockney
coachman to some sentimental housemaid, they should stand as the finest
specimens of that grade of literature extant; but that they should have
been written by one of the foremost literary men of his time is a
marvel, and seems to show to what extremes of imbecility love may reduce
even wise men. As for Lady Lytton herself, one cares to know little more
than that she could have married a man who habitually addressed her as
his "sugar-plum," his "tootsy-wootsy," and his "sweety-weety." A woman
clothed and in her right mind, who could deliberately accept such a
personage for a life-long companion, calls for small sympathy from a
matter-of-fact world, unless, indeed, it be that we bestow our sympathy
simply upon the grounds of her feeble-mindedness.

In less than three years began the vulgar quarrels which finally ended
the marriage. Bulwer is described by a visitor to the house about this
time as appearing "like a man who has been flayed and is sore all over."
His temperament was by nature extremely sensitive and irritable. And the
combined Bulwer and Lytton blood was hot, turbulent, and at times quite
uncontrollable. There are records of scenes of absolute personal
violence against his wife, and one instance is given where at dinner,
during the momentary absence of the servant, he bit her cheek till the
blood flowed freely. After marriage, his income being cut off by his
mother, he for a time wrote for his bread; and the work, close and
confining as it was, told very much upon his health.

     "His feelings became morbidly acute, and all the petty household
     worries were to his exasperated brain what frictions and jostlings
     are to highly inflamed flesh. His wife had little of his society.
     He was nearly always writing or making preparation for writing, and
     when they were together his nervous irritability vented itself at
     every unwelcome circumstance in complaints, or taunts, or fits of
     anger. To harsh words and unjust reproaches his wife returned meek
     replies. Any distress his conduct occasioned her she concealed from
     him. She was studious to please him, and endeavored to anticipate
     every want and wish. Her gentleness and forbearance increased his
     gratitude and devotion to her, and whenever he perceived that she
     was wounded he was full of remorse."

So says her son, and continues:--

     "The mischief was aggravated by the unfortunate occurrence that my
     mother being unable to suckle her first-born child, it had been
     nursed out of the house. Her maternal instinct, thus thwarted in
     its origin, never revived. The care of children was ever after
     distasteful to her. Losing this satisfaction to her affections,
     unless she had company in the house she was lonely. As it was,
     neither of them saw the issue to which the divided life was

That issue, as all the world knows, was a separation of the husband and
wife, and a life-long quarrel of almost unimagined bitterness. No wonder
that Bulwer's hand faltered when be tried to write of it, and that,
having brought his autobiography up to this point, he laid it by, not
daring to go on. He always cherished the intention of resuming it, but
could never bring himself to the point of doing so. He could not tell
the story; but Lady Lytton could, and did, continuing to do so till her
dying day. The picture of her which her son has given does not seem like
that of a woman who would do all the things which she notoriously did.
But doubtless she had her amiable and engaging side, and was half
maddened by her wrongs. Justin McCarthy says:--

     "I do not know whether I ought to call it a quarrel. Can that be
     called a quarrel, piteously asks the man in 'Juvenal,' where my
     enemy only beats and I am beaten? Can that be called a quarrel in
     which, so far as the public could judge, the wife did all the
     denunciation, and the husband made no reply? Lady Lytton wrote
     novels for the purpose of satirizing her husband and his
     friends,--his parasites, she called them. Lady Lytton attributed to
     her husband the most odious meannesses, vices, and cruelties; but
     the public, with all its love of scandal, seems to have steadfastly
     refused to take her ladyship's word for these accusations. Dickens
     she denounced and vilified as a mere parasite and sycophant of her
     husband. Disraeli she caricatured under the title of Jericho
     Jabber. This sort of thing she kept always going on. Sometimes she
     issued pamphlets to the women of England, calling on them to take
     up her quarrel, which, somehow, they never did. Once, when Sir
     Edward was on the hustings addressing his constituents at a county
     election, her ladyship suddenly appeared, mounted the platform, and
     'went' for him. I do not know anything of the merits of the
     quarrel, but have always thought that something like insanity must
     have been the explanation of much of her conduct. But it is beyond
     doubt that her husband's conduct was remarkable for its quiet,
     indomitable patience and dignity."

Let the veil drop over the blighted lives, knowing as we do that the
human heart is so dark and intricate a labyrinth that we cannot claim to
understand it by half knowledge, and that however we might judge these
two with any light which we can possibly have in our day, we should be
in danger of doing each a grievous wrong.




It is related by Miss Thackeray that the grandfather of Alfred Tennyson,
when that poet was young, asked him to write an elegy on his
grandmother, who had recently died, and when it was written gave him ten
shillings, with the remark, "There, that is the first money you have
ever earned by your poetry, and, take my word for it, it will be the
last." How little he foresaw at that time the fame and fortune which the
youth's poetry was to bring him, and the lasting honor he was to bestow
upon the family name! That name was already an honorable one, for the
Tennysons were an old family, and had good blood in their veins. The
home was the old rectory of Somersby, where George Clayton Tennyson,
LL.D., held sway in the old-time priestly fashion for a lifetime. He is
described as a man of strong character and high principle, full of
accomplishments, and gifted withal; a strikingly handsome man, with
impressive manners. Twelve children were given to his hands, of whom
Alfred was the third. The eldest, Frederick, and the second, Charles,
were both poets, and not without merit,--especially Charles, who
published a volume of sonnets, which gave great pleasure to so good a
judge as Coleridge; and the Laureate is himself very fond of his
brother's work.

The children led a very free and unconstrained life in that beautiful
part of Lincolnshire, and had a few friends to whom they attached
themselves for life. Arthur Hallam was Alfred's intimate, and later on
he became engaged to one of his sisters. Young Hallam's early death was
the first shadow upon their lives. But who would not willingly die at
twenty-three to be immortalized in such a poem as "In Memoriam"?

Of Arthur Hallam's own quality as a poet we get a pleasant glimpse in
the sonnet addressed to his betrothed when he began to teach her

  "Lady, I bid thee to a sunny dome,
  Ringing with echoes of Italian song;
  Henceforth to thee these magic halls belong,
  And all the pleasant place is like a home.
  Hark, on the right, with full piano tone,
  Old Dante's voice encircles all the air;
  Hark yet again, like flute-tones mingling rare
  Comes the keen sweetness of Petrarca's moan.
  Pass thou the lintel freely; without fear
  Feast on the music. I do better know thee
  Than to suspect this pleasure thou dost owe me
  Will wrong thy gentle spirit, or make less dear."

After Tennyson had made his first literary successes, and after the
family life at Somersby was broken up, we next hear of him through a
warm and life-long friend. Away back in 1844 Carlyle in one of his
letters to Emerson gives the following description of the then young and
rising poet. It is an authentic glimpse of the real man, as he then
appeared to one of the shrewdest and most critical of the men of that

     "Tennyson is now in town, and means to come and see me. Of this
     latter result I shall be very glad: Alfred is one of the few
     British or Foreign Figures (a not increasing number I think) who
     are and remain beautiful to me,--a true human soul, or some
     approximation thereto, to whom your own soul can say, Brother!
     However, I doubt he will not come; he often skips me, in these
     brief visits to Town; skips everybody indeed, being a man solitary
     and sad, as certain men are, dwelling in an element of
     gloom,--carrying a bit of Chaos about him, in short, which he is
     manufacturing into Cosmos!

     "Alfred is the son of a Lincolnshire Gentleman Farmer, I think;
     indeed, you see in his verses that he is a native of 'moated
     granges,' and green fat pastures, not of mountains and their
     torrents and storms. He had his breeding at Cambridge, as if for
     the Law or Church; being master of a small annuity, on his Father's
     decease, he preferred clubbing, with his mother and some sisters,
     to live unpromoted and write Poems. In this way he lives still, now
     here, now there; the family always within reach of London, never in
     it; he himself making rare and brief visits, lodging in some old
     comrade's rooms. I think he must be under forty, not much under it.
     One of the finest looking men in the world. A great shock of rough
     dusty-dark hair; bright, laughing hazel eyes; massive aquiline
     face, most massive, yet most delicate; of sallow-brown complexion,
     almost Indian looking; clothes cynically loose, free-and-easy;
     smokes infinite tobacco. His voice is musical metallic,--fit for
     loud laughter and piercing wail, and all that may lie between;
     speech and speculation free and plenteous: I do not meet in these
     decades such company over a pipe! We shall see what he will grow
     to. He is often unwell; very chaotic--his way is through Chaos and
     the Bottomless and Pathless; not handy for making out many miles

To this graphic description little need be added of the Tennyson of that
time. He was in the midst of his greatest literary successes, and just
beginning to reap some of the rewards of his labors. His fame increased
rapidly from that time forward, and his fortune with his fame. For many
years he has been a rich man, being a sharp and shrewd manager of his
worldly affairs. His investments have always proved to be paying ones;
and for a long time he has had whatever prices he named for his poems.
He has a beautiful place at Farringford, Isle of Wight, and another
country seat at Aldworth, in Surrey. He also owns a house in London,
although he spends very little time there. He kept up his visits to the
Carlyles during his occasional stays in the metropolis, until the death
of his old friends. He was very fond of Mrs. Carlyle, her sharp wit
amusing him, and her appreciation of his own work flattering him. She
gives occasional pleasant mention of him in her letters. Over his later
work Carlyle was not enthusiastic, although he retained his friendship
for the man. In 1867, after the death of his wife, he gives us his last
glimpse of the poet, which is as characteristic as the other:--

     "We read at first Tennyson's 'Idyls,' with profound recognition of
     the finely elaborated execution, and also of the inward perfection
     of vacancy--and, to say truth, with considerable impatience at
     being treated so very like infants though the lollipops were so
     superlative. We gladly changed for one Emerson's 'English Traits;'
     and read that with increasing and ever increasing satisfaction
     every evening; blessing heaven that there were still books for
     grown-up people too."

According to Carlyle, what Tennyson needed was a Task; and wanting that,
he almost lost his way among the will-o'-wisps. High art, in the eyes of
Carlyle, was but a poor "task" for a man like Tennyson. Upon this point
the world will not be likely to agree with him, nor in his judgment of
the wonderful "Idyls of the King." Although Tennyson, like Carlyle
himself, has written too far into the shadows of age, he will not be
judged by the labors of his old age, but by the matchless products of
his prime. These are surely a priceless possession for the readers of
the future, as well as for the men of his own time.

In the autobiography of Sir Henry Taylor we have this glimpse of the
poet, in a letter from Mrs. Cameron to that gentleman:--

     "Alfred has grown, he says, much fonder of you since your last
     visit here. He says he feels now he is beginning to know you and
     not to feel afraid of you; and that he is beginning to get over
     your extreme insolence to him when he was young and you were in
     your meridian splendor and glory. So one reads your simplicity. He
     was very violent with the girls on the subject of the rage for
     autographs. He said he believed every crime and every vice in the
     world was connected with the passion for autographs and anecdotes
     and records; that the desiring anecdotes and acquaintance with the
     lives of great men was treating them like pigs, to be ripped open
     for the public; that he knew he himself should be ripped open like
     a pig; that he thanked God Almighty with his whole heart and soul
     that he knew nothing, and that the world knew nothing, of
     Shakspeare but his writings."

All of which sounds not unlike what Carlyle himself might have said in
those days; and yet what personal revelations he made to the world
before his death!

The news that Lord Tennyson is writing his autobiography may be sent by
cable almost any day now, and the world will not receive it with any
great surprise, but with very great interest and pleasure. This dislike
of being lionized and overrun by celebrity hunters is probably one great
reason why the poet prefers the solitude of the country to a residence
in London. His servants and family guard him very securely from
unwelcome visitors in his country home. The injunctions against
disturbing him while at his work are so strong, that one day during the
life of Prince Albert that distinguished _attaché_ of royalty was
refused admittance at the door. The poet formed a friendship with the
Prince, however, later in life, and is now an occasional visitor to the
Queen at Windsor. He is also a favorite with the Princess of Wales and
other members of the royal family. But even such august friends as these
do not draw him often from his solitude. Mr. Gladstone begs him in vain
for a visit, and his invitations to the houses of the great lords are of
course many and importunate; but of late he refuses them all. He says he
will never again voluntarily pass a week in London, and he is not more
fond of visits to country houses than to the city. Nor can we wonder
much at this. He has never been a society man, and now that he is old,
and growing somewhat feeble, the effort to conform to the demands of a
conventional life is harder than ever. He tried taking a house in London
and spending the season there, not many years ago, but wearied of it
very quickly, and gave up the idea forever. While in London at that
time he always appeared in public in the picturesque wide-awake hat of
the Italian bandit, and always, even in warm weather, wore a cloak. The
costume is very becoming, and the poet can afford to indulge his
individual tastes in the matter of dress; so everybody said how poetical
he looked, and, on the whole, his eccentricity was a success. He has
always had a great contempt for the conventionalities of dress, and many
laughable anecdotes have been told concerning his appearance at the Isle
of Wight. When young he was really handsome, though he always wore his
hair long, and looked as if he would be the better for a barber; but now
he is very gray and wizened, stoops badly, and shows that he has smoked,
as Carlyle said, infinite tobacco. Tennyson has always exercised a
judicious hospitality, but never overburdened himself with company. His
favorite time for guests is from Saturday until Monday, and those who
are so fortunate as to be invited enjoy very greatly the distinction.
Among his favorite guests is Henry Irving. A few years before his death
Garibaldi paid the poet a visit, which was much enjoyed by both. Years
ago, when the poet was more in London than now, a little knot of
literary friends had a standing engagement to dine together once a
month, and the parties were almost the ideal of unconventional
friendliness. Among the number were Carlyle, Cunningham, Mill,
Thackeray, Forster, Stirling, Landor, and Macready. Here the
conversation was of the best, Carlyle always coming out strong, and all
the rest content to listen. However, Carlyle, unlike many great
conversers, never monopolized the conversation. It was always dialogue
and not monologue with Carlyle in any mixed company, though he would
discourse at length to one or two visitors. Tennyson, like many men of
letters, loves to talk about his own work, and is very fond of reading
his poems to his friends. This is, of course, very delightful to those
friends, if the reading be not too prolonged, although he is said to
chant them in rather a disagreeable manner. He is a great egotist, and
does not like to listen to other people when they talk about themselves.
We are told that Charles Sumner once paid him a visit, and bored him
very much by a long talk upon American affairs in which Tennyson took no
interest. When Sumner finally made a sufficient pause, Tennyson changed
the subject by inquiring if his visitor had ever read "The Princess."
Sumner replied that it was one of his favorite poems, whereupon Tennyson
handed him the book and asked him to read. Sumner began, but was soon
stopped by Tennyson, who wished to show him how a passage should be
read. He went on reading aloud in his high nasal voice, until Sumner
grew very weary, but did not dare to move for fear of being thought
unappreciative. On and on read the poet, page after page, never making a
moment's pause or giving Sumner any chance to escape, until he had read
the whole poem. It is said that Sumner never dared pay him another
visit. Being a decided egotist himself, it was painfully hard for the
distinguished American to subordinate himself for so long a time, and
his friends amused themselves very much at the idea.

Tennyson undoubtedly has a high opinion of his work; but he does not go
quite to the length of Wordsworth in such self-admiration, as Wordsworth
would read no poetry but his own, while Tennyson is a generous admirer
of the work of fellow-poets.

Tennyson's married life has been one of the happiest on record. He
addresses his wife in these lines:--

  "Dear, near, and true--no truer Time himself
  Can prove you, though he make you evermore
  Dearer and nearer."

One cannot think, when he witnesses the devotion of the poet to his
wife, that he ever regrets the "Amy shallow-hearted," the "Amy mine no
more," of his youth; and the reader certainly cannot regret her, if it
is really to her that we owe "Locksley Hall." Mrs. Tennyson has been
something of an invalid, and the poet and his sons, Hallam and Lionel,
may often be seen wheeling her on the lawn at Farringford. Of the house
at Farringford Miss Thackeray, who is an old friend of the family, as
was her father before her, tells us:--

     "The house itself seemed like a charmed palace, with green walls
     without and speaking walls within. There hung Dante with his solemn
     nose and wreath; Italy gleamed over the doorways; friends' faces
     lined the way; books filled the shelves, and a glow of crimson was
     everywhere; the great oriel window in the drawing-room was full of
     green and golden leaves, of the sound of birds, and of the distant

She continues:--

     "I first knew the place in the autumn, but perhaps it is even more
     beautiful in spring-time, when all day the lark trills high
     overhead, and then when the lark has flown out of our hearing the
     thrushes begin, and the air is sweet with scents from the many
     fragrant shrubs. The woods are full of anemones and primroses;
     narcissus grows wild in the lower fields; a lovely creamy stream of
     flowers flows along the lanes, and lies hidden in the levels;
     hyacinth-pools of blue shine in the woods; and then with a later
     burst of glory comes the gorse, lighting up the country round
     about, and blazing round about the beacon hill. The beacon hill
     stands behind Farringford. If you follow the little wood of
     nightingales and thrushes, and follow the lane where the blackthorn
     hedges shine in spring-time (lovely dials that illuminate to show
     the hour), you come to the downs, and climbing their smooth steps
     you reach 'Mr. Tennyson's Down,' where the beacon-staff stands firm
     upon the mound. Then following the line of the coast you come at
     last to the Needles, and may look down upon the ridge of rocks that
     rises crisp, sharp, shining, out of the blue wash of fierce
     delirious waters."

Since Tennyson's elevation to the peerage there has been an infinite
amount of squibbing at his expense, and some very good parodies upon his
poems have been circulated. The "Pall Mall Gazette" parodies "Lady Clara
Vere de Vere" thus:--

  "Baron Alfred Vere de Vere,
    Of me you win no new renown:
  You thought to daze the country-folk
    And cockneys when you came to town.
  See Wordsworth, Shelley, Cowper, Burns,
    Withdraw in scorn, and sit retired;
  The last of some six hundred earls
    Is not a place to be desired.

  "Baron Alfred Vere de Vere,
    We thought you proud to bear your name;
  Your pride is yet no mate for ours,
    Too proud to think a title fame.
  We had the genius--not the lord;
    We love the poet's truer charms,
  A simple singer with his dreams
    Is worth a hundred coats-of-arms."

And so on to the close:--

  "Alfred, Alfred Vere de Vere,
    If time be heavy on your hands,
  Are there no toilers in our streets,
    Nor any poor in all these lands?
  Oh, teach the weak to strive and hope;
    Oh, teach the great to help the low;
  Pray Heaven for a noble heart,
    And let the foolish title go."

There was undoubtedly much disappointment that Tennyson did not refuse
the title bestowed upon him, as he had previously declined to be
knighted, and was looked upon as something of a liberal. He probably was
this when young, judging by some things in his writings; but he is now
looked upon as a tory of the tories.

Tennyson has probably received higher prices for his poems than any
other poet. When he was paid ten pounds a line for "Sea Dreams," it was
considered a fabulous price; but he has received much more than that

During his long literary life--for he has been writing over fifty
years--he has of course written a great deal; yet he is very slow and
laborious in composition, and spends much time in rewriting and
polishing. The garden song in "Maud" was rewritten fifty times, and
almost as great labor has been given to other famous bits of writing.
He was seventeen years in writing "In Memoriam," and he brought it
almost to perfection of finish; but he has spent laborious years upon
poems which are comparative failures. After the inspiration has waned,
or if the inspiration is wanting in the first place, the pains taken in
revision go for little in the making of a poem which will live. Given
the inspiration, and the labor usually, though not always, adds to its
chances for immortality. Tennyson, with all his fastidious delicacy in
writing, is a robust, manly man,--strong, healthy, active, fond of
out-of-door life, and not greatly given to study. He spends whole days
in the open air, and has all an Englishman's fondness for walking. He is
martial in spirit, too, and rejoices in the heroic deeds of his
countrymen. He can write a spirited war song, as he proved a few years
ago when he thrilled all England with the lyric:--

  "Form, form, riflemen, form;
  Ready, be ready to meet the storm."

On the whole, Tennyson must be said to have had a very prosperous and
well-ordered life. He has enjoyed more of the blessings of this world
than almost any one of his famous contemporaries; and his name is likely
to live after that of most of the others shall have passed away. He has
had the appreciation and the applause of all of the great men of his
time, and the friendship of such as he desired; and his old age is full
of honor, and ministered unto by loving and faithful hands. May it still
be long before an admiring world shall read at the end of his life's
story the words, "IN MEMORIAM, ALFRED TENNYSON."




"Come to Concord," wrote Ellery Channing to Hawthorne once upon a time;
"Emerson is away, and nobody here to bore you;"--which sentence contains
a gentle hint to the posterity of the two most distinguished men of
letters America has produced that even the mystic and the seer sometimes
palled upon the appetites of his personal friends. If any man could be
supposed to be a hero to his valet, that man was surely Emerson; but his
gifted neighbor seems not to have had any strong relish for his society.
Neither did Hawthorne really enjoy Thoreau, who would seem to have been
a sufficiently original person to have interested him, merely as a study
of character. But it does not appear that Hawthorne was ever
particularly fond of the society of men of letters, even though they
were also men of genius. He refused to go to the Saturday Club of
Authors, but would play cards with sea-captains in the smoking-room of
his boarding-house in Liverpool, evening after evening. Indeed, he liked
the piquant flavor of what is commonly called low society, when he
required any society outside his home, better than that which would have
seemed more adapted to his taste. We mean simply by this the society of
back-woodsmen, sailors, laborers, and old hard-headed farmers of New
England stock, with their strong provincial dialect.

Mr. Emerson himself liked the raciness of the conversation of such men,
and, indeed, we think almost all men of genius have something of the
same taste. When we read what Mrs. Hawthorne says of the manner of
conversation between her husband and Emerson, it can scarcely be
considered remarkable that Hawthorne should not have cared to confine
himself to the society of the sage. She says, speaking of Hawthorne:--

     "Mr. Emerson delights in him; he talks to him all the time, and Mr.
     Hawthorne looks answers. He seems to fascinate Emerson. Whenever he
     comes to see him he takes him away, so that no one may interrupt
     him in his close and dead-set attack upon his ear."

There is a one-sidedness to a conversation of this nature which might
well weary a person in the body; and only a disembodied spirit, it may
be surmised, could thoroughly enjoy it. A fine thing to do would be to
put two of those great conversationalists against each other, as was
sometimes done with Sydney Smith and Macaulay. It is said that the two
would sit glaring at each other and maintain perfect silence; whereas
either one of them apart from the other would discourse for three hours
without taking breath. Imagine the horrible agony of those among the
auditors who were not interested in the subject of the oration!--and
there must always have been some among the number so situated.

One remembers how Shelley got rid of the old woman down in Conway, and
wonders why the ruse was never tried upon Macaulay by some of his
victims. Shelley, it is said, was once riding in a stage in that region,
and the only passenger beside himself was an old woman with two huge
baskets filled with onions and cabbage respectively. She was huge
herself and much incumbered with fat, and the day was excessively warm.
Shelley was one of those delicate mortals who have been known to "die of
a rose in aromatic pains," and after a while the presence of the old
woman nearly drove him to distraction. He pretended that it had quite
done so, and suddenly throwing himself into the bottom of the stage he
glared at the old woman and shouted:--

  "For God's sake let us sit upon the ground,
  And tell sad stories of the death of kings:
  How some have been deposed, some slain in war,
  Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed,
  Some poisoned by their wives, some sleeping killed,--

Before the last two words--which he rendered with more than an actor's
effect--were fairly out of his mouth, the old woman by her shrieks had
summoned the guard, and was released from the company of the madman.
Shelley was often induced by his friends to show them how he got rid of
the old woman, and the exhibition always called for uproarious applause.
There is a hint in it for any well-bred company who may be bored to the
point of extinction by a distinguished member. The only wonder is that
in some cases the sudden madness is not real rather than assumed.

Hawthorne was eminently capable of being bored to this point of
desperation, and his mother and elder sister saved themselves from any
danger of this kind by voluntarily living the lives of recluses. Julian
Hawthorne tells us:--

     "His mother, a woman of fine gifts but extreme sensibility lost her
     husband in her twenty-eighth year; and from an exaggerated, almost
     Hindoo-like, construction of the law of seclusion which the public
     taste of that day imposed upon widows, she withdrew entirely from
     society and permitted the habit of solitude to grow upon her to
     such a degree that she actually remained a strict hermit to the end
     of her long life, or for more than forty years after Captain
     Hawthorne's death. Such behavior on the mother's part could not
     fail to have its effect upon the children. They had no opportunity
     to know what social intercourse meant; their peculiarities and
     eccentricities were at least negatively encouraged; they grew to
     regard themselves as something apart from the general world. It is
     saying much for the sanity and healthfulness of the minds of these
     three children, that their loneliness distorted their
     judgment--their perception of the relation of things--as little as
     it did."

The sister is described as having in many respects an intellect as
commanding and penetrating as that of her brother, and yet she followed
in the way of her mother and passed her life in almost complete
seclusion, caring for nothing but the reading of books and the taking of
long walks, sleeping always until noon, and sitting up until two or
three o'clock in the morning in perfect solitude. She boarded for many
years after her mother's death at a farm-house on the seashore, and
could not be induced to come out, even to attend the funeral of her
brother at Concord, although he was her pride and idol throughout life.

Had Hawthorne himself been less fortunate in his marriage, there is
little doubt that his own peculiarities would have become exaggerated,
perhaps even to the extent of those of his sister. But he married a
woman who both understood and appreciated him, and whom he idolized.
From this union grew all the happiness and success of his life. His son

     "To attempt to explain and describe his career without taking this
     event into consideration would be like trying to imagine a sun
     without heat or a day without a sun. Nothing seems less likely than
     that he should have accomplished his work in literature
     independently of her sympathy and companionship. Not that she
     afforded him any direct and literal assistance in the composition
     of his books and stories: her gifts were wholly unsuited to such
     employment, and no one apprehended more keenly than she the
     solitariness and uniqueness of his genius, insomuch that she would
     have deemed it something not far removed from profanation to have
     offered to advise or sway him in regard to his literary
     productions. She believed in his inspiration, and her office was to
     promote, as far as in her lay, the favorableness of the conditions
     under which it should manifest itself."

It was to this that she devoted her life,--to comfort, to cheer, to
soothe, to inspire, to guard from all outward annoyances, the poetical
and sensitive man who believed in her so implicitly and leaned upon her
so confidently. They led a very quiet and secluded life during the most
of his literary career, and seemed almost to resent any intrusion of the
outside world upon them, not only as regarded persons, but even as
regarded agitating questions and pressing ideas.

They took very slight interest in the questions which stirred New
England life in their day, and held entirely aloof from the reforms
which shook the social life around them from centre to foundation-stone.
Indeed, he had a deep-seated dislike to the genus Reformer, and
presented his picture of the whole race in "Hollingsworth." Perhaps he
had known some individual reformer of that odious type, and out of this
grew his dislike of the whole species. At any rate, the men--of whom New
England was full at that time--who

  "Blew the fiery breath of storm
  Through the hoarse trumpet of Reform"

never received much aid or sympathy from Nathaniel Hawthorne or his
wife. Nor will they, apparently, from his son, who says of his father,
"He was not a teetotaler any more than he was an abolitionist or a

But if their sympathies did not go out very widely to the outside world,
there was the most perfect sympathy and companionship in the home life,
and no more beautiful record of a perfect marriage has ever been made
than this life of the Hawthornes presents. Yes, it was a happy life they
led, these two in their married isolation, despite poverty and obscurity
and a lack of appreciation in the early time, and of trial, from
ill-health and other causes, in later years. He lived like Carlyle, a
good deal in the shadows of his famous books, and was sometimes for
months in the possession of the demon of composition. While composing
"The Marble Faun" he thus writes in a letter:

     "I sternly shut myself up, and come to close grips with the romance
     which I am trying to tear from my brain."

He was always discouraged about his work, and needed a deal of cheering
regarding it. He says in one place:

     "My own individual taste is for an altogether different class of
     books from what I write. If I were to meet with such books as mine
     by another writer, I do not believe I should be able to get through
     with them."

And again:--

     "I will try to write a more genial book, but the Devil himself
     always gets into my inkstand, and I can only get him out by

Still again:--

     "Heaven sees fit to visit me with the unshakable conviction that
     all this series of articles is good for nothing. I don't think that
     the public will bear with much more of this sort of thing."

His letters are often full of this moody discouragement, though lighted
up always by some gleams of his humor. For instance, he writes to

     "Do make some inquiries about Portugal,--in what part of the world
     it lies, and whether it is a Kingdom, an Empire, or a Republic.
     Also the expenses of living there, and whether the Minister would
     be much pestered with his own countrymen."

And later, when he was in Rome:--

     "I bitterly detest this Rome, and shall rejoice to bid it adieu
     forever; and I fully acquiesce in all the mischief and ruin that
     has ever happened to it from Nero's conflagration downward. In
     fact, I wish the very site of it had been obliterated before I ever
     saw it."

His complaints about his pens are really very amusing to those
people--and their name is legion--who have had a like difficulty in
pleasing themselves. He writes to Fields:--

     "If you want me to write you a good novel, send me a good pen; not
     a gold one, but one which will not get stiff and rheumatic the
     moment I get attached to it. I never met with a good pen in my

To this last sentiment we think that a great multitude which no man can
number will respond Amen. He says of them again:--

     "Nobody ever suffered more from pens than I have, and I am glad
     that my labor with the abominable little tool is drawing to a

In private conversation he enlivened his more serious thoughts often
with vivid surprises of expression; and he had a mild way of making a
severe remark, which reminded Charlotte Cushman of a man she once saw
making such a disturbance in the gallery of a theatre that the play
could hardly proceed. Cries of "Throw him over!" arose from all parts of
the house, and the noise became furious. All was tumultuous chaos until
a sweet and gentle female voice was heard in the pit, when all grew
silent to hear:--

     "No, I pray you, my friends, don't throw him over. I beg that you
     will not throw him over, but--kill him where he is!"

It was only in the company of intimate personal friends, from whom all
restraint was removed, that Hawthorne ever indulged in his natural
buoyancy of spirits. Among them he occasionally condescended to
uproarious fun. But he was like Dr. Johnson, who, when indulging in a
scene of wild hilarity, suddenly exclaimed to his friends, as Beau
Brummel approached, "Let us be grave; here comes a fool." If there was
the slightest suspicion of there being a fool in the company Hawthorne
always wore his armor. The pretentious and transcendental fools he
hated worst of all; and the young man who had no taste for the finite,
but thought the infinite was the thing for him, always left him with a
feeling as of asphyxia.

Hawthorne's atmosphere was really unhealthy for transcendentalists. No
doubt his dislike of Margaret Fuller arose from this feeling of his that
she was always acting a part, always straining after an effect. He loved
simple, natural, unaffected people, and the part of a sibyl was very
distasteful to him. He suspected the inspiration of green tea in much
that Margaret said, and very ungallantly pronounced her a humbug. But as
he did this only upon the paper of his own private diary, with no
thought of it ever being paraded before a critical and captious world,
we should not blame him too severely. And if he was mistaken in what he
wrote concerning her husband and her life in Rome, as seems to be the
fact, no doubt he was deceived by gossip-loving friends in Rome
concerning the matter. One does not write gratuitous falsehoods upon the
pages of one's private notebook about acquaintances, as a general rule.
If he had desired to injure Margaret he would have put his supposed
facts in a different place, no doubt, and not merely written them in a
moment of spleen where he never expected them to be seen.

The publication of such comment as this, and Carlyle's mention of
Charles Lamb and others, seems to be due entirely to the total depravity
of literary executors. As George Eliot says, it is like uncovering the
dead Byron's club-foot, when he had been so sensitive about it through
life, as his friend Trelawny boasts that he did. Margaret Fuller was a
large-brained, big-hearted woman, but that she and Hawthorne could not
thoroughly fraternize is not a strange thing. We see another instance of
such lack of appreciation of each other's qualities in Henry James and
the Bostonians of the present time. Even the admirers of the Boston type
get a little quiet amusement from his delicious satire, although their
admiration of the reformers may remain unshaken. That the world has got
a little weary of the mutual admiration of the Boston coterie is an open
secret. We have had a trifle too much of it from the day of Fields, who
apparently invented Hawthorne, and would have put a patent upon him if
possible, down to the present era of worship of that real hero, Emerson
who, if he survives the laudations of his present army of admirers, may
well hope for immortality.

The wife of Hawthorne was so different a person from the noble army of
literary and artistic women who are so numerous to-day, but who in his
time had just begun to assert themselves, that, believing her to be the
perfect flower of womanhood, as he did, he could scarcely be expected to
appreciate the Zenobias of that or of the present time.

Mrs. Hawthorne's sister, Elizabeth Peabody, was one of the women of the
new era, and has spent her entire life in noble efforts to improve the
world into which she was born; and who shall say whether Mrs. Hawthorne
or Miss Peabody was the higher type of woman?

If we were obliged to compare Mrs. Hawthorne with the caricatures of the
strong-minded woman in which novelists so delight,--those "housekeepers
by the wrath of God,"--like Mrs. Jellaby and similar monstrosities, then
the answer would not be hard. We could all cry, Mrs. Hawthorne, now and
forever! But when we compare her to the strong-minded women like George
Eliot, perfect wives, perfect home-makers, perfectly sympathetic and
loyal comrades of their husbands, and lacking nothing of womanly
softness or tenderness with all their strength, then the answer is not
so simple. But doubtless the fact that God created both types may be
accepted as evidence that He saw uses for both, and that even the women
whom He made "fools to match the men" are not without their purpose in
the economy of the universe.

Such thoughts as the following in regard to her husband, written by Mrs.
Hawthorne after eight years of marriage, sound not unlike the
rhapsodies of George Eliot concerning Mr. Lewes:--

     "He has perfect dominion over himself in every respect, so that to
     do the highest, wisest, loveliest thing is not the least effort to
     him, any more than it is for a baby to be innocent. It is his
     spontaneous act, and a baby is not more unconscious of its
     innocence. I never knew such loftiness so simply borne. I have
     never known him to stoop from it in the most trivial household
     matter any more than in the larger or more public ones. If the
     Hours make out to reach him in his high sphere their wings are very
     strong. Happy, happiest is the wife who can bear such and so
     sincere testimony to her husband after eight years' intimate union.
     Such a person can never lose the prestige which commands and
     fascinates. I cannot possibly conceive of my happiness, but in a
     kind of blissful confusion live on. If I can only be so great, so
     high, so noble, so sweet as he, in any phase of my being, I shall
     be glad. I am not deluded nor mistaken, as the angels know now, and
     as all my friends will know in open vision."

We will quote but this one passage from her letters about him, though
the Life is filled with similar ones, and will give but one of his
love-letters to her, and that not entire. He says:--

     "Sometimes during my solitary life in our old Salem house it seemed
     to me as if I had only life enough to know that I was not alive,
     for I had no wife then to keep my heart warm. But at length you
     were revealed to me in the shadow of a seclusion as deep as my own.
     I drew nearer and nearer to you, and opened my heart to you, and
     you came to me, and will remain forever, keeping my heart warm, and
     renewing my life with your own. You only have taught me that I have
     a heart; you only have thrown a light deep downward and upward into
     my soul. You only have revealed me to myself, for without your aid
     my best knowledge of myself would have been merely to know my own
     shadow--to watch it flickering on the wall, and mistake its
     fantasies for my own real actions. . . . If the whole world stood
     between us we must have met; if we had been born in different ages
     we could not have been sundered!"

What was poverty and obscurity and isolation unto these two souls, so
complete in each other that nothing else was desired? How deep a lesson
might the young of these later days, who hesitate to take each other
unless all things else may be added unto them, learn from this perfect
marriage! How much, too, could they learn from the dignity and the
refinement and the charm of that early home, where all was so simple, so
humble, and yet so rich and satisfying! Would that we had more such
homes of royal poverty in these days of vulgar pretence and showy
unreality. More homes where there is no shamefacedness over the want of
the luxuries of their neighbors, but a simple content with what it is
possible to have honorably; where plain living is a religion, and where
there is no insatiable longing for the unattainable. The worship of
wealth, the feeling that there is no other good than money, is one of
the most degrading features of our modern life. It is a falsehood, too.
There is everything good in the world, and the most of the things which
are best in life can be had with but a little money. No man is poor
unless he feels poor. If a family are willing to live their own noble
life, pitched in a high key, and with little regard for what their
neighbors may say and think, it is still possible to be happy in this
goodly world, though the bank account may be small, or there be no bank
account in the case. The Ways and Means Committee of which Mrs.
Hawthorne was chairman in her day could impart a world of wisdom to the
fretful and ambitious wives of a generation of young men now upon the
stage of action, who strive so hard to live like the people who have
wealth at their command that they spoil the beautiful homes they might
enjoy by an unceasing strife to appear to live better than they can
afford to do.

When Fortune began to smile upon the Hawthornes, after the immortal
"Scarlet Letter" had been written and "The Blithedale Romance" had been
added to it, they received her favors with thankful hearts, and knew
how to spend wisely and well what came to them. But, as so often
happens, it does not appear that they were any happier in their easier
circumstances than in their poverty; probably not as happy, for the
glamour of youth was gone, and the first zest of being had become
dulled. Ill health, too, had come upon him, once so strong and perfect
in body; and their home was measurably broken up after they first went
abroad. The days at the Old Manse comprised the idyl of their lives.

Here is what Hawthorne himself says of this time:--

     "My wife is in the strictest sense my sole companion, and I need no
     other; there is no vacancy in my mind any more than in my heart. In
     truth, I have spent so many years in total seclusion from all human
     society that it is no wonder if now I feel all my desires satisfied
     by this sole intercourse. But she has come to me from the midst of
     many friends and acquaintances; yet she lives from day to day in
     this solitude, seeing nobody but myself and our Molly, while the
     snow of our avenue is untrodden for weeks by any footstep save
     mine. Yet she is always cheerful. Thank God that I suffice for her
     boundless heart."

And, again, to her he writes:--

     "DEAR LITTLE WIFE,--After finishing my record in the journal, I sat
     a long time in grandmother's chair thinking of many things; but the
     thought of thee, the great thought of thee, was among all other
     thoughts, like the pervading sunshine falling through the boughs
     and branches of a tree and tinging every separate leaf. And surely
     thou shouldst not have deserted me without manufacturing a
     sufficient quantity of sunshine to last till thy return. Art thou
     not ashamed?"

Concord was never the same to them after their return from Rome. The
shadow of the coming separation was already around them. He writes,
after the appearance of Longfellow's poem: "I, too, am weary, and look
forward to the Wayside Inn." And, spite of the most loving ministrations
of family and friends, he was soon brought to the rest which awaited him
there. None could really regret that he had found the peace he sought;
but the world seemed more thinly populated when it was known that the
hand which had written "The Scarlet Letter," "The House of the Seven
Gables," and "The Marble Faun" would write no more. "We carried him,"
said Fields, "through the blossoming orchards of Concord, and laid him
down under a group of pines on a hill-side overlooking historic fields;
the unfinished romance which had cost him such anxiety laid upon his
coffin." And there, upon that Concord height which he has rendered
world-famous, made a Delphian vale or a Mecca to so many pilgrims from
his own land and from over sea, he sleeps well. There the sweet spring
flowers of dear old New England bloom for him; there the Mayflower
pierces the melting snow, and the shy, sweet violet gems the earliest
green; there the dandelion glows in golden splendor, and the snowy
daisies star the grass, and all the sweet succession of summer flowers
troop in orderly array, until Autumn waves her torch, and the sumach and
the goldenrod blaze out in wild magnificence, and the blue-fringed
gentian hides in secret coverts. These are the fitting decorations of
that grave. Piled marble or towering granite would lie too heavy on the
heart of this child of Nature. And as the years shall pass, still will
the humble grave continue to be visited. "Forgotten" will never be
written upon the tombstone of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Still through the
clear brilliance of New England winter nights will the stars look down
tenderly upon it. Arcturus will stand guard over it, golden-belted Orion
will send down quivering lances of light to illumine it, the pomp of
blazing Jupiter shall envelop it, and the first radiance of the dawn
shall silver its sacred slopes forever.




In the city of Portland, that "beautiful town that is seated by the
sea," in the year 1807 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born, and in the
delightful old ancestral home there he passed his youth. The house had
been his mother's home since early childhood; in it she was married, and
in it passed almost her entire life. It had been built by Mrs.
Longfellow's father, General Peleg Wadsworth, in the year 1784, and was
one of the finest mansions in the city at that time, standing, not as
now, in the heart of the city, but out in the open fields. Mr. and Mrs.
Longfellow passed here a long, beautiful, and happy life, devotedly
attached to each other, fond and proud of their children, and much given
to good works. Mr. Longfellow was a man of consequence in the community,
much honored for his learning and ability, and much esteemed for his
integrity, his cordial and kind manners, and his generous hospitality.
He had graduated at Harvard College when very young, where he was a
classmate of Dr. Channing, Judge Story, and other distinguished men, and
much esteemed by them for the same qualities which made him popular in
after-life. He was regarded as one of the purest and most high-minded
youths who had at that time honored the college and been honored by it.
Mrs. Longfellow was a very beautiful woman, fond of poetry and music, of
dancing and social gayety, and a profound lover of Nature in all her
varied aspects. She was a tender and faithful wife and a most devoted
mother. From her Mr. Longfellow doubtless inherited his poetic
temperament and much that was most pleasing in his disposition.

Longfellow's childhood seems to have been a very happy one, passed in
this beautiful home, with such parents, and surrounded by a delightful
group of young friends. He was very fond of reverting to it, and all
through his life cherished the memory of

  "The friendships old, and the early loves"

which used to come back to him

  "With a Sabbath sound as of doves
    In quiet neighborhoods."

He remembered, too, more vividly than many men of mature years,

  "The gleams and glooms that dart
    Across the school-boy's brain;
  The song and the silence in the heart
  That in part are prophecies and in part
    Are longings wild and vain."

When only fifteen years of age he entered Bowdoin College, with a
brother two years older than himself, and graduated fourth in his class
in 1825. His Commencement oration was upon "The Life and Writings of
Chatterton." He was also invited to deliver a poem the day after
Commencement, as he had already begun to write verses which had been
printed in the local newspapers. Almost immediately after his graduation
he was offered a professorship in the college, and requested to visit
Europe to prepare himself for its duties, making further studies in the
modern languages for that purpose.

The proposal was eagerly accepted, and he sailed the following spring in
a packet-ship from New York. The voyage occupied a month, and was a
remarkably pleasant one, thoroughly enjoyed by the young traveller.
There is nothing remarkable in the letters he wrote home during this
first trip to Europe, when he visited France, Spain, Germany, Italy
(where he spent a year), and England. He assumed the duties of his
professorship immediately upon his return, at a salary of one thousand
dollars a year. He was very popular with the students from the first,
and became quite a power in the University. At this time he became a
contributor to the "North American Review," and may be said to have
fairly begun his literary career. In the year 1831 he was married to
Mary Storer Potter, a young lady of Portland, to whom he had long been
attached. She was one of the famous beauties of that town, noted for its
beautiful women, and a member of the social circle in which the
Longfellows moved. The marriage was in every way suitable, and pleasing
to the friends of both parties. She was a lady highly educated for that
day, and possessed of a mind of unusual power. She was also of a most
cheerful and amiable disposition; and the world opened very brightly
before the young professor. They began housekeeping in Brunswick in a
house still standing in Federal Street. He gives this picture of a
morning there:--

     "I can almost fancy myself in Spain, the morning is so soft and
     beautiful. The tessellated shadow of the honeysuckle lies
     motionless upon my study floor, as if it were a figure in the
     carpet; and through the open window comes the fragrance of the
     wild-brier and the mock-orange. The birds are carolling in the
     trees, and their shadows flit across the window as they dart to and
     fro in the sunshine; while the murmur of the bee, the cooing of
     doves from the eaves, and the whirring of a little humming-bird
     that has its nest in the honeysuckle, send up a sound of joy to
     meet the rising sun."

Here was passed a very busy and happy period of Mr. Longfellow's life.
He was young, gifted, fortunately situated, and beloved, and as yet no
shadow had darkened his life. He employed his leisure in writing a
series of sketches of travel which were afterwards published as
"Outre-Mer," and he began to write poetry again after an interval of
nearly eight years. He also began a scrap-book devoted to notices of
his writings, which he christened "Puffs and Counter Blasts," and kept
for the greater part of his life.

He passed five and a half years in Brunswick, perhaps the happiest years
of his life, for he had youth and health and high hope at this time; and
then he began to long for a somewhat wider sphere. Very opportunely came
the offer of a professorship in Harvard University, which was at once
accepted, in April, 1835. He sailed for Europe to make himself familiar
with the Scandinavian tongues and to pass some further time in Germany.
He was accompanied by his wife and two of her young lady friends. They
remained in London for a few weeks, and made acquaintance with many
distinguished people,--among others the Carlyles, to whom they had
brought an introduction from Mr. Emerson. They paid a visit to the seer
at Chelsea, of which Mrs. Longfellow wrote:--

     "Mr. Carlyle of Craigenputtock was soon after announced, and passed
     a half-hour with us much to our delight. He has very unpolished
     manners, and a broad Scottish accent, but such fine language and
     beautiful thoughts that it is truly delightful to listen to him. He
     invited us to take tea with them at Chelsea, where they now reside.
     We were as much charmed with Mrs. C. as with her husband. She is a
     lovely woman with very simple and pleasing manners. She is also
     very talented and accomplished; and how delightful it is to see
     such modesty combined with such power to please!"

They left London for Copenhagen and Stockholm in June, and were much
delighted with the new land they visited. To read in the public square
at midnight; to pass through groves of pine and fir with rose-colored
cones; to hear the watchman call from the church tower four times toward
the four quarters of the heaven, "Ho, watchmen, ho! Twelve the clock
hath stricken. God keep our town from fire and brand, and enemy's
hand;" to have boys and girls run before to open the gates; to hear the
peasants cry, "God bless you," when you sneezed,--all these little
things gave them the delight which young travellers alone can

But alas! that delight was of short duration. Mrs. Longfellow was taken
sick in Amsterdam in October, and they were detained there for a month.
She seemed to recover, and they journeyed on to Rotterdam, where she
fell ill again and died the 29th of November. Her husband wrote of her
that "she closed her peaceful life by a still more peaceful death, and
though called away when life was brightest, went without a murmur and in
perfect willingness to the bosom of her God." Mr. Longfellow immediately
resumed his journey, going on to Dusseldorf and from there to Bonn. He
took a carriage and journeyed along the banks of the Rhine, by the
"castled crag of Drachenfels" and the other storied places of that
famous river, in complete silence, though with a pleasant companion by
his side. They visited castles and cathedrals, and wonderful ruins, and
some of the most picturesque points of that picturesque land, but in a
gloom which nothing could break or even lighten. So on to Heidelberg,
where they were to sojourn for a time, and where Mr. Longfellow was to
pursue his studies. Here he found Mr. Bryant, whom he had never met, but
who cheered and soothed him as only a fellow-countryman and a man
like-minded with himself could have done. Mr. Bryant did not remain long
in Heidelberg, however, though his wife and daughters stayed through the
winter and continued to cheer Mr. Longfellow's loneliness. He made work
his chief consoler, however, and accomplished a great deal in the line
of his chosen career.

Like Paul Fleming, into whose story he wove many of the experiences of
this part of his life, "he buried himself in books, in old dusty books.
He worked his way diligently through the ancient poetic lore of Germany
into the bright sunny land where walk the modern bards and sing." Into
the Silent Land he walked with Salis; he wept with the melancholy
Werther, or laughed with the gentle Meister; he pondered deeply over the
congenial Schiller, but delighted most of all in Jean Paul the Only, in
whose prodigal fancy he lost for a time the memory of his sorrows. But
ever at his side, as he walked on the banks of the beautiful Neckar and
gazed up at the lofty mountains which surround Heidelberg, there seemed
to walk the Being Beauteous who had whispered with her dying breath, "I
will be with you and watch over you." Many years afterwards he embalmed
the memory of this young and beautiful wife in the poem called "The
Footsteps of Angels." The summer following his bereavement he started on
a tour through Switzerland, finding at the very outset of that journey
the tablet containing the inscription which he made the motto of
"Hyperion" and of his future life: "Look not mournfully into the Past,
it comes not back again; wisely improve the Present, it is thine; go
forth to meet the shadowy Future without fear and with a manly heart."
At Interlachen he met Miss Frances Appleton, and in the pages of
"Hyperion" the world has read of the romance which followed that
meeting. We also read, in the journals published recently, some records
of those days. Here is one of the earliest:--

     "A day of true and quiet enjoyment, travelling from Thun to
     Entelbuch on our way to Lucerne. The time glided too swiftly away.
     We read the 'Genevieve' of Coleridge, and the 'Christabel,' and
     many scraps of song, and little German ballads of Uhland, simple
     and strange. At noon we stopped at Langnau, and walked into the
     fields, and sat down by a stream of pure water that turned a mill;
     and a little girl came out of the mill and brought us cherries; and
     the shadow of the trees was pleasant, and my soul was filled with
     peace and gladness."

And a little later:--

     "Took a carriage to St. Germain-en-Laye to see the _Fête des
     Layes_. The day was pleasant, with shifting clouds and sunshine.
     They told me I was in good spirits. It was the surface only,
     stirred by the passing breeze and catching the sunshine of the
     moment. I have often observed, amid a chorus of a hundred voices
     and the sound of a hundred instruments, amid all this whirlwind of
     the vexed air, that I could distinguish the melancholy vibration of
     a single string touched by a finger. It had a mournful, sobbing
     sound. Thus amid the splendor of a festival,--the rushing crowd,
     and song, and sounds of gladness, and a thousand mingling
     emotions,--distinctly audible to the mind's ear are the pulsations
     of some melancholy chord of the heart, touched by the finger of
     memory. And it has a mournful, sobbing sound."

But tearing himself away from the sadness of the old memory and the
fascination of the new presence alike, Mr. Longfellow returned to
America in December, 1836, and assumed the duties of his professorship
at Cambridge. Here he soon formed those friendships which were to him a
life-long blessing and delight. They fall naturally into two groups, the
earlier and later, though some of the most intimate of these friendships
formed in youth lasted until near the close of Mr. Longfellow's life.
Among the early friends were George W. Greene, with whom he corresponded
most affectionately for many years; Mr. Samuel Ward, a brother of Mrs.
Julia Ward Howe; Professor Felton; Hilliard, Mr. Sumner's law partner;
Cleveland, a scholar living at ease in Brookline; Hawthorne; and always
and ever Mr. Sumner himself. Emerson, also, and Prescott were his
friends, but not so intimate as the others. Here is a glimpse of the
author of that series of fascinating histories, since so popular, in a
letter to Greene:--

     "This morning, as I was sitting at breakfast, a gentleman on
     horseback sent up word that I should come down to him. It was
     Prescott, author of 'Ferdinand and Isabella.' He is an early riser,
     and rides about the country. There on his horse sat the great
     author. He is one of the best fellows in the world, and much my
     friend; handsome and forty; a great diner-out; gentle,
     companionable, and modest; quite astonished to find himself

Then comes a glimpse of the as yet unknown author of "The Scarlet

     "I shall see Hawthorne to-morrow. He lives in Salem, and we meet
     and sup together to-morrow evening at the Tremont House. Your
     health shall be remembered. He is a strange owl; a very peculiar
     individual, with a dash of originality about him very pleasant to
     behold. How I wish you could be with us! Ach! my beloved friend,
     when I one day sit with you in Italy again, with nothing on the
     snow-white tablecloth save bread still whiter, and fruit, and that
     most delicate wine 'in beakers full of the warm South,' will we
     pledge the happy present time and those sorrows and disappointments
     which are our schoolmasters. Sumner is the nearest and warmest
     thing I can send you. When you have him you will think you have me,
     he can tell you so much of me."

To this early group were added, later on, Agassiz, Lowell, Dana, James
T. Fields, Norton, Dr. Holmes, and others; but those mentioned were his
real intimates throughout life. With Emerson he maintained a calm and
admiring friendship, but saw less of him than of the others. Bryant and
Whittier and George W. Curtis he loved and admired, but they were more
distant and not his every-day companions. Dr. Samuel G. Howe belonged,
if not exactly to the earliest group of friends, yet among friends both
early and late. These men are all historic now, and it seems strange to
find Longfellow writing of them as he does in letters and journals. For

     "Also Mr. Emerson, a clergyman, with new views of life, death, and
     immortality; author of 'Nature,' and friend of Carlyle. He is one
     of the finest lecturers I ever heard, with magnificent passages of
     true prose poetry. But it is all dreamery, after all."

Strange, too, to find Carlyle writing to the young poet after the
receipt of a volume of his poems, before reading them, as is said to be
the fashion of great men when they wish to let unknown authors down
easily and gracefully:--

     "About the same time there came an indistinct message that a copy
     of your poems had been left for me at Fraser the bookseller's. It
     now beckons to me from one of my shelves, asking always, 'When wilt
     thou have a cheerful, vacant day?'"

Very natural it seems, though, to find that Carlyle is already writing
from "a hideous immeasurable treadmill, a smoky, soul-confusing
Babylon," and that he addresses "only one prayer to the heavens,--that
he were well out of it before it takes the life out of him."

Pleasantest and strongest perhaps of all his friendships was that for
Charles Sumner, who was lecturing at the Law School when Mr. Longfellow
first came to Cambridge. Begun when both were young men just launching
forth on their great but so different career, it continued until death
separated them, without a shadow of estrangement or disloyalty, but with
ever increasing ardor of affection. Sumner was inclined to literature at
that time, and indeed for many years afterwards, his political career
being rather forced upon him by the stormy times. A club was formed at
this time, called the "Five of Clubs," consisting of Longfellow, Sumner,
Hilliard, Cleveland, and Felton. They read and criticised each other's
writings, and enjoyed a hearty social intercourse. Awhile afterwards,
when they began to speak well of each other's articles in the reviews,
the newspapers gave them the name of the "Mutual Admiration Society."
Not inapplicable, probably, but applicable to the literary men of all
time. What is the great literary guild anywhere but a mutual admiration
society? What a large portion of our best literature would be blotted
out if what one great writer has said of another should be destroyed!
Would we have this so? Nay, verily! Certainly there was no lack of warm
admiration, and warm expression of it, among this little group of
friends; and between Sumner and Longfellow, at least, these expressions
continued throughout life, and were heartily sincere to the last. One
after another Longfellow's poems were submitted to his friends'
criticism, and each received its due meed of praise or gentle censure.
Mr. Sumner's speeches were received by Longfellow with great enthusiasm
always, and praised heartily and unreservedly. Every step in his career
was watched with the most eager interest and intense sympathy. It is one
of the most beautiful friendships on record. One wonders in reading the
journal what Longfellow's life would have been without these constant
visits and letters from Sumner. Every Sabbath was spent by the statesman
at the poet's house, when the former was in the vicinity of Boston, and
many and many are the records during the week,--Sumner to dine, Sumner
to tea, Sumner to pass the night, and always some note made of the late
and pleasant talk the pair had together. When Sumner goes to Washington
he is sadly missed, and such little notes as this sent after him in
tender remembrance:--

     "Your farewell note came safe and sad; and Sunday no well-known
     footstep in the hall, nor sound of cane laid upon the table. We ate
     our dinner somewhat silently by ourselves and talked of you far
     off, looking at your empty chair. Away, phantoms! I will not think
     of this too much for fear that which you say may prove truer than I
     want it to be. Let us not prophesy sadness."

When Sumner was expected to make a speech all were alert at Craigie
House, and often his friend would send him some such greeting as this:--

     "It is now eleven o'clock of the forenoon, and you have just taken
     your seat in the Senate and arranged your artillery to bombard
     Nebraska! We listen with deepest interest, but shall not hear the
     report of your guns till to-morrow, you are so far off. If, after
     all, the enemy prevails, it will be one dishonest victory more in
     the history of the world. But the enemy will not prevail. A seeming
     victory will be a real defeat."

Then, after the speech was read:--

     "All this morning of my birthday, my dear Senator, I have devoted
     to your speech on Nebraska, which came by the morning's mail. It is
     very noble, very cogent, very eloquent, very complete. How any one
     can get over it or under it or through it or round it, it is
     impossible to imagine."

Then, after the cowardly and fiendish attack upon Sumner in the Senate

     "I have no words to write you about this savage atrocity; only
     enough to express our sorrow and sympathy for yourself. We have
     been in great distress. Owen came to tell us of this great feat of
     arms of the 'Southern chivalry.' He was absolutely sobbing. I was
     much relieved on seeing your despatch to your mother, and to hear
     that George was going to you directly. A brave and noble speech you
     made, never to die out of the memories of men."

Then, a day or two later:--

     "I have just been reading again your speech. It is the greatest
     voice on the greatest subject that has been uttered since we became
     a nation. No matter for insults--we feel them with you; no matter
     for wounds--we also bleed in them."

But in the days of which we are writing, all these stormy troublous
times were yet far in the future, and the world looked bright and
pleasant to these afterward saddened friends. The acquaintance with Miss
Appleton had been renewed after her return to Boston, and the poet was
by this time deeply devoted to her, and hopeful of one day winning her
for his own. He became something of a dandy in those days, and showed a
fondness for color in coats, waistcoats, and neckties; and the ladies
looked at him a little doubtfully, thinking perhaps, as they had done of
Paul Fleming, that "his gloves were a shade too light for a strictly
virtuous man." Six years passed after the first meeting with Miss
Appleton in Europe before Mr. Longfellow finally claimed her for his
bride. He had been a patient as well as an ardent lover, and was
rewarded in 1843 by the hand of her he sought. She was now a woman of
twenty-five, of stately presence, cultivated mind, and calm but gracious
manners. Her face was not "faultily faultless" nor "icily regular," but
both beautiful and expressive. Mr. Longfellow was now thirty-six years
old, and a man of rapidly widening fame. Mr. Appleton purchased for the
newly married couple the old Craigie House in Cambridge, which had been
Mr. Longfellow's home ever since his arrival there. Most visitors to
Cambridge are familiar with this old Colonial mansion which had once
been the headquarters of General Washington. It stands far back in the
ample grounds which surround it, and is painted in yellow and white. It
is on Brattle Street as one goes from Harvard College to Mount Auburn.
The front is about eighty feet in length, including the verandas, and a
wooden railing extends around the roof. There is an Italian balustrade
along the first terrace, and a hedge of lilacs leads up to the door. Old
historic elms throw their broad arms all about the place. The interior
of the house is very handsome, and is considered a fine specimen of the
old Colonial style. Altogether it made a most delightful home for the
poet and his bride, and there they spent the remainder of their lives.

About the time of his marriage Mr. Longfellow's eyes failed him on
account of overstraining them, and one of Mrs. Longfellow's first wifely
duties was to furnish eyes for her husband. She read to him and wrote
for him a great deal for several years, and the close companionship
which this required was very pleasant to both. He was a very busy man in
those days; for, contrary to the popular impression, Mr. Longfellow did
a great deal of hard work at the college for a good many years. His was
no honorary position, but a genuine working professorship, involving the
preparation of a great number of lectures during each year and close
class-work besides. He enjoyed this work very much for the first few
years, but long before he resigned his position it became exceedingly
burdensome to him. The college should have relieved him of the drudgery
of his professorship, and allowed him time for the preparation of
special lectures upon really scholarly themes; but it had not the wisdom
to do so, and exacted the labors of a dray-horse from this chained
Pegasus. In the journal are many entries like the following:--

     "I seriously think of resigning my professorship. My time is so
     fully taken up by its lectures and other duties that I have none
     left for writing. Then my eyes are suffering, and the years are
     precious; and if I wish to do anything in literature it must be
     done now. Few men have written good poetry after fifty."


     "I get very tired of the routine of this life. The bright autumn
     weather draws me away from study, and the brown branches of the
     leafless trees are more beautiful than books. We lead but one life
     here on earth. We must make that beautiful. And to do this, health
     and elasticity of mind are needful, and whatever endangers or
     impedes these must be avoided."

And again:--

     "The day of rest--the 'truce of God' between contending cares--is
     over, and the world begins again to swing round with clash and
     clang, like the wings of a windmill. Grind, grind, grind."

Some hint of real work may be found in this:--

     "The seventy lectures to which I am doomed next year hang over me
     like a dark curtain. Seventy lectures! who will have the patience
     to hear them? If my eyes were strong I should delight in it. But it
     will eat up a whole year, and I was just beginning so cheerily on
     my poem and looking forward to pleasant work on it next year."

Oh, the pity of it! Many men could have lectured to college boys on the
modern languages and literature, if not as well as Longfellow, at least
well enough; but who was there who could write his poems? That he
should drudge on through his best years, giving only the odds and ends
of his time to his real life-work, seems an infinite pity. What might he
not have done in those earlier years could he have gone fresh and
untired to his musings and his dreams?

Emerson was wiser than he, when early in life he resolved to be content
with the most modest means and to have possession of himself. He never
drudged in a profession, but gave his full strength to his literary
work. Longfellow should have done this at least ten years before he did.
But five children had come into the family during the years of his last
marriage, and poetry has not long been a paying investment in this
country, although Longfellow in the later years received large sums for
his work. He probably dropped his college work as soon as he felt that
he could afford to do so; and after that, much of his important work was
done. But it was not done with the buoyancy and freshness which the
earlier years might have furnished, although some of his best poems were
written after the change.

But the last twenty years of Mr. Longfellow's life were saddened
inexpressibly by the loss of his wife, and all his later work is of a
sombre hue, filled through and through, unconsciously, with his own
sadness. Unconsciously we say, for he never intentionally rhymed his own
sorrows. There is no personal mention of his griefs in all his later
poems. The death of his wife occurred on the 9th of July in 1861, and
was caused by burns received from having her clothing ignited by a match
upon which she trod in their library, where she had been sealing up some
packages of the children's curls, which she had just cut. Mr. Longfellow
was badly burned in trying to save her, and when the funeral took place
was confined to his bed. She was buried upon the anniversary of her
marriage-day, and was crowned with a wreath of orange blossoms. She was
long remembered in Cambridge as the most beautiful woman of her
time,--beautiful not alone in body, but in spirit and life. Mr.
Longfellow never recovered from the tragedy, but mourned her in silence
for twenty years. Heart-breaking are the entries in the journal during
all this time,--entries telling at frequent intervals of his ever
increasing desolation. Little was known of all this by the world until
the publication of his journal, for it was one of the peculiarities of
his grief that he could speak of it to no one. Only after months had
passed did he allude to it in his letters even to his brothers, and then
in the briefest fashion: "And now of what we both are thinking I can
write no word. God's will be done." The first entry in the journal after
the break made at the time of her death is this:--

  "Sleep sweetly, tender heart, in peace!
    Sleep, holy spirit, blessed soul!
  While the stars burn, the moons increase,
    And the great ages onward roll."

The entries in the journal are all brief, but they are frequent and like
these: "Walk before breakfast with E---- and afterward alone. The
country is beautiful, but oh, how sad! How can I live any longer!" "The
glimmer of golden leaves in the sunshine; the lilac hedge shot with the
crimson creeper; the river writing its silver S in the meadow;
everything without full of loveliness. But within me the hunger, the
famine of the heart!" "Another walk under the pines, in the bright
morning sunshine."

  "Known and unknown; human, divine:
    Sweet human hand and lip and eye;
    Dear heavenly friend, who canst not die:
  Mine, mine forever; ever mine."

"How inexpressibly sad are all holydays! But the dear little girls had
their Christmas-tree last night, and an unseen presence blessed the

No mention of his loss was ever made in his published verse, though the
whole of his poetry was much sadder after that loss; but after his own
death the following poem was found in his desk, written eighteen years
after his wife's death:--

  "In the long, sleepless watches of the night
  A gentle face--the face of one long dead--
  Looks at me from the wall, where round its head
  The night lamp casts a halo of pale light.
  Here in this room she died, and soul more white
  Never through martyrdom of fire was led
  To its repose; nor can in books be read
  The legend of a life more benedight.
  There is a mountain in the distant West
  That, sun-defying in its deep ravines,
  Displays a cross of snow upon its side:
  Such is the cross I wear upon my breast
  These eighteen years, through all the changing scenes
  And seasons changeless since the day she died."

It was a long time before he could work again. When he felt that he
could do so, he began his translation of Dante, and frequently produced
a canto in a day, finding in this absorbing occupation the first
alleviation of his sorrow. In a sonnet "On Translating Dante," he

          "I enter here from day to day,
  And leave my burden at this minster gate."

But when his work was done he always found that his burden was still
awaiting him on the outside, and he took it up and bore it as patiently
as he could. But he began earnestly to long for

                  "The Wayside Inn,
  Where toil should cease and rest begin,"

and to feel that the approach of old age without the beloved
companionship was hard indeed to contemplate. But his children were
beautiful and promising and affectionate, and he a most loving and
conscientious father; so they gradually came to occupy his thoughts and
much to cheer his solitude. He was a famous man too by this time, indeed
long before; and the world made demands upon him which could not always
be disregarded, and he began to mingle with it somewhat again. But the
little group of friends to whom allusion has been made were his best
comforters, and were more and more prized as the years went on. During
the translation of Dante they assembled at very short intervals to
listen to the reading of the work, and to criticise, and suggest such
changes as were deemed advisable; and these occasions were much enjoyed.
As the years went by, one after another of the early friends fell by the
way, leaving gaps in his life which could never be filled. Felton was
the first to go, and he was very deeply mourned by Longfellow, who felt
"as if the world were reeling and sinking under his feet." His death
made, as his friend expressed it, "a chasm which not only nothing can
fill up, but which nothing has a tendency to fill up." Hawthorne and
Agassiz followed soon after Felton; and later Charles Sumner, most
deeply mourned of all. He said, in allusion to these friends, in one of
his most beautiful sonnets:--

  "I also wait! but they will come no more,
  Those friends of mine, whose presence satisfied
  The thirst and hunger of my heart. Ah me!
  They have forgotten the pathway to my door!
  Something is gone from Nature since they died,
  And summer is not summer, nor can be."

Mr. Longfellow made a final visit to Europe in 1868, accompanied by his
children, two sisters, and a brother, and his brother-in-law Thomas
Appleton. This journey was much enjoyed by all, although Mr. Longfellow
was not a very good sight-seer, and impatient of delays. The remainder
of his life passed placidly at his old home, and he died at the age of
seventy-five, in the midst of his family and friends. Upon his coffin
they placed a palm-branch and a spray of passion-flower,--symbols of
victory and the glory of suffering; and he was buried at Mount Auburn,
beside her he had so long mourned. What his work was we may tell in the
eloquent words of his brother poet and most appreciative critic, Mr.

     "His song was a household service, the ritual of our feastings and
     mournings; and often it rehearsed for us the tales of many lands,
     or, best of all, the legends of our own. I see him, a silver-haired
     minstrel, touching melodious keys, playing and singing in the
     twilight, within sound of the rote of the sea. There he lingers
     late; the curfew-bell has tolled and the darkness closes round,
     till at last that tender voice is silent, and he softly moves unto
     his rest."




The poet Whittier always calls to mind the prophet-bards of the olden
time. There is much of the old Semitic fire about him, and ethical and
religious subjects seem to occupy his entire mind. Like his own Tauler,
he walks abroad, constantly

  "Pondering the solemn Miracle of Life;
  As one who, wandering in a starless night,
  Feels momently the jar of unseen waves,
  And hears the thunder of an unknown sea
  Breaking along an unimagined shore."

His poems are so thoroughly imbued with this religious spirit that they
seem to us almost like the sacred writings of the different times and
nations of the world. They come to the lips upon all occasions of deep
feeling almost as naturally as the Scriptures do. They are current coin
with reformers the world over. They are the Alpha and Omega of deep,
strong religious faith. Whoever would best express his entire confidence
in the triumph of the right, and his reliance upon God's power against
the devices of men, finds the words of Whittier upon his lips; and to
those who mourn and seek for consolation, how naturally and
involuntarily come back lines from his poems they have long treasured,
but which perhaps never had a personal application until now! To the
wronged, the down-trodden, and the suffering they appeal as strongly as
the Psalms of David. He is the great High Priest of Literature. But few
priests at any time have had such an audience and such influence as he.
The moral and religious value of his work can scarcely be overstated.
Who can ever estimate the power which his strong words had in the days
that are now but a fading memory,--in the great conflict which freed the
bodies of so many million slaves? And who can ever estimate the power
his strong words have had throughout his whole career in freeing the
minds of other millions from the shackles of unworthy old beliefs? His
blows have been strong, steady, persistent. He has never had the fear of
man before his eyes. No man has done more for freedom, fellowship, and
character in religion than he. Hypocrisy and falsehood and cant have
been his dearest foes, and he has ridden at them early and late with his
lance poised and his steed at full tilt. Indeed, for a Quaker, Mr.
Whittier must be said to have a great deal of the martial spirit. The
fiery, fighting zeal of the old reformers is in his blood. You can
imagine him as upon occasion enjoying the imprecatory Psalms. In his
anti-slavery poems there is a depth of passionate earnestness which
shows that he could have gone to the stake for his opinions had he lived
in an earlier age than ours. That he did risk his life for them, even in
our own day, is well known. During the intense heat of the anti-slavery
conflict he was mobbed once and again by excited crowds; but he was not
to be intimidated by all the powers of evil, and continued to speak his
strong words and to sing his inspiring songs, whether men would hear or
whether they would forbear. And those Voices of Freedom, whatever may be
thought of them by mere critics and litterateurs, will outlast any poems
of their day, and sound "down the ringing grooves of Time" when much
that is now honored has been forgotten. He will be known as the Poet of
a great Cause, the Bard of Freedom, as long as the great anti-slavery
conflict is remembered. He is a part, and an important part, of the
history of his country, a central figure in the battalions of the
brave. Those wild, stirring bugle-calls of his cheered the little army,
and held it together many a time when the cause was only a forlorn hope;
and they came with their stern defiance into the camp of the enemy with
such masterful power that some gallant enemies deserted to his side.
They were afraid to be found fighting against God, as Whittier had
convinced them they were doing. There is the roll of drums and the clash
of spears in these stirring strains; there are echoes from Thermopylæ
and Marathon, and the breath of the old Greek heroes is in the air;
there is a hint of the old Border battle-cries from Scotland's hills and
tarns; from Jura's rocky wall we can catch the cheers of Tell; and the
voice of Cromwell can often be distinguished in the strain.

There is also the sweep of the winds through the pine woods, and the
mountain blasts of New England, and the strong fresh breath of the salt
sea; all tonic influences, in short, which braced up the minds of the
men of those days to a fixed and heroic purpose, from which they never
receded until their end was achieved. It has become the fashion in these
days of dilettanteism to say that earnestness and moral purpose have no
place in poetry, and small critics have arisen who claim that Mr.
Whittier has been spoiled as a poet by his moral teachings. To these
critics it is only necessary to point to the estimation in which Mr.
Whittier's poetry is held by the world, and to the daily widening of his
popularity among scholars and men of letters as well as among the
people, to teach them that this ruined poetry is likely to live when all
the merely pretty poetry they so much admire is forgotten forever. The
small poets who are afraid of touching a moral question for fear of
ruining their poems would do well to compare Poe, who is the leader of
their school and its best exponent, with Mr. Whittier, and to ask
themselves which is the more likely to survive the test of time. Let
them also ponder the words of Principal Shairp, one of the finest
critics of the day, when he says of the true mission of the poet, that
"it is to awaken men to the divine side of things; to bear witness to
the beauty that clothes the outer world, the nobility that lies hid,
often obscured, in human souls; to call forth sympathy for neglected
truths, for noble and oppressed persons, for down-trodden causes; and to
make men feel that through all outward beauty and all pure inward
affection God himself is addressing them." They would do well also to
ponder the words of Ruskin, who believes that only in as far as it has a
distinct moral purpose is any literary work of value to the world. Is
not the opinion of such men as these to be considered of weight in this
matter? And is it not an impertinence in little men like some of those
who have lately written of Mr. Whittier, to speak in a patronizing and
supercilious tone of his work, as if the very qualities which
distinguish it from the work of the weaklings had ruined it as poetry?

It is perhaps to Mr. Whittier's ancestry that we may trace this intense
consecration of life to all its higher purposes; for he came of a people
who had endured persecution for conscience' sake for generations, and
who had loved liberty with a love passing that of woman, and sacrificed
much for her sake. The depths of feeling which Mr. Whittier has always
sounded when the persecutions of the Quakers have risen before his
vision can only be understood by those who are thoroughly familiar with
the details of these persecutions, and who know the harmless character
of the men and women thus outraged. Mr. Whittier knows this well, and it
stirs his blood to this day, as it stirred the blood of his father and
mother when they recounted these things to his childish ears. Though so
much deep feeling was latent in their natures, the outward lives of his
parents were serene and calm. Mr. Whittier has, in that exquisite little
idyl "Snowbound," given us a graphic and authentic picture of his
childhood's home, and in a measure of the life lived there. It is a
quiet little New England interior, painted by a master's hand from love
of his work. It is every whit as delightful as "The Cotter's Saturday
Night;" and it is realistically true in every detail. Here we have the
family portraits drawn to life,--the father, who

      "Rode again his ride
  On Memphremagog's wooded side;
  Sat down again to moose and samp
  In trapper's hut and Indian camp;
  Lived o'er the old idyllic ease
  Beneath St. François' hemlock trees;"

and showed how

  "Again for him the moonlight shone
  On Norman cap and bodiced zone;
  Again he heard the violin play
  Which led the village dance away,
  And mingled in its merry whirl
  The grandam and the laughing girl."

The mother,

          "While she turned her wheel
  Or run the new-knit stocking-heel,
  Told how the Indian hordes came down
  At midnight on Cocheco town,
  And how her own great-uncle bore
  His cruel scalp-mark to fourscore.
  Recalling in her fitting phrase,
  So rich and picturesque and free,
  (The common unrhymed poetry
  Of simple life and country ways,)
  The story of her early days."

The uncle,

                  "Innocent of books,
  Was rich in lore of fields and brooks,--
  The ancient teachers never dumb
  Of Nature's unhoused lyceum.
  In moons and tides and weather wise,
  He read the clouds as prophecies,
  And foul or fair could well divine
  By many an occult hint and sign,
  Holding the cunning-warded keys
  To all the woodcraft mysteries."

The picture is very attractive of this

      "Simple, guileless, childlike man,
  Content to live where life began;
  Strong only on his native grounds,
  The little world of sights and sounds."


    "The dear aunt, whose smile of cheer
  And voice in dreams I see and hear,--
  The sweetest woman ever Fate
  Perverse denied a household mate,
  Who, lonely, homeless, not the less
  Found peace in love's unselfishness."

Then the elder sister,

  "A full, rich nature, free to trust,
  Truthful and almost sternly just,
  Impulsive, earnest, prompt to act,
  And make her generous thought a fact,
  Keeping with many a light disguise
  The secret of self-sacrifice."

The youngest sister, with "large, sweet, asking eyes," and the

  "Brisk wielder of the birch and rule,
  The master of the district school,"

make up the customary group; and it is safe to say that they were royal
company on that winter night.

Another description of the life of his boyhood may be found in "The
Barefoot Boy." No other language will describe so well those careless,
happy years of the genuine country boy.

    "Oh for boyhood's time of June,
  Crowding years in one brief moon,
  When all things I heard or saw,
  Me, their master, waited for.
  I was rich in flowers and trees,
  Humming-birds and honey-bees;
  For my sport the squirrel played,
  Plied the snouted mole his spade;
  For my taste the blackberry cone
  Purpled over hedge and stone;
  Laughed the brook for my delight
  Through the day and through the night,
  Whispering at the garden wall,
  Talked with me from fall to fall;
  Mine the sand-rimmed pickerel pend,
  Mine the walnut slopes beyond,
  Mine, on bending orchard trees,
  Apples of Hesperides!

       *       *       *       *       *

    "Oh for festal dainties spread,
  Like my bowl of milk and bread,--
  Pewter spoon and bowl of wood,
  On the door-stone, gray and rude!
  O'er me, like a regal tent,
  Cloudy-ribbed, the sunset bent,
  Purple-curtained, fringed with gold,
  Looped in many a wind-swung fold;
  While for music came the play
  Of the pied frogs' orchestra;
  And, to light the noisy choir,
  Lit the fly his lamp of fire.
  I was monarch: pomp and joy
  Waited on the barefoot boy."

Is not this an accurate picture of what a poet's childhood should be?

In his early youth we have the one hint of a romance which his life
contains, and he shall give us that also in his own words:--

  "How thrills once more the lengthening chain
    Of memory, at the thought of thee!
  Old hopes which long in dust have lain,
  Old dreams, come thronging back again,
    And boyhood lives again in me;
  I feel its glow upon my cheek,
    Its fulness of the heart is mine,
  As when I leaned to hear thee speak,
    Or raised my doubtful eye to thine.
  I hear again thy low replies,
    I feel thy hand within my own,
  And timidly again uprise
  The fringèd lids of hazel eyes,
    With soft brown tresses overblown.
  Ah! memories of sweet summer eves,
    Of moonlit wave and willowy way,
  Of stars and flowers and dewy leaves,
    And smiles and tones more dear than they."

It is very tender, very beautiful and touching, and, doubtless, it left
on him "an impress Time has worn not out." And we doubt if even yet,
when the shadows of age are gathering very deeply around the gentle
poet, that memory has faded.

  "Not yet has Time's dull footstep worn
  To common dust that path of flowers."

We cannot but wonder who the favored "Playmate" of the poet was, and we
sympathize with him when he asks,--

  "I wonder if she thinks of them,
    And how the old time seems,--
  If ever the pines of Ramoth wood
    Are sounding in her dreams.

  "I see her face, I hear her voice:
    Does she remember mine?
  And what to her is now the boy
    Who fed her father's kine?"

And we feel an intense interest in knowing whether or not she cares,
when he tells her,--

  "The winds so sweet with birch and fern,
    A sweeter memory blow;
  And there in spring the veeries sing
    The song of long ago.

  "And still the pines of Ramoth wood
    Are moaning like the sea,--
  The moaning of the sea of change
    Between myself and thee!"

Mr. Whittier has never married, and his favorite sister long presided
over his home in Amesbury, where his mother and the dear aunt also came
after the father's death. It was the bitterest loss of his life when
this beautiful sister died, and he has written nothing more touching
than his tribute to her in "Snowbound":--

  "With me one little year ago,
  The chill weight of the winter snow
    For months upon her grave has lain;
  And now, when summer south winds blow
    And brier and harebell bloom again,
  I tread the pleasant paths we trod,
  I see the violet-sprinkled sod
  Whereon she leaned, too frail and weak
  The hillside flowers she loved to seek,
  Yet following me where'er she went
  With dark eyes full of love's content.
  The birds are glad; the brier-rose fills
  The air with sweetness; all the hills
  Stretch green to June's unclouded sky;
  But still I wait with ear and eye
  For something gone which should be nigh,
  A loss in all familiar things,
  In flower that blooms, and bird that sings.

       *       *       *       *       *

  And while in life's late afternoon,
    Where cool and long the shadows grow,
  I walk to meet the night that soon
    Shall shape and shadow overflow,
  I cannot feel that thou art far,
  Since near at need the angels are;
  And when the sunset gates unbar,
    Shall I not see thee waiting stand,
  And, white against the evening star,
    The welcome of thy beckoning hand?"

This sister Elizabeth was herself a remarkable woman, and one of whom
the world would have heard more but for her great modesty. She was
gifted with a fine poetic taste, and was not only appreciative, but
might have been creative as well. A few of her poems appear in her
brother's collected works. She was beautiful in person, delicate and
dark-eyed, and possessed of exquisite taste in everything. The village
of Amesbury still cherishes her memory and recounts her virtues. The tie
between the sister and brother was of the closest kind, and their home
life together for so many years as beautiful as any recorded in
literature. After her death a niece kept his house for some time; but
though she was all devotion to him, the old home was never home after
the dear sister had left it.

Mr. Whittier is a man to feel very much the loneliness of his later
life, bereft as he has been of all his family friends except one
brother. But he is very lovingly and tenderly cared for by some distant
relatives, who live at Oak Knoll, Danvers, Mass., where he has passed
the most of his time the last few years. It is a most beautiful place,
and the poet takes great delight in it, preferring it even to his own
home at Amesbury, where he lived so long and where the greater part of
his literary work was done. The house and grounds remind one of an old
English manor-house and its surroundings. The old forest trees still
beautify it, while clumps of evergreens have been planted here and
there, with many shrubs and flowers. In the distance rise the blue hills
of Essex and Middlesex, and near at hand babbles a noisy brook, seeking
the not distant sea. All the beautiful trees of New England grow
here,--hickories, chestnuts, maples, birches, pines, and beeches; and
Whittier, who is a famous lover of trees, passes much time in these
shady coverts.

Mr. Whittier's own house at Amesbury is a plain white painted wooden
house, consisting of an upright and ell, like many old-fashioned
farm-houses, and surrounded by a picket-fence. It is roomy and
comfortable, and the study is a very cosey and attractive place, with
its open wood-fire and its well-filled book-shelves. One familiar with
its appearance thus describes it:--

     "One side is filled with a desk and books, among which Irish
     ballads have a place of honor; and an old-fashioned Franklin
     fireplace with polished brasses throws its cheerful blaze over
     carpet, lounge, and easy-chairs, and on walls covered with many
     souvenirs,--a water-color of Harry Fenn's, Hill's picture of the
     early home, fringed gentians painted by Lucy Larcom, and other
     trifles which give character to the room. In this nook the 'lords
     of thought' have been made welcome; here came Alice and Phoebe
     Cary on their romantic pilgrimage, and here have come many others
     of the illustrious women of the day, most of whom he reckons as his
     friends in this generation as he did Lydia Maria Child and Lucretia
     Mott and their contemporaries in the last."

Mr. Whittier's personal appearance is thus described by George W. Bungay
in his "Crayon Sketches:"--

     "His temperament is nervous bilious; he is tall, slender, and
     straight as an Indian; has a superb head; his brow looks like a
     white cloud under his raven hair; eyes large, black as sloes, and
     glowing with expression, . . . those star-like eyes flashing under
     such a magnificent forehead."

Another writer tells of:--

     "The fine intellectual beauty of his expression, the blending
     brightness and softness of the clear dark eye, the union of manly
     firmness and courage with womanly sweetness and tenderness alike in
     countenance and character."

That clear and bright observer Mr. Wasson says:--

     "The high cranium, so lofty, especially in the dome; the slight and
     symmetrical backward slope of the whole head; the powerful level
     brows, and beneath these the dark, deep eyes, so fun of shadowed
     fire; the Arabian complexion; the sharp-cut, intense lines of the
     face; the light, tall, erect stature; the quick, axial poise of the
     movement,--all these traits reveal the fiery Semitic prophet."

His smile is spoken of by all as irradiating his whole face. He is the
most modest and one of the shyest of men. He can rarely be exhibited as
a lion in Boston, though the celebrity-hunters often try to induce him
thus to show himself. His fame has been a great surprise to him, and he
can scarcely believe in it even now. When his seventieth birthday was
celebrated by the publishers of the "Atlantic Monthly" by a Whittier
Banquet, to which all the great writers in the country were invited, and
where many fine tributes were paid to his genius, he especially wondered
that all this honor was for him. The "Literary World" at the same time
published many fine poems from distinguished authors addressed to him,
and he replied in that journal to them, saying:--

  "Beside that mile-stone where the level sun
  Nigh unto setting sheds his last low rays
  On word and work irrevocably done,
  Life's blending threads of good and ill outspun,
  I hear, O friends, your words of cheer and praise,
  Half doubtful if myself or otherwise.
  Like him who in the old Athenian days
  A beggar slept, and crownèd Caliph woke."

Although shy in formal society, Mr. Whittier is of a social nature, and
very much enjoys unrestrained intercourse with his friends. Visitors
were always made welcome at Amesbury, and while his sister presided
there the house was very attractive to those who enjoyed its
hospitality. She was a witty and bright woman, who enlivened every
social circle she graced; and Mr. Whittier himself has a fund of
delicate humor, which lights up his conversations with those with whom
he is on familiar terms, and he has a quiet way of drawing out the best
there is in others, which causes every one to appear well in his
presence. Children are his loyal and enthusiastic friends everywhere;
and he was known among them in Amesbury as "the man with the parrot,"
that remarkable bird "Charlie" serving as a sort of connecting link
between the poet and the little ones. He is always ready for a game of
romps with the children even now, and they very much admire the stately
old man who condescends to them so kindly. Long ago, when his little
niece wanted the scarlet cape which other children wore, and there was
objection upon the part of her Quaker mother, Mr. Whittier pleaded so
well for the little one that she was allowed to indulge in the bright
trappings of her mates. Mr. Whittier himself has never gone to the
extremes of Quaker dress, and could hardly be distinguished from the
world by that alone. But he uses the "thee" and "thou" of the Friends,
and it is very charming to hear them from his lips. He has always been a
faithful attendant, also, upon their meetings.

The kindliness of Mr. Whittier's nature has always led him to help
others, especially young literary aspirants, and he has spent a great
deal of his valuable time upon this class. He cannot bear to leave a
letter unanswered or a request ungranted, and his correspondence has
become very burdensome these latter years. He has long been subject to
very severe neuralgic headaches, and can write now but a few minutes at
a time; and those few precious minutes he often wastes on some
impertinent stranger who has sent a great mass of manuscripts to him for
criticism. The little time which these insatiable correspondents leave
to him, he occupies very pleasantly in and about the grounds at Oak
Knoll. He enjoys working in the fine flower-garden, feeding the
squirrels, playing with the dogs, and driving the fine horses. He has
many friends within a morning's drive,--Harriet Preston, Gail Hamilton,
and others,--and driving about the country has always been one of his
choice diversions. He is now seventy-eight years old,--a cheerful,
kindly, essentially lovable old man. He still goes up to Boston
occasionally to meet friends and look about the city, and runs over to
Amesbury, where friends occupy his house and make him welcome; but for
the most part he remains in his quiet retreat, cheerfully awaiting the
change which must be near.




The genial "Autocrat of the Breakfast Table" was born in the city of
Cambridge, in Massachusetts, in the year 1809, upon the day given to the
Commencement exercises of Harvard College. It was the day of small
things in that institution, and the day of small things in American
literature. The child who was born that day was destined to add much to
the estimation in which both were held. He occupied a professor's chair
in the University for thirty-five years, and did good work in it too;
and he is one of the little group of illustrious men who have helped to
make a distinctively American literature, which is now honored
throughout the world. As we believe with Dr. Holmes that "it is an
ungenerous silence which leaves all the fair words of honestly-earned
praise to the writer of obituary notices and the marble-worker," we
shall endeavor to set forth in this paper some of the good points in the
character and work of this distinguished man,--perhaps the best beloved
of our native authors.

The Rev. Abiel Holmes, the father of our hero, was one of the typical
New England ministers of that day; the mother, Sarah Wendell, was from a
Dutch family, who came to Boston from Albany in the eighteenth century.
The old gambrel-roofed house where the poet was born stood close to the
buildings of Harvard University, and to the south flows the Charles
River, so often celebrated by Holmes and Longfellow and Lowell. The
environs of Cambridge are particularly beautiful, and have been the
subjects of many charming descriptions by all these writers. The old
yellow hip-roofed house was about one hundred and sixty years old when
it was moved away to make room for modern improvements. The New England
colonists knew how to build a house, and the work of their hands puts to
shame the sham edifices of the present day, which come up like Jonah's
gourd in a night. The mansion-houses of New England are among her most
precious inheritances; and we can scarcely blame the families, in whose
hands they have remained until this time, for feeling a certain pride in

The study was the great attraction to Oliver and his brother John. It
was a large heavy-beamed room, lined upon all sides with books,--which
was almost an unheard-of thing in this country at that time. Here the
boys were allowed to choose for themselves what they would read, and
here they doubtless formed the scholarly tastes of after-days. The
contrast between this library and that of the Whittier household, with
its less than a dozen books, is a great one, and has something to do
with the distinctive flavor of the work of the two men. There is a wild
woodsy flavor about Whittier to this day, pungent and stimulating; and
about all that Holmes has written is the atmosphere of books,--a smell
of Russia-leather, as it were, and the mustiness of old tomes. The
childhood of Oliver was very happy, and the memory of it has lingered
with him through life; he has always been very fond of talking of it and
writing about it. Of the old garden surrounding the manse, he has
written eloquently, and one can almost see it for himself from his
description,--with its lilac-bushes, its pear-trees, its peaches (for
they raised peaches in New England in those days), its lovely
nectarines, and white grapes. Old-fashioned flowers grew in the
borders,--hyacinths, coming up even through the snow; tulips, adding
their flaming splendor to the spring, although they are so much more
like autumn flowers; peonies, of mammoth size and gorgeous coloring;
flower-de-luce, lilies, roses--damask, blush, and cinnamon,--larkspurs,
lupines, and royal hollyhocks. Then there were the vegetables growing
with the flowers,--"beets, with their handsome dark-red leaves, carrots,
with their elegant filagree foliage, parsley, that clung to the earth
like mandrakes, radishes, illustrations of total depravity, a prey to
every evil underground emissary of the powers of darkness."

The Holmes boys were lively and frolicsome, not unlike what we have been
accustomed to hear of ministers' sons in general, and some of their
pranks were remembered in Cambridge for many a year. In one of Dr.
Holmes's college poems he hints at some of these "high old times:"--

  "I am not well to-night; methinks the fumes
  Of overheated punch have something dimmed
  The cerebellum or pineal gland,
  Or where the soul sits regnant."

Still, there was nothing worse than boyish fun in any of their larks,
and they were studious beyond their years.

Among their schoolmates was Margaret Fuller. Dr. Holmes says of her:--

     "Her air to her schoolmates was marked by a certain stateliness and
     distance, as if she had other thoughts than theirs, and was not of
     them. I remember her so well, as she appeared at school and later,
     that I regret that she had not been faithfully given to canvas or
     marble in the day of her best looks. None know her aspect who have
     not seen her living. Margaret, as I remember her at school and
     afterwards, was tall, fair-complexioned, with a watery aquamarine
     lustre in her light eyes, which she used to make small, as one does
     who looks at the sunshine. A remarkable point about her was that
     long flexible neck, arching and undulating in strange sinuous
     movements, which one who loved her would compare to those of a
     swan, and one who loved her not, to those of the ophidian who
     tempted our common mother. Her talk was affluent, magisterial, _de
     haut en bas_, some would say euphuistic, but surpassing the talk of
     women in breadth and audacity."

In due time young Holmes was graduated from Harvard, with a class which
he has helped to make well known by his annual college poems. The boys
of '29 were a noble and talented set of men, and quite a number of them
still live, among our most honored citizens. Some of his well-known
humorous poems were written for the college papers, among them "The
Dorchester Giant," "Evening, by a Tailor," "The Spectre Pig," and "The
Height of the Ridiculous." For a few years after he left college he went
on "writing as funny as he could," then discontinued his literary work
for some time, and only permanently renewed it with the starting of the
"Atlantic Monthly" in 1857. Here he began "The Autocrat of the Breakfast
Table," and followed it with that brilliant series of papers and of
novels which made him known the world over, as one of our most original
and characteristic writers. Long before this he had been married, and
settled down for life in the city of Boston. His wife, to whom he was
united in 1840, was Amelia Lee Jackson, daughter of Judge Jackson of the
Massachusetts Supreme Court. They lived in one house for over twenty
years, in Montgomery Place, near Bromfield Street. Holmes says of it, in
"The Professor at the Breakfast Table:"--

     "When he entered that door, two shadows glided over the threshold;
     five lingered in the doorway when he passed through it for the last
     time,--and one of the shadows was claimed by its owner to be longer
     than his own. What changes he saw in that quiet place! Death rained
     through every roof but his; children came into life, grew into
     maturity, wedded, faded away, threw themselves away; the whole
     drama of life was played in that stock-company's theatre of a dozen
     houses, one of which was his, and no deep sorrow or severe calamity
     ever entered his dwelling. Peace be to those walls forever, for the
     many pleasant years he passed in them."

The three children born to him were Oliver Wendell, Amelia Jackson, and
Edward. They all live near the old home, and the second generation is
beginning to be a prominent factor in the family affairs. The daughter
is Mrs. John T. Sargent, of Beverly Farms, near Boston, where Dr. Holmes
has passed the summer months for several years past. All readers will
remember the Doctor's famous "Hunt after the Captain," published in the
"Atlantic" during the war, and the thrilling interest the country took
in it. The "Captain" was the elder son, then just graduated from
Harvard, and belonging to the Fourth Battalion of Infantry. He was
thrice wounded, and the terror and anxiety of his friends at home cannot
be described in words. He is now an associate justice of the Supreme
Court of Massachusetts.

For a few years Dr. Holmes was much in demand as a lecturer; but he
never enjoyed that business very well, and after a while refused to go
upon any terms. In 1856 he thus defined his terms to an applicant for a

     "My terms, when I stay over night, are fifteen dollars and
     expenses, a room with a fire in it, in a public-house, and a
     mattress to sleep on,--not a feather-bed. As you write in your
     individual capacity, I tell you at once all my habitual exigencies.
     I am afraid to sleep in a cold room; I can't sleep on a
     feather-bed; I will not go to private houses."

In the "Autocrat" there is an account of his lecturing experiences by
the landlady, which gives a pretty good idea of some of his personal

     "He was a man who loved to stick around home, as much as any cat
     you ever see in your life. He used to say he'd as lief have a tooth
     pulled as go anywheres. Always got sick, he said, when he went
     away, and never sick when he didn't. Pretty nigh killed himself
     goin' about lecterin' two or three winters; talkin' in cold country
     lyceums; as he used to say, goin' home to cold parlors and bein'
     treated to cold apples and cold water, and then goin' up into a
     cold bed in a cold chamber, and comin' home next mornin' with a
     cold in his head as bad as a horse distemper. Then he'd look kind
     of sorry for havin' said it, and tell how kind some of the good
     women was to him; how one spread an edderdown comforter for him,
     and another fixed up somethin' hot for him after the lecter, and
     another one said, 'There, now you smoke that cigar of yours after
     the lecter just as if you was at home,'--and if they'd all been
     like that, he'd have gone on lecterin' forever; but as it was, he
     got pooty nigh enough of it, and preferred nateral death to puttin'
     himself out of the world by such violent means as lecterin'."

In fact, Holmes is eminently a Bostonian, and has never been really
happy off his native pavements. He, however, studied medicine in Paris
in his youth, and has made one or two visits to Europe since.

The Atlantic Club for a long time furnished Holmes excellent company,
and he in turn furnished the club with the wittiest and most sparkling
talk which this country probably has known:--

  "Such jests, that, drained of every joke,
  The very bank of language broke;
  Such deeds that laughter nearly died
  With stitches in his belted side."

Among those who took part in these delightful re-unions were Emerson,
Longfellow, Felton, Holmes, Agassiz, Lowell, Whipple, Motley, Charles
Eliot Norton, Edmund Quincy, Francis H. Underwood, Judge Hoar, J. Elliot
Cabot, and others. Lowell and Holmes were the wits _par excellence_,
though Judge Hoar did not fall far behind. Emerson sat always with a
seraphic smile upon his face, and Longfellow thoroughly enjoyed every
good sally, though not adding to the mirth-making himself. Dr. Appleton,
who met Dr. Holmes at the Saturday Club, writes:--

     "Dr. Holmes was highly talkative and agreeable; he converses very
     much like the Autocrat at the Breakfast Table,--wittily, and in a
     literary way, but perhaps with too great an infusion of
     physiological and medical metaphor. He is a little deaf, and has a
     mouth like the beak of a bird; indeed, he is, with his small body
     and quick movements, very like a bird in his general aspect."

When Charles Kingsley was in Boston he met Holmes, who came in, frisked
about, and talked incessantly, Kingsley intervening with a few words
only occasionally. At last Holmes whisked himself away, saying, "And now
I must go." "He is an insp-sp-sp-ired j-j-j-h-ack-daw," said Kingsley.

Mr. Kennedy, in his life of the poet, thus describes him:--

     "In person Holmes is a little under the medium height, though it
     does not strike you so when you see him, especially on the street,
     where he wears a tall silk hat and carries a cane. As a young man,
     he was, like Longfellow, a good deal of an exquisite in dress; and
     he has always been very neat and careful in his attire. He is quick
     and nervous in his movements, and conveys, in speaking, the
     impression of energy and intense vitality; and yet he has a poet's
     sensitiveness to noises, and a dread of persons of superabundant
     vitality and aggressiveness. When the fountain of laughter and
     smiles is stirred within him his face lights up with a winning
     expression, and a laughing, kindly glance of the eye. When he warms
     up to a subject in conversation he is a very rapid, vivacious

Dr. Holmes has been accused of being an egotist, and he undoubtedly does
like to talk of himself; but he talks always in such charming fashion
that nobody regrets the subject of his discourse, but would fain have
him go on and on without pause or limit. He is a hearty, happy man, who
is a good deal in love with life, and seldom dwells upon its darker
side. But he has a very earnest and serious side to his nature, and is
far from being a mere laughing philosopher. He enjoys out-of-door life,
as every poet must, and though he likes best to live in the city, he
takes great delight in the country also. He spent seven summers upon a
farm of his own in the enchanting Berkshire region, near Pittsfield, and
he says these seven summers stand in his memory like the seven golden
candlesticks seen in the beatific vision of the holy dreamer. He loves
rowing, racing, and walking through green country lanes. The New England
wild-flowers are especially dear to him, and he has all a poet's love
for that shyest and most beautiful of all, the trailing arbutus. He is
very fond also of perfumes, and likes the odorous blossoms best. He has
always had his dream of fair women, and he is a great favorite with
women of all ages. He is not averse to the pleasures of the table, and
likes plenty of friends around him, with mirth and good cheer, at his
dinner hour.

He has been accused of being somewhat aristocratic in his feelings, and
is doubtless a lover of the best society, as he interprets that
word,--not mere wealth or fashion, but good blood, generous culture
through more than one generation, and a general refinement in manners
and in thought. What he calls the Brahmin caste of New England is
doubtless very good society indeed; and who shall blame the good
Autocrat if he visits in that circle by choice? He would not, perhaps,
like the old scholar of whom he tells, give as his toast "to all the
people who on the earth do dwell," but he would select some very choice
and rare little coterie of those people, and toast them with the most
contagious enthusiasm.

That he is a man of fastidious tastes goes without saying, and rather
critical of men and women, in manners as well as morals. An acute
observer of small social phenomena, he does not deem it beneath his
dignity to criticise the man who cannot pronounce "view," and the woman,
even if it be Margaret Fuller, who says "nawvels." That he is a
sensitive man he told us long ago, and that--

        "There are times
  When all this fret and tumult that we hear
  Do seem more stale than to the sexton's ear
        His own dull chimes.

        "From crib to shroud!
  Nurse o'er our cradle screameth lullaby,
  And friends in boots tramp round us as we die,
        Snuffling aloud.

        "Children with drums
  Strapped round them by the fond paternal ass,
  Peripatetics with a blade of grass
        Between their thumbs.

        "Cockneys that kill
  Thin horses of a Sunday,--men with clams,
  Hoarse as young bisons roaring for their dams,
        From hill to hill.

        "Soldiers with guns,
  Making a nuisance of the blessed air,
  Child-crying bellmen, children in despair,
        Screeching for buns.

        "Storms, thunders, waves!
  Howl, crash, and bellow, till ye get your fill.
  Ye sometimes rest; men never can be still
        But in their graves."

Sometimes these daily trials are exaggerated to a quite unbearable
point, as in the case of Mr. and Mrs. Carlyle, who suffered intense
tortures in later life from the ordinary every-day noises; but in the
case of Dr. Holmes, as with most people with healthy nerves, these
things only give a whimsical annoyance. The battles of Mrs. Carlyle with
Chanticleer, as she depicts them, have all the interest of a new Iliad,
and the days before Troy have not been studied with more breathless
interest than some of her encounters with the makers of the many noises
with which London is filled. Dr. Holmes, too, has had his battle with
the music-grinders, as who has not? Do we not all know "these crusaders
sent from some infernal clime"? and have we not all felt with him the
relief when "silence like a poultice comes to heal the blows of sound"?
Do we not all know the "Treadmill Song," also, in practical life? and
are we not intensely weary of it sometimes? Not many of us can say with
him, at the close of one of our "treadmill" days,--

  "It's pretty sport; suppose we take
      A round or two for fun."

or add,--

  "If ever they should turn me out
      When I have better grown,
  Now hang me but I mean to have
      A treadmill of my own."

But this has been the good Doctor's spirit through life. He has taken
his troubles lightly, and his labors have sat easily upon him. He has
laughed where many would have wept, and he has joked where some would
have been serious, if not savage. But that he has done serious work, and
that it has been work which has borne fruit, who can doubt? His
professional labors are perhaps least known of any of his various
activities, but they were many and varied, and not barren of good
results. As a single illustration, take his treatise upon "The
Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever," concerning which he has said:--

     "When, by permission of Providence, I held up to the professional
     public the damnable facts connected with the conveyance of poison
     from one young mother's chamber to another's,--for doing which
     humble office I desire to be thankful that I have lived, though
     nothing else good should ever come of my life,--I had to bear the
     sneers of those whose position I had assailed, and, as I believe,
     have at last demolished, so that nothing but the ghosts of dead
     women stir among the ruins."

He fought Homoeopathy in the liveliest manner for many years, and
latterly threw some hot shot into the ranks of the Allopathists
themselves, in an attack upon the excessive use of drugs in medical
practice. The Medical Society were considerably excited by this vigorous
onslaught, the ripe result of thirty years' study and experience, and
disclaimed all responsibility for its sentiments.

     "Throw out opium," said Dr. Holmes: "throw out a few specifics
     which a physician is hardly needed to apply; throw out wine, which
     is a food, and the vapors of ether producing anæsthesia; and then
     sink the whole materia medica, _as now used_, to the bottom of the
     sea: the result would be all the better for mankind, and all the
     worse for the fishes."

Of his life-long battle against the Calvinistic theology all his readers
know. He has never lost an opportunity of declaring his antipathy to the
theology of his fathers, and of pouring sarcasm and ridicule upon it.
His father was a Calvinistic divine of the strictest sect; but Dr.
Holmes himself has been a life-long Unitarian, and an aggressive one. He
owns a pew in King's Chapel and is a regular attendant. Perhaps he is a
little of a fatalist. At any rate he always has eyes for--


  Behold the rocky wall
    That down its sloping sides
  Pours the swift rain-drops, blending as they fall
    In rushing river-tides.

  Yon stream, whose sources run
    Turned by a pebble's edge,
  Is Athabasca, rolling toward the sun
    Through the cleft mountain-ledge.

  The slender rill had strayed,
    But for the slanting stone,
  To evening's ocean, with the tangled braid
    Of foam-flecked Oregon.

  So from the heights of will
    Life's parting stream descends,
  And, as a moment turns its slender rill,
    Each widening torrent bends.

  From the same cradle's side,
    From the same mother's knee,--
  One to long darkness and the frozen tide,
    One to the Peaceful Sea.




In the old manor-house of Elmwood in Cambridge, close to what is now
mount Auburn Cemetery, our finest representative man of letters, James
Russell Lowell, was born and bred. His father and his grandfather before
him lived here, the former a Unitarian clergyman of the old school, well
read, earnest, somewhat narrow, but an essentially religious man. His
mother was a gifted woman, and a woman of high culture for those days.
She read foreign languages, was a musician, and a woman of high
breeding, and she stamped her own individuality strongly upon at least
three of her children.

The house is a large three-story structure, built of wood, and is
eminently picturesque. The tone of the rooms is sombre, and the
furniture is antique and solid. Nearly everything remains as it was in
the poet's childhood; although the study has been removed from the
second floor to two connected rooms on the first, spacious and
impressive, and lined with well-selected books. The poet has lived in
this house throughout his entire life,--a thing which seldom happens to
an American citizen. In the hall are ancestral portraits, a stately
Dutch clock, and the portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Lowell taken by Page in
their youth. The grounds about Elmwood have been kept as nearly as
possible in a state of nature. They are ample, and filled with
magnificent trees. The elms of Cambridge are among the most beautiful to
be found anywhere, and on this estate, though not very numerous, there
are fine specimens. In front of the house are splendid ash-trees, and a
thick hedge of trees surrounds the whole enclosure. This hedge bristles
with pines, droops with willows, and is overtopped by gigantic
horse-chestnuts. Near the house are pines, elms, lilacs, syringas; and
at the back, apple and pear trees. Huge masses of striped grass light up
the thick turf here and there; and all over the grounds the birds,
unmolested from time immemorial, build and sing in perfect freedom and
content. Long ago Longfellow sang of the herons of Elmwood, and they are
still to be found in the wooded slopes behind the house, where the
Lowell children played in their happy childhood.

Mr. Lowell entered Harvard College in his sixteenth year, and, though
never what was called a brilliant student, was graduated in due time,
and entered upon the study of law. He passed through the usual course
and took his degree of LL. B., but he was not noted for his love of
study in the law school, more than in college. He was noted for his love
of reading in both places, but it was of books outside the established
course. His literary bent was strongly marked from the first, and his
poetic talent developed itself at an early day. When only twenty-two
years of age he published his first volume of poems, much like the
youthful poems of other bards, and far inferior to the work of Bryant at
the same age. Three years later he put forth a volume of verses much
more worthy of his genius, some of them being favorites still,--like the
"Shepherd of King Admetus," "The Forlorn," "The Heritage," which
achieved the immortality of the school-books, and a few others.

There was not a large sale for books of poetry in this country at that
time, and these first ventures of Lowell fared much like other books of
that day. If he was not quite as badly off as poor Thoreau, who, a year
after his first thousand was printed, wrote to a friend that he was now
the owner of a library of about a thousand volumes, over nine hundred of
which he wrote himself, he certainly was not far ahead of that original
writer in the matter of sales. His books, however, attracted some
attention, and could hardly be classed under the head he proposes for
certain books, in the "Fable for Critics," namely, "literature suited to
desolate islands,"--

  "Such as Satan, if printing had then been invented,
  As the climax of woe would to Job have presented."

Mr. Lowell was married in 1844 to Miss Maria White, of Watertown near
Cambridge, the lady to whom some of his first poems were addressed, and
who was herself a writer of very sweet and tender verse. Mrs. Lowell was
most beautiful and accomplished, a fit wife for a poet, and the maker of
a restful but inspiring home. Beautiful children came to them to gladden
their lives for a little season; but all except one were recalled in
early infancy, and the grief of the parents was both acute and lasting.
Many a time, as he tells us, he--

          "looked at the snow-fall,
    And thought of the leaden sky
  That arched o'er our first great sorrow
    When that mound was heaped so high."

And only in after-years he--

  "Remembered the gradual patience
    That fell from that cloud like snow,
  Flake by flake, healing and hiding
    The scar of our deep-plunged woe."

For many years a pair of tiny baby-shoes, half-worn, hung over a
picture-frame in the poet's study, and told their sad tale of the little
feet that had gone on before. Like Sydney Smith, Lowell learned to think
that "children are horribly insecure,--that the life of a parent is the
life of a gambler;" and he held the one who still remained to him with
a trembling grasp for a long time. Happily, she was spared to him, and
still adds interest and pleasure to his life.

Mr. and Mrs. Lowell went to Europe in 1851, and spent a year in travel,
partly for the benefit of Mrs. Lowell's health, which was always
delicate. They spent the greater part of their time in Italy, although
they made brief tours in France, Switzerland, and England. About a year
after their return Mrs. Lowell died, and another little mound in Sweet
Auburn was

  "Folded close under deepening snow."

During the nine years of their married life all had been peaceful and
beautiful, and now there seemed nothing left but--

  "To the spirit its splendid conjectures,
    To the flesh its sweet despair,"

and many hopeless tears over--

              "the thin-worn locket
  With its anguish of deathless hair."

For a long time the heart of the poet would admit of no consolation. He
replied to every attempt to soften his grief,--

  "There's a narrow ridge in the graveyard,
    Would scarce stay a child in his race;
  But to me and my thought it is wider
    Than the star-sown vague of Space.

  "Your logic, my friend, is perfect,
    Your morals most drearily true;
  But since the earth clashed on _her_ coffin,
    I keep hearing that, and not you.

  "Console if you will, I can bear it;
    'Tis a well-meant alms of breath;
  But not all the preaching since Adam,
    Has made Death other than Death.

  "It is pagan; but wait till you feel it,--
    That jar of the earth, that dull shock,
  When the ploughshare of deeper passion
    Tears down to our primitive rock.

  "Communion in spirit! forgive me,
    But I, who am earthy and weak,
  Would give all my incomes from dream-land
    For a touch of her hand on my cheek.

  "That little shoe in the corner,
    So worn and wrinkled and brown,
  With its emptiness confutes you,
    And argues your wisdom down."

On the same day that Mrs. Lowell died a child was born to Mr.
Longfellow, who sent to his friend the beautiful poem, "The Two Angels."

  "'T was at thy door, O friend, and not at mine,
    The angel with the amaranthine wreath
  Pausing, descended, and with voice divine
    Whispered a word that had a sound like death."

In 1854 Mr. Lowell was appointed as Mr. Longfellow's successor to the
chair of _belles-lettres_ in Harvard University,--a place for which he
was most admirably fitted by nature and by training. He went abroad
again and studied for two years, chiefly in Dresden, when he returned
and began his lectures, which were much enjoyed by his cultivated
audience. He dwelt with loving care upon Dante, Chaucer, Shakspeare, and
Cervantes, in particular, and made a deep impression upon all who
listened to him.

In 1857 Mr. Lowell was married for the second time, to Miss Frances
Dunlap of Portland, Maine, who had had charge of the education of his
daughter while he was abroad. They returned to the ancestral home at
Elmwood soon after the marriage, and continued to reside there until the
poet was appointed Minister to Spain by President Hayes, when they
repaired together to that country. Upon his transfer to the Court of St.
James, they removed to London, where both were universally and justly
popular. Few ladies have received such warm encomiums in England as Mrs.
Lowell, and few have as richly deserved them. No man whom our nation has
sent to represent us in England has been so highly praised by the
English press as Mr. Lowell, and probably no one has been so much liked
by the class of people with whom he came chiefly in contact. There
seemed to be much wonder in court circles there that America could
produce so finished a gentleman as Mr. Lowell; and perhaps they had had
some reason to doubt this, if they judged by the average American
tourist. They wondered, too, at his delightful public speaking,--a thing
to which Englishmen are not as much accustomed as Americans. They have a
heavy, labored way of speaking, extremely painful to listeners
accustomed to the ease of American speakers; and they were never weary
of listening to the pleasing and graceful oratory of Mr. Lowell. He was
called upon constantly to address the people, upon all sorts of
occasions, and invariably received the highest praise for his efforts.
Much regret was felt in England when he was called home; much also in
this country by those who had the honor of the nation at heart, although
the whole people were glad to welcome him back to his native land once
more. Mrs. Lowell died during their residence in London, and the
sympathies of the world went out to the husband in his affliction.

Mr. Lowell came to the aid of the despised Abolitionists at an early
day. While it was still inviting social ostracism and public indignity
to do so, he bravely lifted up his voice in their defence, and began
lending his vigorous and powerful pen to the cause they represented. All
the traditions of his life seemed to bind him to the conservative
classes; but he broke away from them, and boldly faced their derision
and their sneers, to do what seemed right in his own eyes. As far back
as the publication of the "Fable for Critics," he had dared to praise
Whittier, whom all the conservatives affected to despise,--

  "For singing and striking in front of the war,
  And hitting his foes with the mallet of Thor."

It still required bravery as well as kindliness to say of the despised

  "All honor and praise to the right-hearted bard
  Who was true to The Voice when such service was hard;
  Who himself was so free he dared sing for the slave,
  When to look but a protest in silence was brave!
  All honor and praise to the women and men
  Who spoke out for the dumb and the down-trodden then!"

And greater bravery still was required in those days to dare introduce
the name of Parker into literature without denunciation or derision. Of
the church which had put its ban upon "the Orson of parsons" he said:--

  "They had formerly damned the Pontifical See,
  And the same thing, they thought, would do nicely for P.;
  But he turned up his nose at their murmuring and shamming,
  And cared (shall I say) not a d---- for their damning.
  So they first read him out of their church, and next minute
  Turned round and declared he had never been in it.
  But the ban was too small, or the man was too big;
  For he recks not their bells, books, and candles a fig
  (He don't look like a man who would _stay_ treated shabbily,
  Sophroniscus' son's head o'er the features of Rabelais);
  He bangs and bethwacks them,--their backs he salutes
  With the whole tree of knowledge torn up by the roots."

He concluded his long description of the great arch-heretic in these

  "Every word that he speaks has been fierily furnaced
  In the blast of a life that has struggled in earnest.
  There he stands, looking more like a ploughman than priest,
  If not dreadfully awkward, not graceful at least;
  His gestures all downright, and some, if you will,
  As of brown-fisted Hobnail in hoeing a drill;
  But his periods fall on you, stroke after stroke,
  Like the blows of a lumberer felling an oak:
  You forget the man wholly, you're thankful to meet
  With a preacher who smacks of the field and the street;
  And to hear, you're not over particular whence,
  Almost Taylor's profusion, quite Latimer's sense."

The first of the Biglow Papers had appeared even before this,--as early
as 1846, during the progress of the Mexican war,--and had showed his
countrymen very plainly where he was to be found in the coming struggle.
These brilliant coruscations of wit were the first gleams of light which
irradiated the sombre anti-slavery struggle. The Abolitionists were men
too much in earnest to enliven their arguments with wit or humor, and
the whole conflict thus far had been stern and solemn in the extreme.
This had prevented much popular enthusiasm, except in natures as earnest
as their own; and many men who had before been indifferent to the
subject were at once attracted and interested by the raillery and satire
of Lowell. They enjoyed his keen thrusts, and began to talk with one
another about them, and unconsciously imbibed a little of their spirit.
Some of the more jingling rhymes caught the ear of the street, and in a
little while

                "John P.
                Robinson he
  Sez he wun't vote for Governor B."

was heard on every hand. And even across the sea, we are told,
travellers would hear some one repeating the catch,--

                "But John P.
                Robinson he
  Sez they didn't know everything down in Judee."

The first series of these papers undoubtedly had a powerful influence in
forming public opinion upon the subject of the abolition of slavery; and
the second series exerted a still more potent influence in favor of
sustaining the government in the prosecution of the war, and in urging
it to the emancipation of the slaves. Early in the war he wrote,--

  "It's slavery that's the fangs and thinkin' head,
  And ef you want salvation, cresh it dead."

He suffered much in his own family from the war, three of his favorite
nephews being killed,--one at Winchester, one at Seven Pines, and one at
Ball's Bluff. Another relative was the gallant Colonel Shaw, who led the
colored troops in the assault on Fort Wagner, and who there gave up his
heroic life. In the "Commemoration Ode"--the greatest poem which Lowell
has ever written--he celebrates the death of these young heroes in
fitting verse, and gives their names to immortality. The effect of the
poem at the time was simply overpowering, so many other hearts were
bleeding with his own; and it at once took its place as one of the
noblest poems in the language. The poet William W. Story came over from
Rome purposely to hear Lowell deliver this ode, and felt abundantly paid
for the journey by the pathos and sublimity of the scene, which has
seldom been equalled in this country.

Mr. Underwood tells us that--

     "In person Lowell is of medium height, rather slender, but sinewy
     and active. His movements are deliberate rather than impulsive,
     indicating what athletes call staying qualities. His hair at
     maturity was dark auburn or ruddy chestnut in color, and his full
     beard rather lighter and more glowing in tint. The eyes of men of
     genius are seldom to be classified in ordinary terms, though it is
     said their prevailing color is gray. . . . Lowell's eyes in repose
     have clear blue and gray tones, with minute, dark mottlings. In
     expression they are strongly indicative of his moods. When fixed
     upon study, or while listening to serious discourse, they are grave
     and penetrating; in ordinary conversation they are bright and
     cheery; in moments of excitement they have a wonderful lustre.
     Nothing could be finer than his facial expression while telling a
     story or tossing a repartee. The features are alive with
     intelligence; and eyes, looks, and voice appear to be working up
     dazzling effects in concert, like the finished artists of the
     Comédie Française."

As a conversationalist Mr. Lowell is unrivalled. His wit is apparently
inexhaustible, and irradiates his whole conversation, as it does all his
writing except his serious poetry. His "Fireside Travels" was pronounced
by Bryant the wittiest book ever written; and it is not more witty than
much of his conversation. The brilliancy of his conversation and the
charm of his manners unite to make him one of the most fascinating
companions in the world; and this charm is felt by all who come in
contact with the man, and is not a thing reserved for his more favored
companions. One who has witnessed an encounter of wit between Lowell and
Dr. Holmes has witnessed one of the finest exhibitions of mental
pyrotechnics of the day. His reading has been wide and varied, and he
has all his resources at command. His observation of men and things has
also been keen, and every variety of anecdote and illustration come
forth from apparently inexhaustible sources as the needs of the moment
demand. His love of Nature and his observation of all her finer moods
make him a most delightful out-of-doors companion. In the beautiful
environs of Cambridge he used to take those long walks which furnished
him with such a fund of accurate observation of the sights and sounds of
the natural world. No man has a keener eye for a bird than he, nor a
quicker ear to distinguish between their songs; and no unusual sound of
insect life escapes his scrutiny,--he is keenly alert to know what is
going on under his feet as well as over his head. The most modest flower
does not escape his eye, nor any peculiarly marked leaf, nor any rich
bed of leafy mould. He sees everything with his poet's eye, even to
"those rifts where unregarded mosses be." He has never been what is
called a society man, though latterly he has gone more into general
society. Formerly, dinner-parties and balls were his pet aversions, as
one might suspect from his poem "Without and Within:"--

  "My coachman, in the moonlight there,
    Looks through the sidelight of the door;
  I hear him with his brethren swear,
    As I could do,--but only more.

  "Flattening his nose against the pane,
    He envies me my brilliant lot;
  Blows on his aching fists in vain,
    And dooms me to a place more hot.

       *       *       *       *       *

  "Meanwhile, I inly curse the bore
    Of hunting still the same old coon;
  And envy him outside the door,
    In golden quiets of the moon.

  "I envy him the ungyved prance
    By which his freezing feet he warms,
  And drag my lady's chain and dance,--
    The galley-slave of dreary forms.

  "Oh, could he have my share of din,
    And I his quiet!--past a doubt,
  'T would still be one man bored within,
    And just another bored without."

But he was always fond of good company, and collected around him in
Cambridge, in the old days, a brilliant circle of congenial friends. Of
these, Longfellow, and Professor Felton, and Agassiz, and Dr. Estes Howe
his brother-in-law, were perhaps the closest; but John Holmes and Edmund
Quincy and Robert Carter were very warm friends,--members of the famous
Whist Club, and royal companions all. Dr. Holmes was not far away, and
always a constant visitor at Cambridge; and James T. Fields was a
cherished friend. William Page, the painter, and W. W. Story, the
sculptor, were also among his earlier friends. It was to the latter that
the series of letters collected under the title of "Fireside Travels"
were addressed. But there is scarcely a man of note in the literary
world whom he has not known in the course of his life; and he has made
friends of nearly all he has known. He has been a busy worker, too, all
his life,--industrious, concentrated, and indefatigable. A man who could
write the whole of "Sir Launfal" in two days knows how to toil, and has
been accustomed to concentrate his faculties. Mr. Lowell has an utter
disbelief in the materialistic theory of the Universe, and expresses it
many times in his later poems. He at least--

          "envies science not her feat
  To make a twice-told tale of God."

And to his reverential eyes--

  "The Ages one great minster seem,
  That throbs with praise and prayer."

And his hope for the world is expressed in "Godminster Chimes," where he

  "O chime of sweet Saint Charity,
    Peal soon that Easter morn
  When Christ for all shall risen be,
    And in all hearts new born!
  That Pentecost when utterance clear
    To all men shall be given,
  When all shall say _My Brother_ here,
    And hear _My Son_ in heaven!"

Of his own personal trust he gives a picture in "Sea-Weed:"--

  "The drooping sea-weed hears, in night abyssed,
  Far and more far the wave's receding shocks,
  Nor doubts, for all the darkness and the mist,
  That the pale shepherdess will keep her tryst,
  And shoreward lead again her foam-fleeced flocks.

  "For the same wave that rims the Carib shore
  With momentary brede of pearl and gold,
  Goes hurrying thence to gladden with its roar
  Lorn weeds bound fast on rocks of Labrador,
  By love divine on one sweet errand rolled.

  "And though Thy healing waters far withdraw,
  I too can wait, and feed on hope of Thee
  And of the clear recurrence of Thy law,
  Sure that the parting grace my morning saw
  Abides its time to come in search of me."




Comparatively little has been known of the lives of these poets. The
fact of their having lived in Italy throughout their married life kept
them somewhat aloof from the gossip-loving writers of their own country;
and the tourists, both from England and America, who were so fond of
calling upon them there, seldom succeeded in establishing anything like
intimate relations with them.

The little that is known can be briefly stated. Browning's father was a
gentleman of wealth and of original character, who allowed the striking
individuality of his son Robert to develop itself in a natural way
instead of attempting to cramp him into the mould of the other young
Englishmen of his rank and time. At an early age he went to Italy, where
he passed several years in diligent study of the institutions and art of
that favored land as well as of her literature both ancient and modern.
Young Browning had a great passion for these studies, and a great
fondness for Italian life, with which he familiarized himself in all the
different provinces and all the principal cities, living for long
periods in each favorite resort where there was anything either in art
or nature to please his fine critical taste. He studied both painting
and music, and has always been a fine amateur in each. He wrote poetry
from childhood, but published nothing until he was about twenty-three
years old, when "Paracelsus," a dramatic poem, appeared. The genius of
the writer was recognized at once, as well as those faults which have
clung to him persistently through life. Two years after, a tragedy
entitled "Strafford" was produced, and a little later, "Sordello." We
are interested in these, for the purposes of this article, only as they
made him known to Elizabeth Barrett, a young invalid in England, who at
once felt the power of the high genius which had appeared in the
literary world. She had written some poems herself, but was almost
unknown, and, indeed, expected to live but a very short time. Returning
to England at this time, Browning, through some knowledge of her poems,
made her acquaintance, and a mutual attachment followed, which proved
very strong and lasting. This love between two poets of such high rank
is unique in the annals of literature. At first she is afraid of her own
love, and bids him

  "Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand
  Henceforward in thy shadow. Nevermore
  Alone upon the threshold of my door
  Of individual life, I shall command
  The uses of my soul, nor lift my hand
  Serenely in the sunshine as before,
  Without the sense of that which I forebore . . .
  Thy touch upon the palm. The widest land
  Doom takes to part us, leaves thy heart in mine
  With pulses that beat double. What I do
  And what I dream, include thee as the wine
  Must taste of its own grapes. And when I sue
  God for myself, He hears that name of thine
  And sees within my eyes the tears of two."

The whole outlook of life soon changed to the gentle invalid, as she
tells him later.

  "The face of all the world is changed, I think,
  Since first I heard the footsteps of thy soul
  Move still, oh, still beside me, as they stole
  Betwixt me and the dreadful outer brink
  Of obvious death, where I who thought to sink
  Was caught up into love and taught the whole
  Of life in a new rhythm. The cup of dole
  God gave for baptism, I am fain to drink,
  And praise its sweetness, sweet with thee anear.
  The name of country, heaven, are changed away
  For where thou art or shalt be, there or here;
  And this . . . this lute and song . . . loved yesterday
  (The singing angels know) are only dear
  Because thy name moves right in what they say."

The wonder of how she could have been able to live without him impresses
her much.

  "Beloved, my beloved, when I think
  That thou wast in the world a year ago,
  What time I sat alone here in the snow
  And saw no footprint, heard the silence sink
  No moment at thy voice . . . but link by link
  Went counting all my chains as if that so
  They never could fall off at any blow
  Struck by thy possible hand . . . why, thus I drink
  Of life's great cup of wonder. Wonderful,
  Never to feel thee thrill the day or night
  With personal act or speech, nor ever cull
  Some prescience of thee with the blossoms white
  Thou sawest growing! Atheists are as dull,
  Who cannot guess God's presence out of sight."

But in order to tell the whole story we should have to quote all the
"Sonnets from the Portuguese,"--and they would make an alluring chapter
certainly,--but we must refrain. The result was that,

  "As brighter ladies do not count it strange
  For love to give up acres and degree,
  I yield the grave for thy sake, and exchange
  My near, sweet view of Heaven for earth with thee."

The two poets were married, and removed at once to Italy, where the
lady's health improved, and where they passed many years of happy
married life. Miss Barrett's father did not approve the marriage, and he
cast her off in consequence, and never became reconciled to her, which
was the one great grief of her happy and fortunate life. She had before
marriage lost a favorite brother by drowning, for whom she had mourned
so deeply as seriously to affect her health. These were the only
abiding sorrows of her life, as far as the world knows. The perfect
companionship of these two gifted souls has been described by Browning

  "When if I think but deep enough
  You are wont to answer prompt as rhyme,
  And you too find without a rebuff
  The response your soul seeks, many a time
    Piercing its fine flesh stuff."

Their perfect union he describes thus:--

  "My own, see where the years conduct.
  At first 't was something our two souls
  Should mix as mists do; each is sucked
  Into each now, on the new stream rolls,
    Whatever rocks obstruct.

  "Think when our one soul understands
  The great Word which makes all things new,
  When earth breaks up and heaven expands,
  How will the change strike me and you
    In the house not made with hands?

  "Oh, I must feel your brain prompt mine,
  Your heart anticipate my heart,
  You must be just before in fine,
  See and make me see for my part
    New depths of the Divine."

The whole poem "By the Fireside" should be quoted to tell the story from
his side; but we will select only the close for our purpose. After
describing how their love had led on to its own consummation, he says:--

  "I am named and known by that hour's feat,
  There took my station and degree.
  So grew my own small life complete
  As Nature obtained her best of me--
    One born to love you, sweet!

  "And to watch you sit by the fireside now,
  Back again, as you mutely sit
  Musing by fire-light, that great brow
  And the spirit-small hand propping it
    Yonder, my heart knows how!

  "So the earth has gained by one man more,
  And the gain of earth must be Heaven's gain too,
  And the whole is well worth thinking o'er
  When the autumn comes; as I mean to do
    One day, as I said before."

The autumn time has come now to Browning, and he has had ample time to
think it o'er; for the "perfect wife," the "Leonor," has lain under the
grasses and violets of the English burying-ground in Florence for
twenty-five years. In the same poem from which we have quoted, he

  "How well I know what I mean to do
  When the long dark autumn evenings come!
  And where, my soul, is thy pleasant hue?
  With the music of all thy voices dumb
    In life's November, too!

  "I shall be found by the fire, suppose,
  O'er a great wise book as beseemeth age,
  While the shutters flap as the cross wind blows,
  And I turn the page, and I turn the page,
    Not verse now, only prose!"

It is sad to think that he should be left solitary by his fire and with
his books, but he has much that is beautiful to look back upon,--much,
too, that is beautiful to look forward to, let us hope; and he is
surrounded by many friends, and devotedly attached to the one son who
was the only fruit of this royal marriage of genius.

The house where the poets lived together for fourteen years in Florence
has been thus described:--

     "Those who have known 'Casa Guidi' as it was can never forget the
     square anteroom with its great picture and piano-forte at which the
     boy Browning passed many an hour,--the little dining-room covered
     with tapestry, and where hung medallions of Tennyson, Carlyle, and
     Robert Browning,--the long room filled with plaster casts and
     studies, which was Mr. Browning's retreat,--and dearest of all, the
     large drawing-room where _she_ always sat. It opens upon a balcony
     filled with plants, and looks out upon the old iron-gray church of
     Santa Felice.

     "There was something about this room which seemed to make it a
     proper and especial haunt for poets. The dark shadows and subdued
     light gave it a dreamy look, which was enhanced by the
     tapestry-covered walls and the old pictures of saints that looked
     out sadly from their carved frames of black wood. Large bookcases
     constructed of specimens of Florentine carving were brimming over
     with wise-looking books. Tables were covered with more gayly-bound
     volumes, the gifts of brother authors. Dante's grave profile, a
     cast of Keats's face and brow taken after death, a pen-and-ink
     sketch of Tennyson, little paintings of the boy Browning, all
     attracted the eye in turn, and gave rise to a thousand musings. A
     quaint mirror, easy-chairs and sofas, and a hundred nothings, which
     always add an indescribable charm, were all massed in this room.
     But the glory of all, and that which sanctified all, was seated in
     a low arm-chair near the door. A small table strewn with
     writing-materials, books, and newspapers, was always by her side."

Here Mrs. Browning held her small court, and here she entertained in the
course of these years many of the most famous men and women of her time.
Almost all visitors to Florence, especially English and American, sought
her acquaintance, and all were kindly received by her. The conversation
was always earnest there; she demanded a great deal of a person,--one
felt it instinctively; and few came to waste her time upon trifles. Her
own conversation was especially earnest, sometimes vivid, and lighted up
by a humor peculiarly her own. She cared nothing for talk about people.
Books and humanity, great deeds, and the great questions of the day,
were the staple of her conversation. Religion, too, was an ever present
topic. She was one of the most religious women of her day, and she
interwove it in all her conversation, as she did in her writings.
Indeed, her religion was a part of herself, and whoever knew her must
know of this strong, deep feeling. One cannot conceive of Mrs. Browning
apart from her religion. She would not have been herself, but another.
It was a rare sight, indeed, to see this frail, spiritual-looking woman,
when she talked upon some phase of her favorite theme, with her great
expressive eyes fairly glowing with the intensity of her feeling, and a
light shining through her face, as from the soul beyond. Her other great
theme was Italy, and upon this she was always eloquent. Indeed, both Mr.
and Mrs. Browning may almost be said to have adopted Italy for their
home, and to have transferred their home affections to her soil. Many
great Englishmen have loved Italy, but none more warmly than the
Brownings. They suffered with her through all those dark hours which
preceded her final emancipation from the foreign yoke, and they aided by
their strong, brave words in bringing about that emancipation. Their
pens were used in her behalf, perhaps too much for their own fame,
because many of the subjects on which they wrote were of somewhat
transient interest and more political than poetical. They were both
friends and helpers to the great statesman Cavour in all his labors for
the reconstruction of Italy, and one of the deepest interests of their
lives was that reconstruction. Mrs. Browning's frail health was really
injured at times by the serious grief she felt for temporary reverses,
and by the absorbing interest she took in the cause.

The dream of her life, a free and united Italy, was fulfilled in
Napoleon's formal recognition of Italian freedom and unity, the very
week she died. It is given to few in this world thus to see the fruition
of their fondest desires, and to pass away just as the clear morning
light is dispelling the shadows of a long night of watching and waiting.
The Napoleonic poems added nothing to her reputation as a poet, and were
much regretted by some of her friends; but her literary reputation was
nothing to her compared with her love for Italy, and she at least had
faith in Napoleon's promises.

Mr. Hilliard, in his "Six Months in Italy," says of the home behind the
Casa Guidi windows:--

     "A happier home and a more perfect union than theirs it is not easy
     to imagine; and this completeness arises not only from the rare
     qualities which each possesses, but from their perfect adaptation
     to each other. . . . As he is full of manly power, so she is a type
     of the most sensitive and delicate womanhood. . . . I have never
     seen a human frame which seemed so nearly a transparent veil for a
     celestial and immortal spirit. She is a soul of fire enclosed in a
     shell of pearl. . . . Nor is she more remarkable for genius and
     learning than for sweetness of temper, tenderness of heart, depth
     of feeling, and purity of spirit. It is a privilege to know such
     beings singly and separately; but to see their powers quickened and
     their happiness rounded by the sacred tie of marriage, is a cause
     for peculiar and lasting gratitude."

The boy Browning was very beautiful in his childhood, and occupied a
large place in the lives of his parents, who felt great pride in showing
him to their visitors. It is a pleasant story told of the street beggars
who walked through the Via Maggio in those days, under the windows of
Casa Guidi, that they always spoke of Mrs. Browning, simply and
touchingly, as "the mother of the beautiful child." But her love for
this one beautiful darling taught her the whole possibility of
motherhood. It made her heart go out in deepest sympathy to all mothers,
as "to the friends unknown, and a land unvisited over the sea," to whom
she writes:--

  "Shall I speak like a poet, or run
    Into weak woman's tears for relief?
  Ah, children! I never lost one,--
  Yet my arm's round my own little son,
    And love knows the secret of grief."

In the Italian poem "Mother and Poet," she has expressed a mother's
feelings as truthfully and vividly as any writer who has ever touched
that great theme. She can describe, too, in language that almost
blisters the page on which it is written, that other class of mothers
which it is bitter to feel that the earth does contain,--the monsters
who would sell their daughters for gold. In that most powerful story of
Marian in "Aurora Leigh," she writes thus:--

                "The child turned round
  And looked up piteous in the mother's face
  (Be sure that mother's death-bed will not want
  Another devil to damn, than such a look).
  'Oh, mother!' then with desperate glance to heaven,
  'God free me from my mother,' she shrieked out,
  'These mothers are too dreadful.' And with force
  As passionate as fear, she tore her hands,
  Like lilies from the rocks, from hers and his,
  And sprang down, bounded headlong down the steep,
  Away from both, away if possible,
  As far as God--away. They yelled at her
  As famished hounds at a hare,
                            She heard them yell,
  And felt her name hiss after her from the hills
  Like shot from guns."

The whole of that wonderful poem of "Aurora Leigh" is full of such
impassioned sympathy with womanhood, and shows the great heart of the
poet as perhaps none of her other poems do. Written in the maturity of
her powers, and after she had learned much of life in all its intricate
depths, it contains perhaps more passion and power and fiery-burning
eloquence than any other poem in the English language. Only an inspired
womanly hand, which had sounded all the deeps of the world's scanty
wisdom, could have penned it.

But Mrs. Browning shows great wealth of human sympathy in all her poems.
Oppression and wrong sink into the very depths of her nature, and she
cannot bear that they shall go unreproved in the universe while she
exists. Her sympathy with our labors for the emancipation of the slaves
was well known, in a time when little sympathy was to be found among the
English, and her feeling for the poor and oppressed of her native land
was always deep and strong. Her "Cry of the Children" will never be
forgotten while there are suffering children in the world, and while
there are human hearts to listen to their wail. It is as sacred a piece
of inspiration as the Psalms of David; and the need for such an
expression of the woe of the outcast poor of England is almost as great
to-day as when the immortal poem was written. Still can we ask of the
English people:--

  "Do you hear the children weeping, O my brothers,
    Ere the sorrow comes with years?
  They are leaning their heads against their mothers,
    And that cannot stop tears.
  The young lambs are bleating in the meadows;
    The young birds are chirping in their nest;
  The young fawns are playing with the shadows;
    The young flowers are blowing toward the west.
  But the young, young children, O my brothers,
    They are weeping bitterly;
  They are weeping in the playtime of the others,
    In the country of the free."

This poem, Hood's "Song of the Shirt," and a few others, have added
their mite to the influence of Dickens in benefiting a little the
poorest of England's poor; yet how much remains to be done is shown in
the present deplorable condition of the lower orders in that country.
What might not such a poet as Robert Browning have done, could he have
emancipated himself from his involved and difficult style, and written
in a manly and straightforward way of the world of men and women around
him, instead of going off in his exasperating manner into the Red Cotton
Night-Cap Country, to tell us of Prince Hohenstiel Tebwangan Saviour of
Society. The pity of it is beyond expression, when so great a poet as
Browning makes himself so needlessly unintelligible, and loses the vast
influence he might exert over the minds of his generation and the minds
of posterity. But the thoughts hidden in his rugged verse are worth
delving for, and already societies are being formed in England and
America to study them. These societies will do something to popularize
him, but he can never be made what he was really capable of being, the
poet of the people. His circle of readers will always be small, but it
will be of the world's best. The thinkers will never make a vast throng
in this world, while the highways of folly will always swarm with a
great multitude which no man can number. But there is a day after
to-day, and sometime, when the thought of the world shall have risen to
a higher level, the name of Robert Browning will be oftener than now
upon the lips of men.

Personally, Browning is almost unknown to his countrymen; his name even
has never been heard by the multitude. He is never pointed out to
strangers, as are other men of letters, and never attracts any notice in
a public place. But he is well known to a select circle, where he is a
favorite, and he goes a good deal into society in London these later
years. He is a great favorite with women everywhere; and he deserves to
be, for he has always shown himself capable of sympathizing with what is
truest and best in womanhood. He has been loyal to the memory of his
wife during all his long years of solitude, and it still seems that she
holds her old place in his heart. He is now seventy-four years old,--a
fine, well-preserved man, with a light step and an easy carriage. He was
a handsome man in his prime, with a charmingly expressive face and a
good figure. His hair is now snow-white, but otherwise he is not old in
his looks. His manners are somewhat precise, and after the old school.
He is fond of admiration, and is accounted egotistical, although
reserved in general society. His talk, like his writings, is a good deal
upon out-of-the-way subjects, and is often deemed unintelligible by
those unfamiliar with his thought. To his enthusiastic admirers it seems
like inspiration. He is still busy with his pen, although his volumes of
poetry now number twenty or more. He has really created a literature of
his own. How life appears to him now, from the vantage-ground of his
almost fourscore years, it would be interesting to know. Many years ago
he wrote, a little wearily:--

  "There's a fancy some lean to and others hate,--
    That when this life is ended begins
  New work for the soul in another state,
    Where it strives and gets weary, loses and wins,--
  Where the strong and the weak this world's congeries
    Repeat in large what they practised in small,
  Through life after life in an infinite series,--
    Only the scale's to be changed, that's all.

  "Yet I hardly know. When a soul has seen
    By the means of Evil that Good is best,
  And through earth and its noise what is heaven's serene,--
    When its faith in the same has stood the test,--
  Why, the child grown man, we burn the rod;
    The uses of labor are surely done.
  There remaineth a rest for the people of God,
    And I have had troubles enough for one."




In the crowded little churchyard at Haworth, in the wild, bleak
Yorkshire region, are eight mounds which mark the extinction of a family
whose genius and sorrows have made them known the world over. In the
little church there is a mural tablet which tells the names of this
illustrious group, and the many visitors to this little out-of-the-way
house of worship read with a melancholy interest these sad inscriptions.
First we are told of Maria Bronté, the mother, who died in 1821, when
only thirty-nine years old, leaving the six children whose names follow,
all in the helplessness of early childhood. Next to her come Maria and
Elizabeth, both of whom followed her in 1825; then Branwell and Emily,
who died in 1848, and Anne, who lived one year longer. But it is to the
last of the inscriptions that all eyes are turned with the greatest
interest, for there we read--


There is no sadder history in all literature than the history of this
gifted family and their early doom. A pathos clings about it which is
really painful, so few are the gleams of light which are thrown upon the
dark picture. From the time when the Rev. Patrick Bronté (himself a
gifted but somewhat erratic man) brought his young wife into the
solitude of this moorland parsonage and shut her up in a seclusion from
which she was only removed by death, all the way down through the lonely
childhood of the little motherless children, and on into their no less
lonely and more afflicted womanhood, even to the deaths of all the
gifted group, there is a depth of sombre gloom from which the
sympathetic heart must turn away with a bitter pain and almost a feeling
of hot rebellion against Fate.

The utter loneliness of that part of Yorkshire at the time when Mr.
Bronté settled there can hardly be imagined to-day. In winter all
communication with the outside world was cut off by almost impassable
mud or entirely impassable snow. Travellers whom actual necessity
compelled to start forth were often snowed in for a week or ten days
within a few miles of home, and nobody thought of stirring from that
shelter except through the pressure of absolute necessity. Isolated as
were the little hill villages like Haworth, they were in the world,
compared with the loneliness of the gray ancestral houses to be seen
here and there in the dense hollows of the moors.

The inhabitants of this rough country were themselves of wild, turbulent
nature, much given to deadly feuds and really dangerous in their
enmities. Their amusements were all of the lowest order, and hard riding
and deep drinking were the characteristics of all the male population,
while cock-fighting and bull-baiting were thought refined amusements for
both sexes.

The ministers were not much above their flocks in general culture, and
the incumbents of Haworth had been noted for their eccentricities for
generations. Many of them attended the horse-racings and the games of
football which were played on Sunday afternoons, and took as deep a
part as any of the flock in the drunken carouse which always followed a
funeral. Mr. Bronté was a very different man from his predecessors, but
was many years in subduing his congregation to an even nominal
observance of common moralities. He was, however, a man of high spirit
and imperious will, and, bending himself to the task with all his
powers, made a decided impression upon the life around him. The gentle
mother soon passed away, and Mr. Bronté became a stern and silent man
who kept his children at a distance from himself and allowed them little
intercourse with the outside world. They were allowed to walk out on the
wild heathery moors, but not down in the village street; and they
acquired a passionate love of those purple moors, which remained with
them through life. When angry, Mr. Bronté would say nothing, but they
could hear him out at the door firing pistol-shots in quick succession
as a relief to his feelings. The children were unnaturally quiet and
well-behaved. The old nurse says:--

     "You would never have known there was a child in the house, they
     were such noiseless, good little creatures. I used to think them
     spiritless, they were so different from any children I had ever

They used to read the newspapers, write little stories, and act plays,
and at one time conducted a magazine of their own. Like all imaginative
children, they played in stories, each one taking part in the stirring
romances they invented. They were great believers in the supernatural,
too, and the denizens of the adjoining churchyard played quite a
prominent part in their childish lives. This churchyard, which was so
near the parsonage, added much to the gloom and unhealthiness of the old
manse, and many people have attributed the ill health of all the girls
to its close proximity. It was depressing, to say the least, to such
imaginative children as those of Mr. Bronté.

It was not long after the mother's death that the two older girls, Maria
and Elizabeth, were taken to a school at Cowan's Bridge, a small hamlet
in the north of England, and the younger children were left more lonely
than ever. This school, which had been selected on account of its
cheapness, had been established for the daughters of clergymen, and the
entire expenses were fourteen pounds a year. Cowan's Bridge is prettily
situated, just where the Leck-fells sweep into the plain; and by the
course of the beck, alders and willows and hazel bushes grow. This
little shallow, sparkling stream runs through long green pastures, and
has many little falls over beds of gray rocks. The school-house had been
made from an old bobbin-mill, and the situation proved to be remarkably
unhealthy. This is the school so realistically described by Charlotte in
"Jane Eyre." "Helen Burns" is an exact transcript of Maria Bronté, and
every scene is a literal description of events which took place at this
school. The whole thing was burned into Charlotte's memory so indelibly
that she reproduced it with photographic exactness. Emily and Charlotte
had followed the other sisters there, after a year or two, so that all
of them suffered to a greater or less extent from the privations and
abuses they underwent in that female Dotheboys Hall. The eldest sister
died, and the second became very ill; yet still Mr. Bronté, who believed
in the hardening process for children, kept them there until the health
of each one failed in turn, and they were permanently injured by their
privations. The food, which would perhaps have been wholesome enough if
properly cooked, was ruined by a dirty and careless woman, who served it
up in such disgusting messes that many a time the fastidious little
Brontés could not eat a mouthful, though faint with hunger. There was
always the most delicate cleanliness in the frugal Bronté household, and
the children had early learned to be dainty in such matters. Their fare
at home was of the simplest nature, but always well cooked; and they
simply fasted themselves ill at Cowan's Bridge because they could not
eat what was set before them.

There was another trial of health to the girls, and that was being
obliged in all kinds of weather to attend church, which was two miles
away. The road was a very bleak and unsheltered one, where cutting winds
blew in winter and where the snows were often deep. The church was never
warmed, as there was no provision made for any heating apparatus; and
when the ill-fed and half-clothed girls had reached its shelter, they
were often in actual chills from the exposure, and could not hope to
gain any additional warmth there. Colds were taken in this way, from
which the girls never recovered. They also suffered from cold in the
school itself, and from the tyranny of one of the teachers, whom
Charlotte has mercilessly depicted as Miss Scatcherd in "Jane Eyre." To
the day of Miss Bronté's death, she would blaze with indignation at any
mention of this school; and who can wonder?

After the death of the second daughter, Elizabeth, Charlotte and Emily
were taken from Cowan's Bridge, and spent some time at another school,
where they were much happier, and where they made a few life-long
friends, particularly Miss Woolner, the principal. One of her
schoolmates gives this description of Charlotte's arrival at the

     "I first saw her coming out of a covered cart, in very
     old-fashioned clothes, and looking very cold and miserable. When
     she appeared in the school-room her dress was changed, but just as
     old. She looked a little old woman, so short-sighted that she
     always appeared to be seeking something, and moving her head from
     side to side to catch a sight of it. She was very shy and nervous,
     and spoke with a strong Irish accent. When a book was given her she
     dropped her head over it till her nose nearly touched it; and when
     she was told to hold her head up, up went the book after it, still
     close to her nose, so that it was not possible to help laughing."

She was a close student here, and a favorite with the girls, whom she
would frighten half out of their senses by her wonderful stories. So
great was their effect at times, that her listeners were thrown into
real hysterics. After leaving this school, Charlotte returned home, and
began keeping house and teaching her sisters. Here several quiet years
were passed, busy but monotonous. The girls spent their time in study,
in household tasks, walking, and drawing, of which they were very fond.
They also read very thoroughly the few books which were accessible to
them. At nineteen Charlotte went as a teacher to Miss Woolner's school,
where she was very happy, and remained until her health failed. It was a
nervous trouble, which seemed at one time like a complete breaking down,
but from which she gradually recovered after her return home. Emily now
took her turn in teaching, going to a school at Halifax, where she came
near literally dying from homesickness. Emily could never live away from
Haworth and her moors; and in this school she labored incessantly from
six in the morning till eleven at night, with only one half-hour for
exercise between. To a free, wild, untamable spirit like Emily's, this
was indeed slavery. She returned home after a time, and Charlotte again
went out to teach. They felt the necessity of earning money, as their
father's stipend was small, and he was both liberal and charitable,--and
there was their brother Branwell to be provided for. Of this brother we
have not before spoken; but he occupied an important place in their home
and in their lives. He had been the pride and the hope of the family
from early youth. He was possessed of brilliant talents, and was full of
noble impulses, but was very fond of pleasure, and soon formed irregular
habits, which were the ruin of his life and the source of unmeasured
grief to his whole family. They had desired to send him to study at the
Royal Academy, as he had the family's fondness for drawing, and they
fancied he would develop great talent as an artist. Had his habits been
good, their hopes might have been realized; but he fell so early into
profligacy, that the idea of becoming an artist was given up, and he
took a place as a private tutor. He had formed his intemperate habits
when a mere boy, at the public house in Haworth village, where he was
esteemed royal company,--as no doubt he was, with his brilliant
conversational powers,--and was often sent for to entertain chance
guests, in whom he delighted, as they could tell him so much of that
distant world beyond the confining hills, for which he yearned. The
pity of it was infinite; for had he been kept in regular courses for a
few years longer, his own ambition and love of the good opinion of
others might have restrained him altogether from excess. As it was,
before his judgment was matured or he had any real knowledge of the
fatal effect of the habits he was forming, he was firmly fixed in the
chains of a degrading habit from which death alone could free him. His
struggles with this fatal fascination, and his sufferings, were cruel in
the extreme, and inflicted pangs bitterer than death on all who loved
him. He was rather weak of will, and had been allowed to grow up
self-indulgent, through the over-fondness of his family, who were almost
ascetic in their own habits, but could deny him nothing. He had great
power of attracting people and of attaching them to him,--a power almost
wanting in other members of the family, and which might have been of
great advantage to him through life, had he started on the right course.
As it was, it only helped to drag him down. He had enough of Irish blood
in him to make his manners frank and genial, with a kind of natural
gallantry about them. He was generally esteemed handsome. His forehead
was massive, his eyes good, his mouth pleasant though somewhat coarse,
his hair and complexion sandy. Mrs. Gaskell, in her life of Charlotte
Bronté, thus tells of the second great grief he caused his family:--

     "Branwell, I have mentioned, had obtained a situation as a private
     tutor. Full of available talent, a brilliant talker, a good writer,
     apt at drawing, ready of appreciation, and with a not unhandsome
     person, he took the fancy of a married woman twenty years older
     than himself. It is no excuse for him to say that she began the
     first advances, and 'made love' to him. She was so bold and
     hardened that she did it in the very presence of her children, fast
     approaching maturity; and they would threaten her that if she did
     not grant them such and such indulgences, they would tell their
     bed-ridden father how she went on with Mr. Bronté. He was so
     beguiled by this mature and wicked woman that he went home for his
     holiday reluctantly, stayed there as short a time as possible,
     perplexing and distressing them all by his extraordinary
     conduct,--at one time in the highest spirits, at another in deepest
     depression,--accusing himself of blackest guilt and treachery,
     without specifying what they were; and altogether evincing an
     irritability of disposition bordering on insanity. Charlotte and
     her sister suffered acutely from his mysterious behavior. They
     began to lose all hope in his future career. He was no longer the
     family pride; an indistinct dread was creeping over their minds
     that he might turn out the family disgrace.

     "After a time the husband of the woman with whom he had intrigued,
     died. Branwell had been looking forward to this with guilty hope.
     After her husband's death his paramour would be free; strange as it
     seems, the young man still loved her passionately, and now imagined
     the time had come when they might look forward to being married,
     and might live together without reproach or blame. She had offered
     to elope with him; she had written to him perpetually; she had sent
     him money, twenty pounds at a time,--he remembered the criminal
     advances she had made; she had braved shame and her children's
     menaced disclosures for his sake; he thought she must love him; he
     little knew how bad a depraved woman can be. Her husband had made a
     will, in which he left her his property solely on the condition
     that she should never see Branwell Bronté again. At the very time
     the will was read, she did not know but that he might be on his way
     to her, having heard of her husband's death. She despatched a
     servant in hot haste to Haworth. He stopped at the Black Bull, and
     a messenger was sent to the parsonage for Branwell. He came down to
     the little inn, and was shut up with the man some time. Then the
     groom went away, and Branwell was left in the room alone. More than
     an hour elapsed before sign or sound was heard; then those outside
     heard a noise like the bleating of a calf, and on opening the door
     he was found in a kind of fit, succeeding to the stupor of grief
     which he had fallen into on hearing that he was forbidden by his
     paramour ever to see her again, as, if he did, she would forfeit
     her fortune. . . . Let her live and flourish. He died, his pockets
     filled with her letters, which he carried about his person
     perpetually in order that he might read them as often as he
     pleased. He lies dead, and his doom is only known to God's mercy."

But he did not die at once. He lived as an abiding care and sorrow and
disgrace to his family for three years. He began taking opium, and drank
more than ever. "For some time before his death he had attacks of
delirium tremens, of the most frightful character; he slept in his
father's room, and he would sometimes declare that either he or his
father would be dead before morning." The trembling sisters, sick with
fright, watched the night through before the door, in such agony as only
loving hearts can feel at the ruin of a loved one. The scenes at the old
manse at this time would serve to answer the question so often asked,
Where did three lonely women like the Bronté sisters ever form their
conceptions of such characters as they depicted? How their pure
imaginations could conceive of such beings as Heathcote and the Tenant
of Wildfell Hall may perhaps be guessed by those who learn what sort of
a man Branwell Bronté had grown to be. But the long agony was over at
last, and Branwell found his rest; and the sisters, although they could
not but feel the relief of his death, mourned for him with passionate

Let us turn to pleasanter glimpses of the life at Haworth, some of them
preceding the events of which we have been writing. Charlotte had spent
a year or two in Brussels, teaching in a school there, and gaining some
of those experiences which she afterwards embodied in her novels. Then
she had returned home, and the sisters had talked of establishing a
school. None of the famous books had yet been written. To show some of
Charlotte's ideas at this time, one or two extracts from her letters may
be of interest. She writes in 1840:--

     "Do not be over-persuaded to marry a man you can never respect,--I
     do not say _love_; because I think if you can respect a person
     before marriage, moderate love at least will come after; and as to
     intense _passion_, I am convinced that that is no desirable
     feeling. In the first place it seldom or never meets with a
     requital; and in the second place, if it did, the feeling would be
     only temporary; it would last the honeymoon, and then perhaps give
     place to disgust. Certainly this would be the case on the man's
     part; and on the woman's--God help her if she be left to love
     passionately and alone.

     "I am tolerably well convinced that I shall never marry at all.
     Reason tells me so, and I am not so utterly the slave of feeling
     but that I can _occasionally_ hear her voice."

This does not sound much like the woman who could write of Jane Eyre and
Rochester; but there were depths of passion in the little woman,
probably unsuspected by herself.

Again she writes, in 1845:--

     "I know that if women wish to escape the stigma of husband-hunting,
     they must act and look like marble or clay,--cold, expressionless,
     bloodless; for every appearance of feeling, of joy, sorrow,
     friendliness, antipathy, admiration, disgust, are alike construed
     by the world into an attempt to hook a husband. Never mind!
     well-meaning women have their own consciences to comfort them,
     after all. Do not therefore be too much afraid of showing yourself
     as you are, affectionate and good-hearted; do not harshly repress
     sentiments and feelings excellent in themselves, because you fear
     that some puppy may fancy you are letting them come out to
     fascinate him; do not condemn yourself to live only by halves,
     because if you showed too much animation some pragmatical thing in
     breeches might take it into his pate to imagine that you desired to
     dedicate your life to inanity. Write again soon, for I feel rather
     fierce and want stroking down."

That the sisters were not without their own perturbations and heart
troubles, even in the deep seclusion of their lonely home, may be judged
by some extracts from a poem written by Emily, who never confided
anything to any friend but her own sombre muse.

  "Cold is the earth, and the deep snow piled above thee,
    Far, far removed, cold in the dreary grave.
  Have I forgot, my only love, to love thee,
    Severed at last by Time's all-severing wave?

  "Now, when removed, do my thoughts no longer hover
    Over the mountains on that northern shore,
  Resting their wings where heath and fern leaves cover
    Thy noble heart forever, evermore?

  "Cold in the grave, and fifteen wild Decembers
    From these brown hills have melted into spring;
  Faithful indeed the love is that remembers
    After such years of change and suffering."

That Charlotte had some admirers among her father's curates is well
known, and that Mr. Nichols paid court to her eight years previous to
the time of her marriage with him. That she was capable of intense and
passionate devotion there can be no doubt, but we have no hint as to
whom she had lavished it upon, in any of her letters.

She was always extremely sensitive about her personal appearance,
considering herself irredeemably ugly, and always thinking that people
must be disgusted with her looks. She purposely made her heroine in
"Jane Eyre" unattractive, as she felt it an injustice that a woman must
always be judged by her looks, and she felt that novelists were somewhat
to blame in the matter, as they always made their heroines beautiful in
person, however unattractive in mind or character. She was extremely
short,--"stunted," as she herself calls it,--never having grown any
after the days of her starvation at Cowan's Bridge. She had soft brown
hair, and good and expressive eyes, though she was so near-sighted; a
large mouth; and a broad, square, somewhat overhanging forehead. Her
voice was very sweet, and she was not at all the unattractive person she
fancied herself, though by no means beautiful. She was exquisitely neat
in her dress, and dainty about her gloves and shoes. She had a keen and
delicate touch, and could do any difficult work with her hands, which
were the smallest perhaps ever seen upon a grown woman. Her needlework
was marvellous, and she was an exquisite housekeeper, attending to the
minutest details herself. Her circle of friends and acquaintances was a
very narrow one all her life, though after the publication of "Jane
Eyre" it of course widened and improved.

Harriet Martineau and Mrs. Gaskell proved themselves warm and
enthusiastic friends to Charlotte; and Thackeray, who met her in London,
where she visited her publishers, was much pleased with her, and wrote
very kindly of her after her death. Sir James and Lady Kay Shuttleworth
became much interested in her, and she enjoyed her visits to them in
Westmoreland very highly. The Lake country was a revelation to her,
though she was somewhat oppressed by seeing it all in company. She

     "If I could only have dropped unseen out of the carriage, and gone
     away by myself in amongst those grand hills and sweet dales, I
     should have drunk in the full power of this glorious scenery. In
     company, this can hardly be."

Again she writes to another:--

     "Decidedly I find it does not agree with me to prosecute the search
     for the picturesque in a carriage. A wagon, a spring-cart, even a
     post-chaise might do; but a carriage upsets everything. I longed to
     slip out unseen, and to run away by myself in amongst the hills and
     dales. Erratic and vagrant instincts tormented me; and these I was
     obliged to control, or rather suppress, for fear of growing in any
     degree enthusiastic, and thus drawing attention to 'the lioness,'
     the authoress."

The fact of her having sprung into sudden fame immediately after she was
known as the author of "Jane Eyre"--the most wonderful book of her
day--was a matter of great surprise to her, and would doubtless have
afforded her very keen pleasure, only that she was so overburdened with
home cares and sorrows at that time. Even the sweetness of her literary
triumph was embittered by the sadness of the home life. "Jane Eyre" had
been written during their worst trials with Branwell, and "Shirley" just
after his death and during the illness of Emily and Anne, both works
being the product of the very darkest hours of her darkened life. If
these works are morbid and unhealthy, as has been asserted, is it any
wonder, when we consider what must have been the state of her mind while
writing them? She was most devotedly attached to her sisters; indeed,
her very life may be said to have been bound up in theirs; and it was
peculiarly hard for her to lose them just when success appeared to be at
hand, and they might have looked forward to something of happiness
during the remainder of their lives. Charlotte gives her own affecting
account of Emily's death, which throws some light upon the character of
that remarkable woman, as remarkable perhaps as Charlotte herself,
although she did not live to do any work as lasting as that of her elder
sister. She says:--

     "But a great change approached. Affliction came in that shape which
     to anticipate is dread; to look back on, grief. In the very heat
     and burden of the day the laborers failed over their work. My
     sister Emily first declined. . . . Never in all her life had she
     lingered over any task that lay before her, and she did not linger
     now. She sank rapidly. She made haste to leave us. Day by day, when
     I saw with what a front she met suffering, I looked on her with an
     anguish of wonder and love. I have seen nothing like it; but indeed
     I have never seen her parallel in anything. Stronger than a man,
     simpler than a child, her nature stood alone. The awful point was
     that, while full of ruth for others, on herself she had no pity;
     the spirit was inexorable to the flesh; from the trembling hands,
     the unnerved limbs, the fading eyes, the same service was exacted
     as they had rendered in health. To stand by and witness this, and
     not dare to remonstrate, was a pain no words can render."

Emily never left the house after Branwell's death. She made no
complaint, but her friends could see that she was deadly ill. Yet she
would have no doctor, and insisted upon going on with her work as usual.
This she did until she was actually dying. Branwell had insisted upon
standing up to die; and poor Emily had scarcely consented to lie down,
when she was gone. Their will-power in their last agonies was something
almost fearful to contemplate. As the old bereaved father and Charlotte
and Anne followed the coffin to the grave, Emily's old, fierce, faithful
bull-dog, to which she had been so much attached, came out and walked
beside them. When they returned he lay down by Emily's door, and howled
pitifully for many days. Charlotte recurred to this death-scene
continually. In one letter she says:--

     "I cannot forget Emily's death-day; it becomes a more fixed, a
     darker, a more frequently recurring idea in my mind than ever. It
     was very terrible. She was torn, conscious, panting, reluctant,
     though resolute, out of a happy life. But it will not do to dwell
     on these things."

Anne Bronté did not long survive her sister, and Charlotte was now alone
except that she had the care of her aged father, who was feeble and
nearly blind. The awful loneliness of the old house almost crazed her,
but she went faithfully to work, and bore up with unheard of fortitude.
Two or three solitary years went by, when Mr. Nichols, her father's
curate, renewed his suit to Miss Bronté. Mrs. Gaskell tells us that he
was one who had known her intimately for years, and was not a man to be
attracted by any kind of literary fame. He was a grave, reserved,
conscientious man, with strong religious feeling. In silence he had
watched and loved her long.

She thus describes the meeting:--

     "Instead I heard a tap, and like lightning it flashed upon me what
     was coming. He entered. He stood before me. What his words were you
     can imagine; his manner you can hardly realize, nor can I forget
     it. He made me for the first time feel what it costs a man to
     declare affection when he doubts response.... The spectacle of one
     ordinarily so statue-like, thus trembling, stirred, and overcome,
     gave me a strange shock. I could only entreat him to leave me then,
     and promise a reply on the morrow."

Mr. Bronté, when consulted, was so displeased with the whole proceeding,
and was so weak at this time, that Charlotte, fearing ill consequences
to him, gave Mr. Nichols a refusal, whereupon he resigned his curacy and
left the country. But a year or two after, seeing that Charlotte was
unhappy, and fearing for her health, her father withdrew his opposition;
Mr. Nichols was recalled, and the marriage finally took place. Mrs.
Gaskell says:--

     "She expressed herself as thankful to One who had guided her
     through much difficulty and much distress and perplexity of mind;
     and yet she felt what most thoughtful women do, who marry when the
     first flash of careless youth is over, that there was a strange,
     half-sad feeling in making announcements of an engagement, for
     cares and fears come mingled inextricably with hopes. One great
     relief to her mind at this time was derived from the conviction
     that her father took a positive pleasure in all the thoughts about
     and preparations for her wedding. He was anxious that things should
     be expedited, and much interested in preparations for Mr. Nichols's
     reception into the household."


     "The news of the wedding had slipt abroad before the little party
     came out of the church, and many old and humble friends were there,
     seeing her look 'like a snowdrop' as they say. Her dress was white
     embroidered muslin, with a lace mantle, and white bonnet trimmed
     with green leaves, which perhaps might suggest the resemblance to
     the pale wintry flower."

Her married love and happiness were of very brief duration; a few short
months, and she lay upon the bed from which she would rise no more.
Waking for an instant, we are told, "from this stupor of intelligence,
she saw her husband's woe-worn face, and caught the sound of some
murmured words of prayer that God would spare her. 'Oh,' she whispered
forth, 'I am not going to die, am I? He will not separate us, we have
been so happy.'" But love or prayer could not stay the hand of death,
which had marked all of this family for an early doom, and she passed
sweetly away in the arms of her devoted husband. Thank God for the
little glimpse of womanly happiness which He gave her at the last, and
for the faithful mourner who held her memory so sacred for many years in
the old gray manse. Mr. Nichols watched faithfully over the old father
in his last days, and only left Haworth when duty held him there no
longer, although the place had grown inexpressibly sad to him after his
affliction. To the graves of the gifted women who sleep there,
pilgrimages are made to this day. The Yorkshire region has changed much;
and many now seek its wild heathery moors, not only for its own sake,
but for the sake of those who loved and suffered in the little gray
parsonage among its bleak hills. Long will the genius which created
"Jane Eyre" and "Villette" and "Shirley" delight the world; but the
remembrance of the writer's womanly virtues will linger when all these
shall have passed away.




There was little in the life of the people of New England in the early
part of the present century upon which to feed the imagination of a
precocious and romantic child like Margaret Fuller; and her childhood,
though outwardly fortunate and well placed, was one of labor and
repression, and far from happy, if we may judge by her own account of
it. The theology of the people was gloomy. They made everything
connected with religion unlovely, and this austerity was particularly
distasteful to one of Margaret's imaginative temperament and heroic
disposition. Her ungratified imagination brought her early into conflict
with the circumstances and surroundings of her life.

All the poetry of her nature cried out against the lives of toil and
care by which she was surrounded,--lives at that time lighted up by
little of art or literature or music, but held to a stern standard of
duty and self-abnegation. Margaret's nature craved beauty and poetry and
art and lavish affection, and it was nursed on a somewhat grim diet of
hard work and little expressed affection, although her parents were both
loving and intelligent. Her father himself educated her, being a Harvard
graduate, and a lawyer and politician of that day. He taught her Latin
at the age of six years; and she says that the lessons set for her were
as many and various as the hours would allow, and on subjects far beyond
her age. These lessons were recited to her father after office hours,
which kept the poor tired child up till late in the evening, and as a
result the youthful prodigy was terrified at night by dreams and
illusions, and given to sleep-walking. The result of such over-tension
of a childish mind was a morbid and unhealthy state of both body and
mind; and though she loved study, these great demands made upon her
powers almost overcame her with their weight. She had a natural passion
for reading, and when a mere child singled out Shakespeare, Cervantes,
and Molière, from all the books in the library, for her especial

She was but eight years old when she took a passionate interest in
"Romeo and Juliet," and was disgraced in the family for perusing it on
Sunday; and the imaginative child was always seeking for the heroic
figures of her Shakespearian world in the every-day life about her, and
was always disappointed. Altogether, we must call it an unhappy and
unfortunate childhood, and cannot but think much finer intellectual as
well as moral results would have followed a different treatment in her

In her early girlhood she mixed much in the college society at
Cambridge, and would have been taken for a much older person than she
really was. She was not handsome, but her animated countenance made its
own impression, and awakened interest in almost all who saw her. She
made some of her life-long friends at this time. Dr. Hedge, James
Freeman Clarke, and William Henry Channing were among them. With Emerson
she made acquaintance a little later, through Miss Martineau, then
visiting in this country. She was not at this time an agreeable person.
She was much derided for her self-esteem by people who knew her
slightly, and was also accused of hauteur and arrogance. Even Lowell was
thus impressed by her, and put her in the pillory in the "Fable for
Critics." He proposes to establish new punishments for criminals,

  "I propose to shut up every doer of wrong
  With these desperate books, for such terms, short or long,
  As by statute in such cases made and provided
  Shall be by our wise legislators decided:
  Thus:--Let murderers be shut, to grow wiser and cooler,
  At hard labor for life on the works of Miss ----."

And again:--

  "For a woman must surely see well, if she try,
  The whole of whose being's a capital I."

And still further:--

                    "Phoebus! you know
  That the infinite Soul has its infinite woe,
  As I ought to know, having lived cheek by jowl,
  Since the day I was born, with the Infinite Soul."

But people who knew her well soon lost this unfavorable impression, and
she was almost idolized by her real friends. Mr. Emerson thus records
his first impressions of her: "She had a face and frame that would
indicate fulness and tenacity of life. . . . She was then, as always,
carefully and becomingly dressed, and of lady-like self-possession. For
the rest, her appearance had nothing pre-possessing. Her extreme
plainness, a trick of incessantly opening and shutting her eyelids, the
nasal tone of her voice,--all repelled; and I said to myself, 'We shall
never get far.'" He adds: "I believe I fancied her too much interested
in personal history; and her talk was a comedy in which dramatic justice
was done to everybody's foibles. I remember she made me laugh more than
I liked." But, "soon her wit had effaced the impression of her personal
unattractiveness, and the eyes, which were so plain at first, swam with
fun and drolleries and the very tides of joy and superabundant life,"
and he saw "that her satire was only the pastime and necessity of her
talent;" and as he came to know her better, "her plane of character rose
constantly in my estimation, disclosing many moods and powers in
successive platforms or terraces, each above each." All superior women
were drawn to her at once, and even those noted only for beauty or
social talent vied in their devotion to her. A few years later, it was
for this circle that her famous conversation classes were held in
Boston; and so great was their popularity that she continued them for
six years. These conversations were entirely unique in character, and
attracted great attention in their day. The novelty of such a departure
in the Boston of forty years ago may be imagined, and the criticism
drawn upon a woman who should inaugurate such an innovation was in some
cases very severe. In regard to these same conversations, as in other
things, the impression she made was twofold. Mrs. Howe says: "Without
the fold of her admirers stood carping, unkind critics; within were
enthusiastic and grateful friends." But as to her great eloquence and
ability, there was but one opinion. Even critics admitted that no woman
had spoken like this before. And she addressed her fine audience of
Boston's most cultivated women with entire ease and freedom, and gave
many of them an impulse toward an intellectual career which nothing else
at that time could have done.

Here was the real beginning of what may be called the woman question in
this country. Before Margaret Fuller's day the agitation regarding
woman's career and work in the world was practically unknown here; and
all the ideas which have now become incorporated into the platform of
the woman's party found in her their first and perhaps their best
exponent. Very little that is new has since been urged upon this
question. Her powerful mind seemed to have grasped the whole subject,
and to have given it the best expression of which it was capable. She
embodied her ideas after a time in her book, "Woman in the Nineteenth
Century;" and although the literature of the subject is now voluminous,
that book is still read and referred to.

Finding it necessary to support herself and to care for her mother and
brothers after her father's death, she at first taught school, at one
time in Mr. Alcott's famous school in Boston and afterwards in
Providence, and then took a position upon the "New York Tribune," kindly
offered her by Mr. Greeley. She supported her brothers in college, and
aided her mother for some years, putting by her own ambitions with a
cheerful outward appearance, though oftentimes with a heavy heart. She
had many and very ambitious literary projects, few of which were ever
destined to be carried out. For a woman who occupied so much the minds
of the men of her day and of a succeeding generation, she really left
little upon which to base their admiration. What she was, rather than
what she did, seems to have made its impression upon her time. That her
vocation was to speak rather than to write, there seems little doubt.
She had the rare but much-prized gift of eloquence, and in these latter
days would no doubt have made a very large success as a speaker. Some
who listened to her think that she might have been the peer of Wendell
Phillips in oratory, had she bent her powers entirely in that direction.
As it is, her genius has become almost wholly a tradition. There are
many to-day who cannot guess the secret of the continued interest the
world feels in her. That secret lies largely in the impression she made
upon many of the famous men of her time. They have transmitted her name
to posterity along with their own. Horace Greeley at first determined
not to like her personally, and avoided her even after she became a
member of his family; but he ended by growing as enthusiastic over her
as the rest. Even crabbed Carlyle, though much prejudiced against women
of her sort, bore testimony to his liking for her. He writes to

     "Margaret is an excellent soul; in real regard with both of us
     here. Since she went I have been reading some of her papers in a
     new book we have got; greatly superior to all I knew before,--in
     fact, undeniable utterances of a truly heroic mind, altogether
     unique, so far as I know, among the writing women of this
     generation; rare enough too, God knows, among the writing men. She
     is very narrow, but she is truly high. Honor to Margaret, and more
     and more good speed to her!"

It was not until 1846 that Margaret's long desire to visit Europe was
gratified. It had been the dream of her life, and one cannot but be sad
at thought of its tragic ending. She spent some time in London, seeing
all the celebrities of the day there, and then crossed over to Paris.
Like London, Paris had then some brilliant men and women, whose peers
she has not seen since. Rachel was the queen of the tragic stage, George
Sand queen of the literary domain. De Balzac, Eugene Sue, Dumas _père_,
and Béranger were all alive, and the centre of the Parisian literary
coterie. Liszt and Chopin held the musical world in the bondage of sweet
sounds. Into this little inner circle Margaret entered, and did not fail
to make her mark there. She was a second Madame de Staël in
conversation, and in her little circle was recognized as such.

From Paris she went to Italy, where the real romance of her life was
enacted and its tragic _denouement_ prepared for. Italy had been her
promised land from early youth. She had longed for its sunny clime, amid
the storms and winds of bleak New England; for its historic
associations, amid the poverty of a land without a past; for its
architectural splendors, amid the bareness and baldness of the New World
cities; for the grandeur of its ancient art, amid the poverty of the
America of that day; for its impassioned music, in a land almost devoid
of musical culture; and she had longed for the beautiful, sensuous, idle
life of its people, through all the strain of a strenuous and overworked
existence. Her vision had been fair, and at first she was much
disappointed. In artistic or architectural magnificence St. Peter's and
the Transfiguration could not disappoint a soul like Margaret's, but she
was deeply disappointed in the life of the Italian people and in the
general charm of the country.

She fell upon exciting times in Italy. There had grown up the fiercest
hatred of the Austrian rule, which had recently been aggravated by
foolish acts of repression and violence. The whole country was in a
ferment. Mazzini, whom Margaret had met in London, was here awaiting his
opportunity. Mrs. Howe says: "Up and down went the hopes and the hearts
of the Liberal party. Hither and thither ran the tides of popular
affection, suspicion, and resentment. The Pope was the idol of the
moment. The Grand Duke of Tuscany yielded to pressure whenever it became
severe. The minor princes, who had from their birth been incapable of an
idea, tried as well as they could to put on some semblance of concession
without really yielding anything." Margaret was soon in close relations
with leading Liberals, and shared all their hopes and fears and some of
their dangers.

At this time she first met the young Italian nobleman, Ossoli, who
became her husband. She became separated from her party one day at some
service at St. Peter's, and, wandering around trying to find them,
became tired and somewhat agitated. A young man of gentlemanly address
offered his services to her as guide; and after looking in vain for her
friends, she was obliged to accept his escort home, night having come on
and no carriages being in attendance. They became mutually attracted,
and the acquaintance continued, with that disregard of conventionality
for which American women are noted when abroad. Although much younger
than Margaret, he seemed to be greatly interested in her; and although
he had none of her intellectual tastes, she was equally interested in

A very romantic attachment sprang up between them, which ended after a
few months in a secret marriage. Her reason for the secrecy lay in the
troubled times, and the fear of Ossoli's being deprived of his paternal
inheritance on account of marrying a Protestant. They had great hopes of
the coming revolution, and trusted to a more liberal government to give
him his rights despite the fact of his marrying outside the Church of
Rome. He was as poor as Margaret herself; and this was another reason
for living apart for a time. He was a captain in the Civic Guard, and at
this time much occupied with military duties. It was at this time that
the Roman Republic was proclaimed, with great pomp of rejoicing; and
Margaret chronicles the opening of the Constitutional Assembly, with
great display of processions and banners. In one procession walked a
Napoleonic prince side by side with Garibaldi, both having been chosen
as deputies. All this raised the hopes of the Liberals throughout Europe
to the highest point, and Margaret was almost transported with happy
excitement,--probably not understanding as well as the natives of Italy
how ill prepared that country was for liberty, and how soon the despotic
power would again close around the people. In point of fact, the
Republic lasted but a few days, and Margaret's brief time for rejoicing
was over, and her own personal troubles became very urgent and

A son had been born to her some months before, and had of necessity been
left in the hands of a nurse in the country, as the marriage had not yet
been made known. During all the pomp of processions and the ringing of
bells and firing of cannon, she had heard the voice of her infant crying
at Rieti. She had not seen him for three months, on account of the
troublous times. She lay awake whole nights contriving how she might end
the separation which seemed killing her; but circumstances were too
strong for her, and the object so dear to her heart could not be
compassed. The French were already in Italy. The siege of Rome soon
ended in the downfall of the Republic, and the government was placed in
the hands of a triumvirate. The city once invested, military hospitals
became a necessity. Margaret was named superintendent of the hospital of
the Fate Bene Fratelli. "Night and day," writes Mrs. Story, "Margaret
was occupied, and with the Princess Belgiojoso so ordered and disposed
the hospitals that their conduct was admirable. Of money they had very
little, and they were obliged to give their time and thoughts in its
place. I have walked through the wards with Margaret, and have seen how
comforting was her presence to the poor suffering men. For each one's
peculiar taste she had a care. To one she carried books; to another she
told the news of the day; and listened to another's oft-repeated tale of
wrongs, as the best sympathy she could give. They raised themselves on
their elbows to get a last glimpse of her as she went away." Ossoli was
stationed with his command on the walls of the Vatican, and in great
danger. He refused to leave his post even for food and rest. The
provisions which Margaret sent him he shared with his comrades.
Sometimes she could visit him at his post and talk about the little
Angelo, now always in her thoughts. As the wounded men were brought into
the hospital she was always expecting to see her husband; and as the
nurse had threatened to abandon the babe, and it was utterly impossible
for Margaret to get outside the lines now investing the city, the two
horrors were almost more than she could bear. It was only in trying to
help the helpless that she found any consolation in this dreadful time.
The night of the 20th of June, the French effected an entrance into the
city; and although the defence was gallantly continued until the 30th,
there was really no hope for the patriots.

At that time Garibaldi informed the Assembly that further resistance
would be useless. The French occupation then began, and the end of all
liberties. The gates once open, Margaret, with all her sorrow for Rome,
was happy in the thought of reaching her child. She did reach him just
in time to save his life. He had been forsaken by his nurse, and his
mother found him "worn to a skeleton, too weak to smile or lift his
wasted little hand." All that Margaret had endured seemed slight
compared to this. She could but compare the women of the Papal States to
wolves. The child, however, recovered with good nursing, and the family,
now united, enjoyed a little season of repose and happiness. The
marriage was announced, and Margaret's many friends in Rome extended
their help and sympathy. Life in Italy had now become so painful to
them that she resolved to return to the New World. Her husband was
willing to accompany her. They accordingly engaged passage upon a
merchant-vessel from Leghorn, the same vessel being engaged to bring
over the heavy marble of Powers's "Greek Slave." She seemed to have
great forebodings about this voyage, and was almost induced to give up
their passage on the vessel at the last moment; but she overcame her
fears, and they embarked. After a few days the captain died of
small-pox. The disease spread; and Margaret, as courageously as ever,
went about the ship nursing the sick. Soon the little Angelo was taken
with the dread disease; they nursed him safely through it, however, and
after many dangers and trials the vessel arrived off the Jersey coast in
thick weather. At night, the mate promised them a landing in New York in
the morning; but the vessel ran upon the sand-bars near Long Island, and
on Fire Island beach she struck at four o'clock on the morning of July
19. Margaret, with husband and child, was lost, after refusing to be
separated in the efforts at rescue. They went down together, and the
career of a great and noble woman ended thus tragically on that desolate




Among the names that were occasionally mentioned in the brief and
fleeting annals of the stage from the year 1798 to the year 1811, were
those of Mr. David Poe and the beautiful Miss Arnold--afterward Mrs.
Poe,--the father and mother of that most brilliant but erratic genius
Edgar A. Poe.

David Poe was the son of old General Poe, who won his honors in
Revolutionary times and was a man of sterling character and many heroic
qualities. Miss Arnold belonged to the stage by birth, and from earliest
youth had been attached to the theatre in some capacity. It is a most
miserable fate for a child, but she knew of nothing better. She came
before the public with a naïveté that was touching, and played her
little airs on the piano and sung her little songs and uttered her
childish sentences always to the very best of her ability, putting up
with the late hours and the hasty and often scanty meals and the general
discomfort of her lot with the utmost amiability and good-nature. No
sheltered home, no days of careless pleasure, no constant and watchful
care over health or manners or morals, fell to her lot; but the frowns
and sometimes the curses of the older actors, the ill-nature of the
manager, and the wearied fretfulness of her mother, who was growing old
in the drudgery of her profession,--for she never rose above that at any
time. Nor does it appear that Miss Arnold had any particular talent,
though she won a moderate share of favor upon the stage; but she was
always much esteemed by those who knew her in private. She sung and
sometimes danced, as did her husband, who was an actor of inferior
merit. There is something very pathetic in the story of the little
second-rate actress who was so conscientious and so persevering, and one
cannot but hope that she received her due share of the applause which
lends such a fascination to the life of the actor that he rarely
abandons it for any other career.

There is a hint of the hardship of her life in the fact that there are
but three short breaks in her dramatic career through all those
years,--the times when the three children were born to them. Edgar was
born Jan. 19, 1809, and his mother appeared upon the stage again
February 10, and played to the end of the season almost incessantly. The
family were poor to the verge of destitution at all times, and the
little woman had need of a brave heart when the children came crowding
into the poor unfurnished nest. One cannot doubt that there was much of
pain and worry in the little creature's heart before the birth of Edgar;
and no doubt the paint covered the traces of many tears on the faded
cheeks, and the smiles which wreathed her face were more artificial than
the usual stage smiles during all those weary months. In 1811 she and
her husband were playing in Richmond, when her health failed her, and
they were brought to great straits for the means of life. The actors
gave her a benefit, but the receipts were small, and the following card
was inserted in the Richmond papers:--

     "TO THE HUMANE: On this night Mrs. Poe, lingering on the bed of
     disease and surrounded by her children, asks your assistance; _and
     asks it perhaps, for the last time_."

Before the second benefit night the Richmond ladies had come to her
relief, and she was tenderly cared for during the brief remainder of her
life by stranger hands. She had never had a home. She had passed her
whole life in poor, mean lodgings, about which no household charm could
linger. In these desolate places had been passed even her honeymoon; in
some garret lodgings had her children been born; here all that she had
known of domestic joy or sorrow had been enacted; here she had doubtless
wept her hot tears and had her little triumphs, and here she had died.
Poor little variety-actress of the olden time! there is one heart at
least that is touched by your lot, even at this distant day, and has
dropped a tear to your memory on the page where she has read your

The three children were cared for by the kind people of Richmond, and
Edgar was adopted by Mrs. John Allan, whose husband gave but a reluctant
consent to the arrangement. Edgar was a most beautiful and precocious
child, and attracted much attention in the new home. If the poor mother
on her dying-bed could have known of the good fortune which awaited him,
it would have eased somewhat the bitter pangs of her parting with her
beautiful and idolized child. He was taken to England, where he spent
several years of his childhood, and when he returned, entered a
classical school, where he was prepared for college. He was described as
"self-willed, capricious, inclined to be imperious, and, though of
generous impulses, not steadily kind or even amiable." He was a facile
scholar and fond of Latin and English poetry. He was nearly always
alone, making few friends among his schoolmates, and was of a dignified
and reserved disposition and inclined to melancholy. He entered the
University of Virginia at the age of seventeen, and it was here that his
fatal habit of drinking was first formed. One of his schoolmates

     "Poe's passion for strong drink was as marked and peculiar as that
     for cards. It was not the _taste_ of the beverage that influenced
     him. Without a sip or smack of the mouth he would seize a full
     glass, without water or sugar, and send it home at a single gulp.
     This frequently used him up; but if not, he rarely returned to the

This, for a lad of seventeen, with an excitable temperament, was
sufficient to sow the seeds of all his future woe. The youthful brain
inflamed with alcohol never really recovers its normal condition, even
when abstinence follows, and Poe's life-long struggle with his adversary
began at this tender age. Dr. Day, long connected with the inebriate
asylum at Binghamton, N. Y., once had an opportunity to examine the
brain of a man who, after having been a drunkard, reformed and lived for
some years as a teetotaller. He found to his surprise that the globules
of the brain had not shrunk to their natural size. They did not exhibit
the inflammation of the drunkard's brain, but they were still enlarged,
and seemed ready on the instant to absorb the fumes of alcohol and
resume their former condition. He thought he saw in this morbid
condition of the brain the physical part of the reason why a man who has
once been habituated to liquor falls so easily under its sway again in
spite of every moral reason for refraining. Doubtless he was right, and
poor Poe was only one of a vast number of men of brilliant intellects
and kind hearts, who after a life-long struggle are defeated by the
enemy they have taken into their stomachs to destroy their brains.

It is not our purpose to trace the poet through all the devious windings
of his life, but to dwell for a little while upon the course of his
domestic life and give some of the striking points in his character. We
will pass over the close of his college career and the episode at West
Point, as well as the publication of his earliest volume of poems, and
look at him as we find him in the summer of 1833, living in Baltimore.
He had a home here with his father's widowed sister, Mrs. Clemm, who
with her daughter Virginia lived in a very humble way in that city. The
little Poe could earn--for he was then at one of his lowest financial
periods--went into the common stock, and the three struggled along
together. Virginia was a child of eleven, beautiful, delicate, refined;
and Mrs. Clemm was then, as always thereafter, the best and kindest of
friends to the poet. She had little to offer him, save kindness and
motherly love; but she gave these most abundantly, and they were of
priceless value to Poe. For many months he kept himself from his
besetting sin, and worked faithfully at whatever literary work he could
get to do. But he was poor to the point of destitution, and the mental
strain upon him was great, with his extraordinary pride and
sensitiveness. He had been well reared, with fine and delicate tastes,
and accustomed to money; and privation was very bitter to him. He was
naturally an aristocrat, too, and found in the associations to which he
was almost compelled by poverty a heavy cross. At the end of two years
he felt himself forced to leave Baltimore, and thought he could obtain
employment in Richmond. He had become greatly attached to Virginia, and
she was equally so to him; and although she was but a child of thirteen,
Poe proposed to marry her and take her and Mrs. Clemm with him to his
new destination. The youth of Virginia seems to have been the only
obstacle in the mind of Mrs. Clemm, who had conceived the deepest
affection for Poe and had great confidence in his abilities. She was
friendless and unable to take care of herself and her daughter, and
after some hesitation she consented to the marriage. It did not take
place, however, till Virginia was fourteen years old.

Ill-starred and ill-timed as this marriage seemed to be, it was the one
bright and beautiful thing about the life of Poe. He remained
passionately devoted to the youthful wife as long as she lived; and it
is thought by those who knew him best that, despite his numerous
romantic passages with ladies after her death, Virginia was the only
woman he ever really loved. In spite of the bad habits which clung to
him so persistently, he seems to have been a really kind and devoted
husband to the end. She, on her part, worshipped him with a supreme
infatuation that was blind to all his faults. The romance of the first
months of married life seemed never to wear off, and through all their
sorrows--and they were many and bitter--their love burned as brightly
as at first.

To Mrs. Clemm, also, Poe was always a devoted son, and through all his
waywardness; and folly and sin she clung to him with the devotion of a
true mother. The sturdy figure of this woman shows through all the dark
spots of his life, casting a gleam of brightness. She was a strong,
masculine-looking woman, full of energy, and took upon herself all the
practical affairs of the little household. She received the money from
Poe, and expended it in her own way; and she had a faculty of getting a
good deal of comfort out of a very little money. So their home was
almost always comfortable, even when they were poorest. And she never
gave way to reproaches, even when Poe was at his worst. She seemed to
consider his failing only in the light of a misfortune, and never
blamed, but always pitied him. She worshipped his genius almost as
blindly as did Virginia, and it is pleasant to think that with all their
misfortunes and privations, they had much real happiness in their little
home. Poe was very proud and very fond of Virginia, and liked to take
strangers to see her. She had a voice of wonderful sweetness and sung
exquisitely, and in some of their more prosperous days she had her harp
and piano. One evening when she was singing she ruptured a blood-vessel,
and for a time her life was despaired of Poe describes the affliction
long afterwards in a letter as follows:--

     "Six years ago a wife whom I loved as no man ever loved before,
     ruptured a blood-vessel in singing. I took leave of her forever,
     and underwent all the agonies of her death. She recovered
     partially, and I again hoped. At the end of a year the vessel again
     broke. I went through precisely the same scene. Then
     again--again--and even once again at varying intervals. Each time I
     felt all the agonies of her death, and at each accession of the
     disorder I loved her more dearly and clung to her life with more
     desperate pertinacity. But I am constitutionally
     sensitive,--nervous to an unusual degree. I became insane, with
     long intervals of possible sanity. During these fits of absolute
     unconsciousness, I drank--God only knows how often or how much. As
     a matter of course, my enemies referred the insanity to the drink,
     rather than the drink to the insanity."

Although Poe's word is not always to be taken in regard to his own
affairs, this doubtless describes his feelings over Virginia's condition
quite truthfully; and whether the drinking was cause or effect we shall
probably never really know.

During one of the periods of Virginia's improved health Poe took her and
went to New York, leaving Mrs. Clemm behind to settle up domestic
affairs. In a letter which he wrote to his mother-in-law, we have a
glimpse of the kindlier side of the man's nature and of his real
affection for this devoted friend, as well as some hints of the straits
of poverty to which they had been accustomed, by the fulness of his
descriptions of the plenty upon which they had fallen. He is speaking of
his boarding-house:--

     "I wish Catarina [the cat] could see it; she would faint. Last
     night for supper we had the nicest tea you ever drank,--strong and
     hot,--wheat and rye bread, cheese, tea-cakes (elegant--a great
     dish), two dishes of elegant ham and two of cold veal, piled up
     like a mountain and large slices, three dishes of the cakes, and
     everything in the greatest profusion. No fear of starving here. The
     landlady seemed as if she couldn't press us enough, and we were at
     home directly. For breakfast we had excellent-flavored coffee, hot
     and strong,--not very clear and no great deal of
     cream,--veal-cutlets, elegant ham and eggs, and nice bread and
     butter. I never sat down to a more plentiful or a nicer breakfast.
     I wish you could have seen the eggs and the great dishes of meat.
     Sis is delighted, and we are both in excellent spirits. She has
     coughed hardly any, and had no night-sweat. She is now busy mending
     my pants, which I tore against a nail. I went out last night and
     bought a skein of silk, a skein of thread, two buttons, a pair of
     slippers, and a tin pan for the stove. The fire kept all night. We
     have now got four dollars and a half left. To-morrow I am going to
     try and borrow three dollars, so that I may have a fortnight to go
     upon. I feel in excellent spirits, and haven't drank a drop--so
     that I hope soon to get out of trouble. The very instant I scrape
     together enough money I will send it on. You can't imagine how much
     we both do miss you. Sissy had a hearty cry last night because you
     and Catarina weren't here. We hope to send for you very soon."

It is hard to read of the straits to which Poe was often reduced for a
little money, and to know that all this time he was writing those
immortal tales which would now make a man's fortune as soon as produced.
It is true that he had two or three times good salaried positions,--good
for that day,--but he never kept them long, and his chronic state was
one of poverty, if not of destitution.

Mrs. Osgood, who knew him in the later days in New York, says of him:--

     "I have never seen him otherwise than gentle, generous, well-bred,
     and fastidiously refined. To a sensitive and delicately nurtured
     woman there was a peculiar and irresistible charm in the chivalric,
     graceful, and almost tender reverence with which he invariably
     approached all women who won his respect."

The home in the suburbs where he lived in the last days of his wife's
life is described as a story-and-a-half house at the top of Fordham
Hill. Within on the ground floor were two small apartments,--a kitchen
and sitting-room,--and above, up a narrow stairway, two others, one
Poe's room,--a low, cramped chamber lighted by little square windows
like port-holes,--the other a diminutive closet of a bedroom, hardly
large enough to lie down in. The furnishing was of the scantiest, but
everything faultlessly neat.

     "Mrs. Clemm, now over sixty, in her worn black dress made upon all
     who saw her an impression of dignity, refinement, and deep motherly
     devotion to her children. Virginia, at the age of twenty-five,
     retained her beauty, but the large black eyes and raven hair
     contrasted sadly with the pallor of her face. Poe himself, poor,
     proud, and ill, anticipating grief and nursing the bitterness that
     springs from helplessness in the sight of suffering borne by those
     dear to us, was restless and variable, the creature of
     contradictory impulses."

Virginia now failed rapidly, Poe was ill, and the household was reduced
almost to the starving-point. Winter was upon them; and when at last a
sympathizing friend found them she thus describes the situation:--

     "There was no clothing upon the bed, which was only straw, but a
     snow-white counterpane and sheets. The weather was cold, and the
     sick lady had the dreadful chills that accompany the hectic fever
     of consumption. She lay on the straw bed wrapped in her husband's
     great-coat, with a large tortoise-shell cat in her bosom. The
     wonderful cat seemed conscious of her great usefulness. The coat
     and the cat were the sufferer's only means of warmth, except as her
     husband held her hands and her mother her feet. Mrs. Clemm was
     passionately fond of her daughter, and her distress on account of
     her illness and poverty and misery was dreadful to see."

This friend at once interested some benevolent people in the case, and
poor Virginia's last days were made comfortable by their aid. Poe's
heart seemed filled with inexpressible gratitude to all who aided him in
this sorest crisis of his life; and although he was much broken by his
loss, he rallied once more and was sober and industrious for a time.
Mrs. Clemm stood faithfully by him, and even watched over him through
some of the fearful seasons of delirium which followed his complete
giving up to the habits of drinking and of taking opium.

Of the final scenes of this unhappy life it is needless to write. They
have been often described, and though the accounts vary, the sum and
substance are the same. Poe was attacked with delirium-tremens in
Baltimore, and died in a hospital in that city in October, 1849.
Beautiful, gifted, and sensitive, proud, ambitious, and daring, endowed
with a subtle charm of manner as well as of person, amiable and
generous in his home life, loyal and devoted to his family, a very
pleasing picture is presented of the man if we look but on this side.
Could he have overcome the fatal fascination of drink, we might never
have seen the reverse side of all this. As it is, let us cover his
follies with our mantle of charity and dwell only upon his genius and
his virtues.




During a portion of Thackeray's life there seemed to be in the public
mind a complete misapprehension of the character of the man. Superficial
readers of his books, who knew nothing of him personally, were fond of
applying the name of cynic to him; and he was even accused by some of
these of being a hater of his kind, a misanthropist, a bitter satirist,
a hard, ungenial man.

As no adequate personal memoir of him has ever been written, it being
understood by his family that such a publication would have been
distasteful to him, it has taken time to correct all the false
impressions that have gained credence in regard to the great humorist;
but at the present time his character has been practically cleared of
the former false charges. As one by one the friends who knew him
personally have spoken, it has been discovered that this cynic was one
of the tenderest and kindest men that our time has produced; this hater
of his kind, a man so soft-hearted and full of sensibility that it was
really a serious drawback to him in life; this misanthropist, one of the
most genial and kindly companions in the world; this bitter satirist, a
man who never made an enemy by his speech; this hard man, one who
actually threw money away, as all his friends thought, by bestowing it
upon every applicant whether he could afford it or not.

So great a change in the world's estimate of a man has seldom been made
after the man's death. It is to be accounted for by the fact that while
he was living his friends never told what they knew of him, and that
only very gradually did they reveal his virtues, even after he had gone,
feeling always that he would have preferred them to be silent; and by
the other fact that he often appeared other than he was, to cover up his
excessive sensibility, of which he was very much ashamed.

The world will come to a truer knowledge of him still some day; and then
it will be found what a great, loving, noble heart was hidden behind his
thin crust of cynicism,--what gentleness, what tenderness, what wise
kindness he was capable of,--what loyalty to his friends and to his
principles, what reverence for sacred things, what infinite depths of
pathos, lay beneath that mocking exterior. Let us gather together a few
of these personal traits as they have been given us by different hands,
and try to make thus a true likeness of the man as he appeared to those
who knew him best. The events of his life were few and by no means

He was born in Calcutta in 1811, and brought to England when six years
of age. At eleven he was placed in Charter-House School, where he is
described as a rosy-faced boy, with dark curling hair, and a quick
intelligent eye, ever twinkling with good-humor. For the usual school
sports he had no taste, and was only known to enjoy theatricals and
caricatures, for which he retained his taste throughout life. He was
wonderfully social and vivacious, and the best of good company, even at
this early day. Merry, light-hearted, unselfish, not very industrious,
but a fair classical scholar, and possessed of a wonderful memory,--so
he is remembered by those who knew him at this time. In a great school,
where nearly all the boys bullied those who were beneath them, he was
noted for his invariable kindness to the smaller boys, and it was
remarked of him, even at this age, that for one who had such powers of
sarcasm he made very few wounds by his tongue. At eighteen he entered
Cambridge University, but left it at nineteen and went to study art in
Paris. Here he remained for several years, and began his literary work.
Here, too, he was married, when twenty-six years of age, to Miss
Isabella Shawe, and here they passed the first happy days of their
married life together. He has himself sketched a picture of the time, in
these words:--

     "The humblest painter, be he ever so poor, may have a friend
     watching at his easel, or a gentle wife sitting by with her work in
     her lap, and with fond smiles or silence, or both, cheering his

For a few short years they were very happy together, and three children
were born to them. Then the most terrible misfortune of his life fell
upon him,--his wife, after a severe illness, became hopelessly insane.
For some time Thackeray refused to believe that it was more than an
illness from which she would recover, but at last the terrible truth was
forced upon him that he had lost her forever, and in a way so much more
cruel than death. She was placed in the home of a kind family employed
to care for her, and there she remained until death released her. His
grief was of the most hopeless kind, and it made a melancholy man of him
throughout life. At times and seasons his natural gayety would return to
him; but he was a sad man at heart from that dreadful day when the
horror of her fate was revealed to him. He never spoke directly of his
grief, but once in a while he would speak of it in parable, as when he
talked to a friend about somebody's wife whom he had known becoming
insane, and that friend says:--

     "Never shall I forget the look, the manner, the voice, with which
     he said to me, 'It is an awful thing for her to continue to live.
     It is awful for her so to die. But has it ever occurred to you how
     awful the recovery of her lost reason would be, without the
     consciousness of the loss of time? She finds the lover of her youth
     a gray-haired old man, and her infants young men and women. Is it
     not sad to think of this?'"

His mother came to live with him, and his children grew to maturity
beneath his roof, one of them the Miss Thackeray now so well known as a
novelist. But tenderly as he was attached to them,--and there could have
been no fonder father,--he no doubt felt all the sadness of the thought

  "The many make the household,
    But only one the home."

In one of the "Roundabouts" he says:--

     "I own, for my part, that in reading papers which this hand
     formerly penned, I often lose sight of the text under my eyes. It
     is not the words I see, but that past day, that by-gone page of
     life's history, that tragedy--comedy it may be--which our little
     home company were enacting, that merry-making which we shared, that
     funeral which we followed, that bitter, bitter grief which we

That he should live much in that vanished past, was but natural; yet it
was hard for a man like Thackeray, who had naturally such great capacity
for the enjoyment of life.

That his home was a pleasant and goodly place, all who have ever visited
it bear witness. He made it his refuge from all outer troubles, and
practised a genial and kindly hospitality there. It was a long time
before he was able to buy a house, though he made a good deal of money
from his books, his free-handed generous ways always keeping him back
financially; but when he was enabled to buy one, he took great pride and
pleasure in it, and decorated it according to his artistic tastes. To
make a little more money for his daughters, that they might be
independent when he was gone, he began lecturing, and was twice induced
to come to America for that purpose, much as he dreaded leaving home,
and especially crossing the ocean.

His speech at the farewell dinner given him before leaving for America
the last time, expressed this dread in a very comical manner, and was
received with great cheering and uproar. "I have before me," he said,
"at this minute the horrid figure of a steward with a basin perhaps, or
a glass of brandy and water, which he will press me to drink, and which
I shall try to swallow, and which won't make me any better. I know it
won't." This with a grimace which put the whole table in a roar. Then he
went on to tell of the last dinners given to criminals and convicts, and
how they were allowed always to choose what they would have, in a manner
so droll that all thought him in the happiest mood, while he was
scarcely able to keep up, so sad was his heart at the prospect of
leaving home. Next morning, we are told by a spectator, "he had been
round crying in corners; and when the cab finally came, and the luggage
had all been bestowed, and the servants stood in the hall, 'This is the
moment I have dreaded,' said Thackeray, as he entered the dining-room to
embrace his daughters, and when he hastily descended the steps to the
door, he knew that they would be at the window to cast one loving,
lingering look. 'Good-by,' he murmured in a suppressed tone, 'keep close
behind me, and try to let me jump in unseen.' The instant the door of
the vehicle closed behind him, he threw himself back in the corner, and
buried his face in his hands."

His allusion to his little girls, in the poem of "The White Squall," is
well known, and shows how constantly he had them in his thoughts:--

  "And when, its force expended,
  The harmless storm was ended,
  And as the sunrise splendid
  Came blushing o'er the sea,
  I thought, as day was breaking,
  My little girls were waking,
  And smiling, and making
  A prayer at home for me."

His love for these little girls, to whom he felt he must be both father
and mother, gave him unusual tenderness for all children, and he once
said he never could see a boy without wanting to give him a sovereign.
This he did very often too in England, where children, like servants,
are allowed to receive "tips" from their parents' friends; and when in
this country he felt it quite a hardship that the children of his
friends were not allowed to take his money.

His American visits afforded him much pleasure--and profit too; and he
always spoke kindly of us after his return. His light way of expressing
his feeling towards us was extremely characteristic, as when he said he
hoped he should never be guilty of speaking ill either of the North or
the South, as he had been offered equally good claret by both. His
frequent allusions to eating and drinking give the idea of a much more
convivial person than he really was; he was temperate in both, but he
loved to write of these things. In the "Memorials of Gormandizing," he
writes in the most appetizing manner of all the good dinners he has
eaten in many lands. Each dinner is an epic of the table. They make one
hungry with an inappeasable hunger, and make him long to have Thackeray
at his own board as a most appreciative guest. He was quite a diner-out
in London, and a great favorite wherever he went. He was not one of the
professional talkers, but always had one or two good things to say,
which he did not repeat until they were stereotyped, as so many do.
Though he said witty things now and then, he was not a wit in the sense
that Jerrold was. He shone most in little subtle remarks on life, little
off-hand sketches of character, and descriptive touches of men and
things. He could be uproariously funny on occasion, and even sing his
"Jolly Doctor Luther" at table to a congenial company; but he was often
very dignified, and always gentlemanly. The bits of doggerel with which
he was wont to diversify his conversation are spoken of by all his
friends as irresistibly ludicrous, and he seems to have indulged in
this pastime from a boy, as he did in those of caricaturing and
parodying. Mr. Fields tells us that--

     "In the midst of the most serious topic under discussion he was
     fond of asking permission to sing a comic song, or he would beg to
     be allowed to enliven the occasion by the instant introduction of a
     double shuffle. . . . During his first visit to America his jollity
     knew no bounds, and it became necessary often to repress him when
     walking in the street. I well remember his uproarious shouting and
     dancing when he was told that the tickets to his first course of
     readings were all sold; and when we rode together from his hotel to
     the lecture-hall, he insisted on thrusting both his long legs out
     of the carriage window, in deference, as he said, to his
     magnanimous ticket-holders."

Some of his fun was a little embarrassing to his friends, as when Mr.
Fields had taken him to the meeting of a scientific club at the house of
a distinguished Boston gentlemen, and Thackeray, being bored by the
proceedings, stole into a little anteroom, where he thought no one could
see him but his friend, and proceeded to give vent to his feelings in

     "He threw an imaginary person (myself, of course) upon the floor,
     and proceeded to stab him several times with a paper-folder which
     he caught up for that purpose. After disposing of his victim in
     this way, he was not satisfied, for the dull lecture still went on
     in the other room, and he fired an imaginary revolver several times
     at an imaginary head; still the droning speaker proceeded; and now
     began the greatest pantomimic scene of all, namely, murder by
     poison, after the manner in which the player King is disposed of in
     'Hamlet.' Thackeray had found a small phial on the mantel-shelf and
     out of it he proceeded to pour the imaginary 'juice of cursed
     hebenon' into the imaginary porches of somebody's ears. The whole
     thing was inimitably done, and I hoped nobody saw it but myself;
     but years afterwards a ponderous fat-witted young man put the
     question squarely to me: 'What _was_ the matter with Mr. Thackeray
     that night the club met at M----'s house?'"

Thackeray's playfulness was indeed a marked peculiarity, and innumerable
stories are told of his dancing pirouettes, singing impromptu songs, and
rhyming a whole company to their infinite amusement. Each one of his
personal friends, in talking of him, says, "But if you could only have
heard him" at such a time; but of course no one can repeat such
unpremeditated jests, and the flavor is gone from them when any one
tries to do so. He was the life of the clubs he frequented, and spent
much time in them and at theatres, of which he was passionately fond.
His duties as a man of fashion took much of his time, and his friends
were always wondering when he wrote his books. Much of the jollity and
boyish hilarity of his life in society was a rebound from the strain of
these books. He was wont to live much, as did Dickens, in the creations
of his fancy, and sometimes his emotional nature became overwrought in
his work. Mr. Underwood tells us:--

     "One day while the great novel of 'The Newcomes' was in course of
     publication, Lowell, who was then in London, met Thackeray on the
     street. The novelist was serious in manner, and his looks and voice
     told of weariness and affliction. He saw the kindly inquiry in the
     poet's eyes, and said, 'Come into Evans's and I'll tell you all
     about it. _I have killed the Colonel!_' So they walked in and took
     a table in a remote corner; and then Thackeray, drawing the fresh
     manuscript from his breast-pocket, read through that exquisitely
     touching chapter which records the death of Colonel Newcome. When
     he came to the final _Adsum_, the tears which had been swelling his
     lids for some time trickled down his face, and the last word was
     almost an inarticulate sob."

Thackeray's sensibility was really extreme, and he could not read
anything pathetic without actual discomfort,--never could get through
"The Bride of Lammermoor," for instance,--and would not listen to any
sad tales of suffering in real life if he could escape them. If he did
hear of any one in want or distress, he relieved his feelings by
instantly appropriating to their use all the money he found himself in
possession of at the time. When he was editor of the "Cornhill
Magazine," this soft-heartedness was a great drawback to him. He was
always paying for contributions he could not use, if they were sent, as
so many are, with some pitiful tale accompanying; and was always wasting
his valuable time by writing to poor creatures about their dreary
verses, which there was no hope of his being able to improve. When quite
young, he loaned--or rather gave, though he called it a loan--three
hundred pounds to poor old Maginn, when he was beaten in the battle of
life and lay in the Fleet Prison. But he denied this act with the utmost
vehemence when accused of it, and berated the old fellow in a laborious
manner for having been beaten when he should have fought on. Indeed, he
was very much ashamed of his soft-heartedness always, and would
oftentimes bluster and appear very fierce when appealed to for

Anthony Trollope tells a story about going to him one day and telling
him of the straits to which a mutual friend was reduced.

     "'Do you mean to say that I am to find two thousand pounds?' he
     said angrily, with some expletives. I explained that I had not even
     suggested the doing of anything,--only that we might discuss the
     matter. Then there came over his face a peculiar smile, and a wink
     in his eye, and he whispered his suggestion, as if ashamed of his
     meanness. 'I'll go half,' he said, 'if anybody will do the rest.'
     And he did go half at a day or two's notice. I could tell various
     stories of the same kind."

These things were not easy for him to do; for he was never a rich man,
and he had constant calls upon his charity. He kept a small floating
fund always in circulation among his poorer acquaintances; and when one
returned it to him he passed it to another, never considering it as his
own but for the use of the unfortunate. He liked to disguise his
charities as jokes,--as filling a pill-box with gold pieces and sending
it to a needy friend, with the inscription, "To be taken one at a time,
as needed;" and various devices of this kind. He was as generous of his
praise as of his money, and always had a good word for his literary
friends. His fine tribute to Macaulay will be remembered, and his praise
of Washington Irving, of Charlotte Bronté, and many others. While he had
an exaggerated contempt for the foibles of the world at large, he had an
almost equally exaggerated sympathy for the joys and sorrows of
individuals; and much of the scorn which he gives to humanity
collectively may be taken as a sort of vent to his feelings when he is
ashamed of having been too foolishly weak in dealing with some of these
fellow-mortals in real life.

He never encouraged his companions in being cynical, but always
encouraged them in admiration. "I am glad he worships anybody," he said,
when some friends were satirizing an absent companion for his devotion
to a great man. Neither would he encourage any unkind talk about the
absent, or laugh at any good hit which was aimed at a friend. "You
fiend!" he said to a friend who was laughing over a sharp attack on an
acquaintance, and he refused to read or hear a word of it. Indeed, for
steadfast loyalty to his friends, his equal has seldom been seen. He
made common cause with them in everything, and nothing so enraged him as
treachery or deceit among friends.

He was a man of aristocratic feeling, and resented familiarity. He was
also in general a reserved man, and allowed few people really to know
him. He had a surface nature which was all his mere acquaintances knew.
Even his friends were long in finding him out. Douglas Jerrold was once
heard to say, "I have known Thackeray eighteen years, and I don't know
him yet;" and this was the case with the majority of his friends. His
great griefs he kept closely within his own heart, and the more serious
side of his nature was all hidden from the world as much as he could
hide it. Those who read between the lines discovered it in his books,
and those who looked deeply enough into human nature found it in the
man, but superficial observers saw only the mocking man of the world.
When suddenly observed, his face always had a sad, grave aspect, and it
was often hard for him to throw off this seriousness and to put on his
harlequin's mask. Upon religious matters he was always reticent, but
reverent. Only upon rare occasions would he discuss serious subjects at
all, and only with a chosen few. In one letter which has been published
he departs from his usual custom and writes:--

     "I never feel pity for a man dying, only for survivors if there be
     such passionately deploring him. You see the pleasures the
     undersigned proposes to himself here in future years,--a sight of
     the Alps, a holiday on the Rhine, a ride in the Park, a colloquy
     with pleasant friends of an evening. If it is death to part with
     these delights (and pleasures they are, and no mistake), sure the
     mind can conceive others afterward; and I know one small
     philosopher who is quite ready to give up these pleasures,--quite
     content (after a pang or two of separation from dear friends here)
     to put his hand into that of the summoning angel, and say, 'Lead
     on, O messenger of God our Father, to the next place whither the
     divine goodness calls us.' We must be blindfolded before we can
     pass, I know; but I have no fear about what is to come, any more
     than my children need fear that the love of _their_ father should
     fail them. I thought myself a dead man once, and protest the notion
     gave me no disquiet about myself,--at least the philosophy is more
     comfortable than that which is tinctured with brimstone."

He hated those who make a stock in trade of their religion, and, like
Dr. Johnson, would have advised them to clear their minds of cant; but
no genuine evidence of religious feeling or experience was ever treated
lightly by him, and he was greatly shocked at any real desecration of
sacred things. He had a simple, childlike faith in God and in the
Saviour, and a firm hope in the everlasting life.

In person, Thackeray was a tall, ruddy, simple-looking Englishman, with
rather a full face, florid, almost rubicund, and keen, kindly eyes, and,
after forty, abundant gray hair. He had a conspicuous, almost a
commanding figure, with a certain awkwardness in his gait. He had a
misshaped nose, caused by an accident in boyhood, and a sarcastic
twinkle oftentimes in his eyes, which changed the expression of his
whole face.

He dressed well, but unpretendingly, and his voice and manner were
always courteous and cordial. He smiled easily, and had a humorous look
when not oppressed with sadness, which was often the case in later life.
He died suddenly in middle life, leaving, like Dickens, an unfinished
novel in the press. No other literary man, save perhaps Macaulay, has
been mourned as Thackeray was mourned. There was universal sorrow for
his premature loss, and great personal grief among his friends.
Twenty-three years have passed since that time, and no successor has
arisen to repay the world for that loss. When the curtain fell upon
Becky Sharpe and Beatrix, upon Ethel Newcome and the good Colonel, upon
Laura and Pendennis, upon Esmond and Warrington, and upon all the deeply
studied characters of his mimic stage, that curtain fell to rise no more
upon such creatures as his hands had made. He will have no successor. He
is the One, the Only. Such pathos, such wit, such wisdom, will not dawn
upon us again--in time.

When he wrote Finis for the last time at the close of one of those
matchless volumes, it was an epoch closed in the history of literature.
When the recording angel wrote Finis at the close of that sad and weary
but bravely spent and useful life, it was a sad day for the world of
men, who will not look upon his like again. Who that felt a love for the
writer and the man could fail to rejoice that the end was quick and
painless? One of our own poets has well described the scene:--

  "The angel came by night
    (Such angels still come down),
  And like a winter cloud
    Passed over London Town,
  Along its lonesome streets,
    Where want had ceased to weep,
  Until it reached a house
    Where a great man lay asleep;
  The man of all his time
    Who knew the most of men,--
  The soundest head and heart,
    The sharpest, kindest pen.
  It paused beside his bed
    And whispered in his ear;
  He never turned his head,
    But answered, 'I am here.'
  Into the night they went;
    At morning, side by side,
  They gained the sacred place
    Where the greatest dead abide;
  Where grand old Homer sits,
    In godlike state benign;
  Where broods in endless thought
    The awful Florentine;
  Where sweet Cervantes walks,
    A smile on his grave face;
  Where gossips quaint Montaigne,
    The wisest of his race;
  Where Goethe looks through all
    With that calm eye of his;
  Where--little seen, but light--
    The only Shakspeare is!
  When the new spirit came,
    They asked him, drawing near,
  'Art thou become like us?'
    He answered, 'I am here.'"




No novelist has dealt so directly with the home life of the world as
Charles Dickens. He has painted few historic pictures; he has dealt
mostly in interiors,--beautiful bits of home life, full of domestic
feeling. Indeed, we may say that his background is always the home, and
here he paints his portraits, often like those of Hogarth for strength
and grotesque effect. Here, too, he limns the scenes of his
comedy-tragedy, and depicts the changing fashions of the time. The color
is sometimes a little crude, laid on occasionally with too coarse a
brush; but the effect is always lifelike, and our interest in it is
never known to flag.

Nowhere else in all the range of literature have we such tender
description of home life and love, such intuitive knowledge of child
life, such wonderful sympathy with every form of domestic wrong and
suffering, such delicate appreciation of the shyest and most unobtrusive
of social virtues; nowhere else such indignation at any neglect or
desecration of the home, as in Mrs. Jellyby with her mission, in Mrs.
Pardiggle with her charities, Mr. Pecksniff with his hypocrisy, and Mr.
Dombey with his unfeeling selfishness. In short, Dickens is
pre-eminently the prophet and the poet of the home.

Now, can it be possible that we must say of such a man as this, that in
his own life he was the opposite of all that which he so feelingly
describes,--that he desecrated the very home he so apostrophizes,--that
he put all his warmth, geniality, and tenderness into his books and kept
for his own fireside his sour humors and unhappy moods,--that he was
"ill to live with," as Mrs. Carlyle puts it? We cannot believe it in so
bald a form, but we are forced to admit that his married life seems to
have been in every way unhappy and unfortunate. No one could state this
more strongly than Dickens himself, in the letter he wrote at the time
of the separation. He said:--

     "Mrs. Dickens and I have lived unhappily for many years. Hardly any
     one who has known us intimately can fail to have known that we are
     in all respects of character and temperament wonderfully unsuited
     to each other. I suppose that no two people, not vicious in
     themselves, were ever joined together, who had greater difficulty
     in understanding one another, or who had less in common. An
     attached woman-servant (more friend to both of us than servant),
     who lived with us sixteen years and had the closest familiar
     experience of this unhappiness in London, in the country, in
     France, in Italy, wherever we have been, year after year, month
     after month, week after week, day after day, will bear testimony to
     this. Nothing has on many occasions stood between us and a
     separation but Mrs. Dickens's sister, Georgina Hogarth. From the
     age of fifteen, she has devoted herself to our home and our
     children. She has been their playmate, nurse, instructress, friend,
     protectress, adviser, companion. In the manly consideration towards
     Mrs. Dickens, which I owe to my wife, I will only remark of her
     that the peculiarity of her character has thrown all the children
     on some one else. I do not know, I cannot by any stretch of fancy
     imagine, what would have become of them but for this aunt, who has
     grown up with them, to whom they are devoted, and who has
     sacrificed the best part of her youth and life to them. She has
     remonstrated, reasoned, suffered, and toiled, and come again to
     prevent a separation between Mrs. Dickens and me. Mrs. Dickens has
     often expressed to her her sense of her affectionate care and
     devotion in the house,--never more strongly than within the last
     twelve months."

Again, in the public statement which he prepared for "Household Words,"
alluding to a multitude of damaging rumors which were quickly put in
circulation, he says:--

     "By some means, arising out of wickedness or out of folly or out of
     inconceivable wild chance, or out of all three, this trouble has
     been made the occasion of misrepresentations most grossly false,
     most monstrous, and most cruel,--involving not only me, but
     innocent persons dear to my heart, and innocent persons of whom I
     have no knowledge, if indeed they have any existence,--and so
     widely spread that I doubt if one reader in a thousand will peruse
     these lines by whom some touch of the breath of these slanderers
     will not have passed like an unwholesome air.

     "Those who know me and my nature need no assurance under my hand
     that such calumnies are as irreconcilable with me as they are in
     their frantic incoherence with one another. But there is a great
     multitude who know me through my writings and who do not know me
     otherwise, and I cannot bear that one of them should be left in
     doubt or hazard of doubt through my poorly shrinking from taking
     the unusual means to which I now resort of circulating the truth. I
     most solemnly declare then--and this I do both in my own name and
     my wife's name--that all lately whispered rumors touching the
     trouble at which I have glanced are abominably false; and that
     whosoever repeats one of them, after this denial, will lie as
     wilfully and as foully as it is possible for any false witness to
     lie before heaven and earth."

This denial, coming from a man of truth and honor like Charles Dickens,
must, once for all, dispose of that convenient way of accounting for the
sad estrangement.

The reasons for the unhappy state of things were of a much more
complicated nature than this. Only the most intimate of his friends ever
knew them in full, and of course they were debarred from making them
public. But Professor Ward of Cambridge University, who has written a
very kind and appreciative Life of Dickens, and one which gives a far
more pleasing idea of his character than the bulky and egotistical Life
by Forster, gives a clue to the whole trouble in the following
statement. He says:--

     "If he ever loved his wife with that affection before which
     so-called incompatibilities of habits, temper, or disposition fade
     into nothingness, there is no indication of it in any of the
     numerous letters addressed to her. Neither has it ever been
     pretended that he strove in the direction of that resignation which
     love and duty made possible to David Copperfield, or even that he
     remained in every way master of himself, as many men have known how
     to remain, the story of whose wedded life and its disappointments
     has never been written in history or figured in fiction."

And this troublous condition of things was very much intensified by
Dickens having fallen violently in love with Mary Hogarth, Mrs.
Dickens's youngest sister. This beautiful girl died at their house at
the early age of seventeen. No sorrow seems ever to have touched the
heart and possessed the imagination of Charles Dickens like that for the
loss of this dearly loved girl. "I can solemnly say," he wrote to her
mother a few months after her death, "that waking or sleeping I have
never lost the recollection of our hard sorrow, and I never shall."
"If," he writes in his diary at the beginning of a new year, "she was
with me now,--the same winning, happy, amiable companion, sympathizing
with all my thoughts and feelings more than any one I ever knew did or
will,--I think I should have nothing to wish but a continuance of such
happiness." Throughout life her memory haunted him with great vividness.
After her death he wrote: "I dreamed of her every night for many weeks,
and always with a kind of quiet happiness, which became so pleasant to
me that I never lay down without a hope of the vision returning." The
year before he died he wrote to a friend: "She is so much in my thoughts
at all times, especially when I am successful, that the recollection of
her is an essential part of my being, and is as inseparable from my
existence as the beating of my heart is." In a word, she was the one
great imaginative passion of his life. He is said to have pictured her
in Little Nell, and he writes after finishing that book, "Dear Mary died
yesterday when I think of it."

Have we not in this the key to all the sorrows of his domestic life?
Could he have married the woman he loved in this manner, he would
doubtless have been one of the tenderest and most devoted of husbands,
and a family life as beautiful as any of the ideal ones he has depicted
would have resulted. It is probable that he did not know Mary Hogarth
until after his marriage, when she came to live in his house, and when
his youthful fancy for his wife had begun to decline. Miss Hogarth died
instantly of heart-disease, without even a premonitory warning.

All accounts agree in calling Mrs. Dickens a very pretty, amiable, and
well-bred woman; and even if she was as infinitely incapable as
represented, that alone would seem to be insufficient cause for so
serious a trouble. Miss Georgina Hogarth, whom all describe as a very
lovely and superior person, possessed the executive ability Mrs. Dickens
lacked, it would seem; for all visitors both to Tavistock House and
Gad's Hill describe with enthusiasm the perfect order which prevailed in
the large establishments, attributing this in part at least to Dickens's
own intense love of method and passion for neatness. But no man without
the aid of feminine head and hands would have succeeded in attaining to
this perfect housekeeping, especially where the family consisted of nine
children, as in this case.

Hans Christian Andersen thus describes a visit to Gad's Hill:--

     "It was a fine new house, with red walls and four bow-windows, and
     a jutting entrance supported by pillars; in the gable a large
     window. A dense hedge of cherry-laurel surrounded the house, in
     front of which extended a neat lawn, and on the opposite side rose
     two mighty cedars of Lebanon, whose crooked branches spread their
     green far over another large lawn surrounded by ivy and wild
     vines, the hedge being so dense and dark that no sunbeam could
     penetrate it.

     "As soon as I stepped into the house, Dickens came to meet me
     kindly and cordially. He was now in the prime of life, still so
     youthful, so active, so eloquent, so rich in the most pleasant
     humor, through which his sterling kind-heartedness always beamed
     forth. As he stood before me in the first hour, so he was and
     remained during all the weeks I passed in his company,--merry,
     good-natured, and full of charming sympathy. Dickens at home seems
     to be perpetually jolly, and enters into the interests of games
     with all the ardor of a boy. My bedroom was the perfection of a
     sleeping-apartment; the view across the Kentish hills, with a
     distant peep of the Thames, charming. In every room I found a table
     covered with writing-materials, headed notepaper, envelopes, cut
     quill-pens, wax, matches, sealing-wax, and all scrupulously neat
     and orderly. There are magnificent specimens of Newfoundland dogs
     on the grounds, such animals as Landseer would love to paint. One
     of these, named Bumble, seems to be a favorite with Dickens."

Mr. Mackenzie writes:--

     "Eminently social and domestic, he exercised a liberal hospitality,
     and though he lived well as his means allowed, avoided excesses. It
     is said of him that he never lost a friend, never made an enemy."

From all sources comes the same report of his geniality, of his devotion
to his children and their devotion to him, of his constant generosity
and good-humor. Byron's old servant said that Lady Byron was the only
woman he ever saw who could not manage his master. Was this also true of
Mrs. Dickens? Was she the only one who found him "ill to live with"? It
may be; and yet one can easily imagine him to have been a man of moods,
and that in some of these moods it would be best to give him a wide
berth. The very excess of his animal spirits may have been wearying to
one who could not share them; and that he was egotistical to a degree,
and vain, and fond of flattery, goes without saying. A lady in the
"English-woman's Magazine" tells this story of his wild and reckless
fun, and it is matched by many others. They were down on the seashore in
the moonlight, and had been dancing there.

     "We then strolled farther down to watch the fading light. The tide
     came rippling in. The night grew darker,--starless, moonless.
     Dickens seemed suddenly to be possessed with the spirit of
     mischief; he threw his arm around me, and ran me down the inclined
     plane to the end of the jetty till we reached the toll-post. He put
     his other arm around this, and exclaimed in theatrical tones that
     he intended to hold me there till the sad sea waves should submerge
     us. 'Think of the sensation we shall create.' Here I implored him
     to let me go, and struggled hard to release myself. 'Let your mind
     dwell upon the column in the "Times" wherein will be vividly
     described the pathetic fate of the lovely E. P., drowned by Dickens
     in a fit of dementia. Don't struggle, poor little bird; you are
     helpless.' By this time the last gleam of light had faded out, and
     the water close to us looked uncomfortably black. The tide was
     coming up rapidly, and surged over my feet. I gave a loud shriek,
     and tried to bring him back to common-sense by reminding him that
     my dress--my best dress, my only silk dress--would be ruined. Even
     this climax did not soften him; he still went on with his
     serio-comic nonsense, shaking with laughter all the time, and
     panting with his struggles to hold me. 'Mrs. Dickens,' I shrieked,
     'help me! Make Mr. Dickens let me go--the waves are up to my
     knees.' 'Charles,' cried Mrs. Dickens, 'how can you be so silly?
     You will both be carried off by the tide!' And it was not until my
     dress had been completely ruined that I succeeded in wresting
     myself from him. Upon two other occasions he seized me and ran with
     me under the cataract, and held me there until I was thoroughly
     baptized and my bonnets a wreck of lace and feathers."

The same writer says,--and she is one who writes from familiar personal
acquaintance,--"To describe Dickens as always amiable, always just, and
always in the right, would be simply false and untrue to Nature;" and
she relates several anecdotes going to prove that he was sometimes
capricious, not always responsive to appeals for help, and other things
of that sort; all of which may be true and not be very damaging. This
writer tells still another story of his reckless fun-making, as

     "We were about to make an excursion to Pegwell Bay, and lunch
     there. Presently Dickens came in in high glee, flourishing about a
     yard of ballads, which he had bought from a beggar in the street.
     'Look here,' he cried exultingly, 'all for a penny. One song alone
     is worth a Jew's eye,--quite new and original, the subject being
     the interesting announcement by our gracious Queen.' He commenced
     to give us a specimen, but after hearing one verse there arose a
     cry of universal execration. He pretended to be vexed at our
     'shutting him up.' said there was nothing wrong in it, he had
     written a great deal worse himself; and when we were going to enter
     the carriages he said: 'Now, look here! I give due notice to all
     and sundry, that I mean to sing that song, and a good many others,
     during the ride; so those ladies who think them vulgar can go in
     the other carriages. I am not going to invest my hard-earned penny
     for nothing.' I was quite certain that Charles Dickens was the last
     man in the world to shock the modesty of any female, and too much
     of a gentleman to do anything that was annoying to us, but I
     thought it as well to go in the other carriage; and so he had no
     ladies with him but his wife and Mrs. S----. I was not sorry,
     however, to be where I was, as I heard for the next half-hour
     portions of those songs wafted on the breeze; and the bursts of
     laughter from ladies and gentlemen and the mischievous twinkle in
     Dickens's eye proved that he was in such a madcap mood that it was
     as well there were none but married people with him,--the subject
     being of a 'Gampish' nature. But he was not always full of spirits
     or even-tempered,--indeed, I was sometimes puzzled by the
     variability of his moods."

Anecdotes like the following, told by Blanchard Jerrold, abound in all
writers who wrote of Dickens from personal knowledge:--

     "A very dear friend of mine, and of many others to whom literature
     is a staff, had died. To say that his family had claims upon
     Dickens is to say that they were promptly acknowledged and
     satisfied, with the grace and heartiness which double the gift,
     sweeten the bread, and warm the wine. I asked a connection of our
     dead friend whether he had seen the poor wife and children. 'Seen
     them?' he answered. 'I was there to-day. They are removed into a
     charming cottage. They have everything about them; and just think
     of this: when I burst into the room, in my eager survey of the new
     home, I saw a man in his shirt-sleeves up some steps, hammering
     away lustily. He turned. It was Charles Dickens, and he was hanging
     the pictures for the widow. . . . Dickens was the soul of truth and
     manliness as well as kindness, so that such a service as this came
     as naturally to him as help from his purse.'"

Jerrold continues:--

     "There was that boy-element in him which has been so often remarked
     of men of genius. 'Why, we played a game of knock 'em down only a
     week ago,' a friend remarked to me last June, with beaming eyes,
     'and he showed all the old astonishing energy and delight in taking
     aim at Aunt Sally.' My own earliest recollections of Dickens are of
     his gayest moods, when the boy in him was exuberant, and leap-frog
     and rounders were not sports too young for the player who had
     written 'Pickwick' twenty years before. The sweet and holy lessons
     which he presented to humanity out of the humble places in the
     world could not have been evolved out of a nature less true and
     sympathetic than his. It wanted such a man as Dickens was in his
     life to be such a writer as he was for the world."

One more anecdote. J. C. Young tells us that one day Mrs. Henry Siddons,
a neighbor and intimate of Lord Jeffrey, who often entered his library
unannounced, opened the door very gently to see if he were there, and
saw enough at a glance to convince her that the visit was ill-timed. The
hard critic of the "Edinburgh Review" was sitting in his chair with his
head on the table in deep grief. As Mrs. Siddons was retiring, in the
hope that her entrance had been unnoticed, Jeffrey raised his head and
kindly beckoned her back. Perceiving that his cheek was flushed and his
eyes suffused with tears, she begged permission to withdraw. When he
found that she was intending to leave him, he rose from his chair, took
her by both hands, and led her to a seat.

"Don't go, my dear friend; I shall be right again in another minute."

"I had no idea you had had any bad news, or cause for grief, or I would
not have come. Is any one dead?"

"Yes, indeed. I'm a great goose to have given way so; but I could not
help it. You'll be sorry to hear that little Nelly, Boz's little Nelly,
is dead."

Dear, sweet, loving little Nell! We doubt if any other creation of poet
or novelist in any language has received the tribute of as many tears as
thou. From high, from low, on land, on sea, wherever thy story has been
read, there has been paid the spontaneous tribute of tears. Whether or
not many of the fantastic creations of the great master's hand will live
in the far future we cannot tell, but of thy immortality there is no
more question than there is of that of Hamlet or of Lear. Bret Harte
tells us of a camp among the stern Sierras, where a group of wanderers
gathered about the fire, and one of them arose, and "from his pack's
scant treasure" drew forth the magic book; and soon all their own wants
and labors were forgotten, and

  "The whole camp with Nell on English meadows
        Wandered and lost their way."

And from many different sources come stories of her influence upon the
hearts and minds of all classes and conditions of men.

Of Dickens's personal appearance and of the leading traits of his
character much has been written, and by some of the keenest observers of
his time. He is said to have been a very small and sickly boy, subject
to attacks of violent spasm. Although so fond of games and sports when
a man, as a boy he evinced little interest in them, probably on account
of his ill health. We should naturally think of him as the autocrat of
the playground, and the champion in all games of strength and skill; but
such was not the fact. He was extremely fond of reading, at a very early
age, and of acting little plays, and showing pictures in a magic
lantern; he even sang at this time, and was as fond of fun as in later
life. When quite young he and his companions mounted a small theatre,
and got together scenery to illustrate "The Miller and his Men," and one
or two other plays.

Mr. Forster describes him thus:--

     "The features were very good. He had a capital forehead, a firm
     nose, with full, wide nostril, eyes wonderfully beaming with
     intellect and running over with humor and cheerfulness, and a
     rather prominent mouth, strongly marked with sensibility. The head
     was altogether well-formed and symmetrical, and the air and
     carriage of it extremely spirited. The hair, so scant and grizzled
     in later days, was then of a rich brown and the most luxuriant
     abundance, and the bearded face of the last two decades had hardly
     a vestige of hair or whisker, but there was that in the face, as I
     first recollect it, which no time could change, and which remained
     implanted on it unalterably to the last. This was the quickness,
     keenness, and practical power, the eager, restless, energetic look
     on each several feature, that seemed to tell so little of a student
     or writer of books, and so much of a man of action and business in
     the world. Light and motion flashed from every part of it."

Another keen observer writes:--

     "The French painter's remark that 'he was more like one of the old
     Dutch admirals we see in picture galleries than a man of letters,'
     conveyed an admirably true idea to his friends. He had, indeed,
     much of the quiet, resolute manner of command of a captain of a
     ship. He trod along briskly as he walked; as he listened, his
     searching eye rested on you, and the nerves in his face quivered,
     much like those in the delicately formed nostrils of a finely bred
     dog. There was a curl or two in his hair at each side, which was
     characteristic; and the jaunty way he wore his little morning hat,
     rather on one side, added to the effect. But when there was
     anything droll suggested, a delightful sparkle of lurking humor
     began to kindle and spread to his mouth, so that, even before he
     uttered anything, you felt that something irresistibly droll was at

Mr. Mackenzie tells us:--

     "Dickens's personal taste in dress was always 'loud.' He loved gay
     vests, glittering jewelry, showy satin stocks, and everything
     rather _prononcé_; yet no man had a keener or more unsparing
     critical eye for these vulgarities in others. He once gave to a
     friend a vest of gorgeous shawl pattern. Soon after, at a party, he
     quizzed his friend most unmercifully for his stunning vest,
     although he had on him at that very moment its twin brother or
     sister, whichever sex vests belong to."

There was an almost morbid restlessness in the man, out of which arose
his habit of excessive walking. When he was writing one of his great
books he could not be away from London streets, and he used to walk
about in them at night for hours at a time, until his body was
completely exhausted; in this way only could he get sleep. When not
composing he loved long country walks, and probably injured his health
much in later life by the great length of these tramps across country.
His restlessness showed itself also in many other ways. The element of
repose was not in him. "My last special feat," he writes once when
unable to sleep, "was turning out of bed at two, after a hard day,
pedestrian and otherwise, and walking thirty miles into the country to

The story is told, too, of a night spent in private theatricals,
following a very laborious day for Dickens, and of his being so much
fresher than any of his companions that towards morning he jumped
leap-frog over the backs of the whole weary company, and was not willing
to go to bed even then. His animal spirits were really inexhaustible,
and this was the great unfailing charm of his companionship. He never
drooped or lagged, but was always alert, keen, and ready for any
emergency. Out-of-door games he entered into with great hilarity, and
was usually the youngest man in the party. There was a positive sparkle
and atmosphere of holiday sunshine about him, and to no man was the word
"genial" ever more appropriately applied.

He carried an atmosphere of good cheer with him in person as he did in
his books, and was fond of the sentiment of joviality; wrote, indeed, a
great deal about feasting, but was really abstemious himself, though he
liked to brew punch and have little midnight suppers with his friends.
Yet at these same suppers he ate and drank almost nothing, though he
furnished the hilarity for the whole party.

His powers of microscopic observation have seldom been equalled. As
Arthur Helps said of him, he seemed to see and observe nine facts while
his companion was seeing the tenth. His books are full of the results of
this accurate observation. Comparatively little in them is invention;
the major part of everything is description of something he has seen and
noted. When he was engaged in reporting, among eighty or ninety
reporters, he occupied the very highest rank, not merely for accuracy in
observing, but for marvellous quickness in transcribing. His wonderful
ability as an actor is known to all. Probably he would have been the
greatest comedian of his day if he had not been one of its greatest
writers. His love for the theatre was an absorbing passion. He was quite
as good a manager as actor, and could bring order out of the chaos of
rehearsals for private theatricals, as no other man has ever been known
to do. Carlyle, who was one of the keenest observers of men our time has
produced, said: "Dickens's essential faculty, I often say, is that of a
first-rate play-actor." Macready also gave it as his opinion that
Dickens was the only amateur with any pretensions to talent that he had
ever seen.

Among the weaknesses of his character were his love of display, which
amounted to ostentation sometimes; his fear of being slighted; his
vanity, which was prodigious, and a certain hardness, which at times
amounted to aggressiveness and almost to fierceness. The displays of
this latter quality were very rare; but they left an ineffaceable
impression upon all witnesses.

The only political questions which deeply moved him were those social
problems to which his sympathy for the poor had always directed his
attention,--the Poor Law, temperance, Sunday observance, punishment and
prisons, labor and strikes. But that he much influenced the legislation
of his country by his writings, no man can doubt. In religion he was a
Liberal. Born in the Church of England, we are told by Professor Ward
that he had so strong an aversion for what seemed dogmatism of any kind,
that for a time--in 1843--he connected himself with a Unitarian
congregation, and to Unitarian views his own probably continued during
his life most nearly to approach.

In his will he says:--

     "I commit my soul to the mercy of God through our Lord and Saviour
     Jesus Christ, and I exhort my dear children humbly to try to guide
     themselves by the teaching of the New Testament, in its broad
     spirit, and to put no faith in any man's narrow construction of its
     letter here or there."

Although a man of deep emotional nature, his religion was, after all,
mostly a religion of good deeds. Helpfulness, kindliness,--these were to
him the supreme things. One who knew him well wrote after his death:--

     "I frankly confess that having met innumerable men and had dealings
     with innumerable men, I never met one with an approach to his
     genuine, unaffected, unchanging kindness, or one that ever found so
     sunshiny a pleasure in doing one a kindness. I cannot call to mind
     that any request I ever made to him was ungranted, or left without
     an attempt to grant it."

Upon this point all who ever knew the man are well agreed. It will
suffice. To him who loved so much, if need be much will be forgiven.

As we close this paper, how softly pass before us the long procession of
the men and women he has created,--for they all seem thus to us,--not
characters, but people, many of them personal acquaintances of our own.
There are actual tears in our eyes as the little company of children
pass in review, led by David Copperfield, and followed by Oliver Twist,
with Paul Dombey in his wake, and little Nell timidly pressing near;
while trooping after, sad, tearful, or grotesque, come Florence Dombey,
poor Joe, Pip and Smike, Sloppy and Peepy, Little Dorrit and Tiny Tim,
and many more of those with whose sorrows we have sympathized, and over
each and all of whom we have wept hot tears in the days that are no
more. Dream-children, he calls them; but the great world acknowledges
them as real beings, and sorrows and rejoices with them, even more, it
is to be feared, than it does sometimes with the children of flesh and
blood, homeless and forsaken as many of them are. But for the sake of
Tiny Tim many an old Scrooge has softened his hard heart somewhat; and
in memory of poor Joe many a hardened city man has been a little less
imperious to the beggar-boy about "moving on." Even poor Smike has
served the purpose of ameliorating a trifle the hard lot of such
unfortunates as he, who are tyrannized over in public institutions; and,
altogether, Dickens's dream-children can be said to have been useful in
their day and generation.

How the other old friends come following on! We have our own peculiar
greeting for each. We cannot help holding our sides as Mr. Pickwick and
Sam Weller go by, followed by Captain Cuttle with his hook, the finest
gentleman of them all; by the Major and Mrs. Bagnet, by whom discipline
is maintained in the group; by Micawber, with his large outlines and
flowing periods; and by Mrs. Micawber and her relations, senseless
imbeciles or unmitigated scoundrels all, as her husband testifies; by
Mrs. Gamp, by Barkis, and even the young man by the name of Guppy. A
smile spreads over the face of the whole reading world at the bare
mention of their names. How the smiles deepen into tears as we think
over the other friends to whom he has introduced us,--mutual friends of
us all; of whom we talk when we congregate together, with just as much
of real feeling and interest as we do of other friends of flesh and
blood, laugh over their foibles and follies, pity their sorrows, blame
their acts, and all with no other feeling than that of utter reality.

Will little Nell's friend, the old schoolmaster, ever cease to draw
tears from our eyes? Shall we ever weary of gentle Tom Pinch? Shall we
not always touch our hats to Joe Gargery? Shall we ever cease loving Mr.
Jarndyce, even when the wind is in the east? And will Agnes and Esther
ever pall upon our taste? Not, we verily believe, until the sources of
feeling are dried up in us forever, and we have grown indifferent to all
of earth. What an array of them there are, too! The bare catalogue of
their names would fill a volume, and it would not be bad reading to the
genuine Dickens lover,--recalling, as each name would, so much of vivid
portrayal, and starting so many associations in the mind. But there is
no need to repeat the names; the big, dull old world long ago learned
them by heart. Nor will they soon be relegated to the shades. While the
tide of English speech flows on, they will linger, component parts of
the language itself.




While the great woman who wrote under the _nom de plume_ of George Eliot
was alive, there was much appreciative interest and much unlawful
curiosity felt regarding her private life. This as a matter of course.
No such striking personality as hers could project itself into a time of
dulness and mediocrity without exciting unusual interest and attention.
And the half-knowledge which had been gained of her life and character
served as an active stimulus to this curiosity. One or two leading facts
in her history had become known and had been made the most of by a
gossip-loving time; but aside from these isolated facts there was very
little known of George Eliot, except by a little close circle of
personal friends, who seem to have refrained in a remarkable manner from
writing of her in the newspapers. That modern and almost purely American
institution, the interviewer, allowed her to escape, and even up to the
time of her death comparatively little was said of her except as a
writer of books. But the interest in her as a woman has been deepening
constantly since her death, fed by some half-revelations which have been
made; and few books of our own time have been so eagerly anticipated and
so universally sought after as the biography by her husband, which
lately appeared. Here at last we have that wonderful woman painted by
her own hand; not in an autobiography, where a person poses for the
public, but in the private letters and journals of a lifetime. Like
Mrs. Carlyle, she had unconsciously drawn her own portrait from day to
day. An admiring world looks upon the work, and with one voice must
pronounce it well done. For it is easy to gather from these unconscious
touches everything of real importance in regard to the character and
life of this woman. Much as we should have enjoyed the letters and
journals in a complete form, untouched by pruning fingers, we cannot but
heartily approve the wisdom of Mr. Cross in carefully selecting and
editing them. He has shown himself a person of excellent taste and
judgment, and one could scarcely ask to fall into better hands, if one's
life must be given to the public at all when one has travelled away from
the things of time and sense.

Let us see, then, what manner of woman this was who held a world
entranced by the splendor of her genius for so many years. Here is one
of the earliest glimpses of the child:--

     "Any one who happened to look through the windows of Griff House
     would have seen a pretty picture in the dining-room Saturday
     evening after tea. The powerful, middle-aged man, with the strongly
     marked features, sits in his deep leather-covered arm-chair at the
     right-hand corner of the ruddy fire-place, with the head of the
     'little wench' between his knees. The child turns over the book
     with pictures which she wishes her father to explain to her, or
     that perhaps she prefers explaining to him. Her rebellious hair is
     all over her eyes, much vexing the pale, energetic mother who sits
     on the opposite side of the fire, cumbered with much service,
     letting no instant of time escape the inevitable click of the
     knitting-needles. The father is already proud of the astonishing
     and growing intelligence of his little girl. An old-fashioned
     child, already living in a world of her own imagination,
     impressible to her finger-tips, and ready to give her views upon
     any subject."

To readers of "The Mill on the Floss" little description of her
child-life will be necessary. She has, in Maggie, pictured herself as
nearly as possible during childhood. Here is her own description:--

     "A creature full of eager, passionate longings for all that was
     beautiful and glad; thirsty for all knowledge; with an ear
     straining after dreamy music that died away, and would not come to
     her; with a blind, unconscious yearning for something that would
     link together the wonderful impressions of this mysterious life and
     give her soul a sense of home in it. No wonder, when there is this
     contrast between the outward and the inward, that painful
     collisions come of it."

In Adam Bede we have a partial portrait of her father, and there are
other striking resemblances to him in Caleb Garth, although neither
character is to be really identified with him. Mrs. Poyser bears the
same partial relation to her mother. With these people for the _dramatis
personæ_, the drama could scarcely fail to be a striking one. The
relation existing between herself and her sister is described in
"Dorothea and Celia,"--no intellectual affinity, but strong family
affection. The repression of these early years she afterwards refers to
in saying,--

     "You may try, but you can never imagine, what it is to have a man's
     force of genius in you, and yet to suffer the slavery of being a

During her early youth she writes thus to a friend:--

     "I really feel for you, sacrificing as you are your own tastes and
     comforts for the pleasure of others, and that in a manner the most
     trying to rebellious flesh and blood; for I verily believe that in
     most cases it requires more of a martyr's spirit to endure with
     patience and cheerfulness daily crossings and interruptions of our
     petty desires and pursuits and to rejoice in them, if they can be
     made to conduce to God's glory and our own sanctification, than
     even to lay down our lives for the truth."

Deep religious feeling was one of the most striking characteristics of
this period of her youth. On her nineteenth birthday she writes:--

     "May the Lord give me such an insight into what is truly good that
     I may not rest contented with making Christianity a mere addendum
     to my pursuits, or with tacking it as a mere fringe to my garments!
     May I seek to be sanctified wholly!"

This religious feeling she carried with her throughout life, although
she soon left behind her the tenets and creeds of the church in which
she was born and for which she had so strong an affection. In later
life, although placing herself entirely outside of historic
Christianity, and becoming a rationalist of the rationalists, the fervor
of strong religious feeling never left her, and to her latest days she
loved to read the Scriptures and to feel the glow of devotional feeling
which belonged to her nature. The strong and powerful motive of her life
in youth and age was the intense desire to aid and help the world, for
which she felt a compassion so strong as to remind one of the
descriptions given of Buddha in Eastern song and story. In every period
of her life, in her most private letters and journals, this burden of
the world's sorrow seemed to find expression, and her pitying love was
almost Christ-like in its tenderness.

In forming an estimate of the woman we must never lose sight of this
predominating feeling. Next to it in intensity is to be placed the
longing for love and sympathy, the strength of the affections. No such
deeply loving human heart has been pictured to the world in all the
realm of books. To those who have been accustomed to think of George
Eliot as the master-mind of her time, the greatest intellect of her
generation, the revelation of her heart will be a great surprise and
delight. A deep, strong, passionate, loving human soul, with heights and
depths of devotion and tenderness unthinkable even to the poorer natures
around her,--it was in this that both her strength and her weakness lay.
This affectionateness was shown in her youth in her devotion to her
father, whose home she kept for several years, and in lavish regard for
the few friends who were near her, all of whom she retained and loved
to her dying day. It was shown later on in the passionate and absorbing
love she gave to Mr. Lewes throughout a lifetime, and which seemed but
to deepen and widen with the years; and in the tenderness and
thoughtfulness of the mother-love she gave to his children, and which
seem to lack not one of the elements of real maternal feeling. This
strong, pitying, passionate love of hers--a love hardly to be conceived
of by cold and self-contained natures--is the key to the one action of
her life requiring apology and charitable construction. In the first
place, she pitied Mr. Lewes for the sorrows of his life and for the
unfaithfulness of the wife upon whom he had lavished his heart's
devotion, and whom he had forgiven for the first offence, only to be
deceived the second time. Next, the strong feeling for justice which
characterized her nature rebelled against that law which bound him to
this unfaithful wife simply because he had once forgiven her; and,
finally, the desire she felt to comfort his loneliness and redeem his
life overcame all the scruples which the integrity of her nature must
have confronted her with, and she defied the law which was odious to her
and the conventionalities which were dear to her, in the same act, and
assumed the tie which held her in such loyal allegiance until death
severed it. Here is the only allusion she made to it in all her
correspondence, as far as we know. This was written to one of her oldest
friends, Mrs. Bray.

     "If there is any one action or relation of my life which is, and
     always has been, profoundly serious, it is my relation to Mr.
     Lewes. It is, however, natural enough that you should mistake me in
     many ways, for not only are you unacquainted with Mr. Lewes's real
     character, and the course of his actions, but also it is several
     years since you and I were much together, and it is possible that
     the modifications my mind has undergone may be quite in the
     opposite direction of what you imagine. No one can be better aware
     than yourself that it is possible for two people to hold different
     opinions on momentous subjects with equal sincerity and an equally
     earnest conviction that their respective opinions are alone the
     truly moral ones. If we differ on the subject of the marriage laws,
     I at least can believe that you cleave to what you believe to be
     good, and I don't know of anything in the nature of your views that
     should prevent you from believing the same of me. How far we differ
     I think we neither of us know; for I am ignorant of your precise
     views, and apparently you attribute to me both feelings and
     opinions which are not mine. We cannot set each other right in
     letters; but one thing I can tell you in few words. Light and
     easily broken ties are what I neither desire theoretically nor
     could live for practically. Women who are satisfied with such ties
     do not act as I have done. That any unworldly, unsuperstitious
     person who is sufficiently acquainted with the realities of life
     can pronounce my relation to Mr. Lewes immoral, I can only
     understand by remembering how subtle and complex are the influences
     which mould opinion. But I do remember this, and I indulge in no
     arrogant or uncharitable thoughts about those who condemn us, even
     though we might have expected a somewhat different verdict. From
     the majority of persons we never, of course, looked for anything
     but condemnation. We are leading no life of self-indulgence,
     except, indeed, that being happy in each other we find everything
     easy. We are working hard to provide for others better than we
     provide for ourselves, and to fulfil every responsibility that lies
     upon us."

These responsibilities were not light, for they were poor and not yet
famous, and must support by their pens not only themselves, but three
boys of Mr. Lewes, and their mother. This they found no easy thing to do
at first; but when the great success of George Eliot's novels had been
attained, their financial affairs became easy, and continued so to the

Their life together seemed to be one of unbroken love and confidence,
their delight in each other increasing, if possible, with time. The
letters and journals of George Eliot are full of expressions of this
love and trust, and give us very pleasing pictures of the character and
life of Mr. Lewes. He seems to have been an eminently genial, kind,
loving, and appreciative man; a man, too, of fascinating manners and
wonderfully keen intellect, though totally lacking in any such genius as
that which has made George Eliot immortal. Charming glimpses of their
home life occur on every page,--a home life that was sweet and well
ordered, pervaded by such a spirit of love and devotion as would
sanctify any home. George Eliot was the most womanly of women, despite
what is often called her masculine intellect; and she made a genuine
home, after the true and womanly fashion, delighting in good order and
neatness and such attention to details as is an absolute necessity in
the formation of a happy home. She never allowed her literary work to
prevent her from overseeing that home, and in her younger days seems to
have had a real taste for executing these housekeeping details herself.
There was no remote hint of Mrs. Jellyby in her, but strong, practical
common-sense in all the management of her family affairs, and a real
delight in having all things well ordered and agreeable in her home.
This is one of the most pleasing of the many revelations of this book.
We love to know that she was a true woman, and no intellectual
monstrosity. The glimpses that are given of her nursing her father
through his long last sickness are very sweet and touching, and
everything connected with her devotion to Mr. Lewes's children, down to
poor Thornie's death, makes us love her more and more. Indeed, it is a
strong, pure, loving, and noble woman that is brought out on every page
of this Life. But a very sad and deep-thoughted woman, too; one to whom
pity goes out as naturally as love. She was afflicted with ill health
all her life, and the record of all this suffering is at times
oppressive. One cannot help wishing that we might have had the same
woman strong and well, and wondering what sort of books would have been
the result. Far pleasanter and more cheering, no doubt, for some of them
are heart-breakingly sad as it is, but perhaps no deeper or truer. Then,
too, she suffered keenly through her sympathies, feeling for all loss
and wrong with the acutest pain; and her lack of faith intensified all
her suffering. So did lack of hope; for she was almost as destitute of
this cheering friend of man as Carlyle himself, and was given to
despondency as the sparks fly upward. In her earlier writing the tears
and smiles are blended, her humor lighting up the dark places; but the
deepening years deepened her gloom, and her later writing is sombre
almost throughout. Yet she had great capacity for joy as well as for
sorrow, and enjoyed with the utmost intensity the brighter parts of
life, and retained this sense of the pleasure of life even to the end.
She speaks much of the intense happiness of her life with Mr. Lewes, and
they seem never to have been separated, taking all journeys and holidays
together, and never wearying of what she calls their "_solitude à
deux_." Such expressions as these are very frequent throughout the

     "I never have anything to call out my ill-humor or
     discontent,--which you know was always ready enough to come on
     slight call,--and I have everything to call out love and gratitude.
     I am very happy,--happy in the highest blessing life can give us,
     the perfect love and sympathy of a nature that stimulates my own to
     healthful activity. My life has deepened unspeakably during the
     last year. I feel a greater capacity for moral and intellectual
     enjoyment, a more acute sense of my deficiencies in the past, a
     more solemn desire to be faithful to coming duties, than I remember
     at any former period of my life. And my happiness has deepened,
     too; the blessedness of a perfect love and union grows daily. Few
     women, I fear, have had such reason as I have to think the long,
     sad years of youth were worth living for the sake of middle age."

And this extract from the journal of Mr. Lewes leaves us his thought
about their life, which is so like her own:--

     "I owe Spencer another and a deeper debt. It was through him that I
     learned to know Marian,--to know her was to love her,--and since
     then my life has been a new birth. To her I owe all my prosperity
     and all my happiness. God bless her!"

That her great books would ever have been written without this loving
sympathy and appreciation on the part of Mr. Lewes, seems extremely
doubtful. She needed encouragement at every step, being prone to despair
about her writings, and she had the utmost reliance upon the judgment
and taste of the companion of her life. And he seems to have been
everything that heart could desire as loving critic and counsellor. Her
sympathy with the lives and hopes of others is very charming,
particularly with the love and marriage of their eldest boy, though it
is shown constantly in a true womanly way; as, for instance:--

     "A pretty thing has happened to an acquaintance of mine, which is
     quite a tonic to one's hope. She has all her life been working in
     various ways, as housekeeper, governess, etc.,--a dear little dot
     about four feet eleven in height; pleasant to look at and clever; a
     working-woman without any of those epicene queernesses that belong
     to the class. More than once she has told me that courage quite
     forsook her. She felt there was no good in living and striving.
     Well, a man of fortune and accomplishments has just fallen in love
     with her--now she is thirty-three. It is the prettiest story of a
     swift-decided passion, and made me cry for joy. Madame B---- and I
     went with her to buy her wedding clothes. If you will only imagine
     all I have not said, you will think this a very charming fairy

In 1878 her happy companionship with the man she had so passionately
loved was ended by his death. The only entry in her diary in 1879 is
this: "Here I and sorrow sit." The desolation of her life told terribly
upon her health and spirits. She saw no one, wrote to no one, had no
thoughts, as she tells us, for many months. Among the first lines she
wrote were these:--

     "Some time, if I live, I shall be able to see you,--perhaps sooner
     than any one else,--but not yet. Life seems to get harder instead
     of easier. When I said some time, I meant still a distant time. I
     want to live a little time, that I may do certain things for his
     sake. So I try to keep up my strength, and I work as much as I can
     to save my mind from imbecility. But that is all at present. But
     what used to be joy is joy no longer, and what is pain is easier,
     because he has not to bear it."


     "You must excuse my weakness, remembering that for nearly
     twenty-five years I have been used to find my happiness in his. I
     can find it nowhere else. But we can live and be helpful without
     happiness, and I have had more than myriads who were and are better
     fitted for it."

As soon as she was able to see any friends, Mr. Cross, who was an old
and valued one, began to visit her and be helpful to her in many ways,
and he soon became a comfort to that gentle nature to which some prop
was indispensable. She grew accustomed to him, and began to rely upon
his support. After a while she could read with him, and her mind renewed
its vigor. Still later she could play for him, and the consolation of
music was added to her life. As the months went by she leaned upon him
more and more, and found real comfort in his kindly ministrations. This
is the first allusion to him in her letters:--

     "I have a comfortable country practitioner to watch over me from
     day to day, and there is a devoted friend who is backward and
     forward continually to see that I lack nothing."

Of the outcome of that watchful tenderness Mr. Cross says:--

     "As the year went on George Eliot began to see all her old friends
     again. But her life was nevertheless a life of heart-loneliness.
     Accustomed as she had been for so many years to _solitude à deux_,
     the want of close companionship continued to be very bitterly felt.
     She was in the habit of going with me very frequently to the
     National Gallery and to other exhibitions of pictures. This
     constant companionship engrossed me completely and was a new
     interest to her. A bond of mutual dependence had been formed
     between us. It was finally decided that our marriage should take
     place as soon and as privately as possible."

She writes thus of this marriage:--

     "All this is wonderful blessing falling to me beyond my share,
     after I had thought that my life was ended, and that, so to speak,
     my coffin was ready for me in the next room. Deep down below there
     is a hidden river of sadness, but this must always be with those
     who have lived so long; but I am able to enjoy my newly reopened
     life. I shall be a better, more loving creature than I could have
     been in solitude. To be constantly, lovingly grateful for the gift
     of a perfect love is the best illumination of one's mind to all the
     possible good there may be in store for man on this troublous
     little planet. I was getting hard, and if I had decided differently
     I think I should have become selfish.

     "The whole history is something like a miracle-legend. But instead
     of any former affection being displaced, I seem to have recovered
     the loving sympathy that I was in danger of losing. I mean that I
     had been conscious of a certain drying-up of tenderness in me, and
     that now the spring seems to have risen again."

The consolations of this new love and tenderness were to cheer her but a
little time, for they were scarcely settled in the new home after the
trip abroad, during which time she had excellent health and enjoyed
everything much, before the final illness came, and "the fever called
living was over at last."

Amid the falling of the bitter rain of winter, in the deadliest
desolation of the year, they bore her to her rest amid the silent. She
whose speech has endeared her to the whole thinking world, whose
thoughts have borne us like an anthem ever upward to the loftiest and
the best, all her sacred service done, shall know hereafter no more
work, no more device, but the deep calm of rest, untroubled by the
vexing sights and shows of time.

We cannot think that she met the solemn, swift release with dread. She
looked too deeply into life to make of it a mere thing of daily bread,
of common homely joys and trifling labors; but all its sorest problems
weighed her down, and all its deepest doubt and dull despairing went
with her to the last, saddening even the happiest moments of her life.
And the falling of that cold and solemn winter rain into that grave,
about which gathered many of the greatest minds in England with reverent
tears, seems not sad but sweet,--a kind release from the stress and
strain of a tumultuous existence. Nevermore will that still heart be
crushed and riven by wrongs and woes which she has no power to aid;
nevermore life's terrors hold and o'ermaster her; nevermore a
questioning world look upon her in judgment. With the great of every
time and nation she has at last taken her place, and will hold it




Charles Kingsley was born at Holne Vicarage, under the brow of Dartmore,
in 1819; but his family removed almost immediately into Nottinghamshire,
although he always felt himself to be, and called himself, a Devonshire
man. Of his parents he himself gives account as follows:--

     "We are but the _disjecta membra_ of a most remarkable pair of
     parents. Our talent, such as it is, is altogether hereditary. My
     father was a magnificent man in body and mind, and was said to
     possess every talent except that of using his talents. My mother,
     on the contrary, had a quite extraordinary practical and
     administrative power; and she combines with it, even at her
     advanced age (seventy-nine), my father's passion for knowledge, and
     the sentiment and fancy of a young girl."

The product of the union of such characters could hardly be otherwise
than unique; and we see in Charles Kingsley a man of powerful
nature,--strong, aggressive, administrative,--but at the same time
deeply poetical, and tender almost to weakness. We find in him a union
of the intensest sympathy with the weak and helpless, and a
comprehension of the flaws and defects which make up their character,
which seems at times merciless and almost heartless. We find in him
remarkable combative power, united to a desire to use that power purely
and simply for the defence and protection of those who are unable to
protect and help themselves. We find a man who can deal heaviest blows,
who loves the excitement of a battle, and never shuns an occasion for a
fight in behalf of humanity, but who was so sensitive to an unfair
thrust from an opponent that his life was permanently embittered by the
injustice and malignity of literary and political critics of the
opposing party. In short, he united a royal aggressiveness shaped and
guided entirely by his Christian principles, and a tenderness and
sensitiveness such as are rarely found in so strong and fearless a man.

In childhood he is described as strong and active, but not expert at any
games; while he bore pain wonderfully well, and excelled in all feats
that required nerve and daring. He was well prepared when he went to
Cambridge, and obtained a scholarship at Magdalen the first year. He
disliked the prescribed course intensely, and sometimes neglected his
work and gave himself up to wild sport in the fens, which then presented
much of the bleak picturesqueness which he has immortalized in his prose
idyls. He was very popular, but not very sociable, and lived then, as
afterwards, a most strenuous life. On July 6, 1839, while visiting in
Oxfordshire, he met his future wife, Fanny, the daughter of Pascoe
Grenfell and Georgiana St. Leger his wife. Circumstances seemed to give
the lover very little hope, and in intervals of recklessness Kingsley
often dreamed and talked of going to America and joining the wild
hunters on the prairies. Had he done so, what bits of strong and
striking description should we not have had! Few writers have the
photographic accuracy of Kingsley, united to so vivid an imagination;
consequently his pictures are all of striking quality. Look at this
characteristic bit, when Amyas and his friends walk to the cliffs of

     "As they approached, a raven, who sat upon the topmost stone, black
     against the bright blue sky, flapped lazily away, and sunk down
     the abysses of the cliff, as if he had scented the corpses beneath
     the surge. Below them from the gull-rock rose a thousand birds, and
     filled the air with sound; the choughs cackled, the hacklets
     wailed, the great black-backs laughed querulous defiance at the
     intruders, and a single falcon with an angry bark darted out
     beneath their feet, and hung poised high aloft, watching the
     sea-fowl which swung slowly round and round below."

In all his books we have these glowing pictures of the natural world,
intense, graven in as it were with a burin, and colored with tropical

Soon after taking orders Charles Kingsley was given the living of
Eversley, which he retained to the end of his life. His work there was
full of hardship; but he was young and strong, and had a superabundant
energy which no toil daunted. Eversley was a democratic parish of "heth
croppers," and there were few gentry within its borders. These peasants
were hereditary poachers on Windsor Forest and other preserves in the
neighborhood, and possessed one and all with a spirit of almost lawless
independence. But it was one of Kingsley's most amiable characteristics
through life to be able to make friends of uncultivated people without
any painful effort of condescension. He visited these poor people of his
parish constantly, until he knew every person intimately, and could
speak to each with a knowledge of his inmost needs; and their needs, in
most cases, were of a very earthly and commonplace kind.

"What is the use," he would say, "of my talking to a lot of hungry
paupers about heaven? Sir, as my clerk said to me yesterday, there is a
weight on their hearts, and they care for no hope and no change, for
they know they can be no worse off than they are." But he did better for
them than to preach far-away sermons above their comprehension. "If a
man or woman were suffering or dying, he would go to them five or six
times a day,--and night as well as day,--for his own heart's sake as
well as for their soul's sake." And he won the respect of these people
for the Church which they had long neglected, and which had ceased to
stand for anything to them, until, "when he announced the first
confirmation, and invited all who wished to take advantage of it to come
to the rectory on a certain evening for instruction, the stud groom from
Sir John Cope's, a respectable man of five-and-thirty, was among the
first to come, bringing a message from the whips and stablemen to say
that they had all been confirmed once, but if Mr. Kingsley wished it
they would all be happy to come again." This was at a time when England
was in a really dangerous state of tumult and discontent, and when the
Church, through the heartlessness and folly of its leaders, had lost
almost all hold upon the people. Is there not in it a hint to the
unsuccessful preachers of our time?

In a few years he had raised the whole parish of Eversley to a higher
level, and had set his mark upon every individual soul in his keeping.
And after he had been appointed to the canonry of Westminster, and was
called to preach to immense congregations there, he felt the burden of
these new souls, as he had felt that of his more humble charge. He felt
that he was personally called to speak some vital word to every soul
within his hearing, and the strain upon him was great, as he realized
how difficult a thing this was to do in these later days. He expressed
his sense of this responsibility in his characteristic way. "Whenever,"
he said, "I walk along the choir to the pulpit I wish myself dead; and
whenever I walk back I wish myself more dead." But though his sense of
failure was great, it is certain that those noble sermons in the grand
abbey left their ineffaceable mark upon some of that multitude of young
men who crowded the north and south transepts of the abbey, and stood
there for two hours through a long musical service, that they might hear
Kingsley when he spoke; for he spoke with characteristic power and
eloquence, moving all by his earnestness and evident sincerity. "If you
want to be stirred to the very depths of your heart," said one of the
minor canons to Canon Farrar, "come to the abbey and hear Canon
Kingsley." And when he preached, as he often did, to classes of college
boys, even the youngest, they always found something pertinent to their
own cases in what he said.

He had married in the early days of Eversley the one woman he ever
loved, and the marriage was one of peculiar happiness, so that his home
life was always of the brightest. A family of beautiful children sprung
up around him, and in his peculiar fondness for pets he always had dogs
about him that were scarcely less dear than his children. He mourned the
death of one after another of his favorites, until, when the last one
died, he said he would have no more,--the pang of parting with them was
too keen.

The influence of his books as they came along one after
another--"Yeast," "Alton Locke," "Hypatia," "Westward Ho," "Two Years
Ago"--was of a stimulating, even of an exciting, nature, particularly
that of the earlier ones. Like nearly all men of genius, when young he
was a radical, and upon the publication of his first books the
conservatives all took up arms against him. In review after review, all
learning, all sincerity, all merit was denied him. He bore up under a
storm of obloquy and misrepresentation. This simply because he had shown
some of the sufferings of the poor,--given some vivid pictures of life
in England as it was in those days, before the repeal of the Corn Laws
had mitigated a little the sufferings of the dependent masses; and had
expressed some human sympathy with all this fruitless pain, and a manly
indignation at some forms of atrocious wrong. But there was nothing in
his teaching of the people which should have given offence to the
veriest conservative. The main burden of it was that "workingmen must
emancipate themselves from the tyranny of their own vices before they
could be emancipated from the tyranny of bad social arrangements; that
they must cultivate the higher elements of a common humanity in
themselves before they could obtain their share in the heritage of
national civilization. He discouraged every approach to illegality or
violence, and during the riots of that exciting time worked as hard as
the Duke of Wellington to keep the peace." But the Philistines of that
day looked upon it as crime in a beneficed clergyman to enter into
friendly intercourse for any purpose whatever with revolutionists, as
they called the agitators, who were engaged in what seem to us now to
have been great reforms. They denounced him for a Chartist, a name which
he proudly owned, although he never went the lengths of the real leaders
in that movement; and owning, as his enemies did, all the powerful
papers and reviews, they systematically belittled his work and
prejudiced the minds of many people against him to his dying day.

This misinterpretation of his work and misinterpretation of his motives
was a keen grief to him throughout life. He never became hardened to
such attacks, and they afflicted him to the end. "'Hypatia,'" he once
said, "was written with my heart's blood, and was received, as I
expected, with curses from many of the very churchmen whom I was trying
to warn and save." But he was more than repaid for this
misinterpretation and persecution by the orthodox and conservative
classes, by seeing the efforts he had put forth--some of them, at
least--crowned with considerable success even in his lifetime; while he
was conscious of having sown much seed that would ultimately take root
in reform. He never faltered, although he grew very weak and discouraged
at times. He writes thus to a friend:--

     "Pray for me; I could lie down and die sometimes. A poor fool of a
     fellow, and yet feeling thrust upon an sorts of great and
     unspeakable paths, instead of being left in peace to classify
     butterflies and catch trout."

Long before his death he saw the condition of the English poor very
materially modified. Bad as things are in England to-day, they are much
better than in the days when Charles Kingsley began his labors.

He was accused of growing conservative in later life, and doubtless he
did so, as it is natural that man should do; but he had witnessed great
improvement during his life, and perhaps felt that the forces which had
been called into play needed guiding and directing now, rather than
further stimulation. But, like all dreamers, he was obliged to bid
farewell to many of his dreams for the good of his fellow-men as he grew
older. There was intense sadness to him in this, and Kingsley during all
his later life was a very sad man. Striving to be cheery and helpful, as
he had ever been, there was yet in his face the look of a defeated
man,--the look of a man upon whom life had palled, and who had scarcely
hope enough left to carry him through to the end. There was remarkable
pathos in many of his sermons, and ineffable sadness in many of his
letters. Doubtless much of this was due to overwork, for he had
overworked himself systematically for many years, and could not escape
the consequences. He paid the penalty in flagging spirits and a growing
weariness of life. During the journey in America, near the close of his
life, there was but a forced interest where once the feeling would have
been real and keen; and we find him once writing like this:--

     "As I ride I jog myself and say, 'You stupid fellow, wake up! Do
     you see that? and that? Do you know where you are?' And my other
     self answers, 'Don't bother, I have seen so much I can't take in
     any more; and I don't care about it at all. I longed to get here. I
     have been more than satisfied with being here, and now I long to
     get back again.'"

And, again, from St. Louis he writes:--

     "I wish already that our heads were turned homeward, and that we
     had done the great tour, and had it not to do."

There was also much of pathos in his speech at the Lotos Club in 1874,
where he said:--

     "One of the kind wishes expressed for me is long life. Let anything
     be asked for me except that. Let us live hard, work hard, go at a
     good pace, get to our journey's end as soon as possible; then let
     the post-horse get the shoulder out of the collar. . . . I have
     lived long enough to feel like the old post-horse,--very thankful
     as the end draws near. . . . Long life is the last thing that I
     desire. It may be that as one grows older one acquires more and
     more the painful consciousness of the difference between what ought
     to be done and what can be done, and sits down more quietly when
     one gets the wrong side of fifty to let others start up to do for
     us things we cannot do ourselves. But it is the highest pleasure
     that a man can have who has (to his own exceeding comfort) turned
     down the hill at last, to believe that younger spirits will rise up
     after him and catch the lamp of truth--as in the old lamp-bearing
     race of Greece--out of his hand before it expires, and carry it on
     to the goal with swifter and more even feet."

He did not live long after his return from America. He took cold Advent
Sunday, and soon was down with the sickness from which he never
recovered. His wife was dangerously ill at the same time, and he made
himself seriously worse by leaving his bed once or twice to go to her,
where he said "heaven was." To this wife he had been a devoted lover for
over thirty years, and retained to the last moment his chivalric
devotion. To his children and his servants he was the ideal parent and
master, and to every one who had known him personally the ideal friend.
His parish was only a large family, where he was held in like honor and
esteem. Would that we all in these restless times might find some of the
secret springs of his life, and thus make, like him,

  "Life, death, and that vast forever
      One grand, sweet song"!

His wife remained for a little time to mourn his loss, although he
believed at the time of his death that she would not live, and spoke of
the supreme blessing of not being divided in the hour of death from her
he had loved so well. She lived to tell to the world, in a touching and
tender manner, the story of that life of "deep and strange sorrows," as
he once expressed it; and then followed him, gladly, into the rest that
remains for all who toil earnestly and worthily as he had done. It was
proposed to bury him in Westminster Abbey, but agreeably to his own
wishes in the matter he was buried in the little churchyard at Eversley,
where he had familiar acquaintance with every tree and shrub, and where
the poor, to whom he had been so much while living, could still feel him
near to them though dead. Upon the white marble cross are carved the
words, "God is Love,"--the words which had been the central thought of
all his eloquent and effective preaching, and the words by which he had
shaped his whole life; for, in imitation of that God he so reverenced,
he had made his life one of active love and helpfulness toward the whole
brotherhood of man. Few men of loftier aims, higher purposes, purer
spirit, have ever lived; few men who fulfilled the priestly office in so
high and conscientious a manner have been known in our day; few
reformers who have been so aggressive, and yet so temperate in action;
few men personally so loved by those who knew him intimately. Soft be
the turf at Eversley upon him, and sweet the sighing of her summer winds
about his grave!




In the very heart of the great city of London, shut in by dingy brick
walls that closed upon him to such an extent that it was only by going
into the middle of the street and looking up that he could ever see the
sky, in the early part of the century, was born the man who has the
finest eye for the beauties of the natural world, and the most eloquent
pen in describing them, that the century has produced.

We will make no exception of poet or painter in this statement; for John
Ruskin sees more and better than any poet of the day, and can give in
words a more vivid picture of a scene he loves than any painter can
produce. Indeed, few men have lived at any time who could color a
landscape as Ruskin colors it, or who have so delicate an eye for the
shyest and most sequestered beauties, as has this poet-painter. Probably
Wordsworth comes nearer to Ruskin than any other modern writer in his
love of the natural world, and he has given us the finest descriptions
we have of some phases of Nature; but there is a glow and a depth of
feeling about Ruskin's descriptions which even Wordsworth lacks. A real
worship of Nature runs through all that he has written. Think of a child
with such a nature as this brought up in a crowded city,--a city unlike
many others, especially in this country and on the Continent, where
lovely glimpses of Nature may be had from open squares, or streets
leading out into lovely country roads. In New York one can hardly walk
anywhere without catching glimpses of the water and the shores of New
Jersey or Long Island. Most boys, we fancy, penetrate to the Battery and
enjoy its superb outlook; or they have the run of Central Park, where
they make a sort of acquaintance with Nature, which, if somewhat
artificial, is much better than no knowledge at all. In Edinburgh the
inhabitants live under the shadow of its two fantastic mountains, and
from their windows can trace the windings of its glittering frith. Not
even the lofty houses of the Canongate or the battlements of the castle
afford the eye an equal pleasure. In Venice not even the Palace of the
Doge, the most beautiful building in the world, or the matchless walls
of fair St. Mark's, can keep the eye from seeking the blue waters of the
Adriatic or the purple outlines of the Alps. Beautiful Verona has a
broad and rushing river of deep blue sweeping through the heart of it;
it has an environment of cliffs, where grow the cypress and the olive,
and a far-away view of the St. Gothard Alps. Rome, from its amphitheatre
of hills, has views of unrivalled loveliness, and its broad Campagna is
a picture in itself. Paris even has its charms of external nature, as
have all the cities of the New World; but London is grim and gray, and
bare and desolate, wrapped in eternal fog. To be sure, it has the
Thames, and there are lovely suburbs; but we mean that vast, densely
crowded part of the city proper which we think of when we say London.

The father of John Ruskin was a London wine-merchant, who made and
bequeathed to him a large fortune. But they were very plain people, and
the youth knew nothing of ostentation or luxury. He says of his

     "Nor did I painfully wish what I was never permitted for an instant
     to hope, or even imagine, the possession of such things as one saw
     in toy-shops. I had a bunch of keys to play with as long as I was
     capable only of pleasure in what glittered and jingled; as I grew
     older I had a cart and a ball, and when I was five or six years
     old, two boxes of well-cut wooden bricks. With these modest, but, I
     still think, entirely sufficient possessions, and being always
     summarily whipped if I cried, did not do as I was bid, or tumbled
     on the stairs, I soon attained serene and secure methods of life
     and motion; and could pass my days contentedly in tracing the
     square and comparing the colors of my carpet, examining the knots
     in the wood of the floors, or counting the bricks in the opposite
     houses, with rapturous intervals of excitement during the filling
     of the water-cart through its leathern pipe from the dripping iron
     post at the pavement edge, or the still more admirable proceedings
     of the turncock, when he turned and turned till a fountain sprang
     up in the middle of the street. But the carpet, and what patterns I
     could find in bed-covers, dresses, or wall-papers to be examined,
     were my chief resources; and my attention to the particulars in
     these was soon so accurate that when at three and a half I was
     taken to have my portrait painted by Mr. Northcote, I had not been
     ten minutes alone with him before I asked him why there were holes
     in his carpet."

He was once taken when a child to the brow of the crags overlooking
Derwentwater, and he tells of the "intense joy, mingled with awe, that I
had in looking through the hollows in the mossy roots over the crag into
the dark lake, and which has associated itself more or less with all
twining roots of trees ever since." He also speaks of his joy in first
treading on the grass; and, indeed, each fresh bit of acquaintance which
he made with Nature gave him unbounded delight. He says in his late

     "To my further great benefit, as I grew older I saw nearly all the
     noblemen's houses in England, in reverent and healthy delight of
     uncovetous admiration,--perceiving, as soon as I could perceive any
     political truth at all, that it was probably much happier to live
     in a small house and have Warwick Castle to be astonished at, than
     to live in Warwick Castle and have nothing to be astonished at; but
     that, at all events, it would not make Brunswick Square in the
     least more pleasantly habitable to pull Warwick Castle down. And at
     this day, though I have kind invitations enough to visit America,
     I could not, even for a couple of months, live in a country so
     miserable as to possess no castles."

Again he says:--

     "For the best and truest beginning of all blessings, I had been
     taught the perfect meaning of Peace, in thought, act, and word.
     Angry words, hurry, and disorder I never knew in the stillness of
     my childhood's home. Next to this quite priceless gift of Peace, I
     had received the perfect understanding of the natures of Obedience
     and Faith. I obeyed word or lifted finger of father or mother,
     simply as a ship her helm; not only without idea of resistance, but
     receiving the direction as a part of my own life and force,--a
     helpful law, as necessary to me in every moral action as the law of
     gravity in leaping. And my practice in Faith was soon complete;
     nothing was ever promised me that was not given, nothing ever
     threatened me that was not inflicted, and nothing ever told me that
     was not true."

Ruskin's father began to read Byron to him soon after he entered his
teens, the first passage being the shipwreck in "Don Juan."

     "I recollect that he and my mother looked across the table at each
     other with something of alarm, when on asking me a few _festas_
     afterwards what we should have for after-dinner reading, I
     instantly answered, 'Juan and Haidee.' My selection was not
     adopted, and feeling there was something wrong somewhere, I did not
     press it, attempting even some stutter of apology, which made
     matters worse. Perhaps I was given a bit of 'Childe Harold'
     instead, which I liked at that time nearly as well; and, indeed,
     the story of Haidee soon became too sad for me. But very certainly
     by the end of this year, 1834, I knew my Byron pretty well all
     through. . . . I never got the slightest harm from Byron; what harm
     came to me was from the facts of life and from books of a baser
     kind, including a wide range of the works of authors popularly
     considered extremely instructive,--from Victor Hugo down to Dr.

Byron became a great favorite with the young student, as will be seen
from the following passage:--

     "I rejoiced in all the sarcasm of 'Don Juan.' But my firm decision,
     as soon as I got well into the later cantos of it, that Byron was
     to be my master in verse, as Turner in color, was made, of course,
     in that gosling, or say cygnet, epoch of existence, without
     consciousness of the deeper instincts that prompted it. Only two
     things I consciously recognized,--that his truth of observation was
     the most exact and his chosen expression the most concentrated that
     I had yet found in literature. By that time my father had himself
     put me through the first two books of Livy, and I knew, therefore,
     what close-set language was; but I saw then that Livy, as afterward
     that Horace and Tacitus, were studiously, often laboriously, and
     sometimes obscurely concentrated; while Byron wrote, as easily as a
     hawk flies and as clearly as a lake reflects, the exact truth in
     the precisely narrowest terms,--not only the exact truth, but the
     most central and useful one. Of course I could no more measure
     Byron's greater powers at that time than I could Turner's; but I
     saw that both were right, in all things that I knew right from
     wrong in, and that they must henceforth be my masters, each in his
     own domain. But neither the force and precision nor the rhythm of
     Byron's language was at all the central reason for my taking him
     for master. Knowing the Song of Moses and the Sermon on the Mount
     by heart, and half the Apocalypse besides, I was in no need of
     tutorship either in the majesty or simplicity of English words; and
     for their logical arrangement I had had Byron's own master, Pope,
     since I could lisp. But the thing wholly new and precious to me in
     Byron was his measured and living truth,--measured as compared with
     Homer, and living as compared with everybody else."

He began to be an observer of beauty at a very early age, and then, as
afterwards, placed beauty first, utility second. He says:--

     "So that very early, indeed, in my thoughts of trees I had got at
     the principle, given fifty years afterwards in Proserpina, that the
     seeds and fruits of them were for the sake of the flowers, not the
     flowers for the fruit. The first joy of the year being in its
     snowdrops, the second and cardinal one was in the almond-blossom,
     every other garden and woodland gladness following from that in an
     unbroken order of kindling flower and shadowy leaf; and for many
     and many a year to come--until, indeed, the whole of life became
     autumn to me--my chief prayer for the kindness of Heaven, in its
     flowerful seasons, was that the frost might not touch the

His mother, who was a very religious woman, used to oblige him to learn
long chapters of the Bible by heart at a very early age, and his
favorite chapters were always from the Psalms, where there is so much of
grand and glowing poetry. It was a fine diet for such a child as he, or,
indeed, for any child; and he attributes his taste for the grand things
in literature to his early knowledge of the matchless poetry of the
Bible. Doubtless it gave also that devotional bent to his mind which has
been one of his many striking characteristics through life. He is as
essentially religious as one of the old Hebrew prophets, and has brought
forward his religious precepts in season and out of season ever since he
began to write.

He was taken on his travels when but a boy, and saw many of the beauties
of Europe before he went to Oxford. He made acquaintance at that early
age with most of the beautiful buildings about which he has since
written so eloquently. The old Gothic buildings pleased him most of
all,--even the rugged Gothic of the North. He spent much time in Italy
and in Switzerland, which he says is a country to be visited and not
lived in. He thinks that such sublimity of scenery should only be looked
upon reverently, and that those who view it habitually lose their
reverence, and, indeed, do not appreciate it at any time.

At Oxford he produced a prize poem; but he has never been heard of as a
poet since, although there is more of poetry in his prose than in the
verse of many of his contemporary poetical brethren, and if any man of
his time has been endowed with the true poetic temperament, it is surely

His constitution has always been feeble, and he can bear no excitement,
and has been known to sink into such exhaustion from a little
over-tension of the nerves that it has been very difficult to bring him
back to consciousness.

A person of this nature was probably very romantic in his youth, and he
fell very violently in love with a Scottish lady when quite young. He
says that never having been indulged with much affection in youth, or
been allowed to bestow a great deal even upon his parents, when in later
life love did come, "it came with violence, utterly rampant and
unmanageable, at least to me, who never before had anything to manage."

He lived in a world of his own dreams for a long time, endowing the
object of his affections with every grace and charm. He was an exacting
as well as a passionate lover, and the lady was of far cooler blood than
he. But after a variety of experiences, such as fall to the lot of most
lovers, the lady became his wife. Of course the world knows little of
the inner secrets of that married life, for John Ruskin is not a man to
cry his sorrows in the market-place; but the world does know that the
marriage proved very unhappy, and that it was finally followed by a
separation. Of course there was a world of scandal at the time, which is
now happily forgotten; for all this was very, very long ago, and the
first scandal was as nothing compared to that which followed the lady's
marriage with Millais, the artist of whom London is so proud. There was
no moral blame imputed to either party at the time of the separation;
and it was understood to have been only one of the numerous cases of
incompatibility, of which the world is so full.

This most deplorable event in Ruskin's life was followed by long years
of seclusion. He had never gone much into society, but after this he
lived in almost utter solitude for years, writing his wonderful books,
and making long stays in Venice and other distant cities. He was born to
wealth, and never had to trouble himself about the more prosaic affairs
of the world. In this country we have had until recently no large
leisure class, and those who are now taking that place are few in
number, and seem utterly at a loss how to pass their time amid the
business and bustle of our hurrying life. More and more are they going
to Europe, as is natural; for there they find people like themselves,
and multitudes of them, who have nothing to do, and who therefore seek
to enjoy their leisure. With such a man as Ruskin this was not
difficult, and he became a hard worker, not from necessity, but from the
pressure from within. He never made or sought to make any money from his
books, but they gave him great delight in the writing, and brought him
fame, which he did not disdain. One of the cardinal principles of his
morality has always been that poverty is no bar to happiness, but that
all that is best in life is open to poor as well as rich. This he
proclaimed loudly in lectures to workingmen, which he inaugurated in
London, Edinburgh, and other cities. If men can only be taught to see,
and to think, and to worship, according to Ruskin they have always
sources of happiness at hand, of which no outward force of circumstances
can deprive them. This is a great and a true gospel, and would there
were more such eloquent proclaimers of it as Ruskin! what could be
better doctrine for the men and women of this generation than this:--

     "In order to teach men how to be satisfied, it is necessary fully
     to understand the art and joy of humble life; this at present, of
     all arts and sciences, being the one most needing study. Humble
     life,--that is to say, proposing to itself no future exaltation,
     but only a sweet continuance; not excluding the idea of
     forethought, but only of fore-sorrow, and taking no troublous
     thought for coming days. The life of domestic affection and
     domestic peace, full of sensitiveness to all elements of costless
     and kind pleasure, therefore chiefly to the loveliness of the
     natural world."

Again he sums up these costless pleasures in sentences weighty with

     "To watch the corn grow, and the blossoms set; to draw hard breath
     over plough, hoe, and spade; to read, to think, to love, to hope,
     to pray,--these are the things which make men happy; they have
     always had the power to do this, and they always will. The world's
     prosperity or adversity depends upon our knowing and teaching these
     few things, but upon iron or glass, or electricity or steam, in

Ruskin has always had a quarrel with the railroads, and says that all
travelling becomes dull in proportion to its rapidity. "Going by
railroad," he affirms, "I do not call travelling at all; but it is
merely 'being sent' to a place, and very little different from becoming
a parcel. A man who really loves travelling would as soon consent to
pack a day of such happiness into an hour of railroad as one who loved
eating would agree, if it were possible, to concentrate his dinner into
a pill." Walking he commends most heartily to young men, and considers
it one of the rarest pleasures of life. In this country walking-parties
are as yet almost unknown, but in Europe they are extremely common,
especially among students. What could be better for the youth of our
land than such a pastime as this for their vacations?

He has also a great contempt for some of the feats of modern science,
and exclaims somewhere:--

     "The scientific men are as busy as ants examining the sun and the
     moon and the seven stars; and can tell me all about them, I
     believe, by this time, and how they move, and what they are made
     of. And I do not care, for my part, two copper spangles how they
     move or of what they are made. I can't move them any other way than
     they go, nor make them of anything else better than they are made."

It is over forty years ago that Ruskin startled the literary and
artistic world with that marvellous book entitled "Modern Painters;
Their Superiority in the Art of Landscape Painting to All the Ancient
Masters." The title contained the argument of the book, and it was a
monumental heresy to utter at that time. Not that there was the least
doubt as to its truth, but no voice had then been raised to proclaim it.
The English people at that time were blind worshippers of Claude and
one or two other old masters; and here was a daring youth--reminding one
of David with his sling--going forth to do battle against all the
received art opinions of his day, and boldly proclaiming Turner a better
painter than Claude, Salvator Rosa, Gaspar Poussin, and the various
Van-Somethings who had until that time held undisputed sway in
conventional art circles. The young Oxford graduate was greeted with a
perfect tempest of ridicule and denunciation. Every critic in the land
hurled his lance at him, and every artist looked upon him with sovereign
contempt. The young Oxford man, however, valiantly held his ground. He
possessed genius, profound conviction, and a magnificent self-conceit;
and he hurled back defiance to the whole art-clan, and rode forward.
Criticism beat upon the book in vain. Everybody read it, and everybody
talked about it, and it conquered criticism at last. No such sensation
in the art line has been made in Ruskin's day. His teachings in the
course of a few years well-nigh revolutionized art opinion in England.
The sum and substance of it was Nature against conventionality. People
must look at Nature with their own eyes and judge art by the help of
Nature. This seems simple enough to-day, but it was a new doctrine in
Ruskin's youth.

Ruskin has always been an extremest in everything, and he went so far as
to denounce Raphael's "Charge to Peter" on the grounds that the Apostles
are not dressed as men of that time and place would have been when going
out fishing. He held to an almost brutal realism in everything, and
preached his doctrine whether men would hear or whether they would
forbear. He soon rallied a little coterie of artists about him, and
formed a school styled the Pre-Raphaelites. The principal founder of the
school was Dante Gabriel Rossetti, since better known as a poet than an
artist. He held his little court in London for many years, and a great
number of young men sat at his feet. His chief supporters at first were
Holman Hunt and Millais. These latter soon left Rossetti far behind in
execution; but Rossetti was the soul of the movement. He had received
his inspiration directly from Ruskin. Among the reminiscences of this
art movement are Oscar Wilde and the esthetes of London to-day, with
their "symphonies" in blue and their "arrangements" in yellow, and the
hideous females who go about London drawing-rooms in limp dresses of
sulphur color and sage green loosely hanging from their shoulders, after
the manner of ancient Greece. But they have had real artists among
them,--these apostles of the sunflower and knights of the lily,--and
although some of the better class have repudiated the antics of their
followers, the movement known as Pre-Raphaelitism has really been an
artistic success.

Ruskin followed the "Modern Painters" in due time with his "Seven Lamps
of Architecture" and his "Stones of Venice." They were masterpieces of
eloquent description and rhetoric. No such vivid writing had been seen
for many a day, and no such zeal and earnestness. The wealth of gorgeous
imagery was dazzling; the declamation imparted to it the eloquence of an
earlier day, and the lofty thought and moral purpose were peculiarly the
author's own. The books exerted a remarkable influence. He has written
much since, but he has never reached the height he attained in those
earlier books.

As he grew older, he grew dogmatic and crotchety in the extreme. He
imitated Carlyle in his scoldings, and indeed was much influenced by
Carlyle in many ways. He has always been an impracticable theorist, and
in these latter years he has put forth a thousand foolish and subversive
vagaries. People have not taken him quite seriously for some time. They
laugh at his follies, ridicule his philanthropic schemes,--of which he
has an infinite number, for he is a man of the kindest heart,--they tell
excruciating stories of his colossal self-conceit, and they go home and
read his books because no such books can be found written by any other
man, search they never so widely. He has always been a wrong-headed
man, entirely out of accord with the world around him, and consequently
almost sure to be on the wrong side of every practical political
question. He and Carlyle had much in common in all this, and it would
have been a rich treat to have heard Ruskin proclaiming his political
creed, "I am a King's man, and no mob's man;" and to have heard Carlyle
answer with denunciations of his millions of fellow-countrymen, "mostly

Ruskin lives in one of the most beautiful of London suburbs,--on Denmark
Hill, at the south side of the river, near Dulwich and the exquisite
Sydenham slopes, where the Crystal Palace stands. His home is beautiful,
filled with wonderful art treasures and numberless books, with many rare
and costly editions. He has lectured much at Oxford; and of late years
his lectures have been so crowded that tickets had to be procured to
attend them. This, when the lectures of the most learned professors of
the university are often given to a beggarly array of empty boxes.

He has given away during his lifetime the greater part of his large
fortune,--not always wisely, but always in a manner characteristic of
the man. He has acted upon the belief that it is wrong to take interest
in excess of the principal, and has made the property over to his
debtors whenever he has had interest to this extent. He gave seventeen
thousand pounds to his poor relations as soon as he came into his
fortune; and fifteen thousand pounds more to a cousin, tossing it to him
as one would a sugar-plum; fourteen thousand pounds to Sheffield and
Oxford; and numberless other gifts to different charities, mostly of an
eccentric nature. He retained for himself three hundred and sixty pounds
a year, upon which he says "a bachelor gentleman ought to live, or if he
cannot, deserves speedily to die." Of course such a royal giver has been
besieged during his whole life by an innumerable company of beggars for
every conceivable object; but he has always chosen to select for himself
his beneficiaries, and has often sent sharp answers to appeals; like
the following to the secretary of a Protestant Blind Pension Society:
"To my mind, the prefix of 'Protestant' to your society's name indicates
far stonier blindness than any it will relieve." And in reply to a
letter asking aid in paying off a church debt he replies:--

     "I am sorrowfully amused at your appeal to me, of all people in the
     world the precisely least likely to give you a farthing. My first
     word to all men and boys who care to hear me is, 'Don't get into
     debt. Starve, and go to heaven; but don't borrow. Try, first,
     begging. I don't mind, if it's really needful, stealing. But don't
     buy things you can't pay for.' And of all manner of debtors, pious
     people building churches they can't pay for are the most detestable
     nonsense to me. Can't you preach and pray behind the hedges, or in
     a sandpit, or in a coal-hole, first? And of all manner of churches
     thus idiotically built, iron churches are the damnablest to me. And
     of all the sects and believers in any ruling spirit--Hindoos,
     Turks, Feather Idolaters, and Mumbo Jumbo Log and Fire
     Worshippers--who want churches, your modern English Evangelical
     sect is the most absurd and objectionable and unendurable to me.
     All of which you might very easily have found out from my books.
     Any other sort of sect would, before bothering me to write it to

Ruskin is the poet and the high-priest of Nature. To him she reveals her
mysteries, and he interprets them to a dull and commonplace world in
language as glowing and impassioned as that of the prophets and priests
of the olden time. No man, apparently, has seen the sea as Ruskin has
seen it,--not even Byron, who wrote so majestic a hymn to it; no man has
so seen the mountains, with his very soul transfixed in solemn awe; no
one has felt as he the holy stillness of the forest aisles, or so
described even the tiny wild flowers of the fields. And he has not only
seen their outward glories, but he has interpreted their hidden
meanings. He has carried the symbolism of Nature on into the moral
world. There is no greater moralist than he. He is stern in his demands
for right, and truth, and sincerity in life and in work. This has been
the keynote of his teachings throughout life. He hates a falsehood or a
sham as much as Browning or Carlyle. He has taught his countrymen many
things. No people love Nature better than the English of the present
day, and John Ruskin has opened the eyes of many of them to the beauties
that lie everywhere about them. Then his long agitation for a better
architecture has not been wholly in vain. Though the architects all
laughed at him when his lectures were given, many of his ideas slowly
made their way, and the new demand for strength and solidity and
sincerity in building has been largely due to him.

But much greater than all his art influence has been the weight of his
moral teachings. No preacher of the day has preached to such an audience
as he, and he has always held men to the best that is in them. Long
after his idiosyncrasies shall have been forgotten, and his faults and
foibles given over to oblivion, his precepts will remain to influence
the life and thought of the coming time.



Transcriber's note:

The [Illustration] tags in this etext represent decorative breaks
between chapters, not Illustrations.


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